IRVING, Texas -- It took a long time for Turner Gill to finally get his deserved big break and land a head coaching job. He'd conquered his share of adversity and controversy throughout his career with grace and class, so it figured that when it seemed hardship was following him to Kansas that it would barely ruffle a feather on the first-year Jayhawks head coach.
A few months after the former all-state quarterback at Fort Worth Arlington Heights High School and Orange Bowl-winning quarterback at Nebraska hired at Kansas in December, Turner found himself waist deep in conference realignment madness that threatened Kansas' status in a BCS conference, a ticket scandal that rocked the university and then came the announcement that athletic director Lew Perkins, the man who hired Gill, plans to retire.
"I focus on the things that I can control," said Gill, who had lost out on head coaching jobs at Auburn and at his alma mater, where he spent most of his coaching career as an assistant, and was unwantingly thrust into the spotlight on the role race plays in hiring college football coaches. "Again, I'm passionate about trying to develop young men. That's what my purpose here on this earth is to do. That's what I love to do. Again, not just trying to get them to play well on the football field, but get them to play well in our society. Again, I knew things were going to fall into place, didn't know necessarily when. But, as long as I was going to be able to be coaching and teaching young men, that's all that mattered to me."
Gill takes over a program that unraveled last season under coach Mark Mangino, who successfully elevated the Jayhawks football program only to lose his job embroiled in controversy.
Gill began his coaching career as a volunteer assistant at North Texas in 1989. He also coached at SMU before returning to Nebraska in 1992, later being named the Huskers' assistant head coach. Buffalo gave him his first head coaching job in 2006 and he quickly turned a downtrodden, one-win program into a conference champion.
Now, he returns to his roots in facing the Texas schools he grew up watching as well as the old Big 8 teams he played against while quarterbacking the Huskers.
"We're just excited about getting this season started," Gill said.
In his hometown, where TCU is finally loading up the bandwagon, there might just be a few more Kansas flags flying on Saturdays this season.