SEATTLE — It’s not a Saturday rife with important games — one in the ACC, one in the Big Ten, one in the Pac-12 — so we’ll digress for a moment to call attention to a simmering controversy in the Upper Midwest.
Minnesota coach Jerry Kill is in his third season trying to elevate the Gophers, who are 4-1 against mostly outmanned opposition entering Saturday’s game for the Little Brown Jug at Michigan.
But the debate centers on the fact he has epilepsy and has suffered seizures on game day as a result of elevated stress.
The latest one was Sept. 14 at halftime of a game against Western Illinois, and this is how it was described in an Associated Press story:
“Kill was at home and resting comfortably two hours after the game, according to the university. Taken away on a stretcher, he writhed back and forth on the ground for several minutes with the Gophers in the locker room with a 7-6 lead . . .”
That’s not a pretty picture.
The day after the game, a Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist wrote, in calling for Kill to step aside, “Kill suffers a seizure on game day ... exactly as often as he wins a Big Ten game. He’s 4 for 16 in both categories.”
The newspaper said it got in the neighborhood of a thousand responses to the column, most highly critical of it.
The blowback was so severe, the newspaper’s editor in chief, Nancy Barnes, apologized.
Peter King, longtime respected Sports Illustrated writer, asked in print: “Can some doctor out there tell me why the University of Minnesota should keep Jerry Kill coaching football after his fourth seizure in three years on a Gopher game day? I don’t want to be insensitive. I’d really like to know if it makes sense to keep him on as coach.”
Indeed, it’s extremely sensitive.
The question is legitimate, whether the condition affects Kill’s ability to carry out his job and whether the job exacerbates his health. Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague has been wholehearted in his support of Kill, an inspirational figure who has beaten kidney cancer and as a result of it, started up a fund for cancer patients without financial means.
Tough issue, one that deserves more delicate treatment than some are giving it.
On to the best of Saturday’s menu, chronologically:
Maryland (AP No. 25)
at Florida State (8),
9 a.m., ESPN
Big test for the Terps, whose total defense is sixth nationally. Their offensive coordinator is Mike Locksley, and given that he went 2-26 as New Mexico head coach, got sued there for sexual harassment and once punched a Lobo assistant, it probably makes sense that his Maryland bio includes 10 paragraphs on his assistant’s tenure at Illinois and 11 words on his time at New Mexico, sans record.
Florida State is 11-0 all-time against Maryland in Tallahassee. The ‘Noles have had 10 different offensive players score touchdowns this year.
at Michigan (19),
12:30 p.m., ABC
When Minnesota won at New Mexico State (posing the question why any BCS-conference team is playing at New Mexico State), 16,418 people were in attendance.
There will be about 94,000 more than that here.
at California, 1 p.m.,
Fox Sports 1
Lots of water under the bridge since the Cougars won in this series; it was 2002, their last Rose Bowl season. The three teams that have victimized Cal have a combined 13-0 record.
Oregon (2) at Colorado, 3 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
Ducks now have 10 punt returns for touchdowns since the start of the 2010 season — for comparison, WSU’s last one was in 2005 — but won’t get one here from De’Anthony Thomas, who is out with an ankle sprain. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado coach, says UO quarterback Marcus Mariota reminds him of Colin Kaepernick.
Buffs have filled their Fresno State flood-caused vacancy with an Oct. 19 game against FCS Charleston Southern, one of whose victims is Shorter — University, that is.
Arizona State (22)
vs. Notre Dame
at Arlington, Texas,
4:30 p.m., NBC
Kudos to ASU for unearthing this little gem: The Sun Devils have a chance to become the first school in history to beat USC and Notre Dame in consecutive games. Twelve others have failed.
The Irish, with two losses, are close to a back-to-the-wall plight if they want to get to a BCS bowl. They’ve won seven straight under Brian Kelly when the margin is a touchdown or less.
Ohio State (4)
at Northwestern (16),
5 p.m., ABC
ESPN College GameDay comes to Evanston for what the Chicago Sun-Times calls “arguably the biggest regular-season game in history“ for Northwestern. Wildcats may get back second-team All-Big Ten runner and All-America punt-returner Venric Mark, out with a leg injury since the Cal opener, but he can’t play defense, where Northwestern is No. 87 nationally.
Announcing the game will be Northwestern alum Brent Musberger, analysis by Buckeye grad Kirk Herbstreit.
at Stanford (5),
7:30 p.m., ESPN
You might recall a dispiriting 20-3 loss suffered in 2006 by the Huskies under Tyrone Willingham to the Cardinal, its only win that season.
Big play in the game: A 74-yard touchdown pass from T.C. Ostrander to ... Richard Sherman.