Illinois hires Lovie Smith as next football coach – Chicago Tribune

8 months ago Comments Off on Illinois hires Lovie Smith as next football coach – Chicago Tribune

A Twitter photo can say it all.

Illinois has selected former Bears coach Lovie Smith as its next football coach after athletic director Josh Whitman posted two photos on Monday morning with Smith at Memorial Stadium.

Smith agreed to a six-year deal with 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. He will have opportunities to earn more through incentive bonuses.

His appointment will be presented to the board of trustees for approval on March 16.

“I am extremely excited to be named head coach of the Fighting Illini,” Smith said in a statement released by the university Monday morning. “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.”

Whitman said this is the first step in bringing the team to “national prominence.”

“We will build a program that contends annually for Big Ten and national championships,” Whitman said in a statement. “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. Lovie’s reputation as a coach, and even more so as a person, made it clear it was an awesome opportunity for the University of Illinois.”

Smith is the second coach to move directly from NFL head coach to Illinois after John Mackovic took the job in 1988 following a coaching job with the Chiefs.

Illinois will introduce Smith at a 2 p.m. press conference today.