Lovie’s Back in the Orange and Blue


Lovie Smith will once again wear blue and orange, only this time he’ll be coaching 130 miles away from his old coaching job at Soldier Field.

The University of Illinois hired Lovie Smith to a $29 million contract for the next six years. The move to sign Smith was quick and took many Illini fans by surprise.

“My first reaction was complete shock and satisfaction.” Alumni and die-hard U of I fan Michael Simmons said. “Just astonished and excited for the program. I thought it was a great chess move for the new athletic director John Whitman. Lovie will be huge for the student athletes.”

Robbie Bain, Jr., a defensive linemen for the team, tweeted “Grew up watching Coach Smith and the Bears. Going to be a great opportunity and experience to play for him. #ILL.”

One of the more interesting reactions came from college football writer Tom Fornelli’s twitter account, explaining how this move “boils down to the fact the school seems to care about football now.”

For a while it didn’t seem that way. Over the past 11 years the Fighting Illini head coaching position was held by five different people. During the 11-year span, the team went 52 -82 and no conference titles.

Whitman is looking to change that.On his first day on the job he fired interim head coach Bill Cubit and a shortly after hired Smith, making him the  sixth African-American football coach in the history of the Big Ten Conference.

“Naming Lovie Smith as the Illinois head football coach is the first step in taking this program to a place of national prominence,” Whitman said during Smith’s introduction Press Conference. “We will build a program that contends annually for Big Ten and national championships. The timing for this move was extremely tight, and we needed to move quickly. A coach of Lovie’s caliber would not have been available to us if we had waited until after the 2016 season.”

Smith is returning to college football for the first time since 1996. He spent 14 years as a college coach for Tulsa, Wisconsin,  Arizona State, Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio State before coaching in the NFL.

“We all know he’s known for the defense so no worries on that side of the ball,” Michael Simmons explained on the transition back to college football for Smith. “Offensively, college has almost changed the way football is played with the uptempo style of offense. He will most likely need a dual threat QB that can run and throw. But on the other hand you see a coach like Jim Harbaugh, like Lovie just came from coaching in the NFL, and he had a successful first year in Michigan.”

One of the main challenges Smith will face is recruiting. The state of Illinois has never had a strong showing for in-state recruitments for sports, and this year will be no different.

Most high school recruits make verbal commitments 12-18 months in advance, so Smith will start off with a disadvantage for this upcoming graduating class. Kurt Gavin of Lincoln-Way East and Doug Kramer of Hinsdale Central are the only players from the state’s top 50 to commit to playing down in Urbana this fall.

Looking outside of the state shows promise, though recruiting in state is his main goal.

“We’re the state of Illinois,” Smith told CBS during his introductory press conference. “Most of the people here are Chicago Bears fans. For me, my job is to get everybody to buy in and support the flagship university.”

Though he has stated that he doesn’t know who the Illini plays in the upcoming season or when exactly he will start practice, Smith is guaranteeing that fans will leave the arena with a smile on their faces.

Smith has offered a U of I scholarship to three-star linebacker DeCalon Brooks, son of pro football hall of famer Derrick Brooks, and has retained most of the previous assistants to his staff.