Gophers AD Norwood Teague '100 percent' behind Jerry Kill
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Two days after Minnesota Gophers coach Jerry Kill suffered the latest in a series of in-game epileptic seizures, athletic director Norwood Teague made clear that the University has not backed down in its full support of the third-year head coach.
"Jerry is our coach and we 100% behind him. I am 100% behind him," Teague said. "Over the last day and a half I've had some time to reflect on Jerry and his situation and the football program. Having said that, I believe more than ever that he truly represents what is great about college athletics, and he is a tremendous role model for our student athletes."
Kill, who has battled epilepsy for 13 years, endured a seizure, his third in-game episode in the past three seasons, on the sidelines Saturday at halftime of the Gophers' victory against Western Illinois.
After Kill was taken off the field and then driven to a nearby hospital for precautionary reasons, Teague drove Kill's wife, Rebecca, to the hospital before returning to the stadium to meet with the team. Monday was his first public address since the episode.
Teague's message was the same as the one consistently reiterated by Kill's coaching staff and the other members of the program -- epilepsy is part of who Kill is and the team willingly deals with the elements that come with having a coach who battles daily with the disorder.
"He's an epileptic. He has seizures. We deal with it and we move on," Teague said. "If I felt like it was affecting things, it would be different."
"We talk to our kids throughout the year (about Kill). They are so level-headed and mature about it ... I've rarely seen a group of young men play as hard as they do for a guy, as much as they admire him and look up to him and respect him ... It's kind of a gut feeling when you're around people to just see how they look at it and the understanding that they have of Jerry's situation."
But given the public nature of Kill's struggle and the reoccurrence of seizures on game days, questions about his longevity and ability to continue in his current position have undoubtedly come up.
Teague was adamant that the possibility of Kill taking a step back in some way from his coaching duties has never been discussed.
"We have not, and I don't expect Jerry to bring any of that up to me," Teauge said. "I mean, he's a competitor, and he is a great coach, and I have full faith that we can move forward with the program."
There has been discussion within the media about Kill potentially choosing to coach from the coaches press box instead of on the field, but Teague said that he would leave any decision along those lines up to Kill's discretion.
Teague has talked with Kill in the past about ways to keep his stress level in check, stay on a more regulated sleep schedule and maintain overall healthy lifestyle.
"He's done a better job in that area and I know he will continue to do a better job," Teague said. "During the past year, we took some things off his plate because if you let Jerry take everything, he'll take everything."
"It's my job and (Associate AD of football) Dan O'Brien, (senior associate director) David Benedict and (assistant coach/defensive coordinator) Tracy Claeys to continue to work to manage things that [Kill] doesn't need to manage."
Kill returned to his home around 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, less than four hours after the seizure occurred. After spending the night and Sunday morning with his family, he was back at work later in the afternoon. Kill is expected to hold his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
When Kill's epilepsy diagnosis was first brought to the forefront in 2011 after an on-field epileptic attack in the fourth quarter of the Gophers' match-up with New Mexico State, Kill was at first hesitant in discussing his struggle publicly and at times err on the defensive side.
However, in the last year Kill has become notably forthcoming about the situation and has taken a role as leading advocate for epilepsy awareness.
Teague expressed his understanding that Kill's disorder is one that will continue to be a daily battle, but insisted that it will not alter how he or the program approaches their stance alongside Kill.
"I just trust that we're going to keep battling through it and that he'll keep looking at it in a real intense way with his physicians," Teague said. "So the end game is to stay focused on what we're doing and keep supporting him."