Bill Blankenship considers himself a “Tulsa guy,” and it’s easy to see why. He not only led the Hurricane program for four seasons, but he played quarterback for the program in the 1970’s before starting his head coaching career just outside Tulsa at Spiro HS (OK).
From there he would go on lead Edmond Memorial HS (OK) just north of Oklahoma City, and within an hour and a half of Tulsa, before becoming the head coach at Union HS in 1992. It was there that Blankenship cemented his legacy as an Oklahoma high school coaching legend, leading the program to a 154-26 record in 14 seasons, which included three state titles and a 56 game home winning streak that stretched from 1997-2005.
In 2007, Blankenship joined the Todd Graham’s staff at Tulsa where he coached the receivers, running backs, and coordinated the special teams until 2010 and when Graham left for the head coaching job at Pitt, Blankenship took the reigns of the program after a short search.
Blankenship led the Hurricane to an 8-5 finish in 2011, followed by an 11-3 finish, a C-USA title, and win over Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl in 2012. Then, according to an interview he gave with the Tulsa World, the athletic department cut the operating budget for the football program in 2013 and again in 2014, and they finished 3-9 and 2-10 respectively those seasons. Tulsa made the decision to terminate Blankenship’s contract following the 2014 campaign, believed to be worth $625,000 annually.
Compared to the $1 million annual deal that Graham had before he left for Pitt, Blankenship was a bargain for the university.
“Todd gave me a copy of his signed contract, and it was a million dollars. I knew it wasn’t legend. It was fact. Even at what they were paying me on my first contract, I was in hog heaven. It was more than I’d ever made before.”
“The irony is, you stay happy until you find out what somebody else makes. That shouldn’t dictate whether I’m happy with my contract, but it’s human nature to see it that way.”
Following the 2013 season, Blankenship let go veteran offensive coordinator Greg Peterson, hoping to make improvements to an offense that finished near the bottom nationally in a number of categories, but Blankenship told the Tulsa World that the recent budget cuts didn’t allow him the flexibility he would have liked to hire a veteran play caller. Instead he hired his son Josh (who had been serving as the head coach at Muskogee HS) to coach the quarterbacks and oversaw the offense himself.
“When I hired Josh, no one else got a raise and Josh got the lowest salary on the staff. Being a company man, I (accepted) that we were up against the wall financially and that Tulsa has high academic standards. I didn’t buck the system probably like I should have, to fight for the football program. I was being a Tulsa man and trying to do it the Tulsa way.”
Blankenship now starts a new chapter as the head coach at Fayetteville HS (AR), and while he wishes he fought a little harder about certain things during his tenure as a head coach, he’s comfortable moving forward – and at just 59 years old, he’s got lots of good football in his future.
“If I focus on being bitter at those guys, I’m the one who’s going to suffer. Do you think that [athletic director] Derrick Gragg would lose any sleep (because) I’m mad at him? No. My deal is, I can disagree with your decision. I told him that I thought he was wrong, but I’m willing to move forward.”