COLLINSVILLE — Mike Liljegren is out as the Collinsville High School football coach after 10 seasons.
Collinsville Athletic Director Chris Kusnerick made the announcement Monday morning in an emailed press release.
"Everyone around our football program has high expectations, and we worked very hard in recent years to improve our facilities," Kusnerick said in the release. "We would like to see our football program move forward and have a consistent competitive program for student-athletes, fans and community."
Collinsville was 1-8 this season and 19-72 under Liljegren, including 14-54 in the Southwestern Conference. The Kahoks made one appearance in the playoffs --2010 when they lost 50-21 to Danville in the first round of Class 6A.
Collinsville finished 5-5 in 2010, its only non-losing season under Liljegren.
"We won one game this year and when that happens ... it's not necessarily a surprise there would be some discussion about this," said Liljegren, who will turn 50 on Nov. 29. "But I wasn't really expecting this to happen."
Kusnerick said applications will be accepted through Dec. 31 and that interviews will be held in January. He hopes to have a recommendation for the Unit 10 School Board in February.
Kusnerick said head-coaching experience is important, but that assistant coaches also could be considered.
Since Bob Hollingshead resigned after the 1993 season, the Kahoks have looked north for all three of their head coaches.
John Jackson (1994-96) was the defensive coordinator at Naperville North. Jackson's successor, Tim Kane (1997-2002), came from Knoxville, near Galesburg, although he had been an assistant coach at Centralia High. Liljegren was the defensive coordinator at Palatine High before taking the Collinsville job.
Collinsville has earned just three playoff berths in school history and never has won a postseason game. Before 2010, the only other playoff appearances were in 1996 under Jackson and 1998 under Kane.
The Kahoks haven't had a winning season since 1998 when Kane led them to an 8-2 record. The eight wins are a school record.
Jackson was 6-4 in 1996, but prior to that, Collinsville had not had a winning record since 1974 under the late Lloyd Dunne.
"Lloyd Dunne had some succcess, 1996 and 1998 were playoff years and we had some success in 2010," Liljegren said of the difficulty experienced in building a consistent winner. "There's got to be some kind of thread running through. I'm not looking back. There's almost nothing I did that I would do differently.
"I have so much enjoyed working with such great kids and watching them develop into young men and go on to play college football. Even if they didn't play in college, they developed into fine young men. This last group is the same."
Collinsville has made significant upgrades to its football stadium in recent years, building new locker rooms, installing a state-of-the-art scoreboard and adding a synthetic surface that was considered among the best in the SWC in its first season this fall.
"I think it's a much better position than it was when Mike got it 10 years ago," Kusnerick said, citing the improvements made not only to the field but also to the weight room adjacent to the gymnasium. "I think we have a lot of positives going for us in that way."
Liljegren, a math teacher at Collinsville, was hired April 28, 2003 --two months after Kane left to become the head coach at Washington High, near Peoria. Liljegren was selected over five other candidates.
Liljegren, a native of Moline, spent two seasons as the defensive coordinator at Palatine. He also was the head coach at Division III North Park University in Chicago for six years, an assistant coach at Illinois College in Jacksonville for eight years and an assistant at Lincoln-Way High in New Lenox for one year.
"Mike is a great person, an excellent family man, a very good teacher," Kusnerick said in a telephone interview. "That's what makes this hard."
Liljegren said he and his family, wife Kelley, daughters Hanna and Faith and son Luke, will remain in Collinsville. Kelley Liljegren also is a math teacher at Collinsville High.
Mike Liljegren said he would like to stay involved in football, perhaps as an assistant coach.
"I don't plan on leaving," he said. "My family lives in Collinsville. We've been happy in Collinsville. I'm a football coach, so I'll probably be coaching football somewhere next year. But I'll be teaching in Collinsville. We're not moving."
The Kahoks always have struggled against SWC opponents with a rich history in football. Teams like East St. Louis, O'Fallon, Edwardsville and Belleville East have been regular qualifiers for the playoffs.
"The conference is tough," Kusnerick said. "The nonconference schedule, it's very important to get off to a good start on a yearly basis. We're 5-15 the last 10 years in our nonconference games."
Collinsville hasn't had back-to-back winning seasons since 1971-72, but Kusnerick believes things can change.
"You see teams being able to turn it around quickly," he said. "Centralia is a great example of a team that struggled for many, many years. I think if it can be done at other places, why can't it be done at Collinsville? ... I think our numbers (players participating in football) have been good. So I think the potential is there, for sure."
Liljegren also mentioned Danville and Jerseyville as schools that have emerged as quality programs after years of losing.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.