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Minnesota Football: Jerry Kill can’t believe P.J. Fleck fired Tracy Claeys

To make matters worse, Fleck had the nerve to bring his own culture to Minnesota

Minnesota v Purdue Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

I don’t know about you, but I have fond memories from Jerry Kill’s tenure as head football coach at Minnesota. Re-claiming the Little Brown Jug at the Big House in 2014 comes to mind. The 51-14 thrashing of the Hawkeyes’ that same season is another I’ll cherish. I was even in the stands for the Gophers’ first New Year’s Day bowl game since 1962.

In fact, I even penned a heartfelt, “Thank You, Coach Kill,” post right here on this blog when he was forced into retirement due to the decline of his health from epilepsy.

Yet no one seems more invested in tarnishing those memories than Jerry Kill himself.

If you missed it, Kill was on Big Ten Today with Matt Schick and A.J. Hawk when he decided to drop the facade of his patented “aw shucks” routine and launch into a personal attack on current Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck.

Have a listen:

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s break it down line by line.

“First of all, I had him for the first... He coached with me. But after that, he changed a lot, I’ll just be honest with you guys. I mean, the people that have known him before... When he got with [Greg] Schiano, his personality changed a lot.”

You’ll have to forgive Jerry here. He is simply unaccustomed to change. Much has been written over the years about the value Jerry places on loyalty, as evidenced by a coaching staff that saw minimal turnover during his career. It must have come as a great shock when Fleck, after one season of coaching under Kill, did not blindly follow him to the ends of the earth and opted instead to run straight into the arms of Satan himself. Repent, P.J.!

“I knew his first wife.”

What a completely innocuous association. To make vague comments about Fleck’s dramatic personality changes and then casually reference his first marriage, which ended in divorce. If it were coming from anyone else, I’d think that person was making some very appalling and inappropriate insinuations, but not Jerry. Never.

“I helped him get the job at Western Michigan.”

Of course you did, Jerry. And bless your heart for being willing to set aside the fact that Fleck’s personality had become warped beyond recognition, to lend a helping hand to your former wide receivers coach and vouch for him. What a guy, that Jerry.

“When he went into Minnesota and treated the people the way he treated my guys. Telling them he had to go in and completely change the culture. It was a bad culture and bad people. He made it sound like we didn’t know what we were doing... You just don’t treat people that have been with you and helped your career, and you don’t even talk to them once you get the job.”

I don’t know where anyone would get the impression that it was a bad culture or that Kill and co. didn’t know what they were were doing. It’s not like his handpicked successor Tracy Claeys was fired after one season as head coach due to a sexual assault scandal that curdled into a public relations nightmare, culminating in 10 suspensions and a short-lived team boycott.

Under those circumstances, I could maybe understand Fleck feeling obligated to clean house. At least Claeys had the decency to keep Kill’s coaching staff together after he retired.

And it’s not as if every head coach brings their own unique culture to a program. Gosh, I can only imagine the conversations between Kill and his predecessor. I bet they were real and raw.

At times, I bet it was real raw.

“And I took it personal.”

I find this hard to believe. That’s not the impression I’m getting at all.

“Do I still root for the Gophers? I do. Do I enjoy him running up and down the sideline? No. Do I think that he’s about the players? No. He’s about himself.”

And the Gophers appreciate your continued support, Jerry, I have no doubt. Again, it speaks volumes that you’re willing to set aside your animosity for the current head coach and put the program above your own feelings. Disparaging Fleck publicly and somehow supporting the program in your own way privately is not at all contradictory.

“I think sometimes ego gets carried away.”

I couldn’t agree more, Jerry.