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Ron Turner

Ron Turner

Football coach, 1997-2004 | Took ’01 Illini to Sugar Bowl

Ron Turner paid the price for engineering one of the most improbable victories in Illini football history — several hundred dollars, the cost of a new toy he’d promised the kids.

"In 1999, we were preparing to play Michigan, which was ranked ninth in the country" and favored to beat his Illini by three touchdowns and a field goal," as Turner remembers it.

“Our kids had been begging for a four-wheeler and I told them if we beat Michigan I would buy them one. (Wife) Wendy gave me the evil eye and even though I believed we could win the game, I told her I think we’re OK. We were 0-3 in the Big Ten at the time.

“Well, we came back from a 27-7 deficit midway through the third quarter and the kids got their four-wheeler the next week. We still have it.

“This was the same game that Chancellor (Michael) Aiken was late to our team bus to the game and I told (then-Associate AD) Dana Brenner: ‘Leave him.’ After the game, Dana said: ‘It’s a good thing you won.’"

He’s been gone for a decade-and-a-half but Turner still has vivid memories of his eight years in Champaign-Urbana, which included two bowl trips and one BCS game berth but records of 35–57 (overall) and 20–44 (Big Ten).

Two others:

“When our boys, Morgan and Cameron, were at Centennial playing football and we had an away game, I would try to get play-by-play accounts of their game from Wendy.

“She was in the stands and on her phone with me and had a real hard time explaining the play-by-play. I’d ask ‘how did we score?’ or ‘who scored?’ or ‘have the boys completed many passes?’ or ‘do we have any turnovers?’ or ‘did we score running or passing?’ and she would always know the basics.

“If I asked technical questions, she’d refer me to someone next to her. I’d say: ‘Aren’t you watching?’ She was the fan in the stands supporting all the kids.”

“During the season, Fridays were the only day I was home in the morning so I would drive our girls, Cally and Madi, to school at Westview Elementary.

“I would let them out and as they were walking into the building I would yell out ‘Girls’ — and they just kept walking and I kept yelling it until they would turn around and acknowledge me, usually after three or four times.

“Everyone else looked and laughed but our girls weren’t amused. They were a little embarrassed. Nancy Bridges, who worked in the office, told us later that they would watch from the office laughing. Our girls laugh about it now.

"It’s funny what kids remember.”

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