Saturday, February 10, 2007

Ron Zook, college football's Fidel Castro

Comandante Zook

How's that for a provocative headline? Well of course Ron Zook hasn't sent anyone to a firing squad without the benefit of a trial and he doesn't even [really] wear a beard and Castro, I'm sure, has never gotten involved in a brawl in the front yard of a fraternity, but there are some similarities, believe me.

A recent puff job about Ron Zook got me to thinking about Zook and what it is about him that gives him the characteristics of Teflon. Nothing sticks to him no matter how bad it looks.

In the 12 years before Zook took over at Florida the Gators never lost 5 games in single season. Zook did it twice in two years before he got fired in his 3rd (that team lost 5 also but the 5th loss was charged to Charlie Strong who coached the Gators in their bowl game). Yet Zook always claimed that he was improving, despite no evidence to support the claim. Fidel Castro also makes claims of progress and success, despite the fact that Cuba has gone from one of the most advanced countries in Latin America to one of the most retarded.

It's the first quarter, I think I'll go for 2.

Like Castro, Zook seems to get a free pass from the media. Castro has had Herbert Matthews and Dan Rather and Barbara Walters while Zook has had people like Mike Gottfried and now Mark Schlabach. As a result, none of their failures seem to be reported, instead the media siezes on areas that can be positively spun. For Zook it's recruiting. But what good is recruiting if you can't win on Saturday. Castro's education and health care systems are often applauded in our media but what good is it to be able to read if you can only read what the government approves? What good is it to be healthy if you are essentially a slave?

Both men have their critics. In both cases the critics tend to be people with first-hand experience yet they are always marginalized and portrayed as irrational cranks. For whatever reason these two men have a power to hoodwink large numbers of people for indefinite periods of time. They are both said to be "disarming" in their charm. For sure they disarm their audience with different styles but they are disarming nonetheless. Think about a journalist that is disarmed. What is he good for?

Discipline, Zook style:
Face "the elbow" or visit the Gulag!

Both men are always making promises of a better tomorrow and are excellent at making excuses when tomorrow never comes. For Castro the root of all Cuban failures are not his policies but the evil United States and the embargo. Zook says time was his enemy. You see he could have won the "national title" in 2005 if he had only been given one more season. But those damned fans and their "expectations" got in the way.

Thankfully for Gator fans, we didn't have to wait for decades for Zook to drop dead like Cubans have been, he simply became someone else's problem. As for Castro, I wouldn't wish him even on to Illinois fans. I hope he dies soon, but only after some really really bad pain.


Senator Blutarsky said...

This article doesn't strike me as a free pass from the media:

ashepeaks said...

This subject makes my blood boil...when crack-head corso, after the championship game, said we need to give zookED a ring, wanted to reach into the tv and choke the b*stard...just amazed/shocked at how may Gators on a message board I frequent still kiss his a$$...they used to say Pell was not a good game day coach but if you look in the dictionary for the definition of a "lousy" game day coach, its a picture of zookED! my opinion the worst period in Gator football history was under his watch...and I blamed FOOLey but fortunatelly, he got a mulligan when he hired URB. BTW, loved your analogy.

Henry Gomez said...


The press for castro isn't all positive either but we're talking about the general trend not the exceptions that prove the rule.

Anonymous said... blood boils when the SEC keeps hiring coaches out of the Big Ten and especially from Ohio. Zook and Urban's hometowns are in Ohio. Urban has this inflated picture of Woody Hayes when you walk into his house. He'll be back coaching in the Big Ten like Zooker in a few years. I just get sick that we can't get a southern coach for our boys. Now we got Sabin at Bama too.

Senator Blutarsky said...

Henry, maybe you're right, but I'm not so sure.

That NYT article was nasty. And it's generated a lot of fallout.

You've got an AD admitting he's hired investigators to check out who's spreading negative stuff about his program.

The Zooker has obviously earned the emnity of Charlie Weis. Being on Notre Dame's bad side isn't likely to generate a lot of positive press, either.

One thing that benefited the Zooker when he was your head coach was the whole "following a legend" schtick that I guess was meant to excuse some of his rather obvious shortcomings as a head coach. He doesn't have that luxury at Illinois.

The bottom line is that I just don't see him getting the free pass that he used to enjoy anymore...

JJ Gator said...

I read an article at the Chicago Sun-Times website about the allegations the Washington Post made about Zook, and I have my doubts as to whether Zook was "keeping it kosher" with regards to recruiting. How he could bamboozle a five-star player like Benn to commit to the Illini I still can't figure out. And now that he and/or his staff started sabre-rattling with Notre Dame over recruiting he's created another enemy in that neck of the woods.

I laughed my ass off at the comment Zook made in that same CST article that he listens to "Christian music". OK Zooker, does Pi Kappa Phi ring a bell? You claim to be a Christian and listen to that music but then again you went over to that house, got into a verbal pissing match with the frat guys and dropped the F bomb - and the media picked up on it. You embarrassed UF and the football program, not to mention yourself. Is that any way for a good Christian to act?

Let Zook apologists Gottfried, Schlabach and others continue to spew drivel over Zook. Gator fans in the know won't pay attention to their nonsense. And until Illini fans put down the Kool-Aid and start to realize that Zook won't take their program anywhere, they'll refuse to see otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I'm not here to apologize for Zook (because I think he was a terrible coach) or to argue with the gator fans who bash Zook and are still extremely fixated on the job he did here at UF (which of course was not up to the standards his predecessor set).
What I find interesting when discussing this situation or Zook in general with Illini fans is that they were actually excited to get him as a coach and many are still actually optimistic about their team. Those in the know realize he's a mediorce coach, but realistic Illinois fans realize that 6-8 wins a season is about all they can reasonably hope for, and I'm certain that with the talent Zook can haul in to the program those number of wins are attainable. It's a basketball school, that's really what matters.
Anyways as a Gators fan I'm getting tired of discussing Zook. If you'll allow me an analogy, Zook is the bat-sh*t crazy ex that jerked us around for years, destroying our self-esteem and genuinely made us believe that all women were like that. Meyer is, for the moment, a perfect match who has treated us extremely well and pretty much done everything right, including restoring our faith that not everyone out there is terrible. So now that we're in a better place, why do we as a fan base insist on continuing to bitch about the terrible ex?

Henry Gomez said...

For one thing, it's the off-season, what do you suggest we write about?

For another, the press continues to write puff pieces about him (even though he is starting to be scrutinized a little more lately).

As long as he's in the press, I think he's fair game. You don't have to read the pieces that we or anybody else writes about him.

And the particulars of Zook's story with Florida aside, there's a deeper debate about recruiting vs. coaching. If we all accept that Zook is a lousy coach and a good recruiter (he gets half the job done in other words) then maybe it woud be better to have a smart innovative coach that is an adequate to poor recruiter (though the good coaches tend to be good recruiters because they are smart).

In other words would Illinois have been better off picking a coach that was perhaps in the mold of an Urban Meyer? An up and comer that has won at a lower level? A guy that has proven he's a turn-around specialist?

Now it's admittedly hard to find such a person but it should have been easy to tell that Zook has never improved any unit he has coached in his career. I have posted the stats and his defenses at Florida and New Orleans both regressed during his tenure. Zook still hasn't won as many games in a season at Illinous as Ron Turner won in his last season.

But there are guys out there. How about a Div 1AA coach that has a good winning record (OSU did that a few years back)? How about an assistant with a proven track record (Norm Chow has been waiting for a Head Coaching job for some time)?

Surely there were better candidates for Illinois than Zook.

As pitiful as Illinois is it's a huge state school that plays in the big 10 with a beautiful campus (I have been there) that is hungry for a winner. It's a sleeping giant but Zook isn't isn't the guy that will awaken the giant.

JJ Gator said...

The best thing Ron Zook ever did when he was at Florida was get fired.

Gator Duck said...

Personally, the analogy I like to use is the holocaust. As long as he is getting positive press, his apologists will attempt (and succeed) to rewrite history. He is a bad game day coach, a bad get-the-team-ready-for-gameday coach AND a bad recruiter. Many have been giving in on the recruiting issue so he is not looking as bad in this area. But, what does his recruiting yield? Some shining stars, but mostly holes or lack of depth - like swiss cheese.

There are a ton of people at three message boards (Yahoo groups, Gator Sports and Gator Country) who continue to spout what a great guy rz is and how he got screwed. Somebody in the last week actually said he will always be a Gator (as in once a Gator, always a Gator). However, he bad-mouthed UF and the Gator Nation something fierce and then tried to turn recruits away from us. Foley made an incompetent man a multi-millionaire and there was no gratitude. He is no Gator.

Anonymous said...

Vive la revoluciĆ³n, comrade! No doubt Fidel's a ruthless dictator, but claiming he turned Cuba from advanced to retarded is patently disingenuous.

Henry Gomez said...

Hey anonymous, what do you know about Cuba?

Why don't you check out for a lesson.


Henry Gomez said...

Take a look at these pictures and tell me he hasn't retarded Cuba.

Just like those there are literally thousands more.

Name me a country with a greater percentage of it's population living in exile? There are more than 1.5 million Cubans living in exile (11 million on the island). It's not because Cuba is so advanced that people risk their lives to flee every day.

Pre-castro the immigration rate from Cuba was negative. That means more Americans were moving to Cuba than Cubans coming to the US. The Cuban dollar was on par with the US dollar.

Cuba was not a backwater country it was among the tops in most social indicators in Latin America and more advanced than some post-war European countries.

Today it's down near the bottom economically speaking with Haiti.

Open your eyes jackass.