Missouri defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski thought about becoming a co-defensive coordinator at Illinois, but ultimately he decided to stay with the Tigers, according to a statement he released Monday.
“As a coach, you’re always looking to advance yourself professionally in hopes of someday having a chance to become a head coach,” Kuligowski said in the release, which was sent out by MU’s athletic department. “It was important for me and my family to consider this opportunity, and I’m grateful to have gone through the experience, but after evaluating everything, what is best for us is to stay here at Mizzou.
“We’ve built something special here at Mizzou, and I’m excited to continue to be part of it.”
Kuligowski has spent the last 23 years on coach Gary Pinkel’s staffs at Toledo and Missouri.
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Pinkel was ecstatic to keep Kuligowski on his staff, posting on Twitter that he was “excited to keep the best D-line coach in the nation” at MU.
Kuligowski is regarded as one of the nation’s best defensive line coaches and was chosen by Football Scoop as the 2014 national defensive line coach of the year.
Missouri, which has led the SEC in sacks the last two seasons, has had 10 defensive linemen drafted into the NFL on Kuligowski’s watch, including six since 2009. Three of those draft picks — Ziggy Hood in 2009, Aldon Smith in 2011 and Sheldon Richardson in 2013 — have been first-round selections.
Two more Tigers defensive linemen, Shane Ray and Markus Golden, are virtual locks to be chosen in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Ray, a Bishop Miege graduate, announced that he would skip his senior season after the Citrus Bowl and is widely expected to be a top-10 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, while Golden, the MVP of Missouri’s bowl game, also could slip into the first round.
Kuligowski was a candidate to replace Dave Steckel as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator, but Pinkel ultimately hired Memphis defensive coordinator Barry Odom instead.
Odom played at Missouri in the 1990s and served as safeties coach among other duties under Pinkel before leaving for Memphis.
Kuligowski, who played at Toledo from 1987-90, became the Rockets’ recruiting coordinator under Pinkel from 1992.
He joined Pinkel’s Toledo full-time coaching on-field staff as the tight ends coach in 1993 and added assistant offensive line coaching duties in 1994.
Kuligowski switched sides of the ball and served as the Rockets’ defensive line coach from 1996-2000 before following Pinkel to Missouri. Kuligowski has been the Tigers’ defensive line coach throughout Pinkel’s 14-year tenure in Columbia.
When Pinkel signed a contract extension last March, Kuligowski received a raise to $299,500 annually.
Greg Colby, who served as Illinois’ defensive line coach the last two seasons before he was fired Jan. 8, made $180,000 last season, according to USA Today’s assistant coach database.
Fighting Illini defensive coordinator Tim Banks made $400,000 last season.
During three seasons under coach Tim Beckman, Illinois 12-25, including a 6-7 season in 2014 capped by a 35-18 loss against Louisiana Tech in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Missouri already lost two defensive assistant coaches during this offseason.
Steckel left to become Missouri State’s head coach in mid-December and former safeties coach Alex Grinch left to become Washington State’s defensive coordinator earlier this month.
Pinkel has yet to hire a replacement for Grinch, though it’s possible with Odom’s history as safeties coach that the Tigers will round out the staff with a linebackers coach. Steckel previously coached linebackers in addition to serving as defensive coordinator.