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    You heard it here first, Ron Zook as been fired as head coach of Illinois, the news was given to the coach this morning.

    A news announcement will be out this afternoon

  • #2
    After their best start in a long time and to have his team quit on him. what an emotional ride for them this year.
    good luck


    • #3
      Mike Thomas is doing what he was brought to Champaign to do.

      By firing head coach Ron Zook - as announced in a press release Sunday afternoon - the first-year Illinois athletic director established new expectations for the Illini football program.

      "I assessed the entire program and felt that it was time for a change in leadership," Thomas said in the release. "It is imperative that our program shows some consistency and competes for championships, and I think a change in coaches can help us get there sooner.

      Ron Zook was 34-51 at Illinois and 18-38 in the Big Ten over 7 seasons.
      "This is a very competitive conference, and we are determined to go head-to-head with the very best."

      Even after becoming the first team in FBS history to lose its last six games after starting 6-0, Illinois likely is headed to back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 1992. The last five-year stretch, including a Rose Bowl and a Texas Bowl victory, is the best run of the past two decades.

      Zook deserves credit for raising the talent level and the profile of the Illini football program, which Thomas also alluded to in the release.

      But his seven years - he finished with a 34-51 overall record, including an 18-38 record in the Big Ten - should have been better.

      After Ron Turner left the program almost bare of talent (except for future NFL star Rashard Mendenhall), Zook had a two-year reprieve to rebuild the program, so his 4-19 record over his first two season should be ignored. After the quick turnaround in 2007, aided by high-profile recruits Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn, the Zooker plan was in full force: bring in talent, win games.

      Zook somehow persuaded recruits to come to Champaign when Illinois football was the laughing stock of the Big Ten. In two short years, Zook was posing with Pete Carroll in front of the Rose Bowl trophy in Pasadena.

      But he never fully took advantage of the Rose Bowl appearance. Without Mendenhall, the Illini inexplicably missed a bowl in 2008. Another embarrassing season followed as Zook's team finished 3-9 in 2009. Recruiting remained solid, but Zook never again landed the five-star recruits.

      Former athletic director Ron Guenther's decision to keep Zook but overhaul the staff before the 2010 season was flawed. After five years of Zook, Illinois knew what it had: a fantastic recruiter but a below-average in-game coach. While the initial decision to retain Zook was a mistake, adding offensive coordinator Paul Petrino and defensive coordinator Vic Koenning (who will serve as interim coach through the expected bowl-game appearance) to the staff proved to be the right decisions.

      Still, the man running the program isn't the right man for the job. Zook has strengths. But they aren't best utilized as a head coach, as we've now seen mistake-prone and underachieving teams over the last decade at both Florida and Illinois.

      Now, it's time for Thomas to find the man to take the Illini football program to the next level. The task won't be easy.

      "We will begin the process of finding a new coach as soon as possible," Thomas said in the release. "Obviously, we have some hiring policies and regulations to follow, and some candidates may be involved with their own teams and bowl preparations, but I expect to move forward quickly."

      This is an exciting time for Illinois football as the stakes have been raised but it's also a nerve-racking time. Under Zook, it appeared Illinois could consistently win six games. The next coach could help the Illini lead the Illini up another rung in the Big Ten ladder or he could slip and Illinois could fall back.

      We've seen what looked like home-run hires turn into busts (see: Rich Rodriguez, Houston Nutt and Turner Gill) and what were thought to be questionable hires turn into home runs (see: Gene Chizik).

      Some of the candidates tossed out over the past few weeks include Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin, former Texas Tech coach Mike leach, Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken, South Florida coach Skip Holtz and Cincinnati coach Butch Jones, among others.

      Zook's small successes put more pressure on the next head coach. He'll be expected to win eight to nine games next year - and immediately because the cupboard won't be bare. But with Sunday's decision to fire Zook, the pressure is now squarely on Thomas. But he appears ready, willing and able to take on the task he was entrusted with when he was hired in August.

      Thomas said earlier this month that he is just one of the faces of the Illinois athletic program and that the program will be most successful if his coaches are the rock stars.

      Zook was a solid opening act. He warmed up the crowd. But his performance alone wasn't pleasing enough for the ticket-buyers, most of whom thought his show lasted a tad too long.

      Now Thomas needs to book the right headliner who will leave fans wanting an encore.


      • #4
        Mike Leach was spotted in a Champaign restaurant
        having lunch with a real estate agent.

        Just kidding, but that's how things get started


        • #5
          Funny, but Leach will turn up somewhere.

          Just before Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys, he was seen by several local sports writers in a Dallas Mexican restaurant with Jimmy Jones. No one put two and two together until a few days later when it was announced that Jones bought the team and he was hiring Johnson as Head Coach.


          • #6
            Illini Nation would love to have Mike Leach, But that is not going to happen he has just to much baggage for a new Athletic Director to bring on.


            • #7
              Leach is a good coach, but a little crazy.

              Apparently Lubbock likes guys like Leach and Knight. Besides, there is nothing else out there for them to do but follow Tech.


              • #8
                Leach becomes the new Wazzu coach, potentially a great fit.


                • #9
                  I have flight tracker active on the plane that Illinois uses, and I can tell you where they been and where they are going in terms of travel to find a new head coach.

                  Now the new AD likes to get up early in the morning and he loves to drive to a visit within 6 hours to maintain stealth. All eyes are on Wisconsin, Houston, Boise, Western Michigan, at this time.


                  • #10
                    I see where the Houston coach should be in the discussion, but I
                    don't see how he can win in the Big 10. Approx. 68% of their
                    roster is from Houston/Houston area. Not sure of coaching
                    ability, but going out and recruiting the players is something
                    that is not on the resume.


                    • #11
                      zook = horrible


                      • #12
                        Zook = GREAT recruiter (responsible for 2 UF Nat'l Championship rosters) Terrible X's and O's coach.


                        • #13
                          My sources say Kevin Sumlin to Illinois as the new head coach, announcement to come in a couple hours


                          • #14
                            Just save this thread and put Sumlin's name at the top instead
                            of Zook two years from now.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Carpet View Post
                              My sources say Kevin Sumlin to Illinois as the new head coach, announcement to come in a couple hours

                              Krichinsky has supporters.

                              UCLA was also interested in Sumlin. The active alumni said no thanks. He brought back memories of Head Coach Bob Toledo and the Bruin teams of 98 and 99 when UCLA won 22 games in row because of QB Cade McNown. As you may recall, Cade was great in college but was a big time NFL bust as a 1st rounder for the Bears. Once Cade graduated, Toledo and the Bruins lost their magic formula for winning. Some are saying Sumlin has the identical MO as Toledo. Without a star QB the likes of Casey Keenum, hes nothing.

                              I also recall Southern Cal supporters did not want Pete Carroll as head coach. He was a previous bust as a NFL coach. Yet, he turned out to be a winning coach with a few payouts to his players, e.g., Reggie Bush. LOL.