Minnesota's Kill taking leave of absence

Minnesota's Kill taking leave of absence
October 10, 2013, 4:00 pm
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Vinnie Duber

Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill is taking a leave of absence from the program to deal with his epilepsy, the university announced Thursday.

The coach suffered the latest in a series of seizures before the Gophers' game against Michigan on Saturday. It was the second time this season Kill has had a seizure on game day and was the seventh reported seizure since becoming the Minnesota head coach in 2011.

Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, who has filled in for Kill in the past when seizures prevented him from coaching, will take over as the Gophers' interim head coach.

"This was a difficult decision to make, but the right decision," Kill said in a statement Thursday. "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."

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Kill's continued seizures have sparked much discussion in the media over whether Kill could perform all his duties and whether the university should stick with him as the head coach. But in Thursday's announcement, both athletics director Norwood Teague and university president Eric Kaler reaffirmed their support for Kill.

"Coach Kill will remain in very close contact with the team and his staff and provide direction and support as needed," Minnesota athletics director Norwood Teague said in a statement. "Our support for coach Kill is unwavering, and we look forward to his return to full-time coaching duties.

"This is a great group of student-athletes under the guidance of one of the longest-tenured and most respected staffs in college football, and there is no doubt in my mind that they will continue to move this program forward and make us proud."

Kill, 52, is in his third season coaching the Gophers. Prior to heading to the Twin Cities, Kill was the head coach at both Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois.

As for the Gophers, they'll march forward under Claeys. Minnesota has a bye this week before taking on Northwestern in Evanston on Oct. 19.