I’m not really sure why I hold such fascination for Todd Graham’s career trajectory. He’s a perpetual job-hopper who bolts via text message and won’t have a problem leaving Arizona State if a better opportunity arises. But for whatever reason, perhaps because it’s healthy college football conversation, the new Sun Devils head coach intrigues me.
I should also disclose that Mike Gundy’s attire, Michigan State’s entire program and the day when a university uses “Never Gonna Give You Up” as their fight song tune falls in this category as well.
So when he plants his foot firmly in his mouth when talking about his old employer, I’ll be there.
“In every job that [I've previously had] … I’ve changed jobs, and you know, you get a lot of grief, and rightly so. I take responsibility for being at a place for one year and leaving,” he said. “I made a mistake. The mistake was I probably should have never gone to Pittsburgh in the first place.”
He’s right in hindsight for a couple of reasons but I’ll give Graham a little credit taking the gig as well. First, like he says later in the interview, the head coach is a native Texan with almost all of his experience in the south. There’s something to knowing how to recruit in a region — it’s obviously different everywhere — and connecting with high school coaches. Graham is a former Texas prep coach so the closer he sticks to his roots, the less time he needs to spend on developing relationships rather than cultivating them.
Also, the history at Pitt has mostly been rewritten with Penn State‘s rise. The Nittany Lions are the dominant program in that area with the relics of Panthers glory occurring most recently in the early 1980′s and a national championship in 1976. Graham might have made them competitive but with a looming move to the ACC, they weren’t approaching powerhouse status.
Leaving Tulsa was a no-brainer for the raise and the Big East prestige if Graham’s destination was actually a destination job. It wasn’t in his mind so he struggled through a 6-6 campaign in 2011, must have had a fantastic agent selling him to the Sun Devils and landed his “dream job.” I have a hard time believing Graham’s dream opportunity isn’t in the Lone Star State but far be it from me to speculate on the draws of Arizona and the coeds in Tempe.
Does any of that wash his reputation of the grime he’s accumulated by leaving school after school at the altar of search firms?
Of course not.
At some point, those who fail upward eventually must produce. Graham has reached that point. He’s at a position and in a locale where winning hasn’t come as easy as it should but the foundation is there. Athletic directors won’t be wooed by a man with potential anymore. Todd Graham requires wins and preferably a ton of them over multiple years.
If he doesn’t, Graham may find himself in a position he’s not accustomed to occupying.
He won’t hand in his resignation letter and text his players, his boss will simply tell him to clean out his desk and mosey on back to Conference USA.