Claeys named head coach

Claeys signed a three-year contract with the University of Minnesota on Wednesday to replace former coach Jerry Kill.

Tracy Claeys speaks at a press conference after being named head coach at TCF Stadium on Wednesday. Claeys mentioned that former head coach Jerry Kill would be welcome at any time as a staff member or as a friend to the football team.

Sam Harper

Tracy Claeys speaks at a press conference after being named head coach at TCF Stadium on Wednesday. Claeys mentioned that former head coach Jerry Kill would be welcome at any time as a staff member or as a friend to the football team.

Ben Gotz

The University of Minnesota announced Tracy Claeys as its next head football coach on Wednesday, with Claeys dressed in a new suit he purchased for the occasion.
 
Claeys signed a three-year contract for the full-time job, after leading the program as interim head coach the past two weeks in the wake of Jerry Kill’s Oct. 28 retirement.
 
The Clay Center, Kan., native was previously the Gophers associate head coach and defensive coordinator and served under Kill for 21 seasons.
 
Claeys negotiated his own contract and stated his desire to become the permanent head coach in his first press conference after Kill’s retirement.
 
“There was no back-and-forth on the contract, anything like that,” Claeys said. “There was no need for an agent, no need for anything else. We got it done.”
 
Claeys is 0-2 this season as the Gophers interim head coach, with losses to No. 15 Michigan and No. 2 Ohio State. He is 4-5 overall as an interim head coach at Minnesota, going 4-3 when Kill took a seven-game leave of absence in 2013.
 
His new contract states Claeys will make $1.3 million for the remainder of this year and $1.4 million next season, with equal increases the following two years. Kill signed a contract extension in April that said he would make $2.5 million in 2015.
 
“I think we’re all comfortable with where we landed,” interim athletics director Beth Goetz said.
 
Minnesota’s assistant coaches are under contract until January, and the athletic department will review their positions after the season, Goetz said.
 
The promotion comes at a time of uncertainty in the department with an interim athletics director in charge. Claeys said he would be willing to adapt if a new permanent athletics director were to come aboard who was not involved in his hire.
 
“I get along with people pretty good,” Claeys said. “I’m a pretty good people person, and I think I can work for a bunch of different personalities. But obviously as the people made the decision what they felt was best for the football program now, and that decision will be made later what is best for the University as far as athletic director.”
 
Claeys’ contract states the University can terminate the deal by paying him half of his remaining base salary over the time of the contract.
 
The fee would be $500,000 to terminate Claeys “without just cause” after next season and $250,000 the following year under the terms of the contract. 
 
Claeys publicly pushed for the University to make a decision quickly in order to preserve the program’s current recruiting class. Minnesota’s 2016 class is currently ranked No. 39 by Rivals.com.
 
The new head coach also said he wasn’t worried about the length of his new contract affecting recruiting.
 
“We were talking, and I’m comfortable with three years because really any head coach has got three years. They can say there’s five years on the contract. If they don’t have three good years, they’re done,” Claeys said. “[I’m] very comfortable with everything about the contract, and it’s our job to continue to improve, which we will, and all of that stuff will take care of itself.”
 
Claeys had a large hand in the recruiting class and the Minnesota program, running the team’s defense since being hired in December 2010.
 
He was nominated for the Frank Broyles Award for the top college assistant coach in each of the last two seasons, after the Gophers defense finished 25th in scoring in the nation in 2013 and 33rd in scoring in 2014.
 
Four Gophers defensive players have been selected in the past two NFL drafts.
 
Claeys first joined Jerry Kill as a defensive line coach at Saginaw Valley State in 1995 and said he started out making $3,000 a year.
 
He stayed with Kill all the way to Minnesota. He said he had opportunities to be a head coach at different points but never wanted to leave Kill.
 
On Wednesday morning, he got his chance, though, and told his players the news in a morning meeting, just two weeks after the team met so Kill could announce his retirement.
 
“You could tell it was a big relief from them. They’re excited,” Claeys said. “It’s been a tough two weeks on those kids. We all felt like we lost a best friend not having [Kill]
around all the time. It was great to see them smile again and actually look forward to going to class.”