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Blankenship's Leap Of Faith Paying Off

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Tulsa continues to prepare for the Liberty Bowl in Memphis and earning a trip to the Liberty Bowl was TU's goal from the beginning of the training camp.

But leading TU to the Liberty Bowl? That's been on Bill Blankenship's mind for years.

Blankenship is living out a dream season.

He's Conference USA's coach of the year and has his alma mater back in the Liberty Bowl for the first time since 2005. But sometimes big success takes an even bigger leap of faith.

Seven years ago, Blankenship was leading Tulsa Union High School to its third state title in four seasons but something wasn't quite right.

"The summer before my last season at Union, I remember us having some conversation in the bathroom getting ready for work one day, and I don't remember the circumstances exactly, but (my wife, Angie ) said to me...well, maybe it's about time," Blankenship said. "And I'm like, 'what are you talking about?' She said, maybe we oughta think about whether or not it's time to end things up here at Union."

After hours of prayer and consideration, Blankenship decided it was time to leave Union and chase his dream – coaching at the collegiate level.

"You could just tell. It was time for something new," Angie said. " I remember when I told him, we weren't getting any younger, so if we were going to chase something new, we better get after it."

Bill likened it to an analogy any sports fan can relate to.

"I'm kind of a movie guy. Even though it sounds really cheesy, it's kind of like when Rocky had told Adrian he wasn't going to fight any more, and eventually she said Oh Rocky, go fight and the bells went off, the music goes off and he goes you know to fight," Blankenship said. "That's kind of the way it's been with her. We were there at Union, and I was willing to kind of say okay, that's it. When she said, well maybe it's time ... she said let's go, let's do it. I'm with ya. I heard the music. "

He might have heard the music, but he didn't hear the right offer. Blankenship sat out of coaching in 2006 wondering if his big break would ever come.

"I prayed that either God would open the door for me in college or to change my heart, because my heart was wanting to go coach in college. There were definitely some days I wasn't too sure about it," he said.

Everything changed one January morning in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

"Had a snowstorm coming in, Angie had me at the store, Wal-Mart parking lot. It was early in the morning and my phone rang," he said. "I didn't recognize it, so I went ahead and answered it, and it was coach Todd Graham. He asked me very clearly, I'd like for you to think about coming to work for us.

"It was literally a two minute conversation and I was up here on campus later that night."

"He called me after the call," Angie said. "I wasn't sure if he heard it right, because I don't know...it was what we were waiting for, but when it finally comes, you go, 'Is this for real?'"

Blankenship joined Tulsa's staff as an assistant coach in 2007 and took over as head coach in 2011.

And in just his second year in charge, Blankenship led the Golden Hurricane to the conference title.

"In my wildest dreams, this would be where it all would have wound up," he said.

"We would take this walk on this path and we would do that what ifs and dream about this and that, and this of course was the big one out there. Now that it has actually happened," Angie said. "We look at each other a lot and go can you really believe this? How cool is this?"

The Blankenships have been keeping track of their story – both the good and the bad – so they can pass it on to their family for years to come.

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