CHAMPAIGN - Illinois coach Lovie Smith said after the season that he'd help his assistant coaches earn better opportunities if they wanted one. He was true to his word.
On Friday, Illinois that linebackers coach Tim McGarigle had accepted a position on the Green Bay Packers coaching staff as "Defensive Quality Control – Linebackers Coach."
"There is no doubt that Tim McGarigle is a rising star in the coaching fraternity," Smith said in a statemet. "As much as I would have been happy that he stayed on our staff, I would never want to stand in the way of a coach moving into a position he wanted to attain. Tim is a terrific defensive coach and excellent communicator. I have no doubt he'll have a very successful career. We'll try to fill this position as soon as possible with spring ball beginning Feb. 14."
McGarigle -- the FBS career leader in tackles following a great career at Northwestern -- was hired at Illinois by former coach Bill Cubit in January, 2016 after four seasons on staff at Western Michigan. Following the coaching change at Illinois when Smith was hired in March, McGarigle was one of two retained for the new staff, along with secondary coach Paul Williams.
"Coach Lovie Smith and the rest of the coaching staff will have the Illini football program doing great things in the near future," McGarigle said in a statement. "Even though I was here just one year, it seems like so much longer because of the quality of people and relationships I've made in just a short time. However, I've always dreamed of coaching in the NFL and this opportunity with an organization like the Packers was something I couldn't pass up. Telling the linebacker group today that I was leaving was one of the toughest things I've ever done."
This is a great opportunity for McGarigle -- and an opportunity that came quick. McGarigle was a hard-nosed football player and is a high-energy coach, who often participated in drills and would run up and down the practice field. McGarigle connected well with his players and showed potential as a recruiter, especially in the Chicago area. This is how you want to lose staffer: to great opportunities. Lovie Smith has deep connections in the business, especially on defense. With defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson -- one of the best NFL linebackers of the 1990s -- Illinois has a pretty good linebackers coach on staff, so Lovie Smith could get creative and go several different ways with this hire. This could be a chance for the Illini to add another ace recruiter to the staff.