Big Ten

Fitz addresses Northwestern-Illini rivalry and Chicago's team debate

Fitz addresses Northwestern-Illini rivalry and Chicago's team debate

Who really is Chicago's Big Ten team?

Northwestern — which has geography on its side in that argument — has used the slogan for years now, but someone is always trying to claim the Windy City as their own. Most recently, that was Lovie Smith, the new head football coach at Illinois, and after coaching the Bears for nine years, he might have a better case than anyone who preceded him.

Last month during Big Ten Media Days, the Illini coach claimed his squad was "Chicago's team," further fueling this mostly meaningless debate.

More Land of Lincoln rivalry news came out of Media Days, too, when Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald welcomed three new coaches to the Big Ten, forgetting to welcome Smith, an error he quickly fixed on Twitter.

But as for which school, Northwestern or Illinois, is Chicago's Big Ten team, Fitzgerald figures the answer is pretty obvious, and he was asked about it Wednesday during the Wildcats' media day in Evanston.

"I've got a ton of respect for coach Smith, and obviously, as I said, as I walked off the deus I fumbled the ball not welcoming him to the league," Fitzgerald said. "He's a great friend and someone I've got a ton of respect for. He's kind of the next singer of the same song. I've heard that song a bunch, and I think it's great for fans and great for marketing people. But I don't know, I think we sent out a tweet yesterday of the skyline and our practice field, so I'll let that speak for itself. How does that sound?"

Yeah, that's a pretty good argument.

Fitzgerald went on to talk about the rivalry with Illinois further.

"From a rivalry standpoint, I think both teams need to improve. I think for this rivalry to have significance, I think both teams have to be better. For a lot of years, we weren't very good, and we've just got to continue to control what we can control and that's our improvement. I think our fans all enjoy it. But I think our rivalry is built on respect, without a doubt, 100 percent from our perspective. And that's the way that we've always operated."

The teams have met 109 times, with Illinois holding a 55-49-5 edge in the all-time series. Since Fitzgerald took over at Northwestern, though, the Cats are 6-4 in those 10 contests.

Smith's first taste of the battle for the Land of Lincoln Trophy comes Nov. 26 in Evanston.

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.