| Todd Graham
East Central University, 1987
Todd Graham has made good on the promise he made to his staff and players in their first meeting shortly after he became the 17th coach in school history ....."We Will Win".
Graham led the Owls to their first bowl berth in 45 years and matched the greatest turnaround by a first-year coach in school history, a six-game improvement from the year before. Legenday Rice head coach Jess Neely also engineered a six-game improvement in his first year.
Despite an 0-4 start, Graham's message never waivered and it began to sink in as the Owls put together a six-game winning streak to end the season, including three wins that came on the final play of the game.
In recognition for the impact he had on the Owls program, Graham was selected by the news media at the 2006 C-USA Coach of the Year. In January, Graham received an contract extension that runs through the 2012 season.
Graham hit the ground at Rice in a full sprint shortly after he was named the Owls new head coach on January 1, 2006. He took his message to Owls alumni and they responded in the same fashion his team would later evidence, donating nearly $7 million for improvements that resulted in the upgrading of office technology, and much-needed renovations and upgrades to historic Rice Stadium. The venerable venue now sports an unrivaled playing surface from Field Turf, a state of the art scoreboard and video display system and a team on the field to match the improvements.
Graham also introduced a summer program for the team, under the supervision of Yancy McKnight and, as a result, the Owls came into 2006 a leaner, quicker, better-conditioned team, and one prepped to earn a place in school history.
Graham, 42, has delivered the championship mentality to Rice that he has developed as part of winning programs on the college level at Tulsa, West Virginia, and East Central (Okla.), and his high-school successes were the stuff of legends.
Prior to coming to Rice, Graham had been the assistant head coach, defensive coordinator and secondary coach at the University of Tulsa for three seasons, helping the Hurricane to the 2005 Conference USA championship and a 31-24 win over Fresno State in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, played Dec. 31 at Memphis, Tenn. Tulsa finished with a 9-4 record in 2005.
In his previous coaching stops, Graham has played major roles in reversing the fortunes of struggling programs, starting with his first college coaching job at East Central University in Ada, Okla. His three seasons as the Tigers' defensive coordinator saw ECU improve from a break-even program to the NAIA national championship in 1993.
As head coach and athletic director at Allen High School north of Dallas, Graham led a program which had no district wins in the year prior to his arrival to five playoff berths in six seasons. Among his players at Allen were former Owls B.J. Forguson (1998-2000, 2002) and Chad Richardson (1996-99).
At West Virginia University under head coach Rich Rodriguez, Graham helped the Mountaineers improve from a 3-8 mark to a 9-3 record in his second season. At Tulsa under Steve Kragthorpe, the Hurricane jumped from 1-11 in 2002 prior to his arrival, to an 8-4 record in '03. Both the WVU and Tulsa turnarounds were the best in NCAA Division I in those seasons.
In that first season at Tulsa, the Hurricane's defense saw dramatic improvement. Tulsa improved in total defense nationally, jumping 49 spots from the previous year, to rank 60th that season. Tulsa's defense also ranked 11th in pass defense efficiency, 16th in pass defense, an improvement of 28 spots; and 72nd in scoring defense, an improvement of 29 spots in the national rankings from the previous year. In Western Athletic Conference play, the Hurricane defense ranked first in pass defense, second in total defense and pass defense efficiency, and third in scoring defense.
In 2004, the Tulsa defense ranked 22nd nationally in pass defense. In 2005, the Hurricane improved to 13th in pass efficiency defense and was also fourth nationally in turnover margin, gaining an average 1.38 turnovers per game. Tulsa led C-USA in both statistical categories, as well as posting the top defensive average in C-USA games only. One of Graham's position players, junior safety Nick Graham, led the league with six interceptions.
Todd Graham spent two years as an assistant coach at West Virginia, where he served as co-defensive coordinator in 2002. Graham was the defensive scheme coordinator and safeties coach in 2002 after coaching the linebackers in 2001. In 2002, the Mountaineer defense ranked 33rd nationally in total defense and 30th in rush defense. He helped WVU register a 9-4 record with wins over nationally-ranked Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh.
Before moving to WVU, Graham was a highly-successful high school coach and athletic director at Allen High School for six years (1995-2000). His teams made five playoff appearances and won two bi-district championships. In 2000, Allen posted a 9-3 record and captured a Class 5A Division II bi-district title, defeating four teams ranked among the top-10 in Texas.
Previously, Graham was the head coach at Carl Albert High School in Midwest City, Okla., in 1994, ranking 10th in the state's final class 5A poll. Before that, he served three years as the defensive coordinator at East Central University.
In 1988-90, Graham was an assistant coach at Poteet High School in Mesquite, where those teams compiled a 25-5 record.
A native of the Dallas-Forth Worth area, Graham was an all-state defensive back at North Mesquite High. He later was a two-year NAIA all-America defensive back at East Central and three-time all-conference performer. He signed as a free agent with the NFL's St. Louis Cardinals.
Graham earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in education at East Central University. He and his wife, Penni, have six children: Bo, Hank, Natalie, Haylee, Dakota and Michael Todd Jr.
What They Say About Todd Graham
Rice President David W. Leebron
"I want to thank Bobby May and the search committee for working so hard and so effectively to identify and recruit an outstanding candidate as our next head football coach. I share their confidence that Todd Graham will bring new excitement to Rice football."
Britton Banowsky, Commissioner, Conference USA
"Rice has a great football tradition and Todd will join the list of great coaches. He is certainly well prepared for the job and we know he will be very successful. This is a strong hire for Rice University."
Judy MacLeod, Associate Commissioner C-USA and former Director of Athletics at University of Tulsa
"Todd has been an integral part of the rebuilding and success at Tulsa the past three years. Rice is getting an outstanding coach and person to lead its football program."
Robin Forman, Dean of Undergraduates, Rice University
"I think that Todd is going to have a great future at Rice. In addition to being a great coach, he knows Texas. He is a very good fit for Rice. He is coming from a small, selective, private university, and he has a true commitment to helping his players develop in all ways, as athletes, students and citizens."
Don Ostdiek, Assistant Dean, Student Judicial Programs Director, Rice University
"I think this hire is very positive for Rice Football and for the Rice University community. Coach Graham brings not only strong football credentials but also an understanding of how to support high academic standards and develop strong character among our student-athletes."
Steve Kragthorpe, Head Football Coach, University of Tulsa
"I appreciate the job that Todd Graham has done over the course of the last three years at the University of Tulsa. He has been an excellent asset to our football staff and the accomplishments that we've had as a team. With programatic success comes opportunities for assistant coaches to become head coaches. Todd has certainly earned the opportunity to lead a Division I football program. I wish him the best of success in not only this endeavor, but all future endeavors both on the playing field and for his family."