Illinois athletic director makes statement on Lovie Smith hiring, names interim head coach
Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman fired coach Lovie Smith on Sunday morning.
Smith was at the helm for five seasons and compiled a 10-33 record against Big Ten opposition.
Whitman released a statement shortly after the firing was made official.
“Lovie Smith led the Illinois football program with unquestioned integrity during his nearly five years of service,” Whitman said in the statement statement. “I have tremendous respect for Coach Smith and will always be grateful to him for providing a steady, experienced hand at a time when our program required stability. His unshakeable leadership, never more needed than during this pandemic, will be forever remembered.
“Nonetheless, based on extensive evaluation of the program’s current state and future outlook, I have concluded the program is not progressing at the rate we should expect at this advanced stage in Coach Smith’s tenure. To achieve our competitive objectives, I believe new leadership of the football program is required. I will always look fondly on the time Lovie and I have spent together. I wish him and MaryAnne nothing but the best.”
Illinois makes it official, the Illini have relieved Lovie Smith of his duties as head coach pic.twitter.com/Knf2xAQD8z
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 13, 2020
It’s also been reported that offensive coordinator Rod Smith will be the acting head coach for Illinois in the short term.
Illinois OC Rod Smith will be Illini’s acting head coach after firing of Lovie Smith
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) December 13, 2020
Candidates have already started to surface to replace Smith, including Army’s Jeff Monken and former Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema.
Illinois is expected to participate in the Big Ten’s Championship Weekend on Dec. 19. Its opponent will be announced on Sunday.