The negative publicity surrounding Arizona State and its football program was at an all-time low when Todd Graham was hired. The search for the next head coach at ASU was a circus with the near-hire of SMU Head Coach June Jones and the coaching search take-over by the University President instead of the Athletic Director. The hiring of Todd Graham after one season at Pitt caught Sun Devil fans off-guard. As Sun Devil fans were finding out who exactly was Todd Graham, national media rained down on him for leaving after one season at Pitt and telling his players about his departure through a text message. Needless to say, a struggling Division 1 football program and its new head coach, with a fickle fan base, were publicly being negative portrayed in national media and it seems to have hit its lowest low.
- ESPN’s Mark Schlabach wrote, “None 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. Todd Graham’s players were not happy about their coach’s exit from Pitt. 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.”
- Yahoo’s Pat Forde said, “You start to figure out that Todd Graham is all about himself. Not all about the team he’s coaching.”
- Dick Vitale publicly bashed Todd Graham on ESPN’s Mike and Mike Radio Show.
- The best summary of the entire situation was written wonderfully by EERinsider.com, who early in December was mentioned Graham was reaching out to Kansas and Texas A&M Universities about their open positions “The way he left his players out in the cold is inexcusable, especially for a man who lectured his team about class and character.”
- Pitt local radio media hosts Vinnie & Cook on Sportsradio 93-7 The Fan called Graham “Following DE at Arizona State, when you talk about sleazballs, Erickson was sleezy, but they found somebody who maybe sleezier than DE”
- RantSports.com columnist Luke McConnell wrote an article titled, “Fraud: Todd Graham Shows Unbelievable Cowardice in Taking Arizona State Job”
- And five months after the hire, it continues as Ben Kercheval, a writer for CollegeFootballTalk which is part of NBCSports, tweeted “I know it seems like we the media hate Todd Graham. We don’t. I mean, he’s too dang funny to hate.” Quickly followed by another tweet “I mean, it’s really tough to hate someone who’s a walking punchline.”
It would be easy for a coach to lash back publicly. Instead, Todd Graham kept focused on his job as head football coach at ASU. He met with all the right people in the ASU community, and he met all of his players. He built a top-notch coaching staff full of assistant coaches who want to teach. Then Graham ran a spirited spring practice which created a positive stir in the community. Throughout it all, Coach Graham has been open with fans and media members, and he has been all over local and national media outlets. Not just Graham, he has also encouraged his assistants to reach out and meet with the media. Here is a list of interviews and articles over the past five months where Todd Graham and his assistant coaches are trying to create a new image of positivity, intensity, and discipline.
- Todd Graham – Head Coach
- Fan Forum with Season Ticket Holders
- 1 on 1 Interview with Kevin Hunt
- Meetings with numerous ASU Campus Organizations
- Several Sun Devils 101 Videos
- SiriusXm’s College Sports Nation Show with Jack Arute and Dan Hawkins on April 13th
- Behind the Scenes of Spring Practice with Alden Darby Helmet Camera Footage
- Fox Sports Interview – Changing Perceptions
- New Video Promos Getting Fans Excited
- Performing “High Octane Hour” on Monday Nights during 2012 Season
- Paul Randolph – Senior Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator
- Mike Norvell – Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach
- Larry Porter – Assistant Coach (Running Backs)
- Chris Ball – Assistant Coach (Defensive Backs)
- Bob Connelly – Assistant Coach (Offensive Line)
- DelVaughn Alexander – Assistant Coach (Wide Receivers)
- Ron West – Co-Defensive Coordinator/Inside Linebacker Coach
- DevilsDigest.com ($$) late-February
- Chip Long – Assistant Coach (Tight Ends)
- Joe Lorig – Assistant Coach (Outside Linebackers)/DST Coordinator
- John Sanders – Coordinator of Operations
- ASUDevils.com – mid March
- Post Spring Practice Press Conferences
- Coaches included the first week were Graham, Norvell, Randolph, and Director of Strength and Conditioning Shawn Griswold
Additionally, a new and major push in social media outreach has taken over the Athletic Department. There is a new facebook page “Sun Devil Football Recruiting” and several new twitter accounts including “Sun Devil Equipment”, offensive coordinator Mike Norvell, and most of the Athletic Department including new Athletic Director Steve Patterson, Sr. Associate Athletic Director Stephen Ponder, and most of the ticket sales team.
All of this is a massive push for Todd Graham and the Arizona State Athletic Department to repair the damage done at the end of 2011. Graham and the Athletic Department are going all out with positive media interviews and appearances. These interviews and appearances are always positive, and the community is getting re-energized. The highly Todd Graham is not letting all of this get to him as he re-builds the stagnant ASU program. It seems he is following the quote from JK Rowling “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” In this case, Todd Graham is using all of this negativity around the program to hopefully rebuild something special at Sun Devil Stadium.