Todd Graham: Turning Things Around
By Todd Graham
Let me first say that it is an incredible time at Rice right now. When I first came here, a lot of my colleagues questioned what I was doing. They thought the job was a “coach killer”. Many questioned why I was taking this job. But having grown up in Texas and being a fan of the Southwest Conference, Rice was an easy fit.
What we have done here is simply remarkable. The turnaround has been amazing. Many folks want to know how we were able to create such a turnaround in this program. When I came in, I knew that we had to change the culture of Rice football. I brought in basically an entire new staff, from coaches to secretaries. We began to take a look at what we had…Rice is known for its excellent academics, and we graduate 90% of the football program. So we took what we knew first. We have smart kids. So we decided that would be the core of our efforts. We have designed the Offense and Defensive to be more schematic. Our kids have great character, meaning they work harder…which is good because our training regiment is second to none. To borrow a line from Rich Rodriguez we wanted to “have the hardest working, most disciplined, and most conditioned team in the country”.
When I first arrived we wrote one word on the wall and that was Championship. We felt the kids needed to be inspired. We also felt we needed to include the student body in the turnaround. We raised over seven million dollars. We got a new jumbo tron. We made field improvements. We got new uniforms. We gave out T-shirts, thunder sticks, game day towels. These kids have seen a visual change. These new renovations didn’t make our guys win, but it was a reason for the change.
I feel this is a story of perseverance. This year we started off 0-4. The team didn’t give in. This year the team faced a terrible tragedy. We lost one of our guys, Dale Lloyd. This was one of the most challenging things that has happened in my career, and yet this team did not let up. This team rallied. I would say the first sign of the turnaround was the Army game. We lost the next one, and then went on to win six straight. We have the best turnaround in the country.
We have sold 4,000 tickets to the bowl game. Going into the bowl game we will continue the routine as usual. We will use this as a second spring training for our younger guys. Our goals remain the same: get better everyday, be the best in the classroom, and continue enhancing fundamentals. Often coaches have asked me, “How do you all win those close games?” What I tell them is that we win the close games because these guys do what they are coached to do the first time.
The thing that I want our fans to know is that I am most proud that Rice stands for academic excellence, and excellence on the field. I am very proud of what we will accomplish. To change our culture is the "being back".