University extends Zook’s contract following solid start

By David Just

Ron Zook’s fast start to the 2007 season hasn’t gone unnoticed.

The Board of Trustees extended Zook’s contract by three years on Wednesday, keeping the coach in place through the 2012 season.

“It makes you feel good when your bosses and the administration feel like everything’s going in the right direction,” Zook told the Associated Press.

The terms of the contract included a raise of $250,000, bumping his total salary to $1.3 million.

The deal also included a bowl game incentive that would increase his salary an additional $200,000 should Illinois make it to a bowl game.

The Illini are one victory away from being bowl eligible and possibly making their first bowl game since the 2002 Sugar Bowl.

“The reason for the extension of the contract was that Coach Zook has delivered on a promise that the University and the Board of Trustees had when he was hired three years ago – that he was going to represent the Urbana campus well and turn around the football program,” University spokesman Tom Hardy said in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon.

“There is no question that a great deal of progress has been made in putting excellence back into the football program, and there’s no doubt that it can be attributed to Zook,” he said.

The third-year coach will also receive $900,000 a year for appearances on radio and television.

Zook replaced Ron Turner as head coach in 2004 after being fired from Florida where he served as head coach.

The Illini only managed four total victories in Zook’s first two seasons, but the team has already surpassed that total this season after a hot 5-2 start.

Zook’s accomplishments at Illinois can be traced back to his signing of back-to-back top 30 recruiting classes that brought top recruits Arrelious Benn, Juice Williams and Martez Wilson to Champaign over offers from other Big Ten universities and national football powerhouses.

Staff writer Ryan Davis and the Associated Press contributed to this report.