Big Ten

Illini remove interim label, agree to two-year deal with Bill Cubit

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Illini remove interim label, agree to two-year deal with Bill Cubit

In the hours before Illinois played its regular-season finale against Northwestern at Soldier Field, its interim head football coach simply became its head football coach.

The Illini announced the removal of the interim label on head coach Bill Cubit, also announcing that Cubit agreed to a two-year deal with the school.

“Bill has stepped in during an extremely difficult period and done an outstanding job in leading our football program since August,” interim athletics director Paul Kowalczyk said in the announcement. “Our student-athletes have responded in a positive manner, and we feel he is the best person at this time to be the head coach. We wanted to allow Bill to make decisions regarding the program as the head coach without the interim title and lead the Fighting Illini into Saturday’s game without speculation.”

Cubit took over as interim head coach a week before the season started, when Tim Beckman was fired after an investigation revealed he behaved horribly as the team’s head coach with a disregard for the safety and well-being of student-athletes.

Cubit, who served as the Illini’s offensive coordinator for the previous two seasons, was as good a choice to take over as there could have been, bringing stability as well as head-coaching experience from his eight seasons at the helm of the program at Western Michigan, when he posted a 51-46 record.

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Through the first 11 games of this season, Cubit’s Illini have gone just 5-6, struggling when up against quality competition and especially struggling on the offensive side of the ball. But a win Saturday at Soldier Field would send the Illini to a bowl game for the second straight season.

Cubit has brought numerous positives to the job, displaying incredible passion and at times visible emotion, working hard to rally the community around the team and getting his players playing with noticeable enthusiasm.

Illinois announced that Cubit will receive $1.2 million a year.

The decision to go with just a two-year deal has been criticized by some who point out that recruiting could be a challenge for a staff that can’t guarantee its presence for the full four years of an incoming freshman’s college career.

But the school is also searching for a new athletics director, and a two-year deal provides whoever's hired flexibility in the near future.

As was reported earlier this week, the lack of organization in the search for a new athletics director could have something to do with Illinois deciding on Cubit.

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.