Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill announced his resignation on Wednesday morning, citing health concerns.
Kill has long dealt with epilepsy and has a history of seizures while coaching, including one on the sideline in 2011. He took a seven-game leave of absence in 2013 after he had a seizure before a game at Michigan. During an emotional press conference on Wednesday, Kill said that he had two seizures on Tuesday but still went to practice after. He said that his doctor advised him to step down, citing concerns about Kill's future if he continued to go on coaching this way.
"Last night, when I walked off the practice field ... I feel like a part of me died," Kill said "I love this game. I love what it's done for my family."
Kill also said that he hadn't slept more than three hours in a night in the last three weeks, saying, "Hell, that ain't no way to live."
"You all know about the struggles," Kill said. "I did my best to change, but some of those struggles have returned. And I don't want to cheat the game.
"My doctor told me it was in my best interest for my family, my kids, hopefully grandkids someday, that if I didn't move on with my life, that I may be a guy who doesn't think too good down the road, and I want to be able to think. This is the toughest thing that I've ever done in my life, the toughest thing since I lost my dad."
Kill, 54, was in his fifth season as head coach at Minnesota, where he has compiled a 29-29 record, including back-to-back 8-5 seasons. Last season, he was named Big Ten coach of the year and led the Golden Gophers to the Citrus Bowl, their first New Year's bowl since the 1962 Rose Bowl. Prior to becoming head coach at Minnesota, Kill re-built Northern Illinois into the MAC's best program. Upon inheriting a 2-10 team, he went 23-16 in three seasons, leaving after a 10-win season in 2010. He began a run of five straight MAC West Division titles for the Huskies, who went to the Orange Bowl two years later under Dave Doeren.
Kill had slowly worked his way up the coaching ladder for a few decades. Before jumping to the FBS level, Kill was head coach at Saginaw State (1994-98), Emporia State (1999-2000) and Southern Illinois (2001-07), where he led the Salukis to five straight FCS playoff appearances, including a semifinal, and three Gateway Conference championships.
At Southern Illinois in 2005, Kill was diagnosed with kidney cancer after a seizure. He beat cancer, but he's continued to deal with seizures.
"I don't want to be a liability," Kill said. "I don't want somebody to have to worry about if I'm going to drop on the field. I don't want to coach from the press box. I want to coach the way I coached my whole life. I don't have any more energy. None. I've left it all here in the great state of Minnesota. And I have no regrets."
In his time at Minnesota, Kill has established himself as one of the most well-liked, highly respected and genuine coaches in the game. Many of his assistant coaches have stuck with him for a long time, showing uncommon loyalty for this business, with six staying on his staffs for 15 or more years. Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys has been a Kill assistant since 1995, when he joined Kill as Saginaw State's defensive line coach.
Working 4 Coach Kill was a life changer! He was the most"caring"coach I have ever met! Always put people before football! Love ya Coach!RTB— P.J. Fleck (@Coach_Fleck) October 28, 2015
Love and appreciate coach Kill. Gave me an opportunity 2 get an education and play 4 a prestigious university. Couldn't help but cry today.— Rodney Smith (@Numerouno1_) October 28, 2015
One of the greatest men I've ever met. Love you coach! Coaching or not, I know you will continue touching lives! pic.twitter.com/7xikCcq6fZ— Cedric Thompson Jr.™ (@cedjunior2) October 28, 2015
Claeys, who served as acting coach when Kill stepped aside in 2013, was named the team's interim coach on Wednesday. Minnesota also has an interim athletic director, Beth Goetz, after Norwood Teague resigned in August after being accused of sexual harassment. University president Eric Kaler said that Minnesota would focus on finding a permanent athletic director first, then move on to hiring a permanent replacement for Kill.
After the firing of Al Golden and retirement of George O'Leary on Sunday, there are now eight FBS head coaching jobs already open: Minnesota, USC, South Carolina, Miami, Maryland, Illinois, UCF and North Texas, with many more likely still to come open. With Minnesota now opening, it appears to be a particularly busy coaching search season in the Big Ten, meaning there will be a lot of competition for similar types of coaching candidates.
In July at Big Ten media days, Kill said that he had not had a seizure in over a year and a half and that he was "doing great." He coached the first seven games this season, with the Golden Gophers holding a 4-3 record, including three wins in a row by three points each after a close loss vs. TCU to open the season.
"I've given every ounce that I have for 32 years to the game of football," Kill said. "I never stole from anybody. I'm not going to steal now."
Last spring, Kill started the Chasing Dreams epilepsy fund, and he said he may devote more time to that now.
"I know somebody will ask, 'Coach, what are you going to do?'" Kill said. "I don't know. I ain't done anything else. That's the scary part."