Buffalo coach Turner Gill will be Kansas’ next football coach.
Gill, who emerged Saturday as KU athletic director Lew Perkins’ top choice after Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh took his name out of the running, won Perkins over with a detailed game plan for success that included commitments from two experienced and nationally respected coaches to serve as his coordinators, The Kansas City Star has learned.
Gill will bring with him Carl Torbush, formerly the head coach at North Carolina and currently the defensive coordinator at Mississippi State, to be his defensive coordinator and Chuck Long, formerly the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma and formerly the head coach at San Diego State, to be his offensive coordinator. Gill is also expected to bring two other former head coaches onto his staff at KU.
Gill, 47, realized that he could not simply bring his current coaching staff at Buffalo to Kansas, and his foresight in putting a new staff together was a difference-maker.
Gill is expected to be officially announced as the Jayhawks’ coach at a news conference Monday morning.
When Gill walks into the Anderson Family Football Complex with Perkins by his side and the flash bulbs going off, it will put an end to a four-week period that will forever change the Kansas football program.
It was on Monday, Nov. 16, that Perkins informed the Jayhawks that he had launched an investigation into then-KU coach Mark Mangino’s treatment of players. In the weeks that followed, Mangino’s former players spoke out against his disciplinary tactics and in defense of them. Meanwhile, on the field, the Jayhawks lost their last two games, finishing 5-7 after beginning the season as a favorite to win the Big 12 North.
On Thursday, Dec. 3, Mangino and Perkins agreed to a monetary settlement that allowed Mangino to resign without the results of KU’s investigation going public.
The next day, Perkins made contact with Buffalo about speaking with Gill, the former Nebraska quarterback and assistant coach who had a 20-30 record in four seasons leading the Bulls. Perkins would talk with many coaches about the opening, including Harbaugh, East Carolina coach Skip Holtz, Houston coach Kevin Sumlin, Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt, Minnesota coach Tim Brewster and Central Michigan coach Butch Jones.
The mutual interest KU received from Harbaugh and Nutt, along with an admission from former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville that he would like to be considered, showed that the Kansas job has moved up the pecking order during Mangino’s eight seasons in Lawrence.
By Thursday, Harbaugh, who became a hot name this fall after Stanford went 8-4 and beat Southern California and Notre Dame, had emerged as KU’s top choice. On Friday, after The Star reported Harbaugh’s standing with Kansas, numerous rumors circulated that he had agreed to a deal with KU. But on Saturday morning, Harbaugh released a statement calling himself a “Stanford man.”
“The reports of the last 24 hours are untrue,” Harbaugh said, “though I respect the University of Kansas and athletic director Lew Perkins.”
Hours later, news leaked out that Gill would be KU’s coach next fall. Gill, who led a formerly lowly Buffalo program to the 2008 Mid-American Conference championship, will inherit an unproven bunch of players. The Jayhawks lose program cornerstones quarterback Todd Reesing, running back Jake Sharp, wide receiver Kerry Meier, wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe and safety Darrell Stuckey. KU’s strength should be on the offensive line, where it will return all five starters.
Certainly, it will help Gill to have Torbush and Long. Torbush, 58, has constructed league-leading defenses in the Atlantic Coast and Southeastern conferences. Torbush was the defensive coordinator for 10 seasons under Mack Brown at North Carolina before taking over the program once Brown left for Texas. Torbush went 17-18 in three seasons as head coach, winning two bowl games. He also served as defensive coordinator under Dennis Franchione at Alabama and Texas A&M.
Long, 46, was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma from 2002-05, taking over for Mangino in that role. In 2004, he was a finalist for the Frank Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant. Long went just 9-27 as head coach at San Diego State from 2006-08. Long was a quarterback at Iowa and for the Detroit Lions and the Los Angeles Rams.
While Gill helped himself by bringing Torbush and Long, he was still hired based on his own credentials. Gill, born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas, is known as a dogged recruiter. He recruited the area when he coached Nebraska, and 11 players from Texas are on the current Buffalo roster. Convincing prep players to come to KU will be a much easier sell, especially considering Gill can tell them that his own daughter chose Kansas. One of Gill’s two daughters, Jordan, is a student at KU.
Gill could not be reached for comment. A call to Gill’s home in Buffalo was not answered.