Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
The Minnesota Golden Gophers football program was thrown into a bit of turmoil with Jerry Kill’s sudden retirement as head coach, and since then two close losses have built the case for interim head coach/defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys to get the job long-term. Claeys has openly campaigned for the job virtually since being introduced as the interim head coach, and he has now been given a three-year deal worth $4.5 million to be the Minnesota’s head football coach going forward beyond this season.
Claeys led the Golden Gophers to a 4-3 record when he filled in for Kill in 2013, and his only head coaching experience has been when Kill dealt with health issues going back to the coaching staff’s previous stops.
Claeys was making $600,000 as defensive coordinator, and he’ll get a bump in salary to $1.3 million for the rest of this season. Then his salary will increase by $100,000 each year over the next three years. Per the St. Paul Pioneer Press, via USA Today’s database, Claeys will make less than the average Big Ten head coach ($3 million for 2015-16), but more than five current Big Ten head coaches.
Promoting Claeys maintains continuity with incoming recruits, which surely carries value with Minnesota not having a permanent athletic director right now. While having an interim athletic director is a flimsy reason to not conduct an outside search for Kill’s replacement, in the bigger picture it make senses since any outside candidate may see a lack of stability until a permanent replacement for Norwood Teague is named.
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I still don’t like the idea of effectively settling for Claeys as a football coach, since it minimizes expectations while offering a built-in excuse for mediocrity and going to mid and lower-tier bowl games over the next couple years. Minnesota is not an elite Big Ten football program, and may never be, but I don’t see Claeys even taking the program back to a New Year’s Day bowl game, like Kill did last season.