Teague: Kill still OK to coach

Despite Gophers head football coach Jerry Kill’s recent seizure, the athletics director gave him a vote of confidence.

University of Minnesota Athletic Director Norwood Teague addresses questions about football head coach Jerry Kill's seizure during Saturday's football game at TCF Bank Stadium on Monday, Sept. 16, 2013.

Amanda Snyder

University of Minnesota Athletic Director Norwood Teague addresses questions about football head coach Jerry Kill’s seizure during Saturday’s football game at TCF Bank Stadium on Monday, Sept. 16, 2013.

Nate Gotlieb

University of Minnesota athletics director Norwood Teague reaffirmed the department’s commitment to head football coach Jerry Kill on Monday — two days after Kill had a seizure during the Gophers’ 29-12 win over Western Illinois at TCF Bank Stadium.

In his first public comment since the episode, Teague reiterated his support for Minnesota’s third-year head coach.

“Jerry is our coach, and we are 100 percent behind him,” he said. “I am 100 percent behind him. Our squad and student-athletes who are at the heart of it continue to improve under his leadership both on and off the field.”

Kill, who has epilepsy, had the seizure at about 12:15 p.m. Saturday, just before halftime started. Minnesota’s medical staff carted him off the field, and he was driven to a local hospital as a precaution, an athletics department spokesperson said after the game. 

The spokesperson read a prepared statement and did not take questions about the episode while Teague did not make himself available for comment.

Teague said Monday he acted for “the betterment of the program” Saturday after the game, explaining that he chose to drive Kill’s wife, Rebecca Kill, to the hospital and addressed fans and players, rather than speak to the media.

The Gophers led Western Illinois 7-6 at the time of the incident but scored 22 points in the second half, including 14 in the fourth quarter, to improve to 3-0 on the year.

“Nobody likes to see him go through it, but we all are comfortable with the situation and know it could happen,” defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said Sunday. “I was very pleased yesterday with the way everyone responded.

“We’ll continue to move the program forward, and so will coach.”

After a brief hospital stay, Kill was at home as of 4:15 p.m. Saturday, according to a press release from the team.

Plan of action

Saturday’s seizure was Kill’s third during a game in his two-plus seasons as Minnesota’s head coach.  He had another in the locker room following the Gophers’ loss to Northwestern last October. 

The team has a strategy in place for when Kill has a seizure. As happened Saturday, Claeys takes over head coaching duties from the press box while special teams coach Jay Sawvel becomes the acting head coach on the field.

Players said after the game Saturday that they are well-prepared in the event Kill has to leave the game.

Teague said Kill’s epilepsy hasn’t affected recruiting and mentioned no recruit has ever said anything about the disease being a problem.

Epilepsy affects about 3 million Americans, according to the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota, and about 60,000 Minnesotans. 

The Gophers will host an epilepsy awareness game Oct. 26 against Nebraska.