Column - Kill deserves his shot with Minnesota Gophers

University of Minnesota football fans finally got the answer to who their next head coach would be when Jerry Kill was introduced at a press conference on Monday afternoon.

University of Minnesota football fans finally got the answer to who their next head coach would be when Jerry Kill was introduced at a press conference on Monday afternoon.

I, like most Gopher fans, were left asking, "Who is Jerry Kill?" when I first heard of the hire. Now after learning more about him, he is clearly a man who has earned a shot to turn around this program.

Kill's style is the antithesis of former coach Tim Brewster's. He promised nothing in terms of wins and losses at his introductory press conference. The only thing he guaranteed was that this team would get better every day because of how hard he and his staff would work.

Kill does not have to talk a big game. His record really speaks for itself. He has just four losing seasons in 17 years as a head coach. He is 127-73 at four different schools, including a 10-3 mark at Northern Illinois this year. None of those coaching stops have been at a major school, but he has done everything he can to move up the coaching ladder.

The Minnesota faithful would have been thrilled with that kind of background had athletic director Joel Maturi not spoke of a "Tubby Smith like hire" early in the search. As a result, Kill became the victim of a lot of negativity because he was not the household name the fans were hoping for.


Maturi admitted on Monday that he never should have set expectations for a big-name hire so high.

"I wish I had those words back," he was quoted as saying. "That was somebody saying more than he should, because I knew from day one, there was not a successful BCS coach that would coach at Minnesota."

That should have been common knowledge among Gopher fans. No established coach at a BCS school was going to take on this rebuilding job.

The school's only realistic option to obtain a proven coach from a power conference would have been to take a chance on a guy like Mike Leach. I was one who thought the Gophers should do that after Leach came out last week and voiced his desire for the job. It was never going to happen, though. Leach's dismissal for the alleged player misconduct at Texas Tech made him an unviable option for Maturi.

There is no such baggage with Kill. Not only has he won the right way on the field but he demands his players perform in the classroom, as well. His team at Northern Illinois ranked 10th in the nation this year after scoring a 975 on the Academic Progress Rate, a metric established by the NCAA to measure the success of college teams in moving their student-athletes toward graduation.

Kill has proven he can get the best out of his players at the lower levels of college football. Now he deserves the chance to prove he can do that in the Big Ten.

The Kansas native knows it won't be easy. He called on everyone involved with this program - fans, alumni, media - to do what they can to help him restore the program.

"This is not Jerry Kill's football team," he said at his press conference. "It's our football team. This is the state of Minnesota's football team...It's going to be a team effort."


That means fans need to put aside their animosity for this team and do what little they can do to help. Comment sections and message boards are constantly filled with negative remarks. Anyone who thinks potential recruits, especially in-state recruits, are never swayed by the negativity surrounding this program is kidding themselves.

Maturi took a chance when he hired Brewster. It failed. At least something has been done to right that wrong. Publicly bashing his ability to find Brewster's replacement, especially by former players, was never going to help the process.

Did Maturi and president Robert Bruininks make the right hire when they chose Kill? We will know a lot more in three years. What we should know now is that Kill has proven he deserves a chance.

"It's Our Turn" is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

Opinion by Eric Morken
Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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