College Football Reporter/Columnist

Bob Asmussen is a college football reporter and columnist for The News-Gazette. His email is asmussen@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@BobAsmussen).

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Lovie Smith

Today:

“I keep seeing 'Lovie Hot Seat' columns from national writers. Any truth to those? I know our AD keeps saying Lovie is his coach but doesn’t he have to say that?” - Anthony

Bob says ...

Barring a total meltdown like a 1-11 or 0-12 finish, I think Lovie Smith will be back on the sidelines in 2020.

Athletic director Josh Whitman has insisted, in a strong way, that Lovie Smith is his coach into the future.

There are also some financial factors. Lovie signed a six-year deal with an expensive buyout early on. After the 2019 season, the buyout is hefty, $4 million. But the cost would be greater than that because Illinois would also have to hire a new staff. That won’t be cheap.

Lovie’s buyout drops to $2 million after 2020. If the program isn’t winning by then, it will be difficult for the AD to justify sticking with the coach.

If Smith wins, say, eight games this season, then I think there is a chance he will get an extension and a pay raise.

I understand why the national writers put Lovie on the hot seat. He inherited a five-win team and hasn’t won more than four in any of his first three seasons. And while he has some recruiting hits (Isaiah Williams, Marquez Beason), his classes have been rated low.

Of the coaches in the Big Ten West, Smith is the guy on the hottest seat.

That makes his job even more difficult, competing against guys who have stable positions.

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