Even as his seizures have grown in frequency over the last two years, Minnesota coach Jerry Kill has always maintained that epilepsy would never slow him down.
When he wasn’t able to make it to a game for the first time in his coaching career last weekend against Michigan, Kill decided it was time to take a step back, put his health before football for once, and try to get a handle on an issue that has taken him from the sideline twice in the last month.
Kill and the university announced Thursday that the coach is taking an open-ended leave of absence from the team to focus on treatment and management of his epilepsy, and it is uncertain when he will be able to return to the Golden Gophers.
Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys will fill in as acting head coach. Claeys has replaced Kill each time he has been absent from the sideline.
‘‘This was a difficult decision to make, but the right decision,’’ Kill said in a statement distributed by the university. ‘‘Our staff has been together a long time and I have full confidence in Coach Claeys and them during my time away. Every decision that will be made will be in the best interest of the players and the program. I look forward to returning to the Minnesota sideline on a full-time basis soon.’’
Kill has had five seizures on game day in his two-plus seasons at Minnesota. University president Eric Kaler and athletic director Norwood Teague have steadfastly stood behind him through those absences, insisting that the issue could be managed and that the progress the program showed under Kill validated their faith in him.
But Kill is on record saying he couldn’t continue to miss parts of games, as he did for the second half of last season’s game against Michigan State. The seizures appeared to worsen this season. He missed the second half of a win over Western Illinois on Sept. 14 and then couldn’t even make the trip with the team to Ann Arbor, Mich., last weekend.
The Golden Gophers (4-2, 0-2 Big Ten) are off this week, which contributed to Kill deciding that now was the right time to seek more help with his condition. Teague declined to discuss specifics about what Kill was doing and would not put a timetable on any possible return.
That’s one hot seat
Mack Brown says he doesn’t read it, doesn’t listen to it, and does his best to ignore it. He wants no part of any discussion about whether his job is on the line when Texas plays rival Oklahoma in Dallas on Saturday at the Cotton Bowl.
Any talk in Austin about the biggest game on the Longhorns’ schedule inevitably comes around to whether its ‘‘win or else’’ for Brown after 16 seasons as the Texas coach.
‘‘It doesn’t affect me at all,’’ Brown said this week as Texas (3-2, 2-0 Big 12) prepared for the No. 12 Sooners (5-0, 2-0).
‘‘There’s no giving up, no quitting in this coaching staff.”
Brown’s 153 wins rank second only Darrell Royal (167) in school history. In 2005 he delivered the program’s first undisputed national championship in 36 years.
Brown is 25-18 over the last four seasons. He also is 6-9 against Oklahoma, including two straight blowout losses and four of the most humiliating defeats in a rivalry that dates to 1900.
Brown won’t have David Ash under center on Saturday. Ash will miss the game because of recurring symptoms of a concussion. Senior quarterback Case McCoy will start instead.
Clowney should play
All-American Jadeveon Clowney’s time on South Carolina’s sidelines is apparently over. Gamecocks defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said the injured Clowney will start if healthy Saturday when No. 14 South Carolina takes on Arkansas. Clowney took himself out of last week’s 35-28 victory over Kentucky a short time before kickoff, saying he was in too much pain from a strained muscle near his ribcage, and the last-minute absence upset coach Steve Spurrier. Clowney, a top prospect for the NFL draft, successfully finished a second straight day of practice Thursday after missing workouts earlier in the week because of the injury. Clowney was not available for comment . . . Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville settled a lawsuit filed by investors seeking to recover money lost in a hedge fund Tuberville helped manage. US District Judge Myron Thompson approved the settlement on Tuesday, online court filings showed. Details weren’t released. The lawsuit alleged clients were defrauded of more than $1.7 million. Attorneys for Tuberville denied the allegations . . . The American Athletic Conference extended its agreements with the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla., and the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., for six years, starting in 2014.