I thought I owed it to everybody, considering what a demagogue I've been over the past week regarding Turner Gill, to say, I was wrong...not wrong that he may or may not be the right coach for KU, as I think the next few seasons will tell us that, but wrong that Gill was in over his head as the head coach at KU.
I was in the stands today, and while I fully expected to be permanently hitting the exits at halftime, I am so proud to be a Jayhawk right now...today's team made me proud....and hopefully, over the next few paragraphs, I can explain where my absolutely venomous anger over the NDSU loss came from.I have been a Jayhawk fan most of my life from teenage years on, since my mom re-married and my stepdad was a graduate of KU...since my dad and mom didn't go to college, he was the first one to introduce me to college athletics...growing up in the mid-80s, I don't have to tell you what an absolute disaster KU football was at the time.
However, I have always been a HUGE KU football fan, and always hoped that we would have a consistently respectable team...Glen Mason's teams (I was in the Navy when we went to the first Aloha Bowl in '92, and in school in '95 when we went 10-2 and the second Aloha Bowl) slowly brought us toward respectability on a semi-consistent basis....the years of 1-10 seemed to be behind us.
I'll never forget the game against KSU in '93 or '94 (I think) when KSU came into our house, won 21-13, and the KSU fans ripped down our goalposts...I have never been more embarrassed as a KU fan than that night.
A close second has to be in 2000 (again, I think I've got the year right) under Terry Allen when we're 5-2 and playing Texas Tech at home, with the chance to go to a bowl, and less than 30,000 people showed up...we lost that game and the rest of our games.
Soon after, Mark Mangino was hired, and through sheer force of will, brought us a team that made us proud on a weekly basis...even in losses, the team played with passion and intensity, and made our university proud...all culminating in an Orange Bowl appearance, consistent domination of KSU, and back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time in our history...years and years of suffering, and we finally had a team that had to be reckoned with, a team that would punch you in the mouth and make you earn everything you got against them, a team that gave me immense pride as a Kansan and alumni.
Fast forward to 2010, and we all know what happened in week 1...the most embarrassing loss in school history. It wasn't that we lost to an FCS team, it happens...Michigan, Minnesota, etc. and there have been many close calls at KSU, MU, and many other schools as well...but it's different at Kansas.
Our school has worked so long and hard to get out of that rut, that place where the team is a laughingstock and the opposing team fills our stadium, that we could not afford to slip up against an inferior team...and Turner Gill seemed to not grasp the significance of the situation.
We are too early in our climb towards respectability to sustain these types of demoralizing defeats...Michigan loses to Appy St., big deal...they will always eventually rise to the top. It's not the same at KU. The building of a program is still in it's nascent stages and needs consistently positive results to keep it going. By overlooking an inferior opponent, Turner Gill seemed to not understand the culture of KU football and how damaging such a loss could have been...like it or not, I feel that we still need someone who will drive the troops relentlessly and expect nothing less than 100% on a weekly basis...i felt that Turner Gill was a poor fit for what the football program needed.
Now, one week later, who knows? I could argue now that the way things went was better than if we had beaten NDSU and lost to GT...because now we know that we can beat good teams, and week one may have just been an aberration.
At the very least, maybe the team learned a lesson and will be more inspired going forward, and maybe TG now understands the undercurrent of passion that runs through the KU fanbase...so godspeed going forward TG, and keep providing us with the inspiring effort that Saturday's team showed.