College football: Illinois fires Ron Zook, Kansas ousts Turner Gill

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Nov. 27 2011 7:15 p.m. MST

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A historic late-season collapse ended Ron Zook's tenure at Illinois after seven seasons. Turner Gill got only two seasons at Kansas before he was let go.

Zook and Gill were among four coaches ousted on what turned out to be college football's Black Sunday.

Memphis fired Larry Porter after two seasons and UAB coach Neil Callaway was pushed into resignation after five seasons with the Blazers.

In addition, Arizona State was working on Dennis Erickson's departure as Sun Devils coach.

Zook, the former Florida coach, was done in by a season-ending six-game losing streak after a 6-0 start by Illinois.

According to STATS, LLC, the Illini are the first FBS team to open the regular-season with six straight wins, and close it with six losses in a row.

Zook took the Illini to their first Rose Bowl since the 1980s and last season led the team to its first bowl win in more than a decade. The strong start this season had fans thinking they could contend in the Big Ten, and the Illini could still go to a bowl game. The program has had back-to-back bowl appearances since 1991 and '92.

But Zook also had five losing seasons in Illinois — finishing with a 34-51 record — and leaves the Illini in a year in which their only Big Ten wins were against Northwestern and Indiana.

Athletic Director Mike Thomas said Zook left Illinois football better than he found it. But Illinois, Thomas said, needs a new leader who can build a team more suited to competing in the Big Ten.

"To me, really, you have to have success within your own conference," Thomas told reporters. "The last seven years we won roughly 32 percent of our Big Ten games," adding that Illinois had a winning record against only Indiana over that period.

Gill arrived at Kansas after taking a perennially downtrodden program at Buffalo to unimaginable heights. But he was fired one day after the Jayhawks lost 24-10 to rival Missouri and finished the season 2-10.

"After a thorough evaluation of our football program, I have concluded that new leadership is necessary to place us on the path toward competing for championships in the Big 12 Conference," Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger said in a statement. "I come to this conclusion reluctantly, because I have the utmost respect for Turner Gill as a quality individual who wants only the best for the young men he coaches."

Gill was hired by Zenger's predecessor, Lew Perkins, and given a five-year, $10 million contract that was befitting of a high-profile coach.

Porter went 3-21 in two seasons leading his alma mater.

The expectations for the 2011 season were to see marked improvement in the team," Memphis Athletic Director R.C. Johnson said in a statement. "Now that the season has been completed, I do not feel that we have seen enough improvement for the future to justify keeping this football staff in place for another year."

UAB went 3-9 this season and Callaway finished his time there 18-42.

Also, on Saturday, Akron fired coach Rob Ianello after two seasons with the school.

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