Oct 1, 2016; Lincoln, NE, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Lovie Smith watches during the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers Illinois Fighting Illini in the first quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports
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When the Illinois football team hired Lovie Smith I was excited about the future of the program.
Not only did the program that I grew up loving hire a coach I was familiar with, but they also hired someone that has one of the most unique names in the game.
Lovie is probably one of the best names in sports. The name flows off the tongue and he is one of the few people that I type the first name when referring to him in an article.
Illinois football hasn’t had a history of cool coaching names, though. In fact, the coaching history for the Illini has been one bland name after another.
Here is a list of Illini coaching names throughout history.
Nov 12, 2016; Madison, WI, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini helmets during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin won 48-3. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
1971-1976 Bob Blackman (No. 3 most popular name)
Robert “Bob” Blackman didn’t make it to a bowl game as the Illini head coach but he did have the No. 3 most popular name in the last 100 years.
Blackman finished his Illini career with 29 wins, which is eighth all-time. He won 44.7-percent of the games he coached.
1977-1979 Gary Moeller (No. 31 most popular name)
Gary Moeller was one of the worst coaches in Illinois football history but at least his name was known. He has the No. 31 most popular name in the last 100 years.
Moeller only won six games in his career with the Illini and finished with a 22.7 winning percentage.
1980-1987 Mike White (No. 4 most popular name)
Mike White had success on the football field and his name is the No. 4 most popular name in the last 100 years.
White made three bowl games including the Rose Bowl in 1983. He finished with the third most wins in school history and a 53.3-percent winning rate.
1988-1991 John Mackovic (No. 2 most popular name)
Illinois really wanted to stay popular with their next hire as John Mackovic became the next head coach. His name was the No. 2 most popular in the last 100 years.
Mackovic had tremendous success with the Illini making four bowl games in all four years of coaching. He finished with the seventh most wins in school history and a 64.9-percent winning rate.
1992-1996 Lou Tepper (No. 87 most popular name)
You have to look pretty far down the list for the next name. Lou Tepper checks in as the No. 87 most popular name in the last 100 years.
Tepper took over for Mackovic after the 1991 season and won the Liberty Bowl three years later. He finished with the tenth most wins in school history and a 44.8 winning percentage.