Temporary change for Gophers football won't be dramatic

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 12, 2013 - 1:50 AM

Gophers interim coach Tracy Claeys says ‘we’ll be fine’ while Jerry Kill focuses on his epilepsy treatments.

 

In a sport filled with oversized coaching egos, Tracy Claeys is about as unassuming as they come. He has said if things don’t work out as Gophers defensive coordinator, he’ll head home to Clay Center, Kan., and tend bar.

Now Claeys is serving as acting head football coach with Jerry Kill on an indefinite leave to treat his epilepsy.

Claeys gathered the players at 2:30 p.m. Thursday to tell them the news, then went to the press conference wearing sweatpants, glasses and a plain, charcoal-colored sweatshirt. He was back in time for a 3:30 practice.

“As a staff, we are all happy [Kill has] made the decision to do this,” Claeys said. “We support him 100 percent, and we will represent him well, I can tell you that.”

Claeys, 44, was making $20,000 as a math teacher and assistant football coach at a Kansas high school in 1995 when Kill convinced him to come coach the defensive line at Saginaw Valley (Mich.) State. The Division II job paid a $3,000 stipend, with no benefits.

“It didn’t make much sense to my family, but it was what I always wanted to do,” Claeys said in a 2011 interview with the Star Tribune. He made it work, bunking with a fellow assistant coach from Clay Center, Dave Wiemers.

“[Claeys] was one of those guys who was born to be a coach,” said Wiemers, who’s now the defensive coordinator at Pittsburg (Kan.) State.

As a player, Claeys had tried walking on as a lineman at Kansas, until a coach gently told him he wasn’t going to make the cut. He hung around the Jayhawks for the next three years as a volunteer trainer, studying how to coach, before finishing his undergraduate degree at Kansas State.

Claeys has worked under Kill for 19 years, becoming the quintessential right-hand man. Kill has missed parts of four games because of seizures in three seasons at Minnesota, and Claeys has taken over each time as acting coach.

Claeys has remained in the coaching booth in the past, but he said he’ll move to the sideline if Kill can’t make it back for the team’s next game, Oct. 19 at Northwestern.

“I think that would be important,” Claeys said. “Nobody knows how long [Kill’s leave is] going to take. The good thing is, he’s going to leave it up to the doctors.

“He’s tried this [treatment] before, and he [ended it] early because he felt better, so we’ll just have to see. I know I would be more than happy if he showed up at 10 a.m. [an hour before the Northwestern kickoff]. I’d gladly say, ‘Here’s your headset, get after it.’ ”

‘We’re not losing ground’

Kill has battled epilepsy since 2005, when he was coaching at Southern Illinois. After taking extensive steps to try to gain control of his seizures last offseason, Kill suffered one at halftime of the Western Illinois game on Sept. 14, and he had another seizure episode last weekend, missing the Michigan trip.

It was the first time that he missed an entire game. Claeys said that was the tipping point, the moment Kill knew he needed to focus exclusively on his treatment.

The Gophers are 4-2 overall and 0-2 in the Big Ten at the halfway point of the season. Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague said his support for Kill is unwavering and wants the coach to take all the time he needs.

Asked to look ahead to end-of-season scenarios, Teague said: “I’m taking it day by day, trying not to get ahead of things. Right now, I am extremely happy with the program under these [coaches]. They are terrific people, terrific leaders of the program. They are turning a major project, and it’s going to take time.”

Kill’s decision came during a key period of recruiting, but Claeys insisted, “We’re not losing ground.”

Adam Weber, who played for the Gophers from 2007 to 2010 and is the school’s career passing leader, applauded Kill and the university for taking this latest step.

“It’s nice to know that they are taking this very seriously and that they have his best interest in mind,” Weber said. “The fact he’s taking a leave allows him to focus on his health, which is very, very important. It’s hard to be the best football coach you can be if you’re unhealthy and you’re worried about other things. As sad as it is to see this happening, I think it’s best for Coach Kill and hopefully the whole football program.”

Claeys said there won’t be drastic changes without Kill. The two will keep in touch via cellphone. The team’s routines will stay the same.

“We’re going to miss him as a friend and our biggest fan,” Claeys said. “But besides that, we’ll be fine.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - LP: B. Wilson 7 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Grimm 8
Detroit - WP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 2
Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 3 FINAL
Oakland - LP: D. Otero 0
Toronto - WP: M. Stroman 6 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: C. Capuano 3
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 1 FINAL
Colorado - WP: E. Butler 5
Boston - LP: R. De La Rosa 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: C. Tillman 7
Milwaukee - WP: Z. Duke 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: M. Melancon 0
Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: J. Cosart 2
NY Mets - WP: J. Niese 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 2
Chicago WSox - LP: H. Noesi 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: C. Archer 3
Cleveland - WP: T. House 7 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: T. May 3
Seattle - LP: C. Young 1 FINAL
Houston - WP: D. Keuchel 10
Cincinnati - LP: M. Leake 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: J. Motte 8
San Francisco - LP: Y. Petit 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: A. Cashner 3
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 5 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: J. Weaver 8
San Diego 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(13) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(11) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(21) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
(18) Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
Miss State 34 FINAL
(8) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(14) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(24) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
(22) Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Vancouver FC 0 FINAL
Portland 3
Houston 0 FINAL
Philadelphia 0
New England 0 FINAL
Columbus 1
San Jose 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
Seattle 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 4
D.C. 3 FINAL
Chicago 3
FC Dallas 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close