Another seizure knocked Gophers football coach Jerry Kill to the ground Saturday, but by Monday afternoon, he was back at work, riding a fresh wave of support from athletic director Norwood Teague and countless others.
Kill has epilepsy, a condition that affects nearly 3 million Americans, and Teague made it clear he has no concerns about the coach’s ability to lead.
“I support him 100 percent,” Teague said at a Monday news conference. “He’s an epileptic. He has seizures. We deal with it and we move on. If I felt like it was affecting things, it would be different.”
Kill is expected to participate Tuesday in his weekly news conference. While some fans and critics have suggested Kill should resign for health reasons, others have praised him since Saturday, when he suffered his third in-game seizure in three years as Gophers coach.
Bob Stein, a local attorney and two-time former All-America linebacker for the Gophers, said via e-mail, “The bottom line for me is one question, ‘Is he performing competently?’ … He has done a very good job, in my opinion, rescuing and righting a football program riddled with incompetent leadership and coaching for 10 years.”
Stein has been critical of Kill’s predecessor, Tim Brewster, along with former Gophers AD Joel Maturi.
“They had no teaching, no culture, no integrity, no discipline, terrible institutional support and really bad players when [Kill] arrived,” Stein said. “They are more talented, better coached, and much more disciplined on and off the field.”
‘Not just about Saturdays’
Teague drove Kill’s wife, Rebecca, to the hospital on Saturday, then returned to TCF Bank Stadium to be with the players. He spent time after the game talking to fans and waited to comment to the media until Monday.
“I believe more than ever that [Kill] truly represents what’s great about college athletics, and he is a tremendous role model for our student-athletes,” Teague said.
The Gophers went 3-9 and 6-7 in their first two years under Kill, finishing 2-6 in the Big Ten both seasons. They are 3-0 this year, heading into Saturday’s final nonconference game against San Jose State.
“Jerry’s job is not just about Saturdays,” Teague said. “He is evaluated on multiple criteria, including academic progress and character development of our student-athletes. What he provides to these young men in terms of leadership on a daily basis is immeasurable.”
Teague reiterated that he doesn’t think Kill’s seizures have hurt the Gophers in recruiting.
“We’ve never had a kid say anything about it,” Teague said. “I think if anything, parents and prospective student-athletes really are inspired and impressed by his story.”
Gaelin Elmore, a tight end from Somerset, Wis., who has given a verbal commitment to the Gophers, was among the recruits at Saturday’s game.
“I know it’s not the first time it’s happened,” Elmore said of Kill’s seizure. “But Coach Kill’s always been open with me, and I’m sure he’s been open with everyone else about his epilepsy. He doesn’t worry about it. He’s really open about it. He sometimes jokes about it, so it’s definitely not a concern for me, if it’s not a concern for him.”
Kill has had a seizure at halftime in two of the Gophers’ past five games, dating to last Nov. 24 against Michigan State.