Kill ‘˜blessed’€™ to be given raise, extension at Minnesota

During Jerry Kill's first three years as Minnesota head coach, the Gophers' win totals increased from three in 2011 to six and a bowl game berth in 2012 to eight wins in 2013.

Troy Taormina/Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Jerry Kill seemed almost embarrassed to be getting a pay raise.

The Gophers’ head football coach is a simple and modest man who years ago lived in a trailer and made $250 a month before he eventually ascended to coach a Big Ten program. So when a restructuring of his contract, announced this weekend, boosted his salary from $1.2 million to $2.1 million in 2014, even his family gave Kill grief about the sizable bump in pay.

"When your brother calls you up and goes, ‘You ain’t worth that, I can tell you that. I’m sitting here working on beef cattle and they’re paying you that to coach football? Is this country crazy?’ I just chuckled. I said, ‘I can’t answer that question. They may be,’" Kill said Monday at a press conference to discuss his new contract. "I’m a simple guy, but I will tell you this: I’m very appreciative. I’ve been blessed. I’ve been a blessed person my whole life."

The University of Minnesota feels it has been blessed, too, to have landed Kill to lead the football program. During his first three years at the helm, the Gophers’ win totals increased from three in 2011 to six and a bowl game berth in 2012 to eight wins in 2013. Yet despite his success at turning things around at Minnesota, Kill was still the lowest-paid coach in the Big Ten.

That changed with his recent contract restructuring, which brought him up to the middle of the pack among fellow Big Ten coaches’ salaries. The new contract also added a year to his deal to keep him around through the 2018 season.

The extra year and the extra money are signs that the university and the state of Minnesota have embraced Kill and believe he’s the man for the job.


"As the leader of the department, I’m 100 percent confident Jerry is leading this program in the right way," Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague said Monday. "There’s nobody that puts more expectations on himself than Jerry Kill does, so he’s not someone you need to motivate whatsoever. We want to just keep building and doing the right things off the field and on the field, and we’re going to get there."

Some of the details of Kill’s contract are a reflection of Kill’s belief in doing things the right way. He’s always been a proponent of taking care of his assistant coaches, even if that means sacrificing something individually for the betterment of his staff.

His restructured contract is an example of that. Under the new contract, Kill’s nine assistant coaches will be paid from a salary pool that must rank among the top six salary pools in the Big Ten.

"I wouldn’t have signed a contract (without it). It’s that simple," Kill said of the provision to compensate his assistants. "The president understood that. So did Norwood. That’s more important to me, because we’ve all worked together. I think the administration realized that and we’ve got good coaches. We need to continue to keep that where it needs to be."

Kill’s contract also has a stipulation about his health. It’s been well-documented that Kill has epilepsy and has suffered numerous seizures during his three years at Minnesota. However, the 2013 season marked the first time that Kill missed an extended period due to his epilepsy.

In his restructured deal, it says Kill’s contract can be terminated if he is "unable to perform one or more essential functions of the job of head coach" for 90 continuous days due to his medical condition. While Kill typically tries to downplay his health and its impact on his ability to coach — he’s been driving recently, which means he’s been seizure-free for at least three months — it did come into play when restructuring his contract.

"Nobody thought I’d be driving, and I’m driving — not very far," Kill said. "I think that I’ve been treated fairly from the health issue. Gosh darn, I’m almost tired of talking about it. . . . There’s always stipulations on everything. I’m not going to cheat the university. I know my back’s against the wall and all those kind of things. I think this sends a message to all the kids we’re recruiting right now."

Gophers lose LBs coach Miller: Kill confirmed Monday that linebackers coach Bill Miller will be leaving the program to take a job at Florida State. Miller has worked on Kill’s staff since he first came to Minnesota in 2011. He previously was the Gophers’ defensive backs coach from 1986-88.

"I think anybody that knows Billy enjoys being around him. He’s a good guy," Kill said. "With Billy and what he wants to do and where he’s at in his life, the chance to win a national championship a year from now means something. I’ve always said, if a person has an opportunity, that’s what’s best for him and his family, I’m OK with that. at this point in time in his career, it’s best for him and his family. We wish him luck."

Kill didn’t reveal his plans Monday for replacing Miller on the staff.

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Leaders step up in advance of spring ball: The Gophers officially kick off their spring practices on March 4 but have already participated in some team activities. During that time, Kill said a few leaders have emerged in ways that he hasn’t seen in his three years at Minnesota.

Among the two players Kill commended Monday for their leadership were redshirt sophomore quarterback Mitch Leidner and senior safety Cedric Thompson. With the transfer of quarterback Philip Nelson to Rutgers, the starting quarterback job is likely Leidner’s to lose this year. So far, he’s embraced the leadership aspect that comes along with being the starter.

"We finished up today, and our quarterback Mitch Leidner gets out there and we’re doing certain things with our people, and he gets everybody lined up, takes charge and goes, ‘Hey, let’s go. This is the way it’s going, men. This is what we’re going to do,’" Kill said. "We haven’t had somebody step out of the box in a leadership role. He stepped out of the box."

Kill also noted how Thompson has taken on a leadership role as a senior defensive back. The Gophers have a rule that any player who misses a class has to run extra in practice. If that player misses class twice, his position group has to run while he watches from the sideline.

As Kill asked Thompson if he was prepared to run after a defensive back missed class, Thompson responded that he didn’t know how Kill manages to keep all of his players in line.

"He goes, ‘I don’t know how you do it.’ I go, ‘It’s hell being the head coach, isn’t it?’" Kill said. "He just grinned and said, ‘I’m going to get it done, coach.’ But he embraces that idea. He came out and said, ‘I want to be the leader.’ We haven’t had those type of situations since I’ve been here. I’m encouraged by that."

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