Big Ten

Cincinnati hires Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell as new head coach

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AP

Cincinnati hires Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell as new head coach

Urban Meyer has lost another coordinator to the head-coaching ranks.

After reports Friday that Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell was talking with Cincinnati about its vacant head-coaching job, the Bearcats announced Saturday that Fickell is the guy.

"It’s with much pride and humility that I accept the awesome honor of becoming the head coach at the University of Cincinnati," Fickell said in the announcement. "This city, this school and my family are all Ohio. It’s a tough, blue-collar state with hard-working, blue-collar people that respect an honest and complete effort. That’s what they will get from me personally and what they should expect from this football program. This team belongs to this city, and we will make you proud."

Fickell had been a mainstay at Ohio State. He played there in the mid-1990s and returned as a graduate assistant in 1999. After a two-year stint as the defensive line coach at Akron, he returns as an assistant on Jim Tressel's staff, the special teams coordinator on the Buckeyes' national championship team in 2002. He spent six seasons as a defensive coordinator before Tressel's tenure ended in tumultuous fashion amid the "Tattoogate" scandal, and it was Fickell who took over as interim head coach, helping to keep the program together during a 6-7 season before Meyer arrived in 2012. Fickell stayed on Meyer's staff and has served as a defensive coordinator under Meyer for the past five seasons as Ohio State has posted a stunning 61-5 record with a national championship win in 2014.

Fickell's track record has been terrific in recent seasons, coaching a Buckeyes defense that's ranked as one of the nation's best. Ohio State currently ranks third in the country in scoring defense, allowing an average of 14.2 points a game, and fourth in the country in total defense, allowing an average of 282.3 yards per game. The Buckeyes also rank fourth in the nation in interceptions, fifth in passing defense and fifth in red zone defense. In 2015, the Buckeyes were second in the nation in scoring defense and ninth in total defense.

Six defensive players from the 2015 Ohio State team were selected in this year's NFL Draft, including three in the first round.

Cincinnati fills a vacancy created when Tommy Tuberville departed earlier this month. Tuberville posted a 4-8 record last season. Fickell seems a perfect fit with the Bearcats, as he brings that one season of head-coaching experience and intimate knowledge of the recruiting area.

"We are excited to welcome Luke, his wife Amy and their family to Cincinnati," Cincinnati athletics director Mike Bohn said in the announcement. "We targeted a number of criteria we wanted in our head football coach, and we were looking for the coach who was the best fit for our program, our university and our community and we have found that leader in Luke Fickell. His extensive ties to the state of Ohio, experience at a championship-level program in Ohio State, ability to evaluate and develop talent, energy and leadership are all qualities which set him apart. Above all else, he's a model of integrity and a great family man, and we look forward to partnering with him to continue to build upon our winning tradition."

Fickell is the second defensive coordinator in as many years to depart Meyer's staff for a head-coaching job and the third coordinator overall in as many years. Chris Ash left to coach Rutgers last offseason, and Tom Herman left for the head-coaching job at Houston two offseasons ago. Herman is now the head coach at Texas.

And some fun scheduling coincidences: Not only does Fickell's new team face Michigan next season during non-conference play, but the Bearcats take on the Buckeyes in 2019.

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

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USA TODAY

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

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USA TODAY

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.