Claeys Named Head Coach of Gopher Football Program
Minneapolis, MN (GopherSports.com) - University of Minnesota Interim Athletics Director Beth Goetz announced Wednesday that the University and Tracy Claeys have signed a three-year contract to make Claeys the head coach of the Golden Gopher football program.
Claeys succeeds Jerry Kill, who resigned his position on Oct. 28, 2015, due to health reasons.
Claeys served on Kill’s staff for 21 years and was named Interim Head Coach following Kill’s resignation in late October. In that capacity, Claeys led the Gophers against No. 15 Michigan and No. 1 Ohio State the past two weeks.
The Clay Center, Kan., native initially joined the Minnesota staff on Dec. 10, 2010, when Kill hired him as defensive coordinator. Claeys was Minnesota’s Acting Head Coach in 2013 for seven games and led the Gophers to a 4-3 mark, which included consecutive wins against Northwestern, Nebraska, Indiana and Penn State. It was the first time since 1973 that Minnesota won four straight conference games in the same season.
Claeys, 46, was nominated for the Frank Broyles Award (top college assistant coach) in each of the past two seasons and was promoted to Associate Head Coach prior to the 2014 season.
As defensive coordinator at Minnesota, Claeys has transformed the Gopher defense into one of the best in the Big Ten.
Minnesota allowed 380 points in 2011 and 321 points in 2012. In 2013, its third season under Claeys’ leadership, the Gopher defense allowed only 289 points. It marked the first time that Minnesota allowed fewer than 300 points in a full season since 2004.
In 2013, Minnesota ranked fourth in the Big Ten and 25th in the nation by allowing only 22.2 points per game. The Gophers were at their best when it mattered most. The defense led the Big Ten and finished 15th nationally in red zone defense. Minnesota opponents scored on just 74 percent of their trips inside the 20.
Claeys started his coaching career at Santa Fe Trail High School in 1994. He joined Kill in 1995 at Saginaw Valley State, where he coached the defensive line. Claeys became Kill's defensive coordinator at Emporia State in 1999. He remained in that capacity when Kill took over at Southern Illinois in 2001 and Northern Illinois in 2008.
In 2008, his first season at Northern Illinois, Claeys and the defensive staff engineered one of the biggest turnarounds in the country, as the Huskies led the MAC in pass defense, scoring defense and total defense. The Huskies finished in the top 20 nationally in three categories – fifth in pass defense, 14th in scoring defense and 17th in total defense.
In his last five years at Southern Illinois, Claeys’ defenses allowed an average of 18.5 points while holding opponents to 14 points or less 21 times, which included five shutouts. In 2007, Southern Illinois reached the FCS national semifinal and its defense ranked as the 10th-best FCS scoring defense in the country and the second-best scoring defense at SIU since 1983. They also intercepted 21 passes to rank fourth in the nation.
In 2004, Southern Illinois led the country in scoring defense, allowing just 13.2 points per game. The Salukis gave up only 101.7 yards per game on the ground while snagging 17 interceptions.
Claeys' pre-Minnesota resume also includes coaching several standout defensive players, most recently Northern Illinois’ Larry English, the first-round draft choice of the NFL's San Diego Chargers in 2009. Claeys also coached Seattle Seahawks' 1999 first-round draft choice Lamar King at Saginaw Valley State and tutored linebacker Bart Scott at Southern Illinois and defensive end Paul Spicer at Saginaw Valley St.
Claeys, who attended both Kansas and Kansas State, graduated with a degree in Mathematics Education in 1994 from Kansas State. He is one of nine current Division I FBS head coaches who did not play collegiate football.