By Pat Gammill and Mike Howell, DieHardDevil.com
As all DieHard Sun Devil fans know, Frank Kush set an ASU Football coaching standard by which all future Head Coaches are measured. Kush’s winning percentage was .764. He won more than three of every four games throughout his 22 seasons in Tempe. To appreciate just how exceptional that is, consider that the winningest coach in Division I college football history is Knute Rockne of Notre Dame, who tallied an .881 winning percentage over 13 seasons, 9 less than Kush. Where does or shall we say, did, Todd Graham rank upon his arrival to Tempe? Today, let’s take a closer look at his head coaching career that includes last Thursday’s defeat of NAU.
After spending five years as an assistant coach, the last three as Defensive Coordinator at Tulsa, Todd Graham’s first head coaching job came in 2006 when he took over a struggling Rice University program in Houston, Texas. The Owls were coming off a 1-10 season under 11-year head coach, Ken Hatfield. The next year in 2006, Graham lead Rice to seven wins and five losses while earning the Owls their first bowl bid in 46 years. What’s more, his team started the season with four straight losses before winning seven of their last eight regular season contests. In the New Orleans Bowl, Rice lost to Troy, 41-17. As a result of Graham’s impact at Rice over one season, Tulsa University, where Graham served as Defensive Coordinator the three years prior, wanted him back and offered him the reigns of the Golden Hurricane program. Graham took it.
In 2009, Graham suffered his only losing season as a head coach when Tulsa finished 5-7. However in 2010, Graham’s Golden Hurricane finished 9-3 in the regular season which included a notable 28-27 upset of Notre Dame in South Bend. Tulsa would play in the Hawaii Bowl where they were matched against the University of Hawaii. They beat Hawaii in their own bowl game 62-35, which was Graham’s third victory in four bowl appearances. With that victory Tulsa had won their tenth game of the season, meaning that they had won 10 or more games (Conference Title and Bowl games included) in three of the last four years under Graham’s leadership. Graham would depart Tulsa with a .673 winning percentage and a record of 35-17.
Graham’s success at Tulsa garnered the attention of the University of Pittsburgh, who under unusual circumstances was seeking a new head coach for 2011. Graham accepted the position at Pitt on short notice. His Panthers would struggle through a 6-6 season filled with close, agonizing losses. In one game, Pitt would blow a double digit fourth quarter lead at Iowa, losing 31-27. The next week Pittsburgh lead Notre Dame in the final quarter, only to lose the game 15-12. Finally, Graham’s Panthers would lose the “Backyard Brawl” to rival, West Virginia, by one point. One year after his hiring at Pitt, Graham left. He has made no apologies for his abrupt departure from Pitt and the circumstances surrounding his leave, but has outwardly admitted that his decision to go to the steel town was not in the best interest of himself or his family.
2012. Enter the Arizona State Sun Devils, Coach Todd Graham, Speaking Victory and a program based firmly on discipline, somewhat reminiscent of Coach Kush’s teams. Last Thursday night in his first game in Tempe, Coach Todd Graham earned his 50th head coaching victory in bold fashion as our Devils trampled NAU 63-6. Today, his head coaching record stands at 50-29 for a winning percentage of .633 over seven seasons including a 3-1 bowl record.
Make no bones about it, Graham knows how to win football games. He’s said that he wants to restore our program to the standards that Coach Kush employed, which earned ASU a national reputation as a formidable, winning program over two decades. Graham has proven that his “Speaking Victory” and “ALL IN” mantras are not just convenient catch phrases. His actions have made them the new mode of operation at ASU. With one victory in Tempe under his belt, we don’t believe Graham is building the foundation of a successful season. However, we do believe he is building the foundation of a successful football program. And who knows, maybe he can deliver a big 2012 as well.
Are you a DieHard Sun Devil? Prove it. See you Saturday night, 7:30pm in our House.
WEAR MAROON – BEAT ILLINOIS
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