For several major college football programs, a pair of eight-win seasons is nothing worth writing home about.
In some pigskin-centric cultures, failing to reach the 10-win mark or tackle a conference championship is a crime punishable by guillotine. Just ask former Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, who won no fewer than nine games in each of his seven seasons in Lincoln.
But for other programs – programs like Minnesota – rescuing a team from the depths of college football misery and finishing consecutive seasons comfortably above the .500 mark is an accomplishment that secures contracts and warrants extensions.
That’s why Jerry Kill has become such a popular name in Big Ten country.
It’s not because the Golden Gophers have become world beaters overnight. They’re not on the verge of breaking into the College Football Playoff conversation. Minnesota has, however, taken gradual steps necessary to growing as a program.
After spending nine seasons yo-yoing between mediocrity and irrelevance, Minnesota is starting to climb the ladder of significance in the Big Ten Conference.
As the Gophers prepare for the 2015 season, Kill’s leadership has the Gophers knocking on the door of a West division title and a trip to Indianapolis to compete for the conference championship.
That’s a remarkable feat for a team that posted just one winning season from 2006 through 2012.
Part of that is Minnesota’s strong presence in the rushing attack. Part of it is the improved play defensively. Part of it is the higher quality players starting to sign on the dotted line.
But all of Minnesota’s success can be attributed to Kill.
— Minnesota on BTN (@MinnesotaOnBTN) July 31, 2015
With quality depth at running back, improvement in the passing game and one of the best defensive secondary units in the country, Minnesota will be one of the top contenders to Wisconsin and the West throne.
Confidence surrounds TCF Bank Stadium as Minnesota prepares for a Thursday night clash with second-ranked TCU on September 3rd.
There’s belief the Gophers have the ability to take home Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the first time since 2003 and take a mighty swing at their competition at Lucas Oil Stadium.
None of that would’ve been realized without Kill’s arrival. The faith that currently overwhelms Gopher football would be nonexistent without last year’s Big Ten Coach of the Year.
He’s changed the level of expectation for Gopher football. The culture has dramatically altered from what it was under former coaches Glen Mason and Tim Brewster. A program that was left for dead has been revived and is taking full advantage of its second chance.
Whether or not Kill meet the standards that have been set in the offseason is somewhat irrelevant.
Winning football games is always the most important factor, but winning over the fan base is a battle as well. It’s a task the Gophers’ head coach has accomplished after four years.
Minnesota’s worth will be tested immediately with a season-opening contest against Trevone Boykin and the high-powered offense of TCU. Pretty quickly, we will learn whether all the hype was warranted or whether or not the Gophers have some work left to do before the start of conference play.
Outcome aside, the thought that excitement and enthusiasm existed in a game of this magnitude should make Gopher faithful proud.
The same should be said throughout the season.
Regardless of whether or not Minnesota is finally able to get over the hump, it’s notable that there was an obstacle to overcome in the first place.
The rebirth of belief in Gopher football reflects the success Kill has brought to the field in Minneapolis. Despite being known for getting Minnesota back into the thick of the Big Ten race, the affect it’s had outside the stadium is equally as impressive.
It’s an accomplishment for which Kill doesn’t receive enough credit.