CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters has agreed to a contract extension, which will keep him in Champaign through the 2024 season. Pending approval by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, Walters’ new salary increases to $1,050,000 for the 2022 season, with $100,000 raises each season that follows.
“I am excited to continue to build the Illinois defense under the leadership of Coach Bielema and with the exceptional staff he has put together here,” said Walters in a statement. “The vision and passion of Bret Bielema and Josh Whitman creating a championship culture that is exciting to be a part of. Myself, the staff, and the exceptional young men in our locker room will continue to work tirelessly to compete for and win championships here at Illinois.”
Contract details also include a $1,000,000 buyout for any non-head coaching position in the Big Ten, and a $750,000 buyout for any non-head coaching position outside of the Big Ten. This will make him the third-highest paid coach in the Big Ten, and into the top 10 nationally among defensive coordinators.
Illinois’ defense has improved significantly under Walters, leading to wins at No. 7 Penn State and at No. 20 Minnesota. The defense has allowed 17.6 points per game in Big Ten games, the fourth-best in the Big Ten, and made a year-over-year improvement of 17.3 points per game in Big Ten play, the second-best conference-only improvement of any team in the nation. Illinois has held nine of their 10 opponents under their current season scoring average, including all seven Big Ten opponents. Earlier this season, Illinois held three consecutive opponents to 20 points or less for the first time since 2011, and is currently riding its second three-game streak of the same feat.
“It’s hard to state the impact Ryan has had on the defensive side of the ball and our whole program,” head coach Bret Bielema said in a statement. “Our players feed off his energy and teaching, and he has a tremendous feel for the game when he’s calling it. His leadership, combined with the proven minds in the defensive staff room, have allowed him to create the Illinois defense, not a scheme that has been done in the past.”
“We have found one of the most dynamic, relatable defensive play callers in all of college football, and his impact on our program has been both quick and dramatic,” said Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman. “He is an excellent teacher, tactician, and recruiter. It was important to us to move proactively to renew our commitment to Ryan and his family so that we can continue the forward momentum he has helped build. My thanks to Chancellor Jones and our university’s administration for their understanding and support of these important steps to advance Illinois Athletics.”