Multiple current and former Hawaii players are speaking out and alleging mistreatment and abuse at the hands of head coach Todd Graham, according to a report from SFGate.com’s Marc Delucchi.
Hawaii players who played under Graham alleged Monday that he is running a toxic program in which he demeans and verbally abuses players and coaches and ignores them completely.
Last week, leading rusher Dae Dae Hunter announced he was transferring, as he felt it was “best for my future and my mental health.” Starting quarterback Chevan Cordeiro followed suit.
“Me and a lot of others can truthfully say Graham has killed our love and passion for football,” one player told SFGate on the condition of anonymity.
Allegations against Hawaii coach Todd Graham
Graham, according to the report, has “consistently crossed the line in terms of decency and respect” with his players.
Graham allegedly calls his players “dogs***” and other demeaning terms “constantly,” and threatens players’ game time if they question him. He once reportedly told a player to “stop talking back or I’m going to take away your senior year.”
Several assistant coaches have taken the brunt of Graham’s abuse, players said. Multiple players told SFGate that assistants were promoted based on who challenged Graham the least, and one even allegedly refused to ask him a question at practice because he was “just trying not to get yelled at.”
“I would go as far to say it’s verbal abuse the way he talks to guys … It’s personal,” one player told SFGate. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, you need to be faster.’ He’s calling guys useless, jackass and a sack of s***.”’
Players also felt like they never had a chance to change their standing. Toward the end of Hawaii’s first fall camp game this season, Graham was incensed, according to one player present, when a local scout team player was sent onto the field; he reportedly approached the assistant handling rotations and berated him, yelling, “This man will never play! I need this guy out!” Despite not making a mistake in his lone rep, the player was removed.
Graham also allegedly completely ignores players on his team. One current player said that Graham had never spoken to him once, and another said that Graham struggled to remember his name when having a conversation in the locker room near the end of the season.
Graham allegedly very clear about ‘stepping stone’
Graham is in his second season in Hawaii, where he has compiled an 11-11 record and narrowly qualified for a bowl game this season. Graham previously spent six seasons leading Arizona State, though he was fired after the 2017 season, along with short stints at Rice, Tulsa and Pitt.
While at Hawaii, players say that Graham has been explicitly clear about wanting to leverage his job with the Warriors to one in the NFL.
“He basically kept telling us he’s using us as a stepping stone,” one player told SFGate.
Another said it was very clear why he pushed so hard to get Hawaii into a bowl game — something only made possible after the NCAA approved an extra bowl game last week. Graham, per the report, receives a $20,000 bonus for reaching the bowl game. If the Rainbow Warriors beat Memphis on Christmas Eve, he will earn a $40,000 bonus.
“I see why he wants the bowl game so bad. It ain’t for the seniors. It ain’t for Hawaii,” a player told SFGate. “It’s for his reputation and the extra bowl game check.”
Graham denies issue with team culture
Though several players feel he’s not leading the team in the right direction, Graham said on a local radio show last week that he “felt good” about the energy and culture within his locker room.
A group of current and former Hawaii players all spoke on a Twitter spaces session last week, too, in which they reportedly criticized him and his program repeatedly.
Graham was asked about it the next day.
“I don’t read twitter. I don’t do those things. I can tell you that my deal is focusing on being positive.”
During availability today, #HawaiiFB’s Todd Graham reacts to the twitter forum that current players participating in, voicing their concerns with the team and program. pic.twitter.com/0Pjiuy1cmw
— Alan Hoshida (@AHoshidaSports) December 3, 2021
“I don’t read Twitter. I don’t do those things,” he said. “I can tell you that my deal is focusing on being positive … We’ve got a great belief in what we’re doing. We know we’re doing things the right way.”
Graham is in the second year of his five-year contract with Hawaii.
“I’m probably not coming back this year because [Graham] has three more years,” a player told SFGate. “It’s not like we have the money to buy him out.”