Illinois AD Guenther on Zook’s job status: There won’t be a change at the top

A 1-6 start from an Illinois football team that only two seasons ago played in the Rose Bowl has led to questions regarding head coach Ron Zook’s job.

But when Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther addressed the media at halftime of Saturday’s 24-14 loss to Purdue, he said his head coach’s job was safe.

He wouldn’t say the same about the assistants.

“Let’s put one thing to rest,” Guenther said. “There’s going to be some changes, but there won’t be a change at the top. There’s a great deal of frustration, obviously, with the program at the moment and that’s all I have to say.”

Midway through his fifth year on the job, Zook is 19-36 at Illinois and 10-27 in the Big Ten.

“We’re still going to evaluate (at the end of the year), but I don’t think it’s fair to start jumping at the end of a fifth year on the guy,” Guenther said. “That’s what I wanted to put aside.”

But the vote of confidence didn’t seem to matter to the former Florida coach.

“I’m not worried about me, I’m worried about this football team,” Zook said.

“Ron Guenther … I’ve said since the day I’ve come on this campus, is the best thing about this job. On the same token, I understand he has a job to do as well. I appreciate it, and we’re going to get this thing the way it’s supposed to be.”

Redshirt freshman quarterback Jacob Charest said that knowing the Illini coach would be around for another year would keep younger players motivated with the incentive of seeing the field in 2010.

Keeping young players focused has been a key for the Illini after senior Michael Hoomanawanui said last week that some of his younger teammates “don’t invest as much” as the older ones.

“It definitely gives those guys something to play for,” said Charest, who said he is using this season as an audition for the starting job in 2010.

“Coach, he’s doing a great job here. We’re having a little down season, but the guys want to step up and start playing harder so the coaches are looking at them for next year, and the coaches will have a good view of that guy playing.”

Arrelious Benn, who is expected by NFL draft pundits to leave school after this season, said he wasn’t worried about his coach’s job.

“That wasn’t our concern, that wasn’t any of our concern,” he said. “We’re worried about the team, this is in-house. That issue is out of house.”