Turner Gill

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Turner Gill
Turner Gill Introduction.jpg
Sport(s) Football
Current position
Title Head coach
Team Liberty
Conference Independent
Record 41–29
Biographical details
Born (1962-08-13) August 13, 1962 (age 56)
Fort Worth, Texas
Playing career
1980–1983 Nebraska
1984–1985 Montreal Concordes
Position(s) Quarterback
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1989 Nebraska (GA)
1990 North Texas (GA)
1991 SMU (WR)
1992–2002 Nebraska (QB)
2003 Nebraska (AHC)
2004 Nebraska (WR)
2005 Green Bay Packers (assistant)
2006–2009 Buffalo
2010–2011 Kansas
2012–present Liberty
Head coaching record
Overall 66–78
Bowls 0–1
Tournaments 1–1
Accomplishments and honors
1 MAC (2008)
2 MAC East Division (2007, 2008)
4 Big South Co-Champions (2012, 2013, 2014, 2016)
MAC Coach of the Year (2007)

Turner Hillery Gill (born August 13, 1962) is an American football coach and former player. He is currently the head football coach at Liberty University. Gill's previous coaching job was as the head coach at University of Kansas from 2010–2011, and at the University at Buffalo before that. He was one of 11 black head coaches in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision at the time of his hiring.[1]

Playing career[edit]


Gill graduated from Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth, Texas where he was an all-state, all-county and all-district quarterback for Coach Merlin Priddy. During his senior season, Gill was courted heavily by Nebraska, as well as arch-rival Oklahoma, and Texas. Nebraska won the spirited battle for Gill, in part because they would allow Turner to play baseball as well as football, but also because head coach Tom Osborne had managed to quell any rumors about Nebraska supposedly being reluctant to play an African-American at quarterback.

Gill arrived on campus in 1980 and saw limited action in mop-up duty as a freshman, which at the time was still relatively unusual, as freshmen had only been recently allowed under NCAA rules to participate at the varsity level.

Nebraska started the 1981 season poorly, losing two of its first three games and performing anemically on offense at times in all three. Gill had found himself third on the depth chart prior to the Huskers season opener, behind Mark Mauer and Nate Mason.

Down 3-0 to Auburn at halftime during the fourth game, with the season on the verge of slipping away, Osborne inserted Gill into the game. The Huskers pulled out a 17-3 victory, and Gill was given the starting job the following week. Behind Gill, the Huskers demolished Colorado 59-0, thus setting off an unbeaten run through the Big 8 conference, which Nebraska would win outright for the first time since 1971. During the season's penultimate game against Iowa State, however, Gill suffered what initially appeared to be an innocuous leg injury. Instead, doctors discovered nerve damage that sidelined him for the remainder of the 1981 season. Although the Huskers would beat Oklahoma without him, they were not able to overcome a stingy Clemson defense in the Orange Bowl, where a win may have given the Huskers a possible national championship.

Gill came back strong during 1982 and led the Huskers to a second consecutive outright Big 8 title and a 12-1 record overall, losing only a controversial game at eventual national champion Penn State in September. During that season, he suffered the first of many concussions in a game against Missouri that would ultimately shorten his playing career.

During his senior season, Turner would call the signals for one of the most prolific offenses in college football history, averaging 52 points and 401 rushing yards per game. Gill finished fourth in the voting for the 1983 Heisman Trophy, which was won by teammate Mike Rozier. The Huskers came within a whisker of a national championship, falling to the University of Miami, just one point short following a failed two-point conversion attempt in the 1984 Orange Bowl.

Overall, Gill finished with a 28-2 record in his three years as a starter, winning three consecutive outright Big Eight championships with a perfect 20-0 mark in conference play. Despite this, he was unable to lead the Huskers to a national title, falling agonizingly short in each of his three seasons.

College football statistics[edit]

Passing Rushing
1980 0 1 0.0 0 0 0 4 26 6.5 0
1981 47 91 51.6 619 9 4 76 263 3.5 3
1982 90 166 54.2 1,182 11 3 101 497 4.9 4
1983 94 170 55.3 1,516 14 4 109 531 4.9 11
Totals 231 428 54.0 3,317 34 11 290 1,317 4.5 18

Pro career[edit]

Gill bypassed the NFL and instead signed a lucrative contract with the Canadian Football League's Montreal Concordes. In two seasons with the Concordes, Gill had 727 pass attempts with 411 completions for 4,928 yards and 23 touchdowns to 24 interceptions. He also had 826 rushing yards on 173 carries and seven touchdowns. Gill was just beginning to reach his potential as a professional player when he suffered three concussions, two of them coming in back-to-back games against the BC Lions and Saskatchewan Roughriders. Although he managed to keep the starting job until September, post-concussion issues prompted him to undergo a large battery of neurological tests during the 1985-86 offseason. On May 21, 1986—two days after the start of training camp—doctors informed the renamed Alouettes that Gill's post-concussion problems were serious enough that he would never be medically cleared to play football again, ending his career at the age of 23. At the time Gill had one year plus an option remaining on a three-year contract reportedly worth CAN$1.2 million.[2]


Turner decided to return to baseball. A standout shortstop, Gill had been drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the second round of the 1980 MLB Draft at age 17 and again by the New York Yankees in the eighteenth round in 1983 at age 21. In college, he batted .284 in 48 games for Nebraska during the 1983 season.[citation needed] Gill was signed by the Cleveland Indians in May 1986 and spent three years in their organization (Gill played for the Class A Waterloo Indians in 1986 and the Class AA Williamsport Bills in 1987 and 1988) before deciding to quit professional sports as a player and return to football as a coach.

Coaching career[edit]

University of Nebraska[edit]

In 1989, Gill began his coaching career at the University of Nebraska, his alma mater, serving one year as a graduate assistant coach. After spending a season each at the University of North Texas and Southern Methodist University, Gill returned once again to Nebraska, where he coached quarterbacks from 1992–2003 and wide receivers in 2004. Gill served as position coach for two first team All-Americans, Tommie Frazier and Eric Crouch, with Crouch also earning the Heisman Trophy under Gill's tutelage. The Cornhuskers earned three national championships in Gill's time as an assistant there.

Green Bay Packers[edit]

In 2005, Gill was hired by the Green Bay Packers as Director of Player Development to help players become acclimated to playing professional football in Green Bay and to direct players to resources concerning community involvement, continuing education, financial management, and retirement planning. He also served as an assistant wide receivers coach and an offensive assistant coach through December 2005.

University at Buffalo[edit]

Gill agreed to a five-year contract to become the 23rd head football coach at the University at Buffalo on December 16, 2005. The Buffalo Bulls had gone 8-49 under previous coach Jim Hofher, and was considered "one of the three or four worst FBS programs in the nation when [Gill] took over."[3] Under Gill, the Bulls improved each of the first three seasons, winning the Mid-American Conference championship in 2008.


Turner Gill won two games in his first season with Buffalo compiling a 2–10 record. Despite its record Buffalo achieved some success. The team set a school record for most points in a season since moving to Division I, with 220. UB also scored the most points of any team in the MAC East Division and defeated an opponent (Kent State University) with a winning record for the first time since joining the MAC in 1999. Kent State had a 5-3 record at the time but ended the season 6-6.


Gill's Buffalo team finished 5–7 overall with a 5–3 record in the Mid-American Conference, the first winning conference record the squad had posted since joining the MAC in 1999. This was also the Bulls' first winning record at home since moving to Division I. The team finished third out of six schools in the Mid-American Conference East Division but shared co-division champion honors. Gill was named MAC Coach of the Year for 2007.[4]

Because of the great turnaround that Gill orchestrated in only his second season at Buffalo, he was one of two leading candidates to replace Bill Callahan as head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.[5] Bo Pelini was ultimately hired as the new Nebraska head coach.


In 2008, Gill's Buffalo team finished the regular season 7-5 and won the MAC's East division. On December 5, Buffalo played #12 Ball State in the MAC Championship Game at Ford Field in Detroit. Ball State was heavily favored, as it entered the game with a perfect 12-0 mark, while Buffalo came in off a home loss to Kent State that had ended a five-game winning streak. Buffalo scored two touchdowns on fumble returns and won the game 42-24, however, giving the school its first MAC championship. Following the victory, Buffalo accepted a bid to play in the International Bowl in nearby Toronto, marking the school's first bowl since joining the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision in 1999.[6]

The season also saw Buffalo break its all-time scoring record, having numerous players break school career and single-season records and saw UB earn national coverage, with five appearances on the ESPN family of networks as the Bulls were 4-0 in those contests. Four of Buffalo's five losses this season (Pittsburgh, Missouri, Western Michigan, and Central Michigan) came against teams that advanced to bowl games, with two of those teams ranked in the AP Top 25.

With Gill's success, he again became the focus of speculation about a move to a bigger program.[7] Gill interviewed at Syracuse University, where he was passed over for Doug Marrone, later the head coach for the NFL's Buffalo Bills.[8] Gill also interviewed for the head coaching position at Auburn University, losing out to Iowa State head coach Gene Chizik, who had a 5-19 record. On December 15, former NBA superstar and Auburn player Charles Barkley, who had endorsed Gill for the position, criticized Auburn's decision, saying "race was the No. 1 factor. You can say it's not about race, but you can't compare the two résumés and say [Chizik] deserved the job. Out of all the coaches they interviewed, Chizik probably had the worst résumé."[9]

The following day, December 16, Buffalo announced Gill had agreed to a contract extension and a raise,[10] with his contract running through 2013 and making him one of the highest-paid coaches in the MAC.


Buffalo went 5-7, ending Gill's track record of improving his team's win total each year.

University of Kansas[edit]

On December 13, 2009, Gill was announced as the new head coach of the University of Kansas football team,[11] replacing Mark Mangino, who resigned amid rumors and an investigation of questionable coaching practices. His daughter, Jordan Gill, was already a student at the University of Kansas, as well as an employee with the athletic department.[12] It marked his return to the Big 12 Conference after leaving his assistant coaching post at Nebraska after the 2004 season.


On September 4, 2010, Gill lost his Kansas debut at home to FCS school North Dakota State, 6-3. The following week, on September 11, 2010, Gill and the Jayhawks upset #15 Georgia Tech, 28-25, followed by a loss at Southern Mississippi the next week, 31-16, on September 17, 2010. The next week KU beat New Mexico State, 42-16. The Jayhawks then went on to lose the first four Big 12 conference games at Baylor, against K-State, against Texas A&M, and at Iowa State; during this period they were outscored 187 to 30. KU went on to win their first, and only, conference game of the year against Colorado, coming back from a 45-17 deficit in the fourth quarter by scoring 5 unanswered touchdowns. This was Kansas' last victory of the season, as they would lose to ranked teams at #8 Nebraska, against #10 Oklahoma State, and against #14 Missouri. Gill finished his first season at Kansas being outscored 413 to 198, the worst scoring difference since 2002. KU also finished in the bottom tenth of teams in both offense and defense.


The Jayhawks started the season 2-0, but finished on a 10-game losing streak. This included six of the most lopsided defeats in school history—66-24 to Georgia Tech, 70-28 to Oklahoma State, 47-17 to Oklahoma, 59-21 to Kansas State, 43-0 to Texas and 61-7 to Texas A&M. The Jayhawks ranked at or near the bottom of several FBS statistical categories. The Jayhawks were ranked, out of 120 FBS teams, 101st in passing yards, 95th in points scored, 120th in points allowed, 106th in total offense, and were outscored 525-238. These low numbers led to Gill being fired after only two seasons. He left Kansas with a 5-19 record.[13] During his tenure at Kansas, Gill had a 1-16 record against the Big 12; the one win against Colorado was also one of only two wins over an AQ team. His .208 winning percentage is the third-worst for a non-interim coach in school history.


Critics[who?] suggested that Gill's contract was unusually favorable, making him one of the highest paid coaches in the country,[14] earning $10 million, while winning only 5 games out of 24 at Kansas. Nonetheless, Gill was eligible for the full value of the remaining years on his contract when Kansas chose to fire him after his second season as head coach.[15]

The university owed coach Gill nearly $6 million, money that was due in just 120 days.[16] The university drew upon donations from boosters to help pay off the contract.

Liberty University[edit]

On December 15, 2011, Gill was announced as the new head coach at Liberty University as the replacement for departed head coach Danny Rocco.[17]

Gill's first team at Liberty dropped their first four games before rebounding to finish 6–5. That was enough to claim a share of the Big South championship along with Stony Brook and Coastal Carolina. In 2013, his team finished with a 8–4 season overall and a share of the Big South with Coastal Carolina. The team improved in 2014, finishing 9-5 and making the second round of the FCS playoffs.

Gill's teams during 2015 through 2017 have not fared as well, finishing 6-5 all three years. The team did finished atop the conference standings in 2016, its fourth conference title in five years. The 2017 team had its poorest finish to date under Gill, finishing fourth in its final year of FCS play; the team did, however, upset highly favored FBS program Baylor University in its opening game at Waco.

Head coaching record[edit]

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Buffalo Bulls (Mid-American Conference) (2006–2009)
2006 Buffalo 2–10 1–7 6th (East)
2007 Buffalo 5–7 5–3 T–1st (East)
2008 Buffalo 8–6 5–3 1st (East) L International
2009 Buffalo 5–7 3–5 5th (East)
Buffalo: 20–30 14–18
Kansas Jayhawks (Big 12 Conference) (2010–2011)
2010 Kansas 3–9 1–7 6th (North)
2011 Kansas 2–10 0–9 10th
Kansas: 5–19 1–16
Liberty Flames (Big South Conference) (2012–2017)
2012 Liberty 6–5 5–1 T–1st
2013 Liberty 8–4 4–1 T–1st
2014 Liberty 9–5 4–1 T–1st L FCS Playoffs Second Round
2015 Liberty 6–5 3–3 T–3rd
2016 Liberty 6–5 4–1 T–1st
2017 Liberty 6–5 2–3 4th
Liberty Flames (NCAA Division I FBS independent) (2018–present)
2018 Liberty 0–0
Liberty: 41–29 22–10
Total: 66–78
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth



  1. ^ "Black coaches in major college football". kansascity.com. 
  2. ^ Zurkowsky, Herb. Concussions end the career of Alouettes quarterback Gill. The Gazette, 1986-05-22.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-01-03. Retrieved 2009-12-15. 
  4. ^ "Gill named Coach of Year; eight players honored by MAC". buffalonews.com. 
  5. ^ "Speculation abounds that Gill or Pelini in line". journalstar.com. 
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/story/513997.html
  8. ^ http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/story/520760.html
  9. ^ "Lobbying for Gill, alum Barkley says Auburn should have hired black coach". ESPN. December 15, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-21. 
  10. ^ "Gill extended through 2013". ESPN. December 16, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-16. 
  11. ^ "Gill Named Head Football Coach At Kansas". kuathletics.com. Archived from the original on 2009-12-17. 
  12. ^ "Daughter of Buffalo's Gill recently began job with KU athletics department". KUsports.com. 
  13. ^ Mike Vernon (November 27, 2011). "Turner Gill fired after two seasons". University Daily Kansan. Archived from the original on April 7, 2012. 
  14. ^ "Gill making slightly less than Mangino". ESPN. January 2010. 
  15. ^ Matt Tait (October 21, 2010). "Contract favors Turner Gill". Lawrence Journal-World. 
  16. ^ Chris Oberholtz (November 28, 2011). "Boosters tapped to pay off KU Gill's contract". KCTV 5 News. 
  17. ^ Ubben, David (December 15, 2011). "Liberty hires Turner Gill as coach". ESPN.com. Retrieved December 15, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Turner Gill Records by Year". College Football Data Warehouse. Retrieved 2010-03-25. 

External links[edit]