Big Ten

Report: Illini wrapping up interviews with seven candidates for AD job


Report: Illini wrapping up interviews with seven candidates for AD job

Illinois, still without an athletics director several months after the departure of Mike Thomas, is reportedly wrapping up interviews with seven candidates this week.

According to a Tuesday report from the Tribune's Shannon Ryan, Illinois spent Tuesday and will spend Wednesday interviewing seven different people in Indianapolis. The candidates are Northern Illinois athletics director Sean Frazier, Washington University athletics director Josh Whitman, Eastern Illinois athletics director Tom Michael, Central Michigan athletics director Dave Heeke, Florida Atlantic athletics director Patrick Chun, Maryland deputy athletics director Kelly Mehrtens and CEO of Tennis Australia and former Illinois tennis coach Craig Tiley.

According to Ryan's report, Illinois is still attempting to get Colorado athletics director Rick George to consider the job, though he declined interest early on in the process. Ryan also reported that Northwestern athletics director Jim Phillips was targeted but declined.

Of the current athletics directors on the list, two are from the MAC (Frazier and Heeke), one is from the Conference USA (Chun), one is from the FCS level (Michael) and one is from Division-III (Whitman).

According to Ryan, Illinois is searching for a candidate with ties to the school. Michael and Whitman are both former Illinois student-athletes. Michael played basketball for the Illini from 1991 to 1994, and Whitman played football for the Illini from 1997 to 2000. Whitman also worked in the Illinois athletics department under former athletics director Ron Guenther.

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Illinois' search for a new athletics director has taken a very long time. Thomas fired former head football coach Tim Beckman in August, a week before the start of the football season, after initial findings from an independent investigation into the football program uncovered that Beckman was mistreating players. When the full report was released in early November — and with it more ugly details of Beckman's behavior — Thomas was through as the school's athletics director.

It wasn't until a full month after Thomas' departure that the school even announced that a search for a new athletics director was underway, with interim chancellor Barbara Wilson announcing that a search committee of faculty members and others with university ties would be conducting the search. Two weeks after that, the school announced the search firm Korn Ferry would help with the search for Thomas' replacement.

And during the process, one report described the search's dysfunction, with candidates contacted via their university email addresses, vetting done in atypical fashion and interest impacted due to Wilson's interim status.

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.