TULSA — Philip Montgomery took it upon himself Monday to unwrap an early Christmas gift for University of Tulsa football fans.
“The university has stepped up and, I don’t even know if I can talk about this yet or not, but I’ve got a new five-year deal here,” the TU head coach said during an otherwise routine bowl press conference. “So, I’ve just signed the extension here. We’re excited about that as a football staff and as a family and all of those things.”
Montgomery’s objective, a source said, was salary increases for his staff (around $$300,000 total) that would allow him to retain his assistants. He also received additional incentive bonuses that could take his annual compensation from $1.4 million to as much as $1.8 million, the source said.
Montgomery, 44, arrived after the Golden Hurricane went 3-9 and 2-10 in consecutive seasons. After leading TU to a 6-6 regular season mark and Independence Bowl appearance last year, Montgomery guided Tulsa to a 9-3 record and the Miami Beach Bowl this season. They play Central Michigan on Monday at 1:30 p.m.
With the annual December coaching carousel apparently concluding another wild ride, I asked Montgomery about his willingness to stay at Tulsa. His son, Cannon, is a senior at Cascia Hall and recently announced he had been accepted to attend TU. His daughter Maci is a high school sophomore. His wife Ashli already is entrenched in the community, particularly with Tulsa’s Alzheimer’s charities.
Montgomery said he’s in no hurry to leave.
“I’m not looking for the next big paycheck or the next big job or this or that,” he said.
“I had opportunities this year, had phone calls, all that stuff. Derrick (Gragg, TU’s athletic director) and I, we’ve been through that carousel of things. My family’s really happy here. This town has been great to us. We’ve tried to give back to the community. We’re very connected to our players downstairs. I think a lot of that goes back to the way they work and the way that we’ve kind of bonded together.”
He said Gragg and new president Gerard Clancy have made his decision to stay a little easier by extending his contract through 2022.
“I’m excited about the opportunities Dr. Clancy is bringing onboard,” Montgomery said. “… It’s good to be able to sit down and visit with Dr. Gragg and Dr. Clancy, helping make those decisions with the Board of Trustees, to step up and make it even more difficult for us to leave here.”
Montgomery took a lot of questions Monday about the team’s rebirth, Miami Beach Bowl opponent Central Michigan and the allure of spending a week in South Florida in the middle of winter.
But he also got a couple of questions about his decision to invite former Baylor coach Art Briles to Saturday’s practice.
“He was here, just came and watched practice. Spent a couple of days,” Montgomery said. “It’s great having him around. We have lots of coaches that come to practice. He was just one of those guys.
“Obviously, he’s a friend and a mentor. It was great having him here the last couple of days, getting a chance to see his energy and passion again. For us, it was a much welcomed visit.”
Briles has been visiting various college and NFL teams since he was fired by Baylor’s board of regents for his role in a five-year sexual assault and physical abuse scandal by members of the Baylor football team. Regents said 19 football players were involved in 17 sexual assaults and rapes during that period.
Montgomery was Briles’ offensive coordinator for four of the years in question, but has been largely absolved of any wrongdoing. TU administrators say they stand behind their vetting of Montgomery during the hiring process following the 2014 season and say they were not contacted about Montgomery during ensuing investigations.
During his introductory press conference in December 2014, Montgomery wept when talking about what Briles meant to him.
Monday, Montgomery said he “did not weigh it at all” before calling Briles and inviting him to attend practice. “I’ve been trying to get him here since before two-a-days started. He finally decided to come down and see us.
“I didn’t weigh it. I didn’t ask anybody. He’s a friend. He’s a great coach. Again, we have coaches come all the time. For us, it was great to have him around, let him kind of look at our football team, give his opinions on stuff, just to be around him again.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard on The Franchise Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. every weekday with co-host Lauren Rew and most mornings on The Franchise in Oklahoma City. Listen on fm107.9, am1270 on the 107.7 Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page.