Jerry Kill and the Old Scribe have much in common. We grew up in small towns, Jerry surrounded by wheat fields in Cheney, Kan., and the OS surrounded by cornfields in Fulda, Minn.
Jerry and his pals could make the half-hour drive to the bustle of Wichita, if they wanted to expand the potential dating pool in the mid-’70s. We had the lure of the bright lights of Worthington in the late ’50s, although there were “hoods’’ over there — guys with turned-up collars on leather jackets and Lucky Strikes on their lips — and it was advisable for Fulda boys to be cautious.
The real reason you can tell Jerry and the OS have much in common is that they are among the few people in this metropolis to understand the word “tour’’ is properly pronounced “turrr.’’
Sadly, there was evidence this week the bond that Kill and the OS had as people of the land, as common clay of the West, might not be as strong as previously indicated.
The university gave Kill a second much-improved deal in 38 months on the job last weekend — this one increasing his salary from $1.2 million to a $2.3 million average and adding a season through 2018.
Kill met with reporters on Monday and said he was still the same person who started out as a coach earning $250 a month and “living in a trailer.’’ Jerry didn’t clarify as to whether it was a trailer down by the river, but he did add this:
“I was very appreciative then. And if I had to go back to doing that, I’d be all right.’’
These words from a future multimillionaire caused the OS, a several thousand-aire, to reflect on his beginnings as a sportswriter.
“I started off making $76.08 a week at the Duluth News Tribune and living in a winterized cabin,’’ the OS said to himself. “Could I be like Jerry, go back to working that job at those prices, and still be very appreciative?’’
And the OS had to admit to himself: “It’s too cold and windy in Duluth. The hill gets too slippery in the winter. The Chinese Lantern burned down. Heavens to Brucey*, I’m not going back there to live in a cabin for $76.08 a week.’’
That makes it official: The OS is not as much the simple farm-lander as Coach Kill. The News Tribune would have to up the ante to a minimum of $152.16 a week to lure him back.
The Old Scribe has been around some exceptional bull slingers in the sports business — and always put Lou Holtz in a class by himself.
Remember, we’re talking about quality of the slinging here, not the quantity, which eliminates Tim Brewster. Coach Brew’s pandering to the masses was overwhelming in volume but failed because of transparency.
That’s what makes Coach Kill special. That’s what makes him “Country Jer.’’
We believed in Holtz’s admiration for Minnesotans and commitment to the Gophers almost until the moment he got on the plane for South Bend.
This guy is even better:
First, we had Kill aw-shucks us into believing it was at the university’s urging that he received a two-year extension even before signing his original five-year agreement. And this week came the whopper, with Minnesotans eating up the version that the university was embarrassed to be paying Kill a mere $1.2 million and basically browbeat him into accepting an increase.
Yup, the coach goes from a remaining $4.8 million for four years to $11.5 million for five years, and he and his high-powered agent had nothing to do with driving this. Really, all Country Jer was looking for was a show of appreciation for his assistants. And without that clause to put the Gophers’ budget in the Big Ten’s top six for assistants, Kill said:
“I wouldn’t have signed the contract. That’s just the way it is.’’
The university would’ve been forced to continue the embarrassment of paying you a mere $1.2 million to reach runner-up status in the Texas Bowl without the boost for assistants?
Thanks for taking the extra $6.7 million, and let the Old Scribe say:
Keep slinging, Country Jer, because you’re the best at it we’ve ever had in these parts, Lou Holtz included.
*Bruce Bennett was the Old Scribe’s boss in Duluth.