With the announcement of Todd Graham's hiring at Arizona State and my subsequent scouring of the web to delve deeper into his history, many negative thoughts were racing through my mind. The discovery of his short tenures at past universities and the reports of his cold goodbye to his former team had me less than ecstatic with his signing. But following his press conference (which went about as well as a press conference possibly can following possibly the most drawn-out, publicly-humiliating coaching search in the last decade) I began to warm up to ASU's new motormouth head coach.
And after reading Ted Miller's superbly written column about the subject, everything finally was put into perspective. Miller beautifully spells out the theory that I have always shared about collegiate sports but was, for whatever reason, unable to factor into this situation:
Look, folks: Being a college football coach is a job. It is not a charitable calling. Loyalty? There are going to be more than 25 coaching changes next fall. There are 120 FBS teams. The nature of the business is to get fired or to climb. It's best to do the latter.
While that is the truest of truths, Graham's move to Arizona State from Pitt is a lateral one in my humble opinion. In fact, one might even argue that the Panthers' football program has more going for them now and in the immediate future than ASU does (with the assumption that they hire an adequate replacement). So the fact that he decided to pack up and leave should put conviction behind the long-time desire he has had to coach at this university that he spoke about in his introductory press conference.
"The only thing that me and my family would endure all this, go through all this, would be for Arizona State University," Graham said.
And from the press conference, it's easy to see that Graham is truly a family man at heart. Whether it was introducing his kids before he began his spiel or the fact that he dropped the "this is the first coaching move that's benefited his wife" tidbit seventeen trillion times, he got the point well across to a crowd who, for the most part, had no idea his name was even on ASU's short list. Double that with his in-laws Arizona residency and it's hard to see Graham bolting from the valley of the sun anytime soon unless a)he gets fired or b)he is looking for a divorce.
Yes, I'm sure it's not difficult to find quotes from his introductory press conference at Pittsburgh where he also preached the same sentiments of loyalty and integrity coming first just like he did in Tempe Wednesday evening but this time feels different. Maybe that's just me being naïve and falling for his southern charm just like Lisa Love did. Or maybe there is authenticity to his statement of this is where he and his wife have been planning on retiring, long before Dennis Erickson was ever canned.
Sure, I'm aware that if Sun Devil football reaches a consistent level of success unseen since 1987, Graham in all reality will most likely receive a better job offer. And, being the career-man he is, I could definitely see him departing for greener pastures yet again. But just like with University of Arizona's assumed philosophy with Rich-Rod, who really cares if you're winning Rose Bowls? Once you've reached a status in which your team is so good that your coach is being courted by the Ohio States and Notre Dames of the world, it's not a tough task to find a more-than-willing qualified successor.
So presently, this is at least one maroon and gold die-hard who is buying into what seems like ASU's 24th choice for their new head coach. Now let's hope that the man who uses the words "high-octane" more than a generic Michael Bay movie review can actually translate that nifty phrase into wins. Fast.