Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A view on Kill.

When University of Minnesota Gophers football coach Jerry Kill suffered a seizure shortly before halftime of Saturday's win over Western Illinois, speculation ran rampant about Kill's immediate future. Having endured seizures (a byproduct of his epilepsy) for ten years, Kill knows they can happen without warning.

I personally like Kill and have been pleased with the no-nonsense approach he brings to football program. I'm not naive enough to think the Gophers will be Rose Bowl bound in the next 2-3 years, but I am hopeful that a more high profile bowl game than, say, the Meineke Car Care Bowl is on the horizon.

Unfortunately, with Kill's well documented in-game seizures, there's legitimate concern whether or not he should continue coaching. In fact there have been two local sports commentators (Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Jeff Dubay of 1500 ESPN) who have been harshly criticized over expressing the opinion that perhaps Kill should move on (At one point the backlash got so nasty against Dubay that some were taking shots at his own prior addiction to crack cocaine). Why Kill himself entertained the possibility that he wouldn't force the University to make a the decision on his job status if he continued to miss an entire half of coaching football due to his illness (emphasis mine).

"You can’t be the head football coach and miss half of a game. I mean, I’m not stupid, I realize that.

“If I was doing those things, the university wouldn’t have to fire me. I’d walk away if I didn’t think I could do it. But that won’t happen because you’re talking to a guy that wasn’t supposed to be here anyway.”

That was a quote from a interview Kill gave over the summer, a few months before his most recent in-game incident.

This past year, after being forthright regarding his struggle with epilepsy, a specialist at the Mayo Clinic offered to lend a hand. Since then, Kill followed a strict regimented plan of diet and exercise combined with the proper medication. Thankfully it helped alleviate the frequency of his seizures. However, the stress that comes with coaching a major college football team can cause those episodes to reoccur, like this past Saturday. The bigger concern should now shift to how will it affect Kill the football coach to how it may permanently alter the life of Kill the man. If seizures continue to occur at the most inopportune times, the cumulative affect has to take its toll. And while the University can't fire Kill because of his condition (the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 outlaws such a practice), said condition may dissuade prominent recruits from attending Minnesota, thus hampering the program's ability to win. Eventually it may well reach the point where the University could fire Kill based on performance.

The bottom line is there is no easy resolution to this difficult situation. As of right now, U of M athletic director Norwood Teague is behind Kill 100% and is willing to battle through this. While that's all fine and good, there also should be no reason that Kill supporters should be so indignant if others convey doubts over Kill remaining the coach. There are certainly more important things at stake than a winning football program. A man's long-term health comes to mind.


No comments: