Southern Illinois University Director of Athletics Jerry Kill announced on Monday he is leaving his position at SIU to accept a job on the football coaching staff at Virginia Tech, effective immediately. Kill will serve as special assistant to fourth-year head coach Justin Fuente.
"The opportunity to serve as an administrator at SIU has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career, and it was a difficult decision to leave so many wonderful friends and colleagues at Southern Illinois," Kill said. "There is an outstanding leadership team in place within Athletics and I'm confident they will continue to build upon the foundation we've laid, allowing me to return to my passion, which is coaching football. I've tried to get away from football, but I just can't."
A three-time national coach-of-the year, Kill is a beloved figure in southern Illinois, where he led the Saluki football program to five-consecutive NCAA playoff appearances from 2003 to 2007. In addition to his many coaching awards, Kill has a long list of civic honors, stemming from his public advocacy for worthy causes, such as the Coach Kill Cancer Fund that he started in southern Illinois while coaching at SIU, and the Epilepsy Chasing Dreams Fund he began while at Minnesota.
"We're grateful to Jerry for taking on the leadership of Saluki athletics at a critical time, and we respect his decision to return to his passion," said SIU Chancellor John M. Dunn. He has worked diligently on behalf of the university and the athletics program. In just over a year, he has hired seven head coaches, reorganized the program's administrative structure and dedicated himself to fundraising efforts. Notably, he was an architect of the 20-year, $10 million agreement with Banterra Bank to rename the SIU Arena the Banterra Center. We are fortunate to have had his energy and enthusiasm focused on SIU and know he will continue to do great things moving forward.
After leaving SIU in 2007, Kill made coaching stops at Northern Illinois and Minnesota, then tried his hand at athletic administration, working as an assistant AD at Kansas State in 2016, before returning to the sidelines as an assistant coach at Rutgers for one year.
Kill returned to SIU in February of 2018 as a special assistant to the chancellor, and two months later took over as AD. During his 16 months on the job, Kill replaced seven of the department's 11 head coaches. His list of coaching hires includes Bryan Mullins (Men's Basketball), Grant Williams (Soccer), Rosalind Joseph (Track & Field), Ed Allen (Volleyball), Danielle Kaufman (Women's Golf), Geoff Hanson (Swimming & Diving) and Lance Rhodes (Baseball).
Kill also restructured the department's administration, hiring Liz Jarnigan as his Senior Woman Administrator, plus senior-level administrators Jeff Jones (operations), Jimmy Karayiannis (community outreach), Kate Hanson (development), Katie Gerlach (facilities), Hilary Wittenborn (academics) and David Rule (athletic training).
Chancellor John M. Dunn has appointed Liz Jarnigan to replace Kill as athletic director. Jarnigan joined the athletics staff in July 2018 as associate director of athletics, overseeing all aspects of the program's internal operations.
Jarnigan came to SIU after serving for two years as senior women administrator for the Air Force Academy's athletics program. Prior to that, she worked for eight years at San Jose State University, starting as the director for student-athlete success before being promoted to senior woman administrator. During her tenure at San Jose State, the department's overall Academic Progress Rate (APR) rose from 925 to 972. The football team's APR increased from 888 in 2008 to 975 in 2015. The overall student-athlete GPA reached an all-time high in 2016.
Jarnigan has also served as coordinator of student services and an associate athletic director for student services at the University of Tulsa. Her career in athletics administration began at Briar Cliff College, where she was an assistant athletic director and interim director of athletics. The 1987 graduate cum laude of St. Olaf College was a four-year letter-winner in volleyball. She received her master's degree in athletic administration from Fort Hays State University in 1988.
At the time of Jarnigan's hire to SIU, Kill said "this is the most important hire I've made in a long time."
"She has the ability to solve complicated issues," he added. "She's much more qualified to be an athletic director than I am."