There has been much debate/speculation over the immediate future of University of Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill. Upon suffering his second game day seizure this season (and fifth such occurrence since the beginning of 2011), Kill knew he had a difficult decision in front of him. After all, his sentiments conveyed in an August interview, where he stated he would walk away if he continued to miss games due to seizures, became increasingly prescient.
Thankfully, the coach has taken some initiative find an amenable arrangement.
Kill and the university announced Thursday that the coach is taking an open-ended leave of absence from the team to focus on treatment and management of his epilepsy, and it is uncertain when he will be able to return to the Golden Gophers.
"This was a difficult decision to make, but the right decision," Kill said in a statement distributed by the university. "Our staff has been together a long time and I have full confidence in coach Claeys and them during my time away. Every decision that will be made will be in the best interest of the players and the program. I look forward to returning to the Minnesota sideline on a full-time basis soon."
As he has each time Kill has been absent from the sideline, defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys will fill in as acting head coach. Kill and the bulk of his assistants have been together longer than any other staff in the country, and the Golden Gophers will lean on that continuity and familiarity now more than ever.
Let's face it. If the Gophers football program is to take a significant step forward over the next 2-3 seasons, coach Kill needs to prove to prospective recruits that his seizures are dramatically curtailed. As of this past weekend, Kill has missed time in, on average, one out of every six games he has been coach. And given the high profile coverage these episodes have received, there's no way a high school football player or his parents would not broach the subject on a recruiting visit.
It is my sincere hope that coach Kill can find a workable solution once and for all. If somehow this can't be worked out, I regret to say that we likely won't see Kill on the Gophers sidelines starting in 2014. That would be a darn shame.