Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill made as about much of an impact on a program as any coach could hope to in a tenure that lasted less than five seasons. The 54-year-old will end his head coaching career with a record of 152-99 in 22 seasons.
Prior to Minnesota, Kill spent time at Saginaw Valley State, Emporia State, Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois as a head coach. He took the job with the Gophers in 2011 and started the program back on a path towards national relevance.
Kill’s first season in Minnesota ended with a record of 3-9, but the team showed improvement each season until he elevated them to 8-5 in 2013. The team was on the cusp of a berth in the Big Ten championship game last year but blew a double-digit first half lead. Kill walks away this season with a record of 4-3 — a respectable mark but definite regression from last season.
It’s certainly possible that Kill’s health may have contributed to the team taking a step back from last season. His doctor advised him that it may be time for him to walk away from the game if he wants to have full mental capabilities later in life. His health concerns have been public knowledge over the past few years after multiple in-game seizures on the sideline. His decision to step away permanently was fueled by his desire to be there for his family later in life.
Despite the fact that the team couldn’t reach the Big Ten title game in his tenure, Kill certainly left an impact on the program and the players that have come through. Numerous current and former players took to Twitter and Facebook since the announcement to convey their admiration for the coach.
Where does Minnesota go from here? Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys will step in for the remainder of the season to lead the Gophers. They’ve certainly struggled against better competition through three conference games so far this season. The team will no doubt give it everything they’ve got for the rest of the season but when looking at the schedule, they may struggle to win another game. Illinois and Wisconsin may be their best shot at victories but even those games will be difficult.
My prediction: The Gophers will squeak out one more win against either the Illini or the Badgers but will struggle to compete against Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa. Minnesota just doesn’t have enough offensive firepower to hang with the conference’s elite, and they’ve shown that so far this season.
Jason Shawley is a Featured Writer for RantSports.com covering Big Ten football. Follow him on Twitter @jshawls.