University of Minnesota athletics director Norwood Teague announced Thursday that head football coach Jerry Kill will take a leave of absence to focus on his epilepsy treatment.
Teague did not give a timetable for when Kill would return. In the meantime, Minnesota defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys will serve as interim head coach.
“President [Eric] Kaler and I have met and talked extensively with coach Kill and Rebecca [Kill],” Teague said at a press conference Thursday. “We feel that giving Jerry the time to focus on and continue his treatments is the best course of action.”
Teague said Kill will remain close to the program and stay in contact with Claeys during the process. He did not confirm or deny whether Kill will seek medical treatment outside of Minnesota.
Kill released a statement through the team Thursday before the press conference.
“This was a difficult decision to make, but the right decision,” he said in the statement. “Our staff has
been together a long time, and I have full confidence inCoach Claeys and them during my time away.”
Kill wasn’t feeling well before the Gophers’ Oct. 5 trip to Ann Arbor, Mich. He stayed in Minneapolis and planned to meet the team, but he had a seizure before the game and didn’t travel.
As standard procedure, Claeys took over head coaching duties. Kill has had five game-day seizures in two and a half seasons with Minnesota, but the loss to Michigan was the first time in his career that he missed an entire game.
Claeys said missing a whole game might have sparked Kill’s decision to step away. Claeys, who has worked as an assistant to Kill for 19 years, said the head coach has never taken extended time off.
“I mean, to get him to go on vacation for two days is a long, hard conversation,” Claeys said. “I think they made [this decision] as a family.”
Claeys said he told the team of the decision during a team meeting Thursday afternoon.
“They’re concerned about him and all that,” he said, “but one thing about the players is they’ve always known things first.”
Claeys, offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover and the team’s graduate assistants ran practices last week in Kill’s absence. Minnesota’s other assistant coaches were out recruiting last week, and Claeys said he’s not concerned about losing ground on recruits with Kill out.
The Gophers had a bye this weekend and will travel to Northwestern on Oct. 19. Neither Teague nor Claeys would speculate whether Kill will return for the Northwestern game.
Claeys said he would consider coaching from the sideline, instead of the press box, if Kill is out for that game.
“I think that would be important if it comes down to it,” Claeys said.
Teague dodged questions about plans moving forward with the head coach position, but he said he has confidence the athletics department is making the right decisions.
Claeys said he is also confident this is the right decision, and he said this is “a big step” for Kill.
“As a staff, we are all happy that he has made this decision to do this,” Claeys said. “We support him 100 percent, and we will represent him well.”