Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill is headed to Minnesota, and will not coach the Huskies in the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl against Fresno State.
KillAthletic director Jeff Compher confirmed that Kill told him and his players Sunday that he would be leaving for the Big Ten. Compher has not named an interim coach, because he does not yet know which members of the staff will be staying with the Huskies. Complicating matters is the fact that the game is Dec. 18, less than two weeks away.
"The timing no matter when it is is never good," Compher said on a conference call late Sunday night. "Jerry's more than just a coach. He's a friend, so there are mixed emotions as I'm sure the players feel. But when you think of the opportunity we have, we need to go win a bowl game and that's the No. 1 priority."
The hiring appeared to go down rather quickly. Compher said he spoke to Minnesota athletic director Joe Maturi on Saturday and then again Sunday. Kill informed him of his decision within the last 24 hours, and broke the news to his team at the team banquet Sunday night.
"It's a feeling I can't comprehend right now," NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish said. "Disappointment, shock, but we're moving on and we still have a bowl game to focus on. There's a lot of mixed emotions on the team. Everyone's like what's going on right now?"
Kill has led the Huskies to three bowl games in his three years there. They went 10-3 this season and are coming off a heartbreaking loss to Miami (Ohio) in the MAC title game. But when Compher looks for his next coach, he knows he must find somebody who can continue the work Kill has done.
"We want to move as expeditiously as possible, but we want to be sure we have the right person to be here," Compher said. "This is a transition where we're handing over one of the best teams in the country to the next coaching staff and I want to be sure we get the next coaching staff in here to continue the success we've had under Coach Kill. It's not a question of rebuilding. It's a question of continuing and maintaining."
Compher said he already has candidates in mind but declined to disclose their names. He will work with the university and athletic administration throughout the hiring process.