CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Illinois has fired coach Lovie Smith with one game left in its ninth consecutive losing season.
Smith, former head coach of the Chicago Bears, became Illinois’ first Black head football coach when he was hired by athletic director Josh Whitman in March 2016. The longtime NFL coach went 17-39 in five seasons at the school.
Smith’s original deal was for six years and $21 million, but he received a two-year extension through 2023 after Illinois went 4-8 in his third season.
"Lovie Smith led the Illinois football program with unquestioned integrity during his nearly five years of service," said Whitman. "I have tremendous respect for Coach Smith and will always be grateful to him for providing a steady, experienced hand at a time when our program required stability. His unshakeable leadership, never more needed than during this pandemic, will be forever remembered.
"Nonetheless, based on extensive evaluation of the program's current state and future outlook, I have concluded the program is not progressing at the rate we should expect at this advanced stage in Coach Smith's tenure," Whitman continued. "To achieve our competitive objectives, I believe new leadership of the football program is required. I will always look fondly on the time Lovie and I have spent together. I wish him and MaryAnne nothing but the best."
Smith led the team to the Redbox Bowl in 2019, which was the team's first bowl game in five years.
The rest of the season will be headed by Offensive Coordinator Rod Smith.
The video below was during a press conference when Lovie Smith was announced as the team's head coach