Cleat Geeks

Illini in Lovie

JoshWhitmanIllinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman made the most of his first few days in office. First, he fires Bill Cubit, who was signed to a two year extension after being the interim coach last season. Then, Whitman goes out and hires longtime NFL coach Lovie Smith.

Wonder how Lovie will do without Rex being his quarterback? I’m sure just fine.

This is a big sign by Illinois. The Fighting Illini have not had a winning season since 2011. Whitman brings a winning mentality to UI and wants to put this team back on the map.

Lovie Smith has made it to the top. Smith, who coached the Chicago Bears from 2004-2012 and led them to the Super Bowl, brings experience and a winning mentality. Lovie knows how to win and knows what it takes to be a successful football team with the correct schemes and discipline.

Illinois needed a big hire and they got one. It has been hard to watch this program the past few seasons. From the lack of talent on the field to the poor era of John Beckman, Illinois needed something big to start anew. And Whitman brining in a successful big name like Lovie Smith, just gave many Illinois fans and other college football people a reason to put interest back in Illini football.LovieSmithIUquote

Smith returns to college football for the first time since 1996 after spending 19 years in the NFL, including 11 years as a head coach. He led the Chicago Bears for nine seasons from 2004-12 and amassed a record of 81-63 (.563 win pct.), including three division titles, two NFC Championship Game appearances (2006 and 2010) and a berth in Super Bowl XLI. The AP Coach of the Year in 2005, Smith’s 81 wins with Chicago are the third-most in Bears history. He spent the past two years as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where the Bucs improved from two victories in 2014 to six wins in 2015.

Lovie Smith was on the Illinois campus on Monday and was given a warm welcome by the community. He was crowded by Illinois students and said: “I’m glad to be here and become the head coach of this football team.”

Not only will the program improve, but so will the recruiting. As we know, recruiting is more popular than ever nowadays. Scouts and programs are always in continuous pursuit to grab the most talented athletes and explain how/why their program is the best fit. Recruits love all the publicity surrounding them, but when it comes time to choose, the people at the University really make up their decisions.

Jim Harbaugh was made for the college game. He has the IQ and the personality to connect with players and transfer his IQ and schemes onto the field on Saturdays. When you have a coach sleeping over and climbing trees all because you want him to attend your school, it really shows dedication and the will to win. Now Lovie may not be good at climbing trees or may not be a fan of sleeping outside of his own home, but Smith has the background knowledge and skills to encourage kids to join his program. His name may be enough to draw kids to visit UI and attend because they know what Lovie is capable of.LovieSmithHeadShot

Lovie Smith is going to turn this program around. He has proved himself and the pro level, and it won’t take him long to be mentioned in the same sentence with Harbaugh or Dantonio.  Smith is going to take this program to the top.

Illini Nation has been through a lot. Losing the Rose Bowl in 2007 was a stinger and still doesn’t sit well.  Fans have been through the up and down seasons of Ron Zook and Tim Beckman in recent years. Right away, Illini player, fans, and staff will be seeing major improvements in all aspects of the program.  You heard the press conference; Lovie is not here to just wear the fancy gear.  Lovie is here to win.  He knows this is a great opportunity and Whitman has put complete trust in him.

Smith and the UI have a six-year agreement calling for payments of $2 million annually for 2016 and 2017, $3 million for 2018, $4 million for 2019 and $5 million annually for both 2020 and 2021.


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