CHAMPAIGN — Jon Davis was still absorbing the news that Mike Turk had been fired as Illinois’ director of track and field and cross-country about an hour after it broke Wednesday afternoon.

The former Oakwood and Illini standout admitted he was “frankly surprised” by the decision and was “still taking it in.”

Davis also acknowledged he might feel differently had his own Illinois career not ended last month with first-team All-America honors in the 1,500-meter run at the NCAA championship.

“It would be a little different if I was coming back,” Davis said. “Coach Turk was one of the main reasons I came here. We hit it off pretty well going into senior year of high school. I had a great working relationship all six years I’ve been here.

“I’ve definitely watched him mentor a lot of really good guys and gals that have come here and seen him as the spearhead of the track program. Definitely totally instrumental in how I’ve developed as an athlete.”

Turk’s dismissal was announced by Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman on Wednesday, citing a downturn in the program since the men’s track and field team won a Big Ten outdoor championship in 2015. A national search will begin immediately to find Turk’s replacement.

“I want to thank Coach Turk for his longtime service to the University of Illinois,” Whitman said in an official release. “Regrettably, following our Big Ten championship in 2015, competitive success in our men’s and women’s programs has been fleeting. With the programs now combined under a single coaching structure and with the recent opening of Demirjian Park, the time is right to usher in a new era for our proud running and field event programs. We wish Coach Turk all the best in his future endeavors.”

Turk joined the Illinois track staff in 2006 as an assistant coach for jumps and throws before serving as interim men’s coach in 2010 and 2011. He received the permanent job in 2012, took over both the men’s and women’s track teams in 2017 and was promoted to director of track and field and cross-country in 2020.

Turk’s teams were successful early in his tenure leading the men’s program. The conference championship in 2015 was buoyed by four runner-up finishes, including one indoors in 2015.

Since then, however, the men’s team has finished 10th or lower in eight of 13 Big Ten championship events and finished better than eighth just once. The Illini women’s team had only two finishes higher than 11th place out of 13 championship events.

This past season, the Illinois men’s team placed 10th indoors in February and 12th outdoors in May. The women’s team placed 10th and ninth, respectively, in the indoor and outdoor Big Ten championships.

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

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