CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois offensive coordinator Paul Petrino is returning to Arkansas to coach with his brother, the first assistant to leave since Ron Zook was fired and probably not the last.
Interim head coach Vic Koenning said that "a few" other assistant coaches have landed or are close to getting new jobs, though they have indicated they plan to stay through the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl game between Illinois against UCLA on Dec. 31.
Koenning called Petrino a good friend and a great coach.
"He just happened to be the one that had the first opportunity (to leave)," Koenning said. "He's going to be the first guy, he won't be the last guy."
Petrino has held the Arkansas offensive coordinator job before, working for his brother and head coach Bobby Petrino, before coming to Illinois after the 2009 season. In his first season, he led an Illini offense that broke school records for total points (423) and points per game (32.54) behind running back Mikel Leshoure. A year earlier at Arkansas, the Razorbacks averaged 37 points per game behind quarterback Ryan Mallett.
The Illinois offense opened 2011 strong, too, scoring almost 35 a game in a 6-0 start. But that production has wilted to just 11 points a game during the team's current six-game losing streak. Zook was fired Nov. 27.
Koenning, the team's defensive coordinator, said this week that he couldn't guarantee that even he would be at Illinois for the bowl game. Quarterbacks coach Jeff Brohm was picked to coordinate the offense for the bowl game and said he at least plans to be at Illinois until then. He spent a year as offensive coordinator at Louisville and said he's comfortable moving into the role.
"I've been in the offense a long time and called plays before," he said. "I think it's just a matter of getting back in a rhythm and find a way to get the ball to our best guys."
Petrino and Koenning were hired to help Zook resurrect the team after 2009's three-win season, a collapse that led the school to fire most of Zook's then-staff. Illinois has not named a replacement for Zook or said when it will. A university-mandated period for posting the job and accepting applications was scheduled to end Tuesday evening.