University of Illinois Director of Athletics Josh Whitman announced today a three-year extension for men’s basketball head coach Brad Underwood through 2026 and extensions for his coaching staff through 2022, pending approval by the UI Board of Trustees at its March 12 meeting. The new agreement keeps Underwood, who signed his original six-year contract in 2017, at Illinois through at least the 2026 season.
“I am extremely pleased with the upward trajectory of our Fighting Illini men’s basketball program and believe we are headed toward a championship future,” Whitman said. “Under Coach Underwood’s leadership, our student-athletes have showed steady progress on the court and in the classroom. He has instilled a culture based on competitiveness, toughness, preparation, and accountability that is yielding exciting results. His ability to project a vision for the program’s future, to recruit elite players to Champaign-Urbana, and to develop them into a winning team has exceeded even my admittedly high expectations at this relatively early stage in his tenure. Perhaps most importantly, I have enjoyed seeing the bonds formed between players and players and players and coaches, all of whom care deeply about one another, who are committed to their collective successes, and who support each other, on the court and off, in victory and defeat.
“I am grateful to Brad and Susan for joining our Fighting Illini family, and we look forward to many future years of their leadership, friendship, and engagement here at the University of Illinois. I am also appreciative of our assistant coaching staff and the many talented, dedicated members of our support staff who have worked tirelessly to advance our men’s basketball program. We are happy to build stability within our staff and believe it will yield even greater coming success.”
Illinois is showing notable improvement in Underwood’s third year. The Fighting Illini currently sit in a tie for second place in the conference standings in a year when the Big Ten is rated the toughest conference in the country. Illinois has 12 league victories, its most since 2005, and has secured its first winning record in conference play since 2010.
The Illini own the largest turnaround (+10.0) among schools from the six major conferences, and stand eighth across all of Div. I for most improved teams. Currently riding a four-game win streak, Illinois is ranked No. 23 in this week’s Associated Press poll.
Illinois is one of just 13 teams with at least four Quad 1 road victories this season and is the only team in the country with four road wins over teams currently ranked in the top-35 of the NET.
Illinois reached as high as 20th in kenpom ratings on Feb. 1, the team’s best ranking since the end of the 2010-11 season. That came on the heels of a seven-game Big Ten winning streak from Jan. 5-30, the longest for the program since 2004-05.
The improvement on the court has also translated to the Fighting Illini fanbase, with an increase in ticket revenue of nearly 25 percent this season. Illinois will play in front of sellout crowds for five of the final six games at State Farm Center, marking the most sellouts since 2013. The 2020 Illini recruiting class is ranked in the top-15, after signing a top-25 class in 2018. Underwood was most recently named to the 2020 Naismith Coach of the Year Late Season Watch List.
“Serving as head coach at the University of Illinois is a professional dream come true,” Underwood said. “I am honored to be one part of what is a collective effort in working to get Illinois Basketball where it needs to be. Building a program is hard work; there are no short cuts. But I am excited by the growth we’ve seen. We are gaining momentum and continuing to climb that mountain.
“The credit goes to our players. As a coach, I always have a mindset toward that locker room and those wearing the jersey. We have high-character young men who work hard in the classroom, give everything they have when it comes to basketball, and are doing things the right way off the court. I am proud of our players; they truly are Every Day Guys.
“I am a relationships-driven person, and I cannot express enough how grateful I am for Josh’s leadership and unwavering support of our program. He is relentless in his efforts to provide us the resources we need to push forward. His love for the University of Illinois and vision for Illinois Athletics is the perfect match for me and the drive I have as a head coach.
“I also want to recognize our assistant coaches and entire staff, all of whom have worked around the clock during my tenure and will continue to do so every single day moving forward. They share my passion for the game of basketball and desire to help young people succeed.
“The visibility and tradition of Fighting Illini Basketball is unrivaled. It’s why I wanted this job three years ago, and why I am humbled and proud to continue serving in this chair for many years to come. On behalf of my wife Susan and our family, we thank Illini Nation and the Champaign-Urbana community for making this home. Illinois truly is a special place.”
Underwood’s new contract moves his base salary to $3.4 million, which ranks in the upper quartile of the Big Ten Conference and in the Autonomy Five conferences. He will receive annual increases that will grow his salary to $4.0 million for the 2025-26 season, the last year of the extension. Underwood is also in line to earn a new $750,000 retention bonus if he concludes the contract’s new term as the Illinois head coach. If Underwood were to accept a coaching position elsewhere, he would owe the university an $8 million buyout, which will decrease each year of the agreement. The contract also allows for a series of subsequent extensions each time the team reaches the NCAA Tournament from 2022 to 2025, with the potential to extend the agreement through 2030.
As part of the extensions for the assistant coaching staff, DIA is increasing the salary pool for the on-court assistant coaches by more than 25 percent. Assistant coaches Orlando Antigua, Ron Coleman and Stephen Gentry will have agreements that run through the conclusion of the 2022 season. Strength and conditioning coach Adam Fletcher agreed to an extension through the 2022 season as well.