Arizona State has its devil in Graham - Sports Illustrated

Arizona State has its devil in Graham

Publish date:

You'll see a lot of editorializing on the subject of Todd Graham over the next few days in the wake of his abrupt exit from Pitt after less than a calendar year as head coach to take the same job at Arizona State. If that coverage is negative and accuses Graham of pretty much anything short of sorcery, it's probably in the ballpark. The facts of the past couple days are damning without embellishment: Todd Graham is pretty gross, y'all.

The process: I first saw the news Wednesday afternoon on The Fan's Chris Gates' Twitter feed. The story that emerged had taken shape in a startlingly short frame of time. According to the Post-Gazette, Graham sought permission to speak with the Sun Devils on Tuesday, and was denied by Pitt AD Steve Pederson. And by this account, that was the entire exit process:

Mr. Pederson said that was the last he had heard from Mr. Graham, despite repeated attempts to reach both him and Arizona State athletic director Lisa Love to discuss the situation further. A Pitt athletic department administrator then went to Mr. Graham's house Tuesday night to try to find out what his intentions were. Mr. Graham answered the door but declined to speak to the administrator. Wednesday morning, Mr. Graham sent his resignation to Mr. Pederson -- without speaking with him -- and he and his family hopped on an airplane bound for Arizona.

The reaction: Untethered by upheaval, Pitt players took to various social media outlets to vent their emotions -- all entirely justified, since they were informed of Graham's departure via text message from a third party. Notable among these respondents were Brandon Lindsey, who waxed bitterly philosophical ("At least we got to run at 630 this morning") and Devin Street, who called his now-former coach a "damn diva" and informed the Internet Graham cuts his own hair.

The university's statement on the matter is just the best, a document brimming with institutional rage and hinting at some very unfriendly paperwork exchanges in the near future:

"Obviously this is not the way we would have expected Mr. Graham to handle any possible departure," Pitt executive vice chancellor and general counsel Jerry Cochran said. "Beyond normal expectations with respect to professional conduct, he has failed to comply with the terms of his contract."

The fallout: Pitt will appear in the BBVA Compass Bowl under the direction of current defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. The Panthers are already short on assistants after losing three coaches to Rich Rodriguez's new staff at Arizona -- men Graham referred to as "mercenaries" when they left Pennsylvania. Suppose he would know. Not counting interims, the next hire will give Pitt its fourth head coach in the span of just more than a calendar year. Panther recruits are being closed in on. Steve "Hired Bill Callahan" Pederson's suitability for his position is being questioned by institutions high and low.

The future: And so it was that Graham was introduced at Arizona State, where he said the following words in his opening press conference:

"The timing of these processes are extremely rapid, and it did not allow for me to address the team and that is very hurtful. I've never had to endure that and I really regret that I didn't have the opportunity to do that."

Terrible, indeed, that the private plane sent to spirit Graham and his family out of town would not have waited for him to address his team.

Here's Arizona State president Michael Crow:

What we sought in a football coach was someone who would be in it for the long term at Arizona State [...] who would communicate and connect with the community, and represent our University with honor. In Todd Graham we have that person.