Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ex-Bucs coach on mission to sell Illinois

Lovie Smith, let go as Bucs coach after the season, says he hopes Illinois fans are ready to move on from a decade of struggles.

DIRK SHADD | Times (2015)

Lovie Smith, let go as Bucs coach after the season, says he hopes Illinois fans are ready to move on from a decade of struggles.

CHICAGO — Since being hired as Illinois coach in March, Lovie Smith has been on a campaign to help sell the program and re-engage fans who became disillusioned after years of losing.

"You are an ambassador for the university. And why wouldn't you want to be?" Smith, the former Bears and Bucs coach, said Tuesday at Big Ten Media Days. "It has a lot to offer. … Every function we've been to — and we've been through a lot — have been that way. It's the same message from our players: 'Coach, what do we need to do?' For our fans, the message is, 'Come back.'

"There's nothing like student excitement in Memorial Stadium. We need their energy in the stadium wearing orange and blue. University of Illinois bumper stickers. Whatever it is, let people know who you believe in. Don't worry about what's happened in the past. It's about today."

Illinois fans are eager to move on from a past that includes four or fewer Big Ten wins every year since the 2007 Rose Bowl season, allegations of player mistreatment by coach Tim Beckman that led to his firing and a 5-7, 2-6 Big Ten mark last season.

Smith passed the test at Media Days by presenting a solid message, unlike Beckman, who notoriously flubbed the event by coming up with unusual analogies and annually giving his mom a birthday shout-out.

Bringing respectability to the program is just one important goal for the Illini. More will come with victories.

"(When) you never lost a game at a place, normally it's pretty positive," Smith said.

Also at Big Ten media day, commissioner Jim Delany said he does not envision the Rose Bowl abandoning its New Year's Day spot in order to accommodate the College Football Playoff semifinals. He said there might be "some movement from the bowls" but not by the Rose Bowl.

"I realize the challenge," Delany said. "There may be changes in the offing, but I wouldn't expect those changes to impact the Rose Bowl."

BASKETBALL: Florida center Gorjok Gak will not be eligible to play as a freshman next season. The Gators announced that the NCAA cleared Gak for enrollment this fall but denied his eligibility for the season. … Former Georgia Tech player Glen Rice Jr. was arrested and taken to the DeKalb County (Ga.) jail Monday, charged with felony robbery and aggravated battery. His father, Glen Rice, is an ex-NBA player.

Ex-Bucs coach on mission to sell Illinois 07/26/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 26, 2016 9:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Friday's Rays-Yankees game

    The Heater

    Did the Rays make the right call in picking RHP Austin Pruitt rather than top prospect Brent Honeywell? Though Honeywell had tweeted he was as ready as he'd ever be, the Rays felt better going with Pruitt, who gave them the five innings they were seeking.

  2. Damion Lowe returns to Rowdies after eventful Gold Cup

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG — Pretty well emotionally spent, and not at all rested physically having just finished a life-changing stint with his native Jamaica in the Gold Cup, Damion Lowe wants the Rowdies to know he's ready.

    Damion Lowe, right, returns to the Rowdies — though he is likely to get a rest in tonight’s 7:30 home game against Pittsburgh — after an eventful six Gold Cup matches.
  3. Rays journal: Lineup dominated by Masahiro Tanaka in loss to Yankees (w/video)

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — Sometimes you just have to dig out the good news, and for the Rays on Friday it may well have been that they didn't get no-hit in a 6-1 loss.

    Austin Pruitt waits for Brett Gardner to round the bases after leading off the first with one of three homers Pruitt gives up.
  4. Rays at Yankees, 1:05 p.m. Saturday, New York

    The Heater

    Today: at Yankees

    1:05, Yankee Stadium, New York

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell throws against the Rockies during the first inning Tuesday. He left after allowing just one hit and striking out nine in six shutout innings.  {Associated Press}
  5. Steve Cishek latest bullpen upgrade for Rays, who now must translate that to wins

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — The Rays made another addition to change the look of their bullpen Friday in acquiring veteran side-armer and former closer Steve Cishek from Seattle.

    Reliever Steve Cishek has a 3.15 ERA in 20 games after recovering from offseason hip surgery and a 1.86 ERA since a rocky second outing of the season.