Big Ten

Not much new info, but CNN report keeps Illini abuse saga going


Not much new info, but CNN report keeps Illini abuse saga going

There was little new information in a long report by CNN's Sara Ganim about the allegations toward the Illinois football and women's basketball programs, but it's a perfect example of how these serious issues aren't going away for a troubled Illini athletics department.

Last week, seven former members of the Illinois women's basketball program sued the school, head coach Matt Bollant, former assistant coach Matt Divilbiss and athletics director Mike Thomas for $10 million while alleging an environment of racial hostility that included segregated practices and different treatment of black and white players.

That brought renewed attention to the situation involving the women's basketball program, which started when players' families sent letters to the university, spurring an internal investigation where the university found no violated laws, rules or policies. After more letters, the university hired an outside law firm to conduct in independent review of the internal investigation. That review is ongoing.

[MORE BIG TEN: Report: Illini to pay MTSU $950,000 to visit to Champaign]

Also ongoing is an external investigation into allegations made toward the football program. In May, former Illinois offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic took to Twitter and unleashed tons of tweets accusing head coach Tim Beckman of being an abusive bully who lies to players about injuries, forces players to play hurt, demonizes injured players and threatens to take scholarships away from players.

Since Cvijanovic's social-media claims, several other players have joined his cause, though many other current and former members of the Illini football team have defended their team and their coach, as well.

Ganim's report included a couple accounts of Beckman physically going after players. One involved a current player who had his helmet grabbed and jerked around by Beckman. Another was the previously told tale of Kenny Knight, who described how he was grabbed and thrown to the ground by the coach during a practice. More interesting is Knight's account of the aftermath of that incident, where he said his father asked to watch the practice film to see the incident and there was a 35-second blank space where the incident had occurred.

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From Ganim's report:

Knight and his father tried to look at the practice tape to review what happened.

"There was 35 seconds of blank screen. I could see the dial was moving to let me know that it was still playing, but there was no film to be seen. It wouldn't play for me or for anybody else," he said. Two other players said they, separately, also looked for the incident on the practice tape, but it was not there.

The university says the "dead time" between plays is not normally recorded during practice. Knight says Beckman called him the day after speaking to his father to apologize, but Knight never reported the incident to anyone at the university out of fear that he'd lose his scholarship. "He should never be allowed to coach again," Knight said.

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Former Illini Nick North was also interviewed for the report, and he has also been previously heard from since the beginning of this saga. The Daily Illini talked to North in May, and the former player described how Beckman pushed him to give up his scholarship after an injury.

North told Ganim: "They kept saying, 'You need to go back out there,' even though they knew I wasn't 100 percent. I'd literally be limping while running, and you could see it. ... They were like, 'If you can't do this, you're going to have to leave. You can't play here. We're going to take your scholarship.'"

Whether CNN's high-profile, national story will increase the negative attention surrounding the two under-fire programs and the under-fire athletics department remains to be seen. But these issues aren't going away. The next step would figure to be the conclusion of the external investigation and review, though the former women's basketball players did not wait before filing their lawsuit.

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


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


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.