There's a media session for Gophers football on Tuesdays of game week. Tracy Claeys was acting as the interim head coach and had the media duties before the victories at Northwestern and against Northwestern. Last week, Claeys and the head coach, Jerry Kill, were both in attendance -- with Kill receiving and answering the bulk of the questions.
On this Tuesday, it was only Kill, and the message was clear: The coach who gets the big check and has the seven-year contract was fully back in charge.
Kill was very casual about it, too, looking very country (which is why I call him Country Jer) in his jeans and vinyl pullover.
A friend of mine took a drive with Kill several weeks ago and said the tension with the coach was detectable ... not due to the condition of his football team but the frequency with which he was suffering epileptic episodes.
Missing the Michigan game on the first Saturday of October brought Kill's epilepsy to a crisis state. He took a leave that week, and wound up at the Spectrum Epilepsy Seizure Center in Grand Rapids, Mich. The specialists there appear to have done some fine work, because Kill was able to make a surprise visit to his team for the Northwestern game on Oct. 19.
He was more active from the coach's booth in the victory over Nebraska, and more active still, it seemed, in the victory at Indiana. He'll start in the press box again Saturday against Penn State, with Claeys as the main presence on the sideline, but it's now clear:
Jerry Kill is back in charge of the Gophers -- which means if we see a fake punt in a ridiculous situation, we can blame him.
On Tuesday, Kill went so far as to say he could be back on the sideline at a moment's notice, "if needed.''
To me, that means the Gophers better be looking solid at halftime against Penn State, or Country Jer is going to give the players the intermission address, and then lead them right out to the field for the second half.
A win Saturday will make Kill's third season at Minnesota an official success, no matter what happens later this month against Wisconsin and at Michigan State. And that certainly would fulfill Country Jer's "if needed'' criteria if things aren't looking properly positive at halftime.