January 12, 2007
Todd Graham goes back to Tulsa

Holy crap.

Twelve months ago, Todd Graham stood before a roomful of players, administrators and supporters, and spoke of initiating a Rice renaissance. He presented a plan to revitalize the football program and then steadfastly set out to put that plan in motion.

And after spearheading fundraising efforts that produced massive renovations to Rice Stadium and its adjoining facilities, Graham led the Owls on a magic-carpet ride that concluded with them earning a bowl berth for the first time in 45 seasons.

On Thursday, that renaissance came to an abrupt end when Graham decided to return to the University of Tulsa, where he will succeed Steve Kragthorpe, his former boss, as head coach.

Several NCAA officials confirmed that Graham will leave after only one season -- a campaign in which he led Rice to a 7-6 record and the New Orleans Bowl.

Graham, 42, was named Conference USA Coach of the Year by the media, but his success at Rice proved to be little more than a springboard for his return to Tulsa, where he spent three seasons (2003-05) serving as defensive coordinator under Kragthorpe, who on Tuesday left Tulsa after four seasons and replaced Bobby Petrino at Louisville.

"I'm kind of upset personally," Owls sophomore cornerback Ja'Corey Shepherd said. "We just got adjusted to these coaches, and it's going to be hard to get adjusted to a whole new set of coaches. For coach Graham to leave is a disappointment to me."

To say the least, I'm in shock. Judging from the Rice fan forum, they've mostly moved from shock to anger. I can't blame them. And reading MK Bower's blog post, which notes that Graham had agreed to a contract extension on Tuesday, just makes it worse.

Back in the 80s and early 90s when the coaching situation was a bit more fluid around here, the MOB used to do an Annual Salute To The New Coach as its first show whenever the revolving door had taken another spin. We didn't do that this year, since it wasn't really appropriate given Ken Hatfield's long tenure. I guess we can dust it off for the 2007 season opener. Right now, at least, it doesn't seem as funny as it did back then.

Oh, and Major Applewhite is going to Alabama as well. Hardly seems like a big deal now.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 12, 2007 to Other sports | TrackBack