Lovie Smith is the new coach of the Fighting Illini, the University of Illinois has announced. Smith will take over the program on a contract that will pay him $21MM over six years, per the team’s press release. Smith’s contract at Illinois is back-loaded so the Buccaneers will save $4MM and still owe him $6MM after his firing, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times tweets.
“I am extremely excited to be named head coach of the Fighting Illini,” Smith said. “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.”
In January, the Buccaneers fired Smith, a move that surprised many. Smith’s Bucs went 6-10 in 2015 but after he survived the calendar year, most observers assumed that his job was safe. Ultimately, the Bucs did not want to lose hot head coaching candidate Dirk Koetter to another team, so they fired Smith and elevated Koetter in his place.
As the press release notes, Smith is now the second coach to go straight from head coach in the NFL to head coach at Champaign-Urbana after John Mackovic made the move in 1988, going from the Chiefs to the Fighting Illini.
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