Friday, December 11, 2009
Illinois facing big decisions soon
By ESPN.com staff
This could be a pivotal day for Illinois football.
Rumors are swirling around the program about possible assistant coach dismissals and player transfers. Boosters are very unhappy with the state of the program, and it's hard to blame them. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that tight end Hubie Graham and wide receiver A.J. Jenkins both will transfer, and other players could follow.
Head coach Ron Zook still appears safe to return in 2010, but his status is far from stable.
Illinois will hold staff meeting Friday morning, and don't be surprised if the axe falls on an assistant or two.
Athletics director Ron Guenther hasn't publicly addressed Zook's status since Oct. 24, when he said there would be changes but not at the top. Guenther's own future also is a mystery, as he could be headed toward retirement. If Zook stays but Guenther steps down at the end of the school year, the issues with the football program would fall in the next AD's lap.
There's a lot of silence around the program right now, which could spell trouble for this staff.
This much is certain: boosters aren't pleased with what they're seeing.
"There are guys like me," a booster who said he donates $30,000 per year to the university told GateHouse News Service's John Supinie. "I'm just the tip of the iceberg. What I'm hearing is half aren't going to renew on season tickets and half won't donate to the [scholarship] fund. The athletic department tells me, 'Don't give up the ship. Something is going to happen. Give us until next week.' I said something has to be done. If we ran our business the way they ran that football program, we'd be bankrupt. It's not going in a positive direction.
"You don't reward mediocrity in business. You don't reward mediocrity in coaching.''
After back-to-back losing seasons with some of the best talent in the Big Ten, Illinois will make changes. Whether they go all the way to the top remains to be seen.