Former NFL coach Lovie Smith was hired as the Illinois football coach Monday, two days after the firing of Bill Cubit following a 5-7 season.
The move came after Athletic Director Josh Whitman, in his first official day on the job, fired Cubit after a single season in Champaign. He turned to Smith, who took the Chicago Bears to the 2007 Super Bowl and was dismissed as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in January.
This is the first college head-coaching job for the 58-year-old Smith and his first job in college football since leaving Ohio State in 1995. He faces a daunting task: Illinois has had six losing seasons in the past eight years and the program also is recovering from allegations of player abuse that led the school to fire coach Tim Beckman a week before last season started.
Smith is the first black head coach in football or men’s basketball at Illinois, which has been criticized by state lawmakers and others for never hiring a black coach for either program.
The College Football Playoff semifinals are staying on New Year’s Eve — despite last season’s television ratings — but the schedule is getting a tweak. The Dec. 31 semifinals will start an hour earlier than they did last season and the Orange Bowl will now be played in prime time on Friday, Dec. 30, instead of during the day on Dec. 31.
CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said that coverage of the first game on ESPN will start at 3 p.m. Eastern. The second game will start at 7 p.m. Eastern. The semifinals will be played in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., and the Peach Bowl in Atlanta.
Murray also agreed to rework the five-year, $40-million contract with $21 million guaranteed he signed with Philadelphia last year, the person told the Associated Press on Monday night. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal will not be announced until Wednesday.
Murray led the NFL in rushing with 1,845 yards (and 13 touchdowns) for the Dallas Cowboys in 2014 and was the NFL offensive player of the year. He only ran for 702 yards with the Eagles last season.
Philadelphia, according to media reports, will receive an undisclosed draft pick.
The Eagles also reportedly will trade cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso to the Miami Dolphins for a draft choice.
Washington had until Wednesday to part ways with Griffin and prevent his 2016 contract worth about $16 million from becoming guaranteed.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive lineman Logan Mankins is retiring after 11 NFL seasons. The seven-time Pro Bowl guard played the last two seasons with the Buccaneers after spending the first nine years of his career with the New England Patriots.