Big Ten

Report: P.J. Fleck expected to be named next Minnesota head coach

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USA TODAY

Report: P.J. Fleck expected to be named next Minnesota head coach

Is the Minnesota coaching search about to wrap up just a few days after Tracy Claeys was fired?

According to a report from KSTP-TV in the Twin Cities, Western Michigan head coach P.J. Fleck is expected to be named Minnesota's next head coach.

Fleck was reported to have met with Minnesota officials Wednesday in Chicago and has been at the top of the Twitterverse's wishlist despite a Thursday report that former LSU head coach Les Miles was in the Land of 10,000 Lakes to talk about the job.

Fleck is one of the hottest coaching candidates in the country after the magic he worked at Western Michigan this season, leading the Broncos to 13 wins before the season ended with a loss to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl earlier this week.

He's just as well known for his high energy and laundry list of motivational slogans, headlined of course by "row the boat," which is so omnipresent that it's been incorporated into the Broncos' uniforms. His pregame speeches are often shown on ESPN, and there's no doubt he would bring excitement to campus and fire up the fan base.

Fleck is a native Midwesterner — from Sugar Grove, Ill., and a product of Kaneland High School — and played his college ball at Northern Illinois. He returned to his alma mater as an assistant and worked under Jerry Kill, the former Minnesota head coach who just Wednesday blasted the administration in a radio interview, irate about the firing of Claeys, his former defensive coordinator. After three seasons as an assistant under Greg Schiano at Rutgers and with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he took the head-coaching job at Western Michigan and compiled a 30-22 record in four seasons. The turnaround there has been remarkable, going from one win in his first season to 13 and a MAC championship this season.

The program at Minnesota is hardly on solid ground, with players and the aforementioned Kill still voicing their extreme displeasure over Claeys' dismissal. The fallout of the short-lived players boycott continues, and the 10 suspensions that led to that boycott — coming after a university investigation into an alleged sexual assault — could result in expulsions or varying degrees of suspensions.

But a Big Ten head-coaching job is a good one, with ample resources and a national stage as the biggest pros of coaching in the conference. Plus, Minnesota plays in the Big Ten West, which often provides an easier annual road to the league title game than the powerhouse-heavy Big Ten East.

Will the Gophers announce Fleck Friday? Stay tuned.

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

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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.