The other side of the Jerry Kill story

Editor’s Note: Jim Carter is a former Gophers football star who entered the Pro Bowl in the 1970s as a linebacker for the Green Bay Packers. He is from South St. Paul.

I was disappointed to read Dane Mizutani’s opinion piece in the Pioneer Press criticizing former Gophers coach Jerry Kill ahead of Kill’s New Mexico varsity U on Thursday night at Huntington Bank Stadium. I want to offer readers another side of the story.

Dein said Kier has been “dismantling the program” since leaving the Minnesota state head coaching job in 2015 (due to his epilepsy). Dane also claimed that Kiel “has gone to great lengths to dismantle” his successor, saying the killing “can’t shut up.”

Jerry Kill has been a successful football coach for 35 years and has made many friends during the game. He has earned a lot of respect from players and coaches because he speaks the truth, keeps his word, and he has nothing to do with BS. Call around the country and ask coaches at all levels what they think of Kill and you’ll hear what I just said. Call the parents of players who play for Kill and ask for their opinion; they’ll say the same thing.

Jerry gave an interview a few years ago in which he expressed his thoughts on the new Gophers initiative under the leadership of PJ Fleck. This interview was conducted after Tracy Claeys was fired. This hardly counts as “a few interviews” and/or “he can’t shut up”.

Tracy Claeys is Kill’s best friend and has been his loyal assistant for many years. When Tracy was fired by athletic director Mark Coyle and college president Eric Kahler in 2016 after winning nine games and taking on a stunning bowl victory at Washington State as Minnesota’s head coach, Kiel was going crazy. Me too. The same goes for many other alumni. Keel expressed his sadness and anger, but he didn’t tear down the show.

He didn’t even take down Kaler and Coyle. He’s telling the truth: The plan doesn’t need a “cultural change.” What Keel doesn’t say is that Coyle (and Caller) failed to properly handle the alleged sexual assault situation (never prosecuted) in late 2016, which gave him (they) reason to fire Tracy. We all know it’s insane to fire an underpaid coach who only won nine games and a bowl game, so Coyle and Culler accused Clay of the alleged sexual assault fiasco, their subject (and later Fernandez) Lake) became “We need to change the culture.”

Keel was also asked specifically about Flake, and he told the truth again. He said Flake was about himself. Many agree with this view. Flake’s habit is to ask his players to applaud him (yes, clapping, whistling, and shouting) when he walks into the team’s conference room. Can you imagine such a thing? Who is this about? ! I’m sure you’ve seen Flake sprint on the sideline between quarters. Who can conclude that this “hot dog” behavior has nothing to do with him?

Another theme in Dane’s column was that when Fleck was hired, the program was in very bad shape. Interestingly, Dane didn’t think the program was in trouble when Kiel’s team took over from Tim Brewster’s disastrous tenure. The truth: Kill took on a program with few scholarships, a low GPA and getting lower, players often missed classes or just left, poor facilities, and not much talent. Fleck took over a program from Kill/Claeys with many good players, growing GPAs, regular classes for students/athletes and much improved facilities.

In the end, Mizutani showed that Flake has been developing NFL talent. What? ! Go back and count the players drafted to the NFL over the years since 2014. All but three or four were recruits and players from the Kill/Claeys, not Fleck.

Fleck did a good job of continuing the project’s progress in Minnesota, but it was unfair and unnecessary for Dainwater Valley to attack Kiel in such a vile way.

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