Lovie Smith: 'Great Memories' With Bears

Smith has the Illinois football program on the brink of a bowl game.

WBBM Newsradio Staff
November 03, 2019 - 3:36 pm

Patrick Gorski/ USA TODAY Sports

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Illinois coach Lovie Smith has the football program on the brink of bowl eligibility after three straight wins. The Fighting Illini haven't earned a bowl berth since the 2014 season, and Smith has them squarely focused on doing just that now.

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"Next win, we become bowl eligible," Smith said on the 670 The Score Bears Pregame Show on Sunday morning that was hosted by Hub Arkush and former Bears captains Olin Kreutz and Patrick Mannelly. "We're embracing that. It's playoff football for us as we see it. Win and advance. All those things you want to bring up, that's where we are. And we want our team to feel that way. We have a lot of special seniors that have done a lot for our program that haven't gone to a bowl game.

"We're embracing that. Hopefully that'll motivate our guys even more. But they've been locked in for a period of time."

Smith coached the Bears from 2004-'12 and was 81-63 in his tenure. The Bears' achievements under Smith included three NFC North titles and a trip to the Super Bowl in 2007. In his fourth season leading Illinois, he's 14-31, including 5-4 this season.

Smith doesn't follow the Bears much anymore but holds fond feelings for his time in Chicago.

"You do move on," Smith said. "That was a good time in my life, my family's life. Special memories with them. But, really, I don't keep up an awful lot.

"There are so many great memories. There really are just so many. So many about you, Pat. Olin, about you. And about so many others. It's just hard for me to say one. 

"There are just so many great experiences that have helped me get through tough times here."