GOPHER FOOTBALL: Length of Kill's new 7-year deal lauded
MINNEAPOLIS The surprise Tuesday wasn't that Jerry Kill signed his contract. It was the length of the deal. From arguably the nation's most respected recruiting analyst, to probably the school's most vocal booster, to the man who hired him, the d...
The surprise Tuesday wasn't that Jerry Kill signed his contract. It was the length of the deal.
From arguably the nation's most respected recruiting analyst, to probably the school's most vocal booster, to the man who hired him, the decision to bump Kill up to a seven-year deal (worth $8.4 million) makes sense. Now, they say, he has every chance to turn around the football program.
The Gophers are 1-6 in Kill's first season -- and have started 0-3 in the Big Ten Conference while being outscored 144-31 by Michigan, Purdue and Nebraska.
"But he's brought a lot of energy to the program here," athletics director Joel Maturi said at Tuesday's news conference. "I think Minnesotans have identified to who he is and what he's done.
I think he holds himself, his staff and his kids accountable. I think we believe he's the right person to have our team be as good as we can be. How good that is remains to be seen."
The timing of the deal seems odd, considering the Gophers were overwhelmed on the field and in the stands at TCF Bank Stadium in a 41-14 homecoming loss to Nebraska last week. More of the same is expected there Saturday, with Minnesota a 15-1/2-point underdog to rival Iowa (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten).
But recruiting expert Tom Lemming said getting the contract done and making it longer than usual gives prospects a better sense of the future.
Kill's predecessor, Tim Brewster, signed a five-year deal when hired in 2007.
"Jerry's a proven winner," said Lemming,
who works for CBS College Sports. "It's just a matter of getting his system and players in there, and Minnesota will be right back on track. You have to give him time because of the coaching change. I think that's smart. More teams should do that because it will give coaches more confidence to recruit."
Gophers booster and former All-American Bob Stein had been one of the biggest critics of the program under Brewster. He also was among a large group of alumni critical of Maturi during the
search for Brewster's replacement.
But Stein, who was on his way to watch his first practice Tuesday, called the news of Kill's seven-year deal "terrific."
"I think it's a great statement," he said. "I'm very happy about it. The intention is, I hope, that it's a long-term commitment. And it also reflects the understanding that it's going to take patience."
Kill has preached patience since he was hired in December, calling this a major rebuilding job. But now he says there are more problems "than I thought and even probably Joel thought."
"We have got some issues from academics to different things," Kill said. "And when you're at a place where we are at, there's going to have to be a huge investment to get back at it. I've shared that with Joel and I've shared it with our president (Eric Kaler)."
Kill said Tuesday that he needed to know Kaler backed his vision for the program before signing. He also needed to see more stability in the academic center and a commitment to having a better strength and conditioning program.
Maturi, who has said the delay in signing was over contract language, confirmed Tuesday that Kill's concerns were part of the negotiating process. He said the university could not afford to offer Kill a lot more money -- although it did add $100,000 a year to the original Memorandum of Agreement -- so it increased the length from five to seven years to show a stronger commitment.
"We have to make sure our assistant coaches are going to be here or keep as many of them here and have some continuity in those areas," Kill said. "That was all a part of this. You can't fix it all at once, but you'd better concentrate on making sure kids are going to school and eligible and they are doing the right things, and you'd better get them strong."
Plans are in place to add more strength coaches and pay all the strength coaches at a higher rate, Maturi said.
Maturi also called the McNamara Academic Center's new director, Lynn Holleran, the best leader of the department since Maturi arrived in 2002.
Holleran, who served as interim director in 2010-11, hired two academic advisers to work with the football team. She also added an intern to help players, a position created because of Kill.
"Hopefully, we've put an end to turnover for a while," she said. "Coach Kill and I agree -- usually if we find somebody struggling in the classroom or struggling going to class, then usually you find that it happens on the field."
Kill, 50, is under contract to coach the Gophers through February 2018. He will earn $1.2 million a year, half in base salary and half in supplemental compensation for participating in fundraising, community involvement and endorsements. The contract also includes performance incentives.
If the Gophers want to fire Kill during the contract, they would have to pay him half of what is left on the deal (meaning $600,000 of the $1.2 million for every remaining year).
Maturi said Kill's seizure disorder didn't affect the contract, which contains the same language used for Brewster concerning health: If the coach "becomes permanently disabled from performing his duties" or dies, he or his estate "shall be entitled to all compensation earned ... as of the date of the event."
Kill collapsed on the sideline and had a major seizure late in the Sept. 10 home loss to New Mexico State. He continued to have seizures and had two stints in the hospital to regulate medication to control his disorder.
"We talked about (his health) quite extensively with the medical profession," Maturi said. "I think Jerry is concerned, and he's doing everything he needs to do to make sure he keeps himself, hopefully, if not seizure-free, certainly minimized."
Free lunch: Kill said he and his wife, Rebecca, will thank fans for their support by buying lunch for about 4,000 students before Saturday's game against Iowa. The meals will be served about 12:30 p.m. just inside of the gates at the student entrance to TCF Bank Stadium, according to the Gophers.
"We are not doing very well," Kill said of his team. " So I said, let's reward them. ... they deserve that."
Distributed by MCT Information Services