Only 41,062 tickets were sold to the Gophers' game against Purdue last Saturday, already the smallest crowd in TCF Bank Stadium's four-year history, and it looked like there were several thousand no-shows, too. It's a shame that so many Gopher fans missed the most impressive victory of the season so far.
But Jerry Kill said Tuesday he knows who is to blame for such a dispiriting turnout: He is.
Well, sort of. It's not really his fault that the Gophers don't draw well, but it is his responsibility, he said, for making sure that changes.
"If we continue to win, that place will be packed out and we'll have to build on to it," Kill said at his weekly news conference. "If you don't win, that's the way it is. ... It's our job. It's not our fans -- I'm not going to blame anybody. We've got to put a good product out there. That's what I was hired to do a year and a half ago, and that's what we'll do."
Kill said he has been heartened during his tenure here to discover that there are plenty of enthusiastic fans out there, and that negative opinions are offset by positive ones.
"There are a tremendous amount of people that have stuck by the program," Kill said. "There's enough passion in this state, and enough passion in this room. We start winning games, and expect it every week, and all of that stuff will come."
While Kill was praising Minnesotans who has supported him, his boss was trying to keep discouraged fans from abandoning the program. Athletic director Norwood Teague last week wrote an explanation for his and Kill's decision to cancel a two-game series with North Carolina and pay an $800,000 termination fee to do it.
Over the weekend, Teague sent a letter via email to season-ticket holders, hoping to reassure those who were especially critical of the decision. Kill, Teague and the athletic department received dozens of complaints about the North Carolina series, and Teague acknowledged that the move wasn't well-received. But "I also want to personally assure you that even if we don't always agree on decisions," Teague wrote, "I will always be guided by the best interests of athletics and the entire university community."
The controversy is a matter of tactics, not strategy, Teague said.
"While we may not agree on every decision, I have heard broad agreement that rebuiding the Gopher football program is a priority, not only for the team and its fans, but also for Gopher athletics and the university," Teague wrote. "I will continue to work closely with Coach Kill to implement a plan that builds a winning tradition that inspires pride, fills the stadium with fans, leads us to bowl games, attracts top student-athletes, and generates revenue."