According to a report from Chicago sportscaster Ryan Baker the Illinois Fighting Illini are set to hire former Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith to the same position.
— Ryan Baker (@RyanBakerMedia) March 5, 2016
Hiring Lovie Smith would add relevancy, get Chicago interested again, and give Illinois their first black head coach. That's a lot of boxes.
— Mark Primiano (@Doctor1Hundred) March 5, 2016
Just a day after the shocking news that Illinois had fired head coach Bill Cubit, it seems that the Illini have turned to the NFL ranks to hire their next head coach. Cubit had served one season on an interim basis after the firing of previous head coach Tim Beckman just a week before the season amid allegations of forcing players to play hurt.
Cubit was then given a 2-year extension following a 5-7 season.
Smith, who was fired by Tampa Bay after this past season, previously coached with the Bears from 2004-12 and brought Chicago to Super Bowl XLI. However, his college coaching experience is very thin. His last stint in the collegiate ranks came in 1995 as the defensive backs coach at Ohio State. Before that, Smith spent one season at Wisconsin as a linebackers coach.
Despite the limited college experience, the hire of Smith brings immediate national media attention to a program that has fallen on hard times since a Rose Bowl appearance in 2008.