University of Illinois Assistant Coaches Controversy: A re-examination of Assistant Coaches’ Term of Contract

2011 was not a banner year for the University of Illinois football program. After starting with a 6-0 record, Illinois finished the season losing six straight games, making Illinois the first BCS team to open the regular season with six straight wins and closing with six straight losses. In November of 2011, acting athletic director Mike Thomas informed Ron Zook that he had been fired as head coach. Zook had five losing seasons at Illinois, finishing with an overall 34-51 record. Despite the end of the season losses and the firing of the head coach, Illinois was invited to the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and posted a 20-14 win over UCLA. The Illinois - UCLA contest was an interesting match-up since UCLA was given an NCAA waiver to compete despite a losing record, both schools fired their coaches, both schools were playing under interim leaders, and UCLA had four players ineligible for the game while Illinois had two players ineligible. But most noteworthy of all was a contentious legal and contract dispute between several of the Illinois assistant coaches (Joe Gilbert, Jeff Brohm and Chip Long) and the school administration.