Illini Roundup: Smith Extension; Volleyball #3 National Seed; Men’s Hoops Wins
University of Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman announced a two-year contract extension for beleaguered football coach Lovie Smith on Sunday.
Whitman cited the upcoming December recruiting period as a crucial factor in his decision.
“And I recognize that we are entering into a hugely important offseason, and we need to be able to go out and recruit high school players, transfers, fifth-year players, and I think that this message is important for them to hear,” Whitman said.
Details of the contract will be worked out at a future date. Whitman said he expects the terms of the extension to mirror Smith's current deal.
"It’s largely the same contract. We’re not tearing up what we have, but we’ll add some years to the end," he said. "We’re still working on what some of those terms might look like. I don’t anticipate any significant salary increase as part of the extension.”
Whitman said despite Smith’s record, he saw important progress on and off the field this season.
The extension would add two years on to the six-year, $21 million deal that Smith signed in 2016.
Volleyball Team Earns #3 National Seed
The Fighting Illini volleyball team will begin NCAA Tournament play on Friday at Huff Hall in Champaign against Eastern Michigan University out of the Mid-American Athletic Conference.
Illinois closed the regular season with a 28-3 record and garnered the #3 overall seed in the 64-team field.
If the Illini win their opening match Friday, they would face the winner of Louisville and Dayton in a second-round match on Saturday.
Illinois would continue to host all the way through the tournament quarterfinals if they continue to advance.
The Illini are one of seven Big Ten Conference teams to make the field, along with Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Penn State, Purdue, and Michigan.
Men's Basketball Cruises
Eight different Fighting Illini men’s basketball players hit three-pointers yesterday in an 86-67 win over Mississippi Valley State in Champaign.
Illinois tied its team record for made three-pointers in one game with sixteen, but head coach Brad Underwood said freshman Ayo Dosunmu was the game’s MVP, despite scoring only six points.
“Ayo’s performance was dominant, and he didn’t score the basketball. Nine assists, no turnovers, and nine rebounds," Underwood said. "We’ve really been challenging him to get on the glass.”
The Delta Devils rank 345th out of 353 teams on the college basketball analytical website KenPom.com. In four previous games against major programs, they lost by an average of 43 points. That fact allowed Underwood to rest his starters, who still suffer from jet lag after returning from the Maui Invitational.
Walk-ons Drew Cayce, Tyler Underwood, Samson Oladimeji and Zach Griffith all saw playing time, as did freshman center Samba Kane, who made his first appearance for the Illini, quashing speculation that he would sit out this season to maintain a redshirt year of eligibility.
Trent Frazier led the Illini in scoring with 16 points. Kipper Nichols added 14, and Alan Griffin and Da'Monte Williams chipped in 10 apiece. Jordan Evans scored a game-high 22 for the visitors.
Illinois returns to action tomorrow night in South Bend, Indiana, where they face Notre Dame in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.