Minnesota didn't wait long or go far to end its search to replace former football coach Jerry Kill. The school announced Wednesday morning that interim coach Tracy Claeys is taking over on a permanent basis.
Claeys stepped in for Kill two weeks ago when the former coach decided to leave the program for health reasons. The Gophers have lost to No. 14 Michigan and No. 3 Ohio State in close battles since. Claeys is 4-5 overall leading the Gophers, having also held the interim tag for seven games in the 2013 season.
Claeys, 46, has been with the Gophers since 2010, when he came to Minnesota with Kill. That duo had spent more than two decades together on the same sideline. Much of the remaining staff has also worked together for long stretches.
"This certainly is not the way anyone wants to become a head coach," Claeys said in a statement. "Coach Kill is one of my best friends and I am thankful that he took a chance on me 21 years ago. I am looking forward to continuing what we have built at Minnesota, but will do so in my own way. One thing that won't change will be our relentless pursuit to field a team that will make the state of Minnesota proud."
Claeys received a three-year deal, providing some stability in an athletic department that will also be searching for a new athletic director in the near future.
He will make $1.4 million next year, $1.5 million in 2017 and $1.6 million in 2018. That will put him near the bottom of the Big Ten in terms of overall football coach compensation.
True to his laid-back, no-frills form, Claeys negotiated the deal without an agent.
Claeys will make a prorated portion of $1.3 million for the remainder of this season. His contract, starting Feb. 1, 2016, will include a $500,000 base salary and $500,000 in supplemental compensation for media appearances, fundraising, community involvement and endorsements. The remainder of the package is for supplemental retirement contributions: $400,000 for next year, $500,000 for 2017 and $600,000 for 2018.
As for whether Claeys would create a position for Kill on his staff, provided he's in good health:
"I told him he's welcome any time,'' Claeys said at a news conference announcing his contract. "I've talked to him two or three times a week. I always have and I always will, as a coach and as a friend.''
Claeys' first game as coach won't be any easier than his last two in the interim role. Minnesota travels to Iowa on Saturday night to take on the undefeated and fifth-ranked Hawkeyes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.