Kansas coach Turner Gill talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 43-0 loss to Texas on Oct. 29, 2011.
Austin, Texas For the second time in three years, a Kansas University football coach sitting on the hottest seat in college football came into Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium with his reeling team.
At least Mark Mangino had just one more game after leaving Austin with a six-game losing streak. Turner Gill, in the second year of a five-year, $10 million contract, had four games remaining when he walked off the field with a six-game losing streak Saturday, the scoreboard showing Texas 43, Kansas 0.
Both plank-walkings have had messy, sad sides to them. In the case of Mangino, who just two years earlier had coached his team to a 12-1 record and an Orange Bowl title, it was sad to see him as the object of an investigation launched by his boss, Lew Perkins, into his treatment of players. This gave former players, in some cases looking for someone to blame for their poor college careers, a chance to come forward and damage Mangino’s chances of landing another coaching job. The coach’s famous temper armed them with material they had held onto for years.
Turner Gill, hired to fix something that wasn’t broken and paid like a proven big-time winner to do it, has damaged his resume by sending ill-prepared, under-motivated teams to slaughter week after week.
Most weeks, the defense and special teams, in that order, have been the chief culprits. In Saturday’s 43-0 loss to Texas, the offense was on the wrong end of domination.
Gill’s efforts to put a positive spin on the blowouts during his weekly Tuesday news conferences have had a surreal quality to them. Did he really think he was swaying opinions backed by scoreboards by reciting statistics?
Gill’s halftime speeches, snippets of which the athletic department captures on video and shares with the public, always feature him talking loudly in clichés and lacking insight or specific adjustments. The alarming lack of specificity raises the question of whether his words arm the players with anything they can take back onto the field. The players have responded to the macro-and-cheese talks by getting outscored 87-7 in the third quarter in the past six games.
On Saturday, the third was KU’s best quarter, with Texas winning it 7-0. Long before that, the Longhorns’ dominance had sealed the outcome.
The beatings at the hands of Texas are an annual affair now. The Big 12’s contraction to 10 teams meant KU had to play six games, not three, against South schools, poor timing for Gill in his effort to inspire a young team to hang with faster, bigger, more experienced athletes.
He’s not whining about it, and, of course, said he believes Kansas can recruit enough talent to hang with Big 12 powerhouses armed with geographic advantages.
“I feel confident about it,” he said after Saturday’s game. “(When) I came here to accept the job, it was 12 teams, but that didn’t really matter. I felt we as a staff could come out and compete well even this year and in upcoming years. We just want to continue to compete and get better. I know it’s going to take a little time.”
KU, of course, hasn’t been competitive yet under Gill (5-15 overall, 1-12 in the Big 12, 1-1 vs. FCS schools).
All 14 of his losses to FBS foes have been by double digits, with an average margin of defeat of 32 points. Saturday’s was the fifth by 42 points or greater. The beatings apparently haven’t changed Gill’s long-term expectations.
“I feel very confident that we can go out and get some people and continue to improve this football program to eventually win championships,” Gill said.
Barring a miraculous finish to his second season, he’ll never get the chance.
KU paid Mangino $3 million to go away. Gill has $6 million coming after Dec. 31 of this year, and his assistants, signed through June 2013, are guaranteed $2.8 million combined.
Those bleak numbers in the ledgers and the various record-breaking figures that scream failure week after week have spawned a guessing game that those who care about KU football find far more compelling than the games: What hero or heroes will step up and finance the buyout of the football coach and the portion of his staff that his successor doesn’t want to keep?
Another question of interest to KU football fans: Would available former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach prefer to work at Arizona or Kansas?