Jim Harbaugh Shoots Down Kansas: Turner Gill to be Named Jayhawks' Coach

Denny K.Correspondent IDecember 12, 2009

DETROIT - DECEMBER 05: Head coach Turner Gill of the Buffalo Bulls talks with Drew Willy #16 while playing the Ball State Cardinals in the MAC Championship game on December 5, 2008 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The search for Kansas' new football coach hit a road bump, and then reportedly came to an end this Saturday.  

Stanford's coach Jim Harbaugh told the Associated Press that he will not take the open Kansas coaching job after rumors had linked him for over a week with the vacancy left by Mark Mangino's resignation. 

The Kansas City Star reported Friday that Harbaugh was in talks with KU athletic director Lew Perkins. Several local Kansas City TV and radio stations had also reported Friday night that Harbaugh had been offered the job and was going to be announced as Kansas' new coach as early as Saturday evening.

We will likely never know the full story behind the scenes of what happened between Harbaugh and Perkins, but one thing is clear, Harbaugh is staying put at Stanford.

Harbaugh's public rejection of the reports linking him to Kansas are being interpreted in some quarters as a publicly embarrassing event for Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins and the football program.

Harbaugh would have been widely greeted as a monster hire for the Jayhawks. When the word spread through Lawrence Friday that Harbaugh was close to a deal, fans were elated and lit up local and Kansas City sports talk radio shows with excited calls about the future of Jayhawks football. What they have to say on those same shows on Monday will be interesting to hear.

The news of Harbaugh not coming to Kansas follows the revelation from earlier this week that Lew Perkins' had spoke with Ole Miss' Houston Nutt. After talking with Perkins more than once about the job, Nutt told the media that he would be staying at Ole Miss.

In the last week, three names linked to the Kansas job, Houston Nutt, Tim Brewster, and Jim Harbaugh have all made public statements denying interest in Kansas.

That said, rumors are circulating today that after Harbaugh's rejection, Buffalo's Turner Gill will be named the Jayhawks' next coach. While the news has not been officially confirmed by the university, it seems to be legitimate. 

While Gill will not quite be the rock star hire that Harbaugh would have been, he is a widely respected coach who has strong recruiting ties to Texas and is familiar with the Big 12. 

Many Kansas fans will be wondering if Gill is clearly a better coach than Mark Mangino?  Only time will tell. 

One thing is for certain and that is if Gill is to be officially hired in the next day or two the excitement for him among the fan base will have been dampened somewhat by the false alarm of Jim Harbaugh's coming to Kansas.

College football coaching carousels are somewhat like high school dances. While everyone respects the nerd (think Napoleon Dynamite) that tries to out punt his coverage and asks the prettiest girl in the high school to the dance, when the nerd gets rejected he is put in the awkward situation of having any future dates know that they were only his second, third or fourth choice. 

Kansas and Turner Gill might find themselves in just that position right now.

That said, college football coaching searches are not entirely like high school too. While Kansas' future coach will surely know that he was not their number one choice, he will have at least a million or two dollars per year to console any hurt feelings.

And if it is Gill who will lead the Jayhawks' in 2010, it is my guess that he will be so happy to leave the frozen industrial tundra of western New York and return back to Big 12 North country that he will not mind at all if he was Lew Perkins' second or third choice for the job.