HOUSTON – One day before facing Syracuse in the Texas Bowl, Gophers coach Jerry Kill did not rule out a possible return to the sidelines.
Kill has coached from the press box for the past six games after taking about two weeks away from the team to treat his epilepsy.
“I’ll see how things go,” Kill said Thursday. “I’m going to visit with somebody this evening who’s in charge of that. And this is about the first time I’ve listened in all the time since I’ve been dealing with [epilepsy], so I’ll listen.
“But you know, sometimes it’s all overrated. I’m doing the same things if I’m up there as if I’m down on the field. And I’m a pretty emotional guy, so it’s probably best I am in the box sometimes, so we’ll see how it all works out.”
‘He had my back’
Kill will have a special visitor on the sideline for the game.
Dalton Richie, a cornerback from Montgomery, Texas, has epilepsy and has followed Kill’s story from afar. In September, when some fans and critics were calling for Kill to resign because of his seizures, the high school senior had a picture taken in his blue football uniform, and held a sign that said: “My name is Dalton, and I have epilepsy. I stand with Coach Kill.”
The picture eventually made it onto the Facebook page for the National Epilepsy Foundation.
“He wanted Coach Kill to know there were people beyond the North who supported him,” said Ritchie’s mother, Michelle.
Richie and his parents plan to make the one-hour drive to Houston for Friday’s game. The Gophers had it cleared with the NCAA to get him a sideline pass.
“He had my back,” Kill said. “I’ve taken some shots, and I am an epileptic, I don’t apologize for that. … I’ll be on the field and give [Richie] a big hug. … It means a great deal.”
Gophers sell more tickets
The Gophers sold 3,375 tickets for this bowl game, according to associate athletics director Chris Werle. That’s well short of each team’s 12,000-seat allotment, but it’s up from 3,163 last year. The Gophers have three busloads of students and two fan charter planes making the trip from the Twin Cities.
It’s unclear how many tickets Syracuse sold, but if Thursday’s Texas Bowl luncheon was any indication, Gophers fans outnumbered Orange fans by a wide margin.
The Houston Texans include tickets to this bowl game in their season ticket package. Last year, many of those fans turned out to see Texas Tech play the Gophers, but without a nearby college playing, the in-stadium attendance could fall well short of last year’s 50,386 mark.
The retractable roof at 71,000-seat Reliant Stadium is expected to be open Friday, with the forecast calling for about 56 degrees at kickoff.
Bowl game impact
Kill has said about six or seven members of last winter’s recruiting class cited last year’s bowl game in Houston as a factor in their decision to pick the Gophers.
Even though the Gophers lost 34-31 to Texas Tech, they got good exposure in a Friday night primetime slot on ESPN. They’ll get that same exposure this year.
“I definitely watched a little bit of it, and it was interesting because I like how [the Gophers] played,” said linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, who decommitted from Kansas State before picking Minnesota. “I wouldn’t say it finalized my decision, but it made a big difference in my decision.”
The Gophers were big underdogs in that game against Texas Tech and blew a seven-point lead in the final 70 seconds.
“You always want to finish the job,” Kill said. “Last year, we had a great experience and we did a lot of good things, but we didn’t win the bowl game.”