Off the Cuff: Ron Zook Departing the University of Illinois

My “Off The Cuff” today is on Coach Ron Zook, recently terminated Head Football Coach at the University of Illinois. I have known Coach Zook for over twenty years, as he and I were together on the clinic circuit back in the day.

Last week, I watched Coach Zook address the media on leaving the Fighting Illini football program. Always the consummate professional, Zook stood up to the microphone and addressed the media with the utmost class and dignity. He thanked his wife and family first. As with most coaches, these are usually the first people to suffer in this crazy profession.

He also thanked his coaching staff, and their families for their support and mostly for their loyalty. This is a rare quality in coaching these days. He thanked his former boss, Director of Athletics, Ron Guenther, and all the Illini fans. He even thanked the media, even though most of those same media people were often not objective in their evaluations, and regularly crucified him and his abilities in the press.

Having been in the business, I understand that the only goal is that of winning, but what most of the general public does not understand is that when Coach Zook and his family go, so does the nine assistant coaches and their families. They will now begin the search that, if they are lucky, will take them to another program, wives to another home, and unfortunately, children to another school.

Coaching is a very difficult profession, that is not very forgiving, but for over thirty years, Ron Zook has persevered. I am sure that some program in search of a fine defensive coordinator will be contacting Coach Zook, but until that time, I will wish my friend, and his family well, let him know that I am thinking about him, and continue to admire and respect him as a coach, a leader, and as a good man.

The University of Illinois can do much worse than Coach Ron Zook.

Coach John Parker is the Host of “The Sports Mayhem USA” radio/television sports talk show on the Sports Byline USA Radio Network, and seen weekdays 2pm (cst) on He is the President of Parker Sports Enterprises, the Executive Director of the National Student Athlete Advocacy Alliance, and a motivational/ empowerment Speaker. He is a retired twenty four year veteran of college coaching, including nine years of collegiate head coaching experience, and Author of the book “A Compartmentalized Life”. Visit his website at

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