Greater Tulsa Reporter
PRESS CONFERENCE: Todd Graham met with Tulsa media for the first time as TU head coach on Jan. 15.
Former Tulsa Defensive Coordinator and Rice University Head Coach Todd Graham was introduced as The University of Tulsa’s new head football coach on January 12 at a 2:30 p.m. news conference. He becomes the 27th head football coach in school history.
Graham, 42, spent the past season as the head football coach at Rice where he led the Owls to an overall 7-6 record and the school’s first bowl berth in 45 years. After beginning the season 0-4, Graham led a turnaround that saw the Owls win seven of its next nine games, including six straight, thus earning him Conference USA Coach of the Year honors as selected by the news media.
“We’re extremely pleased to have Todd Graham return to The University of Tulsa as our football coach,” said TU Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham. “There’s no question that Todd fits the two main attributes we were looking for in a head coach, the ability to recruit and the right fit for our University. Todd’s enthusiasm is infectious and his football knowledge and coaching ability is evident.”
Cunningham added that, “Todd’s role in the rebuilding of the football program began four years ago when he became the Tulsa defensive coordinator.
Continuity for our program will allow us to reach for even higher achievement.”
“I’m very excited for my family, and thrilled about this opportunity to be the head football coach at The University of Tulsa,” said Graham. “To be able to return to a program that you helped to rebuild, and now have the chance to take it to an even higher level is exciting.
“I’m extremely appreciative of the remarkable commitment that the University of Tulsa has made to me and my family, and making this such a great opportunity for us,” added Graham.
Graham has played major roles in reversing the fortunes of struggling programs, starting with his first college coaching job at East Central University in Ada, Okla. His three seasons as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator saw ECU improve from a break-even program to the NAIA national championship in 1993.
As head coach and athletic director at Allen (Texas) High School,
Graham led a program that had no district wins in the year prior to his arrival to five playoff berths in six seasons.
At West Virginia University, under head coach Rich Rodriguez, Graham helped the Mountaineers improve from a 3-8 mark to a 9-4 record in his second season. At Tulsa under Steve Kragthorpe, the Hurricane jumped from 1-11 in 2002 prior to his arrival, to an 8-4 record in ‘03. Both the WVU and
Tulsa turnarounds were the best in NCAA Division I in those seasons.
Now, Graham takes over a program that has won 29 games in the last fouryears and has been to three bowl games in that same time span. “I feltprivileged to be a part of Coach Kragthorpe’s coaching staff at Tulsa, andappreciate the confidence he had in me to help in reviving the greattradition that Tulsa has on the football field,” said Graham.
Before receiving his first collegiate head coaching position at Rice, Graham spent three seasons on the Tulsa coaching staff as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, while also coaching the Hurricane safeties.
In each of his three seasons, Tulsa ranked among the nation’s top-25 in pass defense and showed continual improvement in all areas defensively.
Nationally, the Tulsa defense ranked third in takeaways and interceptions, 11th in pass defense efficiency, 17th in pass defense, 40th in total defense and 43rd in scoring defense for the 2005 campaign.
Tulsa’s defense saw dramatic improvement under Graham’s tutelage in his first season. In 2003, the Hurricane improved in total defense nationally, jumping 49 spots from the previous year, to rank 60th in the ‘03 campaign.
Tulsa’s defense also ranked 11th in pass defense efficiency, 16th in pass defense, an improvement of 28 spots; and 72nd in scoring defense, an improvement of 29 spots in the national rankings from the previous year. In the Western Athletic Conference, the Hurricane defense ranked first in pass defense, second in total defense and pass defense efficiency, and third in scoring defense for the 2003 campaign.
Graham spent two years as an assistant coach at West Virginia, while serving as co-defensive coordinator, defensive scheme coordinator and safeties coach in 2002, and linebackers coach during the 2001 season. In 2002, the Mountaineer defense ranked 33rd nationally in total defense and 30th in rush defense. He helped WVU register a 9-4 record with wins over nationally-ranked Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh in 2002.
Before his move back to the collegiate ranks, Graham was highly successful at Allen High School in his six years (1995-2000). His teams made five playoff appearances and won two bi-district championships. In 2000, Allen posted a 9-3 record and captured the 5A Division II bi-district title while defeating four teams ranked among the top-10 in the state of Texas. Previously, he was the head coach at Carl Albert (Okla.) High School in 1994, ranking 10th in the state’s final class 5A poll.
From 1988-90, Graham was an assistant coach at Poteet High School in Mesquite, Texas, where those teams compiled a 25-5 record. A native of the Dallas-Forth Worth area, Graham was an all-state defensive back at North Mesquite High School. He went on to play at East Central University, where he was a two-year NAIA All-America defensive back and three-time all-conference performer. He signed as a free agent with the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals.
Graham earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education at East Central University. He and his wife, Penni, have six children: Bo, Hank, Natalie, Haylee, Dakota and Michael Todd Jr.