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Antonio Pierce becomes latest Arizona State assistant to resign amid NCAA investigation

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Antonio Pierce is the latest to resign from Arizona State’s coaching staff.

A university spokesperson confirmed Wednesday that Pierce, the longtime NFL linebacker who has been a defensive assistant on Herm Edwards’ staff since he arrived at ASU in December 2017, is no longer employed by the university. Pierce served as ASU’s associate head coach and defensive coordinator in 2021. He also has held the role of the recruiting coordinator since he arrived on campus.

Pierce is one of the many ASU assistants caught up in an ongoing NCAA investigation into the Sun Devils program. The school is accused of hosting and contacting prospects during recruiting dead periods amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

During his tenure, Edwards has pointed to Pierce, 43, as a potential successor to him as ASU’s head coach. Now, Pierce is reportedly expected to pursue assistant coaching opportunities in the NFL instead.

In addition to Pierce, offensive coordinator Zak Hill resigned last week. Additionally, defensive backs coach Chris Hawkins, tight ends coach Adam Breneman and receivers coach Prentice Gill are no longer employed by the school.

Those three were put on administrative leave last August and did not coach during the 2021 season because of their alleged involvement in the NCAA violations. All five of the departures from Edwards’ staff are tied to the NCAA investigation.

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 30: Arizona State Sun Devils defensive coordinator antonio pierce during the SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Arizona State Sun Devils on December 30, 2021 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Antonio Pierce has resigned as the defensive coordinator of the Arizona State Sun Devils football team. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Edwards, 67, is entering his fifth season as Arizona State’s head coach. In four years, Edwards has a 25-18 overall record with a 17-14 mark in Pac-12 play. Before being brought back into the coaching ranks by ASU athletic director Ray Anderson (Edwards’ former agent), Edwards served as an NFL analyst for ESPN and hadn’t coached since 2008.

With the NCAA investigation ongoing — and the potential for Level I violations looming — ASU’s recruiting has suffered mightily. The Sun Devils have signed only nine players in their 2022 recruiting class. Arizona State ranks last among all Pac-12 programs in the Rivals.com recruiting rankings and isn’t even among the top 100 programs overall in the Rivals team rankings.