Turner came to Illinois in December of 1996 as the 21st football coach in school history and completes his tenure with a 35-57 mark. He is one of only six Illinois head coaches to lead the school to a Big Ten title and his 2001 squad gave the Illini its first-ever BCS bid. During his time, he was named 2001 Big Ten Coach of the Year and was a finalist for every national award. His squads set school offensive records for scoring (1999, 2001) and total offense (2001, 2002).
Statement from Athletics Director Ron Guenther
First, I want to thank Ron Turner for the job he has done over the last eight years as football coach. He is one of only six coaches in the history of Illinois football to win a Big Ten title and consequently raised the level of expectation for the program. Ron ran the program with high integrity, supported our academic mission, and held his coaches and staff to the highest of standards. However, with all that said, the past two seasons of sub-par records have led me to the decision to make a coaching change. Despite the improvement this year, I felt we had reached a point of no return, specifically as it relates to recruiting. I have met with Ron throughout the year and we both know the realities of the business we are in. The decision for change was one of the hardest things I have had to do because of the respect I have for Ron, the assistant coaches and their families.
The players of course are at their respective homes for the Thanksgiving holiday and I apologize to them that many will hear the news for the first time through the media. They are foremost in my mind and I have empathy for what they are going through. I plan to meet with the team next week and discuss the situation. Coach Harry Hiestand and Coach Tommy Thigpen will be retained.
The search process will be initiated later today and I expect a three to four week search. Obviously, the time will depend on the availability of the candidate.
Statement from Ron Turner
I want to thank Ron Guenther and Michael Aiken for the opportunity they gave me eight years ago to lead this program.
I'm proud of the many accomplishments we achieved both on and off the field. I'm disappointed that we were not able to sustain the success we had from 1999-2002 where we had a 28-18 record, 2 bowl appearances (and a few plays away from four straight bowl games), the school's first outright Big Ten Championship since 1983 and third since 1951, a final season ranking of 12 (7 after regular season), a school's first ever BCS bowl, the Sugar Bowl, numerous team and individual records on offense (rushing and passing), defense and special teams.
I can leave this University knowing that I ran a program with integrity and did things the right way. My coaching staff and I always handled ourselves in a way that would make Illinois proud. We stuck with what we believed was right which was my goal when I took this job eight years ago. With that said, I realize it is a bottom line business and the last couple of years we simply did not win enough games.
First I want to thank my coaches. They did an outstanding job and are great men who have represented this University in a first class manner. They are all very good coaches who did a fantastic job of keeping the players going and motivated throughout some difficult times. Week after week they had them ready to play scheme-wise, mentally and emotionally. Hopefully many of them will be able to stay on at Illinois with my successor. Whatever happens I am confident and hopeful that they will not have any trouble finding good coaching jobs as any program would be lucky to have them.
Thanks to the players for giving me, and this program, everything they had and continuing to work, fight, stick together and believe when nobody else did.
I also want to thank the support staff for their hard work - medical, equipment, sports information, video, secretarial, marketing, academic. I want to thank the administration, the faculty, our great fans, the C-U community for their support, especially the Quarterback Club for their unwavering support.
I am proud and honored to have been the head coach at this great University. My family and I cherish the times. I don't know what the future brings, but things will work out and we will be okay and the University of Illinois will always be a part of me and my family and I hope that we will always be a part of University of Illinois football and will be welcome back in the future and be a part of the tradition.
I am very confident that I left this program in much better shape than when I took over. There are a lot of outstanding young talented football players that I am disappointed that I will not be able to coach, but I know the turnaround will not take long and there will be great success in the near future.
Finally, I want to thank my wife Wendy for giving me unbelievable support and love during these last couple of very tough years. I also want to thank my kids for continuing to believe and for handling everything so well. I love you. God bless and thank you.
Story courtesy of the University of Illinois SID