Lovie Smith Reportedly Fired as Illinois Football Head Coach After 5 Seasons

Lovie Smith Reportedly Fired as Illinois Football Head Coach After 5 Seasons

Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

The University of Illinois is parting ways with head football coach Lovie Smith after five seasons, Brett McMurphy of Stadium reported Sunday.

Smith’s dismissal was later confirmed by the University of Illinois:

Illinois Football @IlliniFootball

https://t.co/l1QV34niTt

Smith never delivered a winning record during his tenure with the Fighting Illini, and they were only able to muster a 2-5 mark during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 Big Ten season.

Overall, Smith went 17-39 at Illinois and led the Illini to one bowl game.

The 62-year-old Smith is perhaps best known for his time in the NFL as head coach of the Chicago Bears from 2004 to 2012 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014 and ’15.

Smith, who was named the 2005 NFL Coach of the Year, went 81-63 in nine seasons as head coach of the Bears. He led them to the playoffs three times and took them to the Super Bowl during the 2006 campaign.

His two seasons in Tampa were far less successful, as he went 8-24 with no trips to the playoffs.

When Smith took the reins at Illinois in 2016, there were high hopes for a turnaround, as the Illini had posted a losing record in each of the previous four seasons.

That never happened, though, with the program in the midst of a streak of nine losing seasons, making it an afterthought in the Big Ten.

Smith’s last stand at Illinois came Saturday when the Illini lost 28-10 to a Northwestern team that is set to face Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports provided a list of potential candidates to replace Smith:

Pete Thamel @PeteThamel

Some names for Illinois: Army’s Jeff Monken, Buffalo’s Lance Leipold, former Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema, Kent’s Sean Lewis, Iowa State OC Tom Manning, Ball State’s Mike Neu, Wisconsin DC Jim Leonhard and Cincinnati DC Marcus Freeman.

Included on that list is a pair of Illinois natives in Army head coach Jeff Monken and New York Giants outside linebackers coach Bret Bielema, who previously coached at Wisconsin and Arkansas.

Monken may be the best candidate given what he has accomplished at Army during his seven-year stint as head coach.

When Monken took over at Army, it had posted a losing record in 16 of the previous 17 seasons. Under Monken, the Black Knights have finished with a winning record in four of the past five years, including an 8-2 mark this season.

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