|Jerry Kill of "Jerrysota"|
Fans salivate over Big 10 sports entertainment. The University of Minnesota wants to erect its athletics village. That will be quite an erection. Maybe it will be a white elephant. How quaint to think back to when Lou Holtz simply wanted some new football practice facilities built. One step begets another. Salesmanship, including selling yourself, trumps people skills. Those household names who get quoted in the Star Tribune do nothing more to add to our quality of life than our local sports coaches. The dollar figures get astronomical, as our late Willie Martin would suggest.
Big 10 football is about attracting the biggest, meanest, fastest dudes you can, so they can knock opposing players on their keister.
Jerry Kill became lionized on dubious grounds. Some of the movers and shakers were so upset with Joel Maturi for giving us the Tim Brewster regime, they went out of their way placing Kill on a pedestal. What did Tim Brewster ever do to Bob Stein? Stein gave quotes not only praising Kill, hyperbole dripping, he implied that the predecessor must have been the most hapless person on Earth. It was almost worthy of parody.
I remember when Patrick Reusse used parody in response to all the criticism of Vinny Testaverde when Vinny was struggling early in his NFL career. Reusse in the spirit of parody described Testaverde as "that oxygen-consuming waste of the Earth's space." That's what Stein was suggesting about Brewster, that he was "an oxygen-consuming waste of the Earth's space." What a business to be in: football coaching.
For as long as it was in the U's interests to promote Kill, they did so zealously. I saw through the facade. The U had just two legitimate wins this past football season, over Purdue and Illinois, while an asterisk could readily be attached to our other wins over low-caliber teams, like in our bowl game played in that sun belt city of Detroit. We beat a Mid-American Conference team: the Chippewas of Central Michigan. Chippewas? Can they keep that nickname?
Oh, kudos to Bob Stein for his role getting the Timberwolves here. I was at the first Timberwolves regular season home opener at the Metrodome, and my friend and fellow fan Rick Lucken got a chance to chat briefly with Mr. Stein. That was back in 1989. The Jacob Wetterling family came out to center court to a loud acclamation before the game. The tragic case of their son's abduction has never been solved. The Timberwolves lost to Michael Jordan and the Bulls. It was a fun night.
As time passes, we'll increasingly question our hiring of Jerry Kill here. Actually that concern might be upstaged by the general concern over whether our august institutions of higher learning should even continue to sponsor football. The rate of horror stories re. former players deteriorating, has accelerated beyond what we might have expected. It was enough just to get the movie "Concussion" with Will Smith. Personally, I thank the good Lord I never even tried to play football. I'm 61 years old and I can be confident my cognitive skills will remain sound (even though my critics might differ).
To the extent we still care about U of M football on a serious level, let's consider what the Star Tribune reported Thursday (2/25). Jerry Kill as we all know had to give up the coaching reins due to longstanding health issues. He left amidst showering and dripping good will, manifested in that stupid "Jerrysota" flag that we saw before the game vs. Michigan.
We might have expected that Kill, having been given this hero's mantle by the likes of Stein and others, would want to return the favor and find a way to contribute to the U. His contract described "potential" posts he could take here, for a nice little compensation sum of $200,000 per year - hey, it's only money, as we are always told in Vegas - if he had to leave coaching. Well, he had to leave coaching. So, he steps into the office of Beth Goetz, that cute interim athletic director, and they toss ideas around.
For $200,000 you could get me to do a lot of things. But if there's another option, to just take a $600,000 lump sum payment and say "adios," boy I'd weigh that and I might be off to Carbondale.
Kill and Goetz "could not agree on the new role." What? How tough was this proposition? Then we read that the ol' coach went higher in administration circles, to Eric Kaler, the man from Stony Brook himself, and that "the two agreed that Kill would not have a permanent position at the University." Posturing and boilerplate "happy" quotes were quite evident, as per our expectations in such matters. While conflict was very evident, none is specified in the press coverage, it is merely inferred. The story "between the lines" in this coverage must be substantial.
How hard would it be for the parties to mutually agree on a package where the esteemed Mr. Kill could keep making contributions to the U?
Kill talked about the "very professional" talk he had with Kaler. Why would it be otherwise? "Professional" means that certain harsh feelings were harbored but (maybe) they didn't come out. Decorum. I say "bulls--t."
"I want to be involved with athletics," Kill was quoted saying. Wasn't he hired here to be the football coach? It was determined that his health limitations were too severe. Jim Souhan got in trouble writing about this. But in the end, wasn't Kill's regime disrupted and ended by this? Wasn't this bad news, "Jerrysota" notwithstanding?
Kill presents himself as virtuous, saying "I wanted to be around the kids more than anything." Translation: "I'm the good guy here." Could he still get Bob Stein in his corner?
Ah, "Being around the kids."
"That wasn't part of the offer," Kill said. "I understand that, but that was the deal-breaker for me." Deal-breaker. Why would Kaler want to be the evil deal-breaker? Kaler gave a whopper of a boilerplate comment, to be expected of someone in his shilling role, giving Kill a big pat on the back while perhaps secretly giving a hand gesture of "up yours."
"Jerry Kill is an asset to the University of Minnesota athletic program and the broader community," Kaler said.
The community of Carbondale IL?
Kaler and Goetz spoke of how Kill might still make contributions to the U, but the Strib headline said "Kill, U part ways after they can't agree on job."
Ah, what a tangled web we weave (when we engage in public relations).
Kill's salary last year was $2.5 million. He was due to get a $100,000 raise each subsequent year. He had a medical condition clause in his contract, so he had the option to seek disability benefits as a U employee, or. . .take the $600,000 payment. These people live in a different world from the rest of us. So I presume he stuffed that $600,000 into his saddlebags and is trotting off to the Land of Lincoln: Illinois.
Kill broke from the friendly decorum to say "I'm more hurt than I am mad." So he implied that he could actually be mad about what happened, after having money rain down on him like from the heavens, and to have a "Jerrysota" flag sewn up for him in his season of wins over Illinois and Purdue. Actually he was succeeded by that new fat guy coach before this past season ended.
The Strib reports that Kill "could eventually land at Southern Illinois, a school close to his home where he still has strong ties after coaching there from 2001to 2007."
So he'd maybe get involved there, even after experiencing that tremendous adulation here in The Land of 10,000 Lakes?
So, the "Jerrysota" flag wasn't enough. Think of the anonymity the rest of us toil in. Kill, Kaler and Goetz are in a "twilight zone" sort of world where behind closed doors you find all the messy give and take that marks the mundane, normal world, but in public these people are celebrities, never mind we don't really know them.
A U of M donor was quoted being upset at the Kill resolution. "It's a slap in the face to coach Kill," this benefactor said, "and it's a slap in the face for fans of the University of Minnesota."
Dean Johnson, Regents chair and veteran of a conflict with our Minnesota Supreme Court, seemed chagrined, saying that dollars will now be harder to raise for that Land of Oz-like athletics village.
"I'll always be a Gopher," Kill said, never mind that he will have this orientation from Carbondale IL, and perhaps while he's serving Southern Illinois again. Are we all lemmings?
The reports of football's dangers are coming in fast and furious. The sport's promoters are whistling past the graveyard. It's possible the sport will go into a faster decline than we're all expecting. There is something quite primal about parents' love and protection for their sons, wouldn't you say?
Jerry Kill is one of the most overrated people ever to come to Minnesota, even though he might not be "an oxygen-consuming waste of the Earth's space." Come on, Bob Stein, get settled with your thoughts.