Entering his fourth year as the Head Football Coach at The University of Tulsa, Steve Kragthorpe has Golden Hurricane football on the cusp of the national limelight. Kragthorpe has instilled a successful attitude into a program that, before his arrival, hadn't had a winning season since 1991.
In just three seasons at Tulsa, Kragthorpe has taken the Golden Hurricane to two bowl games, won more games in three years than Tulsa had won in the preceding seven seasons, captured Tulsa's first Conference Championship since 1985 and has put the Tulsa football program back on the map of national prominence.
The 2005 campaign was Tulsa's first year as a member of Conference USA. Kragthorpe proceeded to lead the Hurricane to the C-USA West Division title with a 6-2 record and capturing a victory in the inaugural Conference USA Football Championship Game with a 44-27 win over Central Florida.
Tulsa represented C-USA in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl and claimed a 31-24 victory over former Western Athletic Conference rival Fresno State, thus finishing the season with an overall 9-4 record. The Oklahoma State Legislature presented Kragthorpe and his team a proclamation recognizing the successes of the 2005 season.
Kragthorpe has posted a 21-17 three-year record at Tulsa. Since his arrival, Hurricane football has been high-powered on offense and opportunistic on the defensive side of the ball. In 38 games as head coach, his teams have scored over 30 points 23 times and in those games has a 19-4 record. In his 21 total victories as the Tulsa head coach his team's have averaged 39.5 points in those games.
In 2003, Kragthorpe entered his first season at Tulsa with the task of turning around a football program that had just two victories over the previous two seasons. For year one in the Kragthorpe era, it was mission accomplished.
Kragthorpe led his first Tulsa team to an 8-5 overall record and the school's first bowl game in 12 years. The Golden Hurricane finished in a tie for second in the Western Athletic Conference with a 6-2 record and played in the Humanitarian Bowl.
His coaching job helped produce the biggest turnaround in Division I-A in the 2003 season. The eight victories were the most at the school since 1991. Kragthorpe was named the WAC Coach of the Year as voted on by the league's coaches. He was one of six semifinalists for the Eddie Robinson/FWAA Coach of the Year Award as selected by the Football Writers Association of America. Kragthorpe was selected as the FWAA/Scripps First-Year Coach of the Year award winner, an honor given to the nation's top first-year head coach. He was also a finalist for the Paul "Bear" Bryant and Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Awards and finished in a third-place tie with Oklahoma's Bob Stoops in the voting for the Associated Press' National Coach of the Year.
Kragthorpe was presented with the "Key to the City" by Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune on December 18, 2003, at the regular City Council meeting. The eight wins was the most for a first-year Tulsa head coach since Buddy Brothers posted a 9-1 record in 1946, 12 coaches ago. Kragthorpe became just the fifth coach in school history to win eight games in his first season. Of the 25 previous TU head coaches, only five had won six or more games in their first season.
As Tulsa passed into this new era, Kragthorpe embraced the storied history of Tulsa football, and preached that effort, attitude and preparedness will get the Hurricane back to that great tradition of winning football.
A year later, the Hurricane ended the 2004 season with a 4-8 mark, but Tulsa could have easily wound up with a winning mark if it wasn't for a last second field goal by #18-ranked Boise State, and overtime losses at Nevada and SMU. His first career victory against a nationally-ranked opponent came when the Hurricane defeated #24 UTEP in the 2004 season finale.
Kragthorpe was named to his new position on December 18, 2002, and was introduced to the media and public as The University of Tulsa's newhead football coach a day later. He is the 26th head football coach in school history.
Kragthorpe came to Tulsa with 15 years of coaching experience, including 13 years on the collegiate level, two years as a graduate assistant coach and 11 years as a full-time assistant, and two years of professional football.
He came to Tulsa from the Buffalo Bills. "I'm very excited for my family, and thrilled about this golden opportunity to be the head football coach at The University of Tulsa," said Kragthorpe at his introductory news conference on December 19, 2002. "Tulsa and northeastern Oklahoma is a great area, and The University of Tulsa is such a quality institution. I feel very comfortable with the administration and the commitment they're willing to make. I can't think of a better situation for my family than to move to Tulsa and become the head football coach."
Kragthorpe's experience around football goes much deeper than the 15 years he has been a coach. His father, Dave, was coaching since Steve was a youngster, serving assistant coaching stints at Montana, South Dakota State and BYU. Following 10 years at BYU, the elder Kragthorpe was the head coach at Idaho State for three years (1980-82), taking a team that had lost 15 straight games to champions of NCAA Division I-AA in just his second season. After two years as athletics director at Utah State, the elder Kragthorpe returned to the sidelines and spent six years (1985-90) as the head coach at Oregon State.
The younger Kragthorpe's football philosophy is to be wide-open, aggressive and try to dictate the tempo in all phases of the game. His offensive mentality goes back to Brigham Young University of the 1970's, but can even be traced to The University of Tulsa.
"It's funny how football comes full circle. In 1970, my dad was hired at BYU by a former Golden Hurricane great, Tommy Hudspeth," said Kragthorpe. "In 1973, when BYU decided to throw the football to be successful The University of Tulsa was one of the places they came to study the passing game that had been developed under Coach Glenn Dobbs and at that time with F.A. Dry.
"The roots of Tulsa's offense in 2003 can ultimately be traced back to the Tulsa offenses of the 1960s and early '70s," added Kragthorpe.
Before coming to Tulsa, Kragthorpe spent the previous two seasons (2001-02) as quarterback coach with the NFL's Buffalo Bills. In 2001, he tutored Rob Johnson and in the 2002 season he coached All-Pro Drew Bledsoe. Kragthorpe also coached Alex Van Pelt in his two years with the Bills.
Prior to his stint in the NFL, Kragthorpe spent four years (1997-00) as an assistant coach at Texas A&M, including the final three seasons as offensive coordinator. He also coached the wide receivers from 1997-99, before becoming the quarterback coach for the 2000 season.
While there, the Aggies posted a four-year mark of 35-16 and participated in four Bowl games, including the Cotton Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Alamo Bowl and Independence Bowl.
In his first year, A&M posted a 9-4 mark and had a 6-2 Big 12 record to finish in first place in the Big 12 South Division. The 1998 team, his first as offensive coordinator, posted an 11-3 overall record and a 7-1 conference mark to win the Big 12 South Division and the overall Big 12 Championship. Texas A&M captured the Big 12 title with a 36-33 doubleovertime win against #1-ranked Kansas State in the championship game. Other wins that year against ranked opponents came vs. Nebraska (#2), Missouri (#13) and Texas Tech (#25). The Aggies completed the season ranked 11th nationally in the Associated Press poll.
Kragthorpe broke into the coaching ranks in 1988 as a graduate assistant coach on his father's Oregon State staff. The younger Kragthorpe assisted with coaching the quarterbacks and receivers.
In 1990, Kragthorpe became the quarterback coach at Northern Arizona and remained in that position until being elevated to offensive coordinator for the 1992 and '93 seasons. At NAU, he coached quarterback Jeff Lewis, who spent five years in the NFL as a backup quarterback for the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers.
Following his four-year stint at NAU, Kragthorpe became the offensive coordinator at North Texas in 1994, spending two years with the Mean Green. At North Texas, he coordinated an offense that led the conference in total offense. While there, he coached quarterback Mitch Maher who broke single-season school records for passing yards and total offense. After two seasons, he then moved to Boston College where he spent the 1996 season as quarterback coach, coaching current NFL signal-caller Matt Hasselbeck.
As a collegiate player, Kragthorpe played quarterback for two seasons at Eastern New Mexico (1983-84) before transferring to West Texas State He started 11 games as a senior and completed 179-of-344 passes for 1,980 yards and nine TDs.
Kragthorpe earned his bachelor's degree in business administration from West Texas State in 1988. He also received his master's degree in business administration, while serving as a graduate assistant coach at Oregon State in 1988 and '89.
Kragthorpe, 41, and his wife, Cynthia, have three sons: Chris, Brad and Nik. His older brother, Kurt, is a sports columnist for the Salt Lake City Tribune.
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