Column: Retaining Kill’s assistants was a necessity, ya feel me?

Samuel Gordon

Gophers assistant head coach and linebackers coach Bill Miller is bolting from Minneapolis to join Tim Brewster and the top-ranked Florida State football program.

Jerry Kill’s new contract will almost certainly ensure the rest of his assistants don’t do the same.

While speaking to members of the media for the first time since National Signing Day a few weeks ago, Kill addressed the implications of the new deal and how it will affect his assistant coaches.

Kill said Monday that if his assistants weren’t taken care of in the new contact, his decision would have been easy.

“I wouldn’t have signed the contract — that simple,” he said. “That’s more important to me because we’ve all worked together.”

Kill boasts one of the longest-tenured coaching staffs in the country, and his new contract includes terms that will compensate his assistants accordingly.

The head coach will make $2.1 million for the 2014-15 season. Under the new contract, his coaching staff will earn salaries that place them in the top six for highest-paid staffs in the Big Ten.

That number was important for Kill. It was also important for the University because it allowed it to retain the assistants.

A coach is only as good as his assistant coaches — especially in football, where there are so many players and aspects of the game to manage.

The first three of years at Minnesota were tumultuous, but in 2013, the coaching staff proved to be one of the best and most consistent in the Big Ten.

Gophers defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys assumed head coaching duties during a critical stretch while Kill was tending to his health. And offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover and quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowksi worked together to open up the playbook.

In turn, both the offense and the defense responded. And the Gophers went 4-0 without the head honcho at the helm.

That success led to speculation that Claeys might be able to field a head coaching position elsewhere. Still, Claeys and others have never wavered in their loyalty to the head coach.

Kill fighting for their funds is a display of mutual loyalty — and loyalty is everything.

“It’s something very important to him, and it’s very important to me,” athletics director Norwood Teague said in a conference call. “He has a very good staff, and we’ve got to stay competitive with our compensation to them. They’re a vital, vital part of moving this thing forward.”

Kill was careful to emphasize that the Gophers football rebuild is still a work in progress. But solidifying solidarity within is a key part of that.

Ya feel me?