Commentary

Todd Graham lacked sincerity

Updated: December 15, 2011, 2:58 PM ET
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

I would like to apologize to Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino.

And former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel.

And new Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer.

Heck, I'd like to apologize to any college football coach I've ever criticized.

None of you were as deceitful or slick as new Arizona State coach Todd Graham, who becomes the new president of the Liar's Club, thanks to his latest backdoor exit to a more lucrative job.

[+] EnlargeTodd Graham
AP Photo/Don WrightTodd Graham's players were not happy about their coach's exit from Pitt.

When compared to Graham, Petrino seems to have the loyalty of Lassie and Tressel seems to have the rectitude of Honest Abe Lincoln.

Graham is nothing more than a slithery used-car salesman, telling recruits and boosters what they want to hear so he'll ultimately get what he needs to pad his résumé for a better job.

Forget the Backyard Brawl. They'll have the Used Car Lot Brawl at Arizona State.

Graham even makes Kim Kardashian seem committed.

For the second time in five years, Graham sold a school on commitment and loyalty only to jump for another job as soon as one became available. He did the same thing at Rice in 2006 after leading the Owls to their first bowl game since 1961. A few days after signing a contract extension at Rice, Graham was named Tulsa's new coach. He guided the Golden Hurricane to 21 victories in his first two seasons and signed a 10-year contract extension on New Year's Day 2009.

Two seasons later, Graham left Tulsa to become Pittsburgh's new coach.

Graham lasted one season with the Panthers, going 6-6 with a team that was expected to contend for a Big East championship.

After telling the Panthers he would introduce a high-octane offense that would have fans clinging to the edge of their seats (sound familiar?), the only thing fast about his tenure at Pittsburgh was his exit to Arizona State. Under Graham, Pittsburgh's offense had the octane of a Yugo with 200,000 miles on its odometer.

In today's college football, coaches jump from job to job every season without consequences, but most coaches handle leaving their schools with more sincerity and professionalism than Graham did.

Graham said he took the Arizona State job so his wife could be closer to her family in Arizona. He said Arizona State is a place where he'd like to retire.

Just seven months ago, Graham said the same things about Pittsburgh.

"I've spent my whole life working to get this job," Graham told ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson in May. "This is the best job I've ever had."

Apparently, Pittsburgh isn't as good as Arizona State, though.

Graham asked Pittsburgh athletic director Steve Pederson for permission to talk to ASU officials after he'd already received a job offer from the Sun Devils. Graham didn't return Pederson's subsequent telephone calls and wouldn't even talk to another Panthers athletics department official when he answered the door at his Pittsburgh home on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday morning, Graham sent Pederson his resignation letter without talking to him. Graham informed his Pittsburgh players of his departure via a text message from his director of football operations. At least Petrino left each of his players a four-sentence letter in their lockers when he bailed on the Atlanta Falcons for Arkansas with three games left in the 2007 NFL season.

"It seems pretty unusual for anything I have ever experienced," Pederson told reporters Wednesday night. "That is disappointing. It is what it is, and that is what I told our team."

Pittsburgh receiver Devin Street took out his frustration on Twitter on Wednesday night: "He's an actor he did it to rice then us now he's gonna do it to ASU ... That energy is fake he has them fooled."

More of Street's rants: "He just lied to all those damn recruits too not even 2 days ago."

And more: "No class, he's a quitter, soft, liar, hypocrite."

Added Panthers defensive end Brandon Lindsey on Twitter: "For someone who said they read the bible everyday, he must've missed the [page] that said 'thou shall not lie.'"

[+] EnlargeTodd Graham
AP Photo/Reinhold MatayTodd Graham coached just one season at Rice.

Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson will serve as Pittsbugh's interim coach for its game against SMU in the Jan. 7 BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala. The Panthers were already short three assistant coaches, after offensive coordinator Calvin Magee, secondary coach Tony Gibson and tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator Tony Dews left to join Rich Rodriguez's staff at Arizona earlier this month.

Oddly enough, Graham referred to his departed assistants as "nothing but mercenaries," according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Patterson is the Panthers' fifth head coach since the end of the 2010 regular season. Dave Wannstedt resigned under pressure after six seasons on Dec. 7, 2010. Wannstedt had his shortcomings, but at least he truly cared about his alma mater. Former defensive coordinator Phil Bennett was the Panthers' interim coach for last season's bowl game.

Pederson hired Miami (Ohio) coach Mike Haywood to replace Wannstedt on Dec. 16, 2010, but Haywood was fired 16 days later when he was arrested on domestic-violence charges. Graham was hired nine days after Haywood was fired.

Now the Panthers are searching for yet another coach.

Maybe they'll finally hire one they can trust.

Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

Mark Schlabach | email

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