TEMPE, Ariz. – Arizona State University has named Pittsburgh head coach Todd Graham, who led Rice to its first bowl victory in 45 seasons in 2006 and then led Tulsa to back-to-back 10-plus win seasons for the first time in school history in 2007 and 2008, as its 23rd football coach, Vice President of Athletics Lisa Love and Chief Operating Officer Steve Patterson have announced.
While known for leading programs that post many of the top offensive numbers in the nation in recent seasons, Graham also is known as tough defensive coach who served as defensive coordinator at both Tulsa and West Virginia. He also has had an eye for hiring some of the nation’s top assistant coaches on his staff.
“Criteria for our head coach was established, and the word that was at the forefront of discussions was `energy’…energy towards promoting our program in the community and with former players. Energy towards instilling discipline, leadership and in recruiting. Energy towards representing our brand in every facet of the program,” notes Love. “In Todd, we have not only hired a young and sitting head coach, but one with a history of success on the field and in hiring top-notch assistant coaches. For the first time in his career, he will be taking over a program with a strong nucleus at the beginning. We are excited to watch Coach Graham take over a very well-positioned program and elevate it to the next level.”
“What we sought in a football coach was someone who would be in it for the long term at Arizona State, who would build and guide a program that would be competitive in the Pac-12 and on a national level year after year after year, who would communicate and connect with the community, and represent our University with honor. In Todd Graham we have that person,” says ASU President Dr. Michael Crow.
Born Dec. 5, 1964, Graham is 49-29 in his six-year head coaching career and most recently was head coach at Pittsburgh in 2011. He is well-known for his four-year stay at Tulsa from 2007-2010 when he led the Golden Hurricane to a 36-17 mark, which included three bowl wins and three seasons of 10-plus wins. The Golden Hurricane 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.
His team’s have been scoreboard changers, as Tulsa twice 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 comprised of mainly his first recruiting class notched 505.6 yards per contest, but on the other side of the line of scrimmage the Golden Hurricane 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.
The Sun Devil position will mark Graham’s fourth head-coaching position, as he also led Rice to its first bowl game in 45 seasons in 2006 and earned Conference USA Coach of the Year honors that same season. What made the year even more impressive is the Owls started the year 0-4 before winning seven of its next nine. Three of the wins were on the last play of the game.
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 defensive back. He began his coaching career in 1988 as an assistant at Poteet High School in Mesquite (1988-90) and then helped lead East Central University from a .500 program to NAIA national champions in his second 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).
He was hired as the linebackers coach at West Virginia in 2001 and one year later he was named defensive co-coordinator as West Virginia went from 3-8 to 9-4. The 2002 Mountaineers forced 34 turnovers (19 interceptions) and ranked fourth nationally in turnover margin (+19).
In 2003 Steve Kragthorpe hired Graham as the defensive coordinator at Tulsa and he helped guide the Golden Hurricane to two bowl games in three seasons and led one of the conferences best defenses before taking over the Rice position. His 2005 team finished 9-4, won the Conference USA Title and shut down a high-flying Fresno State squad 31-24 in the Liberty Bowl. His defense ranked among the top 40 in takeaways (third), interceptions (third), pass efficiency defense (11th), pass defense (17th) and total defense (40th).
Graham earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1987 from East Central and then later earned his master’s degree.