Feisty Jerry Kill is the best kind of Jerry Kill, a thesis that was proved once again Tuesday during his preseason news conference.
All it took was a simple question about expectations, and the Gophers football coach was off to the races. First stop: Wisconsin.
“They’ve been a pain in our butt,” Kill said of the Badgers. He added later, “The number one question I get in the state when I go out and talk is, ‘We’ve got three trophies but where is the [Paul Bunyan]Axe?’ ”
OK, that’s not terribly surprising or controversial. A victory over the Badgers last season would have turned a good Gophers year into a great one — propelling them into the Big Ten title game. The Gophers haven’t defeated Wisconsin since 2003, so Nov. 28 — last game of the regular season, vs. Wisconsin at TCF Bank Stadium — gets a big circle.
But Kill was not done. Oh, he was definitely not done. Not only does he want to beat Wisconsin, he doesn’t even want to see a Badgers shirt. Ever. Or at least in Minnesota.
“Just makes me mad, I’ll tell you,” he said. Same goes for Iowa. Nebraska? Don’t get Kill started. Wait, too late. Kill described taking a walk along the river recently and encountering a fan in a Nebraska sweatshirt.
“I said, you know who I am? Yeah, I think so. I said, well, who am I? He says, ‘Coach Kill.’ I said, I’m from the University of Minnesota. You’ve got that Nebraska thing on,” Kill said. “He goes, ‘Coach, I like you.’ And I said, well, you need to come by and get a shirt, but I’ll take a picture with you.”
Kill was smiling but pretty serious through this. Then he was smiling and joking (probably) when he added: “But anyway, there ought to be a ban. The governor is always banning. We need to ban any other shirts but the University of Minnesota and the Vikings. That’s it. The secretary likes the Packers. We’re in Minnesota, aren’t we? Right? All right. I’m off that soapbox.”
Presumably this ban is only on football-related shirts. Kill can’t be opposed to locals wearing gear from the Twins, Wild, Wolves, Lynx, etc.
Sadly, I whiffed on asking that crucial follow-up question. But I did carry Kill’s proposal to Gov. Dayton, who issued this statement — more like direct shots east and south — through a spokesman:
“I look forward to the Gophers beating the Badgers and Hawkeyes so badly that anyone would be embarrassed to be seen in anything other than maroon and gold.”
My guess is that Kill might still prefer the ban but that a sweep of those rivals would be a good place to start. We’ll have to ask him next time, if only to see the feisty side of the coach again.