Illini coaches rewarded for rebound season

Ron Zook and his coaching staff are being rewarded for getting Illinois back on course after two disappointing seasons.

Athletic director Ron Guenther told reporters Wednesday that all the football coaches will get raises, which still must be approved by the university's trustees.

Zook will receive a $250,000 raise, bringing his salary to $1.75 million. His contract hasn't changed and runs through the 2013 season.

Illinois' assistants all had a year added to their contracts, taking them through the 2012 season. Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, the Big Ten's highest-paid assistant, will receive a $50,000 raise, bringing his salary to $525,000. Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning receives a $17,000 raise, taking his salary to $342,000. Six other assistants received raises varying from $5,250 to $45,000 (running backs coach DeAndre Smith).

Some might wonder why Illinois is shelling out more money following a 7-6 season and a minor bowl victory, but keep in mind where this program was after the 2009 season. Illinois went 3-9 that season and Guenther's decision to retain Zook left many shaking their heads.

But Guenther not only stuck by his coach but provided him the resources to hire good assistants like Petrino and Koenning. The result was a season that stabilized a program that had followed an all-or-nothing pattern the past decade (two BCS bowl appearances, eight losing seasons).

Zook isn't totally off the hot seat and must keep the momentum going in 2011. Guenther's contract expires July 1 and he hasn't decided whether he'll remain AD beyond that point. Guenther hired Zook and has stuck by the coach through some tough times.

Whether Illinois continues to make strides remains to be seen, but Zook is certainly getting the support from the administration to boost the program's profile.