Illinois fires head coach Zook
Koenning will serve as interim head coach for the Illini
CHAMPAIGN, ILL. -- University of Illinois Director of Athletics Mike Thomas announced today that Ron Zook will not be retained ashead football coach, ending a seven-year run that saw the Illini qualify for three bowls, including the 2008 Rose Bowl.
“I assessed the entire program and felt that it was time for a change in leadership,” Thomas said. “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. I wasn’t here seven years ago when Ron Zook took over as coach, but it’s clear the program is in better shape than what he inherited. I believe we need new leadership to take the program to the level to compete for championships on a consistent basis. This is an extremely competitive conference, and we are determined to go head-to-head with the very best.”
Zook was named head coach at Illinois in December, 2004, and compiled a record of 34-51, including 18-38 in Big Ten play during his Illini stint. After starting the 2011 season with six-consecutive victories and earning a Top 20 ranking, the Illini suffered through a six-game losing streak to end the regular season. In 2007, Illinois surprised many with a 9-4 record, including a 6-2 mark in Big Ten play to finish in second place. The Fighting Illini posted a memorable 28-21 victory against top-ranked Ohio State at Columbus that season to propel them into a Rose Bowl invitation. Following the 2007 season, Zook was named Big Ten Coach of the Year.
Zook is one of only four coaches to win games at Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State, and produced three first-round NFL draft picks in the last four seasons. Illinois’ 38-14 victory against Baylor at the 2010 Texas Bowl was Illinois’ first bowl victory since 1999.
But, the three seasons of bowl eligibility were also interspersed with two wins in 2005 and 2006, five wins in 2008 and three in 2009. Zook finishes his Illinois tenure with a winning record against just Indiana among conference opponents.
Thomas indicated a national search would begin immediately and that he hoped to name a new coach as soon as possible.
“We will begin the process of finding a new coach as soon as possible,” Thomas said. ”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.”
Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, who was head coach at Wyoming from 2000-02, will serve as interim coach through the expected bowlgame appearance.