Turner Gill, 49, was named Liberty University’s new head football coach in December 2011. Gill has an extensive football résumé, from a standout quarterback at the University of Nebraska to the head coach at University at Buffalo-The State University of New York, and at the University of Kansas.
“I am both honored and grateful to be able to coach and mentor young men at a university which supports Jesus Christ as the personal Lord and Savior,” Gill said in his introductory press conference at Williams Stadium on Dec. 15, 2011.
Along with the announcement of the hire, Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. reported that Liberty is conducting a study to determine if it should reclassify its football program to the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The school currently competes at the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) in the Big South Conference. The study is expected to be completed this spring.
“Given the unexpected turn of events, we believe the time is right for Liberty to conduct the FBS feasibility study, which is so important for our program to move to the level it was originally envisioned it would go,” Falwell said.
And Gill may be the one to take it there. The Flames’ eighth head coach came highly recommended by coaches and athletic directors across the country.
“(Gill’s) experience is at the level where we would like to take our football program,” Falwell said. “His Christian faith is strong and sincere and what any new recruit would expect to see in a Liberty University head football coach. I think Liberty University and Turner Gill were made for each other.”
Athletics Director Jeff Barber worked with Carr Sports Associates on the search for a new head coach, immediately after the announcement in early December that former head coach Danny Rocco had accepted an offer at the University of Richmond.
“We had a strong amount of interest in the opening from individuals from all over the country. But when it came down to it, there were only a few individuals that had the strong Christian testimony, the character and the experience we were looking for,” Barber said. “We were looking for an individual who had coaching experiences at a higher level than where our football program currently plays, plus we wanted a man of strong personal character to continue to lead our program. … Once we identified Turner as one of these individuals and he expressed his interest back to us, that is when things started moving quickly.”
Gill received his first head coaching position in 2006, when he took over a struggling University of Buffalo Bulls program. During his second year at Buffalo, he was named the Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year. In 2008, he led the Bulls to their first-ever postseason bowl appearance in the International Bowl.
Gill’s longest coaching tenure has been at his alma mater, where he served as an assistant coach from 1992 to 2004. He served as the Cornhuskers’ quarterbacks coach from 1992 to 2003 and wide receivers coach during his final year with the program. Gill instructed two All-America quarterbacks at Nebraska, including Heisman Trophy winner Eric Couch (2001). He was part of a coaching staff that guided Nebraska to 13-straight bowl appearances and three national championships (1994, 1995 and 1997).
Gill was honored himself in 2002 when he was a finalist for the Frank Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s top assistant coach.
During his playing career at Nebraska (1980-83), Gill guided the Cornhuskers to a 28-2 record and an unblemished 20-0 record in conference play. He led Nebraska to three-straight Orange Bowl appearances.
Gill was a three-time Big Eight all-conference selection, earned second-team All-America honors and was a Heisman Award finalist, where he finished fourth in the voting in 1983.
Gill also played collegiate baseball for one season at Nebraska and earned All-Big Eight honors at shortstop. Following his collegiate career, Gill played two seasons in the Canadian Football League with Montreal (1984-85) and three years as a baseball player in the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers minor league systems (1986-88).
Gill comes to Liberty after serving two years as head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks. During his time in Lawrence, Kan., Gill coached 10 players who earned All-Big 12 honors.
Now at Liberty, Gill said he aims to “bring championships through Christ by preparing young men academically, athletically and spiritually.”
“It is a great time to be a Liberty Flame, and it is time to lead forward to have an unparalleled future,” he said.
Gill completed his bachelor’s degree in behavior analysis at North Texas in 1990. The Fort Worth, Texas, native and his wife, Gayle, have two daughters, Jordan and Margaux.