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Copyright 2016 Star Tribune
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

The cost of building a pedestrian bridge linking the $1.1 billion U.S. Bank Stadium to a nearby light-rail platform is about $1 million more than expected.

For now, the Metropolitan Council will pick up the bill, although the regional planning body is trying to recover $465,462 from a consultant that it says made costly errors in the bridge's design. That would account for about half the increased costs for the bridge.

The Vikings have already chipped in $6 million toward the bridge, and are not contractually obligated to pay anything more.

The Met Council's Transportation Committee on Monday approved a series of change orders, a bureaucratic move often required when a project goes over budget. The bridge was supposed to cost $9.65 million to construct, but ended up with about a $10.6 million price tag.

The bridge is intended to ferry stadium patrons and others safely across the LRT tracks at the U.S. Bank Stadium Station, which serves as a nexus for the Green and Blue lines.

"We're pleased with the bridge," said Metro Transit spokesman Howie Padilla. "It's fulfilled its purpose by keeping everyone safer." Light-rail traffic during Vikings games, concerts and other events at the stadium is about 25 percent higher than normal, he added.

The design consultant cited by the Met Council for a portion of the cost increase, Eden Prairie-based EVS Inc., said in a statement Tuesday that it is proud of the work it did in connection with the pedestrian bridge and the stadium.

"After nearly four decades, we know that cost disagreements like this occasionally arise and are addressed through a well-established process," said EVS President K. Dennis Kim. "We'll work with Metro Transit and the other design team members to reach a solution acceptable to all and that respects the public's interests."

The bridge project encountered problems from the very beginning.

Vikings chip in

When the bridge was first contemplated two years ago, the Vikings were not expected to contribute any money to the project. After the Met Council pushed back, an agreement was reached with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority that called for the team to contribute up to $3.5 million in exchange for half of U.S. Bank Stadium Station's advertising revenue.

But when bids were advertised in the fall of 2014, they came in higher than expected, due to labor and subcontractor shortages and a tight timeline for construction.

A new agreement was subsequently struck, with the Met Council paying $4 million and the team contributing up to $6 million. The team gets 90 percent of the advertising revenue from U.S. Bank Stadium Station to help repay its initial contribution for a 30-year period, or until the $6 million is repaid.

At the time the deal was inked, annual advertising revenue from the station was estimated to be $310,000, with the Met Council receiving 10 percent.

Lead project manager Jim Harwood told Met Council members Monday that "design errors" were discovered during construction, many of which were related to the bridge's elevator.

On Monday, Council Member Jennifer Munt said she was concerned about investing in a bridge serving patrons for "eight Vikings games a year" while many bus stops in the metro area lack appropriate shelter. She was assured that the cost overrun would not affect a current program to improve bus shelters.

With an annual operating budget of $936 million, the Met Council is funded through user fees, state, federal and local government funds, a metro-area property tax and other sources.

Janet Moore · 612-673-7752

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Copyright 2016 Richmond Newspapers, Inc.
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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

What did Ian McCaw know, when did he know it and what did he do?

Those are the salient questions today as McCaw takes over as the athletics director at Liberty University.

Until May, McCaw was athletics director at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, a job he held for 13 years. He resigned after being sanctioned and placed on probation by the university in the wake of a rape and sexual assault scandal that initially involved five football players and one female athlete.

The Baylor Board of Regents now says the sexual-assault and domestic-violence cases involve 17 women and 19 football players since 2011.

Monday, McCaw was introduced as the new athletics director at Liberty, which, like Baylor, is a school with a strong Christian affiliation.

Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. told The (Lynchburg) News & Advance that McCaw was not found "culpable" by Baylor's regents and, "was a good man in a place where bad things were going on and decided to remove himself from that atmosphere."

That sounds nice, noble even.

But while the Baylor Board of Regents did not find McCaw "culpable," they didn't absolve him of responsibility for the mess created by the football program.

The regents' statement following McCaw's resignation was somewhere between lukewarm and perfunctory: "We understand and accept the difficult decision by Ian McCaw to resign as athletics director and are grateful for his service to Baylor University. We also appreciate Ian's commitment and involvement in bringing a person of integrity such as Jim Grobe to the university before making his decision."

Grobe was hired to run Baylor's football program after the dismissal of Art Briles as the head coach.

Falwell said any mistakes McCaw made at Baylor were "technical in nature."

McCaw was in charge of the athletic department. He hired Briles. McCaw had the ultimate responsibility for the behavior of every member of the athletic department.

There also is the matter of who, if anybody, reported the 2013 assault by five football players on one female athlete to Baylor's judicial affairs office, as required by federal Title IX rules.

If "technical in nature" means not being clear on whether a rape allegation was reported through the proper channels, that's an interesting definition of "technical."

A summary of a report issued by investigators from the Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP stated, "Pepper found specific failings within both the football program and athletic department leadership, including a failure to identify and respond to a pattern of sexual violence by a football player, to take action in response to reports of a sexual assault by multiple football players, and to take action in response to a report of dating violence."

The university was criticized for failing to "effectively implement Title IX" procedures.

Even if Falwell did his "due diligence," Liberty has hired an athletics director who arrives with considerable baggage.

The sexual-assault issues were not the first time Baylor encountered problems in its athletic department while McCaw was in charge.

In April of 2012, the men's and women's basketball programs were placed on three years probation, among other sanctions, by the NCAA for hundreds of impermissible phone calls and text messages from coaches and assistant coaches to recruits.

The penalties were self-imposed by Baylor, accepted by the NCAA and did not require either team to miss any NCAA tournament appearances.

Adding to the intrigue at Liberty is the quick hiring of McCaw after Jeff Barber abruptly resigned as Liberty's athletics director Nov. 17 after almost 11 years in the job.

So, none of this passes the smell test.

Liberty has huge ambitions in every area, none more so than its athletics program. The Flames want to play at the highest level of the football hierarchy, the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Finding a conference has been a challenge.

McCaw, with 30 years experience in intercollegiate athletics, was not hired to keep the Flames competitive in the Football Championship Subdivision.

"While we're proud members of the Big South (Conference), we want to build this program to compete at the highest level nationally and the goal of FBS football is very much at the forefront," McCaw said during his press conference Monday.

McCaw's hiring is about the ambitious pursuit of national recognition, prestige and the payday that can follow.

None are seen as bad in the upper echelons of the NCAA.

But surely Falwell, his staff and McCaw are aware of the risk associated with winning at all costs.

At Baylor, the question faced by the regents, faculty and students is whether athletic success has been worth that cost.

At Liberty, that question never should be forgotten.

(804) 649-6444 @World_of_Woody

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Ian McCaw (left) spoke with Mickey Guridy, an associate athletics director at Liberty University, on Monday after being introduced as Liberty 's new athletics director. The News & Advance/// Ian McCaw (left) spoke with Mickey Guridy, an associate athletics director at Liberty University, on Monday after being introduced as Liberty's new athletics director. The News & Advance/// McCaw Tony Gutierrez McCaw Tony Gutierrez 11/30/2016: Ian McCaw (left) spoke with Mickey Guridy, an associate athletics director at Liberty University, on Monday after being introduced as Liberty's new athletics director. The News & Advance/// Ian McCaw (left) spoke with Mickey Guridy, an associate athletics director at Liberty University, on Monday after being introduced as Liberty's new athletics director. The News & Advance/// McCaw Tony Gutierrez McCaw Tony Gutierrez
 
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Copyright 2016 Charleston Newspapers

Charleston Gazette-Mail

 

Putnam Commissioner Stephen Andes announced major improvements to Valley Park at the Celebrate Putnam! Thanksgiving luncheon Nov. 15 in Hurricane.

A new, 30,000-square-foot community center is planned for Valley Park in the present parking area between Putnam Commons and the Waves of Fun water park.

"We expect it will be used for weddings, receptions and community events where space is needed, said Andes. "It may be crowded for graduations, he said, "but schools should be able to schedule their proms and other activities there.

Three ball fields with artificial turf will be added to the park. More tennis courts will be built and a regulation-size soccer field with a pavilion will be added north of the present parking area.

Several shelters will be added, as will a "Heritage Farm with community gardens.

A storage building near the Teays Valley Road will become a multipurpose facility for hosting community events such as the "Farm to Table -catered program to introduce produce available locally.

The park projects will be funded through "tax increment financing, a plan which supports loan repayments through property value increases due to the improvements in a TIF district.

The luncheon, an annual community event hosted jointly by the Chamber of Commerce and Putnam Rotary, formerly known as "For This We Give Thanks, was catered by The Gallery at Forrest Burdette United Methodist Church.

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Copyright 2016 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

Oregon fired coach Mark Helfrich after a disappointing 4-8 season, and just two years after getting the Ducks within a victory of the program's first national championship.

Helfrich was head coach of the Ducks for four seasons, leading the team to the first College Football Playoff championship game after the 2014 season. But Oregon faltered this year with a five-game losing streak, and finished at the bottom of the Pac-12 North with just two conference wins.

Helfrich was 37-16 record after taking over from Chip Kelly in 2013. He had an $11.6 million buyout on his contract with the Ducks.

Helfrich met with athletic director Rob Mullens on Tuesday night and was told was being dismissed. Helfrich issued a statement saying he was honored to have served at Oregon.

"Plain and simple - we didn't win enough games this season," Helfrich said.

Oregon had not fired a head coach since 1976, when Don Read was let go after three seasons.

Ducks started this season ranked No. 24 in the preseason AP Top 25, but lost 35-32 at Nebraska in the third week of the season, starting the team's longest losing streak since 1996.

The Ducks had a brief revival with a 30-28 victory over then-No. 11 Utah in Salt Lake City two weeks ago, but they ended the season with a 34-24 loss to rival Oregon State in the 120th Civil War game this past Saturday. The loss snapped an eight-game Oregon winning streak in the series.

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Copyright 2016 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

It shouldn't be the second -- or even third -- thought when it comes to tragedies such as the one that befell the Brazilian soccer club Chapecoense, a team decimated by a plane crash Monday in Colombia that claimed 71 lives.

But, eventually, the games will go on, and professional sports leagues have had tragedy contingency plans in place for years.

Major League Baseball's policy mandates a mourning period. The NFL has one of the more detailed plans, broken up into "Near Disaster" and "Disaster" categories. The NBA calls for a disaster draft.

"In this era, most major sport organizations, leagues and teams have crisis management and communications plans in place for specific crises, which they must execute quickly," said Ted Kian, the Welch-Bridgewater Endowed Chair of Sports Media at Oklahoma State University. "You saw both quickly followed here when the South American football federation astutely suspended all other games and activities out of respect."

MLB's plan would be used if five or more players were killed or permanently disabled because of an "accident, epidemic or illness or other common event," according to guidelines obtained by USA TODAY Sports. The league would institute a mourning period after such an event and no games would be played.

"The Commissioner shall, after consultation with the players association, determine whether the disabled club is able to continue play until the conclusion of the championship season and postseason," the guidelines spell out. "The commissioner and the players association shall jointly resolve all scheduling issues that may arise from prolonged interruption or cancellation of the disabled club's season."

In a restocking draft, each team would be required to list five players from its active roster if the draft were held in-season. If the draft took place in the offseason, each team could make five players eligible from its reserve roster.

The MLB front office "shall exercise best efforts to maintain appropriate insurance to assist in the financial rehabilitation of a disabled club and other Major League Clubs affected by the occurrence giving rise to the disabled club."

Here's how the other leagues would handle such a disaster:

NFL: The NFL has had a disaster plan laid out for more than three decades.

"We do have a long-standing plan in the event NFL players are lost in a common accident," a league spokesman told USA TODAY Sports. "But today is not the day to discuss our plan out of respect for those who lost their lives."

According to ESPN, the league labels the loss of fewer than 15 players killed a "Near Disaster," which gives the impacted team the right to be the first to claim players off waivers for the rest of the season. That team would continue the season. If the quarterback was among those lost, it would be allowed to select a third-stringer from another team.

The commissioner would decide whether a team would continue in a "Disaster" scenario in which 15 or more players were killed. Along with the "Near Disaster" protocols if the team were able to finish the season, that team would get the first overall pick in the NFL draft and there would be a dispersal draft in which teams could protect as many as 32 players.

NBA: The NBA did not immediately comment.

The league would hold a disaster relief draft if five or more players died or were dismembered, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The other clubs would be able to protect five players if such a draft took place.

NHL: The stricken NHL team would be able to restock its roster if five players were killed or disabled, according to the NHL's Emergency Rehabilitation Plan. The team would be allowed to purchase player contracts from willing clubs. If the team were unable to reach one goalie and 14 skaters, a draft would be instituted to fill out the roster.

The impacted team would be allowed to select as many as two goalies and 18 skaters in the draft, and the team couldn't take more than one player from each of the other clubs. If a player were purchased from another team, the team that lost the player would be exempted from the draft.

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Copyright 2016 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

CINCINNATI - Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber went so far as to say Cincinnati deserves to be in MLS during a town hall meeting with FC Cincinnati fans Tuesday, but he left the audience with the overriding message there is still plenty of work to be done.

Garber spent the day checking out Cincinnati as a potential future expansion market, as FC Cincinnati made its big pitch to be included among the next wave of five spots still up for grabs.

The visit included a tour around the urban core of the city; a stop at the club's shared facility at the University of Cincinnati's Nip-pert Stadium; and meetings with various club, city and business leaders before the question-and-answer session with fans in a public event at Woodward Theater.

"This is the beginning of your chapter," Garber told the wall-to-wall audience. "I think it really started with what you've done in your first year in USL. We all have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of things we have to figure out with the league, and there is a lot that still needs to be done here to continue to build this club, to continue to build the fan base, to continue to figure out what its long-term stadium solution is, but I will say I'm very impressed with what I've seen here. Cincinnati deserves an MLS team."

MLS hopes to expand from 20 teams to 28 by the mid-to late 2020s, but the first three markets are already set, with Atlanta United FC and Minnesota United FC joining in 2017 and Los Angeles FC following in 2018. Miami hangs in the balance as the 24th team, but David Beckham's group is still working to finalize a stadium plan.

FC Cincinnati worked its way into the conversation while blowing away USL attendance records and averaging a stunning 17,296 fans in its first season.

In an interview after the meeting, Garber declined to specify a pecking order for Cincinnati and other markets in consideration for expansion; but ESPN lead MLS analyst Taylor Twellman, who served as emcee for the town hall event, said he cannot picture expansion without Cincinnati.

"I think if we're talking about a first division of 28 teams, that's a struggle for me if FC Cincinnati is not on that list because your opening season of a club, if you're averaging what they are... the fans are there," Twellman said in an interview with media Tuesday morning.

Twellman said that likely means planning for a soccer-specific stadium down the road, which Garber also addressed as something for the club to figure out. Both believe Nippert is a solid facility for now.

"I think for now it's a great solution," Garber said. "If we could wave a magic wand, we would love to have soccer stadiums downtown in every market. That's not always the situation for us. We have teams like Seattle that play in a football stadium downtown, and about 42,000 fans a game come. I think Nippert has been great, but you've got lots of time to figure out whether or not that's the long-term solution."

When asked to expand on how necessary a soccer-specific stadium plan would be for a team to be included in expansion, Garber said that "all expansion candidates must have a long-term stadium plan."

Garber said he would like to be able to say Cincinnati set itself apart from other cities he has visited, but "the reality is that there is enormous passion for professional soccer in many cities outside of Major League Soccer."

Determining which teams to include in expansion will come down to three main things, he said.

"It starts with ownership," Garber said. "You've got owners that believe, that are committed, that want to create a legacy in the community, believe in our sport and want to be one of those pioneers to help build the sport. Then, you need this. The city that supports the club, that's got great fans and passionate fans, and then you've got the right building."

FC Cincinnati owner Carl LindnerIIIsaidhewasexcited by the support displayed by fans, starting with the group of nearly 100 individuals who showed up to welcome Garber as he stepped off a plane at Lunken Airport on Tuesday morning.

The fans were a big part in showing how passionate the city is about bringing MLS to Cincinnati, and Lindner hopes the visit helps shape the next discussions at the next expansion committee meeting Dec. 15.

"I think we can learn a lot, no doubt, but I think with some of the things happening here in Cincinnati, we're surprising the whole world," Lindner said. "... I think we could be a great part of MLS if we were so blessed to get a bid."

Contact this contributing writer at laurelpfahler@gmail.com

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Copyright 2016 News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)
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News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)

 

CHAPEL HILL - Amid those cross-country trips and late-night tips, the college basketball players who have practically lived on ESPN for the last week will get up and go to class in the morning.

As North Carolina prepares for a 9:15 matchup Wednesday night at Indiana in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, the game will take place on a sixth missed day of class for players since the basketball season began Nov. 11. The Tar Heels have been to New Orleans, Hawaii and now will play in Bloomington, Ind.

The start of a college basketball season is often marked by an unforgiving travel schedule, giving teams the opportunity to perform on big stages and to gain cultural experiences they might not otherwise be afforded. The tradeoff is that players miss class and, if they've not planned and worked ahead, risk falling behind as the end of the semester and final exams in December draw closer.

Besides missing time for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, N.C. State missed four class days for the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Wake Forest missed three days to play in the Charleston Classic. Duke played in the Champions Classic in New York City before a weekend trip to the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip Off Classic in Uncasville, Conn.

"I haven't slept in a while," UNC guard Joel Berry said. "I've had to do work ahead to give to my teachers. I had papers due, and we had games and stuff.

"It's staying up late and then having to get up and be motivated to practice the next day, and then you've got to get up and do the same thing over and over. It's tough, but you've got to do it and it's something we signed up for."

In earnest, preparations begin months in advance of trips like the one the Tar Heels just completed, spending nine days in Hawaii while playing four games.

"Like (Coach Steve Robinson) always says, you've got to get your work done early and you've got to work ahead," center Kennedy Meeks said. "That's why most of us are in summer school, just to get ahead of the schedule and eliminate any (concerns) we may have."

Staying on campus during the summer has plenty of benefits for athletes, allowing them to stick with their workout routines while getting ahead academically at a time classes are often smaller and distractions fewer.

Getting ahead, rather than working from behind, is the strategy advised by Dr. Michelle Brown, director of UNC's Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes, and her staff. Brown's department, which operates under the UNC's Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, is responsible for helping keep almost 800 student-athletes on track academically.

In 2011, UNC system president President Tom Ross led a task force that directed its schools to move academic support services and tutoring under the responsibility of academics rather than athletics departments.

"They're planning beforehand and already looking down the road to what's coming," Brown said. "If there's tasks, assignments, papers or different things that are due that they can start to work on, they'll start to work on those beforehand so they can have whatever parts submitted before they depart."

Athletes are advised to meet with professors at the start of each semester to outline travel plans that will keep them out of class and work out a plan for how they'll meet requirements. It's up to each professor as to how they'll manage that.

Sometimes that means working ahead. Sometimes that means catching up on the back end. And sometimes, that means finding time in a hotel in Hawaii to knock out an online assignment. On trips such as that one, the Tar Heels travel with an academic adviser from the support program.

Besides independent time focused on academics, the adviser sets aside mandatory study hall time for players.

Even with those requirements, there is still time spent away from class at what can be a crucial time of year, especially for freshmen who will soon experience college final exams for the first time. For players such as freshman Tony Bradley, a number of tutors and advisers can help them maintain a schedule.

"That's different for me, especially freshman year, but I've just got to adjust, just got to push through it," Bradley said. "We've got a person that keeps track of that and makes sure our work is turned in, but that's another adjustment, especially on the academic side."

That's where the academic support team and athletics hope to strike a balance, between what the athletes are missing academically and what they're experiencing away from campus.

The Hawaii trip is recognized as something beyond a usual road trip, with bigger implications for both individuals and the team.

For one, it's bonding time for a team that lost a few key seniors last season.

But Brown said that it's as close as basketball players can get to some of the opportunities other college students experience, like studying abroad. The Tar Heels visited Pearl Harbor, where the 75th anniversary will be commemorated on Dec. 7, and met with members of the military stationed there.

"They're meeting new people, learning different areas," Brown said. "The coaches, depending on different trips, will be able to give them some tours of the places they're traveling to, so they're being exposed to it.

"All of those things, we believe, help them develop into young adults and help contribute to their education and widen the world for them."

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Copyright 2016 Star Tribune
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

The Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx named five new "founding partners" on Monday who will help pay for the $130 million renovation of Target Center now underway.

Along with the "naming rights partners," Target and Mayo Clinic, the new "founding partners" have made "long-term commitments and significant investments," the professional basketball teams' officials said Monday.

The new partners are U.S. Bank; Federated Insurance; Jack Link's; Treasure Island Resort & Casino; and TCL, the massive, China-based TV manufacturer that has its North American headquarters in Irvine, Calif.

"We are excited to announce our partnerships with these five outstanding companies," said Timberwolves and Lynx CEO Ethan Casson. "These founding partners embody the same values and like-mindedness. And they are seeking to use their association with us to drive awareness and engagement. We are thrilled to welcome them to our founding partner family."

In exchange for its sponsorship, each founding partner will receive a customized package with the two teams. Each package will offer a yet-to-be disclosed "physical presence" inside the arena, plus outdoor and indoor digital signage and category exclusivity.

Team officials declined to say how much each partner's financial commitment is worth. However, they will disclose more details about how each partner's presence will be displayed inside the arena, once renovations are closer to being finished, Casson said.

The idea behind the new partnerships is similar to the "founding sponsors" strategy adopted by the Minnesota Vikings football team. While the main sponsor of the $1.1 billion football stadium project remains U.S. Bank, other founding partners such as Polaris, Ecolab and Pentair, MillerCoors, Hy-Vee Inc., Land O'Lakes Inc. and CenturyLink won naming rights to specific gates and tunnels throughout the building.

The first phase of the Target Center renovation is complete. The final phase will be finished by the start of the Timberwolves' 2017-18 season.

Several sponsors named Monday have partnered with the Timberwolves or Lynx before, but Jack Link's and TCL are partnering with the teams for the first time.

Under the agreement announced Monday, Jack Link's, the maker of beef and pork jerky, will become the teams' "Official Jerky."

Based in Wisconsin the company had its products featured in a Timberwolves marketing video. Going forward, Jack Link's will continue to be involved in those types of creative venues, officials said.

The company also this year moved its downtown Minneapolis offices from the Warehouse District to expanded space in Mayo Clinic Square, where the Timberwolves and Lynx have practice facilities.

"On behalf of the entire Jack Link's family, we are honored to partner with both teams," said T.D. Dixon, Jack Link's chief marketing officer. "The partnership unifies two powerhouse organizations with a shared mission for ongoing success here in Minneapolis and growth around the globe."

The teams said they reached out to TCL after seeing that it had sponsored the men's national basketball team in China. The new relationship between the teams and TCL also celebrates the fact that Chinese citizen Lizhang Jiang is the Timberwolves' newest limited partner. The teams' majority owner is Glen Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune.

Newcomers Jack Link's and TCL contrast greatly with U.S. Bank, which has supported both Minneapolis basketball teams since their founding - 1989 for the Timberwolves and 1998 for the Lynx.

"That is a great source of pride," said U.S. Bank CEO Richard Davis. By enhancing the partnership level, "we look forward to supporting the teams as they teach generations about competing hard and competing well, and leaving a legacy of success."

Federated Insurance has been a longtime partner with the teams, and both organizations said they share a commitment to helping youths.

"Beyond the exceptional employee and client entertainment this high integrity NBA and WNBA franchise provides, we believe it is important to align our company with this professional organization so committed to giving back to the greater Minnesota community," said Jeff Fetters, chairman and CEO of Federated Insurance.

Treasure Island Resort & Casino has partnered with the Timberwolves and Lynx teams for 17 years. Its newest sponsorship agreement will give it a more prominent presence inside the Target Center.

"As a founding partner, we will have more branding presence and the ability to create exciting promotions for the visitors to Target Center," said Shelley Buck, the Prairie Island Indian Community Tribal Council's president.

Dee DePass · 612-673-7725

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Copyright 2016 Charleston Newspapers

Charleston Gazette-Mail

 

Jim Grobe came out of semiretirement to help Baylor get through a tumultuous season. After that is done, he has no plans to coach again.

Grobe, a Huntington native, said Monday that he told new Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades early in the season that he didn't want to be a candidate to be the full-time coach. That conversation came a month into the season when the Bears were still undefeated, and before their current five-game losing streak.

"Honestly, football needs a fresh start, Grobe said the start of his weekly news conference on the Waco campus. "I'm very, very proud of our players who have remained loyal to Baylor. They've given me 100-plus reasons for hope in these difficult times.

The 64-year-old Grobe had been out of coaching for two seasons when last May he accepted the role as Baylor's acting head coach. He said he committed then through January, which would include being part of the Bears' bowl game, and now expects to be retired and playing golf after that.

Despite some rocky times, Grobe says he has no regrets about taking over when Baylor suddenly dismissed two-time Big 12 champion coach Art Briles after a report alleging that the university mishandled complaints of sexual assault.

"I've not ever had the mindset that I was doing more than helping out, Grobe said earlier on the Big 12 coaches teleconference. "It's been a little more challenging than I expected.... The thing that I have found that I expected to find is a lot of really good kids. That's what we've got to stay focused on. Those are the guys that have probably been hurt the most.

Baylor's search for a new coach likely will intensify this week since many schools have already completed their regular seasons.

The Bears (6-5, 3-5 Big 12) play their regular-season finale Saturday at 14th-ranked West Virginia (9-2, 6-2), which is Grobe's home state.

Even though Baylor has lost five in a row since starting 6-0 to get bowl eligible, any suggestions of the school turning down a bowl berth seem moot. The Big 12 has seven bowl slots to fill and will have only six bowl-eligible teams, including the Bears.

Baylor's skid started with a 35-34 loss at Texas, which came after a group of Baylor regents first provided some details about some of the allegations against Briles in a Wall Street Journal article.

A week later, the Bears suffered their worst home loss since 2005. They lost 62-22 to TCU a day after assistant coaches and several staff members issued a statement on Twitter expressing their support for Briles and disputing claims by regents that the former coach knew of an alleged gang rape.

All the assistants were retained from Briles' staff. They included the former coach's son, offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, and his son-in-law, running backs coach Jeff Lebby.

"We got through the first six games pretty well, and for a couple of weeks lost some focus, some things in the press and our coaches were upset, that in turn upsets the players, Grobe said. "We've really played hard the last few weeks. We just haven't played well enough to win.

This is Grobe's 20th season as a head coach at the FBS level, having previous led Wake Forest (2001-13) and Ohio (1995-2000).

When he initially got to Baylor , he said he had missed coaching and didn't discount the idea of being there longer. But even as the Bears got off to a good start in September, he quickly informed Rhoades who started at the school in mid-August that he had no intention of staying past this season.

"I wanted him to know early on that no matter how the season turned out it has nothing to do with anything that's happened over the past five games that I was not a candidate, Grobe said. "That I was here to help for a season and that Id' be out of here and he needed to start his search and be focused on finding the next best guy for Baylor.

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The Bismarck Tribune

 

NEW YORK - Negotiators for baseball players and owners are meeting this week in Irving, Texas, in an attempt to reach agreement on a collective bargaining agreement to replace the five-year contract that expires Thursday. After eight work stoppages from 1972-95, baseball has had 21 years of labor peace.

Some of the issues in negotiations:

Free Agency Compensation

Compensation for the loss of free agents has been an issue since the free-agent era began in 1976. The statistical ranking system established in the 1981 strike settlement was scrapped in the current agreement that began with the 2012-13 offseason and replaced by qualifying offers: A team would be entitled to draft-pick compensation if a player left as a free agent after failing to accept a one-year contract for the average salary among the 125 highest-paid players ($17.2 million this year) and the signing club would lose a top pick. Five of 64 free agents who received qualifying offers accepted during the current agreement, and some less-than-premier free agents who received offers said their market was limited by teams not wanting to give up draft selections.

International Amateur Draft

Commissioner Rob Manfred has said restraints on contracts for international amateur players have not been as effective as management had hoped, and he is a proponent of an international draft that would cover residents outside the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The union has been resistant.

Current Amateur Draft

Teams spent $234 million in the 2011 draft on amateurs residing in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The total dropped to $209 million in the first year of restraints, went up to $220 million the following year, then rose to $224 million in 2014, $249 million in 2015 and $268 million this year. The sides are negotiating the slot figures used to determine signing bonus pools and the penalties for exceeding pools. Some have expressed concern that the slot values early in the first round encourage a team not headed to the postseason to tank in the final weeks to get higher draft picks and a larger signing bonus pool.

Luxury Tax

One of the last items in the negotiations will be the luxury tax. The threshold for the tax has been $189 million for the past three years, and for the past four years, the rate has been 17.5 percent for the first time over the threshold, increasing to 30 percent for the second time in a row, 40 percent for the third and 50 percent for the fourth or subsequent. An increase to $200 million or more is likely, which should lead to greater spending by high-revenue teams currently at or above the threshold. The union and some teams would like the rate to reset for all teams in 2017.

Roster Size

The sides have discussed an increase from 25 active to 26 from opening day through Aug. 31. In an effort to keep late-season rules closer to the ones used for most of the season, the active limit would decrease from 40 to 28 or 29 from Sept. 1 through the end of regular season.

Drug Agreement and Domestic Violence

Management proposed changes that would make rules stricter in both the joint drug agreement of 2014 and the domestic violence agreement of 2015.

Schedule Rules

Concerned about players getting run down, the sides discussed a possible extension of the season from 183 days to 187 days. That appears unlikely, but there probably will be more restrictions on the scheduling of night games on getaway days.

Pace of Play

Management would like to have pitch clocks, which have been used at Triple-A and Double-A for the past two seasons, and restrictions on trips to the mound. Players generally have resisted any changes to the natural flow of the game.

Minimum Salary

Expect a rise in the minimum salary, which was $507,500 in the major leagues last season and $82,700 for a minor league player on a 40-man big league roster for at least a second season and $41,400 for a first.

Revenue Sharing

The sides have discussed changes to the revenue-sharing rules, which included a market disqualification test that prevented both teams from New York, Los Angeles and Chicago from receiving any revenue-sharing money in 2016, along with Atlanta, Boston, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Texas, Toronto and Washington.

Salary Arbitration

Under the current agreement, the top 22 percent of players by service time of those with two or more years of major league service and less than three are eligible for arbitration, along with players with at least three years but less than six. Change in eligibility has not gotten much attention.

Smokeless Tobacco

Management has discussed a ban on the use of smokeless tobacco during games. The union has resisted, maintaining that using smokeless tobacco is legal and a matter of individual choice, but in the 2012-16 agreement the union did agree that players may not carry tobacco packages and tins in their back pockets when fans are permitted in the ballpark, and players may not use tobacco during pregame or postgame interviews, and at team functions.

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Copyright 2016 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

 

ESPAÑOLA - Former Española Valley High School boys basketball coach Richard Martinez's name didn't come up during a special meeting on Monday when the schoolboard discussed whether to send a letter of "rebuttal" to the state Public Education Department. But school board president Pablo Luján made it clear after the board voted 3-2 to send the letter that PED's recent decision to take control of the school district's finances was really about the coach.

"It's because of Richard Martinez," Luján said afterward when asked to clarify remarks he made during the meeting about PED "bullying" the school district. "It's because of the Richard Martinez decision that hasn't been made that is continuing to hurt the district."

Martinez, who led the Sun-devils to a state basketball title last season, was fired in April by former Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez, who then resigned under pressure from the school board. But, despite a PED investigation that supported allegations that the coach verbally, mentally, and physically abused students and basketball team members, he was rehired to an administrative position a few months later by the district's new superintendent, Eric V. Martinez, who is no relation to the coach. The former coach now has no direct contact with students.

An appeals hearing challenging the coach's dismissal is scheduled for district court in February.

Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera sent a letter to the Española school board Nov. 17 notifying it she was taking over control of the district's finances. She cited problems such as general ledger information differing from what was reported, improper recordings of expenditures, and incomplete or tardy budget submittals. Some of the problems seem to have occurred over a period of years, but she said in the first sentence of the letter that serious concerns regarding fiscal management and accountability have occurred "over the last six months."

Luján said the public had heard PED's side of the story and the "letter of rebuttal"was one way the school district could tell its side.

"This is one way we can defend some of the accusations," he said.

Myrna Garcia, the district's director of business services, told the board that she and her staff were working on straightening out the district's financial matters when PED stepped in. She said PED was aware that the reason the district was late in submitting its budget for the current year was because during the budget building process the district was without a business manager and superintendent after Gutierrez resigned.

Board member Yolanda Salazar, who along with Ruben Archuleta voted against sending the letter, wanted to make sure her name wasn't signed to it. "I'm 100 percent behind PED. I'm not going to be part of it," she said.

PED sent a separate letter to Superintendent Martinez citing numerous complaints about his actions since he took over in July, saying he had helped foster "a culture of intimidation that has ripple effects through the school population, if not throughout the entire district." That letter refers to incidents involving coach Martinez, as well as procurement and student safety issues.

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Anderson Independent-Mail (South Carolina)

 

for the most part, schools happily accept their labels and even perpetuate them.

It has become common in the college sports vernacular, to refer to certain universities as "basketball schools" or "football schools", depending on which sport the school excels in the most.

Even the casual sports fan knows that the likes of Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina and Kansas are considered basketball schools while institutions such as Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia and Clemson are football schools.

For the most part, these schools happily accept their labels and even perpetuate them by prioritizing one sport over the other. And trust me, these schools have their reasons.

For example, the Kentucky men's basketball program boasts a winning tradition that dates back to the 1940s, having won eight national titles, the second most in college basketball.

Why would Kentucky take a risk and invest considerable money, resources and time into its football program when there is no guaranteed return on the investment? For the Wildcats, basketball is the safe and smart investment. Football is a gamble. Conversely, for schools like Alabama or LSU, the opposite is true. Football is their sure bet.

With this system in place, there are very few Power 5 schools that have achieved national success in both football and men's basketball. In the history of the NCAA, only 10 schools have won a national title in both sports.

At press time, there are five universities that can currently claim both an AP Top 25 team on the gridiron and hardwood: Michigan, Wisconsin, Louisville, Florida State and West Virginia.

These polls are just a snapshot of the moment, but they display how difficult it is to cultivate both an elite football and men's basketball program at the same academic institution. Last week, I discussed how competition and proximity can help breed excellence. However, sometimes, one campus is just not big enough to house two elite teams.

If you are a top five recruit nationally for basketball, wouldn't you want to go play at Kansas where you are guaranteed to be the "big man of campus," as opposed to Alabama where you will have to compete with not only your teammates for stardom, but also the over 100 guys who play football?

However, it seems as of late, we have seen more and more so called "football schools" invest in basketball and vice versa. Here in the Upstate, Clemson, a traditional football school, just invested $63.5 million to renovate Littlejohn Coliseum for its men's and women's basketball programs.

Five-star basketball recruit John Petty just committed to Alabama over Kentucky. Oklahoma, a traditional football power, made the Final Four in both football and men's basketball last season while North Carolina played for an ACC Championship in both sports, winning the title in basketball.

At Louisville, a school known for its basketball prowess, sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson is the clear favorite to win the Heisman trophy.

With all this being said, there are some schools that just won't and probably should not try to shed their labels. Let's just say I don't foresee an elite football program springing up in Lawrence, Kansas, anytime soon or a basketball powerhouse forming in Athens, Georgia. But hey, crazier things have a happened.

for the most part, schools happily accept their labels and even perpetuate them.



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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was reprimanded by the Big Ten for violating the league's sportsmanship policy in his postgame news conference following Saturday's loss to Ohio State and the school was fined $10,000, the Big Ten announced.

Harbaugh said several times in his postgame press conference that he was "bitterly disappointed in the officiating." He also called the officiating "outrageous."

Most of his criticism was a fourth-and-1 play in the second overtime when Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was stopped near the first-down mark. The Buckeyes were awarded a first down and it led to the game-winning touchdown.

"My view on the first down was it was that short," he said, holding his hands apart a few inches. "That spot. The graphic displays on the interference penalties, the one not called on us on (Michigan receiver) Grant Perry clearly was being hooked before the ball got there. And the previous penalty they called on (Michigan safety) Delano Hill, the ball's uncatchable and by the receiver. I'm bitterly disappointed in the officiating. Can't make that any more clear."

Oregon, Helfrich to meet

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich will meet with the athletic director this week about his future amid reports the Ducks already are making preparations for a coaching search.

Helfrich is on shaky ground following the 34-24 loss to rival Oregon State on Saturday in Oregon's season finale, dropping the Ducks to 4-8 overall and 2-7 in the Pac-12.

Helfrich told reporters Sunday that he spoke with athletic director Rob Mullens on the phone and the two planned to meet "midweek."

According to USA Today, Oregon made preparations for a coaching search that will follow the eventual firing of Helfrich, but the school has not officially made the decision on the move as of Sunday afternoon.

Helfrich said Saturday evening that in his previous three seasons as head coach he never had a season-ending meeting or review with Mullens. He would be owed an $11.6 million buyout by Oregon if he is fired.

Helfrich is 37-16 overall as a head coach after he succeeded Chip Kelly in 2013, but there has been a significant drop-off since the Ducks' 2014 national championship game loss to Ohio State.

Clemson refutes slur

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney refuted an allegation that one of his players used a racial slur Saturday night in a game against bitter in-state rival South Carolina.

Swinney labeled the accusation by South Carolina linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams as "absolutely false."

Allen-Williams told The State newspaper that an offensive lineman for the Tigers used "the n-word," setting off a pregame skirmish. The linebacker was unclear which player allegedly uttered the slur.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

In the three years since it was rocked by racially charged text messages between the then-superintendent and athletic director, the Coatesville Area School District has strived to move past the scandal and the bitterness it spawned.

Recently, that effort has not gone so well.

At a school board meeting last Tuesday, a board member stirred new rancor by using the n-word in reference to a request that a student in his fifth year of high school be allowed to play basketball.

In arguing that academics take precedence over sports, Deborah Thompson, who is African American, quoted a white Coatesville board member from 1982 who said, "There's always a n- in the woodpile."

She went on to say that the expression meant "there's always a piece of wood that you can put on the woodpile, on the fire, and let it burn, and it turns to ashes."

Thompson's comment came minutes after Superintendent Cathy Taschner announced that the district had filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice, the NAACP, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, and the Center for Safe Schools about an incident at a Nov. 18 football game in which Coatesville students were taunted with racial slurs by rivals from North Penn High School in Lansdale.

Most North Penn students are white; about half in the Coatesville district are white, 31 percent are African American, and 17 percent are Hispanic. Almost a third of students in both districts are poor.

Thompson did not return a reporter's calls and messages. But after her comment stirred up a storm on Facebook, she posted an apology Sunday "to those who either misunderstood me or take offense that I said the word opposed to saying 'N.' "

She also tried to explain why she used the phrase.

"I was speaking about a lingering [mindset] then till now regarding minority athletes and [especially] black athletes related to their need to be successful in academics and appropriate conduct," wrote Thompson, elected to the board three years ago.

According to an encyclopedia entry, the rarely used expression means that something of importance has not been disclosed. It may once have referred to fugitive slaves who hid under piles of firewood.

After Thompson spoke, some in the audience said they were shocked.

"It's a disgrace," said Amber Perez, there with her 12-year-old daughter. "I surely hope something's done about it. I surely don't want her representing me anymore."

Perez noted that the superintendent had just praised Coatesville students for not responding in kind when harassed at the game. With Thompson's remarks, "that was all thrown out the window," she said.

Taschner called Thompson a "champion for children" and said she did not think the director was making a racial slur.

"Certainly I think our words matter. I think Ms. Thompson went on . . . Facebook and indicated her intention was not to offend anyone and if she did, she was sorry," Taschner said.

"Is that a word I use? No," she said, adding that she was unsure if the use of offensive words violated the district code of conduct, but that racial slurs are "not appropriate."

At the board meeting, Taschner told of several incidents at the District 1 playoff game in Lansdale. Several Coatesville cheerleaders and band members said that when they used the bathrooms on the North Penn side of the stadium, they were called "n-," "dirty b-," and "slaves." They were told to stay on their side of the stadium, which had only portable toilets.

According to the Coatesville students, adults heard the taunts but did nothing. A North Penn coach allegedly directed an obscenity at a Coatesville player.

"I find it horrifying," Taschner said.

The Coatesville district has worked with several civil justice groups to prevent discrimination since the two former administrators were charged with felony theft and state ethics law violations for texting racist and sexist messages in 2013.

On Monday, North Penn's superintendent, Curtis R. Dietrich, released a statement that the district was investigating the complaints and that unsportsmanlike conduct would not be tolerated.

Asked if she knew what had happened at the game, North Penn spokesperson Christine Liberaski said, "We won."

kboccella@phillynews.com

610-313-8232

@Kathy_Boccella

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The Philadelphia Daily News

 

Alleged locker room body-shamer Dani Mathers, whose own body made her the 2015 Playboy Playmate of the Year, pleaded not guilty to invasion-of-privacy charges on Monday, according to Us magazine and her attorney Thomas Mesereau.

The Los Angeles Times says Mathers, 29, faces a misdemeanor count of invasion of privacy for secretly snapping and Snapchatting a photo of a woman changing at an LA Fitness club in July.

Her snarky comment: "If I can't unsee this then you can't either."

The woman pictured was 70 years old.

Instead of shaming her, people should have lauded her for dragging her 70-year-old behind to the gym.

Mathers later issued an apology, insisting that she only meant to send the photo to a friend-which makes her less of a public jerk and more of a private one.

"I know that body-shaming is wrong," her statement read. "That is not the type of person I am."

Mesereau said outside court that although Mathers regrets her actions, she didn't do anything illegal.

"She never tried to invade anyone's privacy and never tried to violate any laws," Mesereau said, per the Los Angeles Times.

Tattle, who is not a lawyer, believes that in a woman's locker room, a naked woman might have some expectation of privacy, perhaps not from other naked women in the same room, but of other, non-naked people elsewhere.

If the dorky guy who works the gym's towel counter had taken the photo with a hidden camera and Snapchatted it, he'd be going to jail.

The Los Angeles City Attorney's office thought Mathers committed a crime and charged her with a misdemeanor on Nov. 4. It's an unusual charge, as neither Mathers nor her camera were hiding, and the photo and accompanying commentary were more for the purpose of ridicule than sexual gratification.

Should that matter? The woman in question didn't agree to have her picture taken and didn't know her picture had been taken. Had she known, we think it's safe to say she probably wouldn't have wanted the photo to end up on the Internet.

Now, if Mathers' caption for it had read, "Look at this 70-year-old badass kicking my butt at the gym," this story would not be leading the column, nor would Mathers have ended up in court. But secretly snapping a nudie, sending it out and then mocking it is a problem. Maybe it shouldn't land you in jail, but it should land you somewhere others can revel in your public humiliation.

- Daily News wire services

contributed to this report.

gensleh@phillynews.com

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USA TODAY

 

It's the rare college sports fan who prefers to watch a game on television without a so-called second screen in hand -- a smartphone or tablet, anything that helps keep tabs on other people's reactions to the game on social media.

Recently, schools and conferences have begun experimenting with what Mercer associate athletics director for external relations Daniel Tate calls an "all-in-one engagement platform." That platform's name? Facebook.

The Mercer men's basketball team -- Duke fans surely remember the name -- will play Davidson on Tuesday at 7p.m. ET, and the game will be one of the first Division I college basketball games broadcast exclusively live on Facebook.

The game will be streamed on the Mercer athletics page and shared by the Southern Conference, Atlantic 10 and Sports on Facebook, pages that altogether have more than 4million likes and give the game potentially a worldwide audience. Like any Facebook Live broadcast, viewers' comments will stream alongside the action; Mercer said it would have communications staffers monitoring comments and responding to fans during the game. There will also be promotions to encourage fans to post photos of themselves in Mercer gear or pictures of their home setups as they watch the game. Some fans will have opportunities to win free Bears gear.

Other engagement ideas include soliciting questions to ask Mercer coach Bob Hoffman at halftime and efforts to provide exclusive behind-the-scenes photos and interviews on Mercer athletics' Instagram story. (Facebook owns Instagram.)

"We're not going to halfway do it," Tate told USA TODAY Sports. "We're going to fully utilize Facebook and the engagement piece."

In short, Tate hopes fans will watch and engage socially with the broadcast not on two different screens but the same one.

Mercer (4-2) chose its most high-profile home game for its first foray into Facebook Live. The Bears are facing Davidson (4-1), a perennially strong midmajor team led by longtime coach Bob McKillop.

Mercer hopes some combination of the matchup, unique user engagement and the platform itself will allow Tuesday's game to reverberate beyond the final buzzer.

"We know this is the future," Tate said. "It's a way for us to get our name out there while trying to be creative and think outside the box.... This is where the future of sports is going.

"Our goal is to be one of the trendsetters."

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USA TODAY

 

In Frazeysburg, Ohio, a village of 1,316 people one hour east of Columbus, there is 560,000 square feet of floor space piled three stories high with virtually every piece of sports memorabilia and team-branded products a fan could want.

Frazeysburg houses one of seven factory and distribution centers worldwide for Fanatics, the largest retailer of officially licensed sports merchandise in the world. (An eighth is set to open in North Las Vegas in 2017.)

But one aspect of the Frazeysburg facility is unique: Inside is a 75,000-square-foot room containing pallet after pallet of products commemorating the Chicago Cubs' World Series title.

There are Cubs World Series champion can coolers and coffee warmers. Watch bands and dog collars. Christmas stockings and golf divot tool packs. Board shorts and bottle openers. Not to mention items signed by anywhere from one to 20 players from the Cubs' first World Series champion team in 108 years.

And there are jerseys. So many jerseys. Wander the corridors away from the Cubs holding area, and you'll find the rest of Major League Baseball. The NFL, NBA, NHL and NASCAR. Any college team. Even a growing number of English Premier League soccer teams. All in officially licensed colors, fonts and fabrics.

"We are an absolute headquarters for the jersey business for each of the leagues," said Jack Boyle, Fanatics' president of merchandising.

"The jersey is one of the top holiday gifts every year, by far," added Meier Raivich, Fanatics' vice president for communications and corporate branding.

Yet in the face of this massive supply and demand, Fanatics also has found a way to go small, by looking for what they call micro-moments, a singular action or result in a sporting event that is likely to go viral. They'll do a 14 seed beating a 3seed in the NCAA basketball tournament. The eight laterals Miami (Fla.) used to beat Duke in college football. The Golden State Warriors' record-breaking 73rd win.

Fanatics watches for these occurrences and commemorates them on T-shirts and other apparel for nearly instantaneous distribution. And it makes them to order: The company only prints what is bought, one customer's click to submit at a time.

"There's a lot of unplanned events at any given time, whether it be a season-long trend like the (Dallas) Cowboys winning nine in a row or like a seventh-game World Series win out of the Cubs," Boyle said.

"The one that brought a lot of scale to the business was when Odell Beckham Jr. introduced himself with his one-handed catch. We captured that moment, we captured it on product, we captured it in graphics, and we were able to put that product up right away."

Fanatics expects to process more than 10 million orders between Black Friday and Christmas, with nearly half the orders coming via mobile devices. It expects more than 70 million unique visitors to Fanatics.com and the rest of its platform of websites.

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USA TODAY

 

Minnesota's announcement Monday that Tracy Claeys would be back in 2017 was further confirmation that the college football coaching carousel will be relatively calm this year barring a late surprise, particularly at the top level.

Only four schools in the Power Five conferences have fired their coaches (including Baylor strictly for off-the-field reasons), with Oregon's decision on Mark Helfrich pending.

Though that's not necessarily a major departure from the norm -- three Power Five schools fired their coaches in 2013 and four in 2014 -- it is a decrease from the seven who were let go last season. And it challenges the conventional wisdom that schools are so flush with cash and unreasonable expectations these days that coaches' jobs are in jeopardy from the minute they arrive on campus.

In part because of massive guaranteed money owed to coaches and a lack of home run candidates, a long list of schools that could have made changes decided instead to stand pat, including Texas A&M, UCLA, Arizona State, Texas Tech and Connecticut.

Moreover, Texas pulling Tom Herman from Houston and LSU staying in-house with Ed Orgeron severely limits the number of dominoes that could have caused an industrywide shake-up. A potential Oregon coaching hire could produce fallout, but it appears there will be precious few opportunities for promising coaches such as Western Kentucky's Jeff Brohm, South Florida's Willie Taggart, Temple's Matt Rhule, Tulsa's Philip Montgomery, Troy's Neal Brown and Appalachian State's Scott Satterfield to move into Power Five jobs.

Where things stand, with insight from various industry insiders who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.

OREGON

As USA TODAY Sports reported late Saturday night, Oregon officials were hoping not to have to fire Helfrich but had moved in that direction after a loss to Oregon State and laid the groundwork for a coaching search that would follow. Oregon's silence Sunday complicated the timing and did not reflect well on athletics director Rob Mullens, who showed a stunning lack of leadership by failing to inform Helfrich of his fate Sunday before his staff went on the road recruiting.

If Oregon was intent on keeping Helfrich, there is no reason it couldn't have informed him Sunday rather than wait for Mullens to return from Dallas, where he has duties with the College Football Playoff selection committee.

When/if Oregon begins a search, the expectation is that Western Michigan's P.J. Fleck and Boise State's Bryan Harsin would be prime candidates. But don't be surprised if Oregon pursues splashier names such as Penn State's James Franklin and North Carolina's Larry Fedora, who are at Nike-affiliated schools. There also are whispers that Florida's Jim McElwain could be intrigued by the chance to return to the Pacific Northwest, close to where he went to college and started his coaching career at Eastern Washington. Despite winning Southeastern Conference East titles in his first two years, McElwain has been a bit underappreciated by the Florida fan base and just got a new athletics director.

NOTRE DAME

Though Brian Kelly said unequivocally that he would be back in South Bend and has publicly had the support of athletics director Jack Swarbrick, school officials were furious about reports last weekend that his representatives were exploring coaching options for Kelly outside of Notre Dame. Angry enough to just go ahead and fire Kelly? Almost certainly not, but Notre Dame staff members have privately expressed concern about the situation.

The tension between Notre Dame, Kelly and his agent, Trace Armstrong, dates to last season when, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, there was at least a conversation on behalf of Kelly with Southern California, who ultimately gave the job to Clay Helton. After that, Notre Dame awarded Kelly a six-year extension, and you can't blame the school for being upset that its loyalty is being repaid less than a year later by rumors that he's looking to leave.

HOUSTON

Herman's departure opens up one of the most attractive jobs outside the Power Five, where three of the last four coaches (Art Briles, Kevin Sumlin and Herman) all won big and moved on. Houston mega-booster Tilman Fertitta, who made his fortune in the chain restaurant business and also owns the Golden Nugget hotel and casino in Las Vegas, is going to be a major factor in the search and has the resources to at least get the attention of some big names.

If any current Power Five coach is likely to take the Houston job, it's West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen, who has personal ties to the city, worked at the school in 2008-09 and didn't get a contract extension from new athletics director Shane Lyons after last season. With Holgorsen going 9-2 this year, he has major leverage, and it will be interesting to see how much West Virginia is willing to spend on a coach who was on the hot seat to start the season.

Another name floating around is Washington State's Mike Leach, though that seems a bit more far-fetched. Continuity could also be a factor, as defensive coordinator Todd Orlando and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite would like to be considered for the job.

PURDUE

Things appear to be on hold, at least until the weekend. Fleck and his representatives have made it clear he won't entertain conversations about other jobs until after Friday's Mid-American Conference championship game, so it makes sense for Purdue to wait. With the job market not nearly as robust as in previous years, Purdue could end up being Fleck's best Power Five option -- and it's not completely clear he would even take it, as he could return to Western Michigan for one more year and see what the landscape looks like next December.

If Purdue and Fleck aren't a match, the school has interviewed several others. Among the more prominent names in the mix are former LSU coach Les Miles, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun and Illinois State coach Brock Spack, a Purdue alum.

BAYLOR

It's possible nothing gets finalized at Baylor until early next week after the team finishes its season, but SMU's Chad Morris remains solidly atop a group of the usual suspects who have ties to the state of Texas such as Fedora and California's Sonny Dykes. Someone such as Rhule could be intriguing to Baylor athletics director Mack Rhoades, but concerns about the cultural fit of a Northeasterner who doesn't have experience recruiting the state of Texas are part of the calculus.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

They want classes later in the day, they want low-impact exercises -- and they certainly want the senior-citizen discount.

Baby boomers and other older adults who want to stay fit are increasingly asking for more of their local exercise outlets, instructors and class leaders.

Just ask Trish Feinthel, chief operating officer for the Doylestown YMCA and managing COO for the Lower Bucks Family Y, which operate under the Central Bucks Family YMCA umbrella.

Since she took the job in 2011, Feinthel said, the number of older adults coming in has grown year over year, so much so that the YMCA in Doylestown created a committee called Senior Voices.

"Seniors are the leading growth demographic in Central Bucks. Since establishing that committee, membership retention increased, and it's partly because we listen now more than ever," she said.

Older adults don't want yoga classes at 6:30 a.m., Feinthel said. "We're also getting high requests for gentle yoga and -- believe it not -- no classes early in the morning. They deserve the right to sleep in, so we now offer gentle yoga in the late morning. They don't want to rush anymore, and they want more connections."

In January, Central Bucks Family YMCA will launch something called the "Matinee Membership," which will allow older adults to come in and use the facilities between 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Though an individual older-adult membership costs $53 a month, $88 for an older-adult couple, a "Silver Matinee" membership will cost $30 a month. The nonprofit facility also offers financial assistance, and many seniors have gym memberships like Silver Sneakers covered through their insurance.

Feinthel noted that the Number One trend among seniors who stay fit is their love for "anything in the water."

"Those classes are growing very quickly," she said. "What's difficult with pools is that you only have so much space. But seniors like the cameraderie and the buoyancy, and they just want more and more of it."

The merged Central Bucks Family YMCA has 3,698 active older-adult members (over age 65) among its 20,649 members. That includes the Doylestown and Warminster Y branches, as well as the Lower Bucks branches in Fairless Hills and Newtown.

Growth trend. Providing exercise classes and other health and fitness services to older Americans is a fast-growing business, as brands and franchise owners seek to capitalize on an aging U.S. population and low costs of entry.

This year, Kaya Aerial Yoga, at 225 Quarry St. in Center City, added "Young at Heart: Anti-Aging Aerial Yoga for Older Adults," an afternoon class geared toward women 50-and-up that takes into account the changing fitness of mature females. (Fee and other information: kayaaerialyoga.com).

"Older clients with arthritis like the aerial yoga. It's great for pain relief, relieves inflammation and swelling, takes away weight and gravity on the knees and ankles," said Carrie Ann Felinczak, co-owner and instructor at Kaya Aerial.

"After taking a few classes, the seniors come in with more confidence and better posture," Felinczak added. "We have a woman in her seventies who's become so strong in our classes. We have a lot of older clients coming in now."

And the need is only expanding: People age 55 and older notice a difference in balance as they lose strength in their legs, and exercise helps those who have problems with arthritis and prevents them from falling, say trainers such as Devin Wirt, president of Transformation Fitness, a company that serves residential facilities and senior centers in Philadelphia and throughout the East Coast.

The majority of senior facilities Wirt's company serves in Philadelphia operate under the SELF brand. SELF stands for Seniors Empowered for Lifelong Fitness, and is a program ran by the New Courtland network. Transformation Fitness provides and manages the fitness professionals for the program.

"We've found that what keeps seniors engaged in fitness is anything to do with music," Wirt said. "And it's all kinds: gospel, Motown, Michael Buble, even Run-D.M.C."

At locations such as NewCourtland Senior Center at 509 S. Broad St. and the Philadelphia Senior Center at 19th Street and Allegheny Avenue, Wirt's instructors say, the trends among exercise lovers include tai chi, walking groups, Zumba, seated strength training, and dance classes such as tap and ballroom.

There are some nominal fees for the classes, but "mostly they are funded through the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging and some donors such as United Way," said Michael Hagarty, director of communications for NewCourtland Senior Services.

For more information on senior fitness classes, visit PCA's website (pcacares.org). At "Events," check the "Exercise" schedule under "Health & Fitness."

Fund-raising benefits. For Bob Williams, surviving prostate cancer was just the beginning of a slog back to health. Then he signed up for THRIVE Cancer Wellness at the Central Bucks Family YMCA, a program for cancer survivors.

"It teaches you how to get your health back to where it was before cancer," he said.

THRIVE is a 12-week group personal-training program designed for people who have become de-conditioned or chronically fatigued from battling cancer.

With the guidance of personal trainers, participants build back muscle mass and muscular strength, increase flexibility and cardiovascular endurance, and improve functional ability. The goal is to help cancer survivors develop their own physical-fitness regimens so that they can continue their exercise activities after completing the program.

For the Central Bucks Y, the class has, in turn, generated sizable donations: About 150 THRIVE alums who survived cancer or are in remission just donated $12,000 from a fund raiser they threw to give back to the YMCA.

Williams, 60, said he took the class in the last quarter of 2014, and "improved my health and my diet. It gave me my life back and gave me hope."

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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

 

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

Matthew 7:7

 

Almost 2000 years after those words were written, the Gospel became law in 1990 upon the Americans with Disabilities Act's signing.

The intent was to bar discrimination against the physically challenged "in all areas of public life," says the ADA National Network website.

Many doors thus opened.

The disabilities act is divided into five sections, called "titles," that break down according to that portion of public life.

Of particular interest here is Title III, the section that addresses access to public facilities.

So that introduced a query:

Q: How do the Roanoke Valley's various venues handle disability access and accommodations? I know people can get into these facilities and around them to a degree, but what more is provided?

Ross Hart, Salem

A: As purveyors of public entertainment and operators of facilities, the cities of Roanoke and Salem are major local players.

It is reasonable to assume most entertainees across the area and beyond have for one time or another been a customer at one of the civic centers, Salem's baseball and football palaces, or at other public facilities.

ADA compliance in both spirit and letter of the law is apparent at venues in both cities.

Roanoke's Berglund Center lists on its home page special entries, viewing locations, and parking.

Services include providing listening devices, wheelchairs, or interpreters.

At the Salem Civic Center, three wheelchair reachable decks are located between sections B-10 and C-10, adjoining C5, and to the front of B15.

"Also, all of our Row 5 seats are for limited mobility, those who can't do stairs," said Stephanie Coffey, a public relations associate for the civic center.

Mobility is not the only challenge addressed at Salem, the valley's oldest large indoor public venue.

"We also have sight and hearing impairment seat holds," Coffey said. "Those are usually closer to the stage. If you wear hearing aids or are legally blind, we usually try to put you on the first five rows on the floor."

Berglund Center accessibility areas are behind Boxes 1, 3, 7 and 9 and in front of Gates 2 and 11. There is no accessiblity for the floor.

At the Performing Arts Theatre, access is available at Orchestra Level, Row R.

Regular ADA parking at the complex is on Lot B. Accessiblity to the coliseum is Gate 2. At the theater, access is at the front entrance.

Salem touts the civic center's accessible interior corridors to those interested in facility rental.

Most interested customers know to call ahead to ask about what is available to those with challenges, Coffey said.

"Ticketmaster has taken a lot of our in-person sales. When you go on their website, it will ask if you need handicapped seats. Or you can call us and ask about them.

"That's always a good idea."

One civic center customer was more than careful before leaving home.

"She wanted to know if it was OK if she brought her cane with her. We said, of course it is."

The same advice about calling ahead goes for Roanoke as well.

Additional Berglund Center services to the hearing impaired include an assisted listening system, which is available to both coliseum and theater patrons.

Contact information to arrange service is through the Event Services Department or the ticket office at 540-853-LIVE (5483).

Also in Roanoke, wheelchairs are available in limited supply, first come first served. Calling as far in advance as possible is the best advice.

Along the same lines, a minimum of five business days is recommended to arrange for an interpreter.

As for service animals, rules govern their use. Berglund Center's home page defines these animals as "a dog (or, subject to certain limitations, a miniature horse) that has been trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability."

Those who require such assistance are advised that if such animal is prompted to become "unruly" or "is not properly housebroken," the handler may be asked to remove the animal and continue without its use.

Salem Stadium is under city jurisdiction for the Stagg Bowl, the Dec. 16 NCAA Division III football championship, and is therefore responsible for accessibility issues.

There is space for wheelchairs in every section except Section C on the west (press box) side. Viewing platforms on the east grandstand are in Sections B and D.

On both sides, chairs roll in level with Row 15. Viewing areas are near the portals.

"We always have a wheelchair platform with a companion seat to go with it," said Lavonda Snider of the civic center box office.

There is room on the press box side for 23 more wheelchairs in the top row at Section A.

That area is served by an elevator that goes all the way to the top.

"I don't think we've ever had to use all that, but it is there if we need it," Snider said.

Limited mobility seats are on hold and available to those who call ahead to make arrangements.

For high school athletic events, accessibility issues are the responsibility of the host schools.

Salem Stadium is home field for Salem High as well as host to the Virginia High School League Group 1 and 2A title games, set this year for Dec. 10.

Other local high schools have on-campus athletic facilities.

The tenant Salem Sox baseball club handles accessibility issues at Salem Memorial Ballpark.

If you've been wondering about something, call What's on Your Mind at 777-6476 or send an email to whatsonyourmind@roanoke.com Don 't forget to provide your full name (and its proper spelling) and hometown.

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Naples Daily News (Florida)

 

Florida SouthWestern State College has shifted about 40 percent of student fees once used to pay for extracurricular activities to cover a large portion of the school's new baseball, softball and basketball programs.

The other 60 percent continues to fund extracurricular programs, most of which had their budgets slashed as part of the restructuring.

Each student, by state law, pays $11.88 per credit hour in student fees, with $4.75 of those hourly fees now devoted to athletics. There were about 16,000 students enrolled at FSW this fall.

In 2015, FSW drew $2.4 million in student fees, with almost $500,000 going to athletics. In 2016, the college earned $2.3 million in student fees, with almost $1 million going to the new sports programs. All of the budget shifts were voted upon and approved by the college's student government association.

Until last year, when FSW's baseball and softball teams played their fall seasons, FSW had not fielded a sports team since 1997.

FSW celebrates the opening of Suncoast Credit Union Arena at 6 p.m. Tuesday with a women's and men's basketball doubleheader.

The students can get into basketball games for free and sit in the designated student seating sections behind one of the baskets.

Faculty and members of the alumni association get a 20 percent discount.

In order to make the grand opening of the arena a reality, the school readjusted the student affairs and student services departments' budgets the past two years at the four campuses - Lee County, Collier, Charlotte and Hendry Glades Center in LaBelle.

The college eliminated $417,778.54 from student affairs and services departments from the 2014-15 to 2015-16 school years. That money that used to fund intramural athletics and extracurricular programs and career counseling now go to athletics. It pays for the four head coaches, assistant coaches and athletic administrative staff.

Not all of the extracurricular budgets were cut. There are 35 campus clubs, ranging from chess, dental hygiene and respiratory care to yoga. Some of those clubs receive funding. That funding grew by $5,000, to $24,500 in 2015-16. Student affairs budgets grew by $54,178.

But no budget grew more than athletics, which had an increase from $493,810 in 2015 to $916,738 this year. The athletics budget, which covers nine full-time employees, several part-time employees, insurance and other expenses, will grow again in 2018, when volleyball gets added.

Gina Doeble, FSW vice president of administrative services since 2010, said the budget shifts resulted from at least four years of planning. Even though sizable amounts of money to pay employees disappeared from some areas and reappeared in athletics, she said no one was fired during the transition.

"When people left, or when people retired, we restructured," Doeble said. "We combined some departments when it made sense."

Student services used to include career counseling. That has shifted to become a part of academic advising, Doeble said, which falls under the academic budget. Doing so freed more money for athletics and made sense for the college, she said.

FSW also centralized its student activities to the Lee, Collier and Charlotte campuses. Hendry Glades Center no longer has a student affairs program dedicated to its campus, she said, but it remains informed by the other campuses that still have those programs. Eliminating student affairs from Hendry Glades saved $59,152.

"It's a one-college concept versus each campus having its own," Doeble said. "There was a lot of duplication of services. Hendry Glades, we have a much smaller facility and smaller campus. It's hard to have a full-time position out there when it's really not a full-time job."

The presence of the arena on the Edison campus in Fort Myers will provide a fitness center inside not just for the student-athletes but for all students, Doeble said.

The News-Press interviewed a cross section of students on the Fort Myers campus and none of them knew they were funding the sports programs nor that the basketball teams were making their home debuts on Tuesday. Student-athletes were not made available for interviews.

"I had no idea," Mike Jones, 23, said of how his student fees were used. "I thought all of it was going to classes, honestly."

Jones, a Gateway Charter graduate, is taking 12 credit hours, a typical course load at FSW., and studying nursing.

Jones' student fees amount to $142.56. Forty percent of that money - $57 - goes toward sports. The rest of it goes toward student clubs, student government, student health care, student leadership training and supporting administrative costs to provide services that benefit students, according to FSW's student handbook.

"I think it's good for the school to have more to offer," Jones said of athletics. "I'm not opposed to it."

Felipe Murillo, 20 and a North Fort Myers High graduate, said he felt 50/50 toward athletics.

"Almost every university has a sports program," said Murillo, who is taking nine credit hours and is receiving financial aid through a Pell grant. "It's kind of like a staple for a college. To me, it's a waste of money.

"On the other hand, it opens up opportunities for the student-athletes. So I'm playing devil's advocate here. I'm 50/50. It's an investment, obviously. From a business standpoint, I feel it's a bad investment. It's not like this is a big university. This is a small college. We're not in Central Florida. We're not in Tampa. We're not in Gainesville. It's a different demographic."

Jaeaira Whitfield, 20, is taking 12 credit hours in nursing this semester. The South Fort Myers High graduate said she wasn't sure if she would get anything out of an athletic program at school.

"I don't know how to feel about it," Whitfield said. "It could be great if it turns out to be something great for our community. It gives people a place to go and support our teams. I don't think it's bad if basketball players are getting scholarships. It gives us something positive to look forward to."

None of the students planned on attending the grand opening Tuesday, but all of them said they would be open to attending games in the future.

Doeble, who has worked at FSW since 2003 when it was known as Edison Community College, said the rebranding and rebooting of athletics is changing the school for the better.

"It's just great to see students in FSW and Bucs gear," she said, referring to the school's Buccaneers mascot. "We never saw that before when we were Edison.

"Our students are younger. They're more active. This is a different place. Athletics, I think it's a great part of the college experience, having teams you can relate to. Whether you're into sports or not, it brings a sense of community."

FSW student fees budget

Here are some highlights of how student fees were rearranged in order to create an athletics program:

2014-15

2015-16

Change

Collier

$267,791

$137,634

-$130,157

Lee

$1,078,819

$751,682

-$327,137

Charlotte

$206,456

$108,983

-$97,473

Hendry

$89,844

$20,251

-$69,593

Club accounts

$19,500

$24,500

+$5,000

VP, Student affairs

$272,481

$326,659

+$54,178

Athletics

$493,810

$916,738

+$422,928

Total

$2,485,937

$2,385,697

-$100,240

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Copyright 2016 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

MIDVALE - The debate about changing the way student athletes are allowed to transfer between high schools took a complicated turn last week.

The Utah State School Board wants to know if the 140 schools that make up the Utah High School Activities Association support a rule proposed by the board that would significantly change eligibility rules associated with the transfer of student athletes from one high school to another.

But now many in the association are pushing back and questioning whether the State School Board should even be involved in making rules governing athletics.

It might not be considered a mutiny, but there are heated discussions among those inside the group that's governed high school athletics for nearly 90 years.

The State School Board wants a sense of how the 140 schools feel by Dec. 9.

"The issue that arose was the issue of should the State School Board even be involved in the first place in writing the rule," said Jerre Holmes, an association trustee. He is assigned to a special committee made up of activities association and school board representatives that was formed in the wake of the school board's efforts to take over the rules governing transfer of high school athletes.

"There are really two separate issues," he said.

Related: Coaches Criticize Proposal to Eliminate Transfer Rules

Holmes told the full UHSAA board of trustees - which is made up of principals, superintendents and elected school board members from every region in the state - in their Nov. 17 meeting that while he was skeptical the groups could come up with a suitable compromise, he was surprised at how much both sides learned and cooperated.

"I learned very quickly that we could communicate with each other, and it was cordial," he said. "We moved from no transfer rule to what we have now."

That shift led to a state board proposal that is much closer to the current rules, but with two significant exceptions. First, any student who hasn't played varsity in a sport can transfer once to another high school and still be eligible for varsity play at the new school.

Second, if families move from the district where their student is enrolled to a new district, the student athlete can attend any school and be eligible for varsity sports. A full family move is an automatic exception in current rules, but the student is only eligible at the school where his new home is located. The proposal means the student can attend any school, in any district, outside of his home district.

Holmes and Kristen Betts, chairwoman of the association's board of trustees, said the special committee worked very hard to understand one other, and they wanted to honor the request to try and survey all of the schools and districts, in order to report to the full state board the feelings of the state's high schools.

But many members of the board of trustees said they wanted to take two votes - one on the proposed rule and another on whether the State School Board should be drafting rules governing athletics.

Rob Cuff, the executive director of the activities association who essentially carries out the wishes of the association's board of trustees and executive committee and has no vote, said they are conducting a poll of every school and district that they will discuss at their realignment meeting on Tuesday.

He understands the trustees' dilemma in wanting to answer the State School Board's question, but also wanting to send a message that the organization doesn't believe the state board should be drafting rules governing athletics.

"The local boards of education set up our association in 1927 for two reasons - so they could focus on academics and so there wouldn't be bias from one school involved in hosting tournaments," Cuff said. "Prior to our association, they'd just play whoever they wanted."

Fairness and finding a way to include as many students as possible in activities and athletics has been at the heart of the Utah High School Activities Association's mission for 89 years, he said. And for most of that time, the association has enjoyed a great working relationship with the State School Board, often changing their bylaws and rules to help the school board keep a focus on academics, while supporting athletics and activities (like debate and music competitions), which both groups traditionally have seen as a way to enhance the educational experience.

Duchene's Stan Young, who represents 1A principals on the association's board of trustees, said the trustees wanted to send the message that the sentiment was unanimous in supporting the subcommittee's efforts to come up with a compromise, but they don't support the state board writing rules that govern extracurricular activities.

"This is a vote of nonsupport coming from the people who are at that level - the principals, the leaders who deal with the transfer issues, all of those who deal with those issues on a day-to-day basis," said Young, a longtime basketball coach. "I think it's important that people understand the groundswell of nonsupport is from the people who deal with (the issue) every day."

After nearly two hours of discussion, the association's board of trustees directed Cuff and his staff to send a survey to the state's high schools and districts asking them if they support the rule as drafted. They also asked for a second vote about whether they support the state board's authority to draft a new transfer rule.

Some trustees said they didn't need to poll their constituents because this issue has been hotly debated in communities across the state.

Kody Hughes, region 18's representative, said taking a stand on this issue is what those who elected him expect him to do - a sentiment strongly supported by Bill Boyle, representing region 19 and Jeff Schena, representing region 13.

Hughes said he respects the work done by the special committee, but the ends didn't justify the means.

"This whole process has been bad," Hughes said. "Yes, some good has come out of it, but that's not the point."

Schena and Boyle supported voting on the issue without the survey, but they eventually settled for a motion supporting the survey and a vote from the trustees on whether or not the state board should be involved in governing high school activities.

"It makes an already unfair playing field more unfair," Schena said. "It's just not going to work. It won't for our district.... We already deal with an unfair playing field, and this makes it worse. So it's a no from region 13, no matter what we talk about for the next three hours."

The trustees voted to send out the survey to the 140 schools and unanimously voted to voice their opposition to the State School Board's efforts to write policies governing high school athletics.

The survey's results are expected to be reported to the same board of trustees on Tuesday when they discuss a separate issue.

Cuff said there will likely be more action on the issue from the trustees before the State School Board votes on the proposed rule changes on Dec. 9.

Email: adonaldson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: adonsports

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USA TODAY

 

When the guys who run college football -- and by this we mean the commissioners of the Power Five conferences -- sat down a few years back to hammer out how the College Football Playoff would work, there was a serious difference of opinion. Some wanted to populate the four-team bracket with conference champions. Others wanted the four best teams, period.

They got a compromise, of sorts. It would be the four best teams. But "conference championships won" would be an official criteria the committee was to use to distinguish "among otherwise comparable teams."

We bring this up because it suddenly seems very relevant -- and because Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, who back then wanted conference champs only in the Playoff, is set to benefit from the compromise.

You know by now that Ohio State will not win the Big Ten. The Buckeyes are 11-1 but lost a tiebreaker in the Big Ten East to Penn State, which will play Big Ten West winner Wisconsin on Saturday for the league title. But the Buckeyes were ranked No. 2 by the selection committee last week, and that evaluation doesn't figure to change much considering their 30-27 double-overtime win against a Michigan team that was ranked No. 3.

Without diving too deep, we're looking at the very real possibility that for the first time in its short tenure, the selection committee will decide a team that did not win its league is among the four best. And then the question becomes: Is Ohio State in ahead of -- meaning instead of -- or along with the Big Ten champion?

"There are no automatic bids, I know that. I know that for a fact," Delany told USA TODAY Sports -- and to his credit, he did not quite chuckle. "I know this. The committee will look at all the information."

He spoke like a guy occupying a very nice position (although if the committee chooses Ohio State instead of Penn State/Wisconsin, things could get dicey; the commissioner will face anger from within his league). Big Ten teams occupied four of the top eight positions in last week's College Football Playoff Top 25. That doesn't figure to change much, if at all, this week -- and maybe not after this weekend's championship games, either.

Only conference champions? How about his conference's champion and that other team that's even better?

"The most important thing about that committee for all of us that were a part of creating it was that at a core level it's got to be football people with credibility, and that's what we have," Delany said. "And so they'll figure it out."

During the first two years, the committee has clearly been predisposed to favor conference champions. But this is the first time a team the committee is clearly enamored of has not won its conference.

Two years ago, TCU was ranked No.3 the week before the final ranking and finished as a Big 12 co-champion with a 52-point win against Iowa State but fell to No. 6 (ironically, Ohio State jumped the Horned Frogs and Big 12 co-champion Baylor and into the Playoff). That doesn't seem likely to happen to Ohio State, even if the comparison is to, say, Penn State as a Big Ten champion and owner of a win against Ohio State.

(Last week, selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt indicated the committee did not see "a small margin of separation" between Ohio State and Penn State, and if that evaluation does not change, the head-to-head and conference championships criteria wouldn't come into play.)

Michigan could have made things a lot simpler for the selection committee if it had held on to beat Ohio State. And while we're on the subject, there's a case to be made that Michigan remains one of the four best teams. The Wolverines won't get into the Playoff, of course, so the debate shifts, either to Ohio State vs. the Big Ten champ or to the Big Ten vs. the rest of college football.

The good news for Delany: He doesn't have to figure it out. He can sit back and wait, confident that his league is seen as very strong.

 

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Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA)

 

Asbury Park and Recreation Director Jason Thieme was fired Wednesday morning, and members of the city's Park and Recreation Board are questioning the decision.

"I couldn't be more satisfied (with Thieme's work)," said Board Member Ken Resch on Friday. "Everyone of us (on the board) is just shocked. This was out of nowhere."

Resch penned a letter to Mayor Jim Adams and Asbury City Council members Thursday expressing his surprise and frustration.

"The email I received (Wednesday) from (City Clerk) Sara Burke is beyond my ability to draw any other rational conclusion other than a well-orchestrated vendetta has occurred and Jason was summarily fired," Resch wrote. "Obviously, none of us on the Park Board saw this coming, but all of us deserve at least a rudimentary explanation. I dislike the 'Our city policy is not to discuss personnel issues' line in Sara's email - merely a slick way to avoid unpleasant discussion. Will we learn the truth behind this sudden and abrupt departure, term- ination, split, disagreement, disengagement, ouster, abandonment or firing? Are we to remain totally stupefied about Jason's departure?"

Reached Friday, Adams confirmed that Thieme was fired Wednesday after about two years in the position. But neither Adams nor City Administrator Beth Bonz would comment on why Thieme was let go.

"It's a personnel matter, and that's confidential," Bonz said Friday.

Thieme did not respond to repeated calls seeking comment for this story. By Friday morning, his information already had been deleted from the "city staff" page on the city's website.

But Resch, who said he is the longest-serving member of the city's Park and Recreation Board, continues to speak highly of the University of Iowa graduate. Resch said Thieme was the city's first park and recreation director, a part-time position.

"More has been done with Jason as our director - even in a part-time capacity - than over the past decade of our efforts," Resch wrote in his letter. "Yes, the City of Asbury Council is to be commended for their willingness to envision our city's future, but I believe this is so because Jason painted a positive picture of that future. More than this, Jason knew how to help the board translate its vision into a reality. The decision to terminate Jason was not wisely considered."

Bonz was out of the office Friday and said she did not immediately know Thieme's salary. A legal notice published in the Telegraph Herald in January stated that Thieme made $14,251.78 in 2015.

Resch said he and other park board members received an email Wednesday written by Bonz, who said Thieme's employment was "discontinued."

In response to several email inquiries and comments from board members, Burke responded via email saying it was against city policy to discuss personnel issues.

Board Chairman Ryan Fennel and Board Member Luke Hartmann shared Resch's disappointment that Thieme was fired.

"Jason has done nothing but good for the park board," Hartmann said Friday.

Hartmann, who has been on the board for about two years, said Thieme pushed to complete a lot of good projects that might otherwise not have been done.

Fennel agreed that Thieme has done valuable work in his time with the city, and he said he had been urging the city to make Thieme a full-time employee.

"It seemed like everyone on the (Park and Recreation) Board agreed we want Jason to move on as full time," Fennel said. "The fact that he was terminated was a huge shock."

Resch said he suspected there was a "personality clash" that led to Thieme's firing, rather than his performance.

"I highly doubt that it has anything to do with his work ethic and responsibilities with the park," Resch said.

In his letter, Resch asked that Thieme be reinstated immediately.

Hartmann and Fennel agreed Thieme should be rehired, and Fennel said he also will write a letter to city leaders asking to take that step.

Bonz said the decision to terminate Thieme was made by herself, Adams and the city's personnel committee. The decision does not have to be approved by the City Council.

According to Bonz, the city intends to advertise to fill the park and recreation director position. In the interim, she said, Thieme's former supervisor Burke will take over the job duties.

"There will be no impact on projects," Bonz said.

She acknowledged she has heard from park board members about reinstating Thieme, but she said, "At this point, we're looking to regroup and move forward."

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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

The government appointees who oversee U.S. Bank Stadium on behalf of taxpayers get a perk unavailable to most Minnesotans: free tickets to two lower-level luxury suites for all events held there. The suites are for marketing purposes but, they admit, friends and family are often in attendance.

Taxpayers covered almost $500 million of the $1.1 billion cost of the stadium, but the public cannot find out who gets those 36 suite seats each game. The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) members decline to say who joins them for complimentary food, beer and, in some cases, free parking in the same lot reserved for Vikings players and coaches.

The Vikings sold "Norseman suites" identical to the two used by the MSFA for between $200,000 to $300,000 for the 10 NFL home games.

Both MSFA Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen and Executive Director Ted Mondale say confidentiality is critical as they seek to book the stadium's event spaces to cover the cost of amateur events such as high school football, baseball and soccer games, along with University of Minnesota baseball games.

"If people think they're going to be in the newspaper, it's not going to be effective," Mondale said.

Still, the perk and the lack of transparency are prompting ethical and perhaps legal questions.

David Schultz, a Hamline University political science, law and ethics professor, said the board is violating state law by using public positions for personal benefit and to access something not available to the general public. The notion that they are using the suites for marketing purposes is "dubious at best," he said. "Beyond state law, it just looks bad."

Two of the original five MSFA members also question the need for two prime suites.

"These seats are not in the bleachers; they're currency," said Duane Benson, who resigned from the board in 2015 after a public disagreement with Kelm-Helgen about board management. "There's a concentration of power here that could be a problem as time goes on."

Kelm-Helgen and Mondale said they work long hours on game days and spent long nights negotiating on behalf of taxpayers during construction of the building, so having friends and family there is reasonable. They also say they need to be in the suites to sell the stadium to clients. "The whole idea is to develop the confidence that we know what we're doing," Kelm-Helgen said.

The Vikings so far have played five home games and two preseason games, meaning up to 252 people could have attended games in the suites.

After the Star Tribune made a request through Gov. Mark Dayton's office, Mondale and Kelm-Helgen provided the names of 12 current and former public officials who attended and paid for suite tickets to NFL games. All but one, former Vice President Walter Mondale, paid for the tickets recently. Mondale, who attended the opening Green Bay Packers game Sept. 18 as a guest of his son, wrote a $350 check that was deposited late last month. No other checks were deposited until Nov. 17, after the Star Tribune began inquiring about the seats.

Among the guests in the suites who reimbursed the MSFA $200 this month were: Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and her husband, Gary Cunningham; several state commissioners; Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal and her husband, Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans; and Minneapolis City Council Member Jacob Frey.

Dayton supports the MSFA's decision on disclosure. "The governor believes that is the decision of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority," said his spokesman, Linden Zakula, who attended a game in the suite.

The spokesman said state law doesn't require commissioners or staff to pay for their tickets because the stadium is a "public entity" and they're engaged in public business. Zakula said he recently paid $200 for his ticket to "avoid the appearance of impropriety."

Minnesota public officials are subject to a gift ban, which includes a prohibition on accepting privileges not available to the public. But the ban allows public officials access to services and privileges when they are part of their duties.

As chairwoman of the Legislature's State Government Finance Committee, state Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, said she wants to "bring some integrity to the process" of the MSFA's management, including the suites.

"We should be able to have a list of who's there and when they're there," she said, adding that she'd like to know if tickets are being illegally given to campaign donors. "There definitely needs to be a change in how they do this."

Across downtown at Target Field, the Minnesota Ballpark Authority (MBA) has a single suite, on the upper level at the end of right field attached to its offices. The MBA's paid executive director, Dan Kenney, said no log is kept of the number of tickets used and by whom. He said it's not uncommon for the suite tickets for midweek day games to be given to charity.

Negotiated with Vikings

U.S. Bank Stadium has 27 Norseman suites on the lower concourse. The two that the MSFA controls, after negotiations with the Vikings during the stadium's construction, are at about the 20-yard line on the visitor's side of the field. Kelm-Helgen, whose job description includes "distribution of event tickets," declined multiple requests from the Star Tribune to be allowed to visit the suite on a game day. When a reporter arrived at the suite during a recent game, Kelm-Helgen was chatting with her adult daughter and declined to speak to the reporter.

In an interview last week, Kelm-Helgen provided only the broad categories of guests in the suites, including members of the city's convention bureau, labor leaders, business leaders, higher education officials and neighborhood leaders. The MSFA eventually identified guests who paid to attend.

Longtime lobbyist Andy Kozak wasn't on the list provided by the MSFA, but said he attended the Nov. 6 game against the Detroit Lions as a guest of Kelm-Helgen and used a free parking spot. He said he's known Kelm-Helgen for 40 years and his clients have been involved in stadium issues like electronics and security. "I frankly didn't think much of it," said Kozak, who has a roster of powerful clients at the State Capitol. "All I can say is I was invited and I went."

Kozak went for free, but Kelm-Helgen and Mondale said they recently determined the market rate for a spot in the suites at $200 by charging $132 for the ticket and $78 for food.

Minnesota taxpayers cover the price of food for MSFA guests. Alcohol is paid for separately by commissioners. The commissioners, who are appointed by the governor and the city of Minneapolis, are not paid beyond a small per diem for monthly meetings.

Kelm-Helgen and Mondale wouldn't say how many tickets commissioners get for events.

Commissioner Tony Sertich, a former DFL lawmaker who lives in Hermantown, said he is allotted up to five tickets per event, including one for himself. He was unable to recall which games and events he had attended, but said he has brought his wife, as well as social and business associates. "I don't cold-call people" to go to the game, he said.

Commissioner Barbara Butts Williams, a dean of business and technology at Capella University, did not respond to e-mails or voice messages. Commissioner Bill McCarthy, Minnesota AFL-CIO president, sent a brief e-mail saying he tries to attend as many events as possible. He declined follow-up questions.

Commissioner John Griffith, a sometime critic of Kelm-Helgen whom Dayton declined to reappoint to the MSFA, will attend his final meeting Dec. 16. He bought his own Vikings season tickets, but used suite tickets for two soccer matches and a Vikings preseason game. "If every week you're just bringing your family to the games," he said, "that's not right."

Rochelle Olson · 612-673-1747

Twitter: @rochelleolson

OFFICIALS IN SUITE SEATS

MSFA officials would release the names of only 12 people who've attended Vikings games in the suites. All reimbursed the MSFA $200 this month after the Star Tribune inquired.

· Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and her husband, Gary Cunningham

· Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal and her husband, Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans

· Minneapolis City Council Member Jacob Frey

· Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey

· Office of Higher Education Commissioner Larry Pogemiller (Michele Kelm-Helgen's former boss)

· Labor and Industry Commissioner Ken Peterson

· Minneapolis City Coordinator Spencer Cronk

· Minneapolis Deputy Development Director Chuck Lutz

· Linden Zakula, spokesman for Gov. Mark Dayton

· Former Vice President Walter Mondale*

* Mondale paid $350 in October

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The Bismarck Tribune

 

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - Penn State said Friday it won't fight a $2.4 million fine stemming from a five-year federal investigation that found the university repeatedly violated campus crime reporting requirements, including in the case of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who is now serving decades in prison on child sexual abuse charges.

Penn State President Eric Barron said the university is paying the record fine even though it disagrees with some of the findings in a 239-page investigative report released by the U.S. Department of Education this month.

Investigators found that Penn State failed to comply with various aspects of the 1990 campus crime reporting law known as the Clery Act, including not issuing warnings about potential threats and underreporting crimes in annual statistics submitted to the government.

Barron said Penn State has made a significant commitment to preventing sex crimes and ensuring strict compliance with campus crime reporting requirements.

All employees are now trained on the issues surrounding sex crimes and their responsibilities in reporting crimes, Barron said. The university has also established a telephone hotline and an online system for anonymously reporting sex crimes, he said.

"It is Penn State's goal to not only meet the standards articulated by the Department of Education, as we believe we currently do, but to set a new standard for Clery compliance in higher education," Barron said.

Investigators cited Penn State for twice failing to warn students and employees about Sandusky - after administrators were told he had abused a boy in a team shower in 2001, and as officials were being summoned to a grand jury and the scope of his behavior was becoming clearer a decade later.

The Department of Education said Penn State's police department concealed its investigation into an earlier report involving Sandusky and a boy in a team shower. Police didn't record the 1998 matter on their daily crime log even though university policy required the log describe the type, location and time of every criminal incident.

The university argued that police couldn't determine whether the interaction rose to the level of a sex offense and because it was unclear a crime occurred, there was no need to log it. But the Department of Education noted campus police logged far less serious matters, including someone sleeping in a stairwell.

Sandusky, arrested in 2011 and convicted in 2012, is serving 30 to 60 years in prison. He maintains his innocence and is appealing.

Former athletic director Tim Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz are still awaiting trial along with former president Graham Spanier on charges of endangering the welfare of children and failing to properly report suspected abuse. All deny the accusations against them.

The Department of Education report also said Penn State fostered a belief among athletes that rules didn't apply to them.

In one instance, then-head coach Joe Paterno had his secretary email administrators to say he'd take care of disciplining players involved in an off-campus fight, the report said.

In another, Paterno had a text message sent to players telling them if they went to the university's judicial affairs to answer code-of-conduct complaints, they'd be "thrown off the team," the report said.

The previous record Clery Act fine was $357,500 against Eastern Michigan University in 2007, reduced to $350,000 in a settlement.

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The Daily News of Los Angeles

 

Earlier this year, Los Angeles County launched a new public health campaign for families with children 5 years old and younger. Its focus is to shut off televisions, mobile devices and other screens and engage children in fun indoor and outdoor activities that get them up and moving.

This campaign was created to help reverse the trend of increasing obesity rates among preschoolers in Los Angeles in light of recent national studies showing that young children are getting an average of seven hours of screen time daily.

Other initiatives under the Early Childhood Obesity Initiative program include making healthful choices when eating in restaurants and reducing the consumption of sugary drinks.

The overuse of media among young people of all ages has gotten so concerning that just last month the American Academy of Pediatrics released several policy statements on the topic. In the past, the AAP has recommended time limitations for children's use of television and other screens, which included no screen time for those under 2 years old. However, the new guidelines provide more specific recommendation regarding how screens should and should not be used based on age.

For example, for children less than 18 months old, screen time should be completely avoided except for video chat, and those 18 to 24 months old should only consume high-quality programs or internet applications when used together with an adult or caregiver. Screen time for children 2 to 5 years old should be limited to up to one hour of high-quality programming.

Viewing two hours or more of television per day has been shown to increase obesity in preschool age children. Excessive and evening media exposure from television, computer and mobile devices is also associated with disrupted and fewer minutes of sleep per night, likely at least partially related to the blue light emitted from screens. The AAP recommends no screens during meal time and powering down all televisions and devices at least one hour before bedtime.

Placing limits on screen time is not just important for children. Studies show that adults' risk of gaining weight or becoming obese and acquiring weight-related chronic diseases like diabetes and heart diseases increases significantly with excessive screen time. Ultimately, sitting in front of a screen contributes to an overall sedentary lifestyle, and we know that too much sitting is not healthful. Many adults already spend a disproportionate amount of their day sitting in traffic and at work. Time spent consuming social media or watching television competes with available time to participate in physical activities to use up calories consumed throughout the day.

Kick that habit

Here are some tips for people of all ages to help form more healthful screen viewing habits for a more active lifestyle:

1 Screen-free meal zone: During meal and snack times, all mobile devices are turned off or put away. Media use paired with food is a recipe for overeating, plus unplugging from technology helps foster connection and conversation.

2 Screen-free bedroom: Consider limiting or completely avoiding the use of television, computers and other screens in the bedroom, especially in the bedrooms of young children.

3 Use timers: Keep track of screen-time use and place limits on daily consumption for young children.

4 Outdoor activities: Check out www.parks.lacounty.gov to check out your local parks or sign up for recreational activities for people of all ages.

5 Indoor activities: As days get shorter and colder, engage children in indoor activities such as musical chairs, dancing, a scavenger hunt, or jumping rope.

6 Go for quality: Choose from high-quality children's programming such as PBS Kids, Common Sense Media and Sesame Workshop. Avoid children's exposure to advertising, specifically of processed and unhealthful foods and beverages.

LeeAnn Weintraub, a registered dietitian, provides nutrition counseling and consulting to individuals, families and businesses. She can be reached at RD@halfacup.com

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Copyright 2016 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

MEDINA TOWNSHIP - In Medina County, what started as a family's annual Thanksgiving morning backyard football game has morphed over the decades into a significant charity fundraiser, the Meadows Turkey Bowl.

Thursday's event netted an eye-opening $245,000, the highest total yet.

While the family games date back 27 years, it has been over the last 12 years that the event turned into a charity. The total taken in and given out so far: a staggering $1.2 million.

That's pro league stuff.

"We turned what was a backyard football game into a fundraiser to help the neediest of the neediest through St. Vincent de Paul," said Mike Meadows, one of the game's founders.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul dedicates itself to ending poverty; the Meadows Turkey Bowl proceeds go to the Medina chapter.

The Meadows family's big backyard off Hood Road in Medina Township hosts the event. Four teams face off in two preliminary games, played simultaneously on two fields starting at 8:30 a.m. The winners move to the championship and bragging rights for a year. The event includes a mandatory pre-bowl draft night fantasy football experience as well.

To be eligible for the games, each player is required to raise a minimum of $2,000. One participant, Medina plumber Bill Biegel, raised $45,000 this year.

"To give you perspective, 11 years ago we raised $850. And that number has kind of rolled and rolled and rolled," Meadows said. "A year ago, $230,000. The year before that, $190,000. We're hitting staggering numbers.... And what's amazing about this effort, we do it with the help of 40 ordinary guys who make this happen."

Thursday's games were played on a cold, drizzly morning, with snow still on the ground in some places.

The scale of the event can be measured in more than dollars, too.

There was live music from a mix of local high school band members and alumni. The games had referees. Two fire pits helped take some of the chill off of onlookers.

A large tent protected trays of hot breakfast foods, including an egg and sausage mixture, potatoes and a homemade blueberry dessert. There were donuts, coffee, hot chocolate, juices and more. Meadows said there was enough food to feed 200 people - just about enough, judging by the size of the crowd.

The games technically were "touch," but more accurately described as "two-hand shove," and played with intensity as players jostled, pushed and often slid on the slick ground.

"Today's a celebration of what we call the game within the game," said Meadows.

The players go to family and friends and ask for donations.

Anyone who donates $100 gets tickets to a Cleveland Indians game and to a Cleveland Gladiators Arena Football game.

Larger donations, including corporate sponsorships, come with other packages, Meadows said. None of the money raised pays for the Thanksgiving Day event.

This year's game was dedicated to the memory of Beth Mowrey, who played a significant role in the fundraising efforts and who died in August of cancer.

All players wore jerseys with "Beth 27" on the back. Her husband, Alan, was among the players this year.

A portion of this year's bowl game also will be going to help the family of the late John Bigelow, Meadows said. The 2015 Turkey Bowl was dedicated to Bigelow, who died this year, leaving behind five children and his wife.

Thirty percent of this year's Turkey Bowl proceeds will go to help people with cancer, Meadows said.

"We are going to make a special effort to help the needy who have cancer," he said.

The fundraising takes place in a short time - starting around Nov. 1, Meadows said.

"It's all for a good cause," said Dave Earhart, 59, who played in the first game 27 years ago and remembers at least one game being played in a blizzard.

"It's pretty cool to see the effort," Earhart said. "They understand the game within the game. It got to be a competition to see who could raise the most money.... It's truly a blessed thing."

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Pittsburgh Tribune Review

 

LONDON - Former English soccer players who were subjected to years of sexual abuse by youth team coaches entrusted with their care are breaking cover to expose the game's dark secrets.

Harrowing stories of assaults on young players by men they relied on to turn them into professionals are forcing authorities and clubs to finally address how child abusers were able to exploit their positions of power and why the behavior wasn't confronted earlier.

The abuses were first uncovered two decades ago with the conviction of English coach Barry Bennell in the United States and his homeland. Bennell worked in academies across northwest England including Manchester City, Stoke and Crewe Alexandra, which was renowned as a center for turning raw talent into the complete footballer.

The torment suffered by players only now is receiving more widespread attention along with a determination to discover how far-reaching sexual exploitation of youngsters has been in English soccer.

Four police forces across England, including London, have opened investigations after being contacted about Bennell and other unnamed people. Leading clubs Manchester City and Newcastle said they are assisting authorities, and the players' union has been guiding the players who revealed their identities.

"They have been very courageous in coming forward after suffering in silence for years," Michael Bennett, head of player welfare at the Professional Footballers' Association, told the Associated Press on Friday.

"I think the dam has just been busted. The guys who have come forward have been a catalyst," Bennett said.

Andy Woodward, who went on to play for Sheffield United, testified in Bennell's 1998 court case and was the first player to go public recently a year after contacting Bennett.

"We're victims of a horrible, horrendous thing that happened in the early '80s and '90s," Woodward said after leaving a meeting with the English Football Association on Thursday. "Ex-players are suffering so much and suffered in silence for so many years. We went through hell."

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Nadine Jackson enjoys a hiking trail in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., with her grandchildren. Jackson, a cafeteria manager from Compton, said she was prompted a few years ago to spend more time outdoors when she saw the Facebook posts of a friend who enjoyed hiking.

Nadine Jackson said social media posts helped pique her interests in the outdoors. Last year she decided to take 17 family members to Sequoia National Park. Outdoor industry groups have launched several outreach programs targeting minorities in the past few years. 

"I'm on a mission to see as many national parks as I can before I leave this world," she said.

LOS ANGELES - Recalling the childhood fun she had at summer camp, CiJi McBride has decided to go back to the outdoors.

The 41-year-old African-American beauty consultant from Los Angeles' Baldwin Hills section recently joined the Sierra Club, began taking day hikes in the Santa Monica Mountains and is planning a camping trip to Yosemite National Park next summer.

"As a kid, I always liked being in the outdoors, and as I approached my mid-30s and 40s, I said, 'What are some of the things I like to do,'" she said. "You can go to bars and movies, and that's all great, but we live in a state with great weather."

McBride's renewed interest in hiking and camping reflects the growing percentage of minorities spending time in the great outdoors, a significant shift for a demographic long underrepresented among campers and hikers in the U.S. even as the nation's population becomes more diverse. The development holds the promise of a potentially lucrative new market for state and national parks as well as makers of outdoorsy equipment and clothing.

A recent survey of nearly 3,000 Americans and Canadians found that among the 1 million people who began camping for the first time last year, nearly 1 in 5 was black and 11 percent were Latino, nearly twice the rate for those groups in 2014.

The survey, commissioned by Kampgrounds of America, showed that the latest generation of campers more closely represents the nations' overall ethnic breakdown.

"The changing demographics of the U.S. is the demographics of consumers," said Ivan Levin, deputy director for the Outdoor Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the trade group that represents the outdoor recreation industry. "It's important to get these people interested in the outdoors now."

Minority groups represent a growing and largely untapped market for outdoor gear manufacturers and retailers with buying power that is rising much faster than for the general population, marketing experts say.

U.S. Latinos' buying power - defined as household income minus taxes - increased 167 percent from 2000 to 2015, while the overall buying power of all U.S. consumers rose 82 percent in that same period, said Jeff Humphreys, director of the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business. The same 15-year period saw 91 percent growth in African-Americans' buying power and a 199 percent increase for Asian-Americans, he said, based on annual studies by the Selig Center.

"The reason why these multicultural markets are so compelling is that they are quite large and are exhibiting extraordinary growth," Humphreys said. Buying power is surging for all three groups, he said, because of a rising level of education, above-average population growth and increasing entrepreneurship.

Increased interest by diverse groups is redefining the $646 billion outdoor recreation industry, which despite annual sales growth of about 5 percent a year hasn't managed to increase the overall participation rate in outdoor activities such as biking, hiking, camping and fishing. Close to half of the nation's population participated in an outdoor activity in 2015, a rate that has been almost unchanged for the last nine years, according to annual studies by the Outdoor Foundation.

In California, attendance at state parks has dropped 6 percent since 2006. National parks fared better, with a 13 percent increase in visitors during that same period.

Managers of state and national parks say that boosting visitation will help parks generate more funding to stay open.

"The more people appreciate the parks, the more constituents we have for our parks," said Karl Knapp, who is part of a team at the California State Parks trying to make parks more relevant to the state's diverse population. "It's not just a numbers game. It's an appreciation."

One of the reasons more minorities are venturing into parks and forests, according to the Kampgrounds of America survey, is that technology, including smartphones and online apps, makes it easier to book campsites, locate hiking trails or meet up with fellow outdoor enthusiasts.

Nadine Jackson, an African-American cafeteria manager from Compton, said she was prompted a few years ago to spend more time in the outdoors when she saw the Face-book posts of a friend who enjoyed hiking near Rancho Palos Verdes.

After checking out videos and photos on Facebook of other people having outdoor adventures, Jackson, 46, said she decided last year to take 17 family members to Sequoia National Park.

"I'm on a mission to see as many national parks as I can before I leave this world," she said.

McBride agrees that technology has helped encourage her to spend time in the outdoors. She said she recently used a sky map app on her smartphone to look at a meteor shower.

"Things are much more accessible," she said.

In opinion surveys, the top reasons African-Americans and Latinos have said they don't spend more time on outdoor activities are the expense or the lack of time or skills to participate.

Recognizing the need to draw more minorities into the outdoors,parkmanagersandoutdoor industry groups have launched several outreach programs in the last few years.

The Outdoor Foundation launched a program in 2014 called the Outdoor Nation Challenge that rewards college students for taking time to bird-watch, hike, camp or do other activities. The college that scores the most points gets a trophy and up to $5,000 in cash and outdoor gear.

The program started with 10 colleges and 8,000 participants and has expanded to 90 colleges and nearly 20,000 participants. The contest is designed to pique the interest of young, ethnically diverse populations, Levin said.

In California, the state parks department launched a "transformation" effort in 2015 to draw more Californians into state parks.

Among the initiatives of the group is to create a community liaison program to encourage young people in urban areas to venture into the parks.

The program also includes a partnership with Google to map state parks, making it easier to find trails and landmarks. The state parks also are working to install more wireless internet access at campgrounds.

"It's a more digital generation than in the past," Knapp said.

The National Park Service also has launched an effort to get minorities into the outdoors by inviting artists, photographers, bloggers and writers who have huge followings on social media to visit parks and post videos, stories and photos of their experiences.

Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation, the official charity of the national park system, said the future of the national parks depends on getting a more diverse generation of millennials to be regular visitors.

"We are going to need people to stand up and fight for the parks," he said. "We are going to continue to need financial support."

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

COLUMBUS - For 359 days this year, traversing Woody Hayes Drive to Ohio Stadium could not be easier. Starting at the road's westernmost point, a 1-mile drive east is all it takes to reach the home of the Buckeyes.

Making the same trek on an Ohio State football Saturday, however, is a small window into the massive security operation that goes into a game day in Columbus.

To complete that mile-long journey - and to get anywhere near the stadium - one must have a correct parking pass to turn onto Woody Hayes Drive, clear up to six different law enforcement checkpoints, cross temporary speed bumps, weave through barriers designed to slow vehicles, and maneuver across the bridge over the Olentangy River.

And all of that is possible only if an explosives-detection team or K-9 unit has not stopped the vehicle for further evaluation first.

Ohio State football attracts some of the largest crowds in American sports, which local law enforcement matches with a complex security plan for each game.

"The unique challenge is that we have 107,000-plus in the stadium and you got 20,000-plus outside of the stadium tailgating, and we need to provide a safe environment for our fans, the visiting team, their fans, and visitors," said Craig Stone, OSU's police chief.

"And we still have a campus we have to operate, so that's a challenge to have our population grow that much on game day."

To help manage the large crowds, virtually every major public safety agency in the state plays a role. In addition to the OSU and Columbus Police Departments, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Franklin County Sheriff 's Office, the U.S. Army, the Transportation Security Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Homeland Security all have a presence as well.

According to a public records request, Ohio State also has a contract with private security firm Contemporary Security Corporation through 2018 with a mutual option to extend through 2020 for the purpose of providing stadium security.

All of the entities present, whether public or private, work under a unified system run through a command post in the press box at Ohio Stadium, where a separate athletics command post oversees game-day operations.

Mike Penner, who oversees internal operations for Ohio State, said providing security for a stadium of that size - 108,750 people attended the Buckeyes' most recent home game - requires a special effort.

"The whole public-safety mission is one mission made up of a whole lot of agencies to make it work," Penner said last month. "The checkpoints are just part of the public safety plan everyone bought into."

For certain games, like the one Ohio State will play against Michigan today, Ohio State seeks even more outside help from fellow university police departments.

With the University of Toledo students on break and the Rockets football team out of town this week, the UT Police Department responded to a call for additional support. UTPD will send a K-9 unit to Columbus to aid Ohio State for the Michigan game.

"It truly does take a large effort, and you need to rely on resources outside of your agency when you're trying to provide security for such a large crowd," UT Police Chief Jeff Newton said. "Considering the crowd on the outside of the stadium as well, it's a monumental effort. We're happy to participate."

Penner said that OSU identified roadways as a possible threat to Ohio Stadium. The changed traffic patterns create a "buffer zone" around the stadium that prevents any large vehicle from building speed near the facility or the bridge on Woody Hayes Drive.

Stone and Penner meet every Thursday to discuss the upcoming issues, then give a debriefing to game personnel - ticket takers, ushers, security guards, and the like - about six hours before kickoff.

OSU's environmental health and safety department uses portable air monitors to check for airborne chemicals and radiation on site, cameras watch virtually every inch of the facility, and communication between agencies is nonstop.

Ohio State instituted a no-bag policy at the stadium for this season, to which Penner said most fans have beenresponsive.Thatchange also allowed security guards to do a more thorough job, Penner said.

"That allows the staff working the gates to focus more on people and less on bags," Penner said. "They're watching their surroundings and not the bags."

Penner said the most congestion starts about 45 minutes before kickoff, when many fans begin to arrive at their ticket gates. After that, he said the operations staff "spends the rest of the game reacting."

For the most part, Penner said problems are dealt with rather simply, ranging from a bathroom running low on paper towels to a ticket issue to a "bio-spill" - a nice way of saying somebody vomited and it needs to be cleaned immediately.

The only variable over which the staff has no influence is sometimes the most frustrating: weather.

The Buckeyes went through a home weather delay for the first time in more than two decades during a September game against Tulsa. Severe thunderstorms at halftime forced security personnel to evacuate the playing field and the stands, and the fans who stayed were told to take shelter in the Ohio Stadium grandstands.

Penner said most everything has a plan - he just prays the weather also cooperates.

"I'm looking at the forecast all week to determine what my stress level is going to be," he said.

The weather looks as if it will cooperate today, with cool temperatures but no severe weather in the forecast.

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South Bend Tribune (Indiana)

 

SOUTH BEND - It's one thing to talk a good game.

It's something completely different to back it up with numbers.

Now, when the South Bend Community School Corp., claims its mission is to ensure the welfare of its student-athletes, it has statistics to back it up.

Two years into its involvement with Heads Up Football, a player safety program initiated by USA Football, the statistics have shown a considerable decrease in concussions at the corporation's four high schools. They went from 53 reported concussions in 2014, before the program was in place, to 21 this past season.

"That helmet is so heavy, it's easy for a kid to feel immortal," said corporation athletic director Kirby Whitacre. "There's a temptation to use it as a weapon; to lead with the head. This program is about education and training, so that doesn't become an issue."

The program, which is subsidized by the Indianapolis Colts, provides coaches a blueprint for teaching the proper fundamentals and techniques in blocking and tackling to avoid head injuries. Items like eliminating live kickoffs in practice and limiting contact in practice are part of the 20 points covered in the mandate to the coaches.

"It helps to have a plan in place that (coaches) can follow," said Washington head football coach Jay Johnson, the only South Bend coach who has been in place through the before and after of the program. "It has to be a priority for the head coach. If it is, your assistants will pick up on that. From them, the players see how important it is."

Myron Henderson recognizes the significance. At 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, Henderson is hardly the prototypical offensive guard. Though he has given up some size, the senior has survived and remained healthy through fundamentals and techniques.

As a sophomore playing junior varsity, before Heads Up Football was instituted, Henderson sustained a concussion.

"I can't even remember the play I was hurt on," Henderson said. "I just remember my brain was foggy and my sight wasn't on point. And the bright lights? They bothered me."

It was three weeks before Henderson could play again. He has been free of any head trauma since.

"I've been more mindful of taking hits to the head," Henderson said. "We focused a lot on the tackling circuit (the last two years), learning how to bring down a runner without using our head. As an offensive lineman, we learned how to explode safely."

"After a while, we had the players correcting each other on techniques," said Johnson. "The points (Heads Up Football) hits aren't drastic changes, just subtle things."

Washington's concussions, as reported by its certified athletic trainer, went from eight in 2015 to just two this past season. Johnson said he was "ecstatic" when he saw the numbers.

"We'd love to take the head out of the game, except for the thinking part," said Whitacre.

The next step is to get the program set up at the intermediate center level. It's more difficult because those schools don't have certified athletic trainers available, like the high schools. Each high school coaching staff has a designated "safety coach," who is a resource available to the intermediate centers that would normally feed into that school. Johnson, who is Washington's safety coach, said he has never been contacted for advice by anyone.

Whitacre said he is trying to plan a summer clinic through Heads Up Football to educate coaches at all levels.

All this, Johnson hopes, might convince parents that, with proper education and training, football can be a safe activity for their sons.

"Every parent wants their son to be the same person when they come home that they were when they left," Johnson said. "It's a physical game, but we're hoping more parents will be comfortable allowing their kids to be involved."

CONCUSSION NUMBERS

2014 (53)

Adams 29

Clay 7

Riley 11

Washington 6

2015 (32)

Adams 7

Clay 6

Riley 11

Washington 8

2016 (21)

Adams 12

Clay 1

Riley 6

Washington 2

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South Bend Tribune (Indiana)

 

As if this football season wasn't bad enough. Flag the NCAA 15 yards for piling on.

Notre Dame officials have known for a while that the other shoe was going to drop in the academic fraud case of many moons ago. Tuesday, that shoe turned out to be a boot in the backside. And the Fighting Irish have chosen not to take it.

The battle over 21 asterisks will soon wage.

With Notre Dame promising to file an appeal with the NCAA, the harshest punishment to come from the academic cheating scandal that involved a student athletic trainer and several football players would be vacating 12 wins in 2012, and nine in '13.

The sting from the black eye to the university may last longer.

By the way, where does head coach Brian Kelly fit into the equation? What's his culpability in the big picture of the issue?

"Zero. None. Absolutely none," Kelly said in a confident tone, during his weekly Tuesday news conference.

Of course, maybe that's not up to him to decide. The people who matter within the university may not be as completely convinced. Only a few know for sure.

When the academic fraud bombshell originally dropped in mid-August 2014, Notre Dame President the Rev. John I. Jenkins and athletic director Jack Swarbrick manned the point for the announcement, and immediate damage control. After that - through much of the 2014 season - it was up to Kelly to be a spokesman for the process. At times, it was obvious he didn't embrace that role.

Same goes for Tuesday. If, as Kelly said, the punishment doesn't involve him one iota, why was he stuck being the university's mouthpiece? That stage really belonged to Swarbrick, who was out of town.

A born and bred politician, Kelly is normally smooth and calculated in his remarks when the issue is sensitive. For the most part, he was calm and deliberate in mapping out the university's case. For the most part ?

"I was always hopeful that we wouldn't be at this day, but here's what I can tell you: We did the right thing," said Kelly, emotion jutting through his delivery as calm briefly went out the window.

"I'm proud of our support staff, our academic support staff. I'm proud of the people that represented us here at Notre Dame during this time. And if doing the right thing means that you've got to put an asterisk next to these games, that's fine with me. We still beat Oklahoma. We still beat Wake Forest. We still beat all those teams. So you can put an asterisk next to it. If that makes you feel better, then that's fine with me."

Really? Didn't sound like it was fine with him.

Still, the culpability issue can't be swept away. As Kelly said, this was student-on-student cheating - a situation that's hard to monitor. But, one premise Kelly has held dear over the seven-year developmental stage of his program has been "culture." Remember the "Culture Beats Scheme" mantra that looked really nice on a T-shirt?

Well, if the proper culture is in place throughout the program, academic fraud doesn't happen. Accountability makes sure there's no room for it. As the CEO of Notre Dame Football Inc., this happened on Kelly's watch. No matter how many times he tries to wash his hands, he still needs to shoulder at least a part of the stench.

Enough to send him packing? Probably 4-7 with a potential blowout at Southern Cal staring him in the face would have more to do with a "thumbs down" than 21 asterisks.

But, they won't help the situation any.

Aside from the pocket change ($5,000 fine) and a year's probation (don't mess up again or you're in real trouble), Irish record books will absorb the hit.

Oh well. Big deal.

This season just keeps getting worse.

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The Daily News of Los Angeles

 

LAS VEGAS  - The NHL's newest team is named the Vegas Golden Knights.

Owner Bill Foley and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the Las Vegas expansion franchise's official name and revealed its logo and colors Tuesday night at a gala ceremony for about 5,000 fans outside T-Mobile Arena, where the Golden Knights will begin play next season.

The Golden Knights' logo is a simple front view of a fighting helmet with a conspicuous "V" in the middle. Their colors are steel grey, gold, red and black.

"Our logo and our name is really going to exhibit the highest element of the warrior class - the knight," Foley told the crowd. "The knight protects the unprotected. The knight defends the realm. The knight never gives up, never gives in, always advances, never retreats. And that is what our team is going to be."

The NHL awarded its 31st franchise in June to this gambling mecca in the Mojave Desert. Foley is a billionaire businessman who sold the league on the potential of being the first major pro sports franchise in the growing market while playing in a new $375 million arena already constructed on the south end of the Strip.

Foley paid $500 million as an expansion fee to the other 30 ownership groups, and the West Point graduate strongly considered naming his team the Black Knights in honor of his Army roots.

He changed his mind during the lengthy process of developing a brand and an identity for his team, but Foley kept a military touch in the name despite some local criticism for its lack of a connection to Las Vegas. Foley has said the team didn't want to include an overt gambling reference in the name, but also considered Desert Knights and Silver Knights.

Fans chanted Foley's name when he stepped to the podium to make the announcement.

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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

A judge will decide whether to dismiss charges against former coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery near the one-year anniversary of the rape of an Ooltewah High School basketball player.

Judge Don Poole said Tuesday he plans to release his decision before the next hearing on Dec. 16 in Hamilton County Criminal Court. Until then, he will weigh the primary issue that District Attorney General Neal Pinkston and defense attorney Curtis Bowe have pointed out before: whether state laws are too vague concerning who is required to report instances of child abuse, and how timely those reports must be.

Bowe continued to argue that Pinkson's office didn't have discretion to file charges in Hamilton County when the incident happened in Sevier County, Tenn. "At best," he said, "this should be prosecuted in Sevier County."

He previously asked Poole to dismiss Montgomery's charges in a motion that includes that argument.

Bowe then focused on the ages of the boys accused of the rape, which happened during the basketball team's trip to compete in a tournament in Gatlinburg, Tenn., just days before Christmas 2015. They were 17 and 16, archives show.

But age plays a specific role in who takes the lead on a child abuse case. Law enforcement moves first with 13- to 17-year-olds, while the Department of Child Services handles 13-year-olds and under, Bowe said. At 18 years old, different charges typically apply.

"Thirteen- to 17-year-olds can't speak, articulate, ask questions and participate in their own investigation with police," Bowe said.

Pinkston replied there is a duty to report regardless of the age of the child. He noted that some of the statutes aren't crystal clear about whether children can be charged with child sexual abuse.

"But nonetheless," he said, "child sexual abuse can involve children, as we have pointed out."

Records show one of the boys, now 18, was found guilty of aggravated rape and aggravated assault in a Sevier County Juvenile Court. The other two boys were found guilty of aggravated assault.

Montgomery, who no longer works for Ooltewah High School, faces four counts of failure to report child sexual abuse. Bowe wrapped up his argument with their two main points.

"One, you have to know how something's going to happen. And two, you have to know what you're supposed to be reporting and to whom," he said.

Pinkston previously filed charges of failure to report child sexual abuse against former Ooltewah High School volunteer assistant coach Karl Williams and the school's former athletic director, Allard "Jesse" Nayadley.

The charges against Williams were dropped in May. And two weeks before that, Nayadley accepted pretrial diversion, meaning he agreed to skip a grand jury review, and the charges will be erased if he completes 10 hours of community service, attends a course on reporting abuse and is well behaved.

Regardless, Poole said, the courts had knowledge of a terrible act that occurred in Sevier County.

"This is somewhat separated from who has to report it and where you have to report it to," he said.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow on Twitter @zackpeterson918.

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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

Wanted: A developer willing to help close a key gap along the Mississippi Riverfront.

That firm must be willing to work with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and several community groups to re-imagine a vacant 3.55-acre site along the river north of downtown.

"We want to see something that's a great complement to the park on the river," Michael Schroeder, assistant superintendent of planning services at the Park Board.

That land, called Parcel D, is just north of the Plymouth Avenue Bridge on the east bank of the river. For decades it was home to Scherer Brothers Lumber, but is now part of an 11.7-acre redevelopment project that will include parkland, a recreational trail and a reclaimed island. Parcel D is the only portion of the project that will be developed privately. The rest will be spearheaded by the Park Board with cooperation from the chosen developer.

Though the park has yet to be developed and the 4-acre Hall's Island has yet to be re-established, the Park Board has already opened a mile-long section of the Mississippi East Bank Trail, which connects to an extensive trail system down river. In the mid-1960s, Scherer Brothers acquired what was once Hall's Island and filled in the eastern channel to expand its storage

Hall's Island and filled in the eastern channel to expand its storage yard. The Park Board bought the once-polluted site in 2010 for $7.7 million.

Last year, Graco Inc. considered partnering with Ryan Cos. to develop its new corporate headquarters on the site, but the plan was scrapped.

Schroeder said that Ryan's withdrawal from the process doesn't mean they might not try again. The Park Board is not yet expecting developers to present a detailed proposal for the site. Instead, the firm selected will have to work with a 15-member community advisory committee and the Park Board to craft a concept plan.

"We have design direction, we now need the insights of a developer... that will lead to a project that someone will actually want to build," said Schroeder.

He said that because the Park Board doesn't have the funds to operate a new park, it expects the developer to participate in a ground lease that would help operate and maintain the park.

Though only pollution remediation and a trail have been built, the project has already been years in the making. In 2010, the Park and Recreation Board, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation, University of Minnesota College of Design and Walker Art Center launched an international design competition aimed at creating a plan to redevelop a 5.5-mile stretch of the river north of the Stone Arch Bridge.

The Minneapolis Riverfront Development Initiative was established along with a 20-year vision for the Mississippi-riverfront parks called "RiverFIRST." A conceptual schematic design was created for the entire site and the Park Board created the Above the Falls Regional Park Master Plan to help guide future development.

The winners of the 2011 design competition proposed redredging the channel and building a bridge. Their plans also call for the creation of a beach and a better connection to the riverfront for recreational uses.

Edna Brazaitis, a community advisory committee member, said that she doesn't have a preconceived notion of how Parcel D is used, but she has encouraged the Park Board to be open to different uses even if current zoning may not allow them.

"That can mean a number of things including but not limited to commercial uses that draw in the public and benefit from the park's activities and its skyline views of the city," she said. "It could be residential, where there are eyes on the park providing activity all week long and a sense of safety. It could be a use that I couldn't even imagine."

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November 22, 2016
 
 
 

 

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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

Jurgen Klinsmann is out as coach of the U.S. national soccer team, fired Monday after starting the final round of World Cup qualifying with losses to Mexico and Costa Rica.

Klinsmann, a World Cup champion as a player with Germany, was 55-27-16 since taking over the U.S. program in the summer of 2011. In 2013, he led the team on a record-setting 12-game winning streak, the longest in program history. A year later, he led them to the knockout of the World Cup in Brazil. He also won a Gold Cup title and guided the U.S. to the semifinals of last summer's Copa America Centenario.

But the two losses this month marked the worst start in history for a U.S. team in World Cup qualifying.

No replacement for Klinsmann was named. L.A. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, who coached the U.S. to participation in two World Cups a decade ago, is among those being considered.

Sunil Gulati, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, released a statement praising Klinsmann and his "considerable achievements." But, he added, "the form and growth of the team up to this point left us convinced that we need to go in a different direction. With the next qualifying match in late March, we have several months to refocus the group and determine the best way forward to ensure a successful journey to qualify for our eighth-consecutive World Cup."

Gulati spent years trying to land Klinsmann as coach, eventually succeeding after the U.S. lost to Mexico in the final of the 2011 Gold Cup. Less than two years later, Klinsmann was rewarded with a contract extension through 2018, one that reportedly paid him more than $3.2 million in 2014 while expanding his duties by making him U.S. Soccer's technical director as well.

In addition to Arena, who guided the U.S. in the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup, other candidates to replace Klinsmann include Tab Ramos, a former U.S. international who is a Klinsmann assistant; and MLS coaches Peter Vermes (Sporting Kansas City), Jason Kreis (Orlando City) and Oscar Pareja (FC Dallas).

U.S. Soccer has scheduled a conference call with Gulati for Tuesday morning, at which he is expected to introduce the new coach. A federation spokesman confirmed Arena, 65, is among those being considered. The most successful coach in U.S. Soccer history, Arena won a record 71 games with the national team and five MLS titles with the Galaxy and D.C. United.

But he recently signed a two-year contract extension with the Galaxy, a deal that does not include an out clause allowing him to leave for the national team. However, it is believed the organization would not stand in Arena's way if he wanted to leave.

Klinsmann's tenure with the national team, while marked by success, also had some deflating setbacks, especially in the last 18 months. In 2015, the U.S. failed to finish in the top three in the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the first time in 15 years, for example, part of a run that saw the Americans loss four consecutive games to CONCANCAF teams on U.S. soil for the first time in 50 years.

Then came this month's qualifying losses to Mexico - the first qualifying loss at home in 15 years - and Costa Rica, the latter a 4-0 rout in San Jose that marked the most one-sided qualifying loss for an American team since 1980. Along the way Klinsmann tinkered with both his lineup choices and formations, often using players at positions where they were not comfortable.

And players who fell out of favor with the coach found it hard to get back on his good side. Landon Donovan, the all-time leader in goals and assists for the national team, took a sabbatical early in 2013, then came back to lead the team in scoring that year. Yet he was still cut from the World Cup team a year later.

Hours before the Mexico qualifier, Gulati said he expected Klinsmann to coach the team through the 2018 World Cup in Russia, noting that the U.S. had not replaced a manager during the final round of qualifying since 1989.

Less than two weeks later, Klinsmann was out.

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

The Georgia Supreme Court has tossed out the conviction of a former Cherokee County high school wrestling coach and paraprofessional found guilty in the sexual assault of a sophomore cheerleader.

Robert Leslie Morrow was convicted in February 2014 under a statute that prohibits teachers, principals and administrators from engaging in sexual conduct with students. In its unanimous decision announced Monday, the court found that, because Morrow was a paraprofessional, the statute didn't apply to him. Morrow was sentenced to 240 days in detention and 10 years probation.

The Court of Appeals had overturned the conviction last year, ruling that the state failed to prove any "supervisory or disciplinary authority over the victim" and thus failed to prove "an essential element" of the crime that was charged.

The state appealed that decision to Georgia's top court, which found that the appeals court erred on the grounds for reversal but not in its ruling.

"Despite the plain language of the statute, the state fought diligently to extend its boundaries," Morrow's attorney, Bryan Lumpkin, said Monday. "I always believed that opinion was incorrectly decided, the Court of Appeals indicated its agreement with our position, and the Supreme Court today made very clear that (Morrow) was never in violation of this statute."

While the state had presented evidence that Morrow had some "general" supervisory position at River Ridge High School, he did not meet the specific criteria laid out in Georgia code, the Supreme Court ruled. He had been hired as a paraprofessional to prevent a special-needs child from disrupting classes. That's where Morrow, 27, met the cheerleader, 11 years his junior.

The pair began exchanging flirtatious texts and, in December 2010, the cheerleader agreed to meet "Coach Morrow," as he was known at River Ridge, in a grocery store parking lot. There she performed oral sex on him. She changed schools a week later but the sexual relationship continued.

"If the General Assembly desires to expand the scope of (the code) to include paraprofessionals (or other school employees such as bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and janitors), it certainly may do so by defining the persons to whom the statute applies in broader terms," Justice Keith Blackwell wrote. "But the statute currently applies only to teachers, principals, assistant principals, and other administrators, and this Court cannot judicially rewrite the statute."

It was the second time the state Supreme Court had weighed in on the Morrow case. In June 2014, the court found that another River Ridge teacher who knew of the illicit relationship should not have been charged under a state law that requires teachers to report reasonable suspicions of child abuse.

In January 2011, when she returned to River Ridge to watch a basketball game, the student told her favorite teacher, Kristin Lee May, that she had been

ALSO INSIDE

» Court: Too early to decide if school district expands with Atlanta, B2 having sex with Morrow. The student was no longer involved with the wrestling coach but, ironically, May and Morrow had begun an affair of their own.

May was arrested seven months later when the student told police about her own relationship with Morrow.

Under the state's "mandatory reporting" law, the teacher would have been required to report abuse if she had been "attending" the child, the court said. Which teachers would have such an obligation was unclear, as the court acknowledged.

"For instance, when the child is not assigned to the class of the teacher, but the child is enrolled as a student at the same school," Blackwell wrote in the 2014 decision. "This, however, is no such case."

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USA TODAY

 

Online retailer and streaming video provider Amazon reportedly is talking with professional and college sports leagues in an attempt to put together a live sports streaming offering.

The National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and Major League Soccer are among pro leagues Amazon has met with to talk about broadcast rights, according to a report Monday in The Wall Street Journal.

Amazon is looking to create a premium sports programming package for its Prime subscribers, people familiar with the situation told The Journal. Among the programming, Amazon sought to get an exclusive deal for its NBA League Pass, which offers out-of-market games. But the NBA preferred its current method, which packages games via multiple outlets, a person told the Journal.

Amazon has shown interest in live NFL games in recent years, a person familiar with the discussions told USA TODAY. The person would not provide their name because they were not able to comment publicly on the issue.

Sports leagues have expanded their online offerings recently with the NFL streaming games on Yahoo and Twitter. Twitter also has deals to begin streaming Major League Baseball and National Hockey League games.

"The NFL has already dabbled with Yahoo and Twitter -- why not Amazon?" said Bruce Leichtman, president of the Leichtman Research Group. Even if Amazon begins to stream out-of-market pro games, he said, "I don't think that there would be any big blow to pay-TV coming from Amazon via live sports in the near future."

Live sports has been one of the bulwarks protecting against cord cutting. Pay-TV providers have lost about 755,000 subscribers over the past year, compared to a loss of about 445,000 the previous year, according to Leichtman Research Group. Overall, about 82% of U.S. homes with TVs subscribe to pay TV, down from 87% in 2011 but similar to the 82% of subscribing homes in 2005, the research firm says.

A move to stream sports makes sense, says Joel Espelien, senior analyst with The Diffusion Group. "Amazon is looking for content that will drive subscription revenue," he said.

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November 22, 2016
 
 
 

 

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South Bend Tribune (Indiana)

 

SOUTH BEND -- Indiana University South Bend's women's softball team will play its home games at an upgraded field in Veterans Memorial Park, a city-owned park adjacent to campus.

The upgrades will be funded by a $105,000 gift from local businessman Richard Pfeil, Chancellor Terry Allison announced Friday.

In recognition of the improvements, the city will rename the softball venue Pfeil Field.

IU South Bend will lease use of the field at no cost from South Bend for at least five years and use it for home softball games, tournaments and practices. The team will begin its first season in spring 2017.

Pfeil Field will remain city property and will be open for public use when it isn't needed by the IU South Bend softball team. The park also will be used by the university for some intramural sports and activities. The park is located along Northside Boulevard just west of campus.

IU South Bend now has eight teams competing in the Chicagoland Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics: men's and women's basketball, women's volleyball, men's baseball, men's and women's cross country, men's golf and women's softball.

The campus will add women's golf, men's and women's tennis, and competitive cheer for the 2017-18 season.

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November 23, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2016 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

As we consider the end of Charlie Strong's star-crossed tenure at Texas, flash back to a moment when the possibilities seemed wide open. Way back on Sept. 4, Texas edged Notre Dame in what seemed at the time to be an important pivot point for the program.

The Longhorns beat the Irish in double overtime, in prime time, a Sunday window all to themselves to showcase a freshman quarterback running a potent new offense, a program finally headed back toward relevance. Afterward, Strong crowd-surfed atop his celebrating players. When he finally left the field, he stopped for a quick chat and a hug from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

"They've been hungry for this," Abbott told USA TODAY Sports moments later, adding, "It feels like a championship."

Fast-forward to Saturday, when Texas played uninspired football in Lawrence, Kan., lost an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter and then lost a whole lot more in overtime. The Jayhawks celebrated wildly -- their first Big 12 victory in 20 tries, their first win against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent since 2014. The Longhorns -- well, they dropped to 5-6. Strong fell to 16-20 in three seasons.

It did not feel like a championship. It felt like the end.

While there had been signs in recent weeks that Strong might make it to next season -- it's clear the Texas administration wanted him to succeed -- losing to Kansas was too much. It was no longer if, but when Strong would be let go.

Though multiple reports Sunday said a decision had been made, Texas athletics director Mike Perrin said in a statement, "I've said all along, we will evaluate the body of work after the regular season. We have a game to get ready for against TCU on Friday, and I hope our fans will come out and support our team. We'll discuss where things stand after that."

After Saturday's loss, Strong said, "It was there for us."

He was referring to a win that slipped away, but it works in the bigger picture, as well. Like against Kansas, the Longhorns under Strong were unable to seize opportunity. For whatever reasons, they never capitalized.

We could talk about how it took far too long for Strong to commit to an offensive philosophy (and whether he should have just stuck with his preference, anyway, recruited to fit his system and played a style that would have been a changeup in the fastball Big 12). We could debate all sorts of disastrous decisions and point to plenty of critical moments when the ball just bounced funny, frankly, or else things might have gone differently.

Instead, reflect on that win against Notre Dame. We've known for a while that, as it turned out, beating the Irish wasn't a huge deal. This season, just about everyone has done it. Winning that night might have felt like a championship, but like several other flashes over the last three seasons (beating Oklahoma in 2015, as another example), it didn't signal much of anything.

But it's not wrong to suggest this much: It was there for Strong and the Longhorns that night. They couldn't do anything with the moment.

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November 21, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2016 Newsday, Inc.


Newsday (New York)

 

This night's game at the Huntington YMCA field could easily be mistaken for soccer or football, but it's not a ball the three dozen members of LI Ultimate are tossing, leaping and diving for. It's a Frisbee.

At LI Ultimate's Wednesday night pickup games, Frisbee is a competitive sport, with rules, scoring and, of course, some amazing catches.

"You are throwing a Frisbee through the sky, 70 yards away, and someone's jumping over someone and catching it," says Joe Moyles, 24, of Islip Terrace, a freelance video journalist and a captain of the Frisbee Long Island, or FLI, club.

"It's a combination of soccer, football and basketball all rolled into one," player Chris Ambrosio, 26, of Huntington, says.

FLYING HIGH

LI Ultimate, founded in 2008 by Ambrosio and fellow Huntington High School alumni, has grown from a summer league with 100 members to a year-round club comprising eight teams and about 200 players. The players, many of whom learned the sport on club teams at Hofstra, Adelphi or Stony Brook University, arrive from as far away as the Hamptons and Queens.

"The unique thing about Frisbee is that it has a third dimension," says Leanne Beyel, 23, of Commack, who joined LI Ultimate after playing on the Stony Brook women's team. "It goes up, down, left and right, and it can go in many different directions because of the wind."

Here are more things you should know about the sport of Ultimate Frisbee.

GETTING COMPETITIVE

The plastic flying disc Wham-O introduced in the 1950s was first used to play Ultimate at a New Jersey high school in the late 1960s, and it graduated to a competitive college sport in 1972, according to USA Ultimate, the sport's national governing body. "The sport was originally called Frisbee, but that's a trademark of Wham-O, so it's now called Ultimate," says Scott Mulderig, 31, of Freeport, a computer programmer and the club's vice president.

Then last year, the International Olympic Committee officially recognized flying disc sports, a step toward including the sport in the 2020 Olympics, Ambrosio says.

If you want to join a pickup game, you don't have to stay on the sidelines. Teammates will teach you the rules. No special gear is required, although wearing shoes with cleats will help you avoid slipping in the grass, players say. (The club supplies the standard Discraft 175-gram discs.) Layers of warm clothing and wool caps are recommended until Ultimate moves indoors in January.

During a game of Ultimate, you can play a handler or a cutter position. "A handler is like a quarterback, and the cutters are wide receivers," says player Sean Fagan, 23, of East Islip. Two teams of seven members score points by catching a pass in the opponent's end zone on a large field or indoor court.

Among the unique aspects of Ultimate Frisbee is a sportsmanship tradition called "spirit of the game." There are no referees. Players call their own fouls and resolve their own disputes, peacefully, on the field.

A MAJOR TOURNAMENT

This weekend's annual Project Pat Memorial Hat Tournament is named for Patrick Thomas McCourt, a Huntington High graduate and club founder who died in an auto accident at age 22 in 2011. More than 140 players are expected this year. Proceeds go toward a scholarship fund.

Project Pat Memorial Hat Tournament

WHEN | WHERE 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 25, at Huntington High School, 188 Oakwood Rd., Huntington

INFO 631-988-7185, liultimate.com

COST $32

LI Ultimate "Pick-Up" games

WHEN|WHERE 7:30-10 p.m. Wednesdays year-round at Huntington YMCA, 60 Main St., Huntington. All ages and skills welcome.

INFO 631-988-7185, liultimate.com

COST $8 per player (free for first-timers)

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November 21, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Newsday (New York)
Mark Herrmann mark.herrmann@newsday.com

The new Nassau Coliseum will make an immediate college basketball splash next season with local flavor, national flair and the 2016 NCAA champion Villanova Wildcats. A pair of games will tip off a Long Island Hoops program that also includes plans to attract postseason conference tournaments and March Madness.

On opening night of the season, Nov. 11, Stony Brook will play Maryland. "For us to open the new Nassau Coliseum is a significant event for us,'' Stony Brook director of athletics Shawn Heilbron said. "We want to expand our fan base across Long Island, and to play one of the powerhouse programs in the country is a great opportunity."

Then, on Dec. 22, 2017, Hof stra will face Villanova, marking a reunion for Wildcats coach Jay Wright, who coached Hofstra from 1994-2001.

"We had some great games at the Coliseum when I was at Hof stra, defining games," Wright said on the phone Sunday before his team played in the final of the Charleston (S.C.) Classic. He recalled beating St. John's in front of a big crowd and had even stronger memories of an earlier game against Penn - a blowout loss. "That showed us how far we had to go," he said.

As for next year's date at the arena that officially will be known as the New Coliseum presented by New York Community Bank, Wright said: "To get a game on Long Island is always important to Villanova because we have a lot of alumni there. And Patty and I still have a lot of friends at Hof stra and in Rockville Centre, where we lived."

It will be only his second coaching appearance on the Island since he left Hofstra. Villanova visited Stony Brook in 2006.

"He's a good friend and he also played a big part in the success that Hofstra has had. He's good for the game," said Joe Mihalich, the Pride's current coach and Wright's fellow Philadelphia native.

"It's going to be an absolutely fabulous venue," Mihalich said of the Coliseum, which is visible from campus, "so to get a chance to play in there and a chance to play against the national champions is going to be a great experience for all of our kids. It's also going to be a great event for the whole community - our students, fans and alumni and season-ticket holders."

Brett Yormark, CEO of Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, which operates both Barclays Center and the new Coliseum, said there will be a continued commitment to college basketball in Uniondale.

"We've been very aggressive in pitching postseason tournaments, no different from what we've done at Barclays Center," he said. "We have also been submitting several bids to the NCAA to bring the first and second rounds of the men's college basketball tournament."

The Coliseum has hosted The Big Dance before, including Villanova's triple-overtime win over Northeastern in 1982.

Even in the regular season, Stony Brook coach Jeff Boals said, the arena will help the Seawolves "broaden the Stony Brook" brand and draw alumni who live in the city. The opener will showcase the debut of his first recruiting class, including center Anthony Ochefu, whose brother Daniel was a starter for Villanova's title team.

The building will be on display, too. "I've toured it," Heilbron said, "and it is definitely going to be a first-class facility."


 
November 21, 2016
 
 
 

 

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South Bend Tribune (Indiana)

 

Before they were Elkhart Central Blue Blazers or Elkhart Memorial Crimson Chargers, many athletes learned the basics as part of the Elkhart Community Schools' feeder program of elementary and middle schools.

Schools competing in an elementary league are Beardsley, Bristol, Cleveland, Eastwood, Hawthorne, Mary Beck, Mary Daly, Mary Feeser, Monger, Osolo, Pinewood, Riverview, Roosevelt STEAM and Woodland, as well as parochial school St. Vincent's.

Fifth- and sixth-graders (and sometimes fourth-graders) get a taste of boys soccer, girls volleyball, boys cross country, girls cross country and coed lacrosse in the fall; boys basketball and girls basketball in the winter; and girls soccer and boys flag football in the spring

Seasons are short and contests are generally held at 4 p.m. on weekdays.

Lacrosse, which is taught in elementary and middle school physical education classes with an eye on possible future high school teams, is a second-year program with games played at Feeser.

Soccer is played at Nibco fields. Other sports meet at elementary sites.

Football was moved to the spring to give middle school and high school coaches, who are busy during the fall, time to get involved. Whenever possible, high school coaches in all sports help elementary coaches teach the basics.

Elementary track has become a summer program.

When necessary, young athletes are bused to games (not practices).

"The biggest thing now is participation," elementary athletic director Jeff Komins said. "We also backed off the number of sports to give more time for practice."

Komins said 228 kids participated in "soft" lacrosse (softer ball and smaller stick than traditional lacrosse) and 173 in cross country.

Based on 2015-16 figures, there were 356 participants citywide in boys soccer, 416 in girls volleyball, 367 in boys basketball, 405 in flag football and 291 in girls soccer.

At the middle school level, seventh- and eighth-graders at North Side, Pierre Moran and West Side compete in the Big 11 Conference.

For the second year, rather than teams from the three schools only, there were Elkhart East and Elkhart West football squads for seventh and eighth grade.

The idea was to bring up the number of participants as well as the competitiveness of the squads. Elkhart West eighth-graders won the overall conference title in the fall. A year ago, the same group was the regular season seventh-grade champions before losing in a playoff game.

Players were assigned to the team associated with their future high school. Elkhart East is Central and Elkhart West Memorial. All practices and home games take place at either Central or Memorial.

There is a unique challenge at North Side where about half of the students are headed for one high school or the other.

"The kids wear their uniforms on game days," North Side activities director Betsy Tepe said. "Some were in red and some were in blue.

"They come together in football and play against each other in basketball. But there hasn't been any real problems."

Each Elkhart middle school also had teams for seventh-grade volleyball, eighth-grade volleyball, boys cross country, girls cross country, boys soccer and girls soccer.

In the winter, there are seventh-grade and eighth-grade teams at each school for boys basketball and girls basketball with a combined team for wrestling and Elkhart East and Elkhart West squads for boys swimming and girls swimming. Wrestlers practice and compete at ECHS or EMHS.

Spring brings with it seventh-grade and eighth-grade teams for boys track and girls track and the debut of middle school lacrosse in some form.

The goal of middle school sports is simple.

"We want to get kids ready for high school sports," West Side athletic director Steve Greenlee said. "We want them to be fundamentally sound and have a better understanding of the sports."

Steve Krah is a veteran sportswriter from Elkhart. He can be reached at stvkrh905@gmail.com

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November 22, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

Emma Schluter, a captain next year on Minneapolis South High School's soccer team, has to keep her mind on more than the match when she plays at home on Barnard Field.

There are water drains, long jump and pole vault runways that crowd near the pitch, and concrete pads that lie just 15 inches off the side line, threatening to send Schluter and her cleat-clad teammates skidding.

"When you're playing, you have to be aware of all these outside safety issues," she said recently.

Schluter joined parents and alumni who called a meeting with Superintendent Ed Graff, the school board and other district officials in October to call for fixes at the deteriorating facilities. She followed that up by giving Graff a personal tour of the field.

But Schluter, a junior who also runs track, may be out of high school and college by the time the athletic field, rated by a consultant as the worst among the seven Minneapolis high schools, gets all its recommended improvements.

The total cost of rehabbing South's outdoor athletic facilities to a par with most other district high schools is estimated at $2.45 million.

The school board voted this week to seek a $300,000 Hennepin County youth sports grant for field improvements, and pledged a $500,000 match. But that still leaves the first step toward field improvement, installing artificial turf, $400,000 short with no outside funding secured.

The board also approved seeking an identical county grant for North, the next-worst field. South counts 887 field sport participants, 12 times that of smaller North.

'Might as well be concrete'

Supporters have been trying for years to fix up South's facilities.

South alumni helped put forward a revamped field plan years ago, only to see it stall after they helped finance and build a building for tickets, concession and storage. Some parents worry the poor facilities are costing South talented athletes who opt to enroll elsewhere.

Track coach Mark Gross has been fighting for a better oval since he started coaching there in 2005.

"Back then, that track needed to be resurfaced," he said. Now it's worse. "Whatever track's there, it might as well be concrete."

That's bad news, given that teens are notoriously vulnerable to shin splints, which are exacerbated by hard surfaces.

"I'm a year-round athlete. I don't really have time for injuries," Schluter said.

South has no home track meets. In addition to the track's poor condition, it lacks a timing system and it's only six lanes wide compared to the eight lanes at most schools.

"My friends have never seen me run," Schluter said.

Meanwhile, South has never had a night homecoming game at Barnard Field because it lacks lights. There's no press box for shooting game video. One video cameraman for a visiting school accidentally got stranded and left behind on the school roof several years ago.

Parent frustrations

South activists also said they've been frustrated by communication with the school district.

A year ago, after the district bought a quarter-block site on nearby Lake Street, a district official said the purpose was to expand adjacent properties, including South and the district fieldhouse, and to consider building a new school for adult basic education programs and older special education students.

South fans said they were stunned to be told this fall that their facility needs wouldn't be incorporated there.

The district told them it's important for the adult and special education programs to be on good bus service, but parents ask why they didn't have input on the decision - and when South's needs will be addressed.

The school district declined to make its facilities officials available to respond to questions for this report.

Graff told parents at an Oct. 26 meeting that he's planning to launch a new five-year capital planning process early next year. He apologized for a lack of communication and said that if there are safety issues, they should be addressed, but said parents need to wait for the new planning process to give input.

But Schluter will be long gone by the time any improvements happen. So she will play next season on a field with grassless patches and divots that make the game much different from playing on a field with even grass or artificial turf.

"We don't feel safe playing on it," she said. "We don't feel proud of where we're from."

Steve Brandt · 612-673-4438

Twitter: @brandtmpls

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November 21, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2016 Virginian-Pilot Companies LLC
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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

The baseball field at Virginia Wesleyan College is getting significant upgrades this fall to the dugouts and backstop, as well as a new press box and grandstand. The projects are funded by longtime college benefactors Joan and Macon Brock. The field will be named after Joan's father and former board member Kenneth R. Perry.

The $550,000 contribution from the Brocks funds a new 370-seat grandstand; a climate-controlled press box with scorer's table; a rebuild of the existing dugouts, including new benches, helmet and bat racks and protective netting; a VWC-branded home-plate halo; relocation of the bullpens; four-foot black vinyl fencing with spectator-friendly sightlines; practice screen replacement; new pole and net backstop; and surrounding landscaping.

An earlier donation from the Brocks funded a new irrigation system, as well as grading and re-sodding of the field.

"Virginia Wesleyan has some of the most attractive NCAA Division III facilities in this region," said Joanne Renn, executive director of intercollegiate athletics. "Improvements to Perry Field will increase our ability to attract top talent, better accommodate spectators and raise the profile of Marlin baseball."

Several other facilities at the college and director positions are named after the Brocks and Perry.

Upgrades to the baseball field are slated for completion by the start of the season in February.

 

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November 20, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Newsday (New York)

 

Three Long Island high schools have invested in football helmet sensor technology designed to record the force of impacts to the head.

Oyster Bay became the first on Long Island to use the technology for the 2015 season in an effort to protect its players from the risk of a concussion. Central Islip and Hewlett added the sensor technology this season.

Oyster Bay and Central Islip are using Riddell's Insite system, which sends an alert to a handheld device whenever a hit to the helmet registers above a certain threshold of force. Riddell declined to specify what that threshold is.

Hewlett became the first high school on Long Island to use a new system from Canada-based GForceTracker. The sensor is advertised as a real-time athlete monitoring system, recording information such as a player's speed and acceleration to the "severity" of each head impact. All of the information is cataloged in a cloud-based computer program.

Hewlett also used the sensors in boys' lacrosse helmets.

"We're looking at it as we're pioneers," Hewlett athletic director David Viegas said, "and we're staying ahead of the curve with player safety."

Hewlett took action last year, days after the report by Newsday and News 12 about head safety and the quality of helmets in high school football.

The school district replaced its inventory of helmets with 125 new Schutt helmets, which are given a five-star rating by Virginia Tech researchers.

Hewlett spent $8,700 on 55 sensors in March and $4,500 on 30 additional sensors in July, according to purchase orders obtained by Newsday via Freedom of Information Law requests. The cost covers the sensors and a year's subscription to the software used to track the information.

"We feel we are cutting-edge," Superintendent Ralph Marino said. "We have five-star helmets. We have the best sensors. We added an additional trainer this year. We have two full-time athletic trainers."

The sensors are about an inch long - roughly the size and shape of a tile used in dominoes - and attach inside the helmet.

When a player receives an impact to the head, the sensor transmits data analyzing the force of the hit, allowing someone on the sideline to view the data on a laptop as the play unfolds.

"I thought it would be a big, bulky contraption in my helmet," Hewlett quarterback Jake Levitz said. "I thought it would be real uncomfortable. But you really don't notice them when you play."

GForceTracker chief technology officer Gerry Iuliano said the high schools that have bought the system have been using the data for different purposes.

Some coaches use it to determine when a player needs to be checked after a severe hit - either by setting it to send an alert after hits above a threshold of their choice, or by looking for athletes who suddenly registered a slower running speed than their average, he said. Coaches also use it to log hits per player, position, practice, game and season.

Viegas said Hewlett's sensors are set to send an alert if a player receives an impact at or above 80 G-forces, which is a measurement that takes into account acceleration and weight. Stefan Duma, the lead author of Virginia Tech's study into a helmet's ability to reduce the risk of concussion, described an 80-G impact as a "very big hit and at the level where you start to see concussions."

Other schools are using the system for strategic purposes. Iuliano said some coaches use the sensors to determine how to best utilize players on the field based on their speed. The data might show that a player accelerates faster going straight ahead as opposed to when they run on an angle, or vice versa, and that affects play calls.

Viegas said it's too soon for Hewlett to know for certain what the school will do with all the data it has been compiling about athletes, the hits they've taken and their tendencies. He said he plans to share it with the school physician after the season.

Central Islip athletic director Larry Philips said the purchase of sensors came after the board of education "inquired about what steps we were already taking to help decrease head injuries and what more we could do."

Philips said the alerts went off about 65 times this season, and three of them led to players being removed because of suspected concussions.

Oyster Bay athletic director Kevin Trentowski said the sensors went off about 30 times last season, but none led to a player being held out because of a suspected concussion. He said the sensors were also useful as a teaching tool.

One player, he said, had his sensor go off a dozen times within the span of a few minutes during practice while the player was hitting the tackling sled. Coaches worked with the player to correct his tackling technique to keep his head out of the play.

Trentowski said this year the sensors sent fewer alerts than a year ago, and again none of them led to a concussion diagnosis.

"Is it because the kids know it's there and they're going to be checked after it goes off? . . . Or is it maybe that high school football is becoming safer?" Trentowski said. "I don't know."

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November 20, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2016 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

With less than 150 days to go until the first regular-season game in SunTrust Park, the Braves are selling ticket packages, setting up new offices and spending some of their anticipated revenue increase on (very) veteran pitchers.

The Braves' race to opening day, which began with the announcement three years ago this month of the move to Cobb County, has entered the final sprint.

"From a business standpoint, it's a pretty significant pivot," said Derek Schiller, the Braves' president of business. "Almost from the day that the season ended at Turner Field, we began focusing on how we operate the new environments at SunTrust Park."

They are counting the days to the April 14 regular-season opener in the new ballpark against the San Diego Padres. As of Sunday, it's 145 days and counting.

While much work remains to be done on the $672 million stadium, the Braves and parent company Liberty Media proclaim it on schedule and on budget.

About three-quarters of the 41,000 seats have been installed. Drainage and irrigation systems for the playing field are in the works. Four parking decks are under construction for the stadium and adjacent mixed-use development, although the Braves haven't revealed details of a long-awaited parking plan. Trees are being planted and pine-straw spread on one side of the stadium.

The Braves' 65,000-squarefoot administrative offices, on the right-field side of SunTrust Park under the "Xfinity Rooftop" patio/lounge area, will be occupied months before the rest of the stadium.

The Braves plan for about 300 staffers to move into the offices in mid-December, beating the Dec. 31 expiration of the team's Turner Field lease. Some furniture was being delivered last week.

In preparation for the move, the Braves have been sorting through documents and memorabilia accumulated during the team's 51 seasons at Turner Field and Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.With the help of an archives company, Heritage Werks, staffers have been deciding what to take with them to Cobb, what to store, what to purge, what to convert from paper to electronic form.

Aside from the administrative offices, the rest of the new stadium will be occupied beginning in March, first for some trial-run functions in various club areas and then for a March 31 exhibition game against the New York Yankees. The Braves view the exhibition as a soft opening of the ballpark, and tickets will be limited to season-ticket holders.

At this point, the Braves are selling full-season and 27-game ticket packages. The 27-game packages, which went on sale this month, are available from three options: the Friday plan, Saturday plan and Sunday plan. Each plan includes all home games on that day of the week, plus 14 additional Monday-through-Thurs-day games scattered throughout the season.

Dates haven't been set for the start of sales of smaller packages and single-game tickets.

"As we get closer to opening day, we'll start to break (tickets) into smaller packages," Schiller said. "Historically, we have started single-game sales in combination with the start of spring training, so the likelihood is we'd be near that time frame."

The Braves won't say how many season tickets they have sold to date, although Schiller said they are "on pace" to meet a goal of 20,000 by opening day. Seventy-six percent of the premium seats "already are sold," Braves Chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk said at a Liberty Media investors conference last week.

SunTrust Park will have 3,800 premium seats -- defined as seats that come with added amenities, such as access to club areas -- compared with 400 at Turner Field. The premium seats are in the new stadium's prime locations and cost from $92 to $500 per game in season-ticket packages that require minimum contract lengths ranging from three to seven years. Non-premium seats range from$7 to $98 per game in season-ticket packages that don't require multiyear contracts.

The Braves plan to announce details soon about two areas of the stadium: "Monument Garden" on one of the main concourses, where statues and other treasures from franchise history are expected to be displayed, and a yet-to-be-named kids' zone, which is expected to include a zip line.

Preparation for the inaugural season in the team's new home extends from the business side of the Braves' front office to the baseball-operations side.

Theorganizationhastakensteps this month to try to strengthen the on-field product, spending $20.5 million to sign the two oldest pitchers in the major leagues as free agents: 42-year-old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and 43-yearold Bartolo Colon.

The additions are intended to buy the Braves time until some of their pitching prospects develop and--assuming Dickey and Colon are able to squeeze another good season out of their aging right arms -- make the first season in the new stadium better than the final two in Turner Field.

The expenditures reflect a rising player payroll tied to rising revenue, although the Braves haven't publicly revealed their payroll budget. They opened the 2016 season with a payroll of about $85 million, MLB's fourth lowest.

The 2017 payroll clearly will be higher: With the Dickey and Colon contracts, the Braves have $86 million committed to nine players, led by $20.8 million to first baseman Freddie Freeman and $18 million to outfielder Matt Kemp (not including the portion of Kemp's salary the Padres are covering). Six arbitration-eligible players are projected to add up to $9 million to the payroll, while players not eligible for arbitration won't make much more than the minimum MLB salary, which was $507,500 this year.

With more activity expected on the free-agent and/or trade markets, the payroll seems likely to at least approach the $112 million level of opening day 2014 -- the season before the Braves began purging salaries and rebuilding their minor-league system.

"We expect pretty good near-term and long-term growth in revenue and free cash flow from the new ballpark," Liberty Media Chief Financial Officer Mark Carleton said in a presentation at last week's investors meeting. "History tells us that there is a 15 to 25 percent increase in revenues as you move into a new ballpark, and obviously... this ballpark is quite extraordinary. So we're looking forward to that.

"Some of that will flow through to the bottom line, and some of it will prudently go into our on-the-field talent."

Carleton said that by projecting a 20 percent increase in revenue and factoring in the Braves' investment in the mixed-use development, the team could be valued at $1.5 billion -- sharply higher than Forbes magazine's most recent estimate of $1.18 billion.

A 20 percent increase in annual revenue would amount to almost $50 million, based on the Braves' $243 million in 2015 revenue.

Construction of the new stadium has gone according to plan, Liberty Media told investors.

"Fortunately, unlike some of these other projects, this project has been on time and on budget all the way along," Carleton said.

Meanwhile, in a temporary project-management office across the street from SunTrust Park, a countdown clock keeps track of the dwindling time until opening day.

SUNTRUST PARK COUNTDOWN

Mid-December: Braves move into offices at the new stadium. March 31: Braves vs.New York Yankees in exhibition game. April 14: Regular-season home opener vs.San Diego Padres.

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The Daily News of Los Angeles

 


Tony Parker beamed from behind the thick bulletproof window separating him from customers at his Forum liquor store on Prairie Avenue in Inglewood.

Asked about construction across the street on the new NFL stadium that will be home to the Los Angeles Rams, Parker didn't mince words: "I like it. The future is bright."

City officials and civic leaders hope Parker is right. But beyond the money that will roll in from taxes generated by the new NFL palace when it opens in 2019 and the massive adjacent development, it's still unclear what it all means for Inglewood itself.

The self-proclaimed "City of Champions" was devastated when the Los Angeles Lakers and Kings abandoned the Fabulous Forum in 1999 and a megachurch bought the agingarena, ultimately leaving it mostly unused. Then the once-heralded Hollywood Park Racetrack closed in 2013 amid sagging attendance, a metaphor for a community that seemed to have lost its luster.

But Madison Square Garden Co. bought the Forum and transformed it two years ago into the top concert venue in California. And the Hollywood Park Casino has built a new facility to attract high-end gamblers to town.

But those are minor rebounds in a community that needed more. Enter Stan Kroenke and his St. Louis Rams. The man who made his fortune in real estate brought his Rams back to Los Angeles with a fat wallet and a stunning vision for the land that Hollywood Park Racetrack occupied until it was razed.

Kroenke and big-shot National Football League officials - including Commissioner Roger Goodell - visited the neighborhood Thursday for a groundbreaking ceremony, even though above-ground building on the stadium hasn't yet begun. On Saturday, officials said that either the San Diego Chargers or Oakland Raiders also will make their home at the new stadium and that a team decision is "imminent."

The $2.6 billion stadium will be largely underground to meet Federal Aviation Administration height requirements that limit it to 175 feet tall. The FAA hasn't yet approved design plans because of safety concerns about the stadium's proximity to heavily trafficked air space directly above it. And cranes aren't allowed on the site until the FAA blesses the plans.

But developers and league officials haven't been swayed by the hiccup.

"We are confident this is going to be the place to be in 2019 and beyond," Goodell told throngs of media and local leaders at the groundbreaking.

Added Kroenke: "People all over the world will seek this destination out."

But will it transform Inglewood? Or simply be an island of glitz in a sea of yawning need?

Certainly, the huge development will bring jobs to an overwhelmingly black and Latino city of roughly 118,000 that is plagued with an unemployment rate bumping up against 10 percent, sagging public schools and high crime. And the surge of new revenues should help heal the $9 million annual structural operating deficit that has hampered the city budget for many years over the past decade.

Mayor James Butts anticipates an $18 million shot-in-the-arm to the 2019-20 budget because of the stadium and its ancillary developments. In the following decades, he expects that number to more than double.

Butts has been the thread between these lucrative deals since winning his bid for mayor in 2011 after a career launched at the Inglewood Police Department, where he rose to the rank of deputy chief and went on to lead the Santa Monica Police Department.

His deep knowledge of those two cities, he said, "formed my belief that entertainment, sports and high-end retail were required to become and maintain a vibrant economy to transcend the boom/bust cycles of an ever-fluctuating national economy."

"In other words," he said in an email, Inglewood needs "people and cars from other jurisdictions" to come and shop regularly.

Butts said he and Kroenke drafted the core vision for the Hollywood Park stadium and massive mixed-use development in their initial 2 1/2-hour meeting in his City Hall office in November 2014. Envisioned are at least one hotel, movie theaters, shops, restaurants, housing and parks.

The tidal wave of development momentum generated by such a mammoth project will spread out to the rest of the city, finally bringing modern upgrades to the old business district along Market Street, Butts believes. Specifically, he envisions mixed-use commercial development interspersed with homes there.

Los Angeles developers Thomas Saffron and Associates, who have been opening one luxury condominium and affordable-housing development after another in Carson since the recession, have invested in Market Street's potential already. The firm is erecting a six-story building with 177 apartments near the site of the future Metro station set to open in conjunction with the stadium.

"Market Street will be somewhat reminiscent of Old Town Pasadena," Butts said. "Inglewood, by necessity, will become the incubator for last-mile systems to bring sports and entertainment customers from the Metro stations - named Champions Station and Fairview Heights - to the entertainment district encompassing the Forum, the Rams stadium as well as the retail and dining adjacent."

Meanwhile, the technology and aviation industries are increasingly looking to Inglewood for warehouse space and business offices, he said. The region is experiencing a boom in new-age aerospace and digital-technology companies.

Is a stadium enough?

Alone, an NFL stadium cannot help turn a city around. It may deliver prestige, but the adjacent businesses will bring the real money to town, economists say.

"The football team and the stadium itself won't have a major impact," said Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College with expertise in the business of sports. "They only play 10 games a year, and you're talking about taking up an immense amount of land. You're using up 30 to 50 acres of land for an activity that doesn't take place 345 days a year."

The roughly 300-acre L.A. Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park is three times the size of Century City, and more than three times that of Disneyland, according to city officials and developers.

Roger Noll, economics professor emeritus at Stanford University, said developments of this size usually fill out over a 10-year period.

"(Kroenke's) plan to build residential and commercial space seems quite plausible to me, and that would be transformative to Inglewood," Noll said. "He not only has to start building it, but Phase One has to be successful. Not only people living in Inglewood, but people in the greater Los Angeles region have to start coming there in a regular way. It's got to become a centerpiece. Whether that's plausible or not is anyone's guess."

Butts, lauded citywide for his tireless promotion of the community and this deal, has staked his political legacy on bringing Inglewood's glory days back. And he points to the rehabilitation of the Forum as the starting point to the city's renaissance.

Forum reopening 'is the beginning'

The indoor arena, decorated with 72 Roman-inspired white columns, reopened with a bang in 2014. Now, the arena - directly across from the stadium lot - is the state's most popular concert-going destination.

The city already is reaping dividends from its success, with more than $1.5 million added to its coffers in the 2014-15 fiscal year, Butts said.

"The 7-Eleven stores are doing booming business with the Forum," he said. "The Renaissance homeowners adjacent to the site are thrilled. Everyone has had to adjust to the Forum traffic. But overall people in town are proud and thrilled."

Willie Agee, a 53-year resident, Korean War veteran and parks and recreation commissioner, agrees with the mayor's assessment.

"The Forum is the beginning," he said. "I've seen the city go down to rock bottom. In the last 4 1/2 years, I've seen it go back to the top. It's really shining."

Like Parker and Butts, Agee has nothing but high hopes for the stadium and its ability to bring residents of greater Los Angeles and beyond to a city long projected as a bastion of crime and poverty. The quintessential example of Inglewood's tarnished image came in the 1991 film "Grand Canyon," where a horrified main character finds himself lost in a bad part of town surrounded by gangbangers. Inglewood officials protested the representation but the image persisted.

In October, the city's fortunes took another positive turn with the opening of the newly built Hollywood Park Casino. The modern facility boasts 125 card tables under gold and glass chandeliers, a premium simulcast off-track wagering room, a sports bar and a lounge.

Butts believes the casino will deliver $2 million a year to the city's struggling general fund budget. That's a conservative figure, considering that Gardena's two similarly sized card clubs pay that city nearly $10 million annually.

Gentrification worries

Local business owners differ on the long-term effects of the coming transformation. Many, like Bourbon Street Fish owner Derrick Brown, plan to renovate to keep up with the surrounding upgrades. They believe their customer base will only grow from the coming changes.

"We already have a slight increase in business from the truck drivers and construction workers," Brown said. "We're looking to remodel and renovate this whole corner (at Prairie Avenue and Kelso Street). The rents have risen a lot. I see people moving in and out constantly because people can't afford the rent. That's one thing that's not good."

Michael Park, owner of Candy's hair, nail and beauty shop on Century Boulevard, said the street repairs underway decimated his business.

"Construction is killing us because they narrowed (Century Boulevard) to one lane," Park said. "For the future, yeah, it will be a good thing. I'm just hoping they do it quickly. But I don't know how the city will handle the (stadium) traffic. On game days, it will be rough."

Park's independent business sits inside a new shopping strip dominated by national tenants like Target and Panda Express. Across the street, a new Costco, Red Lobster and In-n-Out Burger have an out-of-place clean sterility that doesn't bode well for the Church's Chicken and low-budget motels nearby.

The strip, Butts said, is a hot commodity now for larger national tenants.

"Century Boulevard between Prairie and La Cienega is the focus of fierce investment activity and should become a hotel and retail district proving synergy with the sports entertainment district," Butts said. "The same activity is taking place on Prairie Avenue between Century and the 105 Freeway."

Whether Candy's hair, nail and beauty shop will survive the transformation is unclear, but Park is planning upgrades.

For some residents and business owners, the city's sudden popularity with outsiders stokes fears that the community will lose its character to the steady influx of newcomers.

Already, property values are soaring in the vicinity of the future stadium. Aside from the few new shopping centers and housing developments, the neighborhood mostly is home to a collection of older-era, run-down liquor stores, eateries, laundromats and beauty shops that cater to locals.

Dominique DiPrima, host of Inglewood radio station KJLH 102.3 FM's morning talk show "The Front Page," said she's excited about the stadium but wants local residents and business owners to have a bigger voice in the development.

She's urging local listeners not to sell their homes and leave town because of the sudden increase in property values, saying they should stay rather than "automatically assuming all this is not for us."

"Wherever possible, low-income African-American and Latino people, don't sell. Stay put," DiPrima said. "It's important to hold lawmakers accountable to at least keep some of the city's character."

She wants to see local businesses become part of the project rather than only relying on national retailers found in any other city or suburb.

"I think people want football. That alone is instant cache and imaging for a city in need of cache and imaging," DiPrima said. "We're at a crossroads. We see Inglewood having that radical transformation.

"So now as a community we have to be able to be at the table and not just be bulldozed, but actually be a partner and a voice in this. I think that if people get a sense of what's possible, that can happen."

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The Daily News of Los Angeles

 

California's nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office has affirmed that Los Angeles is taking a "low-cost, low-risk" approach in its bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. This is an important finding, because minimizing and mitigating financial burdens to state and local taxpayers is critical to the credibility of the city's bid.

While the International Olympic Committee won't be announcing its choice of a host city until September 2017, Los Angeles has been putting in the work to determine the financial feasibility and fairness of its bid well ahead of time.

As many cities around the world have discovered, hosting the Olympic Games is prestigious but also fraught with financial risks.

This is fortunately not too much of a concern in Los Angeles, where the vast majority of planned venues for use already exist, including the Memorial Coliseum, Staples Center and the StubHub Center Soccer Stadium. Further, the city's bid doesn't call for massive infrastructure investments to prepare for the Games. This, along with the existence of venues, means the bid is free from many of the costs other cities might have to grapple with.

In October, the city administrative officer and chief legislative analyst sent a report to City Council members emphasizing risk management, transparency and oversight. Among the issues the city must prepare for is the possibility of cost overruns, reduced ticket sales and even natural disasters.

Still, the LAO report is fairly optimistic, while appropriately restrained. "Short-term economic gains from the Games likely would generate additional state and local tax revenues that would offset some or all public costs," the LAO suggests, adding that compared to many past Olympic bids, "the current proposal by the LA 2024 organizing group is a relatively low risk one."

In the event Los Angeles is chosen to host the Olympics, the LAO is advising the state to potentially develop an oversight committee of its own to complement the work of oversight efforts at the local level, as potentially hundreds of millions in state dollars are on the line.

This editorial board urges state and local leaders to keep up the work to assure taxpayers they aren't being put at significant risk.

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Copyright 2016 Newsday, Inc.

Newsday (New York)
Jim Baumbach jim.baumbach@newsday.com

Long Island high schools spent more than $730,000 on nearly 3,000 top-rated football helmets during the past year in an effort to reduce head injuries and concussions.

For the second straight year, Newsday examined the issue of head safety in football at Long Island high schools, including analyzing helmet inventories at 108 of the 116 public and private high schools with football programs, purchase orders from 92 high schools and concussion reports at 109 high schools.

Among the findings:

- The number of five-star helmets - considered best at reducing the risk of concussions, according to safety ratings released by Virginia Tech researchers - more than doubled in the past year, jumping to 6,285 this season from 2,898 at the start of last season. That represents more than half of the 11,093 helmets in circulation. The number of four-star helmets dropped to 3,874 from 4,576, and the number of three-star helmets decreased to 450 from 612.

- The number of one- and two-star helmets - considered "low performers" at reducing the risk of concussion - is down to 139 from 885 last year. Many of those low-performing helmets, athletic directors said, are no longer being used.

- In all, Long Island school districts spent $734,558.75 on 2,956 new helmets. Twelve public high schools have not purchased new helmets since the beginning of the 2015 season.

- There were 383 suspected concussions in the 2015 football season at 109 schools that responded to Newsday's queries. There were 373 suspected concussions in 2014 at 105 schools that responded. Dawn Comstock, an epidemiology professor at the University of Colorado who has been tracking concussions since 2006, said she is starting to see concussion numbers level off after years of significant increases.

- Ten schools said they did not remove a player for a suspected concussion on either their varsity or junior varsity team. The number of schools saying they had no suspected concussions in 2014 was 14.

High school administrators, football coaches and neurologists said that having the best equipment is necessary in a game in which hits to the head happen on every play.

On Long Island, there are approximately 10,000 student-athletes playing on 233 varsity, junior varsity and freshman football teams at 116 public and private high schools.

Virginia Tech researchers in 2011 began publishing safety ratings that grade helmets on their ability to reduce head acceleration within the helmet on impact.

Stefan Duma, the lead author of Virginia Tech's study, said last year that he was surprised so many one- and two-star helmets remained in circulation on Long Island. Duma said he is pleased that number is down to 139 out of the 11,093 helmets listed on inventories at 107 public and one private high school.

"When you see the schools taking an active stance and using the research and using the science to make their decisions, that's great," Duma said. "That's what we hope happens."

Virginia Tech's independently funded laboratory testing consists of dropping a helmet 120 times from predetermined heights to simulate the forces of impact that its research says a football player would expect to experience during a season.

All of the helmets rated by Virginia Tech are permitted to be used by high school football players on Long Island because they meet the standard set by National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE), which oversees football helmet use on all levels, including the National Football League.

Reacting to the study

The spike in helmet purchases at Long Island high schools since the beginning of the 2015 football season came amid and after a Newsday/News 12 special report in October 2015 that examined head safety.

Newsday obtained updated helmet inventories and recent helmet purchase order forms from the 107 public high schools with football programs via Freedom of Information Law requests.

Private schools are not bound by the same public-records laws as public schools. Long Island Lutheran was the only one of the nine private schools with football teams to provide inventory information.

The average cost of a new five-star helmet purchased in the past year was $254.52, according to Newsday's analysis. The most expensive helmet model was Riddell's SpeedFlex with built-in sensor technology. The Oyster Bay school district bought four at $429.75 per helmet to supplement its existing inventory. The least expensive five-star helmet was Schutt's Vengeance VTD, of which the Valley Stream school district bought 55 for $99 per helmet. Prices on helmet models varied by district depending on the vendor, incentives and time of the year.

A total of 20 school districts, encompassing 27 high schools, spent more than $10,000 on new helmets. Eleven of the districts spent more than $20,000 on new helmets. Such large purchases are unusual because schools typically purchase six to 12 helmets a year to replace the ones that are old or damaged. Helmets have a 10-year life span, according to the National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association.

Farmingdale, which has one of the largest football programs on Long Island, spent $72,609 in July on 210 new Riddell SpeedFlex helmets, which are rated third by Virginia Tech among the 16 five-star helmet models.

"The report came out and showed we didn't have any five-star helmets," Farmingdale coach Buddy Krumenacker said. "The superintendent, John Lorentz, decided this was something we should do."

Farmingdale's inventory previously included mostly four-star helmets. Researchers say the difference between a five-star helmet and a four-star helmet is not significant. But because helmets have a life span of 10 years, many of those four-star helmets were older, so Farmingdale decided to replace them.

Harborfields, Herricks, Hewlett, North Babylon, Plainedge and Wyandanch also purchased an entirely new inventory of five-star helmets since the first report. All of the schools cited the report as a reason.

At Harborfields, parents of football players were the driving force behind the district's decision, according to athletic director John Valente. In an invoice dated Oct. 16, 2015, nine days after the report, Harborfields ordered 75 of the Schutt Vengeance VTD II, which at the time was the highest-rated helmet by Virginia Tech. Harborfields' new helmets cost $15,177.

"The safety of the kid comes first for me, no matter what," Valente said. "But it's going to be interesting to see down the road - when there are either more studies done or people try to do studies to refute the Virginia Tech study - to see if every time somebody comes out with a document that says the helmets you have are questionable, all you need to do is question that stuff and people will be like, 'We'll go out and buy new helmets again.' And as you know, these helmets are expensive."

At Wyandanch, athletic director and football coach Dwight Singleton said it was not difficult to persuade the school administration to purchase new helmets. The district, with one of the smallest football programs on Long Island, spent $8,010 on 33 Schutt Vengeance VTD II and Vengeance Z10 helmets.

"We're trying to build a program from the bottom and if you don't have the proper equipment, the goodwill is out the window," he said.

Low-performing leftovers

In October 2015, Newsday found that there were 60 high schools with low-performing helmets still in circulation. This season, 22 high schools still have those helmets. However, many of those helmets, athletic directors said, are no longer in use.

The Valley Stream district, which includes three high schools, had the highest number of low-performing helmets in inventory this season. District athletic director Scott Stueber said, "I know for a fact they haven't been used in three years." The district has spent $21,065.56 on 137 new helmets since March.

Smithtown had a total of 18 two-star helmets and two one-star helmets listed among the inventories of its two high school football programs. "I think we're just going to throw them out," athletic director Pat Smith said, "because they just don't get used."

Staying vigilant

The 383 suspected concussions at 109 schools in 2015 was in line with the 373 suspected concussions at 105 schools in 2014.

Comstock attributed the leveling off of reported concussions at the high schools she tracks nationally to years of increased awareness. She cautioned not to read too much into school-reported concussion numbers because of the significant variables involved, most notably the subjective nature of trying to evaluate concussions. What one person might call a headache, she said, another might accurately see as symptoms of a concussion.

"There is no national reporting mandate," she said, "and no standards for reporting."

How often an athletic trainer is present during practices and games can have a direct effect on a school's concussion numbers, she said. On Long Island, the presence of an athletic trainer varies from district to district.

In an effort to reduce concussions, the state's governing body for public school sports mandated this season that teams could only practice in "full contact" settings twice a week for a maximum of 90 minutes per practice. Previously there had been no limit.

Chris Nowinski, co-founder of the research center examining brain trauma at Boston University, said studies have shown that the majority of concussions in football go unreported, which complicates experts' ability to assess year-to-year numbers.

"We still diagnose only a fraction of all concussions," he said, "so we could be preventing more concussions through rule changes, but also diagnosing more total concussions through improved education and culture change."

Experts also say proper tackling - without using one's head - is key to avoiding head trauma. Section VIII, the governing body for public high school athletics in Nassau County, now requires its high school football coaches to attend a clinic that shows proper tackling technique, county football coordinator Pat Pizzarelli said. Suffolk encourages its high school coaches to attend, said Don Webster, executive director of Section XI.

"The nature of football makes it obvious that concussions will never be able to be eliminated from the game," Central Islip athletic director Larry Philips said, "but we want to do our best to greatly reduce the incidence and severity of head injuries."

The 10 school districts that spent more than $20,000 on top-rated helmets since the start of last season.

District / Cost / # of helmets

Farmingdale / $72,609.00 / 210

Sewanhaka (5 high schools) / $48,990.00 / 205

Massapequa / $45,022.00 / 125

North Babylon / $36,210.00 / 120

Herricks / $35,447.25 / 151

Hewlett / $30,625.00 / 125

Floyd/ $24,740.00 / 80

Valley Stream (3 high schools) / $21,065.56 / 137

Freeport / $20,572.00 / 93

Amityville / $20,385.00 / 60

 
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Copyright 2016 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.
Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
By Michelle Jarboe


CLEVELAND - In their seven-game matchup with the Chicago Cubs, the Cleveland Indians ended their standout season with a loss.

But there were plenty of World Series winners here.

At downtown hotels, occupancy and rates spiked. On the afternoon of game seven, Burke Lakefront Airport was so packed with private planes that air-traffic controllers had to send incoming baseball fans to other airfields.

There aren't firm numbers on the economic impact of Cleveland's hosting role for four World Series games, which took place Oct. 25 and 26 and Nov. 1 and 2. In a study several years ago, a local economic-development group estimated the benefit of a postseason Indians game at roughly $3 million, accounting for direct spending, increased tax revenues and extra payroll.

A World Series game might have three times as great of an impact, said David Gilbert, who leads the convention and visitors bureau and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission. Though that figure, he acknowledged, is just a guess.

"It wouldn't surprise me if each World Series game generated $8-to-$10 million in direct spending, or more," Gilbert said. "It's hard to even throw a number at it."

Gilbert was sitting in the crowd at Progressive Field during game six and chatting with a local woman whose husband was trying to sell four tickets to the final game. As they talked, she received a message. Her husband had found a taker at $30,000, or $7,500 a ticket.

Such secondary-market transactions aren't as easy to track as spending on hotel rooms, bar tabs and restaurant checks. Still, it's clear that online ticket resales were a windfall for some Cleve-landers who were willing to part with a shot at watching history - in exchange for enough cash to cover a year of tuition at the Ohio State University or a down payment on a house.

Strong traffic on the ground

A mile away from the ballpark, Ben McKeeman charged $765 for a two-night stay at his one-bedroom apartment on Duck Island during the first and second games against the Cubs. His guests were out-of-town Indians fans willing to pay $382.50 a night, a hefty jump from the $130 McKeeman typically gets per night through the Airbnb home-sharing website.

A 27-year-old planner and GIS specialist, McKee-man vacated his apartment twice earlier in the postseason, when Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays fans poured into town and paid double his nightly rate. Only the Republican National Convention, when he charged $3,200 for a six-night stay in his Airbnb debut, was more lucrative than the Indians' late-season run.

McKeeman, who stays with his boyfriend in Akron or family nearby when his apartment is booked, estimated that half of his guests since July have been baseball fans. With the season over, now he's banking on the Cleveland Cavaliers to generate bookings and offset his rent.

"I know I can't rely on the Browns for anything," he added, bemoaning football.

Airbnb reported that Cleveland-area hosts accommodated 1,350 World Series travelers and collectively earned $630,000 over the four games. Cleveland and Cuyahoga County started collecting lodging taxes - the same taxes hotel guests pay - on short-term rentals this year.

"I had a guy book 10 days out, from Iowa, who was bettingthattherewouldbeaseventh game - a Cubs fan," said Tom Matia, Jr., a 62-year-old Airbnb host with three rentals in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood. "And we're not just talking about the World Series. We're talking about the series with Boston and Toronto. And also the watch parties. We had people coming up here from Columbus, Willoughby, and Pittsburgh and Chicago for the watch parties."

Traditional hotels also were packed during the series, according to data from STR, an analytics company that tracks the hospitality industry. Occupancy topped 98 percent at hotels in and near downtown Cleveland for game one, the same night that the Cavaliers hosted their NBA championship ring ceremony and home opener at Quicken Loans Arena.

Downtown-area hotel occupancy was between 96 and 98 percent on the nights of the remaining World Series games. That means anywhere from 6,785 to 6,931 hotel rooms were full in Cleveland and Independence, along the Interstate 77 corridor, based on STR's data set.

The average daily rate in that area peaked for game seven at $208.94, up almost 60 percent from what centrally located hotels were charging on Nov. 2, 2015, a year before.

Across the broader market, which stretches to Vermilion to the west and past Conneaut to the east, hotel occupancy was up by 20 to 26 percent on game nights compared with the previous year, when the Indians weren't part of the postseason. The region's average daily rate hit a high of $152.71 on the last night of the series, based on STR's data.

Rates at some downtown hotels, walking distance from Progressive Field, were six times that. Those visitors and their local counterparts spent readily at restaurants on East Fourth Street, at bars in the Gateway District around the ballpark and The Q and on extras including parking.

On East Ninth Street, just steps from the ballpark, a small lot sold out on the first day of the series at $100 per space. Other nearby operators were asking $75 or $80 for parking - sky high for many Clevelanders but apparently less intimidating to well-heeled Cubs fans.

Paul Shaia, vice president of Shaia's Parking, said the locally-owned company raised its first-game rate to $50 at a lot that faces the northeast entrance to Progressive Field. For later games,thecompanyreduced that rate to $40. At other nearby parking lots, Shaia charged an average of $25. But spaces were as cheap as $5 to $10 for people willing to walk 15 minutes.

"We were definitely nowhere near the high rates that you were probably seeing," Shaia said. "That's just our general philosophy. We were excited to have downtown busy.... There were a lot of people down here. The restaurants did great. The other retailers did great. I think everyone benefited. I think the city benefited because of all the media in town, walking around, seeing how beautiful it is. There are a lot of intangibles to it."

Long-term, Shaia hopes the World Series exposure, on the heels of the GOP convention and the Cavs championship, will help make downtown more attractive to residents, companies and investors. Each blockbuster event was a chance to showcase the center city to people who might not have been downtown in years - or who might never have visited Cleveland.

Congestion in the air

Activity at Burke and other airports indicated the level of traffic from outside of the city. On the night of game seven, a Wednesday, more than 400 private planes were parked at Burke, on the northern edge of downtown. The airport had to close an inboard runway to create extra aircraft parking. And Burke still ended up diverting travelers to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and the Cuyahoga County Airport in Richmond Heights.

"In the time that I've been here, I think about 16 years now, I've never seen the level of traffic at Burke that we experienced," said Fred Szabo, interim director of the city of Cleveland's department of port control, which oversees Burke and Hopkins. "It was even higher than the RNC, which surprised me. We really felt the effects of the World Series."

Across the four games, Burke recorded 1,400 aircraft operations, or an average of 350 a day. On a typical day, the small airport might see 100 such operations, Szabo said. The crush of traffic - 5,300 people arrived and 4,900 departed from the airport on World Series days - led to increased landing fees, parking fees and catering bills. Fuel sales totaled $1.2 million.

Then there were roughly 2,000 car trips to and from the airport, in rental cars, by taxi or by car services including Uber. Some travelers went to the game then immediately returned to Burke to take off, requiring additional airport staffing and overtime pay.

At Hopkins, commercial flights from Chicago were totally booked. A few airlines boosted the size of planes on the route, though they stopped short of adding flights. Hopkins processes 20,000 passengers on a typical day, so the increase in commercial traffic wasn't notable. There was a significant jump in private arrivals, though, with almost 160 corporate planes parked at Hopkins on Wednesday evening and requiring 31,000 gallons, or $171,000 worth, of fuel.

The Cuyahoga County Airport, 11 miles from downtown, might see 85 planes on an average day. Traffic spiked to 124 planes on the first night of the series and hit 186 planes on the final evening of the contest. Officials closed an inner taxiway to make room for additional aircraft parking. The level of activity was similar to what the airport experienced during the GOP convention, but compressed - lots of arrivals and departures in a much shorter time span.

Researchers at Cleveland State University are putting together an economic-impact study of the political convention, but it's unlikely anyone will conduct a similar, detailed review of the World Series. The scales of the events are much different, Gilbert notes, estimating that spending related to the convention might come to $200 million or more. And the most valuable boost from Cleveland's stint in the spotlight - visibility - is difficult to measure.

"Nobody really worries about the economic impact of a World Series because they're sporadic," said Joe Roman, chief executive officer at the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the metropolitan chamber of commerce. "They happen to you. You've got to get both good and lucky at the same time."

For his part, Roman believes the value of the World Series to the local economy won't be clear until the tally of 2017 Indians season-ticket purchases is in. During the recent season, the franchise still had one of the lowest attendance rates in Major League Baseball, attracting only 19,650 fans, on average, at home. Progressive Field has just over 35,000 seats, plus standing-room areas, after recent renovations that cut the size of the ballpark by roughly 7,000 chairs.

Huge crowds at the World Series games, and at ballpark watch parties while the team was in Chicago, were a reminder of how the Indians used to pack the house in the late 1990s.

"This is a team that's showing every ability to compete at the highest level now with younger players for the next three, to five, to seven years," said Roman, who went to the first World Series game this year.

"As a community, we have to reward that kind of performance with more tickets, which then contributes to a stronger downtown, the hospitality business and everything that goes with it. To me, that's more of the economic impact of getting to be in the World Series than however many Cubs fans came to Cleveland for a couple minutes."

 
November 19, 2016
 
 
 

 

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The New York Post

 

Columbia's athletics department has decided to suspend members of the wrestling team who were responsible for sexually and racially offensive text messages from competition for the rest of the season and the 2016-17 academic year, according to a statement released Friday.

"It has now been determined that the deeply offensive group messaging and texts were written, sent and viewed by a distinct group within the wrestling team," the school said in a statement, a week after the texts became public. "While all team members feel a sense of collective responsibility and regret for what was said and done by some, the investigation found that the individual student-athletes who participated in the group chat acted on their own."

Doling out punishment based on the student-athletes' level of involvement, the school has suspended other members of the team until the beginning of the 2017 semester, while clearing those not involved in the incident to compete this weekend at the New York State Championships in Ithaca, N.Y.

"We recognize that free speech is a core value both of the University community and of our nation," the statement read. "Our students and faculty have the right to express themselves and their views, whether through their public or private communications. However, the group text messages that have been brought to light do not meet the standard of behavior we expect from our student-athletes at Columbia."

The announcement comes one week after Bwog, a student-run news site, exposed the vulgar GroupMe chat, in which members of the Class of 2017 call Columbia female students "ugly socially awkward c--ts" and insult African-Americans, whom they call the N-word throughout, for the protests that broke out in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 over the death of Michael Brown. The messages, which span from 2014 until a few weeks ago, include numerous photos of female students attached to vulgar commentary.

On Monday, the university announced it was suspending the wrestling season.

Members of the wrestling team released an apology letter Thursday.

hwithiam@nypost.com

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November 20, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

BOSTON - Doctors who decide whether an NFL player is healthy enough to go into the game shouldn't be paid by the teams that have a stake in winning and losing - an "undeniable conflict of interest."

That's what a report released on Thursday by Harvard University experts in medicine, law and ethics says.

The study by the NFL Players Association-funded Football Players Health Study also recommends a short-term injured reserve for athletes recovering from a concussion, much like the system that baseball adopted five years ago.

The 500-page report includes 76 recommendations addressed to 20 NFL stakeholders - everyone from players and teams to equipment manufacturers and government regulators. The biggest message: Player safety will never be the top priority as long as those involved have competing calls on their loyalty.

"So long as the club doctor is chosen, paid and reviewed by the club to both care for players and advise the club, the doctor will have, at a minimum, tacit pressures or subconscious desires to please the club by doing what is in the club's best interests," the report said.

"This is not a moral judgment about them as competent professionals or devoted individuals, but rather a simple fact of the current organizational structure of their position in which they simultaneously perform at least two roles that are not necessarily compatible."

To resolve the conflict of interest, the report recommends that the league and the union contribute to a fund used to pay doctors assigned to teams.

"It should be common sense to avoid a conflict of interest between Teams and Doctors," former San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Anthony Davis, who retired - for the second time - at the age of 26 after repeated concussions, said on Twitter on Thursday.

Although the study called the arrangement "an undeniable conflict of interest," the league did in fact deny it.

In a 33-page response, the NFL said it was "disappointed that the report appeared to start with the premise that the health care system in the NFL suffers from an 'inherent conflict of interest.'"

"The report ultimately promotes the untenable and impractical recommendation that NFL players receive care from 'two distinct groups of medical professionals,'" the league wrote, saying that would "have unintended but extremely detrimental effects on NFL players' care."

The NFL said the report fails to note any examples where a doctor put a team's interest ahead of the player's, or establish any link between a doctor's job security and player or team performance. The league said the collective bargaining agreement establishes that team doctors' responsibility is to the player only, and that they are bound by the AMA and other professional codes of ethics.

Players also have the right to seek a second opinion from a doctor of their own choosing, the league said.

Tennessee Titans cornerback Jason McCourty said he has hasn't had a problem with the current system, but he liked the report's suggestions. As an eight-year veteran, he said, he is comfortable taking charge of his medical care, but a rookie might be intimidated.

"As players and grown men, as anyone (who) goes to a doctor, a doctor reports directly to you," he said. "And I don't think it should be any different within a team."

The NFL has already added layers of independent physicians to its concussion protocol, including unaffiliated athletic trainers and neurotrauma consultants on game day whose role is to spot players with possible concussions and, if necessary, stop play. The league says the role of these consultants is to "support the team medical staffs in the diagnosis of in-game concussions."

"I don't really know how it works right now. I assume that third-party guy has enough pull to where if he thinks somebody is bad, he's out," said Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman David DeCastro, who went through the process against Dallas last week after he was slow to get up following a hit to the neck.

After talking to the team doctor and the independent consultant, he was cleared to return and only missed one play.

"Obviously there's a conflict of interest (concern) with the team, and obviously getting rid of that is one thing. But for the most part I thought it was pretty fair and well done," DeCastro said. "It was really good the way it kind of worked out."

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

In the nearly 40 years that Cathi and Rob Eberly of Aurora have sat courtside at Kent State men's basketball games, they've seen their fair share of wins and losses, sportsmanship and arguments and Golden Flashes mascot appearances.

But at Wednesday night's home opener against the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils, the couple got a glimpse of something they've never seen before at a game: the American flag straight from the basketball court, standing alongside people of all walks of life.

At Wednesday's game, each basketball player selected a fan of a different race from the crowd to stand with them during the national anthem in an effort to promote solidarity among the team and spread it to the crowd.

After the buzzer rang to signal the start of the game, the team broke its huddle and scattered to different fans near the floor, where they took their hands and led them to the middle of the court.

"He just said, 'I'd like you to join me for the national anthem,'?" Cathi Eberly said. "Lots of people of different ages were up there. Anything that can help unify the country, even a small thing like this, is good."

The players and fans formed a single line across the court - people who were white, black and those in between. With arms over shoulders and hands over hearts, the wall of diversity stood silent while the Kent State band played the national anthem.

"It was really, really cool," said 11-year-old Nalyssa Grant of Kent, whose brother, senior Jimmy Hall, is a forward on the team. Rob Senderoff, the team's coach, picked her from the crowd to stand alongside him. "It was fun to do that and be up there."

The gesture wasn't one suggested by the school, but rather by the players themselves - who took their idea to the athletic department's coaches.

"The players approached the coaching staff with this idea, and we fully supported them," Senderoff said. "It takes courage for our players to make a statement like this."

Their decision comes at a time when controversy surrounds the national anthem. Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, started the fire when he began kneeling during the national anthem at his games in August to protest against a racial divide in the country.

The KSU basketball team's gesture serves double after a tumultuous election season that's cultivated contentious feelings along party lines.

"We understand all of the issues going on in our world," said sophomore point guard Jalen Avery. "In these times, we felt it was important to show a sign of unity in our community."

Among those pulled to the center of the court was Kent State University President Beverly Warren, who said some of the team have struggled with the results of the election.

"This is an effort to say we're still a Kent State family," Warren said. "I really admire this program, and I was proud to do it."

And in a dominating win against the Delta Devils, beating them 93-63, Kent State topped off a hopeful beginning to the game with a strong finish.

"With all the controversy over the national anthem going on, that was nice," said Rob Eberly about standing with the players. "They're all great kids. They're the reason we've been coming as long as we have."

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The Arizona Capitol Times

 

The Arizona Coyotes want taxpayers to pay for half of planned arena in the East Valley with a public-finance scheme resembling one lawmakers have traditionally loathed.

Coyotes President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc described the financing plan as a "flavor" of Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, and "a form of tax rebate" to raise $200 million of the estimated $400 million cost.

The Coyotes have pledged to pay the other half of the arena cost.

The newly-elected speaker of the House and a senior lawmaker who formerly chaired the House Appropriations Committee said they would be resistant to a TIF or a tax rebate.

"We care about the Coyotes, we also care about the taxpayers of the state," said Speaker-elect J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler.

Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, the former chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said there just isn't enough money to go around, especially at a time when the public is calling for more money for education.

"They're not asking for a tax rebate, they're asking for us to go into a budget deficit or to take on debt to build their private stadium," Kavanagh said.

LeBlanc said at a Nov. 14 news conference unveiling the plan that the team will begin its lobbying effort in the next few weeks. The financing plan would require the Legislature's approval.

The team plans to build a 16,200-seat arena on a 58-acre plot within Arizona State University's Athletic Facilities District at McClintock Drive and Rio Salado Parkway in Tempe.

The parcel of land is currently the back nine of ASU Karsten Golf Course.

The Coyotes say the arena would be part of a larger destination area that would include a hotel and mixed use development.

The team, whose lease at Gila River Arena in Glendale ends in 2018, wants to break ground by next summer, meaning any proposal approved by the Legislature would have to move quickly.

Under tax increment financing, an entity bonds against future revenues that it expects to generate from the project being financed.

And whenever TIF-style proposals surface, so does the specter of Rio Nuevo, a sales-tax TIF backed by Tucson's general fund. The downtown redevelopment project has been mired in questions about how the money is being spent, questions that make Arizona lawmakers squeamish about such projects in the future.

The last two times a TIF-style proposal has been introduced in the Legislature, they met their end at the hands of former Senate President Andy Biggs, who did not hear a 2011 proposal and let a 2013 bill languish in the Rules Committee after it passed through two other standing committees.

"We don't really view it as a typical TIF as you see in other markets, but it would be something within that flavor," LeBlanc said.

The team is asking for a refund on a portion of the sales tax that would be generated within the development.

"Our view is these are taxes that are generated but-for the arena being on site, so we absolutely understand that everybody needs to get the benefit of those tax dollars, and we think this is a way that would assist in assuring the arena funds itself," LeBlanc said.

He said the team isn't looking for a $200 million handout from the state, and it will be the team that takes the financial risk.

"We, as the Coyotes, will actually guarantee that, if the taxes that we are speculating and that we are forecasting, if they are not met, if it is a dollar short, the Coyotes will be the one to cover that off," LeBlanc said.

Mesnard said he's been concentrating on setting up staff and committees under his leadership and he hasn't spoken with the Coyotes yet.

But Mesnard said he and many of his colleagues would resist any form of a TIF.

"It's a big decision without us having to involve taxpayer money or passing a policy that would have an impact on surrounding taxpayers," Mesnard said. "I know they'll make the economic engine argument and how this is going to be a boon for this and that, but we hear those time and again. "

He said the public has seen too many business proposals related to professional sports teams go south.

Mesnard said he'll still reserve judgment until hearing a formal proposal from the team.

Kavanagh said any proposal is going to be a tough sell to lawmakers.

"We estimate right now, that after we do mandatory, automatic increases in next year's budget, our total surplus for new expenditures will be $24 million," Kavanagh said.

LeBlanc said a plan floated to lawmakers in the 2016 session was well received.

In that proposal, which was presented to GOP leadership, the team pitched the idea of creating a municipal facilities district, which could issue bonds as a way of financing a new arena.

The bonds would then be partly financed using the more traditional TIF, under which an entity would bond against future revenues that it expects to generate as a result of the project that is being financed.

Sen. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, and Biggs, R-Gilbert, even met with National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman, who was interested in keeping the team in Arizona.

Lesko ultimately balked at pushing such a substantive measure late in the legislative session.

- Jeremy Duda contributed to this article

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November 28, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Pete Pullen will remain the Wolverines' boys basketball varsity coach.

Pete Pullen's resignation as Dunbar High's athletic director was accepted Thursday.

The Dayton Public Schools board of education accepted the resignation of Pete Pullen as the Dunbar High School athletic director during Thursday's school board meeting. He remains the Wolverines' boys basketball varsity coach.

Pullen's resignation as AD coincides with the Dunbar football team having forfeited its Weeks 9-10 games last month for playing an academically ineligible player. That resulted in Dunbar not qualifying for the Division IV, Region 16 football playoffs.

Dunbar's forfeits also had a collateral effect on playoff positions for other teams. Southwest Ohio Public League and City League rival Belmont benefited enough to make the D-III, Region 12 field, losing to St. Marys Memorial in its opener. However, Cincinnati Princeton (D-II) and Piqua (D-III) were bumped from qualifying for the postseason.

Dunbar was 9-1 on the field and 7-3 after the forfeits. The Ohio High School Athletic Association confirmed Dunbar's forfeits the day after the regular season. Dunbar football coach Darran Powell said supporters might pursue a court-ordered injunction that could allow Dunbar back into the playoffs. That did not happen.

Pullen was not available and did not return requests for comment. Powell indicated he will not resign as football coach. All supplemental coaching contracts for full-time Ohio teachers and contracts for non-teachers are for one year and are annually reviewed. Pullen is retired from teaching. Powell said he is a paraprofessional at the school.

Powell was a senior starter at guard for Dunbar on the 2006 basketball team that won the first of four D-II state titles with Pullen as coach.

All DPS high schools - Belmont, Dunbar, Meadowdale, Ponitz, Stivers and Thur-good Marshall - have athletic directors. DPS director of athletics Mark Baker oversees the ADs. Also a Dunbar graduate and former Wolverines basketball great, Baker is in his first year in that position after succeeding Jonas Smith this past summer.

Contact this reporter at 937-225-2381 or email Marc.

Pendleton@coxinc.com

Twitter: @MarcPendleton

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Chicago Daily Herald

 

An attorney who handled a lawsuit in the Maine West High School soccer team hazing case has been retained by the family of a student-athlete alleged to have been hazed in a similar way by Lake Zurich High School football players.

In a news release, lawyer Antonio Romanucci claimed there was "widespread, egregious" misconduct by some football team members over the last few months.

"No student should ever feel they are in danger at school. Lake Zurich Community Unit School District 95 must be held accountable," said Romanucci, whose firm last week struck a $1 million lawsuit settlement on behalf of five former Maine West students who said they were hazed while on the boys soccer team in 2012.

Lake Zurich police said they are still investigating reports of inappropriate behavior in a high school football locker room days before a Nov. 5 state playoff game against Fenwick High School. It's unknown if Romanucci's client is part of that investigation.

Authorities said they began the probe after the Daily Herald reported football players were ordered to sign a student behavior agreement before the Fenwick game or be prohibited from playing the rest of the 2016 season. The agreement was part of a letter sent to players and parents.

Police Chief Steven Husak said investigators are working all angles, and he spoke to District 95 Superintendent Kaine Osburn as part of the investigation Wednesday. Osburn said the men have communicated regularly regarding the football squad.

Investigators have been working a case in which potential victims have yet to file a formal complaint, Husak said.

"We are still conducting our investigation," he told the Daily Herald. "It is legitimate and is being conducted by members of our criminal investigations division. We are in contact with the district and the (Lake County) state's attorney's office on a regular basis."

At a District 95 school board meeting Wednesday night, President Doug Goldberg told about 60 spectators that an internal investigation led by a law firm is nearing completion. He said officials are committed to getting to the bottom of the situation.

"We brought in a third party to facilitate this," Goldberg said. "We felt it was very important to make sure we had all the facts, not just hearsay, but all the facts, so the administration and board could make informed decisions about what things we should do going forward."

Although the letter obtained by the Daily Herald provided no details about what happened, it included several references to hazing. It said team members participated in "inappropriate activity" in the locker room after team dinners.

After an employee told administrators about something that occurred, Osburn said, they acted quickly and notified a school resource officer, who then alerted Lake Zurich police superiors. He said the district also notified the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Head football coach David Proffitt and assistant Chad Beaver were placed on paid administrative leave just before the Fenwick game, which the Bears lost 20-14 to end their season. Proffitt is a physical education teacher at the school, and Beaver is a dean.

Proffitt declined to comment on his job status or other issues when reached by the Daily Herald before Wednesday's board meeting. He did not attend the board session.

"I can't tell you anything," Proffitt said. "That's what I've been told to do."

Beaver could not be reached for comment.

Osburn stressed the paid leave for Proffitt and Beaver is a typical step when conducting a personnel inquiry and does not indicate wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, some parents at Wednesday night's meeting raised questions about how District 95 told the football players they had to sign the student behavior agreement or not participate in the playoff game against Fenwick. Andrea Perrin, whose son played on this year's team, said the document was unfair.

"They were all found guilty without the chance to make a statement," Perrin said.

District 95 resident Kerry Hughes said school administrators have failed everyone so far. She said the district should have forfeited the Fenwick game if it had enough information about the players' behavior instead of giving them an agreement to sign that she likened to extortion.

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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

 

Obetz will spend $15 million to build an athletic stadium that will host professional lacrosse and rugby, and village officials hope the 6,500-seat stadium also will attract high school football playoff games and other events.

"It's super exciting," Obetz Village Manager E. Rod Davisson said Wednesday.

Obetz, less than 10 miles south of Downtown, plans a joint news conference today with the Ohio Machine professional lacrosse franchise to talk about the stadium. The plan is to call it Fortress Field, and fans are to pass through a "fortress" of rehabbed shipping containers to enter the stadium.

Checking out both large stadiums and high-school-size stadiums in central Ohio, Davisson said Obetz opted for a niche stadium of 6,500 seats so it could attract a variety of athletic events, concerts, trade shows and other entertainment to its 250-acre complex.

As The Dispatch reported Oct. 21, the closed Columbus Motor Speedway, which occupies the Obetz site, will be leveled and replaced with the athletic field.

The stadium must be ready before May, when the Ohio Aviators of Pro Rugby North America are to open their home season there. The Ohio Machine's first home game is to be at the stadium on May 6.

Ohio Machine officials say the stadium will be the first in the United States designed for professional lacrosse. That means the field will be international-size; that's larger than an American football field, which is where many rugby and lacrosse games are played in this country.

The Ohio Machine played its 2016 home games at Ohio Dominican University on the Near East Side, where it averaged about 1,900 fans. In its first four seasons, it played home games at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware.

One of the 2017 highlights of the new stadium is what Davisson said will be the first football game in 50 years between the high schools in the Groveport Madison and Hamilton Local school districts, both of which serve Obetz. Davisson said the teams will play for the inaugural Obetz Cup.

The new stadium will be equipped with the latest version of FieldTurf, an artificial turf that used to consist of ground-up tires and fake grass.The material on this field, Davisson said, will be softer and more flexible than crumb rubber, which should help reduce injuries when athletes' heads hit the turf.

The stadium is to feature six or seven new video boards, television cameras, extra women's restrooms and luxury seating.

Obetz plans to finance the stadium with bonds that will be paid for by the village over several years.

kperry@dispatch.com

@kimballperry

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The Daily News of Los Angeles

 

The Rams will officially break ground on their new $2.6 billion stadium in Inglewood today. Nearly a year after the NFL approved the Rams relocation from St. Louis to L.A., construction will finally begin on a home many predict will set the gold standard for NFL stadiums and surrounding development.

When Stan Kroenke's palace opens in 2019, Jared Goff will be entering his third season and, ideally, reaching peak performance befitting a quarterback taken with the first overall pick. With a tweak here and a tweak there to the current offense, who knows, maybe Goff and the Rams will perched for a Super Bowl appearance when their new home hosts the big game in 2021.

Big dreams for a big city, right?

But why stop there?

Why not go all in with a Super Bowl of exclusively Los Angeles teams?

How's that you say?

Anyone up for a L.A. Rams vs. L.A. Raiders Super Bowl?

Or L.A. Rams vs. L.A. Chargers?

Got your attention yet?

We know for sure the Rams will take the field at the Inglewood stadium when it opens in 2019.

Still left to be determined is whether a second team does, too. The Chargers and Raiders both have league-approved options to join the Rams in Inglewood at some point, and there are easily imaginable scenarios in which either ends up in L.A.

The Chargers hold the first option, and have until January to decide whether to exercise it or give it one more try in San Diego, where the downtown stadium measure they backed was defeated by voters last week.

Do the Chargers give it another go in San Diego, where a more plausible, less costly plan in Mission Valley could emerge and face an easier approval threshold than the downtown project?

Or do they pull the trigger on Los Angeles?

Chargers owner Dean Spanos is expected to make a decision on his next move by early January.

Either way, what becomes of the Raiders?

They have $750 million in approved funding from Nevada for a new stadium in Las Vegas, but in a bit of a reversal, there seems to be growing support within the NFL for them to exercise their L.A. option if it falls to them.

From ABSt. Louis Rams Owner Plans to Build Stadium Near L.A.

That leaves open the door for the Raiders to return to the city they called home from 1982-94 and where they still maintain a strong foothold.

And it contradicts an outdated belief the league is wary of the Raiders and owner Mark Davis setting up shop in the second-biggest market in the country. Or the sentiment the league wants to squeeze out Davis as owner of the Raiders.

In fact, a high-ranking NFL official, who spoke on the condition his name not be used because of the sensitive nature of the process, said the notion the league wants Davis out is "complete BS."

In contrast, he said, there is growing admiration for the work Davis has done on and off the field since taking control of the Raiders after the death of his father, Al, in 2011.

Davis has skillfully worked his franchise into two strong stadium positions in Las Vegas and Los Angeles after years of frustration in Oakland.

And he has his team in first place.

Davis intends to file for relocation to Las Vegas in January, and he'll need 24 votes from fellow NFL owners for approval. As it stands, the Raiders ending up in Las Vegas seems the most likely outcome, with the Chargers either getting more time to sort things out in San Diego or exercising their L.A. option.

But a scenario could develop in which Los Angeles officially opens to the Raiders - it would require the Chargers staying in San Diego - and NFL owners deciding whether the Raiders and their powerful brand are more valuable to the league in Los Angeles or Las Vegas.

In Oakland, city leaders are working with a group led by former NFL great Ronnie Lott on a development deal for the land on which the Raiders' current stadium sits. Few details have emerged, including what happens to the A's and their long-term stadium lease, but presumably a portion of that land will be made available for a new Raiders stadium.

Two problems: The Raiders have no interest, and even less confidence, and the league is dubious about stadium plans in which its teams take a secondary seat to outside developers.

For now, the Raiders' heart is set on Las Vegas. And considering the $750 million in public money on the table from Nevada, and how much weight that kind of public contribution has in league circles, it seems a good bet they'll get their wish.

But the Raiders have clearly made strides cleaning up their image. So much so, the NFL might actually prefer them in Los Angeles.

vbonsignore@scng.com @dailynewsvinny on Twitter

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Copyright 2016 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

USA TODAY

 

Damned if they do, damned if they don't.

That's the yin and yang of the marijuana issue as it pertains to the NFL drug policy.

Voters in seven states last week approved cannabis -- either for recreational or medicinal use -- and, by extension, advanced the argument that the league's ban on it (officially) is like something out of the Stone Age.

If you're keeping score, that's 28 states plus the District of Columbia that legally allow weed in one form or another.

The NFL Players Association is in the process of forming a committee that will study and presumably make recommendations about the potential use of marijuana and other alternatives for managing pain.

"The movement is happening," former defensive end Marvin Washington told USA TODAY Sports.

From ABNFL to Players: Pot Now Legal for Some, But Don't Smoke It

Washington, 51, who played 11 seasons, mostly with the New York Jets, has been on something of a crusade by calling for the league to rethink its existing position.

"They can't ignore this, when 60% of the country has access to recreational or medical cannabis," added Washington, co-founder of Isodiol Performance, which has produced a line of cannabidiol-infused products that address pain.

Listening to him and pondering the election reminds me of a chat from training camp with Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II. I've wondered how the evolution of societal attitudes about marijuana resonate among owners, particularly given the suspensions of several high-profile players.

"The culture in our country has changed," Rooney said. "It's legalized here and there, decriminalized in a lot of places. They may not take it as seriously. But our rules haven't changed.

"Maybe someday," he added, "but not anytime soon."

Someday. The image-conscious NFL surely wants no part of fueling the perception that its players are riding around like Cheech and Chong.

But we're talking about medical marijuana, with a key distinction that might make it plausible as a pain-management alternative: It doesn't contain THC, the ingredient that gets a person high.

As the drug policy stands now, it's more of a wink-wink situation -- and not just for medical marijuana. If players avoid positive tests that would expose them to unlimited random drug tests, they are tested just once a year -- on an undisclosed date between April 20 and Aug. 9 -- which would conceivably allow them to earn a pass to use marijuana during the season. For some users, that would mean staying clean for a few weeks before April 20, then resuming use after their test.

Yet when high-profile talents such as Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon, Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant and Oakland Raiders linebacker Aldon Smith are suspended for a full year or indefinitely, due to multiple failed tests, reportedly for marijuana use, it strikes me as maybe more of an addiction issue than a pain-management solution.

Still, if marijuana can help ease pain that all players endure while engaging in their violent and physical occupation, why deny them? A survey of 229 players by ESPN The Magazine this year came back with 71% approving of the use of medical marijuana.

Marijuana is widely perceived as less dangerous than alcohol, although risks that include being a gateway to other drugs and the impact on brain function and coordination skills can't be dismissed. But there's also the notion that in an environment where participants might choose something to deal with pain, cannabis is highly preferable to opioids.

"Players want an alternative to traditional Western medicine, which is prescribing pills that can be toxic and addictive," Washington said.

The results from the election did little to move the needle at NFL headquarters, a person with knowledge of the thinking of the league's highest-ranking officials told USA TODAY Sports. The NFL's boilerplate statement expressed the same sentiment it has for months, maybe even years: It will follow the science.

There are doctors to be found on both sides of the debate about the benefits of medical marijuana, but the science the NFL references is limited to that which is advised by the four-member panel that administers the drug policy and is jointly approved by the league and players union. This is not an easy or quick fix, but there is room to advance the ball.

If the NFL wants to be progressive, it can make a strong commitment to funding some of the research being conducted to study the effects of marijuana usage. After all, in pledging to promote the long-term wellness of players, benefits could improve the quality of lives.

Washington believes products that contain cannabidiol but are not smoked -- including balms, oils and vaporous mist that can be inhaled -- might be the eventual solution.

"Cannabis and CBD can do the same thing as anti-inflammatories," he said, "but not be as hard on your liver and kidneys."

That's reason enough to search for viable alternatives.

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Copyright 2016 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

 

La Cueva High's head football coach is on leave pending an Albuquerque Public Schools investigation into a postgame incident that occurred following the Bears' Oct. 28 district game against Eldorado.

A video of Brandon Back pushing La Cueva student Remington Swanson surfaced after the game on social media, but made it to APS district offices in the last couple of days.

The district has put Back on leave as it looks into the matter.

"It was very brief, and out of context," La Cueva principal Dana Lee told the Journal on Tuesday, referring to the video in question.

At the end of La Cueva's 31-28 victory, a large number of La Cueva students, despite being warned multiple times by the public address announcer, spilled onto the field to congratulate the football players. But the coaches, Back said, feared that they might instigate Eldorado players as the teams shook hands after the contest at Wilson Stadium.

"The coaching staff were trying to push kids back toward our stands," Back said in an interview with the Journal on Tuesday. "We were trying to keep a volatile situation from happening."

As for the interaction in question, this was how Back described what happened:

"I was pushing kids. I pushed him, and he didn't like getting pushed, and that's when he yelled at me and pushed on me and cursed me out."

Back said his ensuing push was not premeditated. Lee agreed. The student, Swanson, fell over another person, Back said.

Moreover, Back said he spoke to the student's father the day after the game, and also met with Swanson two days later, on that Monday. Swanson competes on Back's track and field team in the spring.

"Me shoving him was not intentional, I was just trying to get the kids back," Back said. "We wanted to keep these kids safe and separate and try to keep it from escalating."

Lee said about 80-100 students came onto the field after La Cueva's win, even with extra security on hand that night for Albuquerque's biggest prep football rivalry.

"I do know that coach Back had a conversation with the young man and the family of the young man involved and they were all good," Lee said. "He has known the family for a long time."

A message left late Tuesday with APS was not immediately returned. It is unknown how long the investigation will last.

Asked if she wanted Back to remain as La Cueva's head coach, Lee said: "I am comfortable with him continuing on as football coach. At this point, I feel he and the coaching staff were put in a difficult position that evening, and they reacted within a few seconds."

The father of the student, Allan Swan-son, told KOAT-TV that he didn't blame Back for what happened.

"If you ask me, I know it was my son, but his (Back's) actions were entirely appropriate," he told the station. He also said his son was being unruly before he was shoved by Back.

The school received a letter from the New Mexico Activities Association about the fans coming onto the field.

La Cueva's season ended last weekend with a 56-28 loss at Las Cruces Oñate in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.

Back, who just completed his fourth season as the Bears head coach, said he hopes he will be quickly exonerated.

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Copyright 2016 Orange County Register
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Orange County Register (California)

 

USC brought former fullback Soma Vainuku to practice Tuesday to work out as the scout team running back.

"He was very welcome," Coach Clay Helton said.

Vainuku played for the Trojans from 2011-15, before he was signed as undrafted free agent by the Houston Texans last spring.

He was waived in September and has yet to be picked up by an NFL team.

This practice is increasingly commonplace and permitted by NCAA rules. Alabama and Cal have invited former players to practice this season.

The NCAA rulebook says a player may practice on an "occasional basis, provided the institution does not publicize the participation of the former student at any time before the practice session."

Graduate assistant Mike Goff, a former NFL center and offensive guard, worked out with the offensive and defensive line.

Helton said they needed some extra depth because of injuries.

HIGH RANK

USC moved up to No. 13 from No. 20 in the College Football Playoff rankings that were released Tuesday.

It is its highest position since the rankings debuted with the four-team playoff in 2014.

The Trojans are the highest ranked three-loss team and came ahead of several one- and two-loss teams.

"When you talk to the coaches that are in the selection committee room, I don't think any of them if they were coaching today would want to play that Southern California team right now," said Kirby Hocutt, the CFP committee chairman.

QUICK HITS

USC posted a graduate-success rate score of 67 percent, as part of the figures released by the NCAA on Tuesday. It was the school's highest score for football, although second to last in the Pac-12. It includes a 2006-09 cohort.... Defensive tackle Josh Fatu is 50-50 "at best," Helton said, to play Saturday at UCLA due to an ankle sprain. Fatu is in a walking boot.... Sophomore linebacker Porter Gustin was limited because of an ankle injury.... Running back Ronald Jones was limited with a knee bruise.... Cornerback John Plattenburg (illness) was out.

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Copyright 2016 Collier County Publishing Company
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Naples Daily News (Florida)

 

It will be two more years before the long-awaited Big Corkscrew Island Regional Park opens to the public, according to a timeline approved Tuesday by Collier County commissioners.

The planned 150-acre park in Golden Gate Estates near Palmetto Ridge High School sat in planning limbo for nearly a decade before efforts to build it were revived in 2014. The county is still negotiating with Q Grady Minor, the firm that will design the park, over cost and the scope of the project.

A contract with the firm should be ready to be approved by commissioners in January, said Barry Williams, parks and recreation director.

Once the contract is approved, final design of what will be one of the county's largest parks will begin.

Plans include several sports fields, walking trails, a playground, a community center, swimming pools, a softball/baseball complex, and tennis, basketball and pickleball courts. Three public meetings will be held before the design is selected to make sure residents' priorities match the plans, Williams said.

Design is expected to take nearly a year, and construction is scheduled to begin in early 2018.

"There is pent up demand for this," Williams said. "We have a lot of families in the area that need this park."

Commissioners still need to decide how they're going to pay for it.

The park will cost $31 million, according to county estimates. Commissioners have already set aside $14 million, and, depending on how much money in impact fees the county collects from new homes and business, plan to be able to spend $4 million a year on the project.

That would give the county $18 million cash on hand when construction is set to begin.

Commissioners will need to decide if they want to borrow the remainder and complete the project or split the work into phases, Williams said.

That decision will fall to the next board of commissioners, which will be sworn in later this month.

Tuesday marked the final meeting for Commissioners Tim Nance, Georgia Hiller and Tom Henning. They will be replaced by Burt Saunders, a former state representative and state senator; Andy Solis, a North Naples lawyer; and Bill McDaniel, owner of a Golden Gate Estates excavation company.

Nance, who represents the Golden Gate Estates area, said seeing the park project move forward for the area was one of the highlights of his four-year term.

"The area has 20 percent of citizens and 30 percent of the kids," Nance said. "This park is something that has been needed for a very long time. To have a timeline that shoots to have the park open in 2019, I'm hopeful. I'm hopeful that the newly constituted board will find a way to fully fund this project and get it checked off the list."

In other business, commissioners unanimously voted to create a new position to help bolster its growing sports tourism team as the county's tourism office tries to tap into a burgeoning amateur sports market. Hosting sports tournaments has been an unexpected but increasingly strong economic driver for the county, said Jack Wert, tourism director.

"It really started when we built North Collier Regional Park," Wert said. "That gave us a first-class sports facility, and we were able to bring in soccer tournaments, and then lacrosse and softball. Then we expanded into pickleball and Pro Watercross. Once you get this reputation for hosting national championship events, it really snowballs."

The county hosted 73 national and regional tournaments and events over the last year, Wert said.

The new position will help organize annual tournaments, such as the U.S. Open Pickleball Championships and the Pro Watercross World Championship, while working to lure more events.

The new hire will bring the number of employees dedicated full-time to sports tourism to three, while freeing other tourism employees to focus on other areas, Wert said.

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Copyright 2016 Chattanooga Publishing Company
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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach Russ Huesman has no illusions about what could happen to his Mocs on Saturday night when they play at Football Bowl Subdivision No.1 Alabama.

"I've told our kids, 'If we don't play ball, we'll get our brains beat out,'" he said during Tuesday's media luncheon. "Fundamentally, they're amazing. They're the best college defense I've ever seen on film."

It's also as good a atmosphere as there is in the college game. There will likely be 101,821 fans inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, nearly all of them clad in crimson, though UTC defensive back Lucas Webb expects those friends and family for whom he found 20 tickets to pull for the Mocs, even though his father Stephen played for the Crimson Tide from 1987 through 1991.

And when those fans launch into their trademark "Roll, Tide, Roll!" or the deep, gravelly voice of the late coaching legend Bear Bryant blares from the loudspeaker before the opening kickoff, well, in the words of Webb, "It's the big-time stage you want to play on."

But what if the Mocs -- ranked No. 11 in the Football Championship Subdivision coaches' poll this week -- weren't allowed to play FBS programs such as Alabama?

What if the rants of national media types such as ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit -- "I think FCS should play FCS, and I think the FBS should play FBS with the one exception being North Dakota State because of a pretty proven track record," he said a couple of years ago -- take hold?

What if those $500,000 paydays that so many FCS programs such as UTC count on to prop up their athletic department budgets become a thing of the past?

Have we become so selfish and elitist in the Power Five conferences that we can't reach down to lift up an otherwise major college program from time to time, if not year by year?

(And, yes, I know that technically, in the eyes of the NCAA, UTC is as much a major college athletic department as Alabama, Tennessee or Notre Dame. They've just chosen to play FCS football.)

"We're not going out of business without those games," Huesman said. "FCS football is not going to die without these kinds of games. But you would have to tighten your belt a whole bunch. It would certainly affect a lot of different things. Having these kinds of games definitely makes your budget more manageable."

It also makes recruiting much easier at the FCS level.

"Other than helping the budget, the most important thing this does is help recruiting," Huesman said. "You think a kid's eyes don't light up when you tell him we've got an Alabama, Tennessee or LSU on future schedules and he's going to play against a program like that? We use that all the time in recruiting, and it makes a difference.

"Just think of going into a kid's home in Alabama and telling them we've got Bama on the schedule. Every kid we recruit wants to play in a game like that."

Certainly not everyone embraces Herbstreit's general belief that "mixing the two (FBS and FCS) I'm not a fan of."

In a recent USA Today article, a quote from Miami coach Mark Richt while he was still the Georgia coach hopefully echoes the view of many at the elite level of the coaching profession.

Said Richt: "I think it would be horrible to have some of these programs not be able to play football because none of the FBS schools would play them. This is what I would do: Have the committee say we're going to take your best 11, or whatever you want to say, take 11 games as your strength of schedule and allow everyone to play an FCS school for the health of the game in America."

Here's a healthy perspective from Huesman about this game.

Asked if he'd be tempted to rest his best players rather than risk injury with the prospect of a probable FCS playoff berth just around the corner, Huesman said, "We're going to put our best foot forward. We're going to put our best players on the field. It's the right thing to do."

The right thing to do going forward is to push Richt's idea for the selection committee to consider only a team's top 11 games. It makes sense for everyone. UTC's level gets a much-needed money boost. The big boys get an unofficial off week, and all those FCS players get to experience for at least one week a year how the moneyed class lives.

Mocs senior offensive lineman Corey Levin saw another benefit for those FCS players who want to chase their pro football dreams.

"I get a chance to look like I belong out there," he said. "Scouts will watch that game. Maybe a couple of doors will open."

It's certainly preferable to closing doors to all those FCS folks who could use a little help.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com

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Copyright 2016 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

SALT LAKE CITY - University of Utah basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak has yet to pay the $80,000 cancellation fee he vowed to personally cover for breaking a contract to play BYU this year, according to a legislative audit released Tuesday.

Instead, the university paid the fee and the coach will repay the money in four installments over four years. Krystkowiak made the first $20,000 payment from his Kyrstko Foundation, but auditors say they were unable to independently confirm if he used personal or donated funds.

University officials told the Office of the Legislative Auditor General that Krystkowiak assured them the money came from him without contributions from donors, the reports says.

The finding was part of an audit of U. athletics that state legislative leaders requested after Krystkowiak's controversial decision in January to not play BYU in 2016.

Krystkowiak said in February the schools needed a "cooling-off period" for rivalry emotions escalating toward "potential for serious injury." The game would have been played next month.

The decision triggered a host of questions among lawmakers, including what level of oversight the Legislature should have with college sports and how universities balance athletics and academics.

Legislative auditors looked at the athletics department's budget management, coaches' pay, athletic director bonuses and team performances relative to goals and expectations.

"We are always striving to improve and find ways to be more competitive. This audit confirms we are doing most things well, but it also gives us the opportunity to learn, grow and implement change, which will allow us to compete on an even higher level," said U. Athletic Director Chris Hill.

Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said there was a "hue and cry" that the audit was seen as retribution for canceling the BYU game, but the U. acted professionally through the process. In the end, he said the findings would benefit the university and the state.

Sports at the U. generated $63.9 million last year, with the football and men's basketball programs accounting for 80 percent of the revenue, with $42.3 million and $8.4 million, respectively. The department employs 160 coaches and administrative staff, and supports 400 athletes in 18 sports.

The audit found that the U.'s athletics expenses have been consistently the lowest among Pac-12 schools, largely due to having the least amount of money coming in. The athletics department receives revenue from a variety of sources, including tickets sales, merchandise, TV deals and the university itself.

Auditors cautioned the U. against spending more than it has to keep pace with other universities in the competitive world of college sports, noting it has a $4.7 million deficit due to a decision to go in the red when it entered the Pac-12 Conference in 2011. Colorado, which joined the Pac-12 at the same time as Utah, has a $20 million deficit, according to the audit.

"As a general trend, there has been significant pressure to spend increasing amounts on budget items like coaching salaries, athletics facilities, scholarships, food and student- athletes' cost of attendance," auditors wrote.

U. President David Pershing told the Legislative Audit Subcommittee that the university can't afford to put as much money into sports as other schools and must do more with less. He said it would never use academic funds to support cost overruns in the athletics department.

Pershing said the U. incurred short-term debt to compete in the Pac-12 before receiving a full share of conference revenues. The spending included building a reserve fund, which at $6.4 million is among the highest in the conference.

Hill told the committee the program wants to have reserves in the event of something catastrophic, and losing football games, for example, could be catastrophic to the bottom line.

Auditors found that many coaches received significant pay raises regardless of whether their teams met expectations set by the athletics department the past five years. For example, baseball coaches received a 112 percent increase, while football and basketball coaches got 89 percent and 84 percent, respectively, from 2011 to 2015.

While many teams have performed well, only the gymnastics and men's and women's ski teams achieved department goals during that time, according to the report. Auditors suggested tying coaches' raises to on-field results and allowing them to participate in setting goals for their teams.

The audit notes that the baseball team won the Pac-12 championship this year and men's basketball, women's volleyball and softball have improved. Others, such as women's soccer and men's tennis, get better one year and fall back the next. Women's basketball, track and tennis have struggled, the audit says.

Coaches are paid according to how their teams do in the conference over a period of time, though sometimes the U. has to do a preemptive strike to keep a coach from being hired away, even in lower profile sports, Hill said.

Pershing said the university has been "very pleased" with its coaches.

"They have risen to the challenge (both athletically and academically) and are performing at the higher level required in the Pac-12," he wrote in the response.

The U. has one of the highest academic progress rates in the conference, which factors in points for athletes staying in school and being academically eligible to play.

Lawmakers commended the university for the academic success among its athletes.

Auditors found that Hill can earn bonuses based on the performances of the high-profile football, men's and women's basketball, and gymnastics teams, but not on the less visible sports.

Providing incentives for non-moneymaking sports could improve on-field performance, auditors said, adding that nine schools in the Pac-12 offer bonuses to athletic directors based on the success of all teams.

The audit also found the athletics department hasn't kept tabs on nearly $2 million worth of equipment such as laptops, video cameras and big screen TVs. They also discovered the department has lost 264 keys, including 15 master keys, to athletics facilities over the years. Auditors say that makes items susceptible to theft.

House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, saw that as a particular problem, especially in a sports environment and staying in compliance with NCAA rules.

"Your student-athletes are under a microscope that is far greater than any of your other departments," he said.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

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Copyright 2016 Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Inc.
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Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)

 

SHREWSBURY - The school district has begun a capital campaign to raise $1.8 million to install artificial turf and make repairs at the high school athletic campus.

The need for the improvements was identified several years ago.

After months of research by the high school improvement project team, the School Committee last week unanimously approved the first phase of the project, which entails replacement of the grass stadium field with artificial turf and resurfacing of the track. The vote also included authorization to begin the campaign to raise $1.8 million for the artificial turf portion of the project. Town meeting in 2015 appropriated $285,000 to resurface the track.

The project, proponents said, is needed because of the poor condition of the 14-year-old grass fields. Having a turf field will allow for better and safer playing conditions for

multiple high school sports teams as well as physical education classes. It will also allow for an earlier start to the practice seasons, eliminate moving or rescheduling games because of rain, and allow the high school to host playoff games. Turf could also generate revenue from rentals to club teams and other districts.

Some people have questioned the safety of turf, but the proponents' research, which included state and federal data, concluded that artificial turf fields do not pose health risks to players or the environment. Bryan Moss, a member of Sustainable Shrewsbury, said while he is supportive of goals to improve the sports fields, he preferred improved natural grass fields.

The project will not use a crumb rubber material infill, the subject of controversy across the country regarding health risks. The product that is recommended is Envirofill, a 98 percent silica sand encapsulated in an acrylic coating. It will be installed on top of a shock pad, which reduces injuries.

Assistant Superintendent Patrick Collins, head of the improvement project team, said about half of the teams Shrewsbury High School competes with in the Wachusett League - including Leominster, Westboro, Lunenburg, Marlboro, Wachusett Regional and Shepherd Hill Regional - already have turf fields, which are considered safer and allow for faster play.

"The rationale is the same one they had, and the one we're using, which is it will just add access for all our teams on a consistently safe playing surface, is the primary reason to do it. That's why we're moving forward with the project," Mr. Collins said Monday.

Depending on when all the necessary funds are secured, the project is expected to be constructed June through September 2018. The new field would be in use beginning in October 2018.

In the future, there could be two additional phases to the project. Phase 2 would include a second, multisport turf field where the current lacrosse field is located. Phase 3 would be additional stadium seating for the second turf field and potential additional bathroom space and storage for sports equipment.

Mr. Collins said he said he is hopes large donors will step forward, similar to what happened with the primary athletic field at Shepherd Hill Regional High School in Dudley. The Youssef and Moniz families of Dudley, who collectively own several local Dunkin' Donut shops, donated $1 million to the project. Two local insurance companies also made significant donations.

Mr. Collins said the new turf field has the Dunkin' Donuts logo stitched into the field. Weymouth-based Gale Associates, which installed the Shepherd Hill field, is contracted for the new Shrewsbury turf field.

"We're hopeful and want to be optimistic that maybe some corporate donors will want to be partners with us in a similar way," he said.

Anyone interested in donating may contact Michelle Biscotti and Kathleen Keohane, coordinators of development and volunteer activities for the school district, at development@shrewsbury.k12.ma.us or (508) 841-8470.

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Copyright 2016 The Buffalo News
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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

An Arizona-based developer has expressed interest in building a multipurpose events center on a vacant 47-acre site in the City of Tonawanda, officials said Tuesday.

International Coliseums Co. of Scottsdale, Ariz., has proposed a 5,000- to 6,000-seat facility that could accommodate hockey, high school sports, concerts, trade shows, conferences and other uses, said 4th Ward Councilman Timothy J. Toth.

The land is the shovel-ready Spaulding Commerce Park, formerly the Spaulding Fibre manufacturing site, which underwent a $20.6 million, 8½-year cleanup that was completed in 2012.

"It could be an economic generator," Toth said. "The important thing is, we have someone with an interest in the area and the property. It's something that could potentially be a big tax generator for the city."

Still, Toth and Mayor Rick Davis cautioned that the proposal is still in its very early stages, with Davis saying the idea is in the "first mile of a marathon."

Toth presented a "letter of understanding" to the Common Council, and the Council agreed to have the city attorney review it before the Council's next meeting. If city officials sign the letter, the developer would bring in its architect for an economic-feasibility study and preliminary designs.

In addition to a 120,000-square-foot events center, the project could include 20,000 square feet of space for community events, a conference center hotel, retail and restaurants.

The hope is that the events center would become the home of an Ontario Hockey League franchise and an NCAA Division I hockey team, Toth said. Don Luce Hockey would lead those efforts, according to the letter. The events center could also host religious gatherings, festivals, rodeos and equestrian events.

Toth said Rick Kozuback, president of International Coliseums, first visited the site seven years ago, before the industrial property was remediated. After he was elected last year, Toth said, he reached out to Kozuback and explained that the site was available, with underground utilities and roads in place. Kozuback visited again in early spring and met with Toth and Davis.

"He feels it's a good location and could be a good economic generator for the area," Toth said. "They have a good track record of building these types of places all across the country."

email: jpopiolkowski@buffnews.com

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Another former Wright State University men's tennis player has sued the school in federal court for allegedly violating his due process rights during an investigation into sexual misconduct claims.

A similar lawsuit was brought earlier this fall by former team members Diego Venegas and Marc Sodini. That suit said a team culture of "mutual horseplay and banter" allegedly included inappropriate contact between teammates. Wright State has asked a U.S. District Court judge in Dayton to dismiss those claims.

The newest lawsuit filed Monday in Cincinnati's U.S. District Court lists "John Doe" as the plaintiff, saying that disclosing his identification "will cause the student irreparable harm as this case involves matters of the utmost personal intimacy."

Nine of 11 men's tennis team members - including Doe - were expelled from school, causing the Raiders to not field a team in spring 2016. Complaints made against the dismissed students included a hazing practice involved poking teammates in the rectum, which was called a culture of "mutual horseplay and banter."

The allegations in the lawsuits appear to explain why on Jan. 21, 2016 the school abruptly canceled its spring 2016 men's tennis season because many players had reportedly violated the code of student conduct.

The defendants in the new lawsuit are Wright State, University Appeals Panel Chair Sarah Twill, Director of Office of Equity and Inclusion Matthew Boaz and Director of Community Standards and Student Conduct Chris Taylor.

The new suit said Doe is a Texas resident and that his tennis scholarship was worth more than $30,000 per year.

"This case arises (amid) a growing national controversy stemming from the Federal Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights' threats to withhold federal education funds to compel colleges and universities to address 'sexual violence' on their campuses," the complaint said.

"After years of criticism for being too lax on campus sexual assault, at the urging of OCR and other high-ranking officials in the Obama Administration, colleges and universities are relying on Title IX to crackdown on alleged perpetrators.

"This crackdown has gone too far, as schools are ill-equipped to handle and adjudicate matters of sexual assault."

Two members of the tennis team claimed that during the fall 2015 semester, as they got on a bus after meets, the older members of the team, including Doe, would "digitally penetrate their anus through their clothing."

Doe denies the poking allegations. Doe "acknowledged that there is "horsing around" by the team, but denies that there was any hazing or other objectionable or inappropriate conduct."

The school's Gender-Based Harassment and Violence Panel (GBHVP) held seven hearings on Feb. 10 against all nine team members accused.

Doe's attorneys wrote that Doe "jabbed other teammates in the rear in a non-sexual manner as part of team camaraderie. The Hearing Panel heard testimony that such conduct was common and not sexual in any way."

The suit said those hearings were unfair and resulted in Doe's expulsion. Doe appealed, but was denied.

"WSU, from the outset, presumed that John Doe was guilty in order to look good for the Dept. of Education and advocates," the suit claimed.

A WSU spokesman said in a statment, "It is the university's practice not to comment on any matters that may be the subject of pending litigation. University action involving student athletes and any related incidents have been consistent with our established policies and procedures regarding student conduct."

Contact this reporter at 937-225-6951 or email Mark.

Gokavi@coxinc.com

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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

Standifer Gap Park will soon see some much-needed renovations.

As part of a countywide initiative to improve the region's 17 parks, Hamilton County Parks and Recreation has begun assessing the needs of each property, including the park on Standifer Gap Road, which has fallen into disrepair over the past few years.

The first two things to be fixed will be the park's slide and swing set, Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Director Tom Lamb told local residents during a community meeting at Standifer Gap Seventh-day Adventist Church on Nov. 1.

The slide, which is currently surrounded by yellow caution tape, has a hole near the bottom, making it an eyesore as well as a safety hazard for local children. Lamb said the county will begin working with local playground equipment supplier PlayCore to rectify the issue.

"They have assured us that they can provide us with a piece of equipment that will fit the specs of the playground there now so we can replace that slide," Lamb said.

PlayCore will also replace the park's swing set with a variety of swings for different ages, a process that will include installing safety surfacing and other necessary requirements.

"We want to make sure that we don't just slap you up a swing set, but we put something in that's going to last, that's built to accommodate all the needs and is something that we know won't have a lot of maintenance costs in the future," Lamb explained.

Lamb said the department would also look at where people go in the park and how they use it to help guide decisions about where to put some of the amenities community members requested, such as additional picnic tables and a shaded pavilion or structure.

While there is no timeline for when all the renovations will be complete, Lamb said it is a top priority. County Mayor Jim Coppinger said the project, which he anticipates will be more than $15,000, could be brought to the Hamilton County Commission for approval as early as December.

"This is a good example of how the government does work well," Coppinger said, praising residents for bringing their concerns about the park to District 7 Commissioner Sabrena Smedley.

While residents brought up several additions and improvements they wanted to see for the park, such as a hitting board for the tennis court and the resurfacing of the park's aged walking paths, attendees were most eager to see a new basketball court.

Approximately 10 years ago, the park's basketball court was permanently closed to put an end to the suspected drug dealing and fighting that often took place there. Now, locals say they want to see that ban lifted.

"I don't think it's fair for outsiders to deprive the people actually living in the community of that freedom to be able to play basketball," said Frances Denson, who presides over community meetings. She added that kids playing the sport in the street presents a safety issue. "We have to come up with some kind of system that would work."

To keep the basketball court from once again drawing illegal activity, meeting attendees suggested additional security measures, such as a building a fence around the court, setting clear rules and closing hours and requiring registration to use the facilities.

Though Coppinger explained that officials cannot restrict access due to the park's public status, he said they could have a say in behavior and encouraged the residents to serve as watchdogs.

"You're here because you care about your community," he said, "and that's the best policing you can actually have."

Coppinger asked attendees to have patience in terms of the basketball court, saying that even if the county is able to put one in, that couldn't happen until the spring due to weather conditions.

He also urged residents to continue to go to commissioners with local needs.

"None of us really know what your needs are the way that you know what they are. We're dependent upon you to let us know," Coppinger said. "We can't fix what we don't know. And that's the most frustrating thing."

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Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine)

 

TURNER -- Leavitt Area High School Principal Eben Shaw presented the board with a cost comparison for athletic expenses from 12 other high schools at Thursday night's meeting.

The report showed high school sports budgets ranging from $25,000 to $40,000 per year.

Leavitt's budget has held steady at $32,000 for the past several years, according to Business Administrator Deb Roberts. The school board showed a keen interest in reducing that number.

Shaw explained that some of the expenses are non-negotiable, such as game officials who charge $30 to $50 per game. The official timekeeper is paid $30 per game, and security is paid $17 per hour.

Director Peter Ricker said, "I think that many of these positions could be covered by volunteers," referring to ticket takers and members of the chain gang.

Shaw said he wouldn't have students handling cash without adult supervision. He also pointed out that volunteers may not be keen to turn out for the games, "when it's 40 degrees and raining outside."

Mark Thibodeau, athletic director at Tripp Middle School, presented a report showing more positions covered by volunteers.

Tripp Middle School Principal Gail Marine said, "We have had football games delayed when we could not find people for the chain gang."

Chairwoman Betsy Bullard encouraged Shaw to come up with other creative ways to save money.

Superintendent Kimberly Brandt read nominations for three teaching positions unanimously approved by the board: Chelsea Cunningham, special education teacher, Leavitt Area High School; Angie Sanchez Dow, special education teacher, Leeds Central School; and Jennifer Mason, day treatment program/special education teacher, Greene Central School.

The board also unanimously approved Del Peavey as director of special education. She will replace Deborah Alden, who has accepted a position as superintendent of Regional School Unit 10.

Peavey is the special education director at Regional School Unit 11 in Gardiner.

Leeds Central School Principal Danielle Harris gave a PowerPoint presentation of her recent time at Teachers College in New York City. She shared the recommendation that every child read for 90 minutes a day to ensure academic achievement across the board.

The board agreed to attempt to keep the district's towns informed as they move into next year's budget process, so they will have an idea of what their responsibility will be.

"As long as they know it's a rough estimate," Deb Roberts cautioned.

Brandt will release a newsletter with material contributed by the principals, directors, and board chairman designed to increase communication with parents and community members. She plans to distribute it three times a year.

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Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA)

 

LAKE FOREST, Ill. - Star receiver Alshon Jeffery was suspended Monday for four games without pay for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances, the latest staggering blow for the reeling Chicago Bears.

It was another dose of bad news for a team that lost several players to injuries in an embarrassing 36-10 loss at Tampa Bay that left the Bears with a 2-7 record. Now, they will have to get by without arguably their best player, starting with Sunday's game at the New York Giants.

"Obviously we're very disappointed," coach John Fox said. "I think he's fairly embarrassed about it, but we'll support him and welcome him when he gets back after serving his suspension."

It was not clear what caused the suspension. Fox said he is "not privy to that."

As if Jeffery's punishment wasn't enough, it looks like the Bears will be without star right guard Kyle Long. The NFL Network reported Monday that he will miss the remainder of the season with an ankle injury.

Jeffery will be eligible to be activated on Dec. 12 and play against Green Bay six days later. He leads the team with 630 yards receiving and is second with 40 catches.

"It (stinks) not having your top weapon on offense," tight end Zach Miller said. "We have to figure out ways to be better, to do better collectively. But I don't think you really replace Alshon Jeffery that easily. We'll have to do it as a group."

Jeffery is playing for the $14.6 million franchise tag after he and the Bears were unable to agree to a long-term contract in the offseason. He was limited to nine games because of injuries a year ago, and now has a PED suspension hanging over him with his contract set to expire again.

Fox said players found out during meetings on Monday.

"All teammates, I think, at the end of the day, they're supportive," Fox said. "But I know Alshon's embarrassed by it and I'm sure disappointed would be a good word for the rest of us."

Fox mentioned a "silver lining" with receiver Marquess Wilson potentially returning soon from a foot injury. He has been on the physically unable to perform list since training camp. But his comeback would be small consolation, particularly given the rash of injuries the Bears suffered against the Buccaneers.

Long, a three-time Pro Bowl lineman, left the field on a cart with a right ankle injury. Fox indicated after the game that it might be a high ankle sprain, though he said Monday a "full determination" on the injury had not been made. Ted Larsen figures to take his place in the lineup.

Fox had no update on running back Jordan Howard (ankle or Achilles tendon), nose tackle Eddie Goldman (ankle) or defensive lineman Will Sutton (ankle). Right tackle Bobby Massie also suffered a concussion.

The loss to Tampa Bay also raised more questions about the direction of the franchise and wiped out any good vibes the Bears had after they knocked off NFC North leader Minnesota two weeks earlier.

Jay Cutler threw two interceptions and fumbled twice after leading the Bears to a victory over the Vikings in his return from a sprained right thumb. It all added up to a big reality check for a team that was as confident as any with two wins halfway through the season could be.

The Bears thought they might turn the corner with key players coming back from injuries. Instead, they crashed.

"I still feel like we're not out of it," Miller said.

Mathematically, they're not.

The Bears trail Detroit and Minnesota by three games and Green Bay by two in the division. The Vikings are struggling in a big way with four straight losses. So are the Packers, who have dropped three in a row.

But with Jeffery's suspension, the Bears will have to get by without one of their biggest playmakers.

"I guess the best word I could use would be unfortunate," defensive end Akiem Hicks said. "Because I look forward to seeing 17 (Jeffery) out there going up deep and catching balls and making plays. It's unfortunate and I'm going to miss him."

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Copyright 2016 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

Mike Tomlin's star quarterback discussed another loss Sunday by repeatedly raising issues of discipline and accountability. Mike McCarthy's star quarterback, one week after criticizing the team's energy level, said urgency and focus must increase.

Guys like Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers rarely say such things without a purpose, giving the impression they're euphemizing programmatic issues. And those ultimately fall at the head coach's feet, no matter how many times coaches might have said the same words before.

"It's accountability in the whole room, because we're falling short somewhere," Pittsburgh Steelers veteran cornerback William Gay told USA TODAY Sports on Monday. "That's it. I know when you hear words like that, you've got to reach as media. But it ain't too much reach into it."

Outcome is a dangerous starting point for any analysis. (If the Pittsburgh defense makes one more play to back up Roethlisberger and the offense in Sunday's 35-30 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, is anyone really psychoanalyzing the state of the Steelers on Monday morning?)

But the struggles of Tomlin's Steelers, McCarthy's Green Bay Packers and other long-tenured coaches this season play into the theory that, eventually, every message and every program can grow stale.

In their 10th season under Tomlin, the Steelers are 4-5. So are the Packers and New Orleans Saints, in Year 11 under McCarthy and Sean Payton, respectively. The Cincinnati Bengals entered Monday's road game vs. the New York Giants at 3-4-1 in Year 14 under Marvin Lewis. Of the five longest-tenured NFL head coaches, only one -- Bill Belichick, in his 17th season with the impossibly steady New England Patriots -- has a team above .500 right now.

Tomlin sidestepped the topic last week, saying he was focused only on this team, and Steelers players roundly say it isn't a problem. But McCarthy is among those who believe it and proactively guard against complacency from the coaching staff on down.

McCarthy shuffles and promotes assistants each offseason, delegates more responsibility to those who earn it, even changes his own role based on what he thinks the program needs. "You can't grow," McCarthy said during training camp this year, "if you're not open to change."

Sometimes, that mind-set leads to ill-fated decisions such as handing offensive play-calling duties to Tom Clements last year (only to take it back). But the Packers aren't on a seven-year playoff run because of happenstance, nor the sheer brilliance of Rodgers, the two-time NFL MVP who wasn't among the top reasons for Sunday's 47-25 embarrassment at the Tennessee Titans.

When McCarthy made headlines Monday by proclaiming himself "a highly successful NFL coach," he was speaking objectively. The Packers have won a Super Bowl, been to two other NFC title games and compiled a 108-60-1 record in his tenure.

Tomlin has taken the Steelers to the playoffs the last two years and six times total. He and Payton have Super Bowl rings, too. (Lewis, who has seven playoff appearances and zero wins, is a rare case that could probably happen only in cash-conscious Cincinnati.)

There's good reason these guys don't get fired, even taking a singular outcome (a Super Bowl win) out of the equation: not enough good head coaches available, and no guarantees the next guy is an upgrade. If there were, NFL teams wouldn't have fired 29 head coaches over the last four years.

A coach "trade" is always possible and would defray some of the costs associated with making a change, but that hasn't happened since Jon Gruden wedged his way out of Oakland almost 15 years ago. Rumors swirling around Payton last year after consecutive 7-9 finishes ended with the Saints signing him in March to a five-year contract extension.

What if you're dumping the next Andy Reid, who took the Philadelphia Eagles to five NFC title games and a Super Bowl in 14 seasons before they fired him after consecutive non-playoff seasons, including a 4-12 flop in 2012? The Kansas City Chiefs signed Reid days later and appear playoff-bound for the third time in four years, with 18 wins in 21 games. The Eagles fired Reid's successor, Chip Kelly, and replaced him with Reid protégé Doug Pederson.

Upon joining the Chiefs, Reid said, "Sometimes, change is good." Maybe things really had passed the point of repair in Philadelphia. Maybe everyone needed a fresh start.

This much is certain: The Steelers and Packers are in far less desperate straits than last year's Chiefs, who rallied from a 1-5 start. And you'd hope the track records of coaches such as Tomlin and McCarthy mean they're exactly the guys you want finding the discipline, or urgency, or whatever is lacking.

Sure, those would be highly attractive jobs whenever they open up, in part because of the quarterbacks in place. But guess who'd be among the first coaches hired elsewhere?

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Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine)

 

AUBURN -- The YMCA of Auburn-Lewiston recently received a $110,000 grant from the Island Foundation to further develop its Outdoor Education & Learning Center in Auburn.

Funds will be used to expand the existing trail system, build pavilions for outdoor education classes, create grass fields and improve vehicle access onto the property. These enhancements will allow the YMCA to transition its summer day camp program, Camp Connor, to the center full time by 2018, doubling the number of campers to 300 per week.

Situated along Stetson and North River roads in Auburn, the 93- acre OELC is being developed as a four-season community recreation and education site. Work began on the property in spring 2015 with the construction of rudimentary trails along Bobbin Mill Brook. Current plans call for the addition of outdoor classrooms and fields, a sustainable trail for all abilities, archery range and community gardens. All construction will be to state park standards.

The Island Foundation supports projects in Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island with an emphasis on alternative education and projects that promote environmental and global impact. The YMCA proposal was one of a handful of invitation-only special projects under consideration by the board of trustees.

In August, teens from St. Mary's Nutrition Center's Summer Youth Gardener program were among the first groups to participate in team building and trail service activities at the property.

The OELC is overseen by Wil Libby, YMCA camp and safety director. In addition to managing the Y's American Red Cross training programs and summer camp, Libby is a licensed Maine Guide, wilderness first responder and a trained trail maintainer.

FMI: 207-795-4095, wlibby@alymca.org

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Copyright 2016 Bangor Daily News

Bangor Daily News (Maine)

 

Presque Isle's new Sargent Family Community Center has been a project long in the making and city leaders hope it will be a vibrant activity space for youth, adults, families and elders from around central Aroostook County for a long time to come.

The $7.5 million, 30,000-square-foot community center is named after the family of local trucking company owner Bruce Sargent, who donated $1.5 million to the project, and officially opened on Oct. 31.

The city celebrated a grand opening on Oct. 29, kicking it off with a performance by the Presque Isle High School Band. Several hundred people toured the large gym, which can hold more than 1,700 people, and the conference rooms, youth and senior's sections, and a wall photography and art display.

"This is probably one of the best community centers in the state. It's a huge asset," said Presque Isle recreation director Chris Beaulieu. "People can come just to hang out, or participate in a program or open gym. Adult programming is going to expand. We're doing a new men's basketball league, pickleball, volleyball."

The modern, sunlight-filled community center has been in the works for more than a decade to replace the beloved but deteriorating Haskell Recreation Center, the more than 70-year-old basketball gym and activity center that evolved from a United Service Organization club.

Thousands of people have fond memories of the Haskell Center, and city government leaders are hoping to see thousands use the Sargent Family Community Center, said Beaulieu.

Anyone from anywhere will be able to come to the center for open gym or for the teen and seniors rooms, to sit, talk with friends, read, play games or use the free internet, Beaulieu said.

Different groups like the Aroostook Agency on Aging and Wintergreen Arts will be holding programs and events that may be free or come with fees, while the municipal recreation department's programs will continue to come with resident and nonresident fees. The community center effort raised $3.9 million in donations, with the rest of the $7.5 million covered by the city through a bond financing program at an annual payment of $444,000.

The center also will host new intramural sports programs for middle and high schoolers, and in the future Beaulieu and others said they would like to expand outdoor activities, taking advantage of the center's location near Riverside Park, the Presque Isle Stream and the biking and pedestrian path.

For more information, visit the new center's Facebook page.

 

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

The Huber Heights City Council is set to discuss a plan tonight to renovate a baseball field at Thomas A. Cloud Park.

"The fields are in terrible condition and lack many safety features," says Huber Heights Councilwoman Nancy Byrge.

HUBER HEIGHTS - Investments in Huber Heights parks - including major renovations to a field at Thomas A. Cloud Park - are on deck in a proposal to be considered by council.

Called a "Home Run for the Cloud," the plan by Councilwoman Nancy Byrge and other council members and stakeholders is on the agenda for a first reading during the council meeting. Byrge introduced the plan, which calls for a major renovation of a baseball diamond, Field #1, during a recent council work session.

"The athletic fields in our city parks are being used to grow our future Wayne Warriors and Bethel Bees," Byrge said. "However, the fields are in terrible condition and lack many safety features."

"We owe it to our young athletes to develop first-class facilities for their use," she said.

Added Councilman Richard Shaw, "They're horrible. There's no other way to express it."

The resolution to be introduced tonight authorizes the city manager - who served on the planning team - to begin the process of project design and description for the renovation. It declares the intent and commitment of the city to making improvements to the park upon successfully identifying funding "through direct revenue and/or sponsorship funding."

Byrge estimates indicate upgrades "will conservatively cost" bet ween $100,000 - $250,000. She further indicated theentireprojectwouldbefunded through sponsorship, grants and fundraiser activities by sports organizations.

The proposal developed so far suggests the field be built as a "premier" baseball field designed to Little League specifications -fully fenced, with enclosed dugouts, press box, scoreboard, netting, lights and batting cage.

"It would be a fully enclosed dugout to keep the kids out of the weather," she said. "It would also be fully fenced in front to protect kids from fly balls."

Byrge said if the city were to update three fields as such, the city would become eligible to host Little League Baseball State tournaments. Shaw said he believes the city could see an economic boom that "could easily exceed $510,000" per weekend tournament, a stat he attributed to conversations with persons in other communities.

Byrge addressed concerns that expansion or renovation of baseball facilities could hinder the ability for other sports to use the land, too. She indicated the use of a strategic plan could assist the city in developing guidance on how to best utilize space across the city's parks.

Council will potentially meet during the next work session with a consultant whose services, if purchased by the city, would include development of such a strategic plan.

Today's council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at CityHall, 6131 Taylorsville Road.

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Copyright 2016 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

Georgia State Athletic Director Charlie Cobb said Sunday that he fired football coach Trent Miles because the team just wasn't progressing and that he wants to breathe new life into the program in the season's final two games.

"It wasn't one play, one situation or one game," Cobb said. "We aren't playing to our capabilities. A 2-8 record, I don't think that speaks for the talent on the team."

Georgia State has games remaining against rival Georgia Southern and at Idaho.

Tim Lappano, the wide receivers coach, will serve as interim head coach.

Miles, who was informed he was being relieved on Saturday evening, is the first coach that Cobb has fired since he became the school's athletic director in August 2014.

Cobb said he had conversations with university President Mark Becker during last week about the direction of the program and then again following Saturday's 37-23 loss to Louisiana-Monroe, which had entered the game with a 3-6 record.

Cobb said he met with Miles after the mistake-filled game and then again for a couple of hours Saturday night before making his decision.

Miles, hired by former Athletic Director Cheryl Levick following Bill Curry's retirement in 2012, had a 9-38 record at Georgia State. He led the Panthers to their first and only bowl appearance last year.

"Trent is a first-class guy who ran a first-class program," Cobb said. "He's a good football coach, a good family guy.

"His staff, those guys are all good guys, men and coaches with great families. It's the part (of the job) that stinks when you evaluate the program, you have to let that fall to the side. Where are the results?"

Miles met with the assistants Sunday morning and the players at lunch time.

He said he apologized that many of them had already heard about the decision.

Cobb said he hopes the senior players, including those who may have a chance to play in the NFL, will take this difficult situation and use it as a way to show scouts that they can handle adversity.

He said he told the younger players that it's time to show leadership and that he wants to meet with two or three of the team's leaders to discuss what they hope to see in the next coach and staff.

He said some players already expressed a wish that strength and conditioning coach Scott Holsopple will be retained.

Cobb said Miles was unable to build on the success the Panthers had last season, when a four-game winning streak to end the regular season resulted in a 6-6 record and an invitation to the Cure Bowl.

But as has been the case going back to Curry's tenure, the Panthers were rarely able to synchronize good play from its offense, defense and special teams with any consistency under Miles.

"If you are going to be a good team, you are going to have to be good in all three phases," Cobb said. "The back half of last season, we had all three working pretty well. We didn't build off the energy and excitement."

Cobb said Miles is owed approximately $250,000 from the remainder of his contract.

After saying he wanted to rework Miles' contract following last year's win over Georgia Southern, the two sides were never able to come to an agreement on an extension to his contract, which will expire after next season.

That explains why Miles' buyout was comparatively inexpensive.

Cobb said he recognizes that Miles stepped into a difficult situation in December 2012 when he was hired. Georgia State was transitioning from FCS to FBS without some of the resources to compete, with an unbalanced roster and without enough inroads to recruiting in Georgia.

Steps were taken in the meantime, including building a strength and conditioning center and increasing the size of the coaching and support staff. The staff, led by recruiting coordinator P.J. Volker, has improved relations with high school coaches in the state.

"It's been kind of a slow drip that things weren't going to work out the way we hoped," Cobb said. "It's not due to effort or anything other than (results) at the end of the day."

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Copyright 2016 Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
All Rights Reserved

Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

CHATANOOGA - An East Tennessee school board has responded to the lawsuit filed against them in September by the main victim in a rape case involving a high school basketball team.

In the 22-page response, the attorney representing the Hamilton County Board of Education, Charles Purcell, asks that the case against the board be dismissed.

The school board members "acted as reasonable and prudent... in furtherance of their discretionary duties," the response claims.

The lawsuit filed against the school board cites a long and violent history of hazing and sexual abuse of male student athletes.

The 23-page lawsuit accuses school district and Ooltewah High School administrators and staff of knowing abuse was taking place and failing to protect students.

The plaintiff in this case is a former Ooltewah High freshman who was raped by his basketball teammates with a pool-cue during the team's trip to Gatlinburg just days before Christmas.

The victim, 15 at the time of the attack, sustained injuries so severe he was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery.

Related: DA Report: Ooltewah Failed to Properly Address Abuse

The victim and his mother filed the lawsuit against the Hamilton County school board, former Ooltewah High Principal Jim Jarvis, the school's former Athletic Director Allard "Jesse" Nayadley and former head basketball coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs asks that a jury decide the amount of damages the victim is entitled to receive from each defendant.

The response Purcell filed this week in federal court is not for the individuals named in the lawsuit, but just the school board.

In its response, the board says it isn't responsible for the alleged injuries the victim received from three older teammates, saying these players are the "sole and proximate cause of the alleged injuries sustained by the Plaintiffs."

Three former Ooltewah students have been convicted in connection with the pool-cue rape of the Plaintiff. The oldest of the perpetrators, who turned 18 soon after the attack, was convicted of aggravated rape and aggravated assault in Sevier County Juvenile Court and will be released from juvenile detention in coming weeks.

The two other players, 16 at the time of the attack, were convicted of aggravated assault and will also be released soon.

The board's response argues that if anyone should have been aware the three boys may have committed this attack it would have been their parents, not the school board.

"The Plaintiffs have no legally cognizable action against [the school board] for negligent supervision," the response states.

The lawsuit against the board claims it failed to maintain adequate policies and training regarding student hazing and bullying.

The board also did not adequately train employees about mandatory reporting of abuse, which according to the lawsuit created a climate where such misconduct was tolerated and encouraged due to a lack of consequence.

The lawsuit claims that the board's failure to have the proper policies and training in place means they should not be protected by the state's Governmental Tort Liability Act, which protects governmental boards from lawsuits and limits the amount of damages that can be paid.

Attorneys say the board failed to protect the victim, and that Jarvis, Nayadley and Montgomery's negligent actions provide legal grounds to remove the board's immunity.

 
November 13, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2016 The Buffalo News
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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

I used to oppose the idea of the NFL hiring full-time officials. I don't anymore.

The league has no choice but to take the most drastic measures possible to bring some level of credibility back to an aspect of its game that is rapidly trending toward a joke.

What happened in those ugly closing seconds of the first half in Seattle on Monday night - a sequence of extreme officiating incompetence beyond what even longtime league observers (this one included) had previously witnessed - can't be allowed to happen again.

Walt Anderson is the veteran referee who oversaw the debacle that was:

· Seattle's Richard Sherman not being penalized for unnecessary roughness for his blatant hit to the leg of Buffalo's Dan Carpenter,

· An umpire standing over the ball long enough to cause the Bills to draw a delay-of-game penalty.

· The teams heading to the locker room before the half actually ended.

Anderson is a retired dentist.

He has a history of being good at his part-time job with the NFL, but the fact being a referee at the highest level of the game is effectively something that keeps him busy on weekends in retirement only makes the bungling in CenturyLink Field that much harder to fathom.

You have officials who are lawyers, dairy farmers and school administrators. Others double dip in other sports; Gene Steratore is an NCAA basketball ref. They arrive the day before each game. They leave no later than the day after. They'll usually gather at their hotel for a meeting on the eve of the game and breakfast the next morning before they head to the stadium.

I used to buy the notion the NFL wanted the zebras to be well established in other lines of work and upstanding citizens in their communities, while drawing an extra salary from the league, because it reduced the possibility of taking a chance on throwing it all away by accepting bribes to fix games. But the NFL is more than capable of managing those issues with the help of its security force, which it could easily expand if necessary.

Would the league potentially lose experienced officials who don't want to give up the greater income and security of their full-time gigs to let their entire livelihood ride on something that puts them under greater scrutiny and at more risk to be fired? Probably, but so what?

Cultivate a new crop of officials with a salary structure that works within the parameters of the current entry level of about $78,000 and the 20-year high end of $200,000-plus. And let them literally earn their stripes, season-to-season and even week-to-week, the way players and coaches (whose livelihoods are greatly impacted by officials' calls and non-calls) do.

I've heard the argument that, unlike practicing for players and game-planning and teaching for coaches, officials wouldn't have anything to do between games. I would counter that they could be immersed in studying rules and points of emphasis and the many nuances of judgment (What is a catch? What is pass interference? How do you differentiate between roughing the kicker and unnecessary roughness?) within them.

Every official could be on a rotating assignment of offseason, training-camp and regular-season practices. Even if the tempo and level of contact aren't the same, just being in the environment, around players and coaches, would help provide a stronger connection to what they're officiating than just showing up Sunday. It would be a valuable education for all parties, but especially those responsible for maintaining football law and order.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn't like the idea of full-time officials. He also doesn't think there's anything wrong with the state of officiating.

I think commissioner is in a state of denial.

"As you see, there are officiating mistakes in other leagues and they're full-time officials," Goodell said during a New York Times conference Thursday. "I don't think that's going to eliminate the human element. What we want to do is get the best people on the field to officiate the game to the highest levels. Our officials work incredibly hard and the reality is they do a great job.

"But they're going to miss calls. So what we try to do is have replay available to try to address those issues. But then you have an issue that you have to balance, and we call it the unintended consequences. How much replay do you want to have? Because it can slow the game down to a halt."

Goodell and other league executives are sensitive about the pace of games, recognizing that it's a factor in the alarming decline of television ratings. The longer games take to play, the less the chances of the audience sticking with them, something the NFL says is more of a problem than people simply tuning out.

"If you can challenge every play, we're going to spend more of our time watching video," Goodell said. "We replay all scoring plays and I get this reaction from fans quite a bit, and (TV) partners. A touchdown play, everybody's focused on it, it's a great play, it's a great time to celebrate, but we're not sure if it's really a touchdown yet so it takes the celebration out of it. So you have to find that balance in there where you use technology to improve officiating."

Technology can enhance officiating. Improving it requires having the best and most invested officials the NFL can employ.

Don't be surprised if...

... The New Orleans Saints have a huge rushing performance against the Denver Broncos on Sunday. The Saints have run for 371 yards in the last two games. Tim Hightower had 189 yards in Week Eight, while Mark Ingram followed with 158 yards in Week Nine. In their last two games, the Broncos have allowed 341 yards, including 218 by the Oakland Raiders last Sunday night.

... The San Diego Chargers, who have won three of their last four games, keep surging through the final seven games on their schedule. Despite being 4-5, they've outscored their opponents by 21 points. That's only one less point than the Oakland Raiders, who sit alone atop the AFC West at 7-2, have outscored their opposition.

... Philadelphia Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, who has attempted 90 passes the past two games, will operate a game plan calling for fewer throws against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. Eagles coach Doug Pederson is convinced his team can run the ball better and have a more balanced attack, similar to the offensive philosophy of the Falcons.

email: vcarucci@buffnews.com

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Copyright 2016 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

It used to be that the kids would get their own play room. Now, as they've gotten older, it looks like they're going to get their own sports arena.

Boosted by Mayor Kasim Reed's promise to kick in three-fourths of the upfront cost, leaders of the Atlanta Hawks are planning a $192.5 million renovation of Philips Arena aimed at wooing more young adults.

"This will be the first arena designed for a millennial audience," Hawks CEO Steve Koonin told me.

Millennials, schmillennials. They're the golden ones now, not just for a basketball team anxious to sell more tickets and beer but also for most any marketer, retailer, techie or employer nervously eyeing the future.

The Hawks have become a hotter ticket the past couple years but still lag the average for NBA attendance.

So what does "designed for a millennial audience" actually mean? I asked the 59-year-old Koonin.

In part he envisions borrowing ideas from other places. Lots of bridges and walkways, for example, a la Ponce City Market. Plenty of standing room where people can hang out. Unique combinations of seating.

"This isn't going to be stack 'em high and load 'em in, but very much about social engagement," he said.

There will be everything from clubs to white-tablecloth restaurants in the arena. "We are going to have a whole litany of amenities that talk to today's fans."

The makeover also will include things not done before in arenas, Koonin assured me, though he declined to get specific.

Also, apparently, in Future-world the high-class folks may be mingled with me and the rest of the riffraff, rather than being largely walled off.

Want your shorts pulled down?

That's way different. Now, if you try to walk near the premium seating areas with their premium clubs and upgraded food, a friendly but stern attendant will find a way to pull your shorts down around your ankles. Because there's no such thing as a free lunch. (Well, unless you're owner of a major American sports team and you want a partial government handout -- er, I mean, partnership.)

The current setup at Philips Arena includes more than 100 suites stacked atop one another like a moldy layer cake you can stare at but not eat. The higher up you go, the harder it is to find someone willing to pay for the distant view. It's a design innovation I'm told was meant to serve the competing interests of basketball and hockey, which are best viewed at different levels. (Too bad NHL hockey long ago melted away from Philips.)

Koonin is eyeing renovations that could cut the number of big suites by about half -- they each fit 20 people -- and scatter what remains along with new, more-intimate premium seating around the arena.

"We know our customer wants to make this a social occasion," he said.

Koonin is kind of a quote machine.

"In today's world it's not about isolation; it's about inclusion."

"We are getting rid of all the haves and have-nots."

We'll see. After all, he recently added a fun, behind-the-scenes gathering area just for top-paying fans -- those with exceptional seats in the first three rows on the floor. They go in there to chat and load up on food. Which maybe isn't over the top considering their seats can go for more than $1,000. Per game.

Having people willing to spend big bucks in downtown Atlanta is a great thing. And I can see why city leaders would want to encourage it.

We should be wary of government shovels

But we should be wary any time government wants to shovel big public money into for-profit ventures. It shouldn't be done unless there's clear evidence that the public good will be greater than the public dollars at risk.

I spoke with fans at a recent home game. (I hadn't been in years. Bad, Matt.) Most were upbeat about the team (it's generally been winning) and the energy in the arena.

Shannon Moses, a fan from Alpharetta, seemed befuddled about why an arena renovation is needed.

"I can't imagine what they can do to perfect it," she told me. "I just think it's a waste of money."

So I asked Koonin: What's wrong with Philips?

"It was designed in the '90s, and I think a lot of the pieces are antiquated," he said. "It is not a top-tier arena, which makes it very difficult to capture the best fan experience."

OK. But Philips is one of the nation's top 10 top ticket-selling arenas for concerts, according to Pollstar.

Koonin, who joined the Hawks in 2014, sharpened his marketing chops at Turner (where he oversaw revitalization of the TNT and TBS TV networks) and at that little red marketing machine called Coke.

A rare born-and-bred Atlantan and basketball fan in football country, Koonin said the team's image and customer base are already morphing.

He told me the average age of fans at Hawks games has dropped from 47 to 34 in recent years.

Koonin also has focused on attracting more African-Americans and Latinos. That's a twist, since the team's former controlling owner, Bruce Levenson, sold his stake in the team after disclosure of an email in which he wrote "My theory is that the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base."

The Hawks had a particularly good run a couple of seasons ago. Attendance dipped last season but was still second-highest in a decade.Annual revenue increased 51 percent compared to two years ago, Koonin said. Season ticket holders have jumped from 2,500 to nearly 10,000.

Multi-sponsors, multi-millions

And three more major companies -- Delta, UPS and Kumho Tire -- have signed on as sponsors with multi-year contracts worth multi-millions of dollars, Koonin said.

The Hawks still have challenges.TV ratings for home games logged the sharpest annual decline of any NBA team measured, according to Sports Business Journal. Average home attendance ranked 22nd out of 30 teams last season, according to ESPN.

On the bright side, it's nice to have room to grow.

Koonin said research shows three reasons fans don't attend more games: Traffic. Inconvenience compared to staying home. Shortage of food, drink and entertainment options nearby.

So, while the big makeover gets underway, executives already have added things to draw young hoopsters. Hence, the hip-hop organist, cool graphic projections on the court and a chance to tweet selfies shown to the entire arena.

Every moment that the game isn't displayed on arena screens is scripted. The kiss cam? Some fans are coached in advance for a comedy act. And about 80 tickets are given to pre-selected fans who agree to spend most of the game standing and hyping up the crowd.

"Everything is produced," Koonin said. "Because we compete with your sofa, with no traffic and no expenses. So this experience has to be rather extraordinary."

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Copyright 2016 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

WACO, Texas - Baylor University has explained for the first time how former football coach Art Briles and others responded to a woman's claims that she was gang-raped by five of his players.

The student-athlete informed her head coach in April 2013 that she had been assaulted a year earlier and provided the names of the football players, university officials told The Dallas Morning News in a statement Friday.

The university said the coach reported the matter to Briles, former athletic director Ian McCaw and a sports administrator. But no one reported it to the university's office of Judicial Affairs, as required by federal law, according to the statement.

Briles and McCaw have acknowledged they did not report it to Judicial Affairs, the university said. Baylor officials said McCaw initially denied having any knowledge of the student-athlete's allegation, but later admitted the woman's head coach had told him.

"The internal system of discipline operated by (Briles) was not in line with the university's mission and obligations," Baylor regents chairman Ron Murff told the newspaper. "To Art's credit, he took responsibility for this in discussions with the Board of Regents and in a national media interview."

Briles' lawyer, Ernest Cannon, denies Baylor's account.

From ABBaylor Fires Football Coach Art Briles

"As usual everything Baylor is saying is false," Cannon told the newspaper, adding, "They're up to the same underhanded and dirty tricks."

Earlier this month, Baylor football's offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, Art's son, and other coaches issued a statement arguing that the student-athlete's head coach told the elder Briles that he had reported the assault to McCaw and the Judicial Affairs office himself. It also said that the victim's head coach believed Briles had handled the matter "honorably."

Baylor has struggled for two years with a sexual assault scandal. Regents have told The Wall Street Journal that 17 women had reported domestic violence or sexual assaults that involved 19 football players since 2011, including four gang rapes, and also have told The Dallas Morning News that the school is reviewing about 125 cases of sexual assault or harassment campus-wide.

Art Briles was fired in May, and McCaw resigned. The scandal also led to the demotion of school president Kenneth Starr, who later resigned.

On Thursday, billionaire businessman Drayton McLane, whose name adorns Baylor's football stadium, said he wants to see Briles' honor restored and any evidence that led to his dismissal publicly released by regents. McLane and a group of influential alumni and donors are demanding more transparency from regents, including the release of what was uncovered by a Philadelphia law firm's investigation into how the school handled sexual assaults.

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Copyright 2016 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Palm Beach Post (Florida)

 

Tired of leaving Jupiter's Roger Dean Stadium looking like a lobster after sitting in the sun for nine innings?

After hearing those complaints for years, stadium officials are spending about $2 million to build canopies that will bring shade for about 1,400 of the about 7,000 seats.

The project is to be done by the time the umpire shouts "Play ball!" for spring training opening day Feb. 25.

That's great news for Carolyn and Phil Callahan, avid St. Louis Cardinals fans who have had spring training season tickets on the first base side for about eight years.

More shade at Roger Dean will help the stadium compete with the new Ballpark of the Palm Beaches off Haverhill Road. The Mets stadium in Port St. Lucie also has more shade, Phil Callahan said.

"More shade is absolutely needed. I've seen some people get up and leave early because the sun is too much," said Carolyn Callahan.

Currently, the only shaded seats at Roger Dean are the 300 in about 10 rows in front of the press box behind home plate. The new cloth hunter green shade canopies will be along the first- and third-base lines.

"The lack of shade has been our biggest complaint from fans. This will help us sell more tickets," said General Manager Mike Bauer, stepping between the green seats in the empty stadium on a recent afternoon.

Ticket prices will increase about $2 a game. This year spring training tickets varied from $27-$40. Next year's spring training tickets will be $29-$42.

"This will give more people a choice. Some people, especially those coming down from 30-degree weather, don't mind sitting in the sun," Bauer said.

And many from Palm Beach County such as Jupiter resident Tom Jaeger, say the canopies are not needed.

"I'm from Florida. I like sitting in the sun," Jaeger said.

What triggered the decision to add the shade canopies was the construction of the $148.5 million Ballpark of the Palm Beaches off Haverhill Road.

The new West Palm Beach stadium, which also will have about 7,000 seats, will be the spring training home of the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals.

Roger Dean Stadium, in Jupiter's Abacoa, is owned by Palm Beach County. It opened in 1998 after being built for about for $28 million. The Cardinals -- known for their vociferous fans with the bright red shirts -- and the Marlins signed a lease that expires in 2027.

When some Major League Baseball teams left for Arizona, the Cardinals and Marlins balked at signing a long-term lease at Roger Dean Stadium.

"With the new (West Palm Beach) stadium, we are looking at a new 30-year lease here at Roger Dean. The more teams here, the better," Bauer said.

The goal is to keep spring-training baseball -- and their fans who buy tickets, stay in hotels and spend money -- in north county and Florida. In Palm Beach County, the impact is estimated at $50 million a year, according to the county's Tourist Development Council.

The next expected upgrades to Roger Dean Stadium include expanding the team store that sells souvenirs. Upgrades to the private skyboxes are also being considered.

The new shade canopies are paid out of a $5 million fund that is made up of $4 million from Palm Beach County Tourist Development bed taxes and $1 million from the Cardinals and Marlins.

The Bullpen Club was added this past year for about $300,000 to replace a grass berm in right field.

Two rows of seats and about 20 half-moon-shaped tables replaced the grass where fans set up blankets to watch the game. Fans in the 135-seat capacity area get a wrist band, which entitles them to unlimited food and beverages -- except alcohol -- from a concession stand reserved for Bullpen Club patrons.

A $600,000 storage building was also added.

The seats were replaced and the sound system upgraded for about $730,000 in 2014.

Also in 2014, free parking ended in the nearby parking garage. Motorists now pay $10 in the 1,000-space garage next to the Marriott Hotel during the spring training season.

Roger Dean Stadium suffered about $3.2 million in hurricane damage in 2004. The stadium's seven light poles were knocked down and replaced by hurricane-proof poles that are 110-130 feet tall. The roofs over the Cardinals' clubhouse and the press box had to be repaired. Turf was replaced.

bdipaolo@pbpost.com Twitter: @Billdipaolo

Roger Dean Stadium attendance

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

2015 -- 98,599 (15 games, average 6,573)

2014 - 96,791 (14 games, average 6,914)

2013 - 98,715 (16 games, average 6,170)

2012 - 85,857 (13 games, average 6,604)

2011 - 92,652 (15 games, average 6,177)

2010 - 96,910 (14 games, average 6,922)

2009 - 101,740 (18 games, average 5,652)

2008 - 87,596 (14 games, average 6,257)

2007 - 102,619 (15 games, average 6,841)

2006 - 99,054 (15 games, average 6,604)

2005 - 95,352 (14 games, average 6,810)

MIAMI MARLINS

2015 - 70,990 (14 games ave 5,071)

2014 - 60,260 (14 games, average 4,304)

2013 - 65,496 (15 games, average 4,366)

2012 - 126,921 (16 games, average 7,935)

2011 - 70,450 (16 games, average 4,403)

2010 - 72,574 (15 games, average 4,838)

2009 - 69,726 (17 games, average 4,102)

2008 - 127,093 (18 games, average 7,061)

2007 - 78,093 (16 games, average 4,894)

2006 - 67,015 (14 games, average 4,787)

2005 - 86,429 (15 games, average 5,762)

Source: Florida Sports Foundation

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Copyright 2016 The Salt Lake Tribune
All Rights Reserved

The Salt Lake Tribune

 

The war against the machines has begun, and you might have missed the first cries of battle.

Forget our national schism, the protests on the streets in cities across the country, these remorseless, robotic monsters are the ones coming to destroy your way of life right down to the very newsprint upon which these words live.

But fear not. There will be no waiting for the savior foretold in the prophecies. We have our hero. We know his name. It is he, Mark Cuban, of Dallas, Texas, USA.

Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, took it upon himself to lead the charge against the robo-journalists of the apocalypse, digging his heels in on what he sees as the slippery slope in a world where computers and automated reporting completely replace the ink-stained piles of flesh and blood on press row.

It is a sentiment, prima facie, this living, breathing human writer appreciates. Unlike the machines, we require food to survive and, aside from the occasional press box meal, the stuff isn't free. But we do take exception with Cuban's weapon of choice on the front lines of this bizarre battle: human sacrifice.

To make his point, his stand against the march of the machines, Cuban says he decided last week to revoke the season credentials of two respected ESPN reporters, Tim MacMahon and Marc Stein, upon finding out that the sports conglomerate would be relying on wire services for game coverage of 19 of the 30 teams in the NBA.

"Maybe I will be wrong but I see a direct path from the trends in coverage of games we are seeing over the last couple years to the automation of reporting on games and the curation of related content," Cuban wrote in an email to the Associated Press.

This, shall we say, does not compute.

ESPN has never employed a beat writer for each team in the league, instead assigning individual reporters to basketball's high-profile outposts ccc Golden State, Los Angeles, New York, Oklahoma City and, yes, Dallas ccc and relying on the Associated Press to supply reports from the remaining markets. It is true the AP now uses the algorithms inside something called Automated Insights to generate stories from minor league baseball games, but the AP employs warm-blooded writers in every market to cover every NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL game played.

That certainly throws Cuban's true motives into question.

It seems Cuban is miffed about a lack of coverage. The Mavericks, the 2011 NBA champions and postseason regular over the past 15 years, currently sit at 2-6 on the young season, good only for 14th in the West. As such, ESPN was poised to reallocate its assets some, taking MacMahon out of Dallas on occasion to provide better coverage of Western Conference teams without full-time ESPN reporters assigned to them ccc teams such as the Jazz.

Late Friday, Cuban announced he had lifted his ban after ESPN apparently agreed to use "links to local and team provided coverage of every NBA game" on its website. Now these men can finally get back into the arena and back onto press row. In the battle against the bots, that's where good reporters like MacMahon and Stein excel: developing relationships, spotting curious tidbits on the sidelines, then breaking news and crafting interesting reports, stories told with heart.

Everyone, man and machine, should be able to see that.

afalk@sltrib.com

Twitter: @aaronfalk

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Copyright 2016 Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)

 

A Massachusetts law passed in 2010 with the goal of reducing concussions in student athletes has seen some success, but many school systems still have not complied with reporting requirements and there are scant enforcement options for state health officials to make them comply.

Moreover, a study published in The Journal of Pediatrics this month found that the law needs to be reworked to require better training for students, parents and physicians.

The law was drafted to help prevent, recognize and manage treatment of head injuries in student athletes.

"I think the law is working... It's a good start. Physicians support it. But we have to be careful that we're including training that we know works and not have them train on outdated training mechanisms," said Dr. Michael R. Flaherty, a pediatric critical care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and one of the authors of the article in the international medical journal.

The survey was taken in December 2014 by 173 primary care physicians statewide who are within the Partners Community Health Group, owned by Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital. The results were analyzed throughout 2015.

The state's concussion law requires physicians and others who provide the required medical clearance for a concussed athlete to return to activities to verify receipt of training in post-traumatic head injury approved by the state Department of Public Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or such training as part of their licensure or continuing education. The training is only required once.

But more than 20 percent of the physicians said they had not taken the mandatory training by three years after implementation of the law. Authors of the study concluded that "broader and more frequent training may be necessary to align current best evidence with clinical care and state-mandated practice."

Dr. Flaherty said with concussion research constantly evolving, not only should doctors be required to do more frequent training, but the state needs to make sure the training is updated regularly.

Physicians in the study cited inadequate training they received as well as the lack of knowledge parents and students have about concussions as main barriers for caring for concussed children. Several doctors said they were pressured by parents to return their child to sports.

"What we're doing to train our children and parents could be better," said Dr. Flaherty.

Omar Cabrera, a DPH spokesman, said the agency recently sent letters to more than 4,000 pediatricians and emergency room doctors reminding them of the training requirements. In addition, DPH is planning more online training for physicians and clinicians in the coming year.

Since 2009, after research on the brains of deceased professional football players revealed the severity of repeated concussions, including leading to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have implemented laws to educate players, parents, coaches, physicians and others about head injuries

Massachusetts in 2010 became the seventh state to pass a law, after a 2009 health survey indicated that 19 percent of high school students and 18 percent of middle school students who responded said they had experienced concussion symptoms in the previous 12 months.

The law directed the state Department of Health to create regulations that became effective June 2011. They require public and private schools that have Grades 6-12 extracurricular sports subject to the rules of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association to develop 17-component policies governing the prevention and management of sports-related head injuries.

The policies, among other things, require that before the start of every season each prospective student-athlete, cheerleader and band member and their parents confirm in writing that they have completed online head injury awareness training. In addition, school nurses, coaches, athletic directors and trainers, and game officials must also complete annual training.

School districts have also been slow to comply with the law.

Most of the estimated 700-plus school districts that the regulations may apply to did not submit any of the required data to DPH the first year, the 2011-2012 school year.

The annual data, which includes the number of concussions sustained by student athletes, is due at the end of each school year. But DPH is still trying to collect the required information for the 2015-2016 school year. In a recent interview Linda Brown, program coordinator of sports-concussion activities for DPH, said 450 reports had been received.

"When schools don't comply, the regulations don't state how we can get them to comply, other than to continue to chase after them," she said.

The only sanctions or penalties for noncompliance are what the districts can impose on themselves. Those include, but are not limited to, personnel suspension and forfeiture of games.

Ms. Brown said the incentive for compliance is that it's the law and schools want to keep youth safe. DPH, she said, collects the year-end reports to monitor compliance. But it is also a vehicle to have a collaborative relationship with schools and provide them with technical assistance to help them comply.

"It's a relatively new program. We are participating in a culture change that's been going on for only five years. It takes time to raise awareness and change habits," she said.

Most of the schools or districts contacted for this article, including Gardner, Grafton, Millbury, Leominster and Shepherd Hill Regional High School in Dudley - did not provide data about the number of student-athlete concussions for 2011 through the spring of 2016.

Kathleen M. Pepin, head nurse for Bartlett Junior Senior High School in Webster, said via email the district does not have any compiled data prior to the 2014 school year. She said in 2014-2015, there were two sports-related concussions. The number of sports-related concussion increased to six in 2015-2016, she said.

The increase follows a trend found in a nationwide study Blue Cross Blue Shield released in September. It shows a 71 percent increase in concussions diagnosis for youths 10 through 19 between 2010 and 2015.

Massachusetts had the highest rate, 82 percent. Both BCBS and DPH said the increased number in concussions is because of more awareness and changing attitudes on head injuries.

On the other hand, Shrewsbury, one of the districts that has more closely complied with the state regulation, has seen its sports-related concussions at the high school decrease from 52 in the first year of the law to 28 last school year. In addition to the 28 school sports-related head injuries, 66 students districtwide reported concussions sustained outside of school, including from falls at home and auto accidents.

Noelle Freeman, Shrewsbury's director of nursing, attributes the reduction to increased awareness and the work of the district's licensed athletic trainer.

"That probably has had an effect on our numbers. Time will tell moving forward," she said.

Dr. John Stevenson, director of Sports Medicine/Family Medicine at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester and physician for several high school and college sports teams, said Massachusetts should require school districts to have licensed athletic trainers on staff. Athletic trainers specialize in prevention, diagnosis and management of head injuries. It's a requirement in many states that have the so-called "shake-it-off" or "return-to-play" laws.

Richard L. Pearson, associate director of MIAA, estimates that because of the cost, only about 30 percent of districts have licensed athletic trainers. According to the Athletic Trainers of Massachusetts, the average salary of a high school licensed athletic trainer is about $57,600.

Often it's the school districts that can't afford them that need them the most, Dr. Stevenson said, because of populations with language barriers and challenging home lives where accessing health care is more difficult.

Worcester Public Schools, which has more than 2,000 middle and high school athletes, does not employ licensed athletic trainers on a regular basis. Superintendent Maureen Binienda said the district cannot afford the cost.

Debra McGovern, coordinator of nursing services of WPS, said when she and the district's athletic director, David Shea, gave a presentation on how they are implementing the guidelines at a state school nurse leadership quarterly meeting last year, the key thing that people noticed was that WPS do not have licensed athletic trainers.

After doing some research, she recommended that the district hire trainers. She said the law requires students' physicians to provide the schools with data regarding a follow-up action plan for a concussed student and what steps the student should follow in order to safely return to sports and other activities. But that does not always happen, she said. The Journal of Pediatrics article said that "physicians reported limited communication with schools." It also said that training was significantly associated with better compliance with developing individualized treatment plans" for concussed student athletes.

"If we had an athletic trainer there would be much better control over this to minimize some of these long-range concerns about brain injuries," she said.

Dominique M. Ross, president of Athletic Trainers of Massachusetts, said without an athletic trainer or medical personnel on site, concussions or other injuries may be missed. If a concussed athlete returns to play when they shouldn't, they could sustain further and more serious injury, she said.

"Having athletic trainers accessible to all athletes is critical. Although there's a higher prevalence of serious injuries in contact sports, it doesn't mean concussions don't happen in other sports. They should receive the same high level of care," Ms. Ross said.

MIAA requires medical personnel in attendance only for football and ice hockey games during the regular season. Medical coverage for baseball, basketball, field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball and volleyball is only required during tournaments at the end of the season.

Even though concussion laws nationwide require students with symptoms of concussions to be removed from play for at least 24 hours, 38 percent of student athletes who sustain a concussion continue to play, according to a study that the American Academy of Pediatrics presented at its national conference Oct. 22.

Meagan Sabatino, senior clinical research coordinator at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Plano, Texas, where the study was done, said it is being expanded to try to determine if having licensed athletic trainers and other trained professionals on the sidelines will have an impact on the number of concussed students continuing to play.

Ryan L. Farrell, a 2009 Hopedale High School graduate who suffered a traumatic brain injury during a cheerleading event in her freshman year in college, said hiring licensed athletic trainers would be money well spent.

"If these schools are gong to pride themselves on their athletic teams, the safety of their student-athletes should be above everything … above winning games … a state championship title," she said.

Ms. Farrell said she did not suffer any head injuries when she played soccer at Hopedale High. She was on the school's 2005 Cinderella State Championship team. In 2010, while a freshman at Marist College in New York she was part of the base of a stunt the cheerleaders were doing. Something went wrong and a cheerleader at the top of the formation fell and landed on her, causing her to suffer a TBI. As a result, she can't remember the accident or the month leading up to it, but she was told that she laid on the mat, crying in obvious pain.

"They told me the coach told me to get back up and stop making such a scene," said Ms. Farrell. "I did what I was instructed to do and went back in. A short time later, I collapsed."

Marist, at the time, she said, did not have any licensed athletic trainers who could have quickly determined that she was severely injured and needed immediate medical attention.

"There's no way of knowing what would have happened if I had been given proper medical attention. I probably still would have suffered a traumatic brain injury, a collapsed lung and fractured vertebrae in my neck. But, we do not believe it would have been a severe, life-threatening, nearly life-ending traumatic brain injury," she said.

A year after the accident, Ms. Farrell returned to Marist and graduated in 2014 with a BA in communication with a concentration in radio, TV and film. She continues to recover and she has not landed a job yet, but she volunteers with the Westboro-based Massachusetts Brain Injury Association, speaking to high school students, coaches and parents about her experience.

"I tell them when in doubt to sit it out," she said. "You only get one brain. And it's up to you to take care of that brain. You do not get a do-over."

 

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Copyright 2016 The Evansville Courier Co.
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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)

 

About 130 teams are competing in this year's Veterans Invitational soccer tournament, the 15th edition of an event that boosts the area economy while also promoting service and patriotism among youth.

By the time of next year's tournament, it's possible the Goebel Soccer Complex host site will have a new owner. The Evansville Convention & Visitors Bureau is in talks to take over the facility from the city.

The complex at North Green River and Heckel roads was developed in 2002 after Vectren Corp bought the land for $1 million, and turned it over to the city. In exchange, Vectren received the Riverside Drive property where its headquarters now sits.

"Soccer supporters say the complex will attract major tournaments, bringing in millions of dollars from visitors," the Courier & Press reported in October 2002.

This year's tournament, which began last weekend at Price Park, is expected to generate about $625,000 in direct expenditures by guests. But overall use of Goebel Soccer Complex has declined, and its economic impact at present isn't what supporters had hoped for when it was built.

That's why the Evansville Convention & Visitors Bureau is interested in taking ownership. Little new investment has been made at Goebel since it opened, and artificial turf on its championship field is worn. All of the complex's other fields are grass. It is used by local soccer, lacrosse and football teams.

The visitors bureau, which has control of local hotel and motel tax funds, would seek upgrades to Goebel. The visitors bureau last year built Deaconess Sports Park, a youth baseball and softball facility on North Green River Road, next to Goebel.

"We've had potential contracts with the city going back and forth," said Bob Warren, director of the Evansville Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Nothing has been determined at this point. But with us having the Deaconess Sports Park, it makes complete sense for us to be able to operate both. Yes, we are working on it. We hope something can get resolved early in (2017)."

Mayor Lloyd Winnecke also said there have been ongoing talks.

The local soccer community would welcome the change.

"It's like anything, if you don't keep up, keep current, you're going to become outdated," said David Nicholson, a Veterans Invitational organizer and an official with the Indiana Fire soccer club. "Evansville is still well-located for youth soccer. We attract good teams in this area, but it's competitive, and you have to keep current."

Warren, Winnecke, County Commissioner-elect Ben Shoulders and others gathered under a tent at Goebel on Thursday evening for ceremonies to officially open this year's Veterans Invitational and recognize lead sponsor Merrill Lynch.

The event was rife with veteran tributes, with a keynote address from Indiana National Guard Lt. Col. Mike Roscoe, who received the Bronze Star for his valor on tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. Roscoe is director and chair of the University of Evansville Department of Physician Assistant Science.

Nicholson said that in founding the tournament 15 years ago, "we all felt that we had a responsibility to teach our youth, beyond soccer. About community responsibility, giving back, sacrifice and community responsibility. It's a wonderful, generational event."

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Copyright 2016 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Three members of the 2011 Trot-wood-Madison High School football team sexually assaulted a freshman with a broomstick, according to a lawsuit filed in county court and court documents obtained by this news organization.

Darco Thompson, Philip Bryant Jr. and Tyler Britt - all now adults - had rape complaints brought against them in Montgomery County Juvenile Court, but not until February 2015. The cases were closed Aug. 7, 2015. The documents do not address the lag between the incident and the charges.

The only punishment listed on the disposition of those cases was for the defendants to write an apology letter of at least 500 words that reflected upon the incident. All three also were put on non-reporting probation.

Trotwood City Schools Superintendent Kevin Bell said Friday the district received notice of the lawsuit on Thursday but wouldn't comment on pending litigation. Bell wouldn't answer questions about whether the students were disciplined in 2011. He also said it would be "premature" to issue any statement to parents of Trot-wood school children.

The 2011 Trotwood-Madison High School football team was 15-0 and won a state championship.

The civil lawsuit brought by the victim and his family in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court names the three players, the Trot-wood-Madison City School District, the district's school board members and then-coach Maurice Douglass as defendants.

The suit said the details of the assault were well-known to students and staff at Trot-wood-Madison and that at no time did an administrator, staff member or coach approach the victim to check on his welfare.

Court records show the incident took place between Aug. 1 and Sept. 30, 2011. Britt was 15 years old at the time of the offense while Bryant and Thompson were 14.

The suit alleges members of the Trotwood football team regularly engaged in insulting and rough-housing behavior, which was known to school officials. The suit said members of the team referred to the behavior as "roasting."

Coaches would often leave the freshman team unattended in the freshman locker room, which is separate from the varsity locker room, according to the lawsuit.

The suit said during the incident that coaches were in the film room while at the same time in the freshman locker room, Bryant and Britt held the victim down while Thompson removed the victim's clothing and sexually assaulted him with a broomstick.

The victim screamed during the incident and said that he was harassed and insulted by other students, according to the lawsuit. "Administrators, staff, and coaches knew, or should have known, about the assault," the suit said.

The lawsuit brings seven counts of misconduct against the various defendants including childhood abuse, damages for criminal conduct, hazing and negligent supervision.

Trotwood-Madison High School's current student handbook states the district "will not tolerate the sexual harassment or intimidation by any staff member, student, visitor, school policy, or practice. Each school has an appointed sexual harassment officer to assist in the enforcement of this policy."

The family's attorney, John Fischer, said he wouldn't comment at this time. Trot-wood-Madison athletics director Guy Fogle and Douglass did not return messages seeking comment.

Contact this reporter at 937-225-6951 or email Mark.

Gokavi@coxinc.com

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Copyright 2016 Chattanooga Publishing Company
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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

As with any type of change, when the TSSAA released the new district and region alignments, which determine where teams in all sports will compete for the next four years, several area coaches were not happy.

Schools wanting to appeal can do so at the Board of Control meeting on Nov. 17, which will be when the alignments are voted on.

Among the most unhappy contingents of area coaches are the football staffs at Soddy-Daisy, Rhea County and Walker Valley, which were grouped in the same Class 5A region with Knoxville Catholic and Lenoir City. The biggest issue there is having to deal with Knoxville Catholic, the defending 4A state champion, which chose to remain in Division I with the public schools rather than move to Division II along with most other independent schools.

"I don't think any of us are happy about how they've put our region together," said Soddy-Daisy coach Justin Barnes. "I've never had any interaction with them, but I know the word is that nobody in that (Knoxville) area wanted to play them, so they put them with us.

"And now we have to find six nonregion games, and that's tough."

That region grouping reunites Rhea County coach Mark Pemberton with his former team. Pemberton coached Catholic for seven seasons, winning a state title. Having to travel to the Chattanooga area several times a season is a better travel option for Catholic than it would have faced if it had joined D-II.

"There's a difference in traveling to Chattanooga versus going to Memphis," Catholic coach Steve Matthews told the Knoxville News-Sentinel. "I just hope we can fill a (nonregion) schedule."

Another new region alignment that will create tougher competition for area teams is in 6A, where Bradley Central, Cleveland, Ooltewah and McMinn County will be grouped with perennial power Maryville, Heritage and William Blount.

"As far as our classification system goes, I hate it," Cleveland coach Scott Cummings said. "We're the fourth smallest school in 6A. This whole system got started because of gas prices, to save money on travel, but I don't know of any coach, in any class across the state, who agrees with this system.

"But as far as our region goes, I've played Maryville for 14 years before coming to Cleveland. I know what they're about and why they are who they are. When I coached at Knox West, it helped us playing them because you learn about yourself and where you need to work, so I think playing the schedule we'll be playing will make us tougher and better."

In other head-scratching moves under the new alignments, Meigs County is no longer in the same region with Chattanooga-area opponents and will compete against Cumberland Gap, Oneida, Rockwood and Wartburg, which will mean more travel. The Tigers were replaced by Tellico Plains in their former region, which includes Bledsoe County, Marion County, Polk County and Tyner.

That means every other year, Marion County will pass Meigs County on its way to a 101-mile trip to Tellico Plains.

Also, Brainerd moved up to 3A and is joined in its new region by Loudon, McMinn Central, Red Bank, Signal Mountain and Sweetwater, which creates more travel for the Hamiton County teams.

Because so many independent schools opted to join Division II for the new alignment period, it has been expanded to three classifications. Baylor and McCallie will be among the 11 teams in DII-AAA, and Boyd-Buchanan, Chattanooga Christian, Christian Academy of Knoxville, Knoxville Grace Christian, Notre Dame, Silverdale Baptist and Knoxville Webb will make up the East Region of Class AA, which will have 19 teams in all.

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter@StephenHargis

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