Minnesota coach Jerry Kill is taking a leave of absence from the team to focus on treating and managing his epilepsy, the school said Thursday.
Just how long Kill will be away from the team is unclear. Athletic director Norwood Teague told reporters that the program is "taking it day by day." Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys will serve as acting coach in the interim.
“I think ... [Kill] decided, ‘Let’s look into this deeper and see what we can come up with,’ ” Teague said.
Kill did not travel with the team for last week's game at Michigan and suffered another epileptic seizure on Saturday at home. Kill has had five seizures on game days in his three seasons with the Gophers, including one in the Western Illinois game earlier this year. But last week's episode was the first that prevented him from attending a game.
Kill released this statement on Thursday:
“My wife Rebecca, myself and our two daughters want to thank everyone for their prayers and concerns during the last few weeks. This was a difficult decision to make, but the right decision. Our staff has been together a long time and I have full confidence in Coach Claeys and them during my time away. Every decision that will be made will be in the best interest of the players and the program. I look forward to returning to the Minnesota sideline on a full-time basis soon.”
Kill worked with doctors during the offseason to come up with a new treatment plan that he thought would help him manage his condition. But it hasn't worked.
Minnesota is on a bye this week, so it's possible he could return to work before the next game, on Oct. 19 at Northwestern. But it's more important that he get his seizures under control. Claeys has been a longtime assistant under Kill, so not too much should change for the team in the interim. Still, the players need some stability and deserve to know who will be coaching them on game day.
We're strongly rooting for Kill to make it back to the field. Although it must be a difficult decision for him, it's the right call to take some time off and focus on his health.