Minnesota's P.J. Fleck 'saddened' by, doesn't understand Jerry Kill's criticism

Spears: Kill, Fleck prove 'coaches take things personally' (2:36)

Marcus Spears explains the bad blood between former Minnesota coach Jerry Kill and current head coach P.J. Fleck. (2:36)

Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck says he is "saddened" by critical remarks from former coach Jerry Kill suggesting Fleck cares more about himself than his players.

Kill, who coached the Gophers from 2011 to 2015, said on Sirius XM radio this week that Fleck's "ego gets carried away" and that he is "about himself" rather than his players. Now the athletic director at Southern Illinois, Kill acknowledged he was bothered that Fleck talked about needing to "completely change the culture" when he took over the program in 2017.

Fleck said Thursday on KTLK-AM that he respects Kill but doesn't understand the criticism.

"The one thing that's really important to me is our players," Fleck said.

Kill resigned as Minnesota's coach in October 2015 because of health reasons related to epilepsy. Tracy Claeys took over as interim head coach and landed the permanent job, but he was fired after the 2016 season, despite a 9-4 record. Minnesota hired Fleck weeks later.

Fleck served as an assistant for Kill at Northern Illinois, Fleck's alma mater, in 2009 and 2010. Fleck is 12-13 in two seasons with Minnesota, but he ended the 2018 campaign with wins over rival Wisconsin and against Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl.

Kill said the two men spoke once after Fleck got the job at Minnesota and that it "wasn't good."

ESPN's Adam Rittenberg and The Associated Press contributed to this report.