Former Gophers football coach Jerry Kill told a national radio audience Tuesday that current coach P.J. Fleck is “about himself” and not his players, describing a deep divide that has formed since they coached together at Northern Illinois.
“He coached with me, but after that, you know, he changed a lot; I’ll just be honest with you guys,” Kill told hosts A.J. Hawk and Matt Schick on Sirius XM College Sports.
Fleck, who could not be reached for comment, spent two seasons coaching under Kill at Northern Illinois before joining Greg Schiano’s staff at Rutgers in 2010.
“People that have known him before — when he got with Schiano … his personality changed a lot,” Kill said. “And I knew his first wife, and he just changed a bunch.”
In 2012, Fleck became the head coach at Western Michigan at age 32.
“I helped him get the job at Western Michigan, and I just think sometimes the ego gets carried away,” Kill said.
Kill, 57, now the athletic director at Southern Illinois, resigned as Gophers coach in 2015 for health reasons. Minnesota fired his successor, Tracy Claeys, after a 9-4 season in 2016 that included a sexual assault scandal involving multiple players.
The Gophers then hired Fleck, who had just led Western Michigan to a 13-1 season and a berth in the Cotton Bowl. Upon taking over at Minnesota, Fleck called himself “a Kill guy.”
Minnesota went 5-7 under Fleck in his first season and 7-6 last year, including its first victory over Wisconsin since 2003 and a Quick Lane Bowl victory over Georgia Tech.
“When he went into Minnesota and treated the people the way he treated my guys,” Kill said, “and telling them he had to go in and completely change the culture, and it was a bad culture and bad people. You know, he made it sound like we didn’t know what we were doing. And I took it personal.
“You just don’t treat people that have been with you and helped your career, and you don’t even talk to them once you get the job.”
Kill said the two spoke soon after the Gophers hired Fleck.
“Yep, and it will be the last time,” Kill said. “Do I still root for the Gophers? I do. Do I enjoy him running up and down the sidelines? No.
“Do I think that he’s about the players? No. He’s about himself.”