CHARLESTON (WCIA) — Eastern Illinois has a new football coach. Chris Wilkerson was named the school’s 26th head coach on Wednesday, replacing Adam Cushing, who went just 3-26 in three seasons.

Wilkerson is an EIU grad, playing for the Panthers from 1991-1994, before joining legendary coach Bob Spoo’s staff. He comes back to Charleston from the University of Chicago, a Division III school. Wilkerson spent the past nine seasons there posting a 51-27 record.

My family and I are extremely humbled and honored to be coming home to Eastern Illinois University and look forward to leading our football family into the future!” Wilkerson said in a statement. “This opportunity is something I have dreamed about since 1995.  I understand the passion, and pride the EIU Football family has for our program.  We understand the accomplishments of our football alumni as well as the storied tradition of Panther Football.  Our staff will work tirelessly, thoughtfully and with passion to help our collegiate athletes reach their fullest potential,” said Wilkerson.  “Eastern Illinois University represents excellence in academics and athletics but most importantly excellent PEOPLE!  I want to thank President Glassman, Joe Dively, Athletic Director Tom Michael, Deputy Athletic Director Mark Bonnstetter, Tony Romo and all those involved in the search process for this amazing opportunity and a chance to come HOME!  I look forward to building relationships with our current players and reconnecting those Panther Football Alumni and together resurrecting our proud Football Tradition.”      

“I’m excited to welcome Chris Wilkerson back home as the next head football coach at Eastern Illinois,” EIU athletic director Tom Michael said in a statement.  “The passion with which Chris played the game as a Panther, the passion with which he speaks about EIU, show what a truly special place EIU is.  He brings with him a proven track record of building a program with success on both sides of the football.  I have no doubt that Chris will bring that same passion back to this program on the field when the Panthers suit up this fall.”

“Chris was on Coach Spoo’s staff when I was a student-athlete. I thought very highly of him at that time and have followed his coaching career,” said former EIU All-American quarterback and recent College Football Hall of Fame inductee Tony Romo in a statement. “He has the football knowledge on both sides of the ball that will enable the EIU program to be successful. He is the right person to lead our program and I’m excited to have him back home as our next head football coach.”

20218-2.8007-2 (MWC)  .778 
2020*Season cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic
20196-3.6676-1 (MWC)  .857 
20187-3.7007-1 (MWC)  .875 
20176-4.6006-2 (MWC)  .750 
20164-6.4004-4 (SAA)  .500 
20156-4.6005-3 (SAA)  .625 
20148-1.8893-0 (UAA)1.000UAA title
20136-4.6001-2 (UAA)  .333 
Totals51-27.65439-15  .7229 years

Wilkerson will be formally introduced at a ceremony on Friday morning at 11 a.m.