Jerry Kill’s first big road test as associate athletic director at Kansas State? A visit to Minnesota
And sometimes, life serves up high comedy. Just when he was turning the page, just when he was flipping the heart and wardrobe from maroon to purple, just when he was moving on, the good folks at the Kansas State athletic department handed Jerry Kill his first big road test as associate athletic director.
“The ironic thing is on the 20th, I go to a Catbacker (fund-raising) event,” Kill said, pausing before the punch line. “And the first place I go is back to Minnesota.”
Chanhassen, Minn., to be exact, some 22 minutes due west of Mall of America, give or take the potholes.
Clearly, Kill’s new bosses have a wicked sense of humor. Fortunately for them, the former Golden Gophers football coach has one, too.
For example, ask the 54-year-old Kill for the 1,743rd time about the not-so-subtle assertions across social media that he’s moving to Manhattan to serve as the Wildcats’ Jedi-in-waiting for whenever the day comes — next summer, 2036, 4192 — that Bill Snyder decides to hang up his lightsaber for good.
“It’s not gonna happen,” Kill told LandOf10.com. “I’m on to my next phase of life and what my next adventure is and so forth. I’ve had a good run in college football and I’ve been able to accomplish a lot.
“(I’ve) been in a lot of programs you had to rebuild. I’ve coached for 33 years, but it’s really 66 years. Because when I go into programs that aren’t worth a (expletive), it takes a year off your life.”
So, by that math, you’re 108 in Coach Years.
“I’m half dog,” Kill replied with a chuckle.
And the ex-Gophers boss insists the conspiracy theorists who’ve pegged him for a coaching comeback keep barking up the wrong blasted tree. After breaking away from Minnesota earlier in the year, Kill considered consulting work and going freelance. He wound up fielding several administrative opportunities — all of which, the former coach recalled, were in the ballpark of the K-State job announced this past May.
“K-State wasn’t on the radar at the time,” said Kill, who posted a 29-29 mark in the Twin Cities before health concerns and epileptic seizures forced his hand — and a retirement from coaching — last October. “And I didn’t know (K-State athletic director) John (Currie) at all.
“I got a phone call kind of out of the blue and I visited with him a little bit. And then he asked me to meet with him and then it just kind of went from there. And then, all of a sudden, he offered me a job.”
Technically, Kill will serve as a liaison between Snyder’s office and Currie’s, bridging hashmarks to earmarks. A Kansas native who played at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kan., and later coached at Pittsburg State (1985-’87, 1991-’93) and Emporia State (1999-’00), Kill’s previous relationship with Snyder proved to be a heck of a draw.
So, too, was the chance to more or less go home again.
“I’ve gone full (circle) in 33 years,” said Kill, noting that his wife’s family hails from Liberal, Kan., a sneeze north of the Oklahoma border. “Knowing Coach Snyder and being in Kansas, he’s an icon. We’re both kind of old-school type guys.
“Oh, yeah, I’m certainly not going there to coach. They’ve got some good young coaches in some other sports, and also (the opportunity to be) mentoring young people. … I’m just not the head coach, not calling in plays or being on the field. My main job is to make sure that K-State has what it needs to be successful.”
Kill cracks wise about going back to Minneapolis next week, but the warm memories — the Gophers won eight games in back-to-back seasons in 2013-’14, a first for the program since the salad days of Murray Warmath in 1960-’61 — outflank a mildly awkward final chapter.
His contract included a provision for a $200,000-per-year position at the U if he stopped coaching for medical reasons, yet the two sides couldn’t find a common ground as to what that position would entail. Minnesota president Eric Kaler reportedly offered Kill a fund-raising position outside of athletics with some teaching in the mix; Kill preferred to remain close to the kids and comrades he’d made within the department.
“It wasn’t about money,” said Kill, who announced in February that he was leaving the Gophers, with all subsequent work with the school performed as an independent contractor.
“It’s never about money. It’s about getting up and doing what you love to do. I couldn’t see myself doing that type of job at that point and time in my life. Maybe at a different time in my life.”
Still, old affections run deep. Kill’s Chasing Dreams Epilepsy Fund remains rooted to the area. His successor, Tracy Claeys, was on his staff for more than two decades as an assistant. The Gophers still bear Kill’s footprint, even if they don’t feel his presence.
“I can’t say enough about the fans, the people and the state of Minnesota,” Kill said. “And it was a great time for us, a great run. And I’m very appreciative of them and our players. I love our players and I’ll miss our players. And I’ll miss football. I’ll miss coaching. It’s a hard transition. It’s not easy.”
Big Ten Media Days are less than a fortnight away, which means preseason camps are rolling in right behind. Meanwhile, the curtain on Kill’s K-State chapter officially opens Monday.
“It bites you here and there all the time,” Kill said. “You do something for as long as I did, you just don’t (say), ‘Well, OK, I’m ready to go on to something else.’ It’s not that easy. It wouldn’t be for anybody.”
But even an old dog can pull off a few new tricks. Kill’s book — “Chasing Dreams: Living My Life One Yard At A Time” — is due out in September, and a Twin Cities signing session is in the works. Proceeds from sales are slated to go toward the Chasing Dreams fund and other charitable causes.
“I said (to someone), ‘Buy it,’ ” Kill said. He chuckled again. “’And if you don’t like it, you’re helping somebody.’”
You can reach Sean Keeler via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @seankeeler