Big Ten

Illini women's hoops investigation finds no support for racial hostility

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Illini women's hoops investigation finds no support for racial hostility

One of the investigations into an Illinois athletics program has concluded.

The investigation into the women's basketball program — under fire and currently being sued for creating an environment of racial hostility — found no support for the accusations levied by former players that black and white athletes were treated differently by the coaching staff.

Illinois had Chicago law firm Pugh, Jones and Johnson conducted the investigation after letters written to the university chancellor by parents of former players accused head coach Matt Bollant and former assistant coach Mike Divilbiss of segregating practices and punishing white and black players in different manners.

The law firm found nothing to support those claims. Its report on the program recommended the athletics department clarify the expected conduct of coaches and making it easier for student-athletes to report their concerns.

[MORE BIG TEN: Tim Beckman dodges while players support embattled Illinois coach]

“We find any allegations troubling, because they don’t reflect our values,” Illinois chancellor Phyllis Wise said in a university release. “Student-athletes are part of our Illinois family, and we want to ensure that their experiences are fulfilling and that they are able to work toward an Illinois degree and prepare for lives of leadership and impact.

“Going forward, we must ensure that our coaches and staff members have a clearer understanding of our core values and expectations and that our student-athletes never ever feel they have nowhere to go when they have concerns."

The law firm's report said that Bollant and Divilbiss, the latter of which left the program earlier this offseason, "acknowledged" that their coaching styles were too negative at times.

The report has this to say about Divilbiss, who was at the center of the players' allegations:

"Coach Divilbiss treated players harshly in a number of incidents and more harshly overall than other coaches. But we found no evidence that he criticized players differently or more frequently because of their race."

[MORE BIG TEN: Abrams injury brutal for Illini, who must again find replacement]

The external investigation followed an internal review conducted by the university. It is worth noting that the law firm was paid handsomely by the university to conduct the investigation, with one report from earlier this summer putting the price tag as high as $425 an hour.

The external investigation into the Illinois football program is still ongoing. Former Illinois offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic levied many allegations at head football coach Tim Beckman, painting the coach as an abusive bully who demonized injured players and threatened to take players' scholarships away. Beckman refused to address that situation during last week's Big Ten Media Days.

Athletics director Mike Thomas, who in the wake of the allegations toward both programs announced a series of steps to better serve student-athletes, again mentioned his department's commitment to improving communication between student-athletes and administration when needing to address complaints with coaching staffs.

“Our top priority must always be the welfare of our student-athletes," Thomas said in a statement. "And when allegations like these arise, we will always take them very seriously and investigate them quickly, impartially and thoroughly. This review certainly reinforces our understanding that we can never have too many different avenues available to our students for them to report concerns or issues. We are already working to implement the recommendations made by Pugh, Jones and Johnson to create more and better ways to connect our athletes with the support we promise them when they make the choice to join an Illinois athletic program.”

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.