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U football coach Jerry Kill retires due to health reasons

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Gophers football coach Jerry Kill
Gophers football coach Jerry Kill announced his retirement for health reasons on Wednesday. He said his seizures had returned and he could no longer coach at the level he wanted.
Elizabeth Flores | Star Tribune via AP

Updated: 9:36 a.m. | Posted: 7:31 a.m.

In an emotional press conference on Wednesday morning, University of Minnesota head football coach Jerry Kill said he's decided to leave coaching due to health concerns. 

Kill has struggled with epilepsy. He took a temporary leave of absence from the team in 2013 to deal with seizures. He said the seizures have returned. 

"My doctor told me it's 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," Kill said. 

When he walked off the field after watching practice on Tuesday night, Kill said he felt like a part of him died.

Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys has been named interim head coach. Claeys is scheduled to talk to reporters on Wednesday afternoon.

At times breaking down, Kill told reporters that leaving coaching after more than three decades on the sidelines is the hardest thing he's ever done. 

"I know somebody will ask, 'Coach, what are you going to do?'" Kill said. "I don't know. I ain't done anything else. That's the scary part."  

"I don't have any more energy, none," Kill said. "I've left it all here in the great state of Minnesota — and I have no regrets."

Kill's surprise announcement was posted on the University of Minnesota's Gophers football Twitter account on Wednesday morning. 

Interim athletics director Beth Goetz thanked Kill for serving the University of Minnesota, and said his work has set the football team up for future success.

"He's really helped to draw the excitement, but really to help renew the commitment that the university and the state has, to not just go for football, but to go for athletics," Goetz said. "People believe again and understand our vision and want to be a part of that." 

Beth Goetz, left, and Eric Kaler
Gophers interim athletic director Beth Goetz and University President Eric Kaler talked about the sudden retirement of coach Jerry Kill on Wednesday.
Elizabeth Flores | Star Tribune via AP

President Eric Kaler described Kill as a "genuine guy."

"He's unvarnished," Kaler said. "He's connected really well with people from all walks of life in Minnesota because he is who he is and people see that." 

University officials said they will likely decide in the coming days how the search for a new coach will proceed. 

"Our focus today is on a smooth transition and the wellbeing of our student athletes," Goetz said. "We will address the search process in due course, and we'll share that information when appropriate." 

Gov. Mark Dayton said in statement that he's deeply saddened by Kill's retirement. 

"I thank him for his leadership in rebuilding the University of Minnesota's football program," Kill said. "All Minnesotans join me in wishing the Coach and his family many years of continuing success and fulfillment."

Ohio at Minnesota
Coach Jerry Kill watched during the first half of a game against Ohio at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis in late September.
Elizabeth Flores | Star Tribune via AP

Kill was named Minnesota's head coach in late 2010. He's credited with helping to rebuild the team, and has been recognized as coach of the year by both Big Ten's coaches and reporters who cover the conference. Six Minnesota players have been drafted by NFL teams in the last few years. 

His career coaching record is 156-102 and at Minnesota he has record of 29-29. Before coming to Minnesota, he served as head coach of Northern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University, Emporia State University and Saginaw Valley State University.