Part of the NCAA investigation into Arizona State’s football program could dive into whether coaches paid for recruits’ expenses during unofficial visits.
Sources told The Athletic that Arizona State covered some prospects’ transportation and lodging during these visits; one said the process was often carried out through a third party and that this was done mostly with elite prospects. Per NCAA rules, an unofficial visit to a Division I program has to be financed by the prospect or his parents or guardian.
The Athletic first reported Wednesday that the NCAA is investigating whether the football program hosted recruits during the 15-month COVID-19 non-contact period. The probe could stretch into other areas that would reveal broader violations within the program. Said one former staffer when details of the allegations began to leak, “It was a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if.'”
One former staffer said Arizona State covered expenses for some recruits to attend the 2018 Las Vegas Bowl, a game the Sun Devils lost 31-20 to Fresno State. “(That) was really the breaking point,” he said, “where it kind of went from, ‘We’re going to straddle the gray area,’ to, ‘We’re in the gray area.'” Per multiple sources, one recruit hung out with the Sun Devils at the team hotel, which likely would have been a major violation. Some staffers, the sources said, were so uncomfortable to see the recruit at the team dining area that they left the room.
“It started out (quiet) but then it became certainly more out in the open,” a source with inside knowledge said. “A little bit more casual. There was always kind of an understanding. People learned not to ask those questions as far as where (unofficial visitors) were staying.”
Arizona State officials have said they will not comment on the investigation. Head coach Herm Edwards also declined to comment. Two former staffers told The Athletic that they never had witnessed coaches paying for anything improper. One called the accusation “ridiculous.” The other wondered if it came from disgruntled former employees.