Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague has yet to say definitively that raises are coming for football coach Jerry Kill and his staff, but Teague acknowledges that conversations have taken place behind the scenes.
“Jerry and I are constantly talking about budgets, his coaches’ contracts, his situation — it’s a continual conversation throughout a given year,” Teague said this week. “That’s about all I can say, and we always want to be supportive.”
The Gophers, who will meet Syracuse on Dec. 27 in the Texas Bowl, have improved from 3-9 to 6-7 to 8-4 under Kill. His $1.2 million base salary is the lowest among Big Ten coaches.
According to research by USA Today, his nine assistant coaches’ combined salaries ($2.15 million) rank seventh-highest in the conference. Fifteen assistants from the conference have base salaries higher than Gophers defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys ($346,800) and offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover ($341,800).
Claeys and Limegrover have both said in recent days that they have no intentions to leave.
“I know we say it all the time, but the continuity of [Kill’s] staff — I don’t think we can ever undervalue that,” Teague said. “There’s so much trust. They can operate at a fast pace and make decisions. And I just see how that unfolds all the time, and it adds a great deal to their program.”
The Gophers recruiting classes have ranked toward the bottom of the Big Ten under Kill, but Teague isn’t caught up in those rankings.
“I’m amazed at the staff’s ability to recruit and evaluate more than anything else,” Teague said. “You look at the two last classes, you have kids who have been major contributors right away.
“Some maybe had two stars by their name, but they’re going to be big-time players in the Big Ten. Those guys really know how to evaluate, and that is an art, especially in college football.”
Hageman completes his degree
The Gophers often tout the program’s academic turnaround under Kill, and a prime example is defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman. To put it simply, school didn’t seem like a priority for Hageman when Kill first arrived.
One time Hageman thought about skipping class, heard a knock on his door and saw his new head coach ready to personally escort him to school.
On Wednesday, Hageman finished his last college final, turning in a paper for an astronomy class. By that night, he learned he’d received a C-minus for the class, good enough to complete his degree in youth studies.
“I had a lot of supporters, like Coach Kill and the academic staff,” Hageman said. “They kept on grinding, kept on pushing me to do things, but at the end of the day I had to do the work.”
The 6-6, 310-pound Hageman is a projected first- or second-round NFL draft pick.
“He’s got a great future ahead of him, but he’s also got a college degree that will help him do other things in his lifetime, and you need both in this day and age,” Kill said. “The way it is, you never know when your last play is, so having a college education, at the end of the day it’s the most important thing.
“I promise you, there’s nobody more proud of that kid — besides his family — than this coaching staff and Coach Kill.”
Bak still questionable
Right guard Caleb Bak, who missed the final three regular-season games with a concussion, has gone through conditioning drills but has yet to practice. Kill hasn’t ruled out Bak for the bowl game and said the team should have a better idea Monday.