Kill, Minnesota finalize 7-year contract
By Dave Campbell
AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS -- Jerry Kill took over Minnesota's struggling football program and assessed that rebuilding the Gophers is going to take longer than he first anticipated.
The university agreed.
After working for more than eight months under the terms of an agreement struck when he was hired as the head coach, Kill finally signed his contract Tuesday -- getting two more years and a little bit more money than in the original framework of the deal.
His contract runs through the 2017 season and will pay him at least $1.2 million annually, half of that in base salary and the other half in supplemental compensation for appearances, endorsements and fundraising.
"We believe that Jerry Kill is the right guy. I'm convinced he is. He has brought a lot of energy to the program," athletics director Joel Maturi said.
The timing was certainly strange, given the 1-6 record for the Gophers. They've lost their first three Big Ten games by an average margin of 38 points.
But Maturi downplayed the delay and noted that the length of the deal is the same as what men's basketball coach Tubby Smith got when he was hired in 2007.
"I don't mean to be disrespectful to the lawyers, but I think Joel Maturi and Jerry Kill agreed upon the parameters of this contract a long time ago. There's a lot of things that go into contracts as far as the words are concerned," Maturi said.
Most important is the length.
The quick-fix approach is not part of his plan, and he persuaded the school to give him ample time to carry it out.
After new president Eric Kaler started his job this summer, Kill told him how much work needs to be done to turn the Gophers into a winning team, from roster-wide academic reform to stability on the coaching and support staff to positively changing the overall attitude and culture around the program.
Kaler signed off on stretching the deal from five years to seven years and promised Kill the school is committed to supporting the sport at a big-time level.
"It's a great vote of confidence. He's the boss and he's the president, and we're only going to be as good as he is," Kill said.
Kill has also dealt with a series of seizures that kept him away from the team for several days. He collapsed on the sideline at the end of the home opener Sept. 10 and spent five days in the hospital.
But Maturi said no health-related provisions were added to the contract to protect the university financially in case of future problems. He said the school has spoken extensively with medical professionals about Kill's condition.
"I believe he's going to be the football coach at Minnesota for a long time," Maturi said.
If Kill were to leave for another school, he'd owe the university double his current base salary, or $1.2 million barring a raise.
If he's fired before the expiration of his contract, Kill's buyout would be half of his base salary and half of his supplemental compensation for the duration of the deal.
"He's always told us that he's committed to here, so we're committed to him. So nothing's going to change," freshman defensive end Ben Perry said.
With all the turmoil and turnover under coach Tim Brewster the past several years, players have a wary outlook, Kill said. He's trying to get the Gophers to trust in him and his staff as they instill discipline in the players both on the field and off, particularly in class.
Kill said he's bracing for a sub-standard graduation-rate score from the NCAA that could lead to scholarship reductions as he meticulously and methodically revamps the program.
"Hopefully our kids will buy into what he is and who he is, because he's not going to change," Maturi said.
Kill can receive bonuses for a number of on-field and academic achievements for the Gophers, including $50,000 for winning five conference games in one season and $150,000 for winning the Big Ten championship. For each year the team's graduation rate is greater than or equal to the overall student body, Kill will get $100,000.
"This isn't about Jerry Kill and a contract. This is about a football program and where we want to go with the football program," he said. "And at this stage, I would not have signed a contract if I did not feel comfortable that we were going to go that direction. Doesn't mean we are going to wave a magic wand and win 10 games all of a sudden. Just means we start putting the concrete in so to speak."