Sure, Lovie Smith isn’t the best college football coach in the world. The best coaches never lose 63-0.
But, even while Smith has publicly spatted with some players since coming to Illinois in 2016, there are few coaches across the country quite like Lovie Smith.
Part of it is likely because he’s African-American, something not many Power Five conference coaches are. Most of his staff is African-American. He even hired the first African-American female in program history last month.
And while those actions mean a lot, it’s the words a man like Smith — who has certainly been around football for the better part of four decades — can say that make you respect him.
We don’t always love Lovie’s press conference comments, or the way he doesn’t talk about injuries.
But in a time when many of us need perspective and to fight for justice, Lovie Smith is guiding the way for his team. For his staff. For the Athletic Department. For the University of Illinois. And for the fanbase.
Sports Information Director Brett Moore did a wonderful job transcribing some of Lovie’s quotes. Here are some of those:
“A lot of life experiences, Mike, have prepared me for this moment. When I say life experiences, I’m a 62 year old black man from the south in a biracial marriage. So, MaryAnne and I have seen an awful lot. I get a chance to lead men from all different places, all different nationalities. And as you mentioned, life skills do come up. As football players and coaches we live in a cocoon a lot of times where the real world doesn’t actually touch us. We teach, we develop, we talk about developing the man first and then we develop the football player. As we look, Mike, at what’s going on right now in our society, I’ve always encouraged our players to be involved in what’s happening in your normal world, your normal life.
I talk to our players about you have the right to protest. That’s great. That’s what college life is all about too. In a peaceful manner. But then what else do you do. And that’s where we are right now. What else can we do to make football better and make the world better.
ight now, I see a lot of people protest. Protests are good. Then what do we do? It’s like there’s a death and a funeral, and everybody leaves and the next day after the funeral everybody goes home. What I’m going to insist on, first off, all of our guys register to vote. But that’s just a part of it, registering to vote. Be informed. If you don’t like what’s going on right now, and we in America have acknowledged that we don’t like what’s going on right now, we have to look at first our leader. The policies that he has in place. Congress, local government, this is how you have true change. And for us, it’s going to get back to making sure people, they are informed. I think we all know right from wrong. We’ve all been taught that. And I think most of us really do know right from wrong. That’s what we’ve been preaching. We are going to continue to do that with our program. There’s diversity. And the only way to make real change is to come together. Diversity does that.”
Let his words sink in. Sure, his teams haven’t won a ton of games over the past few years. And one day Lovie will either be a) fired or b) retire.
But the men in his program will be better because of it.