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Posted July 18, 2011    

Jerry Kill

Eric Kaler

Joel Maturi


Kim Royston

"On The Record" 

Jerry Kill talking about the opener with USC: “It may be good, it may be bad.  It may be scary but at least we’ll know, and we’ll build it from there and get better.” 

Kill to Present Program 'Vision' to New U President 

“One person isn’t going to turn this thing around,” new Gophers coach Jerry Kill told Sports Headliners

Kill sat in his office on Friday and talked for more than one hour about what’s needed to make Gopher football special again.  The program hasn’t been to the Rose Bowl since 1962, was 3-9 last season, and is a landslide favorite to finish at the bottom of the Legends Division standings in the Big Ten this year. 

Long suffering Gophers fans often look east to Wisconsin for hope.  Years ago Badger football was awful until Wisconsin president Donna Shalala and coach Barry Alvarez arrived.  Camp Randall Stadium went from half empty to full and in Alvarez’s fourth season the Badgers were in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1963. 

Minnesota president Eric Kaler started on the job July 1 and has a reputation for being positive about big time college athletics including football.  Asked by Sports Headliners whether a president is important to a college football program, Kill never blinked and said: “Absolutely important.  Uno important.” 

Why?  Because in Kill’s view, results in football, business and life are all about emphasis and priority.  “If the boss at the top wants it important, it’s going to be important,” he said. 

Kill hasn’t met with Kaler yet but will soon along with athletic director Joel Maturi.  The two will present a “vision” of what they believe Gophers football should be. 

Asked specifically what that vision includes and how the school’s administration can help, Kill said the football program must have continuity with its people.  He said Minnesota has had 10 different defensive coordinators in the last 20 years and changed offensive systems each of the past three seasons.  But the revolving door of changes extends beyond coaches to support personnel in areas like academics and strength training.  

“When you can’t keep your continuity, it’s hard to win,” Kill said.  “It’s no different than (with) your top companies.  Usually those top companies are going to keep their key players (employees).”  

Kill said “we need to do whatever it takes to keep” coaches and other personnel in the football department regardless of whether that requires money, providing security, showing patience or appreciating their work.  Kill has had winning teams at his previous coaching stops including Northern Illinois and it’s remarkable in the job-hopping world of college football to see the longevity of relationships between him and his assistants. 

“I have taken care of our coaches where we’ve been,” he said.  “I will take a cut in pay to keep our coaches.  I want to win.  I know one thing.  We will not win here without stability in those areas.” 

Kill’s encounters with Kaler have been minimal so far including a five minute telephone conversation before Kill accepted the Minnesota job late last year.  Still, he’s been impressed with the new University boss who has succeeded Bob Bruininks.  “My first impression is that we’re very fortunate to have Dr. Kaler,” Kill said.     

“...I would not have come here if I didn’t feel like we could get it done (turning Minnesota into a winner).  Why would I?  I could have stayed at Northern.  We would have won forever.” 

Kill left an 11-3 team at Northern Illinois after three seasons in DeKalb.  The Huskies are No. 34 in the country in Sporting News Magazine’s preseason college football rankings and Kill thinks Northern could be a top 25 team this fall.  The Gophers are ranked No. 77 by Sporting News









“I have taken care of our coaches where we’ve been.  I will take a cut in pay to keep our coaches.  I want to win.  I know one thing.  We will not win here without stability in those areas.”
Jerry Kill

Kill's Message: Embrace What You Have 

Why come and coach here?  Kill likes challenges and believes Minnesota has the resources to have a special college football program.  Previous challenges on his resume include Southern Illinois where there was once talk of abandoning the football program but Kill went 50-14 there his last five seasons and now the school has a new stadium. 

Minnesota can be successful, too, and Kill scoffs at the pessimism surrounding the program.  It’s his job to find solutions to problems, not reinforce excuses.  Rather than problems, Kill prefers to hear about the school’s strong academic offerings, renovated campus, huge alumni base, vibrant local business community, educated workforce, quality of life reputation in Minneapolis-St. Paul, state-of-the-art football stadium and the recruiting advantages of being the only Division I football program in the state. 

To be successful Kill said the state must embrace his program.  Part of his mantra is that if everyone ─ from the football office to the president’s office, from the Minneapolis business community to the small town coffee shop ─ believes Gophers football is important than it will be a winner.  What’s emphasized produces results. 

Kill believes the fans will respond.  He won’t buy into the notion that the Vikings own the football marketplace here and that the Gophers can’t develop a passionate following.  

“That’s our fault,” he said.  “Everybody blames the Vikings, that we’ve lost fans.  Let me tell you. …Fans are frustrated because the team (Gophers) is not winning. 

“We gotta put a good product on the field.  That’s our job and (my) responsibility as a coach.  I think if we put a good product on the field I think we’ll get the support.  

“We can’t blame all the things why we can’t be successful.  We gotta find a way to be successful.  We gotta find a way to get the people excited about college football.  We can’t use a pro town all the time as an excuse. 

“That’s like the weather.  What the hell?  Am I gonna talk to God to make sunshine 365 days a year so we can recruit better?  Embrace what you have.  ...”








“We can’t blame all the things why we can’t be successful.  We gotta find a way to be successful.  We gotta find a way to get the people excited about college football.  We can’t use a pro town all the time as an excuse." 
Jerry Kill


Coach's Job: Lead Program by Example

Kill said winning won’t happen “overnight” and he hopes fans will be patient.  He and his staff face challenges in not only recruiting better players, but also keeping players in school.  He said some players have “dug themselves a hole academically.”   

Kill doesn’t want to see young men lose the promise of a college degree and the future that can help ensure.  But there’s more involved, too.  He and other college coaches are accountable to the NCAA to ensure academic progress and success by their players, or face possible sanctions that can include reduction in scholarships. 

With a new emphasis on academics in the football department, Kill plans on seeing a lot of impressive results in the future.  On Friday he found a silver lining to the subject of academics when he talked about five of his players who were recently recognized as Big Ten Conference Distinguished Scholar Athletes, Kim Royston, Ryan Orton, Chase Haviland, Aaron Hill and Adam Lueck. That means they achieved a 3.7 GPA or higher during the previous academic year.   

Kill is looking for what he defines as the “best players,” not necessarily the best athletes.  Players with character who want to be at Minnesota.  Young men who can be coached, compete hard on every play, are team focused, and attend class.   

Kill refers to such individuals as “A” players.  He knows he has some on the roster now and wants more.  And he’s looking for “A” performances from himself, his assistants, support personnel and others involved with Gophers football.  People with not only knowledge and ability, but also a passion for what they do and an “A+” work ethic that perhaps rivals Kill who routinely works from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.  

The Gophers will open practice on August 8 and play their first game at Southern California on September 3.  As Kill prepares for his first season at Minnesota he knows he’s the ringmaster inside the U football tent but he doesn’t plan to be alone. 

“My job right now is to lead by example,” he said.  “If I am going home at 4:30 in the afternoon, then I am letting the state down.  Frankly, when I took the job I told Rebecca (his wife), we’re gonna have to marry this baby because we got a lot of work to do.   

“People this year, they’re going to get after me.  I understand that.  They’re going to say, ‘Well, shoot, they’re the same old (Gophers).  When you’re frustrated that’s how you react. 

“You know what, I got a thick skin.  I know if we can stay on course, if we do what we need to do, it’s going to eventually happen because it’s happened everywhere else.  But without the support of the people, and the support of the people at the top, and the changes we’re going to have to make (it won't happen).   

“I am not going to cheat the school.  If they don’t want to do it, then I ain’t gonna be here.  I came here because I believe we’re going to change this thing.  I believe people are going to buy into what we’re trying to do.”







Jerry Kill







Kim Royston