MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The latest game-day seizure suffered by Minnesota coach Jerry Kill raised again the question: Could his unpredictable condition make him unable to continue with this high-profile, demanding job?
Kill’s boss, echoing Gophers assistants and players, answered another time with an emphatic no.
“Jerry is our coach, and we are 100 percent behind him. I am 100 percent behind him,” athletic director Norwood Teague said Monday.
He added: “I just trust that we’re going to keep battling through it.”
Kill was back at work as usual, Teague said, two days after a seizure struck the 52-year-old coach at halftime of Saturday’s game against Western Illinois. Following a precautionary hospital visit, Kill was at home and resting comfortably two hours after the 29-12 victory by the Gophers. But this was the fourth time since taking over the program in 2011 he’s had an episode on the day of a game, including two at halftime and another in the final minute.
Teague said, though, that his daily observation of Kill’s work between games, relationships with the players and relentless recruiting overrides any concerns about seizures forcing him to miss game time.
“If I had major anxiety I would let you know, and I’m not saying it’s not a big deal, but I’m so confident in him,” Teague said.
The seizures can occur without warning, but Kill has taken several steps toward living more effectively with his condition, including changes in diet and exercise. The episodes themselves, according to medical experts, don’t pose a problem to Kill’s overall health as long he avoids injury during the convulsions.
His staff is the longest-tenured in the nation, according to tracking by the university. His 10 assistant coaches, including strength and conditioning, have worked under him for a combined 124 years. So these guys know the drill of how to handle his absence.
“It’s not a problem except for the fact that it’s a pain in his butt,” defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said.
The players have been trained to keep calm and carry on, too.
“We have great coaches. We’re well prepared like no other,” tight end Maxx Williams said.
Teague downplayed again the potential of a negative effect on recruiting.
“We’ve never had a kid say anything about it, whether it be last week or Saturday or in the past,” he said. “I think if anything — and I’ve said this before — it’s that parents and prospective student-athletes really are inspired and impressed by his story. He’s an epileptic. Three million people have epilepsy throughout the country. It’s not his fault. The way he operates his program, the way the program runs, the level of distraction is just not there for me and the way that I see it.”
Having reflected on the coach, his condition and the program over the past two days, Teague also said he has not discussed with Kill a worst-case scenario in which his epilepsy would be too much to manage while trying to run a winning team.
“He’s a competitor, and he is a great coach, and I have full faith that we can move forward with the program,” Teague said.
Dave Campbell on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP