5 x 8: Backtracking on Jerry Kill


Star Tribune editor Nancy Barnes has posted an apology — sort of — for columnist Jim Souhan’s column on Sunday (referenced in this space yesterday) that said University of Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill is too unhealthy to keep coaching the team because of his epilepsy.

Dear Readers:

Many of you have written over the weekend to express your anger or concern regarding Jim Souhan’s columns and blog posts following Coach Kill’s seizure during Saturday’s football game. On behalf of the Star Tribune, I apologize. In no way did we intend to suggest that people with epilepsy, or other disabilities, should be hidden away. Nor did we intend to be callous or insensitive to their struggles.

I have spoken with the editors who were here Saturday, regarding the column, and Jim has posted his own response to readers, which you can find here.

Coach Kill is brave to battle this disease so publicly, and to share that battle with us. Just a month ago, we ran a Sunday front page story chronicling his struggles to get his seizures under control, and his efforts to balance that with his passion for football. If any good comes of the anger readers have expressed, I hope it’s that the broader community comes away with a better understanding of epilepsy and those who struggle to bring it under control.

Thank you sharing your thoughts and concerns with me.


Nancy Barnes

Souhan said he still thinks Kill is too unhealthy to continue, but said it’s not a knock against people with epilepsy:

I’m accustomed to receiving criticism for nearly everything I write. As a sports columnist, every opinion draws a backlash. What is happening now is different because I’m receiving criticism from people who believe that I insulted Kill or people who share his condition.

That certainly was not my intent.

It’s not at all clear whether either Stribber understands the pushback the columnist received. But, in a commentary posted on his radio gig’s website yesterday, Souhan colleague Patrick Reusse seems to get it:

Does the impact of Kill’s in-game seizures on past results matter much?

It does when you’re offering this premise: To this point, there’s no evidence that Kill’s epilepsy and the public seizures it has produced have had a negative impact on Minnesota’s football program.

Unless: You want to count the lost 25 percent chance to beat New Mexico State two years ago this month. Once their coach went down, the Gophers were so rattled that quarterback MarQueis Gray made one of the ugliest plays of his college career (and that’s saying something) and the visitors escaped with a victory.

So, if Kill had not had his seizure, his inaugural Gophers could have gone 4-8 rather than 3-9, and, man, that would have been thrilling.

Of more interest in mentioning the Gophers and New Mexico State is this: Kill’s initial Gophers were such a low-talent bunch that they were capable of losing to the lowly Aggies, and two seasons later, Kill’s Gophers went to Las Cruces, N.M. and romped 44-21.

That’s all we really need to realize Kill and his staff have improved things considerably from the mess inherited from Timmy (Two-Times) Brewster.

And for good measure, the Star Tribune today editorializes against the suggestion that we need to be shielded from watching a man struggle with an illness:

For their part, the team’s fans seem to understand that it may take the remainder of Kill’s contract (five more years) to build a competitive team. At this point, they seem willing to give him a chance. Epilepsy was not in the script they had hoped for. But it’s possible to imagine that Kill’s coping with his illness while building a successful team could be just the heroic narrative that college football needs right now. The game is swimming in scandal and hypocrisy. If Frank Capra were still alive, he’d be pitching Kill’s story all around Hollywood.

But other media sports types are in line with Souhan:

There’s irony in that one. Dubay, who makes his living at KSTP Radio, struggled with his cocaine addiction. Minnesota did not turn him away. It wasn’t political correctness. It was the right thing to do for someone with an illness.


One of our favorites in the local media world passed away yesterday.

Doris, the mother of WCCO sports anchor Mark Rosen, passed away Monday morning, the station reports.

She and Rosalie, anchor Frank Vascellaro’s mom, formed the Grannys, who for awhile opined on the Grammys, Emmys, and other popular culture in classic bits that made you want to call your mother.

Over a year ago she moved into an assisted living center and the two talked on camera about how difficult the transition is when our children become our caregivers.

I can’t embed any CBS content anymore, but do yourself a favor and click the links and watch.


In times of mass shootings, are tweets about “thoughts and prayers” meaningful? Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me’s Peter Sagal wondered that yesterday:

Then found out…

But for the record…

And what if you offer thoughts, but not prayers:

Related: Navy Yard employee helps visually impaired co-worker escape. CBS talks to the man who led a blind man to safety.


Franklin Jeffries, an Iraqi war veteran, made a YouTube video in which he sang a song that threatened a judge if he didn’t allow him visitation rights to see his daughter.

“And when I come to court this better be the last time. I’m not kidding at all, I’m making this video public. ‘Cause if I have to kill a judge or a lawyer or a woman I don’t care,” Jeffries chants on the video, according to Wired.com.

He was given an 18 months prison sentence after being prosecuted under a 1930s law.

Now, the Supreme Court is about to decide whether to hear the case, which could determine the limits of free speech online.


WBZ – Boston

Just because people are homeless doesn’t mean they’re indecent and dishonest. A man left a bag near where Glen James, a homeless man in Boston, was sitting. So he opened it and found $2,400 in cash and nearly $40,000 in travelers checks, along with a passport and personal papers.

He called the cops.

“Even if I were desperate for money, I would not have kept even a penny of the money found,” he said Monday in a handwritten statement. “God has always very well looked after me.”

He was honored yesterday in Boston but didn’t say much because he’s embarrassed by his speech impediment.

And, sure enough, someone has appropriately started an online campaign to raise some money for the guy. (link fixed)

Related decency: APM’s Marketplace is following Raven Gribbins, who just started her first year in college. She’s the first in her family to go to college, even though people have told her all of her life she couldn’t do it. Maybe she’ll make it; maybe she won’t. How was she able to afford it? An anonymous listener heard her story on Marketplace’s One School, One Year project and paid for it.

Bonus I: Kids today, eh?

Bonus II: Why Even the Worst Bloggers Are Making Us Smarter (Wired.com).

Bonus III: The people’s mayor (Pioneer Press)

Do you pressure your doctor for antibiotics?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The GOP and libertarians.

Second hour: Sales, discounts and coupons are all money saving strategies that help consumers save. They are also sophisticated psychological games that companies use to encourage consumers to buy their products. We talk today about the consumer psychology behind sales, coupons and discounts.

Third hour: Talking Volumes: Jonathan Franzen (rebroadcast).

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Live National Press Club broadcast: The GOP governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin, chair of the National Governor’s Association. Speaking about education and the workforce.

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – TBA

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Historian Craig Steven Wilder studied the early history of American universities and slavery and was dismayed by what he found. Many of America’s revered colleges were soaked in the sweat, the tears and sometimes the blood of people of color. Wilder talks to NPR about his new book, Ebony and Ivy.

  • jon

    Good 5×8 today.

    @#1) Sign that you don’t get why what you said was wrong/stupid “I’m accustomed to receiving criticism for nearly everything I write. As a sports columnist, every opinion draws a backlash.” The good news, this isn’t anything as important as “sports” this is someones life, this is a fight against a life threatening, yes sometimes debilitating disease. Not to say sports isn’t important, but as a “Sports Columnist” you should realize your place in the world isn’t normally one of life and death… it is one of opinions about what we literally refer to as “games.” Were I to be a commentator on high profile games of monopoly, no one would hope or expect me to make comments on asthma, cancer, or heart disease. And when I did say something stupid about them I’d hope for a little more out slash then when I said something like “buying boardwalk this early in the game is a bad choice.”

    If you feel this criticism is comparable to what you write about sports, then clearly the people who are criticising you for either sports commentary are taking you to seriously or the people criticising you for epilepsy comments aren’t taking you seriously enough.

    (I didn’t have much respect for sports journalism before news cut covered the tenuous strings between teams that the people who report on them, and that amount shrank then.)

    • Kill’s health is fair game, even he acknowledges that. The problem with Souhan’s column (at least to me) was fairly godawful logic.

      • Scott

        Weak point by attacking Jeff Dubay. So because he has a past addiction problem, he can’t state an opinion? Dubay has paid for his past sins, and is probably on a short leash at his current job. He has also not said Kill should be fired.

        • Why would you feel the need to change the point that was clearly stated in order to make an argument against something I didn’t say. Read it again. I said nothing about Dubay not being able to have an opinion. What I said is it was ironic.

          Cocaine addiction is NOT a sin. It’s a disease like any other addiction. It deserves support of people, as Dubay got (except his previous employer, for the record), he more than deserved the opportunity he now has and as a result of his very public profile, a lot of other people have learned about addiction.

          Now if what you’re saying is it IS a sin, he deserved to be banished, and his life played out hidden to protect our sensibilities, I would not describe that as some sort of anti-PC statement. I would just call it ignorance. And a terribly missed opportunity.

          Read it again. It’s not too hard to understand.

          If Dubay can be the face of his program, Jerry Kill can be the face of his. I don’t consider either to be anything anyone should be ashamed of.

  • MrE85

    1) First the Souhan column, then the weird reference to “welfare mothers and their screaming babies” in an editorial about the Nicollet Mall. The Strib’s on a roll…backwards.

    4) If that’s not a threat to commit violence, what is? And does it matter what medium he used to deliver it? PS: Is Jeffries past military service really part of the story? Or does it just add to the “crazy vet” meme?

    • It is a threat but that’s not the issue. Under the First Amendment, it has to be a “real” threat. The original court case, by the way, used Bob Dylan’s Hurricane Carter song to make this point. It note that if at the end of it Dylan had threatened to kill the judge, that alone would not be prosecutable.

      Re: Military service: I suppose whether the guy has been trained to kill could be factored into whether the threat is more real.

  • KTN

    I wrote yesterday that coach Kill should either retire or be fired, but not because he has epilepsy, but because he is paid a significant amount of money to coach, which he cannot do to his full capacity. He is unable to perform at his highest level, but coaches a Big 10 team that is expected to perform at the highest level. He would make a good assistant coach, or could go back to high school coaching, but he is seemingly unable to be a head coach at this level.

    This is nothing about leadership or bravery in the face of a disease, he has demonstrated his ability to lead and be brave, but, he is also expected to be on the field for the entire game, and if he is unable to do so, then he might take a pay cut, or move on.

  • Jack Ungerleider

    #1 – I didn’t comment yesterday on this topic because many of my points were expressed by others. But today I’ll take on one of Souhan’s premises that the events of Saturday show a “lack of leadership” on both the part of Kill and U of Mn Athletic Director Norwood Teague. Souhan seems to have this backward. It is the leadership that Kill and Teague bring to the situation that allowed the assistant coaches and players to continue on as if nothing happened. As a leader Kill prepared his team and explained what to do in the event he had a seizure during a game. Teague by not making a big deal of it showed that the University understands the situation and supports Kill and is coaches and players in how they have worked out what to do. That to me looks like good not bad leadership.

    • Calls for someone’s coaching head in Minnesota AFTER a team wins. Very Minnesota. :*)

  • John O.

    Columnists earn the privilege to “color outside the lines” from time-to-time. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Other times, their message forces you to stop and think.

    Case in point: retired Strib columnist Al Sicherman’s column of Wednesday, November 8, 1989. If memory serves, it made it to 1A, above the fold. Deservedly. http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/11517466.html

    • Jen

      I’m not sure the linked column is that comparable to the Souhan one. But holy cow, what an incredibly powerful piece by Sicherman. Thanks for posting the link. I’m going to try to pull myself together now and get back to work.

      • John O.

        It’s not intended to be comparable. My general point is that sometimes a columnist who normally writes about topic “A” can write something profound on topic “B” and nail it. Like Sicherman did.
        Or get nailed. Like Souhan generally got.

    • BJ

      I love uncle Al. this was before I started reading him

    • I don’t think the non sports world and issues should necessarily be off limits to the sports journalist and I don’t think that’s the pushback the Strib got. The pushback the Strib got was because of the ignorance of the writer.

      As for the fact he can’t stay on the sideline for an entire game, well, he has. Many times. And when the U was looking for a coach, I don’t recall anyone saying “get us someone who can stand on the sideline for an entire game.” I recall them saying, “get us someone who (a) will take the job and (b) turn the program around.”

      As Reusse pointed out, there’s evidence that they’re getting what they say they wanted.

      Why not just judge Kill on the same standard as you would judge anyone else: Winning games and turning the program around? If he can’t do it, then fire the guy. If he can, and we learn a little something about epilepsy, and young people (and some sportswriters) learn a little something about facing challenges, then what EXACTLY is the great harm being done?

      It’s college, where the goal is to educate people.

      • jon

        It’s college, or it’s college football?
        Does it matter? Are the goals the same?

      • John O.

        I’m certainly not advocating that columnists should always stay within their own area of expertise. The fact that Souhan is on the sports beat and this story has a distinct sports angle to it affects the tenor of the discussion. If the U of M employee was a “garden variety” accountant who has epilepsy, I seriously doubt any columnist would tap out a story. Head football coach? Totally different, especially since he makes a very substantial salary and is a highly visible person in the public eye.

      • KTN

        I’ll bet his contract has a clause about being on the sidelines for every game, which is why he gets paid what he does. How many more games does he get to miss before the apologies about epilepsy stop. This is about doing your job, and he is not doing his job prostate in the hospital.

        • Ordos

          Awesome malapropism “prostate in the hospital” +5 points to you sir.

  • Dave

    I read Souhan’s initial column. I didn’t really find anything offensive or wrong about it. (But I didn’t expect to. I knew as soon as I saw the manufactured outrage that the outrage itself would become the story. Plus, I find Souhan to be a fairly reasonable guy.) There are too many people who are too quickly offended. Presumably Jerry Kill is a big boy; I think he can take the heat. If he can’t, then we have bigger issues.

    Sure, you say: judge him on his win-loss record. But what if they fire him? Now the public will see it as firing the epileptic guy, not the lousy coach. (I don’t know that he’s lousy, as I don’t follow Gophers football.)

    This whole episode is reflective of the stature of the Gophers football program. We want to be nice to Jerry Kill because he is a nice man. Football is almost beside the point by now. For multiple reasons, none of this would be happening at, say, Madison, or any program that has relevance.

    In my opinion, it sort of doesn’t look good when the coach keels over during a game, especially when it’s happened multiple times.

    • The U of M fires a lot of 2-0 coaches, do they?

      • Dave

        No, I’m saying if they ever did fire him, it would now look mean.

        He’s 12-16 overall, 4-12 conference. That isn’t great, but it’s consistent with past coaches of this team.

    • John O.

      Over the years, I have keeled over several times watching my Alma Mater trying to play Division I football. The 84-13 shellacking at the hands of Nebraska in 1983 still hurts to this day.

      • John Peschken

        I’m still cranky about the Twins losing the ’65 World Series to the Dodgers. These things stick with some of us.