Big Ten

Gophers make former Syracuse AD Mark Coyle new athletics director


Gophers make former Syracuse AD Mark Coyle new athletics director

Without a permanent athletics director since August, Minnesota has hired the new leader of its athletics department.

Mark Coyle, who spent much of the past year as the athletics director at Syracuse, was announced and introduced as the new Minnesota athletics director Wednesday afternoon.

Prior to his tenure at Syracuse — which began last June and didn't even last a full year — Coyle was the athletics director at Boise State and the deputy athletics director at Kentucky. From 2001 to 2005, he was the associate athletics director for external relations at Minnesota, making his hiring a homecoming of sorts.

"I am so honored to have the opportunity to return to the University of Minnesota and the Big Ten," Coyle said in the school's announcement. "This is a tremendous athletics department made up of talented student-athletes and accomplished coaches. I loved my time in Gopher athletics during an earlier part of my career, and I look forward to leading the athletic programs of this great university."

"We are thrilled to welcome Mark back to the University of Minnesota," university president Eric Kaler said in the announcement. "Mark’s previous contributions and experience in Gopher athletics combined with his leadership credentials at major athletic departments such as Syracuse, Boise State, and Kentucky make him the ideal candidate to lead Gopher athletics into the future."

Former athletics director Norwood Teague resigned in August amid accusations of sexual harassment. Since, Beth Goetz has served as interim athletics director. She was reported as one of four final candidates for the job earlier this week — along with Northern Illinois athletics director Sean Frazier, Penn State deputy athletics director Phil Esten and an unnamed candidate — though Coyle was announced earlier Wednesday as Minnesota's lone finalist for the job.

Coyle's challenges in the department's two highest-profile sports are steep.

Minnesota went through a tumultuous football season with former head coach Jerry Kill abruptly retiring in the middle of the season due to health reasons and Kill's defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys given a three-year contract as the new head coach. After Kill led the Gophers to back-to-back eight-win campaigns, they finished just 6-7 this past season.

In men's basketball, Richard Pitino will enter his fourth year as head coach this fall. The program has been plagued with off-the-court issues leading to suspensions and dismissals — including the arrest of junior Reggie Lynch on probable cause for criminal sexual conduct this past weekend — and the most recent campaign featured just eight wins, the program's lowest total since 1968.

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.