Reversal of fortunes

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:41 AM ET

When Turner Gill came to the University of Buffalo in 2006, the football program was in shambles.

The UB Bulls had amassed a futile 10-69 record in the school's first decade in the NCAA Division 1 Mid American Conference and things didn't look like they would get much better.

But Gill, a former Hiesman Trophy finalist from the University of Nebraska who also played quarterback for the CFL's Montreal Concordes, said he was ready for the task at hand.

Three short seasons later, the Bulls completed an 8-5 season with an improbable 42-24 win over one-time 12th-ranked Ball State last week to claim its first ever MAC title and a ticket to the International Bowl on Jan. 3 at the Rogers Centre against the University of Connecticut Huskies of the Big East conference.

"We were told we could not win," Turner said yesterday at a media day to promote the Toronto game. "We were told we would never get to a bowl game. But here we are."

By most accounts Gill has performed a miracle of sorts.

But his success at bringing national attention to the Bulls also will likely see him leave the Western New York school for greener pastures next season. Gill has been mentioned as a candidate to fill the vacant coaching jobs at both Syracuse and Auburn in 2009. And even UB athletic director Warde Manuel said he won't stand in his coach's way.

Manuel said he has given both Auburn and Syracuse permission to talk to Gill.

"I'm just looking forward to there being a strong possibility that he'll be here. I'm just thinking positively," he said. "If he does go, then he's left us in a much better position."

Gill tried his best to deflect the attention away from his future but finally admitted he has had contact with both schools.

"I will deal with my personal issues after the International Bowl," he said. "I told the team that my status can't be a distraction to what is important: To win on Jan. 3."

With the UB campus just 125 kms down the QEW from the Rogers Centre, the International Bowl will have all the atmosphere of a Bulls' home game.

Even Huskies coach Randy Edsall admitted the scales looked tipped in Buffalo's favour. "Is God cheering for UB? It would look that way," he said.

U Conn, however, will come into the game with two consecutive bowl appearances and a veteran team that will start only two rookies.

"We'll be ready January 3," Edsall said.


Videos

Photos