Sunday morning the University of Illinois fired head football coach Lovie Smith.

Unfortunately for Smith, the barometer for retaining a coaching position is winning football games. While in Champaign the Illini were not able to put together enough to keep Smith on the sideline. Just a 17-39 record (10-33 in the B1G) during his five-year run at Illinois.

But Smith leaves an Illinois program that is in far better shape that the one he started with.

During his tenure, he overhauled the Illinois roster to create a competitive team and helped to push the opening of the $79.2 million Henry Dale and Betty Smith Football Performance Center. To even the most casual observer, the Smith’s replacement will inherit a much better situation than the one he entered, and finding his successor will be easier because of it.

Reaction across the league has been nothing but respectful for Smith, and Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz joined in.

“A real loss for college football and college football needs more coaches like Lovie Smith,” said Ferentz.

Ferentz said he has, “highest respect and regard for him as a human being.”

Illinois offensive coordinator Rod Smith was named Illinois’ interim coach and will lead the Fighting Illini in regular-season finale this coming Saturday at Penn State.