Jerry Kill had been trying to decide what to do next since he retired as Gophers football coach for health reasons four months ago. On Wednesday, Kill said his next full-time job won’t be at the University of Minnesota.
Kill’s contract described a potential $200,000-per-year position he could take at the school if he were unable to coach for medical reasons. Kill and interim athletic director Beth Goetz had several conversations about possible jobs, but they could not agree on the new role.
Kill told the Star Tribune that he spoke to university President Eric Kaler on Monday and the two agreed that Kill would not have a permanent position at the university. Any work Kill does for the school moving forward would be as an independent contractor.
Kill and his wife, Rebecca, moved to their lake home outside Carbondale, Ill., in January.
“I visited with the president [Monday], and it was very professional in manner,” Kill said. “He would like me to speak on behalf of the university, raise money and teach a class or two. I really appreciate that offer, but I want to be involved with athletics. I’ve been involved with athletics my whole life, and I want to be around the kids more than anything.
“That wasn’t part of the offer. I understand that, but that was the deal-breaker for me.”
Kill’s contract stated that he and the university “may mutually agree” to the $200,000 salaried post-coaching position, with his title and duties assigned by the university president and athletic director.
“Jerry Kill is an asset to the University of Minnesota athletics program and the broader community,” Kaler said in a statement Wednesday. “Jerry and I had numerous extensive conversations about a potential role with the University, and we could not identify a full-time opportunity that met both his needs and those of the University.
“We want Jerry to remain a part of the University community in a way that works for everyone. The athletic department and others are already identifying and discussing opportunities with Jerry.”
Later Wednesday on Twitter, Goetz added: “Looking forward to continuing our relationship with Jerry, already planning some great engagement this spring.”
Kill won Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in 2014, and the university rewarded him last August with a new contract, which raised his salary for last season to $2.5 million. He was due to get a $100,000 raise each subsequent year under the deal.
The medical-condition clause in his contract gave him the option, if he was unable to coach, to seek disability benefits as a university employee or take a $600,000 lump sum payment. He said he took the $600,000 payment.
In January, the University of Missouri gave former coach Gary Pinkel a three-year contract to be an ambassador, with a salary of $350,000 the next two years and $250,000 in 2018. Pinkel led the team to 10 bowl appearances before stepping down after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Kill said his discussions about the new full-time job at Minnesota “were never about money. … I’m more hurt by it than I am mad.”
He could eventually land at Southern Illinois, a school close to his home where he still has strong ties after coaching there from 2001 to 2007. For now, he’s been giving speeches around the country and talking with coaching friends about potential consulting jobs.
‘Always a Gopher’
Gophers donor Don Loeslie was upset Wednesday upon hearing that Kill wouldn’t have a full-time job at the university.
“Jerry Kill took the program in ashes and resurrected it,” Loeslie said. “It’s a slap in the face to Coach Kill, and it’s a slap in the face for fans of the University of Minnesota. And I’m not the only one who’s going to feel this way.”
Regents Chairman Dean Johnson said not having Kill will make fundraising tougher for the athletes village. The project is a go, though the school has raised just $80 million of its $166 million goal.
“It’s a challenge,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t make things easier when [Kill] clearly was at the forefront of raising money and the proposal for the athletes village. But it didn’t work out, so we have to move forward and ask the donors and potential donors to move forward.”
Kill, 54, who was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2005, tearfully ended his 32-year coaching career seven games into last season, explaining that his epileptic seizures had returned. Kill went 29-29, with the high point coming when he led the Gophers to a 5-3 Big Ten finish in 2014 and, afterward, their first New Year’s Day bowl berth since 1962.
The Gophers replaced Kill with Tracy Claeys, his longtime defensive coordinator.
“I love the university,” Kill said. “I’ll always be a Gopher. If the university needs my help, I’m a phone call away.”