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Tag:Ron Zook
Posted on: July 26, 2011 6:15 pm
 

'Unofficial' Big Ten poll puts Nebraska at top

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Coming into this year's media gathering, the Big Ten decided not to hold its annual media poll with the usual preseason player of the year, predicted order of finish (heretofore limited to the top three finishers), and all of that. It seemed odd, but from the Big Ten's perspective, it wasn't exactly a vital aspect of the whole operation.

Funny thing, though; just because the Big Ten isn't holding a poll doesn't mean it's not going to happen. So lo and behold, 24 beat writers from around the conference -- two per school -- got together and held their own poll anyway.

Here's the breakdown from the Detroit Free-Press, listed with the total amount of voting points (six for first, five for second, on down the line) with first-place votes in parenthesis.

LEGENDS

1. Nebraska (19) 139
2. Michigan State (4) 118
3. Iowa 82
4. Michigan (1) 71
5. Northwestern 69
6. Minnesota 25

LEADERS

1. Wisconsin (22) 141
2. Ohio State (1) 113
3. Penn State (1) 95
4. Illinois 76
5. Purdue 52
6. Indiana 27

Title game matchups:
Nebraska over Wisconsin (10)
Wisconsin over Nebraska (7)
Wisconsin over Michigan State (3)
Nebraska over Ohio State (1)
Nebraska over Penn State (1)
Wisconsin over Michigan (1)
Michigan State over Wisconsin (1)

First of all, there are scant few surprises herein. Nebraska's the class of the conference, Wisconsin's next, and there's a pretty big dropoff after that. That said, whoever decided Michigan was going to win the Legends Division in Brady Hoke's first year -- the rebuilding period right after another rebuilding period -- should stop sending joke ballots and ruining it for the rest of the readers. Another demerit for whoever decided to put somebody below Minnesota, since the Gophers are just a mess right now.

As for the Leaders Divison, no surprises here, aside from a preposterous first-place vote for Penn State. Ohio State would be worth a look here if Terrelle Pryor were still on the five-game suspension, but with Joe Bauserman (or whoever else) under center, the Buckeyes are decidedly inferior to Wisconsin -- so long as Russell Wilson's healthy, anyway.

Speaking of quarterbacks -- this would be the year to celebrate them. The top three offensive players are all QBs, according to voters, and five of the 10 players who received votes were QBs. Here's the breakdown (again, with first-place votes parenthesized):

1. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (14) 52
2. Dan Persa, QB, Northwestern (4) 26
3. Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State (2) 18
4. Edwin Baker, RB, Michigan State (1) 16
5. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (1) 14
6. Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (2) 9
7. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska 4
8. James White, RB, Wisconsin 2
9. Mike Brewster, C, Ohio State 2
10. Derek Moye, WR, Penn State 1

Yes, that's two different Wisconsin tailbacks on the list, and at least one will likely be in the top five of voting at the end of the season. As for the leading vote-getter, it's worth pointing out that Robinson's most dangerous weapon is still his feet... and Michigan's planning on limiting his carries this season. Yes, that's a wise move for keeping Robinson healthy, but the more he's standing still in the pocket and throwing, the less he's playing to his strengths. He'll still make it work, in all likelihood, since it's Denard flippin' Robinson we're talking about here, but those gaudy numbers we saw last season may be coming down a bit. Just a bit.

In other voting, Jared Crick dominated defensive player of the year voting, and Bret Bielema was named the top coach in the Big Ten over close runners-up Kirk Ferentz, Bo Pelini, and Pat Fitzgerald (in that order). Crick is a fine choice, and the four coaches who led voting deserved to. One could make a good case for Pat Fitzgerald to be higher, but these are small quibbles; we're not talking about Ron Zook ending up in second place or anything.

Posted on: July 6, 2011 4:02 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2011 5:12 pm
 

Big Ten not spending enough on assistants?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

By now, anyone who follows college football has seen enough "BREAKING: Football coaches somehow earn lots of money in billion-dollar enterprise" headlines to last us a lifetime. So at a glance, this St. Louis Post-Dispatch article -- "Assistant coaches' salaries soar in college football" -- doesn't appear to be one we haven't read plenty of times before.

But there's one highly interesting nugget from the Post-Dispatch's math that's worth paying closer attention to:
The SEC paid its assistant coaches an average of $276,122 in 2010, according to figures compiled by St. Louis attorney and agent Bob Lattinville of the firm Stinson Morrison Hecker.
The Big 12 was second at $232,685 and the Big Ten a distant fourth, behind the Atlantic Coast Conference, at $187,055. In each instance, the averages do not include salaries at private schools such as Baylor, Penn State and Vanderbilt.
It's no surprise to see the conferences of Gus Malzahn and the Manny Diaz-Bryan Harsin tag team topping the list, but ... the Big Ten? Fourth? Really?

They may not actually be a distant fourth, in fact -- Penn State probably pays better than the likes of Indiana, and Lattinville's salary-based figures don't appear to take into account Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison's unusually structured $750,000 contract -- but it's baffling why the conference that distributes more money to its members than any other in the FBS should lag so badly behind anyone in coaching salaries. Some of that is Big Ten schools' insistence on spening their cash on crazy ideas like, say, men's soccer teams, but it's hard to see why the conference's highest-profile sport should be getting the short end of a stick this lucrative.

It's so hard, in fact, we won't speculate on the reasons. But we don't have any problem stating this for the record: the Big Ten's stinginess is hurting it on the football field.

Contrast the decisions from some of the SEC's and Big Ten's best assistants from 2010. Malzahn was offered the head coaching job at Vandy and had some interest (at least) from Maryland; he turned them both down when Auburn stepped up with its gigantic raise. In the end, the only SEC coordinator to take a head coaching job this offseason was Steve Addazio, who'd basically been dumped out of his Florida gig already.

Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Don Treadwell was busy guiding Michigan State into the national top 20 in yards per-play, winning multiple games as MSU's interim head coach during Mark Dantonio's health-related absence, and generally being the nation's most underpaid assistant as the Spartans won 11 games. He left East Lansing to take the head coaching job at Miami (Ohio). Dave Doeren capped years of outstanding work at Wisconsin by coordinating the defense that took the Badgers back to the Rose Bowl (and nearly won it); he left to become Jerry Kill's replacement at Northern Illinois. (PSU's Tom Bradley, one of Joe Paterno's longest tenured-assistants, also did some serious angling for the Temple job that went to Addazio, you'll recall.)

It's not just retention that's a problem, either. How much better would Michigan have been under Rich Rodriguez* if they'd made Jeff Casteel a Mattison-like offer-he-couldn't-refuse to tag along from West Virginia, instead of subjecting themselves to Greg "GERG" Robinson? Would Tim Brewster still be around if he'd been able to hire one legitimately great offensive coordinator instead of subjecting Adam Weber and Co. to a revolving door of schemes? Even the newcomers aren't immune--it's yet-to-be-determined, but one has to wonder if Nebraska couldn't have done better in replacing exiled OC Shawn Watson than promoting running backs coach Tim Beck (especially considering the Huskers' head coach's expertise is on the defensive side of the ball).

As the Post-Dispatch article points out, it's not like the conference has to look very far to see the value of paying top dollar for assistants. After a miserable 2009, Ron Zook was thisclose to being fired at Illinois. So he went out and hired two top-shelf coordinators at salaries commensurate with the SEC's; in fact, one of them (Bobby Petrino brother Paul Petrino) was an SEC coordinator. Result: a job-saving 7-6 campaign and, in 2011, likely the program's first back-to-back winning seasons in 20 years.

It feels awfully awkward to tell anyone to follow Ron Zook's example. But when it comes to assistant salaries, it's high time the Big Ten at-large did exactly that.

*Rodriguez actually got the defensive coordinating hire right the first time, when he plucked away current Syracuse DC Scott Shafer from Stanford; Shafer's been a success everywhere else he's been, and his work with the Orange last year--the only team in the country to finish in the top 20 in total defense while also finishing in the bottom 20 in time-of-possession--was nothing short of remarkable. But RichRod and Shafer didn't appear to see eye-to-eye, and in came Robinson after just one season. You'll forgive Wolverine fans if they spend the rest of the afternoon banging their heads against the closest wall.


Posted on: June 24, 2011 6:30 pm
 

Hot Seat Ratings: The Big Ten And Zook's Quagmire

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Here's quick overview of the coaching situation this season, as per Dennis Dodd's 2011 Hot Seat Ratings

Big Ten    
Illinois Ron Zook 4.0
Indiana Kevin Wilson 2.0
Iowa Kirk Ferentz 0.5
Michigan Brady Hoke 1.0
Michigan State Mark Dantonio 0.5
Minnesota Jerry Kill 0.5
Nebraska Bo Pelini 0.5
Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald 0.0
Ohio State Luke Fickell 3.5
Penn State Joe Paterno 2.0
Purdue Danny Hope 2.0
Wisconsin Bret Bielema 0.0
 
Obviously, this is a two-person list between Illinois head coach Ron Zook and OSU's interim coach Luke Fickell. One could theoretically argue that Fickell's rating ought to be higher, since he almost by default has to win big this year or he's out, but it's not exactly going to be a huge hit to Fickell's career if OSU ends up hiring a bigger-named coach after the 2011. It's not even a given that such a move would leave Fickell out of a job; wouldn't the transition period be softened if Fickell returned to being the assistant head coach for Ohio State under the new head coach, as was the arrangement under Jim Tressel?

As for Zook, though, his Illini are coming off a 38-14 thrashing of Baylor in the Texas Bowl (including this wholly unnecessary last-minute touchdown), and that 2010 squad set an all-time program record for most points scored per game with 32.54 ppg*. Considering the fact that QB Nathan Scheelhaase was just a freshman in '10 and all, the future would appear to be much brighter than Zook's job security would indicate.

But to think that is to ignore the history of Ron Zook, and the disappointment that defines his legacy.

It's to ignore the fact that the Texas Bowl berth was only Zook's second in six years at Illinois (the other being a still-unbelievable Rose Bowl, one in which Illinois was so thoroughly throttled by USC that ESPN eventually forced the Rose Bowl to start taking high-level non-BCS teams instead of marginally qualified Big Ten or Pac-12 teams). It's to ignore the fact that Zook couldn't go more than three games over .500 in any of his three seasons at Florida, while Urban Meyer turned Zook's players around and won a national championship with them two years later. 

Indeed, if there's any long-term method to Illinois' hiring of Zook, it was to replenish the talent stock to competitive levels, then to cut ties at the point when his teams started underachieving so a more disciplined coach can come in and take the program to new heights. Now, the fact that Zook's not only still around but the third-most tenured coach in the Big Ten means that A) it's been a weird decade in the Big Ten and B) Zook's actual accomplishments still do mean something. No coach is going to want to go to a football program that hasn't been to consecutive bowl games in almost 20 years, but will still fire a coach two years off a Rose Bowl bid, after all. Similarly, if Zook keeps getting to the postseason, he'll keep earning his paycheck year after year. So that's why he's still at Illinois and deserves to be.

It's just, well, it's hard to imagine that arrangement holding up on both sides for much longer. 

*Incidentally, that touchdown proved to be the difference-maker for Illinois breaking the record; they trailed the 2001 team by the slimmest of margins in PPG (32.50) before Zook called that bootleg. Now, a coach calling for a cheap touchdown long after a bowl game has been decided and his team breaking a program record on that play might just be a coincidence, but we're talking about Ron Zook here.
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: April 5, 2011 1:08 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2011 1:12 pm
 

Gruden's plane hit by lightning on way to Chicago

Posted by Tom Fornelli

THAT GUY who currently spends his time on ESPN in the Monday Night Football booth talking about FOOTBALL PLAYERS, and was once rumored to be the new head coach at Miami, had a scary experience on Thursday night. Jon Gruden was on a plane bound for Chicago because he had agreed to take part in the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Clinic with Illinois coach Ron Zook. Only Gruden never made it to Chicago, as his plane was hit by lightning when it was only twenty minutes out of Tampa.

"All of a sudden, the woman next to me asked, 'Did you hear something?' " Gruden told The Tampa Tribune. "I told her I definitely heard a weird noise. You could sense something was up. Then the flight attendant came on the speaker and said we got hit by lightning."

The plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Orlando where fire trucks waited in case anything went wrong. You know, besides that whole being hit by lightning thing. Gruden then called Zook from the tarmac and explained to him that he wouldn't be making the clinic, which is probably not the first time Ron Zook was told by someone that they couldn't make an event with him because they'd been struck by lightning, only this time it was the truth. Illinois offensive coordinator Paul Petrino took Gruden's place, and Gruden promised that he'd speak at the clinic next year.

Gruden then decided to drive home from Orlando back to Tampa in a rental car, and I wouldn't be surprised if that's how he chooses to get to Champaign next season as well.
Posted on: February 18, 2011 3:48 pm
 

Friday Four Links (and a cloud of dust), Feb. 18

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Every Friday we catch up on four stories you might have missed during the week ... and add a few extra links to help take you into the weekend.


FOUR LINKS ...

1. This week saw several under-the-radar position coaching moves made. Arizona State filled their defensive line coaching position with Colorado State's Scott Brown; Wisconsin defensive assistant Greg Jackson has taken a position with the San Francisco 49ers; and TCU has hired former Frog graduate assistant Trey Haverty as their safeties coach.

2. The big story this week in the law enforcement crackdown on rogue agents was the arrest in Alabama of a Virginia-based agent who'd sent a runner to meet with the Tide's Tyrone Prothro five years ago. But that wasn't the only one: in Oregon, the state's attorney general was forced to drop a case against an agent who'd tampered with a Duck football player in 2008, thanks in part  to the player refusing to cooperate with investigators. The Oregon legislature is considering a bill that would broaden the definition of agents and allow law enforcement to pursue such cases against a wider net of perpetrators.

3. Remember Washington State running back Kevin McCall? Unless you're a Cougar diehard, probably not; he ran for fewer than 450 yards his entire career. But the Carson (Ca.) product is putting together quite the post-football career, having being nominated for a Grammy as a songwriter in the "Best Rap/Sung Collaboration" category.

4. New Minnesota coach Jerry Kill sat down for a Q&A this week with Big Ten blog Off-Tackle Empire. Among other topics (including the Twin Cities' "five tremendous hospitals" making Kill's list of what he'll sell to recruits), Kill reveals that he feels "the biggest play on offense is the punt." Clearly, this is a man who was born to coach in the Big Ten.

AND THE CLOUD ...

The athletic director who hired Ron Zook may not stay in the office past July 1 , putting Zook in a potentially awkward position ... Skip Holtz has oversigned at USF, but says he's been up front with some members of the incoming class about possible grayshirts ... The Orange County Register profiles new NCAA vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach, who our own Bryan Fischer caught up with in this space not too long ago ... Being the first-ever Arizona State Sun Devil mascot sounds like it's about the least interesting thing Phoenix's Dick Jacobs has done ... a new film will chronicle the 1934 incident in which Michigan's agreeing not to field their lone African-American player against visiting Georgia Tech nearly led Gerald Ford to quit the team ... A study of which of college football's winningest teams have earned the highest percentage of their wins against other winningest teams puts Auburn on top.

Posted on: February 18, 2011 12:11 pm
 

Comparing coaching raises at Boise St., Illinois

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

A quick comparison of two recent coaching raises, one at Illinois, the other at Boise State:



This is Ron Zook. His resume:
  • Record at current school: 28-45
  • Record previous three seasons: 15-22
  • Highlight of 2010 season: defeating 7-6 Baylor in bowl game; finishing season game over .500
  • Lowlight of 2010 season: back-to-back defeats to Michigan and Minnesota, one of whom would fire its coach at the end of the season and the other of whom had already fired their coach
  • Highly embarrassing photos available on the Internet: too many to count
Raise in annual salary the above resume is worth : $250,000



This is Chris Petersen. His resume:
  • Record at current school: 61-5
  • Record previous three seasons: 38-2
  • Highlight of 2010 season: defeating eventual ACC champion Virginia Tech in cross-country road game or defeating 10-2, 19th-ranked Utah in bowl game to cap 12-1 season
  • Lowlight of 2010 season: falling 34-31 in overtime on the road at Nevada team that would finish 13-1 and ranked No. 11 following pair of missed chip-shot field goals by previously reliable senior kicker
  • Highly embarrassing photos available on the Internet: none we can find
Raise in annual salary the above resume is worth : $35,000

BONUS data point on what above resume is not worth: Unanimous support from the Idaho Board of Education to receive said $35,000 bonus (emphasis added):
The state Board of Education on Thursday voted 5-2 to give Petersen a $50,000 bonus and a $35,000 bump in annual salary after the Broncos compiled a 12-1 record and ended the season in the Top 10 again.
Conclusion of comparison: By every account, Petersen's not looking to move on from Boise anytime soon. But if he ever does, you'll know why.
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.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com