By Ken MacLeod
The University of Tulsa stunned its coach, current players and former players by announcing it would drop its men’s golf program effective July 1, 2016.
Tulsa coach Bill Brogden is finishing up his 30th season at Tulsa. He had already let it be known he intended to retire at the end of the current spring season.
Brogden said he was informed in an 8:30 a.m. meeting today. The current six players on scholarship were also informed and TU sent out a press release less than an hour later.
“All university departments are regularly asked to examine their available resources and readjust their programs as needed to align themselves with financial realities and the athletic department is no different,” said Derrick Gragg, TU’s vice president and director of athletics in the statement. “This was an extremely difficult decision, but after much deliberation, we made the tough call to eliminate the men’s golf program.”
Brogden said he was told by a friend a year ago that TU was considering dropping men’s golf, but the subject was never discussed with him by Gragg or any TU administrators.
“If they had just talked to me, I might have been able to help them solve whatever the problem was,” Brogden said.
Former players spent the morning texting the news and questioning the decision.
“I’m so hurt and disappointed by the university’s decision,” said Michael Boyd, who played at TU from 1994-98 and later battled his way onto the PGA Tour. Boyd now runs his own instruction school at The Club at Indian Springs.
“It’s sad for Coach Brogden and for the current players. It’s a disrespect to his legacy and to the former players. I feel disrespected. They just opened a new lettermen’s lounge with my picture on the wall in a TU uniform. That would need to come down. We don’t have a program.”
Before Brogden came to Tulsa, the program was lightly funded, but still produced alums such as Ron Streck, the first golfer to win on the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Web.com Tour, and Hank Haney, who went on to be a highly-sought teacher, including his stint with Tiger Woods.
“It’s a sad day,” said Streck, whose team was coached by then dean of education Dr. Carl Oliver on a part-time basis. “We won the conference tournament once riding to Amarillo on a bus by ourselves. But we had a program.”
“It is a sad day,” Haney concurred. “However, Steadman Upham has been a great president and Dr. Gragg has been a great athletic director. I tend to look at these things from a business perspective. If they decided it was necessary, I’m sure it was a tough decision but one they had to make.”
In addition to Boyd, Brogden has coached many other TU players who have had varying degrees of success in professional golf. Currently Stephen Carney, Matt Mabrey, Chris Worrell, Logan McCracken and Colton Staggs are at various levels of the professional game. Many others have gone on to successful careers in Tulsa area businesses, including a dozen or so who gathered Tuesday at Tulsa Country Club to take a photo with their old coach for a story on his career in Golf Oklahoma.
Brogden came to Tulsa in 1986 after leading Oral Roberts University to four consecutive top-six finishes in the NCAA Tournament in 1979-81. ORU deemphasized golf in the mid 1980s, but Brogden’s friend Mike Carter, now the ORU athletic director, kept him from leaving town by raising more than $300,000 from area businessmen and country club members to give to then TU athletic director John Benn for a three-year commitment to hire Brogden and fund the TU men’s team.
“Coach Brogden has represented our program exceptionally well during the past three decades,” said Gragg. “His contributions and those of his many teams will always be a proud part of Golden Hurricane history. We thank him for all he has given to the TU family.”
The university said it will honor all scholarships granted to current men’s golf student-athletes.