Hawaii football players allege mistreatment by Todd Graham, say he ‘has killed our love and passion for football’

Hawaii football players allege mistreatment by Todd Graham, say he 'has killed our love and passion for football'

New allegations against Hawaii coach Todd Graham surfaced last week surrounding the second-year coach’s mistreatment of players and coaches.

The program culture under Graham came under scrutiny on Nov. 31 after former Hawaii player Darryl McBride Jr. hosted a public Twitter Spaces event, in which several former and current players discussed the program. That event followed news earlier in the day that starting quarterback Chevan Cordeiro, a product of nearby Saint Louis School, was entering the transfer portal.

The Twitter discussion chronicled what it’s like playing for Graham and the culture he has instilled in the program. According to a report by SFGATE — citing players who spoke on the condition of anonymity — Graham’s first two seasons in Manoa have been anything but smooth sailing.

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Throughout his FBS head coaching tenure, which also includes stops at Rice, Tulsa, Pitt and Arizona State, Graham has consistently been branded a “disciplinarian.” But players who spoke to SFGATE described Graham’s behavior and attitude as going too far, with one player alleging “verbal abuse.”

“I would go as far to say it’s verbal abuse the way he talks to guys. … It’s personal,” the player told SFGATE. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, you need to be faster.’ He’s calling guys useless, jackass and a sack of s—t.”

SFGATE reports Graham has also reportedly berated and insulted players with regularity, reportedly calling them such names as “dogs—t,” among other terms. Multiple players also said Graham threatens players who speak out against him or question him by taking away playing time.

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“Me and a lot of others can truthfully say Graham has killed our love and passion for football,” one player told SFGATE.

The players on the team also alleged power imbalance and rampant favoritism from Graham in favor of first-team players. One player said he experienced depression and considered quitting football after his treatment during the 2020 season, one in which he was not a regular contributor. He claimed more significant contributions to the team by him in 2021 directly resulted in improved treatment by Graham.

“Those who (the coaching staff) don’t care for get s—t on,” he said.

SFGATE noted that players routinely defended the assistant coaches, whom they described as stuck between a rock and a hard place for fear of reprisal if they spoke out against Graham. The publication noted that not one player defended Graham, whom players say routinely talks about leaving for the NFL if he gets the chance.

“He basically kept telling us he’s using us as a stepping stone,” one player said.

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The Rainbow Warriors are 6-7 this year and 11-11 in Graham’s first two seasons as head coach. They’ll play in the Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24 as a result of a record-42nd NCAA-sanctioned bowl this season.

Said one player: “I see why he wants the bowl game so bad. It ain’t for the seniors. It ain’t for Hawaii. It’s for his reputation and the extra bowl game check.” (Graham will receive a $20,000 bonus for participating in the Hawaii Bowl and $40,000 if the Warriors win the game.

Neither Graham nor Hawaii athletic director David Matlin responded to SFGATE’s requests for comments. Reports also indicate Graham didn’t address the Twitter Spaces event and brushed off any questions of culture issues when asked several times during both a radio spot and a media availability.

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“I don’t read Twitter. I don’t do those things. I can tell you that my deal is focusing on being positive.” Graham said on Friday. “We know we’re doing things the right way.”

Graham currently makes $800,000 a year in base salary through 2024. He’s owed a $425,000 buyout for every year remaining on his contract meaning, if he’s fired this season, the school owes him $1.275 million. According to SFGATE, Hawaii has never spent more than $600,000 to buy out a coach.

Graham’s future remains uncertain, but many of the team’s nine transfers (the most of any team in the Mountain West, per 247Sports) said they don’t intend to return as long as Graham is employed at Hawaii.





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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.