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Vic Koenning turns down Illini return

Updated: January 16, 2012 10:10AM



Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning turned down an offer from new Illinois coach Tim Beckman to remain in Champaign on Wednesday.

Koenning, who will remain at Illinois as interim coach for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against UCLA on Dec. 31, is expected to join newly hired North Carolina coach Larry Fedora as defensive coordinator.

Defensive line coach Keith Gilmore, who has solid recruiting ties in Florida, has accepted Beckman’s offer to remain at Illinois.

‘‘When a head-coaching change occurs, there are many emotions to deal with,’’ Koenning said. ‘‘The support of Illini Nation has been tremendous. I was very honored to be [asked] to remain at Illinois, [but] I feel it is best to explore other opportunities.’’

Recognizing that Koenning, who headed up a unit that was seventh in total defense and 21st in scoring defense this fall, was very popular and successful, Beckman tried to keep him. But apparently it would have been awkward for the two to work together. In addition, Koenning’s wife, Tracey, wanted to be closer to her family in Alabama.

‘‘We wish Vic nothing but the best,’’ Beckman said. ‘‘He has done fabulous work over the last two seasons, and I know he will remain focused on helping the Fighting Illini prepare for the [bowl] game.’’

Beckman, who also was denied his top candidate for offensive coordinator when Toledo promoted Matt Campbell to head coach, will continue to search for his two most important hires.

Retaining Gilmore, who has developed All-American Whitney Mercilus and NFL first-round pick Corey Liuget the last two seasons, is a positive for Illinois’ new coach.

‘‘I’m very happy to have Keith Gilmore,’’ Beckman said. ‘‘The defensive line was the strongest area of the team, and coach Gilmore did a great job. He’s a strong recruiter and will be a great asset for the program.’’



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