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Monday Rewind: Oklahoma State; Clock ticking on Turner Gill?
The way I see it, Kansas University football coach Turner Gill has two weeks to get things turned around before it really starts to get ugly.
That’s not a threat. That’s not me announcing some grass roots campaign to get rid of the guy or even suggesting that he should go. It’s closer to being a fact than anything else, and that’s the scary part.
Five games into his second season at Kansas, Gill’s honeymoon phase is finished. Although many have talked about how much they admire Gill as a person, a man, a friend and an ambassador for KU, the facts are the facts and Gill has lost the fan base. People are tired of watching KU take steps backwards. They’re even more tired of hearing the coaching staff tell them that they’re moving forward. Even if they are progressing — and in many ways I do think that’s the case — they’re not doing so in the most important place and that’s on the field.
People around here don’t ask for much when it comes to KU football. They want a team that’s competitive. They’d like to go to a bowl game every couple of years and they’d love to know that a season like 2007, in which KU went 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl, is possible every once in a while. What they’re seeing right now makes them wonder if they’ll ever witness a winning season again, let alone all those other treats.
I’m not advocating that anything be done. I’m old school in that way. I believe it takes time to change a culture and even more time to build a winner. Where I come from, popular opinion says that coaches should be given a fair chance to do both. But I realize it’s 2011, and fair only gets you so far. Is it a shame? Sure. Is it reality? You betcha.
So let’s get back to why I think Gill has two weeks to get things headed in the right direction.
By now, you all know that the Jayhawks were pounded at Oklahoma State on Saturday and could’ve been hit with 100 points if the Cowboys felt up to it. You also know that, in just five games this season, KU has set new lows for passing yards against in a single game (494 for OSU on Saturday) and rushing yards against in a single game (604 for Georgia Tech in Week 3). One way to look at it would be that it can only get better from here. That would be true if third-ranked Oklahoma weren’t coming to town on Saturday. But the mere thought of what the Sooners might do to the Jayhawks is frightening.
KU doesn’t have to win that game. We’re not even close to talking like that yet. But KU can’t give up 70 points and 600 yards while being run out of the stadium in the first quarter either. 55-35 works. 49-27 would be fine, too. 77-21 or anything along those lines spells trouble.
So, Step 1 for Gill and company is a better showing against the Sooners. More fight, more fire, better tackling and maybe even a little suspense. At least for the first couple of quarters.
Step 2 is much more important, and failure to deliver there won’t be greeted by a shrug of the shoulders and the sound of “Oh well, it’s basketball season anyway,” being uttered across campus.
In two weeks, Kansas State comes to town. The same Kansas State that drubbed the Jayhawks 59-7 a season ago. The same Kansas State that’s off to a 5-0 start this season. The same Kansas State that, if they bully the Jayhawks again, could make it really difficult for Gill to survive.
KU fans don’t like losing to anyone. Many were bummed and embarrassed after the loss to OSU and, if history repeats and OU routs KU, many will be equally as frustrated after that one, as well. But life will go on. And, by Tuesday or Wednesday, the game will have been forgotten. Not so with a loss to Kansas State. Those losses sting all year long because, around here, KU fans are neighbors with K-Staters and work with Wildcats. Losing to the purple people is personal for KU fans, not just because they’re so emotionally invested in the rivalry but also because the ramifications of a rough outing actually affect their daily lives.
It’s one thing to watch a team you root for get embarrassed. That stinks, but there are plenty of ways to get away from it and move past it. But it’s another thing entirely for your team’s embarrassment to directly impact your daily life. If KSU kicks Kansas the way the Cowboys did and Sooners might, all heck could break loose and I’m not sure it could be stopped.
Look at the facts. The natives already are getting restless. Two web sites devoted to getting rid of Gill have been created in less than two years. That’s full-fledged web sites, not just message board threads or Twitter posts. Counting all of those could take days.
You’ve got FireTurnerGill.com and fireturnergill.net. There’s a Facebook page that favors Gill’s dismissal that has 55 members. And there’s also a Twitter account — @FireTurnerGill — promoting the idea that has 32 followers. That one looks like it was started up on Sunday.
A better showing in the next couple of weeks can calm things down a bit, give Gill some breathing room and make these sites and pages seem a little silly, which is what they probably are.
More of the same, though, and we could be in for an interesting ride.
For those who may have forgotten, getting rid of Gill won’t be easy. After this season, he still has three years remaining on his $10 million contract — all guaranteed — and the KU athletic department simply is not in a position where it can write a check for that kind of money and say goodbye. Here’s a link to my column from last year that spells out the details. http://www2.kusports.com/news/2010/oc...
Knowing all that, the best solution for everyone is for Gill and his coaching staff to find a way to get things going in a more positive direction quickly. The players are playing hard and they haven’t given up. The coaching staff must capitalize on that. If that means trying new things, so be it. If that means spitting a little more fire, spit away.
But if it means more of the same, it could mean the end of Gill. Right or wrong.