Jerry Kill less than a year ago said, “I’ll always be a Gopher.”
That story has changed. On 1500-AM radio on Wednesday morning, the former Gophers football coach said he would not attend another game in TCF Bank Stadium because of how athletic director Mark Coyle and University President Eric Kaler handled the firing of coach Tracy Claeys on Tuesday.
“I won't be stepping foot back in the stadium," Kill told 1500-AM, "and I won't be stepping back into the university."
Kill also was sticking up for the integrity of his old program, which he thought was under attack with the words Coyle used in his comments about why Kill’s replacement was fired.
"Think about all the good things that happened with that football program," he said. "I hope they don't forget that. I certainly haven't forgotten about the state of Minnesota."
"We gave our best to the state of Minnesota," Kill continued. "We'll always come to Minnesota. My daughter is there. We love Minnesota. I'll go to every baseball game, (Vikings) football game, anything else. But I will not ever be in that stadium or that complex. And they're building a new complex. We had a lot to do with that. I won't ever see it. But I wish them all the luck in the world. I hope the decision that Mark made was right. I do hope the program continues to do well. I just wish people would be straightforward."
Claeys, a longtime defensive coordinator under Kill, was dismissed Tuesday a week after he finished with a nine-win season after beating Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. Claeys received heavy criticism after backing his team’s boycott following the suspension of 10 players involved in an alleged sexual assault investigation.
Coyle said in a news conference Tuesday that he wanted “a program that operates with integrity and class academically, athletically and socially.”
“I didn’t listen to the whole press conference, but it’s my understanding that the athletic director talked about class and integrity,” Kill said. “Well, my comment on it is to be fair, not only was I part of that program but (I know) the people. And I would say that the program was run in a first class manner. I don’t think there’s anybody in the country that would argue that – anybody that knows me or any of the assistant coaches.”
Kill, who retired for health reasons in his fifth season as Minnesota’s football coach in 2015, worked as an associate AD at Kansas State in charge of football in the 2016 season. He was recently hired as the Rutgers offensive coordinator.
Kill said he wasn’t the only one that was shocked by Claeys’ firing around the college football scene. But what bothered Kill the most was Coyle questioning the culture of Gophers football.
“For him to make a statement, you have to go back to Mark wasn’t even here when it started,” Kill said. “Maybe he needs to visit with (former Minnesota AD) Joel (Maturi) and find out where the program was to where it is now and look how far it’s come.”
Kill continued that the U’s new facilities aren’t being built because of Coyle’s efforts since he was just hired in May.
“There has been a lot of work going into that by a lot of people,” Kill said. “To call people out like that, you got to know ‘em. I think some guys said (Coyle) might have come to one practice. The players don’t know the guy. The coaches don’t know the guy. You call people out like that? I don’t think that’s professional. I’m sure he’s a respected AD and all that. I’m not saying anything negative or bad about anybody. I’m just saying a fact about how I feel. I just think there’s better ways to do it.”