As if the expectations were already not high enough for Kansas' new football coach, Turner Gill, following in the footsteps of Mark Mangino, an Orange Bowl champion and one of the most successful coaches in Jayhawk history, the university administration Wednesday doubled the weight of the pressure on Gill's shoulders by giving him a larger total salary than over half of his head coaching peers in the Big 12.
The athletic department on Wednesday announced that Turner Gill’s five-year, $10 million deal will officially make him the fifth-best paid coach in the Big 12 Conference and the second best paid coach in the Big 12 North Division. Missouri's Gary Pinkel, making $2.5 million a year, edges Gill for top spot in the North.
Gill, who has an overall losing record as a head football coach in the NCAA, will make more money for his services than Kansas State's Hall of Fame coach Bill Snyder and Nebraska's Bo Pelini, one of the hottest young coaches in the country after turning the Cornhusker's abysmal defense into possibly the best defensive unit in the land and getting the Cornhuskers ranked in many 2010 preseason Top 10 polls.
As we have learned time and time again, just because a university or franchise is willing to pay big bucks to coaching personnel does not always mean that success on the field will follow.
We will have to wait and see if it works out for KU. One thing is clear though and that is Kansas' athletic director Lew Perkins is willing to spend money like the top half of the conference even if his team is unlikely to finish in that same top half of the conference in the next couple of years.
The road for Gill is going to be tough and many people are already saying that the expectations put upon him by the university, media and fan base may be unrealistically high.
In 2010 the Jayhawks will field a team minus its two best players from 2009, quarterback Todd Reesing and wide reciever Dez Briscoe. The 2009 Jayhawks, which finished in the bottom of the Big 12 North, will likely end up having more talent from top to bottom than the upcoming 2010 squad will field.
Furthermore, despite Turner Gill's insistence in his first press conference as head coach that the key to victory for Kansas will be with successful recruiting, the Jayhawks, according to Rivals, currently have the worst ranked recruiting class in the Big 12. Say what you will about recruiting websites, but people will talk and get restless when a lame duck coach like Dan Hawkins at Colorado outscores you on the recruiting trail.
Last year, Iowa State had a somewhat similar situation to Kansas with its coaching situation. The program was in turmoil after the abrupt and surprising departure of Gene Chizik. Iowa State hired Paul Rhodes, a solid coach with ties to the university, and paid him a salary that ranked in the bottom in the Big 12 but made clear that he would have time to build his team the way he wanted. Rhodes responded in his first year by taking the surprising Cyclones to the Insight Bowl and defeating Minnesota.
Ideally, Gill's high salary has been awarded to him by university officials with no "win and win soon" strings attached. I am afraid that is not the case, but for Gill's sake I hope I am wrong and Kansas will show him the same patience that Iowa State pledged to Rhodes.
Returning the Jayhawks' to competition for Big 12 North titles could be more of a project than many people think with a resurgent Nebraska, an up-and-coming Iowa State squad and a Missouri team with an experienced second year quarterback. In any case, only time will tell how patient fans and the university will be with Gill's staff if the team struggles out of the gate.