Despite his rousing success in the first 18 months on the job at Arizona State, Sun Devils’ head football coach Todd Graham is still labeled in a very particular way by those outside the Valley.
He’s still known for his less-than-perfect exit from the University of Pittsburgh after just one season to take over the ASU program in December of 2011.
Since then, Graham has been very honest about his exit — saying everything from that he wishes he would have handled it differently to admitting that he never should have taken the Pittsburgh job in the first place.
The eighth-year head coach has moved on…so why haven’t others?
ESPN The Magazine published its 2013 College football confidential — an anonymous poll of 92 collegiate players on a multitude of questions from gay teammates to most overhyped player. There was also a question that asked players who the last coach they would ever want to play for is? The most common answer? Arizona State’s Todd Graham with 14 percent of the vote.
Because he left Pittsburgh for a better job? Because he didn’t notify players with a formal team meeting, instead having a staffer group-text the squad? Because he’s left two jobs after just one season?
Hmm…let’s explore this a little more. Nick Saban famously left the Miami Dolphins after the 2006 season for the head coaching job at Alabama a week after he said publicly “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach.” Since he’s been in Tuscaloosa, he’s won three BCS National Championships, so I guess that lie is forgiven?
Furthermore, in the same ESPN questionnaire, the players were asked if the same coach that offered them a scholarship was still in that position. A startling 63 percent said ‘no’.
In the recruiting process, every coach will sit in a player’s living room, espousing the advantages said player will enjoy by attending (fill in the blank) University. They’ll assure the parents of the player that they’ll be there for four years to help make their son a better player and a better person.
That’s a lie, too. Some of those coaches will be fired, but many of them will simply pick up and leave for better jobs. Brett Bielema left Wisconsin for Arkansas and the prestige of the SEC. Tommy Tuberville bolted from Texas Tech to head up Cincinnati’s program, although some might question if that’s actually a step up. Darrell Hazell landed at Purdue via Kent State. Three years ago, Al Golden left Temple to take over the Miami Hurricanes. Contracts for college football coaches aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.
Of the 125 FBS coaches in the country this season, 86 or almost 69 percent of them have been at their current jobs less than four years. So why does this stigma still follow Todd Graham?
All he has done is fulfill nearly every “campaign promise” he talked about at his introductory press conference back in 2011.
He has instilled discipline and pride back into the Arizona State program. He has connected with the community and the ASU alumni base.
And most importantly, he has turned the Sun Devils into a real contender in the Pac-12 South in just two years.
I choose to let those accomplishments define Todd Graham — not one bad decision made two years ago in pursuit of a better situation for him and his family.
CBS Sports College Football tweeted out the following Thursday morning:
Pitt LB Todd Thomas leaves team – http://t.co/pI6RdCWCeo Pitt has lost 23 players since start of 2012 season. Twenty. Three.
— Eye on College FBall (@EyeOnCFB) August 8, 2013
I wonder if any of those Pitt players have incurred the same wrath for leaving the Panthers as Todd Graham has?
My guess is no.