MINNEAPOLIS — Gophers football coach Jerry Kill suffered a seizure on the sideline at halftime of Minnesota’s game against Western Illinois. He was taken off the field on a stretcher and driven for precautionary reasons to a local hospital. Late Saturday afternoon the University of Minnesota tweeted that Kill had returned to his home.
After Minnesota’s players ran off the field with a 7-6 halftime lead, Kill remained on the sideline and began seizing for several minutes. The school’s medical staff and Kill’s wife, Rebecca, attended to him and let the seizure run its course before he was put on a stretcher and taken to the locker room.
The school’s athletic department did not field any questions about Kill after Saturday’s game but did issue a statement, delivered after the game by senior associate athletic director Chris Werle.
“Coach Kill’s staff — which is one of the most tenured in the nation; they’ve worked together longer than any other staff — and his team know the situation and are well-prepared to handle something like this if it arises,” Werle said. “Coach Kill’s condition has been documented by the media in town and nationally. Fans are aware that he has epilepsy and that situations like this can happen. With that being said, we don’t feel the need to take any further questions on the matter.”
It’s not the first time this has happened for Kill in his three seasons with the Gophers. Kill had a seizure on the sideline late in Minnesota’s game against New Mexico State in 2011, his first home game at TCF Bank Stadium. He has also had seizures in the Gophers’ locker room — including at halftime last year against Northwestern — and has had others since that public one in 2011. Kill also had an in-game seizure in 2005 while coaching at Southern Illinois.
However, Kill has never missed a full game because of his seizures, and his staff doesn’t see that changing this time.
“In all of this, he’s hardly missed any work,” said defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, who has been on Kill’s staff since 1995. “His recovery time now is so much better now than what it’s ever been. … I think they’re getting closer and closer to getting a grasp on it. We all know what’s expected of us in our jobs when it does happen.”
The 52-year-old Kill, a cancer survivor, has downplayed his health condition over the years, insisting it won’t limit him from doing the job he was hired to do at Minnesota. But yet another public seizure will surely raise more questions about Kill’s health.
Kill’s players have now been through this several times over the past three seasons. Most of the team found out in the locker room at halftime, with the Gophers leading Western Illinois by just a 7-6 margin.
“We just had to keep him in the back of our minds and make sure he was OK,” said senior defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman, who had a sack and blocked an extra point. “Coach Kill is tough. He definitely would want us to play hard and not let up.”
After Kill’s seizure Saturday, many people took to social media platforms to discuss Kill’s future as Minnesota’s coach. While some believe Kill should step down as coach because of his health condition, the Gophers certainly don’t agree.
In fact, it was business as usual for Minnesota after Kill’s latest seizure. The Gophers led the Leathernecks of the Football Championship Subdivision by just a point at halftime, but with Kill on their minds, they pulled away in the second half for a 29-12 victory.
“Coach Kill has trained us well to keep moving on,” said running back David Cobb. “We all have faith in each other, so we just said a quick prayer and we kept moving on.”
Athletic director Norwood Teague was not made available to the media Saturday. Kill has a weekly press conference with the media every Tuesday, but it remains to be seen if he will be present this Tuesday as the Gophers prepare to host San Jose State.
“You never truly know, and that’s the frustrating thing about these things,” Claeys said of Kill’s seizures. “I can tell you he’s done everything he’s been asked to do. He’s been in great shape physically. He’s going to be pissed, there’s no question, because he’s done what he’s supposed to do. But as I tell everybody, the positive is every time it happens you learn more and the situation will get better.”