Being in Chicago for Big Ten Football Media Days this past July, the anticipation going into it, no matter what conference representative might diplomatically utter, was all about one man: new Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. And, as expected, when he entered the Grand Ballroom to have his Q & A session, the table he sat in was encircled, with media member taking up every seat at the table and more media virtually forming two rings around that, almost like Jupiter. It literally looked like Planet Harbaugh.
“But the gravitational pull that lured me in was across the room. No media rings. No circus. Just a humble man, his vision, and his lessons on life. The man was was Jerry Kill, the now erstwhile head coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
It astounded me how much pull he had, almost more than any one of the Big Ten coaches not named Harbaugh that day. You knew he was a great man, but he wasn’t one for speaking too loudly or making any bold statements. He also wasn’t one to break out the book of clichés on you either. He was real. He was honest.
Walking over to his table almost made me think I was at a campfire, as he was telling stories and making the people around him laugh like a camp leader.
After his session, all I could think of, after thanking him for the time, was that I hoped his health would keep him on the sidelines long enough to touch more young men that will come to the Land of 10,000 lakes to play college football in the Maroon and Gold.
Sadly, that all came to an end Wednesday. Happily, however, Coach Kill will have the rest of his life to enjoy his wife and children, and that also started on Wednesday.
Kill resigned, effective immediately, at the advice of his doctors who were concerned about his epilepsy (diagnosed when he was 44 years old in 2005) and the reoccurrence of the seizures that he had suffered intermittently during the last decade of his coaching tenure. Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys takes over as the interim head coach, as he did when Kill missed time after a seizure in 2013.
Telling us at media day that he had been taking better care of himself by sleeping better and being on a better eating regimen, Kill coached the entire 2014 season without issue, leading the Gophers to another eight-win season and one game away from winning the Big Ten West crown. This season, however, Kill confirmed that the seizures had indeed returned, including two seizures he suffered before practice on Tuesday.
The following day, Kill had to come to the life-saving, yet agonizingly tough decision to abandon the game and step away from the kids that he loved to coach and groom into becoming better men.
“I’ve given every ounce that I’ve had for 32 years to the game of football and the kids I’ve been able to coach,” and emotional Kill said, fighting back tears. “When I walked off the practice field, I felt like a part of me died.”
Thankfully, there’s so much more to live for. Kill, along with his wife, Rebecca, recently started the Chasing Dreams Coach Kill Epilepsy Fund, founded to educate people on epilepsy and raise awareness about living with the disorder.
During his press conference, Kill mentioned that he wouldn’t know what to do now with his life after coaching, saying that he’s “never done anything else” outside of coaching. To be honest, he’ll be able to do even more, for as many people (if not more), now that he’s no longer on the sidelines. But for being the amazing person that he was, even realizing it for only the 20 or so minutes I had to be around him, I thank you. All of us here at ALOST wish you all the best.
The A Lot of Sports Talk 2015 College Football Poll panel have weighed in with their polls for this week, and you’ll find that our rankings have caused a serious shakeup at the top. As always, here are the seven people who combine to bring you our insightful aggregate poll: T.J. Basalla (super fan, marketing professional based in Ohio), Evie Van Pelt (managing editor at The Rebel Walk Magazine), Basil Mitchell (former TCU and Green Bay Packers RB), Sandy Weintraub (super fan, Director of Student Conduct and Community Standards at the University of Oregon), Nick Mancuso (patent attorney who attended USC as an undergrad and Oregon for law school), Adesina Koiki (Football Writers Association of America member/voter, A Lot Of Sports Talk editor-in-chief) and an anonymous football staff member at a Division II school who once coached at the FBS level.
Here is ALOST‘s 2015 College Football Top 25 for Week 9. If you have any comments and/or complaints, write them below on the Facebook window or email us at email@example.com. We’d love to hear from you.
After a turbulent first half of the season, the Buckeyes have played their best two games in the past couple of weeks, and now are off this week. (Adesina Koiki)
No matter the state of Miami football, beating the Hurricanes 58-0 – exactly what the Tigers did last week in the Sunshine State – makes the whole country take notice how good of a football team you really are. (Adesina)
We’ll see how much TCU’s defense has improved when the Mountaineers come to Fort Worth. (Adesina)
The Tigers have a bye week this week, but star RB Leonard Fournette is so good he will probably still rush for 200 yards. Can we fast forward to their showdown next week with the Tide? (Evie Van Pelt)
Freshman QB Jarrett Stidham enters the stage during the thick of their schedule. I think they may fall twice before all is said and done! (Basil Mitchell)
You can easily make the argument that, of all the remaining teams in the FBS still undefeated, the Spartans have been the least dominant. That said, they are two-thirds of the way home in achieving an undefeated regular season. (Adesina)
All of college football is eager to see Bama’s Derrick Henry and the Tigers’ Leonard Fournettte play on Nov. 7. It will be like King Kong vs. Godzilla. (Evie)
We’re going to be treated to some amazing “Pac-12 After Dark” action, with the Cardinal, the best team in the league so far, taking on the hottest team in the Pac-12, Mike Leach’s Cougars, up in Pullman on Saturday night. (Adesina)
The Irish are sure to be playing the role of Apollo Creed when taking on the underdog-made-good-from-Philadelphia in the Temple Owls. Notre Dame fans are hoping the contest ends more like what happened in the original Rocky, as opposed to Rocky II. (Adesina)
Yes, there’s a day-after-Thanksgiving tilt in Lincoln what will pose problems, but the Hawkeyes’ chances of finishing the regular season undefeated, in my eyes, stands at 50/50. (Adesina)
The Pokes’ final stretch from hell begins on Saturday, with a road trip to Lubbock to take on the Red Raiders. A matchup against TCU follows, and Baylor and Oklahoma are the final two contests. (Adesina)
Just like old times, the Gators face off against Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs this weekend for control of the SEC East. This is only the second time since 2009 that the Gators have been favored in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. (Evie)
Last week’s loss in Los Angeles proved what I, and many experts, thought about Utah: jump out to a lead on them early, and they might be in big trouble. Don’t get me wrong, though, as they’re still a fine football team. Just not one built to come from behind. (Adesina)
The Wolverines will be playing in their second consecutive emotionally-charged game, as they visit Minneapolis to take on a Gophers team playing their first game after the retirement of Jerry Kill. (Adesina)
QB Paxton Lynch, ranked No. 5 in the nation in Total QBR, is a future NFL signal-caller for a reason. (Evie)
After that stunning finish in Atlanta last week, now the Seminoles know what Michigan felt last week and what Alabama felt at the end of the Iron Bowl in 2013. (Adesina)
The Rockets were one yard away from possibly being down 35-10 at halftime last week. Instead, an interception in the end zone stopped a UMass drive at the end of the first half, and the Rockets went on to outscore the Minutemen 41-7 in the second half to stay undefeated. (Adesina)
The Cougars can add a win against an SEC team to their résumé with a victory this weekend. OK, so it’s Vanderbilt, but it’s still a win against an SEC opponent. (Adesina)
I actually feel bad that I have called a game against Kansas a virtual bye week in two successive ALOST Top 25 polls. So I’ll just say that the Sooners better not be looking ahead when going into Lawrence to play the Jayhawks this weekend. (Adesina)
As predicted, College GameDay is indeed in Philadelphia this week. With the game against the Irish on Halloween night and the Owls being an underdog, I expect one out of every 10 people in the stands at Lincoln Financial Field to be dressed as Rocky for the occasion; boxing gloves, Stars and Stripes boxing trunks, etc. (Adesina)
Going into this week’s matchup between Ole Miss and Auburn, Tigers DB Jonathan Jones commented that star wideout Laquon Treadwell is just a “regular receiver.” The last time a Tigers DB commented on another team’s player publicly in such a fashion was earlier this season, when safety Rudy Ford said stopping Leonard Fournette “shouldn’t be difficult, that much of a challenge.” Fournette rushed for 228 yards and 3 TDs in that game. (Evie)
Head coach David Cutcliffe has his Blue Devils sitting pretty at 6-1. College football needs more people like Coach Cutcliffe. (Adesina)
The next three weeks will basically decide the Coastal Division, starting with the Panthers’ game vs. the Tar Heels. (T.J.)
Even with their National Championship hopes derailed because of some subpar play and a rash of injuries, Jim Mora usually has had his UCLA teams finish the ends of seasons very strong. It may very well happen again. (Adesina)
Another shaky performance by Kyle Allen has reopened the starting quarterback competition, as Kevin Sumlin is looking for consistency – and to avoid a three-game losing streak – heading into the South Carolina game. (Adesina)
Others receiving votes:
Northwestern (4 points), California (4), Mississippi State (3), Southern California (2), Washington State (2), North Carolina (2)
* – To break ties, we used a three-step criteria; 1) higher number of first-place votes, 2) higher number of ballots (out of six) the teams appeared in, 3) highest single ranking by an individual pollster (e.g. if Team A and Team B are tied cumulatively and appeared in all six polls, but Team A’s highest ranking by an individual pollster was No. 7 and Team B’s highest ranking by an individual pollster was No. 9, Team A wins tiebreaker)
[Cover photo (Navy Midshipmen) courtesy of Michael Hickey/Getty Images]