Monday, March 7, 2016

EXTRA: Can Lovie Smith make Fighting Illini football relevant again?

So what would Lovie Smith’s legacy on our local sports scene become if it turns out that the Texas native becomes the man who led the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl AND the University of Illinois to a Rose Bowl?

From the 'blue and orange' to 'orange and blue'
Although considering that many don’t think Smith deserves that much praise for his eight-year stint as Bears coach (he lost the Super Bowl to those overgrown hick Hoosiers down in Indianapolis, after all), I wonder if any success he has in Champaign, Ill., won’t amount to much.

FOR IT WAS announced Monday that the guy who recently lost his job as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is employed again – he signed a six-year deal with our state’s alleged flagship university to coach the Big 10 football program that is considered by many sports observers to be the equivalent of the Chicago Cubs of college football.

At $21 million for those six years, it has been pointed out that Smith will be the highest-paid person on a public payroll in Illinois – although it also seems he will be getting less money than he was for coaching Tampa Bay.

So much for our society’s priorities when it comes to compensation.

Although I’m also sure that if Smith manages to make Illinois relevant again when it comes to college football, no one will begrudge the pay Lovie will receive in coming years.

BESIDES, I’M SURE some people are going to say (only semi-jokingly) that Smith will have to live in Champaign, Ill. (or perhaps Urbana?), and that the deserves to get something in return for being compelled to live in that central Illinois community.

Although I’d wonder what he’d wind up spending his salary on – there just isn’t that much to do in the college town community.

Particularly since Fighting Illini football often gives off the aura of something small-town based that nobody living outside of Champaign really cares about. Particularly if someone in question went to college elsewhere. Our alma maters create more interest than anything happening in Champaign.

Fighting Illini football most definitely lacking in legacy
I wonder at times if Michigan or Ohio State have more fans in Chicago than the Illini?

CREATING INTEREST IN Illinois football within Chicago could be Smith’s greatest achievement. Taking into account he was once an assistant coach for a Super Bowl-bound St. Louis Rams team, it makes me wonder if he could help spur interest across the whole state.

Could the University of Illinois seriously become the team all of Illinois roots for – and could even become the unifying factor of all those Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals fans who couldn’t ever envision having a rooting interest in common!

If Lovie can really achieve that, then our sports fans may start to respect him in ways that his Super Bowl appearance didn’t accomplish.

But the bottom line is a win – he’d better bring a Rose Bowl victory  (or perhaps even a Bowl Championship Series title) to the Land of Lincoln, or else we’ll think of him as just another part of a string of failed coaches who took the reins in Champaign throughout the years.


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