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Copyright 2017 The Columbus Dispatch
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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

 

A month ago, shortly after Columbus Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt's bombshell announcement that he might move his team to Austin for better corporate support and a downtown stadium, we asked, "Can this marriage be saved?"

Yesterday, Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther and Columbus Partnership CEO Alex Fischer answered our question: Not if one party is still steppin' out on the other.

In an open letter to Precourt and Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber, these city leaders make a reasoned, though clearly last-ditch, pitch to save the team for Columbus. They reveal for the first time that during a Nov. 15 meeting with Precourt and Garber in New York, Columbus offered specific ideas for stadium sites and funding options. And they reiterated those options in the open letter, saying the offers still stand for prime, city-owned land near Downtown. They also allude to other possible stadium sites on choice land in private hands. And they offer to assist with efforts to strengthen team corporate sponsorship, attendance and television ratings.

"None of the above is achievable," they write, "if we continue to be pitted against another city. We ask you to reconsider working exclusively and collaboratively with us to advance our mutual interest."

Partnerships require a commitment. Columbus can't line up investors or corporate sponsors if Precourt is still courting his Texas mistress, imagining that relationship would be more fulfilling than the solid marriage he already has in central Ohio.

We are perplexed, because while Precourt has said he is interested in working with our community leaders to find a way to stay in Columbus, his actions have been contrary. Even as Honda-brand Acura stepped forward with a lucrative jersey sponsorship, announced earlier this year, Precourt was already said to be checking out Austin.

Yes, he made great moves that strengthened the team after buying his 2013 purchase, for a reported $68 mill-ion. And he's sunk in more money since. But team promotions have been curiously absent this year, as if he doesn't much care about building this fan base.

These are all things an owner might do if he were trying to build value for a team he plans to move. A recent suggestion that Columbus might now wish to apply for a league expansion team is a punch in the nose; we were a founding city for MLS. Why would we want a different team? We have one.

Further, we'd urge Precourt and Garber to consider the long-term wound this would create in the nation's 14th largest (up-and-coming) city. They seem to not grasp what is taught at Harvard as "the Columbus Way." Our community -- business, philanthropic and political interests -- cooperates to make the difficult doable.

This approach looks to have fallen flat with MLS, which prefers to operate on the traditional "millionaires club" model of owners; the Columbus community's offer for multiple partners to buy half the team (or own it outright) doesn't fit that model. But Columbus isn't like any other MLS city; it has an exceptional history and a community spirit that justifies an exceptional ownership model.

Leaving would be shortsighted.

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

FC Cincinnati has the support of local government in its attempt to satisfy MLS' demand for a soccer-specific stadium.

As FC Cincinnati finalizes its stadium plans for a possible promotion to Major League Soccer, the second-division United Soccer League club and its fans can breathe a little easier today.

MLS announced Wednesday that Cincinnati is one of four finalists for the two expansion clubs that are scheduled to be named by the end of the year, and FC Cincinnati received important confirmation the local government will support its efforts to build a soccer-specific stadium required for MLS.

The FC Cincinnati bid - one of 12 submitted in January as the initial application process began - was pushed through to the final stage of consideration along with Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento. Owners and officials representing the four prospective expansion markets will make formal presentations to MLS Commissioner Don Garber and the league's expansion committee in New York on Dec. 6, and a decision will be made following the Board of Governors meeting Dec. 14.

"The leaders of the Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento MLS expansion ownership groups have bold visions and innovative plans for their clubs, stadiums and their involvement in their respective communities," Garber said in a release. "We are pleased these highly-respected business and sports leaders have been so determined to bring Major League Soccer to their cities. We have been greatly encouraged by the progress that all four of these groups have made and we are looking forward to their presentations."

FC Cincinnati is still trying to nail down the last of the MLS expansion requirements, which prioritizes a soccer-specific stadium. The club originally pitched to MLS a stadium in Newport, but efforts to keep the team in Cincinnati, at a preferred site in Oakley, took a big step Wednesday with infrastructure funding plans passing a vote by the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners and City Council.

On Monday, City Council's Budget and Finance Committee agreed to spend up to $37 million for infrastructure at the Oakley site and a 5-3 council vote made it official Wednesday, shortly after Hamilton County Commissioners unanimously approved spending $15 million for a 1,000-space parking garage.

"It's time for this community now to come together - the city, county and FC (Cincinnati) - to demonstrate to MLS that we want a Major League Soccer franchise to be awarded to FC Cincinnati," County Commissioner Todd Portune said in the meeting.

FC Cincinnati will be privately financing the $200 million stadium on the former Cast-Fab site but has asked the city and county for $75 million in infrastructure, which means there likely is still a $33 million gap in the funding even if the Council vote goes through.

After the commissioners voted, FC Cincinnati president and general manager Jeff Berding told WCPO.com the Oakley site is the one the club will pitch to MLS on Dec. 6. The club likely is competing with Nashville and Detroit for a spot in the Eastern Division with Sacramento expected to claim a spot in the Western Division.

The two teams chosen after the Dec. 14 board meeting will begin play in 2020, and two more expansion teams are scheduled to be selected at a later date to bring MLS to 28 teams. The other eight markets still in consideration for the final round of expansion are Charlotte, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Raleigh/Durham, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg.

Contact this contributing writer at 772-260-8826 or email laurelpfahler@gmail.com.

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Copyright 2017 The Evansville Courier Co.
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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)

 

EVANSVILLE — Want to be in an awkward spot? Try the sideline of an Indiana high school football game in the second half of a blowout.

Either sideline.

Head coaches on the winning side prefer not to ask for a running clock because they don't want to come across as disrespectful to the opponent. Coaches on the other side of the field don't want to wave the white flag for fear it would convey a sense of surrender to their players.

Officials can suggest it, but who wants to be in those shoes? If only there was a mercy rule that took the decision out of their hands.

"It would draw a line in the sand because there are some coaches who don't believe in a running clock," Boonville coach Darin Ward said. "It puts everyone in a tough situation from the coaches to the officials. It'd be nice if there were a clear rule."

At least 35 states in the country have adopted a continuous clock that — once a team has a large enough lead — operates on most plays when it would normally stop. Indiana could soon join that group, according to an Indianapolis Star report published Sunday.

In January, the Indiana Football Coaches Association will submit a proposal to the IHSAA that will include a mercy rule, as well as an idea for seeding the top two teams in each sectional. IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox told the IndyStar last week that a mercy rule has to be passed before he would consider seeding the tournament.

If passed — the vote would come later in the spring — either or both proposals would be tested on a one-year trial for the 2018 season.

The threshold for a running clock would be after halftime and once a team leads by 42 points (or 35 in the fourth quarter). Coaches from the Southern Indiana Athletic, Big Eight and Pocket Athletic conferences are in favor of the proposal, with a caveat of its own.

"There's definitely going to be a stipulation with playing time and legislating quarters the kids (can play)," said Bosse coach Eric Schnur, a chairman for IFCA Region 9. "We've submitted a proposal that clarifies if a kid plays in two quarters in the second half of a varsity game, it shouldn't disqualify them from playing a full game on (junior varsity)."

A change to the IHSAA's quarters rule, which limits players to five quarters of game action per week, is viewed as a must in order for the implementation of a continuous clock. The coaches argue that playing two quarters with a running clock is the same as one quarter with a normal clock.

The game time flies with a running clock, which is meant to keep the score from being even more lopsided.

Gibson Southern football has been synonymous with blowouts the past five seasons with coach Nick Hart. Since 2013, the Titans have beaten 45 regular-season opponents by an average margin of 43.5 points. It's always a balancing act for Hart when deciding whether to leave his starters in or rest them and worry about the quarter rule later.

"For Warren Central and Ben Davis, it's not an issue," Hart said. "But for us, playing a JV and freshman schedule, you face some choices in the third quarter whether to break the quarter rule or get your starters out and not run up the score. That would help blowouts as much as anything."

Hart and Schnur were at the IFCA board meeting Saturday in Indianapolis when the proposals were voted on.

Among other details for the proposed mercy rule is that the clock would not revert back to normal if the losing team cuts the deficit back under the 42- or 35-point threshold. In Kentucky, the rule — instituted in 2001 and revised in 2013 — goes into effect once the margin reaches 36 points and also continues to run.

"We had one of the best comebacks I've ever seen and that was 28 points at Charlestown (in a 2012 Class 3A regional championship)," Hart said. "You don't really ever hear of teams coming back from more than that at halftime, so I think 42 and 35 are good numbers."

The hope, Schnur said, is that the new rule is taken as one piece or not at all.

"When you don't have a mercy rule and leave it up to the coaches to make the decision, you leave the door open for kids to begin to doubt their coaches believe in them and I think some of that exists," he said. "A mercy rule eliminates that.

"If you don't want the clock to run, then you have to keep the score under a certain threshold."

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Copyright 2017 Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

A Knoxville architecture firm has been selected as the designer for renovations to Neyland Stadium that could cost up to $340 million.

Cope Architecture, located on Kingston Pike, expects to begin design work next month, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

The current approved budget for the project is $106 million, pending approval of the $340 million figure by the State Building Commission, according to a news release from Cope Architecture.

The first phase of construction is slated to begin in the summer of 2018, pending approval of the commission and the University of Tennessee board of trustees.

According to Cope Architecture, planes for phase one include:

Expanding and renovating the south concourses to include new restrooms and more concession options.

New entry tower/gates and plaza areas in the southwest and southeast corners of the stadium.

Correcting safety regulations at the field level.

Building a kitchen and commissary to enable on-site catering and delivery of fresh food.

New open air suites, a field level club and ledge seating.

Plans for phase two include:

Improvements to the east and northeast concourses.

A new entryway in the northeast corner.

Technology updates throughout the stadium.

The renovations are scheduled to be complete in time for the 2021 football season — Neyland Stadium's 100th anniversary.

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Copyright 2017 Independent Publishing Company
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Anderson Independent-Mail (South Carolina)

 

A Pickens County middle school student will face discipline after she took locker room pictures of her teammates without their consent during a basketball game in Anderson County, according to school officials.

The R.C. Edwards Middle School student took the photos during a girls basketball game at Riverside Middle School in Pendleton, according to John Eby, a spokesman for the Pickens County school district. About five students were photographed and at least one was not fully clothed, Eby said.

Eby said said officials were able to confirm that the student's photos were deleted from a phone and were not transferred to any other devices.

The student will be disciplined, but the district will not discuss the punishment because of privacy rules, Eby said.

Eby said the school district has notified the parents of students involved and has also informed school resource officers from both middle schools.

Eby said students reported the incident to a school employee the night that it happened.

"Despite the wrong choice made by the student who took the photos, we are encouraged by the mature responses of... other students who reported the issue promptly, took steps to make sure that the pictures were deleted and not shared, and cooperated with the district in our investigation," Eby said in an email to the Independent Mail.

Nikki Carson, a spokeswoman for the Anderson County Sheriff's Office, confirmed Wednesday that her agency is "looking into" what happened. She said officers are still in the early stages of the review and have not created a formal incident report related to the case.

Eby said the school district already has curriculum and programs in place to address issues such as these.

He said the district also conducts Internet safety programs for parents. Software installed on all district-issued devices also allows parents to monitor their children's activity and receive alerts about potential self-harm and cyber-bullying, Eby said.

Follow Mike Ellis and Nikie Mayo on Twitter @MikeEllis_AIM and @Nikie Mayo. Or send an email to ellism@independentmail.com or mayon@independentmail.com

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Copyright 2017 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
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The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

The 76ers say they are building a state-of-the-art, multipurpose sports and youth training complex in Wilmington.

Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which oversees the Sixers organization, and the Buccini/Pollin Group announced Wednesday morning their partnership to create 76ers Fieldhouse on 8.9 acres of land off U.S. Route 13 and Garasches Lane. BPG is a private real estate acquisition, development and management company based in Wilmington.

The fieldhouse is scheduled to open late in 2018. The 140,000-square-foot complex will serve as home for the Sixers NBA G League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, beginning next season. The 87ers court will be configured to host around 2,500 fans.

In all, the facility will have three full-size basketball courts, two indoor soccer fields, a sports performance and athletic training area, and retail and office space. The plan is to host high school, AAU and travel-team games and camps at the venue.

The No. 1 priority was to do something that was great for the 76ers and great for the brand of the 76ers, said Chris Heck, the Sixers president of business operations. But to extend that, to be able to make this a passion product as well for the kids in the community is really enjoyable.

The fieldhouse has been in the works for nine months. At the time, the Sixers were looking for a new location for the Sevens. The team s lease to practice and play at the University of Delaware s Bob Carpenter Center in Newark concludes after this season.

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Copyright 2017 Chattanooga Publishing Company
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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

A new headquarters downtown. A new owner. And continued growth.

That's been the story at Chattanooga-based PlayCore, the nation's largest maker of playground equipment, under new President and CEO Roger Posacki.

Posacki, the former head of Elmer's Glue, took the of helm PlayCore in August 2016.

He replaced Bob Farnsworth, who started with the privately held company 19 years ago when it only had seven employees in the corporate office -- compared to about 105 now -- and two factories. Farnsworth helped build PlayCore into a behemoth with 26 brands of playground and aquatics equipment, site furnishings, indoor and outdoor fitness, and spectator seating.

Posacki didn't miss a beat. PlayCore has acquired six companies since the start of 2017.

In the summer, PlayCore took on higher visibility in its hometown, as it moved its headquarters from sharing an office building at 401 Chestnut St. to leasing the former FSG Bank building at 531 Broad St.

Then in October, a New York City-based private equity firm, Court Square Capital Partners, purchased PlayCore from another private equity firm, Sentinel Capital Partners.

So what does the change of ownership mean for PlayCore?

"To be quite candid, nothing's changing," Posacki says. "We're going to keep investing in core growth and acquisition growth going forward. There's a lot of opportunity for future growth."

PlayCore also employs about 350 Chattanooga-area people at a production plant in Fort Payne, Alabama.

"If anything, we'll look to expand our operations in Fort Payne," Posacki says. "It's our biggest facility."

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Copyright 2017 The Salt Lake Tribune
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The Salt Lake Tribune

For the second time in two weeks, former Olympic gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar pleaded guilty Wednesday to sexually assaulting young girls under the guise of medical treatment.

In a plea agreement with the Michigan Attorney General's Office, Nassar admitted guilt to three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, one involving a girl under the age of 13. The 54-year-old father of three faces at least a 25-year prison sentence.

Wednesday's plea involved crimes in Eaton County, near the campus of Michigan State University, where Nassar worked from 1997 until last September. Last week, Nassar pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Ingham County, where Michigan State is located. In July, Nasssar pleaded guilty to three federal child pornography charges. His sentencing hearing for the federal charges is scheduled for next Thursday, while he will be sentenced for his state crimes in separate hearings scheduled for Jan. 12 and Jan. 31.

More than 130 women have come forward, in criminal complaints and lawsuits, alleging Nassar assaulted them during what he previously described as legitimate medical procedures. Several Olympic gymnasts are among those alleging assault by Nassar, including McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas.

An osteopathic physician with a specialty in sports medicine, particularly gymnastics, Nassar worked full-time at Michigan State's school of osteopathic medicine and treated young athletes at a campus clinic. He also volunteered his services for USA Gymnastics, and treated Team USA women's gymnasts at the Karolyi family ranch outside Houston and at competitions around the globe.

"I'm very satisified. The Attorney General did a phenomenal job making sure that every victim, even the ones who didn't have crimes charged, felt that justice was done," said Rachael Denhollander, 32, a Louisville woman who came forward last year and filed a police complaint after she realized treatment Nassar had provided her when she was a 15-year-old was not legitimate pain therapy. Denhollander's complaint, and subsequent interview with the Indianapolis Star, prompted Nassar's arrest, and similar allegations from dozens of women.

Denhollander, who has filed suit against Michigan State, voiced strong criticism of the university, which has commissioned an internal review into how Michigan State employees responded to suspicions about Nassar but has said it does not plan to make the review public. Women have come forward alleging they complained about Nassar's treatment as far back as 1997, and in 2014, the university's Title IX office investigated a complaint but concluded Nassar had not assaulted the woman.

"Complaints went up the chain of command, and no one knows how far because MSU won't tell," Denhollander said. "Had they taken those abuse reports seriously, the vast majority of these victims wouldn't be here today."

Michigan State spokesman Jason Cody, in an email, said the university never intended to make any internal review regarding Nassar's crimes public. The FBI and Michigan State police jointly investigated this year, Cody said, to determine if any university employees committed crimes in their handling of complaints about Nassar.

"We have no reason to believe that any criminal conduct was found," Cody wrote. "Michigan State University continues to be shocked and appalled by Larry Nassar's now-admitted criminal conduct."

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Copyright 2017 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

Elgin school officials are recommending starting cooperative lacrosse teams for high school girls and boys starting in the spring. If approved by the Elgin Area School District U-46 school board, lacrosse in the district would be sanctioned by the Illinois High School Association. Last spring, some U-46 coaches pushed for creating district-funded lacrosse programs.

The district has boys lacrosse club teams at South Elgin and Bartlett high schools that are self-funded, costing roughly $30,000 per program. Students pay more than $500 in fees per season to play. Teams rent fields from local park districts for practice. 

The independent boards running those clubs wanted the district to take over the programs and provide partial funding and expand them to include girls.

This spring, U-46 could have a girls lacrosse cooperative with students from Bartlett, Elgin, Larkin, South Elgin and Streamwood high schools and two boys lacrosse co-ops at Bartlett for students from Bartlett and Streamwood and at South Elgin for Elgin, Larkin and South Elgin students.

"What we decided to do is have an east side, west side co-op and do a gradual release of funding," said Terri Lozier, assistant superintendent of secondary instruction and equity. "It will come under the jurisdiction of U-46."

The district would charge a $200 athletic fee per student. Teams would probably have to charge an additional $300 to $400 per student to cover the cost of uniforms and equipment, Lozier said. That could include the cost of purchasing helmets, sticks, goggles and mouth guards.

"We have a plan to make lacrosse a fully funded by U-46 IHSA sport within the next two years," Lozier said. "We are waiting to see what type of (state) funding actually comes through to see how else we can support lacrosse."

Lozier said she has amended the high schools' budgets to pay for athletic trainers, which originally was considered cost-prohibitive, but officials were able to work that out. Teams could do their own fundraising to support other costs, which players have been doing already.

"It's about $1,000 per student to play," Lozier said. The IHSA will conduct its first lacrosse boys and girls state championship series in the spring. School boards must OK lacrosse as a varsity sport for their schools to participate in the state series.

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Copyright 2017 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

 

The indoor swimming pool at Los Altos Park in the Northeast Heights is a special place to local residents, Mayor Richard Berry said Tuesday.

"It's the place where so many people learned how to swim, where they had their first jobs as a lifeguard, where they would come for pool parties for birthdays," he said.

Berry, Parks and Recreation director Barbara Taylor, District 7 City Councilor Diane Gibson and others gathered at Los Altos for the formal groundbreaking of a $5.66 million project to renovate the facility. The renovation is expected to be completed in October 2018.

As part of the project, the building surrounding the pool will be torn down and a new one constructed, expanding the interior space from 10,000 square feet to 18,000 square feet, said Mike Heitman, project architect with Greer Stafford Architecture. The decks surrounding the pool will be widened up to 8 feet, alleviating congestion around lifeguard stands at times of peak usage, he said.

The building itself will be highly insulated, cutting down on energy loss during the winter. Locker rooms and shower areas will double in size, and be made ADA-compliant, Heitman said.

There will also be a new front entrance and lobby area, new offices, a renovated recreational meeting area, improvements to the parking lot and landscaping upgrades.

Ironically, very little has to be done to improve the pool itself, quite an achievement considering its age, said Taylor. The plumbing is solid and the pool has the highest gallons-per-minute water circulation rate of any of the other pools operated by the city, making it both efficient and extremely clean.

"The Los Altos pool opened in 1959 as an outdoor pool, and by 1962 was so popular that it was enclosed by a building with a retractable roof and walls. It became the city's first year-round pool" and now attracts up to 75,000 visitors a year, Taylor said. A 1990 renovation removed the ability to open the roof. Over the years, the building continued to age and deteriorate, making the present renovation badly needed.

Gibson, in whose district the pool is located, was a driving force behind the project. She told the crowd that she was lucky to have the support of the entire City Council, as well as the Mayor's Office. "We were all kind of in synch on this," she said. "The pool itself is in great shape, so it just seemed like a crying shame to lose that as a city asset."

Gibson said Los Altos Park is a jewel among the city's many parks. Also located on the grounds of the 32-acre park are six tennis courts that are double striped to accommodate pickleball, four lit softball fields, 12 horseshoe pits, a dog park, a skate park and the Albuquerque Garden Center.

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Copyright 2017 The Columbus Dispatch
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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

 

Chris Spielman, a former Ohio State and NFL linebacker, is seeking to expand a lawsuit in federal court filed originally against his alma mater to cover all current and former major college football players who have had their likenesses used by universities and colleges during the past 10 years.

At the same time, Spielman wants to dismiss Ohio State as an individual defendant, though it would still be included in the expanded suit.

Spielman, who had an All-America football career with the Buckeyes from 1984 to '87, originally filed the suit in July in U.S. District Court in Columbus as a result of his dispute with Ohio State, which is represented by Kentucky-based IMG College LLC.

The lawsuit took issue with 64 banners hung in Ohio Stadium featuring players' likenesses, along with a corporate logo for Honda on them. It was problematic for Spielman, he said, because it put him in conflict with his sponsorship agreement with a local Mazda dealer.

Spielman has gone to lengths to emphasize that his suit is not about getting money from or being against Ohio State. He said the issue is that the university shouldn't be able to use his name and image with a corporate sponsor without him having any say.

Attorneys for Spielman want the court to grant approval to amend his complaint to add IMG Communications as a defendant as well as two divisions of Nike, a group identified as Endeavor LLC and 10 unidentified "John Does." The focus of the suit would be on IMG, which handles the licensing and marketing arrangements for 89 universities and colleges that run football programs competing in NCAA Division I.

Spielman contends the amended complaint became necessary after Ohio State's counsel on Nov. 14 provided him contracts with IMG that suggest the firm, as well as Nike, Endeavor and the other requested new defendants, "have or have had similar contracts, marketing agreements, and/or licenses with other FBS schools, colleges and universities."

jwoods@dispatch.com

@Woodsnight

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Copyright 2017 The Commercial Appeal, Inc.
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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

The BlueCross Bowl weekend will have a new schedule this year, coinciding with a ninth state football championship game added to the slate.

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association's Board of Control chose to begin rotating the championship games this year, allowing Division II's three championship games to be played on a day other than Thursday.

All DII football championship games had been played on Thursday of championship week since the BlueCross Bowl was moved to Cookeville in 2009.

"It's something the board wanted to do," TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said.

Childress said the board originally told Division II administrators their games would rotate when the BlueCross Bowl was moved to Cookeville, but it never happened until this season.

Prior to 2009, Division II held its championship games on a different weekend than the Division I games. In 2008, that date came on the Tuesday of Thanksgiving week. The decision means this year teams in Class 1A, 3A and 5A will play on Thursday - six days after their semifinal game. The Class 2A, 4A and 6A games will be on Friday. Division II teams will play on Saturday, 15 days after their last game.

Coaches in 1A, 3A and 5A changed their practice schedules to overcome having one less day to prepare. In some cases that meant bringing in their teams on Sunday to begin game preparation.

"We had to adjust," said Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph, whose team plays Greenback at 11 a.m. Thursday. "We came in (Sunday). We had film session and then a full practice, which we normally don't do.

"We're going to adjust accordingly to the rest of the week. We'll treat Thursday like our Friday. We'll get our practices in."

Division II administrators had voiced their concerns over the years about having to play on Thursday, a school night, and not getting an opportunity to play on the weekend. However, at least one Division II coach was happy with playing on Thursday.

"I'd rather have played on Thursday," said Donelson Christian Academy coach Dennis Goodwin, whose team plays Friendship Christian at 11 a.m. Saturday in the DII-A championship. It marks DCA's first championship game since winning the Class 1A title in 2004. "I understand about rotating. But we haven't played in this format.

"We would have rather played on Thursday. But shoot, we're so tickled to be here we'll adjust to whatever."

Randolph led Cornersville to its first state championship game in school history. Prior to this year, the Bulldogs were 0-6 in the postseason.

"Honestly, just being here is just amazing," Randolph said. "Yes, I would like another day.

"But it is what it is. We're going to go out and play Cornersville football if it's Thursday or Friday."

Reach Tom Kreager at tkreager@tennessean.com or 615-259-8089 and on Twitter @Kreager.

 

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Copyright 2017 Collier County Publishing Company
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Naples Daily News (Florida)

 

Internal friction between Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher and key stakeholders in the athletics program will likely be a key factor in his ongoing stay-or-go saga, according to multiple sources within and close to the university.

"The football coach has three key relationships," one of those sources said. "The president of the university, the athletics director and the president of the Boosters."

"Only one of those is healthy."

That one healthy relationship is between Fisher and FSU President John Thrasher, hired in 2014.

While Thrasher recently told the Florida Times-Union that the eight-year coach is "good as gold" and can stay "forever," he acknowledged the issue in a prepared statement to the Tallahassee DemocratTuesday.

"There's always personal dynamics in play in these situations," Thrasher said.

Fisher has routinely dealt with Thrasher instead of Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Stan Wilcox, sources told the Democrat. That has been the case during the courtship of Fisher by Texas A&M for its head coach job, which is being handled internally by Thrasher. There also is a historical precedent for high-profile coaches working directly with the president.

Wilcox told the Democrat in a prepared statement he has a "good relationship" with Fisher.

"First and foremost, Jimbo is as good a coach as there is in college football," Wilcox said. "He and I have a good relationship. We both share a passion for the well-being of our student-athletes."

Another complicating factor is the relationship between Fisher and Seminole Boosters, Inc. President and CEO Andy Miller, according to multiple sources.

"They just don't like each other," said one of four people associated with the university and its athletics program. They spoke to the Democrat on the condition they not be named because of the tenuous nature of the negotiations with Fisher.

While published reports from Houston continue to indicate Fisher has agreed in principle to a deal, Fisher has declined to comment on the Aggies' job. He also did not return comment for this story.

Fisher is unhappy with the Boosters' focus on projects other than football operations, according to sources.

Miller told the Democrat Tuesday that he has "no personal feelings that would negatively affect the support the Boosters give to the athletic program." He stressed that he and Fisher have worked together on a professional level to "elevate the program and always made it a priority to support the football program.

"Coach Fisher worked with Seminole Boosters to raise money for the Dunlap Indoor Practice Center, the Moore Athletic Center Renovations, Champions Football residence hall as well as Doak Campbell Stadium renovations which are all projects we've completed for football over the last five years," Miller said.

Miller said the Boosters' role is to raise money for the advancement of the university, including all 20 of its men's and women's sports teams, and football.

He said the Boosters respond to the priorities as articulated by the athletic director and president.

"As for capital projects, we have been responsive to coach Fisher's facility requests including the indoor practice facility, locker rooms, coaches offices, player lounge and student housing for football and are actively fund-raising for his most recent request for a football facility that is currently under architectural study by the athletic department," Miller said.

Thrasher defended the setup between the athletics department and the Boosters, which serves as the fund-raising arm of FSU's teams.

"This structure has been in place since the Boosters were founded," Thrasher said. "It has served us well, and I don't see any issues that reasonable adults could not work through.

"How many football coaches have we had in the last 40 years?"

The Boosters has raised and spent $150 million toward facilities just for football since 2012 and more than $400 million since the early 1990s.

The organization annually transfers $22 million to the athletics department for all its programs.

In addition to raising operating funds, facility gifts and endowments, the Boosters also funds long-term debt of $10 million annually on facilities already built.

Miller said Wilcox has also asked the Boosters to raise funds for additional athletic department priorities including a new golf course, basketball and baseball facilities, new scoreboards for several teams as well as additional projects in all sports.

The Boosters have also been actively fundraising for the football facility requested by Fisher and have received the first seven-figure leadership gift. They are currently making proposals to several other prospective donors.

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Copyright 2017 The Evansville Courier Co.
All Rights Reserved

Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)

 

EVANSVILLE - Reitz High School football coach Andy Hape's prayer with his team after a game broke constitutional religious laws, says a national separation of church and state advocacy group.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation called it a "serious and flagrant violation of the First Amendment" and wants the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. to investigate Hape.

An EVSC spokesman said the school district supports those who stand with students during student-led prayer.

It started with a photo published Oct. 20 in the Courier & Press Westside edition, which goes to West Side subscribers. Hape has his head tilted down with his eyes closed. The photo also shows some team members with their hands on his shoulder. The caption states, "Reitz Head Coach Andy Hape prays with his team after their 49-46 win over the Mater Dei Wildcats." The photo was also published in a Courier & Press photo gallery online after the game.

An unidentified local resident saw the photo in the newspaper and reported it to the national organization. The person also told the group Hape and several of his assistant coaches regularly promote religion to students.

"It is illegal for public school athletic coaches to lead their teams in prayer, participate in student prayers, or to otherwise promote religion to students," the group's attorney, Ryan Jayne states in a letter sent to the EVSC last week.

"When public school employees acting in their official capacities organize and advocate for a team prayer, they effectively endorse religion on the district's behalf," Jayne wrote.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nonprofit based out of Madison, Wisconsin that promotes atheism, agnosticism and separation of church and state. The group reports having 30,000 members, including 450 in Indiana.

He asked for an investigation and to ensure that Reitz coaches not pray with students during the EVSC athletic programs or for coaches to use their position to promote religion.

EVSC spokesman Jason Woebkenberg confirmed the district received the letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

EVSC attorneys are reviewing the letter, Woebkenberg said.

"Please know student-led prayer is acceptable at any of our schools, and we stand by those who stand with our students during student-led prayer," he said in an email Tuesday morning.

EVSC staff do have some restrictions on religious activity.

"Corporation staff shall not use prayer, religious readings, or religious symbols as a devotional exercise or in an act of worship or celebration," the EVSC policy on religious ceremonies and observances states.

"The rights of the minority, no matter how small, must be protected," according to district rules. "No matter how well intended, either official or unofficial sponsorship of religiously-orientated activities by the school are offensive to some and tend to supplant activities which should be an exclusive province of individual religious groups, churches, private organizations, or the family."

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

KNOXVILLE, TENN. — Tennessee Athletic Director John Currie is defending his coaching search and vouching for the character of Greg Schiano a day after negotiations between the two parties broke down amid a public backlash.

Currie issued a statement Monday acknowledging the Ohio State defensive coordinator had been a leading candidate for the Volunteers' coaching vacancy without explaining why the two sides parted ways.

"Among the most respected professional and college football coaches, he is widely regarded as an outstanding leader who develops tough, competitive teams and cares deeply about his student-athletes," Currie said.

Tennessee Chancellor Beverly Davenport issued a statement saying, "I deeply regret the events of yesterday for everyone involved." Davenport added that "the university remains steadfast in its commitment to excellence, and I look forward to John Currie continuing the search" for a new coach.

The school and Schiano were close to an agreement Sunday before the deal fell apart after heavy criticism from fans, state lawmakers and gubernatorial candidates. Their complaints stemmed from Schiano's background as an assistant at Penn State during Jerry Sandusky's tenure as the Nittany Lions' defensive coordinator. Sandusky is serving 30 to 60 years in prison for his conviction on 45 counts of sexual abuse.

Court documents released last year of a deposition in a case related to the Sandusky scandal suggested Schiano might have been aware of Sandusky's sexual abuse against children, though Schiano has said he never saw abuse or had any reason to suspect it while working at Penn State.

Currie said Tennessee "carefully interviewed and vetted" Schiano and that the former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach "received the highest recommendations."

TennesseeGov.BillHaslam said he wasn't involved in the search but added that he doesn't "think anybody looks at the way everything came down yesterday and says that's the way it should happen."

Haslam also said his brother, Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, wasn't playing an instrumental role in the search. Jimmy Haslam was part of the search committee that assisted in the hiring of Currie this year.

"I do think we should all be concerned about a rush to judgment," Bill Haslam said.

Currie said Schiano wasn't mentioned in the 2012 report on the Sandusky scandal led by former FBI director Louis Freeh and "was not one of the more than 400 people interviewed in the investigation." Currie also said Schiano was never asked to testify in any criminal or civil matter.

Currie said Tennessee officials conferred with Ohio State officials who conducted their own investigation after the 2016 document release.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer praised Schiano on Monday as "an elite person, an elite father, an elite friend, an elite football coach."

"The one thing about coaching is it's got to be a perfect fit, and maybe it wasn't," Meyer said. "I'm certainly not saying that. But move on, keep swinging as hard as you can, you're at a great place."

Anthony Lubrano, a Penn State Board of Trustees member, criticized Tennessee officials for being influenced by "a grossly uninformed social media mob."

Lubrano called Schiano "a man of high integrity and strong character."

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Copyright 2017 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

USA TODAY

 

WASHINGTON — The politician who has pushed as hard as any other to legalize sports gambling in the USA offered up some inside information.

"I don't bet," U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., told USA TODAY. "People think I'm a gambler because all of this, but I'm not."

Pallone, however, has helped turn the idea of legalized sports betting across the country from a long shot into a safe bet.

With the federal ban on full-fledged sports wagering outside of Nevada now in place for 25 years, the smart money is on Pallone and like-minded allies to dismantle the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). Fifteen states have either introduced or enacted legislation to authorize sports gambling if the ban is overturned, according to Sara Slane, vice president of public affairs for the American Gaming Association.

"You already are starting to see states get in front of this issue," Slane said. "And again, I think that speaks to the desire to want to administer sports betting if they so choose to."

The opportunity could come as soon as 2018.

On Monday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about the constitutionality of PASPA, and the nine justices are expected to issue a ruling by the spring. It's worth noting that Utah, a state that has no gambling, has joined 19 states signing on to a court filing that challenges PASPA on the grounds that the federal ban infringes on states' rights.

Even if the Supreme Court upholds the law, Pallone said he is gaining support on Capitol Hill to repeal the ban. He compares the ban on sports gambling to the prohibition of liquor, which, in case you haven't heard, was lifted in 1933.

"The only thing (prohibition) did was to encourage organized crime and make Al Capone and the rest of the guys more powerful," said Pallone, who this year released a draft bill that would allow states to legalize gambling and noted that betting outside of Nevada "goes on anyway, it's just being done illegally."

In fact, the American Gaming Association said PASPA has helped fuel a $150 billion underground sports gambling industry that avoids regulation and billions of dollars in taxes.

"The only group that benefits is organized crime," Pallone said.

'A concerted campaign'

Pallone no longer needs a bullhorn to be heard on this issue. Other powerful entities have joined the fight, most notably an organization headquartered about a mile from Pallone's office on Capitol Hill. The nerve center of movement is now a seventh-floor office in downtown D.C. that houses the American Gaming Association.

Funded by casinos, the association has pushed for the legalization of sports betting in part by building a coalition that includes law enforcement, politicians and sports industry leaders. The association has paid for much of the research being used to tout the benefits of legalized sports gambling and this month made its case during a conference call with reporters.

"This is a concerted campaign, unlike anything since I've been studying this issue," said Sam Skolnik, author of High Stakes: The Rising Cost of America's Gambling Addiction. "The deck is stacked in favor of the gambling industry in many ways in this country. What that's done is really altered the debate, the legalization debate, and made it sort of David vs. Goliath."

Skolnik said the legalization of sports wagering outside Nevada will trigger a spike in addictive behavior and associated problems.

"If this is going to happen, regulations need to be put into place that recognize that this is going to have harmful effects on many folks," he said. "My concern is that not enough attention will be paid to the likely damages that would occur."

But there is no formidable opposition to the pro-sports gambling movement, and even Dennis DeConcini, a former U.S. senator from Arizona and the author of PASPA, said it might be time to review the ban.

"It seems to be that the wise thing to do would be to do some hearings on the issue," DeConcini told USA TODAY, "and get the latest information as to sport as to the capabilities to secure it so that it doesn't infiltrate with organized crime."

Pro leagues coming around?

The pro-sports gambling movement got a jolt in 2011 when New Jersey voters approved a constitutional amendment to permit sports betting. But pro sports leagues challenged it, and five times the courts ruled against New Jersey.

Now the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the matter, with some legal experts saying that alone bodes well for the pro-sports gambling movement.

Lawyers representing the NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA and other sports leagues will argue in favor of PASPA during the Supreme Court hearings -- but likely with less zeal than they have in the past.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has suggested he is open to regulated sports gambling, and this month Las Vegas broke ground on a $2 billion NFL stadium that will be home to the Raiders as soon as 2019.

Furthermore, this year the NHL brought pro sports to Las Vegas, with the Golden Knights in their inaugural season -- interpreted by the American Gaming Association and others as another sign that pro sports has softened opposition to sports gambling.

Geoff Freeman, president of the American Gaming Association, said a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court would be welcome but not vital. He said Capitol Hill support for a repeal of the ban is growing, and a conference entitled "The Future of Sports Gambling in the U.S." was held in the Russell Senate Office Building this month.

Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida is among those who endorse congressional hearings on the matter.

"I think that it's time to take a fresh look at sports gaming and really gaming in general in the Congress," Gaetz, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, told USA TODAY. "We haven't really reviewed the status of the law since the wide-scale proliferation of the Internet. The last time Congress made a law in this space, the movie Wayne's World was being released."

Gaetz said the Internet has changed the landscape for sports gambling -- much of which is done on the Internet through illegal offshore operators.

"The other reality that people have to wake up and face is that our gaming laws today are functionally unenforceable," he said. "Within minutes, any American can engage in sports betting from their phone. That was never contemplated in 1992."

That type of sentiment buoys Freeman, the American Gaming Association president who has spent much of the last three years spearheading the effort to legalize sports gambling.

"We still have a lot of work to do," he said. "But we're very optimistic that a regulated market is around the corner."

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Copyright 2017 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

 

SANTA FE - The New Mexico Activities Association is investigating the Pecos boys basketball team after a newspaper published a story last week about a player who has been living with an assistant coach for over three years.

The article didn't say it, but the living arrangement appears to be a violation of NMAA bylaws. The investigation might affect the Panthers' dominant run to a state championship last season.

NMAA Associate Director Dusty Young confirmed Thursday that the association was investigating the team after the Santa Fe New Mexican published a story Thanksgiving Day about star player Carlos Cordova living with assistant coach Dominick Baca the past three years.

The New Mexican reported that Cordova, now entering his senior season, offered to let Baca stay in Cordova's single-wide trailer on the outskirts of Pecos in 2014. Cordova's grandfather, who raised Cordova, died of cancer in June 2014, and Baca was looking for a place to live in Pecos after accepting the assistant coach job, the newspaper reported. They have moved three times since then and now live in a four-bedroom home.

Living with a coach could make Cordova ineligible for the upcoming basketball season and impact team wins in which Cordova played over the past three seasons, according to NMAA bylaws.

The NMAA handbook says an athlete may face ineligibility for the school year if the player is "living with a coach, principal, teacher, or school official without legal guardianship."

Young couldn't say Monday what kind of sanctions the program might face. "I wouldn't be able to say anything other than we're investigating the matter," Young said.

Pecos head coach Ira Harge Jr. wouldn't say Monday if he was aware of the living arrangement violating NMAA bylaws.

"Our district is cooperating with the NMAA," Harge said. "We're not trying to be evasive. We hope this will be resolved soon."

The New Mexican article implies they lived together during last year's 29-1 run in which the Panthers beat Santa Rosa 60-49 in the 3A championship game, where Cordova recorded 16 points. Pecos opens the season against Grants Thursday at the Al Armendariz Tournament in Santa Fe.

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Copyright 2017 The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

As neighborhood parks go, the Columbia playfield on Milwaukee's north side isn't particularly inviting.

A 2-acre fenced lot in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods, it is a sea of mostly patched asphalt with a few swings, two overused basketball courts and a weathered playset. But that's about to change.

Columbia and three other playfields operated by Milwaukee Public Schools are in line for major makeovers beginning next fall in the first phase of a multimillion-dollar plan by the district to upgrade its outdoor facilities over the next decade or more.

The work is being driven, not just by the condition of the parks, but a greater understanding of the role play plays in the development of children, and an effort to level the playing field between Milwaukee's poorest children and their more affluent peers.

"There's a tremendous opportunity to really transform these spaces, really bring them back to life," said Lynn Greb, senior director of the district's Recreation Department who commissioned an equity analysis to prioritize improvements at the 52 playfields - small neighborhood parks - throughout the district.

The MPS plan parallels a similar effort by the City of Milwaukee to revitalize 14 city parks, many of those in the central city.

"These kids should have the same type of equipment or better than those, not just in other Milwaukee neighborhoods, but in places like Mequon and Brookfield," said Milwaukee Ald. Michael Murphy, who launched the city's MKE Plays initiative last year.

"It's shocking to see those disparities," he said. "It's totally unfair."

Milwaukee is a city marked by deep disparities among its residents - rich and poor; black and brown and white - and the neighborhood parks where they congregate are no exception. Many of those in its poorest neighborhoods are run down, reflecting years of deferred maintenance and neglect.

A 2014 study by the district recommended $25 million in improvements for those parks over the next decade. Greb said she struggled with how to prioritize the work in light of MPS' ever-tightening budgets.

Inspired by a similar approach in Minneapolis, Greb worked with the district's Office of Accountability & Efficiency to rank the playfields based on a number of criteria. In addition to the condition of the parks, they looked at demographic data - such as poverty, race and the number of children in the surrounding neighborhoods - crime statistics and the availability of other parkland nearby.

The results reinforced what they had seen anecdotally: that the poorest facilities tended to be in low-income, largely minority neighborhoods.

"It just kind of validated that we are putting our resources in the areas with the greatest needs," said Pam Linn, recreation facilities project manager for Milwaukee Recreation.

In addition to the Columbia playfield between N. 13th and N. 14th streets, a block south of W. Burleigh St., the first phase will include work on three other MPS parks:

Custer playfield at 4001 W. Custer Ave.

Burnham playfield at 1755 S. 32nd St.

Southlawn playfield at 3350 S. 25th St., which is being renamed Southgate.

At Columbia, MPS will replace much of the asphalt with grass, renovate its 1920s-era fieldhouse, add two half basketball courts, playground equipment and a splash pad.

The other parks will see similar improvements, but the plans will differ at every site, based in part on input from neighborhood residents.

One emphasis will be adding play equipment geared for children under 5, whose development - social, emotional and intellectual - lays the groundwork for a lifetime of learning. It comes amid an effort in Milwaukee to improve early childhood education.

"Play in that 2 to 5 age range is one of the ways children learn," Linn said. "It helps them build important skills for school readiness."

The improvements are welcome news for residents who live in the neighborhoods surrounding the parks.

"I would love it," said LaVonne Lee, a nurse whose home overlooking the Columbia playfield has been in her family for 30 years.

Lee has spent much of her life watching children play in the park.

"It's really family oriented," she said. "But we could use more things to do in the park, not just basketball."

Milwaukee Rec has already raised an additional $500,000 in outside funding for the upgrades, including a nearly $400,000 federal grant for the Burnham site. That grant illustrates the power local organizations and volunteers have to leverage funding for park improvements.

"We were very fortunate. The Layton Avenue West Neighborhood group had already done a lot of the groundwork at Burnham," Greb said.

"Play in that 2 to 5 age range is one of the ways children learn. It helps them build important skills for school readiness."

Pam Linn, recreation facilities project manager for Milwaukee Recreation

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Copyright 2017 The Buffalo News
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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

Hamburg Town Board members Monday night terminated a contract with the Toronto firm that was planning to build a $30 million public-private sports facility in the town.

Town Board members had little to say Monday after voting unanimously to end the contract.

"The owner of Sportstar Capital did send a letter previously to the town expressing that he felt the agreement was ended as well," Town Supervisor Steven Walters said at the meeting.

Walters said, after the meeting, that the letter also included a bill for $145,000.

The intent is to negotiate a fair settlement for the work the company completed, Town Councilman Thomas Best Jr. said.

The contract, approved in July 2016, became controversial when details about where it would be built and how much it might cost the town were not immediately disclosed. Some details were released, but the project seemed to halt after an allegation of an alleged bribe surfaced in May. The Erie County District Attorney's Office found no evidence of a bribe being offered in connection with the project.

The contract approved by the Town Board 16 months ago called for the town to pay Sportstar $110,000 for a demographic analysis, $15,000 for a feasibility and financial analysis, and $20,000 to secure a letter of intent to buy the property.

There was some disagreement over the feasibility study submitted by Sportstar, with some board members questioning some of the statistics used and saying they wanted more information included in the study. The study also did not address a potential competing facility proposed by the Kaleta Group, with Liberatore Management Group and Ellicott Development, for a $15 million complex at the former McKinley Park Inn on McKinley Parkway that would include two ice rinks and two multi-sport fields.

Sportstar also did not nail down what would have been a major tenant.

The Hamburg Hawks Hockey Association - with 650 families - decided to rent ice from the Kaleta Group because it would be less expensive and it could be associated with Patrick Kaleta's HITS Foundation.

Hamburg has been talking about replacing or expanding its ice rink at the Nike Base for at least 10 years, and residents in 2009 voted down a proposal to privatize the town's rink. Discussions started again in 2015.

The Sportstar project would have included twin ice rinks, a field house, gyms, a pro shop, a restaurant and a snack bar.

The public-private partnership would have been the first of its kind in the area. Sportstar would buy the property, build the facility and manage it. In several decades, the town would have owned the facility.

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Copyright 2017 Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
All Rights Reserved

Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

On the day Tennessee athletic director John Currie fired Butch Jones, he promised to spearhead "an exhaustive search" that would produce a coach who could "propel Tennessee to championships."

That challenge looks more difficult after Sunday's hiring fiasco.

Early in the day, it looked like Currie had found his man, Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano. By the end of the day, the position remained vacant after backlash from fans, politicians, business owners and some donors caused the deal with Schiano to unravel.

Currie, who has never hired a football coach, is left to pitch this program to potential hires who know that blowback and social media reaction derailed a previous deal. That should make for a much harder sell.

Knoxville is left looking like a tinderbox.

"They've spooked them all," one source told Sports Illustrated's Bruce Feldman, adding that "it's a hot mess."

Some pundits have argued that Sunday's backlash was less to do with what Schiano may or may not have known about Jerry Sandusky's crimes at Penn State - Schiano, who was a Penn State assistant from 1990-95, has denied having any knowledge of Sandusky's crimes - and more to do with the fact that he wasn't the splashy hire fans desired.

Currie's statement issued Monday only served to muddy the waters. Currie acknowledged that Schiano was a leading candidate for the job. Currie said he "carefully interviewed and vetted him" and that Schiano "received the highest recommendations." Currie referenced Schiano's years at Penn State.

"We, of course, carefully reviewed the 2012 investigation report by Louis Freeh," Currie said, referring to the report by the former FBI director in which Freeh investigated how Penn State officials handled Sandusky's actions.

"Coach Schiano is not mentioned in the Freeh report and was not one of the more than 400 people interviewed in the investigation. We also confirmed that Coach Schiano was never deposed and never asked to testify in any criminal or civil matter."

Essentially, Currie's statement said that Schiano was his target, he vetted him, he wanted to hire him - but didn't.

It prompts the question: Who's really in charge of the athletic department?

That's a question Currie must now answer as he pivots and tries to woo a new candidate.

That's where the conversation turns now. Who still wants this job?

Coaches with favorable Tennessee ties would make sense. They would be familiar with the climate they're stepping into and could tap into fans' sense of sentimentality.

Such parameters bring to mind Duke coach David Cutcliffe (former UT offensive coordinator under Phillip Fulmer), Southern California offensive coordinator Tee Martin (former UT national title-winning quarterback) and Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele (former UT linebacker and assistant coach).

Or perhaps the Vols can still attract a rising talent, such as Memphis' Mike Norvell or Purdue's Jeff Brohm.

The Vols find themselves on a crowded coaching carousel. Already, UCLA and Florida have made splashy hires of Chip Kelly and Dan Mullen, respectively.

Within the SEC, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Texas A&M also have openings. Jobs at Nebraska, Arizona State and Oregon State are open, too.

"I deeply regret the events of yesterday for everyone involved," UT Chancellor Beverly Davenport said in a statement Monday.

"The university remains steadfast in its commitment to excellence, and I look forward to John Currie continuing the search."

Currie's exhaustive search gets more exhausting with each passing day.


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Copyright 2017 Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

Is it high comedy that a Tennessee football fan base that was fiercely defending coach Butch Jones a year and a half ago amid lawsuits and sexual assaults spent Sunday unleashing moral judgment on would-be new coach Greg Schiano? Yes.

Is the message painted on a rock on UT's campus — "Schiano covered up child rape at Penn State" — a massively unfair assessment of the situation? Yes.

Are the details that link Schiano to knowledge of former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky's horrifying crimes against children hazy at best? Yes.

Did star witness Mike McQueary utter Schiano's name under oath as someone who had witnessed Sandusky committing one of those crimes and told another coach about it? Yes.

And that utterance, which Schiano has refuted, was enough to derail this entire thing and turn Tennessee athletic director John Currie's search for a new coach into a mess for all to see. USA Today's Dan Wolken reported a finalized agreement and press conference to introduce Schiano as coach Sunday night fell through after both sides were "bullied out of the deal" by "unprecedented social media backlash."

Would Vols fans have seized on such a thing if it was part of the past of, say, Jon Gruden or Chip Kelly or some other dreamy coaching candidate? Heck no. But let's be real here. Substitute "Crimson Tide fans" or "Sooners fans" or "Buckeyes fans" for "Vols fans" and you would get the same basic behavior in the same situation. I don't for a moment buy that this reaction from Tennessee fans is going to deter other quality candidates from looking at Tennessee. This is big-time college sports, people. It's selective moral outrage and unbridled passion, and the places like UT with a surplus of the latter are the places coaches know they can win.

I do buy the idea that quality candidates are going to look at the actions of Currie in this situation and have misgivings. And it's hard to blame them.

Currie already was under that white, hot light, and now the heat must be searing. It's not his fault that Gruden is the uncatchable unicorn or that dominoes fell to get Dan Mullen to Florida instead of a possible look at Knoxville.

But he had to read the Schiano situation better, no matter what anyone thinks of McQueary and his claims. It was going to be a thing. And if he indeed backed off this because of the reaction, well, other possible candidates can't like what that suggests about him.

I immediately didn't like the idea of Schiano, based more than anything on his two disastrous years in Tampa Bay and all the nasty things his players said about him there. But he did do a heck of a job at Rutgers. And some people in my business who know him and college football well were adamant Sunday that he's a good coach and person.

Here's what Titans cornerback Logan Ryan, who played for Schiano at Rutgers, told me after the Titans' 20-16 win Sunday in Indianapolis — back when we all thought the hire was imminent: "He's definitely a great football coach... He's a hard-nosed coach, man, and I think I didn't understand at the time, at the age of 18, that was the coach I needed to really help me become a better football player, a tougher football player. I kind of have an identity of outworking people. That all came from Rutgers, that all came from Greg Schiano. I'm not going to lie, he's hard to play for because he's demanding. He's like some of these coaches like Urban Meyer and Nick Saban, he makes you better."

That doesn't sound so bad. Maybe this wouldn't have been a complete football disaster. Maybe it would have. It doesn't matter now because it has become a complete public-relations disaster.

But there are plenty of coaches out there who can win big at Tennessee, and who would take that chance if Currie can explain this situation and make them feel good about his leadership. If this was more about Schiano getting cold feet than Currie getting cold feet, that helps.

Purdue first-year coach Jeff Brohm continues to be a must-look in my mind. Whoever ends up getting the call, Vols fans can't possibly reject that coach as violently as they did Schiano.

But can they believe in Currie again? That I don't know.

Contact Joe Rexrode at jrexrode@tennessean.com and follow him on Twitter @joerexrode.


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Copyright 2017 The Evansville Courier Co.
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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)

 

INDIANAPOLIS - Hours before Ben Davis demolished Penn 63-14 on Saturday night to win the Class 6A state championship at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Indiana Football Coaches Association voted to move forward with a proposal to seed sectionals.



While Indiana High School Athletic Association commissioner Bobby Cox said last week in an interview with the IndyStar that he does not favor a seeding system, he did leave the door slightly open - with a caveat.

"Until the football coaches come up with a mercy rule that everybody can live with and it gets passed, I will not entertain the notion of seeding," Cox said.

According to IFCA assistant executive director and Noblesville coach Jason Simmons, the proposal will include a mercy rule.

"We can take a tournament that is really good right now and blend seeding into it," Simmons said.

The proposal, which will be officially submitted to the IHSAA in January, calls for seeding the top two teams in Class A, 2A, 3A and 4A with the remainder determined by the blind draw. That format would erase the possibility of first-round sectional matchups like Class 4A second-ranked Evansville Reitz vs. third-ranked Evansville Central, which happened this season in Sectional 24.

The proposal for Class 5A and 6A would call for a slightly different format, though under the same premise. The sectionals that currently feed into the regional would be combined into one eight-team bracket. For example, Sectional 5 and 6 with Pike, Fishers, North Central, Hamilton Southeastern, Ben Davis, Warren Central, Lawrence Central and Lawrence North would be grouped together. The top two teams - this year, Ben Davis and Warren Central - would be seeded and the remainder determined by a blind draw.

Simmons said sectional and regional championships would be awarded as they are now, although under that format for 5A and 6A, the teams in the sectional could change year to year based on the seeding and blind draw.

"Your four-team cluster would essentially be your sectional," Simmons said. "We're still awarding it the same way, but how it is packaged would look a little bit different."

Simmons said the "product is not broken" but added that the coaches have favored a seeding process in the last three votes within the IFCA from 60 to 75 percent.

"It is not broken in any way, shape or form," Simmons said. "But I think we can enhance the tournament."

The determination on seeding the top two teams would likely come through the Sagarin Ratings. Simmons said the hope within the IFCA is the proposal could go into effect for one year - the 2018 season will be the second year of the two-year classification cycle - to determine if it is working.

"Then we could refine it or drop it depending on feedback we get from athletic directors, principals and the IHSAA," Simmons said.

The IFCA will also submit a mercy rule along with the seeding proposal. The likely numbers would be a running clock after halftime once a team leads by 42 points and 35 in the fourth quarter, Simmons said.

Keep this in mind: While there is plenty of support for a seeding process from coaches and fans, the IFCA proposal would not have necessarily prevented a matchup like Saturday's 6A game. While Ben Davis and Warren Central would not have met until the regional round, the north-south setup would still be the same as now.

On the other hand, this Ben Davis team was probably the best in the state since the 2006 Warren Central group. Since a sixth class was added in 2013, the previous four 6A games had all been competitive (including Penn in a 28-16 loss to Center Grove in 2015).

Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Loosening up is the smartest thing the NFL has ever done.

No disrespect to the Los Angeles Rams, Carson Wentz or Antonio Brown, but the choreographed celebrations after touchdowns — or, in the Philadelphia Eagles' case, big defensive plays — are easily the highlight of the season. Creative and funny, they have given fans a glimpse of what their favorite players are really like and, as a result, have helped chip away at the NFL's reputation as the stodgy "No Fun League."

"We work hard, so we feel like the least we can do is have fun out there," said Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, one of the creative directors behind Sunday's rendition of The Electric Slide.

"It gets the crowd involved and excited," Jenkins added. "That permeates throughout the whole team."

Make that the whole league.

One of the biggest criticisms of the NFL in recent years has been its refusal to let its hair down and have a little fun. Wear cleats that send a message, even one that promotes a worthy cause? Nope. Make a snow angel after a touchdown, like kids all over America do in their backyards or neighborhood parks? Uh-uh. Dance after a big play or show even the slightest hint of personality? C'mon now. What do you think this is, the NBA?

Fans didn't understand the fuss. Players complained. And, finally, the NFL caved, announcing in May that it was relaxing its penalties for choreographed celebrations.

"We saw a lot of interest in liberalizing and allowing the players a little more freedom to be able to express their joy, their individuality and frankly celebrate the game," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in announcing the change.

Even with a few, clearly spelled out restrictions, there was no doubt some trepidation from 345 Park Ave. and a few owners boxes. No matter your feelings on a two-pump limit, we can all agree that hearing Goodell weigh in on it once was one time too many.

But they need not have worried. Finally given the freedom to let their humor and creativity show, players have embraced it wholeheartedly.

The Lions played Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robots. The Chiefs had a potato sack race. The Packers climbed into a bobsled. A few days after his beloved bicycle — and main mode of transportation — was stolen, setting off a citywide recovery effort, JuJu Smith-Schuster chained up a bike near the Steelers bench.

The Vikings managed to make one of their celebrations a teachable moment, informing the rest of the country that while it might be "Duck, Duck goose" everywhere else, it's "Duck, Duck, Grey Duck" in Minnesota. (Kyle Rudolph will never make that mistake again.)

The best part is that instead of teams running out of ideas the celebrations are only getting better as the season goes on. Watching the Vikings play leapfrog is never going to get old. The Eagles could have called it a day after the offense went bowling Sunday, only to have the defense top it with The Electric Slide.

(If you haven't seen it yet, Google it immediately. You can thank me.)

"One of my favorite things that happened in this NFL this year are those end-zone celebrations," NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth said Sunday night. "We see these young people for what they are. They're in their 20s, they're fun-loving, social media, all that kind of stuff. So we get a chance to meet them. For the most part, people who watch the NFL, sometimes they see the issues that get attached to these players.

"But those celebrations have let us see young kids having fun with football. And I love watching it. I really do."

There are always going to be a few curmudgeons who hate fun. But Collinsworth speaks for most of us who remember that, despite its outsized place in our society, the NFL is still just a game.

The stakes might be higher and the players' bank accounts bigger, but it's not so different from what kids all over the country are doing at recess and after school.

"Listen, the guys are having fun doing it, they're having fun playing together," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. "This game is hard enough. And when you score, you kind of want them to celebrate together, and that's a great thing."

The best thing of the season. By far.

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Marion Local coach Tim Goodwin on the sensitive competitive balance issue: "We really are isolated from that whole debate... It really just doesn't affect us."

It might be just a coincidence, but the Ohio High School Athletic Association's competitive balance initiative seems to have made an impact in its debut this fall, especially in the high school football state championships.

Fourteen teams will vie for seven divisional state championships this week at Canton's Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Of those, all but one are public schools. That's significant, because competitive balance has its roots in a disproportionate amount of private schools winning state championships over about a 10-year period, particularly in football and boys and girls basketball.

All head coaches who participated in Monday's statewide media conference call to address championship week were asked about that. Most dodged the private vs. public issue.

"We really are isolated from that whole debate," Marion Local coach Tim Goodwin said. "We just don't have the types of privates around us that are going to pull kids from other schools.... It really just doesn't affect us."

Last season six of the 14 participating finals teams were from private schools. All but Cleveland St.

Ignatius won, with Cincinnati St. Xavier defeating St. Ignatius in the D-I title game.

This season, Akron Archbishop Hoban (13-1) will be the only private school to play for a state title, against Cincinnati Winton Woods (13-1) during Thursday's 7:30 p.m. game. Hoban defeated Trotwood-Madison 30-0 last year to capture its second straight D-III championship.

Competitive balance is a numerical formula that accounts for students who reside outside a designated school district and all enrolled students. That combined number determines playoff divisions for most sports and will be annually revised by the OHSAA each spring.

* Four area teams advanced to Week 15 games: Trotwood-Madison (GWOC American South), Clinton-Massie (Southern Buckeye Conference), Marion Local (Midwest Athletic Conference) and Minster (MAC).

Saturday's state-title triple-header is loaded with area reps. Defending champ Marion Local (14-0) will play Kirtland (14-0) in a D-VI showdown of the state's top-ranked teams at 10 a.m. At 3 p.m. it's Clinton-Massie (13-1) vs. No. 1 Steubenville (14-0) in the D-IV championship. Trotwood (14-0) is paired with Dresden Tri-Valley (13-1) in the seven-game finale at 8 p.m.

* Six of the chosen 14 are making a return to the title games. Besides Trotwood and Hoban, Steubenville was D-IV runner-up to Columbus Bishop Hartley in 2015-16. Marion Local is the defending D-VI champ. The Flyers defeated Cuyahoga Heights in the championship last season. Heights dropped a division and will play Minster for the D-VII title. Minster lost to Warren John F. Kennedy in the D-VII title game last season.

* Top-ranked Marion Local and No. 2 Kirtland is the only 1-vs.-2 game. Three other teams were declared Associated Press state poll champs: Trotwood, Steubenville and Pemberville Eastwood (D-V). Tri-Valley and Minster were the only unranked teams to qualify.

* The return to Stark County for the state championships ends a three-year run at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. Massillon's Paul Brown Tiger Stadium will no longer be the site of any games. The Benson complex was built on the site of former Fawcett Stadium next to the NFL Hall of Fame. Championship weekend will eventually toggle between Columbus and Canton, although a specific timeline has not been announced.

* Marion Local is making its 12th title trip, the most of all participating teams, and is No. 5 all-time in the state. The Flyers are 9-2 in title games. Tri-Valley and Pemberville Eastwood are making their first appearance.

* All the games will be televised live on Spectrum Sports and broadcast by the OHSAA Radio Network.

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Copyright 2017 Star Tribune
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

Kyle Chank's days begin with a brisk walk across downtown from his Loring Park home to his cramped office on the 12th floor of the U.S. Bank Building.

The Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee vice president has a window but barely enough space for his own desk and chair. Bringing in a couple of visitors means maneuvering around the door and some metal shelving.

As the vice president for operations and logistics, Chank's job is to make sure everything works - from how fans get home from nightly concerts to how the town gets out from under a 3-foot snowfall on Super Bowl weekend. Every hour of his schedule has some mix of walking, talking and dissecting maps and diagrams - all done with more urgency of late.

"The game's going to happen on February 4th whether we're ready or not," Chank said.

The private, nonprofit host committee began with a single person in January 2015 and has grown to 31 paid staff. NFL officials

will supplement the operation when they move to town right after the New Year to prepare for official events, which begin the weekend before the game.

The committee's profile and pace increase daily - as does the intensity of public scrutiny, a lesson Chank learned this month after public blowback over the fact that everyday transit riders will be relegated to buses on certain routes on Super Bowl Sunday while game ticket holders get to ride the trains and disembark at the platform right outside the stadium doors.

Chank was nonplused by the reaction. "A lot of the plans are based on public safety. That's the top priority," he said. "We can't adjust it."

At 26, Chank is viewed as a wunderkind - a veteran of the three most recent Super Bowls in Houston, San Francisco and Phoenix. The Palm Springs, Calif., native earned a journalism degree from Arizona State University in 2 ½ years followed by a master's in sports management from Georgetown University.

He's had starter jobs - all related to sports - but he's been planning Super Bowls since his first in Arizona in 2015. He's the only Super Bowl mercenary on the Minneapolis staff and he's not sure yet whether he'll try to move on to Atlanta in 2019. He's not going to make any decisions until he experiences his first Minnesota winter.

He's preternaturally calm despite the scope of his task, though his chewed-down fingernails hint at the pressure. He's distilled his work to 29 color-coded boxes on a giant whiteboard behind his desk, among them snow management, public safety, Super Bowl Live and parking. Using blue, green and red markers, he's got dates, venues, events and staff assignments.

Each box can be profoundly complicated. One part of the snow management plans includes the skyways, which are managed by 70 different companies; all of them must be consulted for hours of access.

He's got a 14-square calendar that begins Jan. 22.

Chank has a standard line when he's asked about the massive task of pulling off the host committee's 10 days of events - for which it has raised more than $50 million already. "I grew up with three sisters; I've had a lot tougher pressure than this," he said.

Most of his strategy involves working hard, daily stress-relieving runs on the treadmill and "embracing the challenge." He also has a management-speak motto: "Prior preparation prevents poor performance."

On a recent morning, his first appointment lasted an hour with a representative from a transportation company hoping to get a healthy share of Super Bowl business. As a condition of access to Chank's meeting, the Star Tribune agreed not to identify this person or their business.

Chank came to the meeting with a 150-page plan depicting day-by-day road closures, security and traffic plans for the 10 days of events scattered among St. Paul, downtown Minneapolis and Bloomington.

In a pale gray suit over a white shirt (no tie), Chank looked both relaxed and focused in the one-on-one meeting. His forearms rested on the table as he showed the diagrams to the visitor.

"We have some parking lots we're holding in our back pocket," Chank said. "The first week of December, the NFL's going to be here and we'll know a lot more after that.... I need to introduce you to the Club Nomadic guys," he says of the organizers of high-profile concerts in downtown Minneapolis and at Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake.

They expect after an Armory concert there will be 7,000 fans emptying out of the building into a relatively small area, Chank said. He ends the meeting encouraging the representative to review the plan. "Feedback is always appreciated."

One meeting to the next

The next hour entails going over the same plan, distilled into 15 pages called "Know Before You Go," with a reporter seeing it for the first time. In other cities, he's been able to keep the plan to 10 pages, "but this one is complicated," Chank said. Besides Minnesota weather to contend with, U.S. Bank Stadium is downtown, surrounded by offices, restaurants and apartment complexes, unlike the suburban locales of recent Super Bowls.

Then he's off through the skyways to City Center for an all-staff meeting led by volunteer director Elle Kehoe. She goes over plans for the orientation kickoff at Xcel Energy Center a few days away. Be friendly, helpful and stay off your cellphones, Kehoe said.

As the session wraps at 12:15 p.m., Chank signals to sponsorship manager Ariel Toback that they need to go. Chank runs to the restroom, then heads out with his cellphone to his ear. He pulls on his "Bold North" purple pompom cap as he walks to an Uber ride for a brief trip to the stadium.

"We can do lunch or breakfast next week," he tells the caller.

At the stadium, Toback takes the lead, questioning architects about access to suites on game day. "Can we walk them through the Truss Bar?" she asks, referring to a private space on the stadium's upper level. "There's also a staircase here, how will that be managed?"

The suites, some of which will be divided and reconfigured for the game, need furniture, and there's confusion about who will handle that.

"The last thing is coatracks," Toback said. The architects ask, "Do you want pretty ones or just racks?"

Together they hike to a suite where a representative from stadium operator SMG meets them to talk about walls, paint colors and locations of more bars. The SMG representative takes detailed notes and promises to get back to everyone with options and prices.

Then the group splits and Chank heads to a private meeting in another part of the building.

By the time he is back at his desk, it's past 2 p.m. He flips through e-mails as he eats the lunch he brought from home: a salad of iceberg lettuce topped with chopped tomatoes and a lone chicken drumstick.

By 3 p.m., he is on the phone for a scheduled call.

"I have a party for 2,000 people at the Depot in the Renaissance on Washington," Chank said. "I need ADA access. We did talk about small golf carts. I'd rather just do it right and get two ADA sprinters."

The discussion moves quickly, leaving Chank a few minutes before he heads back toward the stadium for an East Town Neighborhood meet-and-greet - his final work obligation of the day.

He keeps it simple and focused. "I tell my team to check the box and move on," he said. "It's a very simple life. You saw the salad I was eating."

He confesses to one instance of panic in mid-October.

He took off a Friday afternoon and most of the weekend to celebrate his birthday with visiting friends. On Monday, he dropped his friends at the airport at 5:30 a.m. He planned to go home and take a nap before work, but he grew anxious thinking about the unanswered e-mails that had accrued throughout the weekend. "I was in a dead sweat," Chank said.

He showered and went to work.

Rochelle Olson · 612-673-1747

Twitter: @rochelleolson

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Copyright 2017 The Post and Courier
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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

James Johnson calls out instruction after instruction. Like in a typical yoga class, meditative music plays, set to a backdrop of groans as Johnson ramps up the difficulty.

There are the usual complaints when the instructor settles into a plank position, and the same sighs of relief when he orders upward or downward dog.

But the audience is a little different than usual. Each of the roughly two dozen participants is a teen or a young adult with a neurodevelopmental disorder. Most lie somewhere on the autism spectrum. Others have ADHD or a mild intellectual disability.

Katrina Felty fits squarely into that group. She has high-functioning autism. Now 21, she said high school was a stressful place for her. She was taking physical education classes from home. When she enrolled in the Piece it Together program, she said it was both a physical and a social outlet.

At school, she said she felt people would not understand her. She has found that not to be the case at the Piece it Together program, a fitness and wellness program run jointly by the Medical University of South Carolina's Wellness Center and its division of developmental pediatrics.

Felty said her favorite class is shadowboxing-based. She said the fitness classes reduce her stress and help improve her balance.

"It exhausts me, but in a good way," Felty said. "It makes me feel hyper emotionally but tired physically. It's a wonderful feeling."

The Piece it Together program focuses on physical fitness. Especially after they graduate from high school, young adults with these kinds of disabilities tend to lead sedentary lives. Many continue to live with their parents.

The group ranges in age from 14 to early 20s. They meet once a week for a variety of fitness classes, including swimming, yoga and spin classes. Instructors are trained to adapt the class. Experts help the teens and young adults with nutritional skills, too.

Lisa Riddle, a mentor with Charleston's Family Resource Center for Disabilities and Special Needs, said typical fitness classes might be daunting for people with autism. Uncomfortable bike seats, locker rooms, the smells and loud sounds of the gym - those things can be a sensory overload for people with these kinds of disabilities, experts said.

"For a lot of kids on the spectrum, there aren't as many opportunities to access fitness," Riddle said.

Felty said she could find events for people her age with autism, but she dismissed them with a shrug. Most don't interest her.

Riddle's son has done the Piece it Together program in the past. He is now 19. Riddle said she can find baseball leagues or other specific sporting events for kids with autism, but there isn't much that aims to teach them about fitness and nutrition.

The time after a teenager graduates from high school is tough no matter what, Riddle said. But it is particularly tough for those with autism. Kim Thomas, CEO of the S.C. Autism Society, said she hasn't seen any other programs in the state quite like Piece it Together.

"Once they leave school there aren't really services out there that are appropriate for them," Thomas said. "They're left trying to find jobs. But what our system offers isn't tailored to meet the needs of people with autism."

Even in high school, physical education classes are not always ideal for teens with neurodevelopmental disorders like autism. Many take PE classes online.

Conner McDonald, a second-year medical student, has helped with the program and recently completed research into Piece it Together participants' coordination. McDonald said they found many of the participants have poor balance. Balance and coordination are not part of autism's criteria, but they are still commonly associated with the diagnosis. He said the research demonstrated the Piece it Together program improved the young adults' balance. But he also said there has not been much research into how the disorders affect the body.

"It turns out there are some physical manifestations of it as well," he said.

Participants of MUSC's Piece it Together program follow along to an instructor's yoga motions at a fitness class Tuesday, November 14, 2017. Everyone in the class has some kind of neurodevelopmental disability. Many lie somewhere on the autism spectrum.
Brad Nettles bnettles@postandcourier.com

James Johnson, a fitness instructor with MUSC's Piece it Together program, leads a yoga and martial arts class Tuesday, November 14, 2017. The program's instructors are trained on how to adapt the classes for young adults with neurodevelopmental disabilities.
Brad Nettles bnettles@postandcourier.com

Chloe Belton, 18, does a martial arts move during a fitness class at the MUSC Wellness Center on Tuesday, November 14, 2017. The class is part of the Piece it Together program, geared toward teens and young adults with certain disabilities.
Brad Nettles bnettles@postandcourier.com

Chloe Belton follows along with a yoga move during a fitness class Tuesday, November 14, 2017. The class is part of the Piece it Together program, geared toward teens and young adults with certain disabilities.
Brad Nettles bnettles@postandcourier.com

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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

A wave of backlash from fans, local and state politicians and local business owners disrupted a deal Sunday that would have made Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano Tennessee's next coach.

The blowback caused the deal to unravel, USA TODAY's Dan Wolken reported.

Tennessee spokespeople did not return messages.

Early Sunday afternoon, USA TODAY reported that UT was finalizing a deal with Schiano. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer confirmed during a Big Ten teleconference Sunday afternoon that Schiano had been contacted by UT about the job.

"I know he was contacted. That's all I know at this point," Meyer said.

USA TODAY reported Tennessee athletics director John Currie flew to Columbus, Ohio, to complete the deal, and paperwork was in the process of being finalized.

As news leaked of UT's intended hire, it was met with backlash from Vols fans, plus some local and state politicians as well as local business owners. People gathered on campus Sunday to march and voice displeasure against the news. Others took to social media to voice disapproval.

The frustration centered, in part, around testimony released by a Philadelphia court in 2016 pertaining to the Jerry Sandusky case.

Schiano, a 51-year-old New Jersey native, was on staff at Penn State from 1990-95.

Former Penn State staffer Mike McQueary testified that fellow assistant Tom Bradley told McQueary that Schiano was aware of a child sexual abuse incident by Sandusky, who was Penn State's defensive coordinator.

Schiano and Bradley denied having knowledge or witnessing any of Sandusky's abuse.

Sandusky was convicted in 2012 of 45 counts of sexual abuse of boys.

Schiano is in his second season as Urban Meyer's defensive coordinator. He coached Rutgers for 11 seasons from 2001-11, posting a 68-67 record during his tenure before a two-year stint as the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he was 11-21.

Ohio State is ranked eighth nationally in total defense after ranking sixth last season.

Ohio State will play in the Big Ten championship against Wisconsin on Saturday.

Tennessee's coaching position has been open since Currie fired Butch Jones on Nov. 12. Currie vowed to spearhead "an exhaustive search to identify a coach of the highest integrity and vision to propel Tennessee to championships."

Currie has never hired a football coach before, and he said he didn't plan to use a search firm to assist him.

Many UT fans had their hearts set on a different former Tampa Bay coach - Jon Gruden, the former Super Bowl champion coach who is currently an ESPN commentator on "Monday Night Football." Gruden's coaching career started on the staff at Tennessee in the 1980s, and for years he has teased Vol fans about his affection in Rocky Top.

Dan Mullen, an established winner in the SEC at Mississippi State, was a name the Vols were expected to pursue, but Mullen reached a deal Sunday with Florida, Tennessee's SEC East rival.

Schiano was known in the NFL as being a domineering leader with a challenging personality.

"Listen, Greg is an alpha male," said Rich Hansen, who is in his 35th season as coach at St. Peter's Prep, a powerhouse program in New Jersey.

Hansen has known Schiano for decades and sent several of his players to play for Schiano at Rutgers.

"He wants to win, and he wants things done a certain way, because that's the way he's convinced is the road to success," Hansen said. "The bottom line is, nobody is going to work harder, and nobody is going to care more for the players," Hansen added.

Schiano oversaw Rutgers' most successful period since the 1970s during his tenure as coach. The highlight was an 11-win season and No. 12 final ranking in 2006, marking just the second double-digit-win season in program history. Rutgers reached a bowl game in six of his 11 seasons.

"The proof is in the pudding," Hansen said. "He turned Rutgers around and built that thing into something unbelievable, and he's done an unbelievable job at Ohio State the last couple years."

Hansen and fellow coach Nunzio Campanile of Bergen Catholic, another New Jersey power that produced UT quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, described Schiano as meticulous and demanding but having the interests of players in mind.

Schiano has known Guarantano since he was a boy, and Guarantano tweeted on Sunday about a potential reunion with Schiano.

Campanile was previously an offensive coordinator Don Bosco Prep, a Maryland powerhouse, and he had several players play for Schiano at Rutgers. His brother, Anthony, also played for Schiano.

"He's a phenomenal football coach," Campanile said. "He's one of the most intelligent people I've ever met in this game."

But he won't, apparently, be bringing that football mind to Knoxville after a wild day.

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

TIPP CITY - Supporters of a new stadium in Tipp City are struggling to secure community donations for the project, which likely will be done in stages.

The Tipp City Exempted Village Schools Board of Education was told during a Nov. 20 work session that the effort to raise $5.6 million privately has brought in around $1.5 million so far.

Scott George of the nonprofit Tipp Pride Association, formed to pursue the construction of stadium facilities, said backers likely will be embarking on a door to door campaign following a meeting with the local athletic boosters.

Success has been seen in obtaining support or commitments of support from the business community, the school district and the city, but the response from the overall community has been the challenge, George said.

"We do have to get more people involved if we want this to happen," he said. "We are not sure exactly what people are waiting for."

The board received an updated report listing confirmed commitments of $1.486 million.

Among categories included in that number are $350,000 of in-kind services committed by the city, $750,000 in dedicated funds from the school district from its Premier Health sports agreement, $100,000 from Unity Bank as a scoreboard sponsor, $96,700 from the T300 Club, $20,708 from events and $49,800 in donations.

In addition, George said, 60 businesses have been contacted with proposed pledges of $1.6 million. Some businesses considering in-kind services donations are waiting to see final plans before making a commitment, he said. Tipp Pride this week received the last of quotes on a site plan and buildings for the stadium project, which is proposed for the site of the existing 1940s stadium at the City Park.

A project start date has not been determined, nor has a phasing plan. The contractor will help with phasing logistics.

"We have to look at what is possible financially, and what are the timelines to do each scope of work," George said.

The goal remains breaking ground for work "sometime in the offseason" and after the first of 2018.

Tipp Pride continues to offer funding opportunities such as the $1.5 million stadium naming rights, $500,000 press box naming rights and scoreboard sponsorships from $50,000 to $100,000 (durations of five or 10 years).

The goal is to have a general contractor for the project selected by mid-December.

Contact this contributing writer at nancykburr@aol.com.

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Before leaving to coach Mississippi State in 2009, Dan Mullen served as offensive coordinator at Florida under Urban Meyer.

Sunday inadvertently became one of the more hopeless and revealing days in the recent history of college athletics. It was the perfect combination of fan hubris, local media ignorance, mob mentality and unrealistic expectations, a brew that has been simmering for years in the world of coaching searches but finally boiled over on social media as two high-profile Southeastern Conference programs honed in on new hires.

When word leaked that Florida's search had targeted Mississippi State's Dan Mullen and Tennessee was trying to work out a deal with Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, the backlash was swift and severe. In Tennessee's case, the backlash ended up scuttling the deal. Tennessee had to back off.

Though Florida's fan base merely was disappointed at the idea of a coach with a career 33-39 record in the SEC, Tennessee's was apoplectic in a manner that was unprecedented, undeserved and arguably frightening.

Let's examine the meltdown at Tennessee, a fan base that's been fed a fantasy for months (and even years) by some local media members that ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden had an interest in coaching their program. There was nothing in the realm of reality to support that idea, putting athletics director John Currie in a terrible spot of hiring a coach who wouldn't be Gruden and thus disappointing Vol Nation.

Moreover, Vols fans had almost no sense of the attractiveness of their job or the competitive marketplace for head coaching hires. Tennessee is a good job and can be a very good program, but it's not the kind of place where successful sitting head coaches in comfortable situations uproot their lives.

Thus, Currie - an AD who values stability and experience, who doesn't get starry-eyed about the next great thing - had limited choices. When it was impossible to get around the $9 million buyout for Iowa State's Matt Campbell and when Mullen became a real candidate at Florida, his options were further reduced.

Schiano, 51, worked a miracle at Rutgers. He made a dead-end program relevant, got to six bowl games in his last seven seasons and made the program attractive enough that it was acceptable to join the Big Ten. Over the years, he had been pursued by several big-time jobs but stayed at Rutgers until the end of 2011 when he took the plunge to go to the NFL.

If you remove Schiano's two seasons with the Buccaneers, where he was clearly out of his element (like many college coaches are), he would be viewed as a home-run hire at practically any big job.

While Tennessee officials were trying to get a deal done with Schiano on Sunday, students in Knoxville were mobilizing to protest, congressional candidates and other politicians were issuing anti-Schiano statements and radio provocateur/Tennessee fan Clay Travis, who has written extensively about the dangers of succumbing to online mobs, had organized one himself and posted Currie's cellphone number on Twitter.

By contrast, what happened at Florida on Sunday seems tame. But even the mere notion that a Gators fan would be disappointed with Mullen underscores how difficult it is for schools to make high-profile hires in this day and age.

But the idea that experienced winners such as Mullen or Schiano would be considered bad hires in a league that has given jobs to plenty of people who weren't ready or equipped for the SEC only proves why athletics directors shudder at the idea of a coaching search. Even when you deliver the fans a high-powered Thoroughbred, they want a unicorn.

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Copyright 2017 Charleston Newspapers

Charleston Gazette-Mail

 

Big-time athletics, be it in college or the pros, is a hard business. The millions upon millions of dollars involved in each team make those sports results-driven endeavors. A coach can't win? He might think about renting rather than buying.

And when the day comes that a coach loses that one game too many, or that day when a prized player announces a transfer, he'll get that visit or phone call from a team executive, wishing him well in his future endeavors. The scenes of those dismissals can be cold ones.

Who can forget the story of current Florida Atlantic football coach Lane Kiffin being relieved of his duties as Southern Cal's head coach at 3:14 a.m. on the Los Angeles International Airport tarmac?

But on the field at Razorback Stadium - literally, on the field at Razorback Stadium - in Fayetteville, Arkansas, we may have witnessed the scene that tops all of them.

Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema was fired Friday after the Razorbacks' loss to Missouri. How long did Arkansas officials wait after the game to inform him of that decision?

"I was informed coming off the field that I would no longer be the coach at Arkansas, Bielema told reporters at his postgame press conference.

And there's your winner.

Arkansas had just lost a close game to close a 4-8 season, Bielema probably wanted to walk back to the locker room and thank his players for their contributions this year, and then he had to do it right after school officials sidled up to him and handed him a pink slip.

Not only that, but as media members were waiting for Bielema's postgame press conference, they were handed press releases, complete with two paragraphs of quotes from interim athletic director Julie Cromer Peoples, announcing his termination.

Did Bielema need to be fired? He went 29-34 overall and 11-29 in the SEC during his five seasons in Fayetteville. A change needed to be made.

But he also gave Arkansas three bowl appearances and two bowl wins in those five years. He also didn't give your athletic program any black marks on its reputation (need Arkansas be reminded of the Bobby Petrino Affair?) Even if you have to let him go, you don't let him go like that.

Arkansas officials tried to justify the move in a note to website Football Scoop, saying they wanted to make the change as quickly as possible so he could meet with his entire team, many of them heading home for the holiday weekend. They didn't want the players to find out about the change on social media.

Fine. At least let Bielema get to the locker room before you give him the news. The players won't have showered, dressed, packed up and left in the couple of minutes it would have taken to afford Bielema a modicum of dignity.

Major sports are cutthroat. I get it. Coaches and players need a thick skin to survive them. But there must be limits. Firing a coach as he's walking off the field doesn't just cross the line, it does a triple backflip over it. And it's a move that could come back to bite Arkansas in the future.

Chances are very, very good that there will be a slew of premier head coach openings this offseason. Three major programs - Florida, Nebraska and Tennessee - are searching for new coaches. For a program to stand out among the rest, it must offer something special.

Right now, the message at Arkansas is, "If you don't win enough, we'll have the press release of your firing ready to print before you even cross the threshold of your locker room. If that university wants a top-level replacement for Bielema, why on earth would a top-level candidate risk that type of treatment if there are other great jobs available? Image is everything, and this isn't a good one.

Let this be a lesson to athletic programs great and small: As much as you preach to your student-athletes that there's a right and wrong way to do everything in life, and to always travel the right path, make sure to follow your own advice.

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Copyright 2017 The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
All Rights Reserved

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

For months, Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin had a simple answer when asked about the naming rights deal for the new arena: Soon.

Soon is coming much later than expected for a deal that the Bucks believe is worth up to $200 million, will last 20 years and serve as the financial linchpin to the $524 million downtown arena project.

And it's clear that securing a naming rights partner is far more complicated than simply putting a local company's name in lights on the side of the building. It's evolved into an international effort that's banking on the NBA's exploding worldwide audience.

In the past several months, Feigin and the Bucks owners have done a reset in the high stakes search for what will be their most important business partner. The strategy change came after the team had several prospects close to signing, only to lose them at the 11th hour.

The Bucks brass has traveled overseas and cranked up the publicity machine to talk up the new arena, the team's growing popularity and the naming rights opportunity. They have made high-profile media appearances, such as on the internationally broadcast CNBC show "Squawk Box," and interviews with the BBC and Bloomberg News.

Initially, those appearances seemed aimed at sealing a deal with Foxconn, the Taiwanese company that's planning a massive technology campus in Racine County.

Feigin courted Foxconn executives with dinner meetings and appearances at every public event tied to the tech company's plans, including the signing of legislation with $3 billion in state incentives.

Foxconn, however, is no longer in the running for the arena name.

"We have talked to Foxconn in earnest," Feigin said in an Oct. 30 appearance on "Up Front with Mike Gousha."

"We will probably form a partnership, whether it is naming rights or not," he said.

That puts Foxconn in the same boat as key local businesses such as Johnson Controls, Harley-Davidson and BMO Harris, which are supporting the Bucks but not as naming rights partners.

"We have a lot of prospects that we're talking to," Feigin said Nov. 16 during a Milwaukee Press Club appearance. "They're very exciting deals. They're very complicated."

He underscored the complicated part.

"As soon as we get it, they're built into the infrastructure of the building," he said, noting that a lot of deals "have to do with technology, have to do with literal physical assets."

In an interview, Feigin said the Bucks were now focusing on international companies in the technology and insurance sectors. None are local companies, he said, declining to provide additional details.

Feigin calls the naming rights the "cornerstone" of the arena project.

"We're really looking for that most important partner. We're being very strategic," he said Nov. 16 on the Forbes Sports Money podcast.

Feigin and other team officials have said they are seeking $7 million to $10 million a year for up to 20 years. The most recent NBA naming rights deal came in 2015 when Golden 1 Credit Union agreed to a $120 million, 20-year deal with the Sacramento Kings.

By comparison, taxpayers are paying $250 million toward the arena project. And the team has a four-year, $100 million deal with its star player, Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Any money raised through the naming rights is budgeted the go toward arena operations, Feigin said. The team has promised not to hit up taxpayers for additional support.

Feigin admits that the long-term commitment could be daunting for some companies.

But the Bucks believe that the growing interest in the NBA will pay off for a sponsor, especially when it comes to reaching consumers in China.

"Basketball is the world's game," Feigin said Nov. 11 on the "Moose & Maggie Show" on CBS Sports Radio. "We haven't even scratched the surface."

He added: "Our goal is like constant growth. When you talk about a world population, it's almost limitless."

A recent home Bucks game broadcast online in China drew an audience in the millions, he notes as part of the naming rights sales pitch.

One expert, sports marketing economist Andrew Zimbalist of Smith College, thinks the Bucks' price is too high.

"Consumer demographics are shifting and media distribution is changing," Zimbalist said in an email. "Together, they appear to be lowering the returns on franchise-connected advertising."

He said it was more difficult for the Bucks because Milwaukee is in such a small market. "Twenty years at $7 to $10 million (a year) is simply too long and too rich," Zimbalist said.

Finding a naming rights partner is "a much longer process than I thought it was going to be," Feigin said on the Forbes program.

He said that it was "not a small market decision," because of the global reach of the NBA. Some 60% of the NBA's digital audience is from outside the U.S., he said.

"As time goes on, (the number of ) our media impressions go up, our value goes up," Feigin said.

The emphasis on digital international growth has paid off.

"We've pushed it, and it's been much more of a hook than we thought it would be," Feigin said in the interview.

There's also the question of what comes with the naming rights deal - beyond the name and a prime luxury suite.

"Almost every prospect has at least a half-dozen tentacles" that tie to various ways to promote the partner business, Feigin told Forbes.

Those include working the company's name into things like the Bucks' payment and Wi-Fi systems, and also "real estate prospects in the district we're building."

"It's not simple. It's all terrific," he said. "There are thousands of touch points in all of these deals."

Feigin concluded his Press Club comments saying: "My promise to my owners is very simple: We will have a great partner and a great deal worth waiting a couple of months longer than we would have wanted it to."

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Copyright 2017 The Post and Courier
All Rights Reserved

Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

Football has become almost synonymous with Thanksgiving. At some point this holiday weekend, we will hear discussions of a key player suffering a concussion and the dangers of head trauma in football.

Don't dismiss this as another column harping on the risks of football. In the spirit of the holiday, I want to express thanks to brain researchers around the country. This month alone has brought numerous scientific discoveries about concussions and CTE. The more we learn, the more informed our decisions as parents, coaches and athletes can be.

The first studies offer hope to current football players, athletes in other sports and members of the military regarding CTE. This is the degenerative brain condition believed to be caused by repetitive blows to the head over time. CTE presents with symptoms like memory loss, anger and mood swings. Athletes currently can only be diagnosed with CTE by autopsy after death.

Drs. Bennet Omalu and Julian Bailes and their team discovered CTE in a living player. Fred McNeill, a former Minnesota Vikings linebacker, was one of 14 living retired NFL players determined to have CTE through a special brain scan. McNeill's CTE was recently confirmed by autopsy after he died.

This new scan detects the presence of a protein, tau, in specific regions of the brain associated with CTE. Dr. Bailes told reporters he believes this discovery brings us closer to being able to diagnose players with CTE while they are still alive.

A few days later, Dr. Ann McKee and her team at Boston University announced a biomarker they believe is linked to CTE. They found significantly higher amounts of an inflammatory protein, CCL11, in the brains of deceased patients with CTE than in those without the condition. The more years a patient had played football, the higher the levels of CCL11 they found.

"Inflammation is normally a very helpful response in the brain, but when it goes on and persists for a long time, and gets out of control - that's what we think happens in CTE," McKee explained to reporters.

These are big steps to detecting this brain disease in athletes while they are still playing. Within a few years, we could be able to detect CTE, offer recommendations for retirement and even treat the condition.

Other studies this month provide helpful information for youth and high school athletes and their parents about concussions.

Researchers studied athletes between the ages of 13 and 18 treated for sport-related concussions. They performed computerized neurocognitive testing on the athletes, all of whom had said their symptoms were completely gone. Over 28 percent of them still had impairments on the computerized tests.

This study points to the value of baseline and post-injury computerized testing as part of the management of concussions. It also suggests we need to be extra cautious in returning an athlete to play as soon as he or she claims to be symptom-free.

As part of the treatment for concussions, most doctors prescribe a period of both physical and mental rest. Another study this month showed that after adolescent athletes were allowed to exercise, 12 percent of them showed a recurrence of symptoms. Athletes with a longer duration of symptoms and a previous undiagnosed concussion were more likely to experience a recurrence.

Studies like this one will help us tailor our return-to-play protocols to get athletes back to play as quickly as possible, but also as safely as possible.

Where will all this research lead? We will have to wait and see. It can only help us make better decisions. For all the talk of people trying to bring down the sport of football, I'm thankful this year for the concussion and CTE researchers trying to save the sport and the athletes who play it.

Dr. Geier is an orthopedic surgeon in Charleston and author of 'That's Gotta Hurt: The Injuries That Changed Sports Forever,' available in bookstores.

 

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

TROY — A proposal to buy a work-station treadmill to help interested Miami County 911 center telecommunicators get more physical activity during 10- to 12-hour shifts sparked discussions on employee wellness, liability and other issues.

In the end, the county Communication Center Board of Directors agreed Nov. 15 to recommend the purchase to the county commissioners if an outside funding source, such as a foundation, would pay for the treadmill. A LifeSpan Treadmill suggested by center Director Jeff Busch was listed at $1,399.

The cost of the treadmill was not a key issue in discussions.

Busch told the county commissioners during a presentation Nov. 15 that he thought the work-station treadmill would help employees who wanted to use it offset some of the effects of the sedentary nature of the telecommunicator job by allowing them to move more. The treadmill, which is designed to be quiet, also could help with stress, he said.

The unit would be placed at one of the dispatch center's work-stations and could be used by any employee who desired.

He emphasized the treadmill would be in a walking mode so that employees could answer the phone or radio. The dispatch area, which underwent renovation during the past year, includes desks that allow standing, if desired. Some employees already walk laps around work sessions during slow times and walk outside during breaks.

Busch said he knows of two dispatch centers in the state using the treadmills.

"After looking at the research, it is believed that adding work session exercise equipment would benefit employees by: helping them become healthier and more active, decreasing the number of sick days, increasing life expectancy, and decreasing the risk of several medical problems like heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity," Busch said in his request.

"I understand the concept, but there are safety issues I have from it," said Commissioner John "Bud" O'Brien. Commission President Jack Evans said he was concerned about liability to the county if someone would get hurt.

Concerns also were aired over buying one unit for the telecommunicators and then having other employees in public sector jobs asking for access to a treadmill unit.

Sheriff Dave Duchak, a center board member, said he had not heard of the work-station treadmills. He pointed out that the sheriff's office training center exercise equipment has been bought using grant or foundation dollars instead of taxpayer money.

"I don't have an issue with it if it is OK with CORSA (County Risk Sharing Authority). I would like to see it funded by outside money... that helps take away the 'me too' factor," Duchak said.

"I agree the concept is great," said Matt Simmons, Troy's fire chief and a board member. "But then you get into who buys them and for who all."

Contact this contributing writer at nancykburr@aol.com.

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

With 15 players, the North Dickinson Nordics are in their first season of eight-man football.

Teachers, timber truck drivers and lumber salesmen gather before sunrise at the Nordic Trading Post to sip black coffee and eat fried eggs alongside former miners who call themselves "semiretired," given that the mine was shuttered more than three decades ago. They wear Carhartt jackets and worn-in jeans, work boots and camouflage hats. Old lumber saws hang on the walls. "Fox & Friends" plays on a small television in the corner.

And because rifle season for white-tailed deer doesn't open for another month, the main topic of conversation is high school football. It's Senior Night, when North Dickinson County School will honor the team's four seniors, and while the ceremonial flourishes may distract from the central attraction of the game, these fathers and uncles - some grandfathers, too - promise to be there to watch it all, even if this season is a bit different.

North Dickinson County School, 254 students combined in grades K through 12 in one building, held on to football as most of the country knows it for years. But thanks to declining participation in an aging town, the Nordics will soon finish their first season of eight-player football in decades.

As the game of football faces challenges nationally - head injury concerns, rising costs, sport specialization - the effects are being felt first and most acutely in small towns such as this outpost in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

"Your football team is really on life support when you're on eight-man, because there's no place to go after eight-man," North Dickinson Athletic Director Michael Roell says. "We're hoping we can still have a football team for school pride, for homecoming, for all the things that should stay in high school."

The eight-man version of the game is played on a narrower field. Offenses typically eliminate two linemen and a fullback or tight end. Defenses drop two defensive backs and a lineman. The rules and fundamentals are mostly the same as the 11-player version; you still have to block and tackle.

Michigan has lost 57 11-man high school football teams in the past five years, but most, state officials say, moved to the eight-player ranks. The state has poured resources into creating separate junior varsity leagues, varsity conferences and playoffs for eight-player teams.

Proud football towns in the Upper Peninsula resisted the adapted version of the game as long as they could. Now they embrace it in much the same way residents did the Louisiana-Pacific lumber mill after the iron ore mine closed: with resignation over how times change and determination to preserve what matters most.

Shifting landscape

Michael Miller studies a geometry work sheet while bouncing his leg up and down and reaching for his right hip pocket as if his phone is soon to buzz. He is a senior guard and the Nordics' kicker, and he is waiting for the all-clear to play in his final home game.

A week ago, he left the second half of North Dickinson's loss to Superior Central because of a concussion. He looked ready to return for senior night, then took a turn midweek when he couldn't remember some of what showed up on the game film of Phillips High, this week's opponent.

North Dickinson's trainer is scheduled to make his final decision at 4 p.m., and then Coach Mike Christian will decide whether Miller should start in his final home game.

Miller's leg keeps bouncing. It is 8 a.m.

If he is able to play, Miller will replace his usual No. 50 jersey - maroon with plain white numbers, no logos or stripes - with a No. 35 to honor his father, a linebacker from the Nordics' Class of 1995, who has said he will be in the stands for his son's last home game.

Miller is expecting a girl from a town over to attend the game, too. Of course, none of it matters if he isn't able to play.

North Dickinson players, from left, Jacob Butterfield, Michael Miller and Matthew Bruette prepare for their game against Phillips High. North Dickinson made the state playoffs for 23 consecutive years, but eight-man football has its own calculus.

Down the hall, Christian, the coach and kindergarten teacher, is working with two dozen 5- and 6-year-olds on handwriting and sight reading. While students eat snacks or go outside for recess, the coach has taken to counting the number of boys in each class in the middle and elementary schools: seven in eighth grade, seven in seventh grade, but just three play sports.

His kindergarten class last year had 13 students and three boys. In 2015, he had 26 kids and four boys. This year's football team has just 15 players.

"It is a numbers game," he says.

Felch hasn't gotten smaller; since 1990, the town has had around 700 residents. But it has gotten older. High school graduates have left town, and they haven't come back. The median age is 42.7 years old, compared with 37.9 in the rest of the country, according to census data.

The bell rings, and it's time for Miller to take a bus to a nearby vocational school, where a third of the high school learns trade skills. Business is good in Felch for carpenters and plumbers and electricians, the men at Trading Post say. There are car repair shops in Iron Mountain, 30 miles south, that could use another mechanic.

But Miller wants to study computer science, and there's not much in Felch to accommodate that. Learning a trade could help, he reasons, if that goal doesn't pan out. He weaves through the middle school by hanging on the left side of the hallway, where the lockers go unused.

Practical problems

A quarter of the Nordics' football team is in Chris Mattson's 1 p.m. physics class on Fridays. Most players already have started their game preparation. They bob their heads as Mattson speaks, staring into empty space, filling the moments before class starts.

Mattson, the defensive coordinator, sketches a problem on the projector as the bell rings.

There is a 20-point white-tailed deer 400 yards away. The bullet from the rifle you are shooting travels 2,500 feet per second. The deer is running perpendicular to you at 20 miles per hour. How far in front of the deer do you have to shoot to kill it?

This is not a problem out of a textbook. It is a practical skill.

Defensive coordinator Chris Mattson draws up plays before the game. Eight-man football is played on a narrower field, though the rules are mostly the same.

North Dickinson thought it could be pretty good at eight-player football entering the season, but the new game has its own calculus. Christian began the season attempting to implement the run-heavy wing-T offense, which the Nordics have used for decades, but there were no offensive tackles to open up gaps. He tried throwing the ball but realized the field was too narrow for the Nordics' usual passing game.

The coaching staff revamped it all, but half the team had never played organized football before and needed more coaching on the fundamentals of blocking and tackling than on how to read a defense. In its first game, North Dickinson lost, 60-0, to Powers-North Central, a team coming off back-to-back eight-player state championships.

North Dickinson, which made the state playoffs for 23 years running from 1991 to 2013, realized it had work to do before it could become an eight-man competitor.

"Every week we learn something new," Christian says.

Fewer players on either side of the ball opens up broad swaths of space on the 100-yard (plus 10-yard end zones) by 40-yard field. Some states play instead on an 80-yard (plus 10-yard end zones) by 40-yard surface.

Eight-player football team enrollment is up 12 percent since 2009, according to data from the National Federation of State High School Associations, the national governing body of high school sports, as more states encounter declining football participation. Washington, Wisconsin and Hawaii have added eight-player football leagues since then.

Players and coaches from the Upper Peninsula still pine for the 11-man game, though. North Dickinson administrators waited until a large, talented senior class graduated in 2017 to change over.

"Nobody wanted to go, but nobody said anything bad about it," North Dickinson senior tight end Jared Miller says. "It was this or nothing. We only would have had eight players on varsity."

To hit that whitetail, Mattson solves, aim 14 feet ahead.

The next problem, calculating a football punt's hang time, will be on the upcoming test.

Michael Miller, back from vocational school, pops his head into the classroom.

"I'm clear," he shouts at Mattson.

"Good," Mattson shouts back. "Now get your mind right."

Game night

Jon Jungwirth, the school's athletic trainer, arrives at 3 p.m. to Mattson's physics room and cleans off a lab table with a bleach wipe. He unloads the contents of his morning shopping spree: whole wheat bread, peanut butter, strawberry jam, bananas, cheese sticks and mini Gatorades. Soon, the players are watching game film while munching PB&Js and downing bananas in three quick chomps.

In the locker room, they put in earphones and dress silently until it's time to pull those maroon jerseys over tight shoulder pads.

"Thirty-five?" defensive lineman Jacob Butterfield says as he helps Michael Miller with his gear.

"My dad is coming," Miller says. "He wore 35 in high school."

Jungwirth tapes ankles and wrists. Christian scribbles reminders on the whiteboard. Seated players bounce their legs up and down. Then, 30 cleats clack on tile floors as the Nordics rush out the door, around a corner, through an alleyway and toward the stadium.

When they reach the field, they hold hands in a circle and pray, then break into warm-ups that don't last very long.

The Nordics receive the ball to start the game, and on the first play from scrimmage, a Phillips defensive tackle bursts through their undersized offensive line and forces a fumble. The Loggers recover and score on the next play.

North Dickinson fires back. John Nelson, the senior quarterback, hits tight end Jared Miller on a deep play-action pass, then a rotation of running backs hammers away at the Loggers' defensive front. Nelson drops back on third and long and lobs another pass to Miller, who catches it in the end zone.

A substitute teacher in the stands rattles a cowbell as five cheerleaders sing the fight song in praise of "Nordic High."

But Phillips goes on a tear on offense and wins, 48-18. In its first season with eight-player football, North Dickinson won only one game. It will not make the playoffs.

Parents and classmates and girlfriends meet the teams' seniors on the field and take enough pictures and make postgame plans until they all smile again and trudge into the locker room cold and wet.

Michael Miller peels off his No. 35 uniform and stares at his phone in his locker.

His father did not make it to the game. He couldn't get off work.

The girl who came to see him had sent him a message on Snapchat from the stands.

He smirked and showered, then walked out of the locker room last.

There is only one business in Felch open late on Friday nights: a coffee shop named Alex's Place, in the back of an old church. Almost all of North Dickinson's senior class was waiting there, sipping hot chocolate and eating brownies and wondering what to do next.

The Washington Post

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Palm Beach Post (Florida)

 

When players and staff for the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals first arrived at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in February, they were asked to be patient: Their new $152 million shared spring training complex in West Palm Beach wasn't quite finished.

What they may not have known was that a lot of the work hadn't been done properly, the result of corners cut by work crews under extraordinary pressure to open on time, a Palm Beach Post review of internal emails, city inspection records and court documents found.

Although players and staff members never complained, at least not publicly, the shoddy work forced them to deal with a roster of minor inconveniences: large buckets strategically placed in the Astros clubhouse to collect water leaking from the newly installed roof and windows, pooling water from an improperly sloped shower, and ripples in the AstroTurf floor in the batting cages, to name a few.

In December, about two months before the first game, both teams briefly considered delaying the ballpark's opening until 2018 after West Palm Beach building inspectors flagged the concrete stadium seating bowl for failing to meet federal Americans with Disabilities Act specifications.

The ballpark wound up opening on time, with few, if any, visible signs of the hectic behind-the-scenes struggle to make that happen. And after more than 140,000 fans, many visiting from Houston and Washington, watched the ballpark's Grapefruit League games, the teams went on to have successful seasons -- the Astros won the World Series and the Nationals won a division title.

But with star players Jose Altuve, Bryce Harper and their teammates scheduled to return in three months, the ballpark still isn't finished. And the county and teams are losing patience as the lead general contractor, a joint venture led by Hunt Construction Group, scrambles to finish nearly $12 million in work.

That work includes repairs and remediation on 23 so-called "non-conformance" items that were done incorrectly or not according to the architect's plans -- from plugging roof leaks and replacing windows and drywall to fixing uneven floors and repainting areas that are rusting and flaking because the original application did not include primer.

At the same time, Hunt is fighting with the teams and many of its 35 subcontractors, some of them in court, over billing issues and delays that, according to Hunt, prompted some workers to walk off the job.

Now, it might be January before the city issues a final certificate of occupancy after having granted the teams a twice-extended temporary permit.

Get it done

To speed up completion, the Astros and Nationals in October started doing some work on their own, without using Hunt -- from ceiling work in the Nationals' executive offices to elevator finishes and repairs to the playing fields.

"We expected Hunt to be entirely completed with this project by now. You are not. Complete the project as contracted for. We have incurred enormous costs as a direct result," Marc Taylor, the project manager for the teams, told Hunt in a Sept. 15 letter about a payment dispute.

In its reply, Hunt accused the teams of "placing the project in serious jeopardy with the subcontractors" by delaying payments. The dispute is one of several that have dogged the project and created tension among the teams, the contractor and, at times, the county.

Hunt responded to questions with a short statement, issued to The Post through a public relations firm: "While the facility is already fully in use, the Hunt Straticon Messam Cooper joint venture has been meeting with the owners and is continuing to work with them to come to an agreement as quickly as possible on outstanding items."

The teams certainly hope so.

"We expected some problems," said Giles Kibbe, an Astros lawyer who has helped shepherd the project since its earliest days. "We had more than we expected, but we thought surely by now all of this would have been done and everyone would have been paid and we would all go our separate ways."

Schedule 'too tight'

Problems and delays are not uncommon in massive public projects involving dozens of subcontractors. That was the case with the county's $672 million waste-to-energy plant in 2015, the $127 million courthouse in 1995 and the $63 million Palm Beach International Airport terminal expansion in 1988.

At the ballpark, the pressure was on before work even started because of a protracted, politically charged site selection process that dragged into the spring of 2015. By then, the teams had decided to leave their previous spring homes after the 2016 Grapefruit League season.

That meant they needed to have a new home by February 2017 or face potentially expensive negotiations to extend their leases.

A three-person committee made up of representatives for the teams and the county chose Hunt to build the ballpark because of the company's track record with other stadiums, including Marlins Park in Miami and the Chicago Cubs spring training complex in Arizona.

"This is the company that is going to make it happen. This is the horse we are riding into the sunset," Arthur Fuccillo, a Nationals partner, said after the committee picked Hunt on March 30, 2015.

The county agreed to dole out $113 million in tourist-tax revenue to help finance construction over many years, along with a $50 million contribution from the state. The teams picked up the rest.

But work crews were under enormous pressure to start and complete the project in just 15 months.

"It was too tight," said County Administrator Verdenia Baker, whose staff voiced concern about the construction schedule before work started in November 2015.

"If you recall some of the discussion we had, our staff said, 'This is a really, really tight time frame you are trying to complete this project in,' and therein lie the problems."

And there were problems from the get-go because of the facility's location -- an abandoned landfill on 160 acres south of 45th Street and west of Interstate 95. Clearing the buried trash and debris and then preparing the land for construction took longer than expected, leaving about eight months to build the stadium and clubhouses.

Mistakes were made in the ensuing scramble, which included 20-hour work shifts over the final four months.

"During the course of this construction project, we have experienced significant issues with work that was not constructed in accordance with architectural plans and specifications. Most of those items have been corrected but many have not," HW Spring Training Complex, the entity representing the Astros and Nationals, said in a statement Monday to the County Commission.

Playing out in court

Along the way, Hunt was slow to process payments, the teams said, prompting complaints from many subcontractors, consultants and suppliers.

At least 10 lawsuits were filed against Hunt. Five have been withdrawn, but one of the pending suits includes a complaint by Davco Electrical of Boynton Beach seeking $7 million in unpaid billings from a $10.2 million contract with Hunt.

"Hunt's failure to properly manage other subcontractors caused the project to fall significantly behind schedule," according to a lawsuit Davco filed June 15. Davco claims it was forced to start its work "months after its original start date. As a result, Hunt ordered Davco to work significant overtime and additional shift work on the project to perform the work on an accelerated schedule."

Davco also accused Hunt of making the company "perform out of sequence work, knowing that subsequent work by other trades would cause damage to Davco's work, which resulted in Davco needing to duplicate previous efforts."

Hunt, in a response filed in October, denied the allegations. The company also accused Davco of using "unlicensed temporary agents and/or employees" and submitting payment invoices with inflated charges.

Davco representatives did not return messages seeking comment.

'Shoddy work' alleged

Hunt filed one lawsuit against its window subcontractor, A Christian Glass & Mirror of Delray Beach, accusing the company of shoddy work. A Christian Glass and a lawyer representing the company did not return messages seeking comment.

A consultant hired by Hunt to review the glass work found 11 deficiencies, including glass and frames that didn't fit and pinholes in sealants. Hunt said it had to fire A Christian Glass and hire a new company to install the windows. The work is almost finished.

Other problems at the complex were flagged by city inspectors, including stair risers on several aisles along the first base side of the stadium's concrete seating bowl that were either too steep or too narrow.

"They did not meet ADA requirements," said Rick Greene, the city's development services director. "We identified certain areas in the stadium where they actually had to saw-cut and basically cut out the steps and repour them to make sure they met the proper grade."

Roof leaks, many caused by sharp objects and debris, are still being fixed. During a heavy rainstorm one day in April or May, the Astros' clubhouse took in water from above and below: A faulty connection in a drainage pipe sent gallons of storm water gushing out of the floor drains, forcing the Astros to replace the carpet.

Who's to blame?

Invoices from subcontractors received intense scrutiny from Hunt and the teams. But both sides accused each other of delaying the payment process, and many subcontractors complained about being caught in the middle.

In a letter to HW Spring Training on Sept. 15, Hunt summarized some of the consequences of what it claimed were the "significant modifications" made by the teams to payment invoices. Since some subs hadn't been paid for work performed more than five months ago, they have either left the job site or taken legal action against Hunt, a vice president of the joint venture wrote.

"This has made completing the project difficult, at best," Doug Utt wrote. "In fact, Hunt has had to advance more than $2 million in payments to subcontractors and suppliers to date to keep the project afloat and deter further litigation."

The teams previously told The Post they blame Hunt. "The continued failures of HSMC to provide correct, timely and completed pay applications has plagued this job from the very beginning," Taylor wrote to Utt on May 1.

After the Astros won the World Series on Nov. 1, some frustrated subcontractors reached out to The Post to complain that they still hadn't been paid for work done nearly a year ago.

Astros officials took issue with the comments, saying the team can't directly pay the subs because the teams have no contractual relationships with them. The subs work under contracts with Hunt.

In its letter to the county written in response to The Post's story, the teams said they are obligated to scrutinize all payment applications to make sure tax dollars are not spent on substandard work.

"We take our obligations to the county very seriously and we are comfortable in how we have managed those responsibilities," the teams said.

"Although this has been a difficult project... Palm Beach County will be very proud of the work product and will also be proud to be home of the best spring training complex in the state of Florida."

County staff members have been encouraging Hunt and the teams to work out their differences.

"We'd like to get it cleaned up once and for all and finalize things and move on," Baker said, "because we are about to roll into new spring training season and this is the last cloud you want over your head."

jcapozzi@pbpost.com Twitter: @jcapozzipbpost

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Palm Beach Post (Florida)

 

A new city park at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches is expected to open during spring training -- about a year late.

The 12-acre park will be called Lincoln Park, a tribute to a now-defunct Negro Leagues field in the north end of the city that in the 1940 and '50s hosted Jackie Robinson, Josh Gibson and other stars.

The public park, paid for by the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros, will feature lighted basketball courts, a playground, splash pad, exercise equipment and roofed pavilions with charcoal grills. It also has a jogging trail and benches overlooking a man-made lake and, in the far distance, the ballpark's main stadium.

The south end of the park abuts a grassy strip along a canal that is used for soccer fields and overflow parking for spring training games.

The teams haven't released the cost of the park but have said it will be several million dollars.

The park's original opening was supposed to coincide with the opening in February of The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, the $152 million spring training home shared by the Astros and Nationals.

But construction delays at the ballpark wound up pushing back development of the city park, which was a key component in spring training negotiations between the teams, the city and Palm Beach County. The entire 160-acre site at one time had been proposed to be a regional city park.

"That (12-acre park) was a bone of contention with the contractor but we are hopeful to have that open during the spring training season," said Rick Greene, the city's development services director.

"It got delayed but it is moving forward now. It's about 90 percent complete."

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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

The Redskins made clear their position on the playing surface at FedEx Field: that it "was in good condition" Thanksgiving night, despite "a recent freeze (that) made the Bermuda grass turn brown between the numbers," and that its condition was "a non-issue."

And that position seems at least slightly at odds with the opinion of quarterback Kirk Cousins, who discussed the field at length during a weekly radio appearance.

"Yeah, it probably doesn't look like a professional NFL field should, first of all," Cousins said Friday. "Second of all, I watched last year's game at the end of the season and had forgotten how many times running backs, receivers, people had slipped while playing. You know, I don't know if we need to get longer cleats on or what it is. But if you think the field is rough now on Thanksgiving, we've got two more home games in mid-to-late December, and that's probably gonna be a bigger challenge.

"So it is what it is," Cousins went on. "I don't know why it is that way or what causes it. I've kind of learned to just accept it and understand it as a part of the deal: that playing here the field just has never been that great in the second half of the season for whatever reason. I remember even going back to the playoff game my rookie year (in 2012), that it just gets in rough shape as the year goes on. We've got to control what we can control, which is put on the right set of cleats or have good footing, but we can't use it as an excuse. There's too many times where we have crucial plays where we have to have better footing, because it can be the difference in a win or a loss, or in staying on the field or punting, when a guy slips and we don't make the play."

That actually happened in 2013 against the Cowboys, when cornerback Josh Wilson slipped while attempting to cover a deep route.

"It wasn't that he just went out there and got beat," Brian Mitchell said at the time. "He slipped on the field, and I think that is a problem. And we're still discussing a terrible playing surface, after all these years of this team. You need to make sure that the surface is the absolute best for the team. When it rains, it's terrible; when it's dry, they're still slipping. You can't have that problem at this level."

Former receiver Pierre Garcon mentioned this issue in the past - he called the playing surface "pretty nasty" in 2012 - and longtime Redskins receiver Santana Moss discussed the problem Thursday night on NBC Sports Washington.

"I've been playing on that field since '05 to 2014, and the trick that we always used - it wasn't a trick, it was the best way for you to go out there and be productive - is we put the long screw-in (cleats) in around the winter," Moss said. "When it gets cold and gets sleek out there and you got the weather change, you've got to put the long screw-ins in. One of the things that Mr. Snyder had done for so many years was go out and buy a new field. He would bring new grass in. He would try to make it a home-field advantage when it comes to footing and make it better for us. But it just seemed to never catch the right way."

Which doesn't mean that there's some consensus that an artificial surface would be better.

"It almost looks like packed soil, didn't it?" Hall of Famer John Riggins said on radio Friday morning. "It looked like it could be a little better. Let me say this: regardless, what they've got out there is better than artificial turf. You'll never have me say you know what, they ought to go to a turf field. You just won't ever hear it come out of my (mouth). I hated turf. Hated it then, hate it now. I just like to see it played on some kind of natural surface. I don't care if it's mud. Give me mud, but don't give me turf."

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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

 

Construction crews have spent most of the year converting what was once an automotive repair shop at Westlake Towne Center at Smith Mountain Lake into a state-of-the-art fitness facility.

Targeted for clients age 15 and older, Carilion Wellness Westlake is set to open Friday. Among the amenities will be cardio and strength-training exercise equipment, an indoor pool for aerobics and lap swimming, a warm-water therapy pool, six outdoor pickleball courts and a virtual golf simulator.

"We want to give you strength to do what you do on a daily basis — climbing steps, lifting the grandkids, swinging the golf club," said Bud Grey, vice president of Carilion Wellness.

The 18,000-square-foot facility is a partnership between Runk & Pratt Senior Living Communities and Carilion Wellness, an affiliate of the nonprofit Carilion Clinic.

Since Runk & Pratt opened its Smith Mountain Lake retirement community nine years ago, a pool where residents could exercise was always in the plans, said CEO Brian Runk.

At the same time, Carilion was looking to increase its wellness footprint in Franklin County. "It was like the planets were aligning," Grey said.

In 2015, Runk & Pratt bought the 10,000-square-foot building that was once Town Center Complete Automotive for $750,000, Franklin County real estate records show.

Construction crews added 8,000 square feet to accommodate two indoor pools and a hot tub.

Carilion plans to lease the building from Runk & Pratt, which is footing the more than $3.5 million price tag for construction, Runk said. This will be the fifth location for Carilion Wellness; others are in Roanoke County, downtown Roanoke, Botetourt County and Blacksburg.

Treadmills, stationary bikes and handicapped-accessible cardio equipment, such as recumbent ellipticals and lateral stability trainers, are available for all activity levels, said Katie Tate, Carilion Wellness Westlake's director of operations.

A separate area features pneumatic resistance machines.

"You can make a lap through this equipment and get a full-body workout," Tate said.

There's also a functional training area with kettlebells, medicine balls and cable machines.

A variety of instructor-led group exercise classes will be available, as well as virtual on-demand classes. "That allows us to have a fairly robust offering right out of the gate," Grey said.

Membership pricing starts at $50 per month for an individual and $80 for a household.

Every Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m., the facility will be open to all ages, Tate said — "So grandparents can bring their grandkids."

While many of the amenities will be for members only, other activities, including nutritional counseling, vaccinations, wellness screenings and health talks, will be open to the community. An on-site cafe will serve healthy snacks.

"It's going to be a lot more than a fitness center," Grey said. "We want it to be a gathering place for the community. People can come mingle and hang out there together."

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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

Shelby County Schools announced on Tuesday that it filed a lawsuit against the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association on behalf of East High, seeking to overturn a ruling that declared basketball players Ryan Boyce and James Wiseman ineligible for the 2017-18 season.

According to an SCS news release, the petition seeks a temporary restraining order "in order to preserve the privileges and rights of East High School and its students." The release referred to the students as R.B. and J.W.

The release did not state where the suit was filed.

"TSSAA has continued an unlawful practice of acting arbitrarily and capricious and behind close doors," SCS general counsel Rodney G. Moore said. "These secret TSSAA meetings, that rely almost exclusively on rumor and innuendo, deprive schools, students and their families of basic fairness."

On Monday, the state's governing body for high school athletics denied an appeal that deemed the players ineligible due to a violation of the state's "prior link" coaching rule.

Boyce, who has signed with UAB, and Wiseman, one of the top national prospects in the class of 2019, transferred to East after playing for the Team Penny program over the summer.

Team Penny was founded by Penny Hardaway, who is East's head coach. The 6-5 Boyce played at Houston last year while the 6-11 Wiseman transferred in from Ensworth.

"I have serious concerns about the ruling, the precedent it sets and the unfettered discretion that the TSSAA has over students and their futures," SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson said.

"In light of these concerns, we will ask the court to overturn the TSSAA's decision and operate under clear rules that protect our students."

TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said he had not seen the suit and had no comment.

Reach John Varlas at john.varlas @commercialappeal.com or on Twitter @johnvarlas.

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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

OXFORD — Mississippi State's involvement in the NCAA's investigation into Ole Miss' football program has been a talking point for a while in this state.

Of course, a spotlight will be placed on Mississippi State linebacker Leo Lewis, who was granted limited immunity by the NCAA's enforcement staff and testified in Ole Miss' Committee on Infractions hearing, when the two teams meet this week.

The media provided Ole Miss players and coaches with the opportunity to talk about MSU and the NCAA this week, but nobody bit the storyline bait as the Rebels prepare to face the 16th-ranked Bulldogs in Thursday night's Egg Bowl (6:30 p.m., ESPN).

"I think what the players are focused on is winning a football game. That's what you have to focus on, winning the game." Matt Luke said. "Allegations, none of that stuff (impacts) what happens Thursday night. Our 100 percent focus is going to be on the game and try and go get a win."

Lewis is connected to multiple Level I violations in Ole Miss' case. Lewis and his Mississippi State teammate Kobe Jones' statements to the enforcement staff led Rebel Rags, an Oxford-based retail store, to file a lawsuit against them for defamation in June.

"I haven't heard much about it or try to hear about it," said defensive lineman Breeland Speaks.

Offensive lineman Javon Patterson will likely mix it up with Lewis a few times on Thursday night but didn't say MSU's involvement in the NCAA case would add any extra animosity.

"Nah, we're in the SEC," Patterson said. "We're trying to play an SEC game this week and that's what's at stake."

Ole Miss completed its Committee on Infractions hearing on Sept. 12, but it's still awaiting a decision from the committee.

It forfeited its postseason eligibility in light of the Notice of Allegations it received in February. In its response to those allegations, Ole Miss tried to poke holes in Lewis' credibility.

When asked if there's more pressure on Ole Miss' coaching staff to win Thursday because of all that's transpired, Luke said: "If you're a coach at Ole Miss, there's always pressure to go win this game no matter what. It's always one of the biggest games of the season and you have to treat it that way."

While players and coaches may downplay it, the storyline is one aspect of the already raging inferno that is the Egg Bowl rivalry.

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The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

After coming under fire for victim-shaming one of her fellow gymnasts, Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas revealed Tuesday that she, too, was abused by disgraced U.S. gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

In a lengthy statement posted to Instagram, Douglas, who grew up in Virginia Beach, apologized to her teammate Aly Raisman for suggesting last week that she perhaps wouldn't have been abused by Nassar if she didn't dress in a "provocative" way.

Then, Douglas said she also endured Nassar's abuse.

"I didn't publicly share my experiences as well as many other things because for years we were conditioned to stay silent and honestly some things were extremely painful," Douglas, 21, wrote.

Douglas said no one has the right to "harass or abuse" women, no matter what they're wearing.

"It would be like saying that because of the leotards we wore, it was our fault that we were abused by Larry Nassar," she added.

Douglas didn't go into detail about the abuse Nassar allegedly subjected her to and asked for compassion from her fans.

"I understand that many of you didn't know what I was dealing with, but it is important to me that you at least know this," she wrote.

Douglas is the third member of the 2012 Olympic gold medal team to accuse Nassar of abuse.

Raisman, 23, revealed last week that Nassar touched her inappropriately during a number of treatment sessions, starting when she was in her teens. Her teammate McKayla Maroney said last month that Nassar molested her for several years, beginning when she was just 13.

Nassar, 54, is currently in a Michigan jail, accused of molesting several girls while working for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University. He's facing similar charges in a neighboring Michigan county and lawsuits filed by more than 125 women and girls.

The girls have testified that Nassar molested them with his hands, sometimes when a parent was present in the room, while they sought help for gymnastics injuries.

"He convinced these girls that this was some type of legitimate treatment," Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis told a judge last summer. "Why would they question him? Why would they question this gymnastics god?"

Nassar will plead guilty to multiple charges of sexual assault and face at least 25 years in prison, a person with knowledge of the agreement said Tuesday.

The person was not authorized to publicly discuss the agreement ahead of a court hearing today for Nassar in Michigan's Ingham County and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

USA Gymnastics launched an independent review of its policies in the wake of the allegations against Nassar. In June, the gymnastics board adopted the new USA Gymnastics Safe Sport Policy that replaced the previous policy. Key updates include mandatory reporting, defining six types of misconduct, setting standards to prohibit grooming behavior, preventing inappropriate interaction and establishing accountability.

The organization also hired Kerry Perry as the organization's new president and CEO. Perry replaces Steve Penny, who resigned under pressure in March.

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Anderson Independent-Mail (South Carolina)

 

A Hanna High School basketball player collapsed and apparently went into cardiac arrest at a game Monday evening but was revived by an athletic trainer who used a defibrillator, according to school officials.

The quick response by trainer Caleb Pate and two others likely saved the life of 16-year-old Clayton Pendergrass, said John Cann, Hanna's athletic director.

"The team we had there - it was a miracle," Cann said.

"We all say God had his hand in them being there."

The incident unfolded at about 7 p.m. in the second quarter of a scrimmage between Hanna and Palmetto High School at the Hanna basketball court, District 5 officials said.

Pendergrass, a 6-foot-2 sophomore who had been playing in the game, approached Pate and complained of not feeling well.

"He (Pendergrass) sat down on the bench and collapsed and fell backwards," Cann said.

It appeared that Pendergrass' heart had stopped.

"From everything I understand, he had gone into full cardiac arrest and stopped breathing," said John Crosby, with PlaySafe, which employs the athletic trainers in Anderson.

Pate, the trainer, immediately began CPR on Pendergrass.

An off-duty AnMed nurse attending the game also assisted with CPR.

Pate ran to get a defibrillator and, as the crowd looked on, shocked the student twice.

"Caleb hooked him up on the AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) to restart his heart," Crosby said. "The AED automatically detects the heart rate and rhythm and whether it's necessary to shock."

School officials had called an ambulance but before it arrived, an Oconee County fire chief who was on his way home brought some breathing equipment, Cann said.

Pate, the nurse and fire chief are local heroes, Cann said.

"They saved his life," Cann said. "It was incredible."

Pendergrass was taken to AnMed hospital and later to Greenville Memorial Hospital, Cann said.

Greenville Memorial staff on Tuesday afternoon said that Pendergrass was in good condition.

"He was stable and talking and everything appeared to be OK," Cann said. "We're just thankful he's OK. He's an outstanding young man. It was a shock to see that take place but everything worked like it was supposed to. I'm very proud of how my staff reacted."

Cann said Pendergrass did not have previous health problems.

"He had never had an issue," Cann said. "He played football and basketball for us last year. His whole family is extremely athletic. He's a healthy 16-year-old kid, a fine young man."

Paul Hyde covers education and everything else under the South Carolina sun. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.

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Ventura County Star (California)

 

Due to annual operating losses of about $100,000, the Miller Family YMCA in the Dos Vientos section of Newbury Park is closing after 10 years on Dec. 31, a YMCA official has announced in a letter to members.

Members will be able to transfer their memberships to the Conejo Valley or Simi Valley YMCAs, effective Jan. 1, Ronnie Stone, president and CEO of nonprofit Southeast Ventura County YMCA, wrote in the letter.

"For 10 years, the Miller Y has helped many individuals and families invest in their health and well-being," Stone wrote. "Unfortunately, the facility has incurred sizable operating losses averaging $100,000 annually. Given current economic conditions and our financial commitments, we are unfortunately no longer able to operate with these losses."

Stone wrote that "as a cause-driven nonprofit, we have a responsibility to monitor the financial sustainability of all of our operations to ensure long-term fiscal health. As conditions in our communities change, we have to be willing to adjust to remain relevant."

Stone wrote that the tough decision to close the facility at 320 Via Las Brisas followed a thorough review of its long-term financial health by a staff and volunteer task force that was formed more than a year ago.

"As with any comprehensive review, there were many elements to consider," he wrote. "After several months of exploring all possible options, including partnerships in both the private and public sectors, we have made the difficult decision to close the facility and to focus on serving Dos Vientos through our Conejo Valley YMCA and soon our (planned) new Triunfo YMCA."

Stone said in an interview Monday that the Miller Family YMCA facility, which the Southeast Ventura County YMCA owns, has been put up for sale and is in escrow. He declined to discuss the potential sale in any further detail. The asking price for the facility is $3.85 million, according to real estate websites.

Stone said the facility's paying memberships, the majority of which were from the immediate Dos Vientos area only, had dropped from a high of 1,400 four to five years ago to less than 1,000 currently.

He attributed the losses primarily to members joining a nearby Fitness 19 gym, which opened several years ago.

"We had about 1,400 memberships the day Fitness 19 opened, and over the course of the next several months, we were down to under 1,000," he said.

Another factor in the Miller Family YMCA not being able to attract more members is that biotech giant Amgen, many of whose employees live in Dos Vientos, has its own gym on the company's nearby campus, Stone said.

Despite the pending closure of the facility, "we will continue to provide quality care for hundreds of children (in the Dos Vientos area) through our programs (at other area YMCAs) such as day camp, youth and government, youth sports and more," Stone wrote in the letter.

"The Y's not going away," he said in the interview. "We're just getting out of the building."

Final monthly membership dues will be drawn Dec. 1, Stone wrote in his letter. Members who have pre-paid for a year will receive a pro-rated amount of their fees either credited to their credit/debit cards on file or via check in January, he wrote.

Members who choose not to join the Conejo Valley or Simi Valley YMCAs, will have their memberships automatically canceled, he wrote.

The Conejo Valley YMCA is at 4031 N. Moorpark Road in Thousand Oaks. The Simi Valley YMCA is at 3200 Cochran St.

The $54 million Triunfo YMCA is planned for 31225 La Baya Drive in Westlake Village.

Stone said he expects construction to begin in the first quarter of 2018 and the facility to open by the end of 2018. He said the project recently received a "significant contribution" as part of its ongoing fundraising campaign. Details of the contribution will be released later this week or next, he said.

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Copyright 2017 The Columbus Dispatch
All Rights Reserved

The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

 

The president and CEO of the Columbus Foundation is pitching a Downtown site for a 21,000-seat soccer stadium aimed at keeping Crew SC in Columbus.

The proposal by Doug Kridler places the new stadium between North 5th and 6th streets just north of Mount Vernon Avenue, near the BalletMet building. The site, just south of I-670, is a parking lot now owned by Abbott Manufacturing (Abbott Laboratories).

Kridler had not talked yet with civic and business leaders about the idea. He said the unveiling of his proposal was timed to correspond with Tuesday's MLS playoff game at Mapfre Stadium between the Crew and Toronto FC. He hopes it will spark conversation and show local people, Crew management and and the national media that the city isn't giving up.

But questions and reservations quickly emerged. Franklin County Commissioner John O'Grady said commissioners would not consider extending part of a temporary county sales tax to help pay for the proposal, one of Kridler's ideas.

Also, is the site big enough? Mapfre Stadium sits on 15 acres, not including parking. According to the Franklin County auditor's website, it appears the site Kridler is eyeing is roughly 17 acres.

Here's how Kridler would pay for it: He proposes that the Columbus Downtown Development Corp. purchase a 6-month option on the site for $500,000. The Columbus Foundation would consider a grant to the development corporation to cover the cost.

Whether or not the land is purchased, at the end of six months, Abbott would donate half the option price to the nutrition program at Columbus State's new culinary school.

During the option period:

* Franklin County would consider allocating one-half of the quarter-cent sales tax set to expire on Jan. 1, 2019, for a period of three years -- which O'Grady said won't fly.

* The city of Columbus would consider a funding mechanism to build structured parking and other site improvements.

* The state would appropriate $5 million for a new home at the stadium site for the Columbus Children's Theater.

* BrewDog brewery, a #SaveTheCrew supporter, would lead a crowdfunding campaign to purchase 10 percent of the team.

* Precourt Sports Ventures, which owns the team, would commit to cover the cost of the stadium not covered by the one-eighth of a penny sales tax over three years. Based on what the county has said that tax now raises, it would generate about $90 million for the stadium. Kridler also wants the business community to boost season-ticket sales by 4,000 by 2020. Season-ticket sales run at about 10,000 now.

"While this has not been vetted, or run through the traps, hopefully this will allow the national media to say, 'Well, there are ideas floating out there... ideas that have some merit," Kridler said.

"It is helpful to use our most-creative selves to seeking solutions to complex problems," he said.

In his pitch, Kridler proposes linking the new stadium with the Greater Columbus Convention Center, Nationwide Arena and Huntington Park stadium along Mount Vernon Avenue and Nationwide Boulevard on what he would call the Avenue of Champions. The area around the proposed site is an up-and-coming area with new development that includes restaurants, a brewery and housing.

On Oct. 17, Precourt Sports Ventures announced that it would consider relocating the team to Austin, Texas, after the 2018 season if a Downtown stadium is not built in Columbus.

Last Wednesday, Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther and Columbus Partnership CEO Alex Fischer went to New York to meet with Columbus Crew SC operator-investor Anthony Precourt and MLS Commissioner Don Garber to see what could be done to keep the Crew in Columbus.

After the meeting, a statement from Precourt Sports Ventures said there was a lack of an "actionable plan and a legitimate offer" from Ginther and Fischer to keep the Crew in Columbus for the long term. It also said the city would not communicate with the ownership group beyond Nov. 15.

Fischer would not comment Monday on Kridler's ideas, nor would Columbus Development Director Steve Schoeny.

Robin Davis, a spokeswoman for Ginther, said the mayor is willing and able to explore opportunities. "But MLS and Mr. Precourt are not willing to enter negotiations like that," she said.

Columbus City Council President Zach Klein said he expects Kridler's proposal to spark discussion.

"The city stands ready to do everything reasonably possible to support them and the Crew," Klein said.

But O'Grady said that if Kridler had spoken to anyone at the county, he would have discovered the sales tax idea "is not a possibility" because of other commitments to the community.

Precourt Sports Ventures responded to the Kridler proposal in a statement issued by a spokesperson and provided to The Dispatch through Tim Miller, director of communications for the Crew: "As Precourt Sports Ventures noted in its statement following a meeting in New York City on November 15, Columbus Crew SC is focused on its quest to win MLS Cup but PSV remains open to productive dialogue."

Precourt and Garber have cited weak attendance, a lack of corporate support and an aging Mapfre Stadium as reasons to move the team.

The Crew plays Toronto FC at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Mapfre Stadium in the first leg of the Eastern Conference finals. The game is sold out.

mferench@dispatch.com

@MarkFerenchik

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Copyright 2017 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

The landscape of high school basketball in Utah has changed — some think for the better, some for the worse.

Regardless of the opinions, the 2017-2018 season tips off this week with a sixth classification for the first time in state history with the latest round of UHSAA realignment.

The state's top two classifications (6A, 5A) won't see too much impact from the extra classification, but the bottom four most definitely will.

Here's a class-by-class look at the upcoming season and what to expect from the primary contenders:

Class 6A

If the coaches' preseason rankings are any indicator, the focus in the revamped 6A classification will be on Region 4.

The preseason top four all hail from Region 4 — Lone Peak, Pleasant Grove, Bingham and American Fork — with Davis from Region 1 checking in at No. 5.

There's a ton of returning experience on those Region 4 teams as well. Top-ranked Lone Peak returns four starters from last year's team, including all-state point guard Steven Ashworth, who averaged 13.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 6.9 assists last year.

"We have a really fun group coming back this year, very unselfish and hard-nosed. We are excited about this upcoming season," said Lone Peak coach David Evans.

Second-ranked Pleasant Grove returns three starters, including 7-foot-3 junior center Matt Van Komen, who should be a double-double machine this season.

American Fork took some lumps last year with a young team, but it returns four starters this season and will be a very difficult matchup for everyone.

The team in the preseason top five with the most question marks is defending champ and third-ranked Bingham, which returns just two starters.

"We are very excited about the upcoming season. We have a lot of uncertainty going into this year. I am really excited to see what this team can become. We have an extremely tough schedule and a brutal region to play in, but I know our guys will be ready to compete," said Bingham coach Jake Schroeder.

After the top four, there's quite a lot of uncertainty in Class 6A. Davis and Layton appear to be the class of Region 1, with both returning over half of their starters from last season.

"We will be tested early with one of the toughest preseason schedules in the state. If we can get guys healthy from off-season surgeries, this team should make some noise in region and in the state tournament," said Layton coach Kelby Miller.

Region 2 features three teams that were in Class 4A last season, with Kearns and Hillcrest likely the primary contenders for the region title.

In Region 3, most of the teams were very senior-laden last season, and how quickly the newcomers adjust to their new roles will determine whether any of those teams can compete with the front-runners in Region 4. Copper Hills and West Jordan should be the front-runners, as they were the only teams from the region who participated in last year's playoffs.

Class 5A

Four different teams received first-place votes in the 5A preseason rankings, but it's no surprise Olympus headlines that list with two returning starters who averaged in double figures last season.

Juniors Rylan Jones (14.1 points per game) and Jeremy DowDell (14.4 ppg) are both returning starters for the top-ranked Titans — who lost a heartbreaker to Springville in last year's thrilling 4A title game.

"We have a good returning group of players. Going to be small, so going to have to really defend and rebound. If we share the ball and play the right way, we have a chance to compete every night. Should be a fun team to watch play," said Olympus coach Matt Barnes.

Others who received first-place votes were Corner Canyon, Timpview and Springville, with Timpanogos rounding out the preseason top five.

Defending champ Springville has only one starter back from last season, Ben Schreiner, and definitely faces some new challenges this year.

"We are excited about this year's group. We'll be very different on offense but hope to bring the toughness and defense that Springville is known for," said coach Justin Snell.

En route to last year's title game, Olympus beat Corner Canyon in the semifinals and Timpanogos in the quarterfinals, and both those teams return three starters and seem poised for great seasons.

Corner Canyon is led by Josh Christensen (11.1 ppg) and Ammon Jensen (10.2), two senior guards who will be the focal point of the Chargers' game-plan each night.

Timpanogos' trio of Matt Norman, Derik Eaquinto and Tyler Walker combined to average 27 points last year, and figure to be even stronger this year.

"I'm really excited about our team this season. We return some of our key players from last year's team that won 20 games," said Timpanogos coach Izzy Ingle. "We have some really good underclassmen who will get a lot of experience early in the year. If our younger guys can develop the way we think they can, we could have a really strong chance to compete for a region championship again."

After the preseason top five, there are numerous other quality teams who hope to be in the mix in late February, teams like Bountiful and Viewmont in Region 5, East and Highland in Region 6, Alta, Brighton and Jordan in Region 7 and Maple Mountain and Wasatch in Region 8.

Class 4A

Realignment's biggest impact could be felt in 4A this season, as three of the top five preseason teams all competed in higher classifications last year.

Top-ranked Orem was in the previous 4A ranks last year, while fourth-ranked Sky View and fifth-ranked Lehi were both in 5A.

Orem and its five returning starters are the front-runner everyone must deal with.

"We have a lot of experience and points coming back this year with 55 points per game returning. We can play big or small ball. With Puka (Nacua) and Ross (Reeves), our leadership and skill are at a high level," said Orem coach Golden Holt. "We have a strong preseason schedule to give our team a great challenge every night."

Orem will face plenty of competition within its own region, as Lehi returns three starters and plenty of big-game experience competing in Region 4 a year ago.

Sky View went 19-4 in Region 1 last year in 5A, but coach Kirk Hillyard only has one starter returning and has some holes to fill heading into the revamped Region 12.

"Sky View is coming to a new classification and a new region that will be challenging every evening. It will be a rival game every night in region. We do not have a lot of experience but have some high-character guys that will compete every night," said Hillyard.

Logan returns four starters and will be one of the primary contenders in Region 12, while defending state champ Ridgeline has just one starter back and limited expectations.

Juan Diego lost to Ridgeline in last year's state championship game, and the Soaring Eagle begin the season ranked No. 2 in the new 4A with two quality returning starters, Jason Ricketts and Matt Kitzman.

Dixie and Desert Hills are traditionally the front-runners in Region 9, but neither has a returning starter as both squads have a lot of work to this preseason.

"This will be a fun year. It will especially be fun as we move into the 4A classification. It is always exciting to see how the players come together and compete every day," said coach Ryan Cuff.

Class 3A

The revamped 3A classification is a mix of teams who were in 4A, 3A and 2A last season, and not one is a defending state champion.

South Sevier reached the quarterfinals a year ago in 2A and, with three returning starters, it begins the season as the preseason No. 1 in 3A.

Caleb Barton (15.3 ppg), Brodee Tebbs (10.2 ppg) and Tyson Chisholm (9.9 ppg) give the Rams plenty of scoring this year.

"We have a great deal of improvement to make as we start the season. Hopefully we can share the ball and play hard and have fun. We have quite a bit of potential as a team. We will see how well we can improve," said South Sevier coach Rhet Parsons. "We hope to be competitive late in the season. Our region is going to be a very tough region. Every region game will be tough."

Emery should give South Sevier its biggest challenge in Region 15.

Region 13 figures to be the strongest region in 3A, with the other four teams all coming from Region 13 — Summit Academy, Judge Memorial, Morgan and Grantsville.

No. 2 Summit Academy was a semifinalist in 2A last year, while No. 3 Judge missed the playoffs in 4A. Judge coach Tim Gardner likes the squad he has coming back, though.

"We have a hungry group this year and look forward to seeing our improvement over the course of the year," said Gardner.

No. 4 Morgan and No. 5 Grantsville both return two starters, and Morgan should make some noise after a couple of down seasons for the Trojans.

"We have some returning players that have put in a ton of work and some younger players that have the potential to really contribute. Every team in our region is tough so we will need to bring our A game each and every night," said Morgan coach Brad Matthews.

Class 2A

Defending state champion Layton Christian received every first-place vote in 2A this year and is the clear front-runner as the season begins. It is led by Sano Gasana, a junior forward who averaged 5.8 ppg last year.

Last year's 2A runner-up, Waterford, has zero returning starters but expectations are high as it begins the preseason ranked fifth in 2A.

"Replacing a group of eight seniors who led the program to a region title and an appearance in the championship game last season will be a tough task for the Ravens, but the program is full of dedicated, hard-working athletes who are ready for their turn to lead the program," said coach Ryan Judd.

Leading the way will be seniors Kyle Mika, Andrew McSlarrow and Grant Flynn.

North Summit, Beaver and Enterprise begin the year ranked second, third and fourth, respectively.

North Summit has two starters back from the team that narrowly lost to Waterford in the semifinals.

"This season we look to build on where we finished last year. We have a lot of new guys that will need to step in and fill key spots," said coach Aaron Preece.

Beaver has three starters back heading into this season, while new Enterprise coach Bud Randall is excited about trying to take the program to the next step.

"With only one returning starter, we will be a little inexperienced but look forward to the challenge with the athletes we have coming back from the J.V. level. Looking forward to a great season and optimistic about how we will perform," Randall said.

Class 1A

Panguitch was the runaway winner of last year's 1A championship, and even though it begins the year as the overwhelming preseason No. 1, the landscape figures to be much more competitive.

Bryce Valley, Rich and Valley all return strong teams, as they begin the year ranked in the preseason top five.

Everything still goes through Panguitch, though, as it returns three starters, led by Jace Eyre (18.6 ppg) and Acey Orton (11.5 ppg).

"We are excited for this season to start. We have a good group of players returning, and they have worked hard during the offseason to improve their skills. I expect the boys to come out and work hard each day," said coach Clint Barney.

Valley lost to Panguitch in last year's title game, and it returns three starters from that 21-win team, with Garrett Spencer leading the way.

Bryce Valley lost to Panguitch in last year's semifinals and in both region games, but it might be the team most capable of dethroning the champs, as it returns all five starters from last season.

"We are really excited about the upcoming year with five returning starters and good young talent," said coach Gary Syrett. "It should be a good year for us and, with the changes in the region alignments, it should make for an interesting year."

Monticello is the favorite in Region 19 with three returning starters, while Tintic is the projected front-runner in Region 21.

Tintic returns four starters, including three starters who averaged in double figures — David Whitney (13.5 ppg), Braxton Petersen (13.1 ppg) and Jesse Wall (14.1 ppg).

"This group of young men are extremely talented and work hard on and off the court. We have high expectations and cannot wait for the season to get underway. We have amazing senior leadership this year, which is critical to the success of our team," said coach Luke Thomas.

EMAIL: jedward@deseretnews.com

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Copyright 2017 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
All Rights Reserved

The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

Given the NFL's abysmal track record in dealing with concussions, it should come as no surprise that many area high schools are ill-prepared to keep kids safe from brain injury.

A survey by the Inquirer found that many area high schools lack the safest helmets available to protect players from head trauma. While many schools have upgraded to safer helmets, a number of schools including all of the public or charter schools in Philadelphia that were surveyed have older helmets with lower safety ratings.

To be sure, the leading equipment manufacturers continue to improve the quality of football helmets, making it hard for schools to remain current. The cost of helmets, which can range from $250 to nearly $1,000, is a big factor, especially at poorer school districts.

Football helmets come with safety ratings ranging from one star, the worst, to five stars. However, helmets with a one-star, or marginal, rating, can still meet standards for use set by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, a nonprofit formed in response to concerns about helmet safety.

More problematic, helmets can be used for 10 years. Given the pace of safety upgrades, a 10-year-old football helmet is as outmoded as a Corvair, the 1960s Chevrolet that was deemed unsafe to drive at any speed.

But the unevenness at which schools have the safest football equipment underscores the risk many high school and elementary school students face when they walk onto the football field. It also raises broader questions about the players overall safety.

For example, a 2015 study found the majority of high schools lack full-time athletic trainers. The lack of trained medical staff is especially acute surrounding concussions, since many head injuries go undiagnosed and untreated, which can lead to further damage.

Consider how the NFL has failed its players, even though teams have the financial resources to pay for the best equipment and a trained medical staff. A recent study found that 99 percent of the deceased football players who were studied had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive, degenerative disease caused by repetitive brain trauma. For years, the NFL fought and denied any connection between CTE and playing football before finally conceding the link in 2016.

Much remains unknown about the hazards of concussions and repeated blows to the head at the professional level, let alone at the high school or grade school levels, where brains are still developing. But the studies that have been completed raise red flags that warrant further study and increased attention to safety.

This year, the National Federation of State High School Associations, the governing body of high school sports, implemented several rule changes in the name of safety. The American Academy of Pediatrics has called for more nontackling leagues for youth players as well as more instruction in safe tackling techniques.

At the very least, rules requiring safer helmets and full-time trained medical staff at high schools and grade schools should be mandated across the board. The safety of all kids should be a top priority.

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Copyright 2017 The Washington Times
All Rights Reserved

The Washington Times

 

Cheating in sports has taken place as long as sports has existed.

Why? Because a team or individual doesn't think they are good enough to win.

It happens at all levels of play, at all ages, and with male and female athletes.

Many use the excuse when they're caught that it was the only way they could "win" because the competition was too good or they were cheating as well.

And they assume that if the other side is using any means necessary to win, that relieves them of the burden of playing by the rules.

In our latest Sport Psychology Today podcast, I spoke with Dr. Stephen Mosher, coordinator of the Sports Studies program at Ithaca College in New York.

We discussed the role sports plays in society and the moral issues that exist at all levels of competition.

Dr. Mosher asserts that there are moral values to be learned in both winning and losing.

Too great a focus on winning starts long before the professional level, when adults, especially coaches, value winning over teaching skills and having fun.

It's gotten so bad in the world of college basketball that, according to Dana O'Neil of The Athletic, the National Association of Basketball Coaches has had to advise coaches who have participated in illegal activity to come forward.

Dr. Mosher says we need to "listen to reason and the research about what sports can teach" as well as the negatives it can promote.

In the end, a young athlete's successes and failures can be strongly influenced by adult role models.

At a youth level, parents and coaches must use common sense about when and whether a child is ready to sign up for a team.

This might mean waiting until enough moral reasoning develops in an individual so they can make competent decisions and know what the consequences are in an athletic contest if they don't play fair.

And "play" is the key word.

Early experience where play is central and winning is de-emphasized is critical.

Signing up for an organized sport league too soon and entering in an environment where the results of the competitions are emphasized is the first step down the road to cheating.

⦁ Dr. Andrew Jacobs has served as the team psychologist for the Kansas City Royals and numerous other professional, collegiate and Olympic teams. He's hosted a sport psychology radio show for 26 years and is the co-author of "Just Let 'em Play: Guiding Parents, Coaches and Athletes Through Youth Sports."

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Copyright 2017 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

USA TODAY

 

The announcement clanked into inboxes at 2 p.m. ET and was posted shortly afterward by UCLA football's Twitter account: "UCLA head football coach Jim Mora has been relieved of his duties." And with that, the coaching carousel really began to crank.

Rumors to follow.

Mora's firing was mildly surprising maybe only in that UCLA hosts California on Friday to end the season, so his termination came a few days earlier than anyone expected. But UCLA was only the first of several jobs that will almost certainly open in the next few days.

Changes are expected at Arkansas and Nebraska. There's a high possibility Texas A&M will let Kevin Sumlin go.

Added to the jobs already open (Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, Oregon State) — as well as the vacancies that could be created when coaches start moving to fill those jobs — and it's apparent the hiring season could be as chaotic as we've seen in a few years.

UCLA's move was widely taken as a sign the Bruins are jumping into the race for Chip Kelly, the hottest available free agent. He's also been linked to Florida. If Arizona State opened, would he be interested in relocating to Tempe?

Expect plenty of speculation and rumors to ensue, though it might be hard to top what's already out there. Last week, some Florida fans were so convinced Kelly was about to be named the Gators coach, they tracked an airplane and watched a live webcam of the stadium entrance, figuring they'd see Kelly very soon. (He didn't show up.)

And none of that can top the goofiness Saturday, when Calhoun's, a Knoxville restaurant, issued an apology for spreading a rumor (or in Twitter parlance, a #Grumor) that Jon Gruden was eating at its establishment along with Peyton Manning — presumably a prelude to being announced as Tennessee's new coach.

An ESPN spokesman subsequently tweeted: "For those wondering, Jon Gruden is actually 2,500 miles away from Calhoun's... in Seattle prepping for (Monday Night Football)."

(Some Vols fans probably thought that made for a nice smoke screen.)

Stay tuned.

Mayfield apology tour rolls on

After Oklahoma's 41-3 victory at Kansas, Baker Mayfield opened his postgame interview session with an apology. It seemed genuine enough. But if we're counting, it's the third we've heard from the Sooners star quarterback since last spring.

There was the incident in Fayetteville, Ark., when he was arrested after he ran from police. He planted that flag at midfield of Ohio Stadium after beating the Buckeyes.

Both times, he issued apologies and seemed contrite. And then Saturday, Mayfield was caught on camera yelling profanely at the Kansas sideline and making a lewd gesture.

"That's not who I am," he said in the postgame interview session, apologizing to children and parents, to Kansas and Oklahoma fans and anyone else.

He sounded contrite. Again. But at this point, who should we think he is?

Mayfield is a fabulous player — the clear catalyst in Oklahoma's push toward the College Football Playoff — and he has an even cooler story. A large part of his success in morphing from an unwanted walk-on to perhaps college football's most dynamic, most valuable player has been fueled by an emotional edge. His defiant I'll-show-you reaction to snubs, real or perceived, is an obvious factor in his performances.

Saturday began when the Jayhawks team captains pointedly declined to shake hands during the pregame coin toss, setting the tone for a game that was chippy from the outset.

In the first half, defensive back Hasan Defense delivered an egregious cheap shot well after Mayfield had thrown a pass. Both sides exchanged trash talk throughout. But unsportsmanlike conduct by the other guys doesn't excuse Mayfield's actions.

And here's another thing: Mayfield is a fifth-year senior. He's not new to the spotlight. If it's not enough just to do things the right way — to keep your emotions in check and be that example you spoke of afterward — how about recognizing that when you're in the fishbowl, everybody sees when you don't?

"The cameras are always on me," Mayfield said. "I've got to be smart. That's not something I want to do."

The Football Four

Each week, we select the College Football Playoff as though it began next week. (Note: It does not begin next week. But the week after that? We'll know.)

1. Alabama — After a little scrimmage against Mercer, the Crimson Tide head to Auburn for a showdown to decide the SEC West. The winner gets Georgia in the SEC championship game.

2. Oklahoma — An easy if chippy victory at Kansas, and we're all talking about Baker Mayfield — but not the touchdown passes; it's his sideline antics. Those aside, the Sooners have the best set of wins (at Ohio State, at Oklahoma State, TCU) of any contender.

3. Miami (Fla.) — The Hurricanes pulled away from Virginia late (and the Turnover Chain for a touchdown played a big factor), scoring 30 points in a row to remain on track for everything. An ACC championship game matchup with Clemson is secured, but first a road game at Pittsburgh.

4. Clemson — Zero trouble with The Citadel. Up next, another in-state matchup. Win at South Carolina — not necessarily an easy task — and the Tigers are positioned to win their way into the Playoff again.

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Copyright 2017 Union Leader Corp.
All Rights Reserved

The Union Leader (Manchester, NH)

 

NASHUA -- A former high school football player paralyzed during a 2010 practice is receiving $1.3 million as part of a settlement agreement with the city.

Although the settlement between Cooper Doucette, 21, and the Nashua School District was reached in July, the terms of the agreement were not made public until last week.

Steve Bolton, the city's legal counsel, provided a copy of the 12-page agreement to the New Hampshire Union Leader.

"While it is impossible to accurately predict the need for medical treatment, this settlement is based upon a good faith determination of the parties in order to resolve a disputed claim," states the agreement, which stresses that the city denies any negligence in the matter.

According to the agreement, the city's insurance company, American Alternative Insurance Corporation, will pay Doucette a combination of up-front cash and future periodic payments totalling $1.3 million.

A significant portion of that cash, about $737,972, will be paid to Doucette's legal team at the law firm Nixon, Vogelman, Barry, Slawsky and Simoneau. Starting this past August, Doucette was set to receive $2,000 a month for the next 25 years for a total of about $562,000.

"It is understood and agreed to by the parties that this settlement is a compromise of a doubtful and disputed claim, and the payments are not to be construed as an admission of liability on the part of the (city), by whom liability is expressly denied," states the agreement.

As part of the settlement, Doucette agrees to waive any future action against the school district or the city. According to the agreement, American Alternative Insurance Corp. is the liability insurer for the city, and the company is obligated to pay any injury claims covered by its policy.

According to the agreement, payments to Doucette cannot be accelerated or deferred.

The settlement agreement was reached after several months of mediation efforts.

Doucette previously sued the school district and former coaches Jason Robie and Donald Fournier, claiming that they neglected to demonstrate proper and safe tackling skills.

Attorney Lawrence Vogelman, legal representative for Doucette, says in court records that on the day of Doucette's accident, no instruction was given by the two coaches about the risk of serious injury if tackling were done without keeping your head up.

It was the team's first contact practice, and the first practice where the team wore pads in uniform when Doucette suffered a spinal cord injury on Aug. 14, 2010 at Nashua High School North.

According to court records, Doucette's first attempt at a tackling drill resulted in his paralysis when he attempted to tackle a running back, placed his head down and collided head-on with the knee of the oncoming ball-carrier, resulting in a broken neck.

Doucette alleges that his injury was the result of negligence from the coaches responsible for his training and supervision; he was 15 at the time, and a member of Nashua North's junior varsity football team.

khoughton@newstote.com

 
November 20, 2017
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

UCLA fired coach Jim Mora on Sunday with one regular-season game left in his sixth season. Athletic Director Dan Guerrero announced the move one day after rival USC's 28-23 victory over UCLA (5-6, 3-5 Pac-12) on Saturday night.

Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch will coach the Bruins in their regular-season home finale against California on Friday night. UCLA must pay more than $12 million to buy out the remainder of Mora's contract, which runs through 2021. The school announced that Mora's contract will be "honored by UCLA Athletics, exclusively using department-generated funds."

The extraordinary buyout indicates the depth of frustration in Westwood with Mora, whose tenure got off to an outstanding start before a precipitous decline. Mora went 46-30 in his first significant collegiate coaching job, but the Bruins are on the brink of their second consecutive losing season despite a roster filled with elite recruits led by quarterback Josh Rosen. Mora won at least eight games in each of his first four seasons, but UCLA finished 4-8 last year and hasn't improved significantly this season.

"Jim helped re-establish our football program, and was instrumental in so many ways in moving the program forward," Guerrero said in a statement. "While his first four seasons at UCLA were very successful, the past two seasons have not met expectations."

UCLA still could become bowl-eligible with a season-ending victory over the Golden Bears (5-6). The Bruins haven't lost at the Rose Bowl all season, going 5-0.

They won 10 games in Mora's second and third seasons, tying the school record for victories. Mora, the former coach of the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks, was the widespread subject of NFL speculation at the time, but he repeatedly vowed to stay with the Bruins.

UCLA is 17-19 since 2015 with Rosen in the program, including 10-16 in the Pac-12. The Bruins won just 10 of Mora's last 27 games.

Motlow First Seminole to score for Florida St.

Justin Motlow accomplished something that has never happened in the 71-year history of Florida State football. Motlow, a preferred walk-on, is the first member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida to score a touchdown for Florida State. His 12-yard catch from J.J. Cosentino with 8:38 remaining in the fourth quarter Saturday was part of a 77-6 win over Delaware State.

"That is just the most amazing honor you could ever feel," Motlow said. "I am so proud to represent my tribe. The first member to score a touchdown, let alone just play, it's an exhilarating feeling. It makes me so happy."

Motlow, who is a 5-foot-11, 183-pound redshirt junior from Tampa, is one-fourth Seminole Indian. His grandmother, Louise, is 100 percent Seminole and lives on the Seminole reservation in Immokalee, Fla. His father, Clarence, is half Seminole and grew up on the reservation before moving to Tampa.

FSU Athletic Director Stan Wilcox had the ball from Mot-low's TD after the game. He said he plans to give it to the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

AP rankings same at top

The top nine teams in The Associated Press poll held their spots, led by No. 1 Alabama, while Northwestern and Boise State joined the Top 25 for the first time this season. Ohio State is No. 8. Michigan, North Carolina State and West Virginia dropped out after losses.

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Copyright 2017 The Commercial Appeal, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

On one of his visits to his alma mater Mitchell, Thaddeus Young went to the school's weight room and was dismayed by what he found.

"They were still using some of the stuff from when I was in high school," he said. "I walked in and said, 'No, no. We've got to figure this out."

Considering he last played for the Tigers in 2006 — the year he was named a McDonald's High School All-American — that shows you what the school's athletes have been up against.

But as he's done ever since graduating, Young has given back. Last Tuesday, the school cut the ribbon on a refurbished state-of-the-art weight room paid for by the 11-year NBA veteran. As a thank you, the school honored him by retiring his No. 33 jersey when Young and his Indiana Pacers teammates were in town to play the Grizzlies.

"It's something that was needed," he said. "The kids already love it... and it's a great addition to the sports program at Mitchell."

Young — who was averaging 13 points heading into the weekend — joins current Mitchell coach Andre Turner, Curtis Green and Linda Street as Tigers basketball players who have had their jerseys retired.

Young said he's humbled to join the ranks of players who have been embraced by Mitchell and the nearby Walker Homes community.

"It's the love," he said. "I feel it each and every time I step into the gym. The people... when they love you they love you. I'm ecstatic they chose me. I didn't choose them; they chose me."

Allison to be inducted into Tennessee Hall

Former University of Memphis kicker Joe Allison will be inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame during ceremonies at the Omni Hotel in Nashville on June 16.

Allison kicked for the Tigers from 1990-1993 and won the inaugural Lou Groza Award in 1992.

That year, he connected on 23 of 25 field goals and all 32 extra-point attempts. The field goal total is a school record shared with Jake Elliott (2015). Allison ranks third on the school's career field goal list (51) and in points (262). He was the first kicker in school history to score 100 points in a season, something only Elliott and Stephen Gostkowski of the New England Patriots have accomplished since.

Other notable names in the 2018 class are former Munford High and Tennessee running back Johnnie Jones, former Vol basketball All-American Allan Houston, All-Pro safety Blaine Bishop of the Tennessee Titans, football playing brothers Raleigh and Reggie McKenzie, 2004 Olympic pole vault champion Tim Mack and legendary Maryville High football coach George Quarles.

Tigers' Hall on CoSIDA academic team

University of Memphis defensive back Austin Hall has been named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District team and will now appear on the Academic All-America ballot.

Heading into Saturday's game against SMU, the junior from Collierville High led the Tigers with 66 tackles while recovering two fumbles and intercepting three passes. Earlier this year, he was named the Bronko Nagurski national player of the week and has also won the AAC's weekly award.

In the classroom, Hall carries a 3.45 grade point average while majoring in criminal justice.

Panthers to take part in Unified meet

Bartlett High has been invited to take part in the inaugural Unified Track and Field Invitational, which will take place during Spring Fling. The meet is designed to pair students with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team and is being sponsored by the TSSAA and Special Olympics Tennessee.

Other schools competing are Glencliff, Hardin Valley, Harpeth, Lebanon, Sycamore, Volunteer and White County.

Said TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress, "We are very pleased with the leadership displayed by these eight schools in the first year of this event. We think this is just the first step in a program that will continue to expand and include more and more student athletes and we are excited about the direction this is heading."

The meet will be May 24 at MTSU's Floyd Stadium as part of the large class state championships. Athletes will compete in the 100, 400, 400 relay, shot put and long jump. Medals will be awarded to individuals, the runner-up team and champion.

Redbirds selected as top organization

The Memphis Redbirds have another honor to add to this year's Pacific Coast League championship. Trinity Sports Holdings, which oversees the operations of the city's AAA baseball team, has been named "Organization of the Year" by Ballpark Digest.

"It's a true honor," Trinity principal owner Peter Freund said in a statement. "I'm very humbled by it and I'm very appreciative of it."

Among the organizational highlights this past season were the "authentically Memphis" re-branding of the team, a new team store at AutoZone Park, the addition of the Miracle-Gro Rooftop Garden on the stadium's third level and the return of Rendezvous barbecue to the concessions. Attendance increased eight percent over 2016 and has risen 26 percent in the last two years.

Trinity was also cited for its work with the Williamsport Crosscutters in the short-season Class A New York-Penn League.

Sunday Sports Brunch is a weekly look at movers, shakers and newsmakers on the Memphis sports scene, from youth level to the pros. If you have an item of interest, please contact John Varlas at john.varlas@commercialappeal.com

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Some people say county jails are "pressure cookers," where tensions can escalate quickly and dangerously.

But some female inmates at the Montgomery County Jail are finding that yoga can be a healthy way to manage stress, deal with trauma and avoid getting bent out of shape.

The Day Yoga Community Outreach Program hosts a weekly yoga class at the jail.

The nonprofit wants to expand its free classes to male inmates and possibly to ex-inmates when they are released from jail back into the community.

Yoga "can be a very healing experience for people," said Devon Schmidt, owner of Day Yoga Studio and president of the Day Yoga Community Program.

Day Yoga Studio has a location on Brown Street by the University of Dayton and another in Vandalia. The business started about seven years ago.

Schmidt created the Day Yoga Community Outreach Program, which became an official nonprofit around January 2016. Classes at the jail began two months later.

The outreach program seeks to make yoga accessible to everyone in the community. Instructors host free classes in some local schools, as well as at a women's shelter.

The nonprofit is funded through donations. Its major fundraiser, the Happy Haunt 5k run and walk, took place recently.

Once a week, Day Yoga instructor Leona Banks makes a trip to the county jail in downtown Dayton to host a yoga class.

Classes are voluntary. Typically, they have about eight to 12 participants.

"It's pretty popular in there — they all really like it — and there's been a really good response," Banks said.

Banks said she tailors the 50-minute sessions specifically to the inmate population.

The movements, positions and chants offer stress and anxiety relief and address back pain and other discomfort, she said. People usually sleep better after the classes.

Yoga increases body awareness and physical flexibility, which helps with pain relief, and yoga practices can help with mental health, relaxing the mind and strengthening the mind-body connection, Banks said.

Yoga, through controlled breathing and other practices, lets people tune inward and focus on the body and the self, and women have broken into sobs while engaging in self reflection on their yoga mats, according to Banks and Schmidt.

Yoga tends to include physical poses, controlled breathing and meditation.

Banks said she wants participants to feel connected and valued.

At the jail, yoga participants have included women arrested for drug abuse, prostitution and theft.

The female population at the jail has been growing, and jail administration is constantly looking for new recreational opportunities, said Montgomery County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Rob Streck.

"Yoga has shown to have many benefits, and it can be performed in different areas of the jail, such as pods and dorm housing," Streck said.

This flexibility allows the jail to schedule other recreation in the gym, maximizing the number of inmates receiving recreation and exercise, he said.

"The sheriff's office and the females participating are pleased with the program, so we are beginning to inquire if there is an interest in yoga for the male population," Streck said.

The Day Yoga Community Outreach Program would like to expand classes to male inmates because they could give participants tools to help them cope with stress and anxiety that they can use in their jail cells and when they return home after release, said Schmidt.

Expanding the classes will depend on funding. She said getting the full benefits of yoga requires doing it fairly consistently.

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Copyright 2017 Charleston Newspapers

Charleston Gazette-Mail

 

P.J. Fleck seems like a pretty bright guy. After all, 36-year-old coaches don't normally take the reins of a Big Ten football program like Minnesota (and lead Western Michigan to the 2016 Cotton Bowl, which made him attractive to a program like Minnesota) by being a dim bulb.

So if he offers up a strategy, chances are it's a pretty good one. The latest one he mentioned looks like one of those pretty good ones.

During his weekly appearance on a Minneapolis sports radio station, Fleck discussed his preference for recruiting multi-sport athletes.

"Ninety percent of the people that we recruit, we want to play multiple sports, Fleck said on 100.3-FM. "There are times where we won't recruit a kid, just because he doesn't play another sport.

"We want multi-sport athletes. I'm not saying we won't — a lot of quarterbacks specialize these days, I get that — but again, I want athletes that play multiple positions.

That's a refreshing opinion concerning a youth sports world that, more often than not these days, sees kids throwing all their eggs into one sport's basket. It's no longer enough to play baseball during baseball season or soccer during soccer season. There are travel teams and all-star teams and offseason workouts, all focused on one specific set of skills.

Of course, the foundation for those skills might be found in another sport, but some of those kids will never know.

Now, I'm not going to begrudge a high school athlete the right to focus on one sport if that's his or her choice. If all the kid wants to do is play golf or tennis or softball in spring, summer, fall and winter, that's his or her prerogative.

The point, though, is that it's the kid's choice, and that choice is made after the kid has been given the opportunity to play as many sports as he or she wishes. Specialization is beginning at earlier and earlier ages these days, and that's no good.

Should a grade-schooler be limited to just one sport? Absolutely not, and parents shouldn't encourage it and coaches should never demand it. If a good tennis player wants to join a rec league basketball team, that shouldn't be a problem.

Yet, when I covered prep sports in Florida, I heard stories of club coaches threatening their players with decreased playing time if they chose playing for their high school team — in the same sport — over a club practice.

That should never happen.

Now, should a game take precedence over practice? Sure. Should a travel team or high school game in one sport win out over a rec league game in another? Yup. Hard decisions and sacrifices must be made in those instances and, if they aren't habitual, all the coaches should understand and cooperate.

Because, after all, this is about the kid.

And allowing a kid to participate in and enjoy multiple sports is anything but bad. It teaches the athlete time management and responsibility. Different sports exercise different muscles and all of them keep the kids fit.

Plus, it might help fight off the burnout I've seen in too many kids who specialize much too early. After a tough baseball season, it would do a kid good to spend a little while playing some basketball.

And it's nice to see a major-college coach like Fleck both acknowledge the benefits of playing multiple sports and reward athletes who do. Here's hoping the strategy pays off for the Golden Gophers, so that other coaches might follow his lead.

It seems like a smart thing to do.

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Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

In just 12 seconds Monday morning, the Georgia Dome will be reduced to rubble, leaving behind 25 years of memories and a legacy of helping make Atlanta a renowned host of major sports events.

Super Bowls and Final Fours were played there. Olympic gold medals were decided there in three sports. And there were 256 Falcons games, 23 SEC Championship football games, even WrestleMania — in all, 1,456 events attended by about 39 million people from 1992 through early this year.

No building in Atlanta sports history has hosted more big events.

But with the push of a button at 7:30 a.m.Monday, the Georgia Dome will be imploded, the same fate that befell Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and the Omni coliseum 20 years earlier.

"It's going to be a sad day," said Ken Jefferson, who worked at the Dome from its opening through its closing. "To me, it's been like watching a loved one die."

Carl Adkins, the Dome's former general manager, usually averts his eyes when he drives by the building these days.

"I'd rather remember the good times," he said. "The memories will always remain, even when the building is gone."

Ah, the memories: Kerri Strug famously landing a vault despite an injured ankle to clinch the United States' first Olympic gold medal in women's team gymnastics; an NBA-record crowd of 62,046 watching Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls play the Atlanta Hawks while Philips Arena was under construction; a Super Bowl that ended one yard shy of a tying touchdown; so many more.

The Falcons' desire for a new stadium with all the latest bells and whistles and revenue streams spelled the Dome's demise, even though the building remained in good condition through its final years.

The Dome hosted its final football game Jan. 22, the Atlanta Falcons' rousing victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game, and its final event March 5, a Monster Jam trucks show.

Engineering an implosion

In recent months, as Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened next door, the Georgia Dome has been unceremoniously emptied and gutted.

"People think we just put dynamite in a few days before and implode the structure," said Rick Cuppetilli, executive vice president of the lead demolition contractor, Detroit-based Adamo Group. "No, there were four months and 35,000-plus man-hours involved to (get to this point)."

The seats and scoreboards have been removed, interior walls knocked down, glass removed, countless truckloads of debris hauled off.

The structure has been weakened and fractured to soften it for what will hit it Monday morning: 4,800 pounds of explosives placed in almost 3,500 strategically drilled holes and connected by seven miles of wire and cord.

As 7:30 a.m. approaches, demolition personnel, along with police and fire departments personnel, will operate from a command center on the opposite side of Northside Drive, Cuppetilli said.

"The leaders will be huddled to give the all-clear," he said, "and then there will be a countdown before it goes off."

Steve Pettigrew, of explosives subcontractor Pettigrew Inc., is slated to push the button on an electronic ignitor — "a device," Cuppetilli said, "that looks similar to a cellphone."

Once the button is pushed, he said, "there will be a 12-second period in which all the explosives will go off and the structure falls."

Within those dozen seconds, he added, "there are actually 1,000 delays in milli-seconds to make the structure come down precisely how we want... with certain areas going first.

"Our goal is everything is going to be contained within the Georgia Dome (footprint) instead of being allowed out."

There is little margin for error, considering that the $1.5 billion-plus Mercedes-Benz Stadium is 83 feet away at the closest point and a MARTA rail tunnel runs between the old and new stadiums.

The proximity is challenging, Cuppetilli said, but not unusual in his line of work.

A 600-foot perimeter in every direction will be secured. Surrounding roads will be closed. Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the Georgia World Congress Center will be evacuated. A 50-foot-tall industrial-strength curtain will try to protect the new stadium from any flying debris.

Wayne Wadsworth, principal in charge of Holder Hunt Russell Moody, the joint venture that served as general contractor of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, describedtheDome demolition at a recent Georgia World Congress Center Authority board meeting as "quite a feat of engineering."

After the considerable dust settles, the plan is to crush the imploded concrete in place and spread it across the site, raising the ground about 12 feet and forming the base for the "Home Depot Backyard," a planned green space/community park/tailgating area. A large hotel also is planned for the site.

Remembering the Dome

Because the Georgia Dome was a multi-purpose building — used at various times for high school, college and pro football; college and pro basketball; Olympic basketball, gymnastics and handball; and a wide range of other events, including Supercross, band shows, concerts and conventions — it meant different things to different people.

For lifelong Falcons fan Brad Christian, the first memory that springs to mind is a Falcons game against the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 29, 1995, the day after the Braves won the World Series a couple of miles away. Former Falcons star Deion Sanders was on the opposing team in the Dome that day.

"It was 'the house that Deion built,' and he was playing for the hated Cowboys," Christian recalled. "The atmosphere was electric. Fans were doing the chop to celebrate the World Series win. And I was there to see it all. Unfortunately, the Cowboys won, but it was a lifelong memory made in the Dome."

Megan Treglown's favorite memory of the Dome is different: She remembers watching as a kid when her sister, 11 years older, marched with Jacksonville State University's band during a show there. She remembers telling her mom she wanted to do that, too.

A little over a decade later, she was back in the Dome to perform with the same band.

Alabama fan Mike Davis was in the Dome on the night of March 14, 2008, when a tornado ripped a hole in the roof during overtime of an Alabama-Mississippi State game in the SEC basketball tournament.

Davis still has "a piece of insulation on my desk that floated by as the Dome shook but ultimately stood up to the storm."

Cory Waters, an audio-video technician who worked at the Dome for 20 years, said he'll remember, most of all, the people he worked with.

"I'd put our team against anybody," Waters said, "in terms of being able to put on a great show and make everybody happy and keep the building in really good shape.

"To see it go is a drag, but the waiting to see it go has also not been fun. I still work here at the Congress Center, so to drive by (the Dome) every day is almost like your ex-girlfriend dumped you and moved away, but you still have to drive by her house every day."

Like many Georgians, Jefferson — a former event manager at the Dome and an inductee into the Atlanta Hospitality Hall of Fame — marvels at how fast the building's 25-year run passed.

"I still remember the news conference with (former Falcons owner) Rankin Smith and the governor saying that they were going to build it," Jefferson said. "Everybody was up in arms, saying we didn't need a domed stadium in Atlanta."

That domed stadium brought to Atlanta the annual SEC Championship football game, two Super Bowls and four Final Fours (three men's and one women's). It elevated the Peach Bowl, which struggled for survival when played outdoors, into one of college football's marquee events.

"It took Atlanta to a whole other level," Adkins said.

There will be no public viewing area for the implosion, but some invited guests, including people involved in getting the Dome built, will watch from a private event nearby.

"I've seen other implosions online and seen people cheering," said Jennifer LeMaster, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority's chief administrative officer and formerly the Dome's executive services manager. "I don't know if you'll see a whole lot of cheering (Monday). It's more sobering than celebratory.

"But that doesn't mean we're not looking toward the future as well, because Mercedes-Benz Stadium is the future for the stadium environment."

The NFC divisional playoffs were held at the Georgia Dome on Jan. 14. The dome served as home to the Falcons for many seasons, including during their run to this year's Super Bowl in Houston.

 

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

As the 2017 season winds to a conclusion, college football is facing a potential talent crisis.

It hasn't manifested itself on the field, where the product remains as compelling as ever. But in the coaching ranks and even on the administrative side, where the churn rate in the last few years has far surpassed the number of slam-dunk stars in the business, the college sports industry is preparing for the kind of December that it had never imagined until now.

As you can see with Florida making eyes at Chip Kelly, Tennessee frothing at the mouth to get into the Jon Gruden business and Texas A&M preparing to throw insane money at a 3-6 coach in Jimbo Fisher, the big takeaway is there is no such thing as a sure thing.

And in an environment where Arkansas is reportedly going to pay a largely successful athletics director in Jeff Long $4.6 million to go away as a likely precursor to paying football coach Bret Bielema somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 million to do the same, college sports has become the equivalent of a drunken bachelor party attendee in Las Vegas who winds up doubling his bets on each losing blackjack hand, hoping to eventually get lucky and recoup his losses.

Here's how insane things have gotten: If the Kellys and Grudens don't work out, the marketplace essentially will force schools to pay $4 million and up for the likes of Memphis' Mike Norvell and Central Florida's Scott Frost, who have a combined four years of head coaching experience.

"I don't know if the pool has ever been this shallow," said one person intimately tied into the coaching search industry, who asked to remain anonymous so the opinion would not be misconstrued as a referendum on particular jobs or coaches.

The pool might be shallow, but the expectations are immense, which is particularly dangerous in the modern era where athletics directors are now judged almost exclusively on whether their football coaching hires work out.

Take the situation at Arkansas, where Long was let go Wednesday. Though Long had been a net positive over his decade-long run in Fayetteville, he lost his job for one reason: Bielema wasn't winning enough. And if Arkansas' boosters and power brokers wanted to make a coaching change, it was practically a given that Long - aka, the guy who messed up the last hire - wouldn't get the chance to make that call again.

Though there were other off-field issues surrounding Auburn and Jay Jacobs, including a softball scandal and the basketball program's involvement in an FBI investigation, the discontent with his tenure can be traced back to Auburn's on-again, off-again love affair with Gene Chizik and then Gus Malzahn, the two football coaches he hired. It was no accident that the public chatter about the end of Jacobs' tenure began to bubble this fall after Auburn's football team stumbled out of the gates.

It used to be schools hired athletics directors from the ranks of former football coaches. Now, schools treat them like football coaches, even though most of them are career administrators who spend 99% of their time doing wonky things such as budgets, rules compliance and fundraising and very little on football hires.

And while it's easy these days if you have enough money to get rid of a coach or an athletics director, replacing them has become harder than ever.

The early word in the industry on Arkansas was that the school might look outside the sphere of college athletics and into the business world for somebody with Arkansas ties who could run the athletics department, a strategy that has been hit-or-miss (mostly miss) when others have tried it. Either way, it's almost certain that the coach will be in place before the athletics director, historically a recipe for problems.

And at Auburn, there is no obvious candidate to take Jacobs' place who will wow that fan base, largely because fans largely don't (and shouldn't) know the difference between a good athletics director and a bad one.

While the mid-major ranks are filled with talented young administrators such as Central Florida's Danny White, Colorado State's Joe Parker, South Florida's Mark Harlan, North Texas' Wren Baker, Arkansas State's Terry Mohajir, Houston's Hunter Yurachek, Temple's Pat Kraft, Florida Atlantic's Pat Chun, Louisiana Tech's Tommy McClelland, Northern Illinois' Sean Frazier, Rice's Joe Karlgaard and New Mexico State's Mario Moccia, these are not household names. Thus, it is difficult for schools and their boosters to have a clear-eyed vision of what kind of person they will need to get them to the next level.

"It's not a deep bench," another industry insider said.

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Copyright 2017 Charleston Newspapers

Charleston Gazette-Mail

 

LAS VEGAS - Jack Murphy zigzagged across his hometown, ducking into gyms to watch AAU basketball players on all points of the Las Vegas compass.

Some stops lasted minutes, long enough for Murphy to stand near a doorway to evaluate a player who just popped up on his radar. Others, he stayed the entire game, prominently positioned with an assistant coach at his side in a show of solidarity toward a player - and his family - they hope to sign.

The Northern Arizona coach made 11 stops in all - some gyms multiple times - that 14-hour, crisscrossed day, the first of three marathons during the summer's final live evaluation period.

Murphy was not alone; hundreds of coaches from across the country burned through tanks of gas to watch the nation's best young basketball players in late July.

One significant difference: Murphy and other coaches of low-major programs sought a different type of talent than coaches at the highest echelon of Division I.

Of course Murphy noticed the five-star recruits, those long, agile players, heads above the rim, rainbowing in 3-pointers from all angles. It doesn't take a coach to see their talent.

By necessity, Murphy's sights were much further down the recruiting spectrum.

"Would I love to have one of those elite players? Absolutely. Who wouldn't? Murphy said. "But that's not the world we live in.

The low-major programs are often in different galaxies than high-major schools.

College basketball has one of sports' most unique structures, 351 schools all supposedly on the same level.

Reality: The low-majors rarely stand much of a chance against the power programs, faced with a multitude of disadvantages, from finances to facilities to travel.

Recruiting is a huge one.

While top-tier programs fight over future pros, low-major coaches go after players with fewer stars before their names.

They seek overlooked players who somehow slipped through the far-reaching recruiting cracks. They recruit skilled players who might be a little too short or skinny to draw interest from the power programs. They search for someone who can fit their system or be molded into it.

"I couldn't tell you who the No. 1 kid in the country is, Sacramento State coach Brian Katz said. "Unless he's on our radar, I don't know who anybody is. I can walk into a gym and figure out where I am right away. If all the big boys from the ACC are there, I'm probably on the wrong court. You're typically fishing from a little different pond than those guys.

Recruiting has always had a shady side, filled with backroom deals, gifts, even paying recruits to attend a certain school.

The veil of the worst-kept secret in college basketball was ripped back in August, when 10 people - four assistant coaches from prominent schools among them - were arrested as part of a federal investigation that revealed kickbacks and bribes from shoe companies being used to sway players.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich were fired, and the tentacles will likely reach deeper, casting an even darker shadow over the sport.

Low-major coaches won't have to hide.

Shoe-company money gets funneled to top-tier players, potential NBA stars worth millions. Most low-major players are more likely to work at a shoe company than to become an NBA star.

High-majors have multimillion-dollar shoe deals. Low-majors, far less lucrative, if any at all.

The notion of paying a player $150,000 to attend a low-major school? Laughable.

"It's just not going to happen, Murphy said.

What low-major coaches can offer is a chance to improve and earn a degree.

That's not to say coaches at high-major programs don't make players better. It's just that they're often preparing already high-end players for the next level. Well, that and winning games.

Low-major players have talent - they wouldn't be playing Division I basketball otherwise - but often aren't as polished as the five-star recruits.

So when low-major coaches are in the living rooms of recruits, they tout the school, the program, the town, but also the ability to develop them as players.

Low-major coaches are often masters of developing fundamentals. It's the only way their teams have any shot against high-major, even mid-major teams, but also because their players often don't get the high-level coaching found on the travel-team circuits.

"You've got to be so good at that because when you go into the recruiting process, that's the thing you've got to sell, said former Wake Forest and South Carolina coach Dave Odom. "'If you're good enough to get to the NBA, I will develop you and get you to that point.' They have to drive that home.

Once low-major coaches get a foot in the door, it's work fast or risk getting locked out.

Recruiting has turned into an all-seeing monster, top players sometimes identified by the eighth grade, their every point and rebound documented.

Navigating this world turns low-major coaches into hidden-talent detectives.

They look at end-of-the-bench players on big AAU teams; talented, but buried behind the five-stars. Could be a player who didn't play AAU ball or one tucked away in a small school or town off the recruiting grid.

And the clock is constantly ticking.

In the overexposed world of recruiting, it's a matter of time before a major program unearths a once-hidden talent and whisks him away from the smaller schools.

The high turnover rate in coaching also takes a toll. New high-major coaches sometimes sign mid-major-type players to fill out a recruiting class, causing a trickle-down effect on the low-majors.

That's what makes the early-signing period, which ended on Monday, so important to the low-majors. Sign a recruit in the fall, they don't have to worry about another school snatching him up. Wait until spring, there's a chance another school will be onto him.

"There's just so much time between November and April, Murphy said. "To get guys in the fall, it really solidifies your program, helps you understand who you have coming in and you can get a steal in that time period. Whereas if it drags out, you lose.

Recruiting, like most of life in the mid-majors, is a never-ending fight to win the little battles with the power programs.

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Copyright 2017 The Arizona Daily Star. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

 

The University of Arizona is falling short on its commitment to teach Wildcat athletes and coaches about preventing sexual assault and domestic violence, a national expert says.

Brenda Tracy works closely with the NCAA on issues involving violence toward women and lobbies for her cause in Washington, D.C. She's also developing a curriculum to be used by colleges across the nation.

"I know there's people (at the UA) that want me to come, but I haven't been contacted by the athletic department," Tracy told the Star this week. "I'd be more than happy to go... and help get things on the right track and do better. But the first thing you have to do is be accountable and transparent and (the UA) isn't doing either of those things right now."

Under the NCAA's new sexual assault education policy, which was enacted in August, all coaches, athletes and athletic department administrators are required to complete the yearly education.

Tracy's concern about the UA's training and its refusal to provide details about what it does comes as the school is embroiled in several highly publicized court cases involving allegations of violence against multiple Wildcat athletes and one coach. One prominent case was featured on ABC's "20/20" last week.

The UA is being sued in federal court by one of three victims of former Wildcat running back Orlando Bradford. She says the school knew he was a danger to women and failed to protect her. Bradford is scheduled to be sentenced to prison on Monday for admittedly choking two of the women who accused him.

Under a federal law called Title IX that protects students against sex discrimination, the university is required to take steps to safeguard students against sexual assault and dating violence.

The UA has for weeks refused repeated requests from the Star to provide information about the training it provides.

Training and accountability

For more than a decade after her 1998 alleged gang-rape by four men, three of whom were identified as Oregon State football players, Tracy waited for the NCAA or individual schools to take action to prevent violence against women.

All four men were eventually arrested in connection with the incident, and while Tracy reported the incident to police at the time, she wasn't ready to press charges.

When Tracy decided to pursue the case, she learned that the evidence had been destroyed before the statute of limitations had expired.

Tracy went public with her story in 2014 and asked coaches to "set the expectation" with their athletes and make it clear that violence against women is never acceptable.

Three years later, Set the Expectation is now a national campaign, with Tracy traveling to schools across the country to share her stories and ask coaches to have their players sign a pledge that says they'll be dismissed from the team if they engage in behaviors including "rape, sexual assault, physical violence, domestic/dating violence, stalking, bullying, hazing, and taking or sharing photos and videos of a sexually explicit/violent nature."

Tracy visited Arizona State and Northern Arizona this year. During a meeting with ASU's football coach Todd Graham and his players, she confronted the coach about his recent hiring of defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, who previously worked at Baylor. Members of the Baylor football team were accused of sexual and nonsexual assault over the previous four years, and an investigation revealed that school officials knew about the alleged rapes and assaults but failed to take action.

"I kind of called him out on that (hiring)," Tracy said. "But there's a learning curve, too. I think our coaches are finally starting to understand they don't get to do things the way they used to. Things aren't being swept under the rug anymore. You have an obligation to your campus, to your players and to the community. These victims are also your victims."

While she's there to help the players and coaches get a better understanding of the issue, Tracy said, "I'm also going to hold you accountable."

The NCAA will too. As part of the new policy, schools are also required to report their results to the NCAA each year.

Every school president, athletic director and Title IX coordinator must also certify that all required participants completed the training and that the athletic department is "knowledgeable about, integrated in and compliant with" school policies about sexual violence and required discipline for players who commit domestic violence.

"We'll be putting these schools on the NCAA website, so it'll be publicized," she said. "We'll be able to see who needs help, who's doing things, who's not doing things and where we need to get in and help certain schools get things done. They won't be able to hide."

The Big Sky Conference NAU belongs to decided in July to sign on to the "Set the Expectation" campaign and Tracy is hoping that the Pac-12 will follow suit. The UA is the only public university in the state that Tracy hasn't been invited to visit.

In many cases, athletic departments function as a "sidewall" to the campus and operate separately, Tracy said.

"This is why the NCAA needs to get involved. (Title IX education) is mandated federally, but that doesn't mean the athletics department is going to do it," Tracy said, adding that while a coach might not be likely to respond to a request from the federal government, he might respond differently to a requirement from the NCAA.

"Which one is going to perk up his ears? Probably the NCAA."

Requests for info repeatedly rejected

Over the past two years, the UA athletic department has faced a number of legal issues involving athletes and coaches from multiple sports.

In December 2015, UA basketball player Elliott Pitts was investigated for rape. Charges were not filed, but the next month, the university issued a finding of sexual misconduct and imposed a one-year suspension from the state system.

Former assistant track coach Craig Carter is scheduled for trial in March on felony charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, threats and intimidation and stalking, after admitting to holding a box cutter to the throat of an athlete with whom he claimed to be in a relationship. The woman, former UA thrower Baillie Gibson, has maintained that the relationship was not consensual and that Carter repeatedly threatened her and her family members' lives.

Gibson is also suing Carter, the UA, former athletic director Greg Byrne and track and field coach Fred Harvey, saying that the school failed to protect her from Carter's violent behavior.

The state is required to pay for all parties' defense in the civil suit. That means state taxpayers are footing the bill for the legal fees. All parties have retained private attorneys and the legal bills amounted to nearly $700,000 as of Sept. 31.

Carter's case was profiled on "20/20" last week, and has been the subject of an ESPN "Outside the Lines" investigation.

Despite the court cases, lawsuits and more than three weeks of requests by the Star, the UA is not saying what, if anything, it does to educate its athletes.

The Star first reached out to UA officials on Oct. 25 and has since made several follow-up efforts to get information about training provided to Wildcats athletes.

On Nov. 13, UA spokesman Chris Sigurdson denied the Star's latest request.

"Athletic departments have to do better"

In January, Tracy will begin work with the NCAA commission to discuss eligibility issues in cases where a player has committed a crime or has a violent sexual history.

Tracy is also tailoring her campaign to include high school athletes, saying that college is too late to "program" students.

"You can get some of them and help some of them," she said, "but some of these guys are already abusive before they get to college."

Coaches and athletic departments often hide players' wrongdoings and make excuses for those accused of misconduct, Tracy said, adding that the preferential treatment isn't doing the athletes any favors.

"They should have to come to face the real life consequences of their actions," she said. "Our coaches are complicit in this. They have a role in this and they have to do better; our athletic departments have to do better."

Credit: Caitlin Schmidt Arizona Daily Star

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Copyright 2017 The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

The new Milwaukee Bucks arena and surrounding development will attract more visitors to downtown Milwaukee where they will spend more time and money than they do now.

That was the vision presented by Bucks President Peter Feigin and others Thursday at a Milwaukee Press Club discussion about the $524 million arena at Historic Turner Hall.

The complex will be "something that will help stitch the area together," said Matt Rinka, principal of Rinka Chung Architecture, which is designing the entertainment block taking shape on the east side of the new arena.

"We want to attract residents down here, and we want to spur retail spending in a big way," Feigin said.

"We should be getting an additional million or a million and a half to visit downtown," he said.

Feigin and Rinka stressed that entertainment block would complement area businesses such as those along Old World 3rd St.

The goal, Feigin said, is to make sure "all of our interests are aligned."

"If Water Street was one bar, people wouldn't go to Water Street," Rinka said.

The Bucks will make an announcement about the tenants for the entertainment block within the next couple of weeks, Feigin said.

"People who come to events typically don't stay in downtown Milwaukee," Rinka said. "Hopefully, this will encourage more people to stay downtown."

Bar owner Bobby Wiltgen said there was some concern among his fellow business owners about competition from the hospitality businesses that will be part of the Bucks' project.

"I think it's moving very fast," said Wiltgen, owner of Who's on Third and two other businesses near the new arena on Old World 3rd St.

"We're anxious and waiting for more development to come."

Wiltgen praised the Bucks' staff for its enthusiasm, and doing things like sending mascot Bango out to area bars and restaurants to engage fans.

"The excitement is there" for the current team, Wiltgen said.

Tracy Johnson, president and CEO of the Commercial Association of Realtors Wisconsin, said the project is "changing the perception of what's going to get people to come downtown, stay downtown and be downtown."

That includes concerns about safety, she said.

The real estate market around the arena is picking up now that people can see the facility, which is a little more than half completed, Johnson said.

"It is absolutely drawing interest," she said. "There is a high expectation that this area is going to boom."

The new arena, supported by $250 million in taxpayer money, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018.

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Copyright 2017 Southeastern Newspapers Corporation
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The Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)

 

A deal is in the making to preserve Augusta's use of Pendleton King Park, City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson assured Friday. But, one of the park's three trustees denied knowledge of the negotiations.

"Our legal staff and our parks and recreation director have met with a representative of the trustees," Jackson said at a news conference. "We feel like we can come back with a proposal that can be presented to the mayor and commission, for them to make a decision."

Jackson said a proposal may be ready Tuesday, or by Nov. 28, but the park trustee who gave a local housing developer a contract to buy the property for $1.2 million said he's not been contacted.

"The only communication I've had with the city was three months ago with the mayor saying 'I've got your letter,'" trustee Clarence Barinowski said.

News that Barinowski was trying to sell the 64-acre park caused widespread concern among its large community of users, with many pointing blame at city leaders for not accepting his earlier offer to buy it for $1.2 million or increase the rent from $1 per year to $85,000.

Jackson said Friday the city had not dragged its feet.

"I don't think that's a fair characterization," she said. "Our recreation and parks director, Mr. Parker, led the discussion with input from the commission at various critical points during the discussion."

She said any agreement to lease or purchase the park must take into consideration Augusta's annual expense of about $130,000 in park maintenance and its contribution of sales tax funds for capital improvements.

The reason Barinowski had not communicated with the city was that the Thursday meeting was with corporate trustee, Queensborough Bank and Trust Trust Officer Troy Breitmann. Breitmann confirmed the meeting Friday.

Breitmann said he'd just met with trustee Mary Speir and would subsequently be meeting with Barinowski. He expects the trustees to be in agreement with the final disposition of the park, Breitmann said.

"Things take time to work out the details," he said.

Commissioner Dennis Williams said Thursday a "win, win" proposition was imminent to preserve the park's use by the public, and reiterated it Friday.

"I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that the people in our community would have Pendleton King Park to visit whenever they like," he said.

Henry B. King created a trust in 1923 establishing housing for veterans at another location and a public park for the city of Augusta in memory of his son, John Pendleton King.

The veterans' portion of King's legacy needs funding that the trust hopes to gain from the park, Breitmann said.

The Pendleton King Park Foundation, a separate entity, was created by the Augusta City Council in 1966 to oversee development and maintenance of the park and has looked after it for decades.

The park is now home to numerous gardens, trails, a disc golf course, a playground and until earlier this year, Augusta's only dog park.

The foundation, which is taking legal action to protect its interest, had garnered 3,992 signatures in support of saving the park in two days by Friday. The foundation is holding a question-and-answer session at noon today at the park.

Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-3215 or susan.mccord@augustachronicle.com

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

A 19-year-old former Waynesville High School Spartans football player was sentenced on Wednesday to 30 days in the Warren County jail and 100 hours of community service.

Hunter Brown also was ordered to write letters of apology to the team and a younger player on the team whom he allegedly mistreated during the 2016 season.

Judge Timothy Tepe also banned Brown from school property during three years on probation and barred him from contact with the victim, who was 14 years old in 2016 when the alleged incidents took place in Waynesville and at a football camp in Indiana, according to police reports.

Since then, the school district has instituted 22 Strong, a program designed to emphasize the importance of respecting each other and other community values by students participating in extracurricular activities.

"We don't accept hazing, we don't accept bullying, We don't accept any kind of harassment," Wayne Local Schools Superintendent Pat Dubbs said. "We've emphasized it more because of what happened."

On Wednesday, Brown, who pleaded guilty in October, was sentenced on a charge of retaliation, agreed upon during consultations with Brown's family and lawyer, the victim's family and prosecutors. Brown initially was indicted on charges of gross sexual imposition, child endangering, menacing by stalking and unlawful restraint in April.

"The indictment blew things so out of proportion," Brown's lawyer Martin Hubbell said before the hearing.

Brown put his genitals against the boy and hit the boy while holding him down in what was known on the team as the "10 candy bar game," according to police records.

Hubbell said Brown's initial alleged actions were not criminal or sexual. Hubbell described them as "disgusting locker-room behavior."

Brown was expelled and graduated from an online school, according to statements in court. He will be allowed to go to work while serving the jail sentence.

"I pray this experience has impacted you in ways you will never forget. I hope you will never take advantage of another human being," the victim said before the sentencing.

The case was the result of an investigation by Waynesville police "after an incident where another freshman had soap put in his cleats," according to County Prosecutor David Fornshell.

"The coaches interviewed the players and this was reported. Coaches informed the school administration, who interviewed the football players and then contacted police. Brown was suspended from the team," Fornshell said in written responses to questions about the case.

The charge on which Brown was convicted relates to his actions after the alleged bullying was reported.

"Brown approached the victim after a football game and told the victim to pick up a football. When the victim refused, Brown made threatening and racial comments to victim," Fornshell said.

The police interviewed the entire team before submitting the case to prosecutors.

"This divided the team down the middle," Hub-bell said.

The new case was filed on Oct. 3, when Brown pleaded guilty through a bill of information, rather than after an indictment.

"In looking at possible resolutions, that charge accomplished what all involved parties were seeking as a resolution," Fornshell said.

Contact this reporter at

937-225-2261 or email

larry.budd@coxinc.com

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Copyright 2017 The Commercial Appeal, Inc.
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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

Memphis men's basketball coach Tubby Smith stood under the veranda of the building housing his new office, between a 7,300-square foot lobby filled with reminders of the program's history and seven large pillars surrounding the entranceway.

It reminded him of another Memphis landmark.

"This is going to be a focus point... especially for fans that are coming to Memphis," Smith said. "It's sort of like Graceland."

The University of Memphis unveiled the Laurie-Walton Family Basketball Center on Friday morning during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the school's Park Avenue campus. It featured Smith, school President Dr. M. David Rudd, Athletic Director Tom Bowen, and former Tiger basketball player Bill Laurie and his wife, Nancy Walton Laurie.

Laurie and his wife are the namesakes of the building because they donated a school record $10 million to help finance the construction. The approximately 62,000-square- foot structure cost more than $20.5 million and features palatial architecture and state-of-the-art amenities.

Rudd said he hopes its completion shows the nation that "we have the capacity to compete at the highest levels."

"I certainly have had high expectations, but after just walking through this facility, I'm stunned at the quality and how nice this is," he added.

What's inside the new practice facility?

Among the luxuries are a theater-style film room, several lounges with flat-screen televisions, an academic center that will be used by multiple Memphis athletic teams and four high-definition cameras around the 14,000-square-foot practice court that can isolate on an individual player.

There is also 5,000 square feet of interior glass, a 3,250-square-foot weight room that is two stories tall and a hydrotherapy training room highlighted by a cold tub, a hot tub and an underwater treadmill.

The entire facility is equipped with top-of-the-line technological equipment, from a bioscan thumbprint reader to secure entrances to audio and video capabilities that will allow players to play music from their smartphones throughout the building.

The lobby, meanwhile, will double as an interactive museum that school administrators have dubbed the "Hall of Traditions." It features large photographs, graphics and memorabilia of the program's all-time greats, such as Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway and Keith Lee.

The Hall of Traditions will eventually be open to the public, and the school is holding an open house on Jan. 23 from 3 to 5 p.m. for all Memphians to see the new facility.

"The Hall of traditions really brings everything together, the past, present and whatever your future can be," Bowen said. "We don't really have a place to celebrate it because we don't have our own arena. This is a really next-generational opportunity to let people celebrate and share."

What does the facility mean for Memphis?

Friday's ribbon cutting ceremony was attended by past Memphis basketball standouts such as Hank McDowell, Marcus Moody, Elliot Perry and Jon Wilfong. Murray Bartow, the son of former Tigers' coach Gene Bartow, also was there.

Bill Laurie made sure to thank Gene Bartow when speaking to the assembled crowd and noted that the 1972-73 Final Four team he played on "built the foundation of this building."

"You don't build a building to build a program," he added. "You have a program that over many years of winning, (including) multiple Final Fours, and then you deserve the building."

The men's basketball team is expected to move in and begin using the facility starting next month. The Tigers currently practice at the Larry O. Finch Center, which opened in 2000 at a cost of approximately $3.2 million and is about half the size of this new building.

Smith and point guard Jeremiah Martin both noted it will be a boon for the current players to have their practice court and the coaches' offices in the same place moving forward.

At the moment, Smith and his staff are based out of the Athletic Office Building that is situated about a quarter of a mile away from the Finch Center.

"This building is amazing," Martin said. "We been hearing about it for quite some time... but it's actually even better when you come in and be able to see what it actually looks like and tour the building. The locker room has so many things. You have a video game area, a lounge, a sleep area, theater, so everybody can just spend more time together."

Smith not 'disappointed' by 2018 recruiting

During his remarks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Smith said the Laurie-Walton Family Basketball Center "already helped in recruiting." But the Tigers are coming off an early signing period in which they signed just one player (7-foot-4 center Connor Vanover) for the 2018 recruiting class.

Memphis saw top target Robert Woodard commit to Mississippi State, while point guard recruit Tyler Harris of Cordova elected not to make a college decision. East point guard Alex Lomax, who had been the Tigers' top priority throughout the spring and summer, also committed to Wichita State last week.

Smith was asked Friday whether he was disappointed in this outcome.

"I'm never disappointed," Smith answered. "I've never lost anything I've never had. We'd love to have had those young men, but probably going to be better opportunities for others."

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Former Tiger basketball player Hank McDowell (middle) enjoys the digs in the video room at the University of Memphis' new Laurie-Walton Family Basketball Center.Mark Weber/The Commercial Appeal
 
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Copyright 2017 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

The city of Spokane will pay $165,000 to a former Spokane Parks Department spokeswoman whose job was wrapped up in the shuffling caused by allegations of sexual harassment by former police Chief Frank Straub.

Nancy Goodspeed sued the city for $1 million in August 2016, alleging she had been illegally replaced as media contact for the department following the reassignment of Monique Cotton from the Police Department. Cotton was moved to the position after alleging harassment by Straub in early 2015, while Goodspeed was recovering from treatment for Parkinson's disease.

The city announced the settlement in the case in a brief news release Friday.

"The City thanks Nancy for her 9 years of service to the City and community," the release said. "The City wishes her the best. Neither party will have any further comment on the matter."

Cotton resigned from the Parks Department in February 2016. Straub's lawsuit against the city, alleging wrongful termination because he wasn't allowed to rebut the harassment claims, was dismissed in June 2016. That ruling is under appeal.

Heather Lowe, who headed the city's Human Resources Department at the time of Cotton's transfer and was named as a defendant in Goodspeed's lawsuit, left the city in August 2016.

The settlement announced Friday needs City Council approval.

City Council President Ben Stuckart said he expects the council to consider the settlement in the next couple of weeks. He declined to comment further on the deal.

City Councilwoman Karen Stratton said she first informed Goodspeed, a former KHQ-TV broadcaster, of the communications job in the Parks Department when she returned to Spokane in 2007.

"I'm glad that it's over for Nancy," Stratton said. "She's an incredible person, and a wonderful professional."

Contact the writer:

(509) 459-5429

kiph@spokesman.com

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Copyright 2017 Virginian-Pilot Companies LLC
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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

In a major blow to Norfolk State and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, Hampton University announced Thursday it will join the Big South Conference next season.

Hampton, one of the nation's top academic historically black colleges and universities, will leave the MEAC in July, officials said.

That means for the first time in more than a century of athletics, Hampton will not compete in an HBCU league. The Big South has no other HBCU members.

Tennessee State, a member of the Ohio Valley Conference, is the only other Division I HBCU not in a historically black league.

Norfolk State will lose its closest conference rival, while the MEAC loses a school with the deepest financial resources and some of its top athletic facilities.

The MEAC basketball tournament moved to downtown Norfolk in part because NSU and Hampton gave it a pair of nearby schools.

Whether the Pirates will participate in this year's MEAC tournament remains to be seen. When asked if the conference will allow Hampton in its championship s or to go to NCAA tournaments this school year, commissioner Dennis Thomas would not say.

"We have policies," he said. "And the conference office will follow those policies regarding the exit of Hampton from our conference."

He declined to say what the policies are, adding that after Hampton and MEAC officials discuss the issue and the league knows exactly when the Pirates plan to leave, the league will issue a statement.

Hampton did not catch the MEAC by surprise. Thomas said school president William Harvey "has been transparent in his communication to me and the conference regarding what their intentions were."

Athletic director Eugene Marshall Jr. said while the school appreciates its 22 years in the MEAC, it was time to move on.

"Hampton University is always going to be an HBCU," Marshall said. "That's not going to change. We're not (going to stop) competing against our fellow MEAC schools.

"But as we look at the bigger picture, of trying to build the best mid-sized athletic program in the country, you have to take steps. We're not leaving, We're just expanding our reach."

Asked if Hampton will make more money in the Big South, Marshall said, "I believe the move to the Big South will enhance our profile and our visibility around the nation. And that will enhance our revenue."

Responded Thomas: "I respectfully disagree. But that's the institution's perspective. They believe this is a good move for them."

Marshall said he hopes the annual Battle of the Bay football game with Norfolk State will continue, and that the two will continue to compete in other sports. NSU athletic director Marty Miller has the same hopes.

Marshall said it's possible that Hampton might play MEAC football next fall.

"That's something we have to talk about," he said. "We don't want to leave schools we had a good relationship with hanging."

He acknowledged that Hampton has been discussing membership with the Big South throughout his 3½ years at the school.

"That was one of the reasons I came here," he said about the opportunity to move to a more high-profile conference.

Harvey announced the move in a statement, saying it was made to compete in a more geographically compact league.

Although most MEAC schools are in Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland and Washington, D.C., the league also has two members in Florida. Big South schools are confined to Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Liberty University, which is moving to the Football Bowl Subdivision in football, will remain in the Big South in all other sports. Two other state schools are in the Big South: Longwood and Radford.

Charleston Southern is the most distant Big South school from Hampton in most sports.

However, travel could be expensive in football, with football-only members Kennesaw State, located just north of Atlanta, and Monmouth in New Jersey. North Alabama joins as a football-only member in 2019.

"This means our student-athletes will spend less time traveling and more time in classes on campus," Harvey said in the news release. "This keeps the proper focus on academics, which is our chief reason for being. The smaller geographic footprint will also reduce travel expenses."

Big South commissioner Kyle Kallander said the vote to admit Hampton was unanimous.

"We enjoy a wonderful relationship with Hampton University," Liberty athletic director Ian McCaw said. "They will add value to the academic and athletic profile of the conference and afford us a fourth Virginia school."

The Big South is a step up in competition for Hampton in some high-profile sports. The MEAC has been consistently ranked the worst or second-worst of the 32 Division I men's basketball leagues in recent years, while the Big South has generally ranked seven or eight places higher.

In football, Realtime.rpi ranks the MEAC 20th among Division I conferences this season and the Big South 15th.

The move had long been rumored. A year ago, Big South and Hampton officials denied to The Virginian-Pilot that they had held any discussions about such a move.

Hampton previously had made overtures to the Colonial Athletic Association that were rebuffed.

Founded in 1868, Hampton is the alma mater of Booker T. Washington and Alberta Williams King, the mother of Martin Luther King Jr.

The Central Collegiate Intercollegiate Athletic Association was formed on Hampton's campus in 1912. Hampton left the CIAA in 1995 to move up to Division I and the MEAC, and Norfolk State followed two years later.

The MEAC already was scheduled to lose Savannah State after this season; it is dropping to Division II. The conference will be left with 11 schools, with Maryland-Eastern Shore becoming NSU's closest rival.

NSU's Miller said he hasn't had time to assess the effect Hampton's move will have on his school.

"It will have some effect" on the MEAC basketball tournament, he added. "It helped the tournament to have Norfolk State and Hampton both in the region."

USC Upstate, which was admitted to the Big South on Wednesday, and Hampton replace VMI (Southern Conference) and Coastal Carolina (Sun Belt), which left in recent years.

Kallander said, for now, the door is closed to future Big South expansion.

"Hampton's our 12th member," he said. "We have not talked about growing beyond 12 in any serious way."

Football

Campbell

Charleston Southern

Gardner-Webb

Hampton University

Kenneshaw State *

Monmouth *

Presbyterian

North Alabama (2019) *

* Football-only members

Basketball and most other sports

Campbell

Charleston Southern

Gardner-Webb

Hampton University

Longwood

High Point

Liberty University

Presbyterian

Radford

UNC Asheville

USC Upsate

Winthrop

Bethune Cookman

Coppin State

Delaware State

Florida A&M

Howard

Maryland-Eastern Shore

Morgan State

Norfolk State

North Carolina A&T

North Carolina Central

South Carolina State

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Dallas Cowboys Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith uses Aira technology for the blind and visually impaired to provide game day play-by-play announcing from the suite level for Pete Lane, seated in the stands below.

Pete Lane, who is visually impaired, sits in the stands as Dallas Cowboys Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith uses Aira technology for the blind and visually impaired to provide game day play-by-play announcing.

"Dak (Prescott) throws a little snare out to Zeke (Elliott)," Smith says. Seconds later, the decibel meter in the stadium surged past 100. "Zeke scores a touchdown!" Smith says. "Zeke scores a touchdown!"

Pete Lane sees a small, pixelated figure whenever he thinks of Emmitt Smith.

He sees a short and stout teenager wearing a blue Florida Gators jersey, dashing his way atop a grassy field.

He doesn't see the "E. Smith" of a Dallas Cowboys uniform, or his favorite running back kissing the Vince Lombardi trophy. He doesn't see No. 22 raising his arms after breaking the NFL's all-time rushing record, or anything from Smith's 15-year Hall of Fame career.

That's because Lane is blind.

The 66-year-old from Jacksonville, Fla., was diagnosed with macular degeneration at age 8, and ever since, his vision has deteriorated.

In the late 1980s, Lane still had enough sight to watch his beloved Florida Gators. That's when he first saw Smith. On game days, he sat five feet from the TV screen, marveling at the running back. He even attended a few Gator games to cheer Smith on.

By 2000, Lane was blind. Because of his visual impairment, he's relied on physical assistance for day-to-day tasks like reading the mail, grocery shopping or navigating an airport.

Until December 2016.

That's when Lane started using Aira, a new technology for the blind and visually impaired. By wearing a pair of smart glasses equipped with a video camera, Lane can connect and communicate with an Aira agent via phone, who sees what Lane is seeing through a computer screen.

Aira partners with AT&T. And last Sunday, for a special trial, Lane and his son, Patrick, were invited to attend the Dallas Cowboys home game against the Los Angeles Rams.

They were chauffeured to AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Jerry Jones' personal bus and enjoyed pregame on-field access. But the real treat was sitting in the stands, 20 rows behind the 45-yard line, while an Aira agent narrated a portion of the game to Lane.

And not just any agent.

Minutes into the second quarter, with the score tied 3-3, Lane plugged in his ear buds and opened the Aira app.

"Hey Pete, can you hear me?" a voice said.

Lane smiled, and confirmed who was speaking.

"Yes, this is Emmitt," Smith said, sitting high above in the suite level, a laptop on his knees, now watching the game through Lane's perspective.

Lane was honored.

"The pleasure is all mine, my man," Smith said. "Now, tell that kid in front of you with the spiky hair to sit down."

New independence

Aira was first created three years ago in San Diego.

The inventors, Suman Kanuganti and Yuja Chang, were inspired by a blind friend. Together, they searched for ways to provide instant access to information for the blind and visually impaired.

By wearing smart glasses, or using the camera on a cellular device, a blind or visually impaired person simply needs to tap the Aira app. Within seconds, they are connected with an agent.

Aira became available to the general public six months ago. As of now, there are more than 1,000 users across the country. Plans are monthly and based on minutes. The lowest is $89 per month.

"People use it anywhere - from exploring new neighborhoods, traveling, cooking, education," Kanuganti, 37, said. "People use Aira for reading books to their children."

Lane first learned of Aira when he interviewed Kanuganti on his podcast, Blind Abilities. He was so intrigued by the technology that he told his son, Patrick, to check it out. Patrick, who is not visually impaired, promptly got a job with Aira.

Since being involved with the organization, he's noticed a change in his father, who is no longer waiting for assistance when he needs to set the thermostat, navigate a hotel or go on walks.

"Now, he wants to go out and try all these different things on his own," Patrick Lane, 31, said.

Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, supports the new technology, explaining that it simply allows for more independence.

"If I want to look at a manual to put something together from IKEA, I can do it at the time I want to do it. I don't have to get a member of my family to help," Riccobono, 41, said. "It's more about being able to get access to information when I need it without inconveniencing others."

'I've got to be his eyes'

Emmitt Smith had never done this before. He wondered the extent of Lane's football knowledge, and how he became such a fan.

"I'm sure he hears the game, and what's happening," Smith said. "Now, I've got to be his eyes. Which is kind of cool."

Minutes into the second quarter - with cheers and whistles and the booming voice of a PA announcer echoing through the stadium - Smith tried to do just that.

"It's third and seven right now," he said, raising his voice so Lane could hear. "We have the ball at the 10-yard line. We have a chance to get a first down here. Jason Wit-ten is at the bottom of the screen. Dez (Bryant) is in the slot, in the middle."

Lane, sitting in the stands, visualized the play as if he were behind the quarterback.

"Dak (Prescott) throws a little snare out to Zeke (Elliott)," Smith said. Seconds later, the decibel meter in the stadium surged past 100.

"Zeke scores a touchdown!" Smith said. "Zeke scores a touchdown!

Lane shot his fist in the air.

"Great run by Zeke," Smith said. "Made the guy miss. Got hit at about the 4-yard line and then dove for the pylon. That's what you do when you have an asset like Zeke."

Smith dissected every play for Lane during the second quarter, even describing what the stadium looked like.

At halftime, Lane left his seats near the field and made his way to Smith, using a cane and Patrick as assistance.

When he arrived at the suite, Smith was excited to see what Lane was wearing.

"I see you with a Gator hat on, Pete!" Smith said.

Lane smiled, and held out his hand. Smith grabbed it and guided Lane to a photo opportunity.

Just by being close with him, Lane could tell Smith is in great shape. Lane still has a touch of peripheral vision, so he turned his head to the side and glanced at Smith's silhouette.

They talked football, including the rushing record.

"It's 18-something," Lane said. "Eighteen thousand, three hundred and... "

"Three hundred and 55," said the smiling, 48-year-old retired running back wearing a button-down shirt and a trimmed goatee.

But that's not what Lane saw.

He was picturing a teenager, wearing a blue Florida Gators jersey, forever dashing his way across a grassy field.

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Copyright 2017 Chattanooga Publishing Company
All Rights Reserved

Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

An attorney for former Ooltewah High School employees claiming they were wrongly mistreated during a 2015 rape case wants to beef up their lawsuit with more evidence pointing to the man who was the Hamilton County Schools superintendent at the time.

Attorney Curtis Bowe did not expand Thursday on what he plans to add about Rick Smith, the former superintendent and one of many public officials named in his clients' June lawsuit.

But Bowe must make the changes before early January as attorneys move toward an Oct. 30, 2018, trial date that U.S. District Magistrate Judge Christopher Steger set Thursday.

"That needs to be a very tight timeline," said W. Carl Spining, an attorney representing Smith and the school district. "We need to know what the facts are so we can defend, and I think we need to know them very, very soon."

Bowe filed the 33-page civil lawsuit in Chattanooga's U.S. District Court on behalf of former Ooltewah High School Principal Jim Jarvis, former athletic director Allard "Jesse" Nayadley and former head basketball coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery, as well as all of their spouses. Bowe said school, county and state officials violated the men's rights by "illegally disseminating false facts" and stripping them of the "opportunity to defend their employment against the untrue and malicious allegations" after the December 2015 trip to Gatlinburg, Tenn., during which a freshman student was raped with a pool cue.

Many of those agencies and officials, including the Tennessee Department of Children's Services, the Hamilton County Department of Education and the Hamilton County district attorney general, have asked for the case to be dismissed. Their attorneys say these public officials are immune to the lawsuit because they were acting within the scope of their duties. Bowe, however, says there are exceptions for immunity, and he wants time to develop the facts.

Bowe said Thursday he hasn't had time to amend the complaint since he filed it.

His case is one of three pending lawsuits against the school district. Two minors who said they were raped on the Gatlinburg trip claimed in their lawsuits that Hamilton County knew abuse was happening but failed to protect its students. All three cases are consolidated so attorneys can easily share evidence and avoid deposing the same witnesses multiple times.

Judge Steger laid down several dates Thursday to guide multiple legal teams through the scheduling maze.

He said he plans to address the motions to dismiss soon but encouraged everyone to consider mediation, too. During mediation, both sides air their desires and better understand how to compromise with their opponent, Steger said.

Given that multiple attorneys are working on the case and about to generate thousands of dollars in fees, that's not a bad idea, he said.

"Ninety-seven percent of the cases [in federal court] get resolved short of trial," Steger said. "So some of your efforts should be aimed at that... and that's my sermon on mediation."

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeter son918.

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Copyright 2017 Union Leader Corp.
All Rights Reserved

The Union Leader (Manchester, NH)

 

DURHAM — Parents turned out in force to talk about football at the school board meeting in Durham Wednesday night. Oyster River High School does not have a football program. Parents who want their kids to play high school football want the board to authorize the athletic director to solicit cooperation agreements with Portsmouth and Dover.

According to Krista Butts, who runs the local youth football league with her husband, Jeffrey, there are 19 boys in the eighth grade who play. Butts said 14 are considering going to a private school or transferring out of district so they can play."For these kids, this is what engages them in school and this is what motivates them every fall.

It gets their energy out. It helps them focus," Butts said before the meeting. Her son, Tyler, is one of those players. He is applying to St. Thomas Aquinas in Dover.

Butts said an agreement with Portsmouth and/or Dover would not cost Durham taxpayers anything because parents would be responsible for costs.Not everyone in the community wants to see Oyster River students playing football. Robert Barth, a doctor from Lee, penned a letter to school board members earlier this month.

"It is a blatant form of child abuse to encourage and allow 5 to 16-year-olds to play this game," Barth said."There is no way this body should support high school football."At the meeting, board member Kenneth Rotner recused himself from the football discussion after he said he has been threatened for speaking at the last meeting because his comments were taken out of context.

Rotner, a doctor, said he does not feel that people in the community are discussing the risks and benefits of football and are basing their decisions on emotion.John Jones, a Durham resident, and other parents said they resent the comments that they don't understand the risks associated with football.

Hope Flynn of Madbury said her son, Logan, was concussed playing football. When she spoke with his teachers about the injury, Flynn learned there were seven other student-athletes who also suffered from concussions during the same time period.Two of those concussions were suffered by soccer players.

The rest of the concussions came from biking, basketball, swimming, horseriding and hockey.Flynn said over 100 players in the youth football program, and they are a part of the community."Let our kids play football if they want to play football," Flynn said.

School board members discussed the issue, and Denise Day said she wants to make sure that if an agreement is reached and doesn't work out, that the district is not on the hook for a football program. Board member Allan Howland said football has come up a number of times over the years.

"It's such an emotional issue that every time it comes up it divides our community," Howland said.Howland said they should have another warrant article on the topic.The board approved a motion that would allow the athletic director to solicit cooperation agreements by a vote of 6-0, with Rotner abstaining. They will hear more details at their first board meeting in January.

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Copyright 2017 Charleston Newspapers

Charleston Gazette-Mail

 

Capital will be without four players, including one starting offensive lineman, for Friday's Class AAA playoff quarterfinal at University after they were ruled ineligible for participating in youth all-star games on Saturday at Poca Middle School.

The names of the players, all freshmen, were not released. They are ineligible for the remainder of the season.

Capital coach Jon Carpenter said his principal, Larry Bailey, filed a self-report with the Secondary School Activities Commission about the incident. Dozens of players ages 10-14 competed in the weekend event, but apparently the only athletes whose varsity season wasn't over came from Capital.

"It's called dual participation," said Bernie Dolan, the SSAC's executive director. "When you're involved in a team sport, you're not allowed to participate in the same team sport outside of school."

Carpenter said the situation took his coaching staff by surprise.

"It's crazy to lose four kids for the rest of the year," he said. "I've never heard of [travel all-star games in November] before. This has never been an issue in football before. I don't begrudge the kids for not knowing [the rule] because I didn't know about it.

"I was told they let all those kids play with no paperwork turned in, they didn't sign waivers or turn rosters in, nothing. They just showed up and they threw out equipment and let them play."

Dolan said players from two Kanawha Valley high school teams were involved.

"Capital was the only one who still had kids playing," Dolan said, declining to name the other school. "We just got wind of it [Monday] and we're still investigating. We hope to come to a conclusion soon.

"It hasn't been an issue with football before, but now we have all-star travel football cropping up. It could be a problem for a lot of people if you don't pay attention to the rules."

St. Albans appears to have been the other school with varsity players involved, with reports of SA coaches participating and using school football equipment.

"We may have had some kids playing," said St. Albans athletic director Rick Whitman. "We're just scratching the surface of who was playing, who was coaching - all that stuff. We're investigating and I can't comment on what it is until we're done investigating. We're trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together."

St. Albans head coach Scott Tinsley was not involved in the all-star event, as he was still recovering from a small stroke he had during his team's final regular-season game on Nov. 3. It was the second stroke in recent months for Tinsley, whose health has since improved.

"I know very, very little about it because I was in the hospital while it was going on," Tinsley said Tuesday. "I had a call from someone wanting to use our equipment for midget league all-star kids, and I had no idea it would be any of [the varsity] kids. I'm catching heck, and I'm trying to find out what's going on."

Bailey found it unfortunate that young players were caught in the middle of the situation.

"I think the kids are unfortunately the victims here," Bailey said, "of something the adults understood. You see travel teams in other sports - basketball is really big, soccer, but in football it's not something we've had to deal with. The kids truly didn't understand what was going on and were given bad advice from adults who don't have their best interests in mind. And then Capital High school and these kids get punished from the whole deal."

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Copyright 2017 Charleston Newspapers

Charleston Gazette-Mail

 

Several of the University of Charleston's athletic teams soon will have homes much closer to campus.

UC announced Wednesday plans to build the Welch Athletic Complex, a $4 million project that will be home to the Golden Eagles baseball, men's soccer, women's soccer and women's lacrosse teams.

The complex will be named after outgoing UC President Ed Welch, who will retire in June.

"This is the last missing link as far as developing our facilities, UC athletic director Bren Stevens said. "This is what we need, I think, as we try to establish ourselves as a Division II destination. We need that facility on campus. To have all those sports on campus would be a game-changer for us.

The Welch Complex will be built on the current site of Triana Field, the home of Charleston's baseball team, and will be expanded to land closer to the university's campus. It will include include artificial turf, concessions, bleachers, locker rooms and a scoreboard.

The City of Charleston already has approved the closing of 19th Street to provide additional space for the project. The fields will be available for community use when not being used by UC's teams. Stevens said the university hopes to begin construction of the facility sometime after the spring 2018 sports season.

Currently, Charleston's athletic teams are spread throughout the area. The men's soccer and women's lacrosse teams play at Schoenbaum Stadium at Coonskin Park. The women's soccer team plays at the Soccer Fields at Trace Fork. The Golden Eagles' football stadium is at Laidley Field.

UC has made several significant moves in recent years in improving its athletic facilities. Last year, the university opened the Wehrle Innovation Center, which serves as the home of the Golden Eagles men's and women's basketball teams and men's and women's volleyball teams.

"I think our arena is one of the nicest venues in Division II, Stevens said. "I think we did it right. I think from the whole way that came about, it's something that we're really proud of. With this complex, I think our facilities will definitely be some of the best in Division II and will help us recruit the type of student-athletes we want to at this university.

The complex is part of an $8 million comprehensive campaign that also will fund the second phase of UC's innovation programming.

Bernard E. Layne III, chairman of the Welch Challenge Campaign, said the complex is a great way to honor the contributions Welch has made to UC in his 29 years at the school.

"Dr. Ed Welch is a true visionary in the field of higher education, said Layne. "His innovative approach to education and athletic competition has changed the complexion and perception of the University of Charleston during his 29-year tenure. This campaign will move his original master plan and innovation programming vision forward and will serve as a capstone to his remarkably brilliant career at our University.

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Copyright 2017 Star Tribune
All Rights Reserved

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

St. Paul and Minnesota United have big plans for the area around the Major League Soccer stadium, including a new park, updated streets and an unusual stormwater management system. But the costs are adding up.

City leaders agreed last year to spend $18.4 million on infrastructure around the stadium. City Council members voted Wednesday to contribute another $4 million for facilities in the 34.5-acre site at the intersection of University and Snelling avenues.

The stadium will be a key part of that site in the Midway neighborhood, where United and RD Management are expected to build a mixed-use development.

"This is a short-term investment for a much bigger long-term gain," said Council Member Dai Thao, who represents the area. He was one of four council members who approved the additional funds.

Council Members Dan Bostrom, Rebecca Noecker and Jane Prince all opposed putting any new city money into the project, beyond the $18.4 million.

The largest new expense will be an additional $2.3 million for a stormwater system that uses captured rain to irrigate the site. It will be the largest stormwater system of its kind in the state and the first such system in St. Paul, according to city staff. The city eventually will recoup about half the cost by charging private developers to connect to the stormwater system. The other half of the $2.3 million will come from a grant and tax dollars.

The city also agreed to contribute $250,000 for expenses like sidewalks, lighting and trees at the so-called "Great Lawn." The soccer team will own and maintain the .63-acre park for 52 years and it will be publicly available when there are not team events.

"We were able to expand the public's access to green space in the parks system while sharing some of those costs," Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hahm said.

The majority of council members said the park was a good deal for the city, but Bostrom, Noecker and Prince said the city should not help pay for a park that the team controls.

Other new expenses include $750,000 to move a traffic signal and improve street medians and $400,000 for "soft costs" like developing a transportation management plan, Planning and Economic Development Department Director Jonathan Sage-Martinson said.

After these improvements, roughly two-thirds of the streets on the 34.5-acre site will be complete, he said.

Jessie Van Berkel · 612-673-4649

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Copyright 2017 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

The gulf between Life Time Fitness, which wants to build a large health club at the old Hackney's location at 880 N. Old Rand Road, and the Lake Zurich residents who would have to live near it seemed to be as wide as ever during a meeting of the village's planning and zoning committee Wednesday night.

So many residents came to the meeting to speak about the proposal that at 10 p.m. - after about two hours of public comment - the commissioners asked that the discussion be continued at their next meeting on Dec. 20.

Life Time Fitness wants to build a 125,000-square-foot health and fitness club with luxurious amenities and an outdoor pool deck.The building would have three floors and be 60 feet tall. Life Time Director of Development Aaron Koehler said the club probably would charge members a monthly fee of $140 to $150.

The plan was last before the public for a courtesy review by the Lake Zurich board on Aug. 21, and Koehler appraised the planning commission of the changes made to the plan after suggestions from the board and from residents such as moving the building 62 feet farther south.

Commissioner Craig Danneggar asked Koehler if Life Time had considered making the building shorter. Koehler said Life Time then would have to make the building wider and that the height of the building seemed fine to him. That declaration that was met with laughter from many members of the standing-room-only crowd.

Maury Vandeneykel said his house is located 20 feet from where the building is being proposed. "If you don't think this is going to affect my quality of life, you're crazy," Vandeneykel said.

Mike Gannon, another Lake Zurich resident who lives nearby, said he didn't think the changes Life Time made went far enough and that they company was building too much on the space. "I saw the two different proposals, and to me they looked the same," Gannon said. "They are trying to put a round peg into a square hole."

Not every Lake Zurich resident was against the plan. Saleem Molani, a resident since 1999, said he had been going to the Life Time Fitness in Schaumburg for 17 years and it had made life better for him and his family. Looking around at the people at the meeting, he said the term NIMBY came to mind, which stands for Not In My Back Yard.

Sarosh Saher, the village's community development director, said after the meeting that Life Time Fitness could submit more documentation or change its plan between now and the December meeting.

Koehler said Life Time was willing to work with the community "Our goal is obviously to build a facility here, but we're open to hearing the commentary tonight and continuing this conversation," Koehler said. "Our intent is not to plow forward at all costs."

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Copyright 2017 The Commercial Appeal, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

Two Memphis East basketball players have been ruled ineligible for the 2017-18 season after the TSSAA determined the school had violated the state's "prior link" rule for transfers.

Though the statement does not name the players, there are two who have moved to East and had a prior athletic connection with East head coach Penny Hardaway: Ryan Boyce and James Wiseman.

Over the summer, both Boyce, who signed with UAB on Monday, and Wiseman, a top-five national recruit in the class of 2019, played for Team Penny, a Memphis-based grassroots organization that Hardaway began sponsoring in 2012.

The under-17 team that both Boyce and Wiseman played on this year was coached by former Arkansas star and NBA player Todd Day.

The rule states that if a student with an athletic record transfers to a new school where an athletic coaching link existed within the previous 12 months, than that student is ineligible at his new school.

East will appeal the decision during a meeting of the TSSAA's executive council Thursday at 3 p.m.

Boyce transferred from Houston while Wiseman played last season at Nashville Ensworth. Both were expected to play big roles for the two-time defending Class AAA champs, ranked preseason No. 1 nationally by at least two media outlets.

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Copyright 2017 Times-World, LLC
All Rights Reserved

The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

 

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Arkansas firedathleticdirector Jeff Long on Wednesday, ending a nearly decade-long tenure that included the scandalous ouster of football coach Bobby Petrino and the continued mediocrity of the program under Bret Bielema.

The College Football Playoff selection committee member, formerly the chairman until this season, was under contract through June 2022. Arkansas Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz said the university would honor the provisions in Long's contract, meaning the school could owe him more than $5 million.

The firing comes at a time of turmoil for the football program, which is 29-32 in five seasons under Bielema, including a mark of 11-27 in the Southeastern Conference.

The Razorbacks (4-6) will fail to win at least nine games this season for the sixth straight year.

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Copyright 2017 Collier County Publishing Company
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Naples Daily News (Florida)

 


Late Wednesday morning, the Spartanburg (South Carolina) Herald reported its hometown university is leaving the ASUN for the Big South, effective July 1, 2018.

"We have received notification from the Big South Conference that we have been granted full membership," USC Upstate Chancellor Brendan Kelly told the Herald. "We'll start next season, which means we'll be exiting the Atlantic Sun Conference after this season is over. I couldn't be more pleased about that development because it creates an entirely different experience for out student athletes."

North Alabama decided in December 2016 to move up from Division II and compete in the ASUN beginning with the 2018-19 academic year. So the ASUN will continue to have eight schools. Conferences must have at least seven members to compete in NCAA tournaments and meets.

"We're still going to be at eight teams and we're doing well in that regard," FGCU athletic director Ken Kavanagh said. "Most of us probably look at 10 as the ideal number of teams to have a little bit of cushion and also to be in the position of having more games to start with in your schedule -- you don't have to try to find so many non-conference games.

"But that being said, you look at the positives, too. If you're only eight, you've got a one out of eight chance to make the NCAA tournament. If the right schools and right opportunities are there, we'll continue to look in that (expanding) direction."

ASUN Commissioner Ted Gumbart was caught by surprise Wednesday morning, but he's not shocked that this is transpiring.

"It's just the national landscape and even our local landscape," Gumbart said. "The focus is internal. What does the institution need? So the fact that that was something they would entertain is not surprising."

Gumbart also said conference officials are -- as always -- monitoring the possibilities of more additions.

"We have been planning forward in various membership scenarios for a number of years and we think there are some definite growth opportunities ahead," Gumbart said. "We've been deliberate about it, not jumping just for the sake of adding. But like anything else, one door closes, another opens, and I believe we're going to have opportunities to do some positive things with our membership."

The Spartans -- a recent softball power but never a major player in men's basketball and with only a blip of that in women's basketball -- joined the ASUN in 2007, the same time former Division II program FGCU did.

Travel seems to be the key factor USC Upstate is making this move. The closest fellow ASUN programs to USC Upstate are Kennesaw, Georgia, which is almost 200 miles from Spartanburg, and Lipscomb, whose Nashville home is about 350 miles away. ASUN teams are now spread from New Jersey to Florida.

The Big South has three South Carolina schools and four in North Carolina.

"We have one opponent less than 300 miles away in the Atlantic Sun," Kelly told the Herald. "There is only one opponent more than 300 miles away in the Big South."

"A game at Florida Gulf Coast would cost $15,000," USC Upstate softball coach and associate athletic director Chris Hawkins told the Herald.

Kelly also mentioned to the Herald that the Spartans will be able to construct "more natural rivalries."

The Big South and ASUN worked out an agreement last year that would send ASUN football programs to the Big South if they so choose. The ASUN's Kennesaw State currently plays in the Big South, and North Alabama will next year. USC Upstate does not have a football program.

Mercer and East Tennessee left the ASUN in 2014 to play football. In 2015, Northern Kentucky bolted to the closer Horizon League.

But the New Jersey Institute of Technology quickly jumped into that open spot as a D-I program that previously had no conference affiliation.

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Copyright 2017 The Buffalo News
All Rights Reserved

The Buffalo News (New York)

 

UCLA freshmen basketball players LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were suspended indefinitely by the school on Wednesday after returning from China, where they were held last week for shoplifting.

UCLA coach Steve Alford said at a news conference Wednesday that the trio will not take part in practice or games while the school performs a review of the situation.

"They will have to earn their way back," Alford said. "These are good young men who have exercised an inexcusable lapse of judgment, and now they have to live with that."

Ball, Riley and Hill delivered statements to the media at the news conference about the incident that had them required to stay behind in China for a few days after the team returned to Los Angeles.

UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said at the end of the news conference that the players each admitted guilt and the charges were withdrawn by Chinese authorities. They paid $2,200 bail, surrendered passports and agreed to travel restrictions.

"We're very disappointed in the conduct of our three student-athletes," Guerrero said. "They know they made a huge mistake and as you can see they're deeply sorry for it."

The trio created an international incident that eventually saw President Trump, while visiting Beijing last week as part of a five-nation Asia tour, personally ask Chinese President Xi Jinping to help resolve the case.

The players arrived back in Los Angeles from Shanghai Tuesday, ending a week-long ordeal.

"I want to start off by saying how ashamed and embarrassed I am," Riley said at the news conference, taking full responsibility for shoplifting.

Riley thanked Trump for intervening on the players' behalf.

"We really appreciate you helping us out," Riley said in his statement. "I can only hope that my actions, my words and my hard work in the weeks to come will show that I am capable of meeting that high standard. I can assure you that I will never do anything again to jeopardize UCLA's reputation or that of my own."

Ball, the brother of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, was next to speak and apologized for stealing and to the people of China.

"We're young men, but it's not an excuse for making a really stupid decision," said Ball, who also thanked Trump and the U.S. government for intervening."

Around the nation

· Luke Maye scored 20 points as No. 9 North Carolina beat Bucknell, 93-81. It was the 400th win at North Carolina for coach Roy Williams.

· Angel Delgado scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half as No. 22 Seton Hall beat Indiana, 84-68. He also had 11 rebounds as he posted the 53rd double-double of his career and third in a row.

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Copyright 2017 The Buffalo News
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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

The NCAA reversed course and made the right decision Tuesday night when allowing North Carolina State freshman Braxton Beverly to begin his college basketball career. The governing body was a few weeks late, and the ruling came after it was bombarded by criticism, but common sense ultimately prevailed.

This one was a no-brainer, even by the NCAA's meek standards. Beverly accepted a scholarship from Ohio State and took classes over the summer before Buckeyes coach Thad Matta was fired. With the coach that recruited him gone, Beverly hit the bricks before participating in a single practice.

The NCAA initially ruled that Beverly was ineligible this season based on transfer rules that call for athletes who had not graduated to sit out a full year before playing for their new team. As anyone could see, there were extenuating circumstances in his case. After two appeals failed, the NCAA corrected its mistake.

Now it's time for the same administrators to act in similar fashion with UB transfer Wes Clark. The point guard would have been in the starting lineup for the Bulls on Wednesday night before they beat Jacksonville State, 81-76, in Alumni Arena, but he remained tangled up in silly regulations with little wiggle room.

CJ Massinburg had a game-high 25 points for UB, which had a comfortable lead for most of the second half and withstood a late surge. Nick Perkins scored 14 of his 16 points over the final 20 minutes as the Bulls improved to 2-0.

Clark watched from the bench while hoping to be reinstated by the NCAA after transferring from Missouri. He left the program after three seasons because the university stripped him of his scholarship, and he has spent nearly two years dribbling in circles while trying to get back on the floor.

"My whole life has been around basketball at playing at the highest level," Clark said. "Most athletes, for real, aren't really thinking about the degree. They just want to play basketball, and the degree happens. But when you're not playing basketball, you get to thinking about some long-term decisions."

Clark was partly responsible for his own exit from Missouri. He twice tested positive for marijuana, which prompted Missouri to send him to rehabilitation. He was sent home from rehab after two meetings because, he said, the staff determined he didn't have a drug problem. He was a college kid who was caught smoking pot.

In other news, the sky is blue.

The real crime was him being ruled ineligible for the start of this season after sitting out all of last year. Because he enrolled at UB in the spring of 2017, and therefore wasn't a "student in residence" for two semesters, the NCAA ruled that he couldn't play until the fall semester ended next month.

Never mind that extenuating circumstances played a role in his situation, too, just as they did with Beverly when he left Ohio State.

The NCAA was investigating Missouri for rules infractions involving an academic matter but didn't clear Clark from its inquiry until Aug. 2, 2016. By the time he could transfer and accept scholarship money elsewhere, there was none left. Nearly every Division I school, including UB, had distributed their allotments.

Clark didn't have money for college, so he took a semester off and helped support his 2-year-old daughter. UB coach Nate Oats, who had coached Clark at Romulus High in suburban Detroit, offered him a scholarship last January with the idea he would finish his college career this season at UB.

Twenty-one months after playing his last game for Missouri, after the NCAA declined requests from UB for him to be reinstated for the opener, he remains ineligible. In part, it's because the NCAA dragged its feet on the academic investigation. If he came from a wealthy family, he could have written a check last fall and played all year.

It's a shame.

"The NCAA made the right decision with Braxton," Oats said. "Wes sat out a year. He paid his penance, so to speak. If Wes' family's financial situation was (better), he would have been here in the fall. But they don't have those means. I feel like he's really being punished because of his socioeconomic background."

Leave it to the rigid, irrational NCAA to stick with its "rules are rules" excuse while making money off the backs of athletes. If a coach gets fired or switches jobs, players should be allowed to transfer without punition. If a university decides to remove or reduce scholarship money it promised, they should be allowed to walk free.

Not that this matters, but Clark is a terrific player who would have contributed to the Bulls right away. Oats called him the most competitive athlete he had ever been around. "Basketball I.Q.-wise, he's the smartest kid I've ever coached," Oats said. "He's a winner, and he's a leader."

It's why he was a two-year starter at Missouri.

Clark can join the Bulls on Dec. 16, giving him 22 games on the schedule, but he should be playing now. The point is that it's another example of the NCAA failing to incorporate common sense and comprehending gray areas. Apparently, its rules apply to some players but not others.

If that's not ridiculous enough, the NCAA decided Clark could play next season even though he's scheduled to graduate in May. He doesn't need another year of college or another season. He's four weeks from his 23rd birthday and months from earning his degree in psychology. He now has two children to support.

Clark's chances of succeeding in life and taking care of his family greatly improve if he earns his degree. He can't earn his degree without basketball unless he was willing to go into debt. Basketball led him to an education. He's on schedule become the first member of his family to earn a four-year degree.

It's how college athletics should work.

UB considered egal action on grounds Clark followed the spirit of the rule and sat out a full season even though he took no classes for one semester. The NCAA should take all factors into consideration. If officials can right a wrong with Beverly, they can do the same with Clark. All it takes is a little common sense.

"Everybody in this case, including the people who heard this case, knows what's right by Wes Clark, and that's for Wes Clark to be able to play right now," Oats said. "The NCAA has painted itself into a corner with their rules. Now you're going to punish a kid because he doesn't have money? At the end of the day, if he had money, he would have been in school for a full year by now."

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Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

Mercedes-Benz Stadium is too nice. It is a landlocked cruise ship with a football field attached. It's a cabana shy of a destination resort. Just add a blackjack table and an imitation Elvis, and you've got a casino to rival any on the Las Vegas strip.

What we have here is a pub crawl occasionally interrupted by a concussion.

The gentrification of our arenas has consequences. The distractions of all the modern amenities in today's stadiums are bound to eat into a collective attention span already dulled by Twitter and cat videos. Wandering the concourse and bending an elbow at some 100-yard bar become the preferred activities to staying anchored in a seat and creating havoc when the visitor has the ball.

The football, the presumed reason for the gathering, gets lost. The football is just background noise, the Happy Hour guitarist playing Jim Croce songs for tips.

We're talking exclusively professional football. The college games and the Atlanta United games seemed to have carried on quite raucously. You know the coming national championship game will survive as the central attraction, just given the passions and the importance. Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be the inside of a storm cloud that night.

Against the Cowboys on Sunday, any scan of the building during any quarter seemed to reveal the same thing — plenty of paid-for seats unoccupied. Who knows where their owners were wandering in this food court on steroids? What the Falcons have is a great home stadium — just not a very intimidating home stadium. Not yet, anyway. It has earned no personality beyond being just another pretty face.

During the regular-sea-son opener at the Benz against Green Bay, a rematch of last season's NFC Championship game on a prime-time stage, there was noise. You could measure that by four Packers' false-start penalties.

Offensive linemen have not found it nearly so difficult to function since. The subsequent three visiting teams have been flagged for a total of three false starts.

By heavens, old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium was a cold, unwelcoming place. It would rank as one of the worst venues in the NFL. Come late season, you had two alternatives: Watch the Falcons lose or watch your extremities turn blue.

We'll see what happens when the Falcons play an all-caps BIG GAME at Mercedes-Benz. The excitement of the moment should galvanize the audience. But first they've got to get there.

Following this Monday night's journey to Seattle, four of the Falcons' next six games are at home. We recommend the Mongolian beef on Concourse 100, the vodka cart on 200, and the brisket taco at the 300 level. With perhaps a small side of football.

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Copyright 2017 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
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The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

Sam Hinkie joined the 76ers in 2013, and The Process began.

Through Hinkie s tenure, the team was lauded as on the forefront of the analytics movement in the NBA. His asset-collecting plan and statistical-based approach had basketball nerds standing in applause. But the tools for deeply diving into the new analytics world were still not being fully utilized by the Sixers.

In April 2016, Bryan Colangelo became the general manager of the Sixers. Hinkie was gone, but the team remained committed to its vision of becoming a leader in the analytics world.

In October 2016, Colangelo hired Alex Rucker to be the team s vice president of analytics and strategy.

When I got here, there was one [analytics] guy on staff, Sergi Oliva, who is now my director of analytics, Rucker said. He was here, and he s an exceptionally talented guy. But he s one guy.

Now, with Rucker at the helm, the Sixers employ a team of 10 who are under the analytics umbrella. That s not counting consultants, scouts who use analytics, and the sports science team that works closely with Rucker s department.

We almost certainly have the largest analytics staff in the NBA, Rucker said, noting that his team is as diverse as it is large. We are, I believe, the only analytics team with two women full-time, and my team has members hailing from Catalonia, Italy, Taiwan, Croatia, and Canada. The age of analytics

In the beginning, there was sabermetrics. The term was coined by writer Bill James in the 1970 s, and it refers to the analysis of statistics in baseball that were used to answer what once seemed unanswerable.

Fast forward through the decades, through Moneyball the book turned feature film that helped make advanced analytics mainstream in baseball through Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and algorithms for true shooting percentage, through Hinkie, who came from the Morey camp in Houston.

Fast forward through it all, and you arrive in the modern era, where stats gurus reign supreme, a time when technological advancements have led to regularly staffed analytics teams that are commonly used by every pro sports franchise to inform decisions and gain a deeper understanding of the game.

The advent of player-tracking cameras systems such as SportVU and Second Spectrum currently used in every NBA arena has made more data than ever available for the teams to analyze.

According to Rucker, a classic box score and play-by-play readout averages around 800 lines of data. The player-tracking systems spit out roughly 800,000 lines of data per game.

These systems track every movement of every player and the ball from the number of passes made by a player to the distance that player leaves between himself and an opponent when he closes out on a shooter and how effective he is depending on the speed at which he does so. Everything is trackable.

The amount of information has grown so much that it needs translators, Rucker said. The people who work with me, their job is to translate that mass of data into something that looks like basketball and then use that to inform our decisions.

In the earlier days of using metrics and data in professional baseball, there was some pushback. Sports are rich in tradition and history, and it s difficult sometimes to bring in new ideas. Rucker said that basketball benefited from baseball s learning process.

Honestly, is there some resistance to the proliferation of analytics in pro basketball? Yes. I don t think it s anything like baseball experienced, Rucker said. We are very fortunate here. Bryan [Colangelo] asks questions and pushes and challenges me all the time, and it s fantastic, and Brett [Brown] is the same way.

Rucker says that s not the case every where, though, and he knows people in the analytics world who work for other teams that experience resistance on a regular basis.Gaining the competitive edge

After Rucker was hired last fall, the Sixers spent the rest of the season creating their analytics team. Now the task is learning how to use the team effectively to leverage all of the information available.

The Sixers crew of stats gurus is a collection of PhDs and MBA data scientists and mathematicians whose main goal, according to Rucker, is to support the coaches and front office with information so that they can make well-informed decisions.

Whether we re talking about the GM or the draft or the coaches in game, they all make a lot of decisions, and the decisions all matter, Rucker said. Usually the decisions they make are right. We just want to make sure we get them right at a higher rate than other people.

The Sixers aren t using the information that is just available to every team through in-arena tracking. They ve heavily invested in a large team, and Rucker said they have a robust and significant software suite that is used to try to gain a competitive edge.

In addition to the player-tracking systems that are used in arenas, the Sixers also use GPS and RFID (radio frequency identification) chips in the players shorts at the practice facility. This allows them to gather the same kind movement-based data for every player, which is used for managing the players rest and recovery.

Players are becoming increasingly interested in the analytics approach, too. Without using a name, Rucker said a player recently approached the analytics staff with questions about a part of his defensive game. A traditional box score does not give much insight into defensive metrics, but the analytics crew has a ton of data.

The player sat down with Oliva and went over the data.

It s one thing to hear coaches say you ve got to do this. Stop closing out too aggressively, Rucker said. But we can sit them down and say, Listen, when you close out short and stop a couple steps short of the shooter, this is the kind of stuff that happens. When you go too aggressively, you re able to suppress the guy s interest in shooting. But he drives a lot, and that causes some bad outcomes that we re not interested in.

The player had been told as much by coaches, but seeing it in black and white and with the numbers to support the assertion, it became more clear.

Just like the players, the analytics crew lives in two worlds: the NBA season and the offseason.

In its first season together, Rucker s team is focusing its energy on the areas in which Brown and the coaching staff want to improve and providing data-driven information about opponents and player tendencies.

Oliva, the director of analytics, travels with the team, sits in on coaches meetings and is constantly available to offer an analytics perspective on any given day, including before, during and after games.

After the 2017-18 campaign ends, Rucker s team will reflect on what worked and what didn t as well as delve deeper into some of the more nuanced data that will inform front-office decisions.

It s clearly the case that there s something of an arms race, and teams are investing more and more into analytics on the human side, Rucker said.

The Sixers say they want to do everything they can to win that race.

Coming Thursday: In Part 2, a look at the future of analytics in the NBA. Is it possible to track chemistry, heart and mood with data?

Brett Brown calls his Sixers 'ahead of schedule'

http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/sixers/philadelphia-76ers-best-start-13-games-brett-brown-20171115.html

A new Ben Simmons emerges in Sixers' win over Clippers | David Murphy

http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/sixers/new-ben-simmons-emerged-sixers-76ers-win-los-angeles-clippers-20171114.html

Former Sixers assistant Jeff Capel II dies after battle with ALS

http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/sixers/jeff-capel-ii-amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis-als-death-20171114.html

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Copyright 2017 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

USA TODAY

 

ARLINGTON, Va. - Bruce Hanson remembers what it was like to play high school football 50 years ago and knows what it's like to coach it today. A big difference is in the drills.

"We used to hit in practice every day" in the 1960s, Hanson says. "We don't do contact drills anymore. Back then we'd say, 'We've got to get tougher.' Well, tougher graduated. Now we're more concerned with technique and schemes."

Hanson was recruited to William & Mary by Marv Levy and played there under Lou Holtz, who named him a captain. Hanson just finished his 46th season of coaching high school football and 33rd as head coach at Yorktown High School. He has won more than 250 games as head coach at two schools and, at 67, is an old school coach with a new age philosophy. "Winning is important," he says. "Safety is more important."

Last week, Hanson had his Patriots walk through some of the drills of yesteryear, but with no actual hitting. The idea was to show USA TODAY how it used to be.

The Patriots, who finished 8-3, have been schooled how to block and tackle with their shoulders and never lead with their heads. They could scarcely believe the headfirst battering-ram drills of another age.

They simulated bull-in-the-ring, where one player gets in the middle of a circle of other players, who take turns hitting the man in the middle; the Oklahoma drill, where a running back, offensive lineman and defensive lineman vie gladiatorially in a confined space; and triple butt, where a tackler buries his head in the numbers of an advancing runner from 10 yards away as they circle around pylons to repeat the contact twice more.

That last one was favored by Holtz at William & Mary, Hanson says. He remembers opposing high school teams running bull-in-the-ring on the field before games in the 1970s.

"The idea was to warm up and toughen up and get pumped up," Hanson says. "If you can believe that."

Gene Posati, Yorktown's offensive line coach, is 78. He played at George Washington University in the late 1950s and remembers a drill called tootsie roll that was essentially being bashed in the head with a round pad.

"We didn't know any better," Posati says.

"It's a wonder we're still alive," Hanson says.

They share a laugh -- and 100 years of high school coaching experience.

"In the '70s, you'd have part of every practice with live tackling and taking people to the ground," Hanson says. "Now we don't do it at all at this place, and I'm sure most teams don't."

'Sucking on your jersey'

Even in the NFL, contact in practices is often limited in recent years. New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton says that's a good thing. He notes proper tackling can be taught at close quarters, rather than breakneck collisions from yards apart, as of yore.

"The distance between those involved has gotten smaller," Payton says. "I can be a yard away and we can teach the fit. Man, I can remember in college somewhere when I was an assistant and they were running" full speed at one another. "We were the moms in the car with a young child without a seat belt, smoking a cigarette, pregnant with No. 2. That's what it was like back then. It was ignorance. It was like, 'We're at the beach, you've got some sunburn, let's put some Noxzema on it.' That was me. We didn't know any better. 'Eat your toast in the morning. White bread and jam.' All sugar. We didn't know. And I still crave white bread with strawberry jam. I was raised on it."

Payton, 53, remembers soaking his jersey with water as a player so he could sneak some hydration. "Look, we didn't drink water," he says. "It was like, 'Only when we take a break.' It was viewed as a sign of weakness, and you'd be sucking on your jersey."

Payton praises Pete Carroll, the Seattle Seahawks coach who evangelizes rugby-style tackling, where the emphasis is on leading with the shoulder so the head is never a point of contact.

Payton coached his son Connor's sixth-grade team in 2012, when Payton sat out the NFL season on suspension. "The one thing we wanted to do was to teach them proper fundamentals," he says, "so that it was safe, they had fun and wanted to play again in seventh grade."

Don't have to prove toughness

Levy, best known for coaching the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive Super Bowl losses in the 1990s, says evolution is a natural part of football, as it is in life.

"Everything changes over time," Levy says, "whether it's football, transportation, medicine."

Levy, 92, says he was greatly influenced by the career of Bud Wilkinson, best known for leading the University of Oklahoma to a record 47-game winning streak in the 1950s.

"He was the first I know who said a guy didn't have to prove every day how tough he is," Levy says. "He had a great idea of the balance about when to go hard and when to just prepare for your opponent and learn your assignment."

But Wilkinson is also the one who popularized the go-hard Oklahoma drill, so named for the school where he coached it. The drill is simple but brutal. A tight area is cordoned off by blocking dummies 3 yards apart. A running back lines up behind a blocker who faces off against a tackler. The blocker and tackler try to drive through each other. Helmet-popping collisions are often the result.

When Jimmy Johnson coached at the college level and for the Dallas Cowboys, he ran a similar exercise called the middle drill -- an inside running drill with no receivers or defensive backs on the field and no outside runs allowed. "My favorite drill," he says. "That's why we ran it every single week throughout my coaching career, at every level. You can't do that now." The analyst for Fox NFL Sunday thinks "that's one reason why the tackling is so bad today."

Even the Cowboys' Emmitt Smith, the NFL's all-time leading rusher, participated. "He ran it like everyone else," Johnson says, "although I'd pull him early from it. It was more for the linemen and linebackers."

Today teams limit hitting in practice to prevent injuries, though Johnson thinks that might be causing them.

"By us hitting as much as we hit in practice, I really think we had fewer injuries than they have today," Johnson says.

"I think there's something to it. The players got accustomed to taking a hit. When the first time they hit is on Sunday, it's an adjustment."

Johnson, 74, won two Super Bowls with the Cowboys and a national championship with the University of Miami, where he ran full-contact scrimmages daily. "The pro scouts used to love it," Johnson says. "They could really get a good evaluation."

Drills that make you cringe

Nebraska coach Mike Riley played at Alabama under Bear Bryant. He says there are "drills from the old days, even ones I participated in, that would make everybody cringe today."

He remembers at one coaching stop early in his 42-year career "one of the coaching points we used to tell kids was, 'Hit with your face.' Those are words that would be taboo today."

Riley, 64, recalls a drill where players would line up 10 yards apart and run full speed into each other: "And the emphasis from the coach was, 'Put your head in there.' I don't know how somebody didn't break a neck."

Riley warns parents against trusting their young players "to somebody who wants to be the next Vince Lombardi but doesn't actually know anything about making the game safe. As a parent or grandparent, I don't care about what offense or defense you run, but I want to know you were trained in how to play the game and how to teach the game."

Riley says he talks to athletic trainers and doctors 10 times as often as he used to. "That's a good thing," he says. "We get a medical report daily, which never used to happen." And if a concussion is suspected, "once that word is brought up you don't enter into any decision about him playing until the doctors give him back. There can never even be a discussion between you and the player."

Hanson, the high school coach, seconds that emotion. He says athletic trainers on site for practices and games is liberating for coaches.

"Any kind of injury before, as a high school coach, you had to deal with it yourself," Hanson says. "If a kid had a broken arm, you had to call the rescue people and make a determination of what happened. Now a football coach in Northern Virginia has no decisions to make about injuries or concussions. If a kid comes to you and tell you he's hurt, you send him to the trainer."

The drills are different now, but one thing never changes.

"The kids are the same," Hanson says. "The amount of information they have is so much more, but the kids are the same as they ever were."

Contributing: Lindsay Schnell

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Copyright 2017 Star Tribune
All Rights Reserved

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

Kaiden Johnson wanted to dance and compete with his high school dance team. But the Minnesota State High School League said no because he's a boy and dance teams are for girls.

On Tuesday, lawyers with the Pacific Legal Foundation filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education, arguing that Minnesota's policy is discriminatory and violates Title IX, barring public schools from excluding students from sports and other extracurricular activities based on their gender.

"The Minnesota league cannot continue to discriminate by banning boys from competitive dancing," said Joshua Thompson, a Pacific Legal Foundation attorney on the case. "Title IX's requirement for equal opportunity for all students, regardless of sex, is crystal clear. Schools cannot tell either boys or girls, 'you're the wrong sex, therefore, no dancing for you.' "

According to a Minnesota state statute, "it is not unfair discriminatory practice to restrict membership on an athletic team to participants of one sex whose overall athletic opportunities have previously been limited."

Thompson argues dance isn't a sport that can be used to achieve gender equity.

"[Minnesota officials] may simply have a belief that boys aren't meant to be dancing and that boys should be competing in wrestling and football and dance is for the girls," Thompson said. "These outdated stereotypes are precisely what our civil rights laws and our Constitution are designed to get rid of."

Kevin Beck, an attorney representing the State High School League, said the league can't comment on pending legal matters or the complaint.

The dance controversy began last December when Johnson, a 15-year-old sophomore at Superior High School in Wisconsin, planned to compete alongside the girls on his dance team at a Lake Superior Conference meet. For at least five years, the dance team has competed against Minnesota schools in the Lake Superior Conference along with some of the school's other sports, including hockey, basketball, baseball and track, according to Ray Kosey, the high school activities director.

But Johnson was told he couldn't compete with his team because Minnesota doesn't allow boys on high school dance teams. School officials later were told that the team shouldn't have been allowed to compete in the conference because, like lacrosse, dance isn't a sanctioned sport in the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association.

Because of that, the dance team can't compete in the Minnesota State High School League conference. And that means the case is moot and lacks standing, according to a letter the league's attorney sent in October to the Pacific Legal Foundation. "Your threatened lawsuit is without merit," the letter said.

But Thompson argues the case goes beyond Johnson. It's about preventing the league from discriminating against other Minnesota boys, he said.

In Superior, Kosey said he's surprised a Minnesota boy hasn't challenged the rule, which likely was put in place years ago to protect athletic opportunities for females.

"I get that," Kosey said. "If 20 boys tried out of the dance team, some girls might get cut and eliminate some girls from participating."

But it's unlikely many boys would try out for the dance team, he said.

"It's time for us to have a conversation about whether this law is outdated... and whether it should be changed," he said.

Johnson's mother, Miranda Lynch, said her son is happy to bring this issue to the forefront.

"We know boys who are in Minnesota who want to be part of a dance team," she said. "But they don't want their name out there because they don't want to be bullied."

Johnson has stood up to bullies in the past, she said. "He's willing to put his name out there."

Mary Lynn Smith · 612-673-4788

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Copyright 2017 The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

There are few things worse than being an obesity scientist at a holiday party. Once they learn my profession, most people skulk away, often hiding their food in the process. The brave few who remain often lean closer and quietly ask for the "secret" to weight loss -as if we scientists were a "DaVinci Code"-style cabal devoted to suppressing the true "secret" to dieting.

Lately, however, I'm hearing different questions. Instead of asking about the best weight-loss program, my interrogators increasingly ask about the best app. My answer is often unsatisfying: Most apps don't work.

I've been studying weight loss for more than a decade, during which we've seen tremendous shifts. A decade ago, American dieters tended to join a gym, buy a book or join a commercial weight-loss program. Now many use one of thousands of weight-loss apps. Estimates suggest the top 10 weight-loss apps have been downloaded well over 300 million times.

Yet there's little evidence these apps will help you lose much weight. Sure, some people have used them successfully, but few apps have ever been tested in a scientific study. Those that have been tested either show poor results, or show better results only when combined with support from a dietician or health coach. We know little about how well most apps work on their own - the way most people likely use them.

Most of us would never take a medication that hadn't been deemed effective in a clinical trial. Yet we have few qualms about using apps with no scientific basis - often developed by people without scientific training - to significantly change what we eat, drink and do.

Many apps include some components backed by strong science, such as calorie tracking. Yet they rarely include most of the tools and strategies that high-quality weight loss treatments employ. In fact, most weight-loss apps include less than 10% of the elements scientists recommend for optimal weight-loss outcomes. That's in contrast to leading weight-loss programs, many of which are based on good scientific evidence.

What's the risk of using a weight-loss app that doesn't work? It probably won't hurt you physically. The impact on motivation is another story, though. When we "fail" at weight loss, most of us don't blame the program, we blame ourselves. Yet the real problem may be the app.

Fortunately, the second generation of more promising apps is starting to hit the market. If you're interested in picking an app with the best chance of helping you lose weight, look for all four of these things - I call them "the four S's."

Skills: Most of us know what to do to lose weight - eat less, move more. But how do you handle eating when you're away at a conference? How do you resist stress eating, and avoid getting off track on weekends? What should you do when you overindulge? The best apps teach strategies to help you lose weight.

Support: Good evidence suggests people do better with weight loss when they're supported. While support from a close friend or family member can help, support from a dietitian, psychologist, health coach or other health expert is much better. Support can also come from software designed to give personalized feedback about weight-loss efforts. The best apps either link you with supporters or use advanced artificial intelligence to mimic human support.

Self-monitoring: This is critical to behavior change. Tracking calories is best, but tracking weight, foods or activities can also work. Consistency is key - people who track reliably five to seven times each week succeed best with weight loss.

Science: Ignore what you've heard from your friends, co-workers, late-night infomercials and tabloids. Instead, treat behavior change as seriously as you treat medications.

This last point bears emphasizing. Scientists have learned a lot about what it takes to lose weight. The makers of your app should be able to point to scientific research as the basis of their program.

If they can't, move on.

Gary Bennett is a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, director of the Duke Obesity Prevention Program and president of the Society of Behavioral Medicine.

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Copyright 2017 Times-World, LLC
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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

 

FRISCO, Texas - Jerry Jones dismissed the notion that the NFL could force him to sell the Dallas Cowboys because of his attempts to block an extension for commissioner Roger Goodell.

"I've had not one, not one, inkling of communication from the league office or any owner that would suggest something that laughable and ridiculous," Jones said on his 105.3 The Fan radio show Tuesday.

"If somebody is asserting that or thinking about that kind of thing, they're not knowledgeable on how things work in the NFL."

The notion surfaced in a ProFootballTalk.com story suggesting the league could have a "nuclear option" to force Jones to sell the Cowboys, although it noted it'd be highly unlikely for the league to go down that road.

But that's how contentious things have gotten between the owners over Goodell's extension. Jones has threatened to sue the league if the six-member compensation committee doesn't seek approval among the other owners for Goodell's extension.

Jones also disputed a report in The New York Times saying a cease-and-desist warning was issued to him regarding his conduct on Goodell's extension. The league could discipline Jones in several manners such as fines, docking draft picks or even a suspension.

Redskins place Kelley, Compton on IR

ASHBURN, Va. - The Washington Redskins have placed starting running back Rob Kelley and inside linebacker Will Compton on injured reserve.

The team announced several moves Tuesday, including signing free agent defensive lineman Caraun Reid and Philadelphia Eagles practice squad running back Byron Marshall.

Kelley and Compton were both hurt in Sunday's 38-30 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, which dropped Washington's record to 4-5 heading into next weekend's game at the NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints. Kelley sprained a ligament in his left knee. Compton sprained a foot.

Carolina's Samuel has season-ending surgery

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Carolina rookie wide receiver Curtis Samuel is done for the year. The Panthers announced Tuesday that he will undergo season-ending surgery on his left ankle and will be placed on injured reserve.

Samuel injured his ankle in the third quarter of Carolina's 45-21 win over the Miami Dolphins on Monday night when a defensive player rolled over his ankle in the end zone. The team didn't release the specific injury to Samuel's ankle.

That means Carolina (7-3) will be looking for a new starting wide receiver heading into the bye week.

Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula wouldn't say who would replace Samuel.

Samuel had five catches for 45 yards against the Dolphins, but did drop a touchdown pass on the play in which he was hurt.

Fox to limit Olsen's access to Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS - Fox is limiting the amount of pre-game access to the Minnesota Vikings this week for guest analyst Greg Olsen, in response to concerns raised by the team about an opposing player on the broadcast crew.

The Vikings host the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, when Olsen and the Carolina Panthers are on their bye. Olsen has missed the last eight games with a broken foot, but he could return from injured reserve in a week. The Vikings play Dec. 10 at the Panthers.

NFL: Concussion self-reporting rising

NEW YORK - The NFL's chief medical officer says more than a third of concussion evaluations so far this season are a result of players indicating they have symptoms, a much higher percentage than last season.

Allen Sills said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday that "about 37 percent" of the 379 concussion evaluations during the preseason and regular season have been "initiated by a self-report." Sills said it was about 20 to 22 percent a year ago.

Sills also said the rules for checking for a concussion were followed properly for Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett on Sunday, when he was allowed to return to a game after a hit to the head. After the game, it was determined he did have concussion symptoms.

Saints QB Brees heads sportsmanship list

NEW YORK - NFL veterans Drew Brees, Joe Thomas, Von Miller and Luke Kuechly are among the 32 nominees announced Tuesday for the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award.

The award, now in its fourth year, honors the founding owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Dave Matthews Band to play Super concert

MINNEAPOLIS - The Dave Matthews Band will perform in St. Paul on the eve of the Super Bowl, adding to a growing list of entertainment leading up to the big game.

The Dave Matthews Band will play at Xcel Energy Center on Feb. 3 as part of the so-called Night Before concert, the Star Tribune reports. Tickets go on sale to the general public Friday and will range from $67 to $127 - not inflated Super Bowl prices.

The Night Before concert will compete with the Super Bowl Host Committee's free concerts.

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Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

The NCAA suspended Georgia Tech guards Tadric Jackson and Josh Okogie three and six games, respectively, for violating rules regarding preferential treatment, according to a person familiar with the decision. The school released a statement Tuesday evening confirming the ruling.

The judgments were lower than the guidelines the NCAA has set for the length of suspensions based on the value of the benefits they received.

As school officials waited for the NCAA to bring back a ruling after they had self-reported the violations, their hope had been the suspensions would be lighter than the suggested lengths, as they believed there were mitigating circumstances in the violations. Jackson and Okogie received transportation, apparel and meals from an individual, who identified himself in a CBS Sports article as Ron Bell of Arizona, who is not a Tech employee nor was deemed a booster. Bell said he was a friend of Pastner's.

Jackson's benefits were valued at about $525, Okogie's at $750.

The NCAA's guidelines call for a suspension of 20 percent of the regular season for the value of Jackson's benefits (six games) and 30 percent of the season for Okogie's (nine games).

Jackson will be back for the North Texas game Nov. 24. Okogie will be reinstated for the Tennessee game Dec. 3, although he may not be able to play because of his dislocated finger.

The season-opening loss to UCLA counts as one of the games in the suspension, as Tech withheld both players from the game.

According to Bell's account in the CBS Sports article, Jackson and Okogie were flown to Arizona in May for five days. In addition, Bell purchased their meals and bought them apparel. Bell alleged Pastner was aware of the trip and tacitly encouraged it.

In a news release put out by the school last week, Tech determined Pastner did not know about the violations until Oct. 2, at which point he reported them to the athletic department's compliance office. Pastner has declined to comment to this point, wanting to wait until the NCAA had made its ruling.

At Tech's season opener against UCLA in Shanghai on Saturday (Friday in the U.S.), school President G.P. "Bud" Peterson offered his endorsement of Pastner, saying he was "proud to have him as our basketball coach."

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Copyright 2017 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

Texas A&M is expected to inquire about the interest level of Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher once its separation from current coach Kevin Sumlin is official at the end of the football season, according to two people familiar with the situation.

Those people spoke to USA TODAY on the condition of anonymity because Texas A&M has not made an announcement on Sumlin's future and due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Though Fisher has never given serious consideration to leaving Florida State previously, rebuffing interest from LSU the last two years, one person close to Fisher pointed to his longstanding relationship with Texas A&M athletics director Scott Woodward and the current disappointing season at Florida State as reasons Texas A&M's pursuit might be more realistic.

Woodward arrived as an administrator at LSU in 2000, the same year Fisher was hired there as offensive coordinator under Nick Saban. They have remained in touch and friendly over the years, according to a person familiar with Fisher's thinking.

Pursuing Fisher would make sense for Texas A&M, which has shown a willingness to spend big money to reach the elite level of college football. Beyond Fisher, who won a national title in 2013, there are few, if any, candidates for the job who would be a guaranteed upgrade over Sumlin.

It's far more uncertain whether Fisher would decide to leave a school where he has invested eight seasons as a head coach and three as the coach-in-waiting under Bobby Bowden, restoring the Seminoles to their former glory during a run of three consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference titles between 2012-14.

Fisher also has security at Florida State, as he is signed at $5.55 million annually through the 2024 season. The contract contains two automatic one-year rollovers that go into effect after each nine-win regular season.

Another significant factor is his family situation. Fisher and his ex-wife, Candi, divorced in December 2015, and their youngest son, Ethan, battles Fanconi anemia, a rare blood disorder. In previous discussions, staying close to his children has been a factor in Fisher's thinking about other jobs.

However, this season has gone poorly for Fisher, as the Seminoles started at No. 3 in the polls but have stumbled to a 3-6 record. If he stays, Fisher will be expected to tweak his coaching staff, as the Seminoles have been out of the ACC title race by the end of September in each of the last two years.

Last month, after Florida State's 31-28 home loss to Louisville, Fisher confronted a fan who yelled "New coaches, new coaches!" as the team walked off the field.

Last week, when Fisher was asked about Florida State's rivalry with Clemson, he added fuel to the fire with a comment that seemed to indicate he believes Clemson, with its new $55 million football facility, has surpassed Florida State in its financial commitment to winning national titles.

"I think their rise has come from their commitment to football," Fisher said. "They've been committed but their administration has done a tremendous job of spending and doing and building. Not just building, but all the things behind the scenes."

Asked what commitments he'd like to see from Florida State, Fisher responded, "Those things are a major, major deal. Unfortunately, in this business, when you get into the facilities business, you're never out of it. You're never out of development. Your company can never quit growing. Whether it's that or behind the scenes things, support staff, all that can never happen. It can never go away."

Those comments were not well-received among FSU fans and administrators, particularly given the contract extension Fisher received last December and the multimillion-dollar facility upgrades the school has made under his watch.

Texas A&M has been on the cutting edge of the facility wars, opening a $20 million operations complex in 2014 and a $485 million stadium renovation.

Fisher's contract states that his only buyout responsibility to Florida State if he left would be the amount guaranteed to his assistant coaches -- potentially as much as $7.2 million, but likely far less -- as the contract is written in a way to protect the school from having to buy out those staff members should a new coach decide not to honor those contracts. In other words, if Fisher brought some or most of those staff members to a new school, their salaries likely wouldn't be owed to Florida State.

There is mitigation language that would reduce the actual amount even further if coaches who didn't go with Fisher found jobs elsewhere.

Should Fisher leave, it would raise the stakes on the coaching carousel, which is already in motion with high-level openings now at Florida and Tennessee. The specter of Florida and Florida State simultaneously looking for new coaches would be particularly interesting in that state, as it would put pressure on both administrations to compete with each other in the marketplace.

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Copyright 2017 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

Micah Parsons is 6-3, 235 with shoulders as wide as a loveseat and biceps that could've been cast in the movie 300. The Harrisburg (Pa.) High School senior is regarded as the country's top defensive end, wreaking havoc with his ferocious brand of smash-mouth football.

"I love popping guys, that's one of the most fun things about football," Parsons said. "It's really a rush when you hear those pads pop and see the guy hit the turf. Whew, it's the best."

Asked about the safety concerns of those hits, Parsons was dismissive.

"I don't have any," he said. "I mean it's football. We hit hard. Of course, legal hits, but I like to hit hard. We all do. That's the game, so whatever happens after that just has to happen."

Parsons' mentality mirrors that of numerous high school football players across the country whose aura of invincibility won't allow them to bat an eye over the dangers of concussions or the most frightening three letters in sports: CTE. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is the disease caused by head trauma that studies show leads to dementia, memory loss, suicidal thoughts and personality and mood changes.

USA TODAY asked more than 40 Under Armour and U.S. Army All-Americans their thoughts on continuing to play a sport in high school, through college and perhaps professionally that is associated with brain trauma.

A.J. Lytton, a Florida State commit from Dr. Henry Wise (Upper Marlboro, Md.), said he's "willing to die for this game."

"If it happens, it happens," he said. "They try to use the CTE thing and they think people aren't gonna want to play football anymore, but that's not gonna stop us from playing the way we play."

But not all players are as accepting of the dangers in football.

Last month, brothers Max Wray and Jake Wray, both four-star offensive linemen, left their Franklin (Tenn.) team after being suspended by their coach for criticizing his approach, which they said includes pressuring players to conceal concussions.

"We expressed to the school administration our concern that the culture was creating a perverse incentive for players to conceal injuries, including in particular concussions," the family wrote in a statement.

The Wray brothers, however, are in the minority. Many players contend concussion fears are overblown, others are willfully ignorant of the facts and an alarming number seem to think worrying about the potential dangers isn't in the spirit of the game.

"We know it's a violent sport," Parsons said. "You know the risks. I personally feel like I'll know when it's too much for me and I'll be OK walking away."

Boston University School of Medicine recently conducted a study analyzing 202 brains of football players donated to the school. Fourteen were from high school players and CTE was found in three. The study discovered CTE in 110 of the 111 former NFL players' brains and 48 of the 53 college players' brains.

In high school, players say they're less worried about dangerous hits because tackling techniques taught from youth leagues on up have changed substantially. Most coaches now emphasize leading with the shoulder rather than the head, and since 2012 the NFL has funded and promoted a program called Heads-Up Football, a series of courses for coaches to learn better safety procedures and tackling drills.

"Coaches are teaching different now, just trying to keep everyone safer," said University (Orange City, Fla.) running back Lorenzo Lingard, a Miami (Fla.) commit. "I think the best way to stay safe and not get injured is to stay positive. I just think that when you're thinking about things like that, they tend to happen."

Bishop Dunne (Dallas)'s Brian Williams, the top-ranked safety in the 2019 class, is another All-American aware of the dangers who prefers not to think about it. "It's a real issue, that's for sure," Williams said. "But you can't dwell on the possibility of things like CTE. As a player, it shouldn't have that type of effect on you."

Even when the repercussions hit close to him.

Williams' older brother, Rawleigh Williams III, a former star running back at the University of Arkansas who led the Southeastern Conference in rushing in 2016, suffered a career-ending neck injury during a spring game in April. Before that he suffered a ruptured disk in his neck in a game against Auburn in 2015. He announced his retirement in May.

"I'd be lying if I said that didn't make me think even more about all the dangers," Brian Williams said. "But I'd be disrespecting my brother if I let that change how I approach the game."

And he shouldn't, according to IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) coach Kevin Wright. He contends that, while the dangers of football are "very real," the game is "as safe as it's ever been."

"We're big proponents of teaching proper form and technique, and I think that's the case by and large everywhere," Wright said. "It's about approach and education."

Most high school players, elite or otherwise, aspire to play in the NFL. Macon County (Montezuma, Ga.) offensive guard Christian Meadows, a four-star recruit, is no different. His take on CTE boils down to a hypothetical question.

He was asked if he would take this tradeoff: play in the NFL, but display symptoms of CTE later in life. Meadows paused briefly then replied, "I would."

"I love this game," he said. "I know that CTE can be a risk, but it's a risk I'm willing to take. I mean I could take care of my family and make lots of money doing what I love. That's worth it to me."

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Copyright 2017 The Post and Courier
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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

Harvard and Yale are among the premier educational institutions in the world. They have spent centuries at the task of strengthening and elevating young minds. But on Saturday, Nov. 18, they will join together in a ritual guaranteed to damage young brains: the Harvard-Yale football game.

The two universities have been meeting on the gridiron since 1875, in one of the oldest rivalries in college sports. The tradition even inspired an acclaimed documentary film about the 1968 game, "Harvard Beats Yale 29-29."

Ivy League football is no longer a big deal on the intercollegiate sports scene, which is dominated by large public universities such as Ohio State and Alabama. But Harvard (my alma mater) and Yale continue to send out undergraduate students to represent them in varsity football, oblivious to growing evidence that it does grave and irreversible harm to mental functioning.

At this point, a heavy burden of proof lies on those defending the game. A study of the brains of 202 deceased football players by neurologists at Boston University found markers of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in 99 percent of NFL veterans and 91 percent of those who played only through college. CTE is an incurable terminal disease that, according to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, causes "memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, and eventually progressive dementia."

Skeptics scoff that the brains are unrepresentative because they were donated by those who suspected something was wrong. But the number of documented victims is too large to be dismissed.

CTE "was previously considered quite rare," noted BU neurology and pathology professor Ann McKee. "There's just no way that would be possible if this disease were truly rare." She found the data "very shocking."

Football also causes concussions, transient but disabling brain traumas that are as much a part of the sport as homecoming. Yale economist Ray Fair documents that there are, on average, 4,740 concussions each year in college football.

Steven Flanagan, co-director of the Concussion Center at New York University Langone Health, told NPR that 10 to 20 percent of concussion victims "may go on to develop chronic problems," including depression and anxiety, caused by brain atrophy.

How can these two institutions rationalize a pastime so antithetical to the well-being of undergraduates and their own educational missions? It's the equivalent of the Mayo Clinic operating a tobacco shop on-site. While athletics may be a worthwhile part of a well-rounded life, any sport practically designed to impair mental functioning can't be justified as a university endeavor.

At least I can't think of any justification, and neither school is willing to provide one. I emailed their spokespeople several times. Yale's director of external communications, Karen Peart, told me only, "As a league, we are closely studying all of the data and consulting with our medical teams." Harvard's associate athletic director, Tim Williamson, with whom I had previously corresponded, didn't respond at all.

Silence may be the best option when your position is indefensible. It's hard to find a good way to end a sentence that begins, "We continue to sponsor a pastime that wrecks students' brains because..."

Not that the schools are entirely blind to the hazards. In 2016, the Ivy League banned live tackling in practice, and Harvard had gotten rid of it years before. The conference has also experimented with changes in kickoffs and touchbacks to improve safety.

But fiddling with the rules to reduce risk is like advising alcoholics to cut back. Short of giving up tackle football, these schools are ensuring that a significant number of students will suffer serious injuries to their excellent brains.

Harvard and Yale, of course, are just two of the hundreds of colleges that have varsity football teams. Why should they be singled out for doing what so many are doing?

One reason is that elite educational institutions have large responsibilities. Universities that are academic leaders have no business pretending there is no problem or waiting for others to act.

Their stature also gives them outsize influence. If Yale's Peter Salovey and Harvard's Drew Gilpin Faust were to move to abandon the sport for reasons of health and safety, administrators at other colleges would be confronted with the question in a way they could not avoid.

With every game, Yale and Harvard are knowingly exposing their young charges to the serious risk of permanent incapacitating neurological injuries. How many students' brains have to be wrecked before they decide to stop?

Steve Chapman is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

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Copyright 2017 The Pantagraph

The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois)

 

BLOOMINGTON — A club that opened 45 years ago to let local tennis enthusiasts play during winter has become a community fixture because it's stayed up to date while building partnerships beyond its walls, according to several longtime members.

With winter just around the corner, Evergreen Racquet Club is celebrating its 45th anniversary as it completes facility upgrades valued at more than $260,000.

"Evergreen remains relevant because tennis remains relevant," Ben Snyder said Monday in the club, 3203 E. Washington St., Bloomington. Snyder was part of the original group of investors, has been a member since the club opened in 1972 and was president of the board of directors for the first 42 years.

"We've done our best to keep it up to modern standards," Snyder said.

Evergreen has more than 1,000 members ages 3 to 92, said General Manager Colleen Curran. Services include tennis instruction, tennis fitness, leagues and competitive teams.

"We offer tennis for casual players and competitive players," including United States Tennis Association league play and sanctioned tournaments, said Henry Alexander, a member of Evergreen's tennis advisory committee.

"I started playing here in year five and I'm still a member in year 45 because this club has had what I needed during every level of life," said John Robertson, a board member.

Evergreen also is the indoor home for Illinois Wesleyan University tennis, the Special Olympics state tennis tournament and a "tennis buddies" program in which high school tennis players are partnered with adults with Down syndrome, Curran said. Of Evergreen's seven tennis pros, five coach at local high schools or at IWU, tightening partnerships between the club and community, she said.

"Friendships have developed here," said Curran, who first played at Evergreen when she was in high school in the 1970s. "That's as important as the tennis."

"It's become a real community asset," said Gregg McElroy, president of Evergreen's board of directors.

Last year, Evergreen replaced the original light fixtures for its eight courts with custom LED lights specifically designed for tennis courts, McElroy said. While that project cost $180,000, the results are better light and energy and maintenance savings that will pay for the project in five years, Curran said.

Resurfacing of all eight courts was completed in August at a cost of $70,000 and the viewing lounge was recently renovated to the tune of $10,000 with a tribute area to longtime member Benoni Green, who died last year, and construction of The Loft, an area for Pilates classes, fitness seminars, tennis strategy sessions and advisory board meetings.

Yearly membership fees are $100 for members college age and younger, $150 for adults and $250 for families, Curran said.

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Copyright 2017 Star Tribune
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

There really is going to be a lot of new business and residents living around Minnesota United's new soccer stadium in St. Paul — but not until it is done.

RD Management, a New York-based property management company, which owns 20 acres in the Midway area of St. Paul where the Allianz Field stadium is being built, said Monday it has plans for new buildings that would "add additional retail, office, residential, entertainment, and hospitality options to its property."

The redevelopment would follow the completion of the adjacent $200 million stadium in 2019.

"I think the biggest thing about this announcement is it is a reality.... We think this is going to be a significant addition to the neighborhood," Minnesota United FC owner Bill McGuire said in an interview.

While there has already been significant interest in the site, the announcement is informing potential partners nationally "that this property is out there and all of its merits and virtues and that it is moving ahead," McGuire said.

Minnesota United is heavily involved with the development and McGuire said the team could eventually have a variety of roles at the property.

The proposed development would align with the master plan the St. Paul City Council approved last year for the area.

Its vision called for a new commercial and entertainment district anchored by the stadium that would transform that portion of the neighborhood that falls between University Avenue and Interstate 94 east of Snelling Avenue.

The new buildings are planned along the western edge of the property on Snelling Avenue.

Part of the Midway Shopping Center that currently takes up the land will be demolished to make way for the stadium.

Next steps for RD

Management include the demolition of the shopping center's Rainbow, Walgreens, Home Choice and Big Top Liquor, along with preleasing for the mixed-use project.

RD Management didn't provide any detailed timelines.

"Our plan to expand the Midway/Allianz Field project and turn it into a mixed-use experience is an early-stage development that presents tremendous opportunity," Richard Birdoff, principal and president of RD Management, said in a statement.

RD's announcement comes a couple of days before the St. Paul City Council is expected to take a vote on several decisions that would affect the site, including establishing a park near the stadium and financing street and stormwater improvements.

"From our experience with [McGuire] and [Birdoff] they have every intention of carrying out development of this block.... They really do want to make it be a transformative development," said Lee Krueger, president of the St. Paul Port Authority.

Nicole Norfleet · 612-673-4495

Twitter: @nicolenorfleet

 

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Copyright 2017 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

The New York Post

 

Prosecutors Monday painted three former international soccer bigwigs as rapacious predators who cared more about lining their own pockets with illegal bribes than promoting a sport they claimed to love.

"Around the world, soccer is more than just a sport, it's a way of life," Assistant US Attorney Keith Edelman told jurors as the corruption trial kicked off for ex-FIFA honchos José Maria Marin, Juan Angel Napout and Manuel Burga. "But lurking underneath the surface of the organization was nothing more than lies, greed and corruption."

Marin (inset), Napout and Burga variously stand accused of accepting hundreds of millions of dollars in kickbacks from sports-media and marketing firms.

"These defendants cheated the sport in order to line their own pockets," Edelman told the panel of 12 jurors in Brooklyn federal court, saying the money that the well-heeled former officials are accused of taking was meant to buy equipment and promote youth and women's soccer leagues.

Yet defense attorneys for each man claimed that their clients had not taken part in a long-standing scheme that they conceded was part of the seedy underbelly of international soccer.

Lawyer Charles Stillman cast his powerful client Marin, 85, as a clueless child "picking daisies" in a youth soccer league while the scheme went on around him.

"He's like one of the youngsters off to the side, looking around, picking up daisies, while the others are running around, full steam ahead," Stillman said of Marin, who once played soccer professionally in Brazil. "Do not convict him because others have behaved wrongly."

"You're not here to determine that foreign soccer is corrupt," Napout's attorney, Silvia Pinera-Vazquez, said in her openings. "We don't dispute that."

Lawyer Bruce Udolf, who represents Burga, used his argument to portray the government cooperators slotted to take the stand against his client as "the most corrupt people on earth."

"The people the government laid down with to make their case are some of the most despicable, corrupt individuals on the planet," Udolf roared.

Marin, Napout and Burga are the only three of 42 officials to head to trial so far after they were swept up nearly three years ago in what's become known as the biggest political corruption scandal in the history of world soccer. Twenty-four of the others have already pleaded guilty.

Marin is the former head of Brazil's federation, and once sat on FIFA's Olympics organizing committee. Napout, 59, presided over the Paraguayan federation and was FIFA's president of South America's governing body. Burga, 60, is a Peruvian soccer official who once sat on FIFA's development committee.

If convicted, the men could face up to 20 years behind bars each.

esaul@nypost.com

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Copyright 2017 The Buffalo News
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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

West Seneca residents have been telling Town Board members for weeks that a proposed 12 percent tax rate increase is not fair, shows poor management and is just too much money to pay.

Town Board members listened Monday night — making changes to the budget that brought the combined tax increase down to 8.6 percent.

But that wasn't enough for the near-capacity crowd in Town Hall.

Shouts of complaint came from residents, who were unhappy they did not get a chance to comment before the $50 million budget was adopted in a 2-1 vote.

Residents also disrupted the meeting for several moments, yelling comments and chanting.

The tax increase amounts to $97.41 on the tax bill for the average home in the town with a market value of $150,000, according to the Town Board.

The combined highway and general fund tax rate will be $20.47 per $1,000 of assessed value.

While some residents thought the new library and community center was responsible for increasing taxes, the debt on the center will account for about $9 of a total average tax bill, according to town officials.

Taxes still might be too high for Al and Judy Hoffmann, who are trying to sell a family member's house. They said they got a lot of traffic since it went on the market on Oct. 1, but as soon as the proposed 12 percent tax hike came out, they have not heard back from prospective buyers.

"They came right out and said, 'We love the house, we love the area — but the 12 percent,' " Judy Hoffmann said.

The Town Board took about $1 million off the tax levy by cutting spending and increasing revenues. Proposals included cutting part-time workers in the Recreation Department, cutting hours at Bicentennial Pool, reducing the repair and maintenance to the library, reducing the allotment for health insurance, decreasing the highway snow removal budget and health insurance costs.

"We will open the pool for less hours," Councilman Gene Hart said.

He also said that health insurance could be reduced slightly because "things are going better this year."

The Town Board held two public hearing sessions last month lasting nearly two hours, one drawing more than 150 people to Town Hall, the other attracting more than 400 to West Seneca West High School. Town Supervisor Sheila M. Meegan said 65 people spoke.

Hart and former Councilman Dale Clark got into a heated debate over who was responsible for raising taxes.

Board members noted that if the budget with the 8.6 percent tax increase did not pass and no other changes were adopted, the proposed budget with a 12 percent raise would go into effect Nov. 20.

Councilman William P. Hanley said he has never voted for a tax increase in the four years he has been on the board, and he did not on Monday.

"I believe there are some efficiencies we can do here," Hanley said.

Each $220,000 accounts for about 1 percent on the tax rate.

Mandated cost of payments to the pension system for workers has almost doubled since 2010 to $3 million.

Expanding health care costs and the cost of repairing town roads and infrastructure were blamed for much of the hike in the general and highway taxes.

Health insurance was expected to reach more than $6 million next year, nearly double the level of $3.5 million in 2011. The town's blue-collar union, CSEA Local 815, objected to town officials singling out employees' benefits as a reason for the tax increase. The amended budget reduces health insurance by $240,000.

With a cost of $100,000 per lane mile, it would cost $11.9 million to repair the town's 119 miles of roads.

The proposed budget allocated enough money to repair about 10 lane miles next year, more than double the amount in this year's budget for road repair. But a change to reduce the tax levy reduced the repair budget by $235,000.

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Copyright 2017 Bangor Daily News

Bangor Daily News (Maine)

 

A Bangor man charged by police with threatening members of the Bangor High School freshman soccer team with a handgun last month will not be prosecuted.

Steven Butler, 40, was charged with terrorizing, a Class C crime, on Oct. 3.

Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said Monday that he would not proceed with the case.

Almy said in an email that "there is insufficient evidence to prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt" and to negate Butler's right to defend his property.

Once police charge an individual, Maine prosecutors decide whether the case will go forward. If Almy had pursued it, he would have had to ask the Penobscot County grand jury to indict Butler on the charge because it is a felony.

Butler was arrested after he allegedly threatened soccer players at the Union Street Athletic Field during a practice. He has since been free on $5,000 unsecured bail with conditions that he not use or possess drugs, alcohol or weapons, and to stay off the field, which abuts his property.

"I am glad that the DA looked at the evidence and decided not to charge me," Butler said in a telephone interview Monday. "I didn't threaten anyone. I never left my own property. I thought there were five people over six feet tall in my yard."

Butler also said he saw no one wearing a uniform or any adults or officials who are on the field during games.

"I never went on to the field," he said. "I never threatened to hurt them. My attorney told me that I have a right to protect my property."

His attorney, Terence Harrigan, said Monday in an email, "One can threaten the use of deadly force to prevent a criminal trespass. Mr. Butler's actions were justified under Maine law and the district attorney's office had no choice but to decline to prosecute under those circumstances."

Once the court officially informs Bangor police that the case will not go forward, Butler can retrieve his gun, which was seized as evidence.

Although Butler claimed the students were on his lawn, Bangor School Superintendent Betsy Webb disputed that Monday in an email.

"The Bangor High student athletes and coaches have verified they were near the tree line at the Union Street Athletic Field, but never entered onto private property," she said.

The school department's legal options going forward include seeking a protection order against Butler and asking a judge to continue the criminal trespass order that kept him off the field following the incident.

"The School Department has been in conversation with the school attorney and the Bangor Police Department [about those options]," Webb said. "The department continues to work with the city leadership in regards to athletic activities at the Union Street Athletic Field and will be reviewing all options prior to next season."

A fence has been installed where the athletic field complex abuts neighboring residential properties along the tree line on that side of the field, according to Webb.

Butler said he was glad the fence was erected.

"It relieves the stress of being worried someone might come onto my property," he said. "It's a lot harder for someone to come onto my lawn now."

Butler, who said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, is a student at Eastern Maine Community College. He has lived in the house abutting the athletic fields for about 18 months.

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Copyright 2017 Boston Herald Inc.
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The Boston Herald

 

Olympic gymnast and Needham native Aly Raisman — who has claimed she was a victim of sexual abuse by a team doctor — is blaming USA Gymnastics for failing to protect her and other athletes.

In an interview with "60 Minutes," the three-time gold medalist said Dr. Larry Nasser, who worked with the U.S. Women's National Team and Michigan State University for more than two decades, abused her. Nasser has been accused by more than 130 American women of sexual abuse. He is now in jail for possession of child pornography, but he has pleaded not guilty to charges that he sexually assaulted underage girls

"I was just really innocent," Raisman said during the broadcast last night. "I didn't really know. You know, you don't think that of someone. You know, so I just — I trusted him... I didn't know anything differently. We were told he is the best doctor. He's the United States Olympic doctor and the USA Gymnastics doctor, and we were very lucky we were able to see him."

Raisman, 23, said she began seeing the doctor when she was 15.

"He would always bring me, you know, desserts or gifts. He would buy me little things," Raisman said. "So I really thought he was a nice person. I really thought he was looking out for me. That's why I want to do this interview. That's why I want to talk about it. I want people to know just because someone is nice to you and just because everyone is saying they're the best person, it does not make it OK for them to ever make you uncomfortable. Ever."

She now blames USA Gymnastics for not taking more action to prevent female athletes from abuse and is calling for changes in the organization to keep girls safe. She says the organization has a long-standing policy that adults should avoid being alone with a minor, but she says she was often alone with Nasser.

"Nobody ever educated me on, 'Make sure you're not alone with an adult.' You know, 'Make sure he's not making you uncomfortable.' I didn't know the signs," Raisman said. "I didn't know what sexual abuse really was. And I think that needs to be communicated to all of these athletes, no matter the age.

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Copyright 2017 Richmond Newspapers, Inc.
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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

When St. Christopher's football team practices, the same words echo from the coaches' mouths that have been yelled at high school football practices for decades.

"Wrong side! Your head is on the wrong side!"

The difference today, though, is the meaning that those words carry. St. Christopher's head coach Lance Clelland and his tackling coach, Davis Theakston, want their players' heads to be as far away as possible from the player with whom they're colliding, the opposite of previous teaching.

Clelland hired Theakston three years ago to implement the rugby method of tackling at St. Christopher's, a style that has become popular in the Richmond area. Most local coaches are teaching their players this new technique.

This tackling style is just one new tactic being used to reduce brain injuries in high school football players. Coaches are also changing their practices to limit contact and teaching linemen and other players how to initiate contact without hitting their heads.

This new movement toward safety is a result of increased awareness and science surrounding concussions and other brain injuries, especially chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE, which researchers believe takes years of repetitive hits to the head to develop, moved squarely to the forefront of the safety discussion after Dr. Ann McKee released unprecedented findings in July.

McKee, director of the Boston University CTE Center, said she found traces of CTE in 110 of 111 former NFL players and three of 14 former high school football players.

Her research, as well as other studies linking repetitive head hits to measurable brain damage, has influenced a shift toward eliminating impacts to players' heads whenever possible for many high school football teams in the Richmond area.

A new way to tackle

Theakston holds a unique role. His only focus during practices is whether players are tackling in a safe and effective way.

He doesn't have to concern himself with calling plays, introducing a game plan or any other duties coaches typically hold.

"He is hyper-focused on only how they have contact," Clelland said. "To have one individual focused on that during a football practice... does wonders for our boys in terms of keeping them safe."

The rugby form of tackling involves stepping to a runner with one foot in front of the other, the shoulders and head up and the back arched. The tackler explodes into the quad area of the runner, wraps his arms, then lifts and carries the player backward to knock him off of his feet.

These techniques are not wholly different from what has traditionally been taught, but players are now told to keep their head away from the runner rather than in front of him.

Teaching players to eliminate their head from the equation rather than use it to help make a tackle is not new to football, Theakston said. Players used to tackle without their heads because they had less protection from injury, but once plastic helmets were instituted, coaches began teaching players to use their heads as weapons, he said.

"Football is a very rough-and-tumble game, and so is rugby," Theakston said. "But there are far fewer injuries in rugby than in football, and they're not padded. And so it's the technique of going into contact, using leverage, getting your head completely out."

The rugby style was widely reintroduced to football in 2014 when Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll created an instructional video to teach other teams, both in the NFL and at lower levels, how to perform an effective tackle without using the head. A new name emerged for the style as a result - the Hawk tackle, short for Seahawk.

Carroll's style is not identical to what Theakston, who played rugby for more than two decades, is teaching at St. Christopher's. There are nuances to a rugby tackle, such as landing on top of the ball carrier rather than underneath, that Carroll doesn't teach, Theakston said.

Still, both styles keep the head out of the tackle, which sharply contrasts with what players used to be taught - that their head needed to cross the opponent's body and aim for the football. Timone Brown, an assistant coach at Henrico High and former Henrico player, grew up learning to use his head during tackles.

"You've been telling us, 'Hey, head to the ball. Make sure you see what you're hitting. Use your facemask on the ball. Eat the ball. Wrap up,'" Brown said. "You've been telling us that for years."

Jens Ames, a senior linebacker for St. Christopher's, began learning the rugby tackling method from Theakston when he was a sophomore. He said it took some time to learn because he, too, was previously taught to "put your head across them so they can't run through you."

But he said the new style has paid off.

"Probably the first year or two, it was pretty frustrating just because I had done it the same way my whole life," Ames said. "I felt like really this year, I've really gotten the hang of it, and it's definitely kept me out of some situations where my head would have been in the way."

Clelland told Theakston when he was first hired that implementing a new tackling technique would be a marathon, because older players like Ames have developed tackling habits contrary to what Theakston teaches. The coaches said they believe that over time at St. Christopher's, older forms of tackling will be phased out in favor of their style.

"Now, we're at a point where our sophomores first heard this in eighth grade," Clelland said. "As these boys are getting older, it's going to be a lot easier. They won't even think about it as being new, it's now just the way I tackle."

To further build a pipeline of proper tackling, Clelland and Theakston developed what they call a "pigskin league." The league meets Sundays at St. Christopher's and consists of elementary-aged kids who play a padless game that mixes rugby and football.

The coaches are aiming to teach safe tackling habits to kids before they learn anything else, with the hopes that those players will take fewer hits to the head throughout their careers.

"If a kid goes through seventh grade through college football and his head goes into contact half as much as it would have normally, your chances of having those type of injuries is going to be diminished quite a bit," Theakston said.

Convincing players

In response to the skepticism some players have about learning new methods, Clelland shows a highlight reel at the beginning of each season that features violent hits in women's rugby. Clelland wants his players to realize that they can make hard hits without using their heads.

Still, even the St. Christopher's players who have bought into the new method are not fans of Theakston's tackling drills. Many of them can be heard grumbling during practice about the drills being boring.

"By all means, we definitely do not like these drills," said Daymone Fleming, a junior linebacker. "With regular tackling we could just go at it however we wanted to, but with the rugby we have to do it a fixed way every time.

"But we think it's effective, and we think it works for us."

Coaches who teach the rugby tackling technique often emphasize that it's equally as helpful to their team's success as it is safe. Though safety is the primary concern for many coaches who have started teaching it, coaches and players say the new style also helps improve tackling.

"It's a lot more effective in my eyes because in rugby, you're getting down, you're getting inside, you're going all full-physical," Fleming said.

Use of the rugby style of tackling hasn't hindered Hermitage High's success on the field, either. Hermitage coach Patrick Kane doubles as a USA Football Master Trainer, which requires him to learn updated blocking and tackling techniques from USA Football annually, which he then teaches his players.

The Panthers have been winning a lot for the past decade, but this season's 9-1 record helped to show that the rugby tackle can be both safe and effective.

Some coaches feel the lessons in practice aren't applying to games. Henrico's Brown said he is hesitant to believe that the rugby style will significantly decrease brain injuries among high school players, though he is a fan of the new method.

"They used to always coach us form tackling, but how many times did we actually make the form tackles that they coached?" he asked. "What happens when that free safety has the opportunity to make a clean hit, or even a hit period, on a wide receiver that's coming across the middle that doesn't see him?

"These instances are still going to happen in the game of football."

Brown isn't alone in realizing that practice habits don't always carry over on game day. Theakston acknowledged that technique sometimes slips during games because the environment is hectic and players get worn down as the game goes on.

Less contact in practice

Though coaches have limited control over their players' technique during games, practices provide coaches an opportunity to focus on technique. For that reason, some local football coaches are designing their practices to minimize contact and, in turn, cut down on concussions and other brain injuries.

Hopewell coach Ricky Irby said he has changed his practicing style throughout his career, and particularly in recent years, to limit repetitive hits to the head.

"We don't tackle to the ground," Irby said. "We don't do a lot of 11-on-11 scrimmaging during practice. There's a lot of things that we are trying to do to be preventative... as far as keeping these kids from having those constant blow after blow after blow in practice."

St. Christopher's uses a similar practicing method. The players wear only helmets on Mondays and Tuesdays, are fully padded on Wednesdays and wear shoulder pads and helmets on Thursdays. Only 10 minutes of live, full-speed contact occur during the entire week, and it comes on Wednesdays when players are fully dressed in equipment.

More often, the team is taught to practice using what Clelland calls a "thud" tempo. Players will make contact with each other, but they don't collide at full speed and don't tackle each other to the ground.

About halfway through this season, Clelland found that his team was playing in a passive manner in games, allowing opposing players to initiate contact. To combat that, he implemented a segment at the end of practices during which players put on their shoulder pads and practice jabbing each other in the chest and shoulder areas.

The goal is to teach players to initiate contact on their own terms, rather than absorb blows from opponents, Theakston said. The jabbing and hand work is especially relevant for linemen, who could be subject to more than 50 small hits to the head in a single game if they lead with their head rather than their hands.

At Hopewell, Irby works with his linemen, running backs and tacklers, all with the intention of taking the head out of use.

"We're working on more blocking with the feet and the hands and not the upper body," Irby said. "With our offensive line, our blocking techniques. Our running backs, our running techniques. And then, obviously, our tackling techniques.

"We want to do as much as we can to take the head out of football."

By working to reduce big blows to the head through improved tackling techniques, schools like St. Christopher's and Hopewell are combating concussions. And by teaching linemen to use their hands rather than their heads, coaching staffs are trying minimizing the small, repetitive hits, which science suggests can lead to CTE and other long-term brain diseases.

Clelland believes the changes are paying off.

"We're not some silver bullet to this," Clelland said. "However, I do think that here, we're making football as safe as it possibly can be."

Helmets

Helmet innovation is a rapidly changing and ongoing movement among manufacturers such as Riddell, Schutt and Xenith.

These brands, which are all used by Richmond-area high school football teams, are regularly developing new helmet models to try to lessen the blow when football players absorb hits to their heads. To evaluate their effectiveness in doing so, researchers at Virginia Tech developed what is now a widely recognized rating system for the safety of helmets.

The Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings rank helmets on a five-star scale, with five being the safest. Riddell, Schutt and Xenith all make multiple helmet models that earned five-star ratings.

"I've seen a big difference in the way the helmets are designed to help lessen the impact of a blow," Irby said.

The Virginia Board of Education has its own safety measures for helmets. The Board requires high school players' helmets to be certified by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) both at the time of purchase and after they are reconditioned, which happens after each season.

The Board also recommends "regular training on proper helmet fitting and maintenance" for coaches.

So if helmets are constantly improving and safety guidelines have been set, why are players still suffering concussions, and why does research into CTE and other brain injuries matter?

The anatomy of the brain is designed in such a way that helmets cannot prevent concussions, said Rob Welch, who served as Henrico High's athletic trainer for 10 years before becoming its student activities director this year.

"The problem with dealing with concussions is when you look at it anatomically, the brain sits inside the skull and there's a gap," said Welch, who said he supports the rugby style of tackling. "So no matter how great the equipment is... you're still gonna get the brain getting this slide and then getting that impact against the inside of the skull.

"I believe there's no way in this world you can create a helmet that's going to reduce that effect.... You have an anatomical design that can't be rectified, and we were designed that way for a reason."

Many doctors, trainers and coaches share Welch's opinion. Hermitage's Kane is one of them.

"No matter how great your helmet is, it cannot prevent a concussion," Kane said. "It may or may not make it less severe. That can be a discussion up for the scientists."

'100 percent safe' simply not possible

Welch said he thinks the equipment is too good nowadays. It makes kids feel safer, he said, which gives them the idea that they are at less risk for serious injuries and therefore they can fly around the field at will.

"These kids feel invincible," Welch said. "Until you change the way that you look at that, then you're not going to have a huge effect."

Welch does not want to see his players wearing worse helmets, though. As Kane alluded to, the updating and improvement of helmets can still make hits less severe. Kane, Welch and Clelland all said they want their athletes wearing the safest equipment, even if it can't completely eradicate brain injuries.

"You can never get too safe," Clelland said. "The equipment that the boys are wearing now in high school is significantly better than what I wore.

"With that said, if you change the way you teach, the equipment doesn't matter anymore."

As local coaches make changes to keep their players healthy, they know their efforts are not going to eliminate the risks of the sport.

"Concussions will not be out of the game of football until the game of football no longer exists," Brown said.

Rather than try to completely end brain injuries, coaches are making it their goal to control what they can.

"There's no way to make it 100 percent safe," Kane said. "But I think if proper techniques are installed, it can make it a much safer and a much better activity."

At St. Christopher's, the fruits of Clelland and Theakston's labor are starting to show. Clelland said he believes he is putting concerned parents at ease with his new methods. The number of boys playing football there has increased.

"We have about 95 boys in the football program," Clelland said, "which is the most in many, many years of memory at this school."

Though St. Christopher's is seeing an increase in football participation, the national high school football participation numbers are dropping. The final installment of "Not just an NFL problem" will address the future of high school football and other questions that have yet to be answered.

cbroaddus@timesdispatch.com804-649-6891@CharlieBroaddus

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Copyright 2017 Richmond Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

In late September, Richmond resident Denise Davis noticed she had trouble finishing an otherwise routine walk without stopping to use her inhaler.

The 60-year-old knows plenty of people who have health issues such as high blood pressure and diabetes and don't do much about them. But that's not her style. She threw herself into her exercise routine, lost 16 pounds in a month and now finds she can leave her inhaler at home.

Davis is one of many who takes Terrica Woolridge's free weekly class through Sports Backers' Fitness Warriors program at the Robinson Theater in Church Hill. Many have stories just like Davis' — once exercise became part of their routine, they not only feel better, but they find they use less medication as well.

"(Participants) tell me, 'I couldn't go up the stairs, but now I can,' or 'My arthritis isn't as bad,'" Woolridge said. "You don't have to look at the scale, that's not the only detector of your health. How're you sleeping? How're you feeling?"

New research suggests that Woolridge's line of thinking is right. Beyond the effect on the waistline, regular exercise saves lives.

A University of Virginia study published recently in the scientific journal Free Radical Biology & Medicine suggests that an antioxidant that muscles develop during exercise might protect the body against multiple organ dysfunction syndrome, which is often developed in those who have experienced severe trauma or sepsis.

The syndrome involves the immune system essentially turning against the body and attacking vital organs. It kills up to 80 percent of patients who develop it.

The study — which was conducted in mice — was done by Zhen Yan, a U.Va. researcher who hopes his work will make people more aware of exercise's tangible benefits, thus creating more incentives for people to be physically active. What better incentive to exercise than knowledge that it could very well save your life?

"That's one of the (problems) with society, we know little about prevention, we know little about interventions like exercise; therefore, people do not see the value enough to motivate them," he said.

He supports the recommendation of several professional societies, such as the American Diabetes Association, of 30 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise a day.

"We have a huge capability to produce more of this antioxidant, which can provide protection," Yan said. "Nothing is as good as exercise."

The World Health Organization estimates that sedentary lifestyles cause more than 5 million deaths a year. Another study published last year suggests that inactivity costs the global economy $67.5 billion annually in health care and lost productivity.

But people like Davis and Woolridge, who get regular exercise, are the exception. In fact, a quarter of Virginians may be going up to a month without even a single day of physical activity.

The Virginia Department of Health measures the percent of adults who did not participate in any physical activity during the past 30 days, and between 2014 and 2015 — the most recent year the data were available — the rate went up from 23.5 percent to 25.1 percent, according to a Joint Commission on Health Care report.

Virginia's Plan for Well-Being features a litany of goals that, if reached, will presumably enhance residents' quality of life. In it, the goal for physical activity is to lower the number of adults who go up to 30 days without exercise to just 20 percent by 2020.

The positive repercussions of reaching that goal, said Ron Clark, the Department of Health's prevention health and health services coordinator, would touch nearly every segment of society, not only resulting in happier individuals but translating to saved dollars for the state.

"You're talking about individuals who are healthier," he said. "Physical activity is a game changer."

Yet obstacles to exercise remain, from common issues like a busy schedule to the far more serious problem of neighborhoods with such high levels of violence that families don't feel comfortable letting their kids play outside, Clark said.

The effects of those obstacles are evident in the population, Clark said. In Virginia, 1 out of 2 adults have at least one chronic health condition, 1 in 4 adults have no physical exercise outside of work, and 1 in 3 have received some type of notice from their provider that they have high blood pressure.

"Of course, we all have excuses or reasons why we don't exercise," Woolridge said. "But personally, and what I preach to my group is: This is about survival. I want to see my grandchildren one day; I'm hoping to still be alive."

koconnor@timesdispatch.com(804) 649-6813Twitter: @katiedemeria

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Copyright 2017 Virginian-Pilot Companies LLC
All Rights Reserved

The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

San Diego's Vault PK is usually packed with bouncing and flipping children on Saturday evenings, when it hosts a "kids' night out" for budding athletes ages 5 to 14.

This past weekend was especially packed, parents said, as people cashed in a Groupon that got three kids into the parkour facility's open gym for just $30. The three-hour event is supervised by Vault PK staff members, so it doubles as a parents' night out too.

Some of the nearly 150 children present played on the America Ninja Warrior-styled obstacle course, but roughly a third had gathered on a 10--by-30-foot wooden viewing platform, parent Cory Brizendine told San Diego ABC-affiliate KGTV. That's where the pizza was being served.

"Once the majority of kids got up there, the whole platform collapsed," he said.

The crumbling structure took a connected staircase with it, authorities and witnesses told reporters. Wood and little bodies tumbled to the ground - on top of children playing below - forming a heap of injured kids and gym equipment.

"It was business as usual until we heard a loud boom come from the gym, at which point our staff and some customers ran over to the gym to help any way we could," a spokesperson for Total Combat Paintball posted on Facebook. The business shares a building with the parkour facility and a cross-fit gym.

Zachary Smith, who was at Vault PK with his son for a birthday party, told the Los Angeles Times he was standing on the platform along with more than 30 others. Smith fell onto a young girl but neither was seriously injured, he said. Smith's son was also on the platform at the time but suffered only minor scrapes.

"It was a freak accident," Smith told the newspaper. He said it didn't appear the platform could hold so much weight.

No one answered the gym phone on Sunday afternoon. A recording said classes and birthday parties were "closed until further notice."

In all, 21 children and two adults, ages 72 and 46, were rushed to San Diego-area hospitals with moderate or minor injures, said San Diego Fire-Rescue Deputy Chief Steve Wright. At least three had spinal injuries.

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Copyright 2017 Chattanooga Publishing Company
All Rights Reserved

Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

University of Tennessee athletic director John Currie answered 25 questions at a news conference Sunday afternoon that seemed inevitable.

He gave long answers, speaking about the well-being of student-athletes and painting with broad strokes about the enterprise of collegiate athletics and where a tumultuous Tennessee football program fits into the shifting landscape of college football.

But one of his shortest answers was the most telling.

"We're standing here right now because we haven't won enough," Currie said.

Currie met with fifth-year Volunteers football coach Butch Jones on Sunday morning and fired him. By afternoon, Currie announced the start of an "exhaustive search" for Jones' replacement.

"None of us want to be in this position," Currie said. "But we are in this position, and now we move forward."

Just a few months ago, Currie regularly commended the work Jones had done to rebuild the Tennessee football program since taking it over after the 2012 season. There were three straight bowl wins, as well as substantial improvements to academics and recruiting classes.

Currie still spoke highly of Jones' work Sunday, but it became clear to the university's first-year athletic director on Saturday evening in Columbia, Mo., that scores in the Academic Progress Rate could no longer counter-balance the scores on the scoreboard.

"Really, late last night it was evident this was probably the direction we needed to go for the best of all concerned," Currie said.

Tennessee lost to Missouri 50-17 and fell to 0-6 in the Southeastern Conference. Just 13 months after the Volunteers ascended to a No. 9 national ranking, they are now at the bottom of the league standings and on the cusp of missing a bowl game.

Now the task of resurrecting Tennessee football to its former glory will fall to a new coach. Currie said the search for Jones' replacement will be his sole focus. Money, he expressed, will not be a prohibitive factor in hiring "the best coach for Tennessee."

"There's lots of different experiences out there that are relevant to our environment," Currie said. "Certainly, we need to hire someone who understands the magnitude that comes along with this job and the opportunity and responsibility that come along with being the head football coach at the University of Tennessee."

On Sunday, Currie spoke to the football team after Jones informed players in a team meeting that he had been fired. Currie told them not to believe anything they hear about Tennessee's next coach except what they hear from himself. Currie said he will not make any public comments on the search until it is time to introduce the new coach.

Hiring a football coach will be a new venture for Currie, who started on April 1 after eight years as the athletic director at Kansas State. He did not hire a football coach at Kansas State, though he did hire a men's basketball coach. At Tennessee, he has hired a men's tennis coach and a baseball coach.

Currie has appointed defensive line coach Brady Hoke to serve as interim head coach for Tennessee's final two regular season games. The Vols host Louisiana State University on Saturday and close the season against Vanderbilt at the end of next week. Tennessee needs to win both to qualify for a bowl game.

"As always, I am confident that the Vol nation will stick together, rally around this team and support our student-athletes," Currie said. "We will begin an exhaustive search for a person of the highest integrity and character with the skills and vision to propel Tennessee to championships. This is an extraordinarily special place with unique opportunities and a tradition of excellence."

The requirements for that coach will start with integrity and "a commitment to doing things the right way," Currie said. What Jones brought in terms of the program's academic emphasis and community involvement are also prerequisites, he said.

And then there is where Jones fell short: on the scoreboard.

"Certainly, we expect our coach to have the dynamics that will enable him to lead us to where we know Tennessee football can and should be," Currie said. "Our coach needs to know what that looks like."

Contact staff writer David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com

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Copyright 2017 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Palm Beach Post (Florida)

 

WEST PALM BEACH -- When the Houston Astros clinched their first baseball championship Nov. 1, it was supposed to be a source of pride for the roster of local companies that helped build The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, the team's $152 million spring training complex that opened in February.

Instead, it was met with indifference and resentment because of a festering dispute over millions of dollars in unpaid bills and allegations of shoddy work.

The main fight involves complaints by the teams that share the ballpark, the Astros and Washington Nationals, about problems with payments by the project's general contractors, led by Hunt Construction Group.

Caught in the middle are more than a dozen subcontractors who say they are still waiting to be paid for work performed as long as a year ago -- from the initial land-clearing on the 160-acre site south of 45th Street in West Palm Beach to the concrete, electrical work and plumbing in the stadium and clubhouses to the landscaping all around it.

"It's just a bunch of nonsense," said Rick Mancil, who said his Palm City tractor service company is owed $4 million. "We're just trying to make a living. We got the job done. Now, we have a ball club that just won the World Series, yet they don't want to pay the people who contributed to it. Come on, guys. What's the problem?"

Palm Beach County officials have been aware of the payment concerns since at least March, according to internal emails reviewed by The Palm Beach Post. They've tried to encourage the contractor and teams to speed up payments, many of which come from millions of dollars in public money that helped finance construction bonds.

But the owners of some small companies, whose participation was encouraged by the county to help the local economy, said the delays have forced them to lay off workers and max out personal credit cards to stay afloat while they wait to get paid.

One company owner who asked not to be identified said his firm is going out of business and he is in danger of losing his home. Also hurting are local firms that supplied materials to the various subcontractors.

A Broward County swimming pool company owner got so fed up that he called Astros owner Jim Crane the day after his team won the World Series to demand payment.

"Maybe they'll pay my bills now," said Dean Beckemeyer of Xpert Elevator in Royal Palm Beach, echoing a sarcastic reaction shared by other company owners.

Many companies have been at least partially paid for their work, but they say they're still owed more money.

Rush to open

The complaints, some of which are laid out in more than 10 lawsuits, underscore a range of problems that unfolded at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches as the Astros and Nationals rushed to complete their shared spring training home under a tight construction window.

Work on the site, a former landfill west of Interstate 95, started in November 2015 after the teams secured $113 million in county tourist tax revenue and $50 million from the state to help finance the massive project. The teams are picking up about a third of the total costs.

Just 15 months later, the ballpark opened on time for spring training, but only after work crews scrambled in 20-hour shifts during the final four months. Even then, it still wasn't finished.

And when the teams left camp to open the regular season in April, their local representatives found shoddy work that had to be done over, including improperly installed windows and clubhouse showers that didn't drain properly.

Not long after that, lawsuits started flying like foul balls.

Hunt Construction was named as a defendant in at least seven lawsuits filed by subcontractors and suppliers seeking payment for work. Other suits were filed by supply companies or sub-subcontractors seeking payment from subcontractors.

Five lawsuits were withdrawn a few months after being filed. Four drag on, including a 290-page suit filed June 14 by Davco Electrical of Boynton Beach seeking $7 million in unpaid work from a $10.2 million contract with Hunt.

In August, Hunt filed a lawsuit against A Christian Glass & Mirror Co., accusing the Delray Beach firm of failing to properly perform work under a $1.52 million contract.

Some small companies, trying to avoid a costly fight they say they can't afford, have continued to badger Hunt and team representatives about getting paid. Beckemeyer said he makes weekly visits to the Hunt construction trailers that still sit at the ballpark's Haverhill Road entrance, hoping to get the $200,000 his company is owed.

"Once the trailers are gone, I'm afraid I won't be able to reach anybody," he said.

Teams blame contractors

About five of the 35 smaller companies that worked on the project have complained about the slow payments to the county's Small Business Enterprise office, which sets aside 15 percent of county projects to small firms under county rules.

The Astros and Nationals have placed blame for payment delays on the project's four general contractors, which formed the joint venture Hunt Straticon Messam and Cooper for the project.

"The continued failures of HSMC to provide correct, timely and completed pay applications has plagued this job from the very beginning," Marc Taylor, the program manager hired by the teams, said in a letter to the contractors May 1.

On May 8, representatives for three subs -- Davco Electrical, Mancil's Tractor Service of Palm City and Florida Exotic landscaping in Palm City -- aired their complaints in meetings with County Commissioner Mack Bernard, whose district includes the ballpark.

At a county commission meeting a few days later, Bernard mentioned the payment concerns to county staff, who offered a partial explanation about a process that is slow and often arduous. The process includes a 100-page payment application that is subjected to several layers of scrutiny, a process aimed at ensuring that public money is spent properly by HW Spring Training LLC, the entity formed by the Astros and Nationals.

"It's not a matter of HW not paying. We have documents showing they have dispersed what they've received. It's a matter of Hunt and HW agreeing, or not, upon what is due," Audrey Wolf, the county's facilities development and operations director, told commissioners in May.

The county's contribution -- from tourist tax revenue -- is limited to a $135 million project budget that was approved by the county commission. Anything above that is paid for by the Nationals and Astros, who are already committed to paying about one-third of the project's original budget but are also on the hook for at least $17 million in added costs that have driven the budget up to $152 million.

Some subcontractors, suspicious about why it's taking so long to get paid, said they are left to wonder whether they're being unfairly squeezed as Hunt, which already has blown through its $4 million contingency budget, and the teams look for ways to cut their losses.

"Right now, we're still owed a little over $200,000. The problem is, we've been done for a year now," said Tim Reynolds of South Florida Grading, which installed underground utility lines throughout the complex.

Small companies 'getting killed'

Some companies say the county hasn't done enough to help them, even though they've been complaining for nearly a year.

"As you are aware, the number of inquiries/complaints from subcontractors on payment issues, particularly claims, are mounting," Wolf said in a March 29 email to representatives for Hunt and the teams.

"While the county is not a party to the contract between HW and Hunt, it has many reasons to be concerned about the impact of the unresolved claims on subcontractors."

In early October, Broward County pool company owner John Sammet fired off an angry email to representatives for Hunt and the teams.

"The Ballpark and the city of West Palm Beach were looking for small local contractors to do the work and improve the local economy. I had no idea that meant I would do the work and not get paid for over 8 months," wrote Sammet, whose company, Sammet Pools, installed the Astros' clubhouse spas and the Nationals' outdoor exercise pool.

"For a small contractor you can clearly see how this hurts my company, my employees and my subcontractors. This has clearly put me and my company in an extreme financial hardship. I cannot wait any longer. I feel like nobody cares since the work has already been done."

A month later, the morning after the Astros won the World Series, Sammet called Astros owner Crane's office in Houston and left a message demanding payment of nearly $80,000: "You guys won the world championship but you won't pay your bills!"

In an interview with The Post, Sammet said: "I've tried to be nice as long as I can be. I'm not going to be nice anymore." He thinks Hunt is more to blame than the teams. "But problem is, little guys like me are getting killed. They're not paying us," he said.

Mancil said the county should do more to intervene with Hunt on behalf of smaller companies.

"We let these people come into town, gave them $135 million in taxpayer money, and they can't even take care of the people who work and live here," Mancil said. "It is really terrible the way they're treating everyone."

Giles Kibbe, the Astros' general counsel, said he is disappointed some subcontractors are "putting it on the Astros." He said neither the Astros nor Nationals are withholding payment for work that was done properly.

"Unfortunately, there are disputes over some of the work," Kibbe said, speaking on behalf of HW Spring Training LLC. "This is the county's ballpark, and we have to be careful with the county's money. We have an obligation to pay for work that is done properly. But we also have a responsibility to not pay for work that was done improperly.

"Sadly, it's November and there are still a lot of things that have to be fixed. We're working with Hunt to address those items, and we're optimistic that all of this will be resolved in the next few months."

Spring training starts at the ballpark in early February. The Astros host the Nationals in their first Grapefruit League game Feb. 23.

jcapozzi@pbpost.com Twitter: @jcapozzipbpost

Who's owed the cash?

Here are some of the subcontractors and the amounts they say they are owed for work on The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach:

Davco Electrical $6 million

Mancil's Tractor Service $4 million

MIK Construction $500,000

South Florida Grading $200,000

Xpert Elevator $200,000

Sammet Pools $80,000

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

The first wave of women set off by canoe from shores of Minneapolis' Lake Calhoun, called Bde Maka Ska from the Dakota language, during the Kwe Strong Triathlon in August. The event brings Indigenous women together to promote health.

Sasha Houston Brown battles for the ball during the Creator's game, which is like lacrosse, at Corcoran Park in Minneapolis in September. "It brings out people who would not normally come out for sports," she said.

Native American Lisa Skjefte gives instructions on the shores of Bde Maka Ska/Lake Calhoun before the start of the Kwe Strong Triathlon August. "We want to transform fitness in a Native way," Skjefte said.

MINNEAPOLIS - The players stood on the field in a circle, passing burning sage to one another.

One by one, they waved their lacrosse sticks over the thick, sweet-smelling smoke.

Then they faced off, ready to start play on a recent Sunday at Corcoran Park in Minneapolis. Sasha Houston Brown tossed up the ball. The other players jumped for it - raising their sticks toward the sky and shouting excitedly "to let Creator know we're playing," Houston Brown said.

It's a scene that plays out each week in the park among the dozen or so Native Americans who regularly show up to play old-style lacrosse, or "Creator's game," as they call it.

For them, it is more than a game. It's medicine.

The prescription for better health for Native Americans lies in returning to their roots, Houston Brown and Lisa Skjefte believe. The Minneapolis women are among a new generation of Native health advocates working to improve community health by reviving the active lifestyle of their ancestors.

"We had all of this down," Skjefte said. "We know how to survive."

Staggering rates of obesity and diabetes among Native Americans have led to shortened life spans. Native adults are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as is the general population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Diets worsened when Native Americans were forced to live on reservations and government commodities replaced the nutrient-rich, natural foods they were used to eating. Physical fitness waned as lacrosse was lost to the Indigenous people who invented it.

"It was something that was very deliberately taken from us," Houston Brown said.

But now, Native Americans are reclaiming the game and playing it as their ancestors did to support good health.

"It brings out people who would not normally come out for sports," said Houston Brown, 30, a leading voice for the revival of lacrosse among Native Americans. "We know each other's kids and each other's families. It builds community, which is the foundation of health in many ways."

Across town, Skjefte led a group of fellow Native women last month on a brisk walk around Lake Calhoun, which is also known by its Dakota name, Bde Maka Ska. Meanwhile, other Native women raced canoes. Skjefte smiled at the sight of the hundreds of participants in the Kwe Strong Triathlon - an event she co-founded six years ago to encourage Native women and girls to be healthy and strong.

"We want to transform fitness in a Native way," Skjefte said.

Two women, one passion

Getting the Native American population to exercise more isn't easy.

"In our communities, we see a lot of our people struggling still," said Skjefte, a citizen of the Red Lake nation Band of Ojibwe.

Going to the gym can feel foreign. But stepping into a canoe and being outside, that's natural, she said.

"By going back to these traditional activities, it seems like (these are) natural pathways. We don't have to convince anyone to get into a canoe. They want to."

The idea for the Kwe Strong Triathlon came to Skjefte while she was on a long run.

"I could just see all the women on the lake. I could see us canoeing together," she said. "I knew that canoeing would be the thing that would make it ours."

Houston Brown's passion for lacrosse began when she was a student at Blake High School. At the time, she didn't know about the game's origins. After graduating from Carleton College, she learned that it was invented by Native Americans, which led her to start playing again.

Her effort to resurrect the traditional game feeds her larger passion for Indigenous health and wellness.

"I keep coming back to that," said Houston Brown, whose mother is of Russian ancestry and whose father is Dakota, Santee Sioux. "If we are not well spiritually, emotionally and physically, we aren't able to participate in other spheres."

She speaks from harrowing personal experience. When she was in college, she was sexually assaulted. Strength training and physical activity played a key role in her physical and mental recovery, she said.

"Over the course of many years, therapy and ceremony, I began to heal," Houston Brown said. "Learning to be present in my body, to appreciate all that I am physically capable of doing and connecting with other women around health is truly what has allowed me to thrive."

She stays in shape by running, playing Creator's game and lifting weights. She leads strength training classes on a weekly basis that are open to Native women and, especially, girls. Making intergenerational connections, she explained, is linked to better health outcomes and is a part of the culture.

Game was a game-changer

Back at Corcoran Park, the oldest player on the field this day was in his early 50s and the youngest was a 9-year-old boy.

"The feeling you get when you move through seven or eight people and score, the rush you feel - it's amazing," said David "Bezh" Butler, 36, a regular at the lacrosse gatherings.

Picking up the sport was a game-changer for his health. He used to spend his free time in his Minneapolis home playing video games. Then he heard about a lacrosse practice and decided to try it.

"When I first came, I didn't know anybody," he said. And he couldn't keep up with everyone. "I was running out of air," he said.

But he stuck with it and soon, Butler was playing for four hours at a stretch. During that time, he says, he dropped 40 pounds.

"It really made me think about my health," he said. "It really centered me."

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Copyright 2017 The Arizona Daily Star. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

 


An hour after Arizona won its season basketball opener Friday at McKale Center, former UA assistant track and field coach Craig Carter told ABC's "20/20" that, "Hey, people mess up."

Carter is accused of stalking, assault with a dangerous weapon and other charges connected to his relationship with a former UA shot-putter.

People mess up? That's what he said.

An hour earlier, Arizona played NAU minus two assistant basketball coaches and two players. All have been suspended for various off-court issues.

Yes, people mess up.

Unlike Craig Carter, UA basketball coach Sean Miller has learned when to shut up. For the last two years, he led the league in "no comment" replies to questions about suspended players Elliott Pitts and Allonzo Trier. It's only November, but Miller is probably ahead of his previous "no comment" pace.

It's not a good look, but more and more it is defining the UA basketball program. The stigma of impropriety isn't likely to go away no matter how many games the Wildcats win.

Have you ever heard of a college basketball team with two suspended coaches?

Miller's latest "no comment" capped one of the most embarrassing weeks in Pac-12 basketball history. Former UA assistant coach Josh Pastner was linked to a Tucson man who provided money, shoes and airline tickets for two Georgia Tech players. Three UCLA players were arrested in China for alleged shoplifting, after which Pac-12 Networks analyst Bill Walton apologized "on behalf of the entire human race."

And No. 10 USC opened the season Friday minus an assistant coach and a key player, both suspended because of the ongoing FBI investigation into corruption.

College basketball has become a game of risk-takers.

As long ago as the 2011 Final Four, NCAA executive director Mark Emmert told reporters: "The single biggest concern that I have among the threats to the collegiate model is simply the threat to integrity. I have heard concerns expressed by people all around the country about the integrity of intercollegiate athletics right now, that people are seeing things that they don't like and that I don't like and that many people are concerned about."

Now, in the fall of 2017, Emmert's words ring true. So far, the only answer we've received is "no comment."

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Copyright 2017 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah athletics director Dr. Chris Hill admits to watching every extra point kick at Rice-Eccles Stadium with great interest over the past three months. He studies the PATs to get a shot of what the end zones look like.

The reason why is potential expansion and renovation of the stadium. Hill announced that a feasibility study will include the sending of 100,000 emails next week to ticket holders, alumni within 100 miles of the university and other folks with an interest in Utah athletics. The email, under the direction of national consulting firm Conventions, Sports and Leisure, will include an invitation to participate in an 8-10 minute survey set to analyze market demand for what different interest levels are regarding stadium alterations.

"The purpose, which we're all excited about, is to get it out and make sure it gives us information," said Hill, who acknowledged there are a lot of variables involved.

Hill is hopeful that sketches of what stadium renovations might look like will be available this spring. Proposed renovations include expanding the stadium beyond its current capacity of 45,807 seats, the addition of premium seating options, restrooms and concession improvements.

The structure on the south end of the stadium with the locker rooms, Hill confirmed, is "falling apart" and it's given that it will be knocked down. Hill added that the south end will be closed in with the rest of the facility with one concourse.

"The survey will cover interest in different kinds of opportunities, amenities, chair seats, bench seats, all the different things to see what the market is interested in," Hill said. "Inaccurate science but pretty good, really pretty good."

Stadium size, he explained, will be based on what's the right size for the university. The renovated south end will have a lot more variety to it than the north end.

"We'll see what happens," Hill said. "We'll see what the interest is."

Hill expects everything to be completed by 2021, for what he called the biggest project they'll take on for the next 20 years. Funding for the project is slated to come totally from donations and ticket sales. No state money will be used.

However, Hill will meet in January with officials to gauge interest in using the facility for another possible hosting of the Winter Olympic Games and World Cup soccer.

"If they have interest maybe we can squeeze a little bit," Hill said. "You know, slap leather and help us, right?"

INJURY REPORT: Utah coach Kyle Whittingham noted that a lot of players were "unable to go" Saturday because of unspecified injuries.The cast included wide receiver Darren Carrington II, safety Chase Hansen and linebacker Sunia Tauteoli. Defensive end Kylie Fitts, cornerback Julian Blackmon and running back Zack Moss were among several players sidelined at times during the game. Whittingham said there are probably 8-10 guys that they'll need to get reports on in the next day or two to learn what their status is entering the final two games of the season.

EXTRA POINTS: It was Utah's 50th consecutive sellout at home.... Scouts from the NFL's Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins were credentialed for the game.... The Utes celebrated Veterans Day with several activities including a pregame helicopter flyover. Jacob Salgado was honored as the student veteran of the year.

Email: dirk@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DirkFacer

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

You won't find gym class on the schedule in upstate New York's Victor school district.

What you will see: kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking, dance, self-defense, archery and in-line skating — all under the heading of physical education. The teachers say it's a more fitting description of lessons meant to last well beyond the class bell.

"We want our kids, as they walk out of these halls in grade 12, to be active for life," said Ron Whitcomb, the district's director of health, physical education and athletics.

With the childhood obesity rate at about 17 percent, the federal education law passed in December 2015 to replace No Child Left Behind elevates health and fitness to rank among things like art, music, civics and science as elements of a well-rounded education and makes additional funding available.

At a time when schools are all about getting students ready for college or jobs, experts say it's a chance for more physical education teachers to look beyond graduation, too, and leave even the least competitive students with the will and skills to keep moving. In many places, that has meant more bike-riding, outdoor hikes and yoga, and less dodgeball and shimmying up a rope — more choice about which activity to pursue, and less emphasis on who's the best at it.

"The most important job of a great physical education teacher is to appreciate every student in that class, not just the highly skilled," said Whitcomb, whose program pre-dates the new law and is among those considered models for the more modern approach.

Connecticut, Vermont and Michigan are among states that include physical education or fitness in their accountability plans for the U.S. Education Department under the new law. The more holistic view of school quality is a departure from the old law's heavy reliance on test scores.

In the shadow of Washington state's Mount Rainier, physical education teacher Tracy Krause's students have for several years been fly-fishing and rock climbing as part of an "Outdoor Academy" program that also incorporates English Language Arts and environmental science. All freshmen at Krause's Tahoma High School take a foundations class that lets them explore things like dance, yoga, strength and conditioning.

"Our (school) motto is 'future ready.' We want kids to leave with a plan for the future, whether it's college or the military or going straight to the workforce, and I think the same needs to be true about their health," Krause said.

Washington, D.C., teachers put all of the district's second-graders on bicycles to gain a lifelong skill. Fourth-and seventh-graders do park-our, in which students leap and vault over obstacles in a way that's more freewheeling than skill-specific gymnastics. D.C. sixth-graders learn orienteering, including how to read a compass and geocache. High schoolers swim.

"We want to teach a variety of these foundational movement skills with cycling, swimming, parkour. So that they're very individualized," said Miriam Kenyon, the district's director of health and physical education, "and when you have that, you can't take it away."

Lily Morgulis, 7, envisions riding bikes with her parents on weekends after mastering the two-wheeler with her classmates at Seaton Elementary School.

"It's a good exercise. It gives you an opportunity to ride bikes once in a while," Lily said on a recent morning, after putting on a shiny blue helmet and making several smooth circles. "I feel like it's really fun. It feels happy."

On the flip side, schools, including in New Hampshire, Virginia and Maine, are increasingly doing away with "human target" games like dodgeball in gym class, as well as team sports that may pit accomplished competitive athletes against classmates who would rather sit on the sidelines.

The goal should be to meet all students where they are and move forward, said Cheryl Richardson, senior director of programs at SHAPE America, the Society of Health and Physical Educators, not "where P.E. is so hard that they learn to hate it or associate it with some sort of torture."

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Copyright 2017 Wichita Falls Times Record News
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Times Record News (Wichita Falls, Texas)

 

With America's elite college football teams closing in on the playoffs to determine a national champion and a new race to basketball's March Madness about to begin, the burning question might be (actually is) who is in charge of the keeping the huge fortune the two events produce out of the hands of cheaters?



For more than three quarters of a century, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has ruled major college sports with an iron fist, clamping down on any hint of scandal that might taint the association and its member schools... and damage the money flow.

At times, the NCAA's legendary gum shoe committee has seemed to have taken its duty to preserve purity to the point of absurdity, penalizing its members for trivial infractions of its Byzantine book of rules - so large now, it has become a lawyer's dream or nightmare whichever side you're on. You can't give that recruit a baseball cap, T-shirt, etc., or your best player is suspended for appearing fully clothed on a calendar that was being sold for charity by a sorority, which actually occurred.

Often it seemed to observers that there was an unholy selectivity to the association's punishments. In other words, schools that were the most successful in pursuit of records and the revenue they produce were somehow less likely to be sanctioned. It has taken a long time for the University of Louisville and its famous basketball coach, Rick Pitino, to fall, although his program's not to mention personal indiscretions were common knowledge for years.

The shadow of scandal and prosecution now hovers over the new basketball season.

The late UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian, once said only half in jest, "that the NCAA is so mad at Kentucky it probably will tack another two years (sanctions) on Cleveland State."

While there has been no solid proof to back up these allegations of favoritism, there obviously is plenty of circumstantial evidence. And the NCAA's decision not to pursue a horrendous breach of academic propriety by the University of North Carolina, almost puts a rubber stamp of authenticity to the claims. By not doing so, any credibility the governing body has left may have been lost forever. If you have been unaware, UNC had given academic credit to favored groups for what it at one time admitted was a phony course. While some of those who took the nonexistent course or courses weren't athletes, at least 50 percent to 60 percent were.

Dan Thomasson is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service and a former vice president of Scripps Howard Newspapers. Readers may send him email at: thomassondan@aol.com .

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Copyright 2017 The Post and Courier
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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

MYRTLE BEACH — Most visitors to Grand Strand might look forward to its flashier attractions: the blinking carnival rides at Family Kingdom or the pocket of late-night clubs at Broadway at the Beach.

But a growing number of travelers are instead bound for the baseball fields and basketball courts tucked away across the Myrtle Beach area. Sports tourism is becoming a crucial strategy to keep visitors coming to the beach, even if they don't end up lounging on the sand.

"We found that sports tourism is perhaps the most recession-proof part of tourism," said Brad Dean, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

"(If) times get tough and the family budget gets crunched, you cut out the golf vacation, you scrap the girlfriend getaway, you cut back on the family vacation, but if your 12-year-old is playing in that 12-year-old championship, Mom and Dad will move mountain and earth to get there."

Myrtle Beach collected $3.8 million in fees and city taxes paid by visitors traveling for sports events last year, and city staff estimate that sports tourism had a $186 million economic impact within the city limits in 2016. The Grand Strand is attractive for tournaments, tourism officials and event promoters said, because it offers a competitive market for hotel rooms as well as scores of restaurants and attractions.

But the area is also facing competitive pressures around the state as cities rush to build their own facilities. And in Myrtle Beach, like other cities across South Carolina, sports venues rarely break even on their own. City staff estimate that Myrtle Beach's sports facilities will operate at a deficit close to $850,000 in the current budget year.

'First to the game'

Rock Hill was one of the first cities in South Carolina to jump into the sports tourism world when it built Cherry Park, a baseball and softball complex on 68 acres, in 1985.

The town was looking for ways to goose its economy as its traditional base of textile manufacturing waned, and the park offered something new: a single location where multiple teams could play in the same tournament, according to Mark Sexton, the operations supervisor for Rock Hill Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

Since then, the city built a soccer complex, tennis center and a velodrome, an indoor cycling venue that hosts events similar to "NASCAR on bicycles," Sexton said.

Rock Hill also has attracted specialized events with international competitors, like the BMX World Championships. The city was ultimately selected over Bangkok, Sexton said, and Rock Hill officials estimated the event had a roughly $19 million economic impact.

Part of the city's success is its early entry into sports tourism, according to Bob Brookover, a senior lecturer in the department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at Clemson University.

"They were first to the game, so they're always at the front of people's minds, and they've got long-term relationships," Brookover said. "It's a whole lot harder for people to break up with them and go to the next guy."

Many towns have tried to replicate that success. Charleston City Councilwoman Kathleen Wilson pushed for building a natatorium, an indoor swimming complex, next to Citadel Mall in West Ashley, but funding has yet to materialize for the $38 million proposal.

Charleston hosts some larger sporting events that draw athletes and spectators, like the annual Cooper River Bridge Run. But the city doesn't have the capacity for large groups of visitors that more seasonal destinations do, said Kathleen Cartland, the executive director of the Charleston Area Sports Commission.

"We just don't have major sports complexes that have been built in other areas just for the tourism aspect of it," Cartland said.

Greenville hosted the USA Karate National Championships and Team Trials this year, and it will host the Southeastern Conference Women's Basketball Tournament in a three-year deal starting in 2019.

"Especially when you've hosted a year successfully, (promoters) look back at what the community did," Robin Wright of Visit Greenville said.

Brookover also said the Upstate has been successful in attracting events because tourism officials can tout the redevelopment of downtown Greenville and Spartanburg.

Myrtle Beach has long focused on youth tournaments, assuming that young athletes bring many family members with them and that all of them will patronize local hotels and restaurants.

Mayor John Rhodes won his first term in office in 2005 after running on a platform that focused on expanding sports tourism. Rhodes is also one of the organizers of the Beach Ball Classic, an annual high school basketball tournament that started in 1981 and is now held at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

Because of that tournament, Rhodes said, "We realized the sports tourism thing in Myrtle Beach had an opportunity to grow and be something successful."

But families with children in travel sports may have to make significant sacrifices to travel with their child. Dean said many families with children in travel sports have forgone a traditional weeklong vacation in favor of several smaller trips scheduled around tournaments. Parents often shuttle their children to venues between two and four hours away for a game or tournament, Brookover said.

Will they come?

In past decades, many cities erected sports facilities with a simple mantra in mind: build it and they will come. That has changed, however, as baseball diamonds, soccer fields and basketball courts have sprouted in cities from Columbia to Spartanburg to Irmo.

Dean said nationally, sports tourism facilities are overbuilt, though Myrtle Beach is somewhat insulated from that issue because it also offers the amenities of a vacation destination.

But with so many options, sports organizers can pick and choose, often striking multi-year deals for reduced facility rates.

"The organizations that would be bringing tournaments to you, they've been in the driver's seat for a bit in terms of being able to ask you for a lot," Brookover said. "It's always best when you're thinking about developing facilities that you develop the right thing for your stakeholders that live in your community first."

Myrtle Beach has spent millions on new and improved sports facilities in the past decade, including a $5.5 million renovation of its high school football stadium and track this year and a $14 million indoor sports facility that opened in 2015, equipped for basketball and volleyball.

There is also a private venue inside the city limits, the Ripken Experience, a complex of nine artificial turf fields that opened in 2006 to host tournaments and practice camps for youth baseball players.

But cities continue to jump into the market, and the city of Florence is moving forward with a soccer complex. Established venues like Rock Hill continue to expand - the city is planning to lease a new indoor facility from a private developer.

At the same time, Myrtle Beach lost two significant tournaments to North Myrtle Beach this year: the Saltwater Highland Games, a series of Gaelic events, and the Grand Strand Softball Classic, a youth event.

Lawrence Jones, the organizer of the softball classic, said Myrtle Beach's new pricing structure changed his usual $3,500 fee to roughly $30,000. In North Myrtle Beach, he said he paid less than $3,000, and he's since signed a three-year contract to use that city's sports complex.

The classic had been held in Myrtle Beach for the past 24 years.

"I think the City Council now is of the understanding... (that) they want to readdress the payment plans of the facilities now," Jones said.

Rhodes said the city faces a balancing act between recouping the operating costs of its facilities while still attracting tournaments.

"I don't have a problem with us losing some money, but I don't want us losing a lot," Rhodes said. "We don't mind helping (promoters) make money, because we look at making money off the tourist that comes in Myrtle Beach."

University of Virginia players take batting practice before a 2015 game at Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach. The private facility is one of many venues on the Grand Strand that draw tournaments as part of a strategy to grow sports tourism revenue.
File/AP

Myrtle Beach's Grand Park is one of the city's main facilities used to attract youth tournaments. City officials say youth sporting events prove more lucrative, because young athletes bring several family members along on trips.
Provided Photographs

Myrtle Beach spent $5.5 million on renovations to Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium this year. The renovations expanded the track and other facilities at the high school stadium, which was already one of the best-equipped in Horry County.
North Myrtle Beach paid for its Park and Sports Complex with a bond, which will be paid off in 2019. The facility is one of the few that covers its operating costs on its own fees. /Provided

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Copyright 2017 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

 

Financial mismanagement may have cost the University of New Mexico's athletics department hundreds of thousands of dollars in just the past three years, and State Auditor Tim Keller said those problems will continue unless the school designates a full-time financial officer and requires better accountability of the athletic department and its fundraising arms.

He called the current setup an "ungovernable ball of organizations" that improperly mixes public and private money.

A special audit of UNM's athletics department and affiliated fundraising operations found UNM has received $256,000 less than it should have from its athletics marketing contractor, Lobo Sports Properties. It also detailed the previously reported $432,000 in uncollected revenue from Pit suite sales - about 40 percent of which UNM acknowledges it will likely never see, in many cases because contracts for the suites were either never signed or invoiced.

The audit, released by Keller's office Friday, also found that the university had provided donor-related perks to 23 people who had made no monetary contributions to UNM or its fundraising arms, overpaid three coaches and mistakenly paid for a women's basketball player's scholarship with money donatedspecifically for the ski team.

The findings come amid great financial challenges within Lobo athletics. The department has failed to make budget in nine of the past 11 fiscal years and carries a $4.7 million debt that has been covered through the years by the university's central reserves.

What the audit did not find, although it wasn't specifically looking to draw legal opinions, was any indication of criminal wrongdoing.

"We did not find fraud," Keller said in an interview. "We didn't find millions of dollars missing. We've had a lot, but more or less, they've been able to contain general accountability as a whole, but specific accountability is nearly impossible."

UNM did not dispute most of the findings and said the school was already addressing many of them.

The 58-page audit report did make multiple references to apparent violations of the state's anti-donation clause, which prohibits private individuals from receiving gifts paid for with public money. That would include the 2015 golf junket to Scotland for which now-former athletic director Paul Krebs, who retired in June, and Lobo Club Executive Director Kole McKamey, who on Tuesday announced his forthcoming resignation, acknowledged using public money to pay for three donors' golf packages.

That and other concerns helped spur the special audit in May and also led New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas to announce his investigation into any potential wrongdoing regarding the department's finances. The attorney general's spokesman on Friday said the office would review the new audit report "and update the public once we have made a determination regarding the auditors' findings and have incorporated them into our ongoing investigation."

New UNM Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez said he took Friday's report - findings he had anticipated, though said were at times "uncomfortable" to read - as a positive.

"I want people to know that we're owning this," Nuñez said. "This is a great opportunity for us to take this (report and) to move forward to work alongside the Foundation and the Lobo Club to make this institution better. We want to make UNM one of the best institutions in the country and to do that, we have to start now."

He added the report comes at a good time. Since he is in his first month on the job, he is trying to evaluate current staff and identify changes he would like to implement.

"A lot of the things here," Nuñez said, "we're already in the process of correcting and getting things right. We're not 100 percent on everything, but we're heading in the right directions."

UNM problem

While some of the athletics issues are specialized, Keller said the audit's findings symbolize larger problems at UNM. He stressed the "tangled" financial and operational relationships among UNM, the University of New Mexico Foundation - which considers itself a private not-for-profit organization - the Lobo Club (chief fundraiser for UNM athletics) and even the UNM Alumni Association.

Under the setup, UNM "comingled" donations raised by the Lobo Club and booster clubs with public funds and then used the money for donor perks that "are not appropriate uses of public funds," according to an auditor's news release.

The auditor also expressed concern that UNM as a whole has no stand-alone chief financial officer position - just "one-third" of a CFO. The CFO responsibility is concentrated with David Harris, who also serves as the university's executive vice president for administration and its chief operating officer.

Oversight is also complicated at the lower levels; the athletics department has a vacant CFO position, while the Lobo Club has no designated treasurer's role. Keller also said each individual sport's booster club should have its own treasurer as well.

Without that, it's hard to hold anyone in particular accountable, Keller said.

"I really believe if they do not fix these structural issues, UNM is susceptible to this forever," Keller said. "If they do not change some of these things, we could do the same audit next year and it's probably going to say the exact same thing."

His office is recommending the UNM Board of Regents create some agency - like an ombudsman office for compliance and ethics - that has a measure of oversight and authority for UNM and its component units.

Change in structure?

It's not clear from UNM's response whether it will heed that specific suggestion. Regent President Rob Doughty did not immediately return a Journal message Friday, but did have a statement in a UNM release that said in part, "As regents, we feel it is our responsibility to set the highest standards within athletics to ensure the best experience for our student-athletes and Lobo fans."

Interim President Chaouki Abdallah, meanwhile, did not express any immediate plans to alter Harris' three-part role at UNM. He said in a written statement that UNM's management structure has been in place for many years and "for the most part, this model has largely accomplished its objective." However, he noted that the forthcoming leadership change - Gar-nett Stokes will assume UNM's presidency on March 1 - will "undoubtedly" mean reviewing the structure for its efficacy.

But the university, as Nuñez alluded to, is already working to fix some problems identified in the audit - many of which the media had reported prior to Friday's audit release.

UNM is, for example, revising and updating the memorandum of understanding that governs its relationship with the foundation and the Lobo Club. The edit aims to "clearly define the roles and responsibility of all parties to the agreement," according to the audit report.

Abdallah, who will continue in the role until March, said in a letter to Keller provided to the Journal that the university is already taking corrective actions in many of the areas the audit flagged.

"It is apparent from the observations and findings contained in this report that the Athletics Department must in the future operate under closer financial and managerial supervision," he wrote, adding that the arrival of Nuñez and Stokes and the audit findings provide "an opportunity to move into a new era for Lobo Athletics."

Missing paperwork

UNM must pay for the audit and the $90,000 bill covers about 900 hours of work by the Office of the State Auditor. But that's just because of an established cap: staff likely worked twice that many hours, Deputy State Auditor Sanjay Bhakta said, though he has not yet calculated the total time.

The audit, announced in late May, examined transactions between July 2014 and June 2017, but Bhakta acknowledged that it likely did not encompass everything, partly because there was so much missing paperwork.

"It could have been more. This is not all inclusive. Just for example this (uncollected Pit revenue number is) based on what they gave us," he said. "We verified that, however we don't know for sure that's all inclusive."

Among the problems:

Lobo Sports Properties underpaid by a total of $256,000 over the past two fiscal years. Lobo Sports Properties holds UNM's multimedia and sponsorship rights under a contract that extends through 2020 and pays the university $4.5 million annually. It also pays a fee to use and sell the Dream-style Stadium's nine luxury suites and pays rent for its employees' workspace on UNM property.

"UNM Athletics has not effectively monitored contract compliance for executed contracts," the report said.

UNM agreed with the finding, according to the report, and has changed its contract administration standards and intends to bill Lobo Sports Properties for the outstanding balance.

There aren't comprehensive policies or oversight on "perks" given to donors, contributing to the identification of 23 people who received donor perks such as flights, meals and hotel accommodations despite not having made any monetary contributions to UNM.

Rather than so routinely mixing public money with private donations in the same pool of money, the athletics department "should implement procedures that allow the tracking of non-public funds that may be used for purposes that public funds cannot." Online

To see the state auditor's report on UNM, go to ABQJournal.com

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Copyright 2017 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
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Palm Beach Post (Florida)

 

The state has permanently revoked the teaching certificate of a girls basketball coach who was fired from Santaluces High in 2015 for sending a 17-year-old student an electronic message that read in part that he wanted to see her naked, according to state and school district records.

While investigators confirmed Garrick Black sent the message, they found no evidence of anything criminal -- there were no allegations of physical contact, no allegations of explicit photos being exchanged.

Black said Friday that the accusations were false, "I understand what the police report says. But I just got caught up in something. I was really nervous and scared (when police questioned him). I didn't have anything to do with that. I didn't even write that."

After he lost his job, Black, who said he hasn't worked in a school since, contends he didn't realize that the police findings would be used to pursue his teaching certification and that he missed the notifications that were mailed to him. For those reasons, Black said he hasn't had an opportunity to defend himself against these allegations.

Black, a basketball player at Boynton Beach High almost a decade earlier, had been coaching at Santaluces for a couple of years, but his position was considered part-time or temporary. He did not teach any classes, Palm Beach County School District records show.

When first confronted by investigators about the message sent via Instagram, Black, who is now 28, denied knowing the girl and sending the message, police reported. But Instagram confirmed the source of the message was his account, authorities had a screenshot of the message and Black eventually conceded to sending it, they reported.

It was a friend of the girl's who alerted an assistant principal to the message and triggered the investigation. The girl, whose name was removed from the report because of her age, said the coach began following her Instagram account in the spring of 2014.

She told police that Black had sent her direct messages through that account a couple of times, once admonishing her for fighting -- she'd been suspended for fighting at the time, and another commenting on a picture she posted of a woman in a black tank "who had noticeable piercings on her breasts." The student told police the message from Black "said something to the effect of 'Hope is not a picture of you'" because, she said he implied, "people might think you're a freak or hoe."

When the girl in December posted a photo of herself in shorts and a sports bra, Black messaged again, instructing her to take down the photo because it was inappropriate and made her "look grown." She fired back that he was not her father and couldn't tell her what to do. Later, he wrote, "It's still in my head I want to see you naked...."

On the advice of a friend, the girl then blocked Black from her account. Months later, in March, a student tipped the assistant principal. Black was fired in June 2015.

sisger@pbpost.com Twitter: @sonjaisger

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Copyright 2017 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
All Rights Reserved

The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

First came the collision. Then came the confusion. Jared Troyano learned in this season's opening game that no football helmet can guarantee protection against a concussion. The 17-year-old Pennsbury High School defensive lineman was wrapping up a tackle late in the first quarter on Friday night, Aug. 25, when he banged helmets with another player.

"I was real dazed for a minute," said Troyano, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound junior from Fairless Hills, Bucks County. "I was so confused I was completely out of it."

Troyano, who was wearing a top-of-the-line Riddell Revolution Speed helmet, sat out the rest of the Falcons' victory that night and watched the next seven games from the sidelines as he recovered from a concussion. During his time off, his mother, Amy, said the effects of the injury made her son miserable, "like a different person."

"What happened to Jared," she said, "was what I feared most." Football players at all levels report concussions every season, and helmet manufacturers have scrambled to incorporate the latest safety technology into their brands.

"If you look at football in 2017 compared to football in 2011, it's drastically different," said Stefan Duma, a biomedical engineering and sciences professor at Virginia Tech University. "There have been major changes in terms of helmet technology."

Local high schools have changed with the times, too. Many of the inferior helmets that were used by local players over the last few years have been replaced by better-rated models, according to an Inquirer/Daily News analysis of three years of equipment inventories at 28 public schools in Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey. However, a nagging number of lower-rated helmets remain.

In 2011, Duma and a team of researchers on football helmet safety unveiled the Virginia Tech helmet 5-star rating system that ranks a helmet's safety features from no stars (not recommended) to 1-star (marginal), 2-star (adequate), 3-star (good), 4-star (very good) and 5-star (best), with the 5-stars regarded as most able to reduce concussion risk.

From ABVirginia Tech Professor Explains Helmet Research

At the 28 schools in the local survey, more than 40 percent of the 2,330 helmets this season were rated 5-star, or "best," up from 25 percent two years ago. Pennsbury, Troyano's school, reported that 89 percent of its 2017 helmets ranked as 5-stars.

Methacton High School topped the list with all but one of its 109 helmets rated 5-stars. Burlington City led South Jersey with 90 percent of its 51-helmet inventory at 5-stars. But data also show that, in more than 100 cases from the schools in the survey, students could be sent into action wearing helmets that Virginia Tech rated as "good," or 3-star. Another 193 helmets in the survey were not tested by the researchers.

In most cases, these helmets are variations of newer 4- and 5-star models. About three dozen of the 193 helmets are older and no longer manufactured. Six of the 28 schools have no 5-star helmets, all of them Philadelphia public or charter high schools, though all have mostly 4-star helmets and some have unrated helmets that were recently purchased and based on newer technology.

James Lynch, the Philadelphia School District's executive director of athletics, said that his helmets all have 10-year lifetimes and that in 2012, when several schools were closed, helmets were shuffled around to different schools. "There's no rhyme or reason" to the lack of 5-star helmets at a particular school, Lynch said.

"We follow the process of reconditioning and replacing helmets. We make sure all our football equipment, including helmets and shoulder pads, are properly certified. Price is not an issue. It's about keeping the kids as safe as possible."

As manufacturers create safer helmets, dueling narratives compete for attention. On one hand, studies on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a disease found in the brains of many deceased NFL players with histories of concussions, and continuing brain injuries to younger players have caused parents to reconsider their children's playing youth and high school football.

Veteran coaches, such as Haddonfield High's Frank DeLano, suggest that "our sport is under attack." On the other hand, dramatic improvements in helmets, emphasis on helmet-free blocking and tackling, rule changes that outlaw the use of helmets on tackles and less physical practice routines have led others to say that high school football is safer than ever.

Completely confident' Like those in the pros and college, local high school football players use helmets made mostly by Riddell or Schutt, both of which now sell almost exclusively 5-star helmets. Together, the two companies make up about 90 percent of the high school helmet market, according to Glenn Beckmann, Schutt's director of marketing communications.

Beckmann said the overall equipment market — which includes helmets, shoulder pads, knee pads, thigh pads and other "protective pieces" — is worth about $400 million. Since 1980, all high school helmets must meet standards designed by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, a nonprofit formed in 1969 in response to concerns about helmet safety.

Older helmets rated "adequate" (2-stars) or "marginal" (1-star) by Virginia Tech can still meet NOCSAE standards. Locally, parents say they are aware of helmet safety standards but rely on the schools' athletic departments to comply with them.

"I'm completely confident that my boys are safely equipped and know the correct way to tackle," said Celeste Lomax, who lives in Washington Township, Gloucester County, and has two sons, junior Brad and freshman Chase, playing football at St. Joseph High School.

Joe Lauletta, of Exton, Chester County, is the father of Downingtown East senior quarterback Bryce Lauletta. "I know that the school has the resources to stay up to date and provide the safest equipment," said Lauletta, who played quarterback at the Naval Academy and coached a youth football team.

Amy Troyano said, "No matter how hard they try to play safely, kids get hurt playing football." Mark Maguire went through that last season. The 17-year-old Father Judge High linebacker was a junior when he moved in for a tackle in the third quarter of a game and collided helmet-to-helmet at full speed with a charging running back.

"I kind of blacked out for two seconds. I was seeing stars," said Maguire, who stands 6-1 and weighs 215 pounds and lives in Port Richmond. He said he was wearing a 5-star-rated Riddell Speed helmet. Maguire left that game and suffered migraine headaches, blurry vision, and balance troubles for a while. He sat out the next two games before being cleared to return.

New target to hit

The longevity of a helmet is mostly the cause for lower-ranked helmets still in use, Duma said. Helmets older than 10 years can no longer be re-certified by manufacturers, and most teams have their helmets recertified after every season.

With technology improving yearly, top-of-the-line helmets bought just two years ago may no longer be the best available even though they still rate 5-stars. "In 2011, there was one" 5-star helmet, Duma said. "It's like the car industry. Automobile manufacturers don't make 1-star cars anymore. They are all 5-stars. It's the same with helmets."

Duma said manufacturers have produced 16 models that currently receive 5-star ratings from Virginia Tech. Duma's testing, like that of the manufacturers, consists of a variety of mechanisms that simulate and record helmet collisions.

In Virginia Tech's ratings, the Schutt Air XP Pro VTD II and Schutt Vengeance VTD II are ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. The Riddell SpeedFlex is third. A 5-star helmet can cut concussion risk in half, Duma said his research shows. In contrast, a 3-star helmet cuts it by only one quarter, he said.

People from Schutt and Riddell say they appreciate the attention the ratings bring to their top products but caution against using the star system for more than a guide. "It has given the industry another target to hit in terms of perceived helmet performance," Schutt's Beckmann said.

He said he does not agree with a general statement that helmet A is better than helmet B simply because of the star rating. Sometimes, he said, helmets have nothing to do with a player's getting a concussion.

Thad Ide, Riddell's senior vice president of research and product development, said the star system "certainly encouraged companies to modify and tinker with their designs." Ed McGettigan, the athletic director and football coach at Northeast Philadelphia's Lincoln High, said his team uses the Riddell Revolution Speed helmet. Shawnee High coach Tim Gushue, Holy Spirit High senior quarterback Josh Zamot, and Council Rock South High senior lineman Noah Collachi all like Riddell's SpeedFlex.

"It has the cut-out above the face mask that is supposed to reduce impact," Gushue said. Archbishop Wood High has used a helmet from Defend Your Head, a sports safety company that features soft-shell technology called ProTech. It's a polyurethane piece that fits over the existing helmet and is designed to "absorb and dissipate" energy from the impact of the hit.

Generally, Riddell said its top helmets range in price from $280 to $410, with $150 added for the newest sensor technology. Schutt said its top helmets range from $259 to $450. The Schutt F7 VD II helmet, with a retail price of about $975, came out in January. It features two removable exterior plates that Beckmann called "the most advanced impact absorption system on the market."

Other concerns, too While much attention has gone to helmet safety, players, parents, and coaches also stress that proper blocking and tackling techniques and closer scrutiny of players by coaches and trainers are as important in avoiding head injuries.

Players at Conwell-Egan and Haddonfield high schools wear padded covers on their helmets at practice to disperse some of the force that occurs during collisions. Some coaches also ban tackling during practice, opting instead for "touch" drills or tackling dummies. Shawnee and St. Joseph, two of South Jersey's top programs, don't tackle at all in practice during game weeks.

Lomax, the mother from St. Joseph, said she wants coaches to "drill into \[players'\] heads how important correct-form tackling is." Gushue, now in his 35th season at Shawnee, said he spends as much time teaching proper tackling technique (don't lead with your head) as he does running plays.

"When I started it was, 'Go tackle the guy,' " Gushue said. Now, "you hardly see much hitting in practice at all." The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, the governing body in New Jersey high school sports, has guidelines limiting football teams to 90 minutes of hitting in practice per week.

Many coaches say they don't come close to that. The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association has a similar rule. However, it's also the case, West Deptford High coach Clyde Folsom said, that today's players are stronger and faster than ever, so their collisions are more intense. Improved equipment and technique can compensate for only so much.

"The brain isn't any bigger," Folsom said. "The spine isn't any bigger. So while the helmets are better, and everybody is teaching proper tackling techniques and being as safe and as careful as possible, the players are bigger and stronger now at every level."

Scary to compare Sensor safety technology has already arrived for players at Boyertown, Methacton, Kennett, Burlington City, Burlington Township, Cedar Creek, Vineland, and Williamstown high schools.

Like the others, Williamstown athletic director Ron Becker said the school purchased new Riddell SpeedFlex helmets that are equipped with an "InSite" sensor that measures and reports significant impact.

An electronic pad with sensors that are integrated with a computer program is fitted between the outside shell and the padding of the helmet. Using a handheld receiver the size of a cellphone, the coaches and training staff are able to measure the levels of hits and the timing of the heaviest impact during every practice and game. An alert is generated on the receiver if an extraordinary hit is recorded by the sensors.

"So we can tell if a player wearing a helmet is taking extra hits on a Tuesday, maybe we look at Tuesday's schedule and see what drills he's been going through and try to adjust that," Becker said. "Or if it shows that a player has taken some particularly hard hits, maybe we take an extra-long look at the player and see how he's doing."

"It almost gives you an extra pair of eyes," said Kennett High trainer Nick Reyes. That's a big difference from the helmets that Florence coach Joe Frappolli and Randy Cuthbert used to wear.

Frappolli still has the flimsy leather helmet he wore in high school for the 1961 Florence Flashes. Cuthbert, the Wissahickon High athletic director and football coach, was a star at Central Bucks West High in the 1980s and played in college at Duke and two seasons with the Steelers in the NFL before knee injuries and concussions ended his career.

"It's scary when you compare the design, padding, and technology of helmets you see today," Cuthbert said. For Jared Troyano, quitting football after his first concussion is not an option, especially with helmets getting better by the year.

"I trust that the helmet I wear is one of the best out there and will help keep me safe," said Troyano, whose older brother, Tyler, played for Pennsbury and younger brother, Jack, is a sophomore back. "Football is kind of in my blood."

SAFETY GUIDELINES

Here are the football helmet safety guidelines from the 2017-18 Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association handbook:

*The helmet should fit snugly without dependence on the chinstrap. The helmet should not twist or slide when an examiner grasps the face mask and attempts to rock or turn the helmet with the wearer resisting the movement.

*With a properly fitted helmet, the top of the head is separated from the helmet shell by a uniform, functional, shock-absorbing support lining. Daily evaluation of this support mechanism, including cheek and brow pads, for placement and resiliency should be taught to the student-athlete.

*Helmets that require air inflation should be inflated and inspected daily by those assigned to equipment care.

*Helmet shells should be examined weekly for cracking and be inspected closely again if the face mask has been bent out of shape.

*All helmets need to be reconditioned and the plastic loop attachments of the swing-away mask replaced on a yearly basis.

*Although the helmet is designed for a stable fit for protection during play, removal of the helmet by others is relatively difficult. In the case of a head or neck injury, jostling and pulling during removal presents high potential for further trauma.

*Unless there are special circumstances such as respiratory distress coupled with an inability to access the airway, the helmet should never be removed on the field when there is a potential head/neck injury.

*When such helmet removal is necessary in any setting, it should be performed only by personnel trained in this procedure.

SAFETY TIPS

Here are tips for coaches and parents regarding football helmets from the National Federation of State High School Associations:

Vision — Make sure your athlete's eyes are visible and he can see straight forward and side to side.

Coverage — The front helmet pad should cover the athlete's head from the middle of his forehead to the back of his head. The helmet should not sit too high or low. To check, make sure the ear holes line up with the athlete's ears.

Chin strap — The chin strap should be centered under the athlete's chin and fit snugly. Although no scientific research shows that mouth guards reduce the risk of concussion, athletes should wear a mouth guard to help prevent dental or facial injuries.

Fit — The helmet should "feel" snug with no gaps between the pads and the athlete's head. The helmet should not slide on the head with the chin strap in place.

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Copyright 2017 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

City leaders wowed by new Blackhawks training facility Two ice rinks. Twenty-two locker rooms. A workout room. A shot simulator, media room, kitchens, coaches' offices. And a gorgeous never-been-used-before Blackhawks locker room.

There's all of that and more inside the Hawks' new 125,000-square-foot MB Ice Arena located just blocks from the United Center.

It will open in the coming weeks, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Blackhawks President and CEO John McDonough, and owner Rocky Wirtz gave a sneak peek of the facility to community officials and leaders Thursday.

"Kids cannot be what they cannot see," Emanuel said. "They may not make it to a Blackhawks game, but because we now have a community ice-skating rink … we're going to make sure that the kids here on the West side are exposed to not only the sport, but the discipline that comes with that sport, the professionalism that comes along with that sport and the sense of the team."

Said McDonough: "We look at this being an exclamation point on this neighborhood in this city for many, many years."

The privately funded facility cost $65 million to build and will serve as the Blackhawks' practice home. Visiting NHL teams may also use the arena, but local high schools, recreational leagues and youth teams such as Chicago Mission, Chicago Stallions and Chicago Jets will be the primary users. Chicago Mission and St. Ignatius College Prep will use the facility full-time.

"The West side has been very, very good to our family and the Jerry Reinsdorf family for many, many years," Wirtz said. "We're here to stay."

Former Blackhawks forward Daniel Carcillo will be on-site at times to assist kids with their off-ice training, as well as helping them with their shots by using the Rapid Shot Hockey Training System. Carcillo demonstrated the system - which shows players the spots in the net they're having the biggest difficulty hitting - and then gave Emanuel a chance as well.

The mayor hit a few targets, then deadpanned: "All I needed was a picture of Trump."

After the tour ended, Wirtz reflected on how far the Hawks have come since he hired John McDonough a decade ago. "My son Danny, who is now 40, when he was growing up it was all about the Chicago Wolves," Wirtz said. "There was nothing about the Hawks. So in the last 10 years we've really tried to embrace the community and this is sort of the icing on the cake."

As he has several times this year, Emanuel lauded the Hawks' efforts to grow the game and to help the residents on the West side. "It's one thing just to entertain us," Emanuel said. "It's another thing to make sure you invest in the people of the city of Chicago. "John has led that effort, like Rocky, in making sure that the Blackhawks are more than just a team in Chicago that we root for. But then give something back to people who have given them so much. "If you have that culture, you have a winning team."

* Twitter: @johndietzdh

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Copyright 2017 The Post Register
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Idaho Falls Post Register

 

Idaho's newest fall sport was several years in the works.

A longtime presence in Idaho at the club level, swimming became a sanctioned sport in December 2016 by an 8-6 vote by the Idaho High School Activities Association Board of Directors. The inaugural sanctioned season began August 11 and concluded Saturday at the state meet in Boise, where Idaho Falls placed second in both the boys and girls team standings in 4A and several swimmers from Idaho Falls, Skyline, Hillcrest, Bonneville, Madison and Rigby claimed medals and personal bests.

According to the IHSAA, 1,156 students participated in swimming this season. The push for sanctioning dates back to the first official Idaho state meet in 1989, and Bonneville head swim coach and USA Swimming certified official Glenn Roth said this season was long awaited for eastern Idaho.

"We have people who are and have been very enthusiastic to get to this point," Roth said. "The sport is growing in Idaho and I think we are on an upward trend. I think next year will be even better."

Roth said in the years leading up the IHSAA's sanctioning decision, Idaho club programs followed the IHSAA rulebook. That eased the transition for 2017, and coaches met and communicated frequently this fall to further discuss rule changes.

Perhaps the rule that required the most adjustment is the Rule of Two, defined by the IHSAA rule book as "no more than two students may be coached at one time by a member of their high school (grades 9-12) staff of that sport during the school year." IHSAA executive director Ty Jones further explained the rule to the Post Register via email: "The rule of two is designed to not have coaches work with their kids on a year-round basis. We allow coaches to work outside of their sport season with two athletes from their school at one time." Because they coach multiple swimmers at a time year-round, club swimming coaches are not allowed to be high school head coaches. The Rule of Two was not enforced this season for swimming, but will be next year.

Idaho Falls High School head swim coach Jacob Goodfellow and assistant coach Liz Grimes had help this season from Voltage Aquatics club coaches (and sisters) Casi and Phoebe Pahis. A former BYU swimmer originally from northern Virginia, Goodfellow was an eastern Idaho junior high volunteer coach for two years prior to his hire at I.F.

Goodfellow said the eastern Idaho swimming community is to credit for helping things go smoothly this fall.

"The clubs, the high school coaches and everyone who is involved know each other really well," Goodfellow said. "At the end of the day, we just want the kids to succeed whether it's to get a D-I scholarship or just to stay healthy."

Goodfellow said finding enough officials and volunteers was an initial concern, but that was quickly resolved. He had anticipated scheduling issues considering how many high school teams share the Wes Deist Aquatic Center, but Aquatic Center employees ensured no overlaps. Goodfellow said swimmers were encouraged to continue attending their club practices, and several did just that. However, they are not allowed to compete for their club during the high school season.

I.F. had four practices per week-one hour per day for three days and an hour and a half for one day-which Goodfellow described as "extremely limited." Club swimmers were asked to attend at least one high school practice per week, and there were days they had practices before and after school.

"On days that I would double, I'd go to club practice in the morning then do high school practice in the afternoon or club in the morning and at night," said Idaho Falls senior and Voltage Aquatics swimmer Andrea Perttula. "It was tiring just being at the pool so long, but luckily the practices were different enough to keep it interesting."

Roth said District 93 fully supported swimming this season while District 91 will begin fully supporting swimming next year. As such, Bonneville's transportation, lodging and one meal over state meet weekend was covered while Idaho Falls was responsible for its own transportation, lodging and meals. Another change next year that will affect all of Idaho is state meet qualification. This year, it was time-based. Roth and Goodfellow said next year, a certain number of top finishers at the district meet will likely qualify for state, similar to cross-country and track.

Upon sharing their takeaways from year one, Roth and Goodfellow commended coaches, swimmers, parents and Aquatic Center employees for working together. While they added that eastern Idaho could benefit from additional pools, they said local swimmers are making the most of their resources and are supportive of each other.

"I was really impressed with the sportsmanship and quality of athletes, how much fun they were having," Goodfellow said. "It's always been my opinion that as long as you have the pool space, you can always produce good swimmers."

Perttula, who has qualified for Speedo Winter Junior National Championships West in December and will continue her career at Kenyon College (Ohio), said her biggest hope for Idaho swimming is additional support from high schools. All things considered, the senior said her final high school season was fun.

"Regardless of the rule changes, they were very slight bumps in the road," Perttula said. "We handled them quite well. We had an amazing season. I'm definitely optimistic for the future."

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Copyright 2017 News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)
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News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)

 

RALEIGH — UNC-Chapel Hill's accreditor says it will look into statements the university made to an NCAA panel at an August hearing that showed support for classes at the heart of a long-running academic scandal that involved a disproportionate number of athletes.

Those statements, made behind closed doors in August and recently disclosed by the NCAA's Committee on Infractions in its decision not to punish UNC, appear to contradict a promise UNC made four years ago to the accreditor that the classes would not be counted toward graduation.

The accreditor's decision to review the statements stems from three passages in the NCAA's decision that say the university stood by the classes hundreds of students took. The NCAA committee cited UNC's backing of the classes for not sanctioning UNC because NCAA rules leave academic fraud determinations to universities.

The NCAA investigation was prompted by revelations about classes that never met, had no instruction and were created by a secretary who provided a high grade on papers she admitted not reading in full.

But UNC did not stand behind the classes in 2013 when the accrediting commission first looked into the scandal. UNC staved off sanctions from the accreditor by agreeing not to honor "paper" classes taken by students who needed them to graduate.

"It does raise the question of what did you really do?" said Belle Wheelan, the president of the accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, of UNC. "... And at worst we should probably ask that question."

She said of the infractions committee report: "We're working through the report. It says a lot, but it says nothing, so we are trying to ferret out what it actually says."

Up for reaccreditation

UNC is up for reaccreditation next month, which presents an opportunity for the accreditor to address how UNC handled the classes.

The infraction committee's report had already drawn plenty of controversy by pointing out that UNC had told the accreditor the classes were "academic fraud" in correspondence nearly three years ago. The committee said UNC officials at the August hearing called that phrase "a typo."

Wheelan had initially said after the infraction committee released its report in October that there was no need for further review. She changed her mind this week after seeing the three passages in the report that said UNC's stance was that the classes counted.

"Despite the fact that the courses failed to meet, involved little, if any, faculty engagement, and were often graded by the secretary, UNC argued the courses violated no UNC policy," the infractions committee report said. "UNC further claimed that work was assigned, completed and graded, and the grades counted towards a UNC degree."

Actually, according to UNC's 2013 agreement with the accreditor, those students who had yet to graduate had to take an exam or submit the work they did for the class to show they had learned the subject matter and deserved the grade. If they couldn't do that, the students would have to take another class to replace the lost credit hours. After UNC agreed to those requirements, the accreditor spared the university any sanctions, but continued to keep it on special monitoring.

UNC officials have not explained the discrepancy between the 2013 agreement with the accreditor and the language of the infractions committee report. Joanne Peters Denny, a UNC spokeswoman, said in an email that UNC does not have a transcript or recording of the infractions committee hearing, which would show what UNC officials said. NCAA infractions hearings are closed to the public. The only public version of what UNC said in the hearing is the infraction committee's report.

Greg Sankey, the chairman of the infractions committee that heard the case referred all questions to NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn. She said the committee would have "nothing further" to say about the case.

The committee's decision and UNC's defense of the no-show classes have drawn national skepticism and calls for reform. Late last month, the Knight Commission on college athletics said member schools should not be the sole decider of academic fraud in cases before the committee. Arne Duncan, a commission co-chairman and former U.S. education secretary, called it a loophole that needed to be closed.

Fetzer: 'Clear violation'

Tom Fetzer, a member of the UNC system's Board of Governors and a former Raleigh mayor, said he didn't believe UNC's position on the classes to the NCAA. He said the university's characterization of the classes to the NCAA appears to be a "clear violation" of the university's agreement with the accreditor, commonly referred to as SACS.

"I am nonplussed that SACS has not queried UNC about complying with their earlier agreements, especially in light of the NCAA opinion," said Fetzer, a lobbyist appointed to the board this year.

According to the most detailed investigation into the classes by former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein, more than 3,100 students took at least one of the classes, which he identified as part of a "shadow curriculum." Athletes made up nearly half of the enrollments, despite representing only 4 percent of the student body.

Wainstein found that Deborah Crowder, a former secretary in the African studies department, created and graded many of the roughly 185 classes that were listed as lecture style but never met and had no instruction. Crowder retired in 2009. Academic counselors to the football team persuaded her boss, department chairman Julius Nyang'oro, to continue them.

The accrediting commission revisited the case after Wainstein's report in 2014, concerned that some UNC officials had not disclosed everything they knew about the scandal. In response, UNC described the classes in a lengthy report to the accrediting commission, released in January 2015, as academic fraud:

"The Wainstein report explains this information at length and in significant detail and demonstrates, as SACSCOC correctly observes, that the academic fraud was long-standing and not limited to the misconduct of just Nyang'oro and Crowder," the university reported.

"Indeed, the latter point is precisely what led the University... to terminate or commence disciplinary reviews of a number of employees — all in furtherance of Carolina's commitment to holding individuals appropriately accountable for the past academic failings. On December 31, 2014, and as explained further below, the University publicly released information about those terminations and ongoing disciplinary reviews."

'Typographical error'

But the infractions committee last month said UNC officials disavowed Wainstein's report at the hearing in August, and called the use of the term academic fraud in the accreditation report a "typographical error."

The infractions committee cited UNC's shifting positions on the legitimacy of the classes, but said its hands were tied by a 2014 rule that leaves academic fraud determinations up to member schools.

Over the past six years, UNC has referred to the classes as "aberrant," "anomalous," or "irregular," though former UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp told faculty in a July 2012 message: "We disclosed this academic fraud, and we are fixing it."

Contact Dan Kane at 919-829-4861 or dkane@newsobserver.com and follow @dankanenando.

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Copyright 2017 Times-World, LLC
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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

 

NEW YORK — The NFL expects a five-year contract extension with Commissioner Roger Goodell to be finalized soon, despite a threatened lawsuit by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said Thursday that "our expectation is this will be wrapped up soon, but we can't project an actual date."

The extension would carry through 2024. Goodell became commissioner in 2006.

Lockhart added that the league is aware of Jones' potential lawsuit, which apparently has been sparked by star running back Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension over alleged domestic violence.

"Certainly neither the compensation committee or the league has been made aware of a lawsuit being filed," he said.

As for reports that Jones and other owners might be balking at the structure and compensation in the new contract, Lockhart noted: "I am saying the reporting about potential holdouts around particular issues has not been accurate. I don't know where it is coming from?" All 32 owners voted in May to extend Goodell's contract and authorized the compensation committee to work out the details.

 

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Copyright 2017 Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
All Rights Reserved

Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

Volunteer for Life coordinator Antone Davis wrote in an email to the University of Tennessee that he was resigning due to "constant intimidation, bullying and mental abuse" from football coach Butch Jones.

In the email sent to athletic director John Currie dated Oct. 31 and obtained by the Knoxville News Sentinel through a public records request, Davis gave a two-week notice and wrote although he "enjoyed working for the University's athletic program" that his time with Jones was "one of the worst work experiences I have ever had."

In another email to the AD, Davis wrote he felt Currie was "hostile" to him in a meeting earlier in the day.

Davis also added that despite "outstanding performance reviews" he did not receive any pay raises except for "the University wide 11/2-3% increase" despite having seen "others in the department receive raises, promotions, etc."

UT athletic employees Reid Sigmon, Tyler Johnson and Donna Thomas were also included in the email.

It's another unwanted distraction for the Vols (4-5, 0-5 SEC) under the embattled Jones, now in his fifth season leading the program.

VFL leader felt compensation wasn't fair

Davis was earning a salary of $68,971.92, according to a USA TODAY NETWORK — Tennessee 2017 database for UT employees.

Currie responded to Davis' resignation email less than three hours later. He wrote that he was sorry Davis was leaving UT but was glad he found work to rejoin his family in Delaware.

Tennessee said in a news release on Oct. 31 that Davis was leaving his position to pursue personal business opportunities.

Currie, who started at UT on April 1, wrote that he was looking forward to expanding Davis' role and "further synergizing your efforts to help out student-athletes with the Thornton Center and the upcoming VFLconnect program."

He added if Davis' decision to give notice was final, he would need to "relocate your office to the administrative wing immediately."

Currie did not address Davis' salary in the email.

Davis responded an hour later with one last email to Currie with a lengthy response.

Davis was concerned about locating to another office the final two weeks of his employment. And based on Currie's response, Davis said he would remove his personal items from the office and "only occupy the space as needed to transition my responsibilities to my co-workers."

On the subject of compensation, Davis wrote that as a former player there should have been action and Jones or Currie made no attempt to do so, saying he brought up the same issues to the AD on Sept. 22.

Davis felt meeting with Currie was 'hostile'

In a meeting held earlier in the day with Sigmon, Johnson and Thomas in Currie's office before the email exchange, Davis wrote, "I felt you (Currie) staring down as you sat across the table from me. I am not sure why you needed to do that but it was very uncomfortable and I felt it hostile."

Davis added he is "not leaving Tennessee because I want to.

"I am leaving because I must. My biggest regret and fear is that I am leaving behind student-athletes and co-workers that may be subjected to the same treatment I have received."

Davis concluded, "In closing, I deeply regret that things have been allowed to transpire, causing a high level of anxiety and other health issues thus creating my need to resign."

Three minutes later, Currie responded, writing, "Thanks Antone, I understand," and signed it "John."

Currie, through a UT spokesman, did not want to comment on the story.

Jones issued a statement through UT, saying, "I wish Antone Davis well and thank him for his work as Tennessee's Vol For Life coordinator."

Davis has been unavailable for comment.

On Nov. 3, Davis wrote on Twitter in a response to a tweet from former UT wide receiver Jayson Swain, "THANK YOU for you and ALL VFLs that have ALWAYS had my back. I'm humbled and truly grateful for your continued love & support."

"We appreciate Antone's work for the University of Tennessee and our football program," Currie said in a statement on Oct. 31. "He had an outstanding career here as a student-athlete and then returned more than 20 years later to impact the lives of young men who were following in his footsteps. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors."

Davis' replacement has not been named.

Davis was All-American, first-round pick

Davis, a former Tennessee All-American, was hired in 2012 by former coach Derek Dooley to replace Andre Lott. Dooley was fired after the the 11th game of the 2012 season and later replaced by Jones.

The VFL program started under Dooley to help players in the areas of character education, life skills, career development and spiritual growth.

Davis capped his UT career by winning the Jacobs Trophy as the SEC's top blocker in 1990. He was picked eighth overall in the NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1991 and spent seven years in the NFL before retiring in 1999.

He invested in restaurants and real estate in Florida after his football career, but moved back to Knoxville with the goal of getting into coaching.

Davis appeared on a season of "The Biggest Loser," an NBC reality show in which people compete to lose weight under the supervision of nutritionists and fitness experts. He lost 202 pounds, good for second place in the 2011 installment of the show.

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Copyright 2017 Chattanooga Publishing Company
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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

The Tennessee comptroller's office has been notified of possible money mishandling by Grundy County Schools, according to a committee report made at Thursday night's school board meeting.

The committee — made up of two board members — was formed to supervise all internal investigations and report directly to the county's board of education to ensure transparency in the situation involving five students recently charged with attempted aggravated rape.

The students — a freshman, three juniors and a senior — are accused of attempting to rape a 15-year-old freshman teammate with the metal handle of a dust mop in the school's football fieldhouse sometime before 6 a.m. CDT on Oct. 11.

Board member Chris Groom said the committee found evidence suggesting the school's football money may not have been handled properly. The finding came after Groom asked Director of Schools Jessie Kinsey for a statement showing how much money was being deposited and when.

He said it took Kinsey seven days to produce the statement, and it ended up being just one sheet of paper.

Groom said he asked high school Principal Deidre Helton, who had been counting and signing off on the money collected from football game tickets and the concessions stand, but she said she hadn't signed off on anything, and she didn't know who would be in charge of that.

According to the policy, Groom said, the money is supposed to be counted and signed off on by two people and "the principal shall deposit funds daily, if possible, and no later than three days after receiving."

He said Helton suggested the money handling might fall under the purview of the football team officials, so Groom asked interim football coach Nick Meeks if he saw any money collected after the last football game. Groom said Meeks reported not touching any money.

"I asked him, 'Well, did we make any deposits at all?'" Groom said.

He said Meeks told him he got a call a week after the ball game from one of the board members saying he had a check for him and to meet him at a Waffle House.

"I don't know about you guys, but that's not appropriate control of a system and has nothing to do with the way we need [to] do business with gate money and concessions," Groom said. "We've got to get some better controls of our football system, our concessions stand, our gate, our leadership."

School board Chairman Robert Foster asked Thursday if Groom would be willing to hold a workshop with all parties involved to get to the bottom of what is happening to the money.

"We are going to have to do something with our system," Groom said. "There is no controls. This is pathetic, for seven days to get back when a board member asks for ticket sales."

After the board meeting, Groom said board member Gary Melton had been seen running the concessions stand and that Melton is Kinsey's brother. Kinsey, however, declined to confirm either of those claims.

Board members decided to hold the workshop to discuss control of the money on Nov. 13 at 6 p.m.

Also discussed at the board meeting was a recommendation by Kinsey to modify some wording in the elementary and high school's handbooks about the zero tolerance policy for students who have committed level five offenses, which include possession of a weapon or illegal substances, battery and/or sexual battery, including rape or attempted rape.

"There needs to be a statement that says in the handbook the director of schools has the authority to modify this expulsion on a case-by-case basis," Kinsey said.

As it's worded now, the handbook simply says the schools have a zero tolerance policy and makes mention that the director may evaluate expulsions on a case-by-case basis, but those statements are not on the correct page. Kinsey said the modification was necessary for the handbook to be in line with state laws.

Foster later added that the modification was especially necessary because "not all zero tolerance is zero tolerance, if you get my drift without me coming out and saying that."

Multiple people repeated that statement but did not offer any clarification.

"It's just one statement in the handbook that needs to be added," Kinsey said.

Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327.

Follow her on Twitter <a href="/https://twitter.com/HughesRosana" target="_blank">@HughesRosana</a>.

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Copyright 2017 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

Army and Air Force didn't think they had much of a chance.

As costs kept escalating in major-college sports, both federal service academies couldn't keep up with their civilian competition. They couldn't afford it, not without some kind of help.

So they went to Congress. Since 2009, each got legislation that authorized their athletics business operations to be outsourced to separate, private entities — moves that drew little notice but were driven by one big reason:

They had been sucked into the high-cost funnel cloud of major-college football and basketball.

"With the cost of athletics increasing the way it had been, something had to be done," Air Force athletics director Jim Knowlton told USA TODAY Sports.

Both academies followed a similar path forged by Navy athletics, which has operated as a separate non-profit for decades.

The most recent conversion came at Army. Athletics business operations there transitioned this year into a 501-c-3 non-profit called the Army West Point Athletic Association — a change that follows legislation that authorized it in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act.

Each realized there was a limit to government support of their programs and wanted more freedom to make and spend money as outside businesses.

"Leaders at the academy realized if we continue on the path we're on, we won't be able to support a Division I athletic program," Knowlton said.

It's a choice. If they wanted to, Air Force, Navy and Army all could get out of the Division I sports spending race and compete in NCAA Division III, where expenses are dramatically lower and where there are no scholarship players. Another federal service academy, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, competes in Division III with revenue of about $3 million, compared to about $42 million to $50 million at the Division I service academies, according to records from recent years.

Those budgets aren't saddled with the big expense of athletic scholarships, unlike at other universities. That's because the academies don't have athletic scholarships. But the academies do have considerably more teams in more sports than other schools — about 30 teams each. They also want to win in the big revenue sports of basketball and football, where the market for coaches' pay, administrative support and facility expenses keep rising.

Navy football coach Ken Niumatalolo makes $2 million and is by far the highest-paid coach at all three academies, according to recent records. He has also been mentioned as a candidate for other jobs and could make more money elsewhere. This year, 39 schools are paying their football coach $3 million, up from nine in 2011.

"There was a judgment made that the ability of the athletic programs writ large... to compete effectively against other similarly positioned colleges, was important, both as a recruiting tool for the individual academies and also a recruiting tool, quite frankly, for the services writ large," said John McHugh, a former U.S. Army Secretary and congressman who co-sponsored the Air Force athletics legislation in 2009. "So those new structures allowed, for example, competitive payment for coaches and such, so that ability to compete was sustained or actually enhanced."

The outsource movement

Navy athletics led the academy outsourcing movement through the Naval Academy Athletic Association, founded in 1891. Federal legislation in 2013 essentially ratified the NAAA's longstanding operation of Navy athletics, athletics director Chet Gladchuk said.

By operating as separate non-profits, they all can make and spend money more like normal athletics departments. It helps untangle them from government rules that otherwise restrict federal academy fundraising and contracting.

For example, Tim Fitzpatrick, the athletics director at the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut, is a federal employee and is not allowed to fund-raise in his official capacity. He's been advised to work around it when he goes to meetings with potential donors.

"I'm like a starting pitcher in baseball," said Fitzpatrick, whose department is part of the federal academy and is not run by an outside organization. "I pitch seven or eight innings, give the case for support, tell (potential donors) nice stories about how things are operating in athletics, and then a development officer takes over and makes the ask."

The development officer is part of an outside support organization, not subject to stricter federal rules designed to protect against government abuse, waste and fraud. Likewise, the athletics department non-profits serving the Division I academies are private entities.

Another example came in 2013, when a report by the inspector general of the Department of Defense criticized personnel of Air Force Academy Athletic Association for actions that came before Air Force's restructuring in athletics.

The report said they "inappropriately solicited, accepted, recorded, and reported over $532,000 in monetary gifts." This wasn't a criminal scandal. It was more like an internal government rules issue and happened because these athletics personnel "were not familiar with DoD and Air Force requirements prohibiting the solicitation of gifts," according to the report.

In reply, the academy superintendent noted the athletics association recently had been converted into a new non-profit organization in 2013. He said, "This restructuring minimizes risk and the type of solicitations identified in this audit."

'Earn market rates'

Army and Air Force athletics previously were supported by academy athletics associations known as "non-appropriated fund instrumentalities" of the Department of Defense. The recent legislation gives their athletics operations more autonomy as private non-profits — a structure that also appears to shield them from open records laws much like private businesses.

"The addition of the Army West Point Athletic Association (AWPAA)... allows Army Athletics to manage personnel actions, negotiate contracts, and engage in sponsorship agreement opportunities in the most efficient way possible," Army athletics director Boo Corrigan said in an email.

At Air Force, the Air Force Academy Athletic Corporation (AFAAC) opened for business in 2013, following legislation authorizing it in 2009.

Each private athletics entity has a cooperative agreement with its academy and is overseen by it, pursuant to NCAA rules for institutional control. This setup is similar to some other public school athletics departments being operated as separate non-profits, including at Kansas and Florida, where they've been in place since the 1920s.

Since the change, Air Force athletics has increased annual fundraising from less than $500,000 to about $2 million, said Nancy Hixson, chief executive of the AFAAC.

But they still have disadvantages compared to other schools.

Unlike presidents at other universities, the superintendents at the academies aren't allowed to fund-raise in their official capacities as federal employees. Air Force also can't just sell naming rights to government property at the academy.

"Legislation would have to change in order for that to happen," Hixson said.

Army and Air Force athletics programs still have been reliant on government or academy support in recent years, though Gladchuk said Navy's is only about 1% of its athletics budget. At Air Force, athletics got $31 million of its $50 million from state or other government support for 2015-16, according to a document filed with the NCAA.

Academy athletes also are government employees. Congress wanted to help them compete.

The restructuring "would allow (Army's) coaches and leadership within the (the athletics department) to earn market rates and raise revenue, and would allow the coaches' children's attendance in on-post schools," a recent Army Board of Visitors report said.

Contributing: Steve Berkowitz

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The New York Post

 

LaVar Ball could not help himself.

After saying he would not speak about his son LiAngelo's arrest in China, the Big Baller patriarch spoke to ESPN while exiting his Shanghai hotel.

"I'm going to wait until I get more intel on what's going on," a subdued LaVar said Wednesday, per ESPN's Arash Markazi. "He'll be fine. Everyone's making it a big deal. It ain't that big a deal."

LiAngelo, 18, was released on bail early Wednesday, along with UCLA teammates Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, after they were taken into custody Tuesday on shoplifting charges. Police are insisting the trio remain at a Hangzhou hotel until the legal process is over, ESPN.com reports. It is unclear how long that will take. The rest of the team has now gone to Shanghai, where they will open the season Friday against Georgia Tech at the Baoshan Arena.

The players were questioned about stealing from a Louis Vuitton boutique, located near the team's hotel. If convicted, the trio could face between three and 10 years in prison, according to Yahoo Sports.

"We are aware of the matter involving UCLA student-athletes in Hangzhou, China and we are gathering more information," the team said Tuesday in a statement. "The University is cooperating fully with local authorities on this matter, and we have no further comment at this time."

At the least, LiAngelo, LaVar's middle child, has put his UCLA career on hold as he, Riley and Hill will not be playing in UCLA's opener.

jhendricks@nypost.com

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Copyright 2017 The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

Black athletes are earning college degrees at record rates, and it's pushing the overall graduation rate higher and higher.

On Wednesday, the NCAA's latest Graduation Success Rate report showed that 77% of black athletes received diplomas from 2014-'17 and that 87% of all college athletes graduated. Both are all-time highs.

"As colleges and universities, we have a responsibility to prepare our students to excel both on and off the field of play," said John J. DeGioia, the president of Georgetown University and chairman of the Division I Committee on Academics.

While the overall rate is up one percentage point from last year, men's basketball recorded a record high of 82%, up two percentage points from 2016 and women's basketball matched its all-time high of 92%. Players in the Football Bowl Subdivision finished at 78%. All three increases were at least partly attributed to increases among black players in each sport.

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Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

I don't know if this is actually a saying, but Josh Pastner might want to make a note of it: The best way to guard against a whistleblower is not to supply a whistle. There's a chance the NCAA investigation into the impermissible benefits afforded Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson won't go beyond what Georgia Tech has reported. There's also the chance it will.

Ron Bell, an extremely disgruntled former friend/ confidant of Pastner's, has spilled his story in excruciating detail to Gary Parrish of CBS Sports. Bell relates how he and Pastner met when the latter was an Arizona walk-on. As Parrish writes, Bell's uncle ran the Riverside Hawks, a famous AAU program in New York. (Kenny Anderson, the best player in Tech annals, was a Riverside Hawk.) Bell and Pastner bonded and remained close over the years, even after Bell — who has fought what he calls an addiction to prescription drugs — served a 50-month prison term for violation of parole.

So there's your whistleblower: a guy who grew up around AAU basketball and who spent more than four years in jail. Were it just Bell's word against his ex-friend's, Pastner might well win that fight. Trouble is, Bell has phone records and credit card receipts, which he provided to CBS Sports, and photos and even videos that show his proximity to Pastner's programs at Memphis and now Tech.

Heck, Bell has a picture of Okogie and Jackson floating in his Arizona pool. If you have any feel for hoops history, you'll flash back to Anderson Hunt, David Butler and Moses Scurry in Richie the Fixer's hot tub; that image brought down Jerry Tarkanian and UNLV.

Bell admits providing the self-reported impermissible benefits to the Tech players. He also claims the monetary figures Tech ascribed to these benefits — less than $525 for Okogie, less than $700 for Jackson — are too low. His most emphatic contention is that Pastner, who said he knew nothing about such benefits until Oct. 2, knew all along.

Bell claims in 2016, Pastner handed him an envelope bearing $500; Bell said this money was to be given to Memphis players. Where the NCAA is concerned, cash is problematic. Who's to say it was $500, as opposed to $5? Who's to say where the money went? Who's to say there was ever an envelope? Who's to say it wasn't, as Bell's girlfriend assumed, money for a hotel room for the two of them?

But the photos and the video in which Pastner describes Bell and his girlfriend as "part of our family, part of the (Memphis) team" and the receipts and the phone records — those tell a different story. There seems no question Bell once was tight with Pastner. (Parrish's story includes a link to Bell, wearing a Memphis shirt, participating in a postgame handshake line with Tulsa players Feb. 28, 2016.) There seems no question he was treated as more than the average fan.

About here, you might be saying: "We don't care about Memphis. What of Tech?" Bell provided CBS Sports with records of text messages with Pastner, Okogie, Jackson and assistant AD Marvin Lewis from last season. Parrish writes that Bell "was at practices, games, team meals and on team buses, which is how he said he developed relationships with Okogie and Jackson."

What led to the falling-out? Writes Parrish:

"(Bell) said he feels Pastner has failed to compensate him properly for the 'work' he's done. He said Pastner didn't call him on his birthday this year, which is something he interpreted as disrespectful. He said he has for a while had a bad relationship with Georgia Tech's program and operations manager, Ellie Cantkier, and that when the two had a disagreement recently he felt that Pastner 'took her side.'"

Parrish offers this chilling quote from Bell: "I told him, 'I hold your career in my hands. You're going to show me respect.'... I said, 'I've been protecting you for two years. And if you don't watch yourself, if I start self-reporting, you're going to be coaching high school basketball.'"

(With friends like that, huh?)

The presence of Okogie and Jackson in Bell's swimming pool can, per Bell, be traced to what Parrish describes as "a vague request." Bell is quoted as saying: "(Pastner) told me, 'I need you to make sure my players are happy and that we're winning games. Whatever it takes.' And I said, 'Whatever it takes?' And he said, 'Whatever it takes.'"

That's surely too open-ended to rise — or sink, depending on your perspective — to the level of an NCAA violation. But there's a danger that, by allowing a non-Tech employee such access and having him turn state's witness, the hard evidence might be enough to build a failure-to-monitor case against Pastner. The greater danger is that, once the NCAA gets handed something it can use, it tends to overcompensate for all those times its sleuthing falls flat. (North Carolina, Miami, UCLA, et cetera.)

Tony Cole went on ESPN to say Georgia coaches paid his phone bill and bought him a TV. Within days, it was revealed Jim Harrick's son/assistant had been allowed to teach a class: "Coaching Principles and Strategies of Basketball." Included on the final exam was the deathless question: "How many points is a 3-point shot worth?"

Harrick Sr. didn't get run out of Athens because of a phone bill. He was shown the door because Harrick Jr. embarrassed a university still stinging from the memory of the Jan Kemp trial. If Cole hadn't told his story, the Harricks might have worked 10 more blissful-if-not-edifying years at Georgia. Once a whistle blows, the NCAA is given license to show up on campus and look wherever it wants.

I find it hard to imagine a way in which Bell's tale unseats Pastner as Tech coach. On its face, this seems more a friends-falling-out deal, albeit one of biblical proportions. My guess is a short suspension would be the absolute worst-case scenario. That, however, assumes we've already heard the worst.

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Copyright 2017 The Buffalo News
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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

Many girls feel as if they're not being respected or treated like their male counterparts are in an environment in which everyone, male or female, should feel as though they have been given an equal opportunity.

In 1972, under the Educational Amendments, a federal law was passed that prevented any person in the United States, on the basis of sex, to be excluded from participating in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination in any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

Under Title IX, public schools are legally required to provide equitable sports opportunities to both boys and girls in high school and at the collegiate level.

I wasn't permitted to play golf for my varsity high school team after my freshman year and I therefore never got to have that high school athlete experience.

I did everything I could to try to start a girls team, but I was always met with an obstacle. I spoke to my school board and asked what needed to be done in order to make my dream a reality. I did everything they told me to do, from finding the required number of girls to finding a coach, but still the answer was no. I even was asked to play for a girls team at another school, but still the answer was no.

I wanted to find out just how girls themselves felt about them being treated differently in their sports programs than the boys are in theirs.

The responses were upsetting. Many girls feel as if they're not being respected or treated like their male counterparts are in an environment in which everyone, male or female, should feel as though they have been given an equal opportunity.

Lack of recognition is one issue. "Girls swimming is definitely less recognized than the guys team," said an East Aurora senior. "You constantly hear about the success of guys swimming."

Another issue is a lack of uniforms and equipment.

"Guys have more advantages and privileges than the girls," said a Frontier eighth-grader. "The guys' volleyball team got new jerseys last year when we (the girls volleyball team) have been stuck with the old JV jerseys the past three years.

"The baseball team got new jerseys, pants and belts at the start of the season, when we had to buy our own pants and belts and got new jerseys halfway through the season," she continued.

The perception that girls are the weaker sex persists.

"A lot of girls are tougher and stronger than boys, but no one realizes it because we (girls) already are born with a label and don't get to show what we can really do," the eighth-grader said.

One East Aurora junior noted that girls "get dress-coded when we wear our cheerleading uniforms to school."

And two Orchard Park rugby players observed that while their team receives no recognition from their school, the school used their accomplishments to get money that benefited the school. The rugby team, though, saw none of the money.

"We cannot promote or ask girls from the school to join our team because our principal told us we couldn't because our team isn't considered a school sport. With that being in mind, our trophies are housed in the front foyer for all to see," they pointed out.

Dave O'Conner, one of the health teachers at Orchard Park High School, was one of the first to support the creation of the girl's ice hockey team.

"Sports, in general, have made great strides, but for women only when compared to the past, when opportunities were very limited," He said. "No one should be satisfied with progress if true equality of opportunity is the ultimate goal."

Now, going into college next year, I look back on my high school experience and the experiences of other female athletes, and want to change it for future generations.

No girl should be left out. No girl should be told she can't play a sport just because of her gender. Something needs to change because girls are missing out on opportunities that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Emma Hastie is a senior at Orchard Park High School.

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Copyright 2017 The Commercial Appeal, Inc.
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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

An estranged friend of former Memphis coach Josh Pastner said he sent former Tiger Markel Crawford a pair of Nikes last season worth $117.99, and also gave Crawford "about $300" in gift cards for groceries.

The Memphis revelations are just a small part of a much larger story told by Ron Bell to Gary Parrish of CBS Sports. Bell is a longtime friend of Pastner, who evidently had a falling out with the coach.

Bell later appeared on Parrish's radio show on ESPN 92.9 FM Tuesday afternoon and said he had been talking with Crawford throughout last season. Bell noted he purchased shoes for Crawford last February because Pastner hoped to lure Crawford to Georgia Tech as a graduate transfer.

"Josh wanted Markel at Georgia Tech," Bell said on the radio. "He felt that they would be a top 25 team with him."

Bell went on to say he bought a plane ticket for Crawford and Crawford's brother to travel to his home in Arizona following the 2016-17 season in hopes of convincing Crawford to commit to Georgia Tech.

Crawford eventually decided to transfer to Ole Miss, seven days before he was scheduled to visit Bell in Arizona. Bell said Crawford did not reimburse him for the plane tickets.

"We were informed Tuesday that former men's basketball head coach Josh Pastner is allegedly implicated in an extra benefits violation," Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen said in a statement. "The University of Memphis will cooperate with any possible investigation."

Bell said he also provided current Georgia Tech player Josh Okogie more than $750 in extra benefits, and current Georgia Tech player Tadric Jackson more than $525 in extra benefits, according to the CBSSports.com story.

Last week, Georgia Tech said it self-reported violations to the NCAA and suspended both players indefinitely.

Georgia Tech released this statement to CBS Sports as part of Parrish's article:

"Georgia Tech highly prioritizes NCAA compliance and will investigate any allegations regarding NCAA rules violations thoroughly."

Bell is a recovering addict who spent more than four years in prison from 2009-13. He told The Commercial Appeal he credits Pastner for helping him get clean.

Bell was around the Memphis program extensively in Pastner's final years and gave the impression of having an almost obsessive devotion to the coach.

Asked by Parrish to explain the falling out with Pastner, Bell said Pastner did not compensate him properly for his work and did not call him on his birthday this year.

Ole Miss released a statement concerning Crawford's involvement in the situation Tuesday afternoon, saying it was aware of the article and "gathering facts on the matter."

"I found out about it probably the same time you guys did today," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said Tuesday, according to the Clarion Ledger in Jackson, Miss. "So we immediately go through protocol, which is to turn it over to our compliance and let them do what they do. I've been told it's business as usual. He'll be at practice today and (will) practice. I'm not going to change anything unless I'm told otherwise.

"I think right now it's kind of a fact finding, truth from fiction phase. We'll deal with it accordingly."

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Copyright 2017 The New York Observer, L.P.
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New York Observer

 

"Fitspo," or "fitspiration," has become a staple in most social media feeds. Ever scroll through Instagram only to find yourself sucked down a rabbit hole of yoga enthusiasts, vegan chefs, CrossFit athletes, SoulCycle trainers, and body-positive bloggers-and later opting for a green juice for breakfast instead of a bagel with schmear? Thankfully, according to science, getting involved with the "fitspo" trend on social media may actually be a positive addition to your healthy lifestyle.

A new study conducted by researchers at American University set out to examine how virtual communities, aka the troupe of fitness Instagrammers on your feed that all seem to cheer each other on, effect commitment to achieving weight loss goals. The verdict? Making attempts to lose weight publicly on social media helped them remain focused. The study tracked two community weight loss groups over the course of four years; surgical and non-surgical. They found that in both groups, the process of sharing the triumphs and setbacks of their weight loss journey in online communities was a key contributor to reaching their weight loss goals and staying motivated. In other words, all of the "before and after" photos shared with Facebook friends were actually worth something.

"We were all interested in how online communities can provide support for people looking to change behaviors-in this case weight loss," Sonya Grier, Professor of Marketing at the American University Kogod School of Business told Observer. "The study is important because it shows that virtual support communities can assist people with behavior change. Whereas once you needed to travel to a Weight Watchers or overeaters anonymous meeting, you can get this support online. Our results explain how this support can lead to maintenance of new behaviors."

A similar studyconducted by researchers from Northwestern University's Department of Preventative Medicine also found a positive link between participation in online weight loss communities and progression toward weight loss goals. In this case, the researchers examined 22 active users on CalorieKing, a social media app specifically designed to act as a weight loss community. Within the community, users could add friends to their network, similar to Facebook. The team found that average weight loss after six months was 4.1 percent of total body weight for members who hadn't added any friends, 5.2 percent for those with two to nine friends, 6.8 percent for those with a lot of friends, and 8.3 percent for those considered to be highly active within the community.

The researchers found CalorieKing to be a tool to "potentially promote weight loss among large numbers of people at low cost" as opposed to more expensive programs like Weight Watchers, or investing in a personal trainer. "Social networking within an OWM (Online Weight Management) community, and particularly when highly embedded, may offer a potent, scalable way to curb the obesity epidemic and other disorders that could benefit from behavioural changes," the study concluded.

Whether it be a group chat of friends dedicated to discussing daily weight loss goals, sharing progress selfies on social media, or using an app to interact with others hoping to shed pounds, social media can be used as a game-changing tool for weight loss, helping support groups to hold each other accountable for making healthy decisions.

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Copyright 2017 The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

The latest piece of downtown redevelopment tied to the Milwaukee Bucks arena comes next week with the opening of a new health clinic, a facility that includes a street level fast care walk-in clinic.

The $10 million Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin McKinley Health Center, 1271 N. 6th St., opens Nov. 16.

As with other parts of the Bucks-related developments, the Froedtert clinic was constructed and will be open a little more than one year after the project was announced. The Bucks paid for the three-story, 37,000-square-foot building and are leasing the facility to Froedtert.

Exam rooms and a physical therapy rehab facility include large windows offering panoramic views of McKinley Blvd. and the surrounding neighborhoods.

The clinic hopes to serve a diverse group of patients from the new developments in the Pabst complex just to the west, along with the Hillside housing complex and residents of the Moderne building a few blocks away.

"Our primary goal is to establish our connection to the community," said project manager Jamie Robers.

"Making a significant, sustainable difference in the health and quality of life of Milwaukeeans is central to our mission as a health care organization and a corporate citizen," Froedtert President and CEO Cathy Jacobson said in a statement.

"With this health center, we improve access to care right where people live and work, and we help connect them to the deep expertise of the Froedtert & MCW academic medical center if advanced care is needed."

In addition to the walk-in facility, the clinic will offer primary care, podiatry, orthopedics, sports medicine, physical therapy and rehabilitation services. Radiology and laboratory services also will be offered.

It's Froedtert's first downtown clinic and is tied to the organization's role as a "founding partner" for the Bucks arena project. The Bucks believe development of the clinic deepens the team's connections to the community and demonstrates that the arena project is not just centered on pro basketball.

Froedtert and the Medical College paid an undisclosed amount for the naming rights to the Buck's new practice facility, which stands just to the south and is connected to the clinic's upper level. The $31 million practice facility - also paid for by the Bucks - opened in August.

The Bucks say the clinic provides the team with the convenience of having services such as radiology next to the practice facility. The team believes the practice facility, packed with amenities, will be a strong player recruiting tool.

The new clinic will employ about 30 people, including five physicians, Robers said.

Last week, the Bucks opened a $40 million parking ramp that's tied to the new arena. Still under construction is the entertainment block, a three-building complex that will include a brewery, restaurants and other businesses on the east side of the arena.

The clinic is just north and across N. 6th St. from the new $524 million arena the Bucks are building. The arena, built with $250 million in public money, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018.

Froedtert will hold a community open house at the clinic from 9 a.m. until noon Saturday.

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Copyright 2017 SCRIPPS Howard Publications
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Corpus Christi Caller-Times

 

The first time Anisa Martinez saw the gym at Taft High School after Hurricane Harvey, her first thought was "How are we going to be able to play?"

The school's high school gym suffered significant water damage to the point where the gym floor was in the words of long-time volleyball coach Tasha Wilson "toast." The floor needed to be replaced and that forced the volleyball team to find other gyms. From early September through Monday's Class 3A regional quarterfinal loss to area-power London, the Greyhounds were on a journey they will not forget.

"It's a wild ride," Martinez said with tears in her eyes Monday night at Calallen. "We lost our gym and we thought it was over. But I thought we were going to make the best of it and we did. We went out and gave it our all every practice."

Wilson said the program lost 28 balls and a ball cart but the biggest issue was gym time. After the storm, a scramble began to find gyms or somewhere for the team to practice was a priority. The team's last home game was on August 22 against Rockport-Fulton. The school did not open until Sept. 25.

Wilson said Sinton offered gym space and George West allowed them to use the gym on Saturdays. The Portland Community Center also offered up space for a limited amount of time each week. On days that they did not have gym space, they practiced outside on the school grounds.

The school's maintenance personnel put in two poles and installed a badminton net in a parking lot between the gymnasium and tennis courts.

It was not an ideal situation but it only served to helped the team focus on succeeding.

"Some of our kids had problems at their homes too," Wilson said. "I think when the realization set in that we are going to be practicing 8-12 hours a week, the kids got in their heads we are going to make this a season to remember and we are going to bust our butts."

The Greyhounds finished the regular season, taking second in District 29-3A behind defending state champion Goliad.

Taft won its bi-district game in straight sets before topping Santa Rosa in a five-set thriller to advance to the regional quarterfinals for the fourth-straight season.

"Our coach has pushed us to try our hardest and to believe in ourselves," said senior Mariah Montemayor. "She makes sure we found a gym somewhere even if we are traveling six days a week. We only played two games on our home court early in the season. I guess you can say we stayed undefeated on our home court in 2017."

Monday night at Calallen, there were tears mixed with smiles after the Greyhounds' season ended in a sweep to the Pirates.

There was frustration for losing a game but also a realization that the team won 27 matches while practicing where they could when they could.

"It was an experience that I'm never going to forget," Martinez said. "For the other schools to take us under their wing and let us use their facilities in order for us to get our practices in was great."

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Copyright 2017 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc.
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The New York Post

 

Four NCAA Division I basketball coaches, including former NBA star Chuck "The Rifleman" Connors Person, were indicted Tuesday in one of the biggest corruption scandals ever to hit college sports.

The indictments largely mirror charges brought in October alleging that the top-division NCAA men's coaches received kickbacks from agents, financial advisers and execs at clothing companies for steering their players to them for lucrative deals.

Person, for example, stands accused of accepted $91,500 from the government's cooperating witness - investment adviser Louis Martin Blazer III - in exchange for pushing Auburn players to him as clients.

He was indicted Tuesday by a Manhatan federal grand jury on six counts, including conspiracy and solicitation of bribes, and faces up to 80 years in prison if convicted.

"We're confident he will be vindicated at trial," Person's lawyer, Theresa Trzaskoma, said.

Others indicted included Emanuel "Book" Richardson, assistant coach at Arizona; Tony Bland, USC assistant coach; and Lamont Evans, assistant coach at Oklahoma State University.

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Copyright 2017 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

PROVO — It's a busy week for BYU basketball with an exhibition game tonight and the 2016-17 season-opener Saturday night against Mississippi Valley State.

Junior guard Nick Emery won't be playing in either of those games as the NCAA continues to conduct an investigation looking into the possibility of Emery receiving improper benefits.

Rose said the school is waiting to receive word from the NCAA before putting Emery on the court. He can't play in regular-season games while the investigation is pending.

Because the Cougars are preparing for the season-opener, coach Dave Rose figures there's no reason to play Emery today.

"The exhibition games we knew he can play in. This week, I wanted to get ready for our Saturday game," Rose said. "There's no reason to play a guy that's not going to play (Saturday), in my opinion. That's where we are."

Emery played only four minutes in BYU's last exhibition game against Westminster last Wednesday due to an illness.

"Nick's feeling better, but he won't play this week for sure. It's part of the plan," said Rose. "We're still trying to figure out information from the NCAA. He won't be available (today or Saturday)."

The Cougars face Colorado College, a Division III school, today (7 p.m. MST, BYUtv).

Rose added that he doesn't know of a timetable related to hearing back from the NCAA regarding Emery.

"They haven't told me, but they're not communicating with me," Rose said. "I'm just waiting to hear from our (NCAA) compliance people and our administration."

Meanwhile, the Cougars will also be without forward Braiden Shaw, who is dealing with a sprain ankle, for this week's games.

FINDING AN IDENTITY: With the season-opener rapidly approaching, this team's identity is still being developed.

"It's still working its way through," Rose said. "This is an important game for a lot of the guys that have played some minutes and haven't played as well as they want to or are capable of. It's important for the guys who haven't played a lot of minutes to get some minutes and respond to it. Hopefully, that will happen."

This exhibition game is different from the previous ones this season, Rose said.

"When you have a game on Saturday, the process of preparation with this exhibition game has been a lot more what they do and how they do it and how we respond and guard it," Rose said. "The first two have been more about us.... I'm excited to see how our team responds to this type of game."

EMAIL: jeffc@deseretnews.com

TWITTER: AJeffreyCall

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Copyright 2017 Times-World, LLC
All Rights Reserved

The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

 

The Franklin County Family YMCA at SML now offers ScriptFit, a doctor referred exercise program.

Previously the program had been available at the YMCA's Rocky Mount location. The program works with doctors and their patients to build a personalized exercise program to improve the participants' overall health and address specific concerns, including chronic conditions, stability, balance, muscle density and weight loss.

The YMCA has recruited Sallie Cappellari to be lead trainer for the program. Cappellari has previously taught bootcamp classes, cardio kickboxing and yoga classes.

"I'm thrilled to be a part of an innovative program like ScriptFit," Cappellari said. "This is just one example of how the YMCA positively impacts, not just its members, but the community as a whole. By partnering with our local doctors we are in a unique position to provide individualized care to meet the special needs of our participants."

In the coming months, the YMCA also will bring a Parkinson relief program to its Westlake location. The program is a part of ScriptFit and uses non-contact boxing drills and footwork to increase coordination and get Parkinson patient's moving and elevating their heart rate.

"We know that our members are going to love being able to work with a trainer, at a reduced rate, to address specific needs they may have to improve their health," said Lauren Acker branch director for the Franklin County Family YMCA at SML.

The YMCA also will showcase its InBody machine during November and offer free body composition scans to the community. The InBody is a high tech body scanner that measures body fat percentages, muscle density, an accurate body weight, hydration level and calculates metabolic rate.

"We have ScriptFit, the Inbody, Y Weight our health and wellness challenge, indoor pickleball and lots of classes every week. Stop in and see us," Acker said. "The Y has a lot going on to keep our members active and healthy and we'd love to see you there."

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Copyright 2017 Tribune Review Publishing Company
All Rights Reserved

Pittsburgh Tribune Review

 

The Pittsburgh Penguins and city officials finalized a new development agreement for the former Civic Arena property that eliminates a $15 million credit available for the team to purchase the 28 acres.

In return, the Penguins get the property for free and must develop at least 6.45 acres by 2020 or risk forfeiting one-third of total parking revenue from lots on the former arena property in the Lower Hill District. Forfeited revenue would be deposited into a fund for Hill District improvements. Development of the entire site must be finished by 2025.

City officials said one of the biggest problems in reaching an agreement was the $15 million credit. The current agreement required the city to pay the Penguins any money left over after the entire site is developed.

"Under the old agreement, the Penguins could wait all the way up until 2028, receive all the parking revenue for 2,400 spots every day of the week, every evening concert, every evening hockey game, events, everything else, and then at the end of that period after they developed absolutely nothing, the public would be required to pay them $15 million," Mayor Bill Peduto said. "That's no longer an option."

Kevin Acklin, Peduto's chief of staff, said the Penguins are "pretty close" to being ready for construction.

"This agreement will pave the way for $750 million in private investment that will be truly transformative for Pittsburgh, creating a dynamic development that the region can be proud of "" in addition to jobs, small business opportunities, affordable housing and community programs," Penguins President and CEO David Morehouse said in a statement.

The agreement, which is subject to a vote Thursday by the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority and city-county Sports and Exhibition Authority boards, would give the Penguins an option to delay development for up to two years through the purchase of extensions, but it drastically increases the purchase price.

Under the existing agreement, the Penguins were required to purchase 2.1 acres each year. The team could purchase up to four six-month extensions on each deadline by relinquishing $75,000 in credits per extension from the $15 million total.

The new agreement sets the number of total acres available for development at 18. The team would pay $6,000 per month for each of the 18 acres that remains undeveloped, according Acklin. It means the team would pay $108,000 per month if it seeks an immediate extension.

"They now own the risk of delivering that development," Acklin said. "They're taking market risk on this development now and not the shared risk. The public really owned that risk by having to backstop it with $15 million."

The new agreement requires the Penguins to contribute $900,000 for building a cap over the Crosstown Expressway and $500,000 for a public art display known as the Curtain Call along Centre Avenue. A park is slated for the cap linking the Hill District with Downtown.

It also would transfer one parcel to the URA and SEA for construction of a parking garage featuring up to 1,000 spaces. Garage revenue would go to the authorities. Up to 10 percent of parking taxes would go to the Hill District fund.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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Copyright 2017 Star Tribune
All Rights Reserved

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group is introducing a senior fitness program in 11 states that analysts said will compete with the popular "SilverSneakers" program that's ubiquitous in Medicare health plans.

Called Optum Fitness Advantage, the program is being introduced as part of certain Medicare Advantage plans sold by UnitedHealthcare, which is the nation's largest health insurer.

The announcement Monday apparently drove a sell-off in shares of Tennessee-based Tivity Health Inc., the company that operates SilverSneakers and saw its stock drop more than 34 percent.

"With this announcement, a lot of people are worried that eventually United might try to in-source this, or convert all their members to this Optum fitness program instead of SilverSneakers," said Mohan Naidu, an analyst with Oppenheimer. "Of course, they're not doing that now.... It just appears that it's a first test."

David Styblo, an analyst with Jefferies, wrote Monday in a note to investors: "It seems UnitedHealth could be testing its Fitness Advantage offering to see how well it competes with [Tivity Health's] SilverSneakers over the next three years. If successful, UnitedHealth could choose to scale down or terminate its contract."

Tivity Health did not respond to e-mails seeking comment. UnitedHealth Group includes the UnitedHealthcare health insurance division, plus a fast-growing unit for health care services called Optum.

In Minnesota, UnitedHealthcare doesn't currently sell Medicare Advantage plans, so the news won't impact subscribers here.

The new Optum program gives Medicare Advantage customers in states like Arizona and Texas access to a large network of participating fitness centers.

"Plan participants will have access to the same services, privileges, classes and programs as the fitness centers' standard members, including waiver of all enrollment fees," UnitedHealthcare said Monday in a statement announcing the program.

The Optum network will include a number of fitness centers including Chanhassen-based Life Time and Woodbury-based Anytime Fitness, where officials expect the new program will account for about 68,000 members. The company didn't specify how many of the members would be new to Anytime Fitness, as opposed to current UnitedHealthcare subscribers who access the gym via other fitness programs for seniors.

Senior fitness programs don't own health clubs, but negotiate contracts to create a network of participating gyms, said Naidu, the analyst with Oppenheimer. Health plans and employer groups buy access to the network of gyms for their subscribers.

The SilverSneakers program has about 57 percent of the market, Naidu estimated, followed by a competing program called Silver & Fit. Seniors are very familiar with the SilverSneakers name, Naidu said, so insurers want a connection with the brand to draw enrollees.

He said SilverSneakers remains the fitness provider for UnitedHealthcare's Medicare Advantage plans sold to employer groups, as well as the Medicare health plans for individuals in states other than the 11 included in the new Optum program.

"In my view, this is clearly an experiment by United to test if this could work, and not lose a lot of membership for not having SilverSneakers," Naidu said.

Considering that UnitedHealthcare accounts for an estimated 15 percent or so of revenue at Tivity Health, the stock decline Monday was an overreaction, said Styblo, the Jeffries analyst. The pullback assumes "more than a worst-case scenario for 2021," Styblo wrote in his research note, since Tivity Health renewed most of its business with UnitedHealth Group through 2020.

In the third quarter, Tivity Health posted net income from continuing operations of $19.9 million on $137.7 million in revenue. During the same time period, UnitedHealth Group saw earnings of $2.49 billion on $50.32 billion in revenue.

UnitedHealth Group piloted the Optum fitness program for Medicare enrollees in two states during 2017. This fall, the company announced it plans to start selling Medicare Advantage plans in Minnesota in 2019.

Christopher Snowbeck · 612-673-4744

Twitter: @chrissnowbeck

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Copyright 2017 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

 

The private attorney of the University of New Mexico's former athletic director reviewed, and removed, emails his client wrote on the school's public server even before the university's legal council looked at the documents that were requested by the Journal.

The Journal filed an Inspection of Public Records Act request in August with UNM, the legal custodian of the documents, seeking to review emails written by Paul Krebs on his university email account. Krebs retired as athletic director in June, though the requested emails covered a period before and after his employment, because he has continued using the account since his retirement.

UNM says it feared it might violate Krebs' attorney-client privilege if it reviewed the emails, so it first handed them over to Gene Gallegos, a former UNM regent and Santa Fe attorney now representing Krebs, to determine whether he considered any of them protected by attorney-client privilege.

"As the batches of emails were being reviewed for the IPRA response, it was noticed that some of the emails were between Paul Krebs and his attorney," said UNM's chief marketing and communications officer, Cinnamon Blair. "As not to violate attorney-client privilege, his attorney was given the opportunity to review and remove any emails that would fall under that attorney-client privilege. There is no way for anyone at UNM to sort them without risking violating attorney-client privilege."

The university did not log what emails it sent Gallegos to vet, so there appears to be no way of knowing what was removed from the batch of emails, beyond the honor system.

That UNM gave all the emails to Krebs' attorney is a clear violation of the state law on inspection of public records, according to the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government.

"UNM ultimately has the obligation to comply with the Inspection of Public Records Act. They should have at the very least segregated out all the emails that they believed could be attorney-client privilege," said FOG Executive Director Peter St. Cyr.

UNM said it gave all emails written by Krebs in the period covered by the Journal's request to Gallegos, not only ones addressed to him.

That is not the norm, neither for UNM nor in the recollection of FOG's experience when dealing with other similar requests around New Mexico.

"This is not standard," Blair told the Journal, but necessary in UNM's eyes, "based on the circumstances of the information in the responsive documents being subject to attorney-client privilege."

Gallegos told the Journal the only emails reviewed or removed by his paralegal, who went through the emails, were "anything that was between Paul and I."

St. Cyr questioned whether attorney-client privilege is allowed because the emails "were generated on a public email system by a public employee." He noted this "is a difficult one" in that IPRA does allow for attorney-client exemptions, but "because UNM owns the emails, it shouldn't permit the client's attorney to insert himself into the process."

The August records request was delivered to the Journal in nine sections, the last of which was released just last week. It is unclear how many emails were withheld by Gallegos.

"We have not done an inventory of the exact number, but it was not a large number," Blair said.

According to UNM's "Policy 2500: Acceptable Computer Use," UNM employees understand that their emails are public. The last line of that policy's section on privacy limitations reads: "Therefore, all employees are urged to use the same discretion and good judgment in creating electronic documents as they would use in creating written paper documents."

Discovery over the past seven months of potential financial mismanagement by UNM athletics, including Krebs' admission that he used public money to pay for donors to attend a fundraising golf junket in Scotland in 2015, has led to three state agencies launching separate inquiries. The New Mexico Attorney General's Office is looking into possible anti-donation clause violations by the university and concerns about a heavily redacted document released to the Journal in April that would have revealed wrongdoing had it been properly released.

A spokesman declined to say whether Attorney General Hector Balderas' office is looking into UNM's compliance with IPRA, citing the "ongoing investigation" Balderas launched earlier this year after revelations that the university used public funds for some private donor expenses on the trip to Scotland.

Among the information revealed in the Journal's review of Krebs' emails:

Krebs instructed multiple employees of his to "Delete this email" so media members would not obtain a copy, but forgot himself to delete the email. It is unclear whether other emails were deleted.

The former AD drafted a retirement letter on May 7 to UNM Interim President Chaouki Abdallah indicating he knowingly withheld information about paying for donors to attend the Scotland golf trip with public money to "protect" them from media scrutiny. His final, official, retirement letter did not mention it.

The Lobo Club and Krebs were at odds in late April over who should be taking the heat for the Scotland trip. Upon reading a draft version of a letter to the Lobo Club board of directors about the Scotland trip, Krebs wrote on April 26 to Larry Ryan of the UNM Foundation and Kole McKamey of the Lobo Club, "We have always acted as a team. In this together attitude. As an example I took significant hits for a bad lobo club audit several years ago. I didn't distance myself or seek to justify my role. I stood with the lobo club thru that time and we stood united together.

"This Letter like the previous one today attempts to clear the Lobo Club/ Kole and doesn't really address the larger issue of the story. I believe any letter sent should explain the entire rationale for the trip including not only the lobo club role but athletics role and our collective justification for going and the expenditure of funds regardless of the source.

"To do anything other than that sends us down a road of real separation and not working in unison.

"Are we in this together or not?"

Krebs hired a private public relations firm to listen in on at least one phone interview with the Journal discussing his work. That firm confirmed to the Journal last week that it worked with Krebs, and not UNM, around the time of his retirement. UNM said it does not have a policy about third parties listening into employee conversations conducting university work.

Krebs has not responded to questions emailed to him by the Journal in recent weeks.

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Copyright 2017 Bangor Daily News

Bangor Daily News (Maine)

 

Kudos to the Wells Ogunquit Community School District for quickly convening a group to reconsider the district high school's warrior mascot and Indian head logo after complaints that they are insensitive to the state's Native American tribes.

It is worrisome, however, that the group, which plans to meet and deliberate for months, wants to consider "both sides of the issue." When it comes to offensive mascots and team names, there aren't two sides. When a group of people, or your neighbor or a relative, tells you that something you are doing is offensive or hurtful, you should stop doing it. Trying to convince them you mean no harm is beside the point. So is citing a long history of using the mascot.

The southern Maine high school is one of just three in the state, the others being Skowhegan and Nokomis, that have refused to change their mascot or team name after repeated requests from the state's Native American tribes. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Maine Indian Tribal State Commission, American Psychological Association, NCAA and others have discouraged the use of tribal mascots and nicknames.

Slowly, Maine schools have dropped offensive names and changed offensive mascots. In 2001, Scarborough High School dropped Redskins in favor of Red Storm, the first school to make such a change. The Husson Braves became the Husson Eagles. The Old Town Indians are now the Old Town Coyotes. Nearly 30 Maine schools, from elementary schools to colleges, have changed their mascots and team nicknames in recent years.

There was resistance in many communities, just as there is in Wells. But when town and school leaders heard repeatedly from tribal members that their nicknames and mascots were offensive, they made the changes.

Here, for example, is the standard set by one school board member in Wiscasset when her community discussed its Redskins mascot in 2011: "It's the Golden Rule," Kim Andersson, then an RSU 12 board member, said at that time. "Our neighbors have told us that this is offensive to them. It doesn't matter if we think so or not."

That's it, pure and simple.

Yet, some communities can't escape from being offensive.

The Skowhegan Area Chamber of Commerce issued an apology Sunday after promoting a "Hunt for the Indian" holiday promotion among local businesses. A wooden Indian would be hidden at a local business each day. The first person to find the trinket would get a discount, the initial post said.

People across Maine reacted with shock and horror to the "promotion," which prompted its quick cancellation. The community's school district voted in 2015, after several meetings, to continue with the Indians name and mascot at Skowhegan High School.

"It was never our intention to offend anyone, quite the opposite. It was our goal to honor our community icon, support local business and engage the people of greater Skowhegan," the chamber posted to its Facebook page on Sunday. "No apology can take away our lack of empathy and foresight in this decision."

The group will stop selling Indian figurines and Christmas ornaments and will hold a community discussion, which are welcome moves.

"Now we understand we've created a bigger problem of not seeing our actions from others' perspectives, given the local and national issues around mascots and racism," the post said.

There's that simple notion again — viewing your actions from others' perspectives and correcting your actions when you understand how they are perceived or felt by others, particularly minority groups.

Maine has made a lot of progress on the mascot and nickname front. But it's long past time for the remaining holdouts to stop being offensive and to change their mascots and team names as well.

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Copyright 2017 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

The New York Post

 

IN 2009, Mohamed "Mo" Elzomor was having a bit of a crisis. The personal trainer, then 23, had lost his job at a New York Sports Club in Queens. He'd also been kicked out of college for skipping classes, couldn't hold down a job and was generally directionless until his ex-girlfriend gave him a book called "The Secret," which posits the law of attraction — that you get what you tell the world you want, if you believe hard enough.

After it helped him score a date with a high-school crush, he decided to apply it to his stalled career as a personal trainer.

"I ended up saying, 'I want to train four categories of people: billionaires, CEOs, celebrities and royals,'" Elzomor, now 31 and still living in his native Queens, tells The Post. Eight years later, he's ticked each of those boxesthanks to a new technology previously only available abroad that the elite can't live without: electronic muscle stimulation (EMS), which promises a full workout in just 20 minutes.

As a full-time trainer at Midtown's posh Core Club, which has a $50,000 initiation fee, Elzomor is one of the few New Yorkers with access to an EMS machine.

Popular in St. Barts and Europe, it's just starting to make waves in the US. (An EMS-based studio called Shock Therapy is scheduled to open on the Upper East Side in January.) "A sheik brought it on his private plane," Elzomor says of Core Club's coveted Miha Bodytec machine, which is manufactured in Germany.

EMS involves strapping into what looks like a wetsuit covered in wires, which connect to a control stand.

The trainer then turns up a series of dials to target areas of the body with pulses of electricity, manually turning on each muscle. It's basically a souped-up version of the muscle stimulation that physical therapists use to heal injuries.

"If you do a regular dumbbell curl, you get one muscle contraction," says Elzomor.

"With this, you get 85 per second." That means that muscles get a supercharged workout in a short period of time.

"You do squats, lunges, very basic stuff," says Elzomor, whose sessions start at $145 for Core members and vary by location (he has a portable machine for house calls). "It almost feels like a warm-up, and yet you're done in the blink of an eye." That's a big sell for his clients, for whom time is money.

Top model Alina Baikova trains with Elzomor twice a week. "I only come uptown for Mo," says Baikova, who lives in Soho and has been linked to Leonardo DiCaprio.

"It tones your muscles — you do this, and then you go to cryo[therapy] and then you feel 100 percent. And, of course, Mo is an incredible person to work out with.

He's very motivating, very supportive and very pushy." Baikova is just one of many of Elzomor's high-profile clients. His Instagram feed shows him training models Hilary Rhoda and Alessandra Ambrosio and New York Giants wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

Right now, EMS technology is only backed by a small body of research.

"There's not a lot of great science behind it," says Dr. Leesa Galatz, head of orthopedic surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital. "Our concern is that if used incorrectly, at too high of an intensity or by overusing it, this could be dangerous. Some people can get breakdown of the muscle, which can be very harmful for the kidney." Galatz is waiting to see more research before she draws a conclusion. As with any new regimen, it's best to check with a doctor first — especially for those who are pregnant or have a pacemaker.

In 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration reported that they'd received reports of shocks, burns, bruising and skin irritation from unregulated EMS devices.

Elzomor suggests his clients do EMS twice a week at most — any more is overkill, since muscles need time for recovery. He also encourages them to continue their regular workouts — "you can do some lighter stuff in between," he says — to see if it makes them stronger, faster or more agile.

EMS may have catapulted him into the spotlight, but Elzomor credits his belief in himself with getting him to where he is today.

"Before I became a celebrity trainer, every morning I said, 'I'm a celebrity trainer,' until I [became] it," says Elzomor, who started out working at women's gym chain Lucille Roberts.

"You're not going to find any [billionaires or royalty] there, but I just pretended in my head, constantly." In 2013, he "Googled, 'where billionaires hang out,'" and landed the gig at Core Club, which counts NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz as members.

"My first client was the CEO of Christian Dior," he says. "Right off the bat, I was like, 'I'm here!'" He started training the CEO of American Eagle, Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, Tony Blair and his wife and others.

He also networked his way into gyms at the Four Seasons, 432 Park Ave and the Peninsula Hotel New York "'cause I wanted royalty and stuff," he says. "I got a princess from Saudi Arabia, and she wanted to take me to Saudi, to London," which was a dream come true, he says, because "I'd been visualizing traveling with royalty for years." He was building a name for himself, but still needed to crack the last category on his list: celebrities.

"I had lots of billionaires, lots of CEOs, but you don't build your brand that way — I can't put the CEO of LVMH on my Instagram. I can't put the owner of the Giants on my Instagram," Elzomor says.

Everything fell into place when he learned about EMS in 2015, after his manager at Core Club told him about a machine that sent tiny shocks to muscles.

There was a team coming from Germany to teach the trainers how to use it.

At first, says Elzomor, "I was like, 'Eh, I don't know, it sounds like that belt they sell on TV at 4 o'clock in the morning.'" But, after he tried it for himself, he couldn't walk for four days. "That's when I was like, 'OK, where do I sign up?'" Now, Elzomor's having a tough time penciling in even the most famous faces.

"The [Victoria's Secret models] want to train regularly, but I'm just booked," he says. "So I squeeze them in when I can.

I just trained Elsa Hosk for the first time, last night." He's also broadening his reach by appearing on TV shows, such as "Secret Lives of the Super Rich" on CNBC.

"I watch it to manifest my future," he says. "One day I was watching the show, and I was like, 'Oh, my God, I need to be on this show!' I was holding my 7-month-old baby, so I started typing with one hand, found the executive producer and within 12 hours I had him in the gym." Up next: becoming ultrarich himself.

"I want to be a multi-, multimillionaire," says Elzomor, who hopes to open a chain of EMS studios. "I'm surrounded by them on a regular basis — it's like, 'They could do this!'" Why not him?

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Copyright 2017 The Evansville Courier Co.
All Rights Reserved

Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)

 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Brian Bowen, the five-star forward whose recruitment led to the firings of University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich, has taken a step toward reinstatement.

Attorney Jason Setchen said Thursday that federal authorities have advised Louisville it is now free to investigate and can consider the reinstatement of Bowen because he is clear of "investigative impediments" previously placed by the FBI and the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

The FBI previously told schools implicated in a pay to play scheme to hold off on their internal investigations while federal authorities completed theirs.

"Brian and I are excited with this development and look forward to working with the university and the NCAA to clarify any concerns or issues that they have in furtherance of Brian's prompt return to competition," Setchen said.

University spokesman John Karman confirmed that Bowen remains enrolled at U of L but declined further comment citing the federal investigation. The university has yet to clarify whether Bowen has simply been suspended on a precautionary basis or been declared ineligible, which would make his reinstatement subject to NCAA approval.

"I remain optimistic based on my dealings with the university," Setchen said. "So far, the university has been very cooperative and open to having further discussions. I believe the university will give Brian a fair opportunity."

Telephone calls recorded by the FBI implicated Bowen's father, Brian Sr., in an alleged scheme involving Cardinals coaches, Adidas representatives and other intermediaries to secure the son's commitment to U of L in June.

A sworn deposition by the FBI's John Vourderis described an intercepted call between sports agent Christian Dawkins and a man Vourderis believed to be Bowen Sr., arranging a payment of $19,500 on July 13. A subsequent call between Dawkins and financial advisor Munish Sood indicated the payment was made.

"Brian (Jr.) was not aware of any of the alleged activities," Setchen said, "and it is our position that he has not violated any NCAA rules or bylaws.... It's a fundamental aspect of being an American that we are not held responsible for the actions of other people and we have a right to associate. It is unfair to Brian or any student-athlete to try and punish them for actions of others who are not in their control."

Setchen's argument echoes that used on behalf of Cam Newton, who led Auburn to the 2010 BCS championship after it was found allegations that his father had solicited the quarterback's services to Mississippi State for $180,000. The NCAA subsequently revised its rules to designate parents as agents if they represent or attempt to represent an athlete "for the purpose of marketing his or her athletics ability or reputation for financial gain."

"While the rules have changed slightly since the Cam Newton case," Setchen said, "the mitigating factors in Brian's case are not dissimilar in that he had no knowledge of any of the alleged improprieties."

Setchen will need to show his client did not directly benefit from his father's involvement in the scheme. NCAA bylaws state that the receipt of "significant monetary benefits from an agent" constitute crossing "the threshold of professionalism" and, therefore, preclude reinstatement.

Stuart Brown, an Atlanta-based attorney experienced with eligibility issues, said it is not the NCAA's policy to punish athletes for their relatives' actions and predicted that Bowen was likely to gain reinstatement based on the evidence that has surfaced so far.

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Copyright 2017 Virginian-Pilot Companies LLC
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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

A preliminary study has concluded it's possible to dig into the earth to add 4,000 or more seats to Norfolk's Scope arena.

But it's not clear how much the renovation would cost or who would pay for it.

The study, provided by the city in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, shows the first renderings of what a larger Scope could look like. It envisions the arena floor 4½ feet lower than it is now, though that figure could change slightly.

The city, which owns the arena, has not decided whether the renovation will happen.

"Everything is going to depend on what the price of this project will be," said John Rhamstine, director of SevenVenues, the city agency that runs the arena.

More details, including the cost, are expected in another study by the end of the year.

Scope, which opened in 1971, seats 8,701 for hockey, 10,276 for basketball and up to 13,600 for concerts. One section of the preliminary study shows new seating capacities of 10,574 for hockey, 14,294 for basketball and 14,914 for concerts with a center stage. But officials said none of the numbers is certain.

Mayor Kenny Alexander said he would like the arena to have about 15,000 seats.

Several City Council members have said they don't support major public spending to expand Scope. Alexander said there could be a public-private partnership, with companies paying for most of the renovation and making money from ticket sales. The city would benefit from taxes, parking and perhaps arena naming rights.

Over the years, Norfolk has replaced seats, upgraded sound and lighting systems and installed a modern scoreboard. But the arena has never had a complete renovation or expansion.

Alexander announced an expansion study during his first State of the City address in May, saying more seating would help draw larger sporting and entertainment events, such as NBA exhibition games and concerts.

The city hired a Los Angeles company, Oak View Group, to perform the study. Oak View in turn partnered with two architecture firms, Populous and Moseley.

Norfolk had already budgeted $100,000 for the study.

Virginia Beach developer planning to build an 18,000-seat arena at the Oceanfront runs into a financial deadline today.

That project and an expanded Scope would give Hampton Roads two major arenas just 18 miles apart.

Besides lowering the arena floor, the preliminary Scope plan calls for expanding the concourse to add new restrooms, concessions and clubs or restaurants, as well as a modern heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system.

Rhamstine said the larger concourse would fit under Scope's 24 "flying buttresses," the sloping supports that surround the arena and connect to its roof.

The study shows that, after a meeting in September, officials from the city, Oak View and the architecture firms rejected two other options. One called for lowering the arena floor by 15 feet, the other for a basketball-focused layout that would have reduced hockey seating.

Oak View Group, formed in 2015, aims to help sports and music venues sign major sponsors and attract new events, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times. It has an "Arena Alliance" that includes partnerships with 26 venues, among them is New York's Madison Square Garden, and it works with Live Nation Entertainment.

Oak View is working on a $600 million expansion of Seattle's KeyArena that includes lowering the floor by 15 feet in hopes of attracting an NBA or NHL team.

Any lowering of Scope would have to take into account the water table and flooding problems. The current arena floor is above sea level, but the Scope exhibition halls are below, Rhamstine said.

Peter Luukko, a longtime NHL executive who works with Oak View, said architectural and engineering reviews have shown the water issues are "pretty easily addressed" when lowering the floor 4½ feet.

But Luukko said the rejected 15-foot option would have been "cost prohibitive." The basketball-focused option would not have added many seats, according to the study.

The study says Scope would likely shut down for 18 to 20 months during an expansion.

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Copyright 2017 News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)
All Rights Reserved

News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)

 

N.C. State officials are promising increased security for football referees and visiting teams at Carter-Finley Stadium as university police seek the public's help to identify fans who threw objects and spit on officials after Clemson's 38-31 victory over the Wolfpack on Saturday.

Fans were angry after several close calls, and no-calls, didn't go in the Wolfpack's favor in its upset bid of the fourth-ranked Tigers. The scene turned ugly as the officials left the field, running through a tunnel to the locker room as trash rained down from above, despite the presence of N.C. Highway Patrol officers and event staff.

Fred Demarest, State's senior associate athletics director for communications and brand management, wrote in an email late Monday afternoon: "We have both police and event staff escort game officials at their every move on game days, which has worked very well historically. Moving forward, we will have an increased security presence in the stands near the tunnels used by officials and the visiting team to best protect both groups."

State has one home game remaining, on Nov. 25 against North Carolina.

Asked about Saturday's incident, university spokesman Mick Kulikowski said: "The investigation is ongoing and appropriate action will be taken as those involved are identified."

State athletics director Debbie Yow declined to comment, saying her department was working with the university on the incident. ACC officials and N.C. State police referred questions to State's public relations team.

Referee Riley Johnson's crew flagged the Wolfpack for six penalties for 69 yards, and the Tigers were penalized three times for 23 yards. State fans were particularly upset when an official blew his whistle after the snap on the play immediately after a questionable catch by Jakobi Meyers that resulted in a long gain.

Ultimately, the play was overturned and State was forced to punt.

In his postgame news conference, State coach Dave Doeren raised questions regarding a photo of a laptop on the Clemson sideline during the game. College teams are not allowed to have such technology on the sideline during games.

Asked about the laptop, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said it didn't belong to anyone involved with the team. A team spokesman, said it belonged to the athletics program's social media operation.

ACC spokesman Kevin Best said Sunday that the league was satisfied with Clemson's explanation.

Contact Brant Wilkerson-New at 336-373-7008.

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Copyright 2017 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

PULLMAN — Many college football coaches think the game's targeting rule needs a trip to the review booth. Washington State's Mike Leach would rather just abolish it.

Even though Leach coaches the offensive players who are generally the ones benefiting from the rule — which results in a 15-yard penalty, an automatic ejection and a one-half suspension — the WSU boss believes it's too difficult to enforce, and therefore should be eliminated. And even though the Cougars have a clean track record this season, Leach would rather see the NCAA do away with the rule than gain 15 yards a pop every time WSU's opponent commits an infraction.

"It's a stupid rule, it's a really stupid rule," the coach said Monday during his weekly news conference. "Without commenting on officiating and this certainly isn't a comment on officiating, but I saw a targeting last game and at any rate, I think it's far too difficult to call and I think there's a real inexactness to calling it and I think they need to get rid of it."

A drastic increase in head injuries and brain trauma over the last decade-plus triggered NCAA officials to implement the targeting rule in 2008. It mandates that a player can't use the crown of his helmet to make contact with another player above the shoulders. Players also incur the targeting penalty if they utilize their helmet, forearm, hand, elbow or shoulder to strike a defenseless receiver.

The rule didn't have too many critics until 2013, when officials determined in addition to a 15-yard penalty, players would be tossed from the game and forced to miss the next half.

Stanford certainly could've used inside linebacker Joey Alfieri in the first half of Saturday's 24-21 loss at WSU, but the all-conference defender had been punished for a targeting violation in the second half of the previous game against Oregon State. Alfieri returned for the second half in Pullman, but the Cardinal were already in a 14-7 hole at that point.

According to an Associated Press story earlier in the year, there was a 73 percent increase in the number of targeting penalties enforced through the first three weeks of the current FBS season.

Leach has more than a few quarrels with the rule. One, that it's "nearly impossible to officiate," he reiterated. Referees are often left to make knee-jerk reactions when they see two helmets clank and even though it's sent back to the video booth, a review may not always provide the clarity needed to make the right call.

"A guy's going to see something, try to see something instantly, then they have this review thing," Leach said. "Even then, I see the thing get fouled up."

And nine times out of 10, the play isn't malicious, he believes.

"This guy raises up, this guy goes down and for the most part I haven't seen it deliberate," Leach said. "Somebody just ends up at the wrong place at the wrong time. If the guy's not trying to target, but then ends up targeting somebody and gets called for it."

Leach got off course during his news conference and went on a spiel about a "speed trap" he used to encounter while he was an assistant coach at Iowa Wesleyan College. In his own roundabout way, the coach brought the conversation back to the targeting infraction.

"I'm going through town, 20 miles per hour and real conscious of looking down at my speed limit the whole time. Then all the sudden lights behind me. ? The guy says, 'I had you going 22 miles an hour in a 20-mile speed limit.' And I said, 'Well, I don't believe that. I'm looking at my speedometer the whole time, I don't know how that can be. Well I ended up getting a warning which that was kind of a miracle when you consider where this happened. I think that exists with the targeting rule a lot. The guy's trying as hard as he can not to."

 

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Copyright 2017 Newsday, Inc.

Newsday (New York)

 

The Department of Justice is investigating alleged sexual misconduct on a U.S. Merchant Marine Academy soccer team bus in September 2016, the leader of the federal Maritime Administration and the Kings Point school's superintendent told a congressional oversight panel Monday.

The probe, which began in the federal Transportation Department's Office of Inspector General in February, also is ongoing in the U.S. attorney's office in the Eastern District, said retired Rear Adm. Mark Buzby, who heads the Maritime Administration, or MARAD — the agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation that oversees the academy. That Justice Department jurisdiction covers Long Island as well as Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island.

Buzby and Rear Adm. James A. Helis, the academy's superintendent, told members of the congressional Board of Visitors that the federal investigation is separate from administrative hearings that the school held for seven former members of USMMA's soccer team who faced allegations of abusing and bullying a freshman player on the bus.

Newsday confirmed last week that all of those former students, whom Helis had barred from graduating in June, recently were awarded their diplomas and other certificates after going through individual, closed hearings at the academy.

"Even though we have completed our administrative process here — as I understand it, we've completed the administrative process here — that does not affect the process being overseen by the Department of Justice with potential criminal charges," Helis told the congressional panel. "There is still the potential that there could be a criminal case emerging from this some time in the future. . . . We have almost no visibility on that, other than the awareness that there is an ongoing investigation that today remains."

Buzby said there is "an investigation going on by the Eastern District" that was distinct from the academy's "executive board" proceedings with students.

"And we do not have any information on that," he said. "I have not even been briefed on those proceedings."

John Marzulli, an Eastern District spokesman, said, "No comment" in response to an inquiry about the remarks.

A spokesman for the Office of Inspector General referred inquiries to the Justice Department.

Helis, in explaining the process to the panel, said that when the Office of Inspector General has completed an investigation, the agency can refer potentially criminal matters to the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District.

The Justice Department, with that information, then would conduct its probe and determine whether there is enough evidence to bring a case, he said.

Parent Jay Burkhardt of Cutchogue, whose son, David, was among the seven former soccer players who recently graduated, questioned Helis at the meeting and encouraged the school to release its findings from any investigation into the matter.

"Is there any reason why that investigation can't be released to the Board of Visitors?" he asked. "Is there anything that we're hiding with this investigation?"

In reply, Helis cited student privacy.

Buzby and Helis were not available Monday for further questions or comment.

The Board of Visitors, currently chaired by Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), generally meets twice a year and last convened in July in Washington.

Both Monday and at the July meeting, board members said the academy has made strides in addressing the issues of sexual assault and sexual harassment, which have occurred on campus and during the Sea Year, USMMA's hallmark training program for midshipmen.

Newsday reported in January that sexual assault and sexual harassment, bullying and coercion have persisted at the 74-year-old federal service academy for nearly a decade, despite the government's own records of complaints and corrective efforts.

King called the academy an "outstanding institution" and said, "A lot of progress had been made in the last year. Issues have been confronted head-on."

But both King and Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) were critical of the academy, expressing annoyance that they learned of the seven former soccer players' graduations from media inquiries.

King also said he is concerned that only about a dozen shipping companies worked with the academy during the Sea Year, while 60 had been used before the program was suspended on commercial ships between June 2016 and March because of sexual-misconduct concerns.

Administration officials said there has been progress in recent years in easing the process of reporting for victims of sexual assault.

"There is more confidence in the system," Helis said. "They feel more comfortable coming forward."

Helis also said it is "very, very likely that we will have a soccer program going into fall 2018." He suspended the NCAA Division III program in June, pending the outcome of the Office of Inspector General's investigation.

An announcement is not expected until after the new year, he said.

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Copyright 2017 The Commercial Appeal, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

The city of Memphis will mothball the shuttered Mid-South Coliseum as it launches a $160 million redevelopment of the old surrounding Fairgrounds, officials said last week.

Instead of rehabilitating the Coliseum, the city will spend roughly $40 million tying the redevelopment — whose theme is still competitive youth sports — into the Orange Mound community, said Paul Young, director of Housing and Community Development. That means improving access to the Fairgrounds from Orange Mound, the Beltline, Cooper-Young and the Greenline, and improving the historic Melrose High School.

"We want to have opportunities for those kids that aren't necessarily a part of some league or team to be able to come on the site and enjoy the benefits of it," he said.

The plan to shelve the Coliseum was met with harsh criticism Oct. 31 by those who have long advocated for the restoration of the 10,000-seat venue, which closed in 2006 after a 42-year run. Roy Barnes, president of the Coliseum Coalition, a grass-roots advocacy group that has proposed several ideas to reuse and reopen the building, said the decision from Mayor Jim Strickland's administration was a "real slap in the face to citizens."

"Mothballing is a reasonable thing to do in a zero-money environment," Barnes said. "But in a $160 million environment? No flippin' way."

Barnes added: "They'll try to spin this as a business decision — but it's not. It's not a business decision; it's a political decision."

The Coliseum Coalition has estimated the cost to renovate the Coliseum at around $25 million — significantly less than the city's estimate of $37 million to $40 million to renovate the building into an ancillary sports facility connected to the redevelopment's premier sports building.

The city will still anchor the project with that main sports building — only on the old Libertyland site instead of next to the Coliseum, Young said.

But with a $160 million budget, Young said the choice was between rehabbing the Coliseum — with no private developer on the horizon and no idea of future operations costs — and serving the community.

"The Coliseum would be a good addition," Young said. "But the question is, at what cost? And what are the operational costs for including that as a part of it? I think we can achieve the same goal with the 150,000 square feet we have programmed."

While demolition is still on the table, the calls to save the Coliseum haven't fallen on deaf ears, said Young, whose graduation ceremony was held at the Coliseum. "We're at least leaving that open," he said of a Coliseum rehab.

City officials considered several options before deciding on the present course, Young said. The city could have converted the building for youth sports, demolished the Coliseum for $8 million to $10 million, or spent $14 million opening the concourses.

In the short term, the city will spend $500,000 to rebuild part of the Coliseum's roof, and seal leaks and doors, project manager Mary Claire Borys said.

Mothballing the building will work best for all parties involved, Young said. Delaying action will give the youth sports complex time to build momentum, possibly attracting the private development dollars a Coliseum rehabilitation requires. A delay also will give the Coliseum Coalition and any other groups more time to raise money for the project.

The city also will hold off on a search for private developers to build a hotel and retail until honing its youth sports operations plan, Young said.

Young expects to receive a report with revenue estimates for the project from newly hired consultant Sports Facilities Advisors in mid-December, then present the redevelopment plan for City Council approval at its first meeting in January.

The city would then present the plan to the State Building Commission as part of a request to create a tourism development zone (TDZ), which would allow the city to capture state sales taxes for reinvestment in qualified public facilities in the zone. The city hopes to fund the entire $160 million project with the sales taxes from the zone, which would include entertainment districts and the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

But without the Coliseum, the redevelopment will be a generic sportsplex, lacking the unique flavor of Memphis, said Mike McCarthy, a longtime advocate for renovating the Coliseum who recently debuted a documentary, "Destroy Memphis," about the old Libertyland roller coaster The Zippin Pippin.

"As long as the city mothballs the things that make us different and special and unique," he said, "why should we think Amazon or individuals would come here to live or visit?"

Reach Ryan Poe at poe@commercial appeal.com or on Twitter at @ryanpoe.

 

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Copyright 2017 The Commercial Appeal, Inc.
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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

Construction will begin on the Memphis football team's new indoor practice facility in January, according to athletic director Tom Bowen.

During a wide-ranging radio interview as part of the "Wolo and Peter Show" on Sports 56, Bowen said that the project, which has been in the works for more than five years, is "fully funded now" and a January start date was set in order to not conflict with the Tigers' current football season.

The facility will be located on the easternmost part of the football team's practice fields on the university's Park Avenue campus. It will include a 120-yard climate-controlled turf field, with retractable doors allowing it to connect with the neighboring outdoor field.

The existing Murphy Complex will also be renovated to house offices for the coaching staff, new athletic training rooms, dining spaces and more.

Bowen noted construction was delayed for about seven weeks because he allowed coach Mike Norvell to re-design the facility to his liking. The original plans were drawn up when former Coach Justin Fuente was still with the Tigers.

"I thought that was appropriate," Bowen said. "I didn't think it was fair to say, 'Ok, we did this before you got here, so this is what we're going to build.'"

The school held a groundbreaking ceremony for the indoor practice facility in April. In August, the university's Board of Trustees approved $10 million in debt financing from the Tennessee State School Bond Authority in order to start construction of the indoor practice facility.

Last month, Memphis received a building permit from Shelby County for an $8.6 million project. Tony Poteet, the university's assistant vice president for campus planning and design, wrote in an email that the permit is for "phase one construction."

The total project is expected to cost $10.6 million, according to a motion presented to the board in August by school President David Rudd. Bowen added Wednesday that gaining approval from the Tennessee state building commission also took longer than expected.

Rudd said previously that construction would be completed in 18 to 24 months once it begins.

"The bonds have all been funded. The money's in the bank. We're ready to go," Bowen said Wednesday on the radio. "We'll start real construction in January because I can't start demolition and all the stuff I would do with this facility during the football season.

"The last thing I want to do is upset this current football program, and that would create a lot of distraction and a lot of inconvenience because the facility is used 24-7, seven days a week right now during the season. There's some time constraints some people just don't understand."

Norvell job rumors addressed

Bowen also discussed Norvell's future as head coach in light of speculation about his candidacy for other job openings this offseason. Bowen noted he is "working diligently to make sure we get a long-term agreement with Mike... and keep it rolling."

Norvell already signed a one-year extension through the 2021 season last May that increased his assistant coach salary pool by $250,000.

"We are a great football program that will continue to be a great football program, and we want Mike Norvell to be our coach for a very long time," Bowen said. "That's our stance and that's where we're at. If that changes, we'll work forward. But we'll continue to be a very good football program. That's not going to change as long as I'm allowed to be the athletic director here."

Attendance concerns

Bowen expressed some frustration with attendance at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and asked fans to show up in force for the Tigers' final two home games against SMU and East Carolina following this Friday's matchup at Tulsa.

Memphis drew an announced crowd of 17,989 for its 56-26 win over Tulane last Friday night due to the cold and rainy conditions outside.

"We're playing at a really high level. We're ranked in the [College Football Playoff rankings]. Where are you?" Bowen said. "Buy tickets. Come see this team play. These kids love it when they look up in the stands and it's full, and it matters.... My thing is come support us. Come enjoy it. Come enjoy every moment you can with Coach Norvell, his staff and this team because it's... going to pass you if you don't."

The Tigers currently rank sixth in the American Athletic Conference in home attendance behind East Carolina, Navy, Houston, Central Florida and South Florida. They are averaging 31,261 fans per game.

In men's basketball news, Bowen mentioned Wednesday that the school will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Lawrie-Walton Family Basketball Center on Nov. 17.

Reporter Tom Bailey contributed to this report.

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Copyright 2017 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

USA TODAY

 

In his seven years as a head football coach, Garfield (Seattle) High School's Joey Thomas has never before dealt with such a perplexing dichotomy. On one hand, he's never been more proud of a group of players. Yet, Thomas said this "easily" has been the most difficult year of his coaching career.

Thomas' team dropped to one knee during the national anthem all last season to protest social injustice, one of the first high school teams to do so. This season the Bulldogs have traded kneeling during the anthem for interlocking arms or raising their fists.

Thomas is adamant that protesting "is what the kids wanted to do" and said he's faced everything from slashed tires to death threats as a result.

"I've had to move homes, I've had to move my kid from one school to the next," he said. "I wouldn't voluntarily put my family in harm's way. I mean, who does that? But I've got to support my guys."

Support, resistance, anger, understanding. The decision by high school players to stand, or in this case, kneel, for something they believe in elicits a broad range of emotions and reactions from adults.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the sideline protests last season by kneeling during the national anthem to take a stand against police brutality and racial injustice. This season, every NFL team has had players follow suit, and President Trump has repeatedly expressed his displeasure with the kneeling and what players do during the anthem.

The peaceful protests inevitably trickled down to high schools, playing out across the country this season in various forms under the gleam of Friday Night Lights.

Early in the season, many schools responded in a punitive manner:

Sept. 28: The Parkway (Bossier City, La.) principal sent a letter to athletes telling them they are required to "stand in a respectful manner" during the national anthem or face "loss of playing time" or "removal from the team."

Sept. 29: Two players at Victory & Praise Christian Academy (Crosby, Texas) were removed from the team after kneeling during the anthem.

Oct. 16: Bellarmine College Prep (San Jose) assistant coach Jacob Malae resigned after a group of players knelt during the anthem.

Next came backlash to the discipline. After O'Bannon (Greenville, Miss.) players were suspended indefinitely when they took a knee during the national anthem Sept. 30, state Sen. Derrick Simmons told The Clarion Ledger of Jackson, Miss., that he was "seriously appalled."

"I am totally outraged that these students have been suspended for exercising their right to peacefully protest their beliefs and make a statement through a gesture that has long been practiced in many sports across this country," Simmons said.

Shortly after that scathing critique, the school district said just one player was suspended for something he did during the national anthem but wouldn't reveal what it was.

As the protests began to proliferate across the country, some teams began to exercise their right to free speech in ways other than kneeling.

Bishop Dunne (Dallas) safety Brian Williams said he, his teammates and coaches decided to interlock their arms together as the anthem plays before games "to show the unity we hope to have in our country one day."

"First, it's an acknowledgment of the injustices that people feel," said Williams, a five-star prospect. "Locking arms is to show that, at the end of the day, the only way to overcome it is to stick together. As an African-American young man, I have a great deal of respect for those players that do kneel, because that's their right."

Many people are offended by players kneeling during the national anthem because they believe it is disrespectful to the American flag and military. Those who kneel emphasize they are protesting racial injustice and are using the platform of the pregame national anthem because it's a rare occasion where they have the undivided attention of hundreds, even thousands, of people.

On Oct. 27, each member of the Sachse (Texas) team bolted out of the locker room before their game holding a full-sized American flag.

Sachse coach Mark Behrens said the patriotic entrance "wasn't in response to the kneeling" but rather a show of support for the military.

"We have great respect for the military, and this is something that we did last year," Behrens said. "We're not trying to make a political statement. We have no issues with the kneeling."

That wasn't the case for a father and son officiating a high school game in New Jersey last week. The two men walked off the field in protest after members of one of the teams took a knee during the national anthem.

As a result, two officials in training had to replace head linesman Ernie Lunardelli and his son Anthony, who face punishment ranging from a fine to expulsion from their officials organization.

The protests and responses get the headlines, obscuring the fact that many players just want to play football.

"I'm an African American, and I respect the players that do kneel, but it just hasn't really been something I've felt strongly about," five-star Pace Academy (Atlanta) offensive guard Jamaree Salyer said of the protests.

Coaches are also educators, and many, including Jason Battle of Rocky Mount (N.C.), want their players to be informed before deciding whether to protest so "they aren't just following a trend."

"We have about seven players who have chosen to protest peacefully, and I completely respect their right to do so," Battle said. "I have a Muslim player who steps out before games when we recite the Lord's Prayer because that's not what he believes in. I respect that too. The concept is similar. My kids just stay in the locker room for the national anthem. I have no problem with the protest."

Turning the protest into a teachable moment is also the route Lansing (Mich.) Catholic took after several players took a knee during the national anthem. The school started a diversity group to "create a safe space for students to talk about issues of race and ethnicity and build bridges of unity and respect."

Seattle Public Schools certainly took an enlightened approach to last season's peaceful demonstration by Garfield, releasing this statement: "Students kneeling during the national anthem are expressing their rights protected by the First Amendment. Seattle Public Schools supports all students' right to free speech."

The Garfield players delved further into the national anthem, reading the seldom-recited third verse of Francis Scott Key's song:

"No refuge could save the hireling and slave from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave."

The popular belief is that Key is referring to slaves who fought for the British during the War of 1812.

"I didn't know about that third verse, but once we read it we were all pretty upset," Garfield wide receiver Mekhi Metcalf said. "As an African American, I already didn't feel like the song was for me, but that verse just tied into the oppression we're all protesting."

Linebacker Sam Treat joined the Garfield team this season but had read about the team kneeling during the national anthem before he got to the school.

Treat, who is white, said he "didn't fully get why the team or even Kaepernick kneeled," but once he participated with his teammates in reading and researching the injustices they face as African Americans, "protesting became a no-brainer."

"It's so obvious for anyone that takes the time to notice," Treat said. "There is a real problem with discrimination against minorities. I became one of the most adamant players on the team about protesting. It's real life."

Garfield is making a difference. Before a game this season, the coach from Archbishop Murphy (Everett, Wash.) reached out to Thomas and suggested both teams line up at midfield in alternating fashion and interlock hands during the national anthem.

The Garfield players also petitioned the Seattle school board to make several changes, including providing equal access to specialized school programs and equal access to AP classes beginning at a younger age.

The players met with the board recently and "are actually starting to see results," according to Thomas.

Metcalf said that seeing a positive response from the board is encouraging for him and his teammates.

"Just to see that you can make things change by standing up for what you believe in feels great," he said.

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Copyright 2017 CMG Corporate Services, Inc. on behalf of itself and the Newspapers Nov 6, 2017

Palm Beach Daily News

 

Over the summer, while a lawsuit stalled construction of a new recreation center, the town's project team tweaked the plans to save nearly $1 million.

The savings was achieved mainly by moving an entryway arch that will connect the parking lot at the southeast corner of the property with the new recreation center campus, Recreation Director Beth Zickar said.

The stand-alone arch will be about 40 feet northwest of where it originally would have been.

That change will allow the town to avoid moving a BellSouth utility box and a Florida Power & Light Co. transformer near the parking lot, Zickar told the Recreation Advisory Commission on Wednesday. "This resulted in an almost $1 million savings," she said.

The archway relocation and other changes were made by the "project team," which includes town staff, Hedrick Brothers Construction and Stephen Boruff of AIA Architects +Planners, Inc. The new plans were approved by the Architectural Commission and Town Council on Sept. 27 and Oct. 12, respectively.

Other revisions include restriping so parking spaces are 9 feet wide instead of 10 feet wide, which will allow for three more spaces.

An existing electrical panel, which provides power for tennis court lighting and the pro shop, will be moved to the back side of a new hitting wall and will be fenced. "This is a cost savings because we [won't] have to relocate a lot of the [power] lines because it [will be] very close to where the power lines are now," Zickar said.

The project team also reduced the depth of the northwest side of the new Recreation Center (facing Palm Beach Public School) by 2 feet, which will add more green space, she said.

Plans now call for two more air-conditioning units to the roof of the building, she said. The units will meet town height restrictions.

Motion denied

Construction on a new 17,000-square-foot center was to have begun this year, but stalled when residents Anne Pepper, Leslie Shaw and Christine Watkins sued the town in May in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.

They alleged in the suit that the town it didn't follow its own rules when the council granted zoning variances that would allow the new center to exceed limits on yard setbacks, building height, sign size for the new scoreboard and heights for roof-top air conditioners. The new center also would fail to meet minimum requirements for landscaped open space, even though the amount of open space would not be less than what is there now.

The town has responded that Shaw, Watkins and Pepper lack legal standing to make the challenge because their properties do not abut the Recreation Center and because the zoning variances would not cause "special injury" to any of them. Shaw later withdrew from the lawsuit.

Circuit Judge Richard Oftedal denied the town's motion that the lawsuit be dismissed and allowed the plaintiffs to amend the lawsuit. A trial date has not been set.

During the summer, the town proceeded with preconstruction work that did not incur additional costs, Zickar said. That included borings to test soil stability, drainage tests, work on exterior utility locations and some preliminary design work for a new playground.

At its July 12 meeting, the council agreed to rename the center's multipurpose athletic field in memory of Oakley Gage Debbs, who died last year from a reaction to a nut allergy.

The Oakley Debbs Memorial Soccer Jamboree is scheduled to be held on the field Nov. 25 for children ages 4 to 13. Proceeds from the $20 registration fee will go the Red Sneakers for Oakley, the nonprofit charity established to raise awareness of food allergies.

The Morton and Barbara Mandel Family Foundation's $5 million grant would cover a third of the cost of the new center, which was estimated at $11.2 million before the roughly $1 million savings outlined by Zicker on the recreation board. Private donations would cover one-third of the total and town money would fund the rest.

Town Attorney John Randolph has warned that the lawsuit could squash the project by causing the town to lose the Mandel grant, and he has asked the court for an expedited review.

wkelly@ pbdailynews.com

 

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Copyright 2017 The Durham Herald Co.
All Rights Reserved

The Herald-Sun (Durham, N.C.)

 

Braxton Beverly remains convinced he did nothing that should prevent him from playing for N.C. State this season — and he's still holding out hope he'll get a chance to play.

In his first public comments since the NCAA twice ruled that he's ineligible to play as a freshman for the Wolfpack this season, Beverly, in a blog post on N.C. State's website, detailed his route from Hargrave Military Academy to Ohio State and finally to N.C. State.

He said sitting out this season as a transfer is difficult to accept.

"Once you get off the court, it hits you hard," Beverly wrote in an essay released by N.C. State. "I want to play in games. I can't wait to put on an NC State uniform and play in front of our fans.

And I really want to do it this season."

Beverly finished his high school career at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia. He also spent one post-graduate year at the school. That's when Ohio State began recruiting him. He signed with the Buckeyes last November.

Last January, Beverly said, he began hearing that Ohio State coach Thad Matta may lose his job once the season ended.

"Then Ohio State released the statement supporting coach Matta and saying was going to be there," Beverly wrote. "And I thought to myself, 'I have nothing to worry about. He is going to be there.'"

Because Beverly had been such a solid student at Hargrave, he completed his post-graduate year two months early, in March instead of June. That allowed him to enroll at Ohio State in May, a move that is now preventing him from playing for the Wolfpack this season.

"If I had stayed my whole post-grad year at Hargrave, I wouldn't have been able to enroll at Ohio State until June," Beverly said.

Beverly received athletic aid from Ohio State after he enrolled for summer classes. But a month after he arrived on campus, a team meeting was called where news of Matta's firing was announced.

"The day Coach Matta was fired was the day I originally was supposed to enroll at Ohio State," Beverly said. "That is the day the other freshmen in my class enrolled."

Beverly continued to take classes at Ohio State for two more weeks before he decided to leave. Ohio State granted him his release and he decided to go to N.C. State to play for first-year coach Kevin Keatts.

Even though Matta wrote a letter to the NCAA in support of Beverly being immediately eligible at N.C. State, the NCAA ruled him an undergraduate transfer because he received athletic aid from Ohio State.

That meant he couldn't play for N.C. State this season. N.C. State filed an appeal but the NCAA denied that too.

STATEMARS12-110317-EDHN.C. State's Braxton Beverly watches from the bench during the Wolfpack's exhibition game against Mars Hill University at PNC Arena Friday, Nov. 3, 2017.

"Coach Keatts has been awesome the whole time with this," Beverly wrote. "Twice, he's had to give me bad news. When my waiver was denied the first time a few weeks ago, coach Keatts was calm. He told me he didn't agree with the decision, but he talked me through the process and told me it wasn't over yet. He let me know how we were filing the appeal and he was confident everything would be fine.

When he told me that my appeal had been denied earlier this week, I could tell how upset he was. I took it pretty hard. I was shocked. I think coach was too. Some of my family might have taken it even harder, my uncle probably took it the hardest out of everybody."

N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow said she's still exploring options to get the NCAA to reverse its decision and let Beverly play this season. Keatts said he, too, hasn't given up hope.

The Wolfpack opens the season Friday night against VMI at PNC Arena.

Steve Wiseman: 919-419-6671, @stevewisemanNC

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Copyright 2017 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

Orthopedic practices are seeing more sports-related injuries, despite fewer children participating in organized sports. According to the National Alliance for Youth Sports, 70 percent of children in the United States have stopped playing organized sports by the age of 13 because "it's just not fun anymore." When asked why, the children usually cite coaches and parents as reasons.

Dr. Albert Knuth, pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Advocate Children's Hospital, says there are two things we should consider. "First, when we have proven the lifelong physical, social, emotional and academic benefits of sports participation, why are we having so many children not participating?" asks Knuth. "Second, we have 3.5 million sports injuries each year; an estimated 50 percent are from overuse, which physicians believe are preventable. How can we help these children better participate?"

Knuth notes that this is a particularly important time to address these concerns. "When almost 20 percent of same age children are now obese, we need our children to be participating in sporting activities more than ever," Knuth said. "We need to put the 'play' back into playing sports. To encourage children to continue participating, we need to praise them for their efforts not the outcome of the game."

Why are the number of overuse injuries increasing, when fewer children are participating? The system now encourages specialization and year-round sport participation at an earlier age. There are many families putting a lot of time, energy, and financial resources into their children's sport career. Many of these children are physically gifted, but the risk of overtraining is great.

"Parents need to understand that overuse injuries can have permanent repercussions," Knuth said. "I've had high school pitchers ruin their arm before freshman year is even over."

Knuth offers these tips to parents about children and sports. Your child should:

* Spend fewer hours a week in sports participation than their age in years

* Be on no more than one sports team per season

* Not specialize in a single sport

* Take 2-3 months off each year from training and competition in his or her primary sport

* Participate in sports less than 5-6 days per week

* Not be encouraged to "play through pain."

"It is always good to pause and ask your child, what is your goal in playing sports?" says Knuth. "Only 6 percent of high school athletes will play sports in college. Only 1-2 percent of college athletes will play professionally. Ultimately, if our goal is to raise healthy well-balanced individuals, hard work during sports participation, regardless of the outcome, is what parents and coaches need to focus on."

Children's health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of Advocate Children's Hospital. For more information, visit www. advocatechildrenshospital.com.

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Copyright 2017 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

It's exercise disguised as Irish dancing, or rock-climbing.

Nontraditional physical activities can benefit children who shy away from traditional sports, perhaps because they need a different challenge, get easily distracted or feel uncoordinated. Other kids struggle because of behavioral or learning difficulties.

Still, children should get at least 60 minutes a day of physical activity.

Parents can help by introducing kids to activities with more individual and mental focuses, including a top-five list suggested by Brain Balance Achievement Centers, a group of U.S. after-school learning centers working with kids who have behavioral, social, or learning difficulties.

"I do have the students who don't fit the mold for P.E. or traditional team sports," said Amy Vogel, owner of Spokane Irish Dance. "Irish dancing is very beneficial for musical timing and counting. When you're staying in a beat, you have to focus, and it's well-structured."

Here's more about the five recommended alternative activities for children in the Spokane area:

Irish dancing

Kids learn routines made from various combinations of steps. The Celtic-inspired costumes and music also can trigger an interest in history and folklore.

Vogel works with students who practice in a north Spokane studio she shares with a hip-hop dance school. She said the high-energy steps build both stamina and strength. Kids focus on skills individually while also making friends with other dancers.

"I do have some students who have opted out of P.E. at school and are taking Irish dance as P.E.," Vogel said. "Three are home-schoolers; one student is part of the Mead district."

She's instructed autistic kids who enjoy the upbeat music and mastering skills. Spokane Irish Dance teaches both individual Irish step dancing and a group folk dance called Ceili dancing.

Irish dancing involves group practices and some public performances. Vogel has watched shy kids learn to enjoy going before audiences because of the positive responses they get from people.

"Typically, when they're shy, they find it's fun to perform, and people are always clapping," she said.

Dancers from the group will perform Saturday at the Spokane Fall Folk Festival at Spokane Commu