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Tim Beckman denies mistreatment in defiant post-firing statement

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Tim Beckman denies mistreatment in defiant post-firing statement

Tim Beckman, who was fired Friday as the head football coach at Illinois, is not going away quietly.

Beckman was fired, according to athletics director Mike Thomas, after initial findings in an investigation into allegations of his mistreatment of players supported those claims. Thomas said that Beckman made efforts to deter injury reporting and influence medical decisions that pressured players to avoid or postpone medical treatment and continue playing despite their injuries. Initial findings also included Beckman mistreating players in regards to their scholarship status.

Beckman released a statement hours after his firing, calling the preliminary findings in the investigation "utterly false."

[MORE BIG TEN: Tim Beckman saga shows importance of student-athlete voice]

“I am shocked and extremely disappointed by the decision Mike Thomas and the University of Illinois made today regarding my employment as head coach of the football team," Beckman said in the statement. "First and foremost, I firmly deny the implications in Mike’s statements that I took any action that was not in the best interests of the health, safety and well-being of my players. The health and well-being of our student-athletes is of paramount importance to me, and any statement made to the contrary is utterly false. Additionally, in connection with scholarships for student-athletes, I have complied with the policies and regulations of both the university and the NCAA and I have fully supported the university compliance office. Moreover, all of the actions that I took regarding individual scholarships were in lockstep with the university’s appointed personnel and the directions and approvals I received from university officials.

“I fully cooperated with the university’s investigation, having sat down for two lengthy interviews and turning over all documentation requested of me. The fact that the university did not even complete its investigation in this matter is evidence that this entire process was nothing more than a rush to judgment and confirms the university’s abject bad faith. Furthermore, the university’s actions today are in violation of the procedures mandated under my employment agreement. As such, I will vigorously defend both my reputation and my legal rights.

“I am very proud of my career at the University of Illinois. Off-field incidents involving my players have been essentially non-existent while academic performance and graduation rates have been extraordinary. The love and support I have received today from my players means everything to me.”

[MORE BIG TEN: With Beckman fired, what does future hold for Illini AD Mike Thomas?]

Beckman's defiant statement signals that Thomas' wish to turn the page will not at all be easy. Many of his words seem to indicate that legal action is forthcoming.

This whole thing started when former offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic sent out a string of tweets in May alleging that Beckman is an abusive bully who forced players to play hurt, demonized injured players and threatened to take away players' scholarships. Thomas' statements Friday after firing Beckman seemed to indicate that those allegations were supported by the investigation.

In this statement, Beckman denies it all.

It's true that Beckman's tenure came with much academic success and none of the off-the-field legal issues players at Power 5 conference schools typically find themselves in, and Thomas praised that aspect of the Beckman Era on Friday. Thomas also pointed out that Beckman's firing had nothing to do with his win-loss record and everything to do with the report's initial findings.

It is also worth noting that this was a part of Friday's release announcing Beckman's firing:

Beckman will not receive the $3.1 million remaining on the last two years of his original five-year contract or the $743,000 called for if his contract had been bought out.

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.