Hawaii football: Q&As with new coach Todd Graham, athletic director David Matlin

Hawaii athletic director David Matlin, left, and UH President David Lassner, right, flanked new UH football coach Todd Graham on Wednesday. / Photo by Bruce Asato, Star-Advertiser

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?
A: “Correct.”

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.”


  1. sports for fun January 22, 2020 8:13 pm

    I like him as a person; warm, charismatic, outgoing. Aa a coach, time will tell.

  2. Hawai'iOnly January 22, 2020 9:21 pm

    I didnt like the fact he talked about Championships right out the gate.. that was just too Chow like. He seems to have the right attitude and says the right things.. now we just have to wait and see if he can walk the talk or is he just full of lip service …

  3. Superstar Advertiser January 23, 2020 5:28 am

    In the Q&A with Matlin, what I’m reading is there’s a ton of administrative workers who are getting paid. Administrative costs in Hawaii are obscene. To be fair, the whole US college system is struggling with adminstrative costs though.

  4. Seawalker January 23, 2020 9:17 am

    Sounds like Matlin got his number 1 choice. But let’s be cautious people. Do you remember Lost Often and Chow Fun? The press was hard on Graham several years back when jumping ship from Pitt to ASU. Might be the case here once the cow dung makes the other side of the fence greener pastures. Liking the air-raid and no-huddle offense he plans to run. That, and an aggressive ‘D’.

  5. Na Alii Pride January 23, 2020 3:39 pm

    #4 – Von Appen and Chow were from different administrations. This is the AD that chose Rolo, and that worked out almost too good as he was successful enough to get the big payday. I understand looking in the rearview mirror, but I don’t think comparing this hire to Chow and Von Appen is fair. No one knows for certain if this hire will work out, but at least on the surface, Graham looks like the home run we needed.

  6. 808warriorfan January 31, 2020 6:54 am

    I guess a lot of us are still suffering from PTCSD … Post Traumatic Chow Stress Disorder … one thing I give Coach Graham credit for is admitting he made a mistake with the Pitt job … read that his family wasn’t comfortable there … can’t blame him for that

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