Saturday, February 22, 2014
Gophers make commitment to Jerry Kill
By Brian Bennett
Jerry Kill got Minnesota back to respectability in the Big Ten. And it was time for the Gophers to show the same respect to their third-year head coach.
That's why it was an encouraging and necessary development that the school gave Kill a one-year contract extension and sizable raise on Saturday afternoon. Kill was the lowest paid of the 12 Big Ten head coaches last year at $1.2 million. That's not chump change by any means, but for a guy who led the program to eight wins, a historic four-game league winning streak and second straight bowl game, it was far too low of a figure.
Kill will now make $2.1 million starting next season, and he will be under contract until the end of the 2018 season. Kill's salary now puts him in line with Wisconsin's Gary Andersen and Purdue's Darrell Hazell, who are both making a little more than $2.1 million, and ahead of Illinois' Tim Beckman and Indiana's Kevin Wilson. He'll also make slightly more than Maryland's Randy Edsall. Rutgers' Kyle Flood will be the real anomaly among Big Ten head coaches with a salary of $860,000.
Minnesota's commitment to big-time football has been questioned at times, but this is a good move by president Eric Kaler and athletic director Norwood Teague. It also shows a long-term commitment to Kill, whose own future as a head coach looked a little murky last season when he took a leave of absence to deal with his epilepsy. Kill came back to coach from the press box and made a surprise return to the sidelines for the second half of the Texas Bowl loss to Syracuse. He told ESPN.com earlier this month that he drove on signing day eve for the first time in two years.
Kill is confident that he can get his condition under control, and the Gophers leadership showed confidence in his ability to do just that. That's important because, as distasteful as it sounds, other schools could use Kill's medical situation against him in recruiting. Now, Kill can tell recruits about this contract extension as a sign of good faith.
Kill has shown a great knack for turning around and building winning programs, and he has Minnesota on an upward trajectory. He can now continue that climb, armed with a strong and rightful display of support from his own administration.