Just one day after firing Bill Cubit Illinois has a new head football coach. Lovie Smith is the 25th head coach for the Fighting Illini football program.
Josh Whitman, Illinois new Athletic Director made the decision to let Cubit go reasoning the athletic department had to create a more stable environment. So, naturally, the most stable thing to do for the football program was to abruptly fire the head coach that had just recently signed a two-year contract and was a week away from starting spring practice.
Enter Lovie Smith. Smith, after being let go by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is now tasked with stabilizing one of the most unstable programs in college football. His contract with Illinois is a six-year, $ 21 million deal.
This is Lovie’s first head coaching job in college football and has not coached in college since 1995 when he was a defensive assistant with Ohio State.
This is a great deal for Lovie and a decent deal for Illinois. Lovie, who needed a job, got a great contract as a head coach with a program with low expectations. Illinois, although nailing down a higher-profile coach, is now committed to six years to a guy that has not coached collegiately for two decades.
Can he recruit? Can he handle the responsibilities that go along with looking after 18 year olds while creating a winning football program? He’ll have to for Illinois sake because they can’t afford to Notre Dame themselves though a contract like the Irish did with Weis.
This may turn into a great deal for Illinois, and I hope it does. I sincerely hope it does. But for an athletic director making moves in the name of stability, firing a newly hired head coach while giving the new guy all the contractual advantages is not a great start.