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.
The Gophers' non-conference football schedule will be toughened up again, coach Jerry Kill said Thursday, once the team improves to the point where it can be competitive in those games.
"Once we get our program it needs to be ... then let's go play those people. I've got no problem with that," the Gophers coach said on his weekly KFAN radio show. "If we tried to go play a schedule we have no chance (against) and then we go play a Big Ten schedule, and we're beat up on top of it -- we've got to be careful with that."
It was Kill's first public response to the furor that arose this week when Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague cancelled a two-game series against North Carolina at the coach's urging, paying $800,000 to negate the contract. And the coach also addressed the seizure that struck shortly after the Gophers' loss to Northwestern on Saturday, sending him to the hospital overnight.
Kill said he was surprised by the criticism he received over cancelling the home-and-home with North Carolina -- in an unrelated move, the Gophers' 2019 and 2020 games with Navy reportedly have also been cancelled -- but he defended the move, saying that lowering the strength of schedule until the program improves was a part of the plan he used to turn around the football fortunes of Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois, too.
"All I'm doing is following the things we've done. We need to find a way to get our kids some playing time, win some games, get some confidence," Kill said. "Frankly, we have a plan. It's worked. But there's got to be a little bit of a trust factor in what we do."
Minnesota's football program "is not at the level where (former coach) Glen Mason had it," Kill said. "Do we want to do this the whole time we're here? No."
Besides, Kill said, the non-conference season is meaningless next to his No. 1 goal.
"We've got to worry about winning the Big Ten. We haven't done it for 45 years," Kill said. "That's the only thing that matters to me. And (when you're) preparing for the Big Ten, you better be smart."
He's also trying to be smart about managing his epilepsy, which has manifested itself in "15 to 20" seizures since last season. Kill cited statistics that show epilepsy is far more common, and manageable, than most people realize, and said his condition has gradually improved since last year. Saturday's seizure was notable, he said, only because he was in his locker room at TCF Bank Stadium when it struck. And because of the public attention, which he loathes, that the incident drew.
In fact, Kill said, he was irritated that he was taken by ambulance to a suburban Minneapolis hospital, which made the incident public. "I told (my wife Rebecca), 'Don't you ever let them take me to the hospital again,' " Kill said. "Just let me lay there" until it subsides, so he can get back to work.
Team doctors had little choice, he admitted, because he was alone when the seizure hit, so they ordered an ambulance as a precaution. But when such incidents happen in private, he recovers quickly, Kill said.
"All I know is, when you get up from them, you're sore. You feel like someone ran you over with a truck," Kill said. "And then you go back to work."
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