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Former Gopher coach says program doesn't need a 'rebuild'

Jerry Kill, Southern Illinois head football coach, 2005

ST. PAUL — Former Gophers football coach Jerry Kill took exception to the claim that new Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck has to rebuild the program.

In an interview posted Friday, March 31, with Big Ten Network, Kill said he supports Fleck, who was Northern Illinois' wide receivers coach under Kill in 2008.

"But I am not crazy about him saying they have to rebuild the program," Kill told BTN's Tom Dienhart. "We went in there and said a lot of the same things when I took over (from Tim Brewster in 2011), but that's not the case now. That new A.D. (Mark Coyle) has no idea what we inherited. (Former A.D.) Joel Maturi does. Call him. We inherited a mess. (Fleck) has walked into a gold mine."

Kill, who resigned because of heath reasons in October 2015, was critical in January when his longtime assistant Tracy Claeys was fired by Coyle, in part, because of Claeys' leadership during the two-day boycott over the school's investigation of 10 players for alleged sexual misconduct in September.

The university has "real sensitive issues that are deeper than football," Kill told 1500 KSTP-AM days before Fleck was hired Jan. 6. He vowed he "won't be stepping foot" back on Minnesota's campus.

Now Rutgers' offensive coordinator, Kill told BTN that he's "not at all" bitter at his former employer.

"I am proud of the opportunity Minnesota gave me," Kill said. "I loved it there. A great place to live, great players to coach, great staff to work with. Got a lot of stuff done. Got that building started. I am good at getting buildings started. I have no regrets. I had to battle three different A.D.s and different administrations; that was a battle. But I have been doing that my whole life. I did whatever I did to myself. The people treat me tremendously to this day."

Kill was instrumental in setting the groundwork for the new $166 million Athletes Village project, which will include the football program's indoor practice facility and offices. Kill led the Gophers to back-to-back eight-win seasons in 2014-15, and Claeys led them to a 9-4 season and a victory over Washington State in the Holiday Bowl.

Kill said his last epileptic seizure was 15 months ago, and he is feeling much better with improvements made for better sleep patterns, diet, exercise and different medications. But after a year working with the administration at Kansas State, Kill has returned to coaching in the Big Ten.

Kill, who was a head coach from 1994-2015, was asked if he has desires to return to head coaching.

"I don't think so," he replied. "I will be 56 years old. I enjoy what I do. This is what I need to be doing at this point. I have proven to myself that I was a good head coach for 24 years, counting high school. I helped a lot of kids and won a lot of games. We turned around every program we took on, including Minnesota, regardless of what they say."

He later added, "But I have no gumption to be a head coach again. This is where I want to be."

Kill and Claeys were together on spring break, and Claeys, who has returned to his hometown in Kansas, has spoken to Rutgers' defense and visited with players and coaches at Texas Christian and Southern Illinois.

"I think he'll sit out (the 2017 season) and get back in," Kill speculated.