Jerry Kill has a home on Lake of Egypt, outside Carbondale, Ill., with a screened-in porch overlooking the water. After resigning from the Gophers for health reasons last October, he spent many days gazing at that lake, contemplating his future.
The former football coach made no secret he wanted to stay at the University of Minnesota in an athletics department role.
Tuesday, Kill landed a job he wanted, just not at his first choice of schools. Kansas State hired him as an associate athletic director and chief administrator for football.
“I know my coaching career’s over, and I understand that,” Kill said. “But I just can’t sit around and look at a lake and roll my fingers. That’d be the worst health [decision] I could ever make.”
Kill, 54, said he’s made good strides managing his epilepsy, after complications from seizures forced him to resign last fall. He and his wife, Rebecca, have been walking six to 10 miles per day.
“When you’re in coaching, you never get a chance to, so to speak, get fixed,” Kill said. “I just kept going, so that’s my fault.
“But I’ve had the opportunity to do some things differently. This is the best I’ve felt in 12 years. I’m actually sleeping good, and I’ve dropped about 14-15 pounds. I’m on a special diet for seizure patients.”
Last fall, Kill said he needed some time to decide what to do next. He and Rebecca moved from Minneapolis in January, returning to the lake home they purchased when he was coaching at Southern Illinois.
In February, Kill announced he would not have a permanent role at Minnesota moving forward. Kill said university President Eric Kaler offered a chance to be a speaker, fundraiser and teacher — outside the athletics department.
Kill said not being able to work within athletics was “a deal-breaker.” He continued to speak and do fundraising for the university this spring as an independent contractor.
After the Kansas State news broke Tuesday, Kaler issued a statement that said, in part: “I want to thank Jerry and Rebecca for their commitment to the University of Minnesota and the entire state these past few years. … They will always be welcome back here on campus and remain a part of the Gophers family.”
Kill said he had multiple job opportunities but wound up at Kansas State, which is about two hours from his hometown of Cheney, Kan.
Kansas State AD John Currie said Kill will be filling a soon-to-be vacated position in the athletics department, with a base salary of $150,000.
“It’s a one-year appointment, but we do anticipate rolling it over many times,” Currie said. “I believe by having someone with the coaching experience and life experience of Jerry Kill in our senior staff meeting room, it will help make all of us administrators better.”
Kill said his primary job will be “to keep Coach [Bill] Snyder happy and help his job become easier in whatever role that is.”
Snyder, 76, gave Kill a six-hour tutorial on how to build a program when he first got the Southern Illinois job in 2001.
Snyder has won 193 games in 24 seasons at Kansas State in what Kill called the best coaching job “of anybody in college football.”
“Jerry’s health issues have precluded him from coaching again, but his passion for athletics and young people make this a positive step for his future career,” Snyder wrote in a statement.
Kill still plans to frequently return to Minnesota.
“The whole state’s treated me like I’m one of theirs, and that’s not going to change,” Kill said. “I still have my [Chasing Dreams Epilepsy Fund] there, and I’m certainly going to make that bigger and bigger.
“Anytime that I can help the University [of Minnesota], I certainly will, but [Kansas State] is my new university, and I’ve got to do my job here.”
Gophers coach Tracy Claeys, who worked under Kill for 21 years and took over for him in October, said in a statement: “We will obviously miss him at Minnesota, but he will always be part of our program and is still just a phone call away.”
Kill added, “Tracy and I are very close — the whole staff is. I mean, those are my guys. … We’ll always talk because I feel like I’m a part of that team. There’s nobody that wants to see Minnesota succeed more than I do.”