SMU defensive coordinator Kevin Kane will be leaving the program today after taking a job at Illinois.
Kane, SMU’s defensive coordinator for the past three seasons, will become the associate head coach under Illinois head coach Bret Bielema.
The move was announced by Illinois in a press release earlier this afternoon.
“I am fired up to get back to Illinois and work with (Bielema),” Kane said in a prepared statement. “I’ve previously coached in the state of Illinois and worked for (Bielema), and I know we will have success here.”
Kane worked with Bielema when he was a graduate assistant at Wisconsin in 2008. Bielema, then the head coach of the Badgers, kept Kane on as a video coordinator with the program for the 2010 season.
Since coming to SMU, hired on Sonny Dykes’ original staff, Kane orchestrated a significant improvement in the defense.
Last year, SMU allowed 422.2 yards per game. When he arrived on campus, the defense averaged over 460 yards given up per contest.
In 2019, Kane’s defense also led the nation in sacks per game for a handful of weeks.
“It is a pleasure to name Kevin Kane as the final addition of our coaching staff at the University of Illinois,” Bielema said in a prepared statement. “I first hired Kevin as a defensive graduate assistant and now I’ve seen his career grow, develop and flourish in the coaching profession as an assistant coach as well as a coordinator.”
Kane’s name has been widely reported in the coaching carousel over the last two years.
ESPN reported Kane interviewed for the head coaching position at Northern Illinois this offseason. Kane worked at that program for six years in different capacities before coming to SMU, making him an obvious candidate for the job.
Kane’s name gained traction after the 2019 season, when SMU finished with a 10-win year for the first time since the Death Penalty.
That same season, ESPN reported Kane turned down an assistant coaching position with Texas.
With Kane’s departure, SMU is now left to fill the void.
Last year, when offensive coordinate Rhett Lashlee left for Miami, Dykes went with an outside hire. Garrett Riley was brought in from Appalachian State to fill Lashlee’s shoes. Offensive line coach AJ Ricker was also promoted to co-offensive coordinator.
This year, it is unknown where SMU is leaning to pick up the slack for Kane.
Randall Joyner, SMU’s defensive line coach, has been a name that has risen quickly throughout recruiting circles since he came to SMU. Joyner played at SMU and was a graduate assistant at Ohio State.