Fans excited with Zook

Online Poster

By Lisa Koulias

Gregory Wilson sat in the Illini Union computer lab, watching every second of the press conference in which Ron Zook was named the new head coach of Illinois football.

While rumors surrounded the hiring of Zook all week, fans were relieved to hear the decision made official on Tuesday.

“I had no idea that we would be able to get someone like Zook,” Wilson, senior in LAS, said. “He is a big-name coach and an outstanding recruiter. It will get the town excited and the home-crowd attendance up from what it was.

“I think this is the biggest hiring move in the last 15 years or so for Illinois.”

The hiring of Zook brings the hope that Illinois football can rebound from the dismal seasons of the past. The Illini were 3-8 this season and 1-11 last season.

“I think it’s going to be exciting,” said Block I President Chris Kerback. “It’s a new beginning with a new system on offense and defense. It will be exciting to see what coaches can do with the players we have and with new players they can bring in. Hopefully, we can get back on track with a winning season.”

Although Kerback is graduating in May, he plans to buy season tickets to come to next year’s games.

Chris Yenchek, freshman in LAS, watched the press conference in the basement of the Union.

“I was a little worried that maybe another program with more history and tradition would grab him, like Notre Dame,” Yenchek said. “But it seemed like we had him from the start and that it was a great fit.

“I’m real excited about it. It’s a great move for Illinois. I have watched some of Florida’s games this year and you can see that he is very passionate and has a love for not only football but his players as well.”

One thing that fans especially like about Zook is his ability to recruit. In three years as Florida’s head coach, Zook signed 10 Parade All-Americans after Florida had inked 20 in the previous 12 years. He signed six in the 2003 class, just one shy of the school record set by the 1987 class. The 2003 class ranked among the top three nationally.

“He is also a good recruiter, so that should pay dividends,” Yenchek said. “Plus, high school players will give us a better look as far as attending here.”

Matt Parker, freshman in LAS, said he is excited about the new coach but thinks it will take more than just a year to turn around Illinois football.

“Maybe a few years down the road things will be different, but I don’t think there will be an immediate change,” Parker said. “But it’s definitely going to help. He is definitely a much better coach than (previous head coach Ron) Turner, so we will win a lot more games next year.”

Although fans aren’t expecting a complete change in the program, they think Zook will add a spark to the team and keep fans interested.

“Ron Zook is a big name in college football, so I think it will increase our fan base significantly,” Yenchek said.

“I think fans are going to be excited,” Kerback said. “People are going to want to come out and see what the team is doing. The first year might be a struggle to learn the system, but once the players get used to it, he will help build the program back into a positive note.”