Former Pittsburgh coach Todd Graham didn't exactly endear himself to the university or city when he abruptly left for the Arizona State job and decided to tell his players of his departure via text message.
During an interview with Fox Sports Arizona, Graham didn't do much to repair those burned bridges.
FS Arizona: Not to beat a dead horse, but you've been criticized for not meeting with your players at Pitt to tell them you were leaving, choosing instead to inform them via text message. Can you take us through that period, step by step?
Graham: Here's how that thing went, and as I've said before, the time frame was the biggest issue there. The search firm called me that night at like 9 o'clock. My wife and I talked and prayed about it and decided we wanted to look at it. Her parents were here. It was a dream job.
Well, when I asked Pitt, they said no, they didn't want to give me permission. That's kind of unusual. That usually doesn't happen in this business, so the only way I could look at the job was to resign. I resigned my job at 10:30 at night, and Arizona State wanted me here the next morning, so there wasn't time from 10:30 at night to leaving for the airport at 6:30 the next morning to go talk to my football players. Plus, I wasn't the head football coach at the University of Pittsburgh anymore, so I didn't have the authority to do that.
For the record, Graham has used the phrase "dream job" at all of his stops except Pittsburgh, that includes, Rice, Tulsa and now Arizona State:
FS Arizona: Why not ask ASU for a day and then have the players over to your house or meet them at an off-campus location to explain your position and to reaffirm your oft-stated commitment to character and honor?
Graham: I did. I told them, 'I need a day.' I asked the search firm, but they said there was no time. ASU wanted me here the next day. I didn't control the process. I wasn't even talking to ASU. I was talking to the search firm. That's how these things often work.
And remember, I didn't have a job.
I have never not talked to my players. I talked to my players when I left to go from Rice to Tulsa. I talked to my players when I left Allen (Texas) High School to go to West Virginia. I talked to my players when I left West Virginia and when I left Tulsa to go to Pitt. But we don't control these processes, although they control our employment and our livelihood.
Again, I didn't have a job. It's kind of a scary place to be, and we took a giant leap of faith. These things don't always work out, and I just gave up a pretty big job. I wanted time to talk to my players, but I don't control the process, and I don't think a lot of people realize how these deals work with search firms. I had to come here the next morning.
It's also interesting to note that Graham blames Pitt and the search firm for not being able to speak with his players. If it was that important to him, he would have assembled his team regardless of the time. These are college kids. Most aren't in bed at 10:30 p.m.
And if Arizona State really wanted him, they could have waited a day for him to break up with his Pitt players in the proper fashion.
FS Arizona: You have said that going to Pitt was a mistake. Could you elaborate?
Graham: It was not a good fit for my family. They were not happy there.
When I was at Tulsa, our president was going to retire, and that was not going to be good for me. I had three (job) opportunities, and I made the decision for football alone. It was a better job. I had three kids attending Tulsa. My daughter was a freshman cheerleader, but it was something we felt we needed to do because of what was happening at Tulsa with the president.
All three of my kids went to Pittsburgh and said, 'I don't want to live here, dad.' It wasn't because of the people. There were great people there, we worked our tail off and did some great things. I'm proud that they asked me to take over a program that had been on the front page of Sports Illustrated with the most criminalities in the country and we did some good things there, but they just didn't like it there.
(ASU) was a deal that I did not plan. It was an opportunity of a lifetime that just came up for me. I've got a responsibility to my family to take care of them.
Graham does preach family values, honesty, integrity...
FS Arizona: Some people have characterized you as a great salesman who can energize a fan base. Others have characterized you as a snake-oil salesman who will say what a crowd wants to hear. Why do you think both perceptions exist?
Graham: When you leave a place, people will always say things like that. I can't do anything about that. People said the same thing about Nick Saban. All you can do is just prove yourself every day. The world we live in with the exposure and Twitter and everything, it compounds those things, but all I can do is genuinely be who I am. Am I good at communicating? Well, if I wasn't, I probably wouldn't have the job that I have.
<insert needle on record scratch here> Is Graham really comparing himself to a man who has won three national championships? I don't think you can call Saban a "snake-oil salesman" when the product he peddles works. Graham was 6-6 in his first BCS head coaching job.
FS Arizona: Does it bother you that your job hopping is a persistent topic even though people in this business leave their jobs for better opportunities all the time?
Graham: Nobody has ever asked me what kind of deal I got here versus what I had (at Pitt). Nobody's asked me what kind of commitment I had there -- half the commitment I have here. Who would not take that opportunity? Everything about this made sense if you sat down and looked at it for your family, for your future, for your finances. Everything. There was no comparison.
And then you have to remember that we wanted to be here pretty bad. That's the scariest thing I've ever done -- to resign my job. I'm not making a minimum-wage job. I took a great risk and I could have ruined my whole career. You're never going to please everybody, but when I look in the mirror every day, I know I did what was best for my family, and I've tried to do things the right way everywhere I've been.
Pretty sure Graham is making about the same amount of money as he was at Pitt. His face was on the cover of the media guide and on the tickets. And, as aptly pointed out by ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson, the school gave Graham hundreds of thousands of dollars to remodel the football offices. But no, Pitt showed no commitment to its coach.
Graham has spent the last month or so trying to repair his image to no avail. I don't think there's anything Graham could say to change the perception about him and that's not just at Pitt. His team hopping — four jobs in six years — has soured his reputation around the country. If things don't work out at Arizona State, who knows if Graham will be able to land another head coaching gig.
- - -
Graham Watson is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow her @Yahoo_Graham