Coach Jerry Kill ran winning football programs at Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois, and Chris Barron thinks Kill can do the same for Minnesota -- if Gophers fans give the guy a chance.
Barron, the college sports columnist for the weekly Carbondale Times in Illinois for the last 15 years, and an SIU grad, is an unabashed Kill fan. We gave him some room to share his thoughts on slaying zombie football programs.[jump]
Why in the heck would anyone in their right mind want to attempt to convince a bunch of humbugging fans that they'd gotten the football Gift of the Magi when many were already certain that his signing was another case of Halloween trickery pulled off by University of Minnesota AD Joel Maturi?
Maturi insists that he has spent weeks sifting through applications from every super head coaching candidate from Maine to California but kept coming back to the name "Kill."
Now, I'm not insinuating the he may be slightly BS-ing the Gopher faithful. However, if he in fact did keep seeing "KILL" in his dreams then he should be deemed wise beyond reckoning.
However, my guess is that, truth be known, Kill was probably Maturi's second or third choice. Of course my guess is prefaced on knowledge accumulated while perusing the wisdom on such august tomes as "Gopherhole.com." So said info should be consumed with a grain of salt. Make that a whole box of salt. Those posters believe that only a cloned replica of Vince Lombardi would be good enough for their pigskin powerhouse.
But let's say that Kill was sloppy thirds among coaching candidates. So what? Sometimes, as legendary Alabama head coach Paul "Bear" Bryant is rumored to have said, "It's better to be lucky than good." And it doesn't matter whether Maturi was one or the other. What matters is that signing Kill to coach the Gophers is a touchdown for the beleaguered Minnesota sport department.
At the beginning of the 21st century, my alma mater, Southern Illinois University, had been trapped in a 17 year time warp of losing. But by 2003, the Salukis were well on their way to starting a magic six-year playoff run.
Kill turned a zombie-like pigskin program around by instilling discipline in his players and developing a cogent plan to build, not just a team, but a solid program. That program is still alive and happy under Kill's replacement, Dale Lennon.
Coach Kill likes to put on his "aw shucks" populous face when he makes public pronouncements. The fact that he will probably say that his players have a lunch pail, hard hat mentality doesn't mean you've ordered a bologna and cheese level coach. Kill's expectations of hard work by his players (and his coaches) on and off the field are no mere Andy Griffith Show allusion. Such mental discipline would be useful in any endeavor -- from constructing a building to constructing a dissertation on architecture. Behind the homespun humor and homilies lurks a brain worthy of a Ph.D in Pigskin technology.
He will make your program a winner, on the field and off. Kill makes certain his charges get their degrees and give something back to their community in the process.
So give him a chance, oh neighbors to the north. It may take a few years for him to pull a winning season out of the deep snow up there, but Kill is not immune to hard shoveling.