Posted by Adam Jacobi
Turner Gill, the Kansas head coach who was ousted in November after two seasons to make way for Charlie Weis, has found a new home as head coach. The FCS-level Liberty Flames announced late Wednesday night that Gill had been hired as the team's eighth head coach in its history. Liberty, which is located in Lynchburg, VA, is known every bit for its religious affiliation as it is for its athletics or other extracurricular activities, and that fact was evidently not lost on Gill or school administrators looking to make this latest hire.
"In our search for a new head football coach, almost every advisor recommended Turner Gill, said school chancellor and president Jerry Falwell Jr. in a statement released by the school. "Every indication is that he is a perfect fit for Liberty University. His experience is at the level where we would like to take our football program. His Christian faith is strong and sincere and what any new recruit would expect to see in a Liberty University head football coach. I think Liberty University and Turner Gill were made for each other."
Liberty athletic director Jeff Barber shared Falwell's view of the school's new head coach.
"Liberty is tremendously blessed to welcome Turner Gill as our new head football coach," Barber said. "As we conducted this search during the past nine days, his name was recommended to us over and over from coaches and athletics directors from around the country as the right man to lead our football program. Turner embraces all that Liberty is and stands for and it will be a privilege to work alongside him as we continue to move our football program forward."
Gill struggled mightily to get the Kansas program on track, losing his last 10 games in Lawrence against what the Sagarin ratings deemed college football's toughest schedule in 2011. The losing streak capped a 5-19 (1-16) record at KU, which was a far cry from the 20-30 (14-18) record he achieved at Buffalo prior to joining Kansas. Gill took Buffalo to its first (and only) bowl game in 2008, losing 38-20 to Connecticut in the International Bowl.
Gill will replace Danny Rocco, who racked up a 47-20 record over six years before taking a job with FCS powerhouse Richmond over this offseason. Rocco led the Flames to four consecutive Big South championships in his time atop the program, and he was named the Big South Coach of the Year in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Rocco is second in Liberty history for most wins behind only longtime head coach Sam Rutigliano, who went 67-53 in his 11 seasons with the program.
Liberty first founded a football team in 1973 and has been a member of I-AA/FCS football since 1988. The Flames, whose most notable NFL alumni include Pro Bowl tight ends Eric Green and Dwayne Carswell, joined the Big South Conference in 2002 and posted a 4-1 conference record there in 2011 en route to finishing 7-4 on the year. Liberty's Williams Stadium currently seats 19,200 and is in the process of expanding to 30,000 in the coming years.
The school has announced a press conference for Gill on Thursday afternoon.