CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois is turning to Ron Zook to reinvigorate its struggling football program.
The school scheduled an afternoon news conference to introduce the former Florida coach, said Kent Brown, the university's sports information director.
Zook and athletic director Ron Guenther talked last Tuesday, but
Illinois could not name a new coach until a two-week waiting period
to meet equal employment opportunity guidelines passed. The
deadline was 5 p.m. Monday.
Zook will replace Ron Turner, who was fired Nov. 22 after the team went 3-8.
Florida fired Zook on Oct. 25 after an embarrassing loss at Mississippi State. Zook coached the Gators for the rest of the season, finishing 7-4, including 3-1 after he was fired, and getting an invitation to the Peach Bowl.
Zook will not coach the Gators in that game. Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley told The Gainesville Sun this morning that he called Zook to tell him he has coached his last game for the Gators.
Foley said defensive coordinator Charlie Strong will be named
interim coach for the Dec. 31 Peach Bowl against Miami.
Zook's firing at Florida came after two-plus years with the
Gators, satisfying a growing groundswell for his ouster that began
the day he replaced Steve Spurrier, who left for the NFL.
Zook was 23-14 with Florida and had some impressive victories,
including two over Georgia, one over eventual national champion LSU
last season and an upset of Florida State on Nov. 20. It was the
Gators' first win in Tallahassee since 1986. That may have been
Zook's final game with Florida. He has not said whether he will
coach the Gators in a bowl game.
Turner was fired after Illinois had just one Big Ten victory in
two seasons. Just three years ago, Turner led the Illini to their
first conference title in a decade.
Illinois won only once in 2003 and lost 14 Big Ten games in a
row before defeating Indiana 26-22 on Nov. 6. Two of the Illini's
four wins in the past two seasons have been against Division I-AA
opponents, Illinois State and Florida A&M.
Zook, who played football at Miami of Ohio, was an NFL assistant
for six years before taking over for Spurrier. He was the New
Orleans Saints defensive coordinator for two seasons; defensive
backs coach for the Kansas City Chiefs in 1999; and special teams
coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1996-98.
Before that, he was an assistant at Florida from 1991-95, and
also worked as an assistant at Ohio State, Virginia Tech,
Tennessee, Kansas, Cincinnati and Murray State.