"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What basis for lionizing coach Jerry Kill?

Jerry Kill: overrated
I'm not sure what our fascination with sports coaches says about us. We can become transfixed like those mobs we sometimes see in the Middle East, holding up placards with pictures of political leaders. On Saturday (10/31) at the stadium in Minneapolis, we saw a flag paying homage. It read "Jerrysota."
"Jerrysota." It isn't even very clever. It's a word you might throw together when you've had "one too many." The news was still fresh that Jerry Kill had resigned. It's rather odd, of course: a Division I head football coach stepping down (quitting on his team) at mid-season. Kill must have had a sudden re-emergence of epilepsy symptoms. He had seemed very stable, for him, in the time leading up to his departure. I was surprised seeing the headline.
The facts, in my mind, never supported such great lionizing of him. He's a coach. He has to deal with all the pressures of holding down such a spot. On Saturday the pressure would have been to face Michigan. It was a pivotal game, certainly impacting the type of bowl game we'd get in, or if we'd make a bowl game. The numbers don't look that great right now.
Kill's sudden departure was followed by the reflexive move of promoting an assistant, who always looks interesting in the short term. We have a fat guy named Claeys in the top spot now. In his honeymoon game Saturday, surrounded by trappings like that "Jerrysota" flag, his stock appeared to drop a few notches. Right now the political atmosphere is to give the benefit of the doubt to the new guy, if he has the blessing of his saint-like predecessor, Kill.
I'll wager that the usual cynical reporters in the Twin Cities would love to sharpen their knives and humble the U after all that has happened. First the athletic director leaves. AD Teague left amidst a cesspool of bad acting and embarrassment. How could he think he could get by with his behavior? Oh, he'll cite alcohol. Maybe we should consider affinity with alcohol as a hiring factor. Oh, but the U delegates to a consultant to deal with that. Blame them, I guess. What? Buck-passing by educational administrators?
So Teague leaves in that cloud of embarrassment for the institution. Then Kill, whose status has always been shaky with his health issues, suddenly announced he's gone, days before the big home Michigan game.
We need to feel sorry for a person with a health handicap. But maybe the job of Division I football coach had always been too big for him. Maybe health fitness is actually a prerequisite for being head coach at that level. Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune committed the gaffe of telling the truth once. His column was ripped by the political correctness crowd. He made an apology direct to Kill, something that I'm not sure came from his heart.
We lost to Michigan because of being short-handed in coaching. This Claeys guy would normally have worked in concert with Kill in clock management. Our normal continuity got disrupted. Claeys of course discussed this debacle game with Kill in the game's aftermath. With smoke still coming from the rubble, they pondered the lapse at the end where errant clock management denied the Gophers the win they thought they'd achieved.
Kill is gone. To what extent should his name even be invoked now? Didn't the band spell out "Jerry" on the field at halftime? Again, you'd think we were talking about some tinpot Middle East leader, mesmerizing the masses.
George Will has complained about what he calls "coach centrism" in college football. We got an excellent exhibit Saturday at our football stadium in Minneapolis. "Jerrysota." An atmosphere of mania prevailed among the huge turnout. (The late Walt Sarlette of Morris would say, "Don't these people have homes?")
So many people have predicted a decline in football's popularity due to the hazards of the game. Those predictions appear now to be a dud. Not that the game isn't hazardous. The more research is done, the more we're aware of the physical and mental peril. I can thank God I never played football. But just think of all the young people who get induced into playing it. Adoring fans are a big inducement for young men who may be lonely and drifting.
All those fans had free discretion to place coach Kill on such an incredibly high pedestal. I'm not sure what the point was. The facts simply to not underscore Jerry Kill being an iconic football coach. And, if the point was to demonstrate how a person can overcome his handicap? Kill did not overcome it. Resigning at mid-season, leaving a void that contributed to a loss in a hugely important game, does not equate with overcoming your handicap. I think Jim Souhan cusses under his breath about having to publicly regret his column. I think deep down he feels it was totally reasonable.
Coach Kill couldn't even be present to help his team win in the end. But of course he's consulted immediately afterward, as if he were some guru on a mountaintop. He's not even Bo Schembechler. He seems a quite mortal coach, a coach who hadn't even proven, yet, that his 2015 team was bowl-worthy.
"Jerrysota?" It's asinine. We're left with the cold hard fact that our football team got beat by Michigan and Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines beat us in our backyard. We should be smarting at that defeat and putting increased pressure on that new fat guy coach. Put away the flag.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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