Since his abrupt retirement earlier this season, Jerry Kill has been pushing for Tracy Claeys to become his permanent replacement as Minnesota’s head football coach. Claeys himself has been pushing for a decision one way or the other as he was concerned about the uncertainty impacting recruiting.
In the end, both men got what they wanted.
Wednesday morning, the Gophers announced that Claeys has signed a three-year contract making him the program’s head coach. Claeys, the team’s defensive coordinator as well, took over as interim head coach exactly two weeks ago today when Kill stepped down because of health concerns.
“I’ve gotten to know and respect Coach Claeys this past year and watched him work with our student-athletes each and every day,” interim athletic director Beth Goetz said in a statement. “I admire his dedication to their development on the field and in the classroom. Given the improvement of this program, both academically and athletically, and Coach Claeys’ integral leadership role, we have great confidence that he is the right coach to lead this program and our student-athletes.”
“I want to thank President Eric Kaler, Interim Athletic Director Beth Goetz, the Board of Regents and the University for believing in me and providing me with this opportunity,” said Claeys. “The circumstances of the past few weeks have been unpredictable. This certainly is not the way anyone wants to become a head coach. Coach Kill is one of my best friends and I am thankful that he took a chance on me 21 years ago.
“I am looking forward to continuing what we have built at Minnesota, but will do so in my own way. One thing that won’t change will be our relentless pursuit to field a team that will make the state of Minnesota proud. We have tremendous fans and they deserve a highly competitive football team. Our student-athletes will play smart, tough and accountable football and will be held to the highest standards on and off the field.”
Claeys spent more than two decades on Kill-led staffs, including the last five seasons with the Gophers. In addition to his coordinator role, Claeys had the title of associate head coach added prior to the start of the 2014 season.
The first two games of Claeys’ tenure were losses to No. 14 Michigan and No. 3 Ohio State.
With Claeys’ official hiring, there are now nine head coach openings at the FBS level: Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Miami, North Texas, South Carolina, UCF, USC and Virginia Tech. Three of those vacancies were created by coaches deciding to retire, while the other six were dismissed.