Lovie Smith will be the new head football coach at the University of Illinois.
Yes, that’s correct. After it basically became official over the weekend, Lovie Smith agreed to a six-year deal with the following payments:
- $2 million annually for 2016 and 2017
- $3 million for 2018
- $4 million for 2019
- $5 million annually for both 2020 and 2021
- And to top it off, he will have opportunities to earn even more through incentive bonuses.
All of this information comes from Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune. Now before you freak out, put aside your five-year-old rift with Lovie Smith.
His time in Chicago was a roller coaster of success and eventual disapproval. But remember, Lovie Smith got a lot of shit for things perhaps out of his control and little credit for the good that he did accomplish.
What resonates most was his laid back demeanor that seemingly pissed everyone off when times got a little tough. But fast forward to now, and try to fully comprehend the coup that Josh Whitman and the Illinois athletic department pulled off here.
— Josh Whitman (@IlliniAD) March 7, 2016
From Tim Beckman to Mike Thomas, this is a (Big Ten) school that was without an athletic director for 99 days and somehow sparked a two-year extension for interim head coach Bill Cubit after a 5-7 record.
It’s the same school that compiled an eight-person search committee including the professional firm, Korn Ferry, to find a new athletic director — and took 14 weeks to do so.
University of Illinois athletics were a fucking mess, and there’s no other way to shake it. It reached such unrelenting depths that even university alumni learned the difference between “shameful” and “butt of all jokes.”
It’s what made the Josh Whitman hire so important. At 37, Whitman is a respected Illini alumni and a four-year NFL vet. It was a quintessential scenario of “works on paper but let’s see what he can do.”
No matter what you think of Lovie Smith due to his tenure in Chicago, or his short time in Tampa Bay, he’s a damn good football coach. He’s admired in just about every circle of coaching across this country.
He’ll command respect and not only mold his players into good football players but even better men. That should play well in the homes of future recruits.
And at a time where avoiding controversy and running a clean ship is as imperative as ever, there is not one coach in this world that checks off more boxes for this position than Lovie Smith.
That’s who Lovie is. And hopefully, that’s what Illinois football becomes.
In terms of “home run coaching hires,” this is as grand slam as it gets.