Kill’s raise, extension are premature

Jerry Kill has improved the Gophers, but a huge raise now isn’t wise.

In August 2012, Tubby Smith received a contract extension from the University of Minnesota, which, among other things, raised his buyout pay to $2.5 million, up from $1.5 million, which the University would pay in the event of his dismissal.

A season later, the University fired Smith after he secured his first NCAA tournament win with the Gophers but couldn’t take them any further.

On Monday, the Minnesota Daily reported on the contract extension for Gophers head football coach Jerry Kill, which extends through the 2018-19 season. It increases Kill’s pay to $2.1 million for the 2014-15 season. With his new deal, which will pay him an average of $2.3 million over the next five years, Kill is vaulted from the lowest-paid coach in the Big Ten to the middle of the conference, the Star Tribune reported.

The deal also stipulates that the contract will be void if Kill is unable to coach for 90 consecutive days, or 70 consecutive days during the season. In that case, Kill would remain an employee on leave of absence and could seek disability benefits. 

The health stipulation strikes a good balance between protecting the football program and ensuring Kill is properly compensated.

Still, with the recent memory of Smith’s firing after the University raised his buyout, we’re skeptical about the timing of this extension.

In a statement Saturday, athletics director Norwood Teague said, “Coach Kill is proving his model works here at the University of Minnesota.” We are not sure what the model is. Last year, Kill coached several games from the coaches’ box and didn’t make his return to on-field coaching until the Gophers’ 21-17 loss to Syracuse in the Texas Bowl.

We are confident Kill’s leadership has significantly improved the team’s record during his time as head coach. But after such an unusual, precarious season that only showed modest gains for the program, we are less confident at this time that Kill deserves a multimillion-dollar raise.