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Copyright 2018 The Pantagraph

The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois)

 

NORMAL — First a versatile standout at University High School and now a defensive lineman on the Illinois State football team, Austin Galindo knows Hancock Stadium better than practically anyone who has donned shoulder pads.

"The old turf was rough, a lot of injuries, turf burns, broken collarbones," Galindo said. "This new turf is much easier on our feet and legs."

ISU players returned to campus this week and began summer workouts. Underneath their feet is a brand new artificial turf replacing the surface that had served Redbird football the past 11 seasons.

"It's a very nice addition to the stadium. This is beautiful," Galindo said. "People are able to make stronger cuts without slipping. The other turf we were slipping all over the place."

ISU has installed a new version of its previous FieldTurf.

The shade of green alternates every 5 yards expect at midfield, where the Redbird head logo is a bit larger.

End zones are red with white lettering outlined in black. The sideline team areas from 25-yard line to 25-yard line are a solid red.

"I'm very pleased with the project from start to finish," ISU director of athletics Larry Lyons said. "I'm very pleased with the look of the turf. It will be a very good playing surface for us moving forward."

Quarterback Malachi Broadnax and safety Christian Uphoff also gave the turf rave reviews.

"I love it. I feel like a butterfly walking on it," Broadnax said. "It's really soft, light on my feet. It brings a different vibe to the field."

Uphoff also predicted injuries would go down.

"This is nothing like the last one. The last one was really hard," said Uphoff. "It feels like you're running on a cloud it's so soft."

The Redbirds will play their first game on the turf in the Sept. 1 season opener against Saint Xavier.

"That is definitely going to be something," Broadnax said. "We've got this brand new field. The crowd is going to be vibrant. We're going to be so ready to play. Everything will have way more energy."

Lyons also is happy the project's $600,000 price tag will be even lower when ISU settles up with the installation company.

"What we don't know is the credit we will get for reusing the infield that was in the old turf. They reused as much as they could," said Lyons.

"We knew we would get some kind of credit. We were able to utilize an existing purchasing consortium the state of Illinois was participating in that set a favorable price."

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Copyright 2018 Charleston Newspapers

Charleston Gazette-Mail

 

The Charleston YMCA is back open after a brief evacuation Wednesday morning.

Charleston Police officers and Kanawha County Sheriff's deputies responded to the center after a "suspicious bottle" was found in the men's locker room at the center off of Hillcrest Drive, YMCA director Monty Warner said.

The bottle was located in the locker room at 11:36 a.m. and looked suspicious enough to warrant a response from police, said Charleston Police Lt. Autumn Davis.

The sheriff's office took X-ray images of the bottle and determined there was a small amount of fluid in it, Davis said.

Davis said investigators will determine what was inside the bottle.

Warner and Davis said there didn't appear to be an immediate threat against the facility, and members were free to come and go as they pleased by 12:45, Warner said.

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Copyright 2018 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

The looming Thursday deadline for three of five former Wheaton College football players to accept plea deals in connection with a 2016 hazing has been extended until June 5. Prosecutors said Wednesday that their plea offers to Kyler Kregel, Benjamin Pettway and Samuel TeBos will expire Tuesday morning, after which they will have to take their chances at trial. The deal also was offered to James Cooksey, who earlier this month declared his intent to have a bench trial on July 10. Cooksey's attorney, Michael Fleming, said Wednesday that he still expects his client to go to trial, but isn't sure it will be on July 10. Prosecutors declined to reveal details of the possible plea deals, but the offers are believed to be similar to the one another former player, Noah Spielman, took in March when he pleaded guilty to a single charge of misdemeanor battery and received one year of conditional discharge and 100 hours of community service. The remaining players face felony charges of aggravated battery, unlawful restraint and mob action.

Attorneys for some of the remaining players say their clients are leaning toward taking the deal, but have not made a final decision. The men are accused of abducting teammate Charles Nagy, now 21, from his dorm on March 19, 2016, putting a pillowcase over his head, tying him with duct tape, placing him into a pickup truck and driving him to a baseball field near Hawthorne Elementary School in Wheaton. Prosecutors said the defendants are accused of repeatedly punching and kicking Nagy, kicking dirt on him and then leaving him partially nude on the field. Authorities say Nagy suffered two torn labra as a result of being bound with duct tape, but defense attorneys have been studying his medical records to determine whether he had pre-existing issues. The four remaining players are next due in court Tuesday, when Judge Brian Telander also is expected to rule on a motion to allow extended media coverage of Cooksey's trial. In October, Telander denied a request from multiple news agencies to allow one still photographer and one videographer into the players' arraignment. At that time, Telander said he would consider any future extended media requests should any of the cases go to trial.

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Chicago Daily Herald

 

Like it or not, in a manner of speaking the DuKane Conference is underway. On April 23 principals, athletic directors and head coaches from Batavia, Geneva, Glenbard North, Lake Park, St. Charles East, St. Charles North, Wheaton North and Wheaton Warrenville South met at Batavia. "It just kind of set the tone for next year," said Wheaton North athletic director Matt Fisher, DuKane treasurer and the new conference's resource director for football.

"The whole goal and purpose of the meeting was to get all of the head coaches together as a large group but also as individual groups (by sport), basically just a meet-and-greet, get-to-know-you, and then also to go over the basics of the conference," said Batavia athletic director Dave Andrews. Andrews is president of the DuKane Conference athletic directors. Batavia principal JoAnne Smith is president of the conference Board of Control in this initial planning year.

In 2018-19, the first year of competition, Geneva's Dave Carli and Tom Rogers will hold those respective positions, which will be rotated annually in alphabetical order by school. Aside from rubbing elbows the main task was to determine how different levels of sports would be configured. "You're blending multiple operating procedures together," Andrews said. "... It wasn't cut and dried. In some sports the school is better off building a program with a freshman-sophomore level. But that's not the case in every school." The decision was made, he said, to take each sport individually. As an example, Andrews noted softball will work on varsity, junior varsity 1 and JV 2 levels, whereas in the DuPage Valley Conference it was run with varsity, JV and freshman levels.

"I just think everybody, including the coaches, they're excited for a new league but even more so they're excited for the consistent opportunities that all of their athletes are going to have," Andrews said. Fisher said a preseason meeting will be held Aug. 8 at Batavia for athletic directors and head and assistant coaches of all fall sports. A merry go-round A baby's birth is a joyous occasion — and it launched a chain of events in the Lake Park boys and girls track programs.

Lake Park boys track coach Jay Ivory and his partner, Beth Hanses, had a baby girl, Nova Sky, on Jan. 31. Since Hanses is an assistant girls and boys track coach at Ridgewood, the couple figured they couldn't burden their parents with baby-sitting duties from January through May. Compromising, they decided Hanses would stick with her Ridgewood teams and Ivory, who also coaches Lancers girls cross country, would remain in that spot while relinquishing the boys track team he'd led to consecutive Class 3A titles from 2010-13.

Going back to the boys side as head coach will be Tom Kaberna, whose work as Ivory's assistant in horizontal jumps was a big part of those championships. Kaberna coached Lake Park's girls team the last three years. Succeeding Kaberna on the girls side will be 2005 Naperville Central and 2009 North Central College graduate Jeff Helberg. Helberg is wrapping up the school year as a social studies teacher at Wauconda, where he coached boys and girls cross country and assisted in boys track. His father, retired Wheaton Warrenville South boys track coach Ken Helberg, was beaming at the May 19 Glenbard North boys sectional, where he served as an official.

Jeff Helberg is the grandson of Ron Helberg, retired coach of Palatine, Maine East and Evanston. Ron and Ken — Uncle Don, too, at Wheaton North — are members of the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame. A hurdler and jumper in his day, among other accomplishments Jeff Helberg coached five of Wauconda's fastest girls cross country runners in its history, led the 2017 boys team to its third sectional ever, and coached boys track state qualifiers in long jump, the 300-meter hurdles and the 400 dash.

"Lake Park is very proud to be the school where the third generation of Helberg track and field head coaches is getting his start," said Lake Park athletic director Pete Schauer. "He will do a great job for us." Wildcats on the Wildfire Neither Dylan Power nor Jeremy Burril were storied athletes at Neuqua Valley. As members of the Chicago Wildfire, a six-year member of the American Ultimate Disc League that plays its home games at North Central College, they've solidified their niche. Burril, a 2014 graduate, played football and baseball until concussion issues nixed him from the former and he got cut from the latter his junior year at Neuqua, leaving him with no competitive outlet. Power, Neuqua Class of 2016, admitted that whatever prep sport he tried, he just wasn't very good.

While in high school both found relief in the sport formerly known as Ultimate Frisbee. "I came out to a couple practices and fell in love with it," said Burril, who went on to captain Illinois State's club team from his sophomore through senior years. Power started playing the sport in seventh grade. He immediately felt embraced by the NV Ultimate Frisbee Club, one of the country's biggest and best. Starting out on the junior varsity or "B" team that competes in the Chicago High School Ultimate League, as a sophomore Power moved onto the "A" team, which competes in, and wins, national tournaments. He captained that unit his junior and senior years.

"It's different in the Frisbee community, it kind of welcomes anyone and everyone," he said. "That's something you don't really find in other sports." He and Burril have found that to also be the case with the professional Wildfire squad, whose 35-man roster includes players from 14 states plus coach Adrian King out of Portland, Oregon. The team includes Lake Park graduate Alex Rummelhart. "I'm loving it," said Burril, who has had no concussion problems since playing Ultimate. "It is a completely different experience than I've had with any other team. The game is so much more fast-paced than any other game."

The Wildfire takes a 2-4 record into Saturday's road game against the Detroit Mechanix. After playing the Madison (Wisconsin) Rascals June 9 in Rockford it returns to Naperville's Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium for a rematch with Detroit at 1 p.m. June 17. The Neuqua graduates are among the Wildfire's younger players trying to make headway toward regular playing time, but Burril said a "huge crowd" of friends and family came to the last home game May 19. "A lot of people don't realize how exciting it is until they come out and actually watch," he said.

doberhelman@dailyherald.com Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1

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Copyright 2018 Richmond Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia 76ers are investigating whether team president Bryan Colangelo used a variety of Twitter accounts to anonymously trash some of his players and fellow executives and defend himself against criticism from fans and the sports media.

The allegations, reported Tuesday by the sports website The Ringer, raised questions about Colangelo's future and the NBA team as it heads an important summer trying to attract free agents.

The five Twitter accounts under suspicion took aim at Philadelphia players Joel Embiid and Markelle Fultz, former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie, Toronto Raptors executive Masai Ujiri and former Sixers players Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel, according to The Ringer.

Among other things, the user or users of the accounts complained that Embiid, the 24-year-old All-Star center, was "playing like a toddler having tantrums" and was "a bit lazy," ''selfish" and "acting like a tool."

The user of one of the accounts claimed to know Colangelo and described him more than once as a "class act." The tweets also raised the question of whether Colangelo used the anonymous accounts to divulge team strategy and details about players' medical conditions.

Colangelo acknowledged using one of the accounts to monitor the NBA industry and other current events but said he wasn't familiar with the four others.

Embiid, Philly's franchise star, made a few wisecracks about the furor on Twitter before saying he didn't believe the story.

The Sixers had at least 20 impostor accounts shut down this season with people pretending to be Colangelo, a person familar with the investigation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the probe is not over.

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Copyright 2018 Virginian-Pilot Companies LLC
All Rights Reserved

The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

The Class 5 Region A baseball championship game will be played tonight, but whether Hickory or Maury will be in the dugout opposite Menchville remained a mystery heading into Wednesday night.

Hickory on Wednesday appealed its forfeit of a region semifinal game for violating the Virginia High School League's pitching rule, league spokesman Mike McCall wrote in an email. McCall indicated that a panel, led by associate director Tom Dolan, will decide the Hawks' fate today.

If the forfeit is upheld, Maury will play Menchville for the region title at 6 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium in Hampton, and Hickory's season would be over. If the forfeit is overturned, Hickory would face Menchville.

Both finalists earn Class 5 state tournament berths.

Hickory defeated Maury 7-3 in a region semifinal on Monday, but Hawks starting pitcher Jeron Snellinger threw 118 pitches - 10 more than the VHSL's single-day limit. Violation of the rule results in a forfeit and a $100 fine for the school.

Snellinger started Monday's game and was pulled in the seventh inning after a walk, an error and a single loaded the bases.

"He was at 118 (pitches)," Hawks coach Hank Kraft told The Pilot after the game. "I should have gotten him before that, but it's hard when the kid is pitching so well and there's a berth to go to the states on the line."

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Copyright 2018 The Buffalo News
All Rights Reserved

The Buffalo News (New York)

 

Earlier this year Brighton Pool had been considered for closure to make way for an expanded Brighton Ice Arena. But after the $8 million expansion plan hit several roadblocks, the Town of Tonawanda Recreation Department announced that Brighton Pool will be open again this summer.

Brighton is one of three outdoor municipal pools in the town, which also includes Lincoln and Mang pools.

All three will open on June 21. Pool passes will be available at noon on June 18 for town residents and on June 21 for both residents and non-residents.

Councilman Daniel J. Crangle said there are no plans to make nearly $640,000 in repairs at Brighton Pool.

The Brighton Pool is operating at a $53,000 annual deficit and needs an interior liner. Jeffrey Rainey, supervisor of Youth, Parks and Recreation, told the town in April that without a liner the pool is losing 8 to 10 inches of water daily. Liners were added to Mang Pool in 2003 and Lincoln Pool in 2012.

The board rejected a plan for a $400,000 design and engineering plan for the Brighton Ice Arena in March, saying it needed more definite numbers on the cost for expansion of the arena.

In April, the expansion plan hit another obstacle when the board learned that a $79,000 federal land and water grant used to refurbish the pool in the mid-1980s was granted in perpetuity.

Supervisor Joseph H. Emminger has suggested that Brighton Pool could become a splash pad in the future.

 

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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

USA TODAY

 

The odds are slim the Supreme Court's recent decision to allow states to offer legal sports betting will impact high school sports.

Nevada, for now, is the only state that allows single-game sports betting, but its gaming laws specifically prohibit its sportsbooks from permitting bets on high school sports. That's the model most other states would likely follow.

Still, the issue has raised concerns. According to Legalsportsreport.com, 19 states have at least a draft of a bill regarding legalized sports betting.

Off-shore bookies offer lines on Texas high school football games and high school games that are televised nationally, so it's not crazy to think legal sports betting could include prep events.

Yet as currently constituted, the very possibility of in-person wagering on high school sports doesn't sit well with the most established sportsbook in Las Vegas.

"We don't take bets on any amateur events outside of college events, and that would include high school sports. I don't see the need," said Jay Kornegay, vice president of race and sports operations for Westgate Las Vegas Sportsbook. "You would have to first change the regulations in the state of Nevada, because they don't allow those wagers to be placed. I don't think anyone is going to pursue it. We have plenty of events at the collegiate and pro level.

"We know high school football is really big in the South and other areas of the country, but I don't see any need to set lines on those games."

Although the threat of wagering on high school sports isn't immediate, many officials are taking a wait-and-see approach. There are concerns gambling could affect the integrity of high school sports events, that the athletes, coaches or officials could be vulnerable to payments to shave points or throw games. Unlike pro or college sports, there are no mechanized controls to prevent tampering with a result.

"I am concerned with this court decision and where it may lead," Bob Gardner, the executive director of the National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS), said in a statement. "Our past contains instances of wagering on high school games illegally. If that now becomes legal, does the pressure on our coaches and student-athletes grow?

"Maintaining the integrity of all sports is critical to the system at every level. If we think the high schools are immune to this, we are not seeing clearly. We ask that states do not include wagering on high school athletic contests in any sport as part of any legislation going forward."

A spokesperson for ESPN, which televises national high school events in several sports, said only "it's a bit early, but we're actively monitoring it on the sports betting issue."

Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) football coach Kenny Sanchez hopes never to see lines on his games.

"If a sportsbook has something to bet, people will bet on it, whether it's crocodile racing or something else," Sanchez said. "If it was up there, people would bet on it. Would there be any interest to get it up there, with all the other sports? I don't know. I don't think they would ever allow it."

That it could be a possibility is concerning to the men who set the official lines on The Strip across town from Bishop Gorman.

"There are a lot of eyes on the collegiate game and pro game," Kornegay said. "There are certain let's say, 'protective measures' in place at both levels that monitor the collegiate and pro games that you wouldn't have at the high school level. There would be some concerning thoughts with integrity, namely the limited amounts of protective measures that might be associated with high school competition. You have certain programs at the collegiate level and you have a lot of information that surrounds the college game compared to the high school game. I don't think high school programs are funded for those type of protective measures."

When Kornegay speaks of protective measures, he's referring to oversight that ensures collegiate and professional athletes aren't actively taking an interest in a contest.

It was the possibility of such a threat that initially bred alarm when the Costa Rican-based betting house 5Dimes began setting betting lines on prominent high school games in 2011.

Tony Williams, founder of 5Dimes, has spoken about why he offers high school football odds. For a gambling entrepreneur, the decision was predicated on simple supply and demand, considered alongside a more global perspective on the state of youth and scholastic sport.

"The customers who bet the games don't have a problem with morality. If the customers are happy, I am happy," Williams told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in 2011. "Walk to any street corner in the United Kingdom. You can bet on under-16-year-old soccer events, boys or girls. Any match, just about any amount.

"The youth World Cup events are shown globally on television. What is the difference betting on 15- and 16-year-old girls playing soccer or 17- and 18-year-old boys playing American football?"

From a practical standpoint, the scale of wagering on high school football events would not be significant enough to register for a global sports gambling site. Williams likened the action on high school football games to one-fifth of what is spent on LPGA events, one of the more lightly bet sports available.

Still, at least enough bettors are placing wagers to impact lines once they've been set, sometimes significantly so. A 2016 Texas high school state championship game -- the Class 4A Division II faceoff between West Orange-Stark and Sweetwater -- had a line move from a 16 to 21.5 to 27.5-point spread in a day. West Orange-Stark won 24-6.

Yet if those lines are used by local illegal bookies to take wagers on high school games, why shouldn't states allow official betting houses accept them and thereby implement some measure of discipline and regulation? There might even be a revenue share to be had for the state governing bodies (and potentially schools themselves via the state organizations).

For now, that doesn't appear to be a serious consideration. The rush to add sports betting is led by Delaware, Mississippi and New Jersey, which expects to have a bill in both state houses by June 7.

Despite former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley's concerns that sports betting would be unregulated and allow betting on high school sports, the draft for New Jersey's bill, still in its early stages, has a ban on betting on college and high school sports.

"We stand with the NFHS and ask that states not include wagering on high school athletic contests in any sport as part of any legislation going forward," Larry White, the new executive director of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Activities Association, said in a statement.

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Copyright 2018 Newsday, Inc.


Newsday (New York)

 

A small fire broke out inside Citi Field Wednesday afternoon.

The FDNY said a display case inside the stadium's rotunda caught fire and spewed smoke into the air around 3:42 p.m. The stadium's sprinkler system turned on and put out the fire, according to the FDNY.

"Firefighters came in shortly after and extinguished what was left, which was mostly smoke," an FDNY spokesman said.

In a statement, the Mets said there "was minimal damage, which was non-structural," and no one was in the rotunda during the incident.

Although there were no injuries, there were pedestrians who were near the stadium and they posted pictures and video of the blaze on social media.

The Mets said they were working with the FDNY to determine the cause of the fire.

The Mets complete a seven-game trip Wednesday night in Atlanta and begin a four-game series against the Cubs at Citi Field Thursday night.

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Copyright 2018 ProQuest Information and Learning
All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2018 Journal Register Co.

New Haven Register (Connecticut)

 

Allegations of emotional abuse by former West Haven boys basketball coach Harry Bosley against his players have been "unsubstantiated" according to West Haven Superintendent of Schools Neil C. Cavallaro.

In a letter obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media dated May 23, Cavallaro stated, "I am pleased to report that the allegations of emotional abuse were unsubstantiated." These allegations were brought to the administration's attention back in mid-January. At that time, Bosley, in the midst of his 16th season as head coach and 24th overall with the program he once played for (1976 graduate), was put on administrative leave pending an investigation.

In the midst of that four-month wait, Bosley went from making certain he was both cleared of wrongdoing and able to return to his coaching position to just being cleared of wrongdoing. He said he made the decision to resign earlier this month and it became official last week.

"After receiving the letter from Neil Cavallaro, superintendent of West Haven Public Schools, acknowledging allegations of emotional abuse against me were unsubstantiated, I have chosen to resign as boys basketball coach," Bosley said in a statement, also obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media.

West Haven made the CIAC state tournament in 13 of his 16 seasons and also won two division titles under Bosley, a youth coordinator at the Celentano School in New Haven.

"More importantly than success on the court, my players have went on to become successful men," Bosley stated. "There are some parents who asked for additional playing time for their child or want them to be able to play a certain way, but that's not what makes a team and not what keeps a team together. They must learn to trust the coach and his guidance. There is only about a .5 percent chance that a child will get a Division I scholarship out of high school. I never sought to kill anyone's dreams, I just wanted my players to understand, that when the ball stops bouncing, you should have a backup plan."

Bosley had very little comment beyond his statement. He cited his age — he will turn 60 on Sunday — for part of the reason why he decided not to return. "I spent the last two to three months going back and forth (of wanting or not wanting to coach at West Haven). It's time for me to make the transition. I'm done coaching."

Cavallaro also stated that Bosley "was a role model and mentor for a countless number of student-athletes."

Bosley also thanked several people in his statement, Three are family members: his mom Elsie, brother Scott and son Harry III, better known as Scooter when he played for and coached alongside his dad. He also thanked Scot X. Esdaile, president of the Connecticut NAACP, who helpeed Bosley during his time away, and Stanley Chambers, his longtime assistant who served as interim coach during Bosley's absence.

Jon Capone, West Haven's athletic director, declined to comment on the matter, but did say he and Cavallaro "will get together to decide when the posting of the job will occur."

joseph.morelli@hearstmediact.com; @nhrJoeMorelli

 

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New Haven Register (Connecticut)

 

MILFORD — Sal Follo no longer is head coach of the Milford Indians Co-op Hockey team — the technicalities of that departure depend on whom you ask — but Follo is appealing to regain the post, his lawyer Michael J. Dolan said this week.

Dolan, of Dolan & Dolan LLC, said his client was fired as head coach, while Milford Public Schools officials say that's not true — they just didn't renew him for the 2018-19 season.

The head coach position has been posted, school officials said. The team is made up of players from three high schools in the city — Foran, Jonathan Law and Platt Technical .

"We strongly disagree with the Milford Public Schools' decision to fire Coach Follo," Dolan wrote in an email. "Coach Follo has appealed his termination and will be exercising his right to a public hearing before the Milford Board of Education. We hope that the hearing will be scheduled for a date in the near future."

Follo, a longtime coach who is held in high regard on the state coaching circuit, was abruptly absent as head coach and became the subject of a school system investigation months ago after, sources said, it was reported by parents that he allegedly was verbally abusive to players, pitted them against each other, was manipulative and even mocked some of his own players.

When the investigation began — players were interviewed individually on the same day, at the same time — Follo also was put on administrative leave with pay from his job as a security guard at Foran High School, but as of May 21, resumed that school position.

On May 13, angry parents of players on the Milford Indians flooded the public comments portion of the Board of Education meeting to complain the team had been left without leadership and their sons left in limbo since Follo left.

A few days later, school officials said publicly that Follo would not be renewed as coach.

A statement from the school district said: "The district has posted the position. Parents of hockey players have been notified of these developments. They have been assured that Milford Public Schools is taking all steps necessary to ensure a bright and successful future for the hockey program."

Follo and his coaching are no stranger to controversy.

According to New Haven Register reports in 1987, Follo, who then had been the East Haven High School hockey coach for five seasons, said in April of that year he would not re-apply for the position for the next season. Follo was fired by the East Haven board on Nov. 18, 1986, following a hearing of complaints by a group of parents. Follo appealed the board's decision and on Dec. 30 it was overturned when U.S. District Judge Peter Dorsey ruled Follo's constitutional rights were violated during the November public hearing, the Register reported.

The judge ruled the board's decision denied Follo due process when two character witnesses, Hamden Coach Lou Astorino and former Suffield Assistant Coach Dave Gunn, were not allowed to speak on Follo's behalf.

Follo said at the time that the Board of Education would be relieved to know he wasn't applying for the job. "I thought about it and decided I didn't want to go through another political ordeal with the Board," Follo said. "Hopefully, we can put this thing to rest. Now, the Board of Education can put their efforts into education rather than just worrying about ousting me as coach."

Parents at the May 13 meeting in Milford criticized school administrators for giving them non-answers to inquiries about the status of the team.

By then, parents said, ice time should be reserved for the upcoming season, and their sons had missed the March/April deadlines for trying out for other teams.

School officials at that point had not released any information regarding Follo's absence, citing a personnel matter.

Dolan broke his silence after that meeting to sing Follo's praises in writing: "For the past 24 years, Sal Follo has dedicated his life to the Milford High School hockey program. Throughout his tenure as Milford High School hockey coach, Coach Follo has always represented the team, the school district and the City of Milford in an exemplary fashion. As a result of his skill as a hockey coach and his commitment to the Milford Hockey Program, Coach Follo has become a pillar in the Connecticut hockey community. He is a member of the CIAC Ice Hockey Committee, and has been honored on numerous occasions for his coaching ability and contributions to Connecticut High School hockey. In 2015, Coach Follo was a finalist for national high school hockey coach of the year, and in 2017 he was awarded the Thomas Monahan Award for exhibiting qualities of leadership, integrity and professionalism. Any allegations of misconduct on the part of Coach Follo are completely unfounded, and we look forward to the opportunity to refute these baseless accusations in the near future."

Dolan also provided a statement from Connecticut National Ice Hockey Officials Association in strong support of Follo.

"He has been a key component in the development of high school hockey within the state of Connecticut," reads a letter from Michael J. Barile, CT NIHOA — Central Commissioner. "This association has awarded Mr. Follo its highest honor not once but twice. Having won this award twice shows that Mr. Follo is one of the highest regarded coaches in Connecticut hockey."

 

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Copyright 2018 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.
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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

After a six-year investigation into Ole Miss athletics, the NCAA handed down a long list of consequences for various recruiting violations and other transgressions. But the main problem? The case was built on the questionable motives of Laremy Tunsil's stepfather.

That's according to a report from SBNation's Steven Godfrey, who says he has spent the last five years reporting on the NCAA's investigation, Tunsil, the Leo Lewis saga and "bag men" culture in the SEC.Godfrey's manifesto, which includes a four-part documentary series, was released Wednesday morning.

It's a long read, but worth it for fans who want a better understanding of went on in the Magnolia State over the last few years. Among the notable pieces of information was the spotlight put on Lindsey Miller, Tunsil's stepdad.

Miller reportedly was a key figure in Tunsil's recruiting, which eventually was (surprisingly) won by Ole Miss. The 5-star offensive tackle was recruited by nearly every top program in the country, but some coaches did seem to take a step back after realizing that Miller could become a problem.

"You recruit your problems," a former SEC assistant told Godfrey. "It was evident at that time that recruiting Laremy Tunsil meant recruiting the stepfather. That's not fair to the kid, but fair doesn't matter if that family member is going to threaten your entire program. Ole Miss brought [Miller] into their program, into their community. They knew. There is absolutely no way the coaches who recruited him didn't understand that relationship and the problem he posed."

Spoiler alert: Miller posed a major problem. He ended up having a falling out with Tunsil, that included Miller representing himself in court after the pair filed domestic violence charges against each other stemming from a 2013 incident. After a 2015 fight, Miller reportedly began speaking to the NCAA about Tunsil's recruitment to the Rebels.

According to Godfrey, Miller's testimony was the only thing that allowed the NCAA to build a case beyond Houston Nutt-era violations. And in doing so, the NCAA ignored Miller's vendetta against Tunsil and his mother, Desiree Polingo.

Per Polingo, Miller once told her and Tunsil: "Y'all are going to pay for this. … you ain't sh-, you ain't never been sh-, and you ain't about sh- and you're going to reap what you sow."

According to Godfrey, lead investigator Mike Sheridan was concerned about Miller's motives at one point, but ultimately decided he was still "credible."

"Miller's integrity and motive had already been challenged in a real court of law, but the NCAA's justice system - the investigation, the closed-door COI interviews - operates in a vacuum," Godfrey wrote. "I believe there is no due process. In college football, from all that I have seen, credibility is a malleable concept."

Ole Miss made plenty of mistakes along the way, but perhaps none as costly as ignoring the red flags around Tunsil's 2013 recruitment.

You can read Godfrey's entire reporthere and find his docuseries, Foul Play: Paid in Mississippi, here.

The postReport: NCAA ignored credibility concerns of key source in Ole Miss case appeared first onSEC Country.

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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

LAS VEGAS — Amid all that boring talk about loaded hockey expansion rules or even chatter of whether Cinderella has relocated to the desert, the incredible current run of the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights has taught us a couple of unmissable lessons.

Las Vegas needs more sports. And sports, most definitely, needs more Vegas.

A lot more. As in, any excuse to get Sin City onto the sporting calendar should be seized quicker than a pile of blackjack chips pushed your way when the dealer miscounted.

America's naughtiest playground already had virtually everything needed to make it the ideal host for athletic events of grand significance. Boxing figured that out long ago. The Ultimate Fighting Championship built an entire brand around it.

The same criteria apply to why it is the most popular spot in America for bachelor and bachelorette parties. Fine weather, constant entertainment, great food, tons of hotel rooms and that special dose of cheekiness that makes you feel like you must be a somewhat interesting person just by being here. What it also has that might have been missing previously has been provided by those eminently lovable Golden Knights, the best expansion team in professional sports history.

Thanks to the miracle men of the ice, ultimate proof exists now that Vegas is a sports town. Outside T-Mobile Arena on Monday night, thousands of fans thronged the adjacent public space to celebrate the team ahead of its Game 1 victory over the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Final. Many of them didn't have tickets, and all were clad in some version of gold and black. When it was all said and done, the party went on long into the night — on a Monday, not that anyone was paying much attention to the specifics of the clock or calendar.

"Sports is part of the fabric of the city now," local business owner and Golden Knights fan Steve Garland told USA TODAY. "It is part of the Vegas identity, and it's happened quickly."

The Oakland Raiders, due to move here within the next two years, must be licking their lips. The way such things go dictates that it won't be long before Vegas gets to host a Super Bowl. San Francisco, Minneapolis and Atlanta were all granted staging rights within short order after building new venues. Although the Super Bowl cycle is now set until 2024, expect Vegas to be added after that. But why stop there, especially with a football-sized stadium now coming into play?

The Final Four is a no-brainer, as well as plenty more creative options. The NBA might even be persuaded to bring back its All-Star Game, with 11 years having passed since an infamous weekend in which NFL player Adam "Pacman" Jones struck a bouncer with shots fired outside a nightclub.

Sports Illustrated put forward a concept last week for the NBA Finals to be staged at a single site to avoid the kind of one-sided home blowouts that have been a theme of recent playoff series, most particularly this year.

Great idea, and an easy choice: Vegas. Nowhere else has the right mix of capacity plus a something-for-everyone activity list. London newspaper the Daily Mail is leading a swell of British opinion suggesting that the English Premier League should introduce a playoff to decide its final Champions League place — and that the series should take place overseas.

Vegas, put your hand up. A huge chunk of Vegas' visitors travel from abroad, and the EPL's global appeal would ensure a mass of fans. Plus, a whole lot of fun.

Vegas, in truth, is neither fantasy nor reality, it is where people come to find a rose-tinted version of themselves. And that's what the biggest of occasions are in relation to the sports we love, and why it

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Copyright 2018 Star Tribune
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

Super Bowl LII brought attention to the Twin Cities — and $370 million.

That was the net new spending from the 10-day event Jan. 26-Feb. 4, according to an economic impact report released Tuesday by Gov. Mark Dayton.

The results, which are in dispute, came in $50 million over pre-event projections by Rockport Analytics made years in advance. Rockport, based in Pennsylvania, also wrote the final report.

Much of that larger-than-anticipated number was attributed to $179 million spent by broadcast and event planners — the most for a Super Bowl.

The $370 million figure was reached after subtracting about $80 million for displaced tourism (people who were kept away from the area by the event).

From his State Capitol reception room, Dayton reveled in the report along with Super Bowl CEO Maureen Bausch and Rockport analyst Kenneth McGill. "The success of the enterprise is just phenomenal," Dayton said. "Now they have the results to show for it."

Sports economist Victor Matheson was skeptical. "The Super Bowl is definitely positive, but nowhere near the $450 million positive in terms of dollars in local people's pockets," he said.

A look at the numbers

The Rockport analysis counted some 125,000 tourists, defined as visitors from at least 50 miles away or spending a night in hotel. And it counted some 1 million visits to Super Bowl Live, which includes multiple visits by the same people.

The report also said the game brought in $32 million in new tax revenue for state and local government.

For context, the $370 million is a little bit more than 1/1,000th of the state's economic output of just over $300 billion. It's also equal to a little less than two days of Target's revenue.

Minneapolis chief financial officer Mark Ruff's office is still crunching the numbers on the precise impact the Super Bowl had on city revenues. He expects to present it to the City Council in June.

Ruff said revenue exceeded expectations. Taxes were in the neighborhood of what was expected, he said, but other revenue like parking charges came in stronger than anticipated.

He noted, however, that the economic impact report counted increased property tax revenue.

Minneapolis doesn't consider that part of its ledger when assessing these events. "Hotels and such get built and are sustained by tourism," Ruff said. "We don't count on increased property taxes from those kind of events. We just think that those structures are here."

Revenue from the countywide sales tax charged by Hennepin County to pay for Target Field rose about 7 percent in February compared with the prior year, showing a Super Bowl "bump." The same tax revenue was down in January and March, compared with 2017.

"I would say it's probably a minor thing for us," said Hennepin County Budget Director Dave Lawless.

Bausch said the event would have a "lasting legacy," making the Twin Cities a destination for tourism and business travel. She pointed to the report's finding that 83 percent of the first-time visitors surveyed said they planned to return.

The 10-day event included free concerts that were packed every night despite bitter cold and activities such as ziplining over the Mississippi River, a snowmobile jump over Nicollet Mall, snowtubing and the Kitten Bowl.

The event accounted for 476,000 visitor days, including 396,000 overnight stays and 80,000 day trips, according to the report. The Super Bowl generated more than 266,000 hotel nights with an average daily room rate of $249, the report said. Metrowide, 84 percent of the available hotel rooms were occupied.

Breaking down the demographics, the report said more than 95 percent of Super Bowl LII visitors were from outside Minnesota, with 6 percent from outside the country. The remaining 5 percent came from Minnesota but stayed overnight in paid rooms or traveled more than 50 miles on a day trip.

The majority, 71 percent, were men. Their average age was 47 and almost half earned at least $150,000 a year. They stayed an average 3.9 days and spent $608 per day.

Prof: Numbers don't add up

Matheson, a College of Holy Cross sports economics professor, dismissed the report, saying it "throws out the same sort of estimates without much in the way of real data" and doesn't account for costs.

The hotel occupancy data doesn't add up, he said. For example, the report claims 125,000 visitors came to the Twin Cities for the game, but there were only 17,000 additional hotel rooms sold. So the net increase in tourism has to be a fraction of what is claimed, he said.

Also, much of the extra revenue didn't stay in Minnesota, he said. "The added hotel revenues go almost exclusively to corporate profits, not into locals' pockets. Same with retail sales. If a local retailer sells a $150 [Philadelphia] Eagles jersey to a visiting fan, other than a small retail markup plus the sales tax, that money all goes back to the NFL," he said.

McGill defended the post-event numbers as "honest" and painstakingly checked. "It's not spinning some number one after another to come up with an answer or an outcome" that planners wanted, he said.

Carter Wilson, vice president of consulting and analytics for Tennessee-based STR, which tracks hotel data, said hotel room revenue rose notably because Minneapolis is typically not busy in February.

"We expected the increase to be on the upper end of what we've seen in other cities," Wilson said. "It was definitely that."

Wilson said revenue per available room, a measure of hotel business, rose by 626 percent. That's second only to Indianapolis for Super Bowl host cities since 2011, he said.

The Super Bowl is one of the biggest and most complicated national events a city can host and some of the numbers show that.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport set a record with more than 60,000 travelers passing through security on their way out of town on the day after the game. Metro Transit reported more than 210,000 additional rides, including game-day ridership.

In bidding to host the game, the Twin Cities, like all host communities, had to agree to hundreds of conditions to provide services and spaces at no cost to the NFL.

Not the least of them was the taxpayer-subsidized $1.1 billion U.S. Bank Stadium that opened two years ago.

The Minnesota host committee was required to raise more than $50 million from corporate sponsors. A big chunk of that, $7 million, went toward reimbursing public safety costs to state and local law enforcement.

Having hosted the most complex Super Bowl yet, the next big challenge for the Twin Cities: The NCAA men's basketball Final Four in April 2019. Rockport's forecast is that the Final Four will bring $124 million in net spending to the region and $23 million in tax revenue.

Staff writer Evan Ramstad contributed to this report.

rochelle.olson@startribune.com 612-673-1747

Twitter: @rochelleolson

BIG GAME, BIG IMPACT

Economic impact: $370 million, $50 million more than projected by planners.

Tax revenue: $32 million.

Tourists: 125,000.

First-time visitors: 83% said they plan to visit again.

84 percent: Available hotel rooms used by tourists.

60,000: Travelers flying out of MSP day after, a record.

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The New York Post

 

The founder of an Upper West Side boutique gym was arrested Tuesday on charges of sexually abusing a client at the facility, police said.

Ray Wallace, 40, owner of FIT RxN, on West End Avenue at 61st Street, was taken into custody on charges of sex abuse and forcible touching, cops said.

He was busted for allegedly grabbing a 30-year-old woman's buttocks and kissing her without permission on Oct. 4, 2017.

His accuser hailed his arrest as a "victory."

"He made an appointment where I was completely alone in the whole building," said the alleged victim, who requested anonymity.

She said his pattern was to rearrange sessions so he could be "alone with women."

She and another woman left reviews on Yelp detailing their allegations against Wallace.

In the accuser's post, she said that on Oct. 4, she "felt very uncomfortable with something super inappropriate."

Wallace appeared in Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday night and was released without bail. He was greeted by his wife Tara, who runs the gym with him, and three other female supporters.

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Copyright 2018 Virginian-Pilot Companies LLC
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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

The Hickory baseball team's spot in the Class 5 Region A championship game and the accompanying state tournament berth are in jeopardy after an apparent violation of Virginia High School League pitching regulations.

Hickory starting pitcher Jeron Snellinger was credited with throwing 118 pitches in a region semifinal victory over Maury on Monday. The VHSL has a 110-pitch limit per day, and violation of the rule results in a forfeit and $100 fine for the school.

Region tournament director Lee Martin confirmed that Hickory has forfeited the game but plans to file an appeal. An updated tournament bracket on the VHSL web site has Maury listed in the championship game, playing against Menchville.

VHSL spokesman Mike McCall said late Tuesday that no appeal had been received by the league. Attempts to reach Hickory coach Hank Kraft and athletic director Pat Troia by phone and email were unsuccessful Tuesday night.

If the forfeit is upheld, Maury would play Menchville at 6 p.m. Thursday at War Memorial Stadium in Hampton for the region title. Region finalists earn a spot in next week's Class 5 state tournament.

Hickory defeated Maury 7-3 on Monday. Snellinger was pulled in the seventh inning after a walk, an error and a single loaded the bases.

"He was at 118 (pitches)," Kraft told The Pilot after the game. "I should have gotten him before that, but it's hard when the kid is pitching so well and there's a berth to go to the states on the line."

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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

NORFOLK

When it comes to the NCAA men's basketball tournament, Conference USA believes it has been doubly wronged.

Not only has C-USA been a one-bid league in recent years, its lone representative has been saddled with a low seed.

In an effort to fight back, C-USA is trying something radical among college conferences - a "smart" scheduling model in which the top teams play each other down the stretch.

The league announced the plan Tuesday .

"With the goals to improve seeding and increase the number of teams that advance to the postseason, we viewed this as a great opportunity to enhance our top teams' resumes by providing them additional quality games within their conference schedule," C-USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod said in a news release.

Under the plan, which was endorsed by athletic directors and coaches at last week's league meetings, teams would be re-seeded into three pods after the first 14 conference games, and the top five would square off over the final three weeks.

Having teams from the league's upper tier play each other would boost their RPI, with an aim of securing a higher seed for the league champ and more bids overall.

"I think we've hit upon a concept that could make a lot of sense and have the desired impact for our league," Old Dominion athletic director Wood Selig said.

C-USA hasn't received an at-large bid since 2012. Its automatic qualifiers have been seeded no higher than 12th and as low as 15th, twice.

Despite the seeding, C-USA teams have won four straight opening round games.

"We've been under-seeded, and we've proven it by winning," Selig said.

Still, with most power conference schools refusing to play mid-majors home-and-home, building a resume worthy of a higher seed or at-large bid has been an uphill battle.

The league last year hired former college coach and ESPN commentator Mark Adams as a consultant, to look at ways of increasing its chances of landing at-large bids. A smart scheduling model was among his proposals.

"It combines a traditional schedule with an exciting end-of-season format that will surely catch the attention of college basketball fans and the NCAA Tournament selection committee," Adams said in the news release.

Adopting such a model would require that teams make last-minute travel arrangements - a potential challenge in geographically-strewn C-USA. Fans also wouldn't know in advance which teams a school would play over the final four games.

Selig said the logistics can be worked out. And that the benefits outweigh any inconvenience.

"I think it's going to be very well-received by fans across C-USA," he said. "When college basketball is peaking, and in the national spotlight, we're going to guarantee across our league the best matchups coming down the home stretch of February and leading into march madness."

By contrast in recent years, ODU and other top-tier teams have played conference foes with RPIs of 300 or worse. Even winning those games did little to boost their power ratings, and losing them could be disastrous to at-large hopes.

"What we're doing is we're trying to insulate our best within our conference so they're protected," Selig said.

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Copyright 2018 The Post and Courier
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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

COLUMBIA - Jalen Hudson weighed his options after working out for NBA teams, thought carefully and announced Tuesday that he would return to Florida next season. Ditto Auburn's Bryce Brown and Austin Wiley.

Those three and several others across the country had their choices and picked school over the uncertainty of a pro career. Brian Bowen would do the same if he had the same choice.

But he doesn't, and unless that changes before 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, he'll reluctantly have to choose pro basketball. He and South Carolina coach Frank Martin have said that he wants to be in school next year, that he wants to play basketball for the Gamecocks.

With the NCAA still silent on his eligibility, though, he doesn't want to risk sacrificing another year of not playing ball when he obviously has a route that would allow him to play.

"You just wish that you could have the information that you need. Not having the insight, you don't really know where to go," USC athletic director Ray Tanner said last week. "You don't want to pile on anybody or blame anybody, but from where we sit, we'd like for them to make a decision. I'm a little bit pessimistic we're going to have all the information we need in the next seven days."

That number has been shortened to one day. All underclassmen have to declare that they're in or out of the draft by a minute before midnight Wednesday. The NCAA has been looking at Bowen's case since January with no word on when or if they'll ever reach a decision, and that's what has Bowen and USC stuck in no man's land.

If the NCAA would just assure Bowen that he will be made eligible at some point, Bowen would most likely stay in school and wait for that day. There would be the question of any punishment the NCAA might hand him that would still keep him out, but at least he'd know a date of when he could put on the uniform and play.

They haven't done so. There's not been a peep uttered from the governing body, and Tanner, Martin or Bowen can't do anything about it. They don't know if the NCAA needs more information or needs to talk to someone else allegedly involved in the FBI sting that got Bowen declared ineligible in the first place.

So with that unknown in play, and knowing that if he came back to school he may be waiting more months before he'll ever play, Bowen did the sensible thing and worked out for NBA scouts. He did not improve his standing enough to feel good about being drafted, but if Wednesday's deadline passes with no word from the NCAA, he'll either play in the G League, which is the NBA's development league, or go overseas.

"I don't know if we'll get the answer in a timely fashion. It does seem reasonable that Brian Bowen will be able to make a decision based on the knowledge that he has about his eligibility and whether he decides to go pro or not," Tanner said. "You'd like to think he would have all the information he needs to make his decision, and I'm not sure that's going to happen."

Bowen could also go pro if the NCAA does issue a decree about his eligibility, because there still may be additional punishment. He transferred, which put the year-long transfer rule into play; that means he couldn't play until the first semester is complete (early December), although USC will present an argument in that case.

USC will appeal to the NCAA saying that Bowen hasn't played in a year anyway, so why make him sit an extra semester? But that would be up to the NCAA to decide, since Bowen didn't transfer from Louisville until January and the transfer rule says to sit out one year from that date, unless there's a hardship.

The NCAA could also extend Bowen's suspension after the transfer rule. Auburn's Danjel Purifoy was docked all of last year and 30 percent of this season's games, and that 30 percent (or more, or less) could be added to Bowen's sentence as well. If he hears that he'll be made eligible but have to sit out the first semester due to transfer, plus a good chunk of the remaining season, he may go pro anyway.

But he hasn't heard a word yet on what or when the NCAA may say. His lawyer, Jason Setchen, has been chiding the NCAA on Twitter, and USC fans have followed his lead. They feel, like Setchen does, that there has been no new information or anything keeping a decision for six months and the NCAA is destroying a 19-year-old's dream.

None of it has helped get a decision any quicker. Bowen will wait, as he's done for a long time, and hope for an answer by 11:59 p.m.

The clock is ticking, as it has since January.

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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

The Citadel is moving ahead with a plan for a new artificial turf football field, new east side seating and 50,000 square feet of office space at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

The plan calls for the new turf field and seating for 3,000 spectators on the east side to be in place in time for the 2019 season, with construction of office space behind the stands to follow.

The price tag for the new seating and the turf field comes to about $5 million, said Jeff Kidd, executive director of The Citadel Real Estate Foundation. The new stands will cost about $4 million and the new field about $1 million, he said.

The military school's operations and risk management committee on Tuesday approved a motion that will allow the Real Estate Foundation to lease 4.75 acres of land at the stadium, including the football field itself, from The Citadel.

The lease will allow the Real Estate Foundation "to make progress toward finalizing the project" and would provide flexibility in financing the construction, Kidd said. The land will likely be gifted back to The Citadel at some later date, he said.

The construction of 3,000 seats on the stadium's east side will bring the capacity of Johnson Hagood Stadium to about 14,000 seats. The east side of the stadium was demolished last year due to concern about lead paint and other issues. Temporary stands seating about 1,000 spectators were used on the east side last season.

Construction on the new turf field and new east side stands are slated to begin in late 2018, with the goal of being ready for the 2019 season.

The office building, projected at four stories high with 50,000 square feet of space, would come later as the second stage of the project.

The full Board of Visitors will consider the matter at its June 1 meeting.

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Copyright 2018 The Evansville Courier Co.
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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)

 

Hear the word "wearable technology" — or "wearables," for short — and you likely conjure up images of fitness trackers or smartwatches.

Add "smart rings" to that list, too.

While some early examples of smart rings have already come and gone (namely, Ringly), a host of others are attempting to fuse functionality with fashion. I took three such smart rings out for a spin — two available now and one coming soon. Here's a look at what I found.

Blinq ($149-$199; blinqblinq.com)

Blinq is a line of fashion-forward jewelry that lets you keep your smartphone tucked away in a purse or pocket yet still be discreetly notified when a call, text or email comes in, as well as other notifications tied to your calendar or favorite apps.

In the Blinq companion app for iOS and Android, you'll assign colors to specific apps — like seeing the ring glow blue for a text message, green for an Instagram comment or purple for when your Uber is nearby — but you can also assign colors to specific people, like red for when your partner messages you. If you like, the Blinq ring also vibrates to alert you to notifications.

My wife Kellie wore the ring for a week, and one of the features she liked, for peace of mind, was called a Panic S.O.S. mode. If you find yourself in an emergency, tap the ring repeatedly, and the companion app can text someone your GPS location and, if you like, also post this info to your Facebook wall. This Bluetooth-enabled ring also has an integrated fitness tracker — calculating steps, distance and estimated calories burned — and sends the activity info to the app.

Available in 12 different styles and three finishes (rose, yellow and white gold), each Blinq ring is made from sterling silver or 14K gold.

Blinq will be available on Amazon this summer.

Motiv Ring ($199; mymotiv.com)

Available now, the Motiv Ring is a fitness-centric wearable. After ordering, you'll first receive a sizing kit, with which you can try on various mock rings, and then select the desired size and color (slate gray or rose gold).

Motiv Ring houses a 3-axis accelerometer that tracks steps taken, heart rate, calories burned and sleep activity. It's also waterproof (up to 165 feet), should you want to calculate your swimming exercises. All your activity data can be seen on the iOS and Android app. At less than 0.1inches thick, the titanium Motiv Ring is thinner than two nickels and weighs less than a penny. Battery life lasts up to three days, with two USB charges included in the box.

NFC Ring ($115; nfcring.com)

Made with scratch-resistant ceramics, the minimalist-looking OPN from NFC Ring offers a few different applications. All of them, however, leverage near field communication technology. One scenario is to tap your ring on another NFC-enabled device, such as a friend's smartphone, and then content that you choose ahead of time magically appears on the other person's screen. This could be contact information, your website, text, a link to your Twitter or Facebook page, even a YouTube video.

While not tested, OPN may also be able to replace your NFC fobs and cards, such as what you might use to get into an office building or condo tower. Or you can use it to unlock your mobile device or program it to open a specific app or settings (like turning on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth) by simply tapping the ring on your phone or tablet.

While NFC Ring cannot be used for mobile payments, its parent company, McLear, is readying a payment-enabled smart ring that looks similar to OPN (price and launch date not determined just yet). Available in white or black, NFC Ring comes with two special NFC tag inlays inside the ring, one for public information and one for more sensitive stuff, the company says.

Put away the phone

Each costing between $100 and $200, these rings were ready for prime time — with Blinq my favorite out of the bunch.

Interestingly, each of the three rings I tried had a different focus: Blinq was a fashion statement that lets you see and feel notifications; Motiv is mostly for activity and sleep; and NFC Ring can easily transfer info to another device, unlock your phone or let you into a place that requires an NFC keycard. There's a bit of crossover, too, such as Blinq's ability to track fitness, like Motiv, but each ring had its own primary purpose.

While the look won't be for everyone and is designed for women, Blinq was the most versatile, colorful and customizable. One minor issue: The USB wireless charger was an odd shape, and as such, the ring didn't always stay on the sensor.

Another ring I wanted to try, Oura (ouraring.com), wasn't quite ready yet but should be coming out this summer and will specialize in sleep tracking.

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Copyright 2018 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.
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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

CINCINNATI -

Less than two months after FC Cincinnati completed its first United Soccer League campaign in 2016, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber swooped in and charmed the local fan base with big hopes for the future by saying Cincinnati "deserves an MLS team."

Exactly 18 months later, he returned to officially invite FC Cincinnati into the top division.

FCC, now in its third season, was named the league's 26th team Tuesday during a special event at Rhinegeist, a brewery in Over-the-Rhine. The club will begin MLS play in 2019, with plans to remain at Nippert Stadium until its new 21,000-seat soccer-specific stadium is completed in the West End in 2021.

"Cincinnati's selection by Major League Soccer for an expansion team is a triumph for the continued renaissance of this incredible city," FC Cincinnati CEO and majority owner Carl Lindner III said.

The celebratory announcement Tuesday brought a collective sense of relief and joy to fans, club personnel and local government officials who supported Cincinnati's bid to become one of four expansion franchises made open by a formal application process last January.

Garber had said during his visit on November 29, 2016, that there was "a lot" that still needed "to be done here," but as the expansion process played out, it seemed FC Cincinnati was checking all the boxes. It seemed just a matter of time, but as weeks past anxiety grew.

Nashville was awarded a spot in December when the first two clubs were expected to be named, and Cincinnati has been waiting ever since to find out if it would get in ahead of the two other finalists in Sacramento and Detroit. Deadlines came and went, and even after Cincinnati City Council approved plans for theclub-financed $250 million West End stadium on April 16, no news followed until Thursday when FCC confirmed with a press release there would be a "major announcement regarding the future of soccer in Cincinnati" on Tuesday.

With the expansion bid awarded, Cincinnati brings to the majors a deep-pocketed ownership group led by the billionaire Lindner family, a supportive market that draws 24,417 fans a game in a minor league that averages less than 5,000 and the promise of one of the most urban soccer-specific stadiums in the country. All were significant factors that ultimately made MLS choose Cincinnati.

"The rise of Cincinnati as a passionate soccer market in recent years, coinciding with the city's growing economy and reputation as a top desination for young professionals makes it an ideal city for our growing league," Garber said.

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Copyright 2018 Star Tribune
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

On most nights and weekends, the activity center attached to St. Michael-Albertville High School is bustling. Runners and walkers circle the track at the indoor fieldhouse while basketball, wrestling, volleyball or even tennis occupies the six sport courts below.

The fitness center, which boasts a weight room and exercise equipment that would be the envy of many major colleges, attracts a mix of student-athletes and community members. Baseball and softball batting cages are available for year-round training.

There's more to come. Voters in the St. Michael-Albertville School District recently passed a $36 million bond referendum, with more than $20 million for athletic upgrades that include a 4,000-seat all-purpose stadium with field turf and a nine-lane track that will be covered by an inflatable dome for use during the winter months.

Such facilities growth is not unique to the district on the northwest edge of the Twin Cities. School districts across the metro are building newer and larger athletic facilities, usually with a multimillion-dollar price tag attached.

What is changing is how these venues are viewed.

Bringing in revenue

No longer just places to house their school's teams, they are being seen as revenue generators, available to local youth organizations, club sports teams and just about any organization willing to pay the rental fees.

"When we built our new high school almost 10 years ago, one of the big questions was how much access to give to the community," St. Michael-Albertville athletic director Keith Cornell said. "Opening up the six courts and the running track to the community was a selling point."

In an escalating arms race, high schools are becoming de facto community centers and hubs for athletics at all levels.

Like the neighboring communities it serves, the Prior Lake-Savage School District has been growing rapidly, with enrollment at Prior Lake High School expected to top 3,000 in grades 9 through 12 within a few years. With no community center to siphon off the growing demand for youth athletic facilities, the school district has shouldered the expanding load. Last fall, the district passed a $109.3 million bond referendum that included funds for additional athletic facilities.

"We look at our facilities first as community assets," Prior Lake activities director Russ Reetz said. "We want our stakeholders - voters that are passing levies - to have access."

Nearby Shakopee is putting the finishing touches on a 335,000-square-foot expansion of the school and its grounds. A significant portion features a new competition gymnasium and field house, a pool and a new multi-use outdoor football/soccer/lacrosse field with a track.

"A little something for everybody," Shakopee activities director John Jahnke said. "Part of the reason for building it was the desire to provide opportunities not only for our own students but those from outside as well."

So much added space carries with it new challenges, such as the need for competent management. Shakopee is taking applications for a manager for community partnerships and facilities, a job that will include setting out an "Open For Business" sign. "It will entail making sure to promote the facilties to individuals and organizations seeking to hold events, generating revenue to help the school," Jahnke said.

A facilities pioneer

Minnetonka was one of the first school districts to see the money-making possibilites of its athletic facilities. Last fall, the district hired Bill Wenmark, a former school board member and well-known figure in local running circles, to serve as evening and weekend building monitor. He is in charge of the scheduling and maintenance of the high school's extensive collection of areas of play.

"I take over at the time of day when Minnetonka stops being a school," is how Wenmark described this position.

In addition to scheduling field usage and overseeing maintenance, part of Wenmark's mandate was to increase revenues through rental fees.

The centerpiece of Minnetonka's foray into the world of facility rental is Veterans Field, a 12-year-old baseball stadium that until recently was the only all-field turf stadium in Minnesota, making it usable at a time of year when most baseball fields are still covered in snow.

"It's a tremendous baseball facility," Wenmark said in early April, when most baseball teams had yet to hold a single practice outside. "It's booked every hour, every minute that space is available."

Built by the Diamond Club, Minnetonka's baseball booster club, Veterans Field is in nearly constant use in March and April by its own high school teams and other high school and college teams willing to pay the $350 rental fee. It's been so successful that, of its initial outlay of $4.2 million, only $515,000 remains to be paid off. It should be free of debt in three to five years.

It's not just Veterans Field that has been a money-maker for Minnetonka. Activities director Ted Schultz said the school's seasonal inflatable dome showed numbers in the black this year as well.

"Just enough to cover bond payments and operating costs," Schultz said. "Any profit was put into a trust fund. We call it a down payment for the next one. It wouldn't be enough to cover the cost of a new one."

Not always open to others

While most school districts are accustomed to renting out facilities, some are more aggressive about it than others. At St. Michael-Albertville, memberships to the activity center were sold within the community to offset costs.

"Memberships are pretty reasonable," Cornell said. "We have a young and vibrant community that wants opportunities."

In Buffalo, which spent $11 million to upgrade facilities two years ago, the reason was simply that it was about time. Athletic director Tom Bauman doesn't see significant opportunities to charge for use.

"Our first thought was that the kids deserve it," Bauman said. "We don't see these as revenue producers. We're 25 miles outside of the metro. There are only a handful of people looking to use them."

In the Anoka-Hennepin School District, the state's largest, the football fields at all five high schools are natural grass, bucking the trend for field turf. The schools are loathe to rent out their fields because a year of football, soccer and lacrosse does enough damage to the grass. Coupled with the size of the district's high schools, available space is scarce.

"At Blaine, we have five levels of boys' basketball and four levels of girls'," activities director Shannon Gerrety said. "We're booked from 3 o'clock to 10 every night."

As the demand for athletic facilities grows, more districts will face tough decisions on how to meet those demands.

Said Reetz: "Some districts keep up with the growth, other districts stagnate and fall behind. Our goal is to provide the type of facilities our stakeholders can be proud of."

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Copyright 2018 The Buffalo News
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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

The owners of the Buffalo Bills, Terry and Kim Pegula, are starting what figures to be a long process of negotiations over how to get a new stadium built for the team.

Replacing New Era Field might not have the same urgency as developing a quarterback, but it has to get done eventually to secure the long-term viability of the Bills in Western New York.

The team has five years remaining on its current stadium lease, with an opt-out clause in 2020 that they say will not be used. The stadium underwent $130 million in renovations in 2014, funded by New York State, Erie County and the Bills. The team is also planning an $18 million renovation this year, privately funded.

Estimates start at $1 billion for the cost of a new venue. Kim Pegula told The News this week that putting a deal together to build one is daunting.

"I know fans in Buffalo don't want higher ticket prices, they don't want PSLs (personal seat licenses). The state doesn't want to give you any money, the city doesn't... We don't have a billion-and-a-half dollars sitting around. We used it to buy the team."

What was then called Rich Stadium opened in 1973 in Orchard Park, which makes it practically a senior citizen in stadium years.

The idea of building a new facility in downtown Buffalo has been floated. Or, a new stadium could replace the current one on the same site. The choice of location will be an integral part of the discussions, but it's a decision that can wait. The important thing is for the Bills, government officials in the county and state, as well as the taxpayers and fans to come to grips with the need to get a new stadium built.

Buffalo's fan base, the self-described Bills Mafia, is as loyal as any, but love isn't enough in the NFL. The Bills are one of the small-market teams falling behind in the race to stay economically relevant in the league. In the past three years, the St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders all made the decision to leave their home markets and move to new cities with the promise of more profitable stadium deals.

NFL teams share the revenue from their very profitable TV contracts, but do not share most local stadium revenues. That means teams from markets like Buffalo, Jacksonville and Cincinnati are falling further behind big-market behemoths like Dallas and New England.

As player salaries continue to rise, it will become more difficult for the Bills to maintain their profitability in future years. That is why they will eventually need a new building, with its promise of more luxury suites and club seats to sell, other new sponsorship opportunities, and physical and technological improvements to help attract a new generation of fans.

There is pressure from the rest of the league for small-market teams to keep up. Several years ago, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told the Wall Street Journal, "The big concern I have is not how to equalize the disparity in revenue but how to get the clubs that are not generating the revenue to see the light."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, speaking at a news conference on Wednesday in Orlando, Fla., took note of the fact that the Bills are in "the very early stage" of planning for what's next with their stadium.

At some point the negotiations will include the governor, the county executive, the mayor, and other government officials. All parties will have to figure out how much tax revenue - our money - will go to funding a stadium. That there will be some is all but inevitable.

One of the sticking points in these discussions is how much should taxpayers be on the hook for a building whose reason for being is to host eight home football games a year. There's also talk in Buffalo about the need for a new convention center, another heavy lift financially. The idea of finding a way to combine them, making the new stadium part of a multiuse complex or facility, is well worth studying.

In any case, the clock is ticking - and deadlines are closer than they appear.

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Copyright 2018 Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

Phillip Fulmer figures participating in the SEC spring meetings as an athletic director will be different than it was as a football coach.

"The coaches, sometimes, it's like sitting with the Russians - or at least it used to be. Nobody wanted to agree on anything," said Fulmer, UT's first-year AD and former football coach. "In the athletic directors' meetings, everybody has their reasons for doing things or voting how they vote, and everybody's protective, but there's also some feeling of cooperation for the conference sake. I've enjoyed that."

The four-day conference meetings will begin Tuesday, with ADs, coaches and university brass gathering at Hilton Sandestin Beach in Destin, Fla.

Here are some topics likely to be discussed.

Alcohol sales at SEC stadiums

The SEC's prohibition of alcohol sales in general seating areas of stadiums has been an ongoing debate and surely will be revisited at the meetings.

Currently, SEC rules prevent alcoholic beverages from being sold or consumed in stadiums except for private or leased areas of the stadium, such as premium seating areas where alcohol is permitted.

"From a stadium-wide standpoint, there are those who think that, let's just take all the restraint off at the conference level," SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said last month. "But that's not unanimous, and I'm not sure it's, right now, a majority position."

UT is a dry campus, meaning the SEC's prohibition rule is a moot point. But last summer, UT announced it was reviewing its alcohol policies.

Vanderbilt is a wet campus, clearing the path for alcohol sales if the SEC changed its rules.

Some schools in other conferences sell alcohol in general seating areas.

Transfers

Nick Saban is blocking offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy, a graduate transfer, from going to another school within the SEC.

Kennedy, who has three years of eligibility remaining, reportedly would be interested in Tennessee or Auburn if he wasn't blocked.

UT coach Jeremy Pruitt, Saban's former defensive coordinator, told reporters during a Big Orange Caravan stop in Nashville last week that graduate transfers should not face restrictions.

Fulmer agrees.

"Generally, I think if a young man has finished his degree - if he has graduated - then he should have a choice to go and do what he wants to do," Fulmer said.

Saban says he doesn't want free agency within the league.

In 2016, he tried to block cornerback Maurice Smith from following Kirby Smart to Georgia and playing his final season there as a graduate transfer. Smith appealed to the SEC and received a waiver to allow him to play immediately for the Bulldogs.

Graduate transfers aren't the only type of transfers likely to be discussed.

In the past year, there has been discussion about allowing first-time transfers to play immediately if they meet academic requirements. The Transfer Working Group announced in April that it considered several options for changing transfer rules and would continue reviewing options. The group intends to gather feedback at spring conference meetings and reconvene in June.

Additionally, the Division I Council will vote in June on a proposal to stop schools from restricting transfer destinations

Gambling

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law requiring states ban sports gambling.

Given the high court's ruling, sports betting is now legal as long as the states allow it.

Previously, Nevada had been the only state where single-game sports betting was legal.

Gambling is illegal in Tennessee, but there are some exceptions, one of which is fantasy sports gambling.

Tennessee state Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, recently wrote on Twitter that he plans "to introduce legislation to allow sports betting in" Tennessee, with proceeds going to K-12 education.

How legalized sports gambling would affect universities is unclear.

The state of West Virginia passed a bill legalizing sports gambling. In response, WVU athletic director Shane Lyons told wvnews.com that his athletic department will hire additional compliance department staff members.

"We're going to have to step our game up," Lyons told the website.

Stadiums

UT's Board of Trustees athletics committee approved project plans last fall for a two-part Neyland Stadium renovation set to cost $340 million. Phase I of the project, focusing on the stadium's south end, was slated to cost $180 million and be funded by fundraising campaigns, athletic department revenues, partnerships and debt financing.

A construction date has not been set.

Fulmer said at a Big Orange Caravan stop this month in Nashville he wanted to assess stadium needs and take a responsible approach toward the project. He might discuss the project more while in Destin.

As of last fall, $50 million in funds had been raised for the project. Asked recently where fundraising stands for the project, athletic department spokesman Tom Satkowiak didn't offer a specific figure but said the project has received "a positive response from our donors."

"We were met with great support from the outset, and efforts to engage our donors continue to result in great outcomes," Satkowiak said in an email to USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee.

Meanwhile, Vanderbilt AD David Williams could be asked about his school's football stadium. Vandy announced last fall it won't move to a stadium that will house Nashville's approved MLS team.

Although the soccer stadium won't become the permanent home for football, the possibility remains of playing select games there. Williams said in 2016 that a new on-campus football stadium or major renovation of Vanderbilt Stadium, which opened in 1922, is a priority. What's the latest on that front? Vanderbilt Stadium's last major renovation came in 1981.

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Copyright 2018 Tribune Review Publishing Company
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Tribune-Review (Greensburg, PA)

 

With Greensburg's Veterans Memorial Pool and Ligonier Beach both shuttered for the summer, some water lovers may have to go a little farther for quick dip in a cool pool.

Those swimmers' quandary may be temporary, but they're not alone.

More than 2,000 commercial pools — including 65 Pennsylvania public pools, club pools and privately owned pools that were open to the public — have closed since 2009 according to Mick Nelson. Nelson is facilities development director for Swimming USA, a national service organization that promotes the sport. He has tracked the sad demise.

In Western Pennsylvania, the roster of local pool closings dating to the 1970s includes the massive Oakford Park Pool in Jeannette, Blue Spruce in Murrysville, Kennywood's Sunlite Pool, the Beau Clair Swim Club in Penn Township, New Kensington's Crystal Springs and the Melwood Park Pool in Allegheny Township.

Maintenance, insurance and the escalating cost of chemicals are among the challenges that have contributed to the wave of pool closings in small towns and large cities alike.

"Some of them closed because they could not upgrade and retrofit to meet the new drain laws mandated by the Virginia Graeme Baker Act (a 2008 law regulating drains and covers to reduce accidental drownings); others have deteriorated and would require massive, expensive renovations. More have closed, however, because they have been running at a deficit for many years and city and school officials have decided they can no longer afford to pay the operating costs," Nelson said.

In Greensburg, local officials opted to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in renovations at Veterans Memorial Pool, a 7,000-square-foot pool that attracts about 150 swimmers a day during the summer.

Swimmers left high and dry this summer by that decision can trek to Youngwood to cool off in the pool at the community park there.

For fans of Ligonier Beach, the closest option may be six miles up the highway at Idlewild Park's Soak Zone. The complex, which includes a wave pool, slides, Lazy River and children's attractions, kicked off the summer season Friday.

Although a day pass, good throughout the park and the pool complex is $37.99, season passes are available at $59.99.

"I think we'll probably take in a few of them from Ligonier Beach," Idlewild Marketing Manager Jeff Croushore said.

Ed Christofano, president of the board of the Youngwood Park & Pool said the pool is prepared to absorb an influx of new swimmers this year as it gears up for a June 3 opening for its 58th season.

While the Greensburg pool, a city facility, is scheduled to reopen next year after undergoing repairs, it's unclear when or if Ligonier Beach, the enormous 93-year-old pool along Route 30 just east of Ligonier, will reopen.

Pool owners Sherry and Steve Kozar could not be reached for comment. But a family member said a flood this year that destroyed the facility's pumps and furnace added up to excessive repair costs for the 50,000-square-foot pool.

The local landmark dates to 1925 and was among the few remaining large outdoor pools from a period considered the heyday of such pools.

Nelson said the cost of repairing pools built before 1970 can be daunting.

"Many times a new pool can be built for the same price as an old pool renovation," he said.

Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com or via Twitter @deberdley_trib.

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

Plans are progressing swiftly for a new $42 million prep sports complex near the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, despite a lingering legal spat between a private property owner and the city's Parks Department.

The state agency tasked with approving large-scale public works projects signed off last week on a design and construction plan for the complex with tentative completion in September 2020. The Spokane Public Facilities District, operators of the arena, the convention center and the INB Performing Arts Center, sent out a solicitation Friday for proposals from firms that could build the facility, envisioned as a 180,000-square-foot complex that includes a 200-meter banked indoor track with room for basketball, volleyball, gymnastics and wrestling events.

"It's just super positive. How fun for Spokane to have the largest track west of the Mississippi," said Stephanie Curran, chief executive officer of the public facilities district. "The amount of business that's going to open up for the community, and for the hotels, is amazing."

Rick Romero, Spokane's former utilities director who has been working for the city on securing approval for the project from agencies that include the facilities district, Spokane County, the Spokane Sports Commission and the city's Parks Department, said the state approval marked another important step in realization of the project first floated in 2015.

"We should take a pause here to recognize that we've completed a partnership with five entities, that have their various boards, and to receive the approval of a state commission, that's a pretty cool thing," Romero said.

The project will be funded through the sale of $25 million in bonds, overseen by the facilities district and Spokane County. The facilities district also has committed $11 million in reserve funding to the project, along with $5million from the City of Spokane. The rest of the project is intended to be funded through state grants.

One detail that hasn't been worked out is the exact location of the facility. Amanda Hansen, who along with her father owns a historic building at 433 W. Dean Ave., has watched over the past couple of years as prospective site plans and public discussions have included consideration of her property as part of the new building's footprint.

"I don't know what their end game is," Hansen said. "It's ultimately the city that's responsible for providing the land."

Complicating matters are a pair of outstanding legal issues surrounding the city Parks Department's care of the building next door to Hansen. In late 2016, she filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging that raccoons climbing the property at 44W. Cataldo Ave., an old Carnation Dairy garage the Parks Department used for storage, had caused damage to a wall the two properties shared. The stench forced Hansen's business, Dance Street Ballroom, out of the space three years ago.

That lawsuit is scheduled to go to court in October. But Hansen met with Romero and Curran last week to discuss resolving the lawsuit and land issue.

"While our building's not for sale, we're willing to come to the negotiation table," Hansen said.

Romero and Curran acknowledged the city would prefer acquiring the building to make way for the sports complex. But a deal would have to make sense, and would also preferably resolve the outstanding legal issue.

"We have a lot of property, and a lot of options on the North Bank," Romero said.

Curran said the project would move forward, regardless of whether a deal is struck.

"We hope to have that land, but if we aren't able to get it, there are absolutely ways that we can re-orient that project," she said. "We're all good either way."

Hansen hasn't just filed the lawsuit, however. Earlier this year, she filed a code enforcement complaint arguing that the park-owned building had been allowed to fall into a substandard condition. Windows had been broken out, and a large portion of the building's roof had caved in.

The city's deputy building official recently found in favor of Hansen, ruling that the building violated city safety codes and ordering the Parks Department to come up with a plan to render the property safe.

Jason Conley, executive officer for the Spokane Parks Department, submitted a structural analysis and partial demolition plan to the city's building official in response to the complaint. The report, prepared by the firm Kaufman & Associates, was not available for review Friday after a public records request was made to the city last week. It doesn't include a dollar amount for the anticipated work, which Conley suggested would be minor.

"Our plan is not to upgrade it, but to mitigate some of the concerns," Conley said.

The city's property is also included in the footprint of the new sports complex structure, which means any work done on the building could be rendered moot if the land is instead determined to be better used as part of that larger project. But Conley told the building official there still could be a use for the property in the future, as plans for the north bank area of Riverfront Park's redevelopment become finalized.

"It's kind of a big giant puzzle, that we're fitting together," Conley said.

Hansen also raised concerns about parking tickets that have been issued for her friends and acquaintances using the parking lot next to her property. The tickets indicate the vehicles were inappropriately parked on city property, despite being parked on land Hansen owns.

Conley said those tickets were issued in error by city staff. He said they've been voided and an apology has been issued, but Hansen said only one of the tickets has been excused - and it took the city close to about five months to do so.

The building official gave the city until the end of next month to secure a firm to complete the demolition work to make the building safe, with a hearing on the city's progress scheduled for December.

By then, according to the plans for the sports complex, a firm will have been hired and begun designing the new facility, with shovels expected to hit the ground in January.

Meanwhile, Hansen is waiting for an offer from the city on her property.

"We would love to see some numbers from them," she said. "As concerned citizens, obviously, as much as we love our building, the Sportsplex will be better if they incorporate our property."

Contact the writer:

(509) 459-5429

kiph@spokesman.com

sportsplex

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Copyright 2018 Newsday, Inc.


Newsday (New York)

 

A company trying to build a Kings Park youth soccer training complex is in settlement talks with its landlord after suing him over alleged violations to their 48-year lease.

Manhattan-based tenant Prospect Sports Partners said in a March 6 complaint that landlord Anthony J. Santilli and a Santilli family trust had misrepresented the amount of valuable sand on their 44-acre former sand mine off Old Northport Road. Santilli lawyer Leonard J. Shore said in an April 19 filing that the accusation was false, and that the Santillis claimed they were owed back rent.

"We are continuing to talk," Shore said in an interview on Tuesday. Lawyers for the Santillis and Prospect Sports Partners are due to report their progress to a New York State Supreme Court judge June 12, Shore said. "Hopefully the court can assist moving the discussions forward."

Spanish superclub FC Barcelona announced plans last year to open a 10-field facility at the site in partnership with Prospect Sports, and Prospect Sports lawyer Timothy Shea Jr. said in March that company officials intended to open two fields this summer.

But work on the site appears to have stopped this spring, Town of Smithtown Assistant Planner Peter Hans said, and Town Engineer Mark Riley warned Prospect Sports in a May 9 letter that the company faced fines over the "potentially hazardous" condition of the property. The company had not taken any steps to control erosion or sediment loss at the site, clogging a nearby highway drainage system "on a number of occasions," he wrote.

Riley also repeated warnings town officials made last year that a slope along the northern portion of the site was dangerously "steep and unstable."

Shea and another Prospect Sports lawyer, Anthony Cummings, did not respond to requests for comment.

The hill figures prominently in the March 6 complaint Prospect Sports partner Kenneth Henderson signed against the Santillis. It describes a rental agreement for $300,000 a year, inclusive of real estate taxes and $2 per yard from the sale of excavated sand.

But half of the hill "had no sand and Defendant knew this" or negligently misrepresented the hill's condition, Prospect Sports said in the complaint. The company had a town permit to remove 110,000 yards of sand but removed only 42,000, stopping at the town's request, according to the complaint.

The complaint also accuses Santilli of badmouthing the project to Prospect subcontractors and of shutting off utilities at the site.

Shore, in his April 19 filing, said most of the company's allegations were false. He said his client did admit to shutting off utilities at the site, but only at his own construction trailer, which he was paying for.

A March 27 stipulation by state Supreme Court Judge Barry Ostrager, who is overseeing the settlement talks, called for Prospect Sports to make a $237,000 good faith payment to Santilli toward rent.

An FC Barcelona representative said in an email that times and locations for planned summer training camps had not yet been determined. "The schedule is not at all affected by the construction of the facility," she wrote.

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Copyright 2018 ProQuest Information and Learning
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Copyright 2018 Journal - Gazette May 27, 2018

Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

 

In years past, World Baseball Academy CEO Caleb Kimmel's stress level would be elevated when he heard the drip, drip, drip of rain from the downspout that ran outside his bedroom.

"On tournament weekends, your stress goes up when you hear that trickling going down," he said. "Now, you can come out and play. We'll still use sites off campus but this field's built where it can take up to 2 inches of rain per hour and still be playable."

The change is possible from a nearly completed Phase I of a total renovation of the WBA's outdoor facilities that surround the ASH Centre.

Three high school- and college-sized fields have replaced the 1980s-construction youth fields, complete with artificial turf infields and natural grass outfields.

"The outfield grass may need a little bit more time to absorb but Weigand Construction, Design Collaborative and Foresight Engineering did an excellent job dealing with all the earthwork," Kimmel said. "We've gone through two flash floods where these fields are playable as soon as it stops raining which is pretty cool."

The timing couldn't have been better with the outfield grass planted in the fall and the fields available for college teams by February.

High school teams started using it in March to avoid postponements and cancellations with the snow and rain continuing late into the season.

"We've never had usage in February or March or even early April in the past," Kimmel said. "This year, we had colleges coming out in February. Indiana Tech came out; Saint Francis has been playing the majority of their games out here which has been great. We've had Grace College, all these visiting teams coming through, as well. It was a pretty tough spring.

"Bishop Luers has made this their home site for games. Churubusco, Carroll, Canterbury, Wayne, South Side, all those groups have played some of their home games and then you add the visitor list of who's coming on campus. I would easily say as this gains more awareness, people are coming out and seeing it, we'll have a big increase.

"I anticipate that the vast majority of high school teams will be playing at least a game out here every year. Ivy Tech played out here, as well. There will be a lot of needs."

While the fields are playable, there are a few other amenities that are missing.

The Phase I funding is estimated at $3.7 million. The WBA has raised approximately $3.4 million.

With tournaments scheduled through July, lights will go into the fields starting in August thanks to a $600,000 grant from the Legacy Fund, and as other funding becomes available, scoreboards on Field 2 will be installed as will a pavilion. Bleachers will also be upgraded.

"When we started building last year, we didn't have any funding for Field 2," Kimmel said. "It was going to be cheap grass seed but as we started rolling out the turf, we had more community leaders coming out and saying, 'Wow, this is pretty impressive,' then stepped up and helped us get that field completed.

"It was really, 'How do we get the fields functional to show the community?' Look how nice this can be, so that's proven to be a great strategy. It was fun to watch the mayor's eyes light up. It took a team effort."

The WBA has outlined Phase II of the exterior renovations that will include three smaller, youth-sized and softball fields with the earth work has already completed. There's no cost estimate on Phase II just yet as Phase I continues to work toward completion.

"It's taken some best practices from other facilities and it's a budget concern," Kimmel said. "You can never do as much as you probably want to. We've taken a lot into account to make these fields high school and college size with the space we have. That dictated a lot of the distance between fields, the distance of backstops, figuring out how to position three fields in Phase I that can all be college capable. That was a big factor of the layout of the facility."

The goal of the upgrades is to increase the impact the WBA has on the youth in the Fort Wayne community while continuing to use baseball as a platform.

"This the next chapter of a very strong baseball history in Fort Wayne," Kimmel said. "We have a very strong baseball community and we're blessed to meet all the needs and by us being a neutral entity in the community, we can look at the wide range of baseball activities and figure out how to meet the needs that are out there."

The WBA offers tours of its facilities for those interested. For more information, contact the WBA office at 260-436-1507 or email Linda@WorldBaseballAcademy.com

 

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Copyright 2018 The Salt Lake Tribune
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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

Over five decades in football, Dennis Erickson has had more job offers than he can count. They've come from colleges, NFL franchises - and a bunch of people promising opportunities in upstart leagues. But it wasn't until now that Erickson finally said yes to one of the newcomers, agreeing to become the head coach of a Salt Lake City team in the new Alliance of American Football League.

"I've had opportunities to coach in leagues like this, but this is, by far, the best and most organized," the 71-year-old Erickson said earlier this month at Rice-Eccles Stadium, where his new team is set to begin play in February.

Many of those other leagues have come and gone. This one, Erickson said, will be different. David Webb, the director of operations for the minor-league Utah Browns, feels the same way about his team. So does Kimball Kjar, the general manager of Major League Rugby's Utah Warriors.

The state's newest sporting startups are hopeful they can carve out a place of their own in a market that has been dominated by the Utah Jazz, college football and, more recently, Real Salt Lake. But are there enough eyeballs and dollars among the million people in the Salt Lake Valley to sustain them all?

"That, of course, is the billion-dollar question," said Stephen Maisch, a professor of sports economics at the University of Utah. "What sort of demand is there for any one particular thing?"

The executives at Rio Tinto Stadium have seen what it takes to survive in the market. Real Salt Lake arrived in Utah in 2004 and has built a loyal following, frequently selling out the 19,000-capacity stadium.

"There was risk associated with bring a franchise here," said Andy Carroll, the team's chief business officer. "You have to give them credit for having the vision to envision what exists right now."

Over the past few years, RSL has expanded its brand to include a minor-league franchise (the Real Monarchs) and a professional women's soccer team (the Utah Royals).

"It has potential to cannibalize the fanbase some," Carroll said. "We're in the entertainment business. We look at even big blockbuster movies [as competition] because people have only so much discretionary income. It's highly competitive in that regard. …

"But we absolutely love Utah as a sports community."

When the Utah Warriors joined Major League Rugby and played the first game in franchise history this spring, 9,000 people showed up. Since moving their games to a smaller venue in Herriman, officials hoped to be selling out that 5,000-seat stadium, but attendance has been closer to 3,500. Still, Kjar is optimistic about his team's future thanks to the growth of youth rugby, his league's TV deal with CBS and a lucrative jersey sponsorship.

"With ticket sales and sponsorships, I would say we're ahead of where I thought we'd be at this point," Kjar said.

As he considers the market and the products being offered, Maisch believes there are factors that bode well for the upstarts. Rugby has a niche but growing audience. The new Alliance football league won't compete with the NFL's schedule. And both of the new ventures have followed Major League Soccer's single-entity model, allowing the league to support fledgling teams and provide enough of a runway to achieve sustainability.

"These single-entity leagues could be able to keep the whole league afloat long enough to generate a fanbase where there might not have been one," Maisch said. "You've got to stick around long enough to create fans."

Webb knows that well. At different times he's had a hand in two Utah arena football teams, the Utah Blaze and the Screaming Eagles. Neither franchise exists today.

"We've had all these teams that for whatever reason have let fans down," said Webb, whose team will begin its season next month and play games at Murray High School. "That's the approach we're coming from. We can't let fans down. People are obviously skeptical that it's just another team that's going to be one-and-done."

UTAH'S PRO SPORTS FRANCHISES<br>• Utah Jazz, NBA<br>• Real Salt Lake, MLS<br>• Utah Royals FC, NWSL<br>• Salt Lake Bees, Pacific Coast League<br>• Utah Grizzlies, ECHL<br>• Real Monarchs, USL<br>• Utah Warriors, Major League Rugby<br>• Utah Browns, Minor Football League<br>Note Salt Lake City's franchise in the Alliance of American Football League is scheduled to begin play in spring 2019.

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Copyright 2018 The Buffalo News
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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

Football can be hazardous to your health. That fact has been well-established in the past few years, as details have surfaced about the lasting impact of concussions.

The National Football League and Commissioner Roger Goodell have often gone into a defensive crouch when it comes to concussion issues, but now have moved past the denial stage. In September 2016, the league launched a $100 million initiative for technological improvements and medical research related to head injuries. And late last season they beefed up the concussion protocol for players.

Another good sign came Tuesday when the league's owners approved new rules to make kickoff plays less dangerous.

There's been talk in the league of doing away with kickoffs entirely. The problem is the risk of brain damage. Last year 291 concussions were documented in the NFL, the highest number since the league began keeping track. NFL statistics show that players are five times more likely to suffer a concussion on a kickoff than on any other play.

Steve Tasker, the all-time great Buffalo Bills special teams player, took part in a panel convened by the NFL to address the kickoff problem. Tasker said that 11 concussions suffered by players in the past three seasons came on touchbacks - plays that are whistled dead after the kickoff sails into or beyond the end zone.

"(The league was) appalled by the fact on a play that didn't even count, guys were getting concussions because guys would blow each other up, not knowing the ball's out of the end zone," Tasker said.

Under the new rules for this season, players on the kicking team will be clustered near the ball, and they won't get a running start when the ball is kicked. For the receiving team, wedge blocks are no longer allowed. Kickoffs will look more like punt plays, with more emphasis on speedy skill players and less on big bodies flying around.

And there's a change geared to touchbacks. As soon as the ball hits the end zone, it's immediately ruled a touchback, rather than waiting for a receiving player to pick up the ball and kneel with it. This will cut down on instances where players on the coverage and return teams needlessly race at each other on a collision course, only to have the play stopped dead by a whistle.

Also new this year: The NFL is cracking down on players lowering their heads when initiating contact. This applies to players at every position, whether they are making a tackle or trying to evade one. Leading with the helmet will result in a 15-yard penalty and possible ejection from the game. The game officials can eject a player, or it can be done by the league office in New York after reviewing a replay.

That might have been a handy rule to have in place last Dec. 3, when Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White intercepted a New England pass intended for Rob Gronkowsi, the Patriots' big tight end who is a Western New York native. White fell to the ground, where a frustrated Gronkowski plowed into him out of bounds. The dirty hit caused White to be put in concussion protocol. The NFL later gave Gronkowski a one-game suspension for the hit, but under the new rules the league might have ejected him from the game in Orchard Park.

One reason for the rise in the concussion total was that more players are reporting them these days than in years past. What players and coaches used to call "getting your bell rung" is actually a form of brain damage.

More than 100 former NFL players have been diagnosed, after their deaths, with having suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain condition believed to be caused by repeated hits to the head.

Darryl Talley, a linebacker during the Bills' Super Bowl era in the early 1990s, has been public about health challenges he has struggled with in recent years. He and his wife, Janine, have described Talley's mood swings, memory loss and other struggles that they attribute to CTE.

It's good to see the NFL taking steps to protect its players, something other sports leagues should emulate. In hockey, former Philadelphia Flyers star Eric Lindros has been campaigning for the NHL to fund research to protect its players' health.

Lindros suffered six concussions in a two-year period. In Major League Baseball, catchers are particularly vulnerable to concussions, but so are others. Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer is one star whose career has been interrupted by brain injuries.

Tasker told SI.com that he was glad to see the NFL evolving. "The rules," he said, "at least the rules that can get guys hurt - are not sacred."

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Copyright 2018 The Commercial Appeal, Inc.
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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

The University of Memphis athletic department announced Friday that construction on Phase I of the football team's long-awaited indoor practice facility project is expected to begin on July 15. The schools hopes it will be completed by August 2019.

Phase I features the renovation of the Murphy Athletic Complex on the university's Park Avenue campus. It will include new coaches and operation offices, a new training facility, player dining and study areas; as well as new water therapy and work spaces.

There still remains no target date for the start of Phase II of the project, which consists of the actual indoor practice facility.

The university previously stated that Phase I is expected to cost $10.6 million. The Memphis Board of Trustees approved $10 million in debt financing from the Tennessee State School Bond Authority last August to fund construction on the first phase.

Memphis first announced plans to begin raising money for the football team's indoor practice facility and a new indoor basketball practice facility more than five years ago. The school held a groundbreaking ceremony for the football facility in April 2017.

Last November, athletic director Tom Bowen said construction would begin in January. The athletic department then announced in January that it was targeting a spring 2019 completion date for Phase I.

But there were no signs of progress on the project during the football team's spring practice last month.

Bowen explained Thursday during an interview on Sports56 WHBQ that the delays were due to dealing with the state contracting process mandated by the Tennessee Board of Regents. The TBR is overseeing this project since it began before the University of Memphis Board of Trustees was formed last year.

"We've been dealing with an unbelievable mountain of bureaucracy with the TBR in building this project... We've had delays after delays," Bowen said. "I will tell you it's been very frustrating for me and a mountain of delays that should've never happened, and we're ready to go. The funding is there, so I think we'll be able to put all the wondering and angst to rest."

The University of Memphis announced Friday that starting July 1 the school will manage future construction projects through its Board of Trustees and the State Building Commission after being granted severance for capital project management from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission during THEC's quarterly meeting last week in Nashville.

The $20 million Laurie-Walton Family Basketball Center opened last November and its construction was expedited by a $10 million gift from former Tiger basketball player Bill Laurie and his wife, Nancy Walton Laurie.

According to the timeline for Phase I of the football team's indoor practice facility shared Friday, the school will continue final bidding for pool and flooring items until June 15. Turner Construction, the contractor for the facility, is expected to prepare its cost proposal by that day.

Between June and July 15, the school will begin the process of gathering signatures for the construction contract. Once that is done, the school expects to receive a notice to proceed with construction.

The hope is that the football team can move in to its new home by August 2019.

Blue lot sold out

Bowen announced this week that the Blue Parking Lot at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium is sold out for the 2018 Memphis football season.

There are only about 400 spaces remaining in the Tan Lot, but school officials expect those to sell quickly now that there are no spots left in the blue lot.

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Copyright 2018 Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Inc.
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Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)

 

WORCESTER - Commerce Bank Field at Foley Stadium is in line for more than $1 million worth of facility improvements and an overall sprucing up.

It will include the complete replacement of its 11-year-old artificial turf field with a new synthetic turf surface, as well as the resurfacing and re-striping of the running track.

In addition, plans call for purchasing a new scoreboard, a new public-announcement system and turf grooming equipment.

The improvements will be funded in part by a $500,000 donation from Commerce Bank, a division of Berkshire Bank. Commerce Bank donated $1 million to the Worcester Educational Development Foundation in 2007 for a renovation of Foley Stadium. The facility was subsequently renamed Commerce Bank Field at Foley Stadium.

"Commerce Bank has been an integral and important part of the Central Massachusetts business community and we are grateful for the unwavering and enthusiastic support of Commerce Bank Field at Foley Stadium," said Paul Kelly, commercial regional president at Berkshire Bank. "We are pleased to continue the work of David Massad and his efforts to deepen community support. We will continue his work at Commerce Bank Field at Foley Stadium and other area nonprofits by investing in our neighborhoods to enrich the lives of our neighbors."

City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. is asking the City Council Tuesday night to accept and adopt the donation.

"For more than 65 years,

Commerce Bank was the preeminent Worcester partner and continues to be an example of corporate and community responsibility," Mr. Augustus said Friday. "It is heartening to know that Berkshire Bank is continuing that tradition. The investments by Commerce in Commerce Bank Field at Foley Stadium are enabling students of the Worcester public schools and the greater Worcester community the opportunity to play on first-class track and field, to hear their name and number called on a first-class sound system and see themselves on a first-class scoreboard."

Mayor Joseph M. Petty also thanked Berkshire Bank for its "generous contribution" to this community effort.

"Great companies live in great cities,' Mr. Petty said. "It's the mutual commitment to our shared goals of prosperity and economic development that makes partnerships like this with Berkshire Bank so valuable. This investment will pay dividends for thousands of students and community groups that use this field every year."

Upon acceptance of the donation, the manager said the city will match it with a contribution of $600,000.

To provide the matching funds, Mr. Augustus is recommending that $600,000 of a loan order adopted by the City Council in July 2017 be amended to include the Foley Stadium field improvements.

Under the terms of an amendment to Commerce Bank's original 2007 donation agreement, the $500,000 donation will be made to the city within 15 days of the date on which the City Council votes to accept it.

The amendment also stipulates the improvements to be made and the order in which they are to be done.

The donation will first be used to pay for the installation of a new artificial turf surface, with the remaining funds next to be applied to the resurfacing and re-striping of the running track.

Meanwhile, the city's contribution of up to $600,000 will be used first to pay for any funding shortfall that may arise for the artificial turf field replacement, and then fund the remaining five projects in the order that has been identified, including the procurement of a new scoreboard, a new public-announcement system and turf groom equipment, until such funding is exhausted, according to the agreement.

The parties have also agreed that the city will undertake the repainting of the stadium's exterior facade, spectator seating areas, football goal posts affixed in the Commerce Bank Field and flagpoles.

The goal is to have the first five improvements, including the installation of the new artificial turf surface, done in time for the 2018 high school football season. Meanwhile, the repainting of the stadium's facade should be done by June 1, 2019.

WDA Design Group, Inc. is designing the renovations.

The scope of the project is to remove and dispose of the existing synthetic turf field, laser grade the existing gravel base, install a new synthetic turf system, then resurface the existing running track and install the new scoreboard and sound system.

The original donation agreement with Commerce Bank & Trust ran through Dec. 31, 2017. The amendment extends the agreement another 10 years, through Dec. 31, 2027. During that time the facility will retain the name Commerce Bank Field at Foley Stadium, according to the agreement.

The Chandler Street athletic facility, which dates to 1927, is the primary athletic facility for the Worcester public schools. The main field hosts football, track and field, soccer, field hockey and lacrosse contests, as well as other outdoor recreational activities, such as the annual Worcester World Cup soccer tournament.

The complex also includes a baseball field and grass rectangular fields that are also used for soccer and field hockey.

The existing stadium, which is owned and operated by the city, seats about 4,800 people. Built in 1965 and renovated in 2007, it was named after Gen. Thomas F. Foley, a World War I veteran and longtime city police chief.

Since 1965, more than 50,000 high school athletes have competed in sporting events at the facility.

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Copyright 2018 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

Mercedes-Benz Stadium's retractable roof, which has been closed for all but two events, will be open for 10 days beginning Tuesday as part of what is being called the final phase of work on its automation.

That means Atlanta Unit-ed's next home match, June 2 against Philadelphia, is slated to be played with the roof open, regardless of weather.

Following the 10-day period in which construction activities will require that the roof be continuously open in a locked position, rain or shine, "weeks" will be spent on "final commissioning work to complete the automation," according to stadium officials. Thereafter, operation of the eight-panel roof will be turned over by the contractor to the stadium staff.

"Upon completion, the roof will be able to open or close in as few as 12 minutes at the push of a button," stadium officials reiterated Friday.

Steve Cannon, CEO of Falcons and Atlanta United parent company AMB Group, said the fully operable roof will be worth the wait.

"From the design phase, we knew this roof would be a unique part of the stadium and fan experience, offering a surprise-and-delight feature that no other building can offer," Cannon said in a statement. "The complexity of the design and our heavy events schedule has made it take longer than we had hoped, but great things take time and we're happy to see the finish line."

Once automation work is completed, team and stadium officials said they will determine whether the roof will be open or closed for Falcons and Atlanta United games "based on weather conditions and the safety and comfort of attendees." The teams have said in the past that they intend to play as many games as practical with the roof open.

For third-party events, such as college football games, the roof position will be decided by the third party in cooperation with stadium officials.

The Super Bowl will be played in Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Feb. 3, 2019, and the NFL executive in charge of the mega-event said the league would welcome the option of playing it with the roof open.

"We... certainly would consider if it the weather is good," Peter O'Reilly, NFL senior vice president of events, said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last month.

"We will be there as we head into games in the fall," O'Reilly said, "and we will be watching (the roof ). I know they are confident on their end that it will be working well."

Two of the past four Super Bowls have been played in retractable-roof stadiums. The roof was closed for the February 2017 game in Houston and open for the February 2015 game in Glendale, Ariz.

The roof timeline announcedbyMercedes-Benz Stadium on Friday is in keeping with that outlined by Cannon in a March interview with the AJC. He said at the time that the roof would be fully automated by "early summer" and described the work still to be done as primarily "final balancing" followed by "final automation."

Near the end of the automation work, Cannon said in March, there would be a 10-day period in which the roof would need to remain continuously in the open position for construction purposes.

"Early summer is when it's going to be a push-button (operation), meaning push the button and 11 minutes later it's open," Cannon said in the earlier interview.

Issues related to the first-of-its-kind roof caused three construction delays, totaling about six months, before the $1.5 billion-plus stadium made its debut with the problematic roof closed last August.

The roof was open for a Falcons game Sept. 17 and an Atlanta United game Oct. 22, but otherwise has been closed. In those cases, moving the roof took about two hours. Work reintensified after the College Football Playoff Championship game in January.

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Copyright 2018 The Salt Lake Tribune
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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

The NCAA has put the University of Utah baseball program on probation for one year after an eight-month investigation of self-reported rule violations by the university.

The report states, according to a Division I Committee on Infractions panel, that Utah baseball coach Bill Kinneberg, "did not promote an atmosphere of compliance when he instructed his then-director of baseball operations to impermissibly perform coaching duties."

Along with the year of probation, the panel agreed with the Utes' self-imposed penalties of suspending Kinneberg for the first 25 percent of this season, a 14-game stretch; a reduction in athletically-related activity from 20 hours per week to 18 hours per week; and a $5,000 fine

The report stated that Kinneberg asked his former director of baseball operations to participate in on-field coaching activities, working with catchers, throwing batting practice and hitting baseball for fielding drills. That, the report explains, caused Utah to exceed the allowable number of baseball coaches.

Kinneberg knew his former director of operations could not be involved in on-field coaching activities and "specifically warned his staff to make sure that the former director was not performing coaching activity if any administrative staff came by practice."

Kinneberg rationalized his decision because he said it helped develop the former director of operations, he believed that other programs also allowed the same type of impermissible activity; and it allowed him to spend more time on other areas during practice, according to the report.

The panel said regardless of Kinneberg's intent, his decision to allow his former director of operations to perform coaching activity "demonstrated rules compliance was not a top priority for his program." The report states it also gave Utah the benefit of having an extra coach, which allowed the program to have an advantage over other teams that followed the rules.

Utah athletic director Chris Hill announced some findings in October 2017, saying the school hired a law firm to conduct an investigation on behalf of the university. Utah athletic compliance officials interviewed eight current and former players along with a university student-athlete advocate. The interviews pertained only to the allegations of the NCAA rules violation.

In a letter from an unnamed parent, several allegations were made regarding the welfare of Utah baseball players, as well as conduct of both players and coaches during games on the road.

Among the allegations were drug use by players, a culture of partying and "inappropriate conduct among players during road trips," coaches being drunk on road trips and that a student manager was asked to perform duties beyond their normal responsibility, including buying beer for Kinneberg.

The law firm, Bond, Schoeneck & King PLLC, conducted its investigation beginning in July 2017 that included 27 interviews with 10 current players, 11 former players, plus coaches, and the firm found no evidence regarding several of the allegations, but the report did state that on occasion, injured players had been transported by a student manager to the closest emergency room to receive medical attention. And that on three occasions, Kinneberg asked an of-age student manager to purchase beer.

Utah was 14-38 entering Thursday night's matchup against Washington State.

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Copyright 2018 The Post and Courier
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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

Imagine high school football teams taking the field under the bright lights of Coca-Cola Stadium. Or Boeing Field. Or Walmart Park.

It could happen. The name of the next stadium in the Charleston County School District could go to the highest bidder under a policy that would allow corporate sponsors to name athletic facilities.

The proposal received a 5-4 vote on first reading at a Charleston County School Board meeting Monday. Board members Kevin Hollinshead, Kate Darby, the Rev. Eric Mack, Priscilla Jeffery and Todd Garrett favored it.

If the policy gets final approval next month, district staff would be able to solicit bids for naming rights. The school board then would vote to approve any such arrangement, including details on how the new revenue would be spent.

Charleston County might be the first school district in South Carolina to sell naming rights, but it wouldn't be the first in the nation.

Texas schools have sold the naming rights for mega-stadiums to car dealerships and sporting equipment stores, and the Penn-Harris-Madison school district in Indiana has inked naming agreements that netted it more than half a million dollars.

In Pennsylvania, the Market Street Sports Group has been arranging naming deals for school districts since 2006. Jeff Bertoni, president of the marketing company, said he now represents 12 school districts across the state. He said schools there are getting up to $120,000 per year for naming rights - far less than some schools in the football-crazed Lone Star State but enough to pay for a few teacher salaries or new instruments for the marching band.

Athletic teams at Hempfield High School in Landisville, Penn., now play at Georgelis Law Firm Stadium and the Lancaster Toyota-Mazda Tennis Courts. A stadium in Perkasie, also in Pennsylvania, hosts home games at Grand View Health Stadium, festooned with the logos of the Pennridge High School Rams and the local hospital alike.

Bertoni said the companies who choose to buy naming rights tend to be locally based, as opposed to larger corporations like Nike or Gatorade. And with thousands of attentive parents and fans passing through the bleachers each year, Bertoni said the sponsors are getting bang for their buck.

"The kids who are playing on the field are my neighbors.... When a sponsor supports them, I'm going to be a lot more likely to support that sponsor because they are directly supporting my own child," Bertoni said.

And Charleston County has been in need of new revenue. On Monday, when it voted to pursue selling naming rights, the School Board also voted for a property tax increase to fund a 6.8-percent, $32.3 million budget increase for the next school year.

The district raised local taxes by the maximum amount allowable under state law this year, adding $5.36 onto the tax bill for a $15,000 vehicle. It's building two regional stadiums, in Mount Pleasant and North Charleston, that will cost a combined $34 million including a land purchase.

"The district has to get to a point where we start looking at revenue streams to broaden our income," Hollinshead said.

Opponents of selling naming rights say it could entangle the public school district with corporate interests.

"Say one of the airlines decides to name one of our stadiums in North Charleston, and then you hear that they're discriminatory or something. Do we step in and kick them out?" asked board member Chris Staubes, who voted against the policy.

"What if it's an unpopular group or a strange group that wants something named after them?" asked the Rev. Chris Collins, another opponent.

The policy does not set limits on the types of companies that can sponsor a stadium, but it does leave the final decision to the school board to approve or deny any sponsorship.

 

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Copyright 2018 The Buffalo News
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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

ATLANTA - New Era Field, home of the Buffalo Bills, isn't the only facility at which Pegula Sports & Entertainment is taking a hard look for potential replacement.

KeyBank Center, where the Sabres play, is also undergoing a thorough review by PSE officials, Kim Pegula told The Buffalo News this week at the NFL spring meeting.

The PSE president and Sabres co-owner/president said replacing the facility is no less a consideration than a major renovation.

"I think everything's on the table," Pegula said. "I think they did a great job when they built that place (in 1996) and our staff has been really good about maintaining and putting in a lot of cap-ex (capital expenditure) things over the years, but I wouldn't take anything off the table. We really want to take a really, really big, global look at all that."

KeyBank Center was constructed during the NHL's building boom in the mid-1990s. Of the 17 venues built then, virtually all of them have had major renovations or are about to, and Key Bank Center has fallen behind.

During the Sabres' 2017-18 season, there was considerable social-media buzz over the poor condition of the building, with parts of the building in various states of disrepair. The issues, as reported by The News in March, range from seats that are dirty or damaged, broken and rusted cup holders, and bathrooms (particularly on the 300 level) that have been without hot water for many years.

Asked for PSE's priorities in improving fan amenities at KeyBank Center, Pegula gave a broad response.

"Because the building is as old as it is, we want to take a much more global look and gather the information, very much like the stadium issues," she said.

Pegula said PSE was gathering facts in an effort to determine whether to replace New Era Field, where the Bills' lease with Erie County runs through 2023. The Sabres' lease with the county for KeyBank Center runs through 2022.

"If you look at all the venues that we have - between Rochester (for the minor-league hockey Americans), the stadium, KeyBank arena - there's a lot of work to be done in all those areas," she said. "So we want to kind of globally take a look at how do we fit this together, even if that is something that we package together. What are the priorities that we can live with and just, in the lease years that we have left, what is it that would make the most sense?

"And there's been so much development in and around the arena, we want to make sure that we're not just putting band-aids on things and that we're not shortsighted. We want to be looking toward more the future of where we end up being and what it looks like. Not just the arena, but the whole area. So, right now, we're doing internal meetings and fact-gathering and talking to different developers and architects, just throwing out different ideas and saying, 'What will the future of this whole area look like or possibly could look like?' "

Pegula said PSE's internal conversations about New Era Field and KeyBank Center "can be connected," because both involve agreements with the county.

"But at the same time, they each have different needs," she said. "That's why we're trying to gather all the information, both from KeyBank arena and the surrounding areas, then over at the stadium, and then looking at it from a much higher level. 'OK, how does this all look? How does this all play out?'

"Even from financing to fan experience to just working with the city and what are they developing? There's some talk about the terminal behind (KeyBank Center), obviously the proximity to the arena, so we just don't want to be too quick to get into something that's not going to last, is not going to benefit the whole community and the whole area."

Pegula addressed other topics related to the Sabres:

On how much the Sabres' winning the NHL draft lottery and the chance to acquire Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin next month reverses the despair of last year's last-place finish: "First, winning the lottery is bittersweet because it is something very exciting. It's obviously a huge shot in the arm to our whole fan base and our organization knowing that we will have a pick that many consider is another generational player this time around. But having to endure how we got there is never any fun, as we all know."

On ownership's timetable for the Sabres to be a playoff-caliber team: "It's going to be an exciting time. Now, I've learned my lesson not to predict expectations. And you can see from Vegas now becoming a Stanley Cup team finalist. Colorado, New Jersey, teams that were bad last year have great success this year. The NHL is always talking about the parity amongst the teams, so to put any expectations, certainly, I wouldn't want to do that at all. But knowing that we have a core of young, skilled players in our system and coming up and part of our future, there's something to be excited about for sure there."

On how much concern the Sabres have over season-ticket holders fleeing in the wake of a last-place season and how much impact winning the draft lottery had on sales: "I don't know, specifically, the actual sales numbers on that. Obviously, we're always concerned. The fan base is really what makes our organization and our team, so whenever we lose that confidence from the fans and we see slumps in season-ticket sales, certainly that's always a concern of ours. I'm sure that for fans who were on the brink of either renewing their season tickets or just deciding how much engagement they want to go into next year, getting this pick, certainly, I hope that changed their mind and they're hopeful again.

"Obviously, I listen to and read the media... I haven't heard anybody say anything bad about (Dahlin).... Also, we didn't raise ticket prices. There's a whole system and a whole metrics on season tickets related to revenue that the league imposes, so we've always tried to follow that to make sure that we do the best thing for our organization. But this year, not raising season-ticket prices, I think the letter that (husband and co-owner) Terry and I put out there to our season-ticket holders, we understood and felt what the fans did. And winning this lottery, it really did give us a boost that we needed."

On the performance of coach Phil Housley and General Manager Jason Botterill after their respective first NHL seasons in those roles when compared to the universal praise the Bills' Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane received after their first NFL seasons as coach and GM: "Instead of just looking at wins and losses, we were very happy with them. Obviously, they're still our coach and our GM, but we have a lot of confidence in them that they are building this team the right way. Whether it takes them longer than football, that's to be seen.

"But I really was encouraged and really liked the thought process, the internal planning that Jason has for this team, as well as Phil. They're learning every day. They were a first-time GM, a first-time coach, so there was a learning curve, a learning process over the last year. And all the discussions that we've had with them after the season, we're really encouraged that we're going to be moving forward and the foundation is being laid and that they're going to be a huge building block for us in the coming years."

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Copyright 2018 The Salt Lake Tribune
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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

Indianapolis — USA Gymnastics agreed to use false excuses in 2015 to account for the absence of sports doctor Larry Nassar, who had been accused of sexually abusing female athletes, according to emails obtained by a newspaper.

Nassar suggested that USA Gymnastics tell people that he couldn't attend two major events that summer because he was sick or needed to focus on his work at Michigan State University, the Indianapolis Star reported Thursday.

"We'll let Ron know to advise people that you weren't feeling well and decided to stay home," Scott Himsel, an attorney hired by USA Gymnastics, replied, referring to Ron Galimore, chief operating officer.

USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians, is accused of covering up assault allegations against Nassar. The group didn't tell Michigan State or elite gymnastics clubs about complaints against him in 2015.

Nassar publicly stated in September 2015 that he was retiring from the Indianapolis-based group, but he continued to see young women and girls for many months at his Michigan State office and a gym near Lansing, Michigan.

USA Gymnastics and Himsel declined to comment on the Star story. The group has said it didn't disclose the Nassar investigation to others based on guidance from the FBI.

"I don't think that they cared at all," Olympian Aly Raisman said. "I think at first it was to get... Nassar away from the Olympians, but when it was about a 10-year-old or a 15-year-old or 20-year-old in Michigan they didn't care."

Nassar is serving decades in prison for sexual assault and possession of child pornography.

Michigan State has agreed to pay $425 million to 332 victims and set aside $75 million for additional claimants. There's been no broad settlement involving USA Gymnastics.

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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

There can be no redemption without contrition, no rehabilitation without an acknowledgment of wrongdoing.

Therein lies the problem with Luke Heimlich, the Oregon State pitcher who has a flamethrower for a left arm and a sexual assault conviction for molesting his niece when she was 6 and he was 15.

As his senior season winds down, Heimlich has been cast as the central figure in a morality play. Now 22, he is the star pitcher for the co-No. 1-ranked team in the country and a potential pick in next month's Major League Baseball draft. He's completed his probation for his heinous crime and, as far as can be determined, done everything the courts asked to satisfy the terms of his sentence.

He is, from a legal perspective, entitled to move on with his life, to go to school and get a job.

But what do we do with someone who is only half willing to play the part? Heimlich has been a a voluntary participant in stories that portray him as a sympathetic figure — or, at least, raise the idea that he could be one — but only to a point.

Despite his guilty plea to one felony count of molesting and a handwritten statement that "I admit that I had sexual contact" with the girl, Heimlich insisted in recent interviews with The New York Times and Sports Illustrated that he had done nothing wrong. That this was all a colossal misunderstanding, and his only sin was in trying to spare his niece and family the pain and trauma of a trial.

"Nothing ever happened," he told The Times, "so there is no incident to look back on."

That's a much different tone than Heimlich took last year, after his conviction first came to light. In a statement announcing a leave of absence from the team, Heimlich said he had "taken responsibility for my conduct" as a teenager. When he withdrew from the College World Series, he did so in part to spare "even more unwanted attention to an innocent young girl."

He then went silent, saying nothing more until the interviews with The Times and SI.

The cynic can point to the draft, and ask — rightly — if Heimlich is simply trying to salvage his baseball career. A projected top-50 pick last year, he went undrafted after his criminal history was revealed, and SI quoted one unnamed general manager who said that, in his mind, nothing has changed.

Heimlich, who leads the country with a 13-1 record and is fifth with 129 strikeouts, is expected to make his final regular-season start at home Thursday night when Oregon State hosts UCLA.

There is nothing America loves more than stories of redemption, particularly when they involve sports heroes. Look at Michael Vick, Alex Rodriguez, Tiger Woods or Michael Phelps. Heimlich would no doubt like to add his name to the list and seems to expect his proclamation of innocence to be taken as the final word.

Yet the girl's mother remains certain the abuse occurred, so specific were her daughter's details of it. Heimlich's older brother, the one who initially alerted authorities, still doesn't talk to him.

Heimlich might be a phenomenal pitcher, but how can we know the same holds true of him as a person? In short, we can't.

"Your behavior matters," said Brenda Tracy, who has become the most prominent advocate against sexual violence in college athletics after being gang raped by then-Oregon State football players in 1998.

"It's great that you run fast," Tracy added, "but it tells us nothing about your character."

There are sides to every story but only one truth, and in this case it's that Heimlich pleaded guilty to a horrendous crime. Yes, he has served his sentence and is entitled to put this ugly chapter of his life behind him. But redemption only comes with remorse and acknowledgment of accountability, two things Heimlich has not shown.

By saying he did nothing wrong in the first place, Luke Heimlich is not asking for a second chance.

Why, then, should we be willing to give him one?

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Copyright 2018 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

A deadline looms next week for three of the five former Wheaton College football players accused of injuring a teammate during a 2016 hazing. DuPage County prosecutors have said their plea offers to Kyler Kregel, Benjamin Pettway and Samuel TeBos expire on May 31, after which they will have to take their chances at trial. A similar offer was revoked from James Cooksey earlier this month when he declared his intent to have a bench trial on July 10. Prosecutors declined to reveal details of the possible plea deals, but the offers are believed to be similar to the one another former player, Noah Spielman, took in March when he pleaded guilty to a single charge of misdemeanor battery and received one year of conditional discharge and 100 hours of community service.

The remaining players face felony charges of aggravated battery, unlawful restraint and mob action. The men are accused of abducting teammate Charles Nagy, now 21, from his dorm on March 19, 2016, putting a pillowcase over his head, binding him with duct tape, placing him into a pickup truck and driving him to a baseball field near Hawthorne Elementary School in Wheaton. Prosecutors said the defendants are accused of repeatedly punching and kicking Nagy, kicking dirt on him and then leaving him partially nude on the field. Authorities say Nagy suffered two torn labra as a result of being bound with duct tape, but defense attorneys are now studying his medical records to determine whether he had pre-existing issues. Attorney Paul DeLuca, who represents Kregel, and attorney Richard Kayne, who represents Pettway, both said Wednesday they are not yet sure which path their clients will take. Attorney Todd Pugh, who represents Samuel TeBos, could not be reached for comment. "We have not decided yet," DeLuca said. "(We're) just going through Nagy's medical reports." Kregel has a May 29 court date, while TeBos and Pettway aren't expected back in court until June 5. Nagy also filed a civil suit against Wheaton College, which names Kregel, TeBos, Cooksey and Pettway. In the suit Nagy says the college ignored the hazing. The civil case will next be heard on May 30.

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Copyright 2018 The Columbus Dispatch
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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

 

Athletes should neither stand nor kneel during the national anthem. The same goes for fans. Because the song should not be played in the first place.

Kaboom.

Seriously, beyond tradition, which is always changing, why play "The Star-Spangled Banner" before sporting events? These are games, not political rallies. You love your country? So do I, but I don't need to place my hand over my heart before an Ohio State football game to prove it.

Anti-American? To the contrary, I prefer celebrating my freedom without fans spilling beer or bumping me on their way to the bathroom.

A better idea would be for each team to craft its own theme song — many already have them, dreadful though they may be — to play before games. A sports-themed tune for a sporting event. What a concept. (Aside: while we're at it, why does one football fight song represent nearly every college sport? E.g. "Drive, drive on down the field," makes no sense at an Ohio State basketball game.)

Don't get me wrong, I like our national anthem. Difficult to sing, yes, but it stirs the emotions in the proper context. It's just that a sporting event, other than the Olympics or other international events, seldom is that setting.

Please prove to me the value of exalting the United States prior to athletes whacking a tennis ball or running the 100-meter dash. To honor those who serve our country or who paid the ultimate price defending our freedom? Sorry, doesn't wash.

I have family members who ultimately paid that price and I guarantee it was not so LeBron could drop a triple-double on the Celtics. And last I looked, China is a communist country where fans get to watch sports. Just like us. There goes that argument.

The hot-button issue of athletes protesting against treatment of African-Americans in the U.S. took a new turn on Wednesday when the NFL outlined a plan allowing each team to decide its own anthem policy, and removed the requirement that players must be on the sideline for the anthem. Players now will have the option to remain in the locker room.

The aim of my drop-the-anthem agenda is not to sweep the controversy under the rug and eliminate a public forum by which athletes can protest. Players have a right to kneel during the anthem, and teams and leagues have a right to discipline them. Even actions that are legal have consequences.

Politics did not drive my opinion. The current hullabaloo simply triggered in me an innocent question: Why play the anthem before games?

I checked history. The earliest documented performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" before a sporting event occurred on May 15, 1862, at a baseball game in Brooklyn, New York. But for decades the song was reserved for special occasions such as opening day, according to Marc Ferris in "Star-Spangled Banner: The Unlikely Story of America's National Anthem."

It was not until 1931 that the anthem went national, with President Herbert Hoover signing a bill making "The Star-Spangled Banner" our official anthem.

And it was not until World War II that the anthem became standard protocol at sporting events. Why? Mostly because stadium sound systems improved, allowing for recorded music.

So there you have it, a tradition born of technology as much as patriotism.

Given current circumstances, I say respect and protect the national anthem, not only from kneeling athletes and image-conscious owners but also from a party atmosphere — and let's face it, a here-we-go-again attitude — that elevates casual take-for-granted routine over reflection.

It's time to stop playing the anthem before "Play ball."

roller@dispatch.com

@rollerCD

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Copyright 2018 The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

MADISON - The numbers are staggering and should scare anyone involved in college athletics.

Michigan State officials recently agreed to a $500 million settlement with more than 300 females who said they were sexually abused by Larry Nassar, a doctor who worked for USA Gymnastics and MSU.

Nassar's trial and conviction on charges of sexual abuse sparked outrage from coast to coast.

University of Wisconsin officials, mindful of the Nassar case, have been studying for several months whether UW is doing all it can to adequately protect its students.

Professor Peter Miller, chairman of the UW Athletic Board and a faculty representative to the Big Ten and NCAA, is one of several individuals working to compile a report on student-athlete safety/health at UW.

"It is not a broader audit of the whole functioning of the department," Miller informed members of the athletic board earlier this year. "It is not at all being done in response to problems that we think are here. It is not an investigation in any way.

"It is kind of a proactive search of what is going on."

Miller plans to share several substantive items during the June 15 athletic board meeting, though the full report won't be ready by then.

"We are going to share it widely," he said of the full report. "We'll share it with the athletic department. We'll share it with our teams. We'll share it with the chancellor. We'll share it with the University Committee. We'll share it with the Board of Regents."

According to Miller, individuals aiding in the compilation of the report include Dr. Richard J. Davidson, founder and director of the Center for Healthy Minds at UW; and Kristen Roman, the UW chief of police.

Officials have received feedback from more than 500 people associated with the UW athletic department - including administrative staff, coaches and students.

One area of study is the medical care athletes receive at UW.

"What does that look like in the training room?" Miller noted. "What does it look like when you have an injury? What does the protocol communication look like?

"How do we know who is working with our students and how are they vetted?

"This is a process that we're taking very seriously. It's not an empirical study. It's not something that we're going to try to make empirical conclusions about. It is a limited process.

"We're not claiming to find every single issue but we're trying to make it the best we can."

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Copyright 2018 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.
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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Major League Soccer is expected to announce Cincinnati as its next expansion team on Tuesday.

A press conference 'regarding Cincinnati's soccer future' will take place at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Cincinnati. FC Cincinnati owner Carl Lindner III, MLS Commissioner Don Garber, FC Cincinnati President and General Manager Jeff Berding, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley will be in attendance.

 

MLS awarded a bid to Nashville in December and had expected to announce another team at that time as well but delayed a decision as finalists Cincinnati, Detroit and Sacramento all had elements of their bid that needed addressed.

Cincinnati was still sorting out its soccer-specific stadium plans at the time. However, the club finally completed its bid with a West End stadium deal passing with a 5-4 City Council Vote on April 9. The club signed a Community Benefits Agreement was signed with a group representing West End residents last week.

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Copyright 2018 The Buffalo News
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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

The owners of National Football League teams agreed on Wednesday to a new policy for player conduct during the playing of the national anthem, an issue escalated last season into a national debate that involved President Trump.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said that owners voted to fine teams if their players are on the field or sidelines but do not stand during the national anthem, though players will be allowed to stay in the locker room if they choose. Players had previously been required to be on the field for the anthem.

The new policy was adopted at the league's spring meeting in Atlanta without involvement from the players' union. It is unclear how players will respond to the new rules.

The San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling for the anthem in the 2016 season to protest racism and police brutality. He was soon joined by several teammates and dozens of other players around the NFL, continuing into last season.

While some fans applauded the protests, many others were critical, saying the players were disrespecting the country.

The protests were also discomfiting to largely conservative NFL owners. Kaepernick has filed a grievance saying he was blackballed by league owners; no team offered him a job after he left the 49ers.

The goal, in Kim Pegula's view, was to try to find a compromise. The Bills' co-owner believes the NFL achieved as much with the new policy put in place.

"One of the things that we wanted was a consensus from the ownership group on a policy going forward," Pegula told The Buffalo News. "But we know that there's no exact right answer to this. This is a very delicate situation, a very personal situation to many people. So coming out with a policy that allows and gives the freedom and the choice to our players to sit in the locker room but still recognizes the importance that Terry and I feel, as well as the league, that standing for the anthem and showing the respect of the flag is embodied in the kind of character that we want as a league and as a team. So I think it was a great compromise to get that done.

"And I know from our situation, we will not stop doing some of the programs that we put in place last year after talking to our players. I always talk about how we have a better sense of communication. I addressed the whole team last year about the situation. We've had internal talks among our staff and our teams and we've put in place a lot of programs. "

Pegula also pointed out that the NFL has a matching fund grant up to $500,000 per team to address issues the club and its players wish to highlight.

"All these things I think are good ways to show not only our fans and our players that there's issues we understand, that there's issues out there and we want to make sure that we're understanding of them and allowing them the freedom to be people as well as players for us," Pegula said. "I thought it was a great compromise and will allow the players to have that choice."

News Sports Reporter Vic Carucci contributed to this report.

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Copyright 2018 Newsday, Inc.

Newsday (New York)

 

ATLANTA — Despite the NFL's approval of a revised policy that requires players on the field to stand during the national anthem, Jets chairman Christopher Johnson told Newsday on Wednesday that his players are free to take a knee or perform some other protest without fear of repercussion from the team.

League owners unanimously adopted a policy that allows players who don't want to participate in the anthem to remain in the locker room. Players who do appear on the field for the anthem must stand; if they don't, their respective club faces a league-issued fine and teams can levy additional fines.

"I do not like imposing any club-specific rules," Johnson said. "If somebody takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organization, by me, not the players. I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players. Do I prefer that they stand? Of course. But I understand if they felt the need to protest. There are some big, complicated issues that we're all struggling with, and our players are on the front lines. I don't want to come down on them like a ton of bricks, and I won't. There will be no club fines or suspensions or any sort of repercussions. If the team gets fined, that's just something I'll have to bear."

Johnson has been highly critical of the possibility that owners would require players to stand. During the owners meetings in Orlando in March, Johnson told reporters he didn't feel a change in protocol was necessary. "I know there's some discussion of keeping players off the field until after the anthem. I think that's a particularly bad idea . . . I just think that trying to forcibly get the players to shut up is a fantastically bad idea."

No Jets players took a knee last season. Instead, the players, coaches and Johnson locked arms during the playing of the anthem. Johnson also has worked closely with several Jets players, as well as former linebacker Demario Davis, who now plays with the Saints, to promote social justice and criminal reform issues. He wants that work to continue and will speak with players and coaches in the coming days to make sure the new workplace guidelines don't interfere with that mission.

"I seriously struggled with this," he said of the anthem modifications approved by the owners. "You know my position on the anthem, and you have to understand that the plan we ended up with, due to some serious work in the room, was vastly less onerous than the one that was presented to me late last week. In the end, I felt I had to support it from a membership standpoint."

The fact that Johnson will pay any fines out of his own pocket and not sanction any players who may want to demonstrate during the anthem made it more palatable that he join his fellow owners in approving the anthem protocol.

"Even without those fines, this is going to be tough on the players, and I want a chance to speak with the coaches and other players to get feedback on this policy and to build on the good work and momentum that we have built up on these issues of social justice, on legislation, and all the things that we can do," he said. "I don't think that this policy will interfere with that at all.

"I have a really good relationship with the players, and I hope we can keep that going and I trust that we will. I'm so proud of our players and their efforts to date. I think that is the most important thing to get across. I could not be more proud of the guys."

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Copyright 2018 Orange County Register
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Orange County Register (California)

 

Members of a Congressional subcommittee expressed outrage and frustration Wednesday at the continued inability of the U.S. Olympic Committee, the Center for Safe Sport and top national sports governing bodies to effectively address sexual abuse within the American Olympic movement and accused USA Gymnastics of covering up sexual abuse by Olympic and national team physician Larry Nassar.

A more than 21/2-hour and often heated hearing by the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce committee repeatedly highlighted seven years of missteps by the USOC in setting up the Center for Safe Sport and exposed misplaced priorities and a lack of transparency and commitment by the USOC, USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming and other NGBs in dealing with sexual abuse in American Olympic sports.

"There appears to be a history of the USOC knowing of allegations of sexual abuse and doing nothing," said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.

While top executives for the USOC, USA Swimming, USA Gymnastics, USA Volleyball and USA Taekwondo apologized during the hearing for their organizations' mistakes in dealing with sexual abuse, members of the sub-committee repeatedly expressed skepticism and frustration at several of the executives' inability to detail the extent of sexual abuse within their sports or outline clear plans to tackle the problem 21 months since allegations of Nassar's sexual abuse first became public.

At one point Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., demanded acting USOC Chief Executive Susanne Lyons resign.

In particular, committee members complained that seven years after the USOC-created Center for Safe Sport was first recommended by a USOC task force, the center remains underfunded and understaffed.

"Honestly, I'm not reassured by your testimony because I don't hear a sense of urgency," said Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., whose constituents included some of Nassar's victims whom he abused at the Michigan State University sports medicine clinic and local gymnastics clubs. "I keep hearing, 'Well, we're going to do it, we're going to get to this, we're going to do it.' What is out there to (protect young athletes)?"

Subcommittee members charged that the USOC and national governing bodiescontinue to make Olympic success and protecting the Olympic brand a priority over protecting young athletes.

A USOC commissioned audit released in October 2017 found that 43 of 48 national governing bodies for Olympic sports, as well as the USOC, had deficiencies in safe sport policies and procedures.

"One of the concerns that the committee has heard repeatedly from survivors is that the USOC is more concerned about its own reputation, about medals and money than it is about athlete safety," Walden said.

Just last month, a USOC policy document listed "the effect on the USOC's reputation" as one of six items a review panel will consider in ruling on a sexual abuse complaint and imposing sanctions.

"I'll have to admit to not having seen that before and I have to say it does not belong on that list," said Lyons after a long pause when questioned by Walden about the April document.

USOC documents from 2011 and 2017 had similar references,Walden said.

Lyons replaced longtime USOC CEO Scott Blackmun, who was forced out earlier this year amid widespread outrage within the American Olympic community over what former Olympic medalists and other critics describe as a lack of leadership, commitment and transparency by the USOC in the midst of the biggest sexual abuse scandal in American sports history.

"There were warning signs about sexual misconduct in amateur sports for decades and yet the systems that were supposed to protect our athletes failed," said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo.

Lyons described organizations within the American Olympic movement and their sexual abuse policies as "unresponsive, needlessly complex, fraught with risks... appalling and unacceptable."

"The Olympic community failed the people it was supposed to protect," she said.

USOC officials in the past have maintained they were limited in what they could do about sexual abuse cases by the Stevens Amateur Sports Act. As recently as 2016, a USOC attorney said in a deposition the organization didn't have jurisdiction in cases involving sexual abuse in U.S. Olympics sports.

"What precisely is the authority of the USOC when it comes to protecting athletes?" Walden asked.

"I think the act gives us much broader authority than we've exercised in the past," Lyons said.

Much of the hearing focused on USA Gymnastics' handling of the Nassar case and the launching and effectiveness of the Center for Safe Sport. Dozens of civil suits allege that Nassar sexually abused more than 250 gymnasts and young female athletes.

"At the very least there was a cover-up, things weren't transparent or clear and I think that added to the frustration of athletes, parents and the general public as well," Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., said of USA Gymnastics' role in the Nassar scandal.

The hearing was the first major public appearance by USA Gymnastics CEO Kerry Perry, who was hired in December to replace Steve Penny, who was forced out after the USOC demanded his removal.

Perry has been widely criticized by former Olympians and U.S. national team members for making marketing and sponsorship deals a priority over transparency and forming and implementing effective plans to tackle sexual abuse.

Perry, who was prepped for the hearing by former prosecutor Deborah J. Daniels, tried to stick to scripted talking points during the hearing and at times was even self-congratulatory, but stumbled when questioned about several major issues.

When asked by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, why USA Gymnastics had not provided the panel with an aggregate number of sexual abuse complaints it has received, Perry said, "Unfortunately, what I've discovered is there wasn't a lot of great data. I can't answer to that."

"Miss Perry, I'm glad that you're here today, but a lot of people have been wanting to hear from you since you took a job," Dingell said. "You've got to be transparent with everybody."

The Center for Safe Sport was first recommended by a USOC working group in 2010. The center was approved by the USOC in 2014 but didn't open until March 2017.

In its 14 months of operation, the center has received 500 reports and inquires. A year ago the center received 20-30 complaints a month, center CEO and president Shellie Pfohl said.

"Now it's 20 to 30 a week," she said.

The center has a $4.6 million budget, with the USOC pledging to increase its annual support to $3.1 million. The center has five full-time investigators, with an additional seven external investigators under contract.

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Corpus Christi Caller-Times

 

Jose Garcia spread a blue liquid with a scraping tool near the restaurant in Schlitterbahn Corpus Christi as the water park's general manager walked by.

Garcia was one of the many people working Wednesday to put the finishing touches on improvements made to Schlitterbahn in Corpus Christi, said Jim Kunau, general manager.

"Our goal is to have a five-star resort here," Kunau said. "Well over $1 million has been spent."

Workers have spent the past three weeks improving the park's landscaping, pools, and restaurants he said.

Kunau, the former general manager of Hurricane Alley Waterpark in Corpus Christi, has been with Schlitterbahn since November. In those short seven months, a lot has changed. The water park went from being at risk of foreclosure, to being up for auction to being bought by new owners.

IBC Bank purchased the water park on North Padre Island for $20 million May 1. Through all the changes, admission prices, season passes and special events are expected to stay the same.

"The new ownership has been fantastic. The last few weeks we've been getting ready," Kunau said about the water park's opening on May 26. "We're going to see that this is great for the city great for tourism. We're going to deliver that promise."

Some of the changes, especially the new painting and landscaping, are intended to make guests feel as if they are escaping reality.

Schlitterbahn hired WLE, an Austin-based landscaping company, to update the park's landscaping. The company has brought in about 30 workers from Austin and about 16 from the Corpus Christi area, said Johnny McDonnell, division manager.

"(We're) excited we can help them and grow this partnership so they can complete their dream and vision they're wanting," he said.

Other improvements to the park include replacing cabana equipment and painting pool bottoms white. New food items have also been added to the menu.

"We're hoping to find that you see that crystal blue look," Kunau said, referring white pool bottoms. "It's refreshing to swim in that."

Though the water park is on the fast track to its opening day, some parts of the park will not be open.

Twenty-two of the resort's 92 hotel rooms remain closed because of roof damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, Kunau said. During the hurricane, large pieces of the aluminum roof were torn off and air condition units were also lifted by Harvey's winds.

The golf course, which is not being used, is being maintained while the owners discuss a plan of action for the course. Kunau did not comment further about the course because discussions are ongoing.

He said his focus is on making the necessary improvements needed for the park's opening.

"We're excited and ramped up. Change is here," Kunau said. "This is not the same property that it was three weeks ago."

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USA TODAY

 

When catcher Yadier Molina got hit in the crotch by a foul-tipped, 102 mph fastball on May 6, the medical personnel at Busch Stadium in St. Louis weren't the only ones who sprang into action.

So did people who manufacture and sell athletic cups.

Craig Diamond of Diamond MMA said he mailed Molina one of his company's protective cups about the same time the Cardinals' All-Star catcher had surgery for a traumatic hematoma.

Owners of a company called NuttyBuddy said they followed suit, shipping to Molina their uniquely shaped cup and a note that explained, "It's anatomically correct."

And the founder of Armored Nutshellz told the Fox TV affiliate in St. Louis that the Cardinals bought bullet-resistant cups from the Missouri company soon after the injury, which is expected to sideline Molina for four weeks. That news report went viral thanks to video of Jeremiah Raber, founder of Armored Nutshellz, wearing a cup and taking a 9-millimeter bullet fired from a Smith & Wesson rifle — without the cup so much as cracking.

"The more awareness about the potential dangers of groin injuries, the better for all of us," said Craig Diamond, founder of Diamond MMA, "for all of the guys really trying to make a quality product."

They're not all guys.

Cup makers today include everyone from an entrepreneurial baseball mom and her 12-year-old son to large companies, using everything from plastic to Kevlar and selling their products for as little as $10 and as much as $125. Not wearing a cup can be much costlier.

In 2017, Bosnian soccer player Marin Galic became the latest professional athlete to lose a testicle after a competition-related injury.

John Baker, a retired major league catcher who played in the big leagues from 2008 to 2014 and outspoken advocate for wearing cups, said Molina's injury provides an opportunity. "I would argue there's probably more discussion about EvoShields and elbow guards than there is about groin protection," Baker told USA TODAY. "Hopefully Yadi's OK and he makes a full recovery, and hopefully it starts a talking point."

The oddities of cups

Claude Berry, who played sporadically in the big leagues from 1904 to 1915, hit three home runs and batted .219. But his impact transcended statistics. A catcher who suited up for the White Sox, Philadelphia Athletics and Pittsburgh Rebels, he's credited with introducing the cup to the majors, according to the book The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball.

Cal Ripken Jr. wore a metal cup during his Hall of Fame baseball career, according to a 2012 interview with National Public Radio. "My dad, it is kind of weird, and this is true," Ripken said, explaining that when he was headed for the pros his father gave him a Baltimore Orioles bag, then presented him with a metal cup and said, "Welcome to manhood."

Not all cups are capable of stopping a speeding bullet, or even a hard object. In 2009, Under Armour voluntarily recalled about 210,000 cups after five reports of the product breaking, including an injury involving cuts and bruising, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. A year earlier, a Yale lacrosse player sued Shock Doctor, the brand leader in cup sales. The thrust: an allegedly defective cup resulted in the player losing use of at least one testicle, sexual performance anxiety and partial loss of ability to father children, according to court records. The matter was settled out of court, records show.

Juan Uribe, a former major league third baseman, took a 106 mph grounder against his unprotected groin in 2016. He continued to play without a cup and explained, "My trainer told me they don't have my size."

Former major league pitcher Mark Littell, founder of NuttyBuddy, suggests there's no such problem with his cups, which rather than small, medium and large come in the following sizes: Hammer, Boss, Hog, Trophy and Mongo.

Said Littlell, "No one wants to walk up to the counter and tell the girl, 'I'm a small.'"

Cup culture

A day before Molina got hit, Minnesota outfielder Eddie Rosario demonstrated another side of the cup culture.

In the fourth inning of the Twins game against the White Sox, Rosario fouled off a curveball that hit the ground and bounced back into his groin. Teammates in the dugout laughed as Rosario waited for the pain to subside. "It hurt, it hurt," Rosario told reporters after the game. "They think it's funny, but it's not funny."

He continues to play without a cup. "The cup is for the catcher, infield guys," he told USA TODAY. "I don't need one."

Based on interviews with active and former players in the major leagues, this is how it works: All catchers wear cups, many pitchers and infielders forgo them and virtually all outfielders play without them.

"I think a lot of players have gotten away from them for whatever reasons, and we don't mandate it or anything like that," noted Paul Molitor, the Twins manager who also said he wore a cup during his Hall of Fame playing career from 1978 to 1998. "I don't know why they would make that choice."

The discomfort of wearing a cup often is cited as a reason. But Torii Hunter, a five-time All-Star outfielder who played in the majors from 1997 to 2015, invoked machismo. "I got hit there before," Hunter said. "I just take it like a man."

Brian Dozier, a second baseman for the Twins, said he finds such sentiment mind-boggling. "I can't even imagine going to the plate without a cup," he said. "Just how hard guys throw now, with movement, and you're trying to hit and you have one that slips away at 100 mph. You can't just get out of the way very quickly."

Yet across all sports, those who do wear cups are in the minority, research suggests.

Less than 13% of the 700 high school and college male athletes surveyed as part a 2015 study said they wear a protective athletic cup. The study, conducted by urologists at The Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, also found that across all sports, 18% of athletes reported experiencing a testicular injury and 36% said they observed team members suffer testicular injuries.

The highest prevalence of testicular injuries occurred in lacrosse, followed by wrestling, baseball and football, according to the study.

"I don't know if there's invincibility, but it's painfully clear that today's Millennial generation approaches wearing a protective cup differently than past generations," Joel Sumfest, lead author of the study, told the Williamsport (Pa.) Sun Gazette. "As I remember back, we wore cups all of the time, but it's different now."

Health risks

The issue of cups and the risks of testicular injury is an important public health issue, said Ajay Nangia, a reproductive specialist and a vice chair of urology at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

"It's no laughing matter," Nangia told USA TODAY. "Every sport is susceptible, too, if it's a contact sport."

Although data is scarce, testicular injuries in pro sports have been extensive and excruciating.

Josias Manzanillo was pitching for the Mariners in 1997 when he was hit by a line drive off the bat of Manny Ramirez that tore both of Manzanillo's testicles, according to published reports. He lost one of the testicles during surgery.

Others who have lost a testicle because of sports-related injuries include Virgil Livers, a retired NFL cornerback; Nick Fotiu, a retired NHL forward; and Paul Wood, a retired British rugby player.

Athletes who had testicular surgery include Spurs guard Manu Ginóbili, Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph and retired NHL defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.

A military study of groin protective equipment for combat soldiers indicates athletes would benefit by wearing cups, said Kevin McVary, chair and professor of urology at Southern Illinois University. "The message is that some type of protection makes a big difference," McVary said. "A blast injury must be umpteen times more forceful than a baseball, which I would say tells me that it's applicable. If you have more protection than you need, well, what's the loss? Whatever discomfort of the cup is."

Complaints about discomfort have spurred companies such as Diamond MMA, NuttyBuddy and Armored Nutshellz to search for solutions.

The cup business

Armored Nutshellz's Raber said he might have to quit his job with the St. Louis Sewer District. That's because he has been flooded with orders since the video of him taking the 9-millimeter bullet while wearing a cup went viral, he said.

The video has been viewed almost 660,000 times since it was posted three years ago and viewed frequently the past couple of weeks, when the visibility of the company Raber has been running in his spare time has skyrocketed.

"I didn't grow up thinking, 'Hey, I want to make a better cup,'" said Raber, 41, who explained that he saw a need for a better cup more than a decade ago while watching a UFC fighter lose a match after a fighter took repeated leg kicks to the crotch.

Like other companies, Raber addressed comfort. He narrowed the bottom of the cup that some athletes said restricted their movement.

And his use of Kevlar and other ballistic-grade material seems to have attracted new customers, which Raber said includes the Orioles, Indians, Angels, Brewers, Yankees, Padres, Rays and Rangers.

Joseph, the Orioles catcher who suffered a testicular injury in 2016, has helped spread the word. "I've been hit multiple times and haven't felt anything, really," Joseph, who said he was using the same cup he wore in high school at the time of his injury and then began wearing the Kevlar cup, told USA TODAY. "It's really saved me.

"Velocities are so much higher. It's dangerous. You're looking at a lot of the concussions catchers are having, and even umpires, just from foul balls. Imagine that in your groin area. Nutshellz, they make an unbelievable product."

But there's competition.

Shock Doctor helped fuel ergonomic progress with a curved, banana-shaped cup. Diamond MMA also touts a design that promotes comfort, and NuttyBuddy touts its anatomically-correct design.

Whatever cup is used must be worn properly to be effective, and most companies sell compression shorts or jockstraps to hold the cup in place.

"People don't really know how to wear these products," said Littell, who is relaunching his product this summer and selling the cups with compression shorts. "They seem to throw a cup down there and think it should be worn loose."

Some details about Molina's injury remain unknown. The Cardinals declined even to say whether he was wearing a cup, but a video posted last week on Facebook offers at least a clue. The video shows Molina standing in front of his locker and the apparent victim of a prank. After looking inside the locker, as if searching in vain, he turns back to the video camera.

Then he holds up a sack with something inside, smiles and says, "At least I have my cup."

Contributing: Steve Berkowitz and Gabe Lacques

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Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

 

At 6 feet tall and 195 pounds, Tony Megna was considered too small to be a college football linebacker. Megna was determined, though, to play for the University of Wisconsin-Madison squad.

As a walk-on in 2007, Megna said, he was expected to work harder than his peers on the field and at practice. His attitude was, "You're playing NCAA football. You're a warrior."

Megna said he knew he was putting his body on the line for the game but, "I wasn't aware of brain injury."

Disturbed by what he has learned since his football career ended, Megna is now planning legal action. He intends to join a group of former college football players who have filed 111 lawsuits to date seeking to create a class action against the NCAA and its athletic conferences.

His attorney, Jeff Raizner of Houston, said there is a "high likelihood" Megna will be a plaintiff in the case, which is months, if not years, away from trial. If filed, Megna's claim could become the first to pull UW-Madison into the litigation.

The suits, which were moved to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in 2016, are seeking compensation for medical bills, lost income and reduced future earnings related to brain injuries from playing college football. According to the lawsuits, the NCAA has known about the dangers of brain injuries for more than 80 years.

Megna estimates he racked up between $15,000 and $20,000 in medical expenses over the past eight years related to head injuries.

The NCAA has filed motions to dismiss the claims on the grounds that the former players have not brought forth "a claim upon which relief can be granted." The NCAA also argues that the statute of limitations has run out ? an argument the plaintiffs' attorneys dispute.

The association declined to respond to questions for this story. The UW Athletic Department also declined to comment.

'I couldn't do it anymore'

Megna said that he began suffering severe, chronic headaches in the off-season before his junior year, forcing him to miss most of the 2009 season. The Oak Creek native then turned to medical staff, neurologists and doctors specializing in headaches.

Megna said he found few answers about the cause of the headaches that swept over him up to 30 times a day.

"None of them ever said, 'Oh, well, you're getting headaches because you're getting hit in the head 100 times a week,' " Megna said.

Instead, he was given medication to reduce inflammation and mask the pain. It never did. Megna said he was never told he might need to step away from the sport.

That decision came from Megna. He left the team before his junior year but returned at the team's request as a backup to Chris Borland, who just six years later walked away from a multimillion-dollar contract with the San Francisco 49ers over concerns about head injuries. Borland now is a national figure in a campaign to raise awareness about sports-related brain injuries.

"It was getting to the point," Megna said, "where I couldn't get through practice without throwing up. I couldn't concentrate in school. I almost flunked out a semester because of poor concentration, couldn't remember things, short-term memory loss. It was very much a decision of I couldn't do it anymore."

Megna's father, Mark, remembers watching his son struggle to keep going.

"I mean, he hit every day in practice like everybody else," Mark Megna recalled. "It was gut-wrenching to watch. I mean he literally almost died playing."

Earlier this year, the NCAA's major conferences approved a program that guarantees medical treatment for athletic injuries for at least two years after the athlete leaves the sport.

Philadelphia attorney Sol Weiss, the co-lead counsel for the former players, said the NCAA needs to get more serious about current and former athletes' safety.

"For decades, the NCAA has failed to protect and educate those in its care on the risks associated with college football," Weiss said in an interview.

But according to Joshua Gordon, an instructor in sports business and law at the University of Oregon, the lawsuits are unlikely to bring about a "systemic, tide change" for the NCAA. Gordon said rather than a sweeping class action, he expects to see individual settlements and narrow, case-specific rulings.

According to Gordon, the bigger impact may be on public opinion.

"There's an overall theme developing that the NCAA doesn't care about student athletes and that the NCAA is not about academic missions or any of that," he said.

Former football players sue

There are currently 111 lawsuits filed against the NCAA, each covering one or more former players alleging brain injuries from playing football. The claims were brought by those who played football as far back as 1952. The plaintiffs are demanding medical care to cover former athletes for symptoms that persist or develop years later, lost earnings and other damages.

Four cases have been chosen to represent other plaintiffs so District Judge John Lee can determine if the court will certify the class and what restrictions to place on it. Raizner said Megna's case would likely move forward after the four sample cases have been litigated.

The four sample cases and possible class certification will be ruled on in 2019 or 2020, based on the court's scheduling order. They are:

-Eric Weston, who was a defensive end at Weber State in Utah from 1996 to 1997. He sometimes could not remember the games he had just played.

-Jamie Richardson, a wide receiver at the University of Florida from 1994 to 1996. He said he was put back into games despite being concussed.

-Michael Rose and Timothy Stratton, who played for Purdue University in the late 1990s. Rose, a linebacker, suffers from ailments including uncontrollable mood swings. Stratton, a tight end, claims he is plagued by anxiety, anger and depression.

-Zack Langston, a linebacker at Pittsburg State University in Kansas from 2007 to 2010. Wracked by paranoia, memory loss and stress, in 2014, Langston shot himself in the chest. He wanted his brain to be preserved for research. An autopsy determined he had been suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative neurological brain disease which has been linked to repeated blows to the head.

He was 26.

Career ended but symptoms endure

When he left the team and left the sport, Megna lost the medical care he received as a student athlete. As the symptoms persisted, Megna sought out medical advice on his own.

He said he suffered from major periods of depression, bouts of anxiety and suicidal thoughts ? all symptoms associated with trauma and potentially CTE. The disease has been shown to induce symptoms that range from mild, such as impaired judgment and mood swings, to aggressive, such as increased risk of suicide, Parkinson's and dementia.

Megna said he still suffers from occasional headaches, but they are not as severe as they once were.

"Research suggests that I will have dementia by the time I am 40 or 50," said Megna, now 29. "So that is the risk of playing competitive football. So I guess that has become my life work ? to make sure that does not happen."

In his journey to find answers about his own health problems, he turned to nontraditional medicine, including acupuncture. Due to the fact he "wasn't getting hit in the head while trying to learn," Megna was able to graduate from the Midwest College of Oriental Medicine in Racine with a master's degree in traditional East Asian medicine. He owns Integrated Heights Wellness and Healing Center in Mount Pleasant.

The season after Megna left the Badgers team, the NCAA instituted the Concussion Management Plan, requiring every school to have a protocol in place to help prevent and treat head trauma.

The NCAA requires players to sign waivers at the beginning of each season after receiving the mandated concussion education, agreeing to report any concussion-related symptoms.

The litigation that Megna plans to join is a follow-up to a 2013 class action lawsuit brought by current and former athletes that resulted in a settlement mandating that the NCAA set up a $70 million medical monitoring program for college athletes plus $5 million for concussion research.

The program does not include treatment.

End of football?

Megna knows what it takes to be successful at football. It is also what makes the sport so dangerous.

"You become animalistic, you go crazy. You just have no fear. You just have to put your body on the line, " Megna said.

Can football ? a multi-billion dollar sport which millions of Americans have come to love ? coexist with player safety?

According to Mark Megna: Probably not.

"It's one of the only employers that is purposely putting their employees in harm's way," said Megna, who is a corporate executive at Doral Corp. in Oak Creek. "You could never put your employees in harm's way, (but) ? this is just done as part of the game.

"Because that is the game."

Luke Schaetzel, a recent University of Wisconsin-Madison journalism graduate, is a freelance reporter based in Madison. Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism Managing Editor Dee J. Hall contributed to this report. The nonprofit Center (www.WisconsinWatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates. The Center's collaborations with journalism students are funded in part by the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment at UW-Madison.

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USA TODAY

 

The old joke in the now-professional world of the Olympic Games is that the last amateurs left in Olympic sports are the people running them.

Never have we seen more scrutiny of that leadership, and the system it runs, than in recent months in the midst of the horrifying sex abuse scandals in USA Gymnastics, USA Taekwondo and USA Swimming. A highly anticipated congressional hearing Wednesday morning is scheduled to delve further into those scandals.

If the darkest days in the history of the U.S. Olympic movement have revealed anything, it's that even as U.S. sports fans continue to profess their devotion to the nation's Olympic athletes, most know next to nothing about the system that produces them.

It's certainly not the NFL or the NBA — not even close. It's more Mom and Pop than it is Madison Avenue. Volunteers still call many of the shots. It's diffuse and far flung, populated by tiny sports outposts with small staffs and minuscule budgets located in places like Lake Placid, N.Y., Lexington, Ky., Park City, Utah, and Colorado Springs.

These organizations are known by an unusual acronym that has been a part of our sports lexicon for years, but particularly noticeable over these last few, horrendous months: NGB.

"Who came up with that title?" Max Cobb, president and CEO of U.S. Biathlon, asked with a laugh. "We don't even have the word sports in it."

President Jimmy Carter gave us that acronym when he signed the Amateur Sports Act in 1978, creating what we know as today's U.S. Olympic movement. Sen. Ted Stevens reaffirmed it in 1998 when the act was revised.

NGB stands for National Governing Body, of which there are 49, including USA Gymnastics. Even the big ones responsible for the bulk of U.S. medals at the Summer and Winter Olympics, like those NGBs running gymnastics, swimming, skiing, track and field, basketball and figure skating, are not large by the standards of our professional leagues.

A little perspective:

In 2016, USA Gymnastics' revenue was $34.48 million. The NBA's was close to $8 billion.

Steve Penny, the now-departed USA Gymnastics CEO, made $670,729 in 2016 — a fortune in the NGB world. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver makes an estimated $10 million a year.

This in no way should explain or excuse USA Gymnastics' stunningly horrible reaction to the Larry Nassar scandal. Someone's salary should have nothing to do with his or her ability to stop the abuse of young athletes.

But there is no denying the fact that U.S. Olympic sports rarely attract the nation's best and brightest sports minds as their leaders.

"They start as swimming mothers or fathers and the next thing they know, they're the NGB president," said Harvey Schiller, the former U.S. Olympic Committee executive director who served as president of Turner Sports and chairman and CEO of YankeeNets, among other sports leadership roles.

"In some cases, these people just don't have much knowledge about running a sport. It's a continuing challenge and it's hard for a lot of these NGBs to get the right people. Getting someone to leave a major job in major cities like New York or Los Angeles isn't easy. Often the volunteer leadership on the NGB doesn't have the money to hire the best people."

Olympic gold medalist Donna de Varona has devoted much of her life to the U.S. Olympic effort, but she too knows that the money is just not there for even the most solvent NGBs to lure sports executives away from higher paying jobs.

"Let's face it, you're just not going to get an Adam Silver," she said.

Then, when an issue as devastating as the sex abuse scandal hits, while the expectation would be that it would be handled expertly, there's often not the skill set, resources or supporting cast to react the way one of our professional leagues would — leagues that also often have trouble getting things right themselves.

"The challenge is when something comes up as bad as Nassar, how do they react to it?" Schiller said. "Look at what the NFL is dealing with with head injuries and how difficult that is to figure out and solve. That's the NFL with millions of dollars at their disposal. The luge and bobsled NGBs, for instance, also have those same issues, but how do they begin to deal with it with such limited resources?"

Cobb's biathlon headquarters in New Gloucester, Maine, is about as small as a sports organization can get.

"The paid staff is me and just over one full-time equivalent divided among three part-time people," he said.

When something bad happens, Cobb said, "We're a garden hose against a skyscraper fire."

Each NGB is part paid staff, part volunteer. Each has a volunteer board to which the paid staff must answer. Schiller said that when he was the volunteer president of USA Team Handball for more than four years until February 2018, the paid CEO "wouldn't do anything publicly without talking to me."

Perhaps Congress someday will examine the structure of the U.S. Olympic movement in the midst of these historic scandals, but, as of now, the current setup is here to stay.

"If we didn't have volunteers timing on the pool deck and working at the track meets way down at the local level, we wouldn't have Olympic sports in America," de Varona said. "What are we going to do, go to a professional system like the Russians? No, we're not. The passion of the volunteers and the parents is what fuels the U.S. Olympic effort."

But the Nassar scandal has rocked the Olympic world to its core, and NGBs are rightly being examined as never before. While it will be the leaders of several of those NGBs sitting before Congress Wednesday morning, the structure of their organizations will also be on display for all the world to see.

"Not that long ago, there were some NGBs that were run out of a chief executive's home and in the hands of one individual and a board of directors without a plan," said former USOC spokesman Mike Moran.

"It's a remarkably inefficient system at times, but when it was crafted in 1978, it seemed to be the correct one for the times — which have changed dramatically."

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Copyright 2018 The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

Bucks rookie Sterling Brown plans to file a civil rights lawsuit against the Milwaukee Police Department as a result of being tased and arrested in January, his attorney confirmed.

As of Tuesday, internal investigators at the Police Department had not asked the district attorney to consider criminal charges against any of the police officers or supervisors involved in the incident, according to Milwaukee County Chief Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern.

Police Department officials have not said whether any of the police personnel who arrested Brown after questioning him about a parking violation will be disciplined. A department spokeswoman declined to provide more information about the internal investigation, which is ongoing.

The Journal Sentinel first requested body camera footage of Brown's arrest and reports about it the day it happened. Police have repeatedly denied the request, citing the pending investigation.

Brown and the Bucks have been told the body camera video will be released Wednesday, according to Brown's attorney, Mark Thomsen of Gingras, Cates & Wachs.

Three people who have watched the video told the Journal Sentinel the NBA guard does not appear to do anything to provoke police.

"He isn't combative, isn't threatening," said one source. "Very bad."

The sources asked that their names not be used because they weren't authorized to speak about the video.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said the actions of the officers depicted in the footage made him uneasy.

"It was a disturbing video when I saw it, and I know that the police chief feels the same way," Barrett said Tuesday. "And I don't know exactly what actions his department is going to take, but it is disconcerting to see some of the actions in that video."

Brown's arrest did not result in criminal charges against him. The incident began about 2 a.m. Jan. 26, when officers doing a business check at the Walgreens near West National Avenue and South 26th Street saw a vehicle parked across two handicap spaces, according to Milwaukee police.

In its initial statement, Milwaukee police said officers spoke with a 22-year-old man about the situation and "an electronic control device was deployed" during the encounter.

Brown had been arrested on a possible misdemeanor charge of resisting or obstructing an officer, but after an internal review that included viewing the body camera footage, police officials decided not to refer him to prosecutors.

He was cited for a parking violation, a police spokesman said at the time.

Brown played in a game later that day and had bruises and marks on his face. He told reporters then it was a "personal issue" and declined to discuss it further.

Daniel Bice and Mary Spicuzza of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report

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Copyright 2018 Madison Newspapers, Inc.
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The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin)

 

Though the operators of Breese Stevens Field announced the soccer league Madison will join in 2019 last Thursday, fan Riley Olson is already a committed supporter.

Olson, 25, bought his supporter club tickets that earn him a standing seat in the fan section, which will be complete with drink rails and located behind the east goal. With a local professional soccer team, Olson, an Arsenal Football Club fan, said it will be exciting to attend games in person.

"To have someone that is here in the city means a lot," Olson said. "It's not like an annual trip (to Europe) to watch a game ? It's nice to be able to come to games every time and enjoy it as a fan."

Madison Pro Soccer, a branch of Big Top Events, will join the United Soccer League Division III starting in March 2019. The team name and colors will be decided through a community engagement process.

Big Top Events runs the historic Breese Stevens Field stadium and entered into a new 10-year contract with the city of Madison last week. The city also committed to $1.3 million in upgrades to the facility, including a new speaker system, locker rooms and additional seating that raises the seating capacity from 2,800 to 5,000.

Big Top Events also announced Peter Wilt, a veteran soccer executive, will manage Madison Pro Soccer. Wilt most recently co-founded the National Independent Soccer Association.

"We're building this from the bottom up," Wilt said. "It's going to be Madison's team. It's the world's game, but this will be Madison's team."

The team will be owned by Big Top Events president Vern Stenman, Big Top Events chief operating officer Conor Caloia, Jim Kacmarcik and Steve Schmitt.

Big Top Events has pursued professional soccer as the future of the facility for the past year. Locking down a longer contract and seeking upgrades to the stadium were in an effort to secure a soccer team.

Stenman said Breese Stevens Field drove the group's interest in pursuing soccer.

"We feel very confident that its best use and its best future and the most exciting time for the community around us is in front of us today," Stenman said.

Stenman also said Madison's demographics of young professionals living on the near east side will support a robust fan base.

Dozens of soccer fans turned out for the announcement, which took place on the field, cheering and waving commemorative scarves. The announcement also prompted a delay of a girls' soccer game between Middleton and Madison East high schools, which Caloia said was fitting.

"The idea of this event taking place right before a high school soccer game kind of epitomizes everything we're trying to do here with Madison Pro Soccer, with Breese Stevens Field," Caloia said. "This is a community facility, and we really want the community to really make this facility what they want it to be."

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Copyright 2018 The Post and Courier
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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

COLUMBIA - Chris Silva had to choose between the NBA and South Carolina, and on Monday he chose South Carolina.

Brian Bowen would make the same choice if he had those two options, said USC coach Frank Martin. But Bowen doesn't, because he can't get to that choice until he hears from the NCAA.

"If all options were equal, he'd be a Gamecock next year," Martin recently said. "But there's an unknown right now."

That unknown is precisely why Bowen entered the NBA draft without an agent, thus retaining his eligibility in case the NCAA does rule on him. The organization is on no timetable to issue any sort of ruling.

But Bowen needs to know something by May 30, giving him one week before he has to pull his name out of the draft or stay in. For him, it's simple - he hears from the NCAA by May 30 or he heads to the pros.

"It'll be good to have a couple of options," he said at the NBA Draft Combine. "Comes down to I don't have the chance to go back to school, then I'll just make my jump."

The frustration is mounting for all parties. Bowen attended the combine and showed potential to someday be a good pro player. But he hasn't played since his last high school game over a year ago.

Bowen is on no mock draft boards, and it's clear he's not ready to play in the NBA. Coming out of high school, he wasn't a consensus one-and-done either, since most felt his strength - his jump shot - needed a whole lot alongside it before he could make a pro roster.

He wants to improve his game and do it at USC, where he landed after the fallout from the FBI probe into college basketball got him shunned from Louisville. Yet if he doesn't get the word from the NCAA that his college career can proceed, he'll have no choice but to stay in the draft, most likely go undrafted and either head to the G League - the NBA's minor league basketball organization - or overseas.

"I haven't got any in-depth details, honestly," Bowen said about his communications with the NCAA. "I'm hearing the minimal and being given the minimal. We're really just on their time."

Martin and USC can't force the NCAA to do anything. If they loudly decreed that somebody up there needed to do something, the NCAA would still have no pressure to act. And based on past precedent, the NCAA wouldn't look kindly on schools challenging it.

Others are doing it for them. Bowen's lawyer, Jason Setchen, tweeted a request he hoped everybody would share. Whatever the answer would be in the case, Setchen said, should be released by May 30 in the interest of due process.

It was retweeted over 1,100 times.

Then there's Jay Bilas, a college basketball guru and one of the NCAA's most vociferous critics. He has said on record that what the NCAA is doing to Bowen is unfair, considering that the NCAA ruled on other players connected to the scandal and already meted out punishment while Bowen has been left in limbo.

If the NCAA rules Bowen eligible before May 30, the decision seems simple. He would return to USC, sit through whatever further punishment the NCAA decides (he could have to miss games even after being declared eligible) and eventually suit up.

But if he's not ruled eligible by May 30, he'll stay in the draft where he has very little chance of being picked, then begin his pro career somewhere.

Frustration and impatience will become anger and outrage as the clock ticks toward May 30, but none will have any effect on the NCAA making a decision.

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South Carolina's Brian Bowen participated in the NBA Combine and received his reviews, but still doesn't know what the NCAA will do about his college eligibility. AP Photo
 
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Copyright 2018 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

PROVO — It's an unusual scenario, but BYU men's golf coach Bruce Brockbank is thrilled his team has a chance to compete for the national championship.

The Cougars earned their way to the NCAA Championships after placing second in the regionals.

Because the third round of the NCAA Championship will be played on Sunday — a day that BYU doesn't compete due to school policy — the NCAA is making an accommodation for the Cougars.

That means they'll tee off their third round at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma, Thursday, 30 minutes after the other 23 teams hold their official practice rounds.

"We haven't had to do this before. Our women's team had to do it a couple of years ago. We're fortunate that the NCAA has provided us an opportunity to play," Brockbank said. "The kids have played well all year. They deserve to play in the national championship. They qualified to get there. The circumstances are such that we're not able to compete on Sunday."

Some regard it as a controversial situation, but the Cougars are taking it in stride.

"We appreciate the opportunity and we're so glad these kids have a chance to play even though we're going to be playing a round on a day that nobody else is going to play," Brockbank said. "Is that an advantage? I don't know. It will kind of depend on the weather. I hope the weather is good for our third round and for everybody else in the field.

"That would be the best-case scenario. It's going to be very unique and interesting to see how our guys handle it. Then we'll see how the rest of the teams in the field handle it. I'm sure they're going to have their opinions because this just doesn't happen very often where you get to play a round of golf when everybody else is resting. Your guess is as good as mine on that. We'll go try to tackle it and handle whatever comes."

BYU's five players will play individually with a walking scorer and a rules official Thursday.

Coaches and players from the other schools will be allowed to watch the Cougars compete from outside the ropes. Every team is expected to have a representative there to get a view of the third-round hole locations.

A final day of 18 holes of stroke play will be held Monday, May 28, to decide the top eight teams that will advance to the match-play portion of the tournament. The national team champion will be determined by a match-play format with quarterfinals and semifinals played on May 29, followed by finals on May 30.

The Cougars are led by Patrick Fishburn, Peter Kuest, Rhett Rasmussen, CJ Lee and Spencer Dunaway. Brockbank knows to compete for a national title, he'll need strong performances from all five players — just like what happened at regionals.

This season, Brockbank's team has struggled in the first round of tournaments, and that's what happened again at regionals when BYU found itself 6 over par as a team after one hole amid 30-mile-an-hour winds.

"I'm looking at that thinking, 'Wow, we did it again,' " Brockbank recalled. "The guys stepped up and didn't get frustrated. The winds kept coming and we played steady. Even though we were in ninth place, I wasn't excited but I knew we'd have to play two great rounds. Fishburn stepped up like a team captain would and he made five birdies in a row. We got even par and then we went up to fourth place.

"What I'm most proud of is that third round, the guys — one to five — just played great golf. They were going to shoot under par no matter what it took. We fired a 10-under-par round. As a coach, you're always really satisfied when you have all five guys in the game coming down the wire."

BYU is hoping for more of the same at the NCAA Championship.

"Obviously, we've got to have our top guys show up. Karsten Creek is really a difficult golf course. The last time the NCAA Championship was there, there were some really high scores. There are some fast greens. What's it going to take to compete? I'd love to say a whole bunch of what we did in the second and third rounds at regionals.

"It depends on what the conditions are, how the course is playing. Even par is going to be a real good score. Hopefully we can do a whole bunch of that."

EMAIL: jeffc@deseretnews.com

TWITTER: AJeffreyCall

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Copyright 2018 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

SALT LAKE CITYSometime next month, Ute athletic director Chris Hill will turn the keys over to a new driver. That's gonna leave a mark. All Hill did was guide his athletic program, Moses-style, to the land of milk and honey and avocado toast.

Barring the downfall of the Pac-12 — a subject already vetted in the media — the U. should be secure for decades.

Naturally, there is high interest in who will replace the retiring Hill. Is the goal to be a college superpower, or merely competitive in a Power Five conference? The latter is where the Utes are right now. They've won only four conference titles since joining in 2011 — three in gymnastics, one in baseball. In that light, there's room for improvement. Utah is the only team that hasn't won a South Division football title. The men's basketball team has been up and down, finishing as high as tied for second and as low as 11th.

A new A.D. might demand more, though Hill was never one to aim low. He often said his plan was to give coaches what they needed to succeed, especially in the revenue sports. In return, he expected them to be in the top 25. That has happened on a fairly regular basis. Men's basketball has been ranked 27 weeks since joining the Pac-12, in football, 38.

Still, the new A.D. will arrive at a disconcerting time for the conference. Last week, CBS.com's Dennis Dodd filed a damning report on the Pac-12's inability to keep pace with other power conferences in ratings, revenue and wins. The conference's abysmal 1-8 bowl record last season, and its 0-3 flameout in the NCAA men's basketball tournament, only made it more obvious.

Now Utah is hoping to replace Hill with another visionary leader who can take it to the next level; i.e., championships in the biggest sports. There are numerous people with strong ties to the university that could be expected to apply for Hill's position, including current Utah deputy or associate A.D.s Kyle Brennan and Nona Richardson, ex-Ute and NFL quarterback Scott Mitchell, and Vivint Arena president Jim Olson. Penn State associate A.D. Charmelle Green was an All-America softball player at Utah.

Local ties often provide superb candidates. It's never wise to overlook what's under your nose. Hill was a largely unknown Crimson Club director when named to replace Arnie Ferrin in 1987. Kyle Whittingham was an unassuming defensive coordinator when he took over for Urban Meyer.

There naturally will be dozens of outside applicants who have no ties to Utah, which is where it gets tricky. Some will be athletic directors at mid-major schools, hoping to move up, or associate A.D.s at Power Five schools. It's likely there will be others who are already leading Power Five programs, but either don't like the politics at their own school, or they appreciate Utah's potential. Business figures and leaders in pro sports positions will also apply.

Of all the possibilities, Utah should avoid hiring an assistant from a Power Five program, or the head administrator at a mid-major program. Some of those will be fine candidates. But as much as anything right now, the Pac-12 needs to avoid looking subservient to other conferences.

That doesn't mean No. 2s can't have great careers. Numerous other Pac-12 schools have chosen people from smaller schools. Arizona's Dave Heeke came from Central Michigan, Washington State's Patrick Chun from Florida Atlantic, UCLA's Dan Guerrero from UC-Irvine. Washington's Jennifer Cohen previously served as an associate A.D. for the Huskies.

Colorado's Rick George, an ex-COO for the Texas Rangers, and ASU's Ray Anderson, a former executive vice president with the NFL, had clout via their titles. Oregon's Rob Mullens was deputy A.D. at Kentucky and has led the Ducks to national prominence.

They've come from a variety of backgrounds and produced varied results.

Oregon State hired former Pitt A.D. Scott Barnes. If the Utes go outside the circle of close associates to find their new director, that's the kind of candidate they should first seek.

Donor dollars are tied to whoever is running the athletic program, and nothing attracts donors like a name they know — either inside the loop, or outside the state.

But choosing from among scores of random assistants at a Power Five school, at a time when the Pac-12 is suffering a power failure, simply says the league is, well, out of its league.

EMAIL: rock@deseretnews.com

TWITTER: therockmonster

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Copyright 2018 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

A son of a special education teacher. The oldest child of eight children. The son of a Mexican immigrant who, due to deportation, can no longer reside with him in the U.S.

Each of these boys come from very different backgrounds, yet all share the same desire: to play soccer at the highest level they can.

Yet, for so many, the ability to make that dream a reality comes down to one thing that is really hard to come by: money.

In recent years, club soccer has become one of the most sought after and expensive sports in the U.S., costing anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 annually, not including travel and coaching fees, according to USA Today.

And while you can avoid this cost by letting your child ride the recreation and high school soccer wave, you may want to think again. USA Today also found that 95 percent of women and 93 percent of men who went on to play in the NCAA played club soccer as a main avenue to get there.

Nobody understands what it takes to reach a high level of soccer more than Clayson and Kelsee Parry of Clinton, who coach these boys as well as several others in their U-13 and U-14 premier club teams.

Both of them grew up playing club and high school soccer before continuing on to a higher level. Kelsee Parry played for Sparta and Fremont High School, spent a summer playing in Manchester United, then following graduation, played for the Real Salt Lake women's team in the WPSL League. Clayson Parry played for a club out of North Ogden as well as Weber High School. Following a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he played for Weber State University, where he won two national championships as the team's leading scorer and was named to the All-Tournament first team.

Both loved the opportunities soccer gave them and wanted to give back by coaching rising talent in their local area of Weber and Davis counties. What they found, however, was that it took much more than talent and hard work for these kids to be able to play. It took lots and lots of money, and it only increased as the skill level of the players increased.

"As our teams progressed, we started to travel more and enter more tournaments," Kelsee Parry said. "Clubs provide a partial scholarship for club and state fees, but as athletes get better, there are large portions not covered at all. So Clayson, a few other parents and I started to come up with ways for the boys to earn money."

The Parrys, along with several of their players and other parents, spent hours picking up garbage at fields and selling fundraiser cards at parades, art festivals, fairs and door-to-door. The boys even spent several hours cleaning their club's indoor soccer facility, sweeping, mopping and scrubbing bathrooms to help pay fees.

It was during one of these fundraising endeavors that Kelsee Parry was approached by someone who suggested she start a nonprofit organization.

"While running around cleaning and selling cards, a mom said to me that I should start a nonprofit, and it just kind of stuck with me," Kelsee Parry said. "As I grew more busy with school and work, it was so hard to keep up with all of the fundraising. I also became incredibly frustrated as some kids were not given the same opportunity to play as others were. We had a growing network and parents who were struggling to afford for their kids to keep playing."

So, in an effort to help the players, with the goal to branch out and help other players, Kelsee Parry set out to create a nonprofit that is fittingly called Everybody Plays.

In the current soccer structure, there have been rule changes to protect players as they progress to help prevent injuries and make playing fair, she said.

"However, there have been no actions made toward changing the price structure so that kids of all socioeconomic backgrounds can participate in competitive youth soccer," she said.

Parry said that she wants to help those youths playing soccer chase their dreams.

"The United States misses out on incredible talent because they don't have the capability to pay $2,000 a year at minimum. My hope for the Everybody Plays nonprofit organization is to help bridge that gap but also help kids break the cycle of poverty," she said. "Providing kids with the means to play while holding them accountable for grades, their conduct in school and in their community, and requiring them to participate in community service mimics that of a college scholarship. The goal isn't to create professional players, though why not dream big? The goal is to give them an opportunity to chase their soccer goals in their youth and into college no matter how deep their parents' pockets are."

Because of some generous donors, last year, Everybody Plays was able to provide five kids with full scholarships that covered the monthly fees, indoor fees and registration costs, as well as four others with partial scholarships that covered their registration fees.

"It has been so neat to receive funds from donors to help these kids play," Kelsee Parry said. "We hope to continue our efforts for many years to come."

For more information, go to everybodyplays2017.com

Arianne Brown is a mother of eight who loves hearing and sharing stories. For more of her writings, search "A Mother's Write" on Facebook.

Email: ariannebrown1@gmail.com

Twitter: A_Mothers_Write

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Copyright 2018 The Buffalo News
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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

The NFL approved significant changes to the kickoff play Tuesday, and Bills great Steve Tasker thinks it's a move that will make the game better.

"The hope is they get something out of this that really helps the game and makes it more important rather than takes it off the table," said Tasker, who was part of a select NFL panel that discussed the proposed changes. "I think it opens the door for a safer and yet hopefully more exciting return."

The new rules prevent the kickoff coverage team from getting a running start. The coverage men must stand within a yard of the kickoff point (usually the 35-yard line) until the ball is kicked. Meanwhile, at least eight players on the return team must be within 15 yards of where the ball is kicked and there is no hitting in the 15-yard zone between where the ball is kicked and the front line of the return team. There's also no motion by the kicking team until the ball is kicked.

The rules are designed to make the kickoff return function more like a punt return, removing the high-speed collisions among players. The hope is the change significantly reduces concussions. The rule was approved at the spring owners meeting on a one-year basis.

There were 281 concussions diagnosed by the NFL in 2017. That was up from 243 documented concussions in 2016. The NFL has stated that players were five times more likely to get a concussion on a kickoff than any other play.

"Absolutely, something needed to be done due to the rate of injuries on the play," Tasker said. "I think the coaches responded to data that they hadn't previously been told about. I think it's going to work."

Blocking for kickoff returns will change drastically.

"Instead of guys colliding, they're going to be running more side by side," Tasker said. "It's going to be more of a punt-return mentality on the up-front guys for the return rather than the collision, kickoff-return wedge-buster."

Only two players on the return team (besides the returner) can be behind the 15-yard no blocking zone, and those two can't come together to form a wedge block, as was allowed in 2017. Bigger linemen, which have been used in the wedge, are not likely to be used anymore because the back three return players all will need to be able to field the ball.

Tasker on the return-unit blocking tactics: "They're going to try to run those guys out of their lanes while running with them rather than meeting them and knocking them over or knocking them out of their lane. So the collisions will be more of a running hand fight rather than a car wreck."

The touchback rate on kickoffs last year was 58.4 percent.

"One of the things the league was really upset about was you still had a bunch of concussions on touchbacks," Tasker said. "They were appalled by the fact on a play that didn't even count, guys were getting concussions because guys would blow each other up, not knowing the ball's out of the end zone."

The average drive start after kickoffs last season was the 24.8, which counts all kickoffs that went for touchbacks. There were seven KO returns for TDs.

"Making this safer and taking away some of the techniques coaches have used will make it easier to get bigger returns and therefore you'll get guys trying to bring it out more often," Tasker said.

"You might see 12," he said of the TD total. "I think the league's going to have to be ready to deal with that."

Green Bay president Mark Murphy has stated he expects the kickoff to remain "on a short leash" as the league watches closely to see if the rules changes succeed in reducing injuries.

The NFL brought together 10 current special-teams coaches, along with a group of former players and coaches to discuss the changes in New York City in early May. Tasker was part of that group.

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Copyright 2018 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

The first day of the NFL owners meetings did not pass without some modicum of progress.

The league approved hedge-fund billionaire David Tepper as the Carolina Panthers' new owner, therefore officially vaporizing sexual and racial dinosaur Jerry Richardson, who arrived and departed the owners' meetings at a Buckhead hotel more quietly and more stealthily than most creatures from the Jurassic period.

If only resolving the anthem issue was so easy.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday that owners spent "probably an hour and a half" discussing the issue of how to deal with players who choose to kneel for the national anthem, with a representative from all 32 teams speaking.

The issue became a flash point for more divisive comments from President Donald Trump, who during a speech in Alabama in September criticized the NFL for allowing Colin Kaepernick and other players to protest social injustices and police brutality during the "Star Spangled Banner."

Blank, who has been among the faction of socially conscious owners who support the players' right to exercise their First Amendment rights, nonetheless reiterated that he thinks players should stand for the anthem.

He also believes the NFL will adopt a policy stating that "in the near future." But he added Tuesday that it "probably won't be tomorrow," when the two-day meetings wrap up.

"I think the NFL will make it clear that (standing for the anthem) is their desire, and the reason I would feel strongly about that on this club, and I would feel very disappointed (if a player protested), is we're working together on a lot of stuff to address the issues. The issues haven't been resolved, but the goal has been achieved and that's to work together to find solutions. But it will take time."

In Alabama, Trump, pandering to his base, went as far to use an expletive to describe any protester.

Sports and politics had intersected again.

NFL owners and players responded loudly and in unison, criticizing Trump. Week 3 of the NFL season turned into a coast-to-coast protest, all inside football stadiums. Several owners and players locked arms before games. Some kneeled. Some exhibited other forms of protest.

The Falcons were in Detroit, when Blank, standing in the end zone in Ford Field before the game, went off.

"The people who fought for this country going back several hundred years primarily weren't fighting for geography," he said. "They were fighting for a way of life, principles and values, and part of that is reflected in freedom of speech and to have the ability to speak on issues and (have) thoughtful and positive discussions that are based on inclusiveness, not divisiveness. It's unfortunate that the president chose to go in that direction and speak out the way he has. That kind of divisiveness and calling out accomplishes nothing, satisfies nothing."

It's a polarizing issue. I get that. Many perceive kneeling or any kind of protest during the national anthem as unpatriotic and/or some sort of attack on our military. But to assume that viewpoint ignores the actual reason most are protesting, from cases of racial injustices to police brutality to violations of civil rights.

It's no different today than it was when John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists during the U.S. anthem on the Olympic medals stand, or Muhammad Ali spoke out against the war in Vietnam, or Branch Rickey and Arthur Ashe and so many others went against the grain.

You may view a silent protest as un-American. I view it as dignified and wholly American. It makes people feel uncomfortable. But so do all protests, don't they?

Blank believes the focus now should not be on the anthem policy itself but the fact that, "The players and owners are working together at the club levels and nationwide on the issues that are the reason for protests. We'll deal with the other stuff. Players have expressed themselves and the owners are listening."

The debate among owners Tuesday included a number of ideas. Blank confirmed one owner suggested the possibility of home teams deciding whether players should be on the field or in the locker room during the anthem, therefore eliminating the issue. Another possibility was a 15-yard penalty against a team if a player kneels.

Blank opposed both ideas.

"Those were two ideas and there were other offshoots of those," Blank said. "I'm not sure the whole penalty thing works for me. I don't feel good about that."

The home-team decision idea is equally nonsensical. What's next: alternating must-stand-for-the-anthem weeks -- like water rationing?

"This is still a work in progress," Blank said.

"This is a complex issue, but from what I heard there's a lot to feel good about it because we're working together. We're in alignment on acknowledging the social issues. There's a partnership."

There's also a problem, and it needs to be fixed.

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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

Memo to NFL owners: Forcing players to stand for the national anthem would be a huge mistake. 

Sure, football players undoubtedly love their country and respect the armed forces. Yet with the owners set to begin two days of meetings Tuesday — the agenda includes discussion of possibly revising the anthem policy to effectively adopt an anti-kneeling clause — it is a great time for the league to prove just how much it gets it by... doing nothing to bully players over this issue. 

Besides, an anti-kneeling policy would seem rather hollow with Colin Kaepernick and his former San Francisco 49ers teammate, safety Eric Reid, out of work as they pursue collusion cases against the NFL.

That Kaepernick, a quarterback in his prime, can't land a job in a league with a fair share of sorry passers is about as un-American as it gets. Reid's only legitimate sniff on the free agent market abruptly ended when he wouldn't promise Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown that he wouldn't kneel to further protest police brutality and other social injustices victimizing African Americans.

The NFL is fashioned as a meritocracy, open for the best players to claim jobs based on competition. Yet in the case of Kaepernick and now Reid, we know better. Whether they can prove collusion or not, this is what being blackballed looks like.

For a league that supposedly frowns on teams asking draft prospects about their sexuality, questions about whether players might exercise their constitutional rights during the anthem as a condition of employment needs to be declared off limits, too.

Often-battered Commissioner Roger Goodell repeatedly states that he won't get involved in the "personnel decisions" of teams. Yet I suspect that predecessor Paul Tagliabue and now-deceased NFL Players Association chief Gene Upshaw might have worked through some back channels if confronted with the type of issues flowing out of the protests.

In any event, the least that Goodell can do would be to ensure that one of the ideas floated in recent weeks — that teams can devise their own anthem policies — never comes to fruition. It's one thing for teams to favor a player based on his background in a particular scheme or to be turned off due to locker room chemistry issues. But to spit in the face of American values the flag is supposed to represent by refusing to hire someone who might kneel during the anthem is such a slippery slope for a league that has employed players (and others) convicted or accused of all sorts of transgressions.

Besides, while the league allows teams to generate some internal revenue with local marketing and stadium deals, so much about the NFL (and its success as the nation's most popular sport) has been about uniformity and standards set from the league level. Teams share equally in massive TV contracts. There's a global labor deal and drug policy. Teams split proceeds from Super Bowl bids and expansion fees.

No need to go against that principle during The Star-Spangled Banner.

To allow teams to exercise their own anthem policies would be akin to pouring gas on a fire — kind of like Donald Trump did last September while spewing red-meat rhetoric to his supporters during a rally in Alabama, "Get that son of a bitch off the field right now," as his grand solution. Before Trump's declaration, you could probably count the number of protesting players across the league on one hand.

Bad for business? That's a rationalization you'll hear from some supporters of an anthem policy. Yet the same people who grumble that players are using the NFL stage to protest have no issue wrapping that same stage in patriotism — with symbols that mean different things to different people in this culturally diverse society.

Like it or not, the convergence of sports and societal issues doesn't need to go away. It needs to be accepted. If players are compelled to make a peaceful gesture on behalf of people who don't have a voice, so be it. What's the harm? It might even raise consciousness that could lead to positive action.

What NFL owners need to adopt is a do-right policy. League support of initiatives that are ongoing with the Players Coalition — led by Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, former stud wideout Anquan Boldin and Doug Baldwin, the dynamic Seahawks receiver — is a much-needed, long overdue step toward pursuing solutions. The protest-to-progress mind-set is clearly legitimate, and the NFL's clout can't hurt with the type of reform that the coalition is pursuing.

Yet with Kaepernick and Reid still ostracized (and linked to a rift with the coalition), a "sell-out" perception lingers that the coalition members exchanged their right to protest while leaving dissenters to fend for themselves.

No, now is not the time for an iron-clad policy forcing players to stand for the anthem. It's the time to acknowledge some truths, like we're all part of the American melting pot.

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

It appears an LSU athletics venue may have fallen victim to a burglary Monday or some time last weekend.

WBRZ in Baton Rouge cited sources saying two laptops, a camera and a printer were some of the things possibly taken.

Sources tell WBRZ that officers were dispatched to the L Club, located inside of the PMAC, on Monday, May 21 in reference to a burglary.

Authorities say two laptops, a digital camera, and a printer went missing sometime between May 18 and May 21.

It wouldn't be the first time somebody has broken into an LSU venue.Three students were arrested earlier this year for allegedly breaking in to Tiger Stadium.

Other instances happened last year and the field wasdamaged back in January 2017.

A man also reportedly snuck into the stadium with a prostitute back around the time ofSEC Media Days last year.

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

MONTGOMERY COUNTYThe former president of the Southwest Soccer Club in Germantown indicted on multiple sex-related charges pleaded not guilty in court and was released on his own recognizance.

Justin K. Smith, 41, was charged with two counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, two counts of sexual battery, and two counts of sexual imposition, according to a report from the Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office.

Smith was silent during his arraignment in court as his attorney entered the plea on his behalf.

Prosecutor's objected to Smith being released on his own recognizance, citing that he would have access to technology to contact the victim in the case and still poses a threat. The court kept the own-recognizance bond for Smith.

Smith was ordered not to have contact with the victim.

Prosecutors said the victim is a 14-year-old girl whom Smith coached at the soccer club.

Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer said the teen's parents alerted authorities to the relationship after they found communication between the girl and Smith on her phone and social media. The relationship was said to have lasted about five months, Plummer said.

Smith is not currently listed in custody. He is scheduled to be arraigned May 31.

Smith is an employee with the Montgomery County Board of Developmental Disabilities Services and was placed on administrative leave, according to the prosecutor's office.

None of the alleged incidents Smith was indicted for occurred at his place of employment, Prosecutor Mat Heck stated in a release.

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Copyright 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

 

The University of New Mexico Athletics Department has conducted financial business and operations "in an informal manner" that has elevated the risk for mistakes and improper behavior, according to a new report from UNM's Internal Audit division.

The report, released Monday, addresses many of the now-familiar issues covered by the media and by a 2017 special investigation by the state auditor, including the use of public money to pay private donors' expenses on a Scotland golf junket and buy nonemployees' tickets to the NCAA and Mountain West Conference basketball tournaments; overpayments to coaches; underpayments by UNM's marketing contractor; problems collecting payments for the use of Pit suites; and recurring budgetary turmoil wrought in part by unmet ticket sales projections.

The audit makes 20 separate recommendations for improvement - many of them multi-faceted - with No. 1 being the creation of a business operations manual for the department.

"The UNM Athletics Department does not always document or follow procedures for key operational processes to ensure it operates in an effective and efficient manner and that it complies with UNM policies and procedures and State laws," the audit states in its conclusion summary. "During the audit, Internal Audit noted findings of internal control deficiencies in business processes, account reconciliation, financial reporting, and non-compliance with UNM policies and procedures and State laws."

Athletics says it will develop such a business manual; in fact, Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez said his department is already addressing - or has already completed - many of the recommendations. His department tried to fix issues that came to light during this audit and the state auditor's 2017 investigation, he said.

"It was an assessment of our program - that's what we've got to take it as, (and) learn and grow from it," he said Monday.

The audit focuses on the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years, which predate Nuñez's arrival last fall.

He said vacancies in the athletics business office likely contributed to some of the issues, but improvements include the January addition of Chief Financial Officer Rob Robinson. Though the office is losing its accountant, Nuñez said the department is collaborating with the main campus and could rely on centralized services to pick up the slack.

"At the business office, we're good right now," he said.

The Internal Audit report recommended athletics conduct more regular reviews of revenues and expenses, indicating that a lack of frequent monitoring is contributing to the perennial budget shortfalls. The department has finished with a deficit eight of the past 10 years - and is on pace for another shortfall this year - and has an accrued deficit of $4.7million to the UNM reserves, an amount it is scheduled to start paying back in 2020.

Revenues fell $1.1 million short of the original budget in 2016, a problem attributed largely to making $680,000 less in ticket sales than projected.

But the report notes that athletics has frequently waited until year's end to reconcile some accounts.

"Original budgeted expenses are based on projected revenues and accruals, and are not closely monitored or adjusted throughout the year to reflect projected revenue shortfalls. This increases the likelihood of over-expended budgets, misstatement of revenues for financial reporting and year-end shortfalls," the report states.

It also recommends organizing the budget so major costs like coaching salaries and athlete scholarships are recorded by individual sports. UNM's administration has proposed eliminating some sports in 2020 as a way to cut costs but has had difficulty isolating the exact costs of operating each sport.

Nuñez said the budget design moving forward will provide a clear picture of each program's revenue and expenses.

The audit also found that athletics:

Incorrectly recorded $500,000 in revenues over a two-year period instead of spreading it out over the seven-year span of the contract.

Neglected to budget for $614,000 in expenses related to a professional bull rider event in 2017.

Overpaid former men's basketball coach Craig Neal $144,216, baseball coach Ray Birmingham $39,601 and men's soccer coach Jeremy Fishbein $1,186. (The coaches have all repaid the excess amounts.)

Received a total of $256,000 less than it should have from marketing partner, Learfield Sports, in 2016 and 2017 based on changes outlined in an amended, but unsigned, contract. (Nuñez said an amended contract was recently signed.)

Failed to have signed agreements for all courtesy car recipients or a written policy for their use. (Athletics now has car recipients sign agreements.)

Purchased 113 NCAA Final Four tickets worth $35,101 between 2011-2017 and paid $11,190 in lodging costs - sometimes to cover donors - but only received $16,426 in reimbursements, which the audit says may violate the state's anti-donation clause;

Did not fulfill the donor requirements of certain scholarship funds, awarding $8,891 and $8,755 to athletes who lacked the requisite GPAs;

Has only collected $191,114 of the previously reported $432,641 in uncollected Pit suite debt, having determined $184,027 is uncollectible for reasons like a lack of a formal sales agreement;

Had inadequate documentation for seven cash advances worth $8,330 for football player massages.

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Copyright 2018 Newsday, Inc.

Newsday (New York)

 

ATLANTA — NFL owners are expected to pass a measure that significantly changes kickoff rules in hopes of reducing injury rates on the play.

After seeing a spike in concussions on kickoffs in recent years, the league's competition committee has created a series of new guidelines designed to reduce the frequency and severity of collisions. Among the changes:

-Players on the kicking team must line up no more than one yard behind where the kickoff is taken, thus eliminating a running start and reducing the speed at which contact is initiated on kickoff coverage.

-The wedge block has been eliminated. Only players who line up between their own 40 and the opponents' 45-yard line can apply double-team blocks on opponents.

-When the ball goes into the end zone, it is automatically ruled a touchback.

The new kickoff rules are in addition to a regulation approved in March that prohibits all players from lowering their helmets to initiate contact with an opponent. While there had been speculation that the league might move to eliminate kickoffs altogether, the new rules represent a compromise aimed at keeping the play, which can be one of the most exciting in the game, while attempting to reduce the frequency of injuries because of the high-speed collisions.

While owners are expected to show a united front on the kickoff rules, a far more contentious issue may not result in a consensus. Owners are expected to discuss whether they should amend the rules regarding whether players should be required to stand during the national anthem before games. A handful of players, including Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon, took a knee during the anthem to draw attention to racial injustice in the United States.

President Donald Trump last September criticized the players who took a knee or sat during the anthem, and some owners — including Jerry Jones of the Cowboys and Robert McNair of the Texans — strongly recommended that all their players stand. Jets chairman Christopher Johnson and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie are among the owners that have rebuffed suggestions that the players be required to stand.

It's possible that no decision will be made regarding the current NFL regulation that stipulates that players "should stand" during the anthem. It's also possible the owners may decide that each team ought to create its own set of guidelines.

The NFL Players Association has been outspoken in its support of players being able to take a knee or sit without fear of repercussions.

Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee during the anthem throughout the 2016 season, has yet to be signed by another club and is suing the NFL for collusion. Kaepernick is arguing that league owners have purposely refused to sign him because he won't stand during the anthem.

League owners also are expected to discuss last week's Supreme Court decision that paves the way for legalized gambling in the United States. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday wrote a letter to Congress, requesting that uniform guidelines be established throughout the country. Among his concerns: consumer protections, the ability to protect content and intellectual property, fans having access to reliable league data and law enforcement having the resources to "protect our fans and penalize bad actors here at home and abroad."

Owners are set to approve the purchase of the Carolina Panthers by Pittsburgh businessman David Tepper, who has agreed to pay $2.2 billion to purchase the team. The Panthers were put up for sale last year by team owner Jerry Richardson, who has been accused of inappropriate behavior in the workplace.

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Copyright 2018 Chattanooga Publishing Company
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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

SEATTLE — Olympic swimmer Ariana Kukors Smith sued USA Swimming on Monday, alleging the sport's national governing body knew her former coach sexually abused her as a minor and covered it up.

Kukors Smith alleges Sean Hutchison, who began coaching her at a swim club near Seattle, groomed her for sexual abuse when she was 13, started touching and kissing her when she was 16, and engaged in sexual activity with her when she was 17.

"This lawsuit is about holding people accountable who should have protected a 15-year-old girl," Kukors Smith told reporters, adding, "I needed help and there were people in positions of power that could have helped me."

Hutchison has denied the allegations, which emerged earlier this year when Kukors Smith, now 28, posted an emotional essay online. The assistant coach on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team has not been charged with a crime.

The case marked another scandal for USA Swimming and for the sports world, which has faced accusations that coaches and others, including former USA Gymnastics sports doctor Larry Nassar, exploited their positions to sexually abuse athletes in their care.

Kukors Smith, the 2009 world champion in the 200-meter individual medley who placed fifth in that event at the 2012 Games, also sued longtime Olympic coach Mark Schubert, saying he failed to report "a reasonable suspicion of child abuse or endangerment."

She said that "by doing nothing," USA Swimming "enabled Sean Hutchison to abuse me for a decade."

USA Swimming and Hutchison's attorney didn't immediately respond to emails seeking comment on the lawsuit, which was filed in Superior Court in Orange County, California. A number for Schubert couldn't immediately be found.

The U.S. governing body of swimming said it first learned of the underage abuse allegations when Kukors Smith posted her essay in February.

The organization had hired a private investigator in 2010 to look into rumors of a relationship between Kukors, then 21, and Hutchison, then 39. USA Swimming said it closed the investigation without finding any misconduct after the two and others denied the relationship.

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Copyright 2018 The Washington Times
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The Washington Times

 

The ability of sports to bind geographic kinfolk is fleeting, but it's always strongest after tragic events and during championship runs.

When those conditions exist simultaneously, the result is epic.

On Oct. 1, 2017, a gunman on the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas opened fired, killing 58 concertgoers and wounding hundreds of others. In a matter of minutes, a city known most for fun was forever linked to one of the nation's gravest mass shootings.

The Vegas Golden Knights played the home opener of their inaugural NHL season nine days later. A crowd of 18,191 jammed into T-Mobile Arena, where the official hockey capacity is 17,500.

First responders escorted players onto the ice and there was a 58-second moment of silence to honor the lost. The Knights improved to 3-0 that night.

On Sunday, they advanced to the Stanley Cup Final. The team and its surprisingly hockey-crazed city are within four wins of the ultimate fairy-tale ending.

"It means a lot to us," defenseman Deryk Engelland told reporters after Vegas clinched against Winnipeg in Game 5 of the Western Conference final. "This is what you play for all season. After Oct. 1, those first games, you want to play for the city, the people that were affected by it. To make this run, win this series and move on, it's awesome for us, but it all comes back to the city and the people affected by (the shooting)."

This isn't to suggest that the love affair between Las Vegas and its hockey team is based on the tragedy. That massacre isn't the reason Vegas finished fourth in home attendance based on percentage.

General manager George McPhee, formerly of the Washington Capitals, completed his handiwork and built a terrific roster three months before the deranged killer struck.

Likewise, the league had no idea of future events when it created conditions for arguably sports' most generous expansion draft ever. Vegas netted gems in the process, including three-time Stanley Cup-winning goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who merely has notched four shutouts this postseason.

"Best goalie in the league right now," Winnipeg center Mark Scheifele told reporters after Fleury stopped 31 of 32 shots in Game 5 and 151 of 161 overall in the series. "He stood on his head. He made a lot of big saves."

Fleury is one of four players Vegas poached from the Penguins.

Now an expansion team has him in line to win a third consecutive title.

Vegas' rapid ascent to Pacific Division champion and Stanley Cup finalist has shocked the league and enchanted sports fans everywhere. It also has led to wisecracks from downtrodden hockey fans elsewhere, jealous about the nonexistent waiting period the Knights' faithful endured.

The Capitals' 20-year absence pales in comparison to real droughts. Toronto hasn't reached the championship round since 1967; St. Louis hasn't played for the Cup since 1970.

But other outposts have options Vegas never enjoyed.

"We don't care about 'long-suffering' cities that haven't won anything in decades and now have to watch an expansion team reach the finals," @LasVegasLocally tweeted Sunday. "Vegas is a 113-year-old city that wasn't allowed to have a pro sports team FOR THE FIRST 112 YEARS."

Las Vegas also enjoyed a virtual monopoly on legal sports betting domestically until last week.

The Supreme Court decision that overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 isn't an unspeakable horror like Stephen Paddock's atrocity. But it's still a blow to the city. The Knights' success will help that recovery effort as well:

Hockey has been good, too, for Nevada bookmakers even though the oddsmakers stand to take a beating if the preseason 500-to-1 longshot Golden Knights win the cup. No matter, the house almost certainly will recoup that money through other wagers.

"There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that about 40 percent of the people betting on hockey now never bet it before the Golden Knights came," oddsmaker Jimmy Vacarro told ESPN.

The real winners here are the thousands of Vegas residents hooked during this improbable ride.

What began at a heartrending time has become a heartwarming trip.

"[The shooting] was a big moment obviously in the city," Fleury told reporters. "I think as a team, we couldn't heal anybody. But if we could just change their mind a bit throughout those first few weeks and throughout the season, getting them to be proud of the team, cheering for something, we were able to provide a little bit of that for Vegas."

Yes, they did.

In a way that only sports can.

• Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

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Copyright 2018 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.
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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

If a vote passes next week at the SEC spring meetings, future transfer debacles could be avoided according to Dan Wolken of USA TODAY Sports.

The proposed rule change would allow any player to transfer to another school in the SEC without any restrictions if their program receives a postseason ban.

The Southeastern Conference will vote on a proposal at its spring meetings next week that would lift all conference restrictions on athletes who want to transfer from one league member to another if their original school receives a postseason ban, according to a copy of the proposal obtained by USA TODAY Sports.

The new rule would also enhance penalties for programs that receive postseason bans, according to Wolken.

Van Jefferson, as Wolken points out, would be one such player who could benefit from the rule because he's trying to transfer from Ole Miss to Florida following the sanctions levied against the Rebels.

It wouldn't have helped former Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson because he was trying to transfer out of the conference. Under the setup right now, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has to grant a waiver for transfers within the conference.

It's likely that the NCAA is trying to avoida similar PR nightmare like the one Ole Miss experienced as players tried to transfer out of the program.

The postReport: Proposed rule could change how players transfer within SEC appeared first onSEC Country.

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Copyright 2018 Boston Herald Inc.
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The Boston Herald

 

Imagine every Game 4 packing the emotion of a Game 7.

Each swing of the bat generating the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

Or that Week 4 matchup against Miami carrying all the thrill and angst of a Super Bowl.

Thanks to the Supreme Court decision that opened the door for legalized sports betting across the United States, it's all going to be very real very soon.

How soon? The first legal sports book in the United States outside Nevada was set to open on Memorial Day at Monmouth Park in New Jersey before politicians pushed it back until June 7.

"I think everyone who owns a top-four professional sports team just basically saw the value of their team double," Mark Cuban said on CNBC after the court's ruling.

Big-time pro and college sports are on board — whether they say so or not.

Legalized sports betting has been a dream since I first slipped into Wonderland Park at age 15 to wager on which malnourished and juiced greyhound would outlast the others.

It has never been easier to gamble — legally or otherwise. Whatever effect the internet has had on media, communications and commerce, just multiply that by a billion and you'll get an idea of how it has impacted pornography and gambling.

We'll keep our hands off the porn. All of the gambling that will be legal in a state near you already exists either inside Nevada or online. Plenty of gamblers/degenerates/investors bet on everything using servers located in foreign lands.

Still, the legal sanction of sports betting by the government and leagues themselves is a game-changer along the lines of television, free agency and the internet. Every bad call will trigger demands of a Robert Mueller-sized investigation. Every missed free throw will trigger cries of point-shaving. And you don't want to be Terry Rozier after he dribbles out the clock when the Celtics are up seven and the line is Boston -7.5.

The hypocrisy will remain. Baseball will embrace a windfall thanks to legal sports betting but won't allow Pete Rose into the Hall of Fame. Still, Tom Yawkey's spot remains secure. It seems the only things that can keep you out of Cooperstown are gambling or voting for Donald Trump.

Fantasy sports entities like DraftKings have created a technological infrastructure for legal sports betting. The economic impact in the U.S. could surpass $6.3 billion annually, says Forbes. With so much cash up for grabs, it is impossible to overstate how it will change the way the American public consumes sports.

Before the Celtics stumbled into the fourth quarter Saturday, we opted to catch the royal wedding recap on TLC. It turns out Serena Williams wore it best, while Victoria Beckham was dressed for a funeral. My lesser half would have continued to watch basketball had I wagered on the second-half line or Jayson Tatum's point total.

Each state is free do its own thing. In Massachusetts, that means an inevitable morass of political bickering, truckloads of "campaign contributions" and the creation of a state commission stacked with flunkies, hacks and cronies.

When I was a boy in East Cambridge, the neighborhood bookie worked out of a variety store. Fast-forward a half-century and you may soon be able to visit your local Cumby's, grab the Herald, prepare your 99-cent coffee your way and lay $10 on the over when David Price makes his next cold-weather start.

The more things change, the more they don't.

Bet on it.

Bill Speros (aka Obnoxious Boston Fan) can be reached at bsperos1@gmail.com and tweets @RealOBF.

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MUST-SEE TV? The spread of sports betting beyond Las Vegas, right, could keep viewers glued to blowouts such as Saturday's Eastern Conference Finals Game 3 between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, below.
staff photo by CHRISTOPHER EVANS, BELOW; AP PHOTO, RIGHT
 
May 21, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2018 LNP Media Group, Inc.
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LNP (Lancaster, PA)

 

At this week's owners meeting in Atlanta, the NFL is set to award the 2023 and 2024 Super Bowls to Arizona and New Orleans, respectively, Sports Business Journal's Daniel Kaplan first reported Monday.

It marks the NFL's debut of a new system in which the league identifies a host city and negotiates the terms before bringing it to the owners for a vote. Gone, apparently, are the days of competing cities pulling out all the stops in grand presentations, though we'd expect the Super Bowl to remain the ultimate carrot for clubs that build new stadiums (you're still likely the next, Las Vegas).

For Arizona and Glendale Stadium in Phoenix, 2023 marks the stadium's third Super Bowl — all since 2007. (The game was previously played once in Tempe and once in Phoenix.)

New Orleans, one of the more frequent host cities, will get its 11th Super Bowl.

The owners are also expected to announce the 2019 NFL draft city, with Nashville recently rumored, and the future of the Pro Bowl in Atlanta this week, in addition to honing in on new kickoff and legal tackle rules and approving David Tepper's bid to purchase the Carolina Panthers.

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Copyright 2018 Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Inc.
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Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)

 

The Tri-Community YMCA of Southbridge is merging with the YMCA of Central Massachusetts to become the regional association's sixth branch, thus broadening its service area to nearly 70 communities.

The boards of directors for both YMCAs signed a merger agreement in February, and the organizations continue to work toward an official joint venture.

"We don't have a date," said Kathryn Hunter, chief executive officer of the YMCA of Central Massachusetts. "We still have some administrative tasks to finalize. We're acting as if we're integrating. We're talking about roles for staff, systems, efficiencies and learning from each other. I'm thrilled at the strength of coming together. I can see added value for everyone."

When the merger takes effect, the Southbridge Y hopes to be called the Tri-Community YMCA Family Branch, said Glenn Juchno, its executive director.

"We're adding the word 'family' to really tell people what we're all about, and what we focus our energies on," Mr. Juchno said.

The Tri-Community YMCA has close to 4,600 members and about 220 employees, most of them part time. It has about 30 full-time employees.

"One of the things that people think about when they hear the word 'merger' is loss of jobs," Mr. Juchno acknowledged. "From Day 1, that's not even a conversation that we're going to have, because there aren't enough people do the work that we need done. We're very fortunate to have a great group of people here servicing our community, and they will stay here continuing to do the work that they're doing, and hopefully we will be able to grow and expand as we see fit."

The YMCA of Central Massachusetts' 2017 annual report reported $1.7 million in cash and more than $29 million in net assets.

It includes the Central Community and Greendale Family branches in Worcester, the Leominster and Montachusett Community branches in northern Worcester County, and the Boroughs Family Branch in Westboro.

In becoming part of a larger organization, Mr. Juchno noted, the Southbridge program, instead of having one aquatics instructor running a pool, will have a network of people it can connect with more easily.

"We're excited about the staff networking and professional development for our staff, and ultimately being able to turn around and provide more services to the folks in our community," he said.

There are programs the Southbridge Y is doing that the Central Massachusetts program isn't, and vice versa, the CEOs noted.

Ms. Hunter said she finds the Tri-Community YMCA's family child care program, which has a new center on Marcy Street in Southbridge, "fascinating." The center gave the Southbridge Y the ability to deliver "beautiful quality child care," she said.

"We have child care located in our branches, but we don't do standalone child care, and I think that's really exciting and is meeting a community need that maybe we could replicate somewhere else, and learning more about what family child care is all about," Ms. Hunter said.

On the flip side, the Central Community Branch in Worcester's Main South offers a Minority Achievers Program for post-secondary education preparation that is a prospect for replication in Southbridge, which has a large Hispanic population.

The Tri-Community YMCA recently started a teen leadership program, and Mr. Juchno said it is hitting the tip of the iceberg with its offerings for teenagers.

"With the Southbridge public schools and their need to have a turnaround plan in place, we're hoping to be able to help them with their work, with things like Minority Achievers and continuing with the teen leaders work," Mr. Juchno said. "Bringing that model down to south Worcester County would be something that we're very excited about at this point."

Day care and the achievers program are just two examples the officials immediately foresee.

"I think when you get a bunch of great minds in a room talking together, things happen," Mr. Juchno said. "We're yet to discover between the two."

Ms. Hunter and Mr. Juchno began general discussions about two years ago around how both Ys were doing, and the possibility of working together on programming and sharing services.

"It's not uncommon for Y's to do that," Ms. Hunter said. "As we got to know each other and learn about what our Y's mean to our communities, we saw some great opportunities and synergies, and thought, why don't we meet with our volunteers (board members) and see if they feel the same way."

In May 2017, both boards appointed a task force to explore and evaluate how bringing the two Y's together could provide greater impact throughout the county.

In a statement, Debra Savoie, the board president of the Tri-Community YMCA, said the organization is pleased with the outcome and looks forward to advancing the Y's mission and cause throughout the communities it serves, as well as throughout Central Massachusetts.

John Doyle, board chairman of the YMCA of Central Massachusetts, said: "I share in the excitement. The combining of strong volunteer and staff leadership will bring more of the best resources to the communities each Y serves."

 

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Copyright 2018 SCRIPPS Howard Publications
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Corpus Christi Caller-Times

 

DEER PARK — Saturday evening was your typical night in Southeast Texas. It was sunny and muggy.

Ballpark nachos with cheese and jalapenos, a song of "Woop! Woop!" from the stands and the sounds of bats connecting with baseballs.

The only difference was the team on the visitor's side of Jim Kethan Field was the Santa Fe High School Indians. And the day before, the deadliest school shooting in Texas history took place at their high school.

Seventeen-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis was arrested on suspicion of capital murder and assault of a police officer in connection with 10 deaths and 13 more wounded.

Two baseball players were in the art room and injured in the event: sophomore pitcher Rome Shubert and sophomore catcher Trenton Beazley. Both were in the dugout with their teammates Saturday night.

Santa Fe fell to Kingwood Park 7-0 in a regional quarterfinal game.

Even though the team lost friends and people they considered family just 36 hours before, they had no intention of not playing ball.

"I said what your decision is, I'm going to go with it," said Santa Fe head baseball coach Ronnie Wulf. "'You don't want to play, I'm good with that.' They were in there for a little, but they came out and they wanted to play."

The scene at the ballpark was much different than the vigil Friday night in Santa Fe.

Mayor-Elect Jason Tabor left a meeting Saturday with federal and state law enforcement to attend the baseball game. He said it was important for him to be there even if the incident is still being investigated.

"I wanted to come. I'm a Santa Fe graduate — it's still my school," Tabor said. "We're here, united together. We're Santa Fe Strong."

The strong showing at the game, from the parents in green and gold T-shirts to the supporting fans from neighboring communities such as La Porte, Clear Springs and Port Neches-Groves, is a perfect example of the kind of people that reside in the area, he said.

"We're resilient, and we will heal from all this," he said. "We're hurt, but not broken."

Though it was a loss, Saturday night offered a chance to begin healing.

The tragedy took a backseat to baseball for at least a few hours.

"I think the game helped the kids, the fans; it helped a lot of people," Wulf said. "Instead of just sitting and not doing anything. I'm proud of them for everything they've done all year long."

Twitter: @ReporterJulie

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Copyright 2018 Bangor Daily News

Bangor Daily News (Maine)

 

A database containing concussion, or traumatic brain injury, information on tens of thousands of Maine students is helping researchers at Harvard Medical School and other medical science facilities learn more about the long-term effects of concussion, as well as rates, prevention and recovery.

Since 2009, the Maine Concussion Management Initiative, based at Colby College in Waterville, has provided software to more than 100 Maine high schools and the New England Small College Athletic Conference schools, allowing athletes to essentially play a 30- to 45-minute video game — the ImPACT test — that measures memory, reaction time, speed and concentration.

The test provides researchers with a "baseline" view of their brain, according to MCMI spokesman Lynn "Kip" Kippax.

That baseline becomes important when a child suffers a concussion — when someone suffers a blow to the head or body, causing the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull — because providers can then compare brain function.

Without that baseline, a post-injury test score can only be compared to the general population, according to the Sports Concussion Institute.

But with a baseline test, following an injury, clinicians can "compare apples to apples," the institute states.

"Also, because baseline testing usually occurs early in the season, the very act of getting tested will raise concussion awareness for athletes, parents, and coaches," it continues.

Lisbon, Mt. Ararat and Boothbay Region High School are among more than 100 schools in Maine to test students prior to athletic seasons.

Two weeks ago, Boothbay tested its 10th-graders, and last week all eighth-grade athletes and some of their classmates were tested, school nurse Kate Schwehm said Thursday. The test is voluntary, but Schwehm said it is mandatory for all students who wish to participate in school-sponsored sports.

"People have been really supportive," she said. "Parents of students who have had concussions have been very appreciative. And local physicians will call and request the test."

As concern has increased in recent years about the long-term effects of concussions, Dr. Paul Berkner, director of health services at Colby College, began collecting data — stripped of identifying information — in 2009.

According to Kippax when Berkner met with a Boston neuropsychologist about the data he had amassed — now documenting tens of thousands of students — the neuropsychologist "turned to Paul and said, 'You know, what you have may be the largest concussion database in the country."

Since then, the not-for-profit program has grown into the Maine Concussion Management Institute, connected to Colby College, which provides its facilities.

The data — which Kippax called "startling" — are being used by Harvard Medical School, Children's Hospital Boston, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and other research institutions to study the effects of concussion.

They partner with the Maine Principals Association, the Maine Athletic Trainers Association and other state organizations, according to the initiative's website.

"The Maine Principals Association and the Maine Principals Sports Medicine Committee encourage schools to participate in the program," Assistant Executive Director Michael Burnham said Friday.

The MPA provides schools with contact information about the institute and sets up the training, but Burnham said the MPA has not yet mandated the testing. Instead, he said, "we have focused our efforts on educating the coaches" about concussions.

The Maine Concussion Management Initiative provides schools with the software for baseline and post-injury testing, and has trained more than 1,000 physicians, school nurses and other providers in concussion prevention.

Schwem, at Boothbay Region High School, said concern is growing among those who work with school-aged children, and others, not only about significant concussions, but the smaller hits that in the past may not have been monitored.

"It's not necessarily the big, dramatic concussions, but the repetitive head injuries that really add up," she said.

Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.

 

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Copyright 2018 The Salt Lake Tribune
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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

The Pac-12 once puffed itself up as the "Conference of Champions."

Now, it's the "Conference of Teams Trying to Get By With Less."

And if the league's current slump, on and off its fields and its courts and its studios and its headquarters, continues, that first title could become nothing more than a self-inflicted parody. A parody with a punchline drawing laughs from nobody at Utah or USC or Arizona State or Stanford or Washington. Of all the Power Five leagues, the Pac-12 is lagging behind in areas that matter most in modern college sports, foremost among them, money.

All of which combines to make it the weakest of the power leagues.

As Dennis Dodd, a respected national college sports voice, recently wrote in a column for cbssports.com, and later substantiated in an interview, if the Pac-12's woes go on, the P5 could be reduced to the P4, with you know who being left behind. "If this was a country club," Dodd wrote, "the Pac-12 would be in danger of losing its membership."

The reasons are profound and troubling to administrators at the league's schools, part of them being the schools' own fault.

Let's start with results in the major sports, especially the major sport - football. The Pac-12 hasn't had a national champion in 14 years. A whole lot has happened on the college football landscape over that significant period of time, and one league in particular has been absent. And then, last season, Pac-12 teams had one of the worst bowl seasons any league could ever have. They won a grand total of one game - the Utes' victory over West Virginia in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. The other teams?

USC lost to Ohio State, UCLA lost to Kansas State, Washington lost to Penn State, Stanford lost to TCU, Washington State lost to Michigan State, Arizona State lost to North Carolina State, Oregon lost to Boise State, Arizona lost to Purdue. Add up the differential, and the Pac-12 schools lost by 82 points.

Not good.

When Utah joined the Pac-12, did anybody think there would be a year when it was the only school to uphold the league's once-proud football prowess in the postseason?

Basketball in 2017-18 wasn't any better. All the Pac-12 teams were eliminated in the NCAA Tournament before the second round, Arizona losing to Buffalo, and UCLA and Arizona State not even making it to the first round, both being knocked out in First Four games. USC, the league's second-place team, was left out of the tournament completely, causing its coach, Andy Enfield, to say the selection committee "discredited" the Trojans' "entire league schedule."

Making matters worse were the league's off-the-court woes, including USC and Arizona being implicated in an FBI probe into illegal recruiting.

Tough, tough times.

But it's bigger than just that.

The Pac-12 is bringing up the rear in money generated for its schools, much of that deficit coming on account of the Pac-12 Networks' structure not being as profitable as other P5 conference's setups. It's not as though the league is destitute, it did generate just over $500 million in payouts for its teams. But in the comparative sense, the league average of $30.9 million paid out was more than $10 million less per school than what SEC schools received.

None of that is lost on league presidents and athletic directors, who are reaching a point of great concern over the deficit.

"The gap between us and the other [leagues] continues to grow," Arizona State AD Ray Anderson told Dodd. "We'll be competitively disadvantaged even more so. That's real money in terms of being able to compete, support facilities, support coaches and support programs."

Said Washington State president Kirk Schulz "The Pac-12 schools have got to be competitive with the ACC, the SEC and the Big Ten and Big 12, and we're falling behind."

Utah athletic director Chris Hill repeatedly has voiced his concerns over the conference's revenue streams, relative to other leagues.

"I'm fairly critical of the Pac-12 organization," Dodd quoted Cal chancellor Carol Christ as saying.

Looking back, it's easy to determine the Pac-12 should have found a partner with which to build its networks and share its costs. It effectively did not and has not. Furthermore, anybody know whatever happened to the deal between the league and DirectTV?

"No one is satisfied with the [revenue] production of the Pac-12 Network," Anderson said.

Dodd reported that the league gives out only 73 percent of its annual revenue to schools, while the other P5 leagues distribute more than 90 percent, a margin that Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, who, by the way, is the highest paid ($4.8 million) commissioner of all the commissioners of all the conferences, attributes to an issue of accounting, but it's pretty simple. Because it owns the Pac-12 Network, the league's overhead is simply higher than its Power 5 peers.

It's hard to say exactly when - or if, or how - the Pac-12 will be in a position to close the gap, financial and competitive, with the other power leagues. in a well-run consortium of schools, the money and the winning are closely associated.

Football is a key. Interest in football is key. The draw of football is key. But does any of that in the West match the absolute absorption of the game in, say, SEC and Big Ten and Big 12 country? Geography is an issue, considering that many football fans around the nation do not see, are not awake for, Pac-12 games that in other time zones start so late at night. Scheduling is something the league is addressing. Only plate tectonics - or league expansion toward the east - could rearrange the habits of football TV viewers.

There is a whole lot of recruitable talent available to Pac-12 teams, particularly in Southern California, but all around the league's footprint. While many critics have a problem with the high salaries of coaches, those coaches - there are five new ones in the conference now - are central to building programs that win, that draw the eyeballs of viewers, that change the national perception of a league's quality of play.

It's a problem for the Pac-12 that observers - some of them powerful and influential - from around the country do not judge the league to be the equal of its P5 counterparts. What happened this past season did not help.

Bottom line The Pac-12 needs more winning and more money to remedy its troubles, to keep up. Part of that burden falls on the individual schools and programs that are doing the complaining to get their competitive acts together and haul their parts of the load. It also most definitely needs better judgment and more focused vision from its leadership, highly paid as it is.

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.

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Copyright 2018 Richmond Newspapers, Inc.
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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

The Richmond-based Colonial Athletic Association starts its annual spring meeting May 29 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and the league's athletics directors and coaches will discuss potential antidotes to the steady flow of Division I transfers, commissioner Joe D'Antonio said.

In that quest, particularly as it applies to men's basketball transfers, the CAA has lots of company.

According to an NCAA report released six months ago, about 40 percent of men's basketball players who enter Division I out of high school transfer from their initial colleges by the end of their sophomore years. The trend isn't as pronounced in football, but it can be problematic in that sport, too, D'Antonio noted.

There are no easy answers, D'Antonio said. He added, "What I feel strongly about is we can't continue to debate this every year. This can't continue to go on. We need to find a way to implement (a new transfer policy) and go forward."

The Division I Transfer Working Group, the NCAA body formed to study the topic, will seek feedback from spring conference meetings before reconvening in June to continue its mission, according to the NCAA.

Other subjects that will be covered at the CAA meetings:

Sports betting

A Supreme Court decision Monday gave states autonomy regarding sports betting.

"We have not had a specific opportunity to discuss this as a league yet, but it's a national issue. There's no question about that," D'Antonio said. "We'll see what plays out in several states."

New redshirt rule

Current NCAA rules allow players five college years to participate in four seasons. Any game involvement, even one snap against outside competition, counts as a season of eligibility. There's a proposal in the NCAA legislative cycle that would allow a Division I player to play up to four games in a season without that participation costing him a year of eligibility.

Nationally, coaches support the proposal, and Richmond coach Russ Huesman recognized how important its approval would be for FCS schools. They operate with a scholarship limit of 63. The FBS limit is 85.

"Come by the office and you'll see me doing back flips if that thing passes," Huesman said.

In mid-April, the proposal was tabled by the Division I Council, which wanted to explore any impact the change might have on other sports. It's still conceivable the redshirt rule could be modified for this football season.

The ACC submitted the proposal, which states: "The current rule often places coaches in a difficult position to decide whether to play a student-athlete in a limited amount of competition or to preserve the student-athlete's season of eligibility. The opportunity to play in a small number of games will ease this decision for coaches and help the student-athlete's development and transition to the college game."

FBS vs. FCS competition

A few years ago, the Big Ten made news by announcing that its members would phase out games against FCS competition. That move put all FCS programs that regularly meet FBS opposition on alert. Would the Big Ten's stance start a national trend?

"In my mind, those concerns have lessened significantly," D'Antonio said. "Do I think it's a concern still? Yes."

Big Ten schools backed away from the FCS prohibition for a couple of reasons. Non-Power Five FBS schools jacked up their guarantee fees. It was costing Big Ten schools $1 million, or more, to bring in a Mid-American Conference (FBS) opponent rather than $500,000, or less, to have an FCS team as a guest.

Secondly, there is reduced anxiety that playing an FCS team could damage the strength-of-schedule component of an FBS team's power ranking to the degree that it would handicap the FBS team's shot at qualifying for the College Football Playoff. Alabama and Clemson, and several other national-championship contenders, annually play FCS opponents.

On Sept. 1, Richmond plays at Virginia and James Madison plays at N.C. State. William & Mary visits Virginia Tech on Sept. 8.

joconnor@timesdispatch.com(804) 649-6233@RTDjohnoconnor

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Copyright 2018 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
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Palm Beach Post (Florida)

 

Florida Atlantic is not the only Florida school that falls short of meeting participation and scholarship requirements for women athletes under Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools.

Four of Florida's seven major sports schools disproportionately award athletic scholarship money to male athletes: University of Miami, University of Central Florida, University of South Florida and FAU. At all four schools, the gaps between percentage of athletes who are women and scholarship dollars awarded to women are greater than 1 percent, a violation of the federal law.

In a different measure, participation opportunities for female athletes, the University of Florida had an 11 percentage-point gap between its percentage of students who are women and percentage of roster spots on women's teams. The gap is based on a female student enrollment of 56 percent while women get only 45 percent of playing opportunities.

Unlike scholarship dollars, the gap by itself does not necessarily violate the law, but the National Women's Law Center says a gap greater than 10 percentage points should raise "red flags."

Florida State's 7 percentage-point participation gap would be higher if the school didn't double- and triple-count dozens of female athletes who play multiple sports, occupying 122 roster spots.

Counting multisport athletes more than once is legal as long as schools disclose it, but the practice becomes controversial when schools disproportionately double- and triple-count women athletes, which can result in roster counts that appear equal but in reality disguise a far lower head count of female athletes.

The Post's analysis also found across the nation women are far more likely than men to compete on more than one team and therefore be double- or triple-counted toward a school's participation rates. At FSU, 329 roster spots are on women's teams, but only 207 individual women fill them. On the other hand, 339 roster spots on men's teams are filled by 279 men.

For years, UCF did the same thing but failed to disclose to the NCAA dozens of female athletes it counted more than once.

In the most recent year, the school reported to the NCAA none of the 43 indoor track team members during the winter overlapped with the 45 outdoor team members in the spring. But UCF puts out a single roster for both teams that numbers fewer than 40 total athletes, and its news releases reveal numerous athletes who competed in the indoor and outdoor seasons.

Sometimes schools overstuff the rosters of women's teams to meet participation requirements.

UF reported 40 women on its soccer team, but only 11 can be on the field at a time, leaving dozens of women on the bench. Among all FBS schools, the average size of a women's soccer team is 30 players.

USF has a 43-person women's sailing team, more than twice the national average. It does not have a sailing team for men.

UCF reported 77 women on its rowing team, though even if it had a different woman on each of the boats allowed to enter the sports' two NCAA-recognized events, only 42 could compete. The school does not have men's rowing.

Under the law that requires disclosure of participation counts to the government, schools can count male "practice players," or players who train with the team but do not play in games, as participants on women's teams.

Title IX guidance says such counting can be misleading, but it does not prevent schools from doing it.

kjacoby@pbpost.com

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Copyright 2018 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
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Palm Beach Post (Florida)

 

Florida Atlantic University reported false numbers to the government, exaggerating how many women played for its sports teams, just a year after it ranked among the worst in the country for female representation in sports.

In 2016, women represented more than half of the Boca Raton school's enrollment but only 31 percent of its athletes. The percentage was the lowest of all 127 schools participating in the highest level of college sports.

Just one year later, FAU claimed it had erased its female participation gap. It told the U.S. Department of Education in 2017 that 51 percent of its athletes were women.

But the 20 percentage-point increase was based on an inflated number, The Palm Beach Post has found. To arrive at the higher percentage, FAU counted dozens of female athletes who did not exist.

FAU reported it had more than doubled the number of athletes on its women's track team from the previous year, but the team's own website shows that was far from the case. The staggering numbers: FAU reported having 98 women's track athletes. The roster showed no more than 43, and the team photo showed 38.

The 98 women, FAU claimed, occupied 222 roster spots on its cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track teams, more than any women's track program among the 127 major sports schools. The number boosted a key measure used to determine whether schools are complying with sex-based discrimination laws.

Two weeks after The Palm Beach Post asked FAU about the discrepancy, athletic department spokeswoman Katrina McCormack acknowledged in an email that the reported number was incorrect.

"We recognize the error, are reviewing the report in its entirety and are working with the (National Collegiate Athletic Association and Department of Education) to ensure the proper corrections," she wrote.

The employee who prepared and submitted the report is no longer with the school, McCormack said. The report, however, cites Brian Battle as the "reporting official." Battle remains employed at FAU as senior associate athletic director for internal operations. He was promoted to the job about two months before the report was due and served a six-week stint as interim athletic director shortly after the report's submission.

Lisa Metcalf, a spokeswoman for FAU, said another staff member filed the report on Battle's behalf and he was unaware of any errors at the time.

"We believe the cause was simply a clerical error," Metcalf said. "FAU takes its responsibility to provide equitable athletic participation opportunities extremely seriously."

'That is a violation'

The reported number also exposed a Catch-22 that involves another measure of whether a school is following the law in how it treats female athletes: scholarship dollars.

FAU boosted the number of female athletes but did nothing to boost the amount of scholarship money awarded to its female athletes, leaving a gap that violates the federal law known as Title IX, an attorney who reviewed FAU's numbers said. The reported gap between FAU's percentage of female athletes and percentage of athletic scholarship dollars for women was the widest of all the major sports schools in the country.

"That is a violation, pure and simple," said Neena Chaudhry, an associate general counsel for the National Women's Law Center.

Metcalf pointed out FAU's female athletes historically have gotten more than their fair share of scholarship money. Until the erroneous statistic skewed the numbers last year, FAU reported giving women a higher percentage of athletic scholarship dollars than the percentage of athletes they represented.

But even after subtracting the 55 women unaccounted for on FAU's report, the school's numbers indicate it disproportionately gave athletic scholarship dollars to men last year, violating federal law.

Correcting for the exaggerated track team numbers, no more than 46 percent of FAU athletes in 2017 were women, The Post calculated, but only 36 cents of every scholarship dollar went to female athletes.

In a news release issued Friday after The Post's story went online, FAU repeated its position that the female participation error was clerical.

Without providing details, FAU said it would issue revised numbers to Education Department officials claiming that the correct percentage of female athletes is 43 and that the school actually handed out 45 percent of its sports scholarship dollars to women, not 36 percent. It did not explain how it had gotten the scholarship number wrong.

'45 years to get it right'

Title IX, the law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in schools, has paved the way for hundreds of thousands of women who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to participate in college sports.

Before Congress enacted the law in 1972, fewer than 32,000 women played college sports, and athletic scholarships for women were nonexistent. Today more than 230,000 women compete and receive an average of $7,500 each in athletic scholarships.

But schools across the country still routinely fall short of meeting two of Title IX's most critical requirements: providing women equal opportunities to participate in sports and making sure they get their fair share of athletic scholarship dollars.

There's no doubt complying with Title IX requires a concerted effort from schools, which must ensure its percentage of athletic scholarship dollars for women are proportional to the percentage of women who are athletes. A school also must show it is providing equal opportunities for men and women to play sports, or at least that the school has a history of expanding opportunities for women, or that there is not unmet demand for women's sports on campus.

Compliance with the law also may mean less revenue for athletic departments that could make more money investing in football and men's basketball, the two profitable men's sports, instead of women's teams.

But Title IX's purpose is to give women equal opportunities, something many schools still don't provide because the law is not strongly enforced, Chaudhry said.

Both the Department of Education and the NCAA annually collect data from schools that help indicate whether they meet Title IX requirements, but those organizations don't always use it. Sometimes, the department uses data to initiate a compliance review of a school, but mostly its enforcement efforts stem from individual complaints, of which it receives thousands per year. Title IX compliance is not one of the NCAA's prerequisites for competition.

"Schools have had 45 years to get it right and to make sure they're treating their female students equally, and too many are still out of compliance," Chaudhry said. "The reality is we're seeing huge gaps at so many schools that I think many schools have just not been doing their job."

What distinguishes FAU is not only its inaccurate numbers and low ranking relative to other schools, but that its gender gaps have widened as its football program rose to prominence. While schools overall made gradual progress toward equal treatment of women athletes in recent years, the disparities at FAU got worse.

The football effect

College athletic departments long have sought to grow their budgets by investing in football because more revenue from football generally leads to more money for the athletic department.

Whereas most college sports lose money, football is one of the few that operates in the black.

In 2017, the 126 football teams (down one from the year before) that competed in the NCAA's top level of competition, the Football Bowl Subdivision, or FBS, profited more than $1.7 billion, Education Department reports show. Men's basketball teams made $300 million. All other teams combined lost more than $1 billion.

For all its lucre, however, college football is still divided into haves and have-nots. Seventy-five FBS teams took all the profits, while the other 51 programs either broke even or lost money, Education Department reports show.

When small-time athletic departments attempt to grow their football programs, they often leave women's sports behind, intentionally or not. On average, the FBS schools whose football programs broke even or lost money last year had the widest gender gaps in the two main Title IX categories -- athletic scholarship dollars and female participation.

Under Title IX, a school's percentage of female students should be roughly proportional to the percentage of playing opportunities, or roster spots, it offers to women. It also requires schools to have no more than a 1 percentage-point gap between the percentage of athletes who are women and the percentage of scholarship dollars awarded to women athletes.

Nationwide, schools with football teams fared significantly worse than schools without them at meeting those two Title IX requirements, The Post found. One reason, Chaudhry said, is football teams typically have rosters of more than 100 men, most of whom receive full or partial scholarships. Moreover, pouring money into the main revenue-driving sports draws the attention away from women's and other men's teams, she said.

"You've got schools choosing to devote the vast majority of their resources toward football and men's basketball, so that has consequences," Chaudhry said. "The thing is, that does not exempt schools from Title IX."

Equality suffers

FAU fits squarely into these trends. Its football program is fairly new and makes pennies on the dollar relative to competitors. The University of Florida, for example, profited $49 million last year, and Florida State University made $38 million, Education Department reports show. FAU broke even.

It took almost a decade for the FAU football team to stop losing money, Education Department reports show, and since then, athletic department revenue has ballooned. In 2003, the athletic department brought in less than $10 million, and the football program less than $600,000. Last year, the department raked in $26 million, almost a third of which came from football.

FAU football reached new heights in 2017. Led by celebrity head coach Lane Kiffin, whose $950,000 base salary is more than FAU President John Kelly's total compensation, the Owls won 11 of 14 games, up from three the year before. FAU played in and won the Boca Raton Bowl for the first time in its new $70 million stadium, which opened in 2011.

The Owls' gains on the gridiron, however, came at the expense of equal treatment for women. In 2004, three years into the football team's existence, 41 percent of the school's athletes were women, and they received 51 percent of athletic scholarship dollars.

Those figures have fallen sharply since. In 2016, women represented just 31 percent of FAU athletes and received 36 percent of athletic scholarship dollars.

And despite the football team's success, it still brings in less money than almost 90 percent of FBS teams.

FAU disputes that its emphasis on football has reduced its commitment to women, pointing out that the school has added women's track and beach volleyball since it fielded its first men's football team in 2001.

"FAU's football team has not suppressed the growth of women's athletic opportunities at FAU in any way," said Metcalf, the FAU spokeswoman.

The scholarship divide

In 2017, after reporting the lowest percentage of women athletes in the country among FBS schools a year earlier, FAU submitted an incorrect but far more favorable count of women athletes.

Education Department policy allows it to "limit, suspend, terminate or fine an institution that provides inaccurate information," a spokesman said.

The reported number indicated FAU had the biggest difference in the FBS between its percentage of female athletes and the percentage of scholarship dollars it awarded to them. But after subtracting the missing track athletes, FAU would still violate the 1 percentage-point rule with a 10 percentage-point gap between its female athletes and athletic scholarship dollars.

Meagan Giddens, a mid-distance freshman runner for FAU last year who has since transferred, said neither she nor some of FAU's top runners received any athletic scholarship money last year to cover the rising costs of tuition.

"It's definitely saddening," Giddens said. "Our top runner, who represented our team, wasn't even getting full scholarship; she was getting books and that was it."

Complaints from athletes are unlikely, she said, because it "could hurt their careers."

"They could get in a lot of trouble for speaking out, unfortunately," Giddens said.

Cassie Pough, who played tennis for FAU as a junior in 2016, said she was fortunate to get a full-ride scholarship but knew athletes who had to work second jobs to pay their tuition.

"They were struggling," Pough said. "They were doing everything we're doing. They were showing up to the workouts, showing up to the morning practices, but they got nothing out of it."

Pough said although Title IX is great for women of all sports, she sympathized with some men whom she feels are shortchanged. Whereas schools tend to distribute scholarship money evenly among women's teams, the majority of scholarships on the men's side go to football and basketball players.

For example, while women's tennis players at FAU shared the equivalent of eight full-rides, men's tennis players shared fewer than three. Women's soccer players split the equivalent of about 16 full-rides, but men's soccer players split just four.

Meanwhile, football players shared 82 full-rides, and men's basketball players shared another 12.

"As women, we definitely get a lot more because of Title IX, so we're very thankful," Pough said. "For the guys, if you're not playing basketball or football, it sucks."

Consequences rare

FAU is far from alone in falling short of meeting gender equity laws for athletes. The Post's analysis found women nationwide make up 54 percent of enrolled college students but only 41 percent of athletes. Female athletes receive 46 percent of scholarship dollars and 43 percent of participation opportunities.

Unlike scholarship dollars, there is no set number determining whether a school's female participation rate is complying with Title IX. Instead there is a three-part test, and a school must pass just one part of the test to be in compliance.

The three parts are: the percentages of roster spots for men and women are about the same as the percentages of enrolled male and female students, the school has a history and continuing practice of expanding athletic opportunities for women and the school is meeting demand of female athletes who are able and want to play.

The National Women's Law Center says a gap of more than 10 percentage points between a school's percentages of female students and female athletes should raise "red flags" the school is out of compliance.

At FAU, the gap was 24 percentage points in 2016. But Metcalf said the school complies with Title IX by passing the second part of the test, demonstrating a history of expanding opportunities for women athletes.

Since 1979, seven years after Congress enacted Title IX, FAU has added women's golf, tennis, cross-country, basketball, swimming and diving, volleyball, soccer, softball, outdoor track, indoor track and beach volleyball, Metcalf said. In other words, all the women's sports it has today.

"We are currently studying whether to continue that trajectory (using the second part of the test) or pursue a different compliance option for future years," she said.

Whether a school is complying with the law is one question; whether it will be held accountable for failing to do so is another.

Most of the Department of Education's enforcement efforts stem from individual complaints. If it finds a school is in violation of Title IX, it works with the institution to reach a resolution agreement, which outlines concrete steps for it to return to compliance. If the department can't reach an agreement with the school, it can refer the matter to the Department of Justice or cut off the school's federal money.

When asked, the department did not cite a single instance in which it cut off a school's money .

Chaudhry, the National Women's Law Center counsel, said women's rights advocates for years have been asking the Department of Education to take more enforcement action on its own. The NCAA, she said, has a "leadership role" to play, too, and could require schools to show improvement or have a plan in place.

"That would go a long way," she said, "toward sending a message that schools need to get their houses in order."

kjacoby@pbpost.com

Rough count

After The Post discovered an error, Florida Atlantic University conceded that it had miscounted female athletes in its 2017 report to federal officials. FAU's original numbers for the women's track team:

FAU reported: 98 athletes

Team rosters showed: 43 athletes

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Copyright 2018 The Arizona Daily Star. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

 



With plans to make Tucson cooler, the Florida owners of Funtasticks Family Fun Park are adding new water features.

Pro Parks Management, based in Orlando, is building a play area with a splash pad and several bucket drops over slides and climbing bars at the park, 221 E. Wetmore Road, said Tim Smith, president of Grail Construction, which is doing the work.

It is being built where the old batting cages were located, that were largely unused.

He said next year Pro Parks plans interior renovations and more features at the park.

Called Cactus Springs, the new water station is expected to open by July 4 and feature cabanas, lounge chairs and food and beverage service, said Ted Watson, a partner with Pro Park.

The recent announcement that Breakers, Tucson's only water park, has closed was an unexpected boon for the new concept.

"We like the Tucson market," Watson said. "Now that the water park is being shut down, we figured we could add some water, excitement and splash."

Funtasticks, a five-acre park that also features bumper boats, miniature golf, Go-Karts, arcades and laser tag, opened in 1994. It is just east of Tucson Mall.

"We like the geography," Watson said, "and felt there was a lack of family entertainment options... this is just the start of ongoing improvement plans.

"We're not going to end there."

Credit: Gabriela Rico Arizona Daily Star

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Copyright 2018 The Buffalo News
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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

Two months have passed since the University at Buffalo hired Mark Alnutt to replace Allen Greene as athletic director.He is juggling his new job with family responsibilities in Memphis, where he served as deputy athletic director for three years after spending three years as athletic director at Southwest Missouri State.

Alnutt's family will remain in Memphis until his son, Jaren, graduates from high school next spring. His wife, Kate, and three other three children plan to join him in Western New York after he has been on the job for more than a year.

UB is coming off its best season in men's and women's basketball in history, with the men knocking off Arizona in the NCAA and the women reaching the Sweet 16. The football team is expected to be one of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference this season. The department remains in good shape overall, but challenges remain.

During a 40-minute conversation last week in his Alumni Arena office, Alnutt addressed a variety of topics ranging from the future of UB football to whether he plans to remain in Buffalo for an extended period and provide stability at the top of the athletics department.

The interview has been condensed. A more extensive version is available at buffalonews.com/sports.

Question: What has it been like getting adjusted? You haven't been here long enough to really get your feet under you, but you can get the lay of the land.

Answer: I've been having one-on-one meetings with our entire staff. It's getting to know them from a personal standpoint, getting to know the person fully. But getting to know who my staff is, what they do, their roles and responsibilities and also having them have their own analysis of their area of the department. For me, it's to get an idea of their roles, what they see, what's good, the bad and the ugly. It's going to help me refocus what my goals might be, how I assess the program and how to move forward. It's been good to have these meetings to determine what I feel might be needed. I'm also working with campus administration, meeting with them and getting out there in the community, meeting with our donors and community folk. You know, 'Tell me about UB. How do you view the athletic department? How can we do better?' It's been good feedback.

Q: I want nothing more than to see the university do well on the football field. But knowing this community, it has been a tough sell. For me, it's a weird place of wanting to see the program do well and succeed at their level and knowing the community that hasn't supported it as much as it should. Although there are people who believe I've criticized the program, it's actually an indictment of the community. Do you know what I'm saying?

A: What you said is what I've heard about your stance. I appreciate it. Thank you for that. It's consistent.

Q: I've practically begged people to come to the stadium and watch them play. How are you going to do what hasn't been done? It's a tough question.

A: It is a tough question. You have to look at the anticipation of the season. How are we going to market? How are we going to promote? How are we rolling out the fact that we have three Top 100 prospects (Anthony Johnson, Tyree Jackson, Khalil Hodge)? There's only eight from the Group of Five. We have three of them. We finished 6-6. There were some close games. We understand that. But we're on the brink. From a marketing standpoint and communications, push as much out as we can and anticipate a great season.

Talk about what we provide, again, what happens on Game Day. I have an idea. It's family-friendly. Let's try to get as many kids and folks to support the Bulls. I get it. The more we're out there, the more we promote, the more we talk about the excitement of this upcoming season, hopefully this turns into a winning one for us, that maybe we've latched on. Maybe more people are going to become season ticket-holders and be bought into what we do. Who knows? Two years before I got to Memphis, Memphis was like, 'What are we doing with football? We're a basketball school.' We had never been to a bowl game. We had never won anything. In 2012, we had the 60,000-seat Liberty Bowl Stadium and 1,200 people. You fast-forward to hiring the right person and understanding where it fits in the university athletic department. And we were Memphis. It wasn't like we were Ole Miss and had all these resources in the SEC or even comparable to Cincinnati. Doing it the right way, doing it efficiently and doing the best we could to provide for (former coach) Justin Fuente and now Mike Norvell to elevate that program to where it is now (10-3 record, ranked 25th last season). What Norvell did better than Fuente was that he was embedded in the community. He was talking about football, not only with the folks in the community but the media, engaging and having that opportunity to be another voice. Is it tough? It can be a challenge. But can it be done? I'm an optimistic person that feels if we do it right, if we get some wins and some excitement and capture some people, we can build this thing.

Q: I hope you're right. As you can imagine, that's similar to what previous people in your position have said. But they underestimate the other football team (the Bills) in town and the attachment that people have to that team. It's almost like you guys aren't worth the fans' time. Many just aren't on board with college football. If that's the reality, what's the best way to approach it? Maybe the best way, as I've mentioned, is going down to (FCS). Or maybe it's actually going up (to a bigger FBS conference).

A: You look at what you said. Is that the answer, to go down? Does that free up more resources for men's and women's basketball and other sports to be successful at the Division I level? OK, you could look at it that way. By the same token, you can look at it as an expense, having 85 scholarships and the travel and the salaries and everything else. But you can also look at the loss of revenue. Now, what you're getting a tiny percentage of from a (College Football Playoff) standpoint. You lose money from the NCAA because you're not providing as much grant-in-aid. We all know the commitment we have with the Mid-American Conference. There's money. You're guaranteed games. If Richmond is playing Penn State, (Richmond is) getting a third of what a Group of Five would get. You have to balance that out. You also have to understand from a financial standpoint that it's not that much better, when you truly look at it.

The intriguing thing you mentioned is 'Do you go up?' How do you go up? Do you create this product across the board in all of our sports? That's been shown in basketball in this past season and has the ability in football. Do you continue to grow these and have a successful product and continue to be viewed as an athletic department to be growing in different shapes and ways - not just from athletic competition but also from an academic standpoint and how we give back to the community? We're also one of 62 (Association of American Universities). From an academic standpoint, that speaks volumes. If there is a seismic shift in the landscape in 2023 or whatever the case is with the Big 12 TV contract (with Fox and ESPN, which expires in 2025) and they pick off some teams from the American (Athletic Conference), is there an opportunity for us to look at? That's down the road, but we have to prepare ourselves and position ourselves to put our best foot forward. If there's an opportunity to go up a level, that might change things quite a bit from a sports standpoint around here.

Q: This is another dynamic of Buffalo. There is no pro basketball team. You have a chance to corner the market here. St. Bonaventure is far enough away, and it's a slightly different market. It's almost like a sub-market of Western New York. There are people from Buffalo who are St. Bonaventure fans because they went there or like the program. They have their own mini-market and have done well. Canisius and Niagara, if you're unaware, have a long history. But when the Big East and other big conferences were formed with bigger arenas, they didn't have the money or the vision or the desire to join them. Buffalo has a chance to take over the market in basketball, which you can see if you look at the attendance figures. The games are fun. Nate Oats has done a great job and Bobby Hurley before him. How do you build that, with the MAC only having one automatic bid?

A: Yes, that's a good question. We've made a commitment and will continue to make a commitment to our basketball program. When you look at the contract that was signed with Nate Oats and the progress we've made to keep Felisha (Legette-Jack) here. We're in the process of getting that done. I look at it like this: You don't need to put all of your eggs in one basket. We talk about football over here, and now we're talking about basketball. Call me crazy, but I feel we can do both. What I mean by that is continuing to build on the success we've had in basketball. We're looking at opportunities for how we can schedule better and how we can improve our RPI. What I heard from (MAC Commissioner) John Steinbrecher, who already had a scheduled trip to meet with our coaches and our staff, I actually had him kick off our staff meeting. He told me the night before that our approach to scheduling should be a model for the MAC and what we do from a nonconference standpoint. It's tough with the quadrant format. Unfortunately, for conferences like the MAC and other one-bid leagues, it's very difficult.

Q: You guys are scary now, and teams don't want to play you.

A: That's exactly right. But the thing I like is that Nate sees that and understands that, and he's going to schedule hard. If we slip up (in the conference tournament), do we get in (the NCAA Tournament)? Who knows? But at least we're building this the right way. We're hopeful, too, from a conference standpoint, that the league follows suit. Does that guarantee an automatic two-team league? Who knows? You have to build it. Look at Nate's team. If they lose in the conference tournament, is there a chance that they get an at-large bid? Who knows? What we have from a basketball standpoint, men and women, by no means are we trying to take away from one to help another.

Q: Are you in the right conference for all sports?

A: Yes, we definitely are.

Q: Nate Oats was in a slightly different place where his contract needed to be addressed or he likely would have received other offers. Felisha Legette-Jack had the same success or more, so...

A: It comes down to relationships. For me, going through the interview process and being able to watch that team play, I became a fan of how hard they play and how tough they play. Down at Florida State, I turned to my wife and said, 'Hey, if I get this job, on my own dime, it could be expensive going from Memphis to Albany the day before, but I'm going to make that trip.' I did that. For me, just to be there to support a team that wasn't mine...

Q: You were hired but had not started?

A: I hadn't started yet.

Q: Hell, they'll let anyone on board. You can hop on the train any time you want.

A: (Laughs) For me, I wanted to make that first impression. It went a long way. This isn't a 'me' thing. But it was something that I thought that had to be done, to be there and support the team and support her. I met some alums and some donors. My intent was, after seeing it in person, and talking to the people around here about the impact that she's made, even though she had a contract two years ago, to do something as historic as she did, it's time for us to do something, too. We've been involved in discussions. I'm very hopeful that this thing will wrap up very soon, and we'll work together for a long time.

Q: Something I had written before you came was that UB needed somebody from the inside, and by that I meant somebody with local ties that understood the quirks of the community. I also think there's something to be said for coming from the outside. When you have an outside view, you see things not everyone sees from the inside. What have you seen that can help you improve the attendance and support for the football team and the athletics department overall?

A: I'm going to lean on people who have been here for a while. There are people inside here and also outside in the community that can meet and advise me and help and assist as far as the quirks of the community. I don't know if 'quirks' is the word, but it was the same in Memphis and Cape Girardeau (at Southeast Missouri State). But I'm a Missouri guy. If someone came to Columbia, I would help advise them. I have those people on the inside. The great thing about it is that I'm able to meet from the outside. If I have this idea, 'Hey, I'm thinking about this... what do you think about how we approach our season tickets or premium seating for football and how it might work,' it could be 'We haven't really tried that before' or 'Mark, here's why it won't work.' But when you empower your folks, they can help guide me and there's a buy-in. This is not broken. It's not broken. I'm not coming in here with a strong fist and saying, 'All right, everything is changing. We're going to do this, this and this. Or we're going to do this the Memphis way and this the Missouri way.' The good thing is that I'm at a point, and the program is at a point, where I'm going through these one-on-ones and getting a lot of information. People have been very honest with me. I appreciate that. From the inside-outside, there are people who are going to help me. The good thing is being able to reach out to our donors through phone calls, dinners, lunches and asking them, 'How is this going to work?' I don't want to hear, 'We were 6-6. Yay! We beat Arizona. Yay! We reached the Sweet 16. Yay! Everything is good!' There are challenges both ways. How can we make it better? When I figure out some of those quirks and some of those hurdles, maybe I can jump over rather than trip over that hurdle or maybe I can sidestep one and make it work.

Q: The fieldhouse is under construction now. It has been discussed for 20 years. How much of an impact can that make?

A: Huge. This building (Alumni Arena) contains athletics and recreational services. We're busting at the seams in terms of space in terms of varsity teams to be able to practice and for us to provide opportunities for students to use this as a rec center. It has been on the books and talked about for years. People are going to automatically assume that this is a football facility. 'It's great for Lance, and you're sacrificing everything else to make this great football facility.' To be honest, it's a multipurpose facility. It's for all of our programs. You talk about these Aprils (with poor weather). They're going to be able to go inside somewhere that's turf and not a wooden floor. When you look at soccer, being able to do what they need to do. Track and field. Where are they going to go? There's an opportunity for them to have a long-jump pit, spring track, what have you. Why not have the intramural ultimate-frisbee championship in there? This is a multipurpose building that's going to alleviate some stress. But what it also does is gives student-athletes, staff and coaches a great advantage and also prospective student-athletes. The football recruit can come in, or the soccer recruit can come in and say, 'Wow.' From a recruiting standpoint, it's going to be big. We're in an area where people would think, 'Why doesn't Buffalo have one?' We have a great partnership with the Bills with being able to go there. But from a travel standpoint, it's an hour round-trip. This is going to help us. It's going to be huge.

Q: What's the plan for you?

A: I'm committed to a five-year contract. I'm committed to being here for as long as there's a commitment to me. You'll find out that I'm a big family person. For my daughter coming in here as a freshman, it will be very difficult - very difficult - for me to interrupt her in high school. I'm appreciative, honored, to have a five-year contract. There's a lot of work to be done. We'll let the rest sort itself out. The main thing here, hearing from people on the inside but also from the outside, is stability. I believe that's one of the reasons why we're not at a higher level in terms of what we're trying to get done.

Q: You mean the lack of stability?

A: Yes.

Q: So you're committed to the long haul?

A: I am. I really am. I'm 45. I'm a young guy. It's important. I'm a huge believer that what I do is about my family. It's no longer about me. If you were talking to me 10 years ago or when I took the SEMO job or seven years, it was, 'Hey, what's the next step?' My long-term goal was to become an FBS athletic director. I'm at that point. I'm in a really good place. The quirks, as you mention, are out there, but I feel this is a great community for me.

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The Bismarck Tribune

 

GRAND FORKS -- At about $110 million, the Ralph Engelstad Arena was the single-largest private contribution in UND's history.

It stands to reason then that the infrastructure to keep the place open would be built on a similar scale. Tax filings and other documents obtained by Forum News Service outline some of the institutional organization that keeps the lights on and the ice cold in the monumental hockey stadium and athletics center, including the network of entities that work together to keep the project intact.

The arena, known to many as The Ralph, is managed on a day-to-day basis as a nonprofit under the control of RE Arena Inc., with further oversight provided by a distinct nonprofit known as UND Arena Services Inc.

But the stadium itself appears to be owned by Arena Holdings Charitable LLC, a private entity of Delaware. That company is controlled by local nonprofit UND Sports Facilities Inc.

Funding moves through these organizations to provide for the sports center's needs. Most of its revenues and expenses, including distributions to the UND athletic department, are recorded on the filings of UND Sports Facilities.

Kris Engelstad McGarry, daughter of the mega-donor for whom the arena is named, said in a May 9 meeting that matters of the use and control of the arena have formed at least one part of a growing wedge between herself and the administration of UND President Mark Kennedy.

McGarry said Kennedy made "veiled threats" of litigation tied to what she described as the university's "insatiable need for money."

For his part, the president said relations between the two have been civil. If there have been any disagreements, Kennedy said, they have arisen in the course of ensuring the arena is operated to fulfill the wishes of its donor as laid out in original gift documentation -- namely, that the arena is run in all ways with the goal of benefiting UND and its athletic department.

The foundational documents, Kennedy has previously said, deal with both the financial distributions from the the stadium to the university "as well as the conduct of activities within the Ralph to the benefit of the UND athletic program."

"Whatever questions should come up, the answer should be, what's the interest of the UND athletic department," he said.

Through a representative, McGarry turned down requests for comment this week. Her assistant told reporters the benefactor, one of three trustees who manage the philanthropic foundation that contains her father's fortune, would be in Grand Forks for meetings at the end of the month and would not conduct any interviews until then.

Jody Hodgson, manager of the Ralph and president of the RE Arena Inc. board, could not be reached for comment by press time. But Earl Strinden, board secretary and former CEO of the UND Alumni Association, stressed that "everything we do is for the benefit of the University of North Dakota."

Strinden is also listed on filings for tax year 2016 as being a director on the board of UND Arena Services, as well as the president of UND Sports Facilities. Still, he deferred to Hodgson to explain in detail the interplay between the different entities, noting only that the groups play "specific roles" in keeping the facility running.

"(The arena) is a major enterprise, so we have lots of things we have to do to keep the building in top-notch condition," Strinden said. "Everything we do is to fulfill the mission as laid out in the vision of Ralph Engelstad -- to make it as beneficial as possible, for the benefit of UND."

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The Daily News of Los Angeles

 

A former Bishop Alemany High School volleyball coach who was implicated in an off-campus hazing incident in 2008 is named in a lawsuit that alleges he sexually molested a member of the his 2016-17 team.

A former Alemany High School volleyball coach who was implicated in an off-campus hazing incident in 2008 is named in a lawsuit that alleges he sexually molested a member of the 2016-17 team.

The plaintiff in the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed Thursday is identified only as John Doe. He is suing the coach, Jamie Quaglino, the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Mission Hills school.

The suit alleges sexual abuse of a minor, intentional infliction of emotional distress, sexual battery, sexual harassment, negligent hiring, negligent failure to warn the plaintiff and failure to report suspected child abuse.

The suit seeks unspecified damages.

A representative for the archdiocese could not be immediately reached.

Doe is 18 years old. During the 2016-17 school year, when he was 16, Quaglino "showed an interest in plaintiff and began grooming him with the intent of manipulating his emotions," the suit alleged.

Quaglino paid extra attention to Doe and "smacked or pinched him in the buttocks when he came off the volleyball court," the suit said.

Quaglino also sent "personal and intimate text messages" to Doe throughout the day and night, the suit said. The text mes

sages asked Doe whether he was gay and if so, what percentage he was gay, the suit said. The coach also asked the plaintiff if he was going to admit he was gay after he graduated, according to the complaint.

In July 2017, Quaglino sent messages via Snapchat to a former Alemany student in which he asked about the plaintiff's private parts, the suit alleged.

In October 2017, Quaglino inserted the antenna of a walkie-talkie into Doe's buttocks during a volleyball practice session in front of teammates, the suit said.

"Plaintiff was humiliated, in pain and confused about their relationship," the suit said.

In October 2017, the teen confided in his parents about the alleged abuses, according to the suit.

Quaglino was fired in December 2017 for "communication with a student" but was allowed to stay on campus in a supervisory role for at least four weeks, the suit said.

In April 2008, Quaglino was involved in an off-campus hazing incident involving a sex toy and the assault of a minor, the suit said. He resigned as volleyball coach and 11 students were kicked off the team, according to the lawsuit.

"Despite the scandal, Quaglino remained employed by Alemany and later reclaimed his position as the head volleyball coach," the suit said.

The suit also alleged Alemany "has a history of employing teachers convicted of sexual felonies involving minors and improper communication with minor students."

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Copyright 2018 The Florida Times-Union

Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville)

 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville reached a $4.5 million settlement with former athletic director Tom Jurich, who was fired in the wake of a national federal corruption investigation of college basketball.

Jurich disputed his firing on Oct. 18 for cause after nearly 20 years as AD and had considered suing the school. The University of Louisville Athletic Association and Board of Trustees on Friday approved the settlement. Jurich's employment ended "without cause" as a result of his resignation, also described in the settlement as "retirement."

He'll also receive another $2.6 million in accrued employment benefits, along with home game tickets and parking for Louisville football and basketball for 20 years.

An audit of the University of Louisville Foundation released last June showed that Jurich averaged annual compensation of more than $2.76 million from 2010-16, including more than $5.35 million in 2016.

Then-Interim President Greg Postel had placed Jurich on paid administrative leave in September after the school's acknowledgement of its involvement in the investigation. Trustees voted 10-3 to fire Jurich, two days after the ULAA unanimously fired Hall of Fame men's basketball coach Rick Pitino.

Jurich's legal team had stressed the ex-AD did nothing illegal, nor violated NCAA rules.

Trustee chairman J. David Grissom said in the statement that "Everyone is pleased that this matter has been successfully resolved. All parties can move forward to begin the next chapter."

Jurich played a major role in Louisville's success on the field and how the school handled issues off it. He led the school's 2014 entry into the Atlantic Coast Conference and oversaw program and facility upgrades, including a $63 million expansion of the football stadium due for completion by fall.

He also hired several successful coaches including Pitino, who guided the Cardinals to the 2013 NCAA men's basketball championship. Louisville ultimately vacated that title in February as part of NCAA penalties for a sex scandal following an escort's book allegations that former basketball staffer Andre McGee hired her and other dancers to strip and have sex with players and recruits.

Pitino has filed a $38.7 million federal lawsuit against Louisville, alleging breach of contract.

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Copyright 2018 The Post and Courier
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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

A former athlete at First Baptist School of Charleston received a $5.87 million verdict in a lawsuit after he suffered two sports-related concussions while playing basketball for the school.

The jury reached its verdict in favor of the student, Brett Baker-Goins, on Friday afternoon, according to a statement put out by his attorneys.

After suffering his first concussion, Baker-Goins was treated at Medical University Hospital for complaints of headaches, dizziness and cognitive issues, the statement said. He was diagnosed with a sports-related concussion and when he returned to school, officials put him through the South Carolina Independent School Association's "return to play protocol."

But attorneys argued that he was rushed through that process and suffered another concussion within five weeks of his first injury, the statement said.

"The second concussion resulted in a permanent traumatic brain injury that has delayed Brett's educational, social and emotional development," the statement said.

After Friday's verdict, Baker-Goins' attorney, W. Mullins McLeod Jr. said injuries like his client's don't happen when proper return to play protocols are followed.

"This was a five-year battle that ended with the truth," Baker-Goins said, in a statement.

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Copyright 2018 Virginian-Pilot Companies LLC
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The Virginian — Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — While the ACC exited its spring meetings without any formal recommendations regarding the Rice Commission's report on the future of college basketball, it certainly had something to say about the sport. The conference voted to propose legislation to the NCAA that would expand the tournament from 68 to 72 teams, essentially duplicating the First Four.

ACC commissioner John Swofford said the conference also voted to propose a package of rule changes that included moving back the 3-point line, widening the lane and resetting the shot clock to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound, but passed on the other rules trialed during the NIT that included moving from halves to quarters and changes to fouls and the bonus.

The expansion proposal came from the ACC coaches, who noted the number of football teams that have postseason opportunities compared to basketball.

"The idea of having two First Fours, if you will, maybe geographic," Swofford said. "That's such a quick turnaround. You could have one maybe in Dayton and one in the western part of the states. But we will be proposing that."

Those were the biggest proposals out of the spring meetings after the ACC decided to leave the mechanics of the more epochal changes proposed by the Rice Commission to a set of NCAA working groups that will spend the summer trying to deal with various parts of the commission's mandate by August.

The ACC will also propose football legislation that creates recruiting dead periods in February and July, restricts the spring recruiting period to four out of six weeks from the current six weeks and prohibits verbal offers to prospects before Sept. 1 of their junior year. That's largely fallout from the new December signing period, which the ACC originally proposed and continues to support, Swofford said.

There was also considerable discussion about kickoffs and their role in the future of the sport, but without any consensus on recommendations for the rules committee.

"We talked about how the game is changing, and how we need to preserve the game, but make it safer for the players," North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. "We get into it, so we get a feel for how everybody feels in the league. You've got 15 guys in the room and not everybody is going to agree with everything, and that's fine, we're OK with that."

Among other topics Swofford discussed Thursday:

n Discussion continues about future ACC tournament sites, with nothing decided beyond 2020. Swofford said he had hoped the conference might have been able to make a decision this week.

"We did have some discussion here and expected to," he said. "I don't think it will be that long before we're able to pull this together. I do think it'll be a rotation of some kind."

n The ACC Network remains on track for its 2019 launch and revenue projections remain stable, especially after ESPN was able to reach a deal for carriage with New York cable provider Altice. More carriage deals will be negotiated as ESPN's current agreements expire.

n The ACC supports the NCAA's position, announced Thursday, calling for federal oversight of legalized sports gambling.

"We're going to have to learn what impact it really has on us," Swofford said.

n There was considerable discussion at all levels — coaches, administrators, faculty representatives — about the NCAA's continuing evaluation of liberalizing the transfer process, albeit without any concrete conclusions.

"I don't think this is going to turn into a free-for-all and a total free market," Swofford said.

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Copyright 2018 Collier County Publishing Company
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Naples Daily News (Florida)

 

Although USC Upstate is leaving after 11 years for the Big South, the Atlantic Sun is rising.

Division II's North Alabama already was ready to replace the Spartans starting in the fall, but on Thursday the ASUN, of which Florida Gulf Coast University has been a member since 2007, added Liberty University of Lynchburg, Virginia, of the Big South.

A private Christian school founded by Jerry Falwell, Liberty also will begin ASUN play in the fall.

"They bring outstanding academics and athletics that will raise the ASUN in those areas," ASUN commissioner Ted Gumbart said. "It's also a place that is growing and we like to consider the ASUN growing. It's a university that competes with the goal of championships. And that's something we want to continue to build — a conference with teams that are achievers and want to compete in the postseason.

"And if you haven't been to Liberty in the past few years, you'll really enjoy visiting their campus. It's just a wonderful campus from the hospitality to the atmosphere. Their facilities are second to none and they have a good following.

"We think it's a win all the way around and we look forward to a long partnership."

Liberty athletic director Ian McCaw apparently feels the same way.

"On behalf of our coaches, staff and student-athletes, we are excited and honored to join the ASUN as our all-sports conference," McCaw said. "Moreover, we are deeply appreciative to commissioner Ted Gumbart, the ASUN leadership and member institutions for this opportunity. The ASUN footprint will allow Liberty to further extend our brand into New Jersey, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida."

FGCU athletic director Ken Kavanagh also is a fan of this move.

"Certainly they bring a program with considerable overall strength in a lot of sports that we sponsor," Kavanagh said. "And we are always hoping to work to make the ASUN stronger with our own contributions and having other members that can do the same thing certainly lends itself to better opportunities for strength of schedule internally and an opportunity, hopefully, for more at-large bids and better seeds."

Liberty's addition gives the ASUN nine teams. It takes seven to qualify for automatic NCAA tournament or meet berths — a conference with six has two years to add another — so expanding with Liberty gives the ASUN some cushion.

"Obviously there's some long-range planning we've been doing the last five years," Gumbart said. "And we actually have some options that we have not gone forward with at this point in time. We feel very good about where we are. And if the group of presidents determine there's a need for further expansion we'll evaluate the candidates. And if we feel any of them will add to the strength of the ASUN, we'll consider them."

A ninth member also gives ASUN programs two more conference games, meaning they'll have fewer nonconference matchups to pick up, something of great help to mid-majors.

Liberty decided to move from FCS football in the Big South to FBS independent status last season. Ironically, the ASUN and Big South have a football partnership. Liberty will remain an FBS independent.

"Liberty's move in football caused some strain in their relationship with their conference," Gumbart said.

FGCU does not have football. The only sport the Eagles have that the Flames do not is beach volleyball.

Liberty is 885 miles from FGCU's campus.

"It will be a challenge to all of us this far away — financially and from a logistical standpoint — but others probably feel the same way about Fort Myers," Kavanagh said. "The landscape of what college athletics is right now is it's not as regionally aligned distance-wise as we used to be in many conferences. I guess you resign yourself to the fact that that's a part of what we deal with."

Liberty and FGCU are members of the Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association and ASUN's indoor track and field teams — which don't have the capabilities to host — competed at the Flames' new facility for their championships in February, so there already was a relationship between ASUN and Liberty officials.

Liberty has spent a whopping $196 million on facilities since 2010. That includes $20 million for a 2008 renovation to the 9,547-seat Vines Center Basketball Arena, $20 million on its baseball stadium and $10 million for its softball stadium. In 2020, the Vines Center will mostly be replaced by Liberty Arena which is under construction and will seat 4,000. The Vines Center will host games that could attract more fans than that. Liberty has not yet released the expected cost of the new arena.

"They've certainly had a tremendous physical plan," Kavanagh said.

Liberty men's basketball went 22-15 last season and made the Big South championship game before going on a run to the Collegeinsider.com semifinals. Average home attendance was 2,045.

Women's basketball averaged 1,233 fans at home games, was 24-10 and won the Big South regular-season and tournament titles before falling at third-seeded Tennessee in an NCAA tourney first-round matchup last season.

Liberty baseball has a winning record, and softball (47-12) won the Big South tournament and is in the NCAA tournament. Men's soccer was 10-6-1 last season and women's soccer went 10-7-3.

"They've been pretty much the dominant team in the Big South in terms of all-sports trophies," Kavanagh said.


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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

When NBA analyst Stephanie Ready's television colleagues ask her about calling a game in virtual reality, they often picture her wearing virtual reality goggles.

But, no, that's not the way it works for Ready and play-by-play commentator Spero Dedes, who are announcing Western Conference finals games between Houston and Golden State in virtual reality for Turner Sports in partnership with the NBA and Intel.

Working the game from a production truck or in the arena, both are cognizant of the nascent user experience for VR newcomers.

Watching a game with a VR headset gives the user an in-arena experience — as if the viewer is sitting courtside, behind the basket or in the lower level. Users can even choose the camera angle.

The two veteran announcers have altered the way they call a game because of the new medium.

"The beauty of virtual reality is I can say, 'Look to your left. Steve Kerr is livid because his players missed a defensive assignment,' and the fans at home can turn to the left and look at Kerr in real time," Ready said. "If it were a regular television broadcast, I'd have to press my talk-back button on my headset, get my director on the line and say, 'Get me a shot of Steve Kerr on the bench,' and by the time that is on the screen for viewers at home, hopefully he's still doing what he was doing when I noticed it. But probably not.

"With virtual reality, you get the whole experience as if you're actually there."

If you haven't watched a game in VR, it is an experience that gives the viewer a 3D, 360-degree perspective. It is as close to sitting courtside as it gets from your couch.

"You're not watching the game through a lens, but as if you're watching the game through a window," Dedes said. "You can see texture and depth perception."

Turner Sports is invested in VR. During the regular season, it showed eight games and the All-Star Game in virtual reality. With the cost of quality VR headsets reasonably priced, Turner is betting on this technology taking off not just in North America but around the world. Turner also made the 2017 and 2018 NCAA men's Final Four available in VR. Viewers find the NBA games through the TNT on VR app.

Dedes and Ready still prep for a game the same way. They research and talk to players and coaches. But calling games in VR was an adjustment.

"We've tried to be less stats heavy and have a running conversation with Stephanie about the game," Dedes said. "Because this is still not mainstream and fans are experiencing it for the first time, we find ourselves being more of a traffic cop and introducing them to what the technology is like, what the capabilities are like."

There are four to eight VR cameras inside the arena for a game. Using stereoscopic 4k-resolution camera pods to capture near 360-degree views, the feeds are sent to a production truck with Intel servers processing and delivering the content to users. To ensure real-time viewing, the VR broadcast generates 1 terabyte (1,024 gigabytes) per hour.

In a late-season game between Boston and Washington, Dedes and Ready called the game from inside a production truck at the arena with six monitors in front of them. The 53-foot truck supports a broadcast team, directors and producers and system engineers. In the first two games of the conference finals, they called the game from inside the arena and not in the production truck.

Ready's aha moment came when she saw her two children ages 7 and 9 watch a game in VR. "They were blown away," Ready said. "They were reaching out, as if they were trying to grab the players. When I watch, it's so realistic like I'm actually in arena. It is that real."

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Copyright 2018 The Salt Lake Tribune
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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

The NCAA is opening a door for states with legalized sports gambling to host NCAA championship events and officials in Nevada are already set to get in the game as soon as they can.

The governing body for college sports on Thursday announced a "temporary" lifting of a ban that prevented events like college basketball's NCAA Tournament from being hosted in states that accept wagers on single games. The move comes three days after the Supreme Court overturned a federal law that barred most states from allowing gambling on professional and college sporting events.

"On Monday we contacted the Mountain West Conference, our NCAA colleagues, we also spoke with our local and regional leaders. It's our intent to present competitive bids for national events, and we want to be aggressive in that space," UNLV athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois said. "We know that Las Vegas as a community, we have a proven track record of success in hosting large scale events."

NCAA President Mark Emmert said the board of governors will consider permanently revising its policy at future meetings. But the NCAA said it will not change its rules that prohibit gambling on sports by athletes and all athletic department employees, including coaches.

Emmert also is calling for federal regulations of sports gambling, joining the NFL, NBA and other leagues.

"Our highest priorities in any conversation about sports wagering are maintaining the integrity of competition and student-athlete well-being," Emmert said in a statement.

Emmert has said in the past he hoped lawmakers would make exceptions for college sports if sports gambling is allowed.

"There might be a carve-out to eliminate college athletics from sports gambling similar to what we did with daily fantasy sports," Emmert said during a college sports forum in December in New York. That would require state-by-state lobbying unless the federal government steps in to regulate.

Lead1, an association of athletic directors for the 130 schools that play major college football, is pushing for regulation, too.

"Eighty percent of our athletic directors have indicated that they oppose college sports betting," said former U.S. Rep. Tom McMillen, who is the president of Lead1. "Our athletic directors are concerned not only about the vulnerability of young student-athletes to inducements of point shaving, but the increased compliance costs to keep their programs clean."

As for host sites, most of the NCAA's major championship events are already booked through 2022, including all rounds of the men's basketball tournament. Women's basketball tournament sites are booked through 2020.

By suspending its policy prohibiting states with legalized gambling from hosting championships, the NCAA can go forward with already determined sites regardless of what states do with gambling laws in the near future.

If the NCAA permanently lifts the ban on states with legalize sports betting hosting NCAA-run events, the first and biggest beneficiary could be Nevada and more specifically Las Vegas.

Las Vegas did submit bids to host in T-Mobile Arena, home of the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights, a men's basketball regional, the men's hockey Frozen Four and the NCAA championship wrestling meet during bidding that covered 2019-22. NCAA officials allowed Las Vegas to bid as they considered the possibility of changes coming to gambling laws and association policies.

Expect Las Vegas, with UNLV as the host school, to try again for all those events, said Pat Christenson, president of Las Vegas Events. Christenson said having gone through the process should be a benefit next time around.

Christenson said he is also interested in the idea of possibly bringing the NCAA women's basketball tournament to Las Vegas in a Sweet 16 format, where the final 16 teams in the tournament would be whittled down to a champion at one site.

Lifting the NCAA's ban also means UNLV and Mountain West rival Nevada would now be eligible to host NCAA events such as softball and baseball regionals at their home facilities.

"This is an opportunity for our student-athletes to be able to have a championship experience in their own backyard," Reed-Francois said. "And I'm pretty enthused about that."

Las Vegas does host college sports such as the conference basketball tournaments for the Pac-12 and Mountain West and a football bowl game, but those are not NCAA-run.

The College Football Playoff is also not an NCAA-run event, but the administrators are conference commissioners who tend to respect NCAA rules. Sites for the CFP championship game have been chosen through 2024, leaving two more championship sites to be determined in the 12-year contract that runs through the 2025 season.

A new stadium is being built in Las Vegas for the Oakland Raiders and is expected to ready for 2020. That could also be a destination for an NCAA Final Four.

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Copyright 2018 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.
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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

CENTERVILLEWhen a half dozen high school coaches convened recently to talk football, some consensus about what is probably the game's biggest long-term issue emerged.

With concern about the effects of head injuries growing, there is no choice but to embrace changes to the game because the consequences are not acceptable.

"If we let this game go, I'll tell you what: Society's gonna hurt. It really is," said longtime Wayne coach Jay Minton. "Because these guys (high school football players) are going to be the leaders, many, many of the people on these teams.

RELATED: Three Centerville seniors accept prestigious Sonny Unger Award

"But it's just about not being stubborn. Don't be stubborn. Don't do it the way we were taught because the way we were taught is definitely wrong. But it's just the way (it is). If we don't make a change like that, we're gonna lose the game."

Minton praised the work of USA Football in pushing new forms of tackling and recommending new structures for games and practices while Springboro coach Ryan Wilhite noted those types of things have replaced Xs and Os in clinic conversations recently.

"I'm just really really proud of the way coaches have embraced change in our game, the way we've embraced how we practice, how we teach tackling," Wilhite said. "The willingness to study… you would go to a clinic and you used to hear people talking about all these schemes, and now you go to a clinic and you hear all these coaches talking about the basics of tackling."

He can relate to parents who have to decide if their elementary-school-aged children should take up football. He's gone through it as the father of a football player himself.

"It was never a question (his son would play). And I would tell you as you go through it, the things he has gained from character and toughness and the ability to overcome things — it's worth all that," Wilhite said.

Dave Miller, a former Centerville quarterback who is entering his third year as the coach at Fairmont, added change is not easy and noted the question that follows inevitably centers on toughness.

In Miller's days playing for legendary Elks coach Bob Gregg, coaches were concerned about developing toughness, but there wasn't much question about how to do it.

The answer was hitting, hitting and more hitting.

After that? Let's get some more hitting in.

That isn't the case anymore.

"It's hard to replicate, but moving on into the future and realizing we have to save the sport, we have to do things differently," Miller said. "There's a time and place for that. We teach toughness in different ways, in the weight room and things like that."

He said the Firebirds have instituted the rugby-style tackling popularized a few years ago by the Seattle Seahawks and developing the muscles around the neck to provide more stability.

(Ironically, building neck strength is something coaches have believed in for a long time — back when a concussion might be written off as getting "dinged" and "playing through the fog" after a hard hit was not something anyone gave a second thought.)

Beavercreek coach Nic Black said there is scientific research from Ohio State to back up the positives of a strong neck and pointed to how the Beavers get at the toughness issue.

"We try to teach confidence," Black said. "Confidence leads to fast play. When kids play full speed, they do not get hurt for the most part. They might hurt others, and that happens, but your kid is safe, so we try to go out and make sure that our kids are as protected as possible which goes back to our preventative measures and then teaching them confidence. From the confidence comes toughness."

That all sounds good, but can a team cut back on hitting and still be successful?

Jeff Graham said yes — and he might be more qualified than anyone in the state to say so.

His state champion Trotwood-Madison Rams not only went undefeated in Division II last season, they beat Division I champion Pickerington Central by two scores in the regular season.

If there were a trophy for the best overall team in Ohio for 2017, it would belong to Graham's Rams.

"We have contact drills but not tackling drills," Graham said. "We work on form tackling as a stationary position in our group things, but when we (do full-squad sessions) and things of that nature we basically just bump and then our kids run so they don't have to face that contact because of course Friday is a couple of days away."

RELATED: Rams win another state championship

The 49-year-old, who played in the NFL for 11 seasons and noted he is part of ongoing legislation against the league regarding handling of medical issues, also stresses to players and parents the importance of taking head injuries seriously.

"Any kid who complains about a headache or anything of that nature, make sure they are evaluated by our training staff and go through the proper protocol to help our kids understand that," Graham said.

Minton said players and coaches from elementary and middle school are invited to watch them to see how they do things, and Centerville coach Brent Ullery said the same is true for the wee Elks.

However, Ullery identified an ongoing impediment to fully transitioning to a new era.

"Football is moving in one direction, but everybody coaching it learned it a different way," Ullery said. "We all learned it was about mental toughness and you get your head in front. If your head's not in front, you're wrong. And now if your head's in front, you're wrong. So it's the complete opposite.

"It's taking a lot of humility for coaches to see that everybody's willing to teach it a different way, but it's got to start up here and trickle down to your peewees and everything. Then hopefully injuries will go down and mothers and fathers will be more comfortable with their sons playing football and hopefully programs will be able to thrive again."

Ultimately, that's what all of the coaches want to see, but Wilhite reminded observers there will always be a balance for the game to maintain.

"I think football is safer than it's ever been, but it's always going to be a risk," the Springboro coach said. "It's a contact sport. You've got to understand that when you get in there and players certainly do, too."

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Copyright 2018 Star Tribune
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

The St. Paul native who coordinated the Super Bowl LII logistics and finances is one of three finalists to run U.S. Bank Stadium.

Dave Haselman, who was the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee's chief operating officer, is a finalist for the executive director position vacated when Rick Evans announced his retirement late last year due to health problems.

The other two finalists: interim director Jim Farstad and Nicholas Langella, the general manager of the Alamodome in San Antonio that recently hosted the NCAA men's basketball Final Four.

Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) Chairman Mike Vekich will recommend one of the three finalists to the board at the regularly scheduled monthly meeting Friday. The other four board members will then vote.

The position, the most significant post at the MSFA, was originally occupied by Ted Mondale. He resigned in 2017 along with MSFA chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen amid growing public outcry over their use of two luxury suites at the stadium.

Haselman has a long record of professional stability running high-profile, high-stakes operations at the Mall of America and Delta Air Lines.

Farstad, who is in his second stint as acting executive director, has worked mainly as a technology consultant, running his own firm.

Langella has worked in convention and arena operations in St. Louis, Boston, Providence, R.I., and at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. His résumé doesn't indicate past Minnesota work or ties.

Haselman's career has involved running operations for the Ghermezian family at the continent's largest malls, including the Mall of America, as well as transportation and security for NBC-TV in New York and part of Northwest Airlines.

Before taking the Super Bowl in 2015, Haselman led professional engineers and facility managers at a commercial and industrial firm.

Rochelle Olson · 612-673-1747 Twitter: @rochelleolson

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Copyright 2018 The Post and Courier
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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

Jeff Barber, former athletic director at Liberty University, is expected to be introduced as the new athletic director at Charleston Southern on Thursday.

Barber will become only the third athletic director in CSU history.

Barber replaces Hank Small, who announced his resignation six weeks ago after 17 years on the job. Barber resigned as athletic director at Liberty in November of 2016, ending his 10-year tenure on the job. Barber, 60, also has worked at East Carolina, Furman and South Carolina.

While at Liberty, Barber oversaw extensive building projects, including new venues for baseball and softball. He also directed the expansion of the school's football stadium.

Barber's first primary goal at CSU could be to direct the fundraising and building of a new basketball arena. The school announced in 2012 that it was going to build a new basketball facility, but construction has yet to begin.

 

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USA TODAY

 

By the time the U.S. Center for SafeSport officially opened its doors in March 2017, USA Gymnastics had already been mired for eight months in one of the country's worst sexual abuse crises.

Its longtime team physician, Larry Nassar, was in jail, awaiting trial on 28 federal and state charges and accused of sexual assault by more than 80 young women and girls. It faced at least eight state and federal lawsuits from more than 100 women who said the federation had failed to protect them.

Public outrage over policies that did little to deter predators was growing. Its CEO was gone, forced out under pressure by the U.S. Olympic Committee, and it was still four months from hiring an internal safe sport director.

Yet unlike most other national governing bodies that had existing sexual misconduct complaints and turned them over to the U.S. Center for SafeSport — an independent body created to adjudicate sexual abuse cases in the Olympic movement — USA Gymnastics kept at least one case. Marcia Frederick, the first U.S. woman to win a world title, alleged that her coach, Richard Carlson, had sexually abused her in 1979 and 1980, beginning when she was 16.

While USA Gymnastics did not break any rules by keeping the complaint, it raises questions about the organization's judgment, especially given that the governing body remains under intense scrutiny and pending litigation. As of Tuesday, Frederick's case remained unresolved.

"The whole point of creating SafeSport was to get two things: One is independence from the powerful within the sport. Two is to get some expertise, people who know what they're doing," said Nancy Hogshead-Makar, an Olympic gold medalist in swimming who is now a civil rights attorney advocating for the protection of young athletes as the CEO of Champion Women.

National governing bodies (NGBs) have been mandated to turn over any complaints of sexual misconduct to SafeSport since it opened. There was no similar directive for complaints the NGBs had before March 2017. But in educational sessions conducted to familiarize NGBs with the center, the USOC instructed they could either keep cases in which investigations had already begun or, if the center agreed, turn them over to SafeSport, said USOC spokesperson Christy Cahill.

If an NGB had not started an investigation for a sexual misconduct case, the center would take those, too.

"It is fair to say that that was, is and has always been our position — that upon launch of the center that all cases should be submitted to the center," said Rick Adams, the USOC's chief of Paralympic sport and NGB organizational development.

And almost all of the NGBs that had cases opted to give them to SafeSport, according to a USA TODAY Sports survey. Only four — USA Hockey, USA Swimming, USA Cycling and USA Gymnastics — are known to have kept cases to resolve internally.

Citing the pending litigation in which it is contesting claims it failed to protect athletes, USA Gymnastics declined to provide data on the cases it had in March 2017. It also refused to answer questions about Frederick's case.

SafeSport spokesman Dan Hill said the center did not mandate NGBs turn over existing cases because it had concerns about resources and not re-traumatizing victims by repeating an investigation. If an NGB asked the center to take a case, however, it did.

"To the best of our knowledge, we're not aware of any sexual misconduct cases that were previously being handled by NGBs where they asked for the center to get involved and the center didn't," Hill said.

In response to general questions about how USA Gymnastics decided to keep or pass on cases, it said that "in accordance with the Center's policies, USA Gymnastics retained sexual misconduct complaints where the investigatory process was in progress prior to" SafeSport opening.

Adams declined to share what conversations the USOC had with USA Gymnastics about transferring its cases to the center.

"Gymnastics, like all NGBs, we're confident complied with the directives and the conditions of membership that were imposed on them once the center launched," he said, "and that was to send everything to the center."

The gymnastics sex abuse scandal began with a 2016 investigation by The Indianapolis Star, which found more than 350 gymnasts had accused coaches, gym owners and other adults working in gymnastics of sexual misconduct over the previous 20 years. Many of those complaints were not reported to law enforcement or child welfare agencies, the Star found, and USA Gymnastics' policies did little to deter predators in the sport.

Though USA Gymnastics had already had her complaint for more than a year when SafeSport opened, Frederick said she would have had no problem with the case being transferred. She said USA Gymnastics never gave her that option.

USA TODAY Sports does not identify people who have made sexual assault complaints, but Frederick agreed to speak publicly about her case.

Frederick was interviewed in 2011 as part of USA Gymnastics' investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Don Peters. Peters had been Frederick's coach when she won her title on uneven bars at the 1978 world championships and while she said he never abused her, she told the investigator she knew of alleged sexual misconduct by other coaches at the gym.

This investigation was about Peters, Frederick said she was told, so she didn't mention Carlson. But a few years later, she spotted a photo on Facebook of a former teammate and Carlson at a gymnastics meet. Not only was Carlson still involved in the sport, Frederick realized, he was coaching children.

"I was sick to my stomach. I thought he was gone," Frederick told USA TODAY Sports. "Since 1980... that means this person has been in and out of the sport."

Carlson's attorney, Anthony J. Colleluori, told USA TODAY Sports that his client denies abusing Frederick.

"We don't believe that this situation ever happened," Colleluori said.

Frederick made a formal complaint to USA Gymnastics on Sept. 12, 2015. Steve Penny, the then-president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, wrote Frederick three months later to acknowledge her complaint and tell her that Mike Udvardy of I.R.I.S. Investigations had been hired to handle the case.

USA Gymnastics hoped to have the investigation completed within 90 days, Penny wrote, according to the letter obtained by USA TODAY Sports.

Frederick said she was interviewed twice, but from there the case appeared to stall. Frederick said she heard from USA Gymnastics "infrequently" until July 2017, when Mark Busby contacted her.

USA Gymnastics announced July 19, 2017, that it had hired Busby, who previously had handled child and sex abuse crimes as a deputy prosecutor in Indianapolis, as its in-house legal counsel for safe sport issues.

Frederick sent Busby an email on Sept. 17, 2017, and it was at least two weeks before he responded.

"It was not uncommon for my emails to go unanswered for several days or even weeks," Frederick said.

A hearing was held March 19. While Busby's experience as a prosecutor makes him an expert in sex crimes, he is not the one deciding USA Gymnastics' remaining abuse cases. That is the responsibility of "at least three disinterested individuals," according to the governing body's bylaws. At least 20% of that hearing panel must include athlete representation.

Kim Dougherty, Frederick's attorney, said USA Gymnastics submitted its paperwork from the hearing April 2. Following a delay, Carlson's response was submitted the week of April 16. There has been no decision, and Frederick and Dougherty both said they have asked USA Gymnastics about it repeatedly.

As of Thursday, SafeSport was closing cases at an average of 63 days, significantly shorter than the 90 days that Penny told Frederick in 2015.

"I've tried to contact USA Gymnastics and I've gotten nothing," Frederick said. "And that is so hard because that's what happened two years ago."

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USA TODAY

 

A grim process will be undertaken in the coming weeks to determine how much each of the roughly 300 survivors of Larry Nassar's sexual assaults will receive as part of the $500 million settlement with Michigan State University.

While the news release that announced the settlement Wednesday didn't state how the process will work, the case likely will follow similar abuse cases — like those settled by the Catholic church across the country — involving dozens of victims. An independent arbitrator, typically a retired judge, is brought in to assign a dollar amount that each abuse survivor will get.

John Manly, who represents more than half of Nassar's known victims, told USA TODAY he couldn't give details of exactly how the allocation process will work in this case, but he summarized how similar cases he's worked were handled.

"There are going to be a variety of factors that will be taken into account," said Manly, who represented many of the more than 500 abuse victims who settled with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 2007. "The number of times somebody is abused doesn't necessarily mean he or she will get more. Some people are abused once and are never the same. I've had plaintiffs who were abused on multiple occasions who ended up better off in life than a person abused once. You have to look at a lot of other factors."

James White, another attorney who represents Nassar's victims, also declined to talk about the settlement specifically, but he said his past cases were handled in the same way Manly detailed.

"There's a review by a third party where different variables will be taken into account and (an arbitrator) makes recommendations," White told USA TODAY.

Those variables are plentiful and in abuse cases often hard to quantify.

"People think there's some matrix the arbitrator uses to make a decision," Raymond P. Boucher, who sued and settled with three Catholic archdioceses in Southern California. "You can't just divide it up evenly and give everyone the same, like what happens in class-action lawsuits against pharmaceutical and medical device companies."

The arbitrator, typically chosen by lawyers representing the victims, has access to the case files for each victim that detail the abuse. If there are questions about a victim's case, the arbitrator could request more information from the lawyer representing that victim, Boucher said.

"They're going to look at the nature and extent of the abuse and what psychological, physical and emotional impact it had," said Boucher, who was not connected to any of the lawsuits involving Michigan State. "They're going to want to know what lasting legacy that abuse had on the victim."

The process could be completed in as few as three months. Boucher said the money will likely be fully distributed by year's end.

Once the victim agrees to the allocation process, he or she is bound by whatever amount the arbitrator sees fit to award. The victims in the Michigan State case could opt out now and sue Michigan State individually.

A total of $425 million will be available to the current pool of victims who sued and another $75 million is set aside for victims who have yet to come forward. Of the $500 million, about a third will go to legal fees.

"There isn't enough money in the world to compensate what was done to these victims," Boucher said. "There's no money that can bring them back to a place where they were before they were abused. Any dollar amount would be inadequate, but at the same time that's the best our system can do."

Interim Michigan State president John Engler has long said the costs will be covered by tuition and state aid. Lawmakers have said no state aid should be used.

The school brought in $859 million in tuition revenue in 2016-17, according to its audited financial statements. That's 29% of its total revenue of $2.9 billion. If MSU's reputation has suffered from the scandal, it could see a drop in the number of students enrolling, which could lower that income.

On the other side of the ledger, the university has $1.1 billion in outstanding debt. Ashley Ramchandani, a credit analyst with S&P Global Ratings, said it considers MSU to be in good shape financially with debt and could likely add some if needed. MSU also ended the last fiscal year with $1.1 billion in unrestricted net assets. That's money that isn't legally contracted to a certain project but often is set aside for particular projects.

Contributing: David Jesse and Gina Kaufman, Detroit Free Press

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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

Mike Slive, the seventh commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, died Wednesday in Birmingham, Ala. He was 77.

Slive replaced Roy Kramer in July 2002 and took an already successful league to new heights, adding Missouri and Texas A&M in 2012 to create a 14-member conference and launching the lucrative SEC Network in 2014. He arrived having founded the Great Midwest Conference and Conference USA, and his first task as SEC chief was cleaning up a league riddled by rules violations.

During the 2002 football season, Alabama won 10 games under coach Dennis Franchione and Kentucky won seven under Guy Morriss, but neither program was eligible for a bowl game due to NCAA sanctions that were the result of troubles under previous coaching regimes.

"We had a lot of issues in the league at that time," current Alabama and former LSU coach Nick Saban said at the SEC's spring meetings in 2015. "There were a lot of people on probation, and there were a lot of people out there sort of talking about things that created a negative image for our league. He did a marvelous job of cleaning that up, as well as elevating the image with marketing and TV."

Slive retired at the 2015 spring meetings, though he had announced his intentions the previous fall, when he began treatment for a recurrence of prostate cancer.

The SEC won 81 national championships in 17 of its 21 sponsored sports during Slive's tenure, which included an unprecedented run of seven consecutive titles in football from 2006 to 2012. Alabama accounted for three of those championships, with Florida providing two and Auburn and LSU one each.

Several days before Slive was hired, the league announced it was distributing $96 million to its institutions. That amount increased each year under Slive's guidance and jumped from $309.6 million in 2014 to $455.8 million in 2015, when revenue started gushing from the SEC Network.

"When we first came, we were mired in a lot of infractions cases," Slive said in 2014 as a guest of "Press Row" on Chattanooga's ESPN 105.1 FM. "We could never be who we wanted to be unless that was taken care of, and I think we've done a nice job of changing that culture. Those were the first questions I was getting asked, and now people don't even think of asking me about it. It was a mess, but it's all done, and that's a huge change.

"The other area was that we had never had a minority head football coach. It was a big story when Sylvester Croom was hired (in December 2003) at Mississippi State, and now we've had five (with Croom, Kevin Sumlin, Joker Phillips, James Franklin and Derek Mason), and it's a nonissue. Once we took care of those two things, I think it's no coincidence that we've seen a meteoric rise in this league."

A memorial for Slive, who leaves behind a wife (Liz), daughter (Anna), son-in-law (Judd Harwood) and granddaughter (Abigail), will be held Friday morning in Birmingham.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

LANSING, Mich.Michigan State University agreed to pay $500 million to settle claims from more than 300 women and girls who said they were assaulted by sports doctor Larry Nassar in the worst sex-abuse case in sports history, officials announced Wednesday.

The deal surpasses the $100 million-plus paid by Penn State University to settle claims by at least 35 people who accused assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky of sexual abuse, though the Nassar deal involves far more victims.

"We are truly sorry to all the survivors and their families for what they have been through, and we admire the courage it has taken to tell their stories," said Brian Breslin, chairman of Michigan State's governing board. "We recognize the need for change on our campus and in our community around sexual assault awareness and prevention."

It's not clear how much each victim will receive, although the money will not be divided equally. It's also unclear where the money will come from. University spokeswoman Emily Guerrant said school leaders will now work on a way to pay the bill.

Rachael Denhollander of Louisville, Kentucky, who in 2016 was the first woman to publicly identify herself as a victim, said the agreement "reflects the incredible damage which took place on MSU's campus." But she said she still has not seen any "meaningful reform" at the university.

Nassar treated campus athletes and scores of young gymnasts at his Michigan State office, building an international reputation while working at the same time for USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

The university and lawyers for 332 victims announced the deal after negotiating privately with the help of a mediator. Under the agreement, $425 million will be paid to current claimants and $75 million will be set aside for any future claims. Lawyers will also be compensated out of the $500 million pool.

Michigan State was accused of ignoring or dismissing complaints about Nassar, some as far back as the 1990s. The school had insisted that no one covered up assaults, although Nassar's boss, former medical school dean William Strampel, was later charged with failing to properly supervise him and committing his own sexual misconduct.

Nassar, 54, pleaded guilty to molesting women and girls under the guise of treatment and was caught with child pornography. He is serving three prison sentences that will likely keep him locked up for life.

More than 250 women and girls gave statements in court when Nassar was sentenced in January and February. Since that time, even more accusers have stepped forward, which accounts for the larger number of people covered by the Michigan State agreement.

Nassar's assaults were mostly committed in Michigan at his Lansing-area home, campus clinic and area gyms. But his accusers also said he molested them at a gymnastics-training ranch in Texas and at national and international competitions. Nassar's work far away from campus was spelled out in his employment contract with Michigan State.

During the sentencing hearings, many accusers described an ultra-competitive gymnastics culture in which authority figures could not be questioned and Nassar was free to abuse young patients year after year. They said they had little choice to see doctors other than Nassar, who was renowned throughout the sport.

He counted on his charm and reputation to deflect any questions. He was so brazen that he sometimes molested patients in front of their parents, shielding the young girls with his body or a sheet. His clinic was decorated with signed photos of Olympic stars, bolstering his credentials to star-struck athletes and their families.

Olympic gold medalists Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney say they were among Nassar's victims.

Other cases involved participants in soccer, figure skating, rowing, softball, cheerleading, wrestling, diving, dance, and track and field.

"This historic settlement came about through the bravery of more than 300 women and girls who had the courage to stand up and refuse to be silenced," said John Manly, the lead attorney for the victims.

The scandal rocked Michigan State, leading to the resignation of President Lou Anna Simon on Jan. 24 and athletic director Mark Hollis two days later. The fallout has also pushed out many leaders at the top of competitive gymnastics.

The school has about 39,000 undergraduate students. Its general fund budget is $1.36 billion. Roughly $983 million comes from tuition and fees, and $281 million is from the state.

The settlement applies only to Michigan State. Lawsuits are still pending against Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee and an elite gymnastics club in the Lansing-area.

 

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USA TODAY

 

Real estate, the stock market and bitcoin are for amateurs. If you're looking to make some serious money, the kind that requires you to hire bodyguards and buy your own Brinks truck, you need an NFL franchise.

The Carolina Panthers are getting a new owner, and David Tepper is set to pay a record $2.2 billion for the privilege. A jaw-dropping number, to be sure, given that Jerry Richardson paid $206 million for the rights to the expansion team in 1993.

What makes the Panthers' sale price truly staggering, however, is that it's nearly a billion more than what Terry and Kim Pegula paid for the Buffalo Bills less than four years ago.

Granted, the Bills are the least valuable of the 32 NFL teams, according to Forbes' 2017 valuations. But that alone can't explain the exorbitant jump in price. These are the Panthers that Tepper is buying, not the Patriots.

For months now, the critics and naysayers have been sounding the alarm on the NFL. TV ratings are cratering! Fans have turned their backs on the league because of player protests during the national anthem!

But what Tepper's purchase shows is that the NFL remains America's undisputed king. Owning a franchise is as close to a guaranteed moneymaker as there is.

"NFL franchises are enormously valuable," said Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College. "If you gave me a choice, would I rather own a mid-table Major League Baseball team, a mid-table NBA team, a mid-table NHL team or a mid-table NFL team, I wouldn't hesitate. I'd take the NFL team."

It's not hard to see why.

While it's true the league's ratings have softened — as have those of pretty much everything on TV thanks to cord cutting — the NFL remains, by far, the most popular show going. NFL games accounted for the five most-watched TV shows last year and six of the top 10, according to Nielsen. The Super Bowl drew more than 111 million viewers, more than the four-highest non-NFL shows combined.

The opening round of the draft on ESPN, Fox and NFL Network drew 11.2 million viewers. That's right. The draft. More than 11 million people tuned in for a show that featured about 60 seconds of "action" every 10 minutes or so.

Those kind of numbers mean broadcasters and digital companies are still tripping over themselves for a piece of the NFL's action. Fox agreed this year to pay the NFL $3.3 billion over five years just for the rights to Thursday Night Football. In December, Verizon agreed to pay $2 billion for five years' worth of streaming rights.

Zimbalist did say he thinks the NFL's growth has flattened and that the league faces challenges in the future because of concerns over head trauma.

Right now, though, the biggest challenge appears to be what to do with all the cash the owners are getting.

Baseball and the NBA have had some blockbuster sales. The Los Angeles Clippers sold for $2 billion four years ago and the Houston Rockets went for $2.2 billion last fall. The Los Angeles Dodgers commanded $2 billion in 2012 — but that included the team, Dodger Stadium and, perhaps most importantly, land around it.

But those were exceptions, not the norm. Not so the NFL.

The Panthers make three consecutive NFL teams to be sold for $1 billion or more, and none of them — the Panthers, Bills or Cleveland Browns — would be considered one of the league's marquee franchises. If the Browns can command $1 billion, imagine what the Dallas Cowboys would go for on the open market. Or one of the New York teams.

And we haven't factored legalized sports betting into the equation yet. Imagine what Tepper would have had to pay had Richardson waited a week or two to finalize the deal. $2.5 billion? $3 billion?

No doubt we'll soon find out. The Tennessee Titans, Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints are considered the teams most likely to be on the block next, and the initial asking price just got higher.

The NFL has its flaws, no question. Making its wealthy owners even wealthier is not one of them.

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

The hundreds of survivors of Larry Nassar's abuse will be recognized with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2018 ESPYs. ESPN made the announcement on Wednesday.

Hundreds of gymnasts and other athletes publicly spoke out against Nassar, the former Michigan State and USA Gymnastics doctor who will spend the rest of his life in prison. More than 150 of Nassar's accusers confronted him during a sentencing hearing in January, including high-profile Olympians like Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber.

"I will not rest until every last trace of your influence on this sport has been destroyed like the cancer it is," Raisman told Nassar during the sentencing.

Nassar was sentenced to up 175 years behind bars after pleading guilty to multiple charges of criminal sexual conduct and child pornography.

The award will be handed out during the ESPYs on July 18. It's currently unclear who will accept the honor and speak at the awards ceremony.

Wednesday, Michigan Statereached a $500 million settlement with hundreds of Nassar survivors.

The postLarry Nassar survivors win 2018 Arthur Ashe Courage Award appeared first onLand of 10.

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

COLUMBUSAs expected, the required mandatory sit-out period for high school transfers has been switched from what it had been. That was one of seven referendum items that were all approved by the Ohio High School Athletic Association members and announced on Wednesday.

The sit-out period — effective immediately — requires transfer student athletes who don't meet exemptions to sit out the second half of a regular season and all of the postseason.

That's the opposite of what the sit-out period had been, which was the first half of the regular season.

That had become an increasingly hot-button issue among OHSAA membership over the last three years and especially in boys and girls basketball. The Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association had become alarmed with programs that were building teams for postseason runs and state championships.

"That's not what high school sports is supposed to be all about," OHSAA commissioner Dr. Dan Ross said to a media advisory committee at its headquarters on Wednesday. "You're not supposed to be stacking teams and they were using the 50 percent rule to do just that."

That was the key referendum item school principals and association members were asked to address during the annual two-week spring vote period. Of the 664 votes, 430 were in favor of the new reversed sit-out period, or about 65 percent.

"Our coaches association was very adamant that they believed this was not going to stop recruiting," Ross said, "but would help them deter people from saying come over to us and we'll win a state championship."

The widespread accusations of recruitment of players continues to be a state-wide issue, no matter how big or small a school. The OHSAA initiated a landmark competitive balance initiative last fall to address students who reside outside a school district or do not come from a designated feeder school. That was the end result of an administrative movement that began nearly a decade ago from the imbalance of state championships won by private schools compared to publics.

There are many exemptions to the sit-out rule, most notably if there is a change of residence to the new school district. In that case, transfer students do not require a sit-out period.

Dr. Ross said competitive balance appears to be a hit among membership and is drawing nationwide interest, especially from Arizona, Texas and California. That's because Ohio's competitive balance numerical formula is applied to both private and public schools. Other similar state associations have applied a similar formula to just one or the other and in extreme cases, have separated state tournaments for private and public teams.

He said most state associations have a wait-and-see interest in Ohio.

"I don't think you can get a trend from one year," said Dr. Ross, who will be succeeded in September in his role as commissioner by current OHSAA director of sport management Jerry Snodgrass. "You need to go through the cycle, then look at the data."

»TWITTER: You should like @MarcPendleton

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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

In a town where youth sports are king, Blaine parents and coaches say they're facing a pressing quandary: Where's all the gym space?

For local volleyball and basketball enthusiasts, it's not at the National Sports Center. The massive state-owned sports complex has long focused on hockey and field sports like soccer.

And it's not at a community center, which Blaine voters have twice declined to build.

But now signs of change are afoot, with two groups seeking to meet what they describe as a growing demand for hard-court gym facilities in the north metro.

The National Sports Center has announced plans to expand into court sports for the first time in its nearly 30-year history. And just down the road, a group of parents involved in youth sports is eyeing property next to City Hall to build an indoor facility — dubbed the "Blaine Athletic Complex" — with five hard courts and a turf field.

"Both basketball and volleyball have grown significantly," said Barclay Kruse, spokesman for the National Sports Center. "There is definitely demand for court space."

Some officials in the city of 64,000 wonder if there's enough of an appetite to support both the Sports Center's new venture and the proposed athletic complex. National reports from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association show a steady decline in most U.S. team sports participation, including volleyball and basketball.

"These groups come in and say there is all this demand," City Council Member Andy Garvais said. "But I haven't seen any numbers."

But local sports groups say a dearth of gym space has them fighting for court openings at churches and schools. It's often pushed them beyond the city limits in search of places to play and practice.

"There's just not enough space," said Chad Johnson, a former board member with Blaine Youth Basketball. "We are limited to one to two practices a week, and we drive all over the place."

National Sports Center officials say those who are playing are playing more, spurring demand for court time. Their plan is to rent out the new courts and charge registration fees for tournaments, leagues, camps and open gym time. An adult basketball tournament is already on the books for June.

Crews have been installing two portable hardwood courts in the existing Sport Expo Center, painting fresh lines and getting them ready for play. The expanse of beechwood flooring can fit two basketball and three volleyball courts. It can also be removed for major events, like the Schwan's USA Cup international youth soccer tournament.

If all goes well, the center may develop a larger, multi-court facility on its 660-acre campus in the future.

"We are viewing this as we are testing the waters," Kruse said. "Our two biggest sports — soccer and hockey — our total numbers are flat. That's one reason that we are very interested in court sports."

'We need this'

A mile away from the Sports Center, at City Hall, supporters of the indoor athletic complex project want to lease a 5 2/3-acre parcel from the city for $1, a lease model that's similar to the arrangement between the city and Fogerty Ice Arena.

The proposed recreation facility would be used mostly for sports like basketball, volleyball, soccer and baseball.

"We need this," said Johnson, who is among the basketball parents helping to spearhead the project. "Blaine is a big area, with a lot of kids and young families who are big in their sports, and there's just not enough facilities."

Proponents of the $8.9 million project made their pitch last month at a City Council workshop. They plan to seek conduit debt financing through the city. Nonprofits use such a bonding mechanism to get lower interest rates. It doesn't put the city at financial risk, according to Blaine staffers.

If the venture failed, Blaine officials say they would have to decide whether to purchase the building since it would sit on city property.

Some City Council members asked whether the group has considered working in concert with the National Sports Center. Johnson said they had talked with Sports Center officials about a potential partnership, which didn't pan out.

But he said the proposed complex is already attracting support from various soccer, baseball, volleyball and basketball groups within Blaine and beyond.

"All of these associations are coming out of the woodwork, calling us and wanting to get time booked in this facility," Johnson said.

That includes Maple Grove-based Minnesota Select Volleyball Club, one of the largest in the state. The club leases space in Maple Grove and needs more courts to grow, said director Scott Jackson.

"We turned away nearly 100 kids at our last tryouts," he said.

The Blaine group says it hopes to bring the project back for a City Council vote in the coming weeks, with the goal of breaking ground later this year. City officials say some key questions about the proposal remain, including more details on the demand for courts.

"Is there a market for two of these types of facilities?" said Erik Thorvig, Blaine's economic development coordinator. "Given the fact it's on city land and the city is involved in it, we want to make sure we vet it fully before anything goes forward."

Hannah Covington · 612-673-4751

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Romeo Langford's commitment to Indiana last month was met with great fanfare. Hoosiers fans celebrated the high-profile commit's decision to play college basketball at his home state school.

According to areport from The Washington Post's Will Hobson, Langford landing at Indiana was a culmination of many forces at work — including the influence of Adidas:

In early 2017, according to Pitino and Adidas sources, the company won a much less-publicized recruiting battle with Nike and Under Armour for Langford, whose father had made it known he wanted to run his own youth basketball team featuring his son. Adidas, Nike and Under Armour each operate basketball leagues, which they use to develop relationships with high school prospects they hope to sign to endorsement deals if they reach the NBA, and steer top talent to their sponsored college teams.

Indiana is an Adidas-affiliated program, as is Louisville. Former Cardinals men's basketball coach Rick Pitino told Hobson he expressed interest in Langford. Pitino said he pressed Adidas officials to go hard after Langford, so he could have a chance to offer the shooting guard a scholarship.

"They knew that Nike and Under Armour were going to make a run for him," Pitino said. "I didn't want him going to Nike or Under Armour . . . because then, he would've gone to Kentucky or somewhere else. . . . I would've had no chance."

Langford is a 5-star recruit, according to the247Sports composite. He's the No. 2 shooting guard in the nation and the No. 1 player in the state of Indiana for the class of 2018. He chose the Hoosiers over Vanderbilt and Kansas; Vanderbilt if sponsored by Nike, and Kansas is sponsored by Adidas.

The postAdidas helped steer Romeo Langford to Indiana, per report appeared first onLand of 10.

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Copyright 2018 The Columbus Dispatch
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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

 

Precourt Sports Ventures showed Tuesday what a stadium for Crew SC could look like if the team moves to Austin, Texas, next season.

The group, which operates the Crew, posted a rendering to its website MLS2ATX for a 20,000-seat stadium on a 24-acre tract of city-owned land called McKalla Place in north Austin.

The one-page map makes note of room for 1,000 parking spaces spread across three locations as well as three roadway access points. The site also includes some open space, a detention and filtration pond, a crosswalk and an optional rail station.

City officials are conducting a study of McKalla Place with a report due to city council by June 1. PSV officials have said they would like a stadium deal in place by the end of June, before council adjourns for more than a month.

A spokesperson for CapMetro, Austin's transportation authority, confirmed Tuesday that PSV has met with CapMetro officials but did not have further details.

Dan Vaillant, senior vice president for CAA Icon, which PSV has hired for consultation during its relocation efforts, said in a statement to Austin media that a "comprehensive traffic impact analysis" will be prepared once the site is approved.

"In advance of that, Precourt Sports Ventures has hired a team of experienced stadium consultants to analyze the site at a conceptual level and they are all very confident that issues associated with traffic and parking will be minimal and can be appropriately mitigated," the statement read. "There are in excess of 10,000 parking spaces distributed around the site within a 15- to 20-minute walk."

Parking varies by Major League Soccer stadium. Some venues, such as Mapfre Stadium, Philadelphia's Talen Energy Stadium and Chicago's Toyota Park, have nearly all parking on site. Fans typically park farther from venues with limited on-site parking such as Providence Park in Portland, Oregon, and Orlando City Stadium and walk to games.

PSV has expressed a preference for a stadium with more of neighborhood feel and within walking distance to bars and restaurants, especially compared with Mapfre Stadium, which sits on the state fairgrounds surrounded by parking lots. To consider staying in Columbus, PSV has requested a Downtown stadium, perhaps in the Arena District around existing development.

Vaillant said PSV has developed a plan in Austin to account for ride sharing and a shuttle system to "designated parking areas," which could, he said, "disperse traffic around the area making for less congestion."

A spokesperson for The Domain, a nearby shopping and retail center with hundreds of parking spaces, could not be reached for comment.

Precourt Sports Ventures President Dave Greeley told the Austin American-Statesman last week that he wants the stadium to have the feel of a "traditional English soccer grounds."

"We intend to have trails, a lot of trees and green space, an area people can use," Greeley said.

Greeley also told the American-Statesman a canopy would cover the stadium's seating areas, a concept that "is very expensive, but we need it with the heat down here."

The city over the last two weeks hosted a series of community meetings with presentations from Austin and PSV officials.

aerickson@dispatch.com

@AEricksonCD

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Copyright 2018 Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Inc.
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Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)

 

ASHBURNHAM — "Compassionate care for all." That's the 2018 motto of the National Athletic Trainers Association. The daily work of Gianna Allen is strong proof of those words.

The 26-year-old Ms. Allen, a member of the NATA, is close to completing her fourth academic year as the athletic trainer and a health and fitness teacher at Oakmont Regional High School.

Ms. Allen is on the sidelines for all athletic events at Oakmont, mostly in the afternoons and evenings. Her day begins at school teaching two health courses.

"Gianna has been a godsend for us," said Eric Dawley, Oakmont's director of athletics. "Prior to her arrival here, we never had a full-time trainer. She's been great and so relatable to the kids. She's here every day and takes care of our athletes so well. We hit the lottery when she was hired."

After a recent Oakmont lacrosse match, Ms. Allen agreed to a sporting conversation.

Q:What is the value of a high school having an athletic trainer?

A: "I think there's great value. You get injury prevention, recognition, treatment and rehabilitation for student athletes. You also get piece of mind, knowing you have someone with sports medicine expertise on your staff."

Q:Many people think athletic trainers are on hand during games just in case a player gets hurt. That's a misconception, right?

A: "Yes. On the preventative side, we are trained to know what to look for that might increase someone's risk of a certain type of injury, and we have the knowledge to create preventative strengthening programs. For example, an ACL prevention program would involve some extra, preseason strength and agility work to lower the risk over the course of the season."

Q:What is your educational background?

A: "I graduated from Quabbin Regional in 2010 and then went to Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, for my bachelor's degree in athletic training."

Q:What is your own athletic background?

A: "I've always been involved in sports, ever since I was a little. I was very active on several sports teams, but my main sport was soccer. I would play that year-round. I played some soccer in college, too, and now I continue to play in recreational leagues when I can."

Q:Have you ever had to deal with athletic injuries yourself?

A: "I've had ankle sprains and several muscle strains, but nothing significant. No broken bones."

Q:What is one of your favorite parts of your job?

A: "Seeing athletes come back to playing after being out of the lineup and injured. It's great watching them enjoy again what they were doing before being injured."

Q:Do you have a favorite professional sports team?

A: "My favorite sport to watch is football, so, naturally, the New England Patriots are my favorite."

Q:What are your feelings about Oakmont?

A: "It's a great place to work. I was the first athletic trainer here, so there were some hurdles in establishing policies and procedures and in educating everyone just what an athletic trainer does. Oakmont fosters the important value of sports, teamwork, social skills and healthy habits to stay active."

Q:Is there a type of sports injury that occurs more than others?

A: "Injuries can be all over the place, you don't really know. You don't go to a sporting event and know automatically there's going to be a sprained ankle that day. So you have to be prepared and educated in the newest, evidence-based techniques in treating injuries."

Q:With that in mind, your education must always be updated, correct?

A: "Absolutely. We have to be recertified every two years and, over the course of those two years, attend continuing education programs at conferences and also online. I am also working toward my master's degree at Endicott College."

Q:One more question. Do you have a favorite TV medical show?

A: "Yes, 'Grey's Anatomy.'"

 

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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

USA TODAY

 

Omaha has the College World Series. Oklahoma City has the Women's College World Series. Las Vegas has Ceasars Palace, golf courses, Britney Spears and... college women's basketball?

If longtime hoops analyst Debbie Antonelli has her way, the answer to that last question will be a resounding "yes."

On Monday in a landmark move, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the federal law that limited sports betting to one state, Nevada, for the last 25 years.

The case is expected to dramatically alter the landscape of sports betting, bringing an estimated $150 billion industry above ground. The ruling means each individual state will decide if its residents can bet on sports. It also opens the door for the NCAA to start holding championships events in Las Vegas, though first the organization that governs college sports will have to remove from its bylaws language that prohibits championship events in Nevada.

Sin City has been prepping for this.

Pat Christenson is president of Las Vegas Events, a private non-profit group that helps secure and produce about 40 special events a year, including NBA Summer League, the National Finals Rodeo, the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon and multiple major music festivals.

During the NCAA's last bidding cycle, Christenson said LVE bid to host three NCAA championship events: wrestling, hockey and a men's basketball regional.

"We were led to believe that our bid would be considered regardless of the (NCAA bylaw) issue," Christenson told USA TODAY, adding that it wasn't until after the bids were submitted that the NCAA told LVE it was waiting until the Supreme Court ruling to determine if Vegas was a viable option.

The NCAA released a statement Monday after the news that read, in part, "While we are still reviewing the decision to understand the overall implications to college sports, we will adjust sports wagering and championship policies to align with the direction from the court."

In other words: Now that the verdict is in, expect the floodgates to open. Antonelli will be the first one through.

For the past eight years, the college basketball analyst who works both men's and women's games has lobbied for the NCAA women's tournament to scrap its current format of four regional sites and bring all 16 teams together in Vegas for one major showcase event.

"We (women's sports) are usually a tag-along, we're an add-on, a bonus," Antonelli told USA TODAY. "I want to be our own inventory.... I want to be a sellable entity. Vegas wants us. They want women's basketball. Think about what we could do if we had the Sweet 16 there.

"I imagine it could be ingrained in the community like baseball and softball are with their championships. I don't think Omaha and Oklahoma City started out as destination cities -- the NCAA brought sports to communities that wanted them. Vegas already is a destination city."

Jim Livengood, who works as a consultant with Las Vegas Events, has had his share of experience with NCAA championship events after almost three decades as a Division I athletics director at Southern Illinois, Washington State, Arizona and UNLV. He's also a former chair of the men's selection committee. He understands how the NCAA operates, and he believes in Antonelli's idea.

"Nothing happens overnight, but this is going to get people thinking in a different way," Livengood told USA TODAY. "There are a number of things changing within the NCAA. I mean, we have alcohol at NCAA championship events now -- who would have thought that would ever happen?"

Antonelli envisions fans being able to purchase a "Sweet 16 package" that would allow visitors to experience all Vegas has to offer: "So maybe you get tickets to all the games, a trip to the Hoover Dam, a round of golf and a show at Ceasars," she explained. "Or, you could get a package with tickets to all the games, plus dinner with Aja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces. There are so many possibilities."

Coaches like the idea, too.

"The Sweet 16 to Vegas is a great idea," Louisville coach Jeff Walz told USA TODAY via text message. "It would allow fans to purchase plane tickets in advance, knowing they'd be watching the top 16 teams remaining. As a fan of one particular team, I would still be apt to travel to Vegas even if my team didn't make it because of all the activities to do besides watching basketball. I feel it's a destination spot and I believe the attendance would be very good."

Antonelli knows she has some time to get everyone on board: Dates for the 2019 and 2020 NCAA women's basketball regionals are already set, but the NCAA is in the middle of the bidding cycle for 2021-24. The earliest the men's Final Four could get to Las Vegas is 2027.

"I do think baseball and softball have the model we can build from," Antonelli said. "I've always believed we're going to go to Vegas. And we're going to get there before the men."

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Copyright 2018 Union Leader Corp.
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The Union Leader (Manchester, NH)

 

DOVER — City officials hosted a public forum Tuesday evening to learn more about switching from grass to artificial turf at the high school's football field, and some members of the public expressed concern about the safety of synthetic products.

The city is building a new $84.7 million high school, and about $1 million has been allotted for improvements to the field.Dover Deputy Mayor Robert Carrier, chairman of the Dover High School Joint Building Committee, said the current football field gets 40 uses a year, and they want to rent it out to earn revenue.City officials say sports teams run by the school and recreation department don't have enough places to play and practice. For at least 10 years, they have been looking at installing an artificial turf field for tournaments and other programs.

The school system's athletic director, Peter Wotton, said they recently had to rent Dover Ice Arena for the boys lacrosse team to get a space big enough to practice."It would be a money saving issue in terms of us staying at our facilities," Wotton said about the economic benefits of artificial turf.School board Chairman Amanda Russell said children in city recreation programs practice on fields not intended for sports. She said Joint Building Committee members carefully considered artificial turf when they decided to go forward with learning more about their options from FieldTurf, the largest manufacturer of turf in the country.

Jason Azar of Nobis Engineering in Concord said they offer a range of products, and city officials in Dover are considering a rubber crumb and sand mixture.Those against switching from grass to artificial turf say synthetic fields are unsafe and costly. A statement from Diana Carpinone of Non Toxic Dover explained the organization's position."By utilizing organic land management practices according to what is now city policy, we can more than double the current use of our existing grass field to 1,000 hours of use per season, at a mere fraction of the cost of a synthetic field," Carpinone said.

Carpinone says synthetic turf is a fossil fuel-intensive product treated with toxic chemicals like flame retardants. The most common infill, crumb rubber, contains at least 92 chemicals, 11 of which are known carcinogens and heavy metals like lead, she said.

Carpinone said synthetic turf must be replaced every eight to 10 years on average, and the most common method of disposal is into a landfill where pieces of plastic grass and infill can migrate into the environment.Julia Tiedge of Dover, who has three children under the age of 10, said she's against the use of artificial turf. She read off a list of warnings she found."Avoid use on very hot days. Avoid use for sitting, lounging and picnicking. Monitor children. Clean cuts and abrasions. Remove your gear before getting in your car," Tiedge said. "That does not at all sound like anything I want my kids on or anyone else's kids on."

Carrier said they are working to do the right thing. "We're not in the business of doing anything to harm children," he said.

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Copyright 2018 Chattanooga Publishing Company
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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

MEMPHIS -- A $340 million Neyland Stadium renovation plan that now spans the tenures of several Tennessee athletic directors remains in the works, but Phillip Fulmer indicated Tuesday that he is approaching the project with some caution.

"Yeah, I'm new to this, and I want to make sure we're being responsible in what we're trying to do," Fulmer said. "We have a construction manager that's an architect that's looking at designs and things. Where we're going to go remains to be seen. There are definitely needs there. Again, needs that we need to address."

Fulmer is on a tour of one type this month, as he reunites with Tennessee fans around the region as part of the Big Orange Caravan in his first year as UT's athletic director.

His remarks on the Neyland Stadium project came Tuesday night in the caravan's second stop. Before he waded into a crowd of hundreds at the Agricenter, he hinted at another tour he plans to take as he adjusts to his new role on the Tennessee campus.

Fulmer suggested that he plans to visit other Southeastern Conference schools to examine their athletic facilities as he learns more about the Neyland Stadium plan and eyes a renovation to Lindsey Nelson Stadium, the home of the baseball Volunteers.

"I'm taking a tour this summer," Fulmer said. "We've got some expansion going on, some development of our (Neyland Stadium) south end zone -- what we're going to do there -- and get some ideas in football. Also, as a man, I'm looking at some baseball ideas as well."

Fulmer's immediate predecessor, John Currie, received approval from the university's board of trustees last November for a revamped version of the Neyland Stadium renovation that expedited the process from three phases to two with a goal of having the first phase completed by the 2021 season. That will be the 100th year in Neyland Stadium's history.

"That's personal for me," Currie said at the time.

Fulmer replaced Currie as athletic director on Dec. 1. At Fulmer's introductory news conference, university chancellor Beverly Davenport said the university "absolutely" planned to proceed with the Neyland Stadium project.

"We would have never brought forward a project that we didn't feel was needed," she said.

University president Joe DiPietro ousted Davenport earlier this month.

The transitions in leadership could slow the Neyland project from the pace Currie envisioned.

The openness that Fulmer expressed to renovations at Tennessee's baseball stadium Tuesday also represent a public shift in thinking from Currie's stance on the matter at last year's Big Orange Caravan.

Currie, who hired first-year Vols baseball coach Tony Vitello, said during last year's caravan that there were no concrete plans for renovations to Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

"What we've got to do is exactly what Coach Vitello is doing right now on the recruiting trail," Currie said at the time. "We've got to generate a little bit more enthusiasm and win some ballgames."

Fulmer spoke highly of Vitello on Tuesday. The Tennessee baseball team needs to win a series at Missouri that starts Thursday in order to qualify for next week's SEC baseball tournament in Hoover, Ala.

"He is so much fun and so intense," Fulmer said. "He's young and energetic and he's learning kind of as he goes in some ways. He loves to recruit. If we can somehow, some way figure out a way to get a couple games this weekend, we've got a chance to go to the tournament, which with that group of kids as young as they are would be dynamic."

And Fulmer seemed to indicate that it's only a matter of when, not if, Lindsey Nelson Stadium will receive upgrades under his watch.

"We've got some work to do," Fulmer said. "There's not any of our facilities, except for baseball, that are not up to par. Certainly, we have needs and wants. Everybody has needs and wants. There's a difference in needs and wants. Now, in our baseball situation, it's something we are addressing."

Contact David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com Follow him on Twitter @DavidWCobb and on Facebook at facebook.com/volsupdate.

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Copyright 2018 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

Last July, the city of Alpharetta, Ga., paid $5.47 million to renovate the public swimming pool at Wills Park.

And now, nearly a year later, the public will be able to enjoy all of the new upgrades and amenities.

The new pools - there are two pools now- at Wills Park will open on May 26.

General admission to the pool is $5 per person for a day pass. Children under 3 years old can get in free, and people over 50 will be charged $1 for a day pass. Family and individual pool passes for the season are also available, ranging from $90 to $300.

Wills Park now features a leisure pool and a competition pool.

The leisure pool includes interactive play stations, class space, a waterslide, a plunge area and a zero-depth entry — also known as a "beach entry," it gradually slopes down from the deck into the water, like sand at the beach.

The competition pool has depths ranging from 4 to 12½ feet. It has 10 competition lanes, a 1-meter diving board and a 3-meter diving board.

Other new features at the Wills Park swimming pools include updated locker rooms, a shade pavilion, more deck space, a lifeguard training room and a renovated aquatics center.

On the day of its "Splash-tacular" grand opening, games, prizes and music will be featured.

The Wills Park pools are located at 1815 Old Milton Parkway. These renovations are the first the pools have received since 1987.

Pools will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Aug. 5.

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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

USA TODAY

 

Alabama beat Georgia in overtime to win the College Football Playoff's national championship. UCFathleticsdirector Danny White said the idea of claiming a crown, too, sprouted from his original proclamation on the field after beating Auburn in the Peach Bowl ("National champs. Undefeated!"), then "grew organically" into a celebration that included national championship bonuses paid to coaches, national championship rings for players and signage at SpectrumStadium in Orlando: "2017 NATIONAL CHAMPIONS."

If it has been a source of pride for the Knights and their fans, it has been a source of amusement for many around college football... and a source of irritation for some in Alabama. Saban seems to fall somewhere between bemused and mildly annoyed.

"If you honor and respect the system that we have, (despite) some of the imperfections that you understand that the system has, then you wouldn't do something out of respect for the system that we have," Saban told USA TODAY. "I guess anybody has the prerogative to claim anything. But self-proclaimed is not the same as actually earning it. And there's probably a significant number of people who don't respect people who make self-proclaimed sort of accolades for themselves."

In Auburn, UCF beat a team that had beaten both Alabama and Georgia during the regular season. And the Knights and their fans point to the Colley Matrix, a computer system that was once part of the Bowl Championship Series formula, which had the Knights No. 1 in its final rankings. But former UCF coach Scott Frost, now at Nebraska, expressed reservations with the national championship claims.

"All I'll say," Frost told USA TODAY this month, "is if we had stayed there, I would have had a hard time getting behind it."

He added: "At the end of the day, the Playoff system is that the national champion is the team that wins the Playoff."

But that's part of White's argument -- that UCF didn't have a legitimate shot at advancing to the College Football Playoff. And Frost agreed, contending the Playoff's selection committee underrated the Knights in every weekly ranking. UCF was ranked No. 18 in the first rankings; in the final Top 25, UCF was No. 12. Frost called the ranking "almost criminal." White called the Playoff "a flawed system."

Alabama, which finished 12-1, didn't win the SEC West but was chosen for the four-team bracket instead of Big Ten champion Ohio State, which had two losses. Of the five national championships won by Alabama in the last nine seasons (three BCS, two Playoff), Saban noted only the 2009 team finished unbeaten. (His 2003 LSU team, which won the BCS title, wasn't undefeated, either.)

"We've only had one undefeated team, and that is really hard to do," Saban said. "So I have a tremendous amount of respect for their team and what they were able to accomplish.... And they can make every claim that they should have been in the Playoff. I get that. But we have a system, and it's not fair to the people who went through the system and earned their way playing really, really good teams -- I mean really good teams -- and really tough games. It's not quite fair to them for somebody else just to decide to (claim a national championship)."

Saban paused, then continued.

"It has no impact or significance on my feeling of what our team accomplished," he said. "I mean, I'm so proud of the adversity they overcame, the togetherness that they had to have, the work that they put in."

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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

USA TODAY

 

What has the lowest smoking rate in the country, a wealth of farmers markets, a system of well-established parks — and now a reputation as a hot spot for health?

American Fitness Index's fittest cities

The index ranks a variety of criteria, including health behaviors, chronic diseases and community infrastructure in the 100 largest cities.

1-Arlington, Va.

77.7

2-Minneapolis

77.2

3-Washington

74

4-Madison, Wis.

72.4

5-Portland, Ore.

71.6

SOURCE: American College of Sports Medicine's

2018 American Fitness Index

Arlington, Va. — Washington's next-door neighbor along the Potomac River — was named the fittest city in the USA on Tuesday by the 2018 American Fitness Index report from the American College of Sports Medicine.

The 11th annual ACSM fitness index awarded the urban hub the top ranking thanks to residents' healthy behaviors. The city's relatively low smoking rate of 5.9% pales in comparison with the 15% average of the 100 largest cities.

Close behind Arlington are Minneapolis and the nation's capital.

For the first time, the index ranked the 100 largest cities, instead of the 50 largest metropolitan areas. Rankings are based on cities' overall scores, which include data on fitness, nutrition, chronic disease, smoking, mental health, access to parks and public transportation.

"I'm not the least bit surprised," said Arlington resident Kirk Anderson, who strolls the trails weekly at Theodore Roosevelt Island, a wooded park in the Potomac River that splits Arlington and Washington. "People are running and biking everywhere all the time. And there's lots of good, healthy food around here."

Anderson's wife, Virginia Navarro, and their daughter, Danielle Anderson-Navarro, a high school lacrosse player, all agreed Arlington was more active than Miami Beach and Boston, where they lived before moving to Arlington seven years ago.

"You can walk everywhere here because of the Metro," Danielle said, referring to the area's subway system as she practiced her photography amid the dense forest on the island.

Second-ranked Minneapolis — just a half-point behind Arlington — benefits from successful collaboration between parks, schools and recreation centers, the report said.

Some cities exceed national averages for fitness, but the report shows that most Americans don't meet standards set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity each week and twice-weekly strength training.

More than 75% of Americans reported being physically active within the past month. About half of American adults meet aerobic activity guidelines. Less than a quarter meet both aerobic and strength guidelines.

"Encouraging exercise such as community walking programs and bicycling programs can help communities stem the rising tide of obesity," said Barbara Ainsworth, chair of ACSM and professor at Arizona State University.

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Copyright 2018 Sarasota Herald-Tribune Co.
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Sarasota Herald Tribune (Florida)

 

When the FHSAA recently unveiled a new plan that would put its major team sports into six different divisions using MaxPreps rankings, area coaches and athletic officials knew that something that's been missing from the prep sports scene for decades could easily reappear.

"Basically, what the state is trying to do is provide a little more competitive balance and give those major team sports the opportunity to schedule opponents that best fit their schools," Sarasota County Schools athletic director James Slaton said.

The changes would cover football, girls volleyball, basketball, soccer, baseball and softball. Teams would be divided into six different divisions based on rankings from the past season and the upcoming season.

District play, which is based on enrollment and has been in use since 1931, would be eliminated.

The proposal came during the Florida Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association athletics director conference and the FHSAA compliance seminar earlier this month in Orlando.

Slaton said Monday that the FHSAA is having discussions on the proposed ranking systems now and will probably pass it during the fall. If approved, the changes would go into effect for the 2019-20 school year.

The top 64 teams in the

MaxPreps rankings would fall into Division 1, which would consist of the best teams in their respective sport regardless of school enrollment. The next 64 would be in Division 2, with all teams in both divisions making their respective playoffs.

"Your top teams that would have made the playoffs are all going to make it," Slaton said.

Divisions three to six would include approximately 115 to 130 teams, depending on the sport, also based on ranking, in each division. The top 64 in those classes, based on the MaxPreps rankings at the end of the regular season, would make the state series.

The six divisions would be broken up into eight regions with no district games or tournaments. The eight-team regions would be geographic and the highest seeded team would host throughout the tournament.

The eight regional champions would then play with seeding determined by the rankings. State semifinals and finals - or just the finals - would be played at a neutral site.

Slaton said that the new pairings would eliminate mismatches in the postseason. For example, the Orlando Christian Prep boys basketball team, which has five Division 1 commits and has won four state titles in the past five years, beat teams with a running clock all throughout this past postseason.

"The days of beating teams with a running clock in the Final Four in Lakeland are probably gone," said Slaton, a former boys basketball coach at Venice High School.

Lemon Bay boys basketball coach Sean Huber said his initial reaction to the proposed changes was that teams will be forced to play teams that are like themselves.

"The lopsided victories in district play that come in districts where's there's not a competitive balance will go bye-bye," Huber said. "For us, we've been playing basketball in a Class 7A district but we're only a 5A school. This will wipe all of that out instantly."

Volleyball teams would have to play seven postseason games in order to win a state championship. Venice, which captured the Class 8A state title last November, won a couple of those matches in blowout fashion.

Brian Wheatley, owner of five state championship rings as coach of the Indians, says the changes will make the road to a state title even tougher. The volleyball landscape features teams at the Class 3A and 4A levels that could easily compete with bigger schools.

"As a competitor, I love the competitiveness of it," Wheatley said. "All of these postseason games would be pretty strong. These state championship games would be more like true state championships. If you win a Division 1 state championship, you're truly the best team in the state of Florida."

Slaton said reaction to the proposed changes has been mixed among coaches in Sarasota County.

"One of the main negatives is if there's no districts and you're not mandated to play those elite teams, the local teams may not want to play you," Slaton said. "They also may not want to play the lesser teams. For instance, it may be tougher for Venice to be able to play schools like North Port and Lakewood Ranch. We may have to get together as school districts and make sure these teams still play each other."

Palmetto baseball coach Rich Glass, whose Tigers are stuck with Lakewood Ranch and Sarasota in a tough district, said he's "all for" the changes, especially if more teams make the playoffs.

"When you look at the body of work our kids had and the schedule they played, they deserved to be in the postseason," Glass said. "The new football playoff rules helped our school last year and they made some noise in the postseason. I feel our kids would have benefited from that as well."

Glass said the state baseball playoff system, which has teams playing just once a week up until the state finals, is flawed.

"Playing once a week doesn't show what your team is truly made of," he said. "You may have one good arm, and you can ride that kid the whole time. It doesn't really tell you the depth of your team."

Lemon Bay boys basketball, which won their district title earlier this year, qualified for District 2 in a sample of team rankings provided to the Herald-Tribune. Lakewood Ranch was the lone area team to qualify for Division 1, ranked no. 24 overall. Booker and North Port would have joined Lemon Bay in District 2.

Huber said one of the keys to scheduling will be to try and play as many teams as he can that are in the same division. He added that teams in higher divisions can be added if there's a favorable match-up.

"I think the scheduling aspect is going to be crucial," Huber said. "You have to make sure you're scheduling the right people and they'll continue to win if they're good enough. I think in the first year I'd schedule like I normally do and see what that does."

"There might be an added strategy to scheduling," Wheatley added. "We always try and schedule as hard as we can anyway, but now the schedule is really going to come into play."

Wheatley said the changes could also mean the end of dynasties in Florida.

"The days of teams winning multiple, back-to-back state championships are probably done," Wheatley said. "You literally have to be the best team in the state to win. I think you can win one every few years, but going back-to-back would be really tough."

"Whatever the changes are we'll manage it... and do our best to figure it out."

Glass said he was anxious to see if the proposals eventually pass.

"I'm a big proponent of this," he said. "We put a lot of time and effort in with these young kids, and I feel like their hard work should be rewarded - and not determined by one game."

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Copyright 2018 The Florida Times-Union

Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville)

 

Severe weather in the state has postponed the high school softball state tournament in Vero Beach this week.

The Florida High School Athletic Association announced that games would be pushed back to Saturday, Sunday, Monday (May 21) and Tuesday (May 22) at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach. Locally, that affects five teams that qualified -- Clay, Keystone Heights, Oakleaf, Trinity Christian and West Nassau.

Oakleaf (28-2) faces Lakewood Ranch (24-4) in Class 8A, Clay (18-12) gets Land O' Lakes (24-6) in 6A and West Nassau (23-6) and Keystone Heights (20-10) square off in an all-area semifinal in 5A. Those games are now on Saturday, with championship games in those classes on Sunday.

In Class 4A, Trinity (18-10) moves from facing Montverde (21-8) on Wednesday, to now playing on May 21.

"As everyone is aware, there is weather that has severely impacted the Treasure Coast area and will continue to make an impact until late in the week," the FHSAA said in a statement. "In the interest of player safety and avoiding unnecessary travel, the FHSAA is postponing the Softball State Championships."

The state tournament was initially scheduled to start Wednesday and finish on Saturday, but the Treasure Coast area has been hit by rough weather the last several days, with more expected throughout the week. The National Weather Service has forecast a 70 percent chance of rain from Wednesday through Saturday this week in Vero Beach.

"It doesn't affect us too much, we'll get an extra day to practice, maybe an extra day of preparation as far as scouting reports," said Oakleaf coach Christina Thompson, whose team is trying to defend its Class 8A state championship. "I feel for the 1As to the 4As. They were getting ready to play [early this week] and now they don't play until next week."

Trinity Christian, which plays in Class 4A, has had the lengthiest layoff among area qualifiers. The Conquerors' 14-0 regional final rout of North Bay Haven was on May 8. Trinity was expecting to play on Wednesday, but won't take the field until May 21 against Montverde.

"I look at it in a positive light, we'll get an extra practice in, probably get to hit in the cages before we leave Sunday," said Conquerors coach J.R. Borden. "I would've much rather played this week, but I'm kind of glad [it was postponed] if the weather's that bad. The problem you do have is kids in travel ball are already in tournaments right now and they'd planned on playing this weekend."

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Copyright 2018 The State Journal- Register
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The State Journal- Register (Springfield, IL)

 

When Williamsville (Ill.) High School senior softball pitcher Payton Long was struck in the shoulder by a batted ball in a game against Taylorville this spring, she admittedly was "a little shocked.

"You never think you'll get drilled by a line drive. But the higher up you go (in competition level), the pitches come in harder and the bats, it's crazy how much power they have.

"I've taken line drives off my legs, but never up top close to my face."

Long, a standout who's committed to the University of Illinois Springfield, does not wear a protective mask. While masks have become more common among high school pitchers and infielders, Long said she "just couldn't get used to pitching" while wearing a mask when she tried it a few years ago.

But perhaps influenced by the near-miss against Taylorville, Long might be reconsidering her stance.

"Maybe for college, if the coach asked me to try wearing one, I'd try," said Long, who'll help lead the Bullets into Class 2A regional play this week.

"With younger kids, if I was their mom, for sure I'd make them wear one."

Until a few years ago, the only high school player on the softball field wearing a mask was the catcher. That changed somewhat when protective masks were added to batting helmets.

But in recent years, a high school game might see the pitcher - and sometimes some of her infielders - sporting protective masks of their own on the field.

Many coaches believe a combination of softball's smaller field dimensions and modern bats that can launch line drives at higher velocity can make the pitcher and infielders - especially first basemen and third basemen - more vulnerable to injury.

According to a May 19, 2017, Newsday story, Washington State University's Sports Science Laboratory studied the impact generated when an aluminum bat meets a pitched softball. WSU professor Lloyd Smith said a 70-mph batted-ball speed (representing a hard-hit ball at the high school level) would reach the pitcher in 0.375 seconds.

The Illinois High School Association has yet to make masks mandatory for softball pitchers or infielders. But as New Berlin High School coach Brian Bandy noted, "I expect we will see it mandated within five years."

The minutes of last August's annual meeting of the IHSA Softball Advisory Committee stated, "The committee reviewed feedback and recommendations from many coaches throughout the state in favor of mandating masks."

But for now, the IHSA wants a mask that meets safety standards required by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) before making them mandatory.

"Masks are optional by rule and recommended by the (advisory) committee," read the August 2017 IHSA minutes. "Currently, there is not a NOCSAE approved mask therefore masks are not required by rule."

But some coaches already have made the masks mandatory for their players. Others have urged the use of masks, but they've left the final decision up to the players and their parents.

"I require all of my pitchers and infielders to wear masks; it's not up for discussion," said Dallas Whitford, coach of the Calvary/Lutheran co-op team.

"At the end of a pitcher's stride, they are less than 40 feet from the plate. The bases are only 60 feet (apart). Hard-hit balls can knuckle or have spin on them that can cause a player to misjudge or miss them."

Whitford and North Mac coach Alan Love witnessed an injury that influenced their attitudes about masks.

In a junior high-level game between Calvary and North Mac not quite a decade ago, North Mac pitcher Anya Riffey was struck in the head by a line drive. Her father, Michael Riffey, said Anya suffered a severe concussion, missed over a month of school and experienced memory problems.

Now a senior at UIS, Anya is on schedule to earn her degree. But her father said Anya never returned to softball although she did play basketball at North Mac.

"Ultimately, I told my middle school pitchers and corner (first and third base) infielders they had to wear masks," said Love, noting that corner infielders often play "in" to guard against bunts or slap hits.

"I've told my high school players I'd really prefer they wear them. I wish they were just required. In high school, the pitching rubber is 43 feet away. In junior high, it's 40 feet. When the pitcher finishes, she's a lot closer than that, and the ball comes back so quick.

"Some pitchers say (the mask) kind of blocks their vision. But if they used them in middle school, they'd be more used to them in high school."

Earlier this season, Mount Zion pitcher Ally Bruner wasn't as lucky as Long. Bruner, who wasn't wearing a mask, was struck by a batted ball just above her right eye.

According to a story in the Decatur Herald and Review, Bruner was taken to Memorial Medical Center in Springfield. Three titanium plates and 25 screws were needed to repair the damage.

Bruner still is committed to pitch at the University of Tennessee-Martin and, according to the Herald and Review, plans to wear a mask when she's back in the pitcher's circle.

"Knowing all the pain I went through, I definitely would suggest masks be mandatory now because I don't think anyone should ever go through this," Bruner told the Herald and Review. "It's hard and it's rough on your parents, too. It's not worth all this damage."

Rochester coach Lindsay Howard said her attitude about masks has changed over the years, partially because the ball seems to come off the bat "hotter" than it used to.

"When the idea of wearing a mask came out, I personally thought, 'Why would you wear one of those? Don't be scared of the ball,' " said Howard, who noted all of her pitchers and infielders now wear masks of their own volition.

"After seeing how softball bats have changed the game, I realize it was pretty ignorant of me to think that way. It isn't about being scared of the ball. It's about protecting yourself on the chance you can't react quick enough."

Longtime Chatham Glenwood coach Vondel Edgar said he's definitely not "anti-mask," and the Titans require their pitchers to wear them. He leaves it up to his infielders and their parents whether they wear masks.

Edgar said he would comply if the IHSA made masks mandatory for infielders.

But he admits to some ambiguous feelings about masks as they relate to fielding skills.

"I'm not sure if a mask is a distraction," Edgar said. "Maybe the kids can't see the ball as well.

"But if you put it in the kids' minds, 'This ball can hurt you,' it can make them fearful of the ball. I would never tell a kid not to wear a mask, but if you're wearing one, there should be no fear.

"Even if there's a bad hop, you should keep your head in there.... There's a toughness required for every sport. You don't want kids to get hurt, but in soccer they're always heading the ball. In football, you're getting tackled. In basketball, you take an elbow or draw a charge.

"But if my (coaching) peers say, 'This is what we're going to do (with masks),' then that's what we'll do."

Contact Dave Kane: 788-1544, dave.kane@sj-r.com, twitter.com/davekaneSJR.

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Copyright 2018 The Buffalo News
All Rights Reserved

The Buffalo News (New York)

 

Reviews have been a fact of life in the NHL all season. The league's biggest one is underway in Minnesota.

It has nothing to do with goaltender interference.

After more than four years of arguments in courtrooms, boardrooms and science labs, the concussion lawsuit brought by retired players against the NHL has finally reached a critical stage. U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson has heard closing arguments from both sides, and she is deliberating whether to certify the case as a class-action lawsuit.

"It took us a long time to get here," Charles "Bucky" Zimmerman, founding partner of a law firm representing the players, said by phone Monday.

More than 100 players have joined the lawsuit since the first filing in November 2013, and they're looking to Nelson to keep them unified. If the judge rules in favor of the players, the consolidated case will continue in her Minnesota court. If Nelson rules for the NHL, each player would have to fight his own case in local courts.

There is no timetable for Nelson's decision.

"She just took all the briefs and the arguments under advisement," said Zimmerman, who isn't sure which areas Nelson will focus on most. "The briefs were extensive, and the issues were contested hotly, but I don't know what she'd be working to try and resolve in between all the varying possibilities.

"The briefs were thousands and thousands of pages - mostly the defendant's briefs were like over 7,000 pages with exhibits - so it's a massive undertaking."

At the case's core, the former players suing the NHL claim the league was negligent in its care and fraudulently concealed the long-term risks of head injuries. They are seeking medical monitoring and compensatory damages.

The subplots are plentiful. There have been scientific debates about the long-term effects of concussions, specifically whether they lead to the debilitating brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). There have been public debates about what the NHL knows and whether it should spend money to learn more. There have been legal arguments over which state's laws should be used.

There are so many tangents that Nelson could decide only a few form a class-action lawsuit and limit the number of players involved. If she rules completely in favor of the players - including former Buffalo Sabres Mike Robitaille, Craig Muni, Grant Ledyard and the family of late defenseman Steve Montador - everyone who ever skated in the NHL would become part of the class.

"Having been involved in many class actions over the years, there's a certain group of questions that she has to ask and has to find to make the class action appropriate under federal rules of civil procedure," Zimmerman said from his Minnesota office of Zimmerman Reed. "Do individual issues predominate over class issues, or do class issues predominate over individual issues? Is there sufficient commonality of questions? There's a group of questions like that that she has to wrestle with.

"She could also consider certifying issues as opposed to the outcome of the entire case. She can consider, 'Well, maybe we'll just certify questions having to do with does the league owe the players a duty? Was there a breach of that duty?' and not necessarily certify the entire case for resolution under a class mechanism."

Nelson heard final arguments March 16. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stirred up the sides in April during an interview with WFAN Sports Radio in New York.

Bettman and the NHL have steadfastly denied that a link exists between repetitive brain trauma and CTE. During the interview, the commissioner said the researchers at the CTE Center at Boston University even told him they can't prove a link. The doctors, who have filed affidavits for the plaintiffs, countered that Bettman misstated their conversation.

"I'm not going to get into a public debate, particularly because we're in litigation," Bettman said on WFAN. "We believe the lawsuit is without merit."

The NHL has come under fire from hockey people not affiliated with the lawsuit. Hockey Hall of Famer Ken Dryden said the league should make all head shots illegal. Fellow inductee Eric Lindros, who previously suggested each NHL team donate $1 million for brain trauma research, said last month the league isn't doing enough.

"There are lots of organizations and people who have suggestions as to how we should be conducting things and spending money," Bettman said during the radio interview. "The fact is, most of the people don't know all of the things that we're doing with respect to player safety and particularly what we do with other organizations in the hockey world.

"The NHL spends lots of time, money and effort doing a whole host of things with respect to player safety."

Daniel Carcillo disagrees. The retired forward announced in March he would join the lawsuit because of depression, which he believes was caused by head trauma.

"It's time to help others suffering the same hell on earth that the NHL and NHLPA have created with their lack of respect for human beings that make up their league of denial," Carcillo wrote on Twitter. "You have blood on your hands. Wash it off."

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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

USA TODAY

 

While the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday opened the door for sports betting to become legal, it might be at least a year before that occurs in most states, a gaming industry expert said.

"Broadly speaking, you're looking at a few distinct waves" in how states will proceed, said Chris Grove, who oversees the sports betting practice of Eilers & Krejcik Gaming LLC, a California-based research firm that serves the gaming industry.

The first wave comprises a handful of states that basically have legal mechanisms in place and were just waiting for a favorable ruling from the high court. This includes New Jersey, West Virginia, Delaware and Mississippi. The next involves a slightly larger set of states whose legislatures are still in session and have sports betting bills pending. California, New York, Illinois and Michigan are among this group.

"The largest group of states will wait until 2019 because they are out of session or almost out of session," Grave said. "That might seem strange because it's so early in this year, but that's how the political work calendar works."

He said about 20 states have considered, or are considering, sports betting, "and I expect that number to balloon." How, and when, states move on this "will be heavily influenced by the actions of neighboring states," he added.

"It may not be as pronounced as with land-based casinos, but many states will act if they haven't already," he said.

To find out where progress toward sports betting stands on a state-by-state basis, USA TODAY attempted to contact the governor's offices of 25 states that have not been currently active on the issue. It also compiled information from across the USA TODAY Network and from data collected this month by Eilers & Krejcik, which contacted the National Conference of State Legislatures to determine whether lawmakers remain in session.

Alabama: State Constitution currently prohibits all forms of gambling, according to Daniel Sparkman, a spokesperson for the governor's office. Asked whether there has been any legislative discussion about -- or a proposal or referendum aimed at -- changing the state constitution, Sparkman replied: "Not to my knowledge and our legislature doesn't meet again until March 2019."

Alaska: Austin Baird, a spokesperson for Gov. Bill Walker's office, confirmed that "there has been no legislative activity on this issue in Alaska."

Arizona: While the legislature did not consider any sports gambling bills in its most recent session, Gov. Doug Ducey called Monday's decision "positive news."

"We have been working on a modernized gaming compact," Ducey wrote on Twitter. "This ruling gives Arizona options that could benefit our citizens and our general fund."

Arkansas: Hasn't considered sports gambling legislation, and Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he is reviewing the Supreme Court's decision and "we will be monitoring this closely."

California: There is a bill active that would authorize the state legislature to permit sports betting if a change in federal law occurred that would allow the state to have sports betting.

Colorado: Title 18 of the state constitution explicitly notes that gambling on sports is illegal, and Jacque Montgomery, a spokesperson for Gov. John Hickenlooper's office, confirmed that the legalization of sports gambling in the state would therefore require "a vote of the People."

Connecticut: Gov. Dannel Malloy issued a statement that said he is prepared to call the General Assembly into a special session to consider legalizing sports betting in the state: "It is incumbent on us to consider the question of legalized sports betting in a thoughtful way that ensures our approach is responsible, smart and fully realizes the economic potential that this opportunity provides."

Delaware: Sports betting of a sort already is allowed but limited to multigame bets on NFL games. "If it is permissible under the (Supreme Court) opinion, full-scale sports gaming could be available at Delaware's casinos before the end of June," Gov. John Carney said in a release.

Florida: "We will review the court's ruling. Any changes to Florida's gaming laws would be made by the Florida Legislature," McKinley Lewis, deputy communications director for Gov. Rick Scott, said in a statement.

Georgia: "There is no pending legislation regarding this, and the next session to debate something like this is in January 2019, when the governor (Nathan Deal) will no longer hold office," said Jen Talaber Ryan, the deputy chief of staff for communications in Deal's office.

Hawaii: There a bill active that would establish a commission that would undertake "an independent analysis of the economic and social costs and benefits" of an array of gaming and wagering in the state, including sports betting. The commission also would determine if gaming would be feasible and what form of gaming would be most appropriate for the state.

Idaho: Has not recently considered sports gambling legislation.

Illinois: There are several bills active, including one that -- with Monday's ruling -- would authorize sports betting in the state to occur with licensees under the Illinois Horse Racing Act of 1975. This bill also would create the Division of Sports Wagering within the Illinois Gaming Board to issue licenses. Another bill authorizes sports wagering at a facility that is authorized to conduct gambling operations under the Riverboat Gambling Act.

Indiana: State Rep. Alan Morrison, R-Terre Haute, has introduced bills the past few years, but they haven't advanced far enough for a vote. Morrison said he's "very pleased and excited about the decision" and thinks legalizing sports gambling in Indiana has a "fairly good" chance of passing next year.

Iowa: State Rep. Jake Highfill, R-Johnston, said Monday that he will introduce a proposal to legalize sports betting when the legislature convenes in January. Brenna Smith, press secretary to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, issued a statement saying: "Given the Supreme Court's opinion, the governor will explore options with the legislature next year."

Kansas: Several active bills would allow sports betting, but the bills differ about where such betting would be allowed to occur -- only at racetracks or also at other sites.

Kentucky: Had bills that would have authorized sports betting at horse racing tracks and/or under authority of the Kentucky Lottery Corp.

Louisiana: There is an active bill that would allow sports betting at eligible live horse racing facilities.

Maine: The state has not recently considered any sports gambling legislation.

Maryland: Bills that would have put sports betting to a referendum vote this November did not get through the legislature.

Massachusetts: There is an active bill that, with Monday's ruling, would create a "special commission to conduct a comprehensive study and offer proposed legislation relative to the regulation of online sports betting."

Michigan: Eight current bills would expand gambling, including several that would legalize sports betting and wagers on fantasy sports. Four have gotten votes in committee -- three that would allow Internet gambling and another that would legalize fantasy sports betting -- but none have gotten votes in either the full House of Representatives or the Senate. Four other bills, including three that would legalize sports betting and allow the Michigan lottery to handle those wagers and another fantasy sports betting bill, haven't gotten hearings yet in committee.

Minnesota: Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, has publicly stumped for Minnesota to work under the assumption that sports betting will be legalized, prior to Monday's news. Despite his efforts, the legislature has yet to consider a sports betting bill. The legislature will adjourn on May 21.

Mississippi: Gambling officials have said casinos could be up and running with betting on professional and college sports within 45 days of Monday's ruling. The Mississippi Legislature, unbeknownst to most lawmakers and citizens, legalized sports betting in Mississippi casinos last year by deleting a snippet of law that prohibited betting on any games that occur outside casinos. The deletion was made -- and not announced to most lawmakers -- in a measure dealing with regulation of fantasy sports. Mississippi Gaming Commission Director Allen Godfrey has said the new Mississippi law allows sports betting, subject to regulation by the commission.

Missouri: Several sports gambling bills have been discussed in Missouri, but The Kansas City Star reported that only one of them has advanced out of committee, making it unlikely that any measure will pass before the state legislature adjourns next week.

Montana: Some forms of sports gambling are already legal in Montana, according to the state's justice department -- including fantasy sports leagues and pools in which people bet against one another, rather than the house. It's unclear whether Monday's news will lead to a broader legalization of sports gambling.

Nebraska: The state has not recently considered any sports gambling legislation.

Nevada: Sports gambling is already legal in Nevada.

New Hampshire: Gov. Chris Sununu said in a statement: "Legalized sports betting in New Hampshire? I'll give it 3-1."

New Jersey: The state's law, signed by then-Gov. Chris Christie in 2014, was the basis for the legal battle that culminated in Monday's ruling. Current Gov. Phil Murphy issued a statement Monday saying he will look at enacting a new version of the law "in the very near future."

New Mexico: Has not recently considered sports gambling legislation.

New York: State lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved language in 2013 that would allow wagering on athletic events if the federal ban on sports wagering was struck down. But Cuomo said Monday that he's in no rush to move forward and suggested a new law would have to be passed, questioning whether it can be done this year before lawmakers end their annual session next month. "We'll do an economic analysis and a legal analysis, but nothing's going to happen this year because there's literally just a number of days left in the legislative session and this would be a very big issue to tackle," Cuomo told reporters in Manhattan.

North Carolina: Has not recently considered any sports gambling legislation.

North Dakota: Gov. Doug Burgum was among governors who signed an amicus brief in support of New Jersey's case. "I supported New Jersey's appeal based on the principle that without a valid federal law pre-empting state law, Congress can't prevent states from enacting, modifying or repealing their own laws," Burgum said in a statement. "We're not aware of any sports betting legislation being proposed, and the Governor's Office has no plans to propose such legislation. Should such legislation be forwarded to me, I will carefully evaluate it as with any other bill that comes across my desk."

Ohio: "Expanding gambling has not been a priority for this administration, and that remains unchanged," communications director Jim Lynch said.

Oklahoma: The legislature was, at one point in its most recent session, considering language that would legalize sports betting. But the final version of House Bill 3375, which is colloquially known as the "ball and dice," instead focused on the expansion of casino games, and it is immediately unclear whether legislators will renew sports gambling efforts in 2019.

Oregon: The state, via the Oregon Lottery, was offering its "Sports Action" NFL parlay game before the enactment of the law that was struck down Monday, so the game had always been grandfathered in. But the Lottery stopped offering the game in 2007 as the state wanted to get out from under the NCAA's refusal to stage championship events where any type of sports betting was allowed. Now that appears to be moot.

Pennsylvania: In 2017, the state passed a law authorizing sports betting in the state if federal law allowed states to regulate the activity. Now that day is here. But the state's law also called for a $10 million licensing fee and 34% tax rate on this revenue, and those might be tough conditions for potential sports betting operators.

Rhode Island: An active bill would allow sports betting to be operated by the state lottery at existing casinos in the state, but it would prohibit betting on any collegiate sports event in the state or any college sports event outside the state involving any "state college team."

South Carolina: An active bill would amend the state constitution so that the legislature would have the authority to allow gambling, including sports betting and betting on horse racing.

South Dakota: South Dakota's legislative session ended more than a month ago, and Tony Venhuizen, a spokesperson for Gov. Dennis Daugaard's office, told USA TODAY there is no active legislation related to sports gambling in the state. "Governor Daugaard is leaving office at the end of this year, so it will be up to the new Governor and Legislature elected in November to consider this possibility next year," Venhuizen wrote in an email.

Tennessee: "As the Tennessee General Assembly has adjourned for the year, there is no additional legislation under consideration at this time. Additionally, we are still reviewing the Supreme Court's decision in the case," press secretary Jennifer Donnals said.

Texas: Has not recently considered legislation pertaining to sports gambling. A spokesperson for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday's ruling.

Utah: Has not recently considered any sports gambling legislation.

Vermont: Has not recently considered any sports gambling legislation.

Virginia: A spokesman for Gov. Ralph Northam said: "We're reviewing the ruling and would review any legislation should the General Assembly decide to take up the matter. (There is) no active legislation that I'm aware of on this topic."

Washington: The Washington State Gambling Commission said in a statement that legalizing sports gambling would require a vote from the state legislature -- "most likely, a 60% majority."

West Virginia: A bill that became law in March was just waiting for a favorable ruling from the high court. Regulations need to be set, but sports wagering should soon be allowed at licensed casinos in the state.

Wisconsin: "The legislature is not in session and there is no pending legislation on this," said Steve Michels, assistant deputy secretary of the state's department of administration. "Sports gaming is prohibited by the Wisconsin constitution, state law, and is not allowed under the state tribal compacts."

Wyoming: The state has not recently considered any sports gambling legislation.

Contributing: Mark Alesia, The Indianapolis Star; Jon Capbell and Joseph Spector, (Rochester, N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle; Scott Goss, The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal; Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press; Geoff Pender, The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Miss.); A.J. Perez, USA TODAY; William Petroski, The Des Moines Register.

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Copyright 2018 Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)

 

It may sound unorthodox but John "Whitey" Moynihan and Stephon Cherry decided the best way to tackle a problem was to create a dilemma.

To address a gap between Worcester middle schools and the city's high schools in the area of basketball progression and development, Cherry enlisted the passion and influence of Moynihan in an effort to give life to Cherry's vision of establishing an organized after-school basketball program.

It's long been known — perhaps not openly discussed for fear of being interpreted as excuse-making, but known — that Worcester public high schools are at a disadvantage compared to other schools in the area that run feeder programs for young players as part of a path to varsity competition.

Another reality is that athletes from the city often do not have the means to play on travel teams or AAU basketball teams that can foster talent development like their competitors from other school districts.

Not only do those obstacles lead to lost games, but they also lead to

lost student-athletes — as in kids who take their hoops talents elsewhere beginning in ninth grade because they're disconnected from their neighborhood high school programs.

Cherry, who helped lead a resurgence of the North High girls' basketball team during his tenure, and Moynihan, a proud lifelong city resident, business leader and former Holy Cross athlete had seen enough.

"When I first came to North, I noticed some kids with talent, but also a lot of kids who were behind in fundamentals," said Cherry, who was a star player growing up in New York City. "A big reason for that is because there is not a 'feeder system' and there weren't many outlets where kids could develop and become part of a culture

lost student-athletes — as in kids who take their hoops talents elsewhere beginning in ninth grade because they're disconnected from their neighborhood high school programs.

Cherry, who helped lead a resurgence of the North High girls' basketball team during his tenure, and Moynihan, a proud lifelong city resident, business leader and former Holy Cross athlete had seen enough.

"When I first came to North, I noticed some kids with talent, but also a lot of kids who were behind in fundamentals," said Cherry, who was a star player growing up in New York City. "A big reason for that is because there is not a 'feeder system' and there weren't many outlets where kids could develop and become part of a culture at a young age, where they dream about playing high school ball for their public high school."

Cherry approached Moynihan about advocating for a public schools-based basketball league for middle school athletes and Moynihan was quick to jump on board.

"My goal in this was to create a dilemma," Moynihan said. "If kids have the chance to interact with the high school coaches and get to know them personally, as mentors, and become part of a culture, it won't be as easy for parents and kids to just simply leave after eighth grade. They'll believe in the programs in the city and consider the positives that can come from sports."

Moynihan is not one for idle talk and fluffy ideas. His own sons, Quinn and Connor, had the means to attend private school but, as a family — Moynihan's wife Ellen is the principal at West Tatnuck Elementary — it was decided that both would attend Burncoat, where the siblings were standout three-sport student-athletes.

"I love Worcester, I'm from here, and I feel the responsibility to make a commitment to my city," Moynihan said. "We're dealing with an opioid problem, we're legalizing marijuana and we have kids with nowhere to go. We're creating the perfect storm for kids to find trouble, and I'm not happy about that. There's a chance to give these kids an outlet through sports."

Moynihan put up his own money to help start "City Hoops," an after-school basketball program offered to boys and girls at Worcester middle schools this spring.

It's a pilot, funded by Moynihan and facilitated by Recreation Worcester and Worcester Public Schools and, thus far, it's shown promise toward the goal of eventually restoring middle school athletic programs.

Moynihan praised city officials, including City Manager Edward M Augustus Jr. and Superintendent of Schools Maureen Binienda, but, in exchange for his generosity, Moynihan said he wanted something in return.

"I want buy-in," he said. "I want the city's leadership to commit — to really commit — to creating an infrastructure around programs like this so they can succeed and they can be sustainable. I fully understand the budget challenges, but this isn't about money. If this is beneficial to the kids and helps to keep great kids and families in the public schools, the community will find the money (the schools) need."

Moynihan pulls no punches when it comes to his thoughts on the importance of middle school sports and the commitment needed to implement a program.

"We need the high school coaches to get involved, to be around these kids from the sixth grade on so they can build relationships with kids through sports," he said. "I tell it like it is and there are people who like that and people who don't, but this is only going to work if there is a real commitment from everyone involved."

Augustus and city officials view City Hoops as a long-term investment.

"The City Hoops program is an important investment that we must make in our youth," Augustus said. "By providing positive adult role models and healthy activities that don't cost families any money we're creating a program that not only benefits our youth now, but puts them on a positive life path for many years to follow."

The program, which is essentially an intramural league of Worcester middle schools and features volunteer coaches, has about 100 kids. Cherry's goals are loftier — he thinks it can grow to an opportunity for 500 students or more in the next few years.

"This is deeper than basketball," Cherry said. "Our goal right now is to enable people to understand the positive effect this program can have on kids so that it can grow. The kids can connect earlier with high school coaches so the coaches become mentors. That can help the city retain student-athletes.

"We shouldn't be ashamed to say that sports as a platform can do a lot to raise the profile of a school and make the schools more appealing and more competitive. It's easy to leave if you don't feel part of something bigger."

Cherry, who is part of close-knit and supportive group of high school basketball coaches and supporters within the city, believes the efforts to start City Hoops will pay dividends.

"Some kids will still leave, sure, but we want to build a culture where parents will consider trusting that their kids can have a great experience in our public schools, academically and athletically, and, some of these kids will be able to use their athletic ability as a way to go to college," he said.

Contact Tom Flanagan at sports@telegram.com Follow him on Twitter @tgsports

 

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USA TODAY

 

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of New Jersey on Monday effectively killed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the federal law that essentially limited sports betting to Nevada for the past 25 years. PASPA was declared unconstitutional in the 6-3 decision, meaning it will be up to states -- including New Jersey, which has sought to establish sports gambling for years -- to decide whether to allow its residents to bet on sports. Here's a breakdown of what the ruling by the nation's highest court means:

Question: What is PASPA?

Answer: PASPA was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1992 and went into effect in January 1993.

PASPA didn't outlaw sports betting because that was already illegal. Rather, PASPA banned states -- outside those given exemptions -- from regulating (and taxing) sports betting.

Despite PASPA's existence, the American Gaming Association (AGA) estimates at least $150 billion a year is gambled on sports in the USA and 97% of that amount was bet illegally.

Q: How soon could states offer sanctioned sports betting?

A: Many states are likely to move quickly to establish sports betting as a means to increase their respective coffers. West Virginia Lottery general counsel Danielle Boyd told Legal Sports Report that the state -- which passed a law to authorize sports betting -- could have sports betting within 90 days of PASPA's repeal.

Q: Now that it's legal, what barriers remain?

A: Some legislation -- such as a proposal in Pennsylvania -- requires a one-time license fee of up to $10 million, along with a tax of as much as 34% on gross receipts, something AGA Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Sara Slane told USA TODAY Sports could be a non-starter for potential operators.

"I think their intentions are good," Slane said. "I think some states will have to go back and structure a policy that will allow operators to want to come into the state."

Q: What do pro sports leagues stand to gain?

A: The NBA and MLB pushed the idea of a 1% sports integrity fee. (This would be taken out of all sports bets before the government gets to tax bets.) Slane said the fee would take such a chunk that it would make legalized sports betting non-viable.

According to the AGA, the average sports book keeps about 5% of the money wagered. The fee would limit how much each state could earn in tax revenue. Nevada sports books operated for decades without such a fee.

"The major professional sports leagues earn exorbitant profits from ticket sales, concessions, merchandise and advertising rights, and while we welcome their support for our efforts to end the failed ban on sports wagering, we do not agree that it is good policy for the leagues to take money away from law enforcement agencies that neither they nor their athletes have earned," Chuck Canterbury, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said in a statement. "Our professional leagues should focus on their sport and let us focus on enforcing the law."

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Copyright 2018 Union Leader Corp.
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The Union Leader (Manchester, NH)

 

People who have a mild traumatic brain injury — even without loss of consciousness — may be more than twice as likely to develop dementia than individuals who don't have these injuries, a study of U.S. veterans suggests.

While severe and even moderate brain injuries have long been linked to an increased risk of dementia, research to date on the link between milder brain injuries and cognitive decline has been mixed, particularly for cases when patients didn't lose consciousness.

For the current study, researchers examined data on almost 358,000 veterans, about 90 percent male. Half of them were diagnosed with brain injuries between 2001 and 2014, and half were a control group of individuals who were similar to the injured veterans but without a history of brain injury.

Overall, 10,835, or 6 percent, of the veterans with brain injuries were diagnosed with dementia during the study, compared with 4,698, or less than 3 percent, of those without past brain injuries.

Compared to veterans without brain injuries, participants with a mild traumatic brain injury who didn't lose consciousness were 2.4 times more likely to develop dementia, and when they had lost consciousness, their odds of a dementia diagnosis were 2.5 times higher. Moderate to severe brain injuries carried an almost quadrupled dementia risk.

"This data suggests that there is a higher incidence of dementia after a head injury of any severity," said Dr. Jack Tsao, a neurology researcher at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

"However, much remains unknown about risks for why these individuals developed dementia," Tsao, who wasn't involved in the study, said by email.

When they joined the study, participants were 49 years old on average.

A dementia diagnosis typically occurred about 1.5 years sooner in people with brain injuries than people without brain injuries, Dr. Kristine Yaffe of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues note in JAMA Neurology.

Head injuries were tied to an increased risk of dementia even after accounting for medical and psychiatric conditions that might independently make people more likely to experience cognitive decline.

However, the study wasn't a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how brain injuries cause or accelerate the development of dementia. It's also possible that medical records used in the analysis didn't reflect mild or early stages of dementia in some participants, the authors note.

Veterans are also exposed to more brain injuries than other people, both because of combat and training activities as well as a tendency to participate in more sports and leisure activities that can lead to head injuries, said Dr. Ramon Diaz-Arrastia, a neurology researcher at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and director of the Penn Clinical TBI Initiative.

"The severity of the mild TBIs and the number of mild TBIs that veterans are exposed to is higher than in the general civilian population," Diaz-Arrastia, author of an accompanying editorial, said by email.

"It is not uncommon for military veterans to report three, five or even 10 or more mild traumatic brain injury exposures," Diaz-Arrastia added. "That is more than in civilian populations (at least those who do not play contact sports professionally) and clearly the total number of exposures matters."

For soldiers and civilians alike, getting proper treatment and taking precautions to avoid multiple hits to the head are crucial, Tsao said.

"There is unfortunately no way to minimize dementia risk after a traumatic brain injury," Tsao said. "However, with a concussion or mild TBI, rest — cognitive and physical — as well as avoiding reinjury are keys to immediate clinical recovery."

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Copyright 2018 The Post and Courier
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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

It's been a year since I presented my HEALTHY Game Plan to cut youth sports injuries. Part of that plan encouraged parents to allow their children to play multiple sports growing up, as I have previously discussed in this column.

I've always made my pitch to parents and coaches. This time, I want to appeal directly to the young athletes. Play more than one sport at seven or eight years old. Even play three or four if you're having fun. When you're older, you can specialize.

Don't believe the coaches and parents who tell you that if you don't pick one sport and play it all year, you won't have success at the college or pro level. It isn't true.

Of the 32 players selected in the first round of the NFL Draft a few weeks ago, 29 competed in multiple sports in high school. According to Tracking Football, 22 of the 32 first-round draftees competed on their track and field teams. Sixteen of the 32 played basketball.

Of the 32 first-round selections, 14 played three high school sports. One, former Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey, played four - football, basketball, track and field, and lacrosse.

The best among them played multiple sports, too. Overall No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield, the former Oklahoma quarterback, was a high school baseball star. Running back Saquon Barkley, picked second by the New York Giants, competed in basketball and track and field. The Jets used the third pick on former Southern Cal quarterback Sam Darnold, a former basketball and baseball player.

Only three players selected in the first round played football alone. Even that number is misleading. Josh Rosen, one of those three who played only high school football, was nationally ranked in tennis before choosing to focus on the gridiron.

This dominance of multi-sport athletes in the NFL Draft isn't a one-year phenomenon, either. Those numbers are almost identical to the 2017 draft.

I'm appealing to you kids directly because you don't seem to believe that playing different sports is good for you.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin surveyed 974 young male and female athletes. The kids completed anonymous questionnaires that studied their beliefs and attitudes about sports participation and specialization.

Like I would expect with questionnaires of parents and youth sports coaches, this survey shows that kids largely see specializing in one sport at an early age as positive:

· Less than half (45.8 percent) of kids believed specialization increased their risk of injury.

· Over 80 percent believed it improved their chances of making their high school team.

· Two thirds believed it increased their chances of making a college team.

The 2018 NFL Draft is just one of many examples showing that you can play a variety of sports and reach the pros at the highest level.

As far as injuries from specializing in one sport at an early age, multiple studies have shown a higher risk of overuse injuries among these kids. Now an NBA study has shown that NBA players who played multiple sports in school suffered fewer major injuries as pros and had longer careers than the players who only played basketball growing up.

Hopefully I've shown you that by playing two or three sports early and then specializing later, if you choose to, is better for your health and your long-term athletic success.

In addition to fewer injuries, kids who play more than one sport have lower rates of burnout and are less likely to quit sports altogether. Plus, by playing a variety of sports, you can improve your balance, hand-eye coordination, power, agility, communication and leadership more than you might while doing the same thing, day after day, season after season, for your entire youth career.

Go ahead. Pick a different sport and try it for a while. You'll be glad you did.

Dr. Geier is an orthopedic surgeon in Charleston and author of 'That's Gotta Hurt: The Injuries That Changed Sports Forever.'

 

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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

The NFL wants Congress to enact a framework for legalized sports betting in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that clears the way for more states to allow sports gambling.

Supreme Court justices voted 6-3 on Monday to strike down a 1992 law that barred most state-authorized sports gambling. Before the Supreme Court ruling, Nevada was the only state that allowed people to bet on the results of a single game.

"Congress has long-recognized the potential harms posed by sports betting to the integrity of sporting contests and the public confidence in these events," the NFL said in a statement. "Given that history, we intend to call on Congress again, this time to enact a core regulatory framework for legalized sports betting."

All the major leagues responded to a ruling that figures to have far-reaching implications throughout the sports world. The NHL noted that "today paves the way to an entirely different landscape - one in which we have not previously operated."

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, a supporter of legalizing sports gambling, said his league would "remain active in ongoing discussions with state legislatures" about expanding wagering options.

Silver also said the league would like to see a federal framework instead of a state-by-state system. The NBA once opposed expanded sports betting but has long said it supports robust regulation.

The NBA and Major League Baseball have argued in recent months for a 1 percent cut of proceeds if legalized sports betting expands across the country, saying part of that money would be needed for additional compliance and enforcement efforts within the game.

"As each state considers whether to allow sports betting, we will continue to seek the proper protections for our sport, in partnership with other professional sports," Major League Baseball said in a statement.

Keith Whyte, the National Council on Problem Gambling's executive director, believes any governmental body and sports league that receives a direct percentage or portion of sports betting revenue must also dedicate funds to prevent and treat gambling problems.

"Some of that 1 percent of betting fees is going to come from people with uncontrollable gambling problems," Whyte said. "We believe by taking a cut of this money, (the leagues would be) put themselves in the position of having to do something to reduce those costs. Great profits come with great responsibility."

MLB said it would "continue to support legislation that creates air-tight coordination and partnerships between the state, the casino operators and the governing bodies in sports" toward protecting the integrity of the game.

Plenty of leagues already have taken steps to make sure its players are educated on the issue.

For example, last year the PGA Tour hired Genesis Sports to help with its new "Integrity Program" that began at the start of the year. The program requires players on all six circuits the PGA Tour manages to take part in an online tutorial that, among other things, illustrates some of the far-reaching effects of gambling.

"We believe that regulation is the most effective way of ensuring integrity in competition, protecting consumers, engaging fans and generating revenue for government, operators and leagues," the PGA Tour said in a statement.

The Supreme Court ruling will impact college sports as well as the pro leagues. Donald Remy, the NCAA's chief legal officer, said the organization is reviewing the Supreme Court's decision and that "we will adjust sports wagering and championship policies to align with the direction from the court."

The NCAA currently doesn't hold NCAA Tournament games or any other NCAA-run events in Nevada because gambling's legal in that state. Las Vegas is home to the annual Las Vegas Bowl as well as the Pac-12 men's basketball tournament and other tournaments, which aren't run by the NCAA itself.

The NCAA said that 24 percent of NCAA male student-athletes and about 5 percent of female student-athletes in 2016 reported that they had wagered on sports for money within the previous year , which would violate NCAA bylaws. Just below 2 percent of the men participating in the 2016 survey met what the NCAA termed as standard diagnostic criteria for problem gambling.

Reactions to the Supreme Court ruling across the sports world weren't limited to the league offices. The athletes themselves also were wondering about the possible implications of increased legal sports gambling.

NASCAR driver Brad Keselowki tweeted that he was "torn" on the Supreme Court's decision. Keselowski said that it "should be great for our sport, but I've also seen gambling ruin lives."

"If you choose to gamble on me or anyone else, please be responsible, and if you need help, get help," Keselowski added.

---

AP golf writer Doug Ferguson, AP basketball writer Tim Reynolds and AP college football writer Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report.

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Copyright 2018 Journal Register Co.

New Haven Register (Connecticut)

 

 

CROMWELL - David Benedict didn't really know Dan Hurley personally before hiring him as UConn's new men's basketball coach on March 22.

He had only heard great things about Hurley's work ethic, recruiting prowess and relationships with players. Over the past six weeks, Benedict, UConn's athletic director, has had a chance to witness those attributes up close.

Safe to say, he's been impressed.

"I think it's just confirmed all the things that we had heard about Coach Hurley," Benedict said on Monday morning, after addressing the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce at its member breakfast meeting. "Talking to him through the interview process, the things we discussed, the things he said he would want to do, the way he'd be going about things... the biggest one is the staff he put together. He put an incredible staff together, which is something that's very important to any head coach. You can't do it on your own."

Hurley has hired former longtime UConn assistant and Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore, as well as Kenya Hunter, most recently an assistant at Nebraska, and Kimani Young, most recently at Minnesota. All three have strong recruiting ties to the New York, New England and/or Washington, D.C. areas. Hurley and his staff have been all over the country in recent weeks and have made numerous offers to top players from the Class of 2019 and beyond.

"He knows - as does any head coach - that recruiting is the lifeblood of the program," said Benedict. "You've got to get out and work. I like the fact that he's got a very strong, committed plan in place, as to how he's going to recruit here. That's not to say that you won't find him deviating a little bit, but he's going to recruit the Northeast corridor and the Mid-Atlantic. He went out and hired coaches that have connections in all those areas."

Benedict spoke to the assembled group of about 250 people from the local business community for about a half-hour and addressed a number of topics.

Among them:

The American Conference has a stronger national brand than people give it credit for, and none of the coaches Benedict interviewed for the men's basketball job mentioned it as a negative.

"We had a No. 2, 4 and 6 seed (in the NCAA tournament)," Benedict noted. "We could have had more, but that's partly on UConn. We're not carrying our weight."

There has been $88 million raised for improvements to the baseball, softball and soccer facilities. Why those programs, and not football or men's basketball?

"Those sports won't get us into another conference," Benedict said, "but they could keep us out. Those facilities don't meet the standards that UConn should have."

He noted that the baseball facilities are the worst for any school in Connecticut.

He addressed the major issues affecting NCAA men's basketball, believing the one-and-done rule will soon be abolished, but not agreeing that college athletes should be paid.

"If I had to, I would have paid my own expenses for the experience I had in college," Benedict said.

He added that he hopes Christian Vital will remain at UConn and not turn pro.

Benedict stressed that the athletic program needs fans in the seats.

"At a minimum, please buy some tickets," he said. "We need to fill the seats. It is a critical piece of building a successful athletic department. The major conferences look at attendances at universities."

Benedict said the men's basketball team's opponents for next season have been finalized, but didn't know when they would be officially announced. UConn won't have to get on a plane much (if at all) for its non-conference slate this season, playing two games in the 2K Coaches Classic at Madison Square Garden (where it could face Syracuse) as well as Villanova at MSG.

"Our philosophy related to non-conference scheduling is going to really shift a little bit," he said. "We're going to look to playing a lot of teams from our old Big East days. We're talking to Providence, St. John's, continuing relationships with Georgetown, Syracuse, Villanova. Those are all gonna be games we'll be looking to schedule in the future."

Benedict added that the radio teams for UConn's new relationship with iHeart Radio should be finalized within the next month. UConn has input on the choices.

"I don't necessarily make the final decision, because they're not on my payroll," he said. "They would be on IMG's or iHeart's. But certainly, it's important to ESPN and iHeart, as well as IMG, that we're gonna be happy with those selections. It's something that we definitely are having conversations about."

Asked about the status of Kevin Ollie's battle with the university for the nearly $11 million left on his contract prior to his March 10 firing for cause, Benedict simply said: "I"m not gonna talk about it."

Ollie is slated to make his appeal to UConn president Susan Herbst, possibly this week.

david.borges@hearstmediact.com

Credit: By David Borges

Media: CTGlobal

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Copyright 2018 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — On a Tuesday morning in March, five half-awake young men comprising the Team Liquid roster shuffled into the esports franchise's new training space. They walked through the neon-accented foyer and into the dining area, where they grabbed catered omelets with fresh sliced tomatoes and avocados, fruit cups, toast and coffee, and sat down in wood booths. As the caffeine kicked in, some of the players began to talk business, mostly in Korean, with English exclamations, reviewing their performance the previous night during the League of Legends' Championship Series (LCS) regular season. After the meal, the team's assistant coach called the men into their colorfully lit film room featuring a 120-inch screen.

The coaches used an interactive tablet to mark up gameplay footage, just like the telestrations on NFL broadcasts. After dissecting the film, the players shifted to another part of their team-exclusive facility featuring a row of top-of-the-line gaming computers akin to the players' competitive environment. They slipped into monogrammed gaming chairs, each bearing a gamer's name, and began their training regimen.

It was, in many ways, similar to the start of a practice day for any professional sports team. The opening of Team Liquid's new training facility is a recent example of how esports organizations in North America are increasingly putting themselves on par with professional and collegiate teams in traditional sports, providing organized environments and structure to support their players and staff.

It is a literal architecture that teams believe will help sustain the stunning growth of esports properties such as the LCS. The goal is to not only improve the caliber of current players and develop prospects into future pros, but also instill a culture of professionalism to a group of players used to operating on their own from remote locations or in team houses in which players both work and reside.

With their new home, Team Liquid joins esports franchises Immortals/Los Angeles Valiant and Echo Fox in Los Angeles in moving away from the gaming house model and toward a more professional setup. "When we formed the idea of a training center, it got [the players] out of training and living in the same environment," said Bruce Stein, co-founder and CEO of aXiomatic Gaming, which holds the controlling stake in Team Liquid.

"We felt that was a little stifling. It didn't give them a separation between relaxation and work. And it wasn't the ideal setup for training with the coaches and the analysts. So, we built a facility." Prime real estate Located just down the road from Lionsgate's headquarters and Amazon Studios in this upscale Los Angeles-area coastal city, Team Liquid's Alienware Training Facilities sit in a nondescript, 8,000-square-foot space in an office park.

The lack of external allure belies the building's glistening, amenity-rich interior but also its importance as a key component in what the team believes to be "the next evolution of esports." The facility includes a conference room with a mammoth screen and three game-themed lounges, all of which have murals of the team's past glories. There's a kitchen and dining area — on-site chef included — and dedicated areas for scrimmages for Team Liquid's LCS (the League of Legends' top league), Academy (its minor league) and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive teams — the three teams on-site. Each squad also has a couch-rimmed film rooms for postgame analysis and film sessions. There's also an on-site production studio tasked with creating original video for YouTube, helping to promote Team Liquid and its players, as well as commercials.

The team also has access to a nutritionist, sports psychologist and gym memberships. Combined, the team believes its amenities represent "a new precedent for how players and staff integrate and operate like a real company," according to a YouTube video tour of the facility. The setup blends developmental tools with creature comforts so it doesn't "feel like you're sitting in an office meeting," according to Stein.

"That part was what was unique to the industry [about the facility]. Nobody had ever done that before and we did it with some trepidation because you don't know how the players in the community will respond," Stein said, noting that esports has a unique culture teams must treat with some reverence. "Fortunately the team response has been phenomenal."

Team Liquid's Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng is one of the world's top League of Legends players who is known for his brash online presence. He has more than 800,000 followers on Twitter. "I think this facility is insane," said Peng, who received national media attention in April after his brother was charged with the murder of their mother. "Six years ago I was scrimming [practicing] out of like this tiny dinky house in Diamond Bar [in Eastern Los Angeles County], the cheapest possible place you could fit five people."

Treat it like work

The idea to move away from the gaming house setup and into a practice facility stemmed in part from the involvement of Ted Leonsis and Peter Guber, co-owners of aXiomatic who serve as co-executive chairmen along with Jeff Vinik and Bruce Karsh. Leonsis also owns the NBA's Washington Wizards and NHL's Washington Capitals, among other pro teams, while Guber is a co-owner of the NBA's Golden State Warriors and MLB's Los Angeles Dodgers.

Vinik is the owner of the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning and a minority owner of MLB's Boston Red Sox. Given the success of their traditional sports franchises, the idea was to blend some of the best practices from those teams to coax more from Team Liquid's players. "There's been this arms race in the NBA and the NHL where your practice facility becomes a differentiator on where a free agent wants to come because they spend more time at the practice facility than they do playing," Leonsis said. "So we wanted to make sure that we had a culture from day one that treated esports players as professionals and that why aXiomatic and Team Liquid could be different was that, because we would treat them with that kind of respect, they would be rest assured that we would get the best out of them and we could help develop them to be the best player they could be."

The facility was designed in partnership with the team's sponsor, Alienware, whose name, logo, and associated neon accents are conspicuously displayed. At the facility, players have access to the latest monitors, computers, keyboards and mice, in addition to the team's coaches and support staff. Overall it fosters a more structured and work-focused environment compared to esports houses.

"Players would just wake up at 10:28 for a 10:30 morning and just crawl out of their beds to it," assistant coach Jun "Dodo" Kang said, speaking about how it was in the gaming house. Coach Nu-ri "Cain" Jang said, via translation, that, "Having living and working space in the same place makes it too relaxed for the players... Separating that just helps players focus on being professionals. Like, you're waking up and actually going to work."

Kim "Olleh" Joo-sung, one of the Korean players, said the facility helps him stay more balanced. "I have no friends, so I just stayed there," he said with a smirk. As young men who have grown up in a more decentralized work environment, worker ills of the past have actually become advantages from their perspectives.

"I didn't know how amazing it was in real life that normal people can just walk to their boss and talk to them and, like, I can do that now too! And that's such a first, I've never been able to do that," said Peng, who expressed past frustration with trying to schedule meeting with off-site staff.

Now, the staff are either next door or in the main foyer. The facility not only helps the players hone their skills, but the hope is it also can help in recruiting the next generation of pro gamers. But as much as the facility seems to help with performance — Team Liquid won this year's North American LCS Spring Split — it also points to the continued rise in the prestige of esports. For Peng, the facility reflects a growing sense of respect toward his fellow players and their craft, even as mainstream society over a certain age is still largely coming to terms with esports' emergence as a legitimate part of the global sports scene.

"It's going to be this niche thing, until it isn't, like UFC," Peng said. "I don't care too much about the label. I'm a pro league player and I'm really proud of it."

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Chicago Daily Herald

 

Parkway Bank and Trust Co., already the naming-rights holder on Rosemont's entertainment district, is extending its brand across the Tri-State Tollway to what's fast becoming another sprawling village entertainment complex.

The Harwood Heights-based bank has acquired the naming rights to the Rosemont-owned women's softball stadium and indoor sports dome, located west of the tollway and north of Balmoral Avenue. The area will become known as Parkway Bank Sports Complex.

The village recently inked a three-year deal with the bank, in which it agrees to pay $100,000 a year, with the option to extend the contract for two additional years.

Last October, officials approved a three-year deal to rename the 200,000-square-foot village entertainment district Parkway Bank Park. Parkway is paying Rosemont $600,000 a year, under terms of that agreement.

Next week, crews are set to affix two large decals - measuring 27-by-125-feet and 40-by-40-feet - to the outside of the dome, and replace a sign. The village is paying Arizon, the manufacturer of the dome, $92,390 to produce and install the graphics.

New wayfinding signs also will be installed around the sports complex.

The seven-story dome, which has two baseball/softball diamonds and covers a total of 140,000 square feet, opened in 2012. The 2,000-seat softball stadium, home of the Chicago Bandits, opened in 2011.

The rebranding comes in time for the grand opening of another village-owned sports venue in the same area. The $63 million, 6,300-seat Impact Field will host opening day May 25 for the Chicago Dogs, a new independent league baseball franchise. The team has a 20-year lease agreement for the stadium, which is just south of the Bandits' ballpark.

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Chicago Daily Herald

 

Getting involved in sports, clubs, and other organized activities is good for kids. Children in activities get more exercise and have more self-esteem, research shows, and are better able to manage their time and build relationships. But with news stories about children sexually abused by adults involved in youth organizations, it can be frightening. Parents may wonder how to balance the risk and benefit.

Not just sports

Child sexual abuse can happen in any youth organization: sports, music, church, Scouting … the list goes on.

Unfortunately, people who mean harm to children may target settings with lots of children around. Sexual offenders will often work to gain the trust and respect of parents and other adults in the organization before beginning the abuse.

This process, known as "grooming," makes it harder for children to tell anyone about the abuse. They might think that other adults around them who have a good relationship with the abuser wouldn't believe that person would ever do such a thing.

The good news is that there are lots of ways we can keep children safer as they participate in activities that offer them so many great benefits:

1. Talk to your children

Speak openly, in ways your child can understand, about private body parts, inappropriate touch, and respectful relationships. By starting this conversation, you create an environment in which children are comfortable talking about their bodies and sexuality. After all, how can a child who doesn't have appropriate language for sexual body parts possibly tell anybody that someone touched those body parts in a way that was uncomfortable? If children understand the importance of personal boundaries and respect, they will be better prepared to recognize actions that are disrespectful, inappropriate, or criminal. With a basic understanding of sexual relationships, children are able to see how these relationships should not happen between adults and children. By encouraging conversations with your children about these subjects, you help them to know they can come to you with problems, and that they will have the language and knowledge needed to express themselves and get help.

2. Keep no secrets

Make sure your child knows that it is never OK for an adult or older child to tell them to keep a secret from you. Sexual abuse thrives in an environment of secrecy. Sexual offenders use secrecy as a way to groom a child and to make the child feel somehow responsible for their own abuse: "This is just our little secret, right?" This simple rule - no secrets - is one of the best ways to guard against abuse.

3. Explain that adults can help

Let your children know that you can handle anything they ever need to tell you. Many victims of child sexual abuse report that they did not tell about the abuse because they were afraid of how that information would make their mom or dad feel. The child victim is then trying to protect their parent. Children must know that their caregivers are prepared, or know how to get help, for any problem they may face.

4. Know the risk

Yes, it's a tough topic. Yes, it's tempting to pretend it doesn't exist. But deciding not to think about the risk takes away your power to recognize and prevent it. Make sure that you have that power, and that you equip your children with that same power. There are excellent programs that help adults learn more about child sexual abuse.

5. Talk to your child's coaches, teachers, and other mentors

Any youth-serving organization should have written policies and procedures for child safety. These policies must provide clear physical and behavior boundaries about how adults interact with children. Policies should encourage staff to recognize and report suspicious behaviors.

6. Avoid one-on-one situations between children and unrelated adults

Any interaction a child has with an adult who is not a parent should be visible to others. This one simple rule greatly reduces a child's risk for sexual abuse. Without privacy, an offender has fewer chances to abuse a child. This rule also applies to physical examinations by medical care providers. Whenever possible, parents and other staff members, such as nurses, should be in the room and able to observe what is taking place.

Remember Children deserve nothing less than safe environments in which to learn, grow, play, compete, and worship. As adults, we all share a responsibility to protect children from abuse.

For more information on child health and safety, visit HealthyChildren.org.

* Children's Health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Itasca.

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The Union Leader (Manchester, NH)

 

MANY OF us in the business world have kids. Ours is a very competitive society, where even such pleasurable activities as playing ball get caught up in complexities.

Much has been said about the benefits of playing a competitive sport during one's school years. The advantages include having further opportunity to develop physically and emotionally, learning the value of collaboration with peers, and how to compete and win, as well as to sometimes lose, with grace.

The student athlete acquires the discipline of pursuing individual and team goals while adhering to rules laid out by a coach or school. Much fun is to be had while competing and stretching one's abilities. There's a lot of intrinsic or self-motivation going on -- a type of drive that flows into many other life attributes, such as confidence, stamina, decisiveness and success in relationships. All in all, this is a good thing.

But then there is a potential dark side of a certain type of motivation. When student athletes start to feel controlled by outside forces, they are stepping into the world of extrinsic motivation -- pertaining to such contingent variables as reward and punishment, prestige and other matters apart from enjoying the sport itself.

Among the dangers of being extrinsically driven are feelings of pressure, including concern about pleasing parents, coaches or friends. A team's schedule for training, practice and games can be quite demanding. Estimates are the average student-athlete spends about 30 hours per week on classes and doing homework and 20 hours on athletics. Not a great deal of time left for social, spiritual and family events, let alone just chilling out -- important matters at this stage of life.

Much of the intense coaching and helicopter parenting is gaited initially to getting an athletic scholarship to college, only to find the funds barely cover the cost of tuition for most recipients. Consider also the loss-of-opportunity expense of having a decreased ability to secure a good internship in the field of one's major. Which brings up another concern: Are these student athletes really focused on a career outside of professional sports? Only one in 25 will reach any pro level.

The motivational solution to the dichotomy of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is found in the way things such as praise and acclaim are handled. For example, if parents are highly focused on athletic achievement, the son or daughter is likely to begin to over-identify with the sports role. The psychological dynamic shifts from a "wanting" posture toward a sport to a "needing" one.

The athlete begins to fuse with what should be a secondary role. Fusion is followed by tension and anxiety which, in turn, often undermine performance. I have often told coaches and players that a key to success is wanting to win, not mistakenly thinking one needs to win. After all, one needs air, water, food... not to be a starting pitcher or leading hitter.

Parental pride is understandable. We want our children to succeed in all aspects and endeavors of life. The motivational issue is how much praise and regard are attached to their successes. If a child thinks he or she enjoys a parent's love due, primarily, to success on the field, that great bond becomes a conditional one. It makes them think this bond is contingent on performance and accomplishments.

One step toward reducing this concern is to work with the student athlete to more richly self-define. A useful technique is to help him or her identify a number (seven works) of positive attributes this developing person has so far acquired, such as "an encourager, a faithful friend, an initiator, a good sport." This is truly who the student is.

Of course, imbalance in a student's activities need not be solely due to sports. Most any extra curricula activity -- such as orchestra, student government, etc. -- can present challenges to keeping one's life in balance.

Overall, while there are more positives than negatives associated with engagement in sports activities, this is only true if managed well. Parents and coaches would do best to keep those under their care and authority on the self-motivating track by minimizing the controlling aspect of positive rewards.

.

Dr. Paul P. Baard is an organizational psychologist, specializing in motivation. He has served as a professor with Fordham University, a senior line executive in the television industry, and is the lead author of a book on leadership and motivation. He and Veronica Baard, a former managing director responsible for HR at a major international investment banking firm, head up Baard Consulting LLC, a firm in the greater Boston area, focusing on motivation, conflict reduction, and team building. Questions are welcomed at pbaard@baardconsulting.com

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Copyright 2018 Journal Register Co.

New Haven Register (Connecticut)

 

Rahsaan Yearwood said he turned to his daughter the other day with a question.

Sure, the results already were there in black and white. Greater Bristol Invitational, girls 100 meters: 1. Terry Miller, Bulkeley, 12.22; 2. Andraya Yearwood, Cromwell, 12.5. Middletown Invitational: 1. Miller, 11.87; 2. Yearwood, 12.44.

Yet as a father of a transgender athlete — one who endured and, yes, excelled under national scrutiny last year in the least black-and-white issue in sports — Rahsaan wanted to know what his daughter thought beyond the results.

"Andraya said, 'Dad, I'm just happy that she can be who she can be.' "

A year after Yearwood won the Connecticut Class M 100-meter and 200-meter titles, took third in the State Open and second in New England Championships in the 100, we find ourselves in a discussion we did not figure to revisit this soon. Yet if we value the lives of our children and the fairness of competition, it is a discussion we must continue.

Entering the weekend, Terry Miller, a sophomore at Bulkeley High in Hartford, had turned in times of 11.87 seconds in the 100, 24.17 in the 200 and 56.63 in the 400. Miller won all three events with those times at Middletown on May 4. Miller's 200 ranks as the best in Connecticut. The 100 and 400 times would rank as second best, although Miller beat Erin McGill of Glastonbury, who has the best time posted on the CIAC site, by almost 1.7 seconds in the 400 at Middletown. Miller and Yearwood beat Windsor's Tia Marie Brown (who has a 11.8 posted on the CIAC site) in the 100 at Middletown.

Figuring that Miller's performances improve as the weather warms and the season progresses, state records could fall. Miller's times have become a subject of discussion in the track community. Unlike last year when Yearwood's family decided to step forward in April with their daughter's story in The Hartford Courant, Miller's personal journey is yet untold.

Bulkeley athletic director Diane Callis directed me to Pedro Zayas, director of communications and marketing for Hartford Public Schools. He explained that Miller's family did not sign off for an approval to allow the school district to discuss Miller. Bulkeley girls coach Kaitlin Sullivan said Miller is declining any interviews at this time.

This is what we know. Miller ran with the Bulkeley boys team as late as the winter indoor season and now excels with the girls team.

The CIAC rules, which point to applicable state and federal laws, are unambiguous. If a student identifies as a girl and the student's school district identifies her as a girl, the student can compete as a girl. Last year, Gov. Malloy even signed an executive order to guarantee the rights of transgender students receiving an education remain uninterrupted.

Let me be clear. I support high school transgender athletes' right to compete where they want and would not want to live in a place where they wouldn't honor that right.

The facts are that states are all over the map with high school rules, and even at the international level there is furious debate.

Connecticut and other states require no hormone therapy or surgery. Some states have no set policy. Others demand surgery or a hormone wait period or even participation based on sexual identification on a birth certificate. Frankly, the rigid birth certificate standard strikes me as so morally unfair that it makes me sick.

"People look at this as a sports story, but for me as a parent, it's not about sports," said Rahsaan Yearwood, a teacher at Elm City College Prep in New Haven and a former college athlete. "It's about presenting (an) opportunity for your child to be the best person they can be in whatever context that is, as long as it's safe and happy.

"Parents understand that better than people who think I have a vested interest in my daughter winning first place in Class M in track and field in Connecticut, which nobody gives a (heck) about anyway."

Yearwood ran as a biological male last spring. And watching her line up and win two Class M titles, I wrote that it felt competitively unfair. I still feel that way. At that point, she had undergone no hormone treatments. Rahsaan Yearwood said that day the plan was for Andraya to start them.

Rahsaan confirmed Friday that Andraya had begun the process several months ago. The Yearwoods have been true to their words.

The reason men are faster than women is no state secret. It's testosterone. Suppression leads to slower times. This has been proved in elite international competition. When you are dealing with high school students, one of the variables is that young athletes weren't previously in top condition and there can be room for improvement.

Yearwood's personal best last year in the 100 was 12.17, yet that also wasn't until June 10. So, at 12.44 this year, who knows? She may not match it.

Miller had bests of 12.2 in the 100 and 25.71 in the 200 on the Bulkeley boys team last spring. This year's times of 11.87 and 24.17 already are markedly better.

There is a long process toward sex reassignment surgery. In Connecticut, you have to be 16 to start estrogen. That's something to remember for those quick to condemn underclassmen competing as transgender.

"Of course there can be a biological advantage," Rahsaan Yearwood said. "But there are a lot of competitive and hard-working girls who kicked Andraya's butt last year.

"I wouldn't care if transgender athletes who are not on estrogen or testosterone don't get to medal but get to compete. That's a sports story. I'm interested in the human side of this. For people being comfortable and having the space to be who they are wherever they are in whatever fashion they chose. That's what life is really about."

Yearwood has been an important voice in this state debate. He is careful to point out that his voice is one of a parent. Heaven knows, this debate ranges the spectrum. Some argue no two athletes are created equal anyway, so live and let live. Others will counter with the argument that we should then eliminate all differentiations between sexes and weight limits.

How transgender athletes eventually are classified in sports could affect Title IX and scholarship distribution. As it stands, young women and their teams already see their places fall in competition.

Exactly where the line for participation as a man or woman falls is an area so gray, so fractured, so nuanced. In the 2016, the International Olympic Committee went to a waiting period of one year after the start of hormone replacement therapy. That is the NCAA rule. The IOC had previously called for sex-reassignment surgery and a waiting period for two years after surgery.

Yet last month, the IAAF ruled that female runners, competing between 400 meters to the mile, with elevated levels of testosterone will be required to lower the amount for six months before competing in women's events at the Olympics or world championships. This is such a shameless targeting of middle-distance Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya of South Africa, it's almost laughable. What? You don't think testosterone might help a shot putter more? C'mon.

Now that Andraya Yearwood has started hormonal treatment, the biological playing field has started to level. Yet what is the perfect solution competitively? I do not have an answer. This much I do know: Transgender teenagers, too often rejected by family and friends, have substantially higher rates of suicide and drug use. I know a race isn't as important as a life.

"I think Andraya's happy because we created a safe space for her," Rahsaan Yearwood said. "The negative comments she sees online, these kids are savvy. They know. The key is to create a space within your immediate network that allows you to be comfortable and happy. And that allows you to turn your cheek to the ignorant comments that come at you because you're a trans athlete."

jeff.jacobs@hearstmediact.com; @jeffjacobs123

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Naples Daily News (Florida)

 

WASHINGTON - College athletics at the highest levels is a profitable entertainment business and too many athletes sweating and producing for the industry are exploited and undercompensated. The system needs to change and an appropriate compensation arrangement should be enacted.

Under the guise of amateurism, student athletes work long hours each day. They work what is often the equivalent of a full-time job on top of trying to successfully navigate college.

Now, it is true that the vast majority of the 450,000-plus college athletes are not moneymakers for their institutions or the peripheral industry. The compensation that they receive in the form of continued pursuit of their passions and in help with getting a degree is and should be the shining example of a successful system.

Those success stories are harder to find though when taking a closer look at the two big moneymaking sports, football and basketball.

In these sports, even by the NCAA's own bloated and incomplete methodology, the student aspect of the student athlete's work falls measurably short of that of their peers in other college sports.

It is in these two marquee sports that the profits and power lead to a host of problems for athletes and their families. Hundreds of millions of dollars flow to universities, coaches, agents, apparel companies and media, among others, and that wealth is produced by worker athletes.

All this money is not floating around because of the pursuit of education, but because athlete workers produce value.

Improprieties in recruiting are, frankly, the norm and are centered on money. The need for money among many budding college athletes and their families as well as the thirst for money among universities, coaches, sport agents and sporting goods companies drive these violations and the resulting exploitation.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently led a group in investigating problems related to scandalous behavior in college basketball.

While some aspects of the group's recommendations might have some positive impact, the overall effort seemed to simply reinforce the NCAA's long-held position that student athletes, although treated like employees in a profitable business model, should operate under the NCAA's definition of amateurism and not be afforded established norms around compensation and protections.

In fact, the NCAA so rampantly defends its definition of amateurism that it has actively sought to shut down entrepreneurial efforts of athletes in college even when those moneymaking activities have no tangible connection to the sport or the university.

This is a stark contrast to the NCAA's blinded approach to enforcement of such things as recruiting and academic violations.

Even the "pay" via education provided many top athletes can often not add up to meaningful compensation as universities shuffle their moneymakers through light course loads or, in some cases, no course load at all, leading to meaningless degrees.

It is past time for change to come and for the militant approach to amateurism to be loosened. The NCAA should continue and accelerate efforts to make the academic portion of student-athlete compensation whole.

A few positive recommendations from the Rice report include establishing a fund to pay for degree completion for athletes who depart college and allowing underclassmen who are unsuccessful in getting drafted to re-enter school. Education quality control should be enforced more rigorously as well.

Those seeking to augment their finances, for example, through unrelated activities should be able to do so and those athletes whose obvious skill has value through the sale of their likeness should have the same right to profit from that skill as the universities, the NCAA and, indeed, the entire sports industry does.

The sooner the NCAA closes the cracks in the academic compensation, and rightfully shares the value of top athletes with the athletes themselves, the better for all involved.

Kusler is National Director of Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), the nation's oldest progressive advocacy organization. The opinions expressed in this article do necessarily reflect the opinions of ADA, its leadership, or members.

Don Kusler Tribune News Service

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Copyright 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

 

Isee Eddie Nuñez and Dr. Garnett Stokes, and I think of Meryl Streep. I think specifically of that excruciating moment at the end of the movie "Sophie's Choice" - Streep playing a Polish Jew arriving with two young kids in tow at a concentration camp. A Nazi doctor tells her that because she's Polish, she gets a break and can decide to save one - and only one - of her children, the boy or the girl.

A horrified Sophie balks, of course - "I can't choose! I can't choose!" - and only when several soldiers make known her refusal means she then sacrifices both children, she tearfully gives up the little girl, who screams horrifically as she is whisked away to certain execution.

It is such a powerful scene that a "Sophie's Choice" became part of the vernacular to describe a dilemma - and it can be an awful, awful dilemma.

The working deadline for a "reduction in sports" and trimming of $1.9 million for 2018-19 remains July 1 at the University of New Mexico.

Even if it is for the greater good for the entire athletic program and a noble attempt to break its habit of spending beyond its means, the prospect of having to cut any program must feel like a Sophie's Choice to athletic director Nuñez and President Stokes, both still relatively new in their positions.

One wonders if they are really ready to make that call or if they are hoping beyond hope that a white-hatted cowboy will ride in at the last hour with a solution and/ or a large chunk of cash. Twice last week attending Board of Regents meetings, Nuñez spoke in generalities that didn't suggest he is any closer to completion of that difficult assignment as when it first was broached a month ago.

But presume the action has no choice but to match the rhetoric for once. Lives will change. Not just those of certain student-athletes who, by and large, represent UNM in a most positive way, but their coaches, support groups and fans.

With all of this in mind, the Journal has created an online poll where readers can say which sports should be cut. Note the phrasing - it's sports to be cut, not those to be saved.

We're asking you to put yourselves in Nuñez's difficult position, see.

Already over 1,700 votes have been cast despite little fanfare and no promotion until this writing.

As I'm sure UNM administrators are getting the same, we receive a lot of input on the polarizing football program. It's been an embarrassment, the Bob Davie suspension for various ugly reasons creating a black eye. It went 3-9 a year ago. It's the main financial drain on athletics - though there is no mandate to cut the biggest money-loser, and the suggestion has been that this decision will be more nuanced than that.

Yet it likely will get its locker room renovation. It gets the extra 10th assistant coach. It seems immune to any austerity measures that the reality of its economics suggest are appropriate.

So if you think football is the golden child of UNM athletics, you're right of course. It won't be cut, cannot be cut, no more than the cash-generating men's basketball program can be.

It's because football represents the highest ceiling this athletic program can reach and for which it feels it must strive. There is the Mountain West Conference affiliation. The potential represented by all those empty Dreamstyle Stadium seats that men and women are getting paid to try to fill. There are the marketing opportunities, apparel deals and television contracts that disappear or are greatly diminished if you don't play the sport at the Football Bowl Subdivision level.

UNM realizes this, which surely is why it posted "Eight Great Reasons To Get Football Season Tix" on its website recently.

That's a hard sell, and the post has taken its shots this week, understandably, for "reasons" such as:

"The Schedule": It touts Incarnate Word and Turner Gill coming to Dreamstyle Stadium. If your reactions are "What?" and "Who?" UNM has a problem.

"The next generation of NFL stars": Significantly, nobody (and I mean nobody) is saying that about the incoming freshman class. Instead this curiously references Jason Sanders, Lamar Jordan, Corey Bojorquez and Garrett Hughes, who played in 2017 and were either drafted or invited to NFL camps last month. Hopefully they all make it. But if last year's 3-9 team had four NFL players on it, add "gross underachievement" to all the above-mentioned football difficulties.

"Your season ticket purchase helps all sports." That's certainly true, particularly in the context of a healthy football program meaning a more healthy athletic body as noted. But you shouldn't have to prescribe to this "trickle down" concept. If you want to support soccer, buy soccer tickets. If you want to support softball, buy softball tickets.

Meanwhile, we are hearing that UNM men's basketball tickets are going on sale early this week. In the wake of an upbeat finish to the 2017-18 season, with fans on board and the promise of better days ahead, what in the heck took so long? I know nothing about making money, but in a long-ago job in retail, I learned this: When people are at the front of the store and ready to check out (i.e., hand you their credit card), open a register for them. Why the delay in opening this register?

So if football and men's basketball are untouchable, what sports can be cut?

Any of the women's sports? There would be Title IX implications.

Soccer? Men's coach Jeremy Fishbein is the one head coach who showed up before the Regents to plead for the sparing of his program's life. Maybe he knows something. Cut a program that has reached Final Fours, plays local kids and has a following in a really good soccer town?

Skiing? Wait. Didn't UNM "cut" skiing last year, only to get its wrist slapped?

Tennis? And moth ball the McKinnon Family Tennis Center so soon after taking the McKinnons generously paid to build the place and just gave UNM a lot more money?

Track/cross country? Do away with a program that has produced national champions this year, which otherwise has been horrible for UNM sports, on and off the field?

Baseball? Softball? Swimming and diving? Volleyball? Golf?

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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

One of Tom Cronan's dreams was to make sure that every child had the opportunity to reach his or her potential.

The two of us are so proud to see Tennessee taking a big step toward making that dream come true by passing the Tom Cronan Physical Education Act.

One reason for that pride is that both of us testified last year before the Senate Education Committee about the importance of the bill - and its potential to help make kids healthier across Tennessee.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron and Rep. Roger Kane, placed an emphasis on quality instruction. Physical activity and quality physical education are crucial to our youth - and to our national security.

According to the Department of Defense, 71 percent of all 17-to-24-year-olds in the United States are unable to serve in the armed forces. Here in Tennessee, that figure rises to 73 percent. That means that, for nearly three-fourths of young Tennessee adults of prime recruiting age, serving in the military is not an option.

The leading medical disqualifier for military service is being overweight. The military can be an excellent career path for many Americans, but being overweight closes off that path. This problem also undermines national security by shrinking the potential pool of service members.

Moreover, the obesity crisis negatively affects the armed services far beyond recruiting. How severe is the problem? The national-security organization Mission: Readiness points to research showing that the military discharges more than 2,600 service members for being overweight or out of shape every year. Recruiting and training replacements costs $50,000 to $150,000 per person, totaling $500 million annually. The Defense Department also spends an estimated $1.1 billion per year on obesity-related medical expenses for active-duty men and women, their dependents, and for veterans.

This example is just one manifestation of our obesity epidemic. The deadly consequences of inactivity go far beyond military-related issues. In fact, research shows that one in 10 premature deaths in the United State is the result of inactivity, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and heart disease.

At a time when our nation is facing this epidemic, we know that being active is tremendously important for children as they grow.

The Tom Cronan Physical Education Act will help do more to give kids opportunities to learn and adopt a more active lifestyle. Previously, Tennessee did not require a minimum number of minutes per week for physical education. We were one of just nine states that didn't require PE.

Now, every Tennessee student in elementary school will have at least two PE classes per week. Those classes will total a minimum of one hour. Just as importantly, the classes must be taught by a licensed teacher with an endorsement in physical education or a specialist in physical education.

Reforms like these, which place an emphasis on regular physical activity and quality education, demonstrate that our state understands just how important PE is in teaching children to develop positive, healthy habits that can last a lifetime.

For example, the sports-leader network Champions for America's Future highlighted a rigorous study that found that adolescents who participated in high-quality, daily PE reduced their odds of becoming an overweight adult by 28 percent. Regular physical activity has also been shown to help students be more competitive in the classroom.

Tom understood that steps like these help all children have the best opportunity for success in their lives. He didn't live to see this bill become law. But we're sure he was smiling down when it happened.

Joan Cronan is Women's Athletic Director Emeritus, University of Tennessee, a member of Champions for America's Future, and wife of the late Tom Cronan. Eden Murrie is a retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier General, a member of Mission: Readiness, and currently COO, Operation Stand Down Tennessee.

Your Turn

Joan Cronan and Eden Murrie - Guest columnists

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Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

 


The former president of an association within a local nonprofit youth football and cheer league is under investigation for embezzling funds, officials said.

Steve Marshall was ousted as president of the Marana Broncos last February, a month before police began their investigation.

This isn't the first time Marshall has been accused of stealing money from an association within Tucson Youth Football and Spirit Federation. Court records show that Marshall and his wife were sued in 2005 in connection with stealing roughly $10,000 from the Oro Valley Dolphins, another team that he volunteered with.

Marshall did not immediately respond to the Star's request for comment on the situation. It's unclear if he has an attorney.

Tucson Youth Football and Spirit Federation is made up of 14 associations; each oversee several football and cheer teams for kids ages 5 through 14. The league expects 4,000 Southern Arizona children to sign up for roughly 200 teams this year.

The investigation into Marshall is a local example of what has become a national problem: Theft and embezzlement in the rapidly growing, $15.5 billion youth sports industry.

Last month, the Star discovered several issues with the tax filings of TYFSF associations, leading to a new league rule. All associations must now complete their tax returns with the oversight of local accounting firm BeachFleischman.

Investigation is still active

Marshall was reported to Marana police in March 2017. The case was transferred to the Oro Valley Police Department about a month later.

The case is still under investigation by Oro Valley police, Sgt. Carmen Trevizo, a department spokeswoman, told the Star. Marshall has not been charged with any crimes.

"It's a pretty involved investigation due to its complexity," Trevizo said, declining to comment further on the active case.

Members of the Broncos' board discovered irregular financial activity in late 2016 or early 2017, when Marshall was still the president, and hired an outside auditor to look over their books. TYF leadership was then made aware of the situation with Marshall. He was immediately suspended, TYFSF attorney Ali Farhang told the Star.

Marshall's suspension is pending the outcome of OVPD's investigation and all legal matters related to the alleged financial impropriety, Farhang said.

The Broncos' current president, Juliette Gutierrez, referred questions about Marshall to her husband and Broncos board member, Roland Gutierrez. He told the Star that the association can't comment yet.

Prior allegations of embezzlement

Marshall's first stint with the Broncos began in December 1995, when he signed on as president of the association. He remained there until November 1998, ACC records show.

In January 2001, Marshall returned to the league as statutory agent and president for the newly-formed Oro Valley Dolphins. He was out by February 2005, ACC records show.

Six months later, Marshall and his then-wife, Lisa, were named as defendants in a Pima County lawsuit that accused the couple of theft, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, racketeering and conspiracy.

The lawsuit says that between July 2004 and the spring of 2005, the Marshalls stole roughly $10,000 from the Dolphins by writing themselves checks and making purchases from the association's account, withdrawing cash with the association's credit card and failing to deposit cash payments delivered by parents.

In one incident, Steve Marshall attended a football tournament in Florida and used the Dolphins' money to bring his family with him, the lawsuit says. He promised other families that the team would pay for their travel as well, the lawsuit says.

A few months later, he organized a football game between the Dolphins and other teams that he called the Dolphin Bowl. Marshall ordered lights and hired referees, the lawsuit says, but failed to secure any opponents for his team. The association was stuck paying nearly $1,500 for lighting equipment and football officials, the lawsuit says.

Marshall settled the lawsuit with the association for a portion of the money owed, said Adam Watters, the attorney who represented the Dolphins in the lawsuit.

Watters said he thought Marshall had been permanently banned from TYFSF. However, ACC records show that Marshall was back as the Broncos' president by September 2009. He remained there until March 2017, when he was replaced by Juliette Gutierrez.

TYF commissioner Julius Holt was unable say why Marshall was allowed back into the league.

Tax filings changed

The Broncos recorded $131,725 in gross revenue during the 2007 tax year, according to the organization's returns. The team did not file tax returns over the next three years, and the IRS took away their tax-exempt status in 2011.

In 2012, after their nonprofit status was restored, the Broncos began filing tax returns in the form of a 990 postcard, which is designated for organizations that bring in less than $50,000 in annual revenue.

Weeks after Marshall's October ousting, the Broncos filed their 2017 tax return. The team recorded $107,056 in revenue.

Marshall's footprint within Tucson football extends further than just TYFSF. He also works as a volunteer assistant football coach at Canyon del Oro High School.

New leadership, oversight at TYFSF

Holt, a former Arizona Wildcats football player, took over as TYFSF commissioner about a year ago. He has since begun implementing a number of changes and oversight mechanisms. TYFSF now has a new policy regarding domestic violence allegations that states anyone with pending domestic violence charges will be immediately suspended from the league.

While every volunteer within TYFSF is subject to an annual background check performed by the league, it's up to each association to select its own board members and set bylaws, policies and procedures. Each association's board is responsible for reporting wrongdoing to the TYFSF board. That doesn't always happen promptly, Farhang said.

"We want to make sure these kids are having a good experience," Holt told the Star. "We're trying to do better."

Each year, all football and cheer coaches undergo training and certification by USA Football, in addition to league training and certification.

The five-hour USA Football course, called "Heads Up Football," will take place in Tucson June 9. The course covers issues such as concussion recognition and response, heat preparation and hydration, sudden cardiac arrest, proper equipment fitting, shoulder tackles and blocking.

TYFSF has previously been able to recommend best practices for issues like accounting and risk management to its associations, but it's been up to each association to implement these suggestions.

That could change soon. TYFSF is in the process of implementing a second layer of financial oversight, Farhang said.

"Over the last year to 18 months, the organization has fundamentally changed for the better," Farhang said. "Issues like those that occurred with Steve Marshall will not evade detection anymore."

Credit: Caitlin Schmidt Arizona Daily Star

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Naples Daily News (Florida)

 

EDGEWATER, Md. - In its recent report on college basketball, the special commission headed by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made several long overdue recommendations aimed at dealing with the sport's "crisis of accountability." But, wisely, it stopped short of suggesting that players be paid.

In largely keeping intact the NCAA's core rule of amateurism, the 14-member commission reaffirmed the notion that while compensating players might sound attractive in this era of huge professional contracts, it would only lead to ever more problems down the road.

The commission's focus was on basketball, but its findings could apply to college football as well. The report has been criticized by some, but it is at least a sincere and concerted effort to improve the troubled landscape of college athletics.

While few would deny that money is playing too large a role in collegiate sports today, it's difficult to see how the situation could be made better by introducing even more money in the form of payments to players. And if amateurism breaks down at the college level, what's to stop money from flowing to athletes even younger than college age?

It's not as though today's scholarship athlete is not getting something for his or her services rendered. A year at college today can be worth $50,000 or more. Add to that apparel and a host of other freebies that college athletes receive and pretty soon you're talking about real money.

Much of the current clamor for athlete compensation has sprung from the incredible popularity of college football and basketball on television, and the revenues these sports produce. But most of that revenue goes back to the universities where it's used to support a long list of sports and academic pursuits.

Yes, the football or basketball coach is very well paid at many major universities. But everything from the campus library to the chemistry department to classroom construction benefits from the money generated by sports. In effect, televised college sports are a product, and that product is in wide demand today.

The Rice commission made many recommendations, but three stand out among the others:

The NBA needs to scrap its so-called one-and-done rule. This would enable elite players to enter the NBA draft out of high school. The current rule requires players to be 19 years old or a year out of high school, and has made programs like Kentucky and Duke a one-year stopover for players on their way to the NBA.

The NCAA should create an independent investigative arm for handling major rules-infractions cases. For too long the NCAA has been too slow and basically toothless in its adjudications. That needs to stop.

Make the punishments severe enough to discourage cheating. "Currently, the rewards for violating the rules far outweigh the risks," Rice said.

All of the changes will have to be adopted by the NCAA membership in order to take effect.

The commission was formed in response to allegations by federal prosecutors last year of a scheme involving agents, financial advisers and shoe company executives to bribe the families of top high school players to sign with certain college programs. The allegations have already had the effect of forcing out Louisville's Hall of Fame coach, Rick Pitino.

It's doubtful that the Rice commission recommendations will clean up all that ails college athletics. The NCAA has a long history of moving with glacial slowness. But it's at least a start.

In not recommending that athletes be paid, the commission affirmed the values of amateurism and an education for the nearly 99 percent of college basketball players who don't go on to the NBA.

Noack played basketball at Michigan State in the 1960s and is currently a business consultant in the Washington, D.C., area.

William H. Noack

Tribune News Service

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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

 

No ground rules were established prior to a meeting Friday between first-year Virginia athletic director Carla Williams and UVa beat reporters.

It didn't take long for the conversation to turn to UVa's football program, and Williams was quick to express her admiration for head coach Bronco Mendenhall.

"My first day was Dec. 11, and I had a two-hour meeting with Bronco," said Williams, previously a top administrator at Georgia. "We talked about football top to bottom. We covered everything.

"I think it's remarkable that Bronco and his coaching staff and his team were able to win six games last year. We've got to continue to improve on that, and it all can't be on the coach.

"There's fundraising, there's facilities, there's marketing, there's promotions. We've had conversations from top to bottom."

Williams' first mission when she came to Charlottesville from Georgia was to take a tour of UVa's athletic facilities, including University Hall, best known as the home to Cavaliers basketball from 1965-2016, but now in a rapid state of deterioration.

The university has decided to tear down the facility and redevelop the property. Demolition will take about a year complete because hazardous materials - primarily asbestos - must be safely removed first.

"I was surprised by the condition of it," Williams said, "and I think everyone here already knew that. What I didn't realize was, there are 10 teams [and] over 400 student-athletes still in U-Hall."

On top of that, there were locker rooms and offices for approximately 60 staff members at U-Hall and Onesty Hall, which was UVa's first natatorium.

All those people will be moved to temporary units in the adjoining parking lots.

As for football, Williams feels that program is understaffed, has some facility issues and is underfunded.

"We had three strength-and-conditioning coaches," Williams said. "Now, we have five. The NCAA allows programs to have analysts. I've seen how beneficial those analysts can be because your coaches can coach and you have analysts to go through film."

UVa had three analysts; now it has six.

"If you've got a four-star recruit and they've narrowed their choices to Virginia, Notre Dame, Stanford, Michigan and they take visits to those places," Williams said, "they're going to choose the schools that they think are making an investment in their futures."

Average attendance at UVa home games last year at Scott Stadium (capacity 61,500) was 39,398.

"Optics matters," Williams said. People don't come to see a bad product.

"... We know, in order to get people in the stands, the product on the field has to be attractive. How do you do that? You have to be able to attract better players."

As to whether Virginia might one day approve beer sales at games, Williams replied, "I haven't gotten to that yet."

Williams would like to see Virginia add a natural-grass practice field for football, one of several initiatives not currently budgeted.

"I knew before we ever put a shovel in the ground that we had serious deficiencies that we had to address now," Williams said emphatically.

UVa raised $500,000 as part of a short-term emergency fund and is hoping to add $500,000 to the budget during each of the next five years.

"When we started to talk to donors and explain it to them, after just a few weeks, we were well over a million, so we'll have what we need for the short term," she said.

One of the tasks assigned to Williams at Georgia was to work at getting former Bulldog players to remain connected with the program.

"I've talked to a lot of former Virginia football players, and what was striking was, so many of them were NFL guys or are retired NFL guys," she said. "What we're going to do [is] be very intentional.

"We're going to pick weekends and have players back and have something meaningful for them to do. We've got to engage with them while they're here.

"We don't only need their help financially, the NCAA allows them to talk to prospects while they're on campus. We're trying to create a sense of family."

She contends that Mendenhall is on the same wavelength.

"I think he's hilarious," said Williams, who has joined Mendenhall on several trips to meet with boosters. "I've seen him with a wide array of prospects and parents from different backgrounds and he is awesome. He's really good.

"I've been around a lot of coaches and he has everything it takes. Since I've been here, he's said, 'I'll go wherever I need to go.' The answer is always yes."

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Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

 


The Arizona Wildcats will not have the services of starting left tackle Layth Friekh for the first two games of 2018. That includes a Week 2 visit to Houston, whose defensive line features Ed Oliver, the possible No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft.

Friekh isn't injured. He didn't do anything wrong.

But in order to gain a fifth year of eligibility, Friekh had to make an appeal to the NCAA, which cut him a deal: Since Friekh appeared in one game in 2014, the cost in '18 would be two games.

Since the NCAA could have determined that Friekh couldn't come back at all, everyone was more or less pleased with the outcome.

"I'm not totally happy about the two-game suspension, but I'm nonetheless happy to be here another year," Friekh said at the time. "It's worth it to me to come back, better myself and be part of this team one more year."

If a rule change that coaches unanimously support had been in place, Friekh wouldn't have had to file an appeal. Nor would he have to sit out the first two games of next season.

The proposal could pass next month. It likely would be too late to help Friekh. But it could help players -- and teams -- for years to come.

The proposal would allow players to participate in up to four games in a season without losing their redshirt year. Currently, participating in one game -- as Friekh briefly did in a blowout win at Utah in late November of his freshman year -- means losing an entire year of eligibility.

The only standard exception is if a player suffers a season-ending injury while competing in no more than 30 percent of his team's games. Even then, the injury has to have occurred in the first half of the season.

The new proposal -- which the NCAA will revisit in June after tabling it in April -- would eliminate the medical hardship waiver. It would simplify the process: Whether you're healthy or hurt, if you play in four or fewer games, you don't lose a year. And it would benefit players, coaches and the sport as a whole, according to its biggest advocate.

'Health and safety'

Todd Berry, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, has sought a change to the redshirt rule for almost two decades.

When he was the coach at Illinois State in the late 1990s, Berry ran out of healthy defensive linemen for a playoff game. He asked a freshman who had been redshirting to step in. Berry didn't want to do it, but he felt he had no choice. Even though it would cost a year of eligibility, the player agreed to play.

"I thought that was unfair for me, and him, to be put in that situation," Berry said in a phone interview this week.

A few years later, when he was coaching at Army, Berry presented the idea. He's been fighting for it ever since and hopes the mid-June meetings in Indianapolis will be the finish line.

Why is this cause so important to Berry and the coaches he represents? These are the main arguments:

It would make the game safer. The new redshirt rule would make it easier for coaches and teams to deal with injuries, especially when they decimate a particular position.

If he could tap a scholarship freshman for a game or two, a coach wouldn't have to consider a walk-on who might not be physically capable of competing at the college level. Additionally, an injured player might be less inclined to rush back if he knew his spot was in capable hands. In either scenario, the team would have better depth.

"Our rationale is health and safety," Berry said. "I can't think of a better rationale."

The sport has changed. When the redshirt rules were first established, Division I teams had 105 scholarship players. The regular season consisted of 11 games. Conference-championship games and the College Football Playoff did not exist.

Now, each FBS team has 85 scholarship players. The regular season is 12 games, more than half of FBS teams participate in a bowl game and the CFP finalists can play in as many as 15 games.

Changes have been made limiting contact in practice and eliminating two-a-days. Allowing greater roster flexibility would further offset the physical demands put on players.

"We play the most physically demanding sport," said Stanford coach David Shaw, one of five Pac-12 coaches surveyed by the Star about the redshirt rule -- all of whom support it.

"It's happened so many times for us that we'll get three guys injured and we'll have to play a freshman, and then those other guys get back healthy. So the guy plays a couple games, and he would normally go back to the bench. But since you've already burned his redshirt, you kind of keep him out there to try to utilize that whole freshman year. Instead of saying, 'Hey, let the guy play a couple games, get his feet wet.'"

It's a better deal for the players. The vast majority of college players do not go on to play professionally. College represents the last chance to play a sport most of them have played since they were kids.

"They have this limited opportunity to live this dream of playing college football," Berry said, "and you're going to rob them of a season?"

Berry cites the case of West Virginia tailback Martell Pettaway. A rash of injuries forced the then-freshman, who was on track to redshirt, to start for the Mountaineers in their 11th game of 2016. He carried 30 times for 181 yards and a touchdown. He played a lesser role in West Virginia's final two games, totaling 20 rushes.

Pettaway, entering his junior season, has two years of eligibility left. Under the new rule, he'd have three.

"If we're trying to help kids and not burn redshirts late and those type of things," Washington coach Chris Petersen said, "it shouldn't even be limited to four games."

Petersen was one of three Pac-12 coaches among the five the Star spoke to who called for no game cap at all. Petersen, Cal's Justin Wilcox and Washington State's Mike Leach said players simply should have five years of eligibility.

Berry said that isn't the ultimate objective. The proposal was set at four games to mirror the current cutoff for a medical hardship waiver.

"Coaches are adamant about staying within the scholastic model" of earning a degree in four years, Berry said.

Besides, they don't want to stray too far from other sports. The notion that football is going rogue is among the reasons a proposal so many favor hasn't passed yet.

Pros and cons

The redshirt proposal has unanimous support among football coaches "at all levels, which never happens," Berry said. It would apply to schools at every level above Division III.

If the proposed change is so popular and has so many advantages, why is it still being discussed? Why wasn't it put into effect years ago?

When it was tabled in April, the NCAA explained the decision as follows:

"Proponents argue that late-season injuries and other factors often require student-athletes who hadn't played all season to burn a year of eligibility for a small number of games. Others wonder whether the proposal could be applied to other sports, as well, whether the number of games in the proposal is appropriate, and whether the timing of the four games matters."

Berry and others firmly believe that football belongs in its own category because of the violent nature of the sport and the accompanying injury rate. If the NCAA wanted to use football as a trial balloon for the redshirt rule, Berry would be OK with that.

As for the number of games and timing of player participation, Berry doesn't believe coaches will try to manipulate the system. He doesn't envision coaches holding out uber-talented freshmen until late in the season, then springing them on rivals or bowl opponents.

The redshirt rule would be more applicable in a situation like the one Shaw faced when NFL-bound Christian McCaffrey elected to sit out the 2016 Sun Bowl. This is happening with increasing frequency, and it can put a team in a bind if it doesn't have adequate depth at a particular position.

Opponents of the proposal also expressed concern that teams could suit up midyear enrollees. Berry said that loophole has been closed.

Heading into next month's NCAA meetings, Berry is cautiously optimistic that the redshirt rule will pass and go into effect in the upcoming season. (It likely wouldn't be retroactive; sorry, Wildcats fans.) Although he worries that the movement to reform college basketball could take "a lot of oxygen out of the room," Berry remains hopeful that the powers-that-be will come to their senses.

"To play three snaps in a ballgame and lose the whole year, it's just not fair. It's not right," he said. "We feel like we're cheating the young people out there, and that's the wrong place to be."

Credit: Michael Lev Arizona Daily Star

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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

Built on a landfill in a former marsh, Burke High School's Stoney Field is sinking every year.

The earth gives way beneath the foundations of its concrete bleachers. The football field is a sopping mess every time it rains at high tide.

Almost three years after the downtown school's athletic teams had to abandon their historic home-stadium at city-owned Stoney Field, the Charleston County School District is prepared to invest $1 million for an upgrade, including fill dirt and a new artificial turf surface.

"If you don't see dirt turning by November, you'll know we haven't kept our word on that," School Board member Todd Garrett recently told families assembled inside the Burke media center.

The plan is to cover the field with mounds of dirt, which will settle and compress the soils and help slow down future erosion. Chief Operating Officer Jeff Borowy said that process could take up to a year, depending on soil conditions. After that, the district will add an artificial turf surface, and the field will be ready for use again.

The funding for that work will come from a 1-cent sales tax that Charleston County voters approved in 2014 to pay for school construction and renovation projects including "athletic improvements" at Burke.

The underlying problem at Stoney Field is the same that the city faces next door at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park, home of the Charleston RiverDogs and Citadel baseball teams. The problem is also found at the WestEdge development nearby: All are built on a swath of mid-20th-century garbage that is slowly subsiding into the Ashley River.

It is possible, but technically challenging, to build on such conditions. The city periodically replenishes the field at Riley Park to replace the land lost to subsidence, and WestEdge is being built on pilings driven deep into the earth.

The district published a Capital Programs Master Plan in February 2014 saying it was committed to a cost sharing agreement with the city for a new stadium at Stoney Field to support Burke as well as other users.

Previous estimates for replacing the entire stadium ranged from $6 million to $10 million in the early 2000s, but Borowy said in 2015 that the cost could rise because of the need for pilings. He estimated at the time that the field had sunk 2½ feet in seven years .

Burke's football team abandoned Stoney Field that fall after heavy rains rendered it unusable. The Citadel offered the use of its Johnson Hagood Stadium, where the team has played its home games ever since. The team could alternate between Johnson Hagood and Ravenel Stadium in West Ashley for home games this fall, although school district officials said those plans aren't final.

At a District 20 Constituent School Board meeting Wednesday night, Burke families and alumni pressed school officials for details on the future of Stoney Field. Some called for a total replacement.

"Those are Band-Aids, that's all those are. People are getting tired of Band-Aids," said Tony Lewis, chairman of the constituent board.

"If y'all are going to say no, say no so we can fight it. If y'all are going to say yes, let us know so we can get a coalition together and support it," said Eric A. Jackson, a 1995 Burke alumnus and chairman of Burke's School Improvement Council.

The district and the city have not announced any plan to replace Stoney Field, but more money could be available soon for improvements to its track and other parts. The district plans to sell its vacant Archer School campus on the East Side to the city for $3.25 million, and the district said in March it would spend the proceeds on improving Stoney Field.

 
Stoney Field, home of the Burke High School Bulldogs, on Thursday, May 10, 2018. Wade Spees/Staff
Wade Spees
Stoney Field which may get a $1 million upgrade to avert flooding and erosion concerns from the Charleston County School District.
photographs by Wade Spees/Staff
Stoney Field, home of the Burke High School Bulldogs, on Thursday, May 10, 2018. Wade Spees/Staff
Wade Spees
Erosion is evident around the foundation of the stands at Stoney Field.
Wade Spees
 
May 12, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

AUSTIN, Texas — Victims of disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar are imploring Texas authorities to investigate whether Bela and Martha Karolyi could have done more to prevent Nassar's sexual abuse at the couple's Texas training center.

Five former gymnasts, including two who say Nassar abused them at the Karolyis' ranch, addressed reporters Thursday outside state Attorney General Ken Paxton's office.

They say Texas authorities have focused on Nassar, now imprisoned for life, while overlooking whether the Karolyis could have prevented abuse. Martha Karolyi told "Dateline NBC" last month that Nassar conned her and her husband in much the same way he conned the parents and coaches of the girls he abused.

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News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)

 

The Legislative Government Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to let the city borrow up to $38 million for the project, said High Point University President Nido Qubein, who spearheaded millions in private fundraising to help build the stadium as well as a children's museum, park and other spaces near the ballpark.

A Raleigh commission has given High Point the OK to seek bonds to cover the cost of building a multiuse stadium in downtown.

The General Assembly's Joint Legislative Government Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to let the city borrow up to $38 million for the project, said High Point University President Nido Qubein, who spearheaded millions in private fundraising to help build the stadium as well as a children's museum, park and other spaces near the ballpark.

High Point city officials have said they can repay the money without raising taxes.

"It is a terrific day for the city of High Point," Qubein said. "It proves that this community believes in the art of the possible in spite of the obstacles along the way."

He said he will soon be announcing the members of the executive board that will manage the design, construction and funding of the event center, children's museum, educational cinema, park and interactive playground that will be built by the stadium.

"I think we've only just begun," Qubein said. "Look for announcements and positive proclamations over the next few months."

Officials have said they hope to have the stadium up and running by spring 2019 for the city's new minor-league baseball team, the Atlantic League team formerly known as the Bridgeport (Conn.) Bluefish.

The stadium will have other uses, too, hosting soccer, football and lacrosse games, along with concerts and High Point Market-related events.

It's part of a plan, two years in the making, to turn a blighted part of the downtown area into a thriving residential, retail and cultural center.

The plan includes building a $30 million to $35 million stadium on land the city already owns or is trying to buy in an area bordered by Gatewood Avenue, English Road and Elm and Lindsay streets.

The area would include private development, too. Qubein raised $50 million for the baseball team, a children's museum, a park and an event center.

Greensboro developer Roy Carroll said he plans to build a hotel there, and High Point developer Blue Ridge Cos. said it will build 200 apartments.

Feasibility studies estimate $99 million in new development over 10 years, and 708 full-time equivalent jobs.

Last month, the project's Baltimore-based developer updated City Council members on the plan, explaining that it would be built in stages. Tim Elliott also talked about senior housing, office buildings, shops and restaurants — and maybe even a satellite building for High Point University, along with graduate student housing.

The plan, Elliott said, is a carefully calibrated "effort of private development that brings the city alive 365 days a year."

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Ventura County Star (California)

 

The Ventura Unified School District board heard a presentation on athletics and athletic transportation at Tuesday night's meeting — something trustees asked for more information on after several parents and students from one high school raised concerns at a previous meeting.

Parents and students involved in the baseball program at Foothill Technology High School went to a board meeting in April and spoke about trouble getting students transported to practice and games, and said that in some cases students were carpooling to practice or needed last-minute parental help to get somewhere as opposed to students being taken in buses or vans provided by the district.

Foothill Technology High School wasn't built to be a school with an athletic program. An athletic program came to fruition years later, but the campus isn't equipped to hold the teams or their needs, so the students go offsite for sports. Most sports use facilities at Ventura College, but the baseball program has had trouble finding a more permanent home.

At the same meeting Tuesday evening, the board approved a bid to renovate the baseball field at De Anza Academy of Technology and the Arts School, which will be used by Foothill Technology baseball students when it is completed.

Joe Richards, deputy superintendent of business services for the district, gave the presentation to the board Tuesday about the transportation in the district, the history of athletics at the school and the finances involved with both.

"Athletics was not thought to become part of the school at the time it was built," Richards said during the meeting.

The facilities cost for Foothill athletics has grown over the years as the teams and the program have expanded. There are now 37 teams at the high school, with about 30 students involved in the baseball program at the junior varsity and varsity levels.

Transportation was the main concern among parents and students aired public comments at the last board meeting. Richards said except for special education, the district is not required to provide transportation. Ventura Unified, however, provides home-to-school transportation for students.

"That's the primary mission of our transportation department," Richards said. "Everything else is secondary.... Secondary things would be field trips and athletics."

The district gets about $1.4 million in transportation funds, but is spending about $4.1 million on transportation. Difficulties in transportation across the board, not just at Foothill, include an aging fleet, limited vans, a driver shortage and increasing demands.

"Foothill added 37 teams and we didn't increase our (bus) fleet," Richards said. "That's a big thing. Teams are also expanding. So where they might have needed two buses to transport them, they now need three."

At the meeting Tuesday evening, Foothill Principal Joe Bova suggested the district consider purchasing vans for the high school to help with shuttling students to practices, but also using them for other school needs.

"If the school had some vans, it would take a load off the overall transportation problems," Bova told The Star. He also noted that it might not be so simple due to a tight budget at the district.

But Bova said he is happy the baseball team soon will have a place to go now, with approval of the bid to start working on the new field.

"I'm really thankful the board approved the field last night," Bova said. "It's nice to know we will have a home for the baseball program... and that future teams will have the ability to use it."

In terms of remedying the transportation troubles, Richards said the district is looking at improving communications with sites about transportation and holding regular meetings, adding more routes and buses, and potentially purchasing vans.

"We are looking at a lot of different remedies," Superintendent David Creswell said in an email to The Star. "Some remedies have a price tag, others don't. We are trying to investigate all of the issues and all of the possible solutions."

Creswell said the district is "committed to making this right."

"We clearly have some issues and areas of needed improvement with transportation," Creswell said in an email. "Our primary responsibility of getting students from home to school is in better shape than the secondary priority of field trips and athletic transportation. Both will be reviewed. Our transportation funding from the state covers about a third of our current costs. Within the district there is work to be done with procedures, scheduling, and follow through to name a few... I am sorry for the missteps that have occurred and make no excuse for them. I also deeply appreciate the patience that has been displayed."

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The Press Enterprise (Riverside, CA)

 

RIALTO — It was 2009 when Eisenhower High School's Eagle Stadium was first renamed Ronnie Lott Stadium after the 1977 graduate who went on to become a Hall of Fame football player, playing primarily for the San Francisco 49ers.

But when the new Ronnie Lott Stadium had its ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday, a more appropriate stadium to be associated with a Hall of Famer was unveiled.

The ceremony was held at the stadium, which includes artificial turf, all-weather track and new bleachers. It was held in front of the Eisenhower student body, many local school and city leaders as well as Lott and his family.

"I'm very thankful for being here today," Lott said. "This is an incredible honor. I want to thank all of you folks who put this together."

Lott never played in the original stadium, and he referenced a yearbook picture (that was on display at a recep

tion in the gym afterwards) of Lott with a shovel at what appeared to be a groundbreaking ceremony.

He said his Eisenhower family was never far from his mind.

"When I was in L.A., or playing up in Northern California, I had you in mind," Lott said. "I wanted to make sure that I played for you, that I did it the right way."

He thanked many people who helped him along the way, including former teammates, coaches and his family.

"Probably the greatest thing, being in this environment, was coming home every day," he said. "Every day, I'm thankful I have a chance to model myself after my mom and dad."

He also announced that he and his wife were offering a $1,000 scholarship annually to a senior Eisenhower athlete.

It was a surprise to most of those in attendance, including Athletic Director Monique Marquez.

"That was a great surprise," she said. "If other people knew about it, they didn't tell me."

After announcing the scholarship, Lott said: "What you realize in life is that one of you (is)going to be here. You're going to be standing up on this stage. One of you (is)going to have that responsibility to make sure that you give back. And I know for a fact, that one of you (is)going to change the world."

Lott, who celebrated his 59th birthday Tuesday, finished his playing career before any of the current students were born. The Eisenhower staff wanted to make sure students knew the history of Lott, whose 49ers jersey hangs in the Eisenhower administration offices.

"We gave them some history on him because most of them don't know," Marquez said.

Lott went to USC before he was a first-round draft pick by the 49ers in 1981. He first played cornerback, then later switched to safety, and according to Wikipedia, he was one of five players who played on all four 49ers Super Bowl Championship teams in the 1980s. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000 and was also named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team.

Marquez, an Eisenhower graduate herself, sad Lott is a lot like other Eisenhower graduates in one regard.

"It's a very close group," she said. "They want to come back and be part of Eisenhower."

The ceremony continued in the gym, without the students, where a luncheon was held and Lott was presented with several awards by local leaders.

The stadium is new, but Thursday wasn't the first time it was used. Marquez said two track and field meets were held there. Eisenhower teams had also practiced on the field before the bleachers were finished, she said.

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Copyright 2018 Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Inc.
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Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)

 

First, we are particularly delighted to bring attention to the new playground and pavilion open to use by all Clinton residents and surrounding towns. Given the high volume of athletic and community events at the fields, it made sense to convert some of the remaining open space to a more universal purpose, as well as a comfortable place to sit and view the sporting events happening all around. Particularly noteworthy is the newly-paved pathway sporting ADA accessibility for our patrons on wheels and encouraging stroller-friendly use. There are no plans to pave a path from the road to the current walkway as people are encouraged to use the parking area and access the sidewalk to the amenities.

Keep a lookout for the new drinking fountain to be installed as well. A more modern "bottle filler" was selected to accommodate varied use among athletes, spectators and the public at large. Folks can inquire about renting the pavilion at the recreation office (978-365-4140) for current rates, rental schedule and policies.

Second, and equally dramatic, the Little League has donated a new press box and purchased a concession stand that will operate during athletic events to enhance the overall experience at the ball field. Little League board members partnered with Clinton Parks and Recreation Department and the DPW to select a final "snack shack" footprint, achieving maximum satisfaction for all interests represented.

Due to the increased activity near the outfield, safety netting was extended to cover that general area for extra protection. Additional coverage was also installed down the first base line of the Little League field and on the adult softball field to protect cars driving on Water Street and those enjoying the games in the center of the fields.

Another significant contribution to mention is the mural on the gray retaining wall located inside the first base dugout of the adult softball field, currently painted by the Clinton High School art class. Students have been working all year on this project and are very close to being done. This mural highlights some of Clinton's best features and is an amazing piece of artwork that the students are very proud to complete.

Lastly, the new "No Parking Signs" along one side of Vale Street will bring order to the historic traffic problem, increasing safety on the street and encouraging people to park in the rear lot. Clinton Police are consistently reminding individuals to honor this recent shift in spite of motorists parking on both sides of the street for years, which created a hazardous, congested traffic flow at best.

Just this past week the Traffic Committee voted to move the current no parking signs to the resident side of Vale Street, leaving the option to park on the playground side of the road. The committee determined that cars could be more "off the road" on the playground side as opposed to navigating the steep banking on the resident side. Once the Clinton Building Committee and facility director determine incurred costs, the remaining funds will be dedicated to creating a permanent parking area behind the existing adult ball field.

The Clinton Parks and Recreation commissioners want to thank all who collaborated to install these recent additions at Savage Field as well as the sweat equity required to make a number of significant improvements to both ball fields. We also are very thankful to the voters who decided to invest in this town property by supporting various updates over the past few years. Clintonians can be proud of these value-added features our community can enjoy for many years to come.

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Copyright 2018 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
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Palm Beach Post (Florida)

 

The Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals want Palm Beach County to help pay for a $100 million upgrade of their spring training stadium in Jupiter, a request that some tourism leaders say could threaten their ability to plan future projects that draw travelers to the area.

Representatives from both teams appeared before the county's Tourist Development Council on Thursday to make their pitch to overhaul the clubhouses, offices, training areas and public spaces at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter. Among the list of renovations: new and expanded clubhouses for both teams; agility fields; more batting tunnels; the expansion of the team store; Wi-Fi for fans; a new scoreboard; and more shaded seating areas.

The 7,000-seat, county-owned stadium opened in 1998, and has never undergone a major renovation, county officials said. However, before the start of spring training this year, the county and teams spent about $560,000 for minor upgrades at Roger Dean, including shade canopies, new sod, and refreshed skyboxes.

The Marlins and the Cardinals have a lease to use the stadium that expires in 2027. If the renovation is approved, the teams would extend their lease until 2047, when the Houston Astros' and Washington Nationals' leases in West Palm Beach expire, officials said.

Under the stadium proposal, the Marlins and the Cardinals would pay part of the renovation cost, although the exact amount is still being discussed. The teams also hope to get as much as $50 million from the state, a pledge that would be paid over a 25-year period.

Team representatives said the Roger Dean stadium has challenges, both in terms of player development and fan experiences. The renovations, they said, are needed to help the teams compete with others in the state.

The Marlins emphasized that the facility is used year-round and under new ownership, the expanded player development and scouting department is housed in Jupiter, where the staff lives year-round. The facility plays host to minor league baseball as well as 15 major travel baseball tournaments.

Since 2011, there have been nine spring training renovation or construction projects planned in Florida. Those projects will accommodate 10 teams by 2021, officials said.

Claude Delorme, executive vice president of operations and events for the Miami Marlins said the stadium's basic systems, including its plumbing lines, are also in need of significant upgrades.

"Understand if we leave the building the way it is, it is going to cost everyone a lot more," Delorme said. "Leaving it as it is will become a problem."

The tourist council did not vote on the request. The council, which acts as an advisory board for the county commission, is expected to discuss the project at a workshop. Ultimately, the county commission will decide whether tourism taxes will fund renovation.

Some of the tourist council's members, however, took aim at the plan, saying the proposal would do little to draw new tourists to the area.

"What they are asking for is a nice enhancement, but they haven't sold a single new tourist into Palm Beach County," said David Burke, a longtime member of the county's Tourist Development Council. "It is enhancing the stadium."

Members also raised concerns about the project's price tag.

The tourism board is in the process of evaluating the expansion the Palm Beach County Convention Center in downtown West Palm Beach, a project that could cost $100 million.

The stadium renovation, coupled with the convention center expansion, would leave the county without a way to pay for other tourism-generating projects that may be proposed over the next two decades, some tourist council members fear.

"At the end of the day there is X-amount of dollars, and if we can't justify the distribution of those dollars to put heads in (hotel) beds, drive tourism to the brand of Palm Beach County, then we have to make hard decisions," said John Tolbert, the president and managing director of the Boca Raton Resort & Club and a member of the county's Tourist Development Council.

Under the proposal, the county would use tourism tax money to pay for the stadium renovation.

The county collects about $50 million a year in tourism taxes, which are levied on hotel stay and vacation rentals.

The 6 percent tourism tax, also known as a bed tax, is used to pay for tourism-related advertising, beach renourishment and facilities such as spring training baseball stadiums and the convention center. About $17 million a year is set aside for building improvements and new facilities.

Nearly 1.5 million people attended spring training games in the state this year. Attendance at Palm Beach County's two stadiums stood at 281,412 for the season. The Marlins and the Cardinals drew 139,478 fans during the 45-day spring training period, officials said.

George Linley, the executive director of the county's sports commission, said about 61 percent of spring training tickets are purchased by people outside of the state.

County Administrator Verdenia Baker pointed to the age of the stadium. Ultimately, she said, the county will have to make an investment in the facility. State money set aside to keep spring training baseball in Florida may not be available in future years, she added.

"At some point, we are going to have to make a decision," Baker said. "We need to reinvest in this property. To what level, that's to be seen. But we must reinvest in this property."

jsorentrue@pbpost.com Twitter: @sorentruepbp

Spring training renovations

The Marlins and Cardinals presented a list to the Tourism Development Council on recent upgrades by Major League Baseball teams for spring training facilities with cost and completion dates:

San Francisco Giants (Scottsdale, Ariz): $60 million, January 2021

Toronto Blue Jays (Dunedin): $81 million, February 2020

Milwaukee Brewers (Phoenix): $60 million, February 2019

New York Mets (Port St. Lucie): $55 million, February 2019

Detroit Tigers (Lakeland): $48 million, completed

Minnesota Twins (Fort Myers): $51 million, completed

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Copyright 2018 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

A Chicago real estate company announced Wednesday that Cubs owner Tom Ricketts will take a majority ownership position in a proposed Chicago professional soccer team. The team will play in the United Soccer League, a second-division league. It will compete for fans and media attention with the first-division Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer.

The Chicago USL team will play in a state-of-the-art stadium planned by real estate developing and investment company Sterling Bay on the north side of Chicago. The stadium site is one of the places proposed for a second Amazon headquarters. The Chicago USL team reportedly will begin play in the 2021 season. Ricketts purchased the Cubs in 2009. The Fire is owned by Andrew Hauptman, who purchased the team in 2007.

The Fire plays in 20,000-seat Toyota Park, built in 2006 in southwest suburban Bridgeview, where the club is averaging 15,132 fans a game through five games, 18th in the league. Though some MLS teams operate a developmental team in USL, the Fire has chosen to affiliate with USL side Tulsa Roughnecks. "It speaks volumes about the growth of the USL when you continue to see interest and investment from proven sports business executives like Tom Ricketts," said USL CEO Alec Papadakis in a league statement.

"Over the last several years, we have assembled one of the most sophisticated and knowledgeable ownership groups in professional sports, drawn by our focus on building a sustainable, stable and professional organization with significant room for future growth. We welcome Tom and the entire Ricketts family to the USL. They bring a proven record of success to the team, and combined with the excellent folks at Sterling Bay, we look forward to their contributions to the future of professional soccer in Chicago."

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Copyright 2018 The Commercial Appeal, Inc.
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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

Will Memphis be ready for another pro football team? The city will find out on Thursday when the Alliance of American Football announces more details regarding the team.

The AAF, created by TV and film producer Charlie Ebersol and former NFL executive Bill Polian, will hold a press conference at 1:30 p.m. at the Liberty Bowl announcing the team's coach and president.

It's the latest league trying to take advantage of a football void in the winter and spring but with its rule changes and fantasy football features, it hopes to cater even more to the fans. The league will start play in February 2019.

Memphis previously had franchises in the World Football League, Arena Football, USFL, Canadian Football League and most recently the XFL in 2001. It was also the temporary home of the Tennessee Titans in 1997 after the team relocated from being the Houston Oilers.

Here are five things to know about the league and what to expect on Thursday

What is the AAF?

The AAF was announced on March 20 as an eight-team league.The opening game will be shown on CBS on Feb. 9, the week after the Super Bowl, and will feature a 10-game regular season schedule. The playoffs will be two rounds culminating with the championship on the weekend of April 26-28.

Each week, a game will be shown on CBS Sports Network. The rest of the games will be available to watch on the league's app, which will also integrate fantasy football rewards on and off the field.

Memphis was announced as the league's third franchise on Saturday when former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward made the announcement on the league's Twitter page. Ward will be present on Thursday along with Alliance head of operations J.K. McKay

Each team will have 50-man rosters with players selected from those who don't make the NFL or are playing in the Arena League or CFL. Teams will also be able to draft players who played in their local market in college.

Who else is involved?

Besides Polian and Ebersol, the son of legendary TV executive Dick Ebersol, league advisers include Ward and former NFL players Justin Tuck and Troy Polamalu.

The league is being financed by several investors, including former Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, The Chernin Group, which owns Barstool Sports, and billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel's Founders Fund.

Where are the league's first two teams?

The AAF has already announced franchises are coming to Atlanta and Orlando with high profile coaches. Orlando will be coached by former Florida and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.

Atlanta will be led by former NFL coach Brad Childress and its offensive coordinator will be former NFL quarterback Michael Vick. Polian has said in reports that he prefers the league hire coaches with NFL backgrounds so Thursday could see a familiar name emerge to lead the Memphis team.

How is the AAF different from the NFL?

There are several significant rule changes. Teams must attempt two-point conversions after touchdowns and there will be no kickoffs, meaning each team will start its possession on its own 25-yard line just like touchbacks in the NFL and NCAA.

Instead of onside kicks, the scoring team can elect to run a play from its 35-yard line that must go at least 10 yards to retain possession.

The play clock will run 30 seconds instead of 40 in the NFL and there will be no television timeouts. Charlie Ebersol told the Washington Post that he hopes to have 60 percent fewer commercials than an NFL game in order to finish games in under 2 1/2 hours.

Can it work in Memphis?

That remains to be seen. The inaugural season will also coincide with the start of Memphis' United Soccer League franchise in March 2019.

While the AAF has no other football competition for 2019, things could get interesting in 2020 when the XFL will be revived under World Wrestling Entertainment founder Vince McMahon. McMahon and Dick Ebersol collaborated on the XFL in 2001.

Most of Memphis' recent football teams - the Showboats (USFL), Pharaohs (Arena Football), Southmen (World Football), Mad Dogs (CFL), Maniax (XFL) - all lasted between one to two years. The Xplorers from the AF2, the Arena Football's developmental league, lasted six seasons.

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Naples Daily News (Florida)

 

The St. John Neumann High School football team used an ineligible player during its undefeated regular season this past fall, according to an investigation by the Florida High School Athletic Association.

The FHSAA has fined the school $15,000. Neumann is appealing the decision because, athletic director Damon Jones said, school officials believe the player in question was eligible.

If Neumann loses its appeal next month, the Celtics will have to forfeit the six games in which the player participated. Neumann went 9-0 in 2017, the first undefeated regular season in program history.

According to the FHSAA report, Neumann used a player during the 2017 season that had been sent to an alternative school by Collier County Public Schools near the end of the 2016-17 school year. The player attended a CCPS high school last year and was sent to the alternative school rather than be expelled.

Under FHSAA bylaws, a student who is sent to an alternative school or expelled is athletically ineligible for two semesters, even if he or she switches schools.

The Celtics player participated in the first six games of the season before Jones was made aware of the allegation, which was reported to the FHSAA by an outside party in October. Neumann is fined $2,500 per game, resulting in a $15,000 fine.

St. John Neumann's principal, Sister Patricia Roche, did not reply to requests for comment. Instead, a spokeswoman from the Diocese of Venice, the chapter of the Catholic church to which Neumann belongs, emailed the Daily News.

"St. John Neumann Catholic High School, Inc., will appeal this decision as the FHSAA bylaw is not reflective of the situation pertaining to the student," Diocese director of communications Susan Laielli wrote. "Further details regarding this matter are held in confidence as student privacy is a top priority of St. John Neumann Catholic High School, Inc."

Jones said he believes the player was eligible because CCPS did not follow the state laws regarding expulsion and alternative placement of students. Jones said there are disparities between state laws, local school system rules and FHSAA bylaws on the subject.

Plus, Neumann never received notification from the school system that the player had been sent to an alternative school.

"We don't believe, with the way the rules are set and all the different circumstances, that he was ineligible," Jones said. "There is a disconnect with some of the verbiage the FHSAA uses, the way the Florida statutes are set up, and the communication between public schools and private schools."

In November, Neumann hired Wicker-Smith Attorneys at Law to look into the issue. The FHSAA report, dated March 8, said the Neumann firm's independent investigation concluded Neumann "should not have known" the player was ineligible based on the information it had.

Officials from Neumann must go to Gainesville in June to appeal the decision at FHSAA headquarters.

When a new student enrolls at St. John Neumann, the admissions department has parents sign release forms so the school can obtain the student's records from previous schools. Neumann then has to rely on the previous schools sending complete records, which Jones said the Celtics did not receive for the player in question.

With the state's recent changes to its school choice laws, students can attend any school in the state that will accept them (public or private) no matter where they live. Student are eligible for athletics upon transferring, as well, so long as they haven't started a sport at one school and continued it at another.

"Transfers are going to increase," Jones said. "There are issues with the way (FHSAA) bylaws are written, issues with records being shared among school districts. I want to make sure they get addressed.

"These types of things are going to continue to happen. Regardless of innocence or guilt, these things are going to happen."

In a separate FHSAA report also sent to Neumann on March 8, the school was fined $2,500 for a violation under the FHSAA's athletic recruitment policy.

Neumann held an open house for potential students on Oct. 29, which is allowed under FHSAA policy. A flyer for the event used the phrase "Home of the Undefeated Celtics Football Team." Referencing the football team and its performance on promotional materials is against FHSAA rules.

Jones self-reported the violation to the FHSAA after learning of the flyer.

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Copyright 2018 The Buffalo News
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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

A proposed athletic complex on Elk Street overcame vocal opposition from a corporate neighbor, winning its last formal city approval despite intense lobbying against it by a chemical company fearful of "soccer moms" and others complaining about odors.

The Buffalo Planning Board gave its assent to the $3 million project by Jon Williams' South Buffalo Development to create a new Downtown Sports Center at 427 Elk, using about six acres of vacant land that has already been remediated under state supervision.

That clears the way for Williams to start work on the project, which he hopes to complete and open by the end of the year.

"We'll be starting right away to get the final approvals in place and the permits ready to go," said Williams, owner of Ontario Specialty Contracting.

The proposed new complex will include an indoor field house as well as an outdoor athletic turf field, for a variety of sports like soccer, lacrosse or kickball. It will also have a snack bar, restrooms and showers. It's aimed primarily at high-school, college-level or adult sports teams, with Medaille College as the lead potential user under an agreement that is being negotiated.

That's what drew the opposition of PVS Chemical Solutions Inc. The Detroit-based company, which operates a sulfuric-acid manufacturing facility at 55 Lee St., adjacent to Williams' property, raised a stink about the proposal, which it termed inappropriate for one of Buffalo's most heavily industrial corridors. PVS said the recreational nature of the project conflicts with the manufacturing activities and existing companies already operating there.

The company, which employs 50 and has operated on the site since 1981, has stressed that its own operations are safe, but warned that bringing more people to the site would only expose them to the sights, sounds and smells that come with a chemical plant. In turn, that could jeopardize its own business there, by exposing the company to more criticism, while raising concerns for regulators.

"We're hopeful that this project won't have any negative impact on the continuing operations of PVS," said Corey Auerbach, an attorney representing PVS. "PVS is going to do and continue to do everything in their power to continue to operate a facility to the highest standards."

The objections by PVS, which surfaced two weeks ago, prompted the Planning Board to table the matter at its last meeting, directing the two sides to negotiate a solution. PVS officials expressed a willingness to fly in from Detroit to meet with Williams, but the two sides ended up in a teleconference instead, and then went back before the Planning Board.

"Unfortunately, the parties couldn't reach a real agreement on how to move forward with this," said Williams' attorney, Marc Romanowski.

"It was less than productive," Auerbach agreed.

PVS wanted Williams to ideally abandon the outdoor field entirely, or to flip the field with the indoor facility to create more of a buffer between the outdoor games and the chemical plant. At a minimum, the company sought a solid wall between the soccer field and the PVS property, so that people at the sports complex wouldn't be able to see the plant.

The company even offered to help pay for the changes, to overcome Williams' assertion that the requested changes would be untenable or cost-prohibitive because of the need to run drainage and utility lines too far.

"PVS is ready to come to the table, to put money to assist and facilitate a redesign of this project," Auerbach said. "All they want, if it's going to move forward, is a site plan that limits the impact to the greatest extent practicable."

PVS also asked Williams to limit the use of the field to business hours, to ensure that PVS employees were around if needed. The company also wanted the developer to formally prohibit use of the facility by anyone under high-school age, and to bar alcohol sales. And PVS asked Williams to locate air intakes for the indoor facility on the north wall of the building and design the ventilation system to close it off if necessary.

Williams refused to accept limitations, even though he said he does not intend to sell alcohol and doesn't expect the field to be used for younger ages. He also would not accept PVS's offer to help pay for the improvements. He warned the Planning Board that he was done trying to accommodate PVS.

"The concept that I can't kick a soccer ball 300 feet from their fence line, but I can dock at their river wall and fish, is beyond me," Williams said. "If they have a release from their facility, it's not this facility's problem. It's the whole neighborhood. There are houses right here. There's a bar on the other side of Elk Street.

"I won't redesign the plan. If that's a request, I'm not going to do it," he said.

Romanowski said his client offered to screen the six-foot southern fence line along the field with green netting to hide the plant from sight. "No amount of solid wall is going to stop air," Romanowski said.

He said Williams would also provide permanent on-site air monitoring, "so if anyone had any complaints, we'd have some data on this."

"Jon's company does remediation every day, so they have the equipment to do this sort of stuff," the attorney said.

Williams also agreed to distribute information sheets provided by PVS to anyone using the sports facility, and would set up a hotline to PVS for two-way communication in case of an emergency.

That was sufficient for the Planning Board, though not for PVS. Two board members, Chairman James Morrell and Horace Gioia, recused themselves from the vote because they serve on Medaille's board of trustees.

"PVS will explore whatever the options are that are available to them," Auerbach said. "It's unfortunate that the applicant was unwilling to work with his neighbor to improve the project."

Under plans by architects at Carmina Wood Morris PC, the proposed new complex would include a 26,400-square-foot, single-story field house on Elk and an outdoor athletic field, measuring 300 feet by 300 feet, located at 85 Lee St. The project would also include a 61-space parking lot, with the capacity to add another 50 spaces if needed.

It's part of the larger 21.7-acre project at the Schoellkopf Power House, a complex across the street that is being converted into an $8 million mixed-use facility with residential, industrial and commercial space. Site work has already begun, but Williams is waiting for historic preservation approval before continuing with roof, window and facade work.

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USA TODAY

 

Two weeks after the Commission on College Basketball's findings on the scandal-ridden men's game were met with criticism in the news media, Commission chair Condoleezza Rice defended the group's work in a telephone interview Wednesday while making a strong case that student-athletes in all NCAA sports should be able to make money from their names, images and likenesses.

"We believe that students ought to be able to benefit from name, image and likeness but you can't decide a program until you know the legal parameters," Rice told USA TODAY. "That was the point. I think some of the commentary suggested that we didn't really speak on this issue. I think we did speak on this issue, it's just that we understand there's a legal framework that has to be developed first."

Rice said she thought the commission's report was "pretty clear" in its support of athletes being able to cash in once the various legal issues are resolved. But she maintains that the NCAA cannot do this while a pair of ongoing cases are pending. "I think people may have looked at the fact that we said there's a legal framework to be developed and said, 'Oh, well, maybe they're punting on this.' Nobody was intending to punt on it."

Rice strongly encouraged the NCAA to act as soon as it is legally able. This has been an ongoing conversation since the cases brought on behalf of former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon and former Nebraska and Arizona State quarterback Sam Keller. The Keller case settled, but in the O'Bannon case, a district court judge ruled that the NCAA had violated antitrust law by limiting college athletes' compensation basically to tuition, fees, room, board and books. She said the NCAA should be required to allow schools to pay athletes additional deferred money as compensation for the use of their names, images and likenesses. However, an appeals court vacated that part of her ruling.

"There is a legal framework that has to be determined, but name, image and likeness -- athletes are going to have to be able to benefit from it," she said. "I think everybody can see that. Exactly what that's going to look like, I don't think that we could design it. I don't think that today the NCAA could design it because the legal framework still has to be developed. But when I see policies that are as confused as the NCAA's policies on this, I think, 'Why haven't you gone and looked at this before?' It's really time to come to terms with name, image and likeness."

The current NCAA rules, she said, "(are) just incomprehensible. And sometimes when something's incomprehensible, you have to go ahead and say, 'This is incomprehensible,' which means it probably isn't right. And I thought that in the report, we were pretty clear, that we think the framework doesn't work."

Rice is not alone. There are currently mixed signals about who can get paid as an athlete and who cannot. While Olympic swimming star Katie Ledecky of Stanford is one of the most recent to have to stop competing collegiately in order to start earning money, Notre Dame basketball star Arike Ogunbowale recently received a waiver from the NCAA that allowed her to make money as a participant on Dancing with the Stars. The NCAA said it was granting the waiver because the show was unrelated to her basketball abilities.

"I couldn't for the life of me understand the explanation," she said, "because obviously she's there because she hit two winning shots in two basketball games (in the women's Final Four), so that's the connection."

It's time to clear this up, Rice said.

"I would hope that what the NCAA is going to do is they're going to take this moment, once they know what the legal framework is, and they are going to recognize that this has got to benefit athletes. Here I really stand with the athletes on this. It makes sense for the NCAA to have a legally justifiable framework that works, and currently the framework doesn't work."

Among the commission's other recommendations is that the controversial one-and-done rule be eliminated and basketball players who are talented enough be allowed to go to the pros directly from high school. Rice said this won't be implemented this year because teams have already recruited players under the current system for the upcoming 2018-19 season.

She hopes it is instituted for 2019-20.

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Copyright 2018 The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

There's local beer on tap for after workouts, freshly brewed coffee, and gym-goers can bring their dog.

Brew Fitness might just be the most Milwaukee gym in town.

The owner, Ryan Mleziva, likes it that way.

"We take fitness very serious, but we don't take ourselves too seriously so that we can't experience what the city has to offer," Mleziva said.

One of the studio's classes that focuses on core strength is even called "Keg To 6-Pack."

The whole idea for Mleziva was to combine craft beer with fitness. He has a liquor store license to pour a rotating selection of local brews in the old candy factory building turned gym at 408 W. Florida St.

Just like Milwaukee, it's more than beer. Drinks from Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co., Pilcrow Coffee Roasters and Rishi Tea are brewed after morning workouts. Art from the health-focused Artery Ink hangs on the walls.

Mleziva said he takes pride most in Brew Fitness' "top notch, science-based classes."

Mleziva and six other trainers lead the studio's strength and yoga classes. A 10-pack of classes is $150. Single classes and unlimited packages are available too.

"With the coffee, beer and the camaraderie, there's an atmosphere where people come early and stay late because they want to. It's a fun hour of their day," Mleziva said.

His 2-year-old dog, Mia, hangs out some days too.

Mleziva moved from the small farm town of Luxemburg, near Green Bay, in 2006 to start school at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The runner was given a full athletic scholarship to compete on the cross country and track teams. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in kinesiology, he left the city for a master's degree in kinesiology and sports management from East Tennessee State University.

Of course, he returned to Brew City.

He worked for health clubs large and small before deciding to go into business for himself. Brew Fitness opened July with a $30,000 loan from the Wisconsin Women's Business Initiative Corporation. The studio has around 100 members, which Mleziva said is about halfway to capacity.

While there are dozens of gyms in Milwaukee, Mleziva thinks Brew Fitness is hitting an open spot in the market for a strength training gym in a sea of specialty spin, yoga, barre and crossfit workouts. Mleziva doesn't have plans to expand but said he could see the gym moving beyond Milwaukee.

"Brew Fitness could go into any city that has a brewery culture and a love for the city," he said. "Any area that has a love for coffee and beer would love Brew Fitness. It could be the next big franchise - who knows. But right now I'm not looking that far into the future."

Sarah Hauer can be reached at shauer@journalsentinel.com or on Instagram @HauerSarah and Twitter @SarahHauer.

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Copyright 2018 Charleston Newspapers

Charleston Gazette-Mail

 

Evan Skoug had a decision to make his senior year of high school in 2014: go pro or go to college?

He was rated the No. 1 prospect in Illinois for the Major League Baseball draft that year, and he had signed a letter of intent to play catcher at TCU.

Skoug ended up going to TCU, but not before he and his family weighed the pros and cons with and had many conversations with an adviser.

"It was good for me to have someone there to help me through the professional process because nobody in my family has played professionally and nobody knows the industry, Skoug said this week. "It was nice to have somebody invested in the sports industry, invested in myself, there to help me make the correct informed decision.

NCAA rules governing baseball and ice hockey allow high school players to hire advisers as long as those advisers are paid their normal fees. Also, baseball and hockey players who are drafted are allowed to retain college eligibility as long as they don't sign a contract.

Under proposals put forth by the Condoleezza Rice-headed Commission on College Basketball, facets of those baseball-hockey rules would be applied to high school and college basketball players.

One recommendation would have the NCAA create a program for certifying agents and make them accessible to players from high school through their college careers. The NCAA already allows players in college to retain advisers.

"I think information and data are power, so to speak, Nebraska basketball coach Tim Miles said. "I think that's really important - to educate the parents, to educate the players to this whole process.

Another recommendation would allow high school and college basketball players who declare for the draft and aren't drafted remain eligible for college unless and until they sign a pro contract. That recommendation assumes the NBA changes its rules and allows high school seniors to be drafted instead of requiring a player be 19 years old or one year removed from high school.

Miles said he favors that proposal as well, but he sees a potential problem. He currently has two rising seniors who have declared for the June 21 draft without signing an agent, and they have until May 30 to pull out of draft consideration and retain their eligibility.

If the recommendation were in place now, and those players stayed in the draft pool but weren't selected, their status for next season might not be known until well into the summer. That, Miles said, could present a roster-management issue. Typically, a coach has a good idea if any of his underclassmen will be drafted, and he can plan for that. But what if the undrafted player decides not to return to school after the draft and chooses to pursue opportunities in the G League or overseas?

"I think you need a clear conversation with the student-athlete and his family asking What are your intentions?' Miles said. "Those are things that should be decided earlier than June 21.

The baseball agent-adviser rule, as it applies to the power-five conferences, changed in 2016. As part of the autonomy movement, high school players who are drafted are permitted to hire an agent for contract negotiations, but the relationship must be severed if the player decides to enroll in college. Conferences outside the power five are allowed to adopt that rule if they choose. Previously, advisers could not perform agent duties such as negotiating a contract whether for a high school player or a player who's draft-eligible in his third year at a four-year school.

Skoug said he knew he needed help sorting out the MLB draft process as he neared his senior season at Libertyville (Illinois) High. His high school coach recommended a friend, Scott Pucino, who heads the baseball division for Octagon sports and entertainment agency.

Pucino gave Skoug tips on how to word answers on the multitude of questionnaires sent by major league clubs, explained what life would be like in a rookie league if he chose to turn pro and stressed the importance of finding an experienced and trusted wealth manager.

The Skoug family paid a few hundred dollars for Pucino's services - "inconsequential for what we got, said Evan's father, John Skoug.

"We had 28 of the 30 major-league teams march through our living room and asking a bunch of questions. We didn't know what to really expect, John said. "You hear stuff from Person X and Person Y, and each of these scouts will tell you, but I'd rather have an independent party telling me what's going on.

The most important conversation dealt with setting the minimum amount of money it would take for Evan Skoug to sign. Only he and his family could make that decision, but Pucino had input.

"The question for Evan: life-changing money, what was that going to be? Pucino said. "The thing I tell these players is if you don't make it, at least you have three years of college education done. So for [MLB] to buy you out of that college education - even though there's a scholarship program [through clubs] - it should be a pretty good amount of money. It's easy to finish a year if you're drafted as a junior. It's not the same to be 28 or 29 and now do three or four years of college.

Evan set his price at $1.5 million - more than any club was willing to pay. He was drafted in the 34th round by the Washington Nationals, what he called a "courtesy pick.

"The Nationals wanted to follow my career at TCU, so it was nice to hear my name get called and to be drafted, he said. "But once I heard that the number wasn't going to be there, my mind was totally set on college.

At TCU, Skoug started 198 of 199 games, batted .286 with 36 homers and 168 RBIs and was the 2017 Big 12 co-player of the year. His draft stock rose accordingly. He was picked in the seventh round last year by the Chicago White Sox and signed for $300,000. He now plays for the Kannapolis (North Carolina) Intimidators in the Class A South Atlantic League.

Pucino - who represents Seattle's Felix Hernandez, the New York Mets' Asdrubal Cabrera and the Chicago Cubs' Ben Zobrist, among others - went from being Skoug's adviser to agent.

"I would have been very confused and out of the loop as to what was going on throughout the upcoming months of the [2014] draft without Scott, Evan said. "He did a great job of preparing me and my family for what was coming, so that was a big help to us, because we had no idea.

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