Think there are enough bowls? The watered-down college football postseason is rife with mediocrity, as a parade of mismatched six-win teams from schools whose athletic departments can’t give tickets away are awarded the privilege of playing one last game on a national stage to remind us why their seasons should have ended a month ago.
The pretender du jour was the Arizona State Sun Devils, whose 6-6 regular-season record and 4-5 showing in the Pac-12 got head coach Dennis Erickson whacked. Too bad for him he had to stay on long enough to watch his team get dismantled by Boise State 56-24 in Thursday night’s MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.
Having finally been put out of its misery by a superior Bronco team, Arizona State will now attempt to get its football program back on solid footing under the leadership of Todd Graham, a man whose track record indicates he uses a very loose interpretation of the word “commitment.”
Graham is migrating to Tempe after just one season as coach at the University of Pittsburgh. The ASU gig will be Graham’s fourth head job at the Division 1-A level in the past six years; at two of the previous three stops (Rice being the other), he left after one year.
It has been reported Graham didn’t even inform the Pitt players of his decision to leave. Instead, he sent a statement to his director of football operations, who then texted it to the young men.
With all of that as a backdrop, you’ve got to love this statement by ASU president Dr. Michael Crow announcing Graham’s hire:
“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.”
It is understood in college football recruiting that oral agreements given schools by recruits are non-binding, so some do change their minds when the signing deadline hits in February. That’s just part of the process.
But shouldn’t it be expected that the coaches doing the recruiting—the teachers and mentors who represent their colleges and universities—be held to a higher standard?
What of the student-athletes Graham recruited to play for him at Pitt and Rice? What of the promises that were made to their families as they wrestled with the decision of where their kids would play? These are life decisions and if a youngster is asked to commit to a school, the school has an obligation to commit to the youngster.
No coach is an indentured servant in the sense that he must absolutely honor his contract in lieu of more lucrative opportunities elsewhere. But one year and out twice in a period of six years?
If among Dr. Crow’s criteria for a new football coach at ASU includes “someone who would be in it for the long term at Arizona State” and a leader “who would communicate and connect with the community, and represent our University with honor,” then Graham seems like an odd choice indeed.
Hopefully with Graham at the helm Arizona State can field a better football team so we’re not stuck with them again next year in yet another undeserved bowl appearance. We also hope for the university’s sake that he decides he likes his new desert digs well enough to stay for a while.
Then there’s Paul Chryst, the coach who will replace Graham at Pitt and try to control the damage caused by his predecessor’s sudden vanishing act. The outgoing offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, Chryst is the fourth Pitt coach in the past 13 months and so bringing stability to a damaged Panther program will be his first major task. The kids he inherits surely deserved better.