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ASU's fired football coach could be entitled to multimillion-dollar buyout, but NCAA probe might block it

Herm Edwards' dismissal could be complicated by pending investigation of football program for alleged recruiting violations.

TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State University's firing of head football coach Herm Edwards could leave the school on the hook for a multimillion-dollar buyout of the rest of Edwards' contract.

Or maybe not.

Edwards is gone from the sidelines, but he has a significant interest in some off-the-field business: an NCAA investigation of his football program. 

It appears that any buyout for Edwards might hinge on the direction of that investigation.

Here's what we know:

$9.4 million buyout?

According to Edwards' contracts - the original in 2017 and an extension in 2020 -  if he's fired without cause, he's entitled to an estimated $9.4 million buyout of the remaining two years and three months, through December 2024. 

The university has declined to confirm that number.

Edwards' annual salary this year, excluding benefits, was $3.9 million. The unpaid balance of his contract this year is an estimated $975,000.

He was to have been paid $4.1 million in 2023, and $4.3 million in 2024.

Edwards was fired Sunday after a humiliating loss at home Saturday night to Eastern Michigan University, three games into his fifth season.

As with the college football coaches in many states, Edwards is the highest-paid state employee in Arizona.

RELATED: 'A little bit predictable': Students have mixed reactions as Herm Edwards, ASU part ways

'Neutral relinquishment of duties'

Anderson used a legally safe euphemism in describing the status of his obviously fired football coach: "We agreed to the neutral relinquishment of duties."

He added: "We'll have to work through what all of that means at the end of the day."

Here's what could be blocking a buyout: 

ASU awaits word on sanctions

The ASU football team is being investigated by the NCAA for allegedly hosting high school recruits on campus during the pandemic, after the NCAA banned the practice.

ASU is still awaiting word on possible NCAA sanctions.

Several coaches have left the team as a result of the investigation, and recruiting has suffered.

The investigation became public 15 months ago, in June 2021. When it will end is just a guess at this point.

Back in February, ASU president Michael Crow defended Edwards: 

"Coach Edwards is responsible for all the actions of all of his people, but these are things he did not ask them to do. These are not things he was a part of."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: REPORT: Sun Devil football OC Hill resigns amidst NCAA findings

NCAA violations would block buyout

If the NCAA should arrive at a different conclusion - that Edwards did play a role in the alleged violations - ASU might not have to pay the multimillion- dollar buyout. In fact, Edwards wouldn't be entitled to any payout. 

Edwards' contract allows the school to fire him "for cause" for several transgressions, including:

"Significant or repetitive violation of NCAA or conference legislation... relating to the program by an assistant coach, other program personnel or a program student-athlete, and either (i) the violation occurs or continues to occur after Coach knew or should have known that it was about to occur or was occurring, or (ii) the Coach failed to establish and maintain reasonable policies and procedures for the Program to prevent violations."

'To be determined'

Anderson, a former NFL executive who hired Edwards as coach in 2017 and was his agent when Edwards was in the NFL, declined to answer reporters' questions Monday about Edwards' status.

On Sunday, Anderson rebuffed questions about the NCAA investigation.

"I'm not commenting on the investigation and how it impacts us, if it impacts us and how it may impact us going forward," Anderson said.

"To be determined," he said.

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