Huskies Insider Blog

Not surprisingly, new ASU coach Todd Graham taking heavy criticism

There are times when you want to be a columnist. And Arizona State's hiring of Todd Graham was like seeing a batting practice fastball over the middle of the plate with the bases loaded for local and national columnists.

The situation is so ridiculous and phony that Graham has turned into a punching bag for the media's best barbs. Do I feel sorry for him? Not in the least. These were coming. These were deserved.

Let's get to the fun ...

Pat Forde of Yahoo.com offers a fantastic skewering of Graham and his persona, even having him renege on a previous agreement for a story in the same sort of manner how he backed out of the Pitt job and told his player via text message.

From Forde's column ...

But this sort of behavior is consistent with the Graham that I and other people know.

When I was working for ESPN.com in 2008, we arranged an all-access piece with Tulsa for its game at Arkansas . Graham was the coach at Tulsa and the Golden Hurricane were undefeated and ranked 19th in the country at the time – largely because Gus Malzahn was orchestrating an explosive offense. I had full access to Tulsa starting about 24 hours before kickoff – team walk-through at the stadium, meetings at the hotel, on the sideline during the game, in the locker room both pregame and postgame.

Leading up to the game, Graham made multiple mentions of his faith. He led the team in the Lord’s Prayer before taking the field. And when a defensive back blew an assignment on the first series, Graham F-bombed him as viciously as any coach I’ve seen since Bob Knight.

OK, so he’s hardly the first coach to play both sides of the piety-profanity line. What happened postgame is where I lost respect for him. When Tulsa lost a game it should have won (30-23), I was stopped at the entrance to the locker room by a nervous graduate assistant.

“You can’t come in,” he said.

“Yes, I can,” I said. “We already worked this out. Win or lose, I’m in the locker room.”

“No,” the GA said. “Coach Graham doesn’t want you in here.”

This was my version of the director of ops email. I wouldn’t have liked being shut out by a sore loser who reneged on an agreement under any circumstance, but having a graduate assistant deliver the news made it worse. After that season – Graham’s second at Tulsa – word started to circulate that he was looking for other jobs. He had bailed on Rice after just one season as head coach, in 2006, to go to Tulsa and left behind some angry people. Then it was ESPN's Mark Schlabach's turn ....

From his column ...

Heck, I'd like to apologize to any college football coach I've ever criticized.

None of you were as deceitful or slick as new Arizona State coach Todd Graham, who becomes the new president of the Liar's Club, thanks to his latest backdoor exit to a more lucrative job.

When compared to Graham, Petrino seems to have the loyalty of Lassie and Tressel seems to have the rectitude of Honest Abe Lincoln.

Graham is nothing more than a slithery used-car salesman, telling recruits and boosters what they want to hear so he'll ultimately get what he needs to pad his résumé for a better job.

Forget the Backyard Brawl. They'll have the Used Car Lot Brawl at Arizona State.

Graham even makes Kim Kardashian seem committed.And local columnist Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic got in a few shots ...

Deep down, most college coaches are just like Todd Graham. Their loyalty is to the University of Me. Their rhetoric is propaganda with pompons.

Still, there's something unsettling about the new football coach at Arizona State.

He's made a lot of enemies. He's been called a lot of names. There are many angry people in his wake.

"I hire lots of people," ASU President Dr. Michael Crow said. "I engage in interviewing lots of people. I look for passion and energy and skill and intelligence and perseverance. And he has all of those things."

Crow said nothing about loyalty and commitment. He knows better.

Character issues aside, maybe Arizona State's football program could use a little ruthless ambition. Graham is a professional climber with a cacophony of catchphrases, a man deeply attuned to the cult of personality. 

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