Illinois' Ron Zook, Kansas' Turner Gill and Arizona State's Dennis Erickson were among five football coaches fired or forced out Sunday, and UCLA's Rick Neuheisel acknowledged that the Bruins might need an enormous upset in the Pac-12 title game Friday to keep his job after a 50-0 loss to USC.
Zook, 57, a former Florida coach, was fired after the Illini followed a 6-0 start with a six-game losing streak. He will receive a $2.6 million buyout.
Gill, 49, was fired after two losing seasons and with three years remaining on a contract that owes him about $6 million.
Erickson, 64, who won two national championships at Miami, reportedly will meet with athletic director Lisa Love today and might retire rather than be fired. He still might be with the team at any bowl game it might play in. Arizona State lost its final four games following a 6-2 start. He was 31-30 in five seasons, his highlight coming in 2007 when he was Pac-10 coach of the year.
Also, Memphis coach Larry Porter, 39, was fired after going 3-21 in two seasons at his alma mater, and UAB coach Neil Callaway, 56, resigned after going 18-42 with no winning seasons in five years.
Zook was 34-51 at Illinois. He took the 2007 team to the Rose Bowl, his high point. He got emotional when he thanked the university and players for "seven special years," and said the Illini just failed to finish a few winnable games. Athletic director Mike Thomas said Zook improved Illinois, but new leadership was needed to consistently compete for championships. Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning becomes interim coach.
Gill was 5-19 at Kansas, 2-10 this season. AD Sheahon Zenger said it was a tough decision: "I have the utmost respect for Turner Gill as a quality individual who wants only the best for the young men he coaches." Recruiting coordinator Reggie Mitchell becomes interim coach.
At UCLA, where Neuheisel is 21-29 in his fourth season, athletic director Dan Guerrero will evaluate the program after Friday's Pac-12 title game.
Get ready for lsu-'bama: LSU and Alabama held the top two BCS spots for the second straight week, and a rematch in the national championship game is a near-certainty even if the Tigers are upset by Georgia in Saturday's SEC title game. Independent BCS analyst Jerry Palm said that third-place Oklahoma State was so far back that, "It's like there is no No. 3.'' Palm said the only way to prevent an LSU-Alabama rematch is to have Georgia win the SEC championship "and there would be some voter epiphany that, 'We can't have a rematch.' " Georgia does not appear to match up well with LSU, which can devour the Bulldogs running game and limit the passing of Aaron Murray.
big east update: San Diego State is talking with the Big East about joining, with discussions getting more serious after BYU fell out of consideration, San Diego's Union-Tribune reported. An SDSU move from the Mountain West likely wouldn't happen before 2013.
USC 50, UCLA 0: Matt Barkley passed for 423 yards and six touchdowns and set a Pac-12 single-season record with 39 TD passes, and Robert Woods broke Keyshawn Johnson's conference single-season receptions record — finishing with 111 — for the host Trojans. The Bruins will represent the South Division in the Pac-12 title game at Oregon despite finishing two games behind USC, which ended the second of a two-year postseason ban. The Trojans, who after the game wore T-shirts proclaiming themselves the South champs, still will lose 30 scholarships over the next three years. Barkley is expected to bypass his senior season and be a top-10 NFL pick.