Zook Timeline: Good, bad and ugly

A look at Ron Zook's seven-year run as Illinois coach:

Dec. 7, 2004

Ron Zook is named the 22nd Illinois football coach.

Feb. 2, 2005

First recruiting class numbers 20 players. The best of the group includes Rashard Mendenhall, Brit Miller, Will Davis and Doug Pilcher. Of the 20, 11 didn't complete their eligibility at Illinois.

Sept. 3, 2005

First game is a rousing success, Illinois rallying from a 20-point deficit to win in overtime. Afterward, Zook goes to the student section to celebrate.

Oct. 22, 2005

Penn State builds a 56-3 halftime lead and cruises to a 63-10 victory.

Jan. 7, 2006

Mike Mallory, who had been defensive coordinator for Ron Turner and Zook, is fired after one season. In early March, Zook hires former Northwestern assistant Vince Okruch as Mallory's replacement.

Feb. 1, 2006

Zook's second recruiting class numbers 27 and includes future standouts Juice Williams, Vontae Davis, Jon Asamoah and Antonio Steele. Just four of the 27 fail to complete their eligibility at Illinois.

Sept. 23, 2006

Zook benches starting quarterback Tim Brasic in place of freshman Juice Williams in a 24-7 loss to Iowa. Williams leads the Illini to a 23-20 win the next week at Michigan State, Zook's first Big Ten victory at Illinois.

Feb. 7. 2007

Zook's star-studded third class numbers 21 players and includes Arrelious Benn, Martez Wilson and Josh Brent. Nine of the 21 were off the team or never made it to Illinois by the start of the 2008 season.

March 2, 2007

Illinois receivers Derrick McPhearson and Jody Ellis are arrested and charged with residential burglary. Zook suspends both players.

July 12, 2007

After helping the defense improve in 2006, coordinator Vince Okruch takes a leave of absence for personal reasons. He never returns to the team and later takes a job at Akron. No explanation is ever given by Illinois for Okruch's departure.

Oct. 6, 2007

A week after beating Penn State for the third time in school history, Illinois knocks off No. 5 Wisconsin 31-26. Illinois moves into the national rankings for the first time since after the 2001 season.

Nov. 10, 2007

Illinois shocks No. 1 Ohio State 28-21 at Columbus, the school's first win against a top-ranked team in 51 years.

Dec. 8, 2007

As the Illinois players enter their Memorial Stadium lounge, they are handed roses, signifying their bowl destination. It's the first Illinois trip to Pasadena in 24 years.

Jan. 1, 2008

Rashard Mendenhall has a big day, running for 155 yards, but the Illini lose 49-17 to Southern Cal at the Rose Bowl.

Feb. 6, 2008

Twenty-nine players join the Illini, including future standouts Mikel Leshoure, Jeff Allen, Tavon Wilson and Graham Pocic.

Oct. 4, 2008

In his finest game as Illinois quarterback, Juice Williams sets a Michigan Stadium record for total offense in a 45-20 win against the Wolverines.

Nov. 8, 2008

The most head-scratching loss of the Zook era occurs in front of family and friends at Detroit's Ford Field. A late rally by Illinois fails in a 23-17 loss to Western Michigan. It's the first of three consecutive losses to close the regular season.

Nov. 22, 2008

A year after reaching the Rose Bowl, Illinois is eliminated from the postseason with a 27-10 loss at Northwestern.

Dec. 8, 2008

Mike Locksley leaves as Illinois offensive coordinator to take over as head coach at New Mexico. It's a disaster for Locksley and Illinois. He doesn't survive his third season in Albuquerque, and his replacement at Illinois, Mike Schultz, is gone after one.

Dec. 14, 2008

Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson is stabbed outside a Champaign bar while coming to the aid of a former teammate.

Feb. 4, 2009

Illinois adds 20 recruits, including late commitments Michael Buchanan and Justin Green. Key players Terry Hawthorne and Nathan Scheelhaase also are added.

Sept. 5, 2009

Martez Wilson is lost for the season after suffering a neck injury in a blowout loss to Missouri.

Sept. 26, 2009

Ohio State shuts out the Illini 30-0 in Columbus. It's the second shutout loss for Zook at Illinois, coming three years after a 33-0 loss at Rutgers.

Dec. 5, 2009

In the final game of a 3-9 season, Illinois loses to Fresno State 53-52 when a Bulldog offensive lineman catches a deflected two-point conversion pass in the final seconds.

Dec. 18, 2009

Four days after naming Paul Petrino offensive coordinator, Illinois hires Vic Koenning as defensive coordinator. The move is part of a transition in the staff that sees six new coaches hired. Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther had considered firing Zook but allowed him to make a major overhaul of the staff instead.

Feb. 3, 2010

Illinois adds 20 players to its recruiting class. The best of the bunch are linebacker Jonathan Brown, receiver Darius Millines and quarterback Chandler Whitmer. Less than a year later, Whitmer transfers to a junior college.

Sept. 4, 2010

In the final scheduled game between the schools, Illinois leads Missouri 13-3 at halftime in St. Louis. But the Tigers outscore the Illini 20-0 in the second half.

Nov. 6, 2010

In the highest-scoring game in Big Ten history, Michigan beats Illinois 67-65 in triple overtime. Mikel Leshoure scores five touchdowns for the Illini, who lose when a two-point conversion attempt fails in the third overtime. The disappointment of the loss carries over to the next week, when Illinois loses at home to Minnesota.

Nov. 20, 2010

Illinois beats Northwestern 48-27 at Wrigley Field. Going one direction because of safety concerns, Mikel Leshoure sets a school record with 330 rushing yards.

Dec. 29, 2010

Illinois romps against Baylor 38-14 in the Texas Bowl for the school's first bowl victory since 1999. Mikel Leshoure, the game MVP, scored three touchdowns.

Jan. 19, 2011

Junior defensive tackle Corey Liuget declares for the NFL draft. He is the third Illini to give up his final year of eligibility, joining Mikel Leshoure and Martez Wilson. Liuget is a first-round pick by the Chargers, Leshoure goes in the second round to the Lions and the Saints take Wilson in the third round.

Feb. 2, 2011

Illinois signs 27 players in Zook's seventh recruiting class. Top players in the class include quarterback Reilly O'Toole, tight end Jon Davis and tailback Donovonn Young.

July 5, 2011

Incoming freshman defensive tackle Chris Jones, a contender for early playing time, is arrested and charged with aggravated battery. Jones later pleaded guilty to Class 3 felony and was released from jail after a sentence of time served. He didn't join the Illinois football team but remained in C-U.

Sept. 17, 2011

Illinois beats No. 22 Arizona State at home for the first win against a ranked nonconference team in 10 seasons. The Illini move into the national rankings after the victory.

Oct. 15, 2011

With a chance to move way up in the national polls, undefeated Illinois loses 17-7 at home against Ohio State. Late in the game, with his team down 10, Zook decides to run an offensive play on fourth down deep in Buckeyes territory. The play fails, and Zook is criticized by fans while running off the field.

Nov. 26, 2011

The Illini lose their sixth consecutive game in ugly fashion, 27-7 to a bad Minnesota team. Zook's record in seven seasons at Illinois falls to 34-51. Unless it wins its bowl game, Illinois will finish with a non-winning record for the 32nd time since 1966.

Nov. 27, 2011

Zook fired.

Categories (3):Illini Sports, Football, Sports

Comments

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Dan Bloeme wrote on November 27, 2011 at 8:11 am
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Ron Zook's record of 34-51 represents the 11th worst winning percentage among the 13 Illinois coaches who coached for more than 1 season. His 18-37 Big Ten record is even worse yet. That confirms what most fans already knew. Zook has been one of the worst coaches ever at the University of Illinois. Mike Thomas' job is clear -> bring in a winner this time or Memorial Stadium will continue to have dwindling attendance and apathy from now former fans.

Moonpie wrote on November 27, 2011 at 8:11 am

Have to agree with Dan here. No amount of Sleepy Gazoo Cheerleading or blind lockstep from their surrogates can whitewash this thing. It's a rudderless ship drifting in circles and sinking fast. Zook must go. His players gave up on him.And I agree that this team does not deserve a bowl of any kind. Instead, put them on the practice field with Champaign Central and teach them how to play.

IlliniNationsCapital wrote on November 27, 2011 at 11:11 am

Citing Zook's overall record is kind of meaningless - Vince Lombardi or anyone else wouldn't have had a chance to succeed during Zook's first two seasons, when the Illini went 2-9 and 2-10.

Perhaps more useful is to cite that Zook has gone 30-32 since 2007. As Illinois football coach - since our program is not USC or Ohio St or Alabama - such a record is probably not a fireable offense. Plus, its been two decades since Illini football has been to back-to-back bowl games, albeit both seasons with 6-6 records, so it should seem strange that we're talking about firing the football coach after two straight bowl berths.

However, yesterday's game was a crushing blow. When your coaching career is clearly on the line, and you can't get your team ready to compete against a 2-9 Minnesota team, that's revealing that Zook has lost the team. Combine yesterday's performance with the appearance that we have reached the point of no return in recruiting, and we need to cut Zook loose. Zook is a good guy, but we waited too long to fire Ron Turner, and the program won 8 games over four seasons from 2003-2006.