The move had been widely anticipated after TU finished the year 2-10, its worst record since 2002.

“We are grateful for the service and commitment of Coach Blankenship to our university, our student-athletes and our community, but we have decided that the program needs to go in a different direction,” Gragg said.

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Blankenship was able to talk to his players for the final time. He said it was important to him to let them know he wasn't quitting on the team.

Gragg said his decision came down to the last two seasons.

"It's a bottom line business unfortunately in college athletics. And obviously it's about education; it's about what you instill in young men and young student athletes as a coach. At the end of the day, we're all held accountable for winning as well,” Gragg said.

Blankenship said, "I feel like we've done some things to improve the program. And certainly know the wins and losses are stacked up on the other side and we recognize that. But, I'm very thankful for the opportunity and walk out of here with a lot of pride."

A committee will be formed to begin the search for a new head coach.

Gragg said he's aware the salary will have to be increased significantly, but said TU has the money lined up to do that.

TU hired Blankenship on January 11, 2011, to replace Todd Graham, who left to take the University of Pittsburgh job.

Blankenship is a 1979 graduate of the University of Tulsa. He played quarterback for the Golden Hurricane and graduated with a degree in biology. He earned a master's degree from Northeastern State in 1985.

He was originally hired by TU in 2007 to coach wide receivers and also coached running backs in 2009.

Blankenship was a high school football coach for 22 years before joining TU. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Coaches Hall of Fame in July 2009.

He spent 14 years as the head coach and athletic director at Union High School, compiling a 154-26 record. His Union teams made the playoffs 14 times, reached the quarterfinals 10 times and made the state championship game seven times, winning three titles.