Lovie Smith and Illinois did the dance of ‘parting ways’, which means exactly what we all think it means.
For the second time in his coaching career, Lovie Smith has been fired from a job in Illinois.
The University of Illinois announced on Sunday that it had parted ways with Smith after a 2-5 season and an 18-point loss to Northwestern. Smith was hired back in 2016 under the belief that his steady hand would be able to guide the Illini back to Big Ten relevancy, but his mark on the school was nothing more than an embarrassing 17-39 record and zero winning seasons (Illinois was bowl eligible once under Smith).
Illinois coaching rumors: What’s next for the Illini?
The question for the Illini is what’s next, but it’s not a particularly new question being asked around campus. Illinois hasn’t been a ranked team since the 2011 season when Ron Zook was still the head coach and have only made six bowl appearances this century.
Smith was supposed to be a calming presence that brought the school back to where it needed to be but in four years the school has watched as conference rivals like Minnesota and Ohio State have switched coaches and experienced the success the Illini were aiming for.
For Smith, this is the third time he’s been fired as a head coach — the second time it’s happened in the state of Illinois. Smith was the Chicago Bears head coach from 2004-2012, taking the team to a Super Bowl and winning Coach of the Year back in 2005. He coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two seasons before being unceremoniously fired amid a franchise identity crisis, which led him to Illinois in 2016.
It’s unclear what he plans on doing with his career, but there seems to be a place somewhere for him in the NFL on a defensive staff as he attempts to rehabilitate his coaching career and carve out whatever legacy he can with the time he has left.