The Coaching Search: Day One

There has been a day of articles and message board postings on the Internet about the coaching search Ron Guenther is undertaking to replace Ron Turner as Illinois' Head Football Coach. scoured the web to find you the tiniest piece of information on the coaching change, then cleaned ourselves off and created this article about what we found in the <b><i>First Day of the Coaching Search</i></b>.

- From the St. Louis Post Dispatch: Illinois has already contacted Texas Tech Head Coach Mike Leach about the position.

- From
Incident to the previously predicted here firing of Illinois Coach Ron Turner, several sources have confirmed to us that Tom O'Brien of Boston College may be number one on Illinois AD Ron Guenther's new coach wish list -- since Guenther use to be the assistant AD at BC.

Several prominent Illinois boosters, however, are pushing for Tim Brewster, current tight ends coach for the San Diegio Chargers, who played for 1982 Illinois Big 10 championship team.

Stay tuned.

From the Peoria Journal Star ...
Ron Guenther discusses why he decided it was time to relieve Ron Turner of his duties as Illinois' Head Football Coach.
Eight years later, an emotional Guenther gave up on Turner because of an inability to win enough games and enough recruiting battles. Guenther fired Turner on Monday, citing Illinois' recent losing seasons and failures in recruiting.

"The past two seasons of subpar records led me to the decision to make a change," Guenther said. "Despite the improvement this year, I felt we reached a point of no return, especially as it relates to recruiting."
Then after that they also threw out a list of prospective candidates
Names getting the most mention as possible replacements are San Diego Chargers assistant coach Tim Brewster and Oklahoma assistant Chuck Long.

More from the Peoria Journal Star ...
The names mentioned in this listing of coaching candidates includes:
  • Tim Brewster
  • Jack Bicknell
  • Brad Childress
  • Chuck Long
  • Sean Payton
  • Gregg Brandon
  • Paul Johnson
  • Mike Price

From the Decatur Herald & Review ...
A national search for a new coach begins immediately and will take three to four weeks, Guenther said. Two assistant coaches - Harry Hiestand and Tommy Thigpen - are being retained.

"(Turner) is a heck of a coach. We'll be hard-pressed to find someone who's a better coach. But at the end of the day it comes down to recruiting and having players to recruit. That was the stopgap."

And where has recruiting gone wrong?

"I can't answer it," Guenther said. "I have dissected it every way. I think early commitments are a part of it. You are going to have to stay in there slugging it out with the others and get your share. I've spent the better part of three years dissecting that situation. I just know mistakes were made. And we got caught."

From Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune ...
What are Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther's criteria? Guenther said Monday that all of the candidates under consideration are currently coaching. So forget about John Mackovic, Part II.

Asked if he would shy away from hiring someone in the NFL, Guenther replied: "I'd go all the way to Mars."

Guenther was less forthcoming about what, if any, salary restraints he's under. Illinois still owes Turner $2.2 million for the final two years of his contract.

Asked how much he was willing to spend on a football coach, Guenther said: "I think I'm done." That was the end of his news conference.

Also in his article, Greenstein gives this list of coaches as possibilities:
  • Dan Hawkins
  • Mike Leach
  • Tom O'Brien
  • Paul Johnson
  • Gregg Brandon
  • Bobby Petrino
  • Terry Hoeppner
  • Randy Edsall
  • Mike Zimmer
  • Tim Brewster
  • Brad Childress
  • Sean Payton
  • Bret Bielema
  • Norm Chow
  • Chuck Long
  • Bo Pelini
  • Gary Barnett
  • Mike Price

From the Quad City Times ...
"You look for the right fit," said Guenther, a one-man search committee who prefers to conduct his searches behind a veil of secrecy before presenting his candidate to university officials.

He might look for something old ...

Guenther has a reputation for making solid hires with track records of success as head coaches.

Coaches who could be on his radar screen include UTEP's Mike Price, Pittsburgh's Walt Harris, Bowling Green's Gregg Brandon, Louisiana Tech's Jack Bicknell Jr. or even Iowa State's Dan McCarney.

Guenther might look for something new ...

While he hasn't shown a propensity to hire individuals without at least a taste of head-coaching experience at the Division I-A level, there are a few intriguing possibilities to consider.

Illinois natives Chuck Long and Bret Bielema both played collegiately at Iowa under Hayden Fry and are working as coordinators, while Jerry Kill has directed Southern Illinois to the top spot in the I-AA rankings this year.

Guenther might consider something borrowed ...

There are individuals out there with ties to the Illinois program who are worthy of consideration.

Tim Brewster, Brad Childress, Leslie Frazier and Sean Payton have either played for or coached at Illinois and are assistants with NFL teams.

From the Chicago Sun Times ...
"I'd go all the way to Mars if that's what it takes,'' Guenther said when asked if he would go the NFL assistant route again, as he did when he hired former Bears offensive coordinator Turner. "What people want to see is wins. You can throw it, you can run it, you can push it, but you have to win.''

With the secretive Guenther, it's always difficult to track where he's headed. But possible candidates include NFL assistants Tim Brewster (San Diego), Sean Payton (Dallas) and Brad Childress (Philadelphia) and college head coaches Jack Bicknell (Louisiana Tech), Walt Harris (Pittsburgh), Gregg Brandon (Bowling Green), Paul Johnson (Navy) and Jerry Kill (Southern Illinois). Oklahoma assistant Chuck Long also could be a contender.

Guenther might put out feelers to hot commodities such as Utah's Urban Meyer and Boise State's Dan Hawkins, but they are not expected to be interested. Guenther said he will be sensitive to affirmative-action requirements in a search that could take three to four weeks.

From the St. Louis Post Dispatch ...
Illinois athletics director Ron Guenther said he plans to have a new coach in "three to four weeks."

Oklahoma offensive coordinator Chuck Long and San Diego Chargers assistant head coach Tim Brewster, a former Illini tight end, are considered two of the top names to replace Turner.

Illini fans might first want to hear a "no thanks" from national coach of the year candidates Urban Meyer (Utah), Dan Hawkins (Boise State) and Mike Price (UTEP).

Other names on the college circuit are: Gregg Brandon (Bowling Green), Paul Johnson (Navy coach), Walt Harris (Pittsburgh) and Jack Bicknell (Louisiana Tech). Harris was an Illini assistant coach for Mike White from 1980-82.

A rumor was floating around Monday that Mike Leach (Texas Tech) already had been contacted by the Illini. Efforts to reach Leach on Monday were unsuccessful.

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