Asmussen | Show them the money: Lovie's newest staff receives pay bump

Asmussen | Show them the money: Lovie's newest staff receives pay bump

Lovie's newest staff now totals $3 million per year in salary

For some reason, I am fascinated by salaries. Especially those attached to coaches.

Maybe it's my natural curiosity. Or maybe I'm just nosy.

In the case of Illinois coaches, it's important to put the figures out there. Every time the Illini make a new hire, I ask spokesman Kent Brown for the number. And he often has it ready to go.

Lovie Smith recently made five changes to his coaching staff for the 2019 season. The UI board of trustees is expected to approve the salaries for all five of those coaches today.

All five have two-year contracts. Offensive line coach Bob McClain, who will earn $310,000 annually, will receive the top pay among that newly-minted coaching group. It's a large raise for McClain, who was paid $50,000 in 2018 as an offensive analyst.

The previous offensive line coach, former Illini center Luke Butkus, was paid $343,400 during his final season. Butkus left for a job as assistant line coach with the Green Bay Packers.

New strength coach Lou Hernandez will be paid $300,000 annually. That's a boost from the $229,522.50 paid to former strength coach Joey Boese, who left for a job with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Hernandez is back at Illinois after seven years at North Carolina. He was Ron Zook's strength coach from 2005-11.

New running backs coach Mike Bellamy will be paid $250,000 annually. The former Illini receiver was on staffs with Tim Beckman and Bill Cubit in charge from 2013-15.

After a season as an analyst at Mississippi State, Bellamy worked two years at Toledo as the Rockets' wide receivers coach. He takes over for Thad Ward, who left for a job at Temple. Ward was paid $282,800 last season.

Keynodo Hudson, who will work with the cornerbacks, is being paid $250,000 annually. He came to Illinois after two seasons at Florida Atlantic.

The fifth new hire is linebackers coach Miles Smith. The son of the head coach will earn $220,000 annually.

Miles Smith fills the position vacated by Hardy Nickerson, who resigned during the season for personal reasons. Nickerson, who was the team's defensive coordinator, earned $650,000 annually.

Lovie Smith is taking on the defensive coordinator role. His salary, $4.008 million, won't increase with the new duties.

Getting a bump

After a productive first year, Illinois offensive coordinator Rod Smith was given a $200,000 raise in December, taking him to $700,000 annually. He gets another bump to $750,000 in 2020.

Keeping Rod Smith was a must for Illinois. His good work in Champaign-Urbana was noticed by others and he could have looked around.

But Smith has made it clear he wants to stay at Illinois and help build the program into a winner.

Smith and McClain worked together in the past, so it figures to be a smooth transition. The offense is set on the line and will be strong at running back. Receiver and quarterback remain the biggest questions going into the spring session, which starts March 26.

Special teams coordinator Bob Ligashesky will earn $331,000 annually. His contract extension is expected to be approved today, as well.

He was paid $318,150 in 2018.

Ligashesky and receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker are the only holdovers from Lovie Smith's original Illinois staff in 2016.

Expensive sport

By my count, the new salaries put Illinois at just over $3 million for the 10-person staff.

Seems like a lot of money. And it is. But not compared to Ohio State.

New coach Ryan Day is paying five of his assistants at least $900,000. Co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison will make $1.1 million, doubling what Michigan paid him in 2018.

Money alone does not guarantee success in college football. But it doesn't hurt either.

USA Today ran a list of highest-paid assistant coaches during the 2018 season. No surprise, most of the guys on the list were at top schools. LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda led the way with $2.5 million, followed by Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables at $2.2 million.

Nine of the 10 were defensive coordinators. Makes sense, with schools looking for an edge against modern offenses.

We should not be jealous of the salaries. I know I am not.

Spending 30-plus years around college football coaches, I realize how difficult the job can be. And how much time and effort it took for the coaches to reach their current status.

They travel constantly. They miss valuable time with their families. And they attend endless meetings. In a word: nothankyou.

Bob Asmussen can be reached at 217-351-5233 or by email at