Graham leaving Pitt for Arizona State
Defensive-minded coach brings ‘high-octane’ offense to desert
PITTSBURGH -- A person familiar with the decision says Pittsburgh coach Todd Graham is leaving the Panthers to take the same position at Arizona State.
Graham will replace Dennis Erickson said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement has not been made.
Erickson was dismissed following a 6-6 season in which the Sun Devils dropped their final four games.
Graham spent just one season in Pittsburgh, where he led the Panthers to a 6-6 mark and a tie for second place in the Big East.
The move caps a tumultuous season for the Panthers, who announced in September they're leaving the Big East for the ACC by 2014 and will now be looking for their fourth head coach in the last 13 months.
Graham replaced Mike Haywood, who was originally tabbed to replace Dave Wannstedt after Wannstedt stepped down at the end of the 2010 regular season.
There was no immediate word on who would coach the Panthers in the BBVA Compass Bowl against SMU.
Three of Graham's assistants at Pitt this season -- Calvin Magee, Tony Gibson and Tony Dews -- left the program earlier this month to become assistants under new Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez.
Graham will inherit an Arizona State program that couldn't quite break through in what is now the Pac 12.
The Sun Devils were 31-30 in Erickson's five seasons but stumbled after he took them to the Holiday Bowl in 2007 while being named the conference's Coach of the Year.
Arizona State had a bit of an odyssey in its search after firing Erickson.
The Sun Devils reportedly were in talks with Houston coach Kevin Sumlin, which broke down after Texas A&M fired coach Mike Sherman. The Aggies named Sumlin coach on Monday.
Arizona State also was apparently close to a deal with SMU coach June Jones when negotiations broke down at the last minute. Leigh Steinberg, Jones' agent, called the abrupt ending one of the "most bizarre endings" to discussions to bring a client to a new situation.
Ultimately the school settled on Graham, a Mesquite, Texas native with a background as a defensive coordinator but who has built his head coaching resume at Rice, Tulsa and Pittsburgh with what he calls a "high-octane" offense.
It worked with the Owls and the Golden Hurricane but not at Pittsburgh. The Panthers were tabbed to finish second in the Big East in the preseason but found a way to let winnable games get away while quarterback Tino Sunseri struggled to grasp the complex system.
Graham pledged to be in it for the long haul. Turns out, he won't even be around to coach the Panthers in their bowl game. He alerted his players via text message.
"I take a nap for 2 hours, wake up to find out my head coach is gone," backup quarterback Trey Anderson posted on his Twitter feed.