ASU offensive coordinator Zak Hill resigns; report says 3 other assistants out amid NCAA investigation

Turmoil is the best way to define the Arizona State football program’s offseason as four assistants under coach Herm Edwards are no longer with the football program amid an NCAA investigation into recruiting violations. (File photo by Riley Trujillo/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Offensive coordinator Zak Hill is out as offensive coordinator at Arizona State amid an NCAA investigation reviewing potential recruiting practice violations.

“ASU can confirm Zak Hill is no longer employed by the university,” a representative of ASU’s media relations department said Friday.

Additionally, two other assistants, wide receivers coach Prentice Gill and secondary coach Chris Hawkins, who were put on administrative leave in August, were fired for cause on Jan. 21 for violating work agreements, SunDevilSource.com reported. It also reported tight ends coach Adam Breneman resigned from his position Monday.

Hill resigned Thursday after two years with ASU as its quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. His exit was first reported by Devils Digest.

Gill is appealing his dismissal from ASU of a potential wrongful termination claim against the institution.

Other NCAA institutions would be hesitant to hire Hill, 42, as well as the others because of a potential “show cause penalty” for the duration of their sanctions. Hill previously spent time with Boise State for the same two positions from 2016-2019.

The NCAA investigation regarding ASU and its recruiting practices are still ongoing. NCAA rules cite that no member of the institution’s athletic department can comment until the investigation is complete.

ASU gave no further statements but could be forced to release more if the NCAA’s findings induce a notice of allegations that cites the alleged infractions by ASU. The university would have 90 days to respond if it were to come to that point.

From 2020-2021, Hill called plays for the Sun Devils, an offense that produced just 194.6 passing yards per game in his final season, ranking 99th among FBS teams. With that came the 33rd-ranked rushing offense (193.4 yards per game) and the 45th-ranked scoring offense (36.8 points per game). In ASU’s 2021 Las Vegas Bowl loss to the Wisconsin Badgers, Hill’s offense mustered just 219 total yards and 13 points. The Sun Devils finished the season with an 8-5 overall record.

A handful of tactics allegedly used during a 14-month recruiting dead period forced by the coronavirus pandemic from March 2020 to June 1, 2021 by various members of the football program’s staff are some of the recruiting practices in question. ASU coaches allegedly met with recruits on and off campus during the period, as well as paid for travel and lodging expenses for the recruits.

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The Athletic broke the story in June about allegations involving ASU and hosting recruits during a COVID-19 dead period.

In addition, some coaches are alleged to have traveled outside of the state for recruiting purposes during a time they were not allowed.

These allegations are expected to classify as Level I violations according to Notice of Allegations by the NCAA, the most severe breach of conduct according to the Infraction Process. ASU is likely acting now to reduce the brunt of the infractions, with possible postseason bowl bans, scholarship reductions, recruiting restrictions, monetary fines, and more coming later in the year.

If recruiting restrictions come to the forefront, ASU will likely suffer recruiting woes that stretch past their currently bleak situation. The Sun Devils currently rank 11th out of the 12 Pac-12 football programs for the incoming class of 2022. They sit at 84th in the nation overall, according to 247Sports, and have already lost multiple recruits. February 2 is the initial date for National Signing Day for Division I football, and April 1 is the final deadline. As of today, Tevin White is the only committed four-star recruit in the program’s upcoming recruiting class.

Two weeks ago, ASU hired Aaron Fletcher, a former University of Missouri assistant, as the new secondary coach, replacing Hawkins. Fletcher has over 15 years of coaching experience at the collegiate level, including stints at both FCS and FBS schools. Coach Herm Edwards announced Friday that interim coaches Juston Wood (tight ends) and Bobby Wade (wide receivers) would take over their respective roles full time.

“Both of these young men are up-and-comers in the coaching profession, and both possess a bright future,” Edwards said. “Both are young, energetic and have a passion that is a perfect fit on our staff. I look forward to seeing them thrive in our program.”

“It truly is a huge privilege to get to coach in the Pac-12 and at a program like Arizona State,” Wood said.

On Monday, ASU announced the hiring of Brian Billick, a former Super Bowl-winning head coach for the Baltimore Ravens. Billick, 67, will serve as an offensive analyst and adviser to Edwards, becoming the third former NFL head coach on the ASU coaching staff.

ASU has yet to announce a contingency plan at offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, the two positions Hill held. Per ASU, Herm Edwards is expected to be back for all of 2022 despite allegations indicating he may have known of some of the wrongdoings by the program as they were occurring.

So far, at least three other staff members have resigned in just a month’s time, including Ryne Rezac, the director of player personnel; Matt Seiler, coordinator of player evaluation; and Monica Kim, an administrative assistant who provided academic support to players.

Ryan Schwager rye-en schway-grrr (he/him/his)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Ryan Schwager expects to graduate in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism, a minor in digital audiences and a business certificate. He is working for the Phoenix sports bureau.

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