Hawaii coach Todd Graham resigns amid claims of ‘verbal abuse’ by players; cites family and health reasons
Hawaii announced Friday night that coach Todd Graham is resigning after two seasons on the job. His departure follows a mass exodus from within the team’s roster amid allegations that he fostered a poor culture within the program. Graham, 57, posted an 11-11 record after taking over for Nick Rolovich following the 2019 season.
“Todd informed me of his decision to resign,” Hawaii athletics director David Matlin said in a statement. “We enjoyed many successes under his leadership even as he faced pandemic conditions, the withdrawal of Aloha Stadium, and the prohibition of any fans for nearly all his time with us. Todd’s tireless efforts as a coach have made a positive impact on many student-athletes. We have talked at length, and it is clear he has taken this action so that the football program can thrive moving forward.”
Hawaii’s football program was the topic of a state senate meeting earlier this month as players, including key pieces such as starting quarterback Chevan Cordeiro and leading rusher Dae Dae Hunter, continued to leave the program. Graham’s son, a defensive back, was also among a total of 20 players from the program in the transfer portal as of Friday.
The wave of Hawaii players entering the portal followed a December report from SFGate that outlined cultural issues within the program. One anonymous Hawai’i player told SFGate that, “I would go as far to say it’s verbal abuse the way he talks to guys.”
Graham released a lengthy statement on his decision. In it, the former coach at Rice, Tulsa, Pittsburgh and Arizona State cited health and family reasons for his decision. Here is Graham’s quote in full:
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as the Head Football Coach at the University of Hawai’i for the past two seasons. After much prayer and reflection with my family, I have come to the conclusion that I will step away as head coach of the Rainbow Warriors, with a very heavy heart. I want to give my thanks and appreciation to the players, staff and coaches who persevered through all the challenges of 2020 and 2021. It wasn’t easy, but they all fought the good fight and we did things the right way.
Our staff poured our hearts and souls into our players and truly made a difference in their lives. I could not have asked more of their commitment, work ethic and love for our players and football program. But it is clear to me that I must step away and do what is best for me and my family and my health. I honor, value and love all of my players and coaches and I wish you the very best. The University has not asked me to step down. I am leaving solely for my family and my health. We have laid a strong foundation for future success, and I will always be cheering you on!
Because Graham resigned, he won’t be owed for the remaining three seasons, according to Hawaii’s statement. The school is launching a search for its next head coach “immediately.” Though recruiting at Hawaii can be a challenge because of its remote location, the program has produced some quality teams in modern times.
The Rainbow Warriors have reached 10 or more wins on five occasions in the past 20 seasons and have played in 11 bowl games over that span. They were scheduled to play Memphis in this season’s Hawaii Bowl before dropping out of the game due to COVID-19 issues.