Saturday, September 4, 2010

The family guy: Gill’s parents on hand for KU debut

New Kansas University coach Turner Gill watches the first half of the April 24 spring game at Memorial Stadium. A considerably larger crowd — featuring his parents — is expected today for his first real game as the Jayhawks’ head coach.

New Kansas University coach Turner Gill watches the first half of the April 24 spring game at Memorial Stadium. A considerably larger crowd — featuring his parents — is expected today for his first real game as the Jayhawks’ head coach.


As far as debuts go, this one figures to be a doozy.

Turner Gill era about to begin

Turner Gill will coach his first game as the head coach of the Jayhawks on Saturday. The Jayhawks have won six straight home openers and will look to continue the trend.

Sure, there’s the part about Kansas University football coach Turner Gill coaching his first game with the Jayhawks — 6 tonight vs. North Dakota State — the questions surrounding how this year’s group of players will fill the void left by some of the school’s all-time greats and the usual nerves, jitters and hype that always seem to surround the opening weekend of college football.

But compared with what’s happening for Gill and his family this weekend, that stuff seems secondary.

As Gill wakes up today to go over those final pregame preparations — from what he’ll do if KU wins the coin toss to how much he’ll blitz in the first quarter — his mother, Hattie, father, Turner Sr., and two sisters, Joyce Shelby and Jackie Washington, will be in the car on their way to Lawrence.

Gill, like most men driven by faith and family, is close with his mother and father, who still live in his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. However, the last time they were able to see him live on the football field came when he was a quarterback at Nebraska in the 1980s.

Fragile health and great distance kept Gill’s parents from making the trip to Buffalo during the last four years, and an ailing shoulder nearly kept them from making it today.

“We’re getting pretty old, and both of us kind of have a few (health) problems here and there,” said Hattie, 74, of her and her husband, who turned 80 on Thursday. “I’ve been having some problems with my left shoulder, but I had an MRI a couple of weeks ago, and I went to the doctor Monday, and he said my shoulder’s really just worn out. But he gave me a shot and some medication, enough for me to hopefully make it up to Kansas and back.”

So today, just as they did all those years ago, Hattie and Turner Sr. will hop in the car with Gill’s two sisters and head for Memorial Stadium.

Asked at Tuesday’s news conference if the opener meant anything more to Gill than, say, just another game along the way, he referred to the joy of being able to have his family in the stands.

“You never dream of that actually happening,” Gill said. “My mom and dad have never seen me coach as a head football coach or even as an assistant, and my mom and dad are going to be here. So that’s what probably makes it a little bit more special, my (oldest) daughter (Jordan) being here (with my wife, Gayle, and youngest daughter, Margaux) and then my mom and dad having a chance to be here, too.”

As he spoke about his family — taking a brief timeout from answering questions about alignments, starting lineups and gameday traditions — Gill’s eyes sparkled. By now, no further proof of Gill’s genuine nature seems necessary. But the water welling in his eyes provided it anyway. His emotion came as no surprise to his mother.

“I’m sure he was,” Hattie Gill said. “Because me and his daddy both have been kind of sick, and he knew that I was seeing the doctor on Monday. When I told him that the doctor released me and that I could come, that really helped him because he wanted us all to be there for his first game.”

As for football, that Tuesday morning on the final day of August represented a dramatic change of pace for Gill. As he walked into Mrkonic Auditorium at the Anderson Family Football Complex for his first weekly news conference of the season, dozens of reporters snapped to attention. The room grew quiet, cameras rolled, and it was time to hear about the week’s opponent for the first time.

The scene could not have been more different than what Gill had grown accustomed to but, by now, that’s barely noticeable. At the University of Buffalo, the turnout was small, the news conferences quick, the demand for a piece of the UB football coach’s time less.

Though the time of the weekly news conference is the same here as it was in Buffalo — noon every Tuesday — the interest seems to be a lot greater. In New York, the university ordered food for 15 each Tuesday, knowing that anywhere from 10-15 members of the media might show up. Here, the order is for 60, and the 100-seat auditorium is usually more than half full.

“From a media market perspective, you know, Buffalo’s larger (than Lawrence), but you also have the focus divided between the (NFL’s) Bills and (NHL’s) Sabres, and we’re not up there with what the Bills and Sabres get yet,” said Buffalo sports information director Paul Vechhio, who spent as much time as anyone with Gill during the past four years.

Though many challenges already have come his way — adjusting to a new town, spending months away from his family, taking nearly 100 new players under his wing and assembling an entirely new coaching staff for starters — the outcome of the next one will be the only one that matters.

Gill came to KU with an overall record of 20-30. Some critics rolled their eyes at the mark, dismissing it as not good enough for a spot in the blue-blood world of Big 12 coaching. But here, Gill is 0-0. A win tonight would make him just the third coach at Kansas (in a list of nine) to win an opener since 1971. Family or not, Big 12 or not, that is enough motivation to get Gill’s adrenaline going.

“Even as a coach, I still have that same excitement I did as a player,” he said. “I still have those little butterflies before the first snap.”

As for those close to him who will be in Lawrence for the first official step in Gill’s new journey, they’ll be chomping on finger nails, tapping their fingers and trying to calm their fidgeting feet.

“I guess we kind of are a little nervous,” Hattie said.


KU79 9 years, 5 months ago

Hope you enjoy your trip to Mt. Oread, Hattie and Turner Sr. -- and welcome to the Jayhawk family. We're excited about your son's debut and it's great you're coming to be a part of it. Rock Chalk!

KU_FanSince75 9 years, 5 months ago

Coach Gill, good luck today and, for the entire season! There are a lot of folks out there who think you and your team will not be successful. I think otherwise. There are so many motivational angles you can approach when you give your pre-game speech to the Jayhawk players. I hope you stay hungry and as always, Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

number1jayhawker 9 years, 5 months ago

Come on NJ, this article is about HCTG and his family. Don't drag your hatred for Lew into this.

On a side note, HCTG did talk with Bob Fescoe about the possibility of bringing his parents up to Lawrence, at least during the FB season.

KGphoto 9 years, 5 months ago

Perhaps they don't like flying. My grandparents didn't. Not at that age. They loved long drives, and you couldn't have pushed them into a plane if the earth was on fire.

At a glance, you're avatar looks like a Tiger logo. Coincidence?

FreddyinLA 9 years, 5 months ago

New coach, new system, new QB. Did the big guy leave the cupboards bare recruiting wise? Probably. Historically, KU needs an above average to great QB to be successful. Will Pick be that type of guy? I hope so. All adds up to a 4-8 record for me this year. Go ahead clones, pull out your best grade school chatter and light me up.

Larry Kampa 9 years, 5 months ago

Let's see, so our best RB is now an LB and our best WR is now our best RB. Maybe next week Gill will have Patterson at QB...Yeah, I can see how this plan is coming together. Nice take Freddy, but give the Rome reference a rest

Randy Bombardier 9 years, 5 months ago

Freddy, I sincerely believe that Pick may never put up Reesings numbers, but then he won't have to. I believe he will be a better QB. He can see the field and he can run like a deer. If he gets coached up as I am sure he will, this young man will turn heads and take KU on quite a ride. Regardless of how we do this year, KU will be a North Contender for the following two.

Brian Leiker 9 years, 5 months ago


Gill's father is deathly afraid of flying, otherwise this wouldn't be his first game to watch his son coach.

TRUEHEART 9 years, 5 months ago

is there any internet link to watch the football game?

Kip Reiserer 9 years, 5 months ago

Yes please help!! I really want to watch the game

Kenneth Hillman 9 years, 5 months ago

thanks mulaza, looks like that is a good link

Kenneth Hillman 9 years, 5 months ago

We look freakin awful. Are you kidding me? And I do have to say, terrible coaching. I will give them a chance but this is ridiculous.

Mangino_Maniac 9 years, 5 months ago

Unreal... I expected a transition with a new staff, new quarterback, etc, but this is terrible.

Timothy Todd 9 years, 5 months ago

Mr. Gill- Please take your son with you when you go home. Some things are not meant to be.

Kenneth Hillman 9 years, 5 months ago

Nice f'n start to the season. We look like $hit. We just lost to a 2A school, unreal. Contributions are gone!!

atexasjhawk 9 years, 5 months ago

Great f'ing job Gill. You are really proving to be worth that $2mil contract. It's probably a good thing that Lew is stepping down because he deserves to be fired for picking this gem.

Jack Wilson 9 years, 5 months ago

I said it then, I'll say it now .. the firing of Mangino was a witch-hunt and a huge mistake.

To go from an Orange Bowl victory to this embarrassment is really unbelievable.

Boy, I hope Selby can get eligible.

Dan Harris 9 years, 5 months ago

just because we lost doesn't change the fact that your a friggen A- H ole!!!

atexasjhawk 9 years, 5 months ago

You really ought to think about getting a life...

Dan Harris 9 years, 5 months ago

When do we start the season, this was just a scrimmage right?

Pitthawk34 9 years, 5 months ago

Looks like taking the names off the jerseys sure is working. This was the most pathetic effort I have seen in in college sports in years. There is no excuse for what we saw today. Fire Gill! Fire Gill!

flyingfinn 9 years, 5 months ago

Offense, pathetic..quarterback ..pathetic, running game ...pathetic, tight end play..pathetic, play calling ..pathetic, coaching staff ...pathetic.., one hopeful note the defense played their guts out......what do all you MM haters say now. KU football has taken ten steps back

kualuminohio 9 years, 5 months ago

Wow, listened to the last 1/4, what in the world... All the excitement all the hype, what do you say to this. I supported Mangino through last years mess. I moved on when he was let go and supported the move to Gill. This is unacceptable, what are we paying this guy, are you kidding me... Unbelievable...

okiedave 9 years, 5 months ago

The only positive about this game is that it can't get any worse. We have seen the bottom -- maybe the historical bottom. I am not going to give up on Gill. He played two quarterbacks who were obviously tight and inexperienced and NDSU has some good players.

I too felt that firing Mangino was a mistake, but that is not Gill's burden. Lighten up on Gill and give him a chance to get this thing turned around. I think he will. Just hope it is this year. I just don't think I can bear seeing 63 - 6 scores in the Big XII games.

d2psugrad 9 years, 5 months ago

Absolutely not acceptable! I was at PSU when they beat ND State to advance to a National Championship. I have lived in Kansas my entire life and supported KU. I had season tickets last year. I hated that the Mangino witch hunt went down the way it did. I have never been this ashamed of being a Jayhawk fan. Anything short of a bowl eligibility is unacceptable after Mangino built a solid program at Kansas. There is no excuse for losing to a D2 school. Good call Lew for running out the most successful coach in KU history! Does Gill's yard have a real estate sign in it yet? If they don't get to 6 wins, this staff should be fired solely on the merits of losing this game! Lets schedule Washburn for our opener next year.

d2psugrad 9 years, 5 months ago

ND State was a top notch D2 program in the day,but I am astonished that the hawks could look this bad. There were better athletes on the KU side of the football and we could not find the end zone? Much work to be done, but this black eye is justification enough for this staff to be on the hot seat.

Bad_Brad 9 years, 5 months ago

After tonight's showing, Gill's parents can have him back.

murph 9 years, 5 months ago

C'mon, people! Mangino left the cupboards barer than bare. Last year's debacle with him and the fiascoes produced by Lewie Lame Duck together don't make for fertile recruiting turf. Those of you talking about "historic low" surely have short memories. 20 years ago, this would've been looked at as a hopeful sign. Things HAVE definitely been worse in Memorial Stadium. I was there watching. I remember it well.

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