Big Ten

Illini announce $250,000 settlement reached with Tim Beckman

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Illini announce $250,000 settlement reached with Tim Beckman

Illinois announced Tuesday that it reached an agreement with former head football coach Tim Beckman in which Beckman will receive a one-time payment of $250,000.

The settlement between the two parties brings the matter of Beckman's firing a week before the start of the 2015 season to a close. It was done with the intent of avoiding litigation that would have involved numerous student-athletes, coaches, staff, trainers and team physicians.

Beckman was fired by former athletics director Mike Thomas after preliminary findings in an investigation into the program confirmed allegations that Beckman mistreated student-athletes by attempting to influence injury reporting, forcing players to play injured and threatening the removal of scholarships.

After further details emerged when the full report was released midseason, Thomas was also removed from his post.

Tuesday's announcement was accompanied by a lengthy joint statement by both the university and Beckman. The statement reaffirmed the university's decision to fire Beckman and pointed to the investigation's findings but also made a point to praise Beckman for his cooperation and positive efforts during his tenure, such as strong academic performance.

Beckman finished his tenure at Illinois with a 12-25 overall record and a 4-20 record in Big Ten play. After Bill Cubit served as interim head coach last season and permanent head coach for one game and several months after the end of the season, new athletics director Josh Whitman on his first day of work dismissed Cubit. Whitman introduced Lovie Smith as the new head coach two days later.

Here's the full joint statement from Illinois and Beckman.

“The University of Illinois and former coach Tim Beckman announced today that they have reached a negotiated resolution of potential legal claims relating to coach Beckman’s termination in August 2015. In resolving these matters, the university and coach Beckman seek to avoid protracted and costly litigation that would by necessity require the involvement of a number of current and former student-athletes, as well as coaches, staff, trainers and team physicians. This resolution allows the university to avoid the distraction of pending litigation and to focus instead on the well-being of student-athletes in the program. At the same time, coach Beckman can resume his career without protracted litigation. The resolution involves a one-time payment of $250,000 to Beckman, who will release all claims he may have had against the university.

“The university stands by its decision to terminate coach Beckman for cause but recognizes that terminating him without cause was another possible alternative. In deciding to terminate coach Beckman, the university relied on preliminary findings that were eventually included in the report issued by Franczek Radelet, an independent investigating law firm, concerning the management of sports injuries and scholarships in the football program. Throughout the investigation, coach Beckman cooperated with all requests for information and answered all questions. During the investigation and in the wake of the report, the university made a number of programmatic changes focused on safeguards for student-athletes in football and other sports.

“In addition, as stated on page 25 of the report, ‘many players interviewed reported positive experiences with injury assessment, treatment, recovery periods, and return-to-play decisions. In addition, coach Beckman attempted to help players stay healthy and avoid injuries by repeatedly discussing health topics. When players were seriously injured, coach Beckman made efforts to assist them by visiting players in the hospital after surgery and taking time to console players about the challenge of being unable to play.’ Further, the report found no evidence that any student-athlete suffered the loss of a scholarship for poor performance during coach Beckman’s tenure. 

“Coach Beckman states unequivocally that, during his tenure as head football coach, he made a substantial contribution to the lives of student-athletes he coached and to the university’s football program. The university concurs that coach Beckman implemented many initiatives that achieved positive student-athlete experiences, including improved academic performance and leadership training. From the fall of 2012 until the spring semester of 2015, for example, the players’ average grade point average increased from 2.60 to 2.90. On the field, the team showed improvement, going from a 2-10 record in his first season to a 6-7 record and bowl appearance in his final season.

“The university wishes coach Beckman well, and coach Beckman wishes the university, the football program and the university’s student-athletes continued success.”

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.