Kragthorpe's Tulsa contract now runs through 2011

Updated: July 31, 2006, 8:24 PM ET
Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Steve Kragthorpe took over a downtrodden program at Tulsa and turned it into a conference champion. On Monday, the school rewarded him with a contract extension it hopes will keep one of college football's promising young coaches there for years to come.

After leading the Golden Hurricane to its first conference title in two decades, Kragthorpe received an extension that could keep him at Tulsa through the 2011 season.

"There's no doubt that I'm very happy at the University of Tulsa. I think it's an ideal situation when you look at the things that are important to me," Kragthorpe told The Associated Press by phone on Monday. "It's a great place to work, it's a great place for my family to live and we're a program that again I think is continuing to improve on a daily basis."

Kragthorpe, 41, led the Golden Hurricane to their first conference title in two decades last season and is 21-17 at Tulsa with two bowl appearances in three seasons.

Tulsa went 9-4 and won the Conference USA title in 2005 before beating Fresno State in the Liberty Bowl.

The former quarterbacks coach for the Buffalo Bills signed a six-year contract extension before last season, and this deal adds one additional year. Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but athletic director Bubba Cunningham said it included a financial incentive if Kragthorpe remained at the private university through the end of the contract.

That provision could lessen speculation that Kragthorpe would want to leave Tulsa. He was rumored as a candidate for several coaching jobs last season and went as far as issuing a statement that he was not interested in Colorado's vacancy.

"I think it's a great show of support on the part of our university, not only for me but for our program," Kragthorpe said.

"This contract extension included a lot of things for our assistant coaches, not just for me because I'm just a small part of the process and what's happened here. ... I've gotten far too much credit for what's happened here. It's an absolute team effort on the part of a lot of guys."

Besides retaining Kragthorpe, Tulsa has committed at least $7 million to add luxury suites and build new coaches' offices, meeting rooms, locker rooms and other facilities at the football stadium. Construction on the project's first phase is expected to be finished before the 2007 season, and Kragthorpe said Tulsa already is working with architects on the second phase.

"We're trying to enhance the facilities to continue to recruit top-quality student-athletes to the University of Tulsa," Kragthorpe said. "We feel like what we're doing from a commitment standpoint -- whether it's my contract, whether it's facilities, whether it's more new facilities on the book -- we're sending a statement that we're serious about Division I football, we're serious about being competitive in Conference USA."

Tulsa had a winning season only once in the 16 seasons before Kragthorpe's debut in 2003, and his 21 wins are Tulsa's most over a three-season span since Henry Frnka's teams went 24-4-1 from 1941 to 1943.

"Steve has obviously done a tremendous job in rebuilding the Tulsa football program in his three seasons," Cunningham said in a statement. "He is an outstanding coach, teacher, leader and person."

Kragthorpe engineered the largest turnaround in Division I in 2003, when Tulsa bounced back from consecutive one-win seasons with an 8-5 season and a trip to the Humanitarian Bowl.

"I'm happy with the progress we've made. I had hoped that it would happen relatively quickly. I didn't really know it could happen as quickly as it has ...," Kragthorpe said.

"It's been everything I thought it would be and more. I tell people all the time this is the best job that I've ever had. It's also the toughest job I've ever had."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press