Illini fire head basketball coach John Groce

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – After making a late push for a ticket to the Big Dance, the bubble has finally burst for Fighting Illini head coach John Groce.

University of Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman announced today Groce has been relieved of his coaching duties effective immediately.

“I want to thank John Groce and his staff for their tireless efforts over these past five years,” Whitman said. “In many ways, John is a model leader. He exudes optimism and tackles every day with unbelievable energy. He has the highest integrity. He has been an active presence in our community and a strong public ambassador for Illinois Basketball. Most importantly, he loves his players unconditionally and helps them develop into young men prepared for the next stages of their lives. Our student-athletes are having a positive experience, achieving record heights in the classroom, and leaving campus as proud graduates with bright futures.

“Under his leadership, regrettably, we were not able to sustain the level of competitive excellence that we expect at the University of Illinois,” Whitman continued. “But that should do nothing to detract from the many wonderful things John has done on behalf of Illinois Basketball during his tenure. We wish John, Allison, and their three children nothing but the best, and we thank his staff and their families as well for their many contributions to our program. All will be missed.”

Groce led the team to an NCAA tournament bid in his first season in Champaign, but failed to do so since.

In his five seasons at Illinois, Groce compiled a 95-75 overall record and a 37-53 record in Big Ten play.

Whitman will conduct a national search to replace Groce, who will receive a $1.7 million buyout for the final two years of his contract.

In the meantime, Jamall Walker will serve as interim head coach.