Illinois Names Lovie Smith as new head coach

“Naming Lovie Smith as the Illinois head football coach is the first step in taking this program to a place of national prominence,” - Josh Whitman

Illinois has officially hired coach Lovie Smith. Smith replaced Bill Cubit, who was fired Saturday in athletic director Josh Whitman’s first day on the job. Whitman will hold a press conference Monday afternoon to dicuss the hire.

“I am extremely excited to be named head coach of the Fighting Illini,” Smith said in a statement. “Josh approached me about this possibility, and I immediately seized on the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the young men who are part of the program today and in the future. I take this responsibility very seriously and can’t wait to get a staff in place to start our move to make Illinois a contender for Big Ten titles. We will play an exciting brand of football that will make our fans, alumni, student body and members of the University community extremely proud.”

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Smith, who was recently fired after going 8-24 in two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has not coached at the collegiate level since 1996. His last collegiate job was a the defensive backs coach at Ohio State.

However, Smith is no stranger to the state of Illinois. He led the Chicago Bears to three NFC North titles and a Super Bowl appearance in 2006. He’s 89-87 overall as an NFL head coach.

Smith’s contract is for six years and $21 million, but it’s tiered as an incentive to stay with the program. Smith will make $2 million in 2016 and 2017, $3 million in 2018, $4 million in 2019 and $5 million annually in 2020 and 2021.

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