Illinois fires Lovie Smith following 18-point loss to Northwestern

By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher

The Illinois Fighting Illini have fired head football coach Lovie Smith. He spent five seasons leading the program.

The 62-year-old went 17-39 at the Big Ten Conference school. He did not have a single winning season with the team.

Former Illinois head football coach Lovie Smith looks up at the clock against the Penn State Nittany Lions
Lovie Smith looks up at the clock against the Penn State Nittany Lions (Getty Images)

This season under Smith’s leadership, the team went 2-5.

Related: Auburn administration fires Gus Malzahn after eight seasons

“Lovie Smith led the Illinois football program with unquestioned integrity during his nearly five years of service,” Illinois Director of Athletics Josh Whitman said. “I have tremendous respect for Coach Smith and will always be grateful to him for providing a steady, experienced hand at a time when our program required stability. His unshakeable leadership, never more needed than during this pandemic, will be forever remembered.

“Nonetheless, based on extensive evaluation of the program’s current state and future outlook, I have concluded the program is not progressing at the rate we should expect at this advanced stage in Coach Smith’s tenure,” Whitman continued. “To achieve our competitive objectives, I believe new leadership of the football program is required. I will always look fondly on the time Lovie and I have spent together. I wish him and MaryAnne nothing but the best.”

Related: Arkansas State hires Butch Jones as head football coach

His final game with the program was an 18-point loss to the Northwestern Wildcats. The Fighting Illini were defeated 28-10 by the Wildcats.

A national search has begun to find Smith’s replacement. He’s receiving a $2.3 million buyout from the school with this departure.

Rod Smith will serve as the team’s interim head coach for the final game of the season. Before the promotion, he was the team’s offensive coordinator.

Related: South Alabama hires 33-year-old Kane Wommack as head football coach

“Can’t thank Coach Smith enough for what he has done for me,” Illinois punter Blake Hayes said on Twitter. “He took a chance on someone who had never played football and has changed my life forever. Grateful for the opportunities he has given me!”

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