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Pitt tabs Tulsa's Graham as latest head coach

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Todd Graham today was named the head football coach at the University of Pittsburgh late Monday. Graham will be formally introduced at a news conference on Tuesday, January 11.

Graham is Pitt's fourth head coach since Dec. 6, when athletic director Steve Pederson forced the resignation of Dave Wannstedt, who won 27 games and lost 12 over the past three seasons. Mike Haywood replaced Wannstedt on Dec. 16, but was fired two weeks later after his arrest on domestic assault charges. Former defensive coordinator Phil Bennett was the team's interim head coach in the BBVA Compass Bowl, in which Pitt beat Kentucky 27-10.

Graham comes to Pitt after a highly successful head coaching tenure at Tulsa, where in four years he had three 10-win campaigns and three bowl victories. He compiled a 36-17 overall record with the Golden Hurricane, including a 10-3 mark this year highlighted by a 28-27 victory at Notre Dame and decisive 62-35 win over 24th-ranked Hawai’i in the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl. Tulsa’s win over Notre Dame was called the biggest upset of the year by ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit.

Prolific offenses have been Graham’s hallmark. Under his direction, Tulsa led the nation in total offense twice (2007 and 2008) and ranked fifth this year. While he has a well-deserved reputation for devising high-octane offensive game plans, the 46-year-old coach built his career on defense and has also distinguished himself as a defensive coordinator and position coach.

This will be Graham’s third collegiate head coaching appointment. In addition to Tulsa, he served as the head coach at Rice for one season (2006), leading the Owls to their first bowl game in 45 years and earning Conference USA Coach of the Year honors. Graham’s career head coaching record is 43-23 and includes four bowls in five seasons.

“My family and I are honored to join such a prestigious university and rich football tradition like the University of Pittsburgh,” said Graham, who becomes the 35th head coach in Pitt football history. “Pittsburgh is a tremendous football city with great fans. We will work diligently every day to earn their respect and build a program that competes for and wins championships. I’m also excited to return to the Big East, a conference that plays tremendous football.”

Graham’s 2010 Tulsa team rolled up 505.6 yards per game to rank fifth nationally and averaged 41.4 points to rank eighth. The Golden Hurricane also took exceptional care of the football, ranking second in the country in turnover margin (plus 17).

Under Graham’s watch, All-America all-purpose player Damaris Johnson was one of the most exciting performers in college football. The 5-foot-8 dynamo led the country in all-purpose yards for the second consecutive year (202.2 yards/game in 2010) and established himself as the NCAA’s career leader in that category with 7,796.

"I don't think I can say enough good things about Todd Graham,” said College Hall of Fame coach John Cooper, who formerly coached at Tulsa as well as Ohio State and Arizona State. “If I was named the head coach of some school tomorrow, I would send my entire coaching staff down to Tulsa to learn a few things. I really believe TU's football staff is on the cutting edge of what is going on in college football these days.”

In Graham’s first two seasons as Tulsa’s head coach, the Golden Hurricane made program history by posting consecutive 10-win seasons and winning a school-record 11 games in 2008. He went 21-7 his first two years, the best start by a Tulsa coach ever. Tulsa was one of just 11 schools on the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level to achieve back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2007 and 2008.

In 2007, Tulsa led the country in total offense, averaging 543.9 yards per game, and set 29 school records, 15 Conference USA marks and four NCAA records. The Golden Hurricane routed Bowling Green, 63-7, in the GMAC Bowl, the largest bowl margin of victory in NCAA history.

In 2008, Tulsa again led the country in total offense (569.9 avg.) while ranking second in scoring (47.1 points/game), fifth in rushing (268.0 yards/game) and ninth in passing (301.8 yards/game). Graham’s team finished with an 11-3 record, capped by a 45-13 victory over 22nd-ranked Ball State in the GMAC Bowl.

Tulsa's 661 points in 2008 established a school record and marked the second highest single-season total in the modern era of the NCAA (second only to Oklahoma's 2008 total of 716 points).

Before elevating to head coach at Tulsa, Graham served as its assistant head coach and defensive coordinator from 2003-05. The 2005 team finished with a 9-4 record, captured the Conference USA title and shut down a high-flying Fresno State team, 31-24, in the Liberty Bowl. Graham’s defense ranked among the nation’s top 40 in five categories, including takeaways (third), interceptions (third), pass efficiency defense (11th), pass defense (17th) and total defense (40th).

Taking over as head coach at Rice in 2006, Graham led the Owls to a 7-6 record and the school's first bowl berth in 45 years. That historic success earned him Conference USA Coach of the Year honors. Rice began the year 0-4 before reeling off victories in seven of its next nine games, including six consecutive wins.

Graham broke into the collegiate coaching ranks as defensive coordinator at East Central University (1991-93) in Oklahoma, where his work as defensive coordinator helped transform the Tigers from a .500 program to NAIA national champions in his final year.

During the 2001 and 2002 seasons, Graham served at West Virginia under Rich Rodriguez and helped the Mountaineers achieve the biggest turnaround in college football over that period, improving from 3-8 to 9-4.

After coaching WVU’s linebackers his first season, Graham was promoted to co-defensive coordinator, defensive scheme coordinator and safeties coach. The 2002 Mountaineers forced 34 turnovers, including 19 interceptions, and ranked fourth nationally in turnover margin (plus 19).

From 1995-2000, Graham distinguished himself in the ultra-competitive Texas high school ranks as both a head coach and athletic director. As head coach at Allen High School, he led a program that had no district wins the year prior to his arrival to five playoff berths in six seasons. His final year, 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.

A native of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Graham was an all-state defensive back at North Mesquite High School. He went on to play at East Central University in Oklahoma, where he was a two-time NAIA All-America defensive back and three-time all-conference performer.

Graham earned his bachelor’s degree in education in 1987 from ECU before signing a free agent contract with the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals. He later earned his masters degree, also in education, from ECU.

He and his wife Penni have six children: Bo, Natalie, Hank, Haylee, Dakota and Michael Todd Jr.


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