Big 12: Lew Perkins

Big 12 coaches not fans of hasty Gill exit

November, 28, 2011
Turner Gill was fired by Kansas on Sunday with a 5-19 record and just a 1-16 record in Big 12 play, but his former peers in the Big 12 disagreed with the decision.

"I think it’s bad for our profession. Especially in the sport of football, with so many bodies and such a philosophy to build and all the development that takes place," Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said of Gill's dismissal after two seasons. "We’re in our third year here and we’re just now starting to see the physical differences needed to compete in that league."

Rhoads said his team got "physically whooped" in a 52-0 loss at Oklahoma last year. This year, the 26-6 result was much closer, and he credits his strength staff for beefing up both of his lines, something that can't be accomplished so quickly.

"That takes time to build that up," he said. "It’s bad for our profession, coaches getting two years and then being let go."

Part of the reason Gill didn't get an additional year or more to fulfill his five-year, $10 million contract was the man who hired him, Lew Perkins, had since retired amidst a ticket scandal and been replaced by Sheahon Zenger. Having a man in the administration willing to fight for Gill could have changed his fate.

"That’s very unusual. I’m glad I have (athletic director) Mike Alden here, so when we were building our program here at the beginning, I had somebody to stand up for me," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "I think there’s no way in the world you can build your program, a program that’s been down, and flip it that quick, or even have a chance to flip it that quick. I think it’s really disappointing."

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops admits every situation is different, but as a coach, he hoped the same principle persisted through every department.

"For all coaches, I wish that we’d all have more time," he said.

Texas coach Mack Brown, who is the nation's highest-paid coach at $5.1 million, says it's indicative of the changing landscape of college sports, and the importance of football programs within an athletic department.

"College football has become more like the NFL. There’s a tremendous amount of money involved. My salary, for example. The salaries that coaches are making now are so much more than before," Brown said. "Facilities, the arms race in facilities. We have 101,000 people that bring a whole lot of money to the city of Austin each weekend we play here. They bring a whole lot of money to the University of Texas."

Brown reminded that Gill was on the short list of up-and-coming coaches sought after by several programs only a few years ago, and a year removed from a MAC title at downtrodden Buffalo, ended up at Kansas.

"Turner Gill is a really good man, he’s a smart man, he’s a really good football coach or he couldn’t have won at Buffalo. He’s a guy that everybody in the country was talking about as being a great young coach, and I know absolutely, two years isn’t long enough to get a program turned around," Brown said. "I am a Turner Gill fan. I hate to see this happen to him and that staff. They had some really good coaches on that staff and I hope he can find a new place quickly, because he’s a guy that college football needs."
Kansas decided on Sunday that Jayhawks coach Turner Gill wasn't good enough to earn a third year on his five-year, $10 million contract.

For all the recent controversial firings across the Big 12, this one was anything but. Simply put: Gill was far from good enough to earn another season at Kansas.

Fans turned apathetic and losses occasionally strayed from being embarrassing to painful, but Gill's tenure provided little hope that better times were on the way.

The numbers reveal plenty. Gill won just one Big 12 game in 17 tries over two seasons. In that one win, the Jayhawks erased a 45-17 fourth-quarter deficit at home against the Big 12's second-worst team, Colorado, and Buffaloes coach Dan Hawkins was fired days later.

That's just not good enough.

Two years might not seem like a lot, but Gill didn't provide enough reason that he deserved more time. He didn't need to win more games to keep his job for 2012, but he needed to be competitive. Kansas didn't come close.

Making matters more difficult was that Gill was the sole stakeholder in his future. He was hired by athletic director Lew Perkins, who retired in September 2010 amid a ticket scandal. Perkins' replacement, Sheahon Zenger, had little reason to invest another season in Gill, and on Sunday made the call that Kansas fans were waiting for.

A program that won an Orange Bowl four years ago has been reduced to a Big 12 laughingstock, enduring six losses by at least 30 points during a 10-game losing streak that ended the 2011 season.

Only Kansas State scored fewer points in the Big 12 this year, but the Bill Snyder-coached Wildcats are 9-2 and beat Gill's Jayhawks 59-21.

Kansas ranked last in the FBS in total defense, giving up more than 516 yards per game and just fewer than 44 points per game to rank last in scoring defense, too.

Gill strategically redshirted almost his entire freshman class in 2010, electing to try to weather a difficult season in 2011 with a young, but more talented team.

It failed. Kansas was worse in 2011 than it was in 2010, and now, a new face will take over the talented youth that the Jayhawks have stocked on their roster.

There's no discounting Gill's character. He took criticism for banning players from Twitter and taking away their cellphones before games, but he's a man who truly cared about his players. They defended him throughout the struggles in 2011, but Gill's time at Kansas boiled down to one simple truth.

His team wasn't good enough.

Lunch links: A Big 12 second wind?

September, 9, 2011
I don't know if I can remember the last time this blog linked to a Matthew McConaughey video, but it needs to happen more often. All right, all right, all right.

Lunch links: Trash-talking Washington

December, 29, 2010
It's like they say, sometimes God closes a door, but sometimes he closes it so hard, you can't get your wife out.

No 'magical number' for struggling Jayhawks

November, 2, 2010
Kansas lost its 11th consecutive Big 12 game on Saturday, but the 28-16 loss at Iowa State was a noted improvement beyond 35-, 48- and 52-point beatings in the Jayhawks' first three conference games.

The big question in Lawrence is how long will it take to first end that streak and start taking steps back toward being a winning program, like in 2007 when the Jayhawks started conference play 7-0 and eventually won the Orange Bowl.

"Each coach, when you’re in a situation like this, you wish you had that magical number, but I know that we are making progress here, particularly in the last two ballgames," said Kansas coach Turner Gill. "I know sometimes the score doesn’t dictate that, but I think we’ve made some progress there."

It hasn't been easy for Kansas, which was riddled with injuries on the offensive line in the preseason, and is playing without one of its best defensive players, Huldon Tharp, who suffered a season-ending foot injury during fall camp. Kansas had to start third-string quarterback Quinn Mecham against Iowa State after injuries forced starter Jordan Webb and Kale Pick to the sideline.

The status of Webb and Pick for Saturday's game against Colorado is still in flux, and Gill said he didn't plan on announcing a starter until later in the week, when he had a better sense of each's health.

"We just gotta continue to get our guys to execute the things we need to do, and I think we will and I think we’ll continue to improve," Gill said. "That’s all you can ask yourself to do, is keep getting better as a football team and keep competing."

Complicating matters for Gill is an uneasy situation above his head in the athletic administrative office. Former athletic director Lew Perkins, who hired him in January, retired amid controversy in September, and plans to find his replacement are underway. Gill's focus remains on improving the Jayhawks' on-field product, and not on the possible prospect of impressing a new boss.

"Those are things that I have no control over. All I can do is go out here and teach and develop our players and do the best I can. That’s what I’m going to focus on. They hired me to do a job here and that’s what I’m ready to do. That’s what we’re going to do as a staff," Gill said. "We believe in what we’re trying to get accomplished and our style of coaching, our schemes and we’re still trying to mesh together our whole, what we have as a football team, trying to get the right players in the right place and again, I have confidence in the administration that whoever they end up hiring will give us a chance to build this winning program."

Lunch links: New face in Heisman race

September, 10, 2010
When I pulled my hamstring, I went to a misogynist.

Lunch links: No thanks, Heisman

September, 8, 2010
That's not a twist! That's a completely different movie about a talking dog scientist with the voice of Dolph Lundgren!

Lunch links: Big 12 in high demand

August, 16, 2010
First off, a lion? Swimming? In the ocean? Lions don't like water. If you'd placed it near a river or some sort of fresh water source, that might make sense. But you find yourself in the ocean, 20-foot waves -- I'm assuming off the coast of South Africa -- coming up against a full-grown, 800-pound tuna, with his 20 or 30 friends? You lose that battle. You lose that battle nine times out of 10.

Lunch links: Kansas AD says teams signed to stay

June, 18, 2010
I'm on the way to Omaha today for some more ESPN baseball duty, so the blog might be a little light early next week, but keep an eye on the ESPN College Sports page to keep track of me.

Can't blame KU's Perkins for stepping down

June, 11, 2010
Realignment news and unplanned travel kept me from getting to this Thursday, but Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins says after September 2011, he's done in Lawrence.

He announced the news in a meeting with Kansas Chancellor Berndette Gray-Little on Thursday, who maintained it was his decision.
"I have not asked him to retire, and I have not asked him to resign," Gray-Little said.

Perkins had a meeting with her Thursday at which she expected him to talk about Big 12 matters and conference realignment. Instead, she said, he told her of his plans to retire.

"I was not expecting this," she said. "I was surprised by it."


I don't know Perkins' exact reasons for retirement. But scrounging up a few guesses isn't a tasking ... task.

He's in the middle of a messy ticket scandal involving his signature basketball program. He's answering endless questions about a blackmail scandal, an investigation of which cleared him of any wrongdoing. He just fired a football coach after another messy scandal. He's getting rounds of golf interrupted by TV reporters asking if he's going to resign. He's breaking into tears during interviews and after the death of his sister, called this year the worst of his professional life. And now his entire university looks headed down the hallway toward joining a non-BCS conference.

All of that is outside of his normal job duties.

He's 65 years old. He's been in college athletics for almost half a century. He's headed major programs at Maryland, Connecticut and now Kansas, winning a couple of national titles along the way. There's not a lot left for him to accomplish.

He deserves some blame in those scandals concerning his program. I can't say how much. It looks like he doesn't want to wait and find out.

I can't say I blame him.

Lunch links: Red carpet for Big Red

June, 10, 2010

Kansas, Baylor campaigning for status quo

June, 8, 2010
Kansas and Baylor aren't naive. Both schools are well aware that conference realignment could mean bad news for their universities and athletic programs.

So, imagine this, they're trying to do something about it.

Kansas chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little swallowed some pride and pleaded with Nebraska on Monday to help keep the Big 12 together. She plans to do the same to rival Missouri and chancellor Brady Deaton.
"I have not finished my conversations for the day. I intend if not today in the next two days to talk to the presidents and chancellors of other institutions as well," [Gray-Little] said.

Led by athletic director Lew Perkins, Kansas is working to put together alternative plans in case the Big 12 does dissolve.

"We want the Big 12 to continue," Gray-Little said. "But because any one or more of these things could happen, part of our discussion also is what would be the next plan for us. I don't have any specifics to give you at this point, but that has to be part of our thinking. If the efforts to keep the Big 12 in fact do not work out, what alternatives will there be for us or K-State and the other universities that might not be part of some new organization?"

Baylor's taken a less direct approach, but new president Kenneth Starr held a press conference in Waco on Monday afternoon to champion the Bears' cause. What's that? You can't make it in time? No worries, there's a teleconference 40 minutes later! E-mails unearthed by the Dallas Morning News make it clear Starr isn't working alone in helping Baylor be a player in any realignment happenings.

Wrote Baylor regent Buddy Jones late last week to a number of unidentified recipients:
We cannot let the other schools in Texas (A&M, U.T., Tech) leave the Big XII WITHOUT BAYLOR BEING INCLUDED IN THE PACKAGE. Long and short – if U.T., A&M and Tech demand that any move to any other conference include ALL TEXAS BASED TEAMS from the Big XII, we are golden. We need to be in a PACKAGE DEAL!
He later implores the recipients to contact a number of administrators, former and present, to follow his lead and deliver a message on behalf of the university: Don't leave behind the history and traditions and split up the schools in Texas that have been long bound together.

The next day, he wrote:

Just an update. It appears the entire Big XII axis turns on what Nebraska will do viz a viz the Big 10. It's hard enough get the home teams to stick tight . But harder still to influence a bunch of corn shuckers.

Thanks for all you are doing.
Have to say I'm pretty impressed with both schools' efforts. They're not hiding their vulnerability and they've directed their pleas pretty well. The Pac-10 isn't going to listen to Baylor. The Pac-10 will listen to Texas. Even if the Pac-10 doesn't want the Bears, and recent reports indicate that's the case, they're pushing the right buttons to make it happen. Texas insisting Baylor be included could blow the whole thing, but if that happens, the Bears might end up getting what they wanted all along, based on Starr's comments: To stay in the Big 12 with all their Texan friends.

Playing both sides--trying to keep the Big 12 together while campaigning for inclusion over Colorado into the Pac-10--may look unfavorable in some lights, but Baylor's not doing anything different than the rest of the Texas schools are doing, as I wrote yesterday. They want the Big 12 to stay together. But if it doesnt, for whatever reason, they're making sure it doesn't have serious, negative consequences to their program.

"Let me make our perspective clear: Baylor emphatically supports the Big 12," Starr wrote in an editorial in Monday's Waco Tribune. "We are proud of our role in the conference, and we want to see it prosper. In particular, we appreciate our fellow Texas institutions in the Big 12 and the special rivalries that entertain and energize our alumni. We remain hopeful that the Big 12 will remain intact and continue to be one of the nation's foremost athletic conferences."

Lunch links: Nightmare on Elm Street?

June, 3, 2010
My apologies, but we won't have a chat this week. Too much activity in Kansas City.

Lunch links: Memorial Day Weekend edition

June, 1, 2010
Long weekend means long links post. Perhaps record-breaking? I'll try to get the fine people at Guinness on the phone later this afternoon.

Here's what you missed over the three-day weekend:

Lunch links: Sooners drafting for spring game

April, 14, 2010