Tracy Claeys doesn’t have an agent, doesn’t plan to hire one, will do his own negotiating and would coach the Gophers football team for a reasonable salary.
All he wants is a chance to succeed Jerry Kill, and the longtime defensive coordinator deserves the opportunity to prove he can continue what Kill started and sustain a winning football program at the University of Minnesota.
You have to give Claeys some credit for the Gophers coming within a half-yard of scoring one of the biggest upsets in Gophers history against a Michigan team that ranks with the best in the country. I’m confident he will get the opportunity.
Another plus in hiring Claeys would be that some of the Gophers staff has been together under Kill for almost 15 years and most likely would stay on board. That continuity is crucial to successful football programs.
There is no doubt the players would vote 100 percent to retain Claeys. And since Kill’s retirement last week, only one recruit has publicly announced a choice to decommit, with several other players reaffirming their pledge to become Gophers.
Claeys and University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler are scheduled to meet this week. After visiting with Kaler, I am convinced he will retain Claeys on a permanent basis.
Dean Johnson, head of the Board of Regents, is also convinced there would be a unanimous vote to hire Claeys.
Normally the athletic director hires the coaches, but interim athletic director Beth Goetz, who has done an outstanding job in her 90 days in the role, is in favor of Claeys. And in fact, if a vote was taken by the Gophers men’s and women’s coaching staffs, either Goetz or senior associate athletic director Dan O’Brien would be named to succeed Norwood Teague as permanent athletic director instead of bringing in an outsider who knows little about the current operation.
Can do the job
Claeys said he has confidence that he can handle the job of being the head coach.
“The football part is easy, it really is,” Claeys said. “You go along, same kids, same coaches, we don’t have Coach [Kill] out there every day and I miss him as a friend, but I still call him and get the advice I need.
“The hard part is the recruiting standpoint and the unknown of it, but we’re working awfully hard and hanging in there with those kids as long as we can and they’re hanging in there with us. But at some point, some of those kids are going to have to look at other options, and that’s out of our control. But right now it’s going good, but you know at the same time, I want the university, when they make the decision, to want me, to want me to be the head football coach. We’ll do everything we can to hold those recruits in here and we’ll also, as far as preparing the team, they’ll be ready to play.”
Does he have any doubts?
“No question, I can handle it,” he said. “There is no doubt. I was fortunate that Coach let me be involved in a lot of things and take some responsibilities in other things. There’s no question that I can lead the football program and represent the university well.”
Claeys had a sort of blessing in disguise when he was asked to do a little more than most assistant coaches while Kill dealt with some of his epilepsy issues over the years, including posting a 4-3 record as acting head coach in 2013 with four consecutive victories. He said his responsibilities have changed only slightly since being named interim coach.
“You know you have to, as much film as I’m involved with now, I’ll still be involved with all of that, but I’ve had to [delegate] a little bit more than what I normally do,” he said. “The recruiting part of it is I’m trying [to coach on] both sides of the ball [and I’m] staying in touch with kids each week. There’s a lot there with recruiting, because we all know you have to have good players to win. I think we have good players interested, and my priority is to keep them here at the University of Minnesota.”
Does Claeys think he could retain the coaching staff?
“I would think so,” he said. “That’s something that if this works out, we’ll sit down and talk but we’ve been together so long that I would think that it would work out for the most part.”
Almost immediately, Claeys also has had to be the face of the program when controversy arises. He took responsibility for the final play calls against Michigan on Saturday, blaming himself for the 29-26 loss.
“Coming out of the play reversal … we should have clocked the ball knowing how long that play was going to run,” he said about the second-to-last play of the game, which wasted a lot of time off the game clock. “That’s where my familiarity, not knowing all the plays on offense, got me in a little bit of trouble. I’ll spend more time with the offense this week, obviously.”
• The Gophers are 2-21 when playing at Ohio State, winning at Columbus in 1949 with Bud Grant and company under Bernie Bierman and in 2000 under Glen Mason. They are a 23-point underdog on the road against the Buckeyes on Saturday.
• Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman on signing former Gophers defensive back Brock Vereen to the practice squad after he was released by the Bears: “We always liked him when he was a Gopher and believe he has a chance to play in the future.” … Ronnie Spielman, son of the Vikings GM, is a member of the Ohio State lacrosse team, but he is being held out of competition as a redshirt this year.
• Ex-Gophers defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman is starting at defensive tackle for the Falcons and in eight games has seven solo tackles, four assists and one sack.
• Patrick Mahomes, the standout Texas Tech sophomore quarterback who has thrown for 3,331 yards and 25 touchdowns so far this season, is the son of former Twins pitcher Pat Mahomes, who went 18-28 here from 1992-1996.
• Gophers junior diver Matt Barnard has a chance to be one of the best divers the university has ever had. He was an All-America as a sophomore, won the bronze in platform diving at the 2015 NCAA Championships and could have an even better season this year.
• The Timberwolves traded away forward Chase Budinger to grab Damjan Rudez from the Pacers. So far this year, Budinger is averaging 2.3 points, 1.3 assists and 1.5 rebounds over 13.3 minutes per game in Indiana.
• This weekend in South Bend, Ind., most likely will be the final time Gophers hockey coach Don Lucia gets to coach against his son, Mario, at Notre Dame. Mario, who was drafted by the Wild in 2011, has two goals and five assists in six games this season.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org