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Ron Zook Not Getting Job Done at Illinois

What sort of impact has Ron Zook really had on the Fighting Illini?


We don't believe Ron Zook is Irish, but we do believe he was born with the luck of an Irishman. Ron Zook is currently making over $1.5 million per year as the Head Coach of the Illinois Fighting Illini. Since he became a head coach in 2002, Ron Zook has made more than $10 million coaching college football.

He has been the head coach at the University of Florida (one of CBTN's Top 10 Rated Jobs) and the University of Illinois. These are two very attractive head coaching jobs in very attractive conferences. So, given that he has been a head coach since 2002 at two higher profile jobs, his numbers have to look pretty good don't they?

Let's find out. Below are Coach Zook's CBTN numbers from 2002-Present (rank is among active head coaches with minimum of three years experience)

Coach Yrs. Coached CBTN Rating CBTN Stars CBTN Rank (Out of 90 Head Coaches) Avg. Recruiting Rank
Ron Zook 10 48.04 42 27.10 (out of 120 teams)

Now, let's look at his Good Hire/Bad Hire Numbers at both Florida and Illinois:

Coach School WP% in Five Years Prior to Zook WP% Under Zook Differential
Ron Zook Florida 79.03% 60.52% -18.51%
Ron Zook Illinois 41.38% 41.98% 0.60%

So, at Florida  Coach Zook had a negative impact of 18.51% on the Gators' winning percentage and after almost seven years at Illinois he has had a positive impact of 0.60% on the Fighting Illini's winning percentage. Now, let's move to our Overachiever/Underachiever Index. This allows us to see if Coach Zook has underachieved or overachieved given the talent he has been able to bring on board (CBTN Head Coaching Rank below indicates where Coach Zook ranked in relation to other head coaches with a minimum of two years experience during the tenure at the school listed).

Coach School CBTN Avg. Recruiting Rank CBTN Head Coaching Rank Differential
Ron Zook Florida 10.67 #25 -14.33
Ron Zook Illinois 34.14 #61 -26.86

To say coach Zook has done less with more would be a bit of an understatement. We can't tell you the number of times we have seen people defend Coach Zook based on the fact that he is such a "great recruiter". Well, let's take a look at the numbers and see just how a great a recruiter Coach Zook really is:

Coach School Avg. Recruiting Class
Ron Zook Florida 10.67
Urban Meyer Florida 8.00
Ron Zook Illinois 34.14
Ron Turner Illinois 40.67

So, at Florida Urban Meyer proved that Ron Zook was not only underachieving in the win/loss column, but that he was also underachieving on the recruiting side as well. At Illinois, Zook has had a 16% positive impact on recruiting compared to Ron Turner's tenure. If you aren't too familiar with Ron Turner, don't worry because you are not alone. During his eight years as head coach at Illinois, Coach Turner lost 11 games twice and at least six games in six of his eight seasons as head coach.

This is all to say that Ron Zook didn't take over a program that was known for its top recruiting. We don't know about you, but Zook's record as a recruiter doesn't quite fall under the "great" category. Finally, let's look at Ron Zook's Talent Wins/Losses Ranking:

Coach School WP% w/Superior Talent WP% w/Equivalent Talent WP% w/Inferior Talent
Ron Zook Illinois 47.62% (20-22) 20.00% (3-12) 27.78% (5-13)

So, with equivalent and superior talent at Illinois, Ron Zook has only won 40% of the time. Just when you thought Ron Zook had turned the corner in 2011 with Illinois' first 6-0 start since the Eisenhower administration, he loses back-to-back games to a mediocre Ohio St. team and a very sub-par Purdue team. Additionally, Zook still has to play Penn State, Michigan, and Wisconsin this year.

From the standpoint of the numbers, it appears that Ron Zook has earned in excess of $10 million to make programs worse or keep them at their sub-par level. Just some numbers for everyone to think about.

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