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Copyright 2016 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

The Cleveland Browns have backed out of a deal that would have relocated the team's training camp to Columbus in 2018.

The Browns informed the city and Franklin County on Wednesday that they would not be moving forward with the deal, which would have included a new, larger Tuttle Park recreation center and new football fields.

"While we greatly appreciate the efforts of and our discussions with representatives from the city of Columbus, Franklin County and Ohio State University, we believe it is best for our football team, our organizational goals and our fans to continue to host training camp in northeast Ohio," Browns spokesman Peter John-Baptiste said in a statement.

Under the proposal, the Browns and Franklin County each would have contributed $5 million. The city would have covered the rest of the estimated $15 million to $17 million to tear down the existing recreation center, just north of the Ohio State campus, and build a new, larger facility.

The team said it has "decided to keep training camp in Berea for the immediate future."

"From the beginning, the concept of redeveloping the Tuttle Park Community Center has been about working with partners to find ways to maximize facilities and programming for our residents," TonyCollins,Columbusdirector of Recreation and Parks, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, we are unable to move forward with this project."

The deal was still a concept earlier this month, but appeared to be on its way to completion.

After razing the 15,000-square-foot recreation center in Tuttle Park, a city-owned park on the North Side, a 45,000-square-foot building with a gymnasium, fitness center, art rooms and meeting space would have replaced it.

The plan also called for three outdoor fields, including one that would have been artificial turf, where the Browns would have practiced.

The Browns would have used most of the recreation center and fields for a month during the summer, but it would have been open to the public the rest of the year.

The partnership would have given the Browns direct access to fans in a city without a pro football team where it competes for attention with the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers, two of its on-field rivals. The Browns also planned to work with youth football programs in Columbus.

It's unclear what changed, but the Browns reaffirmed their commitment to keeping camp in the Cleveland suburb of Berea. A source said the deal, as constructed, was not a factor in the decision.

"While we still believe in the concept of bringing multiple partners together, both in the public and private sector, to help develop better facilities, we respect the Cleveland Browns' decision and want to thank them for their willingness to explore partnership opportunities," Collins said in a statement.

The Franklin County commissioners still want to work with the city on a plan to jointly operate a facility that would include workforce development and job training for youth.

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December 31, 2016
 
 
 

 

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The Washington Times

 

The effort to rescind North Carolina's hotly contested state "bathroom bill" has failed, after Republican and Democratic lawmakers adjourned a special session Wednesday without repealing HB2.

The state Senate voted 32-16 on a bipartisan basis against repealing the law, which requires public restrooms and locker rooms to be segregated based on biological sex rather than gender identity. The repeal measure included an amendment that would have prohibited local municipalities from permitting opposite-sex restroom access until a long-term, statewide compromise could be reached - an add-on that helped kill the repeal bill.

The gay rights movement - which spearheaded a boycott in North Carolina that cost the state the NBA's All-Star Game, a host of NCAA championship games and a new PayPal office - condemned the legislature's vote and accused Republicans of failing to hold up their end of the deal.

"It's clear today that the GOP leadership's cruelty towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and particularly transgender North Carolinians knows no bounds," Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. "For our part, we will continue to fight to defeat all of HB2 and protect North Carolinians no matter what it takes."

Outgoing Republican Gov. Pat McCrory called for the special session Monday, the same day that the Charlotte City Council voted to repeal its ordinance regulating intimate facilities on the basis of gender identity - the measure that prompted HB2 in the first place.

Mr. McCrory and leading Republican lawmakers offered months ago to look at repealing HB2 if Charlotte got rid of its ordinance, a deal the City Council rejected at the time. But at the behest of Attorney General Roy Cooper, who defeated Mr. McCrory in this year's gubernatorial race by about 10,000 votes, the City Council changed its tune.

But distrust between the city and the state, the last-minute addition of the amendment and Republican infighting over HB2 ultimately derailed the repeal effort.

Republicans described the amendment as a "cooling-off period" that would have maintained the status quo until a compromise could be reached.

North Carolina Senate Leader Phil Berger, a Republican, said the unwillingness to accept the amendment on the part of Senate Democrats is evidence that Charlotte would have reneged on the compromise and reintroduced its ordinance after the repeal.

"Their action proves they only wanted a repeal in order to force radical social engineering and shared bathrooms across North Carolina, at the expense of our state's families, our reputation and our economy," Mr. Berger said in a statement.

The Senate voted to adjourn after the repeal effort failed, sending the proposed legislation back to committee and keeping HB2 in place at least until the legislature reconvenes next year.

Prior to the adjournment, the General Assembly was marked by Republican infighting over whether to repeal HB2 at all.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a Republican, voiced his opposition to the repeal effort earlier in the day. He said Republicans would be naive to assume Charlotte would not reintroduce its city ordinance in the absence of HB2, which took the decision out of municipalities' hands.

"I support HB2 and do not favor its repeal," Mr. Forest said in a statement. "No economic, political or ideological pressure can convince me that what is wrong is right. It will always be wrong for men to have access to women's showers and bathrooms."

"If HB2 is repealed, there will be nothing on the books to prevent another city or county to take us down this path again," he said. "The left has already publicly stated the removal of HB2 is necessary for the rest of their agenda to move forward. With certainty, if HB2 is repealed, we will fight this battle all over again with another city or county. The names will change, but the national groups who are pushing this agenda will not stop until their social engineering is accomplished. The only thing stopping them are those of us who continue to stand strong."

Skepticism over Charlotte's intentions reached a fever pitch Tuesday, after state lawmakers accused the City Council of repealing the ordinance only in part. The City Council took reparative action to repeal the ordinance in its entirety on Wednesday, but the damage had already been done.

"There's no way this was a technicality," Sen. Andrew Brock, a Republican, said during deliberations over the repeal. "No way that this was a technicality at all. To sit there and try to play games like this for so long, this is the worst political stunt that I've ever seen."

"With Charlotte's track record, there's nothing that would prevent Charlotte a week from now from going in and proposing the exact same ordinance," said Sen. Harry Brown, a Republican.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

Mayor Kenney has signed an agreement to lease the city's suite at the Wells Fargo Center for $100,000 annually, his office announced Wednesday.

The revenue, which will go to the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia, could be even higher.

Comcast Spectacor will pay the city a flat rate to be able to resell the mayor's suite for Flyers and Sixers games, no matter the profit or loss on its side, under the three-year agreement.

In addition, the venue will pay the city for use of the suite during concerts, family shows, and other non-Flyers and non-Sixers events.

"We're really excited to support the mayor's program," John Page, president of the Wells Fargo Complex, said.

During the mayoral campaign last year, Kenney said the city could generate about $1 million by selling seats in the mayor's suites at the Wells Fargo Center, Lincoln Financial Field, and Citizens Bank Park. As of Wednesday, the city had raised $47,000 by selling tickets for events at those venues.

The city is negotiating a deal similar to the Wells Fargo agreement with Lincoln Financial Field, city spokesman Mike Dunn said. "We hope to have those results to announce shortly," Dunn said.

A deal with Citizens Bank Park could be difficult because of bond agreements with the city, Dunn said.

Page said that Comcast Spectacor would try to sell the suite for a full season, but that it would more likely sell the suite package per event. The mayor's suite, a midlevel suite on the non-stage side, could rent for $1,500 to $5,000 per event, depending on the food and drinks package selected and the event itself, Page said. There are about 230 events throughout the year, about 140 to 160 of them non-Flyers and non-Sixers events.

The suite has 12 or 14 fixed seats and can accommodate between 18 and 21 people.

Use of the city's box seats at the sports centers has been controversial for some time. Mayor John F. Street drew fire for giving seats to the politically connected, including ward leaders, labor bosses, and family members. Mayor Michael A. Nutter started a program to hand out tickets to schoolchildren, nonprofits, and charities.

In his first six months in office, Kenney gave just over half his box tickets to children and the adults accompanying them from recreation centers, nonprofits, schools, and other groups.

"It's a hat trick of a deal: The city is spared the task of selling individual tickets itself to raise revenue, the Wells Fargo Center has more premium seats available, and most importantly, the children of Philadelphia will have more basic resources for schools," Kenney said in a statement. "This is a slam dunk."

cvargas@phillynews.com

215-854-5520 @InqCVargas

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December 22, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2016 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

TROY - It didn't take long for supporters of a proposed temporary Troy tax to pay for enhanced recreation facilities to resurface after a property-tax request was pulled at the last minute from the Nov. 8 ballot.

The Operation Recreation Levy Committee returned this month with a revised proposal for a different type of tax that would generate more money annually for the previously proposed projects, plus more.

The revised proposal also includes a smaller amount of pledged private funding, more city money for projects and a larger role by city staff and the mayor in promoting the new proposal.

The proposed projects list has been expanded to include a second ice rink near the Hobart Arena.

The $2.01 million request was designed to generate $1 million a year for 10 years for projects at Duke Park, Miami Shores Golf Course and the Senior Citizens Center.

The request was taken off the ballot by a city council vote Nov. 7 after a misplaced decimal point was discovered in ballot language.

The new proposal would generate $2.57 million a year for 10 years.

The additional money, basically, would cover the cost of the second sheet of ice.

"With discussion with city staff we bounced around many ideas to pay for this. Because of the price tag and the only way to guarantee we were going to get all of these projects built was going to be on an income tax level," said Bobby Phillips, a council member and president of the Operation Recreation committee.

Councilman Brock Heath chairs the council committee that recommended the full council vote to place the income tax on the May ballot.

"What we are talking about is going to be huge for Troy," Heath said.

 

The proposed project list in the new Operation Recreation proposal includes:

Duke Park: A nine-field baseball/softball complex; three youth soccer fields; improvements of infrastructure to consolidate park maintenance operations; expanded parking; added park entrances; and other park enhancements.

Miami Shores Golf Course: Complete renovation of clubhouse; installation of an outdoor practice driving range.

HobartArena:Construction of second ice rink to north of arena.

Senior Citizens Center: Repair/renovations to roof, siding, foundation, doors, windows and concrete; restoration of shuffleboard courts; parking lot resurfacing.

Contact this contributing writer at nancykburr@aol.com

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Copyright 2016 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Tri-Village boys basketball coach Josh Sagester says players have been punished.

A criminal investigation into hazing involving the Tri-Village High School boys basketball team has led to discipline against some students and could lead to misdemeanor charges.

Darke County Sheriff 's Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker said Wednesday that the evidence gathered since his office was notified Dec. 15 would support misdemeanor hazing charges, but not sexual assault or other felony crimes.

"I've seen all kinds of rumors that there was rape or some sort of sexual penetration, but there has been no evidence of that reported by any of the victims as of right now," Whittaker said, adding that his office has pursued those rumors. "As much as I want to share exactly what happened in the locker room (to address rumors), there are some things that would be embarrassing to the juvenile victims, so I'm not comfortable releasing details."

Tri-Village schools Superintendent Josh Sagester, who is also the varsity basketball coach, said disciplinary action has been taken against some students. He wouldn't detail whether that meant sports suspension, school suspension or something else, citing "student privacy and confidentiality."

"The goal of the district is to make sure this alleged incident never happens again," Sagester said. "We want to make sure the students get educational training, and we want to bring in some type of speaker who has experience with this issue."

Asked whether his dual role as coach and superintendent should preclude him from continuing to deal with sheriff's officials, Sag-ester said the school district's own investigation was led by the high school principal, with input from the athletic director.

Whittaker said the sheriff's office has interviewed about a dozen people and believes Tri-Village school officials responded as soon as they learned of the incidents. He said the schools had already started their own investigation and disciplinary process by the time the sheriff's office learned of the issue, adding that school officials have cooperated in the probe.

"I have no evidence that staff had knowledge of, or was condoning or participating in any of the hazing," he said. "This is student-focused conduct."

Some residents were angry that the school board did not publicly address the issue at its board meeting Monday night.

Hazing is a fourth-degree misdemeanor, which has a maximum of 30 days in jail. Whittaker said the reason hazing charges are likely, rather than charges of a sexual nature, is because of Ohio law's definition of sexual contact.

"The prosecutor has to prove that the touching of another's private area... you have to also prove the element of sexual gratification," he said. "And that is not what was going on in that locker room."

Whittaker said he hopes to present the case to Darke County Prosecutor R. Kelly Ormsby on Thursday. The Early Bird, a Darke County news outlet, quoted Ormsby as saying he wouldn't make a decision on charges until he had seen the sheriff's report and talked to the victims and their families.

Tri-Village has been one of the region's most successful small-school basketball programs, reaching the Division IV state semifinals in 2014 and winning the state title in 2015. They started this season 3-0, then lost to struggling Newton on Friday, as multiple players were not in the lineup.

A criminal investigation into hazing involving the Tri-Village High School boys basketball team has led to discipline against some students and could lead to misdemeanor charges. Darke County Sheriff 's Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker said Wednesday that the evidence gathered since his office was notified Dec. 15 would support misdemeanor hazing charges, but not sexual assault or other felony crimes.

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December 22, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2016 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

For decades, the sports section was known as the "toy department" of the newspaper, partially because not everyone held sports journalism in the highest esteem (shocking, I know), and partially because the sports pages were filled with entertaining stories of fun and games.

Then came performance-enhancing drugs, free agency, player strikes, owner greed, Munich, Jerry Sandusky, Ray Rice and so much more, and the sports section wasn't always fun anymore. It no longer was an escape from the real world. It had become the real world.

Enter 2016. In this year of all years, when sports escapism seems most necessary, the sports world came through big league. Or is that bigly? Whatever. It returned to its old self at just the right time.

We begin not on Jan.1, but on the evening of Nov.2, passing over to the morning of Nov.3 Eastern time. For 108 years, Chicago Cubs fans had been waiting for this day to arrive, so of course it took two days.

In a majestic Game 7 of the World Series with the Cleveland Indians, the Cubs went up 5-1 in the fifth inning, then lost the lead when the Indians tied it 6-6 in the eighth, then there was a rain delay, then finally, there was victory for the Cubs in the 10th.

From ABBlog: Cubs’ Victory One for the Ages

For all the joy in Chicago, there was sadness in Cleveland, which is on a 68-season World Series title drought of its own. However, Cleveland already was a winner. The Cavaliers, led by hometown hero LeBron James, won the NBA championship four months earlier to bring Cleveland its first major sports title in 52 years.

In a unique twist, both of these massive victories were as much triumphs for the long-suffering fans in those two cities as they were for the players on those winning teams.

Speaking of sports cities that won against all odds, how about Rio de Janeiro? Seriously, who saw that coming? There were fits and starts, for sure, but the 2016 Summer Olympics were anything but a failure.

A few friends from the United States pitched in to help: swimmers Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky and gymnast Simone Biles. Each in his or her own way triumphed far beyond our wildest dreams -- and perhaps theirs, too. There's always a rush to pick the athlete of the year, the Olympian of the year, the sportsman of the year, the sportswoman of the year. Those three? They all were terrific. Let's just leave it at that.

One of the few discordant notes in this sports year grew louder as the Rio Games approached. That was Russian cheating. The depth and breadth of Russia's diabolical plan to win world and Olympic medals while covering up the use of performance-enhancing drugs by its athletes was breathtaking.

It remains the travesty of the year in sports that the International Olympic Committee did not ban the entire Russian Olympic team from the 2016 Games.

But because two-thirds of the Russian team were allowed to compete in Rio, we also were treated to a rare sports profile in courage. It happened rather unexpectedly early in the Olympic swimming competition, when 19-year-old American Lilly King refused to back down from the gamesmanship of twice-banned Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova -- calling her out one day, then beating her for the gold medal in the 100-meter breaststroke the next.

Back at home, winners dotted the landscape. Alabama football was unstoppable. So was Connecticut women's basketball. Villanova's men's team won when it mattered most, on the buzzer-beater of the year.

There were epic retirements that were fitting of this memorable year, led by Kobe Bryant and Peyton Manning, who went out with one last, unexpected Super Bowl title. One of their peers showed up at the very end of the year to remind us he's not done yet. We see you out there on the driving range, Tiger Woods.

It's hard to believe one year contained all this: the Cubs and the Cavaliers, the Broncos and the Penguins, the Crimson Tide, the Huskies, the U.S. Ryder Cuppers and Ledecky, Phelps, Biles and the rest of Rio's winners.

But it did. Thanks, 2016. We needed that.

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December 22, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2016 Chattanooga Publishing Company
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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

Alabama coach Nick Saban said Wednesday that there is plenty of blame to go around when it comes to college football players skipping bowl games to begin preparation for the NFL draft.

Just don't blame the player.

"When we created the playoff, which all of you wanted to do and all of you wanted to make it four teams, and now all of you want to make it eight teams, and then pretty soon all you guys are going to want to make it 16 teams, the only focus is on the playoff," Saban said in a news conference after the Crimson Tide's sixth of seven on-campus practices for the Peach Bowl national semifinal on New Year's Eve.

"When we all started this however many years ago it was, I said that you're going to diminish the importance of bowl games in college football, which has happened. All anybody talks about is the playoffs. We have a whole bunch of other bowl games that people don't think are all that important, and if you don't think it's important, all of a sudden, some players don't think it's important, so you can't really blame the players. We created this. OK? We created this."

LSU junior tailback Leonard Fournette announced in a news conference last Friday that he would not play in the Citrus Bowl against Louisville so he could get a head start on his professional career. Fournette rushed for 1,953 yards last season and was the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy until running into Saban's Crimson Tide, but a left ankle injury this year caused him to miss four games.

Stanford junior tailback Christian McCaffrey, a Heisman Trophy finalist last season, announced Monday through social media that he would not play in the Sun Bowl against North Carolina. McCaffrey actually started to prepare to face the Tar Heels before reversing his decision.

On Tuesday, the leading rusher in Baylor University history, senior Shock Linwood, announced he would skip next week's Cactus Bowl against Boise State.

"I think it's sad, personally," former Georgia and current Miami coach Mark Richt told reporters Tuesday night after practice. "Football is the greatest team sport there is, and I think until the season is over, you should be with your team, really and truly.

"I bet their teammates are like, 'I understand. I understand,' face to face, but I bet you when they lay their head on the pillow, they're like, 'Why is that guy doing that? We're a team. We paid the price together.' It's sad."

Washington State coach Mike Leach was a guest Wednesday of Chattanooga's "Press Row" on ESPN 105.1 FM and called the decisions "a total act of selfishness."

Fournette, McCaffrey and Linwood choosing to sit out comes on the heels of last season's Fiesta Bowl between Ohio State and Notre Dame, when Irish linebacker and projected top-five pick Jaylon Smith tore anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments. Smith wound up being the 34th overall selection, tabbed early in the second round by the Dallas Cowboys, and Forbes.com reported this week that Smith's injury cost him $18.5 million.

Smith posted on Twitter this week, "Honestly, with everything I've been through, if I could go back to January 1st, I'd play again."

None of the four teams in the College Football Playoff -- Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington -- have experienced any such departures. Nor does Saban expect any.

"We have a playoff now, and everybody's interested in the playoff," he said. "Nobody's interested in anything else, so now that it's trickled down to the players, how can you blame the players for that? I can't blame the players for that.

"Every player benefits from playing really well, and when you play in big games and play really, really well, it enhances your value as a player. Now every player will have to make the decision whether if that's more important relative to protecting yourself, and that's every player's choice."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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Copyright 2016 The Columbus Dispatch
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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

 

A new bridge over the Olentangy River to connect the Arena District to the busy Olentangy Trail. A trail connecting a Northeast Side neighborhood to a library and the Alum Creek Trail. A new park in the Southgate neighborhood along South High Street.

That's what $788,421 in state grant money is buying in Columbus. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources recently awarded the grants to the city's Recreation and Parks Department.

The projects will connect neighborhoods to the regional trail system, said Tony Collins, Columbus' recreation and parks director.

The 276-foot-long bridge across the Olentangy River Downtown will connect the Olentangy Trail with Nationwide Boulevard. The state awarded $485,000 for that project, said Brooke Betit, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The total cost will be $1.9 million.

The Olentangy Trail is the busiest in the state, one popular not only with those bicycling for pleasure or exercise, but also for those commuting Downtown from Worthington, Clintonville and the University District.

Developments sprouting along West Nationwide Boulevard near the connector include new headquarters for Ruscilli Construction. The multimillion-dollar project also will include more offices and 300 apartments.

On the Northeast Side, a connecting trail will be built on an old railroad right-of-way from the Alum Creek Trail and Hayden Park west to Brentnell Avenue. The state grant is $248,000; the total cost will be $401,000. About 1,700 people live within three minutes of that connector.

The route runs just north of and parallel to East 5th Avenue.

Tiffany White, who leads the North Central Area Commission, said the route also will help residents who don't have cars travel from one point to another.

Lisa Daris, executive coordinator for the Ohio to Erie Trail group, said her organization supported the project on the Northeast Side, near the Shepard neighborhood, because it connects to the Alum Creek Trail. The trail is part of the 300-mile-long system that connects Cleveland and Cincinnati through Columbus.

"Any time you have a designated, nonmotorized path, it's a good thing for the community," Daris said.

Daris said about 20 miles of the Ohio to Erie Trail are yet to be completed, including portions in Cincinnati and Holmes County in northeast Ohio.

The remaining $55,000 will help pay the $198,000 cost for a new park in the Southgate neighborhood.

mferench@dispatch.com

@MarkFerenchik

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Copyright 2016 LNP Media Group, Inc.
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LNP (Lancaster, PA)

 

Starting Jan. 1, a gym on the Rock Lititz campus will let people tackle the kind of obstacle courses they've seen on TV shows such as "American Ninja Warrior."

"Warped wall, inclined monkey bars, traverse around and jump over walls, salmon ladder, floating bridges, ropes and more," said Deb Smith, director of the center dubbed recROC. "Get your warrior training on."

The other main attraction at the gym, operated by the nonprofit Lititz recCenter, will be a bouldering wall, 65 feet wide and 15 feet high over safety mats, for people to practice climbing without ropes.

Elements of the bouldering routes and the obstacle courses will be changed regularly, Smith said, to keep things fresh for members.

There will also be a climbing training area and a fitness equipment including treadmills, bikes, rowers and ellipticals and barbells.

Smith said she believes the combination of obstacle course, big bouldering wall and climbing training center is unique in the area.

The growing popularity of climbing and fitness obstacles have already led to a surge of interest in the gym, which began selling memberships in November, Smith said.

They cost $58 a month for individuals and $93 for family, with a variety of discounts available. Day passes will be $17.

The gym, which cost approximately $100,000, is located in the second "pod" on the Rock Lititz campus in Warwick Township, at 201 Rock Lititz Blvd. near the intersection of Newport Road and Route 501.

It will hold an open house with activities for the public from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 1.

Smith said she's not sure if the bouldering wall will be operating by then, because of several delays, but that the other parts of the gym should be finished.

"I'm hoping there will be a few routes for people to climb," she said.


HSTAUFFER@LNPNEWS.COM

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Orange County Register (California)

 

The International Olympic Committee's group evaluating cities bidding to host the 2014 Olympic Games will formally visit Los Angeles in April.

The IOC 2024 Evaluation Commission's visit to L.A. on April 23-25 will be the first of three stops by the group that will play a leading role in determining whether L.A., Paris or Budapest hosts the 2024 Games. The evaluation commission will visit Budapest May 10-12, followed by Paris on May 14-16.

Following the three visits, the evaluation commission will publish a report in June on the three cities that will cover both documents the bid cities have submitted to the IOC and the on-site analysis.

"The commission's findings will be published in the IOC Evaluation Commission Report, which will clearly highlight the opportunities and challenges of each candidature," the IOC said. The report, which will be made public, will be provided to all IOC members, and will act as a crucial aid to the IOC members when electing the Host City."

The IOC will host a briefing on the 2024 candidate cities for IOC members and Summer Olympic international sports federation officials July 11-12 at the IOC's Lausanne headquarters.

The IOC will elect the 2024 host city on Sept. 13, 2017 in Lima, Peru.

The 14-member evaluation commission, headed by four-time Olympic silver medalist sprinter Frank Fredericks of Namibia, will place particular emphasis on compliance with the IOC's Agenda 2020 reforms both during the on-site visits and in evaluating submitted documents. Fredericks previously chaired the IOC's Athletes' Commission and also served on the evaluation commissions for the 2012 and 2020 Games.

"Olympic Agenda 2020, with regard to the organization of the Olympic Games, puts a special focus on sustainability and the athletes' experience," IOC president Thomas Bach said earlier this year. "This is where Frank Fredericks, as a four-time Olympic silver medalist in sprint and former Chair of the IOC Athletes' Commission, has great expertise."

Fredericks, a three-time NCAA champion at BYU, is no stranger to the U.S. Three members of the commission participated in the 1984 Olympic Games in L.A. Morocco's Nawal El Moutawakel, a graduate of Iowa State, won the 400-meter hurdles in 1984. Brazil's Bernard Rajzman earned a silver medal in volleyball in L.A., and Tsunekazu Takeda was a coach for Japan's equestrian team at the 1984 Games.

Two other members of the commission were educated in the U.S. Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe, the 2004 and 2008 Olympic 200-meter backstroke champion, attended Auburn. Switzerland's Patrick Baumann, secretary general of FIBA, has an MBA from the University of Chicago.



sreid@scng.com

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Copyright 2016 Charleston Newspapers

Charleston Gazette-Mail

 

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The NCAA has informed Rutgers that an 18-month investigation into the department of athletics has found seven potential violations.

The NCAA issued a notice of allegations on Tuesday, stating that the department had not been operating in full compliance with NCAA and university standards. The investigation and potential violations focused on former coach Kyle Flood, a student-athlete host/hostess program and inconsistencies in the administration of drug testing procedures and policies.

Rutgers has 90 days to reply.

In a letter to the university community, Rutgers president Robert Barchi said the university has retained outside counsel for the investigation and has cooperated fully with the NCAA enforcement staff in its investigation.

Rutgers has already done some things to try to fix the problems, including firing Flood after the 2015 season.

The NCAA felt Flood violated its bylaws by having impermissible contact with a professor in an effort to help cornerback Nadir Barnwell improve a grade. In addition, he is charged with failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance in the football program, violating the principles of NCAA head coach responsibility legislation.

The NCAA also said a former assistant football coach is accused of having improper off-campus recruiting contact with a prospective student athlete in 2014. The coach was also accused of unethical conduct for providing false or misleading information to the NCAA and the institution during the investigation.

Flood was suspended for three games and fined $50,000 after a university investigated the allegations that he tried to influence's a player's grade.

Athletic director Julie Hermann was also fired in the wake of the controversy, replaced by Patrick Hobbs.

The NCAA alleged that between the 2011-12 academic year and the fall of 2015, the Rutgers football host/hostess program, staffed by student workers, was not properly operated and supervised. Two student hostesses had impermissible off-campus contact and electronic correspondence with prospective student athletes, while the former football director of recruiting impermissibly publicized the recruitment of prospective student-athletes, the NCAA said.

The university and its director of sports medicine are also accused of violating drug testing policy by failing to notify the athletic director of positive tests. The NCAA alleged that the official along with the coach also didn't follow through on discipline or identify certain drug tests as positive, as required by university policy.

Because of the violations, the NCAA also said that the university failed to properly monitor its football program between 2011 and 2016.

Rutgers implemented a new drug testing policy in August and hired a new chief medical officer in October.

"Despite my disappointment over these allegations, I believe we are a stronger university because of our immediate and transparent response to them, and you have my word that we will continue to strive for excellence with integrity, Barchi said.

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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

James Madison has suspended seven football players for undisclosed reasons as the Dukes prepare to play in the FCS championship game against Youngstown State on Jan. 7.

Junior linebacker Brandon Hereford and junior wide receiver Terrence Alls are the only players first-year coach Mike Houston confirmed as having been suspended indefinitely. The school declined to name the other five.

Hereford led the team with 83 tackles during the regular season and Alls, a transfer from Duke who was dismissed from the Blue Devils for undisclosed reasons in November 2015, is the team's second-best receiver with 39 catches for 575 yards.

Neither Hereford nor Alls played in Friday's semifinal at North Dakota State. James Madison beat the top-seeded Bison 27-17 to advance to the championship game in Frisco, Texas.

Houston said at his fan and press luncheon Monday that he did not anticipate any of the suspended players would be back for the title game.

Houston, in a statement released by JMU on Tuesday, said: "We have very high expectations in terms of standards of conduct for our student-athletes and our football program who represent (JMU). Unfortunately, we have a few student-athletes who have not met those standards and we will hold them accountable. They did not compete against North Dakota State and have been suspended indefinitely."

The school said it would have no further comment.

JMU isn't the only finalist with suspension issues. Earlier this month, Ohio TV station WKBN reported that four to five Youngstown State players also are suspended.

James Madison (13-1) will make its second appearance in the FCS final, having won it in 2004.

Youngstown State (12-3), currently led by former Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, won four national titles in the 1990s, when FCS was known as Division I-AA.

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December 21, 2016
 
 
 

 

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The New York Post

 

In 2013, when David Stewart tipped the scales at 200 pounds, he slapped on a Fitbit, thinking it'd be a quick way to shed the weight. Instead, the opposite happened.

The activity band tracked his sleep and exercise and gave him a goal of 10,000 steps a day - approximately five miles - to complete. But every time the 5-foot-6 tech manager from Crown Heights would meet his fitness plan, he'd gorge on pizza, doughnuts or ice cream, gaining more than 20 pounds over the course of four months.

"It just gave me a license to let me eat whatever I wanted," Stewart, now 45, tells The Post. "It's a good tool to keep you active, but it's nothing more than a tool."

More than 20 percent of adult Americans wear fitness trackers, according to a survey by tech company Forrester, but not everyone's scale is moving in the right direction. A September study by the University of Pittsburgh found that people who had activity monitors lost less weight than people who weren't wearing them.

Chris Piegza, personal trainer at DavidBartonGym, says fitness trackers can produce effective results if you enlist help from someone to hold you accountable.Stefano Giovannini

One possible reason: While activity monitors track how many steps you take, the number of calories burned fluctuates from person to person depending on factors such as height, weight and metabolism.

"Walking 200 steps, I can be burning [a lot fewer] calories than you do," Dori Arad, a registered dietitian and exercise physiologist at Mount Sinai Hospital, tells The Post. He says he's seen an increase in patients who've had trouble losing weight while using activity monitors.

Plus, while it sounds impressive, Fitbit's 10,000-steps-a-day goal doesn't have a very scientific origin, nor does it guarantee weight loss. The first pedometers were sold in Japan in the early 1960s and named "manpo-kei," which translates to "10,000 steps meter." That number was decided by a group of doctors who believed the average person takes about 5,000 steps a day - and if that number increased to 10,000 or above, they'd be healthier.

Arad doesn't recommend this step count for everyone. The CDC recommends about 150 minutes of exercise at moderate intensity every week, and Arad says 8,000 steps a day could get you to that goal.

"I use steps with my clients, but not necessarily 10,000, because some need more, some need less," Arad says.

A Fitbit representative tells The Post, "We are confident in the positive results our millions of users have seen from using Fitbit products."

Stewart ditched his Fitbit in 2014 and hired Chris Piegza, a personal trainer at DavidBartonGym, to whip him into shape. Stewart now clocks in at 180 pounds.

"Activity monitors can be effective," Piegza tells The Post, "but you need some sort of supervision by a trainer or peers who can monitor your progress and guide you to the right path." (For those who can't afford a personal trainer, Piegza suggests finding a workout pal to keep you in check.)

Vail, Colo., resident Simón de Swaan started using Fitbit in 2012 when he weighed 170 pounds to jump-start his fitness routine. Instead, the 5-foot-8 food and beverage director's weight fluctuated slightly, and he gained up to five pounds, despite running up to 20 miles a week.

"The Fitbit is a crutch sometimes," de Swaan, 51, tells The Post. "I go, 'Well, if I'm gonna get my steps in, I can binge eat' I think the Fitbit gives this false sense of, 'Now I can eat more.' "

To turn back the scale, de Swaan stopped relying on activity monitors in 2015. Now he focuses on working out five days a week, doing high-intensity interval training, and eating a balanced diet of veggies, proteins and complex carbs.

New York City-based food coach and personal trainer Brigitte Weil agrees that fitness trackers have given clients permission to eat things they normally wouldn't.

"They'd order that extra glass of wine or slice of cake on top of their food plan," Weil says. "[Trackers] allow people to make excuses for themselves."

Instead, she says, people should focus on what they put into their bodies over how many steps they take.

"My biggest recommendation would be to set up a food plan geared toward weight loss and not let workouts be an extra allowance to eat more," she says.

Being wired up to fitness trackers has also made us overly dependent on outside sources to tell us information about our own bodies, says Midtown psychologist Alexis Conason.

"We consult our Fitbit to decide whether to exercise rather than relying on how our body feels," Conason tells The Post. "This type of disconnection from our body's internal signals can lead long-term to overeating, sedentary behavior and health problems."

Rather, Conason says the best approach is to engage in pleasurable forms of physical activity.

"Once we do exercises that are fun and enjoyable, it's no longer about being a chore or counting steps, and we're able to better take care of ourselves," she says. "That kind of activity is much more sustainable to achieving your long-term [health] goals."

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Copyright 2016 LNP Media Group, Inc.
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LNP (Lancaster, PA)

 

If money was his only goal, Luis A. Miranda Jr. said, he wouldn't have chosen southeast Lancaster city as the starting place for the fitness program he calls BootCamp900.

But the 31-year-old, who was born and raised here, saw a need and felt called to address it. Since 2012, the part-time business gained momentum.

This spring, at the urging of Fran Rodriguez - whose Latino Empowerment Project he graduated from --Miranda entered Lancaster's third annual Great Social Enterprise Pitch and won second place.

He still has a day job at Community Action Partnership of Lancaster County, but hopes to expand BootCamp900 and hire its first employee in 2017.

How much did you win through the pitch?

I won $5,000 cash, was chosen as "crowd favorite" and received $6,775 in pro-bono services (such as marketing and branding packages, legal services and accounting help). Also, during the crowdfunding phase of the pitch, I was able to raise over $6,000 from the Lancaster community.

Even more important, through this experience, the exposure I received and my growth as a person and a businessman, were huge. I do not think there can be a dollar figure attached to that!

What's the most important thing you learned through the pitch program?

I learned that as a society we value profitability above everything else, but many times the biggest reward is serving others with our gifts and services, and profits simply follow. Socially responsible businesses flourish now more than ever as we seek greater meaning of life and our impact in a world that means more than money.

What does the name BootCamp900 mean?

BootCamp comes from the intensity of the training, very similar to a bootcamp. The 900 comes from the fact that if done correctly, the movements and intense training will help participants burn up to 900 calories within the hour.

Your pitch noted that you were in prison as a teen. Was it hard deciding whether to mention that?

The hardest part was determining whether that was going to create a stigma in the mind of the audience, wondering if people would automatically reject me and the venture.

That was an experience in my life that I cannot take back, and that I have learned from and have grown from tremendously.

I decided that regardless of how people reacted, I would prefer to be honest and live in the truth of who I am based on my experiences and life journey.

I would not let that experience define me any longer, but I will let it help others, therefore I had to mention it.

How did the pitch change your BootCamp900 strategy?

My original strategy was to focus on creating affordable access to health and wellness in the Southeast side of Lancaster City. I also hoped to help the youth that found themselves in the same position I found myself at the age of 17 by providing them a safe haven to learn life's critical skills through a health and wellness platform.

As part of the pitch process, and the individuals that helped make this program successful, I was exposed to more opportunities for BootCamp900 to be an even greater social venture. I learned that you cannot do everything, but what you do choose to do, you must do well and with purpose.

My strategy grew from not just providing opportunities to one vulnerable population - youth - but now expanding the opportunity to previously incarcerated individuals.

What did you do before starting BootCamp900?

I worked at several jobs including a foundry, warehouses, etc. But I knew where my passion was all along, and that was health and wellness.

What's the hardest decision you've faced with starting BootCamp900?

As an entrepreneur, the hardest thing is to believe in yourself when no one believes in you or your idea. That is the hardest decision; will I give this up now or push through this tough time?

HSTAUFFER@LNPNEWS.COM

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Blaine T. Shahan | Staff Photographer Luis A. Miranda Jr. Talks Abou Bootcamp900 Inside San Juan Bautista Center.
 
December 21, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

An attempt to shame the Vikings and U.S. Bank Stadium blew back on a Twin Cities blogger and compelled him to shut down his Twitter account by Monday morning.

Jake Nyberg had tweeted on Sunday that U.S. Bank Stadium would open its doors for homeless people because of the bitter -20 degree temperatures and windchills. The false assertion was rerouted to thousands of Twitter followers. National news outlets picked up the story about how the 66,000-seat building would open its doors for the night.

In a series of tweets, Nyberg said it was a proud day to be a Vikings fan. By Monday morning, he was contrite.

"In hindsight, I chose a stupid and shortsighted way to bring attention to what I believe is a worthwhile question - whether it might make sense for a large, warm, publicly funded building to be opened to those experiencing homelessness on a very cold night," he said via e-mail in response to questions. "This obviously backfired, I regret it and sincerely apologize."

His friend @daviddellanave retweeted the bad information to his 14,800 followers. Late Sunday night, Dellanave had apologized.

"I'm sorry if this obviously misguided attempt at highlighting a social issue hurt anyone. Didn't think a tweet would go so far & I regret it."

But when backlash to the fake news grew, Nyberg shut down his account, @jakenyberg. Nyberg said he had deactivated it "in an effort to humbly reassess its use."

The Vikings had a noon Sunday game in the building, which was comfortably warm and full of sunlight despite the chill outside its glassy walls. Vikings officials heard about the fake tweet on Sunday evening. They reached out proactively and responded to numerous media but didn't issue a public statement.

The team provided a brief comment Monday, "It is unfortunate that individuals chose to use a significant issue to deliberately deceive the public."

The new $1.1 billion stadium made an easy target because of its size and the nearly $500 million in public funds to help build it. But opening the building to the homeless would be a complex operation for numerous reasons. The decision would have to be made by multiple entities, including the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), stadium operator SMG and potentially Aramark, the concessionaire in the building. THE MSFA was aware of the false tweets and closely monitored the situation Sunday night, but "no one came to the stadium last night seeking shelter," spokeswoman Jenn Hathaway said. They referred media and other inquiries to qualified shelters serving the homeless, noting it "requires a unique set of resources and skills and there are many great facilities in the metro area that provide these services."

The Twin Cities already have a substantial network of homeless shelters, from People Serving People, a couple of blocks from U.S. Bank Stadium, to the Salvation Army and Mary's Place on the other end of downtown.

Rochelle Olson · 612-673-1747

Twitter: @rochelleolson

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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

Imagine the possibilities. All 128 FBS coaches in one place, and a national television audience.

That's what we'll have in Nashville on Jan. 10, the Grand Ole Opry House filled with every program leader in the sport, including the two who played for the national title the night before - which means Nick Saban should be very ornery, unless he somehow doesn't end up winning it all and is downgraded to nuclear.

I'm guessing the first American Football Coaches Association awards show(8 p.m., CBS Sports Network) won't be exactly like the Oscars, but it will have star power (and more than a quarter of a billion dollars of annual salary in that room). For example, the best former Alabama offensive coordinator who went on to become head coach at Florida Atlantic will be on hand.

You know, Howard Schnellenberger, one of several legends expected along with Phillip Fulmer, Gene Stallings and Vince Dooley. But Lane Kiffin, the second-best former Alabama offensive coordinator to take over at FAU, is back in the head coaching game just in time - how about a "We Are the Champions" duet with Butch Jones?

Perhaps Jim Harbaugh and Saban can lead a little Jets vs. Sharks number with the Big Ten and SEC coaches. Mike Leach in a pirate uniform, P.J. Fleck rowing the boat, Derek Mason dropping the anchor, the possibilities are endless.

This brainchild of local media executive Greg Hill could be fun - and it will stress local, with Titans legend and former Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George hosting. Even if it's not quite as wacky as we'd like, it will count as the latest example of Nashville becoming one of this country's major sports hubs.

Our city has been a leader in music, entertainment and food, and the sports scene is getting there fast.

It's not just that the two pro franchises are trending upward, the Titans the most pleasant surprise in the NFL this season and the Predators an NHL Cup hopeful despite an uneven start. It's not just that the area is loaded with quality men's and women's college basketball teams.

It's the Sounds, too, offering a top-notch baseball experience at First Tennessee Park. It's the St. Jude Rock 'n' Roll Nashville Marathon, luring 30,000 runners each year.

It's soccer, with a USL franchise coming in and an ongoing push for an MLS team. On Monday came the announcement that Nissan Stadium will host a 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup doubleheader featuring the U.S. national team.

"An important step," said Butch Spyridon, president of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. "We've had plenty of friendlies, but this is our first truly competitive game that counts."

Nashville boasts the World Series MVP (Ben Zobrist), the American League's almost-MVP (Mookie Betts) and college football's national coach of the year (Colorado's Mike MacIntyre, formerly of Brentwood Academy and Vanderbilt).

Bridgestone Arena is in the third of 12 straight years of having the SEC men's or women's basketball tournament, and it hosted the women's Final Four in 2014 and is a men's NCAA first-weekend site in 2018.

This AFCA event is "really important for our city," George said, citing an expected 6,000 coaches overall who will attend the annual convention Jan. 8-11.

"This will be good for us on every level," Spyridon said of an event Nashville is working to land on a rotating basis from here. "Having it be a regular occurrence will be even better for us. This further solidifies our big-event and sports reputation."

The AFCA awards have been around since 1935 and have always been valued because the folks in the competitive arena do the choosing. But now with a TV show? How about Bret Bielema handing out awards in a Santa outfit? So many possibilities.

Follow Joe Rexrode on Twitter @joerexrode.

 

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December 20, 2016
 
 
 

 

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The New York Post

 

LSU's Leonard Fournette will end his collegiate career by skipping the Citrus Bowl. Stanford's Christian McCaffrey will sit out the Sun Bowl, also choosing to avoid potential injury with first-round NFL draft money awaiting in the spring.

Yes, this wouldn't have happened back in the day - or even at the start of this decade - but college football had this coming. The vast majority of bowls haven't mattered in years. When a postseason system includes 42 games, and invites 16 teams that didn't finish the regular season with a winning record, the games are just unnecessary exhibitions.

You wouldn't expect Tom Brady to play four quarters of a preseason game. You don't bat an eyelash when Gregg Popovich sits all of his Spurs stars on the second night of a back-to-back.

They are eliminating risk. They are making logical decisions to benefit their futures. The difference? The pros already have been paid.

Fournette and McCaffrey aren't another pair of narcissistic millennials, putting themselves above the team. They are kids who don't want to jeopardize their lifelong dreams, athletes who finally had the opportunity to secure the fortunes that they have helped so many others involved in the sport achieve.

While the standout running backs have been prohibited from making money off of their own name or likeness for the past three years, their universities could sell their jerseys, and TV networks could use them in advertisements. Fournette and McCaffrey had nothing to prove and nothing to gain after each came close to winning the Heisman Trophy as sophomores, but neither was eligible for the draft because of the NFL's nonsensical rule requiring players to be three years removed from high school.

Fournette, who has a young daughter, has played through an ankle injury and missed five games this season. McCaffrey touches the ball as much as any player in the country, and is the target of every tackler when he is running or receiving or returning.

Why would they risk becoming a more infamous version of Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, who tore his ACL and LCL in the Fiesta Bowl last season and likely lost close to $20 million in guaranteed money by falling from a projected high first-round pick to the second round?

And why should players have to stick around for bowl games when coaches like Tom Herman (Houston to Texas) and Matt Rhule (Temple to Baylor) flee to new jobs every December?

This wouldn't have happened years ago because tens of millions of dollars weren't waiting years ago. If it weren't for the greed of the NCAA, creating and cramming in so many uninteresting bowls with so many unworthy teams, perhaps these games would mean more to the players. Do you remember last year's Hyundai Sun Bowl or Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl? Of course not, but you would have if one of the biggest stars in the country suffered a devastating injury.

Though this likely will begin a trend that will harden into tradition, the bowl system will survive. There is too much money to be made - and there is no reason for stars to end their careers by risking their long-awaited paydays.

hkussoy@nypost.com

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Copyright 2016 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

USA Gymnastics believes that even one instance of child abuse, whether at a school, church or gym, is one too many. Athlete safety and well-being must not be taken for granted and requires as much diligence and attention as the training required for a perfect routine.

USA Gymnastics recognizes its role in protecting our athletes and understands that this requires proper reporting and a comprehensive plan of action. As many youth-serving organizations realize, this can be a significant challenge.

A timeline of our policy advancements is available, and USA Gymnastics has been publishing a list of banned members since 1990.

Related: 368 Ex-Gymnasts: Sexual Exploitation Spans Decades

USA Gymnastics' current policy is that if anyone suspects sexual abuse, the organization encourages those involved to contact law enforcement and/or contacts law enforcement directly. This includes multiple instances when USA Gymnastics has done so.

That said, the work is ongoing, and most recently, we enlisted former federal prosecutor Deborah Daniels to independently review our policies and make recommendations. USA Gymnastics is a membership-based organization comprised of independent clubs, athletes and professional members. We believe that the results of the Daniels review will focus on increased accountability, compliance and transparency.

USA Gymnastics has played an active role in the creation of the U.S. Center for Safe Sport, an independent agency designed to prevent sexual abuse in sport with a model similar to the one dedicated to eliminating performance-enhancing substances. Once in place, the center will provide independent investigations and adjudication, with the national governing bodies focused on compliance, prevention, reporting and education.

USA Gymnastics is filled with trustworthy people who go to work every day to help young people fulfill their potential in a safe and fun environment. We are determined to raise the standards throughout the entire sport and are committed to the effort that lies ahead to further protect our young people.

Paul Parilla is chairman of the board of directors, and Steve Penny is president, of USA Gymnastics.

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Copyright 2016 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

If you ask Scott Tobin about staying healthy, the 27-year-old Cheney resident quickly turns the conversation to nutrition.

As a Special Olympian, Tobin in recent months has learned more about portion control and piling on vegetables, while staying away from sugary drinks. He also does regular exercising at a small gym in his apartment complex.

"Proteins are good for muscle strength," Tobin said. "The best hydration is water."

"I'm trying to eat just a quarter carbs, a quarter protein and half a plate of vegetables," he said. "That's what I call portion control on meals. I eat breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, and dinner, so I don't overeat. The snacks are very little things."

A high percentage of people with intellectual disabilities are obese, based on national body mass index data. Special Olympics Washington, the state-level organization, began a focus this year to increase community wellness approaches and reduce obesity rates among its athletes.

The state group plans to expand those efforts in 2017 and track results. It has heard from its athlete focus groups that members want to be more active and involved in their communities.

Tobin, who is intellectually disabled, competes in Special Olympics basketball and track and field. He also serves on a regional Special Olympics athlete leadership council. During the past two months while learning healthier habits, Tobin has lost about 10 pounds.

He also enjoys cooking nutritious meals, and his parents have joined his quest for better nutrition.

"The three of us at home are all starting this, because we all need to lose weight, so that's feeding over into our family dinners," said Tony Tobin, his father.

Such support networks within families, along with joining nearby walking groups and school clubs, will tie into a program called Healthy Athletes, adopted by Special Olympics worldwide, said Dave Lenox, CEO of Special Olympics Washington.

In the U.S., nearly 4 million adults have an intellectual disability, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The population is less likely to have health conditions under control, more likely to encounter difficulties in receiving quality health care services, and often receives fewer preventive checkups, according to the CDC.

The CDC and Special Olympics are among organizations working to close those gaps, and Healthy Athletes assists in health screenings, services, referrals and information. The screenings typically occur during Special Olympics sporting events. A second program, Healthy Communities, is also working to improve access and health outcomes for people with intellectual disabilities.

"We started looking at what's causing some of the medical issues that our athletes have," Lenox said. "This is when we became more aware of the obesity issue."

BMI is a measurement of body fat based on height and weight, although thresholds for what's considered overweight can vary. Based on 2011-14 data under a BMI measurement of 30 or higher, 45.5 percent of adult Special Olympics athletes in the U.S. are obese, compared with 36.4 percent of the general public.

If using the same data under a BMI of 25 or higher threshold, 86.8 percent of people with intellectual disabilities might be considered obese, compared with 69.5 percent of the general public, Lenox said.

Special Olympics tries to ensure athletes seek follow-up care once a health problem is discovered, under its Healthy Communities initiative. If an assessment at a sporting event identifies a concern, an athlete might receive a handout regarding treatment with a provider.

"We try to go into every community and find physicians who are willing to take new patients who have intellectual disabilities, so we can have the referral and say, 'Take this to this doctor.'"

Healthy Athletes also involves partnering with medical providers from various disciplines, including focuses on dental, vision, hearing, dermatology, podiatry and physical or occupational therapy.

"We have an international network now of physicians who help us with doing these assessments," Lenox said. "We're trying to build a community of support every place that does Special Olympics, so if our athletes need anything, we have a directory of physicians with all kinds of specialties."

Special Olympics has trained medical providers on how to communicate better with intellectually disabled patients, such as avoiding dialogue using abstract concepts, Lenox said.

In some instances for medical screening, professionals have redesigned testing and machinery.

Lenox described how he once talked to an athlete about why he wasn't running at his typical pace, and asked him, " 'I know you can run faster, because I've run with you, and you've run faster than this.' He looked at me and said, 'I know, but I have to follow someone so I can see where I'm going.' "

During the conversation, Lenox realized the athlete, who wore prescription glasses, hadn't understood abstract concepts at his latest eye exam. The athlete was asked typical patient questions referring to two separate charts of letters, to respond between the screens which was better, A or B?

"The athlete said he looked at the screen, and there wasn't an A or a B in any of the rows. He said, 'I figured if he (the doctor) sees an A or B on that screen, I just told him what I thought he wanted to hear.' The athlete just didn't get what he was asking."

For dentistry issues, "Often, it's tolerance of pain," Lenox said. General access to regular health care can be a problem as well.

A program called Washington Team Wellness walks athletes through what they can do each week for better health, such as exercises combined with nutrition and hydration information.

Special Olympics is adding wellness options much like its sport activities, so as athletes attend weekly track practices, they also might plan to participate in a neighborhood or school wellness club.

"They're unified, meaning half the people have intellectual disabilities and half do not, and they're doing an activity together as equals," Lenox said.

It might be as simple as a walking group centered around a neighborhood or church, he said.

"These problems, while more profound in the population with intellectually disabled community, they're certainly not the only ones," he added. "There are a lot of people who want to lose weight and want to get healthier. It's a common goal.

"Maybe you haven't thought that you can include people with intellectual disabilities who are right in your neighborhood and have the same goals."

A club also might go to a grocery store to buy healthy ingredients and cook a meal together. The activity could involve how to select a good vegetable, a lean meat, and food preparation, Lenox added, "so it becomes engrained in athletes that, 'I can have a piece of fruit rather than a candy bar.' "

"We're working on that now, and we're trying to expand it a little bit, so that in every community where we have Special Olympics, there's not just sports training, there's also wellness training."

An upcoming phase will expand outreach in schools, Lenox said, involving leadership training and unified sports such as flag football or basketball. Clubs can organize inclusive activities or an assembly on anti-bullying, he said.

The Washington organization will work next year on refining its wellness clubs, expanding locations, and gaining baseline data to track progress for people who want to participate.

"We want to know we're doing something where there's some proof it impacts the quality of life of our athletes," Lenox said.

It will look at baseline data against follow-up activity with different kinds of wellness groupings, to gain research on what's most effective. It will compare progress among athletes who pursue wellness individually along with those who do so within families, a community group, or school club.

"We'll compare the dynamics of those groups and at the end of a year, we'll look to see whose BMI went down the most. Then we'll have some data-driven research and we can say, if you are really serious about losing weight, this is the cohort you want to join.

"If it's socialization you're after, then we could say you might want to join a community club. And while you're doing that, you can work on being a little healthier."

For more information Call Stephen Opland, Special Olympics East Region senior manager, at (206) 681-9370.

Additional resources:

http://resources.specialolympics.org/Taxonomy

http://informingfamilies.org/health-toolkits/

http://www.thearc.org/healthmeet

 

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Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

A white Idaho high school football player who was charged with sexually assaulting a black, mentally disabled teammate in October 2015 pleaded guilty Friday to a lesser felony charge, and the sex crime charges have been dropped.

John R.K. Howard, 19, of Keller, Texas, pleaded guilty to a felony count of injury to a child and will be sentenced to two to three years of probation and up to 300 hours of community service, according to the Twin Falls Times-News. A judge will decide the final sentence in February.

The Alford plea Howard submitted allows him to maintain his innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors probably would have won a conviction against him if the case had gone to trial.

In May, the Idaho attorney general's office filed sexual assault charges against Howard and two of his teammates at Dietrich High School, alleging that they held the victim down, shoved a coat hanger into his rectum and then kicked the hanger several times. The two other students have been charged in juvenile court.

The plea agreement was met with "bitter disappointment and outrage" from the victim's family, their attorney, Keith Roark, said in an interview Monday afternoon.

"It's absolutely preposterous that this kid should walk away with apparently no punishment whatsoever," Roark said. "Everyone is more concerned with these young sociopaths than the victim of their violence."

Roark said he has protested the decision to the state attorney general's office and demanded an explanation.

Prosecutors declined to comment when reached Monday, citing a gag order that the judge issued Friday, and defense attorneys representing Howard did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Details of the assault became known when the victim's family filed a lawsuit against the high school. The lawsuit, which is seeking $10 million in damages, pointed to a long history of racist abuse and bullying against the student.

The student "was taunted and called racist names by other members of the team which names included 'Kool-Aid' 'chicken eater' 'watermelon' " and the N-word, the suit said. The victim and his adopted siblings are the only black people in Dietrich, a rural town of 330 in Southern Idaho.

Deputy State Attorney General Casey Hemmer said in court that prosecutors would have been able to prove that Howard kicked the coat hanger into the victim's rectum, according to the Times-News. But Hemmer said the violent assault did not constitute a sex crime, and that is why they allowed Howard to opt for the plea deal.

"Based on continuing investigation throughout this case - interviewing of witnesses, speaking with the victim and getting a better picture of what happened in this case - the state believes this is the appropriate charge," Hemmer said in court, the Times-News reported. "It was egregious behavior, it caused this victim a lot of suffering, but it is not, in my view, a sex crime, which is why the state has amended this charge. We don't believe it's appropriate for Mr. Howard to suffer the consequences of a sex offender, but he still needs to be held accountable."

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The Washington Times

 

We're well familiar with "Bowl Week" - closer to a month - when college football concludes its season with more than three dozen nondescript matchups like the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl, plus old favorites like the Orange, Sugar and Rose.

This year the sport added a putrid precursor, Bowel Week, as schools in three Power 5 conferences smeared us with excrement.

Marvin Gaye had a song entitled "Makes Me Wanna Holler." A remix version based on news about Oklahoma, Minnesota and Wake Forest would be called "Makes Me Wanna Shower."

The worst case has to be Oklahoma, which features a star tailback who broke a woman's jaw. The incident is two years old and Joe Mixon paid his penalty (a one-year suspension, deferred sentence and 100 hours of community service).

But video of the vicious punch is new, released Friday for the world to see and reflexively gag.

"It was made clear to Mr. Mixon at the time of his suspension that violence against women will not go unpunished at the university," Oklahoma said in a statement following the release. "Coach (Bob) Stoops has been proactive in presenting training for his team aimed at preventing such behavior in the future. Sensitivity training in the area of violence has been intensified and best practices will continue to be implemented."

Well, Mixon's punishment from the school was the equivalent of being redshirted as a freshman. He returned to help the Sooners reach the College Football Playoff last season and the Orange Bowl this season. After that, he's off to the NFL.

Granted, there was a level of outrage when the incident came to light in 2014. But there's something about seeing the brutal assault. It leaves nothing to the imagination... except imagining what Stoops and OU administrators were thinking when they welcoming the incoming player.

I'm a firm believer in second chances and don't think Mixon's act was worthy of a lifetime ban. However, I wouldn't have a problem telling him he was unwelcome. He could take his five-star talents elsewhere. When Charlie Strong coached Texas, he told players that hitting a woman would lead to automatic expulsion from the team. Another school would have to provide batterers an opportunity and one always does (most recently Florida Atlantic, which just welcomed a recruit that Florida State dismissed for punching a woman).

The case in Minnesota involves assault of a different variety. There is no footage - other than a couple of cell phone videos that police deemed non-incriminating. But reading the accuser's account of having sexual relationships with several football players is disturbing.

It's unfortunate that the Gophers decided to wield college athletes' considerable power for THIS cause, threatening to boycott the Holiday Bowl in support of 10 suspended teammates who may or may not be guilty of rape (regardless of the state's conclusion). Equally regrettable is the tone-deaf response by Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys, who inexplicably tweeted: "Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights & support their efforts to make a better world!"

How is the world a better place if 10 to 20 of his players lined up for sex with an inebriated woman, consensual or not? Where does that fall within the university's standards and code of conduct, particularly the part about treating fellow students with respect? Why doesn't Claeys know the difference between violations according to the law and violations according to the school?

"We fully support our Gopher football players and all of our student athletes," Minnesota president Eric Kaler and athletic director Mark Coyle said in a joint statement before the team ended its boycott Saturday. "Situations like this are always difficult. . . . The decision (to suspend players) was based on facts and is reflective of the University's values."

Speaking of values, a bigger-than-average shortage was uncovered in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

A since-fired Wake Forest radio announcer - former player and assistant coach Tommy Elrod - apparently leaked his alma mater's game plans and of the recipients felt compelled to alert the Demon Deacons. Big-time college sports is as cutthroat as any industry, but you'd think a coach would warn Wake's Dave Clawson that his program housed a mole.

The ACC fined Louisville and Virginia Tech $25,000 each for accepting the secrets. "Sportsmanship and ethical values are at the core of competitive integrity and in these instances, those were missing," league commissioner John Swofford said in a statement Saturday. "The expectation, regardless of the sport, is that any athletics department staff members would immediately communicate with their supervisor if they are approached by someone from another institution with proprietary information."

That would be great, if we could trust all the supervisors at Oklahoma, Minnesota and Wake Forest opponents like, say, Louisville (coach Bobby Petrino, anyone?).

To a large extent, students can fall back on "kids will be kids" to explain their antics. But there's no excuse for the mess that adults dumped on college football last week.

These stains won't come out easily and this smell is going to linger.

⦁ Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

RALEIGH, N.C. - North Carolina leaders struck a deal Monday to kill the state law widely derided as the "bathroom bill," after it tarnished the state's reputation, cost it scores of jobs and contributed to the Republican governor's narrow loss.

Outgoing Gov. Pat McCrory announced he would call legislators back to the Capitol on Wednesday to repeal the law known as HB2, which excludes sexual orientation and gender identity from antidiscrimination protections. The law also requires transgender people to use restrooms corresponding with the sex on their birth certificate in many public buildings.

Undoing the law would be a step toward mending political divisions that remain raw well after Election Day.

Just last week, lawmakers called a special session to strip Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper of some authority before he takes office next month.

The state's Republican leaders confirmed they're open to repealing HB2, but in a sign of lingering acrimony, they accused Cooper of taking too much credit for winning their cooperation.

The passage of HB2 in March thrust North Carolina into a national debate on transgender rights and harmed the state economically. The state missed out on new jobs as companies declined to expand in the state, while cancellations of concerts and conventions exacted a toll. The NBA moved its All-Star game to New Orleans, and in a huge symbolic blow to the college basketball-crazy state, the NCAA and ACC relocated events.

Monday's surprising events began in the morning when the Charlotte City Council voted to undo a local nondiscrimination law enacted in early 2016.

That ordinance, Republicans legislators say, challenged social norms and spurred them to pass HB2.

"Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore assured me that as a result of Charlotte's vote, a special session will be called... to repeal HB2 in full," Cooper said in a statement Monday morning. He initially said the session would be Tuesday.

McCrory said Democrats used the issue for political gain.

"This sudden reversal with little notice after the gubernatorial election sadly proves this entire issue, originated by the political left, was all about politics and winning the governor's race at the expense of Charlotte and the entire state of North Carolina," said McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor.

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USA TODAY

 

FIFA President Gianni Infantino appeared to guarantee Russia's status as host of the 2018 World Cup on Monday, even as soccer's global governing body opened a preliminary investigation into claims of state-sponsored doping offenses.

Calls have grown in recent days for Russia to be stripped of its right to host the event after the release of details contained in the second McLaren report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The report included emails allegedly proving that drug test samples given by Russian youth national team players had been concealed by a government-backed laboratory.

However, Infantino indicated in an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel that pulling the event was not an option.

"Boycotts and bans have never solved any problems," said Infantino, who won the FIFA presidency in February after the ouster of Sepp Blatter.

FIFA has received evidence from WADA that directly pertains to its soccer findings and is looking into links between the doping infractions and Vitaly Mutko, a prominent Russian politician.

Mutko was Vladimir Putin's minister for sport at the time Russia was awarded the World Cup and also during the height of the alleged doping coverup. He has since been promoted to deputy prime minister and remains a member of the FIFA council.

"FIFA is now reviewing the evidence provided by WADA after the final McLaren report, and based on this information FIFA will take the appropriate next steps in accordance with the anti-doping regulations," FIFA said in a statement released Monday.

Two FIFA officials told USA TODAY Sports earlier Monday that the investigation could have a serious impact on Russia's World Cup plans. However, both said later that without the support of Infantino, any move to retract hosting rights was likely unworkable.

The officials requested anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation.

The McLaren report showed that players from Russia's under-21 national team had results of suspicious samples covered up. Some of those players have gone on to play for the senior Russian national team.

Taking the World Cup away from Russia would create a difficult but not impossible dilemma for FIFA. With 18 months remaining before the tournament, there would still be time to find a replacement host, likely a major soccer nation with appropriate stadiums and infrastructure in place.

Infantino though, seems to be steadfastly against it.

"FIFA is no police and certainly not the world doping police," Infantino said. "FIFA is the international governing body for football."

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The Daily News of Los Angeles

 


SAN DIEGO - There was indecision and misgiving in the eyes of Dean Spanos last January as he stood outside a ballroom at a Houston area hotel.

In one hand the San Diego Chargers owner held a ticket to Los Angeles, where fellow NFL owners had just green-lighted him to relocate after years of banging his head against the wall trying to get a new stadium deal in San Diego.

In the other hand was his heart and soul and everything he and his family had built for the last 32 years in San Diego.

The business side of him screamed to take the certainty of moving to Los Angeles to join the Rams, who were approved on that same night to move to L.A. from St. Louis.

But his heart wasn't ready.

Not yet, anyway. And not like this.

Now, nearly a year later - and more than a month after San Diego voters rejected the Chargers' downtown stadium measure - multiple sources who have spoken to Spanos say indecision about moving the Chargers to Los Angeles has given way to clarity, and resignation replaced by excitement.

Meanwhile, whatever hope Spanos held that something can work out in San Diego has nearly vanished.

That doesn't mean it's 100 percent certain he will pull the trigger on L.A. before his option expires on Jan. 15.

But according to multiple sources close to Spanos, who did not want their names used because of the sensitive nature of the situation, it's looking more and more like he will join the Rams in L.A. to eventually share the $2.6 billion stadium Rams owner Stan Kroenke is building in Inglewood.

"(He's) still hoping for a miracle in San Diego but is resigned to moving to L.A. if not," is how one high-ranking NFL source put it.

And as another high-ranking NFL executive described it: "That miracle has to happen in a week."

Spanos has maintained he will not make any decision until after the Chargers end their season Jan. 1. He's content to enjoy the final two weeks of the season - and whatever remaining time he has in San Diego - but unless something drastically changes in San Diego, the Chargers will make the move 120 miles north to L.A., the sources said.

As for San Diego, there is nothing on the table or happening behind the scenes that gives Spanos hope anything changes between now and Jan. 15.

Even if a plan did emerge, Spanos would have to weigh the likelihood it will get approved when so many others have failed over the years, and the risk of waiting another two years for a vote if it means losing his option in Los Angeles in the process.

All of that, coupled with a finalized partnership with the Rams, has created as much momentum as ever for a Chargers move.

NFL owners ratified the partnership last week in Dallas, and those familiar with the deal say there is little risk to the Chargers other than a $550 million relocation fee. The Chargers have an option to finance that fee over 10 years or pay it in full immediately.

The Rams will foot the entire bill for stadium construction and the Chargers will play rent-free while pocketing all game-day revenue.

"It's a very good deal (for the Chargers)," said a high-ranking NFL source.

As a result, the Chargers are already formulating plans to play in Los Angeles for the 2017 season, with the Coliseum or the StubHub Center the most likely home stadium until the Inglewood stadium opens in 2019.

And while the Chargers would be returning to their Los Angeles roots - they called L.A. home in their first year of existence in 1960 - don't be surprised if they consider re-branding entirely, as the Houston Oilers did upon moving to Nashville or the Cleveland Browns did after moving to Baltimore.

The Oilers became the Tennessee Titans and the Browns became the Baltimore Ravens and both franchises have flourished in their new cities.

With the Rams the obvious heritage team in L.A. and cornering a significant portion of the market as a result, the Chargers could arrive in town offering fans a chance to create history with them.

In doing so, they could cast an even wider net to attract fans not yet on board with the Rams, or fans of existing NFL teams that might not jump ship to root for the Chargers but might be enticed if, say, it was the Los Angeles Stallions.

That doesn't mean a Chargers move to L.A. in January is certain.

But it's looking more and more like Los Angeles will be getting a second team soon.

vbonsignore@scng.com @DailyNewsVinny on Twitter

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LNP (Lancaster, PA)

 

As a hall of fame head coach who helped build one of Pennsylvania's premier high school football programs, Mike Williams' words carry much weight.

So when the former Baron boss and current assistant coach expresses his frustration with the PIAA's playoff system, well, it's like the old E.F. Hutton commercial - people listen.

Question is, do they hear?

Many do, and they share his concerns.

"I've talked with a lot of people over the last few years and there's a lot of anger and hostility," Williams said. "We as coaches understand what private schools can do and what public schools can do."

What private schools, including parochial and charter schools, can do is operate without borders, taking in students from multiple school districts. Public schools have district boundaries to adhere to.

The result, many public coaches believe, is an uneven playing field that has resulted in private schools dominating Pennsylvania's football playoffs.

"Private schools have the advantage of recruiting students from all over, and they have to recruit," Williams said, noting the necessity of attracting students to a non-public school. "Public schools have boundaries and can't recruit."

The PIAA has been so divided on the issue it has struggled to even define public and private schools, referring to them as "boundary" and "non-boundary," respectively, before doing away with those definitions.

As the PIAA moved to adopt those terms, the General Assembly intervened. It introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate an amendment stating the PIAA would be required not to discriminate against any student enrolled at a private school. The amendment was made to prevent the PIAA from separating public and private schools, which had been the case from 1943 until 1974 with the existence of the Pennsylvania Catholic Interscholastic Athletic Association (PCIAA).

Looking to other states

In wanting to return to separate playoffs, Williams emphasized he has nothing against private schools.

"They're great schools," he said, "very necessary for our society. And it's not that they're doing anything wrong. They're doing what is within their legal boundaries."

What Williams would like to see is Pennsylvania follow the lead of other states and have separate tournaments for private and public schools. They could continue to play one another during the regular season, he stated, but should go their separate ways once seasons hang in the balance in the postseason.

"Private schools would have their tournament and public schools would have their tournament," he said. "It's a win-win for everyone."

Separate tournaments, he said, would eliminate situations like this season, when L-L Section One and District Three champion Wilson found itself confronting WPIAL king Pittsburgh Central Catholic in the Class 6A semifinals. The Vikings boasted no less than nine Division I players.

"When you get a high school team with (nine) Division I players, that's just not typical for public schools," Williams said. "Wilson was playing against a stacked deck (in a 63-21 defeat) and the next week Pittsburgh Central Catholic was playing against an even more stacked deck (in St. Joseph's Prep, which mercy-ruled PCC, 42-7)."

The state title was St. Joe's third in four years and one of four championships claimed by private schools in the new six-classifications field.

Longstanding issue

Private schools winning state championships are nothing new; they've been doing it since PIAA football playoffs were instituted in 1988. But the preponderance of private school championships has been increasing and many public schools find themselves having to be content with section titles and no real hope of district or state championships.

From 1989 to 2009, Manheim Central was a powerhouse program that won a record 16 district titles, earned a state championship and played for two more.

But, Williams noted, those Baron teams didn't have to deal with private school powers like Bishop McDevitt and Archbishop Wood. Their lone parochial school adversary was Allentown Central Catholic, with ACC winning two of their three meetings from 1996-98.

Williams didn't consider the playing field at that time to be uneven, mainly because private schools weren't dominating to the point they are now, and Philadelphia private school giants like Archbishop Wood and St. Joe's had yet to join the PIAA playoffs, which they did in 2008.

Williams says that while most public schools only field particularly high-caliber teams every few years, private schools reload yearly.

"We had one of the greatest classes we've had in years," Williams said of this year's 11-2 Baron squad, "and we didn't get past the second round of states."

Central lost in the district final to another public school, Harrisburg, which reached the state final before being manhandled by Archbishop Wood.

Williams said he feels for public school programs because in most cases they can only go so far and thus will never experience the magic of winning a state title as Central did in 2003.

"You can have a great team and have almost no chance to win a state title," he said. "And there's nothing like a state championship in any sport to bring a community together."

Sheer dominance

Since 2013 private schools have won 13 of 18 state football titles. You have to go back to 2008 to find the last time public schools held sway in the finals.

The trend is not lost on Pennsylvania's coaches. When traditional power Berwick was beaten 42-14 by Archbishop Wood in the 2013 3A semis, legendary Bulldog boss George Curry declared his team public school state champions since they were the last non-private school still standing.

Williams and some of his fellow coaches wonder where is the outrage from those in power who could make a difference?

"Who's fighting for the Cocalicos, the Wilsons, the West Alleghenys?" he asked. "Where are the state legislators to be advocates for us?"

Bumpy road to change

Williams said he did speak with one legislator but the gist of the conversation was that public and private school playoffs were not something the state legislature wants to deal with.

There's a belief within the PIAA that, should it attempt to separate private and public schools, it's likely to face a legal challenge from the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference.

"If there is a legal issue let us know," Williams said of the PIAA. "Let the public know."

In the meantime, what does the football future hold for public schools?

"It's a bleak outlook," Williams said. "The past few years have proven pretty futile."

PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi has dismissed the public-private debate as "sour grapes" and noted that private schools account for just 23 percent of PIAA membership.

"People can say it's sour grapes," Williams said, "but a school like McDevitt can get an exceptional class every year and we can only get an exceptional class every few years. Having players come up through the system is vastly different than getting athletes from different areas.

"A lot of public school coaches feel like cannon fodder for private schools. I'm not saying anything bad about private schools. This is about giving public schools a chance at something wonderful - a state championship."

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Pennlive.Com Via Ap St. Joseph's Prep Celebrates Saturday, Dec. 10, After Defeating Central Catholic In The Piaa Class 6A State Championship Game In Hershey.
 
December 20, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Chicago Daily Herald

 

Shoulders down, back straight, abs tight, Fola Awosika instructed during a foundations class at RowVigor, the Washington D.C. area's first pop-up rowing studio.

Then: "You want your legs to do the bulk of the work."

Wait, what?

"Your legs are the strongest part," he explained, despite the commonly held belief that rowing is all about the upper body. In fact, rowing engages 86 percent of muscles, an English Institute of Sport study found.

Rowing is obviously not a new sport, but interest in indoor machines is growing. One reason is increased visibility: Rowing machines are part of the popular functional (read: core-focused) fitness programs at CrossFit and Orangetheory Fitness.

Another is that rowing on the water has its limitations: weather, convenience and price, for instance.

Rowing can also be intimidating, added Toni Kerns, vice president of membership for Capital Rowing Club. "People think it's all upper body and that you have to be this super strong person to do it, but really rowing is really low-impact on the body so you can be 90 pounds and a fast rower," Kerns said. "You don't have to be this big, bulky, strong dude."

Awosika is one of three partners who opened RowVigor in August with nine rowing machines, also called "ergs," and a desire to ride the wave of growing interest in rowing.

From ABKeeping Up on Cardio Equipment Trends

The number of people who used a rowing machine at least once in a year increased to 10.1 million in 2016, up from 9.8 million in 2015 and 9.5 million in 2010, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association's 2016 Tracking the Fitness Movement Report.

Makers of the machines are seeing increased demand from gyms. WaterRower, a 28-year-old manufacturer, has tripled production in the past five years, said David Jones, the company's North American sales and marketing director, and now makes upward of 1,000 a week.

"Historically, I don't know why people haven't used them. It's a great exercise," said Todd Miller, director of George Washington University's Weight Management and Human Performance Lab. "The vast majority of aerobic exercise that people do - treadmills, cycling, steppers - all that stuff is primarily lower-body exercises. It doesn't really engage the upper-body musculature, so rowing does that. I think that's the best thing about it."

Plus, it's low-impact, meaning it doesn't jolt the joints, Miller added. That also makes it more appealing - and accessible - to people of all fitness levels.

Another reason to try rowing? The return on your time investment.

A 170-pound person doing moderate work on a rowing machine can burn about 270 calories in 30 minutes - the same amount as on a stationary bike, only rowing works more muscles.

A fourth draw: a healthier heart.

A cardiologist studying how astronauts' hearts atrophy in space found that 30 minutes of rowing (or 90 minutes of cycling) kept them healthier.

Despite all these benefits, rowing machines on the gym floor haven't seen much use in recent years, Miller said. One reason could be marketing.

"If you go into the club and you have 10 treadmills and you have one rower, odds are treadmills are going to become more popular," he said.

Another reason is that proper rowing form is not as innate as, say, walking on a treadmill.

"It's not just getting on and going back and forth on the machine. It's how hard you push and how you do the technique," said Michael Heisey, who has been leading rowing classes at Gold's Gym in Woodbridge, Virginia, for 15 years. Plus, "it's pretty boring by itself, but when you're in a group and you've got music and you've got somebody like me pushing you, it makes people work harder."

That's also what Awosika hopes participants in RowVigor's beginner class take away. During the 30-minute session, Awosika alternates between work on a rowing machine and a yoga mat.

He sets target stroke rates, or number of strokes per minute, and wattage, or power, for rowers to meet during four- to five-minute sets. Rowers start by maintaining a stroke rate of 20 to 24 with a wattage of at least 100 and work up to a rate of 26 to 30.

Between sets, rowers hit the mats for ab moves such as pike thrusts - going from a plank to downward dog and back again - which "help you learn to engage your core as you row," Awosika said.

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Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

SALT LAKE CITYFrom now until the first Wednesday in February, high school football players will be committing to play for colleges across the country.

Just 10 years ago, most of them did it without a lot of attention or fanfare. Thanks to social media and rising popularity of both high school and college football, signing day - which this year falls on Feb. 1 - is something of a national holiday for prep and college football fans.

It has been interesting to watch the recruiting trends shift in Utah over the last two decades. That was highlighted just a few days ago when Layton senior linebacker Tayler Katoa accepted an offer to play for USC, while Bingham's Cole Clemens committed to Vanderbilt.

In talking with football coaches before signing day nearly 10 years ago, we discussed how we might best give attention to all of those lucky enough to earn college scholarships. I actually covered most of the signings by myself, a task that would be impossible today.

So what's changed?

Are football players more talented today? Did coaches outside the state decide Utah had talent worth pursuing? Did Utah joining the Pac-12, local high school teams playing national prep powers out of state or coaches like Urban Meyer and Gary Andersen have anything to do with educating other coaches and scouts about football in the Beehive State?

What impact did social media have on the exposure of local talent? And what kind of role did recruiting services and scouting websites have on the trend?

Conversations with players, high school coaches and college recruiters suggest it may be the convergence of a number of factors that have not only led to more college coaches pursuing Utah kids but also more local athletes opting to play for out-of-state colleges.

About eight years ago I talked with several college coaches who were at Bingham High to watch a workout. They planned to attend workouts or practices at four other schools to see about a dozen players. One of them said they felt convincing local players to leave Utah was a long shot. Another coach added that some coaches had stopped offering Utah players because they simply used it as leverage to convince in-state schools to give them an offer.

I watched players pass up scholarship offers out of state in favor of preferred walk-on status at BYU or Utah.

On the flip side, two uniquely Utah factors presented barriers to Utah players accepting out-of-state offers - the LDS religion and Polynesian culture.

"One thing that's helped this process with mission kids is that kids can go on missions earlier," said Kearns coach Matt Rickards. "Before, that was a huge issue, absolutely, it has been a barrier." College programs didn't know how to handle a situation where a player was on scholarship for a year, then gone for two years, and sometimes abandoned the school for BYU afterward.

Today, more schools have learned from Utah schools as to how to accommodate those players committed to serving missions. It is still a barrier for some players, as it is still something some programs are unwilling to accommodate.

"Every single one of them ask, so it is an issue," Bingham head coach John Lambourne said. "I still think it's a potential drawback to some schools, but not as big as you might think."

Also, many of Utah's top recruits were Polynesian players. One aspect of the culture, that was sometimes misunderstood by out-of-state coaches, is the close familial ties, even with extended family. That not only made leaving unappealing for some players, it made recruiting difficult and sometimes made for misunderstandings.

So why are more and more players, of all types, willing to leave Utah?

For one thing, many players have done it. Sometimes a player leaves Utah because he doesn't have a choice.

"There's a lot of kids who aren't being recruited Division I, and they have to leave to play," said Highland High head coach Brody Benson.

The quality of football player is better today.

Whether that's due to more professionalism in coaching, better skill development camps or improvements at the college level that filter down to high school, is debatable. Likely, it's a combination of all of those things.

Rickards said the rise in social media and digital communication has been the great equalizer.

"These coaches don't have to see kids in person," Rickards said. "I can send game film electronically in three minutes, and I can send it to 50 coaches. I can get film to any coach in the country so these kids can be seen." Coaches said there are still players who would rather not play college football than leave that state, but that number is dwindling as they see guys playing out of state and doing well.

Scouting services, more media coverage of high school football and social media for both schools and players have all had profound impacts on recruiting. Marking a player or a program has never been easier or more direct.

But the most profound impact still comes from real connections.

Rickards has a player graduating from Dakota State, an NAIA school, and now they've offered another player, who is seriously considering it.

"They just want to play," he said. "I have another player who went to Southern Virginia University.... They've learned to love the game, and they now see with these guys and their success that they don't have to go to a big university."

They watch friends and former teammates enjoying a few more years of football while earning a free education.

Utah ties definitely help recruit Utah players. William Penn signs a significant number of Utah athletes every year because both the university president and athletic director are from Utah.

"They use that as a recruiting tool, and they have great facilities," Rickards said. "They recruit Utah hard."

Benson and Lambourne echo the sentiment that seeing other players succeed in out-of-state program is the best endorsement a program can have.

Still, it's obvious, but worth pointing out there are so many factors that go into where and how players decide which scholarship to accept, there isn't a single reason why more out-of-state coaches are interested in local athletes, nor why those Utah kids are more likely to take the opportunity to play at an out-of-state program.

"The number of kids that have signed with Division I schools has increased," said Lambourne, who has coached for about four decades. "The interest in Utah kids has improved; them proving themselves out of state, it's a snowball effect. For the most part, these kids who have gone out of state have done well, and that lends itself to other kids having an opportunity."

Junior tight end Harrison Handley chose to play for Utah, and his advice for preps mulling offers is to be wary of what they believe. Interestingly, when asked what's the one mistake recruiters make when making a pitch to a prep player, Utah receivers coach Guy Holliday doesn't hesitate, "They lie."

Email: adonaldson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: adonsports

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Copyright 2016 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota head coach Tracy Claeys said Sunday that he knew he was risking his job last week when he expressed support for players who boycotted practices and threatened to skip a bowl game if 10 teammates who were suspended after a sexual assault investigation weren't reinstated.

Claeys also said that he plans to donate $50,000 to support victims of sexual assault.

The standoff with university administrators ended Saturday when the team backed down and said they would play in the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl against Washington State in San Diego, even though officials declined to reinstate their suspended teammates. The players agreed after getting assurances that those accused will get a fair hearing next month.

After the entire team announced the boycott on Thursday, Claeys publicly backed his players.

"Have never been more proud of our kids," Claeys tweeted at the time. "I respect their rights (and) support their effort to make a better world!"

On Sunday, Claeys told WCCO Radio that he and his team met before the players decided on the boycott. He said he told them "about all the different fallouts. One was that we they might not be able to play in the bowl game. Two is that we knew that there was going to be a group who took the stance that we were being pro-sexual assault, which we're not. And then I told them there's a great chance I could lose my job over this."

Claeys said his players weren't condoning sexual assault or harassment in any way. But they believed their teammates were denied due process.

Officials announced the suspensions Tuesday after an internal investigation determined the 10 players violated school conduct codes in an encounter involving a woman and several players Sept. 2. Many of the players who initially backed the boycott Thursday had not read the university's 82-page report detailing the woman's specific allegations. The school had kept those details private under federal law, but players saw it after KSTP-TV published the report Friday.

According to the police report, the woman told police she had consensual sex with two males that night, but that she did not consent to sexual contact with other men who were present, including players. According to university's more detailed internal report, she told university investigators that she believed 10 to 20 men had sex with her that night, though she wasn't sure because she had memory gaps from drinking. Prosecutors declined to press charges, saying there was insufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but the university uses a lower bar in student discipline cases.

COMING UP

Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego

Dec. 27: WSU vs. Minnesota, 4 p.m.

TV: ESPN

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Copyright 2016 Virginian-Pilot Companies LLC
All Rights Reserved

The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

David Foster, a 7-foot-3 center, can fit inside a Mini Cooper. Trust him on this. He knows every one of the few cars he can comfortably drive.

But his family isn't shopping for new cars. Instead, they share a Hyundai Sonata they call their "commuter car," good on miles and perfect for a basketball career that could end any moment.

Foster, 28, is a rim-protecting center for the Los Angeles D-Fenders, the Lakers' NBA Development League affiliate. He wasn't drafted out of Utah, has never played in the NBA and is hoping his last-ditch effort to get there does not sputter out.

The D-Fenders draw about 150 mild-mannered fans - the gym's maximum occupancy is only 993, and it seats 508 - who pay $25 to sit in one of six rows of chairs.

When they play, there is normally a single food truck outside and on-court entertainment during timeouts and breaks between periods.

Those in the D-League, where annual salaries are set at either $26,000 or $19,500, can be loosely broken into three categories. There are recent draft picks who will likely get an NBA chance. There are players who had a chance and are clawing for another. And then there are those who were undrafted, unheralded and have no guarantee they will ever reach the next level.

That last category is where Foster fits. He had back-to-back foot surgeries to end his college career, a short stint playing in the Middle East and was a substitute teacher before the game started calling him back. It is a distinct path to the fringe of professional basketball, but in the D-League there's lots of hope to go around.

"Everyone in the D-League is looking to get called up," Foster said. "If you're a player, coach, referee, I mean you're looking for an opportunity to play in the big league. You're looking for that one shot."

Foster enrolled at Utah as a mountain of raw potential. He averaged four blocks per game as a sophomore and was named Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year. His junior season was similar _ limited offense, endless blocks - and NBA scouts expressed interest ahead of his senior year.

But then he felt pain in his right foot during a preseason exhibition. A CT scan revealed a stress fracture that would sideline him for the season. The NBA scouts vanished. Foster was determined to return as a redshirt senior.

But then the pain came back during a suicide sprint before the next season. This time Foster knew it right away: another surgery, another yearlong rehab, another reason to hang it up altogether.

Foster rehabbed with a Utah assistant every morning, and made money by teaching workout classes to the elderly in the afternoon. He received an offer from a team in Qatar and flew there in February 2014. But he missed home, FaceTimed with his wife Britta every night and wrote in a journal that his basketball career was over.

"It came down to me having to figure out what the heck I'm going to do without basketball," Foster said.

It turned out to be teaching. Foster started as a substitute at Rosamond High School in a small desert town north of Palmdale. To make ends meet in the summer, he walked door to door selling home security systems . Then Rosamond hired him as a full-time teacher and he took the job so he could also coach basketball.

That inched him back to the game.

"I knew he couldn't leave it the way he had," Lee said. "That's not David."

He, Britta and their two baby boys stayed in a friend's basement for a month while Foster worked out in Salt Lake City. A one-month showcase in China helped him earn a training camp invitation from the Delaware 87ers, the D-League affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers, but he didn't make the 2015-16 roster.

Undeterred, Foster in January went to Chihuahua, Mexico, to play for a team on a 3-month contract. He returned for another summer of training before trying out for the D-Fenders, twice auditioning in the Toyota Sports Center. This time he made the regular-season roster, to start his D-League career at 28.

"You figure the window isn't going to be open forever," Foster said. "So why not take it while you still can?"

Some days bring confidence, others make it hard to find any hope.

Playing time has been hard to come by. Foster was active on Dec. 1 but did not play, and was inactive for a win over the Reno Bighorns a week later.

He stuck around to sign autographs after the Reno game, and a middle-aged woman told him he played great.

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Copyright 2016 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., was about half full when the 49ers hosted the Jets - two of the NFL's worst teams - on Dec. 11.

It's December, and in some cities the weather is bad, the football is worse.

While overall attendance in the NFL is up - credit in great part the Rams' move from St. Louis to Los Angeles - those empty seats you see in several stadiums are no mirage.

There are even lots of empties in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum; maybe there was no honeymoon period with the Rams returning to L.A.

Jacksonville, Cincinnati, Miami, San Francisco, Cleveland and the Jersey Meadow-lands when the Jets are home have had rows and rows of unused tickets. Other than Miami, those clubs have losing records this season.

The Dolphins have announced sellouts each week, but there have been thousands of empty seats.

Detroit, perhaps on its way toafirst-roundplayoffbye,has seen the same; last weekend's winovertheBearsdrew61,726 to the 65,000-seat facility.

Atlanta is tied for the NFC South lead and has "sold out" 67 straight games, but the stands have not been filled for much of this season, including a crowd almost 3,000 under capacity for the opener.

The Bucs, tied atop the NFC South with the Falcons, are averaging 60,423 through seven games, 5,000 under capacity.

When the 49ers hosted the Jets last weekend, Levi's Stadium was about half full. Of course, the matchup was a weak one, but the Niners haven't drawn well for other contests, including against division rival Arizona.

It appears to be a combination of the team consistently losing, people not enamored of the stadium and its location in Santa Clara, and, on hot days, the sun baking a significant number of seats, making it uncomfortably hot.

Don't think the players don't notice, either. San Francisco's Ahmad Brooks called it "disrespectful" that so many Patriots fans were in the building Nov. 20. Minnesota's Stefon Diggs said it was "a great crowd" when most of the fans in Jacksonville last Sunday were wearing purple.

"I almost thought it was a home game it was so loud for us at times. It's louder back home, but it was great fan support for us today. They came out and showed a lot of love."

There's not much love being shown in Cleveland, which seems logical given the Browns' chase of infamy. Browns fans are among the most loyal in football, but an 0-fer is a bit too much to bear.

Thatmeansplentyofempty orange seats at FirstEnergy Stadium. The crowds have gotten noticeably smaller and last weekend the stadium was only half-filled for Ohio rival Cincinnati.

For other games, notably against Pittsburgh and Dallas, there were thousands of opposing fans.

"Well, we did that to ourselves," said tackle Joe Thomas, Cleveland's best player. "We're the ones that didn't win the games. If we would be 13-0, I guarantee it would be packed, they'd be selling tickets for a thousand bucks a pop.

"Soit'snotdiscouragingany more than the record that we have is discouraging. That's the nature of the NFL. If you don't win, people don't want to watch you."

In Tampa, which has a young and exciting team building something impressive, the first game in which there wasn't a massive presence of fans in visiting regalia was against Seattle - the Bucs' sixth home game.

Visiting fans don't have problems getting seats because there are so many tickets available.

After last week's 16-11 win over New Orleans, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston said: "Peoplewanttocometothese games and see the Bucs play now. That's fun. That's fun as a team to know that we're coming into a building and everyone is here for us, not the other team. That's great."

Sunday's game in Cincinnati provided quite a test of fans' allegiance for the Bengals. The team advertised the availability of tickets for the game with the Steelers, so Paul Brown Stadium was full - of Terrible Towels.

New York had a Saturday night matchup against the Dolphins, one of its top rivals. But there weren't waves of green throughout the stands at MetLife Stadium.

Ryan Bosma, a Jets season-ticket holder since 2009, gave his two tickets to friends.

"It's challenging when the Jets are down the drain," he said. "There are just so many tickets available on the secondary market, and supply and demand does not work out in your favor.

"The market is just flooded with tickets, so to get any kind of return on tickets, it's virtually impossible."

Yet people keep buying season tickets, hardly an inexpensive venture, particularly when personal seat licenses (PSLs) are involved. Giving away tickets, selling them for less than face value or, even worse, eating them only exacerbates the costs, particularly for fans financing the PSL payments.

Bosma admits he chose to purchase the seats and PSLs, so he is stuck with the payments. He's also stuck with a product that can be woeful. Just like his brethren in several other cities where, despite the overall health of the 32 NFL franchises, pro football is not a slam-dunk attraction.

"I was on the waiting list for five or six years," Bosma says. "They were going into a new stadium and a lot of people decided not to do PSLs, and I went right up the list."

Now, he doesn't feel so fortunate. But at least he has company.

"It is an endless cycle with the Jets," he says with a chuckle and no apparent bitterness. "It's the Jets fans' life."

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USA TODAY

 

Jenny Brannan answered the phone, and 20 years of fear bubbled to the surface with the caller's first question: "Do you know who Ray Adams is?" Silence.

The Missouri woman spent most of her life trying to forget that name. In 1993, when she was 12, she accused the charismatic gymnastics coach of sexually abusing her. But the case never went to court.

Now a Florida prosecutor was on the phone, asking Brannan to share her story. Adams had hurt another little girl.

Brannan's first thought: "He's still doing it?"

He was.

Brannan would eventually learn that Adams had been accused of inappropriate conduct involving 15 other girls. Over the years, he had worked in at least a dozen gyms in four states. He had been fired at least six times. He had been criminally charged four times. Once he was acquitted. Another time he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery for abusing four little girls. Now he was facing two new criminal prosecutions in Florida.

Yet, somehow, Adams kept getting hired, even by elite gyms that produced Olympians for USA Gymnastics.

Adams' case -- more than any other uncovered in a nine-month IndyStar investigation -- demonstrates the breadth of flaws in the apparatus of the USA Gymnastics network and a culture of secrecy that has enabled sexual predators to continue coaching.

Again and again, girls he targeted didn't recognize the abuse or were too scared or embarrassed to report it. Parents declined to prosecute, fearing further trauma to their children. Gym owners didn't recognize the signs of abuse or worried that reporting it would hurt their businesses. And USA Gymnastics, the sport's national governing body, doesn't enforce strict standards or effectively track potential predators as they move through a system of 3,400 independent gyms.

No one wanted to give Ray Adams ready access to victims for 16 years. But the events that occurred between Brannan's first encounter with Adams and the call she would receive two decades later point to a stark reality: America's gyms are failing at every level to protect the children under their watch.

1993

ALL AMERICAN GYMNASTICS, ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

Brannan told IndyStar she met Adams in the early 1990s at All American Gymnastics in St. Louis.

At 5 feet 10 inches, the coach seemed tall to Brannan, who was a petite elementary school student. Adams, then in his early 20s, was slender and full of energy, Brannan recalled during an interview with IndyStar. He showed off with a series of round-offs and back flips.

The girls he coached adored him. Adams acted silly, laughed with them and asked questions about school and boyfriends. He also chatted with gymnasts' parents.

IndyStar typically does not name alleged victims of sexual abuse without their consent.

Brannan, whom IndyStar agreed to identify by her maiden name, said she trusted Adams. So she said she brushed it off when he stood over her as she did the splits in a handstand. She dismissed it as weird when Adams' thumb rubbed her nipple as he spotted her on bars.

That trust shattered during a private lesson in 1993, Brannan would later testify in court. She struggled to hit a tumbling pass. Adams asked what was wrong, and when she answered, he replied, "I can't hear you. Let's go into the office."

Away from others in the gym. Adams closed the door.

"Sit in my lap," he invited. "Tell me what's wrong."

He placed his hand above her knee, she testified. He asked if it tickled or gave her goose bumps.

"No," she said.

Adams slid his hand higher. Does this tickle?

"No."

He pulled her leotard to the side and touched her vagina. Does this?

"No."

He put his finger inside her. Brannan said she knew it was wrong. She wanted him to stop but didn't say it.

"I was raised that you don't really question authority," she said.

Brannan said she thinks Adams stopped because he realized she was getting upset. They finished practice as if nothing had happened.

At first, Brannan didn't tell anyone. She didn't know what to say.

A couple of weeks later, while Brannan's classmates played on the swings and tossed a ball during recess, she stood off to one side of the playground, crying.

A friend came over and asked what was wrong. Brannan shared what Adams had done.

"Don't tell anybody," she said.

But that friend told her mom, who called Brannan's mom. Brannan's mother met with Anna Lum, who owned the gym until 1998. Brannan's mother made it clear she didn't want to press charges. But she wanted Adams fired.

Despite concerns, Lum said she honored the request. She fired Adams but didn't contact police.

She also adopted a new sexual harassment policy that specifically prohibited gymnasts from being in the room where the alleged abuse took place.

"I was just too naïve," she said.

Brannan's mother, who was present during IndyStar's interview with her daughter, declined to be interviewed. Brannan said her mother was trying to protect her. "It was kind of done," Brannan said. "Like, we didn't talk about it."

Adams was far from done.

1997-98

YMCA, METRO ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

A 7-year-old girl at the YMCA said she and her teammates sat in a circle under the uneven bars and played duck, duck, goose. The winner got to sit in Adams' lap.

"It was something, you know, he wanted you to work for," the girl said in a deposition taken 15 years later during an unrelated criminal case.

"It was something that he wanted you to try to win."

The girl said Adams rubbed her stomach, chest and vagina while she was on his lap in front of other girls at the gym. She said he kept talking as though nothing was happening.

By 2008, Adams had worked in at least 10 gyms and had been accused of inappropriate conduct involving at least 14 underage girls.

2009

A WARNING LETTER

On Dec. 30, 2008, a woman from Treasure Coast, a Florida gym that fired Adams, approached American Twisters Gymnastics head coach Gary Anderson during a meet.

"Why do you have that guy working for you?" she asked, referring to Adams. "We had all kinds of problems with him."

Sonya Fronsoe, a Treasure Coast mother who had researched Adams' background, said her daughter refused to compete when she saw Adams.

Infuriated that Adams was still coaching, Fronsoe said she wrote a scathing letter to USA Gymnastics on March 19, 2009, detailing her concerns about the coach. She said the fact that Adams was still coaching was "horrifying."

2009

MORE QUESTIONS

In spring 2009, Anderson warned Adams about his behavior again. The head coach said he also brought the problems to the attention of owner Randall Sikora, who told him to keep an eye on Adams.

One employee told Anderson she had seen Adams rub gymnasts' bellies, stroke their hair and spin them around.

Anderson said he confronted Adams again in August 2009 about inappropriate conduct.

He told Adams that he wanted other employees at the gym to keep an eye on Adams. He said he warned Adams that he would be dismissed if anything else happened.

"That's the last I saw of Ray," Anderson said. Adams failed to show up for his next shift.

When Anderson emailed to ask where he was, Adams turned in his notice.

He had been hired as a coach for Bieger International Gymnastics in Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Adams continued to coach at Bieger International Gymnastics for a few more weeks, until his arrest in October 2009 on suspicion of molesting the 10-year-old girl. Adams, then 38, was charged with two felony counts of lewd or lascivious molestation, Broward County court records show.

USA Gymnastics suspended Adams' membership, and then, after his conviction, placed him on the banned coaches list.

2013

FEDERAL CHARGES

The force of Adams' personality became most apparent after that arrest.

Adams had worked for Bieger for less than two months. But more than a dozen parents and children attended his bond hearing, holding signs and publicly proclaiming his innocence, recalled Stacey Honowitz, the prosecutor handling the case.

"They came to court and basically taunted me," Honowitz said. "'How dare I? How could I? There's no way.' Because once again they didn't see the act of a master manipulator that... was teaching their child. It was more important for them to have somebody that was going to make their child an Olympic gymnast than to look at the reality in this situation."

Adams' family and parents at the gym raised $80,000 to post his bond. The booster club subsequently sent a letter urging parents to donate toward Adams' legal defense, according to court records.

"I hope everyone who receives this has heard enough to be convinced of his innocence," the letter stated. "I could sit here all night and tell you what a great coach he is, what an extremely kind and good natured person he is, but I think we all know that."

When people learned that she had accused Adams of molesting her, the 10-year-old Florida girl said, she lost all of her friends and the sport she loved.

"I couldn't understand why everyone didn't believe me," she said. "I couldn't understand why this happened to me, why I didn't have any more friends."

Adams was released on bond and placed on house arrest.

About 31/2 years later, the molestation case still pending, Adams caught the attention of federal authorities when he clicked a link in a web forum message that read: "Pics and videos to download of my personal adventures during Mardi Gras 2012!!!! See me have sex with 3-10 years olds," according to federal court records.

The FBI accused Adams of trying to access a file that described in graphic terms a 10-year-old being raped by a relative, federal court records state. Federal agents also discovered more than 100 images of child pornography, including multiple images of bondage, on Adams' computer.

He was charged in federal court with five counts of possession of child pornography and one count each of attempted transfer of obscene material to a minor and attempted receipt of child pornography.

2013-present

GUILTY PLEAS, PRISON TIME

Adams pleaded guilty May 13, 2013, to one count of attempted receipt of child pornography, federal court records show.

Adams' attorney submitted 19 letters of support for Adams.

One former gymnast who was coached by Adams from 2002 to 2004 at Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy described him as her favorite coach, a happy person who strengthened her skills as a gymnast.

"He is a great man, a man full of courage, love, strength and dedication," the woman wrote. "I believe that he could not even think to do anything troublesome and/or harmful."

On the other side were two girls, molested 16 years apart, linked by fear of the same man.

Brannan, the Missouri girl whose mother wouldn't allow her to testify against Adams in 1993 after she said Adams sat her on his lap and put his finger in her vagina, agreed to testify during Adams' sentencing on the child porn charge.

Brannan had grown up, gotten married and had a daughter of her own. But the scars from her time with Adams remained.

"It forever changes you," she said. "I think anytime anyone is abused in any way it changes you, because it's something you didn't choose. It just happened to you, and you have to deal with it. You know, it's made me a strong person. I'll say that."

Strong enough, Brannan said, to confront her fears and face Adams in court on July 25, 2013. She described the fear that she still lived with to that day.

"I'm scared," she testified. "I have a daughter now that's almost the age I was, and I'm so scared. I've been scared he's going to come after me. I've been scared he's going to find me and rape me. Now I think about my daughter, and I think he's still there. What if he wants to find her?"

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandy Galler told the judge: "This is abuse that doesn't go away. It has stolen the innocence of little girls. He was in a position of trust, and he violated that."

U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks then sentenced Adams to 20 years in federal prison.

Less than 18 months later, Adams pleaded no contest to two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation of the 10-year-old girl at Bieger International Gymnastics. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, to run concurrently with his federal sentence.

Through a federal prison spokesperson, Adams declined IndyStar's requests for an interview and said, "They do not have permission to use my name, and, if they do, I will aggressively sue them."

Andrea Bieger, who owned the Florida gym where the 10-year-old said she was molested, told IndyStar she still believes Adams did not molest a girl at her gym, which has closed. Her insurance company settled a lawsuit brought by the girl's family, claiming the gym had been negligent. "It wasn't true," Bieger said. "It was never, ever true."

Honowitz, of the Broward County state attorney's office in Florida, said Adams was a master manipulator and one of the worst predators she has encountered.

"He's one of the worst that I've seen," Honowitz said, referencing her nearly 29 years as a prosecutor. "Because he's the silent type, and he does it under the guise of being a trainer."

The Florida girl testified in court during the federal case that she cried every night for four years. She slept in a room with her mother. In the girl's mind, Ray Adams was everywhere. "I didn't feel safe anywhere," the girl, now 17, said in court. She struggled with depression.

"My goal is that I'm the last girl he will ever touch," the girl said, "and that ends with me."

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USA TODAY

 

Even a quick look around the landscape would have allowed U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun a snapshot of the diversity, or lack thereof, within sport leadership.

That most of the 47 national governing bodies (NGBs) are led by white men came as no surprise. But Blackmun and the USOC leadership have been working for years to push for more diversity through the NGBs' leadership ranks, and now they're using transparency to push for more.

After another dominating Olympic performance in Rio, the USOC this fall for the first time released diversity and inclusion reports for almost all of its national governing bodies.

It's part of a strategy to understand where they stand and where they need to improve.

That buy-in from the top has the USOC headed in the right direction, says Jason Thompson, the organization's director of diversity and inclusion.

"That's been very powerful when I need to then follow up with the NGBs and say this is a mandate from our leadership," Thompson said. "It's not just a good idea. It's something to feel good about ourselves. It's because we see it as a strategy to be successful, and we want to be successful."

To anyone familiar with high-level sport -- or Corporate America, for that matter -- some of the results will be an obvious reminder of the lack of diversity at the highest levels.

The USOC set benchmarks for each sport to reach, basing them on a variety of factors such as the sport's NCAA pipeline, staff size and financial resources. So the benchmark of track and field, for instance, would be different from that of curling.

The report cards assess the NGBs' diversity efforts regarding people of color, women, those with disabilities and military veterans.

Across the report cards, a few patterns emerge:

In most cases, the leadership did not reflect the diversity of the sport's membership and national teams. That held true for 33 NGBs in at least one category, and most often it was women who were represented at the lower levels but not on executive committees and/or boards of directors.

The report cards set the low end of its targeted benchmarks at up to 68% of the goal, saying categorization was "indicative of an opportunity to grow the sport and should be viewed as positive prospect for creating strategy." In areas of leadership, membership and national team athletes, though, 38 NGBs fell below 68% of their benchmark with at least one diverse group being measured. So, for instance, the NGBs for diving, figure skating and luge fell below 68% of benchmarks for people of color, disabled people and military veterans.

The scorecards measured diversity in 10 levels throughout the organization, from part-time employees and interns through boards of directors. Of the 47 NGBs, 36 fell below 68% of the benchmark in at least one entire category. Across the group, that happened most often with people with disabilities (25 NGBs) and military veterans (20).

"We can do better, obviously, but I think it's good that everyone has come to the conclusion that we've got to be competitive and this is one of the ways we're going to get there," Thompson said.

Added USOC board chairman Larry Probst, "You gotta take it seriously, and you've got to walk the talk.... By trying to shine a light on it, hopefully we'll get better results."

To be sure, some sports have faced socioeconomic and historical barriers. Winter sports have long struggled with racial diversity. Others, such as basketball, have executive leadership that has been with the organization for more than two decades. And boxing, for instance, was only added as an Olympic event for women in 2012.

But the USOC's goal, and the push for outside groups, is that the sports' diversity should reflect that of the nation. Rather than a moral imperative, they see it as a smart business decision.

"It's not going to happen because it's the right thing to do. In most cases, it's going to happen because there is a business case that is made," said Deborah Slaner Larkin, CEO of the Women's Sports Foundation. "And it can't just happen in the United States. It has to happen globally."

The USOC is working with NGBs to work toward progress. It has recognized sports leading the way, such as rowing and synchronized swimming, and shared their best practices with other NGBs.

It also keeps a short list of diverse candidates who could fill board positions.

Rather than instituting something the likes of the NFL's Rooney Rule -- which requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior operations openings -- the USOC expects that the tracking done through the reports will help NGBs create more diverse pools of candidates.

"So much of what we do with our athletes is to help them have a vision of success and a vision of where they can get to," said Max Cobb, executive director of US Biathlon, "and I think it's the same when you're trying to develop a diverse workforce that the people in the workforce need to have a vision of what their future could look like."

In many ways, that is a challenge in the Olympic movement internationally.

Before the Rio Games, The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) issued a report card on gender diversity in international sports that found them to be almost exclusively led by men.

It found 24.4% of International Olympic Committee members were women, that only two international federations were led by women and that 9% of national federations were led by women.

"We find it's lacking because it's a large group of older white men in charge who generally feel more comfortable with other older white men," said Richard Lapchick, director of TIDES at the University of Central Florida, "and if nobody's challenging them to think differently, they're able to run the show the way they want to then."

Part of the way to change that is accountability, several sport leaders agreed.

Last month, UK Sport and Sport England warned governing bodies that they must reach at least 30% gender diversity on boards or risk losing public funding, according to a report from the BBC.

Max Siegel, CEO of USA Track and Field and one of the only people of color leading an NGB, said executives needed to be evaluated on their efforts here.

"You have to have buy-in from the top," Siegel said.

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South Bend Tribune (Indiana)

 

ELKHART -- Thanks to the generosity of donors, Elkhart Christian Academy will have a significant increase in sports facilities very soon.

A two-phase project will give the Eagles more room to soar. When both phases are complete, the entire sports complex will have about 28,000 square feet.

ECA currently has one full-size gym and a three-quarter court auxiliary gym.

"It will more than double our gym space," advancement and athletic director Jed Long said of the expansion.

Right now, high school and junior high basketball teams and cheerleading squads are dividing practice times before and after school and some workouts are taking place at Zion Missionary Church.

"It's going to be a huge blessing to have athletic facilities opened up," Long said. "It's going to be a game changer for us."

Spring sports include baseball, softball and boys and girls track for high school and junior high all vying for indoor practice areas.

Richelle Viront, ECA's assistant AD and head volleyball coach, had five teams -- high school and junior high -- sharing the two existing gyms last fall.

"This is going to be unbelievable for us," Viront said.

Phase I includes an operational practice facility with a double-wide basketball court and the hall that leads to it.

When ready for competition, the gym will hold about 1,250 -- more than double the capacity of the current gym.

A two-lane running track on the second level will also be completed as part of the project, though it's not yet certain whether it will be in Phase I or Phase II.

At the current rate, Phase I of the new athletic center will be available for practices and physical education classes by late January.

Phase II will include new locker rooms for boys and girls, public restrooms and rooms for athletic training, game officials and weight training as well as a new athletic office. The lobby and concession area will also be finished.

Long stresses the new facility would not have been possible without the beneficence of businesses and individuals.

"It will be a fully donor-driven project," Long said, while noting that Phase I went into last week just $130,000 shy of the almost $2.4 million in donated funds and builder services. Phase II is expected to cost upward of $1.5 million. "I realize that their gifts recognize their belief in our mission."

That mission goes well beyond athletics.

A mission trip took ECA students, staff and chaperones to the Dominican Republic in late October and early November.

Among the 35 students, 29 are involved in athletics. Two of those are seniors Garrett McKee (cross-country and track) and Bailey Perkins (cheerleading and softball).

"We played with the kids and did skits with a biblical message," McKee said.

The group also had a chance to visit with orphans and nursing home residents during the visit sponsored by SCORE International.

The experience was eye-opening for McKee.

"It was the first time I saw that kind of poverty," McKee said. "They really have absolutely nothing and they were so happy and love life."

McKee also enjoyed bonding on the trip with his cross-country and track coach Peter Casaletto (an ECA Spanish teacher who served as an interpreter) during talks and runs.

Personal growth came to Perkins.

"I liked that I got a chance to get out of my comfort zone," Perkins said. "I'm used to following a certain routine and this was definitely different than anything I'm used to, but it taught be a lot."

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

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Chicago Daily Herald

 

As news about a football player boycott at Minnesota broke, Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier quickly realized his Huskies might have a chance to play in the Holiday Bowl.

One problem: NIU was already on winter break.

But in less than 24 hours of frantic work, Frazier and NIU coaches knew they had what they needed most to accept a postseason bid on short notice: a motivated team.

With the Huskies having played in San Diego bowl games two of the last three seasons Frazier knew the logistics would fall into place for a game against Washington State on Dec. 27. Easy? No. But far from impossible.

"Because we've had a relationship with (Holiday Bowl organizers), we felt this was necessary to support the bowl and support our student athletes," Frazier said. "That was a major part of this. This bowl committee, which had been so nice to us, friends to us, that we would get ourselves together and mobilize."

Earlier Saturday, Minnesota players announced they would end the boycott over the university suspension of 10 players accused of sexual assault. The Golden Gophers say they will make the trip to San Diego.

Not even two days ago, that was in serious doubt.

Frazier began getting text messages and email about what was happening at Minnesota on Thursday evening and immediately knew what that meant. It was time to start making calls.

Related: Minnesota Football Team Ends Boycott

He informed his president and board of regents. Then he had to get his staff moving. Eight straight bowl appearances by NIU made Frazier's staff "seasoned veterans" when it came to bowl preparation.

Most of all Frazier had to talk to coach Rod Carey to determine if NIU had a team that could play in 12 days - in a top second-tier bowl, nonetheless.

"Picture me calling him up at 9, 10 o'clock at night saying, 'Rod, this is the scenario. Talk to me.'" Frazier said, "He took a deep breath and said, 'Sean, I've got to get my guys back and some of them are training for the pros. Some of them are now on vacation. Some of them are here.' As you could imagine he did a fantastic job. I definitely have to take him out to dinner."

NIU finished its season the Saturday after Thanksgiving at 5-7, but having won four of five as it got healthy after early season injuries. NCAA rules allow bowls to select 5-7 to fill spots if there are not enough six-win teams. The teams are selected in order of their latest Academic Progress Rate scores. NIU was next on the list, but the team hadn't even met since Nov. 27. Fall commencement was Dec. 11. The players had dispersed.

Carey told Frazier early Friday morning the players were onboard. Most could drive back to campus, but some would need flights. Frazier said it would have cost the university $15,000-$20,000 to pay for travel expenses.

The first practice would likely have been held Monday, Frazier said. The coaches had already started breaking down film of Washington State. Wanting to play is one thing. Being eligible is another. Frazier said he had compliance staff working on whether players, who now had fall grades to consider, would be academically eligible. Also, they needed to determine which players with professional aspirations had signed with agents. That would make them ineligible.

"We were in the middle of going through those recertifications as well as those appeal processes to make them eligible," Frazier said. "We feel confident we would have... been able to reverse anything that might have happened."

Holiday Bowl officials were not commenting publicly, but they were working on backup plans Friday. Frazier assured them the Huskies were good to go if invited.

The Huskies played in the Poinsettia Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium last year and in 2013, a game run by the same group that handles the Holiday Bowl.

Frazier said the plan for NIU was mostly to step into whatever Minnesota had already arranged. The Huskies would have redirected the charter flights Minnesota had lined up to leave from Minneapolis to go out of Rockford, Illinois. They would have used the Gophers' hotel reservations and practice facilities.

As for costs, Frazier said conversations never made it money. The Holiday Bowl payout to its contracted teams from the Big Ten and Pac-12 was $2.8 million last year. NIU would not have been guaranteed that payout, but Frazier said he is confident all costs would have been covered.

"It would have been great exposure for the Holiday Bowl and NIU," Frazier said.

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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

 

The Cleveland Browns, the professional football team Forbes estimates is worth $1.85 billion, is asking Franklin County and Columbus taxpayers to contribute roughly $5 million each toward building a training camp and a stronger fan base in central Ohio.

Bengals fans can't be too amused to think their hard-earned money might go to help the Dawgs practice. Other detractors see this as another giveaway to support a pet project.

County and city officials, however, see benefits to a partnership with the Browns, who also would chip in $5 million toward the $15 million to $17 million facility. Amenities would include natural grass and artificial-turf fields and a 45,000-square-foot building with a gymnasium and fitness center. This would allow the city to upgrade a replacement for its Tuttle Park recreation center near Ohio State University; that 15,000-square-foot building dates to 1974.

The county is eyeing better space to provide residents job training, while Columbus would gain a new gym (open even during the Browns' three-week camp), along with room for sports leagues, after-school activities and such.

A similar proposal earlier this year died after the Columbus Partnership, an organization of CEOs from leading businesses and institutions, withdrew its request for state aid, facing backlash from northern Ohio lawmakers. Rep. Mike Dovilla, a Republican from Berea, where the Browns have held camp since 1992, called it a "money grab."

Details later emerged that the Browns had expected Columbus and Franklin County to pay $15 million to build their training facility. The calculus for that public investment included sales and bed taxes generated from visitor spending, as well as the city receiving income-tax revenue from players' salaries while in Columbus. But oops, players' get lower rates during camp.

Though resurrected, city and county officials say the proposal is not a done deal. That's good, because elected officials should use this time to address questions and make a case for any public investment.

Start here: Given the backroom-dealing that went into the Nationwide Arena purchase -- the public ended up buying it even after voters said no five times to a publicly funded arena -- why should residents have faith that this latest publicly funded sports-facility plan is sound?

Also:

Since this is a city-owned park, what would county residents get for their $5 million? How much in sales tax realistically would be collected?

If the Browns were not looking to set up camp here, would the city and county even contemplate a $17 million expansion of Tuttle Park? The city spent $7.2 million to rebuilding a 25,000-square-foot Glenwood recreation center.

How much will the extended facility cost in operation and maintenance?

Finally, city Auditor Hugh Dorrian has warned of an economic slowdown, Gov. John Kasich sees the state on the verge of a recession. And the county could see a hit of $20 million a year because of a federal decision that bars sales taxes on some Medicaid services. How do the city and county justify spending $5 million each, or possibly $7 million from Columbus, for sports?

No crystal ball may be needed to see how this could end. Politifact.com took a look at a $10 million-plus deal Richmond, Va., made to lure the Washington Redskins' summer training camp to its city (at http://bit.ly/2dFw1Np). It concludes: "Sponsorships and other revenues from the site haven't met expectations," leaving the city to pick up payments.

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The Bismarck Tribune

 

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The University of Minnesota football team's boycott started with a bold demand for apologies and a threat to skip a bowl game if 10 teammates suspended after a sexual assault investigation weren't reinstated.

It ended less than 36 hours later, the university leadership never blinking, and the players backing down amid pressure from many who read details of the allegations.

The Golden Gophers players announced Saturday morning that they planned to play in the Holiday Bowl, rescinding their boycott after two exhausting days of meetings with attorneys, school President Eric Kaler and athletic director Mark Coyle.

"As a team we understand that what has occurred these last few days and playing football for the University of Minnesota is larger than just us," receiver Drew Wolitarsky said.

The school declined the players' request to reinstate the suspended players. The team will now go ahead with its Dec. 27 game against Washington State in San Diego after getting assurances that those accused will get a fair hearing next month.

Wolitarsky, reading from a statement, said after many hours of team discussion and speaking with Kaler, "it became clear that our original request of having the 10 suspensions overturned was not going to happen."

Kaler and Coyle issued statements Friday, and reiterated to the players in a meeting late Friday night, that they had no intention of changing their decision after an internal investigation determined the suspended players violated school conduct codes in an encounter involving a woman and several players at an off-campus dorm Sept. 2.

"I'm very pleased that the football team has realized the opportunity to represent the university and come out strong in support of the victims of sexual violence," Kaler said Saturday. "They've come out strongly in support of the victims of sexual violence. I have promised a very fair hearing to the students involved and charged and I attend to have that be true. We will judge them very fairly."

The Holiday Bowl is one of the most lucrative and well-known of the second-tier bowl games. The payout to the school was $2.8 million last year. Not including the New Year's Six bowls that are tied to the College Football Playoff, the Holiday Bowl's distribution was the fifth largest of the other 34 postseason games.

Bowl revenue is pooled and shared by conferences. For the Big Ten, which distributed more than $30 million to each of its 14 members last season, Holiday Bowl revenue is a small piece of a large pie.

Four players were initially suspended for three games earlier this season while the police investigated allegations by a woman, who said several players pressured her into having sex with them after a season-opening win over Oregon State. No arrests or charges were made and the players, who maintained the sex was consensual, were reinstated after a judge lifted a restraining order.

"She described it as a line of people, like they were waiting for their turn... She recalls yelling for them to stop sending people in the room because she couldn't handle it," one of the reports said.

The university said it holds its students to higher standards than those applied by the law, and its announcement of the suspensions Tuesday caught the team off guard. University investigators wrote they generally found the woman's account more credible than those of the accused students. The investigators concluded several students failed to provide full and truthful information.

Wearing their maroon game jerseys, the entire team issued a statement Thursday saying they would boycott all football activities until Kaler and Coyle apologized for their lack of communication and reinstated the suspended players. But after hours of sometimes contentious meetings on Friday, a group of players gathered Saturday morning to denounce sexual assault and say there is no place for it on campus.

"There is only one acceptable way to treat all women and that is with the utmost respect at all times," Wolitarsky said. "We are not here to judge nor defend their actions. That is for the authorities."

The players also asked the university to show "support for the team and the character shown by the great majority of our players" and help them "use our status as public figures to bring more exposure to the issue of sexual harassment and violence against women."

Players said Saturday they were most disappointed with the lack of communication and due process and took the issue of sexual assault seriously.

"As football players, we know that we represent this university and this state and that we are held to a higher standard," Wolitarsky said. "We want to express our deepest gratitude to our coaching staff and so many others for their support during this difficult time, and we hope that our fans and community understand why we took the actions that we did."

Dean Johnson, chairman of the university's Board of Regents, said he supports the decision to end the boycott and to keep the 10 players under suspension.

He added that the situation has shown that while the university does not tolerate sexual violence, more must be done to ensure the campus is safe for all students. That change, he said, could come in stronger policies, enforcement or more educational opportunities and sensitivity training.

"It's not been a good thing for the University of Minnesota, with donors, with ticket holders, with the administration, the regents - it's not been a proud week," Johnson said.

___

Associated Press writer Amy Forliti contributed to this report.

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Copyright 2016 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

 

CHICAGO - Fitness trackers — those sleek devices often strapped to wrists — are starting to become nearly as common as employee badges at some companies.

But how much do they help workers? How much do they help the companies that offer the wearables to their employees?

Companies say they offer them to make work more fun, improve workers' health, boost employee productivity or save money on health insurance costs. Some employees and advocacy groups, however, worry that fitness trackers might invade an employee's privacy and that some wellness programs may not be truly optional. It also remains unclear whether workplace trackers consistently improve employee health or save employers money on health care costs.

This year, 31 percent of 540 companies with 1,000 or more employees surveyed by brokerage and consultancy Willis Towers Watson offered wearable activity trackers to workers. Another 23 percent said they were considering doing so in the next two years.

"You can't dismiss it and say it's a flash in the pan," said LuAnn Heinen, vice president of the National Business Group on Health. Employees like the personalized feedback and bonding with co-workers over fitness goals, she said.

This  summer more than 1,000 employees at TransUnion, a Chicago-based data and analytics company, donned Fitbits in an optional competition to see which employees, floors and offices could log the most steps. TransUnion helped pay for the Fitbits, and about 30 percent of the 1,300 employees in the company's Chicago office took part.

That included Gopi Doniparthi. The 52-year-old analyst signed on because he loves a challenge. He eventually worked his way up to 40,000 steps a day. He'd wake before sunrise for a 6-mile walk, spend his lunch break marching along the Chicago River and hike 2 miles to work rather than take a bus.

"The more I was doing, the more I wanted to do," Doniparthi said. Doniparthi, who has Type 2 diabetes, lost body fat and saw his blood sugar levels drop. "I didn't want to do dieting. I wanted a lifestyle change."

The winning office - the company's Philippines location - got to choose a charity to receive a company donation, and the individual company winner got $100.

Anne Leyden, TransUnion executive vice president of human resources, said the competition injected a bit of fun into the workplace. Employees walked in groups and posted pictures of themselves walking on social media.

TransUnion didn't measure whether the competition shrunk its health care costs or made employees more productive because Leyden said the goal was employee support, not cost-cutting.

But not all companies that offer programs are doing so just for fun.

David Rektorski, owner of truck dealership Hino of Chicago, is confident the clip-on Trio trackers his workers just started wearing will save the area company money as well as act as a perk.

"The healthier they are, the better chance I have of them coming to work," Rektorski said.

It's not totally clear, however, whether trackers in the workplace always lead to better health or lower costs.

Fitbit recently released a study showing that after two years, employees who took part in a Fitbit corporate wellness program had $1,300 less a year, on average, in total annual health care costs.

But other studies question how much of a difference wearables really make. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in September found young adults donning wearables and dieting actually lost less weight over two years than those who dieted without fitness trackers.

Privacy issues also have been raised about the trackers, and corporate wellness programs in general. Some, such as the AARP, also worry that if the financial rewards for employees are too big, then such programs are no longer really voluntary because opting out means missing out.

In October, the AARP sued the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over new federal rules that allow companies to offer employees savings of up to 30 percent on the cost of their health insurance if they participate in a wellness program or achieve certain health goals.

The AARP argues that high financial stakes effectively make wellness programs compulsory rather than voluntary. The AARP also argued that high financial incentives could pressure workers to "reveal medical and genetic information likely to facilitate illegal workplace discrimination."

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Dunbar coaches Darran Powell and Pete Pullen say they told investigators they were instructed to lose or forfeit a football game by DPS Athletic Director Mark Baker.

Mark Baker, athletic director for Dayton Public Schools, was cleared by DPS of allegations that he told Dunbar coaches to lose or forfeit a Week 10 football game to affect playoffs.

A faceoff between Dunbar High School coaches and Dayton Public Schools Athletic Director Mark Baker has resulted in separate investigations that could lead to Ohio High School Athletic Association penalties.

Both the OHSAA and DPS launched investigations. Dunbar coaches allege that Baker told Dunbar to forfeit - or lose - a Week 10 football game against City League rival Belmont at Welcome Stadium. That would be an extreme breach of the association's code of conduct by which all member schools are expected to abide. Penalties by the OHSAA could include probation, fine and possible postseason suspensions.

Baker has not responded to repeated requests for comment. A statement by DPS superintendent Rhonda Corr on Friday indicated its investigation has ended.

"After a thorough investigation into the matter, it was determined that Mark Baker did not instruct Dunbar to lose or forfeit the Week 10 football game to Belmont," said Corr.

The OHSAA indicated its investigation likely won't conclude until after the new year.

"The OHSAA is currently investigating several allegations regarding Dayton Public Schools and the football forfeitures of Dunbar High School from Weeks 9 and 10 of the regular season," OHSAA director of media relations Tim Stried said in a statement.

"The forfeitures were issued on October 30 and had an impact on the football playoff qualifiers in southwest Ohio, but new allegations have come forward involving the days leading up to, and including, Dunbar's final regular-season game."

Dunbar beat Taft and Belmont in Weeks 9-10 games, but forfeited both wins after the OHSAA ruled an ineligible player had participated. The forfeits came after it was discovered that Baker and then-Dunbar Athletic Director Pete Pullen had miscalculated the player's credits for the fall nine-week grading period.

Those forfeits resonated throughout the Divisions II, III and IV playoff fields, knocking Cincinnati Princeton (D-II), Piqua (D-III) and Dunbar (D-IV) out of qualifying. They were replaced by Cincinnati Anderson (D-II), Belmont (D-III) and Cincinnati Taft (D-IV).

According to Dunbar coaches, Baker thought both Dunbar and Belmont would qualify for the playoffs if Dunbar lost or forfeited against Belmont in Week 10. Instead, the player also was deemed to have been ineligible for playing in Week 9 and 10 games.

"(Baker) said if I throw the (Belmont) game, he wouldn't turn me in," Dunbar coach Darran Powell said. "I said, 'you want me to tell my kids to lose?'"

Stried confirmed that Powell, his uncle and assistant football coach Alfred Powell and Pullen all told the OHSAA in an Oct. 31 appeals meeting in Columbus that Baker said Dunbar should lose the game.

It was Alfred Powell who said Baker initially contacted him at halftime and was instructed to relay to Darran Powell that Dunbar should lose to Belmont.

"In a nutshell, (Baker) told me to tell Darran that we needed to lose the game," Alfred Powell said. "Let Belmont win.... He told me there had been a mistake made. I told him that mistake will cost us two games, not one game and our athletic director (Pullen) and head coach (Darran Powell) would never go for just losing the game."

Dunbar led by 20 points as the second half resumed against Belmont. During a timeout, Darran Powell said he told Dunbar players they had been instructed to lose. What followed were two bizarre plays in which Dunbar was penalized for intentional grounding then deliberately threw an interception.

Officials halted play as a Belmont player was returning the interception for a score. Powell said referees warned that the game would be called for a lack of integrity if they determined Dunbar was deliberately trying to lose. Play resumed and Dunbar won decisively.

However, like the Week 9 game against Taft, Dunbar would forfeit to Belmont 1-0, resulting in a non-playoff-qualifying 7-3 season. Had Dunbar forfeited prior to the Belmont game, it would have resulted in a "no contest" and not counted on their schedules. Addressing a possible forfeit at halftime ensured the game would count.

" Th i s i s a b s o l u te ly heart-breaking for (Dunbar) and the students," said Baker after the OHSAA ruled on the forfeits. "We're putting new measures in place already to ensure this never happens to students, parents or supporters in the future."

Pullen soon after resigned as the Dunbar Athletic Director. He remains Dunbar's varsity boys basketball coach and has guided the Wolverines to four state championships and two more final fours in 12 seasons. Darran Powell is a basketball assistant and was a starter on the 2006 D-II state title team.

The supplemental coaching contracts for both Pullen and Powell weren't approved by the DPS school board until just last week, after the regular season had begun. That resulted in an awkward period in which Pullen and Powell considered themselves "volunteers" and questioned whether they would continue to coach if they were not paid.

Baker is a celebrated Dunbar alum who was a starter on the Wolverines' first state title team (Class AAA) in 1987 and also starred at Ohio State University. He resigned as Middletown's boys basketball coach to succeed Jonas Smith as the DPS athletic director last summer.

OHSAA officials indicated it was the first time they have tackled an accusation of "throwing" a game.

"It's murky waters," Dar-ran Powell said. "The whole thing was getting two teams into the playoffs. (Baker) was thinking we could forfeit the Belmont game and we wouldn't have to forfeit the Taft game.... Our names are in the dirt. It makes it look like it's on us. Whatever happened, somebody needs to step up to it."

Contact this reporter at 937-225-2381 or email Marc.

Pendleton@coxinc.com

Twitter: @MarcPendleton

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Copyright 2016 Newsday, Inc.

Newsday (New York)

 

High school girls soccer, which has surged in popularity over the last 25 years, trailed only football for the highest number of suspected concussions on Long Island for the 2015-16 school year.

Newsday analyzed concussion reports it received under the Freedom of Information Law for nine sports at more than 100 Long Island public high schools, and obtained the participation numbers for all public high schools on Long Island from the state's governing body for high school sports.

Among the findings:

- There were 116 suspected concussions in girls soccer among more than 4,700 players, or one per 40.7 players. Boys soccer had 66, or one per 85.7 players.

- Football had 383 suspected concussions, one per 22.6 players.

- Four girls sports - soccer, lacrosse, basketball and softball - had a combined 278 suspected concussions, or one for every 56.7 players. The four comparable boys sports - soccer, lacrosse, basketball and baseball - combined for 169 suspected concussions, or one for every 118.5 players. Experts said the higher rate of suspected concussions among girls is consistent with national trends.

- Baseball had the fewest suspected concussions with 12, one per 399.6 players.

Soccer thought of as safer alternative

"People don't realize how physical soccer is," said Syosset goalkeeper Erica Bulzomi, a senior who said she suffered two concussions. "Some of my guy friends who play football, they will say, 'Oh, soccer is barely even a contact sport, you guys don't get hit as much.' But all you have to do is look at the bumps and bruises on any girl that plays soccer, any boy that plays soccer, and you'll see how physical the game is."

Soccer has long been viewed as a safer alternative to football or lacrosse, but experts said the sport has been slow to recognize the risk of concussion.

"We've known this for years, but parents are oblivious," said Tim McGuine, a sports medicine researcher at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. "I hear parents say without batting an eye that they won't let their kid play football, and I always ask them, 'But will you let your daughter play soccer?' "

In a game where hitting the ball with your head is commonplace, trying to make the game safer has proved to be a challenge, McGuine said.

"A lot of people pay lip service to soccer, but parents, coaches and kids, they're not really focused on it. It's sad because it has to change. People are really focused on football right now, but soccer is the next big thing."

Number of girls playing soccer has soared

The number of girls playing high school soccer has grown by 236 percent nationally over 25 years, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. There were 375,681 players in 2014-15, compared with 111,711 in 1989-90. No other sport has experienced an increase nearly as great.

Experts said the heightened popularity has led to bigger, faster athletes who play and train year-round. That has resulted in more physical play, which increases the likelihood of injury.

"The kids we're working with today are bigger, faster and stronger than what they were in the '60s and '70s, because they're training more today," said Nassau County high school girls soccer coordinator Denise Kiernan, who also is Glen Cove High School's athletic director. "They're getting much more training than just the high school experience, which makes them more physical and more aggressive going after the ball."

In soccer, with the exception of goaltenders, players can touch the ball with any part of their body except their hands and arms. Players rely mostly on their feet, legs and head to control, pass and shoot the ball.

A properly executed "header" - when a player uses her head to hit a ball that is in the air - is not considered a serious risk for concussion because "you can put more force on the ball than the ball puts on you and then there's no energy transfer into the brain," according to Kevin Crutchfield, a neurologist who works with the National Football League's Baltimore Ravens, Major League Soccer's D.C. United and Major League Baseball's Baltimore Orioles.

The danger comes from the physical contact and collisions that take place in the battle to get to the ball.

"You can get hit in the face, you can go head to head, your head can get hit on the ground, the goalkeeper can punch you when they're trying to make a save," said Cari Roccaro, former standout at East Islip High School who now plays for the Houston Dash of the National Women's Soccer League. "There are so many different ways in soccer, which is why it's such a big deal now."

Dawn Comstock, an epidemiology professor at the University of Colorado who has been tracking high school athletes' concussions nationally since 2006, said her research shows that most concussions in soccer occur from player-to-player contact.

Comstock published a 2015 paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics that concluded that in high school girls soccer, concussions were caused most commonly by contact with another athlete (51.3 percent). Second was contact with the ball or goalpost (29 percent). Third was contact with playing surface (19.2 percent).

Researcher 'astounded' by number of ER visits

A study on soccer-related injuries published in October in the American Academy of Pediatrics journal found that emergency room visits for concussions by soccer players under the age of 19 rose by nearly 1,600 percent between 1990 and 2014.

The study's author, Huiyun Xiang, director of the Center for Pediatric Trauma Research at Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide Children's Hospital, said he was "astounded" by that number, even taking into account the rise in the sport's popularity and in concussion awareness.

"I have never seen such a dramatic increase in other sports or other injuries," he said.

"What's the best way to prevent this?" Xiang said. "I think we're still trying to figure that out."

Coaches and administrators said a reason for the high number of girls soccer concussions is the increased awareness about brain injuries, saying that has led to a rise in reporting cases that would have fallen under the radar before.

"When I played, if you got hit in the head, it was like, 'OK, you're fine, you can go back in,' unless you were knocked out," said St. Anthony's High School girls soccer coach Sue Alber, a star player who graduated from Islip High School in 2004.

Soccer groups ban headers by children

The U.S. Soccer Federation, the game's national governing body, and four youth soccer associations resolved a class-action concussion lawsuit last year by banning headers for children under 11 and placing a limit on headers in practice for children between the ages of 11 and 13.

On Long Island, there are hundreds of youth soccer teams, many of which are not under the authority of these organizations. U.S. Soccer said in a statement that it "strongly urges" that all youth programs follow these recommendations. The role of enforcing the recommendations falls on the coaches and officials at each level.

Briana Scurry, goalkeeper for the U.S. gold-medal winning Olympic teams in 1996 and 2004, said the "header" ban is "putting a Band-Aid on the situation." Scurry said soccer's concussion-prevention efforts are behind those of the NFL, which has received widespread criticism for its handling of head injuries.

Scurry wants players who are suspected of suffering a head injury removed from the field immediately for an evaluation. She said this needs to happen at the highest levels of the game - the Olympics, the World Cup - for lower levels to follow suit.

"Soccer doesn't want to be labeled as a dangerous sport," said Scurry, whose career ended in 2010 because of a concussion. "That's what the people who are at the higher levels are concerned with."

Scurry, who speaks to youth soccer groups about the dangers of concussions, and several of her former Olympic teammates - including Brandi Chastain and Abby Wambach - announced in the spring their intentions to posthumously donate their brains to research chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which is a degenerative brain disease found in athletes who have experienced repetitive brain trauma. CTE has been most commonly associated with former football players.

"For a long time people heard concussions and they thought big NFL hits," she said. "They thought big strong men, football warriors. That's what their picture of concussions was."

State requires athlete be removed from play

New York State's concussion management act of 2011 mandated that any public school athlete suspected of suffering a concussion must be removed from play and cannot return until cleared by a physician.

There are no state requirements regarding medical personnel on the sideline at soccer games. In many cases that responsibility falls on the coaches, who the state requires to have taken several medical courses, including one for concussion awareness.

On Long Island, the majority of school districts employ a certified athletic trainer, who is required to have a bachelor's degree from an athletic training program. But the degree to which athletic trainers are present varies by district. Some schools have two full-time athletic trainers while others employ them on a contract basis only to attend football games.

James Pierre-Glaude, an athletic training professor at Stony Brook University, believes sports such as soccer do not receive the necessary attention from athletic trainers because the sport takes place at the same time as football.

"There's so much emphasis nationally and locally on football that resources may be pulled away from other sports, I would say that without a doubt," he said. "Also especially when you're talking about districts that have part-time athletic trainers or per diem athletic trainers. The big thing then becomes, 'Just make sure that football is covered.' That happens a lot."

In recent years football has tried to reduce the number of head injuries through a greater emphasis on teaching proper tackling methods, adding limitations on how often teams can hit in practice and upgrading to helmets that researchers say are best at reducing the risk of concussion.

Has to skip championship game

Emma Baumbusch, a defender at Islip High School, suffered a concussion as a junior in the final seconds of her team's 2015 state tournament semifinal.

With about 10 seconds left in the game, she said a teammate tried to clear the ball, attempting to kick it as far and as hard as she could. But Baumbusch stepped in front of the ball just after it was kicked, and the ball hit her on the left side of her face from no more than a few feet away.

Baumbusch said that while she remained conscious, she immediately got dizzy and her head was "throbbing."

"I was in shock," she said. "The ball hit me so hard."

After undergoing a common concussion test that night, Baumbusch was told by the team's athletic trainer that she couldn't play in the championship game the next day.

Baumbusch watched from the sidelines as her teammates won the state title, 1-0. She doesn't remember much of what happened.

"It's kind of blurry," she said. "It was hard to focus. I couldn't really see much."

She said it took about a month for the symptoms to subside. She missed the first few weeks of the basketball season and returned to play soccer in her senior year. Baumbusch will play soccer at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

Diagnosed the next day

Alexa Russell, a sophomore midfielder at Sacred Heart High School in Hempstead, isn't surprised to learn that girls soccer had the second-highest number of concussions on Long Island.

"Girls soccer is such a contact sport now, so I can see why," she said, "because it's so physical."

In an Oct. 3 game against Kellenberg High School, Russell was in front of her own goal when a shot was launched. In the scrum of players fighting for position, Russell was shoved from behind, fell forward and was kneed in the head by the goaltender.

Russell said she felt dizzy but didn't think it was enough to leave the game. After about 10 minutes, the dizziness remained and she decided to take herself out.

That night while doing her homework, she knew something was wrong. "I couldn't focus at all," she said. "I was writing an essay, and I was on one sentence for at least 15 minutes."

She was diagnosed with a concussion the next day and missed the rest of the week of school. It took another two weeks for the symptoms to subside, she said.

She returned to practice Oct. 31 and scored two goals in her first game back, a 7-0 win in the Catholic High School Athletic Association state AA girls soccer semifinal game Nov. 6.

During the Nov. 12 championship game, Russell was hit in the head by a ball after a teammate tried to clear it. Russell said she was standing only about five yards away.

"I was so scared I had another one," she said. "I came out of the game and stayed out. It ended up I didn't have another concussion, but I just wanted to play it safe."

Russell said she plans to continue playing soccer because she has played the game her entire life and is not overly concerned about suffering another concussion.

Disagreement on higher rate among girls

More than 100 Long Island high schools with athletic programs supplied concussion reports to Newsday from the 2015-16 school year. Private schools are not required by law to provide the information. Only two private schools of 13 on Long Island agreed to do so.

Newsday also obtained participation numbers broken down by sport and region from the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, which is the state's governing body for public high school sports. NYSPHSAA surveys schools every year to compile the number of athletes that competed in each sport in each county.

There were 4,723 girls playing high school soccer on 233 teams on Long Island last year. There were 5,656 boys soccer players on 247 teams. The girls game resulted in nearly twice as many concussions as the boys game.

While experts say they are not surprised by that disparity, citing national studies with similar concussion rates, they are divided on the reasons.

"We think of concussions as a boys problem, but if you look at the rate of concussions, we have been seeing this tendency for the girls sports to be higher," said Christopher Giza, a pediatric neurology professor at UCLA. "And there is no definitive answer yet as to why that is."

One theory commonly cited, Giza said, is neck strength. Giza said teenage girls often have thinner and weaker necks than boys, which hinders their ability to brace their heads for an impact - such as when two players collide midair while trying for a header.

Giza said researchers also are looking into whether a female's brain composition and the presence of female hormones such as estrogen make them more susceptible to concussions than males.

Pierre-Glaude, the athletic training professor at Stony Brook University, said studies have shown that the landing mechanics of boys and girls also play a role. He said boys instinctively land in a squat position, removing much of the force of impact, whereas girls tends to land with stiffer knees and hips, which he said disperses the impact throughout the body, including possibly the brain.

Others suggest a less scientific reason behind the uptick in concussions of girls versus boys.

Comstock, the University of Colorado epidemiology professor, said teenage girls may be more willing to self-report concussion symptoms than boys because there may be less of a negative stigma attached to doing so.

But not everyone agrees with that theory.

Rosemarie Moser, director of Sports Concussion Center of New Jersey, called it "archaic." She added, "That does not have a lot of substantiation because, as we've seen in women's sports, women might be just as fierce and competitive as men. And they don't want to leave the game either."

Hard-shell helmets aren't allowed

Another hurdle facing the game is the lack of equipment that can help prevent head injuries.

Hard-shell helmets - such as the ones used in football, boys lacrosse, baseball and softball - are not allowed in either boys or girls soccer. There are several headbands and soft-shell headgear options that are marketed to reduce soccer concussions. They are permitted to be worn in high school, but researchers said studies have yet to show whether they work.

Bulzomi, the Syosset goalkeeper, has worn a soft, padded helmet for the last two years that covers her entire head and is attached under her chin. Bulzomi said she started wearing the helmet after suffering two concussions in the span of 11 months. She said she missed two weeks after her first concussion. Her symptoms - nausea and headaches - were more severe after her second concussion, she said, and so was the recovery time. She said she missed nearly two months of soccer recovering from that concussion and has worn the helmet ever since.

The helmet manufacturer - Miami-based Barnett Sports - markets it as headgear designed for rugby or flag football.

"Being in goal, sometimes you get clocked in the head with a knee or somebody picks up their cleat and hits you in the back of the head," she said. "But I haven't had any issues since I have been wearing the helmet."

Bulzomi, who plans to continue her soccer career next year at Goucher College in Maryland, said the helmet draws a lot of attention because it's such rare sight. She said referees, opposing coaches and players have asked her about it.

"It looks a little funny," she said, "but I've gotten over that."

McGuine, the sports medicine researcher at the Wisconsin medical school, said there is no evidence yet that soccer headgear makes a difference. He is in the early stages of a two-year study testing the headgear in high school soccer.

"We're trying to figure out whether someone's concussion risk goes down with soccer headgear, or does it go up?" McGuine said. "We don't know."

In the meantime, McGuine is concerned that coaches, leagues and high school associations might respond to concussion concerns by mandating headgear. Such a move could cause players to have a false sense of security and play even more aggressively.

Experts said the best way to reduce the risk of concussion is for officials to be more stringent deterring physical play. But they warn that a culture change takes time, and that's not often a popular solution for those concerned with head safety.

"I feel like something drastic would have to change to really limit or get rid of concussion in the sport," Roccaro said. "We'd have to have everyone run around with helmets, which is ridiculous."

Suspected concussions during the 2015-16 school year on Long Island:

SportConcussionsNo. of playersConcussions per player

Football383866022.61

Girls soccer116472340.72

Girls lacrosse65443168.17

Boys lacrosse71576381.17

Boys soccer66565685.70

Girls basketball61327653.70

Softball36333592.64

Boys basketball203807190.35

Baseball124795399.58

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December 18, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Tribune-Review (Greensburg, PA)

 

A series of state grants will allow Hempfield to upgrade the township's main park, including the addition of a sixth pavilion to meet demand for parties and picnics.

A $212,000 allotment from the Greenways, Trails and Recreation grant program will allow the township to add lights to the upper soccer fields off Forbes Trail Road, along with new fencing, bleachers, goals and a building for restrooms and a concessions stand. The project is scheduled to be completed by late 2017.

Another $215,000 Greenways grant will help build a new pavilion.

"Our pavilions are open from April through November. And from the end of May until October, all five pavilions are rented every weekend," said Jason Winters, director of parks and recreation. "That showed us why we needed to add another pavilion to the park."

The newest pavilion will be between pavilions D and E. Winters said it will include a full kitchen, similar to the one recently renovated at Pavilion E to include a commercial-grade stove, microwave and food-prep surfaces. The new Pavilion F is expected to be completed by 2018.

The new kitchen and accessible restroom at Pavilion E are complete, though the township intends to paint, repave the surrounding access road and install new picnic tables before the pavilion reopens for the 2017 season.

The township is already working on the realignment and renovation of the park's lower baseball field, which had been dedicated to Pirates Hall of Fame second baseman Bill Mazeroski since the late 1960s. A donation from the Pirates will help make the field and dugouts accessible to people with disabilities. Work is expected to be completed before a rededication ceremony in the spring.

The township is waiting to find out if it will get another grant to make similar improvements and add lighting to a second baseball field in the park.

"Lighting lets you add field time, and field time is hard to get," said Russ Remaley, a former officer with the Hempfield Area Athletic Association. "The fields just get gobbled up."

At least six Hempfield athletic teams use Mazeroski field and four use the second field, in addition to adult recreation leagues and other travel-league teams, he said.

Township Manager Andrew Walz said the improvements are being paid for entirely by the grants and the Hempfield Parks Fund, a part of the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County. The fund accepts donations from individuals but also takes contributions from developers in lieu of including less green space than the state requires when building new projects.

Part of another $460,000 state transportation grant will pay for improvements to the walking track along Woodward Drive near the municipal building. The project will include better barriers between pedestrians and vehicles.

"We have people who crash through those wooden barriers on a regular basis," Walz said.

The current phase of the parks master plan also calls for more soccer fields to eventually be built south of the existing fields and the addition of a dog park across from the upper baseball field.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6660 or msantoni@tribweb.com

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December 19, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

Nashville is one of 10 cities under consideration for four open Major League Soccer expansion team slots, pitting Music City against some of its Southern peers for a team in the nation's top soccer league.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced the slate of finalists in play for an MLS team during a conference call with media Thursday to discuss the upcoming expansion process and timeline.

The professional soccer league's 25th and 26th teams, to begin play by 2020, will be announced sometime next year and would pay a record-high expansion fee of $150 million. The 27th and 28th expansion teams, along with the cost of their expansion fees, are to be named at a later date.

Joining Nashville in the hunt for a team are San Antonio, San Diego, Detroit, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Ohio; Raleigh/Durham and Charlotte, N.C.; Sacramento, Calif. and Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla. Each has ownership groups that have expressed interest in MLS.

Nashville is competing against three other cities in the southeast and two others, Cincinnati and St. Louis, that are just 300 miles away from Middle Tennessee.

MLS, founded in 1993, is embarking on a rapid period of expansion, with new teams in Atlanta and Minneapolis to begin next year followed by Los Angeles in 2018 and later Miami, whose owners include former soccer star David Beckham. Nashville is competing for the next round of expansion that would occur after those cities begin play.

When factoring in training facilities, stadium costs and other requirements, Garber said the total cost for an MLS expansion team will likely require an investment "well north of $300 million" for the ownership group.

Discussing MLS' interest in Nashville, Garber pointed to large crowds at recent international soccer matches at Nashville's Nissan Stadium, mostly recently between Mexico and New Zealand in October. He also said Nashville fits into a plan for a "geographic rollout in the southeast," a place where MLS has a smaller presence than other parts of the county.

Garber said MLS is encouraged by the start of Nashville Soccer Club, a recently awarded United Soccer League team eyeing 2018 to begin play. He noted the league's ties to the team's chief executive officer Court Jeske, who previously worked as vice president of international business for Soccer United Marketing, the commercial arm of Major League Soccer.

Garber also referenced the Nashville MLS Steering Committee, a group of Nashville business and political heavyweights that formed this year to compete for an MLS team and is expected to be the primary applicant for the MLS team.

"We're encouraged by the community support, at least so far, behind (Nashville SC) and the political and business leaders who have come out and expressed interest in Nashville being a possible MLS expansion team," Garber said.

Nashville's potential MSL investors, who first met with the league only months ago, is earlier in the expansion process than the other nine cities.

In August, businessman Bill Hagerty, former state commissioner of Economic and Community Development commissioner under Gov. Bill Haslam, led the creation of the Nashville MLS Steering Committee. The group includes backing from top executives of HCA, Bridgestone Americas, Nissan North America and Ryman Hospitality Properties, the Tennessee Titans and the Nashville Predators in the MLS push.

"The movement to bring Major League Soccer to Nashville has come a long way in a very short time thanks to the hard work of our city's business and civic leadership," Will Alexander, a co-organizer of the MLS Steering Committee said in a statement. "There is real energy, unity and momentum behind Nashville's bid.

"Nashville is one of America's most dynamic cities and the perfect choice for MLS. The committee will continue working to make Nashville's case every day."

The Nashville steering committee's effort is also endorsed by Nashville SC, the newly awarded USL club that first must finalize stadium plans before starting play. USL is considered the third-tier league in North America's professional soccer pyramid, two leagues below MLS, the highest level.

Nashville SC is led by an ownership group that includes David Dill, president of Nashville-based LifePoint.

Multiple existing MLS teams are affiliated with USL clubs and others evolved into MLS after starting at the USL level. Nashville SC officials have said USL offers Nashville as chance to prove itself as a professional soccer city to attract consideration from MLS.

"What I know about this process is we have to show that we can be a soccer city to be considered," Nashville SC's Jeske told The Tennessean this fall. "And therefore we need to do what we can at Nashville SC to support that cause.

Garber said MLS considers the commitment of the ownership group; a market's fan support, size, geography corporate support, and television market; and a city's stadium plan.

He said expansion applications will have to address each of these areas as well as ownership structure, financial projections, and other considerations.

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December 17, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

Nearly a year after the pool-cue rape of an Ooltewah High School freshman, charges have been dismissed against the school's former basketball coach, Andre "Tank" Montgomery.

Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole dismissed four charges of failure to report child sexual abuse, saying that under state law, the coach was not required to report the rape to authorities.

Poole reminded people in the courtroom he must make decisions based on the law. In this case, he interpreted state law to mean that adults have a legal obligation to report sexual abuse of a child aged 13 to 17 only if it is committed by a member of the child's household.

"Now, that doesn't mean there wouldn't be a moral requirement to report," Poole said.

He suggested it may be time for state lawmakers to clarify the intention and wording of the statute.

State Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, said he and other members of the local legislative delegation plan to address this in coming months.

He said they have waited to get involved because of the pending criminal case. Now the legal case is over, local lawmakers plan to sit down with judges, attorneys and schools officials to talk about to improve the statute.

"We want to come up with the best way to amend and strengthen [the current statute] to protect children," he said. "And obviously hold anybody in the future accountable for not doing the right thing."

After Poole's ruling, Montgomery was emotional as he hugged his family and friends outside the courtroom. He declined to comment.

Although the charges were dropped, Montgomery and the Hamilton County Board of Education still face two federal lawsuits filed in connection with the rape. 

Montgomery's attorney, Curtis Bowe, said it has been a long year of emotion and stress for Montgomery and his family.

"It takes a toll," he told reporters.

Montgomery commended Poole's interpretation of the law, and said the youths responsible for the rape have been held accountable.

"Mr. Montgomery is not responsible," Bowe said.

Hamilton County Schools removed Montgomery from the classroom and his coaching responsibilities last year, pending this case. Bowe said he does not know if Montgomery will go back to teaching, but added that he is a great teacher and talented coach.

"And I can't imagine him doing anything different," Bowe added.

Officials in the Hamilton County District Attorney's office said they plan to ask the Tennessee Attorney General's Office to review Poole's decision. Any appeal must be filed within 30 days.

Three former Ooltewah High School players were convicted in connection with the rape that occurred during the team's trip to Gatlinburg, Tenn., to compete in a basketball tournament.

The 15-year-old victim required emergency surgery to repair his bladder and colon. According to previous court testimony, staff at the hospital, not Montgomery, contacted authorities about the attack.

In January, Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston charged Montgomery, along with the team's volunteer assistant coach, Karl Williams, and former athletic director Allard "Jesse" Nayadley.

Charges against Williams were dropped in May. And two weeks before that, Nayadley accepted pretrial diversion, meaning the case would not go to a grand jury and the charges would be erased if he completed 10 hours of community service, attended a course on reporting abuse and is well-behaved.

During the hearing Friday, Poole said there is no dispute that the attack on the teen by his teammates was horrendous.

"It's hard for us to believe what a human being can do to another human being," he said.

Contact staff writer Kendi A. Rainwater at 423-757-6592 or krainwater@timesfreepress.com Follow on Twitter @kendi_and.

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Copyright 2016 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock has confirmed that a former assistant coach-turned-broadcaster at Wake Forest provided a former Hokies assistant with "some game plan information" in 2014.

Babcock said in a statement Thursday that he has no indication that the information was shared with staff members or used during the game. Retired coach Frank Beamer also said he "had no knowledge of what is being alleged."

Babcock did not identify the assistant coach. Wake Forest won that game 6-3 in double overtime and finished the season 3-9.

Virginia Tech joins Louisville and Army in acknowledging their involvement in the scandal in which former Wake Forest assistant Tommy Elrod was fired as the analyst on Demon Deacons' radio game broadcasts after the school determined he leaked or attempted to leak game plans.

"We are disappointed and embarrassed that this type of information was distributed to, and apparently received by one of our former assistant coaches," Babcock said.

The unidentified assistant did not remain on the staff when Beamer retired, Babcock said.

Earlier Thursday, Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said he feels betrayed and that his players were cheated by a former assistant coach-turned-broadcaster who peddled Demon Deacons' plays to opponents.

"I've never experienced this level of betrayal in coaching," coach Dave Clawson said after his team's first practice since the school made public the results of a nearly monthlong internal investigation into potential leaks of game plans.

The scandal has garnered national headlines, completely overshadowing Wake Forest's upcoming Military Bowl matchup with Temple.

"The big thing is that (the players) were cheated - they were not given a fair chance to compete on multiple occasions, but there's nothing we can do about it," Clawson said. "We found out what happened, we found out who did it, they're no longer part of our program and now we need to move forward and try to win a bowl game."

The school's review, which began after documents related to the team's game plan for the Nov. 12 game at Louisville were found at the Cardinals' stadium, placed the blame on Tommy Elrod. He is a former player and assistant under the previous staff who moved into the broadcast booth during a coaching change after the 2013 season.

Elrod was fired as an analyst on the Demon Deacons' IMG College radio broadcasts and was banned from the school's athletic facilities. His attorney, former Wake Forest player James Quander, declined comment Thursday, and Elrod has not returned phone calls and text messages.

Citing advice from the school's lawyers, Clawson declined to offer any additional specifics on how many games may have been affected, or exactly how the plays were obtained and transmitted.

Wake Forest officials say they've contacted other schools that were involved, leaving it up to them to come forward.

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December 16, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2016 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

Sean Woods resigned as Morehead State's coach after being charged with misdemeanor battery in Indiana for allegedly assaulting two of his players.

Athletic director Brian Hutchinson on Thursday announced Woods' resignation after four-plus seasons guiding the Eagles.

The coach had been suspended since Nov. 22 and Morehead State began investigating "complaints received" about him. Police in Evansville, Indiana, on Tuesday filed the battery charge against Woods. Morehead State was in Cheney on Tuesday, losing to Eastern Washington 88-86 in overtime.

From AB: Basketball Coach Accused of Assaulting Players

It was the fifth straight game Woods missed through suspension. Two players stated in an affidavit that they had altercations with Woods. One said the coach backhanded him in the chest and the other claims Woods shoved him twice. 

 

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Don Garber, the MLS commissioner, is overseeing an expansion to 28 teams.

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber said during a Nov. 29 visit to the Queen City that FC Cincinnati still needs to figure out if Nippert Stadium is its longterm solution as its home site.

On Thursday, he made it clear the shared facility with the University of Cincinnati might not be an option if FC Cincinnati wants an MLS expansion bid, as the league plans to increase from 20 to 28 teams with 10 cities in the mix for four open spots.

Garber held a conference call with media regarding the guidelines, timeline and fees for the next wave of expansion beyond the four teams already set to join in the next few years - Minnesota and Atlanta in 2017, Los Angeles in 2018 and Miami likely after that.

The commissioner reiterated what he said in Cincinnati that a committed ownership group and supportive market are the most important factors for expansion clubs, followed by a "comprehensive stadium plan that ensures the team will have a proper home for their fans and players, while also serving in many ways as a destination for the entire sport in the respective market."

However, when asked specifically what the league is looking for in stadium proposals, Garber said a club-controlled stadium is a must.

"Our learning through the (first) 20 years (of the league) taught us there is not a cookie-cutter solution that works in every market, and you've got to really manage what makes sense in each individual city with the owner and with the dynamic that works in the community," Garber said. "The only thing that hasn't changed is that we must have a stadium our team owns and controls, so we can manage our schedule and manage the effective operations of our games."

FC Cincinnati's arrangement at UC would not fit that bill, and the club has about six weeks to figure that out, as applications for expansion are due Jan. 31.

Garber said teams No. 25 and 26 will enter by 2020 with an expansion fee of $150 million but owners will need to plan for an investment much greater.

"The expansion fee is the start of a huge investment in MLS for each group, as every potential market will be building a stadium, that leads to an investment that will go well north of $300 million," Garber said. "Additionally, these new teams will be making significant investments in training facilities, the first team, a youth academy and also building out their administrative staff."

FC Cincinnati general manager and president Jeff Berding said after Garber's visit that the club had looked at potential sites for a new stadium.

Berding was not available for comment Thursday while out of town but did provide an emailed statement.

"Clearly, we have a lot of work ahead in a short period of time, but there was nothing that we heard today that discourages us. Cincinnati and our ownership have what it takes to successfully bid for MLS expansion," Berding said. "We have been working to build our infrastructure since day one because we have been and will always be committed to being the strongest franchise we can be.

"We have been clear about our commitment to bring professional soccer at the highest level to Cincinnati, and we are enthusiastic about the opportunity to continue that building effort with the MLS."

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

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

1. Wearable Technology: includes activity trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors and GPS tracking devices.

From ABTechnological Advances Disrupting the Fitness Industry

2. Body Weight Training: Body weight training uses minimal equipment making it more affordable. Not limited to just push-ups and pull-ups, this trend allows people to get "back to the basics"with fitness.

3. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): HIIT, which involves short bursts of activity followed by a short period of rest or recovery, these exercise programs are usually performed in less than 30 minutes.

4. Educated and Experienced Fitness Professionals. It's important that consumers choose professionals certified through programs that are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), such as those offered by ACSM.

5. Strength Training. Strength training remains a central emphasis for many health clubs. Incorporating strength training is an essential part of a complete exercise program for all physical activity levels and genders.

6. Group Training: Group exercise instructors teach, lead and motivate individuals though intentionally designed group exercise classes. Group programs are designed to be motivational and effective for people at different fitness levels.

7. Exercise is Medicine. Exercise is Medicine is a global health initiative that is focused on encouraging primary care physicians and other health care providers to include physical activity when designing treatment plans for patients and referring their patients to exercise professionals.

8. Yoga. Based on ancient tradition, yoga utilizes a series of specific bodily postures practiced for health and relaxation. This includes Power Yoga, Yogalates, Bikram, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Kripalu,Anurara, Kundalini, Sivananda and others.

9. Personal Training. More and more students are majoring in kinesiology, which indicates that they are preparing themselves for careers in allied health fields such as personal training. Education, training and proper credentialing for personal trainers have become increasingly important to the health and fitness facilities that employ them.

10. Exercise and Weight Loss. In addition to nutrition, exercise is a key component of a proper weight loss program. Health and fitness professionals who provide weight loss programs are increasingly incorporating regular exercise and caloric restriction for better weight control in their clients.

-AMERICAN COLLEGE OFSPORTSMEDICINE

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USA TODAY

 

The father of Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford said he can't help but wonder if his son suffered injuries as a direct result of opposing teams allegedly getting inside information from former Wake Forest assistant coach-turned-broadcaster Tommy Elrod.

"It's just insane," Robert Wolford told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday. "It did put John potentially in danger of getting hurt. He's not a big quarterback, and there's no question he's been battered all three years there."

Wolford, who is listed at 6-1 and 200 pounds on the school's roster, has been sacked 98 times in three seasons at Wake Forest, according to ESPN.com statistics.

He was sacked seven times and suffered a shoulder injury Nov. 12 in a 44-12 defeat against Louisville, which this week acknowledged receiving information from Elrod before its game against Wake Forest.

"The thing that enters your mind is whether there were situations where defenses knew what routes (Wake Forest receivers) were going to run and that put him at risk because it took longer for the play to develop and for receivers to get open," Robert Wolford said.

Tom Jurich, Louisville's athletics director, said the coaching staff received information about a few of Wake Forest's plays. But he said none of the plays was run during the game and indicated the school gained no competitive advantage from the information.

Robert Wolford took issue with Jurich's statement.

"For them to sort of minimize it like they did is sort of like rubbing salt in the wound," he said.

Robert Wolford also cited a Wake Forest play he said was designed for his son to pass the ball to a tight end, a play that was foiled when three Louisville defenders were covering the tight end.

"It was obvious they knew what was going to happen," Robert Wolford said. "So Louisville I don't think has been completely honest about it."

John Wolford, Wake Forest's third-year starting quarterback, said he does not yet know how much opposing teams benefited from information they received from Elrod, a former Demon Deacons assistant who was an analyst on the school's broadcast team when the alleged leaks took place. Elrod was fired after a Wake Forest investigation that was released Tuesday.

"What I don't want to do, and I wouldn't want getting out, is I'm blaming the sacks I took or the losses we had completely on this," John Wolford told USA TODAY Sports. "To attribute it all to this would be unfair. Especially when we don't know the extent to how many teams got it."

John Wolford said he has been too busy studying for final exams to think much about past games or spend time watching film to try to determine what transpired.

"At this point it's behind us," he said, "so going back and doing that wouldn't do much."

John Wolford said part of what made the findings of Wake Forest's investigation so surprising is Elrod was the Wake Forest coach who offered Wolford a scholarship in 2013, when he was playing high school football in Jacksonville. Elrod was the quarterbacks coach at the time but lost his job shortly thereafter when Jim Grobe resigned as head coach.

Elrod joined the Wake Forest broadcast team, and Wolford said they said hello when they saw each other on campus or on the team plane.

"I honestly was shocked," John Wolford said. "In my interaction with him and my interaction with other players -- some of the older guys that have played underneath him -- I just didn't expect it. From all my interactions, he seemed like a good guy."

Although John Wolford said he has put the matter behind him, his father has not.

"I'd like to find out what ultimately prompted Elrod to do this," Robert Wolford said. "It's just bizarre. Absolutely bizarre."

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The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

I don't have children yet, but I do have an athletic teenage niece whom I love dearly.

And if she was ever subjected to the chants I heard the evening of Dec. 3 during St. Joseph's Prep's PIAA 6A football semifinal victory over North Penn at Northeast High, I hope someone - anyone - would put an end to such reprehensible behavior, which included body-shaming and a reference to a sexual act.

The first chant came after North Penn's second touchdown, which occurred with five minutes left in the third quarter as the Knights' junior kicker, Kelly Macnamara, went onto the field for the extra point.

You may remember Macnamara from philly.com and from ESPN, CNN, and other national news outlets after an October video of her making a tackle during a kick return went viral. On this night, however, she was greeted with an ugly chant.

"Kelly's pregnant! Kelly's pregnant!" was chanted by enough people in what was clearly the St. Joseph's Prep student section that I heard it while standing on the Prep sideline. Though I won't venture a guess at the number of people involved, this was certainly more than three or four rogue voices. But it was also not the entire section.

Each utterance was followed by rhythmic clapping from some in the section, which was situated behind the Hawks sideline on the same end of the field at which Macnamara made the extra point.

The second chant began with 22 seconds left in the third quarter as Macnamara prepared to kick a 28-yard field goal.

"Kelly's fat!" was preceded and followed by more rhythmic clapping.

The second volley of "Kelly's fat!" seemed to trail off after an audible gasp of disapproval seemed to come from some people around - and possibly within - the student section.

This, however, only momentarily stopped the chants.

From ABDeveloping a Universal Code of Conduct for HS Sports Fans

A timeout was called before the kick was attempted, so there was at least a 60-second lull in the action before Macnamara went out to kick again. Undeterred by the delay, a few fans chanted again as Macnamara got back into position.

This time, the chant used Kelly's name in relation to a sexual act. Judging by the chant's somewhat diminished volume, at least some of those who previously chanted did not participate in this one.

At least one spectator, standing to my left on the Prep sideline - which consisted of double-digit members of the mostly, if not exclusively, male press pool; alumni of the school; and other Prep supporters - appeared embarrassed.

"Oh my God," a man to my far left uttered loud enough to be heard only by those in the immediate vicinity.Anyone speak up?

Several things trouble me greatly about this entire experience. Most important is that there are young men who harbor such sentiments and feel comfortable spewing them in public. Also troubling is that it didn't appear that anyone admonished the group in a meaningful way, if at all, after the initial or subsequent chants.

The tenor of the first chant definitely primed me to anticipate that more was to come.

I hope I am wrong. I hope someone did say something. Then again, if someone addressed this group after the first chant, that would mean that these young men ignored that repudiation. I don't think that's what happened here.

Nor do I think this is a situation in which people, mostly if not all men, in positions of authority heard the chants and chose to ignore them.

I spoke to District 12 chairman Michael Hawkins, who was at the game but said he did not hear the chants. He said he wished someone had alerted him so he could have addressed it. I've witnessed Hawkins, the former longtime football coach at now-closed Germantown High, shut down unruly crowd behavior at basketball games. So I have no doubt he would have acted swiftly.

I spoke to Ken Geiser, the athletic director at George Washington who also oversees football for the Public League as the host school, Northeast High, is a member of the league. Geiser said he was at the game and also did not hear the chants and was also disappointed that nothing was reported.

In an open-air football stadium on a chilly, windy night in December, I'm not surprised they didn't hear the chants. Those two men in particular typically don't stand in one place during games because of game-related duties.

I spoke to Kelly's father, Ray, who said neither he nor his wife, Jane, heard the chants from across the field. Ray declined to comment on the chants. He said Kelly hadn't mentioned the chants.

I also spoke to North Penn coach Dick Beck. He said that he didn't hear the chants on Dec. 3 and that nothing like that had happened all season.

It is impossible, however, that I am the only person who heard these chants. Still, I spoke to a representative at the Prep on Dec. 5 who said my voicemail and email that afternoon were the first the school had heard about the incident.Say something

My words aren't meant to cast aspersions on St. Joseph's Prep, its fans, students, teachers, players, or coaches. In fact, this has nothing to do with the Prep football team at all. And, I've spoken to coach Gabe Infante enough times to know he is truly invested in developing great young men on and off the field and wouldn't want such chants done in his team's name.

So, in the future, if you see something, say something, or go find someone with authority.

At the very least, send an email after the fact.

Because even if a reporter isn't there next time and doesn't follow up, this behavior needs to be stamped out so no one feels comfortable spewing these words in public - or at all.

I don't have a choice. It's my job as a journalist, brother, uncle - and as a man.

@AceCarterINQ

Cartera@phillynews.com

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Naples Daily News (Florida)

 

Collier County hasn't built it, yet they're certainly coming.

So we applaud the newly constituted County Commission for calling off the game rather than negotiating on a spring training stadium for the Atlanta Braves. However, we also urge the commission with three new members to waste no time before they T-ball up a discussion of furthering youth sports with a multidimensional athletic complex.

The famous whispered line from the 1989 film classic "Field of Dreams" ("If you build it, he will come," referring to Shoeless Joe Jackson) has been altered by pop culture into "they," not just "he." In these past 25-plus years, we've seen a change toward a younger Collier County that supports further investing in youth sports, because "they" - meaning competing youngsters - are coming to Southwest Florida along with more tourists.

Spring training

The prior commission had asked staff to analyze possibilities for spring training for the Braves. It could have been coupled with an amateur and youth sports complex on an adjacent 305 acres owned by county taxpayers near the Interstate 75 and Collier Boulevard interchange.

The analysis turned up no persuasive arguments to invest some $100 million for land and a stadium for professional ballplayers. The best argument we heard was that the Braves' spring training attendance ranks second in Florida to the New York Yankees. Yet the Braves now train in a major population center in the Orlando area near Disney World in the third-largest seating capacity stadium in the Grapefruit League, so that's hardly surprising.

What did resonate with us, however, were findings by Commissioner Penny Taylor's staff:

Of 42 spring training stadiums built in Florida, 29 have been abandoned; some have gone through multimillion-dollar renovations.

Collier has some $130 million of transportation needs "today," yet there is no identified way to pay for them. That exceeds the cost of this stadium.

We're reminded how the Braves moved from West Palm Beach to their current site, opened in 1997 as a "state of the art" stadium, and now want to use local and state money to relocate again. We oppose using state money for billion-dollar professional teams to play community hopscotch within Florida.

The new commission, with members Burt Saunders, Andy Solis and Bill McDaniel in their first meeting Tuesday, wisely decided not to further pursue a Braves deal.

Persuasive

What was persuasive to us during Tuesday's discussion were these comments:

"We're maxed out with existing facilities for recreational sports," Deputy County Manager Nick Casalanguida said of fields to provide more local, tournament and tourist-drawing events for softball, soccer, triathlons and similar events geared to younger generations.

"Don't lose sight of the need for growth in the facilities for sports and recreation," urged Collier County Sports Council President Mary Shea.

Next?

At other times during Tuesday's meeting, it was noted what a tourism boost pickleball has been for Collier, that staff is analyzing the possibility of municipal golf rather than seeing a current course converted, and the prior commission authorized hiring a deputy tourism director to further sports marketing.

While pickleball and golf certainly don't exclude children, that's not exactly our vision for a targeted youth sports complex.

Commissioners next gather Jan. 3 for a nonvoting meeting to discuss future land use. Thanks to past visionary work by county staff, the new board wouldn't have to start from scratch in pursuing a multisports complex for youth.

Not long ago, staff and consultants documented demand that led to the new sports tourism position; embarked on four land-use plan updates; studied possible sites for a multisports complex, and explored what's appropriate for a new regional park near Golden Gate Estates. Collier County Public Schools staff tracks demographics for school zoning, so data should be available on where the kids are.

Calling off the pursuit of spring training doesn't mean there isn't a cornfield somewhere in Collier appropriate for a youth sports complex.

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Copyright 2016 Digital First Media
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The Daily News of Los Angeles

 

IRVING, Texas - NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell isn't saying whether he's optimistic that San Diego and Oakland can keep their teams, while Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay considers both franchises all but gone.

Dean Spanos of the Chargers and the Raiders' Mark Davis weren't talking at the NFL owners meeting Wednesday in the Dallas area. And no new specifics were revealed by Goodell a day after city and county officials in Oakland agreed to open negotiations with an investment group on a $1.3 billion plan for a new stadium.

"As you know, these issues have been going on for an awful long time," Goodell said. "The challenges of getting stadiums built is something that we've worked very hard on. We have not made great progress in Oakland and San Diego. There is not a stadium proposal on the table that we think addresses the long-term issues of the clubs and the communities."

The Chargers face a Jan. 15 deadline to decide whether to join the Rams in Los Angeles, part of a deal struck almost a year ago when owners agreed to let the Rams leave St. Louis. A Chargers-written ballot measure asking for $1.15 billion in increased hotel taxes to help fund a new downtown stadium was soundly defeated last month.

Earlier this year, Davis said he was committed to moving the Raiders to Las Vegas, where a $1.9 billion stadium project has been approved. He declined to comment Wednesday when asked by The Associated Press about the vote a day earlier in Oakland.

The Raiders will have from the end of their season, which will likely include their first trip to the playoffs since 2002, until Feb. 15 to apply for relocation. Irsay didn't offer any encouraging words for San Diego or Oakland.

"I think that there is at this point really no reason for optimism in either market for the Chargers and Raiders right now," Irsay said. "We'll see what happens. That's the way it appears to be going with the year ending here."

Irsay said it would be "fruitless" to extend the deadline facing the Chargers on their Los Angeles decision. He suggested that Spanos and Rams owner Stan Kroenke would reach an agreement to share Kroenke's new stadium in Inglewood.

"You know this process has been going on for a very, very long time in San Diego," Irsay said. "Dean's going to need to make a decision on what's best for the Chargers and go forward. I know as owners we all felt two teams could be supported in Los Angeles, unquestionably."

Goodell said the NFL was still committed to keeping the teams in their respective cities, a point he said he reiterated with San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer on Tuesday.

"But ultimately it's for the community to decide," Goodell said. "We have worked to try to get the referendum passed. And we'll continue to work with the local officials. But ultimately, they have to determine what it is they want to do in the community, what it is that can work for the community and the team."

Among other issues Goodell addressed:

• The salary cap will increase at least another $10 million for the fourth year in a row, which Goodell said was a sign that the labor deal reached in 2011 was working. "This is healthy for us," Goodell said. "We should continue to find ways to continue to extend that and make sure that we address things that we think we could make better."

• The NFL will experiment with the number of advertisements in TV breaks during Week 16 games as it continues to evaluate a decline in ratings this season. The changes are not expected to reduce the time for ads, but perhaps the number of ads in a break and how many breaks there are.

"We're evaluating every aspect of the game presentation on television, on media platforms and also in stadiums," Goodell said.

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

CLEVELAND- A state appeals court in Cleveland has ruled that the widow of a former Notre Dame football player can proceed with claims in a lawsuit that said her husband was disabled by and ultimately died from concussion-related head injuries suffered during his college career in the 1970s.

Steve Schmitz was alive but suffering from dementia and early onset Alzheimer's disease when he and his wife, Yvette, sued the NCAA and the university in Cuyahoga County in October 2014. The lawsuit alleged both institutions had shown "reckless disregard" for the safety of college football players and for their failure to educate and protect players from concussions.

The lawsuit said the link between repeated blows to the head and brain-related injuries and illnesses had been known for decades, but it wasn't until 2010 that the NCAA required colleges to formulate concussion protocols to remove an athlete from a game or practice and be evaluated by doctors if there were signs of a concussion.

Records show Schmitz, a standout at St. Edward High School in the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood, was a kick returner, running back and wide receiver for Notre Dame from 1974 to 1977.

The lawsuit said Schmitz was diagnosed by the Cleveland Clinic in 2012 with a latent brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, and suffered from severe memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer's. Schmitz died in February 2015 at a hospice. He was 59.

David Langfitt, one of Yvette Schmitz's attorneys, told The Associated Press on Tuesday there's no way to know many concussions Schmitz suffered at Notre Dame, but said it undoubtedly was many.

"We do know that CTE has only one cause and that's repetitive head impacts of any kind," Langfitt said.

A Cuyahoga County judge dismissed all the lawsuit's claims in September 2015. The 8th District Court of Appeals ruled last week that the judge erred in dismissing claims of negligence, fraud and loss of consortium against the NCAA and Notre Dame and a second fraud claim against Notre Dame.

An attorney representing Notre Dame declined to comment when asked if an appeal was planned.

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USA TODAY

 

No one knows exactly how many children have been sexually exploited in America's gyms over the past 20 years. But an IndyStar-USA TODAY Network review of hundreds of police files and court cases across the country provides for the first time a measure of how pervasive the problem is.

At least 368 gymnasts have alleged some form of sexual abuse at the hands of their coaches, gym owners and other adults working in gymnastics. That's a rate of one every 20 days.

IndyStar reported that top officials at USA Gymnastics, one of the nation's most prominent Olympic organizations, failed to alert police to many allegations of sexual abuse that occurred on their watch. The problem is far worse. A nine-month investigation into cases across the nation found that predatory coaches were allowed to move from gym to gym, undetected by a lax system of oversight or dangerously passed on by USA Gymnastics-certified gyms.

USA Gymnastics calls itself a leader in child safety. In a statement responding to IndyStar's questions, it said, "Nothing is more important to USA Gymnastics, the Board of Directors and CEO Steve Penny than protecting athletes, which requires sustained vigilance by everyone -- coaches, athletes, parents, administrators and officials. We are saddened when any athlete has been harmed in the course of his or her gymnastics career."

The organization noted several initiatives, including the use of criminal background checks for coaches, the practice of publishing the names of coaches banned from its competitions and programs that provide educational materials to member gyms.

IndyStar's investigation found:

USA Gymnastics focuses its efforts to stop sexual abuse on educating members instead of setting strict ground rules and enforcing them. It says it can't take aggressive action because member gyms are independent businesses and because of restrictions in federal law pertaining to Olympic organizations. Both are contentions others dispute.

Gym owners have a conflict of interest when it comes to reporting abuse. Some fear harm to their business. When confronted with evidence of abuse, many quietly fired the suspected abusers and failed to warn future employers. Some of those coaches continued to work with children.

Coaches are fired from gym after gym without being tracked or flagged by USA Gymnastics or without losing their membership. The organization often has no idea when a coach is fired by a gym and no systematic way to keep track. Ray Adams was fired or forced to resign from at least six gyms in four states. Yet some gym owners hired Adams, believing his record was clean.

Though the vast majority of officials put children's well-being ahead of business and competition, there are some at every level who have not. Some coaches suspected of abuse kept their jobs as long as they accepted special monitoring. Others were allowed to finish their season before being fired. In 2009, Doug Boger was named Coach of the Year and was sent to international competition while under investigation for alleged sexual abuse.

Victims' stories have been treated with skepticism by USA Gymnastics officials, gym owners, coaches and parents. Former gymnasts Charmaine Carnes and Jennifer Sey said they felt pressured by Penny not to pursue allegations of abuse by prominent coaches Don Peters and Boger. Carnes said she thought Penny tried to keep the claims about Boger quiet for as long as possible to protect the sport's image and win championships, a characterization USA Gymnastics disputes.

In its statement to IndyStar, USA Gymnastics said it constantly strives to improve.

In the wake of IndyStar's investigation in August, USA Gymnastics hired a former prosecutor to evaluate its bylaws and offer advice on how to strengthen its policies. It also established a policy review panel on its board of directors. And it said it will play a central role in developing a U.S. Center for SafeSport to oversee education programs and investigate and adjudicate claims of sexual misconduct for all U.S. Olympic Committee governing bodies.

"USA Gymnastics is proud of the work it has done to address and guard against child sexual abuse," it said in background materials provided to IndyStar.

Penny, who has been president since 2005, declined to be interviewed for this and other IndyStar stories. Neither the chairman of USA Gymnastics' board, Paul Parilla, nor board members responded to interview requests.

Many who want reforms in Olympic sports said they are frustrated by the lack of meaningful change.

"It saddens me because I love our sport," said Molly Shawen-Kollmann, a former member of the U.S. national team and current coach in the Cincinnati area. "This is not indicative of who we want to be. As an organization, they aren't doing their job."

To tally the number of potential victims, IndyStar reporters scoured two decades of news stories and thousands of pages of public records.

Reporters interviewed more than 100 people, including gym owners, athletes, coaches, police officers, prosecutors and child advocates, as well as athletes who came forward after the newspaper's original investigation in August.

All told, these gymnasts named 115 adults at every level of the sport, from respected Olympic mentors to novices working with recreational gymnasts.

The abuse allegedly happened in every part of the USA -- from Maine to California, Washington to Florida, and across the Midwest.

The victims were teenagers and preteens. The youngest was 6. Almost all of them were girls.

They encountered the men accused of abusing them everywhere from a Rhode Island YMCA to the famous Karolyi Ranch in Texas, where USA Gymnastics sends its top female athletes to train. It's unclear how many of the alleged victims and coaches were USA Gymnastics members, because the organization does not disclose that information.

Former coach Jeffrey Bettman, who pleaded guilty this year to child pornography charges, hid cameras in changing rooms in gyms in California and Oregon over the course of a decade. William McCabe pleaded guilty in 2006 to doing the same thing in his Georgia gym.

USA Gymnastics member Kenneth Arnold, 28, was arrested in November in Zionsville, Ind. Arnold, who pleaded not guilty, is accused of pulling back the leotards of two gymnasts and touching their genitals while assisting them with moves.

The charges came 18 months after the gym owner issued Arnold a warning about setting boundaries with gymnasts, writing in an email, "No holding, hugging, touching athletes to tell them to tighten up. No tickling or carrying kids on back."

In a statement, USA Gymnastics said it did not know how many children have alleged sexual abuse against its members.

"We find it appalling that anyone would exploit a young athlete or child in this manner and recognize the effect this behavior can have on a person's life," the statement said. "USA Gymnastics has been proactive in helping educate the gymnastics community and will continue to take every punitive action available within our jurisdiction and cooperate fully with law enforcement."

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USA TODAY

 

Do you hear yourself, Tom Jurich?

Do you honestly believe the inside information your University of Louisville football coaches illicitly obtained before last month's game against Wake Forest is a trivial matter? Do you seriously think the real problem here is an issue that has brought "undue attention to our football staff" as it prepares for the Citrus Bowl?

No more than that?

What about personal integrity? What about fair play? What about coach Bobby Petrino's repeated insistence that he had no knowledge of his staff being privy to parts of Wake Forest's game plan?

There's no mention of any of that in the tone-deaf statement issued in Jurich's name Wednesday, not a smidgen of shame nor a note of apology from an athletics director already dealing with an NCAA investigation into recruiting sex parties in a campus dorm.

Instead, we get a news release crafted to convey that there's nothing of significance to see here. If Wake Forest did not use any of the new plays alleged turncoat Tommy Elrod shared with Louisville assistant Lonnie Galloway, it's no big deal, right?

"Among the communication were a few plays that were sent and then shared with our defensive staff," the statement reads. "None of the special plays were run during the course of the game. Our defense regularly prepares for similar formations every week in their normal game plan."

What this twisted rationalization omits is that Wake Forest had reason to think its game plan had been compromised on the Friday before its Nov. 12 loss at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium and had, therefore, lost the element of surprise.

To run trick plays against an opponent prepared for them is to invite disaster. To pretend that being in possession of another team's trade secrets is of no consequence if the other party decides to proceed without them is, at best, disingenuous.

Granted, the relative strengths of the two teams meant that no amount of razzle or dazzle was likely to change the outcome of a game that ended 44-12. The same could be said, though, of the 1972 presidential election and the Watergate burglary. Cheating does not become more permissible when the odds are already stacked in your favor.

Down deep, Jurich surely understands all that and how all this looks to the world outside of Jefferson County. He has to be at least a little chagrined that the newest member of the Atlantic Coast Conference has brought embarrassment on the league in successive years in its two highest-profile sports.

But part of the Jurich bargain, and one of the reasons for his enormous success, is that his coaches know they can count on his support in a crisis. Jurich has stuck his neck out so far for Petrino, basketball coach Rick Pitino and former football assistant Clint Hurtt that he could easily be confused for a giraffe. Expecting him to come down hard on coaches for accepting useful information from a double agent is like expecting 30 lashes from Santa Claus.

Whatever penalties might be in play most likely will be imposed by the ACC and/or the NCAA. For a month, the conference has shown no appetite to investigate, leaving the case to be resolved through Wake Forest's internal review.

Yet because Wake Forest is a private school and therefore free from public records requirements, its refusal to share all of its findings publicly make it incumbent upon the conference to get involved.

Since Wake Forest claims to have found multiple instances of Elrod's treachery, dating to 2014, it is essential that the ACC determine the full extent of his misdeeds, their impact, the identity of his conspirators and any possible quid pro quo.

Clearly, Louisville was not the only school willing to listen to Elrod's leaks. And it would be naive to think most coaches would reject the opportunity to gain an illicit competitive edge. The fact that Elrod was able to operate as a mole for more than two years before Wake Forest realized it had a security breach tells you that no coach was willing to turn him in and turn off its spying spigot.

That said, Louisville got caught, and there is bound to be some price to be paid for that. Shortly after Jurich acknowledged Elrod's communications with Galloway, the ACC tardily moved into platitude mode.

"Protecting competitive integrity is fundamental to the Atlantic Coast Conference," it said in a statement. "The conference office is in the process of obtaining the internal findings from Wake Forest University.

"Based on the information provided, and any other information obtained, the league office will perform its due diligence, and as necessary, additional discussions and actions will occur."

If the attention the Louisville coaches receive as a result is unflattering, it will not be undue.

Sullivan writes for The (Louisville) Courier Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network.

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USA TODAY

 

College football always gives us plenty to chew on, but this time it might have outdone itself.

Have you heard the one about the former Wake Forest assistant football coach-turned-radio announcer who allegedly leaked details about the Demon Deacons' game plans to their opponents?

It's crazy. It's also true. The announcer, Tommy Elrod, who played football at Wake Forest in the 1990s, has been fired, and Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich has confirmed that Elrod gave secrets to his team this season.

The questions and concerns Elrod leaves behind are numerous and troubling. Were students, alumni, fans, sponsors and all the participants on the field duped into believing they were watching (or playing in) an honest competition, when they perhaps were not? Did Elrod, who headed to the broadcast booth after being fired in 2013, mete out a unique form of revenge on the athletics department that got rid of him?

Did Wake lose games it might have won had Elrod not had open access to practices and playbooks? Did he do it for money or a future job at another school?

And what about the student-athletes themselves? As Winston-Salem Journal columnist Scott Hamilton appropriately asks: "How many of the 91 times battered quarterback John Wolford was sacked were at least assisted by a little inside information?"

It's all concerning, and it was made worse Wednesday when Jurich dropped his bombshell that Elrod did give "a few plays" to Louisville offensive coordinator Lonnie Galloway over the phone the week of their November game, which Louisville won 44-12.

"Among the communication were a few plays that were sent and then shared with our defensive staff," Jurich said in a statement, adding that none of the plays were "run during the course of the game," as if that somehow makes Elrod's communication with Galloway and Louisville's use of that information any less egregious.

Jurich was not finished. "Our defense regularly prepares for similar formations every week in their normal game plan. Any other information that may have been discussed was nothing that our staff had not already seen while studying Wake Forest in their preparations for the game and the material was not given any further attention."

Jurich added that he's "disappointed that this issue has brought undue attention to our football staff as we prepare for our upcoming bowl game."

Well, isn't that too bad? The Louisville AD has just admitted that his team cheated, that his offensive coordinator received and shared confidential strategic information about an opponent, a breach of ethics that undermined the integrity of that game. And now he's angry that it's creating a distraction?

Adding to Louisville's fascinating role in this burgeoning fiasco is the fact that Wake Forest's internal investigation -- the sports media is ingeniously calling this "Wakeyleaks" -- began after the loss to the Cardinals, when staff members discovered materials left behind by Louisville that indicated the Cardinals were prepared for plays the Demon Deacons had not run before.

Louisville coach Bobby Petrino -- it's a college football scandal, so of course he's involved -- said in a statement in November when rumors were flying about advance knowledge of Wake's game plan that he "had no knowledge of the situation."

Now, of course, Jurich has confirmed that there was quite a bit of knowledge of the situation among Petrino's staff a month ago.

The Atlantic Coast Conference issued a statement Wednesday saying that "protecting competitive integrity is fundamental" to the conference, adding that it's "in the process of obtaining the internal findings from Wake Forest University." It promised to perform "its due diligence" to get to the bottom of this mess.

It's essential that the ACC investigate Wake Forest. But it also should look at every conference school it played the last three seasons, starting with Louisville.

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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

PlayCore had only seven employees in Chattanooga when Bob Farnsworth joined the company nearly two decades ago.

As Farnsworth prepares to retire as PlayCore's CEO at the end of the year, the maker of playground and recreational equipment is preparing to move into its own headquarters building with about 125 employees in Chattanooga and 1,800 workers across the country.

"We doubled in size during the recession," said Farnsworth, who'll hand over PlayCore's reins to current president Roger Posacki. "During that period of time, we acquired eight companies."

Over his 19-year tenure, Farnsworth helped build PlayCore into a leader in the play and recreation equipment market.

"I'm extremely proud to have worked with one of the best teams in the industry to help drive PlayCore's growth," Farnsworth said. "The passion, drive, and dedication of our people has provided the foundation on which we've built the company we are today."

From a portfolio that consisted of playground companies at the beginning of Farnsworth's tenure, PlayCore now has 20 brands encompassing recreation, including play, aquatics, site furnishings, indoor and outdoor fitness, and spectator seating.

PlayCore also employs about 350 people at a production plant in Fort Payne, Ala.

New York City-based Sentinel Capital Partners, a private equity firm focusing on middle market investments, owns PlayCore, which has more than $400 million in annual revenues.

Posacki said the company is "profoundly grateful for the visionary leadership Bob has provided to our business and to our industry."

"The foundation he has helped to lay will ensure that PlayCore remains focused on aligning our resources to profitably grow our company, and we are excited about the many opportunities to continue our growth and service in the future," he said.

Farnsworth said PlayCore is a holding company for entrepreneurial businesses in the park and recreation market. As PlayCore has acquired them, they stay as standalone enterprises, though parts such as finance are integrated, he said.

"That's the secret of the company," Farns-worth said, maintaining the entrepreneurial spirit of a business but adding value to distribution and other channels and leveraging the supply chain side.

Also from Chattanooga come research and outreach seminars for customers, he said.

Farnsworth, who will continue to serve on PlayCore's board, said there are several more acquisitions which the company hopes to finish up in early 2017.

"I'm confident we'll continue on its [growth] path," he said, citing Posacki's experience and management team.

On Wednesday, PlayCore announced that Spencer Cheak, Mark Burgess and Anita Sayed each will be promoted to group president, reporting to Posacki and responsible for the operations of the platform company groups within PlayCore.

Farnsworth said 2016 has been "a record year."

"We've had strong growth in the core business," he said. "We had a really solid year this year. I suspect it will stay strong in 2017."

PlayCore plans to move into the former FSG Bank headquarters at 531 Broad St. next spring. Currently, it's leasing space in an office building at Chestnut and Fourth streets.

Harbert Realty Services acquired the 34,000-square-foot FSG Bank building earlier this year.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@times freepress.com or 423-757-6318.

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The Journal Record (Oklahoma City, OK)

 

OKLAHOMA CITY - A MAPS 3 overage could be a boon for seniors.

Most MAPS 3 subcommittee members are in favor of considering a fifth senior wellness center in Oklahoma City. Committee member Terri Watkins said she wasn't yet convinced adding a fifth wellness center should be a priority.

The Metropolitan Area Projects 3 senior health and wellness center subcommittee discussed on Wednesday a measure to support adding another facility. Residents aged 50 and older need access to reasonably priced fitness facilities. Another wellness center could improve the health of the city's aging population.

Subcommittee chairman Mike Dover said his group is not asking for money yet, and they haven't yet decided on a location or a contractor to run another center. If there is broad support for another senior wellness center, then his subcommittee would examine the best place to put it, he said.

Subcommittee member Sam Bowman said if voters responding to polls supported trails, sidewalks and wellness centers, then the committee should consider supporting another wellness center.

Watkins voted against the resolution, but she said she isn't necessarily opposed to a fifth center. She said the city needs wellness centers because those facilities are vitally important to improve Oklahoma City residents' health. Better health outcomes will improve the local economy, she said.

"I'm not there yet on whether a fifth wellness center is a priority above sidewalks," Watkins said, "when I see people walking in the streets in neighborhoods and I know the economic impact of a park. "

She said it's too soon to determine the best priority, because the city needs more sidewalks.

MAPS program manager David Todd said early discussions of MAPS 3 projects included four or five senior wellness centers.

Dover said the resolution provides a signal to the City Council that if there is surplus money after the convention center and the downtown Central Park projects have received bids, subcommittee members have suggestions on how to spend it. Members passed a resolution Wednesday to recommend consideration of an additional wellness center to the MAPS advisory board. If the advisory board approves the recommendation, then it will send a report to the City Council identifying the interest.

The project is contingent on excess revenues generated from MAPS 3's 1-cent sales tax, Todd said. The first senior wellness center is nearing completion and is slated to open in February 2017. It cost about $9.6 million. Each of the four approved centers are slightly different, but should provide similar services, Todd said.

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December 20, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Chicago Daily Herald

 

Glen Ellyn Park District board OKs funding for lights at Newton Park

Glen Ellyn Park District commissioners approved a $250,000 budget Tuesday to install lights at Newton Park over the objections of neighbors.

The board voted 5-2 to earmark the money to put four 70-foot-tall light poles on the sidelines of the park's synthetic turf field. Commissioners Chris Wilson and Kathy Cornell opposed the funding for a project that Wilson said would change the character of a 25-acre park nestled in the middle of a neighborhood.

Opponents will likely renew their fight against the lights when the park district seeks variances from village code that restricts the height of light poles to the tallest structure on the property. At Newton, the highest building is only about 20 feet tall.

The park district will now prepare an application for those exemptions. The village's plan commission would make a recommendation in favor or against the lights, and village trustees would ultimately decide whether the park district can proceed with the project.

The issue divides youth football team coaches who support the lights and neighbors who urged commissioners to delay a vote until the park district addresses their complaints about traffic and parking.

They fear those problems will intensify if the park district installs the lights and allows Glenbard West High School athletes and other users to play on the field into the evening.

Neighbors and park district officials held their first meeting last week to discuss a parking plan that calls for, among other things, putting up signs and using volunteers to direct traffic. Police could not attend but are expected to join the group when members gather at a yet to be determined date.

Neighbors wanted commissioners to postpone the funding decision Tuesday until the park district tests the parking plan during the spring and fall seasons.

"We don't know if that plan is going to work, said neighbor Ben Stortz, who noted that Newton lacks the infrastructure of other park district sites to handle such traffic.

As part of its 2017 budget - also approved Tuesday - the park district will set aside about $80,000 for improvements designed to encourage families to park within Newton and not residential streets. Those include adding a path from the east parking lot to the central corridor of the park.

If the village gives the OK, commissioners pledged to defer the bidding on the lights until the traffic and safety concerns are resolved.

"I just feel we owe it to the neighbors to make it very clear to them that we have heard them, and that we will follow through," board Vice President Julia Nephew said.

The park district has proposed "blackout" months that would shut off the lights December through February and in July.

At the latest, the lights would turn off by 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Events on the field would have to end by 9:30 p.m., though park district officials say most programs don't last that long. The lights would remain off when the field is not in use.

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December 14, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Orange County Register (California)

 

UC Irvine will receive $4.5 million for a six-year study of the impact of exercise on children to examine how their genes respond, with the goal of developing personalized prescriptions for movement, the National Institutes of Health announced Tuesday.

"We have long understood that exercising is beneficial to our overall health, but don't fully understand the impact of exercise at the molecular lev el," NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins said in a news release. He added, "This knowledge should allow researchers and doctors to develop individually targeted exercise recommendations."

The work at UCI will be led by Dr. Dan Cooper, a pediatric obesity researcher, and Shlomit Radom-Aizik, executive director of the UCI Pediatric Exercise and Genomics Research Center. Next year, they plan to begin recruiting about 300 healthy children, ages 11-17, for the study.

The children first will ride an exercise bike and then have their blood tested to examine proteins, metabolites and the responses of sets of genes in the immune system, as well as the factors that control how genes are expressed. Then the children will undergo a supervised training program three or four days a week, for up to 12 weeks. Their blood will be tested again afterward.

"What's really remarkable is this is kind of like the Human Genome Project but of exercise," Cooper said.

During childhood, the body is primed for growth and responds to exercise by building bone mass, something that is much harder to achieve as an adult, Cooper said.

"We think we're going to uncover those mechanisms that occur during childhood that optimize your ability to have a healthy response to exercise," Cooper said. "There are times during growth and development where exercise and training have a molecular blueprint that lasts the whole life span."

In a video on the NIH website, Collins said the research, which also will be done with adult subjects at six other academic centers, will look at what molecular messages are being sent from one part of the body to another. He said newly available technology will allow researchers to see what proteins and molecules are released during exercise.

Radom-Aizik said while doctors recommend exercise, the guidelines aren't based on any rigorous evidence and they are not individually customized.

"We want to know exactly how much, when and which mode of exercise would benefit us the most," she said. "For children, it might be that it's age-dependent; it might be that it's gender-dependent."

The children will be recruited through schools and health facilities, Cooper said.



714-796-3686 or cperkes@scng.com

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USA TODAY

 

High school football, as it closes the book on another season, faces existential questions. More than 1 million players perform each year under Friday night lights -- and, increasingly, under the scrutiny of physicians and anxious parents.

This week, the governing body for public high school sports in Texas partnered with the UT Southwestern Medical Center to launch the nation's largest study of sports-related concussions. This month, the medical journal Pediatrics featured a pediatrician who said high schools should discontinue football and another expert who said there wasn't enough evidence for that.

By now arguments such as these have a familiar ring -- a blur of heads-up tackling and the insidious danger of repeated hits to the head.

All this is acutely personal for some families. USA TODAY Sports spoke with the parents of five former high school players. These mothers and fathers don't have doctorates or medical degrees, but they are indisputably experts in what can go terribly wrong in the secondary school version of the country's most popular sport.

Brandon Steburg Sr. is the father of Brandon Jr., who was injured on a tackle for Papillion-La Vista High School in Nebraska in September. Brandon Jr. was placed in a medically induced coma to reduce pressure on his brain.

Katrina Henderson orchestrated a homemade homecoming dance at the rehab facility of her son, Bruce, this fall on the night of the real one at Sultana High School in Hesperia, Calif. He had been hurt when he struck his head on the ground making a tackle in September. Doctors removed a portion of his skull to relieve pressure.

Dave and Cortney Maronic are the parents of Toran, who was knocked unconscious during a no-contact, 7-on-7 passing drill when he collided with spectators on an adjacent field last spring. Toran played for Bear River High School in Grass Valley, Calif.

Frank Cutinella's son, Tom, died after a helmet-to-helmet hit in a game for Shoreham-Wading River High School on Long Island, N.Y., in 2014. Today Frank advocates for safety in the sport.

Jodi Williams is the mother of Drew, who needs 24-hour care after he collapsed in 2013 while playing for Lane Technical College Prep High in Chicago. He remains minimally responsive, his mother said in September.

Here these parents tell their sons' stories in their own words, lightly edited for clarity and context.

What happened on the field?

Frank Cutinella: "He suffered a traumatic brain injury during that game from a helmet-to-helmet hit and essentially died on the field. We'll leave it at that.... It was an illegal hit, of course not something that anyone I'm sure wanted or thought was going to happen. It does me no good to blame the other player, the coach or anything like that."

Katrina Henderson: "I saw him kind of limp off the field and thought he rolled his ankle or something common. I walked down the stairs in the stands toward the field and saw he was leaning across the trainers table. He had started to cry. He doesn't show any pain during games, so I knew more was happening. They moved him from the table, and he was leaning against the back of a golf cart. At that point, I saw it in his eyes. I jumped over the fence. He had a squeeze bottle with water. That's when he started his seizures. I counted six while I was standing there. The paramedics got there and he had more."

Jodi Williams: "Without getting into legal trouble, because we do have an open legal case, I would say there were multiple hits that Drew sustained that game on offense and defense."

Dave Maronic: "We were at a 7-on-7 camp, (and) he went out for a corner route, and the fields were only 6 yards apart from each other. Two parents from another team were right next to our pylon, and when Toran dove for the ball, he flew into the back of these gentlemen, which knocked him unconscious, and he flew into the ground and blacked out, so he didn't protect himself at all. The first thought from across the field was that there was an arm or leg issue. We took off across the field, and when we got there he was in full convulsions and bleeding from the mouth."

Brandon Steburg Sr.: "He hit the quarterback, and then he got up, and he was tapping his head to the sidelines. And I honestly thought he was just signaling for I didn't know what. But he seemed fine, but out on the field he was telling his teammates something was wrong. He couldn't think. He thought he had a concussion. He got down for the next play and whoever was defending him must have known something was wrong because they didn't touch each other. Then he ran off the field, and I thought maybe he wasn't feeling good because they brought a trash can over. He threw up, and then it seemed like a little desperation, and the trainer looked up at me and waved me down. By the time I got there, he was already unconscious. He had a look of terrible pain on his face, and we couldn't rouse him."

How is your son today?

Williams: "He is minimally responsive at this point. He has a trach tube, so he needs suctioning numerous times during the day because he does not swallow. He doesn't speak, and he really doesn't move other than he can squeeze your hand. He can move his head left and right and will blink. His communication is through those modes. He remains in physical therapy to get him up and standing. He's inconsistent with his gaze, so we're trying to find out how much vision he has. He needs medication and diaper changes and changing his positions. He needs 24-hour care, most of all for the suctioning."

Henderson: "He had the bone put back in his skull Nov.16, and he's doing much better. He still has memory loss -- sometimes long term and sometimes short term. He could do something today and remember it perfectly tomorrow. It comes and goes. His schoolwork is still hard, and he gets frustrated when he doesn't grasp things quickly. He's doing homeschooling now, and he'll go back to school when they go back from Christmas break. The physical part is there. His right side is not as strong as his left, and he does have a little bit of vision loss on the right side."

Steburg: "There's a lot of things he can't do, nothing that has contact to it. But other than that, I don't think there's any restrictions because of how well he's healed. I know his neurosurgeon told us that in his whole career he's never seen anybody heal like that."

Cortney Maronic: "Toran is recovering beautifully. He has been discharged of all of his rehabs at this point. He was able to get his driver's license back last week after being seizure-free and having an EEG. He is working on his speed and agility, hoping to gain the rest of the 25 pounds back he lost in the hospital and be ready if and when he can play sports again. Nothing for at least a year."

Would you let another son play football?

Cutinella, whose son, Kevin, continued to play: "It's extremely difficult. Hindsight is 20/20, but unfortunately he had been playing football since he's 6, and as a young man and as a young adult, I supported his decision, my wife and I supported his decision to continue to play. But it's very, very difficult to watch anything about football, having watched my son die essentially at my feet in the middle of the field. We support him, and we care about all football players and that's kind of why we're (speaking out). I don't think the NFL cares about all football players, and that makes me sad to say that, but I believe it's true."

Williams, whose son Bryce continued to play: "Of course it makes you think twice about it. But it's hard for me to answer that. I am still allowing one of my sons to play football. I think it's going to be different, in terms of the medical personnel. When Drew played, they had contact all through summer. There was a lot of contact. I'm glad (now) they have adopted that program (of limited contact), which was more comforting to know."

Dave Maronic, whose son, Tredan, continued to play: "He just went into ninth grade, and he was the starting QB of the JV squad right out of the gate. And I didn't hesitate. I sat with him one day on the trip from the hospital to the hotel, and we had the conversation and told him we would be happy, no matter what he wanted to do, and he said there was no question he was going to play. I just feel that you can't put your life in bubbles. This was not a football injury for us. It did happen in a football game, but it can happen walking out your door, slipping and hitting your head on concrete."

Steburg, whose son, Mike, continued to play: "My youngest is 13. He plays. This was a progression. We said in the waiting room while Brandon was having surgery that none of our children are ever playing football again. And my 13-year-old was the same. He was extremely upset. He never wanted to play again.... I hated the sport, hated it with a passion, but that changed because Brandon still loves it, loves football. And he said that he'd be upset if Mikey didn't want to play anymore. He said, 'That's how I'm going to get my football now is watching him play.' So we love football still. It's more dangerous to let your kids take your car keys than it is to let him play a sport. So we decided in the end if he wanted to play, he could play. He wants to play."

Henderson: "If my younger son wanted to play, I would let him. I honestly think it was a freak accident."

What do you want others to know?

Dave Maronic: "I hate the concussion word. I hate it. Everyone is so loose by saying that he suffered a slight concussion. There's no such thing. If it's a concussion, it's an injury to the head, which is the most important part of your kid's opportunity in life."

Williams: "Sometimes you don't want to read too much, because it makes you think too deeply. The best way I can explain it is to get by day by day. You can't think about: 'What would Drew be doing right now. Would he be in college? Would he be this or be that?' That will tear you apart. I know enough to get by. You just do and take care of him."

Cutinella: "I think there's a problem in football, and I think the culture of football must change. I think it has a lot of benefits. That's why I can't tell you people shouldn't play football because my son adored football and it wouldn't be fair to him for me to do that. But there needs to be changes, and I think what we've accomplished with the leaders of SectionXI (one of the geographic sections of the state's public high school athletic association) we're getting our message out there that risk can be minimized. And, hey, in order to fix something, you have to have leadership and you have to identify the problems. I think at the higher levels, in the NFL, they don't care about high school kids, and I don't think they care about my son's death."

How would you change the game?

Dave Maronic: "They don't have to hit at practices. All those impacts are a traumatic hit to the head, and in young boys -- when our brains aren't developed until 21 or 22 -- the second impact is so traumatic. If your son suffers a concussion, even if it's (so-called) minor, just let him sit out at least a month and let it heal. You're putting kids at risk for terrible, terrible injuries. I'm all about aggressive play on Friday nights, but we don't need that during the week.... Would you advise people to go out and have a car accident Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to prepare for a really huge car accident Friday night?"

Cutinella: "We've all been programmed after seeing the big hit so many times that that's just accepted or it's just part of the game. Well, it's never meant to be part of the game. Let's say, for instance, another player is running and he is out of your vision and may be at a side angle, and let's say he gets leveled. That's not a good hit. It's not a clean hit. It's not a great hit. However, we've been so programed through the 'ooh and ah' factor that people think that it is. I think through leadership, through accountability, through education, through rule changes and through enforcement, we can change that behavior. These are high school kids here. We're not looking to punish them. We're looking to change a behavior, and it's very realistic."

Steburg: "I don't know. I look at the helmets now vs. when I played, and they are a million times better than they were.... From what it seems like to me, the progression as the years go by is it is getting better. They are trying. They're making an effort."

What advice can you offer other parents who might someday face challenges like yours?

Steburg: "It's such a chaotic thing that it's hard to give advice. It really is. Because I went into it, and now I think back on it like a dream, almost. A lot of prayer and a lot of support from family and friends got us through it. As far as advice goes, I would only pray that they have a lot of friends and family around them to help them, because that's what got me through it."

Williams: "Just make sure the athletic trainers are there. I think there should be medical people on all teams even at the high school level. Make sure the equipment is new and the school is buying the latest model of helmets. Make sure the parents and players know what concussions are and what to look for. Talk to your child to make sure he understands. The whole team should be aware of the signs."

Henderson: "I would say, a lot of prayer and a lot of patience. Don't try to rush anything, and follow the limits given by the doctors and therapists. If they say there is only this much they can do, don't go any further."

Cutinella: "Every time my wife and I read about another story about someone in a coma or who has died playing football, it takes time for us to even recover from that. We hurt for those families so much. What I would say is if their child had a song to sing, they need to continue to sing it. That's what my wife and I are doing. We don't want to tell people play football or don't play football. But for people who are playing -- and again, I have another son who is playing football -- we believe we can minimize the risks through leadership, No.1, and again, through accountability, education, rule changes and strict enforcement. Our heart does break for those families, and I dread hearing about them. But they continue to happen throughout the country."

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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

Ten Gophers football players were suspended indefinitely by the University of Minnesota on Tuesday, the latest fallout from an incident that happened a few hours after the season began.

The suspended players are Ray Buford, Carlton Djam, Seth Green, KiAnte Hardin, Dior Johnson, Tamarion Johnson, Kobe McCrary, Antonio Shenault, Mark Williams and Antoine Winfield Jr.

Lee Hutton, an attorney representing several of the players, said the suspensions stem from an internal university investigation into the same Sept. 2 incident in a Dinkytown apartment that happened in the early morning hours after the team's season-opening victory over Oregon State.

The next week, the Gophers suspended four players - Buford, Hardin, Dior Johnson and Tamarion Johnson - for an unspecified violation of team rules.

Those players missed three games while police investigated, and they were reinstated when Hennepin County declined to press charges. No arrests were made in the alleged incident.

The university statement says: "Due to privacy restrictions relating to student educational data, there is nothing further the University can share."

An alleged victim from the Sept. 2 incident, who is part of the Gophers gameday operations, filed restraining orders against those four players, along with Djam, that kept the five players out of TCF Bank Stadium for the Oct. 29 Rutgers game.

The restraining orders were dismissed in a Nov. 2 settlement, which still required the players to stay 20 feet away from the alleged victim.

That day, after a morning of testimony at the Hennepin County Courthouse before Judge Mel Dickstein, the alleged victim gave a statement that said, "I'm glad this is over. This has never been about punishing anyone, I just wanted to feel safe. Because of this resolution that we came to, now I do."

But the university's office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) conducted its own investigation, which led to these latest suspensions.

According to a person familiar with the case and police documents obtained by the Star Tribune, the five newly suspended players - Green, McCrary, Shenault, Williams and Winfield - were in the alleged victim's apartment on Sept. 2.

Hutton was still gathering details Tuesday night but said some of his clients could be facing expulsion, with others facing a one-year team suspension or probation.

The university did not make athletic director Mark Coyle available for comment late Tuesday.

Head coach Tracy Claeys will be in San Diego on Wednesday for a news conference previewing the team's Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl game against Washington State. Last month, Coyle said Claeys had his "full support," after an 8-4 regular season.

The EOAA makes punishment recommendations to the university, and individuals are allowed to appeal.

Hutton said all of his clients will appeal, but it's unclear if they'll receive a hearing before the Holiday Bowl.

"I'm ticked, and I plan on exposing the office of EOAA for these unfounded conclusions," Hutton said. "I was going to wait until after the new year to bring lawsuits on behalf of my clients against [the alleged victim]; we just decided to accelerate the process."

Buford's father, Ray Buford Sr., works in law enforcement in Detroit.

"It's just been a total shock," he said. "It's almost like I'm in the movies or the 'Twilight Zone.' Ray's a strong kid, but obviously you're frustrated. You feel like you've put this behind you.

"The police have cleared you and found that you were telling the truth. The prosecutor's office has cleared you and found you were telling the truth. And the judge has cleared you, and this group [the EOAA] comes in and says they were all wrong."

The 10 suspended players include several key contributors.

Hardin and Winfield are both starting defensive backs, and Buford and Shenault are key reserves in the secondary. Green and Williams are quarterbacks who are redshirting this year and were expected to compete for the starting job next year.

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Star-News (Wilmington, NC)

 

NEW YORK - A person with knowledge of the meeting says baseball owners have ratified the sport's new collective bargaining agreement by a 29-1 vote.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity because no announcement was made, the person says Tampa Bay Rays managing general partner Stuart Sternberg was the lone dissenting vote during the telephone meeting Tuesday.

Players also had been scheduled to hold a ratification vote.

The five-year deal was agreed to Nov. 30, about 3½ hours before the expiration of the previous contract.

The agreement raises the luxury tax thresholds, increases some of the tax rates, imposes a hard cap on signing bonuses for international amateurs and bans smokeless tobacco for players who do not already have major league service. It also eliminates the provision that gave World Series home-field advantage to the All-Star winner and bans rookie hazing that includes costumes as women.

The hazing ban came under fire from both current and former major league players.

Los Angeles closer Huston Street said he considers the elimination of rookie dress up in the new labor deal the loss of a healthy ritual.

Like many players expressing their views Tuesday, he disagrees with Major League Baseball s ban on the hazing ritual of dressing up rookies in costumes that could be considered offensive, including women's outfits.

"An effort to show our childlike spirit, or humble ourselves in wearing something funny as a team building moment, is now gone," Street wrote in an email to The Associated Press, "but rest assured some other ritual will rise, will be kept far more secret and hopefully it's as safe and harmless as uncomfortable clothes."

New York Mets rookie outfielder Brandon Nimmo was among the last group to participate this past season. In September, he had to wear a wig and dress in the style of the 1992 movie A League of Their Own while fetching coffee and doughnuts in Philadelphia.

"I guess I'm sad to see that go. I'm glad that I got to partake in it last year. Wouldn't trade that," Nimmo said at the team's Citi Field holiday party. "I felt like it just kind of brought the team closer together, let's have a little fun together."

Many retired players were outraged, taking to social media to show their disgust.

"What a joke!!" tweeted Mark Mulder, a big league pitcher from 2000-08.

Yet for baseball officials, the decision goes far beyond just good-natured fun.

Billy Bean, a big league infielder and outfielder from 1987-95 who came out as gay in 1999, spoke with MLB's labor lawyers as the policy was developed as part of his role as vice president for social responsibility and inclusion.

"To me it's important to be cognizant of the images that our players project to our fans, and I think where for many where it would seem that it's common sense that it's just all in good fun and being silly, there are many sides to the story and I just think that it's a responsible thing to do," he said during a telephone interview. Many players didn't like this tradition but were afraid to speak up.

Oakland Athletics rookie pitcher Brad Ziegler (left) walks toward the team bus after a 14-4 loss to the Texas Rangers in 2008. The hazing ritual of dressing up rookies as Wonder Woman, Hooters Girls and Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders is now banned under Major League Baseball's Anti-Hazing and Anti-Bullying Policy. Associated Press file photo

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Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)

 

CLINTON - A Clinton High School basketball player who was allowed to play in a game Friday night after he was charged with beating his girlfriend is no longer a member of the team, a school official confirmed Tuesday night.

Heriberto Rojas Jr. is no longer playing for the Gaels, according to Clinton High athletic director and boys' basketball coach Tony Gannon.

Last week, Mr. Rojas, 18, allegedly beat his girlfriend when the couple got into an argument while driving in Fitchburg. Police said Mr. Rojas' girlfriend alleged that he punched her in the face several times. Police reportedly said the girlfriend had swelling to the right side of her face and lips and red marks on the side of her face.

Clinton High Principal James Hastings said Tuesday afternoon that he cannot comment about a student, but acknowledged he is "looking into" the incident.

Mr. Rojas, who allegedly got out of the car and fled after the incident, was arrested Friday by Clinton police on a warrant at Clinton High School, Clinton police said.

After his arraignment Friday on charges of assault and battery, Mr. Rojas returned to class and was allowed to play in a basketball game that night, school officials said.

He scored one point in the Gaels' loss to St. John's High in Shrewsbury.

Mr. Rojas did not play in Clinton's home game Monday against West Boylston High School.

School officials, Mr. Hastings said, haven't released an official statement.

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Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)

 

NEW YORK - That baseball hazing ritual of dressing up rookies as Wonder Woman, Hooters Girls and Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders is now banned.

Major League Baseball created an Anti-Hazing and Anti-Bullying Policy that covers the practice. As part of the sport's new labor deal, set to be ratified by both sides Tuesday, the players' union agreed not to contest it.

The policy, obtained by The Associated Press, prohibits "requiring, coercing or encouraging" players from "dressing up as women or wearing costumes that may be offensive to individuals based on their race, sex, nationality, age, sexual orientation, gender identify or other characteristic."

MLB Vice President Paul Mifsud said Monday the new rules resulted partly "in light of social media, which in our view sort of unfortunately publicized a lot of the dressing up of the players... those kind of things which in our view were insensitive and potentially offensive to a number of groups."

"There's lots of pictures of baseball players dressed up as Disney princesses," he said.

Or even more outlandish, often for late-season plane trips.

Bryce Harper as a member of the U.S. Olympic women's gymnastics team, Mike Trout as Lady Gaga. Manny Machado in a ballet tutu, Carlos Correa as Wonder Woman.

All out starting next season.

"Although it hasn't happened, you could sort of see how like someone might even dress up in blackface and say, 'Oh, no, we were just dressing up,'" Mifsud said. "We've also understood that a number of players have complained about it."

Exactly when the annual dress-up day began around the majors isn't quite clear. Players often considered it a form of bonding, and it's become more of a production in recent years.

Chase Headley and San Diego Padres newcomers wore the skimpy, shiny orange shorts and tight, white tops of Hooters servers for a September 2008 flight from Denver to Washington.

"Times have changed. There is certain conduct that we have to be conscious of," union general counsel Dave Prouty said.

"The important thing for us was to recognize there was a policy but to preserve the players' rights to challenge the level of discipline and the imposition of discipline," he said.

Not all outfits are banned - superheroes such as Batman and Spider-Man are OK.

Other past costumes that would be allowed include San Francisco ace Madison Bumgarner as a giant ketchup bottle, Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton on the U.S. Olympic men's water polo team and Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig as Gumby.

The issue of locker room bullying erupted a few years ago when an NFL investigation found Richie Incognito and two other Miami Dolphins engaged in persistent harassment toward teammate Jonathan Martin.

MLB looked at several college anti-hazing policies while developing these new rules, and they are already being criticized by some current and former players.

"Seriously?!" former Red Sox star Kevin Youkilis wrote on Twitter. "Had to wear a Hooters outfit going through customs in Toronto and wore it proudly (because) I was in the Show."

Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling tweeted a photo of the right-hander and teammates sporting cheerleading uniforms, saying "honored to be one of the last players ever to be dressed up as a woman."

Last September, the New York Mets posted photos and video of players going to Starbucks in Philadelphia wearing uniforms from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, as portrayed in the 1992 movie "A League of Their Own." Several other teams engaged in similar behavior.

In 2012, Harper and Nationals newcomers wore red leotards in the style of Gabby Douglas and the U.S. women's gymnastics team for a train ride to New York - veteran Washington pitcher Gio Gonzalez tweeted a photo.

In 2007, the Yankees' theme was "The Wizard of Oz." Ian Kennedy wore Dorothy's ruby red slippers for a flight from New York to Tampa, Florida.

"I'd rather be here dressing up than anywhere else," Kennedy said at the time. "It makes you feel like one of the guys."

The new policy states "a player's actual or perceived willingness to participate in prohibited conduct does not excuse the activity from being considered a violation of the policy."

Not everyone saw these things as fun.

After he was traded to the Mets in 1992, Jeff Kent threw his pimp's costume to the floor in the visitors' clubhouse in Montreal and demanded his regular clothes - which contained the ID he needed to go through customs - be returned.

"I paid my rookie dues in Toronto," he said then. "I feel I have endured my embarrassments, my punishment. I felt I was being taken advantage of. They wanted to go overboard. I stuck up for myself. I won't be pushed around."

Some common rookie rituals are permitted.

Last year, the Cardinals and Dodgers made their newcomers walk across the street from Wrigley Field - in their full uniforms - to bring back coffee before a game against the Cubs.

And rookie relievers still might find themselves lugging snacks across the diamond to the bullpen for the veterans.

But requiring players "to consume alcoholic beverages or any other kind of drug, or requiring the ingestion of an undesirable or unwanted substance (food, drink, concoction)" is banned under the new collective bargaining agreement.

The policy is in addition to the workplace code of conduct adopted by MLB and the union in 2013 after the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman asked to meet with baseball officials and inquired what rules the sport had in place against bullying with respect to sexual orientation.

"The purpose of this policy is not to prohibit all traditions regarding rookies or players," the new policy states, "but rather to prohibit conduct that may cause players physical anguish or harm, may be offensive to some players, club staff or fans, or are distracting to the operation of the club or MLB."

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Palm Beach Daily News

 

Plans for the Palm Beach Recreation Center are headed in a new direction -- one with more support from town officials and residents.

Friends of Recreation, the group helping raise money for a new center, asked Tuesday for the Town Council's support to build a one- story, 15,000-square-foot center instead of a two-story, 23,000- square-foot center. The current building is about 11,000 square feet.

The proposed building would keep a multi purpose space, classrooms and game room, but it would have a smaller fitness center, snack bar and lobby, said Michael Ainslie, vice chairman of the group. The outdoor space would remain similar to the previous proposal by preserving the fields and a full basketball court, and by adding a larger playground and patio terraces.

Ainslie said Morton Mandel has said he's still willing to donate up to $5 million if the community supports the new plan.

"His goal all along has been to help provide our town with a new rec center that meets the expressed needs of our residents, but to do so in a way that unifies not divides our town," Ainslie said. "We hope this new one-story plan will be met with broad community support."

Deputy Town Manager Jay Boodheshwar said the new design would be less expensive than the original $15 million proposal, meaning the town's $5 million commitment would be reduced. Staffing, operation and maintenance costs also would decrease, he said.

"In a nutshell, we believe that the one-story structure will not compromise our ability to meet the changing needs of the community, will be more fiscally sustainable and will address valid concerns that were associated with the earlier two-story concepts," Boodheshwar said.

Council members supported the idea and thanked residents for working together.

"I think we have a perfect example of democracy at work," said Councilman Richard Kleid. "I think that the private sector and the town have listened very closely to the community input. They have heard the objections and reacted. We're now on what I see as Plan C, which seems a lot more acceptable. I'm excited. I think we've come a long way and I think we're on the right track."

Recreation Director Beth Zickar said new drawings and a detailed business plan will be presented to the council in January. If approved, the project would return to the Architectural Commission for review.

Public reaction

Some residents said they support the new plan but still don't like the idea of an adult fitness center.

"I do think we're going in the right direction," said Susan Watts. "It really is inspiring to see the community come together and overcome what could have been a divisive issue. The focus back to children is really important to us. I'm not sure about the 4,000- square-foot addition."

A few residents spoke about the need for a new survey to see what types of programs residents want at the center. More than 270 residents recently signed a petition for the survey.

"It might be a good plan, but I don't know how we can know that we have a good plan until we have a knowledge of what the plan is supposed to fulfill," said Page Lee Hufty.

"I think we could do a targeted survey really specifically asking people what they would use, what they would pay for, how much they would pay and how often they would use it."

The council voted to defer a decision on a survey until they see the new plan in January.

Hufty, like others, did not support a fitness center.

"I hate to have us basically subsidize a competition with the people who are courageous enough to rent space and open their doors to supply us," she said.

Opposition

Other residents continue to oppose construction and would rather see the town renovate the existing building.

Tom Miller said the current recreation center is under utilized and a new building would primarily serve non residents.

"I think that we had here a very good effort by somebody to give money and we're looking for a way to spend it," said Miller, to applause from the audience. "Think about the citizens who live here. We do not need a new rec center."

Anne Pepper suggested the Mandels instead pay for a recreation project at Phipps Ocean Park.

"Phipps Park is very under utilized as well, has a great deal of space; could support that exercise and fitness center; and could possibly support sailing and rowing and other things that people indicated they'd like to have happen at Seaview," she said.

Susan Gary told the council that voters should decide whether to build a new recreation center.

"It's been very controversial and I don't think the issues are resolved yet," she said. "I think it's a fair item to put to the voters and see what they think."

Council input

The council said they want to see the project move forward.

"I think this is a good step in the right direction," said President Michael Pucillo. "I think a new building does make sense. There is a lot of good here. The listening should continue. I hope this is a project we can all come together on, and that if we can't get unanimity, we can get pretty close to it."

Council members told staff to be cognizant of the construction schedule.

"This town is at a tipping point with construction fatigue," said Councilwoman Bobbie Lindsay. "They simply don't want any more. At least consider that, whatever we decide to do, doesn't need to be done now."

-- akopf@ pbdailynews.com Twitter: @aleesekopf

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USA TODAY

 

Some people will do anything to get their names in the news.

Even if comes at the expense of the public's safety.

Three Washington state legislators are pushing a bill that would force arenas and stadiums to allow fans to bring in weapons if they have concealed carry permits. Because adding guns to a highly charged atmosphere where alcohol already offsets common sense far too often seems like a great idea.

"What I've been trying to do is foster bipartisan support for common sense solutions to gun violence," said Laurie Jinkins, the Tacoma area representative who chairs the Washington House Judiciary Committee. "This seems to be the antithesis for that."

There was no public groundswell for this proposed legislation. Seattle's professional teams did not ask for it, and the major professional leagues have rules that specifically prohibit fans from bringing weapons into stadiums.

This is grandstanding, pure and simple. Representatives Bob McCaslin, Matt Shea and David Taylor saw an opportunity to pander to the gun lobby and stoke fear in those who see a Second Amendment-repealing boogeyman around every corner these days, and they jumped on it.

Washington law prevents firearms possession at "any stadium or convention center, operated by a city, town, county or other municipality" unless an individual has a concealed carry permit. But most stadiums are operated by public facilities districts or private entities and thus can make their own rules on weapons.

The bill proposed by McCaslin, Shea and Taylor would expand the law so it specifically prohibits public facilities districts and public stadium authorities, or any private group that leases a stadium or arena from them, from banning pistols for those with concealed carry permits.

None of the three responded to a request for a comment Tuesday, probably because they know there's no way to defend this.

And spare me the argument that a gun would defuse a situation or stop a potential criminal. These stadiums have security in place screening fans to avoid weapons being smuggled in. Now we want to eliminate that?

Americans have generally agreed that there are some places where it's just not smart to have guns, like schools, public parks, courtrooms and hospitals. That stadiums and arenas should be part of that list is a no-brainer.

Fortunately, there seems to be little support for McCaslin, Shea and Taylor's proposal.

Sporting events are for fun and foam fingers, not firearms.

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USA TODAY

 

A radio announcer for Wake Forest's football games "provided or attempted to provide" details about the Demon Deacons' game plans to opponents during the last three seasons, according to the findings of an internal investigation conducted by the university.

The investigation ensued after Wake Forest's 44-12 loss to Louisville on Nov. 12, when staff members discovered materials left behind by Louisville indicated the Cardinals were prepared for plays the Demon Deacons had not run before, according to a USA TODAY Sports report.

The university's release placed blame on Tommy Elrod, a former Wake Forest player, graduate assistant and full-time assistant coach who was fired, along with the entire coaching staff, after the 2013 season.

"Based on emails, text messages and phone records," the university said in a statement, Elrod "provided or attempted to provide confidential and proprietary game preparation on multiple occasions" beginning in 2014, when Elrod was hired as an analyst on the Wake Forest IMG Radio Network.

"No members of the Wake Forest athletic department, football staff or players were involved in any way in these actions," the university said.

Elrod has been fired by the radio network and banned from Wake Forest's athletics department and facilities.

It's a story so crazy it could happen only in the sport of college football, which tends to lean toward the ridiculous: The home-team radio announcer, a coach fired and replaced by the current staff, leaking confidential information to the school's opponents. The Internet immediately dubbed it #WakeyLeaks.

"I am extremely disappointed that our confidential and proprietary game preparation was compromised," said Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson, who was hired in 2014. "It's incomprehensible that a former Wake Forest student-athlete, graduate assistant, full-time football coach and current radio analyst for the school would betray his alma mater.

"We allowed him to have full access to our players, team functions, film room and practices. He violated our trust which negatively impacted our entire program. I am glad we have taken steps to ensure it will not happen in the future."

Said athletics director Ron Wellman: "I have known Tommy Elrod since his days as a player on our football team. I'm deeply disappointed that he would act against Wake Forest, our football team and our fans in such a harmful manner by compromising confidential game preparation information.

"It is a relief that the team can move forward without his actions further undermining the positive strides Dave Clawson, his staff and the team have made."

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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

Members of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) could no longer bring family and friends into two free luxury suites at U.S. Bank Stadium under a proposal announced Monday in response to the public outcry over the practice.

The MSFA also released the names of dozens of people who had been guests in the two suites since the building opened Aug. 3, revealing how friends and family members as well as political allies were handed some of the hottest tickets in town from the Metallica and Luke Bryan concerts to the debut regular-season Vikings game against the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 18.

Michele Kelm-Helgen, MSFA chairwoman, and Ted Mondale, its executive director, say the proposed change, which will be considered at the regular monthly board meeting Friday, is not an admission of wrongdoing but a response to "all the interest and consternation and concern" about friends and family attending games. Kelm-Helgen said she and Mondale are proposing the change to "restore public confidence."

Gov. Mark Dayton, who criticized the reports about suite use as "sensationalized," now commends the MSFA's decision to release the names, and to ban friends and family. "Those changes are consistent

with my previously stated position that public funds should only be expended for a public purpose," said Dayton, who appoints three of the five voting members of the MSFA, including Kelm-Helgen, his former deputy chief of staff.

State Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, incoming Senate Finance Committee chairwoman and a sponsor of the 2012 stadium bill, however, said the MSFA's latest move "still doesn't provide a whole lot of comfort."

In a Nov. 20 story, the Star Tribune reported that Kelm-Helgen and Mondale controlled access to two main concourse luxury suites at the $1.1 billion stadium that opened in August. The suites accommodate 18 guests each and sell for at least $200,000 for the full 10-game Vikings season.

The MSFA refused to reveal who had been in the suites - with the exception of 12 public officials who retroactively paid for their tickets after a reporter began asking questions. (Former Vice President Walter Mondale, Ted's father, was the only person to reimburse the agency before the Star Tribune's questions; he paid $350 for his single ticket to the Vikings-Packers game.)

Ten University of Minnesota officials also released their own names and then paid $200 for their tickets, food, and in some cases, free parking in the lot used by Minnesota Vikings players.

Since the Star Tribune began requesting information on guests in the MSFA suites, the agency has collected more than $21,000 from attendees. Many of those checks were collected months after guests attended games.

After reading about the MSFA's suites, legislative auditor James Nobles opened an investigation that he aims to finish by mid-January in time for the legislative session.

On Monday, the MSFA provided the names of dozens of guests, from friends, family and DFL allies to potential event hosts and prominent civic leaders. Kelm-Helgen said the MSFA took awhile to compile the lists and contact some of the guests to get permission to release their names.

Kelm-Helgen and Mondale say state law bars them from releasing the identities of guests who are there as marketing targets so they will continue to keep those private.

The two, however, say they will release the names of guests who are there for what they called a "public purpose." Mondale used the example of Metropolitan Transit officials attending to coordinate the light-rail and bus operations before and after games.

Rosen said that the MSFA's release Monday "solidified the need for a thorough review" because many questions remain about the "sloppy and arrogant management" of the MSFA.

She questioned why the MSFA had kept the names secret in the first place, why the authority still needs two 18-person suites and free parking in the team's executive lot. She also wants to know more about the role of stadium operator SMG, the global giant brought in to market the building.

Rosen said she's eager to see Nobles' upcoming report and has questions about how Kelm-Helgen and Mondale's jobs mesh with SMG.

The guest lists for the suites include prominent civic, labor and neighborhood officials with strong DFL ties who aren't household names but are well-known in the left-leaning political circles. Many of them have longtime personal and professional ties to Kelm-Helgen, Mondale and to some of the four MSFA commissioners who received as many as five tickets each for Vikings games.

Republicans didn't appear to be frequent guests in the suites.

MSFA commissioners Bill McCarthy and Tony Sertich brought their spouses and familiar DFL friends. Commissioner Barbara Butts Williams reimbursed the MSFA for the guests she brought to games, including $2,000 for 20 guests at the U.S. women's soccer game on Oct. 23.

Commissioner John Griffith, who has been critical of board management, attended the opening soccer match Aug. 3 with his wife and two friends. He used one ticket for a preseason Vikings game and another for the women's soccer game. Dayton recently informed Griffith that he wouldn't be reappointed to the board.

Mondale and Kelm-Helgen said the policy on luxury suite guests at U.S. Bank policy is more strict than it was at the Metrodome, but, apparently, didn't go far enough.

"There's a whole new standard that's being set and we accept that," Kelm-Helgen said. "I do not want something like the suite policy to affect the view, the trust that the public has in the authority."

Kelm-Helgen reimbursed the MSFA for numerous tickets to events in the past few months, including those used by her husband, Hank Helgen, for soccer games and for Luke Bryan and Metallica shows, the first and second concerts in the building.

Ted Mondale's adult son and his wife were frequent guests at stadium events. Sometimes he also brought his stepdaughters. On occasion, he brought the husband and daughter of MSFA spokeswoman Jenn Hathaway.

Mondale brought nine guests to the Luke Bryan show, including his wife, two staff members and six other guests.

Hathaway sent an e-mail late Monday Mondale will pay for all those events: "Ted is writing a check for his family who attended."

Rochelle Olson · 612-673-1747

Twitter: @rochelleolson

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The Bismarck Tribune

 

Engineering firm Bartlett & West will draft a south-side master plan for the Mandan Park District after the park board awarded the $25,000 contract Monday.

Part of the master plan will involve creating an underground stormwater drainage plan for Mandan Memorial Ballpark and the surrounding area, including the softball complex.

The park district is looking to coordinate its underground drainage system with the city's public works expansion project and to complement the stormwater drainage being developed for the ballfields planned at what is now Lefty Faris Track and Field.

"We're trying to get a long-term vision of what we would like to see at the south-side property," including the south-side tennis courts, baseball and softball facilities as well as park maintenance, said Cole Higlin, parks and recreation director. "There could potentially be some fields rearranging, expansion of the park shop, underground utilities. We want to make sure it's just well-planned and thought out for the long term."

He said the goal is to complete the master plan by May 1 so it ties in with the renovations of Faris Field.

Higlin expects that demolition of Faris Field won't begin until football season ends in 2017. It is being replaced by a track and field at the Starion Sports Complex.

(Reach LeAnn Eckroth at 701-250-8264 or leann.eckroth@bismarcktribune.com)

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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

The soccer stadium groundbreaking in St. Paul was largely ceremonial - a line of children and officials draped in Minnesota United scarves shoveled dirt while shivering supporters looked on.

But Monday's event included some updates about when dirt will really start to fly at the empty lot in the Snelling-Midway neighborhood. Stadium developers said Xcel Energy began working on power lines at the site a few weeks ago, and major construction will start after the ground begins to thaw.

"I think it will be spring when the big dig will occur out there, particularly focused on the remediation," said Bill McGuire, one of the team's owners.

Team owners Monday also presented new renderings of the $150 million stadium and said design work is nearly complete. The updated building design lowers the stadium height by 4 feet, extends a section of its roof and adds a restaurant on the north end that could be open year-round, McGuire said. It also sets the initial capacity of the building at 19,916, with the potential to reach 24,474 in the future.

McGuire has previously said he expects the stadium to be completed sometime in 2018. He was less commit

ted to that time frame Monday.

"Sure, it's possible," he said. "It just depends on what kind of things come up."

Ken Sorensen, a senior vice president with Mortenson Construction, said Mortenson will begin construction on the south end of the Metropolitan Council lot and will likely work through next winter.

Several pieces of the project still need to be figured out ahead of construction, including a key land use agreement.

The bulk of the stadium will be built on an empty 10-acre lot the Met Council owns. But site plans show part of the building on the property to the north, owned by RK Midway. The RK Midway site has a shopping center, part of which would have to be torn down to make way for the stadium.

When asked about reorienting the stadium so it ran east-west instead of north-south, McGuire said, "We've looked at a number of options and that's certainly a possibility. That's not preferred."

In addition to the land negotiation, stadium developers need to complete a number of regulatory steps.

They have not yet pulled demolition or building permits for the site, according to the city.

The team is still working on a long list of conditions in the city's stadium site plan, including getting stormwater permits and completing the design for sidewalks and street lighting.

The city would also need to issue a final plat approval before the team can begin construction, said Mollie Scozzari, spokeswoman for the city's Planning and Economic Development Department.

The developer can do some work without the permits, including soil borings, environmental testing and some utility work, Scozzari said.

A state property tax break for the Met Council site, which was not finalized during the last legislative session, remains another complicating factor.

There was bipartisan support for the tax break, and McGuire said the team is continuing work on the site in good faith that the tax break will come through in the next session.

Fans watch for progress

McGuire said it was important to hold the ceremonial groundbreaking now to celebrate the new designs and raise excitement about the team.

"We're getting people geared up for purchasing season tickets," he said.

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber spoke at the groundbreaking, along with McGuire and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. Many United supporters turned out in gear with the team's loon logo.

St. Paul residents Ansley and Andrew Lovgren were among them. They had already bought season tickets and were looking forward to the team having its own stadium.

"We support the team and this is an exciting moment. It's cool to see progress," Andrew Lovgren said.

The United plans to play in the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium until work on the St. Paul stadium is finished. Team owners have asked about pricing and scheduling at U.S. Bank Stadium, but McGuire said they were just looking into that for big events.

"We have a contract. We're set to play in TCF Bank Stadium. There's no question about that," he said.

Jessie Van Berkel · 612-673-4649

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New York Observer

 

We can pretty much agree that exercising sucks. We'd all rather just sit on the couch on our phones looking at memes or watching videos, right? Well now there's a way to do both and stop dreading your workout.

A new online workout program called Distracted Fitness uses Picture-in-Picture to pair calorie torching moves with the latest viral videos to distract you from the pain of exercising. Each day, subscribers can access a new 20-minute workout video that plays clips from hit YouTube series and late night TV shows as a little video to lead your workout runs in the bottom corner.

"I hate working out, so I would try all the newest programs to try to take the monotony out of exercising," founder Tracy Kisch told the Observer. "I would put the workout on the TV on mute and open up my laptop to play my favorite YouTube channel at the same time to entertain myself. I realized the workout went by way faster when I took my mind off of it. That's when I got the idea to just combine the two. I figured there were a lot of people out there like me that weren't training to be bodybuilders but just struggling to get some daily cardio in."

Like many workout videos already out there, this one alternates between 30 to 60 seconds of moves like jumping jacks and calf raises and includes rests. The only difference is you have something else to look at for the 59 seconds you spend repeating a move after first seeing what's up next. I gave it a try and can attest to the fact that it's entertaining and makes the workout go by much quicker.

Kisch has a background in business rather than fitness. Like many entrepreneurs, the Rutgers MBA got the idea for the program by solving her own problem.

"I really just fell upon the idea because it solved a problem for myself," she said. "It allowed me to take my mind off the exercise and get through the workout."

Distracted Fitness launched in November and has a few different types of memberships. Monthly is $10, three months is $20 and one year is $60.

 

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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

FC Richmond has teamed with Sheltering Arms to tackle concussions head-on.

The soccer club and health system have implemented a new baseline concussion test that all FC Richmond travel athletes must complete.

"One of the things we identified as something we wanted to be proactive about is concussion awareness," said Kris South, FC Richmond's director of operations and marketing.

Concussions in soccer are becoming more common. Cristin Beazley, clinical lead of Sheltering Arms' total concussion care program, said that may be because more people than ever are playing the sport.

It also is a coed sport, which could inflate the numbers further, she added.

Regardless, concussions are still a serious issue to address, and baseline testing is a good place to start, Beazley said.

Baseline testing has been conducted on the club's travel players twice - in the fall and spring - for a total of 400 participants. Their ages range from 8 to 18.

Sheltering Arms decided to offer three tests at a discounted rate to the players' families. The scores act as a measure against which coaches and physical therapists can compare scores after an injury, to better gauge whether the player has suffered a concussion.

"Baseline (tests) not only help us determine changes (in the player) after concussion, it also helps us better determine when they're ready to play again," Beazley said.

Sheltering Arms had players conduct three tests. ImPACT is a computerized test that gauges verbal and visual memory; the King-Devic test measures motor performance; and the Y-balance test can help identify injuries, Beazley said.

South said the King-Devic test also is easy to conduct on the sidelines of a game, so if an athlete has received a blow to the head, FC Richmond's trainer can do the test quickly and see if there's a concerning variance in the score.

Concussions can result in a wide array of symptoms, from dizziness and neck pain to memory loss and irritability, so having Sheltering Arms conduct a package of tests that checks a variety of symptoms was especially helpful, South said.

Bringing in Sheltering Arms "closed the loop on (FC Richmond's) health care protocol," South added. If the team's trainer concludes the player indeed has a concussion, they will send him or her to Sheltering Arms for treatment.

The club has been trying to be proactive about concussions, since the treatment for the injuries changes rapidly.

"They're giving their parents a plan," Beazley said. "If your child has this injury, we have a plan for them.... We have a place to send them that can help you navigate this process and navigate the child returning to sports and to school and take the fear and anxiety out of the injury."

Concussions are common in soccer partially because players strike the ball with their heads. But South said it isn't necessarily the player's act of heading the ball that causes the injury - it's when players' heads collide after heading the ball, or when their heads hit the ground, that concussions occur.

"Research is finding that neck strength in young athletes - and particularly in girls - is lower," South said. "Because of their neck strength, when they collide with another player, they're not able to stabilize their head and neck as well as older athletes and adults."

Beazley said Sheltering Arms is preparing to start a research study into whether prehabilitation - training to prevent injuries - could help FC Richmond's players avoid concussions.

They will look at things ranging from neck-strengthening exercises to reaction-time drills to help players absorb impact and give them skills to avoid concussions.

"A lot of our kids don't have good posture," Beazley said. "They have rounded shoulders, forward head positions, and we're sending them into sports (that require strong necks). A lot of them are weak in upper back and neck."

"Improved reaction time and improved depth perception can help reduce the risk," she added. "Teaching kids how to take contact, brace themselves so they can stabilize themselves and be in a better position... and a better overall sense of athleticism on the field, I would theorize, can help reduce your overall risk of concussion."

The study could last as long as four years. Sheltering Arms is seeking a grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that could help it extend the study to other soccer clubs in the area.

kdemeria@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6813

Twitter: @katiedemeria

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Star-News (Wilmington, NC)

 

MOSCOW -  Russia's doping cover-up went far beyond the Olympics, according to a vast archive of emails released by a World Anti-Doping Agency investigator.

Besides the 12 medal winners from the 2014 Winter Olympics whose samples were supposedly tampered with, messages show a system which covered up drug use by blind athletes and children as young as 15.

In 2015, a year after the Olympics, Russia's top doping scientist, Grigory Rodchenkov, complained that the scheme Richard McLaren termed the disappearing positive methodology had grown so large it was covering for doping and apparent abuse of power in disabled sports.

Five blind athletes in powerlifting, a form of weightlifting, had tested positive for the banned steroid methandienone at the same training camp. Rodchenkov suspected unscrupulous coaches eager for medals were doping the athletes without their knowledge.

"It's a disgrace," Rodchenkov wrote to Alexei Velikodny of Russian state's Sports Training Center. The coaches were picking on the blind (who) can't even see what people are giving them.

A year earlier, the records show Velikodny issuing a save order for a 15-year-old competitor in track and field the instruction which meant a failed test was reported as negative.

The young athlete one of the most promising juniors in Russia at the time was flagged up as a Crimean athlete in the emails, a distinction which may have helped him avoid a ban after testing positive for marijuana. It was May 2015, two months after Russia s annexation of the Crimean peninsula, and a failed test at one of the first competitions in Russia featuring Crimeans could have been embarrassing.

McLaren's report alleges more than 1,000 Russian athletes benefited from a cover-up scheme administered by government officials and Rodchenkov, the Moscow lab director who later fled Russia and turned his emails over to WADA.

None of the writers of the emails responded to requests for comment. However, the Russian authorities have not disputed the content of the messages. Some of the authors have been suspended from their jobs, as was then-Deputy Sports Minister Yuri Nagornykh, who was placed on leave in the summer and resigned in October.

The emails show a deeply corrupt system, with lab staff worried about their industrial-scale doping cover-up being exposed while they faced pressure from ambitious officials to save more top Russian athletes from doping scandals. Even Rodchenkov struggled to keep pace with the sheer scale of Russian doping.

In early March 2014, shortly after the Sochi Olympics had finished with Russia at the top of the medals table, Rodchenkov remained under pressure.

By his own admission, Rodchenkov had spent Russia's home Winter Olympics swapping dirty samples in the dead of night in the temporary Olympic laboratory in Sochi, covering for up to 12 medal winners whose samples appear to have been tampered with, according to the McLaren report.

Still, running the Sochi lab ahead of the Paralympics later in March, Rodchenkov was trying to hide his deceptions from the numerous foreign experts drafted in to ensure the lab ran smoothly. That didn't stop him from coming under state pressure to cover up more cases, emails leaked by Rodchenkov and published by McLaren show.

"I can't ignore obviously positive samples in front of everybody," he wrote to the Sports Training Center s Velikodny. That was in response to a message asking Rodchenkov to cover for nine track and field competitors shortly before the world indoor championships in Poland that month.

Six athletes could be saved, but Rodchenkov insisted three particularly egregious cases couldn't be covered up. The athletes who gave them were now corpses who can't be brought back to life.

Two months later Rodchenkov was again exasperated, telling Velikodny to get track and field together and give them a final warning. They've lost all fear. They should all just be banned already.

Velikodny s response: "I agree!"

The Russian track team would be banned by the end of the year, though not in the way Rodchenkov had envisioned. A World Anti-Doping Agency investigation into the team was already underway and would publish a damning report in November 2015, causing track's governing body to suspend Russia from all international competition, eventually including the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The email archive contains hundreds of pages of messages, mostly between Rodchenkov and Velikodny, with occasional cameos from junior lab staff, drug-testing officials and Nataliya Zhelanova, who was anti-doping adviser to Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko.

The writers certainly knew the risk if their emails were ever made public.

In November 2013, three months before the Olympics, Rodchenkov issued an order that Russian officials may wish he, too, had followed: "Delete all messages urgently!"

In this file photo a car stands is front of Russia's national drug-testing laboratory. It was at this laboratory, and its former site elsewhere in Moscow, that Rodchenkov conducted pioneering research into steroids, at the same time as he says he was giving Russian athletes a cocktail of banned substances. Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

In this file photo employees Natalya Bochkaryova, left, and Ilya Podolsky work at the Russia's national drug-testing laboratory. Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press

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Anderson Independent-Mail (South Carolina)

 

Is appearing in the Quick Lane Bowl, the Heart of Dallas Bowl or the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl really an accomplishment?

Every December, the college football bowl season is met with mixed reactions. Some fans love it, as it gives them an excuse to watch football every day for two weeks. However, there's a growing majority of people who have become fed up with bowl season and have legitimate gripes when it comes to how college football conducts its postseason.

Bowl games began in 1902, when the first-ever Rose Bowl game was played in Pasadena, California. By 1940, there were five major bowl games (Rose, Sugar, Cotton, Orange and Sun). The number of bowl games rose to 11 by 1970, 15 by 1980, 19 by 1990, 25 by 2000 and now 40 in 2016.

In the 70s, 80s and 90s, accomplishing the goal of playing in a bowl game was a substantial achievement because only the best of the best received those coveted invitations. Currently, with 40 bowl games, 80 out of 128 FBS teams are able to participate in college football's postseason, a whopping 62.5 percent. Even if we round down a bit and say six out of every 10 teams in college football make a bowl, that seems like an alarming amount. These numbers beg the question, are there too many teams competing in postseason play in college football?

By comparison, let's evaluate the amount of teams that make the postseason in other major college sports. In NCAA men's basketball, 148 teams qualify for one of the four postseason tournaments (NCAA, NIT, CBI and CollegeInsider.com). 351 schools sponsor Division 1 college basketball and therefore, only 42.2 percent of teams are able to compete in postseason play. If we focus on just the NCAA tournament, the main event that fans care about, only 68 teams qualify or 19.4 percent.

In women's college basketball, only 41.3 percent of Division 1 teams compete in any form of postseason play. Percentages are even smaller when it comes to college baseball and softball, as only 21.7 percent of teams in each sport qualify for the NCAA tournament. Professional sports tell a similar story, as 16 of 30 teams make the playoffs in the NHL and the NBA while only 38 percent of NFL teams qualify for the playoffs and only 33 percent in the MLB.

The point of all these facts and figures is to illuminate how the current college football bowl system has de-valued the accomplishment of qualifying for a postseason bowl game. When nearly two-thirds of your sport makes a bowl game, is appearing in the Quick Lane Bowl, the Heart of Dallas Bowl or the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl really an accomplishment? Is that a trophy or a ring that should be displayed proudly?

Additionally, a 2014 NCAA study recently found that expenses exceed revenue at all but 20 schools in the FBS, and most of that money is spent on football. The study also found that the average athletic deficit at non-Power 5 schools was $17.6 million.

On the surface, an expanded bowl game field might seem like a positive for many non-Power 5 schools who dream of reaching a bowl game in the future. However, the reality is that many athletic departments are spending massive sums of money to fund football programs that will never achieve enough to make up the difference.

Is appearing in the Quick Lane Bowl, the Heart of Dallas Bowl or the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl really an accomplishment?



Kelly Gramlich can be heard Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-noon on "Out of Bounds" with William Qualkinbush on WCCP 105.5 The Roar.

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USA TODAY

 

For three years, Lane Kiffin accepted the sideline humiliations and the long hours demanded by Alabama coach Nick Saban because he believed it would be his ticket back to the big time.

It was supposed to be a well-paid rehabilitation stint for the former Southern California coach, whose boy-wonder reputation was left in tatters midway through the 2013 season when Pat Haden fired him on the tarmac after the Trojans returned from a 62-41 loss at Arizona State. Kiffin, with a national title under his belt and his offensive acumen celebrated again, would ride the Alabama wave right into another top-level head coaching job and reclaim a career that once seemed headed toward superstardom.

Instead, Kiffin on Monday agreed to become the head coach at Florida Atlantic, a fledgling football program that plays in the Conference USA, won 19 games over the last six seasons and whose entire athletics department budget for this year was projected to be $27.1 million.

For someone who has been a head coach in the NFL and at two elite college programs before 40, taking the FAU job is tantamount to starting over.

But it's also representative of how skeptically Kiffin was viewed by college administrators and search firms, as dozens of jobs came open and were filled without seriously considering him.

Kiffin did remarkable things in three years at Alabama, turning Blake Sims into a top-level quarterback, designing an offense that helped Derrick Henry win the Heisman Trophy last season and tweaking it again this season to fit the skill set of true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts.

All the while, he has helped modernize Saban's offensive approach and put up big numbers, transforming Alabama into the kind of team that could win a 45-40 shootout against Clemson in last season's national title game.

Still, as Kiffin's three-year contract with Alabama was on the verge of running out, it was clear he wouldn't be back in Tuscaloosa. The relationship with Saban had run its course, and the only question was whether he would end up joining Ed Orgeron's new staff at LSU or find a head coaching job.

But the offers never came, and Kiffin grew more desperate to get another chance, according to multiple people within the coaching search industry who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity so they could be candid about their opinions of him.

Though Kiffin frequently exaggerated other programs' interest in him to those inside the football facility at Alabama, he only came close to getting one job -- Houston, which had him as a finalist but chose Major Applewhite instead -- before landing at Florida Atlantic.

As it turned out, Kiffin's cavalier attitude toward pushing boundaries in his one year at Tennessee, the train wreck ending at Southern Cal and questions about his personal maturity (his divorce this year didn't help matters) had all conspired to leave such a negative impression on the industry that administrators largely shied away.

Though Kiffin's name was brought up for multiple jobs across the last three years, nearly all of it was speculation and smoke rather than genuine interest in him.

One person with knowledge of the matter, who had investigated Kiffin for a job, said reference calls to people who worked at USC and Tennessee basically rendered him unhirable.

Kiffin needed someone to take a chance on him, and for a program such as Florida Atlantic that has struggled to get going, it might be a good bet. Kiffin will recruit well in South Florida, bring national attention to the school and draw eyeballs to the Conference USA.

If he wins and maintains a low level of drama, Kiffin is young enough at 41 that he might be back at a Power Five program in a few years.

While FAU is betting on him, Kiffin is wagering on himself. He could have made well over $1 million at LSU and further enhanced his coordinator bona fides, particularly if he could knock off Alabama.

But he wanted to be a head coach, and as the coaching carousel for this year comes to a close, taking a pay cut to go to Florida Atlantic was the best he could do.

We'll see in a few years if bigger programs that could have bought low on Kiffin missed the boat or whether their skepticism was well-deserved.

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USA TODAY

 

FIFA, world soccer's tainted and maligned governing body, is still called FIFA. Yet it wants you to believe it is different now, reformed, rebuilt and far removed from the regime of corruption that led to the long-overdue downfall of former president Sepp Blatter.

If that is the case, soccer's latest powerbrokers have a simple way to prove it: Strip Russia of the 2018 World Cup.

Last week brought a fresh reminder of the depths Russia's odious sports system plumbed in its secretive, subversive modern war on fair play. A second investigative report by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren detailed even more extraordinary plots in which more than 1,000 Russian athletes were fed banned performance-enhancing drugs, with the subsequent positive doping tests fabricated or tampered with to foil the system.

And while the narrative of Russian drug cheating has primarily revolved around the Olympics and Paralympics, soccer is also one of 30 sports named. In the case of the "beautiful game," the doping involved members of a Russian youth team, another unsavory example of what steps the state will take to facilitate cheating.

Controversy has swirled around the 2018 World Cup and the 2022 version in Qatar since they were simultaneously awarded in 2011 amid accusations of bribes and vote buying.

Those claims have not gone away, yet neither has FIFA acted to revoke Russia's hosting privileges. It must do so now.

"Holding state-sponsored doping to account is exactly what needs to happen," Travis Tygart, head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, told Agence France-Presse last week.

He's right, and there are not many ways to do so. Banning athletes is one measure, but removing the right to stage an event such as the World Cup sends a more powerful message.

Remember, this was something that came from the top. State sponsored means just that. Whether the edict to make doping part of policy came personally from Vladimir Putin or not, his ministers and underlings were part of the process by which a government used its sovereign powers to poison the bodies of its athletes to make them perform better. Then, borrowing straight from the Cold War, outwitted a system designed to enable clean sport using contrived samples and secret holes in laboratory walls.

Russia, and the Soviet Union before it, has long used sports as a means to promote its international worth. It is not the only country to do so. Being rich enough and organized enough to successfully host a global extravaganza on the scale of a World Cup offers the kind of political chest-beating Putin loves. Losing that opportunity, because your regime instigated a cheating blueprint on a historic scale, is the kind of heavyweight embarrassment powerful enough to make a dent in the walls of the Kremlin.

Whether now, with McLaren's double dose of humiliating revelations, Russia would seek to help its soccer players dope at a World Cup is hardly the point. It doesn't seem realistic -- soccer players spend much of the year with their club teams and the sport does not lend itself to doping practices. Yet neither did it seem feasible that a government could launch a widespread campaign to ensure it topped the Paralympics medal table. But Russia did so.

At the very least, Russia has lost the right to be granted the benefit of the doubt.

There were problems with the bid to begin with, what with Russian soccer suffering from a lingering and ugly racism problem, a shortcoming the voters in 2011 decided to overlook or were paid to do so.

It is time for a change of tack. In all honesty, it is long overdue.

FIFA has a new man in charge, Gianni Infantino. He wants us to believe he is a force for good, and he has made a solid start. But he hasn't shown a commitment to ensure that forces for cheating and corruption will be dealt with in the harshest way possible. This is his opening.

If Infantino decides to lead a charge to end Russia's hosting plans, what about the logistics? That will be used by many as a reason not to shift venues, with the tournament 18 months away.

Given that World Cups are typically awarded at least seven years ahead of time in order to allow the necessary preparations, such a window for a replacement host to get ready would be tight.

So what is more important, convenience or propriety? In truth, there are a number of viable candidates that could stage a World Cup on short notice. The event requires a minimum of 10 world-class stadiums and sufficient tourist and travel infrastructure to cope with a vast influx of fans.

France, which hosted the European Championship this year, could do it. Brazil hosted the World Cup two years ago, staged the Olympics in Rio this summer and could do it again in a pinch. Germany has the stadiums and the requisite public networks. So does Japan, England, China, Australia and, yes, the USA.

Infantino is making loud noises about making the World Cup bigger, wanting it increased to 48 teams within the next couple of cycles. Bigger is nice, but better is infinitely more admirable.

Bolder, the kind of boldness needed to tell Russia the game is up, well, that would tell the world that the new FIFA is truly about reform.

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USA TODAY

 

Sometime during the last 30 years, all the postseason bowl games in college football figured out an easy way to make millions of dollars. All they had to do was change their names.

The Orange Bowl is now the Capital One Orange Bowl, not to be confused with the old Capital One Bowl, which recently became the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.

The Holiday Bowl is now the National Funding Holiday Bowl, the game's eighth different identity since it became the SeaWorld Holiday Bowl in 1986.

In 1990, the Independence Bowl became the Poulan Weed Eater Independence Bowl, clearing the way for this year's Camping World Independence Bowl on Dec.26.

It's all for the sake of revenue and advertising. And it transformed the industry, for better or worse.

But the name game might finally have hit a wall. Six of this year's 41 bowl games have failed to obtain similar title or presenting sponsorships, raising more questions about the market appeal of an 80-team postseason that already includes several games with sparse crowds and 20 bowl teams this year with 6-6 records or worse.

"There are 41 games this year, so there's more competition for it," said Mark Neville, executive director of the Holiday Bowl and the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego. "We've got to work a little bit harder and be a little bit more creative to secure them."

Twenty years ago, there were 18 bowl games. Five years ago, there were 35, and all had a title or presenting sponsorship to help pay their bills. Starting Dec.17, there will be 41 postseason games through Jan. 9, including the biggest game-changer in the business: the College Football Playoff.

After making its debut in January2015, the four-team Playoff sweetened the postseason pot with more money than ever but also arguably made the lower-tier bowl games seem less attractive to sponsors.

The no-name game

The Hawaii, St.Petersburg, Birmingham and Boca Raton bowls don't have title sponsors this year after previous title sponsors didn't renew. Another game, the Miami Beach Bowl, has not had a title sponsor since starting in 2014. The national championship game also has not announced a presenting sponsor after two years with AT&T -- though the game's asking price is much more and a deal might come soon.

Lower-tier games generally fetch less than $500,000 from these companies in exchange for changing the game's name to help build awareness for the companies' brands. The more prestigious bowls can command $20million or more as part of a larger package, according to Navigate Research, a Chicago firm that measures sports marketing investments.

"It's becoming more difficult to sell, and you can speculate on why," said Wright Waters, executive director of the Football Bowl Association, which promotes and protects bowl games. "But people are out there really hustling, and they have to hustle because the payouts to the schools and conferences are going up. Everything costs more."

Waters emphasizes an important point about the bowl system as a whole: Schools and leagues have greatly profited from it.

Last year, they collectively received about $600million in payouts from the bowls, including a whopping $425million from the five top bowl games, including the Playoff, according to NCAA documents obtained by USA TODAY Sports. After $105million in combined expenses for the 41 games, that means schools and leagues profited by nearly $495million.

It's a different story for the bowl games, which are responsible for coming up with all that money. To provide all that payout money -- and pay for operations and staff -- bowl games largely rely on television revenue, ticket sales and title sponsorships. If title sponsorships dry up, it can stress a bowl's bottom line.

Last year, the Birmingham Bowl received an extra $200,000 from the city of Birmingham to help make up for its lack of title sponsor -- in addition to the $300,000 it normally received.

This year, it again has no title sponsor, and the city cited the game's economic benefits in giving it another $525,000.

The game's most recent title sponsor, banking company BBVA Compass, declined to comment.

The Birmingham Bowl started in 2006 and on Dec.29 features South Florida (10-2) vs. South Carolina (6-6). Yet even older, higher-profile classics such as the Holiday Bowl in San Diego have tasted a tougher market.

Holiday Bowl shopping

After having a title sponsor every year since 1986, the Holiday Bowl couldn't land a title sponsor last year until about two weeks before kickoff, when it reached a one-year deal with National Funding, a local financial services company. National Funding renewed for another year in late October, a far cry from the days when the Pacific Life insurance company went eight consecutive years as the game's title sponsor.

Likewise, the Las Vegas Bowl had a title sponsor every year since 2003 until this year. It has a presenting sponsor, GEICO, that came aboard recently, and the bowl will be looking for a new title sponsor next year.

"It has regressed," Navigate Research President AJ Maestas said of the marketplace. "There are many short-term deals that are sold at the last second. There are a lot of games, and there are a lot of reasons for it. One of the reasons is the College Football Playoff taking more prominence."

USA TODAY Sports reached out to several former title sponsors of bowl games but didn't receive responses about their reasons for not renewing. Each game and title sponsorship package is different, though all have a common appeal to sponsors: attaching their names to an event with a national TV audience, which can average more than a million viewers even for the lower-tier games.

This has become an essential part of the bowl business model since the late 1980s. Before then, bowl games generally had generic names -- Rose, Orange, Cotton -- that promoted regional agriculture, industries and tourism but not specific companies. This changed as the television reach of the bowls increased and the bowls realized there was a lot of money to be made by taking on the names of specific businesses.

Now it can make or break a bowl. After losing a potential title sponsorship several years ago, the International Bowl in Toronto had to go out of business, said Don Loding, the game's former executive director.

The Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego couldn't have launched in 2005 without the title sponsorship of the San Diego County Credit Union, Neville said.

"You don't want to go indefinitely without a title sponsor," said Clint Overby, vice president of ESPN Events, which owns and operates 12 major bowl games, including four without title or presenting sponsors this year. "But certainly it's not fatal if you don't have one."

Much depends on how well the bowls' other revenue streams perform. Combined title sponsorship revenue increased from $9.8million in 2002-03, when there were 28 bowl games, to $20.4 million in 2008-09, when there were 34, according to the latest available NCAA documents obtained by USA TODAY Sports.

Two years ago, USA TODAY Sports counted three bowl games without title or presenting sponsors among 39 games. Last year, the count was four. Now six.

"I look at the strength of college football overall: the macro factors, the economy, the enormous change to ecosystem (with the Playoff)," said Rob Temple, ESPN's senior vice president for sports marketing. "It just takes a while to stabilize some of those things and get the marketplace to reset."

The way it's set right now is still good for business, or not, depending on the viewpoint.

Spreading the wealth

There are a few ways to look at the health of the bowl system. Collectively, for the leagues and schools, it's wildly profitable.

For ESPN, it's a moneymaking bonanza, providing a wealth of lucrative live content to watch and sell during the holiday season. That alone makes it the most powerful driving force behind the expansion of the bowl system. ESPN networks and ABC, both owned by the Walt Disney Co., will televise all but four of this season's 41 bowl games.

"The bowl system is incredibly healthy," said Overby of ESPN Events.

ESPN Events created bowl games from scratch to help expand the system, knowing that millions will watch on TV even if the crowds in the stands are sparse. It almost doesn't matter that average bowl game attendance has declined for eight years in a row, from 54,172 in 2007-08 to 43,817 last year, according to NCAA records.

But there's a different calculus for the small-school leagues that fill the slots of the lower-tier bowl games. NCAA financial documents show that those participants are greatly subsidized by only a few of the biggest bowl games, including the Playoff, even though those smaller schools don't participate in them.

For example, the Mid-American Conference sent seven teams to bowl games last season, all to lower-tier games, including the Boca Raton and Poinsettia bowls. The league received $20 million in combined bowl payouts, compared with $4.97 million in expenses. But of that $20 million payout, $17.6 million came from its share of the Playoff games and the Fiesta and Peach Bowls, according to NCAA records.

If that big bowl money weren't shared with them, the MAC and the four other lower-tier leagues in major-college football would have lost money on bowl games, according to NCAA documents.

"The system was always designed where there would be enough money coming in from the (big bowl games) to take care of this group of schools," Waters said.

But without title sponsors for those lower-tier bowls, it's not clear if the system can stay quite this big. The NCAA has a moratorium on expanding the bowl system until at least 2019.

"If it was a pure dollars-and-cents business, it would be a bad business idea to say, 'I'm going to launch a bunch of mid- and low-tier bowl games,'" said Maestas of Navigate Research. "They need every dollar they can get."

It's the name of the game, and not just figuratively. On Dec. 23, Troy (9-3) will face Ohio (8-5) in the Dollar General Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

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The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colorado)

 

The Supreme Court has rejected challenges to the estimated $1 billion plan by the NFL to settle thousands of concussion lawsuits filed by former players. The court's action on Monday clears the way for payouts to begin to former players who have been diagnosed brain injuries linked to repeated concussions. The settlement covers more than 20,000 retired NFL players for the next 65 years.

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected the final two challenges to the estimated $1 billion settlement between the NFL and thousands of its former players who have been diagnosed with brain injuries linked to repeated concussions. Players who already have been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's or dementia could begin receiving payments in 90 to 120 days.

"The benefits process will finally move forward," said attorney Christopher Seeger, who represented the class of more than 20,000 retired NFL players now eligible for payments for the next 65 years.

The league has estimated that 6,000 former players — or nearly three in 10 — could develop Alzheimer's disease or moderate dementia. Payments could be as high as $5 million for those with Lou Gehrig's disease, also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS; the average payout is expected to be closer to $190,000.

"These courageous men and their families, who in the face of great adversity took on the NFL, have made history," Seeger said. "Despite the difficult health situations retired players face today, and that many more will unfortunately face in the future, they can take comfort in the fact that this settlement's significant and immediate benefits will finally become available to them and last for decades to come."

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Chicago Daily Herald

 

During the hour-plus ride last week to the Illinois Elementary School Association's regional finals game in Ford Heights, MCC Academy girls basketball coach Kazir Oz had a simple message for his players, who were about to make history as the first and only team to wear hijabs on the court.

"It was really about drowning out the noise," said Oz, a Schaumburg native. "I told them, 'Don't think, just play. Focus on the play itself, don't worry on the antics.'"

The Morton Grove-based team, which finished first in its conference, has spent the season working on its defense and learning plays used by the Niles West High School girls team.

The 13-player roster of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade girls lost in the regional finals to Cottage Grove Middle School, but the girls say they left the court hoping their presence had taken a step toward challenging stereotypes.

'An honor'

"It's really an honor to be wearing my scarf on the court," team captain Isma Manzoor of Morton Grove tells me. While she said the uniform can sometimes get hot with its pants and long-sleeved shirt, "you can't let that hold you back."

Oz says he considers it the team's job to show competitors "we're all the same, we're here to play the game of basketball, we're all going to play with humility and sportsmanship."

The team's next goal is to arrange an exhibition game with a local public school.

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USA TODAY

 

The brother of Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam told USA TODAY Sports on Sunday that Salaam had "all the symptoms" associated with chronic football head trauma before he committed suicide last week, including memory loss and depression.

Jabali Alaji, Salaam's brother, also said he spoke to his brother about an hour before his death but that Salaam didn't indicate what he was about to do.

"It was a very positive conversation," said Alaji, who lives in the Atlanta area. "We made plans for the future."

Salaam, the legendary former University of Colorado running back, was found dead at a local park on the night of Dec. 5. His mother, Khalada, told USA TODAY Sports the next day that Boulder police said they suspected it was a suicide and that a note was found. Boulder police said the cause of death was under investigation.

"We don't know all the details yet on that," said Alaji, who planned to meet with police.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is the disease associated with concussions and can be diagnosed only after death under current science. Alaji indicated that Salaam's brain was not donated for evaluation of CTE because of their Muslim faith and burial rituals, which call for burial within days after death and forbid desecration of the body.

If Salaam's brain were examined, Alaji said, "I would guarantee they'd find it."

Salaam, 42, who won the Heisman in 1994, was buried Friday, surrounded by family, friends and former teammates who remembered Salaam for his generous spirit, humility and a beaming smile that boosted moods and broke tension.

During the weekend, those former teammates and family helped clear out Salaam's home and took some more time to remember all the good he did for the University of Colorado and local youth. They said they hoped to carry on his legacy of helping children and also possibly suicide prevention.

"Rashaan did a lot for a lot of people," former Buffaloes teammate T.J. Cunningham told USA TODAY Sports on Sunday.

At the same time, they said Salaam had become adept at hiding his pain. Alaji said Salaam played with a broken elbow but kept it secret during his NFL rookie season with the Chicago Bears in 1995. He said Salaam had about 14 surgeries.

"He was banged up," Alaji said. "He was a running back. Who gets hit more on the field than a running back?"

Salaam played at Colorado from 1992 to 1994 before turning pro after his junior year, when he became the fourth player in major-college history to rush for 2,000 yards in one season. He was a big, slashing runner for CU, which finished ranked No. 3 in the nation that year with an 11-1 record.

"He wasn't a running back who was going to slide" to avoid contact with opponents, former CU teammate Shannon Clavelle told USA TODAY Sports on Sunday. "This isn't baseball."

Football culture also demands playing with pain and not showing weakness. And that partly might have been why Salaam hid his recent suffering. For young men, it's also part of the general culture.

As an example, Alaji said Sunday that he still hadn't cried about his brother's death.

"My job is make sure I don't break down in front of my mom, so I haven't cried once," he said.

Alaji said he read the CTE symptoms, which include anxiety, depression, apathy and memory loss.

"He had all those symptoms," he said. He also said they found no evidence of substance abuse in his home.

"When I opened the house, I expected to go into a house of somebody who was on drugs or find alcohol in the trash can," Alaji said. "But when I walked into the house and saw how clean the house was, it shocked me. I went through his trash can. I went through hiding spaces expecting to find pill bottles or bottles of liquor. None of that was there. He didn't even take Motrin."

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Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)
 

The Texas study will collect more concussion data than it has before, University Interscholastic League Deputy Director Jamey Harrison said. Currently, Texas requires only one school from each district to report concussions as part of a weekly injury reporting system, though each school in the football playoffs is required to report concussions.

AUSTIN, Texas - This week, Texas will launch what state officials say is the nation's largest effort to track brain injuries among young athletes.

The University Interscholastic League, Texas' governing body for public high school sports, is partnering with the O'Donnell Brain Institute at UT Southwestern Medical Center for the project, from which they hope to gauge whether rules or equipment changes are improving player safety and what more can be done to protect athletes.

A state as large as Texas, which has more than 800,000 public high school athletes, would be a key step in developing a national database of brain injuries in youths, officials say. Already, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is seeking federal funding for such a database.

"Until we understand what the frequency of concussions is across the state, or a region of the state, we can't determine when rule changes, equipment changes or things like recovery programs are really being effective," said Dr. Munro Cullum, a professor of psychiatry, neurology and neurotherapeutics who will lead the study.

All 50 states in recent years have passed rules or laws to address concussions in youth athletics, from research to protocols for identifying concussions and setting rules for return to play. The CDC has estimated that up to 3.8 million concussions occur in sports and recreational activities each year, but some experts wonder if those numbers underestimate total brain injuries, as some individuals may not seek treatment for mild or moderate symptoms.

The Texas program will track about two dozen sports, from football to girls soccer, recording what caused an injury, recovery time and other data.

Other states have researched head injuries, too.

In Michigan, which requires schools to report concussions, a recent concussion study showed 755 schools reported 4,452 head injuries in the 2015-2016 school year. Football had the most - 1,907 - and girls basketball ranked No. 2 with 454.

It tracked details such as whether the injury occurred in practice or a game, whether the athlete had to miss class and how long it took them to return to competition. That research is being shared with Michigan State University's Institute for the Study of Youth Sports.

 
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The Philadelphia Inquirer
By Dan Geringer; Staff Writer

Sunday's bitter cold did not stop Attim Roseborough, 7, his brother Steven, 11, and their cousin Avieon Smith, 9, from being among the first neighborhood kids to test the jumping, spinning, and climbing possibilities of the new Conestoga Community Playground at Media and 53rd Streets in West Philadelphia.

After fueling up on chips and soft drinks from a corner store, they ran over to the bright orange, purple, and green hoops and cables suspended above the new safety surface, and couldn't stop smiling.

"Look!" Attim yelled over to his brother and cousin, who were swaying back and forth in the air on a hoop contraption as if they were on a ship's crow's nest in stormy seas. "Look!" Attim demanded, directing their attention to a suspended hammock chair he was standing in. "This thing spins! Somebody push me!"

The two boys joined him and soon, they were all spinning so hard together, it was a miracle they managed to digest their recent intake of snacks.

"Oh, ha ha ha!" Attim laughed, then screamed as if on a roller coaster down the Shore. "Again!" he commanded when they came to a stop. He got his wish.

Kathryn Ott Lovell, commissioner of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, which funded the $600,000 makeover with design costs contributed by its partner, the Trust for Public Land, said the refurbished park "sets a new bar for what should not be the exception but the norm in communities like West and North Philadelphia."

She said the Conestoga Community Playground makeover will be the norm over the next several years, after the city issues $300 million in bonds supported by the soda tax; the William Penn Foundation contributes a promised $100 million; and other funders push the total over $500 million to revitalize Philadelphia's rec centers, parks, and libraries.

"We have 250 playgrounds and probably 200 need work," she said. "You go to the new Conestoga playground and you think, 'Oh, my gosh, we're going to be able to do this all over the city.' Never before in our lifetime has anything like this happened. All eyes are on Philadelphia."

Emani Walker, 5, lives next door to the new playground and week after week she watched from her window as construction workers built it along with a new tot lot and basketball court.

"She was waiting for so long for this," her uncle Malik Ruffin said, watching Emani carefully climb up the artificial-stone footholds on the slide and ride down. "All day long, all she kept talking about was when she could play here. She'd ask the workers, 'When is it going to be done?' "

Ruffin said the new playground replaced an old, broken-down concrete basketball court. "They had a swing over there but it wasn't a safe swing," he said. "I didn't let my niece play on it. I'm just happy she can get out here now and play instead of just sitting in the house. As long as she's happy, I'm happy."

Ott Lovell said she wants children all over the city to experience the happiness that a beautiful new playground brings.

"When I go to neighborhoods that have been so underinvested for so long," she said, "and ask people what they want, they say, 'Can I get some trash cans?' or 'Let's maybe get some new benches?' It's hard to dream big when you've been struggling so long to get the basics. There's a generation of people who have gone through their lives praying for this to happen at their facilities. Now, it can happen."

geringd@phillynews.com

267-443-3540 @DanGeringer


 
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gschroeder@, usatoday.com, USA TODAY Sports

If Jim Delany's flip-flop seems transparently self-serving, it is -- and he's OK with it.

The Big Ten's commissioner was for conference champions only in the College Football Playoff before he was, well, not exactly against it, but OK with the concept of allowing a non-champion into the four-team field. That's almost certainly because while Big Ten champion Penn State got left out, Ohio State got in, anyway. And the Buckeyes look an awful lot like a team that could win the whole thing.

"I argued for a different construct," Delany said last week. "But the construct we got is a good one."

We bring it up again to begin to answer a question that has popped up repeatedly over the last few days (to be fair, it never really goes away): Will recent events prompt a push for the playoff to expand?

Short answer: No.

It made for a nice run on Twitter, the NCAA president saying he wants the playoff to expand to eight. Except, of course, that Mark Emmert has no say in the matter. The NCAA is not involved in the Football Bowl Subdivision postseason, other than to certify the bowls.

"That's why we live in America," said Delany of Emmert's position. "Everybody's got an opinion, that's good."

He paused and smiled: "He doesn't have a vote, though."

The postseason is controlled by the 10 conferences -- in reality, the Power Five -- not the NCAA. They're not giving it up anytime soon. And they're not expanding the playoff anytime soon, either.

"I hear it from a lot of people," Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said. "But we've spent a lot of time designing this, looking at the pros and cons of different models. There's a lot of conviction... that four was the right number, so I do not envision any discussion about expansion anytime soon."

Scott's stance was echoed last week in conversations with USA TODAY Sports by Delany, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey (ACC Commissioner John Swofford has advocated an eight-team playoff but is OK with four). That's significant. There won't be a change until a majority of the Power Five decision-makers want it, and they don't.

They're splitting $500 million annually. While the sum would increase if they expanded, it's unclear by how much (and if part of the increase might be offset, potentially, by other factors; as one example: would conference championship games continue?). There are concerns: more wear and tear on players, more missed class time, a devaluation of the regular season and so on.

Whether these are legitimate depends on perspective, but they're legitimately held, anyway, by many across the college landscape. Delany likes to describe it as "too much ice cream isn't good for anybody" -- the idea being eight might be too much of a good thing, with unintended consequences.

"I understand the entertainment value of an eight-team playoff," Delany said. "But we're just really three years into a 12-year arrangement. It only took about three months to start this discussion (about expanding), and I'm sure I will be viewed as too conservative on this point. But that's how I feel. That's how our (Big Ten) members feel. That's how our coaches feel, that's how our athletic directors feel and that's how our presidents feel. So I'm going to reflect that, for sure."

Of course, it's worth recalling that the Bowl Championship Series was never, ever going to be scrapped for a playoff, either. For a long while, the commissioners were so resistant to even discussing the possibility, they actually referred to a playoff as "the 'p-word." And then suddenly the BCS was gone. After the 2011 season a playoff was necessary.

LSU and Alabama played in an all-SEC rematch, and the conference commissioners suddenly saw the virtue of doubling the access and having a small tournament. So there won't be an eight-team bracket -- until there is.

But in the third year of that 12-year contract, there is no impetus for change, and here's why:

The first two editions of the playoff featured conference champions only. One conference got left out each year, but that's simple arithmetic: four slots, five Power Five conferences.

While this season marked the first non-champion in the field, it didn't change the math: four conferences were still represented. Other than the Big 12's recurring angst -- the condition may be chronic -- the system has not yet been significantly stressed with the selections in any year, including this one.

"I'd say most people generally think we have the four best teams," Scott said.

And despite his former stance that the field should be reserved for conference champions, Delany doesn't disagree. If there's debate over Ohio State's selection instead of the Big Ten champion Penn State, it ends up largely an internal Big Ten matter -- and the commissioner seems OK, either way. Delany even noted the possibility that Michigan would have made the field rather than Penn State -- two teams that didn't win the league ahead of the champion.

"I don't have favorites," he said.

For real controversy, the kind that might eventually prompt expansion, we'd probably have had to see multiple teams from one conference in the bracket. This year, if Ohio State and Penn State had both made the field, the Pac-12 would have joined the Big 12 on the outside looking in.

If that happens more than a couple of times, the commissioners might start getting antsy. It's one thing to know some league will be excluded each year. It's another if two (or more) get left out, and if it begins to become a trend.

But that hasn't happened yet, not even once. Until then, bring up expansion, and Delany will begin talking about frozen dessert again.

"I think what we have here is good," he said. "It's hard, because there's not unlimited ice cream."

 
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Copyright 2016 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.
Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
By Dominique Soguel

ISTANBUL- Turkey declared a national day of mourning and paid tribute to the dead Sunday after two bombings in Istanbul killed 38 people and wounded 155 others near a soccer stadium. The carnage was claimed by a Turkey-based Kurdish militant group.

The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, or TAK, said two of its members had sacrificed their lives in the Saturday night attack that targeted security forces outside the Besiktas stadium shortly after the conclusion of a match.

A statement posted on TAK's website described the blasts as reprisal for state violence in the southeast and the ongoing imprisonment of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. Authorities consider TAK a PKK offshoot.

The twin car-and-suicide bombings near the stadium enraged top officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who vowed to hunt down the perpetrators. The attack was the latest large-scale assault to traumatize a nation confronting an array of security threats.

Turkey is a NATO member and a partner in the U.S.-led war against the Islamic State.

The attack targeted police officers, killing 30 of them along with seven civilians and an unidentified person, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told reporters. He said 13 people had been arrested in connection with the "terrorist" act.

In an address at a funeral for the slain police officers before TAK's statement was released, a furious Soylu condemned Kurdish rebels and their allies in the West, referring to the PKK as "animals."

"Have you accomplished anything beyond being the servants, pawns and hit men of certain dark forces, of your dark Western partners?" he asked.

Turkish officials made no further comments after the TAK claimed responsibility.

The battle between the PKK and the Turkish state has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of citizens. Turkish officials frequently accuse the West of supporting the Kurdish insurgency and of interfering in Ankara's fight against the militants.

Hundreds of flag-carrying demonstrators marched along Istanbul's coastline toward the stadium at the heart of the blast area. Flags flew at half-staff across the country and at Turkey's foreign missions. Passers-by placed flowers on barriers surrounding the soccer stadium.

The first and larger explosion took place about 10:30 p.m. Saturday after a Turkish Super League soccer game.

Soylu said the first blast was caused by a passing vehicle that detonated in an area where police special forces were located at the stadium exit. A riot police bus appears to have been the target. Moments later, a person who had been stopped in nearby Macka Park committed suicide by triggering explosives, according to the minister.

TAK claimed the Turkish people weren't their target but warned "no one should expect a comfortable life" as long as the ruling party "continues to torture the mothers of Kurdistan every day."

 
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LOS ANGELES - It's September, two days before another NFL season begins, and Jake Plummer is describing the chronic pain of a decade spent in professional football, as if it were once an indistinguishable part of him, the specter of which he couldn't relinquish until years later, when a friend introduced him to CBD, and a career's worth of pain disappeared with only a few droplets under his tongue. It was cannabidiol from the cannabis plant.

Pain was a constant, unwelcome visitor, even after he left the game. Like so many other NFL players - current and former - Plummer chased relief any way he could. To avoid painkillers, he often medicated with alcohol. Still, every morning, his joints ached.

By 2012, as he was lying in recovery from extensive microfracture surgery on his hip, he fell into a depression. Why, he wondered, had he ever decided to play football?

Four years later, the one-time Broncos and Cardinals gunslinger sits on stage at the L.A. Convention Center. The joint pain is gone. The splitting headaches he suffered have waned. All, he says, because of his now-daily use of cannabidiol or CBD -a nonpsychoactive compound from the cannabis plant that does not produce a high.

"This is my first convention for cannabis," he tells a standing-room only crowd at the Cannabis World Expo, to a rousing round of applause.

Plummer is perhaps the most recognizable face in a growing group of former players taking up the fight for marijuana - and CBD, especially - as an answer to the NFL's decadeslong battle with chronic pain. As the NFL continues to push its players toward painkillers, Plummer tells the crowd, the league has a duty to its players to consider the alternative in a drug the league has long demonized.

"This game isn't getting any safer," Plummer says. "Players shouldn't be punished for wanting a healthier option."

More Americans are beginning to agree. Twenty-eight states have passed some form of legislation allowing the use of medical marijuana. Eight of those states, including California, have voted to allow recreational use as well. A Gallup poll in October found that more than 60 percent of Americans support federal legalization.

And yet, as the NFL waits on definitive scientific evidence, it continues to view marijuana in the same class as heroin and cocaine. This season alone, the league has meted out 26 suspensions for "substance abuse" - the majority of which are marijuana-related. The most recent suspension was handed to Bills offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson, who has said he uses marijuana to treat a debilitating case of Crohn's disease.

"(The NFL) claims to want players to be healthier and safe," Plummer says. "Well, let's actually see that."

The movement for acceptance may finally be gaining traction. With funding from former Ravens offensive lineman Eugene Monroe, a Colorado nonprofit has emerged on the front lines of research, rolling out two studies of NFL players - current and former - to help understand their use of marijuana, the drug's capacity as a pain-relief alternative, and even, perhaps, the possibility it could have neurologically regenerative properties. Some believe such research could hold the key to solving the league's concussion crisis.

The NFL has since held a conference call with the researchers involved, another sign that the tides may slowly be turning. In November, the NFL Players Association took its own step toward change, announcing it would study methods for chronic pain relief, marijuana included.

Significant obstacles remain. At the moment, evidence of marijuana's positive effects are only anecdotal. The stigma surrounding marijuana still lingers, as does the specter of federal prohibition, and seven states where the NFL is played still prohibit marijuana use. Many current players remain leery of speaking out, fearful for their jobs.

But as the push for acceptance gains momentum and the case for cannabis as the solution to NFL players' chronic pain, and possibly more, is made, the question bears asking.

What will it take for the NFL to accept marijuana?

Old fight

In 1982, at the height of America's "War on Drugs," the NFL and NFLPA negotiated a collective bargaining agreement that prohibited marijuana and granted the league the right to test players for drug use. By 1986, in spite of scant evidence that the program was pushing players away from weed, Commissioner Pete Rozelle tried, unsuccessfully, to take the policy a step further by pushing for the right to test NFL players at random.

Decades later, the NFL remains the most restrictive of American professional sports leagues on the issue of marijuana. (The NHL no longer even has marijuana on its banned substance list.) And yet, as the NFL's popularity skyrocketed, locker rooms have become reliant on much more powerful - and harmful - drugs to numb the pain caused by football.

Nate Jackson felt that pain during his six seasons, from 2003 to 2008, as a pass-catcher with the Broncos. He broke his tibia, dislocated both shoulders and misaligned his clavicle. He suffered head and neck trauma. He tore both his hamstring and groin clean off the bone. Each injury, he said, meant taking "pills and more pills."

"There were anti-inflammatories that ate away at your stomach lining. There were injections in my feet, my knees, my shoulders, my hamstrings. I stood in line, before every game, and got an injection of Toradol (a powerful anti-inflammatory) in my butt."

Jackson's experience is hardly unique. In constant battle for roster spots, the pressure on NFL players to return from injury, or to play despite injury, is immense. Several former players told stories of injured teammates buying additional opioids from outside doctors, or other teammates, in order to stay on the field. Plummer remembers teammates who relied on Percocet just to practice.

Last year, a class-action lawsuit filed against the NFL alleged that several teams threatened to cut players from their roster unless they took painkillers to return to the field. A recent attempt by the NFL at dismissing the case was denied by a federal judge in Northern California. The allegations suggested in the case didn't shock any former players who spoke with this news organization.

"It's a weird culture in which these guys will do anything to play," says Jackson, who penned a book, "Slow Getting Up," on his experience playing through pain. "Guys will take any amount of drugs to be able to play. Your self-worth is based on if you're playing this game. So you'll play at all costs.

"But isn't there something (messed) up about the fact that these guys need heavy drugs every week just to get on the field?"

Kevin House Jr. remembers that pressure. As a young player, he watched in awe as future Hall of Famers Junior Seau and Rodney Harrison played through extreme pain, covered with dark bruises from head to toe. Most days, House felt as if he'd been in a car crash. After games, the former cornerback remembers team trainers passing around a box of painkillers in the locker room or on the team plane, with different labeled compartments for different drugs.

"There weren't really prescriptions," House recalls. "We could just grab all the opiates we thought we needed."

In his final full season, 2005, House suffered a severe injury to his forearm while playing with the Seahawks, requiring surgery and extensive recovery time. He says he was given a morphine drip every 30 minutes after his surgery. After the morphine, he took Vicodin. After two months, he'd lost 20 pounds, his appetite was gone, and depression overtook him. Family and friends eventually confronted him about weaning off his prescriptions.

Marvin Washington, a former Super Bowl MVP who played 10 seasons in the NFL, remembers a teammate vomiting onto a locker-room card game one Sunday after taking eight Percocet and washing it down with four beers. "I thought he was going to die," Washington says.

Kyle Turley, a former offensive lineman with the Rams and Saints, has spoken about how his 20-year reliance on opioids nearly led him to take his own life. That cycle ended, he says, when he turned to marijuana as an alternative.

A 2011 study from Washington University in St. Louis and commissioned by ESPN found that 71 percent of retired NFL players who used opioids during their playing careers admitted to some form of abuse. The study also found that retired NFL players abuse opioids at a rate four times higher than that of the general population.

That's particularly startling given that the nation is in the grips of an opioid epidemic. In 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a record 28,647 Americans died from overdoses of heroin or other opioids.

"(Opioids) become a regimen," House says. "It becomes something that you need. You're dependent. No one has ever been dependent on marijuana."

This is a crucial point for most advocating for marijuana's acceptance in the NFL. They see marijuana as a pain-relief option with minimal downside, even if its medicinal upside remains mostly unproven. Opioids, meanwhile, offer the short-term benefit of numbing pain but carry significant, long-term health risks of which many players are unaware.

"Before you get a shot," Plummer says, "the doctor isn't saying, 'This can cause upset stomach, rash, anal fissures, long-term brain issues.' None of that is being said. There was no effort to tell us what we're putting in our bodies."

Jackson says he began his career as a "good soldier," doing as he was told, avoiding marijuana out of fear of breaking the NFL's rules. But by his sixth season, Jackson was leaning almost entirely on marijuana for pain relief and hiding his methods from the Broncos. Every night, he would sit alone at home, smoking away the pain in his back and his joints, letting it lull him into a deep, comfortable sleep. In his final month as a player, Jackson claims he treated a concussion entirely with marijuana. He believes, as some advocates are trying to prove, that marijuana protected his brain.

Jackson does not have any delusions of the NFL taking charge on such a significant social issue. As the movement for marijuana gains momentum, he's not asking for the league office to advocate its use. He just wants it to stop standing in the way.

"This doesn't need to be Roger Goodell holding a press conference in front of a 20-foot weed leaf," Jackson says. "Just don't test guys for it. That means no one is being punished, and it's out of the news. Study it. Research it. And then give it to guys if they need it. That's it."

Speaking out

In May, the Baltimore Ravens' Eugene Monroe became the first active player to urge the NFL and NFLPA to remove marijuana from the league's banned substance list and allow players to use medicinal marijuana as treatment for their chronic pain.

It was a risky stand. The team quickly distanced itself from Monroe's advocacy. By June, he was released - a move Ravens coach John Harbaugh said was "100 percent (due to) football circumstances." Monroe decided to retire soon after, taking up his advocacy full time.

But Monroe's abrupt exit from the league would raise questions about the NFL's stigma surrounding marijuana and its penchant for silencing those who speak out.

"The NFL wants obedient soldiers that do not ask questions," Jackson says.

Added House: "I watched guys in my career like (former running back and marijuana advocate) Ricky Williams who spoke out. You saw what happened to them."

NFL agent Leigh Steinberg, who represented Williams, said the former Heisman winner lost tens of millions of dollars in potential salary and sponsorships due to his public advocacy of marijuana. As for players today, Steinberg says he "would not advise any player to even touch (the marijuana) issue."

In Los Angeles, recreational marijuana use is now legal. But inside the Rams locker room, questions about cannabis are met mostly with apprehension. Some players refuse to talk about the issue at all, fearing the potential fallout.

Cory Harkey, the Rams fullback and players union representative, was clearly uneasy when asked about marijuana's pain-relief potential. "Guys just don't want to give the wrong impression," he said.

Rodger Saffold agreed to discuss the issue frankly. The Rams starting offensive lineman says he does not use marijuana and maintains that, "if the NFL won't condone marijuana use, then I'm not going to condone it, either."

But Saffold has heard snippets of encouraging research. He worries about the impact of painkillers on his NFL peers and knows active players who believe marijuana could be a better alternative. The possibilities, he admits, are intriguing.

Still, Saffold says, "I think we're miles away from that being part of the locker room."

Any actual changes to the league's marijuana policy would likely be negotiated through the NFLPA.

The league's current collective bargaining agreement expires in 2020, and some believe discussions about marijuana being removed from the banned substance list would be tabled until then. Though when asked about a possible timeline, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy pointed out that changes to the substance abuse policy "may be negotiated at any time."

As research continues and the NFL and NFLPA begin to show signs of a shift in their thinking about marijuana, that time may be drawing closer. But the hurdle of definitive scientific evidence remains, and the NFL will gladly wait out the research, suspending players several games, and sometimes a full season, for marijuana use, even as painkillers continue to wreak long-term havoc.

After feeling what marijuana did for his chronic pain, it's a contradiction that Plummer simply cannot stand by and allow any longer.

"The world is changing," Plummer says. "We're not fighting (the NFL). We're just trying to offer a solution to a problem that they're never going to avoid, as much as they refuse to admit it."

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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)
Kayleigh Skinner, KAYLEIGH.SKINNER@COMMERCIALAPPEAL.COM

Xavier and Jadda Powell were driving across the Interstate 40 bridge into Memphis Saturday from Pine Bluff, Ark. for a "daddy daughter day" in the city when the eagle-eyed 6-year-old spotted a skating rink on the riverfront. The pair decided to stop by an investigate, each donning ice skates and stepping onto the Fourth Bluff Ice Rink on its opening day.

The city's first riverfront skating rink is a seasonal project and part of Reimagining the Civic Commons, a public-private partnership aimed at revitalizing parks, plazas, trails and libraries.

"It's just an awesome thing to have right on the riverfront to activate the parks," said Alisa Bradley, Riverfront Development Corporation museum operations manager and "skate guard" at the rink on Saturday. "It's a wonderful reason to come down and be on the Mississippi River."

For $10, visitors like the Powells could get a pair of ice skates and take to the ice for two hours. Ethel Johnson brought her grandchildren to the skating rink, located in the Mississippi River Park on Riverside Drive next to the Tennessee Welcome Center to check it out.

"I think its fantastic, we need to do more stuff like this," Johnson said.

Karly Baker stood in line with her father Michael Baker Saturday afternoon, slightly nervous because it was their first time going ice-skating.

"I'm so, so scared I'm gonna fall," the 8-year-old said. Her father reassured her that she would be fine, adding he might slip too.

"That would be really funny," she said.

Skating aids were available for ice skaters who needed them. Xavier Powell used one to do a lap around the rink with Jadda, but soon the pair braved the ice without it, sticking close to the rails instead.

For those who just wanted to watch, two fire pits were located near the rink with seating to stay warm, and food trucks lined up on Riverside offered snack options. Live music, skating lessons and other events also are planned.

The rink hours are 2-8 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 2-10 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays. RDC officials have said the rink will operate through at least the end of January.

 
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Copyright 2016 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.
Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
Wire services

The Raiders have a deal in place to relocate to Las Vegas, where a $1.9 billion stadium project has been approved. NFL owners have yet to vote on allowing the move. 

Oakland and Alameda County (Calif.) leaders will vote Tuesday on a financial and development plan to build a $1.3 billion football stadium at the Coliseum site to keep the Raiders from moving to Las Vegas.

Mayor Libby Schaaf and other local leaders presented details of the plan reached with the Ronnie Lott Group and Fortress Investment Group that includes public money only being used for infrastructure upgrades.

"This term sheet agreement puts Oakland in the running to keep the Raiders in a way that is responsible to the team, the league, the fans and the taxpayers," Schaaf said. "Everything the city and county and the investor team is doing is about putting forward the best offer to encourage the Raiders ownership and the NFL to keep the Raiders in Oakland, where the team belongs."

The Raiders had no comment on the plan and owner Mark Davis is committed to moving to Las Vegas, where a $1.9 billion stadium project has been approved. Nevada will raise $750 million from a hotel tax to fund the stadium with billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson contributing $650 million and the Raiders and NFL kicking in $500 million.

The Raiders must get approval from 24 of the 32 NFL owners before being allowed to move, with a vote possible as soon as January.

That put pressure on Bay Area officials to put together an alternative plan to keep the Raiders. The parties have identified $1.25 billion in potential financing for a project that may cost upward of $1.3 billion for a stadium that would open in 2021.

 

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Copyright 2016 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
By Nancy Bowman

Troy City Council, which pulled a proposed property tax for recreation projects from the Nov. 8 ballot at the last minute, will consider a request to put before voters in May a 0.25-percent income tax for those recreation projects plus, possibly, a second sheet of ice near Hobart Arena.

Council pulled the property tax proposal from the ballot Nov. 7 after a voter notified the board of elections of a misplaced decimal point in the ballot language that would have resulted in the tax, if approved, bringing in much less than anticipated.

Members of the city parks and recreation boards heard details of an expanded proposal during a joint meeting Tuesday.

In the end, the boards voted unanimously to recommend city council approve the revised Operation Recreation 2020 committee request to let voters decide on the income tax proposal.

A council committee will meet on the proposal at 5 p.m. Monday at City Hall

The main differences between the previous proposal and the new one are the addition of a second city ice rink that would be built north of Hobart Arena, an income tax versus property tax and a reduction in the amount of private money that would need to be raised.

The proposed property tax would have raised $1 million a year for 10 years, while the income tax would generate around $2.57 million a year, for 10 years.

The main difference is the addition of the previously discussed but not pursued second ice facility, said Patrick Titterington, city service and safety director. The existing ice rink is inside Hobart Arena, which is undergoing a $9.6 million renovation project scheduled for completion early next year.

Troy Skating Club and hockey program representatives told the boards of the need for additional ice time. The board also heard from supporters of junior baseball, soccer and the senior citizens center and several comments about the financial impact of the community that would come with enhanced recreation facilities that could be used for competitions and tournaments.

The parks and recreation boards were told there are two options: an income tax increase for five years or for 10 years. Both boards said they would leave the decision on a five- or 10-year proposal up to the council.

Projects proposed for the money would include:

?Duke Park: A nine-field baseball/softball complex; three youth soccer fields; improvements of infrastructure to consolidate park maintenance operations; expanded parking; added park entrances; and other park enhancements.

? Miami Shores Golf Course: Complete renovation of clubhouse; install outdoor practice driving range.

?Hobart Arena: Construction of second ice rink

?William Maier Senior Citizens Center: Repair/renovations to roof, siding, foundation, doors, windows and concrete; restoration of shuffleboard courts; parking lot resurfacing.

The council committee meeting Monday is expected to discuss the proposal and make a recommendation to the full council.

Alan Kappers, president and long-time member of the city park board, said he was disappointed that the amount of private contributions in the second proposal was less than the previous proposal.

However, he said, "I think it is time for the citizens of this community to step up and a tax levy is a good way to go about doing that. It has been a very long time since citizens of this community paid towards recreation and parks... I don't know when, if they ever did, going back to when Hobart Arena was built, probably," he said.

Since then, people have looked to foundations and corporations to pay for such projects, he said. "I think it's a good idea to go ahead and at least approve this to the extent that we would be placing this on the ballot for the citizens to talk about it," Kappers said.

 
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Copyright 2016 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
All Rights Reserved

The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

Charlie Frank was a hot dog vendor at the Vet in the 1970s. "Daaag, Daaag for sale," he'd bellow as he worked in the aisles in the lower concourse. I can remember buying hot dogs from him regardless of my appetite just to hear him do his routine. Last week, I imitated his pitch for Emily Youcis, who brought her own identity to the role of a stadium vendor. For seven seasons, she's been selling pistachios at Citizens Bank Park with her own distinctive call.

"Oh yeah, well everyone needs their shtick, you know. I'm a salesman," she responded, seemingly unimpressed with my impersonation. Only Youcis won't be selling any more nuts at Phillies games. She's been fired by Aramark for her political speech off the job. She said she was told her "social media doesn't align" with Aramark's values.

"I'm a Trump supporter, a die-hard Trump supporter and I would say I am a white nationalist," she replied when I asked how she'd describe herself. "Now people have been calling me a white supremacist on TV, which I've never said."

So how does she define white nationalism?

"Basically, we just want to keep whites from becoming minorities in their own homeland," she replied. "I mean, if you see what's going on in Europe, native Germans are going to become a minority in about four years and in Britain the native British are already a minority and this is forced immigration, forced integration, forced assimilation, which is basically what you could call genocide. And then in the United States, whites are going to become a minority in just a few years. Nobody seems to care about it. People seem to encourage it. They seem to be celebrating it and, you know, whites built this country, white Americans are the backbone of this nation."

Those may sound like long-festering, deeply held convictions, but Emily is only 26 and her answer as to how long she's viewed herself as a white nationalist surprised me.

"I would say for, officially, maybe like only about three months. . . . Nobody wants to actually be associated with that term obviously; I mean, look what happened to me," she said. "So it took a while to actually get to that point that it's OK to stand up for your rights."

When I asked what's the most incendiary of her views, she didn't hesitate. "Jews dominate the media. Jews started communism," she said. And she still believes that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta are involved in a pedophile ring in Washington.

So is her right to work any more defensible than her abhorrent views?

Legally speaking, no. Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney based in Cleveland, has followed her case. In a manner that Harry Kalas would have approved, he summarized her situation as follows in an email: "Batter up on constitutional, statutory and contract grounds:

"(1) STRIKE ONE: It's not a governmental employer, so forget arguing due process, First Amendment, etc., because no constitutional right is implicated (might be a surprise to your listeners), so she's out constitutionally.

"(2) STRIKE TWO: Pennsylvania has no law proscribing employment bias based on social media activity or political association, so she's out on the civil rights claim.

"(3) STRIKE THREE: Unless she's got a contract of a certain duration with defined 'cause' outs (like opprobrium), she's basically at-will (probably the case) and out on a contract claim."

Even if Aramark had the right to fire Youcis, was that the right call? I say yes, but it risks setting a dangerous precedent.

While Youcis describes herself as an animator, and says she was an internet celebrity before her pistachio persona took hold, there is no way this controversy would have become so prominent absent her summer job. The headlines don't say anything about her animation work; they are all tied to pistachio sales, a prominence she herself admits.

"Oh yeah," she said. "I would get people saying, 'We hear you on TV every night,' and Comcast would do close-ups of me. The baseball players would all wave to me from the bullpen and everything. Good time."

Like Charlie Frank, she was a ballpark celebrity because of her unique sales pitch. The stardom surely moved product, but brought with it responsibility that wouldn't apply to an anonymous vendor. She became a face of Aramark, even though Youcis says she never referenced her employer in her social media and "actually tried to keep that as far away from my job as possible."

"I would say all the politics came on my own time," she added. "This is my personal life. I never brought any of that into the stadium. I treated everyone with respect. I was a top-notch employee. I understand they have the right to terminate me for anything, but this is my personal life and I think people should have the right to freedom of speech. I mean, you don't see any Black Lives Matter people getting fired over these things and Black Lives Matter routinely shout 'Bang, bang, shoot, shoot, what's better than 15 dead cops? Sixteen dead cops.' I've never advocated for violence or anything."

Many will see the case as a no-brainer - Aramark is in the business of selling nuts, not being defined by one. But it sets up a dangerous precedent. In a world where everyone is a keystroke away from embarrassment, do we want to encourage termination of employees for speech on their own time? If so, there are many who ought to begin scrubbing their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.

Todd Bernstein, president of Global Citizen and founder of the Martin Luther King Day of Service, heard my interview with Youcis and remarked:

"I find her views to be repugnant, but I would fight for her right to express them, so long as it's the corner of 15th and Market. . . . I also understand why Aramark chose not to continue to employ her. We live in very scary times, where lying and fake news have become normalized."

He's right.

Michael Smerconish can be heard 9 a.m. to noon on SiriusXM's POTUS Channel 124 and seen hosting "Smerconish" at 9 a.m. Saturdays on CNN.

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Copyright 2016 Orange County Register
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Orange County Register (California)
Scott M. Reid, LOS ANGELES

Any plans by Los Angeles 2024 to shift the Olympics Opening or Closing ceremonies from the Coliseum to a new stadium in Inglewood would face intense scrutiny from the Los Angeles City Council, council members said Friday.

LA 2024 chief executive Gene Sykes would not directly answer questions about moving the ceremonies to the $2.8 billion Inglewood stadium being built by real estate developer and Rams owner Stan Kroenke on the former site of Hollywood Park.

While LA 2024 has listed the Coliseum - which hosted Olympics ceremonies for both the 1932 and 1984 Games - as the site for both 2024 ceremonies in public documents, there is a strong belief among key members of the International Olympic Committee and Olympic movement that bid committee officials are leaning toward the Inglewood option for the ceremonies.

LA 2024 Chairman Casey Wasserman and Inglewood Mayor James Butts also have said the Inglewood stadium would play a high-profile role in a Los Angeles Olympics, while declining to go into further detail.

A final venue plan will be part of LA 2024's Stage III submission to the International Olympic Committee in February. LA 2024 will formally announce its plans for the Inglewood site in the coming weeks.

"We haven't really done anything yet," Sykes said when asked by a reporter on Friday if LA 2024 planned to use Inglewood for either of the ceremonies. "We have to have the venue plan in place for the Stage III.

"At this point, all I'll tell you is Stage III is when we're going to have all the final details on what we're going to do with anything we haven't said publicly."

Asked if potential resistance among council members to using the Inglewood stadium for the ceremonies gave pause to LA 2024 officials about their plans, Sykes said, "We don't have potential plans in place until we're ready to reveal them. We haven't said anything about that."

Sykes, however, did make it clear that LA 2024 officials are focused only on the 2024 Games. IOC President Thomas Bach on Thursday said the organization would study the possibility of awarding both the 2024 and 2028 host cities next September in Lima, Peru.

"We don't know anything about what they intend to do," Sykes said during a meeting of the City Council's committee on Los Angeles' Olympic bid. "They have not spoken to us about this directly so we have no insight, and I would just make sure that I'm very, very clear we're bidding for 2024. And the presentation here, the budget here, all of our work is aimed at 2024. We've given no consideration to 2028 at this point. I don't want there to be any (confusion)."

LA 2024 released a proposed balanced $5.3 billion budget for a privately funded third Los Angeles Olympics earlier this month. Holding the opening and/or closing ceremonies at the Inglewood stadium instead of the Coliseum could generate tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars, in additional revenue because of the new stadium's state-of-the-art amenities and the cost of upgrades the Coliseum would need to host either ceremony.

Venue overlay is listed as the Games' biggest expense at $1.19 billion. The Coliseum, as host of the track and field competition, would remain the centerpiece of the 2024 Olympics and the Games' most lucrative venue.

Even so, City Council members would have to be convinced of the economic benefits of moving the ceremonies from such an iconic Olympic landmark to Inglewood. Councilman Paul Krekorian told Sykes and LA 2024 officials the council would demand a significant "voice" in any major venue changes.



sreid@scng.com

 
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Copyright 2016 The Commercial Appeal, Inc.
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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

KNOXVILLE - The University of Tennessee football program knew there would be some eyebrows raised when it hired Ashley Smith in July as the executive assistant to coach Butch Jones.

Smith is the older sister of Trey Smith, a five-star offensive tackle from Jackson who committed to Tennessee on Tuesday.

Smith announced his commitment live on ESPNU from University School of Jackson auditorium with his sister and father flanking him.

Tennessee spokesman Ryan Robinson said Thursday that Ashley Smith, a Tennessee graduate, went through the normal university hiring process before she was hired with a salary of $50,000.

Robinson said Tennessee posted the job online, and Smith was one of three final candidates to be interviewed.

"I understand people might try to connect the dots, but I think once you see what she brings to our department they would understand why we hired her," Robinson said. "She is doing an outstanding job and I think she has a bright future in college athletics. I know she has high aspirations."

Tennessee was the second school to offer Smith a scholarship behind Ole Miss in 2014. The Vols held a lineman camp at University School of Jackson in June and hosted Smith on his official visit last weekend.

Ashley Smith received a bachelor's degree in marketing at Tennessee in 2013 and worked as a team manager for the women's basketball program for four years (2009-13) under Pat Summitt and Holly Warlick. As a senior, Smith was named the head student manager.

According to her LinkedIn account, Smith worked for the NCAA from June 2013 until she was hired by Tennessee.

Among her duties at the NCAA was assisting in the planning and managing of national championships for Division I, II and III men's and women's sports, serving as a project manager for outreach initiatives and developing a social media plan for the Division III women's volleyball championships.

"She actually applied for the director of recruiting job earlier this year and was not qualified for it," Robinson said. "But Ashley really wanted to come back to Tennessee and applied for this job. We felt like she was the best fit."

Smith replaced Keith Pantling at Tennessee. Pantling's title was the associate director of football operations. He is now the athletic director at La Salle High School in Cincinnati. Pantling made $55,000 at UT in 2015, according to a database of salaries for UT employees.

Heather Ervin held a similar position at Tennessee from 2009-14 as the assistant director of football operations, the only female in the SEC to hold that position at the time. Ervin, who is now the director of recruiting operations and player personnel for women's basketball, made $32,802 working for football in 2013, according to a public records request at the time by the News Sentinel.

"Ashley has got her hands in the daily football operations and other stuff in the program," Robinson said. "She works with a lot of our coaches on the day-to-day stuff that needs to get done."

The hiring of a recruit's family member is not unprecedented, although it's more common in college basketball.

At the University of Memphis, John Calipari hired the father of Dajuan Wagner to his staff in 2000, and Josh Pastner, now coaching at Georgia Tech, hired Keelon Lawson to his coaching staff in 2014. Lawson is now in a support role under new Memphis coach Tubby Smith and his sons remain on the team.

In May, University of Washington men's basketball coach Lorenzo Romar hired Michael Porter Sr., the father of star 2017 recruit Michael Porter Jr., as an assistant coach.

Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh hired the mother of cornerback Wayne Lyons as his director of player development last year while Lyons was still attending Stanford. Lyons transferred to Michigan as a graduate transfer four months later.

Robinson said Tennessee received input from several administrators and coaches at UT about Smith throughout the hiring process before making the hire.

"Those are usually joint decisions," he said. "Once we bring someone in for an interview, they meet with everybody and everybody was sold on Ashley just from her impressive resume at the NCAA."

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KENNETH CUMMINGS/The Jackson SunUniversity School of Jackson senior lineman Trey Smith, joined by his sister Ashley and father Henry, sings "Rocky Top" with his teammates after committing to the University of Tennessee on Tuesday afternoon.
 
December 10, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

 

SALT LAKE CITY - For the first time, the Utah State Board of Education passed rules that govern high school sports.

The new rule changes requirements for student athletes transferring from one school to another, requires a yearly audit of the Utah High School Activities Association and creates a new type of appeal process that will review decisions made by the association's hearing panels.

Supporters believe the new rule makes guidelines for retaining athletic eligibility when transferring between schools more clear and enforcement less subjective, while also imposing some governmental oversight on a private organization that oversees public and private schools activities.

"This is a first for the board to draft rules governing athletics," said board member Spencer Stokes, who, along with outgoing board President Dave Crandall, brought the issues to the state board in September. "But there is so much focus on the transfer part of the rule, they're missing that there are a lot of other things in this rule that happens at the intersection of athletics and education."

Currently, high school students who want to transfer from one school to another and take their athletic eligibility with them must provide proof of a hardship or a family move into the boundary of the new school.

Under the new rule, a student who has never played varsity sports would be able to transfer to another school and be eligible for athletics. For example, a student who attended one school as a freshman and sophomore and played multiple sports - but never at the varsity level - could transfer to any other school for any reason and automatically be eligible to play sports.

Opponents of the new rule assert that not only does the Utah State Board of Education not have the authority to write rules governing high school athletics or activities, but they believe the new rule creates loopholes that will make enforcement of recruiting rules more difficult.

"We will abide by what the state board says," said Kristen Betts, chairwoman of the association's board of trustees. "We do have concerns that it will make it harder to enforce recruiting rules."

The new rule was hotly debated for several months, but it ended up passing 9-5 Friday with very little discussion.

That was in part, Stokes said, because the trustees chose to send them a letter he said unraveled "hours" of work engaged in by a subcommittee of school board members and the association's board of trustees that was formed to come to some kind of consensus. While the group made significant changes to the original proposed rule, any hope for a united effort on the issue effectively died when the state board members asked Betts to take the version that passed Friday to the trustees for their input.

Betts and the trustees from the subcommittee took the new rule to the full group of 30 members, some of whom felt they needed to poll each school for feedback from the entities affected by any change in transfer rules.

Betts abided by the trustees decision to send out a survey that asked two questions. In addition to the question the state board requested, which was whether they support the proposed rule, trustees asked if school administrators felt the state board should be creating any rules at all governing high school athletics and activities.

The results of that survey showed the schools were overwhelmingly opposed to both the proposed rule (128-8) and the state board's involvement in the issue (131-5).

"That was the argument in September," Stokes said. "At the end of the day, that was the heartburn I had. For all the good, productive conversations we had, the letter came out of left field."

He said he was surprised at the survey and the letter that said the trustees don't feel the state board has the legal authority to write policy governing extracurricular activities.

Stokes said board members got involved because they get complaints from high schools about issues governed by the Utah High School Activities Association and yet they have no oversight with the group. He is a voting member of the association's board of trustees, but he said he didn't attend the recent meetings where the survey and letters were drafted because he wanted to allow them to be free to discuss the issue without his influence.

Betts said the trustees were attempting to honor the state board's request by asking individual schools how their leaders felt about both issues.

The board of trustees is made up of school board officials, superintendents or principals from every district in the state. They write rules and conduct hearings for the association, as well as oversee postseason tournaments alongside the association's executive committee.

When the trustees finalized the letter to the state board, which was delivered to them by email Thursday, Betts said she, too, felt those subcommittee meetings were extremely productive and enlightening for both bodies in understanding each other.

The new policy will go through the administrative rules process now, and are scheduled to go into effect for the 2017-18 school year.

Email: adonaldson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: adonsports

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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

The Southtowns has long needed a new hockey complex.

Now there are plans to build two in Hamburg, one by the town and the other that includes former Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta as a key partner.

The Kaleta Group is finalizing plans with Liberatore Management Group and Ellicott Development for a 186,000-square-foot sports and entertainment complex in Hamburg, The Buffalo News has learned. The recreation area would include two ice rinks, two multisport fields and be home to the HITS Foundation, a charity founded by Kaleta.

The privately-funded venture has an anticipated completion date of summer 2018. The three parties involved said they will release further details, including the site, at a later date.

In May, the Hamburg Town Board negotiated a deal with Sportstar Capital of Toronto to build a $25 million complex. Marty Starkman, president of Sportstar, said this week his plans have not changed. He also expects to have his two-rink, multisport facility completed by the summer of 2018.

"I have selected a site," Starkman said. "I am probably going to finish all of the agreements before Christmas. That's been the sticking point, but real estate never goes quickly. I think the site is a good one.

"The snags seem to have disappeared, so we should have something in the next two weeks."

Both parties said their projects will create jobs, with the Liberatore-Ellicott-Kaleta triumvirate putting the number at 80.

Steven J. Walters, Hamburg's town supervisor, did not immediately return a call for comment.

The one-rink Hamburg Nike Base and two-surface Leisure Rinks in Orchard Park are the main providers of ice time in the Southtowns. The Kaleta Group has tried in vain to build a complex for at least three years, and it appears to have found success by teaming with Liberatore and the Carl Paladino-led Ellicott Development.

The ice-rink void is why Sportstar struck its deal with Hamburg, which involves the town securing the property.

"I see the facilities in the area," Starkman said. "They're a little aged, a little tired. This will add to the hockey-rink inventory.

"I'm excited about getting something going in Hamburg because it represents the area well, and I think they'll be very successful. There's a lot of enthusiasm. It's not a dead issue at all."

email: jvogl@buffnews.com

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

WAYNESVILLE - The local school board is scheduled to consider non-renewal of a contract with Brandon Phil-pot to coach the Spartan varsity football team.

It was unclear whether this signaled the end of Phil-pot's coaching career in the Waynesville school district.

He declined comment and Superintendent Patrick Dubbs indicated he was unsure about who would pursue the job preparing the team for next season.

" I don't know what Brandon's plans are," Dubbs said.

Philpot, 30, was placed on paid administrative leave in August after being pulled over by the Ohio Highway Patrol and cited for operating a vehicle while intoxicated, reckless operation driving in marked lanes and turn and stop-sign violations in West Carrollton.

Philpot was driving home from a celebration at Cheeks Gentleman's club in anticipation of his marriage to Board of Education member Dave Barton's daughter.

On July 25, the drunk driving charge was dismissed and he was found guilty of the remaining charges and ordered to pay $490 in fines and court costs and serve a year on probation. He completed a three-day program for alcohol-releated offenses.

Barton was the lone 'no' vote as the board, after a 90-minute executive session, voted 3-1 in August to place Philpot on paid leave as coach and athletic director.

The leave and the coaching contract both lapsed at the end of the season.

Philpot, who came to work in the district in 1998, continues to work here as a physical education teacher at the middle school, Dubbs said.

A graduate of Kings High School in Warren County, Philpot was head coach of the Spartans since 2010 and led the team to the postseason in four of six seasons. In his absence, the team slipped to 0-10.

On Monday, the Wayne Local Schools Board of Education is scheduled to consider the non-renewal of contracts with Philpot and Scott Jordan, the interim coach who replaced Philpot.

The non-renewals are among a list of supplemental positions that are canceled every year once the contracts have run.

Dubbs said it was "preliminary" for him to comment on who would be the district's next varsity football coach.

"We are going to post the job the very next day," he said.

Contact this reporter at

937-225-2261 or email larry. budd@coxinc.com

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USA TODAY

 

Given the revision of Olympic history required after drug retesting this year, its fortuitous that medals are engraved only with the event they're won in.

Otherwise, more work would be needed to remove the mark left by athletes later found to have doped their way to the podium.

Dozens of medals have been stripped from the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Games this year as the International Olympic Committee has retested its samples from those Games. With 101 positive tests and 82 sanctions so far, the total represents by far the most since the creation of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Retesting efforts that had been more scattershot became more focused as sports finds itself mired in doping scandals this year, mostly notably a state-sponsored system uncovered in Russia.

The second part of a WADA-commissioned investigation into Russian doping led by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren is set to be released early Friday.

The IOC sanctions this year include 47 athletes stripped of their medals from 2008 and 2012.

"It makes a big difference with this storing and retesting of samples," said Richard Ings, the former CEO of the Australian Anti-Doping Authority, "but we need to understand it's really making up for failures of the system before the competitions begin and it means that clean athletes miss out on their moment on the medal dais because someone who cheated walks home with the medals and it's only uncovered six, seven, eight, nine, 10 years later."

While the IOC does not immediately reallocate medals, several athletes could be in line to receive belated recognition for their efforts.

American high jumper Chaunte Lowe finished sixth in Beijing, but she could receive a bronze medal as three women ahead of her have been sanctioned.

Pole vaulter Derek Miles finished fourth in Beijing, and 800-meter runner Alysia Montano finished fifth in London. Both could receive bronze medals after athletes who finished ahead of them were sanctioned for doping.

"The IOC has an absolute zero tolerance," said Richard Budgett, IOC medical director. "Even though it might be painful for everyone, there's absolute commitment to go through that. And if we have to rewrite history for the sake of clean athletes, then we'll do it despite the fact that it brings sport, it brings federations, it brings groups of individuals into disrepute. That's tough. The reality we're uncovering, and in the long run it's far better for sport to uncover everything that's gone on than to say, 'Well, it's just the past, let's forget about it.'"

Testing improvements

WADA was created in 1999 and adopted its code in 2004. While athletes had been subject to drug testing before that, it represented a unified global system.

While samples were stored from previous Games, the IOC has increased its retesting efforts this year.

About 600 retests were conducted on samples from the 2004 and 2006 Olympics, yielding five adverse analytical findings.

By comparison, the IOC says it has conducted 1,053 retests on samples from Beijing, a total that is complete as it can no longer retest after the eight-year statute of limitations.

The IOC is continuing to retest London samples, with 492 analyzed so far and more positive tests expected.

Retests for the 2010 Vancouver Games will be targeted next year, Budgett said.

"The more doping testing you can do, the more positives you'll find," said Don Catlin, a longtime anti-doping expert and the scientific director of the Banned Substances Control Group.

Budgett said the IOC has to balance the likelihood of finding a positive test with waiting to see if advances in testing could better detect banned substances. Depending on the size of the sample remaining, only one test might be possible.

While the IOC tested athletes from 89 National Olympic Committees from 16 sports from Beijing, the overwhelming majority of the sanctions have come against former Soviet countries.

They represent 42 of the 49 sanctions announced for Beijing and all of the 33 sanctions announced for London, with Russia topping the list with 27.

Overwhelmingly, the positives have come from weightlifting and track and field.

And largely they are for anabolic steroids that have been used for decades -- namely turinabol and stanozolol.

"I think it was the athletes at the time thought they had a very good way of cheating with what is an effective anabolic agent by taking micro doses," Budgett said.

But testing has improved since London to be able to detect long-term metabolites. Effectively, it allows scientists to see markers of use of the drugs over a longer period.

Rather than needing to test within hours or days of an athlete taking a banned substance, the newer test detects markers of doping from days to weeks before the sample was collected.

Gaps in the system

While the retesting has the benefit of turning up positive tests, even after the fact, it also highlights its role as a stopgap measure in a sometimes porous anti-doping system, experts said.

Ings points to studies that suggest 15%-25% of elite athletes have used a banned substance at some point. Yet testing yields about 1%-2% positive findings each year.

"So the numbers of positives are not the universe of athletes that are doping in Olympic competitions," Ings said, "but it's getting closer to uncovering the true magnitude of cheating Olympic competition."

Rather than a systemic approach, retesting can be ad hoc. The WADA code does not set out guidelines for sample retention and retesting, leaving major sporting organizers -- such as the IOC, international federations that govern each sport and national anti-doping organizations -- to make that decision on their own.

How they make those decisions can make up for gaps in the system in testing before a competition.

The WADA independent observer report noted that 4,125 of the 11,470 athletes in Rio -- or roughly 36% -- were not tested in 2016 before the Games. That includes 1,913 in high-risk sports such as track and field and weightlifting among others.

"This is what you get when a sport attempts to police itself," U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart said.

"It's not a focus. It's not a priority. And it's not designed to achieve maximum deterrence and detection. It seems to be all a reaction to press."

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USA TODAY

 

Less than 10 years have passed since Toronto FC made its debut in Major League Soccer, yet as North America's primary league heads to Canada's biggest city for Saturday's championship game, it is virtually unrecognizable from when it first arrived.

Toronto, which will seek its first MLS Cup title when it hosts the Seattle Sounders, became MLS' 13th team in 2007, with its investment group paying an expansion fee of $10million. Seattle became team No.15 two years later.

As of next season, MLS will be 22 teams strong, climbing to 23 by 2018, and has a group of cities and investment groups itching to hand over checks of $100 million and above to join the show.

And thus the league and its hierarchy have to decide how far, and how big, to go. One option is to keep growing until it has a similar number of teams as other American leagues, such as the NBA, NHL, MLB and NFL, which fall between 30-32. Another would be to pause and stay closer in number to most international soccer leagues, which rarely stretch beyond 20 teams.

The former option is far more likely.

Commissioner Don Garber has an eye on continued growth, up to 28 teams at least. Atlanta and Minnesota are set to come in next season and will be joined by LAFC, a second Los Angeles franchise, in 2018. A further place is held for a Miami project fronted by David Beckham that has run into political trouble and is no certainty to get off the ground. MLS also has well-funded and publicly supported potential applications from cities such as Sacramento, Tampa and Cincinnati.

With a mass of global soccer options available for domestic TV viewers, MLS sometimes appears in danger of getting lost in the shuffle. However, continued growth in the league's reach and quality can only be considered a success, worthy of the attention of the American sports audience.

Years ago, it was feared that too much expansion would dilute the quality of the product, yet better salaries have brought about an influx of accomplished international players and persuaded several leading Americans, such as Toronto's Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, to return from abroad.

The average league salary is more than $300,000, a long way removed from 2007, when the league minimum was $12,000.

The ongoing ability to attract a solid standard of player from abroad will be a critical factor as MLS seeks to build upon its momentum. Not only do the imports enhance the quality of play, they also give young American players the opportunity to benefit from their expertise.

As the league ages, its story lines gather more significance and, either way, MLS is guaranteed a good narrative this weekend. Toronto has built a staunch local fan base but has been historically inept on the field, with its first playoff appearance coming last year.

Bradley, the U.S. captain, and Altidore earned criticism for failing to make the grade in Europe before coming back to MLS and raking in huge salaries in Toronto. Bradley is getting $6.5 million and Altidore $4.8 million. A victory Saturday would go some way toward vindicating their decision and Toronto's financial faith.

On the Seattle side, the Sounders have the most ferocious and loyal support in the league but, despite having made the playoffs in every season of their existence, will be appearing in their first final. Their best-known player, Clint Dempsey, saw his season end because of a heart condition but will be a nervous onlooker in what promises to be a compelling final.

MLS still has challenges to conquer as the end of its 21st season approaches. Television figures are far from booming, and the recent rise of the Chinese Super League provides a rival option for European or South American players seeking a new challenge.

Yet MLS is here, still fearless and showing no sign of slowing.

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The Washington Times

 

Some residents of the Southwest waterfront fear the neighborhood could be pestered by flashing billboards after the D.C. Council on Tuesday passed a measure that allows the Washington Nationals to install massive LED ads on the baseball stadium's exterior walls.

Questions remain about how the signs will affect the waterfront district, even though the legislation underwent several revisions to restrict the number, size and location of the billboards.

"It's still a bad bill because it permits five gigantic, electronic, light-polluting, ad-spewing machines on the side of the Nats stadium," said Meg Maguire, a member of The Committee of 100 on the Federal City - a nonprofit organization founded nearly a century ago to monitor development in the District. "The restrictions don't take away the problem."

The Committee of 100 on the Federal City is joined by Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Andy Litsky in opposing the lighted signs - opposition that goes beyond where and how the signs will be placed, Ms. Maguire said in an interview.

"This comes at a time when we know that light pollution has an effect on human health," she said. "We know that LED bulbs can be injurious to sleep, and now we're putting up these massive machines. They're going to pollute our beautiful, emerging, mixed-use communities."

The measure allows the Nationals to erect five LED screens no larger than 38 feet by 25 feet outside the 8-year-old stadium. The team says billboards will generate up to $5 million a year in ad revenue - a tidy sum for a young club looking to make another playoff run and possibly pick up more talent along the way.

The team hopes to have the billboards in place for the 2018 MLB All-Star Game, which the Nationals are scheduled to host.

Council member Charles Allen, who represents the Ward 6 neighborhood where Nationals Park is located, said lawmakers made some concessions in revising the legislation to address criticism about the lighted signs since the first public hearing on the measure in November.

Originally, the bill called for 10 signs and had few restrictions on their placement. The revised bill, which the council passed 12-1 Tuesday, cuts the number of billboards in half and prohibits them from directly facing South Capitol Street or residential buildings.

Mr. Allen acknowledged that the legislation wouldn't make everyone happy, but said there are enough provisions to quell any fears that the signs will start popping up all over the city.

He said those kinds of sings aren't appropriate everywhere, but LED billboards make sense in a lively entertainment district with a baseball stadium.

But that wasn't enough to persuade council member Elissa Silverman, the lone dissenting vote on the council.

"This thing was fast-tracked in a month," the at-large independent told The Washington Times on Wednesday. "Perhaps there's a time and place for them, but what's the rush to judgment here?"

Ms. Silverman said she wants to know more about the signs' impact on property values, how they could affect drivers and how they could change the character of the neighborhood.

Ms. Maguire pointed to Chinatown as an example of LED billboards degrading residents' quality of life. The Verizon Center in 2012 was approved for an exemption of the city's 1931 moratorium on issuing permits for large signs.

"Do you want that in your face night and day?" she said. "The excuse is that it will somehow enliven the public space, but that's a problem best solved by urban designers, people who operate at a human scale. You don't just call up a billboard company."

And Ms. Silverman is still concerned about giant signs popping up across the District, despite provisions in the bill excepting the stadium from the mostly citywide ban on lighted billboards.

"There's a legitimate fear that if you create a carve out for the Nats, it's a Pandora's box," she said. "It's not like that's unfounded."

Ms. Silverman said property owners near the stadium already have started lobbying for their own digital billboards.

With the bill likely to get final approval later this month, Ms. Maguire said she's more focused on trying to fix what's wrong with it. She held fast that The Committee of 100 would work in coming weeks to revise the bill before its second vote on Dec. 20.

"We understand that at this point, the votes to overturn aren't there. We don't like that, but there are other bad things in the bill that need to be corrected. We're going to continue to tell people what this bill does," she said. "We want this bad bill to be as good as it can when it comes out."

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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

Gov. Mark Dayton called the Vikings' opposition to possible Major League Soccer games at U.S. Bank Stadium "sour grapes" because the team's owners lost an expansion franchise to a rival group led by former UnitedHealth Group CEO Bill McGuire.

Dayton made the comments at a Capitol news conference even though he wasn't specifically questioned about the disagreement between the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) over who has the right to make a deal for Minnesota United to play in the new building.

The Vikings say the legislation and the use agreement for the building give them that exclusive right for five years. Michele Kelm-Helgen, MSFA chairwoman who was appointed by Dayton, disagrees and said she has had discussions with Minnesota United about playing a single game in the $1.1 billion building.

Who would get the money should Minnesota United play at U.S. Bank Stadium would need to be negotiated.

But comments from two years ago appeared to support the Vikings position. Kelm-Helgen told the Star Tribune in March 2015 that she told the McGuire group that Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf have an exclusive five-year window regarding soccer at the stadium. "No other owner of a Major League Soccer team could play there unless the legislation is changed." McGuire had been told that previously, she said at the time.

But Kelm-Helgen said she has been consistent that no other team can "establish" a MLS team in the stadium and play a whole season. She maintained Wednesday that the MSFA is free to negotiate a single game, possibly in early 2017.

The Vikings do not agree. "We're not saying they can't or shouldn't play at U.S. Bank Stadium," said Lester Bagley, team vice president. "We're saying they can't do so without our consent. Regarding the MSFA, we would expect they'd honor our agreement."

The feud was revealed late last week.

The governor turned up the public heat Wednesday, saying he was "shocked" by the Vikings position. "This is not the Vikings' stadium," he added. "This is the people of Minnesota's stadium. It's run by the stadium authority for the people's benefit which means generating opportunities for Minnesotans to come together and support the various opportunities they enjoy."

The Vikings are the main tenant in the stadium and paid $609 million of the cost to build it, adding enhancements that would make it amenable for indoor soccer. The taxpayers covered the remaining $498 million of the cost.

The soccer disagreement comes as the MSFA faces public criticism and an investigation by the legislative auditor over its use of two free luxury suites at the stadium.

Until Minnesota United has its own stadium, the team plans to play at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota.

Dayton told reporters that United was "talking about playing a select number of games" at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Bagley said that, for the Vikings, having a say in soccer is "a matter of principle, protecting our investment and enforcing our rights."

Rochelle Olson · 612-673-1747

Twitter: @rochelleolson

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The Boston Herald

 

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has suggested having 16 three-team groups if the World Cup expands to 48 countries.

Members of the FIFA Council received a recommendation from the governing body setting out four proposed formats, including sticking to a 32-team World Cup.

But Infantino wants to add 16 teams. He previously suggested a 32-team knockout round before the group stage, when the other 16 finalists enter.

If the new plan is approved by the FIFA Council at a meeting next month, the World Cup would expand to 48 nations from 2026, and the top two teams from the 16 groups would advance to a new round of 32.

Julia Rocha, the former head of the Nicaraguan soccer federation, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy in federal court in New York in the corruption scandal that has engulfed FIFA.

Rocha faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for each count. He also has agreed to forfeit nearly $300,000. . . .

In Champions League yesterday, Sevilla and FC Porto grabbed the final two spots in the last 16, while Juventus and Borussia Dortmund finished up as group winners.

FC Porto breezed into the knockout phase with a 5-0 rout of Leicester, which had already secured top spot in the group on its competition debut and rested many starters. A late equalizer by substitute Marco Reus earned Borussia Dortmund a 2-2 draw against defending champion Real Madrid and first place in Group F. Sevilla had a 0-0 draw with Lyon, while Juventus had a 2-0 win over Dinamo Zagreb.

Russian sanctions extended

Two days before the release of a new report into Russian doping, the International Olympic Committee extended the provisional sanctions imposed on the country over allegations of systematic cheating.

The sanctions, originally designed to apply until the end of this year, were put into place following the first report by the World Anti-Doping Agency that alleged state-sponsored doping in Russia.

Under the measures, the IOC will not organize or "give patronage" to any sports events or meetings in Russia. In addition, the IOC urges all Olympic winter sports federations to "freeze their preparations for major events in Russia," including world championships and World Cups and "to actively look for alternative organizers." . . .

Yokohama Stadium will host the baseball and softball competition at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Yokohama was among the venues approved by the IOC executive board for the five new sports on the Tokyo program, along with karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing.

Names: Turner into 'Bama Hall

The late Kevin Turner, the former Patriots fullback, is being inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

Turner and fellow former NFL players Carnell Williams, Jeff Herrod and Takeo Spikes are part of the eight-person class announced. They'll be inducted on May 13, 2017.

Turner was an Alabama team captain in 1991 who went on to play eight seasons in the NFL with the Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles. He died on March 24 after a battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.

Former Cowboys linebacker Dave Edwards, who played in Dallas for 12 seasons and won one Super Bowl, died in Lake Whitney, Texas. He was 76.

Max Chilton will return to Chip Ganassi Racing next season as the fourth IndyCar driver for the team. Chilton was a rookie last year with Ganassi in the No. 8 and was 19th in the IndyCar standings.

The French Tennis Federation named Yannick Noah as France's Fed Cup captain for next year.

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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

 

Beer sales at Ohio State home football games proved to be a hit the first year out -- probably not surprising, given the devotion to tailgating among thousands of Buckeyes fans.

University officials said this week that sales topped $1.1 million for the season, at $8 to $9 per beer. A limited test of beer sales was made the previous season. The wide rollout appears to have gone smoothly despite some initial concerns, as OSU officials report they actually experienced fewer problems with fans at games this year than in previous years.

A portion of the money from beer sales goes to concessions vendor Levy Restaurants. OSU's take goes to the athletic department, which directs it to safety initiatives "including four additional police officers, increased security at football games and funding for the (OSU) center for alcohol and substance abuse," said university spokesman Benjamin Johnson in a statement.

Johnson said Levy Restaurants will be "completing a full review in early 2017" of how alcohol sales went and will consider possible changes for next year's season.

Alcohol already is sold at athletic events at the Schottenstein Center, including OSU basketball and hockey games.

College football stadiums that permit alcohol sales still are in the minority, but now number about four dozen nationally, according to a June report from Cleveland's Fox Channel 8 TV station.

Some are uneasy about alcohol being sold at a university where half or more of students are under the age of 21 and therefore legally prohibited from drinking.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving has been a vocal opponent of alcohol sales at college sporting events.

But shifting attitudes and the success of such sales at some schools are leading others to start alcohol sales.

CBS Sports reported this year that the University of Texas made about $1.8 million in alcohol sales last season; West Virginia University made about $600,000. Both sell both beer and wine.

Former NCAA administrator Chuck Neinas, who was against beer sales at college events as far back as the 1960s, told CBS Sports: "For (goodness) sake, it's legal to buy pot in Colorado," highlighting that times have changed quite a bit.

Some have contended such decisions are based on money.

OSU athletic director Gene Smith said last year that "the revenue part is important to the institution" in its decision to open up alcohol sales. But university officials emphasized that they weighed the issue carefully, did a limited test first and have put more resources toward safety and security as a result of alcohol sales.

mrose@dispatch.com

@MarlaMRose

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Copyright 2016 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

SANDY - Grace Allen's voice wavered as she addressed the Utah High School Activities Association's Board of Trustees at a public hearing on proposed region changes that would impact her high school.

The Timpview junior plays volleyball and was the only student to speak in the 90-minute hearing as district officials, principals, athletic directors and even a few parents weighed in about proposed region and classification changes that would send the Provo high school into a region with Alta, Brighton, Corner Canyon, Cottonwood and Jordan.

"It seems ludicrous to send us (into Salt Lake County), which will not give us enough time for homework and other activities," she said. "I'm going to have to decide if I can even play volleyball next year because I don't know if I'll be able to miss this much school."

In all, about two dozen school representatives addressed the trustees.

Skyridge, Viewmont, Rich, the Salt Lake District, Grand County schools and Ogden district schools all voiced support for the current proposal.

"It's not as good as we've had it," said Rich principal Rick Larsen. "But there is no good fix here. Everyone travels in 1A. I don't know how you can decide what's fair if you don't do it geographically."

That is the challenge facing the trustees, who plan to finalize all regions and classes today. Principals offered various reasons for changes, but they usually had something to do with traditional rivalries, ability to compete and travel time.

Milford, Wayne, North Sanpete, Timpview, Davis and Bingham all objected to their placement in regions that increased their travel significantly. In the case of Milford and Wayne, the estimates were an additional 50 hours of lost class time. They also pointed to the loss of traditional rivalries, which would mean reduced gate revenue.

"That's how our small schools fund our programs," Wayne principal Mary Bray said, "is with ticket (sales) from gate receipts. I don't know if we could even pay our officials."

Juan Diego objected to being placed in 3A for all sports other than football. The Draper private school requested to be moved up to 4A for all sports other than football, but the trustees left Juan Diego in 3A for everything.

Some schools - like Davis, Cyprus and Cottonwood - were asking to be moved to different regions.

Davis principal Richard Swanson said the Darts had the support of every Region 1 school in asking to be moved into that region. Davis is the only northern Utah school in the new Region 2, which includes Granger, Hillcrest, Hunter, Kearns and Taylorsville.

Cottonwood asked to be moved from Region 7 (Alta, Brighton, Corner Canyon, Jordan and Timpview) into Region 6 (East, Highland, Murray, Olympus, Skyline and West).

Cyprus principal Rob McDaniel said the Pirates are not opposed to playing in Region 3 with Copper Hills, Herriman, Riverton and West Jordan, but pointed out the school's two top traditional rivals are Hunter and Kearns (both in Region 2).

Email: adonaldson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: adonsports

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Copyright 2016 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
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The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

Although some Temple assistant coaches are likely to join Matt Rhule at Baylor, an Owls spokesman said Wednesday that all of them are expected to coach in the Military Bowl against Wake Forest on Dec. 27 in Annapolis, Md.

One source said that many of the defensive coaches are expected to join Rhule at Baylor.

On Twitter, defensive lineman Devon Still, a Houston Texans defensive end who is on injured reserve, congratulated defensive line coach Elijah Robinson: "Welcome to Texas @coachMattRhule & @CoachRobinsonTU! You guy changed the culture of Temple football & I can't wait to see the same at Baylor."

A former Penn State player, Still is a Camden native who has a close association with Temple.

As for the head coaching search, a person familiar with the process said that the Temple administrators were floored by the number of strong candidates who have expressed interest in the job.

On Tuesday, Temple athletic director Patrick Kraft said the school would not rush into the decision. On Wednesday, a source said it wouldn't be surprising if the decision was made within two weeks.

High school players can sign letters of intent beginning Feb. 1, so the Temple administrators realize that time is of the essence.

mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard

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Copyright 2016 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

A UD response Wednesday said: "The University strives to maintain a safe campus environment that protects the dignity of all persons."

Max Engelhart claims he was forced to chug high-alcohol drinks as part of a "Mad Dogs" initiation to the University of Dayton football team two years ago.

Engelhart, then a 6-foot-1, 270-pound offensive lineman, woke up Dec. 8, 2014 covered in his own body waste and with a headache later diagnosed by UD's team physician as a concussion. Engelhart claims he quit football, left the university and has been prescribed a medicine typically given to Alzheimer's and dementia patients.

A lawsuit filed against UD, its football coach, an assistant strength coach and others in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court alleges a freshman hazing incident forced Engelhart to quit school and that he still suffers from traumatic brain injury.

The lawsuit filed by attorney Scott Jones alleges UD covered up the hazing allegations and that a UD police investigation never reached city or county officials.

This news organization requested UD police records and other documentation of the incident that allegedly included one freshman having his stomach pumped at a local hospital and three freshmen being investigated for underage consumption.

The university Wednesday denied the request on grounds that all the relevant records are "student judiciary citation reports, which are educational records," that UD said are exempt from open records requests.

Jones named as defendants UD football coach Rick Chamberlin, assistant strength and conditioning coach Jared Phillips and numerous other school officials who "knew or should have known" about the "Mad Dogs" hazing ritual that has allegedly gone on for decades.

"Prior to filing this action, Max met with UD administrators on several occasions to try to resolve this matter and affect meaningful change at UD," Jones said Wednesday as part of a longer statement for media. "Those efforts have failed."

"We are now asking the justice system to assist us in accomplishing those tasks. We ask that the media and others respect Max's privacy while he attempts to heal and recover from his injuries."

A UD response Wednesday said: "The University of Dayton does not comment on pending litigation. The University strives to maintain a safe campus environment that protects the dignity of all persons."

The complaint listed five counts, including a violation of Ohio's anti-hazing statute, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy.

The suit said as part of "Mad Dogs" or "Mad Caps," some freshmen football players were forced to drink to excess, had their heads shaved, had to endure verbal abuse and humiliation including being called vulgar or derogatory names or having penises painted on their T-shirts.

According to the suit, Engelhart and other freshmen were ordered to stand on the front patio of a house and drink multiple 16 oz. cans of Four Loco, an alcoholic beverage with approximately 12 percent alcohol. Upperclassmen allegedly said the faster the cans were drunk, the faster the freshmen could get in out of the cold.

Once inside, upperclassmen forced the freshmen to chug more Four Loco and drink hard alcohol like vodka. Of the three houses Engel-hart was taken to, two are reportedly owned by UD and rented to upperclassmen, the suit alleges.

The suit claims a cover-up because no disciplinary action was taken even though multiple witnesses reported a "hazing" incident and that hazing is against UD's student policy.

At the second house, Engel-hart was extremely inebriated, the suit said. After being helped in, an upperclassman allegedly told Max, "Hang in there; you'll get through this."

The suit said Engelhart received head injuries there and became completely unconscious. He was then taken to a third house instead of his dorm room, according to the complaint.

Chamberlin said he'd ask around to see what happened and told Engelhart's father no one ever told him what happened, according to the complaint.

The suit also said William Fischer, UD's vice president of student development, told Engelhart's father that former UD football coach Mike Kelly was furious about the incident and that it "went too far this year."

The complaint said UD police reported a resident assistant reported the incident and that freshmen "were involved in a hazing incident," another witness said it was a "football hazing gone wrong" and that one freshman said he "drank 8-10 shots of hard alcohol."

The lawsuit claims various current or former UD administrators, employees, trustees, directors, officers, coaches or faculty members knew or should have known about the hazing at UD and "did not take reasonable attempts to prevent it."

Engelhart attempted to go back to school in both the spring and fall 2015 semesters, but was forced to withdraw, according to the complaint.

The suit said Engelhart was diagnosed with depression and was ordered by two doctors never to play football again. It said Engelhart is under the care of a psychologist, a specialist in traumatic brain injuries, a neurologist and a neuropsychologist.

The suit said Engelhart suffers from cognitive brain injury, was diagnosed with and suffers from short-term memory loss and that "retraining" his brain could "take years."

Contact this reporter at

Mark.Gokavi@coxinc.com

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Copyright 2016 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

As might be expected, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson shed no tears for the three players who have elected to transfer from his program to play elsewhere.

Johnson spoke following the Yellow Jackets' first bowl practice in response to the transfers of B-back Marcus Marshall, cornerback Dorian Walker and linebacker Emanuel Bridges, calling out the sense of entitlement he perceives among players in this generation. Transferring has become a growing trend in football, following the pattern of basketball.

"It's pretty normal, if you look," he said. "Kids leave for a myriad of reasons. My take has always been, if somebody doesn't want to be here, I'm not going to stand in the way of letting them leave. So with some kids, they have legit reasons and others are impatient and think they should be playing."

Johnson declined to delve into the specifics of the players' reasons for leaving Tech.

However, asked further on the topic, he returned to what he sees as impatience for playing time.

"It's just the nature of the beast nowadays," he said. "The kids have such a sense of entitlement. Nobody wants to wait their turn sometimes."

Johnson recalled his childhood growing up in New-land, N.C., where he said he couldn't recall being on a team where there weren't cuts or that had rules about ensuring every team member was able to play, a common policy in youth sports.

"It's just changed," he said. "I think that it's not so much the kids. It's just society in general."

Johnson did have an appreciation of the difficulty players often encounter. He noted how each player on scholarship was one of the best players on his high school team, if not the best. He then comes to college and finds himself competing with as many as 84 other teammates who enjoyed the same status.

"Some kids can handle it better than others," he said. "It's just kind of the way it is."

Johnson said no restrictions are being placed on where any of the three can transfer. Given that Walker and Bridges have used their redshirt years, Johnson noted they would have to sit out another year and lose a year of eligibility if they were to transfer to another FBS school. They could play immediately at an FCS school.

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Copyright 2016 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

USA TODAY

 

Each offseason at Ohio State begins with a symbolic gesture: Urban Meyer will hand the keys to the program to Mickey Marotti, the program's assistant athletics director of sports performance, and tell the Buckeyes to get to work.

Months later, in the days leading into fall camp, the process will be reversed. Here's your team, Marotti will tell Meyer, and the Buckeyes will begin their on-field work to prepare for the coming season.

But for roughly half of each year -- beginning in January with winter workouts, then again during Ohio State's offseason conditioning program -- the team belongs to Marotti, who first met Meyer in the weight room at the University of Cincinnati in 1995.

Meyer, a Cincinnati graduate then serving as Colorado State's wide receivers coach, had heard about Marotti and spent two hours lurking in the background of that weight room as Marotti conducted workouts. Afterward, Meyer approached Marotti and introduced himself, kicking off a correspondence -- handwritten notes before the time of emails -- that resulted in Meyer recommending Marotti to then-Notre Dame coach Bob Davie in 1998. The two would reconnect at Florida in 2005 and again with the Buckeyes in 2011.

"Knowing Urban how I know Urban, knowing Mickey, that's a match made like no other," Davie said.

Marotti held such an irreplaceable role at Florida, in fact, that bringing on Marotti topped Meyer's checklist during negotiations with Ohio State: I need Marotti, he told athletics director Gene Smith, and he has to have full responsibility.

With so much emphasis on X's and O's -- on the act of game-day coaching itself, let alone the non-stop grind of recruiting -- it might seem strange that Meyer stressed the importance of his strength-and-conditioning coach. But Marotti, like a growing number of his peers, is more than a strength coach. And this year, for the first time, USA TODAY Sports' annual survey of college football assistant coach pay includes an examination of the pay for the 129 coaches who oversee strength and conditioning programs at the Football Bowl Subdivision level.

At Ohio State, which begins its quest for a second national title in three years with a Dec. 31 Fiesta Bowl matchup with Clemson, Marotti is second in command, Meyer said, commissioned with implementing a program that extends far beyond the weight room.

"I'm the leader of this program right now while they're all recruiting," Marotti said. "I've got to make sure that all the I's are dotted and the T's are crossed. We can't put our guard down, and we can't let it slip. We can't. That's the approach I take."

Gatekeeper role

In carving out such a unique role at one of college football's elite programs, Marotti has redrawn the very function of the strength coach. At Ohio State, he's more than just in charge of physical development; Marotti is in charge of the message.

Any individual who comes into contact with Ohio State players goes through Marotti: nutritionists, doctors, trainers, equipment people and the sports-performance team, to start. He is the filter and the conduit for information -- the gatekeeper for anything and everything that occurs inside the Buckeyes' doors.

"A lot of it comes to me, goes through me and never gets to (Meyer)," Marotti said. "If it gets to him, it's a bad deal. It's not just like you were late for some workout or missed treatment. It's like, something bad."

He's "in charge of the whole floor," Meyer said, as the direct line from the head coach to every nook and cranny of the program. "There's one voice now," he said. "And there's one voice I talk with, not 30 voices."

For years, dating to the widespread advent of dedicated strength-and-conditioning programs in the 1970s, strength coaches have been heard -- barking loudly, exhorting players -- but rarely seen. But, with Marotti as evidence, these coaches are taking on far more important roles: As co-head coaches, essentially, and as vitally important, year-round cogs for any successful program.

And they're being rewarded for their efforts. Marotti said he made $20,000 as the strength coach at Cincinnati in 1990 after two seasons as an assistant coach at West Virginia. In comparison, the initial contract he signed at Ohio State in 2011 was for $380,000.

Marotti's most recent contract, signed in May and extending through 2020, pays him $516,000 this year and is longer than any of Ohio State's football coaches, excluding Meyer, and for more yearly pay than five of the Buckeyes' nine assistants.

Iowa's Chris Doyle is the highest-paid strength coach in the country, with a base annual pay of $625,000. That is the same salary Iowa pays its offensive and defensive coordinators. Alabama's Scott Cochran had his base pay bumped from $420,000 in 2015 to $525,000 this fall after a high-profile dalliance with rival Georgia; much like an assistant coach, Cochran saw his salary rise because of outside interest.

Doyle, Marotti and Cochran each are paid more than 17 public school head coaches in the FBS. Five strength coaches -- Doyle, Marotti, Cochran, UCLA's Sal Alosi and South Carolina's Jeff Dillman -- are making at least $400,000 annually. Six -- the aforementioned quintet plus Oklahoma State's Rob Glass -- make more than two FBS head coaches: Louisiana-Monroe's Matt Viator and New Mexico State's Doug Martin.

Year-round coach

The growth in base pay and the increase in responsibilities beyond strength training stand in stark contrast to Marotti's humble professional beginnings, relatively speaking. Even as an undergraduate in Wheeling, W.Va., at West Liberty University, where he played running back, he had to explain his exercise physiology major to friends and family by saying he was going into cardiac rehabilitation, because "it sounds special."

At Cincinnati, he was one of just two coaches tasked with overseeing more than 400 athletes across 20 sports. Coordinating an entire strength program took a toll: Marotti arrived at the school weighing 230 pounds and within six months had dropped to 195.

"Back then, it wasn't like it is now," Marotti said. "Now you have five full-time strength coaches at every school. It's a big deal. Back then, there was one at each school, maybe. It wasn't even a profession like it is today. So it was like, 'What? You're going to do what?'"

But the rise in compensation, and the newfound attention paid to strength coaches, is tied to the increasing awareness of the important role they hold within major-college programs. While on-field head coaches and assistants run the show from August through the end of each season, it's up to strength coaches to take ownership of those offseason months so crucial to a team's overall development.

"As a football player, you see (Marotti) more than anybody," Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett said. "Sometimes you go two weeks without seeing your position coach because of recruiting, but you always see the strength coaches.

"It's one of those things where what he says it goes. I think Coach Mick overrules everybody, really."

Everybody but Meyer, that is. But the bond between the head coach and his strength coach -- getting Marotti was "the key hire that Urban has been able to have and to keep," said Davie, now at New Mexico -- is one of the defining behind-the-scenes factors for Ohio State's recent renaissance.

"It's just an incredible trust, an incredible alignment between the two of us," Meyer said. "There's a difference between throwing on a pair of sweats and screaming at some guy in the weight room to managing team doctors, managing trainers, managing all the different job descriptions.

"And I'm not saying everybody can do what he does. I don't think many can. I think this guy's very unique, that he can handle that. I wouldn't give it to anybody else right now."

But what was once unique -- the idea of Marotti as the co-leader of Meyer's program -- has since rippled through college football. It is now normal, if not common, to see this sort of hand-in-hand relationship bridging the gap between the season and the offseason, as programs and administrators become increasingly aware of the important role strength coaches play in a team's overall success.

Said Marotti, "I would imagine our setup, our model has helped other people have that role as well."

And that role is clear, if far larger in responsibility than one might expect from the position: Marotti, like others in the profession, is asked to build Ohio State physically, develop the Buckeyes' mental edge and control the program's day-to-day operations.

It's all in a day's work -- and it's done every day, year-round as an irreplaceable part of Meyer's blueprint for annual championship contention.

"Obviously they've got to be fit. That's kind of a given. It's the given quotient," Marotti said. "I really enjoy the mental, the chemistry, the unit-building, the mind-set, toughness, how you're supposed to act, what you're supposed to do -- I love that, to help build a team in the offseason.

"Who needs some pushing? Who needs some hugging? That's what I love, more so than how many sets of bench they're going to do."

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USA TODAY

 

NCAA President Mark Emmert joins the many other voices who would like to see the College Football Playoff expand to eight teams.

"It's not my decision, obviously," Emmert said Wednesday at the Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum. "But I think conference championships ought to really matter. I'm kind of old school, I guess, and it would be really fun to have a model where those five champions all got a crack at moving forward."

The NCAA doesn't have jurisdiction over the Playoff, which is controlled by the 10 Football Bowl Subdivision conferences.

This season, Penn State and Big 12 champion Oklahoma did not make the Playoff field and Ohio State, which did not win the Big Ten, did.

"The conference championship ought to keep you in that hunt," Emmert said. "When kids win that championship, the banner ought to be really, really important."

Bill Hancock, the executive director of the College Football Playoff, had this to say: "We know that the four-team Playoff is enjoying immense success, and the regular season is unique. We respect President Emmert, but on this matter, we certainly see things differently."

Emmert also said he was happy about Penn State's run to the Big Ten championship and the Rose Bowl.

"I thought Penn State's season was spectacular," Emmert said. "What Coach (James) Franklin has done there, I think, is very, very impressive."

Emmert spearheaded the NCAA's unprecedented move in 2012 to penalize Penn State after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

The decision to impose a postseason ban and severe scholarship reductions drew criticism from many who said the organization had overstepped its bounds.

The penalties were later lessened when the NCAA said the university had made significant progress in addressing the scandal.

"The university has done an amazing job of putting in place all the changes their board wanted and our (board of governors) wanted, and they're on a terrific path," he said.

Emmert declined to comment on the recent scandal at Baylor, noting some investigations were ongoing, other than to say the forced departures of university president Kenneth Starr, athletics director Ian McCaw and coach Art Briles were "a demonstration that (Baylor's board of regents) obviously took this matter very seriously."

He didn't comment on Liberty University's recent hiring of McCaw.

Asked if the NCAA would consider sanctioning Baylor similarly to Penn State, Emmert said, "That's an active debate among the membership right now. I'm not going to comment on that one case."

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Copyright 2016 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

A 20-year-old who claims he contracted herpes and staph during a metro Atlanta high school wrestling tournament is suing several area athletics officials and agencies.

Charles Ellis claims coaches and referees didn't properly inspect the wrestlers and let him compete with an infected athlete, said Lee Davis, his Cobb County attorney.

Ellis is now prone to type-1 herpes outbreaks across his forehead and has to take prescribed anti-viral medication twice a day for the rest of his life, Davis said.

The lawsuit, filed Nov. 17 in Cobb County Superior Court, asks for an amount of money to be determined at trial.

Related: Guarding Athletic Locker Rooms Against MRSA

The lawsuit also names the Georgia High School Association and the Metro Atlanta Wrestling Association. Representatives of both agencies declined to comment.

"There's so many people in this chain that just let him down," Davis told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The GHSA's policies "strongly recommend" that wrestling mats be disinfected a minimum of three times per week with a medically approved cleansing solution during the competitive season.

"In the event an athlete develops a skin disorder or skin lesion that is considered contagious, the school must complete and provide the 'Physician's Release for Wrestler to Participate' form." The release form is to be presented by the coach at the weigh-in or prior to competition.

The lawsuit does not mention whether this procedure was followed.

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Copyright 2016 VNU Business Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

hollywoodreporter.com

 

The NFL's weaker TV ratings early this season were in focus at the 44th annual UBS Global Media and Communications Conference this week.

Former HBO Sports president Ross Greenberg of Ross Greenberg Productions, Tony Ponturo of the NYU Tisch Institute for Sports and executive coach for Turnkey Sports & Entertainment and others discussed the NFL brand, its audience appeal and possible challenges during a Wednesday panel, with some suggesting that the added exposure from Thursday Night Football may be hurting ratings.

CBS Corp. chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves on Monday blamed the less-than-stellar ratings for NFL games early this season on star quarterbacks Peyton Manning, who is retired, and Tom Brady, who was suspended for the first four games this season, as well as Donald Trump, because his presidential campaign showdown with Hillary Clinton drew much coverage and attention.

Moonves also pointed out that ratings have made a comeback in recent weeks, and he predicted by the end of the year the overall numbers for NFL games would be "down a couple of points," which he described as "not a big deal."

CBS Corp. chief research officer David Poltrack also told the UBS conference on Monday that "incremental competition from the coverage of the presidential race" was the key driver behind the NFL ratings trends. He said average ratings have been up 15 percent since Election Day, which was stronger than the gain recorded over the same period in 2015.

"Ratings are still running slightly below last year, but the gap is narrowing, and I believe it is going to narrow and probably eventually go away entirely," Poltrack said. He added that there was not "any reason to conclude that there will be any seminal change in the strong ratings performance of NFL football."

Wednesday's panel of experts started off by discussing Moonves' explanation for the NFL ratings trends early in the season. Greenberg agreed that the presidential election was a key attention- and ratings-grabber and added that Moonves' comments also showed there was too much focus on quarterbacks, but he also suggested that there may be too many commercial breaks and not enough compelling on-field action, leading viewers to tune out.

Read more: CBS Research Chief Sees Underlying Broadcast Nets Ad Revenue Rising in 2017, Talks NFL Ratings

"There are certain elements of the game that need to be fixed," Greenberg argued. "How many minutes by half hour are soaked up by commercials?... And they need to do something about defensive pass interference. There are just a lot of things that need to be changed" to ensure faster and better games, he said.

Sports Illustrated media writer and columnist Richard Deitsch agreed that while the election was a key factor in the NFL ratings, "there is no one reason for the NFL's decline." Many TV executives agree that "there are too many national windows and not enough attractive teams," he told the UBS conference. And "there's a little bit of a down cycle for star quarterbacks."

Explaining how advertisers feel about the lower ratings this season, Ponturo said: "You don't like that ratings are down, because the conversation suggests there is something wrong with the brand."

He cited domestic violence news, the debate about concussions, coverage of quarterback Colin Kaepernick's kneeling in protest during the National Anthem and other factors as affecting the fun the NFL brings in people's minds. "All these things have cluttered my enjoyment of just watching a game," he said.

Ponturo also said that adding Thursday NFL games has meant that the football league has been cannibalizing its own audience. As smart as NFL executives are, they "weren't considering that they were ultimately cannibalizing themselves and there was too much content," he said.

Ponturo suggested that the NFL could end putting on Thursday games, while other panelists said that the revenue the league gets from the TV rights for them would likely mean they would continue.

Panelists agreed that the NFL RedZone network also is affecting viewership as its audience moves out of the Nielsen-rated TV universe.

But despite the lower audience trends this year, Greenberg also reminded the UBS conference attendees of the broad appeal of the NFL. "It still has tremendous [power] in the marketplace and makes a boatload of money for networks" and others, he said.

Read more: NFL's Post-Election Hail Mary: Can Ratings Rebound?

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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

The Minnesota United soccer team plans to hold a groundbreaking ceremony Monday for its stadium in St. Paul.

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber, along with United owner Bill McGuire and Mayor Chris Coleman, will attend the event.

Things have been quiet at the future stadium site in St. Paul's Snelling-Midway neighborhood since August, when the City Council approved a site plan and Garber announced the United would begin playing in the country's highest-tier professional league in 2017.

At that time, McGuire said he expected to have the $150 million stadium completed "sometime in 2018."

The bulk of the 20,000-seat building would be located on an empty site owned by the Metropolitan Council, where buses used to be stored. But part of the stadium site plan overlaps with the property next to the Met Council land, which is owned by RK Midway and contains the Midway Shopping Center.

United owners have been in negotiations with RK Midway about how to handle the property. McGuire has been mum on the land deal, but said at an event in September that the businesses and people working at shopping center site, along with community expectations, have made the project complex.

The St. Paul Port Authority, an economic development organization that works closely with the city, deemed the stadium site an industrial development district this fall. That allows the Port Authority to potentially buy or lease the land if negotiations between the shopping center owners and the soccer team fail.

The Port's Board of Commissioners has not signed off on any purchase or lease deal, and there is no such action planned yet, Port Authority President Lee Krueger said.

United spokesman Eric Durkee said more information about the negotiations with RK Midway and construction would be provided next week. He did not comment further Tuesday.

Rick Birdoff, principal and president of the company that owns the shopping center site, could not be reached for comment.

The United plan to play at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium while soccer stadium construction is underway in St. Paul.

This fall McGuire also looked into playing home games at U.S. Bank Stadium, Durkee said. That upset the Minnesota Vikings, who said they had been shut out of discussions about the potential use of the stadium, and threatened to sue the state agency that manages U.S. Bank Stadium.

Monday's groundbreaking will be held at 2 p.m. at 415 N. Pascal St.

In addition to United and MLS officials, youth soccer players will participate in the event. As part of the team's playing and use agreement with the city, the United would allow the public to use the stadium for some community events, recreational soccer games and high school soccer championships.

Staff writer Rochelle Olson contributed to this report.

Jessie Van Berkel · 612-673-4649

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Copyright 2016 Charleston Newspapers

Charleston Gazette-Mail

 

cthomas@cnpapers.com 304-348-1232

Putnam County Parks and Recreation Commission Executive Director Jarrod Dean sees a bright future for the county in his new role, with plenty of respect included for Putnam's past.

Dean, 36, became the PCPRC executive director on Nov. 7, having worked previously in the executive branch of the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.

"I was born and raised in Huntington and worked in Charleston for a little while, he said last week. "After my wife and I got married, we moved to Putnam County. One of the reasons was because the county has such a good school rating. We've lived here for about four years.

"My background is in engineering project management. I did sales and development for several structural steel fabrication companies, plus their economic development and a lot of construction stuff.

"I've done project management for the last 12 years, and had actually been doing some work with [Valley Park] with the Department of Agriculture, establishing the community garden here with Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia, Dean said.

Ground was broken in April for the Highmark Community Garden, which has 60 raised-bed plots for community members and organizations to grow fresh produce for food banks, schools and other entities in the area.

Dean also serves on the board of directors of the Putnam Farmers Market, which operates during growing season at Valley Park in Hurricane.

Among Dean's first projects underway is Yuletide at the Park at Valley Park, which opened last week and continues through the end of December.

"We're in full throttle for Yuletide in the Park this year, he said. "We've changed some things up this year. There are a lot more lights, and we have projectors on the Commons building. I think folks are really going to enjoy seeing the things we've been doing a little bit differently this year.

"Multiple times, I've told the staff here that it's a new day here and there'll be a lot that will be done differently. We're going to innovate the parks to the fullest we can, including on energy and operating more efficiently. It's going to be good, Dean said.

Also in motion is a $15 million, two-phase renovation of Valley Park, announced to the public in mid-October by the Putnam County Commission. First-phase overhauls will include updating several recreational areas; converting the baseball, softball and soccer fields from grass to turf surfaces and repurposing them to regulation sizes for tournament play; and constructing a new, all-inclusive playground. Completion on the first phase is anticipated for fall 2017.

The second phase will involve construction of a larger community center on the Valley Park grounds.

"This project would not be possible without the Putnam County Commission -- Joe Haynes, Steve Andes and Andy Skidmore, Dean said. "And the new county commissioner, Ron Foster, coming on board, he'll also be picking up the pace of what's going on here. County Manager Brian Donat and Assistant County Manager Jeremy Young are two of the gentlemen who'll be doing a lot of the legwork. This is a County Commission project.

"My role in this, while the construction is going on, is that I will be the boots on the ground' manager on the project. I'll be making sure that's everybody's here, that things are going smoothly. Moving forward from that, my role is to see that everything runs smoothly. We've got a lot of plans.

"It's really exciting what's going on here, Dean said. "The thing I keep saying is that this is going to be the premiere park in West Virginia, just with all of the amenities we're going to have here.

"We're building a 30,000-square-foot convention center with a main hall with seating for 450 people, with tables and chairs. Without the tables and chairs, you can seat about 1,000 people in there.

"We'll be able to hold large conferences and have meeting space. The large hall can divide into three sections, so we can have several things going on; they have retractable and soundproof walls. We can have meetings and conferences so that companies do not have go outside the county or outside the state. For the last several years, the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce has had to have its annual banquet meeting at the Marriott in Charleston. That'll no longer happen; they'll be able to have that here, said Dean.

"It's going to serve the county well. It's also going to serve as the entrance to the Wave Pool, and we'll be able to have weddings, receptions, anything like that.

The projected completion date for the new community center is mid-2018, he said.

While the facility will bring a new look and numerous growth opportunities to the park, Dean said he is mindful of its heritage, which he and others intend to incorporate.

"The current community center was built in 1980, he said, "and has served the community very well over the last 30 years. It is subject to being torn down, but we are refurbishing a lot of materials from this building. The red barn at the front of the park will be turned into a multipurpose facility. I want to use the outside wood, extracting it off the walls and putting it inside to create a barn-style venue for anybody who wants to have a wedding there. It will also be used for small-scale concerts, whether it's jazz, bluegrass, gospel or classical.

"A lot of folks are nostalgic about the building, and I understand that, Dean said.

He said the memorial plaques that have been installed at the outgoing center will be transferred to the new facility and highlighted on a memorial wall.

"A lot of folks got a little upset that we're tearing this building down, he said, "but I want them to know there's going to be a great amount of materials that will be used in the new one. Its large chandeliers will be standing in that barn, also. We'll have the heritage still incorporated in the park.

Dean said the current center's heating and air-conditioning equipment will also be transplanted into the new structure. "The HVAC is only about six years old. We're going to put that in the barn for heat and air; it'll save the taxpayers about $30,000 by doing that. We're also saving the appliances.

"It's something folks will be proud of, especially the memorial wall, he said.

Dean added that repairs are underway to reopen the Valley Park Wave Pool in 2017, and the PCPRC has received a recent West Virginia Department of Transportation grant of nearly $46,000 to renovate the restrooms at the park in Hometown.

Dean lives in Hurricane with his wife, Andrea, and their two children, Ava, 2, and 7-month-old Alexander. "This is a huge blessing for me, and my family. I'm excited to be on board, he said.

To reach Dean at the Putnam County Parks and Recreation Commission, call 304-562-0518.

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

 

The great thing about college football, we are told, is that every game matters.

Except when it doesn't.

Penn State beat Ohio State this season. Penn State also won the Big Ten championship, defeating Wisconsin in the conference title game.

Ohio State was not in the game because it lost to Penn State.

Ohio State is in the College Football Playoff. Penn State is not.

The final spot in the four-team playoff wasn't between Penn State and Ohio State, as you might think it should have been. Instead, it was between Penn State and Washington.

Michigan, which beat Penn State 49-10 but lost to Iowa and Ohio State, wasn't even in the conversation.

This much is certain about the CFP: Alabama deserves to be in the playoffs and deserves to be the No. 1 seed. It is the perennial national champion, last lost a game during the pre-forward pass era. If college football teams were ranked by votes of the electoral college, Alabama would have all 538 electors.

After that, well, we need to talk.

Strength of schedule always comes up when discussing the decision to pick one team over another for the CFP.

Washington almost didn't make it into the field because of its weak strength of schedule.

What's overlooked in college football is strength of schedule usually comes down to three nonconference games.

Washington played, and beat, Rutgers, (from the Big Ten), Idaho (from the FBS Sun Belt but soon heading to the FCS Big Sky) and Portland State (a Big Sky member).

Not much to brag about there. C'mon Huskies, you can schedule better.

Clemson won at Auburn (an SEC school), defeated Sun Belt member Troy, 30-24 at Clemson, and walloped South Carolina State (a MEAC and FBS member).

Winning at Auburn is good. Barely beating Troy and fattening up on South Carolina State fall into the category of "not much to brag about."

Ohio State won at Oklahoma.

Penn State lost at Pittsburgh, which is the primary reason Ohio State was a lock to make the playoffs while Penn State needed Washington to lose in the Pac-12 championship game.

But let's not forget that Pittsburgh also beat Clemson, at Clemson.

So, maybe Pittsburgh should be the fourth CFP team. Or maybe Virginia Tech should be, since the Hokies won at Pittsburgh.

We can do this all day, but after a while it gets a bit tedious.

The CFP committee has one charge: Pick the best four teams in college football.

We can argue the playoff field should be expanded to eight teams. Then there would be room for Penn State and Michigan, and probably even Western Michigan, 13-0 and the Mid-American Conference champion.

But then the argument would be whether the ninth team got short-sheeted, and there would be calls for expanding the field to 12 or 16.

There's also another impediment to expanding the field. The current TV contract runs until 2025. No changes will occur until after that, and who knows how college football will look then. There could be two super conferences and everyone else could be told, "Let them eat cake."

Alabama still will be undefeated.

A little controversy is good for the CFP. It gives people something to talk about in the month before the three games are played.

But an important point is being missed.

A team shouldn't be rewarded with a playoff berth while someone else plays for a league championship and risks losing a CFP berth, as Clemson and Washington did. Alabama was in, win or lose in the SEC title game.

If every game in the college football season matters, it should matter greatly to the playoff committee that Penn State beat Ohio State and won the Big Ten championship.

Winning the title in a Power Five conference is worth more than the equivalent of a pat on the back. And if that's all it's worth, there's no point in playing the games any longer.

(804) 649-6444@World_of_Woody

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Copyright 2016 Star-News, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Star-News (Wilmington, NC)

 

WILMINGTON The Wilmington Family YMCA announced Monday it received a sizable donation to the organization's capital campaign.

Oaz Nir, the son of longtime YMCA Healthy Living Director Dalia Nir, pledged $2 million toward renovating the existing YMCA facility at 2710 Market St.

The YMCA is working with Bowman Murray Hemingway Architects and Thomas Construction Group to finalize plans for a $9 million renovation to the Market Street facility. Once the renovation is complete, the facility will be renamed the Nir Family YMCA, according to a news release.

"I am happy to help a cause which will have a great impact on such a large group of people a cause which is so dearly important to my family," Oaz Nir stated in a news release.

Israel and Dalia Nir were located to Wilmington in 2004 by GE, the release states. Dalia joined the Y as director and brought an expanded focus on inclusion. Years later Dalia became director of healthy living. Israel retired from GE in the 2012 and for the last 11 years has been, an advocate, volunteer, participant and donor to the Y s annual campaign, the release states. The Nir s son, Allon, is known by many members as he works at the front desk and greets nearly every member by name. Their daughter, Dani Nir-McGrath, joined the Y as a GroupX instructor four years ago. Although Oaz lives in New York, the release states he has remained a generous and consistent supporter of the organization's programming, especially LIVESTRONG at the Y a program for cancer survivors.

"We want to break ground in early 2017," said YMCA CEO Dick Jones. "We intend to get the Nir Family Y open as soon as possible and we encourage others to join the campaign now and make their pledge by Dec. 31."

When the sauna in the men's locker room caught fire in February 2015, the YMCA had just started the conversation about renovating to a more modern and open layout. In June 2015 the YMCA opened a temporary facility on Kerr Avenue. The lap pool and basketball courts at the 2710 Market St. facility have since reopened.

Reporter Ashley Morris can be reached at 910-343-2096 or Ashley.Morris@starnewsonline.com

 

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Copyright 2016 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

DES MOINES, Iowa - Drake coach Ray Giacoletti abruptly resigned Tuesday after three-plus seasons, saying it was time for a "new voice" to lead the Bulldogs out of a skid that has them just 1-7 so far this season.

Giacoletti, a former coach at Utah and Eastern Washington and an assistant at Gonzaga, went 32-69 at Drake and will be replaced by assistant Jeff Rutter for the rest of the season. Athletic director Sandy Hatfield-Clubb wouldn't speculate on Rutter's status following the season.

Giacolleti's stint with the Bulldogs got off to a promising start, as he finished 15-16 in 2013-14 at a program with just one NCAA tournament appearance since 1971.

But Drake finished 9-22 and 7-24 in the next two seasons. The Bulldogs' only win so far in 2016-17 came against Division III Simpson College, and last week they went through a brutal stretch that included two-point losses at DePaul and Fresno State.

"It felt like this was the right move," Giacoletti said. "I'm a big boy. I understand how this thing works. It's year four, and where our team needs to be, in my opinion, not anybody else's opinion, where I believe our team should be, I'm accountable for that. I didn't feel like we were there, and I didn't feel like there was a whole lot of how I could help it change."

The promotion was bittersweet for Rutter, a close friend of Giacoletti's who will be a Division I head coach for the first time.

Rutter has spent 30 years in coaching, including a stint as the head coach at Division II Wisconsin-Parkside from 1996-2003.

He left to join Greg McDermott at Northern Iowa and followed McDermott to Iowa State, where the pair worked together for seven seasons.

"There's no wholesale change, some magic formula. (It's about) guys believing in playing efficiently, playing hard, playing together, and just trying to get over the hump and hope getting over the hump snowballs in a positive way," Rutter said.

Giacoletti's resignation was just the latest in a long line of struggles for Iowa's most downtrodden Division I program.

After reaching the Final Four in 1969, the Bulldogs went through decades of lackluster play. Tom Davis, who had recently been let go at Iowa, took over in the early 2000s and made the program competitive before handing the program over to his son. Keno Davis led Drake on a remarkable run in 2007-08, winning the Missouri Valley Conference and earning a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament. He left for Providence after that season and was replaced by Mark Phelps, a strong recruiter who couldn't make the Bulldogs a winner in five seasons.

Hatfield-Clubb thought she had found the right guy in Giacoletti, who hoped to follow the blueprint that Mark Few used to maintain sustained success with the Zags.

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Copyright 2016 The Buffalo News
All Rights Reserved

The Buffalo News (New York)

 

Baylor has announced the hiring of new football coach Matt Rhule, who has put together consecutive 10-win seasons at Temple, with a formal introduction slated at a Wednesday news conference in Waco, Texas.

The announcement, posted Tuesday morning on the school's website and released via social media, ends a search for a full-time successor to former coach Art Briles. Briles, who led the Bears to Big 12 titles in 2013 and 2014, was dismissed in May as part of administrators' response to a sexual-assault scandal at the school that involved football players.

Jim Grobe, hired in May as the Bears' acting head coach, led the team to a 6-6 record this season while leaning on inherited assistants from Briles' staff. The Bears conclude their season Dec. 27 by facing Boise State in the Cactus Bowl in Phoenix.

Rhule, 41, led the Owls to the 2016 American Athletic Conference title by knocking off Navy 34-10 in last week's conference title game. Temple, a 10-3 team this season, finished 10-4 under Ruhle during the 2015 season.

Rhule played linebacker at Penn State from 1994 to 1997 and will be coaching at a school in Texas for the first time in his career. Before becoming Temple's head coach for the 2013 season, he served on college staffs at Albright, Buffalo, UCLA and Western Carolina.

He will take over a program that has only one commitment in its 2017 recruiting class and projects to lose all of its current assistants after the bowl game.

In a statement, Rhule said: "I am truly honored and humbled to join the Baylor family.... Baylor is a tremendous institution with a history of football success and I know the passion that so many have for the Bears will help bring the community together to reach even greater heights. I am excited to get started."

Salaam dies at 42

Former Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam was found dead Monday night in a park in Boulder, Colo., the University of Colorado reported on its website. He was 42.

The university said Boulder police indicated there were no signs of foul play.

Salaam starred at Colorado in the early 1990s and won the Heisman Trophy in 1994 after rushing for 2,055 yards that season. He also won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back.

Salaam turned pro after his Heisman season and was a first-round draft choice of the Chicago Bears. He gained 1,074 yards and scored 10 touchdowns in his first year and was named NFC Rookie of the Year in 1995.

But he wound up playing just three seasons for the Bears.

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Copyright 2016 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Dunbar head coach Pete Pullen and assistant Darran Powell were belatedly approved coaching contracts for the boys high school basketball season during a Dayton Public Schools board meeting Tuesday night.

They were added late Tuesday to an agenda to address 42 DPS employees who faced layoff, demotion or transfer, all of which were postponed until the end of the school year. Pullen's contract was for $7,283 and Powell's for $4,600.

Pullen and Powell coached the Dunbar varsity as it went 1-1 during last weekend's season-opening games. However, neither had realized his coaching contract hadn't been approved until each was skipped in the two-week pay period last Friday.

They were the only ones on the staff who hadn't been approved coaching contracts until Tuesday. Neither was present during practice Monday or Tuesday.

Powell also is Dunbar's head football coach. The Wolverines missed the playoffs when the Ohio High School Athletic Association ruled Dunbar had used an academically ineligible player, forcing it to forfeit Week 9-10 games. Pullen resigned as Dunbar's athletic director soon afterward, admitting he miscalculated 9-week grading period credits for the ineligible player.

An investigation into allegations that Dunbar used the ineligible player to enable City League member Belmont to make the playoffs is ongoing by DPS and the OHSAA. Both Pullen and Powell feared the fallout from that might cost them their basketball jobs.

"I'm elated for the kids," said Pullen, a teacher at the high school. "I've done this a long time and this is the first time something like this has happened to me. It would have been hard to walk away. It would have been tough on me and my family."

Powell said his one-year renewable football contract has not been addressed by DPS administration.

"I don't know what's going on with the situation," said Powell, a paraprofessional at the school. "We just need to get to the bottom of everything so we can move forward. We had a great team and we've got a great team coming back. Hopefully, next year we don't run into any issues like this."

Several of Powell's relatives spoke during the board meeting about the positive impact the two men have at the school. Pullen, 62, initially coached Dunbar girls basketball, compiling a 109-29 record from 1998-2004 that included a 44-0 City League record. In boys basketball, Dunbar has won four Division II state titles since 2006 with Pullen as head coach and been to two other final fours.

Powell, a starting guard on the 2006 title team, has been Dunbar's head football coach the last four seasons. His father and uncle, twins Alfred and Albert Powell, also are Dunbar football and basketball coaches.

"We're in basketball season and we can move forward and deal with everything else as it comes," Dar-ran Powell said. "My family has been part of Dunbar before I was born. That's all I've known growing up. I don't know how I would have had to handle (leaving), especially under these circumstances."

DPS Athletic Director Mark Baker did not attend the board meeting and did not respond to a request for comment. Dunbar's next game is Friday at Belmont.

Contact this reporter at 937-225-2381 or email Marc.

Pendleton@coxinc.com

Twitter: @MarcPendleton

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Copyright 2016 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

In his pursuit of a new baseball home this offseason, free agent closer Mark Melancon came armed with an array of questions to his interview with the San Francisco Giants. As an athlete who's finely tuned with his body, Melancon wanted to learn about the club's training and recovery methods.

Among other things, Melancon learned the Giants have a sleep room in the clubhouse, will travel in all first-class seats this coming season and have consulted sleep experts to help them choose the least-disruptive times to travel during the season and playoffs.

Those were likely small but meaningful factors in Melancon signing a four-year, $62million contract Monday with San Francisco.

"We think sports science -- and we're talking about recovery, sleep, nutrition, hydration, all of that -- is a huge X-factor that's really important," Giants President Larry Baer said. "We're putting a lot of resources into all sorts of techniques. Some of it also relates to wearables and measuring."

A new wearable device might help players -- and teams -- get a better sense of how much rest they need to play their best.

Results of a study conducted last summer by the Boston-based WHOOP performance-optimization company, with cooperation from Major League Baseball, confirm a correlation between monitoring recovery and quality of play. The findings, which were to be announced Wednesday, are based on a study of 230 minor leaguers from nine big-league organizations, among them all five American League East clubs.

The players voluntarily wore the WHOOP fitness tracker -- similar to a wristwatch but without a screen -- at all times, except during games, and had their levels of strain, recovery and sleep measured and analyzed. The data would be reported through an app on their smartphones along with analysis and recommendations for individualized programs.

"The most exciting finding was seeing how close recovery correlated with performance," said Will Ahmed, co-founder and CEO of WHOOP. "The higher recovered a pitcher was, the faster their pitch velocity was, relative to their average. And we saw the same correlation for exit velocity (on batted balls)."

The data collected on the effects of travel could prove particularly valuable in a sport that requires extended trips throughout a grueling six-month season, often crossing time zones.

The study found it can take up to two days for players to return to their baseline levels after traveling and that they got 45 fewer minutes of sleep -- translating to a 10% lower recovery -- after travel days.

"Conventional wisdom says the home team wins because you're playing in your stadium and you have your fans. Maybe it's because the home team slept more and is better recovered," said Ahmed, 27, a former squash player at Harvard who wanted a better understanding of how his body reacted to exercise.

"This information presents a new way for coaches and teams to think about recovery during travel. Do we need to leave earlier? Do we need to have nap stations?"

It remains to be seen how the availability of this data plays out at the major-league level.

The WHOOP system, which costs $500 for regular customers and $1,200 for a yearly subscription aimed at elite athletes, has been commercially available since Nov.15.

Players such as Melancon, who uses the Omegawave data program for training and a body-temperature regulator while sleeping, will probably embrace it. Others might find it a bit too much like "Big Brother", what with all that information possibly available to their employers.

Baer said Giants players have largely welcomed the team's use of avant-garde methods of measuring nutrition and vitamin needs. However, he's aware of the privacy concerns they might raise.

"Say, a guy's in the middle of the season, free agent year, I could see why it would be touchy," Baer said, not referring specifically to the WHOOP strap. "But our experience is guys have all consented to it, because... if it can help on the conditioning side, that's going to improve performance, and that's a win-win for the player and the team."

Ahmed said 70% of the minor leaguers in the study used the device daily and several reported trying to get more sleep as they became aware of the importance of recovery. He also pointed out that 27 privacy settings allow the athletes to control the flow of information.

Dan Duquette, executive vice president of baseball operations for the Baltimore Orioles -- one of the organizations involved in the study -- noted that factors such as travel, sleep and the toll from workouts and games can impact player recovery.

"We partnered with WHOOP to better understand athlete recovery and to help the athlete understand the recovery process," Duquette said in the study's announcement. "We are excited about the potential for this technology to decrease injuries and enhance player performance."

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USA TODAY

 

Just as Baylor is moving on from its ugly past with the hiring of Temple's Matt Rhule, there will come a time when someone is tempted to give Art Briles a fresh start.

It won't be this year. Houston's very public -- and very emphatic -- rejection of Briles last weekend ensures that. But be assured that whether it's next year, the year after or five years from now, some school will be desperate enough to decide the Hazmat suit Briles wears will look just swell in its colors.

And that would be a colossal mistake.

There are some failings that are simply too destructive to be forgiven and forgotten, and Briles' should head the list. The lives of more than a dozen women were irreparably damaged because of his actions and inactions, and while he has to live with that, no one else should.

Sexual violence on campus is a serious issue that colleges and universities are struggling to address. Education and empowerment are part of the answer, as are appropriate and consistent discipline for abusers. All of it requires buy-in from everyone in positions of leadership and power.

Of course, Briles wants to coach again. But his suggestion that "a good cry session, a good talk session and then, hopefully, a hug session" could make everything all right with Baylor victims shows he still does not understand his role in fostering the school's culture of sexual violence.

His staff ignored or actively discouraged sexual assault complaints, according to the Pepper Hamilton report, even going so far as to meet with the women making the allegations. Since 2011, 19 players have been accused of sexual assault by 17 different women, including two who were brought to Baylor by Briles despite being dismissed from their previous schools for off-the-field incidents.

And, most damning of all, the university said Briles himself knew that a female athlete had accused five of his players of gang rape and did nothing. Said nothing. Reported nothing.

This from a man who insisted in August that he'd "never done anything illegal, immoral, unethical." Then, two months later, suggested the hug session in an interview with ESPN that was meant to launch his comeback by showing how much he'd learned and how sorry he was.

Sure, Briles might bring some up-and-coming or struggling school nine or 10 wins. But at what price? The school's good name? Its goodwill with deep-pocketed alumni -- you know, the ones who send their sons and daughters to the school?

It's simply not worth it, as Houston so wisely decided.

If there was any place for Briles to find a safe haven, Houston would have seemed to be it. A wide receiver on the 1977 Cotton Bowl team, he returned 25 years later as a coach and engineered a dramatic turnaround before leaving for Baylor. He still has friends in high places at Houston -- board chairman Tilman Fertitta supported Briles as a candidate -- as well as high schools in Texas.

But that wasn't enough to overcome Briles' yuck factor.

"Earlier this week Art Briles expressed interest to me regarding the Houston head coach position," Houston athletics director Hunter Yurachek said in a statement. "After discussion with University of Houston leadership, we developed a list of candidates to be interviewed that did not include Art."

Other disgraced coaches have managed to get second chances -- though I wonder if Bob Knight would have such an easy time today, with attitudes about physical abuse more evolved than they were when he landed at Texas Tech -- but it's a risky prospect.

When someone is toxic, as Briles is, everyone and everything around them is poisoned.

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News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)

 

GREENSBORO - The high school football playoffs are a five-week grind for teams that make it to the championship games. A long postseason can be hard on a team's field, too.

Eastern Guilford, Page and Reidsville will be playing their fourth home games of the playoffs Friday night. Page's field, in particular, is showing some wear.

"The problem we have right now is that our field is just worn out," said Rusty Lee, Page's athletics director. "We couldn't get the rye (grass) to come in because of all the use this fall - middle schools playing on it, a lot of home football games, soccer making a playoff run - we just had more use than in the past."

But it wasn't just heavy usage at Page.

"We also have a sprinkler-system issue," Lee said. "It was coming on at random hours. Two weeks ago it came on the day before the game when we didn't want it to, so we basically had to just shut it down. Then it started raining."

Page doesn't have a tarp for its football field, but the playing surface was covered with 14 boxes of polyurethane sheets for part of last week. Before Friday's game against West Forsyth, Lee and his staff had to use three Gators full of sand and 200 pounds of cat litter to soak up the moisture near midfield.

"The rain we got Sunday night didn't do a whole lot to it, just a couple of muddy spots," Lee said. "Then we had football parents and staff members come out and help us cover it a second time Monday night.... We hope when it stops raining we can get out there with the blowers and blow all the water to the sidelines, then take off the covering. We'll have a decision to make about whether we want to cover it again Thursday and take it off Friday."

Lee gave his football coach, Kevin Gillespie, the option of looking for another field or postponing this week's game to Saturday.

"Kevin and I came to the decision that, rain or shine, mud or dry, we were playing here Friday night," Lee said. "I gave him that option.... We'll do whatever we have to do to make it happen."

The field conditions are better at Eastern Guilford, where the Wildcats face Jacksonville on Friday night, and at Reidsville, where the Rams play Lincolnton.

"Our field is holding up pretty well," said Randall Hackett, Eastern Guilford's AD. "It could be a mess after Friday night. It was a little damp last Friday night, but it held up. Of course, it's got some wear spots on it, but we threw some rye (seed) on it."

Reidsville's field has gotten a lot of use late in the season through the years.

"Fortunately for us, with the dry fall we had, we didn't have a game where it was wet during the season," Teague said. "So, prior to the playoffs, it was probably in as good a shape as it's ever been for the postseason."

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Bangor Daily News (Maine)

 

BREWER, Maine -- Team success is forged in large part on the development of individual physical talent.

But just as important in separating a championship attitude from competitive frustration is team chemistry, that bond between players and coaches and among the players themselves.

Pivotal to that chemistry is leadership within the team, and providing players who assume that role some assistance in handling those responsibilities was the focus of the Penobscot Valley Conference Leadership Summit on Tuesday at Jeff's Catering.

"A lot of times we select captains and we really don't give them the tools on how to be a captain," said Bunky Dow, athletic administrator at Mount Desert High School in Bar Harbor, "and this is where this leadership program came about in the PVC because we all felt the same about this."

More than 250 high school student-athletes, coaches and administrators from PVC-member schools turned out for the event sponsored by The First National Bank. Veteran coach and motivational speaker Rob Miller of Proactive Coaching offered insights into the challenges facing team leaders and made suggestions about how to deal with the often emotional issues that can make or break a team.

"We're hearing there's a lack of leadership out there," said Miller. "Part of it is, in the last 15 or 20 years we've become really good at team building, but we've got to understand that team building and leadership are two different things, so we have to help our kids lead.

"With team commitment, you can't hope something happens, you have to intentionally make it happen. We don't want T-shirt slogans, we want action statements," he added.

Miller said a key challenge is that a player's initial introduction to a sport typically is more adult driven and organized. Previous generations relied on pickup games at young ages that included impromptu problem-solving experiences before referees, coaches or parents were there to arbitrate disagreements.

"Kids have kind of come through sports without that natural leadership taking place," said Miller. "People are finally starting to see that we've had a void of natural leadership training because it's adult controlled whether you have a 3-year-old being coached by coaches or it's a little later on.

"The job of leadership is still the same, but I don't know if the kids know what it is, and that's what we're trying to clarify," he said.

Conference participants broke into smaller groups to discuss various leadership issues and how to develop the qualities pivotal to building a successful team.

"This is super valuable for us," said Drew Rich, a senior football and basketball player at Mount Desert Island. "We have a lot of leaders at our school, and it's always valuable to acquire new skills, and I think that was a big reason we came here today, because we want our school to be at the next level."

Among the issues facing high school team leaders is a communications puzzle reshaped by cellphones and social media.

"In the old days when my office was in the gym, I'd walk in and I'd always have to say, 'Be quiet, be quiet,' because everyone was talking," said Dow.

Now, students are on the computer or on their phones texting.

"There's no more talking, no more communicating, so social media has dampened things that way. It's important to have it, but by the same token, it's taken away a lot of skills that are important for kids and adults to have," he said.

Problem solving on a high school team can't be done by an exchange of text messages, Miller noted.

"Social media certainly has its positive ends because it can help you connect and really send a message," he said. "The problem is that it allows people to say things and do things they won't say or do face to face and eye to eye and heart to heart.

"When you have to have that tough conversation with someone, it has to be face to face and personal. You can't do it with text messages or emails or social posts. For one, it deflates the situation, and it also puts something out in the open that doesn't need to be out in the open," he said.

Those sometimes inevitable confrontations among teammates during a sports season also require a captain to effectively reinforce and articulate established team covenants, or ideals.

"There's got to be some point where you can't tolerate certain behavior, and that's one of the big parts of having a successful team," said Rich. "You cannot break those ideals you establish as a team because if you do, the team has no structure."

Team leaders also must provide support for younger teammates who are less familiar with team dynamics.

"[Miller] talked about how sometimes people break freshmen down but that it's important to bring them up and teach them the different roles on the team so that when they get older and become captains that they know what to do, too" said Cassie Brown, a Brewer High School junior who competes on the school's soccer and track teams.

 

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Chicago Daily Herald



Chicago Cubs fans have found the road to the World Series is paved with high ticket prices, and next year won't be any different.

Season ticket holders are seeing increases of 6 percent to 31 percent for 2017.

When season ticket holders received their invoices on Monday, they saw ticket prices raised depending on the game, opposing team, seat location and other factors. The overall increase will be 19.5 percent for the whole season, said Colin Faulkner, senior vice president of tickets, partnership and marketing for the Chicago Cubs.

"Sure, the 19.5 percent increase is significant," Faulkner said. "And it was a tough decision to make, and we put a lot of thought into it. But we truly feel there is still tremendous value to fans."

This latest price increase follows another in the 2016 season of 7 percent to 43 percent. That's when the team showed promise of capturing that World Series trophy and the season ticket renewal rate was 98 percent.

On the open market, postseason tickets went for 670 percent of face value and World Series tickets went for 1,206 percent of face value. That's why the Cubs organization believes the demand will remain strong for 2017, Faulkner said.

Seats with a 6 percent increase for 2017 are upper box infield seats while the 31 percent increase is for club box infield seats.

Season ticket holders need to put down a 20 percent nonrefundable deposit by Dec. 19 and then provide the full payment by Jan. 20.

Faulkner said season ticket holders still save money over the course of the season, compared to individual ticket buyers who pay more for similar seats during a regular season.

"Clearly there is demand," he said.

But will that demand continue for the post-World Series Cubs?

After all, there are still construction and parking issues around Wrigley Field, and some fans just wanted to stick around long enough to see their Cubbies capture the World Series after 108 years.

The Chicago Cubs organization isn't worried.

There are 109,000 names on the waiting list for season tickets.

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The Daily News of Los Angeles

 

ORLANDO, Fla. -  A study of this season's bowl-bound teams shows while there continues to be high academic success for the student-athletes overall, the disparity in graduation rates between black and white students remains a problem at the highest level of college football.

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport found in its latest study released Monday that black students graduated from the 80 bowl-bound programs had a 68 percent graduation success rate compared to 87 percent for their white counterparts. Those numbers represent a two percent increase for both groups a year ago. Overall, 75 percent of student-athletes are graduated from the bowl-bound schools, up from 2015 when the number was 73 percent.

The gap between black and white student-athletes is 19 percent for the second year in a row.

As a whole, 99 percent of the teams participating in the bowl season had at least a 50 percent graduation success rate, which is a slight drop from 100 percent of the 80 postseason-bound programs last years. Idaho was the only school that scored less than the 930 on the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate compared to the 100 percent last year.

Scoring higher than 930 on the APR is equivalent to a 50 percent graduation rate.

"Unfortunately the disparity between the black and white players has been the case consistently in these reports," said Richard Lapchick, the author of the study. "The graduation rates of both black and white football players continue to creep up a little bit and they are actually at level that 15 years ago I probably would have said I'm pretty happy if these were the rates.

"But the fact the gap has persisted is what's most troubling."

It wasn't part of the study but Lapchick found black football players on bowl-bound teams graduate at a higher rate when their coach is also black. The number jumped to 71 percent from 68 percent when the coach is also black. The overall graduation rate also improved from 75 percent to 84 percent under black coaches.

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

When the NFL moved the line of scrimmage for extra point attempts back to the 15-yard line in May 2015, making PAT kicks 33-yards, Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant said it was just part of the job and that he had to make sure he approached those tries like he did all his others.

"You got to concentrate even more," he said. "It's not really an extra point. It's a 33-yard field goal that counts for one point."

Two years in with the new distance, only eight kickers this season are perfect thus far on extra points. In 2015, the number was five, well down from 23 who connected on shorter PATs in 2014.

Only Baltimore's Justin Tucker and Dallas' Dan Bailey are perfect on extra points since last season. Three kickers missed at least five attempts last year. Cincinnati's Mike Nugent has already accomplished that feat 12 games into 2016.

Bryant had only missed four extra points in his previous 14 seasons, two of those coming in his rookie year (2002). He is eighth in NFL history in career field goal percentage (85.6 percent), but even he has faltered on the longer PAT, sending one off the left post in Philadelphia on Nov. 13.

The following Sunday, the league crashed. On Nov. 20, an NFL-record 12 extra point attempts failed. Ten teams had a missed PATs and two kickers -- Nugent and the Giants' Robbie Gould -- missed two attempts.

"There is no part of this game that the details cannot be measured," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "I think that's one of the cool parts about our game, where every facet, all three phases, are going to be a factor in winning and some cases in losing too."

Over the past two seasons, there has been a slight decline in PAT accuracy as the weather worsens, according to ESPN Stats&Information. Last season, kickers made 95.1 percent of extra points from Weeks 1 through 9, but dropped to 93.1 from Week 10 through the end of the regular season. This year, kickers dropped from 95.3 percent in the first half of the year to 84.5 percent in Weeks 10 and 11.

Quinn said that depending on how extreme the weather is, particularly the wind conditions, it might make him reconsider going for twopoint conversions. The Falcons, however, close out their season with two games in the Georgia Dome and road games at Los Angeles and at Charlotte, which factors against many weather-related two-point calls.

Atlanta's six two-point tries thus far are the third-most in the league, but all have come in traditional situations where going for two was the obvious mathematical call. The Falcons have not been like the Steelers, whose eight two-point tries have come in all types of scenarios, traditional or not.

Whether it is because of the new PAT distance or teams are just looking to take more risks, the twopoint attempt has become much more popular across the league. There have been 83 tries already this year after 94 coming in 2015. In the six years prior, the league saw more than 60 two-point attempts only once.

On Sunday against Kansas City, the Falcons found themselves in a situation that dictated going for a two-point attempt.

Leading 28-27 following a touchdown in the final minutes, Atlanta sought a three-point advantage and protection from a potentially winning Chiefs field goal. Instead, the Falcons wound up with a one-point deficit, falling victim to the first interception return on a twopoint try. Thanks to Chiefs safety Eric Berry, Kansas City won 29-28.

When the NFL owners voted 30-2 to move the extra-point attempts back, they also agreed that defenses could earn two points by returning blocked kicks or turnovers on two-point tries. But these plays have been rare.

Earlier this season, Denver was the beneficiary of a defensive two-point score when the Broncos blocked an extra-point attempt by New Orleans' Wil Lutz. The Denver return, like the Kansas City score, became the difference in the game, Broncos taking a late 25-23 lead instead of falling behind 24-23.

When Denver blocked Lutz's extra point, it was not someone getting a good jump off the line at the edge or getting strong penetration up the middle. Instead, Denver safety Justin Simmons leaped the long snapper to knock down the kick.

"It's a reaction to what the offensive line is doing, whether those guards are using their hands or if their hands are on the ground," Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong said of the play. "So if their hands are on the ground, you're seeing the linebacker jump. Then when you'll see one where it doesn't work, it's because the guard came up. You use it week-to-week based off of what's going on there."

Falcons' long snapper Josh Harris said because of the team's blocking technique, line-hurdling is not something he is concerned with. The bigger concern is since the attempts are farther back, the trajectory of the kick is different. By attempting a 33-yard kick instead of a 20-yarder, kickers can no longer loft the ball and avoid blocks as easily as before. Kickers must approach extra points more like field goals and drive the ball, Armstrong said.

"Each kick, that kick is the most important kick because it's the one you are dealing with at that time," Bryant said.

Not all kickers seem to be approaching extra points like field goals. All NFL kickers have combined to miss just one field goal try from 33 or 32 yards this year. But there have been 55 missed extra points. Last year there were 71 misses.

"I couldn't tell you why the guys are missing the kicks," Bryant said. "Some guys may be playing in some pretty bad conditions, some guys may be just missing the kicks."

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Beset by a"myriad of odd things," Bob DeLong has resigned as head football coach at Xenia High School.

DeLong, 53, submitted his resignation last week. He coached the Buccaneers for eight years, going 3-7 this past season after a 0-6 start.

"It was a miserable year, the toughest one I've everhad,"DeLong said.

"We had some odd things happen. Behavior things and parental issues. I can tell you in 21 years as a head coach some of those things I've never seen before."

Xenia had just two winning seasons under DeLong, going 6-4 in 2012 and 2014.The Buccaneers were a combined 33-47 from 2009-16. Xenia was reassigned to the Greater Western Ohio Conference American South Division this fall, losing only to divisional champ and Division III state runner-up Trot-wood-Madison. Xenia beat Fair-born, West Carrollton and newcomer Stebbins to place runner-up in the division (3-1).

DeLong previously had revived the program at Tecumseh. In 13 seasons at the New Carlisle and Central Buckeye Conference member, the Arrows were a combined 85-49, including a 10-0 team in 1998 that was ranked No. 2 in the D-II final state rankings.

But he didn't come close to that kind of success at Xenia after succeeding Ed Mignery as head coach.

A Toledo-area native, DeLong played scholarship baseball at Wright State University for former Raiders coach Ron Nischwitz. He'll remain as a science teacher at the high school. He was instrumental in boosting the Doug Adams Foundation. Funds from hosting D-I state power Cincinnati Moeller in consecutive seasons were used to renovate Cox Stadium with FieldTurf and a new scoreboard.

Xenia junior receiver Meechi Harris was a D-II first team All-Ohioan this past season. But the Bucs lost another standout receiver, Ray James, as a transfer to Wayne last spring. James was All-GWOC as a junior and a senior starter at Wayne.

"It was the beginning of a snowball effect of a lot of things that happened," said DeLong.

First-year Xenia Athletic Director Nathan Kopp said the position will be posted both internally and externally, on the Ohio High School Athletic Association website.

"We feel we play in the best conference in the area, if not the state," said Kopp, who succeeded Mark Stoll as AD."We're looking for somebody to put a new view on it."

DeLong said he'd like to continue coaching, but only "at a place where everybody's rowing the boat in the same direction. If you could get that, it sure would be fun again."

He's the first GWOC coach to resign or not be retained after last season. GWOC members Fairborn, Fairmont and Vandalia-Butler all had new head coaches this past season.

Contact this reporterat 937-225-2381 or email Marc.Pendleton@coxinc.com.

Twitter: @MarcPendleton

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Dunbar High School boys basketball coach Pete Pullen confirmed he and assistant Dar-ran Powell have been reclassified as volunteers with the program. Both remain Wolverines coaches, although that could change as soon as the Dayton Public Schools board meeting tonight.

Both were key figures in Dunbar's football team forfeiting Weeks 9-10 games this past season for playing an academically ineligible player. Pullen was Dunbar's athletic director, a position he has since resigned. Powell is Dunbar's head football coach.

Those forfeits let City League rival Belmont qualify for the playoffs and knocked Piqua and Cincinnati Princeton out of playoff contention. Dayton Public Schools and the Ohio High School Athletic Association have ongoing investigations into the circumstances of those forfeits.

Pullen, 62, is the most successful basketball coach in the storied program's history. In 12 seasons Dunbar is 265-50 with four Division II state championships and two more final four appearances. In the 2011-12 season Dunbar was 28-0.

A Nashville, Tenn., native, Pullen also was Dunbar's girls head coach from 1998-2004, compiling a 109-29 record and going 44-0 in City League play.

Dunbar's boys split two games in last weekend's season-opening play. Powell has been Dunbar's head football coach the last four seasons. Pullen is a classroom teacher at Dunbar, and Powell is a paraprofessional. Pullen declined to comment.

?Duke University sophomore Luke Kennard (Franklin) scored 20 first-half points and had a career-high 35 in a 94-55 defeat of visiting Maine last Saturday. He hit 11 of 16 shots and 4 of 9 threes to go with eight rebounds. Kennard has started every game and leads Duke in scoring (19.4) and rebounding (6.7). Duke (8-1) plays Florida tonight in the Jimmy V Classic in New York (9:30 p.m., ESPN).

?D'Mitrik Trice (Wayne) is a freshman guard at Wisconsin. A top sub, he's averaging 6.8 points, 2.2 assists and 1.9 rebounds. He had a season-high 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting in Saturday's 90-70 defeat of visiting Oklahoma. Wisconsin (7-2) hosts Idaho State on Wednesday.

?Michigan State 6-5 sophomore guard/forward Kyle Ahrens (Versailles) had six points and four rebounds in his first career start, an 80-76 defeat of Oral Roberts last Saturday. MSU (5-4) hosts Youngstown State today.

?West Virginia senior Ashley Woolpert (Springboro) finished her Mountaineers women's soccer career in a 3-1 loss to USC in the NCAA Division I national championship Sunday at San Jose, Calif. A top sub, Woolpert had one goal and three assists for West Virginia (23-2-2), which was ranked No. 1 in the nation.

?Wayne head track and field coach Mike Fernandez will be inducted into the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame next month at Columbus. A Wayne grad, Fernandez will be among two coaches and four athletes to be inducted Jan. 27 at the Hilton Easton.

Fernandez has been the Warriors head coach since 1998. He was a Warriors assistant coach on the 1995 Division I boys state title team and was head coach in 2000 when Wayne won the D-I boys title. Wayne boys also have placed state runner-up twice and third three times with Fernandez as head coach. Wayne has had 11 individual state champs and one relay state champ in that time.

Contact this reporterat 937-225-2381 oremail Marc.Pendleton@coxinc.com Twitter: @MarcPendleton

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USA TODAY

 

The Big Ten Network is approaching its 10th anniversary, but league Commissioner Jim Delany remembers the uncertainty and skepticism surrounding its launch.

From those at other networks. From some within in the conference. From plenty across the industry.

Now that most power conferences have followed -- the Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences have their own networks, and the Atlantic Coast Conference's is set to launch in 2019 -- it seems hard to believe that Delany wasn't sure his brainchild would work. He had to persuade Big Ten member schools' presidents and athletics directors to try it, knowing it might fail, knowing cable companies didn't necessarily buy in and knowing full well it could and would offend ESPN.

Once Fox came on board as a partner, Delany thought the network had a shot to survive. But the moment he knew it would not just be viable but succeed was an unexpected one: Appalachian State's historic upset of then-No.5 Michigan, on Sept. 1, 2007. It was the first game to be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.

"This is a wild thing to say, but the reaction by every other network in the country to the Appalachian State win over Michigan -- they all wanted to have a relationship with BTN to get the clips," Delany told USA TODAY Sports. "That showed me something.... Everybody said, 'The BigTen Network has second-rate games.' That was the biggest upset in college football history.

"That wasn't a second-rate game. And we had footage. I was hoping for Michigan to win, but when Michigan lost, it actually created some college football history and made the network relevant."

Big Ten Network footage of the upset played across the nation. The name of the fledgling network was on anchors' lips.

"It was BTN on everyone's highlight show," Delany said. "It legitimized it."

The network broadcast a couple of games in which its heavyweights were playing: Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. These were relatively big games. And then by spring, big cable networks were open to discussions.

"By August of 2008, we added Time Warner and Comcast and Charter, and we were fully distributed," Delany said. "It was a year. It was a very tough year. We spent a lot of time on the trail, in state capitals, in Washington, doing editorial boards. It was an interesting, challenging, difficult time. I credit our institutions -- they could have taken the ESPN offer. They could have exercised the heavy, the risk associated with trying to start up.

"We could have failed. ESPN could have been so offended by it that maybe they wouldn't (work with us), but we ended up doing a nice deal with them, and we ended up having a cable network and we ended up maintaining a relationship with CBS. The rest is history. It's been, I think, an artistic success, a financial success and a promotional success."

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USA TODAY

 

Jim Delany doesn't play favorites, but he does, apparently, root for players who nearly maul him on the sideline.

The Big Ten Conference's commissioner laughs as he tells the story -- and, because he's hanging out in the Big Ten Network's green room, he figures he might as well ask if there's footage -- of the time he got laid out on the sideline by Nebraska wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr., about eight minutes before the Cornhuskers and Illinois kicked off Oct. 1.

"I got my hands up," Delany says, miming his self-defense. "And I got right up, but my ears were ringing a bit afterward. Coach (Mike) Riley came over to check on me. I told him, 'Check on No. 8.'"

Delany chuckles. He's serious as he asks -- again -- for BTN to look for the footage because he's rather proud of taking that hit. He's rooted for Morgan ever since; later, while watching Nebraska play Ohio State, he'll clap when Morgan hauls in a 26-yard catch for a first down in the first quarter.

Role of commissioner

This college football Saturday isn't necessarily typical for Delany because it keeps him at home in the Chicago area, but it touches on three areas that serve as a good starting point to explain Delany's unmatched impact on college athletics: a Big Ten football game; the Big Ten Network, his brainchild; and the Big Ten officiating command center.

He starts in Evanston, Ill., site of that day's game between Wisconsin and Northwestern, attending a brunch hosted by Northwestern President Morton Schapiro before spending the pregame on the sidelines greeting coaches and wishing them luck. In the second quarter, he visits Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez in his box; the first topic of conversation is the Big Ten's move to add Friday night games, which, despite some schools' public resistance, is happening beginning in 2017.

Delany gives Alvarez some information on the Friday games; he'll make sure to hand-deliver or mail the same details to all the conference's athletics directors. But for now he says farewell to Alvarez and leaves the former coach hollering at the field at missed tackles and big receptions alike.

"The role of a commissioner has changed a lot, but it's been evolutionary until I would say the last five to seven years," Delany says as he drives through Chicago on his way to the Big Ten's new office in Rosemont, Ill., which houses the officiating command center.

"We're managing more. It's more public. It's more national. There's more interest in football. The issues were all within our control for a long time. With the advent of more litigation, it narrows the issues that you have direct control over and moves your attention and resources to defending what you think is defensible and settling what you think you should settle... a series of existential threats you're thinking about regularly... while you still have to do all the transactions you do day in and day out, whether it's trading officials or doing television deals. Then it makes you very, very sensitive to the idea that there's some areas that you still have a lot of control over that you simply need to do better at."

Those include issues of reform, education, student-athlete time demands and enhancements that can now be made because of the autonomy of the Power Five conferences. The public nature of a commissioner's job is something that's grown immensely in recent years, starting with the advent of individual conference networks -- the first, the Big Ten Network, is approaching its 10th anniversary -- and including the chess-playing that was conference realignment, which created a new East Coast footprint for Delany's Big Ten. Social media also has amplified the voices of commissioners and athletics directors.

As television deals and their negotiations have grown to such lucrative levels, the commissioner's role has only taken on more importance. In the latest round of negotiations, Delany and the Big Ten landed a six-year deal with three partners in addition to the Big Ten Network: Fox, ESPN and CBS. It takes effect next year.

No slowing down

USA TODAY Sports reported in July that Delany plans to retire as commissioner in 2020. He has said publicly that he does not expect to be in his current role when the Big Ten's new television deal expires in six years.

Though he has a potential target retirement date, Delany shows no signs of slowing down. He remains focused on creating ways to reduce student-athlete time demands and increase player health and safety in an era of greater awareness of concussions and permanent brain damage. A midseason rule change this year forced football officials to stop play if any player goes down with a head or neck injury, even if no one knows what exactly happened live.

It's a topic that comes up later in the night as Delany sits in the Big Ten's officiating command center alongside his wife, Kitty, and coordinator of football officials Bill Carollo, who likes to show replays of controversial targeting calls to gauge the room's opinion before sharing his -- the right one.

Like the Big Ten Network's studio, this is a space Delany is quite proud of. If he's not in Columbus, Ohio, or Madison, Wis., or anywhere else for a game on a Saturday, he and Kitty stop by here to watch games, eat dinner and perhaps cap the night with a glass of red wine.

Earlier in the week, Delany said, he had all the Power Five commissioners in this very room to watch a World Series game. They'd ordered in platters of barbecue and taken in Game 6 together while breaking for actual business in between innings. Delany, a big Chicago Cubs fan, had attended Games 3 and 5 and had procured a World Series champion hat by this Saturday, a day after the Cubs' victory parade.

Before he sits down to dig into some of the same brisket and wings he'd had earlier in the week, Delany sees Nebraska's Morgan make a big catch. He claps and cheers and tells one of his favorite stories of the season again.

Ohio State will go on to win the game 62-3, another victory for a résumé that ultimately would earn the Buckeyes the No. 3 seed in the College Football Playoff. Though two other Big Ten teams rounded out the selection committee's top six, the league was unable to land a second team into the four-team field.

Delany was not necessarily keen on the idea of the Playoff at the beginning. Much like any endeavor that uproots the current system -- like a conference network or a more centralized officiating system, for example -- there is going to be doubt. But there might be unanticipated success.

Managing both has been and continues to be what makes Delany such a powerful figure in college athletics.

"There's risk," Delany said. "It's not perfect, but the fact of it is if you wait for the good, you don't make the good the enemy of the perfect. You do what you can do to move it forward and with that will come some criticism, because reasonable people can disagree."

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Copyright 2016 The Columbus Dispatch
All Rights Reserved

The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

 

The businessman wants no credit, and donates to the city from behind a cloak of anonymity. But, just so you know, he's the one to thank when your children jump off new diving boards into the local pool next summer.

And he is the one to thank for the pool's fresh paint, the new LED lights that will allow for night swims, the new steps. Well, you get the idea.

The man donated $30,000 this year to the city of London's Parks and Recreation Department to give its 78-year-old pool a facelift. And when he saw how much good it did, he pledged an additional $60,000.

Mayor Pat Closser said he knows how lucky London is, that not every small, rural community has businesspeople who write them checks. Given that just three years ago, the London City Council planned to close the pool because the budget had no money to maintain or operate it, Closser is especially grateful.

"The pool is never going to make us money, I know that," Closser said. "But it's a quality-of-life issue. We want more things for the kids to do."

When the pool was slated for closure in 2013, a dedicated group of residents pulled together and raised $30,000 in 30 days to keep it open. It has remained open since, but the nearly 80-year-old electrical system was barely hanging on, the concrete was crumbling and the city's aging water plant almost didn't even have enough capacity to fill it this year.

So fixing the infrastructure was the priority with that first donation, said Tammy Braskett, the city's parks and recreation director. She and the mayor are getting price quotes and putting together a proposal for the donor to see what they might be able to do with this second gift.

"We'd like a little bling now," Braskett said. She would like a fountain installed -- something resembling a mushroom, umbrella or water bucket -- and maybe a slide.

In fact, the city is trying to improve all its parks, including Cowling Park just up the street from the municipal pool. A local business is helping there, too: the associates of Stanley Electric US donated nearly $5,000 to pay for an inflatable screen and related projection equipment. There will be free movies in the park next summer.

The city also has $30,000 for the pool coming from the state's capital budget. All those grants and donations mean that Braskett can use the $43,000 or so she is budgeted for salaries and supplies, the way it should be, and not so much on maintenance.

She said she hopes to run a swim-lesson program, something she hasn't been able to do, and to raise the daily admission count from the usual 100 to 175.

"People expect a pool," Braskett said, "but we want people to drive by and see a pool that makes them say, 'I want to go in there and swim.'"

hzachariah@dispatch.com

@hollyzachariah

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Copyright 2016 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

Utah offensive lineman Isaac Asiata sat with his wife in their living room Sunday afternoon staring at his phone for more than an hour.

"I was on my phone, just refreshing twitter trying to figure out where we were going," Asiata said of what it was like waiting to see where the No. 19 Utes would play their bowl game. "I'm excited."

The postseason in college football is unlike any other in athletics.

For most sports, qualifying for postseason play means competing for a championship of some kind. In college football, however, only four teams are playing for a title, while the other 78 teams invited to a bowl game have to find their reasons in something other than a championship.

That includes BYU and Utah as they prepare to meet very different opponents in California bowl games.

The Cougars are preparing to meet Wyoming in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 21 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, while the Utes will face Indiana in the Foster Farms Bowl on Dec. 28 in Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

Coaches and players from both programs celebrated both the invites and the matchups as an opportunity for each program. But without a title on the line, why do teams covet bowl invites so much?

Actually, there is a long list of reasons starting with one that seems almost obvious - it's one more chance to compete.

Most sports offer dozens of opportunities to compete.

Last year, Utah's men's basketball team played 36 games, while BYU's men's basketball team played 37 contests.

Football, on the other hand, is limited to a 12-game season. That makes game-day experiences something special.

For seniors like Utah's Asiata and BYU's Jamaal Williams, there may be opportunities of playing in the NFL, but this will be the last time they get to take the field with the men who suffered, struggled and triumphed with them as they journeyed from game-playing boys to influence-wielding men.

"For me, just playing another game," said Asiata of what's most attractive about earning the opportunity to play in a bowl game. "I'm just excited to be with these guys again."

A chance to develop younger players

Preparing for a bowl game is almost a separate season for teams. It allows coaches to work with players for 20 hours a week for a few extra weeks - depending on when teams play their bowl games.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said it was an invaluable benefit for teams.

"It's almost like spring ball for those (younger) guys," he said of how the extra practices allow them to develop underclassmen.

It's a chance to show their mettle on a national stage

The beauty of the bowl system is that it can feature old rivalries (like last year's pairing of Utah and BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl) or rare matchups, like Utah taking on Indiana for the fourth time in school history. The last time the schools met was in 2002, when Whittingham was a defensive coordinator and Utah was a Mountain West power.

Because the schedule spreads the games out throughout the holidays, the teams each enjoy a moment in the national spotlight.

And, as any coach will tell you, it's an opportunity to make sure viewers remember who they are.

BYU started the season 1-3 under first-year head coach Kalani Sitake, while Utah went 4-0 in the preseason under veteran Whittingham. They finished with identical 8-4 records - BYU on a four-game winning streak and exceeding all expectations - while Utah dropped its final two games, erasing an opportunity to play for a Pac-12 championship and maybe more.

The bowl games will be for each school an opportunity to write an ending for their seasons that is as important as it could be impressive.

It's a unique and persuasive recruiting tool

California is a hot recruiting area for both BYU and Utah. In fact, Utah has more Californians on the roster than from any other state, including Utah.

Playing in an area where recruits live allows young players to see a program's success up close. They'll read about it in the paper, talk about it with their friends and watch it on local television.

Some recruits have a hard time seeing themselves at schools, even just a few hundred miles from home. Playing in a recruit's home state or town can make that leap seem so much smaller.

It's the best send-off for the seniors - and so much more than a game

Whittingham said that sending the seniors off "the right way" is one of the most attractive aspects of earning a bowl invite.

"That is the No. 1 objective in our program to get to a bowl game for the seniors," Whittingham said, pointing out that it means a team has won at least six games, "and hopefully they have had a good experience."

In an era where the best talent doesn't often stay in college for four years, both the Utes and Cougars have enjoyed seasons featuring tremendously talented seniors. For Utah that includes, Asiata, kicker Andy Phillips, lineman Hunter Dimick, cornerback Dominique Hatfield and senior wide receiver Tim Patrick.

For BYU, that includes running back Jamaal Williams, defensive back Kai Nacua, linebacker Harvey Langi and wide receiver Mitchell Jurgens. BYU quarterback Taysom Hill's season has ended, as it has three times before, with an injury. But the beauty of college bowl games is that they are so much more than a game for the participants.

Not only do players receive gifts, like watches, clothing and sports gear, they often have sightseeing and educational experiences that some players might not otherwise have.

And they do it as a team.

"It's not all about the game," said Utah quarterback Troy Williams. "It's a fun event for us to go be with the fellows, especially our seniors, one last time. We just want to go have fun and come out with the win."

The same guys who struggled side by side through winter strength workouts, spring conditioning drills, the monotony of film, the rigors of study hall, the joy of service projects and brutal realities of competition will be fortunate enough to share in one of the most unique traditions in all of college sports.

Asiata said earlier this year that most people don't understand the relentless demands of college athletes. When asked what sustained him through the toughest moments, he said it was his teammates.

Which is why the chance to share a few more weeks of the grind and the glory feels like such a gift.

Email: adonaldson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: adonsports

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Copyright 2016 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

The Heart of Dallas Bowl will be a rematch between two teams that played in October - and one of them is heading into the game with a 5-7 record.

Unusual? Yes. But scenarios like this simply come with the territory now.

With 80 bowl spots to fill, some postseason games ended up with odd matchups this year. North Texas will play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl after going 5-7, and the game will be a rematch against an Army team it met six weeks ago. Mississippi State is also going to a bowl at 5-7. The Bulldogs face Miami (Ohio) in the St. Petersburg Bowl.

"We're fortunate to have the opportunity," North Texas coach Seth Littrell said. "At the end of the day, we didn't even feel like we could get in this way, but we did, and so we're going to take it."

Hawaii is also heading to a bowl with a losing record. The Rainbow Warriors (6-7) will play in the Hawaii Bowl against Middle Tennessee. The reason some sub-.500 teams were given a reprieve is because there weren't enough eligible teams to fill all the spots.

That shortage also allows Army (6-5) and South Alabama (6-6) to go to bowls even though both have multiple wins over FCS schools. Teams are only supposed to count one FCS win for bowl eligibility purposes, but since there were openings, the Black Knights and Jaguars are in.

South Alabama faces Air Force in the Arizona Bowl. The Jaguars were supposed to play LSU in November, but that game was canceled when the Tigers needed to play a rescheduled game against Florida. South Alabama played Presbyterian instead and won, so that switch may have been the difference between reaching a bowl and missing the postseason.

There were sub-.500 teams in bowls last season too, so this may be the new normal in college football. North Texas and Mississippi State weren't exactly apologizing Sunday.

The Bulldogs' Twitter account boasted that Mississippi State is one of only five Southeastern Conference schools to reach a bowl every season this decade.

Since the Academic Progress Rate plays a role in which sub.-500 teams play on, coaches can take pride in that.

"This is a great opportunity for one of the winningest senior classes in school history and for our program to build momentum for 2017," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said in a statement. "It also speaks volumes of our student-athletes for their commitment in the classroom to qualify for a bowl based on our successful APR."

North Texas lost four of its last five games in the regular season, but reaching a bowl - no matter how it happened - is still a big step forward after the Mean Green went 1-11 in 2015.

North Texas won 35-18 at Army on Oct. 22. Regular-season rematches are rare in bowls, but there are some positives for the Heart of Dallas Bowl in this matchup. The bowl was supposed to match Conference USA against the Big Ten, but with one Big Ten team in the playoff and three more in New Year's Six bowls, there weren't enough left for every bowl with ties to the league.

"We know that Army is going to bring a large contingency because the Texas area is one of their hotbeds," said Brant Ringler, the bowl's executive director.

North Texas in Denton, of course, isn't far from Dallas. Ringler said that was appealing as well.

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Copyright 2016 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

The College Football Playoff has a numbers problem. As in, not enough of them.

The exclusion of Big Ten Conference champion Penn State makes the strongest case yet that a four-team Playoff is inadequate and needs to be expanded. Eight teams would allow a spot for each of the Power Five conference champions and leave room for other deserving teams, muting arguments such as the ones that raged Sunday.

The Big Ten champs will play in the Rose Bowl instead of facing No. 1 Alabama, so some would say the Nittany Lions actually fared better than if they'd made the Playoff.

But that's not the point.

The Big Ten had three teams in the top six of the selection committee's final rankings, cementing its status as the best conference. Yet its champion didn't make the Playoff, though a Big Ten team it beat did.

"The amount of teams that were worthy of this... I can name six, seven teams right now that are that quality of team," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said.

No one doubts the sincerity or the diligence that the committee puts into the selection process. The four teams that made the Playoff - Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington - are deserving. But these are subjective decisions, and strong arguments can be made that Penn State, Michigan, even Oklahoma are worthy, too.

"The purpose, the mission of the selection committee is to get the four very best teams in the country," chairman Kirby Hocutt said. "There are many factors that go into that discussion."

It doesn't help that the committee has been inconsistent, the importance it places on various criteria shifting from year to year. And how to account for the vagaries in conference alignment and scheduling over which the teams have no control?

"Every year is going to be different. Football seasons are like snowflakes, they're all different," Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said. "When we started the Playoff, people said this will grow the game. I said, 'This game is already off the charts in popularity.' But we have proven that this college football tree can grow. Indeed, grow to the sky."

To grow, though, trees need room to branch out. So, too, the College Football Playoff.

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Copyright 2016 Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
All Rights Reserved

Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

Tough decisions have to be made after a 5-0 start turned into an 8-4 finish with losses to South Carolina and Vanderbilt. The Vols didn't just lose games. They lost an SEC East championship that should have been theirs.

While Tennessee's football season was unraveling, you might have forgotten about such trivial matters as who's running the athletic department.

Technically, it's Dave Hart, now serving as a lame-duck athletic director. In that role, it's fine for him to help represent the program on a basketball junket to Hawaii. But it's not appropriate for him to make decisions that could impact the football team long-term.

Which begs the question: Why hasn't Tennessee already hired an athletic director.

It didn't need a search committee for that. Chattanooga athletic director David Blackburn is right down the road. Not only has he distinguished himself in that role, he worked in a variety of jobs in sports administration at UT for 20 years. He's a Tennessee guy and a football guy.

So why hasn't he been hired?

Maybe Tennessee is overthinking this. But given its long history of bad hires, don't rule out the possibility that it could botch this one, too, even though the choice seems so obvious.

Now that UT has hired Beverly Davenport as its new chancellor, you can't use the chancellor-must-come-before-the-athletic director excuse. She won't even go on the Tennessee clock until March 1. You can't wait that long to hire your next athletic director, not in light of what's happening with the football program.

Tough decisions have to be made after a 5-0 start turned into an 8-4 finish with losses to South Carolina and Vanderbilt. The Vols didn't just lose games. They lost an SEC East championship that should have been theirs.

Fourth-year coach Butch Jones' responses to the losses have made matters worse.

On the same Saturday that the Vols beat Missouri, Florida upset LSU to win the division. Jones minimized the divisional outcome, stressing the importance of going 1-0 that day.

All he had to say: "We're excited over another SEC win but terribly disappointed that we didn't win the division, especially since we beat the team that did."

Fans would have been OK with that. They weren't OK with "1-0."

An athletic director wouldn't have been, either. Perhaps he could have reminded the coach of the 2016 team's motto, which Jones stressed in preseason: "Own it."

Well, he didn't "own it" in press conferences. A good athletic director could have pointed that out.

Jones needs to change his approach in how he presents his program to fans. He also needs to make staff changes. A good athletic director could point that out, too.

And there's also the matter of Jones' contract. Surely, Jones and his agent will push for a contract extension, maybe even a raise. There needs to be an athletic director in place to say "no" on both counts.

Jones doesn't need a contract extension. He needs to make changes. Ultimately, all coaches do if they hope to achieve long-term success.

Much of what Jones has done has worked. He has turned Tennessee from a losing program into a winning one. His recruiting has raised UT's talent to its highest level since the program went south in 2008. And he has improved as a game manager from last season to this one.

However, his system isn't infallible, as he billed it in his introductory press conference at UT. Something is amiss when a team falters as badly down the stretch as this one, and when as many high-profile recruits have left the program in the past few years.

Jones needs help. And a lame-duck athletic director can't provide it.



John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or john.adams@knoxnews.com Follow him at Twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Chattanooga athletic director David Blackburn worked at Tennessee for nearly 20 years.
 
December 4, 2016
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2016 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

While Atlanta won't choose a new mayor until next November, the plan to spend millions in taxpayer dollars to renovate Philips Arena is revealing early differences among those looking to succeed Kasim Reed.

The dust-up over Philips Arena is a sign the mayor's race is finally capturing political oxygen in the wake of last month's presidential election. Taxpayer funding of arenas is highly controversial, with most economic studies finding they are not wise uses of public dollars, yet the Hawks deal also would be the third major publicly financed pro sports arena project in the Atlanta area in the past few years.

Candidates Cathy Woolard and Vincent Fort have come out swinging against the proposal, calling it a giveaway to a billionaire. Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms,

a key negotiator in the deal, is a hearty backer, while competitors including Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, Councilwoman Mary Norwood and businessman Peter Aman, have been more sanguine.

Bottoms, who threw her hat in the ring to run for mayor just days before news of the Hawks deal broke, is also head of the Atlanta-Fulton Recreational Authority that owns Philips and will recuse herself from voting. But she said the project would be a boon to Atlanta's hospitality community.

"It's not just about sports," she said. "It's an arena that has a lot going on. It's about being a good steward of a city-owned asset."

By contrast, Fort said recently, "This is another instance where billionaires are making out like nobody's business and the citizens of the city are getting very little in return."

Candidate Peter Aman, Reed's one-time chief operating officer, said there are a lot of questions that still need to be answered before anyone can back or reject the plan and wonders if some are jumping the gun.

"I believe in problem solving not scoring political points," he said.

Michael Leo Owens, a political science professor at Emory University, said candidates are jockeying for position in a crowded field, with opponents casting themselves as "defenders of the public purse."

In the case of Woolard, a former City Council president, Owens said she also is re-introducing herself to the electorate.

"This remains one of the big cleavages: To what degree should municipal revenue be devoted to private activity?" Owens said.

Though many voters are outspoken in their distaste for public arena funding, Reed suffered no political consequences for making a deal with the Falcons, cruising to re-election against weak competition. Key members of the city's electorate are what Owens called "pro-growth" voters.

Reed agreed to spend $142.5 million upfront on the Philips overhaul, mostly from car rental taxes. The Hawks committed to$50 million and agreed to extend their lease by 18 years to 2046. After current arena debt is paid off, the team would pay $5.9 million per year in annual rent through the life of the lease, which includes a $200 million "break-up fee" to keep the franchise from leaving.

A lure for development

The deal, which essentially will extend current car rental taxes being collected for infrastructure improvements near Philips, must be authorized by the City Council. Reed's office said a long-form version of the agreement is currently being drafted, with final terms expected to be ready in early January. Discussions with council members are expected to begin soon.

Reed calls the deal a lure for potentially $1.5 billion in additional development around the stadium and the nearby Gulch, a series of parking lots and massive under-developed tracts that leaders have long sought to turnaround.

The mayor, who is nearing the end of his two terms in office, has specifically mentioned Hawks owner Tony Ressler's brother, Richard Ressler, and his company CIM Group, as a candidate to spur downtown development.

Five Atlanta City Council members--Bottoms, Michael Julian Bond, potential mayoral candidate Kwanza Hall, Carla Smith and Ivory Young -- attended the Hawks announcement, a sign the deal has some support.

While others have hedged, Bottoms enthusiastically backs the plan, acknowledging that Philips' health is an important part of her day job. As a candidate, however, she said the city needs to avoid the loss of another sports team.

She said the upgrade also helps Philips stay competitive in attracting concerts and other events, lucrative business for city coffers and downtown restaurants, hotels and cab drivers.

Former council president Woolard denounced the public spending on sports teams during a press conference held outside Philips last month and called for vigorous debate on the proposal.

The Falcons project received $200 million in upfront financing backed by hotel-motel taxes, but when capital improvements and financing costs are factored in over time, the public portion could rise to $700 million. With the Hawks deal, long-term costs for both stadiums could approach $1 billion over the next three decades, Woolard said.

Attracting a Super Bowl and college sports championships, she said, isn't enough of a return on the public's investment.

"As a city we are assuming all of the risk for these investments and we are getting none of the revenue that comes as a result of that," she said. "I think that formula needs to be disrupted pretty tremendously."

Reed's office has pushed back on the criticism, assailing Woolard as "desparate" to gain traction for her campaign.

Norwood, who narrowly lost to Reed nearly eight years ago. said she needs more details of the Philips deal before rendering judgment.

"We all need to be thoughtful about the source of the funds," she said. "I don't have a real strong opinion about it."

Downtown and details

Mitchell, the current council president, said downtown needs investment as well as jobs and if the deal can do that, it's worth looking at. He also said the city has a responsibility to invest in the property as the part owner of the facility so some type of funding is going to be necessary to keep it competitive. The question is how much.

"Downtown is in need of a boost so we have to be intentional in these public-private partnerships," he said.

But he stopped short of staking a position, saying he preferred to wait for the authorization request when it comes before the City Council next year.

Aman, a former partner at Bain & Co. who also helped former Mayor Shirley Franklin develop a turnaround plan for the city, also said the details matter. Downtown revitalization and jobs are important, and there's also consideration about what losing the Hawks could mean to Atlanta.

"This is complicated," he said. "I don't know how you can be so definitive when we don't know enough."

Woolard said there was little risk of losing the Hawks after Cobb County Commission Chairman Tim Lee was ousted by voters following his deal with the Atlanta Braves.

"I'll call that bet," she said. "I'm not sure the NBA would let Atlanta not have a pro team. And what other jurisdiction in metro Atlanta is going to do this deal after Tim Lee lost [re-election] after the Braves deal?"

Fort also criticized the lack of a legally binding agreement that outlines how the Hawks or its partners must perform to see that dream of Gulch revitalization happen.

"Neighborhoods are hurting," he said. "This city is one of the worst for income immobility and we're pushing money into the pockets of billionaires."

 

PHILIPS ARENA DEAL

The Philips Arena renovation will be the third publicly financed pro sports arena project in the Atlanta area in recent years.

| Projected renovation cost: $192.5 million | Upfront taxpayer commitment: $142.5 million | Sources of public funding: An extension of the city's rental car tax, approved by state lawmakers earlier this year, and proceeds from Turner Field and other expected city land sales. A ticket surcharge for long-term maintenance costs.

| Expected long-term public costs: Interest and other long-term expenses not immediately known.

| Team costs: $50 million upfront, annual payments of $5.9 million starting in 2029, totaling more than $100 million. The team controls the naming rights revenue. The deal with Philips ends in 2019.

| Team commitments: 18-year lease extension, minority-and women-owned business commitments and $200 million breakup fee for early termination of the lease.

SOURCE: CITY OF ATLANTA

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Copyright 2016 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

CHAPECO, Brazil - On a rainy Saturday that only accentuated the grief, 20,000 people filled a tiny stadium under umbrellas and plastic ponchos to say goodbye to members of the Chapecoense soccer club who died in a plane crash.

The accident Monday in the Colombian Andes claimed most of the team's players and staff as it headed to the finals of one of Latin America's most important club tournaments. Seventy-one of the 77 people on board died, including 19 players on the team.

Rain-soaked mourners jammed the modest stadium with four or five times that many outside to pay homage to a modest club that nearly reached the pinnacle of Latin American soccer. In total, about half the population of the southern Brazilian city of 210,000 gathered.

Thousands also lined the roads as the coffins were driven in a procession from the airport to the stadium memorial.

"I've been here since early morning," said 19-year-old Chaiane Lorenzetti, who said she worked at a local supermarket frequented by club players and officials. "I'll never see some of my clients again. It's a devastating day that will last forever."

Soldiers wearing berets carried the coffins into the stadium on their shoulders, sloshing through standing water and mud on a field filled with funeral wreaths, club and national flags, and other tributes.

A tent, with the coffins placed underneath, stretched across the width of the soccer field. On top of the white tent, a sentence from the club's anthem was written for all to read.

"In happiness and in the most difficult hours," it said. "You are always a winner."

Family members and friends wept under the tents. Many hunched over the coffins with photos of the deceased placed on top or alongside as almost everything got splattered by the nonstop rain.

Brazilian President Michel Temer, who had not planned to visit the stadium for fear of being jeered, showed up after greeting the arrival of the bodies at the airport. He was treated respectfully and was joined by Gianni Infantino, the head of FIFA - the world governing body of soccer.

"This is a time for pain and suffering, not for talking," Infantino said. "No words can diminish the suffering."

Chapeco Mayor Luciano Buligon, like several speakers, praised the aid Colombia provided - along with the club Atletico Nacional, the team Chapecoense was to play in the two-game final.

"Atletico Nacional summed it all up on its website," the mayor said. "Atletico said Chapecoense came to Medellin with a dream, and it leaves a legend. Legends don't die."

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Copyright 2016 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

YMCA of the Inland Northwest plans to open a South Hill branch by mid-December, after agreeing to buy the business assets of a Gold'sGym operation from Dave and Alethea McCann.

YMCA spokeswoman Mary Berry said the organization will take over an existing lease for the roughly 17,000-square-foot facility at 2921 E. 57th Ave. The YMCA will continue to explore a possible capital campaign for a future full-size South Hill facility, she said.

A typical YMCA site here averaging 50,000 square feet has pools and a full gymnasium, Berry said. The Gold's Gym doesn't have a pool or gymnasium, but it offers a large space with cardio equipment, a free-weight area and a big group fitness studio.

The YMCA plans to add $250,000 in new fitness equipment. While offering regular fitness programs, it also will add a family activity area and offer child care. Other new options at the site will include summer day camps and a Livestrong program for cancer survivors.

Additional YMCA locations are in Spokane Valley, north Spokane and downtown.

SFCC plans athletic facilities upgrade

Spokane Falls Community College plans a $13.2 million update to athletic facilities scheduled to start later this month.

Plans call for a one-story structure that has locker rooms and related spaces to be demolished and replaced with a two-story addition to house new locker rooms, classes and faculty offices.

The project also will renovate a 23,700-square-foot competition gym and a 10,000-square-foot fitness center.

The gym will get new flooring and bleachers, as well as an update to the building's mechanical and electrical systems. All of the upgrades are expected to be done by summer 2018.

Integrus Architecture did the design work, and Lydig Construction is the contractor.

 

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Copyright 2016 The Buffalo News
All Rights Reserved

The Buffalo News (New York)

 

NIAGARA FALLS - For Niagara County football fans who don't want to drive to Orchard Park or want a less expensive alternative to watch live professional football, a new option may soon be coming your way.

Plans are in the works to bring arena football to Niagara Falls and possibly to Lockport.

Gladiator Sports and Entertainment met with the Niagara Falls City Council recently to detail its plans to bring professional indoor football to the Hyde Park Arena in Niagara Falls. Co-owner Bob Guenther said plans are for a team to be in place in Niagara Falls by 2017.

The league has invited local football players to team tryouts.

The team would not compete in the Arena Football League, the most prominent indoor professional football league, which has teams in Cleveland, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

Guenther said Gladiator has operated a professional indoor football team, the Buffalo Lightning, for the past four years and the Buffalo Gladiators semi-pro outdoor team for 25 years.

"The Buffalo Gladiators is the impetus for why we are in football today," said Guenther. "The two work hand-in-hand."

Guenther served as offensive coordinator for the minor-pro Gladiators, which co-partner John Augustine has quarterbacked for 20 years. During that span, Augustine was named league MVP eight times and the Gladiators won multiple championships. The Gladiators were named Minor-Pro Team of the Decade and Team of the Turn of the Century.

Augustine played European professional football and was All-America at SUNY Buffalo State. He holds a number of passing records in the minor-pro league. He is now a business teacher and coach at Lafayette High School.

Guenther, also a former quarterback and coach in high school, is the co-owner of Super Price Shoppers on Genesee Street, Buffalo.

Arena football is commonly played on artificial turf placed on the concrete of ice arenas. The smaller fields, half the size of a regulation professional field, makes for a higher-scoring game with no punting allowed.

Augustine said three offensive players are allowed to be in motion, rather than one. And rather than kicking the ball on fourth downs, the team has to go for the touchdown or try for a field goal. He said 50-point games are not uncommon.

Augustine was a quarterback for the Lockport Invaders, a minor semi-pro team, during the early 1990s. He said through that experience, both he and Guenther made Lockport connections with Miles Patterson and John Lombardi. He said they are working with them to bring a team to Lockport.

"We don't have a definite agreement yet. There's a couple locations there," Augustine said of Lockport.

He said the former ice arena at the Kenan Center and the new Cornerstone Arena, which has two ice arenas, would be likely contenders.

Gladiator Sports and Entertainment also brings celebrities, including wrestlers and former Buffalo Bills players, to games.

The Buffalo Lightning played its home games in 2016 at Cattaraugus Community Center in Irving. Augustine said most Buffalo Lightning home games were sellouts in an arena that has about 500 seats. The team is looking at larger sites that could accommodate 1,000 to 1,500 spectators. Guenther said the Buffalo team is moving to the arena at Buffalo RiverWorks.

With the move, plans are to change the name of the Buffalo Lightning. To that end, there will be contests to name the team and create a new team logo.

Guenther asked the Niagara Falls City Council for $45,000 in financial support toward the artificial turf and equipment. The turf alone can cost as much as $75,000 and helmets run about $250 apiece.

"We put a ton of money into the Buffalo team and are looking for a little help to bring a team to Niagara Falls," Augustine said after the meeting.

The Council has not approved funding for the venture. Also, an agreement has not been negotiated to lease Hyde Park Arena from the city.

Guenther said arena football would fill a hole in programming at Hyde Park Arena after April when there's nothing going on.

"We can kind of fill a spot there and create some excitement and entertainment," Guenther told the Council.

email: nfischer@buffnews.com

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Copyright 2016 Charleston Newspapers

Charleston Gazette-Mail

 

For anyone that doesn't think facilities and resources aren't a big deal to college athletic programs below the NCAA Division I level, they aren't paying attention to the Kanawha Valley.

They should head over to the University of Charleston at 10:30 Saturday morning to watch the ribbon cutting for the Wehrle Innovation Center. It's a building that will be many things for UC's campus, but among them, it will be the new headquarters for Golden Eagles athletics.

The men's and women's basketball teams will play there, as will the men's and women's volleyball teams. The athletic department's offices finally will all sit under the same roof.

They also can head over to Institute and the campus of West Virginia State University. There, they can walk through the Walker Convocation Center, the home of the Yellow Jackets basketball and volleyball teams. They can walk down to the football field and see the Monroe Athletic Complex. The Walker Center opened in 2014, the Monroe Complex in 2015.

All are bright, shining examples of the two universities' devotion to improving the resources in their athletic departments.

Make no mistake, the arms race in college athletics absolutely trickles down to the Division II level and lower. UC and State's coaches travel the country, both in and out of season. They see what other programs at the their level have.

UC football coach Pat Kirkland has seen Division II facilities with indoor practice fields and weight rooms the size of gymnasiums.

"You'd be amazed at what I saw, he said earlier this year.

Division II programs are just as focused on attracting the best talent from around the country as their larger counterparts. UC's football roster includes players from Florida, New York and Nevada. WVSU's football roster includes players from Georgia, Illinois and California.

Marshall football coach Doc Holliday, known for decades as a premier recruiter, has a saying he often uses when talking about wooing prospects - "Kids buy with their eyes. They want to see things that are new, exciting and innovative. And, for the most part, so do their families.

They may want to see those things for different reasons. The kids don't want to be stuck in the same-old. They want shiny and new. Parents and families? They want to see commitment. It's one thing for a coach to say he or she wants the best for their son or daughter. It's another thing to show it.

Kids and parents both get that when they hit UC or West Virginia State's campuses. They see a commitment to improving, a commitment to staying relevant.

Now, they likely won't visit a Division II school and see a barber shop, like Oregon has in its football facility. They probably won't see an indoor waterfall like in Ohio State's facilities. But they will see updated locker rooms and offices and new equipment that show both kids and parents that athletics on these campuses aren't viewed as afterthoughts.

The spotlight might not be as bright on Division II athletics as it is their major Division I counterparts, but that doesn't mean those D-II athletes shouldn't get their chance to shine.

Contact Derek Redd at 304-348-1712 or derek.redd@wvgazettemail.com Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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Copyright 2016 Tribune Review Publishing Company
All Rights Reserved

Tribune-Review (Greensburg, PA)

 

The Steelers-Giants storylines have centered on quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning and receivers Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr., but this is a week where their feats shouldn't overshadow the players' feet.

Roethlisberger will wear custom cleats with the badge number of Rocco, the Pittsburgh Police K-9 officer killed in the line of duty in January 2014, and an image of a German shepherd.

Cornerback Will Gay will wear purple cleats to raise awareness for domestic violence, honoring the mother he lost as an 8-year-old when she was fatally shot by his stepfather.

Their stories will be showcased through the NFL's "My Cleats, My Cause" campaign, in which players will wear custom cleats Sunday in support of their foundation or favorite charity.

"Any time to get you an opportunity to bring attention to a stage like the NFL, that's always great," said Gay, who supports the Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. "But that's just the first step. It's bigger than the cleats. If the cleats get people to actually start talking about it and actually start writing about it, then that's cool. The issues that people are putting out there are bigger than the cleats.

"It's personal, but it's bigger than me. As long as we continue to do that, and make it bigger than us, the world will be a better place. I'm wearing the cleats not only for my mother but many survivors and people that are going through it right now that don't know where to go."

It's not just to raise awareness but funds, as players can auction their cleats at nflauction.nfl.com "" and 100 percent of the proceeds will be donated to the charities of their choice.

Unfortunately, the NFL limits the "My Cleats, My Cause" campaign to one week of the season. In the height of hypocrisy, the league previously fined to players for such displays.

The NFL fined Gay $5,787 for wearing the purple cleats in violation of its stringent uniform policy. It also fined running back DeAngelo Williams and prevented him from wearing pink all season long instead of just October to raise awareness for breast cancer, which claimed the lives of his mother and four aunts.

The league did the same to stop defensive end Cam Heyward from wearing "Iron Head," in honor of his late father, on his EyeBlack strips "" despite a deal he had to sell strips to raise money for Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation.

What a shame that Williams and Heyward have custom shoes but won't be able to play in them against the Giants because of injuries.

"I think it's a great way for guys to express themselves, show what they care about and what's dear to their heart," Heyward said. "Even though it's individualized, it makes the players more like a group. We're different in all different ways, but we all have stuff we care about. With (the NFL) being cautious about it, they found a great way to screen everything, show why we did it, and I think everybody benefits from it."

But, again, why does the NFL limit it to one week?

"So much of it is the league has their way or the highway," Roethlisberger said. "It's a fine line you walk. You never know what you're going to get from guys. Where you could get in trouble is if somebody was doing a different cause every week. If you pick something for the whole year, it would be great. I see where it could be tricky, but I think it's great that the league is letting us do it for one week."

Gay believes NFL players can use their celebrity to make a difference for their cause, even without custom cleats.

"It's bigger than football. It's bigger than wearing cleats. I'm proud that the NFL is doing it, but this doesn't have to stop whatever it is you're supporting behind closed doors," Gay said. "You don't need to wear your cleats every Sunday to show your awareness. No, use your voice. You've still got a platform. Your name is still tagged along with the team you play for and the position you play at the highest level of your sport. That's the thing that we should do bigger than just wearing our cleats "" to get involved."

That's a cause we can all get behind, without the NFL's permission.

Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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Copyright 2016 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
All Rights Reserved

The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

The issue is distance.

For Holy Spirit boys' basketball coach Jamie Gillespie, it's literal: The miles his team and others have to travel on winter roads to play early-round games in the non-public South B tournament.

For Camden Catholic football coach Nick Strom, it's figurative: The competitive chasm between his team and other larger-school, non-public programs in South Jersey and Central Jersey and the national-caliber squads in the northern part of the state.

Gillespie and Strom both are pulling hard for two proposals that would change the playoff format in non-public sports if passed by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association's general membership on Monday.

The votes on the two proposals, one to significantly change the state tournament in non-public football and the other to tweak the state tournament in non-public boys' and girls' basketball, are the big items on the agenda for the NJSIAA's annual meeting at the Pines Manor in Edison, Middlesex County.

A majority of the number of votes cast is required for passage of the proposals, both of which originated in South Jersey.

Gillespie, who authored the plan to change the non-public basketball tournament, said he is "kind of in the dark" on the chances of passage since both proposals have no direct impact on public schools.

"These are issues that don't apply to the masses," Gillespie said. "We're just hoping, from our standpoint, that people can put themselves in our shoes and say, 'If this was affecting us, what would we want?' "

Travel issues

Gillespie's plan calls for the expansion of the non-public state tournament in boys' and girls' basketball to include four sections in Group A and four sections in Group B - South, Central, North 1 and North 2.

That's the existing format for public-school boys' and girls' basketball.

But in non-public, the existing format features South A and North A and South B and South A, creating travel issues in the early rounds.

"Wildwood Catholic had to travel, in the snow, to Gill St. Bernard [in Gladstone, Somerset County] last year," Gillespie said. "It took them 2 hours and 45 minutes. They didn't get home to 1 o'clock in the morning."

Gillespie knows his team and Wildwood Catholic, both of which are strong small-school programs, have stood little chance of winning a sectional title in recent years because powerhouse teams such as Gill St. Bernard, Roselle Catholic and Patrick School have been classified in South B.

But Gillespie said the impetus for his proposal wasn't a push for competitive balance as much an effort to alleviate travel hardships.

"St. Mary's of Elizabeth has had to travel to Wildwood Catholic twice in recent years," Gillespie said. "It's just a hardship that doesn't apply to schools in any other bracket."

Under the basketball proposal, a South A field likely would include teams such as St. Augustine, Paul VI, Bishop Eustace, Camden Catholic, Bishop Ahr, Christian Brothers, Notre Dame, Donovan Catholic and St. Joseph of Metuchen, with some adjustments.

The South B field likely would include Holy Spirit, Wildwood Catholic, Gloucester Catholic, Holy Cross, St. Joseph of Hammonton, Doane Academy, St. Rose, Trenton Catholic and Moorestown Friends, with some adjustments.

The South champion would play the Central champion, and the North 1 champion would play the North 2 champion in the state semifinals, in a mirror of the public-school format.

The semifinal winners would meet in the state finals.

"It should help the NJSIAA financially because you are having four sectional title games instead of two, and you should draw better crowds in the early rounds because you have a greater chance of nearby rivals playing each other," Gillespie said.

If passed, the proposal for changes to the non-public state tournaments in boys' and girls' basketball would take effect for the 2017-18 season.

'Critical mass'

The West Jersey Football League's proposal regarding the non-public football state tournament represents a much more drastic change, with the elimination of state championship games.

The change would take effective for the 2017 football season if passed by a majority vote.

Strom and others believe the time has come to stop forcing South Jersey and Central Jersey teams to travel long distances for first-round games against far superior teams in such a physical sport.

"Things have reached a critical mass," Strom said of the disparity between the larger non-public football programs in North Jersey and those in South and Central Jersey. "You're talking about setting kids up to fail."

The WJFL proposal would return non-public tournament football to sectional play for the first time since 1992, with competition for champions in South A and South B and North A and North B.

The proposal would eliminate the current format, in which there are three, state-wide non-public groups with teams competing for state championships.

"It's a fairness issue," said WJFL president Bud Kowal, the athletic director at Ewing. "And it's a problem with travel as well."

Not all non-public schools in South Jersey are supportive of the WJFL's proposal.

St. Augustine coach Mark Reardon, whose team has struggled to compete with North Jersey superpower programs such as Bergen Catholic, Paramus Catholic, St. Peter's Prep and Don Bosco Prep, is strongly opposed to changing non-public football to a sectional format.

"I have no interest in winning a sectional title," Reardon said.

Reardon believes competing in the state tournament against national-caliber teams raises the bar for his program and will continue to drive the Hermits to develop into a stronger squad.

"It's a blessing," Reardon said. "It's our challenge, but I believe it makes us better, knowing those are the teams we have to compete against."

St. Joseph coach Paul Sacco, whose team had won seven straight state titles at the smaller non-public level before losing this season in the non-public 2 semifinals, also believes that the current format works in favor of strengthening his program.

"Our focus has been on trying to win a state title," Sacco said.

Holy Spirit also has enjoyed success in the current format. The Spartans won state titles in 2007 and 2010 in non-public 3 and 2011 and 2012 in non-public 2 and will compete for the non-public 2 crown vs. Mater Dei Prep Saturday at Kean University.

Holy Cross Academy coach Frank Holmes doesn't think change will have much impact on his program, which competes in non-public 2.

"It looks like we're be playing the same teams," Holmes said.

Paul VI athletic director Tony Mitchell believes a change is necessary to "create a level playing field" for the Eagles and other programs that have been forced to compete against the best North Jersey programs.

"It's just not fair," Mitchell said. "That's a different level. It's a safety issue. It's a fairness issue. And the travel is an issue, too."

Camden Catholic usually is classified in non-public 3. Although the Irish avoid programs such as Bergen Catholic, Paramus Catholic, Don Bosco Prep and St. Peter's Prep, the Cherry Hill school's playoff bracket usually includes powerhouse teams such as St. Joseph of Montvale and DePaul Catholic.

"You leave those games like a M.A.S.H. unit," Strom said.

Strom believes the North Jersey superpower programs have an unfair advantage because of the resources they devote to football, the national-caliber games on their schedules and the large population centers from which they can draw student athletes.

St. Peter's Prep, for example, recently built a 15,000-square-foot athletic complex at the cost of $5.25 million.

"Nobody in South Jersey is doing anything like that," Strom said.

Before the recent non-public 3 state tournament, Bishop Eustace, Donovan Catholic and Pingry all opted not to participate, leaving just seven teams in the field and giving St. Joseph of Montvale, the top seed, a first-round bye.

"That's not going to change," Strom said. "With the struggling population of some parochial schools, it could get to a critical situation. You could see some schools struggling even to field a football team."

Bishop Eustace coach Rob Cormier, a strong proponent of the proposed change, believes that playing state tournament games against physically imposing teams such as St. Joseph of Montvale and DePaul Catholic threatens the viability of his program.

"It's just not realistic," Cormier has said of competing against some of the North Jersey powerhouse teams.

Under the WJFL proposal, a South A bracket likely would include teams such as St. Augustine, Paul VI, Camden Catholic, Notre Dame, St. John Vianney, St. Joseph of Metuchen, Red Bank Catholic, Donovan Catholic and Bishop Ahr, with some adjustments.

A South B bracket likely would include teams such as Holy Spirit, St. Joseph of Hammonton, Holy Cross, Mater Dei, Gloucester Catholic, Bishop Eustace, Immaculata, St. Anthony and Pingry, with some adjustments.

Strom believes the change would be a money-maker for the NJSIAA, with four championship games instead of three.

"Think about the crowd you would draw to Rowan if you had a doubleheader with St. Augustine vs. Paul VI and St. Joe's vs. Holy Spirit," Strom said. "It's time to get back to that."

panastasia@phillynews.com

@PhilAnastasia

www.philly.com/jerseysidesports

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Copyright 2016 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

USA TODAY

 

Between their teams' success so far and what they can still accomplish in this weekend's conference championship games and the College Football Playoff, four head coaches have a chance to end up with $1 million or more in bonuses.

And that's without counting awards for coach of the year honors or meeting other goals.

Because of adjustments to his contract that occurred after his team's run to last season's CFP title game, Clemson's Dabo Swinney already is in position to receive $300,000 in bonuses as long as the team's final NCAA Academic Progress Rate is at least 950 -- which is anticipated, Clemson athletics spokesman Joe Galbraith said Thursday.

If the Tigers defeat Virginia Tech for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship Saturday and go on to win the national title, Swinney's bonus total will grow to $1.4 million.

The coaches in Friday night's Pac-12 title game also have a chance for $1 million in on-field bonuses.

Washington's Chris Petersen has secured $125,000 so far, but he would reach $1 million by reaching the CFP final and get another $500,000 for winning it.

Colorado's Mike MacIntyre has picked up $375,000 and does not get an additional amount specifically for the Pac-12 title, although it would guarantee the additional $50,000 he gets if his team plays in any of the six bowl games affiliated with the CFP.

Penn State's James Franklin can get a maximum of $1 million in bonuses of any kind in any one year, according to the financial term sheet the university released when he was hired in January 2014. (Under Pennsylvania law, Penn State is not required to release Franklin's contract, and it has not done so.)

He already has secured $550,000 in bonuses, including $100,000 for a Big Ten coach of the year award. He would reach $950,000 with wins in the Big Ten title game and a CFP semifinal. If not for the $1 million cap, Franklin would have been able to exceed that amount with a national title.

Below are details of bonuses achieved and available to head coaches whose teams are in contention for the CFP semifinals, based on documents obtained by USA TODAY Sports.

Clemson's Dabo Swinney

HAS ...

$75,000: Play in non-CFP bowl game

$75,000: Play in ACC title game

$150,000: 11 regular-season wins

CAN GET...

$75,000: Win ACC title

One of the following:

-- $125,000: Play in CFP non-semifinal, which includes the Orange, Cotton, Rose and Sugar bowls

-- $325,000: Play in CFP semifinal

One of the following:

-- $100,000: Win CFP non-semifinal

-- $400,000: Win CFP semifinal

$100,000: Win CFP title game

One of the following, based on team's ranking in the final Amway Coaches or AP poll:

-- $50,000: No. 15-11

-- $100,000: No. 10-6

-- $200,000: Top five

Alabama's Nick Saban

HAS...

$75,000: Play in Southeastern Conference title game

$90,000: Play in Citrus, Outback, TaxSlayer, Music City, Texas, Belk or Liberty bowls

CAN GET...

$50,000: Win SEC title

One of the following:

-- $35,000: Play in CFP non-semifinal

-- $110,000: Play in CFP semifinal

-- $210,000: Play in CFP title game

-- $310,000: Win CFP title

Ohio State's Urban Meyer

HAS...

$50,000: Big Ten East Division co-champ

CAN GET...

One of the following:

-- $200,000: Play in CFP non-semifinal

-- $250,000: Play in CFP semifinal

-- $350,000: Play in CFP title game

Washington's Chris Petersen

HAS...

$50,000: Play in Pac-12 title game

$75,000: Play in any bowl game

CAN GET...

$100,000: Win Pac-12 title

One of the following:

-- $75,000: Play in non-CFP bowl game as first or second team selected from Pac-12

-- $225,000: Play in CFP non-semifinal

-- $325,000: Play in CFP semifinal

One of the following:

-- $450,000: Play in CFP title game

-- $500,000: Win CFP title

Michigan's Jim Harbaugh

HAS...

None

CAN GET...

One of the following:

-- $200,000: Play in CFP non-semifinal

-- $300,000: Play in CFP semifinal

$500,000: Win CFP title game

Wisconsin's Paul Chryst

HAS...

$40,000: Play in Big Ten title game

$100,000: Play in Outback, Citrus, Holiday or TaxSlayer bowls

CAN GET...

$50,000: Win Big Ten title

$50,000: Play in any CFP bowl game

One of the following:

-- $50,000: Win CFP non-semifinal

-- $100,000: Play in CFP title game

$50,000: Win CFP title

Penn State's James Franklin

HAS...

$250,000: Play in Big Ten title game

$200,000: Play in any bowl game

CAN GET (subject to maximum of $1 million)...

$100,000: Win Big Ten title

One of the following:

-- $100,000: Play in CFP non-semifinal

-- $200,000: Play in CFP semifinal

$100,000: Play in CFP title game

$300,000: Win CFP title game

Colorado's Mike MacIntyre

HAS...

$200,000: Play in non-CFP bowl game

$50,000: Win seven regular-season games

$25,000: Win eight regular-season games

$100,000: Play in Pac-12 title game

CAN GET...

$50,000: Play in any CFP bowl game

$750,000: Win CFP title game

Note: The bonus language of some contracts has not been updated to reflect the College Football Playoff. Schools whose contracts still mention the Bowl Championship Series were given the opportunity to advise USA TODAY Sports of how they are interpreting those provisions in the context of the CFP.

This does not take into account contingencies that could alter or prevent payment of bonuses (i.e. academic achievement, coach's departure, future investigations and/or sanctions). Does not include bonuses for coaching honors, team academics/citizenship/community service, or the value of tickets and perks tied to participation in postseason games.

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Copyright 2016 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

While Eastern Washington considers its options, other FCS schools have moved decisively toward expanding their football facilities with relatively modest expenditures.

At Illinois State in 2011, president Al Bowman called 48-year-old Hancock Stadium an "eyesore" and announced plans for renovation and expansion.

Funding for the $20 million project came mostly from the retirement of student fees that paid for ISU's basketball arena. Construction began swiftly, adding roughly 7,000 seats to increase capacity to 14,000, while adding a new east-side grandstand with a luxury suites and an outdoor terrace area.

Two years later, in 2013, the new Hancock Stadium opened to rave reviews.

Likewise, New Hampshire needed just two years to go from proposal to fruition for its expansion and modernization of Cowell Stadium.

On Jan. 31, 2014, the school announced plans to build the $25 million athletic complex as part of the campus master plan. That summer, after the University successfully raised $5 million in private donations, the University System of New Hampshire board of trustees approved the project.

Now called Wildcat Stadium, it has a seating capacity of 11,015 - up from 6,500. The new building has four suites, 512 club seats, 864 box seats and a sound system with 14 speakers, compared to one speaker in the old stadium.

The $25 million price tag was met with about $5 million in private donations. The other $20 million was raised by borrowing from cash reserves and repaying the loan from expected revenue increases from the new facility.

The new stadium opened this fall.

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Former USC running back Joe McKnight died Thursday afternoon in a shooting in Terrytown, Louisiana, according to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's office. McKnight was 28.

McKnight, who played for the Trojans for three seasons, had four seasons in the NFL and played in the Canadian Football League this fall, was shot and killed at 2:43 p.m. local time at the intersection at Berman Highway and Holmes Boulevard in Terrytown, a New Orleans suburb near his hometown of River Ridge. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

A police spokesman described it as a possible road rage incident. A suspect, Ronald Gasser, 54, was later taken into custody for questioning by detectives.

The New Orleans Times Picayune reported an account from a eyewitness who was at the intersection. The witness, who did not provide a name, told the newspaper that one man was yelling at a second man, who was trying to apologize during the argument. Then he fired his weapon and stood over the second man. "I told you don't you %@$& with me," he reportedly said before shooting at him again.

It was not said what started the incident.

The USC athletic department wrote on its Twitter account: "#FightOnForever Joe McKnight."

Pete Carroll, McKnight's coach at USC, tweeted, "Deeply saddened by the loss of Joe McKnight. This is a terrible tragedy. Everyone loved Joe and we are going to really miss him."

McKnight was with the Trojans from 2007-09. He ran for 1,014 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior before he bypassed his senior season to enter the NFL draft. He had missed the final game in 2009, a win over Boston College in the Emerald Bowl, while ineligible. The school was investigating potential NCAA rules violations.

He amassed 2,213 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. He also caught 66 passes in his college career for 542 yards and two touchdowns.

McKnight went to John Curtis Christian High School in River Ridge before he arrived at USC as a celebrated five-star recruit, billed the next Reggie Bush for his smooth running style and ability to elude potential tacklers.

But he failed to match the hype and the comparisons to Bush, who won the Heisman Trophy two years before McKnight arrived on campus, a struggle he discussed during his college years.

"It's not the fans' fault, they just want success for their team," McKnight said. "It took me a while to get that out of my head."

The New York Jets selected McKnight in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft. He spent three seasons with New York, rushing for 502 yards in 39 games. He started once as a rookie.

His final NFL season was in 2014 when he appeared in two games for the Kansas City Chiefs before he tore his anterior cruciate ligament. He was cut before the 2015 season.

McKnight played in the Canadian Football League, including a stint with the Edmonton Eskimos and Saskatchewan Roughriders this fall.

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The Daily News of Los Angeles

 

Former USC running back Joe McKnight died Thursday afternoon in a shooting in Terrytown, Louisiana, according to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's office. McKnight was 28.

McKnight, who played for the Trojans for three seasons, had four seasons in the NFL and played in the Canadian Football League this fall, was shot and killed at 2:43 p.m. local time at the intersection at Berman Highway and Holmes Boulevard in Terrytown, a New Orleans suburb near his hometown of River Ridge. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

A police spokesman described it as a possible road rage incident. A suspect, Ronald Gasser, 54, was later taken into custody for questioning by detectives.

The New Orleans Times Picayune reported an account from a eyewitness who was at the intersection. The witness, who did not provide a name, told the newspaper that one man was yelling at a second man, who was trying to apologize during the argument. Then he fired his weapon and stood over the second man. "I told you don't you %@$& with me," he reportedly said before shooting at him again.

It was not said what started the incident.

The USC athletic department wrote on its Twitter account: "#FightOnForever Joe McKnight."

Pete Carroll, McKnight's coach at USC, tweeted, "Deeply saddened by the loss of Joe McKnight. This is a terrible tragedy. Everyone loved Joe and we are going to really miss him."

McKnight was with the Trojans from 2007-09. He ran for 1,014 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior before he bypassed his senior season to enter the NFL draft. He had missed the final game in 2009, a win over Boston College in the Emerald Bowl, while ineligible. The school was investigating potential NCAA rules violations.

He amassed 2,213 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. He also caught 66 passes in his college career for 542 yards and two touchdowns.

McKnight went to John Curtis Christian High School in River Ridge before he arrived at USC as a celebrated five-star recruit, billed the next Reggie Bush for his smooth running style and ability to elude potential tacklers.

But he failed to match the hype and the comparisons to Bush, who won the Heisman Trophy two years before McKnight arrived on campus, a struggle he discussed during his college years.

"It's not the fans' fault, they just want success for their team," McKnight said. "It took me a while to get that out of my head."

The New York Jets selected McKnight in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft. He spent three seasons with New York, rushing for 502 yards in 39 games. He started once as a rookie.

His final NFL season was in 2014 when he appeared in two games for the Kansas City Chiefs before he tore his anterior cruciate ligament. He was cut before the 2015 season.

McKnight played in the Canadian Football League, including a stint with the Edmonton Eskimos and Saskatchewan Roughriders this fall.

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USA TODAY

 

There is a new collective bargaining agreement, with plenty of new wrinkles, but unless you count the personal chefs now required in each clubhouse, there will be no dramatic changes to the game of baseball as we know it.

The rich will stay rich, the poor will stay poor, the marquee free agents still will financially set every branch of their family tree up for life, and the pitch clock will stay unplugged in the closet.

The New York Yankees, who might be the biggest winners in the new agreement, vowed Thursday to restrain themselves, at least until the 2018 free agent class when they try to sign everyone from Bryce Harper to Manny Machado. The Los Angeles Dodgers, thanks to severe luxury tax penalties, will still spend like the Dodgers, shopping at Walmart instead of Neiman-Marcus.

And the Oakland Athletics, with no more subsidies from their rich neighbors, will be even more broke, watching their best players win World Series and MVP awards for other teams.

It will take time, of course, to fully digest baseball's new CBA, with the owners expected to vote on it Dec.13. But after listening to grumblings by agents, players and owners, it sure looks like an ideal agreement.

Here's a look at the winners and losers of baseball's new labor agreement -- guaranteeing an unprecedented streak of 26 consecutive years of labor peace.

Winner: The Yankees. Sitting in the country's No.1 market as America's marquee team, they no longer are required to pay a multiplier in revenue sharing, where they paid an extra 15% more than other teams. Oh, and as a bonus, they can fully deduct expenses from their new ballpark from the revenue-sharing bill. All in all, one Yankees official revealed, it could be an annual savings of $15 million to $20 million.

Loser: The Dodgers. If they don't slash their payroll by the 2018 season, they can be hit with a tax rate of 92% -- 50% for being a repeat violator and a 42% surtax for being at least $40million over the threshold, which starts at $195million next year. You're talking about a potential tax bill of about $70million.

Loser: The Athletics. They not only are stuck playing in a dump, but now they don't have anyone to pay their mortgage. The A's, who had been receiving about $34million in revenue sharing, now won't get a dime within three years since they reside in one of baseball's biggest marketplaces.

Winners: Chicago Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta and every other marquee free agent in the Class of 2017. Teams no longer are required to surrender a first-round pick to sign free agents and can't lose more than second- and fifth-round picks, even if already over the luxury tax. Kansas City Royals stars Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain quickly will learn how much money is out there for their services for free agency after 2018.

Loser: Jose Bautista, along with perhaps Mark Trumbo, Ian Desmond and others who rejected the $17.2million qualifying offer. The CBA came along a year too late for them. Why surrender a first-round pick for these guys now when you can wait a year and not sacrifice any? Players no longer can be subjected to qualifying offers more than once in the new CBA -- a stipulation that came a year too late for Desmond. So do these players take a one-year deal now and hit the market again?

Winner: Japan. The Japanese leagues not only can hang on to their stars until they're 25, but they get rich themselves in posting fees. They also might have a nice influx of young talent. Considering young Latin American amateurs no longer can receive contracts in excess of about $5million, several agents predict an exodus to Japan, where they can hone their crafts and get that huge payday after proving themselves there.

Loser: Shohei Otani, Japan's version of Babe Ruth with his 1.86 ERA and 22 homers. He tentatively was planning to leave Japan and come to the USA after next season. But with international rules requiring professional players to be at least 25 if they want unrestricted free agency, he will now wait until 2019, when he can hit a $200million jackpot rather than be limited to a $6million bonus. It's possible the rule could be tweaked for Otani with a new posting deal, but it's unlikely.

Winner: Established major league players tired of watching teams throw away money on amateur players who turned out to be busts. Say goodbye to those $72.5million deals that Rusney Castillo got from the Boston Red Sox and the $31.5million signing bonus the Red Sox paid to Yoan Moncada. The way the union figures it, the money saved in the amateur market will now be paid to veteran major league players.

Loser: The international amateur market and its agents, who made a killing in free agency. Teams now have the first international salary cap in CBA history and are restricted from spending more than $4.75million to $5.75million a year on foreign amateur players, depending on market size. The San Diego Padres spent about $35million on international amateur players last year.

Winner: The July31 trade deadline. Now that teams no longer can receive first-round picks by hanging on to their free agents until the end of the season, there will be a stronger urge to trade them at the deadline.

Loser: The tanking philosophy. Teams no longer can lose games on purpose for the goal of getting the No.1 pick and receiving a huge bump in draft dollars than having the No.2 or No.3 pick. The difference between last year's first pick and third pick was $2.5million. Those days are over with the slot-money allocations now flattened.

Winner: Foodies. For the first time in baseball history, every home clubhouse must employ a personal chef. The clubhouse attendants will gladly pass their cooking aprons to professionals.

Loser: The All-Star Game. The players spoke, and MLB listened, abolishing the 14-year experiment that the winner of the All-Star Game would determine home-field advantage. Now, home-field advantage will be determined by the World Series team with the best regular-season record. Every winning player in the All-Star Game will instead get cold, hard cash. We'll see if it affects the game's competitiveness.

Winner: Tony Gwynn's legacy. Gwynn, who died of salivary cancer after using smokeless tobacco during his Hall of Fame career, would be thrilled seeing the first ban of smokeless tobacco at the major league level. Veteran players are grandfathered in, so within 15 to 20 years there won't be a soul chewing tobacco in a major league uniform without risking penalty. Go ahead, call it the Tony Gwynn Rule.

Gwynn, whose family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a tobacco company, would be proud.

And so would Michael Weiner, the late union executive director who helped mend the ugly wounds between management and players years ago, clearing the way to make this agreement as peaceful as possible.

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USA TODAY

 

Colin Thompson has been attending Clemson games since he was 6 years old, has 10 to 12 friends with whom he goes to every home game and typically makes two or three road trips a year with his crew.

Last season they traveled to South Florida for the College Football Playoff semifinals and Arizona to watch Clemson in the national championship game. They plan to hit Tampa if the Tigers make it back this season.

But Thompson is skipping this weekend's Atlantic Coast Conference championship game in Orlando despite the fact StubHub had get-in prices as low as $7.50 as of Thursday and first-row tickets in one of the corner sections for $25.

"It was quite expensive to make both of those (Playoff) trips," Thompson said. "Plus season ticket costs this year, and then I live in Charlotte, so I was banking on a cheaper expense here, then the game gets moved.

"I probably won't go to Phoenix (if Clemson makes the Fiesta Bowl), but factoring in the costs of what I'm expecting for an Alabama-Clemson ticket in Tampa, it makes sense to me to skip Orlando."

Thompson isn't being a presumptuous Clemson fan; rather, he represents a new normal where conference title games are a much harder sell, as fans weigh whether to save their money for potential Playoff games.

Aside from the Southeastern Conference, whose title game in Atlanta has the geographic advantage of being close driving distance from Alabama, it appears attendance might be an issue this weekend for the ACC in Orlando, the BigTen in Indianapolis and the Pac-12 in Santa Clara, Calif.

As of Thursday, upper-deck tickets in Lucas Oil Stadium were less than $20 on the secondary market for Penn State-Wisconsin, and the Washington-Colorado game was not a sellout.

With Ohio State likely to make the Playoff while sitting at home this weekend and uninspiring games such as Florida-Alabama, perhaps it's time for a wholesale re-evaluation of the conference championship game concept.

Now that college football is asking fan bases to spend money on Playoff semifinals and finals, there are two ways to make conference championship games more relevant and enticing. The first is to put them on campus sites of the higher-ranked team, thus attaching an incentive to the regular season. The second is to eliminate divisions, as the SEC, ACC and BigTen have seen severe power imbalances in recent years that devalue the championship games and do nothing but put their best teams at risk of losing Playoff spots.

When conference championship games first began in the early 1990s, the NCAA rule was that leagues had to have at least 12 teams and be split into divisions. As of early this year, that rule no longer exists, which is why the Big12 is doing one next season despite having only 10 teams.

But rather than matching up their two best teams, the Big12 split into divisions because, well, that's what everyone else does.

But as other leagues have expanded, the divisional structure has brought diminishing returns both in the title games and the regular season. TexasA&M fans, for instance, won't see Georgia at Kyle Field until 2025, at which point it's hard to argue you're really playing in the same league.

If conferences scrapped divisions, assigned teams one or two permanent rivals they would play every year while rotating the rest and had their top two teams play a championship game on the No.1 seed's home field, you'd get rid of some scheduling imbalance problems, bad matchups in conference championships and empty seats if fans choose to save their money for the Playoff.

This year, for instance, Clemson fans got the double whammy of having the ACC championship game moved out of Charlotte, where it's an easy drive for fans who live in the Carolinas, because of the House Bill2 controversy and a matchup with 9-3 Virginia Tech, which isn't as sexy as a potential rematch against Florida State or Louisville.

"It's not the ticket price; it's the 10 hours it takes to get to Orlando, with the game being moved from Charlotte," said Clemson fan Luther Baker, who lives in Tega Cay, S.C. "It would have been different if it would have been Clemson vs. Louisville, or Clemson vs. Florida State, but I'm not traveling 10 hours to see Virginia Tech play."

Of course, the risk is that Clemson loses to Virginia Tech and ends up in a meaningless bowl rather than the Playoff. But most people only have so much money to spend on travel and game tickets, and even a fan base that traditionally travels well such as Clemson's might get stretched thin in this situation.

"We're just kind of fingers crossed they beat Virginia Tech," said recent Clemson graduate Kyle Macchi, who would have gone to Charlotte but is skipping Orlando. "It's not a joke of a team, so we're kind of taking our chances."

Coaching Carousel Clips

Given the public comments of Houston super booster Tilman Fertitta, it's worth wondering whether Houston is on the precipice of making a mistake that has been fairly common for schools that lose multiple successful coaches in a short period of time by turning their search into a self-esteem exercise.

"I've put it out there, if you want a cheap buyout the first couple years, then don't come apply," Fertitta told the Houston Chronicle, the suggestion being Houston plans to make it expensive for a coach to leave.

As we saw in 2014 with Jim McElwain leaving Colorado State for Florida despite a $7million buyout written into his contract, that typically doesn't work. Plus, when a school such as Houston thinks it should be a coaching destination rather than a place for talented people to make themselves attractive to the elite programs in the country, it will be far more likely to make a bad hire.

The classic example of this is Tulsa basketball, which was an NCAA tournament regular in the 1990s but kept losing coaches as a result: Tubby Smith after four years to Georgia, Steve Robinson after two years to Florida State, Bill Self after three years to Illinois and Buzz Peterson after one year to Tennessee. Tulsa got tired of the next hot up-and-coming coach going in and out the door, so it promoted John Phillips, a 53-year-old assistant on the staff who had been a longtime high school coach in the area and didn't view the job as a steppingstone.

Four years later, Phillips was fired and Tulsa went a decade without getting back to the tournament.

The point is, being upset that Tom Herman left for Texas after two years is pointless for Houston, and the reality is that even if the school had scored an invitation to the Big12 it's highly unlikely he would have stayed. If Houston remains one of the top programs outside the Power Five, elite programs will be coming after its coach every two or three years, and most of the time that's a battle Houston won't win.

Fertitta seems determined to make a splashy hire, but the mistake here would be deviating from the formula that got Houston this far just because someone might leave down the road. Hiring 63-year old Les Miles, for instance, would essentially signal that Houston wants to do the exact opposite of what has made it successful for the temporary ego boost of getting a big name.

Finding the next Art Briles, Kevin Sumlin or Tom Herman is the way to go for Houston, even if it means having to do it again in a few years.

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USA TODAY

 

Ryan Schraeder, the starting right offensive tackle for the Atlanta Falcons, signed a five-year, $33million contract extension Nov.21. A reporter joked with Schraeder, "That takes care of the student loan debt from college, right?"

"Yep, it's paid off," Schraeder said.

"It's gone."

No, seriously, an NFL player had student loan debt?

"Yeah, I'm not kidding, it was about $20,000," said Schraeder, who played at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan., and then at DivisionII Valdosta State in Georgia. "That was another reason I had to make this team after college."

The small-school player with student loan debt is in stark contrast to the lavish NFL lifestyle most people envision.

Not every player had their college years covered, and if they get cut by an NFL team, well, they go home and get a job.

Schraeder is not alone.

Offensive lineman Ali Marpet of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, wide receiver Brittan Golden of the Arizona Cardinals and wide receiver Taylor Gabriel of the Falcons are among those who did not go to a DivisionI powerhouse or even a DivisionI midmajor.

They made their way up from DivisionII or DivisionIII, and while some had tuition and books paid for, all had to have money for incidentals and living expenses. They took out student loans.

"I just paid mine off, $40,000," said Golden, who played at West Texas A&M in Canyon, Texas. "My wife's debt is next."

"I have about $25,000. Working on it," said Gabriel, who went to Abilene Christian in Texas from 2009 to 2014 and earned a degree in information systems.

When he was at the Senior Bowl in 2015, Marpet said his student loan debt from Hobart, a DivisionIII school in New York that does not offer scholarships, was more than $50,000.

'Still have that chip'

Schraeder has come further than most. He did not play football at Maize High School, northwest of Wichita. He was too small (5-7, 140 pounds).

It was during his senior year in high school that he started to grow. "It hurt really bad," said Schraeder, who grew to 6-4, 180 pounds during his last year in high school. "When my chest hurt, I thought there might be something wrong with me. My dad told me it was growing pains. He went through the same thing.

"I went through that goofy stage, too; no coordination. My body was trying to keep up."

After high school, Schraeder worked driving a delivery truck for Indian Hills Meat & Poultry. He made $8 an hour slinging meat and decided he wanted to go to college. Schraeder enrolled in Butler Community College as a student, not as a football player. He kept growing. Then he went to Kansas State, but again just as a student. He kept growing.

When Schraeder wouldn't stop growing and he got back some of the athleticism he had while playing baseball and basketball in high school, the football light came on. Hey, maybe...

Schraeder went back to Butler, a junior college football powerhouse, but this time as a student-athlete. In 2010, he was 6-7, 307 pounds and blocking for quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who went on to LSU and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Schraeder was named a junior college All-American as a tackle. He went to Valdosta State for his junior and senior seasons (2011, 2012) and was an All-American there, too.

The NFL sent scouts to south Georgia throughout the 2012 season, but Schraeder wasn't drafted in 2013. "It really pissed me off," Schraeder said. His body had grown, and so had his debt. The $8 an hour job was not going to get him out of the hole.

A grudge is the key ingredient in the elixir that propels small-school players in the NFL, and Schraeder mixed up a batch in April2013 and stewed in it. The Falcons signed Schraeder as an undrafted free agent, and he arrived for rookie minicamp and took out his anger on draft picks.

"You come from a small school, you have to stand out from the guys who went to the big schools," Schraeder said. "I knew I was raw, so you have to have that fire every day. I still have that chip on my shoulder."

Pat Hill, who was Schraeder's offensive line coach with the Falcons in 2013, coached 15 years at Fresno State and had 75 players make the NFL. Fresno State recruited the two-star, one-star or no-star high school player, guys such as Schraeder. Hill spotted him right away.

"He wanted to be coached. He loved football; he was a tough son of a bitch," Hill said. "I coach the fundamentals, and he wanted to learn the fundamentals, too."

By 2014, Schraeder was full time in the NFL.

He is 28, and there was a benefit of not going through the DivisionI grind. "My legs feel like I'm in the early 20s," he said. "It's an advantage."

Making it work

Schraeder's Atlanta teammate Gabriel not only went to a small school (Abilene Christian), he also was small (5-8).

"I get that look all the time when they ask me where I played in college," Gabriel said. "You played where?"

Gabriel wasn't even an invited free agent to an NFL camp after college. His path was something more inglorious: a plain old, show-up and show-what-you-got tryout. He stuck with the Cleveland Browns for two seasons.

Then Gabriel had his football career dropped in a dry well Sept.4. He was cut by the Browns, the winless Browns. If you get sent to the street by the Browns, you're done, right?

Gabriel wasn't done. The Falcons claimed him off waivers. Gabriel had a dramatic breakout with the Falcons on Sunday with two touchdowns in a 38-19 victory against the Cardinals. His student loan debt suddenly looks more manageable.

"You always have a grudge coming from the small school," Gabriel said.

When he was asked about his college debt, he smiled and said, "I'm blessed with this opportunity."

Golden signed as an undrafted free agent with the Chicago Bears in April2012. He was cut in August and went to Amarillo, Texas, to work at a friend's car detailing shop. He washed cars, polished them, made them shine and worked out with debt over his head.

So he got $8 an hour?

"No, man, I think it was $8.50," Golden said.

In December2012, he squeezed back into the NFL as part of the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad for the last three weeks of the season. He bounced back to the Bears in 2013, got cut, was picked up by the Cardinals and has stuck as kick returner, punt-team gunner and receiver.

"A lot of the small-school guys you see make it have this want in their eyes. You can just see it," said Golden, who is 28 and has a wife and a 4-year-old child. "It's all we want; it's all we have. Maybe we fight harder; I like to think we do fight harder because we have more to prove."

Golden said his wife has a biology degree and a degree from a culinary school. The NFL paycheck helps with both of their school debt.

"I had to make football work," he said.

The NFL needs its folk heroes from small schools, Schraeder said. It gives the NFL its populist feel, because some players are nagged by debt they built up to keep their dreams alive.

The next time you see a spirited NFL practice in training camp, it is probably some kid from DivisionII, DivisionIII or the NAIA stirring it up to get noticed and then get a check.

"This is why the NFL is so cool," Schraeder said. "Guys from the small schools come in and make rosters all the time because they have to. It's not easy, but it can be done. It's real cool when it happens."

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Newsday (New York)

 

City officials closed the Long Beach Ice Arena for several hours Wednesday after youth hockey players reported feeling sick during the previous night's practice.

Firefighters then found elevated carbon monoxide levels - in some areas, as high as seven times safe levels - that kept the city-owned arena closed until repairs could be made to a malfunctioning water heater, Nassau County officials said.

The malfunctioning water heater was disabled.

Long Beach Fire Commissioner Scott Kemins said he was notified Wednesday morning players on a youth hockey team were nauseous and vomiting Tuesday night after practice.

The county fire marshal's hazmat team responded to the arena on West Bay Drive after a call by the Long Beach Fire Department at 9:45 a.m., Assistant Chief Fire Marshal Michael F. Uttaro said.

Officials delayed opening the arena as fire marshals, Long Beach firefighters and workers with National Grid inspected the building and tested carbon monoxide levels.

Firefighters turned off all appliances and ventilated the building while each individual appliance could be tested.

The building reopened Wednesday afternoon.

County fire officials said the building does not have CO alarms - and said the fire marshal's office has requested alarms be installed.

No one was hospitalized, but city officials contacted the coach of the hockey team and urged players feeling any lingering effects to contact their physicians.

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Copyright 2016 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

It felt like everyone wanted to play, but no one brought a ball or money for snacks after the game on Tuesday, as representatives from government, education and sports organizations listened to consultants discuss a study on the feasibility of a proposed multiuse sports complex at the HUB Sports Center and improvements to Plantes Ferry Park.

Consultant Bill Krueger, a principal with Conventions, Sports and Leisure, told the group that there's a documented need for the new and expanded sports facilities.

The proposed sports complex would add eight tournament-quality softball fields with synthetic turf infields, lighting, parking, restrooms and playground equipment just east of the HUB Sports Center. Cost: nearly $28 million.

Plantes Ferry Park improvements would cost nearly $6 million and would convert two existing grass soccer fields to synthetic turf and add lights, as well as upgrade the existing softball fields.

The improvements to Plantes Ferry would significantly extend the play season there, Krueger told representatives from Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake, the Spokane County Board of Commissioners, the Central Valley School District and various regional sports organizations.

Krueger also said his organization's study found a "significant unmet need" for softball and baseball fields in the greater Spokane area and recommended the new sports complex be built with 12 baseball fields instead of the proposed eight.

"A facility like that can be turned and burned very efficiently," Krueger said, and would draw tournaments from outside the area that would help it be profitable.

"But I realize this is an expensive project," Krueger said.

Spokane Valley City Councilman Ed Pace asked the big question: Where is funding for the combined $33 million in projects going to come from and how much would the county pay?

County Commissioner Shelly O'Quinn said the county owns Plantes Ferry Park and it's possible the funding for those improvements could come from a ballot measure that seeks funding for county parks.

O'Quinn said the county would probably contribute $2.5 million to purchase land.

But she warned representatives of Spokane Valley, "We need your commitment to this project or it's off the table as far as I am concerned." O'Quinn noted that Spokane Valley stands to benefit substantially from the positive financial impact of either project.

Spokane Valley City Manager Mark Calhoun said Spokane Valley has set aside a percentage of its lodging taxes that could be used for part of the funding.

That amounts to around $377,000 a year, which could service a $6 million bond, Calhoun said, adding that the City Council will discuss the matter at its meeting on Dec. 13.

Spokane Valley City Councilwoman Pamela Haley wanted to know how many jobs at the proposed facilities would go to Spokane Valley residents. Krueger said that was not a level of detail that had been investigated.

Eric Sawyer, president and CEO of the Spokane Sports Commission, said there's nothing like the proposed project on the West Coast.

"We would be able to attract a lot of tournaments," Sawyer said. "The Valley needs this."

Krueger warned those in attendance to not take too long to make a decision, especially since land must be acquired for the HUB project.

Bill Ames, who coached at University High School for 30 years, made an emotional plea for the HUB project.

"Get on board now and do something for the Valley," Ames said. "I'm a little upset with all this talk. I'd like to see this happen before I die."

 

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