Big Ten

Advocacy group president calls for Illini athletics firings


Advocacy group president calls for Illini athletics firings

The college athletes advocacy group that helped spearhead the Northwestern unionization attempt has called for firings in the Illinois athletics department.

Ramogi Huma, the president of the National College Players Association, wrote a letter to University of Illinois chancellor Phyllis Wise demanding that seven athletics department employees — including athletics director Mike Thomas, head football coach Tim Beckman and head women's basketball coach Matt Bollant — be fired in the wake of controversies involving the alleged mistreatment of student-athletes across various programs.

As detailed by the Chicago Tribune, Huma demanded the firings of Thomas, Beckman, Bollant, head women's soccer coach Janet Rayfield and a pair of athletic trainers, Sam Laingen and Brittany Scott.

Huma's letter comes in the wake of serious allegations directed at the football and women's basketball programs, as well as a lawsuit filed by a former soccer player. It comes a day after CNN gave the firestorm national attention with a story Wednesday.

[MORE BIG TEN: Not much new info, but CNN report keeps Illini abuse saga going]

Seven former women's basketball players filed a lawsuit against the university, Thomas, Bollant and former women's basketball assistant coach Matt Divilbiss last week, alleging that the program was an environment of racial hostility featuring segregated practices and different treatment of black and white players. The players filed the lawsuit before the completion of an external review of the university's internal investigation into the allegations which turned up no violations of laws, rules or policies.

Meanwhile, there is still an ongoing investigation into the football program, an investigation spurred by tweets from former offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic, who alleged that Beckman is an abusive bully who forces players to play injured, demonizes injured players, lies about injuries and threatens to take away scholarships.

Additionally, former soccer player Casey Conine filed a lawsuit alleging mishandling of treatment for a concussion by medical staff.

Action from the university would seem unlikely to come until the ongoing investigation and review are completed. Wise released a statement when the former women's basketball players filed their lawsuit last week expressing her disappointment in the players taking legal action prior to the completion of the external review. Thomas has asked people to reserve judgment until the investigation and review are complete.

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.