Beckman’s Job Status Putting Illinois Back In A Bind

My Tuesday, Nov. 12, column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) In 2009, the University of Illinois football program was in a bind.

Just two seasons earlier, the 9-4 Fighting Illini had played in the Rose Bowl and the team’s prospects were soaring. However, appearing in the Grandaddy of Them All had failed to spawn success.

Instead, Ron Zook’s Rose Bowl follow-up went a disappointing 5-7 during the 2008 season. And then in 2009, his Illini slipped even further, finishing with a 3-9 record.

Those struggles made Zook’s Rose Bowl berth look far more like an exception for the coach than a rule considering how by the end of ’09 he had just a 21-39 overall record in five seasons that included a miserable 12-28 mark in the Big Ten.

Looking at those numbers, the smart move for Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther would have been to fire Zook. However, Guenther instead decided to try to patch things together by hiring a pair of high-priced assistants to buttress Zook in offensive coordinator Paul Petrino and defensive coordinator Vic Koenning.

The plan worked. Sort of.

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