When is it okay to fire Jerry Kill?

The talk of the town recently has been the firing of Minnesota basketball coach Tubby Smith, a man who when he arrived in Minneapolis had a stellar record and name recognition. His firing has brought up a great debate about who the next head coach should be, and also (partially) if firing Smith was the right decision.

Okay, so I'm the one primarily leading the charge in the resounding "No" against Tubby Smith's firing. Although there are many rationales for the reasoning behind Smith's firing, the most apparent one was that in all his time at Minnesota Tubby Smith has not made a run beyond mediocrity. He has not had more than one win in the NCAA Tournament.

To me, this all harkens back to Glen Mason, the Gopher football coach who was fired after ten years of putting together bowl seasons but not many bowl victories. The Gopher fan base wanted more. They wanted to see the program go the next level. They were tired of mediocre bowls. They wanted Rose Bowls. So Mason was fired.

Enter Tim Brewster. He comes in promising to "make the term 'Rose Bowl' a regular part of Gopher vocabulary." Brewster ends up going 15-30. He gets no closer to Pasadena. If anything, he pushed Minnesota farther away. It got so bad some fans longed for the days of Glen Mason. Some did not.

Enter Jerry Kill. A career program-rebuilder. He has spent his entire coaching tenure taking down-in-the-dumps programs and turning them into solid, respectable, competitive teams. But is Kill an elite coach?

Back in the Tubby Smith thread I linked to earlier, we were having a discussion, and GN (GopherNation) pointed out something I wholeheartedly agree with:

I fear we fired mediocrity and will replace it with regression.

We don't know for sure if this is what will happen now that Tubby Smith is fired. We don't know if Norwood Teague, the AD who replaced Joel Maturi, will hire a basketball version of Tim Brewster who will crater the program. Gopher fans have seen that movie.

The discussion became about Glen Mason. Is Tubby Smith's firing like Glen Mason's? Was it the right choice? Where does the program go from here?

Gophermike also made a comment I thought was particularly interesting:

I have never, ever thought firing Glen Mason was a bad idea

Mason had 10 years, and there’s absolutely no spinning that could suggest that the program was still on the ascent by the time he was fired.

10 years is an eternity in modern college football. He had enough time and showed us what he could bring us. It wasn’t terrible, but it certainly wasn’t anything I’ve ever once missed.

As for Kill, if the best he can do is what Mason brought us after 10 years, he should be fired too.

This got me thinking about expectations in the Gopher fan base and where Jerry Kill fits into them. Normally, I would argue that Gopher fans would be ecstatic to see Gopher football return to the Glen Mason days, but people continue to assert that Glen Mason was fired for a reason and they're very satisfied with that reason.

Now, only a few years removed from the Tim Brewster debacle, they're saying the same thing about Jerry Kill. So I thought I'd put together a fan post and ask you all about it.

Given the ever-evolving hindsight of what went down with Glen Mason's firing, Tim Brewster's hiring/firing, and Jerry Kill coming on the scene, one would think that a program would not want to repeat the mistakes of the past, to be far more cautious when dismissing a coach who is bringing winning seasons. However, there are clearly people against this. They want more. After a while, winning seasons are not good enough.

Below I have compiled a hypothetical scenario about Jerry Kill's future record at Minnesota. Although obviously containing points which are debatable, it is based on a combination of Kill's and Minnesota's history. It includes his 2011 and 2012 seasons, which have already happened. (Note: If you don't like my hypothetical record for Kill, please create your own in the comment section so we can talk about it!)

Here's the scenario.

What if this is Kill's record over ten years:

2011 - 3-9
2012 - 6-7 (bowl loss)
2013 - 8-5 (bowl loss)
2014 - 7-6 (bowl win)
2015 - 9-4 (bowl win)
2016 - 8-5 (bowl loss)
2017 - 6-7 (bowl loss)
2018 - 9-4 (bowl loss)
2019 - 9-4 (bowl win)
2020 - 8-5 (bowl win)

Overall record: 73-56
Bowl record: 4-5
Winning percentage: 0.570

Do you fire him?

A few points of analysis:

Seven winning seasons over ten years. This would be worlds better than would have happened under either Tim Brewster or Glen Mason. Brewster had only one winning season (in four years); Mason had five.

Pretty much going to a bowl game every year. And the Gophers win about 45% of them, which is close to how Mason did. Kill likely gets a contract extension in either 2014 or 2015 when he has back-to-back bowl wins, but takes a slight dip afterward in 2017, recording his first technically losing season since 2011. His Gophers quickly pick it back up in 2018.

No Rose Bowls or Big Ten championships. No 10-win seasons, either. Although the Gophers in this scenario are competitive and represent themselves well, they never quite seem able to fully break through. The closest they come is a 9-3 season in 2018.

His overall record is solid, but not elite. Kill proves to be better than both of his previous two predecessors. He has made the Gophers into a team that can expect a minimum of 6 wins every year and a chance to play on national TV in bowl games. However, they can't quite push past the Big Ten powerhouses and make the BCS tournament.

So, what do you think? After Kill built the program from the ground up, do you show him the door even though he's taking the Gophers to bowl games every year and is putting together competitive seasons with winning records?


I've also included a poll at the bottom so we can gauge larger numbers of the fan base and see where they stand on this issue. Basically it's asking if you would fire Kill after 10 years with the record I prescribed. Here's a little more explanation on the options:

What "Yes" Means:

The Good: A vote for "Yes" means you do not accept mediocrity. You 100% agree with the firing of Glen Mason back in 2006, and you would do it again even if it meant suffering through another Tim Brewster-type era. No guts, no glory.

The Bad: You don't mind risking everything Kill has built, and you're not afraid of the program hiring the wrong person and going back to square one. It's happened before, and there's always a distinct possibility that it could happen again.

What "No" Means:

The Good: A vote for "No" means you trust Jerry Kill to get you there eventually. You like Jerry and you especially like that he's rebuilt the program, and you'd rather keep him around than take the risk of losing everything and starting over.

The Bad: You're pretty much okay with a certain degree of mediocrity. The Gophers are winning, they're going to bowl games, they're pulling upsets, etc. but in ten years Kill hasn't brought the program much more than stability. Pasadena is still a dream, and after ten years there's no guarantee Kill could get the Gophers there in the next ten.

So, let me know what you think about this. Offer any thoughts you like. Is my hypothetical record for Kill way off base? Am I crazy? What say you, Gopher fans?

Editors of The Daily Gopher retain the right to remove posts deemed excessively offensive or grossly inappropriate. Keep it clean and don't be mean.

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