While protecting themselves, Gophers commit to Kill

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 25, 2014 - 6:31 AM

Jerry Kill’s contract would be voided if he missed an extended amount of time. The coach and his boss are focused on winning.

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Gophers football coach Jerry Kill met with the media Monday, two days after he signed a contract that will pay him $2.1 million this year.

Photo: ELIZABETH FLORES • eflores@startribune.com,

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Beyond giving Jerry Kill a sizable raise, the new contract the Gophers coach signed Saturday addresses such topics as assistant coaches’ salaries and Kill’s use of a private jet for recruiting.

The contract’s fine print also spells out what would happen if Kill can’t coach for an extended period for health reasons. Kill, 52, has missed parts of four games in three years with the Gophers because of seizures and took a two-week leave last season to address his epilepsy.

The new contract says “the agreement shall terminate automatically” if he is unable to coach for 90 consecutive days, or 70 consecutive days during the season. In that scenario, Kill would remain a university employee on leave of absence and would be able to seek disability benefits.

The language seems to be unique for the university. Past contracts for head coaches, including Kill’s previous contract and Glen Mason’s contract, did not include terms specific to missed workdays.

Under the category “Post-Coaching Employment,” the contract goes beyond an extended health leave and states, “During the term of this agreement, the University and Coach may mutually agree to transition Coach … to an agreed upon position with the University,” paying $200,000 per year.

“I just want to keep my job,” Kill said Monday. “There are always stipulations on everything. I told you I’m not going to cheat the university. I know my back’s against the wall.

“But I think this sends a message to all the kids that we’re recruiting right now. I can control today. I can’t control what happened yesterday. I can’t control what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

Asked about the contract language pertaining to Kill’s health, Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague said: “I feel really good about what it addresses and how we addressed it. … I think we addressed the things that we needed to address, and we can now move forward.”

After a seizure kept Kill from making the trip to Michigan last October, he pledged to drive again by February. He said this knowing that drivers must remain seizure-free for three months before they can drive under Minnesota law.

Sure enough, Kill got behind the wheel earlier this month.

“Nobody thought I’d be driving, and I’m driving, [though] not very far,” Kill said Monday. “That’s one goal. My second goal was to make everybody proud of Gopher football, and I think we moved forward on that, but I don’t think anybody in the room is satisfied with that.

“So I’ve got to truly move it forward. The people who tell me [they’ve had] 40 years of frustration, I’ve got to continue to change that. And if I don’t do that, I don’t deserve to be here, and I’m OK with that.”

Kill was the lowest-paid coach in the Big Ten last year at $1.2 million. His new deal will pay him an average of $2.3 million over the next five years, putting him toward the middle of the conference.

The contract says the salary pool for Kill’s nine primary assistant coaches must rank in the top six of the Big Ten.

“I wouldn’t have signed the contract” without that clause, Kill said. “That’s just the way it is. And the president [Eric Kaler] understood that. So did [Teague].”

When the Gophers hired Richard Pitino as last year, they assured him the use of a private jet for recruiting. Kill’s new contract allows him to use a private jet for up to 60 hours per year.

Teague said the contract negotiations went smoothly. The sides had the deal’s framework in place for a while, but spent extra time working out details.

“Coach had a lot of things he wanted to talk about, and so did I,” Teague said. “But in the end, we were very much on the same page. And it was a very good process.”



 

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