By Dillan Straight
The revolving door that is the head coach of the University of Kansas football team keeps swinging. Head coach Turner Gill was relieved from his duties in November after a 2-10 season for the Jayhawks. After a brutal 24-10 loss in their final game against Missouri, a do-or-die win that might have caused KU fans to support Gill even if he lost every other game this season, there were high speculations around Lawrence that Gill was on his last hurrah.
The saddest part is how the entire organization still believes there is a competing chance for KU in the Big 12. As anyone who grew up watching KU and talking about how “prestigious” and “loaded” the ‘Hawks are well knows, not once was the term “football” thrown into that statement. Since 2007 and Mangino’s miraculous push to win the Orange Bowl on an arguably increda-weak cupcake schedule, the Hawks have been little more than basement dwellers of the Big 12.
Turner Gill never got his chance to show what was available. Sure he went 5-19 during his tenure and 1-16 in the conference, but what do you expect for a coach in his second year? Instant success? Ever since KU fans have been able to taste the fruits of bowl contention they rightfully believe that as a Division 1 school that they should be contenders. KU has never been a football-dominant school. The only thing KU football has dominated is the punch line for every Big 12 joke imaginable. KU has basketball. Hell, we’re rightfully the cradle of basketball where James Naismith coached! Not Chapel Hill, not Lexington, not Durham; Lawrence, Kan.
Gill walked into a program that, for his first year, had just lost a major portion of their top recruits thanks to the large impact that Mark Mangino left with throwing ‘bows on our players. Gill had to use those remaining leftovers of Mangino’s, including a better part of them decommitting due to the scandal, and shape a program in his first year. Gill brought in the most talented class of freshmen KU has ever received in his following year. But this is where Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger seemed to have different plans. KU let a great coach, and former player of a decade, walk because he faced what every single coach in any sport faces in their first years of coaching – it takes time to build a program.
Now Zenger is left with the ultimate task of cleaning shop on those left behind in the Lew Perkins era and hiring a coach. Seems easy right? Coaches are dropping like flies around the NCAA, just scoop up Mike Stoops, Mike Leach, or make a play at Chris Petersen because that man knows how to win. Not that simple, sadly. With Mangino still riding on $3 million worth of McDoubles, Gill set to earn 6 million in his, plus an embarrassing ticket scandal, Zenger has to find a way to pool money to even hire a coach. Yes, boosters and KU alumni will play a large part, but that still doesn’t help the look of the overall program. KU is once again reverting to old tricks, falling into their system of “good” coach to “hardcore” coach to “good” coach to “hardcore” coach and so-on that dates as far back as the post-Gayle Sayers era.
There is no doubt we’ll one day see Gill’s name again as head coach for some other program, coming in like he did with his long track record of turning over programs like the Buffalo Bulls. He’ll surely lie low as a QB coordinator for a team like Nebraska again, waiting for the call to move up and prove his determination. I wish you the best Gill, show what Kansas kicked to the curb after only allowing a year and a half of work. As any successful program’s athletic director will tell you, a coach has to work with those building blocks to make a finished project. You made the long term commitment Kansas, otherwise what more can you expect?
Contact Dillan Straight, sports editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.