After a roughly half-hour introductory press conference on Wednesday at the Manoa Lower Campus, new Hawaii football coach Todd Graham and athletic director David Matlin broke off for group scrum interviews and 1-on-1s.
Graham spoke to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaii Warrior World for several minutes.
Then, Matlin granted Warrior World a 1-on-1 as UH staffers, media, UH supporters, and Graham milled about.
Matlin called the speed at which the hiring process happened “lightning.” The position was posted in UH’s system eight days prior.
Here’s Matlin answering some questions:
Q: How was ‘lightning’ allowed to happen this time?
A: “We were prepared. We had a plan, we have a timeline. Things don’t always go as you’re planning, but (UH President) David Lassner empowered me. I mean, a lot of credit goes to David Lassner and the administration. It’s a whole team, and you’ve got our legal people, our finance people, our HR people, my administration team, everyone had a role and a position they played. And I failed before in the past, where you try to do it all, and (this time) it was really divide and conquer. I think it is a sign of how this university is really growing in a positive direction. Not just in athletics, but the whole university.”
Q: In the past, search committees have been a big part of the hiring process. This time, am I correct that there was not a committee?
A: “I haven’t really used a search committee since I’ve been here. I’ve used advisory groups. Sometimes they’ve been bigger than this one was, but yeah, that can slow down the process a little bit. I think there’s a time, when you have more time, and obviously time was a factor. But really, getting the right guy is the biggest thing you want to do.”
Q: Was I correct in hearing that Coach Graham’s base salary in 2020 ($760,000) is what Nick Rolovich could have had, had he stayed?
Q: That jump in salary from what it had been (about $600,000), was that difficult to acquire, or is that within the means of the program?
A: “I mean, obviously we have a plan and we have some forecasted revenues where we think we can do that. We’ve gotta live within our means. It’s always a challenge, but we’re trying to be fiscally responsible and by the same token trying to get better.”
Q: What was the volume of applications you received since the job was posted?
A: “There’s the people who officially apply, and then there’s the people who say they apply. … But we had approximately 50 official applications. But we had a lot more interest than that.”
Q: You compared the speed of this to the Eran Ganot hire …
A: “And that was before I officially got the job. I was volunteering. Eran’s got more seniority than I have.”
Q: How might getting this to come together this fast compare to that?
A: “Honestly, on that one, I didn’t know what I was doing, but we just worked hard. We worked fast. And I had great support from the team. That one worked out great. But this one, we just had a plan. It was hard. There wasn’t much sleep. I mean, you’re getting up at 3, 4, in the morning, calling the East Coast. So you’re grinding. But the fact that we had a plan and were ready, it made it possible.”
Q: A lot of people were thinking, internal, internal, younger, younger, for the position. What kind of made you feel good about going the other direction?
A: “We had some great candidates, some great internal candidates. Great younger candidates. Great local candidates. Great people from outside. My job is, it’s really simple: to hire who I feel is best for our student-athletes and our program, no matter who that is. And there’s a lot of factors that make up that. When I added them all up, he was the guy. That said, some of those others, do I think they could be a good coach here? Maybe even a great coach here? Absolutely. But I have to determine who is the best. So, I was honored that we had so many great applicants.”