MINNEAPOLIS — Two days after Gophers football coach Jerry Kill suffered a seizure on the sideline at TCF Bank Stadium, University of Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague addressed the media Monday to speak about Kill and the third-year coach’s status with the school.
The bottom line: Teague and the athletic department fully support Kill as the head football coach.
“Jerry is our coach and we are 100 percent behind him. I am 100 percent behind him,” Teague said.
Kill, a cancer survivor, suffers from epilepsy. At halftime of Saturday’s game against Western Illinois, he had a seizure on the sideline after his team was already off the field. After remaining on the ground for several minutes, Kill was taken off on a stretcher and transported to a local hospital for precautionary measures. It was unfortunately a sight that Gophers fans had witnessed once before, meaning the atmosphere at TCF Bank Stadium was not nearly as hushed as it was two years ago when Kill’s seizure occurred in the fourth quarter of Minnesota’s game against New Mexico State.
Saturday’s incident was the second time in three years he has had a seizure during a game. He also had another at halftime of a game last season and yet another following the end of a different game.
It wasn’t until recently that Kill has opened up about his epilepsy and the battle he fights, but he’s always insisted that the condition won’t prevent him from helping turn around Minnesota’s football program. In fact, he has never missed a game as a result of the seizures. Teague believes that Kill has the Gophers moving in the right direction, and he agrees with Kill that the coach’s epilepsy won’t stop him from continuing to move the program along.
“Once you get down to it, and I’m not trying to make it a no-big-deal thing, but you see what happens on a day-to-day basis and you’re around him as the leader of the department, if I had major anxiety I would let you know,” Teague said. “And I’m not saying it’s not a big deal, but I’m so confident in him, so confident in him attacking the condition that he has. Again, I go back and I see what he does. I see how the kids react to him. That really overrides a lot of things that are going on, and I’m just excited about us moving forward.”
Because of the public nature of Kill’s seizure Saturday and the one he suffered two years ago, some believe that Kill should step down as coach, arguing it has become a distraction. While some argue he should step down for the sake of his own health, others don’t think a coach who can’t make it through a game should be leading a team.
Teague strongly disagrees, saying the job is Kill’s as long as he wants it.
“Jerry’s job is so much more than just Saturdays,” Teague said. “And as I’ve said before, the way he manages our program during the week when I see him and work with him daily, the decisions that he makes — how they recruit, how he works with his assistants who have been with him longer than any Division I program history — that is so much of where the true work is done. I don’t think these seizures are distracting because of the way he manages the program during the week, just the way he manages the program in general.”
Kill was expected to return to practice Monday, and was in his office Sunday. He was taken to a local hospital on Saturday following the seizure for precautionary reasons, but Teague said Kill was home and resting comfortably by 4:30 p.m. CT that afternoon.
Two weekends ago, the Gophers arrived on campus at 4:00 a.m. after flying back from their game against New Mexico State. A weary Kill was in the office the next morning, a testament to his work ethic.
But rest (or a lack thereof) can be a trigger for epileptic seizures, and Teague admitted that the university has taken a bit of the load off Kill’s plate over the last year to help manage some things that Kill shouldn’t have to worry about. Teague said they’ll continue to discuss options and whether more rest will be needed.
“He’s done a better job in that area and I know he will continue to do a better job,” Teague said. “We’ve got to keep each other accountable in that area, not just Jerry. Because we tend to push ourselves a lot. We’re going to work on that and stay aware of that going forward and we all have to have our down time so we stay energized moving forward.”