TEMPE, AZ — Arizona State ended the Herm Edwards experiment a day after an ugly home loss. The Sun Devils are hoping the change will help them straighten out a season that still has nine games left.
At the helm of this transition will be interim coach Shaun Aguano, ASU's former running backs coach who has deep ties to football in the Grand Canyon State.
“This opportunity, on the grand scale of things, is a dream for me and all I can ask is for the opportunity,” Aguano said Monday. “What can I do with this opportunity the next nine games is to try to put a product on the field that Sun Devil nation is proud of and I'm going to do my best.”
Arizona State took a chance by hiring Edwards in 2017, handing the reins to a former NFL coach who spent the previous nine years in a TV studio and had not coached in college for 33 years.
Edwards dodged a firing last season despite some shaky losses and a looming NCAA investigation into alleged recruiting violations. When it became apparent Edwards was not going to turn the program around quickly enough, athletic director Ray Anderson fired him Sunday, less than 24 hours after a disheartening 30-21 home loss to Eastern Michigan.
Anderson expressed optimism the season could be saved, even with a gauntlet of No. 13 Utah, No. 7 Southern California and No. 18 Washington next on the schedule.
Aguano will man the rudder through what could be difficult waters.
Born and raised in Kapaa, Hawaii, Aguano was one of the most decorated high school coaches in Arizona history, leading Chandler High to four state 6A titles. Aguano joined Edwards' staff in 2019, helping turn the Sun Devils into one of the nation's top rushing teams.
Now he gets to run a program he's watched or been a part of for more than two decades.
“I’ll give my heart and soul to this program," Aguano said, choking back tears. “I don’t take this lightly. I’ve been here 20-something years and know what this means. I know this landscape. My kids are Arizona kids. This means a lot to me, means a lot to my family.”
Agauno's task will be to right a team that's had trouble getting out of its own way.
Arizona State was one of the nation's most penalized teams last season and has been plagued by inopportune miscues this year. The Sun Devils opened the season with an easy win over FCS opponent Northern Arizona, but faded late in a loss to No. 9 Oklahoma State.
Arizona State fell flat against Eastern Michigan on Saturday night, giving up 458 total yards while being penalized nine times for 84 yards to become the first Pac-12 school to lose to a Mid-American Conference school.
"To me, it's attention to detail," Aguano said. “I had a meeting with the coaches and we are not going to let anything slip by. If it's done wrong in practice, we're going to make sure it's done right, set that foundation for these kids. It's not going to be a miracle, but it's going to be changed.”
The next nine games will serve as an audition for Aguano, whom Anderson said will be considered for the full-time job.
Anderson made a calculated gamble when he hired Edwards, hoping the loquacious coach would be the right person to helm the program's NFL-like model.
Arizona State's next coach will likely be someone better equipped to navigate a wild new era of college athletics, from NIL to the rapidly expanding transfer portal and conference realignment.
“We will be looking to have a fit with someone who is going to probably be a little more in-tuned with the evolving change and landscape in college athletics,” Anderson said. “It’s changing rapidly, and you got to have someone who is willing to take all that additional change on because it’s going to continue to change."
Arizona State has already gone through one big change. Aguano is looking to make the most of it.