Todd Graham A Great Fit For ASU Football
Down-Home Approach To Football Might Just Be What Is Needed In Aftermath Of The Erickson Era
Todd Graham, new head football coach at Arizona State University.
By Bob Goodwood
Modern Times Magazine
Dec. 15, 2011 — Like it or loathe it, Todd Graham is the new Head Football Coach at Arizona State University.
Second guessing is the nature of this beast. No selection could have satisfied everyone and clearly, the soap opera nature of the search that culminated in Graham’s hiring Wednesday made a mixed reaction inevitable.
Blame can be sprinkled everywhere. The media was wrong to investigate this more than the ongoings at the state legislature, using untold anonymous sources that tarnished the university and the program. The university and boosters also deserve blame for leaking information when it should have been allowed to progress on its own — arm chair quarterbacks are bad enough on Saturdays, they have no place in multi-million dollar contracts.
Players deserve credit for losing Erickson his job in November.
President Michael Crow and Vice President of Athletics Lisa Love directly addressed the public perception that the 17 day search was one of ineptitude. Regarding reports that Southern Methodist University coach June Jones was hired, but the contract was abruptly pulled, Crow said, “we made one offer and it was accepted.”
Love was not so tactful when repeatedly asked about what led to Graham’s hiring. She spanked the media and made her distaste with the coverage of the search clearly evident when she declined to timeline the search process when directly queried about it by a local reporter.
“If you don’t mind, and I know this might be a little bit aggravating to you, but if you don’t mind, but as far as the details of all of this, we will probably keep that private, well, we will keep it private, we won’t probably keep it private. I think sources of discovery (anonymous sources) are protected and incredibly valuable, but so are time frames, oddly enough. And I know that sounds mysterious, a little bit like a Sherlock Holmes puzzle for you all in the media, but I think we are better served by maintaining that privacy. So details of search, numbers, who, what, when, where, why, how — we will keep that in a vault in the office.” Love said.
Sure everyone wants to know what went on, but it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters in college football is winning. If Graham wins, no one will care that he informed his former players at the University of Pittsburgh that he was leaving via Twitter. No one will also care if Kevin Sumlin turned them down or if June Jones was the coach for a millisecond.
The best part might be that Todd Graham knows that, too.
“It’s win or get retired,” Graham said.
To which Crow quipped, “It does work that way.”
The Sun Devil football program is not a bare cupboard — they have some outstanding skill guys returning. Graham has a chance to make an impact right away if he can deliver on his promise to imbue his team with “discipline” and “toughness” along with speed.
It might be 2007 — Erickson’s first year and a 10-3 record — all over again in 2012.
And, by the pitch-job he gave the assembled media Wednesday, Graham showed he has the skills to be a top-notch recruiting head coach. No longer will ASU be dependent on a recruiting coordinator as the vital link between player and university — hint: Steve Broussard. No disrespect to a guy who did great things in college football, but Dennis Erickson was looking more and more like a Sun City resident. That is not good for recruiting.
Graham, though, is 46 and brims with energy that Erickson never showed to the public.
“I love to recruit. You got to (love recruiting) in this business. It is the lifeblood of your program. The one thing that I do is personnel and the No.1 job I have is recruiting,” Graham said.
Graham uses technological savvy in pursuit of his recruiting goals. He uses Facebook and Twitter to communicate with players and recruits. Can anyone imagine Erickson using Facebook?
Is Todd Graham the “perfect football coach?” No. But no one can be the perfect anything. Some worry about Graham’s poor record at Pittsburgh in 2011. But looking deeper into his schedule, his team lost four games by 4 points or less. That means a 6-6 record could have easily been 9-3 or 8-4.
Another big worry is if Graham will leave ASU after a few years for an even greener pasture. Sure, that might be a possibility, but only if he wins here. A big pocket school like Texas will never go after a coach who goes 7-4 at Arizona State. If he wins a Rose Bowl or goes to a BCS bowl it might happen, but wouldn’t any ASU fan exchange that for the last decade of mediocrity?
Graham also mentioned John Cooper, former Arizona State coach and the only man to lead ASU to a Rose Bowl victory. Cooper left the year after that Rose Bowl run, but at least he got the Sun Devils there.
What fan would turn something like that down?
He was selling the Sun Devils brand today even though he was selling Pittsburgh just a day before. Graham is a great salesman and he will keep selling the dream of championship football until no one will buy it or it comes true.
He called on former players — who allegedly were the force that halted the Jones hiring — to be more involved in the program.
“I want to reach out to former players for their support. This is your program. You built it and I am honored to be your coach. I am going to call upon yas (sic) so be ready. I need you on the sideline and I need you in the locker room.” Graham said. “This program is going to be about winning championships and we are going to do it in a way that respects you.”
He also asked fans to help by believing in success at Arizona State.
“I want to give a shout-out to our fans. To all of the Sun Devil faithful out there. I need your support. I need you to start “speaking victory” every day. I don’t shy away from great expectations. I know exactly what I am inheriting and the opportunity that is here but I need your support. I am going to work hard to earn your respect and trust. We will work hard to put a product out on that field that you can be proud of. I guarantee you that we will play every play to the end of the whistle,” Graham said.
By doing those things, Graham said the Sun Devils would return to the glory of season’s past and possibly a national championship.
“Perception is reality and we are going to start today with the perception that we are going to build a championship program. We are going to win the Pac-12 championship. We are going to win a Rose Bowl championships and ultimately the national championship. Our kids are going to be the hardest working, best prepared, most disciplined team in the country,” Graham said.
Did he say national championship?
Bob Goodwood is a freelance writer currently living in Scottsdale, Ariz.