Ex-Minn. coach Kill on Fleck: ‘He’s about himself’

Former Minnesota[1] football coach Jerry Kill is no fan of the man currently leading the Golden Gophers program.

Kill, who recently was named permanent athletic director at Southern Illinois[2], criticized Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck during an interview Tuesday with SiriusXM College’s “Big Ten Today.”[3] Kill didn’t like the way Fleck handled the transition after taking over the Minnesota program from Tracy Claeys, a longtime Kill assistant.

“Sometimes ego gets carried away,” Kill told “Big Ten Today” hosts Matt Schick and A.J. Hawk. “When he went into Minnesota and treated the people the way he treated my guys, telling them he had to go in and completely change the culture and that it was a bad culture and bad people. He made it sound like we didn’t know what we were doing.

“I took it personal. You just don’t treat people who have helped your career, and you don’t even talk to ’em once you get the job.”

“Do I still root for the Gophers? I do. Do I enjoy him running up and down the sidelines? No. Do I think he’s about the players? No. He’s about himself.” Jerry Kill on Gophers coach P.J. Fleck

Kill resigned as Minnesota’s coach in October 2015 because of health reasons related to epilepsy. Claeys took over as interim head coach, then landed the permanent job, but he was fired after the 2016 season, despite a 9-4 record. Minnesota hired Fleck weeks later.

Fleck served as an assistant for Kill at Northern Illinois, Fleck’s alma mater, in 2009 and 2010. Kill said he helped Fleck land the head-coaching position at Western Michigan[4] in 2013.

Kill said the two men spoke once after Fleck got the job at Minnesota.

“It wasn’t good,” Kill told SiriusXM. “That’s the last time, and it will be the last time. Do I still root for the Gophers? I do. Do I enjoy him running up and down the sidelines? No. Do I think he’s about the players? No. He’s about himself.”

Fleck wasn’t immediately available for comment Tuesday night, according to a team spokesman.

Fleck praised Kill during his introductory news conference at Minnesota.

“Coach Kill did tell me, ‘Hey, tell him you’re a Kill guy,'” Fleck said in January 2017. “I said I’m a Kill guy. I’m part of the Kill tree. I do know that. Coach Kill taught me a lot how to care for players. When I already did care for players, he taught me how to care more.”

This isn’t the first time Kill has criticized Minnesota. He was critical of the school and athletic director Mark Coyle for the way Claeys and his other former assistants were treated after the 2016 season, when the team had threatened to boycott the Holiday Bowl after 10 players were suspended for it as part of a Title IX investigation into sexual assault allegations.

After firing Claeys, Coyle said he sought a program that operates with “integrity and class academically, athletically and socially.”

“The thing that disappoints me the most is going back over the last six years is he [Coyle] threw us all in there,” Kill told ESPN Radio 1500 in January 2017. “I feel like he threw me in there. We have done nothing but represent the state of Minnesota.”

“I won’t be stepping foot back in the stadium,” Kill added, “and I won’t stepping foot back at the university.”

Fleck is 12-13 in two seasons with Minnesota, but he ended the 2018 campaign with wins over rival Wisconsin[5] and against Georgia Tech[6] in the Quick Lane Bowl.

Kill went 29-29 in four-plus seasons at Minnesota, earning Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in 2014. He retired from coaching permanently after spending the 2017 season as offensive coordinator at Rutgers[7].

References

  1. ^ Minnesota (www.espn.com)
  2. ^ Southern Illinois (www.espn.com)
  3. ^ SiriusXM College’s “Big Ten Today.” (twitter.com)
  4. ^ Western Michigan (www.espn.com)
  5. ^ Wisconsin (www.espn.com)
  6. ^ Georgia Tech (www.espn.com)
  7. ^ Rutgers (www.espn.com)