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Posts Tagged ‘Bill Blankenship’

No. 39: Tulsa

Tulsa lost to Oklahoma. Lost to Oklahoma State. Lost to Boise State. Lost to Houston. Lost to B.Y.U. in bowl play. Five losses to teams that combined for – let’s do the math – 57 wins. Both Oklahoma and B.Y.U. went 10-3. Oklahoma State and Boise State went 12-1, both losing disappointing conference games in November; without those losses, one of the two would have met L.S.U. in the national title game. Houston went 13-1, coming within a win in the Conference USA championship of earning an automatic B.C.S. berth, if not its own date with the Tigers in New Orleans. Only one of Tulsa’s eight wins came by less 17 points. So, the question: Was Tulsa that good, or was Conference USA that bad? There’s no doubt that the league as a whole was weaker than in the past, even if Conference USA put forth a pair of national contenders; however, this shouldn’t detract too much from what the Golden Hurricane were able to achieve under Bill Blankenship, the former Todd Graham assistant who has ably steered T.U. through another coaching change without a hiccup.

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    The Year in Review: Tulsa (8-5, 7-1)

    Tulsa lost to Oklahoma. Lost to Oklahoma State. Lost to Boise State. Lost to Houston. Lost to B.Y.U. in bowl play. Five losses to teams that combined for – let’s do the math – 57 wins. Both Oklahoma and B.Y.U. went 10-3. Oklahoma State and Boise State went 12-1, both losing disappointing conference games in November; without those losses, one of the two would have met L.S.U. in the national title game. Houston went 13-1, coming within a win in the Conference USA championship of earning an automatic B.C.S. berth, if not its own date with the Tigers in New Orleans. Only one of Tulsa’s eight wins came by less 17 points. These facts say much about Tulsa, its 2011 season and Conference USA at large.

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      Revisiting Tulsa’s January Coaching Hire

      Bubba Cunningham knows what he’s doing. His first hire as North Carolina’s athletic director went swimmingly, as Cunningham hired Larry Fedora, an offense-first, energetic, go-get-‘em recruiter fresh off a Conference USA championship at Southern Mississippi. In landing Fedora, Cunningham stuck to the principles that governed the handful of coaching searches he conducted at Ball State and Tulsa, his two prior stops: go by personality and ability, not by record and name recognition. For further evidence, you need only to turn back the clock to January, when Cunningham conducted one final coaching search for the Golden Hurricane.

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        Tulsa Looks for a 44-Year Reunion

        Former Houston coach Bill Yeoman didn’t just invent the Veer: he perfected it. The impetus behind the offensive philosophy’s invention was a disappointing 1963 season, when Yeoman’s Cougars dropped from a 7-4 mark in his debut campaign to 2-8, beating only Detroit and Louisville. Changes needed to be made: Yeoman didn’t merely tinker with his team’s offense; he reinvented the wheel. Two years later, after a few growing pains, the Veer — the triple option, more or less — began hitting its stride. Houston scored a then-program record 335 points in 1966 en route to an 8-2 finish, with one of those wins, over Tulsa, coming by a 73-14 margin.

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          Midseason Grades for the New Guys

          There are 24 first-year head coaches doing work on the F.B.S. level, not counting the three interim coaches keeping seats warm at Arizona, New Mexico and North Carolina. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where that trio — Tim Kish, George Barlow and Everett Withers — become full-time replacements in 2012, though the way Withers has kept U.N.C. afloat through the first half of the regular season certainly bodes well for his future coaching opportunities, whether with the Tar Heels or otherwise. So how are the new faces doing at their new stops? Let’s hand out some midseason grades for the new hires, and include the grade each coach received over the winter’s hiring recap.

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            No. 40: Tulsa

            One loyal reader asked that this preview be led with a picture of Eric Stoltz from the 1997 film “Keys to Tulsa,” so there you go.

            Tulsa has been so good since 2003 that the program has done the previously unthinkable: erased any taste of a generation-long nadir — 60-119 from 1987-2002 — from our collective consciousness. Believe me, this is no small feat. Those days, which we can define as the Henshaw-Rader-Henderson-Burns era, were dark indeed for the nation’s first program to notch five consecutive January bowl berths. So where is Tulsa today? Eight years later, a period we can call the Kragthorpe-Graham era, the Golden Hurricane are knocking at the door to a very exclusive club: Boise State’s in that room, as is T.C.U., for now. It’s the group of non-B.C.S. conference programs who can be uttered in the same sentence with the big boys, and Tulsa has a strong case for inclusion.

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              The 2011 Spring Alphabet

              I had grand plans of giving a series of storylines for each F.B.S. program heading into the spring, but after doing so for the A.C.C. I came to a few conclusions; one, no one was reading them; two, it didn’t make much sense, as by the time I got to the end — the Sun Belt — those teams would have closed their doors on the spring; three, doing 40 days of spring coverage prior to picking up the Countdown in early May was nonsensical; and four, the breakdowns called for more work than I was really prepared to do at this time of the year. So instead of going piece-by-piece throughout the country, I’ll just pick and choose as the days go by. For now, however, let’s break down the upcoming — at some stops in progress — spring practices as a child would: letter by letter.

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                Handing Out the Coaching Diplomas

                It took two weeks, give or take, but I’ve touched on every head coaching move in the F.B.S.: all 21 of them, ranging from the Sun Belt to a team only a year removed from a perfect 12-0 regular season, from the Pac-12 to the Big East and all points in between. The grades have fluctuated from an A+ — three such grades, in fact — all the way down to a C; as a once-abysmal student, I don’t have what it takes to give anything less than a satisfactory grade. Not that I couldn’t have been far harsher on Randy Edsall and Maryland, had I woken up on the wrong side of the bed on that particular morning.

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                  The Countdown

                  A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.