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College Football

P.J. Fleck takes high road when responding to Jerry Kill’s criticism

Minnesota Golden Gophers head football coach P.J. Fleck has declined to add fuel to the firestorm ignited by his predecessor, Jerry Kill, earlier in the week during a no-holds-barred interview.

Kill, during a national radio interview on Sirius XM College Sports Tuesday blasted Fleck, saying the charismatic coach is “all about himself,” among other things.

Fleck offered up his first public reaction to the situation on Thursday night.

“Listen, I’ve got a lot of respect for Jerry Kill, I always will,” Fleck said on  AM-1130 radio during halftime of the Gophers men’s basketball game, via the Star Tribune. “I’ve learned so much from him. … I’m really sorry that he feels that way. I’m not sure where that came from.

“But I do know this: We’re focused on our team. I wish him all the best in the next journey of his life being an athletic director, and I hope he’s OK.”

What spawned the entire situation is how Kill, now the AD at Southern Illinois, went scorched earth on Fleck, criticizing him for his ego and how he carries himself.

Kill, who led the Gophers from 2011-15 (his defensive coordinator, Tracy Claeys, took over partway through 2015 and into 2016 after health issues forced Kill to step down), also took issue with how his replacement at Minnesota insinuated the football program was left in shambles when taking over in 2017.

“When he went into Minnesota and treated the people the way he treated my guys,” Kill said, “and telling them he had to go in and completely change the culture, and it was a bad culture and bad people. You know, he made it sound like we didn’t know what we were doing. And I took it personal.

“You just don’t treat people that have been with you and helped your career, and you don’t even talk to them once you get the job.”

The candid comments came as a shock not only because coaches rarely jump into the fray in such a manner to blast their successors, but also because Fleck served on Kill’s staff at Northern Illinois in 2008 and 2009.

Fleck has nothing to gain by firing back at Kill, so the manner in which he reacted to the latter’s fiery rhetoric should hardly come as a surprise.

Interestingly, however, Fleck’s wife Heather tweeted a Mother Teresa quote Wednesday that cryptically appeared to take a shot at Kill.