Gill Re-Signing Could Put Buffalo in Big East Expansion Plans

Jeff KalafaAnalyst IIIDecember 17, 2008

The Big East Conference has been exploring the idea of adding a ninth football team.  Could the University of Buffalo be that team?

Representatives from the Big East have talked about the difficulty in scheduling five non-conference opponents and have considered adding one more team to the conference.  This would make it possible for its members to play an eight-game conference schedule.

The University of Buffalo has skyrocketed from the very bottom of the Division 1A football world to a program worthy of consideration for any future expansion plans the Big East might be visualizing.  The Big East is one of the six BCS conferences.

Things have changed fast at Buffalo, and they've changed even faster for the school's head football coach, Turner Gill.

On Dec. 5, the Bulls won their first Mid-American Conference championship.  Immediately following the game, Gill's name started circulating as a leading candidate for the head coaching vacancies at Auburn and Syracuse.

Within the last couple of days, Gill gets interviewed by Auburn and Syracuse, gets overlooked by both schools, and when Auburn hires Iowa State's Gene Chizik, Gill's name gets recycled as the leading candidate for the now vacant Iowa State job.

When it looks like Gill might be heading to Iowa State and back to the conference where he played his college football, the University of Buffalo gets Gill to sign a new three-year contract on Dec. 16.

All the details of the new contract haven't been released, but Gill will be back at Buffalo in 2009 with a raise for himself and his assistants.  It appears that the contract has an out clause that would allow Gill to leave after the 2009 season.

Gill has done an incredible job since taking the Buffalo head coaching job three years ago.  He has taken the Bulls from perennial loser to Mid American Champions. The team is headed to the International Bowl, where they will be making the first bowl appearance in school history.

Although overlooked by Auburn and Syracuse, Gill received a lot of attention.  When Auburn turned down Gill, an African American, a national outcry emerged over what some felt was a decision based on racial overtones. 

All the publicity that Gill and the university has received will make it easier to recruit better players and build off of this year's championship season.

The Big East will be looking for a program that is both serious about football and can deliver television viewers.  They will be keeping an eye on Buffalo.

Syracuse has always been considered New York's football team, but the Bulls are gaining ground.  Syracuse hasn't had a winning season since 2001.

It appears that Gill has decided not to pursue any other coaching jobs now and will let things fall into place over the next year.  He will have plenty of options, especially if he can take Buffalo to another bowl.

One option that Gill might be looking at is the Nebraska job.  Gill was a great player for the Cornhuskers, and if their present coach, Bo Pelini, can't turn that program around, the job could become open.  

In 2008, his first year as head coach, Pelini won eight games but his two best wins were at home against Kansas and Colorado.  Within a year or two, he'll need to win some big games. Remember, Nebraska fired Frank Solich in 2003 with a 9-3 record and an overall record of 58-19.

Another option would be staying at Buffalo and continue building the program.