Did the Illinois Win over Baylor in the Texas Bowl Save Coach Ron Zook?

Bob WarjaSenior Writer IDecember 30, 2010

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 02: Head coach Ron Zook of the Illinois Fighting Illini gives instructions to his team against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium on October 2, 2010 in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio State defeated Illinois 24-13. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Illinois defeated Baylor 38-14 in the Texas Bowl on Wednesday, the first win for Illinois in a bowl game since 1999.

But is that enough to save Illinois coach' Ron Zook's job?

Yes, it probably is and here's why: Illinois still owes Zook money and he has been a good recruiter. 

University trustees approved an extension that pays the Illinois coach through January 2014 at a salary of just over $1.5 million a year.

Look, there are plenty of things for Ron Guenther to consider. Among them are the following:

  • Zook's overall record at Illinois is 28-45 
  • His Illinois' teams are just 16-32 in the Big Ten
  • Zook has taken Illinois to two bowl games. In 2007, Illinois reached the Rose Bowl and lost to USC.
  • Zook has give the Illini its first bowl victory since 1999 with the win in the Texas Bowl
  • Illinois lost 38-34 to Minnesota in Champaign on Nov. 13. The Gophers had lost their previous nine games. Illinois closed out the regular season losing three of its last four games before winning Wednesday
  • Zook was forced to clean house after last season’s 3-9 mark, and new assistants Paul Petrino and Vic Koenning have done a nice job.

In short, it is difficult to build a solid case for Zook to remain as coach of Illinois. For example, how much of his early season success this year was due to him and how much was the result of the coaching changes?

Meanwhile, regardless of the record on the field, Zook has continued to bring in top recruits.

Zook has done a good job of securing the state’s best players and still is attracting players from Florida and elsewhere. He already has 25 commitments for the Class of 2011.

So, we know Zook is a good salesman. Perhaps that is why they call him "Zook the Crook"? But is that enough to salvage his job despite the overall record?

Another consideration is whether all of Zook's players would stay if he was canned.

There are those who think that this season was just the start of a run for Illinois, and that returning starters and underclassmen who got a lot of playing time, such as their starting quarterback, their star running back and a whole lot more on both sides of the ball, will stay if Zook is fired.

The school's administrators will have a tough time making this decision. For now, they will enjoy the victory.