Former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith will be returning to the state of Illinois.
No, it won’t be as part of the Bears organization. Smith has been hired as the new head coach of the University of Illinois football team.
After compiling an 81-63 record in nine seasons with the Bears, Smith took a year off before being hired to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Smith had a short leash with the Bucs and was fired after just two disappointing seasons in which he finished with an 8-24 record.
Not much is known about Smith’s recruiting capabilities, but his name recognition should help generate interest among potential recruits. If Smith can somehow draw considerable talent to Champaign, there could be cause for optimism for a school that hasn’t had any real success since their 10-2 season in 2001, which led to a Sugar Bowl appearance. But that was head coach Ron Turner’s only real successful season in his eight-year tenure with the team. Since Turner, the school has employed Ron Zook, Tim Beckman and Bill Cubit, all of whom have failed to make Illinois a contender.
Smith has the makeup to be a good college football coach. He’s a player’s coach, which bodes well for recruiting and developing relationships, he’s a good leader, and his defensive philosophies of attacking the ball and forcing turnovers has the chance to draw in talented, enthusiastic defenders.