MINNEAPOLIS — The bye week came at the right time for Gophers head coach Jerry Kill, who continues to rest at home after suffering a seizure Saturday morning that forced him to miss Minnesota’s 42-13 loss to Michigan.
It was the second game day seizure this year for Kill, who suffers from epilepsy and has now had five documented seizures on game days since taking over the Gophers in 2011. This one, however, was the first that forced him to miss an entire game. Since Minnesota doesn’t play this weekend, a lighter practice schedule means more rest for Kill as he works with doctors to find the right balance of medications.
The Gophers’ third-year coach was not on the weekly Big Ten coaches teleconference Tuesday. Instead, defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys — who served as the acting coach this past Saturday in Kill’s absence — took over and provided updates on Kill’s status.
“He’s doing good,” Claeys said Tuesday. “He’s continuing to get the rest he needs and work with the doctors to do the best they can to get the situation under control with his medicine, which they still believe that they can do that.”
Minnesota practices this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, meaning some of the team’s coaches have been on the recruiting trail early this week. While Kill has normally returned to work shortly after his seizures, he hasn’t yet been back in the office this week.
Claeys wasn’t sure when Kill might return to practice but said the team won’t rush anything given the bye week.
“We didn’t talk about that, so we’ll just see how it goes,” said Claeys, who talked to Kill on the phone Tuesday. “It’s all around when his doctor’s appointments are and that type of stuff. We’ll just take it one day at a time and see how it goes. … It’s all about him getting his rest and his medication. We’re not practicing, so there’s no hurry for him to get back.”
Kill did not travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., with the rest of the team. He wasn’t feeling well Friday and stayed in Minneapolis for the night. Kill was scheduled to fly in Saturday morning but suffered another seizure before he left.
Most of the players didn’t find out about Kill’s latest seizure until a few hours before kickoff. But having been through this several times before, including once at halftime this year in their game against Western Illinois, the Gophers didn’t panic, Claeys said.
“They were fine. It’s kind of like all of us, you’re a little disappointed. He’s their biggest fan,” Claeys said. “They’ve been told it could happen. We visit with them. I don’t think that had any bearing on the way we played. I thought they played hard.”
Two of Kill’s previous seizures during his tenure at Minnesota happened on the field. In his first home game as head coach in 2011, Kill fell to the ground and started seizing late in the fourth quarter against New Mexico State. This year, his seizure occurred on the sideline at halftime of Minnesota’s game against Western Illinois after his players had already run to the locker room.
Those same players are constantly asked about their head coach, and they all have given their support to Kill. Unfortunately, though, the protocol for what to do when Kill has a seizure has become far too common.
“They don’t ask a lot of questions about when he’s coming back. I know Coach said he’s gotten a lot of texts from them, and he appreciates that,” Claeys said. “It’s nothing like where you just get bombarded with questions about him from the team. They understand the situation. I think you’d have to ask them. None of us like to see him go through it, but I think they’re comfortable with the situation because we’ve been open and honest with them from the very beginning.”
With Saturday’s loss, Minnesota fell to 4-2 on the season and 0-2 in Big Ten play. After this week’s bye, the Gophers travel to face Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., next Saturday.