A caller to our radio show today made a point about how Kansas football fans are so quiet in the wake of the Jayhawks’ 1-8 record and implied that if Turner Gill coached this team, KU fans would be up in arms.
The point he was trying to make had something to do with race, although it was cloaked in a fashion that didn’t make his intent blatant.
It was a suggestion that Gill’s color – he is black – was a factor in the harsh scrutiny he received during two seasons as KU’s coach and that Weis, who is white, has avoided the wrath of fans because he’s not a black coach.
Race is a tricky subject, of course, no matter the topic. The caller, it should be pointed out, is black. I have never pretended to be able to see the world through the prism of a person of color and any white person who says they can is not telling the truth. I simply do not know what it’s like to be black person and it is with that lack of understanding that I go forward today.
I do not believe I ever judged Gill on anything other than his record and the way he came across in public settings. By all accounts, the former Kansas coach who is now coaching at Liberty, was a good and decent man. And one heck of a football player during his career at Nebraska.
But the Jayhawks always looked unorganized under Gill. And the sentiments he shared publicly made him appear to be out of touch with reality. There was a strong disconnect between Gill and the KU fan base, some of which was reeling and angry from the way the dismissal of Mark Mangino was handled. Gill had a tough job and ultimately he failed. Things weren’t getting better by his second year and while I did write a column stating that I thought Gill deserved more time, it became more and more obvious to me – and to KU football fans – that the fit wasn’t there.
So Gill was dismissed after the 2011 season with an overall record of 5-19 and one win in 17 Big 12 games.
Under Weis this season, Kansas has one win. The Jayhawks have lost all six of their Big 12 games with three to play. The record, it’s plain to see, has not improved.
But I defy anyone to tell me the team hasn’t improved under Weis. KU has become a pretty good team at home with narrow losses to TCU, Oklahoma State and Texas. Now, the Jayhawks haven’t figured it out yet on the road, losing lopsided games against Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma.
The problem at Kansas is talent. During his two years as a recruiter, Gill was not able to attract enough good players to Kansas. Recruiting was a huge issue.
Weis has stemmed that tide some, if you believe the analysis of recruiting experts. That’s not to say Weis is a lock to turn things around at Kansas. Far from it. There is no doubt the Jayhawks are No. 10 in a 10-team conference, and by a fairly wide margin. His job is difficult and I’m not even close to being ready to say or write that Weis will be successful at Kansas.
But it’s also way too early to say that he won’t do a good job at Kansas. Anyone who buries Weis just nine games into his Kansas coaching tenure is being irresponsible. In fact, there are legitimate reasons for optimism.
Gill never provided reasons for optimism, other than an upset win over Georgia Tech in Atlanta in the second game of the 2011 season. That game, unfortunately, was proven to be a fluke. It was the only highlight among Gill’s 24 games as KU’s coach.
If the Jayhawks are 1-8 at this time next season, the fire will be intensified under the feet of Weis.
Race, frustratingly, is still a huge issue in America. But when it comes to the job Gill did versus the job Weis is doing, it’s about wins and losses and Jimmys and Joes. Which is the way football ought to be.