December 01, 2014

TULSA, Okla. (AP) Tulsa fired coach Bill Blankenship on Monday, three days after the Golden Hurricane wrapped up a second consecutive losing season.

The Golden Hurricane finished 2-10, with a 49-32 home loss to East Carolina on Friday night. Blankenship took over at his alma mater in 2011 after Todd Graham left for Pittsburgh. He went 19-8 in his first two seasons, including a Conference USA championship in 2012.

The program has crashed the last two seasons. Tulsa was a preseason favorite to win Conference USA last year and went 3-9. This season, the Golden Hurricane moved to the American Athletic Conference but Blankenship couldn't turn things around.

The 54-year-old Blankenship is an Oklahoma native and played quarterback at Tulsa from 1975-79.

Blankenship said he still loves his alma mater, but hoped his removal would serve as a catalyst for a significant infusion of new resources into the struggling program.

''Across the board, we've been very successful at Tulsa without a lot of the same resources that we compete against,'' Blankenship said. ''That's OK, but that gap is getting bigger and bigger. Hopefully people will realize that there are gaps in the resources.''

Blankenship's teams were just 5-19 over the past two seasons including 4-12 in conference games. His overall record in four seasons was 24-27.

The school said a search committee will be formed immediately.

''We are grateful for the service and commitment of Coach Blankenship to our university, our student-athletes and our community, but we have decided that the program needs to go in a different direction,'' athletic director Derrick Gragg said in a statement.

Blankenship had three years remaining on a contract that paid him a reported $625,000 a year. Tulsa hired basketball coach Frank Haith for $1.3 million annually this year and Gragg said the resources are there to hire a new football coach for a competitive salary. Eight of the 11 coaches in the American Conference make more than $1 million annually.

''The commitment will be there,'' Gragg said. ''The level depends on who you're going to get as well.

''This school has a lot of history and a great legacy,'' he said. ''We want to have a winning program, we want to be bowl eligible and we want to get back to competing for championships in our conference.''

The Golden Hurricane went to eight bowls from 2003-2012 under coaches Steve Kragthorpe, Graham and Blankenship.

Blankenship was a longtime high school coach in Oklahoma before joining the Tulsa staff in 2007 with Graham. He coached wide receivers, running backs and special teams before being promoted to head coach.

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