Americans love playing the blame game. We pride ourselves in finding someone or something to point our fingers at in times of crisis. We rarely look in the mirror to find the root cause of the issue at hand.
Blame Michael/Mike Vick. Sounds strange doesn't it. How is a quarterback in the NFL culpable you ask? Well, for starters, his complete ineptitude at throwing a forward pass set forth a litany of events which directly resulted in Tulsa losing the head coach it could ill afford to lose.
Let's connect the dots. Michael Vick was called a coach killer to which the elder Jim Mora agreed. Secondly, Jim Mora, coach of the Atlanta Falcons at the time, openly championed for the coaching job at the University of Washington. Would this have happened if Vick was a proficient quarterback?
Next, the perturbed owner of the Falcons, Arthur Blank, gave Mora his walking papers at seasons' end. The choice to replace little Mora in Hot-lanta was none other than Bobby Petrino, head coach at Louisville.
Petrino flirted with leaving his Cardinals post in the past. His character has been called into question with his seedy methods of extorting Louisville for additional money. Once Petrino fled the state of Kentucky; Louisville targeted only one man.
In the end, this was TU's last great hurdle. Coach Kragthorpe's ties with Louisville's AD, Tom Jurich, go back to their days together at Northern Arizona University.
Kragthorpe rebuffed overtures from the Dallas Cowboys, Colorado Buffaloes and North Carolina Tar Heels over the past few years. This isn't your typical money grab although to say money had no influence on the decision would be naïve.
The deal was too sweet this time for Coach K. Who can blame him? Wouldn't you accept the offer? His salary will likely be doubled and he has a chance to compete for National Championships.
The fan support at TU games was almost embarrassing on ESPN's telecast. Louisville's game attendance isn't much better but again, he has a chance to compete for BCS Championships.
Kudos to him.
Blame Vick. And before you even think about turning on Kragthorpe for leaving, consider where this program was prior to his arrival. Kragthorpe's TU tenure follows the same path as a real American Hero. Rocky Balboa. What Rocky is to Philly -- Kragthorpe is to Tulsa minus the corny statue.
Think about the similarities. The original 1976 version of Rocky won three Oscars including Best Picture. In 2003, Kragthorpe's first season, he collected two 'coach of the year' awards along with being a finalist for several others.
His 8-5 record in the inaugural season was unfathomable considering the perpetual putridness of the program prior to his arrival. Who thought Rocky and Kragthorpe had so many similarities?
Rocky lost to Apollo Creed but was considered the people's champ. The Golden Hurricane was annihilated by Georgia Tech in a bowl game but Tulsa knew great things were coming with this regime.
Rocky II was the forgotten installment. They started focusing on character development as well as climatic in-ring action. Same at TU. The love affair between Tulsa and Kragthorpe didn't go away but it took a back seat to the overall successful direction of the football program.
Rocky III heavily involved Mr. T and Hulk Hogan. Coach K brought another bowl invitation to Tulsa and Rocky beat up Thunderlips and Clubber Lang. Good times for all.
Can you beat a bowl victory and a Mr. T beat down? Will we ever witness such a Perfect Storm again?
This brings us to the apex - Rocky IV and the conclusion of the Kragthorpe era in Tulsa. An 8-5 record left the football program in good shape. Meanwhile, Rocky single-handedly defeated communism.
I'll give the edge to Rocky but Coach K did the unthinkable as well. This program will survive. Tulsa is on the map.
We're all professionals here. Tulsa's various media outlets crack me up. Blue Monday, the day Kragthorpe rumors swirled out of control and everyone except TU and Kragthorpe acknowledged he was gone, was hilarious.
One radio station begged for ex-Miami Hurricane coach Larry Coker to be interviewed. Of course when the shift changed from local talent to the guys in Oklahoma City, they didn't really delve into the coaching situation.
The other station brought more factual information to the table. However, they shot down every idea from the callers. Of course the ideas ranged from Jenks coach Trimble to Ex-Union coach Blankenship. Way to think WAY outside the box, Tulsa.
A local scribe went so far as to write a threatening-type column about TU's AD, Bubba Cunningham, taking 17 days to hire a football coach at Ball State. "This isn't Ball State. We are in the middle of recruiting. I am smarter than the TU AD. Blah Blah Blah."
These guys are hilarious. Is it simply an over saturation of sports coverage in town? Not necessarily. However, sometimes we need to stop and think before we speak or write. Yes, myself included sometimes.
As the days unfolded, Bubba revealed he is the man. Not only did he realize the possibility of losing Kragthorpe but he had planned for it since September.
Forward thinking, I like it. Within days Bubba had his man. Former Tulsa Defensive Coordinator and Rice University Head Coach Todd Graham was introduced as The University of Tulsa's new head football coach on January 12, 2007.
Does the hire elicit jumps for joy? No. Did Steve Kragthorpe's name electrify Tulsa four years ago? Me thinks not.
Besides, the players seemed shocked and amiably surprised to have Graham back in Tulsa. They are familiar with his style and he is familiar with the recruiting issues.
A real match made in heaven. The new Rocky movie features a different looking Stallone. His face has gone through many poundings in the ring and Botox injections in real life.
At the end of the day, we still root for Rocky to win or at least not embarrass himself. We will also root for newly appointed coach Graham to be successful at Tulsa.
In a few years, perhaps Kragthorpe will be like Rocky V. We will be able to forget it ever happened.
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