The Coaching Search: Day 11

Sure most of the Illinois beat writers were in Little Rock to cover the No. 3 Fighting Illini Men's Basketball team, but that does not mean could not scour the Internet for more stories regarding the Illinois coaching search.<br><br>

Has a new team entered the mix for former Florida head coach Ron Zook? It looks like Ole Miss, who fired David Cutliffe after the Rebels finished 4-7, their worst season in ten years, may be interested in Zook as well.

I searched for news stories on the Internet revolving around Tim Brewster as well, but I was unable to find anything outside of a December 1 report from Marty Schottenheimer that Illinois had yet to contact him about speaking to Tim for the position. As reported in yesterday's update, WGN TV's Dan Roan stated Brewster would interview for the position this weekend.

Now, onto the news reports surrounding Ron Zook, Illinois, and Ole Miss.
  • Ron Zook was contacted today by
    Ron Zook is expected to be offered the head coaching position at Illinois, according to reports and could be introduced as early as today. But he said Saturday night that the offer has not been finalized yet.

    "That's all speculation," Zook said. "I don't know what's going to happen."

    Mississippi is also in the picture to hire Zook and still hoped to meet with him.

    Zook was fired Oct. 25 but coached the rest of the season for UF. It's doubtful he will coach the team in a bowl game but said Saturday he remained uncertain what his final decision will be.
  • According to, Ole Miss has approached Zook, but prefers Louisville's Bobby Petrino.
    Ole Miss also has approached Zook, but the Rebels are believed to prefer Louisville's Bobby Petrino. Zook is still expected to interview with Mississippi on Monday.
  • The Jackson Clarion-Ledger is reporting that Ole Miss might be interested in both Ron Zook and former Notre Dame coach Ty Willingham.
    University of Mississippi athletic director Pete Boone spent Thursday officially opening his search for the Rebels' next football coach while also trying to heal the emotional wounds of a fractured team.

    Two candidates Boone is believed to have targeted are former University of Florida coach Ron Zook and former Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham. The Rebels are looking for a replacement for David Cutcliffe, who was fired Wednesday after six seasons at Ole Miss.

    ... Zook, 50, has a 23-14 record in three years at Florida, but was fired midway through the season after the Gators lost at Mississippi State. Zook is still coaching the team but is uncertain if he'll coach in the Peach Bowl Dec. 31. Ole Miss won two games against Florida teams coached by Zook.

    Zook is reportedly a leading candidate for the Illinois job.
  • The St. Petersburg Times is reporting that Zook was contacted on Thursday about the Ole Miss head coaching position.
    Two days after he interviewed for the vacant Illinois job, Florida coach Ron Zook was contacted Thursday by Mississippi.
  •'s Pat Forde is reporting that Ole Miss has zeroed in on three candidates for their head coaching position, Ron Zook, Bobby Petrino, and Rick Neuheisel with Petrino as the leading candidate. has learned that Mississippi has identified three top candidates for its coaching vacancy, with Louisville's Bobby Petrino believed to be leading the list.

    The other two candidates are former Washington and Colorado coach Rick Neuheisel and outgoing Florida coach Ron Zook. Other candidates, such as Memphis' Tommy West, could emerge.

    Ole Miss is believed to have initiated contact with all three, perhaps through intermediaries. Petrino's 9-1 Cardinals have another regular-season game to play, Saturday at Tulane, and he was on Florida's radar until Urban Meyer agreed to become the new coach of the Gators. Petrino and Louisville were traveling to New Orleans Friday afternoon and could not be reached for comment.

    Zook, who was fired in late October by Florida, has interviewed for the vacant Illinois job. Neuheisel had successful but controversial tenures in Boulder and Seattle and was fired by Washington before the 2003 season.
  • The St. Louis Post Dispatch is also reporting that Ole Miss has its eyes on Ron Zook.
    Ron Zook, who's on his way out the door as coach at the University of Florida, appears to be the target of more suitors than just University of Illinois athletics director Ron Guenther.

    Reports in Florida on Thursday said the University of Mississippi was attempting to contact Zook about its vacancy. The Rebels fired coach David Cutcliffe on Wednesday, after he posted a 44-29 record in six seasons.

One of the topics of discussion amongst Illinois fans when it comes to Ron Zook has been what assistants from Florida he would bring with him. The St. Petersburg Times reports Florida Offensive Coordinator has been fielding calls from other teams.
Several other staff members have been fielding calls, including offensive coordinator Larry Fedora, who was contacted by Clemson about its vacant offensive coordinator's job.
I don't know what this means in respects to whether or not Fedora will be following Zook if he does end up at Illinois, but it does show that the Florida Offensive Coordinator is highly thought of amongst other high major football programs.
From the Orlando Sentinel on Ron Zook and Florida possibly keeping some of their staff under the new Urban Meyer regime.
Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong and offensive coordinator Larry Fedora are among those who could be considered as possible candidates for the new staff.

However, attention now shifts back to Florida lame-duck coach Ron Zook. Zook is expected to be announced as Illinois' next head coach Monday. Zook interviewed at Illinois last week, but state law prohibits the school from hiring a new coach until the opening has been posted for two weeks.

Monday marks the two-week point. Should he accept Illinois' position, he likely would not coach the Gators in the Peach Bowl against Miami on Dec. 31, instead having a current assistant serve as the interim coach.

The Tampa Tribune discussed whether or not Ron Zook may coach Florida in their Peach Bowl appearance against Miami on December 31, as well as where his assistant coaches might end up.
Meyer will meet a team set to face Miami in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 31. The Gators still do not know who will coach them, though. Multiple reports said outgoing Florida coach Ron Zook has accepted the Illinois job and will be named on Monday, in compliance with Illinois affirmative action laws that require state jobs to be posted for at least two weeks.

No decision has been made on who would coach the Gators in the interim.


Two Utah assistants who likely won't make the move are offensive coordinator Mike Sanford and defensive coordinator Kyle Whittingham. Sanford is a candidate for the head coaching job at UNLV and would like to be considered for the opening at Utah. Whittingham is a candidate at Brigham Young.

That could bode well for Florida's current coordinators. Offensive coordinator Larry Fedora is one of the nation's hottest prospects after his offense led the SEC in passing offense, total offense and scoring offense. Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Charlie Strong worked with Meyer at Notre Dame from 1996-98.

Florida State may be looking at Fedora to be their offensive coordinator according to South Carolina's The State.
On offense, Bowden has been courting Florida offensive coordinator Larry Fedora to replace O'Cain. Fedora is considering several high-profile opportunities and may coach Florida in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 31 if Ron Zook is hired before then.

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