Minnesota coach Jerry Kill answered his telephone not long after having his annual compensation boosted to more than $2 million.
His brother was calling.
“You ain’t worth that,” he told Kill from their native Kansas. “I’m sitting here working on beef cattle, and they’re paying you that to coach football? Is this country crazy?”
Kill just laughed.
“I can’t answer that question,” he said.
With his farmhand humility and homespun humor, Kill spoke Monday at a news conference about his newly enhanced contract and upcoming spring practice.
He said he was appreciative of the hefty raise and the extra year on the contract, but he said he’s “getting paid way too much” in the same sentence he mentioned his daughter makes $29,000 a year doing inner-city work.
“I’m the same guy that lived in a trailer house for five years and made $250 a month,” Kill said, referencing his climb up the coaching ladder from Webb City High School in Missouri to Division II schools Saginaw Valley State and Emporia State to the FCS level with Southern Illinois, a mid-major program at Northern Illinois and finally to the Big Ten at Minnesota.
Kill’s restructured contract includes a stipulation that the total pay for his top nine assistant coaches must rank in the top six of the conference. He said he wouldn’t have signed the deal without that. He also said he sees this contract as a sign to recruits of stability and progress.
“We’re building a program. It’ll take time. We want to be smart about what we pay anyone, and we want to be good stewards of our finances,” athletic director Norwood Teague said. “It’s a building program, and we want to do the best we can every day and see where it lands down the road.”
The Gophers are 17-21 in three seasons under Kill. He has come far enough in his fight with epilepsy that he’s back behind the wheel. State law requires licensed drivers to be at least three months without a seizure.
“I’m driving, but not very far. That’s one goal,” Kill said. “My second goal is to make everybody proud of Gopher football. I think we’ve moved forward on that.”
University President Eric Kaler has consistently supported Kill’s capability to succeed at the job over the long term, even while he had to miss some time last fall to treat his condition. Seizures kept Kill from traveling to the game at Michigan Oct. 6.
The schedule of bonuses was also adjusted. The highlight of the new language in this deal is an incentive based on annual home game attendance. If the average figure is 49,000 fans or more over a season, Kill will get $75,000. If it’s 47,000 or higher, he’ll get $50,000.