Lovie Smith has been hired as the new head football coach for the Illinois Fighting Ilini.
Smith agreed to a six-year deal that earn him $21 million, according to ESPN.
“Naming Lovie Smith as the Illinois head football coach is the first step in taking this program to a place of national prominence,” Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman said in a statement. “We will build a program that contends annually for Big Ten and national championships. The timing for this move was extremely tight, and we needed to move quickly. A coach of Lovie’s caliber would not have been available to us if we had waited until after the 2016 season. Lovie’s reputation as a coach, and even more so as a person, made it clear it was an awesome opportunity for the University of Illinois.”
— Josh Whitman (@IlliniAD) March 7, 2016
Smith will instantly become one of the biggest names in college football coaching, which makes this hire for Illinois unexpectedly big. He coached the Chicago Bears to the 2006 Super Bowl and ranks third all-time for wins among Chicago coaches. (RELATED: Report: Peyton Manning Will Retire)
The Illini only won five games last season, but it would appear that Smith’s arrival is a sign the program is headed in the right direction.