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Illinois fires Bruce Weber

Champaign, IL (Sports Network) - Illinois' incredible collapse has cost Bruce Weber his job.

Weber was fired on Friday, one day after the Fighting Illini suffered their 12th loss in 14 games -- a 64-61 setback to Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. Illinois was 15-3 in mid-January and entered the rankings after an upset of Ohio State, but it was mostly downhill from there.

Thursday's loss left Illinois at 17-15 and hoping for an invitation to the NIT or one of the other lower-tier postseason tournaments. Assistant Jerrance Howard will take over on an interim basis.

"This is an extremely difficult decision, especially with the success Bruce Weber had early in his career here at Illinois," said Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas. "However, when making decisions of this magnitude, there are many things that need to be considered, including the direction of the program in terms of wins and losses, competitiveness in the Big Ten and fan support. Bruce has been an outstanding ambassador for the University of Illinois and we wish him nothing but the best as he moves on in his career."

Weber was in his ninth season with the Illini and finished his tenure with a record of 210-101, a pair of Big Ten regular-season championships and one Big Ten Tournament crown. He also took the program to the brink of an NCAA championship, as Illinois lost to North Carolina in the title game of 2005 NCAA Tournament.

Only once did Illinois finish below .500 under Weber. The 2007-08 squad was 16-19, setting a school record for losses, but the Illini rebounded with a trio of 20-win seasons and two NCAA Tournament berths. However, Illinois has had just two NCAA tourney wins since the run to the championship game seven years ago.

This year's team was on track to easily surpass the 20-win plateau after the big win over Ohio State, but three straight losses by a combined 11 points followed.

After a one-point win over Michigan State left the Illini with a 5-4 record in the Big Ten to conclude January, a six-game losing streak ensued. The low point was an 80-57 drubbing at the hands of Nebraska. Illinois finished 6-12 in the conference, including just 1-8 on the road.

"Fighting Illini fans should expect our basketball team to be a factor in the Big Ten race and in the national conscience each season," Thomas added. "The tradition is extremely rich here at Illinois. We will begin a national search immediately to find the very best coach possible for the University of Illinois."

Weber was a long-time assistant under Gene Keady, first at Western Kentucky in 1979-80 and at Purdue for the following 18 seasons. He was given his first head coaching position at Southern Illinois in 1998 and guided the Salukis to a record of 103-54 with a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances in five seasons before taking over for Bill Self at Illinois for the 2003-04 campaign.

In 14 seasons as a head coach, Weber owns a record of 313-155.

Weber has three years remaining on the contract extension he signed in May of 2009 and will be paid $1.3 million annually.

03/09 12:26:39 ET


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