It's the lows in life that make you really appreciate the highs. The night is darkest right before the dawn. Those cliches do little to comfort Gopher fans after the loss of their coach.
One cliche with some merit is the 24-hour rule. When shifts hit the fan, give yourself 24-hours to feel sorry for yourself. After that, it's all forward all the time. Coach Kill and his family will take as much time as they need, but let the rest of us begin to look at what is in store for our
beleaguered beloved athletic department in the near future.
Hire an Athletic Director
While reading IowaGopher's recap of Jerry Kill's press conference, this tweet caught my attention.
Minnesota president Eric Kaler says after review of program is complete, search for permanent AD begins, then football coach.— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) October 28, 2015
This morning's news has to have accelerated President Kaler's timeline to hire an athletic director. Quite simply, an athletic director needs to be in place by December. In fact, if the department wants to be able to backchannel and send out feelers for a new football coach, the new athletic director should be in place before Thanksgiving. I won't pretend to know which individuals would be the best fit to become the next Athletic Director at the University of Minnesota, but I have to admit that I am impressed with Beth Goetz. A lesser person would have seen the facilities development get sidetracked in from the Norwood Teague mess.
There are two threshold qualifications a candidate for this job needs. 1) Respect from boosters and corporate sponsors. I see the mess in Texas stemming directly from their booster's reaction to the Charlie Strong hiring. Texas has earned a reputation for having a very strong athletic department and now it is falling apart. The head of the Athletic Department needs to be able to unify boosters and move everyone in the same direction. This is especially true through tough times and difficult decisions. 2) A strong background in compliance. With a myriad of moving parts, there are only so many things an athletic director can control. Compliance with NCAA rules is one of them. Gopher fans are well versed in surprises that derail programs, an the new AD needs to limit the department's risk of making avoidable mistakes. I am sure there are a number of people who meet these qualifications, the U just needs to identify and vet them.
Hire a Football Coach
When Joel Maturi blind squirreled his way into hiring Jerry Kill, hardly anyone knew what a masterful stumble it was. Jerry Kill succeeded at Minnesota because of his work ethic and belief in solid, fundamental football. He was able to assemble a loyal staff and work with them to exceed expectations over and over again. The new AD should look for those same qualities in the new coach.
Contrasting Kill's tenure with Tim Brewster's, keys to success present themselves fairly easily. The program needs to recruit young men who are willing to be held accountable for their actions. The coach needs to instill a strong work ethic and clear team identity. Whatever the new coach's personal style happens to be, he needs to be confident in that style while continuing to build his program brick by brick. Finally, a coach must come with a pre-assembled staff. As fun as it is to debate potential coordinators and position coaches for weeks on end, we have seen the payoff of staff continuity and we have seen how miserably a hastily thrown together staff can operate. A new running backs coach here and a switch at linebacker coach there will not likely doom a staff, but the core must be intact.
That brings us to a quick short list of possible coaches. I present to you my Top 3 for this job:
1. Tracy Claeys. I think we would all be happy with Coach Claeys taking over the program and with Jay Sawvel receiving a well-deserved promotion to Defensive Coordinator. This choice would also assure the most staff retention. How good of a thing that is depends on which side of the ball you look at. Tracy's press conference seemed to suggest that he would re-evaluate the offense in the offseason if he were hired. Minnesota finally has a good thing going, why disturb it more than necessary?
2. Justin Fuente - Memphis. Fuente and his staff are coaching themselves toward a big payday. He will be a hot commodity this offseason and the Gophers will need to get in early if he is their guy. His staff has been fairly loyal considering his youth, and their success is very impressive.
3. Brock Spack - Illinois State. Do yourself a favor and Google this guy. Now tell me that mustachioed mug wouldn't motivate our men to victory. In all seriousness, I like the Jim Tressel approach to finding coaches. Big Ten programs can find a coach who has succeeded at a lower level and transplant him into a bigger school successfully. Spack has strong Midwest ties and seems to be a great fit for Minnesota.
Just for fun, here is my "Hard Pass" list. In no particular order: Lane Kiffin, Al Golden, Randy Edsall, PJ Fleck, Matt Campbell, Brady Hoke.
Find a place for Jerry Kill
When Jerry Kill is healthy, the University of Minnesota needs to find a place for him as an ambassador for the University. I would love for him to be our athletic director, but clearly he has more serious issues to work though at the moment. Jerry Kill has had an immeasurable positive impact on this University and he will be sorely missed. I can't wait for the day when TDG has a story about Kill's return to the University in some capacity.