Sports

Beleaguered UH soccer coach resigns amid allegations of creating a toxic environment

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) — University of Hawaii soccer coach Todd Graham resigned Friday amid allegations of toxicity in the soccer program.

Graham, who was appointed in January 2020 following the departure of former coach and quarterback Nick Rolovich, amassed a record 11-11 during his UH coaching career. He had just completed the second year of a five-year contract.

The roughly month-long period since Hawaii’s last game of the regular season — and given the coronavirus-related cancellation of the Hawaii Bowl, Graham’s last game with Hawaii — has been tumultuous.

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Three days after his 38-14 road victory over Wyoming, the daredevil captain Die Die Hunter announced that he would enter the transfer gate.

And just a day later, quarterback Chivan Cordero—a reputable local recruit who grew up at St. Louis School before eventually earning captain’s honors with the Rainbow Warriors—decides to leave, too. Cordero has since signed with rival Hawaii State San Jose.

It prompted departures to publicize the grievances on Twitter, with hundreds listening as current and former players “describe the unhealthy team culture under Graham”.

Players complained that the noisy dressing room environment and inept training robbed them of their love for the game, with one player simply saying: “I played in the 1-11 team and never felt like that.”

The allegations continued to surface as the days went by, With some players telling SFGATE that Graham was verbally abusive to the playersAnd An insult to the assistant coaches and an openness to the fact that he was looking to use Hawaii as a “stepping stone” for a more lucrative coaching job.

When asked about the claims in the days after they were made, Graham admitted that improvements were needed.

“I want to be a role model for our players and we ask them to be able to train and I think you have to be humble and you have to have self-awareness and you have to have self-improvement,” coach Graham told reporters on December 8. “Obviously our employees, we’ve talked about are committed to doing things the right way and we know we’re doing things the right way.”

But the weeks that followed seem to indicate that little has changed.

On Christmas Eve, Nick Mardner, the team’s leading receiver, announced that he would enter the transfer gate. Then, in a series of social media posts on Tuesday, captain and full back Darius Mwasao, along with fiancé Jonah Lolo and Justus Taffee, revealed they had done the same – bringing a total of 18 players to announce their intentions to leave the brackets.

In a Senate briefing last week, former players testified that Graham created a toxic locker room environment, creating a split between scholarship players and hikers.

Some of the players who were on the team last season portrayed him as a tyrant, a hypocrite and a verbal abuser.

“I don’t see anything changing with this guy here,” Leonard Lee, a former player and Kabuli High School graduate, said at the hearing. “He has a rejection of culture and a lack of respect for the players. I try to see the good in everyone and try to give people chances, but he delivers the worst person I have ever met.”

In a statement following his resignation, Graham said:

“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as head coach at the University of Hawaii for the past two seasons. After much prayer and reflection with my family, I have come to the conclusion that, with a very sad heart, I am resigning as head coach of the Rainbow Warriors. I want to extend my thanks and appreciation to the players and staff And the coaches who persevered in all the challenges of 2020 and 2021. It wasn’t easy, but they had a good fight and we did things the right way.”

The university said that due to Graham’s resignation, there will be no additional money due to the coach except for normal reimbursements and earned compensation.

“Todd’s tireless efforts as coach have made a positive impact on many student-athletes,” said David Matlin, director of athletics at UH University. “We have spoken at length, and it is clear that he has taken this action so that the football program can thrive moving forward.”

Meanwhile, UH players coach Jacob Euro has been appointed interim head coach.

The search for a new coach begins immediately.

This story will be updated.

Copyright 2022 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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