by Doug Tucker
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP)—Kansas hopes that Turner Gill can do for the Jayhawks what he did for Nebraska.
As a smooth option quarterback in the early 1980s, Gill was the difference-maker for the Cornhuskers, helping free them from Oklahoma’s long domination and propelling Tom Osborne’s program to the top of the Big Eight.
Later as an assistant coach, he helped develop a Heisman-winning quarterback and was a key member of the staff that led Nebraska to the 1994 national championship.
Kansas made the hiring official on Sunday and formally introduced Gill as successor to Mark Mangino on Monday morning.
“I think Kansas has made a fine decision,” said Osborne, the Huskers’ former coach and current athletic director. “He will do a great job.”
Mangino, the most successful Kansas coach in 100 years, resigned under pressure Dec. 3 after a two-week investigation into alleged mistreatment of players. Just two years earlier, Mangino had been consensus national coach of the year following a 12-1 campaign and a victory in the Orange Bowl.
The 47-year-old Gill has experienced nothing but success everywhere he’s been. As head coach at Buffalo the past four years, he compiled a 20-30 record after inheriting a program with only 12 wins in the previous eight seasons. The Mid-American coach of the year in 2007 and 2008, he guided the Bulls to the MAC championship in 2008 and their first bowl game in half a century.
Gill is the first African-American coach Kansas has had in a revenue-producing sport and will be the only Black head football coach in the Big 12.
“I knew they were interested in him,” Osborne told The Associated Press on Sunday. “I had a short conversation with Lew Perkins about him.”
Perkins called Gill “a winner.”
“His accomplishments at Buffalo speak for themselves. But more than that, everyone I talked to about him, starting with Tom Osborne, had the highest praise for Turner as a coach and as a person.”
“He’ll represent Kansas very well,” Osborne said. “He has always been a success.”
There was a time when the mention of Gill’s name made Kansans wince. In his three years as Nebraska’s starting quarterback, the Huskers beat the down-and-out Jayhawks a combined 150-28—31-15 in 1981, 52-0 in ‘82 and 67-13 in ‘83.
“He was the great catalyst,” Osborne said. “He brought out the best in everybody. He was maybe the best combination runner and passer we’ve ever had. And he had great leadership skills. I think the world of him.”