Other than a few folks in downstate Illinois, a washed-up NFL QB, and perhaps a certain native Mattoonian writer, it’s hard to find anyone who would admit to being a big Ron Zook fan. At this point in his career, the book on the Zookster is pretty much written - he’s a great recruiter-slash-snake-oil salesman who, when it comes to actually running a major-college football program, is essentially clueless.
But it’s one thing for the media and fans to bash the guy; it’s quite another for his successor at the University of Florida, Urban Meyer, to do the same. But that’s exactly what Meyer did today. As Zook himself would say, this is “getting better and better.”
Both Zook and Meyer have been criticized at times for being too soft on discipline, but Meyer’s got two national championships to his name and Zook has zero, so perhaps the guy’s onto something. According to USA TODAY, Meyer was horrified at what he found when he got to Gainesville:
“The freshmen were in a spare locker room with a bunch of tin lockers and they were not allowed to walk into (the regular locker room),” Meyer said. “Think about this for a minute. This was a big-time college football program and we had some fights and stuff because they treat the freshmen like they were non-people — ‘Don’t walk through here, we’ll kick your tail and shave your eyebrows.’ That’s the great culture we had here. That was tremendous.
“You don’t win many games, but you beat up freshmen and shave eyebrows. I can’t imagine that. That’s absolutely unbelievable.”
Media outlets have attempted to contact Zook for comment, but predictably they’ve gotten nothing from him. It’s one thing for Zook to react immaturely to criticism by storming a frat house or shoving a cameraman, but now he’s getting put in a clown suit by a colleague - albeit one who is much better at the job than Zook ever was. Any response at all promises to be fun for everyone involved.
As the Illini look toward another disappointing season down in the soybean fields of central Illinois, their coach getting dressed down by Urban Meyer might be the closest they come to a national championship all year. Don’t worry, Zookster, you’ve always got Mark Tupper to tell you you’re great and everything’s going to be just fine.