Illinois Coach Lou Tepper Fired
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) _ Lou Tepper, his team on a four-game losing streak and coming off a 48-0 defeat to Ohio State, was fired Monday as football coach at Illinois.
Tepper will coach the Illini’s last two games _ at Minnesota on Saturday and against Wisconsin on Nov. 23.
``I would hope that the fans will support their (players’) efforts the rest of the season and during the transition to the new staff,″ Tepper said in a statement.
Illinois (2-7, 1-5 Big Ten) lost its first three games by a combined score of 116-11.
Athletic director Ron Guenther praised Tepper’s ``class and dignity″ in a news release announcing the firing.
``Unfortunately, we have not been as successful on the field as we would expect and we feel a change in leadership is necessary at this time,″ Guenther said.
The firing makes Tepper the third Big Ten coach in as many weeks to lose his job. Purdue coach Jim Colletto resigned and Indiana coach Bill Mallory was fired. Minnesota coach Jim Wacker is also at risk going in to his last two games, against Illinois and Iowa.
Football attendance at Illinois has taken a big drop. There has been an average of more than 16,000 empty seats in Memorial Stadium this year, including a crowd of 54,000 in the 69,000-seat stadium for the loss to No. 2 Ohio State.
Money is a big concern in the athletic department, which must make money with marquee sports like football and basketball to support all of its programs, Illinois president James Stukel told The (Champaign) News-Gazette last week.
``In the end, it’s a business ... you have to pay the bills,″ Stukel said before Tepper’s firing.
Tepper has a 23-22-2 record in five seasons at Illinois. The former defensive coordinator has produced a team that concentrated on on defense and played inconsistent offense.
Illinois has had three offensive coordinators under Tepper. Tepper fired Tom Beck after the 1992 Illini averaged just 295 yards on offense.
Former pro quarterback Greg Landry helped produce a 7-5 1994 team that won the Liberty Bowl, but Tepper fired Landry over personal differences early in 1995. Current offensive coordinator Paul Schudel, the former head coach at Miami of Ohio, followed Landry.
Tepper’s defenses have been among the best in the nation, ranking ninth in 1994, 10th in 1989 (when he was defensive coordinator) and 14th in 1993. But this year’s Illini defense is mired near the bottom of the Big Ten, hurt by the loss of linebackers Kevin Hardy and Simeon Rice to the NFL.
Tepper has won praise for running a clean program with a player graduation rate above 90 percent. His program to promote racial harmony among players also has won him accolades.
``Our philosophy has been to educate by promoting academic achievement, positive social behavior, racial harmony and hard-nosed winning football,″ Tepper said. ``I’m sorry that we have not had more success on the field this season.″