Big Ten

John Groce relieved of his duties as Illini head basketball coach

John Groce relieved of his duties as Illini head basketball coach

John Groce is out at Illinois.

Fighting Illini athletics director Josh Whitman announced Saturday afternoon that Groce, who helmed the men's basketball program for the past five season, has been relieved of his duties.

"I want to thank John Groce and his staff for their tireless efforts over these past five years," Whitman said in the announcement. "In many ways, John is a model leader. He exudes optimism and tackles every day with unbelievable energy. He has the highest integrity. He has been an active presence in our community and a strong public ambassador for Illinois basketball. Most importantly, he loves his players unconditionally and helps them develop into young men prepared for the next stages of their lives. Our student-athletes are having a positive experience, achieving record heights in the classroom, and leaving campus as proud graduates with bright futures.

"Under his leadership, regrettably, we were not able to sustain the level of competitive excellence that we expect at the University of Illinois. But that should do nothing to detract from the many wonderful things John has done on behalf of Illinois basketball during his tenure. We wish John, Allison and their three children nothing but the best, and we thank his staff and their families as well for their many contributions to our program. All will be missed."

Groce's firing comes just two days after his team was eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament in a 20-point loss to Michigan. Illinois is expected to miss the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight season when the field of 68 is announced Sunday.

Groce posted a 95-75 overall record and a 37-53 record in Big Ten games. The Illini reached the NCAA tournament in his first season but haven't received an invite to the Big Dance since.

Groce took over for Bruce Weber ahead of the 2012-13 season and won 23 games in his first year as head coach, though his win totals have decreased since. He won 20 games the following year and hasn't reached the 20-win mark in any of the last three seasons.

While Groce was set to welcome in his highest-rated recruiting class since his arrival in Champaign, he had many high-profile near misses in recruiting, most notably with Chicago-area prospects like Cliff Alexander and Jalen Brunson.

Whitman announced Saturday that a national search for Groce's replacement will begin immediately. In the meantime, assistant Jamal Walker has been named the program's interim coach.

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

jeremy_larkin.jpg
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

anderson.jpg
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.