Former Gophers football coach Jerry Kill was looking for a position making him a liaison between the president and the athletic director when he interviewed with University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler and interim athletic director Beth Goetz.
But he wasn’t offered that job, one that is so needed for a school that hasn’t won a football championship since it tied for a Big Ten title with Indiana and Purdue in 1967, hasn’t won a conference basketball title since 1982 and has recently seen the wrestling and men’s hockey programs go downhill.
And believe me, I am pretty well-informed about how the athletic department needed a guy such as Kill, who without a doubt was the most popular coach hired by the school in years, one who made more contacts with boosters and people who would help the program match the fundraising success of schools such as Wisconsin or Iowa. Kill would have been able to enlist the help of many top Fortune 500 CEOs in Minnesota and others who were interested in contributing financially to athletics.
Maybe the athletic department and teams wouldn’t generate as many investigations as they have recently if Kill was on the staff. And maybe the school would have an easier time recruiting coaches for future Gophers openings with Kill around.
The tipoff for how vital Kill could have been is how difficult it has been raising the money for the new athletic facilities, which is about 50 percent short of the $166 million needed to finish construction. After retiring from coaching football because of health concerns last October, Kill could have been a great fundraiser, better than anybody else in the athletic department.
Some donors who would have contributed won’t do so now that Kill is not a member of the department. A good example of the attitude of donors is T. Denny Sanford, who helped Kill in many respects, including contributing for a new locker room in the Bierman Building, but wouldn’t give to the facilities project.
Actually, there is still a position open within the department because associate athletic director Dan O’Brien gave up his duties to join the football staff. O’Brien’s previous duties included the oversight for football, men and women’s golf, wrestling and facilities.
Kill and football coach Tracy Claeys have worked together for nearly 20 years, and Claeys could have worked with Kill on fundraising events outside coaching. Kill would never stick his nose in the football program.
Goetz told me Kill is still going to be on call to do different things for the athletic department. But I doubt he will get involved with the university because, as he was quoted as saying last week when a job didn’t materializing, “I’m more hurt by it than I am mad.”
The people who decided not to offer Kill an athletic department position will regret it, without a doubt. The football program was a mess when he took over from Tim Brewster, and what he accomplished in four-plus years was nothing but fantastic. Kill could have done the same thing for the athletic department, if he had been given the chance.
Kill has had to turn down a number of speaking engagements because of the sheer number of requests. He hasn’t made a decision on his next job but has plenty of opportunities.
This week Kill spent time with his close friend, TCU coach Gary Patterson, and could wind up on his staff. Kill has always been close to Jack Harbaugh, father of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, and rumors around the Big Ten are that a job on the Wolverines staff is his if he wants it.
Kill is going to do some work for the NFL and the Chicago Bears, speaking to high schools on behalf of both organizations.
The Vikings’ Rick Spielman doesn’t need any suggestions from me, because he might be the most successful general manager in the NFL. But I’d bet Kill could be a great asset to the Vikings in calling college coaches who don’t allow NFL scouts into practices and convincing them to allow them in. And since he is one of the most popular coaches in the business, I would venture he would never get turned down. He also could gather scouting reports on college players headed for the NFL draft from all his close friends in coaching.
Yes, I sat in Kill’s office many times when he got one phone call after another from college coaches asking for his help. Nobody in the media was as close to Kill as I was. He was like a brother to me in our relationship.
• Gophers baseball coach John Anderson has signed a five-year contract extension that will keep him with the program through his 40th season as head coach. Anderson, who will turn 61 in May, has 1,177 career victories — 31st in NCAA baseball history.
• The Gophers baseball team is 5-2 after winning two of three in a weekend series at Campbell in Buies Creek, N.C. “Terrin Vavra, a freshman, has stepped up and had an incredible start to the season offensively and defensively,” Anderson said. “He’s a shortstop/infielder. He’s Joe Vavra’s son, the Twins [bench] coach. … Terrin is hitting .571, he’s 12-for-21, having a good start here.”
• The Vikings expect to decide next week on the status of tackles Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt, either paying their salaries for next season or releasing them.
• Bill McGuire, owner of the Minnesota United FC soccer franchise, said there is a good chance the team could play the 2017 season in either TCF Bank Stadium or Target Field as United’s new soccer stadium in St. Paul’s Midway area is being built. McGuire and his current partners are still looking for more investors.
• The new Gophers football practice facility will have a roof that raises 85 feet above the ground, the tallest of any such college building in the country. The present Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex is 184 feet by 380 feet; the new facility will be 200 feet by 390 feet.
• Former Gopher De’Vondre Campbell ran a 4.56 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, the third-fastest time of any linebacker attending the tryouts. … Former Gophers cornerback Eric Murray also performed well at the combine. Murray ran the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds, which tied for 16th among the defensive backs who competed. His vertical jump of 39½ inches ranked fourth, and his standing broad jump of 10-3 tied for 11th.
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