Zook Named Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year

2007 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Ron Zook
2007 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Ron Zook

Dec. 30, 2007

University of Illinois Head Coach Ron Zook was named Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Saturday night after leading the Fighting Illini to the best turnaround in college football this season and a berth in the 2008 Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi. It is Zook's third postseason award, also being named the American Football Monthly/Schutt Sports National Coach of the Year and the Big Ten Coach of the Year.

As a result, Liberty Mutual will donate $50,000 to the charity of Zook's choice and $20,000 to the University of Illinois general scholarship fund.

Zook guided the Illini to a 9-3 record, surpassing the team's win total from the past four seasons. The program's turnaround also marked the biggest in school history from one season to another, improving by seven wins over the 2006 total.

Illinois' berth in the Rose Bowl is the school's first bowl berth since 2001, and its first appearance in the Rose Bowl since 1984. Zook also guided the Illini to three wins over ranked opponents: No. 1 Ohio State, No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 21 Penn State. It is the first time since 2001 that Illinois has beaten three ranked opponents in a season and first time since 1963 that it has defeated two top-five teams in a campaign.

Zook will lead the Illini into the Rose Bowl against Southern California at 4:10 p.m. (CT) Jan. 1. The game will be televised nationally by ABC, with radio broadcasts available nationally on ESPNRadio and XM satellite radio, and on the 44 stations of the Illini Sports Network.