Underwood set to receive new 6-yr contract at Illinois

Photo Courtesy Illinois Athletics

University of Illinois Director of Athletics Josh Whitman announced Wednesday an extension for men’s basketball head coach Brad Underwood, pending approval by the UI Board of Trustees at its May 19 meeting. The new agreement will keep Underwood on a six-year contract through the 2027-28 season.

Brad Underwood has led a remarkable resurgence of our men’s basketball program,” said Whitman. “Under his strong leadership, we have won Big Ten championships, posted one of the best three-year runs in the history of Fighting Illini men’s basketball and the Big Ten Conference, and reestablished ourselves on the national stage. Our work is far from finished, and Brad and I are hungry to continue on our upward trajectory next year and in the years beyond, but the foundation has been laid for sustained success long into the future. I am grateful to Brad, Susan, and the entire Underwood family for their commitment to the University of Illinois, and I couldn’t be more excited about continuing our journey together.”

Underwood led Illinois to the 2022 Big Ten championship, navigating a challenging schedule with a frequently depleted roster to post a 15-5 league record and earn the school’s first regular season conference title in 17 years. Illinois went 23-10 overall, with Underwood recording his third-straight 20-plus win season. The Illini ended the year at No. 19 in the AP poll to register a third-straight Top 25 finish, the program’s longest streak since 2000-06.

Illinois was a No. 4 seed in the 2022 NCAA Tournament, becoming one of just six programs to receive top-4 seeds in back-to-back tournaments after earning a No. 1 seed in 2021. Illinois stands as one of just 12 schools to advance to the Round of 32 in each the last two NCAA Tournaments, which also marks Illinois’ first time advancing in consecutive NCAA Tournaments in 16 years.

The Big Ten has been the nation’s preeminent conference in recent years. It was ranked No. 1 by kenpom in 2020 and 2021, and received a league-record nine NCAA Tournament bids in 2021 and 2022. Yet no team has fared better in the conference during this stretch than the Fighting Illini, who are 44-16 (.733) in Big Ten play the last three years of the Underwood era. Illinois owns the most wins and best winning percentage in the league over the last three Big Ten campaigns.

The 44 Big Ten victories mark the winningest three-year run in school history, and the sixth-winningest three-year stretch by any Big Ten school in conference play. Illinois has won at least 13 Big Ten games in three straight years for the first time in program history, with Underwood claiming Illinois’ two all-time winningest Big Ten seasons (16 in 2021, 15 in 2022), and three of the top seven (13 in 2020).

“We came to the University of Illinois with the vision of restoring an elite program, and the success over these last three years has only strengthened our belief in what can ultimately be achieved here,” Underwood said. “With the alignment we have from the top-down, from University administration and Josh’s outstanding leadership, to the investment by our loyal donors in providing a world-class renovated Ubben practice facility, and to our passionate fans who sell out State Farm Center every night, everything is in place for us to compete for championships.

“I’ve said this before, but on behalf of my wife Susan and our family, I want to reiterate how thankful we are for the way we’ve been welcomed into the Champaign-Urbana and U of I communities. There is simply no better place to live, no better school to represent, and no better program to lead. I am honored to coach Fighting Illini Basketball and look forward to the many exciting years that lie ahead for our program.”

Underwood’s proposed contract calls for an annual $300,000 increase in base compensation and a $200,000 increase in the annual retention bonus. It is fully guaranteed through the next four seasons, with Underwood’s buyout – what he would owe the University to accept employment elsewhere – increasing as well. The contract will continue to include bonus opportunities for advancement in the NCAA Tournament and other agreed-upon metrics.


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