University of Minnesota Football Coach Jerry Kill was back in the office on Monday after suffering a seizure during Saturday's game at TCF Bank Stadium, but the latest episode had some wondering whether he should be the face of the program.
One Star Tribune sports writer openly stated that he doesn't think Big 10 football is the right fit for Kill, but that assertion was met with backlash on Monday.
"The University of Minnesota's football program, and by extension the entire school, became the subject of pity and ridicule," Jim Souhan wrote in part.
That sentence in particular caught the eye of Brett Boyum, vice president of marketing at Marvin Windows and Doors, who also has epilepsy.
"We spent a lot of time and effort trying to knock down the stigma that comes with seizures and epilepsy, and it felt like I took a step back in time reading that article," Boyum admitted.
Another paragraph Souhan wrote prompted Boyum to send an open letter in response that has since been posted on the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota's website, where he serves as president of the board of directors.
"The face of your program can't belong to someone who may be rushed to the hospital at any moment of any game, or practice, or news conference," Souhan wrote. "No one who buys a ticket to TCF Bank Stadium should be rewarded with the sight of a middle-aged man writhing on the ground."
Boyum minced no words, describing the scene Souhan portrayed as "an image that is derogatory; it is hurtful."
The Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota has fielded several calls about the column, and Boyum said there's definitely reason behind the anger. He believes letting Kill go would send a terrible message to many who have epilepsy -- including Boyum's son, Travis -- and look up to Kill because he never let his condition get in the way of his dream.
"Instead of asking for pity, we say we are creating the opportunity to show people that you can be successful," Boyum contended.
Among those voices of rebuke was University of Minnesota Athletics Director Norwood Teague. He made it very clear Monday morning that the seizures of Gophers head football coach Jerry Kill are not a distraction.
"Jerry is our coach and we are 100 percent behind him," Teague said.
Kill suffered a seizure during Saturday's game against Western Illinois. He was taken off the field on a stretcher before halftime and brought to a local hospital for precautionary reasons, but returned home that day and went back to work on Sunday.
The Gophers (3-0) trailed 12-7 until late in the third quarter of Saturday's game, but pulled away with a 29-12 victory.
SEIZURE HISTORY AT MINNESOTA
Kill has epilepsy and has now suffered three game-day seizures in three seasons with the Gophers. Before Saturday, his most recent seizure occurred in the locker room at halftime against Michigan State in the last game of the regular season. He also suffered a seizure after a loss to Northwestern last October and on the sidelines in the last minute of a 2011 loss to New Mexico State.
WHY IT'S NOT A DISTRACTION
The Gophers' coaching staff has been with Jerry Kill for a long time, and they have an action plan that is executed with poise and precision any time the head coach has a medical issue.
"The team knows what they have to do, and nothing changes," defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said.
Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan suggested Jerry Kill is unfit to coach football and questioned why the University of Minnesota continues to employ the coach.
"Even those who admire him most can't believe that he should keep coaching major college football after his latest episode," Souhan wrote.
"To question Coach Kill's abilities illuminates the need for more education around seizures," said Vicki Kopplin, executive director of the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota. "Coach Kill is a man of integrity and character, and his bravery and strength while dealing with seizures should be celebrated, not scrutinized. He's spent time with hundreds of kids with epilepsy over the last year, and seeing his sheer determination will sustain many of them through school bullying, health setbacks and the stigma they too face."
FOX 9 News attempted to contact Souhan for comment on this story, but did not hear back; however, he did respond to what he said seemed like thousands of e-mails from readers who disagree with him by saying he stands by his comments but did not intend to be insensitive to Kill's condition or others with epilepsy.