This past week I had the opportunity to spend some time with Tulsa’s new Director of Athletics, Dr. Derrick Gragg and that wide-ranging interview is presented here today in an accompanying story.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, this was far from the first time I have had the opportunity to chat with Gragg as he and I go back a few years together when he was the athletic director at Eastern Michigan and I was covering the Eagles.
Back then I found him to be thoughtful, willing to listen and exceedingly patient in answering questions. He also was serious about turning around a downtrodden athletic program and had a firm resolve.
He brings similar resolve to Tulsa and it would not be unreasonable to expect him to achieve success, especially considering Tulsa is much better situated than at his previous stop.
But you may be asking why should you care about Tulsa and why are we devoting so much space when most folks around here are Oklahoma or Oklahoma State fans.
One reason is Tulsa’s football roster this year likely will contain more northwest Oklahoma student-athletes (6) than OU and OSU combined (5).
A review of Tulsa’s spring roster shows Derrick and Matt Luetjen of Hennessey, Derek Patterson of Kingfisher and Enid’s Colby Scott are on the squad with Colby’s younger brother, Jake Scott, hoping to walk-on. Enid’s Trent Dupy just graduated after an extremely successful career.
How many northwest Oklahoma football players are on the Sooners’ roster? Zero.
OSU has five, led by Enid’s Clint Chelf, who is expected to be the Cowboys’ starting quarterback and will get loads of ink around the state and of course right here. Joining Chelf from our area are Okeene’s Kaleb Cusak, Logan Nault from Kingfisher, Jackson Radford from Crescent and Jeremy Seaton from Cashion.
While area connections naturally should spark interest, so should winning, which is something Tulsa has been doing with regularity.
What should be considered impressive too about Tulsa is they are doing it on a Division I level with an enrollment smaller than Broken Arrow High School. Unfortunately they seem to be almost neglected in their own backyard as well, averaging just over 20,000 fans in their quaint 30,000-seat stadium
But sometimes it’s not that bad of a thing to be in the shadows. When Tulsa fired its last AD for consorting with a bookmaker it made barely a ripple statewide. Imagine if it had been OU or OSU.
Tulsa never will get the attention of OU and OSU of course. It is a private school with a pretty hefty tuition, but with its area ties, winning ways and the fact it’s not afraid to play the so-called big boys, Oklahoma’s third Division I football team could lay claim to being northwest Oklahoma’s adopted team. It certainly deserves to be at least in the same landscape.
If there still is any doubt Tulsa belongs in the same conversation, remember the Golden Hurricane are undefeated against Notre Dame, a team Oklahoma has beaten only once in 10 tries over the past 60 years.
Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at