Todd Graham

Todd Graham
Graham at the 2014 Sun Bowl
Sport(s) Football
Biographical details
Born (1964-12-05) December 5, 1964
Mesquite, Texas
Alma mater East Central University
Playing career
1983–1986 East Central
1987 Arizona Cardinals
Position(s) Defensive back
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1988–1990 Poteet HS (TX) (Asst.)
1991–1993 East Central (DC)
1994 Carl Albert HS (OK)
1995–2000 Allen HS (TX)
2001 West Virginia (LB)
2002 West Virginia (co-DC)
2003–2005 Tulsa (AHC/DC)
2006 Rice
2007–2010 Tulsa
2011 Pittsburgh
2012–2017 Arizona State
Head coaching record
Overall 95–61 (college)
Bowls 5–4
Accomplishments and honors
1 Pac-12 South Division (2013)
3 C-USA West Division (2007–2008, 2010)
1 Pac-12 Coach of the Year (2013)
1 C-USA Coach of the Year (2006)

Michael Todd Graham (born December 5, 1964) is an American football coach and former player. Graham has served as the head football coach at Rice University (2006), the University of Tulsa (2007–2010), the University of Pittsburgh (2011) and Arizona State University (2012–2017).

Playing career

Graham was an all-district defensive back at North Mesquite High School, from which he graduated in 1983. He then went on to play at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, where he was a two-time All-NAIA defensive back. After graduation from East Central, Graham had a brief stint with the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL.[1]

Coaching career

Graham began his coaching career in 1988 as an assistant at Poteet High School in his hometown of Mesquite. He later held head coaching positions at Carl Albert High School in Midwest City, Oklahoma, and Allen High School in Allen, Texas before becoming linebackers coach under Rich Rodriguez at West Virginia University in 2001.[2] The following season Graham was assigned to defensive co-coordinator.

In 2003, he was hired by Steve Kragthorpe as the defensive coordinator at Tulsa, where he helped guide the Golden Hurricane to two bowl games in three seasons. Graham built one of the best defensive units in Conference USA and the nation before leaving the position following his third year at Tulsa for his first head coaching stint.


Graham was hired as the head coach at Rice on January 1, 2006.[3] This followed the resignation of long-time coach Ken Hatfield after the Owls had finished 1–10 in 2005. At Rice, athletic director Chris Del Conte helped Graham raise $5.5 million for renovating Rice Stadium and replacing the dated AstroTurf with FieldTurf. He hired former University of Texas quarterback Major Applewhite as his offensive coordinator,[4] replacing the triple option offense Hatfield had been running with a more balanced attack. Behind quarterback Chase Clement and All-American receiver Jarett Dillard, Rice pulled off the biggest turnaround of the 2006 season, finishing 7–5 and earning an invitation to the New Orleans Bowl, the school's first bowl game since 1961.[3] Graham was named Conference USA Coach of the Year, and was rewarded by the Rice administration with the offer of a significant pay raise and contract extension.[5] After signing this extension, Graham left for Tulsa only a few days later. Graham received much criticism for this move. On November 24, 2007, when Tulsa played Rice at Rice Stadium, the Rice University Marching Owl Band presented a halftime show named "Todd Graham's Inferno"[6] (based on Dante's "The Divine Comedy"). This resulted in a formal protest to Conference USA by Tulsa's athletic department. Chuck Throckmorton, the marching band's director, later apologized for offending anyone, but not for the show.[7][8] Following Graham's exodus, Rice hired David Bailiff, who led Rice to its 2008 Texas Bowl, and its 2012 Armed Forces Bowl and 2013 Conference USA victories.


When the Tulsa head coaching position was vacant following the 2002 season, Todd Graham sent in his application. But it was not until five years later that Graham would take over the reins as the Golden Hurricane head coach. After serving three years as Tulsa defensive coordinator and one year as Rice head coach, Graham was introduced as Tulsa's 27th head football coach on January 12, 2007.[9]

For his offensive coordinators, Graham turned to his good friend Gus Malzahn, then offensive coordinator at the University of Arkansas,[10] as well as then WVU tight ends coach Herb Hand.[11] He also hired former Tulsa quarterback and Tulsa Union HS coach Bill Blankenship as wide receivers coach.

With an annual salary of $1.1 million Graham was the second highest-paid coach in Conference USA, behind SMU's June Jones in 2010.

In his final season at Tulsa, the team reached a 10–3 record that included a 28–27 upset at Notre Dame and 62–35 win over #24-ranked Hawaii in the 2010 Hawaii Bowl.[12]


Graham was announced as Pitt's head coach on January 10, 2011,[12][13] and subsequently led the team to a disappointing 6–6 regular season later that fall. Less than one year from his hiring, on the evening of December 13, Graham informed Athletic Director Steve Pederson that he had discussed a head coaching opportunity at Arizona State.[14] After being informed he did not have permission to talk to the school about the job and refusing conversations with Pederson and another administrator, Graham resigned and subsequently accepted the head coaching job at Arizona State.[15] Graham informed the Pitt players of his departure the following day by having a text message forwarded to the team by director of football operations Blair Philbrick.[16] Two weeks prior to leaving Pitt, Graham referred to assistant coaches who left to join the staff of Rich Rodriguez at Arizona as "nothing but mercenaries."[17] In later interviews, Graham claimed those comments were taken out of context. He said he wasn't referring to the coaches who left Pittsburgh and that he was having a conversation with reporters generally about college football coaching and said, "A lot of times coaches jump around everywhere, they're like mercenaries."[18]

The style in which Graham left, in combination with his quick departures from other universities, led to criticism of Graham in both local and national media.[19][20][21][22][23] University of Pittsburgh players also openly criticized Graham for his quick departure. Defensive tackle Chas Alecxih said most players were "shocked and appalled." Wide receiver Devin Street's comments were a little more severe stating, "It's been all a lie this whole time. Everything he told us has been a lie." Another one of Graham's players at the time, senior offensive tackle Lucas Nix, stated that he felt Graham's exiting text message wasn't worthy of the trust the team had put into Graham and his program. "We put our trust in him, and all he could do was send us a text message," Nix said.[24]

Arizona State

Graham was announced as Arizona State University's head coach on December 14, 2011.[25] In his first season at Arizona State, the Sun Devils went 8-5 securing their first winning season since 2007. Graham earned the nickname "Timeout Todd" for his propensity to burn timeouts early in games. With a win in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against the Navy Midshipmen, the 2012 Sun Devils won the final three games of the season for the first time since 1978.[26] ESPN's Pac-12 Blog writer Ted Miller called Todd Graham's first season at Arizona State an "unquestioned success."[27] In 2013, Graham continued to build positive momentum and led ASU to win the Pac-12 South after defeating UCLA and rival University of Arizona. ASU finished the season 10-4 and ranked #21 in the AP Poll and #20 in the Coach's Poll.[28] For his efforts in leading ASU to a Pac-12 South championship, Graham received the 2013 Pac-12 Coach of the Year Award. In 2014, ASU finished with yet another 10 win season by going 10-3 and ranking #12 in the final AP Poll and #14 in the final Coach's Poll. The season was capped off with Graham leading the Sun Devils to victory over Duke University in the Sun Bowl. [29] The 2015 season saw a big drop off for the program as the Sun Devils finished a disappointing 6-7 with a 43-42 loss to the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Cactus Bowl. The trend continued into the next two seasons. The Sun Devils finished 2016 on a 6 game losing streak which culminated in a 5-7 record. 2017 would be Graham's final season. The team improved only slightly, finishing 7-6. Graham was told that he would not be retained as head coach after winning the last regular season game of the year against rival Arizona, and retaining the Territorial Cup. The Sun Bowl against North Carolina State would be his last game as Arizona State head coach. The result was a 52-31 loss to the Wolfpack.

Head coaching record


Year Team Overall ConferenceStanding Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Rice Owls (Conference USA) (2006)
2006 Rice 7–66–22nd (West)L New Orleans
Rice: 7–66–2
Tulsa Golden Hurricane (Conference USA) (2007–2010)
2007 Tulsa 10–46–31st (West)W GMAC
2008 Tulsa 11–37–2T–1st (West)W GMAC
2009 Tulsa 5–73–53rd (West)
2010 Tulsa 10–36–2T–1st (West)W Hawaii24
Tulsa: 36–1722–12
Pittsburgh Panthers (Big East Conference) (2011)
2011 Pittsburgh 6–64–3T–4thL BBVA CompassA
Pittsburgh: 6–64–3
Arizona State Sun Devils (Pac-12 Conference) (2012–2017)
2012 Arizona State 8–55–4T–2nd (South)W Fight Hunger
2013 Arizona State 10–48–11st (South)L Holiday2021
2014 Arizona State 10–36–3T–2nd (South)W Sun1412
2015 Arizona State 6–74–54th (South)L Cactus
2016 Arizona State 5–72–7T–4th (South)
2017 Arizona State 7–66–32nd (South)L Sun
Arizona State: 46–3231–23
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth
  • ^A Graham resigned before Pittsburgh's 2011 bowl game.

Coaching tree

Assistants under Graham who have become head coaches:


  2. Head Football Coach Todd Graham Happy to be at TU
  3. 1 2 "Todd Graham". Rice University Athletics. Archived from the original on January 3, 2007. Retrieved April 13, 2016.
  4. Applewhite named offensive coordinator at Rice
  5. "Graham strikes deal in contract extension". The Rice Thresher. Archived from the original on July 14, 2007.
  6. Todd Graham's Inferno
  7. Rice band's 'Todd Graham's Inferno' not a hit with Tulsa,
  8. Rice band director apologizes for Graham routine
  9. "Todd Graham". Tulsa University Athletics. Archived from the original on July 17, 2011.
  10. Gus Malzahn Leaves Arkansas
  11. Hand Leaves West Virginia For Tulsa
  12. 1 2 "Todd Graham". University of Pittsburgh Athletics. Archived from the original on December 27, 2011.
  13. Zeise, Paul; Brink, Bill (2010-01-11). "Pitt's search ends with hiring of Tulsa's Graham". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh, PA. Retrieved 2010-01-11.
  14. "Keith Patterson Named Interim Coach for Pitt Football". 2011-12-14. Retrieved 2011-12-14.
  15. Zeiss, Paul (2011-12-15). "Graham leaves Pitt for Arizona St". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2011-12-15.
  16. "Todd Graham to coach Sun Devils". 2011-12-14. Retrieved 2011-12-14.
  17. Zeise, Paul (2011-12-15). "Graham leaves Pitt for Arizona State". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  19. Ford, Pat (2011-12-15). "Graham's classless departure for ASU nothing new". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved 2011-12-16.
  20. Adelson, Andrea (2011-12-14). "Pitt has to start over -- again". Retrieved 2011-12-16.
  21. Solomon, Jerome (2011-12-15). "Todd Graham makes another despicable decision". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2011-12-16.
  22. Morgan, Craig (2011-12-15). "Graham's actions belie talk of 'character'". Retrieved 2011-12-16.
  23. Collier, Gene (2011-12-14). "Pitt was a dry run for Graham". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2011-12-16.
  24. DiPaola, Jerry (2011-12-14). "Pitt left to pick up pieces after Graham exit". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved 2012-12-20.
  25. "Todd Graham Profile". Arizona Skjtate University. 2011-12-15. Retrieved 2012-09-14.
  26. Haller, Doug (2012-12-29). "ASU football routs Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved 2013-01-02.
  27. "Pac-12 Power Rankings Week 14". ESPN. 2012-11-26. Retrieved 2012-11-27.
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