Former ASU football coach Todd Graham says he’s ‘humbled’ to be hired as head coach at Hawaii

Updated: Jan. 22, 2020 at 2:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Former Arizona State University head football coach Todd Graham was introduced Wednesday as the next head coach of the UH football program.

“I’m very humbled and very honored to be your coach,” said Graham, 55, in a news conference.

“I will work hard to earn your trust and earn your respect. I will work hard everyday to make a difference in young people’s lives and make a difference in the community."

Graham has a five-year contract with UH.

His base salary for 2020 is $760,000, with opportunities for bonuses. From 2021 to 2024, his base salary is set at $800,000.

Graham told reporters that he still “has a lot to learn” about Hawaii and the Rainbow Warriors.

And he said that he felt the University of Hawaii program was a “great fit” for him ― and for his family. Graham, who has six children, said he’s excited to buy a “forever home” in the islands.

“I like what I heard, especially the part about education," said U.H. regent emeritus Stanford Yuen, who has seen coaches come and go. “He has an impressive background in having the players graduate on time, so that’s very important.”

Graham is a former Pac-12 and Conference USA Coach of the Year who has also previously served as head coach at Rice, Tulsa and the University of Pittsburgh.

His career coaching record is 95-61, including a 5-4 record in bowl games.

He went 46-32 during his tenure with the Sun Devils, but has not coached at the collegiate level since being fired after going 7-6 during the 2017 season.

Graham replaces former Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich, who accepted an offer last week to become the head coach at Washington State University.

Several of Rolovich’s assistant coaches are believed to have also been candidates for the UH job, including former associate head coach Brian Smith and passing game coordinator Craig Stutzmann.

Both coaches attended Rolovich’s introductory press conference in Pullman last week and have been actively recruiting high school players on behalf of the WSU football program despite still technically being candidates for the vacant position in Manoa.

Students on the Manoa campus had kind words for Rolovich.

“I was actually kinda sad when Rolo left, just because he led us to the bowl game, getting us to double-digit wins, first time in a while. So I was pretty bummed about that,” said student Jacen Ancheta.

“You always want to congratulate a coach on his successes while he’s been here, so I think he’s done a wonderful job,” said Jessiya Villa, who’s a member of the basketball team.

But Villa is among many who are optimistic that a new coach will build on last season’s successes.

“I think the new coach, Todd Graham, he’ll come in and do the exact same thing, nothing different, and just add to our knowledge and add to the team’s knkowledge of what Rolo already provided,” he said.

“I’m very excited,” said Yuen. “I think we’ve got a great coach. He’s continuing the tradition of what we had.”

Aloha Stadium was half empty during the nine home games this past season. Can Graham put more fans in the stands?

“I hope so,” said Ancheta. “I’m sure he will.”

“I would hope that a new coach and a better team will have more local support,” said U.H. student and marching band member Kyra Tanouye.

Another candidate associated with the job opening, University of Virginia offensive coordinator Robert Anae, took himself out of consideration for the position on Tuesday.

Several other former Hawaii coaches, including defensive assistant Mark Banker and offensive line coach Mark Weber, have accepted positions on Rolovich’s staff.

Jason Cvercko and Dwain Bradshaw, two members of Rolovich’s football support staff in Hawaii, are also reportedly headed to Washington State.

Graham’s career at Arizona State began promisingly enough.

ASU won eight games in his first season and 10 in each of the next two, including a division title in the Pac-12 South during 2013.

The back-to-back 10-win seasons was a first for the program in roughly 30 years.

His dismissal, according to ASU’s Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson, was less about single-game results and more about his body of work. Anderson cited Graham’s middle-of-the-pack finishes in conference play and poor recruiting among the reasons for his firing.

Upon his dismissal, local media reports indicated that the cost to buy Graham out of his contract could run as high as $12 million.

This story will be updated.

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