Interviews on Todd Graham: Two Must-Read Q&As
The following are selected excerpts from two interviews conducted on WPTS during a breaking news special following Graham’s resignation. Some of the most significant quotes are bolded.
FOXSportsHouston.com’s MK Bower (@FSH_Owls on Twitter)
BL: Rice’s marching band had the Todd Graham Inferno which really ticked of Tulsa and got them upset, but people at Rice seem to despise this man, and people at Pitt are starting to feel the same way. These characterizations of Todd Graham as being- we’ll try to keep it clean- but a very, very selfish, jump-at-the-first-good-deal-you-get sort of guy- are these somewhat valid?
MB: Oh, they are absolutely valid. One thing that struck me about his time here is his characterizations of his players. You know, off the record he said some pretty violent, disturbing things about players to me that I found reprehensible, especially considering he was a guy, when the cameras were on, who always hid behind the cloak of his faith. You talk about his character, I remember watching a Pitt game earlier this year, a reporter ran up to [Coach Graham] and I think he interrupted her to say he wanted to thank God for this opportunity, and I literally spit out what I was drinking. Because I know how he is, all of that is a front, all of that is a shame, it’s all part of the façade that he puts up to lure these people in under the tent. And it was really discouraging to see how things ended here, not because he left, but the way he did it… he already had one foot out the door.
Corey Eisenberg: A similar exit here with Todd Graham and Pitt- he didn’t even inform his players in person that he was leaving- he sent them a message through a representative from the athletic department, informing them via text message and not even addressing them directly. What are your thoughts, knowing how he handled the situation now, and how he handled it at Rice?
MB: Which one was worse? Telling your players you’re leaving via text, or having your assistant coaches keep your players in the dark purposely, which is what he did here at Rice? His players couldn’t get in contact with him, so they started calling assistants, and he told his assistants to not call them back, to leave them in the dark. And then he called the meeting at six a.m. in the morning to tell them he was leaving, only because he had a private jet waiting to take him to Tulsa. I’m not surprised in the least bit about what I heard today, it fits the character of the man. It’s unfortunate didn’t have the stones that he had promised the world to- as recently as December seventh- to turn cold and run out on them and not face them. It’s abhorrent, it really is. But, look who we are dealing with here… It fits the profile of who he is.
CE: Which exit do you think was worse?
MB: To me, the text message was gutless. At least he met with the guys here- though at six in the morning. But the next generation of players that are going to play for him- when you hear about this, as a parent, how do you trust this guy to be a leader of your children?
BL: Do you think you can buy that [Pitt athletic director] Steve Pederson, like all of us, was duped, or should he absolutely have know that this was going to happen? Is Todd Graham just so good of a salesman that you can’t really blame anybody for being outsmarted by whatever kind of man this is?
MB: If you’re Steve Pederson, I think you have to put that coach in a situation where he can’t run out on you after one year. And, from what I heard, that was not the situation, and [Graham] was put in a position where if he wants to leave, the buyout was so prohibitive that he couldn’t leave. I think that’s the only way you can protect yourself. Hey, Todd’s a great salesman… but if you’re an AD and you know this guy’s history, you either have to ignore it, or you have to do something to protect yourself and I don’t think Steve Pederson protected himself.
Tulsa World’s Eric Bailey(@EricBaileyTW on Twitter)
Ben Livingston: You were able to cover a few coaching changes involving Coach Graham… Does this seem familiar to you, or is it something completely new?
Eric Bailey: You know, what’s funny, when I heard the news this morning, the first thing I said was I was shocked, but not shocked, if that makes sense. Just because of his track record. Todd was an outstanding coach for the University of Tulsa; he won football games here, but you always had a feel for him looking on at bigger schools every offseason. Each offseason, even after his first in 2007, you started hearing little rumors of him looking around and that was one year after he left Rice after a one year stint too. So, that’s why when I heard the news today I was shocked that he’d leave after one season, especially after going [to Pitt], and telling everyone in Tulsa that it was just too good of an opportunity to pass up… But it’s not a shock because we’ve seen him do it before and it was in his track record when he left Rice.
BL: [I asked] Steve Pederson said in the news conference today… ‘When you look back at what happened with Rice, when he left for Tulsa, did that send any red flags to you, did that surprise you?’ He said ‘No, Todd Graham gave me assurances that he wanted to go back to Tulsa because that felt like home to him; that felt like a place he really belonged and that was a special circumstance.” Do you buy that or do you think Todd Graham just fed Steve Pederson what he wanted to hear?
EB: Probably a little bit of both, I really think he did enjoy Tulsa- and then we went to Rice, you know. I really think that Tulsa is a better job than Rice. He built some roots here; his family loved it here in those three years he was here before. So, at the time, you know, he was happy in Tulsa, so when he made the job change I think it was one he really wanted to make. That said, you look at it and Tulsa really is a better job than Rice, so look back, and you can say ‘when he was at Rice, was he pursuing the Tulsa job right away?’ If he did, that was probably the baseline for what we are seeing now, where he is trying to better himself after each season, and you almost have to be worried after each season because you don’t know what’s going to happen.
Corey Eisenberg: In the years that Coach Graham was at Tulsa, in the offseason, was there controversy swirling around of him looking for other jobs? what was it like between seasons?
EB: …We always heard the rumors and we’d always ask him ‘are you pursuing other jobs?’ and he’d say ‘No, I’m not going to talk about other jobs.” But there were always rumors, and you would ask yourself, ‘Who put his name out there?’ Was he lobbying for his name to be out there?’ I think we know the answer to that now.
CE: And when it was announced that we was going to Pittsburgh, what was the reaction like in the [Tulsa] community?
EB: By the time he announced he was going to Pittsburgh, everyone understood and had braced themselves, and it wasn’t a shock. And, I think it became time with the program where he didn’t have success at Tulsa. You know, there are a lot of fans here that are appreciative of what he did here at Tulsa. He had three ten win seasons in four years, and really took the program to a different level, but at the same time I think that everyone had grown tired of each other.I think Tulsa got tired of him looking for other jobs and there really wasn’t a heavy push to keep Todd at Tulsa when he got offered the Pittsburgh Job.
BL: How much credibility do you give to this notion that [Graham] is just out there for him and not out there for any of these things he says he’s there for, like the fans, and the university, and these bigger ideals?
EB: I think everyone needs to make their own decision on that for themselves, but when you start looking at the track record of what he had Rice, and especially at Pittsburgh- because when he left [Tulsa] he said it was a dream job and he was looking forward to staying there for years- and now he’s off to Arizona State and in his press conference he’s talking about staying there for years [laughs]. It’s almost like a script- he’s talking about integrity and he’s talking about character, and I think everyone has to make their own decisions, but I can tell you honestly I just can’t put my arms around it and I can’t believe it.