Zook named coach of year after Illinois' turnaround season
BOSTON -- Illinois coach Ron Zook won the Liberty Mutual coach of the year award Saturday for leading one of the best turnarounds in college football this season.
The Illini went 9-3 and earned a trip to the Rose Bowl a year after going 2-10. Zook, in his third season with Illinois, took over a program that hadn't had a winning season since 2001.
"It's very satisfying because we accomplished some of our goals and got the program going in the right direction," Zook said in a phone interview earlier this week as he prepared for the Rose Bowl against Southern California on Jan. 1.
Jerry Kill, who led Southern Illinois to the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals, was honored as the top coach in FBS. Kill was hired by Northern Illinois earlier this month.
Chadron State's Bill O'Boyle won the Division II coach of the year award and St. John's of Minnesota earned Division III honors.
Zook led No. 13 Illinois to a 28-21 victory over No. 1 Ohio State in early November. That helped the Illini get to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1984.
"We don't have a football player on our team that's been to a bowl," Zook said. "I told our players, 'Fellas, you don't understand you're not just going to a bowl, you're going to the Rose Bowl.'
"You talk about having the opportunity to make a name for yourself."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press