Hartman: Kill will be his own man in rebuilding U

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 1, 2011 - 6:30 AM

Players and ticket buyers are responding to the old-school coach, who won't change what he knows works.

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Gophers football coach Jerry Kill

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune file

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Hiring Jerry Kill has had a positive effect on Gophers football ticket sales. The Nebraska and North Dakota State games have sold out, there are a limited number of tickets left for the Wisconsin and Iowa games, 800 for the University of Miami (Ohio) and less than 1,500 for the New Mexico State game.

Kill hasn't coached a game yet, but he has got people excited about Gophers football.

And believe me, he is an old-school coach. He makes it clear he is going to do things his way, and if anybody doesn't like it, they can get somebody else.

Yes, the Gophers haven't won a Big Ten football title since Murray Warmath's 1967 squad tied Indiana and Purdue for the championship, and Kill believes there are reasons why.

Kill isn't make any promises about going to the Rose Bowl or anything like that. In fact, he continually says it is going to take time to build this program.

But he has posted a 127-73 record over 17 years as a college head coach, won every place he has been and revitalized some struggling programs.

But rest assured some changes have to be made to make the Gophers competitive in the Big Ten and if they aren't, he won't be around. Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi is trying to correct the problems.

If you want my opinion, if Kill would have known all of the problems that exist, I don't think he would have taken the job.

There is one thing Kill immediately brought to the program and that is stability. All but one of his assistants, linebackers coach Bill Miller, was with him at Northern Illinois. That's something the Gophers have lacked.

"I don't know how many defensive coordinators or academic people who have gone in and out of [the Gophers' program] like club sandwiches," Kill said. "I mean it is what it is. There's been no stability and sooner or later you give a guy a chance, you stick in here and get your feet in, let's get it done.

"So that's pretty much -- I mean, that's who I am and that's what I plan to do, and if they get rid of me next year, then I guess they can get rid of me. But I came in here saying this is what I'm going to do. I ain't changing."

Kill will do it his way. And if you have noticed, not one Gophers football player has gotten in trouble since practice started. They know the rules and they better live up to them if they want to wear the Maroon and Gold.

There is no secret why this guy has only had four losing seasons in his career, and only one after his first year with a team. Just give him time and he will produce. And give him the same weapons Iowa and Wisconsin have and he will match them in time.

Tingelhoff honored

Former Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff is receiving a deserved honor by being named recipient of the 2011 President Gerald R. Ford Legends Award.

To be considered for the award, candidates must have either played center [Ford played the position at Michigan] in college or the pros, made extraordinary contributions to his team or have proven to be an exemplary citizen, philanthropist or leader in the business or football community.

Tingelhoff filled all of these requirements and then some.

If you asked former Vikings coach Bud Grant and Jerry Burns, the team's offensive coordinator during much of Tingelhoff's career, they will tell you he was the best center to play the game during their coaching career. Tingelhoff played all 17 of his years in the NFL with the Vikings, going to the Pro Bowl six times, and was a seven-time All-NFL selection from 1964-1970.

"Talk about durability. Mick never missed a game and he was a good enough athlete to have been able to play linebacker," Grant said.

Believe me, he is as good or better than any of the centers who are in the Hall of Fame, and it has been a real injustice that he is not among them. I've sat in those Hall of Fame meetings and watched centers get in who didn't have the ability or leadership that this former Nebraska and Vikings center had.

We had some old-timers on the Hall of Fame veterans committee who were going to push for Tingelhoff to get in, but they are no longer around.

Tingelhoff will be presented with the award during the 12th Annual Rimington Trophy Presentation banquet Jan. 14 at the Rococo Theatre in Lincoln, Neb. As usual, he was modest when getting the news when he said in a release that "It's truly humbling to join this distinguished list of some of football's greatest centers."

Nowadays, some professional athletes don't play when they have hangnails.

Tingelhoff actually played in a Vikings victory over the Packers in Green Bay despite having a broken ankle. After the game, I told Packers coach Vince Lombardi what Mick had done and Lombardi laughed at me. So I got the late Don Lannin, who was the team doctor, to send an X-ray of the break to the coach. Lombardi was on the phone the next day, saying he had received the X-ray and couldn't believe it was true.

Yes, I'm happy Tingelhoff, a close personal friend, is finally gets some recognition he deserves.

Jottings

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf suffered a lot of property damage on the East Coast caused by Hurricane Irene. I spent some time with him Tuesday at the proposed Arden Hills Vikings stadium site, where he told me he had 25 buildings under water in and around New Jersey.

The Vikings-Dallas preseason game Saturday wasn't a sellout, and Thursday's final preseason game with the Houston Texans won't be either, but it still will be televised. It appears that because of the lockout and disagreements between the owners and players, the NFL could have some new rules on blackouts when the season starts.

The Summer National Senior Games are coming to the Twin Cities in 2015. More than 13,500 senior athletes will compete in 18 sports during a 16-day period. Dave Mona and Susan Adams Lloyd are co-chairs of the event.

Former Gophers offensive lineman Dominic Alford is battling to make the Cleveland Browns roster. Alford had a slight scare early in training camp when he was carted off the field because of a back injury, but he returned to camp the next day and has been playing since. ... Through three preseason games, former Gophers running back Jon Hoese has two rushes for 6 yards with Green Bay. Hoese is trying to become the Packers' third fullback.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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