From the moment he was introduced as Arizona State University’s head football coach on December 14, 2011, Todd Graham made it clear he was a visionary. A throwback. A teacher who truly believes in the virtues of hard work, dedication and giving back.
He made it clear he was going to infuse the program with a culture that was about winning in all facets of a student-athlete’s life. Graham referred to it simply as, ‘The Sun Devil Way.’
“Our goal as a program is that we are going to first and foremost bring out the best in every single person’s character that’s involved in our program,” Graham said. “I’m not only interested in winning on Saturday... I want to win every day in every way. We will compete in the classroom as we compete on the field.
“On the field we’re going to be passionate and disciplined. Discipline is the key to winning football games. We’re going to be involved in the community. The greatest joy that I’ve had in my life is to learn to be a giver… I want our players to understand that family and character and bringing out the best and being a giver, that’s what I call unique character, is giving every day.”
Graham, the 2013 Pac-12 Coach of the Year, enters his fourth season at the helm of the Arizona State University football program. Under his leadership, Sun Devil football has reached levels of success not seen in more than 30 years as last year’s squad became the first to post back-to-back 10-win seasons since 1973. The accomplishment is the sum of many brilliant achievements orchestrated by Graham and his staff the last three seasons. Since Graham’s arrival in Tempe...
· ASU’s high-octane offense has eclipsed 50 points in 12 games and the Devils are second in the Pac-12 and seventh in the nation at 38 points per game during that stretch.
· ASU’s attacking defense has outscored opponents 417-151 in points off takeaways. The Devils are second in the nation with a plus-35 turnover margin and rank in the top three in the nation in tackles for loss, sacks and interceptions. They are one of only four teams in the nation with more than 300 total tackles for loss, and their 130 sacks and 56 interceptions are both the second-highest totals among FBS teams.
· ASU has become one of the least penalized teams in the nation (third over the last three seasons in fewest penalty yards per game) and the most disciplined team in the Pac-12 (first in fewest penalties per game).
· ASU has earned three consecutive bowl bids and won the Pac-12 South in 2013.
· The Sun Devils are 16-4 at home under Graham and in the last two years have won seven of 10 games on the road.
· The Sun Devils have also reached new heights in the classroom. ASU’s 12 Pac-12 All-Academic honorees in 2014 were the most in program history (26 in three years). In addition, 97 football student-athletes have earned Scholar Baller® recognition – which honors Sun Devil student-athletes who achieve a 3.0 GPA or higher – in his three seasons.
In 2014, Graham’s Sun Devil squad posted a 10-3 record, including 6-3 in Pac-12 play, a second-place finish in the Pac-12 South Division and a 36-31 victory over Duke in the Sun Bowl. Tasked with replacing nine starters on defense, Graham led a unit that ranked near the top in the nation in sacks and tackles for loss, forced 27 turnovers and scored five touchdowns during the season.
On the other side of the ball, ASU finished the season ranked 16th in the nation in scoring offense and averaged more than 440 yards per game behind record-breaking quarterback and Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year Taylor Kelly, 1,000-yard rusher D.J. Foster and 1,000-yard receiver Jaelen Strong.
A total of 28 FBS schools hired coaches prior to the 2012 season, 17 of which remain at those schools. Of those coaches, Graham has posted the fourth-best overall record in his first three seasons behind only Urban Meyer (38-3), Jim Mora (29-11) and Kevin Sumlin (28-11).
In 2013 Graham’s Sun Devils brushed aside the prognostications from skeptics who felt that an early-season string of games against Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame would be a little bit too much to overcome. Then, sitting with a 5-2 record after seven games and still very much in the race for the Pac-12 South crown, the Sun Devils would have their endurance and desire questioned again as they had to navigate their way through a stretch of three of their next four games on the road. In a gut-check, 20-19 win at Utah, the Sun Devils dug deep and proved they had the toughness and resilience to fight through any challenge that lay before them.
That belief would serve them well two weeks later in a winner-take-all showdown at No. 14 UCLA. At stake: a trip to the Pac-12 Championship game. There would be no hesitation to seize the moment as the Sun Devils ambushed the Bruins, jumping out to a 35-13 halftime lead. Despite its early dominance, ASU could not leave UCLA’s Rose Bowl Stadium with a win until having to overcome yet another test.
A furious rally by the Bruins got them to within one score. Down 38-33 and with 3:21 remaining , the Bruins took over possession of the ball at their own 35. In a similar situation one year earlier, UCLA responded by taking the ball down the field for the game winning field goal. Despite Hollywood being only 15 miles away, the Sun Devil defense ensured there would be no sequel on this day as a pair of critical sacks forced the UCLA offense into submission. And just like that, the Sun Devils were champions of the Pac-12 South.
One week later ASU would keep possession of the Territorial Cup after blitzing Arizona 58-21. With the win the Sun Devils clinched a berth in the 2013 Pac-12 Championship Game.
ASU outscored its opponents 146-42 on points off turnovers while posting a +15 takeaway number in 2013. ASU put points on the board following 75.8 percent of opponent turnovers (25-of-33) compared to just the 33.3 (6-of-18) percent clip ASU opponents scored off of Sun Devil turnovers.
The duo of defensive tackle Will Sutton and linebacker Carl Bradford combined to give ASU the most dynamic defensive tandem in the country as the two combined for 24.5 sacks and 44.0 tackles for loss in 2012. Their collective average of 1.92 sacks per game was the highest in the country by two players on the same team since the 2006 season. Bradford racked up 40.5 tackles for loss in two years under Graham, tied for the fourth most by any player in the nation in that time.
Sutton became ASU’s sixth winner of the Morris Trophy and the 18th consensus All-American and first since 2007. Sutton also became the fifth ASU player to win the Pac-10/12 conference Defensive Player of the Year award. After accomplishing all of that as a junior, Sutton returned for his senior season and repeated as the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and Morris Trophy Winner while adding numerous All-American accolades.
Although the 2013 Sun Devils would come up short of their ultimate goal of getting to and winning the annual Rose Bowl Game, they proved they had the right people on board. And leading that ship a captain in Graham, who, surrounded by the best lieutenants in the land, would put them in position to get there again.
Graham was named the 2013 Pac-12 Coach of the Year and as he and his staff of talented assistants – all committed to winning, ‘The Sun Devil Way – guided the team through a turbulent schedule to post a 10-4 record and an 8-1 record to earn the program’s first Pac-12 Championship game berth.
“The honor says, ‘Coach of the Year,’ but it really should say ‘Team of the Year,’ because none of this would be possible without the work of our tireless coaching – I’m very blessed to have tremendous teachers, men of great character that do a tremendous job – and the trust of our kids to believe what we are teaching them is going to take us where we want to go,” said Graham.
In his first season at Arizona State, Graham guided the team to an 8-5 record as the program recorded its first winning regular season since going 10-2 in 2007. ASU ended the season with three straight wins for the first time since 1978 and just the 14th time in school history.
That season, ASU beat Arizona in a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback in Tucson to reclaim the Territorial Cup and went on to win a bowl game for the first time since 2005 and the 13th time in school history. Additionally, ASU was one of just four Pac-12 teams to win at least three conference road games (3-2) in 2012, doing so for just the fifth time in the program’s Pac-10/12 history.
While known for leading programs that have annually been among the nation’s leaders in offensive production, Graham gained national acclaim for his coaching prowess on the other side of the ball after leading defenses that helped West Virginia (2002) and Tulsa (2003) engineer two of the top single-season turnarounds in recent memory. With head-turning accomplishments like those it is easy to see why Graham believes that defense wins championships.
Employing an approach that emphasizes excellent fundamentals and hard and disciplined play, the Sun Devils’ extraordinary improvement on defense played a paramount role in the team’s rise improvement in 2012. After finishing at or near the bottom of the Pac-12 in several defensive categories in 2011, the Sun Devils experienced an amazing reversal in 2012 as they led the conference in tackles for loss (No. 1 in the nation), pass defense (No. 3 in the nation), and pass efficiency defense (No. 10 in the nation) and finished second in the league in sacks (No. 2 in the nation), interceptions (No. 4 in the nation) and total defense.
Graham was named the 23rd head football coach in program history on December 14, 2011, arriving in Tempe from the University of Pittsburgh.
Graham became well-known on the national scene following a four-year stint at Tulsa (2007-2010) where he led the Golden Hurricane to a 36-17 mark, which included three bowl wins and three seasons of 10-plus wins. Tulsa was one of just 11 schools to post back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2007 and 2008.
The native of Mesquite, Texas, had seasons at Tulsa which included records of 10-4 (2007), 11-3 (2008) and 10-3 (2010) and in his final season the Golden Hurricane won games at Notre Dame and then topped No. 24 Hawaii 62-35 in its own bowl game. The Notre Dame win was dubbed the biggest upset of the 2010 college football season by ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit.
One distinguishing characteristic of Graham-coached teams has been their propensity for lighting up the scoreboard. On two occasions Tulsa led the nation in total offense (2007 at 543.9 yards per game and 2008 at 569.9 yards per game) and ranked fifth in 2010. His 2010 Tulsa team also led the nation in interceptions (24) and was third in turnovers gained (36). His 2007 squad not only led the nation in total offense at 543.9 yards per game, it set 29 school records, 15 conference marks and four NCAA records. Tulsa routed Bowling Green 63-7 in the GMAC Bowl, the largest bowl margin of victory in NCAA history.
His 2008 team again led the nation in total offense (569.9 yards per game) while ranking second in scoring (47.2 points per game), fifth in rushing (268 ypg) and ninth in passing (301.9 ypg). His team finished 11-3, capped by another large bowl win, a 45-13 victory over No. 22 Ball State in the GMAC Bowl.
Including ASU’s 62-28 win over Navy in the 2012 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, Graham’s offense has enabled three different teams (two at Tulsa) to score 60-plus points in a bowl game, making him the only coach to accomplish the feat multiple times.
Prior to taking the head job at Tulsa, Graham led Rice to its first bowl game in 45 seasons in 2006 and earned Conference USA Coach of the Year honors that same season.
Graham began his coaching career in 1988 as an assistant at Poteet High School/Middle School in Mesquite (1988-90) and then helped lead East Central University from a .500 program to NAIA national champions in his third year as he served as defensive coordinator from 1991-93. One year later he was at Carl Albert High School in Midwest City, Okla., and then spent time from 1995-2000 at Allen High School in Allen, Texas. While at Allen, north of Dallas, he also served as athletic director and led a program that had no district wins in the year prior to his arrival to five playoff berths in six seasons (1995-2000).
Graham was hired as the linebackers coach at West Virginia in 2001 and one year later he was promoted to defensive co-coordinator as the Mountaineers went from 3-8 to 9-4, the top turnaround in the country in 2002.
In 2003 Steve Kragthorpe hired Graham as the defensive coordinator at Tulsa. For the second time in as many years, a Graham-led defense proved instrumental in helping a program post the nation’s best turnaround as the Golden Hurricane went from 1-11 in 2002 to 8-5 in 2003. Graham’s defenses would help lead Tulsa to a pair of bowl games before he moved on to take over the head job at Rice.
Graham was an all-state defensive back at North Mesquite High School and, after graduating in 1983, he played for East Central University in Ada, Okla., where he was a two-time NAIA All-American defensive back.
Born Dec. 5 1964, Graham earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from East Central University. He and his wife, Penni, have six children: Bo, Natalie, Hank, Haylee, Dakota and Michael Todd Jr.
TODD GRAHAM BACKGROUND
Overall Head Coaching Record: 78-42 (9 seasons)
TODD GRAHAM HEAD COACHING RECORD YEAR-BY-YEAR
TODD GRAHAM COLLEGE COACHING EXPERIENCE
Patriot's Bill Belichick big fan of ASU's Todd Graham (Dan Bickley, AZ Central, Jan. 27 2015)
Graham finds success in first season at ASU (John Marshall, Associated Press, Jan. 15, 2013)
Wind Sprints (Matt Simpson, Alumni Magazine, Sept. 2012)
Todd Graham is Proud, Content with ASU Football (Dan Bickley, AZ Central, Dec. 19, 2012)
Coach Todd Graham builds momentum before football season's opening kickoff (Matt Simpson, ASU Magazine/Sept. 2012)
Todd Graham embracing his latest challenge at Arizona State (By John Klein, Tulsa World/July 15, 2012)
Graham, players sit down with students on multi-campus tour (By Josh Nacion, The State Press/Feb. 28, 2012)
Recruiting Report Card: Grading how new coaching hires fared (Ben Glicksman, SI.com/Feb. 7, 2012)
ASU football coach Todd Graham's roller coaster ride on Signing Day (Richard Obert, azcentral.com/Feb. 2, 2012)
ASU coach has three No. 1 priorities (Ted Miller, ESPN/Jan. 30, 2012)
Graham catching his breath after month at ASU (Fox Sports Arizona/Jan. 16, 2012)
Like it or not, discipline is coming to ASU football (The Arizona Republic/Jan. 5, 2012)
Coach Graham Press Conference Quotes in PDF Format (9 pages, easy to print)
Todd Graham on The Bertrand Berry Show (Dec. 19, 2011)
Former ASU Head Coach John Cooper on Hiring of Todd Graham
Channel 12 Interview With Todd Graham (Jan. 3, 2012)
Kevin Hunt 1-on-1 Interview with Todd Graham (Jan. 8, 2012)
Since his hire, ASU football coach Todd Graham hasn't stopped (May 19, 2012)
Graham working to rehabilitate ASU program -- and own image (June 7, 2012)
"This is a destination job." (May 1, 2012)