Boosters not getting their big-name guy

  • Article by: MYRON P. MEDCALF , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 5, 2010 - 11:45 PM

The Gophers set out to land a high-profile coach, so Northern Illinois' Jerry Kill falls short of inspiring team supporters.

Whether they loved the hire or loathed it, few Gophers supporters knew much about Jerry Kill, who was selected as the team's football coach on Sunday night.

The Northern Illinois coach doesn't have the "Tubby Smith" profile that Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi said he wanted when the search began nearly two months ago.

That's what frustrates former Gophers star Bob Stein, who said he's received multiple e-mails from other former players who share his sentiment.

Stein said one longtime supporter's e-mail simply said, "That's it. I'm done."

"I wish the guy well. And I'm sure he's a hard-working coach, but it's extremely disappointing," Stein said. "He's not on anybody's radar as a top, proven, high-level coach. ... It's not the guy we were promised."

Former Gophers running back Darrell Thompson, who is an analyst on the team's radio broadcasts, said some of the more popular coaches weren't the best options. Other possibilities weren't realistic. Some, such as Lou Holtz, didn't make sense.

Thompson said Kill's relative obscurity shouldn't count against him.

"It's not like Urban Meyer is just going to come here," he said. "You've got to go get a coach like that and try to build around him and allow him to have some success."

Longtime Gophers booster Harvey Mackay said Kill inherits enough returning talent to succeed, and Mackay strongly predicts he will be a successful coach.

"The only thing that's going to count is the performance on the field," Mackay said.

And Eden Prairie High School coach Mike Grant said Kill doesn't need to be a big name to attract the state's most talented preps. "It really comes down to the personality of the guy," he said. "The head coach has to be the closer."

But the program might have problems inspiring the fan base, Mackay said. "I suspect they have to be prepared for ... people aren't going to jump out of their chairs, and start picking up the phone and start buying season tickets or anything like that."

Stein said he believes Gophers supporters will welcome Kill but said they won't be satisfied with the hire because they expected more when the university decided to fire Tim Brewster in October.

"As far as making a statement that we're not satisfied with where we are now, or where we've been, it doesn't do that," Stein said.

Thompson said Kill deserves the opportunity to prove himself.

"The program is in good enough shape, in my opinion, to be successful," Thompson said.

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