As NCAA probe expands, Arizona State places TEs coach Adam Breneman on administrative leave

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TEMPE, AZ - FEBRUARY 28:  Arizona State Sun Devils helmets on the field during the Arizona State Sun Devils spring football game on February 28, 2019 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Arizona State is facing NCAA scrutiny over alleged recruiting violations stemming from last year. (Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The NCAA investigation into Arizona State’s football program is expanding, as sources confirmed to Yahoo Sports that the organization has begun reaching out to recruits mentioned in the dossier of documents that detailed potential recruiting violations in the Sun Devils' program.

Yahoo Sports has learned that Mark Strothkamp, a veteran of NCAA enforcement, is looking into the case. The first personnel move tied to the Arizona State case has occurred, as sources told Yahoo Sports that ASU tight ends coach Adam Breneman was placed on paid administrative leave on July 16.

Breneman is one of the 10 ASU coaches and staffers mentioned by the anonymous author of the dossier that Yahoo Sports viewed and reported on June 23. 

What dossier accuses ASU tight ends coach of doing 

The dossier encouraged the NCAA to investigate ASU coaches for alleged violations that included flouting COVID-19 rules during an NCAA mandated recruiting dead period and bringing recruits to campus when they were explicitly banned.

The allegations tied to Breneman are among the most specific in the document. They include email screenshots and receipts of Breneman allegedly paying $596.20 for a recruit to visit the Tempe campus from Philadelphia. It includes a receipt with a credit card number alleged to be Breneman’s.

The American Airlines ticket was purchased last year on July 24 for a trip on July 25. The passenger’s name listed is the recruit and Breneman forwarded the recruit the email from his personal Gmail account. That recruit did not end up attending Arizona State.

As Yahoo Sports reported in June, Breneman was a graduate assistant at the time he purchased the ticket. A move to spend nearly $600 to fly a recruit across the country is typically not made at that level. Sources told Yahoo that Breneman was among the coaches who fell in line with associate head coach Antonio Pierce's aggressive recruiting tactics, which caused a fissure in the staff.

Why this NCAA investigation of ASU is different  

The NCAA is working in collaboration with ASU compliance officials, which is a normal process for these investigations. The investigation has been expected to be easier than a typical NCAA probe because the NCAA has unusual leverage on the eligibility of the 13 current players and high recruits listed in the dossier, as it can offer them immunity for the truth. Also, a majority of the players, like the recruit from Philadelphia, didn't end up playing for ASU, which alleviates pressure in detailing what happened with coaches on another staff.

One of the obstacles the NCAA is facing is capturing the electronic communications of ASU coaching staff. Many of the Arizona State coaching staffers did not use their school-issued phone in recruiting. Sources told Yahoo Sports that Pierce was known to put three or more phones in front of him on the table in staff meetings.

The ability for the NCAA to access recruiting information from personal phones has long been a thorny issue in NCAA investigations. (LSU coach Will Wade famously took 13 months to hand his over to the NCAA.)

A source said that the collection of the ASU staff’s work phones has begun. The issue is that a staff that built its reputation for being relentless and aggressive recruiters didn’t leave a significant digital footprint on their school-issued phones. This isn’t uncommon, but it emerges as problematic because the NCAA will then go about the awkward process of attempting to collect and extract recruiting-related information from personal cell phones. It also creates the question of why ASU compliance didn’t know this and monitor coaches closer. The school has more major NCAA violations than any power conference school, including a baseball scandal nearly a decade ago that included impermissible phone calls.

“Hardly any of the coaches used their work phone, which is going to be a bad look for compliance,” said a source. “Collecting the personal stuff is going to get hairy. That’s the next big step in this.”

Arizona State has declined comment in the past on these issues, with the university’s public relations department insisting that it isn't allowed to comment on an ongoing NCAA investigation. Head coach Herm Edwards has yet to address the topic, but he’s scheduled to appear at the school’s media day Tuesday.

Breneman isn't the only ASU coach implicated in the document. Wide receivers coach Prentice Gill is alleged, via screenshots, to have purchased a ticket for a recruit from Missouri to visit Tempe. There's also a screenshot that alleges defensive backs coach Chris Hawkins helped arrange travel for a recruit, which was allegedly purchased by Regina Jackson, the mother of star quarterback Jayden Daniels, for a recruiting trip. (All denied any wrongdoing to Yahoo Sports in June.)

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