Big Ten: Lou Tepper
- The Big Ten's playoff plan makes a lot of sense, David Haugh writes. It's not a perfect plan, but it's a good start.
- Pat Harty wonders whether Kirk Ferentz's second act at Iowa will be better than Hayden Fry's. Ferentz likes familiarity more than flashiness when hiring assistants, Mike Hlas writes. Running back Marcus Coker made the decision to leave Iowa.
- Urban Meyer reiterates that there's no gentlemen's agreement in the Big Ten. Ohio State recruiting target Stefon Diggs still hasn't made up his mind.
- Ross Els talks about his new duties as Nebraska's recruiting coordinator.
- Michigan's regents OK the Big House to be used for the NHL's Winter Classic. Michigan offensive line recruit Kyle Kalis boasts a bruising style of play.
- Running back recruit Akeel Lynch talks about signing with Penn State. The Joe Paterno memorial services cost Penn State $29,000. Jay Paterno thanks Penn Staters for their support.
- Check out how Russell Wilson learned Wisconsin's playbook so quickly last summer.
- Mountain West commish Craig Thompson is open to returning to Minnesota, his alma mater, as athletic director. If Minnesota signs off, its season opener at UNLV will kick off on Thursday night.
- Former Northwestern and Minnesota offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar lands at Northern Illinois.
- Indiana track recruit Cornelius Strickland hopes to play football for the Hoosiers as well.
- Illinois fans watching the end of Super Bowl XLVI might have been reminded of Lou Tepper's decision at Minnesota in 1996.
- Rivals.com names its top recruiters in the Big Ten.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
More than a few people have asked me if Illinois would fire Ron Zook if the team endures another losing season this fall.
You could make a valid argument for a dismissal. Zook would own only one winning season (2007) out of five in Champaign. Plus, he undoubtedly would have wasted a stable of talent.
Those are two major offenses in this day and age, and would pink-slip a lot of coaches.
But my response to the queries is always the same -- look beyond the wins and losses. It's never easy to do, especially in these times, but you have to consider a program's profile and its history before pink-slipping a coach.
Illinois football hasn't seen consistent success since the late 1980s and early 1990s, when John Mackovic's and Lou Tepper's teams posted winning records in five out of seven years (with a 6-6 mark thrown in there). The Illini followed an 8-4 mark in 1999 with a 5-6 clunker the next year. Illinois won the Big Ten title in 2001, but went 5-7 in 2002. The same thing happened from 2007 (9-4) to 2008 (5-7). So this is nothing new for the orange and blue.
What is different is the program's national and regional profile. Not only did the school complete a much needed renovation of Memorial Stadium, but the team continues to compete nationally for top recruits, thanks in large part to Zook. It might be a while before he brings in another class like the 2007 crop, headlined by Arrelious Benn and Martez Wilson, but Illinois always will be in the Big Ten's top half in recruiting as long as Zook remains head coach. Illinois has become a much more desirable destination for good prospects, especially those from the Chicago area.
Zook's recruiting ability is the main reason why he's expected to receive a one-year contract extension next week. The extension doesn't include a raise, which is notable, but it gives Zook another small advantage to use when he courts high school players.
Until Zook wins consistently, he'll be knocked for his coaching ability. Everyone knows what Urban Meyer has done with Zook's recruits at Florida. Illinois once again boasts one of the league's most talented teams this season, but a tough schedule and some questions on defense could derail things.
Zook maintained even before last season that the program hadn't arrived yet, and he turned out to be right. He's still in program-building mode, and he keeps adding a few sturdy bricks on the recruiting trail. Illinois will eventually lose patience with Zook if the results don't improve on the field, but as evidenced by the extension, the school isn't approaching that point yet.