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Firing Coach Ron Zook Cost University of Illinois $2.6 Million

By Samantha Abernethy in News on Nov 30, 2011 10:20PM

After the University of Illinois football team lost its sixth straight game on Saturday, U of I's athletic director announced that Ron Zook would no longer be the team's head coach. But it wasn't that easy. The school had to buy Zook out of his contract at a price of $2.6 million. The cost doesn't just fall on the school, either. Zook was Illinois' highest paid state employee. ABC7's Chuck Goudie writes:

With state college funding support reduced across the country, the longstanding practice of buying out losing coaches to make way for new ones is being re-evaluated at some universities. In the case of Ron Zook, U of I is not among them.

And we thought the recession had taught every one an important lesson about priorities. Now that Zook is out, the highest paid state employee is the U of I basketball coach Bruce Weber, who makes $1.3 million. By the way, Gov. Pat Quinn makes $174,013.26, according to the Better Government Association's payroll database. Was it worth the cost of firing Zook? Sure, he lost six straight games, but before that he won six straight games. When the athletic director announced the school was letting Zook go, he said, "It is imperative that our program shows some consistency and competes for championships." Is the benefit of maybe having a consistent football team worth $2.6 million?