Lost in the recent news that Urban Meyer has been named the next head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes, is the tale of another former Florida Gators’ head coach.
Ron Zook was fired by the Illinois Fighting Illini on Sunday for conduct deemed detrimental to the program (i.e. he loses more games than he wins). In seven seasons at Illinois – or about two too many – Zook compiled a 34-50 record while going an unacceptable 18-37 in the Big Ten. It initially looked like Zook wouldn’t make it past season three, but after going 4-19 in his first two seasons, he used his wish-granting genie to produce a 9-4 record and a Rose Bowl appearance in 2007. Keep in mind, Zook only gets three wishes. Being named the head coach of Florida was wish number one. 2007 was number two. He only has one left. We assume he’ll be named the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars with a fully guaranteed multi-year contract any day now.
Zook will always hold a place in the minds (notice how I didn’t say hearts) of Gators’ fans as the man that followed Steve Spurrier and gave way to Meyer. He was a great recruiter, but so are so many others these days. In the end, he wasn’t a head coach. Or at least not a highly effective one.
What keeps Zook’s Florida story alive is the fate of current head coach Will Muschamp. Zook finished his first year with Florida at 8-5. Muschamp is staring down the barrel of a possible losing season. While circumstances are different, parts are somewhat the same. It took Florida approximately two and a half seasons to realize Ron Zook was, well, Ron Zook. It took Illinois seven seasons to figure out the same. How long will it take the Gators to learn who Muschamp will be?