Hot Commodity

In the 1990's sports fans knew of Tulsa as a solid basketball program unable to hold onto hot coaching prospects.

  • Steve Kragthorpe: Hot Commodity
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  • Jerry Glanville: 'They Have a Great Atmosphere'
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  • Jim Donnan: Donnan is a Winner
  • Jimbo Fisher: Fisher Groomed For Success

    Tubby Smith, Steve Robinson, Bill Self and Buzz Peterson all succeeded as head coach of the Golden Hurricane only to bolt when more attractive jobs became available. Now that Tulsa has tasted success on the gridiron for the first time in more than a decade they might have trouble holding on to their football coach.

    "Steve Kragthorpe arrived at Tulsa in 2003 and inherited a program that had won a combined two games in the previous two years."
    Steve Kragthorpe arrived at Tulsa in 2003 and inherited a program that had won a combined two games in the previous two years. The Golden Hurricane had not been to the postseason since 1991 and had just five bowl appearances in the previous half century.

    Kragthorpe played quarterback at Eastern New Mexico and West Texas State before stepping into the coaching world. In 1990 he was named the quarterback's coach at Northern Arizona. His success there propelled him to the offensive coordinator position at North Texas and after two years Kragthorpe moved on to Texas A&M. He served as the Aggies' offensive coordinator from 1998-2000, and in those years A&M averaged 26 points per game, winning an average of almost nine games per season.

    In 2001 and 2002 Kragthorpe spent time in the NFL as the quarterback's coach of the Buffalo Bills. Recognizing his experience, his roots in the region and his results, Tulsa hired Kragthorpe as head coach in 2003.

    In college football rebuilding jobs take time, especially when you're talking about a program that won an average of three games per year over 11 seasons.

    In Kragthorpe's first year with the Golden Hurricane he orchestrated an eight-win campaign. The defense improved from the previous year and the offense scored 33 points per contest in the regular season. That year Tulsa passed for 196 yards per game and rushed for 212. They earned a berth in the Humanitarian Bowl where they lost a lopsided game to Georgia Tech.

    The 2004 season was a rebuilding year as several key pieces were lost. Tulsa moved the ball at times but saw dropoffs in both offensive and defensive production.

    "His team responded with a 9-4 season, beating Fresno State in the Liberty Bowl for the Golden Hurricane's fifth bowl win in school history."

    Last year Kragthorpe quickly silenced any doubters who may have speculated that 2003 was a fluke. His team responded with a 9-4 season, beating Fresno State in the Liberty Bowl for the Golden Hurricane's fifth bowl win in school history. The offense averaged 33 points per game and continued to moved the ball on the ground. That team was a little more pass-heavy than the 2003 version and chalked up 218 yards per game through the air.

    This year Kragthorpe has again led Tulsa to the postseason. His squad finished the regular season with an 8-4 mark and will face Utah in the Armed Forces Bowl. Tulsa has again hovered around 400 yards of total offense per game and is showing no signs of slowing down.

    Kragthorpe's success at Tulsa directly correlates to quarterback play, as it does for so many other coaches. In his three winning seasons at Tulsa, Golden Hurricane quarterbacks threw 60 touchdowns against 28 interceptions. In 2004, Kragthorpe's lone losing season, Tulsa threw 13 touchdowns and 16 picks.

    The Golden Hurricane has also shown significant improvement on defense in recent years. After allowing 33 points per game in Kragthorpe's second year, Tulsa allowed 23 per game in 2005 and has allowed just 20 per game through 12 games this year. They have allowed 288 yards per game in 2006, which leads Conference USA.

    It still might be too early to know just how successful Kragthorpe has been on the recruiting trails, but all indications are he has done a good job of evaluating talent and bringing good young players into his program.

    Since Kragthorpe arrived Tulsa has moved from the Western Athletic Conference into Conference USA. In 2003 he was named WAC Coach of the Year and was a finalist for several National Coach of the Year awards.

    What Makes Him a Viable Candidate: It takes a special coach to oversee such a rapid turnaround at Tulsa, a program that knew nothing but losing for a decade prior to Kragthorpe's arrival. He gets the most of out his players and seems to be building the Golden Hurricane into a consistent winner and bowl team.

    Since 2003 Tulsa's offense has been balanced and Kragthorpe has shown a willingness to work with what his personnel allows. While he doesn't have a defensive background, his teams have become tougher the longer he has been around.

    "Kragthorpe is widely respected as an honorable man in the coaching profession."
    Kragthorpe is widely respected as an honorable man in the coaching profession. He is just 41 years old and has a lot of coaching left to do.

    Why it Might Not Work Out: While you won't find a coach at the mid-major level who says he is anxious to get out of town, Kragthorpe seems more genuine than most when he says he is happy in Tulsa. He has said in the past he could see himself retiring at Tulsa and that just might be his plan. His athletics director has said that if money is primary issue, Tulsa will be able to keep Kragthorpe around. He may also be hesitant to take on the higher expectations that go along with coaching in a BCS conference.

    If he were to show an interest in the NC State job he would have to convince Lee Fowler that he could get it done as a recruiter. Tulsa has some good young talent, but almost all of Kragthorpe's coaching experience has come in Texas and Oklahoma. He would have to build new connections and adjust to a new area in North Carolina.

    Pack Pride's Take: What Kragthorpe has done at Tulsa is remarkable. It's not important that he's done it at a mid-major. He turned a perennial loser into a winner. He has raised expectations and is producing results.

    It helps that Kragthorpe has head coaching experience, even if only for four years. If Fowler becomes convinced that Kragthorpe could assemble a solid staff and recruit the region adequately he should be a top candidate.

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