Jerry Kill’s Retirement, Tracy Claeys Takes Over

    University of Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill was forced to retire due to health problems. Now the legacy is passed to Tracy Claeys.

    October 28, 2015

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    In this, the year of the midseason coaching change, this one just plain stinks.

    Jerry Kill needs to be around college football, and he needs to be a part of the University of Minnesota program in some way, even if he’s not the head coach anymore.

    Only 54, he’s still too young and still too talented not to make an impact, but there’s obviously more to life than college football, even though that’s been his life. As he said in his press conference, he gave everything to the University of Minnesota program, and even more.

    There’s nothing flashy about his style or the substance of what he does or who he is. In an age of slick coaches, who can sometimes come across as used-car salesmen, he was a breath of fresh air – ask him a question, he’ll give you an answer. Like his teams, there’s no nonsense or any sort of pretense – you know what you’re getting. He could be like that because he was just that good a head coach.

    His teams relied on simply being better at running the ball, controlling the clock, not screwing up, and being more fundamentally sound than just about anyone else they faced. More than that, he was the type of coach every other coach hated to go against, mainly because he was better.

    For the last several years, talk to any Big Ten coach about what it’s like to coach in the conference, and Kill’s name would always come up in the same breath with Urban Meyer and Mark Dantonio as to why it’s so hard week after week to get through the slate.

    Among the coaching circles, there was, and is, no more respected coach in the Big Ten.

    And now he has to fully focus on trying to maintain his health and to lead a life managing his epilepsy and doing whatever he can to fight through the daily grind of simply trying be okay. With all his energy sapped – as he alluded to – he did everything he could to still be a top coach and a major university, all while being a terrific example of how to charge through life full steam ahead no matter what the health issues.

    Ironically, it’s 25 years ago this week that I suffered a seizure thanks to a brain tumor. Having been a part of the University of Minnesota medical world for treatment, I’m well aware of the great things Kill has done for the school and the example he’s set. All has been fine for me, but not a day goes by that I don’t think about it. Kill not only has to deal with a far worse condition daily, living under the constant fear that at any point he could suffer a seizure, but he’s had to do it while trying to gameplan to beat Nebraska, Iowa, and the rest of the Big Ten world.

    I despise talking about what happened to me – Kill has no problems with it, partly because his issues are so public, but also because he realizes the good he can do as an advocate in the fight. It’s always been just as interesting talking to Kill about this side as it is about how to get the Gopher passing game going.

    And now it’s Tracy Claeys’ Minnesota team to take over – there’s no one who knows the Kill style better and there’s no one who knows more how to take the foundation set and build on it.

    A 21-year assistant under Kill, and the interim head coach in 2013 when Kill had to take a leave of absence, Claeys knows the program, knows the style it takes to succeed, and knows how to put together a defense. To be crass and put a horrible situation into a football perspective, it’ll be interesting to see what Claeys can do as another Kill, but with the energy to do all the things the mentor wasn’t able to.

    And Kill will still be a part of this. A terrific representative for the school, and the Big Ten, he’s one of the good ones.

    His style, both on and off the field, needs to be an example of the right way to do things.


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