Ever since the Lovie Smith era started at the University of Illinois, I was on board. 

For the past couple of years most Illini fans have been calling for him to be fired, and I was still on board. 

At the beginning of the season I felt as good as I have in a long time. I was on board. 

Through two games of the season, the team might not have looked great but the Illini were winning. I was still on board. 

After two straight losses in very winnable games, the board was starting to shake. But after the loss to Minnesota coming off a bye week when you should have your best game plan ready and we just looked awful, I have officially jumped off the boat. 

I have no answers anymore. Smith was widely known as one of the best defensive minds in all of football. Well, that’s unfortunate because the Illini defense absolutely stinks. Maybe Lovie is still a good defensive coach, and maybe the players just are not any good. The only problem with that is Lovie is the one in charge of getting players on campus. 

So either situation is devastating for Lovie. The worst part may be that all Illinois fans really want is improvement. Even feeling great coming into the season, I never thought we were going to win the Big Ten or go to the Rose Bowl. But is going the Cheezit Bowl too much to ask? 

I was watching the game on Saturday, and I saw zero improvements from not only two weeks ago coming off the bye week, but this team does not look any better than the last four years. So at what point do you just have to cut ties with Lovie and start over again? 

As painful as this is for me to write, I think the time is now. 

The team on the field is not good, the coaches on the sideline are not good, and the recruiting just isn’t good enough. 

Another sad thing is that the good recruits we are getting are from outside of the state and the St. Louis area. We just aren’t getting the recruits from the Chicago area, and if Lovie Smith can’t recruit the Chicago area then he can’t recruit very well. 

If you’re a high school kid in Chicago, you grew up with Lovie as the head coach of the local NFL team, and he even took them to The Super Bowl. 

Now the one thing that scares me about firing Lovie is if the head coach isn’t Lovie, then who is it? You’re not getting a big name to come here. It just isn’t happening.

And thanks to Tim Beckman, I never want to look at another MAC head coach again. No one on the current staff is good enough, so I honestly don’t know where to go. 

There are so many questions to be answered before firing Lovie and hiring someone new. Luckily I just get to ask the questions. I don’t have to answer them.

You can contact Ryan Birch at Rbirch@RantoulPress.com or on Twitter @RyanBirchRP