Football coaching change would cost UI $12 million

Football coaching change would cost UI $12 million

The theme of WDWS' latest "Monday Morning Quarterbacks" show: How much would it cost to change Illini football coaches for the fifth time in 14 years? On the heels of Saturday's 63-0 Senior Day shellacking by Iowa and a week that saw Colorado, Kansas and Louisville all make coaching moves, here are a few nuggets you ought to know about LOVIE SMITH's status:

— If the UI were to cut ties with Smith "without cause" (translation: for bad football, not breaking NCAA rules) between now and Jan. 31, 2019, it would owe him a $12 million buyout, according to the terms of his contract. If Smith left on his own — for, say, an NFL defensive coordinator gig — he'd owe the university $5.5 million. Worth noting: It's not unheard of in college athletics for the two sides to renegotiate terms of beefy buyouts when it's time to pay up.

— Smith is about to reach the halfway point of a six-year, $21 million contract that will pay him $4 million annually for each of the final four years. Put another way, he's made a cool $2.2 million per Big Ten win at Illinois.

— On the UI campus, no employee's compensation package is within $1 million of Smith's. He's scheduled to make $1.158 million more in 2018-19 than the campus runner-up, men's basketball coach Brad Underwood.

— Barring an upset for the ages Saturday at Northwestern, Smith will finish his third season with records of 9-27 (overall) and 4-23 (Big Ten). If you thought the Tim Beckman era was rock bottom, the three-years-and-out Mike Thomas hire's marks were 12-25 and 4-20, respectively.

— The UI has cut its fair share of buyout checks to coaches over the years. Thomas, who himself later received $2.5 million to leave, fired three coaches before their time was up, leading to buyouts for Bruce Weber (men's basketball, $3.9 million), Ron Zook (football, $2.6 million) and Jolette Law (women's basketball, $620,000). Thomas' picks to replace them were then shown the door by successor Josh Whitman, leading to pricey parting gifts for John Groce (about $1 million because he was quickly hired by Akron), Bill Cubit ($985,000) and Matt Bollant ($450,000), respectively.

— If Year 4 of the Smith era goes like 1, 2 and 3, it would cost Illinois $4 million to buy out Smith at this time next year. So "unless Illinois just has so much Big Ten TV money that it wants to burn $8 million, expect the Illini to wait," Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples predicted this week.

-