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The end of the Gill era

THANK YOU COACH GILL!

"Our football staff will help him (Warde Manuel) to deliver that excitement to Western New York, the rest of New York State, and hopefully, the rest of the country." -- Turner Gill 12/16/2005

When he promised this at his first press conference as a UB head coach nobody could have imagined just how on the ball his statement was. Turner Gill is the first UB coach since the mid 60's to achieve success at the highest levels of college football. In every possible measure UB football is better off now than it was after the 2005 season.
  • His 20 wins (over four years) is only eclipsed if you go back ten seasons before his arrival (back to the days when UB was a Division IA School).
  • Assuming Starks And Roosevelt are drafted this season Gill will have put four players in the NFL via the draft, this is nearly 30% of all Buffalo players, ever, drafted.
  • In 2005, the year before Gills Arrival, the average Attendance at UB games was 8,900 fans. This past season the attendance was just short of sixteen thousand (an improvement of about 80%).
Then there are the intangible improvements The last time I was in Buffalo I stopped by the campus to get my kids a sweatshirt and unlike the 90's I saw more UB gear on sale, and on students, than there was for other colleges. I remember going to a UB where you were more likely to see a Syracuse or Notre Dame sweater than a UB sweater.

How may recruits now give UB a good look instead of an amused look? how many more Buffalo Expats (like myself) now follow UB with more earnestness than when they were campus dwellers? These things don't show up in the NCAA record book or in an athletics department report but they are huge in terms of campus life.

So much of what Gill did to accomplish this was through pure force of personality and the leadership skills he honed under coach Osborne at Nebraska. As much as Turner Gill knows football he is not merely an X's and O's coach.

Gill has an eye for where he can get the most out of each player (then tight End Trevor Scott is now a defensive End for the Oakland Raiders) and he has an ability to help players get the most out of their experience in college football.
"Guys didn't really understand what it was like to be on a well-regimented team and coach Gill came in and playing under coach Osborne, he really brought in those values and the importance of school and education. He told us that we shouldn't be used by the program, and we should get our degree. He made us focus on the big picture and not just football which was nice because then we didn't have any problems with eligibility and stuff like that." -- Former UB Player Chris Callahan
People who spend time watching Gill lead become fans of him and not just the team he coaches. ubfan.com is teeming with Nebraska fans, and I am sure there will be more than a few UB fans signing up for accounts on KU bulletin boards in the coming days.

For those fans on Kansas boards who seem disappointed that you were unable to pry Harbaugh from Stanford you have no idea what you're in for! I seriously doubt that you will be disappointed after seeing Turner Gill in action over the next few years. If anyone can build a football tradition at a basketball school it's someone like Gill.
"Coach Gill is very inspirational. If you ever needed to talk with him, he would always be there for you. He would call you out, not in a bad way but in a good way. Like he would say, 'All right Ray, I am watching you this play, what are you going to do for me.' He always had positive things to say and we always got better. He never lost his temper and never went crazy and a lot of guys like that because a lot of players get down when coaches get in your face." -- Former UB Player Ray Norell
Turner Gill will always be a part of Buffalo Football, for my money his name is right up there with Dick Offenhamer. Sadly he did not stay around as long as Offenhamer but the stamp he is leaving on this program will be a lasting one.

So where does the program go from here? Certainly the men with an inside track would be either Danny Barrett or Fred Reed. But one of the most telling signs of how far Gill and Manuel have taken the program is that there are other options out there. Assistant's from other mid majors, or perhaps even from BCS Schools, and Successful FCS head coaches, should be much more receptive to a call from Manuel than the last time he had to look for a coach.

Hopefully Manuel can handle the hunt at UB with more tact and care than the mess at KU. Then again he is the guy that found Gill in the first place.