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Tulsa Is Not The Worst Head Coaching Job In The AAC... Barely

The head coaching job at Tulsa is one that can propel a coach into a posh Power Five conference job, but has significant hurdles that make it very tough.

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

I'll be honest, I was unaware how impressive the history of  Tulsa Golden Hurricane football has been. The relative outpost of the AAC is one of the conference leaders in bowl berths and conference championships, dating back to when virtually the entire AAC was part of Conference USA.

The last 30 years have been an interesting climb for Tulsa from the WAC to C-USA to the AAC and lots of bowls.

How does the Tulsa head coaching job stack up versus other jobs in the AAC?


  • Tradition. The Golden Hurricane have a storied history dating back to a dominant run the the Missouri Valley Conference. They also claim 20 bowl berths, five C-USA West Division titles, and two outright C-USA titles.
  • The Big 12 will come visit. Since 1990, Tulsa has hosted Kansas (2x), Oklahoma (3x), Oklahoma State (6x), TCU (3x), and Baylor (1x) for a total of 15 home games versus Big 12 programs.
  • Great stepping stone job. Don Morton moved on to Wisconsin, John Cooper to Arizona State and later Ohio State, Steve Kragthorpe to Louisville, Todd Graham to Pitt and then Arizona State.


  • Student Population. It is impossible to fill a significant portion of H. A. Chapman Stadium with students. If every undergrad showed up for the same game, it would fill just over 10% of the 30,000 seat stadium.
  • H.A. Chapman Stadium. There is nothing inherently terrible about the stadium, but it is consistently ranked as the worst in the conference every year.
  • Small fan base. Despite bowl berths in three of the last five seasons, Tulsa ranked dead last in average attendance (20,345) during that time. That is 25,469 fewer fans per game than league leader East Carolina.
  • Look at some of the cities in the AAC. Memphis, Orlando, Houston, Dallas, Philadelphia, New Orleans. Living in Tulsa doesn't exactly stack up well versus those cities.

Making the case for why it should be ranked higher than 11th: James Jimenez, UAB writer and resident Tulsa defender.

Tulsa gets a bad rap. I realize that it's not exactly the sexiest of places to live or work, and that it's right in the middle of the doomsday-esque Tornado Alley, but the Golden Hurricane have great potential to be special.

(Related, Tulsa missed out with not calling themselves the Twisters. Rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it?)

Our composite AAC poll ranks Tulsa as 11th in the rankings out of 12 teams. I voted them 6th.

Tulsa has a very proud footballing history that spans back well into the 1800's. First established in 1895, the Kendalites produced an incredible 38-24-3 record before becoming the Golden Hurricane under Francis "Close The Doors Of Mercy" Schmidt.

Schmidt was known as a score-runner, and literally invented the "razzle-dazzle offense," perfecting it at Tulsa before getting hired by Arkansas after he whipped them 63-7. Schmidt went on to coach at Arkansas, TCU, and Ohio State.

Tulsa is the home of the famous Jerry Rhome-Howard Twilly connection in the mid-1960's, and also created the unique Steve Largent, longtime NFLer, Pro Football Hall of Famer, and US Representative for the state of Oklahoma.

A forced independence after the absolution of the MVC as a football-sponsoring league caused Tulsa to fall into the depths of irrelevancy, but a run of success in Conference USA from 2003-2013 that pioneered today's spread offenses, highlighted by holding a 5,000 yard passer, a 1,000 yard rusher, and two 1,000 yard receivers in the same season, showed that the potential was there to spark a renaissance.

CROOTIN' Potential is there.

Yes, I know that Tulsa is in the middle of Oklahoma. But, Oklahoma does border Texas and the Southeast, two big recruiting grounds to pull talent from. Fall into the right finds, get together a good system, and the Golden Hurricane can make trouble for any opponent that comes their way.

Tulsa is the third team in Oklahoma for sure, but other teams in similar positions have found themselves in good positions for success. In the Sun Belt, Georgia State and Georgia Southern have experienced great success despite having the SEC's Georgia and ACC's Georgia Tech in their backyards in recruit-rich Georgia.

It's certainly better than a one-trick pony in Navy, or the ragged ponies of SMU, whose sordid past and shady present has resulted in a marred program. Certainly, Tulsa at least ranks in front of Basketball Schools UConn and Temple and relative no-man's-land program East Carolina.

We can all agree on one thing, though: Tulane is definitely in last place.

If you were playing NCAA football in an online dynasty...

You like the idea of scoring 80 points per game while throwing for 500 yards per game. You are not adverse to playing games that end with scores that resemble basketball games. Wanting to take a team that plays a fun offense and turn them into a national power is what you consider fun.

If you choose this job in real life...

You see names like John Cooper and Todd Graham and imagine if/when you will be the head coach at Arizona State. Let's be clear, you are not taking this job because you love Oklahoma or the city of Tulsa, this job is taken in order to secure a nice job in a Power Five conference.

If you take this job, offense must be your focus. Tulsa is known for its offense and the last thing a coach wants to do is come in an upset the balance.


In many ways, Tulsa is a more successful Tulane in a worse market. While Tulane has struggled to put together solid seasons, Tulsa has been one of the top teams in Conference USA and look to be ready to compete in the AAC after making a bowl last fall.

There are too many mitigating factors like budget, support, and location that will never allow Tulsa to get out of the bottom 4-5 as a head coaching job. That is perfectly okay as long as they continue to secure bowl berths.

The list so far:

12. Tulane