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Ron Zook's account of Illinois exit differs from AD's

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10:53 AM ET 07.13 | You can bet Ron Zook wishes he still were coaching. After three brutal seasons as the coach at Florida and seven up-and-down -- OK, mostly down -- seasons as the coach at Illinois, Zook is unsure when or where he'll step back onto the football path. "Sometimes it's good to sit back and evaluate everything," he said. "I'm probably going to have to go back and reinvent myself." It won't undo the six-game slide that still eats at him. More than a year and a half after the Illini's improbable 6-0 start gave way to an impossible 0-6 flame-out, Zook, who was 34-51 overall at Illinois, has his explanations for what went wrong during his final season and in previous ones. Frankly, Zook's detractors might accuse him of reinventing the truth about his own performance. As the Illini -- soaring in the polls -- prepared to face a reeling Ohio State team in their seventh game of the 2011 season, things just didn't "feel right," according to Zook. Attendance at Memorial Stadium remained spotty. Zook's job status remained shaky. "You just didn't have that confident feeling," Zook said. On the other hand, Zook blames overconfidence for the failures that gripped the program soon after the 2007 Rose Bowl season. The Illini were a combined 8-16 in the next two seasons. "I really believe that going to the Rose Bowl in our third year probably [slowed] our progress a little bit," he said. "I don't think we were close to being where we needed to go. You have that success, and then everybody thinks that you're there -- not only the players but the community and the supporters. As much as you tell them you're not there, they don't hear it. That's why staying on top is harder than getting to the top." Athletic director Mike Thomas, who was in Champaign for all of three months before firing Zook, isn't buying it. "It's about chipping away [until] you can sustain success," Thomas said.

Chicago Sun Times

Ron Zook, Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images Ron Zook, Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
July 13, 2013  11:00 AM ET

Oh lord do we have to sit through the same old Ron Zook/Florida jokes?

Get creative folks ... we need better material!

July 13, 2013  11:03 AM ET

Even Urban Meyer couldn't save Illinois!

July 13, 2013  11:39 AM ET

Zook is right about some of that to a degree, but he was horrible at game management. Bottom line is that he is/was a great recruiter and good coordinator, but never could handle being a head coach.

July 13, 2013  11:45 AM ET

In the final analysis, football coaching from middle school up is a brutal business. Win and you get to keep your job (unless you screw up in some other area). Lose and you're on the hot seat. Simple fact. Darwinian principles apply.

July 13, 2013  11:57 AM ET
QUOTE(#4):

In the final analysis, football coaching from middle school up is a brutal business. Win and you get to keep your job (unless you screw up in some other area). Lose and you're on the hot seat. Simple fact. Darwinian principles apply.

...and even if you win in JH and HS, it isn't good enough unless you play the right kids, i.e. board members kids, other administrator's kids, influential citizen's kids, etc, etc.

Heard a HS baseball coach say this after some rather contentious conversations with some of his players parents: "Every parent wants me to play the 8 best players and their kid."

July 13, 2013  12:30 PM ET
QUOTE(#5):

"Every parent wants me to play the 8 best players and their kid."

LOL...so true.

When my daughter was playing softball, the "privileged kids" finally graduated and the coach could play basically who he wanted and they won State Championship....

Comment #7 has been removed
July 13, 2013  02:23 PM ET
QUOTE(#3):

Bottom line is that he is/was a great recruiter and good coordinator, but never could handle being a head coach.

It's like Mr. Eastwood said, " A man has got to know his limitations."

July 13, 2013  05:18 PM ET
QUOTE(#8):

It's like Mr. Eastwood said, " A man has got to know his limitations."

Dave Mustain copied this phrase in Sweating Bullets. Warner Bros. should sue ...

Comment #10 has been removed
Comment #11 has been removed
July 13, 2013  09:31 PM ET
QUOTE(#5):

...and even if you win in JH and HS, it isn't good enough unless you play the right kids, i.e. board members kids, other administrator's kids, influential citizen's kids, etc, etc.Heard a HS baseball coach say this after some rather contentious conversations with some of his players parents: "Every parent wants me to play the 8 best players and their kid."

Truer words never spoken, DC.

July 14, 2013  09:33 AM ET
QUOTE(#10):

Ron Zook is one of those guys who never should be ahead coach in football. Charlie Weis is another. Zook cannot speak and with that sqeeky high piched whine of his invokes laughter. Ron Zook makes Tiny Tim sound good.

And just think, they had Zook's whine and Bruce Weber's voice at Illinois at the same time.

July 14, 2013  09:35 AM ET
QUOTE(#2):

Even Urban Meyer couldn't save Illinois!

Sure could. There are plenty of criminals out there.

Comment #15 has been removed
July 14, 2013  12:24 PM ET

Zookl is a decent recruiter and a really bad coach. Should never have been a head coach.

 
Comment #17 has been removed

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