Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.
Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.
Hirings are usually feel-good moments for football programs, but so far, it looks as though Jerry Kill's move from Northern Illinois to Minnesota has both schools' fan bases unhappy.
In DeKalb, fans are irritated by a rough weekend for a program that was experiencing a dream season -- a 10-2 regular season, national ranking, a MAC West Division title. But in the space of three days, NIU lost a stunning MAC championship game in Detroit, allowing Miami of Ohio to convert a 4th-and-20 in the final two minutes to pull off a 26-21 upset, then lost the coach who had directed the Huskies to three straight bowl games.
Fans aren't pleased, and Kill's players sounded distraught.
"I have a horrible taste in my mouth and want to get that taste out," NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish told the Rockford Register Star.
He also told the Chicago Tribune, "There's definitely a lot of mixed emotions on the team -- disappointment and shock."
Maybe some grudging acceptance, too, however. Said linebacker Alex Kube, "I could be selfish and get mad at him, but I won't because any man given that opportunity would take it."
In the Twin Cities, Kill is off to a rocky start, though not of his own doing. He's just not the coach Gopher fans believe they were promised when Tim Brewster was fired, a football equivalent of Tubby Smith. Instead, Joel Maturi's hire seems to strike fans as Brewster Redux, another take-it-on-faith coach that they've never heard of.
The venom, most of it directed at the athletic director rather than the coach, is striking. Comments on startribune.com stories and Gopher websites are overwhelmingly angry, and my inbox was full this morning. (One funny emailer: "Ironic that Maturi's hire exactly describes what I'd like to do to him." Yes, the era of Kill puns has begun.) More than 15,000 readers have taken part in the Star Tribune's online poll, one of the 10 busiest ever (and top five non-Favre-related), and more than two-thirds have selected either "Northern Illinois? You're killing me" or "I wanted Mike Leach."
This hire is a public-relations nightmare, a case of overpromise-and-undeliver by Maturi similar to the way Brewster ran the program, and it puts a lot of pressure on Kill to win the fans over, first by what he says at today's press conference, and ultimately, of course, by winning football games.
More on the hire:
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