Lovie’s New Gig and the Rest of the Story

In the coaching world when one person gets a chance, another coach is getting their pink slip.

So was the case at the University of Illinois, who announced that Lovie Smith would be the next Head Football Coach for the Illini (see Shannon Ryan’s article in the Chicago Tribune).

Smith, a well respected NFL Head Coach and great person, himself was done dirty by the brass in Tampa Bay. After just his second year, Smith was surprisingly fired despite his team showing progress with a rookie QB at the helm.

With this in mind, I am ecstatic for Coach Smith to get this opportunity to run his own program again.

Nevertheless, every hire means a fire (or non-renewal). In this case, Bill Cubit was on the chopping block. Several programs within the athletic department were said to be in turmoil, including the football program before Cubit was the interim and then eventual head coach.

What stood out to me was a few things:

  1. A new athletic director and former Illini Tight End, Josh Whitman was hired in mid-February (was D3 AD at Washington University in St. Louis in his prior position).
  2. According to Ryan’s article: “Whitman worked at lightning speed to bring Smith to Champaign. Through a common friend and colleague, former Illini coach and Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner, Whitman connected with Smith shortly after Whitman was named AD in mid-February. The two met at Smith’s home in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, and each was impressed with the other. On his first official day on the job Saturday, Whitman fired coach Bill Cubit, who had been promoted from interim status at the end of last season with a two-year contract. Smith flew to Champaign on Sunday.”
  3. According to an AP article (see article): “I just came in and (Whitman) said, ‘I’m letting you go,'” Cubit told The Associated Press of the meeting on Saturday…The Illini finished 5-7, 2-6 in the Big Ten last season under Cubit, whose son Ryan was also fired as offensive coordinator. The elder Cubit said he wasn’t given a detailed reason for the firing. ‘Everybody told me I had (at least) this year,’ he said. ‘There’s a lot of shock going on. I don’t know what to tell you. It’s a funny place.'”
  4. Also, current student-athletes in the football program learned of Cubit’s dismissal through social media.
  5. Whitman had obviously been negotiating talks with Smith while Cubit still had the position and before Whitman’s first official day.

It seems as though, despite a glamour hire by Whitman, Cubit was not the problem and he was not even given the courtesy by Whitman to talk to him, evaluate him and get to know what his culture and philosophy were about.

This hire pulls at me in both directions because Lovie was dismissal by Tampa Bay was just as shameful as Cubit’s by Illinois.

The bottom line is: Great for Lovie. Thoughts go out to Cubit and the former Illini Football staff. Shame on Whitman.

I do understand (see Brian Hamilton’s of Sports Illustrated’s take), but do not agree with Cubit’s abrupt firing, but no matter what Whitman’s decision, it was handled entirely unprofessionally.

Not to mention, why were the student-athletes not afforded the respect to be told before the media was notified? It has to be about the student-athletes. Period.

It begs the question that I always ask myself…”who is evaluating the evaluators?”

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

 

 

 

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