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Domino effect could send Gill back to Nebraska

The winds of change that annually whip throughout the college football coaching ranks could blow through the University at Buffalo and sweep away Turner Gill.

Now that Lloyd Carr has officially retired from Michigan a popular scenario is: LSU's Les Miles goes to Michigan, the Tigers turn around and promote defensive coordinator Bo Pelini and, with Pelini out of the way, Nebraska is clear to hire Gill away from UB.

Other candidates have emerged in Ann Arbor but if you're Michigan, how can you say no to a coach on the verge of winning a national championship? And if you're LSU, how do you feel about losing a coach to a program that has reached the sport's pinnacle only twice in the last 59 seasons?

Obviously the one domino that needs to fall is Nebraska firing Bill Callahan, which could come as early as Sunday. "Whatever happens, happens," Callahan said at his weekly press conference Monday. And if Callahan is dismissed, it's not definitive that the Cornhuskers would hire Gill.

For starters, there's a lot of support being thrown toward Pelini, who is the nation's hottest coordinator. A former free safety at Ohio State, Pelini's resume includes NFL stints with San Francisco, New England and Green Bay in addition to serving as defensive coordinator at Nebraska and Oklahoma.

The lure of coaching at Nebraska is said to be strong for Pelini, but at LSU the only challenge is maintaining what Nick Saban and Miles built. The Cornhuskers, who haven't been a serious contender for the national crown since 2001, will be in a rebuilding mode and some are wondering if Nebraska will ever return to the glory years it enjoyed under the Tom Osborne.

If LSU hires Pelini, Gill, according to sources, is Plan B and there isn't a Plan C. That's a change in direction from only a few weeks ago, when it was said if the Nebraska coaching job were sliced into a pie, Gill would receive 40 percent, Pelini 30 percent and a group of other candidates the rest.

Whatever happens, Osborne, the interim athletics director, is almost certain to hire from within the Nebraska family. Bob Devaney started the Cornhuskers' modern day run up the national championship ladder before handing the reins to Osborne,.

Frank Solich, Osborne's successor, was only two seasons removed from an appearance in the Bowl Championship Series title game when he was fired and replaced by Callahan, under whom Nebraska fell behind Kansas and Missouri. Nebraska has always been about teaching and player development, which, if Gill has proved anything over the last two seasons, is his forte.

If Nebraska comes calling, it might be difficult for Gill -- who signed a five-year contract to coach at UB in December 2005 -- to say no. He's a beloved figure in the state, taking the program to new heights as a player and an assistant coach. Some believe he's not ready for such a challenge but he's already proved he can run a program and win. Pelini, who has never been a head coach, has not.

Then again, there's the lure of staying at UB. The Bulls lose only four starters and with a senior quarterback in Drew Willy and a young defense that will only improve, UB figures to be one of the teams to beat in the Mid-American Conference in 2008.

"There's a lot of returning players and a lot of returning talent," said center Jamey Richard, the lone senior in the starting lineup on offense. "You look at the talented players on this team and the majority of them are young. They're going to be around and they're only going to get better."

Whatever happens, Gill, a deeply spiritual man, will lean heavily on his faith. The winds of change are beginning to howl.

e-mail: rmckissic@buffnews.com

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