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Copyright 2014 Ventura County Star
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Ventura County Star (California)
Loren Ledin

Jorge Romero helped launch a new boosters club at Santa Paula High School in June 2012, was elected president and set out with an agenda to elevate the football program.

"I did it for the kids," he said. "I grew up around Carpinteria (High) football, and I feel like I know what it takes for a high school team to be successful.

"It takes everybody being on the same page - administrators, coaches and parents - doing what it takes to support the players. Our motto became, 'One team, one town, one goal.' I wanted to build a family atmosphere around our football program."

Just over a year later - a mere two games into the 2013 high school football season - it all went south.

Romero and a junior varsity football coach got into a public spat before a road game at Santa Maria High on Sept. 6. Soon after, the Santa Paula Unified School District announced it had immediately severed ties with the football boosters club and would no longer accept its support.

Throughout Ventura County, the relationships between booster clubs and high school athletics remain a delicate hot-button topic.

"It's a tough, tough issue," concedes Ventura High boys' basketball coach Dan Larson. "We need the support of our parents, but there is the potential for problems."

Romero said he did all he could that night to avoid the confrontation with the coach and tried to walk away when the coach questioned his presence at the game. Romero, however, said the incident epitomized a festering relationship between the boosters and athletic administrators.

The boosters, Romero said, wondered aloud why the district would hire a prospective head football coach in Steve Yarnall in May 2013 and allow the same coach to walk away from the post two weeks later. Mike Montoya, who had been a Cardinals' assistant, subsequently was named head coach.

Romero said the relationship between the boosters and new football staff suffered after that. Even a plan by the boosters to provide pregame meals for players was shot down by administrators, Romero said.

He also said the boosters questioned the disposition of funds collected by parents and allocated to the athletic department.

"It was pretty clear they were unhappy with us in a lot of ways," said Romero.

Daniel Guzman, Santa Paula High's athletic director, said the partnership soured after boosters went beyond their expected roles.

"Booster clubs work best when they support the needs of an athletic program," he said. "There are going to be problems if they're overstepping boundaries."

Guzman said the school district is developing policies to better define those boundaries. "The district would like to have boosters have a clear understanding of their roles in the future," Guzman said.

Essential or unnecessary?

Santa Paula High football isn't the only program to have a run-in with boosters. Buena High football in Ventura had a similar blowup, and today few Bulldog sports' teams operate with a booster club. Camarillo High revoked the charters of its boosters club and started anew with a new club under the banner Scorpion Athletics.

Booster club basics

Ventura High generally discourages the creation of booster clubs as support for its sports teams. Moorpark High has all but ended the use of booster clubs. Instead, it has parent support groups for fundraising and volunteer manpower.

"We had some incidents that caused us to revise our thinking on booster clubs," said Rob Dearborn, Moorpark High's athletic director. "Basically, they didn't understand that it is their role to support the program, and it's the coach's role to coach.

"With parent-support groups, the roles are more clearly defined. They understand they are there to supply the coach with what he needs."

Some schools, however, place booster clubs at the top of their must-have lists.

"We don't survive without them," said Marc Groff, principal at St. Bonaventure High in Ventura. "We're asking them to do so much, both in terms of helping out with fundraising and in providing valuable volunteer hours.

"They're manning the snack bars and selling the programs. In many cases, we need them for transportation in getting our athletes from one site to another."

Thousand Oaks High athletic director Gary Walin agreed. "They're a very important part of our sports programs, and I don't know what we'd do without them," he said. "We'd tried to be very proactive in defining their roles, and in letting them know exactly what is needed from them. It's very much two sides working together."

"We don't make it without them," said Rio Mesa High athletic director Brian FitzGerald. "In these times, it can be a struggle just to get through a season and pay for all the things teams need. We're asking a lot of parents, and we certainly appreciate what they do for us."

Buying extra stuff

Booster finances cover a broad range (Scroll down for charts and fundraising totals)

The financial pictures for athletic booster clubs range from six-figure budgets to bare-bones operations, tax filings show.

The Westlake High School Football Boosters Club spent about $250,000 in the 12 months ending February 2012 and had revenues of almost $257,000, according to public records.

The figures come from financial reports that large and medium-sized nonprofit groups must file with the Internal Revenue Service and that are posted on the website, www.guidestar.org. The site is operated by GuideStar, a nonprofit organization that provides information on the nation's charities.

Football boosters at Newbury Park High School reported spending of $122,000 last school year, according to records that an umbrella group for the school provided to The Star. The figures come from Newbury Park High School Boosters, which reports revenues of about $1 million a year for a combined 20 educational, sports and arts programs at the campus.

IRS filings show lower levels of spending on the west side of the Conejo Grade and in Simi Valley. Some highlights:

Simi Valley High's football booster club reported spending $44,643 in 2012, with revenues running about $3,000 under that.

Camarillo High's Scorpion Athletic Booster Club reported revenues of almost $84,000 and spending of almost $57,000 in 2012.

At Rio Mesa High on the eastern edge of Oxnard, the athletic booster club reported spending close to $52,000 and revenues of almost $56,000 in the 2011-12 school year.

In Ventura, the Buena Football Booster Club reported spending a little more than $15,000 in 2011.

Endowments, investments and excess earnings provide a financial cushion. Those dollars, reported as year-end assets or fund balances, can run into six figures or under $30,000. They allow clubs to pay for upfront expenses for fundraisers, said Lori Salazar, treasurer of the Buena Bulldogs Football Boosters Club.

Rio Mesa's booster club, which supports a variety of sports programs, reported year-end assets of $164,260. About half of that lies in an endowment at the Ventura County Community Foundation, according to the club's tax filing for the 2011-12 year.

The endowment yields an annual check of about $3,000, Treasurer Erin Selig said. She said the club cannot touch the principal.

Year-end assets exceeded $300,000 for sports-related activities at Newbury Park High at the end of June, according to records provided by the campus booster club. For football alone, the year-end balance totaled about $39,000.

The balance totaled about $92,000 for Westlake High's football booster club for the 12 months ending in February 2012. In contrast, the football booster club for Buena High reported about a $26,000 balance in 2011.

Salazar said the club had less money because Ventura is a less affluent area than Westlake or Newbury Park, plus the school's former coach prohibited year-round fundraising. The club still exists as a nonprofit organization but is not actively raising funds, she said.

Some clubs are not represented on the guidestar.org site. Nonprofit groups with $50,000 or less in gross receipts may file a postcard tax form, which does not show financial details.

Most high schools in Ventura County need annual athletic budgets of $75,000 to $150,000, and some rely on boosters to raise as much as half of that.

Westlake High football boosters raised $257,000 for its program over a 12-month period ending in February 2012, according to records filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

Newbury Park football boosters raised about $90,000 last school year, according to club records. Athletic boosters at Fillmore High collected $79,000.

School districts generally cover such items as facilities, uniforms, a minimum number of coaching stipends and referee fees. Transportation costs to away games usually come from fees collected from student-athletes.

The extra stuff? That comes from parents or booster clubs.

"If the baseball team needs, say, a pitching machine, we go to the boosters," said FitzGerald. "If we're looking for an extra set of uniforms, we go to the boosters. It's all about the additional items that mean so much to a program."

Fees for entering pre-league tournaments come from fundraising activities. So do stipends for additional assistant coaches.

Camarillo High's booster club is trying to raise $1.7 million to transform the school stadium grass field into Tartan turf.

School districts and community bonds generally fund stadium renovations, but the amenities often come from parental fundraising. When Thousand Oaks High converted a baseball field into a softball facility, parents paid for the scoreboard and bleachers.

Schools say they do their due diligence in policing all funds raised by boosters.

In the Conejo Valley Unified School District, for example, booster clubs must give an accounting of funds to the athletic director, who sends it to the principal for approval. Once school officials sign off, the tally sheets go to the district auditor for a final review.

'Bad things can happen'

The tricky part, according to coaches and school administrators, is whether fundraising should earn a booster club a say in the school's sports program.

Boosters say yes - to a point.

"I don't think it hurts a program to listen to what the boosters have to say," said Romero. "We care a lot about the kids. We want to do what's best for them."

Paul Hinojosa, who was vice president of the Santa Paula High boosters and a former football player at the school, said boosters should have input on important administrative issues, such as the hiring of a head coach. "But when it comes to a coach's decisions and things like playing time, parents need to stay out of that. That's the point we always made to all our parents," he said.

Westlake High football coach Jim Benkert said he attends every meeting of the football boosters, but he has a steadfast rule - he won't discuss coaching decisions or playing time.

"The job of a booster is to come to the head coach and ask,'What do you need?' It might be a new blocking sled or some uniforms or whatever," said Dave Hess, athletic director and assistant football coach at Ventura High.

"Boosters do so much that is good, but unfortunately there are some who believe that what they do comes with a sense of entitlement. No good is ever going to come of that. All it does is produce conflict inside a program."

Craig Williams, the athletic director and boys basketball coach at Buena High, said discouraging booster clubs eliminates potential problems.

"For all the good they do, bad things can happen," he said. "One booster might contribute more money than another and ask,'Why is his kid getting more playing time than mine?' Those are things we always want to avoid."

Buena and Ventura are among the schools that have altered their approaches to financial help. Rather that asking booster clubs for support, the schools' individual sports teams hold their own fundraising activities.

Do's and don't's

Booster best practices

Thousand Oaks High created a handbook that is distributed to each member of every booster club throughout the school year.

"It's something we created throughout the years and tweak most every year," said Walin. "It's just our way of being proactive in the process."

The 14-page handbook includes sections on philosophy, relationships with coaches and, most importantly, handling finances. The DO's and DO NOT's section includes: DO hold banquets and booster meetings on campus. DO NOT hold functions in private homes. DO coordinator fundraising efforts through the Athletics Office. DO NOT compete with other booster clubs on fundraising.

Hinojosa said the players were the victims of the Santa Paula conflict.

"It's very discouraging," he said. "I coached most of the kids in youth football for five years, and it was our goal to be there for them. We brought them meals, we helped raised money for equipment and fees.

"We were talking to merchants and store owners, and everybody seemed happy to get involved.... It's tough to lose that."

Hinojosa said that with boosters and schools, "everybody has to work together and stay on the same page. If you recognize that it's for the kids and strive for transparency, then everybody benefits."

 

March 1, 2014

 

 
 

 

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The Virginian-Pilot(Norfolk, VA.)
By John Branch

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease linked to repeated blows to the head, has been found posthumously in a 29-year-old former soccer player - the strongest indication yet that the condition is not limited to athletes who played sports known for violent collisions, like football and boxing.

Researchers at Boston University and the VA Boston Healthcare System said Patrick Grange of Albuquerque, N.M., was the first soccer player found to have CTE. On a 4-point scale of severity, his disease was considered Stage 2.

Soccer is a physical game, but rarely a violent one. Players collide or fall to the ground, but the most repeated blows to the head may come from the act of heading an airborne ball to redirect it.

Grange, who died in April after being found to have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, was especially proud of his ability to head the ball, said his parents, Mike and Michele. They recalled him as a 3-year-old, endlessly tossing a soccer ball into the air and heading it into a net, a skill that he continued to practice and display in college and in top-level amateur and semiprofessional leagues in his quest to play Major League Soccer.

Grange suffered a few memorable concussions, his parents said - falling hard as a toddler, being knocked unconscious in a high school game and once receiving 17 stitches in his head after an on-field collision in college.

"He had very extensive frontal lobe damage," said Dr. Ann McKee, the neuropathologist who performed the brain examination on Grange. "We have seen other athletes in their 20s with this level of pathology, but they've usually been football players."

The damage to Grange's brain, McKee said, corresponded to the part of the head that Grange would have used for headers. But she cautioned against broad conclusions.

"It is noteworthy that he was a frequent header of the ball, and he did develop this disease," McKee said. "I'm not sure we can take it any further than that."

CTE is believed to be caused by repetitive hits to the head. Once considered unique to boxers, it has been diagnosed over the past decade in dozens of deceased football players and several hockey players. Symptoms can include depression, memory loss, impulse control disorders and, eventually, progressive dementia.

 
 
February 28, 2014
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 The Columbus Dispatch
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Several media outlets reported early in the week that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany was seeking input from school officials about playing Friday night football games. The quest apparently came in part because a television network might demand it to be part of a deal as the conference seeks to sweeten that already lucrative pot once the Big Ten contract goes up for bid in advance of the expiration of its pact with ESPN-ABC after the 2017 season.

Yesterday in Chicago, Delany said the league is not looking to schedule Friday football games, except on Thanksgiving and Labor Day weekends.

"Beyond that, I don't think while I'm around here you're going to see Friday night games," he said. "Down the road? Who knows?"

This makes it sound as if the "input" Delany received was decidedly against the idea. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said through a spokesman the idea is "exploratory" at the moment, and that there has been no serious discussion about it yet. He added that the Ohio High School Athletic Association would be made aware of any plan for a Friday night OSU game as far in advance as possible if/when it might happen.

The initial reaction on various social-media sites is that it would be an invasion of the "Friday Night Lights" window long held by high-school football across the country, and considered sacred by many in Ohio. An Ohio State game on a Friday night -- whether at home or on the road -- no doubt would put a dent on attendance at high school games in the state.

There have been televised college games on Friday nights for several years from various other conferences.

Daniel Paladini, a central midfielder acquired by the Crew from the Chicago Fire for a fourth-round draft pick in December, appears to be a long shot to be ready for the start of the season.

Paladini, 29, has practiced one day in the past three-plus weeks because of knee inflammation/fluid. He is expected to get some spot starts this season, although he came off the bench for Chicago the past two seasons after logging 16 starts in 2011.

Clark MacLean, the son of former Blue Jackets president, general manager and coach Doug MacLean, is working for Achieve Sports Management with hopes of becoming a sports agent. Clark, 26, played hockey for the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets and went on to a brief pro career.

His father guided the Columbus franchise from its beginnings until his firing after the 2006-07 season. He has spent recent seasons as a radio talk-show host and network hockey analyst in Toronto.

By releasing linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, the Cleveland Browns can add another position to their "need" list that already includes quarterback, receiver, running back, cornerback and guard. The list might grow even more if center Alex Mack and safety T.J. Ward decide to become free agents.

The team's new front office obviously felt that Jackson wasn't worth the high cost; he had a $4 million roster bonus due March 16 as well as a $100,000 workout bonus. He was set to earn $3.933 million next season, $6.4 million in 2015 and $7 million in 2016.

But the Browns appear unlikely to get immediate help in the draft: The inside linebacker group is thin and the best of the group -- C.J. Mosley of Alabama -- isn't good enough to be considered with the fourth overall pick but probably will be gone by the time the Browns pick again, at No. 26.

Pickings also appear slim in free agency. Donald Butler of San Diego and Brandon Spikes of New England might enter the market, but the Browns probably would have to overpay to get them. Karlos Dansby of Arizona might also reach free agency, though he will be 33 in November, two years older than Jackson.

Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said the big pay raises awarded to the football coaching staff this week will not result in higher ticket prices. He told reporters in Grand Rapids, Mich., that he believes keeping Spartan Stadium filled is a priority for the school.

"The revenue growth will be in expanding the number of people sitting in the seats," Hollis said. "It's a call to action to our fans that we need you in our stadium."

Coach Mark Dantonio received an 83 percent raise to his six-year rollover compensation package, up to $3.64 million annually. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi had his three-year contract upped by more than 75 percent, to $904,583 annually.

"The compensation is not only a reward for what's happened the last seven years but the anticipation of where I think our program is headed in the future," Hollis said.

The Spartans beat Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game and then beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

Former Cincinnati Reds third baseman Scott Rolen set foot on a big-league field this week for the first time since 2012, appearing before a Blue Jays-Phillies spring-training game as an inactive but not officially retired player.

Reds manager Bryan Price made it clear to The Cincinnati Enquirer that the team would like to have Rolen assume a role in the organization, but there was no indication that Rolen is ready for that. He told MLB.com he has not figured out how he will replace baseball. He plays golf, works with his charity, helps the basketball and baseball programs at Indiana University and coaches his kids.

"I'll tell you what I miss: I miss the accountability," Rolen said. "I miss having a job. I miss having a drive, a direction and being tired. I miss being miserable. That's one of the biggest adjustments.... You put in so many hours of work doing one thing, and then you're not doing it anymore. I'm a driven person, and you can't drive 100 mph to the golf course."

Bob Hunter is a sports columnist for The Dispatch.

bhunter@dispatch.com

@dailyhunter

 

February 28, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
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The Philadelphia Daily News
By Bob Cooney; Daily News Staff Writer

These three letters seem to have NBA coaches cringing. Is the way of AAU youth basketball part of the reason why professional talent seems a bit thin right now? Could the AAU game be doing more harm than good in the development of players?

More and more, when coaches and NBA executives talk about the lack of fundamentals in players entering the college and pro ranks, the first three letters they usually utter are AAU.

This is not a dig against AAU. It really is the true major highway to travel in order to get noticed during high school and thus land a college scholarship. There are many great AAU coaches out there, some wildly successful not just in terms of wins and losses but also in sending their players to terrific college programs. The tournaments throughout the country provide college coaches with a chance to make one stop and see multiple players who may be able to help their programs. That is a huge plus, as it isn't as rigorous as traveling all over the country to different high school gyms to evaluate talent (though college coaches do that, also).

So as far as recruiting and showcasing talent, there is no question that AAU is the leader in helping coaches do their jobs.

The one drawback may be this: Are the kids learning how to play the game properly? Are they understanding the meaning of winning and losing? Is it simply a way to audition individual talent with no concept of team play?

But you can't say it's all good or it's all bad. There are no definitives here. But it's worth talking about.

Former Sixers coach Doug Collins often broached the subject of AAU basketball during his three seasons at the helm, saying he had to "break his players of their AAU mindset."

"The problem is that kids are just going out and playing games, playing games and playing games," Collins said. "A lot of times it's tough for them to really grab the concept of how to win a game. When should they foul towards the end of the game? What is a good shot at the end of the game and what is a bad shot? Those are the things that worry you.

"Plus, with so many games being played, the players learn to pace themselves. They won't go hard in some games because they are saving it up for a 'bigger' game later that day. That's not good. When you get to the college and pro level there is no time to play easy. You have to play hard every minute of every game."

This current group of Sixers is struggling beyond imagination at the defensive end of the court. They are giving up a league-worst 110.9 a game and have allowed more than 100 in their past 12 games, not coincidentally losing them all.

It has caused obvious concern for coach Brett Brown, and he directly linked his team's defensive woes to AAU basketball.

"I think it's a byproduct of [AAU]," Brown said of many players playing poor defense in the NBA. "I see it with my 9-year-old son [Sam]. You play three games in a weekend, you lose and you just go play another game. And then you lose and you just go play another game. I see some of my guys [who are like that]. I told Tony Wroten, 'You've been AAU'd, and that's not a good thing.' You look at the players that are young that just come in and don't have that [fight]. With all the great college coaches out there, the background of just fundamental defense [isn't there when the players get to college]. So you discount losing and dismiss losing too easy because you've played, at 16 years old, 70 games and you play games and just move on. Or you really haven't had the teaching behind playing defense [before college].

"At the end of the day I feel like the team is an extension of the coach's personality, and to date, this team is no reflection of how I want to tick and feel how I do tick. We have to keep on persevering and demanding and asking. I think the youth coming through does reflect that [poor defense]."

Collins thinks the grind of the summer AAU season also has made European players more prominent in the United States.

"Kids who play AAU are so exhausted come July from playing so many games," he said. "European players work on their skills during the day. It is a huge point of emphasis. They practice for hours a day on their individual skills and then they are ready to play a team game. I'm not sure that AAU ball allows for players to work so much on their skills. It's a showcase. It's more about showing themselves than having anything to do with team basketball.

"Sometimes I feel sorry for high school coaches who get these kids back for their season and then have to reteach them how to play a team game."

There are pros and cons, obviously, but there is no doubt that AAU speak has been creeping into a lot of talk around the NBA lately. DribblesUPCOMING GAMES

Washington Wizards at Sixers

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Wells Fargo Center

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet, NBA TV / ESPN (97.5 FM)

Game stuff: The matchup on the floor doesn't mean anything; this is Allen Iverson's night, when the organization will retire his No. 3 jersey. With so little to cheer about during this season, get there or tune in. It most likely will be pretty special.

Sixers at Orlando Magic

When: Sunday, 6 p.m.

Where: Wells Fargo Center

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet / ESPN (97.5 FM)

Game stuff: The Magic, another of the many lowly teams in the NBA, took it to the Sixers on Wednesday behind Saint Joseph's and Chester product Jameer Nelson, who posted his fifth double-double of the season with 16 points and 12 assists, and former Sixer Nikola Vucevic, who collected 21 points and 13 rebounds, his 26th double-double of the season.

Sixers at Oklahoma City Thunder

When: Tuesday, 8 p.m.

Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet / ESPN (97.5 FM)

Game stuff: When the Sixers arrive, the Thunder will be finishing up a six-game homestand. They lost the first two games, so they will no doubt still be stinging a bit when the Sixers visit. Russell Westbrook, back after missing 27 games with a right knee injury, should be more in the flow by the time this game rolls around, which isn't good for the Sixers, obviously. BY THE NUMBERS

15.5 and 15.8: That is the average points and rebounds posted by former Sixer and current Orlando Magic Nikola Vucevic in five games against the Sixers.

12: That's how many consecutive games in which the Sixers have given up at least 100 points, the longest such streak in a season since 14 straight times in 1989.

4: That's how many consecutive games the Sixers have been outrebounded by in double digits.

On Twitter: @BobCooney76

Blog: ph.ly/Sixerville

 

Photograph by: STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

 

February 28, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
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Palm Beach Post (Florida)
By Hal Habib Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

The buckle-your-seat belt emotional roller coaster ride Richie Incognito has been on since last fall took an even stranger turn Thursday morning when he told police that damage inflicted on his new Ferrari was done by Incognito himself.

Police in Incognito's hometown of Scottsdale, Ariz., confirmed to The Post that they were tipped off by TMZ.com on Wednesday that someone had vandalized the black sportscar parked outside Incognito's home. But when an officer visited the address, he did not find the car and received no answer at the door. Thursday morning, Incognito told an officer he damaged the car and did not wish to file a report.

TMZ posted a photo showing a bat lying in front of the car, a piece of the bat in the grill, and damage done to the car's hood.

It was not known what triggered the outburst in Incognito, whose emotional swings have been displayed via Twitter, although he now appears to be on hiatus from tweeting. A message left for Incognito's agent, David Dunn, was not returned.

Early last season, Incognito told NFL.com he was taking Paxil, a medication used to treat disorders including depression and anxiety.

Incognito took delivery of the car, with a list price of about $295,000, in November, at the height of the bullying scandal involving Dolphins teammate Jonathan Martin.

Incognito's NFL career has been in limbo since he was suspended by the Dolphins for his role in the Martin bullying scandal, which escalated Oct. 28 when Martin walked out on the team following a prank in the team cafeteria.

TMZ said it obtained court documents showing that three days later, Incognito's parents filed for divorce. In the documents, Incognito's father said Richie was supporting the family.

Although he was portrayed in Ted Wells' report as the ringleader in harassment directed upon Martin, Incognito continues to have support within the locker room. Offensive tackle Tyson Clabo, speaking on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Thursday, voiced support for Incognito as well as two men fired by the club: offensive line coach Jim Turner and trainer Kevin O'Neill.

Clabo said situations described in the Wells report simply don't translate from what players experienced at the time.

"When you're in a situation, as it's happening, you think this is one of the funniest things I've ever been a part of," Clabo said. "It's hilarious and everybody's laughing, just falling out of their chair laughing so hard. Then you go and you try to explain it or tell the joke after the fact and people don't think it's funny. At the time, this stuff was hilarious, but it doesn't transfer over into the real world, I guess."

Incognito was named a Pro Bowl replacement after the 2012 season and would have been honored again, Clabo said.

"Richie was going to make the Pro Bowl," Clabo said. "He was playing at a really high level. He made it the year before and he definitely wasn't playing any worse."

Pro Football Focus rated Incognito tied for 24th among 81 guards. He allowed six sacks in eight games, according to PFF. Only five guards allowed more in 2013.

Clabo also stood up for Turner, whom Wells described as complicit in harassment.

"Jim Turner is one of the best coaches I've had the pleasure of being around and for him to lose his job is unfortunate," Clabo said.

Clabo was asked if, given all that has occurred, it wouldn't be best if he signed elsewhere. Like Incognito, Clabo is about to become a free agent.

"That's hard to say without being here and knowing what's going to happen," Clabo said. "If it's time for me to go somewhere else, then that's what we'll do."

hhabib@pbpost.com Twitter: @gunnerhal

 

February 28, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
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The Philadelphia Inquirer
Inquirer Editorial: Don't give up on Temple teams

Sometimes it takes guts and money to reverse a controversial decision. Temple University's board of trustees needed ample helpings of both to reinstate the men's and women's crew teams this week. Now it needs to similarly figure out how to save other sports programs.

Collegiate athletic competition provides students with valuable lessons in sportsmanship while instilling a sense of community among students, alumni, and fans. That community stepped up to save Temple's crew program, which has been operating out of tents ever since its boathouse, the city-owned East Park Canoe House, was condemned in 2008.

The city and Temple board member H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, a part-owner of The Inquirer, will spend $5.5 million to restore the historic Canoe House. The city also will spend $1 million to repair a nearby retaining wall on the Schuylkill, and is wisely investing in a storm-water management system to prevent future deterioration. The refurbished boathouse also may be shared with a high school rowing program, further deepening Temple's ties to the community.

Temple's decision to continue crew saved the university and the city the embarrassment of not seeing the Owls participate in the nation's most prestigious college regatta, the Dad Vail, which is hosted on the Schuylkill, the leading venue for rowing in the country. But despite being happy about that, the rowers expressed concern about their fellow athletes.

Temple still plans to cut baseball, softball, men's gymnastics, and the men's indoor and spring track-and-field teams. The decision ignores survival plans that the teams have been trying to devise.

Temple board member Lewis Katz, who is also a part-owner of The Inquirer, has offered a $70,000 matching grant to the men's gymnastics team to convert it into a club sport. The gymnastics coach said he could meet that challenge. Meanwhile, the baseball team has secured a commitment from the Camden Riversharks to play at Campbell's Field, and it is working on a deal with the Phillies for a practice field.

Temple should not be criticized for trying to keep costs down in an era when college has become less and less affordable. In a letter to trustees, Temple President Neil D. Theobald said the school's athletics programs were "woefully underfunded." He said the university would need an endowment of more than $60 million just to sustain its teams, and also revealed that the U.S. Department of Education was investigating Temple's adherence to Title IX gender equity standards.

This situation did not develop overnight. It's a result of today's postrecession fiscal realities and some rather curious ideas about supporting athletic programs, including a proposal to build an expensive football stadium instead of dividing the funds to help other sports.

Students and coaches of teams on Temple's extinction list have been scrambling since they found out about it in December to come up with alternatives, but they need more time. The least the university can do is give them that. They deserve a sporting chance to fight for their survival.

 

February 28, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Paul White, @PBJWhite, USA TODAY Sports

The dirt-kicking, cap-flipping, vein-popping argument that has been part of baseball's fabric for a century and a half is about to give way to a more modern way of deciding who's right.

Notoriously slow to embrace change, Major League Baseball is unveiling a replay system it says will be the most expansive of any sport's and perhaps put an end to missed calls by umpires.

The system will cover almost every play except balls and strikes, checked swings, a trapped ball in the infield and the so-called neighborhood play -- when a defensive player turning a double play comes close to second base but perhaps does not actually touch it.

But if it's about whether the go-ahead run was safe at home plate? Check the replay.

It starts for real March 30 in San Diego, where the Padres will play the Los Angeles Dodgers, but test runs are being conducted throughout spring training, which began this week.

"When we started this thing, we said, 'What can be so tough about watching TV?'" says ex- player and manager Joe Torre, who is the MLB executive vice president in charge of developing and implementing the system. "It becomes quite complicated."

Just ask the 30 managers who are facing not only new rules but also new strategy.

Managers are allotted one challenge a game, where they can force the umpire to have a play reviewed at a command center in New York that is manned by an umpiring crew. If the manager is correct, he gets a second challenge. After the sixth inning, umpires can initiate a review, but only if the potentially aggrieved team has used its challenge.

Before a challenge, though, managers will have to assess whether the call is likely to be overturned -- and, in most cases, they'll have to do so quickly.

Every clubhouse in every major league ballpark will have a mini-command center in which teams can see the same video feeds. But unless the play in question ends an inning or there is a pitching change, teams will be pressed to make a call -- and there's no tolerance for stalling.

That doesn't mean managers won't try. Several have already added a term to baseball lingo: Turning the manager.

Pay close attention to where managers stand when they go on the field to talk with umpires and whether they have a view of their coaches in the dugout. As Philadelphia Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg explains, they'll "kind of work around, get a look at the bench, then make a judgment (based on what the coaches say) whether to challenge or not."

Teams will be hiring replay specialists -- some clubs are considering ex-umpires -- or reassigning staff to monitor the clubhouse video and call the dugout with advice.

One American League manager, who requested anonymity for competitive reasons, told USA TODAY Sports he wants an ex-ump even though the team video coordinator, who already handles the equipment players use to analyze their play or to study opponents, might be more tech-savvy.

"My video guy is too much of a fan," says the manager, who already has begun the interview process. "He'd think we're getting screwed on every play. I want someone who can interpret the rules and make a calm decision."

Torre estimates the average challenge and subsequent replay can be done in 60-90 seconds because umpires will connect with the New York command center through a headset behind home plate and be told the decision.

Although everybody acknowledges there will be hiccups, baseball's step into the 21st century is mostly being lauded. That is except for some baseball purists -- and they are of all ages.

"Some of the greatest stories we know and the most heroic tales are when something bad happens," says Matt Moore, 24, a Tampa Bay Rays pitcher. "Not everything is going to go your way. Stuff happens. I think being able to overcome that adversity is part of the story.... Seeing the manager turn his hat around and get nose-to-nose with the umpire is part of it, too. That's part of our sport."

Managers impressed

Rays manager Joe Maddon went into a recent replay demonstration and briefing that every club has received saying, "Maybe I'm underplaying this, but just tell me how it works."

He came out three hours later gushing about the technology and attention to detail.

"There are things that may have to be addressed as we move it along," Maddon says, "but they thought about everything -- at least it seems that way."

MLB won't give a cost estimate for all of the technology and infrastructure, but the biggest expense is making sure all the video feeds are available in the clubhouses and in New York.

The room in New York is "a TV lover's dream," says Tony Clark, executive director of the players union, which has signed off on the plan. "You have umpires. You have a technician, two monitors and a number of screens around those monitors."

That's for each game.

Every camera from any entity telecasting the game will be available to everyone, eliminating potential conspiracy theories about a home-team director conveniently not having a particular angle available.

MLB added two umpiring crews for this season because two crews will rotate through the command center to handle challenges. One ump will be assigned to monitor two games at a time. Nearly all of the 74 umpires have completed their training.

It's supposed to eliminate controversies such as the blown call in 2010 that deprived Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga of a perfect game. Umpire Jim Joyce became a celebrity for his tearful meeting with Galarraga the next day.

"Who feels worse in the whole world than the ump?" Dave Phillips, who umpired in the major leagues for 32 years, says of blown calls. "The technology is so phenomenal now that you can see pebbles when guys slide. Give it to the umpires. Everybody else in the world sees it."

Now, it's not only the fans at home watching on TV.

"The Tigers got robbed of a perfect game a few years ago," says John Shagonaby, a fan from Allegan, Mich., who was in Lakeland, Fla., on Thursday to see Detroit play the Atlanta Braves. "And if they had replay, he would've had a perfect game. So I guess I'm in favor of it; it just can't slow down the game too much."

Teams will be mandated to show on stadium videoboards the replays used to uphold or overturn a call. In the past, sports leagues have been reluctant to potentially inflame fans with an unpopular decision. Now, the theory is, fans will see that the ultimate ruling is correct.

Torre and his staff plus former managers Tony La Russa and Jim Leyland, both part of a committee for on-field matters set up by Commissioner Bud Selig, have been part of the sessions with managers, coaches and general managers.

Says Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter, "That gives it instant credibility right there."

Low reversal rate?

But it needs more than credibility. It needs to work.

Managers have been encouraged to challenge often during spring training, if only to try out the system, as each team is involved in five televised spring games designated as test games.

Managers won't throw a red flag like NFL coaches. "It would be kind of fun," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus says. "But I think they're worried that some would throw them at the umpires."

Managers can simply yell from the dugout, but they're more likely to go on the field to inform the umpire, if only to create the time needed to get a recommendation from the clubhouse.

"I think one thing we'll find out, and I hope we do, is how good these (umpires) really are," Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez says.

An ESPN study of 184 games in 2010 found 1.3 plays a game that couldn't be determined for sure without looking at replays. Of those, 20.4% turned out to be bad calls, 65.7% correct and 13.9% inconclusive.

That's 0.265 calls a game that could be reversed, or about one every four games.

That doesn't mean there won't be the occasional heated discussion, Torre says.

"There are going to be some players arguing," he says. "The manager may go out there and stick up for his player, but he may not want to burn his challenge."

Managers also will have to think about when to use their challenges and recognize that video feeds won't always offer a clear verdict.

And they won't always be happy: Over the last five seasons in the NFL, for example, 41% of reviewed plays were overturned, according to sports data expert STATS.

"Replay is a strategy," Torre says. "There are calls that are going to be overturned. There are going to be calls that are not clear to overturn, going to be some calls that are going to be missed."

Contributing: Jorge L. Ortiz in Peoria, Ariz.; Ted Berg in Lakeland and Clearwater, Fla.; Detroit Free Press

 

February 28, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Jon Swartz, @jswartz, USA TODAY

Chris Bosh is a 6-foot-11 basketball superstar who has won two NBA Championships with the Miami Heat and an Olympic gold medal in 2008. He's a nine-time All-Star with a silky smooth jump shot.

In other words, he's as accomplished as any baller this side of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Yet when he heard about a new player-efficiency software program in development at All-Star festivities earlier this month here, he sought out its maker, SAP, and asked for an instant demo.

"I'm open to using any tool that helps, especially since we live in the information age," says Bosh, who attended Georgia Tech for a year before going pro. "This is amazing stuff."

The pilot program that riveted Bosh, called SportVU, records every movement and action of a player during a 48-minute game. In all, 792,000 data points for the game's participants are plotted. With a few clicks, an athlete can be evaluated based on shooting, spacing on the court, speed, dribbling and other factors. A video component of each play is available in a small screen within the program.

The intersection of elite athletes and data parsing is becoming as common in sports as videotape review and pregame shoot arounds. Every major league is increasingly driven to find a sliver of an edge in training and in-game performance. "Tech comes in waves in the way it can transform an industry -- first it was banking, then retail, now sports," SAP Chief Marketing Officer Jonathan Becher says.

At the NBA All-Star Jam Session, SAP oversaw several basketball courts, where the skills and physical traits of participants were recorded and printed on cards, with profile photos. Cisco Systems, Samsung Electronics and Sprint also had displays.

SAP's spin is why shouldn't the very attributes that define the efficiency of an athlete be applied to non-sports ventures?

"Too often, companies look at the college and grade-point average of an applicant, without putting as much thought into their drive and how well they would work within the confines of a team," Becher says.

"It goes beyond stick-your-logo in stadium awareness," says Becher, a Duke graduate and hoops junkie. "We have to show customers what SAP technology can do for them."

SAP's full-court NBA press comes on the heels of its participation as a sponsor at Super Bowl Boulevard, the NFL-themed festival that ran through the heart of Manhattan.

"Our target audience is changing; we're no longer selling to C-level types," says Chris Burton, head of SAP global sponsorship. "With mobile growth, there is a huge focus on the consumerization of IT."

Sports data analysis has been, well, overanalyzed since Michael Lewis wrote the best-seller Moneyball on the 2000 season of the Oakland A's. Since then, seemingly every major professional team has sliced and diced data to gain a statistical edge.

With its use of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, the SAP and the NBA have teamed on NBA.com/Stats, which offers fans instant and unlimited access to NBA stats and analysis, including every box score since the inaugural 1946-7 season.

Where it gets really interesting are advanced stats, based on shooting, rebounding, defensive efficiency and the success of player combinations on court at the same time. Data can be shared via Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

Nonetheless, the danger of compromising athletic spontaneity with the overuse of data weighs on the mind of Philadelphia 76ers rookie guard Michael Carter-Williams, who weighs the pros and cons of studying data to improve his game. "It's pretty interesting, but I don't know how much difference it would make," he says. "Most players rely on instinct."

Goran Dragic of the Phoenix Suns is decidedly old school. "I never look at analysis," he says. "I go out and play as aggressively as possible. I haven't gotten a look at something yet that has changed my mind, but I am willing to."

Ultimately, data must be used judiciously, says Vivek Ranadive, principal owner of the Sacramento Kings and CEO of Tibco Software, a multibillion-dollar real-time computing company.

"Just because you give someone a word processor, that doesn't make them Shakespeare," says Ranadive, an advocate of big data who believes in predictive-analysis programs to assess talent. "But if you make available to them something that can improve their instincts, and be as smart as Magic Johnson, then you're on to something."

 

February 28, 2014

 

 
 

 

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George Schroeder, @GeorgeSchroeder, USA TODAY Sports

A controversial proposal to slow hurry-up offenses will be reconsidered by the NCAA Football Rules Committee next week, before it would go to a final vote.

Members of the committee plan to discuss the proposal, which would require a 10-second delay before offenses could snap the ball, before it goes to the Playing Rules Oversight Panel on Thursday. Rogers Redding, the NCAA's coordinator of officiating and secretary-rules editor of the rules committee, said members would communicate via conference call or e-mail by midweek.

Although the process is routine, according to Redding, he said, "It's going to look out of the ordinary" because of the attention focused on the proposal since it was announced Feb.12. The blowback has been loud and sustained by coaches who run fast-paced offenses.

The rules committee will consider feedback from coaches that has been received by the NCAA during an official comment period that runs through Monday. The committee could choose to modify or withdraw the proposal.

It's likely the rules committee also will consider unofficial feedback, including the results of an anonymous survey of Football Bowl Subdivision head coaches conducted by ESPN.com. The survey of 128 coaches showed overwhelming opposition to the proposal. Ninety-three coaches (72.7%) were opposed, 25 (19.5%) were in favor and nine (7%) were undecided.

"It's a piece of information that people are going to be interested in," Redding said. "Whether it would sway anyone, it's another data point. I wouldn't be surprised if it (had an impact)."

The stated reasoning behind the proposal was safety. This year, which is considered an off-year for rule changes in NCAA sports, it's the only way such a change could be considered. If approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which has a teleconference scheduled for March 6, it would take effect this fall.

Many coaches, while sounding their opposition to the proposal, have denied there is increased injury risk from playing fast-paced football. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said there was "absolutely zero evidence." Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, chairman of the rules committee, backpedaled last week, saying the proposal should not become a rule unless data show increased injury risk. There's no hard data.

Some coaches who oppose the proposal have noted the participation of Alabama's Nick Saban and Arkansas' Bret Bielema, two vocal critics of the trend toward ever-faster offensive tempo. Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin told USA TODAY Sports the proposal is "an attempt to limit the creativity of the game." In an interview last week with USA TODAY Sports, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier referred to the proposal as "the Saban Rule."

Saban has not commented publicly. Last week, Bielema's first public comments on the proposal sparked a spinoff controversy when he referred to the recent death of California player Ted Agu during a workout as a reason for the rule. When asked about data linking increased injury risk to up-tempo offenses in games, Bielema responded, "Death certificates. There's no more anything I need than that."

That led to a rebuke, issued on Twitter, by Cal athletics director Sandy Barbour, who called the comments "beyond insensitive." Bielema issued a statement of clarification moments later.

 

February 28, 2014

 

 
 

 

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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
John Martin Special to The Commercial Appeal

The University of Memphis had an athletic department meeting this week discussing several issues, one of them being Snapchat.

So what is Snapchat?

"I heard somebody talking about it once," Memphis basketball coach Josh Pastner said. "I don't even know what it is."

Welcome to the ever-changing world of college basketball recruiting, where as soon as you master one technology, another is upon you.

Snapchat is a mobile picture and video messaging application that allows users to send photos or short videos to each other from their smartphones. The catch is that the sender dictates how long the recipient gets to view the picture - anywhere from one to 10 seconds.

Due to the application's popularity - a recent study by the marketing agency Sumpto showed that 77 percent of polled college students use it at least once a day - the NCAA this month admitted Snapchat into its permissible forms of communication between basketball coaches and prospective student-athletes. It will not monitor the content of the sent messages and coaches are allowed to send as many as they choose.

The trick, then, for the Memphis staff and others is to figure out how to deploy the new technology to woo prospects to campus. U of M associate athletic director for compliance Jason Gray, who led the discussion at Tuesday's meeting, has some ideas.

"You could do a Snapchat video of the staff singing happy birthday to a recruit," Gray said. "Send that to him. You could do a quick (mock) player introduction for games; just a quick little one where you're announcing a kid's name into the starting lineup."

Gray said the coaches at Tuesday's meeting initially questioned its use, mostly due to lack of understanding. By the end, he said, creative ideas were flowing.

Not everyone, however, is thrilled with the steady integration of social media into recruiting. Louisville coach Rick Pitino said last week social media can be "poison" for student-athletes.

"I think technology is a great thing in many instances, and I think it's poison in others, and for people in sports especially," Pitino said during an appearance on ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike."

Kentucky coach John Calipari fired back on a national radio appearance of his own, saying, "No disrespect, but coaches who hate social media know nothing about social media."

U of M assistant coach Aki Collins has not yet downloaded Snapchat on his cellphone. He said he figures the application will become more prevalent with the younger classes, like 2017 and beyond.

Collins said he sees how Snapchat can be beneficial in the recruiting process, especially if the particular prospect uses it frequently. The key, just like with text messaging and phone calls, is knowing when to use it.

"If I'm a 16- or 17-year-old kid, do I want a coach sending videos of himself all the time?" Collins said. "No. So it's just a matter of discretion."

 

March 3, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc.
Chicago Daily Herald
By Marie Wilson mwilson@dailyherald.com

Some Roselle-area taxpayers feel like it's "deja pool" all over again.

Roselle resident Phil Van Duyne, who opposes Lake Park High School District 108's most recent push for voter approval of an aquatic center, said the phrase sums up his feelings on the two referendum questions voters will see on the March 18 primary ballot.

One question asks voters to approve a proposal to borrow $8.5 million for construction of an aquatic center at the school's east campus in Roselle with a 25-yard, eight-lane competition pool and a smaller pool with warmer water for swimming lessons and athletic rehabilitation. The other seeks approval of a tax rate increase to provide an additional $390,000 a year for pool operation.

Similar questions have come before Lake Park voters before - including as recently as last April - and Van Duyne said he and others are growing weary of the repetition.

"The district taxpayers have been pretty clear they're not in favor of a pool at Lake Park High School," Van Duyne said. "People just voted it down, but now it's coming back under a different circumstance."

Lake Park Superintendent Lynne Panega said administrators and the school board decided to push for a pool again this spring partially because the vote last year was as close as it's ever been, failing by roughly 600 votes out of more than 8,000 ballots cast.

Panega said the school has seen "a mix of supporters and non-supporters" at open houses held to provide information about the plan.

Opponents like Van Duyne have begun to voice questions about how a new pool would affect property taxes, whether taking out another loan is a good idea and who would most benefit from the plan.

Cost questions

The 23,500-square-foot aquatic facility is projected to cost $9.1 million. If voters approve funding to build and operate it, Lake Park will put $600,000 of its own funds toward the project.

Van Duyne said he wondered what else that money could support if not for the aquatic center plans.

Jeff O'Connell, assistant superintendent for business services, said the money was not pulled away from any one specific project. Rather, it was available in the district's reserves of about $10 million, which represents roughly 20 percent of its total operating budget.

Van Duyne also questioned the cost of interest payments on the $8.5 million the district would need to borrow to finance the pool. O'Connell said interest is estimated to cost $2.8 million.

"I just think it's not necessarily the best time to be taking on any new debt," Van Duyne said.

The school's portion of the property tax bill will increase if both ballot questions are approved and the pool is built. O'Connell said taxes would increase a total of $25.04 a year for the owner of a $200,000 home and $37.56 a year for the owner of a $300,000 home.

The cost of borrowing $8.5 million to build the pool is estimated to account for $11.60 of the total tax increase for the owner of a $200,000 home and $17.40 of the total for the owner of a $300,000 home during the majority of the potential 10-year loan.

But in the last two years, a larger share of the taxes property owners pay to the school would go toward paying off the pool construction loan, with as much as $165 from the owner of a $200,000 home and $255 from the owner of a $300,000 home going to repay pool debt. O'Connell said that's because other debt the district previously incurred will be paid by then, so the tax rate will remain the same.

Even if Lake Park takes out a new loan, O'Connell said the school stands to be largely debt-free by midyear 2025, with only $240,000 left to pay on a loan from 2007.

Community benefits

Lake Park officials say the aquatic center would give a home to swimming and diving teams, allow for water safety and swimming to be a part of physical education, give student-athletes opportunities for water-based injury rehabilitation, and offer park districts and community members a place to swim when outdoor pools aren't open.

The Bloomingdale, Itasca, Medinah and Roselle park districts would have the facility from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and 6 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to a proposed schedule. In between those times, it would be used by Lake Park students, swimmers, divers and athletes. On weekends, the pool would be open for park district use from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Robert Ward, director of parks and recreation for Roselle Park District, said programs could include water aerobics, parent-tot swimming lessons, advanced swimming lessons and availability for rentals.

Carrie Fullerton, executive director of Bloomingdale Park District, said that district's park board "would very much like to have the opportunity to offer indoor aquatic programming to our residents."

"Working collaboratively with Lake Park on this would give us the opportunity to do that," she said.

Public lap-swimming also is built into the proposed schedule from 5:30 to 7:30 a.m. seven days a week and again from 8:30 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday. But Van Duyne said only the morning time is set aside for lap-swimming alone, without the possibility of sharing space with a park district program.

School board President Bob Marino said he has heard from supporters and opponents of the pool, which he believes could offer a variety of uses for the community.

"We were able to design the pool a little differently where we have that ability for the park districts to work on programmatics," Marino said. "I think it's a great mix."

Pool: Facility estimated to cost $9.1 million

 

February 27, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Intelligencer Journal/New Era (Lancaster, Pennsylvania)
Dean Lee Evans Correspondent
 

 

Donegal board members Feb. 20 unanimously agreed that the district's new football stadium should focus on seating spectators comfortably.

With that goal in mind, the board voted to proceed to the next step and instruct the district's architect to design an 1,800-seat football stadium next to the new high school.

The "1,800 is based on what could fit within the land development plan," said Steve Gault, board member and chairman of the facilities committee.

At the district's February facilities meeting, the committee appeared to be leaning toward a seating capacity 1,400 to 1,600.

But with stadium seating, what is considered "as-built" isn't necessarily practical.

Business manager Amy Swartz said a 22 percent difference can exist between the number of people bleacher-style seating can actually seat comfortably versus the projected seating capacity on paper.

That is because bleacher-style seating calls for 18 inches of seat for every person.

Swartz said that 22 inches of seating is more realistic because football games are held in cooler weather when attendees tend to wear bulkier clothing.

She presented statistics on attendance at Donegal football games over a four-year period, indicating the average home game attendance was 1,432.

However, when examined from a two-year perspective, game attendance showed that interest in Donegal football is growing, with attendance approaching 1,600 people per game.

The plan also recognizes that many people stand during games in other areas of the stadium. Those people include band members who perform during games.

However, the new stadium project would reduce the standing areas between the stadium and concession stands and the field.

Mount Joy resident Eric Rohrer supported the board's decision on the proposed football stadium but was concerned about the district's growing population and new residential development.

"I don't want to have the district come back in 10 years needing a larger stadium," he said.

Board president Oliver Overlander III stressed that no stadium design is set in stone.

He said that if the architect's 1,800-seat design doesn't meet the district's financial plan, revisions would have to be made.

The stadium project has been estimated at $3.5 million to $4 million, which would be financed through sources money from the district's capital improvements account and a planned capital campaign with the Donegal Athletic Club.

Architectural plans for the new stadium would also factor in other uses for the facilities, such as a running track around the field.

Donegal football played six home games during the 2013-14 season.

 

February 27, 2014

 

 
 

 

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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
Misti Crane

Sudden heart deaths in athletes stun schools and communities and leave families wondering in their grief what more could have been done.

The most-recent shock in central Ohio came in December when 17-year-old junior-varsity basketball player Christopher Randolph fell to his knees after practice at Westerville South High School; he died within hours of a heart condition.

Electrocardiograms, or EKGs, are noninvasive tests that sometimes find these problems before they kill. But they come with a cost and plenty of false-positive results, meaning more testing and anxiety.

The debate about screening athletes with EKGs continued this week, as a set of studies appeared online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

One reviewed 10 years of data on NCAA athletes that included 182 sudden deaths, including 64 "probably or likely" related to heart problems. The other most-common causes were suicide (responsible for 31 deaths) and drug abuse (linked to 21 deaths.) Numbers for car-crash deaths weren't included.

The authors calculated a rate of 1.2 sudden heart deaths per 100,000 athletes, or four per year. Suicide and drugs combined killed five per year.

As in other studies, they found a much higher incidence of deaths because of heart problems among black athletes, especially men. And the numbers were the worst for Division I athletes.

But the researchers said that in a significant number of the deaths (40 percent), the risk probably wouldn't have been reliably detected by an EKG.

The other study looked at screening in 7,764 non-athletes ages 14 to 35, and compared the results with those for a group of 4,081 athletes. The authors, based in London, found that athletes have a somewhat higher incidence of abnormal EKG results that could point to life-threatening conditions.

Overall, one in five young people had an EKG that would lead to further testing. Considering the low rates of sudden death, there would be a lot of unnecessary follow-up for people who would never have a problem.

"In the general public, you're going to get a lot more people alarmed and need more evaluation. Most of it turns out to be a red herring," said Dr. Anne Curtis, who wrote an opinion piece on the studies and is a cardiologist and chairwoman of the department of medicine at the University at Buffalo.

"It just adds to expense and worry for people, and at the end of the day, it mostly doesn't pan out," she said.

Curtis doesn't push for routine screening of athletes; instead, she stresses obtaining a good health and family history and performing a physical before sports participation.

She said there's reason to consider more-tailored screening in higher-risk populations.

Dr. Curt Daniels, an expert in congenital heart problems at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center, agreed that the payoff of screening certain groups -- say, black male athletes playing basketball and football -- would be higher.

But then you get into the troublesome area of choosing some athletes over others, he said. And an EKG, even for select athletes, remains an imperfect test that misses some heart problems (including the one second-most responsible for sudden death) and is prone to false-positive results, Daniels said.

"I don't believe it will save the lives that it's intended to," said Daniels, who works with the athletic department at Ohio State, which does not routinely screen with EKGs.

Dr. Kimberly Harmon of the University of Washington strongly disagrees. Harmon's research has found a higher incidence of deaths -- one in 43,000 among NCAA athletes and as high as one in 3,000 among Division I men's basketball players.

Her university screens all NCAA athletes at the school and has worked with more than 10,000 high-school students in the past three years.

She said medical personnel who are well-trained in interpreting results won't have as many false positives.

As for cost, she said programs (such as hers) can offer free screening. Medicare pays $25 for an EKG, she said. Hospitals often charge more.

Dr. Kanny Grewal, system chief of cardiovascular imaging for OhioHealth, said the group is working on a low-cost combined EKG and echocardiogram (an ultrasound image of the heart) to offer athletes.

"The incidence is low, but not trivial," he said.

"There's so much concern among parents and coaches who are looking for reassurance, and we know that standard pre-participation physicals will miss a lot of these kids."

mcrane@dispatch.com

@MistiCrane

 

February 27, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Albuquerque Journal
Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)
Journal Staff Report

The Albuquerque Isotopes said Wednesday that they are spending $1 million on a new high-definition LED videoboard to be installed at Isotopes Park in time for the April 11 home opener.

At 55 feet wide and 35 feet tall, the HD10 mm pixel pitch videoboard will be the largest HD10 LED display in Minor League Baseball, the club says. It will contain more than 1.7 million light-emitting diodes used to feature game information, the line score, instant replays, close-ups of players and fans, in-game promotions and, of course, advertisements.

The existing videoboard will remain intact and in operation.

"Fans are going to walk into Isotopes Park this year and say 'wow' when they see this board," said Isotopes general manager John Traub. "We are taking the best ballpark in the minor leagues and making it even better. "

The Isotopes say they have invested more than $3.2 million in a variety of improvements at the city-owned ballpark since its inception in 2003. Traub praised the club's relationship with the city that "is committed to keeping Isotopes Park at the top of the list in terms of the best facilities in the country."

The videoboard was purchased from Dallas-based TS Sports, an audio/video integration company that specializes in complete high-resolution video products.

Home opener

April 11: Tacoma at Albuquerque, 7:05 p.m.

 

COURTESY OF THE ALBUQUERQUE ISOTOPES The Albuquerque Isotopes will unveil a new videoboard, as shown here, when they play their Pacific Coast League 2014 home opener April 11 against Tacoma.

 

February 27, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 The Press Enterprise, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
The Press Enterprise
JEFF HORSEMAN STAFF WRITER

A solid majority of California voters favor warning labels on sodas and sugary drinks as well as a tax on those beverages to pay for school nutrition and exercise programs, according to a poll released Thursday, Feb. 20.

Most respondents to the Field Poll also favor restricting food stamp recipients from buying sugar-laden drinks and banning sugary beverages from being sold in vending machines and cafeterias at children's hospitals, after-school centers and child care facilities.

The poll comes as Sacramento lawmakers consider legislation to require warnings on such drinks that they increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.

San Francisco County supervisors are considering a 2-cents-per-ounce tax on sodas, sports drinks and energy drinks to generate an estimated $31 million for recreation and nutrition programs.

The poll was conducted on behalf of The California Endowment, a private health foundation.

"Consumers will benefit by having warning labels on soda packaging just as they did when warning labels were placed on tobacco products," the foundation's Senior Vice President Daniel Zingale said in a statement accompanying the poll. "With obesity a very real threat to the health of their children, parents need this information in order to make decisions about what's best for their families."

One in three U.S. adults and 17 percent of American children ages 2 to 19 are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The beverage industry opposes warning labels and taxes. The American Beverage Association, an industry group, maintains sodas are unfairly blamed for America's obesity problem and a tax won't make Americans healthier.

"No matter how you look at it, soda taxes mean fewer jobs," a recently association news release said. "Americans have made it clear they don't support taxes and other restrictions on common grocery items, like soft drinks. Soda taxes have unintended consequences on middle-class jobs and small businesses."

Proposals in recent years to enact soda taxes in El Monte in Los Angeles County and Richmond in Northern California failed at the ballot box. And a Redlands councilman's soda-tax proposal in 2012 died for lack of support from other council members.

A recent study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found almost two-thirds of California teenagers in 2011-12 drank sugary drinks every day, up 8 percent from 2005-07.

The study found that soda consumption was up 9 percent in San Bernardino County compared to 2005-07; with three-fourths of the county's adolescents reporting drinking at least one sugary drink a day. The rate remained steady in Riverside County, where 65 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds said they drank at least one sugary beverage every day.

The Field Poll found 74 percent of respondents backed the label requirement, with 52 percent strongly in favor. Support crossed party lines, with 8 in 10 Democratic voters, 75 percent of independent voters and almost two-thirds of Republican voters in favor.

A late 2012 poll found 68 percent of statewide voters supporting warning labels.

Two-thirds of those polled support a sugary beverage tax. The result mirrors the 2012 poll, in which 68 percent favored the tax. Sixty-three percent support distributing soda tax revenue based on a community's diabetes and obesity rates; those with bigger problems would get more.

Seven in 10 of those polled favor changing the rules so that those on government food assistance could not buy sodas and sugary drinks in grocery stores. Sixty-two percent support a ban on sugary drink sales in certain facilities frequented by children, such as children's hospitals and youth centers.

California already bans sodas from being sold in public schools. The poll found 58 percent of respondents support a ban on the sale of sports drinks in school vending machines and school stores and snack bars.

The telephone poll of 1,002 registered voters took place between Nov. 14 and Dec. 5. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.2 to 4.5 percentage points.

 

February 27, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 The Post and Courier
All Rights Reserved
Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)
Schuyler Kropf; skropf@postandcourier.com

The city of Charleston's Martin Luther King Jr. Pool is scheduled to re-open in mid-March after undergoing a resurfacing and the installation of a new water heating system.

Jerry Ebeling, director of parks, said crews are doing the work now, with a target finish date of around March 15.

The pool, which is covered by a dome, has been closed since the first week of February.

While the resurfacing had been scheduled for some time, city documents say the project's timetable had to be elevated to emergency repair status because of leaking.

At its worst, the pool was losing 100,000 gallons of water each month, with a monthly dollar loss of about $1,000, Ebeling said.

Some of the heaviest leak points included around the lights and gutter.

The recent cold weather also created a power problem with the heating system that warranted replacing. The resurfacing will cost about $126,000.

City Councilwoman Kathleen Wilson, an avid swimmer, said the pool is the only 50-meter facility in the city. She described it as a critical length for competitive swimming.

It s simply showing its age, she said of the 40-year-old pool.

Swimmers have gone to other pools in the meantime, she said.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551

 

February 27, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Staff and wire services

According to an anonymous survey conducted by ESPN, only 25 of the country's 128 head coaches at the FBS level are in favor of the rule proposal that would slow down college football.

Of those 25, just 11 are coaches in the major conferences (SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12), plus Notre Dame. Ninety-three coaches indicated they were opposed to the rule, nine were undecided and one refused to participate.

The proposal, if passed, would prohibit teams from snapping the ball until at least 10 seconds had expired from the 40-second play clock, which would allow defenses time to substitute. The exceptions would be in the final two minutes of each half or if the play clock began at 25 seconds. If the ball is snapped too soon, the offense would be penalized 5 yards for delay of game. Under the current rules, defenses aren't guaranteed a chance to substitute unless the offense also subs.

Alabama coach Nick Saban spoke to the rules committee in favor of the proposal.

Among those who previously indicated publicly they were against it are Georgia's Mark Richt, South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, Auburn's Gus Malzahn, Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin, Florida's Will Muschamp, Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze and Louisville's Bobby Petrino.

Richt said last week, "I feel like if you can train offensive players to play five or six plays in a row, you can train defensive players to play that many plays in a row, too. I personally don't think it's a health-issue deal, but if there's some evidence otherwise, it will be interesting to see it."

The NCAA's 11-member playing rules oversight panel will vote March 6. A simple majority is needed for it to become a rule next season.

 

February 27, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.
Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
By Barbara Quinn

Life is complicated. That's my conclusion after wading through the recent position paper on "nutritional genomics" by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics - the world's largest group of nutrition professionals.

"Nutritional genomics" refers to how certain nutrients interact with our individual genes that ultimately influence our health and risk for disease. The outcome of these interactions determines quite literally how we either stay well or succumb to illness.

It's an emerging science, the academy explained. And it follows on the heels of the Human Genome Project, which cracked the genetic codes for our entire human population. This not-so-easy task took 20 years to complete and determined the sequences of three billion pairs of genetic material common to the human race.

How do nutrients interact with our genes? All the biological information needed to build and maintain our human bodies is contained in our DNA - molecules inside our cells that carry genetic information from one generation to the next. And proteins produced from nutrients in our food we control all the functions of our genetic blueprints, says the AND.

Researchers are beginning to understand how variations in our diet can turn certain genetic codes on or off. In other words, what we eat can actually modify our genetic tendencies to be healthy... or not. Here's an example:

Choline, a nutrient found in eggs, milk and wheat germ and folate, a vitamin in dark green leafy vegetables and legumes (dried beans and peas) are "intricately involved" in certain genetic processes, according to the academy. When their balance is disturbed by a deficient diet, some "genetically susceptible" individuals are more prone to develop fatty liver, muscle damage, and even some types of cancer.

Genetic variations can also predispose some of us to be overweight or develop chronic disorders such as heart disease and diabetes, say experts. But we are not necessarily doomed by our genes. A nutrient-rich diet and increased physical activity can actually help "deactivate" a genetic tendency to develop these diseases. It's the old adage, "genetics loads the gun but lifestyle pulls the trigger."

We may one day be able to design the perfect diet for each individual based on "genotype," but we are not there yet, said the academy. And we must be cautious as this science develops. It is truly complicated.

 

February 27, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Madison Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin)
PAT SCHNEIDER , The Capital Times , pschneider@madison.com

The UW-Madison athletics department can afford to carry its own weight and kick in a bigger share of the cost of proposed multi-million dollar improvements to campus recreational sports facilities, the university's Teaching Assistants' Association is arguing.

"We're disappointed in the level of support by UW Athletics," Charity Schmidt, co-president of the TAA, said last Friday.

The TAA is launching a campaign asking students and members of the general public to sign a letter to UW athletic director Barry Alvarez, Chancellor Rebecca Blank and the UW Board of Regents asking that athletics pay half the cost of updating rec sports facilities. The digital letter was sent to members of the teaching assistants union last week and went out campuswide on Monday, Schmidt said.

"Athletics has promised a measly $7 million to the possible Rec Sports Master Plan, estimated to cost a total of $223 million. That is only 3 percent of the Plan! Student seg fees would cover 57 percent of the funding!" an introduction to the letter reads, in part.

Students will vote March 3-5 on a "master plan" that would add new buildings at the Southeast Recreational Facility (SERF) and Natatorium and improve Near East and Near West playing fields. That plan would raise their segregated fees for recreational sports to a maximum of $144.78 per semester. Even if the referendum fails, students would see their "seg" fees rise to a minimum of $83.56 per semester to pay to restore facilities to their original condition, according to a blog post by the Department of Recreational Sports.

"Here's the bottom line: both plans impose an unreasonable burden on students," says the TAA.

Badger fans contribute big time to athletics, the TAA argues ? $843 million of a total $970 million in annual economic impact ? according to a 2011 consultant's report.

But the kind of contribution that TAA is seeking is not realistic, athletics officials say.

"UW Athletics stated publicly last month that it has just completed four facilities projects that cost about $125 million," associate athletic director Justin Doherty said in an email statement last week. "The athletic department does not have unlimited resources and is not in a position to assist with the funding of the proposed Rec Sports Master Plan at the level being mentioned in the e-mail campaign."

The TAA led student opposition that in 2010 defeated a referendum to rebuild the Natatorium, which both students and recreational sports officials agree led to a more transparent referendum process this time around.

In its current campaign, the TAA points out that students stepped up to help the athletic department when it was in serious trouble 25 years ago. In 1989, when major teams like football and basketball weren't competitive and the department was projecting a $1.5 million deficit on a $13 million budget, the Board of Regents approved a $10 per semester student fee to pull the department out of the red.

UW-Madison students "bailed out" athletics, the TAA says. "We are now fortunate to enjoy a successful and strong UW Athletics Department that is self-funded and resource-rich."

Last week, the UW Athletic Board approved a 2014-2015 budget of just under $100 million.

Critics say that now that athletics is in the black, they're passing the buck on student health and wellness, Schmidt said.

"The athletic department seems to think they're somehow beyond the university," she commented. "They are not always responsive to students, but we'll see what kind of debate we generate across campus."

 

February 27, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Star Tribune
All Rights Reserved
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
MICHAEL RAND; STAFF WRITER, STAR TRIBUNE (Mpls.-St. Paul)

The Vikings opened the doors to their new stadium preview center Tuesday afternoon, giving media members a glimpse at features of the opulent new stadium slated to open in 2016. Tours for season-ticket holders - by appointment - will begin soon, starting with those who held the best seats at the Metrodome.

The center is on the fifth floor of a building adjacent to the where the new stadium will be - meaning that from several vantage points you can also see out windows to the ongoing destruction of the Dome standing in stark juxtaposition to the current plans. Here are a few of our takeaways from the tour:

· Seeing the destruction site is certainly the most jarring thing, and perhaps the best reminder of just how different the new stadium will be. Standing in one spot in the 7,500-square foot center, one can see the teardown of the Dome out the window to the right and a high-definition video screen showing off 360-degree panoramic views from 275 locations in the new stadium. The sightlines certainly look to be better; really, they couldn't be much worse.

· The suites are gorgeous. There are a couple of models on display, as well as two rows of eight club seats each. There are high-end finishes in the suites and a long list of amenities - including high speed Internet and multiple flat-screen TVs that have access to the NFL Sunday Ticket and Red Zone Channel.

· What will this all cost you? Well, the Vikings don't really hide that because the TV monitors in the center are interactive and upfront about pricing, allowing season-ticket holders to jump from seat to seat, price to price. It was amusing, though, that the one monitor tucked in the back of the center was set to a screen outlining the unpopular "stadium builders licenses" that many fans will have to purchase (a one-time fee) on top of the price of season tickets.

· There are two scale models of the stadium. I tweeted pictures of both out, and amusingly several folks tweeted back by quoting "Zoolander" and asking if the Vikings are building a "stadium for ants." The larger model has working video screens to simulate scoreboards.

· The new stadium is still more than 800 days away from opening - as you are reminded of with a countdown clock as you walk through a simulated player tunnel to the preview center. But the day will be here sooner than we think. For evidence of that, all you have to do is look out the window at the crumbling remains of the stadium it will replace.

MICHAEL RAND

 

February 26, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Star Tribune
All Rights Reserved
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
MARY CLARE JALONICK, STAR TRIBUNE (Mpls.-St. Paul)

WASHINGTON - Even the scoreboards in high school gyms will have to advertise only healthy foods under new rules announced Tuesday by the Obama administration.

Promotion of sugary drinks and junk foods around campuses during the school day will be phased out under the rules, intended to ensure that such marketing is brought in line with health standards that already apply to school foods.

That means a scoreboard at a high school football or basketball game wouldn't be allowed to advertise Coca-Cola, for example, but it could advertise Diet Coke or Dasani water, which is also owned by Coca-Cola Co. Same with vending machines, cups, posters and menu boards which promote foods that don't meet the standards.

Drinks are highly promoted

Ninety-three percent of such marketing in schools is related to beverages, and many soda companies already have started to transition their sales and advertising in schools from sugary sodas and sports drinks to their own healthier products. Still, companies are spending $149 million a year on marketing to kids in schools, according to USDA.

The proposed rules are part of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative to combat child obesity.

"The idea here is simple - our classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren't bombarded with ads for junk food," she said.

The rules come on the heels of USDA regulations that now require foods in the school lunch line to be healthier.

More rules kick in next year

Rules set to go into effect next school year will make other foods around school healthier as well. Calorie, fat, sugar and sodium limits will have to be met on almost every food and beverage sold during the school day. Concessions sold at sports games after school are exempt.

Some metro-area high schools have new scoreboards that include logos of local companies, including restaurants, that helped pay for them. A larger number of schools use drink cups with beverage company names or logos on them.

At Eastview High School in Apple Valley, scoreboard signage is limited to a construction firm and a towing company, but teams use drink cups and jugs sponsored by Gatorade, said activities director Matt Percival. If the ban extended to those sorts of drinks, the school would need to find another option, he said.

"The greatest impact could be if [the ban] extended into what is offered at concession stands,'' Percival said, noting the usual fare of hot dogs, candy bars, popcorn and chips that booster clubs sell at games.

"The big issue is the money that comes from advertising and how those sorts of things offset costs," said Mike Beck, executive secretary for the Minnesota Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. "A lot of money has dried up since Coke and Pepsi were pulled from schools."

Staff writer Jim Paulsen contributed to this report.

 

February 26, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 The State Journal- Register
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The State Journal- Register (Springfield, IL)
Ryan Mahan Staff Writer

An outbreak of a skin condition has prematurely ended the Springfield High School wrestling season, and with it, coach Bob Nesbit's career.

Nesbit said the decision to cancel the Senators' Class 2A Mahomet-Seymour Dual Team Sectional match Tuesday night against Cahokia was made Monday following a doctor confirming a contagious "condition" on one or more SHS wrestlers. Nesbit said he did not want to compromise health-care privacy laws and could not elaborate on the exact nature of the condition or the number of wrestlers affected.

Springfield High forfeited, and Cahokia will advance to the Class 2A dual team state tournament Saturday at U.S. Cellular Arena in Bloomington.

Springfield was No. 8 in the Class 2A team rankings on the IllinoisMatMen.com website while Cahokia was No. 20.

The decision not to replace the affected wrestlers with junior varsity members was an easy one, according to the coach who had previously said he was going to retire after this season.

"I'm not putting an inexperienced wrestler in there just to have a body be there," Nesbit said. "It's ridiculous to put a kid in with no experience going against a team with sectional winners and state qualifiers."

Springfield High notified the Illinois High School Association on Tuesday of the decision.

This isn't the first time a skin condition has plagued the Senators, but it's only happened twice in Nesbit's 30 seasons as coach. The other time came last year when the program was shuttered for two weeks.

"We didn't want to make it worse by being stubborn," Nesbit said of why the team decided early to forfeit.

While Nesbit said it didn't hit him that his career would end that way until after he informed the athletes, he said he was more saddened by "seeing the disappointment on their faces."

With a short turnaround from Tuesday's sectional until Saturday's dual team state tournament, Nesbit said there was no way to ask for an extra day or two to see if the condition would clear up.

 

February 26, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Capital Gazette Communications, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Maryland Gazette

The first artificial turf fields at Anne Arundel County parks should be installed by the end of the spring sports season.

Once the snow melts, Anne Arundel County will begin converting two multipurpose grass fields at Kinder Farm Park in Millersville into all-weather turf, Recreation and Parks Director Rick Anthony said Tuesday.

The fields in Kinder Farm Park are part of a nearly $2 million countywide project that will build two other turf fields in the western or northern part of the county in the next few years, Anthony said.

"We've identified areas (to place the additional fields) in west or north county - in that order because of population growth in that part," Anthony said.

Funding for the project comes from state Program Open Space funds, county general funds and a $300,000 donation from the Green Hornets, a youth sports organization that often uses and maintains fields in the Severna Park feeder school system.

Green Hornets executive director Joshua Banks said about 8,000 county kids play sports through his organization.

Banks said its board of directors started collecting money for "unknown" capital projects 15 years ago.

"Helping fund the project was a good investment for our kids," he wrote in an email.

County Executive Laura Neuman approved the project in the county budget in May, but Del. Cathy Vitale, R-Severna Park, said the discussion to replace the fields began about a decade ago when Vitale was a County Council member.

The plan to convert the park's fields to all-weather turf was catalyzed by the plan to rebuild Severna Park High School a few miles away, Vitale said.

The project fulfills a timely need, since a new Severna Park High would be built on top of existing all-weather sports fields, said County Councilman Dick Ladd, R-Severna Park.

"The turf field (at Severna Park High) now is used until 10 o'clock at night by sports and recreation groups," Vitale said.

Severna Park's home games will be played at Old Mill High School during construction, but removing the school's fields would aggravate the "tremendous" shortage of playing space throughout Anne Arundel County, Ladd said.

It would take three or four years for new sports fields to be built, he said.

"Rather than having (Severna Park High students) drive literally 20, 30, 40 miles and get playing time, one of the options was to try to make better use of Kinder Park," Ladd said. "They're going to be able to get additional playing surfaces they really can use up there."

Currently, the two grass fields at Kinder Farm Park suffer from poor drainage in a "bowl-shaped" area. Sports teams have to cancel games or practices on rainy days, Vitale said.

The artificial turf would be able to withstand not only wet weather, but the "wear and tear" of heavier high school kids, Ladd said.

"Maintenance on it is a lot less than grass fields," he said. "It would pay for itself over time."

 

February 26, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
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Palm Beach Post (Florida)
By Andrew Abramson Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who has tried to clean up a bullying scandal within his team, now is calling for widespread changes on a much-broader scale -- throughout sports culture.

Ross, a Manhattan-based real-estate magnate, has teamed up with New York University on a series of initiatives that would attempt to stem racism, intolerance and homophobia in locker rooms at all levels, beginning with youth sports.

Ross helped orchestrate bills that were introduced in the state senate and house Tuesday.

State House Bill 1117, titled "Athletic Safety, Education and Training" would require the Florida High School Athletic Association to adopt bylaws "regarding respectful conduct" while requiring training and reporting and having athletes sign a pledge.

Certain organizations using public facilities would have to comply with "policies regarding respect and conduct," including for some non-FHSAA athletic events.

The bill also would prohibit harassment in intercollegiate athletics and provide for enforcement by the state's attorney general.

"I'm looking at this incident that occurred with the Dolphins to open up doors to really create change in our country and in the locker rooms," Ross told reporters. "The way people really treat each other, the respect they have, the civility human beings should have for each other."

Ross hadn't spoken publicly since the NFL's independent report, written by attorney Ted Wells, was released Feb. 14. Wells determined that Dolphins players Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey and John Jerry harassed teammates and an assistant trainer.

The report detailed racial and homophobic slurs in the locker room.

Some people in the organization, both privately and publicly, have criticized the report, saying the Dolphins' locker room wasn't any different than others in the league.

Ross dismissed questions about the Wells report Tuesday, saying he was focused on the legislation and a 22-page "white paper" that was released by NYU's Sports and Society Program.

"This is something that is on a much bigger level and the (Wells) report didn't really cause this to happen," Ross said. "It really gave it a reason to happen because it was brought to the level of attention to the public."

The white paper is called "Changing the culture of youth sports: An initiative to combat abusive behavior and all forms of intolerance in order to promote civility and respect among athletes."

It seeks to develop a curriculum to "educate young athletes, coaches and parents on respectful conduct." It also calls for a "uniform code of respectful conduct" at all levels of youth sports along with a pledge for athletes at all levels to "commit, on a recurring basis, to treat others with respect, identify bullying and speak out against it."

After the scandal broke, Ross said he spoke to players about how their NFL careers are going to be short and they need to learn how to act in the workplace.

"The type of language and the way you're treating people is not acceptable in the workplace," Ross said he told players. "They should learn and understand and be in a position that when they are finished playing ball, they can fit in and not revert back to this."

Trevor Morrison, dean of the NYU law school, defended his university's work when asked how he would expect NFL players to actually abide by theoretical code of conducts and pledges.

"Whether or not this legislation would have prevented any particular episode from happening is not really the question," Morrison said. "I don't think anyone is suggesting legislation would be a complete fix to the problem. It's one component to addressing a broader issue or set of issues along which education I think primarily is the key."

aabramson@pbpost.com

 

February 26, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY
Erik Brady, Jim Corbett, and Tom Pelissero, @ByErikBrady, @ByJimCorbett

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has until Saturday to either veto, sign or let become law a bill that would allow businesses in her state to deny service to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered people based on the religious beliefs of the business owner. The NFL is among those watching closely.

Super Bowl XLIX is scheduled for Feb. 1 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. The NFL has stopped short of saying the game could be moved elsewhere if the legislation becomes law, but the league has moved a Super Bowl out of Arizona before, and the implicit threat floats invisibly but menacingly in the desert sky.

The controversy comes as the NFL is readying to welcome its first openly gay player in Michael Sam, the former Missouri defensive end who came out this month, and just as Jason Collins played his first game for the NBA's Brooklyn Nets as the first openly gay active player in one of the nation's four major sports leagues.

"The NFL is putting a lot of pressure on the governor (behind the scenes) to veto the bill, from what I can tell," Sam's public relations representative, Howard Bragman, told USA TODAY Sports. "I know the host committee has said, 'Veto it.' And I know the Arizona Cardinals have said, 'Veto it.' I know the NFL is very concerned and watching this very closely."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said by e-mail: "Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or any other improper standard. We are following the issue in Arizona and will continue to do so should the bill be signed into law but will decline further comment at this time."

Comment from others is plentiful. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said the NFL should consider moving the game if the bill becomes law. The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee said passage of the bill would deal a significant blow to the state's economic growth potential. And Wade Davis, a gay former NFL player who is executive director of the LGBT activist group You Can Play, said he also hoped the NFL would move the game should the bill become law.

"You know why?" Davis said. "Because let's say that Michael Sam is on the team that's going to the Super Bowl -- what is he supposed to do? Not go around and eat? And there are other people in the front office who may have to work in Arizona for the Super Bowl. But I'm a firm believer that the NFL's going to do the right thing."

Asked if the NFL should suspend Cardinals home games if the bill becomes law, Davis said, "I don't know. I would hope that they would.

"But I think that we also have to do a good job of not just pointing the finger at the NFL. There's a baseball team there. There's a basketball team there. There are corporations there. We should put pressure on Coke and Pepsi and everyone and not just expect the NFL, as one separate entity, to do all the heavy lifting."

The potential collision between state politics and the NFL comes in the form of SB 1062. (SB stands for Senate bill, not Super Bowl.) The bill comes out of a New Mexico legal battle involving a wedding photographer who told a lesbian couple she would not photograph their commitment ceremony in 2006 because it clashed with her religious beliefs. The photographer was sued for sexual-orientation discrimination and lost in the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The Arizona bill was written by the conservative-advocacy group Center for Arizona Policy and the Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom. The bill would allow individuals to use religious beliefs as a defense against lawsuits. Supporters say it would tweak existing state religious-freedom laws intended to ensure individuals and business owners are not forced to go against their own beliefs.

Many prominent leaders in the Arizona business community oppose the bill. They sent a letter to Brewer urging her to veto the bill because it would expose businesses to a higher risk of lawsuits and hurt efforts to attract workers.

"The legislation is also already clearly having a negative effect on our tourism industry, one of the largest sectors of the economy," said the letter signed by presidents of several business groups, including the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Shades of MLK Day stir

It's back to the future for Arizona. In 1990, then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue threatened to move the 1993 Super Bowl out of Arizona if the state refused to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Voters turned thumbs down on the holiday, and the NFL moved the game to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

Arizona subsequently voted to recognize MLK Day in 1992, and the 1996 Super Bowl was played at Tempe's Sun Devil Stadium.

In that case, the NFL had three years' lead time to relocate the Super Bowl from Arizona. The coming Super Bowl is about 11 months away. Is that enough time to make a switch should the NFL choose to do so?

Former NFL executive Jim Steeg, director of the Super Bowl for 26 years, thinks it is. "If we want, anything can be done," he said, "given what it is."

When the events of 9/11 pushed the Super Bowl back a week after the 2001 season, Super Bowl host New Orleans had a conflict because of a national automobile dealers convention. Steeg said the NFL considered moving the game to Miami with talks as late as October -- "so that gave us 120 days to try to put that together" -- before the auto dealers swapped dates with the NFL.

Steeg said he thought Tagliabue's threat to move the game caused some Arizona residents to vote against the holiday. "It's a unique base of people," Steeg said. "They're the Wild West. And they don't want to be told what to do."

He said he thought Arizona voters changed their minds by 1992 because they saw the impact of the Super Bowl. "And it wasn't just the Super Bowl, it was all the businesses were scared," he said. "Because their primary business is hospitality and travel and entertainment. When conventions started pulling out, it was a whole other thing."

The current situation differs as it is a Senate bill rather than a public referendum. And the clock will tick all week as Brewer decides what to do.

Pressure on many levels

Bragman, whose firm Fifteen Minutes represented Sam at the NFL scouting combine, said among the factors that had energized the gay community of late were the Russian anti-gay laws that were one of the central controversies of the Sochi Games.

"If the governor signs this bill, the NFL would be under tremendous pressure to move this on many, many levels," Bragman said. "I just hope the governor is wise enough to see that this is a really unfortunate bill, a really sad precedent."

You Can Play is dedicated to taking homophobia out of sports. One of its co-founders is Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke, son of Brian Burke, president of hockey operations for the Calgary Flames. Davis is You Can Play's executive director.

"What excites me is that the NFL's already issued a statement that they're keeping a close eyeball on this," Davis said while citing the Super Bowl that was moved out of Arizona in the 1990s. "So there's a precedent there, and the NFL understands it's important in playing a role in the idea of supporting human rights. It's really exciting to be a family member of the NFL and to be attached to an organization that I really believe takes this seriously."

The NFL partners with You Can Play on its "High Five Initiative," through which pro athletes visit LGBT youth organizations.

Davis said it would take a groundswell of corporations and local businesses, not just the NFL and the promise of a Super Bowl, "to push Jan Brewer to make sure that legislation is not enacted."

He said the Arizona bill, and similar measures under consideration in other states, were not all that surprising in the push and pull of history.

"For some reason, it's a part of our culture that if we have progress in one direction there's a regression in another," Davis said. "What I find is that we really have a tough time as a country just seeing humanity and seeing that everyone in this country is each other's mirror and they reflect back on ourselves. If I look at you, I will see more alike than I will see different in you. I think we just haven't done a good job in society of seeing each other as brothers and sisters."

Contributing: Laurie Merrill and Peter Corbett of The (Phoenix) Arizona Re public.

 

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USA TODAY
Kevin Trahan, @k_trahan, Special for USA TODAY Sports

The first testimony in the Northwestern football players' unionization attempt came from former quarterback Kain Colter, and on the last day of testimony, three other former players took the witness stand.

But unlike Colter, they did so in defense of the university.

Doug Bartels, John Henry Pace and Patrick Ward testified before the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday that their experiences as student-athletes were all encompassing, and that they chose Northwestern for its academic prowess, not just its football team.

"First and foremost, I knew that my education was the priority for me," said Bartels, who was an offensive lineman.

The three former players offered similar testimony. Bartels and Pace arrived at Northwestern as walk-ons, and Ward was signed as a scholarship player.

All three were high achievers in college, and unlike Colter, testified they were never steered by the university away from pursuing a tough major or taking tough classes. Bartels is in medical school, Pace is an engineer at Ford and Ward is an engineer at Boeing.

"It's terrific to have our former students act as spokesmen," Northwestern spokesman Al Cubbage said. "They're much better at it than I am.

"And I think they presented pretty clearly the fact that at Northwestern, they are primarily students. They are not employees; they are students of the university. And these gentlemen illustrated very clearly that they are not just students but terrific students."

However, the College Athletes Players Association maintained that being a great student does not negate the fact that students also can be employees. The former players and Northwestern's attorneys brought up that players are students even on game days, often studying on bus rides.

However, attorney Gary Kohlman, representing CAPA, pushed the point that for football players, football comes first. He read a passage in the team rulebook that states, "When we travel, we are traveling for one reason, to win a football game."

Northwestern routinely called witnesses who spoke to the university's high moral standards and its record of producing athletes who also excel in the classroom.

However, CAPA claimed its lawyers proved athletes are, in fact, employees by establishing that athletes receive compensation for a service and that the right to pull compensation -- a scholarship -- is at the discretion of the coach and the athletics department. The rest, including coach Pat Fitzgerald's tendencies, is irrelevant.

"Kain has said the football team has a high graduation rate despite putting in all the hours of football -- not because of football," said Ramogi Huma, CAPA's president, "The fact is, that's not relevant. Whether or not there are great graduation rates, poor graduation rates -- that's not a determining factor for any student employee. Whether they work in the cafeteria or library, it doesn't affect their employee status."

Though Colter made sure to note the NLRB petition is about athletes receiving a voice and not about mistreatment by Northwestern, former players have voiced disappointment about how the testimony has portrayed the university.

Both sides have until March11 to send their briefs to the regional director of the NLRB, Peter Sung Ohr. No matter which side receives a favorable decision, it is expected to be appealed to the NLRB in Washington.

"I think it's safe to say what happens here is not going to be decided in Chicago," Waters said.

 

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Copyright 2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Katie Leslie; Staff

On the path to building the future $1.2 billion Atlanta Falcons stadium, even the simplest procedural steps can be fraught with controversy.

Tuesday's vote by the Atlanta City Council's utilities committee on abandoning parts of six streets for stadium roadwork came after weeks of heated debate that dealt as much with racial and economic politics as property matters.

Abandoning the parcels is the latest legislative step in moving forward with stadium construction, which is set to break ground in April. But roadwork --- namely the rerouting of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive --- is already underway, causing traffic disruptions to the communities near the site.

That's stirring simmering tensions between some city officials and residents of English Avenue, Vine City and Castleberry Hill who have varying concerns about the stadium project and used Tuesday's meeting to voice them.

Some are still sore over contentious meetings over how to divvy up $30 million in "community benefit" funds intended for their neighborhoods. Others worry the roadwork near the future stadium will worsen traffic. Many say they want to be kept better informed about stadium plans.

"Please take the time to do this right," implored Deborah Scott, head of the advocacy group Georgia STAND-UP, who asked the committee to halt the abandonments for a few more weeks. "This could be a win for the Falcons, a win for the city. But please could we get a win for the community?"

Even as folks like Scott want caution, others seek urgency.

Post 1 At-Large Councilman Michael Bond, who lives near the proposed stadium site, appeared at Tuesday's hearing to implore the committee to move the legislation to the full council for a vote.

"Every concern that was raised here today is legitimate, but has little to do with the street abandonment," he said. "It has more to do with people who have lived in a neighborhood, a neighborhood in which I'm their neighbor, being in pain."

Leaders from the football franchise, including Falcons CEO Rich McKay, said the legislation abandoning the sections near the stadium must move forward now so that the team stays on track for a 2017 opening. Should the full council approve the abandonments at Monday's upcoming meeting, the team can begin seeking necessary permits for rerouting utility lines.

The Falcons team is already facing another potential delay as five residents of Vine City and English Avenue recently mounted a legal challenge to the use of $200 million in bonds backed by hotel-motel taxes for the project.

"A lot of different commitments will not be met if this paper does not go forward," said Steve Labovitz, of McKenna Long & Aldridge, who is representing the team.

In the big picture, he said, the billion-dollar project will benefit the community.

"Not only is it important for the Falcons and for Arthur Blank to build a magnificent stadium," he said. "But it is also important, very important, for him to make certain that the community is the beneficiary of what's taking place over there."

Conveying the six parcels to the Georgia World Congress Center Authority is critical for building the stadium on the so-called south site near MLK and Northside drives. Though the football team indicated a preference for a plot of land north of the existing dome, Mayor Kasim Reed waged a public battle last year to build the stadium on the southern location because of its proximity to two MARTA stations.

To make the plan work, Friendship Baptist Church and Mount Vernon Baptist Church agreed to sell for $19.5 million and $14.5 million, respectively.

The city utilities committee delayed action on the proposal in recent weeks as residents and some council members called for Reed's administration and Falcons officials to lay bare plans for the rerouting of MLK Drive, which the mayor has long said he plans to turn into a grand boulevard.

According to the latest plan unveiled by Falcons and city officials, the current straight shot from downtown to West End becomes more of a zigzag. Under the proposal, drivers headed west from downtown Atlanta on MLK would swoop south to connect with Mitchell Street. Upon hitting Northside Drive, drivers either continue straight onto Mitchell, which curves back to MLK via Tatnall Street, or make a hard right on Northside, followed by a hard left to reconnect with MLK.

Ga. Tech architecture professor Mike Dobbins has led much of the opposition to their proposed plan, citing concerns it will worsen traffic congestion because it decreases the number of roads heading from those communities to downtown.

The legislation moved to the full council with a split vote --- three yays, two nays and two abstentions. Newly elected Post 3 At-large Councilman Andre Dickens and District 7 Councilman Howard Shook voted against its passage.

"The way this has been going is heated because there's a lack of trust," Dickens said. "Trust is important and we have to earn that."

 

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The Tampa Tribune (Florida)
JAMES L. ROSICA; Tribune staff

House Speaker Will Weatherford has said the only way public money should go to sports stadiums is through a competition, with teams fighting it out among themselves over who has the most worthy project.

This week, Sen. Jack Latvala obliged.

The Clearwater Republican on Monday filed a bill (SB 1216) that creates an evaluation process in which the Department of Economic Opportunity would competitively evaluate and rank applicants... based on their ability to positively impact the state.

The contentious policy of using taxpayer funds to build or renovate sporting centers has been a sticky thicket in Florida and elsewhere, with some experts saying publicly financed stadium deals often don't provide the economic boost that club owners promise.

The Tampa Bay Rays have so far refused to comment on whether they will ask for state money. The open secret is that the team has thought about leaving St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field to build a new stadium in a more populous area, perhaps downtown Tampa.

A number of other proposals died last year, including one that would have funded improvements to the Miami Dolphins stadium, and another measure introduced this year would direct state sales-tax dollars toward improvements at Daytona International Speedway.

Latvala was traveling Tuesday and couldn't be reached. His bill proposes a number of factors to be considered, including:

The kinds of signature events - like Super Bowls, all-star games or racing championships - the facility might attract.

The likely boost in ticket sales and attendance the project would create.

The likelihood of attracting out-of-state visitors.

How long a team has been in the state.

Whether the new or renovated stadium could host a variety of sporting or other events.

The ranking process also would give extra points to teams that can put up half or more of the total project funds.

The same day Latvala's bill was filed, the House Economic Affairs committee released language of its own for a proposed com

mittee bill that includes similar criteria.

The House version also has a provision that Weatherford has repeated: Showing an ability to provide a positive return on the state's investment.

As opposed to funding any stadiums this year, it would be my preference that we pass a process bill that allows all the stadiums that are out there and want to have a partnership with the state - they have to prove the value of that partnership, he said earlier this month.

The state already directs up to $2 million a year in sales-tax dollars to each of eight major league sports centers: Sun Life Stadium in Miami-Dade County, EverBank Field in Jacksonville, BB&T Center in Broward County, American Airlines Arena in Miami, the Amway Center in Orlando, Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, and Raymond James Stadium and the Forum in Tampa.

With the national economy on surer footing and Florida looking at a state budget surplus, other teams and local governments are looking to cash in while they can.

Our members have a lot of interest in their backyards, said Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, who chairs the House committee.

Patronis added that he hadn't seen Latvala's bill, but if it sounds the same, I think we can work with him, he said.

There are some differences.

The House limits the total pool of money to $12 million a year, and the Senate sets that amount at $13 million.

That may not seem like much help for new stadiums that can cost more than $100 million, but both bills allow for funding, in monthly installments, for up to 30 years.

The bills also would allow funding for a motorsport entertainment complex, mentioning the Daytona Speedway as an example, as well as a professional golf hall of fame and an international game fish association world center.

Coincidentally, the World Golf Hall of Fame is near St. Augustine and the International Game Fish Association Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum is in Dania Beach.

To compete for funding under either process, a local government could be the applicant, with the sports franchise being the beneficiary.

If the team applies on its own, the new stadium has to be built on public land.

To prevent a cut-and-run move in the future, both measures require state money to be repaid if a team relocates during the time it's getting funding, with the House bill tacking on a 5 percent penalty.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Latvala's proposal had not been referred to a committee for initial consideration.

The annual legislative session starts next Tuesday.

jrosica@tampatrib.com

(850) 765-0807

Twitter: @jlrosicaTBO

FUNDING, Page 6

House Speaker Will Weatherford has said the only way public money should go to sports stadiums is through a competition, with teams fighting it out among themselves over who has the most worthy project.

This week, Sen. Jack Latvala obliged.

The Clearwater Republican on Monday filed a bill (SB 1216) that creates an evaluation process in which the Department of Economic Opportunity would competitively evaluate and rank applicants... based on their ability to positively impact the state.

The contentious policy of using taxpayer funds to build or renovate sporting centers has been a sticky thicket in Florida and elsewhere, with some experts saying publicly financed stadium deals often don't provide the economic boost that club owners promise.

The Tampa Bay Rays have so far refused to comment on whether they will ask for state money. The open secret is that the team has thought about leaving St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field to build a new stadium in a more populous area, perhaps downtown Tampa.

A number of other proposals died last year, including one that would have funded improvements to the Miami Dolphins stadium, and another measure introduced this year would direct state sales-tax dollars toward improvements at Daytona International Speedway.

Latvala was traveling Tuesday and couldn't be reached. His bill proposes a number of factors to be considered, including:

The kinds of signature events - like Super Bowls, all-star games or racing championships - the facility might attract.

The likely boost in ticket sales and attendance the project would create.

The likelihood of attracting out-of-state visitors.

How long a team has been in the state.

Whether the new or renovated stadium could host a variety of sporting or other events.

The ranking process also would give extra points to teams that can put up half or more of the total project funds.

The same day Latvala's bill was filed, the House Economic Affairs committee released language of its own for a proposed com

mittee bill that includes similar criteria.

The House version also has a provision that Weatherford has repeated: Showing an ability to provide a positive return on the state's investment.

As opposed to funding any stadiums this year, it would be my preference that we pass a process bill that allows all the stadiums that are out there and want to have a partnership with the state - they have to prove the value of that partnership, he said earlier this month.

The state already directs up to $2 million a year in sales-tax dollars to each of eight major league sports centers: Sun Life Stadium in Miami-Dade County, EverBank Field in Jacksonville, BB&T Center in Broward County, American Airlines Arena in Miami, the Amway Center in Orlando, Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, and Raymond James Stadium and the Forum in Tampa.

With the national economy on surer footing and Florida looking at a state budget surplus, other teams and local governments are looking to cash in while they can.

Our members have a lot of interest in their backyards, said Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, who chairs the House committee.

Patronis added that he hadn't seen Latvala's bill, but if it sounds the same, I think we can work with him, he said.

There are some differences.

The House limits the total pool of money to $12 million a year, and the Senate sets that amount at $13 million.

That may not seem like much help for new stadiums that can cost more than $100 million, but both bills allow for funding, in monthly installments, for up to 30 years.

The bills also would allow funding for a motorsport entertainment complex, mentioning the Daytona Speedway as an example, as well as a professional golf hall of fame and an international game fish association world center.

Coincidentally, the World Golf Hall of Fame is near St. Augustine and the International Game Fish Association Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum is in Dania Beach.

To compete for funding under either process, a local government could be the applicant, with the sports franchise being the beneficiary.

If the team applies on its own, the new stadium has to be built on public land.

To prevent a cut-and-run move in the future, both measures require state money to be repaid if a team relocates during the time it's getting funding, with the House bill tacking on a 5 percent penalty.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Latvala's proposal had not been referred to a committee for initial consideration.

The annual legislative session starts next Tuesday.

jrosica@tampatrib.com

(850) 765-0807

Twitter: @jlrosicaTBO

Funding

From Page 1

 

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Copyright 2014 The Columbian Publishing Co.
All Rights Reserved
The Columbian (Vancouver, Washington)
Aaron Corvin Columbian staff writer
 

Nautilus Inc., the Vancouver-based manufacturer of fitnessequipment, wrapped up 2013 with solid earnings, company officials said Monday, including a fourth-quarter profit of $8.5 million. That compares with a profit of $13.5 million in the October-to-December period in 2012.

For all of 2013, Nautilus reported a profit of $47.9 million. That's nearly triple its full-year profit of $16.8 million in 2012.

However, the unusually robust full-year earnings came by way of a tax benefit involving the company's deferred tax assets.

Take the $33 million tax benefit out of the equation, and Nautilus reported a 2013 profit of $14.9 million.

During an earnings conference call Monday, Nautilus CEO Bruce Cazenave said the company "ended the year with an expanded and more diversified" group of cardio and muscle-building machines.

Nautilus sells its fitness-equipment offerings at brick-and-mortar retail outlets and through direct-to-consumer efforts, including TV, social media and other advertising.

The company reported overall net sales of $77 million in the fourth quarter, a year-over-year increase of 18 percent. For all of 2013, Nautilus posted net sales of $218.8 million -- an increase of about 13 percent from net sales of $193.9 million in 2012.

Bill McMahon, chief operating officer for Nautilus, said one of the company's new products -- the Bowflex Max Trainer, a home-fitnessdevice that combines the attributes of an elliptical and a stair-stepper -- "will be a key focus for us" in 2014. The launch of the Max Trainer shortly after the end of 2013 "exceeded our expectations," McMahon said, and the company plans to further promote the product this year to generate additional sales leads.

Nautilus also sees additional growth opportunities in international markets, McMahon said, where the company's brand is "underrepresented in several key markets." To help remedy that situation, he said, Nautilus recently attended a consumer fitness-equipment conference in Munich, Germany, where the company "showcased our new line of products."

Meanwhile, the company's balance sheet remains strong, Cazenave said, with cash and cash equivalents of $40.9 million as of Dec. 31 and "no debt financing."

Founded in 1986, the company -- which employs an estimated 310 people -- develops and sells fitness equipment and accessories. Its brand names include Nautilus, Bowflex and Schwinn Fitness.

The company's stock, which trades as NLS, closed down 10 cents Monday, at $8.25 per share. The company's shares have traded between $5.55 and $9.87 in the past 52 weeks.Aaron Corvin:

February 28, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Journal Sentinel Inc.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Wisconsin)
BRUCE VIELMETTI, bvielmetti@journalsentinel.com Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Two former officers of a Waukesha County youth soccer club appeared in court Monday on charges of embezzling more than $80,000 from the organization.

Barbara E. Olson, 42, of Burlington was the treasurer of the New Berlin Soccer Club. A criminal complaint charges that she wrote $12,690 in unauthorized checks from the club's account to cover personal expenses from February 2008 to January 2010.

After the club's board discovered financial irregularities in the spring of 2013, Olson told police she tried to confess to club president Melanie Gretzon in late 2009 but was told the club didn't want to make a big deal out of the offense, and to just resign. Olson told police she never heard from anyone else in the club.

No wonder. According to prosecutors, Gretzon, who last year was both president and treasurer, was embezzling on her own, taking more than $70,000 from the New Berlin Soccer Club and a Milwaukee Kickers ac- count from August 2009 through March of last year.

According to her criminal complaint, Gretzon, 42, of New Berlin, spent the money on everything from food, gasoline and pet supplies to her mortgage, utility bills and spa services.

There were charges to places like Home Depot, Gander Mountain, and nfl.com, as well as payments to other soccer clubs-apparently fees for some players - and to Toyota Park, where the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer plays home games.

Olson is charged with one count of theft in a business setting, and Gretzon faces four counts of the same felony, plus one misdemeanor theft count for the $1,619 officials say Gretzon took before being caught last year.

Olson was released on a $7,500 signature bond after a court appearance Monday.

Gretzon was released on a $10,000 signature bond, and ordered to have no contact with anyone at New Berlin Soccer Club, or Olson, and to neither work nor volunteer for any organization or business in a financial capacity.

Neither woman's attorney returned calls seeking comment Monday.

The New Berlin Soccer Club is one of 17 regional clubs that operate under the umbrella of Milwaukee Kickers. Kickers executive director Alvaro Garcia-Velez said it was fortunate that the local club had the affiliation and support of the larger organization.

"It could have been a lot worse," he said, noting that the lost funds didn't directly affect programming for kids at New Berlin Soccer Club but were taken from accounts that were meant to pay referees and tournament fees.

"Any time you lose $82,000, it's a big deal," Garcia-Velez said, "but we were blessed that it took place over a number of years, and from an ancillary account."

Garcia-Velez said the Kickers were lending money to New Berlin when the club was coming up short for several years. He said last April, someone with the bank where the New Berlin Soccer Club account was kept noticed something amiss, and called a club director who was the co-signatory on the account, who saw some "obviously inappropriate" expenditures. Garcia-Velez said the clubs have made claims on insurance, and hope restitution may cover any remaining losses.

In the meantime, the Kickers have imposed major changes on how the regions report financial information to the Kickers. All account statements now go monthly to the Kickers' main office at Uihlein Soccer Park where they get reviewed and are subject to occasional audit.

"It's more layers of reporting, more work. We had to hire more staff, but it's been dynamite," he said.

Both Olson and Gretzon were longtime volunteers whose children had played with New Berlin Soccer Club.

"You always have the best intentions from most volunteers," Garcia-Velez said. "Ninety-nine point nine percent are honest."

Copyright 2014, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)

Copyright, 2014, Journal Sentinel, All Rights Reserved.

 

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The Virginian-Pilot(Norfolk, VA.)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. | ACC commissioner John Swofford agrees that Jim Boeheim should have been ejected after storming onto the court to protest a charging call, but the Syracuse coach won't be disciplined by the league.

While noting that the charge was a "judgment call," Swofford wouldn't say whether referee Tony Greene got it right when he whistled C.J. Fair late in the Orange's 66-60 loss Saturday night at Duke.

"We don't second-guess judgment calls that officials give. They have to make them all of the time," Swofford said Monday. "That's probably the toughest call in basketball to make, even with the way it's changed."

The decision to eject Boeheim was handled correctly, he said, adding, "I think Jim would agree with that."

"A little drama is not all bad in the whole scheme of things," Swofford said with a laugh. "We've had a lot of drama throughout the history of this league... And Syracuse adds tremendously to our league."

more college hoops:

Iowa coach outlaws Twitter

IOWA CITY, Iowa | Iowa coach Fran McCaffery instructed the Hawkeyes to shut down their Twitter accounts for the rest of the season after senior Zach McCabe exchanged barbs with detractors on the social media service.

McCabe air-balled a 3-pointer that could have tied the game with 16 seconds left against Wisconsin on Saturday. The 20th-ranked Hawkeyes went on to lose 79-74.

McCaffery says his overall impressions of social media are negative and that he'd prefer his players keep their focus on upcoming games.

CIAA tournaments could be on move

CHARLOTTE, N.C. | CIAA commissioner Jacqie Carpenter hopes to have a decision on the future site of the basketball tournaments by late March.

The weeklong men's and women's tournaments tip off today in Charlotte, where they've been held since 2006, but the contract between the conference and city expires this year.

Hampton is among the cities expected to bid.

The tournaments are the NCAA's third-largest in terms of attendance and economic impact.

IN OTHER NEWS

East Carolina extended the contract of men's coach Jeff Lebo two years, through the 2020-21 season.

high school football

14-year-old says he's playing at lsu

SAN ANTONIO | A 14-year-old quarterback from South Texas has committed to play football at LSU.

Eighth-grader Zadock Dinkelmann orally committed last weekend. He's the nephew of Ty and Koy Detmer. Ty Detmer won the 1990 Heisman at BYU and Koy Detmer was an All-Big 12 player at Colorado.

The 6-foot-4 Dinkelmann, who plays for a junior high in Somerset, announced his choice six months before he can play in high school. He's at least the third junior high student from Texas to commit this school year.

pro football

Miami players' rep: fallout overblown

DAVIE, Fla. | The players' union rep from the Miami Dolphins says the fallout from their bullying scandal is overblown because every NFL team has a similar locker-room culture.

Long snapper John Denney said Monday that he hadn't read the investigative report, but behavior among players was no different last year than when his NFL career began in 2005.

"I would be comfortable in saying if you put an investigation on any of the 32 teams in the NFL, you're going to come out with the exact same results."

 

 

 

February 25, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 Star Tribune
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

Minnesota Vikings fans, at least some of them, can soon get a sneak preview of the team's new $1 billion stadium.

The team and Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment have completed the Stadium Preview Center adjacent to the stadium's construction site in downtown Minneapolis (now home to the hulk that was once the Metrodome). The space will be open to the public - by appointment - later this week.

The 7,500-square-foot Preview Center is located on the fifth floor of the 1010 Metrodome Square Building, 1010 S. 7th St.

The Vikings are currently contacting season-ticket holders to arrange appointments, followed by those who are on the team's waiting list. Non-season ticket holders can sign up for the waitlist or track developments on the stadium website, www.newminnesotastadium.com.

The interactive space is the largest ever built by an NFL team, according to the Vikings. It overlooks the stadium construction site and includes a "custom-filmed experiential player tunnel and Vikings locker room experience, two authentic suite build-outs, a 24-seat club seating section, 37 high-definition televisions and seven interactive kiosks," the team said in a news release.

The center also contains a cityscape model and a detailed architectural stadium model. Visitors can also see 360-degree panoramic views from 275 vantage points within the stadium.

"We believe the new stadium will provide the premier gameday experience in the NFL, and this Preview Center will help bring that into focus for Vikings fans," said Steve LaCroix, the team's vice president of sales and marketing and chief marketing officer.

The new stadium is slated to open July 2016.

JANET MOORE

 

February 25, 2014

 

 
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
JOE CHRISTENSEN; STAFF WRITER, STAR TRIBUNE (Mpls.-St. Paul)

Beyond giving Jerry Kill a sizable raise, the new contract the Gophers coach signed Saturday addresses such topics as assistant coaches' salaries and Kill's use of a private jet for recruiting.

The contract's fine print also spells out what would happen if Kill can't coach for an extended period for health reasons. Kill, 52, has missed parts of four games in three years with the Gophers because of seizures and took a two-week leave last season to address his epilepsy.

The new contract says "the agreement shall terminate automatically" if he is unable to coach for 90 consecutive days, or 70 consecutive days during the season. In that scenario, Kill would remain a university employee on leave of absence and would be able to seek disability benefits.

The language seems to be unique for the university. Past contracts for head coaches, including Kill's previous contract and Glen Mason's contract, did not include terms specific to missed workdays.

Under the category "Post-Coaching Employment," the contract goes beyond an extended health leave and states, "During the term of this agreement, the University and Coach may mutually agree to transition Coach... to an agreed upon position with the University," paying $200,000 per year.

"I just want to keep my job," Kill said Monday. "There are always stipulations on everything. I told you I'm not going to cheat the university. I know my back's against the wall.

"But I think this sends a message to all the kids that we're recruiting right now. I can control today. I can't control what happened yesterday. I can't control what's going to happen tomorrow."

Asked about the contract language pertaining to Kill's health, Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague said: "I feel really good about what it addresses and how we addressed it.... I think we addressed the things that we needed to address, and we can now move forward."

After a seizure kept Kill from making the trip to Michigan last October, he pledged to drive again by February. He said this knowing that drivers must remain seizure-free for three months before they can drive under Minnesota law.

Sure enough, Kill got behind the wheel earlier this month.

"Nobody thought I'd be driving, and I'm driving, [though] not very far," Kill said Monday. "That's one goal. My second goal was to make everybody proud of Gopher football, and I think we moved forward on that, but I don't think anybody in the room is satisfied with that.

"So I've got to truly move it forward. The people who tell me [they've had] 40 years of frustration, I've got to continue to change that. And if I don't do that, I don't deserve to be here, and I'm OK with that."

Kill was the lowest-paid coach in the Big Ten last year at $1.2 million. His new deal will pay him an average of $2.3 million over the next five years, putting him toward the middle of the conference.

The contract says the salary pool for Kill's nine primary assistant coaches must rank in the top six of the Big Ten.

"I wouldn't have signed the contract" without that clause, Kill said. "That's just the way it is. And the president [Eric Kaler] understood that. So did [Teague]."

When the Gophers hired Richard Pitino as men's basketball coach last year, they assured him the use of a private jet for recruiting. Kill's new contract allows him to use a private jet for up to 60 hours per year.

Teague said the contract negotiations went smoothly. The sides had the deal's framework in place for a while, but spent extra time working out details.

"Coach had a lot of things he wanted to talk about, and so did I," Teague said. "But in the end, we were very much on the same page. And it was a very good process."

HIGHLIGHTS OF KILL'S CONTRACT

Salary: Kill will make $2.1 million this year, and the salary will increase by $100,000 each year through 2018, for an average of $2.3 million.

Buyouts: If the Gophers fire Kill, they would owe him $600,000 - the amount of his base salary - for each remaining year of his contract. Likewise, if Kill leaves to take another head coaching job, he would owe them the same amount.

Jet: Kill has the use of a private jet for recruiting purposes, not to exceed 60 hours per year.

Health: The agreement is terminated if Kill is unable to coach for 90 consecutive days, or 70 days within the season because of health reasons. His pay would be suspended if he misses 45 consecutive days during the season. In those scenarios, Kill would be able to seek university disability benefits. The contract also states Kill and the university may mutually agree to transition him to a position other than head coach that would pay him $200,000 per year.

Bonuses: Like most Gophers coaching contracts, there are several bonus incentives. If the Gophers win five Big Ten games in one season, Kill would receive $50,000 - and $25,000 for each conference win on top of that. Kill would receive $50,000 for winning a bowl game, $75,000 if the team's average grade-point average is greater than 3.0 and $50,000 if the team's attendance averages more than 47,000.

 

February 25, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

For high school athletic directors in Minnesota, figuring out whether an athlete is eligible to play sports has never been more difficult.

As cases involving athletes who move to a new school become more complex - and raise more questions - some athletic directors say they are often taking on the role of a private detective. They check divorce records and even utility bills to see whether students are indeed living where they claim to be.

"You have to pry," said Mark Solberg, the activities director at Cambridge-Isanti High School.

Two recent cases, including eligibility questions that forced Achiever Academy, an online hockey school in the Twin Cities, to drop out of the girls' hockey state tournament playoffs, have pushed the envelope on a complicated topic.

The confusion emerged again when a high-profile wrestler transferred from defending state champion Apple Valley High School and attempted to wrestle for his new high school in the state tournament just days after enrolling in early February.

The Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) has tried to stay ahead of the complexities of modern families. There are rules governing eligibility when there is a court-ordered change of residence for child protection reasons. There are also rules when a student moves from one custodial parent to another custodial parent when the parents have joint legal and physical custody - which, among other things, requires the parents to give the athletic director a copy of their divorce decree.

Apple Valley, which boasts the state's top high school wrestling program, is providing fresh evidence of how messy transfer and eligibility issues can get. Several of the program's highly ranked wrestlers have moved to the school from out of state.

A series of police reports in Apple Valley, stretching back to May, show that school officials have been struggling with the behavior of one wrestler - the police reports do not identify him by name - who was living with a high school cafeteria employee because the wrestler's father was still living in Missouri. In January, the cafeteria worker obtained an order of protection against the wrestler, who she said had at one point "threatened to have the Missouri Ku Klux Klan come to Apple Valley and take care of her."

Apple Valley Principal Steve Degenaar and Craig Perry, an MSHSL official, declined to comment on the situation, but both said that students who move into Minnesota before they enter the ninth grade - suggesting that may be the case here - are not bound by high school transfer and eligibility rules.

Although the MSHSL plays an influential - and at times, determining - role in the cases, much of the work falls to already overworked athletic directors.

"I've dug up - requested - [bills] to prove that they're at an address," said Jason Obarski, the athletic director at Prairie Seeds Academy, the Brooklyn Park charter school that in 2012 was disqualified from the state soccer tournament over player eligibility questions.

Obarski, who became AD in 2013, said some athletic directors use the "check and make sure the tooth brush is wet" test to make sure an athlete is living where they say they are.

"I've gone pretty close [to] that," he said.

One lawyer who has studied the issues said that because of the complexities "the activities director might as well go out and get a law degree."

Decisions in secret

In many corners, the MSHSL has drawn praise. "There's no doubt that it's complicated," said Deb Pauly, a school board chairwoman in Jordan who sits on the state high school league board. But the league, she said, has "very, very, very strict and good standards."

Pauly acknowledged that because many of the MSHSL's deliberations on eligibility and transfers are private - and often involve nonpublic data and minors - the public is largely in the dark about how specific decisions are made. "It's just unfortunate [and] sad," she said.

The latest example involved Dayton Racer, a highly touted high school wrestler who abruptly left Apple Valley's defending state champion team and enrolled at a small western Minnesota school in a last-minute attempt to wrestle in the upcoming state tournament. Even after a decision was made on Racer's eligibility - Racer, in the end, did not wrestle for the school - Wheaton High School principal Russell Armstrong said he had been told not to discuss the case or make the final ruling public.

Armstrong said that the episode was stressful, causing him to sift through the reasons Racer left Apple Valley.

It "seemed like as every day went by, there were more and more layers," said Armstrong. "You have to be talking to lawyers, and you have to be dealing with the high school league and parents." People were saying, "We need a decision, we need it now," said Armstrong.

Challenging rules

With so much at stake, some parents have challenged the authority of the MSHSL.

One vivid example came in 2012 when the parents of a hockey player filed a federal lawsuit against the MSHSL - which the parents won. The suit came after league officials attempted to block the athlete's eligibility after the family argued it was switching schools because a new school offered a broader array of college-prep classes.

In that case, the MSHSL ruled the athlete ineligible for one year even though officials at the Academy of Holy Angels and Lakeville North - the school he left and the one he transferred to, respectively - supported the family. The family also hired the dean of a business school to provide an expert opinion of the two schools' college-prep business classes.

League officials argued that ruling for the athlete "would undermine its control" over the interpretation of MSHSL bylaws and "create administrative burdens" because the league would have to hold hearings "anytime a student sought to transfer to a school with a different slate of advanced course offerings."

Despite the league's arguments, a federal judge in November 2012 ruled in favor of the family and granted them a preliminary injunction. Nine days later, the league and the family settled the case, allowing the athlete to be "fully eligible to participate in varsity athletics."

FROM THE HANDBOOK

Bylaw 111 focuses on student-athlete eligibility upon a school transfer, and it's one of the longest entries in the Minnesota State High School League handbook. The highlights:

· MSHSL member schools make most eligibility decisions. For instance, eligibility for a student without family residence established in that school district initially would be a school district decision.

· How a transfer student can be eligible for varsity competition:

· The student transfers from one public school district to another with a change of residence and occupancy by the student's parents.

· A student of divorced parents with joint custody who moves from one custodial parent to the other custodial parent shall be fully eligible at the time of the move. The student may utilize this provision only one time during grades 9-12. The new residence cannot be located in the same public school attendance area as the previous residence.

· If a student moves with his parents to Minnesota, the student shall be eligible at the first school the student attends in Minnesota.

· If none of the provisions are met, the student is ineligible for varsity competition for one calendar year beginning with the first day at the new school. Students are immediately eligible for non-varsity competition.

· The provisions of Bylaw 111 are not applied to a student until he or she attends the 9th grade for the first time. If a student in the 7th or 8th grade moves into Minnesota the MSHSL rules do not require the establishment of a family residence in Minnesota.

More: For the full text of Bylaw 111 go to www.mshsl.org.

Mike Kaszuba · 612-673-4388

 

February 25, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 Virginian-Pilot Companies LLC
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The Virginian-Pilot(Norfolk, VA.)
By Gabriella Boston

You're bundling up for a chilly morning run. Or about to climb on the elliptical for a high-energy workout. Or warming up before a weightlifting session.

What's the first thing you reach for?

Your earbuds, naturally.

Studies have shown that listening to music that fits the cadence of what you're doing - running, cycling, aerobics - makes you work harder.

"The metronome aspect, the synchronization of movement to music, is the most important," says Carl Foster, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin at Lacrosse.

The idea of synchronizing movement to a beat is nothing new, he points out: In Roman galleys, the drumbeat drove the pace of the rowers. "But there is also the distraction and arousal that music brings," Foster says. They both matter, but it's unclear how much. "There's definitely more buried in music that affects us. But we don't know exactly how to tease it out."

So, how do you pick the "right" music for your workout?

If you want to make a workout mix based on tempo - or BPM, for beats per minute - various websites, including www.songbpm.com, can help you determine the tempo of your favorite music to see whether it fits your intended activity. Or you can go to sites such as www.motiontraxx.com that offer playlists at a certain BPM for running and cycling as well as other activities. Other sites include www.workoutmusic.com and www.powermusic.com.

"Music is positive energy," says Deekron "the Fitness DJ" Krikorian, who produces fitness playlists for MotionTraxx. "So when I put together playlists, I look for intensity, positive feeling and cohesiveness."

If he finds a song that feels right in terms of mood and intensity but has the wrong tempo, he might manipulate the BPM to fit the type of exercise intended.

"The beat becomes very important anytime there is repetitive movement," Krikorian says. "Our instincts tell us to move to the beat. Our feet tell us to move to the beat."

The ideal cadence for running is a hotly debated topic in the running world, and variations in stride length mean finding your ideal tempo could take a bit of experimentation. Some sources say an eight-minute mile corresponds with a BPM of 170; others go up to 200. Some suggest the ideal running cadence is in the 170s to 180s. And some studies show that faster may be better for injury prevention.

If that sounds like too much work, try a group fitness class; cycling, step and aerobics instructors have been leveraging the power of the beat for years.

Ingrid Nelson, a cycling instructor who packs her tempo-driven classes at Washington's Biker Barre, says intensity, style and cadence are all important when putting together her playlists.

"I like a lot of '90s hip-hop and usually stay in the range of 95 to 105 BPM," Nelson says, aligning the beat to the cyclers' revolutions per minute. But she might go as low as 80 or as high as 120 BPM for hills and sprints, respectively. When drills are aligned with the beat, she says, participants "connect with music" and "relax into the pulse."

As for other fitness activities such as step aerobics, the tempo hovers around 130 BPM, says Harold Sanco, group fitness director and instructor at Results gym in Washington. "You have to pick music that is both safe and effective," he says. "If you are going too fast, you risk injury and you're not working out effectively because you are not getting the full range of motion."

Rachel Goldberg, co-owner and instructor at Washington cycle studio Ride D.C., says her music choices go beyond BPM, style and genre. She uses the phrasing of the music to get the most out of her rides.

"When you marry your body's movements with the music it's a more holistic experience," she says. "You start flowing with the music." If there is a chorus or other recurring crescendos in the music, Goldberg might use those to increase the intensity.

"The music becomes your North Star - it guides you."

It also distracts you - something many of us have relied on during a long treadmill workout. Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise, says this is the aspect of music that resonates the most with him. "I enjoy using music as a distraction," he says, adding that music can keep you going no matter how tired you are.

Distraction, whether it be music or even a comedy show, can be helpful in a workout - at least in the beginning, Foster says.

That's where the importance of the beat and arousal come in. "After about 20 minutes or so, 'Larry the Cable Guy' is not enough to keep us going," says Foster, who used comedy in one of his studies. "We need more than a joke to carry us."

music for all motions

Studies have shown that listening to music that fits the cadence of what you're doing can make you work harder. But different types of exercise call for different tempos. Use this guide when building your playlist.

Power walking: 120 to 145 BPM

Elliptical, stair climber: 130 to 150 BPM

Indoor cycling: 130 to 160 BPM

Jogging: 135 to 155 BPM

Running: 155 to 180 BPM

running to a beat

Your ideal tempo will depend on your stride length, so take some time to experiment. Workout music website Motion Traxx offers this rough guide:

15:00 mile pace: 135 BPM

12:00 mile pace: 150 BPM

10:00 mile pace: 160 BPM

9:00 mile pace: 175 BPM

8:00 mile pace: 200 BPM

- Source: Motiontraxx.com/bpmfinder

Gabriella Boston is a fitness trainer and freelance writer. She can be found at www.gabriellaboston.com

 
February 25, 2014
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc.
Chicago Daily Herald

The Illinois High School Association has announced that Bogan High School, Hyde Park and Uplift High Schools, all in Chicago, have violated IHSA rules that limit the number of regular-season boys basketball games and tournaments teams can play.

As a result, those three teams have been removed from the upcoming Class 3A boys basketball playoffs.

Uplift was scheduled to compete in the Antioch sectional.

That sectional, along with the Chicago Vocational sectional, in which Bogan and Hyde Park were to compete, have had the seeds and brackets adjusted for the absent teams.

Uplift had earned the No. 2 seed in the Antioch complex. Carmel moves up one spot as a result of the disqualification and will face the winner of No. 15 Kelvyn Park and No. 18 Sullivan on Tuesday at Grayslake Central.

"These situations don't occur very often, but it is always disappointing when they do," said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman in a release. "The season limitations are long-standing IHSA rules that are necessary to maintain competitive balance."

 

February 25, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Albuquerque Journal
Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

The University of New Mexico and the Mountain West Conference on Monday were working to determine disciplinary action against one fan and still trying to identify another fan who threw objects at San Diego State players on Saturday night after the Lobos knocked off the then-No. 6 Aztecs in a sold-out Pit.

And Lobos coach Craig Neal on Saturday night spoke out against the longtime tradition of having two teams shake hands after a game. There was some pushing during the handshake line following Saturday's game, and the two teams were quickly separated.

"Handshake lines aren't good," Neal said. "I still don't understand them. When two competitive people go to war, two competitive teams go to war - they're not nice. I don't know what happened, but I was just trying to get my team out of there."

Anticipation of the game had built during the season with SDSU in first place in the league and UNM one win behind. The Lobos took an early lead in the game and never looked back.

UNM Athletic Director Paul Krebs told the Journal the school has identified the fan who threw a cup from behind the Lobos bench as the San Diego players were leaving the court - a fan singled out emphatically by Neal - but the athletics department had not yet contacted that fan as of Monday evening. Krebs said he would not comment further on the incident until that happened.

He did confirm "action will be taken," stopping short of saying what specifically that may be. He would not say whether the fan is a season ticket holder who may have those tickets revoked or if he was using the tickets of somebody else.

After Neal pointed out the fan, security escorted him out of the building. However, the guard failed to get the fan's identification, and the school had to review video to track him down.

Krebs said there was a second object, believed to be a water bottle, thrown from a fan behind the south basket of the Pit toward SDSU players as they walked up the ramp toward the visiting locker room. Krebs was less optimistic, based on video reviewed, that the school will be able to determine exactly who that fan is.

"Suffice it to say we want to win every game, but we want to do it in a classy way that represents the university and our fan base in the right way," Krebs said. "When something like this happens, it's very disturbing. It's disturbing in a lot of ways - that we don't have more restraint, that this particular fan thought he could be a part of the action, so to speak. That message is the wrong message. So we reserve the right to ultimately pull season tickets, but I think there is some information gathering that still needs to occur."

A year ago when a UNM fan, who ironically was a UNLV student from New Mexico, reached out and shoved UNLV senior Anthony Marshall along the north baseline of the Pit floor during a January 2013 game, that fan was banned from the Pit for the season. But the season tickets, which belonged to his family, were not revoked.

Oklahoma State player Marcus Smart was suspended three games this month when he shoved a Texas Tech fan after the fan called him a derogatory name. The fan voluntarily decided not to attend another Texas Tech game this season.

UNM and the league are also reviewing video trying to decipher what started the postgame scuffle near mid-court while the two teams shook hands - an incident that preceded the objects being thrown. They are also trying to determine whether an unidentified San Diego State player threw a towel at a UNM fan after the game before or after the cup was thrown.

Mountain West assistant commissioner for communications Kim Melcher responded to the Journal in an email that the league "has reviewed the postgame incidents following Saturday's San Diego State-New Mexico men's basketball contest. We have been in communication with both institutions and commend both programs for their quick response to the situation and cooperation with the conference office."

On Saturday, SDSU coach Steve Fisher said he was the first one to shake hands and the first one up the tunnel.

"So I have no idea what happened in the handshake line."

"I asked our coaches, 'Did you see anything?' They witnessed fans throwing a water bottle and a cup of ice and stuff."

Fisher said players Skylar Spencer and Dwayne Polee III "had stuff thrown on them."

Neal made it a point to repeat several times after the game, "We don't do that here," in reference to the cup-throwing incident.

"The key from our perspective is we don't want this to take away from our tremendous game or the great victory for the Lobos," Krebs said. "The atmosphere was tremendous. We have great fans. We had 15,400 folks in the building and we have two individuals, two incidents where something was thrown. The vast majority of fans were loud, supporting the Lobos and did all the right things. I don't want to give the perception we have a lot of unruly fans, but it only takes one or two to cause a problem."

Fisher said he tends to agree with that sentiment.

"We've been here every year and every year they've had 15,000 plus, with Snake (a boisterous and well-known fixture at the games) leading the charge, them screaming at us, yelling," Fisher said. "I've never had people throw stuff at us until tonight."

However, this is not the first time a paper cup has caused a flap at the Pit. In 1986, a Lobo fan threw a paper cup at a UTEP player who was attempting a free throw with two seconds left and UNM up 70-69. The Miner missed the shot, but the official called fan interference. The player then made two free throws to win the game.

 

February 25, 2014
 
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As Sochi passed the torch on to the next site of the Winter Games -- Pyeongchang, South Korea -- thoughts turned to a future U.S. Olympic bid.

The leaders of the U.S. Olympic Committee intend to bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics if certain criteria are met. In the next two months, the USOC will likely have a short list of three candidate cities and by the end of the year will be in a position to make its decision.

There's also the possibility the USA will consider bidding for the 2026 Winter Games, though the Summer Games would be a more prestigious prize.

But given the expense, security concern and politics -- all central issues heading into Sochi -- is it worth it? Does a country such as the USA need the Olympic Games?

"It's a big, heavy burden on cities and states," USOC CEO Scott Blackmun acknowledged, given the federal government is responsible only for helping with security and transportation. "The payoff is what it does to transform sport in (a host city's) community and what it does for the nation."

Given the cuts in college sports programs, which serve as a feeder system for most Summer Olympic sports, Blackmun said an Olympics in the USA would help boost those programs.

Sochi spent a record $51 billion to stage the Games. But Sochi had to build everything from nothing, while the USA would have a far more developed infrastructure in place. At the top of the list of potential bid cities are New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, but of those, only Los Angeles has publicly expressed interest in hosting the Games.

Other cities that have expressed interest in bidding for the 2024 Games include Paris; Doha, Qatar; and Durban, South Africa. The International Olympic Committee vote on the 2024 Games will be in 2017.

The 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City were the last Games on U.S. soil. A dozen years later, in a city 6,000 miles away, the impact those Games had on young athletes reverberated. Ted Ligety, then 17, was a runner on the slalom venue in advance of the competition. He watched Bode Miller compete, then later became his teammate and a gold medalist.

In Park City, a generation of female ski jumpers was inspired, fought for Olympic inclusion and made history in Sochi, where the event was included for the first time. All three U.S. ski jumpers grew up in Park City, training on that Olympic hill.

Until recently, the USOC was considered a four-letter word in IOC circles. Both American bids to host the 2012 and 2016 Olympics (New York and Chicago) failed miserably in large part because of a revenue-sharing feud between the USOC and IOC. Two years ago the sides resolved that dispute, and under Blackmun the USOC is back in the IOC's good graces. USOC chairman Larry Probst and Blackmun have spent significant time over the last two years building support, and Probst is now an IOC member.

In recent years, the IOC has picked first-time hosts perceived as risks. Amid the political unrest of the region and the lack of infrastructure, Sochi was given the Games in part to rebuild and revitalize the former Soviet power. In the first Winter Games in Russia, the host country won the medals race: 33 total and 13 gold.

Pyeongchang is not without concern. Its province was divided between the North and South Korean sides after the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a truce. South Korean organizers say the Games will help promote peace on a divided peninsula.

Organizing committee chief Kim Jin-sun hopes North Korea participates. He also hopes the USA bids on a future Games.

"Salt Lake City in 2002 is when we began our first bid process," he told USA TODAY Sports through an interpreter. It took three tries before the city won the right to host the Games.

"It is time for the United States to bid," he said. "So we wish you all the best."

 

February 25, 2014

 

 
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Palm Beach Post (Florida)
By Joe Capozzi Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

City officials think they have a home run of an idea to help revitalize their city and save spring training on Florida's east coast: a baseball stadium on the shores of Lake Osborne in John Prince Park.

They just need Palm Beach County, which owns the land, to buy into the idea. And that might not happen anytime soon.

"We don't want to create any false expectations. We're only in the exploratory stages," said City Commissioner Scott Maxwell. "Pardon the baseball pun, but we're just trying to figure out who's on first and what's on second."

Still, city officials say they are cautiously optimistic about the prospect of the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals sharing a spring-training complex on about 80 acres in the 728-acre park just south of Lake Worth Road and west of Lake Osborne.

The Palm Beach Post has already reported about the Nationals expressing an interest in suburban Lake Worth as a potential spring-training home.

Now, Lake Worth officials say the Astros are looking at the possibility of sharing the site with the Nationals.

"It's being strongly considered," said Lake Worth City Manager Mike Bornstein, who spoke with an Astros representative Friday.

The Astros had wanted to share a complex in Palm Beach Gardens with the Toronto Blue Jays, but the Blue Jays told Palm Beach County officials last week that the team is no longer looking in the county because they've decided to stay in Dunedin.

"Toronto is no longer a player in this anymore," said Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche, who is leading the county's efforts to attract more teams for spring training.

The collapse of the Palm Beach Gardens stadium plan led to the Nationals-Astros pairing.

"We want to be in Palm Beach County in a two-team facility," said Giles Kibbe, general counsel for the Astros, who confirmed that he has had brief conversations with the Nationals. "The Nationals have expressed interest, and so if that's the direction the county would like to go, we're all in favor."

Maxwell went to Washington, D.C., two weeks ago to tour Nationals Park, which has helped revitalize an area in need of an economic boost -- the same kind of boost Lake Worth hopes to get from a spring-training complex.

"It may not be our own land, but we're responsible for the utilities," Maxwell said of the John Prince Park proposal. "This isn't just about Lake Worth. This is a regional impact."

Lake Worth officials are excited enough about the idea that they compiled a computerized site plan to see how a ballpark and fields might fit in John Prince Park. One schematic has the main stadium with the lake in the background.

"It's a cool concept," Bornstein said. "How it plays out is in the hands of the county and the teams."

County Commissioner Shelley Vana, whose district includes John Prince Park, said she told at least one county official that she likes the idea because it could give an economic boost to an area in need of revitalization.

But Vana said the county might be reluctant to give up park land and to pay for the project with tourism tax money if there's a chance the teams can move into the region but outside of Palm Beach County.

Vana said county officials have been talking to St. Lucie County about the possibility of a team sharing Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie with the New York Mets.

Four teams are needed in the region to help preserve spring training on Florida's east coast. Besides the Mets, the area now has the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter and the Nationals at Space Coast Stadium in Viera.

But the Nationals have asked Brevard County to amend their lease, which now expires Dec. 31, 2017, so they can leave by November. And if the Nationals leave the region, the other three teams can automatically get out of their respective leases so they aren't stuck traveling long distances for spring-training games.

But prospective teams might be reluctant to go to Tradition Field because of the complex's long association with the Mets.

Former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, a lobbyist for the Nationals, said his team is keeping an open mind about sharing a complex with the Astros.

"Anything is possible, but I don't know of any earnest discussions that have occurred between the two (owners) of the teams. The owners would have to really sit down and hammer out those details," Foley said.

A two-team complex would need at least 100 acres. Bornstein said a complex would use about 80 acres in John Prince Park, so he hoped Palm Beach State College, which is west of the park, could become a partner in the project.

Residents in Lake Osborne, a neighborhood of 450 homes, including many on the east side of the lake, aren't convinced about the location.

"I polled my people," said Robert Waples, president of the Residents of Lake Osborne Heights. "They all said we all like the idea of having it in Lake Worth. They don't like the idea of the lights, the noise and the traffic."

He suggested the Lake Worth Park of Commerce north of Lake Worth Road might be a better location.

Another reason Bornstein likes the John Prince Park option is its proximity to both Interstate 95 and Florida's Turnpike and to Palm Beach International Airport to the north and Palm Beach County Park Airport to the south on Lantana Road. It's also within walking distance of a Tri-Rail Station.

"At this point I really feel like we have a legitimate seat at the table,'' he said. "This is a very legitimate site.''

jcapozzi@pbpost.com Twitter: @jcapozzipbpost

 

February 25, 2014

 

 
 

 

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The Philadelphia Inquirer
By Mike Jensen; Inquirer Staff Writer

In a change of direction, Temple University's board of trustees voted Monday to keep its men's and women's rowing teams, but reaffirmed its December decision to cut five other varsity sports.

Temple president Neil D. Theobald, who had recommended the moves, also announced with Mayor Nutter at a later City Hall news briefing that private and public funds are being allocated to renovate the East Park Canoe House, the city-owned boathouse that had been Temple's home until it was condemned in 2008.

The news wasn't as good for Temple's baseball, softball, men's gymnastics, and men's indoor and spring track and field teams. The board voted to cut them at the end of the academic year.

In a letter Monday to Temple alumni, Theobald reiterated what he said at the board meeting, that the original recommendation to cut sports "was based on four factors: the current condition of facilities, Title IX imbalances, student-athlete welfare, and our commitment to operating cost-effective academic and athletic programs at Temple."

"Rightsizing our program allows us to fully fund all women's scholarships; fully fund NCAA-permitted coaching positions; and increase the number of team doctors, academic advisers and trainers," Theobald wrote.

"Our students deserve safe, clean and spacious facilities. . . . Now we can invest in vital services."

Men's gymnastics coach Fred Turoff, in his 38th season in charge of the program, expressed his disappointment with the decision. However, Turoff met right after the vote with Lewis Katz, head of the athletic committee of the board of trustees. Turoff said Katz has committed to a matching-gift offer to keep the program going as a club team.

Turoff said he could raise $70,000 a year, Katz would match it, and that would be enough for a salary and an operating budget. The team would not be eligible to compete in the NCAA tournament.

Temple board of trustees chairman Patrick J. O'Connor said the dwindling number of men's gymnastics programs around the country was a factor in choosing to cut the program.

"The situation is very bad for everybody,'' Turoff said. "We have only five programs in the [Eastern College Athletic Conference], and knocking it down to five makes it tougher for the others. . . . A program like mine, where the tuition more than paid for the program, brings up a couple of questions. Why would you get rid of a program that doesn't cost you and is successful?"

Turoff noted that his team has trained with Temple's women's team since 1982, "when I was asked to equalize facilities for men and women, which I did. It hasn't kept us from being successful. . . . And we teach local kids."

The other teams had suggested ways of continuing. Told that playing on Temple's Ambler campus was an issue because of distance, the baseball team had secured a commitment from the Camden Riversharks to play all its home games at Campbell's Field and was working with the Phillies on practice-field arrangements.

"I think today was pretty much a wrap for us," said softball coach Joe DiPietro.

"My kid who spoke, the catcher, she was an all-American," DiPietro said. "They didn't answer her question about why the soccer teams are in Ambler other than to say we plan on bringing them back. How long - five years, 10 years? When the football stadium is done?"

School officials said the cuts were part of a broader look at athletics, which Theobald had told the board was "woefully underfunded."

When announcing the cuts in December, Temple said that its $44 million budget would not be cut and that the $3 million in savings would still be used within the athletic department.

As part of the boathouse agreement announced Monday, the city will continue a commitment to make $1 million worth of repairs to a retaining wall that collapsed into the river about a year ago.

H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, a member of Temple's board of trustees, will donate $3 million through his Lenfest Foundation, and the city will contribute $2.5 million toward the Temple boathouse. The university will have a long-term lease to control the building for both men's crew and women's rowing.

Repairs to the structure will be made inside and out, the parking lot will be rebuilt, and there will be new landscaping and some "green infrastructure" components to deal with water runoff. An announcement from the city said construction is expected to take between 12 and 18 months.

Lenfest and Katz are among the co-owners of Interstate General Media, which owns The Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com.

Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., whose district includes the Canoe House, said he wanted to make sure local high school clubs could use the renovated building.

"We want to be creative and find more ways for urban kids to participate in nontraditional sports," he said. "That's a part of what the discussion should be."

There have been discussions involving Philadelphia City Rowing, a privately funded program for Philadelphia public school students, but that wasn't part of the announcement.

"We've been working with Temple for a couple of years on this, and then it took off all at once," Jones said. "The mayor was trying to save the sport at Temple. The [Recreation] Department didn't want to lose the facility. The interests merged. . . . But the third leg of this stool is community involvement."

"I'm sure they'll be involved somehow, and they should be," said Temple men's rowing coach Gavin White about Philadelphia City Rowing.

White said he had mixed emotions, that the Owls rowers had "all been in the same boat" with the programs that will be cut.

White thanked Lenfest - "I've never met him" - and also the Schuylkill Navy, the governing body of the sport on the river, along with the Dad Vail Regatta board and local rowers. He said they had a great impact.

"I guess I still need to sit down and hear the details on the boathouse," said Temple women's rowing coach Rebecca Smith Grzybowski, whose team has been operating out of a tent along with the men's team. "We had discussions on the side, preliminarily, with architects and engineers, figuring out the costs. I can't wait to hear what the plan is, and figure out what we need to do to get there."

Grzybowski said she first heard about the Lenfest donation Monday.

"There were clearly meetings happening at pretty high levels," she said. "But we were not part of them. We were operating a few rungs below."

Before the vote, the coaches of the teams being cut spoke, along with several athletes, parents, and numerous board members.

John McCarthy, father of a sophomore baseball player, focused on the move to the American Athletic Conference.

"They didn't switch leagues," McCarthy said of the athletes. "You guys did. We went for the almighty buck."

"I was going to contribute $60,000," McCarthy said after the meeting, adding that he was still upset at what he considered a poor job of communicating the original decision.

In discussing the decision to cut baseball, O'Connor, the board chairman, noted that six players had transferred after the December vote to cut the sport.

mjensen@phillynews.com

@jensenoffcampus

Staff writer Troy Graham contributed to this article.

 

February 25, 2014

 

 
 

 

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USA TODAY
Jorge L. Ortiz, @jorgelortiz, USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball has decided not to ban home-plate collisions after all, only to outlaw the ones deemed "egregious."

In a compromise with the players association, which was concerned there wouldn't be enough time to train runners and catchers before the season started, baseball implemented a rule Monday aimed at protecting catchers while allowing most collisions.

Rule 7.13, which is deemed experimental and subject to adjustments during the season, establishes pathway guidelines for catchers (or whoever is covering the plate) and incoming baserunners.

Runners trying to score will not be allowed to change their path to the plate to initiate contact. If they do, they will be called out and are subject to discipline, including ejection, a fine and even a suspension.

The rule also forbids catchers from blocking the plate unless they possess the ball. Violators also will be subject to discipline, and the runner whose path was blocked will be called safe.

The umpire's call on the play is subject to replay review without requiring a challenge.

"Our goal is to eliminate the vicious hits, for a baserunner to go and instead of targeting home plate he's going to target the catcher, like in the (Buster) Posey case," said Joe Torre, MLB's vice president of baseball operations, who has been briefing teams on the collision rule and the expanded use of replay.

Posey, the San Francisco Giants All-Star catcher, suffered a broken leg and torn ankle ligaments in a home-plate collision with Scott Cousins in May 2011, prompting the call for safety measures for catchers.

MLB officials said during the winter meetings in December they hoped to ban most collisions at the plate in time for the season, but such a move received mixed reviews, even from catchers.

"I disagree with it," Boston Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski told USA TODAY Sports last weekend. "I understand why they're doing it, but next they're going to tell us that you can't slide into the guy at second base.

"There are going to be plays at the plate, late in games, where you need to block the plate, saving a run that ultimately gets your team into the playoffs. And not given that opportunity is unfair.

"I understand why the rule is made, but I wish there was a better way to go about it."

The new guidelines still allow runners to initiate contact if the catcher has the ball and is blocking the plate. Runners don't have to slide, but those who do won't be found in violation of the rule.

"He can run into (the catcher), but he can't elbow him, shoulder him," Torre said, "and that's where the replay stuff is going to come in."

Derek Norris of the Oakland Athletics said he had heard from fellow catchers who wanted contact to remain part of the game.

"A lot of them (agreed) we need to implement a system where they can't go out of the way to harm you when you're not really in the play, and I think that's kind of what we got," Norris said.

Contributing: Bob Nightengale in Florida.

 

February 25, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Southern Poly announced Monday the current season will be the last for its athletic teams as the Marietta school prepares to merge with Kennesaw State.

The merger, announced in November, is the fifth consolidation of colleges in the University System of Georgia. The merger is expected to be completed in August 2015, pending approval by an accrediting agency and the university system's board of regents.

Southern Poly has 88 student-athletes, 11 full-time coaches and three full-time administrative staff members, according to information released by the school this week.

Athletes who stay at the school will get to keep their scholarships during the 2014-15 school year, athletic director Matt Griffin said. It is not known whether those scholarships will be honored once the colleges are consolidated. Griffin said he was unsure Monday of the number of student-athletes currently receiving athletic scholarships.

Southern Poly athletes can try out for the new teams as can any other student, Griffin said.

Southern Poly fields four teams --- baseball, men's and women's basketball and men's soccer --- and plays against NAIA competition. Kennesaw State, a member of the NCAA Division I Atlantic Sun Conference, fields a much broader array of teams. Football begins play in 2015.

The university system's board of regents decided early in the consolidation process that the new school would be named Kennesaw State and adopt the Owls' colors and mascot.

Kennesaw State is Georgia's third-largest public university, behind the University of Georgia and Georgia State, with more than 24,500 students. Southern Poly's enrollment is about 6,500. The combined enrollment for the merged institution is expected to reach more than 31,000. Both campuses are expected to remain open.

The consolidation plans were proposed by Chancellor Hank Huckaby in 2011 as a way to cut costs and streamline the system.

The first four consolidations are expected to save between $5 million and $7.5 million annually. The latest merger is expected to save less than $5 million a year.

 

February 25, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 The Post and Courier
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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

A campaign by Citadel fans and alumni to return the military school's Corps of Cadets to the home side of Johnson Hagood Stadium for football games has proven successful.

"We won!" one fan posted on a message board after the school announced Monday that the cadets will be seated on the west (home) side of the stadium for games starting next season.

"After considering the logistical issues and determining that we can accommodate season ticket holders, we decided to move the Corps back because of the benefits of creating a livelier atmosphere for our fans," athletic director Larry Leckonby said in the school's announcement.

Cadets had been seated on the east side of the stadium, behind the opposing team s bench, since renovations to Johnson Hagood were completed in 2006. Some Citadel fans and alumni argued that moving the cadets back to the home side would energize the game-day atmosphere and help the Corps feel more connected to fans and alumni and to the team.

Alumni flooded the administration and school's Board of Visitors with emails and messages supporting the move.

"The move should provide the Corps with a more enjoyable game day experience while also allowing more camaraderie and connection with fans and alumni," Citadel president Lt. Gen. John Rosa said.

The news was greeted enthusiastically by Citadel football players.

"I'm super excited about it," said defensive tackle Justin Oxendine, a rising senior. "I think they will make the atmosphere so much better over there. They will help the crowd get into it, help give us that 12th-man advantage. Quite often, you ll see people sitting down on the home side at a major point in the game. I think with the Corps on that side, they will get them up and get them loud."

Oxendine said sitting on the home side will also make the cadets feel more a part of the game-day proceedings.

"I think there is a certain detachment with them sitting over there," he said. "They don t get to interact with the alumni as much. We'll get to see how the old Corps interacts with the new Corps and talk about how they've gone through the same things."

The move will not displace any current season ticket holders on the west side, the school's statement said.

Before the stadium was renovated in 2004-05, cadets sat on the home side near the south end zone. During the 2004-05 seasons, while construction was ongoing, the cadets sat in temporary bleachers on the west (home) side while fans were seated on the east side. Starting in 2006, fans and season ticket holders returned to the west side while the Corps of Cadets moved across the stadium to the east side, where they've been ever since.

 

February 25, 2014

 

 
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It's not all glamour for the NBA's rookies.

The new guys have to suffer a few indignities along the way.

This season, the Utah Jazz's newcomers have been subjected to a variety of rookie hazing, consisting of mandatory manicures, pink backpacks that must be carried around, post-practice cleanup duties and having to bring doughnuts for the veterans.

Rookie center Rudy Gobert found out Monday what happens when somebody forgets to bring the pastries.

The 7-foot-1 Frenchman left Monday morning's shootaround at EnergySolutions Arena to find his car filled with popcorn. He spent about 20 minutes cleaning out his vehicle before taking it to a car wash.

The rookie wouldn't name his top suspect.

"I don't have proof," Gobert said.

But he's pieced together some circumstantial evidence: "The same thing happened in Golden State last year," he said, putting Richard Jefferson, Brandon Rush and Andris Biedrins high on his suspect list.

Tank your money elsewhere

Kris Humphries, a first-round pick by the Jazz in 2004, has heard plenty of tanking talk this year. But the Boston Celtics forward isn't a fan.

"I'm sure there are some teams that want people to play for the draft," he said. "But there are other people coming to the games and spending money -- hard-earned money -- to see a competition. So I don't think anybody coming to the game wants the team to lose that night and waste the money."

Columbus connection

Jazz point guard Trey Burke and Boston forward Jared Sullinger grew up playing against and with the other often as childhood best friends in Columbus, Ohio. But they haven't had a chance to face off in an NBA game just yet. Burke did not play against the Celtics in Boston because of a fractured finger. On Monday, Sullinger sat out the game in Utah with a concussion.

afalk@sltrib.com

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February 25, 2014

 

 
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The Virginian-Pilot(Norfolk, VA.)
By Harry Minium

For the first time, visiting teams will have a spacious locker room at 78-year-old Foreman Field this fall. Instead of hanging their jerseys and helmets on hooks on the wall, players will have access to 74 standard lockers, while coaches will have 20 more.

The cramped locker room that has served Foreman Field since it opened in 1936 has been an issue since ODU began playing football in 2009. A temporary tent had to be set up outside the locker room during games because the facilities were too small to handle a modern football team.

Because ODU is joining Conference USA this season, the school was required to update some facilities at Foreman Field. The existing locker room is to be augmented with a 3,200-square foot addition.

ODU awarded a $617,290 contract for the project last week to E.T. Gresham construction of Norfolk, which is expected to start construction shortly, said David Harnage, ODU's chief operating officer.

The contract includes building a suite that will be used by the visiting school's athletic director and president. A site hasn't been selected, nor has the suite yet been designed, but it likely will built on the terrace area next to the Ainslie Football Complex luxury suites in the south end zone.

An instant-replay booth will be constructed in the press box on the stadium's east side.

The old locker facilities were built at a time when an average team might have 30 players weighing at most 200 pounds.

Now, many teams have 70 players, with several topping 300 pounds.

"Our locker facilities simply weren't adequate for an FBS team," athletic director Wood Selig said.

ODU plans to build a new stadium, which could open in four or five years, then would tear down much of Foreman Field. Facilities added to Foreman Field in 2009, including a parking deck and the luxury suites, will be retained to support student housing that will be built on the site. Officials also hope the new locker facility can be preserved.

The design by Moseley Architects calls for an annex to be built along Bluestone Avenue behind the stadium's west side.

The facility will intrude on property owned by the city, which has granted ODU an easement.

All of the improvements will be paid for from athletic reserves and not tax dollars, spokeswoman Jennifer Mullen Collins said.

No other improvements are planned for the facility in 2014.

ODU officials said they were pleased with the bid; they had estimated that the locker rooms alone would cost more than $600,000.

Harry Minium, 757-446-2371, harry.minium@pilotonline.com

twitter.com/@harry_miniumVP

 

February 24, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 The Columbus Dispatch
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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
Misti Crane, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Rose Hoffman used to eat no more than an apple before a four-hour practice.

The 14-year-old Bexley gymnast said she gave it little thought and felt that she had plenty of energy as she flipped and tumbled her way toward the next competition.

Late last year, though, Rose learned that she'd been taking in too few calories for a growing athlete who spends 20 hours or more in the gym each week.

The news came the hard way: A stress fracture in her back tipped off doctors to the possibility of a cluster of problems -- improper nutrition, absent or infrequent menstrual periods and decreased bone-mineral density -- known as "female athlete triad syndrome."

In the worst cases, patients lose significant bone mass that can't be rebuilt, predisposing them to fractures later in life.

The syndrome is especially common in athletes in sports in which lithe bodies equal a competitive advantage; those who are judged, such as figure skaters; and those who require small uniforms, such as volleyball players, said Dr. Anastasia Fischer, a sports-medicine expert at Nationwide Children's Hospital. But doctors also see it in girls and women who don't compete.

Sports-medicine experts are increasingly identifying the problem in part because of a broader new definition of the syndrome and in part because of growing attention to spotting it before it does irreversible damage. At Children's, the sports-medicine team has routinely been screening patients for the syndrome for four months, Fischer said.

The nutritional piece of the triad puzzle isn't always linked to what most people would think of as an eating disorder. Often, athletes restrict their diets by minimizing carbohydrates or eliminating dairy, but they aren't suffering from a psychological problem, experts say

"We have a lot of really picky eaters. We have girls who have a really narrow range of what they will eat and what they don't," Fischer said. In other cases, they burn more calories than they take in.

"I had no idea that I wasn't eating enough," said Rose, who hopes to return to gymnastics soon. She felt fit and strong and had never been a scale-watcher. And she didn't feel any pressure from coaches or teammates to keep her weight down, she said.

Finding problems early is important because bone density can take years to rebuild, and the bulk of bone growth takes place before the person is 20 years old, said Dr. Troy Smurawa, a sports-medicine specialist at Akron Children's Hospital.

Advocates are working to educate high-school coaches and nurses as well as medical professionals, said Jeanne Nichols, a San Diego exercise and nutrition expert who researches the condition and is president of the Female Athlete Triad Coalition board. Her group's efforts have the support of the NCAA, she said.

In a 2006 study of 170 high-school female athletes, Nichols' team found that 18 percent had disordered eating, 24 percent had menstrual irregularity and 22 percent had low bone mass.

Nichols said her group wants to dispel the myth that not having a menstrual period is OK. Among distance runners, in particular, it can even become a goal, she said.

Instead, a lack of a period should be a gateway to a discussion about overall health, she said.

Shelly Hoffman, Rose's mother, said her daughter was fortunate to learn of the problem before it caused significant loss of bone density.

"I didn't think as a parent I understood how many calories she was burning," Mrs. Hoffman said. "You need a whole lot more fuel than you think you do when you're training at that level."

A dietitian has since helped Rose learn how to better maintain a healthy body, both in terms of calories and the quality of the food she's eating.

Rose said she learned that she needs about 2,000 calories a day when she's not training and several hundred more when she is.

"I had no idea this was a thing. I think it's important that everyone is aware of this," she said.

mcrane@dispatch.com

@MistiCrane

 

Photo
Brooke LaValley / DISPATCH Rose Hoffman, 14, left, of Bexley, meets with Jessica Buschmann, a dietitian, at Nationwide Children's Hospital. Rose, a gymnast, was getting information about proper nutrition.

 

February 24, 2014

 

 
 

 

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USA TODAY
Nancy Armour, @nrarmour, USA TODAY Sports

Ask people their impression of Salt Lake City before the 2002 Olympics, and odds were it wouldn't have been too favorable.

"The image people had before was dry, white and Mormon," said Scott Beck, president and CEO of Visit Salt Lake.

A dozen years later, Salt Lake City's tourism industry is booming and it continues to attract new business as a result of its Olympic makeover.

"In large measure, it comes from that first change in perception that happened immediately after the Olympics," Beck said, citing the warm and friendly impression Salt Lake City made on visitors to the Games and those watching on TV. "It's been transformed to an exponential three. The ripple effect has really been so large that it's almost been hard for people to comprehend and in areas where people aren't normally considering."

As Sochi nurses its post-Olympics hangover, the question becomes: Now what? Oh, sure, there are plans for the venues, some of which will be used as soon as next month, when the Paralympics begin March7. The Olympic Park will be the site of the Russian Grand Prix, a Formula One race, in October.

But what about the host city, where organizers spent billions on infrastructure upgrades, hotels and transportation links to turn a beach resort into a year-round destination?

Nestled along the Black Sea, with the Caucasus Mountains less than an hour away, the combination of sand and snow set Sochi apart from other European playgrounds. But it's also one of the southernmost points in Russia, a 21/2-hour flight from Moscow and directly reachable from only a few other European cities.

Have the Sochi Olympics been enough to entice people to come back and make the $51billion price tag worth it? If the experiences of the previous four hosts of the Winter Games are a guide, the answer will be yes.

Torino was a large, industrial city -- the home of Fiat -- before the 2006 Games, and Vancouver was one of Canada's biggest and most cosmopolitan cities. Salt Lake City and Nagano were smaller and in more remote areas of their countries. But figures provided by officials in Salt Lake City, Torino and Vancouver all show an increase in tourism that continues long after the flame was extinguished.

Tourism spending in Utah increased from $4billion in 2001 to $7.6billion in 2012, Beck said. Skier days, the industry term for guest visits, increased from 2.8million to 4.2million, he said.

In Torino, the number of visitors has almost doubled, going from a little more than 550,000 in 2001 to more than a million in 2012. Piedmont, where the outdoor events were held, attracted almost 4.3million visitors in 2012, according to figures from Turismo Torino.

In Vancouver, overnight visitors increased from 4.1million in 2009 to 4.4million in 2013.

"As host to the 2010 Games, British Columbia was presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to increase international exposure and awareness of British Columbia," Clare Mason, spokeswoman for Destination British Columbia, said in an e-mail. "For those two weeks in February, with a worldwide audience of 3.5billion, the eyes of the world were focused on British Columbia."

Though city officials in Nagano did not respond to a request for information, anecdotal evidence from a member of the Japanese Olympic Committee suggests the community has had a similar experience.

"In recent years, buses running between Nagano and Hakuba, where alpine and Nordic skiing events were held, are packed with foreign skiers from mostly Australia and Asian countries during weekends in winter," Toru Kobayashi, who lives in Nagano, said in an e-mail. "There are also hotels and small accommodation facilities managed by Australians in Hakuba."

And that's just tourism. The Games also have helped with economic development efforts, be it convention business or luring new companies to the regions.

Salt Lake City, for example, is now home to Goldman Sachs' second-largest office in the world, Beck said. It hosts a trade show for outdoor retailers, and Beck said 34 companies with ties to the industry -- including ski makers Salomon and Rossignol -- have moved there since 2002.

"When you talk about developing the areas, clearly that was part of the goal. But it was much larger than that," Beck said in a telephone interview. "Our overall economy has grown because of worldwide recognition of Salt Lake as a city."

With Sochi a day-long trip from North America, at best, it is unlikely to see a huge influx of tourists from the USA and Canada. Bud Bellone, who came to the Olympics from St.Louis with his son, said their trip was great and he would like to come back to Russia to see Moscow and St.Petersburg. But he doubts he'd make another trip to Sochi.

"It wasn't easy to get here. You have the visa, the spectator's pass, the visa support letter," Bellone said, listing the documents visitors needed for the Olympics. "For me to come back and do a cultural tour in St.Petersburg is one thing. To come hang out on a beach? Probably not."

But Sochi is accessible for Russians and Europeans, and it's that market Sochi hoped to draw with the Olympics.

"The Olympic Games has provided a huge impetus boosting the development of tourism in this region," Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said Saturday. "This region has a great future ahead of it in terms of economic development and in terms of its image and reputation as a large, international-class resort."

Vladimir Milchakov visited Sochi about seven years ago and was stunned to see how much the area had changed when he arrived from Moscow for the Games. "There was nothing in the mountains," he said through an interpreter. "There was only one gondola there and almost no hotels. But now it's like a city there. There was only one road to Krasnaya Polyana, which was dangerous to drive. Now it's super safe.

"It's a full, year-round resort."

So much so, Marat Kodzaer said, he might do more than make a return visit.

"I want to move here," he said.

Contributing: Elena Vlasova

 

February 24, 2014

 

 
 

 

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USA TODAY
Keith Sargeant and, Steve Berkowitz, @KSargeantGNJ, @ByBerkowitz

To fund a sports program that university officials say will generate close to $200 million of additional revenue in its first 12 years in the Big Ten, Rutgers subsidized the athletics department nearly a quarter of that amount last year, according to the institution's financial report filed to the NCAA last month.

The report, obtained in response to an open-records request from USA TODAY Sports and Indiana University's National Sports Journalism Center, shows that the Rutgers athletics department received nearly $47 million in subsidies from the university's allocations fund to make up for a shortfall in the approximately $79 million athletics budget during the 2012-13 season.

It's an increase of about 68% from the $27.9million subsidy the athletics department received in 2012.

The $46,996,697 total subsidy, which includes $9,877,989 in student fees, $12,601 in government support specifically earmarked for the athletics department and $37,106,107 in direct institutional aid, is by far the most an NCAA Division I public school athletics program has received in a single year during the nearly 10 years USA TODAY Sports has examined spending and revenue data.

The nearly $47 million subsidy from an institution that partially relies on taxpayer funds means the state university subsidized 59.5% of the athletics department's total allocations. That's the largest percentage since 2005 -- a 15.8% spike from last year -- and its total allocated revenue is an amount that is greater than the total athletics operating revenue of all but 53 of Division I's 228 public school athletics programs in 2011-12.

Although the student fees subsidy increased 3.8% from last year, direct institutional support more than doubled from the $18.5 million that the university provided in 2012.

The more than $37.1 million is almost double the greatest amount of direct institutional support any other DivisionI public school has received in a single year since 2004-05, and it would have covered the total operating expenses of 164 Division I public school athletics departments in 2011-12.

Since 2005, Rutgers has generated $262.3 million in athletics revenue while the university has subsidized the program with $238.6 million. Rutgers distributes 10,000 complimentary tickets to students for football games and grants free access to other sporting events, a perk afforded to students whose fees have totaled $69.2 million since 2005.

Rutgers receives approximately 21% of its revenue from state appropriations, which means taxpayers fund part of the school's overall operating budget. According to the 2013 fiscal year financial report, Rutgers' $78,989,475 budget made up approximately 4% of the university's nearly $2billion allocations fund.

Although generated revenue decreased 11% to approximately $32 million in 2012-13, spending spiked as the result of a controversy stemming from former men's basketball coach Mike Rice's mistreatment of players.

Included in the 2013 expense ledger is $2,266,716 in severance payments, which is mostly made up of a $475,000 buyout for Rice and a $1.2 million settlement for Tim Pernetti to resign as athletics director amid the fallout of the bullying controversy.

The athletics department spent $1.9 million combined in severance payments over the previous eight years.

Although allocated student fees have risen every year since 2005, direct university support had been consistent at approximately $18 million a year since 2009.

"I would say, given all the turmoil we experienced last year, a dip in fundraising is to be expected," said Janine Purcaro, chief financial officer for Rutgers athletics. "It was unfortunate, but I think all that is behind us now, and we're seeing a lot of renewed support from our supporters, friends and alumni, especially as we're moving forward going to the Big Ten Conference."

Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi said this month that he expected the athletics department to be financially independent within the next six years as it begins receiving the full share of the BigTen's per-school distribution in 2020.

 

February 24, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.
Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

Jason Collins signed a 10-day contract Sunday with Nets.

LOS ANGELES - Jason Collins became the first openly gay player to see action in an NBA game.

Collins, signed Sunday to a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets, reported into the game against the Los Angeles Lakers with 10:28 left in the second quarter and the Nets leading 35-26 after Nick Young made the first of his two free throws.

The crowd welcomed him with a nice ovation when public address announcer Lawrence Tanter announced his name.

Earlier, Collins said he was too busy trying to learn plays to worry about making history.

"Right now I'm focusing on trying to learn the plays, learning the coverages and the game plan and the assignments. So I didn't have time to really think about history," Collins said at a crowded press conference less than an hour before the game.

The 35-year-old center revealed at the end of last season he is gay, but he was a free agent and had remained unsigned.

Collins said he was aware of the magnitude of his signing, but repeatedly said he was most concerned with learning the Nets' schemes.

"The pressure is playing in an NBA game tonight and last time I played in an NBA game was last April," Collins said. "So I think that's enough pressure right there."

With a need for another big man, the Nets turned to the 7-foot Collins, who helped them reach two NBA Finals in the early 2000s.

"The decision to sign Jason was a basketball decision," general manager Billy King said in a statement. "We needed to increase our depth inside, and with his experience and size, we felt he was the right choice for a 10-day contract."

Collins has played 12 NBA seasons, including his first seven with the Nets, when they were in New Jersey and Jason Kidd was their point guard. Kidd is now the Nets' coach and Collins has been a teammate of several other current Nets.

Collins played 38 games last season with Boston and Washington. For his career, Collins averages 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds, including 103 games from 2009-2012 with Atlanta.

The Nets worked out Collins during the All-Star break and met with him again Sunday.

Collins grew up in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles and has a house here, so there was some normalcy to his day.

Collins ultimately will wear No. 98 for the Nets, but he couldn't wear it Sunday because it wasn't available for the game against the Lakers, so he wore No. 46 instead.

 

February 24, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
JAMES LILEKS; STAFF WRITER, STAR TRIBUNE (Mpls.-St. Paul)

Unless we give the NFL some tax breaks, we won't get a Super Bowl. Some legislators say no, but this will happen. Everything related to the new stadium was always inevitable, and the idea that we'd build this thing and not bid for a Super Bowl is like someone getting fabulous plastic surgery in advance of the 20th high school reunion and then deciding to go wearing a mask.

Let's say the NFL wouldn't give us a Super Bowl unless a town within 50 miles of the stadium renamed itself Pigskin Fever and branded all firstborn males with the NFL logo.

Legislators' response: We're not going to burden hardworking Minnesota families with the cost of salves and unguents to heal those burns.

NFL: Whatever. Tampa's on board. Later dudes.

Legislators negotiate for temporary tattoos in place of the branding. NFL: How about you draw it on with a Sharpie. You pay for the Sharpies.

Legislators: Temporary 0.5% sales tax on markers. Ten years later, the tax is still there; the money goes for tattoo removal programs for prisoners. Attempts to repeat the tax are met with protests, since tattoo removal has been proven to assist ex-felons reintegrate into society.

All this aside, it's not costing us anything if we waive the sales tax on the tickets. It's like passing a 95% tax on the income of the king of Saudi Arabia for the time he spends at Mayo, and he goes to the Scottsdale branch. We're not giving him anything.

If we have the right to tax the salaries of players who come here for a day to grunt and hit people, then we have the right to tax the salary of a truck driver who passes through the state and happens to gas up at Clearwater.

So give them the tax "break." No one will ever hit a deep pothole and curse: "If only they'd taxed Super Bowl tickets four years ago I wouldn't have snapped an axle!" Likewise, no one will ever say "Upon recollection of those overhead blimp-cam shots of Minneapolis we saw, I propose we pay the fine town a visit." Have you?

By the way: If the Louvre said it would loan the Institute of Arts the Mona Lisa provided we didn't tax the admission tickets, the bill would pass in four seconds. Hope that happens, too: You'd see the most civilized tailgating ever.

 

February 24, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Tim Tucker; Staff

Of roughly $267 million that the Braves guaranteed four of their prized young players in lengthy contract extensions this month, more than 70 percent will be paid after the team is scheduled to move into its new stadium.

The rapid signings of first baseman Freddie Freeman, shortstop Andrelton Simmons, starting pitcher Julio Teheran and closer Craig Kimbrel --- all to contracts that extend beyond the move to Cobb County in 2017 --- underscore the Braves' expectation of an economic home run in a stadium that will be built in part with taxpayer money.

"Really, as far out into the future as I can see, I see us raising payroll every year," Braves chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Yes, part of that thought comes from the optimism and the lack of uncertainty that the new world brings to us."

One of baseball's big spenders in the 1990s, the Braves sharply reduced their player payroll for the 2004 season, saying they had overspent for too long. The payroll has fluctuated in a narrow range since then and remains lower for 2014 than for 2003.

But this month's signing spree has brought hope to many Braves fans that the team once again will compete economically, at least in retaining exceptional homegrown players, even as salaries soar around Major League Baseball.

The Braves guaranteed $135 million to Freeman for eight years, $58 million to Simmons for seven years, $42 million to Kimbrel for four years and $32.4 million to Teheran for six years. (The Braves also signed right fielder Jason Heyward to a new contract, but that is for two years and thus unrelated to the stadium.) The contracts also give the team the option to extend Teheran and Kimbrel for an additional year.

In 2017, when the Braves expect the new ballpark to generate sharp increases in revenue, Freeman, Simmons, Kimbrel and Teheran will make a combined $47.8 million. In all, $193.8 million of the $267.4 million guaranteed in the four contracts --- 72.5 percent --- will be paid after the stadium opens.

The Braves were able to negotiate such backloaded deals because the later years are the ones in which the players otherwise could have been free agents.

For the 2014 season, the Braves' payroll budget is $100 million. That's up modestly from last season but below the team's peak of $106 million in 2003.

McGuirk, who has final say over the team's budget, would not disclose a projected payroll for 2017 --- in part, he said, because the economics of the stadium and the planned adjacent mixed-use development are a work in progress.

"We don't know exactly how it's all going to turn out between here and 2017," McGuirk said. "We're doing something that has never been done before. We're not only building a stadium with all the promise that brings, but we're building this mixed-use environment around it that we're going to have a major hand in. That contributes to what we can do."

The Braves will partner with a group of real estate developers --- two groups have been chosen as finalists --- on the privately funded shopping/entertainment/residential complex. The Braves' stake in the development "won't be on the same balance sheet as the baseball team" but will generate revenue that will benefit the team, McGuirk said.

The new ballpark and development won't push the payroll as high as baseball's biggest spenders, the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, who currently spend more than twice as much as the Braves on players.

"We're not New York or L.A., which have opportunities of revenue generation that cause them to spend $200 million-plus on teams," McGuirk said.

Aside from the stadium, the Braves' revenue already is on the rise. Early last year, the team reworked a portion of its local TV deal. That change led to a revenue increase of $20 million in the first quarter of the year, team owner Liberty Media disclosed in a financial report, adding that the Braves expected ongoing increases from local broadcast rights. The current annual value of the local TV deal is not known.

Large increases also are on the way from MLB's new national TV contracts, which reportedly will provide each team an additional $25 million per year on average (although less than that in the first year of the contracts).

The Braves may use some of the increased TV revenue toward building the stadium, projected to cost up to $672 million. Cobb County is on the hook for $300 million and the Braves for the rest.

"Certainly everything we have (available) right now is contributing to the building of the stadium," said McGuirk, who acknowledged that the team will take on debt.

The Braves control the stadium's naming rights under terms of the deal with Cobb. Unlike at Turner Field, named for former team owner Ted Turner, the Braves intend to sell the name to a corporate sponsor. Typically, teams use naming-rights revenue toward the cost of construction or debt service.

Once the new ballpark opens, McGuirk expects "virtually all" stadium-related revenue streams to grow.

Although the stadium will have about 9,000 fewer seats than rarely filled Turner Field, "I expect our average attendance to go up quite dramatically," McGuirk said. He cited the surrounding development as one reason.

The Braves' expectations are realistic, although not a given, sports business experts say.

"These days, (the adage of) 'if you build it they will come' is nowhere near as prevalent as it was in the past," said Bernie Mullin, CEO of Atlanta-based sports-management consulting firm The Aspire Group and a former executive with the Hawks, Thrashers, Colorado Rockies and Pittsburgh Pirates. "Now, people have been there, done that, seen that.

"It really depends on how excited the market gets by the new stadium and the amenities in it. Because, let's face it, Turner Field is a good ballpark. It's not like they're moving from a dump."

Still, if the new stadium excites the market, the Braves could "realistically" expect to increase revenue from ticket sales, food, beverage, parking and in-stadium advertising by 35 percent to 50 percent, Mullin said.

That would require a confluence often delivered by new stadiums: sharply higher attendance, at least for a few years, despite sharply higher ticket prices.

The Braves have said they expect a sustainable increase in attendance in part because the stadium will be nearer the majority of their ticket buyers. On the other hand, the team faces a risk that in-town fans might not follow it to the suburbs.

"That's what makes this move more complex than others," said Josh Pitts, a professor of sports management and economics at Kennesaw State. "They're not just building a new stadium in Atlanta, they're moving apparently closer to the fan base. So we might expect the positive benefits (customarily associated with a new stadium) to be even greater."

It all hinges on the experience the ballpark delivers, Mullin said. "Baseball attendance is driven by how many games the average fan comes to," he said. "If they go to 4 1/2 games per season on average instead of 3 1/2, it has a huge impact on attendance and all the revenues related to that.... Traffic access getting in and out is going to be a massive factor in the Braves' ability to increase frequency of attendance and drive revenue."

Even without a new ballpark on the horizon, McGuirk said, the Braves would have endeavored to retain their highly regarded collection of young players.

"It was paramount we had to sign this group to build for the future, especially given the modern economics of the game where... free agency is so inherently inefficient," he said.

The stadium plan, though, provided financial comfort and upped the stakes.

"Part of the magic of a new stadium is that you have an opportunity to give your fans a chance to fall in love with your team and your ballpark all over again," McGuirk said. "It's an opportunity you have to take advantage of.

"This in itself doesn't get us to the promised land," he said of the contract-extension spree. "We believe this is the first step and a major step toward building teams that are going to be dynamic and competitive at the highest levels for a long period of time."

FOLLOW THE MONEY

The Braves this month have signed four players to contracts that extend beyond the planned opening of a new stadium and mixed-use development in Cobb County in 2017. A breakdown of those contracts (incentive bonuses not included):

FREDDIE FREEMAN

Signing bonus: $2.875 million

2014: $5.125 million

2015: $8.5 million

2016: $12 million

2017: $20.5 million

2018: $21 million

2019: $21 million

2020: $22 million

2021: $22 million

Total: 8 years, $135 million

In new stadium: 5 years, $106.5 million

ANDRELTON SIMMONS

Signing bonus: $1 million

2014: $1 million

2015: $3 million

2016: $6 million

2017: $8 million

2018: $11 million

2019: $13 million

2020: $15 million

Total: 7 years, $58 million

In new stadium: 4 years, $47 million

CRAIG KIMBREL

Signing bonus: $1 million

2014: $7 million

2015: $9 million

2016: $11 million

2017: $13 million

2018: Club option for $13 million or buyout of $1 million

Total: 4 years, $42 million guaranteed; 5 years, $54 million if option is exercised

In new stadium: 1 year, $14 million guaranteed (including buyout); 2 years, $26 million if option is exercised

JULIO TEHERAN

Signing bonus: $1 million

2014: $800,000

2015: $1 million

2016: $3.3 million

2017: $6.3 million

2018: $8 million

2019: $11 million

2020: Club option for $12 million or buyout of $1 million

Total: 6 years, $32.4 million guaranteed; 7 years, $43.4 million if option is exercised

In new stadium: 3 years, $26.3 million guaranteed (including buyout); 4 years, $37.3 million if option is exercised

 

February 24, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Virginian-Pilot Companies LLC
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The Virginian-Pilot(Norfolk, VA.)

The head of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which monitors diversity in the NFL, expects the league to institute a rule where players would be penalized 15 yards for using the N-word on the field.

John Wooten said Saturday he anticipates the league's competition committee will enact the rule at next month's owners' meeting.

Wooten, who has previously urged players to stop using the slur, told CBSSports.com he thinks the NFL will rule an automatic 15-yard penalty for first-time offenders and an ejection for second infractions.

"I will be totally shocked if the competition committee does not uphold us on what we're trying to do," he said. "We want this word to be policed from the parking lot to the equipment room to the locker room."

Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, who is on the committee, said the rule had been discussed last week, and added that the committee also talked about other slurs coming under any possible new rule, including homophobic slurs.

more pro football

browns coach dismisses report

INDIANAPOLIS | New Cleveland coach Mike Pettine calls a report "noise" that the Browns tried to trade for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.

The Pro Football Talk website reported Friday that before hiring Pettine last month, Cleveland had a deal in place, but Harbaugh decided to stay. Via Twitter, 49ers CEO Jed York denied that was true.

Pettine said Saturday it "has no bearing" on his job. Though the Browns didn't deny trying to acquire Harbaugh, Pettine said it showed the organization's commitment to turning the franchise around.

gm troubled by video of rice

INDIANAPOLIS | Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome said it "doesn't look good" after watching an online video showing Ray Rice dragging a woman out of a casino elevator last weekend, but is withholding judgment until he gets the details about the incident.

Newsome said he has not yet spoken with the running back, who was charged with simple assault after allegedly knocking out his fiancee during an argument in Atlantic City, N.J.

Rice's fiancee, Janay Palmer, also was charged with simple assault.

tennis

venus gets back in the win column

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates | Venus Williams won her 45th career WTA title at the Dubai Championships with an impressive 6-3, 6-0 victory over Alize Cornet of France in the final on Saturday.

Playing courtesy of a wildcard, the 44th-ranked Williams won all five of her matches this week in straight sets and will move up to No. 29 in Monday's updated rankings.

The former world No. 1, whose last title was in 2012 in Luxembourg, also won in Dubai in 2009 and 2010.

"I have had a good week," Williams said. "Everything is falling together."

IN OTHER TENNIS NEWS

Defending champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga weathered a stern test against 117th-ranked Jan-Lennard Struff to win 7-6 (4), 7-5 at the Open 13, setting up a final with third-seeded Ernests Gulbis after he upset top-seeded Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-2.

Alexandr Dolgopolov beat David Ferrer 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals of the Rio Open, earning a date for the title against top-ranked Rafael Nadal, a 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (10) winner over Pablo Andujar.

baseball

mets ace passes 1st throwing test

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. | Mets ace Matt Harvey threw Saturday for the first time since his elbow ligament-replacement surgery.

"It was awesome," the right-hander said. "I know it was 20 throws at 60 feet, but everything felt absolutely amazing. I've got a lot of work to do. It's going to be a tough process with how things felt today. But I've got to stick with it and move forward."

Harvey threw on the four-month anniversary of his surgery - the date he targeted for throwing.

IN OTHER MLB NEWS

The Dodgers signed Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena to a five-year, $25 million contract.

Padres third baseman Chase Headley is expected to miss a couple of weeks with a strained right calf.

Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia will have his surgically repaired throwing shoulder re-examined after experiencing pain.

The Red Sox signed pitcher Chris Capuano to a one-year, $2.25 million deal.

Rangers catcher Geovany Soto had arthroscopic surgery to remove a small bone from his left foot and should be ready for the start of the season.

golf

els returns to match play semis

MARANA, Ariz. | Ernie Els reached the semifinals of the Match Play Championship for the first time in 13 years Saturday, beating a frustrated Jordan Spieth on the 16th hole.

Els next plays Victor Dubuisson, who ended Graeme McDowell's magical week on the 18th hole.

Jason Day took out ailing Louis Oosthuizen to reach the semis for the second straight year. He next plays Rickie Fowler, who won the last two holes for a 1-up win over Jim Furyk.

IN OTHER GOLF NEWS

Anna Nordqvist shot a 5-under 67 at the LPGA Thailand for a 4-stroke lead over top-ranked Inbee Park and Michelle Wie.

in other news

Modifications to the University of Indiana's Assembly Hall have been completed, and the arena is "fully functional" four days after an 8-foot, 50-pound steel facing fell from the ceiling into empty seats, forcing the cancellation of Tuesday's game with Iowa.

The University of Minnesota extended the contract of football coach Jerry Kill one year, through 2018, and raised his salary to $2.1 million.

 

John Wooten Harbaugh Harvey

 

February 23, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
All Rights Reserved
The Philadelphia Inquirer

What a coach, Mike Zolk thought.

It was nearly midnight on a Friday in 2011. Zolk and his son were swatting balls at a batting cage in Northeast Philadelphia when Lou Spadaccini walked up.

Spadaccini had coached Neumann-Goretti High School to its first baseball championships in decades. Zolk's son, nicknamed Zoom, played second base.

The coach knew where to find Zoom that night after seeing a Facebook post by the teen. For an hour, he just watched the father and son swing.

Must be a baseball junkielike me, the elder Zolk thought. What a coach.

Spadaccini's success gave him access and credibility. It also made his crimes all the more scarring.

That same year, Spadaccini, 37, plied two boys, both baseball prospects, with alcohol and drugs. He sexually assaulted one, then 13. He took the other, 14, to a hotel, but rushed him home intoxicated, although unharmed, when the boy's parents kept calling.

The Philadelphia region has experienced a spate of such betrayals. In the last three years, 11 area youth coaches - from the Main Line to North Philadelphia to upper Bucks County - have been charged with attempting or having sexual contact with a player.

Spadaccini is among eight who have admitted such crimes. Two others are awaiting trial. The range of affected sports and schools is broad:

Eric Romig, 36, a softball coach at Bucks County's Pennridge High School, had sex with a 16-year-old player.

Kenneth Fuller, 47, slept with a 17-year-old girl on his swim team at Bayard Rustin High School in Chester County.

Lana Trotter, 27, had a two-year affair with a 16-year-old on her softball team at Delaware County Christian School in Newtown Square.

Ivan Pravilov, 48, a renowned hockey coach who ran a youth program, allegedly sexually assaulted two 14-year-old boys at an apartment in Mount Airy. He killed himself while awaiting trial.

James Civello, 50, a squash coach at the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, had sex with a 16-year-old player.

Fran Murphy, 39, the athletic director and a former coach at Archbishop Carroll in Radnor, sexually propositioned a 16-year-old football player.

New Jersey has had similar cases. In 2009, David Durling, who coached club soccer in Vineland, was convicted of molesting three players, ages 7 and 8 when the crimes began.

Experts agree the number of arrests has increased. But the rate of assaults has likely remained the same. The difference, they say, is a heightened awareness, driven in part by the prosecution of Jerry Sandusky, the former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach, for sexually assaulting boys.

The coaches who have been arrested almost certainly represent fewer than 1 percent of the adults active in youth sports. But the wave of cases in the region has helped spawn legislation in Harrisburg and Trenton, training in schools, discussions across the country, and a new attention on the field.

"I see people hanging around our practices, and I ask, 'Who is that?' " said Mike Matta, a guidance counselor and head football coach at Downingtown East. "Ten years, ago I wouldn't have asked."

Matta is one of the few coaches, school officials, or parents who agreed to talk publicly about the topic for this article. But interviews and a review of hundreds of court records offer a glimpse into how and why such assaults occur.

Abuse often starts with special attention and extra one-on-one practices before the coach and the player start spending time off the field. Most offenders have known their victims for months, if not years, employing a kind of long con on players, parents, and communities.

"The good news is that we seem to be waking up to it," said Kate Staley, associate director of the Penn State Justice Center for Research. "What I hope is a sea change in looking at the issue honestly and saying, 'It happens, and it happens a lot more than we ever thought it did.' "

But, as Zolk discovered, such revelations come at a price.

"My son was at a school where me and 35 other parents were completely fooled by their head coach," he said. "I don't trust anymore."

'Not a coincidence' Spadaccini grew up in South Philadelphia. He was an all-Catholic outfielder at St. John Neumann High School in the 1990s and played for Temple University. After college, he worked as a court crier in the city's Criminal Justice Center.

As a favor to a friend, he said, he agreed to coach a travel team of 10- to 12-year-olds.

"I didn't even know if I wanted to coach," he told The Inquirer in 2010, before his arrest. "I didn't think I had the patience. But I fell in love with the kids."

Even in his first season with Neumann Goretti's Saints in 2007, Spadaccini kept an eye on the younger clubs, ostensibly looking for prospects for his high school team.

One was a fifth-grade boy whom Spadaccini would assault years later.

"The coach would say how good our son was and how he wanted him to go to Neumann one day and play for him," the boy's mother testified last year at Spadaccini's sentencing.

Advocates say child sex abusers often take their time to build trust with their victims, a process called grooming.

"It's not a coincidence that predators choose activities or professions where they have access to children," said Steve Doerner, an education coordinator at the nonprofit Network of Victim Assistance of Bucks County. "That's why an overwhelming number of children who are victimized know and trust their attacker."

Kenneth Fuller, the Chester County swim coach, met his victim when she joined his team at age 14.

Over the years, Fuller gave the girl the "star treatment," said Tom Hogan, Chester County's district attorney. When she was 17, after the swim season ended, the coach met her outside of school to discuss her "swimming future," police said.

The two eventually had sex in hotel rooms.

Fuller left roses on her car and sent text messages that said he was "falling in love," according to court records. He was arrested after the girl confided in friends who told police. Fuller was sentenced to seven to 23 months in prison after pleading guilty to charges including corruption of minors.

His attorney disputed that the coach groomed the girl, saying the incident unfolded only in a few weeks. "Somehow he became enamored with this young girl and made a huge mistake," attorney Vincent DiFabio said.

'Like a teenager' During his third season, Spadaccini took the once-downtrodden Saints to their first Catholic League championship in nearly 50 years. The team won again in 2011, months before his arrest.

Looking back, however, Zolk said Spadaccini wasn't an "X's and O's" kind of coach. Despite having a young son of his own, he acted more like a teenager.

Spadaccini let players talk trash to opposing teams. He had practices year round - even in a factory - and hung out with his team off the field, playing video games and having "heart-to-heart" talks.

The younger Zolk played for Spadaccini for two seasons and neither he nor his father saw clues that the coach was grooming sexual targets. Rather, the elder Zolk thought, baseball was Spadaccini's outlet "because he didn't have a life."

A coach spending more time with players than with peers is one of many red flags, said Christopher Gavagan, a New York-based filmmaker whose documentary on sexual abuse in youth sports, Coached Into Silence, will be released this fall.

"The grooming process is so subtle, there's not one thing a parent can look for," Gavagan said. "But when there are too many [warning signs], questions have to be asked."

Spadaccini's all-encompassing style extended to the younger boys he tried to recruit, inviting them to workouts and offering rides to practice.

"It was just a great feeling to be practicing with one of the best teams around, especially with Lou as the coach," the 13-year-old victim wrote in a statement read aloud at Spadaccini's sentencing.

Special attention is one of the key danger signs, said Tammy Lerner, vice president of the Bryn Mawr-based Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse and a victim of sexual abuse by a relative. "It always starts with an overt interest in a child singled out from the rest of the group," she said.

Lana Trotter, the former softball coach at Delaware Christian Day School, offered an extra hour of practice to her player before their sexual relationship developed, said Newtown Township Detective John Newell.

Trotter was arrested in August after the 16-year-old's parents found inappropriate text messages on her phone. She pleaded guilty this month to institutional sexual assault and faces up to 23 months of house arrest.

Scott Godshall, her attorney, said Trotter did not intend for the help she extended to the victim to lead to a sexual relationship.

Matta, the Downingtown East coach, said staffers there are constantly warned against individual training sessions.

Besides, he said, it's not good coaching.

"We want every kid to feel that they're treated the same," he said.

Baseball dreams Spadaccini lured the younger boys into his orbit because of his team's success. Some of his former players made college teams. One plays in a major-league team's farm system.

Branwen McNabb, who prosecuted Spadaccini, said Spadaccini took advantage of his victims' baseball dreams, talking to them about college scholarships and turning pro.

Experts said abusers often find something to exploit within their victims, whether athletic aspirations or someone having trouble at home.

Francis Murphy, a coach turned athletic director of Archbishop John Carroll High School in Radnor Township, admitted propositioning a former football player who left the school for financial reasons.

In an online message, Murphy, then 39, offered to be the teen's "Sugar Daddy" and promised sports gear in exchange for a sex act.

"We should try it out," Murphy wrote in 2011. "See how you like. I will hook you up. Must stay between us."

The boy's mother contacted police, who in turn posed as the teen online and ultimately arrested Murphy at an ice cream parlor where he thought he was meeting the boy.

Murphy was sentenced to five to 23 months in prison for felonies including unlawful contact with a minor. At that proceeding, the teenager testified that even at his new school he feared Murphy was in the stands during football games - "thinking about what he can do to me if I weren't around people."

The response The wave of arrests, especially Sandusky's, has stirred action.

In late 2011, Pennsylvania legislators changed the law to allow authorities to charge school employees, including coaches, with a felony for having sex with any student or player. A bill pending in Harrisburg would expand the statute to include sports officials unaffiliated with a school.

A state law took effect last year that requires school employees, including coaches, to receive training to recognize signs of abuse. Another pending bill would require coaches, among others, to report suspected abuse.

In Trenton, legislators are weighing a bill that would require New Jersey school districts to adopt policies governing electronic communications, such as text messages and e-mails, between staff and students.

State Sen. Diane Allen (R., Burlington), one of the bill's two cosponsors, said the proposal reacts to the growing number of teachers and coaches nationwide accused of inappropriate behavior.

"There's no question that social media has made it easier for adults to prey on children," she said.

Pennsylvania lacks a similar proposal, although districts develop their own policies, said Steve Robinson, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. A policy in Bucks County's Council Rock School District, for instance, "strongly" discourages employees from communicating with students via any personal social-media page or a personal cellphone.

The issue is also getting wider attention across the country.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children hosted a meeting on sexual abuse in sports last year. The subject will be the focus of the U.S. Olympic Committee's Safe Sport Summit this spring. The Government Accountability Office, a watchdog agency for Congress, is investigating youth athletic clubs' handling of abuse claims.

Policies among local club leagues also have evolved. Some, mirroring public schools, require criminal background checks and training for potential coaches. Philadelphia's Catholic Youth Organization holds a coaches' orientation that warns against one-on-one practices as well as friending players on Facebook, said Bill Morris, a CYO commissioner and former football coach.

Coaches in the North Philly Aztecs youth football program no longer invite players to sleep at their houses the night before a game to ensure everyone makes it on time, said president and cofounder Wayne Allen.

'Just really bad' By the summer of 2011, Spadaccini had known his 13-year-old victim and his family for years. He had known the 14-year-old boy for months, having recruited him to play for the Saints. He took both boys, on separate occasions, to a Holiday Inn in South Philadelphia, serving them drinks laced with vodka and Xanax.

"It was just really bad," the younger boy wrote to the sentencing judge. "Why would he want anything sexually to do with me, especially when he has a kid of his own?"

Spadaccini was caught after giving the 14-year-old the drug- and alcohol-laced drinks and failing to return him home on time. His arrest prompted the 13-year-old to tell his parents about the sexual assaults.

At his sentencing, Spadaccini told the boys that he was "truly, truly sorry" and that he wished he could change what happened.

"I tried my whole life to help people, and I obviously failed in a big way," he said.

He is serving a 12- to 24-year prison term. Neither Spadaccini nor his attorney, Tariq El-Shabazz, responded to requests for interviews.

A new coach Zolk took over the Neumann-Goretti team. He said that applying for Spadaccini's job was not a huge leap; he had already informally trained some of the players along with his son, who had since graduated.

After Zolk got the job, he said he briefly mentioned the former coach during his first meetings with parents and players.

"I said: Look, fellas, here's the deal. If you need to talk, we'll talk, but this is full steam ahead with the baseball program," Zolk recalled. "I told the parents that whatever happens on the field, I'm not letting the kids take the fall for any of it. Whoever wants to make fun of them will have to go through me."

Under Zolk, the Saints won the Catholic League championship and the citywide title and made the final four in the state championship.

Zolk resigned after the 2013 season because he said the commute from his day job in Northeast Philadelphia was too draining. He manages Sluggersville, an indoor baseball and softball training facility near Grant Avenue and the Boulevard.

The place is filled with children and adults, many hitting in batting cages. Zolk can't help but wonder if some of the adults want to prey on children.

"Because of what he did, I don't trust anybody that I come across with kids anymore," Zolk said. "It made me wonder how many are out there, which I still do."

Betrayal Of Trust

In the last three years, 11 area coaches have been charged with attempting or having sexual contact with a player. Eight have pleaded guilty. Two await possible trial, and one killed himself while awaiting trial.

Leon Watson, 24

A neighborhood football coach in North Philadelphia, he is accused of molesting five boys on or associated with his team. He was initially arrested in November but formally charged by a grand jury this month. His formal arraignment is scheduled for Monday. A trial date has not been set.

Charles Meredith, 52

A tennis coach at Country Day School of the Sacred Heart in Bryn Mawr, a Catholic girls' school, he allegedly kissed a 15-year-old and sent her inappropriate text messages. He was arrested in December. After a preliminary hearing this month, a Montgomery County district judge sent his case to county court for a possible trial. His formal arraignment is scheduled for March 26.

Eric Romig, 36

A softball coach at Bucks County's Pennridge High School, he had sex with a 16-year-old player. He was arrested in October and pleaded guilty in January to charges including institutional sexual assault, a third-degree felony. A sentencing date has not been scheduled pending an evaluation to determine whether he is a sexually violent predator. He is expected to face up to

20 months in jail.

Lana Trotter, 27

She had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl on her softball team at Delaware County Christian School in Newtown Square. She was arrested in July and pleaded guilty this month to charges including institutional sexual assault. Her sentencing is scheduled for May. She is expected to serve 23 months of house arrest and three years' probation.

Kevin Jones, 34

He had sex with a 14-year-old player on his club softball team in Levittown, Bucks County. He was arrested in January 2013 and pleaded guilty to charges including involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, a first-degree felony. He got five to 10 years in prison.

bfinley@phillynews.com

610-313-8118 @Ben_Finley

 

February 23, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 The Tribune Co. Publishes The Tampa Tribune
All Rights Reserved
The Tampa Tribune (Florida)
ELIZABETH BEHRMAN; Tribune staff

Evan Longoria's successful 2012 season is bringing much-needed upgrades to the Belmont Heights Little League fields.

Longoria, in partnership with Red Bull's Tampa's Got Wings program, donated $1,000 for each home run and $500 for each RBI hit by the Tampa Bay Rays third baseman throughout that season. The program announced in April that Longoria helped raise almost $80,000, to be split between Belmont Heights and the Cross Bayou Little League in Seminole.

This week, Tampa and Hillsborough County each made $35,000 donations, to be joined with the money Longoria helped raise, and improvements are being made at

one of the country's longest-surviving inner-city baseball programs.

You have to invest in something the kids want to go to, said Charlie Miranda, chairman of the Tampa City Council, which approved the donation during Thursday's meeting.

Longoria and a team of volunteers have been out to the Belmont Heights field to interact with the young players and do some work cleaning up two of the league's four fields, but there is much more work to be done, said Artis Gambrell Jr., the league's president.

Belmont Heights outlined a list of requests for the city, which includes new sod and lighting, upgrades to the concession area, new scoreboards and a new scorekeeper's box with bleachers.

The work is in the design phase, and the city soon will put the construction contracts out to bid, said city parks and recreation director Greg Bayor. Bayor said he hopes the additional $70,000 from the city and county will cover all those costs.

The improvements will make the Belmont Heights Little League comparable to other programs throughout the county, said Gambrell, 47.

We've got a lot of love and a lot of memories here, he said. We like to see things still moving.

Gambrell played baseball in the Belmont Heights league when he was a kid and his dad was a coach. He volunteered with the league for years before he became its president in 2005.

Belmont Heights teams won multiple Little League World Series titles in the 1980s and produced baseball stars such as Dwight Gooden, Gary Sheffield and Carl Everett.

The Belmont Heights Little League was founded in 1968 after local race riots in 1967. Organizers of the league wanted to give recreational opportunities to the children in the predominantly black East Tampa neighborhood. The league originally served as a feeder program for then all-black Middleton High School, Gambrell said.

More than 300 kids play in the league now, ranging in ages from 4 to 16, Gambrell said. There is a waiting list to get onto one of Belmont Heights' 23 teams.

The league provides an opportunity for local kids that they wouldn't have otherwise, said Gambrell, an assistant principal at Sligh Middle School. They get to play the game, make friends and benefit from the teamwork and discipline baseball teaches them, he said.

Baseball is all about life, Gambrell said. We're not necessarily trying to produce pro athletes, we're trying to produce young men.

Miranda, who played baseball in the city league at West Tampa's Cuscaden Park in the 1950s, said he doesn't know what would have happened to some of the kids in his neighborhood without baseball.

You learn how to win, but you also learn how to lose, Miranda said. In life, that's where the balance is.

ebehrman@tampatrib.com

(813)259-7691

Twitter: @LizBehrmanTBO

FIELDS, Page 5

- Evan Longoria's successful 2012 season is bringing much-needed upgrades to the Belmont Heights Little League fields.

Longoria, in partnership with Red Bull's Tampa's Got Wings program, donated $1,000 for each home run and $500 for each RBI hit by the Tampa Bay Rays third baseman throughout that season. The program announced in April that Longoria helped raise almost $80,000, to be split between Belmont Heights and the Cross Bayou Little League in Seminole.

This week, Tampa and Hillsborough County each made $35,000 donations, to be joined with the money Longoria helped raise, and improvements are being made at

one of the country's longest-surviving inner-city baseball programs.

You have to invest in something the kids want to go to, said Charlie Miranda, chairman of the Tampa City Council, which approved the donation during Thursday's meeting.

Longoria and a team of volunteers have been out to the Belmont Heights field to interact with the young players and do some work cleaning up two of the league's four fields, but there is much more work to be done, said Artis Gambrell Jr., the league's president.

Belmont Heights outlined a list of requests for the city, which includes new sod and lighting, upgrades to the concession area, new scoreboards and a new scorekeeper's box with bleachers.

The work is in the design phase, and the city soon will put the construction contracts out to bid, said city parks and recreation director Greg Bayor. Bayor said he hopes the additional $70,000 from the city and county will cover all those costs.

The improvements will make the Belmont Heights Little League comparable to other programs throughout the county, said Gambrell, 47.

We've got a lot of love and a lot of memories here, he said. We like to see things still moving.

Gambrell played baseball in the Belmont Heights league when he was a kid and his dad was a coach. He volunteered with the league for years before he became its president in 2005.

Belmont Heights teams won multiple Little League World Series titles in the 1980s and produced baseball stars such as Dwight Gooden, Gary Sheffield and Carl Everett.

The Belmont Heights Little League was founded in 1968 after local race riots in 1967. Organizers of the league wanted to give recreational opportunities to the children in the predominantly black East Tampa neighborhood. The league originally served as a feeder program for then all-black Middleton High School, Gambrell said.

More than 300 kids play in the league now, ranging in ages from 4 to 16, Gambrell said. There is a waiting list to get onto one of Belmont Heights' 23 teams.

The league provides an opportunity for local kids that they wouldn't have otherwise, said Gambrell, an assistant principal at Sligh Middle School. They get to play the game, make friends and benefit from the teamwork and discipline baseball teaches them, he said.

Baseball is all about life, Gambrell said. We're not necessarily trying to produce pro athletes, we're trying to produce young men.

Miranda, who played baseball in the city league at West Tampa's Cuscaden Park in the 1950s, said he doesn't know what would have happened to some of the kids in his neighborhood without baseball.

You learn how to win, but you also learn how to lose, Miranda said. In life, that's where the balance is.

ebehrman@tampatrib.com

(813)259-7691

Twitter: @LizBehrmanTBO

Fields

From Page 1

 

February 23, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Spokane Spokesman-Review
Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)
Jonathan Brunt jonathanb@spokesman.com, (509) 459-5442

 

Twenty-four hours a day for most of the year, water pours from a spigot on the south side of the Cannon Hill Park pond.

"We're losing millions and millions of gallons out of that pond every year," said City Councilman Mike Allen, who serves on the Park Board. "From a water-conservation standpoint, we have to address the amount of water we're losing."

Last year, the water meter at the park measured 18 million gallons and cost $20,000.

In 2009, the meter showed 28 million gallons used; that's more water than 200 homes use in a typical year. Earlier this month, the Park Board voted to borrow $277,000 from the state Department of Ecology to line the pond and slow the water loss, beginning next year.

While the amount of water used in the pond is troubling, Park Director Leroy Eadie said, it does keep the pond fresher than Mirror Pond (the duck pond) at Manito Park. To prevent stagnation, the city will study installing a new irrigation system that would draw water from the pond, allowing the city to continue to add clean water.

Park operations director Tony Madunich said the Cannon Hill pond historically was maintained as a skating pond, freezing easily because of its shallow depth, about 18 inches. Mirror Pond is about 6 to 8 feet deep. Another natural pond at Lincoln Park is much deeper than that, he said.

A couple years ago, park staff shut off the spigot as an experiment. In about four to six weeks, the shores moved in by about 20 feet. The pond has a population of small fish, turtles and frogs. Madunich suspects fish don't live long enough to get big in the pond.

"What fish are there end up being easy pickings," Madunich said.

Cannon Hill Park was designed by the famed Olmsted Brothers, a New York landscape architecture company that laid the groundwork for much of the city's park system. The land previously was the home to a brick company that used clay deposits found on the land.

The pond was first labeled a lake by the Olmsted Brothers, and it covered much of the east half of the park, up to a basalt bridge that flowed into a wading pool that covered much of the western part of the park, according to original park designs. Another basalt bridge separated the wading pool and another small pond. Over the years, park workers struggled to keep the lake and wading pool filled. Eventually, the city let the wading pool and about half the lake dry up. The bridges still stand.

Lining the pond isn't the first effort the city has made to stop pumping so much water into the pond.

About five years ago, the city built stormwater gardens along Lincoln Avenue and connected them to the pond. During heavy rainstorms and snowmelts, water filters through the gardens and drains into the pond. The idea was to slow the flow of untreated stormwater into Spokane River and assist in keeping the pond filled.

"One of the things that we have observed is there's a fairly minimal amount of water that comes in there," City Engineer Mike Taylor said.

But some water does make it to the pond. About 300,000 gallons flowed into the pond from the Lincoln Street storm gardens from August to the end of last year, according to data recently compiled by the city.

 

February 25, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Tribune Review Publishing Company
All Rights Reserved
Pittsburgh Tribune Review
by KELSEY SHEA

Opposition to a proposed disc-golf course for Evergreen Park could cost Ross more than $15,000 in state grant money.

About 50 residents who live near the 35-acre park on Evergreen Road cited negative environmental impact, a lack of parking, noise, vandalism, litter and the hazard of flying discs as reasons why they don't want the course near their homes. They spoke at a Thursday community meeting.

"We're retired, and we don't want to see the value of our home go down," said Kitti Fenk, 67. She and her husband live within 30 feet of the park.

If township commissioners drop plans for the $31,000 golf course, they would have to return the $15,500 in grant money for the project, said Parks and Recreation Director Eloise Peet.

Several residents and disc-golf players attended the meeting and argued that the course would be well maintained.

Paul Harkins, 38, the Ross resident who proposed putting a course in the township, said disc golfers diligently maintain their own courses and that other courses are "spotless."

"A lot of disc golfers are adamant about picking up trash," he said.

Disc golf is similar to traditional golf, except that players use Frisbees or discs instead of balls.

The golf course was proposed in a 2012 Parks and Recreation plan and funded by a state grant from the Marcellus Legacy Fund, which the township received last year. The grant of $72,350 "" which includes $15,500 for the course "" will be matched by the township and will fund parking and trail improvements.

Kelsey Shea is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or kshea@tribweb.com

 

February 24, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 The Deseret News Publishing Co.
Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)
Amy Donaldson 

SOCHI, Russia - The U.S. speedskaters shouldn't blame their high-tech skinsuits, their high-altitude training camps or their high-performance program, according to the coach who won a record number of medals in the sport in Sochi.

They should blame the country's passion for football.

"It's more about the system you have in your country," said Dutch speedskating coach Jillert Anema in interviews with CNBC on Thursday. "You have a lot of attention for a foolish sport like American football. You waste a lot of athletic talent in a sport where it's meant to kill each other, to injure each other and nobody in the world is competing with you at that field."

His rant about what went wrong for the Americans came the day before the long track teams failed to win either of the quarterfinal races. The U.S. men lost to Canada, while the women lost to the Netherlands.

Anema has lead his team to a record 22 speedskating medals - with a few more on the line. No other country has ever won more medals in a single sport at a Winter Olympics.

Everyone in Sochi is wondering what the secret to Dutch success is, and he said it's simple.

"We have found something that makes the suit very fast," Anema said. "It's the man in the suit."

He said the U.S. doesn't value its winter and Olympic sports the way it does sports that are almost exclusively American, like football. Because they don't invest the kind of money in winter sports that they do in football, he asserts they will never be as successful as other countries like the Netherlands.

It is American arrogance that allows an expectation of medals without more serious financial support, he said.

"Come once every four years, you think with a few lone wolves who are skating, you can beat the world?" he said, obviously shocking, and at times amusing, those who were interviewing him. "America always believes they're right, always believes that they're the best. But that's not true.... When you come to Olympic stadium and you want to fight the rest of the world, then you know your place. Stay in your country, do your own sport, don't compete.... Don't ask a question why you didn't win medals."

He said football doesn't just consume America's finances and attention, it "wastes" its best athletes. He did admit to enjoying the Seahawks' defeat of the Broncos in the Super Bowl,.

"You put all money into that sport, not a lot of money into other sports," he said, adding that the U.S. won't beat the Netherlands in four years - or eight years - with the system in place. "You're so narrow-minded. You waste a lot of good talent."

Near the end of the interview, Anema did say that he likes basketball, and enjoys watching his 'favorite' Utah Jazz when he is in Salt Lake City.

Twitter: adonsports

EMAIL: adonaldson@deseretnews.com

 

February 24, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Journal Sentinel Inc.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Wisconsin)
GARY D'AMATO, gdamato@journalsentinel.com Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Sochi, Russia - When it comes to U.S. Speedskating, Under Armour isn't going anywhere.

On Friday the manufacturer of the controversial Mach 39 skin suit and U.S. Speedskating announced an eight-year extension of their original contract, which had been set to expire this year.

As part of the agreement, Under Armour will remain as the national team's exclusive competition suit provider through Dec. 31, 2022, or two more Olympic quadrennials.

The Mach 39, designed by Lockheed Martin for Under Armour but never tested in competition, came under a cloud of suspicion in Sochi, after long-track speedskaters underperformed in early races at the Adler Arena. U.S. Speedskating decided to dump the suits midway through the Games and the skaters went back to suits they wore during a successful fall World Cup season. Those suits also were made by Under Armour.

But the Americans fared no better in the old suits and failed to medal in any of the12 races after both the men and women were eliminated in the team pursuit on Friday.

In a statement, U.S. Speedskating president Mike Plant said: "U.S. Speedskating remains extremely grateful to have such a supportive partner and to have access to Under Armour's game-changing innovations, which have helped propel countless athletes around the world to championship results. The length and scope of this agreement send a strong signal about Under Armour's commitment to our athletes and will best position them to skate with confidence and a competitive edge well into the future."

In addition to outfitting U.S. Speedskating, Under Armour also has uniform-exclusivity agreements with USA Bobsled and Skeleton, USA Gymnastics and Canada Snowboard.

Copyright 2014, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)

 

February 23, 2014

 

 
 

 

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//

Copyright 2014 Woodward Communications, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA)

The National Federation of State High School Associations took more steps last week to make its most popular sport safer.

In an effort to reduce contact above the shoulders, the NFHS Football Rules Committee introduced rules that will define "targeting" and will be penalized as illegal personal contact. The group also defined a "defenseless" player.

Beginning this fall, new Rule 2-43 will read as follows: "Targeting is an act of taking aim and initiating contact to an opponent above the shoulders with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulders."

"Taking aim with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulders to initiate contact above the shoulders, which goes beyond making a legal tackle, a legal block or playing the ball, will be prohibited," said Bob Colgate, NFHS director of sports and sports medicine and liaison to the Football Rules Committee.

The NFHS also introduced Rule 2-32-16, which reads "A defenseless player is a player who, because of his physical position and focus of concentration, is especially vulnerable to injury."

To reduce the risk of injury on kickoffs, two changes were made to the rule book. First, at least four members of the kicking team must be on each side of the kicker, and, second, other than the kicker, no members of the kicking team may be more than five yards behind the kicking team's free-kick line.

"The Football Rules Committee's actions this year reinforce a continued emphasis on minimizing risk within all phases of the game," said Brad Garrett, assistant executive director of the Oregon School Activities Association and chair of the Football Rules Committee.

Football is the No. 1 participatory sport for high school boys. In the 2012-13 school year, 1,115,208 students participated in the sport.

Craig Reber contributed to this story. Email More than the Score items to Jim Leitner at jleitner@wcinet.com

 

February 21, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 Star Tribune
All Rights Reserved
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

Life Time Fitness Inc. said Thursday its fourth-quarter profit grew 11 percent, in line with investor expectations, and gave an upbeat outlook for 2014.

The Chanhassen-based company said it expects faster revenue growth in 2014 than last year. It added that profits wouldn't grow as quickly as revenue due to costs associated with an expansion that calls for six new centers to join the 109 it owns around the country.

Life Time said it earned $26 million, or 63 cents a share, in the three months ended Dec. 31, up from $23.4 million, or 56 cents a share, in the same period a year ago.

Revenue was $291 million, up 6 percent from $275.3 million a year ago.

Analysts had forecast a profit of 62 cents a share and revenue of $294 million. The company's shares rose 5.2 percent Thursday.

Executives forecast revenue growth of 8 to 9.5 percent in 2014, well above the 7 percent growth Life Time experienced for full-year 2013. It said 2014 net income would rise at a slower rate, in the 3 percent to 7 percent range, as revenue growth is offset by costs of new centers.

Separately, Life Time said it had appointed Eric Buss as interim chief financial officer, succeeding Michael Robinson, who will retire next month but remain affiliated with the company as a consultant.

4th quarter FY2013, 12/31

2013 | 2012

Revenue: $291.0 | $275.3 +5.7

Income: 26.0 | 23.4 +11.1

Earn/share: 0.63 | 0.56 +12.5

12 months

Revenue $1,205.9 | $1,126.9 +7.0

Income 121.7 | 111.5 +9.1

Earn/share 2.93 | 2.66 +10.2

Figures in millions except for earnings per share.

 

February 21, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 The Durham Herald Co.
All Rights Reserved
The Herald-Sun (Durham, N.C.)

DURHAM - Advocates for a "penny for parks" tax earmark will have trouble assembling a City Council majority for it this year, judging from the reactions of some key members on Thursday.

Critically, Councilwoman Diane Catotti voiced skepticism, saying she has other priorities at the moment for city funding. Even if she comes around to supporting a parks earmark, "it wouldn't be at the full penny," she said.

She spoke after Mayor Bill Bell, reiterating comments he made last summer, said he's not particularly inclined to spend money on new park projects.

"I've got to be convinced we've got a plan in place that shows how we can maintain what we've got," he said.

The only clear support for the proposal, which city staffers for the moment are assuming would generate about $2.3 million a year for parks upkeep and development, came from Councilmen Steve Schewel and Don Moffitt.

Schewel, a youth soccer coach, made it clear he thinks Bell's nothing-new position is fundamentally wrongheaded. He said many of the Parks and Recreation Department's troubles with upkeep stem from the fact that its facilities are overused.

"Our ability to maintain, and having enough, is totally interrelated," Schewel said.

He was alluding to prior comments from parks officials who said the department in practical terms can't follow industry best practice in closing grass ballfields for part of the growing season.

Periodic closures allow a grass surface to recover from the pounding it takes during league and pick-up games.

But "we have so few fields it's very hard to close them down" given local demand, said Beth Timson, a department assistant director. "Even if we say they're closed, that doesn't keep people off them."

The department in fact wants to get around the issue by resorting more to the use of artificial turf, a surface that's fallen out of favor among professional sports teams for reasons that includes its potential to contribute to player injuries.

Administrators modeled the penny-for-parks proposal on the "penny for housing" tax-rate surcharge the council implemented two years ago to fund the Rolling Hills/Southside redevelopment and other housing initiatives.

The draft proposal for parks suggests using, over the coming five years, about 52 percent of the money to secure a new park site in southwest Durham and do some artificial-turf installations.

The rest would go into maintenance, either directly for projects or into hiring and equipping full- and part-time workers to perform routine upkeep.

The "construction element does not propose to build new parks," Deputy City Manager Bo Ferguson said. "It puts resources aside to be able to buy open space if it becomes available, and do some major renovations."

Answering questions from Bell, Ferguson said the city staff has worked since last summer to make sure the parks department and the General Services Department work more closely together to monitor and address maintenance needs.

General Services handles most of the city park system's major repair needs, particularly requiring heavy-duty carpentry or tradespeople like plumbers and electricians. Parks handles a good bit of small-scale work on its own.

The two departments at Ferguson's prodding have compared notes and found that some jobs were falling through the cracks. Repaving work on parking lots and trails, as an example, wasn't being handled by either.

Officials also found that some work went undone because it's costly enough to make a big dent in the parks department budget but not expensive enough to merit adding it to the council-approved, debt-fueled capital-improvement plan.

Typically that means things that cost $30,000 or $40,000, Ferguson said, adding that the penny initiative attempts "to find a way to fill in those gaps."

Catotti, meanwhile, indicated that the land-banking component of the plan may not win her support, even though the long-range parks plan the council approved last summer calls for exactly that in south Durham.

"We're being asked to land-bank for affordable housing around transit areas," she said, alluding to an issue being pushed by the People's Alliance and an assortment of church groups. "So I'm not in a position to support land-banking for parks at this point."

 

February 22, 2014

 

 
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The Philadelphia Inquirer
By Phil Anastasia; Inquirer Columnist

The coach in Paul Morina hated this week.

The educator in him loved it.

The coach hated how his Paulsboro wrestling team was forced to deal with the dreaded "D" word in the days before the opening of the individual state tournament.

"Distractions," Morina said Thursday morning of the controversy surrounding the surfacing of a photo of seven Phillipsburg High School wrestlers posing in front of a dark-skinned dummy hanging from a noose and wearing a Paulsboro wrestling T-shirt.

Every good coach is an educator first. Morina has a unique standing on that, as he also is Paulsboro's principal.

So while the coach in him was lamenting the impact the controversy might have on his wrestlers on the brink of the District 29 tournament, the educator in him knew this was a rare opportunity to set an example and to use the situation as a teaching tool.

"That's what we've talked about, that this is a teachable moment not just for Paulsboro kids but for all kids," Morina said. "Everybody can learn from this."

Morina and everybody associated with his program have taken the high road. They understand - and far too many people haven't processed this - that practice dummies are typically dark-skinned and that it's routine for a team to dress a dummy in a jersey or T-shirt of an opposing team.

That point hasn't been made clear enough in this controversy. It's not as if the Phillipsburg kids went looking for a "black" dummy to illustrate a hateful scene because Paulsboro is a "black" team and the rivalry between the programs has been besmirched by bad blood with racial overtones.

That's simply not the case.

Paulsboro is a predominantly white team in wrestling - although the Red Raiders have always featured prominent black athletes - and the program's long-standing rivalry with Phillipsburg is anything but mean-spirited.

Coaches, wrestlers, parents, and fans from both teams always sit next to each other during the state tournament at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. The schools compete against each other in a dual meet every year, and it's a tradition for the host team to feed the visiting team before the long bus trip back home.

"It's not bad blood. It's good blood," Morina said of the rivalry.

But let's be clear: Those Phillipsburg kids made a big mistake. Staging that scene was incredibly stupid and incomprehensibly insensitive.

"I don't know what was in their hearts," said New Jersey state assemblyman John Burzichelli, the former mayor of Paulsboro and lifelong resident of the little town along the Delaware River in Gloucester County.

"But there are consequences to actions. What matters is how it was viewed, and to a lot of people, especially to people of the older generation, it was extremely hurtful."

Phillipsburg is prohibiting the seven from participating this weekend in the District 1 tournament. The coach in Morina feels badly that the kids won't be able to participate, finishing their season - and for the seniors, ending their careers.

"I'm sure some of those kids worked their whole lives for this opportunity," Morina said.

But the educator in him sees the value in the example set by Phillipsburg officials - many of whom reached out to Paulsboro officials this week - in quick and decisive punishment.

"Kids make mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes," Morina said. "But you have to learn there are consequences. You turn 18 and get in a fight and hurt somebody, you could end up in jail. You have to think about your actions."

Paulsboro has about a 60/40 split in student population between whites and blacks. The Red Raiders' potent athletic program is rooted in that diversity.

But Morina said Paulsboro's ability to respect and honor differences stretches far beyond the playing fields.

"These kids are unbelievable," Morina said of Paulsboro students. "They get along so well. Even kids who might be handicapped or have some other issue, they are accepted here.

"Our diversity is the strength of our schools. Our kids embrace that."

Paulsboro kids make mistakes, too. It was just a few years ago that some football players posted a video filled with vulgarity and profanity directed at their rivals from Woodbury.

"That was the first thing I thought of," Morina said.

That's one reason Morina feels badly about this situation. He knows the Phillipsburg students made a mistake, but he suspects that they weren't fully aware of the impact of their actions.

So the coach in him gathers his wrestlers before practice and talks to them about using good judgment and resisting our baser urges to bully others and realizing that social media in 2014 can turn a brushfire into an inferno in a hurry.

The principal in him walks the halls and stresses the same things to the entire school.

The coach in him wishes this whole thing would just go away so his athletes can focus on wrestling. It's state tournament time, after all.

But the educator in him senses the opportunity to set an example and to teach a priceless lesson to his kids and everybody else with the good sense to listen.

panastasia@phillynews.com

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www.inquirer.com/

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February 21, 2014

 

 
 

 

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The Philadelphia Inquirer
By Angelo Fichera and Rita Giordano; Inquirer Staff Writers

PAULSBORO The North Jersey wrestling team under fire for a photo depicting members surrounding a hanged black practice dummy will compete in a state event beginning this weekend without half its starting lineup.

Seven Phillipsburg High School wrestlers have been removed by school officials from the District 1 competition, which on Saturday starts the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association State Wrestling Tournament.

An eighth wrestler, who was not seeded for the tournament, also has been disciplined.

In a statement issued Thursday, the association's executive director, Steven J. Timko, said the wrestlers would not be participating in the multiweek tournament.

The photo has seven wrestlers, most in Phillipsburg athletic attire and two with pointed hoods, surrounding the figure, which is wearing a Paulsboro shirt. It sparked much online debate about racial overtones.

At a brief news conference attended by the wrestlers Thursday night, their lawyer, Scott Wilhelm, read a statement saying their "poses were not premeditated, but were merely spontaneous gestures." He did not indicate when the photograph had been taken. Phillipsburg defeated Paulsboro in a match Feb. 1.

He said that "upon further reflection," the wrestlers understood "how our actions, innocently intended, may have been harmful to others," and that they wished to apologize to the Paulsboro team and community.

Earlier, the Gloucester County NAACP had requested that a letter of apology be sent to Paulsboro and the county. It asked for "sensitivity training" for the Phillipsburg team.

Wilhelm also said that the Phillipsburg wrestlers believed all wrestling dummies are manufactured using "dark leather" and that they viewed the dummy as an "unidentified generic wrestler." He said that the wrestlers, many of whom wore shirts and ties at the news conference, would not be answering any questions because they are aware that law enforcement was contacted to look into the matter. He said the wrestlers were "extremely disappointed" that school officials chose to suspend them from the tournament, but added that they have learned that actions have consequences.

The Phillipsburg School District said in a release Thursday that it was "taking steps to educate the entire student body as to the culture and expectations" of the district.

"The administration conducted a thorough investigation of the recent allegations and, with the information at hand, took the necessary actions to hold accountable those involved," it continued.

The superintendent's office said it declined to comment further on the matter since it is a student issue. The district has not stated what action it has taken.

Timko, after reviewing a report from Phillipsburg High School, said Thursday that the players violated the organization's sportsmanship rule and appropriately are being barred from the tournament.

"The photograph violates the principles of good sportsmanship and is a flagrant violation of the NJSIAA Sportsmanship Rule," Timko said in a statement. "Most importantly, the photograph depicts a fundamental disrespect for an opponent, using violent imagery that has no place in high school sports."

Timko's statement did not address the perceived racial overtones of the photo. The association had already reported the incident to the state Division on Civil Rights.

Division spokesman Leland Moore said the division "is monitoring the respective responses of the school and the NJSIAA" and will review whether further investigation is warranted.

Last weekend, Phillipsburg clinched the Group 4 state title. With half the starters not competing, it is unlikely Phillipsburg will be able to win this weekend's District 1 competition.

For the seven barred players, their season is over as individual competitors. By not being allowed to wrestle in this weekend's district-level competition, they cannot earn the points to advance to the next level of the tournament, even before Timko said they will not be participating.

When Phillipsburg and Paulsboro, both with well-regarded wrestling programs, faced off this month, the Stateliners came up victorious at home. (Phillipsburg is on the Pennsylvania state line, opposite Easton.)

Paulsboro Superintendent Walter Quint said he did not know exactly what action was taken by Phillipsburg.

"Whatever discipline they took caused them to not be able to wrestle this weekend," Quint said.

Quint said he was at the Feb. 1 match between the schools.

"I was there. We had a good day there," he said. "I felt welcome."

The schools' programs always make for an eventful match, Quint said.

"It's the best of high school rivalries," he added. "You couldn't ask for anything more."

People familiar with wrestling and both teams say there has been no bad blood. While some people have viewed the photo as having a racist message, others say they do not know what to make of the image.

For one thing, they said, wrestling practice dummies usually are dark-colored, for easier maintenance. Paulsboro uses a red dummy.

And while Paulsboro has usually had some minority wrestlers, its team typically has been predominantly white. Of the 14 starters on the varsity team, three are minority; of the 53 students on the wrestling roster, 16 are minority. Paulsboro as a community has a larger minority population than Phillipsburg.

"I feel bad, because we have a great relationship with Phillipsburg," said Paul Morina, Paulsboro High's principal and wrestling coach. "They all called here this week - coaches, principal and superintendent - and felt so badly."

Of the boys involved, he said, "Kids make mistakes, everybody makes mistakes. But you have to learn there are consequences."

State Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D., Gloucester), a former Paulsboro mayor, said different people can look at the same image and perceive it differently, but the photograph was hurtful for many people.

"The message of that photo is not welcome, especially for a lot of older people who have memories of different times," he said.

afichera@philly.com

856-779-3917

@AJFichera

Inquirer staff writers Phil Anastasia and Jan Hefler contributed to this article.

 

February 21, 2014

 

 
 

 

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USA TODAY
Tom Pelissero, tpelissero@usatoday.com, USA TODAY Sports

One of the largest crowds ever for a news media session at the NFL scouting combine peppered Manti Te'o with 36 questions last year, almost all about a hoax involving the death of a girlfriend who didn't exist.

The crowd for Missouri defensive end Michael Sam's session Saturday might be even bigger. But behind closed doors it's unlikely NFL teams will show near the same interest in Sam's announcement that he's gay.

As Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman put it Thursday: "What are you going to ask him? He just came out and stated his position."

With Te'o, there were countless follow-up questions in both settings. Was he in on the hoax? What impact did it have on his shoddy performance in Notre Dame's national championship loss to Alabama?

With Sam, who earned All-America honors after coming out to teammates before last season, his answer became public record Feb. 9 -- he's gay.

"If my area scout's any good, he already knew that anyway," an NFL personnel director said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

All of the other questions -- Will Sam be accepted in an NFL locker room? Will the media horde chronicling the NFL's first openly gay player create resentment? -- will be answered once he lands with a team.

The dynamic is different when entering a transient NFL locker room than in college, where players grow up together over four or five years. But Missouri's excellent 2013 season suggests such questions are overblown anyway.

"One of the key differences between this and the Manti Te'o story is Manti Te'o wasn't really in control of that situation," said former NFL punter Chris Kluwe, a gay rights advocate who was at Sam's coming-out party the night before his announcement. "Mike is very much: 'Yeah, this is who I am. Deal with it.'"

If teams have one question on the subject, it might be this: Why did Sam come out to the public now? His teammates knew last season. His coaches knew. Some reporters knew. No one revealed Sam's secret, and Sam and the Tigers did just fine.

Sam has made himself a public figure before he plays an NFL snap, which could pay off down the line. If he lasts only a season or two, like so many late-round draft picks, he could make his money on the public speaking circuit instead.

"You cover it, just because you cover things that are happening in these players' lives, whether they're good or bad," another NFL personnel director said, also speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. "You just want to get to know them."

Some teams might not even do that, uneasy about what they can ask a week after the release of a scathing report on workplace harassment with the Miami Dolphins, with the NFL recently issuing a memo reminding teams of its non-discrimination policies.

Coaches and scouts are used to being tough during interviews at the combine, having grilled criminals, drug abusers and malcontents.

The line of questioning for Sam will be far more focused on how his skill set as a 6-2, 255-pound pass rusher with limited mobility fits into an NFL team's plans, rather than having him play guessing games about how he'll fit into the locker room.

"To me, I don't care what you are," Spielman said. "It's, 'Can you win football games for us?'"

Many teams might not even interview Sam here, having talked to him at the Senior Bowl and/or knowing they can attend his pro day or bring him in for a visit if they have further questions.

Then there is the media. As with Te'o, teams can count on reporters to draw out a lot of the answers teams would be seeking from Sam about all of the other stuff anyway.

"If anything, people will completely ignore it because they don't know how to address it," the second personnel director said. "What more can you discuss about it?

"In my opinion, there is no story. There's nothing. What more can you do?"

 

February 21, 2014

 

 
 

 

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USA TODAY
Christine Brennan, cbrennan@usatoday.com, USA TODAY Sports

One of the nine judges who picked a young Russian skater over two more refined competitors for the Olympic gold medal Thursday night was suspended for a year for trying to fix an event at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano.

And another is the wife of the former president and current general director of the Russian figure skating federation.

Another Olympics, another huge skating controversy involving the countries of the former Soviet Union.

The issue of inflated scores for the Russians has been a hot topic of conversation at these Games, and the women's figure skating long program Thursday night renewed the debate. Adelina Sotnikova of Russia was the surprising winner of the gold medal, upsetting reigning Olympic gold medalist Yuna Kim of South Korea and Italy's Carolina Kostner.

"It's sad that I just presumed Sotnikova was going to get a boost (in points) because this was in Russia," former U.S. Olympic figure skating coach Audrey Weisiger said in a phone interview. "Isn't it sad that I automatically thought that? Not one person in skating I've talked to said that's the way it should have gone."

"I was surprised with the result," Joseph Inman, a top U.S. international judge who was on the women's panel at the 2002 Olympics, said in a phone interview.

"That's not fair to see Carolina and Yuna, who have great skating skills and had great skating tonight -- good jumps, nice presence on the ice, maturity, expression -- could be six points behind somebody who has tremendous skill but is just coming out of juniors," said Gwendal Peizerat, the 2002 ice dancing gold medalist from France, who is a television commentator here.

"Compared to Carolina, compared to Yuna, something has happened."

The nine judges for the short and long programs are chosen by draw from a pool of 13, with eight of the judges only working one event or the other. Judges from the USA, South Korea, Great Britain and Sweden were not chosen to work the women's long program after being on the women's short program panel the night before.

Two of their replacements were Ukrainian Yuri Balkov, who was kicked out of judging for a year after being tape-recorded by a Canadian judge trying to fix the Nagano ice dancing competition, and Alla Shekhovtseva, a Russian judge who is married to Valentin Pissev, the Russian federation general director. The two other new long program judges were from Estonia and France, which was the country that conspired with Russia to try to fix the pairs and ice dancing competition at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.

"The (judging) panel made me wish that the United States and Canada had split up into many different countries," said choreographer Lori Nichol, who works with Kostner and fourth-place finisher Gracie Gold of the USA, among others.

In other words, the Cold War is alive and well in the Olympic figure skating venue.

What happened Thursday in the women's figure skating competition was worse than the 2002 Salt Lake City pairs judging scandal because, this time, we'll never find out who might have done what because all the judges' scores are now anonymous. In 2002, French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne's scores were easily identifiable. But in 2004, the International Skating Union adopted a new judging system in which all judges scores are now totaled into two numbers: a total element score and a total program component score.

The idea was to help eliminate bloc judging and cheating, but the result is that the system now hides, and even can protect, those who are not playing by the rules.

U.S. Olympic team bronze medalist Ashley Wagner said she was not able to watch much, if any, of the medalists' performances because she was competing in the final group of skaters. But she herself was the recipient of some questionable judging, finishing seventh, two places below Julia Lipnitskaia, even though Wagner never fell and Lipnitskaia fell in her short and long programs.

"People need to be held accountable," Wagner said after the competition, "they need to get rid of the anonymous judging. There are many changes that need to come to this sport if we want a fan base because you can't depend on this sport to always be there when you need it.... This sport needs to be held more accountable with its system if they want people to believe in it."

 

February 21, 2014

 

 
 

 

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//

Copyright 2014 Star Tribune
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

The Vikings will play two seasons at TCF Bank Stadium, and as part of their agreement with the University of Minnesota, the Vikings agreed to donate $250,000 to find ways to help the impact of gameday crowds on the neighborhoods around the stadium.

People who live around the stadium and many of the businesses around campus aren't necessarily happy with the decision to allow the team to play there while their new stadium is built at the site of the Metrodome.

Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president of stadium development and public affairs, said he believes the "Good Neighbor Fund" will keep relations between the community and the team smooth.

"Over the last year or so we worked to establish a 'Good Neighbor Fund' and agreed on an amount," Bagley said. "The Vikings will contribute $125,000 each year for 2014 and 2015. That $125,000 will be about $90,000 in cash and $30,000 in in-kind contributions.... There's a process to establish grants to various groups that come forward and identify issues that should be addressed.

"The plan is to try to help leave the university in better shape than we found it after our games. So [we're] trying to be good neighbors and trying to find a way to address issues that could come up related to our two seasons at the stadium."

"Between the neighbors, the university and the Vikings, we will sort out the most deserving proposals and provide grants to those groups.

"One student group came forward with a proposal to increase the lighting [around the stadium], given some of the public safety issues and concerns that have been raised over at the university, and some of the media attention about those issues.

"So there's a proposal to increase the lighting, put some more lighting in key areas in the evenings. That's a good example of a program that we think deserves strong consideration."

You can rest assured that the Vikings will make sure that all concerns are taken care of when it comes to pre- and postgame issues around the stadium.

Big star in Sochi

Wild center Mikael Granlund continued his strong performance for Finland in a 3-1 win that knocked out host country Russia on Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Granlund has scored three goals in four games for the Finns, who are missing injured Wild captain Mikko Koivu.

While Finland plays Sweden in one semifinal Friday, the U.S. will face Canada in the other.

It's interesting that the small northern Minnesota town of Warroad has supplied seven players - T.J. Oshie this year, Gordon Christian (1956), Dan MacKinnon (1956), Roger Christian (1960), Billy Christian (1960), Bill's son David Christian (1980) and the great Henry Boucha (1972) - to U.S. Olympic men's teams.

And of course Warroad's Gigi Marvin is one of the big stars on the U.S. women's team, which plays Canada for the gold medal today.

Jottings

· Stan Parrish, who coached Tom Brady at Michigan and is well-known as an outstanding offensive coach, is working with the Gophers offensive coaching staff for two days.

· Gophers football coach Jerry Kill has made a change in how spring practice will be staged. He will have two weeks starting on March 4, then two weeks after the spring break.

· Construction on the new basketball building for the Lynx and the Timberwolves has already started on the third floor of Block E.

· While AEG, the operator of Target Center, doesn't provide public revenue data, we do know that the city of Minneapolis has been spending about $12 million on the facility annually.

· Wolves star forward Kevin Love had a pretty bold statement in GQ this week: "People think it's so far-fetched that I would stay in Minnesota. And I'm not [belittling] the Lakers, but we have the better team, the better foundation. I'm having fun."

· Former Minnetonka High School standout Will Leer won the 107th running of the Wanamaker Mile in New York last week. Leer ran the mile in 3:52.47, the fastest U.S. indoor time this year and the seventh fastest indoor mile in U.S. history.

· Wally Ellenson's decision to leave the Gophers men's basketball team wasn't surprising. While Ellenson wasn't getting much playing time under Richard Pitino, he was an All-America in the high jump for the Gophers track team.

· The Gophers men's hockey team is No. 2 in the latest USA Hockey poll behind Boston College. Earlier this year, the Gophers tied BC 3-3 and beat it 6-1.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

 

February 20, 2014

 

 
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FORT MYERS, FLA. - One way the Twins will determine if fans like the renovations at Hammond Stadium will be if there are empty seats behind home plate. That means spectators will be exploring the new vantage points around the field.

The Twins led a tour of Hammond Stadium as Phase One of a $48.5 million renovation project neared completion Wednesday. By the time the Twins play their spring training home opener March 1 against Boston, spectators will be able to walk around the entire stadium, thanks to a concrete boardwalk that spans from foul pole to foul pole behind the outfield wall.

"One of our initial goals was to enhance the fan experience," said Peter Hayden, project director for Manhattan Construction. "The boardwalk is going to do that in the first phase. It is going to give the building a lot more room to breathe, a lot more crowd room, a lot more room space for people to spread out and really experience the game from different points of view and different vantage points."

The boardwalk will take fans to a new berm in left field, concessions behind the batter's eye in center field, seating in right center, drink rails near the right field foul pole and a bar behind the drink rails. About 1,200 seats have been added, making Hammond Stadium's capacity around 9,300. There's also more standing room space available.

The tour revealed great views of the field from both left and right field. Yes, there's little relief from the sun on hot days - except in right field, where a structure just to provide shade has been created that just happens to be next to the bar.

"I do expect fans to walk through the facility," Twins President Dave St. Peter said. "Maybe watch for a few innings in right, then view a few innings in left field, then come back to their normal seats behind home plate."

Phase Two will begin during the summer, when the concourses behind home plate will be renovated, along with clubhouses, the weight room, restrooms, offices and the press box. The Class A Fort Myers Miracle will play its final nine home games at JetBlue Park - Boston's spring training home a few miles down the road - so workers can begin that phase.

Fans who visit the Twins this spring will notice construction over at the minor league facility. The club is building a dormitory for prospects that will be connected to a theater large enough to hold every minor leaguer in the system. The minor league headquarters is undergoing an extensive renovation, with the addition of hydrotherapy room, video room, and expansion of the clubhouse and meeting rooms.

Right outside minor league headquarters, where two rows of parking spots used to be, an 8-foot-high hill and sandpit are being built as part of an agility field.

To cap it off, the Twins will attach a huge picture of the late Kirby Puckett on the wall of the minor league building. The image will extend over the roof. From ground level, it will look as if Puckett is rising over the hill. That might not be in place until 2015.

"In general, our focus from a player development perspective was to make this the premier player development facility in baseball," St. Peter said. "We've taken a significant step toward that on the minor league side with Phase One, and that will carry over into Phase Two with a completely renovated major league clubhouse.''

 

February 20, 2014

 

 
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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)
GRAHAM MOOMAW

With a Richmond City Council vote looming, the administration of Mayor Dwight C. Jones is leaving itself some wiggle room on the precise number of votes needed to build a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom.

At a town hall meeting Wednesday night, an audience member asked how many votes the plan would need.

"It depends," Chief Administrative Officer Byron C. Marshall replied. "For issuing debt, we need six. For amending the budget, you need six. If you were to sell land, you need seven. If you were to change zoning, you need six."

The precise legal mechanisms for carrying out the project are not yet known, but the administration appears to be keeping the door open to a scenario in which no city-owned land in Shockoe would be sold, which would only require six of nine council votes rather than the seven long assumed to be the threshold.

The modified Shockoe development resolution, which is expected to come up for a council vote on Monday, states that land acquisition would occur "by purchase, lease or such other form of transaction as may be satisfactory to the EDA," subject to the approval of the chief administrative officer. The administration is seeking council authorization to continue those negotiations, which would presumably result in a clearer picture of how the land deals would play out.

The question was asked Wednesday in front of a standing-room-only crowd that turned out to Albert Hill Middle School in the Museum District for a joint meeting hosted by Council President Charles R. Samuels, 2nd District, and Jonathan T. Baliles, 1st District.

The tone of the event was civil yet divided. The meeting drew a larger contingent of supporters than has been seen at previous town halls on the subject, though there was loud applause for both sides of the debate.

Supporters portrayed the development plan, which would transform the Bottom and the Boulevard, as bringing a much-needed infusion of vitality and tax revenue that will help move the city forward while keeping an eye to the past.

Opponents characterized it as an ill-conceived scheme that could turn out to be a drain on taxpayers while enriching a select few business interests.

Justin Ayars, a self-described millennial and owner of a downtown restaurant, said the city needs to have an eye toward the future while not forgetting what came before.

"People of my generation are not going to want to stay here, let alone move here, if this city considers change to be a four-letter word," Ayars said. "It is not."

Attendee Wayne Ellis said he supports the idea of developing the Boulevard but is concerned about subsidizing the county residents who would come to a baseball stadium built by the city. Ellis said that when he plays at Belmont Golf Course, he has to pay more than Henrico County residents.

"They never end up paying their fair share," Ellis said.

Ellis asked if the city could impose a surtax on non-city residents or a discount for city residents.Marshall said that was not likely to be possible, adding that if the Richmond Flying Squirrels profit off county fans, those fans are helping to pay for the stadium. The team's annual lease payment of $1.7 million would help pay down the debt service on the bonds financing the stadium.

In an opening speech that echoed his recent State of the City address, Jones called his proposal a "good business decision" that would generate new revenue and create jobs.

"The cost of us doing nothing is going to be a high price to pay," he said.

Neither Samuels nor Baliles indicated which way they might vote but said theyplan to do so based on input from constituents and all the information available.

Samuels asked for a round of applause from all corners for Jones and his staff for taking part in 15 to 20 community meetings on the development plan throughout the city.

After pushing unsuccessfully last year for a voter referendum on the ballpark location, Samuels noted, jokingly, that attendees who asked for a referendum to be held got some of the loudest applause.

"Where were you last July?" he said.

The modified resolution is scheduled to be heard by the council's Finance and Economic Development Committee today at 3 p.m.

gmoomaw@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6839

Twitter: @gmoomaw

Copyright © 2014, The Richmond Times-Dispatch and may not be republished without permission. E-mail library@timesdispatch.com

 

February 21, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Virginian-Pilot Companies LLC
All Rights Reserved
The Virginian-Pilot(Norfolk, VA.)

MIAMI | The Miami Dolphins fired offensive line coach Jim Turner and longtime head athletic trainer Kevin O'Neill for their roles in the team's bullying scandal.

The firings Wednesday were the first punitive steps taken by the Dolphins since a report on the NFL's investigation into the scandal was released last week.

Investigators found that guard Richie Incognito and two teammates engaged in a pattern of harassment directed at tackle Jonathan Martin, another offensive lineman and an assistant trainer. Martin left the team at midseason, and Incognito was suspended.

In a news release, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said Turner and O'Neill "both exhibited poor judgment at times." Turner took part in some of the taunting, the NFL report said.

redskins' davis suspended again

WASHINGTON | Tight end Fred Davis has been suspended indefinitely for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, the league announced.

Davis said in a written statement that his violation related to a banned substance contained in a supplement.

Davis, who was suspended for the final four games of the 2011 season for violating the substance abuse policy, is eligible for free agency this offseason. He has spent his entire six-year NFL career with the Redskins. Davis had only seven catches in 10 games last season.

IN OTHER NFL NEWS

The NFL's competition committee is unlikely to make major changes to the replay system or playoffs this year, New York Giants owner John Mara said.

The Dallas Cowboys won the coin flip to break their draft-position tie with the Baltimore Ravens and will select 16th in the first round of the draft.

photo lands team in investigation

TRENTON, N.J. | School sports officials asked the state's civil rights agency to look into a photo that shows members of a high school wrestling team apparently simulating a lynching.

The photo shows seven white teens wearing Phillipsburg High School wrestling attire posed with a black tackling dummy in a Paulsboro High School wrestling shirt and hanging from a noose. Two of the boys have the hoods on their sweatshirts fixed into points.

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association forwarded the picture to the state Division on Civil Rights under an anti-bullying policy.

lots of comebacks at match play

MARANA, Ariz. | Graeme McDowell pulled off the biggest surprise in an opening round of comebacks in the Match Play Championship.

McDowell, three down with three to play, then won the next three holes, and took the match on the 19th hole.

First-round losers included Zach Johnson, Dustin Johnson and Steve Stricker. Seven players trailed with six holes remaining and went on to win.

Virginia Beach-based Marc Leishman lost on the fourth extra hole to Sergio Garcia. They wound up playing the longest match of the opening round.

bazemore goes to Lakers in trade

LOS ANGELES | The Golden State Warriors traded two players - including former Old Dominion star Kent Bazemore - to the Lakers for guard Steve Blake, Yahoo reported.

The Lakers will receive Bazemore and fellow guard MarShon Brooks in return for Blake, who averaged 9.5 points and 7.6 assists.

Bazemore, 24, is in his second NBA season. This year, he has averaged 2.3 points and has appeared in 44 games for Golden State.

IN OTHER NBA NEWS

Brooklyn acquired guard Marcus Thornton from Sacramento for Jason Terry and Reggie Evans.

reds, bailey agree on $105M deal

GOODYEAR, Ariz. | Starter Homer Bailey agreed to a $105 million, six-year contract that avoids arbitration and will help the Cincinnati Reds by deferring some of the salary for short periods.

Bailey was the final major league player left in arbitration this year and reached the agreement a day before his scheduled hearing in Florida. He made $5.35 million last season and had asked for $11.6 million in arbitration.

The 27-year-old Texan was coming off a season that included his second no-hitter.

IN OTHER BASEBALL NEWS

The Atlanta Braves extended the contracts of general manager Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez. Terms were not disclosed.

in other news

An inspection of the roof and ceiling at Assembly Hall found more places where melting snow and ice had loosened steel plates inside Indiana University's basketball arena.

Defensive back Cody Riggs, who started all 12 games for Florida last season, is transferring to Notre Dame.

Former collegiate standout Steve Johnson upset No. 1 seed Tommy Haas in the first round of the Delray Beach Open.

Former Auburn basketball player Varez Ward was accepted into a pre-trial diversion program that could dismiss his point-shaving charges if he completes the program without any problems.

Bayern Munich had little trouble winning at Arsenal for the second straight year and is on the verge of its third consecutive trip to the Champions League quarterfinals. Toni Kroos and Thomas Mueller scored second-half goals to give the defending champions a 2-0 victory.

 

Jim Turner Davis Bazemore

 

February 20, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Star Tribune
All Rights Reserved
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
LEE SCHAFER; STAFF WRITER, STAR TRIBUNE (Mpls.-St. Paul)

If you think the municipal bond business only gets exciting when a big issue goes into default, you need to know about the People's Stadium bonds.

In truth, they are nothing more than generic-sounding state general-fund appropriation bonds. But RBC Capital Markets of Minneapolis managed to create a little marketing buzz around a Minnesota Vikings purple certificate of ownership for some of them.

The certificates go to buyers this week, wrapping up the bond sale that will help finance the stadium project now underway in downtown Minneapolis.

In a business that doesn't have a lot of room for marketing creativity, doing anything remotely clever is remarkable enough. But the people's bonds idea also shows why locals should get hired to sell this kind of financing, as no New Yorker would have come up with it. And no New Yorker can match the locals' ability to place bonds with Minnesotans.

It was Cory Hoeppner, a public finance investment banker who has been with RBC Capital Markets since February 2008, who proposed a People's Stadium bond as RBC competed to be lead underwriter.

He explained that he first test-marketed his idea inside RBC. What he was really hoping to do was to capture a little of the finance magic that happens across the river with fans of the Green Bay Packers.

There usually isn't much a Vikings fan can envy when looking into Packers territory other than the Packers' ownership structure and maybe the team's peerless quarterback. The Packers get a great deal of local support just by having the NFL franchise owned by thousands of folks living in the community rather than a handful of out-of-state real estate deal guys.

In the recent past, Green Bay Packers Inc. easily raised enough through

a common stock sale to fund renovations to the team's stadium, despite plain-language warnings of the stock's essential worthlessness as an investment.

As a line from the Packers' 2011 offering document put it, "It is virtually impossible for anyone to realize a profit on a purchase of common stock or even to recoup the amount initially paid to acquire such common stock."

The deal sold so well that the team bumped up the total shares offered.

But what Hoeppner was looking at was selling a real investment, a genuine, AA-rated State of Minnesota bond, and he needed a way to emphasize its connection to the Vikings.

RBC can't even sell an actual bond, of course, if that term means a paper document that the granddaughter of an investor can one day pull from a safe-deposit box and hold in her hands.

It's long been the case that bonds are "book entry." Buy some bonds, and some computers whir and blink for a nanosecond and evidence of the bonds' ownership shows up in a brokerage account.

That's not any fun.

What the RBC team came up with was a certificate of ownership, with a big Vikings logo right in the middle. In the lower left-hand corner it says, in type that is not particularly fine, that it's nothing but a commemorative document and not evidence of an investment at all.

RBC made the certificates available only to its clients. It held a reception and had its bond trading desk that is dedicated to small investors regularly communicating with other RBC offices. More importantly, RBC did what it could to make the bonds more appealing to Vikings fans.

Bond issues are usually sold as a series of bonds, and in this deal the first bonds mature in June 2015, the last ones in 2033. The first 4 percent yield maturity, as it turned out, was 2033. Those are the bonds they picked for commemoration.

It's also typical in the bond business to have an interest rate of, say, 4 percent, sold to provide a return that isn't precisely 4 percent. That means that bonds can sell at either a premium, more than 100 cents on the dollar, or at a discount.

To keep it simple RBC made it a 4 percent bond sold to yield 4 percent - making these the only bonds in the tax-exempt portion of the deal to have the interest rate precisely match the yield, and thus sell at 100 cents on the dollar.

Hoeppner also suggested making the people's bonds more affordable for everyday fans by dropping the usual $5,000 minimum denomination down to $1,000. Hoeppner said he can't think of the last time a bond was issued in minimum denominations of $1,000.

"We loved it," said Commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget Jim Schowalter. "It was part of the reason that RBC won a really competitive process" for picking the lead underwriter on the bond issue.

After a delay of game due to litigation, the deal sold well in January. Recognizing that Vikings fans live in the Dakotas and Iowa, too, RBC made them available to non-Minnesotans.

Hoeppner said 159 certificates of ownership are to go out this week, representing about $3.25 million of the $7.5 million available of the 4 percent, June 2033 maturity. Hoeppner said the largest personal certificate order was for $200,000. "I see a couple of 20s on the list," he added, "and lots of ones and fives."

John Taft, the CEO of RBC Wealth Management in the United States, said the first criterion in picking an underwriter for any deal is the capability to get the bonds efficiently sold, "and there isn't anything local about that." RBC and Piper Jaffray have that capability, but so does JPMorgan.

Another factor is the ability to sell a lot of bonds to local individual investors, in whose accounts they will likely stay until they mature. That can improve stability and liquidity in the market for any issuer's bonds.

That's the reason to work with locals, Taft said. While RBC may be part of a global bank based in Canada, its U.S. wealth management group headquarters and lots of clients are in Minnesota. It was Minnesotans sitting down with Minnesotans describing how they planned to sell bonds to Minnesotans - and the odd Vikings fan in Iowa.

"I'm not sure People's Bonds will work for everything," Taft dryly observed.

You mean there wouldn't be a certificate for bonds financing a new municipal solid waste facility?

"If you want a certificate of ownership for a solid waste facility bond," Taft responded, "I'm happy to get you one."

lee.schafer@startribune.com · 612-673-4302 · Twitter: @LeeASchafer

 

February 20, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Charleston Newspapers
Charleston Daily Mail (West Virginia)

From the mountains of southern Australia to the mountains of southern West Virginia, Neil Gardner hopes to leverage a prolific 30-year amateur and professional bodybuilding career to help those looking for a unique gym experience.

Gardner, a 50-year-old Australian native, recently opened Neil Gardner's Aussie Xtreme Gym, located at 2101 Greenbrier St. just outside of Charleston.

"I run a gym in Australia and had been competing regularly internationally," Gardner said, "and I wanted to set up a base for myself to compete throughout the U.S. and more internationally, and also a base for other Aussies to have a place to train and have a place to go to that they could then feed off of and go to other U.S. contests."

The 7,000-square-foot gym features various weight and cardio machines. Behind it, a multipurpose room hosts group exercises like Crossfit and Zumba and indoor tire-flipping training.

From families to elite athletes, Gardner said all are welcome to join his unique community.

"Rather than have a gym where you can come in and work out and do a bit of cardio, we wanted a community," Gardner said. "We wanted to have people who were in here who enjoy lifting weights for whatever reason."

Gardner is well known in the international bodybuilding community.

He has competed in 11 International Federation of Bodybuilding world championships and boasts six Australian national championships.

His Australian gym is Neil Gardner's Winning Physique Gym, which he opened in Victoria, a suburb of Melbourne, six years ago. A family business, he operates it with the help of his wife, Kate, a former bodybuilder herself, and his father.

When he decided he wanted to open a gym in the United States, Gardner took many things into consideration, including West Virginia's economy and relative low density of gyms.

"West Virginia was initially on the map because it has the second-highest obesity level in the U.S., and natural energies are very good here, and they're cheap here because of the power plants and everything else here," Gardner said. "Economy-wise it's very strong. It was one of the few self-sufficient states in the country."

In January 2013, Gardner started looking for a business partner to act as a local manager in Charleston. He found Kim Lovejoy, a stay-at-home mom from Nitro with past managerial experience, through contacts he had from competing in U.S. bodybuilding competitions.

Lovejoy had no interest in bodybuilding before meeting Gardner, but she gained an appreciation for it after learning more about the sport.

"I found it really gross until I got to watch him do the full process," Lovejoy said. "The amount of self-control, the discipline, the lifestyle, the commitment made me appreciate it. I've gone to gyms, I've done the workout thing, I've done the gym setting, but nothing like this."

Gardner and Lovejoy used the 16-hour time difference between Charleston and Melbourne to their advantage. Gardner could do work planning the Charleston business from Australia during the day there, while Lovejoy could continue the work during the day here.

This allowed for planning and work to take place nearly around the clock, with daily Skype meetings at odd times of the night.

"With a little over 12,000-mile difference between us, that was the only way this was going to happen because he worked on it and I worked on it, then we met on Skype when our times matched up," Lovejoy said.

Gardner traveled to Charleston for the first time in March 2013 and met Lovejoy. In July, Gardner returned, and the two signed the lease on the Greenbrier Street building.

During Gardner's third trip in November, the finishing touches were put into place and Neil Gardner's Aussie Xtreme opened its doors.

Gardner is now on his fourth - and longest - stay in the United States so he can train for the invitation-only Arnold Strongman Classic in Columbus, Ohio, on Feb. 28 and March 1.

Gardner had retired from bodybuilding in 2010, but opening a gym in the United States motivated him to get back into shape.

"I got fat and lazy and sick and tired of it," Gardner said. "But then when we chose to do this.

"I can't just walk up and be out of shape and terrible," he said. "I've got to show people you can get back in shape, so part of my transformation and getting ready for the Arnold Classic was a way of telling people, 'This is what you can achieve,' and bringing that to this gym."

Working out at his gym in Charleston, he'll be able to get his body into peak shape. He is also helping other area bodybuilders train for competitions.

"We're supporting a few local power lifters in the Strongman and bodybuilders who are interested in competing," Gardner said. "With my knowledge and my experience I've earned over the years, I can help them out as well."

A small business owner in two countries, Gardner has dealt with unique challenges and situations since setting up shop in the United States. For instance, he said the taxation system in the United States and Australia are much different.

"Our building laws are much, much stricter than they are over here, and employment and things like that are much, much easier over here," Gardner said. "There's a lot of hoops and things to go through to employ someone in Australia, and there's a lot of taxation involved in running a small business. Running a small business in Australia is very, very hard. Running a small business over here is much, much easier."

The 16-hour time difference between Charleston and Melbourne that had once helped Gardner and Lovejoy plan the Charleston business around the clock now works against him.

By day, he attends to his Charleston business in person; by night, his attention goes to his business in Melbourne. When things go wrong, he said the international calling bills can stack up.

Sometimes, he gets only four hours of sleep, which he admitted isn't great for bodybuilding.

"When I first get here in the morning, from 6 a.m. here, I'll spend doing my business in Australia because it's just getting to the end of the day there," Gardner said. "And then as it gets to the end of the day here, it's morning over there, so then they're starting up.

"So my mornings and evenings here are basically running my business in Australia, and vice-versa; when I'm in Australia, it's the same thing," he said. "During the day, you're in the business that you're in, in the mornings and evenings, you're trying to run the business over there."

The unique situation has also formed a unique international relationship between Gardner's family and Lovejoy's. He said he and Lovejoy's daughters have become friends and Skype each other regularly. Their spouses have also become friends.

"They Skype, they FaceTime, we send Christmas presents and birthday cards, they send birthday cards," Lovejoy said. "We are more of a combined family, I feel like, more than just business partners or friends."

The international flavor can also be expected at the gym, which Gardner described as a local gym with old-fashioned service. He said it doesn't have all the bells and whistles that some gyms do, but instead focuses on raw training and lifting.

"We don't have any flashy machines or anything like that," Gardner said. "We've got good old-fashioned weights and knowledge and know-how and smiling faces, and everyone says, 'G'day.'"

Gardner hopes to expand his business and open more gyms in the area in the future.

Contact writer Marcus Constantino at 304-348-1796 or marcus.c@dailymailwv.com Follow him at www.twitter.com/amtino.

 

February 20, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 Charleston Newspapers
Charleston Daily Mail (West Virginia)
WHITNEY BURDETTE, DAILY MAIL CAPITOL REPORTER

A bill moving through the West Virginia Legislature is intended to make it easier for communities to help residents lead healthy lifestyles.

Senate Bill 628, Creating Healthy Children and Healthy Communities Act, compels government entities and agencies at the local level to work together and investigate ways the community can encourage physical activity among residents, especially children. The Division of Highways and Bureau for Public Health also would be involved.

"After the public entities look at the possibilities, they will report back to the Legislature the feasibility of doing some of these things and how they'll be accomplished," committee counsel Rita Pauley said.

Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall, R-Putnam, pointed out many school buildings stand empty in the evenings and on weekends and would make good places for fitness classes and sports leagues. He worried about liability costs, however.

"It's one thing to say these buildings can be used, here's the cost, the liability, the staffing," he said. "It's a lot of cost here."

The bill does include consideration for things like liability and insurance costs. Those are two of the elements local government entities will be tasked with investigating. But Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, said he doesn't feel comfortable with the liability provisions in the bill and thinks it's something the Legislature will be asked to reconsider in future sessions.

"I do note and worry when these buildings are not open frequently, the first answer is due to liability concerns," Stollings said. "We don't really deal with liability or limit liability in this. We look at it specifically. I think that's something we'll come back in one or two years and have to address. I really think if it wasn't for what seemingly out in the real world is a litigious society we live in, we wouldn't be meeting here. We'd be using these after hours."

Stollings suggested people using school buildings after hours sign a waiver, releasing the school or any other agency from responsibility for any injuries that could occur.

Sen. Larry Edgell, D-Wetzel, said he's aware of sports leagues for kids operating in his area that are housed in but not part of local schools.

"Communities and leagues are finding ways to make this work," Pauley said.

Pauley said she's talked with communities that already have similar programs in place about how they fund them.

"Either through grants or private funding," she said. "We left those funding options open for them to figure out what works best for their communities."

She pointed out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer financial resources to communities who want to get involved.

"Some things can be done right now, some things they may need assistance with," she said.

Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, chairs the committee. He said although many communities already have physical activity programs in place, they're not under the cover of law.

"Even though they've been doing these public-private partnerships . . . they really don't have the cover of the law to cover what they're doing," Unger said. "This gives them the authority and flexibility to do this and permission to do this."

The bill gives other communities the opportunity to point to state code and find they've been authorized by the Legislature to offer programs.

"I think it is sad these buildings aren't available at night," Hall said, adding the bill "opens a discussion, and I'm comfortable with that."

Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-5149 or whitney. burdette@dailymailwv.com Follow her at www.Twitter.com/ wburdette_DM.

 

February 20, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Albuquerque Journal
Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

While there were no extraordinary developments from Wednesday's New Mexico Activities Association board of directors meeting, there was one very interesting, almost buried, discussion point in those three hours:

The possibility of centralizing state football championship games.

One of them, at least.

Any such policy shift would not occur before 2015, at the very earliest. However, the state's governing body for high school athletics is taking the initial steps toward possibly taking one of the small-school classifications - 2A or lower - and staging a title game somewhere in the metro area.

"We don't even have a timeline for it," associate director Dusty Young said.

Such a contest could be played at any of the three facilities within the Albuquerque Public Schools system - Milne, Wilson or the new Community Stadium - or perhaps Rio Rancho or Cleveland High, both of which have tailor-made stadium setups.

The NMAA sent out an advisory referendum earlier this year, asking member schools their opinion on the notion of centralizing championship games.

Among the schools that responded, the vote was 43-37 against centralizing. Athletic directors or superintendents cast the votes.

Among coaches who were asked the same question, the vote was 33-26 in favor of having a centralized site for the state finals.

Coaches were also asked to vote on the higher seed vs. past history debate that tends to spring up every year when No. 1 seeds - like Valley in the 5A semifinals or Goddard in the 4A title game - must travel.

The vote was 30-29 in favor of the higher seed always hosting - rather than going by where the teams met in their most previous postseason game, no matter when that was, or by flipping a coin.

In other meeting news:

As expected, the NMAA has begun the process of revamping football practice rules as they pertain to the amount of contact athletes can have. New Mexico hopes to follow Texas' lead and limit in-pads contact to 90 minutes a week once the season has begun.

Coaches asked the NMAA to look into changing the football mercy rule. They don't want games ended in the second half once there is a 50-point margin. Coaches also were hoping to create a running clock with a 35-point lead at the end of the first quarter, rather than wait until the start of the third quarter.

The board Wednesday overwhelmingly rejected the coaches' requests.

 

February 20, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
All Rights Reserved
The Philadelphia Daily News
BY TOM MAHON; Daily News Staff Writer mahont@phillynews.com

UNIVERSITIES self-report all kinds of violations to the NCAA, the Big Brother of collegiate athletics.

But the University of Oklahoma recently took things to extremes.

The Oklahoman yesterday reported that the Sooners' compliance office reported that three athletes ate an excessive amount of pasta at a school function last year.

No, this not an early April Fools' joke. Here's the entry, dated May 10, 2013:

Violation: Three current student-athletes received food in excess of NCAA regulation at a graduation banquet. The three had graduated from the school but returned for an additional season of competition. The players were provided pasta in excess of the permissible amount allowed. Resolution: The three were required to donate $3.83 each (the cost of the pasta serving) to a charity of their choice in order to be reinstated. The department provided rules education to applicable athletics department staff members.

Cue up Tom McGinnis for one of his famous "Are-you-kidding-me" lines.

The athletes were not identified, but offensive linemen Gabe Ikard and Austin Woods admitted on Twitter that they were among the culprits.

Ikard shared this tweet:

"We were served an extra pasta buffet at our student-athlete graduation banquet in May. So, we donated $5 to charity to be eligible to play."

Call him $am

Michael Sam, the defensive end from Missouri who outed himself just months before the NFL draft, has signed autograph deals with five trading-card companies, according to an ESPN.com report.

"We normally focus on defensive players that are most likely to get drafted in the first two rounds, so Michael was originally one of our alternates," Nick Matijevich, vice president of operations for Press Pass told the website. "But the news made his inclusion a no-brainer."

 

February 20, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 The Post and Courier
All Rights Reserved
Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)
Ryan Wood; rwood@postandcourier.com

COLUMBIA South Carolina will be allowed to host NCAA tournament games for women's basketball next year without the Legislature removing the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds.

The NCAA, the governing body of college athletics, has enforced a moratorium on pre-determined sites in South Carolina since 2001, because of the flag. The moratorium is backed by the state NAACP and its economic boycott of South Carolina.

Through the years, the moratorium has cost the state the chance to host NCAA tournament basketball games, routinely held in cities such as Charlotte and Raleigh but not in Columbia s 18,000-seat Colonial Life Arena. A South Carolina city hasn't hosted an NCAA basketball regional since Greenville did in 2002.

The women's basketball tournament will switch to a merits-based format next year. The top 16 seeds will host the tournament's first and second rounds. Under the same format, South Carolina's baseball team has been allowed to host NCAA regional games.

"I wish it was this year, but I fully expect coach (Dawn) Staley to be in this position next year," South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner told The Post and Courier on Wednesday. "I like the idea. I think it will also be great for women s basketball."

The USC women's team, ranked No. 4 nationally, would prefer to benefit from the rule change this season.

South Carolina is in the running for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, but it could travel as far as Seattle for its opening games. Tanner admitted he was less than thrilled when he saw the possibility of playing games across the country.

The format change wasn't greeted with joy everywhere.

South Carolina NAACP President Lonnie Randolph Jr. told the USC student newspaper he was disappointed with the NCAA's decision.

"The decision is a Band-Aid to justice," Randolph told the Daily Gamecock. "Life should be about equality and fairness not about economics. The NCAA has a responsibility to promote fairness. I do not like how it changed for the women's team because of the money issue."

Two local NAACP officials Dot Scott and the Rev. Joseph Darby declined comment.

Staley would like to play postseason games inside her team's home arena, but she was prepared for the inevitability this season.

"We knew coming into the season we weren't going to be a host site," Staley said after Wednesday's practice. "Fortunately for us, the legislation is changing. If we do our jobs next year and put ourselves in a position to be a top 16 team, we will host. So we're looking forward to what the future holds.

"I would've liked to host first- and second-round games because of what our fans have been able to do this year in packing Colonial Life Arena. I think they deserve to see this team play as long as possible. If we could elongate this season by hosting first and second round, that would be terrific. But that s not what our reality is."

 

February 20, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Richmond Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)
BRANDON SHULLEETA

Three Virginia Commonwealth University soccer players have been charged with filming a nude minor without consent.

All three males charged are freshmen, according to VCU's athletics Web page, and they have been suspended from the team, VCU spokeswoman Anne Buckley wrote in a brief statement.

"I think somebody was trying to play a prank on a suitemate, and what I hear is a young girl was filmed," said John W. Luxton, a local criminal defense attorney representing defendant Donovan Thiago Arias, of Lorton.

According to online court records, the other suspects are Bobby Joe Hopper of Cumming, Ga., and Finnlay L. Wyatt of Midlothian.

All three are charged with a Class 6 felony, according to online court records. If convicted, the men could face up to five years in prison.

Luxton said the girl was 17 years old at the time, and the filming apparently happened inside a VCU dormitory.

"Certainly there was no intent to cause anybody embarrassment," Luxton said. "It truly was guys who are living together for months, (practicing) together, studying together. You know, they pull pranks on each other, and somehow this young lady got caught up in the prank."

Luxton said he's still not sure exactly what the prank entailed and what, if any, role his client might have had. Luxton said he has filed a motion to get prosecutors' evidence in the case.

Buckley provided no details about the allegations.

However, Buckley wrote that in addition to the criminal charges, VCU is also "pursuing internal investigations from both a student code of conduct standpoint and through federal Title IX avenues."

Title IX aims, in part, to prevent sex-based discrimination in educational settings, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The young men were arrested this month after being indicted by a grand jury in connection with an offense that occurred in November, according to court records.

A trial date has not been set.

As a Midlothian High School student, Wyatt had been named the 2013 All-Metro player of the year in boys soccer by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. bshulleeta@timesdispatch.com

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February 20, 2014
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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)
GRAHAM MOOMAW

A disputed traffic study used to support the plan to build a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom emerged as a key topic Tuesday in one of the most detailed discussions of the development proposal to occur yet in Richmond City Council chambers.

Community activist Rick Tatnall has told the council he believes the traffic study is a "sham" that relies on outdated and flawed information -- and he reiterated that position Tuesday --but city officials stood by their conclusion that the early analysis shows that Shockoe's infrastructure is equipped to handle any added strain.

The ballpark plan also moved one step closer to a vote next week as the council's Land Use, Housing and Transportation Committee voted to forward to the full council a new resolution introduced by Mayor Dwight C. Jones. The committee forwarded the measure with no recommendation.

Several council members have said they need more information before they can render a decision. Chief Administrative Officer Byron C. Marshall said Tuesday that the modified resolution that seeks council support for "continuing negotiations" is designed to provide just that by firming up details of the various deals that need to be struck and bringing them back to the council.

"Right now, we're kind of sitting in limbo," said Marshall, who asked council members to strike the Shockoe resolution introduced shortly after the mayor announced his plan in November.

One detail discussed Tuesday was whether a preliminary traffic study done by the Timmons Group last year paints a reliable picture of traffic conditions with the new development.

The Timmons study suggests that a more formal traffic analysis be conducted as the plan develops. City officials have said they believe the traffic could be handled, and that a more costly study would only be necessary later in the process.

The study states that existing intersections could handle the extra 7,500 daily vehicle trips estimated to come with development around the stadium, but it doesn't specifically address traffic coming to and from baseball games.

"Because there is no single parking destination, it is impractical to estimate the specific traffic movements associated with visitors to the stadium," the study states.

The study assumed that stadium patrons would arrive and depart during off-peak hours, and it was "generally agreed" that studying the morning and evening peak hours would suffice. Tom Flynn, the city traffic engineer, said the morning peak hours are from about 7:30-8:30 a.m., while the afternoon rush hour is from roughly 4:30-5:45 p.m.

"Pretty much, rush hour in Shockoe Bottom area is well over by 6 o'clock," Flynn said, adding that the city's position is that if the grid can handle the rush-hour traffic, the other hours will "take care of themselves."

Councilman Parker C. Agelasto, 5th District, pointed out that, according to the home schedule of the Richmond Flying Squirrels, most weeknight games begin at about 6:30 p.m.

"So you really have a small window there that I think the traffic analysis is assuming that the area will clear out before that traffic arrives," Agelasto said.

The Timmons study also looked at a previous version of the mayor's plan.

The proposal described in the study involves 300 apartments, 150,000 square feet of office space, a 55,000-square-foot grocery store, 2,500 square feet of food and drink retail space and 7,500 square feet of general retail space.

The version of the mayor's plan now up for consideration is much heavier on residential, involving 750 apartments, a hotel with more than 100 rooms, a 65,000-square-foot grocery store and a historical site commemorating the slave trade that officials hope will draw tourism.

Tatnall, who ran against Jones for mayor in 2012 but dropped out of the race several months before the election, has also noted that the study relied on 2008 traffic volumes that were not adjusted upward to account for new development in the Bottom since then.

"This study does not look at what needs to be looked at to be able to say that Shockoe Bottom can handle this," Tatnall said.

The study says that some traffic counts conducted last May were "comparable" to the 2008 data, which made it unnecessary to project for growth.

Flynn said that even though details may vary, valid projections can be made with a reasonable idea of what the development will entail.

"We can fairly accurately predict those needs," Flynn said.

At another point in Tuesday's discussion, Councilman Jonathan T. Baliles, 1st District, asked about the $4.4 million the city has estimated for acquisition of the needed Shockoe land, most of which is owned by the Loving family.

"I guess the question is: Have we negotiated the deals so that the city has site control so we know that somebody doesn't say 'Well, now I think the land is worth $10 million?'" Baliles said.

Marshall said the deal will "die" if the city is asked to pay more than the fair market value.

"We believe that we will get a fair price," Marshall said. "We will not allow them to jack the price up because they're the only game in town."

The new council resolution, which was introduced Feb. 10 and is scheduled to be considered by the full council Monday, sets a deadline of March 27 for various land, development and parking agreements to be in place.

If the council authorizes further negotiations, Marshall said, the deals would be brought back for consideration in late March or early April.

The modified resolution is scheduled to be heard by the council's Finance and Economic Development Committee on Thursday.

gmoomaw@timesdispatch.com

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February 20, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana postponed Tuesday night's game against No. 15 Iowa after an 8-foot piece of metal fell into the seats from the ceiling at Assembly Hall.

Athletic director Fred Glass said the school made the decision after the piece, roughly 8 feet long and 14 inches wide, fell into the lower bowl of the arena and damaged seats in the northwest corner. The accident occurred about six hours before the scheduled tip-off at 8 p.m. A makeup date has not been announced. Iowa (19-6, 8-4 Big Ten) is in third place in the league standings while the Hoosiers (14-11, 4-8) are near the bottom.

"Safety is our No.1 priority," Glass said. "Our university engineers have advised us to postpone events in Assembly Hall until it can be determined what caused the facing to fall and ensure the safety of everyone attending an event in the facility."

Assembly Hall, one of college basketball's iconic facilities, opened during the 1971-72 season and holds more than 17,000 fans, but there have not been many changes made inside the building since it opened.

Yori plans to coach Nebraska's next game

LINCOLN, Neb. - Nebraska coach Connie Yori, who formerly coached at Loras College, said Tuesday her health is fine and she is planning to be at Ohio State for Thursday night's game. Yori collapsed during the second half of Sunday's game against Indiana. Yori said she's been on medication for a bacterial infection for a couple of weeks and was dehydrated when she passed out in front of the Cornhuskers' bench.

Yori, 50, was taken by ambulance to a Lincoln hospital, where she was examined and received intravenous fluids. She spent Monday morning at home and worked four or five hours at her office in the afternoon.

"Before the game I wasn't feeling great, and at halftime I said to our coaching staff, 'I feel real dizzy,' " she said. "The odd thing is that I drink more water than any human being alive. I drink a gallon of water a day. I always have believed in that. So it's just weird they're telling me I'm dehydrated."

Bulls sign forward Varnado to 10-day deal

DEERFIELD, Ill. - The Chicago Bulls announced Tuesday they have signed forward Jarvis Varnado to a 10-day contract. A second-round draft pick by Miami in 2010, Varnado played overseas for two seasons. He was averaging 14.1 and 11 rebounds in 22 starts for the Iowa Energy of the NBA D-League this season.

Bob Feller Museum fading financially

VAN METER, Iowa - The Bob Feller Museum is scheduled to reopen April 5, but financial troubles are threatening its survival in his central Iowa hometown of Van Meter.

The lack of money forced the museum's closure Jan. 3. It opened in 1995 to honor the Hall of Fame pitcher who was born near the central Iowa city, but has faltered since his death on Dec. 15, 2010.

Museum board member Bob DiBiasio told The Des Moines Register (http://dmreg.co/1bINA95 ) that Feller "was the engine that powered that museum." Since his death, museum membership has fallen and the organization hasn't been able to attract the Hall of Fame-caliber stars who in turn attracted patrons.

Feller won 266 games in 18 seasons with the Cleveland Indians. He had 2,581 career strikeouts, pitched three no-hitters and recorded 12 one-hitters. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility.

Marino, Sharpe out, Gonzalez in on CBS

NEW YORK - Goodbye, Dan Marino and Shannon Sharpe. Hello, Tony Gonzalez.

Marino and Sharpe will not return to their analyst roles on CBS' "The NFL Today" pregame show. Gonzalez, a recently retired star tight end, will now prep for a turn on the network's pro football coverage.

CBS sports chairman Sean McManus said he has no single metric by which he measures the success of the pregame show.

"It's very subjective," McManus said. "He's the closest thing to a sure bet that I've seen in a long time. You can't teach... likeability. Tony is a very likable individual."

Malzahn wants slowdown rule off table

AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said Tuesday that he has spoken "numerous times" over the previous five days with the chairman of the committee that passed a proposal designed to rein in offenses like the Tigers' hurry-up, no-huddle attack.

He has asked Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, the committee chair, to push consideration of the rule until next year.

"There's absolutely zero documented evidence that it is hazardous to (speed up) the pace of play, only opinions.," Malzahn said.

The rule, if it's passed, would give defenses time to substitute by penalizing offenses for snapping the ball before the 40-second play clock has ticked down to 29.

Redskins, Hall agree to 4-year deal

A year after taking a major pay cut to help the Washington Redskins through their salary cap woes, DeAngelo Hall has a new deal with a nice raise. The three-time Pro Bowl cornerback agreed to terms for a four-year contract with the Redskins on Tuesday, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. The deal is said to be worth between $4 million and $5 million per year.

The Associated Press

 

February 19, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA)
Erin Murphy TH staff writer emurphy@wcinet.com

DES MOINES - You might think the referee is blind, but if you get so upset that you assault him or her, you could face serious charges in Iowa.

State Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa, a former wrestling coach and official, has introduced a bill that would make an assault on a referee at a sporting event a serious misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $315 to $1,875.

Bowman said he was told by an Iowa Senate committee chairman that his bill will not be acted upon this year. Bowman hopes to work more on the legislation after the session and, if re-elected this fall, try again next year.

Bowman said he has witnessed, up close, the rage that can build in fans at sporting events. He said he believes angry fans often start by internally cursing officials during sporting events.

Bowman said he wants a stronger law to deter those fans from acting on that anger.

"I see how emotional some fans get. "¦ I've seen where referees have felt threatened," said Bowman, who still teaches at Maquoketa High School and is a former varsity wrestling coach there.

He also was a licensed wrestling official for about six years, he said.

"This is a crossing-the-line type of thing, where you're making it so much of a sacred cow that you don't even think about going after an official," he said. "The idea was to maybe increase the level of consequence in regard to punishment."

More than 2,000 reports of physical acts against officials at sporting events were recorded in 2011 by National Association of Sports Officials.

According to that organization, 23 states - including Illinois - have laws that define assaults on sports officials or other laws intended to protect sports officials.

The Illinois law makes an assault on an official at a sporting event a class A misdemeanor with a minimum $1,000 fine.

Gerald Ross, of Epworth, Iowa, officiated high school basketball for more than 20 years and now is the assistant athletic director at Western Dubuque High School. He said he never encountered a situation where he felt he was in danger of being assaulted by an irate fan. However, he also said, anything that would help prevent such action is a positive.

"Anything we can do to keep people from trying to address officials in the game would be a good thing," Ross said. "It's certainly something that should never happen."

One group officially has stated its opposition to the bill, according to online lobbying records. That group is Justice Reform Consortium, a group of advocacy and parochial organizations that works to reform the criminal justice system. TH Media was unable to contact its representatives Tuesday afternoon.

The group's website says the consortium wants the reform to move the justice system from "one based on retributive justice to one based on restorative justice. The organizations work to support legislation that would provide for increased funding for family connections, education, mental health and substance abuse treatment and reentry programs."

 

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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
ANNA PRATT, STAR TRIBUNE (Mpls.-St. Paul)

Lauren Schmidt, a 10th-grader at the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield, is involved with her school's theater productions and the social justice club. Soon, she'll add trap shooting to the mix.

The age-old sport involves shooting at clay targets that are launched out of small "houses" at the shooting range. Participants shoot for two rounds, each of which includes 25 targets.

Schmidt got interested in trap after her cousin, Hannah, raved about the extracurricular activity. After hearing her take on it, "I thought it would be a good opportunity to make some new friends and learn some new skills," while enjoying the outdoors, Schmidt said.

This year, Holy Angels and Richfield High School are joining forces to start the trap shooting team, which has a March 1 registration deadline, according to head coach Robert Brotzel, who is the police liaison officer for Richfield High School and a firearms safety instructor for the city's Police Department.

The West End Hunting and Fishing Club in Eagan will be the team's home base for practices and competitions, he said.

Richfield is among a growing list of high school teams in the west metro and beyond that are cropping up in the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League, which got its start in 2000 and incorporated in 2009, according to John Nelson, the league's vice president.

The coed club sport is becoming so popular at the high school level that it's already starting to get crowded at the local gun clubs, Brotzel said.

Brotzel, who coached Apple Valley's Eastview High School team during its inaugural season last year, said he's has found that the sport appeals even to those who aren't necessarily athletic.

Although many of the youth expressing an interest in the sport have grown up hunting and fishing, just about anyone can excel at trap. "You need good eye-hand coordination" and a weapon that fits, he said.

Safety comes first

Students supply their own shotguns, while a $279 fee covers the cost of ammunition, shooting time at the range and a Richfield team uniform, he said.

To sign up for the team, students first must get state-certified in firearm safety, according to Brotzel.

Safety is the top priority. Then, "my goal is to make a fun, safe learning environment" for students, he said.

Judging by the league's track record, he sees the sport as "safer than any other high school sport, with no concussions or broken arms," he said.

John Nelson, the vice president of the Minnesota State Clay Target High School League, reiterated that point. It's about learning to use firearms responsibly, he said.

So far, the league hasn't had any injuries or gun policy violations, he said.

The numbers show that the league fills a unique niche. "We're reaching an audience that's never been reached before," he said.

Part of the draw is that "you don't have to be the fastest or the biggest. Everyone can shoot trap," he said, adding that every team member participates. "There are no benchwarmers."

Another plus is that teams compete by size and in a "virtual competition," not according to their geography, he said.

They shoot at their local gun clubs, so there's no travel. Scores get tallied online.

Also, many schools offer lettering opportunities and yearbook recognition to trap athletes, he said.

Getting youth involved

The league's program has been a model for other states looking to get into competitive high school trap shooting, Nelson said.

He credits league founder Jim Sable, an avid trap shooter and a regular at the Plymouth Gun Club, for its progress.

Once he hit retirement age, Sable realized he was one of the younger ones at the gun club, Nelson said.

Seeing that the sport's future "wasn't very bright," Sable wanted to bring a new generation into the fold, he said. That led him to start a youth mentoring program in the Orono school district in 2001.

From there, the league began taking shape, and it became incorporated in 2009, he said. Since then, the volunteer-driven league has drawn thousands of students, up from its original group of 30.

It's gone from just a few teams in its first year to 170 in 2014, according to Nelson.

Also, the league expects to see as many as 5,000 students to its championship in Alexandria in June, which Nelson claims will make it the largest trap shooting event of its type in the world.

Later in June, the top 100 athletes will go on to a separate competition in Prior Lake that's being hosted by the State High School League. That collaboration represents a first in the state and in the country, he said.

A family tradition

Richfield senior Nate Wannebo is eager for trap season to start.

Wannebo started accompanying his dad, Tom, a master shooter, to the shooting range as a 5-year-old.

Trap shooting has been a good way for him and his dad to spend quality time together. They usually go shooting on Sundays after getting breakfast at the gun club, he said.

His dad, who is in a wheelchair, uses a custom-made stool to stake out a spot on the range, either as a participant or an observer.

At first, Wannebo wasn't a big fan of the sport. But as he started doing it more in recent years, "It clicked. I understand how it works. It's fun now and I'm competitive," he said. He and his dad have both racked up numerous prestigious shooting awards. They'll help out the team as assistant coaches.

"I like the feeling when you shoot really well, or if you have a really good day," he said, adding, "It's like hitting a home run."

If he's having a bad day, "It cheers me up. It's a stress-reliever," he said.

Pat Lehnherr shares his enthusiasm. His son Thomas, a 10th-grader at Holy Angels, will be on the team. Lehnherr, who's been trap shooting since he was young, is looking forward to mentoring the group.

For him and Thomas, "it's a great activity that both of us can do that's not in front of the TV. We get outdoors and we have a great time," he said. "The only thing that I can think of that comes close is golf, but trap shooting is louder."

Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer. She can be reached at annaprattjournalist@gmail.com

 

February 19, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
DAVID CHANEN; STAFF WRITER, STAR TRIBUNE (Mpls.-St. Paul)

The National Football League has been slapped with a lawsuit by two Minnesota law enforcement organizations challenging its authority to prohibit off-duty officers from bringing guns into stadiums.

Since 2003, state law has allowed licensed peace officers to carry weapons in private establishments, even when signs banning guns are posted. But in September, the NFL alerted team owners that it was instituting a new policy forbidding anyone other than on-duty officers and private security personnel working its games to carry weapons in stadiums.

Not only does that policy violate state law, it's unenforceable, argues a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court. The suit picked up steam after an off-duty Min

neapolis police officer attending the Minnesota Vikings' final game in December was told to take his gun and lock it in his car.

"This is the most unsafe thing you could do," said Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, one of the plaintiffs. "Officers are trained and encouraged to be able to respond 24 hours a day. This is terrible public policy."

The suit appears to be the first legal challenge to the NFL's gun policy, said Lt. John Delmonico, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, the other plaintiff.

When officers heard about the new NFL policy, Delmonico sought a legal opinion from the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, which owns the Metrodome.

Michele Kelm-Helgen, chairwoman of the Sports Authority, told him the authority also believes that the NFL's handgun policy is inconsistent with state law and generally unenforceable, despite the December incident. She said the Sports Authority also believes it isn't contractually obligated to comply with the policy.

NFL's argument

In letters sent several months ago to Flaherty and Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, NFL chief security officer Jeffrey Miller wrote that the league believes that public safety inside stadiums is best served by on-duty officers assigned to the game.

The likelihood of law enforcement actually using deadly force inside a stadium is extremely remote, he wrote.

On average, more than 500 civilian security personnel and 150 on-duty local, state and federal law enforcement officers are assigned to every NFL game, Miller said.

Off-duty officers haven't received special training on working in a stadium and are generally unknown to the officers assigned to the game, he said.

"Most states recognize that an NFL game ticket constitutes a license that reserves to the licenser, in this case the Minnesota Vikings, discretion to deny admission to any ticket-holders," Miller wrote. "That license extends to the denial of admission to anyone that violates the NFL's policy prohibiting firearms and other weapons inside NFL stadiums or facilities."

Miller said he is willing to discuss the policy further with police leaders.

Brian McCarthy, the NFL's vice president of communications, said Tuesday that the NFL would decline to comment on the lawsuit beyond Miller's letters. McCarthy said he isn't aware of any other law agencies challenging or raising concerns about the gun policy, and no club or individual has been disciplined for violating it.

The Vikings were notified of the lawsuit but deferred comments to the NFL.

The regents of the University of Minnesota, also named as a defendant, declined to comment. The Vikings will be playing for the next two seasons at TCF Bank Stadium at the U, which also forbids off-duty officers from carrying weapons.

Officers seek 'rights'

Before the NFL policy took effect, the Vikings had never reported an incident or concern about off-duty officers having concealed weapons in the stadium, according to the suit.

"Whether the NFL has the authority to ban handguns is the crux of the suit," Delmonico said. "If it's the NFL today, who will be next? We need to stand up for our rights now."

Stanek agrees. "NFL facilities will not be safer by removing the capability of sworn, certified and trained off-duty officers to react to any and all situations," he said. "Instead, it diminishes the safety of the venue and the fans, which is why I am fully supportive of my colleagues and this lawsuit."

Flaherty said it's up to an individual officer to decide whether to carry a weapon while off duty, but many do so because they want to be able to respond to any police matter that might arise. Self-protection is another reason.

"Citizens could care less if the officer is on or off duty when a response is needed," he said. "I'm confident [that] when a judge looks at the law closely and the intent the Legislature had in mind, he or she will rule on our behalf."

Similar issues have been debated by law enforcement in Cleveland and Baltimore, and it has been a topic in trade publications, Flaherty said.

"This has nothing to do with arming citizens," he said. "It's only about disarming police officers."

David Chanen · 612-673-4465

 

February 19, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
LIBOR JANY; STAFF WRITER, STAR TRIBUNE (Mpls.-St. Paul)

South St. Paul last week got the seal of approval of voters for its park plan, opening the door for what would be the first major expansion of the city's parks system in decades.

City officials said 57 percent of those who turned out for the special referendum on Feb. 11 were in favor of the plan to issue $10 million in bonds to help finance a multiuse park and new sports fields and to refurbish Wakota Civic Arena.

For the owner of a South St. Paul home valued at $150,000, the average in town, the higher tax rate means a tax bill of about $897 - a $98 increase from last year's tax bill of about $799, according to city finance director Michelle Pietrick.

Director of Parks and Recreation Chris Esser said the referendum's passage signaled voters had embraced the proposals outlined in the city's 2005 park master plan.

After waiting out the recession, city officials decided the time was right to put the referendum to voters, even though the results of a resident survey showed only lukewarm support for the parks plan.

"When projects need to happen, for any city projects - whether it's street or sewers, public safety, parks projects - a lot of that depends on the existing tax base," Esser said. "With the dollar amount involved in the parks master plan and what we were looking to accomplish, we knew that would not be solely supported by property taxes."

In the months after the survey, a group of supporters of the parks referendum calling themselves Revitalize Recreation SSP sprang up, going door-to-door sharing information and volunteering to help the effort, Esser said.

"That reaffirmed from the community survey that we have a group of residents out in town that are willing to stick their necks out," he said.

According to Esser, officials will next hold three open houses to obtain public feedback on the plan, which will include building soccer and football fields at McMorrow Field, overhauling the 51-year-old ice arena's refrigeration system and continuing the development of Kaposia Landing, a reclaimed former landfill site on the banks of the Mississippi River.

After all is said and done, Esser said, the new park at Kaposia will occupy 87 acres and have four lighted softball fields, a baseball diamond with lights, two playgrounds, picnic areas and a performance pavilion.

Improvements to the ice arena, which include remodeling and expanding locker rooms and overhauling the rink's refrigeration system, will begin in May and should wrap up by the fall, officials said.

Construction of the playing fields at McMorrow Field should start by the end of the year, they said.

Libor Jany · 651-925-5033

Twitter@StribJany

 

February 19, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Intelligencer Journal/New Era (Lancaster, Pennsylvania)
BY DEAN LEE EVANS

When it comes to high school football stadiums, determining what is too big or too small isn't always as easy it as seems.

A topic of discussion at Donegal's facilities committee meeting on Feb. 10 - relating to a proposed stadium for the district's new high school - dealt with how much stadium seating should be constructed.

Board member and facilities chairman Stephen Gault said that if the new stadium's bleacher seating is based on the average football game attendance, then there would only be enough seating for half of the season's games.

"If we design (the stadium) on the highest game attendance, you will have open seats," he said.

The amount of bleacher seating would impact the potential cost of any stadium project, which preliminary estimates put at more than $3 million.

Suggestions on the total amount of seating have ranged from 1,400 to 1,600 people.

But discussion Feb. 10 questioned the formula for the seating. Seating estimates had been based on a figure of 18 inches of bleacher seating per person.

Business manager Amy Swartz said research on high school stadium seating shows that while 18 inches of space is not uncommon, it is not always practical.

She said 18 inches leaves little room for attendees' coats and personal possessions.

"You could have a lot of unhappy people," Swartz said of a stadium with tight seating.

Gault questioned whether seating for 1,800 people should be the top number to consider.

"Not necessarily," Swartz said.

As an example, seating for 1,800 people, at 18 inches per person, could be reduced to seating for about 1,500 people if a more liberal 22 inches per person were applied to the formula.

Seating in the home section is expected to be double that of the visitor section. There was also the issue of people who tend to stand during games in other stadium areas as opposed to being seated.

At the current Donegal stadium, people often stand in wide buffer zones between the stadium and concession stands and the field.

"There is some standing room, but not a lot in the new design," Gault said.

Officials at the committee meeting agreed that the stadium project should be done right the first time.

But Gault cautioned that too many changes too often to the general design of the new stadium could add money to the cost of architect fees.

Too many changes could also disrupt timelines for the project and impact community support.

The new stadium would be financed through several sources, including money from the district's capital improvements account and a planned capital campaign with the Donegal Athletic Club.

At a board meeting in January, Swartz said that any district money used on the project would not impact the taxpayer.

Swartz said it was vital to nail down exactly how big a stadium the district wants because "we will have to go to DAC and tell them to make up the difference."

The committee agreed to bring the stadium project up for discussion at the next board meeting, which has been rescheduled to Thursday because of the recent snowstorms.

 
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The Press Enterprise

My dogs and I are parks peeps. Favorite haunts: Mount Rubidoux, Bonaminio/Tequesquite, McLean Anza/Narrows and the Granddaddy, Fairmount. Every week, we're in a park. We've always felt safe.

But on Dec. 19, a homeless man was found shot to death in La Sierra Park. On Dec. 31, at Arlington Park, police shot and killed a man who they said pulled a gun on them.

Then Councilman Steve Adams, a Republican who's challenging Democratic Rep. Mark Takano in this year's election, said armed guards should patrol city parks. He even got on TV!

Adams' colleagues seem cool to pistol-packin' privates. But City Manager Scott Barber is hot to spend up to $50K - his council-approved limit - to hire guards for 13 of 58 parks. When they're closed. At night.

Is this, in the words of the Riverside police union prez, "an overreaction to a couple of incidents"?

The RPD divides crime into Part 1 and Part 2. Part 1 includes homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft, etc. Part 2 includes simple assault, forgery, vandalism, carrying weapons, sex offenses, drug abuse, DUI, disorderly conduct, etc.

For the first 11 months of 2013, Riverside averaged 1,918 reported crimes per month almost an equal number of Part 1 and Part 2. (December stats weren't posted the RPD website.

The average number of crimes in the city's parks each month: 38. This is 2 percent of all reported crime in the city. Most park crime was the less serious (Part 2) variety. Most Part 1crime was theft.

Are Riverside parks dangerous? Outsiders probably think so after watching a Jan. 30 KABC report featuring congressional hopeful Adams and footage of the Arlington Park crime scene.

"Our parks are safe," Parks Director Ralph Nunez told me. "The community has to know that we're being proactive, dealing with issues."

One way the city deals is through the RPD's Operation Safe Parks. Officers patrol parks as part of their beat.

RPD spokesman Lt. Val Graham: "The two officers in Arlington Park where the suspect shot at them were assigned to Operation Safe Parks and were actually doing what they were supposed to do. This was not a radio call."

RPD also has Problem Oriented Police officers who zero in on trouble spots.

Graham calls the December homicides "isolated…There was no connection between the two, no pattern of gang activity."

Even Adams says the real problem is aggressive panhandling and drug deals. But sending unarmed security guards into parks after they've closed won't stamp out panhandling. And private guards shouldn't be breaking up drug deals.

Parks have problems. Lincoln on the Eastside recorded a Part 1 grand slam in 2013: one homicide, one rape, one robbery, one aggravated assault. Arlington led all parks with 20 arrests.

Which park had the most Part 1 crime - and most thefts (15) but didn't make the city's list for private patrols? Sycamore Canyon. Don Jones Park, which ranked third in arrests (16), didn't make the list, either.

Riverside needs more of what RPD does: regular park patrols and isolating trouble spots. Not city-whipped hysteria, election-year posturing and dubious $50K "fixes."

Making residents feel safe is the city's job, but dispatching private nocturnal patrols when parks are closed is a strange way to go about it.

Reach Dan Bernstein at 951-368-9439

 

February 19, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
USA TODAY

Many people enter the retirement years vowing to be more physically active, but others are putting more muscle into their goals: They're becoming personal trainers.

There was a 7% increase in certified personal trainers 40 and older from 2012 to 2013, according to a survey of 2,500 fitness professionals by the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

This reflects a national trend that shows many people want to work out with a trainer of a similar age or someone who has an understanding of their bodies and their limitations, says Andrew Wyant, the group's president. "A lot of folks like to be able to identify with their trainer, and the trainer should be aspirational as well as inspirational."

A retired teacher and a former senior marketing manager share their stories about why they chose to become personal trainers as their second acts:

A fitness epiphany

Teresa Sawyer, 55, of Raleigh, N.C., loved her career as a music and theater teacher, but after she got into shape with the help of a trainer, she decided to follow that path as a second career.

For 10 years Sawyer worked as a teacher in a middle school and high school. During that time her weight climbed to 347 pounds. She had trouble walking and used a motorized cart in the grocery store. Her feet and knees hurt all the time, she says.

At a doctor's recommendation, she had gastric bypass surgery. About three weeks later, Sawyer started working out.

At first she rode a recumbent bike for 10 minutes a day five days a week and did strength training with a patient personal trainer once a week. "She helped me see that my morbid obesity was not a barrier to getting fit."

Sawyer gradually worked up to biking for longer periods of time and doing more intense weight training. Later she took up swimming and yoga. "I learned to swim for the first time of my life in my 50s." At 5-foot-4, she now weighs 180 pounds.

Inspired by her own success and her belief that she could help others, Sawyer became a certified personal trainer, a certified yoga instructor, an aquatics rehabilitation specialist and a group fitness instructor. "It was my way of giving back to others what I had been given."

She works with people over 40 who prefer training with her rather than with "twentysomething hard bodies. I have a perspective that young hard-body people don't have," she says. She has a workout studio in her home and trains at two local gyms.

"I work with a lot of people with chronic pain. Several are over 70 and want to hold onto or strengthen their fitness levels for quality-of-life purposes."

"Am I in superior shape? Do I take the hardest-core classes at the local gym? No, I don't because there is a risk of injury, and I want to be able to move well for the next 25 years." Sawyer says. "But I can cycle with the best of them. I can do power yoga with the best of them."

She offers these pearls of wisdom to people considering shaping up: "Find something you enjoy doing and do that. Even 10 minutes of exercise at a time is good. You are never too old to reinvent your life with exercise."

Marketer no more

Bobb Prest, 56, of Minneapolis, decided he wanted to be a personal trainer one day when he was running on the treadmill at the gym. He looked around him and thought to himself, "I want to help people. I want to give back."

For more than 20 years, Prest worked in marketing for several Fortune 500 companies. But after his job as senior marketing manager was eliminated, he signed up for a 10-month course to become a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer through the educational division of Life Time Fitness, a national chain of health clubs.

When he started the course, he weighed 212 pounds and had 24% body fat. He's 6-foot-1. Within eight months, he had dropped 27 pounds and was down to 14% body fat. He says he is more energized, and his stress level is almost "non-existent."

Prest, who works on commission for Life Time Athletic, puts in about 45 to 50 hours a week, including his training time with clients and administrative work. He says he'll probably make a good income this year, but it will be 30% to 40% less than he made in the corporate world.

Still, he says, the "intrinsic rewards far outweigh the monetary benefits of my corporate career. I love this job. I get to play all day long. I get out of bed in the morning, and I am excited to get to work. I'm excited to see my clients."

It's rewarding to see people who are struggling with weight issues, muscle loss or lack of balance to turn their lives around and be able to move better and do the simple tasks of daily living, he says. "It's the most satisfying thing you can do. It's better than the paycheck."

He often tells clients a quote he read: "So many people spend their health gaining wealth, and then have to spend their wealth to regain their health."

To stay in shape, Prest runs, golfs, rows and does resistance training. "My goal in life is to continue to walk down the fairways to play golf well into my 90s."

To people overwhelmed by the idea of trying to get in shape, he advises them to take one step at a time, even if it's just doing a few extra minutes of walking a day. "The worst thing you can do is try to do too much too fast. Have patience, and be kind to yourself."

 

February 19, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
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The Philadelphia Inquirer
By Angelo Fichera; Inquirer Staff Writer

A photo of students from a North Jersey high school depicting the lynching of a practice dummy wearing a Paulsboro wrestling T-shirt has gone viral, invoking claims of racism.

The photo was made public Monday. It shows seven young white males - most wearing Phillipsburg High School athletic attire, two with their hoods pointed - surrounding the hanged, black figure.

Superintendent George M. Chando of the Phillipsburg School District said in a statement that the district investigated the matter and "upon conclusion of the investigation, actions were taken by the district consistent with its policies."

What action was taken and against whom was unclear Tuesday.

Paulsboro Superintendent Walter Quint said he learned of the photo Tuesday morning and spoke with Chando soon afterward.

"He was disappointed, upset, embarrassed," Quint said. "Hopefully, he's going to find some young men just made a bad decision."

Tuesday night, the Gloucester County NAACP issued a statement saying that it would request a meeting with Paulsboro officials and would seek an investigation. The NAACP also said it wanted "a letter of apology from the offenders to Paulsboro . . . and the Gloucester County community."

Phillipsburg defeated Paulsboro, a wrestling powerhouse, at a meet this month. Quint said the fans and players from the teams had always remained respectful.

"Any time something happens like this, it hurts the whole program," Quint said. "Kids, teachers, coaches, fans."

He added: "What took place in that picture is not what takes place in the gymnasium."

afichera@philly.com

856-779-3917 @AJFichera

 

February 19, 2014

 

 
 

 

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The Philadelphia Inquirer
By Tricia L. Nadolny; Inquirer Staff Writer

WEST CHESTER The West Chester University freshman who made the shot of a lifetime during a halftime challenge Saturday - but lost out on the cash prize because it took him two tries - has $10,000 headed his way.

From Pizza Hut.

"[We] know greatness when we see it," Pizza Hut's official Twitter page wrote to Jack Lavery on Tuesday afternoon. "We have a check for $10K and free pizza for a year for you. What say you? #PayJackLavs"

Lavery, an 18-year-old from Horsham whose story erupted on social media and radio talk shows, was still reeling from the news a few hours later and said he was humbled by the gesture.

"Yeah, I've got a big smile on my face," Lavery said.

That wasn't the case Saturday when school officials told him his golden shot was no good.

Contestants were given 25 seconds to hit a layup, foul shot, three-pointer, and half-court basket to win $10,000. They had as many attempts as needed for the first three but just one for the last.

Lavery missed his first try at the half-court heave, then sunk his second as the buzzer sounded.

The crowd erupted. Fans in the front row held out their hands for high fives.

Lavery hugged his parents, who had come to watch the game not knowing their son would be picked for the contest.

Then staff directed him to read the one-page contract he had signed, which made clear - in bold - that he had just one attempt from half court.

It also said he could not be a former high school basketball player. Lavery played four years at Hatboro-Horsham High School.

Lavery acknowledged he did not read the contract before he signed it. He said the staff member who ran through the rules with him should have told him everything he needed to know.

Fellow students as well as strangers generally seemed to agree as support poured in for Lavery online, and people encouraged the university to pay up.

That wasn't an option, according to athletic director Edward Matejkovic, who said Monday that the rules were set by an insurance company that would have paid Lavery if he had won.

The shot alone was worth $10,000 to Pizza Hut. Spokesman Doug Terfehr said staff in his office heard about the contest and were captivated by Lavery's story.

"Those kinds of halftime things happen at games all across the country every single day," Terfehr said. "And rarely do they end in such a dramatic fashion."

tnadolny@phillynews.com

 

February 19, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY
Jarrett Bell, jbell@usatoday.com, USA TODAY Sports

Richie Incognito has tweeted his apologies and declared his intent to get back to work.

He also needs a reality check.

Toxic baggage does not play well on the NFL market.

USA TODAY Sports surveyed six NFL teams Tuesday to gauge interest in the one-time Pro Bowl guard at the heart of the Miami Dolphins' bullying/workplace harassment scandal that was detailed in the recently released Ted Wells report.

Four general managers and two personnel executives responded, though all six spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Just one of the six teams indicated -- hesitantly -- it would consider signing Incognito, 30, who will be cleared to sign with any club when the free agent market opens March 11.

"You always consider a guy with all that starting experience, (who) plays with that aggressive edge," one GM told USA TODAY Sports. "But at the same time, he's no spring chicken, and you have to factor in all the personality and off-field stuff."

Two GMs rejected the notion unequivocally, with both maintaining that they scratched Incognito from their draft boards in 2005 because of character concerns and haven't budged.

The two personnel executives indicated it is unlikely they would ever sign Incognito, while the other GM leans against the idea but would not completely rule it out, saying it probably would take an emergency caused by injuries to consider Incognito.

"I sure wouldn't want to, but when it's the middle of the season and half of your O-line is on (injured reserve), he might look very attractive," the second GM told USA TODAY Sports. "Never say never in personnel."

It might seem surprising there are teams that would consider Incognito under any circumstances, given the extent to which he participated in conditions that contributed to tackle Jonathan Martin's decision to bolt from the Dolphins and was otherwise portrayed in the 144-page Wells Report that stemmed from an NFL-authorized investigation.

In addition to tormenting Martin for an extended period, berating an assistant trainer with racial invectives and ridiculing another lineman with homophobic slurs, Incognito exchanged text messages with a former teammate in which he stated a weapon and rifle scope that he purchased would be "perfect for shooting black people."

More than two-thirds of NFL players are African American. With such a sentiment in the public domain as a result of the investigation, in addition to his admitted use of racial slurs, his impact on chemistry within a locker room would be a consideration in signing him. Imagine a GM explaining the signing of Incognito at a news conference.

"A lot would come with that," a third GM told USA TODAY Sports. "By bringing him in, it could be viewed as if you're condoning his behavior."

Still, in the hyper-competitive NFL, there are many cases of players getting multiple opportunities to resume their careers despite serious off-the-field issues. Typically, the more talented the player, the more likely he is to get another chance.

Incognito is surely banking on his reputation as a hard-nosed interior lineman to land him another shot.

Incognito's eight-game suspension, imposed by the Dolphins, was officially lifted this month, though it is possible that he could be further disciplined by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. That, too, could weigh into whether teams pursue Incognito.

Clearly, though, Incognito is game for another round of attempted damage control. He took to Twitter again -- apologizing to Martin, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and Wells. He also proclaimed love for the NFL.

But if a team takes a chance on Incognito, there's surely no denying the risks.

 
February 19, 2014
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 The Washington Times LLC
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The Washington Times
By Thom Loverro, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Ted Wells report - indicting the Miami Dolphins locker room with a charge of felony cesspool - is just the latest in what has become a cottage industry in sports.

Mama, let your babies grow up to be independent sports investigators.

The Wells report charges that three starters of the Dolphins offensive line -- Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey -- engaged in a "pattern of harassment" directed at Jonathan Martin, as well as another young offensive lineman and an assistant trainer.

Boy, the Pouncey family must really be proud of their sons - remember the "Free Aaron Hernandez" hats Mike and his brother, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurice Pouncey, sported in a photo shortly after the New England Patriots tight end was arrested and charged with murder?

The 144-page report provides the "context" for those who were clueless enough to question Martin's claims and treated Incognito as a victim.

It's also another addition to the section in the library reserved for sports scandals, a growing section.

Heck, Oprah could produce a Book Club show just on independent sports reports.

It's a strange industry, a byproduct of the need for public trust and credibility in this fast-moving age of scandal, where information and evidence is disseminated so quickly, the cover up has been replaced by the clean up - the independent investigation.

Ted Wells is a high-powered criminal lawyer who has represented Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Jr., in the CIA leak probe in 2007. He's represented Eliot Spitzer in the prostitution scandal, and major corporations like Citigroup and Johnson and Johnson.

Now he's doing investigations into NFL locker rooms.

George Mitchell was a U.S. Senator and Senate Majority Leader. He brokered the history peace agreement in Northern Island. He's been chairman of the board of the Walt Disney Company.

In 2007, he was leading an investigation that questioned anonymous trainers in baseball clubhouses that resulted in the Mitchell Report, baseball's independent investigation into the use of performance-enhancing substances.

Was the Mitchell report the granddaddy of them all? Did it have the most impact?

What about Penn State?

The school found itself buried in the pit of a horrific scandal, with former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky found to have molested dozens of children through his charity organization, on the grounds of the school.

So what did they do?

They hired Louis Freeh, a former assistant U.S. Attorney, federal district judge, and, by the way, director of the FBI. The head of the biggest criminal police force in the country was called in to investigate a child sex abuse scandal in a small town in Pennsylvania. It wasn't the first child sex scandal in a small town.

But it was the first one where they called the former head of the FBI in - not to conduct the criminal investigation, but to investigate the school and what went wrong.

The Freeh probe resulted in charges that school president Graham Spanier and revered head coach Joe Paterno knew about the child abuse and covered it up. Paterno resigned in shame and died shortly after.

That independent investigation may have been the most powerful of all.

To show that it has become an industry, this isn't the only independent sports investigation the former FBI boss has done. He was hired by the New Orleans Saints in 2012 to conduct an independent investigation into the franchise following the revelations of the NFL Bountygate scandal.

We have yet to see the results of that "independent" investigation.

There is no shortage of work for independent investigators. Mitchell, the man behind the baseball steroid probe, was hired by the NCAA to monitor Penn State's progress in the reforms mandated by the organization.

Speaking of Bountygate, former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White was hired by the NFL to do a quick hit of sorts - not a full-blown independent investigation. She was hired to evaluate the NFL's own investigation into the Saints bounty scandal, and validated the probe.

Of course, the NFL has to go back and hire an independent investigator for Bountygate - former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue conducted another probe of the appeal of the Saints players charged in Bountygate.

Where did this all begin?

Was it when Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a former federal judge, was hired as commissioner of baseball following the Black Sox scandal of 1919? Landis didn't actually do an independent probe. That was done for him by the grand jury investigation, which he used to ban all eight player accused in the betting scandal, even though they were acquitted in court.

It may have all began with Pete Rose and John Dowd.

Dowd, a former prosecutor in the Justice Department organized crime and racketeering division and later chief of the organized crime strike force, was hired by baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti as special counsel in 1989 to investigate charges that Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose bet on baseball. The 225-page report resulted in Rose's ban from baseball.

High powered criminal lawyers, former judges, federal prosecutors, FBI bosses, and United States Senators - the men and women who have helped influence sports in America for the past 25 years.

- Thom Loverro is co-host of "The Sports Fix,"noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com

 

February 19, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Richmond Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)
JIM NOLAN AND MICHAEL PHILLIPS

A pair of proposed amendments to Virginia's two-year budget target fees paid by public college and university students to subsidize school athletics programs.

The amendments attempt to build on a September 2013 study by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, which found that on average, 12 percent of what students pay in tuition and fees go to intercollegiate athletics.

The JLARC report, requested by the General Assembly to assess factors contributing to increases in college costs, concluded the programs do not generate sufficient revenue to cover expenses without student fees. Those fees average $1,185 per student across the 15 public institutions in the commonwealth.

One amendment, proposed by Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr., R-James City, seeks to cap at $100,000 the amount of state funds used to pay the annual salary of a collegiate coach.

The other amendment, proposed by Del. M. Kirkland Cox, R-Colonial Heights, calls on the Auditor of Public Accounts and other state agencies to work with the schools to develop a standardized format to account for intercollegiate sports revenues and expenses, including how student fees are used.

While high-profile coaches can receive contracts worth more than $1 million annually, that money does not come directly from taxpayers or the state's general fund.

Instead, coaches are paid from athletic department revenues, which include ticket sales, TV rights fees, student fees and private giving.

Virginia Commonwealth University men's basketball coach Shaka Smart and other Rams coaches would not be affected by the bill, said Anne Buckley, senior director of public affairs at VCU.

"VCU does not have any general funds supporting any athletic coaching salaries," Buckley said.

The same is the case at the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech, where salaries are also paid by the schools' athletics departments. Reports from the schools are consistent with what lawmakers were told in September by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission.

The far bigger problem, that report concluded, was using student fees to subsidize sports.

As it is written, Norment's proposed coaching cap would not have any effect on student fees.

But he and Cox said they submitted their amendments on the heels of the JLARC study and a concern that college costs, including student fees that partly fund athletics, could price kids out of school.

"If you choose to have highly compensated coaches... then pay for that out of private donations, foundations and booster clubs," Norment said. "Don't be putting that on the backs of students for whom college affordability is an issue."

Cox said his amendment is a "first step" toward a system that provides a way to measure costs of athletics programs and their impact on affordability for students. He said he was surprised to learn that while only 3 percent of students participate in intercollegiate athletics, 12 percent of student fees go to funding them.

"I just thought that there is really a need to look at a way to lessen the student fee portion" of athletics funding, said Cox, whose sons are all involved in athletics.

He said the current system colleges use to report expenditures in these areas is "all over the place," and not consistent from school to school.

In recent years, coaching contracts have escalated along with the potential revenue and exposure in Division I sports.

Smart's contract, which runs through 2023, guarantees him $1.45 million this season, plus numerous incentives and $60,000 in deferred compensation.

His base salary is $450,000, and he has supplemental income of $950,000. He also gets $25,000 for university-sponsored radio and television appearances and $25,000 for speaking at or attending events or functions sponsored by the university.

At U.Va., football coach Mike London received $330,750 in base salary last year, though his actual compensation, including all supplemental pay, is $2.1 million annually. In the cases of London and Smart, the supplemental pay is guaranteed and does not have strings attached.

By official state numbers, the highest paid coach in the state is George Mason men's basketball coach Paul Hewitt. He made $744,750 in base salary last year. Supplemental income is not factored into the database.

However, he is not, in actuality, the state's highest paid basketball coach. Smart, U.Va.'s Tony Bennett and Virginia Tech's James Johnson each make more money once supplemental pay is included.

The University of Richmond is a private school and does not have to disclose salaries.

jnolan@timesdispatch.com

(804) 363-8685

@RTDNolan

mphillips@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6546

@michaelpRTD

Tim Pearrell and Karin Kapsidelis contributed to this report.

 

GENERAL ASSEMBLY 2014 Copyright © 2014, The Richmond Times-Dispatch and may not be republished without permission. E-mail library@timesdispatch.com

 

February 19, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
DAVID LA VAQUE; STAFF WRITER, STAR TRIBUNE (Mpls.-St. Paul)

At least five boys' hockey players from Achiever Academy will not play in the section playoffs as a result of a school inquiry into their eligibility.

The school's roster posted Monday includes 14 players, down from 19 that were listed as recently as last Friday.

The private online school, which offers intensified hockey training, was instructed last week by the Minnesota State High School League to resolve potential eligibility problems after similar concerns were raised about its girls' hockey team.

School attorney Matthew Resch said Monday that it was his understanding that the boys' team would have 14 players available Wednesday when it takes on St. Paul Johnson in the opening round of the Class 1A, Section 4 playoffs.

High school league executive director Dave Stead said he had not seen the team's roster or been in conversations about it. He described Achiever as "a member school doing exactly what it needs to do" to address player eligibility.

The school withdrew its girls' team from the section playoffs last Thursday, just hours before it was scheduled to play in a championship game. The team subsequently forfeited its victories during the season.

While neither the school nor the MSHSL has disclosed the exact nature of the eligibility questions, an unsigned e-mail sent to the league indicated some girls' players did not meet residency requirements. In some cases, parents did not relocate to Minnesota when players moved here, the e-mail claimed. In others, in-state players transferred but no family move apparently took place, as required by league rules.

DAVID LA VAQUE

 

February 18, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

A beam unexpectedly fell out of sequence in the Metrodome demolition Monday, bringing the teardown to a halt while investigators figure out what happened.

No one was injured and all debris fell within the demolition safety zone, so no passersby were at risk of injury, according to a statement from John Wood, a Mortenson Construction senior vice president.

Crews for St. Paul-based subcontractor Frattalone Companies were working to bring down a section of ring beam in the northeast section of the Dome about 1 p.m. when an adjacent section came down out of sequence. No equipment was damaged.

But the incident brought the demolition to a stop pending an investigation.

Demolition requires the same precise engineering as construction and carries similar risks. Surprises are not welcome.

Monday's unexpected collapse occurred on the northeast side of the building and is visible from the street. Some nearby office workers reported hearing a boom. Others say they didn't hear one, but felt a vibration.

A Mortenson spokesman said it was too soon to say for certain when demolition would resume, but possibly later this week.

Since demolition began last month, the Metrodome's tumble into oblivion has been visible. The east side of the 32-year-old stadium has become a gaping hole. The Dome has been deflated and the building has become a shell.

The biggest bang from the old Metrodome came early this month when crews detonated a dozen charges to sever the support cables, bringing down the whole roof.

Unaccustomed to loud noises - such as from touchdown celebrations - coming from the Metrodome, half a dozen callers reached

out to the Minneapolis police wondering what had happened.

The entire Dome is expected to be gone by April, making way for construction of the Minnesota Vikings' new $1 billion stadium, which is scheduled to open in July 2016.

Excavator Frattalone will cut up and reuse most of the materials from the demolition, including remnants from the roof.

A safety fence now encircles the Dome, keeping the excavators in and the public out. The site, however, is a treasure trove of viewing for fans of demolitions, with heavy equipment crawling all over the site and portions of the Dome's innards now on display.

The Vikings will play the next two seasons at the stadium on the University of Minnesota campus, but the team is gearing up its sale of tickets in the new stadium that will be twice the size of the Metrodome. In coming weeks, the Vikings will have a fly-through experience set up in their sales office to replicate for would-be season-ticket holders how the new stadium will look and feel.

To buy season tickets - including the preseason games - fans will have to pay $500 to $9,500 per seat at the new stadium. Some 75 percent of the 65,400 seats will be covered by the so-called stadium-builder licenses.

The $100 million in net proceeds from the licenses will count as part of team owner Zygi Wilf's "contribution" to the stadium construction.

Rochelle Olson · 612-673-1747 @rochelleolson

 

February 18, 2014

 

 
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The Virginian-Pilot(Norfolk, VA.)
By John Holland

A team of businesses behind some of the most successful sports complexes in the country - including the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the Pepsi Center in Denver - proposed Monday to build an 18,000-seat arena in Virginia Beach and pay for it themselves.

Their plan emphasizes what developers call the need for a major concert venue in Virginia to lure top musical acts, national political conventions and events such as the Ice Capades and NCAA tournament basketball. Project officials said the $200 million arena would be paid for entirely with private money, mostly from a Chinese construction giant, and would require no taxpayer funding.

The ESG Cos. of Virginia Beach is at the center of the plan, presented as a counterproposal to one initiated in November by construction firm W.M. Jordan Co., which involves Beach developer Bruce Thompson as a consultant. Both proposals would build on city-owned land near the Convention Center, and both would need major infrastructure improvements by the city.

Last year, an attempt to lure the NBA's Sacramento Kings to Virginia Beach fizzled when the state legislature refused to spend $150 million of public money to finance the arena. Virginia Beach spent nearly $1 million for consultants and public relations.

"Having a professional team is not essential to this being a successful arena," said Joe Gelardi, project manager for ESG. "Last year's effort failed because resources they were counting on never materialized.

"We have the financing in place. We had to prove to ourselves and our bankers that this made sense financially and we can carry it out, and we've done that."

ESG and a subsidiary, United States Management, are the local faces of the group, but much of the experience building and managing arenas comes from around the country. AECOM of Kansas City, which designed the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, FedEx Forum in Memphis and 93 others around the country, and Mortenson Construction of Minneapolis would lead the project, backed by S.B. Ballard, the Virginia Beach construction company.

SMG, which operates 230 arenas worldwide including in Oklahoma City and New Orleans, would manage the facility. In those two cities, the arena was built first and then attracted an NBA team.

City Council members Bob Dyer, John Moss and Rosemary Wilson attended the announcement. Moss said the group's concept was far superior to any proposal so far, noting that the group was willing to pump hundreds of millions into construction, jobs and materials.

"You have to say, 'We're open for business,' " Moss said. "I'm very excited because this is a case where the private investor is taking all the risks."

W.M. Jordan's proposal was given to the city in November, and the council agreed to accept competing proposals for 90 days. Only the ESG proposal came in by the deadline, 5 p.m. Monday.

John R. Lawson II, president and CEO of W.M. Jordan, said Monday that he hadn't seen the ESG proposal but that his group is local and in tune with the needs of Virginia Beach.

"We have a lot more experience as a team than they have, and we've tackled hospitals, a critical care center in Richmond and other major projects," he said.

Lawson declined to say how much his proposal would cost or how much his group is asking in taxpayer support from Virginia Beach or to name its financial backers, saying those details will come out.

"Both proposals are a good solution," he said in an email Monday night, "just different approaches with different levels of control by the City. The main objective is to get an arena built. Everyone wins if this is accomplished."

Dyer and ESG Chief Financial Officer Andrea Kilmer called for a transparent selection process.

"It's very important that we get out in front of this and share all of the financial information, and the entire plan," Dyer said. "I want us to start with town hall meetings right away.

"Put both projects side-by-side, let the public see every aspect, and then they can see our thinking and what was behind our decision-making," Dyer said. "Last year everything was done behind the scenes, and information wasn't available until too late. We can't let that happen again."

A city task force will review the plans and brief the council, according to the city manager's office.

John Holland, 757-222-5047,

john.holland@pilotonline.com

header header

The $200 million arena would be paid for entirely by private investors, mostly from a Chinese construction giant.

two proposals

The ESG Cos. of Virginia Beach is at the center of a plan to construct an 18,000-seat multipurpose entertainment and sports arena on city-owned land.

Construction firm W.M. Jordan, which proposed an arena in November, has not said what its project would cost or how much public money would be sought.

previous plan

A bid early last year to lure the Sacramento Kings fizzled when the state legislature refused to spend $150 million of public money to finance the arena.

 

Steve Earley | The Virginian-Pilot Joe Gelardi, project manager with the ESG Cos., describes the arena plan during a briefing Monday. "Having a professional team is not essential to this being a successful arena," he said. united states management rendering The latest proposal for an arena in the Beach, unveiled Monday by a team of national and local businesses, would require major infrastructure improvements by the city.

 

February 18, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
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The Philadelphia Daily News
BY TOM MAHON; Daily News Staff Writer mahont@phillynews.com

Jack Lavery, a freshman at West Chester University, thought he'd won $10,000 by making a shot from halfcourt during a halftime contest of a game against Shippensburg on Saturday.

Until he saw the fine print.

Lavery, who was randomly selected for the challenge, had 25 seconds to make a layup, a free throw, a three-pointer and a shot from halfcourt. He easily made the first three. He then missed on his first attempt from midcourt, raced to get the rebound, and while the announcer was counting down the seconds, hit a one-handed buzzer-beater.

Show him the money, right?

Not so fast.

According to the contract that Lavery signed before the contest, which was obtained by "Action News," he could take as many shots as needed to make any of the first three shots. But "no more than ONE (1) attempt may be made at the HALF COURT shot, provided that there is still time left on the shot clock."

"This is really tough for me honestly," Lavery told NBC. "After all that celebration, they told me I'm not going to get it. I feel a little hurt."

Lavery's family is fighting the ruling. However, West Chester athletic director Edward Matejkovic told "Action News" that Lavery, who played basketball at Hatboro-Horsham High, was aware he could only take one shot from midcourt.

That may be so, but some at Hollinger Field House were seemingly not as aware of the rules.

If they had been, Lavery would not have been permitted to take that second halfcourt shot. And the announcer would not have continued the countdown after the first miss.

There is a lot of social-media buzz about the incident, so who knows what will happen?

Rules, as someone once said, are make to be broken.

Hits shot, gets 'paid'

Michael Quin, 53, of Springfield, Mo., also sank a big shot during a halftime contest on Saturday. This was at the College of the Ozarks, and he nailed a three-pointer to win a year's worth of McDonald's Value Meals.

And get this: He's blind. Imagine telling him he didn't read the contract.

 

February 18, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
USA TODAY
Nicole Auerbach, and Jeffrey Martin, @NicoleAuerbach and @JayMart

Michael Beasley wonders where his statistics might stack up if he had remained at Kansas State longer than his freshman year, when he averaged 26.2 points and 12.4 rebounds.

But Beasley did what everyone anticipates Kansas' Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, Duke's Jabari Parker and Kentucky's Julius Randle will do after this season -- go pro after one year in college.

Now with the Miami Heat, Beasley's second stop in a six-year career with the team that took him No. 2 overall in the 2008 NBA draft, he has already been cut once, been traded twice and played for three teams. He also has been arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession. And he's 25.

Asked if he had advice for the four freshmen -- and perhaps four other freshmen who could be lottery picks in June -- Beasley gets to the heart of the dilemma for these talented teens.

"If I could tell them one thing, it would be, 'It's your life; it's what you make it,'" Beasley told USA TODAY Sports. "I think my only regret, and not just with college, is trying to make other people happy all of the time. If I could do everything over, I'd do it for me.

"I can't say I would have stayed another year. I grew up poor, dirt poor.... Everybody is different. Me? If I came from a better financial situation, I could have been there two, three or four years."

The one-and-done rule has been a hot topic in college basketball since it was implemented by the NBA in 2006 but arguably never more so than this season with potentially a record number of freshmen in position to bolt.

While players see the rule as an opportunity to fulfill their dreams, make millions of dollars and support their families, college basketball coaches say it has profoundly affected the game.

"It tarnishes what we're trying to do as coaches; it tarnishes the idea that kids are here to get an education," Colorado coach Tad Boyle says. "It just does. People know it. That's why there are so many people it upsets and people don't like it. I don't know of any person I've ever talked to who says, 'I like the one-and-done.'"

The NBA's collective bargaining agreement runs through the 2021 draft, but there is an opt-out in 2017 for either side, the owners or the players.

Commissioner Adam Silver told USA TODAY Sports last week that he favored raising the minimum age from 19 to 20. Players have long held the opposite view, wanting to revert to the pre-2006 rules allowing players to declare for the draft at 18.

"Even if (the rule is) not terrible for the NBA right now," Silver says, "at least talking to a lot of my college coaching friends and college (athletics director) friends, their view is (that) one-and-done is a disaster."

Since 2006, 57 players who were one year out of high school have been drafted by NBA teams. There have been stars such as Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose and those who have struggled to stick in the league, including Tiny Gallon and Josh Selby.

"It was a decision to take care of my family," says Gallon, who played at Oklahoma and was selected 47th overall by the Milwaukee Buck in 2010. "I was at Oklahoma for the money. I had to take care of my family. I felt I was ready, so I came out."

Now suiting up for the NBA Development League's (Newark) Delaware 87ers, Gallon, 23, insists he wouldn't change a thing.

"It hasn't turned out how I thought it would, but that's the whole process," he says. "When I made my decision, I was comfortable with it."

Obsession with freshmen

Kobe Bryant, who went pro out of high school in 1996, says he doesn't think the college game is preparing players for the NBA.

"That's always been the big argument. As a player you have to go to college, you have to develop your skills and so forth and so on, and then you come to the league," Bryant told reporters last month. "I think the reality is there's been a lot of players who've come out of high school that were much more successful on average than players that went to college for a year or two years."

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has spoken out against the one-and-done rule over the years, but even he has recruited those players. He has Parker this season and two expected one-and-done players, Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, coming in next fall.

However, he joins other coaches in lamenting how one-and-done has affected college basketball's marketing and promotion. Turn on ESPN or any other channel broadcasting games this season, and you'll see analysts debating which freshmen have been most valuable to their team or their draft stock. You'll hardly see any discussion of upperclassmen.

"We're obsessed with this, young players becoming superstars overnight," Michigan coach John Beilein says. "It's unfair, and the expectations are unfair. They're 19 years old, 18 years old. Let them grow before we put these huge expectations on them."

That results in pressure -- both external and internal -- to get to the NBA in one season.

"It's taking the players who return for their second and third years to a level of insanity, where you become a failure if you at all enter your fourth year in college," Arizona coach Sean Miller says. "You can't play. You're a bum. You did not make it. If you just think about that, where that starts from is players being here for just one year. 'OK, I'll come here a second year, but I'll be damned if I ever get to my third.'"

Calls for change

Many coaches have espoused the benefits of a rule similar to that in baseball, where players could get drafted out of high school but if they choose to go to a four-year college they must stay at least three years.

Krzyzewski, Florida coach Billy Donovan and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo point out there are no rules holding a tennis player back from going pro at a young age. This argument gets made any time an elite college player gets injured and costs himself millions of dollars.

But the realists in college know allowing 18-year-olds to go straight to the pros is not likely to happen. The NBA doesn't want its scouts in high school gyms, Krzyzewski says.

"The NBA will not take kids out of high school; that's a no-go," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim says. "It's just not a solvable problem."

Even so, the two-year minimum is gaining support, at least publicly. It would give college programs more stability, provide players with time to develop and give NBA teams better prospects.

Miller says he thinks a two-year rule would help everybody. Silver agrees, saying, "We believe the additional year of maturity would be meaningful."

Still, it's hard to predict change. The NCAA desires discussion of the issue, President Mark Emmert said late in 2013. But he pointed out it is controlled by the NBA and the players association.

"It takes two parties, neither of which is us," Emmert said. "I think we need a bigger, broader conversation about what should the relationship between college sport and professional sport be. Some people, me included, said I don't have any (problem) with people going to professional athletics and not coming to college."

If whoever replaces Billy Hunter as the leader of the players association prioritizes addressing the one-and-done issue, talks regarding change could at least take place. But Krzyzewski says he doesn't know if one-and-done will go away.

"It's one of those issues (where) it needs to be collectively bargained, and for good reason," Silver says. "This is one of these issues that the larger basketball community needs to come together and address, not just the NBA owners and our players. Youth basketball and college basketball should have a seat at the table as well."

Contributing: Sam Amick

 

February 18, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Chip Towers; Staff

ATHENS --- Weird. Odd. Awkward.

Those are a few of the words being used to describe the SEC swimming and diving championships, which will be conducted this week at Gabrielsen Natatorium in Georgia's Ramsey Student Center. The awkwardness stems from the Bulldogs' resident swimming icon --- men's and women's coach Jack Bauerle --- sitting out the competition.

Bauerle, who has led UGA's swim program for more than three decades and coached the Bulldogs to five national championships, has been barred by UGA "from the pool deck" while an NCAA investigation continues into his involvement in an academic matter involving men's swimming star Chase Kalisz.

Kalisz has since had his eligibility restored and will compete for the Bulldogs this week. However, as has been the case since early January, Bauerle's coaching will be limited to practices and pre-meet warmups. Though he will be at the swimming complex throughout the competition, he'll have to disappear before UGA's races.

"Jack's still our head coach," Athletic Director Greg McGarity said Monday. "His status is unchanged because it continues to be an ongoing investigation and we're not really sure when it will end. It's not going to change this week."

Although details are scant, UGA's compliance department ordered both Bauerle and Kalisz suspended from competition in the first week of January while it reviewed an "academic eligibility matter."

Kalisz, a sophomore from Bel Air, Md., is the SEC's reigning individual medley champion, won the NCAA 400-yard IM title as a freshman and was named SEC freshman of the year.

Bauerle remains under UGA's restrictions. Though he is credited for wins and losses, he has not been able to accompany the teams to any meets. Associate head coach Harvey Humphries fills Bauerle's role during competition.

"It's going to be a little odd," McGarity said. "... But for our kids it's been this way virtually all year. It is awkward because it is a five-day meet, but the same restrictions are in place for the SEC meet as have been in place all year. And the meet is for all the student-athletes. It's their meet and that's what it should be about."

Georgia has typically strong teams. The No. 1 women's team is favored to repeat as SEC champion and the men are expected to be vying for second behind No. 1-ranked and heavily favored Florida.

The school completed its investigation of Bauerle last month and forwarded its findings to the SEC. Georgia remains tight-lipped over details of the case and has sealed documentation from public review under the legal position that it remains an ongoing investigation. Given the length of deliberations, it appears Bauerle's fate is now in the hands of NCAA enforcement.

Meanwhile, Bauerle soldiers on under the odd circumstances.

"I'm holding up fine because the athletes are fine," said Bauerle, who was U.S. women's head coach for the 2008 Olympics. "They're just a great group of kids. And the nuts and bolts of everything we do is training. Meets are icing on the cake. So I'll be able to warm them up, which I'm appreciative of. After that, quite frankly, I try to get out of the way anyhow. The only thing you can do with an athlete after that is confuse them."

 

February 18, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Tribune Review Publishing Company
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Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Almost every morning, a group of ladies from all over the Pittsburgh area gather at their morning hang out.

They chat, laugh, even trade beauty tips. But this is no tea time. Between friendly exchanges, the ladies throw jabs, hooks and kicks against heavy bags dangling from the ceiling. They run "suicides," dragging weights from one end of the room to another. They lunge, lift, stretch, all under the watchful eye of a trainer who's pushing them every inch of the way.

This is the Ladies-Only Life-Changing Fitness Academy at Fight Club Pittsburgh in Robinson. It's one of several local groups dedicated to helping women meet their fitness goals without the added pressure of doing it in front of the opposite sex.

"I find this much more satisfying," says Antriece Hart, 39, of Carnegie, a Ladies-Only member who used to work out at a male-dominated boxing gym. "We are all like-minded. Most of us are working mothers. We have a lot in common. This is just fitness, no drama."

According to a new report from an industry trade association, women are two to three times more likely than men to participate in group exercise classes. The 2013 International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association Health Club Consumer Report shows that while men and women are equally represented in gyms, men prefer free weights and resistance machines; women prefer working out in group settings.

The benefits include everything from finding friends to being less self-conscious, women say.

"I like that (trainer) Tia (Angle) pushes us while we're having fun," says Tayler Ondik, 19, of Scott, another Ladies-Only member. She works out at a co-ed gym, as well, but finds the motivation gained at her morning class carries with her during other workouts. "Working with all the people here helps me to push myself more."

Dr. Amy Yester, a physician with Seasons OB-GYN at West Penn Hospital, says women-only gyms and classes are ideal for people who haven't found the support they need in other facilities.

"When you have a buddy or someone pushing you, you make that extra effort," she says.

Women likely are more drawn to classes because they make exercising more fun, Yester says.

"They tend to be dance or music-oriented," she says. "There's a variety it adds to it. It's more enjoyable, and you're still getting the benefits."

Patricia Dunlap, owner of Female Physique's in Ross, says her clients like the ladies-only environment because they don't have to worry about clothing or appearances, they like the clean facility, and they enjoy the camaraderie.

"They do bond," she says. "They come here and have coffee and talk after class. They seem to always be working out with someone."

Kim Gregory, owner of Pure Fitness for Women in West View, has had a similar experience at her business. Her clients even organize a fundraiser for breast-cancer awareness and they collect blankets for the poor.

"I've watched new people walk in the doors having never been in an exercise facility, and, then, friendships form and relationships form," Gregory says.

Angle, who trains three ladies-only classes at Fight Club Pittsburgh, commends each participant by name as she coaches them through their workouts. They might groan when she asks for another full minute of kicks or lunges, but by the time class ends, they're all chatting cheerfully.

"There is no cattiness here," Angle says. "We're always texting each other and keeping each other accountable."

At the Leetsdale-Sewickley Curves, owned by Whitney Gresham, women ranging in age from early 30s to mid-80s meet every morning to work out with Jillian Michaels. A DVD featuring the famed fitness coach plays as the women rotate between the workout and several exercise machines in 30-second intervals. Dance music plays as Michaels and Gresham offer encouragement to the nine women.

"The women here are just wonderful," says Carole Battisti, 67, of Bell Acres. "This is the best thing I've ever done for myself at my age."

Gresham opened her business seven years ago with a desire to help women realize the importance of taking care of themselves.

"As women, what we generally do is care for others, and, by the time we're ready to care for ourselves, we're out of shape or overweight," she says.

Gresham says each woman comes to Curves for a different reason.

"Some want to lose weight. Some want to control their diabetes. For some, this is a social outlet," she says.

Her clients appreciate the fun, supportive environment.

"I always wanted some place with no men," says Rose Marie Calabretta, 76, of Moon. "I like not having to worry about anything else."

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com

 

February 18, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 Virginian-Pilot Companies LLC
All Rights Reserved
The Virginian-Pilot(Norfolk, VA.)

By Arnie Stapleton, The Associated Press


Now that the NFL knows the scope of the racially charged Miami Dolphins bullying scandal, the league has been left to grapple with what its next steps should be.

A report released Friday on the Miami case concluded with a one-paragraph call to action:

"As all must surely recognize, the NFL is not an ordinary workplace. Professional football is a rough contact sport played by men of exceptional size, speed, strength and athleticism. But even the largest, strongest and fleetest person may be driven to despair by bullying, taunting and constant insults. We encourage the creation of new workplace conduct rules and guidelines that will help ensure that players respect each other as professionals and people."

League executives agree steps need to be taken, and have vowed to take action. But it may be difficult to regulate locker-room behavior by determining when something a player considers to be harmless locker-room nonsense crosses the line. Players are part of a team, but they are also individuals with different levels of sensitivity.

Locker rooms are work environments where even without the kinds of vicious taunts and racist insults cited in the report, behavior that would not be accepted in society is tolerated, and even condoned or encouraged.

Still, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross wants his organization to lead the way to change the culture.

"I have made it clear to everyone within our organization that this situation must never happen again," Ross said in a statement released through the team. "We are committed to address this issue forcefully and to take a leadership role in establishing a standard that will be a benchmark in all of sports."

Before the Super Bowl, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had said he'd be out in front on the issue of hazing.

"Our No. 1 priority has to make sure that we have a workplace environment that's professional, recognizing that we have some unique circumstances. But we have to make sure that our players, (and) other employees, have that kind of professional workplace environment," Goodell said then.

After the report got released, the NFL did not mention any possible punishment stemming from the case in a statement emailed by a league spokesman.

The report by lawyer Ted Wells said "the behavior that occurred here was harmful to the players, the team and the league," but he noted the investigators weren't asked to recommend discipline or determine legal liability for the bullying.

"There are lines - even in a football locker room - that should not be crossed, as they were here," the report said.

Players would like to police themselves.

Teams want a big say in setting those parameters.

The league is taking a hard look at the report, which details homophobic invective directed at Andrew McDonald, who was referred to as "Player A."

That element in particular is a hot button issue in light of Michael Sam's recent revelation that he's homosexual, putting him in line to become the league's first openly gay player.

 

 
February 18, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 The Post and Courier
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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)
David Slade; dslade@postandcourier.com

As the Dorchester 2 School District makes plans to build a new voter-approved aquatics center near Summerville, North Charleston hopes to convince the district to build a larger, Olympic-size pool in a different location.

The North Charleston city limits extend well into the school district, with about 19,500 city residents in Dorchester County. City officials want the district to build the aquatics center near Fort Dorchester High School, which is in North Charleston about 10 miles from the proposed pool location near Summerville.

"We already have the land we purchased by Fort Dorchester High School," Mayor Keith Summey said. "I think we need to let them know we want to negotiate with (the district)."

School Board Chairwoman Gail Hughes said the district is aware of the city's interest, but has been pursuing a plan with the Summerville Family YMCA to build a smaller, 25-meter pool, located in The Ponds subdivision southwest of the town. Voters in a 2012 bond referendum agreed to support district plans for a $7.5 million aquatics center.

"The bond referendum was based on partnering with the YMCA, and it did pass, so we feel our obligation is still with the YMCA," Hughes said. "If everything works out with them, that is the route we'll be taking."

The bond referendum didn't specify a location for the pool, or a partnership with the YMCA, but Hughes said that's how it was presented to voters. The Summerville Family YMCA laid out the plan on its website, although a contractual agreement is still in discussion with the district.

The indoor Community Aquatics Center is a strategic partnership between Dorchester School District Two and the Summerville Family YMCA that will offer year-round aquatic programming for the whole community to enjoy, the YMCA s website says.

The YMCA will incur all functional costs and manage the daily operations, it continues. The YMCA will not use any tax dollars for the operations of the Aquatic Center.

The school district plans to build and own the pool, but not operate it. The estimated cost of operating the smaller pool proposed near Summerville is about $850,000 annually, according to the YMCA.

Gary Lukridge, CEO of the YMCA, said he hadn't heard about North Charleston's interest in the plan, and directed questions to the school district.

"It s their bond referendum," Lukridge said. "We're working together with the school district."

North Charleston's proposal to build and operate a large pool in partnership with the district could involve the city contributing millions to the construction cost. The city has long-term plans to build a public pool near the Dorchester Road corridor, and piggybacking on the school district's funding could accelerate that plan.

"They get more for their money and we move our project up by several years," city councilman Ron Brinson said.

Brinson and Councilman Dwight Stigler represent many North Charleston residents who live in Dorchester County, mostly in subdivisions along Dorchester Road between Ashley Phosphate and Ladson roads.

"I'm hearing a lot of feedback from constituents, and they would love to have access to a pool," said Stigler, who hopes a deal could be reached with the school district before they build something way out at The Ponds.

For now, the school district seems inclined to stick with the partner it brought to the dance.

"We don t take the interest from North Charleston lightly," Hughes said. "The only issue we have at this point is, when discussions first began, they were with the YMCA.

"Before we can pursue other options we feel the obligation to see if the YMCA can handle it," she said. "Certainly, it s not a done deal with the YMCA."

Reach David Slade at 937-5552

 

February 17, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Doug Roberson; Staff

They call themselves the Sixth Man Crew. Their home is along the baseline of men's basketball games at GSU Sports Arena.

They are players on Georgia State's football team who make life difficult for the Panthers' basketball opponents.

The core of the group is kicker Wil Lutz, fullback/linebacker Sean Jeppesen, tight end Joel Ruiz and wide receiver Tyler Nemec. They swap football jerseys for basketball jerseys when they arrive at the Sports Arena, the site of tonight's game against Texas State as the Panthers (17-7, 10-1) attempt to improve to 10-0 at home and bounce back from Saturday's loss at Troy.

"We're the first four off the bench," Lutz said. "Guys in the back, back us up."

That cadre includes Melvin King, Kyler Neal, Joe Peterson, Mark Ruskell, Jarrell Robinson, Matt Hubbard, Keith Rucker and recently enrolled quarterback Nick Arbuckle.

They are a few of the faces that pack into the baseline on Georgia State's side of the court.

"More and more show up every week," Lutz said.

The group serves two purposes: Not only do they support the basketball team, but they also bond.

It's something that football coach Trent Miles is glad to see after last season's team struggled to an 0-12 record.

"The chemistry is really getting to where we want it to be," he said.

It's a different vibe than the past. In previous seasons, pockets of football players would sit in various places in the Sports Arena. Now they clump together, along with members of the volleyball and softball teams.

"We're trying to get close as a team ourselves, so we try to get everybody out here," Lutz said.

Supporting the basketball team is one of the bonding experiences for the team. The football players also got together to watch the Super Bowl, unbeknownst to Miles. They sent Miles a text with a photo of themselves watching the game at the practice complex.

They are working out together. Miles said strength-and-conditioning coach Ben Pollard reported the players have "been a joy to work with."

But most people don't get to see those bonding sessions. You might hear them as you walk by the weightlifting complex because they really get into the drills.

But they can be seen at the basketball games.

And the players come prepared.

Ruiz said they look up bios of opposing players to come armed with as much information, including mother's names, as they need to needle Georgia State's foes.

Sometimes the barbs are slightly more obvious. They called a South Alabama player Frodo (the short hero from "The Lord of the Rings") because he wasn't the tallest man on the court.

Between Nick Bray, who leads the students on the sideline opposite the visitors' bench, and the athletes under the basket on Georgia State's end, it's becoming a cacophonous cauldron for opponents.

"We love the football players," Georgia State center Curtis Washington said. "We go through the season getting screamed at (on the road). It's amazing to come to our home court, and they are right by our bench and letting the other team have it.

"When we won that (Texas)-Arlington game and they stormed the court --- it lets you know you have a lot of support at the school."

Manny Atkins said the basketball team will repay the favor during the next football season.

"You can count on it," he said.

 

February 17, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Virginian-Pilot Companies LLC
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The Virginian-Pilot(Norfolk, VA.)
By Steve Reed, The Associated Press

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze has coached gay players during his 20-year career.

Though Freeze declined to name the two players he coached before arriving on Mississippi's campus because of privacy, he said there is no exact protocol for how to handle a situation like the one that arose with Michael Sam.

Last week, the Missouri All-American defensive end publicly said he was an "openly, proud gay man."

Among the questions facing athletic directors, coaches and administrators in the wake of Sam's announcement is how to teach tolerance and acceptance of gay athletes.

"It does cause you to go back and evaluate," said Troy AD John Hartwell. "One of the first things I did was go back to our senior staff and say, 'OK, let's look at our policy. Let's make sure we don't have any issues here.'"

Like many of the 10 athletic directors who responded to inquiries by The Associated Press, Hartwell said Troy believes in nurturing diversity.

"Because at the end of the day, you're going to have teammates that are of a different race than you are, of a different nationality, of a different economic background, possibly of a different sexual orientation," Hartwell said.

Still, football locker rooms lend themselves to being ripe with machismo and bravado, places where jabs involving one's sexual orientation are fairly commonplace. But the jabs could lead to potential conflicts, as evidenced by the Miami Dolphins' bullying scandal.

Illinois football coach Tim Beckman said if a player did use a gay slur against another teammate, he'd first ask the team's "honor council" - a group of 14 players selected by teammates - to address the situation.

Likely, he said, the player insulting a teammate would be told to correct his behavior and given a second chance. If the players' group didn't take what he considered to be appropriate action, Beckman said he'd take steps himself.

"We'd probably give that young man a, 'Hey, this is what's being said. If it doesn't change for the betterment of the family, then you're going to be suspended,' " Beckman said.

SMU athletic director Rick Hart said athletes have to think, "Are we crossing that line between bonding (with) teammates and having fun, and kind of ribbing each other to the point where things are hurtful and we need to put a stop to that?"

Sam isn't the first football player to declare he's gay.

"On the teams we've coached, we always talk about how you treat others," Freeze said. "In all cases, there is never a time that making someone feel bad is the way to go about it, regardless of what your view is."

Last October, several Ole Miss students, including about 20 football players, were reprimanded for interrupting a school-run play, "The Laramie Project" with gay slurs. The play was based on the 1998 murder of a gay college student.

The school said all students at the play had to attend an "educational dialogue session."

Indiana has taken a proactive approach.

Last month, the school held a gay pride night at a women's basketball game.

"The main thing is to bring it out in the open so that anybody dealing with an issue that needs to be accommodated can bring it forward whether it's an LGBT issue, an eating disorder, which is pretty common in college athletics, so we can try and create an environment that welcomes them," Indiana athletic director Fred Glass said.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said he hasn't discussed the issue with coaches because he doesn't feel there's a need.

"Among student-athlete and coaches, their reaction to this has sort of been, 'Why are people treating this like a big deal?' " he said.

He said Notre Dame doesn't have a protocol in place for such issues.

Swarbrick said there is counseling available to students struggling with their sexual identity, but emphasized that "our expectation and our message is whatever differences you encounter in people, it's not going to be an issue. You're going to be respectful. You are going to be tolerant. You are not going to carry prejudice of any kind."

But others are reacting.

Kansas State athletic director John Currie said his university does have a protocol in place to deal with such issues.

Kansas State's academic services and counselors are trained through the SafeZone program, which is designed "to increase the awareness, knowledge and skills for individuals while addressing the challenges that exist when one wants to advocate for their LGBTQ peers, family members, friends and co-workers."

TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte said what Sam did was brave and will create change.

He compared the announcement to how Bear Bryant's Alabama squad playing USC helped lead to desegregation, and what Billie Jean King's Battle of the Sexes match against Bobby Riggs did for the Title IX push.

Del Conte added it also shows athletic directors need to be prepared if athletes come to them ready to announce they're gay.

"In today's society, it's more of a media (thing) - are you prepared for the media?" Del Conte said. "And if you're not, let's give you the tools necessary to help you."

Then he pulled out the most recent Sports Illustrated with a picture of Sam on the cover.

Del Conte said, "You'd have to be prepared for that."

Is status quo OK?

Many schools didn't feel the need to assess the Sam situation. "Among student-athlete and coaches, their reaction to this has sort of been, 'Why are people treating this like a big deal?' " Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said.

February 18, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Virginian-Pilot Companies LLC
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The Virginian-Pilot(Norfolk, VA.)
JOHN HOLLAND JOHN.HOLLAND@PILOTONLINE.COM, 222-5047

Anyone seeking proof that swimming improves stamina just had to show up at the Virginia Beach City Council meeting Tuesday night.

Speaker after speaker took to the podium for about an hour debating whether the city should give away 10 acres of land to YMCA in exchange for an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a new fitness compound. "Debate" may be a stretch, because the result was as inevitable as a Michael Phelps win in the 200-meter breaststroke.

The first dozen or so speakers came primarily from the TIDE Swimming team, a local organization that since 1988 has been training thousands of local swimmers, helping many to national recognition. It's a good organization and an important part of the community.

That is beyond debate. Men, women, old and young spoke passionately about the organization, the great relationships they've gained from swimming and the importance of having a world-class pool in Virginia Beach. Some emphasized that a new pool will draw swimming competitions from around the region, boosting tourism and hotel dollars.

Dan Bannon, 14, joined TIDE when he was 7 and has been swimming with the group ever since. He gave one of the most heart-felt speeches of the evening, recounting practice sessions that stretched for hours, stressing how important a new 50-meter pool would be not just for him and the group, but for the entire community.

"I truly believe swimming has shaped me into the person I am today,'' Dan said.

What got drowned out in the night was any real opposition or questions about the process. The YMCA leadership and supporters masterfully linked the Tides likeable and laudable goals and members to the push for the new pool.

For years the YMCA has been promising to build an indoor heated Olympic-sized pool, and was the only bidder when the city called for proposals.

But the YMCA changed its mind, saying it couldn't afford to build an indoor pool, at least not right away. It would build an enclosure someday, without promising a date. The city never reopened the bidding process to see if anyone else could offer Virginia Beach taxpayers a better deal under the new conditions.

Jerry Donnelly has been a vocal critic of the YMCA and the pool plans. He has a self-interest, as owner of OneLife Fitness centers, but he insists the new deal is a bad one for taxpayers more than it is for his business.

He asked the council to put five conditions in writing before giving away $3 million worth of public property. First and foremost, he wanted the Y's promise to eventually cover the pool put in writing.

Only one council member agreed. John Moss praised the Tide team, then got down to business.

"We haven't demanded enough sacrifice from the financial side of the YMCA,'' Moss said. "I think it is a material defect that we aren't holding them to a date certain. I don't care if it's three years, five years, 10 years. But I want a date in writing that they will have an indoor pool.''

The vote passed 9-1, with Moss objecting and Mayor Will Sessoms on vacation.

 

February 18, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 The State Journal- Register
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The State Journal- Register (Springfield, IL)

The Sacred Heart-Griffin High School community is being recognized for its efforts to help an opponent.

On Nov. 17, a deadly tornado devastated the town of Washington. Less than a week later, Washington High School and SHG were scheduled to play the Class 5A playoff semifinal.

More than 15 Washington football players lost their homes or were displaced. About eight "lost everything," coach Darrell Crouch said. But the team wanted to play.

"We felt it was important to our kids and town," Crouch said. "Some of our seniors had worked so hard and sacrificed so much for our program. We had some great seniors that had earned the right to play the game. They never thought about not playing."

While Sacred Heart won the game en route to a state championship, the school's players, parents and alumni came together to help their ailing rivals.

The SHG community sent water and organized charter buses for Washington fans, as many had vehicles that were destroyed or inaccessible. The Springfield school gave more than $75,000 to Washington, and provided a pregame snack and postgame dinner for the team and its families. Schools from throughout central Illinois, restaurants, churches and individuals also helped raise money, donated food and offered their time to assist in the cleanup.

Because of the outreach, the Illinois High School Association has nominated Sacred Heart-Griffin for the National Federation of State High School Associations Spirit of Sport Award. In the previous five years, the association nominated individual athletes and adults.

But this year, IHSA officials decided to honor the Sacred Heart-Griffin community. A Midwest section winner and national winner will be named.

SHG's efforts to help Washington, a town of 15,000, "touched on every element that we want," said Matt Troha, assistant executive director for the IHSA. "This is a great nominee."

It's a great honor, SHG football coach and athletic director Ken Leonard said of the nomination.

"We just tried to do what we should be doing as a Christian community," Leonard said. "It was a great life lesson."

Leonard has family in Washington, and he said he's known Crouch since the early 1980s.

"It was just a terrible, tragic thing," he said "(But) the Lord put us in an opportunity to do something, and our parents and our football team really stepped up.

"We really gained a lot of friends that week, especially the Washington people."

After learning of the tornado's destruction, Leonard hosted a team meeting with Bob Brenneisen, an SHG assistant principal and assistant coach. They asked football families to help the team help Washington. Anne Dondanville and Michele Reavy, two freshman football moms, were instrumental in organizing the volunteers.

"It was a huge group effort," Reavy said. "So many people came forward and helped do everything."

That didn't surprise Dondanville, who said it's incredible how quickly people came together to organize the assistance.

"Sports are more than just sports. People do the right thing," she said. "That's hopeful, especially in the face of a hopeless situation."

Crouch said he wasn't surprised that Sacred Heart-Griffin reached out. But he was "surprised by the level of their kindness."

"We can never thank SHG students, administration, coaches and athletes enough, as well as the Springfield community," the Washington coach said. "As much as we hate to lose, it was good to see them go on and win the state championship. Our town was really pulling for them."

Contact Alissa Groeninger: 788-1542, twitter.com/a_groeninger

 

February 17, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.
Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
By Sharon Wilmore Buggs

The Kettering Fitness and Wellness Center will close for two weeks this spring to undergo a renovation and for installation of new fitness equipment.

The renovation will cost $80,000. The city is planning to invest $102,000 in new equipment over a two-year period - $57,000 was spent in 2013 and $45,000 is budgeted for 2014, according to Jim Englehardt, division manager for fitness, sports and special facilities for the City of Kettering Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department.

This will be the first renovation at the fitness and wellness center since it was built in 2005, said Enghardt. The project follows upgrades made at the Kettering Recreation Complex three years ago.

The project includes new flooring to accommodate cable and electric for new cardiovascular equipment with personal TV screens which interact with smart phones or tablets, new carpet, window treatments and painting. New flooring will also be installed in other areas of the center.

"Part of the justification for the improvement is to put in a rubber tile floor underneath all the cardiovascular equipment that will facilitate the cable and power running to the equipment without creating safety hazards," Englehardt said.

Englehardt said the project will be managed by the city and city employees are expected to do most of the work. The center will close from May 12-25. Regular patrons of the fitness and wellness center can use the recreation complex 2900 Glengarry Dr., said Englehardt.

"These renovations and updates are really a result of the passion that our patrons have for fitness, so we're always just trying to stay up to date with the trends and amenities to meet what they're looking for," said Claudine Heizer, communications and marketing manager for the parks department. The individual viewing screens are an example of that, Heizer added.

Fitness generates about $800,000 annually for Kettering and the department has an operating budget of $766.500, according to city data.

The fitness and wellness center attracts about 100,000 visits a year, while the city's recreation complex attendance is about 200,000 visits annually.

Both recreational facilities offer fee-based memberships and are open to residents and nonresidents, said Englehardt. Resident adults pay $14.08 per month to access the fitness centers, while non residents pay $20.50, according to city data. Family memberships for the fitness centers range from $33.67 per month for a family of three to $41 a month for a family of five.

Englehardt said fees will not be increased to cover the project cost.

The 10,000 square-foot fitness and wellness center was built in 2005 at a cost of $714,653 and is at 3351 Shroyer Road adjacent to Trent Arena at Kettering Fairmont High School.

 

February 16, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Jim Galloway; Staff

Here's something you might not know: Of the 58 board members who run the $4.7 million-a-year Georgia High School Association, which supervises athletics and other activities for 145,000 young men and 129,000 young women, only six are African-American. The rest are white.

Only four are women.

These are only a few of the statistics that have surfaced as the result of two Senate bills now plowing through the state Capitol. The bills aim to make the GHSA --- a 110-year-old organization that operates in buildings and on fields largely built by taxpayers --- become more transparent.

A pair of Republican spotlights, so to speak, trained on the cash and culture behind Friday Night Lights.

We may be about to witness the most important state intervention in the heady world of high school sports since 2000, when House Speaker Tom Murphy set the precedent --- upset that his local public high school in the tiny town of Bremen was being forced to compete against wealthy private schools.

One current measure, S.B. 288, is the work of Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton, who is Gov. Nathan Deal's Senate floor leader. It would require the GHSA --- which is already subject to state open records and open meeting laws --- to annually report "its assets, liabilities, income, and operating expenses."

Days after the bill was introduced, the GHSA posted two years of audits on its website, showing revenues of $4.7 million in 2013, up from $4 million in 2012. Fifty-seven percent of the GHSA's budget comes from playoffs. The organization gets between 5 and 12 percent of the gate.

You'll be happy to know that, even in a struggling economy, football revenue increased a delightful 27 percent to $1.3 million in 2013. Which has many state lawmakers wondering why their constituents had to pay $20 each to see their kids participate in the Georgia Dome playoffs last year.

But motives behind the two Senate bills vary. Bethel wants to know where the money is going --- as do school superintendents across the state, many of whom have lent their quiet support to S.B. 288.

State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, is more concerned that, five decades after Congress passed civil rights legislation, and 42 years after federal Title IX requirements opened athletics to young women, high school sports in Georgia is still governed almost solely by white men.

"If you're a football player, and you're on the field playing, and you're African-American, but yet you know you're controlled by all these white people ---I mean, where is the mentoring and the role-modeling? It just doesn't seem fair," Unterman said. "It's an executive men's club. And I've got a problem with that."

Unterman wants to renew legislative oversight of the GHSA, which expired four years ago.

S.B. 288 passed the Senate early this month. Another measure, S.B. 343, had its first committee hearing delayed by last week's ice storm. But its sponsor is Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, who is chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee. So traction is guaranteed.

Mullis' bill is more severe, and would rework GHSA's governance --- by requiring that members of its boards of trustees and executive committee be employed by a local school system or private school. Several members of the GHSA hierarchy would be ousted.

Mullis' interest? Gordon Lee High School, in the small city of Chickamauga in North Georgia, was recently reclassified and now must compete with larger schools --- a reminder that the GHSA can have as much impact in local communities as city councils and county commissions. The GHSA is a "self-perpetuating club," Mullis said. "Small schools don't have much influence there, and I want them to be heard."

On the receiving end of all this criticism is Ralph Swearngin, the longtime GHSA executive director who will retire this year.

"We have a history of being conciliatory with the Legislature, trying to find some common ground in the middle," said Swearngin. "But by the same token, we also feel like the governance of a private association really ought to be left with the people who are part of it."

Swearngin confirmed the demographics of the GHSA board, but pointed out that 48 of the 58 on the board are selected by schools across the state.

Part of the suspicion of the GHSA, he theorized, comes from local school superintendents who are no longer coming from the ranks of high school coaches --- as was once the case. "We're finding more and more administrators who are coming into their new positions without any background in athletics," Swearngin said.

"Consequently, there's been a bit of disengagement, where they've passed along those responsibilities to athletic directors and coaches." The GHSA head is willing to accept renewed legislative oversight --- but said that, last time, lawmakers eventually lost interest. "It met twice the first year, once the second year, and then it never met again," he said.

But in the immediate future, legislative concerns are likely to remain high. State Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta, chairman of the House Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight Committee, has promised a friendly reception for the two Senate bills. "So much of the money is generated by public assets. An open process does them nothing but good if there's nothing to hide," he said.

And about those ticket prices. "I am convinced that $5 is enough if it's on school property," Martin said.

 

February 16, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc.
Chicago Daily Herald

Elgin Community College sophomore Zach Cooper might have died on the basketball court last week had it not been for the quick response of certified athletic trainer Alicia Mikulski, armed with an automatic external defibrillator.

Cooper, a Lake Park High School graduate, was enjoying the best season of his basketball career. A returning all-Illinois Skyway Conference and all-region performer for ECC, the 6-foot-5, 192-pound forward was averaging 13.9 points per game, tied for third on his team. His 9.9 rebounds per game ranked 11th in the nation among NJCAA Division II players.

Cooper's dream to earn a scholarship via basketball and continue his college education was nearing fruition. One NAIA-Division II school was about to offer him a roster spot, he said, and the coach of an Indiana Division II school planned to see him in person later this month.

Cooper was feeling particularly spry in the Feb. 4 game at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines. There was bounce in his step that night, according to ECC coach Reed Nosbisch.

The game began like any other. Cooper started his 19th straight contest and played the first six and a half minutes as ECC took a 19-13 lead.

Nosbisch called a timeout and substituted for his second-year player to give him extra rest.

Cooper, who says he has never experienced any major health issues, walked past Nosbisch to get a cup of water and returned to the bench next to freshman Jason Barnhart.

But Cooper began feeling lightheaded as he sat, he said. His cup of water dropped to the floor and he leaned into Barnhart. He was losing consciousness. An artery had been cut off somehow, doctors would later tell Cooper, thus limiting oxygen to his brain. His blood pressure plummeted.

That was when assistant coach Pat Barnhart, sitting next to Jason, noticed something was wrong with the listing Cooper. The coach moved quickly as Cooper lost consciousness, catching him before his head hit the court. Barnhart immediately yelled to get Nosbisch's attention.

"I heard him scream my name and Pat is not usually like that. He's a calm guy," Nosbisch said. "I turned around and I saw the expression on his face. I looked down and he was holding Zach, who was laying in his lap."

Cooper's eyes had rolled to the back of his head and his breathing was slowing, according to Nosbisch. ECC's coach immediately rushed to midcourt and yelled for Mikulski, Oakton's assistant athletic trainer, contracted through Athletico.

A Brookfield resident who graduated from the University of Illinois eight years ago, Mikulski sensed the urgency in Nosbisch's voice and sprinted to Cooper's side. Initially, his breathing was labored as she checked for vital signs.

Then Cooper's heartbeat and breathing stopped. He had no pulse. He was in cardiac arrest.

Fortunately, Mikulski was as prepared as she possibly could be for the precise scenario unfolding before her. Though she had never been faced with a lifesaving situation in her six years as a certified athletic trainer with Athletico, she had just renewed her certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of the automatic external defibrillator (AED) in December.

"It was fresh in my mind," she said.

Illinois law requires the presence of AEDs at most schools, indoor and outdoor fitness centers and dentist offices, among other places.

The American Heart Association estimates 250,000 people die of cardiac arrest annually. A shock administered from an AED within three minutes of collapse restores the heartbeat to normal in three of four people, but the survival rate decreases precipitously for each minute the heart remains idle.

Mikulski understood time was of the essence. She asked a police officer standing nearby to retrieve her AED. He returned in just seconds. The reason it didn't take him long was Mikulski's attention to preparedness.

Oakton owns several AEDs, the nearest of which to the basketball facility is normally kept in the gymnasium's storage closet. Rather than risk the closet door might be locked in an emergency situation, Mikulski always places another AED directly under the water cooler on Oakton's bench. Just in case.

The ECC players were stunned by the surreal scene involving their teammate. Nosbisch kept his players who were on the floor at the time away from the commotion near midcourt. He soon sent everyone from the bench to join them, giving Mikulski room to work on Cooper. Both Oakton coach Mick Reuter and Nosbisch eventually decided to send their teams to their respective locker rooms.

Meanwhile, spectators in the sparse crowd watched the real-life drama from the stands. Included was the ECC women's basketball team, which had played earlier.

At Nosbisch's request, ECC women's coach Jerry McLaughlin briefly left the gym along with Cooper's girlfriend to inform Cooper's mother via cellphone what was happening.

Nosbisch said he glanced toward the scorers table at one point and saw a female official from Oakton kneeling on the court, praying for Cooper.

The gym was silent as Mikulski lifted Cooper's jersey, attached the pads and turned on the AED.

She administered one defibrillation, or shock. She then began CPR, doing 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths, she said.

Cooper's body bucked and he suddenly regained consciousness. He gulped for air, much to the relief of everyone in the building.

"Just to hear him take that gulp was very relieving," Mikulski said. "I was extremely relieved and just very, very thankful that the defibrillation had worked, as well as the chest compressions and breaths. I'm very thankful I was there and able to help out. I used the training properly and it had a very good outcome."

No one was more relieved than Cooper himself, who was soon fully alert. In fact, he was complaining to ECC assistant coach Scott Cork about missing the rest of the game by the time he was loaded into the ambulance.

Cooper didn't have to worry, though; both teams agreed to halt the game as basketball took a back seat. Oakton's players hugged the ECC players and wished them well as they left the gym and headed for the hospital to see their teammate.

Cooper said doctors have narrowed the possible causes to two, but more tests are necessary before a firm diagnosis can be reached.

The otherwise healthy 20-year-old has done a lot of deep thinking since his close call.

"When you're young, my age, you don't think anything can happen to you," Cooper said. "You think you're going to live to 100. You don't think you could wake up and it could be your last day. You hear that it happens, but you never think it's going to be you.

"Without that (AED) and without them acting fast, I'd be brain dead. The doctors told me I'd be six feet under the ground right now. The fact they acted fast and revived me quickly saved my life and will let me live a good quality of life regardless if I ever go back and play. I thank everyone who helped, especially (Mikulski)."

Cooper's promising basketball future is in doubt. He had a defibrillator implanted in his chest to help remedy any future incidents. Of course, implanted defibrillators and sports don't go well together. One doctor advised him to say goodbye to basketball and take up golf or bowling.

Another doctor offered slight hope he can continue to play, and that's all the incentive Cooper needs. He said he'll do his best to make a comeback once he is cleared to resume workouts in June. Associate degree in hand, he'll see if any four-year college coaches are still interested.

Even if Zach Cooper never plays another minute of competitive basketball, he is a lucky man.

"The way I explain it to people is that it was a tragic moment that didn't end tragically," Nosbisch said. "It could have gone a lot worse."

Though Cooper is now faced with coming up with thousands of dollars to continue his education without a scholarship, he's keeping the problem in perspective.

"I have to figure out a whole new plan to pay for that, but it is what is," Cooper said. "Being in debt is OK as long as I'm still alive. My life is the most important thing.

"Hopefully, this brings attention to things like this and people standing by the court will be ready if it happens to someone else."

 

February 17, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 The Columbus Dispatch
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The NHL, as it expanded in the last decade of the last century, had a chance to get bigger in another fashion. Twenty-six arenas were built or renovated in the past 20 years. The opportunity was there to install Olympic-sized ice sheets throughout the league.

It was not done, primarily because it did not occur to the people who run the league. This is the NHL: It leaves knuckle tracks.

The issue of rink size has not gone away, and it will linger as long as the NHL keeps its small ice and the International Ice Hockey Federation, the game's world governing body, maintains a bigger pond. There are arguments on either side.

The NHL rink is 15 feet narrower. It also differs in where the lines are painted: Its neutral zone is 6 feet shorter and its attack zones, from the blue lines down to the goal lines, are 6 feet longer.

That makes for more of a straight-line, north-south game, invites more shots from different angles and lends defensemen more freedom. Most important, it allows for more dumping and chasing -- and more hitting.

Blue Jackets center Artem Anisimov grew up playing on the Olympic-sized sheets that are ubiquitous in Europe. This morning, in a preliminary-round game at the Sochi Olympics, he will play for Russia against Team USA. They will meet on a big sheet at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.

Anisimov, before he left for Sochi, engaged in the big vs. small argument and said, "I prefer the NHL game. It is more direct, more aggressive. You can score from the blue lines. You can score from the walls. You can forecheck."

No longer is it blasphemous for a non-North American to say something like that, not given the shift in NHL demographics.

The league was 74 percent Canadian and 16.6 percent American in 1990. It now is 52.6 percent Canadian and 24 percent American. Swedes, Russians, Czechs and Finns make up appreciable minorities. A host of other European countries are represented, even France.

Professional hockey has been cross-pollinated. We are seeing signs of it at the Olympics. The world's elite players are forechecking with more alacrity at Sochi. That was not the case at the 2006 Turin Games, the last time Olympians played on a 200-by-100-foot sheet.

On Olympic-sized rinks, the extra space is on the outside. Defenders play a patient, conservative game because they must remain wary of pucks getting behind them. They are usually in position, and have enough room, to get to a dump-in and pass the puck out of danger. That is slowly changing as more Europeans are schooled in the NHL style and their tactics evolve.

Those who prefer the small ice do not care for the puck-possession game on the big ice, where forwards are often left alone on the walls and cycling is more common than hitting. Again, it is a space issue. Defenders can get worn out chasing the puck. Once their positioning breaks down, a back-door scoring chance materializes in an instant. There is a cerebral tameness to it all.

I get that, but I do not mind cerebral. And I love the extra space, and those who know how to use it. Artists can thrive on the small ice because they have the finer skills suited for tighter spaces -- but I like them on the bigger canvas, where there is more room to create. Pace is rewarded on the big ice. Odd-man rushes are rife. Turnovers are killers. Power plays are a blast.

Watch the game this morning.

In the 20 years of the expansion era and the building boom, NHL players have gotten bigger, faster and stronger. Coaches have made it a priority to eliminate passing and shooting lanes. Goaltenders have made an evolutionary leap. The rinks have shrunk.

At this point, the cost of converting 30 arenas to Olympic-sized ice is prohibitive. There might come a day, though, when it will be seen as a brilliant investment.

Michael Arace is a sports reporter for The Dispatch.

marace@dispatch.com

@MichaelArace1

 

February 15, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Palm Beach Post (Florida)

Although current members of the Dolphins had little response Friday to the NFL's 144-page report detailing issues in their locker room, former Miami players expressed reaction ranging from shock to ridicule.

Keith Sims, who played guard for the Dolphins from 1990-97, said he was stunned.

"I just got off the phone with my buddy and I asked him, 'Do you remember any of this (junk) going on when we played?' We agreed, our memories are the same. Of course, there was always a little harassment, a little fun hazing, but nothing out of hand and nothing abusive that got to this level."

The NFL's independent report by attorney Ted Wells, launched after offensive tackle Jonathan Martin left the club and accused teammates of harassment, found that Martin and other players -- including reserve offensive lineman Nate Garner, former offensive lineman Josh Samuda, an unnamed former offensive lineman and an assistant trainer -- were regularly ridiculed.

But the report found that the harassment was mainly verbal. That left some former Dolphins unimpressed.

"I thought (we) would have found out that Martin was bound, gagged and had his nipples pierced or something," former Dolphins cornerback Pat Surtain wrote on Twitter.

The report said offensive linemen Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey and John Jerry were the main perpetrators.

"Damn Incognito bullied the trainer too," Surtain jokingly wrote. "All of this attention paid to this story and this is all Ted Wells can come up with. SMH (shaking my head)."

Former Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder, on his radio show on WQAM, said: "Jonathan Martin, I honestly don't feel bad for him at all. This is his line of work. He's in the NFL and that's what you signed up for."

Troy Stradford, a former Dolphins running back and the NFL's 1987 Offensive Rookie of the Year, sympathized with Martin.

"For some guys, it may not have bothered them, but for Jonathan Martin it bothered him," Stradford said. "Because we have laws to protect people in the work force, he absolutely has a case."

The report found that coach Joe Philbin was not aware of the harassment. Sims, Crowder and Stradford all agreed that he shouldn't lose his job.

"The coach Philbin that I know, he would have quashed it if he knew about it and the report clearly states that he did not know," Sims said.

The future of offensive line coach Jim Turner is less certain. The report found he participated with players in making fun of homosexuals.

And days after Martin left the team, Turner sent him text messages trying to persuade him to return and to support Incognito. The report said Turner questioned Martin's character despite knowing he had just been in a mental hospital.

Stradford, who played football with Turner at Boston College, said "from a PR standpoint" the Dolphins might decide to fire Turner, but he said he believes the team should keep him.

"I think coach Turner was just trying to get Jonathan Martin to get ready to play football," Stradford said. "His choice of actions were obviously wrong with what has come out. But I really don't think coaches or players are out to harm other players or coaches."

While Sims said Martin "will definitely play again," but not with the Dolphins, Stradford believes Martin has a tougher road to an NFL return than Incognito.

"Players will have to be very careful around Jonathan Martin," Stradford said. "If a GM brings him in, players will have no choice. But I would think two, three, four, five times before I'd bring Jonathan Martin to my football team."

Martin, 24, is still under contract, but the Dolphins would suffer a salary-cap hit of less than $1 million next season if they released him. Incognito, 31, is an unrestricted free agent.

For the Dolphins, the biggest question could be whether Pouncey faces a suspension.

 

February 15, 2014

 

 
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South Bend Tribune (Indiana)
Kevin Allen, South Bend Tribune

Local residents who work in the construction industry were already looking forward to the University of Notre Dame's plan to spend $500 million on new buildings and renovations during the next five years.

The picture got even better last month when the university added $400 million to its construction schedule with the Campus Crossroads project.

Campus Crossroads - the most expensive construction project in the university's history - will add two nine-story buildings and a six-story building to the exterior of Notre Dame Stadium.

No start date has been set, but construction is expected to last 33 months and require hundreds of workers.

"People in our area have been thrilled about the announcement," said Jeff Rea, president and CEO of the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce. "There's a lot of excitement about what it will mean for construction jobs during the renovation."

But there will be long-term benefits as well, Rea added.

"It certainly puts the stadium on a different playing field than almost all other stadiums across the country," he said. "It continues to affirm this is a destination that people will want to visit and experience."

Don Fozo, executive director of the Michiana Area Construction Industry Advancement Fund, said overall demand for new construction has remained down since the recession.

"It's showing maybe a little bit of improvement, but nowhere near where it should be," he said. "That's what makes this (stadium project) so important."

Fozo said it's also reassuring for skilled trades unions to look ahead and see a major source of work. That helps them plan apprenticeship classes.

Campus Crossroads should provide a diversity of jobs because the three new buildings, which will include a total of 750,000 square feet of space, have been designed for many uses.

"It pretty much is all-encompassing of all the trades because of the type of addition it is," Fozo said.

The three buildings will include a new pressbox and premium seating for football games; a student center with fitness facilities, a dining area, lounges and a 500-seat ballroom; a digital media center and production studio; classrooms, laboratories and offices for the anthropology and psychology departments; and a new music building with recital and rehearsal halls, a library and a 350-seat lounge.

University spokesman Dennis Brown said the project also will require extensive utilities and other infrastructure to support the new buildings.

Doug Marsh, the university's architect, is working on the project with a team of architecture firms.

The S/L/A/M Collaborative, based in Glastonbury, Conn., is the lead firm. Chicago-based RATIO Architects is the co-designer. Workshop Architects, headquartered in Milwaukee, is the lead for the student center, and 360 Architecture, based in Kansas City, Mo., is working on the recreation center and hospitality areas.

Barton Malow Co., based near Detroit, is the contractor on the project.

Brown, the university spokesman, said officials expect most of the construction workers for the project will come from the Michiana region.

KAllen@SBTinfo.com 574-235-6244 Twitter: @KevinAllenSBT

Big spender

The University of Notre Dame spent $510 million on construction and renovations between the 2007 and 2012 fiscal years. Officials said last fall that the university was planning to spend another $500 million during the next five years.

The $400 million Campus Crossroads project Notre Dame officials announced last month is in addition to that planned $500 million in construction spending.

Campus Crossroads, which will add three buildings to the exterior of Notre Dame Stadium, is the most expensive project in the university's history.

By comparison, the new Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, which opened in 2009 in Mishawaka, was built at a cost of $355 million. The Hummer H2 plant, which opened in 2002 in Mishawaka, cost $200 million.

 

February 17, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 The Columbus Dispatch
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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
Laura Arenschield, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

A Marion County high-school cross-country coach has been charged with having sex with a teenage boy.

Martina Stanley, 35, who coaches at Elgin High School, was charged with sexual battery, a third-degree felony. Stanley appeared in court in Marion County yesterday; a preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Thursday.

Prosecutor Brent Yager said Elgin Local Schools officials contacted the sheriff's office after learning that Stanley might have behaved inappropriately. Yager said the school acted on rumors that Stanley had sexual encounters with the boy, who is 17. He said detectives are searching her phone because school officials reported that she might have sent nude photos to the teenager.

Yager said additional charges could be filed against Stanley if detectives find evidence that she sent photos to the boy. He said he hoped to take the case before a grand jury on Wednesday.

Stanley has been suspended without pay from the district.

District officials said in a statement that Stanley went voluntarily with deputies to be questioned on Thursday afternoon. They said in the statement that the district would not comment further about the case.

Superintendent Bruce Gast did not return a call yesterday.

Stanley, of Lewis Center, is the head cross-country and track coach at Elgin. The teams are co-ed.

She was being held at the Multi-County Correctional Center in Marion yesterday. Bond was set at $20,000.

larenschield@dispatch.com

@larenschield

 

February 15, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 The Press Enterprise, Inc.
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The Press Enterprise
DAYNA STRAEHLEY STAFF WRITER

Ten students at Chaparral High School in Temecula have been diagnosed with staph and impetigo bacterial skin infections since November, a letter from the school informed parents Friday afternoon, Feb. 14.

School custodians disinfected athletic facilities, including the weight room, wrestling rooms, locker room and nurse's office, the letter says. The school removed 10 students from physical education activities, wrestling and weight lifting and would allow them to return only after a doctor clears them, it says.

"The purpose of this letter is to let you know what actions have been taken," says the emailed letter from school administration.

Temecula Valley Unified School District offices were closed Friday for a four-day weekend including Lincoln's birthday and the Presidents Day holiday Monday. District officials were not available after 5 p.m. Friday.

According to the letter, students in physical education classes saw a video this week that emphasized proper hand washing, clean gym clothes and basic personal hygiene. PE teachers also taught them about impetigo, staph and methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, a bacteria that is resistant to many antibiotics.

Teachers were told to report any skin problems to the school nurse, the letter said.

Contact Dayna Straehley at 951-368-9455 or dstraehley@pe.com

 

February 15, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.
Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

Former Ben-Gals cheerleader and Springboro native Alexa Brenneman was mandated not to wear panties under her uniform and was allowed just a three-pound weight leniency before she faced sanctions. But the work rule that caused her to file a federal lawsuit against the Cincinnati Bengals was about wages.

Brenneman alleged in a class action suit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio that she was effectively paid just $2.85 per hour - a violation of federal minimum wage laws - during her more than 300 hours working for the Cincinnati Bengals from May 2013 to January 2014.

Brenneman, 24, a 2008 graduate of Springboro High School, alleges that though the cheerleaders are paid $90 per home game, their compensation is well below Ohio's minimum wage of $7.85 when factoring in mandatory practices and 10 "charity" appearances. Practices were mandatory even during weeks when there were no home games.

"There's always been a lot of discussion within the squad and other cheerleaders as well," Brenneman told this newspaper Thursday. "We respect our craft and what we do and it is a job and we want to be respected as athletes. Currently, we're not making minimum wage."

The Bengals released a statement addressing the subject: "The Ben-Gals cheerleading program has long been a program run by former cheerleaders and has enjoyed broad support in the community and by members of the squad. The lawsuit appears to be a copycat lawsuit that mimics the one filed last month in California against a different NFL club. The Bengals will address the litigation in due course."

Oakland Raiders cheerleaders, the Raiderettes, sued that team under California wage laws in January.

Brenneman's 20-page lawsuit states that the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks - the Sea Gals - are paid "an hourly wage and any applicable overtime required by law, for all hours worked."

Brenneman, a fitness instructor who attended the University of Cincinnati, was featured in the 2013-14 Ben-Gals calendar in a swimsuit she had to buy herself. The suit says the Bengals organization keeps the money from sales or promotional appearances, and quotes a 2003 Forbes Magazine article that estimated that the revenue generated by a cheerleader squad such as the Ben-Gals amounts to "just over $1 million."

"It's always been a dream of mine to take my dance and my cheer-leading to a professional level and I want to continue doing so, but I also think that this job needs to - for the amount of time and hard work that's put into it - to be treated with that respect and I think it's an injustice to not even be making minimum wage," Brenneman said.

Brenneman said some NBA and NHL teams she's spoken to pay their cheerleaders at least $10 per hour for their work.

The Ben-Gals were established in 1968, the same year as the franchise.

The rules specify that if cheerleaders miss practices, they will be forced to sit out games, which eliminates their game check. The suit said Brenneman missed one game due to a funeral and was not paid anything for that week.

"She did it for one year and then said, that's enough," said one of her attorneys, Todd Naylor. "People have read about it and I would imagine that some (cheerleaders) will decide one way or the other if they want to participate" in the class action suit.

Instead of drawn-out litigation, Naylor said he hopes "it won't come to that, and that the Bengals make some changes."

The Ben-Gals six-page rules state that cheerleaders must show up in full makeup and hair at 7:45 a.m. for 1 p.m. games and the six of the 30 Ben-Gals who are not selected to cheer at that home game make just $45 but still must visit with suite-holders.

 

February 15, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.
Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

FAIRBORN - Samantha Sanderson's interest in concussions was both professional and, unfortunately, personal long before she enrolled as a graduate student at Wright State's School of Professional Psychology.

An elite soccer player growing up in Hilliard, just outside of Columbus, Sanderson earned a Division I scholarship and dreamed of playing professionally after her college career with the University of Miami Hurricanes. But she sustained two concussions a short time apart in the spring of her junior season, followed by two more a brief time later that ended her playing career.

Sanderson completed her psychology degree at Miami and was working at the neuropsychology lab at Ohio State when she decided to go to grad school. About a month before leaving for WSU, she got into a car accident that left her with another concussion, and another altered life path.

"I was always interested in concussions and athletes, but I wasn't passionate about it per se," Sanderson said. "After the accident is when it hit me that 'OK, I have to do something about this and get a little more involved." I really felt differently about it after having, let's say, a refresher course."

While still trying to recover during the first year of her doctoral program at WSU, Sanderson came across a website called Life After the Game. It was created by Lauren Long, who also had to give up her collegiate soccer career because of concussions.

Together they created a website called the Concussion Connection, offering education and support.

"People who are dealing with concussions need other people to help them," Sanderson said. "They can push through only so much on their own."

Symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, blurred vision and memory loss are the ones most people associate with concussions. But there are deeper, less-recognized issues such as depression, anxiety, anger and frustration.

"When you can't play, you can lose your sense of who you are and where you belong," Sanderson said. "It can be especially tough when a player thinks they are ready to return but really they aren't.

"Asking a concussed player if they can play is like asking a drunk driver if they can drive. They will fight you for those keys and say, 'I'm fine. I can do it.' But you know they can't."

Sanderson said the purpose of the site is not to dissuade people from playing sports, but rather to help them make key decisions that arise during recovery.

"We are not anti-sports," Sanderson said. "We love sports. Sports have done a lot for us. But at the same time you have to be aware of the risks and you have to understand there's a time to stop. Where does that importance lie? How do you prioritize sports and living a normal life?"

Sanderson said she hopes to expand off the Web and into actual counseling and treatment after completing her doctorate.

Preseason pick: The WSU baseball team was picked third in the Horizon League preseason poll released Wednesday, and three Raiders were named to the all-league team.

Junior right-hander Travis Hissong was picked as the Horizon League Preseason Pitcher of the Year, and he was joined on the all-league team by junior first baseman Michael Timm and senior outfielder Kieston Greene.

WSU was scheduled to open the season this afternoon in Cary, N.C., but a winter storm forced cancellation of the game against Butler. No decision has been made on the rest of the weekend schedule, which is set to begin Saturday against Monmouth.

Contact this reporter at 513-820-2193 or email Jay.Morrison@coxinc.com

 

February 14, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 Star Tribune
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

The University of Minnesota is ready to make beer and wine sales a permanent fixture at Gopher football games.

After a two-year experiment, university officials found "no significant increase" in alcohol-related incidents at TCF Bank Stadium, according to a report this week to the Board of Regents. In fact, there were fewer police calls about rowdy or drunken fans in 2013 than in 2010, two years before the on-site beer and wine sales began.

"It really has not been the problem that some might have expected it would be," Vice President Pamela Wheelock said.

University officials, who had once resisted the idea of alcohol sales because of concerns about student drinking, now say that they want to continue the sales after the pilot project expires in July. The plan would require legislative approval.

"It seems to be a success," Wheelock said.

Last fall, police reported 59 alcohol-related incidents at the stadium, compared with 77 in 2010. In 2011, the year before alcohol sales began, 57 incidents were reported.

"There was no significant increase in problem behavior," Wheelock said. In light of that experience, she added, "we're fine making this work."

The university took in $181,678 as its share of the profits on just over $1 million in beer and wine sales during the 2013 season, according to the report.

In March, after the first season, the university initially reported a $15,000 loss on alcohol sales because of high start-up costs. But after renegotiating its contract with the vendor, the university ended up with $21,118 in net profits for 2012, Wheelock said. The funds go to the university's athletics program.

Wheelock said there are no plans to add hard liquor, or expand beer and wine sales at other venues. The university allows limited sales in the "club areas" of Mariucci Arena and Williams Arena, but not in general seating.

The issue of alcohol sales had been a hot-button issue since TCF Bank Stadium opened in 2009. Initially, the university wanted to limit alcohol sales to "premium seats," in order to keep it away from students. But legislators objected, insisting that fans in all parts of the stadium should have equal access.

In 2012, the university agreed to a two-year pilot test. It allowed wine and beer sales at three designated locations at the football stadium, starting an hour before kickoff and stopping at the end of halftime.

The feedback from fans, Wheelock said, has been "pretty positive."

Wheelock said the university took extra steps to prevent potential problems, including limiting purchases to two beverages per customer and training the sales staff "in identifying issues of overconsumption and intoxication." It also stepped up security.

The report concluded that the alcohol sales had no negative effect on surrounding neighborhoods, in part because of increased police presence on game days.

At the same time, the university report notes that college drinking has always been a problem nationwide, especially on game days. And that's true whether or not alcohol is sold on site.

"So often," Wheelock said, "it relates to people's behavior even before they come into the building."

Maura Lerner · 612-673-7384

 

February 14, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc.
Chicago Daily Herald
By Elena Ferrarin eferrarin@dailyherald.com

After hearing complaints from swimmers, the Elgin City Council approved spending more than half a million dollars for a new ventilation unit for the pool at The Centre.

That was among several big ticket expenses approved Wednesday night, including about $420,000 in flooring for city facilities and about $865,000 in renovations at the Wing Park Family Aquatic Center.

Rebecca Jensen and Ed Marsh, both members of the Elgin Blue Wave swim masters team, told the city council that the air quality at The Centre pool is bad.

Some team members have left because of that, Jensen said.

The poor air quality - basically people breathing too much chlorine - is a result of poor water quality, Jensen said. She said she had the water tested at an independent facility a couple of weeks ago for chlorine and chloramine.

"The test results were outside of some of the ideal guidelines," she said.

Parks and Recreation Director Randy Reopelle said the pool's water was tested Jan. 23 by a local pool inspector, and the next day by a state inspector, Reopelle said.

"They gave us a clean bill of health," he said.

Marsh echoed Jensen's concerns.

"A lot of swimmers are questioning a lot of the air quality and a lot of the quality issues at the pool," he said.

Shortly after, council members approved buying the new $573,000 ventilation unit without discussion. The unit will likely be installed in late May when there is a break in programming, Reopelle said.

Reopelle said he knew last summer the ventilation wasn't working properly - based on the strong smell of chlorine and customers' complaints - but didn't have money to replace it. The expense was budgeted for this year.

There are no health department standards for air quality in pools, he said. The problems affected people with asthma, colds and the like, he added.

"The average person still could come in and swim, staff still could work," he said.

The council approved renovating the Wing Park pool with sandblasting and painting, a new lift for people with disabilities, a new pool heater and more.

It's unclear if the pool will open this summer. Mayor David Kaptain said he was skeptical the work would be done on time.

Council members decided City Manager Sean Stegall will be in charge of deciding that based on the work's progress in early spring.

, before pool staff has to be hired for the summer.

The council also approved, without discussion, installing new epoxy flooring at the Hemmens Cultural Center, the garage area of the city's fire stations, and the fleet area of the public works facility.

 

February 14, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Charleston Newspapers
Charleston Daily Mail (West Virginia)

A bill passed by the Senate Education Committee would allow the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission to recognize college prep teams.

St. Joseph High School in Huntington is home to a top-flight basketball program known as Huntington Prep.

Huntington Prep operates separately from St. Joseph High School's own team, but team members are enrolled at the school.

However, the activities commission doesn't recognize the team, meaning the team can't compete in national tournaments it might qualify for.

"In order for them to be able to play for national champs or in national events, they need to be recognized by the SSAC of their state, in this case West Virginia," said Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, and chairman of the committee.

Plymale said he and other members of the committee had talked with Gary Ray, executive director of the activities commission, to solve some of his concerns about the legislation.

Plymale said allowing the team to officially compete nationally will be an economic boost for the Huntington area.

"I'll say from the local school, representing where this area is, this is a big benefit to the economy," he said. "It's economic development for Huntington."

Passage of the bill means the team would be eligible to compete in the National High School Invitational, televised on ESPN, and other similar tournaments.

"I support this bill," said Sen. Greg Tucker. "These teams are on ESPN. It's Huntington Prep from Huntington, West Virginia. We get recognition nationally. These kids are top notch. It's free publicity, good publicity."

The bill contains a second reference to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Plymale said he'd ask to have that second reference waived. If that happens, Senate Bill 540 will be reported to the Senate Floor.

---

The Unfair Trade Practices Act could be repealed.

The Senate is considering two bills - Senate Bill 368 would repeal the act entirely and Senate Bill 491 would exempt sales of gasoline from the act. According to committee counsel, the act prohibits merchants from selling goods below cost.

This is often referred to as predatory pricing, which is generally defined as sales below price by a dominant firm over a long period of time for purpose of driving competitors off the market.

Competitors then increase prices to recoup cost lost once those smaller competitors are out of business. The Unfair Trade Practices Act is an attempt to reduce that predatory pricing.

However, counsel said, the U.S. Supreme Court has said predatory pricing is rare and hard to prove in today's culture. Justices have said the courts should not intervene. As a result, many states are repealing their unfair trade practices laws.

Counsel said it is her understanding the attorney general's office typically does not bring many lawsuits under the act because they are difficult to pursue and defend.

The bills have been referred to a subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson. Other members of the subcommittee include Sens. Donald Cookman, D-Hampshire, Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson and David Nohe, R-Wood.

Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-5149 or whitney. burdette@dailymailwv.com Follow her at www.Twitter.com/w burdette_DM.

 

February 14, 2014

 

 
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

Instead of playing a section championship game Thursday night and quite probably heading to the girls' hockey state tournament, Achiever Academy called it quits just a few hours earlier in the day amid intense scrutiny over eligibility questions about its players.

In a rare and possibly unprecedented move, the private online high school withdrew from the playoffs, even as it held the top seed in its section of Class 1A. As a result, St. Paul United, the opponent in a game that never was played, will make its first appearance ever at Xcel Energy Center.

Officials from Achiever Academy, which offers intensified hockey training to girls and boys, had been meeting with the Minnesota State High School League since at least last Friday, trying to resolve eligibility questions swirling around as many as six girls.

At the root were concerns, shared in an unsigned e-mail sent to the league, that the players did not meet residency requirements. In some cases, parents did not relocate to Minnesota when players moved here, the e-mail claimed. In others, in-state players transferred

but no family move apparently took place, as required by league rules.

Early Thursday afternoon, United coach David Cole and his team were expecting to play. But coaches of other Class 1A teams, who were sent the same e-mail that went to the league, were being urged to pressure the league to take action before the game was played.

Just four hours before game time at St. Thomas Arena in Mendota Heights, the league and Achiever issued a joint statement announcing the team's withdrawal. League executive director Dave Stead said it was the first such action involving a playoff team that he could recall in his tenure.

''Surreal'' is how Cole put it.

"I completely respect the decision. It shows principle,'' said Cole, whose team lost to Achiever 7-1 on Jan. 30. "It's a great teaching moment for kids. I wish the timing was better but in some ways our kids are being rewarded for their hard work."

Achiever Academy owners Greg Gartner and Tom Forsythe, who bought the school in January, declined to comment beyond the joint statement. They had indicated previously that they planned a renewed focus on the school's academics.

Achiever, at the league's request, "conducted a review of athletic eligibility determinations of students identified by the MSHSL for violating the Transfer Eligibility rules of the League,'' the statement said. "The new ownership of Achiever Academy has met with students and supported them and their families, and has simultaneously worked with the MSHSL to resolve their concerns.''

The statement said the league "appreciates the cooperative steps Achiever Academy has made and looks forward to future participation together as a member of the MSHSL.''

Achiever opened as a grade 7-12 high school in 2012, spawned by a companion hockey training operation known as Northern Educate. They were started by Shawn Black, who had sought unsuccessfully to buy the Vadnais Heights Sports Center, where the school is run.

Achiever provides up to three hours of hockey training in the morning and an online academic curriculum in the afternoon. The school, with 71 students, started the girls' hockey team this season.

In addition to wondering about the eligibility of players attracted by the school's hockey training, some also have questioned the school's academics and raised fears of burnout for young athletes.

While player eligibility issues are always touchy, they take on added sensitivity during the playoffs. Teams defeated by another later found to be using an ineligible player have no recourse.

The most dramatic illustration occurred in October 2012. Prairie Seeds Academy was banned from the Class 1A boys' soccer state tournament for using an ineligible player. It was discovered after it won its section final game. The school forfeited its victory but the opponent - Totino-Grace - was not awarded a state tournament berth.

Thursday's developments ensure a different ending. Cole planned to speak to his players and notify parents of the team's unexpected trip to state through the school activities department.

"I'm sure the girls will be very excited,'' said Cole, whose team consists of players who attend school at Visitation and St. Paul Academy. "Going to state is the dream of every player."

David La Vaque · 612-673-7574

 

February 14, 2014

 

 
 
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Copyright 2014 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
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Palm Beach Post (Florida)

Ali DeVito's first season as West Boca Raton girls soccer coach will be her last.

The former Bulls standout was fired by her alma mater Wednesday, less than two weeks after she criticized Vero Beach in post-game comments following the host Indians' 3-2 victory in a Class 5A regional final on Jan. 31.

Vero Beach advanced to the state semifinals with the victory and eventually reached the state final, where it lost to Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas Aquinas.

DeVito was quoted by a TCPalm reporter as saying, "(Vero Beach) is considered a rec team compared to the teams we play. Our girls played horrible. We would beat them 8-0 normally if we were playing them at home, but my girls came out too confident."

DeVito said Thursday she initially declined to talk to the media after the game because her players were upset, but relented.

When she did speak, she said, she did so out of frustration and disappointment.

"It was in the heat of the moment," DeVito said.

DeVito said she met with West Boca Athletic Director Randy Kalman a few days later after her comments were brought to his attention by Vero Beach.

An apology was extended to the Indians, DeVito said, and she thought the issue was settled.

However, when DeVito was called into Kalman's office Wednesday, she was told she was being let go despite leading the Bulls to a 17-2-3 season.

DeVito said she thought she was meeting with Kalman to discuss the team's annual banquet, set for March 13.

She said Kalman told her she was not a good fit for the program and needed to concentrate on school. DeVito, 23, is studying biochemistry at FAU.

Kalman did not return calls for comment.

FOOTBALL

Southeastern Football Conference changes format: After losing a member and filling the void with another school, the Southeastern Football Conference is making more changes.

Although 16 teams are still in the independent football league, four will branch out in a modified format of the SFC.

Miami Country Day, Miami-Ransom Everglades, Pompano Beach and Marathon -- who combined to go 8-30 last season -- will be part of what will be called Developmental Division. Each of the teams will play a home-and-home series against each other, and will look outside the conference for additional contests.

After each season, the four teams will have the option to leave the Developmental Division and rejoin the rest of the SFC.

The other 12 teams will be divided into two divisions -- North and South. Each of the schools will play the five teams from their division and three from the other division.

The top eight teams will advance to the SFC playoffs, which will be capped by the conference title game at FAU Stadium on Nov. 15.

Local teams in the North Division are Benjamin, Pope John Paul II and new member King's Academy. St. Andrew's is a South Division member.

 

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Copyright 2014 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
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The Philadelphia Inquirer

The U.S. Department of Education is investigating Temple University's athletic department for possible Title IX gender-equity issues, university president Neal D. Theobald said.

In a letter to Temple's board of trustees and the coaches of seven sports the board has voted to cut, Theobold said the department's Office for Civil Rights is looking into whether "the University is failing to provide equal athletic opportunity for female athletes compared to male athletes, with regard to Locker Rooms, Practice and Competitive Facilities, Housing and Dining Facilities and Services, and in the area of Athletic Financial Assistance."

Theobald said Thursday in a telephone interview that he received notification of the investigation Monday, but he was not told what had prompted it.

"There must have been someone who filed a complaint," Theobald said.

However, a parent of a student-athlete said the complaint stemmed from the cutting of men's crew and women's rowing because of Temple's lack of a boathouse.

With many government offices in Washington closed to nonessential employees Thursday because of the snowstorm, an e-mail and phone call to the Department of Education were not returned.

Theobold's letter also provided an update of a review of the decision to cut baseball, softball, men's indoor track and track and field, men's crew, and women's rowing after this academic year. Included was an appraisal of a suggestion to give the sports five years to reach "self-sustainability."

"The fund-raising required to sustain these seven teams dwarfs the most successful athletics fund-raising performance in Temple's history," Theobald wrote. "An endowment of more than $60 million would be needed to generate the current annual operating costs of these teams, not including facilities upgrades and coaches' salaries.

"Even if we were able to endow these sports, our Athletic Department would still be woefully underfunded - 85 percent of Temple athletics programs are in the bottom third of operating budgets in the American [Athletic] Conference (not to mention the budgets of powerhouse conferences). We cannot build and sustain a Division I athletics program if we continue to spread our resources so thinly across 24 teams."

One issue not addressed in the letter was a review of the feasibility of rehabbing the East Park Canoe House for the men's crew and women's rowing teams. Theobald had said he wanted more information about the costs of such a project, since the absence of a boathouse is the reason those sports are being cut, he said.

"We're continuing to look at the possibility of renovating space down there for rowing," Theobald said Thursday.

Theobald also said in the letter that he saw problems with proposals involving facilities for baseball, softball, and men's gymnastics.

In an e-mail Thursday, men's gymnastics coach Fred Turoff said, "We already share space with our women's team, and it hasn't kept us from success."

Theobald said the issue with men's gymnastics is more about scholarships, but he added that simply doing away with men's scholarships wasn't the solution.

"That's not what we're looking to do as far as an experience for our kids - to use the very limited resources so they can have academic support and facilities and allow you to have a first-class program across the board," he said.

Turoff passed along a longer response from Sue Borschel, a lawyer and mother of a women's gymnastics team member, representing the T-7 council of alumni and parents reviewing the cuts.

"There has been no willingness to sit down with the coaches to discuss the solutions that they have spent hundreds of hours to develop," Borschel wrote to Theobald and the board, mentioning that 15 minutes at a recent meeting was all each sport got to make its case.

About the Title IX complaint, Borschel wrote, "Everybody wants to make sure that Temple remains NCAA-certified for compliance, but we seem to disagree on how to get there. We agree there are some facilities problems at Temple. We also agree that there is a misallocation-of-scholarships problem at Temple. However, the Department of Education . . . is clear that eliminating teams is not the preferred solution, and we have provided solutions that would have cut off at the pass that OCR [Office for Civil Rights] filing.

"Ironically, we understand that OCR filing was made because of the crew facilities, for which we now have a solid solution," she wrote. "If you adopt every one of the solutions we have carefully developed, that OCR filing (and any future ones contemplated) will all go away - we guarantee it.

"That you expected there to be [a] problem just makes it all the more disappointing that you did not engage the stakeholders in coming up with a solution to the problem more quickly before the OCR was filed. It took the coaches only 30 days to put solutions into place, so this most certainly could have been avoided."

Theobold said in his letter, "We continue reviewing all suggestions. At this point, I remain convinced that the difficult decision to rightsize our program and create a sustainable model for Temple athletics moving forward remains in the best interest of all of our 39,000 students and for Temple University as a whole. I look forward to further discussing this issue later this month."

As for the OCR investigation, Theobold said in the interview, "We will have a plan in place well before they ever have any kind of ruling."

mjensen@phillynews.com

@jensenoffcampus

 

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Copyright 2014 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.
Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

The NCAA is trying to pump the brakes on the breakneck pace of college football.

Coaches around the country seem split on a proposed NCAA rules change that would grant defenses a 10-second window to substitute players before each snap. The proposal, in effect, would slow down the accelerating tempo of college offenses, which has become prevalent throughout the game in the last live years, and especially so in the Pac-12.

Under the proposed change, the offense that snaps the ball before the 40-second play clock hits 29 seconds would be assessed a 5-yard, delay-of-game penalty.

But the proposal will have a hard time passing if the many coaches who run up-tempo these days have anything to say about it.

"It's ridiculous," said Arizona's Rich Rodriguez, who has been at the forefront of the fast football trend.

"For me it goes back to the fundamental rules of football. The offense knows where they are going and when they are going to snap the ball. That's their advantage. The defense is allowed to move all 11 guys before the ball is snapped. That's their advantage.

"What's next? You can only have three downs? If you play that extra down you have more chance of injury."

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, chair of the 10-person NCAA Football Rules Committee, said the proposal was made with player safety in mind.

"As the average number of plays per game has increased, this issue has been discussed with greater frequency by the committee in recent years and we felt like it was time to act in the interests of protecting our student-athletes," Calhoun said.

The NCAA did not release data on player safety related to the proposal.

Current rules do not guarantee a defense the opportunity to substitute unless the offense has substituted lirst.

An exception to the proposed rules change would be made in the linal two minutes of each half.

The proposals would have to be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which will review the proposal March 6. If approved, it would go into effect for the 2014 season.

"First off, doubt it will pass," Washington State coach Mike Leach told ESPN.com. "Second, it's ridiculous. All this tinkering is ridiculous. I think it deteriorates the game. It's always been a game of creativity and strategy. So anytime someone doesn't want to go back to the drawing board or rework their solutions to problems, they beg for a rule."

Offensive tempo became a hot topic last year when Alabama coach Nick Saban and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema argued the game's quickening pace put defensive players at injury risk. (Saban's Crimson Tide ran 65.9 plays per game in 2013 and Bielema's team ran 64.7, the two slowest offenses in the Southeastern Conference. California led the Pac-12 with an average of 87.1 plays per game last season.)

 

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Copyright 2014 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.
Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

The 14th annual Presidents' Cup girls volleyball tournament will be held throughout the area on Saturday and Sunday.

Tournament director Howard Garcia said AAU teams from seven states and Canada will converge on the Dayton metro area.

More than 400 teams and 4,000 players from Ohio, Virginia, New York, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Canada are committed.

Presidents' Cup play also is extended to several Columbus sites.

Locally, age-group teams will compete at the Dayton Convention Center, the University of Dayton, Wright State University and the South Metro athletic complex in Centerville.

The event will be held on 67 volleyball courts, 40 at Columbus and 27 locally.

"It's really established in the tri-state area and has a life of its own," Garcia said.

"Unfortunately, there's not enough facilities and courts in the area, which is why we had to reach out to Columbus."

Teams are divvied into age groups of 12 years old (UD Rec Plex), 13's (South Metro Sports), 14's (WSU McLin Gym), a combined 15-17 (Convention Center) and 18 (UD Frerick's Center). All teams are guaranteed seven games.

Besides offering top-level competition, the Presidents' Cup serves as a prime recruiting opportunity for college coaches.

Bracket play begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday is all pool play. Teams will advance to championship gold, silver and bronze brackets on Sunday. Finals are slated for Sunday night at all the locations.

The tournament is sponsored by Dayton Juniors Volleyball and is free to the public.

For more information, see the website daytonjuniorsvbc.com.

Contact this reporter at 937-225-2381 or email Mar c.Pendleton@coxinc.com Twitter: @MarcPendleton

 

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Copyright 2014 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.
Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

In Cardio Tennis, it's not about winning the game, set or match - it's about raising your heart rate, breaking a sweat and having a good time.

"It's high energy tennis with music," said Dave Phillips, director of tennis at KTC Quail Tennis Club. "Lots of energy and lots of fun."

Cardio Tennis is a crossover fitness and tennis program established by the Tennis Industry Association, in conjunction with the U.S. Tennis Association, in 2005. Since its inception, the program has expanded to more than 30 countries and nearly 2,000 tennis facilities in the United States. And, according to the Physical Activity Council's 2013 U.S. Sports, Fitness, and Recreation Participation report, more than 1.4 million people participated in Cardio Tennis in 2012, up nearly 60 percent since program participation was first measured in 2008.

The program has also been adopted by the Japan Tennis Association, the Lawn Tennis Association, Tennis Australia and Tennis Canada.

Locally, Five Seasons Sports Club, Quail Run Racquet Club and Schroeder Tennis Center are among facilities that offer Cardio Tennis classes.

The basics

Music booming and balls flying - Cardio Tennis classes are designed to help participants reach their target heart-rate zone in order to burn the most calories and get the best workout possible in the hour-long session. And the calorie burning can be significant as, according to the Tennis Industry Association, men can burn between 500-700 calories in a single class, while women will likely burn between 300-500 calories. It is as much - or possibly more

- about getting a cardiovascular workout as it is about playing tennis.

Five Seasons Sports Club adult director Al Pico starts his Cardio Tennis sessions with a dynamic warm-up. The class might also include ladder work, side hurdles, fast-speed ball-hitting and a variety of half-court drills. Familiar tunes from the '80s might set the pace or, sometimes, upbeat Latin rhythms set the tone.

"An hour goes by pretty fast," Pico said.

Stephanie Davis can attest to the fun atmosphere of Cardio Tennis as the Centerville resident has been taking classes at Quail for years.

"It goes so fast and it's so fun that you forget you're exercising," Davis said.

Davis has spent long hours in the gym and has tried several other fitness classes in recent years.

"But I've never done anything for this long," she said of her three years in Cardio Tennis. "You definitely don't get bored."

Phillips agrees with Davis' assessment.

"When I'm on a treadmill, I feel like a gerbil and I can't wait to get finished," he said. "It's not like that in Cardio Tennis."

The participants

If you have never picked up a racket, Cardio Tennis would not be a good fit. But if you can keep a rally going and have some basic tennis skills, it might be worth a try.

"It's good for all levels of players," Pico said. "But there is minimal instruction and it is fast-paced so it can be quite challenging."

Participants at Quail range in age from a home-schooled high school student to several players in their 60s.

"The pros really try to stay in tune with everybody and might give them an easier feed if they need it," said Darrin Heinz, manager of KTC Quail Tennis Center.

The benefits

Getting a good heart-pumping cardio workout is only one of the benefits of this tennis-based class. Participants will also likely see improved footwork and hand-eye coordination as well as increased stamina over time.

Other benefits of regular cardio workouts include a lower resting heart rate, weight loss and reduced stress.

"And it's also great from a social perspective," Pico said. "People really look forward to seeing their friends in class."

That social aspect has an added benefit.

"The accountability factor is enormous," Phillips said. "People show up because their friends are there. They receive encouragement from each other and the coaches."

Getting started

Some Five Seasons classes are open to nonmembers as well as members, while Schroeder Tennis Center Cardio classes are only open to club members.

While typically only available to members, Quail is making its Cardio Tennis classes available to non-members through March.

You should call ahead to secure a spot as classes maintain a low student/ instructor ratio. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your spot, call Quail Run at 937-434-4082 and Five Seasons at 937-848-9200.

Contact this contributing writer at djunie@aol.com

 

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Copyright 2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A small group of Atlanta residents filed a legal challenge this week against the city's plan for partial public financing of the new Falcons stadium.

Four residents of neighborhoods near the site of the proposed $1.2 billion stadium filed the motion to intervene in Fulton County Superior Court.

The Rev. William Cottrell, Mamie Lee Moore, Tracy Bates and John H. Lewis III allege a long list of legal flaws in the stadium financing plan, including the use of bonds that would be repaid with hotel-motel tax revenue, and ask for the proposed bond issuance to be rejected and declared unconstitutional.

The residents are among those who have been critical of stadium negotiations, most recently decrying how the city plans to spend millions in community benefit funds intended to offset disruptions to their communities.

That plan --- negotiated during months of contentious meetings between city officials and residents --- was approved by the Atlanta City Council in December, a key milestone toward the city moving forward with issuing bonds. But some residents worry the plan doesn't guarantee the funds will be spent the way they want.

Lewis, of Vine City, has also criticized proposed plans for re-routing Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, where road construction around the future stadium is underway, and called for city and Falcons officials to unveil final plans for the hallmark boulevard.

The group isn't trying to halt the stadium project, he said.

"We just want things to be done correctly," said Lewis, adding he hopes the lawsuit will reopen talks with city and Falcons officials. "We've tried everything and did everything we can do... We're just hoping that the community will get what it deserves."

Validation by the court is required before the bonds can be issued. A bond hearing is scheduled Monday before Judge Ural Glanville, who could decide whether the legal challenge has merit.

The use of bonds backed by hotel-motel taxes is critical to the stadium deal. An agreement reached last year by the Falcons, the city, the development authority Invest Atlanta and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority calls for $200 million in bond proceeds to go toward construction of the retractable-roof stadium slated to open in 2017.

The total bond issue would be as high as $278.3 million, with the rest used for interest payments during three years of construction and other costs.

Later, hundreds of millions of dollars in additional hotel-motel tax funds could go toward the costs of maintaining and operating the stadium and debt service over 30 years.

The stadium deal calls for bonds to be issued by July 31. The Falcons would not comment Thursday on how a delay would affect the project.

Anne Torres, a spokeswoman for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, said the city and Invest Atlanta "are currently reviewing the motion in preparation for Monday's validation proceedings."

The GWCCA declined to comment.

The attorneys representing the residents --- former Fulton Superior Court Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore and John Woodham --- issued a joint statement Thursday about the case.

"The bonds for the stadium would be repaid with public funds. The method used for the issuance of the bonds is unconstitutional, illegal and will have a decidedly detrimental impact on the community. We are representing the community to uphold their constitutional, legal, and moral rights," the attorneys said.

Woodham won a 2008 Georgia Supreme Court decision in a case involving the Atlanta Beltline project, challenging the use of school property taxes to subsidize development. The General Assembly responded by amending the Georgia Constitution, which effectively undid the court's ruling.

Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond, who presided as chair over the community benefits meetings, said he believes the filing stems from sour grapes over how the $15 million from the Westside tax allocation district and $15 million from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation will be awarded to local organizations, a process still underway.

He doesn't expect the legal challenge to succeed.

Councilman Ivory Young, whose district also includes these communities, said he is disappointed by the filing, but also believes it is related to the contentious community benefits process.

The court filing contends the 2010 state law authorizing extension of the existing Atlanta hotel-motel tax for the purpose of replacing the Georgia Dome is unconstitutional because it morphed a "general law" with statewide applicability into a "special law" applying only to one situation.

The filing also argues that the proposed revenue bonds are illegal because they would be repaid with hotel-motel tax proceeds and not from project revenue.

In addition, it contends the city's abandonment of 2.85 acres of land to the GWCCA for part of the stadium site violates the gratuities clause of the state constitution and the requirement that the city first obtain a Development of Regional Impact review from the Atlanta Regional Commission.

 

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Copyright 2014 The Post and Courier
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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

The South Carolina High School League extended the conclusion of the basketball regular season from Friday to Tuesday because of the winter weather that has ravaged the state. That will allow teams more time to make up postponed games.

The first-round of the girls Class A and AAA and boys Class AA playoffs will begin Wednesday and the playoffs for boys Class A, AAA and AAAA, and girls Class AA and AAAA will begin Thursday.

The second round of playoffs for the girls Class A and AAA will be Feb. 21.

The second round of playoffs for the boys Class A and AAA, and the girls Class AA and AAAA will be Feb. 22.

The playoffs will resume the regular schedule beginning with the third round.

The brackets for boys Class AA and AAAA will remain as originally scheduled for all rounds.

The SCISA playoffs will be unaffected, although the league extended its last regular season to Tuesday or Wednesday, if needed.

The playoffs will begin Feb. 21 and conclude with the state championships on March 1 at the Sumter Civic Center.

 

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Copyright 2014 The Post and Courier
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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)
 

Willie Powell is on a crusade to bring youth baseball back to his hometown.

Powell, who grew up in Moncks Corner and still lives there, wants to establish a Little League Baseball program in the black community.

Better known for his athletic feats on the basketball court for Berkeley High School, Powell's first love was Little League Baseball.

Powell will be leading a public meeting at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Howard Brown Facility, located at 229 Haynesville Road in Moncks Corner. Former Negro League baseball player Russell Patterson of Sumter will be the guest speaker. Food will be provided.

Patterson has been featured in an HBO Real Sports segment on Stories of Racism in the Negro Leagues hosted by Bryant Gumbel.

"He'll be here to try to motivate getting Little League Baseball back into the black community. That doesn't mean others cannot play, but we want to bring this back into the black community because it s been a fallen thing for us," Powell said.

Powell said Little League Baseball is already in Moncks Corner, but the games are held at Lion's Beach and many members of the black community can't get their children there. He said a local law firm already has signed on to provide uniforms and equipment for one team.

"We're making an effort to help them so there will be no excuses that they can't do it. Some of the kids can't pay for their equipment, and that's where I come in. I'll be fund-raising to help them get these things for free," Powell said.

Powell said he will be the league commissioner, and William Manigault will organize the coaching. Powell can be reached at (843) 709-0673; Manigault at (843) 899-4143.

Powell said doing things for youth makes him happy.

"It fills a void in my life," he said. "Every day you wake up you've got to do something. I choose to do something good. I think there's some healing power when you do stuff like that. Little League Baseball was the first sport I played, and every community in the black community had a Little League team. That disappeared. We need to be more concerned with the kids."

 

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Copyright 2014 Star Tribune
All Rights Reserved
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

Amid a growing outcry and with a state tournament berth just one victory away, Achiever Academy and the Minnesota State High School League spent Wednesday trying to answer eligibility questions about six of the girls' hockey players on the online high school team.

Achiever Academy had "conversations with families" on Wednesday to verify eligibility information, said Matthew Resch, the school's lawyer. The school also forwarded information to league officials, who are in the process of reviewing it.

Eligibility questions intensified Tuesday when the league forwarded Achiever an unsigned e-mail listing seven players' names and information from Internet searching, including property records and screenshots of girls' Twitter accounts.

The e-mail, obtained by the Star Tribune, cited players being ineligible either because parents lived out of state or families did not relocate when players transferred to Achiever, a private online school that offers intensified hockey training. The e-mail suggested that one player recently moved out of state.

High school league rules require that a student who transfers from another state must live with his or her parent(s) and other minor siblings at the new in-state address on

a regular basis for the duration of his or her enrollment. Parents must also vacate their former residence.

If the student transfers within the state, a change of family residency to another public school district attendance area is required to maintain eligibility.

League bylaws say member schools are "completely and solely responsible to certify" that students meet all eligibility requirements.

Implications of such a dispute are magnified during playoffs. Two years ago Prairie Seeds Academy was banned from the Class 1A boys' soccer state tournament for an ineligible player discovered after it won its section final game.

The school forfeited its victory but the opponent - Totino-Grace - was not advanced to the state tournament.

Achiever, the top seed in Section

4 of Class 1A, is scheduled to play St. Paul United at 7 p.m. Thursday. The winner advances to the girls' hockey state tournament next week.

United coach David Cole said he is trying to keep his team focused on winning its first section title ever but has questions about Achiever.

"It's really a Tier I program that's got kids from all over," Cole said. "They could go to state and win it all. If that happens, what does that say? I'm not sure."

Craig Perry, league associate director who oversees eligibility, said there have "been a number of e-mails to league staff from people expressing concern about what will happen."

League executive director Dave Stead said Achiever is not under a deadline to provide information but added, "I wish we would have had it 52 Thursdays ago."

 

February 13, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 Star Tribune
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

The University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium will undergo $6.6 million in renovations to meet the needs of the Minnesota Vikings, under a plan presented this week to the Board of Regents.

The changes - including a new heating system for the playing field - will be billed to the Vikings, which will play the next two seasons at the U while the team's own new stadium is being built on the site of the Metrodome.

The Vikings' spokesman, Jeff Anderson, said Wednesday that the money will come from the $975 million Vikings stadium budget, which is funded by public and private dollars.

The changes are needed to adapt the Gophers' stadium, which was designed for the fall college football season, to operate into December and "possibly" January, and meet the requirements of the National Football League, according to the university. Parts of the 50,805-seat stadium, which opened in 2009, will have to be winterized to protect systems from freezing and damage, officials say.

The plan calls for the installation of a "field heating system," as well as replacing artificial turf and adding camera platforms, storage space and temporary bleachers for 1,750 fans.

Part of stadium budget

In May, the university agreed to make the upgrades as part of its lease agreement with the Vikings, which will pay up to $3 million a year to play at TCF Bank Stadium.

At the time, the two organizations issued a news release, saying that "the Vikings will reimburse the university for any required TCF Bank Stadium capital improvements."

However, the costs of relocating the team to its temporary home and the TCF upgrades were built into the original budget for the new Vikings stadium, said Michele Kelm-Helgen, chairwoman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Authority. The budget allotted $16 million for improvements and operating costs at TCF Stadium.

Last year, the regents authorized $3.5 million in stadium upgrades, plus an undetermined amount for the new heating system.

The final plan, which puts the total price tag at $6,641,000, is expected to be approved by the regents on Friday. The construction is slated to begin this month and finish by July. The contractor, Mortenson Construction of Golden Valley, is the same firm that built TCF Stadium and is building the new Vikings stadium on the site of the Metrodome.

Staff writer Mike Kaszuba contributed to this report. Maura Lerner · 612-673-7384

U STADIUM UPGRADES

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents is expected to vote Friday on a $6.6 million upgrade to TCF Bank Stadium to host the Vikings.

The planned changes:

·Install field-heating system

·Replace artificial turf

·Winterize spaces throughout the stadium

·Expand storage space

·Build additional camera platforms

·Add temporary bleachers for 1,750 fans

Cost: $6,6441,000.

Start construction: February

End construction: July

Source: University of Minnesota Board of Regents

 

February 13, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 Charleston Newspapers
Charleston Daily Mail (West Virginia)

The firm that helped advise West Virginia University's Athletic Department on how to best contract out its multimedia rights issued an interesting press release last month - one that highlighted the new trend of keeping those rights in-house.

Rockbridge Sports Group, which helped WVU in the process of awarding its rights to IMG College last year, announced last month it intended to hire new general managers in Alabama, Colorado, Michigan and Texas to help support its "new model in collegiate and high school multimedia rights management."

"The landscape in sports multimedia rights management is beginning to undergo a fundamental shift," the company's press release began.

"The predominant model in the industry - where institutions fully outsource their rights in exchange for lump sum payments - is coming under question with regards to long-term viability," it said.

"A market opportunity is emerging to serve institutions that are moving to reclaim control over their brands and recast the long-term relationships they maintain with their media and corporate partners."

Wait - what? Anyone reading those last three paragraphs out of context would have assumed they were written by someone like West Virginia Radio Corp. owner John Raese, not the company that helped WVU sell off its rights.

Right now, Rockbridge has signed partnerships with Western Athletic Conference, Troy and Houston Baptist universities. (Not exactly cash cows of NCAA sports.)

WVU was one of three Bowl Championship Series conference schools - including Ole Miss and Rutgers - to bid out their rights last year. All three awarded their rights to IMG.

"These partnerships are significant when you consider how rare it is for multimedia rights to be open in the BCS," Ben Sutton, president of IMG College said last July. "You could say these schools are 'The last of the Mohicans' in available BCS-level partners."

While most nationwide industry consultants don't believe the rights landscape will change anytime soon, Rockbridge appears to be betting the other way.

After WVU awarded its rights to IMG (for the second time) last July, sports business insiders began wondering if Michigan State - the last BCS school to keep its rights in-house - would finally outsource its rights.

In a July story on Sports Business Daily concerning the Michigan State question, Rockbridge co-founder Rich Klein said schools might eventually go in-house, but not anytime soon.

"At some point, there's going to be a big watershed moment when somebody takes their rights back," Klein said.

"Taking it back in-house would be a lot of work," he said. "If somebody could give you the road map and a way to compensate sales employees, it could be done. But as of right now, the answer for most athletic departments is still no."

One industry insider said the financial realities at most major universities should preserve the outsourcing model for some time.

"Universities are averse to risk, but they need to drive revenue," the person said. "The guaranteed revenue provided by rights holders is just that - guaranteed. It's guaranteed regardless of team performance (a guarantee is paid even in the event of a winless season). It's guaranteed regardless of the economy."

 

February 13, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 The Columbus Dispatch
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Dateline: HEBRON, Ohio

It appears that the two great passions of Dave Daubenmire's life -- coaching and preaching -- are incompatible, at least to three of the five board members of Lakewood Local Schools.

The board voted 3-2 Wednesday night to reject Superintendent Jay Gault's recommendation to hire the controversial Daubenmire as Lakewood High School's head football coach.

Daubenmire, 61, has been a provocative figure since 1997 when, as coach of London High School, complaints about him praying with the football team prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the district.

That suit was settled out of court in 1999, and Daubenmire was given another one-year coaching contract with the promise that he'd stop praying with his players. But in early 2000, after leading his team to an undefeated season, he resigned.

Almost immediately, Daubenmire started Pass the Salt Ministries, and later another group, Minutemen United, drawing both followers and critics with his conservative Christian views.

In 2007, Minutemen United drew headlines for interrupting services at churches in Granville and Columbus that welcomed gay members.

He often speaks of manhood and the "sissification" of today's boys.

In a video posted last summer, he said the women's movement came along "because the men withdrew and ran back in the closet and hid behind their wives' skirts."

Many of those things were brought up last night in Lakewood High's gym as 22 members of an audience that exceeded 100 stood to speak to the board. Of those impassioned speakers, nine, including Elyzabeth Holford, the executive director of Equality Ohio, urged the board to vote no.

Thirteen spoke in favor of Daubenmire, many of whom cited his success on the field. He coached at Heath High from 1982 to 1988 before taking over at London, where he coached for the next 11 seasons, guiding that team to the playoffs five times between 1992 and 1999.

Most recently, he started the football program at Fairfield Christian Academy in Lancaster in 2008, going 23-8 with two playoff appearances in his final three seasons before he was fired after the 2012 season, citing a difference of opinion with the administration.

"It's time to get this right," said Mark Nichols, a football booster. "Our kids deserve the best. Hire the best. I believe that's Dave Daubenmire."

Daubenmire, who lives in Hebron and is a Lakewood grad, gave a loud, fiery appeal on his behalf.

Board members Judy White, Trisha Good and Bill Gulick voted against hiring Daubenmire. Tim Phillips and Forrest Cooperrider were in favor of the $5,520 one-year contract.

elyttle@dispatch.com

@ewlyttle

  February 13, 2014

 

 
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The Press Enterprise

Private, unarmed security guards may be hired to patrol as many as 13 of Riverside's 58 parks, despite mixed reactions from residents and split opinions on the City Council.

After public complaints about crimes such as illegal camping, drug deals and two shootings in parks, City Manager Scott Barber suggested hiring private guards as a temporary solution.

Barber said he will request proposals to determine the cost of hiring guards for nighttime hours for six months, and will sign a contract if it's less than $50,000, which is within his authority to approve. If the cost is higher, the council would need to approve the spending, which could mean another debate.

Barber's announcement Tuesday night, Feb. 11, came after nearly two hours of discussion by about a dozen residents, most of whom opposed the plan, and the council.

Council members also asked Barber to find out how much it would cost to use police on overtime instead of guards, and to bring them other ideas for long-term solutions to park security issues.

Barber may report back in March.

The current proposal involves guards patrolling specific parks and several libraries from 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., depending on the season. Parks are supposed to be closed during those hours.

The parks suggested for guard patrols are Arlington, Bryant, Fairmount, White, North, Hunt, Shamel, La Sierra, Doty-Trust, Villegas, Bobby Bonds, Bordwell and Lincoln. The Casa Blanca, La Sierra and Arlanza libraries also were included. Parks Director Ralph Nuñez said the chosen parks have had problems or are where people sometimes congregate after hours.

The biggest concern for residents, and the main debate for council members, was whether the guards would be armed.

Councilmen Mike Gardner and Jim Perry said they weren't comfortable with the idea of armed guards. Gardner said for some it would conjure images of a "poorly trained, police officer wannabe, trigger-happy person wandering around the park."

Some residents asked why police can't step up patrols and others worried that private security guards would not be accountable to the community.

"Riverside is considered one of the safest cities around here," Perry Chastain said. "What signal does this send to the outside world?"

Christina Duran suggested groups meet at parks, neighborhoods "adopt" parks and that motion-sensitive lighting be used.

Others recommended reviving a park ranger program eliminated in 2007, but Nuñez said it only had three rangers who lacked training and resources.

Some councilmen, including Steve Adams, argued something needs to be done now. Adams said two constituents told him they armed themselves to protect their families.

"If you live across the street from one of these parks, you don't want to hear, 'We'll have something for you in about 18 months or 20 months,' " Adams said.

Police Chief Sergio Diaz told the council the proposal was a response to their urgent request.

It's not known how much it would cost to hire guards but Barber said he would find the money and wouldn't cut parks programs and services.

Riverside Police Officers' Association President Brian Smith called the proposal "an overreaction to a couple of incidents."

His members see the move as privatizing public safety and sending the message that parks aren't safe because police aren't doing their job, Smith said.

Contact Alicia Robinson at 951-368-9461 or arobinson@pe.com

 

February 13, 2014

 

 
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USA TODAY

Bullying, no doubt, can be exhibited 140 characters at a time.

Richie Incognito confirmed this — and more — Wednesday with a Twitter meltdown for the ages that revealed a few more layers of who he is and why he is a central figure in a bizarre NFL controversy.

He could no longer keep up the facade.

"Dear Jon Martin..... the truth is going to bury you," Incognito wrote in a midafternoon tweet.

This, eight days after Incognito tweeted about his 100% support for Martin.

Talk about mixed signals.

Even worse, Incognito, who has described himself as a best friend to Martin, wrote on Twitter that Martin shared suicidal thoughts with him in May.

Not exactly the proper forum to use to share that material — even from a man who clearly needs help in dealing with his own issues.

Yet it's also consistent with bullying behavior experts argue is demonstrated in many ways.

If it is indeed fact as Incognito tweeted, that Martin indicated something that could be interpreted a person considering taking his life, you're accused of picking on that guy?

A best friend indeed.

Then there is the matter of the poor timing of this latest twist.

A report detailing the investigation led by attorney Ted Wells is expected to be released as soon as today.

Why have a Twitter rant now?

Just when Incognito needed to embody his family name and keep a low profile, he goes off.

He even posted the cellphone number of his attorney, Mark Schamel, while announcing the end of his rant; it came off like a jab at the person who might have told him to zip it in Twitterville.

Perhaps Incognito realizes the report — which stems from the alleged bullying that contributed to Martin bolting on the Miami Dolphins in October and resulted in Incognito's eight-game suspension — will cast him in such a negative light that he doesn't care to keep up his attempts to polish his reputation.

It struck me as something akin to the defiant brute going down in flames in his blaze of glory.

So sad.

Is the report finished?

If Wells thought his report was completed by Wednesday, it wasn't done yet. Not after the fresh material Incognito provided. It was a last-minute chapter that obviously needs to be weighed with the context of whatever else was discovered.

The idea some NFL team will add Incognito to its ranks can be dealt with in an ensuing epilogue.

Presumably, the report will answer questions beyond the Martin-Incognito relationship. I'm wondering:

Were coaches involved in encouraging the alleged bullying behavior?

Were other players involved and, if so, to what extent?

What was the level of engagement of since-fired general manager Jeff Ireland?

Were other Dolphins employees subjected to harassment or other unwarranted behavior?

Still, as Incognito's Twitter feed suggests, he was at the heart of the mess — or at least he felt that way, labeling himself as betrayed and railroaded.

For months, Incognito — who has had anger-management issues during a career spanning three NFL clubs and two college teams — has sought to change the narrative and cast himself as some sort of sympathetic figure. That process was enabled by teammates who have not voiced support for Martin and vehemently defended Incognito.

Even this week, Incognito tweeted support for Michael Sam, the Missouri defensive end who disclosed he is gay with the NFL draft approaching.

I never bought the sincerity of Incognito's image-repairing campaign — which included a TV interview on Fox shortly after Martin left the Dolphins. His contention that some of the crude language used with Martin was just part of banter between friends and NFL locker room culture was hardly consistent with the actions.

Add the notion a "friend" has suicidal thoughts to the mix, and it is further beyond reason.

Nor did Incognito's campaign explain some of the other reports that have surfaced, including an incident involving a female volunteer at a team charity event that resulted in a cash settlement.

More details about this whole saga — which meshes alleged bullying, workplace harassment, NFL culture, race and then some — will be revealed soon.

But Incognito has already told us much by his words and ill-advised actions.

 

February 13, 2014

 

 
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The Philadelphia Inquirer

A couple of years and 130 pounds ago, Andy Aubin had reached his tipping point. The 36-year-old Hatboro resident, known to friends as "Big Andy" for his 330-pound heft, knew he had to make a drastic lifestyle change. He decided to document his progress in that most public of venues: the Internet.

He picked up two hobbies - running and blogging - and found a new, virtual fitness community along the way.

"It played a huge part in keeping me motivated and on track," he said.

So, when he wanted to raise money for the American Cancer Society - he was running the Broad Street Run for the nonprofit's DetermiNation program, which requires a minimum of $500 in pledges - it made sense to reach out to that community for support.

His solution: the Sweet Cheeks Virtual 5K, a fund-raising run to be held Feb. 14, 15, and 16.

The location? Anywhere participants choose.

A virtual race might, at first, appear to contradict the ethos of charity runs, which often purport to be as much about awareness and community-building as about fund-raising. But as social media expand notions of community - and as donors become more conscious of nonprofits' overhead - virtual events are piquing wider interest, from independent fund-raisers such as Aubin to established foundations such as Wynnewood's Alex's Lemonade Stand.

Last year, Aubin's 5K attracted 150 runners at $25 apiece; he cleared $2,500 for the American Cancer Society. (Register at BigAndysRunning.wordpress.com.)

On a larger scale, in September, Alex's Lemonade Stand debuted its first all-virtual fund-raiser, the Million-Mile Run - challenging participants to raise money for childhood-cancer research and to run a collective million miles over the course of the month.

The nonprofit's co-executive director, Jay Scott, came up with the idea after he and a group of fellow distance-running enthusiasts scattered from Connecticut to Philadelphia engaged in a friendly 40-day race, using an app to track their total mileage between Thanksgiving and New Year's.

"We were having a great time," he said, "and I thought a lot of other people would enjoy doing this, too."

The outcome - though shy of a million miles - was extraordinary.

"We had 5,000 participants in the first year, and that's more participants than we've had in any other event," he said. Runners and walkers logged 250,000 miles and raised $500,000. In its second year, Scott expects, the event could become the organization's biggest fund-raiser.

It's also less costly to operate than a traditional 5K, such as the organization's annual Lemon Run.

"You don't have to rent space, you don't have to arrange for parking, you don't have to have the timing company there," Scott said. "We don't even offer them T-shirts."

The virtual event also opened up fresh opportunities for publicity: Instead of merely drawing Philadelphia-area media, there were news stories about local Million-Mile Run teams around the world.

In recent years, Alex's Lemonade Stand has added a virtual option to its 5-kilometer Lemon Run as well. Scott thinks more nonprofits will follow suit, because it's a way to expand an organization's footprint with minimal investment.

It also makes events more inclusive.

"We have supporters all over the country and around the world, so we wanted to give them a way to do something in unison with what we were doing here in Philly," he said.

Among them is Cpl. Tim Sullivan, 31, who was introduced to the nonprofit through his sister, Jennifer Kelly, a foundation employee. Sullivan and Kelly ran the Lemon Run together a few times - but during the 2012 run, the Marine Corps reservist and Havertown resident was deployed to Afghanistan.

So while the Lemon Runners enjoyed a crisp fall morning on Kelly Drive, Sullivan ran in Camp Leatherneck, a base in Helmand, Afghanistan - under desert conditions, in a Marine jogging uniform and, as was required, carrying his rifle.

Since Sullivan was out on a mission on the date of the actual event (and, with the time difference, it would have been a 2 a.m. jog) he did the run when he had free time and was back at the base.

That flexibility is part of the appeal - though it's also a hurdle, since distances and times are often logged on an honor system. Some events utilize mileage-tracking apps to make things more official.

Interest in virtual races has lately spawned a small industry.

In return for a cut of the proceeds, companies host race registrations, coordinate social media efforts and send out medals and even bibs. (Race "bling" is critically important in the virtual-running community. "I've discovered that you don't get any response whatsoever until you post a picture of what the medal looks like," Aubin said. "They'll make the decision of what races to run based on the medals.")

Courtney Klein, of New York City, and her mother, Cynthia Elder, of Maryland, are partners in a 7-month-old virtual-race start-up called Jost Running Co., which organizes monthly races benefiting various charities.

"A lot of people using us on a monthly basis are people who live in isolated places where there aren't a ton of local races," Klein said. "Or, there are people on a serious weight-loss journey. They want to do a 5K with less intensity, or they want to do a half-marathon but they're not sure they can do it all in one day."

In January, a Philadelphia-based wellness start-up called City Fit Girls, run by Keira Smalls, 24, held a virtual race in partnership with Jost. They offered a four-week virtual training program leading up to the virtual race.

Of course, running alone may not hold the same thrill as racing a crowd.

But for those who want to show off their speed - or even just the fact that they finished - well, that's what Facebook's for.

"An important part of running a big race is having those strangers cheer for you, when you're running on empty, and exhausted and kind of want to quit. It gives you the motivation to push yourself," Klein said. "The Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is sort of our version of a cheering crowd."

smelamed@phillynews.com

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February 13, 2014

 

 
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USA TODAY

Though Wednesday's hearing with the Chicago office of the National Labor Relations Board was largely procedural, attorney John Adam, representing the College Athletes Players Association, called the day the beginning of the end of the current reality for college athletes.

"For too many years, college athletes have been exploited and have been denied the rights as employees," Adam said. "And we believe this is the beginning of the end of that exploitation."

Representing CAPA, Adam began his argument to change that relationship, as Northwestern's football players seek to become the first college athletes to be deemed employees of their university.

Adam argued that players provide services to the university separate from their role as students and that they receive compensation in the form of a scholarship for those duties, meaning they are technically employees under the National Labor Relations Act.

"They are football players, primarily," Adam said. "And that is the main task that they are doing at the university. They also happen to be students, but the two are not mutually exclusive. You can be an employee of the university and be a student."

Alex Barbour, the attorney representing the university, argued that college football players are students, first and foremost. The attorneys representing Northwestern did not speak to the media after the proceedings, but spokesman Al Cubbage reaffirmed the university's position.

"We believe that participation in athletic events is part of the overall educational experience for those students, not a separate activity," Cubbage said. "Northwestern provides extensive academic support for all of its student-athletes, as is evidenced by the fact that Northwestern student-athletes consistently are among the leaders in graduation rates and Academic Progress Rates. Northwestern's football team maintains an overall GPA of over 3.0 and has a graduation rate of 97%, the highest in the country, which is a testament to their academic abilities and confirms their status as students. We do not regard, and have never regarded, our football program as a commercial enterprise."

During the hearing, Barbour said the university thinks a 2004 case in which Brown University teaching assistants were not deemed employees stands as precedent.

 

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International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel makes it clear there is no doomsday clock counting down on the future of women's hockey in the Olympics. "We will stay, we will stay, there is no doubt," Fasel told USA TODAY Sports.

Women's hockey's Olympic future seemed hazier four years ago when a series of non-competitive, blowout games in Vancouver prompted public discussion of whether the sport truly was Olympic-worthy. The USA and Canada were the only countries with strong programs.

News media speculated it might follow the path of women's softball and end up ousted from the Games, particularly after then-International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said, "We cannot continue without improvement."

Fasel responded by putting together an eight-year plan to make the sport more competitive, and the IIHF work already has paid off with a closer, more competitive tournament in Sochi.

"There have been some good matches, and we are very pleased," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. "It's a bit of a chicken and egg scenario, isn't it? You have to get into the program for the sport to develop, and it's clearly happening. "

In 2010, Canada won its first three games by a combined score of 41-2. In 2014, a total of 41 goals were scored in the first nine games of the tournament.

"We will get there -- I promise," Fasel said. "The gold medal will probably be played between USA and Canada, but we have interesting competition for the bronze. You could have Finland, Sweden, Russia, Switzerland and maybe even Japan."

In previous Olympics, Canada and the USA seemed two steps ahead of Sweden and Finland, which seemed two steps ahead of the rest of the field.

"I think we need to be patient," U.S. coach Katey Stone said. "There have been tremendous (strides) made in the sport... and I think we should talk less about what if the gap's big vs. how do we continue to close the gap. I think it is closing.

"You look at all these teams. They have strong goaltending, and the players are much better in front of them than they ever have been before."

USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean also thinks the chances of women's hockey going away are "extremely remote."

"It's the only true women's team sport in the Winter Olympics," Ogrean said. "It must constitute a significant percentage of the female athlete positions in the Winter Games. And because of the new grouping and the work of the IIHF, we have seen better competitive balance in just four years."

The IIHF altered the preliminary-round format to group stronger teams together. That change eliminates some early-round blowouts without costing top teams any advantage.

As important, the IIHF has placed heavy emphasis on goalie training in countries with developing teams. "We said we have to have good goaltending, because that is the key to a good team," Fasel said. "When you have a good goaltender, you can stay in games. The old saying is a good goalie is 60% of a game and bad goaltender is 80% of the game."

The USA and Canada continue to have quality goaltending, and now Noora Raty (Finland), Florence Schelling (Switzerland) and Nana Fujimoto (Japan) are considered world-class goalkeepers.

Another issue is a lack of participants in many countries. According to Fasel, Canada has 80,000 registered female players and the USA has 60,000. "I would say Finland is next, and they have 5,000," Fasel said. "And Switzerland, it's just under 2,000."

Fasel said the IIHF put $2 million into improving the women's game after Vancouver.

"My dream is one day going from eight to 10 teams, and then another dream is to go 12 teams in the women's hockey tournament," Fasel said.

However, the big question is how long it will take before one of the developing teams is strong enough to challenge Canada or the USA. "I don't know, and I know journalists don't like that answer," Fasel said. "It took Switzerland 60 to 70 years to beat Canada in men's competition. I don't think it will take as long for the ladies as it did for the men."

Women's hockey is still in its infancy in terms of organized international competition. The IIHF didn't start sanctioning a world championship until 1990, and it became an Olympic sport in 1998. "It really takes time to build," Fasel said. "To build up a good hockey (program), it takes 20 years."

He also likes that the efforts to improve the sport have paid off with more fan interest.

"But it's not enough," Fasel said. "We have to do more."

Contributing: Dan Wolken

 

February 13, 2014

 

 
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The Tampa Tribune (Florida)

Peter Hobson remembers having kids who play sports — a son who was in football at Jesuit High and the University of Pennsylvania and two daughters in softball and rowing at Academy of the Holy Names.

So the 62-year-old Tampa lawyer has a soft spot for student athletes deemed ineligible to play sports and for the parents who seek him out when they consider fighting the decision — before a local school board, the state association that governs high school sports, or even a judge.

It's all about the students, Hobson said. If I didn't believe this was an important aspect of their education, I wouldn't be doing these cases.

In 2012, Hobson began representing some football players denied eligibility to play at state powerhouse Armwood High School in Seffner.

Since then, at least nine local families, and a total of about 25 across the state, have come to him with similar issues.

At the heart of many of these cases is Hobson's belief that a school district's athletic policy governing student transfers contradicts state law.

In his view, the law says students are eligible to play sports for the school where they are first enrolled for the start of the school year.

Hillsborough County expands on that in its policy, saying students who transfer to a high school other than the one they're designated to attend must sit out one calendar year before playing sports.

The Florida High School Athletics Association says the state rule is meant only as a baseline, allowing individual school districts to adopt stricter policies.

There's a lot at stake at getting it right. Armwood High, for example, had its 2011 state championship stripped by the Florida High School Athletic Association after a finding that five players had falsified information to gain admission to the school.

To Hobson, there is no gray area.

Whatever the school board enacts has to be aligned with what the Legislature says on the very same topic.

❖ ❖ ❖

A member of the bar in Florida and Pennsylvania, practicing general law, Hobson has been in business more than 30 years. Past clients have included former Major League pitcher Dwight Gooden and NFL linebacker Ray Lewis, both of whom grew up in the Tampa area.

Tacked to the wall in Hobson's downtown Tampa office is a list of school athletics eligibility rules from each of the 50 states.

Hobson is coming off a recent victory in the eligibility arena with a ruling Friday by Hillsborough Circuit Court Judge Bernard Silver that a pair of sisters fighting to play softball at Jefferson High School should be allowed to participate while they await the outcome of their lawsuit against the school district.

The Fernandez sisters, senior Kayla Jo and sophomore Justine, transferred to the South Tampa school for the start of the school year and are suing the district for prohibiting them from playing. The girls attended Blake High School last school year.

In the suit, they claim they should be able to play because they were enrolled at Jefferson the first day of school.

Hillsborough's policy is still fairly new.

It was put into place in fall 2012, the year after Armwood High School was stripped of its football title as well as 26 victories dating back to 2010 and fined thousands of dollars.

Everyone who transfers to another high school, whether it's by moving or taking advantage of the district's school choice program, is ineligible to play sports unless cleared during an appeal by the Transferring Student-Athletes Participation Committee. Members include school district and community appointees.

The policy was developed based on a large number of student athletes transferring and the issues that can ensue because of that, district athletic director Lanness Robinson said. The policy was developed to address a need. The board approved it because they saw the same need. If it needs tweaking, that would be up to the desires of the board.

The policy has been discussed extensively at school board meetings and workshops this school year.

The board recently made some changes to add flexibility, broadening the list of exemptions students can claim to include more in the way financial, academic or family hardships; military orders; and transfers to and from a charter or private school to the school they're designated to attend.

Hobson said more flexibility is going to make it worse. The revised policy actually makes it easier for students and their parents to find ways of bending the rules, he said.

Parents are as guilty as the schools in creating this mess, he said.

Hobson said that along with aligning policy with state law, the school board should hire a consultant to help define best practices for determining athletic eligibility.

❖ ❖ ❖

Because of Friday's ruling, the Fernandez sisters were able to participate in the first softball game of the season Tuesday.

They're over the moon, Hobson said. You don't realize how it wears on them and how emotionally upset they can become as a result of these types of actions taken by the school board and the follow-up litigation. When a judge enters an order like this, they might not understand the fine legal points, but are certainly very happy to return to the field and play with their teammates.

In addition to the Fernandez case, Hobson has been involved in two similar lawsuits this school year - one settled and one pending.

In November, Sickles High School senior Justin Fragnito filed suit against the district claiming he was wrongly deemed ineligible to play football there. The district, following a closed session of the school board, granted Fragnito eligibility to play in return for dropping the lawsuit.

Hobson also represents a Sunlake High School student, soccer player Michael Mazza, in a suit against the school board in Pasco County. A request for an injunction was denied in circuit court and the case is on appeal. Pasco's policy on transfer eligibility, enacted this year, mirrors Hillsborough's.

Parents interviewed who have worked with Hobson say they appreciate his help and agree he always has a student's best interest at heart.

Peter Hobson continually fights for justice, said John Nold, whose son Hobson has counseled. He fights for the student.

Gabe Nold, who graduated from Armwood last year, is of the first students Hobson represented.

Nold was denied eligibility to participate with the football and wrestling teams four times in his senior year by the Florida High School Athletic Association. The principal determined he and several other students filed false residency information after transferring there. He was not one of the five students who cost Armwood its championship.

Hobson argued that evidence presented to the FHSAA was insufficient to show Nold falsified the information, filing a lawsuit against the association. A temporary injunction was granted in January 2013, allowing Nold to participate in the remainder of the state wrestling tournaments that year.

We feel that civil judges understand the injustice that the FHSAA is causing, John Nold said.

None of the students Hobson has represented saw the case through to the end and ultimate victory in court.

That's because the case becomes moot after the main goal - eligibility - is achieved, through an injunction or a settlement.

I'm happy to say, Hobson added, that most who have challenged it have prevailed.

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Tim Carpenter timothy.carpenter@cjonline.com

Executives of YMCA organizations in Topeka, Olathe and Wichita denounced a bill up for debate last week eliminating the property tax exemption held by this type of nonprofit community service organization statewide.

Charlie Lord, chief executive officer of YMCA Topeka, said legislation raising the nonprofit's tax liability would have devastating consequences if signed into law. The unit services 50,000 people annually through three branch facilities and at a 165-acre camp.

"Any additional tax," he said, "and the YMCA of Topeka goes away."

The House Taxation Committee conducted a hearing on House Bill 2498, which withdraws a property tax exemption from organizations providing humanitarian services with more than 40 percent of revenue derived from membership sales. The committee took no action on the bill, which elicited no favorable testimony.

The taxation spotlight is on YMCAs due to the committee's simultaneous consideration of a separate measure, Senate Bill 72, that would deliver a property tax break to the for-profit fitness clubs across Kansas.

Rodney Steven, of Genesis Health Clubs in Wichita and elsewhere, has lobbied in the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions on behalf of the Senate bill. The bill was passed last year by the Senate, but bypassed in the House. His quest is to gain enough in the House to send the bill to Gov. Sam Brownback

He has invested at least $65,000 in campaign contributions to dozens of state legislators to promote the measure.

Dennis Schoenebeck, chief executive of the Greater Wichita YMCA, said the call by Steven for leveling the field among nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies engaging in fitness programs ignored their diverse missions.

Services provided to low-income children and families by YMCAs won't be met by profit-driven operations, he said.

He said the House bill could cost the Wichita YMCA between $5 million and $6 million annually.

"This is a complex issue," Schoenebeck said. "There's more to it than services lost and more to it than dollars. It's a civic involvement. You're building a community. These are quality-of-life programs. We're much broader than a fitness center."

Statewide tax implications are unclear because Emily Compton, president and chief executive officer of Goodwill Industries of Kansas, expressed apprehension the House bill could capture the Goodwill operation as well.

Republicans and Democrats on the tax committee have taken keen interest in the Wichita YMCA's federal filings, which indicate the organization had $16 million in excess revenue at the end of 2011. The committee requested the comparable 2012 report.

Rep. Julie Menghini, D-Pittsburg, asked if Schoenebeck would be willing to concede sales tax should be charged on YMCA memberships in line with other nonprofits operating membership programs in Kansas. He didn't endorse the sales tax hike.

He also was peppered by committee members with questions about executive salaries, facility expansion, claims of financial support to Wichita and whether volunteers or employees at YMCAs engaged in Christian instruction.

Bob Fry, who represented the Olathe YMCA at the House hearing, said success of the Wichita organization was an anomaly in Kansas. Legislation adding to the financial obstacles of charitable nonprofits should be voted down or tabled until potential consequences can be examined, he said.

"We are hanging on by our fingernails. It's been a tough couple of years for us. If our fees go up because of sales or property tax, our market goes down. We will have to reduce services to low-income folks," Fry said.

 
February 14, 2014
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 The Deseret News Publishing Co.
Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

Something strange and possibly unprecedented occurred in a recent high school basketball game between the South Sevier Rams and the Wasatch Academy Tigers. At the outset of the fourth quarter, the visiting Rams decided to employ a new strategy:

They did nothing.

They held the ball.

For virtually the entire fourth quarter.

They placed players in each corner of the half court and another player at midcourt and stood there watching the minutes drain off the clock. They didn't dribble, they didn't pass, they didn't attack the basket. They just stood there while Wasatch's defense remained packed in a zone around the basket. Some fans left the game or yelled, "Play ball!" Some players carried on a conversation with opposing players, waiting for the game to end.

Oh, there's one other detail: The Rams -- the team that was stalling -- trailed by 17 points.

They finally made a couple of passes and attacked the basket -- with 15 seconds left in the game. Final score: Wasatch Academy 52, South Sevier 35.

We've heard of stalling by a team with a lead -- but who does that when they're losing? By 17.

"I've been doing this a long time and I've never seen anything like that," says Wasatch Academy coach Geno Morgan, who considered coming out of the zone and attacking the Rams' four-corners stall -- but why would he do that when his team has a 17-point lead?

What was going on? "I've heard they were trying to make a point to the state about us," says Morgan.

It turns out that was exactly what was happening. The small-town schools that comprise 2A competition are exasperated with the emergence of Wasatch Academy, a 139-year-old private boarding school in Mount Pleasant that is beating Utah teams by an average score of 78-42. A cinch to defend their state championship, the Tigers are 19-1, their lone loss being a one-point decision to a team from Florida. The Tigers are so good that they have trouble filling out their schedule with Utah teams because, given the option, no one wants to play them; nine of their games have been against out-of-state schools.

After watching his team lose to Wasatch Academy 48-23 eight days earlier, Rams coach Rhett Parsons set several team goals for last week's rematch -- fewer than 18 turnovers, hold the Tigers to fewer than 60 points, outrebound Wasatch, score more points than they did in the first game. Winning wasn't even mentioned. After trailing by only 10 points at halftime, the Rams fell behind by 17 in the third quarter, so Parsons told his players to sit on the ball the rest of the game.

"I didn't think they'd sit back in a zone and let the clock run out, which was fine with me," says Parsons. "We'd met our goals as a team; I don't see any sense in losing by 40 points, which is what they are winning by."

As Parsons talked, it became clear there was more to the weird strategy than that. "We were trying to make a statement to everyone," he says. "They've made a mockery of 2A, small-town basketball. We've got these kids who have dreamed of playing for a state championship with their classmates since they were playing on the playground in elementary school. Now we have this team that is just dominating things."

It's not that the Tigers are dominating that irritates rivals; it's how they are dominating. Traditionally, 2A (and 1A) competition consists of schools in small towns whose rosters are filled with players who live in their boundaries. This is dictated by the vast distances between schools, if nothing else. Now along comes Wasatch Academy, an expensive private boarding school with players from Canada, Nigeria, France, Illinois and Utah.

As a private school, the academy lives by a different set of rules than public schools -- namely, the Tigers are free to recruit students and offer scholarships. By rule, they are not allowed to recruit students as athletes, but who can tell the difference? The upshot of all this is that the Tigers are reputed to have three Division I-caliber players on their team. Most 2A schools have never had a single D-I player.

The day after last week's strange game, 2A principals met at the offices of the Utah High School Activities Association to discuss Wasatch Academy specifically and private generally.

"There are some who feel like (Wasatch) has abused the rules," says Rob Cuff, the UHSAA executive director and a former 2A basketball star. "They wanted to see what had been done and they thought that maybe if there were violations they wouldn't be in the (state) tournament. But we haven't found anything that would go against our bylaws. We have done our due diligence. We have visited the campus, opened up files and researched and have not found anything. They've been very open with us."

At the 5A and 4A levels, such issues are commonplace but equally emotional. As Cuff says, "This is a new thing to 2A. They feel like everyone should be from the same community."

Wasatch Academy, which won only three games in 2009, has thrived since the arrival five years ago of Morgan, a former college and high school coach from Chicago. Wasatch won its first state championship in 2011 as a member of the 1A classification. After moving to the 2A class because of increased enrollment, the Tigers won another state championship in 2012 -- a title South Sevier won the previous two years.

Ask Morgan if there are some inequities in 2A competition with Wasatch's emergence, he says, "There's definitely some truth it. It's the whole private school situation, something the state is in the process of looking at. The argument is not with us, it's with the state. We play by the rules they give to us. We are not out here trying to do anything illegal."

Parsons agrees. "I'm not blaming Geno and the school. I don't have a problem with the team. They are great athletes and they seem like good kids. And the school gives kids a chance to get an education and get a scholarship. I'd love to see them play (5A powerhouse) Lone Peak, but what does (Lone Peak) have to gain?

"Geno's kids are not getting any better playing 2A basketball. He knows that. This has been going on a while and the state has turned a blind eye to it. If this were going on up north, they would've done something by now. Small-town basketball doesn't make enough of a squeak."

Referring to last week's meeting of 2A principals, Parson sides with Wasatch. "They're trying to kick Wasatch out of the state tournament this year. That's wrong. How do you kick them out now?!"

Morgan denies that the school recruits athletes and, as he notes, they don't have to recruit anyway because success perpetuates success, luring other top players to the school. Certainly, the team reflects the student body, which consists of kids from 34 countries and 26 states, according to Morgan.

As for last week's bizarre game against the Rams, Morgan says his players were confused. Some of them told him afterward that they hoped he'd never ask them to quit playing the way South Sevier did that night. Curiously, in the Tigers' lone loss this season, they trailed Dillard High by 16 points in the second half before launching a big comeback that left them just one point short. Whatever message Parsons was sending was certainly mixed. On the one hand, he's telling the state to do something about private schools; on the other hand he's telling his players to give up.

"My kids struggled with it," says Parsons. "I struggle with what I am teaching them. We could play that team again (in the state tournament); I hope to play them again. We won't hold the ball again."

Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Email: drob@deseretnews.com

 

February 13, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc.
Chicago Daily Herald

The Carol Stream Park District board has hired a familiar face — the Illinois Association of Park Districts — to help with its executive director search.

The park board this week selected the nonprofit organization from among four groups that made presentations in January as the district focuses on finding a replacement for Arnie Biondo, who stepped down in December to become director of the DuPage County Forest Preserve District.

The Illinois Association of Park Districts, or IAPD, was one of only two groups to make presentations to the park board that work exclusively for the benefit of park districts. It recently helped pick a new park director in Vernon Hills, and is working with two other Illinois districts to find directors.

That experience was a selling point to the park board, but so, too, was the working relationship between the two agencies.

Park board President Tim Powers said the IAPD was instrumental in helping the park district lobby for legislation in 2012 to issue the full $37 million in general obligation bonds to finance the construction of multiple projects, including the Fountain View Recreation Center.

A Senate bill signed into law in August of that year provided an exception regarding bonding limits on park districts for the Carol Stream Park District.

"I know those guys very well now and really think they are going to do a fantastic job for us," Powers said. "We've had a long association with them, and we are a member. Since they are an organization that serves park districts, they know everybody in the industry and they work directly with park districts throughout the state."

Powers said proposals for the search firm came in between $11,000 and $40,000, with the IAPD at the lower end.

"Everybody was kind of leery that we picked the low bid," Powers said, "but we felt very strongly that they will do the best job for us."

IAPD will next sit down with the park board to identify the direction it wants to take the search. IAPD will publish the opening throughout the state, and perhaps the country.

"A lot of people within the state knew there was an opening — they were just waiting for us to pick an agency," Powers said. "When we meet with IAPD, all the details will come out. There's no rush by us. Our most important desire is to find the ideal candidate."

 

February 12, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 Charleston Newspapers
Charleston Gazette (West Virginia)

WINFIELD - The Putnam County Parks and Recreation Department has decided to return control of Putnam County Park to the town of Eleanor, county commissioners said Tuesday.

According to county commissioner Joe Haynes, who serves on the county's parks and recreation board, the board had extensive talks with the city to ensure it would be financially capable of keeping up the park. Haynes said the city leases the land to Parks and Rec, and approached the board earlier this year to request control of the park so that it could invest in potential improvements, including improvements to the park's pool and the addition of a spray ground.

"To me, it's a win-win for the people of Putnam County - the county can concentrate more on Valley Park, Walter Park and Hometown Park, and the city can concentrate their effort on the park in Eleanor," he said.

County Park is Parks and Rec's largest park at 200 acres, but Valley Park is more highly trafficked, and Haynes said balancing the two in terms of investment has always been an important concern for the board.

"The problem has always been that you're trying to take care of Valley Park and County Park - well, the population center is near Valley Park, so more money was spent there than at County Park, but more people went there, too," Haynes said.

The board discussed whether the city of Eleanor would be able to financially support the park and its expansion, as well as how the city will partner with the county during fairs - the fairgrounds are located in Putnam County Park - but Haynes said he believes the city will be able to handle the transition.

"One of the many questions we asked is 'what will this do in relation to the county fair, and does this affect access to the gun club?' and we were assured it would not," Haynes said. "Our budget carries through the fiscal year, and we're going to transition with Eleanor - we have money already budgeted for the pool opening and everything."

Eleanor officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

County commissioners also voted Tuesday to loan the county's health board another $15,000 so that it can maintain payments to the Internal Revenue Service.

According to interim director Lolita Kirk, while most of the health department's creditors have allowed the health board to delay payment on money owed until the next fiscal year, the board needs the $15,000 to meet its current obligations. The health board has already borrowed $50,000 from the commission this year to pay former Putnam County Health Department landlord Gary Young and former sanitarian Barbara Koblinsky.

The health board voted last week to award $60,000 in back pay to Koblinsky, the full amount owed her after she was twice fired and successfully filed wrongful termination grievances. According to County Commissioner Andy Skidmore, a health board member, the money owed to Koblinsky will come from the PCHD's surplus property sale in November and from the board's standard loans from the commission.

In October, the health board agreed to pay Young about $167,000 over the next two fiscal years, and has already paid him $34,305. A $20,000 loan finalized by the commission in December was requested to pay Young, and he is still owed $49,000 for this fiscal year and $83,000 for next fiscal year.

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.

 

February 12, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 Charleston Newspapers
Charleston Gazette (West Virginia)

West Virginia State University athletes will soon have a new facility to call home.

The Institute school will break ground this spring on a new $3.5 million athletic center, next to the school's football field, Lakin Field at Dickerson Stadium

The new complex will be a two-story, 15,691-square-foot building with space for meeting rooms, a weight room, training room and locker room, according to a news release from the school.

It will be known as the Gregory V. Monroe Athletic Complex. Monroe, a 1980 graduate of what was then West Virginia State College and a former Yellow Jacket football player, recently "made a significant contribution" to WVSU, according to the release.

Monroe is a motivational speaker and executive training specialist in Orlando, Fla., according to the school. In the news release, he said he grew up in Logan, "and my parents gave me a great start in life, but State expanded my world view. The opportunities that I had there and the support I received from the faculty and staff enabled me to go out and make a life for myself. I would never have accomplished the things that I have without State."

The new complex will be on the end of the football field closest to the former West Virginia Rehabilitation Center.

WVSU head football coach Jon Anderson said the center "will not only be a tremendous asset to our current student-athletes, but it will aid in recruiting the next generation of Yellow Jackets."

WVSU officials first announced a new athletic center in the fall of 2012, at the same time as a new residence hall. That dormitory, the first new residence hall on the Institute campus in nearly a half-century, will be named after Damon J. Keith, an alumnus and a federal appeals judge. It is scheduled to open this fall.

 

February 12, 2014

 

 
 
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Copyright 2014 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
The New York Post

If and when an openly gay player enters Major League Baseball, as Michael Sam intends to enter the National Football League, Joe Girardi believes his sport will be ready.

"I think so," the Yankees manager said Tuesday, as the team introduced Masahiro Tanaka at a Yankee Stadium news conference. "I think our world has adjusted to that. Players want players who are going to help them win championships. And you see that there's a lot of different cultures that come together. Different ethnic, there's different financial backgrounds. I think players just want to win."

Sam, the Missouri defensive end, announced on Sunday he is gay. He is expected to be drafted by an NFL team in May.

When NBA veteran Jason Collins announced his homosexuality last year, the Yankees' CC Sabathia was among those who praised Collins for his honesty and expressed hope baseball teams will deal well with such a change.

kdavidoff@nypost.com

   

February 12, 2014

 

 
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Copyright 2014 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
USA TODAY
Jim Corbett, @ByJimCorbett, USA TODAY

Vince Lombardi Jr. knows his progressive father would have evaluated Michael Sam, a standout defensive end out of Missouri, on his merits as a football player and also would have been supportive of the first openly gay NFL draft prospect.

The iconic Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins coach was ahead of his time in treating his players with equality and dignity no matter their creed, race or sexual orientation.

Lombardi might have seemed the embodiment of the intimidating, old-fashioned football coach. But while he demanded much of his players and staff, he did not discriminate.

"My dad's brother Harold was gay, so that's why my dad was very open and accepting about those kinds of things," Lombardi Jr. told USA TODAY Sports. "Michael Sam sounds like a pretty good kid who seems to be strong enough mentally and emotionally to take this on."

But Lombardi held a hammer many of today's coaches do not. He won five championships with the Packers in the 1960s, so what he said went unchallenged. The same isn't necessarily true now.

"My dad pretty much had total control of his locker room," Lombardi Jr. said. "Back in the day, back in the 1960s, that was a coach's dream and wish."

The younger Lombardi says the team that drafts Sam should have a strong locker room and organizational culture.

"I'm sure some team will feel they have the right locker room, the right winning tradition," he said. "I think it has very little to do with how people today view a gay person.

"I would suspect some teams -- teams with a new coach or unsure of the maturity of their locker room -- nothing against a gay player, but I think they would pass because they don't need the distraction."

Lombardi was aware some of his players were gay. He ordered his Redskins assistant coaches during training camp in 1969 to help a struggling running back, Ray McDonald, by pushing him but never mocking him.

"My dad told the Redskins assistants on that 1969 team, when it came to Ray McDonald, 'Don't you hold his manhood against him -- coach him up to be the best player he can be,'" Lombardi Jr. said.

Sounds like a timeless coaching lesson that could apply today.

 
February 12, 2014
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
USA TODAY
Kevin Trahan, @k_trahan, Special for USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern football players will take the first steps toward unionization in Chicago today, when the College Athletes Players Association, led by former UCLA linebacker Ramogi Huma and former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, has a hearing with the local office of the National Labor Relations Board.

The movement to provide compensation to athletes is a complicated one, mainly because different groups are asking for different forms of compensation. Former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon has sued the NCAA for rights to money garnered from players' likenesses. The College Athletes Players Association is asking for medical and academic protections, not NCAA royalties. However, while the focus of the movement has been on what the players can get from the NCAA, that is of no concern to the labor board. It has one question to answer: Are college athletes employees?

It's a complicated question that could take years to settle by the time it makes its way through the courts -- possibly as far as the Supreme Court.

According to Colter, athletes are already paid, and because that payment is dependent on work, athletes' responsibilities are similar to those of people who are already deemed employees.

"We're already paid in the form of a scholarship and stipend checks we get," Colter said. "That's dependent on us producing on the field, us providing an athletic service to the university. If we don't provide that service anymore, we won't have a scholarship anymore."

There is no clear precedent for this case, because this is the first time in the history of college athletics that players have petitioned to unionize. Today's hearing and a follow-up hearing soon after should provide insight into the strategy Huma decides to use.

For football players, keeping a scholarship is dependent on an activity that falls outside the academic realm. Given Colter's comments about compensation being determined by participation in football, that could be an effective strategy for the players group.

According to William Gould, a labor board chairman during the Clinton presidency, the athletes have a good case. "The principal reason for that is their work -- they have conditions of employment, they have compensation, they're directed and supervised by the coaching staff -- their work is not related to the educational enterprise," he said.

If the group is successful in its petition, the most important result will be the ability for athletes to engage in collective bargaining. That means athletes would have representation regarding their treatment, rather than the current structure, which Colter called a dictatorship.

Unionization also has its risks.

Though collective bargaining might sound good in theory, even professional athletes can have trouble getting their respective leagues to meet their demands. Could college athletes really be successful, or would they be better off if the NCAA reformed to allow substantial player representation within the current structure?

The group only includes football and men's basketball players. Could Title IX regulations force it to include athletes who hold scholarships in other sports?

But perhaps most important to the NCAA, if athletes are deemed employees, its current definition of amateurism -- a definition that helps justify the current power and monetary structure -- would likely end. According to Gould, that ideal has already been compromised.

"When you speak of it as amateur athletics, this is a vast commercial enterprise, and it's hardly amateur," Gould said. "I don't know that we can really call it amateur."

 

February 12, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
All Rights Reserved
The Philadelphia Inquirer
By Ben Finley; Inquirer Staff Writer

A Montgomery County judge on Tuesday ordered a former tennis coach at a Main Line girls' school to face trial for allegedly kissing and sending suggestive text messages to a player on his team.

The judge's decision followed about 30 minutes of sometimes tearful testimony from the girl, who was 15 at the time of the alleged crimes.

Charles Meredith, 52, coached her for about two years at Country Day School of the Sacred Heart in Bryn Mawr before his arrest in December. He has since been fired.

The girl testified that Meredith sent her several texts last year containing messages such as "you're so hot."

"I wouldn't respond back in any sexual way," she told District Judge Francis Bernhardt III in a Plymouth Township courtroom. "I would just talk about tennis."

But the texts kept coming, she said, including one that offered to buy her alcoholic drinks at Christopher's, a restaurant in Wayne.

Then, sometime in August, she said, Meredith kissed her for two to three minutes after practice in the parking lot of the SuperFit gym in Plymouth Township.

"He pulled his car around and put it in park and started kissing me," the girl testified, adding that Meredith told her not to tell anyone.

Meredith is the latest in a string of area youth coaches accused of having or attempting sexual contact with a player. He faces two counts of corruption of minors: one for the texts and one for the kiss, police said. The charge is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to five years in prison.

Meredith, who lives in Upper Merion Township, is free on $50,000 unsecured bail.

The girl testified that Meredith's texts continued until the end of the tennis season in October, when, after a postseason dinner, he texted her that she was going to be "his dessert."

The girl eventually told her mother about the texts, and she then went to the police. The teen then told detectives about the kiss, according to Plymouth Township police.

Meredith's attorney, James Freeman of Phoenixville, has said that Meredith will fight the charges. Before the district judge on Tuesday, Freeman challenged one of the corruption-of-minors counts because it was based on a kiss as opposed to more substantial sexual activity, something he said was unusual.

The judge, however, said the girl's testimony was enough to send the case to County Court.

In an interview after the hearing, prosecutor Jordan Friter rejected Freeman's claim that a kiss wasn't enough to make a case. He said a kiss is sexual conduct, which has been the basis for many corruption-of-minors cases statewide.

bfinley@phillynews.com

610-313-8118

@Ben_Finley

 

February 12, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
All Rights Reserved
The Philadelphia Daily News
BY DAN GERINGER; Daily News Staff Writer geringd@phillynews.com, 215-854-5961

Jason Wentzell, who has been a Philadelphia police officer for 17 years, grew up playing roller hockey at the Fishtown Rec Rink and firmly believes it saved his life.

"There's two paths to go down in this neighborhood," the lifelong Fishtowner said. "As a kid, I hung around with a rough crowd. Some of them went one way. A lot of them went the other way.

"I lived two, three blocks away from the rink," Wentzell continued. "As soon as school was out, we'd go right over there. I was a lot better off playing hockey than hanging on the street corner." Saving a dying rink

For 40 years, Thomas "Hooker" Lynch - nicknamed for his great hook shot - lived across narrow Montgomery Avenue from the Fishtown Rec Rink and devoted his life to keeping the struggling neighborhood's kids on skates and out of trouble.

Lynch died from cancer in July 2001, and the Fishtown kids like Wentzell who played for him, now middle-age with families of their own, say it seemed as if the rink died with him.

When the Daily News reported its shocking deterioration last year, the rink that had been the heart of Fishtown was in dire need of major surgery.

The playing surface had so many dangerous cracks and crevices that roller hockey was a distant memory, and even foot hockey, in which players wear sneakers instead of skates, was risky.

The rusted metal roof leaked so badly on rainy days that Bob Mulvenna, who ran adult-league games, often delayed them for up to an hour while his brother, Danny, dried the big puddles with a propane blowtorch.

The boards were badly rotted, loose and constantly popping nails.

Scott Tharp, president and CEO of the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation, said that when he read the Daily News story on the Fishtown Rec Rink's woes, his immediate impulse was to help.

The Snider Foundation had already put up half the $14 million cost of renovating four of Philadelphia's public ice rinks, including Scanlon in Kensington, to make them year-round facilities.

"Given what we'd done at the Scanlon Ice Rink nearby in Kensington, Fishtown Rink was kind of a no-brainer for us," Tharp said. "We wanted to get the Fishtown rink rejuvenated so kids could play roller hockey there again, and then it would be a natural transition for those kids who wanted to play ice hockey to come to Scanlon.

"I went to Mr. Snider and said, 'This is something we should support,' and as always, he was quick to say, 'Go for it.' "

Tharp took his idea to the two key guys who felt the same way: Deputy Mayor Michael DiBerardinis, who oversees the city's Parks & Recreation Department, has "Philly gym rat" in his DNA and watched all four of his children play roller hockey and indoor soccer at Fishtown Rink, and City Council President Darrell Clarke, who grew up playing ball in Strawberry Mansion.

Clarke told the Daily News he is "excited to see that the guys I grew up with are now the coaches in the neighborhood leagues."

So when DiBerardinis said rehabbing Fishtown Rink would cost $40,000, he, Tharp and Clarke knew it would happen.

Clarke, who contributed $15,000 from his district budget, said the makeover was doable because of the city's new policy of using its own employees who are licensed skilled tradesman to do restorations such as gym floors and roofs, provided that materials are paid for by the district councilperson.

The Snider Foundation kicked in $10,000 toward the rink's restoration and donated a trove of pricey goalie equipment, helmets and new jerseys for Fishtown's young hockey players.

DiBerardinis said Parks & Rec contributed $15,000 and 400 hours of skilled-trades labor - so Fishtown rink got a makeover instead of a patchwork job.

The boards are new. The roof is plasticized and leak-proofed. The concrete playing surface is now so smooth that Wentzell, who runs youth foot-hockey league games on Sunday mornings, dreams of bringing back the roller hockey of his youth by next winter.

But for now, 80 Fishtown kids on four foot-hockey teams are running the rink safely and joyously, and Wentzell doesn't have to get there at the crack of dawn to hammer loose nails back into rotted boards as he did last year.

'A roller-hockey mecca'

On a recent frigid Sunday morning, coach Bob Markley, a man in constant hyperdrive, took a break from shouting himself hoarse, encouraging his fledgling players, when his 8-year-old son, nicknamed "Boo," ran over and said, "Dad, my hands are freezing."

Markley took off his own gloves and offered them to Boo.

"Then your hands will be cold, dad," Boo said. Markley insisted. Boo ran back to the hockey action and scored a goal. Markley smiled warmly while visibly shivering.

"He's my man," Markley said. "My dad coached me here when I was a kid, and now I'm coaching my son here.

"I'm 41. When I was a kid growing up two blocks from here, this was a roller-hockey mecca. Teams came from South Philly, Port Richmond, Kensington to play here. I came home from school, put my roller skates on and didn't take them off till I went to bed."

Markley pointed to a small house across the street. "Hooker Lynch lived right over there," he said. "The whole playground was his baby. He pretty much raised us here. This was the backbone of the neighborhood. Once Hooker passed away, the rink started getting vandalized and everything here turned to crap."

But now, Fishtown Rink is back. Back for 80 neighborhood kids. Back for 200 neighborhood men who battle sore muscles and each other in the adult league.

Against his better judgment, Markley let friends persuade him to join that adult league, where he soon discovered he wasn't 26 years old - the last time he played hockey - anymore.

"I haven't run in 10 years," he said, laughing, while Boo raced up and down the rink effortlessly. "After the first game, I could hardly get out of bed. My legs were sore as hell for a week. What was I thinking? That I was going to be jumping around like it was 1993?"

He laughed again, watching his son as his father once watched him. Markley hopes, like Wentzell, that Fishtown Rink is on its way to being a roller-hockey mecca again.

That, said Markley, would be a great way to honor the beloved Thomas "Hooker" Lynch - and to keep Fishtown kids happy and safe, as Hooker did for as long as he lived.

On Twitter: @DanGeringer

 

February 12, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.
Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
By Marc Pendleton

BEAVERCREEK - John Ahrns will resign as Beavercreek High School's boys varsity basketball coach following this season.

He confided to athletic director Jim Smerz last fall, citing a new Ohio High School Athletic Association ruling put into effect around that time.

"That makes it essentially a year-round sport," he said on Tuesday after telling his senior-laden team that he wouldn't be back next season. "This just increases everything. There are a lot of other things in life worthwhile that I would like to do."

Ahrns is a 1994 Beave-creek grad who played on Western Ohio League championship teams for then-coach Larry Holden. It was Holden who encouraged Ahrns to enter coaching at age 22.

Ahrns eventually succeeded Charlie Back as the Beavers head coach in the 2008-09 season. His first team was 3-18, the second 2-19.

Two seasons later, in 2011-12, Beavercreek went 18-5 and won the Greater Western Ohio Conference Central Division title.

"We started at a low point and then built up and I'm really proud of where we're at," Ahrns said. "I'm still going to be Beavercreek's biggest supporter."

Beavercreek is 13-7 this season and a No. 3 seed in the upcoming Division I sectional tournament. The Beavers are 57-72 overall during Ahrns' five-plus seasons. However, in the last two-plus seasons they're 44-22.

The OHSAA's new ruling allowed many more coaching hours in the offseason for high school coaches. Groups of four players could be taught throughout the year, except for 30 days after the season and August.

Ahrns said to remain competitive, a varsity coach must be willing to spend a maximum amount of weekly hours instructing players as allowed by OHSAA rules.

He estimated the Beavers' coaching staff spent four or five days per week, three to four hours at a time, providing personal instruction.

"We did it knowing that everybody else was doing it," he said. "You gotta keep up in order to compete. As this was happening last fall, I lost two of the best friends that I ever had. It really helped me re-evaluate what my priorities are in life."

He hopes to continue coaching, just not as a varsity coach.

Contact this reporter at 937-225-2381 or email Marc.Pen dleton@coxinc.com Twitter: @MarcPendleton

 

February 12, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Richmond Newspapers, Inc.
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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

In previous years, Henrico boys basketball coach Vance Harmon would post the Capital District standings on the dry erase board in the team room. Every day, his players knew exactly where they stood and how close they were to the competition.

But since the Virginia High School League's realignment in August, area basketball teams are somewhat in the dark in regard to where they stand in their conferences.

When the regular season ends on Saturday, area basketball teams will prepare for their conference tournaments, not a district tournament as in years past. Conferences lines are drawn by enrollment. Districts were formed by geography.

And since some conference opponents never face each other in the regular season, a simple win-loss record can't be used to determine conference seeding. Instead, a power rating is calculated, similar to the one used to seed football teams.

Because of the complexity of the power rating, Harmon no longer posts standings on the board. He and his staff calculate the rating for every team in the conference, but it's far from official.

"It (used to be) easy to figure out where you were," Harmon said. "Now you've got to be somewhat of a math scholar to figure it out."

For Henrico and the rest of Conference 11, here's the path to the playoffs: For each win against a VHSL opponent, a team earns seven points. If a team loses to an opponent from a higher classification, the loser is awarded bonus points. Add up all the points, divide by the number of games played, and that's the team's power rating.

When Harmon and his staff did the math over the weekend, they calculated that Henrico is tied with Highland Springs with a rating of 5.35. But not until the official ratings were circulated Monday morning did they know for sure.

In football, the VHSL calculates and announces the power rating of every team in the state at the beginning of each week. But in every other sport, that task is left to the athletic directors. In Conference 11, the task goes to Hermitage AD Chris Rollison.

After recording scores from the Internet and asking for team records from other ADs, he sat down with a pen, paper and calculator to figure out the conference standings. The first time he hammered out each team's power rating, in mid-January, it took him 90 minutes.

Because figuring the power ratings of eight boys teams and eight girls teams is no easy task, Rollison can't produce updated standings every day. At the same time, some coaches feel uneasy about not always knowing where they fit into their conference standing.

"Coaches should know this stuff," Henrico assistant Chris Brown said.

Further complicating the issue is that other conferences in the area don't use the same rules as Conference 11. The VHSL mandates that every conference conduct a postseason tournament and that every team in the conference participate. But how those teams are seeded is up to the individual conferences.

"There's not a uniform policy throughout the state," Rollison said.

So conferences have adopted different rules. Conference 12 uses the winning percentage in conference games to determine its seeds. Conference 20 uses the VHSL power rating, but includes out-of-state games in its calculation, unlike Conference 11.

Not every coach in the area will fret about power ratings and where each team fits into the standings, Brown said. Some will take a much simpler approach: wait until the season ends and go where you're told to go.

ekolenich@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6109

@EricKolenichRTD

Copyright © 2014, The Richmond Times-Dispatch and may not be republished without permission. E-mail library@timesdispatch.com

 

February 12, 2014

 

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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)
TIM PEARRELL

Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart said it's never acceptable for a player to react the way Oklahoma State sophomore Marcus Smart did when he shoved a Texas Tech fan on Saturday.

But the Rams' coach also said the NCAA, conferences and schools should better protect players by ejecting and banning fans who spew abuse that includes inappropriate or highly charged comments.

"There's a problem in that fans believe they can say anything they want simply because they buy a ticket," he said.

"The NCAA, conferences and schools all have the generic sportsmanship disclaimer which says we do not tolerate sexist, racist, homophobic, whatever it is (comments).... If that's the case, then those individuals who are making those comments should be removed from the game and should be barred to coming to future games for life. If you don't tolerate something, then you don't look the other way."

Marcus Smart landed in the crowd along the baseline after trying to block a shot and being called for a foul in the waning moments of Oklahoma State's 65-61 loss at Texas Tech.

Red Raiders fan Jeff Orr said he called Smart "a piece of crap," according to reports, but denied using a racial slur. Smart, a top NBA prospect, went after Orr and shoved him.

Texas Tech said in a statement that witnesses in the area did not hear a racial slur, and that at no point can a slur be heard on video provided by Texas Tech Sports Broadcasting.

Smart apologized and was suspended for three games. Orr also apologized and agreed not to attend a Texas Tech home or away basketball game for the rest of the season.

For Shaka Smart, the incident underscores an issue with the culture of anything-goes crowd behavior.

"These are human beings," said Smart, who coached Marcus Smart (no relation) with USA Basketball the past two summers and called him "a great kid."

"We had a game earlier this year where there was a comment made to one of our players about (his) mother that was so far out of line that just for a split second I had the reaction to go do something about it. It was during the game, so I snapped myself right back to where I needed to be coaching the game."

Smart said behavior in arenas and stadiums is "the only situation in life where a 40-some-year-old man is allowed to use cuss words, potentially racial slurs, at a 19-year-old kid, and that kid can't do anything about it. When he does, he's suspended."

Smart said belligerent fans "are going to go all the way up to the line that they think they can go up to. So you've got to draw the line."

The University of Richmond's Robins Center renovation completed for this season included movement of some seats closer to the court. That modification has led to an improved home-court atmosphere, according to UR coach Chris Mooney.

"I think all the players and coaches realize you should just kind of ignore the fans, obviously, as best you can," Mooney said. "I'm sure (Marcus Smart) regrets what happened, but I don't think it's shocking because of how intense and how intimate the settings are."

Typically, those seated courtside and in the rows closest to the court are major contributors to the school's athletics program.

Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said Marcus Smart's reaction was wrong, "but it's a real societal problem that people can say... whatever they want. It happened to be at a basketball game. But we all know the same thing happens in parking lots, it happens in (other places).

"We've lost our way, in that common decency is no longer part of the way that we communicate with each other. If we're talking about separation between players and fans, we've lost our way. We might as well give it up. What, are we going to go back to the gladiators and we're going to put a cage around the arena?"

tpearrell@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6965

@timpearrelltd

Staff writer John O'Connor contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2014, The Richmond Times-Dispatch and may not be republished without permission. E-mail library@timesdispatch.com

 

February 12, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Star Tribune
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
DAVID LA VAQUE; STAFF WRITER, STAR TRIBUNE (Mpls.-St. Paul)

Minnesota's first online high school set up to provide intensive hockey training has produced a girls' team that is charging toward next week's state tournament.

Regarded as "a new animal walking among the herd" by one high school coach, Achiever Academy is the top seed in Section 4 heading into Tuesday night's Class 1A semifinal game. The private school offers students, including those on a boys' team also playing well this season, up to three hours of hockey training in the morning and an online academic curriculum in the afternoon.

That unusual approach is raising questions in hockey circles about Achiever's legitimacy as a high school program even as its new owners, who took over the struggling business in January, scramble to provide answers.

Greg Gartner, a Stillwater-based business owner and youth hockey coach, and Tom Forsythe purchased the private high school in January. Achiever Academy and its originating program, Northern Educate, faced "imminent closure" otherwise, Forsythe said.

Gartner, who has a son at Northern Educate, said he believes in an alternative education model where kids are driven by a love of hockey, but he is aiming for a better balance of the school's athletics and academics.

Northern Educate opened in 2011, providing a whopping 480 hours of ice time for players during the school year. Launched a year later, Achiever Academy gave the grade-7-through-12 students a high school team to call their own.

Questions quickly ensued as Achiever began competing, ranging from the validity of the academic curriculum to fears of burnout for young athletes to complying with the Minnesota State High School League's eligibility rules.

"There is a lot of dissension among some coaches," said Tim Morris, executive director of the Minnesota Girls

Hockey Coaches Association. "The concern is, how does this fit in with the Minnesota State High School League and community-based programs?"

It also has generated scrutiny by the high school league, which recently received information concerning the eligibility of two players on the girls' team. Gartner and Forsythe discussed the situation, which reportedly involved compliance with a residency requirement, with league officials Friday. No final determination was made on the case, and both players participated in Saturday's quarterfinal victory.

Forsythe said the school is "willing to accept the consequences" of a future league action, which could include forfeiting games and exclusion from the state tournament if a player is found to have been ineligible.

Aware of what Gartner called the "perception in the industry" about Achiever's approach, he and Forsythe "want to be good citizens," he said, by adhering to high school league rules. It also means matching the hockey training at both schools with stronger academics.

"We do have a great hockey product," Gartner said. "But do we have a great academic product? I don't know that I can answer that affirmatively today. But I guarantee as this thing moves forward that will be our focus."

Academics important

Achiever Academy's 71 students receive academic and athletic instruction at the Vadnais Heights Sports Center, paying annual tuition of $13,000. Chris Peterson, hockey coach for the Aces' girls' program, said practicing hockey in the morning is unique. But the former Breck coach, who gets "a lot of questions" about what Achiever Academy is, said overall ice time is similar.

On the Sports Center's second floor, steps away from the rink, students sit at clusters of work stations on their laptops. A typical class day lasts four hours, and a 6-to-1 student-to-instructor ratio allows for individualized learning. Last week, one male student sat in the hallway outside as an instructor diagramed a math problem on a dry-erase white board. Another sat in the arena concourse, using a laptop with an instructor at his side, working on his studies over the hum of the ice resurfacing machine circling the rink.

"There are no laws regarding non-public school curriculum and how it's delivered," Forsythe said. "What's required is assessment and outcomes."

Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test results from 2012-13 were not immediately available from the past owners, Forsythe said. He said the school ranked above the state average.

Its students include Emily Antony, whose father, Rob, is the Minnesota Twins' vice president and assistant general manager. She started at Achiever Academy last fall after transferring from Rogers.

She said the "flexibility of working at your pace is my favorite part of it," said Antony, a junior. "I really want to play college hockey, so great schooling and hockey definitely sold it for me."

'Deep concerns'

Ken Pauly, president of the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association, said he has "deep concerns whether it's a step in the right direction. It could really open the door to something destructive."

High school league executive director Dave Stead said all Achiever Academy student-athletes are currently eligible, based on the league's guidelines for participation. But showing a clear separation between Northern Educate and Achiever Academy is vital. While players can train for their sport in specialized camps and programs outside of the high school season, the league prohibits athletes from being trained year-round by their school coaches.

Gartner said both Northern Educate and Achiever Academy are backing off from the reputation as "a grind-it-out hockey academy." While advertising 480 hours of ice time for youth players at Northern Educate, Gartner estimated his son is using about 280 hours while also playing youth hockey outside the program.

"We're not really selling hockey," Gartner said. "If that was the perception around the old environment here, it will definitely not be the perception going forward."

Gartner and Forsythe, using a newly minted company called Ability Academic and Athletic LLC, bought the schools from Shawn Black, who had failed to purchase the troubled Vadnais Heights Sports Center. Gartner and Forsythe said they do not plan to purchase any rinks. They hope to grow enrollment to about 200 students next year.

"We're giving a lot of kids a dynamic new way to get their education and pursue their dreams at the same time," Forsythe said. "We're not promising anybody an NHL career. But hockey is an amazing vehicle to prepare kids for life."

'NEW ANIMAL' IN MINNESOTA HOCKEY

Northern Educate: Opened in 2011, boasting intense hockey skill instruction and online academic learning for all youth ages at facilities in Vadnais Heights and Eden Prairie. Includes up to 480 hours of ice time for youth hockey players during the school year.

Achiever Academy: High school-based program begun in 2012 for boys' hockey players and in 2013 for girls. Teams compete as independents in Class 1A under Minnesota State High School League rules. Achiever boys' record is 14-7-2 this season. The girls' team is 20-5-1.

Concerns raised: Some high school hockey observers question the validity of the online academic curriculum. Others cite fears of burnout for young athletes. The Minnesota State High School League is reviewing a challenge to the eligibility of two players on Achiever's girls' team.

New owners: Greg Gartner, a Stillwater-based business owner and youth hockey coach, and Tom Forsythe purchased Northern Educate and Achiever for an undisclosed amount in January, staving off what they said was "imminent closure" of the programs. They say they plan a renewed focus on academics.

 

February 11, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune
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The Salt Lake Tribune
By Tony Jones The Salt Lake Tribune

Bill Cosby was the star of the first major show at the Huntsman Center. That was all the way back in 1969.

Mike Newlin -- one of the leading scorers in Utah history -- recorded the arena's first basket, and recently talked about it at a university fundraiser.

Along the way, the Huntsman Center housed Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. It stood tall during the Rick Majerus era, has hosted a grand total of 81 NCAA Tournament games and is the place where Larry Krystkowiak is putting together a Utah men's basketball resurgence.

In other words, the Huntsman Center is a historical place. But like most historic places, it needs renovating and upgrading. And that time is almost here.

A long-awaited renovation of the old arena is set to begin after the Utes basketball and gymnastics teams clear out for the season. Construction is scheduled to begin on March 20th.

"It has been and will continue to be a great basketball venue," Krystkowiak said. "But over time, all great things need a bit of a facelift. We're going to dress it up, and enhance some things. This is a tremendous facility and it's going to be great for fans to come and see some of the things we have in store."

In a sense, the upgrades have already begun.

Taking a stroll around the bowels of the building, some changes are already in place. New video screens were added to the scoreboard in 2006, and the Utes lockerroom was upgraded a few years ago.

Construction was originally slated to begin in early in March, but has been delayed in the event the Utes host a postseason game.

Utah athletics director Chris Hill said the project should be finished by early fall. When it is, the Huntsman will have a brand new floor. It will have a new scoreboard. It will have a new sound system and new lighting.

The old floor will be ripped up during the initial construction and replaced by a temporary floor to accommodate graduation. In all, the renovations will cost $6 million, a sum that will be paid for by Auxiliary Services, the company that owns the Huntsman Center.

"This is going to be great for the fans and the student athletes," Hill said. "We're really excited this is going to happen. The new lighting is going to be a tremendous benefit because it won't use as much electricity and that will help save money. They infrastructure wasn't as good as it should be, so this should make a difference."

The arena's seating won't be changed during these renovations, so the Huntsman Center will continue to hold 15,000 and continue to be the largest venue in the Pac-12.

Hill said an even bigger arena renovation is planned for down the road, a facelift that will include the installation of premium seating and concourse renovations. But the Utah AD stresses that is a long-term plan.

Hill also says there are plans to put draping around the upper bowl for volleyball and women's basketball games in order to create a more intimate home court atmosphere for both sports.

This marks the first year the volleyball team has played all its games at the Huntsman Center. But even when they or the women's basketball team draws relatively good crowds, the arena still looks largely empty. The draping should help offset that.

"It will do a great job of shrinking the gymnasium and create more of an advantage," Hill said. "We're really looking forward to the end result. We think it's going to be a major upgrade."

tjones@sltrib.com

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February 11, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 The Durham Herald Co.
All Rights Reserved
The Herald-Sun (Durham, N.C.)
JAMICA C. ASHLEY jashley@heraldsun.com; 919-419-6675

HILLSBOROUGH - It's the year of the playground at Hillsborough Elementary.

Designated as such by the Hillsborough Elementary School PTA, the school's modest playground is just weeks and dollars away from a brand-new, age-appropriate play area.

"It's not your traditional playground," said playground committee co-chair Bessie Mbadugha-Keiper. "It's really fitness-oriented."

The Burke Premier Play Environment proposed playground comes with two slides, monkey bars, spinners, climbing nets and more to help students strengthen their bodies while having fun. The equipment even comes with its own curriculum, allowing physical education teachers to integrate it into their lessons.

"It's a 50-by-70-foot area and all of it will be used," said Susan Fenwick, co-chair of the playground committee. "We're taking advantage of that open space."

The open space has been marked off with white lines and a tree that was once in a back corner has been removed. The space that will house the new playground is to the side of the swings already in place and behind the basketball court.

The existing playground equipment, swings and monkey bars, will remain.

The entire project began about a year ago when the need for a new playground was identified. With Jennie McCray being instrumental in the initial planning and fundraising, Mbadugha-Keiper and Fenwick applied for and were awarded a Kaboom! Dr. Pepper Snapple Let's Play Community Construction grant for $15,000 in August.

But the grant money they were awarded was just part of the $50,000 goal. Once people knew the playground would be a reality, the help began to pour in.

"The kids got excited," Fenwick said. "The Read-A-Thon is our primary fundraiser and we used that to announce that we had got the grant."

"The kids are really excited," said Mbadugha-Keiper. "Now that they see the posters, they can't wait."

Krispy Kreme doughnut sales, PTA donations, sponsor solicitation, local companies, an anonymous family foundation, Box Tops collections and the school's fall festival have all contributed to the funds raised so far.

The committee has collected a little more than $48,500 so far, not including the donations from a week-long coin drive or the additional resources that will be needed for the Community Build Day to assemble the playground.

Local architect Christopher Wehrman designed a rendering of the proposed playground and it hangs around Hillsborough Elementary.

"It made our project seem that much more professional," said Fenwick. "When we go to people and explain what we're doing, we've got the plans to show. It's definitely a gift to have someone with that professional background to give us their time."

From 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. on March 8, the HES community will come together for the Community Build Day to build the playground. Stipulated by the grant, the project has to be completed before August and built by volunteers.

And since children under 18 cannot help with the building, they can help with the beautification of the school's grounds including clearing the nature trail.

"There's a sense of 'we're all in this together' and we're getting help from many different venues," said Fenwick.

Fenwick and Mbadugha-Keiper said that Orange County Schools has been very supportive of the project, willing to provide a drainage system, mulching and surfacing of the playground. They are also applying for a $1,000 grant through OCS to help meet the rest of the financial goal.

For information on donating time or money to the Hillsborough Elementary playground, contact the HES Playground Committee at hesplayground@gmail.com

 

February 11, 2014

 

 
 

 

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Copyright 2014 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
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The Philadelphia Daily News
By Sam Donnellon; Daily News Staff Writer

We all have our stories. We all know how much bigger the Marcus Smart story would be if it took place here, in Philadelphia, if Jeff Orr were our Bubba and not Texas Tech's Bubba. Most of us have seen someone, some have been that someone, who has interpreted a ticket to a sporting event as a license to behave in a manner that would have us arrested, beaten up, fired and/or shunned if done outside the gate we entered.

Orr, the Texas Tech fan Smart exchanged words with and famously pushed Saturday night during a game with Smart's Oklahoma State team in Lubbock, spends the time he is not commuting to watch Tech games as an air-traffic controller in his hometown of Waco.

Imagine if he called someone "a piece of crap" during those hours of his life.

Or the word Smart told his coach immediately afterward Orr called him.

He would have even more free time on his hands than he will now, after announcing - with some consultation from the university - that he would skip the remaining games of Texas Tech's schedule.

A comforting thought for the other ticket-paying customers at Tech's United Spirit Arena.

Not so comforting for the good citizens of Waco.

Whether he used the N-word to incite Smart in Saturday's game or used more words to imply the same thing, Orr should not be confused with any first-time offender caught up in the moment and regretful immediately afterward. Current and former players say his foul words and taunts from his seat behind the goal have gone on for years, with the school's benign approval. The school even did a video about Orr's "superfan" status over the years.

NBA star Kevin Durant, who played for Texas in college, recognized him. Indiana Pacers guard Donald Sloan, who played at rival Texas A & M from 2006 to '10, said Orr has "been doing that ever since I was there." Sloan said Orr has screamed "[Bleep] you" at him, flipped him the bird repeatedly, too. A YouTube video from 2010 shows Orr, emphatically arm to elbow, flipping the bird at Sloan's A & M teammate, Bryan Davis, as he backpedaled after ending the play with a dunk.

Now come the common-sense disclaimers. It is never OK to go into the stands and fight fans, even if that awful word is used. And it never ends well. Metta World Peace, who inflamed the ugly brawl between the Pacers and the Pistons when he went by the name Ron Artest in 2004, is still identified with that more than the NBA championship he was a part of. NBC hockey analyst Mike Milbury is lucky to be part of a sport in which entering the stands to beat a man with his own shoe, as he did as a Bruin in 1979, is quickly eclipsed by excessive behavior of equal or greater notoriety.

But there has been a behavioral devolution in how we cheer and appreciate sports over the last 40 years. Some of that has been fueled, I suppose, by the cost of attending these events, even college games. Some of it has to do with the entitlement elite athletes expect and sometimes receive, and a resentment of that by a public that feels underappreciated and often underwhelmed, as well.

I wonder if we would be any more patient with the Flyers' power play or the Eagles' first offensive series if we paid less for the ticket.

Maybe.

But some of it is about how we have changed, too. How we watch sports now is more judgmental and unforgiving, whether it's the younger generation's appreciation through fantasy leagues and statistical analysis or the elders' angry disdain for a sports landscape where pro players change teams often and college players leave early.

The only time you see a lot of little kids at games is when the team is bad or the timing is. In their place we too often find these adult "superfans," who bring an agenda to the games they attend, an agenda to be part of the action, to get something in return for their devotion, even to add relevance to their lives.

Most of the backlash from Saturday night's incident was about Smart, about how he will have to contain his emotions in the future and not let words, even the worst ones, send him back into those stands.

He must learn, mature, regulate himself. Because the way it's set up now, the future is likely to be inhabited by more Jeff Orrs, not fewer.

Email: donnels@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @samdonnellon

Columns: ph.ly/Donnellon

 

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Copyright 2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Tim Tucker; Staff

Falcons fans must wait a while longer to find out how much they'll have to pay for personal seat licenses to keep their season tickets in the team's new stadium. But other key provisions of the PSL plan were revealed in a recently completed contract between the team and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority.

The agreement, dated Feb. 5 and obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under the state's Open Records Act, outlines a program in which the Falcons will price and sell the seat licenses to help pay for the $1.2 billion retractable-roof stadium slated to open in 2017.

According to the agreement, payment of a one-time seat-license fee will provide the right to purchase Falcons season tickets in a specific seat for at least 30 years. All Falcons season tickets in the new stadium, regardless of seat location, will require a PSL.

The PSL will not include the right to buy tickets for the seat at other events held in the stadium.

The seat licenses would be transferable, or sellable, by those who buy them. Transfers by individuals to nonfamily members or by businesses to unaffiliated entities generally would require prior written approval from the Falcons.

The contract and other documents obtained by the AJC, including a sales form to be signed by seat-license buyers, cover many aspects of the program, even describing several financing options fans could consider. But the documents offer no hint of the anticipated prices.

Atlanta Falcons Stadium Co., a subsidiary of the team, will "develop a pricing structure for the PSLs which must be approved by the GWCCA," according to the agreement. The GWCCA is the state agency that will own the stadium and lease it to the Falcons, who will operate it. Prices "will be based on, among other things, the location of the seat and... the associated amenities," the documents state.

Personal seat licenses have been widely used across the country, particularly by NFL teams, to raise money for building or renovating stadiums. This marks the first time an Atlanta team will use them. Each PSL applies to one seat, meaning a family seeking four season tickets would need to buy four PSLs.

At other stadiums in recent years, seat licenses have cost thousands of dollars per seat and, in prime locations, tens of thousands of dollars per seat. Without providing specifics, the Falcons have said their program will be more modest than in some recent cases.

The Falcons have "no specific date at this time" for setting and announcing seat-license prices, Kim Shreckengost, executive vice president of the team's parent company, AMB Group, said by email Monday. But she indicated it's still a ways off.

"We anticipate club seat relocations will begin in early 2015, and season ticket relocations will start later that year," she said. "PSL and ticket prices will be finalized sometime before then."

Shreckengost said "a small number of seats will be held back" from the PSL program "for internal business or community purposes." But "any season tickets sold to the general public will require the purchase of a PSL."

Other details of the Falcons' seat-license plan, according to the documents obtained by the AJC:

* Three payment options are contemplated: a single lump-sum payment, a short-term payment schedule with no finance charges and a long-term payment schedule with finance charges.

* The seat licenses will be offered first to the Falcons' existing club-seat and season-ticket holders. A wait list, with a refundable deposit, is planned for others. Fans on the wait list would be able to buy PSLs available after current season-ticket holders secure their seats.

* The licenses won't include the right to buy tickets for such events as the SEC Championship football game, Chick-fil-A Bowl, or a Super Bowl or Final Four played in the stadium.

* The licenses also won't include the right to purchase tickets to games of any team using the stadium except the Falcons. However, license holders may be offered "priority" access to available tickets for some other teams' games.

* PSL holders can control their specified seats for 30 years --- the Falcons' minimum lease term in the stadium --- and potentially 45 years if the team extends its lease. However, the PSLs will expire if the stadium is renovated or rebuilt at a cost of more than $300 million after the 30th year.

* If the holder of a seat license fails to pay on time for season tickets "at a price determined each year by the team," the PSL will terminate and the Falcons can sell a new one for the same seat.

* While approval of seat-license transfers "will not be unreasonably withheld," a long list of terms and conditions includes an acknowledgement that a buyer "is not acquiring any PSL as an investment and has no expectation of profit." A transfer fee will be charged.

* All net proceeds from seat-license sales before the stadium opens will go toward the cost of construction, effectively reducing the Falcons' contribution by that amount. Proceeds from PSL sales after the stadium opens will go to the Falcons.

Falcons fans have inquired often about seat-license prices since it became known in 2012 that PSLs would be part of the stadium financing plan in some way.

In three recently built NFL stadiums, the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants/Jets and San Francisco 49ers caused sticker shock with their PSL prices. Depending on seat location, the Cowboys' prices ranged from $2,000 to $150,000, the Giants/Jets from $1,000 to $25,000 and the 49ers from $2,000 to $80,000. The Falcons have said they don't expect to generate as much money from their PSL program as those franchises did.

The Minnesota Vikings last week announced lower, although still considerable, seat license prices for their stadium that is slated to open in 2016, one year before the Falcons stadium.

Minnesota's PSL fees vary from a high of $9,500 for field-level 50-yard-line seats to a low of $500 for some upper-level seats in the end zones and corners, averaging out to about $2,500 per seat.

The Vikings intend to net $100 million from seat licenses, which the team said would rank in the middle in inflation-adjusted dollars of the 19 NFL teams that have sold them. The Falcons have not said how much they expect to raise, but a consultant's study commissioned by the GWCCA projected $100 million to $200 million.

 

February 11, 2014

 

 
 

 

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Doug Roberson; Staff

With teams representing the ACC, SEC, Sun Belt, Atlantic Sun and Southern conferences, it's difficult to know which college men's basketball team rules Georgia. Though they sometimes play each other during the season, they have never faced off in any kind of statewide tournament-style format.

Coaches or athletic directors at Georgia, Georgia State, Mercer and Kennesaw State are preliminarily interested in the possibility of facing each other in an annual in-state event.

Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity said he would like to see a proposal.

Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory isn't sure such an event would fit into his team's crowded nonconference schedule, but said, "Let's revisit that down the road."

The benefits of such a tournament would go beyond bragging rights for fans. It could also enhance the profile of college basketball in the state and create a set of meaningful games in December when schools customarily struggle for attendance.

"I love the idea!" Kennesaw State Athletic Director Vaughn Williams said in an email. "(Coach) Lewis (Preston) and I have talked about this since the day we got here. And now with all of us going to be in different conferences, I think it works even better."

One of the bigger issues, as Gregory noted, would be fitting the event into each team's schedule. Georgia Tech, for example, already participates in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Yellow Jackets also already have several home-and-home nonconference games set.

Working around final exams and conference games also impacts the scheduling puzzle.

"It's a solid concept. The challenge would be finding dates that would work for all of the schools," Georgia State Athletic Director Cheryl Levick said.

Other issues --- a site, a TV partner, a title sponsor --- have potential answers.

Trey Feazell, senior vice president and general manager of Philips Arena, said the arena would be interested in exploring the event as a possible host.

TV might also pursue such an event.

"Fox Sports South would be very interested in discussing television coverage opportunities for a college basketball tournament consisting of the major colleges and universities throughout Georgia," according to Jeff Genthner, senior vice president and general manager of Fox Sports South.

Dan Corso, executive director of the Atlanta Sports Council, said his organization also would be interested.

He said the council could assist companies that are curious about title sponsorship.

"Georgia has some of the most passionate basketball fans anywhere, and this would create an even higher level of excitement for the sport, especially early in the season," Corso said. "There are a number of factors that go into planning such an event and we would have to assess its feasibility.

"But if the interest is there among the schools, we would welcome the opportunity to participate in a discussion."

December appears to be the logical time for such an event, since drawing crowds that month is historically difficult.

Georgia Tech hosted three games in December this season with an average announced attendance of 6,125 in 8,600-seat McCamish Pavilion. Georgia hosted four games in December with an average announced attendance of 5,906 in 10,523-seat Stegeman Coliseum.

Numbers like those is one of the reasons Mercer coach Bob Hoffman said an in-state tournament would help everyone.

"I think it would be huge in Atlanta just for promoting basketball," he said. "I know it's hard for Georgia Tech and Georgia around Christmas to get big games. If they all paraded the rest of us through, playing in Philips Arena..."

An in-state event is hardly a new concept.

Philadelphia's Big Five (Temple, La Salle, Villanova, St. Joseph's and Penn) work their schedules so that each team faces the others at least once per season. Rivals Xavier and Cincinnati play each other in the "Crosstown Classic." Indiana, Butler, Purdue and Notre Dame have recently started to participate in a doubleheader in Indianapolis called the "Crossroads Classic."

Some of Georgia's teams play each other, but most meetings are inconsistently scheduled.

Georgia and Georgia Tech have faced each yearly since 1923, usually playing in December the past four decades.

Georgia Tech defeated Kennesaw State this year in their first meeting since the Owls famously defeated them in 2010. The Bulldogs last played Kennesaw State five seasons ago and lead the series 2-0.

Georgia Tech hasn't played Georgia State since 2008-09 and leads the series 17-2. Georgia last played Georgia State in 2005-06 and leads the series 5-2.

The Yellow Jackets last played Mercer two years ago and lead the series 28-17. Georgia played Mercer last season and leads the series 54-23.

If anything, Georgia's basketball hierarchy has been in flux in recent years.

The state's two flagship programs, Georgia and Georgia Tech, haven't been able to win with any consistency and have only one NCAA tournament appearance each since the 2009-10 season.

The best team over the past five years has arguably been Mercer, but few fans around the state might know. The Bears haven't been able to win the Atlantic Sun tournament, which would guarantee a place in the NCAA tournament.

The best team right now may be Georgia State, which is riding a school-record 14-game winning streak. But its lack of history has made it difficult for the Panthers to earn the media spotlight.

As long as the Panthers and Bears can sustain their success, it might behoove the Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets to play their in-state foes with greater frequency to strengthen their nonconference schedules.

The Bears have the highest RPI (67) of any state team entering Monday's play. Mercer ranks ahead of Georgia State (tied at 90), Georgia (114), Georgia Tech (t-142) and Kennesaw State (t-324).

"You have enough mid-majors and high-majors to make (a tournament) interesting," Kennesaw State interim coach Jimmy Lallathin said. "We're kind of already doing it in ways, but it would be nice to consolidate it."

The conference carousel won't clarify the situation with more changes to come next season. Georgia Southern, another interesting candidate, will move from the Southern Conference into the Sun Belt, joining Georgia State. Mercer will leave the Atlantic Sun for the Southern Conference.

In the new alignment, the state's largest schools will still be spread over five conferences, which does little to settle a hoops water-cooler argument. If only there were an in-state tournament.

"There's no reason teams in this state shouldn't play each other," Georgia State coach Ron Hunter said.

 

February 11, 2014

 

 
 

 

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Ken Sugiura; Staff

Georgia Tech's marquee game on the 2014 home football schedule will be its Nov. 15 matchup against ACC rival Clemson.

The athletic department is considering an auction-style sales format to maximize revenue from the game.

"I think the growth of the secondary ticket market has spurred this, as people have seen a third party profiting significantly on high-demand games and saying, 'Well, you know what? We sure could use those resources,'" Tech athletic director Mike Bobinski said.

Tech staffers have been in contact with counterparts at Northwestern, which sold single-game tickets for two premium games last season using a version of a "Dutch auction" suggested by Northwestern economists. Every dollar counts at Tech, which continually struggles to break even financially and doesn't fully fund scholarships for its track, cross country or swimming teams.

At Northwestern, the school sold single-game tickets for its games against Ohio State and Michigan using a modified auction.

It established prices for three different tiers of seats and then lowered the prices based on demand until that tier sold out.

Ticket buyers who purchased at a higher price were refunded the difference between their price and the final, lowest price.

There was also a "floor price" that the school wouldn't go below to avoid selling for less than what season-ticket holders paid.

Those going in at a higher price "are not going to feel like they got burned," Northwestern assistant athletic director Ryan Chenault said. "The benefit, too, is if you jump in early, you get the better seats."

Chenault would not provide sales figures but noted that the final sales price for sideline tickets for the Ohio State game was about $190. The Michigan tickets sold for more than $100. As a comparison, for the 2012 game against Nebraska, Northwestern's highest ticket price was $70.

Chenault said there wasn't much pushback from fans as marketers were proactive in explaining the auction. It was also pitched as an added benefit for season-ticket holders, as they could secure tickets for those premium games and avoid the auction.

"It makes (season tickets) a lot more attractive," Chenault said.

In fact, Northwestern reached an all-time high for sales of season tickets , surpassing even the years following the Wildcats' Rose Bowl trips.

Tech's consideration follows the trend in professional and college athletics to adjust ticket prices based on the opponent as well as the popularity of ticket resale websites such as StubHub. Tech already sets different prices for ACC games and the Georgia game compared to other nonconference games.

Though Tech has yet to put tickets for the 2014 season up for sale, a seller on StubHub was asking Monday for $217.60 per seat for tickets to the Clemson game in Section 111, the northernmost section on the west sideline. Last year, tickets for ACC games were $40 and the Georgia game was $90.

"Instead of letting (ticket resellers) do that, why don't we get into that business somehow, some way and capture that differential?" Bobinski said.

At a Tech Athletic Association board of trustees' meeting in January, where the auction idea was presented, school president G.P. "Bud" Peterson had his own revenue-capturing suggestion for the Clemson game.

Said Peterson, "Charge 'em an extra 20 bucks if they wear that ugly purple and orange."

 

February 11, 2014

 

 
 

 

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USA TODAY
Jim Corbett, @ByJimCorbett, USA TODAY Sports

Nothing has changed about Michael Sam for C.J. Mosley, the Alabama linebacker who met the Missouri defensive end at the Bronko Nagurski Awards banquet in December, two months before Sam came out as gay.

Sam and Mosley were among five finalists for the national defensive player of the year award that went to Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Sunday, as he prepares to enter the NFL, Sam announced he is gay.

"I got to know Michael as a person. Just because he came out saying he's openly gay doesn't change the person he is," Mosley told USA TODAY Sports on Monday at IMG Football Academy, where he is training for the Feb.19-25 NFL scouting combine. "I'll still respect him the same way when I see him -- great football player, great guy.

"As a man, he's a good guy. My parents met him. He makes his own choices. You can't really doubt him for that."

Mosley led Alabama in tackles and won the Butkus Award as the nation's top college linebacker. Both players were first-team All-America selections.

Prospects and veteran players training at IMG's complex are well aware of the conversation Sam's announcement has stirred less than two weeks before the combine convenes in Indianapolis and three months before Sam enters the May 8-10 draft.

"It's going to be a big topic throughout this draft process," Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan said. "It's unfortunate for him that someone might look past the football player. You never know."

The question lingers: How much acceptance will there be in an NFL locker room for Sam, who had 111/2 sacks and 48 tackles for Missouri last season?

Third-year Indianapolis Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo still isn't sure how the first openly gay player will be received.

"It's a first, so nobody really knows," Castonzo said. "Depending on what team he goes to, depending on who is around, nobody really knows what the reaction is going to be, because it's never happened before. So we'll just have to wait and see.

"Ultimately it's about, can he help you win on Sundays? That's what the NFL is about."

Added Notre Dame left tackle Zack Martin: "I don't think it'll be a big problem. His play speaks for itself. And at the end of the day, it's a business and it comes down to how you play on the field."

 

February 11, 2014

 

 
 

 

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USA TODAY
Nancy Armour, @nrarmour, USA TODAY Sports

For a party that cost $51billion, the Sochi Olympics have a surprisingly simple feel.

Athletes whiz around Olympic Park on bikes and stroll among fans on their way to training or the village. All of the indoor venues are within sight -- and walking distance -- of each other. The crowds are manageable, and clowns, folk dancers and drum bands wander the park providing entertainment.

"I've never seen anything like this," said Ross Bucsis, who is experiencing his third Olympics after watching his daughter Anastasia, a Canadian speedskater, compete in Vancouver and seeing the 1988 Games in his native Calgary.

"It's just marvelous. This is more like a world's fair."

The Winter Olympics once were quaint sporting festivals. Athletes and fans from around the world would gather in picturesque mountain towns such as Lake Placid, Squaw Valley, Grenoble or St.Moritz, mixing and mingling with sports as their backdrop.

They didn't need massive, state-of-the-art venues. Figure skating and hockey, in fact, mostly were held outdoors through 1960, and the footprint of the Games was more that of a child than Big Foot.

But the current Olympics bear little resemblance to those Games of old. Venues are spread far and wide to accommodate the growing number of alpine and indoor events, and it can take a couple of hours to get between city and mountain areas. The indoor venues are usually sprawled across a city as organizers try to make some use of existing arenas.

Oh sure, there might be a central area around the flame and medals plaza. But the Winter Olympics can seem more like a series of related events than one big one.

Sochi is different. Everything in the Black Sea city had to be built from scratch -- hence the price tag -- and organizers centralized the venues in an Olympic Park, much as organizers of the Summer Games do.

"I think it's a great idea, because you can walk. I think that's great," Olympic historian David Wallechinsky said. "In general, it's a nice idea, because you're exposed to several sports at once."

Each of the venues is visible from the center of the park, and it takes about 15 minutes to walk from one side of the park to the other. The mountain venues are 30 miles away, and the trip can be made -- theoretically, at least -- in as little as 30 minutes.

"I knew everything would be really close. That was one of the appeals that brought me here," said Oliver Hunt, a Dallas resident who decided to come to Sochi after attending the London Olympics in 2012. "Instead of having to walk or drive everywhere, everything's right here."

Much has been made of the absence of fans, particularly from foreign countries. Many were scared off by security concerns, along with the high cost and difficulty of getting to Sochi. Local fans can't simply show up at the park, either, needing a spectator's pass to get in.

But that has an advantage, too. Unlike at Summer Games, where the Olympic Park can get so crowded it's almost impossible to move, there's plenty of room to roam in Sochi.

"This is a big country, and I think it's illustrative of what our country is," said Dmitri Zinchenko of Moscow. "There was no sense of making it small."

While some say there's no soul to the Sochi Olympics, the small number of people in the big park helps make for a surprisingly cozy atmosphere.

Instead of riding buses, as they do at most Olympics, athletes are riding bikes. Monday, one Polish athlete was doing laps around the perimeter of the park on a racing bike while a South Korean speedskater weaved between fans before skidding to a stop in front of Adler Arena. The Dutch athletes have a bright orange -- naturally -- fleet of bikes, and even the king and queen took them for a spin.

Athletes also have been walking or jogging in the park, easily spotted in their team uniforms.

The commercialism that has overtaken most Olympics has been toned down, too. Outside of the sponsor's village, logos other than "Sochi 2014" are either scarce or done in such a way that they blend into the scenery.

"(The intimate feel) was really important for us since it's the first time we have a real Olympic Park for Winter Games," said Aleksandra Kosterina, spokeswoman for the Sochi Organizing Committee.

"I think we're so far, so good, satisfied. But at the same time, we hope to see even more people come."

Sporting events aren't the only thing going on in the park. There are Russian folk dancers doing demonstrations, mimes performing and drum choruses playing.

Bucsis and his wife, Anita, even got a history lesson on the various Russian republics at one of the venues.

"I love that the Olympic Park has everything," Dmitri Zinchenko said. "Not only venues, but you can find anything to like."

Well, almost anything.

"The only thing is you need to walk a lot," Igor Soskov said through an interpreter. "But that's sport. That's what we came for."

Contributing: Elena Vlasova, Dan Wolken