Kill still resting; 'U' president renews support
By Dave Campbell, AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS — Without a game this week, Minnesota coach Jerry Kill has been at home following a seizure that kept him from traveling with the team for last Saturday’s loss at Michigan.
This was the fifth game-day episode Kill endured in three seasons with the Gophers, and the fourth that caused him to miss at least a portion of a game. But University President Eric Kaler reiterated Tuesday his support for Kill and the coach’s ability to handle the high-profile, high-pressure job while dealing with epilepsy.
Kaler, in a phone interview with The Associated Press, said he and athletic director Norwood Teague have not been considering another coach in light of Kill’s latest absence.
“Where we are right now is hoping for and planning on Jerry getting better and being able to fulfill all of his duties,” Kaler said. “We’re not looking at a Plan B. We’re looking at Jerry Kill being our head football coach. He’s got a great, great staff. It’s really just an unbelievable team, and when he’s not able to be there because of a seizure, they have a terrific plan and they execute on that. So that’s where we are.”
Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys filled in for Kill on the Big Ten coaches’ call with reporters Tuesday. Claeys said there’s no rush for Kill to return to work; the Gophers (4-2) don’t play again until Oct. 19 at Northwestern.
“He’s doing good. He’s continuing to get the rest he needs and work with the doctors to do the best they can to get the situation under control with his medicine,” Claeys said. “They still believe they can do that.”
Kill’s latest seizure stemmed from a medication adjustment. Claeys said he’s spoken daily with Kill on the phone but hasn’t discussed a timetable for Kill coming back.
The Gophers will practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, but Claeys didn’t indicate whether Kill would be ready by then.
“Since we don’t play this week there’s no hurrying that,” Claeys said.
Claeys takes over as the acting head coach whenever Kill has to leave, and the rest of the assistants assume extra duties as well. As important as Kill’s job is, nobody around the program or at the university has expressed any concern, publicly at least, about his absence.
“We all know the routine. This happened before. Just going through that process of same old, same old,” Claeys said.
The Gophers fell to 4-2 overall and 0-2 in the conference with their 42-13 loss Saturday.
“At the end of the day, Jerry works for me and I’m supportive of him. I admire him. I think he has a great personal story. I think he has a great professional career,” Kaler said, adding: “He is just relentless. He likes to use that word in describing what he wants his football team to be, and he’s driven. When he puts his mind to something, he just doesn’t let it go. That I think is reflecting in what he’s done for our team and really is his modus operandi throughout his whole career.”
Kaler said his concern is with Kill’s health, not with the coach’s status. Kill has said previously he would quit if he didn’t think his condition would allow him to handle the job.
“There are many, many dimensions to being the Gopher head football coach, and Jerry is excellent in what he does. As you work your way around the community it’s very difficult to find somebody who doesn’t like Jerry Kill,” Kaler said, adding: “I think he’s brought belief in our program back. I think he’s got it pointed in exactly the right direction. I don’t know everything you need to do to win in football, but I do know that if you don’t want to win, you change your coaches frequently. And my hope is that Jerry’s going to be our head football coach for a long, long time.”