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Shepkowski: Bowl Bid Shouldn’t Save Zook

Ron Zook

Ron Zook (Photo Credit: Getty Images, By: Donald Miralle)

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By Nick Shepkiwski–

Two weeks ago there was talk of Illinois winning as many as nine games and playing in a Post New Years’ bowl game.  Loses to Michigan and Minnesota in consecutive weeks have instead dampened those dreams and now the best the Illini can hope for is a 7-5 finish.

The last two weeks have shown that time is up for Ron Zook at Illinois as its obvious that he’s never going to turn the football program around.  Under Zook the Illini have shown they won’t become a consistent bowl-team like many of their biggest Big Ten rivals.  Regardless if Illinois finishes the season 5-7 or 7-5 there is no reason to bring back Ron Zook in 2011.

Zook’s biggest supporters are always quick to point out that he took the Illini to their first Rose Bowl in 24 years back in 2007.  Since January 1, 2008 things have not gone Zook or the Illini’s way.

Including the 49-17 drubbing at the hands of USC in that Rose Bowl, the Zook led Illini have won only 13 of their last 35 games (37.1%).  Even worse, Illinois has gone only 8-15 (34.7%) in Big Ten play during that stretch.

Sadly, since Zook took over in 2005 the Illini have gone to the same number of bowl games as Big Ten cellar dweller Indiana, one.

Things only get more troubling for Zook and Illinois when you compare their recent accomplishments to those of the Pat Fitzgerald led Northwestern Wildcats.

Not only has Zook dropped 4 of 5 career games against Northwestern but even if Fitzy’s Cats lose their two remaining regular season games they’ll still be headed to their third straight bowl appearance.  At Zook’s current pace the Illini would reach their third bowl game under his direction in 2013 (assuming they still reach one this year).

Why should a bowl appearance save Ron Zook’s job at Illinois?  If a 26-44 overall record doesn’t say enough about the incapability of a head college football coach than nothing likely will.  Nearly six years of the Ron Zook Era is plenty for Univeristy of Illinois Athletic Director Ron Guenther to realize the Illinois football program is closer to being Indiana than they are Ohio State, Penn State, or Iowa.

It’s time Guenther does the right thing and tells Zook to take a hike.