Todd Graham has a lot of dreams.
In 2006, Graham told Rice players, administrators and fans that he'd wanted the Rice job since he was a young man.
"I've dreamed of this day since I was in the seventh grade," Coach Graham told his audience, flush with emotion. The Mesquite native said he grew up weaned on Southwest Conference football. "And I get those memories of turning on the TV and watching Rice play Texas, and being so tied up in all the SWC games.
"There are faces of people in the crowd where you can see the doubt. That's fine. But two, three years from now, we'll have all those things changed, and we'll have restored the great tradition."
After leading Rice to an 8-5 season, Graham bolted to Tulsa where he had been the defensive coordinator for three seasons prior to taking the Rice job. As one might expect, there was a lot of bitterness among the Rice faithful, who trusted Graham, believed his promises and saw a glimpse of how good it's football program could be. But apparently Graham misspoke when he said his dream was to coach at Rice. He actually meant Tulsa. Or at least that's what he told the Tulsa faithful.
"That was my dream, I wanted to be head coach at Tulsa," said Graham, speaking on a conference call from Kansas City, where his plane was diverted from Houston due to Friday's ice storm. "We have a heart for Tulsa."
And Graham did have a heart for Tulsa for four years in which he was 36-17 and led the Golden Hurricane to three bowls games. So there weren't too many hurt feelings when Graham, who was considered a hot coach, left Tulsa for Pitt after the Panthers first choice, former Miami (Ohio) coach Mike Haywood, didn't work out.
However, Graham didn't have the same passion for the Pitt job as he did his previous two. He never said anything about a dream and job and while he did make the grandiose promise to "… restore the Beast from the East" and bring a 10th national championship to Pitt, it wasn't the same Graham from his previous two stops.
Perhaps that's why Graham was looking for an exit. Pitt released a statement Wednesday saying it had denied Graham's request to talk to Arizona State, a job he sought, and that it asked to sit down with Graham to talk to him about his commitment to Pitt. Obviously, only one party made it to that meeting:
Mr. Graham first advised Mr. Pederson of his intentions via telephone Tuesday evening. During that conversation, Graham requested permission to speak to another institution. That permission was denied and he was asked to sit down in person to discuss everyone's best interest in this situation. There had been no earlier indication of a desire to leave his position at Pitt. In fact, he expressly stated that his coaching experiences at the University of Pittsburgh had been entirely positive and that his decision was based solely on personal family reasons.
"Obviously this is not the way we would have expected Mr. Graham to handle any possible departure," Pitt executive vice chancellor and general counsel Jerry Cochran said. "Beyond normal expectations with respect to professional conduct, he has failed to comply with the terms of his contract."
"First and foremost, I want to express the complete support of the University of Pittsburgh for the young men in our football program," Pederson said. "Their commitment over this past year has been unwavering and they deserve better than this as they look forward to completing their season with a bowl. As always, we will base our every decision and action on their best interests as we move forward.
"We also understand the disappointment that will be felt by our many fans and supporters. Their emotional investment and pride have been important to our program, and we are committed to securing the leadership our football team deserves…"
There really should be a support group for athletic directors and school presidents who have been surreptitiously cheated on and subsequently dumped by Graham because this makes three schools in six years. And each time, Graham has left bitterness, disappointment and disillusionment in his wake.
Even Pitt receiver Devin Street called out his former coach for his team hopping and empty promises.
And now we have Arizona State, falling into the same trap that befell Rice, Tulsa and Pitt. Ironically, Arizona State president Dr. Michael Crow said in a statement that he picked Graham, who was probably the Sun Devils fourth or fifth choice, because he was looking for someone who would be there for a long time.
"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," Crow said.
That same honorable man told his Pitt players of his departure in a text message. And like two of his previous three stops, Graham used the "D-word" to describe his reason for leaving.
"Coaching there has always been a dream of ours…"