, Muskogee, OK

January 22, 2014

Unexpected process ends: Now former MHS coach speaks about his decision

By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor

— A week that didn’t exactly go like he wanted ended Tuesday for Josh Blankenship with his official release at Muskogee.

Today, he begins plodding through typical employment paperwork at the University of Tulsa — the day it was planned to announce him as the Hurricanes’ quarterbacks coach.

While he said the offer was laid out by his father and TU head coach, Bill Blankenship, at Thanksgiving —contrary to an earlier report that it happened at Christmas — the plan was to have time to let his players, staff and bosses know of his plans in the proper sequence leading up to today.

But once rumors began surfacing Friday of what was in the works, that all changed.

He moved a meeting up to Saturday to let his players know. He did not speak directly to his decision during a team banquet on Sunday, even though his emotional words indicated what was already well out of the bag.

On Monday, he submitted his official letter of resignation.

Commenting publicly and officially on Tuesday, Josh Blankenship said it was a Thanksgiving conversation with his father that started the process which he said actually became clear in his mind at Christmas.

“He formally offered me around Thanksgiving and my wife (Lindsay) and I prayed about it for about a month,” Josh said, adding  “even when I thought I wanted to go to TU but had not yet decided, it took me by surprise how emotionally she was invested talking about the kids on the team we were leaving.”

After all, this was a job he labeled a “calling” when he got here, and he insists it was a spiritually  guided decision to leave just as it was to accept it.

“The majority of people I know understand where I am coming from ... I can’t justify leaving without that direction,” he said. “In the end the decision had nothing to do with the Muskogee job. It had everything with figuring out what I was supposed to do. I was excited and still am excited about where this program is.

“But for us, it came down to some personal family things that kind of sealed the deal.”

He would not elaborate on those — nor would he talk about whether he had a recommendation for a successor to superintendent Mike Garde.

“I can’t involve myself with that because I’m the one that’s leaving, but where my heart is — is that the foundation we’ve built is not rebuilt and that the priority is keeping the kids heading in the direction they are in,” he said.

Critics might say that wasn’t an upward direction. Blankenship was 8-21 in three seasons, with his best year 4-6 in the first year that began with the program’s first loss to Sand Springs in 20 meetings. They lost to a much improved Sand Springs team the next two years, but finished 3-7 and with back-to-back wins to end the year, knocked Bixby from a playoff spot in week 10.

“The critics have never mattered. It can’t in this business,” he said. “When I interviewed here I told them I wanted to change the culture and I feel like we’ve done that. And I truly believe this program is now positioned to take off big-time,” Blankenship said. “It’d been a weird peace for me to settle on staying just to win games. That would by my ego but for me to be confident in what we’ve done and someone else get credit for the wins that I believe are coming, I’m OK with that.”

Critics are definitely sounding off on TU Internet discussion boards. After struggling offensively in a 3-9 season following a Liberty Bowl win in 2012, Bill Blankenship last week announced that offensive coordinator Greg Peterson would not return to the program. But instead of hiring a coordinator – as former TU coach Todd Graham did in 2007 with Gus Malzahn and in 2010 with Chad Morris – Bill Blankenship chose to remain the Hurricane’s play-caller and primary overseer of the offense.

And he brings in yet another son as a set of eyes upstairs, one who both played the position and coached it underneath him at Union.

“We knew it was going to happen when we started talking about it,” Josh said of the criticism. “I’m probably the way I am because of how I was raised. I’m not going to make decisions based on that stuff and we’re going to do what we think is the best thing, and two of the things you value on a staff is chemistry and trust.

“I may not have a resume to coach quarterbacks at that level but I happen to work for the guy previously who happens to be the head coach there. People can jump on that but he knows the reality.”