Insight News

Dec 18th

New Gopher coach Kill may grow on people

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couchkillThough Tubby Smith’s Golden Gopher Basketball team is all grown up and in the center of the local spotlight; there is a possible room in said spotlight for the University of Minnesota football team as well. On Monday, Dec. 6, U of M Athletic Director Joel Maturi hired Jerry Kill, former head coach for Northern Illinois University, as the next head coach of the Gopher football team.

In sports there often seems to be a tendency for schools to hire coaches from teams that have recently put a thumping on the hiring schools’ team – no scientific evidence there, but sure seems like it --Kill defeated the Gophers in TCF stadium in September. But though this prejudice may exist, and though Kill doesn’t immediately strike the image of a big tough football coach, there is no doubt that after a few minutes of hearing him speak most couldn’t possibly hold anything against the man. Kill, seeming genuine enough to potentially talk about the holes in his socks to a national audience, gave one of the more engaging opening press conferences that one could hope for.

Obviously, Kill is a name unfamiliar to the average college football fan, or U of M fan. Northern Illinois has a history of producing good players, something I know from personal experience and general observation over the years; so I can say with fair certainty that Northern Illinois is not in the business of hiring scrubs. For those who follow college football, the name of Northern Illinois is known well, and so even without knowing too much about Kill, I have to give him a pass on pedigree and for the fact that his rise has been a consistent path. It fits, at this point in his career, that Kill might get this opportunity to coach a Big Ten team. Kill’s roots go all the way down to high school football, and climb steadily from 1994 through a series of consistent lower division programs throughout the Midwest. A look at the progression of Kill’s record in coaching over the years could be an easy sell for an athletic director.

Surprisingly, many Gopher fans are upset over the selection of Kill. Athletic Director Joel Maturi seemed to have an affinity for Kill’s high school experience, as Maturi formerly coached in high school himself. It doesn’t seem anyone could blame Maturi for making uninteresting choices for coaches at the very least. Yet at the same time, it seems to me that Maturi puts a fair amount of thought into his choices. I also think that there is something to say that Maturi’s choices are generally made in efficient fashion. Chasing around big names for coaching positions can often end up in an ugly situation whether a school is successful in landing the coach, or not. Expectations can easily get too high. The past selection of Tim Brewster was a good selection from the standpoint that Brewster did what he was known to do well, which is recruit players. The final games by the Gophers this season were an indication of the talent available on this team. Unfortunately, Brewster’s oral confidence carried the young team only so far on the field.

Defeating the Iowa Hawkeye’s was an important proving point regarding the talent on the Gophers football team. Interim head coach Jeff Horton had a very good head coach aura about him, but ultimately, Maturi likely was interested in shaking the system a little more than to simply choose someone from the previous regiment of coaches.

The fact that Kill’s now former players at Northern Illinois we’re quite upset by the coaching team’s departure, perhaps could be a good indicator of the coaching staff’s ability. Kill’s coaching staff of ten years follows him wherever he goes. Little things like this can be easily overlooked. Kill seems to fit the Midwestern family mode, and has a challenging past, including cancer, that should allow most local folks to feel comfortable with him.

The Gopher Basketball team has beefed up after a few years of Tubby Smith’s influence and coaching system. The system was good from the start with Smith at the helm, so all he needed was to add the beef. With the Gopher football team, you don’t have to ask, “where’s the beef?” The football team has players that I believe could really surprise a lot of folks. Hopefully Kill can put a little more discipline into the young fellas, as he is known to be big with regard to team fitness.

Hopefully, Kill also takes note of the talented young men at Twin Cities inner city schools, because there’s a bunch of them; many of them now play on Saturdays at other Universities nationally, and plenty more even play on Sundays for large compensation. I’m just sayin’.

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