In a press conference on Thursday, Director of Athletics Derrick Gragg outlined a five-year plan, nicknamed “Elevate,” for TU Athletics. The plan coincides with Tulsa’s upgrade from C-USA to the American Athletic Conference. The mission of the new plan is “to provide opportunities, inspire excellence and prepare leaders in a championship culture.”
Gragg was quick to point out Tulsa’s 56 championships during the school’s ten-year tenure in C-USA. Athletics also boasts a strong academic history in C-USA, including an academic excellence award during TU’s last year as a C-USA member.
“Two hundred thirty-three of (TU’s student athletes) had a 3.0 or better (last semester). That’s out of about 410. That’s pretty darn good,” said Gragg.
Gragg hopes to increase the student-athlete graduation rate from about 66% to 70%, roughly that of the general student population. The athletic success, despite football’s rough year, has seamlessly continued in the AAC.
“Going into the new conference, we had a great start … We also won three of the first four (AAC) championships,” said Gragg.
The Golden Hurricane captured conference titles in men’s and women’s cross country and men’s soccer. Especially considering men’s basketball’s stellar start, Gragg expects TU’s momentum to carry not just into the spring but well into TU’s future.
Upon Gragg’s arrival, TU men’s soccer coach Tom McIntosh told Gragg, “I think we can win a national championship.”
Gragg placed a vote of confidence in TU’s coaches.
“Our coaches, across the board, are the best I’ve been around,” said Gragg, who’s been to five institutions.
Despite fears of a growing divide between the Power Five conferences and the rest of FBS, Tulsa will offer cost of attendance to student-athletes starting next year, as part of an agreement with the rest of the AAC.
“Cost of attendance is the gap between what scholarship covers and other things, like going home … The bottom line for us is about $600,000 (in total cost of attendance),” said Gragg.
Full cost of attendance at TU will be capped at $2,500 per student-athlete, to be distributed proportionally to a student-athlete’s scholarship.
When pressed on new facilities, Gragg said, “What we’ve proposed is a multi-purpose, indoor practice facility that would be jointly used by varsity athletics and … our students and intramural system.”
The TU administration aims to create a space which would enhance goodwill across the entire student body.
“We do have great renderings, a good plan. We have donor interest,” said Gragg.
While planning is well underway, the biggest roadblock is location.
“Location is the main hurdle,” said Gragg.
Gragg cited “designated green spaces” as one difficulty. When asked about replacing Mabee Gym, Gragg pointed to the cost of demolition and to the loss of parking, which is already scarce across campus. A parking garage would cost a prohibitive $25,000 per space.
If the project were greenlit today, construction would take “between twelve and eighteen months,” according to Gragg.
Athletic and academic success, as well as a new indoor athletic facility, point to sustained growth for many years to come in TU Athletics.