Did Burglaries, DUI Arrest Haunt Tulsa Candidate?

With Todd Graham having left for Pitt after a successful run as Tulsa head football coach, the Hurricane is back in the market for someone to lead their football program.

Garrick McGee

(Fair to be judged by something you did when you were 18?)

Earlier this week Texas A&M Defensive Coordinator Tim DeRuyter was offered the job by Tulsa school President Steadman Upham and athletic director Bubba Cunningham. A Big 12 coaching source told me this week that DeRuyter turned down it down after the TAMU assistant was told the job paid the paltry sum of $500,000 per season. (Fellow Conference USA coach June Jones makes four times that amount at SMU.)

DeRuyter may have just been testing his market value in talking to Tulsa, but likely wouldn’t have even spoken to the school had he known of the embarrassingly low salary. To that end, one hot coaching candidate from an SEC school told me Thursday he didn’t not express interest in Tulsa when contacted just for that reason.

Upham and Cunningham then reportedly targeted Arkansas Offensive Coordinator Garrick McGee as a leading candidate for the job. With some media outlets reporting yesterday that Tulsa had gone so far to offer McGee the job, an SEC coaching source told me late yesterday McGee had not received an offer thanks in part to concerns over off-field issues involving the Razorbacks assistant.

While serving as Northwestern Offensive Coordinator in 2007, McGee was arrested for DUI in … wait for it … Tulsa.

After initially being charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence stemming from a 2007 Christmas eve traffic stop, McGee pleaded guilty on March 21, 2008, to reckless driving according to Tulsa County court documents. McGee’s guilty plea for driving 16 to 20 miles per hour over the speed limit was a $635 fine and 24 hours of community service.

That news was widely reported in the media in 2007, but in mulling McGee’s candidacy Tulsa also noted his brushes with the law during his days as a collegiate football player.

While a freshman quarterback for the Arizona State Sun Devils in 1991, McGee was charged with playing a role in three burglaries. He later pleaded guilty to theft, paid restitution and was sentenced to three years’ probation.

In the aftermath of those crimes, which were later documented in vigorous detail by the PHOENIX NEW TIMES, McGee transferred to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M for one season before finishing his college football career at Oklahoma.

Here’s an excerpt from what essentially amounted to an expose on McGee by Tom Fitzpatrick of the New Times in ‘92:

Let’s examine the events surrounding Arizona State University’s fleet-footed quarterback and admitted sneak thief, Garrick McGee.

Charles Harris, the slippery, smooth-talking athletic director at ASU, characterizes McGee as a fine young man guilty only of making some wrong decisions.

Harris and Bruce Snyder, the football coach, agree that McGee’s punishment for his crime wave along Mill Avenue in Tempe should be suspension from a single ASU football game. Incredibly, the weak-kneed president of the university, Lattie Coor, stands by and is unable to murmur even a word of dissent.

Wonderful.

The state criminal code prescribes the penalty for the crimes to which McGee has confessed as five years in a state prison.

I apologize. I know your eyes must widen in disbelief when you read things like this.

Here’s what happened, according to police reports and subsequent confessions. Read the unadorned prose of the police and you get the real picture.

From academia, you get Paradise Lost. From the cops, you get A Clockwork Orange.

McGee would not be in the position he is in today if he wasn’t now a representative member of the coaching community, but I’ve been told that the regrettable circumstances of McGee’s off-field past, especially in light of the recent demise of former Pitt coaching hire Mike Haywood, likely led Tulsa to back off on McGee.

Not surprisingly, McGee formally announced in a statement this morning that he was withdrawing from the Tulsa coaching search:

“I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration for the head coach position at Tulsa. My goal is to one day be a head coach and there are a number of considerations that factor into when that time will come. I appreciate the opportunity Tulsa gave me to meet about their program and wish them the best of luck in their search. I look forward to continuing to work with Coach Petrino towards our goal of winning championships.”

Of his past at ASU, McGee said to the CHICAGO TRIBUNE in 2007:

“When you’re 18 years old, you can’t be judged on those things the rest of your life. I tell the kids that all the time. You made a mistake; it happens. They key is how you respond to it. Are you going to change that image people have of you, or are you going to let that continue?”

Unfortunately for McGee, that judgement system doesn’t always apply to the high profile profession of college football coaching.

So where does Tulsa go from here? The school interviewed current TU assistant Bill Blankenship Wednesday but I’ve been told his chances of getting the job are slim to none. More likely Upham and Cunningham will now hit the reset button and, if they’re smart, up the embarrassingly low salary they previously budgeted for the job.

UPDATE: Eric Bailey of the TULSA WORLD reports that Blankenship has been offered the job and accepted. (Obviously my source misgauged Blankenship’s chances. And Tulsa’s unwillingness to spend any more money on the position.)

A source confirmed to me that Bailey’s Tweet about the news was accurate and added that Blankenship was offered the job this morning.

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