CHICAGO — If Illinois dismisses Lovie Smith without cause after his sixth or seventh year on the job, it would owe him $1 million, under the terms of his revised contract.
That's a fraction of the $12 million buyout Smith's contract called for following this past season, his third as Illini football coach.
The details of Smith's buyout were the only new wrinkle in an extension UI trustees signed off on Friday, nearly three weeks after athletic director Josh Whitman announced he was adding two years to the coach's original six-year deal.
Smith's annual compensation in his final two years of the deal remains the same as it is for years 3-6: $4 million.
The buyouts also remain the same for 2019 ($4 million) and 2020 ($2 million), plus any remaining portion of his salary for that contract year, before dropping to a flat $1 million in both 2021 and 2022.
If Smith is let go in 2023, during the final year of the revised deal — a rarity in major college football — Illinois would only owe him pro-rated compensation.
Trustees approved the general parameters of the contract extension and were provided a draft contract to review. They had lots of questions about the buyout provisions, with some confusion about the timing of the contract years.
"It feels a little convoluted, but it is standard for the industry, and I have confidence in Josh Whitman's decisions," Trustee Stuart King said.
UI athletic spokesman Kent Brown said the details of Smith's extension won't be finalized and made public until the agreement is signed by both parties.
Contract years for football coaches always run from Feb. 1 through Jan. 31 of the following year so that if staff changes are made at the end of the season, which is typical, the school doesn't continue paying the old staff through August, Brown said.
Whitman announced Smith's extension on Nov. 25, one day after a season-ending loss at Northwestern.
Illinois finished 4-8, putting Smith's three-year record at 9-27. A bowl season that kicks off today won't include Illinois, which last played in a postseason game four years ago.
Still, the majority of three dozen Illini football alumni contacted by News-Gazette Media since Whitman's announcement stand by the decision.
"I think it is a good move," former NFL All-Pro safety Henry Jones said. "I feel that stability is key for any organization, and one thing that we have not shown is stability as a program.
"This will go a long way in showing recruits that we are committed and a stable program. The kids won't have to worry about who their coach will be in the near future."
Offensive lineman Tony Pashos also followed his time at Illinois with a long career in the NFL. Pashos remains a fan of Whitman's and Smith's.
"The decision to extend Lovie may be the unconventional one, but ... I completely agree that stability is vital," he said.
"Josh has been blessed to be both athletically and intellectually gifted, and I trust his decision-making process is thorough and always in the best interest of the university. His decision shows how committed he is in giving Lovie absolutely everything he could ever want to be successful."
Smith wasn't the only one to have his extension approved. The board also OK'd a $200,000 raise for offensive coordinator Rod Smith, from $500,000 to $700,000 for 2019. His pay will go up to $750,000 in 2020.
Salaries for assistant coaches were also approved, including:
— $375,000 for offensive line coach Luke Butkus.
— $335,000 for receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker.
— $315,000 for running backs coach Thad Ward.
— $300,000 for secondary coach Gill Byrd.
— $275,000 for defensive line coach Austin Clark and tight ends coach Cory Patterson.
— $255,000 for strength coach Joe Boese.
And trustees approved a two-year contract-extension and raise for head volleyball coach Chris Tamas, paying him $340,000 in 2020 and increasing $10,000 a year to $380,000 in 2023.
Tamas will also receive a 16 percent bonus for reaching the Sweet 16 this year, Brown said.
Staff writer Julie Wurth contributed to this story.