Big Ten

Purdue fires both coordinators; Penn State OC gone, too


Purdue fires both coordinators; Penn State OC gone, too

On a day known throughout the college football world as "Black Sunday" for its bevy of firings, staffs of Big Ten teams were hardly immune.

Kyle Flood was fired as the head coach of Rutgers on Sunday, and there is still a head-coaching vacancy at Maryland. But several Big Ten assistants had to start new job searches, too.

Purdue made the most dramatic staff changes without removing a head coach, with Darrell Hazell announcing that both offensive coordinator John Shoop and defensive coordinator Greg Hudson, as well as defensive tackles coach Rubin Carter, wouldn't be back for the 2016 season.

Hazell's tenure in West Lafayette, now three years deep, has seen very few wins. The Boilermakers went just 6-30 in Hazell's first three seasons, posting a hideous 2-22 mark in conference play. This season ended with a 2-10 mark after Saturday's season-ending loss to Indiana.

His assistants paid the price for all that losing Sunday. Shoop was criticized all season despite slightly improving on last season's offensive production. The Boilers ranked ninth in the Big Ten with 25.1 points per game, up from 11th last year, when they averaged 23.8 points per game. This season, Purdue averaged 368.6 total yards per game after averaging 344.6 yards per game last season. The defensive numbers, though, were slightly worse this season compared to last. The Boilers allowed an average of 36.5 points per game this year after allowing an average of 31.7 points per game last year. This season, the Boilers allowed an average of 458.3 total yards per game after allowing an average of 416 yards a season ago.

“I appreciate the efforts of each of those guys over the last three years,” Hazell said in the program's announcement. “They are quality men who are well respected by their players and their peers, and I am disappointed that things didn’t work out better. But I believe that in order to turn around this program, we need to make some significant changes and move in a different direction at those positions.”

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Purdue gear right here]

Elsewhere in the conference, Penn State announced that offensive coordinator John Donovan has been relieved of his duties.

The Nittany Lions finished 11th in the conference in scoring offense, averaging 23.7 points per game, and 13th in total offense, averaging 344 total yards per game. Penn State ranked 12th in rushing offense, ninth in passing offense, last in third-down conversions and gave up more sacks than any other Big Ten team.

Nowhere was the lack of effectiveness on Penn State's offense more glaring than the performance of quarterback Christian Hackenberg since James Franklin and his staff took over for Bill O'Brien. Hackenberg had a sensational freshman season under O'Brien, throwing 20 touchdown passes and for nearly 3,000 yards. After O'Brien departed to become the head coach of the Houston Texans, though, Hackenberg struggled. He threw 12 touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions last season. And while he only threw five picks this season, he threw for a career-low 2,386 yards.

The Nittany Lions finished their season at 7-5 after Saturday's blowout loss to Michigan State.

“I have tremendous respect for John and the work he has put in over the last five years,” Franklin said in the program's announcement. “I wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.”

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.