Reporting David McCoy
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Gopher athletic director Norwood Teague said Thursday that head football coach Jerry Kill will be stepping away indefinitely from his on-the-field duties to focus on treating and better managing his epilepsy.
“This was coach Kill’s decision,” Teague said. “And we have a bye week, so this is a good time for him to focus on his condition. It’s not a static condition. It’s tricky.”
Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys will serve as the acting head coach while Kill is away, as Minnesota isn’t schedule to play again until an Oct. 19 game at Northwestern at 11 a.m.
“Every decision being made is in the best interest of the program and players,” Teague said.
Claeys said this is the first time Kill will have taken an extended period of time away from football in the coach’s career, but added the head coach will be in “constant contact” with the team. Claeys insisted this move won’t affect what’s widely regarded as an important recruiting window.
“We’re already out there recruiting and we’re not losing ground,” Claeys said. “We’re on top of the situation.”
This past weekend, Kill had to miss the match-up against Michigan — the first full game he’s missed due to his epilepsy. He suffered a seizure on Saturday, and he stayed home to recover. The Gophers lost 42-13. Saturday’s seizure was the second he’d suffered on game day this year, and it was the fifth game-day seizure he had suffered in his three-year career with Minnesota.
His condition has stirred a lot of debate about Kill’s ability to do his job, include a well-publicized Star Tribune column from Jim Souhan calling for Kill to step aside.
Teague declined multiple times to detail where Kill will receive treatment, saying this is “a private medical matter between Jerry, his family and his doctors.”
“They’re trying new things all the time (to treat his epilepsy),” Teague said. “You’re trying to come up with the right formula and that’s what they’re in the middle of doing.”
Teague also was unsure about the possible timeline for the coach’s return, adding he “doesn’t want to put percentages on it.”
Claeys, who has coached with Kill for 19 years as part of one of the most tenured coaching staffs in the nation, said the team supports Kill 100 percent.
“We told the team at the meeting (Thursday) afternoon — they’re obviously concerned about him,” Claeys said. “A lot of them have been texting Jerry and Rebecca. They’ll stay in touch with him. The players will always come first when it comes to Jerry Kill.”
Executive Director of the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota chimed in, too.
“The Epilepsy Foundation of MN applauds the University of Minnesota’s support of Coach Kill for his leave to seek further treatment for his epilepsy — 60,000 people in MN and ND have epilepsy and many of them are in our workforce,” Vicki Kopplin said. “Thankfully there are medical leave laws that protect people when dealing with health issues. The Foundation is eager for Coach Kill to return to the sidelines.”