Guenther: Pieces in place for Illini football

The Illinois football program has had more downs than ups during Ron Guenther's 19-year tenure as athletic director.

There have been Big Ten titles in 2001 and 2007 but only six bowl appearances and several particularly rough stretches (1996-98, 2003-06).

But Guenther likes the direction the program is headed as he heads toward retirement July 1.

"Everything's in place here for football to have success," Guenther said Monday on a conference call with reporters. "We're coming off of a bowl-game win, we had an excellent spring. .... [Assistant] Dan Disch left to become a coordinator and we replaced him with an outstanding coach [Mike Gillhamer]. I feel very, very good about where we are in football. It still comes down to winning some games, but from the schedule to the facilities to the salaries and the budget, they have everything they need there to have success."

Guenther is right. The Memorial Stadium renovation was a big piece, and Illinois finally has a schedule set up for success this fall with eight home games.

The next step: Illinois needs to string together winning seasons and bowl trips. The Illini haven't made consecutive postseason appearances since a five-year run from 1988-92.

"I don't know if any one [Big Ten team] is going to dominate," Guenther said, "but I would hope to think we're going to be very competitive."

Guenther said that the decision to retire was a gut feeling and that while he'll serve as a resource in the school's search for a successor, he won't be taking the lead in providing names of potential candidates.