Big Ten

Minnesota AD pledges meeting with Tracy Claeys to discuss future of Gophers program

tracy-claeys-1228.jpg
USA TODAY

Minnesota AD pledges meeting with Tracy Claeys to discuss future of Gophers program

Minnesota football is coming off an upset win over Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. But the brief celebratory mood will likely dissipate as the program faces big questions about its future.

Perhaps most notably, the future of head coach Tracy Claeys remains a good deal of a mystery after he so publicly supported players who boycotted team activities in the wake of the indefinite suspensions of 10 of their teammates.

Wednesday, athletics director Mark Coyle released a statement outlining his plans to discuss the future of the program with Claeys.

"Now that our football team has completed its season following an exciting win in Tuesday night's Holiday Bowl, Coach Claeys and I will take this opportunity to reflect on this past season, before sitting down together to talk about the future and my expectations for our football program," Coyle said in the statement.

Despite the good feelings of the bowl win, the program remains in turmoil. Ten players were suspended indefinitely after a university investigation into a sexual assault. Those suspensions spurred the rest of the team to stage a boycott that momentarily jeopardized the Gophers’ participation in the Holiday Bowl. Claeys wholeheartedly supported the group action via Twitter.

But public opinion didn’t side with the players, who ended their boycott just two days later after reading the school’s investigative report — which they admitted they did not read when they began their boycott. The players believed they were defending wrongly accused teammates after a police investigation into the same incident yielded no charges back in the fall. But the university’s investigation had different consequences, and the still-suspended players could face criminal charges as well as expulsions or varying degrees of suspensions.

Recently, Claeys has spoken openly about his not-so-certain future, and petitioners are calling for him to lose his job.

All that exists simultaneously with the success Minnesota has had on the field over the past few seasons. Claeys took over as head coach in the middle of last season after the abrupt retirement of Jerry Kill and led the Gophers to their first bowl win in more than a decade. The win in this week’s Holiday Bowl gave Minnesota back-to-back bowl wins for the first time since 2003 and 2004. The nine-win season was just the program’s eighth ever and only its second since 1905. The Kill/Claeys combo has led the Gophers to at least eight wins in three of the last four seasons.

Of course, the turmoil facing the program stems from nothing that occurred on the football field, and the winning likely won’t be too big a part of the conversation when Coyle and Claeys meet.

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.