Liberty University head football coach Turner Gill, citing the need to care for his wife, abruptly announced his retirement from coaching Monday afternoon.
The announcement comes within 48 hours of Liberty’s final football game in its inaugural year in the Football Bowl Subdivision, a 52-17 win over Norfolk State Saturday to even its 2018 record at 6-6.
Gill revealed in a prepared statement his wife, Gayle, was diagnosed with a heart condition in the summer of 2016, and he wanted to spend more time with her after leading the program through the transition to the FBS.
“Both Gayle and I wanted to be here to help Liberty through their transition and we are so glad to have done so,” he said in the statement. Gill did not give details about his wife’s heart condition. “We have come to the realization that it is now time for me to step away.”
Gill, 56, retires after compiling a career coaching record of 72-84 and a 47-25 mark in seven seasons at Liberty.
The Flames won six games in five of Gill’s seven seasons at the helm. They peaked with nine victories in the 2014 season that featured the program’s only Football Championship Subdivision playoff appearance.
After the nine-win season, the Flames went 6-5 in their final three seasons at the FCS level, which included Gill’s marquee victory at Liberty, a 48-45 triumph at Baylor to open the 2017 season. That marked the program’s first win over a Power 5 conference team.
Liberty opened its inaugural FBS season with a 52-10 triumph over Old Dominion, but also had several setbacks during the six-win season, including Auburn’s 53-0 thrashing in the Flames’ final road game.
“Turner and I had a long talk [Monday] morning and he’s ready to retire from coaching,” Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. said in a phone interview. “His wife needs his support with some health issues and he wants to be there for her. He said he’s retiring from coaching.”
Falwell said Gill was set to receive a multi-year contract extension after leading the Flames to a 6-6 record this season. Gill was entering the final year of a five-year contract extension he signed after the 2014 campaign.
“This year proved that he was meant to be an FBS coach,” Falwell said. “Some coaches excel at the lower level at FCS and others excel at the FBS level. If he stayed, he would have continued to be a great coach.”
Liberty became the ninth team since 1987 to win at least six games in its inaugural FBS season.
“This year, nobody expected we’d win six games at the FBS level; very few teams do that,” Falwell said, “and we were excited Turner made that happen.”
Gill, who starred at quarterback for Nebraska from 1981 through 1983, began his head coaching career at Buffalo in 2006. He went 20-30 in four seasons with the Bulls, led the program to a berth in the 2008 International Bowl and was named the Mid-American Conference coach of the year in 2008.
He benefited from the success of turning around that program and was named the coach at Kansas prior to the 2010 season. In two seasons with the Big 12 program, Gill’s teams compiled a 5-19 record and went 1-16 in conference play.
Gill was fired after two seasons and was hired on Dec. 15, 2011 as Liberty’s coach, replacing Danny Rocco, who left to take over the program at the University of Richmond.
The Flames began Gill’s tenure with four losses to open the season, but rebounded to finish 6-5 with a share of the Big South title.
Liberty went 7-4 in Gill’s second season and then had the remarkable 2014 campaign that featured Chima Uzowihe’s blocked field goal that lifted the Flames over Coastal Carolina and into the FCS playoffs.