Several former and current players testified against Hawaii coach Todd Graham during a Hawaii Senate meeting on Friday, accusing him not only of verbally abusing players but also of destroying the program’s culture.
According to Honolulu TV station KITV, the two-hour meeting — consisting of questions from the Ways and Means and Higher Education committees directed at Graham, university president David Lassner, athletic director David Matlin and board of regents member Randolph Moore — reached an emotional crux when calling in testimony from former players.
“I try to see the good in everybody and give people chances, but he is hands down the worst guy I’ve ever met in my life,” former Hawaii linebacker Leonard Lee said (via KITV).
Justin Uahinui, a former Hawaii quarterback, shared similar sentiments: “This program was built with a special culture that you can’t find anywhere else,” he said. “Graham killed that culture and passion and drive in many players like myself.”
Some of the most damning testimony came from the parents of former Hawaii lineman Michael Eletise, who had to medically retire in June due to concussions suffered from playing football. They claimed the university has not offered any medical help to their son, who they claim is dealing with depression and mental illness as a result of his time at Hawaii.
Graham has a 107-62 all-time record at Hawaii and his four previous coaching stops (Rice, Tulsa, Pitt and Arizona State). Hired in 2020, he has led the team to an 11-11 record through two seasons. Per multiple reports, 19 Hawaii players have entered the transfer portal from this year’s team. Graham denied the allegations of abuse against him but did take responsibility for the future success of the program.
“I can’t speak for someone else,” Graham said, according to Warrior Sports Network. “I can only speak from my knowledge and my experience of what our program has been about. I can’t speak for the people who have talked today and the comments that have been made. All I know is that in our program, no one has been verbally abused.
“I’ve tried to clean up some of the language things. We’re not perfect and don’t claim to be. All I can tell you is my experience with in that locker room and with our team, and those things have not happened. We have been demanding and worked with our kids and coached them hard, but have loved them hard as well.”
Despite the testimony of former players, Matlin said he would not buy out Graham’s contract, even if the program had the money to do so. He and Lassner both said the testimony of players had been “cherry-picked” to promote a case against the second-year coach.
Fox college football reporter Bruce Feldman reported on Friday that the testimonials against Graham matched others’ opinions of him in college football circles:
Have heard from several coaches tonight reacting to the Todd Graham situation at Hawaii. This was from one of them: “He’s a bad human being. The truth is finally coming out on him.” https://t.co/EaBsxtMrpi
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) January 8, 2022
The Hawaii Senate placed the onus on what to do with Graham — if anything — on the university board of regents. The early indication is that no action will be taken, per KITV, but that the board would consider the state of the program during its regularly scheduled meeting in late January.
“I do not see an urgency in the next two weeks for the board to do something,” Moore said.