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Graham Wants Top-25 Look At Tulsa

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TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Todd Graham wants Tulsa to be one of the top 25 football programs in the country and look like one too. After completing the Golden Hurricane's final spring practice at Skelly Stadium on Saturday, Graham said the team could move into new offices and training facilities at the Case Athletic Complex next month. But he sees more work to be done on the press box at the 77-year-old stadium.

"If you're going to be a top-25 program in the country, it needs to look like it, and that don't look like it to me," Graham said. "We've got to get that there, and we've got some great support. I think it's going to happen."

Graham said Tulsa already is working on plans to replace the press box with a three-story structure that would add club seating and suites, and upgrade the scoreboard and replace gold seats in the western stands with blue ones.

"This place will look like a place where champions reside. It'll look like a top-25 program in the country," Graham said. "That will impact our recruiting tremendously and I'm really excited about that, and I think that's going to happen hopefully in the near future."

Tulsa athletic director Bubba Cunningham confirmed that Tulsa is looking at a west-side renovation "that would create a new press box and all of those things, but we're not quite ready to make that public quite yet."

The three-story Case complex will include offices for the football coaches, a locker room and training room, team meeting space and an audiovisual suite. It will also house an academic support center with counselors' offices, study space and a computer lab.

Cunningham said it would take about six weeks to move into the complex once it is completed.

"I think overall it's just great for the program. It's a great featured building for all student-athletes, but for football in particular," Cunningham said. "With their locker room right here, with all the coaches' offices, the lettermen's lounge and then the academic space up top, it's going to be a real showpiece for us."

In addition to the Case complex, Cunningham said that the bottom level of new apartments across the street from the stadium have new concession stands and restrooms that will be available on football game days. Construction projects are going on across campus, with a new grand entrance plaza being built and a performing arts center also in the works.

"I think there's a lot of enthusiasm for what's going on campus-wide," Cunningham said.

Cunningham said the new buildings all have a consistent architectural look and feel.

"That's why I like it. It all fits with everything else. There's not a university plan and an athletic plan. Everything is a university plan," Cunningham said.

Tulsa is only one year removed from the Conference USA championship -- its first league title in two decades -- and is coming off its first back-to-back bowl berths since 1964-65. Graham, who was the defensive coordinator on the conference championship team, was hired to replace Steve Kragthorpe as head coach in January.

He brought in offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn from Arkansas to run a fast-paced, no-huddle offense to complement his defense.

"I think we've got our philosophy -- the discipline, the passion, the enthusiasm of how we're going to do things -- across. We've got a long way to go, but I feel good about this football team," Graham said.

A cornerstone is senior quarterback Paul Smith, who Graham said "can really do some special things with the football in this offense."

Smith said Graham has already had an impact, molding together players he recruited in his two stints at Tulsa with ones he's just getting to know.

"The intensity level's higher, but it's got to be if we're trying to go win the conference and win a big bowl game again," Smith said.

Those are the kind of expectations Graham has at Tulsa.

"We want to be the hardest-working, most disciplined, best conditioned team in America," Graham said. "That's what we've got to do to win championships here."
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