Big Ten

Advocacy group asks for independent investigation into Beckman


Advocacy group asks for independent investigation into Beckman

Among the many points being made by Simon Cvijanovic in his string of accusatory tweets toward Tim Beckman and the Illinois football program is that student athletes have little voice and require better representation. He's even mentioned unionization.

We've heard that idea before, notably from former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, when he attempted to form a union among Northwestern football players more than a year ago.

One of the people standing beside Colter in his effort was Ramogi Huma, the executive director of the National College Players Association, an advocacy group for student athletes. Huma and his group have now dipped their toes in the waters of the Cvijanovic situation with Illinois, calling for an independent investigation into Beckman and the football program.

Cvijanovic has made many claims over the past few days, and he's talked with traditional media outlets since. At every turn, he's accused Beckman of abusing and bullying his players, lying about medical procedures, pressuring players to play injured, threatening to take players' scholarships away and vilifying injured players.

It's certainly been enough to attract the attention of Huma and those fighting for student-athlete rights. Huma sent a letter to University of Illinois chancellor Phyllis Wise with his request for an independent investigation and said he expects a response by Friday. This after Illinois athletics director Mike Thomas refused to say Monday that there would be a formal investigation, instead saying he would "follow up" and that any findings would not be made public. In his comments, Thomas also supported Beckman and said that the picture of the program painted by Cvijanovic doesn't match up with comments from other players.

[MORE BIG TEN: Another ex-Illini speaks out against Tim Beckman]

Here's an excerpt from Huma's letter:

Illinois’ athletic director Mike Thomas announced to media that he would conduct an internal review of this situation in conjunction with your office. However, media reports state that Mr. Thomas announced his conclusions that Beckman has put Simon’s welfare above everything else and that his medical staff always follows protocols and procedures. In making such statements, Mr. Thomas has compromised the integrity of his review by making conclusions before he collected any evidence to back his conclusions. In addition, it is unreasonable to expect players who may be subject to abusive treatment to speak honestly to athletic program and university officials that can easily identify them. Finally, the media reported that Mr. Thomas intends on keeping the findings from the public.

As Mr. Thomas stated, Simon has made serious accusations. In response, it is responsibility of the University of Illinois to ensure that a serious investigation takes place. For these reasons, the NCPA is calling on the University of Illinois to act immediately to commission an independent investigation into this matter, and to release the findings to the public.

Huma wrote that if Cvijanovic's claims are verified, the university should fire those responsible and give student athletes the ability to anonymously report future abuses.

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately


Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal


Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.