Jayhawks welcome Gill as new coach
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The Turner Gill era kicked off at Kansas with a promise that fans will never forget.
“I’ve been asked if I’m taking this job to get to another program. The answer to that is a very decisive ‘no,”‘ Gill, a former Nebraska quarterback and Buffalo head coach, said Monday at a packed news conference.
“I’m not coming here to use it as a stepping stone to a football dynasty, but rather to create a football dynasty here at KU. I hope to be here 15 or 20 years because if I’m here 15 or 20 years, that will mean we have done well.”
Gill wasted no time in adding some experience to his staff: He said Carl Torbush was leaving as Mississippi State defensive coordinator to join the Jayhawks in a similar capacity. In addition, former San Diego State head coach Chuck Long will be Kansas’ offensive coordinator.
The 47-year-old Gill was 20-30 in four seasons after taking over a Buffalo program that for years had been nothing but a bottom feeder – not unlike the Jayhawks during most of the past 40 years in the Big Eight/Big 12.
But he quickly built the Bulls into conference contenders and was MAC coach of the year in 2007 and ’08, continuing a lifetime of success which included a brilliant career as a Nebraska quarterback and assistant coach.
“I’m a competitor. I love to win,” Gill said. “I’ve been blessed and had opportunities where I’ve been successful just about everywhere I’ve been. I hope that happens here at the University of Kansas.”
In personality and demeanor, Gill seems the polar opposite of Mark Mangino, his prickly predecessor who resigned under pressure after an internal investigation into allegations of mistreatment of players.
“As we looked for a head coach, there was no question I wanted someone who was extremely positive,” said athletic director Lew Perkins. “He has every possible ingredient that I felt we needed at this particular time at this university.”
As a great option quarterback in 1981-83, Gill helped boost Nebraska to the top of the Big Eight Conference, breaking a long Oklahoma domination. He was also an assistant on Tom Osborne’s staff when the Huskers won three national championships in 1994, ’95 and ’07. He interviewed for the Nebraska job two years ago when Bo Pelini was hired.
He laughed when asked what emotions he might feel next fall when his Jayhawks take the field at Nebraska.
“It’s not going to be about me,” he said. “It’s going to be about our football team and our players. Going out and executing to the best of our abilities. Once the game starts, we’re going to be focused on representing KU.”
As Nebraska’s starting quarterback, Gill pounded Kansas three years in a row, outscoring the lowly Jayhawks a combined 150-28. But the program is much stronger now than it was 25 years ago with better facilities and stronger fan support. In addition, he inherits a talented team that is, however, losing senior Todd Reesing, the most prolific passer in Kansas history.
“There are a lot of good football players here,” he said. “Next year our goal will be to win the North (division) and win the Big 12. I know I’m not in a program where we’re starting at the bottom trying to work our way up. We’re right there just below the top.”
Gill seemed to have already won over the players who stood in the back of the room.
“He’s a player’s coach,” said defensive back Chris Harris. “He’s going to have a deep relationship with us, which is something we really haven’t had. That will be a big key because we will be able to trust our coach a lot more. That’s one thing that stands out a lot.”
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