Tulsa Golden Hurricane football
First season 1895
Athletic director [[|Vacant]]
Head coach Bill Blankenship
Home stadium Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium
Stadium capacity 30,000
Stadium surface FieldTurf
Location 22x20pxTulsa, Oklahoma
Conference Conference USA
Division West
All-time record 597–453–27
Postseason bowl record 9–10
Claimed national titles 0
Colors Royal blue and Old gold            
Fight song Hurricane Spirit
Mascot Captain Cane
Marching band The Sound of the Golden Hurricane

The University of Tulsa's Golden Hurricane football team represents Tulsa in Conference USA. Tulsa is currently coached by first-year head coach Bill Blankenship. The football team was coached by Todd Graham until he accepted the head coaching job at Pittsburgh.[1] Graham replaced Steve Kragthorpe, who led the team to three bowl games in four seasons before accepting the head coaching job at the University of Louisville after the 2006-7 season. Graham, a former Tulsa defensive coordinator, returned to the team after serving as the head coach at Rice University for one season. Tulsa has the smallest undergraduate enrollment of all schools that participate in NCAA Bowl Sub-Division football.

Tulsa defeated University of Central Florida 44-27 in Conference USA's inaugural championship game on December 3, 2005. The Tulsa Golden Hurricane also defeated the Fresno State Bulldogs 31-24 on December 31, 2005, at the Autozone Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee. This win brought their first bowl victory in 15 years. In 2006, the team went to the Armed Forces Bowl, but lost to the Utah Utes, 25-13. On October 15, 2006, Tulsa earned its first ranking in the BCS, breaking in at No. 25. This marked TU's first national ranking since the end of the 1991 season, when it was ranked No. 21 in both the AP and the USA Today polls. At the end of the 2010 season (January 11, 2011 Poll) Tulsa was ranked 24th in the AP.


Early Years, 1895-1907Edit

File:Henry Kimball football 1895.JPG

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]

Move to Tulsa, 1907Edit

File:Henry Kendall 1914.JPG

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]

Francis "Close the Gates of Mercy" Schmidt, 1919-1921Edit

File:Henry Kendall 1920.JPG

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 Archer and "The Golden Hurricane"Edit

Howard Archer 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] Archer 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] Archer 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]

"Gloomy Gus" Henderson and Skelly StadiumEdit

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.

Frnka takes Tulsa bowlingEdit

File:Henry Frnka 1942.jpg

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]

Missouri Valley Conference (1935-1985)Edit

Notable in Tulsa football tradition are the Missouri Valley Conference teams of 1964 & 1965 which compiled records of 9-2 & 8-3 & played in the Bluebonnet Bowl of both years; the passing attack famously featured Jerry Rhome to Howard Twilley, both of whom achieved lengthy careers in professional football; Rhome polled 2nd in the 1964 Heisman Trophy; Rhome & Twilley are in the College Football Hall of Fame. 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. 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.[16] Dr. Phil McGraw played for TU at the time.[17]

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.[18]

Independent (1986-1995)Edit

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.

Over the next four years, Tulsa had three head coaches. Eight-year veteran John Cooper left for Arizona State after the 1984 season, and was succeeded by Don Morton, who in turn left after only two years for Wisconsin. George Henshaw led the team in 1987, but left after only one year for the NFL. David Rader took over in 1988.

Rader led Tulsa to a school-record 10 wins in 1991, 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.[19] Rader never won more than four games in a season again, and was fired midway through the 1999 season.

Western Athletic Conference (1996-2004)Edit

Tulsa joined the Western Athletic Conference in 1996, becoming that 16-team league's easternmost member at the time. However, they only had one winning record in nine years of WAC play.

Conference USA (2005-present)Edit

Tulsa finished the 2007 season with a 10-4 season, concluding with a 63-7 win over Bowling Green in the 2008 GMAC Bowl. This was the largest margin of victory ever recorded in any bowl game. Tulsa also became the first team in NCAA history to have a 5,000-yard passer (Paul Smith), a 1,000-yard rusher (Tarrion Adams) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Brennan Marion and Trae Johnson) in a single season. Additionally, Smith became the NCAA record-holder for most consecutive games in one season (14) with over 300 yards passing.

Coaching historyEdit

Name Seasons Overall Overall %
Bill Blankenship 2011–Present 19–8 .704
Todd Graham 2007–2010 35–17 .673
Steve Kragthorpe 2003–2006 29–22 .569
Keith Burns 2000–2002 7–28 .200
Pat Henderson 1999 1–3 .250
Dave Rader 1988–1999 49–80–1 .376
George Henshaw 1987 3-8 .273
Don Morton 1985–1986 13–9 .591
John Cooper 1977–1984 57–31–1 .648
F. A. Dry 1972–1976 31–18–1 .633
Claude Gibson 1970–1972 11–16 .407
Vince Carillot 1969 1–9 .100
Glenn Dobbs 1961–1968 45–37 .549
Bobby Dobbs 1955–1960 30–28–2 .517
Bernie Witucki 1953–1954 3–18 .143
J. O. Brothers 1946–1952 45–25–4 .635
Henry Frnka 1941–1945 40–9–1 .816
Chet Benefiel 1939–1940 11–8–1 .589
Vic Hurt 1936–1938 15–9–5 .625
Elmer Henderson 1925–1935 70–25–5 .737
Howard Acher 1922–1924 12–11–2 .522
Francis Schmidt 1919–1921 24–3–2 .889
Arthur Smith 1918 1–2 .333
Hal Medford 1917 0–8–1 .000
George Evans 1913 5–2 .714
Harvey Allen 1912 1–3 .250
Sam McBirney 1908, 1914–1916 25–6–1 .806
Fred Taylor 1898–1899 1–1–1 .500
Norman Leard 1895–1897 5–2 .714
Source: "Golden Hurricane Football Coaching History". University of Tulsa. Retrieved 3-11-2009.


  1. "Graham leaves TU: Golden Hurricane coach accepts job at Pitt". Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  2. "History of the University of Tulsa." Site. Retrieved on February 7, 2009.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Bonham: 9
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 ESPN: 900
  5. "Francis A. Schmidt." Hall of Fame Profile. College Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved on February 7, 2009.
  6. "Francis Schmidt Coaching Profile." Profile. Retrieved on February 7, 2009.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 ESPN: 898
  8. ESPN: 897
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Bonham: 10
  10. 10.0 10.1 Rutland, Robert. "The Golden Hurricane: Fifty Years of Football at the University of Tulsa, 1895-1945." Tulsa Quarterback Club. (1953) OCLC: 3337415
  11. "Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium" Stadium Page. The University of Tulsa Official Athletic Site. Retrieved on February 7, 2009.
  12. "Henry Frnka." Article. Retrieved on March 7, 2009.
  13. "Sun Bowl History." Website. Retrieved on March 7, 2009.
  14. ESPN: 1466
  15. Bonham: 25
  16. Retrieved on 09-06-2008.
  17. 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
  18. National Sports Review - The Best and Worst of the '80s: Stories & Anecdotes, Quotes & Lists & Hypes, Passions & Amusements, published 1989, Preview Publishing and InfoSports, p.88
  19. Faith Keeps David Rader in Game of Life, GTR Newspapers, October 27, 2010 (retrieved October 8, 2011).


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