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Embattled UH head football coach resigns amid allegations of creating toxic environment

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 7:06 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 15, 2022 at 1:46 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - University of Hawaii head football Coach Todd Graham resigned Friday amid allegations of a toxic environment within the football program.

Graham, who was hired in January 2020 following the departure of former coach and quarterback Nick Rolovich, compiled a record of 11-11 during his UH coaching career.

He had just completed the second year of a five-year contract.

The roughly month-long period since Hawaii’s final regular season game has been tumultuous, and only partly because of the COVID-related cancelation of the Hawaii Bowl.

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Three days after a 38-14 road victory against Wyoming, Dae Dae Hunter — the team’s leading rusher — announced he was entering the transfer portal.

And just one day later, starting quarterback Chevan Cordeiro — a prized Hawaii recruit who starred at Saint Louis School before eventually earning team captain honors with the Rainbow Warriors — decided to leave, too. Cordeiro has since signed on with Hawaii rival San Jose State.

The departures spurred a public airing of grievances on Twitter, where hundreds listened in as current and former players “described an unhealthy team culture under Graham.

Players complained that a troubling locker room environment and incompetent coaching had robbed them of their love of the game, with one player saying simply: “I’ve played on a 1-11 team and have never felt like this.”

Allegations continued to roll in as the days went on, with some players alleging that Graham was verbally abusive to players, demeaning to assistant coaches and open about the fact the he aspired to use Hawaii as a “stepping stone” for a more lucrative coaching job.

When asked about the claims in the days after they had been made, Graham admitted that improvements needed to be made.

“I want to be a role model for our players and we ask them to be coach able and I think you’ve got to be humble and you’ve got to have self-awareness and gotta have self-improvement,” Graham told reporters on Dec. 8. “Obviously our staff, we talked about that we’re committed to doing things the right way and we know we do things the right way.”

Despite that, the departures continued.

On Christmas Eve, the team’s leading receiver, Nick Mardner, announced he was entering the transfer portal. Then, in a series of social media posts on Tuesday, defensive captain and linebacker Darius Muasau, along with linemen Jonah Laulu and Justus Tavai, all revealed that they had done the same — making for a total of 17 players who had announced their intentions to leave the ‘Bows.

In a state Senate briefing last week, former players testified that Graham created a toxic locker room environment, generating a divide between scholarship players and walk-ons.

Some players who were on the team last season painted him as a tyrant, a hypocrite and verbally abusive.

“I just don’t see anything changing with this guy here,” former player and Kapolei High graduate Leonard Lee said in the hearing. “He has a rejection of the culture and a lack of respect for players. I try to see the good in everybody and try to give people chances, but he’s hands down the worst person I ever met in my life.”

Following his resignation, Graham said in a statement:

“After much prayer and reflection with my family, I have come to the conclusion that I will step away as head coach of the Rainbow Warriors, with a very heavy heart. The University has not asked me to step down. I am leaving solely for my family and my health.”

The university said because Graham resigned, no additional monies will be owed to the coach aside from normal reimbursements and compensation earned.

“Todd’s tireless efforts as a coach have made a positive impact on many student-athletes,” UH Athletics Director David Matlin said. “We have talked at length, and it is clear he has taken this action so that the football program can thrive moving forward.”

In the meantime, UH linebackers coach Jacob Yoro has been named interim head coach. The search for the new head coach begins immediately.

This story will be updated.

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