Sometimes the fit is too good to be true. Although, sometimes you have to test yourself.
The Liberty Flames hired the perfect coach on December 15, 2011. A coach that took a program that was consistently in the bottom of the barrel at UB and changed a program. Pre-Gill on and off the Buffalo campus you would see nothing but Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State, and back in the day Miami gear. Go out to any mall or location and maybe you would find someone with a UB hat or sweatshirt on. In 1999 UB joined the MAC and before Gill took over UB had the second-worst FBS record in all of D-1 and the team went 10-69 in its first seven years.
The first year for Gill was rough with a 2-10 record with only one of the wins against a MAC foe. Gill's second year at the helm was a marked improvement: a 5-7 record, but all the wins were against MAC teams and the Bulls tied for the MAC East. The magical third season for the Bulls and the reason why this article is written: The Bulls end up at 8-6, 5-3 in the MAC, winning the MAC East. They play in their only MAC Championship against #12 ranked Ball State. If you have not seen this game, get a copy. It embodied everything the Bulls were under Gill. Key turnovers (5), many turned into points, an instoppable Roosevelt, and timely defense. The Bulls beat Ball State 42-24.
As a grown man, this interview brought tears to my eyes;
Buffalo also went to its first ever Bowl Game, fifty years after the Bulls were invited to the Tangerine Bowl. The team turned down the chance fifty years ago when the team was informed black players would not be allowed to play. This also thrust Turner Gill in the spotlight. A black head coach took a team that has been the dead end for coaches and everyone's homecoming game to a bowl game. I believe Turner was one of three black head coaches in FBS at the time.
After the bowl appearance it seem like every day Gill was pegged for a P5 position. We know he just lost out on Nebraska. This was tough for Turner as Lincoln, the home of his brilliance on & off the field, was not in the cards. Up next was a serious run by Auburn. None of the positions initially panned out and Gill returned to the sidelines for the 2009 season. This was a big let down and was compounded by the fact that UB lost running back James Starks to a torn labrum in preseason for the entire year. Also Buffalo was breaking in new QB Zach Maynard, who was supposed to get help from Starks.
Even with the tough season, Turner was still a hot name on the coaches carousel. Turner was tapped by Kansas but was given only two seasons in Lawrence, but even with a combined record of 5-19 and only one win in conference it did not take Turner long to find a home. A deeply religious man, Turner found a home at Liberty University. Just like he had in Buffalo, Turner won in his third season and now has a record of 22-13 at the school. The Flames have an upcoming playoff game against #15 James Madison. Turner in his third season with a back up QB took Liberty to it's first ever FBS playoffs. Sound familiar?
Why would UB want Turner back? First, the media would eat up the story. The prodigal son returns back to Buffalo. Not because he had to but because he wanted to. Turner without looking over his bank account is financially sound after the nice payout at Kansas. Turner can recruit and is the perfect face for UB football. He fits into Danny White's MO as hiring a coach who has excelled in athletics. The real reason that you bring Turner back is he can connect with young men and get the most from them. Most importantly Turner had a very loyal coaching staff. A coaching staff that also can recruit and put the best players in a position to succeed.
I started this article stating people need to test themselves. The only way Turner comes back if he feels any unfinished business in Buffalo. Or if his ego really wants to get back to P5 or NFL. Turner may have to prove himself a couple more years at Liberty before getting a FBS position. Buffalo could be the quickest road once again to higher programs.
Do I ever see Turner coming back to Buffalo? No. Turner and his staff, many he brought from Buffalo, seemed to find a great place to live, play, work, and raise families. I'm not saying Turner could ever be tempted. It would have to be a very good fit. I do not think Buffalo is that big of a jump for Turner. In fact, Liberty has repeatedly stated they are jumping to FBS. If that plan was ever delayed, than UB would be a consideration. Secondly, Turner would possibly have to take a pay cut to come to UB. The speculation is Turner is in the $400-$450K neighborhood right now which could be a $100K less than what maybe offered.
As much as I would love to see Turner, Coach Stamn, Taylor, Wimberly, and Singletary, and Dailey back in Amherst, sometimes like many people from WNY, opportunities are elsewhere.