Tulsa Golden Hurricane football

The Tulsa Golden Hurricane football program represents the University of Tulsa in college football at the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level. Tulsa has competed in the American Athletic Conference (The American) since the 2014 season and was previously a member of Conference USA (C-USA). The team is currently led by head coach Philip Montgomery. Tulsa plays its home games at Skelly Field at H. A. Chapman Stadium in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The University of Tulsa has the smallest undergraduate enrollment of all schools that participate at the FBS level.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane football
2019 Tulsa Golden Hurricane football team
First season1895
Athletic directorDerrick Gragg
Head coachPhilip Montgomery
4th season, 23–33 (.411)
StadiumSkelly Field at H. A. Chapman Stadium
(Capacity: 30,000)
Field surfaceFieldTurf
LocationTulsa, Oklahoma
ConferenceThe American (2014–present)
Past conferencesIndependent (1895–1913)
Oklahoma Collegiate Conference (1914–1928)
Big 4 Conference (1929–1932)
Missouri Valley Conference (1935–1985)
Independent (1986–1995)
Western Athletic Conference (1996–2004)
Conference USA (2005–2013)
All-time record62350628 (.551)
Bowl record1011 (.476)
Conference titles35
Consensus All-Americans2
ColorsOld Gold, Royal Blue, and Crimson[1]
Fight songHurricane Spirit
MascotCaptain Cane
Marching bandThe Sound of the Golden Hurricane


Early history (1895–1976)

Tulsa was known as Henry Kendall College until the move from Muskogee to Tulsa was completed in 1907.[2] It was during this time that the first football team would represent the University.[3] The team would go 1–0, defeating the Bacone Indians.[4] Both the exact date and score of the game were not recorded.[4] Over the next twelve years, Kendall would play 17 games, going 8–8–1, but not fielding a team for four years (1903, 1904, 1906, 1907).[3] The most common opponent was Arkansas, who met with Tulsa four times.[4]

Now established in Tulsa, the football team began to grow. In 1913, Kendall went 5–2 under George Evans.[3] Sam P. McBirney, who coached the 2–3 1908 squad, would then return to coach the team in 1914.[4] His first two years back would both be successful, a 6–2 record in 1914 and 6–1–1 the following year, but the undefeated 1916 squad would bring national recognition to Tulsa. The 1916 Hurricane outscored its opponents 566–40, including an 81–0 defeat of Cumberland (TN) and a 117–0 drubbing of Missouri–Rolla.[3][4] There were rumors of playing Notre Dame for the Mid-America Championship, but the two teams never met.[3]

Kendall College would return to form after World War I, to go 8–0–1 under Francis Schmidt. The new coach was known as "Close the Gates of Mercy" Schmidt because of his efforts to run up the score on inferior teams.[5] Under Schmidt's three-year tenure, Kendall defeated Oklahoma Baptist 152–0, St. Gregory 121–0, and NE Oklahoma 151–0, as well as a 92–0 defeat of East Central Oklahoma and 10 other victories by 60+ points.[4] The 1919 season gave Kendall their first defeat of the Oklahoma Sooners, but a 7–7 tie with Oklahoma A&M would prevent a perfect season.[4] Ultimately, Schmidt's style would cost Tulsa their coach, as he attracted the attention of University of Arkansas boosters with a 63–7 defeat of the Razorbacks in 1919. Schmidt would sign with and coach the Hogs from 1922–1928.[6]

Howard Acher would leave his mark on the program in two ways. Tulsa did not miss a beat after Schmidt's departure, and went 8–0 in 1922.[4] This included a 13–6 defeat of Schmidt-coached Arkansas in Fayetteville.[4] Acher also gave the newly named University of Tulsa an athletic identity.[7] Previously, the team had been referred to as "Orange and Black", "Kendallites", "Presbyterians", "Tigers", and "Tulsans".[8] Acher put a vote to the team to replace Golden Tornadoes, which belonged to Georgia Tech.[9] The vote resulted in "Golden Hurricane", which it has remained ever since.[7] The coach would not have the staying power of his nickname, however, and was ousted after three years, when he was replaced by Gus Henderson. TU gave Henderson a large contract to leave the mighty Trojans of USC and coach the Golden Hurricane.[9]

The Hurricane had great success on and off the field under Henderson, going 62–17–3 in his first nine years, winning four Oklahoma Intercollegiate Conference championships.[7] Henderson also played an integral part in building a home for his football team. The team played in McNulty Park, a 90-yard baseball field where the teams had to drive the length of the field before bringing out the ball to the ten yard line and put the ball in the endzone again.[9] This facility shortcoming meant that officials had to make a judgment call whether the player could've scored or not.[10] Many fights resulted from what other schools thought was favoritism by the officials on these calls.[10] Skelly Field, named for oil tycoon William Skelly, was completed in 1930.[7] Tulsa won the first game in the stadium, 26–6 over Arkansas.[9] Tulsa also scored on the first offensive play in the stadium, after Arkansas fumbled the opening kickoff.[11]

Henderson brought the University of Tulsa into the Missouri Valley Conference for the 1935 season.

Tulsa signed their thirteenth head coach, Henry Frnka, who was coaching at a high school in Greenville, Texas. Under Frnka, Tulsa roared through the 1941 season, finishing 7–2 and receiving their first bowl invitation.[12] It was the help of Glenn Dobbs, considered the best player in Tulsa history, that Frnka could take the Hurricane to new heights. Tulsa defeated Texas Tech in the Sun Bowl because of a Glenn Dobbs pass to Sax Judd with little time remaining, the only score of the game.[13] Tulsa improved in 1942, going 10–0, including wins against Oklahoma (23–0), Oklahoma A&M (34–6), and Arkansas (40–7).[7] This netted the Golden Hurricane an invitation to the 1943 Sugar Bowl against Tennessee. Tulsa lost the game and argument for national champion on a late Volunteer touchdown.[14] Tulsa was instead ranked fourth to end the year, the highest in school history.[15] The 1952 Missouri Valley Conference team with its 8–2–1 record climbed to 11th in the AP Poll & was invited to the Gator Bowl, then 1 of only 5 post-season bowl games, although not one of the 4 major ones.

In 1955, Tulsa offered Bobby Dobbs the head football coaching job. Bobby accepted and left the Air Force. At Tulsa, he took over a team that had gone 0–11 the previous season. In 1956, Tulsa posted a 7–2–1 record, and in 1958, the team 7–3. These successes prompted Army to consider Bobby as a replacement for Red Blaik, but Dale Hall was given the job instead. Dobbs most significant wins at Tulsa were a 24–16 victory over the undefeated Oklahoma State Cowboys in 1958 and a 17–6 victory over tenth ranked North Texas in 1959. Dobbs compiled a 30–28–2 overall record at Tulsa.[16] Tulsa replaced Bobby Dobbs with his brother, Glenn, in 1961.[17] His teams led the nation in passing for five straight years (1962–1966) and went to the Bluebonnet Bowl in 1964 and 1965.[18] Notable in Tulsa football tradition are the Missouri Valley Conference teams of 1964 and 1965 which compiled records of 9–2 and 8–3 and played in the Bluebonnet Bowl in both years. The passing attack featured Jerry Rhome to Howard Twilley, both of whom achieved lengthy careers in professional football; Rhome polled second in the 1964 Heisman Trophy; Rhome and Twilley are in the College Football Hall of Fame. Steve Largent was another talented Tulsa receiver who graduated to a long NFL career (1976–1989 Seattle), was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of numerous enduring records as a receiver, served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1994–2002, and then ran as one of the two major candidates for Governor of Oklahoma in 2002. The Golden Hurricane won 25 Missouri Valley conference football titles the most of any school that competed in that league. Tulsa was the only team to play in five consecutive New Year's Day bowl games. The Golden Hurricane also was handed one of the worst defeats in college football history when they were beaten in regular season play by Houston Cougars 100–6 on November 23, 1968.[19] Dr. Phil McGraw played for TU at the time.[20] Vince Carillot succeeded Dobbs as head coach. However, he resigned after only one season, a 1–9 campaign in 1969, after an NCAA probe into possible infractions that occurred under his watch.[21]

In July 1970, Claude Gibson was elevated to interim head coach when Golden Hurricane coach Vince Carillot resigned. When Gibson's Tulsa squad started the season 4–1, which included a stunning upset of Memphis, a team Tulsa had not beaten in six years, the interim label was removed. His first Golden Hurricane team finished 6–4.[22] However, a 4–7 record in 1971 and a 1–5 start to the 1972 season did him in, as he was fired. F. A. Dry was donned the interim tag when Gibson was fired, and a 3–2 finish to the 1972 season earned him the permanent head coaching position. Dry's Hurricane compiled records of 6–5 in 1973,[23] 8–3 in 1974,[24] 7–4 in 1975,[25] and 7–4–1 in 1976[26] for a total of 31–18–1.[27] Dry departed Tulsa after the 1976 season to accept the head football coach position at TCU.[28]

John Cooper era (1977–1984)

In 1977, John Cooper was named the head football coach at Tulsa. At Tulsa, he compiled a 56–32 record with five Missouri Valley Conference titles.[29][30] Cooper considers his tenure at Tulsa his "most enjoyable years as a coach".[31] Cooper departed Tulsa after the 1984 season to accept the position of head football coach at Arizona State.[32]

Don Morton era (1985–1986)

North Dakota State head coach Don Morton was hired to replace Cooper in 1985.[33][34] Under Morton's tutelage, the Hurricane compiled a record of 13–9.[35] The Missouri Valley dropped football after the 1985 season. Tulsa, by this time the MVC's only Division I-A member in football, became an independent. Morton left Tulsa after two seasons to accept the head football coach position at Wisconsin.[36]

On November 2, 1985, Tulsa became the first NCAA football team to get two 200-yard rushing performances from two running backs in the same game. Gordon Brown rushed for 214 yards, and Steve Gage rushed for 206 in a 42–26 win over Wichita State.[37]

George Henshaw era (1987)

Alabama offensive coordinator and offensive line coach George Henshaw was selected as Morton's replacement. Henshaw would only stick around for one season, a 3–8 campaign in 1987, before departing to accept the position of offensive line coach for the NFL's Denver Broncos, leaving the Hurricane to search for their third head coach in four years.[38]

David Rader era (1988–1999)

David Rader was promoted from quarterbacks coach and associate head coach to replace Henshaw.[39] Rader led Tulsa to a school-record 10 wins and finished ranked #21 in the AP poll in 1991,[40] but it turned out to be the school's last hurrah for more than a decade. According to Rader, school officials dropped health/PE as a major early in the 1990s; at one point, 56 percent of the players were health/PE majors. Combined with an aging Skelly Stadium, this made it difficult to attract competitive players.[41] Rader never won more than four games in a season again, and was fired midway through the 1999 season.[42]

Tulsa joined the Western Athletic Conference in 1996, becoming that 16-team league's easternmost member at the time.[43]

Keith Burns era (2000–2002)

Arkansas defensive coordinator Keith Burns was hired to replace Rader in 2000.[44] Burns' Hurricane struggled mightily, and he resigned under pressure after three seasons and a 7–28 record.[45][46]

Steve Kragthorpe era (2003–2006)

Steve Kragthorpe was hired to replace Burns as Golden Hurricanes head coach in 2003.[47] In his first season at Tulsa, Kragthorpe guided a program that had won just two games during the previous two seasons to an 8–5 record and its first bowl game appearance since 1991.[48] In 2005, Tulsa won the Conference USA championship and then went on to beat Fresno State in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Kragthorpe left Tulsa after four seasons to accept the head coaching position at Louisville.[49]

Todd Graham era (2007–2010)

When the Tulsa head coaching position was vacant following the 2002 season, Todd Graham sent in his application. But it was not until five years later, when Steve Kragthorpe left for Louisville, that Graham would take over the reins as the Golden Hurricane head coach.[50] After serving three years as Tulsa defensive coordinator and one year as Rice head coach, Graham was introduced as Tulsa's 27th head football coach on January 12, 2007.[51] With an annual salary of $1.1 million Graham was the second highest-paid coach in Conference USA, behind SMU's June Jones in 2010. For his offensive coordinators, Graham turned to his good friend Gus Malzahn, then offensive coordinator at Arkansas,[52] as well as then WVU tight ends coach Herb Hand.[53] He also hired former Tulsa quarterback and Tulsa Union HS coach Bill Blankenship as wide receivers coach. In his final season at Tulsa, the team reached a 10–3 record that included a 28–27 upset at Notre Dame and 62–35 win over #24-ranked Hawaii in the 2010 Hawaii Bowl.[54] Graham left Tulsa after four seasons to accept the head football coach position at Pittsburgh.[55]

Bill Blankenship era (2011–2014)

After a brief search, former Golden Hurricane quarterback Bill Blankenship was named Tulsa's new head coach on January 14, 2011, receiving a promotion from special teams coordinator, wide receivers and running backs coach.[56] Blankenship's first two seasons as head coach were marked by success, including a conference championship and Liberty Bowl victory in 2012. But over the next two seasons, Tulsa won a total of only five games, and Tulsa fired Blankenship on December 1, 2014.[57]

On April 2, 2013, Tulsa announced that in July 2014 it would leave C-USA for the league then known as the Big East Conference.[58] The following day, the conference announced its new name of the American Athletic Conference,[59] which took effect once the non-FBS schools broke from the league and formed a new Big East Conference.

Philip Montgomery era (2015–present)

Baylor offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery accepted an offer from Tulsa to become their head coach on December 11, 2014.[60] Montgomery brought with him an exciting, up-tempo, pass-oriented offense he helped install as offensive coordinator at Houston and Baylor under head coach Art Briles.

In Montgomery's first season at the helm, the Golden Hurricane improved to 6–7, with a loss in the Independence Bowl to cap the year.[61] In Montgomery's second season, Tulsa finished 10–3,[62] but fell to 2–10 in 2017.

Conference affiliations

Tulsa has been a member of the following conferences.[63]:115,153–155


Conference championships

Tulsa has won 35 conference championships, 29 outright and six shared.[63]:115

Year Coach Conference Overall Record Conference Record
1916Sam P. McBirneyOklahoma Collegiate Conference10–04–0
1919Francis SchmidtOklahoma Collegiate Conference8–0–15–0–1
1920Francis SchmidtOklahoma Collegiate Conference10–0–16–0–1
1922Howard AcherOklahoma Collegiate Conference8–14–0
1925Gus HendersonOklahoma Collegiate Conference6–24–0
1929Gus HendersonBig Four Conference6–3–14–0–1
1930Gus HendersonBig Four Conference7–23–0
1932Gus HendersonBig Four Conference7–1–13–0
1935Gus HendersonMissouri Valley Conference3–6–13–0
1936Vic HurtMissouri Valley Conference5–2–23–0
1937Vic HurtMissouri Valley Conference6–2–23–0
1938Vic HurtMissouri Valley Conference4–5–13–1
1940Chet BenefielMissouri Valley Conference7–34–0
1941Henry FrnkaMissouri Valley Conference8–24–0
1942Henry FrnkaMissouri Valley Conference10–15–0
1943Henry FrnkaMissouri Valley Conference6–1–11–0
1946Buddy BrothersMissouri Valley Conference9–13–0
1947Buddy BrothersMissouri Valley Conference5–53–0
1950Buddy BrothersMissouri Valley Conference9–1–13–0–1
1951Buddy BrothersMissouri Valley Conference9–24–0
1962Glenn DobbsMissouri Valley Conference5–53–0
1965Glenn DobbsMissouri Valley Conference8–34–0
1966Glenn DobbsMissouri Valley Conference6–43–1
1973F. A. DryMissouri Valley Conference6–55–1
1974F. A. DryMissouri Valley Conference8–36–0
1975F. A. DryMissouri Valley Conference7–44–0
1976F. A. DryMissouri Valley Conference7–4–12–1–1
1980John CooperMissouri Valley Conference8–34–1
1981John CooperMissouri Valley Conference6–55–1
1982John CooperMissouri Valley Conference10–16–0
1983John CooperMissouri Valley Conference8–35–0
1984John CooperMissouri Valley Conference6–55–0
1985Don MortonMissouri Valley Conference6–53–0
2005Steve KragthorpeConference USA9–46–2
2012Bill BlankenshipConference USA11–37–1

† Co-championship

Division championships

Tulsa has won the following division championships.[63]:115

Year Division Coach Opponent CG result
2005Conference USA - WestSteve KragthorpeUCFW 44–27
2007Conference USA - WestTodd GrahamUCFL 25–44
2008Conference USA - WestTodd GrahamECUL 24–27
2010Conference USA - WestTodd GrahamN/A lost tie-breaker to SMU
2012Conference USA - WestBill BlankenshipUCFW 33–27OT

† Co-championship

Head coaches

This is a list of the head coaches of Tulsa.[63]:152

Name Seasons Overall Pct.
Norman Leard 1895–1897 5–2 .714
Fred Taylor 1898–1899 1–1–1 .500
Sam P. McBirney 1908, 1914–1916 25–6–1 .806
Harvey L. Allen 1912 1–3 .250
George "Red" Evans 1913 5–2 .714
Hal Mefford 1917 0–8–1 .000
Arthur Smith 1918 1–2 .333
Francis Schmidt 1919–1921 24–3–2 .889
Howard Acher 1922–1924 12–11–2 .522
Gus Henderson 1925–1935 70–25–5 .737
Vic Hurt 1936–1938 15–9–5 .625
Chet Benefiel 1939–1940 11–8–1 .589
Henry Frnka 1941–1945 40–9–1 .816
Buddy Brothers 1946–1952 45–25–4 .635
Bernie Witucki 1953–1954 3–18 .143
Bobby Dobbs 1955–1960 30–28–2 .517
Glenn Dobbs 1961–1968 45–37 .549
Vince Carillot 1969 1–9 .100
Claude "Hoot" Gibson 1970–1972 11–16 .407
F. A. Dry 1972–1976 31–18–1 .633
John Cooper 1977–1984 57–31–1 .648
Don Morton 1985–1986 13–9 .591
George Henshaw 1987 3–8 .273
Dave Rader 1988–1999 49–80–1 .376
Pat Henderson 1999 1–3 .250
Keith Burns 2000–2002 7–28 .200
Steve Kragthorpe 2003–2006 29–22 .569
Todd Graham 2007–2010 35–17 .673
Bill Blankenship 2011–2014 24–27 .471
Philip Montgomery 2015–present 21–29 .420

Bowl games

Tulsa has competed in 21 bowl games as of the conclusion of the 2017 season, garnering a record of 10–11.[63]:102–108

Season Coach Bowl Opponent Result
1941Henry FrnkaSunTexas TechW 6–0
1942Henry FrnkaSugarTennesseeL 7–14
1943Henry FrnkaSugarGeorgia TechL 18–20
1944Henry FrnkaOrangeGeorgia TechW 26–12
1945Henry FrnkaOilGeorgiaL 6–20
1952Buddy BrothersGatorFloridaL 13–14
1964Glenn DobbsBluebonnetMississippiW 14–7
1965Glenn DobbsBluebonnetTennesseeL 6–27
1976F. A. DryIndependenceMcNeese StateL 16–20
1989David RaderIndependenceOregonL 24–27
1991David RaderFreedomSan Diego St.W 28–17
2003Steve KragthorpeHumanitarianGeorgia TechL 10–52
2005Steve KragthorpeLibertyFresno StateW 31–24
2006Steve KragthorpeArmed ForcesUtahL 13–25
2007Todd GrahamGMACBowling GreenW 63–7
2008Todd GrahamGMACBall StateW 45–13
2010Todd GrahamHawaiiHawaiiW 62–35
2011Bill BlankenshipArmed ForcesBYUL 21–24
2012Bill BlankenshipLibertyIowa StateW 31–17
2015Philip MontgomeryIndependenceVirginia TechL 52–55
2016Philip MontgomeryMiami BeachCentral MichiganW 55–10

Retired jerseys

Number Player
14Billy Guy Anderson
17Jerry Rhome
31Ellis Jones
36Felto Prewitt
45Glenn Dobbs
55Jerry Ostroski
64Marv Matuszak
81Howard Twilley
83Steve Largent

Future non-conference opponents

Announced schedules as of November 13, 2019.[64]

2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030 2031 2032 2033
Toledo at Oklahoma State at Wyoming at Washington at Arkansas State at Oklahoma State Oklahoma State Arkansas at Louisiana at Arkansas at Oklahoma at Oklahoma State at Oklahoma
at Oklahoma State at Ohio State Northern Illinois Oklahoma Oklahoma State Louisiana Tech at Arkansas at Oklahoma State Oklahoma State at Oklahoma State Oklahoma State
Northwestern State Arkansas State at Ole Miss at Northern Illinois at Louisiana Tech
at Arkansas State


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  8. ESPN: 897
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  20. The Making of Dr. Phil: The Straight-Talking True Story of Everyone's Favorite Therapist; Sophia Dembling, Lisa Gutierrez; John Wiley and Sons, 2003. p. 247
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  38. "Henshaw Might Coach Bronco QBs". 10 March 1988.
  39. MILLER, SCOTT (18 December 1991). "No Bad-Mouth Football for Tulsa's Coach : College football: Former Charger draft pick David Rader won't curse. But he's blessed with a winning team" via LA Times.
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