Illinois Football: With Zook Fired, Who's Up Next for the Illini?

Jeffrey BatheContributor IIINovember 27, 2011

CHAMPAIGN, IL - NOVEMBER 19: Head caoch Ron Zook of the Illinois Fighting Illini looks at a referee during a game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Memorial Stadium on November 19, 2011 in Champaign, Illinois. Wisconsin defeated Illinois 28-17. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Bob Asmussen of The New-Gazette is reporting that Ron Zook has been fired. An official announcement is expected later today.

Zook was considered to be on the hot seat entering this season. In fact, his performance was one of the five worst in the Big Ten since Penn State joined the league in 1993.

Since 1993, the Illini have struggled, with their last three coaches posting a winning percentage below .450. Winning may not be a part of the Illini football pedigree, but the head coaching job is a position that is desirable as it is in a premier conference with an athletic administration looking for a fresh start. 

Here's a look at some coaches that could step in and lead the program next year:


Chris Petersen

Petersen is the head coach at Boise State. Prior to that, he had served as offensive coordinator at Boise State for five seasons. Petersen has led the Broncos to six straight seasons with at least 10 wins and has had two undefeated seasons on his way to a 71-6 mark.

In 2010, the Idaho Board of Education approved a five-year deal worth approximately $1.6 million per year. With this being the case, he could be had for a salary that would be in line with some of the recent conference hires. 


Gary Patterson

Patterson is currently the head coach at Texas Christian University. Prior to assuming the reigns in 2000, he served as the defensive coordinator at TCU and New Mexico. He has led the Horned Frogs to seven straight winning seasons and to an undefeated season in 2010. 

According to USA Today, Patterson is making just over $2 million this season, so the Illini would have to move past the $1.75 million that Zook was paid this season.


Mike Leach

Leach is currently an announcer for CBS College Sports Network. Prior to this, he served as the head coach of Texas Tech University. He led the Red Raiders to a 84-43 record and 10 straight bowl games. 

Leach's name has been thrown about for several positions recently, including the University of Arizona and the potential opening at Washington State University. Despite the interest in this offensive-minded coach, there are concerns about past controversies, including an outburst regarding Big 12 officials and inappropriate approach to addressing the concussion suffered by Adam James.


Moving Forward

Over the upcoming weeks, Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas will have a lot to consider as he will be making his first significant hire since taking the job in August. The Illini faithful are hopeful for change, as .500 ball and below is just not enough. 

So who do you think should be the next head man at Illinois?