Long live the Lovie Smith beard.
Up until last season, arguably one of the best things about the Illinois football program was Lovie Smith in general and his beard specifically. For the better part of three years, it was the envy of all face-follicly-challenged head coaches. Its genesis? As greatness ofttimes is, a man’s better half.
“I never shaved much during the summer, before seasons started,” Smith told the Washington Post in October of last year. “Two summers ago, I let it grow out for a while, and my wife said to me: ‘I love it. Don’t ever shave it.’ So I guess I won’t.”
And, if you need another visual refresher as to the bearded splendor…
Sadly, that era of facial greatness has come to an end. On Twitter Wednesday, Illinois revealed that the flush-with-white mane of glory that was Smith’s beard is no more.
— Illinois Football (@IlliniFootball) May 27, 2020
(I’ll give you a moment to compose yourself.)
(You good? Good.)
In the first three seasons under Lovie Smith, the beard was about the only thing to celebrate. From 2016-18, the Fighting Illini went 9-27. In 2019, however, they won six games and appeared in a bowl for the first time since 2014.
Smith and the Illini have also been killing it on the transfer portal front.
In mid-March, ex-Alabama linebacker Christian Bell tweeted that he was moving on to the Illini. Shortly thereafter, we noted that an FCS All-American offensive lineman had opted to transfer into the Illinois football program. New Mexico State wide receiver Desmond Dan did the same. As did Miami wide receiver Brian Hightower. And Mississippi State offensive lineman Brevyn Jones in early May And Louisville defensive back TreSean Smith (HERE) and Cal defensive tackle Chinedu Udeogu (HERE) in mid-May as well.