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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Reports: Lovie Smith hired as coach at Illinois



It looks like Lovie Smith won't need to take a year off from coaching this time around.

The former Bucs coach, fired in January after an 8-24 record in two seasons in Tampa Bay, is expected to be named as the new head coach at Illinois, according to multiple reports. Smith, 57, hasn't coached in the college ranks since 1995, but spent 13 years coaching at six different schools before the Bucs hired him as an assistant 20 years ago.

It's good news for Smith, but also for the Bucs -- they were due to pay him $10-million over the next two years as part of the firing, but his contract has "offset" language that calls for the Bucs to be reimbursed for any salary he earns from other jobs. It's reasonable to think the Glazer family would get half of that $10-million back, an unexpected bonus this late in the football hiring season.

New Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman fired coach Bill Cubit on his first day on the job, and within hours of that news, headlines had connected Smith to the job. His name is well-known in the state, having been the Bears' head coach from 2004-12, including an appearance in the Super Bowl after the 2006 season. After he was fired by the Bears, Smith took a year off from coaching before he was hired by the Bucs to replace Greg Schiano.

Smith's expected hiring was first reported by WBBM-TV in Chicago and then by Returning to a head coaching job should also allow Smith to work with two of his sons -- Mikal and Miles -- who were part of his Bucs coaching staff.

Getting some of Smith's salary back isn't the only good news for the Bucs -- new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, hired away from Southern Miss in late January, is an Illinois native who was initially mentioned as a potential candidate for the job.

Smith will get a chance to return to Tampa in his new job as well -- Illinois is scheduled to play USF at Raymond James Stadium in September 2017.

[Last modified: Saturday, March 5, 2016 7:37pm]


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