5 worst Illinois football coaching hires in program history

Throughout the history of the Illinois football program, we have hit some land mines when it comes to coaching hires.
Iowa v Illinois
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2. James Valek - 1967-70

  • 8-32 overall
  • 20% win (Worst all-time)
  • 4-6 best season
  • 0 bowl appearances

The 1970s was one of the worst decades in the history of the Illinois football program. I touched on Bob Blackman in the first slide and his terrible run. He was replaced with Gary Moeller who couldn’t get the Illinois program off the ground to end the 1970s.

But the coach who preceded both Blackman and Moeller was James Valek. When it comes to winning, or lack thereof, Valek says, “Hold my beer.”

As mentioned in an earlier slide the University of Illinois dealt with a brutal slush fund scandal in the 1960s. This scandal, which is nothing in today’s game, consisted of the football and basketball programs having a pool of money to use on prospective and active players. When the records were released, Illinois fired Pete Elliott, and in stepped Valek.

1967 was Valek’s first season, and Illinois managed to go 4-6 overall. Sadly, this would end up being his best year as the head coach in Champaign, as the Illini continued to deteriorate. The following two seasons would see Illinois go a combined 1-19.

In the four seasons Valek was the head coach at Illinois, the program had a record of 8-32 overall, which is a 20.0%-win rate. That is the worst winning percentage in the history of the Illinois football team.

It was a tough ask of Valek to level the ship, but you can’t ignore the horrible record and the lack of progress with the program. Winning eight games in four seasons is pretty bad.