Ron Zook

College coach infobox


Name = Ron Zook
| Caption =
DateOfBirth = Birth date and age|1954|4|28|mf=y
Birthplace = flagicon|Ohio Loudonville, OH
DateOfDeath =
Sport = Football
College = Illinois
Title = Head Coach
CurrentRecord = 16-26
OverallRecord = 39-40
Awards =
Championships =
CFbDWID = 2616
Player = Y
Years = 1973-75
Team = Miami (Ohio)
Position = DB
Coach = Y
CoachYears = 2002-04
2005-Present
CoachTeams = Florida
Illinois
FootballHOF =

Ron Zook (born April 28, 1954 in Loudonville, Ohio) is an American football coach and the current head coach at the University of Illinois.

Early career

Ron Zook played college football as a defensive back for Miami University, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1976. Zook immediately began coaching football, beginning at Orrville High School in Orrville, Ohio in 1976. In 1978, Zook moved to coaching college football, beginning at Murray State University. Through the 1980s, Zook held coaching positions at a number of schools, including Cincinnati, Kansas, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, and Ohio State University.

Beginning in 1991, Zook served as defensive coordinator for three seasons at the University of Florida under head coach Steve Spurrier. After the 1993 season, Spurrier reassigned Zook to be the special teams coordinator, a move considered by many to be a demotion. Nonetheless, in 1995, Spurrier added the title of associate head coach to Zook's position.

In 1996, Spurrier promoted Zook back to defensive coordinator following the departure of Bobby Pruett, but Zook left Florida to coach in the NFL. Zook served three seasons as special teams coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and was the defensive backs coach for the Kansas City Chiefs in 1999. In the 2000 and 2001 seasons, Zook was the defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints.

Head coaching career

University of Florida

In 2002, Spurrier resigned his position with Florida to become the head coach of the Washington Redskins of the NFL, and Florida hired Zook as his replacement. Spurrier had coached twelve seasons at Florida, and had taken the school to unprecedented success on the football field, including 6 SEC titles and a National Championship. Expectations at Florida were high, and Zook's hiring was not considered a popular one by followers of Florida football--Florida fans wanted the success of Spurrier, without the time required for building. In fact, one fan started a website, [http://www.fireronzook.com "fireronzook.com"] , within a day of Zook's hiring, and the web site gained national media attention. Many fraternity houses even hung banners from week to week either praising Zook or calling for Zook's firing. He was well known for his quirky expressions ("If you sleep five hours really fast it feels like eight"), hard, honest work, and the various sayings which evolved from his name ("Zook 'em" or "The Zooker").

Zook was the head coach at Florida for three seasons. In those three seasons, the Gators compiled records of 8-5 (2002), 8-5 (2003) and 7-4 (2004). While achieving some significant success, Zook's record fell well short of the expectations at Florida. In his three years, the Gators lost more games in their home stadium (Ben Hill Griffin Stadium) than in the 12 seasons under Spurrier. Many of his losses were fourth quarter comebacks, causing many fans to question the prevent defense which was employed, which helped result in Zook being unable to beat a ranked opponent at home during his tenure at UF. Zook ultimately took the blame for the record, and was fired before the end of the 2004 season after a loss to the Mississippi State Bulldogs, who had a 1-5 record prior to the game, including a loss to Division I-AA Maine. The game was lost on a 37 yard touchdown run by Jerious Norwood in the final minute of the game. Zook finished the regular season, but declined to coach the Gators in their bowl game, having already accepted the Illinois position. After the 2004 season, Zook was replaced as Florida's head coach by Urban Meyer.

Though not highly regarded by a vocal minority of Gator fans, Zook did have some achievements over his 3 seasons at Florida. He is the only coach to have beaten 13-win teams in back-to-back seasons (Georgia in 2002 and LSU in 2003). He beat three top 11 teams in succession, all on the road (LSU, Arkansas and Georgia) in 2003. He bested the Florida State Seminoles in Tallahassee on their newly-christened "Bobby Bowden Field" in his final game as head coach, something Steve Spurrier could never do. This has led Gator fans to refer to Bobby Bowden Field as Ron Zook Field. Also, he had winning records against many SEC foes such as Georgia (2-1) and Auburn (1-0). In addition, Zook would be responsible for the prevention of two undefeated seasons, with victories over the 2002 SEC Champion Georgia (which finished 13-1, but lost to Florida, 20-13) and the 2003 SEC and National Champions LSU (who finished 13-1, but lost to Florida 19-7 in Baton Rouge). Zook was also a tireless recruiter, who brought a great deal of talent to Florida during his tenure as head coach. Following the Gators victory over Ohio State in the 2006 BCS Championship game, Urban Meyer gave credit to Zook for recruiting the large class of seniors who played the game. Twenty two of twenty four starters were Zook's recruits, including National Title Game MVP, Chris Leak.

University of Illinois

In 2005, the University of Illinois hired Zook to replace Ron Turner as the head coach of the Illinois Fighting Illini football team. Zook inherited a program which had become a disaster since winning the Big Ten championship in 2001, finishing 1-11 in 2003 and 3-8 in 2004, including Big Ten records of 0-8 and 1-7, respectively. In Zook's inaugural season of 2005, Illinois finished with an overall record of 2-9, and a record of 0-8 in Big Ten games.

Despite his team's past struggles, Zook has improved the ability of Illinois to recruit top football talent. According to one source, the 2006 recruiting class was one of the 30 best in college football [http://scout.scout.com/a.z?s=73&p=9&c=14&yr=2006] . Despite this, they finished the 2006 season 1-7 in the conference and 2-10 overall. While the record did not improve, the play on the field did as the Illini nearly upset top ranked Ohio State in Champaign before losing 17-10. Additionally, the Illini played well against Iowa, Wisconsin, and Penn State (they lost 63-10 the year before; Penn State led 56-3 at halftime) but ended up losing close games (they were down 15-12 at Penn State until Penn State broke open the close game to make it 26-12).

The 2006 recruiting class included Isiah "Juice" Williams of Chicago Vocational High School, considered to be one of the top quarterback recruits in the country. [ [http://illinois.rivals.com/viewprospect.asp?Sport=1&pr_key=37568 Isiah Williams - Football Recruiting ] ] In late 2006, Zook signed Arrelious Benn, one of the top wide receiver prospects in the 2007 class. [ [http://illinois.rivals.com/viewprospect.asp?Sport=1&pr_key=37277 Arrelious Benn Profile - Football Recruiting ] ] [ [http://scout.scout.com/a.z?s=73&p=9&c=4&yr=2006&pid=10 Scout.com: Football Recruiting ] ] More recently, Zook has also won over Simeon High School standout Martez Wilson [ [http://blogs.suntimes.com/preps/2006/12/tez_to_illinois.html High School Confidential ] ] [ [http://illinois.rivals.com/viewprospect.asp?Sport=1&pr_key=50005 Martez Wilson Profile - Football Recruiting ] ] along with Florida prospect D'Angelo McCray. [ [http://scout.scout.com/a.z?s=169&p=8&c=1&nid=2402997 Scout.com: D'Angelo McCray Profile ] ] This class is one of Illinois' best in recent memory, being rated within the top 25 nationally by some experts. [http://illinois.rivals.com/teamrank.asp]

Zook's recruiting success finally began to pay dividends during the 2007 season. After losing a close game on neutral turf to a Missouri squad which would go on to be ranked as high as #1, the Illini ran off five straight wins, including back-to-back home wins over Penn State and Wisconsin. Illinois' 5-1 start gave them a #18 ranking in the AP poll. This was Illinois' first ranking in the AP poll since the end of the 2001 season. However, the ranking would prove to be short lived after consecutive losses to Iowa and Michigan. A homecoming win over Ball State gave the Illini bowl eligibility and a blowout win at Minnesota all but assured Zook's first bowl appearance as coach of the Illini. On November 10th, the then-unranked Illini defeated #1-ranked Ohio State in Columbus, ending the Buckeyes' 28 game home winning streak. The Illini finished the 2007 regular season by defeating Northwestern to finish 9-3 overall, 6-2 in the Big 10. Because Big Ten champion Ohio State played in the BCS National Championship game, Illinois received a bid to play in the Rose Bowl as the second ranked team in the Big Ten. Their improvement of 7 wins over the 2006 season was the largest such increase of any Division I team. His success earned him a contract extension in October 2007, which pays him approximately $1.5 million through the 2013 season. [ [http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/football/bigten/2007-10-17-illinois-zook_N.htm Illinois' strong start earns Ron Zook extension, raise - USATODAY.com ] ] Zook's success on recruiting trail has continued as well, with Illinois currently having the #17 recruiting class in 2008 according to rivals.com. [http://rivals100.rivals.com/teamrank.asp?SID=880]

On November 20, 2007, Ron Zook was selected as the Big Ten Coach of the Year. [http://chicagosports.chicagotribune.com/sports/college/football/cs-illinifoot20nov20,1,4722441.story?coll=cs-college-print] Zook also was awarded the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award following the 2007 season. [ [http://www.coachoftheyear.com/ Coach of the Year ] ]

Zook's enthusiasm on and off the field has spread to the long dormant Illinois football fanbase, evidenced by four sellouts in the 2007 season. Zook's Illini team runs a "Veer Option" offense. Additionally, on extra points, they employ a swinging gate play, in order to try to confuse the defense.

Head coaching record

CFB Yearly Record Subhead
name=Florida Gators
conf=Southeastern Conference
startyear=2002
endyear=2004
CFB Yearly Record Entry
championship =
year = 2002
name = Florida
overall = 8-5
conference = 6-2
confstanding = 2 - East
bowl = yes
bowlname = Outback Bowl
bowlopp = Michigan
bowloutcome = L
bowlscore = 30-38
bcsbowl =
ranking = 24
ranking2 = -
CFB Yearly Record Entry
championship = division
year = 2003
name = Florida
overall = 8-5
conference = 6-2
confstanding = 1 - East "(t)"
bowl = yes
bowlname = Outback Bowl
bowlopp = Iowa
bowloutcome = L
bowlscore = 17-37
bcsbowl =
ranking = 25
ranking2 = 24
CFB Yearly Record Entry
championship =
year = 2004
name = Florida
overall = 7-4 (*)
conference = 4-4
confstanding = 3 - East
bowl = yes
bowlname = (*)
bowlopp =
bowloutcome =
bowlscore =
bcsbowl =
ranking = 25
ranking2 = -
CFB Yearly Record Subtotal
name=Florida
overall=23-14
confrecord=16-8
CFB Yearly Record Subhead
name=Illinois Fighting Illini
conf=Big Ten Conference
startyear=2005
endyear=
CFB Yearly Record Entry
championship =
year = 2005
name = Illinois
overall = 2-9
conference = 0-8
confstanding = 11
bowl =
bowlname =
bowlopp =
bowloutcome =
bowlscore =
bcsbowl =
ranking = -
ranking2 = -
CFB Yearly Record Entry
championship =
year = 2006
name = Illinois
overall = 2-10
conference = 1-7
confstanding = 10
bowl =
bowlname =
bowlopp =
bowloutcome =
bowlscore =
bcsbowl =
ranking = -
ranking2 = -
CFB Yearly Record Entry
championship =
year = 2007
name = Illinois
overall = 9-4
conference = 6-2
confstanding = 2
bowl = Rose Bowl
bowlname = Rose Bowl
bowlopp = Southern California
bowloutcome = L
bowlscore =
bcsbowl =
ranking = 18
ranking2 = 20
CFB Yearly Record Entry
championship =
year = 2008
name = Illinois
overall = 3-3
conference = 1-2
confstanding =
bowl =
bowlname =
bowlopp =
bowloutcome =
bowlscore =
bcsbowl =
ranking =
ranking2 =
CFB Yearly Record Subtotal
name=Illinois
overall=16-26
confrecord=8-19
CFB Yearly Record End
overall = 39-40
bcs =
poll = two
polltype =
polltype2 =

(*) The 2004 Florida team finished 7-5 after losing the Peach Bowl to Miami. However, Ron Zook had already accepted the Illinois job and declined to coach the bowl game.

References

External links

* [http://fightingillini.collegesports.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/zook_ro.n00.html Ron Zook bio at fightingillini.com]


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