Which Illini Coordinator Gets Ron Zook’s (Interim) Job?



In 2009, a very underachieving Illini football team finished 3-9. Picked as high as third by some Big Ten and college football pundits, the horrible record was nothing short of a catastrophe for the resume of Ron Zook and the Illinois program.

Or so I thought.

Logic dictated then Illinois Athletic Director Ron Guenther can Zook then and there. Unfortunately, Guenther had FOOLISHLY given Zook a big, expensive contract extension before that season, and buying him out would have been just about financially impossible.

So what did Guenther/Illinois do? They doubled down on a losing hand. Sort of.

They brought in two flashy, expensive coordinators to take as much responsibility off of Zook’s plate as possible. Vic Koenning for the defense, Paul Petrino for the offense.

So which one gets the gig now?


The first answer is/was Paul Petrino.

He comes from the name brand coaching/family tree, and was considered the initial hot coaching commodity of the two. In 2010, he guided the offense to a school record for points and points per game. He did with a redshirt freshman signal caller in Nathan Scheelhaase, and helped produce the greatest season by a running back in Illinois history (Mikel Leshoure).

Through the first six games of the season he kept the ball rolling. Then the wheels came off versus Ohio State on October 15th. The offense went missing, hasn’t been seen since and is presumed killed in action. The offense failed to score a point in the first half of four straight games. Scheelhaase regressed horribly; now putting up yards per attempt stats that look like they belong in a Tim Tebow box score.

And as I write this, they are down 27-0 to Minnesota, the worst team in the Big Ten. And they achieved one whole first down versus the lowly Gophers in the first half.


Clearly, the offense has truly quit on Petrino and Zook.

So it has to be Vic Koenning! Believe it or not, the defense has actually gotten better (at least statistically, entering today’s game) during the 5 6 game losing streak. They had to be; because the offense has done nothing to help them. And Koenning helped bring Martez Wilson, Corey Liuget and Whitney Mercilus from mediocre to NFL draft picks. All were one-year-wonders under Coach Vic. And in the case of the last two, he did with two guys who weren’t blue chip talent.

And the final reason the head coaching gig for the New Mexico Bowl, Pizza Bowl, Fight Hunger Bowl or whatever bowl wants to take a team that enters on a 6 game losing streak, including a failure to even show up versus a 2-9 team in their most recent contest should be Koenning’s is…

These stats right here:

Senior tailback Jason Ford averages 3.9 yards per carry. Troy Pollard 7.7 and Donovonn Young 5.4. And guess how the carries have been distributed? That’s right! In reverse order, Ford has 144, Young 75, and Pollard 56. I’ve said since he was a FRESHMAN that Jason Ford is NOT a Big Ten starting tailback, and this year has unfortunately proven me right.

Petrino espouses a FTS (Feed the Studs) philosophy. too bad he doesn’t follow it.

There is a Zook media teleconference scheduled for 3pm ct tomorrow. So he will have the Illini gig for at least another day. But if he isn’t dismissed soon, then this happens in Champaign-Urbana:

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports.

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; he’s also a member of the FWAA, USBWA and SPJ. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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