Former Union Coach Bill Blankenship Enjoying Transition

Contributing Editor

COACHING GURU: Bill Blankenship, the former state championship coach of Union High School and University of Tulsa quarterback, is the new head coach of his alma mater.

WALT BEAZLEY, University of Tulsa

As head football coach at Union High School Bill Blankenship had it all: a program that competed for a state title on a yearly basis, a superb team, and a rivalry that was one of the hottest in high school football (Union vs. Jenks).

But Blankenship wanted to try his hand at the college game, and after sitting out a year he accepted University of Tulsa head football coach Todd Graham’s offer to join the coaching staff as receivers coach. How does he like his new job?

“It’s been,” he says, “an exciting transition.”

Enough said. His receivers are already gaining national attention after excellent early games against Louisiana-Monroe and BYU.

One would think a man with well over a decade of experience in the high school game would know pretty much everything, but Blankenship points to two things he had to catch up on: rule changes in the college game and NCAA restrictions.

“My biggest surprise is how little time we get to spend with the players. We are only able to teach them 20 hours a week, and that includes game time.”

In his high school days, Blankenship says, if one of his players came by during the summer they could hurl the ball back and forth to their heart’s desire, but that’s not so in the college ranks.

“If a player and I are watching football together during a social event, that is allowable. If I specifically criticize someone catching the ball, that’s a gray area. If I demonstrate how the ball should have been caught, that’s considered coaching.

“We can have a tape recording of a play and leave it on a table in the meeting room and a player can come in and play it, but I can’t be with him when he does because that’s instruction and the NCAA has strict limits on the time spent teaching.”

He encourages his players to come over and spend some time with the Blankenship family in an informal get-together but even these meetings, he says, are limited. “We’ve never been given a specific number, but the general feeling is 12 visits a year, and not all during the football season, is considered acceptably social.”

He likes, he says, to get all his players over to the house every three to four weeks. “We can also do things like going bowling or to the movies, but the coach can’t pay the player’s way.”

One of the hugest adjustments Blankenship has had to make is the number of players directly under his command. At Union High School it was the whole team. With the Golden Hurricane it is 18. The smaller number, he says, makes for an opportunity to get closer to the individual player.

Having been a top high school coach in Oklahoma gives Blankenship a gigantic advantage in a realm he didn’t have to worry about when he was coaching high school: recruiting.

“My high school football has given me a pre-existing friendship with most of the coaches in Oklahoma. That personal relationship is very helpful.”

Is there anything he misses about the high school game?

“I loved playing at the highest level in the state. The atmosphere surrounding the Union-Jenks game was electric. We were at a level where anything less than a championship was a disappointment.

“We have the same attitude at TU. I love to be in an atmosphere where expectations are sky-high. That’s the way they are here.

“We want to win. We want to win conference championships. We want to win bowl games. We want TU on the national map in the rankings.

“We know that Tulsa fans have higher expectations for us than they’ve had for some teams in the past. Does this put added pressure on us? You bet.

“But it’s nothing compared to the pressure we’re putting on ourselves.”

Updated 10-03-2007

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