In a move that surprised absolutely no one, new Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas fired Ron Zook today. This move came after the Illini football team became the first team to start 6-0 and lose its next 6 games. While it is likely that the Fighting Illini will go bowling, they are now probably going to be in a fairly unattractive locale: Detroit? Yankee Stadium?
The press conference that Mike Thomas held revealed some clues as to the criteria for the new Illini football coach.
1. Thomas leans towards current head coaches.
2. The new coach must fulfill a variety of roles in his new position: Public relations, community interaction, academics, and compliance are all important pieces of this puzzle.
3. Coach must have a history of success both on the field and in recruiting.
4. Regional ties could be a consideration.
Another interesting statement is that Thomas may lean on his previous coaching searches for leads. Thomas had hired two football coaches in his time at Cincinnati: Butch Jones and Brian Kelly. Kelly was extremely successful at Cincinnati-leading them to a pair of Big East titles and a couple of beatings of Illinois. Butch Jones has been more of a mixed bag. He has a .521 record thus far with the Bearcats, though he is 8-3 this year and has Cincinnati headed for a bowl of some sort. Interestingly, both of these coaches came from Central Michigan. The current Central Michigan coach is Dan Enos, proud owner of a 6-18 record. He probably won’t be a candidate.
A little bit of digging revealed this about the last football coaching search Mike Thomas was involved in:
“Sources told ESPN’s Joe Schad that Central Michigan’s Butch Jones, East Carolina’s Skip Holtz, Houston’s Kevin Sumlin and Temple’s Al Golden are among the coaches who are either interested in replacing Kelly or have piqued the interest of Cincinnati officials.”
That’s a pretty nice list.