Column: Other Coaches Should Learn From Arizona State’s Herm Edwards

Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards with an official in the second half as the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Oakland Raiders by a score of 20 to 9 at McAfee Coliseum, Oakland, California, December 23, 2006. (Photo by Robert B. Stanton/NFLPhotoLibrary)
Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards with an official in the second half as the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Oakland Raiders by a score of 20 to 9 at McAfee Coliseum, Oakland, California, December 23, 2006. (Photo by Robert B. Stanton/NFLPhotoLibrary) /

Herm Edwards, Arizona State’s first-year head football coach, is doing things differently and it should be copied by other college coaches.

Love him or hate him, national rankings or national doormat, there’s one thing that Herm Edwards will absolutely deliver to the Arizona State football program: a clean, well-run operation that families and supporters can be proud of.

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Whether it be academic fraud at North Carolina, the Zach Smith-Urban Meyer mess at Ohio State, or the numerous scandals at Baylor, Louisville, and Rutgers, the black eyes in college sports float into our timelines regularly. It’s gotten so bad that when eight Rutgers’ football players were charged with credit card fraud last week, it barely made a sound outside the Tri-State area. College sports fans are getting used to these troubling announcements, like they just assume it’s happening everywhere.

Every college sports scandal leads to some “oh, they’re all doing it” responses, some folks quoting WWE legend Eddie Guerrero, and some “pay the players” arguments. Instead of taking the easy way out, though, it’d just be nice to see more coaches like Tony Bennett (current head basketball coach at Virginia) and Bill O’Brien (former head football coach at Penn State) — guys who have run forthright programs that build character and focus on schoolwork. They’ve both proved that you can be successful while maintaining honor and being attentive to all things near the program.

Down in Tempe, the Sun Devils have made it a priority to do right by their football program. Their current coach, Herm Edwards, values on-field and off-field growth evenly and the coach who came before him, Todd Graham, laid the groundwork for it to even be possible.

Todd Graham was hired in 2011 after Dennis Erickson, who oversaw a massive scandal during his time coaching the University of Miami, left the program in a rough spot. Besides the fact that he only produced one winning record (out of six seasons), Erickson’s players weren’t excelling in the classroom. By the time Graham was let go after six seasons of his own, he’d produced four winning records and increased the team’s GPA from 2.2 to 3.0, per Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. Graham put the program on the right path, exiting gracefully in the process, but it was time for Arizona State to take another step in their growth process.

The new idea? Operate like professionals.

Enter Herm Edwards — a guy who played, coached, and won in the NFL, taught life skills to groups of rookies, and spent nine years analyzing the NFL from an ESPN studio.

In his opening press conference, the former New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs head coach displayed the characteristics and values that should have every supporter smiling as they enter the 2018 college football season. He was fully aware of the situation, noting the “foundation that was already built” by Todd Graham, and followed it with his immediate plan for the program: winning football games and building men in a professional setting.

The “building men” line is coach-speak for a lot of guys in front of a microphone, but most guys aren’t Herm Edwards. No, the football-lifer really means it, and his charisma and inspiring tone are enough to get everyone’s ear. He wants to win football games, sure, but he wants the young men he coaches to win at life because that’s how he spends every waking hour.

After acknowledging some of the “great men” in attendance, Edwards expanded on what you can expect from his regime.

"“When you’re a football coach, the thing you realize right away is that…it’s about winning football games, that is a fact, but it’s really using football to build men. So when they leave this university, and they’ve done a nice job, these guys are equipped to deal with what’s out there in the real world. With all the issues that we have in this world, if they’re not pro football players, they’ll be good fathers. They’ll be good husbands. They’ll be good men. They’ll be good citizens.”"

Above all else, Herm Edwards is a perfect role model — not just for the athletes and coaches inside the Arizona State’s football program but for any human walking this earth. He’s up at the crack of dawn to exercise (Edwards told ASU alum and ESPN personality Matt Barrie that he “beats the mailman” during a recent SC: Featured episode) then heads to the office by 6:00 A.M. At practice, he’s running around like it’s his first-ever coaching gig, engaging players and bringing energy to the team. He doesn’t drink or smoke; cursing is also an extreme rarity. His faith is important, the same goes for his grade-school daughters, Gabrielle and Vivian, and wife, Lia, of 19 years.

Priorities, to Herm, are paramount. “When your priorities are right,” he said at a speaking event back in 2014, “it isn’t hard to make a decision.”

In a nutshell, Herm Edwards has it all figured out from a coaching perspective and in his own life. As a player, you see that it’s the standard and you want to join in. If your coach is constantly doing the right thing, you can bet it’s going to rub off.

Chase Lucas, a freshman on Arizona State, spoke during the SC: Featured episode about how Herm treats players in practice, saying “he doesn’t yell, he doesn’t shout but when you do something wrong he’s going to correct it.”

“That’s the best part about him,” Lucas added. “He doesn’t want to shame you or embarrass you.”

Point being, this is how things should be in college sports and the folks who hired him made the right call. If he doesn’t have one winning season while at Arizona State — which I doubt will happen, anyway — a player’s parents can still be sure that their kid is being treated properly and with respect. Furthermore, they can be sure that their son has become a better person overall.

Must Read. Herm Edwards NFL Coaching Highlights. light

In that same ESPN feature (above), Edwards’ former player turned assistant coach, eight-time NFL All-Pro Kevin Mawae, put it in a nutshell: “If we can win here at Arizona State, he could change the way people do things in college football.”

Please, Herm, win here at Arizona State.