Illinois Football: Illini Coaching Names on Top 100 Most Popular

Illinois Football

Oct 1, 2016; Lincoln, NE, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Lovie Smith watches during the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers Illinois Fighting Illini in the first quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

When the Illinois football team hired Lovie Smith I was excited about the future of the program.

Not only did the program that I grew up loving hire a coach I was familiar with, but they also hired someone that has one of the most unique names in the game.

Lovie is probably one of the best names in sports.  The name flows off the tongue and he is one of the few people that I type the first name when referring to him in an article.

Illinois football hasn’t had a history of cool coaching names, though.  In fact, the coaching history for the Illini has been one bland name after another.

Here is a list of Illini coaching names throughout history.

1913-1941 Robert Zuppke (No. 3 most popular name)

Robert Zuppke is the winningest coach in Illinois football history and he has the No. 3 most popular name in the last 100 years.

Zuppke coached the Illini from 1913 to 1941 and amassed a 61.2 winning percentage.  He won the National Championship in 1914, 1919, 1923, and 1927.

1942-1959 Ray Eliot (No. 42 most popular name)

Coming in as the No. 42 most popular name in the last 100 years is Illini coach Ray Eliot.  He was the second winningest coach in Illini history with a 53-percent winning rate.

Eliot would go on to win the Rose Bowl in 1946 and then the National Championship in 1951 in a beatdown of Stanford 40-7.

1960-1966 Pete Elliott (No. 55 most popular name)

Pete Elliott took over for the football team, as well as the most unique Illini name at the time, from Ray Eliot in 1960.  He checks in at No. 55 on the most popular names in the last 100 years.

Elliott didn’t have a ton of success with the Illini but managed to win the Rose Bowl in 1963.  He is the sixth most winningest coach in program history and has a 47.7-percent winning rate.

1967-1970 James Valek (No. 1 most popular name)

James Valek didn’t do much winning as the Illinois head coach but he does take the crown for the No. 1 most popular name in the last 100 years.

Valek had only eight wins as the coach of the Illini and he only won 20-pecent of the time.

Illinois Football

Nov 12, 2016; Madison, WI, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini helmets during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin won 48-3. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

1971-1976 Bob Blackman (No. 3 most popular name)

Robert “Bob” Blackman didn’t make it to a bowl game as the Illini head coach but he did have the No. 3 most popular name in the last 100 years.

Blackman finished his Illini career with 29 wins, which is eighth all-time.  He won 44.7-percent of the games he coached.

1977-1979 Gary Moeller (No. 31 most popular name)

Gary Moeller was one of the worst coaches in Illinois football history but at least his name was known.  He has the No. 31 most popular name in the last 100 years.

Moeller only won six games in his career with the Illini and finished with a 22.7 winning percentage.

1980-1987 Mike White (No. 4 most popular name)

Mike White had success on the football field and his name is the No. 4 most popular name in the last 100 years.

White made three bowl games including the Rose Bowl in 1983.  He finished with the third most wins in school history and a 53.3-percent winning rate.

1988-1991 John Mackovic (No. 2 most popular name)

Illinois really wanted to stay popular with their next hire as John Mackovic became the next head coach.  His name was the No. 2 most popular in the last 100 years.

Mackovic had tremendous success with the Illini making four bowl games in all four years of coaching.  He finished with the seventh most wins in school history and a 64.9-percent winning rate.

1992-1996 Lou Tepper (No. 87 most popular name)

You have to look pretty far down the list for the next name.  Lou Tepper checks in as the No. 87 most popular name in the last 100 years.

Tepper took over for Mackovic after the 1991 season and won the Liberty Bowl three years later.  He finished with the tenth most wins in school history and a 44.8 winning percentage.

Illinois Football

1997-2004 Ron Turner (No. 26 most popular name)

Ron Turner was the next head coach in Illini history and his name is the No. 26 most popular in the last 100 years.

Turner had high peaks and low valleys in his career.  He ended his Illini tenure as the fourth winningest coach and a 38-percent winning rate.

2005-2011 Ron Zook (No. 26 most popular name)

Illinois just wasn’t done with the name Ron.  After firing Turner, Ron Zook took the reins of this program and led them to some success.

Zook made it to the Rose Bowl and had two bowl victories.  He was the fifth most winningest coach in Illini history and he had a 40-pecent winning rate.

2012-2014 Tim Beckman (No. 27 most popular name)

While Tim Beckman wasn’t the most popular coach in Illinois football history, his name still checked in as the No. 27 most popular in the last 100 years.

Beckman made it to one bowl game but was fired in a blaze of disgrace.  He finished with only 12 wins and a 32.4-percent winning rate.

2015 Bill Cubit (No. 5 most popular name)

William “Bill” Cubit checks in as the No. 5 most popular name in the last 100 years.  He had a short career but he will always have a popular name.

Cubit spent one year as the Illinois head coach and finished 5-7.  He has now moved on to the next chapter in his life.

2016 Lovie Smith (not ranked)

The new athletic director, Josh Whitman, wanted to bring a new zest to the Illinois football team and, apparently, a part of that was bringing in a head coach who wasn’t on the top 100 list.

Lovie Smith received his name from his parents who wanted to name their baby girl in honor of a family member named Lavana, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Well, out popped a boy and they named him Lovie.  The rest is history.

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