Football: Graham introduced as new head coach

By Alex Oltmanns

New Pitt head football coach Todd Graham was introduced to the media Tuesday at the team’s… Updated 8:50 p.m.

When new football head coach Todd Graham was introduced to the media Tuesday at the team’s South Side facility, he made a few things clear: His team will play up-tempo and demonstrate high character, and he will recruit the best class possible.

Graham, who was hired Monday, comes to Pitt after posting a 36-17 record in four seasons as the head coach at Tulsa. He capped off this season at the Golden Hurricane with a 62-35 win over No. 24 Hawai‘i in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

The 46-year-old is Pitt’s third head coach in a month, coming right after Michael Haywood, who was fired about two weeks after replacing former head coach Dave Wannstedt.

“Coach Graham is a unique college football coach. He’s a proven winner through high school and college football,” Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said. “He’s creative, high energy and he wants to win championships like we want to win championships.”

Under Graham, Tulsa teams led the nation in total offense in 2007 and 2008 and ranked fifth this season. He hopes to continue that success into his tenure with Pitt.

“Words can’t express walking down the hallways here, the great tradition of this program and what it means to me. It’s very humbling.” said Graham, who was joined at the conference by his wife, Penni, and three of his six children.

While Graham is known to run a spread offense, he clarified that at Pitt he will use not a spread but rather a “no-huddle” system that will look to score points in a hurry.

“We’re not a no-huddle offense; we’re a no-huddle football team,” Graham said. “We’re going to operate extremely fast. We’re going to be fast-tempo, high-octane and explosive.”

This past season at Tulsa, Graham’s team averaged 505.6 yards per game and 41.4 points per game, the eighth best total in the country.

Prior to coaching at Tulsa, Graham was the head coach at Rice University in 2006 and was named the Conference USA Coach of the Year after leading the Owls to their first bowl game in 45 years.

Graham said he will immediately begin recruiting in hopes of not merely salvaging the recruiting class but of ensuring that it’s strong.

“I believe we will put together one of the finest recruiting classes ever,” he said. “As I walked through this campus and walked down these halls, the opportunity to do that is just phenomenal.”

To do this, Graham will enlist his primary core of assistant coaches, many of whom he introduced Tuesday. He will fill out the rest of the coaching staff in time, but reiterated that recruiting is his first priority right now.

Helping to court players will be associate head coach Paul Randolph, who will work with the defensive line; Keith Patterson who will work with defense; Mike Norvell and Calvin McGee, who will co-coordinate the offense; and Tony Gibson, who will work with the defensive backs and serve as the recruiting coordinator.

All of the coaches have backgrounds at either Michigan, West Virginia or Tulsa.

“Coach Gibson will be out in Western Pennsylvania in a hurry,” Graham said. “We know that there are some great players in this state. We will work hard on winning this state; I think that is very important.”

Graham noted that his primary goals are to promote high character, ensure that players graduate and transform the Panthers into champions not only of the Big East but of the nation.

“The number one thing in our system is speed and explosive power. I would list speed three times, and then explosive power,” he said. “We want to be fast, we want to be efficient and we are going to be explosive.”

Graham said he plans to meet with former Pitt players Jon Baldwin, Dion Lewis and Henry Hynoski, all of whom declared their intentions to enter the NFL draft Monday. The new head coach hopes to persuade them to return to school.

“I would love to have those guys. Watching their prowess offensively and the talents that they have, I would love to have the opportunity to sell them on the offense,” he said. “Naturally, I believe this offense would do nothing but enhance their status in the future.”

Graham noted that academics and the school’s rich tradition are two things that enticed him to accept the offer to become the school’s next head football coach.

Pitt officials did not release the terms of Graham’s contract, though some outlets have reported that his contract could be worth $2 million per season.