Jerry Kill isn’t mad, he’s disappointed.
This, of course, is a phrase people only say when they’re mad — and Jerry Kill is mad at PJ Fleck.
The pair worked together at Northern Illinois from 2008-10 — Kill as NIU’s head coach, Fleck as his wide receivers coach. From there, their paths diverged. Kill left to become the head coach at Minnesota, while Fleck joined the Greg Schiano coaching tree, spending two years with him at Rutgers and one with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But, five years later, their paths crossed again, in an indirect way. Kill had to medically retire from coaching in the middle of the 2015 season (he would later return for one season at Rutgers before hanging up his whistle for good, he’s now the AD at Southern Illinois), and for the remainder of the ’15 campaign and all of 2016, Kill’s longtime lieutenant Tracy Claeys stepped in as the Gophers’ head coach. But Claeys clashed with university administration over his handling of sexual assault allegations against a number of Gopher players, so he was dismissed following the ’16 campaign, and Fleck, fresh off a 13-1 season as the head coach at Western Michigan, was hired as Minnesota’s new head coach.
And that’s where Kill became, to use his word, disappointed.
In an interview with SiriusXM radio, Kill laid into Fleck like you rarely see one member of the coaching profession speak — on the record, at least — of another.
“When he went into Minnesota and treated people the way he treated my guys and telling them he had to completely change the culture — it was a bad culture, bad people — he made it sound like we didn’t know what we were doing, and I took it personal,” Kill said. “You just don’t treat people that have been with you and helped your career, and you don’t even talk to them once you get the job.”
Kill was then asked if he’s spoken with Fleck since Fleck arrived in Minneapolis. “Oh yeah,” he said, “and it wasn’t good.”
You can listen to the full clip below, including a broadside at Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher.
You have to hear this!!
— College Sports on SiriusXM (@SXMCollege) February 19, 2019
We have no evidence or reason to believe Kill is making any of this up, but this is also the point where, as neutral third-party observers, we have to step in and say every story has two sides.
Every outside coaching hire changes the culture in ways big and small when taking a job — particularly as one as culture-obsessed as Fleck — and the Claeys culture was really the Kill culture, so Kill’s comments can at least partially be viewed as hurt feelings or sour grapes, depending on where you’re standing.
But here’s one point Kill absolutely has in his favor: in his final two full seasons at Minnesota, the Gophers went 8-5 and 8-5, a mark that Fleck has yet to match in his two seasons in Kill’s old job.