Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

Black Firsts, December 2009: Turner Gill

December 21st, 2009 by Ajuan Mance


Newly appointed KU football head coach, Turner Gill.


Many congratulations to Turner Gill, who will be leaving the University of Buffalo (UB) to become the first African American head football coach of the University of Kansas (KU) Jayhawks. KU is almost certainly hoping to capitalize on Gill’s proven ability to dramatically improve the performance of a struggling football program. He led UB to its first bowl game and to a Mid-American Conference championship.

Gill’s goals for the Kansas football program indicate that he plans to achieve the same kind of football turnaround for KU. In a recent press conference he explained:

“I did not come here to use it as a stepping stone to a football dynasty, but rather to create a football dynasty here at KU.”


Gill says his priorities are simple. “Recruit, beat Missouri, recruit, win the North, recruit, win the Big 12 — as we all know in most cases, you win the Big 12, you’re playing for a national championship, and then we’re gonna recruit.”

KU’s faith in Gill’s skill and experience is reflect in the contract they offered their new coach. reports that, “Gill will make approximately $2 million a year for the next five years.”

Gill began his football career as a starting quarterback for the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers. describes the path that took him from the playing field to minor league baseball and, finally, to the sideliness of big college football:

As the starting quarterback at Nebraska from 1981-83, Gill led the Cornhuskers to a 28-2 record and a 20-0 mark in Big Eight Conference play, three straight Big Eight Conference championships and three consecutive Orange Bowls.

Gill was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 1983 when teammate Mike Rozier claimed the honor. He was a three-time All-Big Eight selection and was named the quarterback of the Big Eight Conference All-Decade Team (1980-89).  He has been inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame and the Orange Bowl Hall of Fame.  He also spent three seasons in the minor league systems of the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians.

Prior to Gill’s departure for Kansas, the University of Buffalo was the only NCAA Division I school with an African American athletic director, an African American head football coach, and an African American head basketball coach.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Posted in African Americans, Current Events, race

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