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Arizona State defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce no longer employed by football program

Arizona State defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce is no longer employed by the school, a spokesman confirmed to ESPN on Wednesday.

Sources told ESPN that Pierce was resigning and is expected to pursue NFL coaching opportunities.

Pierce's departure marks the fifth assistant to leave the Sun Devils football program's coaching staff in the wake of an NCAA investigation into alleged illicit recruiting practices. Those include allegations of violating NCAA dead period recruiting restrictions prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the investigation is still open, as sources told ESPN that multiple coaches implicated have yet to speak to the NCAA.

Pierce, 43, is named in the dossier of documents forwarded to Arizona State and NCAA officials on May 31, 2021, that detail widespread allegations of recruiting violations in the Arizona State program.

Pierce is singled out in the dossier for meeting in-person with two high-profile Arizona State recruits on campus on Feb. 7 and March 27, both of which were during NCAA dead periods. Pierce not returning to the school appeared an inevitability, as he'd removed ASU from his social media accounts in December, and the school had barred him from recruiting off campus.

Pierce, who was also the school's recruiting coordinator, stepped down on national signing day. Arizona State is widely viewed as having the worst recruiting class in the Pac-12, and a primary factor is the uncertainty of potential sanctions hanging over the school.

Of the six full-time coaching staff members in the dossier of documents forwarded to the NCAA that the author requests be investigated, only head coach Herm Edwards remains employed by the university. Offensive coordinator Zak Hill and tight ends coach Adam Breneman resigned, and both defensive backs coach Chris Hawkins and wide receivers coach Prentice Gill were fired.

Of the 10 coaches and staffers mentioned in the dossier under the section "Individual Staff Members to Investigate," only three remain employed at the school.

A tenure that began with bold proclamations that it had invented a new leadership model for the ASU program has instead gained more attention for allegedly breaking rules. That initial rollout by Edwards and athletic director Ray Anderson included a plan to emphasize both "student-athlete and coach development and retention" and "a culture of accountability at all levels."

Pierce served four seasons as the head coach at Long Beach Polytechnic High School in Southern California before Edwards hired him as Arizona State's linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator in 2018.

Edwards quickly promoted and empowered Pierce, as his titles eventually included associate head coach and defensive coordinator. As he rose, Pierce was given autonomy over staff hires by Edwards, which prompted an influx of younger coaches who ended up being the target of NCAA allegations.