Change of pace? Illinois coach Lovie Smith shows off new beard

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CHAMPAIGN, IL - JANUARY 22: Illinois Fighting Illini head football coach Lovie Smith is seen during the game between the Illinois Fighting Illini and the Michigan State Spartans on January 22, 2018 at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

CHAMPAIGN  – Maybe he was trying to change it up a bit. Perhaps he was hoping it would reverse the luck for his program along with the basketball team he was watching on Monday night.

For whatever reason, Lovie Smith is deciding to alter his look.

Traditionally clean-shaven, the coach was sporting a full beard for the Illini men’s basketball game against ninth-ranked Michigan State on Monday. The football team’s official Twitter account sent out the picture above showing off the coach’s new look as he begins his third offseason in Champaign.

While he may have a different look, Smith enters this offseason facing the same challenge he has since taking the job in March of 2016  – rebuilding the Illinois football program. In his first two seasons the Illini have won just five games and this year lost their final ten games of the season.

That might have been expected when Smith was hired by Athletic Director Josh Whitman to restructure the program following a controversy-riddled tenure of Tim Beckman. The former Bears coach was hired to replace Bill Cubit, who filled in for Beckman after he was fired a week before the 2015 and was initially given a contract for the full-time job.

Smith was brought into shake it up and despite a 5-19 record through two seasons, he got a vote of confidence from Whitman late in the 2017 season.

Unfortunately the new beard couldn’t bring any luck to Brad Underwood’s team on Monday night as the Illini lost to the Spartans 87-74 to fall to 0-8 in the Big Ten.


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