This is pure class from outgoing Tulsa head coach Bill Blankenship.
He gave it everything he had and should be walking away with his head held high.
Coach Blankeship left this letter for his staff, his players, the administration and their fans.
Thursday, December 4, 2014
I will always be thankful to the selection committee, Bubba Cunningham and
President Upham for allowing me the opportunity to lead the TU football
program these past four years. There was never a day during that time that I
felt entitled or a sense that we had “arrived”. Angie and I were very cognizant of
the high expectations that were part and parcel with this position of leadership.
Ironically, we held ourselves to an even higher standard. It was our personal
commitment to live out a life lesson that I had been taught by my father: He
always believed that we had an obligation in this life to “leave a place better
than we found it”.
We began with a vision of what we believed would build our program over the
long haul. We resisted the quick fix mentality. We developed early on a plan to
recruit UNCOMMON young men, (outstanding athletes with strong academic
backgrounds and high character, young men with ability to communicate
effectively and with a personal bent toward leadership. Young men whom we
believed will become the next generation of leaders in their communities and
families.) We referred to this as the Tulsa Profile. We consistently rejected
football players that did not fit the profile to be successful at TU and in Tulsa.
We “bit the bullet” and redshirted nearly every interior Lineman on Offense and
Defense in those four classes. The result is, (for the first time in recent history)
we will have quality depth in the interior lines on both sides of the ball. It is
fairly undisputed in the coaching world that 20, 21 or 22 year old MEN will
usually defeat the 18 and 19 year old youngsters. In today’s college
environment, many coaches don’t choose to build for the long term by utilizing
the redshirt program. A common cynical response is “there’s no reason to save
those players for the next coach”. I am very thankful for the veteran
coordinators on our staff, Brent Guy, Scott Downing and Denver Johnson. They
were all former Head Coaches and were consistent in their encouragement to
“build TU for the future”. I am willing to let the public make their own
evaluation regarding our decision to invest in the future as they observe the
offense and defensive linemen over the next two or three years. I’m confident
we left this area of our program better than we found it.
As a very proud TU alum, I was eager to respond to the charge given me to
raise our APR (the NCAA’s measurement of Academic Progress towards a
degree and Graduation Rates). I am very proud to say that this past year’s
report showed the HIGHEST APR in the history of our football program. Still we
were nowhere near satisfied and I believe there is still much work to be done. I
was encouraged with the recent addition of Dr. Christina Carter who was hired
to lead our academic support program. She has already made HUGE STRIDES in
her first four months on the job and I am confident that we leave this area of
our program better than we found it.
I am incredibly grateful to my older brother, Rex, our Director of Player
Development (Chaplain). Rex gave himself to our players and their parents, our
staff and their families and many others affiliated and unaffiliated with TU
nearly every day for four years. He was at most every practice and many of the
workouts in winter and summer. He voluntarily invested into the lives of all of
us in a deep and rich way while never receiving a dime from the university. He
was a counselor, teacher, advisor, listener and cheerleader. I am eternally
confident that he leaves within our players and coaches a spiritual foundation
that we will call on for the rest of our lives. In this area we leave the TU football
program better than we found it.
We look back on the 2012 season with great pride. We were part of something
very special. The 2012 team was the most successful in school history. Never
before had a Tulsa team won 11 games, the Conference Championship and a
Major Bowl Win. That Liberty Bowl team was blessed with lots of juniors and
seniors that played all season at a very high level. We will leave it to historians
to rank the teams and seasons of Tulsa Football. I choose to believe that we
were a small part of elevating our program to do something that had never
been done and thus left it better than we found it.
We knew we had our hands full rebuilding. There was a significant and
documented void in the next two senior classes. There were only 7 seniors in
2013 that were originally recruited on scholarship and only 6 in the 2014
senior class. We didn’t make excuses or pass blame. We just continued to
build. We did not expect to go 3-9 and 2-10. We certainly hoped and believed
that our young players would develop faster. Our defense struggled after three
very good years. Injuries and youth took its toll. The turnaround this season
did not happen and for that I fully accept responsibility.
There were bright spots. Our sophomore QB had the fifth most productive
passing season in the proud history of TU football. Our sophomore receiver had
the third most catches in a season, only behind the senior seasons of Howard
Twilley and Chris Penn. The offense finished in the top third of our conference
in nearly every category and returns every offensive player except for
graduating senior tackle, Davis Walton. I believe the future is bright. Over the
next two years you will get used to hearing the names of this young team. I
expect that Keevan Lucas, Dane Evans, Bishop Louie, D’Angelo Brewer, Justin
Hobbs, Chris Wallace, Blake Belcher, Jesse Brubaker, Patera Wilson, Jeremy
Smith, Will Barrow, Kerwin Thomas and several others will become household
names in Tulsa and will validate the talent that our staff recruited in the
freshman and sophomore classes as well as the very talented commitments for
this year’s recruiting class.
We fully understand the business side of college football. It is not, by nature,
very patient. Boosters and fans expect us to deliver W’s and they want them
now. Fortunately, I’ve been very blessed in my career to have experienced
significantly more winning seasons than losing seasons. That fact did not make
it any easier to endure these past two seasons. Our fans and supporters expect
and deserve better. I hurt most for our players and staff that worked incredibly
hard but did not get to reap the benefits of our efforts. I strongly believe that
the next coach and staff at Tulsa will be able to build on the less visible aspects
of our program that we leave behind. .
Please let me say an individual and personal THANK YOU to the dear friends
and colleagues who chose to join arms with us on this crazy, invigorating,
exhausting, fulfilling, thrilling, gut-wrenching, roller coaster ride called college
football: MANY OF THESE WONDERFUL FAMILIES ARE CURRENTLY WITHOUT
EMPLOYMENT. PLEASE PRAY FOR THEM AS THEY SEEK OPPORTUNITIES TO
CONTINUE INVESTING INTO YOUNG MEN’S LIVES AND FUTURE.
Offensive Coaches: Denver Johnson, Scott Downing, Holman Wiggins, Greg
Peterson, Dan Bitson, Josh Blankenship, John Johnson
Defensive Coaches: Brent Guy, Van Malone, Jess Loepp, Archie McDaniel,
Adam Blankenship, Calvin Thibodeaux, Darnell Walker
GA’s and Interns: Press Taylor, David Johnson, Corey Heinz, Stafford Davis,
Grant Lester, Cody Morrison, Brent Potter, Blake Smith, Antonio Graham, Zach
Bigelow, Luke Olson, Nick Graham, Jason Semore, Paul Cherry,
Operations: Blair Philbrick, Kyle Grooms, Ravi Savitala, Adam Satterwhite,
Video: DJ Welte, Matt Downing
Recruiting & HS Relations: Clint Rountree, Tom Ososkie
Strength & Conditioning: Adam Davis and staff, Ryder Weischedel,
Rohrk Cutchlow and staff,
Equipment: Russ Hoffman
Medical: Dr. Mauerman, Dr. Boone, Dave Polanski, Chris Nerio,
Office Assistants: Tammi Sinclair, Megan Hoffman, Alyssa Weischedel
Assistant to the Head Coach (My personal boss): Micki Heatly
As I close, I want to convey a very personal and public THANK YOU to all of our
Gentlemen, it was a joy to coach you. You never gave up, never
lost hope; you stayed side by side and kept improving. I want you
to know that I never quit on you. Football greatness is measured
by wins and losses. I still believe you can achieve football
greatness. Greatness in life is measured in character, most often
formed in the furnace of adversity. I believe you are great young
men. Stay side by side. Be TU BLUE . . . always and forever!