If there were a Richter scale for first-year coaching disasters, where Steve Kragthorpe or Mike Locksley rated a 10.0 and, say, Larry Coker a 0.0, the coaching seismometer would be gauging Turner Gill 's first season at Kansas as a solid 9.7 ... with it only missing out on the perfect 10 due to the Jayhawks' increasingly inexplicable Week 2 upset of Georgia Tech .
The rest of Gill's "results" to date? A touchdownless season-opening loss to FCS North Dakota State (after which the Bison's head coach suggested the Missouri Valley Conference would be too tough for KU), a non-competitive loss at C-USA's Southern Miss , and now back-to-back Big 12 losses (to Baylor and Kansas State , not exactly the league's heavyweights) by a combined 100 points. This debut campaign hasn't just been a red flag regarding Gill's long-term success at Kansas, it's been a giant red banner covering all of Lawrence like the orange draperies in that AT&T commercial that has Nick Drake spinning in his grave . (Ahem.)
But even if Gill's days at KU already look numbered, even instant fired-men-walking like Kragthorpe and Locksley got a second year. Surely, surely, Kansas wouldn't humiliate Gill -- one of the profession's truly nice guys, by virtually all accounts -- by pink-slipping him after just one season. But Omaha World-Herald columnist Lee Barfknecht says that nothing for Gill is guaranteed :
[Firing Gill] will be discussed — and I mean by KU decision-makers — for two reasons.That seems like three reasons rather than two, but you get the point. It's a long-held assumption that football players will deal with a "Victorian Era" approach to discipline like Gill's as long as it seems to be paying off in wins. If it's not, morale can go south in a hurry ... and though we're wading pretty deeply into rank speculation at this point, the Jayhawks' "effort" in the Baylor and Kansas State losses has to beg the question of whether Kansas's players are still buying what Gill is selling. If the new KU A.D. discovers that program morale is already past the point of no return, a first-year firing could be within the realm of plausibility.
First, the topic is on the table after consecutive losses [to Baylor and K-State] ... The Jayhawks looked woefully ill-prepared and showed little effort in both games. Plus, Gill's postgame interviews were filled with long pauses and no concrete answers.
Second, Kansas is searching for a new athletic director. As abhorrent as it might seem, it is possible for those in charge to decide Gill's hiring was a mistake, end his term in November and allow the new A.D. to pick his own coach.
That is a bone-chilling scenario, but unfortunately it can't be dismissed.
Gill is getting pummeled nationally for his Victorian Era rules of no cell phones for players the 24 hours before a game and no female companionship after 10 p.m. every day.
That said, it remains extremely unlikely for a whole host of more convincing reasons than the "fire him now" reasons above. There's the inevitable public relations hit from pulling the trigger on a first-year coach (and an African-American coach at that, it has to be noted); the simple fact that Gill could turn things around, and by not doing anything to embarrass the program off the field a la former head coach/deplorable bully Mark Mangino , it's fair to say he's earned that chance; and perhaps most persuasively of all, there's Kansas's potential inability to buy Gill out of his contract this soon. After this year's $3 million ticket-scalping scandal, the $2 million to buy out disgraced former athletic director Lew Perkins (not to mention the millions spent paying Perkins' exorbitant salary ), and the cost of hiring a new A.D., the Jayhawk coffers can't exactly be overflowing in the current economy.
So if Gill doesn't wind up on the Kansas sidelines in 2011, it'll still be something of a shock. But that the plugged-in likes of Barfknecht can even suggest that he might not -- and that that suggestion has to be taken seriously -- should offer some indication of just how rocky things have already gotten for Gill in Lawrence.
HT: EDSBS .