Treading with caution on Graham hire

Dec 15, 2011, 7:45 PM | Updated: 10:14 pm

Okay, it’s been more than 24 hours since news broke that
Todd Graham would be the next head coach of the Arizona
State Sun Devils. I guess it’s time to spill my thoughts.

I thought that finally naming a coach seventeen days after
firing Dennis Erickson would quell the negativity
surrounding the Arizona State football program.

Fans were anxious, outsiders were scoffing and national
media types were throwing words around like “botching” and
“debacle” when discussing the coaching search headed up by
Lisa Love
Dr. Michael Crow.

The hiring of Todd Graham, who bolted from Pittsburgh
after eleven months and notified his team via text message
and e-mail through an assistant, hasn’t changed any of
that national school of thought.

Don’t believe me?

“There are no circumstances that justify such cut-and-
run cowardice. Arizona State had gone 17 days without a
coach; it certainly could have made it an 18th and let you
take care of business properly at Pitt,” Pat Forde
Yahoo! Sports wrote on Wednesday

“Total disaster. And this is why the Sun Devils are always
labeled a “sleeping giant,” not a legitimate threat to win
the Pac-12 on a year in, year out basis,” according to Dan
Greenspan of

The way this hiring went down on Wednesday was the final
topping on a very unappealing sundae.

For the 2nd straight hire, ASU went with a coach who
unceremoniously exited his last job after just one season.
Dennis Erickson left Idaho after one season to come to
Tempe, and ruffled plenty of feathers in the process.

But that was nothing compared to the reaction of Graham’s
departure from a football proud community like Pittsburgh.

And this wasn’t Graham’s first curious exit. He left his
first major college coaching stint at Rice after one
season — a 7-6 campaign in 2006. He took the open job at
Tulsa just days after signing a contract extension.

Job hopping isn’t the only eyebrow-raising item in
Graham’s background. His past treatment of players has
been a popular subject among critics since the ASU news
broke. Rice players reportedly were “doing cartwheels”
when it was learned that Graham was leaving. There have
been numerous mentions of Graham publicly criticizing Pitt
quarterback Tino Sunseri after poor performances.

Former Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt was very critical of
Graham’s treatment of Sunseri. “If he was my son, he
would be gone. I’d pull him out of there and transfer
him,” he said on a local Pittsburgh radio station.

At Graham’s introductory press conference Wednesday in
Tempe, he said all the right things. He talked about
passion, and his “high-octane” philosophy. He spoke of
earning the trust of ASU fans everywhere, and learning and
rekindling traditions and relationships with former

It all sounded terrific. And familiar. Because not only
have those same themes been prevalent in every
introductory press conference from every college coach in
history, but Graham said almost the identical things just
last January at Pittsburgh.

Let me put it this way, would you be happy about your
little brother marrying a woman who has been married four
times in six years, with each divorce seemingly messier
than the last?

No, you wouldn’t be happy, but you’d probably step aside,
swallow your tongue, and hope that this time is different,
and that the marriage lasts. You’d likely enter your
family relationship with your younger in-law with a good
amount of trepidation and uncertainty.

Much like an older brother in the above scenario, I want
the best for Arizona State football, but I have to wonder
if this is it.

On November 28th, when Erickson was fired, if you would
have told me that they’d end up with Todd Graham leading
the program, I wouldn’t have been too jazzed.

Seems almost like they rushed just to get married. Hope I
don’t feel like kicking myself for spending too much on
their gift.

Vince Marotta

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Treading with caution on Graham hire