Illinois Ends Zook Era after Seven Season

Posted on November 27, 2011. Filed under: Football | Tags: , , , , , |

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — University of Illinois coach Ron Zook has been fired after seven seasons, athletic director Mike Thomas announced Sunday.

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“I assessed the entire program and felt that it was time for a change in leadership,” Thomas said 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.”

Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning takes over as interim coach.

Illinois opened this season 6-0, then finished with six straight losses, including a 27-7 defeat at Minnesota on Saturday.

Zook is 34-51 at Illinois. He took the 2007 team to the Rose Bowl and lost to USC. Last season’s squad beat Baylor in the Texas Bowl.

Thomas said the search for a new coach would begin immediately.

“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.”

The Illini could still go to a bowl game. It would be their first back-to-back bowl appearances since 1991 and ’92.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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