September 15, 2014
Arizona State coach Todd Graham walks on the sideline in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Colorado in Boulder, Colo., on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Todd Graham spent three years trying to prove Arizona State was a destination for him after years of job hopping, saying all the right things, turning around the football program with a disciplined approach.

His latest move put an exclamation point on his efforts and may, finally, put an end to the will-he-stay argument.

Graham and his wife, Penni, joined athletic director Ray Anderson and his wife, Buffie, in donating $500,000 each to Sun Devil Athletics Momentum, a fundraising effort for the estimated $225 million renovation of Sun Devil Stadium.

Graham and his coaching staff have preached an all-in effort from his team and he put his checkbook where his mouth is by matching Anderson for the largest gifts in school history by athletic-department employees.

''Obviously, this is something that makes a big statement about what our commitment is, as we surely wouldn't make this kind of commitment if we had anything else in mind,'' Graham said Monday. ''We made this decision as a family because of the relationships. I have been in this business a long time, but I have never been in a place where I have had the personal relationship that I have here with our supporters.''

Arizona State started a campaign earlier this year to raise $50 million from private donors. The university also has started work on a 330-acre athletics facilities district to help pay for the upgrade to 56-year-old Sun Devil Stadium.

The donations by Graham and Anderson are expected to help give fundraising efforts a jolt.

''We are proud because I know now that Todd and I can go out much more credibly and much more comfortably to ask others to join us in this transformational experience for this university and this community,'' Anderson said. ''And we can do it much more emphatically because we have in fact put skin in the game.''

Before arriving at Arizona State, Graham had been criticized for not sticking around after leaving Rice and Pittsburgh after one-year stints.

He began winning over boosters immediately after arriving in Tempe and produced a winner on the field, leading the Sun Devils to a pair of bowl games and the Pac-12 South title last season.

Graham was rewarded with a contract extension earlier this year that raised his salary to $2.7 million, plus incentives.

Anderson has been at ASU less than a year, arriving in February after working as an executive for the NFL and the Atlanta Falcons. His base salary is $600,000, plus incentives.

''I think it speaks volumes of their personal commitment to what they do every day and sends a tremendous message across the country to how emotionally involved they are with the success of what is going on here at Arizona State University,'' said Sun Devil Club executive director Cooper Jones.

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