Big Ten

Report: Investigations costing Illini up to $425 an hour

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Report: Investigations costing Illini up to $425 an hour

A pair of investigations into Illinois athletics programs is dealing a blow to the athletics department's reputation. It's also reportedly dealing quite a blow to the department's bank account, too.

According to a Thursday report from the Champaign News-Gazette, two Chicago law firms hired to independently investigate accusations toward the Illinois football and women's basketball programs are charging the athletics department up to $425 an hour for their services.

Franczek Radelet is the name of the firm conducting the investigation into the football program, an investigation spurred by the social-media allegations of former offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic, who accused head coach Tim Beckman of being an abusive bully who forces players to play injured, demonizes injured players and threatens to take players' scholarships away.

Chicago firm Pugh, Jones & Johnson is reviewing the university's internal investigation into the women's basketball program, which found no rules or laws were broken after letters from families of former players accused head coach Matt Bollant's coaching staff of many similar things Cvijanovic accused Beckman of, including forcing players to play injured. Those allegations also included racially themed ones, such as the suggestion of separate practices for African-American players.

And those firms are not cheap.

[MORE BIG TEN: Illini AD announces steps to better serve student-athletes]

From the News-Gazette's Julie Wurth:

The university will pay Franczek Radelet $310 to $420 an hour for legal work by its partners, $240 to $300 for work by its associates, and $180 for paralegals, according to documents released through a Freedom of Information Act request.

At Pugh, Jones & Johnson, the rates will be $375 to $425 an hour for partners, $215 to $300 an hour for associates/staff attorneys, and $110 to $115 an hour for paralegals.

...

The Division of Intercollegiate Athletics will foot the bill, according to campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler. The athletic department has an $81.8 million budget, most of which comes from its own revenue or gifts and grants, according to the UI budget book.

UI officials have said it's too early to say how much the investigations will cost, as that will depend on the length of the inquiries. The arrangements do not include a payment cap, Kaler said.

[MORE BIG TEN: Mike Thomas addresses firestorm surrounding Illini athletics]

Athletics director Mike Thomas has supported his coaches throughout these firestorms and asked that people not rush to judgment. Though in a social-media world where opinions are formed a lightning speed, that's been a difficult ask.

Thomas announced earlier this week steps his department has taken and will take to better serve student-athletes in situations where they feel mistreated by their coaches. Measures to increase the ability for student-athletes to communicate with Thomas and the rest of the athletics department were adopted, as were measures to better educate coaches about how they should behave. The department will also hire an ombudsman.

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

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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

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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.