September 28, 2011
Minnesota coach Jerry Kill is still in the hospital, but defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, who had been named the interim head coach for this weekend's game against Michigan, isn't ready to rule him out.
On Sunday, Kill was admitted into the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., to address lingering seizures that have occurred since Kill suffered a major incident during the Gophers' home opener against New Mexico State two weeks ago.
Kill had suffered multiple seizures since the New Mexico State game, including one on Sunday, which prompted the admittance to the hospital. He said in a statement Sunday that he was going to put football on the backburner to concentrate on his health.
"The seizures continue to be a concern for me and my family," Kill said. "(My wife) Rebecca and I have made the decision to do what it takes to find a solution. I hope to be back to work soon, but we believe that taking some time away to get a handle on this is the right thing to do."
But Claeys, who has been with Kill since their coaching days at Saginaw Valley State in 1995, knows better. While he and the rest of the Minnesota staff are preparing to coach Saturday's game without Kill, he wouldn't be surprised if Kill showed up in Ann Arbor, Mich., at gametime.
"I expect him to be there," Claeys said during Minnesota's weekly press conference. "We've done this every time. Even when he was gone last time. We tell the kids we're going to prepare like he's not going to be here. I think you have to always prepare for the worst, but I expect the best. I'll be shocked if he's not there, okay?"
Claeys knows this dance well. Three times Claeys has been asked to fill in for Kill because of health concerns — twice at Southern Illinois and last year at Northern Illinois — and each time Kill has shown up to the game. The only time Kill actually relinquished coaching duties to Claeys was in 2005 while at Southern Illinois after Kill's sideline seizure against Illinois State.
Kill was still on the sideline, though. While Claeys coached the game from his familiar perch on the coach's box, Kill, who didn't wear a headset, followed around linebackers coach Tom Matukewicz and dispensed advice when needed.
So Claeys is expecting a phone call from his head coach on gameday telling him he's in the building.
"Yeah, I totally expect him to be there," Claeys said. "But I don't want it to be where the kids, if he's not … we have to prepare like he's not going to be, but I expect him to be there."