After recent speculation and reported talks to fire ASU head football coach Todd Graham, the school pulled the cord on its six-year man Sunday morning, ASU Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson said in a university-released statement.
“Our athletic department, university and community expect our football program to compete on the field for Pac-12 titles, be competitively consistent and qualify to participate in major bowl games on a regular basis,” Anderson said. “In evaluating Todd’s body of work over a four-year period, it became clear that a change is necessary.”
That change looked to be heading in the right direction after Graham orchestrated a 7-5 season and a 2nd place finish in the Pac-12 South this year — exceeding expectations after being picked to finish fifth in the preseason conference media poll.
The move comes just a day after Graham had seemingly grabbed support from most ASU supporters after beating rival Arizona 42-30, a game that many though would dictate Graham’s future.
But prior to the game, Dan Wolken of USA Today spoke to two people with knowledge of the matter and reported that Graham believed he would be fired regardless of the Territorial Cup outcome.
After back-to-back 10-win season in 2013 and 2014, including an appearance in the Pac-12 Championship Game in 2013, ASU went 6-7, 5-7 and 7-6 respectively, never looking like the conference power Graham had them slated to be after his first three seasons.
“We are committed to turning Sun Devil Football into an elite program and competing nationally on a consistent basis,” Anderson said.
But, in a world of college athletics where Athletic Director’s are judged on their hires, Anderson never had his chance to pick the football coach in Tempe.
Getting Graham to the desert was the work of then ASU Vice President of Athletics, Lisa Love. Her 2011 contract to Graham looks like it’s going to cost ASU — according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, Graham’s buyout will be $12.3 million.
That number will also be added to whatever the salary is of the Sun Devils next head coach, someone Anderson said his is already searching for.
“A national search will begin immediately and we will be deliberate in hiring a leader that fits our expectations as a program and a university,” Anderson said.
But, reports are starting to circulate that the man Anderson and ASU has on its radar is Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin.
Regardless of when the next coach is picked, Anderson’s statement also noted that Graham and his staff will remain with the program through their bowl appearance.
A press conference is scheduled for 1:00 P.M. local time Sunday in which Anderson will give more detail about his decision.