Turner Gill, coach of the year, decade and century?
We all pretty much can agree that the greatest feat in the history of coaching would be Larry Brown coaxing the Clippers into the playoffs for two consecutive years, 1991-92 and 1992-93.
You think about that for a moment. That feat defies all known logic, human possibility and established karma. Even 15 years on -- no, wait, especially 15 years on -- it so staggers the mind that it seems to rise above mere coaching into some sort of celestial pedestal, placing Brown alongside not, say, Bill Walsh or John Wooden, but perhaps Aristotle, Galileo or Da Vinci.
Occasionally, however, a coaching feat does arise that proves so mind-boggling that it almost encroaches upon the aura of Brown, and one such feat has materialized this very autumn.
Imagine being addicted to college football, leaving the country for three years, returning for a visit, finding oneself in Buffalo, and hearing about how the University at Buffalo -- UB! -- stood 7-4, had won a division title and would play for the Mid-American Conference championship on Dec. 5.
It's like some absurd dream you have after ordering room service at 11 p.m.
Buffalo, having just rejoined the top college football division in 1999, spent the early part of the decade enabling people to utilize the adjective "moribund." It went 10-58 from 2000 through 2005. It had two 1-11's and a 1-10. Its 2005 team scored 110 points in 11 games, a statistic almost unattainable even in a fallible species. Even though its city sits far-flung and hard to access, Times wordsmith Chris Dufresne made it there in 2003 to profile the 117th- and last-ranked team in the country.
"Who knew there were the Buffalo Bulls?" he wrote.
Five years later, well, I don't know third-year Coach Turner Gill personally. I saw him play quarterback on TV for Nebraska's colossus of a 1983 team. I knew he'd put in his years as assistant coach at his alma mater and other schools. That's about it.
I just know he's the runaway coach of the year and probably more than that.
I just know Buffalo played last Friday, and lost, and the headlines accurately claimed Kent State "upset" Buffalo 24-21, and I almost spit some soup. The very idea that anybody on Earth could upset Buffalo might just close down the race for coaching feat of the 21st century.
While not necessarily approaching an astounding L.A. feat from the 20th.
-- Chuck Culpepper
Editor's note: The institution's proper name is University at Buffalo. The MAC conference championship game will be played on Dec. 5. Corrections made at 9:21 a.m. on Dec. 3.
Photo (top): Buffalo Bulls defenders attempt to block a field goal attempt by the Missouri Tigers earlier this year in Columbia, Mo. Credit: Jonathan Brownfield - US PRESSWIRE
Photo (inset): Buffalo Bulls head Coach Turner Gill. Credit: Byron Hetzler - US PRESSWIRE