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Former ASU coach Todd Graham regrets only one thing from his tenure

Arizona State head coach Todd Graham in the first half during an NCAA college football game against Arizona, Saturday, Nov 25, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
LISTEN: Todd Graham, Former ASU Football Head Coach

The responsibilities of a head coach in college football are vast.

Winning football games is number one. Recruiting, community relations, media responsibilities are also very important.

For Todd Graham during his six-year tenure as Arizona State’s head man, there was another responsibility to tackle — fundraising for a new team facility and stadium upgrade. He attacked this task with a fervor and had success. ASU moved into a new team facility prior to the 2017 season and the renovation of Sun Devil Stadium will be completed prior to the 2018 season opener Sept. 1 against UTSA.

While Graham’s efforts paid off, that focus is the one thing he regrets as he moves on from ASU.

“I knew that we needed to build a facility,” Graham told Doug & Wolf Tuesday morning on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “I knew our facilities, from a recruiting standpoint, you have to have something to compete with the USCs, the Stanfords, the UCLAs, the Washingtons.

“And you have to recruit for those top players. You have to have a definitive plan for who you are. So I wanted to build a facility that would be on the cutting edge as far as development and teaching of our players. To help us in recruiting, that needed to be done.”

As he did with everything on his plate while in Tempe, Graham went all-in. In September of 2014, he donated $500,000 of his own money to the effort. That spurred athletic director Ray Anderson to do the same. The fruits of Graham’s labor in this area will be enjoyed for years to come, but he won’t get to experience the results, obviously. For the 53-year-old coach, it’s the one thing he wishes he did differently.

“At that time, we had a lot of turnover, especially in the administration with the ADs, so I just took it upon myself to do it,” Graham said. “I went out and built relationships and started raising money, and even though those relationships are incredible, that distracted me from the coaching part of it.

“We had a really special thing going when Mike (Norvell) was the (offensive) coordinator in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, and I was the defensive coordinator. Mike, obviously through his success, got a head coaching job, so we lost him. And I think me pulling away, I think my son’s departure from the program was very tough too, because he had worked with all the offensive coordinators and was a very big, big part of what we were doing.”

Graham’s son, Bo, was ASU’s running back’s coach and resigned in 2015 due to a reported relationship with a female student athlete that started while she was still in school. After the younger Graham’s departure, ASU posted an 18-20 record over three seasons. It also spurred changes in responsibilities for the coaching staff, including the elder Graham.

“If I had to do it again, I would have stayed focused and I would have not done (fundraising), I would have continued coaching,” Graham said, pointing out that early in his tenure, ASU boasted a formidable defense — something that wasn’t the case over the last three years.

“It was because I got a little distracted and involved in things that I knew needed to be done — and I’m so proud of that building. I’m so proud of what we’ve done because it’s going to impact the program in a huge way.”

Graham, whose tenure wrapped up last week with a 52-31 loss to North Carolina State in the Sun Bowl, finishes his ASU career with a 46-32 mark — the third-most wins of any coach in Sun Devil history, behind only the legendary Frank Kush and Bruce Snyder.

“If I had to do it over again, I would have spent less time raising money and stayed focused on coaching football, ” Graham said.

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