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Copyright 2018 Journal Register Co.

New Haven Register (Connecticut)

 



One by one they came forward, more than 150 in all. Fearful yet defiant. Vulnerable but resolute, buoyed by the hope of catharsis and the promise of justice.

Standing in a Michigan courtroom last January, women and girls sexually abused by Larry Nassar confronted the former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor, and over seven draining days detailed the devastating effect the molestation had on their lives.

The #MeToo movement reached the sports world in 2018 with a scandal that reverberated not just in locker rooms and gyms but in courthouses, in boardrooms and at kitchen tables. The sight of women being not just heard but believed - combined with other breakthroughs for female athletes in the fight for fair treatment - created a sense of real momentum in sports over the past year.

Female athletes "are taking control, and that's what it's all about," tennis star Serena Williams said. "Taking control of who you are."

While 2017 brought the downfall of TV personalities Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose and Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, a scandal in the sports world that had been brewing for a few years blew up in 2018 into shocking front-page news.

Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison in a case that has had widespread and devastating fallout. Michigan State agreed to settle victims' lawsuits for $500 million. The university president lost her job and was charged with lying to police. Others at the school or at gymnastics' national governing body, USA Gymnastics, also face charges. And the future of the organization is in limbo.

Jordyn Wieber, a member of the gold-medal 2012 Olympic gymnastics team, planned to detail her allegations against Nassar quietly in a lawsuit. Yet as she watched other victims share the most difficult memories of their lives in open court, with their tormentor 20 feet away and a TV camera broadcasting it to the world, Wieber decided to testify, too.

"I saw this effect and this power we as Olympians had by using our voice," the 23-year-old Wieber told The Associated Press. "I felt really responsible to do that. If I could do one small thing in the world of gymnastics, the world of sports, this was it. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but I felt like it was worth it."

The young women also played a role in trying to hold USA Gymnastics and other organizations accountable for the way Nassar's abuse went unchecked for decades.

When USA Gymnastics continued to use the Karolyi Ranch training center in Texas even after victims told of how they were abused by Nassar there, reigning Olympic champion and Nassar victim Simone Biles went on Twitter to ask why. The organization announced almost immediately it was leaving the facility.

Biles took then-USA Gymnastics president Kerry Perry to task in August for not speaking up to outline a way forward for the embattled organization. Perry resigned less than a month later.

"The fact Simone is able to effect the amount of change she's been able to is a testament that athletes are starting to have a little bit of power," said former gymnast Rachael Denhollander, who filed a criminal complaint against Nassar in 2016.

The year 2018 also saw the swift downfall of former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson - who sold the team and was fined $2.75 million by the NFL after he was accused of sexual harassment - and the continued pursuit of equal treatment of women in sports like tennis and soccer.

The French Open angered some in May when it declined to seed three-time winner Williams following a 14-month break from tennis in which she gave birth to a daughter. Last week, the women's tennis tour announced that starting in 2019, players coming off maternity leave or major injury may use a special ranking for up to three years upon their return.

"Serena is mainly responsible for bringing that issue to the forefront: Should you be treated the same for pregnancy as you are if you miss time with an injury?" tennis Hall of Famer Chris Evert said. The new rule "obviously was an advancement in the women's game."

The push by female athletes to transform their sports wasn't limited to the U.S.

The South Korean women's curling team that won a surprise silver at the 2018 Olympics came forward in November to complain of verbal and psychological abuse by their handlers, a pattern that included withholding prize money and threatening to bench the captain after learning she wanted to start a family. The handlers admitted to some of the allegations but denied others while resigning under pressure this month.

And members of Argentina's women's soccer team used social media to express mounting frustration over unequal treatment, including being barred from the training complex traditionally reserved for the men and receiving minimal financial support. Argentine soccer officials relented, allowing the women to work out at the same facility as the men.

"Teams are standing up and saying - and it's South America, it's Africa, it's Europe - 'This isn't good enough, this isn't right,'" said two-time Women's World Cup champion-turned-TV analyst Julie Foudy.

As for the effect on the world outside sports, Denhollander, who is now a lawyer, said prosecutors have told her about a spike in the number of abuse victims from other walks of life coming forward since Nassar's sentencing. Still, she cautioned that the Nassar case was just one battle in a continuing fight.

"The cultural impact is huge," Denhollander said. "The personal impact, feeling like they can finally tell someone, that's huge. On the flip side, there's a danger of feeling like we've accomplished more than we really have."

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

SEATTLE - The Seattle Mariners say they fired high-performance director Lorena Martin this season in part because she created a hostile work environment and ignored recommended treatments for injured players issued by team doctors.

The Mariners' claims were revealed in a filing in King County Superior Court in response to Martin's lawsuit against the team filed earlier this month. The club's response was an eight-page, weeks-old letter originally filed in an attempt to have her situation settled in private arbitration, but it became public after it was attached to a motion filed by Martin's attorney.

The Mariners say unnamed employees had warned general manager Jerry Dipoto last March that Martin was ignoring medical advice on treatment of injured players and that she was misrepresenting herself "as a medical doctor to other MLB teams' staff."

The team also said it had received "overwhelming and accumulating" employee complaints about Martin.

Martin's wrongful-termination lawsuit claimed she went to team owners John Stanton and Buck Ferguson and CEO Kevin Mather as far back as March to complain about alleged discriminatory treatment.

The lawsuit also says several Latino players complained to Martin about feeling excluded and that Dipoto took midseason steps to deliberately undermine the progress and mental state of star pitcher Felix Hernandez.

The Mariners have denied all of Martin's claims.

"Martin's allegations of discrimination are not true," the Mariners' letter states. "No indication, much less evidence, of such was identified during the course of the independent investigation which involved personal interviews of approximately 20 individuals who were in position to know."

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December 31, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2018 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
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The Philadelphia Inquirer

 


Cutting a wrestler's locks raised an outcry, but his attorney says that wasn't the ref's original concern.

A South Jersey referee forced Andrew Johnson to shave his chin stubble before his now-controversial wrestling match, but raised no concern about his dreadlocks until the high school student stepped onto the mat, the athlete's attorney says.

In a video that has gone viral worldwide, Johnson, a junior at Buena Regional High School in Atlantic County, eventually decided to have his dark brown dreadlocks cut in a public shearing on the gym floor to avoid forfeiting his match against archrival Oakcrest High School.

The Dec. 19 incident ignited a firestorm on social media and a fierce debate about race and cultural bias in scholastic athletics. The incident is under investigation by the state Division on Civil Rights, and Alan Maloney, the referee at the center of the controversy, has been suspended by state athletic officials pending the outcome.

As details about the incident continue to emerge, Dominic Speziali, a Philadelphia attorney who represents Johnson and his family, disputed accounts that Maloney told Johnson that his hair was too long. After the referee arrived late and missed the weigh-in, Maloney at first did not raise any concerns about the length of Johnson's hair or say that he needed to wear a hair covering during the inspection, the lawyer said.

"He was told to shave the stubble on his chin, but nothing about his dreadlocks," Speziali said Friday. "He [Maloney] said nothing about the hair."

When a question was later raised about his hair, Johnson, 16, asked Maloney to let him wear a cap under his headgear, but the referee rejected the covering because, he said, Andrew's hair "wasn't in its natural state" and referred to the dreadlocks as "braids," Speziali said. Buena coaches pleaded with Maloney to let Johnson compete, to no avail, he said.

Speziali said Johnson did not have a headgear with a hair covering because his hair length did not require it; the school didn't have one available. A covering must be worn if the wrestler's hair extends past the earlobe, eyebrows, or neck, wrestling rules say.

Johnson had been allowed to compete without a hair cover the previous weekend at a tournament in Ocean County without incident, Speziali said. Maloney did not officiate that match.

At the dual match between Buena and Oakcrest, Johnson and his younger brother, Nate, a teammate, both were told by Maloney that they would need to wear a hair covering or they would be disqualified, Speziali said. Nate does not have dreadlocks and competed without a hair covering, the lawyer said.

It was unknown why Maloney told both brothers a hair covering was needed. "What is the issue with the hair that these gentlemen have?" Speziali asked.

Maloney has not responded to interview requests. Since the incident, Maloney and his family have reported at least two death threats, and Berlin Borough police have stepped up patrols in his Camden County neighborhood and parked a patrol car in front of his home. No one has been charged, said Police Chief Michael Miller.

"Our detectives are pursuing it," Miller said.

Maloney's defenders say the veteran official was simply enforcing the rules when he refused to allow Johnson to compete. The team could have forfeited his bout, substituted another wrestler, or provided headgear that met requirements with a hair covering that attached to the earguards.

With 90 seconds to decide whether to cut his hair or forfeit his 120-pound bout, Andrew Johnson appeared visibly upset in a video that showed a school trainer shearing several inches from his locks. Because Johnson was already on the mat, he could not, under wrestling guidelines, return to the locker room for the cutting. With the packed gym watching, including his father, grandfather, and an older brother, Johnson's hair was clipped.

Johnson went on to win his bout, 4-2, in overtime. Buena won the match, too. The fallout, however, has continued. The team resumed action Thursday in a tournament in North Jersey. Andrew Johnson and Nate, 14, a freshman, skipped the competition. Both want to wrestle again, their attorney said.

Gov. Phil Murphy is among a host of elected officials, athletes, and celebrities, including Olympian Jordan Burroughs and the filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who have condemned the haircutting. Murphy tweeted that he was "deeply disturbed" by the incident.

Officials with the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union have raised concerns that the incident has racial overtones. Maloney is white; the Johnson brothers are biracial. A spokesperson for the state's civil rights agency said it had not received any additional complaints about Maloney.

Buena Regional superintendent David C. Cappuccio Jr. announced Wednesday that the district's athletic teams would not compete in any contest officiated by Maloney. The athletic association said groups that assign referees have been told not to assign Maloney to any matches pending the outcome.

In his more than 40 years as a state wresting official, Maloney, 62, has built a reputation as a stickler for the rules, colleagues say. A former wrestler at the then-Edgewood High School in Winslow Township, Maloney is highly regarded as a referee and has been tapped to officiate some of the top matches in the state.

"The guy is a good referee. He just follows the rules to the 'T,' " said Richie G. Raine of Pennsville, a retired wrestling official who was trained by Maloney. "He doesn't bend."

Ron Roberts, a wrestling official and a Buena graduate, has said that he visited his former high school team before the season started and advised Johnson and another athlete with dreadlocks that they would need to get the proper hair cover or cut their hair before taking the mat. Buena coach George Maxwell has not responded to messages for comment.

Patrick Duff, who wrestled at Delran High in the 1990s with his brother, Bill, an All-American who later played in the NFL, said both had had run-ins with Maloney. Bill Duff was forced by Maloney to cut his sideburns before a match, and their father, who was often vocal in the stands, was ejected several times from their matches when he complained about Maloney's calls, he said.

"Maloney didn't like to be called out," said Duff, of Haddon Heights.

Raine said his grandson Michael Slusher, a wrestler at Pennsville High School, had his hair cut last year in order to compete at a tournament in Ewing after another referee told him his hair was too long. Slusher, now 17 and a senior, did not have the proper headgear with a covering and his hair was too long, Raine said.

"It's happened plenty of times," said Raine, who was a wrestling official for about 12 years.

During competition, "all wrestlers shall be clean shaven, with sideburns trimmed no lower than earlobe level and hair trimmed and well groomed," according to rules from the National Federation of State High School Associations. An official said the group would review guidelines for the hair covering at its annual rules meeting in April in the wake of the dreadlocks controversy.

"We don't see it as dreadlocks. We just see it as long hair," said Elliot Hopkins, national rules interpreter for the association, based in Indianapolis. "You're allowed to have long hair, but it has to be put up in a cap that attaches to the earguards."

Longtime Camden High School wrestling coach Hadley Thame, who is black and has known Maloney for about four decades, said the way Johnson's hair was cut "was ugly," and said he believed Maloney could have better handled the dreadlocks incident. Maloney has always been tough but fair, he said.

"He's never openly done anything bad to me or the kids," said Thame, a retired science teacher who has been Camden's coach since 1976. "I may not have liked some of his scoring decisions, but I don't think his scoring decisions had anything to do with the color of the skin of the kids."

Maloney landed in another controversy in 2016 when he allegedly used a racial slur during a social gathering with referees after a match. Preston Hamilton, a referee who is black, reportedly slammed Maloney to the ground. Hamilton declined to comment this week, saying only about Maloney: "I feel that he should not be working."

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, which oversees high school athletics, gave both referees one-year suspensions but later overturned the decision.

Community activist Walter Hudson said Maloney should be removed from officiating in light of the previous racial slur and the dreadlocks controversy. Several petitions on change.org have been signed by thousands demanding his ouster.

"We want a lifetime ban," said Hudson, chairman of the National Awareness Alliance, a civil rights group based in Salem County.

Raine said he hopes Maloney will be reinstated.

"I just don't understand why everyone is trying to crucify a guy who did what he was supposed to do," Raine said.

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

 

After a recent complaint from a national atheist group, South Gibson School Corp. will soon instruct its personnel to avoid taking part in student-led prayers.

That's according to a press release from The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which levied a complaint against the school corporation on Nov. 30.

The organization claims a "concerned citizen" sent them a Facebook photo that showed members of the Gibson Southern Titans praying alongside the Evansville Memorial Tigers after a Nov. 2 football game. Adults were sprinkled throughout the crowd as well.

The release, issued on Wednesday, included a letter from Princeton attorney J. Robert Kinkle.

Speaking on behalf of the school corporation, Kinkle wrote that South Gibson will, after the first of the year, "instruct the school personnel, including all coaches, that they may not encourage, lead, initiate, mandate, either directly or indirectly any such student prayer."

"In addition we want to emphasize to our personnel that they may not participate in any such student-led prayer," the letter continues. "... We will advise our personnel that students certainly have a right not to participate in any such prayer."

The letter emphasizes that any student who wants to pray is free to do so, per their First Amendment rights.

Gibson Southern Superintendent Stacey Humbaugh confirmed the letter's authenticity.

Despite the official policy announcement, it's not clear whether coaches or personnel led or took part the incident that sparked FFRF's complaint.

According to reporters who cover the Titans, Gibson Southern head coach Nick Hart doesn't take part in the prayers. He's usually talking to the media during that time.

And as a Catholic school, Memorial is immune from any issues.

The original photo does show adults taking part, but it's not clear whether they were leading the prayer.

"The photograph as it relates to possible coaches (sic) participation in student-led prayer is certainly ambiguous," Kinkle's letter reads.

"Please be advised that it is the policy of South Gibson School Corporation to fully adhere to the First Amendment to the Constitution's principle of separation of church and state."

If all this sounds familiar, it's because it is.

In 2017, the FFRF said Reitz High School football coach Andy Hape committed a "serious and flagrant violation of the First Amendment" when he prayed with players after a game against Mater Dei.

"It is illegal for public school athletic coaches to lead their teams in prayer, participate in student prayers, or to otherwise promote religion to students," the group's attorney, Ryan Jayne, wrote in a letter to the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp.

The Courier & Press also found a video from 2014 in which Hape led the team in prayer.

At the time, EVSC officials said the school corporation told Hape that students should lead the prayers. Aside from that, the EVSC supported Hape taking part.

Jon Webb

Columnist


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December 21, 2018
 
 
 

 

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

 

Lewis Caralla found motivation in a state of transition.

He had just been dismissed as director of strength and conditioning at Louisiana in December of 2017 after the school fired Rajun Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth.

Caralla didn't know what was going to happen next. The rejection, and the thought of seven weeks without the structure of football and without a job, made Caralla angry.

Anger, though, wasn't going to pay the bills or keep a roof over the head of his wife and two young children. He gave that anger a life span of two, maybe three days.

His unemployment lasted less than seven weeks. When he joined the University at Buffalo football program Jan. 18 as its head strength and conditioning coach, his rage morphed into enthusiasm, optimism and gratitude.

Caralla saw a great opportunity to reshape the Bulls into a winner, physically and psychologically.

"They were 6-6, they were left out of a bowl game," Caralla said. "They felt very disrespected. I felt disrespected. It was like a perfect storm, all meeting at once. I could bring something that they'd never seen before, energy-wise in the weight room, and I think that was very helpful for this team, to have that kind of change."

Strength and conditioning coaches don't get a lot of attention for their work, but Caralla has shaped the Bulls' drive to be successful, not just through brute force, but by understanding and changing their minds. Training isn't simply an obligation to the Bulls. Caralla has made it into a privilege. He's shaped the Bulls with a combination of tough love, high energy and embracing the philosophy that "we get to lift tomorrow," which has also given him a following on Twitter, where some of his videos have received thousands of views.

"When we first heard about Coach Lew, we'd seen a video of him walking over guys with lifting plates, and we got kind of scared," said UB wide receiver Anthony Johnson, whose team faces Troy at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Dollar General Bowl in Mobile, Ala. "It was like, 'Oh my god, what's he going to do to us?' But when he got here, it was amazing. His energy is crazy. He got to know guys personally. He made guys work, he made it competitive and fun, and everybody changed."

Division III guy worked tail off

Caralla was a running back at Defiance College, a Division III school in northwestern Ohio, where he earned Heartland College Athletic Conference honors, and earned his degree in exercise science in 2008.

The Tampa, Fla., native wanted to be a physical education teacher, but his girlfriend, Lori, who is now his wife, encouraged him to pursue college coaching.

Ron McKeefery is the vice president of performance and education of PLAE, an athletic performance and training facility in Knoxville, Tenn. He saw the energy and enthusiasm in Caralla when he was a strength and conditioning intern at the University of South Florida in the summer of 2007.

Caralla trained with USF each day, running sprints and lifting after working with college athletes for at least 12 hours.

"I would use him as an example to the USF players, and say, 'Here's a Division III guy who is out front and kicking your butt," McKeefery said.

"He's one of those guys that worked his tail off every single day. He was the most respectful, committed guy you can find. He would relay all of that to his own pursuits, whether it was getting his degree or playing football. And he has been a guy I've always had on my short list. I've always tried to hire him. But he has great opportunities."

Strength coaches, McKeefery explained, are instrumental in the culture of a football program. They are the people on the staff a player has the most contact with, whether they are lifting, stretching, doing cardiovascular work or just in the football facility. They spend more time with players than an assistant coach or a coordinator, whose time is limited with players due to NCAA guidelines.

"Any time you've got a guy that's so invested in your players for 12 months, his mission is the same mission as the head coach," McKeefery said. "You don't build the kind of unity and passion and wherewithal to be able to last a 12-game season in training camp alone. You build that for 12 months leading up to that. The role of (Caralla) being by himself with a small staff and investing in those guys, you don't do that without making an impact."

Several people reached out to UB coach Lance Leipold on Caralla's behalf, but a recommendation from former Iowa State coach Dan McCarney set Caralla apart from other candidates.

"When Dan said, 'Lance, this guy can make a difference in your program,' it wasn't the token, 'Oh, he's really good,' " Leipold said. "It was, 'This guy will make a difference.' That was the deal-maker for me."

Satisfied, hungry or starving?

Caralla had to make UB's players passionate about training, and learn how to translate that enthusiasm to the football field.

Yet before Caralla manipulated his players' minds and bodies, he had to crunch some numbers to find out how he could help the Bulls complete games and get excited about playing to the final buzzer. He researched statistics: How many fourth-quarter points the Bulls scored (64), how many they gave up (59), and the scoring margin in each of their six losses in 2017 (29 points total).

Then, Caralla took three months to meet with every player on UB's roster to learn about each individual.

What's the biggest obstacle you have overcome?

What is the worst coach you have ever had, and why?

What is driving you?

What is your home situation?

Who is your favorite athlete?

Caralla got to know each player to understand what motivated each of them.

"He wanted to know my background, and all the things I went through," Johnson said. "Things, football-wise, and he works with everybody on that, but I think I was the first guy who coach I (Rob Ianello) introduced him to, and he told me everything I needed to work on. And he got to know me."

Then, Caralla wanted his players to be hungry, starving for success. Caralla divvied up the players into three categories: satisifed, hungry and starving. Hungry was the baseline. And none of the players wanted to be satisfied or hungry. They worked to be categorized as "starving" - starving to be better.

"The more they started learning what it takes for it to really work here, effort-wise, they started coming in every Saturday when they didn't have to," said Caralla, who earned his master's degree in kinesiology from Mississippi State in 2010.

"They started coming in after every lift, when they didn't have to. They started running more routes on their own. They started watching more film. That's what I wanted here.

"This is the first stop I've had where it's been a 100 percent buy-in. I've never seen it like this, ever. There's no resistance. Kids are asking questions, 'How can I get better?' Everything that you want as a coach, you have it in place. That's a credit to what UB's coaches already did here, before I got here."

'We get to lift tomorrow!'

On the sidelines of each UB football game, Caralla runs up and down the field, celebrating touchdowns and tackles.

He brings the same energy to the practice field. At the end of each practice, he gets in front of the Bulls' huddle and whips them into a frenzy, jumping and screaming, urging each player to get excited. After each win, Caralla leads the Bulls in a raucous celebration, then ends it by getting them excited about a daily lifting session.

"We get to lift tomorrow!" Caralla shouts at the top of his lungs.

"The energy he brings every single day, everybody can see it on TV, when guys make big plays and how high he jumps on the sideline, it isn't for show," Johnson said. "He does that every day, everywhere."

Caralla's impact is evident for the Bulls statistically; this year's team is the first to win 10 games in program history.

UB went from the No. 8 defense in the MAC (399.8 yards per game) in 2017 to No. 2 in 2018 (349.4 yards per game). UB averaged 141.1 yards rushing in 12 games last year; the Bulls average 195.8 yards rushing this season.

Caralla's influence on UB's attitude is just as vital, and Leipold remembers the excitement Caralla had for his first workout with the Bulls in January, a 15-degree morning during which Caralla led players onto the football field to begin conditioning.

"He shows the players that what they do, he's willing to do and why and what it's all about," Leipold said. "He doesn't correlate it just to football, but how you approach life. That makes him excellent in his field, and our players see it, they appreciate it, and what he's instilled has really been neat."

Caralla's approach has amplified during his 11-year career. It has left an impression on the players he's worked with.

"What I associate with Lewis is his relentless positivity, and always being positive in the face of whatever," said Joey Burzynski, who worked with Caralla from 2012-14 as a walk-on offensive lineman at Michigan. "If you wake up at 5 a.m. and work out, go out and do it with a good attitude. I didn't have that when I came to Michigan and before I met Lewis Caralla. That's something I take to work every day. That's helped me in my everyday life."

He hasn't touched a football since his final game at Michigan in 2014, but Burzynski estimates he spent as much time with Caralla and the Wolverines strength coaches as he did with his position coach.

During Burzynski's senior year, Caralla worked with him after practice to improve his boxing technique - something Caralla didn't have to do, but took the time to do, to help Burzynski.

Four years later, Caralla uses the same approach of passion, positivity and unity to help the Bulls prepare for their first bowl game since 2013. Those days begin before the sun rises, when the Bulls prepare to lift weights before much of the UB campus is stirring.

"There's a feeling you get when it's 5:30 in the morning and you're blowing a whistle, and these kids are coming in, and you're screaming," Caralla said. "We couldn't tell you what time it was. We're all in this together, and we're all going for the same goal.

"The total camaraderie feeling of a big group, training for the same goal, it's why I love it."

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Copyright 2018 Collier County Publishing Company
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Naples Daily News (Florida)

 

Since the NBA raised its draft eligibility age limit to 19 in 2005, the Culligan City of Palms Classic, one of the premier high school basketball tournaments in the country, has been a breeding ground for players leaving college after a single year.

That may still be the case - at least for a few more years - even with the NBA's most recent concession allowing 18-year-old players to sign G League Select Contracts with the developmental league.

The alternate option to playing a year of college allows players to earn a significant paycheck in the gap year and allow for other avenues to earn money not available to amateurs, but the top seniors at this week's Fort Myers tournament at Suncoast Credit Union Arena either have their sights set on playing on college basketball's grandest stage or haven't given the G League option serious consideration.

The Select Contracts guarantee elite players from the Class of 2018 a $125,000 salary, which is almost four times the standard salary for the average players in the G League that is trying to establish itself as a true farm system for the NBA. Former WNBA player Allison Feaster oversees the group responsible for selecting the players to be offered contracts.

Former NBA veteran Rod Strickland, who was hired in November as a program manager for the new G League professional path program, told the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Journal Gazette earlier this month the program is an opportunity to prepare for the pros and earn a competitive salary.

"The positives are professional basketball. You are getting to develop yourself on a daily basis against pro competition, guys who have touched professional courts before. And you're getting to further your education," said Strickland, who played 18 years in the NBA. "And also you get the mentorship of the player development. There's a lot out there, there's a lot to know about being a professional player - the work ethic, life skills, as well as basketball."

But most seniors ranked in the top 20 by several recruiting services playing at the City of Palms still viewed playing in college for at least a year as their best path to improve their draft stock.

While Bradenton IMG Academy guard Josh Green applauded the NBA for creating another option, there is no history of success and being a test subject for the pilot program isn't enticing.

"No one knows how it will work," Green, who is ranked the No. 8 senior in USA Today's Chosen 25 and is signed with Arizona, told USA Today. "It looks like it will be a good thing for some people and I could see it working, but we just don't know yet. At the end of the day, we all want to get to the pro level. So if you can do that and succeed, you'd have to sacrifice the college experience."

Teammate Armando Bacot, who is headed to play at North Carolina, sees the G League option as good for players who are tasked with supporting their families.

Bacot, ranked No. 12 in USA Today's Chosen 25, said playing in the G League next year wouldn't help his development.

"I feel like I wouldn't do it because I'm a big," Bacot, the 6-foot-10 IMG forward, said. "I'd be going up against a lot stronger men, especially just getting in the G League and making $125,000. And (the G League veterans) have been there for so long and they're only making like $30,000. They're really going to try to abuse those kids. They're going to be playing with a chip on their shoulder so it's going to be a lot harder for a lot of the kids coming in."

Mouth of Wilson (Virginia) Oak Hill guard Cole Anthony, a consensus top-3 recruit and No. 1 in the USA Today Chosen 25, is still deciding his next move. He is considering North Carolina, Georgetown, Oregon, Miami, Wake Forest, and Notre Dame and if G League offers a contract he'd at least consider it.

"Me and my dad really haven't looked at that. Obviously, we're more worried about high school basketball," said Anthony, the son of former NBA player Greg Anthony. "That's our focus. If that happens to come up, my dad and I will consider it. We'll see what happens."

Mountain Brook senior forward Trendon Watford, the top recruit in Alabama and No. 22 in the USA Today Chosen 25, isn't sure he's on the G League's radar. The criteria for how the league picks players to offer contracts hasn't been made public.

"I haven't really heard from them," Watford said.

The Select Contracts could ultimately be a temporary fix until the NBA returns to a system that allows high schoolers to jump right to the league. The NBA and the players' union met in July in Las Vegas and seemed to agree on dropping the age limit to 18 - although not immediately - is the right move, the Washington Post reported.

"My personal view is that we're ready to make that change," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a press conference following the league's board of governors meetings.

If the rule change goes into effect by the 2021 or 2022 as expected, the City of Palms will again be a week-long stop for players a few months before draft night.

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Copyright 2018 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
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The Philadelphia Inquirer

 


The school applied to join the Catholic League but was turned down.

Holy Ghost Prep's application to join the Catholic League beginning with the 2019-20 school year was denied in a vote this week by the Catholic League board of governors.

"I just sent a letter to their principal and president regarding their application," Archbishop Ryan principal Joseph McFadden, chairman of the board of governors, said Thursday.

Asked the reason for the denial, McFadden said it was an internal matter.

Holy Ghost Prep, a member of the Bicentennial Athletic League for more than four decades, formally applied in September to join the Catholic League.

"I'm open to talking to Holy Ghost Prep about the reason or reasons for the board's decision after the holidays," McFadden said.

Holy Ghost, an all-boys private school in Bensalem, sponsors 14 varsity sports and is a member of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.

"As we move forward, Holy Ghost Prep remains on an impressive trajectory," Holy Ghost Prep president Gregory J. Geruson wrote in a letter to the school community on Thursday. "At this time, we will reassess our application to the PCL and determine what is our next best step."

The board of governors is composed of Catholic League principals. McFadden said Holy Ghost's application was also denied in a separate vote by Catholic League athletic directors.

"Holy Ghost Prep is always welcome to apply again at some point in the future," McFadden said.

Devon Prep, formerly of the Bicentennial Athletic League, joined the Catholic League this school year. Also an all-boys private school and PIAA member, it sponsors 11 varsity sports.

The Catholic League has 18 members. robrien@phillynews.com ozoneinq

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

Zwift, a company that gives cyclists the opportunity to compete in virtual-reality races, has raised $120 million to help them set up an esports league and further their expansion into running.

Based in Long Beach, California, Zwift has built software that lets riders simulate outdoor training - such as cycling up a mountain - from their living room. Customers can train or compete against one another, with the race projected on their tablet, laptop or mobile phone, along with data about their performance taken from their training device, such as a bike or treadmill.

The new funds will help build up the KISS Super League, Eric Min, the company's co-founder and chief executive officer, said in an interview. Last week, Zwift announced the formation of the competition with participation from four professional cycling teams.

Esports is a rapidly growing industry. This year Amazon.com Inc.-owned Twitch announced a two-year deal to stream Activision Blizzard Inc.'s Overwatch game, worth an estimated $90 million, while software giant SAP SE has been sponsoring esports to reach potential hires. The world championship finals of League of Legends this year featured two squads battling it out at a 50,000-seat stadium in the South Korean city of Incheon.

Zwift's funding round was led by Highland Europe, a venture capital firm based in London, where the startup also has an office. True, a London-based investment firm that specializes in backing retail and consumer brands, and Causeway Media Partners, a Silicon Valley and Boston-based company that invests in sports-related technology and media, also participated.

In addition to creating an esports league, Zwift plans to expand its current offerings for treadmills and may consider moving into new sports, such as rowing, Min said. It will also roll out products in more local languages. Currently, Zwift has users in 150 countries, Min said, but is available only in English.

Min said that creating an esports season using Zwift's platform would be good for professional cycling, creating additional opportunity for sponsors to get exposure and providing the athletes further training and competition opportunities at a time of year - from late-winter to early-spring - when there are few outdoor road races.

A former J.P. Morgan investment banker, Min previously founded Sakonnet Technology, an electronic trading and risk management platform for commodities traders. He said he decided to found Zwift in 2014 because of his own passion for cycling and his frustration, after moving to London from New York in the late 1990s, that he could not find a social network of cyclists similar to the one he trained with in New York City's Central Park.

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Copyright 2018 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

The first upgrade to Naperville's Knoch Park after the final Ribfest at the site concludes next summer will be a renovation to a softball field used by Naperville Unit District 203.

The district plans to improve and relocate the Naperville Central High School varsity girls softball team's home field in the park starting July 8 at a projected cost of $800,000.

The project is part of a list of planned renovations for the park that will make it impossible for its largest summer tenant - the Exchange Club of Naperville's Ribfest celebration - to take place there anymore after 2019. Dan Bridges, Naperville Unit District 203 superintendent, said during a school board meeting in October that the softball field project will help address a concern that the field used by Naperville Central softball players isn't up to snuff when compared to the softball site at in-district rival Naperville North High School or to the baseball fields used by either school.

"This project will bring this (field) in line and bring it up to an equitable standard of those facilities," Bridges said.

The work is planned to begin next summer and conclude in time for the field to be used for softball competition in spring 2020.

Bob Ross, District 203's chief operating officer, said work will include relocating the field east of its current site, so it sits south of the varsity baseball field in the park.

The diamond itself will be reoriented, so home plate is at the southeast corner of the site. Contractors, once bids are released and companies are hired, will install new dugouts, dirt, fencing, walls and seating, then plant grass in the fall for the upgraded facility.

"We want to have the field in great shape for the following March and April," Ross said.

The field, though, isn't on District 203 property. So the school board on Monday approved a 20-year lease with Naperville Park District for use of the space.

"We're thrilled that we're able to work with the park district to improve the facility for our girls softball team as well as for the community," school board President Kristin Fitzgerald said.

Under the lease, the school district will build and maintain the field. When school teams aren't using it for practices or games, the park district can schedule its own games and programs on the diamond, park district Executive Director Ray McGury said.

The school board and park district also agreed to extend District 203's lease of a baseball field at Knoch Park to encompass the same 20-year duration. While the softball diamond renovation and relocation is the only upgrade finalized for Knoch Park, both McGury and Bridges say more changes likely are coming. Plans under consideration for Knoch Park, at 724 S. West St., include constructing a synthetic turf field for soccer, lacrosse and flag football; installing courts for pickleball; and adding to the system of walking trails, McGury said.

If the park district is able to add a synthetic turf field, McGury said it could help ease scheduling conflicts on the fields at Naperville Central and Naperville North High Schools, as well as the tracks that encircle them.

Bridges said District 203 has been in talks with the park district about the potential park additions and looks forward to the changes possibly helping with access to facilities for junior high and high school athletics.

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Copyright 2018 The Bismarck Tribune, a division of Lee Enterprises
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The Bismarck Tribune

 

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - It's one task to compile a list of banned coaches but quite another to identify all the good ones.

While Olympic overseers struggle to compile a comprehensive list of bad actors in the wake of a wide-ranging sex-abuse crisis, an entrepreneur with a passion for youth sports is embarking on what could prove to be an even more meaningful task: helping families discover which coaches are not only certified but best qualified to work with their kids.

Former pro moguls skier Bill Kerig, who founded the rallyme.com website built to help athletes and teams raise funds, is launching a new platform designed for coaches to post their qualifications so parents and athletes can review the coaches and anyone interested to hold a no-holds-barred discussion of the good and bad in youth sports. It's sort of a LinkedIn, Angie's List or Rate My Professors for coaching and sports.

The website, greatcoach.com, represents a rare attempt at a concrete solution in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal, which almost daily exposes the shortcomings in the U.S. Olympic system's ability to confront the crisis.

Unlike RallyMe, which has helped Katie Uhlaender, Jaelin Kauf, Brittany Bowe and dozens of others on their road to the Olympics, the coaching website figures to be layered with more complex issues. Kerig has been developing the site for about 18 months. He's in negotiations with nine of the country's 50 national governing bodies and has been consulting with the U.S. Olympic Committee, which has been pushed to find bold solutions to the sex-abuse crisis beyond turning over staff and decertifying USA Gymnastics.

"Youth sports is largely built on trust, and one of the first steps for any parent is you've got to know who's coaching your kids," Kerig says. "If you're dropping your kid off and you don't know the coach's last name or what their certifications are, then shame on you. You want to know why he coaches, how he coaches, what's his philosophy. And is he certified?"

Kerig will need buy-in from a significant portion of the Olympic community for his website to have impact at the highest levels.

"By the same token, even if one club puts all their coaches on there and a parent can go on and say, 'Look at how much I can learn about who might coach my kid,' then it's an obvious place to start," says John O'Sullivan, the founder of the Changing the Game Project who is on the Great Coach board of directors.

The challenges in compiling a comprehensive banned list for Olympic sports have been well-documented for the past year. The U.S. Center for SafeSport, created by the USOC in response to the sex-abuse crisis, has a "disciplinary records" list but only names people who have been banned since the center opened in March 2017. The NGBs have banned lists, but policies vary wildly about which offenders go on the lists and whether those lists are made public.

Both the USOC and SafeSport have vowed to compile and publish a comprehensive list as soon as possible.

Kerig is working to make his website a one-stop spot for banned lists, as well.

But simply publishing those lists doesn't solve all problems. They don't catch everything - for instance, not all background checks pick up incidents of sexual misconduct. And of course the absence of someone's name from a banned list doesn't by itself make that person qualified to coach.

"This is a big challenge - how do you verify whether someone is worthy of being trusted with your kid?" said Dan Hill, spokesman for SafeSport.

Kerig sold RallyMe two years ago to Sports Engine, a community-based sports website that is now owned by NBC.

Kerig, who coaches youth hockey, said even before the sex-abuse crisis hit Olympic sports, he sensed a void when it came to tools that could be used to vet coaches. A few months after Kerig began his project, Nassar victims testified in the sentencing hearing for the former Michigan State doctor, who also served as a volunteer physician for USA Gymnastics.

Those testimonials brought voice to the depth of Nassar's crimes and shined a light on the scope of the problem. Virtually the entire senior staff at the USOC has turned over since then, and the new leadership has called for the decertification of USA Gymnastics. Congress is holding hearings and considering changes in the law that governs the USOC and the sports it oversees.

Despite these moves, there remains a search for a grassroots solution to curbing sex abuse in sports.

"One of the ramifications of the Nassar thing was that... every coach is now going to start as a suspect," Kerig said. "And we're saying 'No, let's build this community and let's try to change this conversation.'"

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Copyright 2018 News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)
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News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)

 

Signing Day wasn't just for future members of the football team in Chapel Hill.

The University of North Carolina might need to restock the printer cartridges after announcing details of 17 contracts, including an eight-year extension for Roy Williams that will keep the Hall of Fame coach in charge of the Tar Heels' basketball program through the 2027-28 season.

Under the new agreement, Williams is set to make just more than $2.2 million next season in base and supplemental pay, with his guaranteed salary escalating to a total of $2.95 million in the final season of the deal.

In releasing Williams' new contract, the university also provided details of Williams' personal services agreement with Nike for the first time. That deal will pay Williams $250,000 this season, escalating by $10,000 every season through 2027-28.

"I'm grateful and humbled in the university's continued faith in my leadership of the basketball program," Williams said in a statement. "When I coached at Kansas, my contracts with Nike and our media partner were private, and UNC respected and honored that for 15 years. However, times have changed and understanding the environment that college basketball faces now, Chancellor Folt, Bubba (Cunningham) and I agreed the correct and proper thing would be to disclose those terms."

Williams, whose UNC teams have won three national championships, would be 77 when the 2027-28 season ends. Athletics director Bubba Cunningham couldn't be reached for comment about the university's long contract extension.

Along with Williams, the university announced contract extensions with coaches Anson Dorrance (women's soccer), Mike Fox (baseball), Jenny Levy (women's lacrosse), Brian Kalbas (women's tennis), Sam Paul (men's tennis) and Carlos Somoano (men's soccer) and Coleman Scott (wrestling).

Joe Breschi (men's lacrosse), Donna Papa (softball) and Joe Sagula (volleyball) were all given five-year contracts.

Besides the coaches' contracts, the university announced a 10-year extension that will keep the university's athletics program outfitted in Nike and Jordan Brand apparel through June 2028. Per terms of the contract, Nike will supply the university with $4.9 million in athletics products this season.

A minimum of $600,000 per year — at least $6 million over the life of the contract — is guaranteed for licensing, which the university directs for need- and merit-based scholarships, doubling the previous guarantee.

"We're pleased to continue this long-standing partnership with Nike, which goes well beyond the direct benefits it provides to nearly 800 student-athletes each year," UNC chancellor Carol Folt said in a statement. "This extension makes even more funds and opportunities available to benefit our students in areas ranging from scholarships to internships and helps Carolina students across our campus."

The university also announced a media rights contract with Learfield through June 2029 with an annual value of $12.6 million.

Contact Brant Wilkerson-New at 336-373-7008.

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December 20, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

Another national signing day for college football has played out, and you'll be shocked — just shocked — to learn the big winners are, well, the teams that win every year.

Alabama's dominance over the sport is in no peril of waning. After shaking up his staff to get younger and more aggressive in recruiting, Nick Saban has landed a class that some experts think might contend for his best ever.

Clemson ended up with another top-five class, including blue-chip players from as far away as Los Angeles, a clear signal Dabo Swinney's talent pipeline is expanding rather than narrowing.

Other perennial College Football Playoff contenders could all trumpet elite classes as Georgia, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma were all expected to land in the top 10.

In other words, the college football world order doesn't seem to be changing much. If anything, the bluebloods are strengthening their grip on the best talent and thus the championships for the foreseeable future.

But the NCAA, if it had the willpower and the mandate from its masses, could start to create more parity with the snap of its fingers. All it would take is cutting scholarships down to 70.

Though many coaches would disagree, the 85-scholarship limit has not only become outdated but also allowed for the kind of extreme roster bloat that lets superpowers stockpile talent with minimal consequence for mistakes in how they evaluate talent and which players they choose to spend time recruiting in the first place.

Essentially, it's become pretty easy for the programs on top to stay there. And if that's something that potentially threatens general interest in the sport — we'll see how the TV ratings look with Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma all in the playoff bracket for the third time in the last four years — the powers that be should take a serious look at how to shake things up.

Changing scholarship numbers, of course, isn't new. The NCAA first put in a 105-scholarship limit for football in 1973 after Congress passed Title IX and has reduced it periodically to 95 and then the current 85 in 1992.

Though the data aren't totally clear correlating those reductions to increased competitive balance, the sport has changed quite a bit since the last scholarship limit change. College football is national now, and so is recruiting. While geography is still the pre-eminent factor in where most players end up, ease of travel and communication makes it more likely than ever that recruits will look at schools several states away. Plus, television exposure isn't limited now to a handful teams like it was in the 1970s and '80s. Everybody's games are national.

While reducing roster size admittedly won't stop the parade of top talent to the Alabamas and Clemsons, it stands to reason a handful of top recruits per team, per year would funnel downward and thus reduce the margin for error among the elite. Injuries hit harder. Younger players get more responsibility. Just like in college basketball, the value of a senior-laden team increases, even if they don't have quite as much on-paper talent.

Of course, adjustments to the entire sport would have to made to accommodate such a big change, but let's not act like reducing scholarships would ruin the sport. In fact, teams have made due for years with 70 as the limit for travel rosters to road games. And unless there are extreme circumstances, no more than 45 or 50 are playing meaningful snaps in a game.

In the Wolken Plan for more college football parity, here's how it would work:

No more than 70 scholarship players on a roster.

No more than 20 players signed in each recruiting class.

Get rid of the redshirt rule and give players five years of eligibility to accommodate for injuries or attrition during the season.

Convert five of the lost player scholarships to coaching scholarships. In other words, each year, teams should be able to give a scholarship to someone who is interested in pursuing the coaching profession as a career. These students would do much of the work that currently goes to analysts and interns like breaking down film or recruiting databases or self-scouting.

Take the other 10 scholarships and redistribute to other sports so that schools aren't decreasing the total number of educational opportunities they offer. Surely sports such as baseball (which gets 11.7 scholarships) or soccer (nine) could use the help.

It's just that simple.

And while reducing scholarships isn't going to completely tilt the balance of power in college football — Alabama is still going to get the best players as long as Saban is around — every signing day feels like the top programs just running up the score.

And the reason it happens is because 85 scholarships allows them to stack their rosters with four- and five-stars who will spend their first couple of years playing special teams.

It's unnecessary, and it doesn't really pose much of a challenge when the top teams can lose a player to the NFL and have two more ready to go behind them on the depth chart.

Maybe college football and the NCAA don't really care that the ability to win championships is being concentrated in the hands of a precious few. But there is a more interesting way to do this, if anyone has the guts to pursue it.

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Copyright 2018 Chattanooga Publishing Company
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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

The second early signing period in college football history begins today and runs through Friday.

It's a chance for Southeastern Conference coaches to prove they are a little more comfortable with the NCAA's new recruiting timetable, if only that was the case.

"This has really sped things up," LSU's Ed Orgeron said. "We are going to sign as many guys as we can and leave a couple open for some guys who are going to wait until February, but there has definitely been a crunch when you go in the homes of 19 or 20 young men in a span of two or three weeks after the Texas A&M game.

"That's the part that speeds things up, because there is a smaller window now to get in all these homes, but I like the early signing period, and I think it's great."

Judging by the team rankings on 247Sports.com, the SEC is capitalizing on recruiting's new landscape way more effectively than its conference counterparts. Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M and LSU owned the top four collections of commitments as of Tuesday evening, and the league accounted for 11 of the top 22 classes.

All seven SEC West programs entered today with top-20 classes, with Auburn ranked 14th, Mississippi State 17th, Arkansas 18th and Ole Miss 19th.

Yet the SEC's success in this recruiting cycle has been accompanied by continued chaos for coaching staffs, even those achieving at the highest level. Georgia's Kirby Smart is trying to top Alabama for the nation's No. 1 class after <a href="/https://www.timesfreepress.com/news/sports/college/story/2017/dec/21/georgilands-nations-no-1-early-signing-class/459649/" target="_blank" title="Georgia top class">accomplishing that feat in last year's cycle</a>, but the early signing date occurs before many top college juniors decide whether they are leaving for the NFL.

"In talking to my colleagues in the profession, it's a very tough time to deal with a signing date before a junior-declare date and a signing date before we have all our grades and all our information back from this last semester," Smart said. "We don't have that back to know who's eligible, who's not eligible, what losses you may have, the juniors coming out or transfers. I think the early signing date was thought to be for 50 percent or 60 percent of the prospects, but I would say this year it's going to be 90 or 95.

"You're making a decision before you know your entire roster, before you know grades, before you know about juniors and before you know about transfers. It's really tough to manage that number, and we're experiencing that right now."

Running back Elijah Holyfield, tight end Isaac Nauta and receivers Mecole Hardman and Riley Ridley are among Georgia's junior players who are considering bypassing their final seasons.

Adding to the task of roster management is the adjustment of when prospects are now taking their visits.

"The thing that's changed for us is that we've had a lot more official visits during the season and during home games," Missouri's Barry Odom said. "That has sped up the process for some prospects, and we've now had more visitors in April, May and June than I thought we initially would."

With the traditional signing date remaining the first Wednesday of February, coaches are debating the ideal recruiting timetable, which may or may not exist.

"I don't think there was enough foresight by the coaches and by all the rules makers that this was all going to collide, but it's all equal, so it's not like anybody has a major competitive edge," Smart said. "I do think that the gap between the two signing days is too small. It's only six weeks, but if we had an August signing date, others would say, 'Well, that's just speeding it up more, and you're already complaining about that.'

"We didn't know the ramifications when we moved it up of dealing with the juniors, and the other argument would be to move the junior-declare date up earlier. They have to decide before the bowl game whether they are going to play or not anyway, and a lot of them aren't. There are debates about both, and there will be issues with both."

The lone top-five national prospect entering today without having committed is running back Trey Sanders of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The 6-foot, 214-pounder is originally from Apalachicola and was once committed to Alabama, but several recruiting analysts expect Sanders to pick Georgia over the Crimson Tide and Florida this afternoon.

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

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Copyright 2018 Bangor Daily News

Bangor Daily News (Maine)

 

A $475,000 grant from the National Football League will help the Maine Concussion Management Initiative expand its data-collection efforts as it seeks to address the prevalence of the injury among young athletes statewide.

MCMI, based at Colby College in Waterville, will use the four-year grant to supplement its Head Injury Tracker program that has been used for the past five years to gather concussion-related information at approximately 40 high schools around the state.

The grant will allow for further study of the broad spectrum of concussion in young athletes, including identifying predictors of recovery and possible long-term effects.

"Our goal is to be able to identify individual risk factors for students for prolonged recovery, and in the perfect world allow us to start to understand how we can start to create strategies to reduce concussions," MCMI director Dr. Paul Berkner said.

MCMI has collected data on more than 88,000 baseline preseason tests, more than 18,000 post-injury tests, and specific data related to nearly 1,500 college, high school and middle-school students.

The NFL grant will allow for significant expansion of that effort, in part by reaching out to all 150 high schools in Maine and offering athletic trainers a stipend for reporting concussion-related information in real time, and by providing a more efficient and effective way of collecting that information.

"Our goal for this project is to get as many high schools in the state reporting as possible," Berkner said. "We have funding for basically all of the high schools in Maine, and our goal is to improve the data collection."

Bruce Maxwell, a professor of computer science at Colby, has developed a mobile-friendly platform for a web-based concussion assessment tool that will allow for the recording of data at the scene that includes type of injury, scenario at the time the athlete was hurt and resulting symptoms.

As many as one-third of Maine high schools lack athletic trainer services, but Berkner said the reporting process may be employed effectively by other school personnel.

"The platform we use is very user-friendly and can be used by other school professionals, specifically school nurses, so there are other options for gathering this information in schools that don't have an athletic trainer," Berkner said.

"The stipend is to value that work, their time and their efforts around improving the health of our youth," he said.

MCMI has been pursuing means of collecting more concussion-related data since the organization was founded in 2009, and Berkner believes this grant will help boost the volume of information available to aid in the understanding and management of concussions when they occur.

"The goal is to provide schools the tools so they can better manage their own concussions," he said.

Plans called for the updated effort to be rolled out when the 2019-20 academic year begins next September.

"The problem is that each school by itself does not have enough data to be able to effectively look at their incidence and prevalence of concussions," Berkner said. "Our role here is to be able to collect and look at enough data from around the state so we can actually start reducing concussions.

"And it's not just around football. There's all this energy and effort around football, but I would really like to focus on all sports and improving outcomes for all youth who suffer head injuries."

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Copyright 2018 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

We interrupt your regularly scheduled basketball season. Eyes on Five is back to bring you some breaking prep football news. In a stunning vote — results released Tuesday by the IHSA — the organization's member schools approved amendment proposal No. 23, which completely overhauls how the football regular season and playoffs will operate starting in 2021.

And there was more stunning news on Monday when the Hinsdale High School District 86 board voted to eliminate football and other sports and activities beginning next school year if a referendum on the April ballot doesn't pass. Phew... this special edition of Eyes on Five looks at an awfully busy December for DuPage County prep football. Brave new world: I'm shocked. And no one better summed up the shock than Wheaton Warrenville South coach Ron Muhitch, who has no interest in seeing districts dissolve his new home in the DuKane Conference.

"My recommendation is to send it back to Florida for a recount," he said. Following the district proposal from its humble beginnings, I did not think the state was ready for a change this drastic. Proposal No. 23 eliminates conferences and puts scheduling in the hands of the IHSA, which will form districts based on enrollment and geography. The top four teams in each of the eight districts per class qualify for the playoffs, meaning the playoffs stay at 32 teams per class and 256 total qualifiers.

I can speculate where the 324 "yes" votes came from to edge the 307 "no" votes, but I don't see how there were many from DuPage County. The DKC just formed and had a remarkable first season, the West Suburban Conference has been stable for 32 years and has no interest in change, and the East Suburban Catholic Conference and Chicago Catholic League just announced a merger.

That's roughly 50 schools that should have voted against the proposal, and a huge bloc to overcome for the five-member DuPage Valley Conference, which surely voted for it. One person I spoke to on Tuesday — and I spoke to a ton of people about this — suggested that principals may have steered contrary to the wishes of their coaches and voted yes on the proposal. Districts sure do ease a lot of administrative headaches regarding conference shuffling and scheduling issues. Was it central Illinois that swung the vote? Southern Illinois? Northwest Illinois? Maybe a combination of all the above.

Sorry to repeat myself but, again, I'm shocked at how the vote turned out. Yay districts!: Needless to say, the folks in the DVC are thrilled. The only downer is they'll have to wait until 2021 for districts to take effect. The positives of districts are clear and, honestly, there's a lot I like about them. It probably ends the conference shuffling that's been spearheaded by football and the desire to find easier playoff paths.

This school year alone saw the creation of the DKC and changes to the DVC, Upstate Eight, Metro Suburban and Interstate Eight. The DVC is a shell of its former self with only Metea Valley, Naperville Central, Naperville North, Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley remaining. DeKalb becomes the sixth member next school year. You can point to stable conferences like the West Suburban and the Mid-Suburban League, but let's be honest. Conference changes have gotten ridiculous.

Another issue that's likely resolved by districts is nonconference scheduling. Schools around here are tired of relying on out-of-state competition because schools are scared to schedule them and risk playoff qualification. Districts change all that. Teams will play a round-robin within their district, and then fill the schedule with a couple "nondistrict" games that won't count toward playoff qualification. That means you can schedule anyone in "nondistrict" games and no longer fear that it'll cost you a fifth win and a playoff spot. Only district games matter now.

Another appealing part of Proposal No. 23 is a playoff format that's set up so teams in the same district won't face each other until the quarterfinals at the earliest. Boo districts!: Now the bad news about districts... Back to the West Suburban Conference, where you've got historic programs like Glenbard West, Downers Grove North, York, Hinsdale Central and others. Because the 14-team league is spread among three classes, we're probably going to see the end of several amazing rivalries. Sure, there's room for "nondistrict" scheduling but not enough to make up for that much history. It's a shame.

The additional bad news can be summed up in two words: The Unknown. How will the IHSA form districts with the Class 7A and 8A schools in southern Illinois? Will they be in a district with south suburban schools like Minooka, the Plainfields and Bradley-Bourbonnais? Have fun with those road trips! What about near West suburban schools like Oak Park? After decades of epic rivalries in the WSC Silver, will the Huskies land in a district with Chicago Public teams who can't compete with them? What about mid-sized DuPage County schools like Glenbard South, which just this school year joined the Upstate Eight Conference?

In past years the Raiders competed in the 5A and 6A playoffs against a variety of teams like Marian Central, Hillcrest, Tinley Park, Lake Forest... all over the place. What will the Raiders' district look like? And what about that ESCC-CCL mega-conference that arrives next season? Now all those private schools will be lumped into districts with public schools. Trust me when I say no one wants that. Trouble in 86: To combat budget shortfalls, on Monday the Hinsdale High School District 86 board voted to eliminate football at Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South next school year. It also called for eliminating numerous other sports and activities.

It seems almost unthinkable, but it could become reality if the community fails to approve a $130 million referendum that'll appear on the April ballot. The money is needed for infrastructure improvements at both schools. No more football at Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South... wow. I've clearly been wrong about votes before (see above), but I can't imagine the referendum not getting the votes it needs in the spring — and I say that regardless of a $166 million referendum that was rejected in November.

Several people chimed in to me about this situation on Tuesday, and the belief is that the threat of eliminating football is a way to rally more support for the referendum. A literal political football, if you will. If true, it's quite a gamble. If the referendum fails again, get ready for some tough decisions in District 86. Stat time: The vote on Proposal No. 23 was beyond interesting. There were 324 "yes" votes and 307 "no" votes. Sixty-nine schools voted "no opinion" and 118 schools did not vote at all.

That's 700 votes for a football proposal... a sport with only 560 competing schools in 2018. That 560 number increases when you add the co-op schools that combine to form some of those 560 competing teams, but it's obvious that a bunch of non-football schools not only voted on the proposal but determined the outcome based on the margin of only 17. Like I said, interesting. Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_schmit

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Copyright 2018 The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

David Skogman never got the opportunity to complete the three-point play.

More importantly, however, he was given a chance to live.

In June, Skogman, a 6-foot-10 forward for Waukesha West and one of the top senior basketball recruits in the state, was showcasing his talents during a summer league game in Burlington.

Just a few months prior, late in his junior season with the Wolverines, Skogman had become one of the fastest-rising basketball prospects in Wisconsin. He had picked up a handful of offers from NCAA Division I mid-major programs and was catching the eyes of more college coaches entering a season on the AAU circuit.

"Things were taking off for him," Waukesha West head coach Don LaValle said. "Colleges were really starting to take notice of this 6-foot-10 kid that could do it all."

That's when an and-one changed — and nearly ended — his life.

A 10 percent chance to live

In the opening minutes of that summer league game, Skogman finished through contact in the paint and walked to the free throw line to potentially cap the three-point play.

"I was going to the line and I just collapsed," Skogman said. "It was just completely out of nowhere."

A healthy 17-year-old with no family history of heart problems, Skogman was suffering from cardiac arrest, the life-threatening emergency that occurs when someone's heart suddenly stops beating. The victim loses consciousness and the ability to breathe.

Nine out of 10 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest victims die, and the chances of survival decrease by 10 percent with every minute CPR is not admistered, according to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation.

"You see him there and it's just show-stopping," Waukesha West head coach Don LaValle said. "The gym gets cleared out and it was all like in slow motion. I just kept thinking as we're going through the crisis management, I'm just praying, 'Please, God, make this work out. Please let him live.'"

Immediately, David's mother, Sheryl, bolted from the bleachers. A former nurse, she knew that the odds were against her son.

On the floor, Sheryl performed CPR immediately while the paramedics were called, and Wolverines assistant coach Matt Heuser took off to find the school's automated external defibrillator.

"Mom's at a lot of games, but sometimes it's just his dad there by himself," LaValle said. "So now we can say it was the right people there at the right time at the right place. If dad had been there, we might be talking about a different story."

Once the defibrillator arrived, it was used to deliver an electrical shock to help the heart re-establish an effective rhythm.

"When they shocked me, I jolted up right after that, maybe 30 seconds to a minute later," Skogman said. "I was sort of paralyzed at that point. I was looking around while on the ground, just looking up at the hoop and my mom, wondering what was going on."

The swift and decisive actions in those six minutes saved his life.

Basketball future in question

Nobody told Skogman what exactly had happened until that evening in the hospital. Concerned about the health of his heart, doctors simply told him he had fainted as they ran tests to try to diagnose the problem.

Eventually, while reclined in his hospital bed, Skogman heard the news.

"I was obviously kind of emotionally shook over everything that had happened," he said. "Like, you don't go to the court expecting to only have a 10 percent chance to live."

Finding out that he suffered sudden cardiac arrest wasn't the worst part, though.

"The first time I got really sad was when the doctor said, 'Well, we're not sure if you'll ever be able to play basketball again because of what happened with your heart,'" Skogman said.

His mind went racing. Was his dream of playing college basketball going to end in a matter of six minutes during a summer league game? What about those eight Division I offers he had already earned, any of which meant he wouldn't need to pay for college?

Skogman remained in the hospital for a week as he underwent surgery and doctors ran tests on his heart to find out what was wrong.

In the end, though, there was no news to report, which in a way was also good news.

"That's why my doctor cleared me," Skogman said. "He said that obviously something was wrong, but we don't know what it was so they couldn't tell me that I couldn't play.

"If this had happened 10, 15 years ago, they would have shut me down. But because of medical advancements they didn't rule it out."

A changed perspective

Skogman has not only continued to play, but his ascent to becoming one of the state's most sought-after prospects hasn't been inhibited one bit.

Since the episode in mid-June, he has picked up eight more scholarship offers, including some from high-major programs Texas Tech and Rutgers. Coaches from Wisconsin, Boston College and Kansas State also have watch him play at Waukesha West open gyms.

"It's been a forever-changing experience," Skogman said of the past nine months. "I've gotten the low-majors in the spring, and then in the summer I had the heart problems and ended up getting some high-major offers. I'm definitely looking to go to a bigger school right now."

LaValle has seen a new side of Skogman since the incident this summer. On the court, Skogman's drive for basketball has taken off; off it, he calls the senior's "zest for life" off the charts.

"The thing that I've been most impressed with is that he's been through this roller coaster of emotions physically, emotionally, socially, not knowing what his future looks like," LaValle said. "He's learned so much from this and he still looks at it through a positive lens. It's unbelievable."

Skogman put on 40 pounds in the off-season, morphing from a wiry, 180-pound big man who could stretch the floor and shoot into a dominant physical post presence.

He spoke at the school's freshman orientation in front of the class of about 300 students and later addressed 150 families and shared his story at a Junior Wolverine program event.

"It honestly just gave me an appreciation for life that I didn't have before," Skogman said. "All of these things that you just take for granted, like basketball or going to school, they mean a lot to me now."

Skogman, an all-conference performer, has raised his scoring average from 11.8 points a game to 17.4, his rebounding from 10.4 to 16 and he is blocking nearly three shots a game.

"David was always a good player, but it's like he's just on a mission now to be the best he can possibly be," LaValle said. "Nobody can stop him."

Skogman has hit 64 three-pointers in his career but has added a stronger post game in the senior season. Through five games, he is getting to the free throw line more than ever.

Each time Skogman steps to the line, receives the ball from the official and bounces it a few times, he takes a deep breath and focuses on the rim. Here he is, in the same spot where his life could have ended. His journey on the basketball court has come full circle.

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

 

COLUMBIA — Will Muschamp has won more games than any other coach in his first three seasons at South Carolina, and is the first coach in school history to take the Gamecocks to bowl games in each of his first three years.

USC appreciates it.

The Board of Trustees approved raises and extensions for Muschamp and assistants Bryan McClendon, Travaris Robinson and Dan Werner on Tuesday. With National Signing Day on Wednesday and names being mentioned in other coaching searches around the country, athletics director Ray Tanner and the Board were proactive in preserving the progress of Muschamp's program.

"I think the last couple of weeks, coach Muschamp and I have had numerous conversations, and there's been other schools coming after his staff. You want to have staff members other people want, but you also want to retain them," Tanner said. "It makes a difference, because these relationships don't happen overnight, and I know those calls have been coming in, too — 'Is your staff going to be together?'"

The announcement came with some raised eyebrows. USC was applauded for not waiting to lock up assistants when they were being approached by other schools, and questioned for extending the contract of a head coach that went 7-5 this season (4-4 SEC).

The Gamecocks were 3-9 after the 2015 season, all momentum from a 33-6 run from 2011-13 squandered. The 2018 record isn't worthy of parades but it's a far cry from where it was.

"Are we happy that we're at seven wins? I don't think coach Muschamp would tell you he's happy at seven wins," Tanner said. "But there's been a lot of good things that have happened in our football program and we want it to continue. Being able to continue is keeping your guys together."

Muschamp had his contract re-worked for the second time in two years. He was extended through the 2024 season with the same salary increase for the final year that's in his current contract.

Muschamp made $4.2 million this season and received a $100,000 bonus for making the Belk Bowl. His contract calls for annual $200,000 escalators, meaning he is set to make $4.4 million next season and $5.4 million in the 2024 season.

The buyout clause for Muschamp terminating the contract was also amended. He would owe USC $4 million if he left after the 2019 season, with the total decreasing to $3.5 million after 2020 and $3 million after 2021.

McClendon drastically increased USC's production in his first year as offensive coordinator and turned down overtures to be head coach or OC at other schools. He was extended through 2021 and had his pay bumped to $1 million per year.

"I think it's always important from a continuity standpoint. Bryan's a really good football coach on a lot of fronts," Muschamp said, crediting McClendon's skills at schematics and relating to players. "I think the continuity of where we're trying to go as far as creating that championship culture, I thought, was very important."

McClendon was making $650,000 on a deal that lasted through the 2019 season. He would owe USC $300,000 if he left after the 2019 season and $200,000 after 2020.

Defensive coordinator Robinson is still USC's highest-paid assistant and was making $1.2 million per year through the 2020 season. He was extended through 2021 with no salary increase. His buyout totals are the same as McClendon's.

Werner just completed his first year on staff at a salary of $500,000. His deal was reworked to $700,000 through the 2020 season.

Werner turned down interest from Ole Miss to stay at USC. He was the primary recruiter for coveted quarterback prospect Ryan Hilinski, who will enroll in January.

Werner would owe USC $100,000 if he left after the 2019 season and $50,000 after 2020.

Muschamp and his wife, Carol, also donated from $250,000 to $750,000 for naming rights to the Will and Carol Muschamp Family Team Meeting Room at the new operations building. The staff will begin moving into the facility on Jan. 7.

"He's immersed in this university and this community and he's giving back," Tanner said. "We're grateful for what he means to our football program and we want him to be here for a long time."

Team notes

Goose Creek alum Caleb Kinlaw's application for a sixth year of eligibility is still being processed, but Kinlaw said the people around him are extremely confident that he will receive it.

Summerville's Zack Bailey will attend the Belk Bowl and be on the sideline but obviously not play. He anticipates no delays in his NFL training due to the leg he fractured against Akron.

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Copyright 2018 The Columbus Dispatch
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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

 

Ohio State will play a Friday night football game next season, and not everyone is happy about it.

The Buckeyes will play at Northwestern on Oct. 18 in a rematch of this year's Big Ten championship game. The game's shift from Saturday, Oct. 19, was announced by both programs Tuesday.

This will be Ohio State's first Friday night Big Ten game since the conference announced in 2016 that its teams would play six games per season on that day of the week. It came in conjunction with the Big Ten's six-year, $2.64 billion television contract with ESPN/ABC and Fox.

That announcement was met with criticism by those disappointed that the conference was infringing on the day of the week traditionally reserved for high school football. Now that Ohio State will officially play on a Friday next season, that criticism resurfaced.

"I think it would be great if the Big Ten and all its member schools recognize the wonderful environment and sanctity that is Friday night football and how that feeds what they do," said Beau Rugg, director of officiating and sport management for the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said he understands that sentiment.

"I don't disregard that whatsoever," he said. "There's no question there's collateral damage. It was a hard decision for us. I don't want to disrespect that. There's nothing I could say or even attempt to say that would help people feel better about that. But we had to do what was best for our league and for our student-athletes that we serve here in the Big Ten Conference."

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald took a dim view of the move to Friday night.

"I understand why we're doing this, but it does not make me happy," Fitzgerald told the Chicago Tribune. "I still fundamentally believe that Fridays are for high school football."

For Ohio State, Smith said, the timing of a Friday night game makes sense. The Buckeyes are off the previous week and play host to Wisconsin on Oct. 26.

"We gain an extra day of rest for our players," he said.

Rugg said it was too early to calculate the financial impact for high schools when they have to play on the same night as Ohio State. It would be far worse, he said, if Ohio State played a Friday night home game.

"A home game would be brutal, especially for teams in this area, just with the traffic alone," Rugg said.

Smith said he would consider having Ohio State play a home game on Friday night only during the school's autumn break.

"That hasn't aligned yet," he said.

Northwestern announced the change of the game date in an email to its season-ticket holders on Tuesday morning. It said the tickets for the Ohio State game would not be made available on a single-game basis. The lack of a public sale is an attempt to limit the number of Ohio State fans attending the game.

brabinowitz@ dispatch.com

@brdispatch

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

 

Memphis head athletic trainer Darrell Turner was the subject of a consent order by the Tennessee board of athletic trainers for the second time in the past 30 months related to charges of employees working without a valid state license.

Documents obtained by USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee revealed that Turner was cited in November for having five unlicensed staff members working as assistant trainers from February 2012 to May 2014. Turner admitted to the charges on Aug. 30.

It was the second time Turner has found himself in trouble with the state board. In May 2016, he was cited for working eight months as an athletic trainer without a state license from February 2012, when he was hired by Memphis, to October 2012, when he received his license.

The five trainers had been certified by the National Athletic Trainers Association but did not have a Tennessee Athletic Trainer license. Four of the five were unlicensed by the state during the 2012-13 school year.

Turner was fined $5,600 - $200 for each month there was an unlicensed trainer on staff - and also had to pay costs of the case being prosecuted.

Turner was fined $1,600 for the first incident.

In both cases, his license was placed on probation until the fine was paid.

Turner declined comment when reached Monday by phone and directed all questions to the Memphis athletic department.

University not implicated

In a statement released Friday, the university said it was not implicated in the investigation and "has evaluated its policies to ensure that it continues to employ trainers who are authorized to practice in the State of Tennessee and will evaluate the need for any additional internal review and related response."

U of M added that all athletic trainers currently employed are "properly licensed with the state of Tennessee, and have been nationally certified through the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) BOC."

A Memphis athletic spokesman said Monday that because the issue was a state matter, not a university one, Turner's punishment by the state board was deemed sufficient by the university and the matter is considered resolved.

Also, all department policies have been rewritten to ensure all athletic trainers are licensed by the state during employment.

Two of the trainers - Chappell Evans and Jared Muth - did not hold a state license during their stints at Memphis. Evans, Muth, and Yichen Sun were graduate assistants and worked for two seasons, but Sun received her athletic trainer license in April 2013.

Evans, who worked with several sports in 2011-13, is now an assistant athletic director at Tulane, and Muth, who was the primary trainer for Memphis women's volleyball and tennis in 2012-14, has a similar role at Marshall.

Football assistant athletic trainer Larry Reynolds, the lone person among the five still employed at Memphis, received his state license in May 2014 after he was hired in July 2013

Kimberly Duskin received her state license in 2014, nearly two years after being hired at Memphis. She is now the women's basketball athletic trainer at Oklahoma State.

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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

With Georgia's highly touted freshman quarterback Justin Fields exploring a transfer after a season in which he was used strictly as a backup, here are four questions and answers about the situation.

Q: Where do things stand?

A: As USA TODAY reported Monday night, Fields has notified Georgia he intends to transfer at the end of the season. That notification is significant in the new NCAA transfer process. Whereas athletes used to need to get a "permission to contact" release from schools when they wanted to transfer, which led to some questionable behavior by coaches blocking certain destinations, an athlete now only needs to notify the school, which then must place the name in an NCAA portal within two business days.

Fields made that request Friday, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the announcement is not official. That means, unless he decides to pull his request, he will be in the NCAA transfer database by the end of Tuesday and officially become a free agent. At that point, any school will be able to see his name in the database and be allowed to recruit him.

That does not mean Fields will definitely transfer. People have changed their minds before. Some athletes have left and come back. And certainly Georgia coach Kirby Smart does not want to lose Fields and will continue trying to lure him back, especially if he stays with the team through the Sugar Bowl.

However, going so far as to request your name be put into the transfer portal is a pretty good indication of where this is heading.

Q: Where will Fields go?

A: As a former No. 2 overall recruit just a year ago, there's certainly going to be a ton of interest in Fields from across college football. Early speculation has linked him to Ohio State and Oklahoma, both of which make a ton of sense. With Dwayne Haskins likely leaving for the NFL, the Buckeyes would potentially have a competition in Ryan Day's first season between Fields and Tate Martell, who got snaps as the backup this year. And what quarterback these days wouldn't be interested in Oklahoma given the back-to-back Heisman Trophies won by Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray in Lincoln Riley's first two seasons as head coach. On the other hand, Oklahoma has a commitment from Spencer Rattler, a five-star quarterback who is expected to enroll this summer. That could be a delicate situation for Riley.

Other elite schools such as Florida State and Auburn will have a need for someone like Fields, who should be ready to go as a starter. Fields was once committed to Penn State and through that commitment has a relationship with Mississippi State's Joe Moorhead.

In other words, it's pretty early. And once the recruiting process gets going, it will give an opportunity for other schools you might not expect to get involved. When Kelly Bryant left Clemson, for instance, few pegged Missouri right away as his next destination. But that's where he ended up because of how Barry Odom and Derek Dooley sold him on the offense and his role.

Q: Could Fields play next season?

A: Though NCAA transfer rules require athletes to sit out a year, there's a waiver process to play immediately that has gotten pretty lenient in recent years. And Fields could have a very strong case to get that waiver.

During the Sept. 29 game against Tennessee, Georgia baseball player Adam Sasser was heard by multiple people in the stands referring to Fields with a racial slur. The incident blew up publicly, and Georgia dismissed Sasser from the baseball team after an investigation. It's certainly plausible that Fields could include that in his request under a new NCAA rule that allows for waivers "due to documented mitigating circumstances that are outside the student-athlete's control and directly impact the health, safety and well-being of the student-athlete."

That vague wording has led to a number of players becoming eligible immediately, including Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson after transferring from Mississippi. Georgia recently benefited from this rule when receiver Demetris Robinson was ruled eligible this season after transferring from California.

Though some Georgia fans will argue it's a stretch to connect the racially charged incident to Fields' transfer, that probably isn't an area Georgia or the NCAA would want to contest, given the sensitivity of the topic. After all, who is anyone to say that an African-American teenager who became part of a national story because a fellow Georgia athlete called him the N-word wasn't impacted negatively by that situation?

Fields, it seems, would have a pretty good case to play in 2019.

Q: Is Georgia at fault here?

A: Maybe a little bit, but managing quarterbacks is perhaps the most difficult aspect of running an elite program these days.

When Georgia decided to cast its lot with Jake Fromm -- which was the right decision, by the way -- it created a difficult path for Fields to get meaningful playing time.

Bottom line, Fromm is an elite college quarterback. He led Georgia to within a couple of plays of winning the national championship as a true freshman; he was terrific again as a sophomore and almost certainly will start as a junior. It's unclear what kind of prospect the NFL thinks Fromm will be, which means there's a good likelihood he'll play as a senior, too. For now and the foreseeable future, this is Fromm's team.

Fields went to Georgia with the intention of competing for and ultimately winning the job. It didn't happen. Is that because he didn't grasp the playbook quickly enough to contribute in a meaningful way, or is it because he didn't get an opportunity to show what he can do?

There's probably a little bit of both in there. When Fields did play, he didn't look quite ready. On the other hand, Georgia did not put him in situations where he was going to necessarily look good.

Though Fields is a dual-threat quarterback, some scouts called him one of the best high school prospects ever out of Georgia because of his ability to throw the ball. Georgia essentially used him as a situational zone-read guy, allowing him to throw just 39 passes over the 12 games he appeared. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney didn't have a great plan for how to use Fields, and when he did, it felt forced.

It will be interesting to see how Fields fares in a different environment.

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Copyright 2018 Times-World, LLC
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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

 

Checking in on why the Wildcats and Hokies did not play this month, plus checking in on Tubby Smith.

Kentucky deputy athletic director DeWayne Peevy shed some light Tuesday on why the Wildcats did not end up playing the Virginia Tech men's basketball team earlier this month.

Hokies coach Buzz Williams said two weekends ago that Tech had signed a contract to play Kentucky at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 8. Williams said that game was canceled "without us knowing," so Tech filled the hole last spring with last weekend's Boardwalk Classic game with Washington in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Peevy said Tuesday that there was no contract.

"We never got to a point of a contract," Peevy said. "Definitely a verbal agreement, headed to produce a contract."

The Wildcats instead played Seton Hall — a New Jersey school from the Big East Conference — at the Garden on Dec. 8.

Peevy said it was Kentucky's decision to call off the game with the Hokies.

"We elected to get out of the game and book Seton Hall," Peevy said. "Because it hadn't gotten finalized [with Tech], there was an opportunity to play a different opponent.

"It was a thing that the Garden was looking for as far as [attendance] numbers. But also from a [UK coaching] staff standpoint, we were playing so many ACC schools this year, with us playing Duke and North Carolina, that once the opportunity came to play another team other than Virginia Tech,... they were in agreement with that as well."

Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports tweeted last April that Kentucky and Seton Hall were finalizing an agreement to play in December at the Garden.

"I thought the [Tech and UK] staffs had already talked, but they hadn't," Peevy said. "At that point, we hadn't even agreed to a game with Seton Hall."

Seton Hall wound up winning the game with Kentucky, 84-83.

"There were a lot of Seton Hall fans there," Peevy said.

The Hokies lost at Kentucky last season; that was a one-shot deal.

Tubby Smith back at High Point

Tubby Smith has been a head men's basketball coach in the Southeastern Conference, the Big Ten and the Big 12.

But Smith is no longer in a major conference. He is no longer at a big-name school. He is in his first season steering his alma mater, Big South member High Point in North Carolina.

Smith is 67 years old. He could be enjoying retirement right now. So what is he doing at High Point?

"My wife, she said, 'Tubby, you've been a good husband, a good provider. We're set for the rest of our lives financially. The grandkids, we're going to send them to school.' She said, 'Don't forget the great-grandkids. Take your ass back to North Carolina,'" Smith cracked a few months ago at Big South media day at a Charlotte, North Carolina, hotel.

Smith, who steered Kentucky to the 1998 NCAA title, has High Point off to a 6-5 start.

He has guided five schools to the NCAA Tournament — Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota and Texas Tech. Smith was fired by American Athletic Conference member Memphis last March after only two seasons at that school.

Smith took the High Point job after consulting with friends in the business such as Cliff Ellis, the coach at former Big South member Coastal Carolina.

"He said, 'Tubby, you'll love it. It's a slow pace.... You're going to a small town in North Carolina. It's a bus league. You're going to be on buses,'" Smith said.

"I don't know if I'm looking forward to it. I've been driving more than I've driven in a lot of years.... I was out in Vegas [to recruit], I was having to drive myself around. I haven't done that in years. My eyesight is not the best it's been."

Smith, who grew up in Maryland, graduated from High Point in 1973.

"I've got a lot of friends here," Smith said. "I've come to North Carolina every year since I graduated, spent time with friends."

Smith's wife is also a High Point graduate. They met when she was a freshman at the school and he was a senior.

"She was ready to come back, to maybe slow down," Smith said. "It's pretty intense at most major colleges."

Smith's son G.G. is his associate head coach.

"It's been an unbelievable help, because I've been at a certain level. He was at Loyola (of Maryland).... He was at Armstrong Atlantic. He was at... Johns Hopkins," Smith said. "So he understands why, 'Dad, we should be over there watching these kids on this court. These are the kids we have a chance to recruit.'"

Smith replaced Scott Cherry, who steered High Point for nine years. The Panthers have never made the NCAAs since moving up to Division I in 1999.

Smith has won 603 games as a Division I head coach.

"I still have the energy," he said. "I'm still fired up, because I've got a great group of kids at High Point. And coaching at my alma mater, that's really inspiring."

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

 

Moncks Corner residents are supporting the town's initiative to bring a Miracle League Field to the Regional Recreation Complex.

Freedom Church, located at 1425 Cypress Gardens Road, has donated $4,000 to support the completion of the first Miracle League in Berkeley County. The specially designed baseball field will provide opportunities for children of all children to play regardless of their abilities.

Mayor Michael Lockliear said there are over 4,400 special needs students in the Berkeley County School District who currently have to leave the county to play an organized sport.

"That is why this has been an important goal of mine for so long and why it's great to see people in our community coming together to make it happen," Lockliear said. Thank you Freedom Church for opening up your hearts and being the first to step up for this worthy cause. You can't even imagine how far your donation is going to go," Lockliear said.

Shawn Wood, pastor of Freedom Church, said when the church started in 2011, it wanted to be a church "marked by our generosity."

"Over the past seven years, we have strived to faithfully serve our community in tangible ways," Wood said. "Today, we are honored to be able to once again partner with the Town of Moncks Corner by making our first investment into the Miracle League Field. This field will bring our community closer together and we're looking forward to the impact it will make on Berkeley County and in the lives of those with special needs."

The design of the project is currently underway. Following design, the Town will move forward with construction, estimated at $1.2 million. The Miracle League field itself is Phase 1 of the project. Phase 2 is an all-inclusive playground estimated at $730,000.

 

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Copyright 2018 Richmond Newspapers, Inc.
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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

IRVINE, Calif. — Ryan Hilinski got the talk in March, two months after his older brother died.

"You can walk away," his parents, Mark and Kym, and eldest brother, Kelly, told him. Deep down, part of them would be relieved if he did. If he were younger, they would have forbidden him to play football.

But Ryan was almost 18 years old and one of the best high school quarterbacks in the country. ESPN would name him the top pro-style quarterback in the class of 2019. More than 30 colleges would offer him full scholarships, including blue bloods such as Georgia, Ohio State and Louisiana State, and his childhood dream school, Stanford. He had worked too long and accomplished too much for them to take this away from him now.

Only he could decide whether to keep pursuing the sport that may have led to his brother Tyler's suicide, a death that stunned nearly everyone who knew him. One day Tyler was the likely starting quarterback for a team on the rise. The next, he was dead.

Tyler Hilinski shot himself in a closet inside his Pullman, Wash., apartment on Jan. 16. He was 21. Four months earlier, he had been carried off the field after leading the Washington State Cougars to a triple-overtime victory over Boise State. His parents last saw him alive a few weeks before his death, on a family vacation in Mexico.

He seemed happy and healthy, which only haunts them further. Where were the warning signs that their middle son wanted to take his own life?

"We have no clue what happened," Mark said. "We will sit here for the next 20 years and not know what the heck happened to Tyler."

The biggest window into Tyler's mind arrived posthumously, via a brain autopsy conducted by the Mayo Clinic. It revealed he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease brought on by repeated head trauma.

After researchers at Boston University studied the brains of 202 former football players — many families had donated them because of concerns the athletes had CTE — they announced in 2017 that 87 percent of them had tested positive for the disease.

Tyler's death places him at the intersection of two troubling demographics: football players with severe brain damage and suicides among young people. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Americans ages 10 to 34. Together, they constitute thousands of lives lost each year, leaving untold thousands more behind to cobble together a life while grieving.

For Mark and Kym, dealing with the loss meant starting a foundation, Hilinski's Hope, which works to reduce the stigma around mental illness. Kelly, who studies medicine, changed his specialty from cardiovascular medicine to neurology.

And for Ryan, it meant playing football. Everything he does, he said, will now be for him and his brother. He switched his jersey number to No. 3, which Tyler wore.

Before his death, Tyler was Ryan's first call every time he received a scholarship offer. After, Ryan immediately tweeted the news, always referring to Tyler in the announcement.

"It's basically like me telling him first," he said.

He also needed to find a way to play that would allow his family to experience the sport in peace. Maybe it would have to be 2,500 miles away in a place where the Hilinskis could get a fresh start.

'The Brothers'

At Orange Lutheran High School, a tall red banner of Ryan hangs on a fence outside the main entrance, part of a series showcasing football players. He sings bass in the honors choir and booms Motown songs in the hallways. Prospective students shadow him on campus, and he once sat in on a school board meeting.

Ryan is the star quarterback, the school figurehead and, now, the most visible representative of an increasingly public-facing family. He believes he no longer has the luxury of acting his age.

"After Tyler passed, it's kind of been like, 'OK, now I'm an adult,'" Ryan said. "I've got to grow up kind of in a hurry."

The Hilinski boys were always together, always in lock step. Wherever Kelly, 24, went, Tyler, 18 months his junior, would follow. And whenever his older brothers competed in something, Ryan tried to outdo them both. Their parents took to calling them "The Brothers," not as a statement of fact but as a proper name for an indivisible unit. Before long, they referred to themselves that way, too.

So when Kelly quit baseball before his freshman year of high school to play quarterback full time, his brothers inevitably followed suit. Ryan was so young that he cannot recall the first time he put on a helmet, only that it was to help his brothers practice running over a defender.

For years, he toiled in their shadows, watching as Kelly left home to play football at Columbia — he would eventually transfer to Weber State — and later when Tyler set off for the Pac-12. Ryan vowed to climb higher and did so by trying to grow into an amalgamation of his brothers' best qualities. On the field, he has Kelly's cannon arm and Tyler's moxie. Away from it, when he is at his best, he blends Kelly's charisma with what everyone once saw as Tyler's even keel.

"The perfect mix of all of us," Kelly said.

Playing on, but somewhere else

Everything about football now is distressing for the Hilinski family and most likely always will be. They worry that Ryan could lose sight of where Tyler's football dreams end and his own begin.

"It can't just be for Tyler," Kym said.

She spent the spring fretting about Ryan's college decision, wondering whether she would be able to set foot in the same stadiums Tyler played in if Ryan stayed on the West Coast.

When Ryan finally decided on a college, he made an unusual choice: He would play for the South Carolina Gamecocks, a middling SEC team that had not signed a player out of California since 2015.

He said "a big factor" in his decision was to give everyone the hope of a new beginning a coast away from heartbreak. Kelly is relocating from Utah and intends to enroll in South Carolina's medical school. Mark and Kym bought a home in Lake Murray, about 30 minutes from campus. They will settle in sometime this spring.

"It would be hard not to be together knowing that we weren't in Pullman," Mark said.

"And maybe that could have made some kind of difference," Kym added.

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Copyright 2018 Journal Register Co.

New Haven Register (Connecticut)

 

STORRS — The conversation turned to surprises Monday and UConn's Hall of Fame coach quickly volunteered the most unexpected Christmas present of his life.

"Heather Buck, best gift ever, flash-frozen Stonington scallops," Auriemma said. "That is the most amazing Secret Santa gift of all time. I guarantee you never got Stonington scallops for your Secret Santa. She's really proud of being from Stonington."

After 11 national championships, after all of life's surprises, there has to be one shocker out there on the other end of the line from one of his players that's even bigger than flash-frozen scallops. And it probably would go like this: "Hey, coach, this Sue of Syosset. Flash: I want you to be the first to know I'm the new head coach of the Lakers (or Celtics or Knicks or Nets)."

Now that would leave Auriemma in frozen silence. At least for a minute.

On a day when the Indiana Pacers hired longtime WNBA executive Kelly Krauskopf as the NBA's first female assistant general manager, Auriemma was asked if he can envision Sue Bird, the greatest point guard he ever coached, as head coach of an NBA team.

"The big question I've always asked (his older professional players) whenever I've had these conversations is, 'Do you want to?' " Auriemma said. "The response I get a lot of times is, nah, not really. How about part of ownership? Yeah, I'd like that. Or how about being a general manager? Yeah, I'd like that. I haven't heard too many of those guys talk about, yeah, I really would like to be a head coach in the NBA.

"Having said that, do I think they would be really, really good at it? Yeah, I think they would. Sue would particularly. When you study the game like she has, when you've played the game for as long as she has, when you're as good with people as she is, I think you have all the ingredients to be a great coach. Obviously, there's an apprenticeship program if you want to do it. It'll be interesting to see what the next move by Sue and (Diana Taurasi) will be after they're finished playing."

While making it clear she wants to keep playing for the Seattle Storm, Bird, 38, accepted the job as Denver Nuggets' basketball operations associate last month. She's scouting. She's getting a taste of front office work.

NBA head coach and NBA general manager obviously require different skills and neither require a windmill dunk or guarding LeBron James. Krauskopf, the WNBA Fever's top executive the past 19 years, clearly has the qualifications and acumen for the job. As she said, "building winning teams and elite level culture is not based on gender — it is based on people and processes."

There have been two assistant GMs in baseball with the Yankees, Jean Afterman and Kim Ng, now MLB senior vice president for operations. And while Krauskopf's appointment is historic with basketball, Auriemma is staunch in his belief real history will be made when a female is hired as an NBA general manager or head coach.

"Whether it's a WNBA player getting an opportunity like Sue or where Kelly is getting an opportunity, you first want to make sure that it's not, 'In this era of empowering women we really need to show we're on board with that,' " Auriemma said. "That's part of it, but the bigger part is these people are really qualified and they add to our ability to have a high-level organization."

 

jeff.jacobs@hearstmediact.com; @jeffjacobs123

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Copyright 2018 Star Tribune
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

A beloved youth hockey coach from the communities of St. Michael and Albertville died over the weekend, his family confirmed.

Harv Graczyk had coached youth hockey teams in the towns just west of the metro area for more than 30 years. He had fallen and hit his head on the ice, suffering a traumatic brain injury, while coaching Nov. 26.

U.S.A. Hockey requires that coaches wear helmets, and Graczyk was wearing one at the time. But the chin strap was not completely fastened and the helmet came off as he fell to the ice and hit his head, said his son, Blake.

Graczyk spent a week in intensive care and two more weeks at North Memorial Health Hospital before he died of a pulmonary embolism on Saturday, his son said.

"He had a unique way of touching many lives," the family said in a statement. "He was a very generous and hard working person. He was caring and compassionate toward his family, friends and community. All of which was guided by his Catholic faith. His legacy will forever live on."

Graczyk, 67, was a 1969 graduate of Osseo High School. In the 1970s, he got a job at the Osseo Ice Arena, and that led him into coaching, his son said.

Graczyk coached teams in several age groups during his career with the St. Michael-Albertville Youth Hockey Association. He focused much of his time with players ages 11 to 14. He led "old-school" disciplined teams and developed good rapport with his players and their parents, who often referred to him as "Grandpa Harv," said Tony Christensen, a longtime friend who coached with Graczyk for many years.

"He was known for touching hearts," Christensen said. "He was an extremely caring person."

Graczyk kept up with his players and supported them even after they had left the program and moved to higher levels. He drove all over the state to watch them play hockey or other sports, Christensen said.

His willingness to lend a hand spread far beyond the rink. One of his neighbors ran a taxi company, and when she was short on drivers, Graczyk got behind the wheel, Christensen said.

"He would help people out," Christensen said.

As of Monday afternoon, 217 people had contributed more than $23,000 through a GoFundMe page set up Dec. 3 to help with Graczyk's medical expenses and now funeral expenses.

612-673-7768

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

 

The Alexandria City Council decided unanimously Saturday to name a refurbished park at the foot of King Street "Waterfront Park," even though the council admitted it's a lackluster and unimaginative moniker.

Its advantage: It doesn't offend anyone.

The park, previously called Fitzgerald Square, sparked a local dispute after some residents objected that founding father Col. John Fitzgerald was one of the town's largest slave owners.

"His successful businesses were accomplished on the back of enslaved human beings," said council member Timothy Lovain. D.

Although the new name might not be creative, Lovain said it puts the focus on city efforts aimed at "finally restoring the waterfront to its prominent place in our city."

The park is a centerpiece of the city's ongoing redevelopment of Alexandria's riverfront. It will be combined with a park to the south, which already is called Waterfront Park. The first phase of the redeveloped park, slated for completion in early 2019, will include a plaza, promenade and an adaptable modular space. The entire project will take years to finish, after flood mitigation measures are built and other, undetermined amenities are added.

The abandonment of Fitzgerald's name enraged Irish organizations in Alexandria, whose leaders raised claims of anti-Irish and anti-Catholic bias. Fitzgerald, an Irish immigrant, was an aide-de-camp to Gen. George Washington during the Revolutionary War, served as mayor in the city's earliest years and founded a Catholic church, St. Mary's Basilica, in the town.

The late restaurateur Pat Troy, also an Irishman, had promoted the use of Fitzgerald's name around 2010 and the informal name eventually wound up on city planning documents.

A few officials said quietly last spring that there was concern among some residents about Fitzgerald's slave-owning past. In a March 17 announcement about the project's groundbreaking, city officials dropped the Fitzgerald Square reference, substituting a temporary name, "King Street Park at the Waterfront."

In explanation, city communications officials said the park had to go through an official naming process. They dismissed the idea that the change had anything to do with citizen complaints about Fitzgerald's past.

Although about 70 people testified at the naming commission's hearing in November, the only one to speak up Saturday was Andrew MacDonald, former vice mayor and a descendant of Scottish immigrants.

"It's not the jazziest name, but it serves a purpose," council member Paul Smedberg, D, responded. That purpose, council member John T. Chapman, D, added, is to provide "a plain name that allows all our communities to explore our history at the waterfront."

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

 

Juston Johnson's quest to play basketball with West Seneca West this season appears to be finished.

State Supreme Court Justice Dennis Ward denied Johnson's quest for an injunction that would allow him to play, and the Article 78 petition filed in court to appeal a Section VI decision that Johnson has used all of his eligibility in the sport has been dismissed.

The judge issued his ruling Monday afternoon, four days after all parties involved appeared in his courtroom for hearing in which the Johnsons were not granted a stay that would have allowed Juston to play while awaiting a decision on his eligibility extension appeal.

The Johnsons could appeal the State Supreme Court ruling, but the timing makes that unlikely with only eight weeks left in the regular season.

Section VI ruled prior to the season that the 2017-18 All-Western New York first-team selection was ineligible for his senior season because his six-year window for playing basketball had expired.

Ward determined the decision was "not arbitrary or capricious or an abuse of discretion under the facts presented to them."

"The window is time limited to 'consecutive years, beginning with the first year the student participates,' " he wrote. "Sitting out a year or repeating a grade does not extend the window."

Ryan Carney, the Johnsons' attorney, declined to comment on the specifics of the ruling. "I'm disappointed for Juston and the family," he said. "He's a great kid, a great student, a great teammate. For him to have to go through this is the most difficult part about this process."

Juston Johnson declined comment through his father, Demeris. The elder Johnson told The News: "It's obviously disappointing. It's hard to even talk about."

Although the West Seneca School District was listed as a respondent in court documents, district superintendent Matt Bystrak said: "We wouldn't have appealed if we didn't want Juston Johnson to play, but we will be respectful of the judge's decision."

Section VI Executive Director Timm Slade issued a statement to The News when asked about the decision. The statement read: "On behalf of Section VI, we do not have the ability to set aside rules and regulations set forth by New York State Public High School Athletic Association and the Commissioner of Education in the State of New York. Unfortunately, these types of situations occur and we must follow the process fairly as we oversee 96 high schools within Section VI. Out of respect for our member schools and their student-athletes, it is not our practice to make public comments."

In court documents and interviews with the News, Johnson and his family say that a broken arm he suffered playing pickup football before the start of his eighth-grade year prevented him from attending school and from being able to take a required fitness test.

The test is used to determine whether seventh- and eighth-graders are physically strong enough to handle playing junior varsity or varsity sports prior to entering high school.

Johnson played junior varsity basketball as a seventh-grader. The family also contends the broken arm led to the decision to home school Johnson that academic year (2013-14), which meant he wouldn't have been able to participate in sports or extra-curricular events in the school district.

Section VI and the New York State Public High School Athletic Association argue that Johnson had the cast removed in October of that year and had the splint removed four weeks after that, before the basketball season started, and Johnson could have attended West Seneca with the necessary academic accommodations while the injury healed.

In his ruling, Ward cited a one-page medical report. "The report does not state that the student was unable to attend public school during 2013-14. The report does not in any way suggest that the student's fractured arm caused him to repeat eighth grade. The report does not state that the student would have been unable to play sports that entire year due to injury."

Later, the judgment says, "The record is totally devoid of proof that the injury caused him to repeat eighth grade. It was agreed by all involved that the extra year of high school was caused by deficiencies in the year of home schooling. There was nothing to connect the broken arm to those deficiencies.... There is no proof in the record, therefore, that the arm fracture causes Mr. Johnson to be held back a grade."

Since Johnson played junior varsity basketball as a seventh-grader, the section considers that the start of the six-year window he had to compete in athletics.

When Johnson went to enroll for ninth grade in August 2014, the Johnsons say the school registrar indicated he didn't have the proper paperwork to fulfill academic requirements. The family decided it would be best for Juston to retake eighth grade in order to complete his core courses.

"Had Mr. Johnson not been required to repeat eighth grade due to the insufficiency of the home-schooling, Mr. Johnson would have been a senior during the 2017-18 season," Ward wrote. "Presumably, he would have been able to graduate in June 2018 and would have been recruited by college teams and likely would have been playing for one of them this year."

Johnson played a big role in West Seneca West's run to the Section VI Class A championship last year. The Indians went 24-1 with their lone loss coming in the state quarterfinals as Johnson averaged 24.8 points, 8.0 assists, 7.3 rebounds and 3.4 steals per game.

Prep school could be an option for Johnson, but most prep school programs have started their seasons.

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Copyright 2018 Collier County Publishing Company
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Naples Daily News (Florida)

 

JJ Weaver's past week as a football recruit was, in a word, "crazy."

A 6-foot-6 defensive end at Louisville's Moore Traditional School and a coveted four-star prospect in the current class, Moore had committed to Kentucky. He did not decommit from Kentucky, nor did he even imply that he might.

But he did visit Louisville recently, fulfilling a promise to athletic director Vince Tyra to meet the Cardinals' new coach Scott Satterfield. And Weaver followed that visit by saying he wanted to wait until February's late period to sign a binding letter of intent, rather than doing so this week during college football's recently implemented early signing period.

Weaver's stated reason was that he wanted to sign with friends in February, but the expected delay set off an alarm for a restless Big Blue Nation. The response he received on social media was such that it ultimately prompted Weaver and his mother Stacey Sherrell to reply on Twitter to ease concerns, insisting he wasn't going back on his commitment to Kentucky.

"That's crazy," Weaver said. "My momma was crying about it, everything. She thought people were going to come after me, do something to me. But it's good. Everything is perfect now."

Weaver ultimately opted to sign in December after all, telling the Courier Journal that he now plans to sign at his school Wednesday, the first of three days in the early signing period.

It was the latest in what has been a dramatic buildup in Kentucky for this week's early period, which is in only its second year of existence.

Satterfield caused angst for recruits when his staff revoked scholarship offers for players who had committed to Bobby Petrino's previous coaching staff. One of those players said he'd been "thrown for a loop," as he'd planned to enroll for spring semester at Louisville.

Two more of the state's premier prospects recently reversed field despite making public commitments on social media — Jared Casey of Ballard flipped from Oregon to Kentucky; Wandale Robinson of Western Hills decommitted from UK in favor of Nebraska. Western Kentucky joins the fray while scrambling to compile a class under new coach Tyson Helton.

Football recruiting has never been short on theater. The latest examples locally illustrate the unpredictable drama that can happen when teenagers change their minds while being heavily courted by football coaches whose high salaries are dependent on landing the best players.

Coaches get fired or change jobs. Players reconsider their choices. Still, the pressure applied by programs to secure commitments earlier than ever — oftentimes in haste for the athletes — has invited risks and awards in an early signing period that has been met with mixed outcomes.

To wait or not: 'Hard discussions'

For years, college football's recruiting calendar was built around signing day in early February. Recruits would receive scholarship offers and make verbal commitments, but until pen was put to paper on a letter of intent, none of the decisions were final.

Recruiting would thus continue, even with prospects having committed, and weeks leading up until signing day were filled with headlines about players switching from one school to another.

In April 2017, the NCAA's Division I council approved sweeping changes to football recruiting, including changes to the recruiting calendar in addition to a December signing date.

"The entire package of rule changes is friendly for students, their families and their coaches," said Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby in a statement at the time.

While still in its early stages, football's early signing date in December hasn't curbed that drama as much as simply moved it up the calendar.

"When we only had one signing day, there were surprises on that day too," UK coach Mark Stoops said. "For us and everybody, every team in the country, believe me. I was at Florida State, and we were holding on to our tail on signing day.

"Sometimes we got some good surprises, and sometimes we got some surprises.... I like it this way because if we get that surprise or somebody doesn't sign then you know you've got to go look for another guy. You've got time to get that fixed."

This comment by Stoops was in response to a question about recruiting in general and was not referencing Weaver or any one prospect.

His point, however, remains clear in representing a college coach's view: If a committed player doesn't sign in December, can you still consider him to be committed?

Prospects in football now have the option of signing early or late, like you see in men's basketball. Recruits can sign in November for basketball, but they will often wait until April, and that's generally regarded as routine.

Football isn't there yet.

The early signing date has created — perhaps unintentionally — additional pressure nationwide for a high school prospect to more quickly commit to a school. Sometimes, those public pronouncements don't hold up, just as they did not for Casey and Robinson.

The next step is then to complete the process by signing in December or else risk losing a spot that might not be available in February.

"There certainly are some benefits (to the early signing period), but the idea that this would relieve pressure on the prospect or in some way give them more control of the process I think is a misconception," said Barton Simmons, director of scouting for 247 Sports. "I do think that there is more pressure on prospects. The decisions become tougher, and I think they lose some leverage and lose some control when a kid that is verbally committed still has the opportunity to sort of collect some late interest in January that disappears, because now these kids are pressed to sign regardless of what may await them after the start of January."

Some players will be viewed as good enough for a college to hold a spot if he wants to wait. Some will not, and the uncertainty of a player wanting to wait understandably creates a dilemma for a college coach.

"Those are hard discussions," said newly hired WKU coach Tyson Helton, "but it depends on how bad do you really want the guy. Are you willing to wait? And you've got to tell yourself, 'Well, if we wait, is this guy really going to be there in January?'

"Everybody is going to be hounding the kid, too.... You have to have the hard discussion that says, 'Hey, if you do go (visit) somewhere, you need to understand that this spot may be potentially taken. If you're going to go look, we have to at the end of the day do the best thing for our football team and our football program.'"

During the first recruiting cycle with an early signing period, at least 80 percent of committed NCAA Division I prospects signed in December, according to Simmons.

Stoops put the percentage higher for commits in Power Five programs, saying it was more than 90 percent last year. Of UK's eventual 24-player signing class in 2018, 20 of them signed on the first day of the December period. Four more were announced in February.

"There may be a few loose ends to tie up," Stoops said. "If we have a scholarship or two, there's definitely still some good players that will be left on the board that we'll have to recruit. But the pressure is all in December. You get done with the games, and then you want to get it wrapped up by the 19th."

Since before the inception of an early signing period, Stoops has been publicly in favor of it. Helton said he has been as well.

Coaches, after all, can lock down the bulk of a signing class in December, thus allowing more time to evaluate the next year's crop of prospects.

You are either on board or not, and schools must plan accordingly.

"Being a football coach, if I had an opportunity to know what my team was going to look like in December, I'd take it," said Ballard High School coach Adrian Morton, whose player Casey plans to enroll at UK for spring semester. "I can't really blame those guys. We're talking about teenage boys here. I wouldn't say the players are losing leverage. It's what's best for both parties, I guess you'd say."

Who benefits from the change?

Presumably, the early signing date in football should benefit programs like Kentucky and Louisville, which have historically been at risk of losing commitments late to prestigious programs that happened to have openings prior to signing day.

"In terms of just being able to sign the best class possible, I think it helps every program except for the very top of the food chain," Simmons said of football's early period, "because ultimately the programs at the top of the food chain start the domino that leads to everyone poaching kids from a tier below them.

"So for programs like Kentucky and Louisville, who are Power Five programs but may still be down the pecking order a little bit in their conference from a Clemson or an Alabama, there's less peril in babysitting those recruits through January, sweating out which school was going to come and try to make a run at them."

An additional problem for any program, however, has to do with timing and coaching transition that happens every year. Not only does new Louisville coach Satterfield have precious little time to build numbers before December's early signing date, but his cutting ties with committed prospects who didn't fit what he wanted obviously left little time for those players to make an alternate plan before the early signing date.

In-state offensive lineman Jack Randolph from Franklin-Simpson High School, for example, had been planning to enroll for spring semester at Louisville.

"Now it's thrown me for a loop," Randolph said. "I'm having to come up with a high school schedule for next semester and having to regroup."

Louisville, with just three committed players — including Manual running back Aidan Robbins — will likely need the late signing period to shore up Satterfield's first signing class, and he'll be recruiting from a smaller pool of prospects.

The same goes for Helton at WKU, who has had about three weeks to piece together the Hilltoppers' plan for the early signing period. He faced the same last year at Tennessee, where he was the offensive coordinator on head coach Jeremy Pruitt's initial staff in Knoxville.

"The new signing period is obviously a lot tougher on new staffs. That's where it's hard," Helton said. "If you're an established staff, it's a really good deal, because you pretty much know who your guys are. You sign them up, then you come back in January on the second round of recruiting and you're out there looking for 2020 and 2021 kids."

The list of available players in the late signing period might also include Weaver's Moore teammate Kalon Howard, a receiver/defensive back prospect who only recently got a test score he needed to qualify academically. He is an example of the kind of late-bloomer prospect who starred as a senior and can get overlooked in the rush to complete classes early.

To this point, Howard has been offered the opportunity to join UK's team as a preferred walk-on, according to Moore coach Rob Reader.

"I'm pretty sure he's going to take that offer," Reader said, "and I think UK stole one there with that young man. He's a heck of a football player. He led our team in tackles and was second on our team in sacks."

Helton added that since the relationships with coaches are starting earlier, most Division I signees know where they want to go by the December signing period.

Reader agreed.

Although Weaver knew where he wanted to go, the creation of an early signing period caused drama and pressure that wouldn't have existed previously.

It's still new, and the debate over whether the early date will be good for college football and its players is only just beginning.

"The reason I see it as a net negative is it accelerates the process," Simmons said, "which is something that the NCAA and colleges have been trying to fight forever. Every time someone rolls their eyes at an eighth-grader being offered, it's ultimately a product of legislation like this that necessitates that early recruitment.

"That's a negative, and I think ultimately, we should be creating rules that benefit the student-athlete above all else."

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Copyright 2018 Newsday LLC


Newsday (New York)

 

The state federation boys and girls high school basketball tournament will move closer to Long Island starting in 2020. Fordham University in the Bronx will host the annual tournament for at least three seasons, beginning in March 2020, the New York State Federation of Secondary School Athletic Associations announced Monday.

The boys tournament has been held in Glens Falls for the majority of its existence, including a consecutive run from 1981-2010. It was held in Albany from 2011 -2016 and returned to Glens Falls in 2017. After being held at a variety of sites, the girls tournament moved to Glens Falls in 1995 and, with the exception of the six-year stint in Albany, remained there ever since. The tournament will be held in Glens Falls in March, before moving to Fordham next season, a news release said.

Fordham beat out bids from Glens Falls and St. John's University. Votes are cast by members of New York City's Public School Athletic League, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, Catholic School Athletic Association, and the New York State Alliance of Independent Schools, the release said.

"After a good discussion following each presentation, the vote taken by the Executive Committee supports a new direction for the Federation Tournament," Federation president Donal Buckley said in the release. "All three organizations presented solid bids and were ready to host a quality event for us. However, Fordham's historic gym and location in the city convinced the committee."

The move represents an opportunity to increase tournament attendance, given that 70 percent of the participating teams come from downstate. Eleven girls teams and 12 boys teams compete in the tournament each year, the release said.

Long Island has had incredible success in recent years, with Long Island Lutheran winning multiple championships and the Baldwin girls winning last season.

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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

The U.S. Center for SafeSport has suspended a taekwondo coach who helped her husband evade a lifetime ban for sexual misconduct by taking formal ownership of their gym and representing their club at meets sanctioned by USA Taekwondo.

USA TODAY reported last week that Gerald Murphy continued coaching at the same gym in Tallahassee, Florida, even after USA Taekwondo banned him in early 2014. He did that with the help of Gale Murphy, his wife and another coach at the school.

The center issued an interim suspension for her on Monday for allegations of misconduct.

In a statement, SafeSport spokesman Dan Hill said, "We don't comment on specific matters but we do take the SafeSport Code seriously. Sport needs a radical culture shift to make athlete well-being its centerpiece; it won't happen until every person, from home to gym, owns their role and champions respect."

Gale Murphy did not immediately return a voicemail from USA TODAY early Monday afternoon.

Gerald Murphy, 64, was convicted in Florida in 1989 of lewd and lascivious assault of a child after being found in bed with a 14-year-old who babysat his children. Murphy spent 18 months in prison after failing to meet the conditions of his sentencing.

USA Taekwondo learned of Murphy's prior conviction in 2014 from Ronda Sweet, a former USA Taekwondo board chairwoman. The national governing body banned Murphy on April 3, 2014.

A USA TODAY investigation found Murphy has been coaching at the same gym since he was banned.

"Do I coach at the school? Yeah, I am the teacher and owner," Murphy told a USA TODAY reporter in August.

Four days after Murphy was banned, Gale Murphy incorporated the Dragon System Institute of Martial Arts. Her name appears on its state incorporation paperwork.

In August, Gerald Murphy showed a USA TODAY reporter three certificates Gale Murphy received for completing SafeSport training in March. His wife and son are USA Taekwondo members, Murphy said, and coach the school's athletes at events sanctioned by national governing bodies.

The club was still listed as a member on USA Taekwondo's website as of Nov.21. It's not clear in whose name the club was registered with the governing body.

After USA TODAY sent the organization detailed questions about Murphy, the club was removed from the governing body's club locator app.

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

 

WORCESTER — In advance of the start of work on the ballpark project next year, the Worcester Redevelopment Authority board has approved a policy that commits every contractor to workforce diversity and good-faith efforts to meet hiring goals it has set.

The goals include having 25 percent of work hours going to Worcester residents, 15.3 percent to people of color and indigenous people, and 6.9 percent to women.

The policy would apply to every contractor at every tier of the project.

Michael E. Traynor, the WRA's chief executive officer, said he hopes to include the policy language as part of the request for qualifications that will soon be issued for the hiring of a construction manager at-risk for the ballpark project.

WRA boad member David Minasian, who is business manager for Local 336, New England Regional Council of Carpenters, pushed for the workforce diversity policy.

He said while the city already has a responsible contractor policy that lays out workforce diversity goals for public construction projects, he did not feel it is in line with best practices used by various state agencies.

The city's policy sets a combined hiring goal of 20 percent for people of color, women and people from low-income communities.

But lumping those groups together, Mr. Minasian said, makes it more difficult for women to get hired for public projects in Worcester. He said women will stand a much better chance by having a separate goal set for women.

State agencies such as the University of Massachusetts Building Authority and state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance have separate workforce hiring goals that are the same as what will be in the WRA's policy. The state agencies use hiring percentages based on a study of disparities that DCAMM did several years ago.

Mr. Traynor said the city is undertaking its own disparity study, and, depending on the results, the workforce goals in the WRA policy could be revisited.

The ballpark, to be known as Polar Park, will be the home of the

Worcester Red Sox, the top minor league team of the Boston Red Sox, starting in the 2021 season. The ballpark is part of an overall $240 million redevelopment of the Canal District/Kelley Square area.

While the estimated construction cost of the ballpark itself has been pegged at $86 million to $90 million, the overall cost of the project has been estimated at $100.8 million. That includes off-site land acquisition and other improvement costs that are related to the ballpark project.Construction of the ballpark is scheduled to begin in July and be completed in March 2021.

The city's owner project manager, Skanska USA Building Inc., and architect D'Agostino Izzo Quirk Architects have already been hired for the minor league ballpark project. The next step involves the hiring of a construction manager at-risk, which is expected to occur early next year.

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

 

Demetrious Cox has two jobs that keep him busy on and off the football field.

Most days, the former Jeannette and Michigan State standout is a defensive back with the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad. He has been traveling with the team of late.

The rest of the time he works as a tour guide.

Cox and his father, Dorsey, have taken on a new nonprofit business venture they are calling, "Educated Athletes First," an informative and interactive program designed to help student-athletes and their parents prepare for a college career and beyond, with an emphasis on the importance of academics.

It's a team effort to help eliminate the fears and uncertainties of the next level.

"We want to take EAF in a direction to where kids can come in to reach with resources they never knew possible," Demetrious Cox said. "Student-athletes and their parents either aren't aware or don't know how to benefit from these resources."

The target audience, Dorsey Cox said, is children ages 8 to 14. EAF aims to light the way for aspiring student-athletes down the recruiting path from middle school to college and help build "a successful educational career."

If any of their participants make it to college for sports, the Coxes want them to be as well-versed as they are athletic — even more so if they need to turn to Plan B.

"I have talked to so many parents, and when I ask them what their kids are going to go to college for, they say football or basketball," said Dorsey Cox, the president of the Jeannette Midgets youth football program. "The last time I checked, there are no degrees in football. Education is more important than sports. Our goal is to assist in the student-athlete in getting a college degree from the beginning to the end."

The program is free, but parents must sign an agreement to get started.

EAF has partnered with the Jeannette School District for a study skills program. Dorsey Cox said more than 20 teachers have offered to tutor students.

"The biggest concern we had from a school district perspective has been solved by EAF," Jeannette superintendent Matt Jones said. "Both parents and students are held accountable. The biggest issue we have is the parents are not always supportive or see the value in education. EAF provides opportunity for students through this platform but also brings with it a level of accountability to support the academic efforts of the school. If parents are not on board, they cannot receive all the benefits that EAF has to offer."

The program, however, is not exclusively for Jeannette student-athletes. The plan is to open it to all areas.

"We want to expand," Demetrious Cox said. "There's no telling how deep this foundation could go with helping kids reach their goals and dreams to start in my hometown of Jeannette, and get kids involved in all types of new projects involving camps, to tutor sessions, to college visits."

Having gone through the recruiting process, Demetrious Cox and his father have an understanding of the nuances and procedures many are not prepared to face. They can offer guidance — tricks of the trade, if you will — to lay out a long-term gameplan that stretches beyond the field or court.

Demetrious Cox graduated early from Michigan State.

Dorsey Cox said he and Demetrious researched colleges for months and made visits, all while looking for educational benefits as well as football ones.

Parents and students have to do their homework.

"People think it just happens," Dorsey Cox said. "But then they get there, and they are shocked and under-prepared. We want them to know what to expect."

EAF not only plans to oversee the educational part of the journey, but also help with physical training, getting athletes' names on college coaches' radars and introducing them to key contacts at colleges. The plan also is to take students to college and pro games.

For more information on EAF, contact Jana Stevens at 412-738-9593.

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Copyright 2018 The Washington Times
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The Washington Times

 

You want evidence that there is a new way of doing business in the NFL? Check out the accessories Ravens fans were wearing Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium for Baltimore's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Scarves. Purple scarves. Purple Ravens scarves 30,000 of them.

In today's NFL, with swaths of empty seats in stadiums across the country, it has come to this giveaways to get fans in the door.

Baseball has done this for decades, with each franchise is trying to attract fans 81 times a year for home games.

The Ravens? Just eight regular season games and if you came to Sunday's game and were one of the first 30,000 fans in the stadium, you got a Ravens scarf.

"You never see NFL teams do a premium promotion like that," said Marty Conway, sports business consultants and instructor in Georgetown's Sports Industry Management program (full disclosure I teach a course with Conway called "Business of Sports Media" in the programs). "Now they are recognizing that they have to figure out some way to both get people to buy and to show up. It's a completely new reality."

Nowhere is that new reality more tangible perhaps than in Washington, where a damaged Redskins fanbase has stayed away from Ghost Town Field, even when the team was 6-3. But empty seats are not just a Washington problem, or a Baltimore problem, or an NFL problem. Many live sporting events are suffering at the box office, and teams are scrambling to come up with solutions.

"It's a little bit of a test," said Baker Koppelman, Ravens vice president of ticket sales and operations. "We wanted to see how people will react.

"We got feedback from people asking why don't you do some giveaways?" Koppelman said. "We thought, 'Why don't we try doing a higher-end giveaway and limit it to a certain number?' It is a means to get people to come earlier. We are conscious of getting people in on time and avoiding that crush 30 minutes before kickoff. It's in everyone's best interest to get in early not just to sell more concessions but to keep from having people stuck in line before the game. It's a combination of things in play."

Judging by the number of empty seats Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium at kickoff for the Ravens' 20-12 win over Tampa Bay with the Ravens at 7-6 at game time, good for the AFC second wild-card playoff position and just a half-game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC North crown the scarves didn't deliver. Then again, given the rainy weather, ponchos might have worked better.

The giveaway wasn't the only test the Ravens did to get people into the seats. For their final two home games of the season Sunday's game against Tampa Bay and the season finale Dec. 30 against the Cleveland Browns the team offered a two-game package for $44, only available via its mobile ticket app. Under this offer, you don't know your seat until you arrive at the stadium.

It is, as they say, for the kids.

Last year, the NFL told all its teams that after the 2019 season, they would have to be on a digital ticketing platform. Some made the change right away, like the New York Jets. The Ravens did it this season. The Redskins have yet to do so, but Washington has been aggressive in trying to sell individual game day tickets through traditional advertising and promotion.

For the Ravens, the two-game, $44 social media promotion is an attempt to reach out to the younger audience the NFL fears it is losing.

"It's the clearest attempt yet to try to figure out how to interact with the younger audience in the hope that they will want to buy in this format, where they have flexibility and make their decisions late," Conway said.

Koppelman acknowledged it is reaching out to that millennial audience that is not following in the traditional path of consuming sports in America.

"It's a test related to a different audience, targeted toward a younger audience," he said. "It's all done through social media. It's not something we promote otherwise. A means of trying to get tickets to people in a younger scene who can't necessarily afford to pay full price.

"It's something we wanted to try," he said. "We are all trying to find ways to connect with new and young fans, and this is probably the most interesting way to do that right now. We want to see how it goes and what kind of response we get from it. We will evaluate at the end of the year."

There is no going back, though. The days of teams selling season tickets for a few months and then counting their money the rest of the time are over. "That model is gone," Conway said. "Now they essentially have to be like every business and sell their inventory every day. They will have to adapt to the mode of, 'How do we exist every day?'"

It is the new world order in the business of sports. "The landscape has definitely changed," Koppelman said. "We are just in a position that we have to look at new ways of doing things. That's the way the world works. The world changes."

The world in Baltimore once was this:

It was the old Memorial Stadium packed with passionate Colts fans the "world's largest insane asylum," as one New York sports columnist wrote.

It was a world where Colt Corral fan clubs stayed together during the 12 years the NFL was absent from Charm City, and then became Ravens Roosts upon the return of football in 1996.

It was a world that turned Ravens purple every Friday, everywhere you looked, celebrating two Super Bowl championships, the second one not that long ago.

It's a world now where they'll give you a purple scarf for showing up.

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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

There were tense moments, yes, and some anxiety. Then when the field was announced, there was relief. Or frustration. Or some mixture of both.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby was glad to see his league's champion included in the College Football Playoff. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany was unhappy to see his champion outside the four-team bracket again.

As the fifth edition of the playoff nears kickoff, the conversation about whether and when it will expand continues to heat up. It's constant fodder for talk radio, but especially this month, in the weeks after the annual selection of the four-team bracket, with a fresh set of results to argue over, we hear calls for change.

Except where it matters.

The Power Five conference commissioners, who created the playoff and would make any alterations, say they remain largely satisfied it is working as intended. Although some say they would not be opposed to considering something different at some point, they see no reason, and insist there is no impetus, to explore significant change now.

"Four works," Bowlsby told USA TODAY by text message on Sunday, reiterating a point he has consistently made. "It was hard to get to four with lots of compromises. We should be thoughtful but shouldn't refuse to discuss."

While it's easy to grab and hold that last part, don't discount the first part. Bowlsby's sentiment has been echoed this month, publicly and privately, by many of his peers.

You think eight is great? Fine. So do many others. But four works, say the guys who matter.

And if anything, the bracket of Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Oklahoma forestalled any serious discussion of substantive change. It includes three conference champions and three unbeaten teams. Two conferences are on the outside looking in, but their commissioners are not exactly clamoring for inclusion or change.

During an appearance this month at the annual Learfield/SportsBusiness Journal Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in New York, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said he was disappointed that his league was left out for the third time in five years, but he essentially reiterated something he'd told reporters before the Pac-12 championship game.

"Felt then, feel now, four is absolutely the right number," Scott said then.

The same goes for Delany, whose league has missed the playoff for consecutive seasons. Delany said he believes the Big Ten has three teams that could win the national title. None will have the chance. But since 12-1 Ohio State was ranked No. 6 by the selection committee, behind Oklahoma and Southeastern Conference runner-up Georgia, Delany has declined several opportunities to lash out, even though the Big Ten's champion has been left out three years in a row (in 2016, Ohio State got into the Playoff without winning the Big Ten, but Big Ten champ Penn State was edged out by Pac-12 champ Washington).

"We knew what we were buying," Delany said. "I don't have buyer's remorse on this. We don't allow the (selection) committee or anybody else to define who we are."

Rather than advocating change to the playoff, either to the selection protocol or to the size of the field, Delany suggested the Big Ten could consider whether to scrap its divisional format and instead match its two best teams in its title game, the better to provide a push for the winner into the playoff.

"I've heard more conversation about that inside our league," he said, but he added, "Everything is not about the College Football Playoff."

Delany also noted the compromises made in creating the playoff, which he described as an attempt to balance several varied interests, as well as the need for "core consensus" on any changes; they won't come "by a 5-4 vote," he said, though the important part of that might be which five commissioners were "yes" votes. Although the playoff's management committee is composed of the commissioners of the 10 Football Bowl Subdivision conferences and Notre Dame's athletics director, the Power Five conferences wield the, uh, power (it's why the push by American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco on behalf of unbeaten UCF is unlikely to matter much).

As important, though: The commissioners will act in concert with their schools' presidents and chancellors.

"If people wanted to talk about (expanding the playoff), they could talk about it," Delany said. "But it comes really from the presidents. When we were going from two to four, it was with presidential consent. (To go) beyond that, they would have to ask us to do something.

"It's not going to come from any one of us (commissioners) because we're disappointed in a particular year."

This is a key point, too: If Scott, Delany and others are not advocating for change, it's in part because this particular year's results didn't leave too many power-brokers disappointed over the actual process.

"Had the SEC had two of the four yet again, it probably increases the conversation," SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said last week at the Intercollegiate Athletics Forum. "I think that's a fair observation. Nobody's come to me and said, 'Wow, if that game outcome had been different, we'd have been pounding our fists on the table.'"

Don't misunderstand, though. Even among commissioners, there's a sense that at some point in the future they'll get there.

"What something feels like today may feel differently four years from now," the ACC's John Swofford said.

He makes one other important point: The composition of commissioners, and presidents and chancellors, is likely to change in the next few years. Delany, 70, has indicated he would likely retire in 2020. Swofford turned 70 this month. Bowlsby turns 67 in January. The people who created the playoff might not be the ones voting to expand it.

"There will be different people around the room, too, frankly, five years from now, 10 years from now," Swofford said. "Most things evolve in one way or another. I don't mean that in the sense that it evolves necessarily with growth (expansion). We'll just have to see.

"But I think we've got it right for now, I really do."

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Copyright 2018 Star Tribune
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

Thousands of young athletes from across Minnesota play hockey, baseball or golf at St. Cloud's aging Municipal Athletic Complex each year, which is why leaders are pushing to expand and renovate the amenities with state funding.

Starting next month, city leaders plan to lobby legislators for $16.2 million to support a $24.3 million plan to expand the complex, part of which dates back nearly 50 years. The facility, which features two ice arenas, two baseball fields and a golf course, hosts figure skating and dozens of tournaments, camps and games, bringing in an estimated 300,000 people each year.

"This clearly rises to the level of a regional and statewide asset," Mayor Dave Kleis said. "There's a strong need for these improvements."

In the city's plan, which was presented to the community last week, 27,000 square feet of space would be added to a second level of the ice arenas with room for locker rooms, training spaces and meeting areas. The plan also includes adding on to the lobby and replacing the ice refrigeration system with a more modern, environmentally friendly one. And the Dick Putz Field would get artificial turf and new seating, locker rooms and concessions, hosting not just baseball but soccer, lacrosse and rugby.

If the Legislature approves the city's request, the remaining sum would be generated locally through fundraising, private donations, sponsorships/naming rights and the city's food and beverage tax and half-cent sales tax; taxes will not be increased. If approved, construction could be complete by 2021.

"St. Cloud is an important piece of the amateur sports history of the state," said Tony Goddard, director of community services and facilities. "We're just trying to continue to provide that service to the state."

Kleis said athletic facilities in the Twin Cities area have received state funding and St. Cloud has "done as much as we can on our own" for its complex without asking for state aid.

The city sought approval at the Legislature last year to raise its food and beverage tax to generate $6 million in part for the expansion project, but the overall bill was vetoed. This time, Kleis, a former legislator, said policymakers should support a boost to infrastructure outside the metro.

"It's a Greater Minnesota asset," he said. "And it really highlights the need for a collaborative effort."

Kelly Smith · 612-673-4141

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Copyright 2018 Chattanooga Publishing Company
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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

The confidential settlement of yet another federal civil lawsuit filed against Hamilton County Schools by a second victim in the 2015 Ooltewah High School sexual assault case has a local state legislator fuming over what he calls secrecy and a lack of public accountability.

"I'm pretty upset about the way the school systems continue to hide things from the public when they spend taxpayers' money to settle lawsuits where people did things that were inappropriate," Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, said after the Times Free Press reported the second settlement last week.

He said that when the General Assembly convenes in January, he will work "to try to get legislation passed so that these kinds of things that are kept from the public" no longer are.

Instead of going to trial in Chattanooga's U.S. District Court in January, a settlement was filed and approved on Tuesday in state court with the second student, referred to as "Richard Roe" in court documents. The documents are sealed.

The first student, identified only as "John Doe," in September settled his case against the county, also for an undisclosed amount.

Both were among four then-minors who accused older classmates of attacking them with pool cues during a December 2015 trip to Gatlinburg for a basketball tournament. Left unsupervised by their coaches, Doe's classmates held him down and penetrated his rectum with a pool cue.

On Thursday, Gardenhire, a vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee, blasted the school system, its attorneys and the Tennessee Risk Management Trust, which insures the county and apparently settled the case, during the final meeting of a legislative panel looking at exemptions to the state's Public Records Act.

"We need to decide who's at fault in this and who ought to be held accountable for what happened," Gardenhire said. "And what the [school board] attorney kept passing on was he said, 'We don't have any of those records responsive to this request for the settlement.' Well, that's not true, obviously."

He said officials then said "an insurance company settled it and they have all the information and we don't have it."

The county school system is insured through the Tennessee Risk Management Trust, a members-owned nonprofit entity created by school districts across the state in 1987 to provide comprehensive insurance coverage. A number of county governments also belong.

Chattanooga attorney Scott Bennett, who represents Hamilton County Schools, said neither he nor the school system knows how much money was paid to settle both lawsuits.

"The bottom line is that when you buy insurance, part of that insurance agreement is that if there is a claim you assign the control of that claim completely to your insurance company," Bennett said. "And that's really how Risk Management Trust operates in this situation. They get to direct and control the litigation and to make all of the decisions."

Bennett said as he understands it from Tennessee Risk Management Trust attorneys handling the litigation, "as the case developed and evolved and parties moved towards settlements, one of the discussions was confidentiality.

"Obviously if [county school] board dollars were being spent, it couldn't have been confidential because the board would have had to approve the settlements and that would have been public record," Bennett added.

But because the school board "assigned the defense of this case to the trust, the board has really had no say in this. And apart from having been told the matter was resolved, they really know nothing about this. And that's how insurance operates."

Bennett added that the board did not ratify or approve the Doe or Roe settlements.

After criticizing the school board and Tennessee Risk Management Trust in the committee, Gardenhire later told the Times Free Press that he intends to file a bill that would do several things.

"No. 1 is: No more secret settlements of lawsuits by public institutions," Gardenhire said. "I don't know if that will get anywhere but I'm going to introduce it. Because they're settling it with taxpayers' money. Once the lawsuit is settled, that ought to be public information."

As for the Tennessee Risk Management Trust, Gardenhire said protecting public entities is in the organization's charter. "So if they're protecting entities, in my opinion, they're a public entity themselves."

Gardenhire also said that for the Hamilton County "schools' attorney and school board and superintendent to say it's not really in our purview to release that information, well, yes it is. And they ought to release it."

He also called on current Superintendent Bryan Johnson, who took office after the Ooltewah scandal, to get the information and make it public.

"Now, Dr. Johnson wasn't here when that happened. But he's here now and he could very easily say let's divulge to the public what that settlement was," Gardenhire said.

After the board's quarterly meeting Thursday, Johnson said questions about the board's knowledge of the settlement were better directed to Bennett or the board itself.

Several of the board members said they did not know the amount of the settlements or the overall cost of litigating the lawsuits.

District 9 board member Steve Highlander, who represents Ooltewah, said that if it was "legal and ethical to know" the settlement amounts that he would like to know them.

The assault case helped bring about a number of changes, including the exit of then-Superintendent Rick Smith. Investigations had showed major gaps in the system's sexual harassment training and reporting under state and federal requirements.

Justin Gilbert, a Chattanooga attorney who helped represent the students, said in a statement Monday that "Teammates Roe and Doe have bright futures. They triumphed over personal tragedy, created Title IX law for others, and made the schoolhouse safer for future student athletes."

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.

Contact Meghan Mangrum at mmangrum@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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Copyright 2018 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Palm Beach Post (Florida)

 

Tucked into a corner of an industrial warehouse space, Steve Stoliker is perfecting his "gym-in-a-box philosophy" by training athletes and weekend warriors alike on millions of dollars worth of cutting-edge training and fitness equipment.

"Obviously South Florida is a saturated market," said Stoliker, owner of BTB Boxing and Human Performance Academy. "I wanted to find a niche where we could combine the sweet science of old school boxing with a real pro-style coach, and then take a futuristic approach with equipment and science."

The result, he said, is a 5,000 square-foot, protoype "boutique-style gym" that is part high-tech workout space and part boxing gym, with an additional 1,500-sqaure foot loft for more cardio-exercise. The gym caters to high school, college and pro athletes as well as non-athletes looking to rehab, train or just improve their overall wellness. The client roster also includes wounded military veterans and special education students.

That said, Stoliker's Academy looks like a gym. It sounds like a gym. But LA Fitness this is not, and, Stoliker said, that's the point.

"Everything in here is the opposite of a cookie-cutter environment," he said of his Boca Raton gym. "So much of the industry, 99 percent, is saturated by you conforming to a trainer's protocol."

For a serious athlete, Stoliker says his team's regimen prepares a custom-tailored approach. Say it's a baseball player. Stoliker and his coaches say they would mimic every movement needed for that player's position to strengthen, develop and increase not only muscle by fast twitch muscle fibers.

"If a person is in track-and-field, how do we make them more explosive?" he said. "Human performance gyms personally assess and then apply modalities specific to the individual."

And they do so, he added, based on genetic predisposition, blood types, physical limitations and the person's ultimate goals and time deadlines.

For weekend warrior athletes, Stoliker says the goal may be different but the assessment is just as personal.

The goal, he said, is to build on the person's strength, muscular endurance, speed, flexibility, balance, range of motion and recovery. That last one is key, Stoliker emphasized, the ability to wake up after a workout and being able to repeat it because you aren't sore, tight or in excessive pain is critical.

"I get a ton of doctor referrals here, chiropractic referrals," he said. "Because the whole genesis... is to allow the person to come back every day and stimulate the same muscle group. One of the things I always talk about here is having movement skills that are not destructive, they are constructive."

That speaks to the high-end equipment that Stoliker said he has spent $3 million on. Bikes that gauge every aspect of training, from over compensation to distribution of work on muscles to make sure there is symmetrical workout - for athletes and non-athletes.

"Everything here is data-driven. There is no guesswork here," he said. "So many trainers are just guessing. 'You know what Mary, I think we can do five more' or 'Maybe tomorrow we'll try this.' The data doesn't lie."

His six coaches handle no more than 12 clients per day, Stoliker said. BTB's fee varies but a good estimate is between $85 to $120 based on at least twice a week visits.

He does allow an open-gym basic membership for a flat monthly rate of $200 that provides access to boxing classes and fitness equipment.

One of them is Gil Gastelum, who heads the boxing program. Gastelum is a former boxer who has trained other pros. But he echoed Stoliker's view that his boxing workout can be tailored to an average Joe, too.

"People used to say, 'No, I don't want to get hurt. I don't want to get hit,'" said Gastelum. "But it's about burning off calories, getting rid of stress. And maybe learn some ways to defend yourself."

Stoliker said what they don't want to do is to crowd the gym.

"I am the complete antithesis of traditional big box gyms, where it is all about numbers, and volume and saturating the floor," he said. "We are a private, super high-end boutique feel of having a gym, data-driven with physiologists and pro coaches... for athletes and the average person on street."

He's been in that role, he said, noting his 23-year career in the fitness business world. He lists some of his previous stints including corporate and executive positions at Gold's Gyms, LA Fitness Ladies of America, where he said he oversaw a massive expansion program. That latter experience, he said, will power his franchising plans. Stoliker envisions adding more locations in Delray, Miami and Miami Beach by 2021. And then expanding nationally via franchises beginning in 2022.

All based, he said, on one basic function.

"My whole focus is human movement," Stoliker adds.

afins@pbpost.com

@PBPoliticsFins

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Copyright 2018 The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
All Rights Reserved

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

Marquette University earlier this year discreetly explored the idea of developing its own basketball arena — a potential $120 million investment for downtown Milwaukee — before deciding against pursuing the project.

The Marquette arena, which would house both the men's and women's basketball teams, was considered for roughly 12 acres bordered mainly by North Sixth, North Tenth, West Michigan and West Clybourn streets.

It would have come with a potential naming rights sponsor: Chicago-based Wintrust Financial Corp. and its Hartland-based subsidiary, Town Bank.

But, after about two to three months of preliminary study, Marquette dropped the idea.

The university's leaders decided raising money for a basketball arena would have taken its focus from higher-priority projects, including long-range plans for a new business school.

That's according to sources who spoke to the Journal Sentinel on the condition that they not be identified.

Representatives of both Marquette and Town Bank declined to answer questions about the conceptual arena plans.

"The university won't be making any further comment on this," said Lynn Sheka, senior director of university communication.

"I'm sorry, I have no comment," said Jay Mack, Town Bank president and chief executive officer.

The Marquette men's basketball team — the university's main athletic program — this season began playing games at downtown's new Fiserv Forum.

The women's team plays on campus at the Al McGuire Center, 770 N. 12th St., which also serves as the practice facility for the men's team.

The university has praised the Fiserv Forum, the $524 million arena that the Milwaukee Bucks developed with $250 million in public financing.

It replaced the BMO Harris Bradley Center, the former home court for the Bucks and the Marquette Golden Eagles.

"I think as this building fills for our games, once the season starts, it's got a chance to be an incredible environment," Steve Wojciechowski, Marquette men's basketball coach, said in August.

"It's a much more intimate building," Wojciechowski said. "The students will be much closer to the floor. The fans will be much closer to the floor. Hopefully it creates a situation where energy feeds off of energy."

"Marquette University greatly values our partnership with the Milwaukee Bucks and Fiserv Forum," Sheka said in a statement.

Issues with rental agreement?

However, Marquette's Fiserv Forum lease is only seven years — a relatively short run, according to some observers. It goes through the 2024-'25 basketball season.

That shorter term lease could give Marquette some flexibility if it seeks to raise money, win city approvals and build a new arena, one source said.

Other sources indicated Marquette wasn't pleased with the terms of the university's lease at the Fiserv Forum. Those lease details haven't been publicly disclosed.

"Apparently, there was some feeling that the Fiserv rental agreement is excessive," one source said.

A Bucks spokesman declined to answer questions about the lease.

"We have a terrific partnership with Marquette and are proud that Fiserv Forum serves as the world-class home venue for the Golden Eagles' men's basketball team," Barry Baum, senior vice president of communications, said in a statement.

Too much space

The Fiserv Forum's seating capacity of 17,500 is too large for many of Marquette's games.

The university has been placing banners over unused seats at the top of the student sections behind the baskets at each end of the court.

Around 10,000 seats would be a better fit for Marquette, sources said.

The average attendance at Marquette home men's basketball games during the 2017-'18 regular season was 13,857, according to the university.

One source said the university could follow the model of some of its Big East conference rivals who play most of their games at smaller arenas — while playing a handful of home court dates at larger venues.

For example, Villanova University, which won the 2018 NCAA men's basketball championship, this season has 10 home games at the on-campus Finneran Pavilion, which seats 6,500 fans. Villanova is located 12 miles outside Philadelphia.

But the Wildcats also play five games at Wells Fargo Center, with a 19,500 seating capacity. That arena is the home court for the Philadelphia 76ers of the NBA and the Philadelphia Flyers of the NHL.

Basketball drives athletic programs

A Marquette arena next to I-43 and I-94 would provide a high-visibility site that could serve as a great recruiting tool while generating more excitement about the team.

That could translate into higher revenue for a team that supports the rest of Marquette's athletic programs.

The men's basketball team's annual revenue is $19.3 million, with the women's basketball team accounting for $3.4 million, according to the university's latest filings with the U.S. Department of Education.

All of Marquette's athletic teams total $34.3 million of annual revenue. The men's basketball team accounts for around 56 percent of that amount.

The total annual cost of all the university's athletic teams is $26.6 million.

Town Bank, the Wintrust subsidiary mentioned as a possible naming rights sponsor for the arena, has strong ties to Marquette.

Town Bank this year began operating a branch location at the university's Alumni Memorial Union.

The bank committed to investing $12 million over 10 years to fund scholarships, athletic and educational programs, and other events at the university. Town Bank also is helping Marquette's College of Business Administration develop a new program for training future bankers.

And, in November, the Common Council approved plans for the university to place a Town Bank banner on the inflatable seasonal dome at Marquette's Valley Fields athletic complex.

Building boom

A new arena would face a major challenge: raising roughly $120 million at a time when Marquette has other large building projects in the works.

Along with plans for a new business college building, Marquette is constructing a 44,000-square-foot facility for its physician assistant studies program.

That $18.5 million building is to open by the fall of 2019 at the northwest corner of West Clybourn and North 17th streets.

Also under construction is the Athletic and Human Performance Research Center.

That 46,000-square-foot, $24 million building will open next spring at 1201 W. Wells St.

So, after about two to three months of study this spring and summer, which included creating a site plan, the arena plans were placed "far on the back burner," one source said.

Meanwhile, Marquette is beginning the process of finding new uses for the 12-acre site west of North Sixth Street and south of West Michigan Street.

It consists of vacant lots, an underused office building, a building that houses the Department of Psychology's new behavior analysis program and a former Ramada Inn hotel. The university is planning to demolish the hotel, which closed this fall.

Marquette bought the properties in 2014 and 2015.

The university in 2016 announced plans to demolish the buildings on that site to develop a $120 million Athletic and Human Performance Research Center.

The center, with 250,000 to 300,000 square feet, was to include a $40 million investment from Aurora Health Care Inc.

But that Aurora-funded plan was dropped last year, and was replaced by the smaller facility, which opens next spring.

Marquette lately has begun considering other uses at the Michigan Street site, including a possible apartment development, sources said.

Tom Daykin can be emailed at tdaykin@jrn.com and followed on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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Copyright 2018 Virginian-Pilot Companies LLC
All Rights Reserved

The Virginian — Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

It looks like a typical fitness class in any gym, and that's the idea for volunteer coaches Wade and Diane Crawford.

Beginning with jumping jacks and pushups, the high-energy hour is designed to help athletes gain strength, flexibility and cardiovascular health.

The Get SO Fit program — SO standing for Special Olympics — helps children and adults with disabilities learn to exercise, achieve personal fitness goals and make healthy food choices.

"I do the same Crossfit workout as Navy SEALs and others more fit than me, because the workout is scaled down to my abilities," said Wade. "This group is doing the same workout, scaled down to their abilities."

"Fitness is inclusive, so everyone can work out together," he said.

The Crawfords founded Get SO Fit four years ago at Chesapeake City Park. The program changed locations several times, before finding a home in November at the Simon Family Jewish Community Center.

"We want to attract as many athletes as possible, and this is a central location and a great place to do that," said Diane.

About 20 to 30 athletes have been attending the fitness class, which meets every Tuesday and Thursday evening.

Get SO Fit is free to Special Olympics athletes and JCC members, but anyone can join in the class for a $4 drop-in fee.

Many participants are preparing for the winter season of Special Olympics, which includes competition in basketball, bowling, speed skating and swimming.

"Exercise is hard for everyone, disabled or not," said Wade. "We're looking for incremental improvement. And when we see it, we point it out and encourage the athletes to keep it up."

Dorin Spivey, a professional boxer ranked second in the country by one organization, brought in his championship belts and showed the class proper form for hitting a punching pad.

"They all work hard and listen," said the 45-year-old Pembroke resident with more than 50 fights to his record. "You just have to give them love and attention."

The enthusiasm and excitement in the class continues as a group game involving exercise is introduced. A talk on nutrition, sleep and healthy lifestyle follows.

"I get 20 to 30 texts a day asking if it's OK to eat a particular food, or I might get a picture of a menu and questions about what's OK to eat," said Diane. "They're asking questions, and that's what we're trying to do."

"You can't outwork bad nutrition," said Wade.

The JCC is working to add more special needs programs, according to wellness director Tom Purcell.

"We're all the same, so everyone should be welcomed," he said.

Eric Hodies, ehodies@hteam.net

interested?

What: Get SO Fit

When: 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays

Where: Simon Family JCC, 5000 Corporate Woods Drive, Virginia Beach

Cost: Free for Special Olympics athletes and JCC members; $4 drop-in fee for others.

Info: Call Tom Purcell at 757-321-2310 or visit www.simonfamilyjcc.org/ fitness-wellness/get-so-fit.

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Copyright 2018 Newsday LLC

Newsday (New York)

 

Participation in scholastic football is declining at a faster rate on Long Island than in the rest of the state and the nation.

The growing concern about head injuries and concussions continues to fuel the drop in participation locally and nationally, but athletic officials and coaches attribute the steeper decline here to the demographic shifts taking place in certain areas of Long Island.

"The biggest thing to me is that demographics on Long Island are changing, and in some communities the demographics are changing drastically," said Pat Pizzarelli, a longtime football coach and executive director of Section VIII, the governing body of high school sports in Nassau County.

While football is considered the most popular sport in the United States, many newcomers to the area have grown up playing other sports, including soccer, baseball, tennis, volleyball, baseball, badminton and cricket. Families new to the area said language can be a barrier to learning a sport that was not played in their country of origin.

Overall, high school students face great demands on their time as they try to balance academic and social pressures. For some, an after-school job takes precedence over playing sports. And the teen years can be fraught because many are challenged as they develop emotionally and intellectually, especially amid the hotbed of social media. All of this can be a recipe for diminished participation in athletics, regardless of cultural background.

The number of high school football players on Long Island has decreased 14.2 percent to 7,429 in 2017-18 from 8,660 in 2015-16, according to statistics from the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, the state's governing body of high school sports. That's more than the 5.5 percent drop in the rest of New York State and the 4.1 percent decrease nationwide in the same time.

Jericho High School had to cancel its varsity football program this season because it did not have enough players. Superintendent Henry Grishman said the demographic shift is affecting pockets of Long Island while the decline in participation in other areas is due mostly to safety concerns.

"If you look at the parts of Long Island where the demographics have not changed, you go into these heavy football districts and their numbers in some cases have started to decline," he said, "but I think the decline is strictly due to health and safety."

Dawn Comstock, a sports epidemiology professor at the University of Colorado in Denver, said, "What we're seeing today at the high school level is not some unique aspect of parental decision-making that's just occurring today. It's the natural evolution of decisions that parents made when their children were younger."

Comstock said youth football experienced deep participation declines nearly a decade ago when concussions became a national talking point, and now those kids are reaching high school.

Long Island's middle school football participation figures suggest that high school numbers will continue to drop.

There were 4,282 middle school football players on Long Island in 2017-18, compared with 5,363 for the 2015-16 season - a 20 percent decrease. 'It's important to talk about' Michael Yoo, the head football coach and a school psychologist at Herricks High School in New Hyde Park, grew up in Valley Stream, played varsity football for Valley Stream South High School and later played baseball at SUNY Albany. He has been the Herricks football coach for the past 10 years and said recruiting students to play football has been a struggle.

"It's tough to make the sell to parents when they hear a lot of stuff about concussions and football when football wasn't a part of how they grew up," Yoo said. "I do think the demographics play a significant role. When the conversation just surrounds concussions I think we're missing the mark. "It's important to talk about," Yoo said. "We have a very large Asian and Indian population here that didn't grow up with football. And I say that being Asian myself and having played football. You want to be careful how you say that, but I wouldn't be truthful if I said anything different. A lot of the kids come from families that didn't grow up with football. It's something we've had to overcome."

Yoo, who is of Korean descent, said his decision to play football "changed my life. It developed grit that allowed me to achieve some things that I may not have been able to achieve without it."

Citing Long Island's "dramatic" shift in demographics in the past decade, Christopher Sellers, a social and behavioral sciences professor at Stony Brook University, said it is typical for first-generation immigrants to stick with the cultures they left behind, including sports. Immigrants are less likely to value football because it wasn't played in their country, he said.

"There's sociology and psychology researchers that have looked at first-generation, second-generation and third-generation immigrants," Sellers said. "They have identified patterns about how each of those generations adapt. The first generation really holds on to their country-of-origin values. The idea of family and tradition become really important for them. That's part of their identity that they hold on to as a way of not losing who they are. The second generation follows by critiquing the parents as not being adaptable. The third generation says, 'We need to remember, we need to look back.' "I can tell you we've seen this story before. It's a fairly repeated pattern in American history."

While Long Island's population held steady at about 2.85 million from 2010 through 2016, the Asian population grew 21.8 percent and the number of Hispanics grew 16 percent, according to a Long Island Association analysis in 2017. During that period, the Asian population was leading the pace of growth in Nassau County. Latinos were leading growth in Suffolk County, according to the LIA analysis.

Yoo said it doesn't matter what a student's cultural background is, a family that understands the positive aspects of the game is more likely to allow their child to play.

Those families "see the value of their sons participating in it," Yoo said. "There's a lot to be gained by it. I hesitate to bring stereotypes into it because that's not necessarily how we think about it. I think of it as these families not valuing football and the benefits of football because they just didn't grow up with it."

Janet Rodriguez, whose son Brian, 17, plays football at Copiague High School, grew up on Long Island after her parents came here from the Dominican Republic. She said people from other countries are likely to gravitate to the sports they know.

"You go to the Dominican Republic, you don't see anybody playing football," Rodriguez said. "They're all playing baseball. It's tradition. Kids just learn what all of their family members played. When they get together on weekends for barbecues, they're playing baseball or soccer. Nobody really plays American football."

Pizzarelli points to mentors such as Yoo for showing how football can have a positive impact on children.

"If Mike Yoo is not there, they wouldn't have football at Herricks," Pizzarelli said. "That program was on the brink of dissolving before he took it over. And he's out there on Saturday mornings doing clinics for the young kids. You need that guy out there in the community making the sell about the things the game of football will do for you, how it builds citizenship, teamwork, sportsmanship. And you need to make football fun. If it's not fun, kids aren't playing in this day and age. There's too many other things out there." Speaking their language Copiague head coach Ken Rittenhouse has worried about the future of football at his school for years. He hopes to add a Spanish-speaking coach to help attract new students and teach them the game. Rittenhouse, the coach for 10 years, said some of his players only started playing tackle football recently, which "does present challenges."

Brian Rodriguez recently finished his second season playing offensive guard and defensive tackle for Copiague. He said a Spanish-speaking coach "would 100 percent help" attract more Hispanic players.

Rodriguez, who grew up in Copiague and speaks English and Spanish, said many of the newer students are more comfortable speaking Spanish. He said he once had to translate a play for a teammate who was confused and didn't want to speak up.

"The coaching staff is great because they'll explain things really well," Rodriguez said. "But the main thing is this is not their first language and they feel uncomfortable asking questions. That's not a football thing. It's a life thing."

Victor Gamarra, 17, who is captain of the Copiague team and has played football since first grade, said he hasn't had much luck recruiting Hispanics who recently immigrated to the United States. "It's kind of hard to convince them because they've never done this before," Gamarra said.

Gamarra, who is a senior and plays running back and safety, said many students don't have time for football because of school and work commitments.

"They said they had to support their families," he said. "I got that a lot."

Southampton High School head coach Bruce Muro said his team uses players from neighboring schools without football teams in Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor just to field a squad.

"There are kids who can't play sports because they have to work," said Muro, who teaches life skills. "They're trying to put food on the table and have a place to live, and obviously that's more important." Numbers tell story There were 7,429 football players at 120 public schools on Long Island in 2017-18, according to the NYSPHSAA. The year before, there were 8,082 football players at 121 Long Island schools. In 2015-16, the number was 8,660.

In the rest of New York, there were 22,875 players in 2017-18 compared with 23,488 players the year before. In 2015-16, there were 24,201. Nationwide, there were 1,036,842 players in 2017-18, down from 1,057,407 players the year before. In 2015-16, there were 1,080,693 players.

The Long Island and New York football participation data come from annual sport-specific school surveys done by NYSPHSAA. The national football participation numbers are from the National Federation of State High School Associations, the national school athletics governing body, which conducts annual sport-specific participation surveys of all 50 states.

Newsday's analysis of the local, state and national football participation numbers shows a steady decline in traditional 11-player tackle football at every level of play since 2009, when head injuries in football became a national talking point.

That year there were 8,806 players on Long Island, 28,867 in the rest of New York State and 1,109,278 players nationally. spFOOT-participation Like Jericho High School, Roslyn High School was forced to cancel its varsity program before this season. East Hampton High School has not been able to field a team for the past two years.

The Great Neck school district has two high schools, each with enrollments that rank among the highest in the county. Yet the interest in football was so low last year the schools had to combine to field a varsity team. Neither school has had a junior-varsity team in years.

"We are a very big immigrant school district," head coach Ben Krauz said. "We have a lot of Middle Eastern, Asian population."

Krauz, a middle school physical education teacher in the district, said players are more likely to play soccer or volleyball. He added that he hopes to get more players interested in football so the district can maintain a team.

Great Neck's quarterback, Donovan Phan, 16, whose parents came to the United States from Vietnam in their early 20s, also wrestles and plays lacrosse. He said many students are focused on academics and don't have time for sports.

Phan said his parents have always supported his interest in sports, but his extended family often questions why he's spending so much time away from schoolwork.

"My cousins set high bars in terms of academics, and they always tell me, 'Why are you doing so many sports? You should just focus on your grades,'" Phan said. "Football, when they see it on TV, they don't get it. They just think it's violent, like a bunch of people hitting each other."

Phan runs into the same thing when he tries to recruit players to join the team.

"Most people I talk to about football, when I'm trying to recruit them, they don't even know what I'm saying and they'd rather not try new things," he said. Cultural differences "definitely play a huge role in that."

Joe Huang, 16, plays tight end and linebacker for Great Neck. He was born in Queens and then spent the first five years of his life with his grandparents in China. He moved to Great Neck when he was in third grade. He said his interest in football began in middle school when he started watching the National Football League. He wanted to play football in eighth grade, but the school didn't have enough players to field a team.

Huang began playing varsity football as a freshman and recently finished his junior year. He also plays basketball and lacrosse, but he said many students don't have time for sports because their parents would prefer them to focus on academics.

"A lot of students I talk to, their parents are interfering because they feel football is an obstacle to them getting good grades in school, maybe even a distraction, and that's the biggest reason," Huang said.

Huang said more of his friends might be interested in football if they had a role model in the NFL.

"The biggest challenge is just society giving us an example," he said. "We're not really seeing a lot of Chinese Americans playing in the NFL."

Of the 2,257 players in the NFL in 2016, 1.9 percent were Asian/Pacific Islanders while 0.8 percent were Latino, according to University of Central Florida's The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, which publishes annual diversity breakdowns for all of the major sports.

In college football's Division I, the highest level of the college game, Asian/Pacific Islanders made up 1.7 percent of the players, while Latinos accounted for 2.9 percent. Safety concerns In October 2014, a Shoreham-Wading River High School junior died hours after a hit to the head during a varsity game. And in August 2017, a rising junior at Sachem High School East died when a wooden log fell on his head during a training drill at an offseason high school football camp.

"Anytime there's a catastrophic injury, I think it has a big impact on the way we live our lives," said Robert Zayas, executive director of New York State Public High School Athletic Association.

Tom Combs, executive director of Section XI, which oversees school sports in Suffolk, said the decline in football participation is "cyclical."

Combs points to the state rules that now regulate how much hitting a high school team can do in practice and the still relatively new regulations that mandate a player who suffers a head injury must be removed from play. Combs said football is "the safest it's probably ever been."

He added, "Hopefully, the parents will become more aware of the safety associated with football."

Pizzarelli, who oversees school sports in Nassau, said it might be appropriate for schools that constantly struggle to field teams to ask whether it's worth continuing to play the sport.

"Maybe it's time they say they're not a football school, which is OK, it's not the end of the world," he said. "Not every school has to have football."

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Copyright 2018 Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
All Rights Reserved

Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

A Maryville man, who is the director of a traveling high school softball program and used to work for Knox County Schools, has been arrested and charged with two counts of statutory rape by an authority figure and two counts of solicitation of a minor after an underage female reported he sexually assaulted her.


Police say they believe there may be more victims and are asking the public to let them know about any other possible incidents.

Kenneth "Kenny" Smith, 45, is being held in the Sumner County jail after being arrested Thursday at his residence in Maryville.

Smith is the director of KC Freedom Fastpitch U16 and U18 teams in Rogersville, Tennessee.

Smith is not an employee of Maryville City Schools, nor has he ever been, according to Sharon Anglin, the director of communications for Maryville City Schools.

According to his since-deleted profile - accessed by an internet archive - Smith is also an "Advocate" for Collegiate Sports Advocate, a travel program offering advocacy in recruiting for softball, baseball, volleyball and soccer.

"I am an advocate for the player, parents and coaches trying to find the right college for a prospect to play," his profile says.

Smith worked for Knox County Schools until 2015

Smith worked for Knox County Schools as a security guard beginning in January 2008, according to district spokeswoman Carly Harrington.

She was uncertain what school he worked at and noted that the district typically does not disclose that information for security personnel.

Smith served as a security guard until October 2011 and then transitioned into the role of an educational assistant at New Hopewell Elementary School, Harrington said.

He went on medical leave from November 2010-January 2011, according to Harrington.

Smith resigned in August 2015, she said, though she was not sure the reason for his departure.

His Facebook page states that he is currently employed with Knox County Schools and indicates that he works with students "in the lower 20 percent as well as tallented (sic) and gifted students in K-5."

The page shows that he has been employed with the district since 2011.

The News Sentinel put in a records request for Smith's personnel file, but Harrington said she could not provide the file as the district is working on redacting it.

Evidence of multiple incidents

According to a news release from the Hendersonville Police Department, on Dec. 11, authorities received a report an underage female was sexually assaulted by Smith while in Hendersonville.

Their investigation found evidence of multiple incidents of sexual advances and contact by Smith with the victim when she was under the age of 18 in Hendersonville and other jurisdictions, according to the release.

Smith was arrested Dec. 13 and is scheduled to appear in Sumner County General Sessions Court on Jan. 9.

Smith has two daughters, a high school sophomore and senior, according to his since-deleted Collegiate Sports Advocate profile.

His Facebook page also lists that he studied business studies and psychology at Pellissippi State Community College.

Anyone with information on Smith, this case, or any other possible victims should call and report that information to Hendersonville Police at 615-264-5303 or the Crime Stoppers at 615-573-5400.

Tips may also be submitted anonymously by text to the number 274637 (crimes) using keyword TIPHPD.

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Copyright 2018 Richmond Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

Offseason workouts, 7-on-7 and recruiting make coaching football a year-round job. But in states farther south, coaches earn a lucrative salary.

When Loren Johnson isn't coaching football at Highland Springs High School, and when he isn't teaching physical education, he delivers packages for Amazon.

He'll spend four hours on a summer day shuttling boxes around the city in his Toyota Sequoia, earning him about $90. If the football team is scheduled to work out that day, he'll drive to school, open the weight room, leave to deliver packages and return hours later to lock up.

In the month of July, he drove 4,000 miles for Amazon, all to make a little extra money.

"You're just looking for opportunities to supplement your income as best you possibly can," said Johnson, who last weekend led the Springers to their fourth consecutive state championship.

It's common for high school football coaches to take third jobs because coaching pays so little. Johnson makes more money delivering packages than he does coaching football.

He spends dozens of hours a week leading practices, meeting with assistants and communicating with college coaches. His coaching job - his second job - begins in January and ends in December. And for all that work, he earns a yearly stipend of about $4,000, which comes on top of his teaching salary.

As high school football has become more competitive, the sport has transformed into a year-round endeavor. The Virginia High School League legalized out-of-season practices in 2011, and now almost every team practices and trains throughout winter and spring.

If you want to stay competitive, coaches say, you can't rest during the offseason.

"Football never stops," Henrico High coach Gerald Glasco said. "It's a 12-month grind."

But what has become standard in football is still considered extra by the school divisions. Many coaches work on a contract that begins in August and ends in November. Most head coaches are teachers, and their stipend comes added on to their September, October and November paychecks or in one lump sum at the end of the season.

That means, in a sense, every out-of-season workout and meeting is conducted off the clock. So are state tournament games played in December. When Highland Springs and Manchester High School played last Saturday in the state championship games, their coaches weren't paid anything extra, even though their season continued longer than others.

This arrangement isn't found in every state. Farther south, in states such as Georgia, Alabama and Texas, coaching high school football is a lucrative, full-time job. A handful of coaches have left Virginia for bigger paychecks farther south.

Coaches still here are left wondering how such an arrangement is legal. Could a lawsuit improve their compensation?

Despite the long hours and low pay, men across the Richmond area continue to coach the sport. Their reason for showing up day after day is a simple one: They love football, and they care about molding young men.

"You've got to love what you do," Johnson said.

At L.C. Bird High School, the 2018 season ended Nov. 16 in a second-round playoff loss to Henrico. Three weeks later, offseason workouts began in preparation for the 2019 season. Coaches throughout the area agree that you can't be successful if you don't train out of season.

"You can't survive without a strength and conditioning program," said former Colonial Heights High coach Buzz Edwards.

Colonial Heights went 0-10 the year before it hired Edwards. Then he installed a year-round weightlifting program and won three games the next year. Almost every school conducts out-of-season conditioning now.

While some school divisions offer small stipends for offseason conditioning, many coaches make nothing for the hours they spend overseeing the weight room. And yet, players and parents expect coaches to work when they're not getting paid. If a coach doesn't hold enough practices or treat them seriously enough, players are apt to transfer to another school. That was one reason cited after several players left Hermitage High School in the summer.

"There's a lot of expectation," Johnson said. "You've got to [practice year-round] to compete."

Exercising 12 months a year isn't new to high school football. But before 2011, teams were limited to training and conditioning only - they weren't allowed to touch a football before August. Once the VHSL legalized out-of-season practices, teams began to run drills and play 7-on-7 games, further adding to their offseason schedules.

But staying competitive isn't the only reason why schools practice and train so hard, Edwards said. It's a safety issue, too. Take out-of-shape boys, put them on the field against bigger, stronger opponents, and someone is bound to get hurt.

At Highland Springs, the football team meets two days a week for 2½ hours a day during the winter. In the spring, they up their regimen to three days a week. There are dead periods and limits set by Henrico County on how much a team can practice. Still, Johnson estimates that the team meets more than 50 times during the offseason.

"We're doing something every week except dead periods," Johnson said.

Deep Run High coach Chad Hornik worries that teams are stuck in a never-ending arms race to see who can train the hardest. He estimates the job of coaching high school football occupies 60 hours a week during the season and 20 to 30 in the offseason.

Practicing all or most of the year isn't limited to football. Teams in other sports have taken advantage of out-of-season practice rules, though it's not as common. The Hanover High School baseball team practices from September to June, and the girls basketball team at Highland Springs trains every month except July.

While coaches spend numerous hours at practices and games, that's not where their job duties end. They paint fields, attend coaching clinics and booster meetings, and drive players to out-of-state college camps.

In 2016, Johnson and one of his assistants spent a snow day meeting college coaches who had flown in to visit Highland Springs senior K'Von Wallace. The coaches were supposed to meet Wallace at school, but class had been canceled. Wallace's mother was at work, and Johnson didn't want Wallace hosting coaches all day by himself.

"We weren't at work, but we were working," Johnson said.

Before he got the head coaching job at Colonial Heights, Edwards was an assistant at Dinwiddie High School, and his stipend was $3,200 a year. One day he added up all the hours he spent at summer camp, 7-on-7, film reviews, lifting sessions and meetings with players. He figured that he earned 87 cents per hour as an assistant football coach.

In Richmond, Henrico, Hanover County and Chesterfield County, head football coaches make between $3,100 and $5,800 per year. The average stipend in Henrico is $4,415 for a head coach and $2,704 for an assistant. In Hanover, the averages are $4,309 and $2,796, respectively.

Spokespeople from the Chesterfield and Richmond school divisions were unable to provide average stipends, but they did provide a range. In Chesterfield, head coaches are paid between $3,199 and $5,157. In Richmond they make between $3,300 and $4,100.

If a coach is a teacher, he earns his stipend on top of his teaching salary, which in the four largest local school divisions averages between $48,000 in Chesterfield to $56,000 in Hanover, according to state data.

But some don't get paid any stipend at all, such as Keylon Mayo, an assistant coach at Highland Springs.

After spending two years as the head coach at Glen Allen High School, Mayo resigned following the 2015 season. The next summer, he was offered a spot on the coaching staff at Highland Springs. There was one caveat - the position was unpaid.

But Mayo accepted. He was making $3,100 at Glen Allen, so he figured taking a volunteer job wasn't that significant a pay cut.

"When I was getting paid to be a head coach, I really wasn't getting paid that much anyway," he said. "So volunteering wouldn't be that much of a difference."

For the past three years, Mayo has coached the centers on the offensive line, led the team's college recruiting efforts and taken on other tasks. He is one of nine volunteer assistants on the coaching staff. While there are 19 coaches on the team, only 10 get paid.

Henrico County gives each school six assistant football coaching stipends, but a stipend can be split to increase the number of coaches on staff. At Manchester, which is located in Chesterfield and won the Class 6 state title last week, 18 men coach the team, but 10 are unpaid.

The low pay is one reason why turnover is so rapid. The median length of stay for a head coach in the Richmond area is three years. At nearly half the local schools, the current coach has been in place two years or less.

Their stipends can increase slightly. Chesterfield raised them by 2 percent this year, the same increase it gave to all teachers' salaries. But they can also be the target of budget cuts. In 2014, the city of Hampton cut them by 25 percent during an economic downturn. In 2010, then-Gov. Bob McDonnell proposed eliminating stipends altogether and asking coaches to work for free.

Earlier this week, Gov. Ralph Northam proposed a 5 percent raise for teachers, but it's unclear if the increase would affect stipends.

Henrico schools Superintendent Amy Cashwell praised the work of the school division's coaches as well as its teachers and other employees.

"Our coaches earn every dollar of their stipends and then some," Cashwell said in a statement. "Perhaps only the coaches themselves and their immediate families know just how much hard work after hours and on nights and weekends goes into leading a team of student-athletes, and we're so grateful for that commitment.

"I look forward to working with our state leaders to make things better across the board for all of our employees and students."

A spokesman for Hanover County schools said the division wasn't aware of any concerns expressed about football coaches' stipends.

Hornik, the Deep Run coach, has a sister in Texas. A few years ago, his sister sent him an advertisement for a job coaching high school football in Austin. The position paid $105,000, roughly 28 times more than what Hornik earns.

But Hornik never applied. He has a business and a family in Richmond, which is the same reason why most coaches don't move south to take better paying jobs. Many of them grew up in the Richmond area, and some coach at the school where they once played.

Some of them, however, have left for more profitable destinations. Jason Meade grew up in Richmond and coached at Highland Springs for five years and Lee-Davis High School for two before moving to Marietta High School outside Atlanta. Money wasn't the sole factor for leaving, he said. But it did play a part.

At Marietta, he said, there are more resources directed toward high school football, including a better stadium, more practice fields and a more profitable booster club. Four years ago, Marietta's football stadium was renovated at a price of $11.3 million. The cost was split between the Georgia Department of Education and Marietta City Schools.

"Football is a little more important here, community-wise," he said.

He got paid more, too. His stipend as an assistant in Georgia was 50 percent more than what he made as a head coach in Hanover County, and his teaching salary increased. He's now an assistant principal for the school.

In Georgia, head coaches make substantially more than they do in Virginia. The job pays between $80,000 and $105,000, he said, and the coaches aren't necessarily teachers.

Another who left is Cris Bell, a former James River High School coach who now leads the program at Oak Mountain High School in Birmingham, Ala. In Alabama, head coaches can earn up to $130,000 annually, Bell said. What's more important to him, he said, is that administrators there place a higher value on athletics. And that might be the crux of the problem. In Virginia, crowds at games can be smaller and support from the community is less enthusiastic.

With the bigger pay check comes a trade-off, he said. Expectations are higher and losing is less tolerated.

"You make a mistake and it's magnified," Bell said. "You say the wrong thing and it's magnified. You can't be anonymous down here."

Edwards, the former Colonial Heights coach, said he wouldn't be surprised if more coaches in Virginia followed the path of Meade and Bell.

"All over [Virginia] there's good football," he said. "I imagine a couple of those coaches would roll the dice and see what they could do at a different state."

Some football coaches have wondered how it's legal for school divisions to let coaches work so many hours and earn so few dollars. The law generally requires employers to pay workers 1½ times their hourly rate for every hour that exceeds 40 in a week. Some coaches have discussed the idea of a lawsuit.

They wouldn't be the first to attempt one.

A golf coach and security assistant at Hayfield Secondary School sued the Fairfax County School Board for unpaid overtime wages. James Purdham claimed he worked between 400 and 450 hours and was paid $2,114 for the 2008-09 school year.

But the court ruled in 2011 that under the Fair Labor Standards Act, high school coaches are considered volunteers, not employees.

Under the act, a volunteer is an "individual who performs hours of service for a public agency for civic, charitable or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation or receipt of compensation for services rendered," the ruling stated.

Barbara Queen, an employment lawyer in Richmond, says she doesn't see the current financial arrangement changing any time soon.

"Until Congress or the legislature give schools a lot more money, which realistically is not going to happen, I don't think it's changing," Queen said. "The reverse would be catastrophic. Schools would have to get rid of all their sports programs."

And yet, despite the long hours and little pay, schools keep finding new coaches. At many schools the field of applicants is large and competitive. Some assistants spend years working their way up the chain.

While many coaches leave after a few years, some stay for decades.

"Every coach tells you the same thing," Edwards said. "None of us are out here to get rich. I did it because I enjoy it. I love it. It's the closest you can get to playing without putting a helmet on. It changed my life when I was growing up. To have the opportunity to have that role in somebody else's life, that's why we do it."

ekolenich@timesdispatch.com; (804) 649-6109; Twitter: @EricKolenich

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Copyright 2018 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

In her four years with the American Youth Soccer Organization in Atlanta, Meg Sheldon has seen rosters nearly double.

"When I began my involvement we had around 150 to 200 participants," said Sheldon, a regional commissioner based in the Grant Park area. "Now we have between 250 and 300, a significant increase."

Having Atlanta United in town has helped boost both enrollment and engagement among the young players.

"They have definitely been more interested and involved," she said. "Many of them had previously never watched professional soccer."

Now, of course, they have local champions for inspiration and official word that their sport is front and center.

"Soccer is everything!" cheered Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms at Monday's parade to revel in Atlanta United's Major League Soccer Cup victory last weekend over the Portland Timbers.

The team has been packing Mercedes-Benz Stadium in its first two seasons. The attendance was announced as 73,019 for the Dec. 8 title game -- an MLS Cup record.

Georgia has about 86,000 players ages 4 to 19 and about 5,000 adult amateur players, according to Georgia Soccer, the authorized state youth and adult association within the U.S. Adult Soccer Association and U.S. Youth Soccer Association. The numbers represent steady growth with spikes coming after the 1996 Olympics and after the 2014 and 2015 men's and women's World Cup events.

"We believe we are gaining players," said Georgia Soccer executive director Greg Griffith. "Atlanta United coming around has been key."

Youth participation drops nationally

Atlanta's soccer mania comes amid an overall drop nationally in youth league participation.

The Aspen Institute Sports &Society Program's "State of Play: 2018" found a 9.5 percent dip in youth soccer participation rates from 2016 to 2017. For comparison, tackle football rates dropped 11.8 percent while flag football rose 9.9 percent. (The sport with the biggest percentage increase was ice hockey, which saw a 10 percent rise, although the number of that sport's participants was eclipsed by both football and soccer.)

Meanwhile, soccer's popularity as a spectator sport is surging.

A 2018 Gallup study found pro football reigns supreme (as it has since 1972) with 37 percent of adults naming it their favorite sport to watch. Basketball was next at 11 percent, followed by baseball at 9 percent and then soccer, at 7 percent.

"Soccer now nearly matches baseball's popularity," the study noted. "Only once before have at least 7 percent of Americans named a sport other than football, basketball or baseball as their favorite, and that was auto racing in 1997 (now down to 2 percent)."

So, why the gap in soccer's adult spectators and young players?Experts point to costs associated with playing, especially when kids get involved at the club level. The players in Sheldon's organization pay $120 per season. "Our league specializes in recreation soccer and providing a price point that is realistic for families to pay," she said.

But the fees for registration, gear, uniforms, travel and tournaments at other levels can have parents paying thousands of dollars a year for their kids to compete.

"The game has gotten increasingly expensive," said Tom Farrey, executive director of the Aspen Institute's Sports & Society Program. "We are creating travel teams well before kids grow into their bodies, minds and interests. That has pushed down participation rates among kids who are from lower socioeconomic homes."

Sean Fagan's 17-year-old son has played select soccer for Canton-based Cherokee Impact and estimates the bill for the season adds up to between $2,500 to $3,000.

"Select travel soccer becomes much more serious and competitive and the costs jump," he said. While talent is part of the selection process, it can also be assumed that there is developing talent who drops out of soccer or isn't getting access to better levels of coaching and play because the family cannot afford it."

Trying to bridge the cost gap

At a youth soccer clinic a day before the victory match, MLS player-turned-coach Brad Friedel presented players at Young Middle School in Atlanta, where the free and reduced lunch rate exceeds 95 percent, with backpacks, soccer balls, water bottles and uniforms. Helping with the clinic were recent recipients of $5,000 college scholarships, including 16-year-old Carlos Luna, a Peachtree Ridge High School junior who plays with Atlanta's Concorde Fire Soccer Club.

The gear and scholarships come courtesy of Allstate and the Alianza U Foundation. In his comments to the young players, Fridel, who coaches the New England Revolution, noted the importance of sponsors in funding his sport.

"I started out like all of you," he said. "We're here to help you."

The U.S. Soccer Foundation also is among the institutions hoping to help.

"The game has grown phenomenally. The cost of playing has made it more exclusive," said Ed Foster-Simeon, the foundation's president. "A lot of children are priced out. Our work is about reaching those children who come from low-income communities and ensuring they have the opportunity to enjoy the health and social benefits of soccer."

The foundation partners with programs around the country, including Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta.

"They give us all the resources we need to grow the soccer program for our members," said Aaron Quinney, director of athletics at Boys& Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta, who oversees its Soccer for Success offering. "Everything we could possibly need, they support us with."

Soccer for Success operates at 18 sites with a projected roster of between 700 and 850 youths this year. Quinney said participation growth has been steady. "Our kids love that the United are here," he said. "It's one thing to see soccer games on TV.When it's in your city and they're really, really good it drives your excitement. Word is traveling fast about soccer in Atlanta."

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Copyright 2018 Independent Publishing Company
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Anderson Independent-Mail (South Carolina)

 

'Tis the season for college athletic programs to show their generosity. Not the holiday season, but the bowl season.

College football coaches have reached many of the milestones in the performance incentive clauses included in their contracts. And the tab will continue to increase for the nation's top programs.

Excluding Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, who coaches at a private institution, the College Football Playoff coaches have already combined for more than $1 million in performance bonuses, according to figures compiled by USA TODAY Sports.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is one of eight Division I bowl subdivision coaches who have already earned more than $300,000 in bonuses. Swinney has accumulated $425,000 for leading his team to a fourth consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference championship and a fourth consecutive Playoff.

Swinney earned $50,000 for winning the ACC Atlantic Division and $150,000 for winning the ACC Championship Game.

He added $200,000 for earning a spot in the Playoff and another $25,000 for winning the ACC Coach of the Year honor.

A victory against Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl Classic semifinal would award Swinney another $200,000.

He would earn another $250,000 if Clemson wins the national championship.

Thus, a national title would earn Swinney a total of $875,000 from on-field incentives in addition to his $6.4 million salary.

Swinney totaled $500,000 in bonuses last season, when Clemson won the ACC title but lost to eventual national champion Alabama in the Sugar Bowl CFP semifinal. Alabama coach Nick Saban earned the same amount for winning that national title, although Alabama did not win the Southeastern Conference championship.

This season, Saban has already amassed $525,000 for sweeping to the SEC title and reaching his fifth consecutive Playoff.

Saban could earn $200,000 each for victories in the Orange Bowl semifinal and the national championship.

Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley has compiled $175,000 in bonuses for winning the Big 12 Conference title and reaching the Playoff.

Riley would earn another $100,000 for defeated Alabama in the Orange Bowl and another $250,000 for winning the national championship.

The sweepstakes will resume Dec. 29.

The Cotton Bowl is scheduled to kick off at 4 p.m. The Orange Bowl will follow.

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Copyright 2018 The Columbus Dispatch
All Rights Reserved


The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

 

Former Ohio State students who said they were sexually abused by Dr. Richard Strauss are asking Ohio lawmakers to persuade university trustees to agree to mediation because they are being "silenced" by university attorneys.

Bryan Garrett and Mike Schyck, who said they were victims of Strauss, sent a letter to university trustees and lawmakers Thursday.

The men said in the letter that the move by university attorneys to try to get one of two lawsuits filed against the university dismissed is designed to squelch information about Strauss and what the university did or didn't do during his tenure to investigate allegations.

Strauss worked as a team doctor in a number of sports and was a physician for student health services in the 1990s. He killed himself in 2005.

Ohio State's attorneys "are continuing their efforts to silence our voices. Decades ago, Ohio State instilled fear and intimidation to successfully silence us as young students and athletes. We feared loss of scholarships and graduate school opportunities. Today, OSU continues to use intimidation tactics -- this time using legal technicalities -- to silence us as alumni," the letter stated.

Chris Davey, spokesman for the university, said getting to the bottom of what happened and who knew about Strauss' actions has been "the highest priority to the university."

"The independent Strauss investigation will be over soon, and the university will share the findings and develop the appropriate response and action at that time," Davey said in an email.

University trustees are awaiting the findings of a lengthy investigation of the Strauss allegations. Investigators said last month that they had conducted more than 440 separate interviews, with a third of those being people who provided first-hand accounts of Strauss' abuse.

lsullivan@dispatch.com

@DispatchSully

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

 

STEVENS POINT, WIS.A YMCA in Wisconsin has blocked cable news on the televisions in its gym, citing chronic verbal harassment among members over politics, WISN reported.

"(I) can't watch any national news because someone might get upset," Jim Hennelly, who works out at the YMCA in Stevens Point, told the television station.

"It hit a nerve with me, you know? Hey, I'm just a guy walking in off the street. I'm not drunk, I'm quiet," Hennelly, 80, told WISN. "I do my stuff, and I can't watch a national news station. Huh? Is that censorship or what?"

Joe Seubert, associate executive director at the Stevens Point YMCA, told the Stevens Point Journal that members still watch whatever programs are available on the television monitors attached to cardio machines. However, Seubert told the newspaper that "we did censor some of those stations" on the larger TVs mounted on the wall.

After being away from the YMCA for several months because of a sprained foot, Hennelly returned recently and found out about the ban.

"I said, 'Can I watch CNN?' And they said 'No.' I said, 'OK, how about Fox?' And the girl was nice, but she said 'You can't watch any national news broadcast,'" Hennelly told the Journal.

While Hennelly was away, the YMCA instituted the ban after a confrontation between two members, the newspaper reported.

"We just simply took off the news.... For consistency and not to take sides, we eliminated the news stations," Seubert told the Journal. "All local channels are still available."

That reasoning did not satisfy Hennelly.

"That's like me going in there to watch Green Bay and the Bears are on, and screaming 'Turn those damn Bears off!," Hennelly told the Journal. "It's crazy."

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Copyright 2018 The Salt Lake Tribune
All Rights Reserved

The Salt Lake Tribune

 

It's a problem you might have faced before — you have tickets to a game, but you're busy with work. What do you do with them?

It turns out that NBA players face that problem 82 times per season. In the league's collective bargaining agreement, teams are allowed to give their players up to four tickets to every home game and two tickets to every away game. Coaches and support staff get tickets too. To avoid seeming cheap, essentially every team does this, which means arena ticket sellers have to carve out a block of 100 or more tickets.

For most teams, they try to put the home team's comped tickets near the home bench, and the visiting team's tickets nearer to the away bench. The most senior players (ranked by years of NBA service) get the best seats. The tickets must be in the lower bowl, but they cannot be on the floor or in a luxury suite.

Home seats are relatively easy to fill, though. Most players have family or friends constantly in town to give the seats to. But for away tickets, it can be a bit of a challenge.

Players are expressly prohibited from selling the tickets if they're caught doing that, the CBA mandates that they won't receive any more. The players are taxed on the tickets they receive, as a fringe benefit. They also can't give them to players on any other team (nor can teams give free tickets to players on other teams).

What players can do is give them to their teammates, and this happens often. For example, when Donovan Mitchell had friends from college come to Indianapolis — relatively close to Louisville, where he played for two years — some of Mitchell's teammates gave up their tickets. Ekpe Udoh, for example, says his most frequent place to dump unwanted tickets is in a teammate's hands.

Thabo Sefolosha has friends in a few cities around the league. Sure, he's played in Chicago, Oklahoma City, and Atlanta before signing a 2-year contract with the Jazz, so he has friends he likes to see after the game. In a couple of other select locations, he knows people. Frequently, Sefolosha says, he hears from friends of friends, knowing that they have the second-degree hookup for great free tickets.

"Somebody will use them, unless it's a city that nobody knows anyone," Sefolosha said. "But that's rare."

For Sefolosha, the most recent time this happened was in Brooklyn, of all places. So he posted his two tickets on Instagram, giving them to a random winner who followed him and tagged five friends.

It was Sefolosha's first time giving away his tickets through social media, but he says it won't be the last. "I just thought about it, I had some extra tickets, I had nobody coming to the game that day. I thought just giving them away, engaging with people on Instagram, I thought it was a good idea rather than there be an empty seat. I'll do it again."

Worst-case scenario, if a player informs his team that he won't be able to use the tickets, they're simply returned to the home team's box office for re-sale right before the game — though with a team that doesn't sell out, like the Nets, they may not be able to sell those tickets with such short notice.

Sefolosha's isn't the only giveaway, though. This season, five Jazz players, Dante Exum, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles, and Ricky Rubio, purchased 30 tickets for every home game, which they then donate to non-profit groups.

Retired players don't necessarily get free tickets, though many franchises — like the Jazz — will give free tickets to their alumni in order to foster a sense of history from past to present. Retired players with at least 3 years of NBA service do get the CBA-mandated opportunity to buy two tickets to their team's home games at face value, though they must make the request 48 hours in advance.

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The Washington Times

 

Obesity in the U.S. has reached a new high with a 5 percent increase since last year, according to a report published Wednesday ranking the healthiest states in the country.

About 31.3 percent of U.S. adults are obese, up from 29.9 percent last year, according to the United Health Foundation's annual report.

"That's incredibly concerning to us as a nation that this trend is going in the wrong direction instead of improving," said Dr. Rhonda Randall, an adviser on the report. "This is something that is very much an opportunity to us as individuals, as communities, at a state level and at a national level to turn it around."

The annual report documents 35 measures to rank the country's healthiest states, focusing on individual behavior, public policy, community and environment, and access to medical care.

Hawaii is ranked as the healthiest state this year, with a low prevalence of obesity, smoking, depression and air pollution. The Aloha State also counts a high number of primary care doctors. However, 21 percent of adult Hawaiians compared with the national average of 19 percent overindulge in alcohol.

Massachusetts, No. 1 last year, is the No. 2 healthiest state this year, followed by Connecticut, Vermont and Utah.

What these states have in common and with those in the top 10 is a focus on healthy individual behavior, said Dr. Randall, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare National Markets.

"These are generally states that have lower smoking rates, higher rates of physical activity, lower rates of obesity, more focused on prevention and wellness, things like vaccination and access to primary care," she said.

Louisiana ranks last, with high rates of mental illness and low birth weight, and a high percentage of children living in poverty, which puts them at risk for chronic stress from instability at home, food insecurity and unreliable access to medical care.

"When our children are living in poverty, it puts greater pressure on the ability for them to live healthier lives over the course of their entire life," Dr. Randall said.

The other four states with the worst health records are Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Overall, the national health statistics are grim, with high rates of obesity joined by an increase of deaths from heart disease. Despite an overall decrease in cancer deaths in the country, at least 30 states have increasing rates or no meaningful changes.

The report also found that suicides are on the rise and that Americans more frequently are reporting long periods of depression, stress and anxiety. At least 1 in 8 Americans report frequent mental distress.

Though more mental health professionals and primary care doctors are available than last year, they are not evenly distributed at the state and community levels.

The United Health Foundation on Wednesday will launch a website where all state health statistics can be viewed and adjusted to see how a particular factor affects a ranking, Dr. Randall said. The goal is to better help policymakers visualize what health factors make the biggest impact on wellness.

"So a state like Kentucky, for example, if they put a lot of effort on smoking and decreasing the rate on tobacco use, there would be a likelihood that their rank would move higher than 49 … and each state can do that," Dr. Randall said. "The 'adjust my rank' tool can be very beneficial to understanding where to invest and what resources."

Maine, California and North Dakota experienced the biggest jumps in improving their health rankings. Maine moved seven places to No. 16, and California and North Dakota jumped five places to No. 12 and No. 13, respectively.

Also promising, the childhood poverty level declined by 6 percent overall, with a national rate of 18.4 percent this year compared with 19.5 percent in 2017.

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The Press Enterprise (Riverside, CA)

 

A San Diego sports arena previously known as Valley View Casino Center has a new name: Pechanga Arena San Diego.

San Diego's City Council approved Pechanga Resort and Casino as the new naming rights-holder for San Diego Sports Arena during a meeting earlier this month.

The arena, at 3500 Sports Arena Blvd., is not only the home of hockey team San Diego Gulls, soccer team San Diego Sockers and lacrosse team San Diego Seals, but is also a well-known concert venue. It's hosted such bands and artists as Queen, Janet Jackson and Garth Brooks.

A news release from Pechanga says the management company for the arena, AEG Management, reached out to the casino resort after learning that Valley View Casino and Hotel in Valley Center would not be renewing a naming rights contract initiated in 2010.

"We have several partnerships with organizations that are synonymous with Southern California entertainment, including the Lakers, the Angels and Staples Center," said Pechanga Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro in a news release. "Believe it or not, the San Diego Sports Arena is the closest major arena to Pechanga, so when they reached out to us, we were excited by the opportunity to partner with this historic venue."

According to the release, all the signs on the outside of the arena will be changed to reflect the new name byDec. 21.

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News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)

 

RALEIGH — More than 100 current and former North Carolina student-athletes have signed an open letter condemning the university's recent proposal to put the Silent Sam statue in a new $5.3 million building on campus.

Among those on the list opposing the Confederate monument are current basketball and football players. They include forward Garrison Brooks, a UNC starter, and guard Kenny Smith; running backs Michael Carter and Jordon Brown; and starting offensive lineman William Sweet.

"A monument to those who fought and killed to keep Black people enslaved has no place on our campus," the letter read. "White supremacy has no place on our campus."

The letter is one of more than 20 statements released recently in support of the effort to keep Silent Sam off campus, including one Wednesday in which faculty members asked parents and guardians of students for support.

The proposal for the statue was approved by UNC's Board of Trustees, and is expected to go before the UNC System's Board of Governors today at the Friday Center.

Under the plan, the statue would be placed in a new history center on the edge of campus that will cost $5.3 million and $800,000 a year to operate. It could be paid for with state money, according to UNC Chancellor Carol L. Folt, and will have state-of-the-art security.

Silent Sam has sparked multiple protests around campus, including an Aug. 20 rally in which protestors brought the statue down.

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USA TODAY

 

Gerald Murphy served time in prison after being convicted of lewd and lascivious assault of a child. The state of Florida permanently revoked his teaching certificate for the crime. Murphy was also a youth coach, a member of USA Taekwondo. The elite sports organization's leadership eventually found out about his past. So did high-ranking officials at the U.S. Olympic Committee. Yet even after USA Taekwondo banned Murphy in 2014, the governing body and the U.S. Olympic Committee essentially forgot about him. Nobody raised an alarm when his wife filed paperwork with the state to take over the gym he'd once owned. Nobody thought to check if Murphy was still coaching. He was.

How to protect your child

For a full report including photos, video and a guide on how to determine if your kid might be at risk, visit us at usatoday.com. If you find someone on the "banned" list who is still coaching, please email us at: banned@usatoday.com

For four years, a USA TODAY investigation found, he continued to coach young athletes at the same gym, and that gym remains a member of USA Taekwondo.

"Do I coach at the school? Yeah, I am the teacher and owner," Murphy told a USA TODAY reporter in August as he opened the gym for class in a strip mall just north of downtown Tallahassee.

He's one of a half-dozen coaches banned for sexual misconduct who USA TODAY found were still active in their sport. Three of them were working at events or facilities affiliated with the national sports governing bodies that are supposed to be enforcing the bans.

Scandals sparked by coaches who sexually abuse young athletes have rocked Olympic sports for more than a decade, most recently with the case of Larry Nassar. More than 350 women and girls accused the USA Gymnastics national team doctor of molesting them under the guise of medical treatment. He's now serving an effective life sentence after pleading guilty last year to possession of child pornography and criminal sexual conduct.

In a damning review of what the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics knew about Nassar and when, investigators from the law firm Ropes & Gray said this week that the problem goes beyond individual predators. Structural flaws in the governance of both the Olympic committee and sports governing bodies have resulted in a hands-off approach that puts the priority on winning medals, not protecting athletes.

Former U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun drew particularly harsh criticism in the Ropes & Gray report, issued Monday. Under his watch, the Olympic Committee vowed repeatedly to fix its child protection system and, over the past eight years, made intermittent attempts to reform it.

USA TODAY's investigation found that gaping holes remain.

USA TODAY winnowed hundreds of banned individuals to a smaller list of nearly five dozen based on the ability to determine the misconduct that led to their bans and any suggestion they might still be coaching. To identify those still involved in youth sports, reporters reviewed court records and social media posts, interviewed advocates and parents and visited gyms and other athletic facilities around the nation.

These programs range from those that train young athletes for the Olympics to those at the grassroots level.

Reporters also examined how the USOC and its 49 sports governing bodies track coaches who have been banned from participation in the Olympic movement. (USA Skateboarding, which was recognized by the USOC in June as its 50th governing body, was not included in the survey.) There they found a historically hands-off approach by the USOC, which left the job of protecting children largely to the governing bodies, many of which lack funding, staff and expertise.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., was not surprised to learn banned coaches remained active.

"One is too many," said Blumenthal, ranking member of the Senate subcommittee that is investigating sexual abuse in the Olympic movement. "The six that you found probably are only the tip of the iceberg."

At least 931 people have been sanctioned by a national governing body or by the national U.S. Center for SafeSport, a USA TODAY analysis of their publicly available lists and database found. Those sanctions often follow criminal cases or an investigation by the governing body or the center. The people on those lists are spread across every state and 36 sports. More than two-thirds are permanently forbidden to participate in the U.S. Olympic movement.

Yet no cohesive system warns parents when coaches have been banned. The USOC and its governing bodies rarely follow up to ensure that they are being kept away from young athletes.

As a result, coaches who violate their bans - and the facilities and organizations that hire them - face few repercussions. Just 17 of 40 governing bodies that responded to a USA TODAY survey said they even have the power to take action against gyms and clubs that ignored the bans.

"What we've seen in more vigorous or effectual enforcement is close to zero," Blumenthal said. "And it's a major failure on the part of the USOC (that)... puts athletes at risk every day."

Lists of people barred from their sport form the backbone of the child protection system. But those lists have limitations.

A searchable database maintained by SafeSport, which now handles all sexual misconduct cases for the USOC and its governing bodies, includes only those banned or suspended since SafeSport opened in March 2017.

Finding coaches banned before that requires scouring the individual lists of the sports governing bodies. Only about half of the 40 governing bodies that responded to the USA TODAY survey maintain any sort of public list, however, and some of those simply duplicate what's on SafeSport's website. Three governing bodies - USA Climbing, USA Hockey and U.S. Soccer - have lists that they do not publish.

What's included varies widely as well. Of the 931 cases, nearly 200 provide no detail about why the person was sanctioned.

Figure skating's list includes Tonya Harding, who was banned in 1994 for her role in the physical assault of fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan. SafeSport's database leaves out location details nearly a third of the time.

"They should also be erring on the side of caution so if there is a reason to think that someone has come forward and there was abuse of any variety, that person should be suspended and not permitted in the sport," said Marci Hamilton, chief executive officer of CHILD USA, a nonprofit think tank that works to prevent child abuse.

"It seems to me there's still an issue of too much concern about the adult and not nearly enough concern about the safety of the children."

Under pressure from Congress, which has held five hearings over the past eight months, the USOC in late May required for the first time that governing bodies share information on people they had banned. SafeSport is now working to add those banned for sexual misconduct before March 2017 to the center's database. CEO Shellie Pfohl said the goal is to complete that in early 2019.

At one of the hearings, the then-acting CEO of the Olympic movement, Susanne Lyons, acknowledged that the USOC needed centralized information on banned individuals across the movement. "It has not happened to date, and I regret that we did not exercise more of our authority to enforce that standard... prior to this," she said in May.

In a phone call after the release of the Ropes & Gray report, USA TODAY presented its findings to Lyons, who will become chairwoman of the USOC board Jan. 1.

Asked whether those findings undercut the USOC's assertions that it has taken meaningful action over the past eight years, Lyons said: "I think it's going to take some time.... We need to help the NGBs develop the right policies and procedures to enforce that all the way down to the grassroots level, because that is obviously a weakness in the system."

A felon and a coach

Murphy's case underscores how easy it can be for banned coaches to get around sanctions.

At 35, Murphy was convicted in 1989 of lewd and lascivious assault of a child after being found in bed with Mistie Diaz, who was 14 at the time and baby-sat Murphy's children. She had met Murphy while she was a student at a school where he was a teacher.

Murphy spent 18 months in prison after failing to meet the conditions of his sentencing.

Yet in 2014, Murphy was coaching at the statewide competition in Florida, which sends athletes to the national championship. Another coach alerted Ronda Sweet, a former USA Taekwondo board chairwoman, to Murphy's felony conviction. She in turn informed USA Taekwondo's attorney, board chairman and CEO.

Lyons was a USOC board member at the time and, while following up with her on another coach's case, Sweet mentioned Murphy's past to her, too.

"I know it was 25 years ago. SafeSport does not have a statute of limitations," Sweet wrote to Lyons in an email obtained by USA TODAY. "This guy can't teach in a Florida school. (B)ut he can teach and coach at (USA Taekwondo) events."

Lyons emailed Sweet back on April 4, 2014: "Very disappointing. I have asked that USOC look into this." USA Taekwondo announced Murphy's ban the same day.

The ban was supposed to get Murphy out of the USA Taekwondo system by stripping him of his membership. But USA TODAY found he has been coaching at the same gym in Tallahassee since he was banned.

"I don't think he should be teaching at all," said Diaz, now 44, who agreed to be identified for this story. "He did it to me. Who else has he done it to?"

Four days after Murphy was banned, his wife incorporated the Dragon System Institute of Martial Arts. Her name appears on its state incorporation paperwork, and Murphy's son is listed as general manager.

In August, Murphy showed a USA TODAY reporter three certificates his wife received for completing SafeSport training in March. His wife and son are USA Taekwondo members, Murphy said, and coach the school's athletes at events sanctioned by national governing bodies.

The club was still listed as a member on USA Taekwondo's website as of Nov.21. After USA TODAY sent the organization detailed questions about Murphy, the club was removed from the governing body's club locator app.

Most of the governing bodies surveyed told USA TODAY their membership systems would prevent a banned individual from obtaining a membership or participating in sanctioned events. But none checks with its member clubs to see if that's happening or monitors members to make sure they're not employing anyone who is banned.

While Murphy's wife owning a school should have raised a red flag, that would require someone on USA Taekwondo's small staff - listed as 11 people on its website - to notice similarities in names and addresses to people on the banned list.

Asked during a Senate hearing in October whether banned coaches are able to work at clubs, USA Weightlifting CEO Phil Andrews responded: "That problem does exist.... I think the biggest issue is the fact that the club level, physically we are not in all of these cities ourselves. Physically, we're not there to investigate and to enforce these bans."

Instead, governing bodies rely on the public - individual members and parents, primarily - to do their investigative work.

Luquanda Colston's three children go to Dragon System Martial Arts, and she has taken classes there herself. Stopped in a nearby parking lot, she said she did not know USA Taekwondo had such a list or that Murphy was on it.

Colston said that if she had known Murphy was banned, it probably would have affected her decision to sign her children up at his school.

USA Taekwondo has the power to enforce Murphy's ban. It was one of 17 governing bodies that responded to USA TODAY's survey by saying it could revoke a club's membership or impose other sanctions for not abiding by the list. But only USA Gymnastics has ever taken that step.

The USOC did not respond to questions about the role its officials played in Murphy's case. USA Taekwondo executive director Steve McNally declined to answer questions about Murphy's case and its policies, saying the governing body was "involved in a legal process that prevents me from commenting."

USOC was slow to act

The USOC has long maintained that preventing sexual abuse in the Olympic movement is not its job.

The governing bodies are more likely to have day-to-day interaction with athletes and coaches. That, the Olympic committee has said, makes them better suited to enforce sexual misconduct policies, including the banned lists.

That long-standing resistance to taking the lead was reflected in Blackmun's acknowledgment that sexual abuse wasn't even on his radar when he took over as CEO.

"When I started in 2010 if someone said what are the top 15 priorities for the USOC, I wouldn't have had sex abuse on the list," Blackmun told the Ropes & Gray investigators.

That stance ignores the power the USOC has through the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, the 1978 law that chartered the USOC and provides protections for athletes, coaches and officials. The USOC decides what nonprofit organization is recognized as the sport's governing body. And the USOC can revoke that recognition if it feels a governing body is not meeting its obligations to athletes.

The committee "literally can do whatever they want to," said Nancy Hogshead-Makar, an Olympic swimming gold medalist and civil rights attorney who founded the nonprofit Champion Women to advocate for girls and women in sport.

Yet for years the USOC rebuffed requests from its governing bodies to exercise its authority. At one point the committee chastised USA Gymnastics for taking the initiative to crack down on coaches.

In 1999, the USOC threatened to revoke USA Gymnastics' national governing body status because it was automatically banning coaches convicted of sex crimes. The USOC was concerned that not giving those coaches a hearing could violate the Ted Stevens Act.

In a response, then-USA Gymnastics CEO Bob Colarossi foreshadowed the very scenario the Olympic movement now faces. "This is not an issue that can be wished away," he wrote. "The USOC can either position itself as a leader in the protection of young athletes or it can wait until it is forced to deal with the problem under much more difficult circumstances."

Only after the revelation in 2010 that USA Swimming had quietly banned more than 35 coaches for sexual misconduct did the USOC launch a working group to address the problem. The group produced recommendations but little immediate action. A centralized list of banned coaches was discussed at length, but the working group determined it "was not the best solution for all sports organizations."

It took three years for the group's other recommendations to be implemented. As a result, Dec. 31, 2013, marked the first time that national governing bodies were required to do criminal background checks of coaches and other officials.

In the meantime, a second group - convened to develop what would ultimately become SafeSport - also considered creating a universal banned list. The idea stalled again.

Because the Olympic committee was so focused on success at the Summer and Winter Games, investigators said it wasn't even in a position to know if the governing bodies had strong, effective policies to protect against abuse.

Only 15 of the 40 governing bodies that responded to USA TODAY's survey had a banned list before SafeSport opened in March 2017. In many cases, the reluctance to create a list stemmed from a fear of being sued by those on it.

That should no longer be an issue. A new federal law this year, the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and SafeSport Authorization Act, shields SafeSport and the national governing bodies from defamation lawsuits without proof of actual malice.

While the USOC has touted SafeSport as a game-changer in protecting young athletes, even that did not come easily. The center opened nearly three years after the Olympic committee announced its creation as the USOC struggled to raise outside funding.

In contrast, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency began operating a year after the USOC approved its creation.

The USOC often compares the two efforts, but they continue to have drastically different resources. In 2017, the anti-doping agency received $9.5million from the federal government and $5.1million from the USOC. SafeSport's budget includes $3.1million from the USOC, and it expects an additional $2.3million starting this year under a three-year federal grant for prevention and education.

Inundated with more than 1,600 reports of sexual misconduct or abuse, SafeSport increased its staff from four employees to 29 as of late October.

Blumenthal said he supports increased funding from Congress.

"We're not talking about billions of dollars," he said. "In the total scheme of the federal budget, it's a rounding term."

Banned for life, but still active

Public lists of banned coaches are not a cure-all, as the father of a girl once coached by Randall Cates learned.

After a 2015 hearing in Lexington, Kentucky, US Equestrian gave Cates its first lifetime ban ever for what it said was his "systemic and insidious grooming" of a female rider that included thousands of lurid text messages and, eventually, sexual relations when the girl was 16 or 17 and Cates was in his mid-40s.

Even though the athlete defended Cates and claimed her mother had fabricated the text messages, the hearing panel revoked Cates' membership and permanently banned him from any affiliated training facilities or competitions.

Citing corroborating evidence found in the girl's journal as well as the technological improbability of the mother making up thousands of messages, the panel said the texts "revealed a sordid multi-year attempt by Mr. Cates to draw Victim under his influence and groom her for sexual interaction."

Cates was "constantly pushing for Victim to engage in sexual acts that she may have not been comfortable performing," US Equestrian's panel stated.

Asked for comment, Cates said the "supposed victim testified that the alleged acts did not occur" and referred USA TODAY to her attorney. That attorney issued a statement for her saying that she denies the allegations and that "the numerous texts were fabricated."

The girl did not cooperate with police, her father said, and no criminal charges were filed. USA TODAY is not naming the father so his daughter will not be identified.

US Equestrian added Cates to the banned list on its website and sent letters to other organizations with ties to US Equestrian, such as the American Saddle Horse Association.

But that didn't end Cates' coaching career.

A property he owns in Oklahoma offers lessons and camps to young riders, and a USA TODAY reporter saw several teenagers there in June. Facebook posts from his account indicate he continued to participate in horse shows.

A post on May 21, 2017, praised a regional event by the Texas American Saddle Horse Association.

"Spring TASHA horse show in the books. I want to thank the TASHA organization for putting on a really fun horse show!" the post read.

Another Facebook post, from May 20 of this year, read: "TASHA always puts on a fantastic horse show! 17 horses and 48 entries in 2 days. Thank you to our customers and crew. See you TASHA at College Station in December!"

Both posts were removed from public view in June, after USA TODAY began asking about them.

Around that same time, US Equestrian sent a letter to the American Saddlebred Horse Association saying Cates' activity was in "direct contravention to" the two organizations' "Affiliate Agreement and the spirit of the Safe Sport Movement." US Equestrian asked the association to ensure that competitions enforced suspensions and bans and "prohibit anyone on those lists from participating in any manner, including entering the competition show grounds."

"When Cates was banned in 2015, USEF notified ASHA leadership, as well as the leadership of all other USEF-related affiliates, in writing of Cates' ban," US Equestrian CEO Bill Moroney said in a statement to USA TODAY. "We cannot say why he was active at local ASHA events, as the USEF ban extends to all affiliate organizations and he should not have been allowed to participate."

The failure to make Cates' ban stick came as a shock to the father of the female rider, who found out Cates was still active from USA TODAY.

"I don't understand why they don't publish his face on a poster and stick it up in every arena in the country," the girl's father said. "If you're truly trying to protect these children, these little girls, then that's what you would do."

Armour reported from Aurora, Illinois, and Grand Rapids, Michigan; Axon reported from Tallahassee; Jacksonville, Florida; and Columbus, Ohio; Schrotenboer reported from Edmond, Oklahoma. Contributing: Matt Wynn, Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat

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USA TODAY

 

A terrible week for the U.S. Olympic movement, perhaps its worst ever, became a bit more awful Thursday with USA TODAY's report that our journalists found a half-dozen coaches banned for sexual misconduct who were still active in their sport.

How in the world is this possible?

That's a fitting refrain for much of what we read in the Ropes & Gray report earlier this week on the horrible mishandling of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal by USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee.

It works, too, for most of what we have learned since Sept. 12, 2016, when The Indianapolis Star, part of the USA TODAY Network, broke the news of allegations against Nassar.

We can't say it enough. How in the world is this possible? All these top leaders of Olympic sports in the United States, the people charged with the task of encouraging, promoting and protecting America's athletes, not only failing to act but actually accepting the existence of sexual abusers among the children and young adults in their midst.

It's atrocious. Reprehensible. Deplorable. I need a new thesaurus.

Over the past year, congressional leaders, U.S. Olympic sports officials and athlete survivors of sexual abuse have done a lot of talking about what has happened, how awful it is and how it must be stopped.

This airing of the issues and the telling of personal stories is vital to the nation's understanding of what happened, and what continues to happen, in our Olympic sports. But as the increasingly urgent conversation continues, there are a few steps that must be taken immediately to start the process of making sure sexual abusers are caught, punished and never again allowed near another child or young adult.

The first is the easiest: Start throwing money at the U.S. Center for SafeSport. Lots of money.

Perhaps you've heard SafeSport come up in a congressional hearing or in news media reports about the Nassar aftermath. SafeSport is mentioned so often, and in such a lofty, cure-all manner, it would be natural to assume it has been around for years, is funded like the essential organization it is and is working like a dream.

Wrong, wrong and wrong.

It opened in March 2017, nearly three years after it was created, delayed because the USOC struggled to raise outside funding for it. Its 2018 operating budget is $6.4 million, which is both paltry and embarrassing.

Running on a shoestring and inundated with more than 1,600 reports of sexual misconduct or abuse in a year and a half, SafeSport increased its staff from four employees -- yes, four -- to 29 as of late October.

And we wonder why the U.S. Olympic movement is losing the war on sexual abuse?

"The problem is so much bigger than anybody thought," said Olympic gold medalist Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a civil rights attorney who founded the non-profit Champion Women to advocate for girls and women in sports.

If we truly care about stopping the current and future Larry Nassars of the world, Congress needs to give SafeSport whatever funding it needs to do its job properly, and it needs to do that now.

"We're not talking about billions of dollars," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told USA TODAY. "In the total scheme of the federal budget, it's a rounding term."

Next, SafeSport needs to be given the authority by Congress to have jurisdiction not just over individuals, but clubs. That way, if, say, a swimming or volleyball club decided to allow a banned coach through its doors, which happens, appallingly enough, SafeSport could revoke the club's membership or impose other sanctions.

Likewise, the national governing bodies for Olympic sports in the United States also need to step up and police their own competitions, whether it's by keeping the names and photos of banned coaches at the door of a competition, or responding immediately to a complaint inside the venue. I've heard stories of banned coaches showing up at events where their victim is competing, terrorizing the athlete all over again. That must stop now.

Then there's the general sharing of information and data. We can board planes and enter buildings with scans of our eyes and fingerprints, but we can't figure out a way to keep our kids safe? Every athlete, parent, coach and official, from the littlest little league to the most elite Olympic level, needs access to the names of every sexual abuser on every national governing body's list. Fix this, people. Fix it now.

"People think the U.S. Olympic movement is 800 athletes once every four years," Hogshead-Makar said. "It's far bigger than that. We're talking about 8 million children out of a total of 16 million athletes, in gyms and rinks and courts around the country. That is the size of the U.S. Olympic movement, and those are the people we need to keep safe."

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Copyright 2018 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
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Palm Beach Post (Florida)

 

A former Boca Raton High School swim coach is facing a battery charge for allegedly inappropriately touching a teenage student, court documents show.

Eric Hill, 42, pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge Sept. 27. His next court date is set for Jan. 10, when he is scheduled to attend a plea conference hearing.

Hill was removed from his coaching and teaching positions after schools police opened an investigation in May. Dennis Rudman, Hill's attorney, could not be reached for comment.

The unidentified student told school police that she was "grabbed" on the backside by Hill on Feb. 14. The girl was 16 at the time of the incident and told police that Hill had been her coach since 2015.

The girl said Hill seemed "normal" until earlier this year when "his jokes have been more flirtatious," according to the report.

"I can't wait till you're 18," Hill allegedly told the girl.

Hill twice touched her backside, including once when she was walking out of class, she told police. In another incident, Hill allegedly rested his arm on the girl's chest.

Witnesses told police that Hill regularly made inappropriate comments about the victim and told members of the boys' swim team that she was "off-limits."

Another witness told police she saw Hill touch the victim on Feb. 14 while they were inside Hill's office.

Records show that schools police investigated Hill at least twice previously for inappropriate touching.

In March 2011, Hill was accused by a ninth-grade student of running his hand down her body as she walked out of the school's cafeteria. Hill was an assistant principal at the time, records show.

In December 2017, a student told investigators that Hill touched her chest inappropriately after she changed out of her swimsuit. The girl also said Hill made suggestive comments to her, according to a school police report.

The results of those two investigations were not available in documents provided to The Palm Beach Post.

Hill won three state titles with Boca Raton (two for girls swimming and one for boys) and was named Florida High School Athletic Association Coach of the Year three times, per the school athletics website. Hill won three state titles with Boca Raton (two for girls swimming and one for boys) and was named Florida High School Athletic Association Coach of the Year three times, per the school athletics website. The Palm Beach Post named him its boys All-Area coach of the year in 2016 and its girls All-Area coach in 2011, 2013 and 2014.

Hill coached swimming at Boca High for 15 years and was a math teacher. He had worked for the School District since 2003.

jmilian@pbpost.com

@caneswatch

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

 

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — Christian Pineda plays a lot of video games, but he's best at "Minecraft." Hunched over a laptop in the front row of a half-full movie theater last month, the 13-year-old eagerly showed off why.

"I basically know the controls like the back of my hand," he said before turning his focus back to a tight match against a rival team from Boston. Christian claims to be shy at school, but here, he's a vocal leader on a New York team of nearly 20 esports competitors, some as young as 6 years old. With a spot in the league finals on the line, Christian tapped away at his keyboard and excitedly discussed tactics with teammates.

The group was strategizing over pickaxes and archers, not pitchers and catchers, but the focus on teamwork and communication could have come straight from the bench at a youth baseball game.

At Super League Gaming events like this, that's the goal.

"Like Little League for esports," said Super League CEO Ann Hand.

Super League is trying to bring structure to an industry devoid of it at the youth level. The organization was founded in 2015 and runs national leagues for three esports games: "Minecraft" for players in elementary and middle school, and "League of Legends" and "Clash Royale" for older players. Kids are often introduced to competitive video games via "Minecraft" before graduating to "League of Legends," giving them a place to train and play throughout their teenage years and beyond — the "League of Legends" competitions don't have an age limit. Super League Gaming has tens of thousands of players, although not all attend every live event, and its "Minecraft" championship has been turned into a reality TV show on Nickelodeon.

The hope is that Super League can close a major gap in the esports ecosystem for young gamers, particularly in the U.S. The industry is set to eclipse $1 billion soon, and there are more professional opportunities than ever. Pros in the NA LCS — the top North American "League of Legends" circuit — averaged over $300,000 in salary this season, and many colleges now provide esports scholarships. Careers in esports coaching or game design are increasingly in demand, too.

But to pursue those jobs, players need to start early. Esports pros often peak in their early 20s, and elite talents in countries like South Korea are being identified before reaching middle school.

The relatively weak U.S. gamer pool is holding back North American franchises from competing on an international stage. Esports powerhouse Cloud9 became the first NA LCS club to make the semifinals at the League of Legends World Championship this year, and it only had one U.S. player in its starting lineup. The lackluster American feeder system was a talking point when NA LCS franchise owners met this summer.

"A lot of our amateur system has fallen away," said NA LCS Commissioner Chris Greeley. "I think we all agree that it is shallower right now than it could be and should be."

Riot Games, which publishes "League of Legends" and manages its professional circuits, is partnered with Super League and hopes the organization can boost the reputation of American gaming. Super League uses proprietary software to pair players with competition at the appropriate skill level, and its weekly in-person events allow for stronger development than if players were left to practice alone. Super League also makes it easier for pro franchises to scout players and evaluate their talent and makeup.

"You can't really just look at the best players online and use that as your primary way to find the next great pro because the problem is that you don't know a lot about their behaviors," Hand said. "Will they be able to handle the pressure of being at the Staples Center or Madison Square Garden?"

Just like Little League, it's not strictly about churning out elite talent. Super League also creates an in-person sense of community around gaming, one that allows parents to watch and even coach. Some have concerns about their kids spending too much time on screens, but at least with Super League, gaming happens in a social, supervised space — better than playing solo in a basement or bedroom.

"It's one of the best decisions we've made," said Alon Rothschild, who drives his 11-year-old son, Frankie Capello, over an hour from Staten Island to compete with New York's "Minecraft" team.

The co-ed organization provides players with uniforms, tech support and access to its digital platform, which allows players to log into Super League competitions from anywhere. But it's the in-person events that pull kids in.

"You're actually sitting next to each other and you're talking," Frankie said. "When you're talking, you basically are getting the better experience with your friends. I love talking with my friends and doing this."

The league hasn't turned out any professional players, though it's taking steps to ramp up its gamer development. It has created a training program within its software for at-home use and is offering boot camps focused on helping players improve. Hand wants to begin hiring former professional gamers to coach at Super League events, too.

Super League is also eyeing expansion into games like "Fortnite." Although Super League's player base is believed to be the largest of its kind in the U.S., it still represents a sliver of the gaming world, leaving a lot of room for growth before Super League is as synonymous with esports as Little League is with baseball.

Getting there could be a boon in an already booming industry.

"A kid who does play Little League is an MLB fan for life," Hand said. "Cultivating that future fan through our youth leagues is really essential."

 

Follow Jake Seiner: https://twitter.com/Jake-Seiner

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The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

The Eagles announced this week that Lincoln Financial Field has earned a LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for, among other things, operating 100 percent on clean energy, diverting 99 percent of waste from landfills, and phasing out plastics at concession stands.

LEED is a global program for green-building certification with four levels, a base certification and silver, gold, and platinum. Lincoln Financial Field, which opened in 2003, achieved silver in 2013. Five years later, it reached gold.

"Reaching LEED Gold status is a tremendous accomplishment for our organization," Eagles president Don Smolenski said in a statement. "Since opening Lincoln Financial Field in 2003, we have been steadfast in our commitment to sustainable business practices."

Mahesh Ramanujam, president of the Green Building Council, called Lincoln Financial Field "innovative," and said it has lowered carbon emissions and reduced operating costs while using sustainable practices.

Lincoln Financial Field produces 4 megawatts of power from its 11,108 solar panels and 14 wind turbines. Together, they supply a third of the stadium's power over a year. The stadium gets its remaining energy by purchasing credits from suppliers that use renewable energy.

Additionally, the team and its concessions provider, Aramark, have phased out plastic straws at Lincoln Financial Field and the NovaCare Complex, replacing them with an alternative made from renewable, compostable resources, eliminating roughly 500,000 plastic straws a year.

The Eagles' Go Green program, which began in 2003 when the stadium opened, started with simple recycling bins for use by employees, and grew to stadium-wide composting and diverting 4,000 tons of waste a year from landfills. That includes the use of on-site bio-digesters that decompose food waste.

The stadium also slashed use of water bottles, switched to LED lights or fluorescent light alternatives, installed timers for lighting and HVAC, uses environmentally-friendly cleaning products, provides beverage cups made of corn, switched to wood coffee stirrers, and installed carpets made from recycled fibers.

Further, Eagles ownership said it has created a 6.5-acre forest in Bensalem and planted 5,900 trees with help from the Conservation Fund and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. fkummer@philly.com

215-854-2329

FrankKummer

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Copyright 2018 Independent Publishing Company
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Anderson Independent-Mail (South Carolina)

 

Anderson's Workout Anytime gym recently closed unexpectedly without much explanation or notice to members.

The building has already had the Workout Anytime logos removed and now has a sign in the window directing members to Gold's Gym where they would honor "all memberships and prices for our members at their new location."

Brad Smith, the manager at Gold's Gym, said Workout Anytime has been closed for about a week and a half and already 166 Workout Anytime members have come to Gold's Gym to either get more information or start working out.

"There's a lot of gyms in town, and [Workout Anytime] was kind of one of the smallest ones," Smith said. "The owner wanted to make sure that his members were taken care of and we felt like he reached out to the best gym in Anderson to take care of his members."

Members coming over from Workout Anytime will be able to stay at Gold's for 12 months at the same membership rate. Smith says that right now, the gyms are comparable in terms of hours and square footage, but when Gold's Gym moves into a bigger space with more amenities at the beginning of the year, they'll be getting an upgrade.

Officials at Workout Anytime did not return multiple requests for comment via phone calls and email.

The 24-hour gym was a franchised location of Georgia-based Workout Anytime. The closure in Anderson leaves six other Workout Anytime gyms open in the Upstate.

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

 

The contentious battle to get Talking Stick Resort Arena renovated has led to Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver dipping into the leverage file and issuing a few threats.

In short, Sarver is telling Phoenix City Council members he will move the team to Seattle or Las Vegas if the renovation of the facility isn't approved, according to the Arizona Republic.

The Suns committed to a 40-year lease in 1992, but they can opt out in 2022.

The city council was slated to vote on a $230 renovation package Wednesday, but serious backlash from the community is leading to the vote being pushed back -- likely to Jan. 23.

Mayor Thelda Williams would like to host two community meetings to gain feedback before the council makes a decision.

The Suns have attempted to get the city council to consider a renovation in the past, but this is the first time the council has seriously considered a proposal.

Phoenix would pay $150 million toward the renovations and the Suns would pay $80 million.

The Suns would build a new practice facility and commit to playing at the downtown arena through 2037 with an option to extend through 2042. The Suns would be fined $200 million if they departed Phoenix before 2037.

Phoenix's on-court performance hasn't gone well. The Suns own the NBA's worst record at 4-24 and have lost 10 straight games.

Phoenix missed the playoffs in each of the past eight seasons.

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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

Sitting on his couch last year after Christmas, the mayor of a Chicago suburb came up with an idea that might have seemed a little bizarre.

Craig Johnson said he had been watching "bowl game after bowl game" on television. Virtually all of those games were named after businesses that paid to have their names in the game titles. What if he tried something like that?

What if his government in Elk Grove Village paid to attach its marketing slogan — "Makers Wanted" — to the name of a bowl game? The goal would be to attract manufacturers to its industrial park next to O'Hare International Airport.

"Could you picture 'Makers Wanted Bowl' at the 50-yard line?" Johnson said he asked his wife. "She looks at me, and excuse my language. She goes, 'You're (expletive) nuts.'"

Nearly a year later, the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl in Nassau will feature Toledo (7-5) against Florida International (8-4) on Dec. 21 on ESPN. The title sponsorship cost his village $300,000. But Johnson estimated it already has received millions of dollars' worth of publicity from the deal, helping show how even the lowest bowl game can hold huge value — and why the bowl industry is poised to get even bigger.

In 1996-97, there were 18 bowl games. Five seasons later, there were 25. This season, there are 40 postseason games, starting Saturday, including 10 teams with the minimum record necessary to qualify at 6-6.

For 2020 and beyond, the NCAA recently approved a possible expansion to as many as 86 teams in 44 postseason games, including the national championship game. That means nearly two-thirds of all major-college football teams could earn a participation trophy in the form of a bowl berth.

That's great for business, according to the key market forces driving demand: sponsors, schools, cities, television viewers and ESPN. It doesn't even matter that average, per-game bowl attendance has declined for 10 years in a row to about 40,000, according to NCAA records, or that participating schools and conferences last year were required to pay for a record $25 million in unsold tickets. The appetite for this bowl bonanza persists, because they're all getting what they want.

Television: By far the biggest reason for the expansion and wealth of the bowl industry is The Walt Disney Company, which owns ABC and ESPN. This year, those networks will televise 35 of the 40 games, using them to drum up advertising revenue during the holiday season, when families are often at home and off work.

ESPN Events, a division of ESPN, even owns and operates 13 major bowl games, including the Bahamas Bowl. It plans to add a bowl game in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in 2020 and will consider adding more, said Clint Overby, vice president of events for ESPN Events.

"What does it ultimately matter if there's quote-unquote too many games?" Overby said of the perception by some that there's a glut of bowl games. "As long as there's interest and people want to play in them, and there's a perceived value, then really it's a net positive for the sport. The number of games is really not the issue."

Even the Bahamas Bowl can be considered a success for ESPN despite it being the least-watched and least-attended bowl game last year. It drew a crowd of 13,585 and an average television audience of 882,000 for Ohio's 41-6 win against Alabama-Birmingham, according to Nielsen data. Other cable channels would love to be able to show advertisers and distributors that they can get such an audience on a weekday afternoon. The same day of last year's Bahamas Bowl, a soccer game and a college basketball game on different channels drew less than half of the football game's audience, according to Nielsen data.

"ESPN looks at bowls as a highly profitable venture," former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson told USA TODAY. "They can get better ratings with a (lower-tier) bowl game than they can get with maybe just another college basketball game."

ESPN is paying an average $470 million a year for the media rights to games in the College Football Playoff rotation. The championship game alone drew an average audience last season of 28.4 million, the second-biggest in cable history. ESPN pays an additional undisclosed amount to put on its other bowl games, adding to the money gusher that flows out to the participating colleges and leagues.

The participants: Schools and their leagues earned a collective profit of $448 million from last year's bowl games, according to NCAA documents obtained by USA TODAY. That is $561 million in bowl payouts, minus $113 million in expenses associated with participating in the games, including the $25 million they lost on unsold tickets.

Most of that bowl payout money ($465 million) came from only six games: the Cotton, Peach and Fiesta bowls, plus the three games of the Playoff (Rose, Sugar and championship game). That money was shared with leagues and teams that did not participate in those games, such as those in the Bahamas Bowl. For example, $15.4 million of Conference USA's $18.6 million in bowl payout money came from those top-tier games despite it not having a team in them. Nine teams from Conference USA went to bowl games last year and racked up a combined $5.2 million in expenses, including UAB in the Bahamas, according to NCAA documents. If not for that playoff money, Conference USA would have been $2 million short of covering those expenses.

"It was said very clearly: `Look, we're going to make significant money available to conferences that are not in the (biggest bowl games),' " said Wright Waters, executive director of the Football Bowl Association, which advocates for the bowl industry. "The purpose of it is to make sure your student-athletes have a good experience and that your institutions have the benefits of bowl games."

Sponsors benefit from it, too, and provide a third major revenue source for the games beside television revenue and ticket sales.

Sponsors: The Bahamas Bowl didn't have a title sponsor last year after the previous title sponsor, the Popeyes restaurant chain, didn't renew. The pricing might have been too much for some at about $450,000. It came down to $300,000, which is what Elk Grove Village agreed to pay ESPN.

Johnson, the mayor, said the village has received a return on its investment that has greatly exceeded expectations. In the first 24 hours after the deal was announced in July, the village received $3.6 million in publicity from it, according to a marketing study provided by the village.

"It's priceless," Johnson told USA TODAY. "You couldn't have afforded to buy what we got."

The sponsorship contract calls for logos featuring "Makers Wanted" at the 50-yard line, on uniform patches and other name displays. ESPN is required to use the name "Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl" in all on-air references, besides airing commercials for the village during the game.

"Go on Google right now, and type in 'Makers Wanted,'" Johnson said. "First listings will be Elk Grove Village. That's marketing. You want somebody to (notice the bowl name) and go, 'What the heck is Makers Wanted?'"

He said the village is "extremely happy" with the deal. And this is for one of the least watched and attended bowl games — before the game is even played.

Cities, schools and coaches: Cities like hosting bowl games because they help attract tourism and gain exposure on national TV. Some even provide funding for them. This year, the city of Birmingham is paying ESPN $550,000 to help fund the ESPN-owned Birmingham Bowl, which is title-sponsored by jewelry retailer Jared. The game previously had been called the PapaJohns.com Bowl and the BBVA Compass Bowl but did not have a corporate title sponsor in recent years.

In exchange for its funding, a city spokesman said, the city gets to keep its name in the game title next to any corporate sponsor. Therefore, instead of being called the Jared Bowl, it's the Jared Birmingham Bowl on Dec. 22. It's not clear what the game would be called if the city didn't pay and if it didn't have a corporate title sponsor. But the fact that the city values this lower-tier game enough to fund it regularly reflects demand.

And it's up to the NCAA to decide how many bowl games should be allowed in response.

"We talked about it: Is it diluted? Is it too much? How can we improve the system?" said Bret Gilliland, who worked on an NCAA committee that studied the size of the bowl system as deputy commissioner of the Mountain West Conference. "But there wasn't much sentiment that we need to (shrink) this."

The NCAA consensus recently was to try to accommodate all teams with records of 6-6 or better. This year, there were more eligible teams (82) than bowl slots (78), leaving four teams unhappy and showing room for more bowl games. The NCAA based its approval of an expanded bowl system on the number of bowl-eligible teams in each of the 10 major conferences over the previous four years, plus independent schools. In some years, more teams with 5-7 records might get into bowl games, as they have in the past.

For the schools, it means national attention, fun for fans, fundraising opportunities and a reward for their players. Their coaches love bowls, too, because they come with extra practices for their teams and bonus pay from their schools. For example, bigger bowl games often mean coaching bonuses of $100,000 or more.

In the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl, head coach Butch Davis is due a $35,000 bonus from FIU for participating. His opponent, Toledo head coach Jason Candle, is due a $20,000 bonus for participating and can get another $30,000 if he wins the game.

Off the field, the mayor of Elk Grove Village feels like he's already won.

"We know what we've gotten is millions, if not tens of millions" in value, Johnson said. "It's mind-boggling."

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

 

IRVING, Texas (AP) — Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday the NFL won't pay for video evidence in cases involving domestic violence, and he defended the league's handling of those investigations.

Speaking after owners held their annual winter meeting, Goodell said the NFL's approach to dealing with domestic violence is "extraordinary" and that the league has some of the highest standards of any organization.

The NFL came under scrutiny again when surveillance video showed former Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt shoving and kicking a woman in a Cleveland hotel in February. Hunt wasn't disciplined before the video was released by TMZ.

After the video came out, Hunt was placed on the commissioner's exempt list, the equivalent of suspending him indefinitely with pay. The Chiefs waived him almost immediately after that.

Goodell said the hotel and police in Cleveland declined to release the video to the league.

"First off, we don't pay for video evidence," Goodell said. "From our standpoint, we think that's not appropriate for a league organization to do that.

"We obtained material that we have access to. But we're not going to do it by corrupting people or trying to find a way to bribe them into giving us video. That's not what we do."

Goodell said the league acted quickly once the video became public.

"I think what we're doing as a league is extraordinary," Goodell said. "We take this seriously. As a league, I think we've responded very quickly. I think that example is being on the commissioner exempt list. They were off the field within an hour."

Todd Jones, the NFL's special counsel for conduct and a former prosecutor, also said he doesn't think the NFL should pay for video evidence.

"To become mercenary and pay for videos opens up a Pandora's box of all kinds of opportunities and things that may come to us from not just surveillance video in public places or surveillance video in residences, but you're talking about the world of social media and everybody on a smartphone," Jones said.

The league announced what it said were stronger provisions for the Rooney Rule, which is designed to promote diversity in hiring practices.

Among several changes, clubs now must interview at least one candidate of diversity from a list compiled by an advisory panel, or a candidate not currently employed by the team. The league is also requiring teams to keep records and provide them when asked by the commissioner.

When Oakland owner Mark Davis hired Jon Gruden before this season, there were questions of whether he followed the Rooney Rule.

"Obviously it must be necessary in society for some reason. It's never been necessary for the Raiders," Davis said, noting his hiring of general manager Reggie McKenzie, who was fired this week.

"I don't work like that. But I think if they strengthen it, that's great. And we're going to follow that, just as we did last year. It'll be a little more transparent this time."

Davis said a lawsuit filed by the city seeking monetary damages over the team's move to Las Vegas was "meritless" and said he hadn't decided whether the Raiders will play in Oakland next season. Davis was noncommittal on potential temporary homes.

Davis wouldn't say how much the lawsuit would influence his decision on where to play in 2019. The club's move was further validated by the NFL announcing Wednesday that the 2020 draft will be in Las Vegas, just a few months before the Raiders' debut there.

"Emotionally, I don't want to pay for my own lawsuit," Davis said. "But for the fans, it's something I've got to think about."

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

 

DAYTONSeveral items were taken from a locker room Friday night during a basketball game between Chaminade Julienne and Purcell Marian high schools.

According to a Dayton police report, students told the Chaminade Julienne athletic director that a cellphone, driver's license and $60 cash were taken from the locker room.

The athletic director said they did not find out about the theft until after the game.

Students were able to track the cellphone to Purcell Marian High School, where the school's athletic director was able to retrieve it, the report stated.

The driver's license or cash were not found.

No arrests were made in this case.

Got a tip? Call our 24-hour monitored line, 937-259-2237, or send it to newsdesk@cmgohio.com

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Copyright 2018 Star Tribune
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

Pulltabs and other charitable gambling have generated so much revenue to pay off U.S. Bank Stadium's debt that corporate taxes are no longer needed for that purpose, state officials say.

The state projected last week that the reserve account for the stadium will climb to $193 million by 2023, even without an annual infusion from corporate taxes. The rising revenue could even pay off the stadium debt earlier than anticipated, saving hundreds of millions in interest costs.

It's possible because charitable gambling taxes - the original stadium funding source - have soared after a sluggish start.

The taxes were growing so slowly that in 2013, state leaders had to look elsewhere for a cash infusion. In addition to a one-time tax on cigarettes, officials closed what they described at the time as a corporate tax "loophole" involving overseas income. The corporate tax pumped $20 million a year into the account, money that can now be redirected back to the state's general fund.

"We're just recognizing that the original projections are now coming through," said Myron Frans, Minnesota Management and Budget commissioner. This year was a crucial turning point, he said, since the stadium reserve now has enough money in it - about $44 million - to cover the state's annual debt payment for one year.

The growing reserve may prove a tempting target at the Capitol in the coming years. Earlier this year, some wanted to tap the fund to help pay for new veterans homes around the state - a proposal later covered under the bonding bill.

Frans recommends that future state leaders leave the account alone for now. If it reaches the projected level in five years, he said, the state can prepay enough stadium debt to save about $300 million in interest payments. State officials said several years ago that the state's total share of the stadium - with interest - exceeds $600 million over three decades. "We're hoping with a $1.5 billion [overall budget] surplus, people won't go looking over here for money," Frans said.

Pulltabs dominate charitable gambling sales, compared with bingo, raffles and other activities.

Electronic pulltabs, which were legalized by the stadium bill, now comprise nearly 20 percent of all pulltab sales revenue after several years of rapid growth.

Charities have been asking to reduce the charitable gambling taxes they pay to the state. Last year was the first that charities paid more in taxes for charitable gambling than they had left over for their missions, like youth hockey leagues and fire relief associations, said Al Lund, executive director of Allied Charities of Minnesota.

"We see no reason that they can't dial us back, because that [stadium] fund is pretty flush right now," Lund said.

Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, said he intends to continue pursuing legislation this session to reduce the tax bill for charities.

"The money is raised in the local community. Why not keep it in the local community?" Dettmer said.

Frans warned that lowering the taxes could be followed by an economic slowdown, as happened in the late 1990s before the dot-com bubble burst - creating state budget deficits.

"I don't think the fact that it's doing so well necessarily means you change the tax structure," Frans said.

In addition to healthy gambling revenue, the other driver of the stadium's rising reserves in the coming years is that Minneapolis will begin paying its share of the stadium in 2021. A number of city sales taxes are slated to pay for the stadium after debt is paid off for the city's convention center in 2020.

"Two great things are happening," Frans said. "The charitable gambling is growing nicely, and [in] 2021 then Minneapolis starts paying their portion. So that means there's even more money we don't need to use on our side."

The state is also making an annual payment for operations and maintenance of the stadium, amounting to about $7.8 million this year, to be later repaid by the city. That figure rises annually based on how well the sales taxes are growing.

Eric Roper · 612-673-1732 Twitter: @StribRoper

Stadium reserves (in millions)

Actual

FY-'14

Gambling taxes (above $36.9 million): $6.4; Stadium reserve balance: $39.8

FY-'18

Gambling taxes (above $36.9 million): $38.7; Stadium reserve balance: $44.2

Forecast

FY-'19

Gambling taxes (above $36.9 million): $47.3; Stadium reserve balance: $49.7

FY-'23

Gambling taxes (above $36.9 million): $75.6; Stadium reserve balance: $193.1

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

 

In Romania, George Piha was a prominent businessman and politician - then after a car accident, he became an OxyContin addict.

Piha, who holds dual citizenship, returned to the United States and, according to prosecutors, began a statewide crime spree to feed his addiction. Piha stole from YMCAs in the towns of Tonawanda and West Seneca, the Aquatic and Fitness Center in Tonawanda and LA Fitness locations in Clarence and Hamburg, said Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn.

The 51-year-old used a bolt cutter to break into fitness center lockers and take credit cards. He used the stolen cards to buy Apple-brand electronics, which he sold for cash.

A remorseful Piha was sentenced Tuesday in Erie County Court to 2 to 6 years in prison for burglary, identity theft and scheming to defraud. He also must pay the credit card companies more than $95,000 in restitution. He faces charges for similar thefts in the Albany area.

"I know I made horrible mistakes to support my addiction," said Piha, who wore an orange jumpsuit and was shackled at his wrists and waist. "And I have to live with it my whole life. And this is much greater than the punishment I get today."

Piha came to this country in 1994 after winning a visa lottery, Flynn said.

He owned businesses in Queens, including a liquor store, but returned to Romania in 2005 when his father developed Parkinson's disease.

There, Piha started a construction company and, with its success, entered politics. He served as a deputy mayor of a community near the Romanian capital of Bucharest before running unsuccessfully for mayor and for a seat in the national congress.

In 2016 or 2017, Piha got into a car accident and became addicted to prescription painkillers. Flynn said Romania is not welcoming to drug addicts, and that's why Piha returned to Queens in 2017.

He started stealing to feed his addiction, Flynn said.

The district attorney said he didn't know why Piha targeted gyms and fitness centers. Piha would pay for a day pass or brazenly walk past the front desk and into the locker room.

There, he took out bolt cutters he'd hidden under his clothing to cut through the locks, Flynn said. He took credit cards, not cash, and then slipped out of the gym and drove to the Apple store and Best Buy to purchase high-end electronics he could sell for cash.

He was arrested July 30 in the Albany suburb of Slingerlands after a traffic stop. Officers found cut-up credit cards, a wig, disguises, lock-picking equipment and new electronic devices worth more than $10,000 in his van.

Erie County Judge James Bargnesi said he was troubled most by the effort Piha put into his thefts.

"You're obviously a very smart man, and unfortunately you used that intelligence to develop this scheme that, quite frankly, was difficult to unravel," said Bargnesi, noting the possibility of other as-yet-unknown thefts carried out between Buffalo and Albany.

Piha pleaded guilty in October to six counts and faced a maximum of 35 years in prison. Prosecutors say Piha stole $95,355 here and the victims were reimbursed by their credit card companies.

At Tuesday's sentencing, Piha said he, his son and his daughter would start investing in properties to give back to the community after he finishes his sentence.

"I'm assuring you right now, your honor, you're going to hear from me in a few years in a very, very positive way," Piha said.

Flynn noted the epidemic of opioid addiction in this community.

"I'm rooting for him," Flynn said of Piha's post-release plans.

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

The Spokane Public Schools board suddenly faces more choices than ever on a new sports stadium.

The issue appeared to be decided in an advisory vote Nov. 6, when 64 percent of city voters said they preferred that the $31 million replacement for Albi Stadium be built on the current site and not in the downtown area.

However, the board has agreed to hear a new proposal tonight from the Spokane Sports Commission and the Spokane Public Facilities District for an enhanced Sportsplex and indoor stadium.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the district's downtown offices.

"The bottom line is that we're inviting the school district to be a part of the Sportsplex design team and consider this as a third option," said Sports Commission President Eric Sawyer, who will make the presentation along with PFD President Stephanie Curran.

Following the presentation, the public will be allowed to comment. After that, board members are expected to ask for details.

Few exist at this point, but Sawyer's goal is to be given enough time to come back in a few months with a preliminary design and a firm estimate on the savings from a combined facility.

"We need to go through a process," Sawyer said. "We're convinced that there's a significant savings, but we're not sure how much."

The previously approved $42 million indoor Sportsplex, which is in the preliminary design phase, will occupy land east of the Arena and the Spokane Civic Theater, and just north of the Spokane River.

With an outdoor stadium no longer on the table following last month's election, the PFD is studying the feasibility of adding artificial turf and other improvements to accommodate football, soccer and other large-field sports.

Following the presentation and public comment, the board appears to have several options:

Vote down the proposal and proceed with a 5,000-seat replacement for Albi Stadium on the current site, as voters recommended.

Give the PFD a timeline to develop firmer numbers, renderings and other details before making a final decision on whether to commit to the project.

Approve the PFD proposal immediately.

Call for a binding vote, perhaps in February, to give voters a chance to choose between the Albi site and the indoor option.

Ask district staff to study the merits of both proposals, including the long-term revenues from expanded playing fields at the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex for either option.

The all-in-one complex has the potential to save millions of dollars, but also to raise the ire of voters who backed the Albi option.

After noting last week the voters gave 67 percent approval to a $495 million bond, the largest in district history, school board member Jerrall Haynes said that "ruining that trust over a stadium is a hard, hard sell."

During that meeting, Haynes and board President Sue Chapin voted against hearing the indoor stadium proposal, but the motion carried 3-2 on "yes" votes by Deana Brower, Mike Wiser and Brian Newberry.

Haynes and Newberry said it would take a "monumental" presentation to sway them toward giving the go-ahead for further analysis of the combined facility.

That's all the PFD is seeking for now: time to firm up numbers, produce renderings and offer a clearly defined vision.

For many on both sides, lack of visuals clouded the downtown stadium proposal even before the issue was placed on the ballot.

Based on the district's tentative timetable for the planning and construction of six new and replacement middle schools, a definitive answer wouldn't be needed until late spring, Associate Superintendent Mark Anderson told the board last week.

Chapin worries time is an issue. Scheduled to represent the district for a bond presentation next month, she told colleagues, "as I prepare to go to San Francisco and pitch our district's bond to Standard and Poor's and Moody's, I'd like to be able to say that we are implementing what our voters asked us to do."

Brower isn't sure voters spoke with one voice, or that all voices were heard.

While saying she "takes very seriously" the results of the election, Brower believes many voters were confused about the vote and that district stakeholders outside city limits weren't allowed to vote.

Citing the unique partnership between the city and school district in bringing the bond to voters, Brower said, "We are trailblazing here, and the process wasn't perfect."

Contact the writer: (509) 459-5437, jima@spokesman.com

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

 

Vanderbilt went outside the box to find its new athletics director.

Malcolm Turner, the president of the developmental NBA G League, was hired Tuesday as Vanderbilt's AD and vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs. He will start on Feb. 1 and replace David Williams, who announced his resignation Sept. 11, after leading the athletics department since 2003.

Turner has no college administrative experience. Instead, his résumé is steeped in marketing, consulting and management in just about every major professional sports league. He has worked with the NBA, WNBA, NFL, NASCAR and PGA in multiple roles.

What Vanderbilt saw in Malcolm Turner

So why did Vanderbilt choose Turner over other traditional candidates like experienced college ADs?

Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos said Turner "from the start, stood out as the top candidate." Zeppos thought his business background and talent for executing a strategic plan for growth were universal abilities Vanderbilt could not pass up.

"If you look back and say, 'What was (college athletics) like in 2002, and what is it like today?' I don't think anyone could've imagined or predicted (the differences)," Zeppos said. "So what I really wanted was somebody who could, as we say, skate to where the puck is going.

"The business background was very important to me. But the strategic thinking and ability to say, 'This is where this should be going,' was very, very important to me."

What Turner plans to do at Vanderbilt

During a half-hour teleconference with reporters Tuesday, Turner was modest about his learning curve ahead in college athletics.

He repeatedly referenced his plan for a "listening and learning tour." He wants to get feedback from athletes, coaches, fans and university staff on what they think is needed most for Vanderbilt athletics.

"I'm looking forward to learning the history to date and lending my experience and my lens on the future there," Turner said.

But Turner also identified the expertise that Zeppos saw in him. Turner said he is confident in his ability to transition into college athletics and juggle the unique challenges at Vanderbilt.

"I hearken back on my consulting background," Turner said. "I've always been a continuous learner. You have to be able to dig in and out of issues quickly and precisely."

Vanderbilt touts a reputation as an elite academic institution, and Nashville is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. However, Turner must balance academics and athletics while figuring out how to renovate the football stadium, raise revenue in a competitive sports market and compete in the SEC.

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

 

DENVER — The report was every bit as thorough as it was cringe-worthy.

And yet, when it was all picked apart and combed through, there wasn't much new there.

The 233 pages of details about how Olympic leaders and the FBI responded — or didn't — to sex-abuse allegations against Larry Nassar was yet another entry in an endless exercise in looking backward to respond to a crisis that needs some new ideas before anything is truly fixed.

Hampered by their own red tape and glacial pace in grasping the enormity of the issue, neither the U.S. Olympic Committee nor USA Gymnastics — or even Congress — has come up with ideas comprehensive enough — beyond firing everyone and blowing up organizations — to turn this ship around.

How was the report helpful?

"By understanding the failures of the Olympic community, it will enable the USOC to take action to protect athletes in the future," said USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland who, four months into the job, must wake up each day wondering what she got herself into.

Bravo to her for doing SOMETHING, anything, to try to move the ball forward.

On Monday, she swiftly canned chief of sport performance Alan Ashley, whose name was added to the long list of good guys who, when faced with suspicions that young women were being molested, responded as though the change-oil light had come on in their car instead of acting like it was people's daughters in imminent danger.

Last month, Hirshland came off as bold by starting the decertification process of USA Gymnastics, which, as the report details, was an enterprise in which two people held all the power: Super-coach Martha Karolyi had carte blanche to do, or ignore, anything so long as she kept producing gold medals, and president Steve Penny was in charge of reporting the abuse (which he did, more than once) and also, as laid out in unflinching, unflattering detail, trying to keep it quiet.

But the resoluteness of Hirshland's move masked a more difficult set of questions: What in the world replaces USA Gymnastics? And to boil it down even further, what in the world IS USA Gymnastics?

What, for that matter, is the USOC?

Nobody in the general public — the people who tune in every two years to watch dreams come true under the Olympic rings — knows, or really cares.

What all those people should know is this: Even when the skaters and gymnasts and skiers and wrestlers leave with gold medals hanging around their necks, they are often the biggest losers, too — frequently short on cash and all but devoid of any power to control or improve their own working conditions.

To the credit of Hirshland's predecessor — Scott Blackmun, who got predictably skewered in Monday's report — the U.S. Center for SafeSport came into existence on his watch, albeit five (25?) years too late and millions of dollars too short.

Despite the hearings it has held and the promises for reform, Congress is proving to be clueless and too busy with other things to effect meaningful change. Exhibit A: It recently approved $2.2 million in much-needed funding for the SafeSport Center, which is supposed to investigate every sex-abuse case reported in the Olympic sports space. But the money came with the caveat that none of it could be used for investigations. It's the equivalent of handing the local fire department a couple of envelopes full of cash, but telling them they can't use it for hoses.

What CAN be done, or improved upon, to help sports at the grassroots and elite levels:

*Develop more easily understood and accessible standards for how to become a coach, and when, where and under what conditions coaches should be in contact with athletes.

*Implement a more thorough and easily understood process for everyone — coaches, parents, athletes, clubs — to access a comprehensive list of bad actors who should not be anywhere near kids.

*Provide more answers and training for parents, who give coaches the honor of molding their children and shouldn't ever feel reluctant to ask who their kids are with or what they're doing.

As the de facto leader of American sports, the USOC should oversee all that through its own programs, and through those it has entrusted to the SafeSport Center. It should place someone with good PR skills who is unafraid of the public spotlight in charge of it all.

Sprinkled throughout the 233-page report are tales of gymnasts who, over the span of years, were too scared, too intimidated, too worried they wouldn't be believed, to suggest anything was amiss at the Karolyis' training center. Who had their back? No one at the USOC or USA Gymnastics.

As a response, the USOC announced an initiative earlier this year to make it easier for athletes to cut through red tape and ask for help, whether it involves a simple problem in training or something as serious as reporting sex abuse.

The announcement deserved more attention than it got. It represented an attempt — a rare attempt, to this point — to shift away from the blame game and present a real solution for a problem that cannot be solved simply by firing everyone.

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The Virginian — Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

Mentioned on ESPN's "SportsCenter" and recognized by strangers on Manhattan avenues, Brandon Caicedo is basketball's latest one-and-done who left college in search of fame and fortune.

Virtually.

Timberwolves brethren Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns went before him, but not like Caicedo. He's a 20-year-old Floridian known by his video-game avatar named "Hood" to a new breed of basketball fan who consumes sports and competition differently, in an alternative world the NBA and its team owners wager is the next big thing.

He also is a new face for the Wolves' fourth franchise, alongside their NBA, WNBA and G League teams. This new one is "T-Wolves Gaming," an expansion entry in the growing NBA 2K League that begins its second season in the spring. "NBA 2K" is the name of the game — literally — and this is the first official "esports" league operated by a U.S. professional sports league.

People watching people play video games? Really?

You bet.

So do NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and a growing list of forward-thinking, mostly younger owners already involved. That list includes Dallas' Mark Cuban and others from Golden State, Boston and Milwaukee, who want younger audiences, primarily males 14 to 25.

More and more by the month, colleges across the country offer varsity programs for esports — electronic sports — administered by their athletic departments and providing scholarships.

Esports are competitions using video games such as "League of Legends," "Overwatch," "Dota 2" or cultural phenomenon "Fortnite." They're now spectator sports, with 15 million daily streams on websites Twitch and YouTube and live crowds selling out arenas and soccer stadiums from New York to South Korea.

From your couch to worldwide audiences, esports has grown exponentially the past four years and are poised to become a $1.4 billion annual global industry that reaches 600 million people by 2020.

"When I was growing up, my parents always said, 'This will get you nowhere, go do your homework,' " Hood said. "Like normal parents."

All grown up now, he is a professional video-game player and new member of the Wolves/Lynx organization. He will move to Minnesota this winter to practice and compete with five teammates. Each will receive insurance benefits, a retirement plan, housing and a salary that equals what many actual players earn in the NBA's developmental league, the G League.

Modified from the retail game you might play at home, the 2K League is 5-on-5 basketball. All 10 fictional players are controlled by its own gamer such as Hood or new T-Wolves Gaming teammate Mihad Feratovic, a Brooklyn, N.Y., teenager re-imagined in "2K" as a 6-11 power forward called "IFEAST."

Teammates are connected by headsets, microphones and their own monitor, and they don't maneuver a Towns or a Wiggins or any other NBA player on the screen. They manipulate their own characters, with assumed names and invented personalities.

The four-month season that begins in April includes weekend games and interspersed tournaments — which paid out an additional $1 million last season — that can increase participants' pay well beyond their $35,000 salary. Each franchise's six-player team lives and practices together in its respective cities and flies every other week to compete in a specifically designed New York City television studio with a live audience.

T-Wolves Gaming will add their final four players to a team that hired a coach/general manager in October.

"It's an opportunity I'll never have again," said Hood, who left Indiana University after one year and became the league's third-leading scorer last season with Cleveland. "If things don't go well, school is always going to be there."

To E or not to E?

Many NBA owners and players current and retired — Michael Jordan, Stephen Curry, Rick Fox and Jeremy Lin among them — have invested in a variety of esports. Next in this new world: Gamemakers eyeing the pro sports model and creating city-based franchises priced from $10 million to $20 million each.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft bought an "Overwatch" franchise for Boston in 2017, calling it "the future" because of the way millennials consume sports on their smartphones.

More than 72,000 people worldwide tried to qualify for 2K League's inaugural season and 102 were chosen. All were men, a result Silver last spring called disappointing for an NBA that prides itself on diversity and inclusion.

Going global

Hood played high school ball near Fort Lauderdale, Fla., as a 6-5 forward, but he is a 6-4 scoring point guard in 2K. IFEAST played AAU ball, but broke his foot and now is a 6-4 Brooklyn College sophomore who plays a 6-11 forward on Twitch.

"We're playing a video game, but a lot of it is real basketball IQ," Hood said. "You have to know screen-and-rolls and how to read defenses. You watch film. You have to know basketball to play the game."

A mere concept three years ago, the 2K League likely will include all 30 NBA teams soon, with possibly 15 franchises added worldwide because of esports' remarkable "scalability." The Wolves' electronic team can reach a worldwide audience with a relatively bare minimum of resources and expense.

When the 2K League launched last spring, Silver compared it to the NBA's other three leagues and said, "We're building this as a league that's going to be around forever."

In an essay he wrote for news website Quartz, Lin called esports "democratizing entertainment" because all you need is a fast internet connection — size, age, gender and lateral quickness don't matter. It cuts across countries, cultures and religions.

"Esports have been global from the beginning," NBA 2K League managing director Brendan Donohue said. "We view this as a totally stand-alone fourth league. This is another way to engage our audience, especially the younger audience. We see franchises all over the world and that's in our near future."

Wolves limited partner Meyer Orbach and CEO Ethan Casson nudged the franchise toward its 2K League team. Both see space for innovation with corporate partners and advertising that's already built into the simulated NBA game.

This exploding esports audience has powered the rise of stars such as Tyler "Ninja" Blevins, a Fortnite streamer, who has nearly 12 million Instagram followers and made ESPN the Magazine's cover recently. Meanwhile, the uneducated are trying to catch up. Johnson said when he pitches corporate sponsors, he'll sometimes see "this dumbfounded look, like, 'How does this work?' " And IFEAST's own father, when first hearing the draft news, thought for a moment his gamer son was headed to the actual NBA.

Universities, though, have noticed: More than 100 have added esports programs, many of them offering scholarships, according to the National Association of Collegiate esports. Website traffic at Concordia (St. Paul) spiked — its biggest story this year — when it announced two weeks ago it is adding a varsity team to the esports wave. Associate director of athletics Regan McAthie called it "really important for us to be first to market" in a competitive higher-education market in Minnesota.

"Every time we turned around, another college (nationally) was announcing," McAthie said. "It's something people definitely are intrigued about. The smart money?Unlike his younger teammates, Wolves veteran Anthony Tolliver hasn't played video games since high school, but he is intrigued nonetheless. As an entrepreneur, he has contemplated investing millions in esports.

"I didn't understand it — kind of made fun of it," Tolliver said. "You're watching another person play a video game? How crazy is that? Well, you think of some TV we watch. We watch 'House Hunters.' We watch other people shop for houses. So when you think about it that way, I was like, 'OK, never mind, I can accept it now.' "

But is this sports?

The International Olympic Committee seemed to be headed toward recognizing esports over the summer, but the organization backed off, saying the discussion about including it in the Olympics is premature.

A skeptic might call e-sports symptomatic of a postindustrial society. Donohue says without hesitation e-sports are "100 percent" sports because of the practice, skill and teamwork required.Hood compares esports to poker and reasons that poker wouldn't be on ESPN if it weren't a sport.

"This is an esport," IFEAST said, making a distinction. "It's not a sport. To me, calling us athletes is kind of pushing it. But we're e-sports athletes. We do the same things an NBA player does every day, but it's in a virtual way."

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

 

OAKLAND, Calif. — The town is taking the Raiders and NFL to court.

On Tuesday, City Attorney Barbara Parker said she will file a federal antitrust lawsuit against the team and the league, a suit city leaders hope could net millions in damages and pay off the approximately $80 million in debt remaining from renovations at the Coliseum.

It may also send the on-again, off-again Oakland Raiders packing early for Las Vegas.

Parker said the NFL violated antitrust laws by approving the move to Vegas and the team's departure goes against the league's relocation policy.

"The defendants brazenly violated federal antitrust law and the league's own policies when they boycotted Oakland as a host city," Parker said in a statement. "The Raiders' illegal move lines the pockets of NFL owners and sticks Oakland, its residents, taxpayers and dedicated fans with the bill. The purpose of this lawsuit is to hold the defendants accountable and help to compensate Oakland for the damages the defendants' unlawful actions have caused and will cause to the people of Oakland."

Oakland City Council had earlier voted to authorize Parker to file the suit, along with outside law firms. Two fan groups, We Stand with Oakland and Forever Oakland, led by Raymond Bobbitt and Gregory "Griz" Jones, first called for legal action.

The outside law firms include Berg & Androphy and Pearson, Simon & Warshaw, LLP.

"The NFL has a long history of misusing its tremendous market power in violation of antitrust laws," Quinn, the lead attorney from Berg & Androphy said in a statement. "This time the NFL defendants violated their own bylaws in their effort to cash in on the Raiders' move. Oakland is standing up to this unlawful and disloyal treatment by the league owners."

Quinn has had success in other suits against the NFL and in a case earlier this year, a judge in Missouri ruled in favor of St. Louis officials suing the Rams for relocating to Los Angeles.

But legal victories in antitrust cases against the NFL are rare. Stadium expert Roger Noll, professor of economics emeritus at Stanford University, earlier said the only successful antitrust suit by a city against the league was LA Coliseum vs. NFL, which included the Raiders.

"Many cities have sued to try to block a team from moving, and none have succeeded," Noll said in September. "Of course, the city (Oakland) may have an interesting, new theory of antitrust harm, so I want to read the complaint before I reach a conclusion about the merits."

The suit comes as the Coliseum authority is negotiating with the Raiders to extend the team's Coliseum lease for one year. The lease negotiations could include an option to play the 2020 season in Oakland in case the $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat Las Vegas stadium doesn't open on schedule.

Coliseum authority Executive Director Scott McKibben said the team "made it very clear" it would not sign a lease extension if a lawsuit is filed.

"The Raiders demand language that assures them the city will not file a lawsuit against them," McKibben said Tuesday.

Team officials have not commented since word of a potential lawsuit first leaked out in September. Team owner Mark Davis, too, has not returned messages.

The outside law firms have taken the case on a contingency basis, meaning it comes at not cost to the city, though critics have worried about the possibility that Oakland would not be covered if the Raiders filed a counter suit.

It's unclear where the team would play in 2019, if not at the Coliseum. Noll said there are no attractive options in the Bay Area or Las Vegas. Seating capacity at college stadiums are smaller than the Coliseum, he said.

"In this case, the Raiders would be sacrificing a lot not to stay in the Coliseum, so the issue is how much it is worth to them to retaliate against the city on their way out of town," Noll said. "As a business proposition, moving next year makes no sense."

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

New Haven Register (Connecticut)

 

No two words can burn down the internet any quicker than these two: Conference realignment.

Any hint of movement. Heck, any talk of no movement. Ka-boom! Spontaneous combustion.

So here we were on a sleepy Monday, when sports fans were still wondering why Rob Gronkowski was on the field for that last play in Miami and how Harold Baines got into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, when a Sports Business Journal story hit.

The American Athletic Conference, SBJ reported, is asking schools to sign a grant-of-rights agreement that would lock them in for the duration of a new media rights deal. Part of the negotiations, SBJ also reported, have explored the possibility of top AAC schools getting more revenue than others. The American's seven-year, $126 million deal with ESPN ends in 2020.

Couple this with two quotes by Big East commissioner Val Ackerman upon her announcement Sunday that its tournament would remain at Madison Square Garden and we had our spontaneous nutmeg combustion.

"If we were to expand in the future, it would allow us to be flexible with our schedule," Ackerman said.

"If we go to 11, we could keep the double round robin," Ackerman said.

So there you have it, one report, one hint, and ka-boom!

UConn will be a prisoner of The American until the Year 2525, if man is still alive, and will get screwed over by Central Florida or will screw over Tulane.

Or, no, UConn will be moving to the Big East next week.

Enter speculation and remarks by fans and media everywhere. Conference realignment, even when nothing has changed since 2014 and likely won't for another five years, is the greatest cottage industry going. Build the cottage. Burn it down. Rebuild the cottage. But you can never turn away. Something crazy could happen.

"The report wasn't accurate in key areas," American commissioner Mike Aresco said Tuesday. "I don't know where this stuff comes from. We haven't asked our schools for anything at this point. We're in the preliminary stages of important negotiation. Our formal period starts next year. We're discussing a lot of things."

UConn athletic director David Benedict declined comment on the report.

When a school signs a grant-of-rights deal, it means if it leaves a conference it would surrender all its television revenue through the end of the agreement. In the days before monster conference deals, stiff penalties would suffice to halt movement. No more. Although there are some who feel grant-of-rights could be contested in court, signing away your media money essentially guarantees you're not going anywhere.

There also can be conference composition clauses in contracts where if schools leave, a media entity has the right to force renegotiation of a deal. So there are different ways to attack fears that, oh, Central Florida, Cincinnati, Houston or Memphis would leave for the Big 12 when its GOR ends in 2025. It would be a stretch to argue that UConn would be considered at this point. But, hey, UCF was 0-12 in 2015.

"I don't know where the emphasis on grant-of-rights came from," Aresco said. "It's one way where conferences deal with this kind of thing. Conference composition is another. I have no idea where we're going to go with this. It may not be an issue at all."

Is it fair to say grant-of-rights and conference composition would be among the things discussed?

"Absolutely," Aresco said. "They'll be discussed. But this thing made it sound like it's all or nothing and that's not the situation."

The concept of giving schools more money than others is a hot button topic. In the past, it was done. Texas, from its Longhorn Network deal with ESPN, still keeps $15 million on top of the Big 12 distribution of $36 million annually. By contrast the American television deal brings only about $2 million to each school.

SBJ, citing sources, reported that a new American deal would be worth three to four times more than the current deal if a media entity was guaranteed schools weren't leaving. The idea would be to keep, say, Central Florida satisfied enough in 2020 that it would be willing to sign a GOR over many years and negate any move to the Big 12 in 2025. This also isn't the difference between $36 million and $51 million. You're talking in the area of $6 million to $10 million. You could leave some American schools fighting for scraps. It could get ugly.

"I don't see it," Aresco said on unequal distribution. "I think the majority of our schools will agree with me. I firmly support our current policy of equal revenue sharing. We don't have entirely equal sharing right now because of the money left over from the old Big East. UConn, Cincinnati and USF were responsible for a lot of that.

"But as we move forward our plan has always been equal sharing of revenue. Unequal sharing is not who we are. We turned down Boise when they were ready to join. They said they wanted a special deal, they wanted more revenue than the others and we said no. I felt that was the foundation of our conference."

For UConn, with a football program that MUST improve to protect basketball, everything should be on the table and with unrelenting scrutiny. Not for tomorrow. Or next year. But over five to seven years.

There are many variables.

What Texas and Oklahoma decides to do when the Big 12 grant of rights expires in 2025 will be crucial. If they left, the Big 12 would be irrevocably damaged. Would those remaining schools take on a half-dozen AAC schools or be forced into some kind of merger?

What about the future of the College Football Playoff? Would existing Power Five schools force an expansion from four to eight teams? If it expands and annually includes one Group of Six school and the resulting payoffs are substantially greater for those outside the Power Five that could be enough to sustain the outsiders.

If the Alston vs. NCAA case — which has been described as the mother of all play-for-pay lawsuits — ends in NCAA defeat that could allow individual conferences to make their own calls on compensation. We know how the SEC would go. Would Florida State and Clemson look to leave the ACC for the SEC? Would this cause a split within the Power Five into two divisions and could that second group include the AAC?

And then there's the matter of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google. The future of how games are distributed is a topic of hundreds of millions of dollars. How does that figure into sustaining college football?

A series of Power Five media renegotiations will heat up to 2022-2024. If everything falls through by 2025 for UConn on that front, if it does not turn it around on the field and Rentschler Field is empty a decision must be made on ending the program. For now, Aresco remains focused on a Power Six.

"A lot of people don't think (Power Six) is realistic," Aresco said. "Check back in a few years. We've shocked the world over the last five years. We were like a company in bankruptcy organization six years ago. It was a mess. We came out of it and we're a thriving group that's sustainable."

jeff.jacobs@hearstmediact.com; @jeffjacobs123

 

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Copyright 2018 The Florida Times-Union

Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville)

 

The U.S. Olympic Committee's firing of chief of sport performance Alan Ashley is the latest development stemming from the sexual assault investigation of now-imprisoned gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

An independent report released Monday said neither Ashley nor former CEO Scott Blackmun elevated concerns about the Nassar allegations when they were first reported to them. Blackmun resigned in February because of health concerns.

Numerous people have been charged, fired or forced out of their jobs during the investigations into the once-renowned sports doctor. He was sentenced to decades in prison after hundreds of girls and women said he sexually molested them under the guise that it was medical treatment, including while he worked for Michigan State and Indiana-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

Here's a look at some of the individuals and organizations that have been affected:

MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY

Lou Anna Simon: The university president and school alumna resigned in January amid growing pressure. She denied any cover-up by the university. The governing board later hired former Michigan Gov. John Engler as its interim president. The school has settled lawsuits totaling $500 million.

Simon is charged with two felony and two misdemeanor counts of lying to a police officer in connection with the investigation.

Mark Hollis: The athletic director called his January departure a retirement, but he, too, faced pressure to leave.

Kathie Klages: The former head gymnastics coach resigned last year after she was suspended for defending Nassar over the years. Klages was charged with lying to investigators. If convicted, she could face up to four years in prison. She has denied allegations that former gymnast Larissa Boyce told her that Nassar had abused her in 1997, when Boyce was 16.

Brooke Lemmen: The former school doctor resigned last year after learning the university was considering firing her because she didn't disclose that USA Gymnastics was investigating Nassar. A state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs investigation cleared her of any violations in November.

William Strampel: The former dean of the university's College of Osteopathic Medicine is awaiting trial after being charged in March amid allegations that he failed to keep Nassar in line, groped female students and stored nude student selfies on his campus computer. Strampel, who has also been named in lawsuits, retired June 30, even as Michigan State was trying to fire him.

Bob Noto: The university in February announced the departure of its longtime vice president for legal affairs. The school called it a retirement. Noto had been Michigan State's general counsel since 1995.

USA GYMNASTICS

Valeri Liukin: The coordinator of the women's national team for USA Gymnastics announced in early February that he was stepping down, less than 18 months after taking over for Martha Karolyi. Liukin said that while he wanted to help turn around the program, "the present climate causes me, and more importantly my family, far too much stress, difficulty and uncertainty."

USA Gymnastics said in January that its entire board of directors would resign, as requested by the U.S. Olympic Committee. The USOC last month took steps to decertify the gymnastics organization that picks U.S. national teams, and USA Gymnastics filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition last week as it attempts to reach settlements in the dozens of sex-abuse lawsuits it faces and to forestall its potential demise at the hands of the USOC.

Steve Penny: The former president and CEO of the organization resigned under pressure in March 2017. He was replaced by Kerry Perry, who took over in December 2017. Penny pleaded not guilty in October to a third-degree felony alleging he ordered the removal of documents relating to Nassar from the Karolyi Ranch in Texas.

Less than a year after being hired as USA Gymnastics' president and CEO, Perry resigned in September after the USOC questioned her ability to lead the scandal-rocked organization.

Former California Congresswoman Mary Bono was hired in October as the interim president for USA Gymnastics only to resign four day later. Bono said she felt her affiliation with the embattled organization would be a "liability" after a social media post by Bono criticizing Nike and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick drew widespread scrutiny within the gymnastics community. Six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman also questioned Bono's association with a law firm that advised the organization on how to handle portions of the Nassar scandal.

Ron Galimore: The longtime USA Gymnastics chief operating officer resigned in November but denied any wrongdoing in the Nassar scandal. The Indianapolis Star reported in May that an attorney hired by USA Gymnastics directed Galimore to come up with a false excuse to explain Nassar's absence at major gymnastic events in the summer of 2015. The organization was looking into complaints against Nassar at the time.

TWISTARS GYMNASTICS CLUB

John Geddert: The owner of the Michigan club was suspended in January by USA Gymnastics and announced his retirement. He was the U.S. women's coach at the 2012 Olympics. Geddert has said he had "zero knowledge" of Nassar's crimes.

KAROLYI RANCH

USA Gymnastics said in January that the Texas ranch where a number of gymnasts said Nassar abused them would no longer serve as the national training center.

Owners Martha and Bela Karolyi have since sued the USOC and USA Gymnastics, seeking damages for a canceled sale of the property. They also have been named in lawsuits.

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Copyright 2018 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

In 1990, there were 112 girls who participated nationwide in the sport of high school wrestling. Fast forward, and that number has grown exponentially, with nearly 17,000 as of last season. Not accepted by society during those early years, the opportunity to do so has been presented by nearly every state association, including here in Illinois. Last season, the IWCOA (Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association) conducted its second annual girls state championships in Springfield crowning 12 state champs.

Last Wednesday, Batavia coach Scott Bayer and his Bulldogs club hosted an all-girls dual quad, the first in program history — cheering on wrestlers from seven schools for this first ever event in program history. "It was a terrific night," said Bayer, now in his seventh year in charge at Batavia. "This year, the IHSA classified girls wrestling as an 'emerging sport' so with the support of the school administration, coaching staff, our boys team and the wrestling community, we decided to go 'all-in' with an event such as this."

Bayer said all those involved made a commitment to recruit, train and submit female wrestlers into competitions not yet on the schedule, and to run a girls wrestling season concurrent with the boys campaign. "Fifteen to 20 years ago, everyone would have said no to such a thought, but it's a new age now, and it's obvious through the numbers growth the sport is growing leaps and bounds," said Bayer.

Larkin would in fact send the most into this contest with 11 while seven others from around the area, including Downers Grove South, Maine East and Niles West, contributed wrestlers in several weight classes. "Smaller teams were able to plug (in) wrestlers to fill open spots in lineup spots," said Larkin coach Mike Hodge, whose team swept all three matches while having four of his wrestlers — Malyna Camacho (113), Jackie McCain (153), Kasandra Perez (164) and Arriana Miramontes (225) — stay undefeated on the season by going 3-0 on the night.

Royals junior Yaretsi Selvas, on the strength of two tech-falls victories and a fall, was honored as the Mega-Dual Most Valuable Wrestler. Bayer would mix and match the entrants to fill out the brackets in order to have four complete teams, each having four dual meets before the night came to an end. That included his 11, and Taylin Long, a four-time state runner-up and 2-time national qualifier.

"Let's face it, wrestling is a tough, sometimes brutal sport, and one that isn't particularly pretty, but we've seen first hand the girls in our program meet the challenge, and I know the guys have a lot of respect for all of them," said Bayer. "The girls are like sponges, they want to learn as much as they can, so to have them in our room has really helped enhance our program."

During the early years, the opportunity to participate was limited to being a part of the boys team at school, with Caitlyn Chase of Glenbard North becoming the first female wrestler to qualify into the boys state tournament in 2005. While Chase was unable to register a win at the tournament, she did go on to become a four-time Asics All-American, and three-time Freestyle National champion, among several of her other honors in her career.

To validate the rise in the numbers and interest that a wrestler such as Chase has inspired, last season, for the first time, National High School rankings can now be found on the USA Wrestling website. The sport has taken off on the collegiate end as well, with the Women's College Wrestling Association hosting its 16th national championships with nearly 40 teams, and over 325 athletes participating.

"The IHSA is aware that numbers in boys wrestling have been on a slow decline, so to tap into the obvious growth seen in girls wrestling could very well be the type of positive effect in the resurgence of boys wrestling," said Bayer. "That mega-dual last week was a great opportunity for female wrestlers to compete in a full and competitive dual format," Hodge said. "And I know for Larkin, our girls program would not have come as far as it has thus far without the dedication and hard work of my former coach, Dalton Watie. "We're thrilled to have been a part of that night at Batavia."

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Copyright 2018 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

An established Atlanta rock climbing gym plans to close on New Year's Eve because the rent for the warehouse was getting too expensive for the gym to remain in business.

Atlanta Rocks Climbing Gym, the city's first indoor gym of its kind, has been a mainstay of the local climbing community for decades. The first location was in Doraville from 1994 to 2008, with the current location, in a small industrial complex on Collier Road, opening in 1999.

Co-founder Greg Perry told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that next term's rent would be going up "significantly," and the owners couldn't keep up with the cost.

Perry believes rent is increasing because the northwest Atlanta location is developing "into a much nicer area" as new condo complexes are being built.

Within a few miles of Atlanta Rocks sit new condo, apartment and mixed-use developments including Seven88 West Midtown near Terminal West, Broadstone Yards next to the popular West-side Provisions District, and The Interlock at the 14th Street and Howell Mill Road intersection.

Atlanta Rocks has had a long run, and the company is grateful for that, Perry said.

"We don't have hard feelings toward our landlord or anything," he said. "Progress is progress."

Co-founder Peter Bloeme said the owners "would have loved to keep the gym open for another 25 years" if not for the financial increases due to growth in the area.

"In the end, the quickening pace of redevelopment of nearby commercial/industrial properties to higher uses, and the uncertainties and rising costs that come with such redevelopment, signaled to us that the time was right to retire from this market," he said in a news release.

The venue has hosted public figures such as actor Woody Harrelson, former Mayor Bill Campbell, comedian Jeff Foxworthy and entertainer Usher, the news release said. It has been the set for TV shows including "Bad Girls Club," "MTV Diaries with Ludacris," "Property Brothers," "Real Housewives of Atlanta" and "T.I. & Tiny."

Perry said the business has served as an incubator for other climbing businesses, such as Escalade Rock Climbing Kennesaw, Adrenaline Climbing in Suwanee and Stone Summit, which has three locations. He described the metro rock climbing community today as "very much thriving."

"If these walls could talk, they would tell stories of celebration, of triumph over adversity, of new-found love, and of personal transformation," Perry said of Atlanta Rocks. "These walls would speak to the dedication and professionalism of our hard working, safety-conscious staff. They would speak fondly of our loyal customers for whom the gym has been a sanctuary from the stresses of life."

The are no immediate plans to open another gym in the future, Perry said.

The business, at 1019 Collier Road NW, will host a "Climb-On...Until We Meet Again" gala at 6 p.m. on Dec. 29 with music, food and climbing. It is also offering roll-back prices until it closes, with daily climbing rates of $12.50.

 

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Copyright 2018 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
All Rights Reserved

The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

Valerie Camillo's appointment is part of recent personnel changes.

Comcast Spectacor said Monday that it hired Valerie Camillo to head business operations at the Flyers and the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia - part of recent personnel changes at the company.

Earlier this year, Comcast Corp. hired Virgin Media executive Dana Strong to head Xfinity brands and services, making her the highest-ranking woman in the Philadelphia-based Com-cast Cable division.

Camillo, 45, who had been the chief revenue officer at the MLB's Washington Nationals, will be the Comcast-owned subsidiary's highest-ranking female executive, the company said. Comcast Spectacor said that the only other female executive in the NHL is Kim Pegula, owner and president of the Buffalo Sabres. (Pegula also has those posts with the NFL's Buffalo Bills.)

Camillo will report to Dave Scott, chairman and chief executive officer at Comcast Spectacor and governor of the Philadelphia Flyers, on business operations for the team and the arena, which, with about 2.6 million ticket-buying guests a year, is one of the busiest arenas in the nation. She also will manage business relationships with Xfinity Live, NBC10 Philadelphia, the 76ers, and Wells Fargo food-and-beverage provider Aramark.

Comcast Spectactor is spending $250 million on renovations at the Wells Fargo Center, a project that also will partly fall under Camillo's responsibility.

The president of the Flyers itself remains Paul Holmgren. Holmgren makes decisions over players and he will separately report to Scott. The Flyers recently fired general manager Ron Hex-tall, replacing him with Chuck Fletcher.

"Valerie's proven expertise in realizing revenue opportunities and implementing strategies that accelerate growth make her the right choice to lead an exciting new era for the Flyers and the Wells Fargo Center," said Scott. "As we transform our venue into the most technologically advanced arena in the country and the Flyers' pipeline of young talent continues to meld with our proven stars, Valerie's leadership will ensure that our business operations perform at peak levels and deliver a best-in-class fan experience," he said. bob.fernandez@phillynews.com

215-854-5897 bobfernandez1

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Copyright 2018 LNP Media Group, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

LNP (Lancaster, PA)

 

Retired federal judge Lawrence Stengel has another high-profile assignment, it was announced Monday.

Stengel, of East Hempfield Township, has been appointed the special investigator for the National Football League's concussion settlement program.

The NFL and retired players who had sued the league over long-term effects of head injuries settled the retired players' class action suit in 2013, with the league agreeing to pay $765 million.

Stengel will lead the investigation of possibly fraudulent claim submissions and make recommendations to the special masters overseeing the administration of the fund.

Attorneys for the league and the retired players had asked U.S. District Judge Anita Brody, the federal judge who is presiding over the concussion litigation, to appoint a special investigator.

Brody, of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, selected Stengel, who retired Aug. 31 as chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Soon thereafter, Stengel joined Lancaster-based law firm Saxton & Stump as a shareholder and chair of the firm's internal investigations practice.

In November, Stengel was named to an independent oversight committee to compensate victims of clergy sexual abuse in the Philadelphia area.

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Copyright 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

 

Whether or not he plays Tuesday night against Colorado remains uncertain.

But University of New Mexico junior forward Corey Manigault on Sunday evening posted to social media an apology to Lobo fans, the New Mexico State Aggies, his teammates and family for throwing a punch during a pre-game altercation with the rival Aggies before last week's loss in Las Cruces.

"I let my emotions get the best of me and acted impulsively and immaturely," read part of Manigault's apology, as posted on his Twitter account. "Violence should never be an emotional outlet."

His full statement appears at the end of this story.

Though he traveled with the team, Manigault was suspended for UNM's game Friday in Los Angeles against St. Mary's and did not sit down throughout the game, instead standing at the end of the team bench to cheer on players and he carried stools on and off the court for teammates to sit on during timeouts.

As he did with more than one player a season ago, Lobos coach Paul Weir placed Manigault on an indefinite suspension, saying Friday he doesn't like putting a specific number of games on when a player might return because that really has little to do with the player showing any signs of acceptance of growth from the incident.

Instead, he wants to see that a player has accepted what he did was wrong and has made steps toward showing he has grown in some way from the incident before letting him play again.

"I've never really liked, and I dealt with this last year with players we suspended, I never really liked saying so and so has a one-game suspension or two-game suspension or three-game suspension," Weir said. "I like to just allow it to unfold and when I feel as though I sense that person has learned the lesson, then I'm ready to move forward. Right this very minute, I'm not there, but that doesn't mean I won't be there by Tuesday, and it doesn't mean I will be there by Tuesday."

The pregame incident, similar to the Nov. 17 game in Albuquerque when Manigault walked through NMSU players warming up and bumped one player in a pregame warmup, started when the Lobos junior did something similar in the Pan American Center.

As Aggies players got in his face, NMSU senior forward Eli Chuha threw a punch, escalating the incident. As Manigault was being separated, his former junior college teammate, Ivan Aurrecoechea was in his face and Manigault punched the Aggies big man in the jaw.

No game officials were on hand for the incident, though some coaching and support staff members from both teams were seen breaking up the incident in a video of the fight released to media last week.

NMSU Athletic Director Mario Moccia told the Journal any discipline on the Aggies side of the incident would be handled internally, and no players were held out of Saturday's near upset of No. 2 Kansas in a game played in Kansas City, Mo.

Manigault, who has also been benched twice during the second halves of games this season (vs. UTEP on Jan. 24 and at NMSU last week), is averaging 12.8 points (second on the team) and 5.4 rebounds (third) despite averaging just 17.8 minutes per game.

STATEMENT: Manigault's full statement, as posted to his Twitter account, reads as follows:

"I would like to take the time to apologize to The University of New Mexico, New Mexico State, my teammates, fans, and family. I know that as a Lobo player I am an important figure in the community, and I hate that I have brought any bad attention to the school and to my team. I understand that I must hold myself to a higher standard, and in no way were my actions a representation of the Lobo community.

"I let my emotions get the best of me and acted impulsively and immaturely. Violence should never be an emotional outlet. Moving forward, I will do everything in my power to earn your respect back and prove that I can handle myself in a professional manner, on and off the court."Tuesday

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Copyright 2018 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

The New York Post

 

This is not your bare-bones fitness club.

E by Equinox's first stand-alone club in the US, located in a Madison Avenue townhouse, opens on Monday, bucking the boroughs-wide trend of no-frills facilities.

"E by Equinox represents our most holistic offering ever," said Harvey Spevak, Equinox's executive chairman and managing partner. "It was born out of demand from our members for an even greater personalized lifestyle experience in a more residential environment."

Such attention comes at a price, of course, including an average $750 initiation fee, $500 a month and $130 per training session.

Monthly memberships for gyms range from bare-bones Planet Fitness, which charges $10 to $20 a month, to a regular Equinox club, which top out at about $250.

The 14,000-square-foot club at 30 E. 85th St. advertises "carefully curated collaborations" with access to physical therapists, a medical concierge and nutrition counseling, which includes a three-month plan that starts at $2,500.

The concept launched as a private training facility at Equinox Columbus Circle in 2004. It has since expanded to Greenwich, Conn., and San Francisco, while the first stand-alone E opened in London last year.

Equinox, which plans to launch its hotels brand next year, now operates 95 clubs in the US, as well as clubs in Toronto, Vancouver and London.

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Copyright 2018 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

Naperville Park District staff are encouraged to look for ways to improve safety both for staff operations and for the public visiting parks and facilities. Competing for small grants through the park district's safety committee, staff submits ideas for safety improvements each year. In summer 2018, Trevor Stibbe, John Teper and Ben Palczynski submitted their design and demonstration of a dust shield for the park district's ballfield raking equipment and won not only an $800 park district grant but also received one of the grants awarded statewide from the Park District Risk Management Agency (PDRMA) in the amount of $1,500. Park district staff members ride a ball rake — a baseball field tractor that pulls a rake behind it — to comb the infields of more than 30 baseball fields each year.

During dry summer conditions, the raking kicks up dust that can be inhaled, irritate the eyes, and settle on clothing, even though staff wears personal protective equipment. Stibbe, Teper and Palczynski designed and tested a plastic dust shield that attaches to the back of the ball rake and redirects a majority of the dust from reaching the employee driving the vehicle. The park district has applied for a U.S. provisional patent for the dust shield. "I would like to congratulate Trevor, John and Ben on the hard work they put into this project," said Safety Manager Becky Cooper. "With these grant funds from PDRMA we will now be able to implement the dust shields on all of our baseball field tractors. Their innovative idea will make our workplace safer and healthier." "The Naperville Park District has a culture of creativity and innovation, allowing employees to do what they do best, which is to provide great service to our taxpayers while always looking for ways to be more efficient and fiscally responsible," said Executive Director Ray McGury. "Trevor, John and Ben are great examples of the outstanding work and dedication our park district staff provides day in and day out."

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Copyright 2018 Virginian-Pilot Companies LLC
All Rights Reserved

The Virginian — Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

CHESAPEAKE — The School Board votes today on its Capital Improvement Plan, which lists major projects the division wants to accomplish.

Some upcoming goals are expanding full-day kindergarten and spending $6.5 million to repair two aging football stadiums.

Not all the work will happen on the division's timeline.

Money for projects comes entirely from the city, which has other priorities, like transportation and public safety.

Here are more details on the division's goals for the next few years:

Full-day kindergarten expansion

The division is gradually bringing full-day kindergarten to every school with children that age and has identified buildings that need more space. Grassfield Elementary, Greenbrier Primary and Western Branch Primary are on the list — Greenbrier and Western Branch started full-day last year but are using portables to support the program. The plan estimates small expansions of all three schools would cost about $11 million and be finished by 2020-21.

Football stadiums

Parts of Deep Creek's Nathan T. Hardee and Great Bridge's Colon L. Hall stadiums are deteriorating. The division wants to renovate the existing facilities with new locker rooms, training rooms, restrooms, concession areas and other space. Each project would cost $3.25 million, and the goal is for both to be ready by next fall.

Chittum Elementary

The school on Dock Landing Road is 60 years old and needs upgrades. Design work should begin early next year to decide whether to replace the building or modernize and expand. Either way, capacity is expected to grow from 650 to about 950 — as of November it had 754 students. The division estimates it'll need about $25 million for construction and have work done by 2021-22.

Other projects

Work is under way on a new Great Bridge Primary School, which is scheduled to be completed next summer. An addition to Hickory Middle should be finished by next fall.

Mike Connors, 757-222-5217, michael.connors@ pilotonline.com

 

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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

USA TODAY

 

ATLANTA — In the span of eight days, two championship games were held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the $1.6 billion palace that will host a large number of major American sports events over the next decade.

One of them was the Southeastern Conference title game, as much a tradition in this part of the country as sweet tea. The other was the MLS Cup, which several years ago would have probably registered somewhere between darts and shuffleboard as a championship worth getting excited about.

But for anyone within earshot of the 73,019 people who jammed into the place on Saturday and pulsated with energy all night as Atlanta United secured its first MLS title, there was no comparison about which event had more volume and verve.

College football is always going to be the South's first love, but soccer is its white-hot fling, burrowing deep into the heartbeat of the city in a way that seemed completely improbable when owner Arthur Blank announced he was starting a team in 2014.

Two seasons into this experiment, Atlanta is not only doing it in a way 24-year-old MLS has never seen but offering a reimagined model of what this sometimes overlooked league can be.

"It just took the right combination of city, of venue, of training ground, of players most importantly," said goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who began his professional career 13 years ago with an MLS team that folded (Chivas USA) only to come back to the league in 2017 with an expansion team that has done nothing but thrive. "It all started with the vision from (Blank). He's the man behind all this. He thought it could prevail; this sport, a team in this city, and it all started with a belief."

Without the ambition and the investment that went along with it, however, the belief wasn't going to go very far. Blank, who amassed his fortune as the co-founder of Home Depot and also owns the NFL's Falcons, made the call early on that Atlanta United was going to do this the right way by building top-of-the-line training grounds, spending significant sums in MLS terms to acquire players and hiring an internationally well-known coach in Tata Martino, who had once led FC Barcelona and the Argentinian national team.

"This club had a plan from the very beginning — from the first time we spoke in September 2016," Martino said through an interpreter Saturday night. "The important thing is this club never modified from those plans they had told me. That's very important, and what makes this club very successful is the club had a plan and the directors have followed that plan to a T."

But who could have really imagined that Atlanta United would become this?

While even soccer skeptics have seen general interest in the sport grow over the last decade, the safe bet was that Atlanta could tap into a solid niche demographic of young, corporate transplants and suburban soccer parents and perhaps draw consistent crowds of 20,000-30,000 while remaining on the fringes of the mainstream sports conversation. In a lot of MLS markets, that's considered a pretty big success.

Instead, Atlanta United became almost a cultural phenomenon when it made its debut in 2017, regularly drawing crowds of 70,000 and changing the paradigm of the local media where MLS isn't treated as this minor league thing that can be ignored but rather included as part of the daily conversation on sports talk radio.

And suddenly, when you snap your fingers and you're in an MLS Cup, you have a night that looks every bit like a Super Bowl or college football national championship game with people paying hundreds of dollars just to get in the door and more than 73,000 ear-splitting fans who stood up for the national anthem and never sat down even once until the confetti was being sprayed.

"The support we get is incredible," team captain Michael Parkhurst said. "It's such an awesome place to play. The facilities, the staff, the fans and everything is just top notch, and hopefully it's taking MLS to the next level because it's great for the league."

The question now, after Atlanta's quick sprint to the best version of MLS that has ever existed, is whether that same energy can be replicated. In fact, can it even be sustained?

At some point, the newness will wear off for Atlanta United. It's possible the success won't go on forever. Then what?

In the next few weeks, Atlanta United will have to replace Martino, who is reportedly set to coach the Mexican national team. There is speculation that Miguel Almiron, who was arguably the best player in the league this season, is headed to the English Premier League for perhaps an MLS-record transfer fee. Though goal-scoring sensation Josef Martinez is expected to return, there's always the chance the club will get an offer it can't refuse.

"If you ask the fans, this is the bar," veteran midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said. "The ceiling becomes the floor and you just hope to jump on top of it and push it up. But look, Tata has done so much and he's no longer here. We'll see how that's filled. We'll see if Miguel leaves and how that's filled. But the ethos of the club is to win, to be at the top, to push, to hopefully push the league, and I think we've done that this year."

Atlanta United isn't going to stop pushing, and it will have a big budget to replace the stars it might lose. But nothing's guaranteed in competitive sports, and now the target on Atlanta's back will be even bigger.

There are also going to be teams, perhaps some that already exist and others coming into MLS soon including Cincinnati, Nashville and Inter Miami CF that will want to re-create some of what Atlanta has. Even if MLS isn't the highest level of soccer in the world right now, Atlanta proved that a good product in the right market under the right circumstances can look every bit as impressive and fun as any professional sport in the U.S.

"Over the last couple of years with the injection of money, you'll either see a separation or you'll see guys at the top pulling up the people at the bottom and saying come along, but you never know," Larentowicz said. "This club is totally invested and said they want to be a winner, and if they pull up the rest of the league, that's great. If not, the teams that do what Atlanta does and what some other teams around the league do, they're going to be successful."

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Copyright 2018 The Salt Lake Tribune
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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

Hours after winning the Heisman Trophy, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray apologized for anti-gay tweets he made as a teenager, saying they don't "reflect who I am or what I believe."

"I apologize for the tweets that have come to light tonight from when I was 14 and 15," he tweeted Sunday morning. "I used a poor choice of word that doesn't reflect who I am or what I believe. I did not intend to single out any individual or group."

The offensive tweets were deleted from his account late Saturday night, but screenshots of the tweets show Murray repeatedly using the word "queer" in conversations.

Murray, who passed for more than 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns, followed in the footsteps of Baker Mayfield, the Oklahoma quarterback who won the Heisman last December and now plays for the Cleveland Browns. Murray's Sooners play Alabama in the College Football Playoff on Dec. 29.

Murray, a junior, is the Sooners' seventh Heisman winner, which ties Notre Dame and Ohio State for the most all-time. Oklahoma is the first team to win consecutive Heismans with different players since Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis of Army in 1945 and 1946. Southern California's Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush won the award in 2004 and 2005, but Bush later had to forfeit the award due to NCAA violations.

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

 

It looks like a typical fitness class in any gym, and that's the idea for volunteer coaches Wade and Diane Crawford.

Beginning with jumping jacks and pushups, the high-energy hour is designed to help athletes gain strength, flexibility and cardiovascular health.

The Get SO Fit program — SO standing for Special Olympics — helps children and adults with disabilities learn to exercise, achieve personal fitness goals and make healthy food choices.

"I do the same Crossfit workout as Navy SEALs and others more fit than me, because the workout is scaled down to my abilities," said Wade. "This group is doing the same workout, scaled down to their abilities."

"Fitness is inclusive, so everyone can work out together," he said.

The Crawfords founded Get SO Fit four years ago at Chesapeake City Park. The program changed locations several times, before finding a home in November at the Simon Family Jewish Community Center.

"We want to attract as many athletes as possible, and this is a central location and a great place to do that," said Diane.

About 20 to 30 athletes have been attending the fitness class, which meets every Tuesday and Thursday evening.

Get SO Fit is free to Special Olympics athletes and JCC members, but anyone can join in the class for a $4 drop-in fee.

Many participants are preparing for the winter season of Special Olympics, which includes competition in basketball, bowling, speed skating and swimming.

"Exercise is hard for everyone, disabled or not," said Wade. "We're looking for incremental improvement. And when we see it, we point it out and encourage the athletes to keep it up."

Dorin Spivey, a professional boxer ranked second in the country by one organization, brought in his championship belts and showed the class proper form for hitting a punching pad.

"They all work hard and listen," said the 45-year-old Pembroke resident with more than 50 fights to his record. "You just have to give them love and attention."

The enthusiasm and excitement in the class continues as a group game involving exercise is introduced. A talk on nutrition, sleep and healthy lifestyle follows.

"I get 20 to 30 texts a day asking if it's OK to eat a particular food, or I might get a picture of a menu and questions about what's OK to eat," said Diane. "They're asking questions, and that's what we're trying to do."

"You can't outwork bad nutrition," said Wade.

The JCC is working to add more special needs programs, according to wellness director Tom Purcell.

"We're all the same, so everyone should be welcomed," he said.

Eric Hodies, ehodies@hteam.net

interested?

What: Get SO Fit

When: 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays

Where: Simon Family JCC, 5000 Corporate Woods Drive

Cost: Free for Special Olympics athletes and JCC members; $4 drop-in fee for others.

Info: Call Tom Purcell at 757-321-2310 or visit www.simonfamilyjcc.org/ fitness-wellness/get- so-fit/.

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

 

Give it up to Seattle. That's going to be a terrific addition to the NHL roster, a made-for-Vancouver rival in what figures to be a sparkling arena renovation in a great city with incredible sports fans. Home run all the way. The NHL will hit 32 teams in 2021-22, and there's another renovation that should now be undertaken but it won't be easy.

Gary Bettman is against any changes to the league's clunky playoff system but it needs to be overhauled. It's time owners, GMs and coaches band together and get the commish to listen and the rumblings out of last week's Board of Governors meeting in Sea Island, Ga., were positive on that front. More teams and better matchups should be the league's goals in the coming years.

There were times in the late 1970s and early 1980s where 16 of 21 teams were in the postseason and that was laughable. Everybody made the playoffs. It was too much. Well, we're at 16 out of 31 now and 16 out of 32 three years from now. That's almost as bad.

Half the league is left out every year and that's one reason you can get franchises (here's looking at you, Buffalo and Carolina) that spend years out of the playoffs. Bettman is on record as saying he doesn't want to dilute the regular season or take away from the glory of the first round of the playoffs by adding a mini series of additional teams. Have the wild-card games damaged baseball? Hardly.

(Never mind that the current format has ruined rounds 2-3 but we'll get there in a minute).

The solution is very simple. Ten teams from each conference qualify, with teams 7-8-9-10 staging a play-in series for the right to get to the first round. I'm with Bettman that a one-game play-in like baseball would not be fair, but there's no reason you can't stage a best-of-three affair between teams 7-10 and teams 8-9.

The best way to offer change would be for teams to speak up. Canadian teams have a lot of pull in this league and the television contracts speak volumes too. Remember how we got offside challenges? Montreal lost a playoff game on an offside overtime goal against Tampa Bay and suddenly there was replay on offside, although it came with the unintended consequence of parsing toenails to determine if goals should stand.

Similarly, what would happen if the Atlantic Division finished with, say, three of the top four teams overall and the Toronto Maple Leafs were a first-round victim for the third straight year?

No one seemed to care in 2017 when Columbus had 108 points and was a first-round loser to a 111-point Pittsburgh team. But the Leafs had 105 last year and were first-round losers to a 112-point Boston team. Let's give Toronto 108-111 points this year and have them lose again to the Sabres or Boston or some other 100-point team in the first round and watch the fury fly north of the border.

The Leafs would have a valid point that could be used for the greater good of the league.

The NHL's theory is that this format pushes rivalries but it's a fallacy. Teams only play four times in the regular season - and there were no Buffalo-Toronto games last season until March. And you can have rivalries within a conference too in a better format that you mostly don't get now.

The league fixed what wasn't broken when it went away from the 1-8/2-7/3-6/4-5 first round. That's how things should still be. Go to the NBA way and seed the division winners 1-2 in each conference, then slot in the rest of the teams.

Under the current format, you can lock in a second vs. third matchup in a division weeks before the end of the regular season and that's not good for anybody involved. There might only be one crossover series in a conference in the first two rounds and your conference final can be underwhelming as well.

Your best series is often the second-round "division championship" matchups like we saw last year between Nashville and Winnipeg and Pittsburgh and Washington. We might get it again this year with a potential Tampa Bay-Toronto series.

Bettman gets asked about this topic almost every year at either the All-Star Game or Stanley Cup final. He's downright dismissive on it, insisting he's not hearing much appetite for change. It's time he starts hearing what fans have been saying for a while and what teams are figuring out.

The playoffs are a mess. Get more teams in and put them together in a better format. It's not that hard.

An eye on 2021

Speaking of Seattle, I had a good chuckle at the blogs and web sites that spent time last week breathlessly running out stories about which players might be protected by teams in the upcoming expansion draft. In June, 2021. Yes, 2021. So premature in almost all cases. Who knows how many trades, injuries, retirements and signings can happen by then?

The one salient point: It does make a big difference to certain teams that Seattle starts in 2021-22 as opposed to 2020-21. With the Sabres, for instance, Rasmus Dahlin will now need to be on Buffalo's protected list for a Seattle team starting in '21-22. He would still be on his entry-level deal and would not have needed to be protected had Seattle been opening in '20-21.

The Governors meeting reiterated that the expansion draft rules will remain the same as they were for Vegas, with teams choosing protection Option A of seven forwards, three defenseman and a goalie or Option B of eight skaters and a goalie. Vegas will not be involved and will thus not lose a player.

From this view, Seattle will have a much tougher time than Vegas did. Teams have evaluated their mistakes the first time and won't foolishly give the Knights extra picks or players (that refers to you, Florida). You're losing one player. Many teams may say to Seattle simply to make your pick and leave us alone with side deals.

Streak talk

Going around the Sabres locker room in the wake of their 10-game winning streak has been an interesting exercise. Players obviously want it to be a highlight of their season, but not the highlight. A sampling:

· Jack Eichel: "The group is all on the same page. Everyone is pulling the rope in the right direction. When that happens, a lot of good can come from it. We've been through some adversity early in the year, losing games, not playing the way we wanted and getting beat pretty bad a couple of those games out West. I thought it was good to have a trip like that where you're away as a team for a while at the beginning of the year. I thought we got to know each other... We just want to be around each other. It's been real contagious."

· Kyle Okposo: "You have to enjoy that run too because it doesn't really happen very much. You have to take the good and really enjoy it but also learn from what you're not doing well. Pretty special accomplishment. Somebody asked me if I had won 10 in a row and I couldn't remember, so I looked and I had not even come close."

· Jason Pominville, who won 12 straight two years ago in Minnesota and 10 in a row with the Sabres in 2006: "Bruce Boudreau told us after the Minny streak that he saw details of our game during the streak starting to slip but he didn't want to break them down too much because we had so much confidence going. You don't want to touch anything. Here, we had emotionally high-end games, guys were fired up. You don't want to get too low now that it's over. The key is to stay even-keeled."

Toronto money talk

What is the Toronto media going to obsess about the rest of the season now that William Nylander has finally signed his contract? Incredible amounts of bloviating about a 20-goal, 61-point guy. Imagine what it's going to be like up there when the Leafs finally win a round in the postseason for the first time since 2004.

Speaking of the Leafs, they're one team that has to be thrilled by the likely increase of the salary cap into the $83 million range. They're already spending $11 million a year on John Tavares and there's talk it could take a combined $21-22 million to get longterm deals done for Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

Good thing there are some team-friendly deals in place with the likes of Nazem Kadri (six years, $27 million), Zach Hyman (four years, $9 million), Morgan Rielly (six years, $30 million) and Nikita Zaitsev (seven years, $31.5 million). Good work by former GM Lou Lamoriello gave new GM Kyle Dubas the manueverability to sign Nylander and might allow him to still take a run at defenseman Jake Gardiner after the season in free agency.

Around the boards

· Sportsnet reported the Board of Governors discussed shortening intermissions from 18 minutes to 15. Television networks would like the change, giving viewers less time to ponder changing the channel, and there has long been a feeling from teams who are building momentum at the ends of periods that it's lost by the length of the break. But owners, of course, are worried about cutting into the time fans can head to the concourse and spend money.

· The forced move of Arizona from the Pacific to the Central Division in 2021 will do the Coyotes no favors. More travel for sure. Probably much tougher competition as well if current trends continue at both the NHL and prospect levels. The league, by the way, was adamant, this was not any sort of foreshadowing of moving the Coyotes to Houston to set up a rivalry with Dallas. We'll see.

· Sabres draft pick Mattias Samuelsson will be trying to become the first Western Michigan University player in more than 20 years to play for Team USA in the World Junior Championships when he heads to the Americans' selection camp next week in Everett, Wash.

Samuelsson, Buffalo's second-round pick in June, had three goals, three assists and a team-high plus-9 rating heading into a weekend series against defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth.

The last WMU player to play for Team USA in the juniors is defenseman Joe Corvo, who played in 1996. Corvo, who played 708 NHL games from 2002-2014, might be best known for his goal in double overtime that beat the Sabres in Game 2 of the 2007 Eastern Conference final.

· Hockey Canada announced Thursday that the 2021 World Juniors will be hosted by Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta. Edmonton last hosted with Calgary in 2012 and the '21 event will be the first held at Rogers Place, the new Oilers' arena that opened in 2016.

The 2019 event starts Dec. 26 in Vancouver and Victoria, B.C. Next year's tournament will be in the Czech Republic. The juniors go to Sweden in 2022 and in Russia in 2023 before a likely return to the United States in either 2024 or 2025.

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Copyright 2018 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

After three long days of Super Bowl meetings this week, several host committee staffers briefly turned their attention to another big event headed this way: college basketball's Final Four in April 2020.

The local organizers' juggling of responsibilities was evident Thursday, when they wrapped up intensive meetings with NFL officials in Atlanta and joined NCAA officials for a ceremony unveiling the 2020 Final Four logo at a local Boys & Girls Club.

"We spent the last three days, about 14-hour days, doing our final planning for the Super Bowl," Carl Adkins, executive director of the host committees for both events, said at the Final Four ceremony. "But we're ready to roll into this one."

Adkins said the host committee's Super Bowl planning is "down to details" as the countdown continues toward the Feb. 3 game.

The NFL won't send its full contingent of Super Bowl staffers, consultants and contractors back to Atlanta until January, when the league will start making minor temporary modifications to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the game, including building additional broadcast booths for international networks and erecting an expanded security perimeter around the stadium complex.

Meanwhile, stadium officials work daily on Super Bowl-related issues.

"We are in the everyday push right now," said Steve Cannon, CEO of Falcons parent company AMB Group, which also operates the stadium. "It's a heavy lift. Super Bowls have gotten so big and so complex that it takes literally a city to pull these things off.

"We feel good about where we are right now in terms of our planning," Cannon said, "and the NFL feels good about where we are."

Following the Super Bowl, 10 of the host committee's 25 staffers will remain on board to prepare for the Final Four at Mercedes-Benz Stadium 14 months later, Adkins said.

Duke athletic director Kevin White, the 2020 chairman of the NCAA Division I men's basketball committee, said at the logo unveiling ceremony that he expects the Final Four here to be "every bit as special as the college football championship (game) less than a year ago and the upcoming Super Bowl."

The Super Bowl will be the third held in Atlanta (the others were in 1994 and 2000 at the Georgia Dome),while the men's Final Four will be the fifth here (the others were in 1977 at the Omni and 2002, 2007 and 2013 at the Georgia Dome). Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president of basketball, said Atlanta will join Indianapolis as the only cities to host the Final Four in three different venues.

SUPER BOWL BRIEFS

The Super Bowl will mark the fifth major pro or college sports championship decided in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, following two SEC Championship football games, the College Football Playoff championship game and the MLS Cup. The variety of big events, all "nationally or globally televised, "debuts our city to new audiences all the time," Cannon said.

The host committee plans a news conference Wednesday to mark 53 days until the 53rd Super Bowl. More details about Super Bowl Live, the six-day series of free concerts and other entertainment in Centennial Olympic Park, will be announced, Adkins said.

Ticket reseller StubHub released its annual "Year in Live Experiences" report this week, showing that Super Bowl LII between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots in Minneapolis was its best-selling U.S. sports event of the year. The second-best seller was college football's national championship game between Alabama and Georgia in Atlanta.

The NFL announced that Georgia Tech will host a competition on Super Bowl eve, Feb. 2, around how to spur innovation in player health, safety and performance. One part of the fourth annual "1st and Future" Super Bowl competition seeks recommendations about rule changes to reduce injuries during punt plays. The second part is for "innovative product concepts" that could improve player health and safety. For more information, go to nfl.com/1standfuture.

 

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Copyright 2018 Collier County Publishing Company
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Naples Daily News (Florida)

 

Minto has expanded its three-year partnership with the US Open Pickleball Championships (USOPC). Minto was title sponsor of the inaugural USOPC event in 2016, and has continued as title sponsor of the annual event, including the 2019 Minto US Open Pickleball Championships Powered by Margaritaville that takes place at East Naples Community Park from April 27 to May 4, 2019.

Minto now is partnering with the USOPC to present a world-class pickleball instruction program for the residents of The Isles of Collier Preserve, a master-planned community by Minto in Naples. According to Minto President Mike Belmont, "As Minto continues our partnership with the USOPC, we are pleased to announce that the Isles of Collier Preserve is the first residential community to present a US Open Pickleball Academy program exclusively for residents. Minto anticipated the growing popularity of pickleball based on feedback from our homeowners, and we have included pickleball courts in all of our new communities, including Latitude Margaritaville Daytona Beach and Latitude Margaritaville Hilton Head."

The introduction of the US Open Pickleball Academy program coincided with the Nov. 10 opening of four additional pickleball courts and four additional tennis courts at The Isles of Collier Preserve. The community now has eight courts for each sport to better accommodate the community's growing number of racket game enthusiasts. The community has many avid pickleball players, and the number of residents playing the game continues to grow.

US Open Pickleball Academy representative Nancy Robertson is running the program at The Isles of Collier Preserve. It will include beginner lessons, private lessons, small group lessons and group clinics. Robertson is a three-time US Open Champion and International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association certified instructor.

According to USOPC founder and President Terri Graham, "Minto came on board for the inaugural US Open Pickleball Championships in 2016. In 2017, Margaritaville Holdings, Minto's partner in the development of Latitude Margaritaville communities, also joined us as a sponsor. The Isles of Collier Preserve is next door to East Naples Park where the USOPC is held. We always have many Isles of Collier Preserve fans at the event. We are pleased that Minto is growing our partnership by inviting the US Open Pickleball Academy to present this program for The Isles of Collier Preserve residents."

Pickleball is considered to be America's fastest growing sport. It is a racquet sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis. Two to four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball, similar to a wiffle ball, over a net.

The Isles of Collier Preserve is bordered by the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Naples Botanical Garden and Dollar Bay. More than 1,300 acres of the community's 2,400 acres are dedicated to natural habitat and nature preserves connected by a network of recreational trails, nature observation stations, bike paths and waterways for kayaking and paddleboarding.

In addition to the pickleball and tennis courts, amenities at The Isles Club include a fitness center, social room, resort-style zero entry swimming pool, separate lap pool, beach area with cabanas, kayak launch and event courtyard. The new Overlook Bar & Grill will open early next year.

Minto offers 43 energy-efficient home designs at The Isles of Collier Preserve. Selections include coach homes, villas, and single-family homes priced ranging from the mid-$300s to over $1.5 million. Sixteen fully furnished models include three coach home models, four one-story villa models and nine single-family home models.

In addition to Minto's home selections, Stock Signature Homes recently acquired an additional 180 home sites in the community. Stock has introduced its new Cottonwood Collection of luxurious classic coastal living homes on 76-foot home sites. Base home pricing starts in the mid-$600s, and home including lot base pricing starts in the $780s. Stock is building four models from the collection: the Burlington, Covington, Livia and Madison II.

Minto developed The Isles of Collier Preserve using its own funding sources, electing not to use Community Development District (CDD) funds, and saving homeowners at The Isles of Collier Preserve thousands of dollars in annual assessments.

The Isles of Collier Preserve is four miles east of downtown Naples on U.S. 41 East. The Discovery Sales Center is open daily. Visit MintoUSA.com.

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

 

Hugh Freeze has enjoyed the highs of football, such as winning the Sugar Bowl and beating mighty Alabama. He's also known embarrassment and shame following a personal scandal that cost him his job at Mississippi.

Freeze, 49, believes those experiences will serve him well as the head coach at Liberty, where he's been given a second chance.

"I believe in teaching young men on our team all of the lessons of when I got it right and when I got it wrong and what the consequences are," Freeze said.

He was introduced on campus Friday, calling the opportunity an "unbelievable day for me and my family." He was emotional at times, thanking his family and calling them his heroes.

"I've made decisions that have hurt a lot of people," Freeze said. "I don't ever want to experience that again."

Freeze replaces Turner Gill, who resigned after his seventh season to spend more time with his ailing wife. The Flames finished 6-6 this season, their first competing at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, and were 47-35 under Gill.

Freeze spent five years at Mississippi and led the Rebels to a 39-25 record and four bowl games. He resigned in the summer of 2017 amid a scandal in which school officials discovered a "pattern of personal misconduct" starting with a call to an escort service from a university-issued cellphone.

Now Freeze gets a chance to rebuild his career less than 18 months after his stunning downfall in Oxford, where his abrupt resignation marked the end to a volatile tenure.

Ole Miss enjoyed a quick rise under Freeze, who came to the school before the 2012 season and immediately started recruiting at a high level. The Rebels quickly developed into a Southeastern Conference contender, beating Alabama two seasons in a row and reaching an apex when they won the Sugar Bowl over Oklahoma State following the 2015 season.

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Copyright 2018 The State Journal- Register
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The State Journal- Register (Springfield, IL)

 

NORMAL — The therapy of choice for members of the Normal West High School girls basketball team on Thursday was being together.

For years their gatherings included volunteer Charlie Crabtree, the announcer for home games, scorekeeper for road games and daily spirit-lifter at practice.

Crabtree, 72, of Normal, was killed on Wednesday when the school bus transporting him and a Normal West freshman girls team crashed head-on with a semitrailer truck heading the wrong way on Interstate 74 near Downs. The truck driver, Ryan E. Hute, 34 of Delmar, Iowa, also died.

Coach Corey Ostling said Crabtree would have loved watching the Wildcats challenge reigning Class 3A state champion Peoria Richwoods, the state's No. 1-ranked team, at West on Thursday.

"It was tough to play, but we talked to Charlie's wife and she said, 'You've got to play this game,'" said Ostling, whose team observed a pre-game moment of silence in Crabtree's honor before falling to the Lady Knights, 62-30, in front of a loud Pack-the-Place crowd.

"You need something to latch onto. I told the players I got my strength from them. I needed something. My buddy (assistant coach) Steve Price is in the hospital and we lost Charlie. We didn't play great basketball tonight, but I told them it doesn't really matter."

Normal West (6-2, 2-1) also honored Crabtree, a retiree from Country Financial, by not replacing him with another in-game announcer. His spot at the scorer's table was decorated with an Air Force hat and shirt reflecting his military service.

Arriving fans, who were greeted with a sign announcing free admission, walked past a table of flowers and plants sent from sympathizers.

"Last night, all I could do was go through all the text messages (from Crabtree)," Ostling said. "When we played (Normal) Community (and won), he sent a text and said, 'What an extravaganza. He talked about how hard work paid off.' He knows hard work paid off because he was in the gym with them."

A favorite memory for Ostling came during a practice last year that wasn't going well. To get the players' attention, Ostling had them running. Crabtree came in mid-practice with his trademark shout of 'Hey Wildcats!' Instantly, everyone started laughing. The whole mood changed.

"I said, 'What am I going to do now? I can't be mad anymore.' That was Charlie," said Ostling.

Richwoods (10-0, 4-0) bolted to a 7-0 lead before the Wildcats, as if aided from above, scrambled back for an 11-10 lead after one quarter.

"We played so hard for him (Crabtree)," said West guard Olivia Demosthenes, who finished with a team-high 15 points. "We were totally playing this for Charlie. I just feel such a strong bond with my team.

"I've never seen anything like this crowd. I've never played in front of such a huge crowd before. I loved it."

In the second quarter, the Knights pulled away as 6-foot-1 Marquette recruit Camryn Taylor sped off to a 24-point, nine-rebound night.

West was still within 41-29 after three quarters before Richwoods scored the first 13 points of the final period. The Knights forced a running clock for the seventh time this season when Taylor's 3-pointer ended the scoring with 2:24 left.

Richwoods also received 13 points from Nia Williams and 12 from Jaida McCloud. During pregame ceremonies, players locked arms at halfcourt with each Knight standing between two Wildcats.

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Copyright 2018 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Palm Beach Post (Florida)

 

College football's bowl season should start low and build as we count down to the sport's official holiday — New Year's Day.

A crescendo if you will, like we have in every other sport, the anticipation building until it peaks with two games, four teams — the top four teams — rushing onto the field to determine who plays for the national championship.

Bowls like the New Mexico and Auto Nation can start things off in mid-December, before moving to the Camping World, Music City and others after Christmas and culminating with the College Football Playoff semifinals on New Year's Day.

But that's a perfect world, one in which the ACC wields as much clout as the SEC; one in which Central Florida has an equal chance of competing for a national championship as, say, Clemson or Michigan or even West Virginia.

Instead, what we have is the college football playoffs at the mercy of four leagues and two bowls, which result in the semifinals being played Dec. 29 as they are this year (Alabama vs. Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, Clemson vs. Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl), and 11 bowls coming between those two games and national championship game Jan. 7 in Santa Clara.

The playoffs have become hostage to the self-interests of a group that put themselves above the sport, namely the Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC and Big 12. These four conferences and their bowl affiliates — Rose and Sugar — have made sure their interests are satisfied first.

The reason we had playoffs being held on New Year's Eve, as we did three years ago, and the last Saturday of the year, as we do now, is because those four leagues and two bowls put their greed first and refuse to move off their New Year's Day slots — the Rose at 5 p.m. followed by the Sugar in prime time.

Because of this, two of every three years we will have the awkward schedule of the semifinals being dropped in the middle of the final week of the bowl season.

The reason: ESPN pays $80 million to televise each bowl or $40 million to each conference. The ACC, meanwhile, receives $27.5 million from ESPN for the rights to the Orange Bowl.

The playoff peaked in its first year. The Rose and Sugar bowls of course got to host the semifinals first. The games were a hit with more than 28 million people turning in to see Florida State play Oregon (Rose) and Ohio State against Alabama (Sugar). Of course, those were held on New Year's Day.

But the CFP found out the next year what happens when the Rose and Sugar bowls hold all the clout and the playoffs are moved off New Year's Day. The 2015 playoffs (Orange and Cotton bowls) were played on New Year's Eve and the ratings plummeted.

The Orange Bowl, which paired Clemson and Oklahoma, drew a 9.1 rating, a 38.5 percent drop from the previous season's Rose Bowl, which meant nearly half as many viewers — 15.6 million compared to 28.2 million.

The second semifinal — Michigan State against Alabama in the Cotton Bowl — had a 9.6 rating compared with 15.2 for the previous year's Sugar Bowl. Viewership for that game fell to 18.5 million from 28.3 million.

Those sobering numbers forced one change. No longer will the semifinals compete with the parties and the ball dropping in Times Square. So, instead of being played on New Year's Eve, they will be held the previous Saturday, which still allows the Rose and Sugar to maintain their New Year's Day slots.

That year, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told Sports Illustrated: "If our interest was solely how do you maximize eyeballs and attention around the semi games, undoubtedly we'd have said the semi games every year are going to be 5:00 and 8:30 on New Year's Day."

In other words: Our interest is to preserve the sanctity of our bowl (Rose) and to line our conference's pockets and the playoff be damned."

Those contracts between the Rose and Sugar bowls and ESPN for the games to be played at 5 p.m. and in prime time, respectively, on New Year's Day, run through 2026.

So, get used to several more years of the two bowls receiving the prime spot for their semifinal games and the Orange, Cotton, Peach and Fiesta having to settle for games wedged into the middle of the final week of bowl season.

tom_dangelo@pbpost.com

@tomdangelo44

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

The NCAA says the number of enforced targeting penalties in the Football Bowl Subdivision this season was the same as in 2017, ending four straight years of increased calls.

NCAA national coordinator of officials Rogers Redding reported 179 enforced calls in 817 games compared with 179 in 816 games last season.

The final 2017 report originally listed 188 enforced calls, but Redding said the numbers are sometimes adjusted after an offseason review. The NCAA compiles its numbers through reports submitted each week by conferences.

Big Ten and Mid-American Conference coordinator of football officials Bill Carollo said he was pleased to see the targeting penalties level off and the hope is the numbers will come down in 2019.

"Coaches have done a good job at teaching proper hitting (both blocking and tackling) techniques and officials have improved in calling targeting plays as well as reviewing the plays," Carollo wrote in a text. "It's still our No. 1 concern and our one area we need to improve."

Redding noted the number of calls was alarming early in the season. In the first two weeks, there were 55 enforced penalties in 164 games compared with 36 through 162 games in 2017.

"As the season progressed, the numbers settled down, so that serendipitously the two seasons ended the same," Redding said.

The Power Five conference breakdowns: Southeastern Conference (39 in 2018, 27 in 2017); Pac-12 (23, 30); Atlantic Coast (20, 6); Big Ten (20, 20); Big 12 (10, 12).

Targeting penalties increased in the Football Championship Subdivision. There were 115 enforced calls in 620 games (0.18 average) compared with 92 in 626 (0.14) in 2017.

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Copyright 2018 Newsday LLC


Newsday (New York)

 

The families of three high school football players whose teammate was fatally struck by a 400-pound log during an offseason camp can move forward, a judge has ruled, with plans to sue the Sachem Central School District for allegedly failing to provide adequate mental health services to the teenagers.

The families had 90 days after the August 2017 death of Joshua Mileto, 16, to file a notice of claim, the first step in suing a municipality. They instead waited until June, about seven months late, and the district sought to have the case thrown out.

But in his Nov. 30 ruling, State Supreme Court Justice David Reilly cited several reasons for excusing the lateness, including the district's alleged ongoing actions over the past several months.

"Petitioners maintain, in this regard, that Sachem recently began removing several football coaches from the football team," taking away the "last source of mental health therapy" for the teenagers, Reilly wrote in his decision.

Late filings are allowed when children are involved, the judge wrote, and, in addition, the defense's case won't be hurt by allowing the late filing, and the basic facts of the plaintiffs' claim were known shortly after Mileto's death.

The ruling paves the way for the parents of Matthew Kmiotek, Nicholas Paolucci and Joseph Udaze Jr. to file a $15 million suit against the district that would accuse it of causing severe emotional trauma, partly by failing to provide promised counseling.

"They are ecstatic," said the families' attorney, Kenneth Mollins of Hauppauge, who plans to file the suit within a few months. He said the $15 million would go in part toward paying for counseling.

Joseph Kmiotek said his son Matthew, who quit the football team after Mileto's death, now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, sleeplessness and spontaneous crying outbursts.

"I have a broken child," Kmiotek said of his son, who now attends Suffolk Community College. "I don't know how to deal with it. I don't know how to help him."

An attorney for the school district did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. A district spokeswoman said it does not comment on pending litigation. School board vice president Dorothy Roberts said she could not comment beyond maintaining that counseling had been made available.

The Sachem East Touchdown Club, a parent-run booster group accused of using unsafe training methods in organizing the camp, is also named as a defendant. Board vice president Terri Matlat declined to comment Wednesday and other club members did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Mileto, an 11th-grader, and four of his teammates were running and carrying the log over their heads on the grounds of Sachem High School East when the log slipped from their hands and hit Mileto in the head. Teammates tried to help Mileto as he was bleeding and dying, Mollins said.

The families did not file a claim before the deadline because district officials had promised to provide counseling, Mollins said.

"The school kept promising to give these young men help, and they kept promising and promising and they didn't," he said. "There came a point when the young men and the parents decided they needed to ask the court for help because the school was abandoning them."

Initially, the district provided in-house counseling and the football coaches were volunteering time to talk to the players, Mollins said.

The help dried up even as the teenagers continued having problems with football and life, he said: "They're having night terrors and post-traumatic stress and they're not sleeping and they're not eating. All of this is a result of their safety nets being taken away."

According to the judge's decision, the district contends it never promised mental health services beyond a certain point and never pledged to pay for outside therapists. Further, Sachem argued that the families knew by fall 2017 of the limited services the district could provide under education laws, the decision said.

Michael Paolucci, whose son Nicholas, 16, had at one point been meeting weekly with a psychologist, said the family has been struggling as they search for counseling that works and professionals the teenager can feel comfortable with.

Michael Paolucci said his son came home from school "in a rage" in October of last year, breaking things in the house. The school had an assembly that day on traumatic head injuries, an event that had been planned long before Mileto died, the father said.

"I just want some peace for my son," Michael Paolucci said. "My son is here, thank God. But we need help fixing him."

With Robert Brodsky

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Copyright 2018 The Buffalo News
All Rights Reserved

The Buffalo News (New York)

 

Received wisdom is common knowledge, passed from one generation to the next, that may or may not be true. Some examples: chicken wings must not be dipped in Ranch dressing; every national story has a Buffalo connection; the Bills' 45-year-old stadium should have been built downtown.

After a plan fell through for a domed stadium in Lancaster, what was originally called Rich Stadium opened in 1973 in Orchard Park. In stadium years, the Bills' facility is getting up there, functional but antiquated.

Last week came word that Pegula Sports & Entertainment has commissioned a study by a consultant on renovating or replacing New Era Field, plus potential renovations at the Sabres' home, KeyBank Center. This is a good and necessary step in securing the teams' long-term futures in Western New York, and it reopens the conversation about whether to keep the Bills in Orchard Park or move their home downtown.

The Bills' stadium is the more pressing concern. Their lease with Erie County expires in 2023, while the Sabres' runs through 2025.

Pegula Sports is paying for the study by CAA ICON, a Denver-based consultant. The results will not be made public, which is Pegula Sports' right, but still disappointing. Bruce Popko, Pegula Sports & Entertainment's chief operating officer, said feedback from fans will be a central source of input to the study. And Erie County taxpayers will pay for a big chunk of whatever is done with the Bills' facility, so why not throw a bone to the citizenry and let us ponder the possibilities?

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz cautioned that the existence of the Pegula-funded study does not mean there are tea leaves to be read about the teams' plans.

"Any final decision will ultimately be made by the Pegulas through PSE, the county and New York State after future negotiations," he said.

Poloncarz said in early October that a new stadium would cost at least $1 billion, which made it too expensive for the county to take on. He also said the county is not entertaining the idea of combining a new stadium with a new downtown convention center.

The Sabres' venue is 23 years old. Popko said it needs improvement in the seating, better audio, improved digital connectivity and new digital screens.

There is little threat of our hockey team leaving town, but it's good to see the Pegulas wanting to improve the arena and make a better fan experience. The Sabres' resurgence on the ice - they're the hottest team in the National Hockey League - means more sales of tickets, concessions and merchandise for the team. It's good business sense to invest more of the profits in the arena's upkeep.

New Era Field, meanwhile, received more than $130 million in renovations several years ago, funded by the Pegulas and Erie County. Poloncarz said that beyond the CAA ICON study, there is public money set aside for a future outside study that will be jointly commissioned by the Pegulas, the county and the state.

We've said in this space before that a new stadium, while no small undertaking, is a price worth paying to keep the Bills here. When founding owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. was dissatisfied with War Memorial Stadium in the late 1960s, he listened to overtures from Seattle, Memphis and Tampa about moving the team. After Wilson died in 2014, there were fears about a new owner taking the franchise elsewhere.

Terry and Kim Pegula's purchase of the Bills, three years after buying the Sabres, put an end to talk of the team leaving town. The Pegulas, under their One Buffalo brand, have done well for Buffalo, ensuring that it remains a major league city. Its teams deserve to play in major league facilities.

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Copyright 2018 Alaska Dispatch Publishing, LLC
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Alaska Dispatch News

 

KENAI - A former Kenai Peninsula hockey coach has been sentenced to 62 years in prison for sexually abusing children and possessing child pornography.

Kenai radio station KSRM reports 57-year-old Bradley Elliott worked as a junior varsity hockey coach at Kenai Central High School for the 2005-06 school year.

He assisted with the hockey program at Soldotna High for three seasons from 2007 to 2010.

[Troopers: Former Kenai Peninsula hockey coach's sex abuse charges span 14 years]

He was sentenced Monday.

Elliott had pleaded guilty to 15 charges, including six counts of sexual abuse of a minor, eight counts of indecent photography and one count of possession of child pornography.

Victims in February sued the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and the Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association, claiming negligent hiring, training and supervision practices.

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

 

DOWNS, ILL. -

Two men were killed when a semi truck driving in the wrong direction hit a bus carrying a high school girls basketball team Wednesday night near Downs, Illinois, authorities said.

According to WMBD, the bus, which was taking the Normal West High School JV girls basketball team home after a game, collided with a semi that was driving the wrong way on Interstate 74 about 8:30 p.m.

Charles Crabtree, 72, of Normal, and the 34-year-old semi driver, who was from Iowa, were killed, authorities said. Police have not released the driver's name.

All the students and three adults were taken to area hospitals after the crash. The students' injuries were not life-threatening, police said.

At least 11 people were on the bus at the time of the crash, police said.

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Copyright 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

 

With more than a year and a half remaining on his contract, University of New Mexico Deputy Athletic Director Brad Hutchins has been fired.

And the decision will cost Lobo athletics a $175,000 buyout that was negotiated down from $225,000 called for on his contract.

Citing a yearlong evaluation process of the department and the need for continuing to change the way UNM athletics has gone about its business, especially in terms of securing fiscal stability and accountability, Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez confirmed Hutchins signed termination papers Wednesday and suggested more change could be coming.

"Changes will be continuing for UNM as we approach the end of this year," Nuñez said in a statement. "We have a mutual payout agreement of $175,000. Brad will soon be leaving the Lobos family and we wish him nothing but the best in the future. I want to thank him for his service.

"In coming days and weeks I will be announcing other changes at UNM. We will be replacing Brad, and we will be discussing additional guidelines and policies consistent with building the kind of athletic department we believe is expected."

As for the timing, specific reason or reality that a buyout in a department under continued financial scrutiny likely won't be well-received, Nuñez would not elaborate beyond his statement about the need for change.

Hutchins did not return a text message and the voice mail on his telephone would not accept new messages on Wednesday when the Journal was seeking comment. But he posted on his Twitter account a message thanking coworkers and the Lobos community for the past 14 years he's lived and worked in Albuquerque (his full statement is attached at the bottom of this article).

Former Athletic Director Paul Krebs on March 16, 2016, extended Hutchins a multi-year contract through June 2020. That contract originally paid Hutchins $140,000 annually, but was contractually bumped to $150,000 on July 1, 2017.

He and fellow Deputy Athletic Director Janice Ruggiero, who is in charge of Internal Operations as opposed to Hutchins' External Operations responsibilities, were each given multi-year contracts - though such guaranteed deals are very rare for those positions at UNM and other universities around the country.

Hutchins, who graduated from Missouri State and has a masters from Canisius College, will remain on staff through the end of the month.

Among the feathers in Hutchins' cap as listed on his bio page on the GoLobos.com athletics department website include being a part of securing and negotiating major gifts, including the U.S. Bank naming rights for the premium seating sections at Dreamstyle Arena - the Pit and Dreamstyle Stadium, as well has his part in securing the naming rights with Tamaya Enterprises and Lobo baseball for Santa Ana Star Field.

Hutchins also oversaw the implementation of liquor sales at Lobo sporting events and for getting two official beers created for UNM in the past two years, one now defunct and the other named El Lobo Rojo from Rio Bravo Brewing.

His job duties included overseeing UNM athletics branding and marketing. He oversaw matters from communications and LoboTV to the school's multi-year, multi-million dollar partnership with Learfield Sports and one with Nike as the Lobos' official apparel partner.

Hutchins was also the public fall guy at a March Board of Regents meeting when public and media heat was really mounting for answers about years of athletics missed budgets that the Board had signed off on. Hutchins had presented the previous year's budget on behalf of Krebs in the spring of 2017. When that budget, as many others in the past decade had done, was clearly headed for another year in the red, Hutchins was left to answer for it.

"I want to know right now, in front of everybody, why are we $3.3 million in the hole when I was promised last year that we had a balanced budget?" Regent President Rob Doughty intensely questioned Hutchins, who could not offer a satisfactory answer.

Whether that exchange played into this decision, Nuñez wouldn't say. Instead, he kept the reasoning vague and said he was optimistic about the future of the program.

"I am excited about the future of Lobos sports," Nuñez said. "What will never change at UNM is our commitment to winning and to making the college experience for every student athlete as rewarding as possible competitively, academically and culturally."

Hutchins' statement

The following is the full text Hutchins posted Wednesday on his Twitter account:

"Want to take a minute to thank everyone for our family into the ABQ community the past 14 plus years. We have made lifelong friends and have truly embraced this city, state and University. Want to also thank the athletics staff and the University staff that work tirelessly, it was a privilege to have worked alongside you. For those of you who truly know us, this goes without saying that we strongly encourage you to support the Lobo student-athletes and programs. \

"This business is about people and your willingness to serve the people you represent. Thank you for allowing me to serve you and thank you for the tremendous memories.

"Wish the department much success and look forward to the next opportunity!"

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Copyright 2018 The Arizona Daily Star Dec 6, 2018

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

 



NEW YORK - NCAA investigations into schools implicated in the ongoing federal case involving college basketball "have already been launched," but no resolution is expected before the Final Four, NCAA President Mark Emmert said Wednesday.

That means those schools - including No. 2 and unbeaten Kansas, Louisville and Arizona - could play under a cloud of suspicion deep into March Madness.

"We obviously want to make sure that we're doing everything that we can to promote the ethics of the game," Emmert said during the Learfield Athletics Forum in Manhattan. "This whole incident cast a very bad light on college basketball and we need to deal with it as effectively as we can and we're not going to have everything wrapped up by the Final Four, that's for sure, because these trials are still going to be going on."

Emmert said the NCAA is working in conjunction with the FBI on the investigations. The FBI hasn't "dumped all their files" at the NCAA office in Indianapolis yet, he said.

This fall's federal fraud trial focused on Kansas and Louisville, so-called "Adidas schools" because of their affiliation with the shoe company. The trial involving former Arizona assistant Emanuel "Book" Richardson is set to begin in April. Attorneys for Richardson and his co-defendants have asked that the federal charges be dropped, saying that the men didn't commit any crimes. Legal experts expect Richardson and the other defendants to pursue plea deals if the attorneys' motion is denied.

On Oct. 24, three men at the center of the ongoing federal investigation into college basketball corruption were found guilty of multiple felonies. A jury decided that former Adidas consultant Merl Code, Adidas executive Jim Gatto and would-be sports agent Christian Dawkins committed wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud by paying families of coveted basketball prospects to get them to commit to programs sponsored by the shoe company. The 48-year-old Gatto was found guilty on all three of his counts, and Dawkins, 25, and Code, 44, were found guilty on both of theirs. Sentencing is set for March 5.

Asked about possible future penalties for Kansas, Louisville or N.C. State, all of which had coaches and/or runners allegedly involved in pay-for-play schemes, Emmert said he couldn't comment on ongoing cases.

"We don't talk about individual cases," he said.

Emmert said he followed the trial on a daily basis but chose not to attend because he would have been a "distraction."

"We were incredibly attentive to all of it and we had people every day at the trial," Emmert said. "I was following the transcript on a daily basis. I don't need to be in the room to know what's going on in the trial and we were very, very attentive to it.

"Of course we're deeply concerned about it. It's very disturbing revelations."

During the trial, former Adidas consultant Thomas "T.J." Gassnola testified he gave $40,000 to former N.C. State assistant Orlando Early in November 2015 to give to the father of coveted prospect Dennis Smith Jr. after the Wolfpack coaches feared Smith Jr. might decommit.

Gassnola also testified he gave the family of former Kansas forward Billy Preston $89,000 and the guardian of current forward Silvio de Sousa $2,500, and said he gave a family friend of former Arizona star Deandre Ayton $15,000 with hopes of steering him to the Jayhawks.

Dawkins and Brian Bowen Sr. also testified about an Adidas scheme to funnel $100,000 to Bowen Sr. in exchange for Brian "Tugs" Bowen attending Louisville.

Coaches currently at La Salle and De Paul were also implicated in paying players while at other places. All those coaches remain on staff at their present schools.

So far, N.C. State has taken no action. Kansas is sitting out de Sousa while investigating the situation. And Louisville fired athletic director Tom Jurich and former coach Rick Pitino in 2017, but there has been much speculation about potential future penalties at Louisville after Bowen Sr. testified that then-Louisville assistant Kenny Johnson gave him $1,300 for rent after Louisville had already been placed on probation.

Emmert said he would like to see the individual schools take responsibility for punishments.

"We need to make sure that schools are fulfilling their role in holding everybody accountable," he said. "The NCAA is an association of member schools and it's built upon the notion of collaboration and collegiality and there's an expectation among the other schools that they will also hold themselves accountable. So to the extent that doesn't happen, I think all the members are not happy with that."

As for a timeline, Emmert said the NCAA will vote in January to add five new "independent adjudicators" who will "report to a new group that will become members of the Board of Governors."

"Assuming that passes, after that vote, then there will be five new members added to the Board of Governors, and then we can put this into place," Emmert said.

"It will be August before it's all in place."

Brey surprised by lack of punishments

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, who was featured at the forum, said he's surprised that more players and coaches haven't been declared ineligible in the wake of the Adidas trial.

"At the university level, I think everybody's a little surprised that coaches and players haven't been more disciplined," Brey told the Star. "My feeling on it is that we don't know all the information on the accusations that are out there. More information has to come through and I think that's going to happen in the trials and the investigations."

De Sousa, for instance, has not played since his name was mentioned in the federal trial. His coach, Bill Self, has not been suspended or fined.

Asked if Arizona coach Sean Miller had a potential case for a lawsuit against ESPN, which reported that the coach was on a wiretap agreeing to pay Ayton $100,000 in exchange for coming to Arizona, a claim Miller vehemently denied, Brey smiled.

"Possibly," he said.

Emmert supports G League alternative

Emmert said he supports the new G League initiative that will pay select high school players a salary of $125,000 to go straight to the G League from high school.

"I think it's a good development in that young people should have options and choice," he said. "They do in golf or baseball, so why not basketball? So I think that's healthy. I hope that young people and their families will look at all of the options in front of them, and everybody's anticipating that eventually the NBA will lower their draft age for regular NBA.

"Everybody's saying they want to get there; now they've got to figure out how to do it."

The new initiative is set to begin in time for the 2019-20 season.

CREDIT: By Adam Zagoria Special to the Arizona Daily Star

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Copyright 2018 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

TAYLORSVILLE - Salt Lake County's softball complexes in Millcreek and Taylorsville will soon see major improvements thanks to a $5 million contribution from Larry H. Miller Charities.

A partnership announced Tuesday between Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation and Larry H. Miller Charities will rebuild both the Larry H. Miller Softball Complex in Millcreek and the Valley Regional Softball Complex in Taylorsville.

Both facilities feature four softball fields each, one little league baseball field, a press box and stadium seating. Both facilities have played host to numerous tournaments and league play since their construction in the early 1970s.

The new facilities will feature the same amount of fields with new bleachers, shelters and press boxes. Construction will begin in early 2019 on the Larry H. Miller Complex at Big Cottonwood Park, with an expected completion date of spring 2020. Construction at the Valley Regional Softball Complex at Valley Regional Park will follow in 2021.

"Larry H. Miller's love of sports and commitment to building the community delivers another wonderful benefit to our residents," Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said in a statement. "Salt Lake County is fortunate to have the Miller family's ongoing generosity supporting future generations in Utah."

Larry H. Miller, a world-class fast pitch softball player and an International Softball Congress Hall of Fame inductee, played for three decades, pitching more than 1,000 games and recording 819 victories in professional fast pitch. In 2010, the softball complex in Holladay was named in his honor.

"Larry was passionate about softball and this complex will forever be part of our family's legacy," Miller's widow, Gail, said in the statement. "He not only enjoyed the competition, but he also enjoyed the social aspect of the game. This will be a great tribute to Larry, our family and the game of softball.

"I look forward to seeing more memories created for years to come on these fields."

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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

Facing 100 lawsuits from more than 350 sexual-assault victims of team physician Larry Nassar, USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy protection Wednesday.

The voluntary filing does not represent USA Gymnastics' surrender of its role as the sport's national governing body. Its recently appointed board chairman said the step was taken to expedite payment of claims to the many victims and to allow the organization to continue day-to-day operations while continuing its search for its fourth president and CEO in the past two years.

"This is not a liquidation; this is a reorganization," said Kathryn Carson, who last week was elected chair of USA Gymnastics' Board of Directors. In addition, Carson said the Chapter 11 filing would halt the U.S. Olympic Committee's effort to dismantle the sport's governing body and provide critical "breathing room" for the organization to continue running the sport at a grassroots and national level.

"We owe it to the survivors to resolve, fully and finally, claims based on the horrific acts of the past and, through this process, seek to expedite resolution and help them move forward," Carson said in a conference call Wednesday afternoon, as the filing was entered in an Indianapolis court.

The USOC pushed back immediately on the assertion that the move would stop the process that may lead to the de-certification, an administrative response to what's known as a "Section 8" complaint.

"We are aware of USA Gymnastics bankruptcy filing and are evaluating how that filing may impact the USOC and our current relationship with USAG," USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said. "While we fully understand that USAG believes this restructuring will begin to solve deficiencies we've identified, the filing does not impact our Section 8 complaint, and it's our intention that the process will move forward."

A lawyer representing more than 100 victims, including Olympic medalists Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Jordyn Wieber, dismissed Carson's claim that the goal of the bankruptcy filing was to expedite payments as "a transparent falsehood" and "laughable."

"At every turn in this case, [USA Gymnastics has] done everything possible to delay, obstruct and dismiss the survivors' claims," said John Manly, the California-based victims' advocate. Manly characterized the leadership of USA Gymnastics as "both morally and financially bankrupt" and called on Congress, as well as relevant state and local law enforcement, to redouble its investigation into the governing body's failure to protect athletes.

The bankruptcy filing comes one month after the USOC announced it was taking initial steps of disband the governing body after a series of poor decisions in the dealing with the Nassar scandal, saying that the sport "deserved better."

It also comes 20 months before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where the U.S. women's gymnastics squad will seek its third consecutive Olympic gold medal in the prestigious team competition, and reigning individual all-around champion Simone Biles will attempt to defend her Rio 2016 title. Both the U.S. women and Biles are favorites to do so, with the U.S. women dominating the world championships in Qatar in October, claiming the team title and Biles earning a record fourth gold in the individual all-around.

As the USOC and USA Gymnastics trade procedural moves, hundreds of young women await redress for emotional and psychological damage inflicted by the former team doctor who has been sentenced to jail for the rest of his life.

Carson, former chief legal counsel for the U.S. Golf Association, joined USA Gymnastics' reconstituted governing board in June and was named the panel's chair Nov. 29.

She declined to provide an estimate of the payouts the governing body expects to make to the gymnasts victimized by Nassar. Earlier this week, Michigan State paid $500 million into a settlement fund to compensate Nassar victims under its watch. Nassar was employed by Michigan State and served as the volunteer team physician for USA Gymnastics. In both cases, leaders at Michigan State and USA Gymnastics ignored allegations of abuse for years and failed to refer athletes' claims to law enforcement in a timely manner.

Carson said that the board had discussed the step of filing for bankruptcy protection long before the USOC's Nov. 5 announcement that it was taking the initial step toward dismantling USA Gymnastics. The step was taken, she said, because the mediation process was "not moving at any pace." A Chapter 11 bankruptcy process will consolidate the claims before one judge in one court who would likely appoint a mediator to broker a resolution.

She characterized it as "a critical first step" toward rebuilding the organization's trust with gymnasts and their families, the public and corporate sponsors, many of whom fled the sport in the wake of the Nassar scandal.

Any settlements with victims will be funded by insurance bought by USA Gymnastics prior to the Nassar scandal. Carson said the amount paid to victims would not be affected by the Chapter 11 filing. Apart from those insurance proceeds, she added, the organization has "no other significant assets" to pay claims.

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Naples Daily News (Florida)

 

The regular season is over. The bowl matchups are set. And now we have weeping and gnashing of teeth over which teams have been left out of the College Football Playoff, plus a call to expand the format from four to eight or even 16 teams?

Spare me.

College football needs plenty of overhauls, but this shouldn't be at the top of anyone's list, especially not anyone connected to a Power Five school.

Georgia, Michigan and Ohio State all had their chances. They lost games. End of discussion.

UCF, though, has a gripe that merits consideration.

"The current system is not a fair and reasonable system," Dan Ravicher, an antitrust lawyer, said.

"The experience we've had with it shows it," he said later. "Of the five years we've had it, each of the 20 teams that have been in the College Football Playoff have been from a Power conference."

The exception is Notre Dame, of course, but Ravicher — a professor at the University of Miami Law School who has practiced in various forms for 20 years and appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court — said it's effectively an ACC school, since it competes in that conference in other sports.

To him, the current system is a collusion lawsuit waiting to happen.

Plus, he asked, "How exciting would the college football playoffs be this year if we had, in addition to the four current teams, UCF, Buffalo, Fresno and other Cinderella darlings?"

It's an interesting perspective. And if a lawsuit comes, we'll cover it, but in terms of competition, do we really need playoff expansion?

Wright Waters, executive director of the Football Bowl Association and former commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference, doesn't think so.

"Until we get to a point that there are eight teams that are the quality of an Alabama or a Clemson, well, we don't need to dilute it," he said. "We don't need to ask people to play in games that are for a national championship, if we know the winner."

Waters has been involved in college football for decades, and he's had the expansion conversation before.

"That goes back to some of my experience as an FCS commissioner," he said. "I remember a conversation (former SEC commissioner) Roy Kramer and I had years ago, he said, 'Tell me about 16.' And I said, 'We get rid of the pretenders the first two weeks. Not until we get to the third week are we actually dealing with teams that can win it.'"

To Waters, there's a difference between a good team and a good program.

"The thing you have to understand," he said, "perception sometimes gets involved here. And the perception is usually about programs and not teams. If you have good teams, Central Florida was a great team last year, but only now are they starting to pick up program status."

He compares UCF to Boise State.

"Boise had a great team," he said. "They won the Fiesta Bowl. But then they put it together with two or three more years of dominance" — and two more Fiesta Bowl wins. "And then they became a program. And that's what is ultimately the challenge, is to become a program, so the perception is every year you're going to be competing at that highest level."

He said that's what competition is all about, a point of view that's a defense against a collusion claim.

But none of this is where we should be focused. We should be focused on the student-athletes.

Letitia Frye, who calls herself "America's Foremost Auctiontainer," explains this from the perspective of a businesswoman who has worked with Pat Summerall, Peyton Manning, Emmitt Smith and countless others.

She's also close to the issue because her son is seeking a football scholarship.

"The scholarship is a lot of money... but that is to get an education," she said, noting how hard it can be to balance studies and athletics.

"They put these kids in school, and they don't get the education," she said. "And then they push them, because they're making money on the sport, and they're pushing them further, and 9 out of 10 of them are not going to the NFL."

She's looking for solutions that would benefit players and their families.

"A universal fund, not run by the schools... you should have some sort of collegiate group to set up a Roth IRA or something that's there for them that they get X amount" when their playing days are over, she said.

Frankly, this is all we should be focused on. If the playoffs expand, the compensation packages for student-athletes should expand, too.

If the playoffs don't expand, the compensation packages for student-athletes should expand anyway.


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USA TODAY

 

When Arkansas State athletics director Terry Mohajir went to hire a football coach six years ago for a program that had been a reliable launching pad to the Power Five, he looked to the staff of one of the most profitable athletics departments in the country.

At the time, Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin wasn't just a highly regarded rising assistant in college football, he was also attainable for a Sun Belt program whose total athletics budget is roughly one-fifth of schools such as Texas.

"He was making ($700,000), and that was pretty high," Mohajir said. "It was pretty good money, but I was able to pay him more to be a head coach."

Fueled by an explosion in the cost of hiring and retaining top-level assistants, however, the economics of grooming the next generation of head coaches has been turned on its head in less than a decade.

Whereas only five assistants in the country were making $1 million or more five years ago, that number has exploded to 21 in the latest USA TODAY college coaching salary survey, with eight of those making at least $1.5 million.

Led by LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, whose total basic compensation for this year is $2.5 million, the motivation for top programs to retain elite assistants has turned many of those jobs into more lucrative and potentially more secure opportunities than a significant portion of head coaching gigs in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

"A lot of people wanted to be head coaches because the money was so significantly different, but it's not any more," said Chad Chatlos, who specializes in coaching and executive searches for Ventura Partners. "So what's the incentive unless you're just driven to be a head coach? You're seeing some guys say, 'I want to just coach my defense' without having to deal with the other stuff that comes with being a modern-day head coach."

Whereas the path to lifetime financial security in college football almost always came through success as a head coach until the last few years, the lines have recently blurred.

Aranda's contract, which is guaranteed through March 31, 2022, makes him more highly paid than four head coaches in the Pac-12 Conference. Missouri's Barry Odom, a head coach in Aranda's own league, the Southeastern Conference, made slightly less ($2.35 million) this season.

Aranda, 42, was a little-known commodity as recently as six years ago. After working his way up from places such as Cal Lutheran and Delta State to the FBS level at Utah State in 2012, his reputation blossomed when he followed Gary Anderson to Wisconsin and ran a defense that finished in the top 10 nationally for three consecutive seasons even though his roster wasn't loaded with blue-chip recruits.

Known for a 3-4 defensive system that confuses opponents with unique blitz packages and pre-snap deception, Aranda's work planted a seed in the mind of former LSU coach Les Miles in the 2014 season opener against Wisconsin, which LSU won 28-24. Though the job wouldn't come open until the end of 2015, Miles lured Aranda to Baton Rouge with the opportunity to put some of the best athletes in the country in his scheme.

"We interviewed a lot of guys, but the absolute star was Dave Aranda," Miles said at the time. "That defense was the toughest defense for us to scheme and go against (that) year."

Though Miles was fired only a few months later, Aranda had made himself so integral that the viability of LSU's plan to promote Ed Orgeron to head coach largely hinged on making him the nation's highest-paid assistant at $1.8 million a year. Then, when Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M attempted to hire him last year, LSU redid his contract, giving him a fully guaranteed four-year, $10 million deal that was simply unprecedented at the time for an assistant.

"And I'm not sure they would have stopped there — that's how valuable he is to LSU," said Scott Roussel, who owns and operates FootballScoop, a website that specializes in coaching transactions. "It's a big, big business, and a systemic breakdown that could occur without one of those (elite coordinators) is potentially more costly than the $2.5 million in salary or versus the salary you'd have to pay somebody else. You run a huge risk if you lose one of those guys. That's how an athletic director is looking at it."

Taking a pay cut for a promotion?

The size and security of Aranda's deal doesn't necessarily entrench him on Orgeron's coaching staff forever. But it does make Aranda, and other superstar coordinators, much harder to attain these days, even for schools that can offer head coaching opportunities.

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables ($2.2 million this year) has been notoriously picky if not outright dismissive of job openings. Meanwhile, other highly paid defensive coordinators including Auburn's Kevin Steele ($2.05 million), Texas A&M's Mike Elko ($1.8 million), Oregon's Jim Leavitt ($1.7 million) and Ohio State's Greg Schiano ($1.5 million) are less likely to become head coaches because, in large part, of how much money they make.

In the American Athletic Conference, which has tried to keep pace with the Power Five, the pay scale has mostly been between $1 million to $2 million for head coaches. The market in both the Mountain West and Conference USA has been roughly $1.5 million on the high end, with some head coaches on the low end barely clearing the $500,000 bar. In the Sun Belt, where Mohajir has helped build a consistent winner through aggressive fundraising and facilities improvements, his head coach, Blake Anderson ($825,000), would barely be among the 35 highest-paid assistants this year in the Power Five.

If Anderson left this year, it's possible Mohajir wouldn't be able to draw the attention of many of those assistants, even for a job that previously launched Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn and Harsin to promotions.

"When a head coach has a good coordinator, they don't want to lose them," Mohajir said. "At the end of the day, if a guy is making $1.5 million, does he want to come to a Sun Belt or Conference USA school and make $1 million? Do you want to take half the pay to be a head coach?"

The irony, though, is that the path for advancement in the coaching business hasn't necessarily changed much. A year ago, out of the 13 new hires made by Power Five schools, eight had previous head coaching experience at a Football Bowl Subdivision school. The year before, five Power Five schools hired their new coaches directly from the mid-major ranks.

Though it's certainly not unheard of for high-profile coordinators to move directly into elite head coaching jobs — Georgia's Kirby Smart and Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley would be the most recent successful examples — stories like Matt Campbell going from Toledo to Iowa State or Dino Babers turning around Syracuse after he did the same at Bowling Green remain the bread-and-butter of the business.

"There is so much pressure on ADs at every level to make sure they get a coach who is going to be successful that I think ADs still prefer a head coach that has head coaching experience," North Texas athletics director Wren Baker said. "I think it's most coaches' dreams to be in a job one day where they can make a lot of money and compete for a national championship. And if you want to do that, the best path to get there is still being a Group of Five head coach."

Under Baker, North Texas has pushed to invest resources in coaching and made Seth Littrell the highest-paid coach in C-USA this year at $1.425 million. However, winning nine games in each of the last two years has put Littrell on the radar of bigger programs, and like most athletics directors in his position, Baker monitors the market in case he has an opening to fill.

If Littrell left, it's possible that some coaches whom Baker might naturally be interested in because of their success as assistants might already make more money.

"It certainly puts another wrinkle into the whole process," Baker said. "I don't see it as vastly limiting your pool, but it's definitely a factor."

But following Baker's point about the appeal of hiring a Group of Five head coach and perhaps influenced by prominent Power Five assistants' pay, two schools from the Group of Five have looked to the Football Championship Subdivision for their openings. This week East Carolina hired Mike Houston, who led James Madison to the FCS national title in 2016, and Charlotte named Will Healy its head coach after he revived Austin Peay's program.

Less risk, less pressure

While the salaries, of course, reflect how much revenue top college football programs generate, they also indicate the value of specialization. A decade ago, a coach might have to chase jobs that were out of their comfort zone because the financial difference was so significant. Now, someone who is really good at one thing can become wealthy just doing that one thing.

For some people, the upside of being a coordinator now might be even greater than becoming a head coach. Signaling how much it wants to keep Venables, Clemson reworked his deal to $2 million a year in February and five months later extended his contract to five years through January 2023 and added a retention/deferred compensation plan in the form of a life insurance policy for a package worth $11.6 million.

"In a business that is highly unstable traditionally, now you've got a school saying we're going to pay you three to four years guaranteed at $1.3 million, that means a lot to be able to give back some stability to their wives and kids," Chatlos said.

There are also fewer external pressures in terms of fundraising or media obligations (Aranda, for instance, is off-limits to the media during the season), and nobody is going to fly a banner over the stadium demanding that the school fire a coordinator.

Though safe harbors don't really exist in coaching, there is a certainly appeal to a lifestyle where the entire focus goes to the on-field product.

"If you love to coach and you love to work with young men and specifically mold them for their future, which a lot of these guys really love that stuff, being a position coach or a coordinator is a really good place to be right now," Roussel said. "A lot less risk, a lot less pressure than the head coaching seat for sure."

The other side of that, though, could have some significant implications for the industry. As assistant salaries grow and programs such as Clemson, Ohio State and LSU invest in coaching staff stability, what's the incentive for promising young coaches to go prove themselves at smaller programs?

Before Mohajir hired Anderson, who had been the offensive coordinator at North Carolina, he recalled interviewing another highly rated assistant at a top-five program who was already making more money than Arkansas State had allocated for the position.

Mohajir, who declined to name the coach, said he could tell during the conversation that the possibility of taking a pay cut was going to be an issue and they went their separate ways.

He said that experience, however, wouldn't stop him from inquiring about Power Five assistants who make more than $1 million the next time he has an opening.

After all, there are still a lot of people who want to be head coaches and there are only 130 of these highly coveted FBS jobs, even though half of them have financial limits due to the inequity in television money.

"To be very candid, the ones that are willing to take the pay cut are the ones that are the most attractive because you know they really, really want to be the head coach," Mohajir said.

"It's a challenge sometimes. If you want to hire Dave Aranda, is he going to come work in the Sun Belt for $1 million when he has a (four-) year contract? If he takes your job, you know he really wants the job."

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USA TODAY

 

When Jeremy Pruitt was introduced as the head coach at Tennessee last year, he spoke about changing the culture of the program, to turn the Volunteers into a "big, fast, dominating, aggressive, relentless football team that nobody in the SEC wants to play."

Part of that cultural evolution came in the weight room.

Before long, Pruitt had hired Craig Fitzgerald away from the NFL's Texans, where he had been the head strength and conditioning coach for four seasons. Tennessee gave Fitzgerald a three-year contract worth $625,000 annually, a 67 percent increase over what the school had paid for his predecessor. Then it spent another $660,000 to renovate the weight room.

"We were prepared to make an investment in that area," athletics director Phillip Fulmer said last spring.

With each passing year, the aggression, and spending, in hiring strength coaches such as Fitzgerald continues to grow. Since 2016, when USA TODAY first started tracking their annual compensation, the number of strength coaches making more than $500,000 a year has increased from three to eight. And 17 others now have an annual compensation of at least $300,000.

Iowa's Chris Doyle continues to lead the group, with an annual compensation of $725,000 in 2018. He makes more than all but two head coaches in the Mid-American Conference, and he's in line to receive a raise to $783,000 in 2019 based on a provision in head coach Kirk Ferentz's contract.

Elsewhere, schools continue to put an emphasis on hiring the right strength and conditioning coach, and they're willing to invest significant resources to ensure that such hires are made.

From ABThe Case for High School Strength Coach Hires

At Michigan, for example, strength coach Ben Herbert received a three-year contract with a $450,000 initial annual salary and a $50,000 signing bonus, as well as a commitment to have a $450,000 salary pool for four football assistant strength coaches and one nutritionist. At Texas A&M, new head coach Jimbo Fisher helped woo Jerry Schmidt from Oklahoma with what amounted to a $236,000 raise from what he made a year ago.

While Power Five schools still have the greatest resources at their disposal, Group of Five schools have made substantial commitments to strength and conditioning coaches, too. Take Florida Atlantic, where the Owls tripled the annual compensation of head strength and conditioning coach Wilson Love from $80,000 to $250,000 and gave the 27-year-old the added title of "assistant head football coach," to boot.

Head coaches often describe their strength coaches as the people who help build and maintain the culture of the program, often in the offseason when contact with the rest of the staff is limited by the NCAA, an integral role in the staff. So as assistant coach salaries continue to rise, strength coach compensation will rise, too. There's no sign of either slowing down any time soon.

Contributing: Blake Toppmeyer of The Knoxville News Sentinel

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The Washington Times

 

Hard-hitting football is coming to the nation's capital, and we're not talking about the Redskins moving in from Maryland.

Washington was awarded one of eight new franchises by the XFL, Vince McMahon's alternative professional football league that is planning a comeback. The team will play its home games at Audi Field, D.C. United's new stadium near Nationals Park.

The new XFL will launch its inaugural season in February 2020. McMahon, the owner and chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment, announced plans to revive the league last January.

"We're really looking forward to once again establishing a very exciting, innovative form of football that quite frankly we've never seen before," McMahon said.

The XFL folded after its lone season in 2001. It was famous for personalities like Rod "He Hate Me" Smart, unapologetically brutal hits, cheerleaders in scant clothing and the combination of football with elements of pro wrestling.

But that will not be the case in the new XFL. In January, McMahon expressed a desire for the league to focus on football and implied he will disallow political statements, a la Colin Kaepernick's kneeling.

The Washington region did not have a franchise in the original XFL. Washington will be joined in 2020 by franchises located in New York/New Jersey, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Seattle and Tampa. Team nicknames were not announced.

The announcement came Wednesday in a live-streamed press conference in East Rutherford, New Jersey. It featured Erik Moses, senior vice president and managing director of Events DC, speaking on behalf of the District.

"Washington, D.C. as our mayor would say, the sports capital of the United States is ready for the XFL, and we can't wait for the inaugural season to get started," Moses said.

The XFL is joining a handful of other secondary leagues like the Alliance of American Football, Pacific Pro Football and the Arena Football League entering the pro football market. The NFL's TV ratings have gone back up in 2018, but the XFL and others are looking to attract fans with games during the NFL offseason.

While McMahon's personal remarks lasted only three minutes, he pitched the original XFL as a concept ahead of its time that will better fit in the modern age.

"So much has changed in terms of the use of digital social media didn't even exist 20 years ago in ways of distributing, in ways of interest, in terms of the various devices which were not there either," he said. "But what has not changed is the love of football."

Oliver Luck, the former athletic director at West Virginia University, an original member of the College Football Playoff Committee and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck's father, is the league's commissioner and CEO. Luck handled most of the announcement and spoke about the league's efforts to design a faster-paced version of football, with fewer timeouts and more "meaningful action."

"We held a series of meetings and discussed ways we can take the game that we all love and modify it, tweak it enough so that it's familiar yet distinctive," Luck said.

Luck said teams will begin signing quarterbacks and "other impact players" in the first quarter of 2019. The XFL will target players who are cut from 90-man NFL rosters at the end of training camp and have its first supplemental draft in the early fall of 2019.

McMahon previously announced the teams will play a 10-game season, with a four-team playoff. All eight franchises will be owned by McMahon's company, Alpha Entertainment, in a single-entity format.

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Alaska Dispatch News

 

The UAA men's basketball team will resume practicing on-campus Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Sports Center.

The two sports facilities at UAA are open again, although the university's athletes continue to practice off-campus and a Saturday gymnastics meet has been canceled.

The annual Green & Gold intrasquad gymnastics meet is the only event so far affected by Friday's 7.0 magnitude earthquake, the UAA athletic department said in a statement Wednesday that summarized the status of the Alaska Airlines Center and the Wells Fargo Sports Complex.

"Both buildings are slated to reopen for employee occupancy and limited team and/or public usage on Wednesday," the school said.

Repairs at both facilities are ongoing.

The greatest concern is the main gym floor at the 4-year-old Alaska Airlines Center. The hardwood floor was flooded, and although standing water was cleaned up within a few hours, the long-term effect "will not be known until the floor has ample time to dry through this weekend," the school said.

Elsewhere at the facilities, according to the school:

- At the Wells Fargo Sports Complex, a water pipe broke near the ice rink. The pipe has been repaired and there was no long-term damage.

- The swimming pool at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex remains fully operational.

- Both the auxiliary gym and the gymnastics studio at the Alaska Airlines Center sustained limited ceiling and sheetrock damage. Repairs have begun and are expected to be completed within the next several days.

The UAA hockey team left for an extended road trip Wednesday after practicing Monday and Tuesday at Sullivan Arena. The basketball teams continue to practice at off-campus gyms, the gymnastics team is practicing at the Anchorage Gymnastics Association and the track team is practicing at The Dome.

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Copyright 2018 The Bismarck Tribune, a division of Lee Enterprises
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The Bismarck Tribune

 

HASTINGS, Minn. — An assistant principal who also serves as the head wrestling coach in Hastings is being investigated for allegedly using raised or donated funds to attend out-of-state college football games over a period of years.

The Hastings School Board held a special session Nov. 26 to discuss the alleged misappropriation of funds by Josh McLay.

McLay allegedly attended the games with group of people, some of which were school district employees, when his stated purpose was to attend wrestling and coaching clinics. The investigation alleges that over a seven-year span since 2011, McLay misappropriated approximately $11,000-$12,000 in Fund 11 funds.

On Monday during the closed session, the school board considered options regarding McLay's employment, including an agreement put forward by McLay and his attorney which consisted of five stipulations. Those included resigning from both positions, serving a 10-day suspension this school year and being placed into a teaching position in the district for the 2019-2020 school year.

The school board voted unanimously to accept McLay's and his attorney's agreement and it was signed-off on by all parties involved.

The investigation was triggered Oct. 8. It alleges that in 2011, McLay was going to a wrestling clinic in Nebraska when he asked if he could buy his coaches (a group of 8-10) tickets to a Nebraska football game, to which the district said no as Fund 11 funds cannot be used for entertainment. They then determined that in this instance, and others over the course of seven years, that no clinics actually took place.

The school board determined on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving that the investigation had found everything it was going to in regards to McLay's employment situation and scheduled Monday's special session. School board chairman Lisa Hedin said that in between the announcing of the special session and Monday, ""I would estimate that each board member probably received 50-ish emails attesting to Mr. McLay's character."

McLay declined to comment on the investigation but had addressed the matter with his team. McLay will be coaching Saturday as the wrestling team opens its season.

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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

Standing on the Utah State indoor practice field, Matt Wells answered all the questions that day, all except for one.

He told me what a great talent Jordan Love was, how well he prepared for games, how steady he had become, what a great leader he was, how unselfish a kid he is, the whole 10 yards, good for another Aggies first down.

And when the head coach was done singing his quarterback's praises, his team's praises, he turned to walk across the turf to somewhere, wherever coaches go after practice, and that's when I asked him the question he left unanswered "What are you going to do with the millions of dollars you'll be offered by some other school when this season is over?"

No response. Nothing. Nada. Nichts.

"Did I say that out loud or just think it?" I asked.

"You just thought it," he said, now 25 yards downfield.

I wasn't the only one thinking it. Wells had thoughts, too.

That was proved to be true when the Aggies coach bolted for Texas Tech over the weekend, leaving Logan in his rearview. In his introductory presser in Lubbock, Wells was kind enough to thank the people at Utah State for the tremendous opportunity they had given him. He should have been grateful, just like every other head coach who finds enough success wherever he is to go someplace else.

That's just the way it is.

This is the time of year, the season after the season, when college football coaches look for other opportunities, either by their own choice or by somebody else's. I hate it when guys get fired. And I hate it even more when they leave their players behind, ditching them and darn near everything they've preached at them through the seasons, to satisfy their own ambition.

It works that way, yeah, we know. Give a guy a chance, help him win and watch him walk.

We should know, all of us, including 18-year-old kids straight out of high school, who have agreed to play for a head coach who has promised them that if they work hard and put team first, if they play for the name on the front of the jersey instead of the name on the back, they will prosper, they will join a program led by a coaching staff that cares deeply about them, that has their and their team's best interests at heart.

That, of course, is a lie.

They don't mention that if all the players play real well, the head coach will bounce; he will be the one who benefits the most. He will be made attractive to other suitors, other schools, who will open up the coffers and pour out multiple millions of dollars more than he's already making.

Only in America.

So, son, come to play for us, because if you do, you will become part of a proud tradition, part of something bigger than yourself, something that you'll remember for the rest of your life Your coach luring you in, demanding loyalty and sacrifice, unselfishness, and then dumping you for a better place where he can get better players, find better success and gain a better paycheck.

That's a lesson in the free-market system to which players should never turn a blind eye. If they reach for their goals as student-athletes, as guys who have rules to follow, who cannot even hold a job during the season, who cannot profit from their own likeness, who can't take a free meal from certain people, who are baptized and bathed in the reach and the glory of amateurism, masked as it is as an excuse to limit expenses and liability. And the guy behind the desk in the coach's office is the one who will get the greatest gain.

But only if the underlings buy in and ball out.

They can't transfer without restrictions, but the coach — for him, the rules are different.

Not every coach jumps at the chance to move on. Some, like Kyle Whittingham at Utah, stick around for a decade or two, and that's a beautiful thing. A head coach who recruits players and then is there for them throughout their college years. Before we make anyone a hero, on the other hand, he's already making $3.6 million a year and working at a great university in a Power 5 conference.

Most of the players at Utah State, and other schools and programs just like it, will say all the right things. They'll well-wish their coach and the assistants he'll take with him, leaving the players, like Love, behind to pick up the pieces, to find their own opportunities, with a new head coach and staff. They know everything could change and that they'll have to adapt to a new approach, a new system, a new boss.

One thing that won't change is that new boss, whoever he is, will demand diligence and sacrifice and putting the team first, making it clear that it is the good of the group that must be addressed and honored above all else. And that good of the group is best for him because he has the most to gain.

It's just the way it is.

And people will accept it. They'll say, wouldn't you do the same thing in your job if you had the chance for a big opportunity, a big raise? And you might answer yes. You might answer no. But, either way, in your occupation, it's likely that you don't preach all the day long the value of team and togetherness to 100 young men, requiring of them their blood and sweat, spilled and spent for the greatest good of all.

Your own.

Gordon Monson hosts "The Big Show" with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

Some civic leaders wish they'd thought of it sooner: an indoor stadium on the north bank of the Spokane River.

It's not too late, said Spokane Sports Commission President Eric Sawyer, who said he believes that a combined Spokane Sportsplex and downtown stadium could save millions of dollars as well as several hundred parking spaces east of the Arena.

"The idea actually makes a lot of sense," Sawyer said.

The Spokane Public Facilities District is in the preliminary planning phase of the already-funded $42 million indoor Sportsplex.

But now the PFD is taking a look at how to meld its Sportsplex project with a replacement for Joe Albi Stadium in the heart of the city.

Combining the two projects "is an idea I definitely think is worth exploring," Stephanie Curran, chief executive officer of the PFD, said Tuesday afternoon.

Sawyer has asked for an audience next month with the Spokane Public Schools board of directors, which will meet tonight to begin planning the details of capital projects following the passage last month of a $495 million bond.

Included in that bond is $31 million to replace 67-year-old Albi Stadium. Also on the Nov. 6 ballot was an advisory vote that offered two replacement sites for a new 5,000-seat outdoor stadium.

The voters were clear: 64 percent preferred rebuilding on the Albi site — not downtown. But the final decision belongs to the school board.

"Basically, we are just a facilitator, but what we are saying is, 'Could you take a look at this as a third option?'" Sawyer said Tuesday.

Noting that the bond passed by a 2-to-1 margin, Sawyer said that "What we took away from the November ballot is that if voters support the partnership between the city and the school board, why wouldn't they support a partnership between the school board and the PFD?"

Sawyer hopes to have firm numbers next week, but he said the combined project could save as much as $10 million — even after rolling an artificial turf onto the Sportsplex floor.

Sawyer sent an exploratory email last week to school board President Sue Chapin, who replied that "once the Board has had an opportunity to have our discussion about whether to follow the advisory vote or consider other options we will know whether a presentation of a new option should be scheduled."

Today's special meeting, which begins at 5:30 p.m. at the district's downtown offices, is expected to focus on proposed project schedules for items passed in the 2018 bond as well as the 2015 bond.

The Stadium Replacement Project is on the agenda, though it's unclear whether the board will make any determination regarding the stadium site.

The board has time on its side. Associate Superintendent Mark Anderson said, "We could wait a year (on a final stadium decision) and still stay on schedule" for the other capital projects on the bond.

Sawyer said a combined project makes sense on several counts. The Sportsplex is expected to hold about 3,500 seats. It would need an additional 1,500 to match the school target for an outdoor stadium.

The roof would need to be 15 to 20 feet higher for football, while soccer matches would require a wider field.

Bottom line: The Sportsplex building would be larger than originally envisioned, but only slightly. Renderings aren't available, but Curran and Sawyer believe it would grow only a few feet north.

Moreover, Curran said, parking concerns associated with the original stadium "would be completely resolved."

Curran added that it would be easy for the PFD to move forward with current plans for a stand-alone Sportsplex.

"I think we owe it to the community to explore this option," she said. "It's the right thing to do."

Sawyer said that while some fans might balk at moving football indoors, he wondered how many more outdoor events could be affected by smoke from late-summer wildfires.

"Is smoke the new norm for Spokane?" he said.

For Sawyer and Curran, the idea of a combined facility was always in the background.

Had voters embraced a downtown site and the school board went along, it would have shared a border with the Sportplex on vacant land north of Riverfront Park and east of the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.

Curran said her team at the PFD "had conversations" among themselves during the election season about the possibilities of a combined facility.

"However, the ballots were already out — the idea came a little too late," said Curran, who added that the combined project would be "very different from what was on the ballot, so it's not like we're not listening to the voters."

Some downtown stadium backers believe that confusion over the stadium issue affected the final outcome.

Two days after the election, one man posted a comment on The Spokesman-Review's Facebook page that he misread the proposition and "thought it was about keeping the current stadium or building a new one in downtown."

"I know I did and so did my wife, plus several other people I have talked to. Had we known that a new stadium was a sure thing and we were voting for the new location, then of course we would have picked downtown."

As it did before the election, that choice rests with the school board.

"We just want the school board to give us a green light and listen to what we're proposing," Sawyer said.

Contact the writer: (509) 459-5437; jima@spokesman.com

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

 

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer abruptly announced his retirement Tuesday, citing health concerns and a difficult year that included a three-game suspension over his handling of domestic violence allegations against a now-fired assistant coach. He will step down after the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.

Meyer is leaving at the top of his profession after three national championships in a career spanning three decades, the last seven years at Ohio State, where he has an 82-9 record. The 54-year-old Meyer has an arachnoid cyst in his brain that causes severe headaches, and he had shown obvious effects of being in pain on the sideline this season.

At a packed news conference, Meyer explained that the headaches became severe last season during Ohio State's game at Penn State and have become a persistent problem this season. But he didn't blame only his health for stepping away. Meyer said he believed he could no longer coach the way he has from the early days at Bowling Green to Utah, Florida and, finally, with the Buckeyes.

"The style of coaching I've done for 33 years is very intense, very demanding. I tried to delegate more and CEO more and the product started to feel..." he said, not finishing his thought. "I didn't feel I was doing right by our players and by Gene (Smith, the athletic director)."

Meyer said leaving would have been more difficult if the program wasn't healthy. The Buckeyes are 12-1 after winning the Big Ten championship and Meyer said he felt good about his replacement: Assistant coach Ryan Day will take over as the 25th coach of the storied program where Meyer won a national title in 2014 after two at Florida (2006, 2008).

"You want to hand it off to someone who could make it stronger," Meyer said.

It was Day who led the Buckeyes when Meyer was suspended before the season opener over his role in the handling of assistant coach Zach Smith, who was accused by his ex-wife of domestic abuse.

Meyer said he knew about the allegations against Smith — grandson of former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce — but wasn't sure they were true and kept Smith on staff because no criminal charges were filed. The university cited that lapse in suspending Meyer after an investigation.

A report issued by an investigative committee left a lasting stain, detailing behavior by Meyer that could have taken down a coach of lesser stature. The investigation showed he tolerated bad behavior for years from Smith, including domestic-violence accusations, drug addiction, lies and other acts that directly clash with the values Meyer touts publicly.

Meyer acknowledged the investigation was among the reasons for stepping down — "the decision was the result of cumulative events" — and he was asked if the suspension will affect his legacy.

"I'm sure it will," he said. "I can lie to you and say it is not important to me."

The announcement came as the Buckeyes begin preparations for the bowl game against Washington and less than three weeks before schools can sign a fresh batch of recruits. Meyer said his decision had to come before the early signing period opens Dec. 19.

Former players were full of praise for Meyer.

"Besides my parents, you were one of the most influential people to touch my life and I'm appreciative of that," former Buckeyes linebacker Joshua Perry wrote on Twitter.

The Buckeyes' strong finish this season belied on-the-field problems that made for a stressful season for Meyer and his staff. He lost star defensive end Nick Bosa to an early season-ending injury, and the defense never fully recovered.

The team alternated expected blowout wins with puzzling play that included a pair of one-point wins (Penn State, Maryland) and a closer-than-expected win over a struggling Nebraska team. A startling blowout loss at unranked Purdue on Oct. 20 pushed Ohio State to the fringe of the national championship chase and prompted questions about Meyer's future and he was forced to address speculation that he would step down at the end of the season.

"I plan on coaching," he said on Oct. 29. Asked if he would definitely return to Ohio State next year, he answered, "Yes."

Ohio State followed that with five straight wins, including a rout of archrival Michigan that gave the Buckeyes another division title and then pulled away for an easy win over Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship.

The success was nothing new for Meyer, who was a standout coach at Utah before he left for Florida in 2005 and rocketed to the top of the college football coaching ranks, a peer of Alabama coach Nick Saban in terms of respect and ability. Critics noted that his success with the Gators was marred by a series of legal issues for his players, with more than two dozen arrests.

Almost exactly nine years ago, Meyer shocked college football by resigning at Florida after five seasons amid what he called stress-related health concerns that came to light when he suffered chest pains following the SEC championship game. He changed his mind, returned for another season and then stepped down in December 2010, saying he wanted to spend more time with family.

He was 46 then. And he wasn't gone long: He took the Ohio State job before the 2012 season after Jim Tressel was forced out for lying to the NCAA amid a memorabilia-for-tattoos scandal.

It appeared to be a dream job for the Toledo native. His contract was extended in April by two years through 2022, increasing Meyer's salary to $7.6 million in 2018 with annual 6 percent raises. Meyer has about $38 million left on his contract.

Ohio State will now turn to Day, a second-year Ohio State assistant who had never before been a head coach before he stepped in during Meyers' suspension.

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Copyright 2018 Independent Publishing Company
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Anderson Independent-Mail (South Carolina)

 

The high school football state championship games scheduled for Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia have been moved to Friday because of the threat of inclement weather, according to the South Carolina High School League.

Greer will play Myrtle Beach at 1 p.m. Friday in the Class AAAA state final, followed by Chester against Dillon in the AAA final at 4 p.m. and then T.L. Hanna against Dutch Fork in the AAAAA final at 7:30.

The Class A and AA finals remain as scheduled for Friday at Benedict College.

 
December 5, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

By the time Hurricane Urban blew out of Gainesville eight years ago, nobody really understood what kind of cultural rot had seeped into the place and how long it would take to remove it. In some ways, frankly, Florida football has never been the same.

From the outside, Ohio State today appears to be on more solid ground than Florida was in 2010 when Urban Meyer stepped aside, citing his health as the primary reason he could not continue. Still, it's never easy to follow a legend, which prompts a question as Meyer again abruptly leaves the stage: Does either Ohio State or Ryan Day know what they're in for?

Although the 39-year-old was the natural and obvious in-house successor once it became clear at midseason that Meyer was at least contemplating retirement, promoting Day under these circumstances is still a decision fraught with risk on both sides.

For the Buckeyes, it's a huge gamble on the potential of their offensive coordinator, who has been in the mix for some Power Five jobs the last couple of years but none approaching the magnitude of Ohio State. And for Day, while it's the career opportunity of a lifetime, it's also a massive task to replace a coach who won 90 percent of his games over the last seven seasons, because almost anything he does short of that will be viewed as a failure by a fan base that is accustomed to greatness.

On one hand, you can understand Ohio State's thinking. Day will presumably keep a lot of Meyer's staff in place as well as his offensive system, easing the transition for current players and recruits who are already in the pipeline.

The model for this has been Oklahoma, which successfully handed off the program from Bob Stoops to Lincoln Riley in the summer of 2017 and subsequently made consecutive College Football Playoff appearances.

But not all handoffs from legend to lieutenant are as smooth, and if Day struggles with the external demands of being a full-time head coach, it will be fair to ask athletics director Gene Smith why Ohio State didn't make a run at luring Stoops (an Ohio native) out of retirement or poaching Matt Campbell, who has worked wonders at Iowa State but previously spent his entire life in Ohio.

Instead, Ohio State is betting on the strength of the program as it is, the infrastructure already in place and his coaching talent to keep the Buckeyes at the top of the Big Ten. Day's three-game audition when Meyer was suspended looked promising. Ohio State had no trouble with Oregon State (77-31) or Rutgers (52-3) and overcame in-game adversity against TCU to win comfortably (40-28). But how much does that really mean when the standard Meyer set is so unrealistically high?

Even when Jim Tressel was dominating the Big Ten, the program wasn't operating at quite this level. What Meyer did was to take what had already been in place under Tressel and enhance it with a Southeastern Conference-style recruiting machine, repeatedly nipping on the heels of Alabama for five-star kids from all over the country.

How much of that was the Ohio State brand, and how of much of it was Meyer, who, for all the melodrama surrounding him, could walk in any living room in the country with the gravitas of being the second-most accomplished coach of his generation?

Meyer had two great gifts as a coach: The ability to recruit and a knack for understanding the psychology of 18- to 22-year-olds. His ability to probe the minds of his players and diagnose what it would take to get them to play their best set him apart from his peers. It won't be easy to replicate.

On the other hand, it shouldn't take long to see whether Day has the goods or not because among all the major powers in college football, Ohio State is really the only one that has never had a significant drought in the modern era.

For all of its success recently, Alabama had plenty of ups and downs before Nick Saban came along. Southern California has risen and fallen based largely on the ability of its coaches. Texas went through a mediocre decade of David McWilliams and John Mackovic before hitting on Mack Brown.

Ohio State, on the other hand, has essentially remained among the nation's best programs without any long-term interruption since the 1960s. Even when John Cooper lost his mojo at the end of the 1990s, Jim Tressel — previously a Division I-AA coach at Youngstown State — came in and won a national title in Year 2. In other words, the entire setup at Ohio State is built to keep winning. The in-state talent is there, the national branding is still strong and the current roster is loaded with former blue-chip recruits.

The only missing element will be Meyer. That didn't work out so well the last time he left a program, as Florida sunk quickly under Will Muschamp (fired after four years) and hasn't yet fully recovered to its former glory.

Ohio State is probably in better position than the Gators to keep the success going. But as good as people in college football think Ryan Day can be, he has a tough job ahead of him.

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USA TODAY

 

Seattle has been unanimously approved by the NHL's board of governors in Sea Island, Georgia, to start the 2021-22 season as the league's 32nd team.

More than 30,000 fans have paid a deposit on season tickets. The franchise will play at redeveloped KeyArena, which will cost $700 million.

The expansion fee cost of the franchise is $650 million, $150 million more than the Vegas Golden Knights paid to join the NHL last season.

"Today is an exciting and historic day for our League as we expand to one of North America's most innovative, beautiful and fastest-growing cities," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.

"We are delighted to add David Bonderman, Tod Leiweke and the entire NHL Seattle group to the National Hockey League family. And we are thrilled that Seattle, a city with a proud hockey history that includes being the home for the first American team ever to win the Stanley Cup, is finally joining the NHL."

Things to know about Seattle's entry:

The nickname: Unsettled. Detroithockey.net reported this year that a lawyer representing Oak View Group, the expansion applicant, registered 38 domains involving these names: Seattle Cougars, Seattle Eagles, Seattle Emeralds, Seattle Evergreens, Seattle Firebirds, Seattle Kraken, Seattle Rainiers, Seattle Renegades, Seattle Sea Lions, Seattle Seals, Seattle Sockeyes, Seattle Totems and Seattle Whalers.

The general manager: Former Coyotes coach Dave Tippett has been advising the ownership group, but it doesn't appear he will be the GM.

If the Seattle team follows the Golden Knights' script, which included a trip to the Stanley Cup Final, it will hire a veteran GM similar to George McPhee. That opens the door for Dean Lombardi, Ron Hextall, Ron Francis, Don Maloney and Garth Snow, among others.

If Seattle wants a fresh face, Blue Jackets assistant GM Bill Zito, who recently interviewed with the Flyers, could be a choice. Golden Knights assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon could get a look. The Hurricanes considered Zito, Kings assistant GM Mike Futa and Detroit assistant GM Ryan Martin last summer. Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin was interviewed in Buffalo when Jason Botterill was hired. Chris Pronger is an adviser with the Panthers. Former NHL goalie Sean Burke is also mentioned as a future NHL executive.

Realignment: The NHL hasn't settled on anything, but there has been considerable speculation that Seattle would slot into the Pacific Division and the Coyotes would move into the Central. Although having Arizona away from Vegas and the California teams isn't ideal, the solution causes the least amount of hardship. Each conference would have 16 teams and each division would have eight teams.

Player distribution: The NHL is going to follow the same expansion draft rules that allowed the Golden Knights to put together a contending team.

Seattle will be able to select one player from every team except Vegas. The 30 teams can protect either seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie or eight skaters total and one goalie. It's impossible to know what protected lists will look like.

McPhee's success was aided by GMs' decisions to give up draft picks and prospects to save specific players.

Why Seattle is desirable: According to Station Index, Seattle is the USA's 14th largest TV market, and it's the largest city without a winter sport. The NHL will not be competing against the NBA. The Seattle TV market is larger than markets in Minnesota, Colorado, St. Louis, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Carolina, Vegas and Buffalo.

Seattle and Vancouver should be natural rivals. They are 21/2 hours apart by car. Seattle has plenty of hockey history. The Seattle Metropolitans won the Stanley Cup in 1917 and were in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1919 when the championship series was canceled because of a flu outbreak.

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Copyright 2018 Digital First Media
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The Daily News of Los Angeles

 

USA Swimming is turning to a pair of veteran collegiate coaches to oversee the Olympic swimming team in 2020.

Dave Durden of Cal will be in charge of the men's team and Greg Meehan of Stanford will coach the women's in Tokyo, USA Swimming announced Monday.

The U.S. swim team won 16 gold medals and 33 total medals at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, the best showing by the Americans in any sport. Bob Bowman coached the men in Rio and David Marsh guided the women.

"We are joining a list of coaching legends. It's not lost on either one of us," Meehan said. "It's the greatest honor of my professional career."

Durden and Meehan, both 42, have long records of success in the collegiate ranks.

At Cal, Durden works with Olympic champion backstroker Ryan Murphy and veteran sprinter Nathan Adrian. He has guided 24 individual NCAA champions. Besides Murphy and Adrian, the 2016 Olympic team included gold medalists Anthony Ervin and Tom Shields who have Cal ties. Durden is a four-time NCAA coach of the year.

Meehan is five-time Olympic champion Katie Ledecky's personal coach. Other Olympic champions he's guided include sprinter Simone Manuel and now-retired Maya DiRado. He is a three-time NCAA coach of the year and led the Cardinal to national titles in 2017 and '18.

Canadian weightlifter Christine Girard received a 2012 London Olympic gold and 2008 Beijing Olympic bronze medal in a ceremony on Monday.

She won the bronze medal in London in the 63-kilogram event. Girard was upgraded to gold after Maiya Maneza of Kazakhstan and Svetlana Tsarukaeva of Russia were stripped of their medals after retests of urine samples were positive for a banned substance.

Girard was awarded the bronze medal from Beijing after Irina Nekrassova of Kazakhstan tested positive for a banned substance.

Real Madrid's Modric wins Ballon d'Or

Luka Modric won the Ballon d'Or award for the first time on Monday, ending the 10-year dominance of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Modric won the Champions League with Real Madrid and then guided Croatia to the World Cup final in July. He was voted player of the tournament.

"As a kid we all have dreams. My dream was to play for a big club and win important trophies," Modric said. "The Ballon d'Or was more than just a dream for me, and it is really an honor and a privilege to hold this trophy."

Ronaldo was second in the Ballon d'Or followed by France forward Antoine Griezmann. France's teen star, Kylian Mbappe, was fourth in the polling. Brazil star Neymar, who was third last year, was12th.

Norwegian forward Ada Hegerberg won the inaugural women's Ballon d'Or.

Modric, who has won the Champions League four times with Madrid, was fifth in Ballon d'Or polling last year.

Ronaldo missed out on a record sixth award, which would have moved him one ahead of Messi.

Diego Armando Maradona's Dorados team has lost a 4-2 match to Atletico San Luis, quashing the Argentine legend's hopes of a championship in Mexico's second division and prompting a confrontation with fans of the victorious team

The Dorados of Sinaloa had won the first leg of the second-division final series 1-0, but saw an initial 2-0 lead slip away on an own-goal by Diego Barbosa on Sunday.

Maradona watched the game from the stands because he'd been expelled from the first-leg game for arguing. Local news media on Monday published videos of an infuriated Maradona hurling unprintable Mexican and Argentine insults and at one point trying to punch someone, apparently while leaving the stadium in the north-central city of San Luis Potosi.

Los Angeles FC has signed midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye to a three-year contract extension. The extension runs through the 2021 season with a club option for 2022.

Liverpool was drawn away to Wolverhampton Wanderers in one of two all-English Premier League matchups in the draw for the third round of the FA Cup on Monday.

Bournemouth and Brighton were also paired in the draw made at Stamford Bridge, the home of defending champion Chelsea.

The holder will begin the defense of the trophy on Jan. 5 with a home match against second-tier Nottingham Forest, which eliminated Arsenal last season.

Premier League leader Manchester City will also face second-tier opposition in Rotherham as does Manchester United, which is at home to Reading

Arsenal received an away draw against either third-tier Blackpool or non-league team Solihull.

Woking, one of two non-league sides guaranteed to be in the third round, will host Premier League team Watford. The other is Barnet, which is away to Sheffield United.

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Copyright 2018 Alaska Dispatch Publishing, LLC
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Alaska Dispatch News

 

High school athletes in Anchorage are sidelined and UAA teams are practicing off campus in the aftermath of Friday's big earthquake.

At UAA, the Alaska Airlines Center and Wells Fargo Sports Complex are closed through Tuesday and possibly longer, the school's athletic director said Monday.

The big concern is the main gym at the four-year-old, $109 million Alaska Airlines Center. A sprinkler system that broke during the 7.0-magnitude earthquake left standing water on the floor, athletic director Greg Myford said.

There is "no word on permanent damage yet," he said Monday.

"No scheduled athletic events have been definitively canceled as of now," Myford added. "All of that is obviously being closely evaluated."

At Anchorage School District high schools, the weeklong closure of schools and the subsequent cancellation of activities comes during a key week for basketball and wrestling teams. It's the first full week of basketball practice and the final week before this weekend's conference wrestling championships.

Because of that, the board of directors of the Alaska School Activities Association on Monday relaxed a couple of rules for those sports.

For basketball teams, the required number of practices a student needs to be eligible for the opening week of the season has been reduced from 10 to five, ASAA executive director Billy Strickland said.

That applies for games scheduled Dec. 13-15. For games on Dec. 17 or later, ASAA's 10-practice requirement will be back in place, Strickland said.

For wrestlers, an additional weigh-in will be allowed for kids who are one weigh-in short of being able to wrestle in a lower weight class at the Dec. 14-15 state tournament. Some tournaments were canceled last weekend because of the earthquake, which possibly deprived some wrestlers a chance to get their needed weigh-ins in a lower weight class.

Wrestling's more immediate concern is if and where this weekend's scheduled Cook Inlet Conference championships will be held. The tournament is scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Chugiak High, but right now every high school in the district needs repairs or cleanups before they can open.

"We hope to know more in the next 24 hours as maintenance works around the clock," Ben Johrendt, an administrator at Chugiak, said via Twitter. "However, I am in the process of getting 2 or 3 alternate sites on board if need be."

If the CIC wrestling tournament winds up getting canceled due to lack of a facility, Strickland said the conference can send its top six seeds in each weight class to the state tournament.

Strickland said he's hopeful the state tournament can be held as scheduled at the Alaska Airlines Center next week.

"We believe there is no reason to worry," he said.

If the arena floor is too damaged for that to happen, he said, "we're going to get the tournament held that weekend at a Southcentral location, either the Valley or Anchorage."

If needed, the Division I tournament for big schools and the Division II tournament for smaller schools can be held at separate locations, Strickland said. Possible hosts include Anchorage Christian School and Grace Christian School, a pair of private schools in Anchorage that survived the earthquake with no significant damage to their gyms.

ACS hosted the final day of last week's Class 2A and Mix Six state volleyball tournaments after Dimond High, which hosted Thursday's games, was closed after the earthquake. And on Monday, Grace Christian provided a place for the UAA men's basketball team to practice.

The nationally ranked UAA women's basketball team took Monday off after returning from a Lower 48 road trip. Coach Ryan McCarthy said the Seawolves will practice Tuesday at the Arctic Rec Center, a non-profit facility in Midtown.

The hockey team was at Sullivan Arena on Monday and will be back there on Tuesday, coach Matt Curley said.

The Seawolves leave town Tuesday night for back-to-back series at Minnesota State and Bemidji State, "so things actually work out well for us hitting the road," he said by email.

Prep hockey, skiing on hold

Although at least one rink at Ben Boeke Arena is too damaged to open, ice rinks at Sullivan Arena, the McDonald Center, Dempsey Anderson Arena and the Subway Sports Center are all operating.

But Anchorage high school hockey is nonetheless on hold, at least for now. The Anchorage School District forbids coach-supervised practices when schools are closed, although practices may be able to resume later this week.

"Many comp teams are adding practices at the Subway arena as the kids are out of school," Dimond coach Dennis Sorenson said of the city's club hockey teams.

Poor conditions have limited high school skiers even before the earthquake, so it was no surprise that this weekend's annual two-day Lynxloppet at Kincaid Park was canceled.

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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

 

Roanoke's parks and recreation leader rolled out a list of "big moves" to the Roanoke City Council on Monday that include building new recreation centers and converting one of the city's pools to a family water park over the next 10 years.

Council members responded cautiously, calling the ideas in an updated master plan "ambitious."

"If the vision doesn't scare you a little bit, it's not visionary," countered consultant Neelay Bhatt of Pros Consulting.

Bhatt and Parks and Recreation Director Michael Clark updated council members on the first new master plan for the department in 18 years during Monday's council meeting.

The so-called big moves include renovating and expanding two of the city's few rec centers, probably Eureka Park and Preston Park, into more appealing multi-use, multigenerational facilities, and building two new ones elsewhere in the city. One would likely be at Fallon Park in southeast Roanoke. No cost estimates were included for any of the ideas.

Either the Washington Park pool or Fallon Park pool would be converted to a water park while the other would remain a competition pool.

A new skatepark, long on the wish list of local skateboarders, is also on the list, proposed for Wasena Park.

The plan also calls for bringing staff levels at last back to what they were in 2008, before the recession. The department is still down 13 positions, most of them in maintenance, from 10 years ago, Clark said. Meanwhile, the city has created new demands with the creation of Countryside Park, the renovation of Elmwood Park and the addition of 14 more miles of greenway trails.

For funding, the plan calls for identifying or creating a dedicated funding stream, and also boosting money taken in by the department by users who pay for facilities and programs. Nationally, Bhatt told council members, parks departments cover 26 percent of their costs that way. Roanoke County covers 49 percent of its costs. In Roanoke, the figure is 8 percent. They aim to lift that to 30 percent, but it can't happen unless the city invests in facilities and staffing.

Clark and Bhatt positioned the proposals as engines for economic development, job creation and boosting quality of life for Roanoke residents.

While outdoors marketing that draws people to the valley's mountain biking and hiking trails drives tourism, they said, quality everyday recreation facilities in neighborhoods will get the next generation of Roanokers to move here.

The plan also aims to rectify decades of slim to no investment in parks and recreation facilities.

The city's newest rec center, in Eureka Park, was built during the Lyndon Johnson administration in 1965. "It's like walking back in time," Clark said.

When Clark came to Roanoke in 2007, he was lured by a $33 million capital plan to pay for a massive public/private facility at River's Edge Sports Complex and a major recreation center in Fallon Park.

The recession wiped out those plans, along with lots of other planned spending in the city.

Since then, the city has returned to capital spending, renovating and replacing fire stations and libraries. Clark told the council it is disheartening for his staff to see new facilities for other departments, while recreation facilities lag behind.

His department's operating budget is still $2 million below what it was before the recession, while most other departments are back where they were, and city spending is above pre-recession levels.

No council member questioned or criticized any of the proposals or the need, but the scale and likely costs seemed to leave them wary.

The council annually struggles with slowly recovering local tax revenues and projections that show balancing the budget won't get easier over the next several years.

"This is all so very ambitious," Councilwoman Anita Price said.

Councilman Bill Bestpitch used the same term.

Price said in an interview she'd like to identify easier and less costly projects that would improve service to tackle first.

"What's the place to start from? I don't know the answer to that."

Bestpitch said the same, and returned to something Bhatt said in response to the same question.

"It's no different than eating an elephant," he said. "You do it one bite at a time."

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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

BENTON, Ark. — An early morning bus crash in central Arkansas on Monday that killed one Memphis child and injured about 45 other children and adults was a chaotic scene as the bus began flipping and tumbling down hills and over a service road, one of the passengers on board said.

Damous Hailey was one of about a half-dozen adults on the private charter bus along with roughly 40 Memphis youth football players, ages 7 to 12. Hailey said he was sitting directly behind the driver.

"I heard her swerve," Hailey, 51, recalled at Saline Memorial Hospital in Benton, where he and some others who were injured were taken following the crash, which occurred about 2:40 a.m. on Interstate 30 west of Benton. "I was seated right behind her, and I knew immediately what was going on as we started just flipping about 15 or 20 times. It went down a hill, over a service road and down another hill."

One child died in the crash. He was identified as Kameron Johnson, 9.

A 'mass casualty event'

During an afternoon press conference at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock, where 26 of the injured children were taken, Trauma Medical Director Dr. Todd Maxson termed the accident a "mass casualty event."

"I'm grateful for the opportunities we've had to drill on this," said Maxson, noting that it helped prepare the hospital staff for the flood of patients that came in to an emergency room that was already full.

By Monday afternoon, 22 of the 26 children brought to Arkansas Children's Hospital had been released to their families and were on their way home. The four remaining patients were stable and expected to recover.

Maxson said two emergency surgeries were performed, and the worst injuries involved "significant fractures" including skull fractures.

The majority of the injuries were termed as less severe fractures and lacerations.

Maxson said while it was fortunate there weren't more serious injuries from such a large group, it wasn't unusual.

"That's the usual scenario," he said. "Very few are critically injured."

Those treated at the hospital were between 9 and 13 years old, according to Chanda Chacon, the hospital's executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Child who died was an Aspire Coleman student

Aspire Public Schools superintendent Nickalous Manning said four of the school system's students were on the bus.

"The student that passed away was one of our dear students, a third-grade student at Aspire Coleman," Manning said.

"We know that this crash has impacted the community in a major way. We know this is more than Aspire Coleman, more than the Raleigh community."

Hailey received injuries to his right side and leg, but he was headed back to Memphis about midday Monday after being treated and released from the Benton hospital.

Rebecca Jones, director of marketing and communication at Saline Memorial, said a total of 13 crash victims, including Hailey, were treated there. All but one had been released by noon.

Hailey said the caravan of about 260 children and adult coaches and chaperones had left a tournament in Fort Worth, Texas, about 10:30 p.m. Sunday. They were traveling back to Memphis in two charter buses and about five vans. The bus that crashed was the second vehicle in the caravan, he said.

"All the kids were asleep within about 30 minutes (of leaving Fort Worth)," Hailey said. "When the bus started flipping, the kids were hollering, and we were trying to calm them down. I was holding on, trying to make sure I didn't get thrown out."

Police: Driver said she lost control

Police say they received an initial statement from the driver of the charter bus, who said she lost control of the vehicle, causing it to roll off the interstate. The bus was owned by Scott Shuttle Service of Somerville, Tennessee.

Hailey said the kids were a collection of players from about 10 youth football teams in the Orange Mound Youth Association. They comprised all-star squads that competed in the Big Tex tournament in Fort Worth. Hailey said they left Memphis on Friday afternoon.

The Arkansas Department of Health said in a Facebook post Monday morning that parents could contact Saline Memorial at 501-776-6272 and Arkansas Children's Hospital at 501-364-1110.

At the time of the crash, the skies were mostly clear in the area, there was visibility of 10 miles or greater and there was no precipitation, according to the National Weather Service in Little Rock.

News of the crash prompted an outpouring of support. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland issued a statement: "On behalf of all Memphians, our hearts and prayers go out to the Orange Mound children and their families involved in this morning's tragic bus accident in Arkansas."

Hailey said as traumatic as the accident was, it probably would not deter him from other out-of-town tournament trips.

"It's all about the children," he said while seated in a wheelchair at the hospital, shortly before beginning the journey the rest of the way home. "I said I'd never ride a bus again, but after we get around these kids and they need us, we'd probably do it again."

What can you do to help?

Shelby County Schools has partnered with nonprofit SchoolSeed to collect money to help the families impacted by the bus wreck in Arkansas. Donations can be made at ignite. schoolseed.org/project/13194We.

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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

Eleven Buffalo parks and athletic fields, situated in all corners of the city, are being targeted for improvements in hopes of getting better use out of them and advancing the school district's sports program.

Funding has not been secured for the project, but a study is underway to determine what needs to be done at the six city parks and five district athletic fields — and at what cost.

City residents are invited to give their input during three community meetings scheduled this week: at 6 p.m. today in Waterfront Elementary, 95 Fourth St.; 6 p.m. Wednesday in Bennett High School, 2885 Main St.; and 6 p.m. Thursday in City Honors School, 186 E. North St.

The 11 sites are:

· All High Stadium at Bennett High School.

· Charles Dingboom Field at Riverside High School.

· Glenny Park on Fillmore Avenue.

· Grabiarz Field at the corner of Military Road and Lawn Avenue.

· JFK Park on Hickory Street.

· Johnnie B. Wiley Sports Pavilion-Masten Park on Jefferson Avenue.

· McCarthy Park on East Amherst Street.

· Mungovan Park on Southside Parkway.

· Olmsted at Kensington Field on Suffolk Street.

· Seneca High School Field at MST on East Delavan Avenue.

· Waterfront-Emerson Young Park on Fourth Street.

"We're not looking to completely redesign these locations," said Andy Rabb, Buffalo's deputy commissioner of public works, parks and streets. "These meetings are more focused on the user groups, and neighborhood groups who are in these parks, and to get their take on what improvements are required, whether it's better lighting or drainage or improved bathroom facilities."

Buffalo Public Schools is trying to elevate its athletics program, but to keep pace with suburban schools it needs better fields and facilities.

"Some of them are to the point where they're getting outdated," said Anibal Soler Jr., associate superintendent of strategic alignment and innovation for city schools.

The city and school district partnered with the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo to secure a $360,000 planning grant from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation. That funding will pay for the study being conducted by SWBR Architects in Rochester, which won the bid.

"The city and the school district are really collaborating on this to see how park and school facilities can be opened up for broader use by the community," said Bill Price, a landscape architect with SWBR and the project manager.

"We're trying to find out from the people who use the facilities what they see could be repaired or improved that would make it a more enjoyable experience," Price said. "Is that more bleachers? Better parking? Making sure the concessions stands are open when things are going on?"

The consultants hope to have another round of public meetings at the end of January, with cost estimates and designs completed by late winter.

The study on the 11 parks and fields is one of three being undertaken, thanks to a total of $1 million awarded by the Wilson Foundation. The other two studies focus on the opportunity for an indoor field house in the city and transforming LaSalle Park on the Lower West Side into a signature park.

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Naples Daily News (Florida)

 

New renderings of Hertz Arena in Estero show it could be a little less sunny and a lot more gray.


Concept plans for the building filed with the village of Estero display step-style bands of gray and yellow staggered around the arena, formerly known as Germain Arena.

Initial paint color plans for the arena, released in September, showed the outside of the building covered in a shade of bright yellow that is synonymous with the Hertz brand.


The more subdued paint scheme is scheduled for presentation at a public hearing before the Village of Estero's Design Review Board at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Members of the Design Review Board will decide whether to approve the updated paint colors. A permit must be issued for the transformation.

Estero's Design Review Board reviews landscaping and architecture of new development in the south Lee County community. The board first reviewed plans for the arena's paint scheme at a public information meeting at the end of September.

Hertz announced it signed a naming rights agreement for the arena in September.

Hertz's initial plans to coat the home of the Florida Everblades with bright yellow paint didn't sit well with many Estero residents, including the town's mayor.

Readers of The News-Press and Naples Daily News Facebook pages had plenty of strong opinions about the plans for the hockey arena - from comparing the chosen yellow to Heinz mustard to calling the proposal an eyesore.

One commenter said, "That color Hertz my eyes."

Estero Mayor Jim Boesch didn't hold back on his feelings either after seeing the first proposal, which he said definitely didn't fit with the town's preferred warmer Mediterranean or softer Old Florida styles.

After reviewing the plans, Boesch said he didn't think they've changed enough to meet the town's rules.

"That yellow, I don't believe that is listed in our color codes," he said.

The Village Council won't likely have a say in the matter, however.

Because it's only a change in the paint color, that's a decision that's usually made solely by the Design Review Board.

The only way the council would get involved in the color choice is if the Design Review Board votes in favor of it and the decision is appealed. Hertz could file an appeal if the paint color is denied, for example, or an unhappy neighbor could if it's approved.

There's a $1,000 cost to file an appeal, and not just anyone could file an appeal.

The Estero arena's color scheme has come before the village's Design Review Board before and faced opposition.

In May 2017, representatives for Germain Arena presented plans to repaint the arena in shades of blue, white and gray that didn't go over well.

The initial plans, which included a blue stripe around the middle of the building, didn't match Estero's design standards, board members said.

Arena representatives ended up revising the design, which the board approved at another meeting later in the same month.

"Hertz is no different than anybody else that comes to us," Boesch said "We don't give exceptions to give people special consideration. They have to go by the requirements that are necessary for the village."

At the first public meeting on Hertz's plans, most Design Review Board members said they needed work before they could be approved. Discussion at the meeting focused on whether the proposed colors adhered to Estero's land development codes.

Most development in Estero follows Mediterranean architecture and design.

In a company statement, Hertz said it revised its design based on the feedback from neighboring communities and the Design Review Board.

"As part of that process, we've partnered with a local architect to help us with the design," the company stated. "We've also reached out to the neighborhoods in close proximity to Hertz Arena for their input on the new direction of the design."

In a phone interview Monday, Thomas Barber, a Design Review board member, said he hadn't seen Hertz's latest rendering so he didn't know any of the details.

"I'd rather not comment on it until the meeting," he said.

This isn't the first time Hertz has proposed something that doesn't fit with Estero's usual mold.

Rather than having a Mediterranean look, Hertz's headquarters is modern, sleek and translucent with a mass of windows, rather than a mass of concrete. Estero's Community Planning Panel gave it a stamp of approval in November 2013, although it's like no other building in town, before the village was incorporated. That paved the way for Lee County to approve the project administratively, with a signoff by staff, and without another public hearing.

Estero Design Review Board meeting

What: Public hearing — Hertz, Repainting, Germain Arena

When:5:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: 9401 Corkscrew Palms Circle

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RIGHT: A rendering of new proposed Hertz Arena scheme from the southwest. Special to The Naples Daily News BELOW: A rendering of the original paint scheme submitted by Hertz for the arena. Submitted
 
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The New York Post

 

The large early point spreads are not a coincidence. They are an indication of misjudgment.

Alabama and Clemson aren't just expected to advance past the semifinal round of the College Football Playoff, the experts believe the two will cruise there, both installed as double-digit favorites, respectively against Oklahoma and Notre Dame, after Sunday's predictably disappointing pairings were announced.

The College Football Playoff committee had a chance to avoid its biggest day being a dud, to be daring, to go against the grain, to trust its members' eyes and not just slide in the team with fewer losses. Instead, it let itself be held hostage by won-loss records.

Instead, it took the easy way out, the people-pleasing route, picking one-loss Oklahoma over two-loss Georgia, taking the lesser team, the one that didn't play a top-10 opponent all season, the 111th-ranked defense that allowed 40 points to Kansas of all teams rather than the balanced group that has the better win, a 19-point victory over No. 10 Florida, and played the vastly superior schedule.

The committee punted its decision instead of going for it on fourth-and-short. This was a conservative move when aggression was needed.

It would've taken guts to side with Georgia less than 24 hours after it blew a two-touchdown lead in the SEC Championship game. It would've taken forward, outside-the-box thinking to choose a conference runner-up over a conference champion. There would've been risk. Still, undefeated Alabama beat everyone but Georgia by at least 22 points. Everyone but the Bulldogs was overwhelmed and stood no chance.

Silly me for expecting anything innovative or daring from the NCAA, which still has this ridiculous notion its amateurism model is in the best interest of student-athletes.

Committee chairman Rob Mullens, in defending his decision, said Oklahoma's defense had played better in recent weeks. The Sooners allowed 437 yards of offense to Texas on Saturday. The week before, they were gashed for 704 yards and 56 points by West Virginia. As impressive as Kyler Murray and Oklahoma's quick-strike offense can be, Nick Saban and Alabama must be thrilled.

"I sure as hell don't want to play them again," Saban said Saturday about a potential Georgia rematch.

The committee granted him his wish and gave the Crimson Tide a layup.

The decision avoids creating future problems. It satisfies the power conferences, because it justifies the conference championship games. Remember, had the Big 12 not added one this year, maybe Oklahoma isn't the choice, since it enabled the Sooners to pick up a significant win over Texas. Even Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, whose league was left out of the playoff for the second straight year, told The Athletic he wasn't pushing for expansion.

Choosing Georgia may have changed things. It may have led to more debate about adding teams — it would've been the second consecutive year the SEC sent two teams to the playoff and you can be sure the other leagues would've screamed until they lost their respective voices — which is what should happen anyway. Under the current model, only the Power Five schools and Notre Dame — which is basically part of the ACC despite its official standing as an independent — have a shot. Central Florida just completed its second straight perfect season and it finished eighth in the rankings. The little guy has no chance.

But extending to eight teams would mean meaningless conference championship games would have to end. The leagues make too much money off those. They don't want to see that happen. They prefer this make-believe playoff when only a handful of teams have the chance to be included. Central Florida athletic director Danny White hit it on the head when he called it an "invitational."

The Sooners are considered a major long shot, 14-point underdogs against Alabama. Notre Dame is getting 11 points against Clemson. This is the first time in the five-year history of the playoff both semifinal games are double-digit spreads. That speaks to the matchups selected.

If the two games play out as expected, we will have the playoff committee to thank. Like everyone else, it saw Georgia nearly stun Alabama and match the Crimson Tide athlete for athlete. It was obvious the Bulldogs were one of the best four teams in the country. But rather than a rematch of that classic, instead of Georgia-Clemson, we get two uneven games, because Oklahoma has one less loss. Because the committee took the safe route that wouldn't upset nearly as many powers that be.

There was a choice here. Remember that on Dec. 29 when you're falling asleep during these mismatches.

zbraziller@nypost.com

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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

 

Welcome to Spin Cycle Sunday. It's the day we craft our College Football Playoff arguments to fit our personal agendas and preconceived notions.

Are you an "SEC 4ever" guy? Then you spent Saturday night kneeling at the throne of ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit, who insisted Georgia should make the playoff because of the "eyeball test."

My rebuttal: OK, but what about the Bulldogs' two losses? Should we pretend the SEC title game, in which Georgia couldn't quite beat Alabama with its backup quarterback, never happened?

Are you a Big Ten loyalist? Then you're still screaming about how one-loss conference champion Ohio State got hosed in favor of one-loss conference champ Oklahoma. You even have the data to prove it: Ohio State beat four teams ranked at kickoff - Penn State (No. 9), Michigan State (No. 18), Michigan (No. 4) and Northwestern (No. 21) - while Oklahoma took down just two: West Virginia (No. 13) and Texas (No. 14).

My rebuttal: Ohio State got smashed by Purdue 49-20 and followed that with uninspired efforts against Nebraska, Michigan State and Maryland. The Buckeyes, despite all that talent, played like a fringe top-20 team for much of the season.

And by the way, what makes us think the Big Ten was any good this season? Wisconsin lost to BYU. Michigan State threw more picks than touchdowns. Penn State almost lost to Appalachian State. Northwestern won the West with an 0-3 nonconference record, including a loss to 4-8 Akron. Michigan lost to Notre Dame without Ian Book or Dexter Williams playing for the Irish.

Are you a Notre Dame hater? Then it's time to scream, "They're disqualified because they're not in a conference!"

My rebuttal: The Irish are 12-0 and stamped out all comers. Until Ohio State joined the fun, they were the only team to beat Michigan. They trounced Stanford, which was No. 7 at the time. Winning at Virginia Tech and USC is no joke, even in their down years. They clubbed Syracuse on a neutral field, and the Orange went 9-2 in their other games with losses to Clemson and Pittsburgh. They beat a rugged Northwestern team on the road. In short, if you don't see Notre Dame as a playoff team, you need to get your eyes checked.

OK, now we probably should get to my view on the playoff and personal agenda: The committee got it right. Hey, these guys can convert a layup!

Alabama is No. 1 and will play No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 29. No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Notre Dame will duke it out in the Cotton Bowl the same day.

Easy call.

CFP Chairman Rob Mullens normally answers questions as if he's a Sleep Machine setting, but he put it properly and succinctly in defending Oklahoma as a "one-loss conference champion with their only loss on a neutral field - a close loss to a ranked team (Texas) they avenged (in the Big 12 title game). And their defense has made some big plays the last couple weeks."

Ohio State is headed to the Rose Bowl, a just reward for thumping Michigan and Northwestern down the stretch.

Coach Urban Meyer was all smiles Sunday - words that have never been written - about his first Pasadena trip, saying on ESPN: "It's all good.... It's a bucket-list thing."

Also good - and noble - was Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany's refusal to lobby on behalf of Ohio State. One, it wouldn't have done any good. Two, he would lose credibility fighting for this Ohio State team after this Big Ten season.

Delany declined an interview request before the Big Ten title game but told ESPN afterward: "I'm not making their case; that's the committee's job. Each year stands on its own basis.... We'd love to be involved, and if we're not involved, we'll go out and have a great bowl season."

This is the second straight year the Big Ten is not in the playoff, and some are saying that's proof the playoff needs to expand.

No, it's not. Look at basketball. The Big Ten typically gets six or seven teams in the tournament. Last year that number was four. The conference was top-heavy and the bubble teams had bad RPIs. Life went on.

My agenda: I do not want playoff expansion, so I root against chaos. College football has the best regular season in sports - the whole thing is a playoff, in many respects - and I want the games to count.

Sorry, Georgia, you lost twice. The good part about being in the SEC is that one loss will always be excused. The bad part is that sometimes to make the playoff, you have to beat Alabama.

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

 

He wanted it.


That's what the wife of a former South-Doyle High School football coach says about the teenage boy she lured into her marital bed after her husband invited him into their home, court records show.

Kelsey McCarter, 29, is asking a Knox County Circuit Court judge to toss out a lawsuit filed against her and her husband - then South-Doyle assistant football coach Justin McCarter - by a 14-year-old boy who says she repeatedly molested him after he moved in with the couple.


She is currently behind bars after pleading guilty in Knox County Criminal Court in 2017 to a half-dozen statutory rape charges involving the boy. But she insists, via attorney Doug Trant, she's no rapist or child molester, and the boy's lawsuit for damages should be dismissed.

"(The boy) claims that he suffered injury from the repeated 'sexual abuse' by Ms. McCarter," Trant wrote in a motion. "However, the complaint is replete with factual allegations allowing the conclusion that (he) was a willing participant in numerous sexual encounters with Ms. McCarter."

Football 'trainee' moves in

Court records show the McCarters moved the boy, who was a football "trainee" of the assistant coach, and his older brother into their home with permission from his mother in July 2014. According to the lawsuit, the boys and their single mother were "experiencing domestic issues," and Justin McCarter agreed to mentor them.

Kelsey McCarter soon lured the 14-year-old boy into a sexual relationship - behind her husband's back, court records state.

The couple, though, began fighting, and Justin McCarter told both boys to leave in August 2015. He denies in a motion to dismiss filed by attorney Julia Anna Trant the marital discord involved his wife's infidelity with the boy. He says he had no idea his wife was having sex with the boy.

But Kelsey McCarter continued the sexual relationship with the teen even after he moved back home and, in October 2015, convinced her husband to move him back into their home. A few months later, the boy posted a nude photo of Kelsey McCarter on social media, and someone alerted school officials.

Kelsey McCarter was indicted and later pleaded guilty in return for a three-year prison term. Justin McCarter resigned as assistant football coach. The boy then sued the McCarters and the school system.

A hearing is set for Monday on their respective motions to dismiss it.

Attorney: Consensual sex, mutual gain

Her attorney says the boy was not sexually abused and, therefore, isn't entitled to try to collect damages. The boy, he says, benefited just as much as Kelsey McCarter did from their relationship.

"By (the boy's) own admission in the complaint, he continued to 'submit' to the sexual contacts with Ms. McCarter because he wanted to return to live with the McCarters," Doug Trant wrote.

"By his own admission in the complaint (the boy) desired and maintained the sexual relationship with Ms. McCarter in order to derive a personal benefit - initially to extend his stay at the McCarters' residence and then to ensure his return therein," the motion continued.

"It was reasonable for Ms. McCarter to believe that (the boy) desired to be involved sexually with her and that he willingly participated in their sexual relationship," it stated.

Julia Trant says it is outrageous for the boy to sue Justin McCarter, who tried to help the boy and wound up the cuckold.

"Plaintiff's complaint represents a profound example of the well-known proverb 'no good deed goes unpunished,' " she wrote.

The school system says it is immune, particularly since Kelsey McCarter was not an employee. The boy blames the school system, in part, for failing to promptly notify authorities.

South-Doyle Principal Tim Berry was suspended for two weeks without pay and assistant principal Clark Duncan was suspended without pay for three days for failing to immediately report allegations of child sexual abuse to the state Department of Children's Services or law enforcement.

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

SEA ISLAND, Ga. - Seattle is one step away from landing an NHL franchise.

Team and city executives have already secured more than 30,000 season-ticket deposits, got an arena plan passed through local government and wowed the executive committee of owners. It all pays off Tuesday when the NHL Board of Governors is expected to approve Seattle as the home of the league's 32nd franchise.

"Seattle's one of the fastest-growing cities in the country," Commissioner Gary Bettman said recently. "It gives us a geographic balance. It creates a nice geographic rivalry with Vancouver. I know Vancouver's particularly excited about the possibility. The ownership group, the plans for the arena - it's all of the above. It's never one factor. If you're going to have a successful expansion application, all of the bases need to be touched and all of them need to be checked off as being appropriate and right."

Timing is the only question.

Renovations to the downtown arena that will be the team's home are scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2020. The uncertainty could lead the NHL to leave the door open to a 2020 or 2021 start or push it back just to be safe.

"Right now everything we've done is kind of geared toward 2020," Seattle Hockey Partners senior adviser Dave Tippett said. "If we can do it in 2020 (we will), but the other thing is you don't want to start it being a month on the road or something, either."

It's more about when than if, given the success of the Vegas Golden Knights' expansion and the $650 million the new owners will pay to join. Seattle is the largest U.S. city without a major winter sports team since the NBA's SuperSonics left in 2008 and it gives the NHL another big TV market.

"It's a big city now. It's a relatively wealthy place. There's an awful lot going on between Boeing and the whole computer industry and all the rest of that stuff," NHL Players' Association executive director Don Fehr said. "It nests very nicely with the teams that are already in the Pacific Northwest. And it gives us 32, which gives us the balance that you would want. In addition to that, when you're looking at markets, if you really want to be a North American league, you want to be in the markets that matter when you can figure out a way to do it, and Seattle is certainly one of those."

Tippett could feel the excitement building when he was back in Arizona over the Thanksgiving holiday, noting that people told him on the golf course they hoped Seattle would get a team.

The board's executive committee voted unanimously in October to push the expansion bid forward and Bettman said he anticipated the full board doing the same. Approval requires a three-quarters vote.

"This can work long term," Seattle Hockey President and CEO Tod Leiweke said. "We have the right building plan, we have the support from the city, the fans are there."

Fans will be watching Tuesday morning at a Seattle tavern when the board is expected to give final approval.

Next steps will include moving forward on arena and practice facility plans and piecing together a hockey operations department that Tippett will likely be in charge of.

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Copyright 2018 Ventura County Star
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Ventura County Star (California)

 

Alleged misuse of district funds and violations of state laws led to the removal of former Buena High School girls basketball coach Dave Guenther, district records show.

According to a letter of reprimand from the Ventura Unified School District, Guenther was removed from his coaching position in October and transferred to a teaching position at another school after he "violated several state laws, district policies/regulations" and protocols relating to the management of Associated Student Body funds.

The district alleges Guenther misused $31,314 on a basketball trip in 2012 in addition to other instances, according to records. On the trip, in addition to the team, 11 adults and four minor children, including Guenther's, attended expense-free, according to the district. In the letter of reprimand to the former coach, the district states Guenther "acknowledged the trip was not to participate in an established tournament but to play in 2-3 individual games."

"The Trust Account financed plane flights, hotels, food (including a meal at Benihanas), surfing lessons, gifts, a Macy's necktie, sunscreen, coffee, gift certificates, interest on a credit card, an elaborate luau for 30 people, and several other expenses for players, coaches and approximately 11 adults and four minor children," according to the records.

Guenther wasn't fired and the district did not send the case to the Ventura County District Attorney's Office. In a statement, the district said there are "limited circumstances" when school districts are obligated to report such incidents.

"In this case, the district determined that the funds that were used inappropriately had either been recovered or were in the process of being recovered," said Anthony Ramos, general counsel for the district, in a statement.

Guenther was an assistant under coach Joe Vaughan for six years before taking over the team in 2007. In 2016 while he was the head coach, Buena became the first girls basketball program in California to earn 1,000 victories.

The Star last month requested Guenther's discipline file, containing the letter of reprimand, from the district under the California Public Records Act. The district complied and produced the document for The Star last week. The Star also requested and was granted 10 years of financial documents from the Buena girls basketball account, which showed Guenther was reimbursed for nearly every request he made — including the trip to Hawaii.

Guenther was allowed to respond to the letter of reprimand, also obtained by The Star. In his response, Guenther states that in his 23 years at Buena High School, there was "NO training with regard to use of funds."

For any sport or club, donations, fundraising and district dollars are funneled into an Associated Student Body account. In this case, it's an account for girls basketball.

"(There was) never a workshop or meeting with administration with regard to 'How funds can/should be spent,' " Guenther wrote. "How can you mismanage funds you were instructed to raise and spend in any way for the girls basketball program. (sic)"

Alleged misuse of funds

The letter from the district outlines multiple allegations against Guenther, including the overpayment of district funds through duplicate invoices, keeping an outside account for basketball funds, misuse of funds (including the Hawaii trip) and inadequate documentation.

The investigation started after a vendor for one of the Buena team's trips made a claim for an unpaid bill to the school site. The district became aware of the claim and did an initial review, then determined that further investigation was required. The district then hired an outside investigator to complete the work, Ramos said. The letter of reprimand is dated Oct. 4.

The district asserts in the letter that Guenther submitted duplicate requests for reimbursement from the account dedicated to the girls basketball program. As a result, he received multiple reimbursement payments for the same expense, "several of which totaled approximately $2,000," according to the letter from the district.

Examples given by the district included a flight deposit for $682 that was reimbursed twice in 2010, $283.18 for T-shirts for cancer awareness that was reimbursed twice in 2014 and several reimbursements for golf balls in 2012, 2013 and 2015 at amounts over $200.

"These overpayments are illustrative of your poor record keeping, and at worst, demonstrate a deliberate attempt to misappropriate district funds by receiving approximately $2,000 in duplicate reimbursements," according to the letter.

But these reimbursements were paid to Guenther, according to financial records obtained by The Star. Reimbursement requires approval from a couple of people at the school site, including the athletic director and an assistant principal.

Ramos said ASB funds are handled at the school site level, for the most part, including reimbursements and documentation. The school board does approve field trips and overnight trips in the consent portion of a regular meeting agenda.

This trip was approved by the board in September 2012 on the consent calendar, according to the minutes from the meeting, the board approved 13 students and two chaperones to attend a tournament in Hawaii.

The district's investigation also revealed "several purchases improperly expensed" to the Associated Student Body account for the basketball team, according to records.

The trip to Hawaii cost substantially more than other trips the basketball team took in previous or subsequent years, according to the district's letter.

The letter states that the Hawaii trip was "largely financed" by a $50,000 donation from the County Schools Federal Credit Union and fundraising. Guenther apparently stated that the other adults and families on the trip reimbursed the account for the trip — but the district said there was no evidence to corroborate that claim.

"You acknowledged that you prioritized the girls' basketball annual trips and appear to have arranged for individual basketball games in Hawaii apparently to enjoy a trip to an exotic locale," the record states. "You viewed the trips as a way to build team bonding and to educate students, many of whom, you said, had never left the state. However, while you may have indeed intended the trip as a reward to students, you, your family, friends and other adults who were 'donors' to the program, also personally benefitted from the trust account funds by receiving an all-expense paid trip."

The adult-to-student ratio on the trip was nearly one-to-one; according to district policy, an average ratio is 10 students to one adult for a trip. According to the letter, Guenther claimed that each adult in attendance had a specific role, including two female chaperones, a scorekeeper, a "statistics keeper, driver and laundry assistant," a "driver and statistics keeper," a "surfing and snorkeling instructor, scout and gopher," a scout and a videographer.

"Many of these roles were superfluous or outright unnecessary," the letter states. "... The Hawaii trip illustrates your longstanding practice of financing the travel, lodging and meals of your parents, wife, friends, donors etc. on out-of-state trips using trust account funds."

The letter states that in addition to the Hawaii trip, Guenther provided multiple explanations for "non-essential adult travel" on other trips to Miami, Texas and Nevada.

The district also asserts funds were misused on "spirit wear" in the amount of "thousands of dollars," gift cards in a limited review of select years amounting to $1,399 and two referee payments from last summer totaling $2,200 — including an attempt at paying himself.

The letter also states that Guenther was reimbursed for the purchase of alcohol for a golf tournament; school districts typically prohibit the use of school funds for the purchase of alcohol. In his response, Guenther said that receipt was "turned in in error."

The district also states that Guenther regularly submitted reimbursement requests that were incomplete or inaccurate, including ones that exceeded the expenses stated in the receipts or invoices. The letter also pointed out related concerns, including the purchase of an iPad and a laptop computer with basketball funds, concerns about golf tournament fundraising and multiple requests for payment over multiple years to Guenther and family members.

The district also states that Guenther has an account with more than $1,000 in basketball funds outside of the Associated Student Body account. In his response, Guenther confirmed an external account existed.

At the end of its investigation, and the end of the letter, the district states that the aforementioned conduct violated state law and district protocols. As a result, Guenther was removed as a coach from Buena and transferred to teach at a different district school.

Coach fires back

Guether in his rebuttal said he hadn't ever been told his expenditures were illegal or mismanaged.

"I was approved every time," he wrote. "The first EVER meeting regarding expenditures happened this year."

He said the policies the district alleges he violated were never presented to him or any other coach in the district.

"Coaches throughout the district are 'very scared' district (sic) will look into their spending and find similar expenditures," Guenther wrote.

He said the team wouldn't have been able to travel to Hawaii without National Tournament Sanctioning or California sanctioning; he said the trip was sanctioned.

He also said his wife had her expenses paid because she was one of the female chaperones. In regard to the reimbursements from the other adults on the trip, which the district alleges don't exist, Guenther said deposits were made to the account and labeled "donation."

"I don't have the receipts for every deposit that year but (the) implication here is that no one paid," he wrote.

Multiple times, Guethner rebutted the notion that he failed to adhere to Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team guidelines, which guide how ASB funds are managed. He said coaches had no such training with expenditures.

"I was an advocate for coaches and athletes just trying to make sure ALL athletes and coaches in the district were treated EQUALLY," he wrote.

Robert Bartosh, the attorney representing Guenther, did not wish to comment further for this article.

The letter of reprimand states that Guenther is to "refrain" from coaching any district-sponsored sport for the next three years.

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Copyright 2018 Chattanooga Publishing Company
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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

ATLANTA -- What was he thinking?

That's the first storyline that will come to mind regarding this stunning, shocking, stupefying 35-28 Southeastern Conference title game victory by Alabama's reigning national championship football team over Georgia on Saturday evening.

As in: What was Bulldogs boss Kirby Smart thinking with 3:04 to go in a tie game when he decided to fake a punt from midfield that went next to nowhere, giving Bama a short field from which to begin its winning drive?

"We had been carrying (that play), actually carried it last year," Smart said afterward. "Thought it was there, and it was there today. We took too long to snap the ball. We had a guy wide open. We took so long to snap it, they recognized it and got the guy covered late."

To semi-repeat the words of Robert Burns: The best-laid schemes of mice and men sometimes go astray.

And so it was that almost exactly as it unraveled last January for Georgia against the Tide inside this same Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the national championship game, the Bulldogs again blew a double-digit lead, again done in by the Crimson Tide's backup quarterback.

Only this backup quarterback, junior Jalen Hurts, was Bama's starter in that CFP title game. The starter who was benched at halftime in favor of the then true freshman phenom Tua Tagovailoa, who went into Saturday as the overwhelming Heisman Trophy favorite. The starter who hasn't been a starter a single time since January.

But then Tua, as most tongue-tied mortals call him due to verbal shortcomings, threw an interception on the Tide's first drive this time around. His receivers then dropped far more than a normal amount of the passes reaching their normally sticky fingers. And the Georgia defense proved far more bite than bark, right down to chasing Tua all over the field until he eventually sprained his ankle in the opening half, going to the sideline for good after injuring his foot with roughly 11 minutes to play.

It is there, Georgia ahead by 28-21 in this wild and woolly repeat of last year's national title game, that the best storyline of this game began.

Because redemption is a much more positive, uplifting story than revenge. And what unfolded atop the plastic grass of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Saturday's final 11 minutes was about as positive and uplifting as college sports gets these days.

Remember that Hurts was 26-2 as a starter for Bama before losing his starting job to Tua. Though Bama coach Nick Saban tried to make it sound otherwise through the summer, as if no decision was final, Tua was making his 13th start in 13 games when the Tide kicked off to the Bulldogs to begin this one.

Hurts, the son of a high school coach, could have pouted and sulked. He's still expected to transfer during the winter, probably to Oregon. But from September through Saturday's first half, he never did anything but be prepared for a second chance.

Or as he told the SEC Network crew Saturday night: "I can't control what's said about me. I have to be ready."

With 11 minutes to go, Bama down a touchdown, Mercedes-Benz sounding 60-40 in favor of Georgia, Hurts was at least equally as ready as Tua had been 11 months earlier inside this same sports palace.

In 13 plays, four of them third downs, he drove the Tide 69 yards for the tying touchdown, Hurts rolling right and delivering a 10-yard laser pass to Jerry Jeudy along the right sideline of the end zone with 5:19 to go.

Then, after Smart's ill-advised fake punt, Hurts deftly orchestrated a five-play 52-yard drive in 2:07, his fleet feet covering the final 15 yards after his 16-yard pass to Jaylen Waddle set up that go-ahead run.

For Peach State sports fans, it has to hurt. It means reliving the NFL Falcons' Super Bowl collapse two years ago against New England. It means reliving January's overtime loss to Bama all over again. It also means that despite holding second-half leads of 13 points and 14 points in separate games, Smart again failed to become the first former Saban assistant to beat him.

Yet it also means that Hurts can put last year's title game and this season's struggles behind him.

"I've probably never been more proud of a player than Jalen," Saban said afterward. "It's unprecedented (what Hurts has gone through losing his starting job). How do you handle that? You've got to have a tremendous amount of character and class to put the team first. That's not easy to do."

Here's character and class: Asked what he wanted to say about this season and last spring, Hurts said, "It kind of feels like I'm breaking my silence. I haven't said anything all year, but this team has worked really hard. Sometimes we're going to get hit in the mouth, but we know that we're going to be fine."

And that was all he said, preferring to let his play speak for itself.

The game long done, his SEC Network interview finished, Hurts spied a young boy from Huntsville in the stands as he left the field. He tossed his towel, his sweatbands and a crimson bracelet to Wyatt Bloom, who later said, a big grin on his face, "I'm putting them in a shadow box in my bedroom. Roll, Tide."

After that came a couple of photo poses with other Bama fans, then a slow jog to the locker room.

But as he exited the field, someone asked which had meant more to him -- the perfectly thrown touchdown pass or the perfectly executed touchdown run?

Said Hurts: "The win."

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com

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Copyright 2018 Wichita Falls Times Record News
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Times Record News (Wichita Falls, Texas)

 

Five weeks from when the Force made their USA-CHL debut, the Wichita Falls hockey team's season is over after nine games.

While Force coach Jesse Davis said he hasn't officially heard from league officials as of Saturday afternoon, this weekend's canceled games because of a lack of prompt payment was the final domino that fell.

The Wichita Falls Force Booster Club announced on Facebook "the boys venture home Monday" as the Force became the second team in the four-team league to fold this week. Two days before, the Texas Lawmen called off their season because of a lack of players.

Davis said Saturday he had a full roster ready to play this weekend, but the Force was never given the chance to skate at Kay Yeager Coliseum. In fact, the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees eventually made the trip up and were sitting around in a Wichita Falls hotel on Saturday.

Spectra general manager Michael Tipton told the TRN that proper payment hadn't been made by 5 p.m. on Friday. "I do have a wire transfer that is pending, but I can't accept a pending payment," Tipton said. "Things can happen to a pending payment."

The general manager also added he spent a considerable amount of time chasing down payments. USACHL CEO and co-founder Bill Davidson didn't respond to a text by deadline Saturday asking about the current developments and a Force representative said they'd been unable to reach him as well.

Davis said he was meeting with players on Saturday to discuss their hockey options. Spectra worked with the Force's players and coach Saturday so that they could retrieve their hockey gear and personal belongings from Kay Yeager Coliseum.

"I'm waiting to hear back from the ownership group before I can say it's official," Davis said Saturday afternoon. "We were supposed to be getting ready to play games. We've had some bumps along the way, but we were excited for this three-game weekend and when that didn't happen, it's disappointing.

"It's been a good ride for me. I've enjoyed myself and I've met some great people. Everyone from the players to the staff, people at the rink, billet families and media, everyone has been awesome."

Davis wasn't the only one disappointed to see hockey's comeback in Wichita Falls end before it got started. Mary Albertson has been heavily involved with hockey in this town and served as a volunteer working with the players and billet families.

"I love what players bring in to our lives and this community. Some of the best friends we have we've made through junior hockey," Albertson said. "I'm just so disappointed. For me, the fact that these kids are collateral damage. These kids are playing the price for the decision this grown man (Davidson) has made. That's what bothers me. He's put these kids' hockey careers in jeopardy and that's what makes me angry. It's a sad commentary that someone would do this and not own up to it."

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

 

EVANSVILLE - Jawaun Newton is a "Yes, sir" type of person.

He's a freshman eager to please and does whatever his coaches ask of him. Recently, University of Evansville basketball coach Walter McCarty sent him video clips to watch on his team-issued iPad. It concerned his defense - Newton's positioning on ball screens and how he could improve at funneling the ball-handler to the sidelines.

That is one of six areas McCarty and his staff emphasize every week: Keeping teams out of the middle. Looking for ways to make an impact, the 6-foot-3 guard made it his primary objective when he's in the game.

"Now he's so concerned with defense for us that he's not looking at offense as much," McCarty said. "I told him last game (Wednesday against Wyoming), 'Look to score. I appreciate you want to help us defensively and that's your concern right now, but don't take yourself out of the play on offense. Don't just move the ball when you get it.'"

The iPads are new this season.

Much of it is the same as what the Boston Celtics used while McCarty was one of their assistants the past five years. Every day is a film day for the Purple Aces with 24/7 access on the go. If McCarty's sitting at home and sees something he wants one of his players to look at, all he has to do is send them a text to go check the iPad.

No waiting around until the next day's film session. The clip is cut and watchable within seconds via an analytics company called Sportscode on a private Hudl account. Players can even go back and watch that day's practice if they want.

It's all at their fingertips.

"We have everything," Newton said. "We have practice from this morning, so we can go back and look at everything we did wrong. It's really good to have because it makes us better. We can also scout teams on there in between classes. We can watch past games, too, to see what we did wrong."

It differs from last year when the players were using the traditional pencil-and-paper.

"Last year we had a big folder with scouting reports in a notebook," UE senior Dainius Chatkevicius said. "We were still writing stuff down. Now we have modern devices so we can just watch film to get scouting reports on the app. I think it's easier and better for us at the same time."

It's part of the culture McCarty is building.

He installed Bose speakers in the practice gym within his first week or two on the job. His players wanted a video-game console in the clubhouse, and it was purchased the next day. Team film sessions obviously still exist, but the viewing was upgraded to rows of home theater seat risers.

The Aces' coaching staff doesn't want their players to feel like they're taking a back seat to anyone. They also want them in the Carson Center practice facility as much as possible. And when they're away, McCarty wants them to still be thinking about the game. It doesn't start next year when arguably their three best players become eligible. It started six months ago.

Players like Newton and fellow freshman Shamar Givance are part of the future.

"He's doing everything we ask him to do - he and Shamar," McCarty said. "Those two guys are going to be great for this program three years from now and hopefully sooner. They're going to help turn this thing."

On another slow start...

A one-point halftime lead against a Division III opponent was less than ideal, but the Purple Aces bounced back in the second half to beat Albion College 65-49 Saturday afternoon at Ford Center.

Four players tied for the team high of 11 points for UE (4-3), which will next travel Tuesday night to face Arkansas State (2-5). Sophomore guard Noah Frederking continued his hot start and was the most efficient offensive player in connecting on 3 of 6 field goals (2 of 4 from behind the arc) and 3 of 4 at the free-throw line.

But it was another slow start for the Aces, who did not score for the opening 7:06 and have averaged 29.5 points in the first half of the last four games. Could there be some changes to the starting lineup? It sounds like it.

"I'm a bad coach right now," McCarty said. "I have to get us out to better starts or get guys in there who can get us out to better starts. We just have to be more engaged. Right now, for whatever reason, we're not engaged. It's unacceptable. That's on me. I have to get guys in there who are engaged and want to play the right way all the time and guys who can build and set a standard with."

UE began the second half with a different starting lineup than it had all season: Givance, Newton, Frederking, John Hall and Chatkevicius. It shot just 25.8 percent in the first half but 51.9 in the second for 37.9 on the game.

"We kind of just went through the motions in the first half and second half we got the ball rolling a little bit," senior guard Shea Feehan said. "But we have to take every game seriously and I don't think we did that tonight."

Albion (4-2) did not shoot the ball well, either. The Britons were held to less than 28 percent in both halves. Their 34 3-point attempts were the most by an opponent in Ford Center history.


Pat Hickey

Columnist

Evansville Courier & Press

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Copyright 2018 ProQuest Information and Learning
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Copyright 2018 The Arizona Daily Star Dec 2, 2018

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

 



At the Pac-12 championship football game Friday, commissioner Larry Scott told reporters the league "should be viewed as a media company and not compared to traditional major conferences."

Regrettably, it's almost as if there's nothing collegial about college sports any more.

Upon reading an Oregon newspaper's provocative four-part series on the lavish spending and dictatorial behavior of Scott, it became clear the Pac-12 has become Moneyball, a game of excess.

Scott has seized so much power that he has blown up what used to be a chummy model that generated goodwill and lifetime relationships.

The Oregonian's John Canzano reported the Pac-12 spends $6.9 million per year to rent a lavish downtown San Francisco space; by comparison, the SEC pays $318,000 in rent for its Birmingham, Alabama, offices.

Canzano described how the Pac-12 high command spent $3.1 million in expenses last year. The Big Ten spent $542,000. He quoted former Washington State athletic director Bill Moos saying "Larry likes extravagance; he runs the Pac-12 like the commissioner of Major League Baseball."

Canzano reported that at a financial discussion with Pac-12 athletic directors in 2014, Scott interrupted a dialogue with former Utah athletic director Chris Hill and told him and the other ADs that "you're lucky for what you get."

Predictably, Scott was greeted by a cascade of boos when presented the Pac-12 championship trophy to Washington football coach Chris Petersen on Friday night. And the happy Huskies fans had just watched their team win a berth in the Rose Bowl.

Is that what the presidents and chancellors of the Pac-12 really want? For its commissioner to be a bigger story than the year's most meaningful football game? For a commissioner to have a reputation as the most disliked person in the league?

Scott travels by private jet, with a driver, flanked by PR people, driven by an ego that surely leads the NCAA in "look how smart I am" chatter.

Here's an example of the excess: Scott created a "Pacific Rim initiative" in which he sends a Pac-12 basketball team to China each November, disrupting their preparation for the regular season.

So far, Arizona has resisted Scott's "invitation."

Maybe that game would work in August or September, but few coaches want to spend a week traveling in November. It is difficult to find a nonconference team willing to play in that game. But the game goes on, even without a nonconference foe.

Scott has ordered Arizona State to play Colorado in China in 2019. What a waste of time and money.

Scott is paid $4.8 million per year compared to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey's $1.9 million. He has a contract that runs through 2022. It doesn't seem likely his bosses - the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors who sanction this excess - will interrupt their day-to-day academic affairs to figure out a way to pay Scott more than $20 million to go away.

How times have changed.

In 2010, longtime Western Athletic Conference commissioner Joe Kearney was dying of cancer. Kearney moved to Tucson in 1994 after serving 14 years atop the WAC.

I met Kearney for lunch one day and as we were talking, he got a call from former BYU athletic director Glen Tuckett, who had just learned of Kearney's illness.

"Glen is flying to Tucson tomorrow to spend a few days with me," Kearney said, his voice cracking. "We have such a strong friendship."

Imagine something like that happening with the current commissioner and a Pac-12 AD of 2018. No way.

Either way, the league needs to restore its image. As Canzano wrote at the conclusion of his four-part series "the erosion of the Pac-12 brand - and trust - are at a breaking point."

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Copyright 2018 Chattanooga Publishing Company
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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

Professional sports leagues, which once vehemently fought the prospect of legal sports betting, are now scrambling to get in on it.

Last week, the National Basketball Association announced it is partnering with Sportradar and Genius Sports to distribute NBA betting data to sports betting providers in the U.S. and Major League Baseball said it is joining with MGM Resorts to become an official gambling partner in the U.S. and Japan. MGM Resorts previously reached similar deals with the NBA, WNBA and NHL, and has a deal with the NFL's New York Jets to promote its properties and mobile app to fans.

FanDuel joined with the NHL and its New Jersey Devils franchise this month for sports betting and fantasy sports play.

"It definitely feels like a gold rush — the new industry with everybody trying to get a piece of it," said Sharon Otterman, chief marketing officer of bookmaker William Hill US.

"As the sports betting landscape continues to evolve at a rapid pace, these new partnerships will provide robust and reliable data to ensure the best possible gaming experience for our fans in the U.S.," said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

Scott Kaufman-Ross, vice president and head of fantasy and gaming for the NBA, said the league has recognized the changing landscape.

"We're going to have better results in a regulated market than an unregulated market," he said.

New Jersey won a U.S. Supreme Court case in May that cleared the way for all 50 states to offer legal sports betting. So far seven states have: Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. And although New Mexico has not passed a sports betting law, the Santa Ana Star Casino & Hotel started taking sports bets last month through a tribal gambling compact.

But in order to win that case, New Jersey had to overcome fierce resistance from the four major professional sports leagues.

Speaking last week at a sports betting conference in New York, MGM CEO Jim Murren said the gambling company and the sports leagues know they need each other in the rapidly changing sports betting environment.

"We don't know how this is going to play out but we know each other," he said. "We've agreed to try to figure this out together."

The sports leagues still have not given up on the idea of gambling companies paying them an "integrity fee," consisting of a piece of the sports betting action ranging from a quarter of a percent to 1 percent.

"We're not interested in paying an integrity fee. We're actually offended by that concept," Murren said. "But we are willing to pay — and pay well — for data and sponsorships and co-branding. In-game betting is going to be so popular that to have league-endorsed data, the most relevant and current, is going to be critical."

But Otterman is concerned that gambling companies have access to betting data from more than one source, fearing that leagues could have a monopoly on their information.

The company that owns the Devils, the Prudential Center where the Devils play and the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers struck deals in October with bookmaker William Hill and Caesars Entertainment for sports lounges at the New Jersey arena, as well as marketing and promotional benefits.

Earlier this year, William Hill agreed to do promotional work and post odds at the home arenas of the Las Vegas Golden Knights.

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Copyright 2018 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

It isn't the Super Bowl.

But with two months to go until the NFL's biggest game kicks off in Atlanta, today's Southeastern Conference Championship football game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium will offer police a pregame drill: a chance to test security measures long before the real deal. The 4 p.m., sold-out matchup between old-school rivals Georgia and Alabama is just one of many events expected to bring 400,000 people into the city. And that's just fine with Atlanta police — the busy weekend provides more practice leading up to the big game.

"A lot of the things that we're going to be doing for the Super Bowl, we already do," Deputy Chief Scott Kreher said. "So this gives us an opportunity to continue to hone our skills for these big events that we have almost every weekend in this city. We're going to use (the game as a test) for the Super Bowl to make that plan even stronger."

Kreher will serve as the unified area commander for the Super Bowl, meaning he's the top guy for the security team that will also include state and local police.

Earlier this week, the NFL approved the multi-agency safety plan for Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3, and the days of events leading up to the game.

"We're accustomed to major events. The Super Bowl is on another level all together," Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos said Friday. "But every major event that we handle, whether it's the Peachtree Road Race or DragonCon, all of those major events give us an opportunity to assess and evaluate where we're at with regard to security."

Extra officers, including those who normally have administrative duties, will be on duty all weekend, Campos said. Other units, including motorcycle officers and SWAT teams, will also assist with security, he said.

On Saturday for the SEC Championship game — just like for the Super Bowl — the Atlanta police department will be home to the public safety headquarters, where dozens of officers will monitor the city. The Joint Operations Center will be home base Saturday for other agencies, including the GBI, FBI and Georgia World Congress Center police, Campos said.

"We'll have people on the ground ready to respond to any event that might need our assistance, to include a crisis management coordinator, special event coordinator and intelligence analyst," FBI spokesman Kevin Rowson said.

Inside the Joint Operations center on Saturday, officers will have access to more than 10,000 public and private sector video cameras: extra eyes to keep watch over the city.

But the Super Bowl isn't just one event. It's a week of events, including various concerts and other fan events.

Traffic is among the biggest concerns, and police are working with MARTA and ride-share companies for alternative pickup and drop-off plans.

But Kreher says the city's security plans are ahead of schedule, and he's confidant the city will be ready come February.

"I know we have a good team in place, and I know we have a good plan. So we'll be ready," Kreher said."I think we're ahead of the game, literally, probably weeks ahead of where they thought we should be."

According to the FBI, two years of planning took place before February's Super Bowl in Minneapolis.

Nearly 2,000 federal agents were in town to assist local and state officers with events leading up to the game between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.

 

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Copyright 2018 Journal Register Co.

New Haven Register (Connecticut)

 



STORRS - Gampel Pavilion was a half-filled building when UConn rolled to a 22-point win over UMass-Lowell a few nights ago.

Empty seats were aplenty as a mere 5,507 checked out the Huskies' 97-75 victory on Tuesday. And yet that paltry number nearly doubled the attendance of UConn's fifth home game of the season, and third at Gampel, a year earlier. Or don't you remember the 3,808 that poured in to Gampel to watch the Huskies edge Columbia, in overtime (!), on Nov. 29, 2017?

You could hardly be blamed for etching that one from your memory.

Attendance hasn't been overly impressive so far in Year One of the Dan Hurley Era at UConn. But it is up from where it was at this point last season - somewhat considerably.

Through their first five home games - three at Gampel, two at XL Center - last season, the Huskies had drawn 29,284 fans. This year, they are at 38,614 - a 28.4 percent increase.

And that number will skyrocket even more on Sunday, when UConn (6-1) hosts Arizona (5-2) in what may end up being its most attractive home game of the season. As of Thursday evening, about 1,000 tickets still remained for Sunday's 1 p.m. tip-off at XL Center. So, there's a good chance the Huskies get their first sellout in Hartford since last season's 20-point loss to Villanova on Jan. 20.

It will certainly top the 6,582 that watched the Huskies squeak by Monmouth, in overtime (!!), in their third XL game last season on Dec. 2, 2017.

"When you get sellout crowds and they're enthusiastic and energized when you run through the tunnel, that's a huge, huge boost," Hurley said after practice on Friday. "Teams that play the best at home usually have great crowds at home, and they use that to spur on the energy."

There may be no sport where home teams enjoy a bigger advantage than in basketball - particularly college basketball. The atmosphere and energy created by a big, loud crowd can intimidate an opponent - and there's almost no question it often influences the referees' whistles, as well. The NCAA's new metric for ranking teams, called NET, heavily skews towards home and neutral-site victories.

"It's huge," said Hurley, in his first season at UConn after spending the last six coaching Rhode Island. "There's a reason why teams who do well as a whole do well at home. In the Atlantic 10, Dayton and VCU had great home records because they had great crowds - enthusiastic, locked-in, sold-out. Those teams become very comfortable playing in front of those crowds at home. It becomes energy that you kind of expect on game night. It becomes fun playing at home."

UConn's attendance may be on the uptick, but it's still a far cry from what it was even five years ago - and certainly 10, 15, 20 years ago. The Huskies did sell out their season-opener on Nov. 6 against Morehead State - their first on-campus sellout since March 6, 2016 against UCF - though an array of last-minute giveaways certainly helped. Syracuse fans outnumbered UConn fans at their rivalry game at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15, and despite the Huskies' invigorating, 83-76 victory, there wasn't a huge navy-blue contingent the following night in a loss to Iowa.

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Copyright 2018 Newsday LLC


Newsday (New York)

 

Former Sachem High School North head football coach David Falco, an alumnus who returned and led the program to a championship, was arraigned Friday on charges that he filed bogus timesheets to steal funds from the school district he has served for decades, Suffolk County prosecutors said.

Falco, 52, a physical education teacher at the school, was charged with third-degree grand larceny and offering a false instrument, both felonies, and official misconduct, a misdemeanor, according to officials and court records.

He was released on his own recognizance after the arraignment in First District Court in Central Islip, and is due back in court Jan. 31. If convicted, he faces a prison term of 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison.

"Not only was the defendant allegedly stealing funds from the school district by falsifying his timesheets, he was also telling other individuals that compensation for that very same extracurricular work was not available," Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini said in a statement. "He used his position to take money from the school and to deny others of their rightful pay."

Prosecutors allege Falco filed as many as eight teacher claim forms to the Sachem Central School District to receive pay for supervising the high school's north weight room between Dec. 11, 2017, and June 12, 2018.

Falco was taken into custody by the Suffolk District Attorney's office on Friday morning. His attorney, John Scott Prudenti, of Center Moriches, said his client committed no crime.

"This is and was consistent with the manner of distributing small stipends to members of the staff which participated in supervision and instruction of the student athletes involved in a very successful program," Prudenti said. "There was no way, no how, that the funds were intended to be used for anything other than the administration of a very successful football program. There was nothing illegal."

Prudenti said the money, $5,755.68, has been repaid.

School district superintendent Kenneth Graham said in a statement that "Mr. Falco has been reassigned to home pending the outcome of the legal process . . . This is an ongoing investigation and the district is continuing to cooperate with law-enforcement authorities."

Falco was the football coach at Sachem North for 15 seasons until his resignation Aug. 15, just days before the start of the season. He also was the school's physical education chairman.

In his resignation letter to Graham, which was obtained by Newsday, Falco wrote, "Please be advised that I am tendering these resignations for personal reasons, and without making any specific or implied admissions of wrongdoing. In fact, I specifically deny same."

Following the resignation, a spokeswoman for the district declined to answer questions about his reference to wrongdoing, saying only that he remained on the school's staff.

Falco is a 1984 graduate of Sachem High and has been at the school since 1996. According to the state Teachers Retirement System, his annual salary was listed as $142,911 for the 2017-18 school year.

As Sachem North's head football coach since 2003, Falco was 82-58 and won the Long Island Championship in 2013.

Falco's father, Anthony, has been on the board of education for most of the past three decades, spending many of those years as its president.

Falco has not returned messages seeking comment since Newsday learned of his resignation in September.

With Joie Tyrrell, Joan Gralla and Jim Baumbach

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Copyright 2018 Richmond Newspapers, Inc.
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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

"We feel great about our candidate pool and believe this institution, our students, fans and team deserve a head coach that is 100% committed to the Charlotte 49ers."

After it was reported by The Athletic's Bruce Feldman on Wednesday that James Madison coach Mike Houston was expected to become the coach at Charlotte, Charlotte director of athletics Mike Hill said in a statement on Friday that Houston's contract offer has been withdrawn.

"Normally, I would not comment on an ongoing search," Hill said in the statement. "However, in light of recent public comments, I feel it's important to update our supporters on the status of our interest in Mike Houston.

"This morning we withdrew a contract offer that had been negotiated in good faith with Coach Houston and his representatives. This was based on the fact that last evening, Coach Houston informed us that he had interest in exploring other head coaching opportunities, while remaining under consideration here.

"We feel great about our candidate pool and believe this institution, our students, fans and team deserve a head coach that is 100 percent committed to the Charlotte 49ers."

The news comes after it was reported on Thursday by Yahoo's Pete Thamel that sources are indicating East Carolina is targeting Houston. ECU fired coach Scottie Montgomery on Thursday.

Houston spoke with media in Harrisonburg after practice on Wednesday evening, following the report about Charlotte. Houston said he was contacted by and spoke with Hill, and told him he was interested in the job. Houston said he had been offered the job at Charlotte, but, "That's it."

"It's unfortunate, it's just a reality of college football right now, with the national signing day being moved up into December, institutions have obviously sped up their process toward going after different candidates for different reasons," Houston said Wednesday.

Houston is in his third season at JMU, where he has a 37-5 overall record. JMU claimed the 2016 FCS national title, in his first season. The Dukes returned to the national title game last season, where they fell to North Dakota State.

JMU travels to face Colgate in the second round of the playoffs on Saturday at 1 p.m.

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