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Thursday, October 13, 2011
Gophers' grades a major concern for staff

By Adam Rittenberg

The most sobering statistic for Minnesota fans might not be 1-5 (the team's record) or 103-17 (the combined score of the Gophers' past two losses).

It's 63.

Coach Jerry Kill says he and his staff are monitoring 63 players to make sure they're attending class. I'm not a math major, but that's a huge portion of the roster that needs academic check-ups.
"We have academic issues -- I don't want to get into all the negative stuff, but everyone knows the issues we have," Kill said Wednesday, according to the Star Tribune. "... There's probably part of the 63 that are getting B's, but I'm going to make damn sure they're getting B's. I've got no choice, because if we have much more of this we're going to be caught in that tornado and we're never going to come out of it, so we're going to take extra accountability. That's why we've got people going through the dorms. We have to."

Credit Kill and his staff for following up, but listening to him, the Minnesota situation sounds worse than any of us thought when he took over. Kill hasn't kept quiet about the challenge of turning around the Minnesota program, repeatedly pointing to the youth on the team, the lack of sophomores and juniors, and the number of coaching changes in the past few seasons.

His honestly is refreshing, but he needs to be careful. When losses are piling up and a coach keeps pointing to a mess he inherited, fans' patience can run thin. Even Kill's boss, athletic director Joel Maturi, seems surprised by the team's current situation.

Here's what Maturi told 1500ESPN.com after Minnesota's 58-0 loss to Michigan.
"Maybe I should be more aware of the talent level of what we had. I didn't think it was as bad as it seemingly is. All the kind of things that caught up to the problems that we have. We did beat Illinois and Iowa the last two games of last year. We do have most of those kids on the football field this year. You kind of wonder, what is it?"

Is Kill taking shots at Tim Brewster and the previous coaching staff, or just telling it like it is?

From the Minnesota Daily:
Kill said when he and his staff took over the program there were "21 guys academically ineligible, or whatever it is. I’ve got to get the ground basis of that because right now it carries on the field.”
Adding: “That's not coach Brewster’s fault, now. I mean, there was transition and a lot of things going on. I'm not blaming anybody. I’m just saying, the facts are facts."
Brewster said he had "no idea" what Kill was referring to.
"All I know is we had an extremely high graduation rate when I was there. I received bonuses from my [Academic Progress Rates]; that's all public record."

Again, it's great to hear Kill is being proactive about his players' academic progress. While monitoring so many players undoubtedly takes time away from football issues, it's the right thing to do.

But pointing to inherited problems -- real or not -- will eventually sound like excuses and complaints, especially if the wins don't come.