All of a sudden, the U had its man

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 8, 2010 - 11:52 PM

Joel Maturi had been talking to Jerry Kill's agent, but the coach wasn't hired until the AD met him on Saturday.

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Jerry Kill and Joel Maturi

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Whether Joel Maturi had somebody to take the Gophers football coaching job who backed out at the last minute, nobody knows. But the fact is the new Gophers coach Jerry Kill wasn't offered the position to succeed Tim Brewster until Saturday, and the announcement was made the next day.

There were rumors that UConn coach Randy Edsall would have taken the job had he lost to South Florida on Saturday. If he did lose, his team would not have received a BCS bid.

However, Maturi denies that, and I believe him.

In fact, I'm told Maturi told some friends early last week that it was 95 percent that Kill was going to be his coach.

However, Maturi had not talked with Kill about the job until Saturday, when he called the Northern Illinois coach and when Maturi and Minnesota President Robert Bruininks flew to DeKalb, Ill., and offered him the job.

However, Maturi said he had been negotiating with Kill's agent because it was important to work out a financial deal and a contract. Apparently Maturi had that done when he saw Kill on Saturday.

Kill said it was after Northern Illinois had lost to Miami of Ohio and he was completely surprised when he got the call that the Minnesota delegation was coming down to talk to him about the job.

It happened pretty fast and, after meeting with his team on Sunday to tell them the news, Kill was headed to Minnesota on Stanley Hubbard's jet and the rest is history.

Kill made a very good impression at his news conference, and he did just as well at a meeting of state high school coaches.

Among the things he did Monday was call Bud Grant. Apparently Kill didn't miss a beat in letting people know that he was here and was going to do the job.

No doubt some coaches who had Maturi's interest used it to get a better contract. Brady Hoke of San Diego State was one of them.

In fact a St. Thomas grad named Ron Fowler, who now lives in San Diego, made a contribution of $5 million to the school, with $1 million toward a new contract for Hoke.

As for hiring members of the Gophers coaching staff, Kill did say Dennis Franchione, the coach that got him started, is a good friend of Jeff Horton. That relationship might help the interim coach remain here, which would be a good move.

Williams at his best

Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams was asked why he played one of his best games of the year against Buffalo on Sunday. In the past, he said, "I tried to help too many people out on the field instead of just doing my job. The last couple weeks, what I've been trying to do is stick to strictly doing my job and at a high level and it'll make everybody better. Maybe [Sunday was] the best we've played; we didn't get many sacks but we put the pressure on him and caused problems and that's what we try to do."

Receiver Sidney Rice, whose first touchdown Sunday initially didn't count until a replay review and reversal, knew he had scored. "Yeah I went straight to coach and told him to throw the flag [for the review]. I was lying in bounds, my butt was in bounds, and I came down and I just rolled over and I ended out of bounds, so I went straight to coach and told him to challenge it."

Veteran offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie sang the praises of rookie guard Chris DeGeare, who made his first start, in place of the injured Steve Hutchinson:

"I think he did pretty good, he did a good job stepping in for Hutchinson and, you know, in helping the offensive line be productive in the run game. I just felt like I had to be the one who was a little more vocal this week and communicate everything because Hutch and [Anthony] Herrera are the two who do the most talking and they weren't there."

Jottings

Minnesota natives Noah Dahlman from Braham and Jon Leuer from Orono were chosen player of the week in their respective conferences this week.

Dahlman, who plays at Wofford in the Southern Conference, averaged 26.5 points and 5.5 rebounds while shoot 64.5 percent from the field in victories over UNC-Greensboro and Elon last week. Dahlman scored a career-high 37 points at Elon on Saturday night. Leuer, who is at Wisconsin, earned his second career Big Ten player of the week award after averaging 25.5 points and 10 rebounds in victories over North Carolina State and South Dakota, including a career-high 29 points in the South Dakota victory.

Prom Management Group, a St. Paul company, has been awarded the contract to provide concessions and catering services for golf's U.S Open from 2011 to 2013. Prom has been the concessionaire to close to 20 tournaments annually in recent years.

Three Wild prospects were named to preliminary rosters for the World Junior Championship, which begins later this month in Buffalo, N.Y. Forward Jason Zucker (second round, 2010 NHL entry draft, 59th overall) made the U.S. roster, while forward Johan Larsson (second round, 2010 entry draft, 56th overall) and goalie Johan Gustafsson (sixth round, 2010 NHL entry draft, 159th overall) were named to Sweden's roster. ... Zucker, who plays for Denver in the WCHA, was also selected freshman of the week for his performance last week in a split with then-No. 1 ranked Minnesota Duluth. Zucker recorded a hat trick and ranks first in goals (12) in WCHA play. ... Hastings native Derek Stepan is the New York Rangers' third-leading scorer so far in his rookie season. The winger has six goals and 10 assists in 29 games and, going into Wednesday, ranks fourth among NHL rookies in points and goals.

Former Gopher Blake Wheeler has two goals in his past five games, giving him six goals and four assists in 26 games for the Boston Bruins ... Former Gophers defensemen Alex Goligoski and Paul Martin each have 14 points for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Goligoski is third on the team with a plus/minus rating of plus-11, and Martin has two goals and an assist in his past five games.

Former Gopher Jim O'Brien is the fourth-leading scorer for Binghamton of the AHL, with 10 goals and eight assists in 25 games.

Gophers recruits Ben Marshall, a defenseman from Mahtomedi, and Joel Vienneau, a goalie from Hearst, Ontario, were named the USHL defensive player of the week and goalie of the week, respectively. Marshall had a goal and two assists for Omaha, including a game-winning goal against Sioux Falls last week. Vienneau posted a 1.44 goals-against average and a .959 save percentage in leading Muskegon to two road victories.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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