CHAMPAIGN - The Bruce Weber era at Illinois is over.
Weber has been informed he will not return as the basketball coach, multiple sources told The News-Gazette. The coach was fired this morning after nine seasons at Illinois, according to sources.
There is expected to be a formal press conference at 11 a.m. today (streaming at WDWS 1400-AM, WHMS 97.5-FM). The decision comes less than 24 hours after Iowa knocked Illinois (17-15) out of the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis. Players were to be informed of the decision later this morning, according to sources.
The Weber era opened in a big way. In his first season – 2003-04 – he guided the Illini to their first outright Big Ten title in over 50 years and a Sweet 16 berth. In his second season he coached Illinois to another outright Big Ten title, school-record 37 wins and the NCAA title game.
His office at Ubben Basketball Complex is filled with national Coach of the Year awards from the 2004-05 season.
Momentum shifted after the 2005-06 season, however. In the era A.D. – after program legend Dee Brown – the Illini show a 50-56 Big Ten record. Since 2006, the Illini have won one game in the NCAA tournament and haven’t finished in the AP Top 25 poll.
Fanbase unrest reached a fever pitch as the Illini fell apart down the stretch this season. After opening with a 15-3 record, Illinois lost 11 of 13 to close the regular season. This is the third time in five seasons Illinois is not included in the NCAA tournament.
In May 2009, Weber received a contract extension that goes through the 2014-15 season. He will be owed $3.9 million as a buyout.
Weber is the third coach to be fired in the past four months. First-year athletic director Mike Thomas fired football coach Ron Zook in November and Jolette Law on March 2.
Weber said days before the Big Ten tournament he was aware these could be his final days as the coach at Illinois. Regardless, he held out hope for a late run in Indianapolis and positive end to the season. He continued to recruit for Illinois, taking in a game featuring Chicago Simeon star junior Jabari Parker as recently as Tuesday.
But the coaching change doesn't come as a surprise.
Story developing - more to come.