CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Illinois fired coach Lovie Smith on Sunday with one game left in its ninth consecutive losing season.
Smith became Illinois’ first Black head football coach when he was hired by athletic director Josh Whitman in March 2016. The longtime NFL and former Bucs coach went 17-39 in five seasons at the school.
Smith’s original deal was for six years and $21 million, but he received a two-year extension through 2023 after Illinois went 4-8 in his third season.
The Illini made one postseason appearance under Smith, losing 35-20 to California in the Redbox Bowl in 2019. They were 6-4 last season after a thrilling comeback victory at Michigan State, but then dropped their last three games.
The slide continued into this year, with Illinois losing its first three by a combined 117-45 score. It is 2-5 after it was pushed around in a 28-10 loss at Northwestern on Saturday, allowing 411 yards rushing in its sixth straight loss in the series against the in-state Wildcats.
Whitman said Smith will not coach the team’s final game of the season.
The Big Ten is scheduling one more game for its teams next week, but the opponents for the teams not playing for the conference title had not yet been revealed.