The Coaching Search: Days 2 & 3

There has been two days 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. IlliniBoard.com 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>Second and Third Day of the Coaching Search</i></b>.

GOOD RECRUITING NEWS
The St. Louis Post Dispatch is reporting through a report from the Champaign News-Gazette that top Illinois recruit, RB Rashard Mendenhall is still committed to Illinois.
"It's sad to see (Turner) go, but I'm still going there," Mendenhall told the Champaign News-Gazette. "I like the whole atmosphere at the U of I. I feel comfortable down there, and my brother (freshman Walter Mendenhall) is down there


RUMORS
  • The Chicago Tribune reported that Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach has moved to the top of Ron Guenther's list.
    Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther has plans to interview Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach, sources said Tuesday.

    Guenther, who fired coach Ron Turner on Monday, hopes to have a new coach in place within four weeks and not surprisingly has turned to Leach, 43, who resurrected Texas Tech with his high-octane passing offense.

    Efforts to reach Leach for comment were unsuccessful and Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers said through a spokesman he had not been contacted by anyone regarding Leach.

    Illinois sports information director Kent Brown said Guenther "has chosen not to be available to comment."

    Sources say Leach is atop Guenther's list of potential candidates for the job.
    In a report that was in the following day, the Tribune also reported that Mike Leach has not been contact by Illinois.
    In other developments, Texas Tech coach Mike Leach said he has not been contacted by Illinois officials regarding the opening.

    "My only focus is getting this team ready to face Oklahoma State," Leach said.
  • The Champaign-Urbana News Gazette is reporting that if Tim Brewster is selected to be the next Illinois head coach, he may bring in Jeff Christiansen, father of highly ranked quarterback recruit (committed to Iowa) Jake Christiansen.
  • RedRaiders.com is reporting that Mike Leach has not been contacted by the University of Illinois despite the reports from the Chicago Tribune.
    The agent for Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach on Wednesday denied a published report that Illinois is preparing to interview Leach for its vacant head-coaching job.

    "There's nothing to it," Gary O'Hagan, Leach's agent, said from Minneapolis. "There's no meeting set up, no interview set up, nothing."

    In April, Leach signed a five-year contract worth nearly $6 million. That's no deterrent to Leach's name being bandied about for other coaching jobs, just like in the past.
NEWS ARTICLES
In Jay Mariotti's latest article, he discusses the Illini coaching search in his own way.
If Guenther insists on hiring a proven head coach in the big-time ranks, he may have to coach the team himself. More realistically, he should focus on Oklahoma offensive coordinator Chuck Long, who not only is part of the respected Bob Stoops tree but is a Wheaton native who knows the Big Ten well from his days as a standout Iowa quarterback. Before Turner was fired, Long said Illinois was a quality job and seemed very interested. Among alumni and boosters, a favorite is Tim Brewster, captain of the '84 Rose Bowl team and assistant head coach of the NFL's San Diego Chargers. Both would bring fresh air to a town that could use it in more ways than one, knowing the odor that occasionally drifts past the stadium from the pastures.

Gary Barnett? Illinois doesn't need someone else's scandal droppings. Bob Davie? As a sideline coach, he's a terrific TV analyst. Mike Price? He has done a wonderful job of reviving Texas-El Paso (but see Barnett). Frank Solich? He was in Nebraska too long and wouldn't excite anyone as a retread. Mike Heimerdinger of the Tennessee Titans, Sean Payton of the Dallas Cowboys? Hey, Illinois just had an NFL offensive coordinator the last eight seasons.

"There's obviously a short list,'' said Guenther, glasses hanging on nose.

He'd better carry a pencil with a heavy-duty eraser.

Herb Gould, Illinois beat reporter from the Chicago Sun Times, writes his second article detailing who could be possible candidates for the Illinois head coaching job. This article focuses on two up and coming names, Oklahoma's Chuck Long and the San Diego Charger's Tim Brewster.
A source said Brewster, an All-Big Ten tight on Illinois' 1983 Rose Bowl team, and Guenther had more than a passing conversation in Champaign last fall, when the Chargers were forced by the California wildfire crisis to practice there before meeting the Bears at Soldier Field on Nov. 2. If nothing else, it was an opportunity for Guenther, who values personal relationships, to become acquainted with a potential candidate.

Partly because Chargers assistants are kept under tight wraps by coach Marty Schottenheimer, attempts to reach Brewster were unsuccessful. But potential candidates are going to choose their words carefully. That was the case with Oklahoma assistant Chuck Long, the Wheaton native who was one of the best quarterbacks the Big Ten has ever produced when he played at Iowa.

''I haven't been contacted by them,'' Long said. ''Right now, my focus is on the Big 12 championship. I've enjoyed it here so much, I'm not in a big hurry [to become a head coach].''

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops gave a ringing endorsement to Long, saying, ''Whenever the situation is right, he is definitely ready.''
Other names mentioned in this article include the Cleveland Brown's head coach Butch Davis and Penn State Defensive Coordinator Tom Bradley.
The Daily Herald printed an article that Illinois should look towards Oklahoma's Chuck Long in their coaching search.
There are several Next Big Things out there. But if Guenther truly wants someone who can lift Illinois' recruiting as well - and he only uttered the word "recruiting" about 50 times Monday - he will look at guys who have recruited in today's climate.

And if he wants somebody who won't need to be told how to get around Illinois, he will make a big run at Chuck Long.

The Wheaton native pulled lots of Illinois players across the border to Iowa during his five-year stint with his alma mater.

He hasn't lured quite as many Illinoisans to Oklahoma since moving there five years ago, but he did get prep All-American offensive tackle Akim Millington from Wheaton North.

Moreover, with 49 Texans on the Sooners' roster, it's safe to say Long has made some Lone Star connections that would benefit his next school.

And for those Illinois fans who believe Long to be some sort of traitor for not attending his state's flagship university, keep this in mind: Illinois did not attempt to recruit Long when he was a Wheaton North senior in 1980-81.

Mike White had Dave Wilson running the team in 1980, Tony Eason serving his redshirt year with two years of eligibility and Jack Trudeau lined up as his Class of 1981 quarterback recruit.

The Decatur Herald & Review gives a list of candidates that could be interested in the Illinois job. That list was: Sean Payton, Mike Price, Urban Meyer, Brad Childress, Tim Brewster, Gregg Brandon, Leslie Frazier, Chuck Long, Jaqck Bicknell, Jr., Dan Hawkins, Paul Johnson, Walt Harris, and Tom O'Brien.
In a Chicago Tribune article, Mack Brown gives a ringing endorsement to his former assistant coach and former Illinois tight end Tim Brewster.
"He always has been a leader and always has had a fondness for the University of Illinois," Brown said. "He has had a lot of different experiences at every level of coaching and he's in a perfect spot in his career to become a head coach."

Brewster declined to comment on the Illinois opening through a Chargers' spokesman.

Brown praised Brewster's recruiting skills, an attribute of great importance to athletic director Ron Guenther, who cited Turner's recruiting troubles as a reason for his dismissal Monday.

Although Brewster was named the Chargers' assistant head coach in January, he never has been a coordinator at the college or professional levels, which Guenther might find troubling. Brown's only head-coaching experience came at Central Catholic High School in Lafayette, Ind., from 1987 to 1988. His first job was as a graduate assistant at Purdue in 1986.
This report also states that Texas Tech Head Coach Mike Leach has not been contacted by Illinois about their opening.
San Diego Chargers' Head Coach Mart Schottenheimer has stated that he has not heard from any one from Illinois about their desire to contact Tim Brewster about the head coaching vacancy at Illinois.
Coach Marty Schottenheimer told the San Diego Union Tribune he had yet to hear from the University of Illinois regarding its possible interest in assistant Tim Brewster to fill its vacant head coaching job.

Tight end Antonio Gates said he would be disappointed for himself but happy for Brewster if Brewster were to leave.

"Of course I wouldn't want him to leave," said Gates, "but thinking that way would be selfish on my part. I wouldn't be upset if Tim left because if that's the best situation for him, that's his life. If he leaves, I would learn to appreciate him more."

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