Friday, December 11, 2009
Four assistant coaches out at Illinois
By Adam Rittenberg ESPN.com
Head coach Ron Zook will return in 2010, but Illinois has dismissed four assistant coaches, including offensive coordinator Mike Schultz.
Illinois officially dismissed Schultz, quarterbacks coach Kurt Beathard, wide receivers coach Jim Pry and special teams coordinator Mike Woodford on Friday. Illinois also announced that co-defensive coordinators Dan Disch and Curt Mallory will continue with the team as position coaches, so the Illini will be replacing coordinators on both sides of the ball.
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"These are some major coaching staff changes," Zook said in a statement. "Obviously we are not happy with the way the past two seasons have gone, but we believe in this program and its ability to rebound with the necessary decisions.
"I can't thank these coaches and their families enough for how hard they worked, for the heart and soul they poured into Illinois football," Zook continued. "These are good, good people. These are the most difficult days in our business. I really wish all of them the very best in any future endeavors. I truly mean that."
Illinois went 3-9 this fall, its second consecutive losing season after reaching the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2008. Since Saturday's season finale, tight end Hubie Graham and wide receiver A.J. Jenkins have decided to transfer, and more player departures could be coming.
Schultz spent just one season at Illinois after 11 years at TCU. The Illini scored 17 points or fewer in their first six games against FBS teams, but the offense dramatically increased its production down the stretch, while the defense hemorrhaged points and yards.
Beathard has been on Zook's staff since 2007, spending two years as outside receivers coach before moving to coach the quarterbacks this fall. Pry has been at his point since 2006, while Woodford arrived in 2007.
Special teams were a major problem for Illinois this fall, as the Illini ranked at or near the bottom of the Big Ten in punt returns, kickoff returns, field-goal percentage and kickoff coverage.
Adam Rittenberg covers Big Ten football for ESPN.com.