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Monday Mailbag: Super softball run, NIL, men’s golf, baseball recruiting, division extinction and more

Round 6

Zac BonDurant, House of Sparky

After a few weeks in hibernation, the Monday Mailbag is back with a boom.

This week, we’re looking at a vast array of topics ranging from NIL, to softball’s playoff run, to the Pac-12 conference’s decision to eliminate divisions in football this fall.

Normal rules still apply with a two-question limit per user. Some questions were edited for brevity or clarity.

Do you believe that Michael Crow is directly and personally responsible for everything bad? - Troll S.

KEVIN REDFERN: Maybe, just maybe, we will answer this question one day.

What’s the status of ASU’s NIL Collective that we heard was in the works? - Devilforce1

RICKY WEIPZ: This is a great question, considering that it kind of disappeared after the news broke of it. There were some figures tossed around once QB Emory Jones committed to play for ASU next year. The reported talks with Jermaine Lole did not seem to produce enough as he ended up committing to Louisville last week.

As for its “status,” I believe it is still in the growing and organizing stages. There has not been any indication that it is falling apart or anything of that nature. New wideout Cam Johnson said he was interested, but has not heard anything. The biggest cause for the supposed radio silence on the collective was probably the NCAA ruling about boosters not being able to “recruit” people to the University, but let’s be honest, are they really going to enforce that? The waters are still muddy in terms of what-university-reps-can talk-to-whom, and the portal realm remains a wasteland.

When can we expect the NCAA to conclude its investigation? - Devilforce1

KR: The good news in regards to the NCAA investigation is that the NCAA tends to move slowly, yet thoroughly, when looking into alleged Level I recruiting violations. The bad news is that its findings could be released anytime. Kansas is still awaiting the results from the NCAA’s probe into the Jayhawk basketball program after their alleged offenses were announced in 2019.

From my conversations around the ASU program, it seems that the ASU coaches’ message to recruits, especially those with limited eligibility, is that the potential sanctions may not even impact them during their time in Tempe. Only time will tell, but I don’t see the Sun Devils winning a national title to support their image in the meantime like Kansas did.

Also, the majority of the implicated parties have left/been removed from the university, so Herm Edwards and Ray Anderson will be under whatever spotlight the NCAA shines on ASU. Does the NCAA take this into account when doling out punishments? I’d assume so.

What in the world happened to David Puig? Hadn’t seen him in the end of the season tournaments, nor the Pac-12 tournament, nor the 1st day of the regionals. But I believe he returned for the end of the regional, something about a back injury? - Devilforce1

KR: All we have heard from the university was that he sustained a back injury. After a little asking around, that seems to be the case.

Puig did play the final two rounds in the Stockton Regional, and Men’s Golf will compete for another title. He shot a combined -8 in those two rounds in the convincing regional win. For perspective, Mason Andersen led the Sun Devils with a three-round, -10 showing, and Puig shot two strokes better in the final round than his first, which would have put him on pace to beat Andersen had Puig played every round. Hard-hitting analysis, I know.

What does the baseball recruiting look like? Bloomquist got like the (or one of the) top HS players in the country to commit, but those types usually never make it on campus because they get drafted too high. What is the rest of it looking like so far? - ArizonaSon

JOHNSON: Baseball recruiting is shaping up very well in the first season on the trail for Willie Bloomquist. With that said, an important piece of information to carry with you about college baseball recruiting is how early schools begin contact and interest in prospects. Comparatively speaking with college basketball or football, college baseball goes after the youngest talent, meaning high school freshman and sophomores.

So keep in mind that while Bloomquist’s class is at a level to take pride in, many of these players were primed with interest by the previous staff. Still, in the fashion of the film Glengarry Glenn Ross, Bloomquist is a closer, and he has helped a lot of talented, yet undecided recruits, pull the trigger on spending their college baseball careers at Arizona State.

When you look at the class as a whole, the number one thing that stands out is how Bloomquist and pitching coach Sam Peraza have addressed the current team’s weakness on the mound. Six pitchers are in this class, and with zero freshman pitchers on the roster today combined with many about to depart due to the draft or eligibility. Most of the time, schools will bring in around 3-4, so Arizona State is really leaning heavy on the arms for this class.

You referred indirectly to Isaiah Jackson, the supernova recruit who may end up being a high MLB draft pick in June. If he comes on board, the Sun Devil class is looking like the wonder years of old. Even if he forgoes college for pro ball, this is still a stacked group at the plate. Watch for Dante Turgeon, who is a pure hitter in the box, Dom Chacon, who was a Perfect Game third team All-American, and Connor Jenkins, who accomplished the same feat.

Even without Jackson, this is a really talented group that will be a part of the first Bloomquist class.

This softball team is doing great. Do I see only 3 players total that have used up their eligibility? Puk, Loomis, Harger? Will the hitting coach stay when his daughter is gone? What’s the plan for catcher next year (Thomas wasn’t good this year) and finally what do we expect relative to transfer outs, and if teams like Oklahoma will pay NIL money to pull away true freshman phenoms like a Morgan or a Sanders? - ArizonaSon

JJ: If I’m palm reading this question, it appears there’s some concern that this year was an unsustainable spike in performance for Arizona State. Sure, there’s a lot that can happen in the offseason, but I have viewed this campaign as a triumphant march back into the kingdom of perennial title contenders, a place the Sun Devils have been more often than not over the past two decades.

In regards to who is leaving, Puk and Loomis will be gone next season. They didn’t celebrate Harger on senior day, but Mailey McLemore was celebrated. So swap those two and there are the three that are definitely gone next season.

With Jeff Harger you have a preeminent hitting coach who is remarkably adroit at connecting with different styles of play and roster makeup. Trisha Ford has heaped praise on him since he joined the team in 2019, and unless there is a door open for him to maybe join a program as a head coach next season, I think he stays on. He may have joined the staff because of Halle, but his ties to the rest of the roster have been forged over the last few years as well.

Okay, NIL. Let me qualify every statement I make on NIL by first saying that nobody can really accurately predict what will happen short-term with NIL. It has turned college sports into a shanty, saloon town on the frontier border, where organized law is powerless to stop greedy bandits, and SEC coaches threaten to fight each other in front of the press. It’s bananas.

So it is entirely possible that Oklahoma sees Sanders and Morgan in Oklahoma City and is so impressed they pool together a bunch of donors and the pair is wearing Crimson and Cream next spring. But here is why I don’t think that will happen, or ever happen in college.

There just isn’t enough money being allocated to sports like college softball to make this transfer scene we’re seeing in football and men’s basketball possible. Someone like Sanders or Morgan may command some money, but they won’t be getting what the football guys get, which in some cases is 10x what the recruit’s parents make on an annual basis.

Plus, Tempe is sunny, and friendly, and has Mill Avenue and a wide assortment of places to eat, not to mention access to one of America’s fastest growing metropolis areas. Norman is dreary, and also in Oklahoma.

How should the Pac 12 handle divisions and scheduling, especially for football? - Zoon P.

KR: The Pac-12 announced last week that starting in 2022, the conference football championship will be held between the two teams with the highest conference winning percentage, regardless of division. This is, in theory, a short-term win-win for ASU. As long as the divisions are held (not saying they will be), the Sun Devils will continue to travel less with more warm-weather games scattered throughout the season. It also opens the door for a potential intradivision championship, which would mean that USC’s theoretical upper-echelon status would not prohibit ASU (maybe just Utah) from playing for the conference title.

I am actually an advocate to keep the divisions as they are. Without certain scheduling parameters in place, it would leave the door open for more arbitrary scheduling decisions. For example, ASU never plays two-straight Pac-12 North opponents in back-to-back weeks on the road in 2022. Eliminating divisions would consequently mean more games against those opponents from the North, along with the inconveniences that come with playing them.

I believe there is also something to be said about seeing the same teams multiple times every year. A revitalized schedule without divisions would also mean fewer games against USC, Colorado, Utah and UCLA, assuming the rivalry game against Arizona would stay. Rivalries, in my opinion, would not exist outside of the last week of the season.