Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Good Ideas from Zook

Ron Zook has helped revitalize the University of Illinois' football team in recent years. His recruiting and marketing skills are by far his best assets. Some argue that his play calling is sub par, but compared to Ron Turner and anyone else that could have replaced him, Zook's charisma, confidence, and leadership are exactly what the Illini needed.

On Chicago radio yesterday, Zook jumped at the suggestion that Illinois play against Northwestern University at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field in 2010. "I just think it would be an awesome venue," Zook said. "Until just a couple years ago, there had been more NFL games played in that stadium than any other stadium, and there hasn't been a game played there since 1970. And can you imagine the national media? I think it would be great to have that opportunity." An Illini game at Wrigley would be incredible. Especially with the St. Louis Mizzou contract expiring, a unique, large market game probably televised nationally would be a smart move.

Another change in the Illini camp recently publicized is an attempt to create greater team unity and discipline through accountability. Coach Zook has split the squad into ten separate "character teams" with appointed captains. If anyone on a team screws up by showing up late to a weightlifting session, skipping class, or committing any other off-field misdemeanor, all ten players on that guy's character team are punished. Extra push-ups or suicides are potential punishments. Ideally, this system creates an atmosphere of positive peer pressure. Once I got past the cheesy terms, such as "character teams," I decided I like the idea. In order to be successful, it must be consistently enforced, and the teams have to be carefully crafted to keep the idea from backfiring and creating resentment between certain players. The season is quickly approaching.

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