The 2010 season began with modest expectations for the University of Minnesota Golden Gopher football team. It was coming off of a decent 2009 campaign, making it to a New Year's Eve bowl game, albeit in a losing effort.
Then head coach Tim Brewster reassured his "Gopher Nation" that the 2010 season would bring about new beginnings, and more importantly, more wins.
Needless to say, things didn't go exactly as planned for the Gophers. An opening weekend win versus a shorthanded Middle Tennessee State gave a glimmer of hope for things to come, but things quickly spiraled out of control from there.
After six consecutive losses, including a loss to an FCS school in South Dakota, Brewster was relieved of his coaching duties, passing the torch temporarily to Jeff Horton.
Horton performed admirably during the remainder of the season, remaining competitive to an extent, and ending the season with two conference victories: a road victory over Illinois and an impressive defeat of rival Iowa at TCF Bank Stadium.
The administration at the University of Minnesota emphasized that this was a necessary step for the program (even though that was never questioned by anyone following the program), and began a media campaign that threw out some big names and big hopes.
Athletic Director Joel Maturi consulted alumnus Tony Dungy regarding the opening, and while Dungy clearly had no interest in the position, he agreed to act as a consultant to ensure that the correct hire was made.
Names such as former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach, current San Diego State head coach Brady Hoke, and newly unemployed Randy Shannon from the University of Miami were just a few of many that had surfaced as potential successors to Brewster, giving Gopher fans hope that a big name would resurrect the program and bring a new enthusiasm to TCF Bank Stadium.
All the dust has settled, and the university has named Northern Illinois head coach Jerry Kill as next head coach of the Golden Gopher football program. Kill's name wasn't the most publicly named option to follow in Brewster's footsteps, but now that he'll be taking the reins, it's time to figure out who Jerry Kill is.
A native of Cheney, Kansas, Kill began his head coaching career with Saginaw Valley State (Division II) in 1994, improving the squad from a six-win team in his first season to a nine-win team in his final season.
Kill spent two lackluster years at Emporia State (Division II) before moving to Division 1-AA Southern Illinois. In seven seasons with the Salukis, Kill built a respectable program, improving from a 1-10 record in his first season to a 12-2 campaign in his final season with the team.
Kill accepted the position at Northern Illinois before the 2008 season, coming into a program that had finished 2-10 in 2007. In Kill's first season with NIU, Kill brought respectability to the program, finishing with a 6-7 record and earning a trip to the Independence Bowl, where they would ultimately fall to Louisiana Tech.
The 2009 season brought another year of improvement, as the Huskies finished 7-6 and earned a second straight bowl appearance, this time losing to South Florida in the Independence Bowl.
Kill's best season as a head coach may have been this year. His squad finished the regular season with a 10-3 record, including a 34-23 win at TCF Bank Stadium against Brewster and the Gophers. The team's record was good enough for a Mid-American Conference West division championship. The Huskies will play Fresno State in the Humanitarian Bowl on Dec. 18.
Kill will need to overcome his track record of futility against winning teams as he takes over the Golden Gopher program, having won only two of fourteen games against winning teams during his tenure at NIU.
As is always the case, time will tell whether or not the right decision was made. We could very well find ourselves having the same discussion three years from now after a few more seasons of futility.
Kill may not have been the most popular candidate for the head coaching job in the eyes of boosters and fans of the University, but if nothing else, the program needs stability, starting at the top. Kill has a proven track record of taking programs at their worst and returning them to respectability. Let's hope he's up to the tall task ahead of him in Minnesota.