Bob Lutz

Perkins' legacy now tied to Gill

Maybe it does mean a lot to have a daughter who is a student at Kansas.

I always thought that detail was strange to include whenever Turner Gill's name was mentioned as the possible replacement for Mark Mangino as KU's football coach.

"Gill has a daughter, Jordan, who is a student at Kansas." It was in every story.

Great, he has a daughter at KU. So what?

So what, indeed.

Gill, the first name on the radar following Mangino's resignation 10 days ago, is the new coach at Kansas. He comes from Buffalo, where he was 20-30 in four seasons.

If Lew Perkins' intent was to hire a can't-miss, home-run kind of coach, he has failed. Gill could be a huge miss.

But given that so much of Perkins' legacy as KU's athletic director rides on this hire, it's difficult to believe he didn't do his homework, check it twice and convince himself, at least, that Gill is a great coach just waiting for the right venue.

His record at Buffalo isn't much to look at, but there are beneath-the-surface reasons. The Bills won 12 games in their first eight seasons as a Division I football school. Under that light, 20 wins in four seasons looks like almost miraculous.

Gill, not surprisingly because of his 28-2 record as the starting quarterback at Nebraska (1981-83), thinks offense first. Last season, Buffalo averaged 30 points per game, went 8-6 and played in its first bowl game, losing to Connecticut 38-20 in the International Bowl.

But instead of building on that record in 2009, the Bulls slipped back to 5-7 and weren't a factor in the Mid-American Conference.

Gill's hiring at KU offers tons of intrigue, given his Nebraska background (he was an assistant with the Huskers under Tom Osborne, Frank Solich and Bill Callahan) and his Texas upbringing.

He fits the Big 12 like a glove. But I can't get it out of my head that Nebraska's Osborne, the point man in hiring Callahan's replacement following the 2007 season, bypassed Gill in favor of Bo Pelini.

True, Gill had been at Buffalo only two years at that point and hadn't yet had the 8-6 bowl season. Still, isn't it strange that Gill winds up in Lawrence instead of Lincoln?

What does Perkins see?

Names like Jim Harbaugh, Houston Nutt, Tommy Tuberville, Phil Fulmer and Randy Edsall were mentioned for the Kansas opening in recent days. All would have made a bigger splash than Gill.

Perkins is nothing if not decisive. It appears that while reporters, columnists and fans were reluctant to take Gill's potential candidacy seriously, Perkins had his eyes on the 47-year-old all along.

It will be interesting to see how much money Kansas will pay Gill. Mangino was one of the 16 highest-paid coaches in the country, according to USA Today, making $2.3 million annually.

Gill, even after a substantial raise a year ago, was making just more than $400,000 at Buffalo.

I expected Perkins to go for a bigger name, and perhaps he did. UConn's Edsall, hired by Perkins 11 years ago to take on a monumental job with the Huskies, would have made sense. Except for one thing: He's an East-Coast guy who has never had to rely on convincing players in Big 12 country, and particularly in Texas, to sign on the dotted line.

Gill has 11 players from Texas on his roster at Buffalo. If he can convince Lone Star football players to go to one of the coldest places in America, it bodes well for how he'll recruit at Kansas.

Gill's already has lots of experience as a Big 12 recruiter from his days at Nebraska. He was rated as one of the top 100 recruiters in the country by ESPN.com in 2000 and 2001. While with the Huskers, he tutored quarterbacks Tommie Frazier, Jamaal Lord and 2001 Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch.

This guy has credentials as a player, an assistant and as a head coach. So why aren't I more excited about his chances at Kansas?

I can't shake the feeling that if Gill was going to be a big-time head coach, he would be one already. It's a big jump from Buffalo to the Big 12 and I still wonder why, if Gill's all that, he was shunned by his former coach when the Nebraska coaching job was open.

We can argue all day about whether or not Mangino should have been fired, or resigned, or whatever KU's administration wants to call it. But we can't deny the job he did to make the Jayhawks viable in one of the nation's toughest conferences.

Gill, by all accounts, is a charming man with integrity. Kansas fans, I hope, are ready to give him a chance. I think they are. His sound bytes will be impressive. With every one of his words, excitement will build.

That's how it always is with new coaches.

Gill has something to live up to at Kansas that Mangino never did. He won't have to build this program from the ground up, the way he has at Buffalo.

That might be a blessing. And it might not.

Meanwhile, there's at least one person at Kansas who is thrilled with this coaching hire. Gill's daughter. Let's hope it works out for both.

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