The coach's wife

Football season: one of the most prominent times of the school year for many ASU students. But what does Sun Devil game day entail for those who actually make it happen? There is one role that often goes unnoticed, but could possibly have the biggest impact when it comes to supporting the team and taking care of staff. 

“There is no job description for coaches’ wives,” says Penni Graham, wife of head coach of the Sun Devil football team, Todd Graham. “I think my job is to provide support to my husband first, then try to make a positive difference in whatever ways I can, whether it be a kind word or act. There are thousands of people who put lots of passion and time into creating a successful game day. I try to recognize them.”

For Graham, the game day schedule is put together once all things are taken into consideration, such as uniform colors, official visitors and guests, tickets for family and friends, the channel the game is being broadcasted on and who is announcing, etc. After all of the logistics have been taken care of before hand, Graham makes treats to hand out to the security and media staff before the game.

“I usually get to the stadium four hours before kick off to deliver the treats and greet the other wives and families in the football offices,” Graham says in an interview via email. “We then head over to Devil Walk three hours before game time to visit and take pictures with football families and awesome student fans!”

Graham takes a new group of people, usually family or friends, down to the field for the pre-game festivities which include a band performance and the team running out of the tunnel — all accompanied by fireworks.

“It’s always so fun to see their faces after the experience, pure joy!” Graham says. “My favorite part is being in the stadium while the band plays the National Anthem and when the bus is crushed in the video! I get chills and my heart leaps during both. Never gets old!”

Graham enjoys the game from the football family section, located in between the student section. According to her, it is the best seat in the house. Although, Graham is not sitting down much during the game. She stands in front of the television to watch the play on the field, then watch the replay.

“Then when there are only a couple minutes left in the game, I will go down on the field and to hug coaches, players and staff," Graham says. "After Todd [Graham] finishes his media obligations, we sit down with ribs and wings to watch film. I love reviewing the stats."

Even after what seems to be a busy and stressful day for Graham, she thinks of it more as “eustress,” which literally means “good stress.” Graham describes it as “an awesome feeling of accomplishment.”

But Graham was not exposed to only Sun Devil game days. Although Graham was born a football fan, her first college football game was at West Virginia University, where Todd Graham held his first Division I coaching position.

“I met Todd when we were working at Allen ISD in Texas, he was the football coach and athletic director and I was the Director of IT and Curriculum. I thought he was pretty darn cute,” Graham says.

Out of all the Division I schools Graham has supported her husband at, including West Virginia University, the University of Tulsa, Rice University and the University of Pittsburgh, she says that Sun Devil Nation is the best.

“I couldn’t be prouder to be part of such an outstanding university. It has it all: academics, athletics and atmosphere,” Graham says. “Being a Sun Devil means representing ASU with the same outstanding values and character in the community and media that the University itself holds dear.”

One of the many traditions Graham enjoys is bringing Lil’ Sparky to the games. In addition, Senior day always holds a special place in her heart.

“That is the best and toughest moment for me each year," Graham says. "Remembering moments on and off the field, and the way we have seen these amazing young men grow and what they have accomplished, is always joyous and a little bittersweet.”

Even as the seniors graduate, Graham says she believes that the future of the program is looking up. With the many new changes that will be implemented in the years to come, she expresses her continuous excitement and support.

“I can’t wait for the new stadium to be finished and to have a beautiful venue that matches so many of the thoughtful and inspiring buildings on campus,” Graham says. “What I like most is that our student section, the best in the world, will have even more of an impact on the game because they will all be seated in a lower section. I love false starts caused by our fans’ cheers!”

Graham’s continuous support of her husband and the Sun Devil football program may not always shine in front of the cameras on the big screen, but her positivity has spread to many throughout the entire program.

“In the future, I see Sun Devil football as the best in the nation on and off the field, representing Arizona State with its exceptional character, toughness and intelligence,” Graham says.

Reach the writer at ablight@asu.edu or on Twitter @alysse_sky.


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