Arizona State fires head football coach Todd Graham

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Todd Graham during ASU's win over Oregon State on Nov. 18, 2017 (AP Photo/Timothy J. Gonzalez) Todd Graham during ASU's win over Oregon State on Nov. 18, 2017 (AP Photo/Timothy J. Gonzalez)

The Speaking Victory era in Tempe is over.

Arizona State announced the firing of head football coach Todd Graham on Sunday, just hours after he led the Sun Devils to a Territorial Cup victory over rival Arizona. ASU finished the year 7-5 and will head to a bowl game. After being picked in the Pac-12 preseason media poll to finish fifth in the South division, the Sun Devils came in second behind USC.

[RAW VIDEO: Todd Graham speaks out after being let go from ASU]

Graham finished his six seasons at Arizona State with a 46-31 record, including a 31-23 mark in conference play.

[READ MORE: With future in doubt, Graham focuses on reclaiming the Territorial Cup]

After being hired in Dec. 2011 to take over for recently dismissed Dennis Erickson, Graham exceeded expectations by leading ASU to an 8-5 record and a win in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. The highwater mark came the following season in 2013, when ASU won 10 games and the Pac-12 South division title. They followed that up with another 10 wins in 2014, including a marquee victory over 10th ranked Notre Dame. However, following the win over the Fighting Irish and a No. 6 ranking in the College Football Playoff rankings, ASU lost to Oregon State, a loss many point to as the turning point in his tenure.

[RAW VIDEO: ASU AD Ray Anderson speaks about firing Todd Graham]

Graham’s Sun Devils began the 2015 season with the No. 15 ranking in the AP poll, and the always boastful coach proclaimed his team his “best ever.” However, ASU fell flat in a season-opening loss to Texas A&M, and finished the year 6-7.

[RELATED: Graham talks accountability, for players, fans, himself]

Last season, ASU dropped to 5-7 and featured one of the worst defenses in the nation. The Sun Devils had opened the year 5-1, but dropped their final six games, including an embarrassing road loss to Arizona in the season finale.

This past offseason, Graham overhauled his coaching staff and delegated more responsibilities to his coordinators. After a sluggish 1-2 start to the year in non-conference play, ASU ended an 11-game losing streak to Oregon, and two games later, upset No. 5 Washington at home. They followed that with a road victory over Utah that snapped the program’s nine-game conference losing streak. However, a disappointing loss to UCLA a few weeks later derailed the program’s momentum.

During his tenure, Graham helped to overhaul the program’s culture. Once among the nation’s most undisciplined teams, ASU came to embody Graham’s core values of “character, smart, discipline, tough”. They found great success in the classroom, with the team setting a program record with a cumulative 3.0 GPA.

[READ MORE: Todd Graham irritated by criticism after ASU victory]

Graham was also a driving force behind the upgrades to Sun Devil Stadium and the construction of the Student-Athlete Facility, at one point donating $500,000 of his own money to the project.

Although his six years in the desert end with a dismissal, the ASU program is undoubtedly in a better position, on and off the field, than when he arrived. Graham stabilized a program that was in total disarray and made them, for a few seasons at least, into a Pac-12 contender. A program longed dubbed a "sleeping giant" was at least nudged to open its eyes for a while by Graham.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona College Sports]

The job of fully awakening ASU's potential will be an easier job for the Sun Devils' next head coach because of Graham's efforts in Tempe.

ASU released the following statement on his firing Sunday morning.

"Todd Graham has been relieved of his duties as the head football coach of Arizona State University, announced Vice President of University Athletics Ray Anderson Sunday morning. Graham and his staff will remain with the program through their bowl appearance.
When evaluating our head coaches, we have been very clear in our four-prong approach: integrity, academics, performance and fan affinity advancement.
From the moment he arrived in Tempe, Todd helped change the culture and emphasized the student in student-athlete here at Arizona State, elevating the program to unprecedented heights in the classroom and strong citizenship across the board.
However, 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. In evaluating Todd's body of work over a four-year period, it became clear that a change is necessary.
We are committed to turning Sun Devil Football into an elite program and competing nationally on a consistent basis.
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."

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