Tag:Ron Guenther
Posted on: November 27, 2011 1:20 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 2:06 pm
 

Illinois fires Ron Zook

Posted by Tom Fornelli

After starting the 2011 season with six straight victories and being ranked, Illinois lost its final six games of the season to finish at 6-6 and it seems the collapse has cost head coach Ron Zook his job.

According to CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Cody Westerlund, Zook was reportedly fired on Sunday morning. The school made it official with a release on Sunday afternoon.

"I assessed the entire program and felt that it was time for a change in leadership," said Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas in a 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. 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."

Current Illinois defensive coordinator Vic Koenning has been named as the team's interim head coach.

Zook spent seven seasons with Illinois, going 34-51 in that span. The high point of his time in Champaign came in 2007 when the Illini finished the season 9-4 and went to the Rose Bowl and lost to USC. Illinois' only other bowl appearance under Zook came last season when it beat Baylor in the Texas Bowl.
Posted on: August 10, 2011 4:59 pm
Edited on: August 10, 2011 5:05 pm
 

Illinois to hire Mike Thomas as new AD

Posted by Tom Fornelli

On Wednesday afternoon the Illinois athletic department tweeted that it would be making an announcement about its new athletic director. Well, you no longer need to wait for that announcement to find out what it is, as The News-Gazette is reporting that Illinois will be naming Cincinnati athletic director Mike Thomas to replace Ron Guenther in Champaign.

Thomas has been the athletic director at Cincinnati since 2005, and in that time he's seen a marked improvement to the school's football program. At the time Cincinnati was considered a basketball school thanks to the success the men's program had under Bob Huggins, but after Thomas brought in current Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, the football program took off.

When you look at the situation at Illinois right now, it's very similar to what was taking place at Cincinnati at the time of Thomas' hiring. It's a basketball school that has had some success from time to time in football, but nothing sustainable. It could be that Illinois would like to see some improvement in the football program, as it has put money into renovating Memorial Stadium recently.

It may also mean that the seat head coach Ron Zook sits on may be hotter than it already has been for much of his time in Champaign, as Thomas may be on the hunt for his next Brian Kelly.
Posted on: May 16, 2011 2:16 pm
 

Ron Zook loses a supporter in Champaign

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The University of Illinois announced on Monday that longtime athletic director Ron Guenther would be stepping down from the position on June 30 after 19 years on the job. While there are plenty of people in Champaign who are likely to miss Guenther, I don't think anybody will miss him more than Illinois' head football coach Ron Zook. Guenther was not only the man who hired Zook in 2004, but he may be the only reason that Zook is still employed at the school.

After Illinois floundered in the two seasons following a Rose Bowl appearance in 2007, there were many Illinois fans and boosters who wanted Zook gone. Still, Guenther kept him around and even spent the money to bring in two top assistants like Paul Petrino and Vic Koenning. Guenther also gave Zook and his assistants raises after a 7-6 season in 2010.

Make no mistake, there is always a lot of pressure on you when you're the head coach of a BCS football program. Now that Guenther is gone, there's even more pressure on Zook's shoulders. First of all, it's always optimal to work for the man that hired you, no matter what line of work you're in. When a new guy comes in you have to prove yourself all over again, or risk being replaced. There's also the chance that the new athletic director will want to bring in his own coach.

Guenther will be involved in the search for his replacement, which is good news for Zook, but just because Guenther helps choose the new AD, that doesn't mean whomever it ends up being will be as supportive. Even though Illinois has long been considered a basketball school, Guenther put a lot of money into the football program. He renovated Memorial Stadium and built an indoor football facility on the team. In other words, he put a lot of money into the program and hasn't gotten the type of results you'd want for the money spent.

There's no way of knowing whether the new athletic director will be as willing to give as much money to the football program. And if that turns out to be the case, then Zook will have to do even more with less. Zook's current contract runs through 2013, but odds are he's going to need to start winning a lot more often than he has been if he wants to be around through the end of his deal.

Posted on: February 16, 2011 7:49 pm
 

Illinois gives Ron Zook a raise

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Illinois finished its season with a 7-6 mark thanks to a win over Baylor in the Texas Bowl, which wouldn't ordinarily be something to be incredibly proud of. Sure, it's nothing to be ashamed of, but winning one more game than you lose, and taking home a December bowl game isn't exactly the type of performance you build your program on.

However, this is Illinois. The Texas Bowl victory was the school's first bowl win since the MicronPC Bowl in 1999, and only it's third bowl victory since 1991. So in Champaign, when you pick up a bowl win, that means that Ron Zook and a couple of assistants are getting raises.
Illini Athletic Director Ron Guenther said Wednesday that Zook's annual salary will be increased from $1.5 million to $1.75 million once approved by university trustees.
Guenther said Zook's staff will get raises, too. That includes offensive coordinator Paul Petrino and defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. Petrino will get a $50,000 raise to $525,000 a year and Koenning will be paid $342,000, a $17,000 bump. 
Guenther also said that Illinois' bowl win over Baylor is the school's first step towards regular bowl appearances, though I'm sure he felt the same way after Zook and the Illini went to the Rose Bowl 2008. After being trounced by USC in that game, the Illini only won eight games over the next two seasons. Which led to the staff overhaul that saw Petrino and Koenning come to town.

So while there may be reasons to be optimistic about the direction the Illinois football team is taking, I'm just saying that if I were running things, I think I might wait until I made back-to-back postseason appearances before proclaiming things have been turned around.
 
 
 
 
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