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Former LB Tells Legislators Coach Graham ‘Hands-Down the Worst’

Tabatha Wethal
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At a hearing Friday in Hawaii to discuss the future of University of Hawaii head football coach Todd Graham, one former player described Graham to legislators as “hands-down the worst guy I've ever met in my life.” 

RELATED: Hawaii Coach Responds to Players’ Mistreatment Claims

At the state capital in Honolulu and online, the Hawaii state senate's Higher Education and its Ways and Means committees met to discuss Graham, who is facing continued and growing accusations from University of Hawaii at Mānoa Rainbow Warriors football team players who allege they suffered mistreatment and abuse from Graham.

Allegations from current and former Rainbow Warriors who played under Graham were first reported weeks ago claiming that he is running a toxic program. Allegations include that Graham demeans and verbally abuses players and coaches or ignores them completely. 

ABC-affiliate KITV reported that the committees questioned Graham, University of Hawaii President David Lassner, Athletic Director David Matlin and Board of Regents member Randolph Moore at the two-hour meeting Friday. 

The crux of the proceedings was the emotional testimony given by former players from this year's team and their families, Hawaii football alumni and fans alleging that Graham was verbally abusive and negligent of the team's physical and mental wellbeing, KITV reported. 

"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 UH linebacker and Kapolei graduate Leonard Lee said. 

UH quarterback and Farrington graduate Justin Uahinui and UH defensive lineman Derek Thomas were among the athletes to speak to the committee Friday, KITV reported. 

The most powerful testimony came from the parents of former Kaiser, University of Arizona and UH offensive lineman Michael Eletise. Eletise's family said that despite having to medically retire due to concussions suffered during football, that the University of Hawaii did not offer any medical help to their son. A teary-eyed Nofoaiga Eletise mentioned how his son is dealing with depression and mental illness as a result of his time at UH.

Graham — in his second year of a five-year contract — denied claims of abuse, but accepted responsibility for the future success of the program, KITV reported. 

"No one has been verbally abused. I've actually come in and tried to address some of the language things, obviously we're not perfect," Graham said. "I do not think we have a toxic environment in our locker room. I am 100% accountable for what goes on in our program."

University president Lassner appeared at odds with the committee several times during the proceedings, KITV reported. After mostly damning testimony against Graham was given, Lassner told to the committee that "only one side of the story has been told" and that testimony was "cherry picked" to promote a case against Graham. 

SI.com reported that Lassner said there was “substantial” written testimony in support of Graham, “and it was not allowed.”

The Board of Regents is set to meet on Jan. 20, which board member Randolph Moore said the board would consider discussing the current coaching situation.

Moore also said during the meeting Friday that it wasn’t the Board's responsibility to assess the quality of the football coach, KITV reported. 

The University's Board of Regents has the power to overturn recent decisions regarding the school's athletic department, if the board sees fit.

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