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Jerry Kill is not the Candidate You're Looking For

I mean, he could be. And he'd be a good coach for your program too. But he's probably not going to leave Minnesota for your city, no matter how nice and shiny your buildings are.

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You are reading this because you are a fan of a team that has just fired a head coach, is about to fire a head coach... or you are a nervous Gopher rube. Presumably the team you root for has some history in college football; a program recognizable by the helmet, perhaps. As such, whichever coach you just fired probably didn't win enough for your liking, didn't play your preferred style, didn't recruit or develop enough players or just got caught in some kind of scandal.

Anyway, you have an opening, and you think Jerry Kill is a good candidate to fill the role. You either know first hand, because he beat you, or you know of Kill by way of some national columnist (multiple scribes, really) who suggested he should lead your program since he's so good.

Jerry Kill is a very good coach. He's either an identity thief or a master of holograms, lights and mirrors, because he runs a program just like Kirk Ferentz did in the mid-Aughts. He's tough, no-nonsense, his public persona folksy and unfiltered, his teams always play physical and disciplined, and they win a lot of games. He did this at M-I-N-N-E-S-O-T-A, so you're impressed already. Since you're a fan of a team stuck in a bygone era from the Midwestern region of the country with tradition, you appreciate things like running the football, defense and special teams. You're probably scratching your head looking at some of his recruiting classes, then blurting out loud, "He made this guy into 1st Team All-B1G?!?" Player development is a matter of pride for Kill, and I know what you're thinking: he'll probably develop the hell out of our normal top 25 classes!

But Jerry Kill probably isn't going to leave Minnesota for your team.

Yes, it's true you have nicer facilities than we do. And you either have a more fertile recruiting base than Minnesota, or a national "brand" that can reach from coast to coast. Plus, you can pay lots and lots of money. These things are important.

Mr. Gaard is the Gophers' sideline reporter, and he also has ties to current Nebraska head basketball coach Tim Miles, so his speculation is neither off-base nor is he making outrageous statements. The exact same arguments were made a decade and a half ago when Glen Mason won 8 games at Minnesota, though there was only one job Mase would leave Minnesota for (save you a click: he didn't get the Ohio State job, Jim Tressel did). Similarly, 15 years before Glen, Lou Holtz had only one job he'd leave Minnesota for -- in fact, his agent negotiated it into his contract. The Gopher legal department didn't really understand the concept of "leverage."

Right now, Nebraska hiring Jerry Kill has odds, courtesy of Bovada, at 13/2 -- behind Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost (5/2), Greg Schiano (15/4 -- yes really), Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman (4/1), Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi (9/2) and Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain (5/1). For those more probabilistically inclined, that puts Frost's hire likelihood at 29% and Kill's at 13%. Or, one out of eight. You can put money on it, so it could happen, right?

Sure, but probably not.

The second tweet is a jab at Minneapolis nonagenarian sports "reporter" Sid Hartman, famous now for letting his ghostwriter report anything and for notoriously being wrong on just about everything in print -- even if he is an institution. To wit, he once announced that the Gophers would break ground on new football practice facilities in December, only to be publicly lambasted as irresponsible(!) by Minnesota's most well known ambassador -- and chair of the facilities fundraising committee -- Lou Nanne. All this means is Sid is not to be taken seriously, but Patrick Reusse and his connections to the Minnesota good ole boy network, despite what Gopher fans may feel about him, is someone who may actually know a thing or two.

What Pat is referring to are plans to construct a new football practice facility, part of a broader master facilities plan that includes a Student Athlete Excellence Center which received a multimillion dollar donation from Land O'Lakes that will be completed by 2016.  The SAEC - we affectionately call it the Butter Center -- will include a training table and nutrition center, two things oft mentioned by media when describing the challenges Kill faces at Minnesota. Beyond the $40M previously raised towards the total master facilities plan, rumors abound for months (since the Land O'Lakes announcement, really) that a second major corporate partner was ready to jump on board. This was before the Gophers beat the Huskers in Lincoln for the first time since 1960, something that didn't go unnoticed by the mega-boosters in attendance.

Point being, the feeling is Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague and University president Eric Kaler are close to securing the seed funding and necessary red tape approvals they'll need to get shovels in the ground. Kill has consistently told (sold?) 2015 recruits that a groundbreaking would occur this upcoming spring, so public comments from Kill pining for new facilities and the illusion of pressure on Teague are more likely directed at U of M boosters, potential corporate donors and the Board of Regents versus the yeoman-like efforts of Teague to get things done.

Kill has experienced quite a bit of success at Minnesota despite his obstacles, and he's starting to get recognized nationally for his efforts. He understands how to use leverage too.

If Kill gets a commitment from the university administration that facilities will break ground this spring, and he believes it due to not-yet-for-public-consumption agreements between boosters/corporations and the U, he's not going anywhere.

But you already have impressive, shiny facilities? Here's additional context. You've probably heard about Kill's various health issues, including a very public struggle with epilepsy. Now, I can assure you that he's as healthy as ever -- he's been seizure free for an entire year -- and epilepsy won't prevent him from functioning as your head coach if you choose to entertain such a thing, nor should it. But here's the thing. Rather than place any ultimatum on Kill or invoke some contractual provision to oust him from his position for the sake of his health, the U administration stood by him... and his assistants. Jerry's staff knew the protocol of what to do when the head coach wasn't available on gameday or during weekly practice preparations, and the athletic department trusted that interim head coach and long time assistant Tracy Claeys could manage the program. Not only did Claeys manage, but the team flourished, doing exactly the same things Kill would have told them if he were around. The athletic department actively sought ways to work with Kill, a notorious perfectionist like many FBS head coaches, to lighten his work load and take some of the pressure off of him.

And when the Gophers won 8 games including 4 in a row during Big Ten play, a feat last accomplished at Minnesota in the 70's, Jerry Kill was rewarded with a contract extension and a raise. Not just Jerry, but his assistants too: Kill's contract has a provision that the salary pool for his assistants must be Top 6 among B1G programs each and every year. So not only did the U stick by Jerry, they stuck by his assistants -- to whom he's fiercely loyal -- as well.

That's the other thing. If you hire Jerry Kill, it comes with the understanding you're hiring basically his entire staff as well. Kill and his assistants have been on a very long journey all the way from Division II Saginaw Valley State and Emporia State, to a complete rebuild at FCS Southern Illinois, a 3 year stint and division championship at Northern Illinois and 4 seasons at Minnesota, where he's clawed his way within a win from the Big Ten championship game. If you commit to Jerry, you commit to his entire staff. If that's the sort of thing that makes you uncomfortable, a fan of a school that can assemble the best staff money can buy, then Jerry probably isn't the coach for you.

And if you're cool with bringing the whole gang from Dinkytown to Where-evers-ville, USA, and Minnesota couldn't pony up the necessary cash to get upgrade the facilities in time, and Jerry is comfortable with a new set of doctors to manage his condition, and you still want to hire Kill? He still might not do it.

Why? There's one last thing about Jerry: he thrives on challenges and being an underdog. On the advice of his mentor Dennis Franchione, he understood he was never going to get hired by a premier program given his background. He would have to turn around programs in the most horrific of starting conditions, and prove himself the hard way for people to notice. For 30+ years, Jerry Kill has won at places that have never won before, and not only built them into winners, but left a legacy of sustained success well after he left. Even at Minnesota, as program with 12 bowl berths since 1999 but no conference championships since 1967, he believed it would take 7 years after he was initially hired to build the Gophers into a contender. Part of this is coachspeak politikin', something Kill is very good at, but part of it is true. Kill is someone who has always exceeded expectations and raised them in places where none existed.

Your program, the one that just fired a coach because you can count the losses this past season on one hand? That's probably not Jerry's cup of tea. Jerry isn't the coach you're looking for.

But we're flattered you asked.