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Kevin Sumlin isn’t likely to land with Illinois

Houstcoach KevSumlhas strong ties Texas A M where he was assistant head coach. | Dave Einsel~AP

Houston coach Kevin Sumlin has strong ties to Texas A&M, where he was assistant head coach. | Dave Einsel~AP

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Updated: January 8, 2012 10:35AM

Illini Nation was buzzing at reports that Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas appeared close Tuesday night to hiring Houston coach Kevin Sumlin, but Houston sources cautioned that they still expect Sumlin to end up at Texas A&M.

Sumlin, 47, would bring a reputation as an offensive whiz and would be Illinois’ first African-American coach in football or men’s basketball. He is completing his fourth year at Houston, which leads the nation in scoring (50.7 points per game).

But he already has had dalliances with Arizona State and UCLA, who apparently have backed off under the weight of A&M, where Sumlin was assistant head coach and has many strong ties.

If Sumlin can’t be lured, Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken, a Wheaton native who directs the nation’s No. 2 scoring offense (49.3 points a game), remains a very attractive alternative.

‘‘I have not been interviewed by Illinois and I have no interview set,’’ Monken told Oklahoma reporters. ‘‘I’m in Houston recruiting for Oklahoma State University, and I have not heard from anyone about that job.’’

Monken said he hasn’t been interviewed, but his agent was contacted.

Illinois offensive coordinator Paul Petrino left Tuesday to return to his former post at Arkansas on the staff of his brother, Bobby, whose offensive coordinator already has departed for a head-coaching position.

Illinois’ defensive coordinator, Vic Koenning, who’s serving as interim coach for Illinois’ trip to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, would be a popular pick to remain in Champaign. But that would be a decision for Illinois’ next coach, who needs the freedom to assemble his own staff.

Whether Monken, who has turned down interest from Tulane and Memphis, is hired at Illinois or elsewhere, he would be the fifth in the last six Oklahoma State offensive coordinators to become a head coach, following Les Miles (LSU), Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State), Larry Fedora (Southern Miss) and Dana Holgorsen (West Virginia).

Sources familiar with the offense of Monken and Sumlin say Monken’s offensive upside compares very favorably with Sumlin’s.

‘‘Monken uses a spread attack with a commitment to the running game,’’ a source said. ‘‘That’s why he and Dana will be good head coaches. They’re not gimmick guys. They have much more balance than most spread coaches.’’

Sumlin, 47, an Indianapolis native who was a standout linebacker at Purdue, was hired by Houston in 2008 after four years at Oklahoma, the last two as co-offensive coordinator.

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