Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh heaped praise on former Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, who announced his retirement Wednesday because of health reasons related to epilepsy.
Kill, who had an emotional news conference, has stepped down immediately and will not coach the Gophers at home Saturday night against the 15th-ranked Wolverines. Tracy Claeys, the defensive coordinator / associate head coach, will be the interim head coach.
Harbaugh, during his weekly Thursday morning appearance on the “Stoney and Bill Show” on WXYT-FM (97.1), added to the growing list of coaches who have said how highly they think of Kill.
“Everybody has so much respect for Jerry Kill,” Harbaugh said. “He’s one of the people in the profession that epitomizes coaching, teaching, mentoring at the highest level. I once read a quote that a coach can influence more people in one year than most people do in a lifetime. I’m not speaking about everybody, but in terms of Jerry Kill, I know it for a fact. I truly believe he is one of the premier coaches and persons in the profession. The Harbaugh family has a deep abiding respect for Jerry Kill.
“Though there was sadness, and you can see when you have that emotion, it’s also a celebration. Jerry Kill is such a battler. Things that he’s gone through and overcome to do what he loves, and there’s nobody who gets as much enjoyment out of doing what they do than Jerry Kill. It’s been a phenomenal career. He’s a great example, truly, at the highest level of what we aspire to be as coaches.”
With the announcement, Harbaugh suggested the Gophers (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten) will be even more challenging for the Wolverines (5-2, 2-1).
“There’s no question it got tougher for us with the announcement this week,” Harbaugh said. “I’m sure that the Minnesota team will come with their bionic effort. Probably the great compliment to coach Kill is that’s how they always play. They’ll play the way they always play. That’s how they’ve been trained, that’s how they’ve been coached. That’s their football team. So same challenge for us – we’ve got to come with that kind of effort, and we will. It’s going to be what it was always going to be, a fair, healthy, honest competition between two teams that come very hard.”