Big Ten

Hawkeyes' Kirk Ferentz named Big Ten Coach of the Year

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Hawkeyes' Kirk Ferentz named Big Ten Coach of the Year

At this time last season, many Iowa fans were calling for Kirk Ferentz to lose his job. Now he’s the Big Ten Coach of the Year.

Ferentz won the award Tuesday, when the conference announced the second half of its individual award winners. It’s the fourth time in his 17-year tenure leading the Iowa football program that he has won this iteration of the award, previously taking home the honor in 2002, 2004 and 2009.

Ferentz’s Hawkeyes have a perfect 12-0 record following the conclusion of the regular season, the first 12-win season in program history. They boast the No. 4 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings, and a win in the Big Ten Championship Game this weekend in Indianapolis would in all likelihood secure a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Ferentz was under fire in recent years for winning no more than eight games in any of the previous five seasons, going a combined 19-19 in the last three, a steady decline since leading the Hawkeyes to 11 wins and a victory in the Orange Bowl in the 2009 campaign.

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But Ferentz vowed to do things differently in the wake of an embarrassing end to last season, when Tennessee thumped Iowa in the TaxSlayer Bowl. Most significantly, that meant a change at quarterback, installing C.J. Beathard as the start in place of Jake Rudock with an odd January depth chart. That triggered Rudock’s transfer to Michigan, but Beathard has proven to be terrific, turning in one of the better seasons of any quarterback in the Big Ten this year.

The 12-0 regular season by Iowa has been trademarked by terrific play on both sides of the ball. The defense ranks 15th in the country, allowing just 18.7 points a game, while Beathard and a multi-headed monster at running back have the Hawkeyes as the third-highest scoring team in the Big Ten at 33.7 points per game.

Sure, Iowa’s strength of schedule has been criticized by just about everyone, though a signature win over Northwestern in Evanston is looking better and better by the day. But if the Hawkeyes can beat one-loss Michigan State in this weekend’s conference title game, they’ll be one of just four teams in the country competing for a national championship.

Not a bad job by Ferentz.

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.