Big Ten

Urban Meyer: Big Ten is 'night and day what it was' when he took over at Ohio State

Urban Meyer: Big Ten is 'night and day what it was' when he took over at Ohio State

The Big Ten finally got a heaping helping of national respect last season, when three of the conference's teams finished in the top six of the final College Football Playoff rankings.

It had been a bit of a challenge in previous seasons — and not always without merit — for the league to get talked about in the same way the national media loves talking about the SEC. But now the conference boasts some of the healthiest programs in college football and some of the most attention-grabbing head coaches in the sport.

Certainly Urban Meyer and his Ohio State Buckeyes fall into those categories. But Ohio State is joined in the highest levels of national conversation by Jim Harbaugh's Michigan program and Paul Chryst's stellar work at Wisconsin. That's without mentioning the reigning conference champion Penn State Nittany Lions and Mark Dantonio's oft-contending Michigan State program.

With the Big Ten now annually having several national championship-caliber teams, Meyer can't help but notice how the league and the league's status has changed since he took the head-coaching gig in Columbus ahead of the 2012 season.

"It's night and day what it was," Meyer told CSN's Pat Boyle at Monday's Golf.Give.Gala in St. Charles, hosted by Michael Phelps and Jason Day. "And I was actually shocked at the disrespect and the lack of respect that the Big Ten had. I never looked at that. I grew up here.

"There's a lot of reasons why that's happened. The schools have hired very good coaches, the recruiting is off the chart now compared to the way it used to be. There's a lot of credit. And you better show up every week now, and it wasn't that way when I first got there in 2012."

Meyer's Buckeyes are again expected to be in the championship hunt this fall after reaching the College Football Playoff in two of the past three seasons and winning the whole thing to cap the 2014 campaign.

Certainly, though, the conference's powerhouses aren't the only programs that have contributed to the league's health as a whole. Coaching hires since Meyer got to Ohio State include former NFL head coaches in Lovie Smith and Mike Riley, as well as high-profile up-and-comers like James Franklin and P.J. Fleck.

Add those names to the already-existing leaders like Meyer, Dantonio and Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald, and the coaching is as strong as any conference in the country.

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

jeremy_larkin.jpg
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

anderson.jpg
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.