Lovie Smith Optimistic We’ll Have Football in 2020


Illinois Fighting Illini Coach Lovie Smith is optimistic that there will be a college football season in 2020. Yesterday, while on teleconference with the media, Smith said his “glass is half-full” on the matter.

“Eventually, we’re going to play football,” Smith told a group of reporters by telephone. “In the meantime, we’re going to do what we can do. It’s bigger than football.”

Of course, we have a very long way to go from the current mandate of staying at least six feet from one another at all times to packing stadiums for several hours every Saturday with tens of thousands of people. At the same time, it’s also hard to speculate on August while we’re still in March.

The coronavirus pandemic has shut down life as we know it, and when things eventually return to normal, sports and entertainment will likely be among the last things to re-open for business. It has to be that way- it’s the only way we’ll beat the COVID19 pandemic.

“Eventually, we are going to beat this,” Smith said.

“No. 1, do what the experts tell us to do. As a coach, I’m constantly telling our players to be coachable and I, and we, have to be coachable. And we’re doing everything that the experts tell us to do. Practicing social distancing. Quarantine if that’s necessary. Washing our hands.

“All of the things that the experts are telling us to do is what we, my family, is doing and what we’re asking our players to do.”

Fortunately, this pandemic has not reached anybody involved in the Illini football program at this point.

Lovie Smith also discussed how his program has adjusted to the situation, and what they’re still able to do within the new limitations.

“Luckily all three of our offense, defense, and special teams systems are still in place,” he continued.

“Theres’ a lot we can get done. And as far as going out and recruiting, this was going to be a valuable time for our coaches to go out and see. To me a part of the evaluation process is being able to see guys live.”

“So we’re missing all that, there’s no way around that. But everyone is missing it so we’ll just have to find other ways. Rely on video a little bit more than we normally would.”

“Each day we will watch video, if we were in our office we’d be watching video daily and moving our board around. Looking at finding new guys. Our recruiting plan that we had in place, none of that has changed except for we can’t see guys. We can’t get them on campus so we have to find other ways.

“Getting them video, showing them Champaign, the University of Illinois, our coaches, you know just everything about our program. Besides that, it’s kind of business as usual for us. We’re just all doing it remotely from different places. There’s communication. We’re recruiting. There’s a recruiting meeting five days a week still.”

Illinois is coming off their best season in several years. In 2019, they reached a bowl game for the first time since 2014. Several key players return from this team, including Doug Kramer, one of the best centers in the nation and Jake Hansen, a Butkus Award semifinalist (nation’s best linebacker).

“As a coach, you just want a level playing field and everybody going by the same rules, so nothing has changed,” Smith said.

“Before this virus started impacting our country, we were preparing to have the best football season we’ve had in a long time at the University of Illinois.”

“Yes, building off of a bowl season, but also building off 15 starters that had their first action years ago that are now seniors. (There is) optimism based on just what has happened in our eight-week offseason program.”

Spring football is wiped out, but there is still hope for summer/fall camp. What might that look like? If/when it gets here? Take a listen around the 31:45 mark in the video below when we asked.

Of course, you might want to listen to the whole thing, as there plenty of other Illini football and coronavirus pandemic related insights presented by Lovie Smith yesterday. Enjoy the file and most of all try to stay safe.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation.

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link

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