MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Golden Gophers head coach Jerry Kill says he’s retiring effective immediately from his position due to medical concerns.
Clearly emotional and fighting back tears, Kill addressed the media shortly after the announcement. There, he detailed how his dealings with epilepsy have just become too depleting to his health — and family — for him to continue.
“I’ve given every ounce that I have for 32 years to the game of football,” Kill said. “This is the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life. The toughest thing since I’ve lost my dad.”
Kill says he kept the decision close to the vest until Tuesday night.
“Last night, when I walked off the practice field, I feel like a part of me died. I love this game and what it’s done for my family. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to coach this game,” Kill said.
WCCO’s Mike Max says Kill has had a lot of contemplation about his health and status in this last week with the bye week. Kill mentioned that he had a couple seizures just this week.
“The doctor told me it was in my best interest … that if I didn’t move on with my life, I may be a guy who doesn’t think too good down the road. I want to think,” Kill said.
The interim head coaching role now moves to Tracy Claeys, who has worked with Kill for 21 years. He was previously the associate head coach and defensive coordinator.
When Kill needed to take a leave of absence from the team in 2013, Claeys stepped in as acting head coach for seven games and posted a 4-3 record. The team will now be taking on Michigan without Kill.
“I don’t have any more energy. I left it all in the great state of Minnesota and I have no regrets,” Kill said. “I can’t do what I love anymore. God’s probably just telling me it’s time.”
Related: Kill Named Big Ten Coach Of The Year
After the announcement, Gov. Mark Dayton released a statement in reaction to the Kill’s retirement.
“I’m deeply saddened by Coach Kill’s resignation. I thank him for his leadership in rebuilding the University of Minnesota’s football program. All Minnesotans join me in wishing the Coach and his family many years of continuing success and fulfillment.”
Kill was named Minnesota’s head coach on Dec. 7, 2010. He is now leaving college football with a winning career record of 156-102 and a 29-29 record at Minnesota. He led the Gophers to their first Jan. 1 bowl game in 50 years last season, a loss to Missouri in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.
Kill had also helped take over primary duties in helping raise money for the Gophers new Athletes Village, a $166 million sports facility that is set to break ground on Friday. One of the main parts of that project is a brand new football practice facility.
Kill said Wednesday he has had seizures this season after going more than a year without an episode. He declined to say when they occurred, but said he was at practice Tuesday after having two seizures. He also said when he took a leave of absence from coaching on the sidelines, he was still at the Gophers football offices putting in 10 to 12 hours a day of work despite doctors orders to focus on his health.
“This isn’t the way I wanted to go out, but you all know about the struggles,” Kill told the assembled media Wednesday morning, referencing his health and seizures. “I did my best to change, but some of those struggles have returned and I don’t want to cheat the game. I want to be myself. I want to be Jerry Kill. I don’t want somebody to have to worry if I’m going to drop on the sidelines.”
Kill said he hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in several weeks, and his wife, Rebecca, has had to stay awake at night to make sure he gets rest. In the last three weeks, he said he hasn’t gotten more than three hours of sleep a night.
“She sat there and watched me last night. That’s no way to live,” Kill said. “I’ve taken years of my life and hers.”
Kill said he called his mother Tuesday night to deliver the news and said she was in shock. He addressed the football team early Wednesday morning.
Kill said he hasn’t given any thought about whether he will attend Saturday night’s game against Michigan at TCF Bank Stadium.
Interim Athletic Director Beth Goetz said she and Kill have had several conversations about his health and coaching this week.
“He’s making a decision that’s best for himself and his family at this time. I support him in that decision,” Goetz said. “What a tremendous example he is, not only for the 125 guys that get to work with him on a day-to-day basis, but for all of us have been privileged to stand alongside him. What he’s demonstrated today is the utmost courage and respect for the university.”