Big Ten

Lovie Smith has coordinators in place as Illini announce Hardy Nickerson


Lovie Smith has coordinators in place as Illini announce Hardy Nickerson

Lovie Smith officially has both his coordinators in place.

Illinois officially announced the addition of Hardy Nickerson to Smith's staff as defensive coordinator just a few days after officially announcing the addition of Garrick McGee as Smith's offensive coordinator.

"Hardy Nickerson is one of the few superstar players who have been able to transition into coaching and translate the style and level of play needed to succeed to the players he is coaching," Smith said in the announcement. "He has been on my staff with two different NFL teams, and I'm really looking forward to having Hardy join us here at the University of Illinois as our defensive coordinator. His ability to connect with young men and their families will be a huge benefit when it comes to recruiting, and his knowledge of our defense will certainly help us get to where we want to be faster."

Nickerson was a five-time Pro Bowl linebacker during his 16-season NFL career, starring with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1993 to 1999. He began his coaching career under Smith with the Bears in 2007 before joining Smith's staff with the Bucs over the past two seasons as linebackers coach. He was hired as the San Francisco 49ers' linebackers coach just a couple months ago but will work at Illinois instead.

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Fighting Illini gear right here]

Friday, shortly before the Illinois men's basketball team played Pudue in the Big Ten Tournament, Illinois made the reported hiring of McGee official, as well.

"My relationship with Garrick McGee goes back to when I recruited him to Arizona State, and have maintained that friendship as he has risen through the college ranks and become one of the top offensive coaches in the nation," Smith said in that announcement. "We are fortunate to have him run the Illini offense, and our fans should be excited, because we'll showcase an exciting brand of football."

Smith recruited McGee to play quarterback at Arizona State before the Tulsa native finished his collegiate career at Oklahoma. McGee has worked as an offensive coordinator at three other Power 5 schools, most notably Northwestern, where he spent four years as an assistant under both Randy Walker and Pat Fitzgerald. He also worked as the offensive coordinator at both Arkansas and Louisville, leaving the latter last week to join Smith's staff in Champaign.

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.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.