Hawaii football: Todd Graham named Rainbow Warriors’ new football coach

Then-Arizona State head coach Todd Graham looked on before the start of ASU's game against Utah on Oct. 21, 2017. / Associated Press file photo by Rick Bowmer

The University of Hawaii and athletic director David Matlin looked outward and older for the 25th head coach (correction: 24th, as UH is not counting the four games coached by Chris Naeole in 2015) in UH football lore.

Todd Graham, 55, a veteran of head coaching stops at Rice, Tulsa, Pittsburgh and Arizona State, was named as the Rainbow Warriors new head coach on Tuesday night, after speculation abounded that UH’s hire would come from a younger member of Nick Rolovich’s UH coaching staff.

Graham’s name emerged with prominence early Tuesday, the first day that UH could make a formal decision. UH has scheduled a press conference for Wednesday afternoon.

Graham last coached in 2017, when he was fired from ASU after a 7-6 season.

ASU made five bowl games in six years under Graham, who has 10 career bowl games to his credit in 12 years as a head coach. His head coaching record is 95-61.

Graham’s year-by-year record:
2006: Rice 7-6 (New Orleans Bowl, L)
2007: Tulsa 10-4 (GMAC Bowl, W)
2008: Tulsa 11-3 (GMAC Bowl, W)
2009: Tulsa 5-7
2010: Tulsa 10-3 (Hawaii Bowl, W)
2011: Pittsburgh 6-6 (BBVA Compass Bowl, L)
2012: Arizona State 8-5 (Fight Hunter Bowl, W)
2013: Arizona State 10-4 (Holiday Bowl, L)
2014: Arizona State 10-3 (Sun Bowl, W)
2015: Arizona State 6-7 (Cactus Bowl, L)
2016: Arizona State 5-7
2017: Arizona State 7-6 (Sun Bowl, L)

This post will be updated.

Feel free to give your feedback on the hire in the comments below.


  1. Matt January 21, 2020 6:39 pm

    I’m just hoping that they made the right call, because with so many changes from this football team, it’s make-or-break time. If he eliminates the idea of the run-and-shoot for their offense, I’m really not sure how they may do in 2020. If he can somehow get a good offensive coordinator and O-line coach, maybe there’s still hope. Just hope Batoon or at least what remains of the coaching staff left stays or we could be seeing a bunch of wholesale changes to the football program.

  2. mileHIwarrior January 21, 2020 6:46 pm

    A bit of a u-turn from Matlin’s plan to find someone who understands Hawai’i and everything that comes with it. One can only hope with this hire that the assistants will fulfill that requirement.

    Interesting read was that Stutz was a finalist and JJ withdrew. Mind blown if that was really the case.

  3. Shaka808 January 21, 2020 6:48 pm

    Seems impressive till you see he went 18-20 his last 3 years and ASU got better as soon as he was gone. Actually looks like his best days were more than a decade ago ? Hopeful but not expecting much.

  4. Robert January 21, 2020 7:07 pm

    Seems like the quick hire might be about being able to recruit effectively at this juncture. The fact that he was at so many places speaks to experience, however losing experience is of little value to a program having just emerged from years of losing. Nonetheless what is done is done, so I hope for the best.

  5. Shaka808 January 21, 2020 8:34 pm

    Always remember von appen had super bowl rings and norm chow had national championships and was a highly regarded qb guru. Both suffered from trying to force the level of recruits they had into systems designed for diff types of players.

    Jones,rolo and mack succedee by running a scheme that was complimentary to the talent they could recruit. What will make or break coach grahm is can he recruit the players he needs and can he adjust his scheme to fit the players he can get. He is going to struggle mightily to recruit locally unless hes able to get a master recruiter with strong hawaii ties on staff. He will also struggle to recruit on the mainland with hawaiis money and visibility limitations.

    I hope for the best but nothing in his past really suggests this – hes only stayed one place longer than 3 years so most of his teams have been previous coach recruits. The one time he did stay somewhere ponger than three years , year 4-5-6 (when the team is now predominantly your recruits) were dreadfull to previous years. Then that team got significantly better as soon as he left. If you cant recruit to asu (much deeper recruiting pool and busget than hawaii and the #1 party school in the nation) Thats what worries me , Ill be at all the games as i havent missed any games since 89 and aloha stadium is where i feel closest to my now passed grand parents. But maaaaan my liver had just recovered from the chow years and looks like ill need to start drinking again to make it through games if this trend follows.

    One things for sure though of he wins alot hes gone in 3 years, if he loses alot hes gone in 3 years lol. Maybe maitlin thought stutz wasnt ready and needed a few more years under his belt (much like rolo when norm came in) so in 3 years stutz will be ready ?

  6. Masatoshi-san January 21, 2020 8:35 pm

    He did turn around Rice (1-11 in 2005 to 7-6 in 2006) and he had success at Tulsa and in his 1st 3 seasons at Arizona State. It looks like he hasn’t had a lot of really bad seasons (the least he’s won in a season is 5 wins (2009 & 2016), and he’s had 5 10+ win seasons (2007, 2008, 2010, 2013, & 2014). Tbh, I don’t think Hawaii will tank under Graham like they did during the Chow & Von Appen years, I’m just a bit worried that if Graham has success, he’ll bolt like he did at Rice and Pitt and we’ll be in the same situation again 1-2 years from now.

  7. Pukalani boy January 21, 2020 8:42 pm

    Hopefully he can recruit locally

  8. Jay January 21, 2020 9:01 pm

    Norm Chow 2.0?

  9. H-Man January 21, 2020 9:11 pm

    Locally? I’m not counting on it, but hoping he has a pipeline to Texas and Oklahoma. And maybe even Arizona. De say he’s a defense guy. Good. Tomey was a defense guy.

  10. sports for fun January 21, 2020 9:48 pm

    Well, this is certainly out of the blue. I’m skeptical but hopeful. To me, Matlin has a good track record of hiring coaches, so I’m trusting that he’s made the right choice again. If not, maybe In 3 years or so Stutz or Smith will be ready to take over.

  11. Hawai'iOnly January 21, 2020 10:06 pm

    I having a hard time believing Stuts was a finalist or even interested. The entire process he was in Pullman in Wazzu gear and on the road recruiting. Plus i dont see Rolovich being able to install the RnS without Stuts. I wonder if Miano had applied this time. I would have been much happier with him. Matlin got to feel what its like to have the fan base rally around him when he makes a hire that had the success Rolovich had but i have a bad feeling he is going to experience a much different vibe with this hire. I only know what I have read online about Todd Graham and it seems to me he’s a hot head with an aggressive coaching style hoping to be relevant again.. just my opinion this is feeling like a Chow era 2.0 #itISwhatITis #onlyTIMEwillTELL

  12. bob January 21, 2020 10:38 pm

    Manti Teo

  13. Von Kaneshiro January 21, 2020 11:14 pm

    Washington State hiring Nick Rolovich as head football coach is significant because it is the first Power Five Conference school to ever adopt and implement the Run N’ Shoot offensive system. I haven’t seen any article on this.

    To that end, the Run N’ Shoot may either become the hot offense to adopt, else it will die on the vine should Rolo et al fail and are eventually fired. So the legacy of the R+W is on the line these next 3 years.

  14. Kawika January 21, 2020 11:17 pm

    Hawaii fans resemble this group:


  15. Amosilatus January 22, 2020 5:50 am

    14. Thanks–hilarious!!

  16. NorthShoreFan January 22, 2020 7:49 am

    #2….MileHI…how do you apply for a HC job while wearing the jersey of the team the former coach went to?

  17. THE burro sabio January 22, 2020 7:55 am

    #16 – prior to the past season, Manny Diaz left Miami to become the head coach at Temple. 2 weeks later he left Temple and returned to be the head coach at Miami.

  18. NorthShoreFan January 22, 2020 7:56 am

    Kawika…you talking about the coach or the “behind the scene” group of coaches?….LOL

  19. NorthShoreFan January 22, 2020 7:58 am

    burro…it just seemed like Stuz was covering his employment options…in case.
    You want a job…you go hard for it.

  20. mileHIwarrior January 22, 2020 8:16 am

    #19 NSF…It was odd I know but not out of the realm like you said. I’d like to think that Rolo would have said to Stutz or Smith or whoever from his UH staff, “you have an offer here at WSU but if you want to apply for UH HC, go for it. I’ll wait.”

  21. Lowtone123 January 22, 2020 9:44 am

    Chow and Von appen attempted to plug a round hole with a square peg and they were unwilling to change. A good coach will try to implement a system to allow your current players to succeed, not force your players to adapt to a system they were not recruited for nor built for. I trust Matlin and I believe Graham can succeed here.

  22. Rodney January 22, 2020 10:53 am

    #14 Kawika Right on brother
    I don’t expect a Chow 2.0 ( inflexible)But only
    in the fact that these players will go
    to class like Chow enforced
    I like the hire . Now coach needs to get
    with the local high school football coaches.
    Get on the mainland and recruit the west coast
    south west and beyond…
    Love the hire
    Stuzman needs moe experience
    Like Rolo he needed to go away and get more
    experience ( chow saw it in Rolo)

  23. Casual Observer January 22, 2020 11:44 am

    Cannot dispute Graham’s record of success over different conferences and multiple universities. All good coaches demonstrate some consistency to their methods of madness; and more importantly as a head coach (that Chow and Von Appen lacked). So most likely he will have a solid staff. And while he is a defensive guy, Tulsa led the nation in total offense for two years. But stats can be misleading because it depends on who and what conference you play in. Question Graham has to sell is: Why Hawaii? Its difficult to recruit for, its in the middle of the Pacific, relatively small budget, lower salary (assumed), and no Hawaii ties (assumed). JJ and Rolo had an unquestioned affinity for Hawaii and this certainly made fans comfortable. Graham probably stood out so much Matlin had no real alternative. Most positive is the returning players are seasoned and highly talented.

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