It's been two days since Todd Graham was introduced as ASU's new football head coach, and in that time he has endured a lot of criticism for the way in which he left the Pittsburgh Panthers. From Yahoo! Sports Pat Forde to the Pitt players themselves, Graham has been assaulted by negative media and attention as he prepares to take over the reigns at ASU.
Perhaps the most scathing assessment comes from Pitt wide receiver Cam Saddler, who spoke to 93.7 The Fan In Pittsburgh on The Morning Show to discuss Graham. Here are some of the notable points from the interview:
Give us an example of when Graham spoke about his money:
"He told us at a team meeting that ... ‘I'll lose game with (you) guys with integrity. It doesn't matter to me if I get fired. I make $2 million a year, I can move to the Caribbean and me and my wife can be better off for the rest of our lives.' Like, what kind of nonsense is that? I don't care about that. You're my coach. I understand that; you get paid lots of money. ... You have a nice haircut and all, but why would you tell us that you and your wife would be OK?"
Wow. We certainly don't have all of the context to make a complete judgment about Graham's statement, but his words here are troubling. Why would he downplay the significance of his coaching job and accentuate his financial security in front of his players? Graham has always sold himself as a family man, but this seems to be a little bit too extreme.
The interview culminates with Saddler being asked about Graham's planned return to Pittsburgh:
Todd Graham said he would like to come back and meet with you guys. What do you think about that?
"No, no, no. He better not dare try to come over here. He better not dare. I mean that with a passion. When the situation first happened, I didn't know what was going to happen, but I sat down with a couple guys and told them if the plan was for Coach Graham to coach us in the bowl game, we are not going to play."
Again, it appears as though Graham has destroyed the trust of his Pittsburgh players irreversiblely. Will he still make an effort to go back and make amends with them if there's already open hostility at the very notion of his presence?
Regardless of the situation, Graham certainly has to try. He cannot afford to take another hit in the media by deciding against a return. Put simply, Graham has a lot of question marks about him. This trip back to Pittsburgh, however, gives him an opportunity to begin addressing them.
Perhaps winning over his former players is a bit much to ask for, but being able to connect with them and getting them to listen to what he has to say would be a nice start. A successful trip could go a long way in appeasing current ASU players and starting off his tenure as Sun Devil head coach on the right foot. Of course, at this point even healthy communication between Graham and his former Pitt players might be too much to ask for.
Can Graham do any good in repairing his image with a successful return to Pitt? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below.