Jerry Kill accepted Minnesota's offer of $5.5 million over five seasons last December, figuring that was a reasonable price for turning the Gophers into winners on the football field.
Then he discovered what he was getting into: Roster problems, academic deficiencies, an ingrained culture of failure and a team that this season hasn't come within four touchdowns of a Big Ten victory.
His reaction: It's not enough.
The university agreed, and Tuesday announced an additional $2.9 million commitment to its new head coach, a seven-year, $8.4 million contract intended to demonstrate its faith that Kill will succeed and the Gophers will win -- eventually.
"We have some things that we've got to get corrected. And coming in, there were more things than I thought," Kill said after agreeing to be paid $1.2 million per season, subject to potential annual raises at the athletic director's discretion, through the 2017 season. "And you need time to do it."
His predecessor, Tim Brewster, received only three and a half seasons before being fired, and Kill, whose new team is 1-6 after three consecutive routs in Big Ten play, obviously wants to avoid a similar timetable. He's said for months that changing attitudes on his team before it can change results on the field is a project that will take four or five years. Fending off speculation about his job status after a couple of seasons, as Brewster was forced to do, could hinder his progress and turn off recruits.
"To do it right, you don't want to do it the quick-fix way. ... We needed to have that time," Kill said. "And so I was fortunate that our administration and Joel [Maturi, the athletic director] and the president felt the same way."
That consensus with Maturi and new university president Eric Kaler materialized in the form of two extra years and $100,000 per season more than the original "memorandum of understanding" that Kill signed upon being hired in December. The university could have enforced the terms of the original agreement, but Kaler and Maturi agreed with Kill that an additional sign of their long-term commitment was necessary. They considered higher salaries or draconian buyout provisions, but settled upon a seven-year contract, equalling the pact of Iowa's Kirk Ferentz as the longest in the Big Ten.
"Coach and I and President Kaler assessed the status of the program, the commitment we felt that was needed, and [to convince] Coach Kill that we are committed," Maturi said. "Quite honestly, we can't afford the salary that some other institutions are able to afford, but our commitment to him was in the number of years, and I think he was pleased with that."
He is, and in return, pledged his loyalty to the university by finally signing his contract late last week. "I wouldn't have said, 'Hey, we need seven years to do this right' if I wasn't going to be here for it," Kill said. "I would not have signed a contract if I didn't feel we were all going in the right direction."
In addition to giving Kill a longer deal and a raise, the university did negotiate a couple of details, neither of which it would ever hope to trigger.
The contract contains no disability clause, notable for a coach who suffered a seizure on the sideline in September. Instead, the deal is automatically terminated with no further payment if Kill should become disabled or substantially fails to perform his responsibilities. And the university negotiated the right to decide for itself what constitutes a violation of NCAA rules (and thus allows it to terminate the deal), rather than wait for an NCAA ruling, which normally takes months.
"We're happy with the contract, and I want to put it in the past, and focus on this team," Kill said. "I feel like the president and everybody at the university is all in, and that's what we need if we're going to be successful."