Philip Montgomery has Tulsa peaking in the AAC. Because of this success, how long will his tenure with the Golden Hurricane last?
Tulsa and Central Michigan square off in the Miami Beach Bowl at Marlins Park in Miami on Monday afternoon, marking Philip Montgomery’s second straight bowl appearance since taking over the Golden Hurricane program before the 2015 season.
Looking back at its 2016 campaign, Montgomery’s bunch suffered just a loss to Ohio State and then two setbacks by a combined nine points to Houston and Navy on its way to a 9-3 record. While the Golden Hurricane lost the AAC West tiebreaker to the Midshipmen, it was a standout year for Montgomery in just his second season. The future seems bright for this program, but how long will Montgomery oversee the operation?
As one of the nation’s brightest young head coaches in a strong Group of Five league, he will have his pick of good jobs should he continue on this trajectory. Even though he just signed a new contract with the school, Montgomery will certainly remain on the radar of presidents and athletic directors looking for a new direction for their respective football programs.
For now, speculation will center on how long Montgomery will remain at Tulsa. At his pre-bowl news conference a week ago, the coach said he was excited about his future at the school. Two years have been added to his initial five-year deal, which extends it to January 2022.
“It’s good to be able to sit down and visit with [athletic director Derrick] Gragg and [president Gerard] Clancy and all those helping make those decisions, with the board of trustees, [and for them] to step up and make it even more difficult for us to leave.”
Of course, it becomes less difficult for a coach to leave if a new challenge awaits in a Power Five conference, which could be the scenario that Montgomery faces if he continues to have success with Tulsa.
The Golden Hurricane rank fourth in the nation in average yards per game at 529.8, with 261.8 of them coming on the ground, and quarterback Dane Evans, who tossed 27 touchdowns this past fall. High-powered offenses are nothing new to Montgomery, though.
The 44-year-old program-builder saw his star rise as offensive coordinator at Baylor, which had one of the most prolific offenses in college football under Art Briles. Montgomery spent most of his career as an assistant to the former Bears head coach, first at Stephenville (Texas) High School and then at Houston (2003-07) before the pair arrived at Baylor.
While there has been a debate as to whether Montgomery should cut ties with Briles, whom he has referred to as “a friend and a mentor,” there is no doubt that Montgomery is a rising head coach because of his work under his former longtime boss. In fact, Montgomery even had Briles join Tulsa practices in the run-up to the Miami Beach Bowl.
This year’s version of the Golden Hurricane is one of the more dynamic offenses in the country with the running back duo of James Flanders and D’Angelo Brewer as well as Evans, who was a 3,000-yard passer. It was a fun team to watch throughout the season, and it’s an exciting product that will continue to get fans interested in attending games, tuning in and following the team each fall.
Golden Hurricane fans certainly have to feel good about their future under the leadership of Montgomery. Going to the postseason should be a regular occurrence, while being annual AAC contenders is very likely. With that success, however, will come suitors for the head coach responsible for the impressive turnaround. After all, this is a team that went to eight bowls between 2004-12, played in the Conference USA championship game four times and won a championship twice. Since their last title in 2012, the Golden Hurricane had won five games before Montgomery took over after the 2014 season.
While it’s not ideal to annually have to worry about losing your head coach to a bigger school, it’s certainly a great problem to have if you’re a Group of Five school. Because the alternative—sub-.500 seasons—is much more stressful.