Consultant says UH handled complaints against ex-football coach swiftly

Player complaints about former University of Hawaii football Coach Todd Graham were handled appropriately, according to a consultant’s report.
Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 5:37 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 17, 2023 at 8:24 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Player complaints about former University of Hawaii football Coach Todd Graham were handled appropriately, according to a consultant’s report.

But the senator who investigated the complaints isn’t satisfied.

The university’s Board of Regents requested the investigation after senators were highly critical of the university’s response to complaints about Graham.

After Graham’s second season, players began complaining about a hostile and negative environment, verbal abuse, pressure to attend prayers and favoritism.

Some players left the team.

Read the full report by clicking here.

The complaints were aired in an extraordinary state Senate hearing in January 2022.

Former player Leonard Lee was among those who spoke, telling lawmakers, “I can honestly say he’s the worst person I ever met in my life.”

Graham responded by saying he was trying to improve.

“All’s I know is that in our program no one has been verbally abused,” he told senators.

The $59,000 report by consultant College Sports Solutions found there was no criminal behavior, no violations of NCAA or UH policies and that UH officials response was “appropriate and timely.”

It did point out that the complaint process that existed at the time should be better explained to players and that guidelines for appropriate coaching behavior should be written into policies and contracts.

Marc Arakaki, from the UH Office of Communications said the UH Athletics Department supports the findings. “They have submitted a detailed plan ... to the Board of Regents on exactly how they are going to respond,” he said.

The report’s timeline says Athletics Director David Matlin received the first complaints in August.

In September, athletes were surveyed and UH President David Lassner got involved. In October, Graham was barred from player prayer activities and counseled about negativity and profanity.

Regardless of the counseling, Senate Higher Education Committee Chair Donna Kim said the issues continued through the end of the season.

“Nothing changed,” Kim said. “Which is what precipitated everything that happened. And it’s not until after the hearing did things change.”

Graham resigned six days after Kim’s hearing.

He was not interviewed by investigators and Kim said university officials were present at many interviews.

“That raises a concern about whether or not this was in fact, an independent assessment,” Kim said.

The university said some witnesses wanted officials present while they were interviewed and if not, the administrators left.

One of the surprising recommendations of the report is that the state needs to hurry up and build a replacement stadium. The lack of a permanent facility had an impact on morale and recruiting, the consultant said.