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Jerry Kill retiring from Minnesota due to health: 'I can't do what I love doing any more'

Assistant Tracy Claeys will again fill in for the 2014 Big Ten Coach of the Year.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill announced Wednesday that he is retiring, effective immediately, due to medical concerns. Kill steps away from college football with a career record of 156-102.

The 54-year-old coach has dealt with epilepsy, suffering multiple seizures while on the sidelines during games. He confirmed during a morning presser that both his condition and his treatments have impacted his work, saying he had two seizures before practice Tuesday and couldn't coach to his full capability while taking sleeping pills.

"I did my best, but some of those struggles have returned, and I don't wanna cheat the game," an emotional Kill said. "And I ain't gonna change. I did everything I could. I listened to my doctor two and a half years ago, somewhat, but I did what it took.

"Some [treatments] I had to take, I took myself off of, because I couldn't think the way I wanted to think. With that, my doctor told me it was my best interest for my family, my kids, hopefully grandkids someday that, if I didn't move on with my life, that I may be a guy that don't think too good down the road. I wanna be able to think."

"One hell of a man"

Kill went 29-29 in his five years at Minnesota, twice improving the Gophers to 8-5 records. His team was off to a 4-3 start this season and hosts No. 15 Michigan this Saturday.

"This is the toughest thing that I've ever done in my life," he said.

Defensive coordinator and associate head coach Tracy Claeys takes over, a role he filled for Kill at Southern Illinois and at Minnesota.

"Tracy and the staff can do a better job than I can," Kill said.

In 2013, Kill took an extended leave of absence, during which Claeys team went 4-4.

"Last night, when I walked off the practice field, I felt like a part of me died," Kill said. "I love this game. I love what it's done for my family. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to coach this game."

Minnesota fans react with sadness and gratitude.

* * *

They still talk about Kill in Webb City, Mo., where he set a burgeoning high school dynasty in motion in just three years.

At Saginaw Valley State, Kill's Cardinals won nine games in a season for the second and third times in their history.

Southern Illinois hadn't had a winning season in nine years; Kill had the Salukis back in the I-AA playoffs within three years and had them ranked No. 1 in the fourth.

Northern Illinois had tumbled to 2-10 in 2007; Kill had them back in a bowl in his first year and won 10 games and had them in the MAC title game in his third.

Minnesota had averaged only four wins per year in the four years before Kill. They won six in his second year and eight (for the first time in a decade) in his third and fourth.

Health problems always loomed for Kill, but before he stepped aside, he proved himself a master rebuilder, someone capable of turning a dilapidated heap into a lovely, humble three-bedroom abode in minimal time. That his career has ended prematurely means college football is without one of its better teachers. That's a damn shame.