He could’a been a contender.

Thank you, Michael Elkon.

I’m trying to sit here and figure out the reasons behind the improbable rise of the Zooker and the Illini in the Big Ten to date and I’m scratching my head so hard it hurts.

And there’s the answer: it’s the coaching, stupid. He’s an upgrade in that department in that conference. As Elkon puts it,

It’s much easier to succeed when you need to get a big win and the guy on the other sideline is Joe Paterno as opposed to Nick Saban.

Better that than those fast athletes Mr. Delany admires so much…

Nobody’s chasing him now.  (photo courtesy Athens Banner-Herald) 


Filed under The Adventures of Zook, The Blogosphere

12 responses to “He could’a been a contender.

  1. kckd

    Not a whole lot of difference in Zook and Jim Donnan really. I don’t think Zook’s a great coach. He’s a borderline good one. He went 23-15 playing in the toughest conference in the nation.

    There are some coaches out there who would’ve done worse. That guy at Ole Miss might be one of them.

    But I agree that him having the chance to win the Big 10 at Illinois shows how weak it is.

    Don’t be surprised if he wins again this weekend. As a UGA fan I’ll be pulling for him.


  2. kckd

    Just some additives on Zook. He’s the only guy to beat UGA in 2002 and the only one to beat LSU in 2003. That’s not too bad. Donnan really never had wins like that.

    On the flip side, Donnan never had a loss like MSU either once he made us a consistent winner.


  3. I doubt Gator fans care about a Donnan-Zook comparison.

    Zook lost five games a year at UF. Spurrier lost, on average, 2.25 games per year there. Meyer is averaging about 2 losses per year right now.

    The Zooker’s not on the same level with the guy he succeeded or the guy who replaced him, not even close. That’s pretty damning evidence, if you ask me.


  4. Penguin


    And how did Nick Saban do at Michigan State prior to taking the reins at LSU?



  5. If I recall, Saban was mediocre to middling until that breakout season in ’99 that got him the LSU offer.

    But he had a lot less to work with at MSU than the Zooker was handed in Florida.


  6. Penguin

    Very true.

    Illinois has played the patsy in the Big Ten for a lot of years. Sort of like Minnesota, and its Minneapolis metro, in that one of the prime recruiting areas of the midwest, namely the Chicago/Milwaukee metro, was being raided yearly by tOSU, Michigan, Wisconsin and others.

    Zook put a quick end to that. The rising talent level at Illinois is noticeable to even someone like me who watches them only as another league rival. Although I view recruiting with a skeptical eye, I don’t discount that talent on the field does count. He has done a masterful job of keeping Illinois talent at home.

    But the point about Illinois and Big Ten strength goes even further than that. Iowa, Michigan State, Illinois and a couple of others have fallen short in the past few years. If the Big Ten is to regain its prestige it all starts in the middle of the pack. The league front runners of tOSU, Michigan, and Wisconsin [maybe Penn State] need to be tested and taken down when they expose weakness.

    ~This~ is where the Big Ten has been deficient in the last few years. And this is why even a Badger fanatic like me recognizes that Dantonio, Zook, and whoever replaces Paterno and Carr eventually, needs to be good if we are to be respected nationally.



  7. kckd


    Are you saying if we ask 100 people in Montana if they know who Ron Zook…….

    Sorry for the insult, but this reply you gave sounds like something out of Mandel’s mailbag responses.

    I never compared Zook to Spurrier or Meyer, but I’ll see if I can put together what you are trying to say.

    The best I can gather is, if Zook can’t coach the Gators the way Meyer and Spurrier have, then he must be a total idiot that isn’t a very good coach.

    If that’s true, then I guess pretty much any coach with any ability could win conference and national championships at UF, which begs this question: Exactly how good does that make Meyer and Spurrier? Evidently they are two of very many.


  8. kckd, do you think Donnan, had he succeeded Spurrier at UF, would have lost 5 games a year there?


  9. kckd

    Do you think he’d won the way Spurrier and Urban have.

    He would’ve lost four maybe, big deal. You totally changed the subject here.

    Do you think a total fool could win 8 games a year at UF?


  10. I think the Zooker’s a great recruiter and a poor coach. Show me any stop on his resume where he did a good job as a coach, assistant or head. Don’t forget that Spurrier demoted him during his first run at UF.

    Do I think he’s a total fool? Not total, no. But don’t try to tell me that personally going to confront frat boys over a fight with some football players is a particularly smart move for a head coach to make.

    Bottom line – you’ve got to make a real effort as a head coach to lose five games a season at Florida after Spurrier made it an elite program.


  11. kckd

    I don’t think he’s a genius by any means. I never meant to imply that. I just think when it comes to Zook , things are either black or white with you.

    Recruiting is part of being a head coach. As a head coach I’d say he’s average to below in terms of preparation. He isn’t the brightest guy on the block in dealing with off the field issues.

    A demotion from Spurrier isn’t always what it seems. He demoted Wuerffel once, Terry Dean twice. One of those is a Heisman trophy winner and the other was a second team all SEC QB.

    Steve’s a great coach, but less face it. If his team is not winning there is always a problem with the players or the assistants, it’s never him. He can’t take thinking that another guy could actually whip his fool proof offensive strategy, so it must be someone else’s fault.

    But as I’ve said before on this issue, Zook deserves to be made fun of at times, but I think you downgrade him as if he’s one of the worst coaches in the game. Trust me, weak or not weak, if you can win at Illinois, you ain’t that bad. Still got a few games to play though, we’ll see.


  12. Well, it’s his second shot around the block. Maybe he learned something from his first go ’round.