President Kaler just released a statement about the negotiations with Coach Kill for a role with the U moving forward:
Statement: We want Jerry Kill to remain a part of the University community in a way that works for everyone.Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Jerry Kill is an asset to the University of Minnesota athletics program and the broader community. Jerry and I had numerous extensive conversations about a potential role with the University, and we could not identify a full-time opportunity that met both his needs and those of the University. We want Jerry to remain a part of the University community in a way that works for everyone. The athletic department and others are already identifying and discussing opportunities with Jerry.
This is a simple statement, but there are some logical inferences to make from it:
If you want the U to explain exactly what role Kill wanted and why they didn't agree, you probably aren't going to get more details. Unless the U feels compelled to be more conversant about this as time moves on (something I doubt) you should probably assume you aren't getting more out of Kaler or a spokesperson.
Should you care? I'd argue no. There is part of all of us that wants to know. As fans we tend to believe that we need to know (though I'd argue that's better translated as "I REALLY WANT TO KNOW"). Some fans will even say they deserve to know. I personally think those folks are off base. Personnel decisions of this kind are rarely discussed in full by the University and with good reason. And if you start throwing the "taxpayers fund the U" argument, well, I'll just agree to disagree with you now rather than start down that rabbit hole. If you care that much file an FOIA request and dig into it to your heart's content.
The U had a very defined role in mind for Coach Kill and we can surmise good reasons for why they'd feel that way. Covering some of the same ground as GN a little bit here, but I'll push forward anyhow. Coach Kill is a big figure at Minnesota, which is not uncommon when it comes to your head football coach. As a result, it's unlikely you could put him into any old role within the athletics department and not see an impact. If they approved him for a role in the athletics department prior to hiring a permanent athletics director, they'd be forcing that decision upon the new AD. This isn't implying Kill would cause problems. It's pointing out that the movement of Kill (the highest profile member of the department prior to his retirement) to a new role without the approval of a new AD as out of the ordinary. Athletics departments are big businesses. I don't think too many Fortune 500 companies would rehire a former high profile C-suite executive to a lower level position while still working to hire a new CEO. That's not a perfect comparison, but I think it illustrates what I'm getting at.
This is all hypothetical of course. Other potential options include the U simply wanting to move on from Kill's tenure in athletics and get a fresh start for the new AD and for Coach Claeys or Kill wanting a prominent role with lots of responsibility (perhaps even AD) while not wanting to go through a traditional process to get it. Both of these can suggest additional negative hypotheticals that I don't see a need to dwell on since we're just spit-balling here.
I think the subset of Gopher fans who are upset may be reading too much into the "couldn't agree on a spot in the athletics department" portion of this outcome. Prior to today, I suspect that if asked most fans would have said they wanted Kill to end up in one of two roles:
- Key fundraiser/ambassador for the U
- Permanent athletics director
The former was never going to be a position in the athletics department. That's not how those positions are funded or run in a University environment as far as I can tell (you usually work out of the Foundation arm of the University). That's not to say there aren't AD staff who fundraise as a big part of their job. But these staff have other job responsibilities tied directly to the department, which brings us back to the point above this one.
We can debate the merits of the latter, but if Kill wanted to be AD (and no one knows if he did) he would have had to go through the same process as any other candidate. In other words, if your expectation prior to today was one of the above outcomes I'd argue the news that Kill and the U couldn't agree right now on a role within the athletics department isn't a reason for being bothered.
At the end of the day, we love Coach Kill and it makes sense why people would be disappointed by this news. I certainly share in this sentiment. But ultimately the U athletics department and as a whole is and always was bigger than one beloved coach. This isn't an outcome that dooms the U or Gopher Sports to a horrible fate. It won't determine how good the Gophers are on the field this fall. It won't stop the Athletics Village from being built. And most importantly it doesn't change the reasons why we love Coach Kill or support the U.