Chris Ash: I'd like to thank our administration, Dr. (Robert) Barchi and Pat Hobbs, for their support in making this hire possible," coach Chris Ash said. "I think it demonstrates the university's commitment to building a program and getting the best people that we possibly can bring into this program with a guy like coach Kill. As we started this search, I really had a profile of what we were looking for. We talked to several coaches around the country that had outstanding resumes. They are in really good jobs right now. But one continued to stand out. I talked to a lot of people about this individual and just the feedback that I got was incredible, just about not only his football knowledge but his dealings with people and his ability to take care of people, develop people, lead people. The feedback I got just kept coming in and coming in. It was overwhelming. One guy stood out as we went through our search.
Some things that I was looking for in this position. One, I wanted a guy with experience. He checks that box. I wanted a guy that was a leader and developer of coaches and players. He checks that box. I wanted a guy with character that we could trust, a guy that can connect with the players, a guy that has tremendous football competence. And a guy that was compatible with me. I thought that was really important. Coach Kill is an absolute ball coach. Doesn’t have a lot of other hobbies, likes and interests. It’s all about coaching ball and developing the players. That’s the same me.
I wanted a guy that has a similar offensive philosophy to what we’ve already established. I didn’t want to go completely away from what we’ve done and what our players know. I think what he’s going to be able to do is do some similar things but also enhance it and make it better and also do an outstanding job of tailoring the offense to fit the skill sets of the players that we have. Someone that can develop our quarterbacks. We have a relatively young, inexperienced quarterback group. I wanted to find someone that could develop our quarterbacks. The other thing is I wanted a proven winner. When you look at coach Kill’s track record as a coach, regardless of the level, the state, wherever he’s been, he’s been a proven winner. He’s a guy that embraces challenges and looks at them at opportunities to do great things that people don’t think that we can do. I thought through all those things he was a perfect fit.
Obviously the one thing that everybody is going to have questions about – and I won’t even attempt to answer them, I’ll let him address those – are the questions about his health. Through my research and my conversations with coach Kill, I think he will tell you he feels great. He feels as good as he’s ever felt. I’ll let him go through that. We wanted to make sure that this was the right move for him physically and health-wise for him to be able to do the job that we want him to do. I think without a doubt, he is in a great spot mentally and physically. He’s going to do a great job for us.
Jerry Kill: Thank you, Chris. I appreciate it. I can’t tell you how excited Rebecca and I are to join the family there at Rutgers. I appreciate the administration giving me this opportunity. It’s something that I’ve been able to work here at K-State and I’m very appreciative of being here with Coach Snyder and what I’ve learned from him after being a head coach. Rebecca and I look at this as a new journey. My job coming into to Rutgers is to do everything I can to help coach, and Rutgers University and the football program be better and get it to where Chris wants it to be. I had a couple other opportunities, but I took the job with Chris because I think we are very similar in coaching styles, personalities, same philosophy. He’s laid out his plan of where he wants to go and what he wants to do and it’s pretty much exactly what I’m used to from being a head coach. I feel like life is about having a good fit. I said I wasn’t going to get back in coaching unless it was the perfect fit and the perfect situation. Rutgers is perfect for Rebecca and I. We’re excited.
Going through, at the time when I was at Minnesota, it was a very difficult situation and a difficult time. In coaching, you never have a chance to get something fixed or get it under control because you can’t take time off to do that. I needed some time to get it situated and see the right people and get on the right diet and get on the right regime and be able to get healthy. I’ve lost 25 pounds on a specific diet for seizure patients. I’m actually taking less medication than I have. K-State has been the difference. I got the job here six months ago as a guy who was associate athletics director working with football, but I was fortunate that Coach Snyder wanted me to do a little bit more than that. I’ve been at practice every day. My regiment has been 12-13 hours a day. I’ve done well. I know how to take care of myself better. Being with Coach Snyder and being out on the field and being out there with gameday and pacing the field, I’m a football coach. I’m a ball coach. That’s who I am. I enjoy kids. I enjoy that process. I’m a lot smarter than I was a year ago, but more importantly I’ve been seizure-free for a long time and this is the best I’ve felt over 12 years. Rebecca and I feel very, very comfortable about where we’re at and where I’m at. I look forward to the challenge, but I am definitely ready for it.
We’re going to stick with (the spread). As coach said, you don’t want to go in and change everything. My job is to make sure that as a new guy coming in to work with the staff that we have. It’s a very good offensive staff. And look at what we did a year ago. There will probably some things that we keep in, some that we move out and probably have some additions to what we need to do. But we want to spread the field and be able to get people out of the box. When too many are in there to run, you have to have an answer. We won’t go too far away from what Rutgers has been doing, but we will add some stuff that I think will be critical to the success of the quarterbacks that we have. It will be a quarterback-friendly offense, I can tell you that. We want to use our quarterbacks’ legs as well as use their arms.”
Q: Is there less pressure as a coordinator and do you envision being a head coach again at some point?
Jerry Kill: In my situation, you talk about that. I just want to concentrate on football. I’ve never had a chance to … as a head coach, and coach is going through that now, there’s so many things outside that you’re dealing with, to be able to concentrate on one side of the ball is a situation that’s different. There’s a lot of difference between being a head coach and an assistant coach, and that’s why the head coach deserves every dime he gets. From my perspective, it’s a perfect situation for me. I’ve been on the offensive side of the ball, called offensive plays, all the way. Northern Illinois, we had an offensive coordinator but I was very involved and last three years at Minnesota, because of our situation with athletic directors, having three different ones, raising money for a new project, I spread myself out way, way too far and that’s where I got in my situation. As far as being a head coach, I live one-day-at-a-time and I’ve had my run so to speak and I just enjoy the fact that I get to be a ball coach again. I don’t have to do all that other stuff.’’
Q: Have you called game-day plays since 1993, how involved in the offense at previous stops?
Jerry Kill: I called them all. I was the head coach and called them all. We had an offensive coordinator, but I was on the field and called them all. I called plays all the way up to Minnesota (because) when we got there it became a lot more difficult. I went through three ADs and I had to raise money and do all kinds of different things, which to be honest with you I didn’t enjoy. I was in offensive meetings every day and knew what we were doing, but I didn’t call it at that particular time (at Minnesota) because I didn’t manage it as well as I could have. But really didn’t have a choice. I said that in my book. I also said at the end of my book that someday I was going to be assistant coach someday. So I feel like that calling the plays, that’s been my gift to be honest with you. And recruiting has been a gift that I’ve been given. But if you’re going to call plays, you have to spend time 24-7 in preparing. When you’re a head coach it’s a whole lot different. When I was at Northern and Southern, I could manage my time better because it was a different situation. Minnesota, we went into a very difficult one and there were a lot of things that I had to do besides coach football and it wasn’t fair to the offense for me being in and out all the time.
Q: Did you know each other before this — what made you click so quickly?
Jerry Kill: I think the big thing is our paths had crossed in recruiting. And in our backgrounds, I know a lot of people from where he’s been in his background and he has a tremendous reputation. You look at Coach’s resume, it’s unbelievable. I just think that’s why he flew down to see me here in Manhattan, because he wanted to make sure we were the right fit for each other. Sometimes the great things about coaches is we usually have great instincts about people and as I was going through and visiting with Chris, I knew in a very short time that this guy is sharp, this guy knows how to do this. And as he went through the plan at Rutgers, I go, ’This sounds just like the things that we’ve done at the places I’ve been and the same type of philosophy.’ Everything from practice to running a program and the ins and outs. He’s done a lot of work in the first year, and now I’m just looking forward to helping him progress in the second year. It certainly is going to be group effort and I think our personalities, just a good fit. I didn’t have to have a job, and I wasn’t looking for a job. But I said if it was a perfect fit for me, I would get back in the game and I wanted it to be perfect. This is a perfect fit for Coach Kill.
Q: Manhattan, Kansas?
Jerry Kill: Yeah, Manhattan, New York. … No, no, it was the little Apple.
Q: Chris Ash on the Details of the Coaching Search.
Chris Ash: I talked to several individuals at a lot of different places, different backgrounds, guys that I knew, guys that were connected to people that I trust and have worked with before, guys that were older, guys that were younger, I talked to a lot of people. I didn’t have a priority of a 1-through-10 or anything like that. Just took good notes on the people that I talked to and the information I was getting back through my background checks as I called around. As I talked about the profile I had laid out and I kept trying to check mark the boxes I talked to or talked about, everything kept coming back to Coach Kill being the guy who checked the most boxes and made the most sense and was the best fit. Like he mentioned, it isn’t just about Xs and Os. It’s about the fit. It’s about the compatibility. And really it’s about our situation. What do we need here at Rutgers at this time? He checked all the boxes. I just kept coming back to him and felt the most comfortable, and after a few days of the search and a lot of phone calls, we really zeroed in on him and we’re really hoping we can make it work.”
Q: Did the Minnesota situation come up during the coaching search?
Chris Ash: “No, it did not come up because I know the type person that coach Kill is. I know the type of individual that he wants to recruit into a program that he's a part of, and unfortunately on college campuses there are a lot of dark spots that people get into. If you look at his track record going back to when he was a head coach … would it be perfect? No, but was there discipline and accountability and education to try to avoid some of these scenarios, there probably were. No program is perfect and, unfortunately, a lot of these things are popping up around the country. Deep down inside, I know the type of person that coach Kill is and the types of individuals that he wants to surround himself with as players. It was not a concern or an issue for me.”
Jerry Kill: As far as the Minnesota situation, and my dealings you can go back to my track record, is that in the time I was at Minnesota, we didn't have a lot of problems, very few problems. I run a hard-nosed program, a very disciplined program, and you can call up anybody there and they'll tell you that. As far the situation to be honest with you, I've been involved in what I'm doing here at K-State. I've had contact with the head football coach because I know Tracy. I think it's a very sad situation. Nobody wins in those kinds of situations, but I'm not there on an every-day basis, so I don't know all of the details. I just know it's sad. I hope it gets straightened out. I'm just telling you, again you can look at my track record, I've had very few problems at anywhere I've been and I run a very tight ship but things do happen and I feel bad for the guys that are there and the whole situation. Hopefully they'll get it straightened out and do the right thing.
Q: Did Kill's ability to build something in the Big Ten factor into your decision? Will you lean on him more than a typical coordinator in the decision-making process?
Chris Ash: Absolutely, it was part of the decision-making process. Not everybody is wired to embrace challenges, and Jerry is. He sees them as opportunities. Like I mentioned before, not everybody does that. Not everybody is willing to roll up their sleeves and go to work and make a difference at a place where people think it can't be done. That's what he's done. He's willing to do that. That's my mentality and my approach to our situation here at Rutgers. It absolutely weighed in. I've talked to Coach a lot about our plan here at Rutgers. I feel very, very strongly about our plan. The biggest thing I wanted with coach Kill was alignment in our plan and what we're doing. There are situations that come up that he's probably experienced that maybe I haven't, whether it be as a head coach or an assistant. There's just so many things that can come up. If there are situations that come up where I want to lean on somebody and ask his opinion, 'what have you done in that situation? Have you had this come up in a program?' Then absolutely, I'll go and have a conversation with him. There's a lot of things that make sense – alignment with what we're already doing, the experience and knowledge of other situations that could come up that I have not seen or had to make a decision on, then I've got someone on staff that I can go have a conversation with talk about. The biggest thing was a guy that's not afraid of the challenges and opportunities that we have here at Rutgers.
Q: Do you enjoy the idea that you're in a division with Michigan and Ohio State?
Jerry Kill: Look at my background, all of the jobs that I've ever taken have been challenges. I'm kind of a program builder. That's what I've done my whole life, the last 22 years of college coaching and even in high school. That's what I'm used to and I love challenges. I don't ever worry about who we play. I worry about how we play. If we do the right things and do a good job of teaching kids and so forth, we control a lot of outcomes. No question, we're going to play some tough teams but that's all part of it. That makes us better. Your kids are going to play harder. Believe me, Chris has laid out a good plan. I wouldn't be coming to Rutgers, and I'm a competitive dude. I feel like with the staff that he has and with Chris' leadership and me being a part of the staff, there's no question we can get it done. None of those things are easy, and it takes time to do it the right way. He's going to do it the right way, and that's why I want to be a part of it.
Q: How important in your search was it to find someone that would stay at Rutgers for more than one season?
Chris Ash: That was a part of it, too. I wanted somebody that would stick. It gets back to when you look at coach Kill's background and experience within this type of situation, obviously we've got challenges. Not everybody is wired to embrace those challenges. He is. Where he's at in his career, he's not looking for a one-and-done and get out looking for other jobs. I get it. It's college football. Things come up. Sticking power and having a guy that's going to be here with us for more than one year was an important part of the search and the guy that we hired.
Q: Do you anticipate any other changes on staff?
Chris Ash: As of right now, no, but it's college football. Things come up, you know? As you guys know and I've openly talked about continuity being a very important part of turning a program around, I really believe that. But I also know that there are opportunities out there for people that may be better professionally or for their family. I get that. I've made those moves myself to help me move along in my journey to get where I'm at today, and I get that, but as of right now today, I don't anticipate anybody leaving. Again, that could change by tomorrow. Somebody could get a phone call and they've got a decision to make tomorrow.