Tulsa picks Rice’s Graham to replace Kragthorpe


TULSA, Okla. (AP) – Todd Graham was hired as head coach at Tulsa on Friday, just three days after he had signed a contract to remain with Rice through 2012.

Graham leaves Rice after one season and replaces Steve Kragthorpe, who was hired Tuesday to replace Bobby Petrino at Louisville.

Graham was Tulsa’s defensive coordinator for three years before leading Rice to its first bowl game in 45 years. The Owls were 1-10 in 2005 and went 7-6 under Graham.

“I’m very excited for my family, and thrilled about this opportunity to be the head football coach at the University of Tulsa,” Graham said. “To be able to return to a program that you helped to rebuild, and now have the chance to take it to an even higher level is exciting.”

Despite Graham’s new deal at Rice, Tulsa was still able to lure him away.

Graham, 42, takes over a program that he helped Kragthorpe resurrect. Tulsa had won only one game in each of the two seasons before Kragthorpe took over in 2003. His staff led Division I’s best turnaround, as the Golden Hurricane went to a bowl game for the first time since 1991.

Such reversals have been common in Graham’s career. He spent two seasons on Rich Rodriguez’s staff at West Virginia, helping begin the Mountaineers’ current run of five straight winning seasons, before similar turnarounds at Tulsa and Rice.

He previously coached at East Central (Okla.) University and at high schools in Oklahoma and Texas.

“We’re extremely pleased to have Todd Graham return to the University of Tulsa as our football coach,” athletic director Bubba Cunningham said. “There’s no question that Todd fits the two main attributes we were looking for in a head coach, the ability to recruit and the right fit for our university.”

At Tulsa, Graham inherits a program that has made back-to-back postseason trips for the first time since 1964-65. Kragthorpe went 29-22 in four seasons, including three bowl games. The Golden Hurricane were 8-5 this season and lost four of their final five games, including a 25-13 defeat to Utah in the Armed Forces Bowl.

AP-ES-01-12-07 1619EST