Vic Koenning turns down Illinois' offer

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Defensive coordinator and interim head coach Vic Koenning has turned down an offer to stay at Illinois.

Koenning, a fan and player favorite after two seasons in which the defense was a strength for Illinois, declined an offer to remain coordinator for new head coach Tim Beckman.

"After a great deal of prayer and discussion with my family, I feel it is best to explore other opportunities," Koenning said Wednesday in a statement, not specifying where he's headed. "Coach Beckman could not have been better during the process."

He will leave after coaching the Illini in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against UCLA on Dec. 31.

Beckman, who was hired from Toledo last week to replace Ron Zook, praised Koenning's work during his time at Illinois.

"We wish Vic nothing but the best as he decides the next destination in his career," Beckman said. "He was given the opportunity to remain at Illinois as defensive coordinator, where he has done a fabulous job over the last two seasons."

Koenning said earlier this week as he considered Illinois' offer that he had other opportunities but said he'd never received more fan support than he had at Illinois.

Illinois (6-6) finished the regular season with six straight losses, a run that led to Zook's firing last month. The Illini offense all but shut down over that stretch, scoring 11 points a game.

But Koenning's high-pressure defense finished the season ranked seventh in the country overall, fourth against the pass and 21st in scoring defense.

Koenning, who came to Illinois from Kansas State, was also credited with helping develop defensive end Whitney Mercilus, a first-team AP All American who leads the country in sacks with 14½.

Koenning's announcement follows the exit last week of offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, who returned to the staff at Arkansas.

Beckman said Wednesday that defensive line coach Keith Gilmore will stay at Illinois.

There is no set timeline to find new staff members, Beckman said this week. Toledo offensive coordinator Tim Campbell passed up a chance to join Beckman at Illinois and was named the new Rockets head coach this week.