Updates from Lovie Smith's introductory press conference
March 7, 2016
Read our initial story on Lovie Smith’s announcement here.
(2:49 p.m.) Smith said he told players at the meeting this morning to trust his plan on how we will win football games.
Smith said that most people realize he was in Chicago for a while and he recruited in the Chicago area for Wisconsin. He said he thinks those coaches would hopefully trust sending their guys to me.
On transitioning back to college football, he is looking for people to be excited at what we are doing and leaving the games with a smile on their face. He says we’re going to do it a certain way, with class and integrity.
The press conference ends.
(2:47 p.m.) Smith on social media: “I think it’s a misnomer that I’m just some old guy who can’t adjust to social media. I don’t have a Twitter account currently, but I will get one.”
On high academic standards, Smith said there are other universities who are able to work with that. He points to the history of the University and even to Josh Whitman, who interjects to audience laughs.
Smith says he will move spring ball back at the latest to the start of April. He says that a lot of schools have started already, but he looks at it like a football game where you can come back at the end.
(2:42 p.m.) Smith said he did as much research as he possibly could to gain familiarity with the Illinois team. He said he hasn’t done a lot, but as a college fan, he knew a little and is excited to get to know them.
In terms of recruiting, Smith says he is competing against a lot of people. But he feels confident that he can sell the University just on itself.
(2:39 p.m.) Smith says he’s talked with a lot of people on putting together a staff. Offensively, Smith said he wants a balanced attack. Defensively, he will be using a four-man front and go from there.
Smith says he sees more similarities than there are differences, with certain coverages and such. But he stresses that there is not a big difference in how you win football games in the NFL and college football.
(2:35 p.m.) Smith says he signed to a commitment. He said he would like to finish his career here and that he embraces the change.
Smith said he hopes that by being the first African American head football coach at Illinois, it inspires a lot of young men and other African American coaches to follow him.
Smith states that he wants to do things with class and integrity and it’s all about building trust.
He turns to his grandson Jackson, puts his hand on his eyes and says “keeping an eye on the Illini.” Jackson then repeats it as he wakes up from a nap.
(2:31 p.m.) Smith said one of the things we have to get accomplished is to “make our home field a place that people come to dread.” He said he wants to listen to Block I students and he is really excited to work with them.Smith says his job is to get everyone supporting the flagship university. As far as recruiting, that is the way to do it and he needs to keep those players in state.
Smith says he talked with remaining members of the staff and he said he will be evaluating. He said some members of the staff may stay. He says he will do what he can to make sure Mike Phair stays.
“There are some good members on our staff right now,” Smith said.
(2:27 p.m.) Smith says that leaving (the Buccaneers) gave him this great opportunity to really have an impact in these men’s lives. He was attracted to the job because he felt that he could have a real impact in young men’s lives and the crucial age of high school to college. He says that you can really have an impact at this age: how important it is to get a degree. He points to Josh Whitman as an example who got two degrees with honors.
(2:25 p.m.) Smith was asked about the draw of college athletics. He said that football is football, but he has been recruiting and selling every year he’s been a coach. He says he feels that he can do that. He says the Illinois marching band gave him chills listening to it and its the traditions that are appealing to him.
(2:22 p.m.) Smith says we’re going to have a couple basic goals for the team: to ensure they are University of Illinois graduates and to play winning football.
Smith commented on Josh’s statement “we will win,” and says the same thing. Smith says there is nothing like gameday in college sports. He spoke of his time visiting Illini Union earlier today to talk to fans and talking with the football team this morning.
“I’m just blessed and honored to be a part of this,” he said.
Smith gave a message to high school coaches and prospects, saying we need you. He addressed future recruits saying that as soon as he can, he will be making contact with them.
(2:15 p.m.) Whitman said Smith is a man of highest integrity.
“He is a leader of men. He’s someone who will come in and care about those 105 student athletes,” Whitman said. “He’ll be a mentor. Lovie is going to be a great recruiter.”
He said he hits all the recruiting locations and at the same time, who wouldn’t want to come coach with him. He added that he’s committed to the educational mission of Illinois. Whitman said he has provided resources for Smith to be able to competitively hire assistant coaches.
Smith took the podium thanking Josh Whitman, Chancellor Wilson, President Killeen and the Board of Trustees.
“I bought into his message and the direction he was taking the program real quick,” Smith said.
Smith thanked his wife, son and his daughter-in-law, along with three of his grandchildren. One is sitting on his son’s lap and clapping for his grandfather.
(2:12 p.m.) Whitman said they gaged interest and eventually talked with Smith’s son, Matthew, who serves as his agent. It turned out to be a possibility and Lovie came up Sunday and finalized the agreement.
“This represents an incredible commitment,” Whitman said.
Whitman said Smith’s contract lasts six years, but most importantly brings a level of stability.
Whitman said he will never forget the feeling in the room and the smiles on those guys faces at the team meeting when announcing the hiring during a team meeting.
“I have so much respect for the men on our football team,” Whitman said. “They are resilient and tough minded. To go what they’ve gone through those last months, but to come out to the other side and be able to walk into that room and put in front of them stability and hope…This is our time.”
(2:10 p.m.) Whitman said he reached out to Smith two weeks ago from today. He reached out to him through Ron Turner. Whitman said he’s been watching the football situation from afar for the past couple months. He recognized that a plan was needed and said that Turner could not say enough good things about Smith.
Whitman asked Turner to reach out and gage Smith’s interests which resulted in a series of phone conversations. Whitman said he flew down to Tampa last week and spent some time at his home last week, talking about not just football but the dynamics of the University as well.
Whitman acknowledges he had admittedly high expectations that were shattered when he left Smith’s house after the visit. Whitman said he drove down to an event in Naples from Tampa and talked with Wilson about the possibility of hiring Smith. He then crashed President Killeen and his wife’s breakfast in Florida, and talked to him about the possibility.
“To their credit, they got it.” Whitman said. “They understand the impact this will have on not only football, but also the University.”
(2:05 p.m.) Whitman takes the stage after an introduction from Kent Brown. Whitman commented on the turnout and says “today, we take a bold step forward and begin walking the walk.”
“We will hire the best,” Whitman said. “We will not deliberate. We will move decisively.”
Whitman thanks Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson and President Timothy Killeen, calling the hiring of Smith unprecedented. Whitman says the staff understands the impact such a hiring can have and that everyone benefits from a strong football team.
(1:40 p.m.) Press conference will be live on BTN starting at 2:01 p.m. Athletic Director Josh Whitman will begin speaking and introduce new head football coach Lovie Smith. Players will be available as well.
(10:10 a.m.) Follow our live thread and our Twitter feed @di_sports for live updates of Lovie Smith’s first press conference as football head coach. The conference will start at 2 p.m.