Column: Kill’s departure a classless gesture

By Chris Dertz

NIU fans have no reason to be upset with Jerry Kill for taking the head coaching job at the University of Minnesota.

Those same fans have every right to be upset with how Kill did it.

Consider this: at Sunday night’s annual football banquet at NIU, Kill told the team that he would be taking the job as coach of the Golden Gophers.

Then Kill hopped on a plane, flew into Minneapolis and told the world that it “felt fantastic” to be there.

Well, of course it would; he just landed himself a Big Ten coaching gig, along with a likely sizeable pay raise.

Forget about the fact that members of the media and players’ families knew about it before the team itself did.

There’s no reason to be upset at Kill for moving, because I would defy anybody in his position not to make the same decision.

But he did so two days after one of NIU’s worst losses in recent memory, without making a single statement to the media. The only words heard from Kill’s mouth on Sunday night were his words to Daily Chronicle writers: “I’m not talking to you.”

What an impression, right? Maybe NIU fans were spoiled when Joe Novak was head coach. Novak was an NIU man; something tells me even if he would have left, he wouldn’t have done it this way.

It doesn’t matter what Kill says in Minneapolis: the fact remains that he left DeKalb without so much as a peep. What a joke.

In an environment where Kill had never been anything but cooperative and happy to accommodate the media, his exit was the polar opposite of his arrival.

It was a classless gesture that leaves a terrible taste in the NIU community’s mouth.

Now the obvious question of who NIU looks at for the vacancy arises. Athletic Director Jeff Compher said in a teleconference Monday that no decision had been made regarding an interim coach for the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl, and he is planning on meeting with the current NIU assistants sometime early Tuesday. Compher will meet with the team itself on Tuesday as well.

But whether or not offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover or defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys coaches in the Humanitarian Bowl is irrelevant; Kill’s staff has been together longer than peanut butter and jelly. It doesn’t matter what sort of recommendation Kill gives NIU regarding its head coaching hire. New quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski has said this staff is “like family;” not exactly the type of description one would expect to split up.

The only reason to believe that the staff would split up is so that Kill could have a group of assistants that is experienced with major-conference recruiting, which Kill’s staff isn’t.

That doesn’t seem very likely to me, though.

I imagine that Compher will be looking to some former assistants at NIU: former Huskie wide receiver and wide receivers coach P.J. Fleck, who would be the sentimental favorite by far among Huskie faithful.

Perhaps the better option, however, would be Syracuse’s defensive coordinator Scott Shafer, who was NIU’s defensive coordinator from 1996 until 2003, when the Huskies won 10 games.

It doesn’t really matter right now, anyway. The Huskies have a bowl game coming up in two weeks, and no idea who will be coaching them.

And they have Jerry Kill to thank.