CARBONDALE, Ill.-Jerry Kill's dream to take over the helm of a Football Bowl Subdivison (formerly I-A) program became a reality today when he was introduced as the head coach at Northern Illinois University. Kill succeeds Joe Novak (63-75), who retired after 12 seasons, at the Mid-American Conference school.
"It has been Coach Kill's aspiration to coach at the FBS level, and I am very happy for him to get that opportunity," said Saluki Director of Athletics Mario Moccia.
Kill's departure comes five days after SIU lost to Delaware in the semi-finals of the NCAA Division I Football Championship. The Salukis ended the 2007 season at 12-2 overall, winning 10 or more games for the third time in five years.
"What he has done for Saluki Football is nothing short of miraculous," Moccia said. "Jerry essentially built this program from scratch, and he is leaving an excellent foundation upon which his successor can continue."
Driven by a no-nonsense, hard hat, lunch pail approach, Kill built a model program at SIU that consistently contended for the Gateway Conference championship and Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) playoffs.
He compiled a glittering 55-32 record in seven seasons at SIU. He guided the Salukis to three consecutive Gateway Conference titles (2003, 2004, 2005) and five-straight (2003-2007) postseason appearances -- second longest active FCS playoff streak in the country behind Montana (15 years in a row). The Salukis have been ranked in the Top-25 for 64-straight weeks under Kill's watch. He leaves Carbondale as the second-winningest head coach in Saluki Football history.
To fully appreciate Kill's revival of Southern's football program, you must first understand how far it had fallen. After dropping to Division I-AA status in 1983 and winning a National Championship, the Salukis hit a 20-year dry spell without a playoff bid or conference title. In fact, the program had posted 11-straight losing seasons prior to the 2003 campaign. Five head coaches had tried and failed to right the ship.
A finalist for the 2007 Liberty Mutual Coach-of-the-Year award and recipient of the 2004 Eddie Robinson Coach-of-the-Year honor, Kill made incremental progress in his first two years at SIU. He was instrumental in striking a deal with the local electrical union to install lights at McAndrew Stadium so the team could play night football again. He reached out to the community, making himself and his team available for frequent community-service and goodwill projects.
In 2005, Kill had a well-publicized off-season bout with kidney cancer. It prompted him to start the Coach Kill Cancer Fund, a foundation to assist needy southern Illinoisans seeking cancer treatment.
"On a personal level, I would like to thank Coach Kill and his wife, Rebecca, for the wonderful impact they've made upon the southern Illinois community," Moccia said. "Whether through the cancer fund he established or by virtue of the many acts of simple kindness he displayed, Coach Kill endeared himself to this University, this region and our fans."
SIU will begin a national search to fill the position, according to Moccia.