Nickerson joined head coach Lovie Smith with the Fighting Illini in 2016, serving as linebackers coach as well as defensive coordinator. Nickerson also played under Smith during his NFL career.
“Hardy informed me yesterday that he felt it was in the program’s best interest to leave our staff,” Smith said. “I’ve known and coached with Hardy for many years, and know what an outstanding person he is. We are disappointed in the performance of our defense this season, and we all bear responsibility for that. I wish Hardy nothing but the best as he moves forward with his career.”
Miles Smith, the coach’s son, will take over defensive coordinator responsibilities for Illinois, which has struggled mightily this season and is coming off surrendering 712 total yards of offense in a 63-33 setback to Maryland on Saturday. The loss dropped the Fighting Illini to 3-5 overall and 1-4 in the Big Ten West.
“When I was contacted about being offered this job back in 2016, I was excited for the opportunity to come in to coordinate and run Illinois’ defense,” Nickerson said. “I had every intention of helping put our defensive student-athletes in the best possible position to win, and, ultimately, to make the University of Illinois community and fans proud of our results. Due to health-related circumstances beyond my control, I must step aside at this time.”