ASU's Crow: The case for Todd Graham

You don't often get to be a university president without strong rhetorical skills, and Arizona State president Michael Crow certainly has those.

So it perhaps should come as no surprise that he makes a very strong case here against the massive national overreaction against new Sun Devils coach Todd Graham bailing on Pittsburgh after just one year.

What you start to realize about this business -- big-time college football -- is that a school scorned is going to aggressively back-channel the negative spin. That happened to Rich Rodriguez at West Virginia, Mike Leach at Texas Tech, Lane Kiffin at Tennessee, Rick Neuheisel at Colorado and Washington, etc., etc.

And, of course, Graham at Pittsburgh.

Said Crow: "He caught a lot of flak because he was unable to talk to his team. We requested permission to speak to him and [Pitt] said no. For him to speak to us, he had to resign and then he could no longer speak to his players. We don't set those rules, we asked for an opportunity and didn't get it."

Of course, Graham also stepped in it when he said at his introductory news conference at Arizona State that he wanted to go back and talk to his Pittsburgh players. Just about everyone hearing that immediately thought, "Er, no."

As for whether Crow saw Graham's two-time, one-and-done tenures as a red flag:

"When you sit and spend hours with someone and talk to references about them, you get a better sense of the character of the person," he said. "You go from Tulsa to Rice and then back to Tulsa in one year, what's the reason? You talk to the people at Rice and you find out yes, there was a reason. You go to Pittsburgh and ask why you go to Pittsburgh, why don't you like Pittsburgh, what's going on? There's an explanation, coaches can have explanations like 'My family doesn't like it here, we'd really like to be somewhere else.'"

Not to bring up Arizona for Arizona State fans, but my opinion of Rodriguez's departure from West Virginia -- a spin battle Rodriguez initially lost badly -- completely changed over the years, most notably after reading "Three and out" by John Bacon. That book is mostly about Rodriguez's doomed-from-the-start tenure at Michigan, but the insights into the politics at West Virginia is fascinating.

Pittsburgh certainly won the spin battle with Graham, and at the Rose Bowl, after chatting with a lot of writers, I learned that not many folks in the media feel much reason to consider Graham's perspective on things.

But if he wins, they'll all come down to Tempe with backslaps and smiles on their faces, and the Pittsburgh departure will become just another footnote.