Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.

Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.

Kill gives state of the program address on Gophers Road Trip

Posted by: Joe Christensen under Gopher coaches Updated: June 5, 2013 - 11:30 AM

BYRON, Minn. -- The Gophers athletics department went through the second leg of its new barnstorming tour this week, with stops in Rochester, Austin, Owatonna and Red Wing.

The Rochester event was technically in Byron, at the Somerby Golf Course. It coincided with the 40th annual Rochester Golf Outing, and about 300 people filled tables inside the banquet room, most of them wearing maroon and gold.

AD Norwood Teague, Jerry Kill, Richard Pitino, Don Lucia, Brad Frost, Hugh McCutcheon and several other coaches spoke. I was there for a football scheduling story but thought the whole 90-minute program was pretty entertaining.

Teague noted that Frost’s women’s hockey team finished 41-0 and joked, “We’re looking for more out of him.” M.C. Mike Grimm mentioned that the volleyball team made the Elite Eight last year and has the nation’s third-ranked recruiting class. McCutcheon shrugged and said, “We’ve got a lot of work to do, but it’s tough to win the derby on a donkey, right?”

Pitino and Lucia added some funny lines, and men’s gymnastics coach Mike Burns spiced up the lunch program by walking to the podium -- on his hands.

Kill takes the mic

Kill talked last. He’s given countless speeches to groups this size, and his comfort level showed. The native of tiny Cheney, Kansas, talked about how much he’s enjoyed going around the state and getting to know Gophers fans.

“Two years ago, I didn’t know much about Minnesota,” said Kill, who was hired in December 2010. “What we have to do is create a football team that reflects you because it’s your football team at the end of the day.”

Kill said the Gophers have placed 24 players from Minnesota on scholarship since his staff arrived, including several who came to the University as walk-ons. The Gophers went 3-9 and 6-7 in Kill’s first two seasons, including a 34-31 loss to Texas Tech in last year’s Meineke Car Care Bowl.

“I remember running off the field, I turned to one of my assistants and said, ‘We will get there.’" Kill said. "It’s the first time we hit somebody in the mouth. We played physical. I think we played the way we want to play. We didn’t win the game. ... We found a way to lose. Too many mistakes.”

Examining the foundation

Kill said the team continued to improve through spring practice and especially with the work being done in the weight room.

“As a coach, I feel like we’re better than we were in the bowl game -- right now,” he said. “But what we do in the summertime is critical, and how are our young kids going to handle the summertime? Because we [coaches] can’t be with them. Our strength coach can.

“I think the key to where we’re at right now, is we’ve been fortunate to keep our [assistant] coaches. We’ve had the same coaching staff for two years. That hasn’t happened very often. MarQueis [Gray] had five different coaches, so that will give you an example. To turn around a program, you have to have stability.”

Then Kill mentioned the team’s academic turnaround, saying the team had a dangerously low APR (Academic Progress Rate), when he arrived.

“This is an amazing story,” Kill said. “We were in big time trouble two years ago. I can tell you, we’ve had four back-to-back semesters of 3.0 [cumulative GPA] or better.

“We’ve gotten ourselves out of a hole. And a big reason that’s happened is people working together to help us get out of that hole. We have over half our football team that’s over a 3.0. That’s a miracle in where we were at before.

“So I’m proud of the kids. Now we have to translate that discipline over to the football field. We haven’t done that yet. We haven’t played as clean as we should, but I do think we’re headed that way.”

Recruiting will be the difference

Kill’s recruiting classes have ranked toward the bottom of the Big Ten. But the more teams win, the easier it is to attract top recruits.

“There’s not a quick fix,” he said. “It comes down to recruiting. It comes down to getting the right fit, and your strength people have to do a great job. I’d invite you to come down and watch us. We are changing. We used to have 6-foot-3 tackles; we’re about 6-7 and 6-8. We’re starting to look the way you look like in the Big Ten, and our recruits coming in [this month] are going to look a little better.”

Kill took two questions from the audience. Asked about the quarterbacks, he said Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner make him as confident as he was at Northern Illinois, when he had Chandler Harnish and Jordan Lynch. Asked about recruiting obstacles at Minnesota, he said, “I think the biggest obstacle we have is we don’t tell our story well enough.”

“I was 5-6 hours down the road [at Northern Illinois] and played the University of Minnesota [in 2010]," he said. "When I got the call from Joel [Maturi], I really didn’t know that much. My wife and I have been here for two years. I will tell you it’s important for me to win; my wife’s not going anywhere.”

The audience ate that up. Kill had introduced his wife, Rebecca, at the beginning of his speech.

“I’ve been married 30 great years in May -- that’s pretty good No. 1,” Kill said. “Second is, I’d like to continue that marriage, so it is important to win because it’s a great place, and I just don’t know if we brag and tell our story enough. And we’re maybe not proud enough, but we need to tell it throughout the country.”

This barnstorming tour – officially called the “Gophers Road Trip: Chalk Talk 2013” -- is part of that mission. The third and final leg runs through Willmar, Alexandria, Moorhead, St. Cloud, Duluth, Hibbing, Coleraine and Walker, from June 17-20.

“If we can get a young person on our campus, we’ve got a chance,” Kill said. “The biggest part is just getting them here. You hear about the cold. That’s the first thing you hear. People have no idea what this state has to offer, and if we get them here, we’ve got a shot.”


Buffalo 17 FINAL
New England 9
Cleveland 10 FINAL
Baltimore 20
Dallas 44 FINAL
Washington 17
Indianapolis 27 FINAL
Tennessee 10
Jacksonville 17 FINAL
Houston 23
San Diego 7 FINAL
Kansas City 19
NY Jets 37 FINAL
Miami 24
Chicago 9 FINAL
Minnesota 13
Philadelphia 34 FINAL
NY Giants 26
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Tampa Bay 20
Carolina 34 FINAL
Atlanta 3
Detroit 20 FINAL
Green Bay 30
Oakland 14 FINAL
Denver 47
Arizona 17 FINAL
San Francisco 20
St. Louis 6 FINAL
Seattle 20
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Pittsburgh 27
Arizona 1/3/15 3:35 PM
Baltimore 1/3/15 7:15 PM
Detroit 103 FINAL
Cleveland 80
Houston 106 FINAL
San Antonio 110
Oklahoma City 107 FINAL
Dallas 112
New York 79 FINAL
Portland 101
Toronto 116 FINAL
Denver 102
Phoenix 116 FINAL
LA Lakers 107
Toronto 4 FINAL
Florida 6
Vancouver 1 FINAL(OT)
Anaheim 2
Tulane 57 FINAL
St Johns 82
Central Conn St 48 FINAL
Connecticut 81
Iona 81 FINAL
Drexel 62
Concordia (MI) 42 FINAL
Eastern Mich 100
Harvard 46 FINAL
Arizona State 56
Longwood 64 FINAL
Ball State 69
Sacred Heart 76 FINAL
Brown 79
Colgate 64 FINAL
Columbia 69
MD-Eastern Shore 78 FINAL
Duquesne 69
UNC Greensboro 50 FINAL
East Carolina 71
Marist 64 FINAL
Elon 69
Lafayette 76
Cincinnati Christian 58 FINAL
Liberty 78
Morgan State 53 FINAL
Marquette 81
Campbell 56 FINAL
Samford 65
Bucknell 71 FINAL
Siena 73
Long Beach State 67 FINAL
Syracuse 85
Coppin State 80 FINAL
Evansville 85
Indiana State 70
Hofstra 88 FINAL
Long Island 62
Coast Guard 48 FINAL
Army 93
Thomas (GA) 48 FINAL
High Point 85
Texas Southern 58 FINAL
Kansas State 56
Rutgers 59 FINAL
Monmouth 58
NC Wesleyan 54 FINAL
NC A&T 58
South Dakota St 63 FINAL
Northern Iowa 74
Central Penn College 69 FINAL
Radford 119
Bowling Green 79 FINAL
South Florida 70
Harris-Stowe 66 FINAL
SE Missouri St 94
Robert Morris-IL 56 FINAL
SIU Edwardsville 104
Northland College 59 FINAL
North Dakota St 83
Milwaukee 60 FINAL
South Dakota 84
Northwestern St 92 FINAL
Arkansas 100
Saint Peters 59 FINAL
Cornell 52
St Katherine 62 FINAL
Fresno State 93
Haskell 42 FINAL
Oral Roberts 94
Wake Forest 65 FINAL
Richmond 63
Fla Gulf Coast 57 FINAL
Xavier 71
SD Christian 45 FINAL
Northern Ariz 71
Judson 46 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 80
Ill-Chicago 60 FINAL
Bradley 68
Loyola-Maryland 61 FINAL
Fairfield 59
Miss Valley St 53 FINAL
Houston 80
Lehigh 58 FINAL
Delaware State 56 FINAL
Temple 66
Belmont 56 FINAL
Butler 67
Howard 59 FINAL
Fordham 74
NW Christian 67 FINAL
Nevada 81
UC Davis 83 FINAL
Washington St 90
Abilene Christian 81 FINAL
Grand Canyon 83
Alabama 56
Stony Brook 62 FINAL
Washington 57
Buffalo 56 FINAL
Wisconsin 68
CS-Bakersfield 55 FINAL
California 52
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 42 FINAL
(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 8:00 PM
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Toledo 1/4/15 8:00 PM
Arkansas State
Drexel 71 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 54
Holy Cross 63 FINAL
Norfolk State 62
East Carolina 62 FINAL
South Florida 69
(10) Oregon State 63 FINAL
(8) Tennessee 74
Providence 51 FINAL
Boston College 79
Florida A&M 47 FINAL
Miami-Florida 83
Oakland 69 FINAL
Central Michigan 74
Chattanooga 59 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 49
Fairfield 59 FINAL
La Salle 73
St Francis-PA 59 FINAL
Pittsburgh 97
Milwaukee 72 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 78
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Longwood 63
New Hampshire 58 FINAL
Manhattan 54
Bucknell 68 FINAL
Binghamton 57
Northeastern 70 FINAL
Albany 67
George Mason 70 FINAL
Towson 72
Richmond 59 FINAL
William & Mary 56
Tulane 60 FINAL
Cincinnati 50
North Florida 51 FINAL
Florida 63
(14) Georgia 51 FINAL
Seton Hall 70
Tennessee St 75 FINAL
(12) Kentucky 87
American Univ 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 77
Massachusetts 78 FINAL
Boston U 57
Quinnipiac 69 FINAL
Saint Josephs 67
Lafayette 49 FINAL
Saint Peters 34
Northwestern 61 FINAL
(20) Michigan State 57
Duquesne 82 FINAL
Lehigh 75
George Washington 72 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 49
(17) Rutgers 66 FINAL
Indiana 51
(24) Green Bay 66 FINAL
Dayton 72
Western Mich 55 FINAL
Stony Brook 59
Davidson 67 FINAL
Virginia 57
UNC Greensboro 61 FINAL
LSU 82
Denver 63 FINAL
North Texas 55
VA Commonwealth 63 FINAL
Coppin State 52
Huston-Tillotson 36 FINAL
Houston Baptist 86
Lamar 63 FINAL
Rice 97
Miss Valley St 40 FINAL
Alabama 71
Saint Louis 63 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 49
Middle Tennessee 98 FINAL
Tenn Tech 76
Penn State 52 FINAL
(23) Iowa 77
Purdue 62 FINAL
Illinois 55
DePaul 99 FINAL
Illinois State 62
Sam Houston St 46 FINAL
Wichita State 70
South Dakota 76 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 69
(4) Notre Dame 82 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 51 FINAL
SC State 60
Alcorn State 53 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 63
Dartmouth 76 FINAL
Niagara 70
Colgate 68 FINAL
Siena 80
Michigan 53 FINAL
Wisconsin 63
Fla Gulf Coast 73 FINAL
CS-Northridge 64
Yale 51 FINAL
(25) Arizona State 69
UC Santa Barbara 34 FINAL
(16) Stanford 90
Long Island 63 FINAL
Long Beach St 71
Jackson State 56 FINAL
Louisiana 65
Eureka 50 FINAL
Western Ill 91
Cornell 59 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 76
Temple 58 FINAL
Memphis 57


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