Illini Coach Lovie Smith Refutes Idea Spring Football Season Hasn’t Been Discussed In Big Ten AD Meetings

Matthew Stevens

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Lovie Smith says he’s been a witness to athletics director meetings in the Big Ten Conference and is happy to refute any suggestion that talks of a spring season were just being beginning this week.

In a Zoom video media conference with statewide and local reporters, the Illini fifth-year head football coach said he’s been involved with multiple athletics director meetings within the Big Ten Conference and stressed that the league office, and subsequently his Illinois program, has a preliminary plan for a schedule of action should a spring football regular season be needed.

Yahoo! Sports senior reporter Pete Thamel sent out a tweet Tuesday afternoon saying “(Monday night), the Big Ten began hypothetically discussing what teams would do in the fall *if* the season got moved to the spring,” Thamel tweeted. “It was contentious, as the bigger programs still want to play this fall. It marked one of the first hypothetical conversations about this topic.”

When asked specifically by Illini Now/Sports Illustrated Tuesday afternoon, on the Zoom call with reporters, if a report surfaced that a spring season was never discussed during these previous AD meetings throughout the summer months would be accurate, Smith was direct in his answer.

“No, it would not,” Smith said. “When I say we’ve been talking. We’ve talked about every imaginable thing that could happen." 

"We’ve talked about, okay, if there was a stoppage, our (10-game conference-only) schedule was set up for that. If somebody tests positive, we have a schedule for that. If we can play, we have a schedule. If we can’t play, we have a schedule and next, you’d look to the spring. Eventually we’re going to play football. When I say everything has been discussed, it’s not like we’re just getting here right now.”

Illinois conducted its fifth non-contact practice Tuesday since the start of preseason camp last week under the supervision of head coach Lovie Smith.  University of Illinois athletics department

Illinois conducted its fifth non-contact practice, with players in just helmets, jerseys and shorts, of the preseason Tuesday. Smith has repeated he’s taking a day-to-day approach with his Illini football program in terms of practice preparation. The league office announced Saturday morning football practices throughout the 14 schools will not be permitted to consist of full-contact workouts/scrimmage with pads. Until the Big Ten gives further notice, players will only be allowed in helmets and shorts until league officials deem it safe to progress to the final stage of full-padded contact practices.

"Eventually we’re going to have football so we’re going to embrace that time whenever it comes. If things change and they tell us it’s the spring, we’ll look forward to the spring,” Smith said Saturday.