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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

 

Virginia Tech's football team physician on Monday shared ground-breaking news with first-year students at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine during his annual concussion lecture.

The Food and Drug Administration this month approved the first blood test to be used in determining whether someone has a brain-injuring concussion. The test looks for two brain proteins that leak into the blood within minutes of a concussive blow to the head.

Dr. Gunnar Brolinson said it will help not only sideline doctors like himself but emergency room physicians everywhere in deciding which patients will need expensive and high-dose radiation CT scans.

What the first-year students might not have picked up on during his lecture is that Brolinson, their medical school, Virginia Tech biomedical engineers and Hokie athletes provided the tests and the test subjects that led to the breakthrough.

Brolinson, who among his many hats is vice provost for research and discipline chair for sports medicine at VCOM, in 2003 teamed up with Tech biomedical engineering professor Stefan Duma to study how well football helmets protect the brain.

Until then, helmets were designed to protect players from skull fractures. Duma set out to measure force of impact on helmets from various types of collisions, such as player-to-player and player-to-ground, and then determine how well each type of helmet protected players' brains from the impact.

Brolinson said they needed seed money to start the project.

"When we wrote grants to try to get funding — we only needed $50,000 to buy the sensors — we got turned down by everybody," he said.

Brolinson said he and Duma then turned to VCOM President Dixie Tooke-Rawlins.

"We said, 'We have this really cool idea, but no one wants to fund it. Will you give us some pilot money?' And she said, 'Yes,'" Brolinson said. "The interesting thing is I actually talked with one of the folks on the phone [who turned them down], and he said, 'Dr. Brolinson, this is a junk diagnosis. This is junk science, and this will never be funded.'"

With the money from VCOM, the project was a go. The system of football helmet ratings that came from it has revolutionized the industry. At Virginia Tech alone, the number of concussions has been cut in half, Brolinson said. Duma's lab continues to study helmets for other sports and is continuing to set standards.

But it wasn't just helmet makers, the NFL, the NCAA and youth football leagues who responded to the initial research. Brolinson said researchers studying concussions also took notice.

"People began to say, it sure would be nice to have a blood test. It's been the holy grail of the brain," Brolinson said.

For all other organs, diagnostic tests exist to look for and measure certain enzymes that signal injury or disease. But it had been thought that nothing could cross the blood-brain barrier.

Banyan Biomarkers, with facilities in Florida and California, had U.S. Department of Defense funding to disprove that and was looking at biomarkers that would help diagnose head trauma in soldiers.

Banyan had identified a couple of proteins but needed help figuring out whether they signaled a concussion.

Science requires control groups to advance, and Brolinson said Banyan came to Tech for help with that.

They decided to work with three cohorts of Hokies: athletes who were diagnosed with concussions, football players who took hits but were not concussed, and baseball players who have strenuous workouts but rarely sustain concussions.

The Tech team sent the blood samples to Banyan. The results then led to a multi-site international study in which emergency room physicians tested for the proteins.

"If a child falls off a bike and the parents aren't sure about head trauma, but he has a headache, a CT scan in the first 24 to 48 hours is usually a given," he said.

CT scans can, but don't always, show brain tissue damage or lesions that may require treatment. They can be expensive and they give off high doses of radiation.

During the trial, patients still were given scans. When comparing the blood results and the scans, the blood test proved highly reliable in determining in which patients the scans would show brain injuries.

"The cool thing is if it's negative you don't have the CT," Brolinson said. He said the process is similar to one used when a patient comes in with chest pain. Blood is drawn to look for certain enzymes to help determine if the patient is having a heart attack or indigestion.

With the concussion test, the two proteins show up immediately after trauma, but the test requires a lab and about three hours to complete.

"Now that the FDA has approved it, there are companies working hard to do this with a finger stick," he said. As a sports medicine doctor, Brolinson said he's looking forward to the day when he'll be able to get a drop of an athlete's blood and run it through a scanner and phone app.

The science on concussions is still in its infancy, Brolinson told the students. There is much yet to discover, and VCOM has a chair at the table.

The researchers, who were once told they were pursuing junk science, have since received millions of dollars in funding, he said. They've taken part in large National Institutes of Health studies and are playing a significant role in a multi-year NCAA and Department of Defense study that is looking for additional biomarkers in the brain and for a genetic component that helps explain why some people are susceptible to multiple brain-damaging concussions.

Brolinson said it's tremendously exciting to have been part of the development of the blood test.

During his lecture, Brolinson showed clips of a couple of football plays. In one, he said, everyone in the stands could diagnose a concussion when a player's head smacked the ground and he was not moving.

He's more concerned about the less obvious injuries that occur when players collide but initially appear unscathed. Tech, with its helmet sensors, is able to pick up on the force of impact on plays.

Ultimately, though, Brolinson said, athletes represent just a very small percentage of concussions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2013, about 2.8 million people were treated for traumatic brain injuries in emergency departments.

The blood test will help identify which patients have swelling or bleeding.

"I'm a sports medicine doctor, but the utility of the test in the emergency room makes it more important than on the football field or hockey rink," he said.

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Copyright 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

 

A coach and an athlete from Valley High School — who are also father and son — are facing battery charges following an incident at the recent state high school wrestling tournament, according to a Rio Rancho Police Department report.

Former Valley wrestling coach Bart Lujan — who was fired by the school as a result — is charged with battery on a sports official. His son, Vikings sophomore wrestler Abran Lujan, is charged with aggravated battery after he twice punched his Rio Grande High opponent in the face following a consolation match on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 17, at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho. Police said in a report that the opponent, Rio Grande's Eddie Kenton, appeared to have a broken nose.

Both charges stem from the same match.

Bart Lujan, 44, is charged with pushing wrestling official Joel Espinoza at the end of his son's consolation bracket match with Kenton — believing an official had failed to award Abran points for a reversal that would have given his son the lead.

According to the report, the coach said he approached Espinoza, the official pointed for him to leave the mat and, Lujan told police, the official "grabbed him by the shoulders."

Lujan responded by shoving the referee before being led away by other coaches.

Espinoza later told police that typically Bart Lujan had other coaches handle his son's matches "because he got too emotionally involved." He also said he never grabbed or reached for Lujan.

Moments later, Abran Lujan was brought in by Espinoza to shake hands with Kenton. Lujan told police that he shoulder-bumped Kenton, at which point Kenton pushed back in response.

At that point, in video observed by the Journal on the day of the incident, Abran Lujan threw two punches at Kenton's face.

The wrestler told police that he "was upset with his father getting ejected and losing the match, and stated the referee made him come shake hands with Kenton."

Abran Lujan was disqualified from the event.

Although Bart Lujan was Valley's head coach, he was not sitting in one of the two mat-side chairs where coaches often sit during their athletes' matches. He was viewing the match from another area.

Coach Lujan was fired early last week, Valley athletic director Joe Coleman said, in essence, "for conduct unbecoming what Valley High School is about."

Abran Lujan was disciplined through the school, but Coleman declined to say exactly what punishment was meted out. New Mexico Activities Association executive director Sally Marquez said the NMAA worked with Valley on the punishment, but declined further comment.

Bart Lujan was issued a summons through Magistrate Court, according to the report.

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Copyright 2018 The Salt Lake Tribune
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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

Colorado Springs, Colo. — Scott Blackmun is resigning as CEO of the US Olympic Committee, citing health problems as the reason he'll depart after leading the federation for more than eight years.

The 60-year-old CEO was diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier this winter, and did not attend the Pyeongchang Games.

He announced his resignation Wednesday and Susanne Lyons, a member of the board, will serve as acting CEO.

Blackmun leaves the federation amid calls for his departure, including from two U.S. Senators, who said neither he nor the USOC as a whole have done enough to react to sex abuse cases inside the U.S. gymnastics team.

The USOC is conducting an independent review of when Blackmun and others learned the details about abuse cases at USA Gymnastics and whether they responded appropriately.

At a news conference to kick off the Olympics, USOC chairman Larry Probst said Blackmun had served the USOC with distinction and the board found no reason to relieve him.

"Given Scott's current health situation, we have mutually agreed it is in the best interest of both Scott and the USOC that we identify new leadership so that we can immediately address the urgent initiatives ahead of us," Probst said Wednesday.

The USOC said it was starting many initiatives, including providing new funding and resources for victims of Larry Nassar, the doctor who abused members of the U.S. gymnastics team. It also will review its relationships with national governing bodies of Olympic sports and double funding to the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

Blackmun's last several years at the helm of the USOC have been focused on establishing the center, which stemmed out of task forces to determine how to compel governing bodies of all Olympic sports to use the same rules about reporting and the handling of abuse cases.

It was a herculean task that involved raising millions of dollars to start an independent organization that polices abuse cases in a similar manner as the independent U.S. Anti-Doping Agency runs doping control in the United States.

But all the cases in question — including dozens involving USA Swimming and USA Gymnastics — occurred before the new protocols came into play. The shocking testimony from dozens of gymnasts who were abused by Nassar led to calls for a complete turnover of the USA Gymnastics board, and then for Blackmun's removal.

Blackmun started as CEO just before the 2010 Vancouver Games and settled an organization that had been rife with infighting after the surprise removal of Jim Scherr and his replacement with Stephanie Streeter, who lasted less than two years.

Blackmun smoothed over rocky relationships with national governing bodies and with the International Olympic Committee, renegotiating an agreement over sharing revenues from TV and sponsorship deals that caused problems between the two entities for years.

The reworked deal smoothed the way for the USOC to bring the Olympics back to the United States for the first time since 2002, when it landed the 2028 Games for Los Angeles. Some, however, criticized that deal as a consolation prize; LA really bid for the 2024 Games, which were awarded to Paris, and the IOC ended up granting 2028 to LA, which was the only other candidate for 2024.

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Copyright 2018 ProQuest Information and Learning
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Copyright 2018 Freedom Newspapers, Inc. Feb 28, 2018

The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colorado)

 

When Kassia (KC) Brooks was 6 years old, she laced up a pair of ice hockey skates for the first time.

She grew up watching her brother Alex play, and was inspired by other female hockey players to try a sport more commonly monopolized by boys.

Flash forward nearly 10 years, and KC Brooks has emerged as one of the top high school defensemen in the state — boy or girl.

As a sophomore defender for Pine Creek, Brooks is the "quarterback" of the power play, she's on the Eagles' penalty kill unit, and has cultivated a reputation around the area as one of the top female players in Colorado high school hockey.

But Brooks is not the only talented lady on the ice in the Pikes Peak region. Area high schools around Colorado Springs have seen an influx of female hockey players joining the ranks and paving the way for women in high school hockey.

Pine Creek, along with Liberty, Rampart, Air Academy, Woodland Park and Lewis-Palmer boast female players on their rosters, including some, like Brooks, who have dedicated their sports future to life on the ice.

Playing at the next level

Although she's only a sophomore, Brooks is already verbally committed to continue her hockey career at the Division I level after receiving an offer from Providence at the beginning of her sophomore year.

"She's a big-time player, and I think everybody can see it when she plays," Pine Creek coach Ed Saxer said. "Sometimes when you get a girl who is that good, sometimes the boys get jealous, but really for the most part everybody is respectful of her, and everybody knows who she is because she is that good."

Although her presence on the team at Pine Creek is evident, she was noticed by recruiters at a young age thanks to competing with a St. Louis AAA team. While playing on the high school team with boys helps their development, most area players must also play on a girls' club team in order to garner recruiting interest.

Air Academy's Meilan Haberl stepped away from high school hockey in her junior year to focus on playing for her tournament team in Western Michigan, where she travels across the country a few times a month to compete on the AAA club in front of scouts.

"It's so hard to get recruited in women's hockey," Haberl said. "I love playing with the boys and I love playing for my high school team, but I realized I wasn't going to be able to get to the next level by staying here and playing for the teams I've always played on. So this year is the big push year to get recruited."

Haberl's dream, like many other female hockey players, is to play at a top level and one day to wear a red, white and blue jersey for team USA, much like her father, Peter did for his national team in Argentina.

Despite her extensive travel, Haberl continues to keep up with her schoolwork and other hobbies, and continues to skate with the Kadets a few times a year.

"It's been a process, I'm an intrinsic hard worker, so I keep up with my schoolwork while traveling, and I worked for all of my skills," Haberl said. "I wasn't naturally talented player, I've had to work for all of my skills to stick handle, shoot, skate, hockey knowledge, all of it. It's been a pretty formative part of my life."

Girls in goal

Although Haberl doesn't play with Air Academy full time, the Kadets still have a standout female on their squad in junior goaltender Katy Cooley.

"Katy is a solid goaltender and it's really a surprise for other teams and her teammates to see how solid she is in net," Air Academy coach Andrew Marshall said. "They see the girl persona and wrap it all into the stigma of a girl hockey player, but she brings a lot to the team. She has definitely been the difference in games that we've won, and in the way the guys play."

Cooley is in a minority as a female on the ice, and even more so in goal, but she said it was the one position she had always been interested in.

"I always wanted to play in net, but my dad wouldn't let me for a few years," Cooley said. "And eventually I was playing in Monument and they needed the goalie, so I dressed and went from there."

Cooley made the transition about four years ago as an eighth-grader, and had to endure a developmental transition in net while playing against the boys.

"It used to be very hard for me," Cooley said. "There's a point where the boys will develop a little more than you do, so there was a bit of a gap where you're not going to be good for a little while. And then sometimes I would have to face girls and boys in the same day and their shots would be completely different, and that's a switch you have to flip in your brain."

Keeping up with the boys

The clear developmental gap between boys and girls didn't just affect Cooley's game throughout high school ice hockey, but every female playing with boys. Whether they're being targeted due to their talent, size or gender, it's not always smooth skating for the local ladies on the ice.

"I've heard coaches tell their players to go after me and target me, and they definitely don't back off because I'm a girl — they treat me like anyone else," Brooks said. "When they do target me it is a little bit scary, but it sort of fires me up to know that they're mad at me for being good."

Brooks also said when she's in a situation against a physical team, she knows her teammates have her back.

"It's a bit nerve-wracking, but the boys on my team treat me like a sister so I know I'm protected out there," she said.

But even though playing with the boys sometimes promotes a more physical game, it is clear among the female hockey players in the area that playing with the boys helps them to become better all-around players.

"My first two years of high school I didn't play with the boys, but I really wanted to get better as a player, so I joined," said Julia Dessart, a senior on the Liberty hockey team. "I knew high school hockey was a faster pace and more physical, and I knew that playing with the boys would make me a better player in boys' and girls' hockey."

Dessart's teammate Madi Morton started playing hockey at 6 years old with the hope of one day playing with the boys after watching her older cousin play on a coed team.

"I just thought it was really cool to see a girl playing along with the guys," Morton said. "I've always been closer with boys, so it's been awesome to be able to play with them."

Morton said when she was younger she encountered trouble fitting in on coed teams because of the "don't get beat by a girl" stigma on adolescent teams, but as she has gotten older she and Dessart have been accepted among the boys.

"The way that guys work with each other is very different than girls, so we kind of have to try and be like one of the guys," Dessart said.

But acting like one of the guys can sometimes come with injuries. Morton said she broke her collarbone playing on a boys team, but said she doesn't let that stop her from playing tough.

"If you're afraid when you're on the ice, you're not going to play your best game," Morton said. "I kind of treat it like I'm playing with girls because you can't be afraid."

The women playing ice hockey around the Pikes Peak region is only the beginning, according to area coaches. With rule changes and hitting regulations being enforced around the league, high school hockey has become a female-friendly sport.

"Girls are getting better and better every year, and I see more and more come out," Saxer said. "And now with the success of the women's team and the Olympics, the sport is really starting to grow."

Other notable female players in the Pikes Peak region

Lily Parmeter — Lewis-Palmer: Parmeter, a junior defenseman for the Rangers appeared in 12 games for Lewis-Palmer in the 2017-18 season.

Mackenzie Dudevior — Rampart: Dudevior, a junior defender, had a pair of assists for the Rams and played in 20 games, including Rampart's state tournament appearance.

Haily Boyle — Rampart: Boyle is a junior forward for the Rams and aided Rampart to a 6-3 win over Castle View in her lone appearance in 2017-18.

Maddison Henggeler — Woodland Park: Henggeler is a sophomore defender who appeared in four games for Woodland Park in its inaugural season.

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Copyright 2018 The Post Register
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Idaho Falls Post Register

 

School shootings over the past couple years frustrate Dale Nelson of Oregon City as much or more than all Americans.

But while he fully supports Florida students and their call for attention to the national agony over lives lost, he's more focused than ever on a positive use for firearms.

Nelson, a 60-year-old retired biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, spends most of his spare time mentoring, nurturing and helping young people enjoy shooting sports.

He's the state director for Oregon and Washington High School Clay Target Leagues. Competitive clay target shooting, say sponsors, is the nation's fastest-growing — and safest — high school sport.

Under the guidance of volunteer coaches, and sanctioned by school districts across both states, competitors use shotguns to break clay targets, launched at random across tightly controlled shooting ranges.

In just two years under Nelson's guidance, Oregon's high school league has grown from three to 24 teams. Washington, where Nelson only recently turned his attention, already has three teams and is poised with Oregon to compete both statewide and nationally.

Established firearms clubs offer a variety of youth shooting-sports programs, which was the genesis in 2001 for the clay-target league's national movement.

A Minnesota gun club realized its membership was rapidly aging. An organizer recognized kids wanted to compete by shooting and today the Minnesota state league alone has 11,000 high school participants. Nationally, 28 states are participating and others join each year.

"Every parent is always looking for what turns a kid on," Nelson said. "This is just like golf; it's a lifetime sport."

Curiously enough, it's also touted as the nation's safest high school sport, without a single accident in its 17-year-history.

Young athletes competing in the high school league even include youngsters in wheelchairs, who typically have just as much talent and responsibility as others when it comes to shooting. "If someone has challenges, I want to talk with them," he said.

Nelson also coaches a year-round youth team, which competes throughout the Pacific Northwest, often successfully against adults.

Competitors must first complete a firearms safety course. "Safety is the number one priority of the league and we work hard to maintain our perfect safety record," Nelson said.

Girls, Nelson said, remain in the minority in Oregon leagues, but are usually as good and often much better than boys.

Participants supply their own shotguns and pay an initial $35 for insurance, patches and awards. Teams then pay host gun clubs for inexpensive ammo and clay targets at each trap-shooting event. Nelson said most clubs provide it at cost. The total seasonal investment is about $225, which he said is "minor in relation to other sports."

Oregon's member high schools range in size from Dufur, Crane Union and Echo in eastern Oregon, to powerhouses such as Medford, Wilsonville, Oregon City and Aloha.

Teams of five or more (no one is turned away) shoot against each other according to team size, posting and comparing scores online rather than head-to-head shooting.

Weekly events begin in April and culminate with a state tournament in June in Hillsboro.

It's up to each school to decide whether the clay-shooting team rates an athletic letter.

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Copyright 2018 The Washington Times
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The Washington Times

 

America has gone from Let's Move to Let's Play.

President Trump on Tuesday ripped up the executive order that helped boost Michelle Obama's physical fitness crusade and replaced it with a new order that emphasized getting the nation's children once again to play team sports.

"Participating in sports allows children to experience the connection between effort and success, and it enhances their academic, economic, and social prospects," Mr. Trump, a three-sport varsity athlete in high school at New York Military Academy, wrote in the order.

Highlighting the changes to the council, Mr. Trump moved "sports" to the front of the title. He replaced the Obama-era President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition with a President's Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition.

Mr. Trump resisted the urge to cut nutrition from the program, which President Barack Obama added to the physical fitness council that has been around in one from or another since the 1950s.

The previous administration's emphasis on any type of exercise and a healthy diet went hand-in-hand with Mrs. Obama's "Let's Move" campaign aimed at reducing childhood obesity, an effort that succeeded in promoting healthy lifestyle choices but predictably failed to cut obesity rates in the U.S.

Mr. Obama added nutrition when he reworked President George W. Bush's President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

Mr. Trump's new take on the council got high marks from John Engh, executive director of the National Alliance for Youth Sports.

"We definitely support the whole concept," he said. "Team sports plays a huge role in the development of kids today."

The fate of the council was in doubt early in the Trump administration, when there was chatter around the White House that it was on the chopping block. The council has no members. The Obama-era members, including New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and tennis legend Billie Jean King, were all dismissed last year.

Lou Ferrigno, the former body builder who played "The Incredible Hulk" in TV series, has reportedly been in talks with Mr. Trump about heading up the new council.

Mr. Ferrigno has been friends with Mr. Trump since appearing on Mr. Trump's reality TV show "The Apprentice."

The executive order directed the secretary of Health and Human Services to develop a national strategy to expand children's participation in youth sports, encourage regular physical activity, including active play, and promote good nutrition for all Americans.

"This national strategy shall focus on children and youth in communities with below-average sports participation and communities with limited access to athletic facilities or recreational areas," said the order.

Mr. Trump's daughter and top adviser Ivanka Trump heralded the new council in an op/ed Tuesday. She said the administration was determined to reverse a steep decline in youth sports participation, especially among households in the bottom half of the income scale.

"Promoting youth sports is an important pillar of our Working Families Agenda," Ms. Trump wrote on the NBC News website. "When young people have more opportunities to participate in positive, supervised after-school sports programs, studies suggest They are less likely to be involved in, or be a victim or, crime."

"We believe that every child deserves the chance to play and engage in sports and recreational activities, regardless of their zip code, athletic potential or financial status. We are working to remove barriers to entry so that students can improve their lives and their future outcomes, and so that we adequately prepare the next generation of leaders to lift up our communities and strengthen our nation," she said.

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

 

BRANDETON, Fla. — The Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance against the Miami Marlins, Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays, accusing the teams of failing to appropriately spend revenue-sharing money.

Union spokesman Chris Dahl, speaking Tuesday at the union's training camp for free agents, said the grievance was filed Friday. Union head Tony Clark declined to comment.

"We have received the complaint and believe it has no merit," Major League Baseball said in a statement.

If the case is not settled, it would proceed to a hearing before Mark Irvings, baseball's independent arbitrator. The grievance was first reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

Miami was 20th in payroll last year for its 40-man roster, according to MLB's final figures. Pittsburgh was 25th, Tampa Bay 27th and Oakland 28th.

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

SEATTLE — With Olympic prodigies having just dazzled audiences worldwide, parents in the U.S. are reconciling the thrill of the gold with their fears from recent sexual abuse scandals in elite youth sports.

Shannon Stabbert said her 6-year-old daughter wants to be a gymnast, but the Seattle mother decided to put her in a martial-arts program instead.

"I have no doubt she will be quite amazing at gymnastics," Stabbert said. "I just don't feel like it's a mentally, physically, emotionally healthy sport for girls."

High-profile cases of sexual abuse and other predatory behavior in gymnastics, swimming and other sports have jolted many parents who believe athletics can be an important part of their child's development. Some now feel compelled to be more cautious in monitoring their child's contact with coaches and other adults.

Experts say the spotty rules and certifications for coaches and glorification of sports culture can make children who feel pressure to achieve even more vulnerable. No longer a casual pastime, sports teams can leave kids as young as 5 in the care of undertrained, undersupervised coaches.

Emmett Gill, a professor at the University of Texas and expert on the personal development of student-athletes, said success often means children leave their communities to compete, which can leave them at more risk.

"It's clear that the coach's responsibility, and their permanent goal, is to win, and that can sacrifice protecting vulnerable children," Gill said. "We really have forgotten about that good, old neighborhood team. Now youth sports is a bunch of strangers on teams with the best athletes, with the purpose of winning."

One national organization trying to prevent abuse of young athletes is the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a Denver-based nonprofit that formed last year.

It launched following the initial allegations of sexual abuse against Larry Nassar, the disgraced sports doctor for USA Gymnastics who will spend his life in prison for sexually assaulting some of the nation's top gymnasts under the guise of medical treatment.

The U.S. Olympic Committee developed SafeSport, but it's now an independent organization that works with law enforcement to investigate abuse allegations for the 49 Olympic and Paralympic sports.

In addition to offering an online link for anonymous abuse reports, SafeSport also provides educational and training material for youth leagues nationwide. The goal is to prevent abuse altogether.

"We have got to get upstream and do more to educate athletes, to educate parents, to educate coaches and to educate sport administrators," SafeSport CEO Shellie Pfohl said. "I want every parent to know what questions they should be asking when they sign their child up."

Since its inception, SafeSport has received 470 reports of either emotional or physical abuse, including 165 reports this year and 222 active investigations overall. In some cases, the organization didn't have jurisdiction over a youth league to investigate an allegation.

Youth leagues outside Olympic and Paralympic sports don't have a national organization to investigate reports of physical abuse, harassment, hazing and other issues. Many of those leagues have spent years trying to mute overreaching parents through codes of conduct but now have to walk the line between input and child safety.

"There's a balance between appropriate parental involvement and engagement, meaning are there overzealous parents who may upset the team dynamic or be inappropriate in terms of their treatment of the coach or athletes, and balancing that with parental due diligence," Pfohl said. "We want parents to be empowered to not only ask these questions but to hold people accountable."

Gill, the expert on student-athlete development, urges all sports programs to create safety guidelines that clearly indicate the protocol for adults who suspect abuse. Though teachers and doctors must report it, coaches and volunteers do not.

"If we're really about youth development and character development, this is going to be in front - and the most important part - of our bylaws," Gill said.

Even the regulators are not immune. The chief safety officer of USA Swimming, Susan Woessner, announced last week that she was resigning after revealing she had kissed a coach accused of sexual abuse and later assisted in the governing body's investigation of him.

Sean Hutchison is under criminal investigation after Olympic swimmer Ariana Kukors said he abused her as a minor. Woessner said she wasn't in a relationship with Hutchison.

USA Swimming also issued a letter to parents saying it had failed members and its system was "not flawless" and vowing to "ensure that there is never a lapse of a support system again."

For many parents, they say they will look to set more boundaries and ask more questions.

"Sometimes you kind of wonder: Am I missing something as parent? Am I not looking? Am I not asking the right questions? Am I trusting too much?" said Lara Mae Chollette, a Seattle mother of three.

Chollette, who works in human resources, said she's also wondered lately whether parents should stay for lengthy practices. If someone else is watching her kids, she finds out the ages of the other siblings who may come along. Her husband also has made a rule against taking responsibility for another child for overnight trips.

As a coach herself of youth soccer and basketball, Chollette said she knows the schedules, other parents and how people come and go from the sports facilities, which is helpful.

"It's truly a commitment for us," Chollette said of attending every practice, game and trip. "We see it as an educational element for our kids. There are things in sports that a teacher can't teach. There are things in sports that life can't teach."

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USA TODAY

 

The NBA's power brokers are pushing back against the NCAA.

All this talk about amateurs taking forbidden money or coaches looking to line the pockets of the top prospects, and the conversation always seems to gloss over the central problem: the broken basketball system.

Yahoo Sports reported last week that documents seized by the FBI showed payments made to college players from former agent Andy Miller and his associate Christian Dawkins from ASM Sports.

It's another version of a familiar story. From the AAU system that comes with so many pitfalls to the college game where antiquated rules have remained in place for too long, this goes deeper than the latest FBI probe that sheds light on this institution.

"The NCAA is corrupt, we know that. Sorry, it's going to make headlines, but it's corrupt," LeBron James told reporters Tuesday.

James is the biggest name in the basketball galaxy, but he's not the only one speaking out. USA TODAY spoke with four prominent members of the NBA community to get their views.

Michele Roberts: The trial lawyer was elected as the National Basketball Players Association executive director in July 2014, thus becoming the first woman to head a North American major professional men's sports league union.

Maverick Carter: James' business manager; CEO of Springhill Entertainment and Uninterrupted. Carter grew up with James in Akron, Ohio, attending St. Vincent-St. Mary's High School before playing at Western Michigan (where he received a scholarship) and Akron. He transferred from Western Michigan after the coach who recruited him was fired before he'd arrived but was forced to sit a season by the NCAA because of his transfer. Carter left early to intern at Nike and begin working with James.

Draymond Green: The three-time NBA All-Star and two-time champion from the Golden State Warriors was taken 35th overall out of Michigan State in 2012.

Jalen Rose: The ESPN analyst played 13 NBA seasons after being taken 13th overall out of Michigan in 1994. He was a member of the Fab Five team that was the focus of a six-year FBI investigation relating to illegal payments from booster Ed Martin (while Rose was cleared, four players — most notably Chris Webber — were found to have received significant payments that led to sanctions).

THE NCAA PROBLEM

Roberts: "What's disturbed me about what's happened recently is (that) I don't think it's fair to plaster the name of a player who when he was 18 years old allegedly received some monies from an agent or an agent representative because, No. 1, the problem is not the player.... The problem is the fact that these players would be even vulnerable to those sorts of gestures. Again, I can't change the NCAA's rules, but I can't help but wonder why it is that an industry — and by "industry" I know I'm using quotes (and) I should be — why a process that produces millions, if not billions of dollars, thinks that the culprit is the kid who makes no money, who helps generate that income, who takes something. What disturbs me is the focus on the players, rather than better focus on the system."

Carter: "I still fancy myself a young African-American man, and I can remember when I was playing high school, played AAU, and then went on to play college — not high-major, but mid-major, Division I. I clearly knew the system was broken then, but I didn't know what to do about it or what to say about it. But as a I grew up and worked at Nike and was a part of LeBron's process, I really understood that the system was broken, and it's broken at the base, the foundation of it, which is youth basketball.... I've had this conversation with people at the league, all the way up to (Commissioner) Adam (Silver). Adam's job is to run the NBA, but really he's the protector of basketball. And if youth basketball is broken, then that's part of his job, too, because those kids are quickly in his league."

Green: "We've got the NCAA, a billion-dollar industry, and the labor is unpaid. I was talking to our (Warriors) security guy today (Ralph Walker, who was taken in the fifth round by the Phoenix Suns in 1976 and cut soon thereafter), and he was saying like, 'Man, I remember playing college basketball, and I knew they were using me and they were getting what they could get out of me, and I was using them and getting what I could get out of them, because at the end of the day, my parents couldn't afford a college education.' And I was like, 'Hmm, that's understandable.' But in saying that, he's 60-something years old. College basketball wasn't a billion-dollar industry when he was a college athlete, so now that it's a billion-dollar industry (things should change). And not only is it a billion-dollar industry, but athletes are probably more aware and as smart as they've ever been now.

"These kids are learning that (they're) getting screwed. You're giving me a college degree. Great. I am so thankful for my degree. I think it's one of the best accomplishments in my life, to walk across that stage and graduate from Michigan State.... But in saying that, what you get for a college education doesn't equal near what these kids are bringing to the university.... That's where the corruption is."

Rose: "The first thing that came to mind for me (with the Yahoo Sports report) was, 'Again?' I wasn't surprised. I wasn't shocked. It wasn't breaking news. It wasn't something that I needed to see at the bottom of the ticker (to know) it existed. I hope that it now leads to the NCAA taking a serious introspective look at itself and understanding that this system is broken."

STARTING WITH THE YOUTH

Carter: "I think the NBA and the teams have to really roll up their sleeves, put together a team, a task force, a committee, and really figure this out, because it's a very complex issue. You have young players, lots of them African Americans, but also not African Americans, who come up through the system as it is today and don't get paid until they maybe make it to the NBA. But everybody else is getting paid along the way. AAU coaches, AAU teams, college coaches, college teams, colleges. So when they do take money, it's only a story because the NCAA has these stupid-ass rules that are so archaic, so you have to fix that whole thing and figure out a way to do it. I own a piece of Liverpool football club, in European soccer, because the clubs have systems all the way down to the youth. They've figured out a way where they don't have to deal with it."

Roberts: "I think it was (last) Christmas, and I was in D.C., and I opened the newspaper and I read about a kid who was being described as the No. 1 fourth-grader in basketball, and I literally fell off the dining room chair. I couldn't imagine that anyone really was about the business of trying to (rank fourth-graders). And I had some conversations, and I've not been focused on youth basketball at that level — I didn't realize the world was. And it scared me, to be honest with you. This kid may or may not be a member of my union 15 years from now, but what scared me was that people were focused on him....

"If the only people talking to them are those who are trying to exploit them, then I think all of us are ignoring our responsibilities to the sport."

FINDING THE SOLUTION

Green: "This has been a discussion for years, and if they're not willing to compensate the people who are driving their billion-dollar industry, then there absolutely should be a way to go right around it, to circumvent it, because they're not willing to make a change. (That) means they see nothing wrong or they see something wrong with it but they're not willing to change it because it'll cost them dollars. They don't have to do it.

"You talk to these European guys who I've played with, and they've been making money since they were 15 years old.... I honestly think (hypothetical NCAA payment to athletes) should be tiered. If you're producing at a level, at a high major college where you're... bringing in more money, then you probably should be making more money than a guy who's not producing at a low major college."

Rose: "It's more than just actually pay the players. It's 'Pay the players, and/or allow them to profit off their likeness and/or their ability.' And do I think sports that are not profitable should share in the same revenue with the sports that are profitable? No, because we can work for the same company but that don't mean we make the same money. That's not how life works. And this idea that everybody gets a participation trophy is just unrealistic."

Carter: "I think (the G-League) eventually becomes, if you're LeBron James or Kevin Durant or these players who have the ability at 18... to clearly play at a pro level, it will now become an alternative. Hey, you can either go play pros or you can get drafted. However you get with the club, and they don't have to put you on the Division I team, or the A-team, yet; they can develop you. Like baseball. But you're getting real pro development when you're ready to play, and it takes a little time, because some guys are physically ready to play in the NBA but mentally it beats you down.... I think it does become an alternative to the NCAA, absolutely. It should."

Roberts: "The league is doing some things (internally). We've had conversations with the league, because we share their concerns, and they share our concerns. But internally, we have had a focus on elite basketball, on high school basketball — again, assuming that that was soon enough. The same people in my PA who were engaged and in charge with that process have now agreed that we need to go younger, and we're now plotting ways to do that."

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USA TODAY

 

Former president Barack Obama shared NBA superstar LeBron James' perspective on how to improve the NCAA, which James called "corrupt" on Tuesday in the wake of multiple reports implicating major college players, coaches and programs in the FBI's investigation into illegal recruiting.

Obama spoke in an an off-the-record panel at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at MIT last weekend, and his comments were ultimately leaked by libertarian publication Reason. The former president said the NBA would be smart to embrace a well-structured G-League "so that the NCAA is not serving as a farm system for the NBA with a bunch of kids who are unpaid but are under enormous financial pressure." He said that type of system "won't solve all the problems but what it will do is reduce the hypocrisy."

"It's just not a sustainable way of doing business," Obama said of the NCAA.

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Copyright 2018 The Arizona Daily Star. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

 

The University of Arizona has a lot of explaining to do.

The athletic department is facing claims of serious wrongdoing and negligence on multiple fronts:

- Two federal lawsuits say the UA failed to protect women students from a football player who physically abused several women students (he is now in prison on a domestic-violence conviction).

- Allegations included in one of the suits claim that football players gang-raped women students and staffers.

- A Pima County Superior Court civil suit says the UA failed to protect or properly follow up on a report from a woman athlete who said she was harassed and assaulted by her coach.

- A claim filed with the Arizona Attorney General's Office that now-fired football coach Rich Rodriguez ran a hostile work environment and sexually harassed his assistant, and that the UA shares responsibility.

(Rodriguez filed a response Monday stating the allegations, with the exception of his marital infidelity, are entirely false and accusing his former assistant, her husband and their attorney of attempting to extort Rodriguez and his wife.)

- In September, UA basketball assistant coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson was arrested by the FBI on federal bribery charges.

- Reports by ESPN that UA basketball head coach Sean Miller was heard discussing payment for the recruitment of a particular player, as part of a pay-to-play FBI investigation into NCAA programs.

Wildcat fans, not to mention the general tax-paying public, need clarity and leadership from UA President Robert C. Robbins and athletic director Dave Heeke. Both men have been in their jobs for a relatively short time: Heeke got the job a year ago, and Robbins began in June.

They may well be cursing the bad timing of it all, answering for events that are alleged to have happened early on or before their watch, but they must grapple with the fallout, today.

Heeke issued a general statement to boosters and employees Friday in which he appeared to address the Title IX issues. He vowed that the UA would do "the right thing —always."

The ESPN story about Miller hit hours later. The UA was silent until Saturday afternoon, when it released a short statement saying that Miller wouldn't coach that night's game against Oregon.

Miller's statement, released in the same email, said he was "confident that I will be vindicated."

Canned statements — carefully crafted responses released by email — to answer the many serious questions raised by the whirlwind surrounding the UA football and men's basketball team aren't enough.

The Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees the state's public university system, also released a statement Saturday, after it held an emergency meeting in response to the news reports.

It read, in part: "The board is reviewing its oversight of athletics and has been making reforms to its policies to ensure greater public accountability."

UA athletics is integral to Tucson —you don't have to be a fan to be connected to the Wildcats.

We need to know what's going on, and what the UA leadership is doing to make things right.

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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

The Charleston County School Board approved a combined $10.6 million in budget increases for a pair of high school sports stadiums Monday night.

The new price tag for the planned East Cooper regional stadium, next to Wando High in Mount Pleasant, is now $16.5 million. That's more than twice the $8.1 million that the district budgeted for the project after a 2014 voter referendum that extended a local penny sales tax for a raft of new construction projects.

Meanwhile, in North Charleston, a regional stadium serving schools across the city is now pegged at $22.5 million, up from $14.2 million in 2014. Adding in a 38-acre land purchase that the district made off of West Montague Avenue for the stadium in January, the total land and construction cost comes to $34 million.

Board Chair Kate Darby says the land will be used for more than just the stadium, though. Board members have discussed leasing out parts of the tract or using portions of it for other district buildings. No specific plans to that effect have been announced yet.

The new budgets far outpace similar projects in the Upstate and Midlands, where land and construction costs are cheaper. Some of the budget increases were voluntary.

The district decided to upgrade the artificial turf, press boxes and scoreboards at the two regional facilities, which will serve multiple high schools and multiple sports. Chief Operating Officer Jeff Borowy has said the district wanted to keep up with the quality of other stadiums around the state.

The new North Charleston stadium budget also factors in items such as a 1,500-space parking lot and additional underground utility lines at the mostly undeveloped site.

Beyond that, Darby said the booming construction market in the Charleston area is partly to blame for the cost increase.

Darby said the district's stadiums are long overdue for an upgrade. Despite boasting some of the newest school facilities in the state, stadiums like the concrete shell that previously served Wando lag behind statewide standards, she said.

"Tons of our kids participate in athletics... When you compare our athletic facilities against others in the state, we were at the bottom of the barrel," Darby said.

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Naples Daily News (Florida)

 


Combine a stationary indoor elliptical and an outdoor bicycle and you get ElliptiGO, the peculiar-looking contraptions that have a growing and dedicated fan base in Southwest Florida.

Spotting one out on the road can be a little puzzling at first. It's common for curious drivers to stop their cars and snap a few photos, said Mike Ruffolo, a Naples brand ambassador for the company.

"You're basically riding an outdoor elliptical machine," he said, "but you're in nature, and who wants to be in Florida and not be outside?"

Now there are about 65 riders in the area who gather for group rides around Southwest Florida, and Ruffolo says brand loyalty is growing.

Ruffolo found the ElliptiGO by necessity about six years ago. He was a long-distance runner, participating in all the major marathons in New York City, Chicago and Singapore.

"I ended up having meniscus surgery on my right knee and the doctor basically said, 'Find a different sport or you're not going to be able to exercise like you want to when you get older.' "

That's when he read an article about the up-and-coming brand of low-impact bikes, and Ruffolo arranged a test ride with the company.

"I fell in love with the product," he recalled.

The "outdoor elliptical" appeals mostly to runners who are either injured, retired or looking for a way to cross-train. It's also a great option for someone who simply wants to get and stay in shape, Ruffolo said.

"A lot of people who get back into exercise do a lot of things that are jarring on the body, and they end up hurting themselves, so this is a way to get back into fitness without hurting themselves in the long run," he said.

Bonita Springs resident James Fountain said he started walking and running after retirement when he turned 60. And then his feet gave out, he said, so the doctor recommended finding something else.

Now Fountain rides his ElliptiGO three to four times a week for 10 miles.

"On this thing you can go all day long, you never have joint pain, you never have a twinge at all," he said. "It's totally fluid motion with no jarring, and it's standup, so there's a lot of core muscles."

It's a similar story for Larry Rydzewski of Naples. He rides four or five times a week for 25 to 30 miles.

"I used to run marathons, and now I've got a bad back and a bad knee," Rydzewski said. "There's no stretches or strains on any joints."

The ElliptiGO isn't aerodynamic like a traditional bicycle; riders are standing upright, putting less pressure on the back, shoulders and neck. And it's heavy, too, but that's by design, Ruffolo said.

"It's a 25 percent harder workout for the same amount of time that you compare to a bike," he said, "and it's because you're upright and it's a lot heavier product."

And because riders are standing on the machine, Rydzewski says the ElliptiGO is much safer because it provides a better view of passing cars and other surroundings.

The stride length can be adjusted for the individual rider, and the bikes come with either three, eight or 11 speeds.

In Naples, the bikes are available for rent or for purchase from Big Momma's Bicycles at Pine Ridge Road and Seagate Drive, and at CJ & Hung's House of Trikes & Bikes near Immokalee Road and Collier Boulevard.

Email Ruffolo at elliptigonaples@gmail.com to join the riders of Southwest Florida, or if you'd simply like to take one on a test ride.

"It's a group that's super enthusiastic and trying to get as many people to join us," he said, "so those of us who have multiple bikes invite people who don't have one so they can come."

Visit www.elliptigo.com

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Mike Ruffalo, ambassador for ElliptiGO, leads a group of bikers on Feb. 16 in Pelican Bay in North Naples. The bikes provide a low-impact alternative to running. Katie Klann/Naples Daily News
 
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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

When it comes to on-the-floor results, Georgia's Mark Fox is on the hottest seat among the men's basketball coaches in the Southeastern Conference.

Yet Fox could be safe and secure given what is transpiring away from the game.

Fox is deep into his ninth season with the Bulldogs, having guided the program to a pair of one-and-done NCAA tournament trips and to a 16-12 overall record this winter and a 7-9 mark in SEC play. Georgia has not, however, been linked in any way to the ongoing federal investigation into the sport, and Fox emerged this past weekend as the league's sharpest critic to those running afoul of the rules.

"The way people have treated our game is just disgusting," Fox said after Saturday afternoon's 93-82 win over visiting LSU, "and it starts with the coaches."

Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky, LSU, South Carolina and Vanderbilt are the SEC schools that, to this point, have been linked to the federal investigation, according to Yahoo Sports reports. Alabama and Kentucky announced this past weekend that touted freshmen Collin Sexton and Kevin Knox would be allowed to play after internal investigations by those two schools, and Yahoo reported Sunday that the NCAA has been looking into the recruiting practices of LSU first-year coach Will Wade for the last several months (LSU stated Monday that the NCAA is not actively investigating the program).

Wade coached at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.

Tennessee's Rick Barnes said late last week that he was "not surprised" by the revelations being uncovered, but Fox heightened the rhetoric Saturday, mentioning not only coaches as the problem but the NCAA as well.

"The NCAA is made up of member institutions, so how are the institutions handling it?" Fox said. "That would be my first question. How are they handling it? Are they putting their head in the sand and looking the other way, or are they dealing with it?"

Should Georgia president Jere Morehead and athletic director Greg McGarity choose to fire Fox, they could run the risk of hiring a new coach who might have a tendency to challenge the guidelines. Georgia took a chance on Jim Harrick in 1999, but that led to NCAA sanctions in 2003 after it was discovered assistant Jim Harrick Jr. provided $300 in expenses to a player and gave "A" grades to three players who didn't have to attend a coaching principles course he taught.

McGarity repeatedly has stated that he is pleased with how Fox runs the program, but Fox lost a commitment Monday from 2019 five-star point guard Ashton Hagans of Covington, Ga. The Bulldogs are down to their final few games with seniors Yante Maten and Juwan Parker, and then it will be up to university brass to determine whether Fox will return to coach a program that is perceived higher from a moral standpoint than as an NCAA tournament threat.

"I'm past anger and sadness," Fox said. "It's just disgusting. We are really hurting the game, and the game has been so good to everybody. The game educates kids and teaches so many lessons, and we have treated the game so poorly.

"I believe you can still do this job in the right way, and that's how we're going to do it."

Two in the hunt

Auburn (24-5, 12-4 SEC) and Tennessee (21-7, 11-5) head into the last two games of the regular season seeking to win the conference crown.

The Tigers play at Arkansas tonight and host South Carolina on Saturday, while the Volunteers play at Mississippi State tonight and close at home this weekend against Georgia. Should the two teams finish tied, Auburn would be the top seed in next week's SEC tournament due to its 94-84 win in Knoxville on Jan. 2.

Auburn hasn't won the SEC's overall regular-season title since 1999, and Tennessee's last overall crown was in 2008.

Heating up

The league's hottest team entering the final week of the regular season is Kentucky, which has consecutive double-digit victories over Alabama (81-71), Arkansas (87-72) and Missouri (87-66). The Wildcats entered Saturday's drubbing of Mizzou ranked 345th out of 351 Division I teams in made 3-pointers per game, but they connected on 10 of 16 long-range tries against the Tigers.

"This team is getting better," Kentucky coach John Calipari said in a news conference afterward. "What you're seeing is a team that can play fast and a team that can grind it out."

The Wildcats (20-9, 9-7) host Ole Miss on Wednesday night and close their regular season Saturday at Florida.

Will Porter play?

Touted Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr. has started practicing and took some shots before Saturday's game in Rupp Arena, but he did not play. The 6-foot-10, 215-pounder has been out since undergoing back surgery in November.

"I don't have a timeline," Mizzou coach Cuonzo Martin said Saturday when asked about Porter's potential return. "The most important thing is that he's healthy and able to play in games. He wants to play, and I think that's the good thing about it."

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

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The Daily News of Los Angeles

 

IRVINE — Some 450 high school seniors, hoping to continue playing football at the next level, took part in the sixth annual California Showcase on Saturday at the Great Park of Orange County in Irvine.

The participants, bypassed on national signing day Feb. 7 by Division I colleges, showed off their skills during three-plus hours of drills in the morning, then in the afternoon met with recruiters from Division II, Division III and NAIA schools from throughout the county, plus recruiters from local junior colleges.

Spearheaded by former UCLA coach Terry Donahue and backed by the National Football Foundation, the free one-day California Showcase has now attracted some 3,000 student athletes in its first six years of existence. For the most part, lower-division schools do not offer athletic scholarships, but can offer financial aid in some form. About 25 percent of Showcase participants obtain aid, with the average now around $23,000.

Volunteer "staff coaches," mostly former NFL and college players along with some current and former high school and college coaches, work with the participants during the drill sessions.

Among those on hand Saturday was national high school coach of the year Bruce Rollinson of nationally top-ranked Mater Dei.

"This is a great event," Rollinson said. "For a lot of kids who have had good high school careers, it's a reality check when they don't get a scholarship from a school in Division I-AA, or whatever they call it now. This gives them a second chance, and Coach Donahue and everyone involved deserve tremendous credit for what they are doing here."

Participant Jake Kaplinski, a quarterback from Westlake High in Westlake Village who carries a 3.8 grade-point average, said, "I'm looking for a school that will provide me with the best education, and I think a lot of those schools can be found in the lower divisions."

An unexpected perk Saturday was an inspirational talk first thing in the morning from legendary coach Lou Holtz, who was in the area to be honored Saturday night by Anaheim Servite High.

Before the afternoon recruiting sessions, Donahue offered this advice: "Treat your meetings with the recruiters as if they are job interviews. Offer a handshake, tell them your name, make a good impression. That will go a long way in getting into a school and impacting your life."

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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

Those construction fences in the large car lot adjacent to the Robins Center aren't there for renovation of the parking spaces.

The University of Richmond in January began gutting much of the Robins Center's ground floor, the first phase of a $7 million project that will deliver a new football locker room, a new sports medicine area, a new strength-and-conditioning setup, a new equipment room, a new men's lacrosse locker room and new men's and women's coaches' locker rooms.

"To say it's a remodel is really not to do it justice. It's a complete overhaul," said John Hardt, Richmond's vice president and director of athletics. "You'll notice the football piece right away because it's such a big part of it, but there are a bunch of dominoes that sequentially improve (facilities) and touch every one of our programs."

Project planning and fundraising started years before Hardt's Jan. 1 arrival from Bucknell, where he was director of athletics.

"My first week on the job, I think I was greeted by the sounds of jackhammers and demolition," Hardt said.

The project will be completed in phases, with a July 1 ready date for the football locker room as well as the sports medicine and strength-and-conditioning areas, according to David Walsh, the school's deputy AD. A few months later, the remaining improvements are scheduled to be done.

UR will have what it's calling the Student-Athlete Performance Center. For now, all there is to see is a vast construction zone, artists' renderings and diagrams showing what's coming. Spiders' coaches look ahead and see improved facilities that will make daily experiences for their student-athletes better, and a major recruiting boost as a sign of firm commitment.

In football, the project will help Richmond keep up with James Madison and William & Mary. Those schools have buildings dedicated to their FCS programs. The size of UR's football locker room will grow considerably, as will areas devoted to sports medicine, athletic training and strength and conditioning. Some Robins Center features, such as a dance studio, were relocated to other buildings to make room.

Football coach Russ Huesman said the project had an effect on the recruitment of incoming prospects who saw the plans. Among the upgrades will be the addition of multiple flat-screen TVs in the locker room.

"I think it's going to serve all of our programs really well, but obviously with football being the biggest program down (on the ground floor), they have the biggest space requirements, and we're finally able to provide them with space that's comparable to what you'd see at other FCS and championship-level programs," Hardt said.

The Robins Center upstairs arena underwent a $17-million renovation in 2013, and renovations of some Olympic sports locker rooms and offices were recently completed.

The Robins Center opened in 1972. There have been numerous renovations of various areas through the years, but nothing this extensive and outside of the original arrangement on the ground floor.

joconnor@timesdispatch.com (804) 649-6233 @RTDjohnoconnor

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

 

Every four years, athletes scrape the grime and graft off the Olympics, and restore them to magnificence.

We should demand that the Jessie Digginses, Red Gerards, John Shusters and Lamoureux sisters become the genuine focus of this country's Olympic movement. Congress should knock down the U.S. Olympic Committee, get rid of the bilkers who skim cash off the sweat of our greatest competitors and give little in return.

The USOC has its nerve taking credit for a gold medal in women's ice hockey, given that the U.S. team had to threaten to strike just to get decent meal money. USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun made $1 million in salary and bonuses in 2016. Meantime, until last spring, our women's hockey squad got just $6,000 apiece in an entire four-year cycle. This is a national team that has medaled in every Olympics since 1998, yet not until they staged a boycott were they granted a raise to a living wage.

The USOC is essentially defrauding us, and our champions. Blazer-wearing, propaganda-spouting executives maximize their earnings while devoting only the barest cash minimums and lip service to the care of athletes.

If you were wondering how champion U.S. gymnasts could be sexually abused by a team doctor for years, consider that their training center was so shoddy they didn't have a decent medical facility. Their ankles were taped sitting on a floor or in the bleachers.

The USOC is supposed to be a nonprofit, yet 129 of its staff make over six figures, and 14 execs more than $200,000.

Among our athletes in Korea were a firefighter, a national guardsman, and a mechanic. But the USOC's so-called "chief of sport performance" Alan Ashley was paid nearly $500,000 in 2016.

Let's look at bonuses: The USOC's board of directors handed out five of them of $100,000 or more in 2016, tax records show. Among the beneficiaries: Blackmun, Ashley and two in-house marketers who already were making six figures. The bonus for an American athlete who won a gold medal? $37,500.

Maybe all you need to know about the USOC is that the chair of that board of directors is Larry Probst, who devoted much of his adult life to commercially ripping off college athletes as the longtime CEO of Electronic Arts. For years EA used likenesses of NCAA stars without their permission, until a court stopped it. This is the head of your American Olympic movement. Look closely. And don't bother to ask again how serial abusers could flourish at the center of USA Olympic programs.

This is an organization filled with liability-dodging desk jockeys, who took until 2014 to institute even basic child protection policies, despite years of problems. During the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, a stream of stories broke describing fresh sources of outrage against athletes.

The Washington Post detailed the USOC's inaction on sexual abuse complaints across multiple sports. Among the gems uncovered was a 2015 deposition of USOC lawyer Gary Johansen in the case of a taekwondo athlete who alleged she was raped by her coach at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. According to Johansen's testimony, it wasn't the responsibility of the USOC to protect her from sexual abuse. The athlete's attorney asked, what then does the term "Team USA" even mean?

"That's a branding terminology," the USOC's lawyer said.

There you have it. The USOC has all the aggression in the world when it comes to poaching athletes' commercial rights, forcing them to wear approved sponsor garb, and generally sticking their hands into the athletes' pockets at every opportunity. But when it comes to serial sexual predators ? The USOC just can't summon the energy to investigate, or act. It isn't their job.

"We couldn't possibly get into the business of investigating allegations of misconduct in 47 different NGBs," Blackmun said before the 2016 Rio Games, when asked about chronic sex abuse in gymnastics.

In 2016, USA Swimming's executive director, the late Chuck Wielgus, made $850,000. The American swimmers who competed in the 2016 Summer Games? Their monthly stipends were capped at $42,000 a year.

Americans should find this organization insupportable. Three Congressional committees are investigating the gymnastics abuse scandal and should broaden their inquiries to include a thorough evaluation of USOC leadership, as well as leadership in each sport. Two things must happen:

First, Congress should dismiss the entire USOC executive staff, and board of directors for cause, and appoint a special chairman to a limited term to clean up this mess. This special chairman should be charged with forming a new body that serves athletes, instead of athletes serving the pockets of administrators.

Second, Congress should rewrite the USOC's charter to reflect that athletes are the heart and financial engine of the U.S. Olympic movement, by mandating that fully 50 percent of all USOC revenues go directly to competitors and team stipends.

Also, pay and bonuses for USOC officials should be capped: Never again should a USOC paper pusher get four times more in bonuses than a gold medalist. Finally, Congress should consider a national lottery to support Olympic athletes, as other countries have done, so that USOC funding is part public, open to greater examination, and illegal to subvert.

American Olympians clearly will endure almost anything to chase greatness. It makes you sick wondering how many potential American champions have been knocked off podiums by abuse, poverty or disillusion.

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Copyright 2018 The Salt Lake Tribune
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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

Fort Collins, Colo. — Larry Eustachy has agreed to step down as men's basketball coach at Colorado State, ending a "climate assessment" of the program led by athletic director Joe Parker.

Eustachy, who coached at Utah State from 1993-98, agreed to resign and amend his contract, which will now pay him $750,000 in three installments over the next two years. He'll remain on paid leave until June 30, at which time he'll formally resign, the university announced Monday.

The assistant coaching staff will be retained through the end of June.

Eustachy's decision to resign and amend his contract means there will be no conclusions or recommendations associated with Parker's investigation into Eustachy's behavior and interactions with players and staff, the school said.

Parker has not divulged what prompted the investigation.

Eustachy was in his sixth season at Colorado State, which first looked into his behavior in 2013-14 when Jack Graham was athletic director. That investigation determined Eustachy emotionally and verbally abused his players and created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, but he retained his job.

Eustachy's longtime assistant, Steve Barnes, was elevated to interim coach after Eustachy was placed on administrative leave earlier this month during the latest investigation. But he, too, was placed on leave a week later and replaced by assistant coach Jase Herl after CSU players had boycotted practice.

Barnes and Eustachy have coached together since the late 1990s.

In a statement Monday, Eustachy said he was honored and thankful to serve as the Rams' coach but added, "At the end of the day, it is time for me to step aside and allow Colorado State to open a new chapter of Rams basketball. Likewise, this also gives me a chance to hit the reset button and then put all my energy into future opportunities."

Parker said he was grateful to Eustachy for his contributions to the program "and for the time we have worked together. In turn, I understand and support Larry's interest to shift his energy toward opportunities beyond his tenure at CSU."

The Rams are 11-19 this season, including 4-13 in the Mountain West Conference.

Eustachy was 122-79 at CSU and is 524-337 in 27 seasons at Colorado State, Southern Mississippi, Iowa State, Utah State and Idaho.

His best season was 1999-2000, when Eustachy had Jamaal Tinsley and Marcus Fizer running the show and helping Iowa State to a 32-5 record, along with a spot in the Elite Eight.

For that, Eustachy was named AP coach of the year.

Shortly after his resignation at Iowa State in 2003, Eustachy went into rehabilitation to treat alcoholism.

Following a year away from basketball, he was given another opportunity at Southern Miss, where he steadily built the program into a Conference USA contender. He turned in four 20-win seasons with the Golden Eagles and led them into the NCAA tournament in 2012 for the first time since 1991.

When Tim Miles left Colorado State for Nebraska, Eustachy jumped to CSU and led the Rams to a 26-9 mark in his first season, which included an NCAA tournament berth and a No. 22 ranking in the AP Top 25.

They wouldn't return to the NCAA tournament again under Eustachy, however.

The Rams reached No. 24 two years later during a 27-7 season but were snubbed by the NCAA that year. They went 24-12 in 2016-17 before slipping this year.

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Copyright 2018 The Washington Times
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The Washington Times

 

College sports' biggest scandal shouldn't be the FBI's current basketball probe.

It should revolve around the NCAA rulebook, a weapon of mass exploitation.

But don't take my word for it. Consider Michigan hoops coach John Beilein's comment after Saturday's victory at Maryland, speaking about the need to educate players and their parents.

"When someone's offering them something," he told reporters, "whether it's big or whether it's small, they've got to say 'No,' to [even] a Coca-Cola if an agent's talking to them."

The NCAA is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Top schools exceed $100 million in revenue. Coaches, athletic directors, and agents can enjoy seven-figure incomes. Other administrators and executives can pull salaries in the high six-figures.

But give recruits a Coke and a smile?

A-ha! That's an impermissible benefit!

Yahoo Sports on Friday published a deep dive into the FBI investigation that, so far, has led to several firings, including Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino. Some of college basketball's biggest names and programs are implicated in documents that suggest a former NBA agent gave players and/or family members anything from meals to tens of thousands of dollars.

NCAA president John Emmert released a statement full of the hypocrisy and irony that define his organization.

"These allegations, if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America," the statement read. "Simply put, people who engage in this kind of behavior have no place in college sports. They are an affront to all those who play by the rules.

Emmert is outraged that any dollars from his enterprise find their way into athletes' pockets. The nerve of players to skirt guidelines that prohibit them from getting paid while others are getting rich.

"We are completely committed to making transformational changes to the game and ensuring all involved in college basketball do so with integrity," he said.

"Integrity" is a foreign concept for the NCAA.

If you want to argue that scholarships and expenses are a fair exchange when hundreds of millions of dollars are flying around college sports, fine.

Just don't be surprised when some of that money inevitably finds a way to the top talent that produces it.

Prohibition had a better chance of success than the NCAA's immoral attempt to keep athletes broke.

Beilein has a reputation for operating one of the nation's cleanest programs. His counterpart Saturday, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, prides himself on "doing things the right way," but found himself answering questions about Yahoo's report. Former Terrapins center Diamond Stone, among more than two dozen Division I players listed, allegedly received $14,000 from the ASM Sports agency.

Turgeon said neither he nor any current or former staff members have had any contact with agent Andy Miller or his associates. "I have absolutely zero relationship with that agent or agency," Turgeon told reporters after the worst home loss (85-61) in his seven-year tenure at Maryland. "I wouldn't know him if he walked in the room today."

Turgeon doesn't have to worry about possible repercussions this season, but several coaches bound for the NCAA Tournament are sweating. Programs such as Michigan State and Duke must weigh a risk vs. reward proposition. Continue to play star players mentioned in the report, like, Miles Bridges and Wendell Carter? Or rule them ineligible and launch an internal investigation.

Whatever happens, the fact that FBI agents seized emails and conducted wiretaps related to this matter continues to blow my mind. NCAA rules aren't federal law. Benefits deemed improper aren't necessarily illegal.

Even the bribery charges against former assistant coaches seem shaky. They were paid to steer recruits toward the agency. How is that much different from a referral fee?

I have a mobile app that gives me a bonus for every friend that signs up using my code. Is the app bribing me to send new customers its way?

Emmert and his cronies are loving this. They get to double-down on the faux sanctity of "amateurism," reaping all the benefits with none of the costs while the feds run a criminal investigation.

But the FBI has this all twisted.

The probe should begin — and end — with the NCAA's criminal-minded business model.

• Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

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

 

Some of the area's newest and planned recreation destinations are described as "slam dunks" and "home runs."

But they have nothing to do with basketball or baseball.

The Town of Tonawanda's 4-mile rails-to-trails path has gotten rave reviews for nearly two years. The City of Tonawanda is trying to capitalize on its confluence of trails by enticing users to visit its downtown shops. Construction of an 8-mile trail along the western shore of Grand Island begins this spring. And the town and village of Hamburg are getting serious about a trail system.

"In my opinion this is the best thing they've done in a long time in Tonawanda," said Andrew Lange, who interrupted his jog on the rails-to-trails path Saturday just long enough to answer a reporter's question. "This is free, so this is for me."

Municipalities are still building and maintaining complexes like ice rinks and aquatic centers, experts say. Participation in organized field sports and leagues is showing signs of decline, but is still strong.

But passive pursuits offered by trails and pathways are increasingly becoming a municipal priority, said Adam Bossi, a project consultant for Colorado-based GreenPlay, which advises towns on recreational offerings.

"There's definitely a shift in people's focus to want to do these types of trail-based activities locally in addition to playing baseball, swimming or any of the other things towns, YMCAs or private organizations are providing," Bossi said.

Last week Bossi presented Amherst officials the draft of a yearlong update to the town's recreation master plan, including the results of a survey of town residents.

"When it comes to trails, especially, we did see a strong desire across the board for better walking and biking experiences," he said. "Folks want to be able to get to different places without getting in the car."

Happy trails

The trail trend is real, and growing:

· New York soon will close to vehicle traffic the West River Parkway in Grand Island. Construction will turn the seasonal state road along the Niagara River into an 8-mile RiverView Connector Trail for bicyclists, joggers and walkers. The $2.5 million project is expected to be complete by late fall.

· In 2010, the 4-mile Heritage Trail opened in Lancaster, ending at the Alden town line.

· In the Southtowns, members of Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail, an all-volunteer nonprofit trail sponsor, said they're close to acquiring control of the discontinued 27.6-mile Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad right of way. The trail would stretch from Orchard Park south through Springville to Ashford in Cattaraugus County.

· In Tonawanda, the rails-to-trails path along an old railbed opened to acclaim in 2016.

"I can't believe how many people use it," said Jeffrey Ehlers, the town's Youth, Parks and Recreation Department director, adding: "I've heard nothing but compliments about it."

In fact, the town is enhancing the trail's connectivity by adding a loop trail around adjacent Lincoln Park.

Sometime this year, the northern terminus of the rails-to-trails path at State Street in the City of Tonawanda will be extended north to connect with the Canalway Trail.

Also, the city in August opened its Blue and Greenways Intermodal Hub, a rest stop and plaza for bicyclists and hikers using its trails and pathways. The $1.14 million facility is designed to evoke a turn-of-the-century carriage house with concrete sidewalks that resemble a bicycle wheel from above.

To Mayor Rick Davis, the trails create an economic development opportunity.

"We really wanted to capitalize on the frequency that those bike trails get used to provide people with a place to stop and rest and hopefully frequent some of the businesses in our downtown area," Davis said.

A 2014 American Planning Association study found that two-thirds of millennials and baby boomers agree that improving walkability in a community is directly related to strengthening the local economy. In fact, trails are popular across generations. A "cultural shift" is driving interest in trail-based activities like walking, jogging and cycling, Bossi said.

"We see a lot of baby boomers maintaining a more active lifestyle than maybe their grandparents did at that age," Bossi said.

'Sticker shock'

In an earlier era, municipal recreation meant building things for residents and then passing on the cost, either through user fees or taxes to maintain them. The region is still rife with public golf courses, tennis courts, playgrounds and pools. But tightening budgets and declining usage have led towns to think twice about building big-ticket items.

The Hamburg Town Board in late November terminated a contract with the Toronto firm that was planning to build a $30 million public-private sports facility in the town. The contract, approved in July 2016, became controversial when details about where it would be built and how much it might cost were not immediately disclosed.

The Town of Tonawanda is looking at replacing its aging Brighton ice arena - one of two in the town. But that has proven to be a tougher sell than the rails-to-trails project.

"Certainly there is that sticker shock that goes along with it," Bossi said. "A lot of these types of facilities are in the tens of millions of dollars to start constructing. Then it's a substantial commitment to staff, operate and maintain it. That said, communities that really want to do this will do it."

The Town of Tonawanda also is home to an aquatic and fitness center - considered one of the jewels in its recreation system. It was built in 1991 for $3.8 million, or $7 million in today's dollars, on the spot where an outdoor pool once stood. By contrast, the entire 4 miles of Tonawanda Rails to Trails cost $3.5 million, and was funded mostly with grants.

The center faces challenges, including competition from national chains of fitness clubs and state-mandated increases to the minimum wage paid to the center's 130 part-timers, Ehlers said.

The increases have driven the center's personnel costs to $950,000 of its total operating budget of $1.27 million.

Could the town build the aquatic center today?

"It's a different time," he said. "When we made the aquatic and fitness center, the economy was totally different than it is today."

A priority

Trails don't bring in revenue, but there's a demand for them.

Creation of an interconnected system of pedestrian and bicycle trails and paths was identified as a priority in the Amherst report.

The study found that the town has limited connectivity of neighborhoods to parks, and parks to parks, via trails. "The existing system of multiuse paths, sidewalks and trails has potential to be expanded to provide better pedestrian and bicycle connections within the town," the report found.

Erie County also is in the midst of an update to its parks master plan, and in both the town and county studies, trails and pathways rose to the top as the most important amenity in the region.

Towns are changing their recreation game plans in response, Bossi said, while trying to offer something for everyone.

"One of the challenges for towns, especially one as large as Amherst, is there's a huge diversity of people and everyone wants to do something different," he said. "Being a public provider of recreation services, you're really trying to cater to a huge segment of people with a variety of interests."

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Copyright 2018 Ventura County Star
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Ventura County Star (California)

 

A Camarillo youth soccer coach pleaded guilty Friday to molesting a former player between late 2007 to 2009, authorities said.

Vincent Thomas, 48, of Thousand Oaks, pleaded guilty to felony lewd act upon a 15-year-old and a related crime, said Senior Deputy District Attorney Tom Dunlevy.

He entered the change in plea Friday in Ventura County Superior Court before Judge Bruce Young as part of a plea agreement. Thomas initially pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The alleged "sexual relationship" was reported to authorities in June, according to the Ventura County Sheriff's Office.

Thomas began with some touching when the victim was 15, and the crime became more sexual when the victim was 16, Dunlevy said.

Thomas was arrested July 10 after being contacted by detectives. Based on their conversation with him, detectives believed they had enough information to arrest him, authorities said.

"He made certain admissions pertaining to the crime during the investigation," Dunlevy said.

Thomas' defense attorney, William Haney, declined to comment because the case is still pending in court.

From ABCourt: Leagues Have Duty to Shield Youths from Predators

The prosecutor said Thomas is expected to be sentenced to one year in custody, to be placed on five years of formal probation and will have to register as a sex offender. Dunlevy said he was glad Thomas "took responsibility" at an early stage, sparing the victim and her family from trial.

Thomas, who was 37 at the time of the first alleged offense, had been a youth soccer coach in Ventura County for about 20 years, sheriff's officials said.

At the time he was arrested, he was listed as a girl's soccer coach on the Camarillo Eagles Soccer Club and had been coaching locally since 1992. He coached three Eagles teams, according to the club website, the girls under-18 premier team, girls under-16 premier team and girls under-12 gold team.

But on Monday, he was not listed as a coach on the club's website.

Club President Kathleen Kelley said Thomas was suspended indefinitely after the arrest. He was officially terminated from the club when he was charged with the alleged sex crimes on July 12, Kelley said.

"His contract was terminated on the day he was charged. As soon as it was official then yes he was terminated..," Kelley said. "The Eagles have not had any communication with him whatsoever."

A search warrant was also served at Thomas' home the day he was arrested but no evidence was found. And no other possible victims have come forward, Dunlevy said.

"I think it was, from what I understand, an isolated incident from one person," Kelley said.

Once word spread about the arrest, parents of players in the program were initially in shock but Kelley said she mostly received calls of support for Thomas.

Still, the club decided to have a therapist come in to offer support for whoever needed it. Only one person showed up, Kelley said.

"It was actually really good for the one person because they had a close player-coach relationship," the club president said.

The league started up in September and it has since been business as usual, Kelley said. She hopes that the victim has some kind of closure.

"I just hope that the victim is OK and that she is now able to move on with her life... No family should have to go through this. As a mother, I get it. It's bad," Kelley said.

Thomas is scheduled to be sentenced at 9 a.m. April 3 in Courtroom 12.

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Copyright 2018 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

There is something amazing about watching an Olympic athlete. They put all of their physical, mental and emotional energy into a lifetime of training, all for the chance to compete at the elite level. To see one suffer an injury is heartbreaking, but it may be the best time to talk about sports safety and the steps to take to protect your child athlete.

"While some sports have a higher risk for concussions, head injuries can happen anytime, anywhere. That's why it's important that all athletes get abase-line test every year, before the season starts," says Lora Scott, MD, medical director of sports medicine at Dayton Children's. "In order to say a concussion is better, you have to feel better, have a normal exam, and make sure your brain works. One of the best ways to check if your brain works is to do acomputer test that checks things like memory and reaction time. The baseline test is offered pre-injury, when a child's brain is working best for him or her."

To check if the brain works, Dayton Children's uses a concussion testing system called Neurocognitive Sports Computerized Cognitive Assessment Tool (CCAT) to help measure the cognitive function of child and teen athletes after suspected concussions or traumatic brain injuries (TBI). It's a simple test done on a computer, similar to playing a game.

In a baseline test, CCAT uses four simple tasks to measure brain function and the ability to process information. After an injury, testing can be repeated in clinic and compared with baseline test results. Testing after an injury is most helpful when athletes have a baseline, pre-injury test to use as a comparison. This helps doctors determine when brain function returns to normal.

Athletes who have a concussion without a baseline test can still be treated in a sports medicine clinic after an injury. However, determining when they are back to "normal" is more difficult because their tests can only be compared to the baseline test results of athletes of similar age and gender. "Each child is unique, therefore having a baseline for your child is extremely helpful in managing a concussion, should one occur. Comparing the pre-and post-concussion test scores can help determine when an athlete is ready to return to normal activities," says Dr. Scott.

Dayton Children's offers free baseline testing on awalk-in basis to children ages 10-21. Please call any outpatient testing center or the sports medicine clinic, at 937-641-3939, for more information such as hours or best times.

This look at a children's health or safety issue comes from Dayton Children's Hospital. Email: newsroom@childrensdayton.org

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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

USA TODAY

 

Years ago in a casual conversation, a Power Five coach told me of him and his colleagues, "You know, in reality we're all more arrogant than you can imagine."

I've never doubted that was true. You have to have a healthier-than-average ego to compete at a championship level, and coaches who win are never short on confidence. They are often the biggest men on big campuses, and that type of attention — sometimes bordering on worship — can make a person feel invincible.

Is that what's happening with Sean Miller?

The disgraced Arizona coach missed the Wildcats' game Saturday at Oregon after an ESPN report alleged that Miller, in an FBI wire-tapped conversation, spoke with an agent about potentially paying $100,000 to influence the recruiting decision of current Arizona freshman Deandre Ayton. Ayton and his family, through a lawyer, denied that they had ever received or solicited money from any university or shoe company.

In what was absolutely the subplot Saturday night, Arizona blew a 13-point lead and lost 98-93 to the Ducks in overtime. Associate head coach Lorenzo Romar paced the sideline at Matt Knight Arena instead of Miller. The Wildcats, who threw away a chance to clinch at least a share of the Pac-12 title, were also missing junior guard Allonzo Trier, who was declared ineligible Thursday after testing positive for a banned substance. Arizona is appealing the decision.

Suffice it to say, it's been a long week for the Wildcats.

Though it appears we're a long way from Miller actually being fired — his contract language is complicated, not to mention Arizona can't cut someone loose just because of something that was written in a report and has yet to be proven true — it's likely he's coached his last game at Arizona. In many ways, he's already been convicted in the court of public opinion.

Alums have already started to turn on Miller: Friday night when the report of the wire-tapped call published, former Arizona standout Jason Terry tweeted "it's time to clean house and bring home our own bloodlines to carry on Lutes (sic) Legacy. We have too much pride, too much tradition to allow outsiders to tear down what we built." (That tweet has since been deleted.) Saturday, current NBA player Andre Iguodala tweeted "But Book got the cuffs..." a reference to former Arizona assistant Emmanual "Book" Richardson, who was arrested in the FBI's initial sting and who Arizona has tried to paint as a rogue assistant operating without Miller's knowledge.

Also Saturday, Shareef O'Neal, a top 30 prospect in the 2018 class and Shaquille O'Neal's son, decommitted from Arizona, announcing that he would re-open his recruitment.

"Our jobs as players is to play the games and play our hardest, regardless of adversity," senior guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright said after the loss. "There's adversity around the country on a lot of teams; nobody's feeling sorry for them. They come out and they're still playing. It should be no different for us."

Romar, who coached at Washington from 2002-2017, said he was informed by both Miller and Arizona athletic director David Heeke earlier Saturday that he'd be running the game Saturday night. The university did not respond to USA TODAY when asked if Miller, Heeke, or someone else made the decision for Miller to not coach.

Watching this play out over the past 48 hours has reminded me, in some ways, of the Lance Armstrong situation. Armstrong lied for years about taking performance enhancing drugs and in the process, destroyed the lives of anyone who got in the way of his narrative. Miller isn't malicious like that, but after saying "I will be vindicated" so many times I wonder — at some point, are you so far down the road of lies that there's no turning back? Do you convince yourself it's true?

In his statement, Ayton said he discussed the pay-for-play allegations with the FBI more than six months ago. Could the FBI have already cleared Miller? Or are the feds building a bigger case against him than we can even imagine?

Does it even matter anymore?

At some point, you become enough of a distraction that the professional thing to do is step away. Miller has already crossed that line.

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Copyright 2018 The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

The breakneck pace of work at the new Milwaukee Bucks arena ensures one thing — something's different every day.

As construction work zooms along, with a grand opening fewer than six months away, major decisions are still to come on the business front.

Lights are on in the luxury suites and about a fourth of them are nearly completed. All but a handful have been sold.

Flooring is finished in many areas. One nearly completed concession stand sports a handsome cream city brick backdrop.

On a recent day, Bucks President Peter Feigin was hustling over to inspect and sign off on soda dispensers and bathroom fixtures.

It's warm and toasty inside, with far less din from heavy machinery and cranes laboring inside the bowl. Now, you're more likely to see workers running polishing equipment or measuring trim than those who were climbing the girders and hanging drywall not so long ago.

"Every day we set foot in this arena we are just amazed by its progress," Feigin said.

Less than a year ago, the site was a blustery, chilly place as the structural steel framing was set. Workers needed live animal traps to capture and relocate unwelcome critters such as raccoons and opossums that wandered in.

The workforce of a few hundred grew to more than 800 in the fall and is now being gradually drawn down, said Jesse Kemp, senior project manager for Mortenson, the construction manager for the $524 million project. There are about 600 workers on the site now.

The building is 84% complete, and on time, Kemp said. Almost all of the seats are installed and protected with plastic sheeting, and workers are busy preparing the retractable seats in the lower bowl.

All of that is critical, because the Bucks have booked a string of shows, starting less than six months from now. The building must be fully functioning before that, because the team plans a slew of grand opening events before the first chord is struck or first basket sunk.

As construction zips along, several key unknowns remain on the business front and chief among them is the naming rights for the facility.

The Bucks were seeking a deal worth $7 million to $10 million over 20 years. Feigin hoped to have a deal in place last summer and then thought it could be landed by the fall. Last week he said there was nothing new to report on that front.

The naming rights are a critical matter for the Bucks' finances because the team will run and maintain the building.

A number of local companies — Johnson Controls, Miller Brewing Co., BMO Harris Bank, Froedtert Hospital and Harley-Davidson — have become partners but there have been no local takers for the naming rights.

Feigin shifted his focus to national or international companies that want to tap into the NBA's growing international audience fueled by superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Outside, on the east side of the arena, work continues on the entertainment block, several buildings that will be connected by a plaza and beer garden. The Bucks have not announced details about the tenants or themes for those structures.

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The New York Post

 

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS actually had reason to celebrate on Sunday when their school's ice-hockey team won the Florida state championship.

Eleven days after tragedy struck, the fourth-seeded Eagles upset top-ranked East Lake 3-1 in the semifinals at a minor-league rink in Estero, near Fort Myers, and then defeated Tampa Jesuit 7-4 in the finals later on Sunday.

Team members attributed their victory to the special bond that developed following the Feb. 14 massacre.

"This wasn't for us. This was for the 17 victims," senior Matthew Horowitz told Miami/Fort Lauderdale television station WPLG-TV.

The twin victories on Sunday were especially impressive because the Eagles had suffered back-to-back defeats in the tournament on Saturday.

But on Sunday, "No one was lacking energy in the locker room," Horowitz said. "We all came to play. We were all ready."

Another player, senior Ronnie Froetschel, noted that he was just "glad to be alive."

Forward Joey Zenobi, also a senior, told told Fort Myers' WBBH-TV, "Now we get to bring the trophy back to the best high school in America."

There were 17 members on the hockey team to match the number of victims.

The medals will be displayed at Stoneman Douglas in memory of those who lost their lives.

The Eagles are now eligible to play in the national high-school hockey championship tournament next month in Plymouth, Minn. ,

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Copyright 2018 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Rick Pitino's 2013 national title at Louisville has been vacated.

As soon as the news broke that the NCAA had stripped Louisville of its 2013 national championship and 2012 Final Four appearance in men's basketball, the stories began. The gist of many headlines: "Pitino's Legacy Tarnished Forever."

In truth, Pitino's legacy was already tarnished, not just by the sex scandal that brought down the two banners, but also by the more recent and ever-expanding FBI investigation into corruption at numerous college basketball programs, including Louisville.

The more recent scandal cost Pitino his job. It has not, however, cost him his plaque in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Which raises two questions: Should active coaches be eligible and should NCAA sanctions — before or after their election — disqualify them?

Pitino was inducted in 2013, soon after winning the national title that, in the eyes of the NCAA, no longer exists at Louisville. He is part of a not-so-glorious group of coaches who were enshrined while active and have been on NCAA probation in one form or another.

Larry Brown joined the Hall of Fame in 2002 even though he had been the coach at Kansas and UCLA when they were sanctioned by the NCAA — including UCLA's appearance in the 1980 national championship, which was later vacated. Brown returned to college ball long enough to be in charge when SMU went on probation two years ago. Three for three.

Three years after Brown's induction, Big East rivals Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun joined the club. Calhoun went on to win his third national title in 2011 but retired the following year later with Connecticut ineligible for the 2013 NCAA tournament for Academic Progress Rate failures. Boeheim was suspended for nine games and forced to vacate 108 wins in 2015. It was the second time Syracuse had faced sanctions in his current 42-year tenure as the school's coach.

In 2015, Kentucky coach John Calipari was inducted even though he's led two programs — Massachusetts in 1996 and Memphis in 2008 — that later had Final Four appearances vacated.

The thing all these coaches have in common besides their Hall of Fame plaques is that they all claim innocence in one form or another.

To be fair, there are plenty of coaches inducted while still active whose programs were not hit with NCAA sanctions, among them Adolph Rupp, John Wooden, Dean Smith, Bob Knight, John Chaney and Lute Olson. Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Herb Magee and Tom Izzo all have plaques in Springfield and are still coaching; on the women's side, there are Geno Auriemma, Tara VanDerveer and Sylvia Hatchell.

For years, the only criteria for a college coach was that he had to have been active for 25 years or retired for four years.

This year, perhaps because of what has happened with active coaches, the Hall tweaked the criteria. First, it required that a coach be 60 before he is eligible for induction. Second, and perhaps more important, it added a "statement of values" — which in English would be called a character clause — that voters are supposed to take into consideration for all candidates.

One wonders if some of the coaches who have gone in recently would still be elected if the "statement of values" had existed when they were nominated.

Past transgressions haven't seemed to matter to the basketball voters. All the coaches with tainted records who have been elected in this century had already committed violations that landed them and their schools in hot water when elected.

While Pitino and Louisville continue to rail at the injustice of the lost banner, the larger college basketball question is how many more programs and coaches will be taken down when the FBI finishes its investigation?

If that happens, will the Hall of Fame decide it's time to make it possible for plaques to come down? Will accomplished coaches otherwise up for election find that the new statement of values will keep them from joining other tainted coaches in the Hall?

To quote the late Bill Foster, who coached at four college programs including Duke before Krzyzewski, "if there's one thing I know about college basketball, it's that cheating pays."

Clearly, that statement can also be frequently applied to getting into the Hall of Fame.

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Copyright 2018 The Arizona Daily Star. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

 

We all have that Facebook friend — or 10 — who regularly posts photos of his or her fitness pursuits: on the elliptical at the gym, hiking through the wilderness, crossing a 10K finish line.

The goal of those posters might be to brag, to inspire or simply to share a part of their lives with friends. But what they may also be doing, for better or worse, is influencing the health of their social media pals, according to a study by researchers at Texas State University and the University of Arizona.

Researchers found that the more exercise-related posts a person sees on social media, the more concerned they feel about their own weight, which could result in unhealthy body image.

"When people received more posts about exercise, it made them more concerned about their weight — more self-conscious — and that's not a good thing," said Stephen Rains, a UA communication professor and co-author of the study, which appears in the journal Health Communication.

People are especially likely to feel concerned about their weight when they perceive their friends who post about physical activity as being very similar to themselves, said Rains, who co-authored the study with lead author and UA alumna Tricia Burke, a professor of communication studies at Texas State University.

"We thought about this from the perspective of social comparison theory, and the idea that we use others as benchmarks to figure out where we stand," said Rains, also an associate professor of psychology at the UA. "Similarity heightens social comparison, so if the person posting about exercise is someone who's in your age group has a similar build or a similar background, you might think that's a pretty good reference, and that might spark in you even greater weight concern."

The news isn't all bad, though. For certain people, friends' exercise posts seem to have a motivating effect when it comes to attitudes about exercise. Researchers found this to be true for people who are more likely to engage in "upward social comparisons," or look at themselves in the light of people whom they aspire to be like.

"With upward social comparisons, you tend to compare yourself to those you perceive as superior to you," said Burke, who holds three UA degrees.

"So, for example, if you're in a classroom, you'd compare yourself to the smartest kid in class. In terms of exercise, if a person is posting a lot about exercise, they must be really fit, so you're using that as a motivator."

In contrast, those who engage in "downward social comparisons" use as their benchmark people who they perceive as doing less well than they are. A tendency to engage in downward comparisons did not have an impact on weight concern or exercise attitudes in the study.

The researchers asked 232 study participants to log into their favorite social media site and look at the past 30 days' worth of posts from their friends. The participants counted how many of the posts — photos or text-only — depicted their friends engaging in exercise.

For the study, exercise was broadly defined as any physical activity for the purpose of maintaining fitness and health, which could include anything from hiking to taking a walk to going to the gym.

Participants then chose the three of their social media connections who made the most exercise-related posts and rated their perceived similarity to each of those individuals.

They also completed questionnaires that measured their level of concern about their weight, their general attitudes about exercise and their tendency to make either upward or downward social comparisons.

"Our results were mixed. Good can come out of this, in the sense that it can make some people more interested in exercising and feel better about exercising, but it might make other people feel worse about themselves if they're more concerned with their weight," said Rains, who recently was identified by the journal Communication Education as the second-mos-productive communications scholar in the country, having published 10 articles in the field's top journals between 2012 and 2016.

Social networking sites are interesting, researchers say, because users are exposed to a constant stream of information about specific health aspects of their friends' lives — such as exercise — that they might not have known anything about otherwise.

"We wondered what happens when those exercise behaviors pop up, because the people on our feeds are not just random strangers — they are people we know and have some connection with, and we wondered if that matters," Rains said.

The mixed findings suggest that social media's impact on health is indeed real, if nuanced, and deserves additional attention.

"We're still trying to figure out the effects of these technologies, which have barely been used over 10 years," Rains said.

"This is all still pretty new ground, and we're trying to make sense of what it means, and if and why it matters."

Burke also wants to learn more about what motivates people to post about their exercise behaviors online in the first place — a topic she plans to explore further in future research.

"I think people post for a variety of reasons — to try to motivate the others, to hold themselves accountable, or just because they want to share part of their lives," she said.

"We want to know more about why people are posting about this and how they make decisions about what to post."

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The New York Post

 

The term March Madness will seem mundane compared to what the month ahead brings us.

Hysteria might be more apropos. Or delirium. Perhaps mayhem.

We're about to experience a March unlike any other, and it only slightly has to do with this year's NCAA Tournament, which promises to be as unpredictable as it will be exciting, with few favorites, so many potential Final Four teams, and sleepers lurking in every bracket.

The FBI investigation into corruption has flipped the sport upside down, and has already contributed to the dismissal of a Hall of Fame coach (Louisville's Rick Pitino), and may lead to the ouster of one of the sport's most powerful ones (Arizona's Sean Miller).

On Sept. 26, four assistant coaches — Lamont Evans (Oklahoma State), Emmanuel "Book" Richardson (Arizona) Chuck Person (Auburn), and Tony Bland (USC) — were arrested, along with sports management executives and a top executive at Adidas on bribery and fraud charges. Sports agent Andy Miller's ASM Sports agency office was raided. Things remained quiet until this weekend, when explosive reports from Yahoo Sports and ESPN based on leaked evidence from the Feds' investigation implicated almost two dozen schools and at least 25 current or former players for NCAA infractions, like alleged impermissible loans and payments.

According to wiretaps, Sean Miller was caught talking about a payment of $100,000 for prized freshman Deandre Ayton. He didn't coach Arizona's game Saturday night at Oregon, and his status remains uncertain. Yahoo's findings: Former ASM Sports employee Christian Dawkins' expense reports named powerhouse programs such as Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State and North Carolina, and some of the game's best freshmen, such as Ayton, Collin Sexton, Wendell Carter, and Kevin Knox.

What has followed are denials and rumors, questions of what programs, players and coaches will be implicated next, theories about how the NCAA must proceed, and endless debate regarding the health — or lack thereof — of the sport. One high-major college coach whose school has been implicated, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "I don't care what program it is. Everyone is worried. It's a dark cloud."

Saturday afternoon, Seton Hall locked down a gutsy 81-74 overtime win over St. John's at the Garden. The Pirates, without leading scorer Desi Rodriguez (ankle), assured themselves of a third straight NCAA Tournament bid with road wins at Providence and St. John's this week. But they also found themselves in the crosshairs of the scandal, when it was reported by Yahoo that former Pirate star Isaiah Whitehead and former assistant coach Dwayne "Tiny" Morton were on Andy Miller's payroll, according to Dawkins' expense reports.

Whitehead, the most prized recruit of the Kevin Willard era, who led Seton Hall to the 2016 Big East Tournament title, reportedly received $26,136 during his freshman year and was also given $37,657 as part of "setting up a payment plan." Morton, Whitehead's high school coach, was also listed in the documents for receiving a $9,500 loan. He coached at Seton Hall for one year, Whitehead's freshman season — he was part of a package deal for the Pirates to land the five-star recruit — before returning to coach Lincoln High School. Morton's relationship with Miller predates coming to Seton Hall, as the agent represented Morton's former player, Sebastian Telfair, who Willard recruited when he was an assistant at Louisville.

Thus, Seton Hall's postgame media session Saturday was more a cross-examination than a positive press conference discussing a big victory.

It felt like a preview of the month ahead, when the on-court results will be secondary. The winners will feel like losers. Reporters will have one eye on the court and the other on Twitter and their phones, wondering when the next bombshell will drop.

This is just the beginning. More leaks are expected. More programs will face accusations. More players will be forced to deny receiving benefits from agents. And it doesn't sound like the NCAA is planning to make any of these schools ineligible for postseason play, creating even more confusion. What happens if news drops during the actual tournament. Will players be held out of Sweet 16 games? Will a coach be on the bench for the first round and not the second?

A March like we've never seen is almost upon us. Calling it Madness would be an understatement. Anarchy would be more like it.

Game of the Week:

No. 10 North Carolina at No. 5 Duke, Saturday, 8:15 p.m.

It just feels right that on the final Saturday of the regular season these two rivals meet, both of them soaring, with a combined 11 straight victories between them, each still with a shot at a No. 1 seed if enough goes right leading to Selection Sunday. North Carolina won the first meeting, 82-78, in Chapel Hill on Feb. 8, behind 11 made 3-pointers. But the Tar Heels will see a different Duke team this time, a better defensive unit, and a more potent group offensively now that senior star Grayson Allen has begun to find his game, averaging 20.2 points during the Blue Devils' five-game winning streak.

Super 16

A prediction of the top four seeds in the NCAA Tournament (listed in order):

1: Virginia, Xavier, Kansas, Villanova

2. Duke, Michigan State, Purdue, North Carolina

3. Auburn, Texas Tech, Ohio State, Tennessee

4. Gonzaga, Clemson, Rhode Island, Cincinnati

Stock Watch

Up: John Calipari

There is still a narrative which regards Calipari as more of a recruiter than a coach, that his best work is done on the recruiting trail, and not on the sidelines. He's not Tom Izzo with a clipboard, but he's proven to be pretty good at getting the most out of his players, and this season is further proof of that. Kentucky, lacking the usual elite-level future NBA stars, has found itself recently, winning three straight games, all by double-figures, and is tied for third place in the rugged SEC. Calipari has gotten his five-star prospects to give more effort, play more selflessly, and accept lesser roles, and the result, suddenly, is a dangerous team.

Up: Eric Musselman

The former Warriors and Kings head coach has quickly built Nevada into one of the premier mid-major programs in the country. Relying heavily on transfers, he won the CBI title his first year, led the 20th-ranked Wolf Pack to their first tournament bid in a decade last year, and has them almost certainly headed back to the dance this year after clinching a second straight Mountain West regular-season crown on Sunday. This team beat No. 18 Rhode Island, and nearly knocked off sixth-ranked Texas Tech and tournament team TCU, losing those games by a combined 10 points.

Down: Sean Miller

Arizona gave Miller the benefit of the doubt when his longtime assistant coach Emmanuel "Book" Richardson was one of four coaches arrested on Sept. 26 as part of the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball. I found it hard to believe Miller had no knowledge of Richardson's actions, considering the two had been attached at the hip for 10 years. And now comes this ESPN bombshell, that Miller was caught on wiretaps discussing a $100,000 payment to top freshman Deandre Ayton. Miller didn't coach Saturday's game against Oregon, and his status is uncertain. Once controversies add up like this, the coach usually has to go, as was the case with Rick Pitino at Louisville.

Down: Cincinnati

The 23-4 record is impressive. The No. 11 RPI is strong. So is the No. 11 ranking. And, yet, we don't know what to think of the Bearcats. They have one win — yes, one! — over an NCAA Tournament team, at home against No. 23 Houston. Their other significant victories are at mediocre UCLA, and at inconsistent Temple. Cincinnati was manhandled by No. 4 Xavier, fell to Florida, and has also dropped games to No. 13 Wichita State at home and Houston on the road. Mick Cronin's team is a mystery.

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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

GREEN BAY — The Green Bay Packers are replacing the turf at Lambeau Field.

Replacement is necessary because the synthetic fibers sown into the turf were wearing out. The surface is the same concept as before, but the Packers are switching from the GrassMaster product to SISGrass. The GrassMaster turf was installed before the 2007 season.

Here's a quick look at the turf replacement project and what it will take to get the field ready for the start of the season:

Work began this month. The field is expected to be ready for play in early August, before Family Night.

Irrigation and heating systems will be re-installed to make sure they work with the new turf.

Sod will be planted in spring. Stitching of synthetic fibers will take place in July.

More than 2,500 miles of synthetic fibers (or 20 million individual fibers) will be sewn into the grass.

The Packers shareholder meeting will be held at Lambeau Field in June and Cellcom Green Bay Marathon will go through the stadium, but no other events, such as concerts, are scheduled.

And no, the Packers will not sell the turf removed from the field as they did in 1997.

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

DURHAM, N.C. — After Duke's 60-44 win over Syracuse on Saturday, the talk wasn't about the return of Marvin Bagley III or the Blue Devils' fifth straight win and their fourth straight while holding an ACC opponent under 60 points.

Instead, the talk from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was about the dark cloud hanging over college basketball.

"It's a horrible time for the game," Kryzyewski said. "The game has been on its knees begging for change for years. Sometimes unless something horrible happens you just don't change. We need to change. We need to take a look at amateurism and define it differently."

On Friday, a Yahoo Sports report tied current and former Duke, UNC and N.C. State players to the federal investigation into pay-to-play schemes involving coaches, recruits and agents.

Duke freshman forward Wendell Carter Jr., and former UNC players Brice Johnson and Tony Bradley were listed as players who had a meeting or a meal with former ASM Sports associate Christian Dawkins. Dawkins was one of 10 people arrested in the FBI's investigation.

Former N.C. State guard Dennis Smith Jr. and former UNC forward Brendan Haywood were listed in the federal documents as having received loans from the agency, according to the Yahoo report.

A second Yahoo report, published Friday night, included a 2016 email from Dawkins to ASM agent Andy Miller, who had been disassociated from N.C. State in 2012, claiming Dawkins had talked to Mark Gottfried, who was NC State's head coach at the time, and Orlando Early, an NC State assistant coach.

Also late Friday, ESPN reported that Arizona head coach Sean Miller was heard on a wiretap discussing $100,000 in payments for freshman Deandre Ayton to sign with the Wildcats. Miller was an assistant coach at NC State under head coach Herb Sendek from 1996-2001.

Kryzyewski said the NCAA should become more "modern."

"There's enough out there for us to change," Kryzyewski said. "How do we change in what we do in recruiting?"

Kryzyewski said one change that might not be bad would be when coaches go recruit a player and meet their families, that an agent be present.

"At least they would be getting expert advice that they chose," Kryzyewski said. "Things like that. Let's just get ahead of the game. Most of this stuff is what happens before they (the players) get here. I don't have the exact solution, I just know that's where the problems are."

Boeheim, the Syracuse coach, said the answer isn't to pay players, but that the one-and-done rule should end. The hall of fame coach said problems stem from agents reaching out to those one-and-done players before they get to college because they know they won't be in school for very long.

"Everybody knows for 30 years that agents have been involved with players' families," Boeheim said. "This is nothing that would surprise anybody in coaching. Agents are trying to get clients, and when you have the one-and-done factor, they go after them."

Boeheim did say he was surprised that assistant college basketball coaches are involved in the FBI's investigation. In September, four assistant coaches were among the 10 arrested as part of the FBI's investigation into college basketball.

Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person was accused of receiving $91,500 from a financial adviser and swaying players to that adviser's company. Arizona assistant Emanuel "Book" Richardson, Oklahoma State assistant coach Lamont Evans and Southern California assistant coach Tony Bland also faced charges.

Boeheim said there is no doubt that agents are going to talk to parents, but it has nothing to do with college basketball.

 

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Times Record News (Wichita Falls, Texas)

 

Hoskins Field on the North side of Memorial Stadium got to experience a very different type of game Saturday when the two day 2018 US Quidditch Southwest Regional Championship moved in away from the muddy soccer fields.

Although the Quidditch is pulled from the pages of "Harry Potter," players don't need to fly to compete in the co-ed, full-contact sport. Seven players running around on yellow sticks work together on each team to win. A volleyball is used as the quaffle to score points, and a runner dressed in yellow with a Velcro tail acts as the snitch. To catch the snitch and earn 30 points seekers have to take the tail from the snitch.

At the Southwest Regional Championship, 24 total teams competed for eight collegiate and two adult community spots in the US Quidditch Cup 11 in Round Rock, Texas, April 14-15.

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Copyright 2018 The Arizona Daily Star. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

 

UA assistant basketball coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson's was arrested in September and charged as part of the FBI's ongoing investigation into college baseball corruption. Almost immediately, Arizona Wildcats fans have wondered what role, if any, head coach Sean Miller played.

ESPN reported Friday that Miller discussed paying Deandre Ayton $100,000 to play at Arizona. The conversation was recorded on an FBI wiretap between Miller and with sports agent Christian Dawkins, ESPN reported.

While the FBI has yet to publicly release anything linking Miller to the scandal, the initial investigation revealed the related scheme involving "significant cash payments" by athletic advisors and one shoe company to the families of high school basketball players.

The players were paid at the request of coaches at two of the universities in exchange for commitments to the schools. In the case of Arizona, Richardson reportedly sought money from an agent so he could funnel it to a recruit.

Here's a timeline of Richardson's involvement, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court, and what's happened in recent days.

February 2017-September 2017: The complaint against Richardson says that between February and September, co-defendants Christian Dawkins and Munish Sood paid Richardson $20,000 in bribes, "some of which Richardson appears to have kept for himself and some of which he appears to have provided to at least one prospective high school basketball player" in order to recruit the player to UA, the complaint says.

March: Dawkins, a sports agent who was fired by ASM Sports, receives money to start a new company from Sood, founder and CEO of the Princeton Advisory Group, an investment services company, according to the complaint. Dawkins introduces Richardson and Sood during the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas.

June: An FBI wiretap records a conversation between Dawkins and Richardson in which the two discuss a high school basketball player that Richardson was going to pay to come play for the UA, the complaint says.

Dawkins tells Richardson that the group is prepared to pay him $5,000 or more per month, and that Richardson could "funnel part of the bribe money" to pay the prospective player, saying "it's multiple ways to skin a cat," the complaint says. A month later, Dawkins tells an undercover agent that Richardson needs another $15,000 to secure the player, whom Dawkins identified as a "top point guard in the country," according to the complaint.

August: Dawkins, Sood and Richardson meet at a restaurant in Arizona and talk about the players Richardson intends to "influence to sign with Dawkins' new company," including a "kind of sheltered kid" whose relative "doesn't know" much about the industry.

Sept. 26: Richardson is arrested and charged. He faces up to 60 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines if convicted of all charges.

Friday morning: Yahoo Sports releases details of the FBI investigation, based on hundreds of pages of discovery materials. Expense reports and balance sheets from ASM sports -- Dawkins' former employer -- list cash advances, entertainment and travel expenses for high school and college prospects and their families, according to Yahoo. The documents reveal an "underground recruiting operation" for at least 20 basketball programs, Yahoo said.

Friday night: An ESPN report links Miller to parties named in the federal indictment. ESPN reports that FBI wiretaps recorded a discussion between Miller and Dawkins during which the two discussed the price tag of landing Ayton. ESPN's story doesn't say if Ayton received any money. Yahoo Sports, meanwhile, releases more details into the investigation. Former UA associate head coach Joe Pastnernack is repeatedly mentioned in a chain of emails in which Dawkins and his boss, Andy Miller, discuss recruits, according to Yahoo sports.

Saturday afternoon: Miller tells his players that it's in the best interest of the team for him not to coach the game.

Saturday night: An attorney representing Ayton's family says the player met with the FBI six months ago, and has repeatedly denied receiving any money to attend Arizona.

Credit: Arizona Daily Star

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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

For the second time in a month, Franklin High School administrators are investigating a racially charged incident, this one involving the alleged taunting of black players on a visiting basketball team from Racine.

Stephon Chapman, a small forward for the Horlick High School Rebels, said fans in the Franklin student section made monkey noises when he lined up to take his free throw shots during the first half of the game Thursday night.

After the game, he said, a white male adult shouted a racial slur at players, most of them African-American, as they boarded their bus.

"I was really shocked. I was, like, seriously?" Chapman said Saturday, recounting his reaction to the taunts - by several students, he said - coming from the bleachers.

"It felt so disrespectful," he said, noting that opposing players were not part the problem. "But our coach was really good. He just kept saying we don't stoop to that level."

Franklin officials issued a statement saying a lone student was ejected from the gymnasium after a spectator complained and that the incident was under investigation.

It said the district "does not tolerate discriminatory or harassing conduct by students," and "any student who is found to have engaged in this conduct is subject to disciplinary action."

"We are doing all we can to make sure that the school environment is a positive place for all," Superintendent Judy Mueller said in an email. She said she does not believe the incidents represent Franklin's student body.

A spokesman for the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association said it was aware of the incident and that the schools were working together to address it.

A Horlick spokeswoman said Saturday that she did not know whether the school would file a complaint with the WIAA.

Horlick Activities Director Joe Wendt had issued a statement Friday saying he'd been in contact with Franklin officials and that he was "extremely proud of the way our athletes, coaches and students carried themselves last evening."

"They showed great integrity and class in the way they responded to a difficult situation," Wendt said.

Franklin won the game, 85 to 75.

The incident came four weeks after a Franklin High School student was suspended for posting a placard that said "white" over a drinking fountain at the school, and another that said "colored" over the empty space next to it - an allusion to segregationist policies of the Jim Crow era.

That incident raised a concern among civil rights advocates, who called on the predominantly white suburban district to increase awareness around issues of diversity and inclusion and to join other schools that recognize the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday as a holiday.

Franklin High School has just 31 African-American students, or 2% of the student body, compared with 22% at Horlick, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.

Students and parents have complained of racial incidents at a number of schools in Wisconsin and across the country in recent years. Parents interviewed for a 2016 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story on the racial bullying in rural schools in southeastern Wisconsin reported seeing several incidents. Also in 2016, the Elkhorn Area School District disciplined several students for taunting black and Latina girls with calls of "Trump" and "Trump, build that wall" during a soccer match against Beloit Memorial High School.

Horlick Coach Jason Treutelaar said he was troubled by the incident but proud of his team, which he called "a close-knit group of ballplayers who always have each others' backs."

"I can only imagine how hard that was," said Treutelaar, who is white.

"But they kept it together. Everybody kept their composure and played the game like it needed to be played. I hope everyone learns from it and will grow from it."

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Copyright 2018 Orange County Register
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Orange County Register (California)

 

Southern California youth football coaches are teaming up to battle what they say is a threat to their sport: a state bill that would ban tackling until players are in high school.

The Safe Youth Football Act, which California legislators are expected to take up this spring, aims to protect kids from concussions and brain injuries by setting a minimum age for organized tackle football programs.

Several members of the Southern California Football Coaches Association, including Temecula Valley High School's Bert Esposito and Scott Morrison of Corona's Santiago High, announced the group's opposition to the bill Saturday during a coaches' conference at the Hilton Orange County in Costa Mesa.

"Tackle football is safer than ever," with improved equipment,

education for coaches and safety protocols, Esposito said.

"(The bill) is something that would just really change our game in a way that I don't know that we would ever recover from."

Some research — including a Boston University study published in January — has linked repeated head trauma to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative disease that can result in symptoms such as memory loss, impaired judgment, depression and dementia.

Some former NFL players have come out in support of no tackling — only flag or touch football — for kids under 14. Former football mom Kimberly Archie, whose son was diagnosed with CTE after his 2014 death in a motorcycle crash, is supporting the California bill banning youth tackle football.

"My son played from 7 to 15. He only played one year of high school, so 90 percent of the hits he took came from Pop Warner football," Archie said in a phone interview. Archie and another bereaved mother are suing the Pop Warner organization.

"I don't care how you tackle, I don't care what helmet (you wear) — a child's anatomy is not developed enough to sustain 200 hits a year" without damage to the brain and joints, Archie said.

Coaches at Saturday's conference acknowledged the sport can be tough, but they disagreed with the conclusion that tackling should be banned.

They said there's no consensus among medical professionals and that some research refutes a link between football and violence, suicide and other mental health issues. They also said other sports such as hockey, boxing and rugby could cause the same kind of injuries as football.

"To demonize just this sport is unfair, it's illogical, and frankly it's downright un-American," said Mike Wagner, executive commissioner of Pop Warner's Southern California conference.

One young athlete at the press conference, 12-year-old Angel Smith of the Simi Valley Vikings, said that after getting blindsided in his last game, "I was on the ground for a couple of minutes. It hurt."

But Smith said he's not worried about getting injured in the future and hopes to play football through high school.

Several coaches said they take player safety seriously, and they hope to meet with Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, one of the youth football bill's two sponsors.

The sport can teach kids leadership, teamwork, achievement and a host of other skills, Corona Santiago's Morrison said, adding that football "provides an experience that cannot be matched in any other youth activity."

Archie said her son learned those skills from football too, "But what good did it do him with his brain damage? America loves sports; we need to love kids just as much."

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

The first blow to college basketball came in September, when a federal investigation revealed hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks being funneled to influence recruits.

The games went on under the dark cloud hanging over the sport, the season playing out while everyone wondered when the other sneaker would drop.

It did on Friday, when a Yahoo Sports report revealed documents from the federal inquiry showing more than two dozen players and their relatives received a wide range of impermissible benefits, from meals to five-figure payments.

This second black eye comes 16 days before the field of 68 is selected for the sport's marquee event, the NCAA Tournament.

"These allegations, if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America," NCAA President Mark Emmert said. "Simply put, people who engage in this kind of behavior have no place in college sports. They are an affront to all those who play by the rules."

Now that the second blow has been struck, two questions arise: What can the NCAA do about it? Do fans even care?

In September, the Justice Department arrested 10 people, including assistant coaches from Arizona, USC, Auburn and Oklahoma State. The federal investigation alleged bribes and kickbacks were used to influence star players' choice of schools, shoe sponsors, agents, tailors. Payments of up to $150,000, supplied by Adidas, were promised to at least three top high school recruits to attend two schools sponsored by the shoe company, according to federal prosecutors.

The documents obtained by Yahoo include bank records and expense reports from former NBA agent Andy Miller and his agency, ASM Sports. Duke, North Carolina, Texas, Kentucky and Michigan State are among the schools involved.

The documents, obtained in discovery phase of the investigation, also link current players including Michigan State's Miles Bridges, Duke's Wendell Carter and Alabama's Collin Sexton to potential benefits that would be violations of NCAA rules.

The NCAA was obviously outraged, but is in a difficult spot. The documents have not been made public and the organization can't exactly take action against schools or players based upon a report by a news agency.

Should the information be made public before or during the NCAA Tournament, the NCAA would be faced with potentially having to declare some of the nation's top players ineligible and impose sanctions on many of the game's most recognizable programs. The NCAA Tournament has generated $19.6 billion in TV money over the past 22 years and a tarnished product could hurt the bottom line.

Long term, it could force the NCAA to take a much harder look at its amateurism rules. The organization has had many discussions about this, but the magnitude of the latest allegations could spin the conversation forward much quicker.

"This problem can be solved if players are compensated," said Don Jackson, an Alabama attorney who has worked on numerous college eligibility cases. "The NCAA is not capable of adequately policing tens of thousands of athletes around the country."

The report has already sent ripples across the sport.

San Diego State provisionally suspended senior forward Malik Pope, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, while its compliance department investigates whether he received a $1,400 loan from an agent.

Texas is withholding junior guard Eric Davis Jr. from competition until further notice after he allegedly received, according to the documents, a $1,500 loan from ASM Sports associate Christian Dawkins.

On Saturday, Kentucky announced its internal review found no eligibility issues or rules violations with current players such as freshman forward Kevin Knox, who was mentioned in the report.

Fans may not care.

Back-room payments have been college basketball's dirty little secret for years and many fans assume most top-name players are being paid to play.

The calendar also has turned to the part of the year when even casual fans start paying attention to college basketball. The excitement usually ramps up in February, after the football season, but it may be a delayed buzz this year because of the Olympics.

Once the Olympics are over, fans will be looking for the next big thing. The upsets and breakout performances - not to mention office pools - of March Madness will be going full speed, regardless of what's going on behind the scenes.

"We can sit here and talk about it for days on end if we wanted to, all the things that have gone on in college basketball," current Tennessee and former Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "I'm not surprised by any of it."

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

 

Planet Fitness will be taking over the former Hancock Fabrics space in Bismarck's Gateway Mall.

Franchisee and head of the company's national franchisee advisory council Dave Leon said a lease has been signed and expansion will start in a couple of weeks. The roughly 20,000-square-foot fitness center should be open sometime in June.

Planet Fitness caters to the first-time fitness club users, aiming to be inviting, judgment free zones, Leon said. The gym is open 24 hours on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. During that time, the gym is always staffed, including personal trainers who provide free small group sessions and large 30-minute group classes to members who need help.

The gym is stocked with 100 televisions and $1 million in fitness equipment, including more than 100 cardio machines.

The gym has locker rooms for members, which include granite showers. For those that choose to upgrade to Black Card membership, there is a spa with free tanning, hydromassage, a sound, sight and smell area and massage chairs.

Leon recently opened two other gyms in the region, one in Missoula, Mont., and one in Laramie, Wyo., as part of his westward expansion of the fitness chain. He expects the gym to be popular in Bismarck and said most Planet Fitness locations attract from 7,000 to 10,000 members.

Reach Jessica Holdman at 701-250-8261 or jessica.holdman@bismarcktribune.com

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Copyright 2018 Wichita Falls Times Record News
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Times Record News (Wichita Falls, Texas)

 

In 2011, the Wichita Falls YMCA started looking at what was the greatest community need that they could help solve.

The results of that search motivated a lengthy and methodical process of expansion that the area YMCA began in August 2017, according to Noel Filer, YMCA mission advancement director.

"We wanted to build what was needed," she said. "We did an independent market study to see if the community would support what we believe was needed.

"It came back overwhelmingly in support of our plans, and we then began going to foundations and individuals to raise the money for the expansion."

Construction officially began in August 2017 in preparation for a four building addition to the Bill Bartley YMCA that totals 80,000 square feet.

The first building will be a new gymnastics center. The second and third buildings will include a double gymnasium and an indoor soccer complex, which also serves as a multi-purpose facility.

The fourth structure is a youth development center with infant, toddler and pre-school classrooms and after-school rooms.

All the new buildings will be adjacent to Bill Bartley. A 200-space parking lot has been built behind the Bartley facility, which will service the four new buildings.

A road was built from Stone Lake Drive to directly access the new lot.

"Now, we will have plenty of parking for program participants and members," she said.

The new gymnastics center is scheduled to be completed in April 2018, if mother nature cooperates, she said.

The 15,351-square-foot facility will start hosting programs, camps and meets already in June 2018.

"We can start getting those kids on the waiting lists in and host even more kids in the future," Filer said.

Following the completion of the gymnastics center, they will begin construction on the double gymnasium and indoor soccer complex. Both will be under one roof, however people will be able to see into both facilities through a clear wall.

The double gymnasium, at 18,022 square feet, will allow the YMCA to "offer a better quality of youth basketball."

"We have the most teams and kids participating in the community, but we want to give them better facilities than we have," Filer said. "We'll have more space to accommodate youth sports and also grow into programs like youth volleyball."

The 20,826-square-foot indoor soccer facility will enable the Y enough space to add a youth soccer league to their current adult league.

"Our community has wanted this for years," Filer said. "We want a facility, where kids can use it year round."

The multi-purpose facility will also allow them to expand and offer more programs for their special needs population. The double building structure will likely take 16 to 18 months to complete once construction begins.

The final building of the Phase 1 plan is an early childhood and youth development center, which will be 24,263 square feet.

"We have a lot of working parents in the city who depend on the YMCA for quality child care," Filer said. "We don't turn anyone away for inability to pay, so we have a large number of people who want to use our services: we need additional facilities to do this."

The new center will include infant, toddler and pre-school classrooms and three different age-specific classrooms.

"It won't be just a day care center," she said, "it will be a first class early childhood center where kids will learn math, science, letters and reading. It will also have a youth library."

As of early February 2018, the Wichita Falls YMCA had already raised over 99 percent of the $13,674,209 price tag for Phase 1.

A second phase is scheduled to begin in 2020, and will include a grand entry for Bill Bartley, a large community gathering space and an extensive renovations on that branch, as well as renovations of the other city YMCA branches.

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Copyright 2018 Tribune Review Publishing Company
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Pittsburgh Tribune Review

 

A police investigation into a brawl that broke out during a Clairton-Monessen high school basketball game earlier this month has led to charges filed against 12 people, officials announced Friday.

Six teenagers and six adults each face a count of disorderly conduct, Clairton police chief Robert Hoffman said.

"This comes at the recommendation of the Allegheny County District Attorney's office," Hoffman said.

Police gave victims who were assaulted a chance to come forward and file charges, but none did, according to Hoffman.

There were no reports of serious injuries in the fracas that at one point reportedly involved as many as 100 people, including spectators who swarmed the basketball court at Clairton Education Center on Feb. 6.

The fight began with one player from each team throwing punches with 4 minutes, 26 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Within seconds, the situation escalated as fans left the bleachers and piled onto the court, Hoffman said.

Four school police officers and two security guards requested backup from more than 10 municipal police departments "" Allegheny County, Elizabeth Township, Glassport, McKeesport, Port Vue, Lincoln, Versailles, Jefferson, Liberty and Elizabeth borough and township police.

Clairton firefighters responded to help ventilate the school after pepper spray was used, the Mon Valley Independent reported. One police officer and one Monessen basketball player had minor injuries.

The incident prompted Clairton City School District to stop selling tickets to fans at games, stating that only players and parents would be allowed to attend amid the investigation.

Neither the Clairton City or Monessen school districts could be immediately reached for comment.

The juveniles charged with disorderly conduct include one 16-year-old boy and two 17-year-old boys from Clairton; and two 16-year-old boys and one 17-year-old boy from Monessen.

The adults facing charges include: Devlin Clifford, 18, of Clairton; Andrew Carr, 31, of Clairton; Andre Carr, 31, of Clairton; Barry Floyd, 22, of Monessen; John Sanders, 23, of Clairton; and Christopher Verlich, 19, of Clairton.

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514, nlindstrom@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.

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

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin, who has struggled with mental health issues after a 2013 bullying scandal that shook the NFL, was taken into Los Angeles police custody Friday after a threatening Instagram post on his account mentioned two former teammates who had harassed him.

Martin was being questioned by investigators after the post showed a shotgun and referred by name to the private Harvard-Westlake prep school in Los Angeles that he once attended, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The post also included mentions of the Instagram usernames of former Miami Dolphins players Richie Incognito and Mike Pouncey and said suicide and revenge were the only options for a victim of bullying, the official said.

The Harvard-Westlake prep school was evacuated earlier Friday after officials were made aware of the post. It was not immediately clear whether Martin posted the photo himself and he was not under arrest Friday afternoon.

Martin left the Miami Dolphins midseason in 2013 after accusing teammates of bullying. An NFL investigation found that Incognito, Pouncey and teammate John Jerry engaged in persistent harassment directed at Martin.

Incognito was suspended for the final eight games and sat out the 2014 season before joining the Buffalo Bills.

The NFL's investigation also found that teammates threatened to rape Martin's sister, called him a long list of slurs and bullied him for not being "black enough." Martin is black and Incognito is white.

Martin, who underwent counseling for emotional issues after the bullying scandal, posted on Facebook in 2015 that difficulties in football led him to attempt suicide multiple times.

Martin, the son of two Harvard graduates, attended Stanford University. After he left the Dolphins, Martin played for the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers. He left the NFL in 2015.

Representatives for the Miami Dolphins and the NFL declined to comment and referred questions to Los Angeles police.

 

Follow Michael Balsamo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1.

 

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

 

BLACKSBURG - The renovation of Virginia Tech's English Field remains a work in progress, so the new stands will not be ready for the baseball team's Feb. 27 home opener against Radford.

The ballpark is undergoing an $18 million renovation.

"The weather kicked us in the teeth," associate athletic director Tom Gabbard said Thursday in an interview.

Fans at the game will have to sit in the amphitheater-style seats terrace down the left-field line.

But Gabbard said some of the new stands will be ready for the Hokies' March 9-11 series with Pittsburgh.

The new suites, bathrooms and concession stand are ready, said Gabbard, but will not be in use at the home opener because the work site will be off limits to the public.

So portable bathrooms and a temporary concessions area will be used for that game.

The new press box will be used for the game.

The new picnic area near right field will not be ready for the home opener or the Pitt series.

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

 

Floyd County's boys basketball team scored a 55-39 victory last Friday at Chatham in the opening round of the Region 2C tournament, but not before a veteran official from Lynchburg had a close call.

Mark Strosnider, who has been officiating high school games in the Lynchburg area for more than 20 years, collapsed and went into cardiac arrest two minutes into the game.

Within minutes, trainers on site, two nurses and other first responders shocked the veteran official's heart back into rhythm with a defibrillator that Chatham High School had on site.

Strosnider was taken to a hospital by ambulance and underwent successful heart surgery Tuesday. He is resting comfortably.

"Apparently the trainer was pretty much in his back pocket when he collapsed," Lynchburg-area commissioner of officials Charles Trent said Thursday. "The trainer performed CPR. There were a couple of nurses that came out of the stands to assist. They hit him with the [defibrillator] twice, I think, while he was on the floor.

"I went to see him Monday night. He was in no pain. He was in great spirits. It was a whole bunch of miracles."

Floyd County coach Brian Harman said Strosnider collapsed under the basket during a play when the Buffaloes had the ball.

"My guard went up and got hit on a layup," Harman said."I thought he got hit pretty good. I turned to my assistant and said, 'He got killed. Why didn't we get that call?'

"I looked down there and the guy who would normally make that call was laying on the ground."

Harman said while Strosnider was receiving attention on the floor, Floyd's team retreated to the locker room.

"I can't handle seeing someone else hurt," Harman said. "We went into the locker room because I could see it was pretty serious.

"I told my assistants to stay at the door just in case we overreacted.

"That's a lot for a kid. I told my guys they got his heartbeat back and he'd probably be OK."

The game continued after a long delay. Trent summoned a third official from Danville, who arrived before the game resumed.

"They gave my officials the option of whether to finish," Trent said. "They both decided Mark would have wanted them to finish."

Harman said both teams appeared to be affected by Strosnider's collapse when the game resumed.

"My guys were pretty tore up," the Floyd coach said. "It was a scary situation that happened fast. I'm just thankful they got him back."

Harman said Floyd County has a defibrillator on site.

He is an advocate of training all athletic personnel in its use.

"I think all the coaches up here need to be trained in CPR and how to run that," Harman said. "I would be terrified if something happened to one of my kids and I didn't know what to do."

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

 

BOLTON — The athletic fees for students participating on Nashoba Regional High School teams is going up, but the decision was not without discussion.

At the Feb. 14 School Committee meeting, members expressed concern about raising rates, especially for families in the bottom one-third of the economic spectrum, but who may not qualify for free-and-reduced lunch. That program determines waiver of user fees.

The user fee for this year is $150 per student per sport, according to information provided by Athletic Director Tania Rich.

The user fee proposal, brought forward by the Budget and Warrant Subcommitee, increases the fee per student to $175 for the first sport, $150 for a second sport and $125 for a third sport, with a $900 family cap. There are three sports that will have a separate fee to help cover costs: Swimming, hockey and skiing.

The average user fee among Mid-Wach League schools, is $210 per student per sport, school officials said.

School Committee member Neal Darcy, of Bolton, who is chairman of the budget subcommittee, said Rich joked that the fee structure had not been changed since she was in second grade.

Based on information collected by Rich, there would be no increase for students who play three sports. The increased fees, based on current participation would bring in about $5,200 more to the district, which would be enough to outfit a team with new uniforms.

There would be no change in middle school user fees, which would continue to be $55 per sport per season, and that would not play into the family cap proposed for high school sports.

Mark Jones, a member of the School Committee, from Stow, who serves on the budget subcommittee, said he voted to bring the issue to the full School Committee, but opposes the proposal.

"I would rather see fees come down," Jones said at the Feb. 14 School Committee meeting. "I am concerned about families in the bottom third, who might not qualify for free or reduced lunch."

Isabel Strongfellow, a high school student from Stow, who is the student representative to the board, said when user fees went up for activities at the school, she did not hear about anyone not able to participate, but suggested that perhaps the Booster Club could help those who cannot afford to play.

Darcy added that the sports system is a victim of its own success.

"Our teams play in a ton of championships," Darcy said, adding, "There is a hefty cost the more successful we get."

Chairman Lorraine Romasco, of Bolton, said she is not comfortable with some of the more expensive sports, like hockey; since the costs are not covered by those playing the sports, some of the user fees collected in other sports help to fund it.

Darcy pointed out that there is a second side to that argument: The football team generates a lot more money than other sports, due to ticket sales, and that money helps to offset the costs of other sports. He said that with Romasco's logic, all that money should stay with the football team, which could have "top of the line equipment."

The motion to increase the athletic user fees passed 5-2, with Jones and Stephen Rubinstein, of Stow, voting no.

Budgetary concerns

The increase has been reduced for the proposed fiscal year 2019 budget, which is still a work in progress.

Business and Operations Manager Patricia Marone said, since the Jan. 20 budget workshop, the administration has been able to reduced the increased spending proposal from 7.38 percent to 5.99 percent. The reductions are coming from: Staffing efficiencies, health insurance, facilities, one out-of-district tuition for a student being brought back into the district, instructional technology and the removal of a capital request for $250,000 for the Nashoba leach field.

Marone said she would would be meeting with the state to see if the leach field project could be put off until the following year.

While the district has $50,000 budgeted for engineering for the project, the work can only be done during the summer break since no one can be in the building while the field is being moved.

Romasco asked what would happen if it could not be put off, and Marone said the towns could be asked to finance the amount over five years through bonds.

The leach field needs to be moved to the back of the property since the discharge area impacts the area surrounding a few water supplies in the area.

The committee still has fine-tuning to do on the proposed budget. The committee plans to hold its budget hearing on Feb. 28. Then the final budget adjustments can be made and the committee can vote and set its assessments for individual towns. Under the regional agreement, the amount needs to be sent to the towns by March 14. The committee tentatively scheduled a March 7 meeting in case members need more time to work on the budget before a final vote.

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Copyright 2018 ProQuest Information and Learning
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Copyright 2018 Freedom Newspapers, Inc. Feb 22, 2018

The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colorado)

 

Eleven members of the Air Force Academy men's swim team are prohibited from taking part in competitions due to a misconduct investigation, the Colorado Springs military school said in an email.

Citing privacy act protections, the email said the academy is "unable to share details of the misconduct." Sources, though, said the suspensions were related to hazing on the team.

Cadets who are not in good standing "are barred from representing the Air Force Academy at external events," said Lt. Col. Allen Herritage, the academy spokesman.

Nine of the 11 cadets were at the Western Athletic Conference swimming and diving championship this week in Houston, where the Air Force was trying to win its third straight conference title, Herritage said.

Air Force Academy haircut email stirs controversy over Michael Jordan reference

Before the nine were barred from competing, Air Force was in second place behind Wyoming after the first day of the meet.

In October, the academy dealt similarly with several men's lacrosse coaches and players while claims of misconduct were investigated.

"Some members of the team and coaches have been put into an inactive status and will not participate in group lacrosse activities or intercollegiate competition, until further notice," said an academy statement at the time.

Then, too, the academy declined to disclose what the athletes were alleged to have done, but several sources said it also involved hazing.

The investigation into the team comes after academy leaders heaped praise on the school's athletic department for changing its ways after years of scandals involving athletes.

A 2014 Gazette investigation revealed misconduct by academy athletes, including drug use, binge drinking and sexual assault. The school launched an internal investigation and redoubled efforts to ensure it was recruiting players who would avoid trouble.

Last summer, then-Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson said the academy had put its athlete-conduct woes behind it. "Now they are our shining stars," she said in July.

In 2012, 27 cadets were injured in an unofficial hazing known as First Shirt/First Snow that devolved into a "brawl." Six were treated at local hospitals with concussions and broken bones. One cadet had been bitten on the arm.

The event, which is no longer allowed, had been held on the first snowfall each year. Freshman cadets tried to throw their stripped-down cadet first sergeant into the snow, while upperclassmen tried to defend the sergeant.

Credit: Liz Forster

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February 23, 2018

 

 
 

 

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Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA)

 

MILWAUKEE - A new clubhouse building and entry plaza are part of the Milwaukee Brewers' plans to renovate the team's spring training facility in Arizona.

The club finalized details of the plan to update Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix on Wednesday.

The Brewers say that the new clubhouse building will include locker rooms, concessions and retail. The current minor league building will be demolished.

The current major league clubhouse, which is in another building, will be renovated to include psychological services, sports science and other amenities. Plans also include a new major league practice field.

Manager Craig Counsell says the Brewers are going to have a world-class facility that will be among the best in the game.

Construction is scheduled to start in late March, with the project expected to be completed by spring training next year.

Phoenix City Council approved the Maryvale renovation in November.

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February 22, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Chicago Daily Herald

 

It's a great time for high school lacrosse in Illinois.

Monday begins the first season of the sport for boys and girls under full sanctioning of the Illinois High School Association. Seventy-eight boys teams and 59 girls teams - all in the Chicago area but for the O'Fallon girls and the Dunlap boys - are slated to participate in the first lacrosse state series that concludes with dual state finals at Hinsdale Central from May 31-June 2.

"I believe it was a good move," said second-year Glenbard West girls coach Laura Finfrock.

"Lacrosse is something in the Midwest that is growing very rapidly and it's nice to be brought in with the other sports," said Finfrock, who "chose my passion" when deciding between her job as a pathology support technician or coaching high school lacrosse.

"It's not a little sport anymore, we're growing, there's more and more youth coming up.The interest is exciting. It's nothing like the East Coast or the West Coast, but we're definitely growing and it's a great sign. It's nice to be in with soccer and football, that group."

It's taken awhile. As prep teams played games and players earned awards under the Illinois High School Lacrosse Association and the Illinois High School Womens Lacrosse Association, for most of this millennium lacrosse occupied IHSA limbo as an "emerging sport."

"It's definitely been on the radar for quite some time," said Neuqua Valley boys coach and Wildcats graduate Josh Maluta, who, coincidentally, played lacrosse at Adrian College while Finfrock was on the women's team.

Not that the IHSA wasn't receptive. More at issue was the prospect of schools granting field space for practices and games, adding another sport to the crowded spring docket. Also, taking on more expense. In a sport where a good helmet costs $200, some schools this season will require players to pay only the standard participation fee; other programs, still mainly parent-funded, will ask for hundreds more to cover coaching stipends, trainers, transportation, new uniforms, etc.

The IHSWLA noted that as far back as 2002 the IHSA approved a proposal to sanction lacrosse when a sufficient number of schools fielded teams. In 2009 the IHSA proposed a state series for the spring of 2011 if 65 boys teams and 40 girls teams committed.

That threshold was never passed by both during subsequent annual reviews, but finally on April 19, 2016, the IHSA board of directors approved state series "based on the continued growth" of lacrosse, IHSA President Craig Anderson said at the time.

Clearly now the numbers are there. So too will be sectionals, seeding, awards and postseason plaques. Ramping right up to speed, there may even be a minor controversy, like why boys heavies Loyola and New Trier - winners of the last 13 IHSLA A-level titles and title foes 15 times - are assigned to different supersectionals despite being 8 miles apart.

Currently, that's neither here nor there.

"I think there's more pros than cons," said Wheaton Warrenville South boys coach Mike Blouin. "And we are happy because we're going to have a state series just like basketball and everyone else. It's a recognized sport."

Montini senior Luma Medina, a 2017 IHSWLA honorable-mention all-state midfielder, thinks that's the key.

"It sounds like we're a little more official," said Medina, who found zero negatives in gaining full IHSA status. "Before we were just a club team and it didn't seem like we were a part of the school."

For instance, this season Neuqua Valley will play its home games at Barb Barrows Stadium unlike prior seasons when only senior day contests were held there. The Wildcats last year played mainly at Nike Park or Commissioners Park among "four or five home fields," Maluta said.

And that was a team that reached the IHSLA A-level semifinals and finished 18-4.

The main operational difference between the club and IHSA models will be putting all teams in one class rather than A and B levels on the boys' side, and the seeding procedure.

Right now that's secondary to veteran Naperville Central boys coach Jay Havenaar, who helped start the programs at both Naperville Central and Naperville North. Once, he said, there was "a glimmer of hope" for inclusion; now lacrosse is all in.

"I can speak for myself and the players," he said, "we're excited to be in a state series and getting out there and playing the game that we love."

doberhelman@dailyherald.com Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1

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February 22, 2018
 
 
 

 

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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

 

The gym shorts are on, long hair has been pulled back into ponytails and sneakers are laced.

As they dribble out of the locker rooms into the gym at Hidden Valley High School, the sophomores in coach Kevin Burcham's second block gym class just need one more piece of equipment: their Polar heart rate monitor wristbands.

"Guys, start jogging," Burcham tells the students as they fasten the bands tightly. "Your goal today is 40 minutes in green or above."

It's gym class, quantified. Green means moderate activity, between 70 percent and 80 percent of students' maximum heart rates. Meet the target, earn full participation marks for the day.

Burcham said the wristbands, used by his classes for about two years now, have been transformational. Students work harder and are more engaged because they can see the results of their activity — or lack of activity — in real time projected on the gym walls.

"Their heart rate is not going to lie to us," Burcham said. "It holds everybody accountable."

Burcham and Andy Clapper, the school's instructional technology resource teacher, came up with the idea as a way to jump-start gym class.

"Students have a lot of devices themselves, but they didn't see it as something they use at school," Clapper said.

Buying a class set of wristbands was cost-prohibitive, until they met with representatives from Carilion Clinic and pitched the proposal. Carilion donated $10,000 to Hidden Valley High and matched the donation at William Fleming High School in Roanoke city.

That was huge, said Barry Trent, Roanoke County's coordinator of health and physical fitness.

"It would have been difficult for us to do this with our instructional budget," Trent said.

Burcham's class activities haven't changed dramatically — there's still plenty of handball and other gym class classics — but the tracking has had a big impact on students' attitudes, he said. Students will jog in place while he's giving instructions now, instead of standing still, because they want the timer on their wristbands to keep ticking upward.

Several students have credited the wristbands with inspiring them to make physical activity a habit outside of class, Burcham said. At the end of the semester, a few purchased fitness trackers of their own, or asked him where they could buy the workout videos used in class.

Witnessing those habits form has been rewarding, Burcham said. "It's motivated them to make a change in their lives."

Each time the wristbands have been introduced, however, students have had some skepticism. Sarah Wanek, who's taking Burcham's class this semester, has a friend who took the class last year.

"She wasn't too excited about it at first, but she got a lot more fit," Wanek said.

At the beginning of the year, Burcham asked students to input their weight and height and then adjusted maximum heart rates after a pacer fitness test. The results are highly personalized and the workout intensity zones, scaled as a percentage, recognize effort based on ability.

Burcham told students not to focus on weight loss, although past students have shed pounds. Instead, he told them to focus on improvement from the start of the semester to the end.

"Weight is not the end-all, be-all. Your goal is different for each person," he said. "Worry about you and where you start and end."

Later, Burcham led a class into the auxiliary gym containing a screen displaying a workout video that cycled through medium to high aerobic activities. On another screen was projected a display showing students names and the number of minutes they'd spent in moderate, hard and maximum heart rate zones. A color indicated their current zone.

Burcham told students to push themselves. Instead of stopping if they felt tired, he urged them to slow down, but keep moving.

"Your body physically can do a whole lot more than your brain thinks it can," he said.

After, students dripped with sweat and trudged to water fountains to regroup.

"I kind of feel like I want to go home and shower," Wanek said.

The workout was harder than she expected, and she was a little self-conscious of the time she spent in red compared with her classmates.

"I didn't really like how it was projected," she said.

That takes some getting used to, Burcham acknowledged. Students like Wanek, who are athletes before the class starts, often have to work a little harder because they're in better physical shape to begin with, he said.

Another classmate, Gabriel Dorss, was skeptical of the wristbands initially.

"It's weird," he said when the wristbands were first handed out. "I'm old fashioned."

After the workout though, he was hooked.

"I was checking every two minutes," he said. "It helped me."

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Tenth-graders Kareem Jadallah and Stephen Bell stretch in Kevin Burcham's class at Hidden Valley High School earlier this month. The class uses Polar A360 fitness trackers to monitor their heart rates and personal fitness goals while exercising. ERICA YOON | The Roanoke Times Tenth-graders Kareem Jadallah and Stephen Bell stretch in Kevin Burcham's class at Hidden Valley High School earlier this month. The class uses Polar A360 fitness trackers to monitor their heart rates and personal fitness goals while exercising. ERICA YOON | The Roanoke Times Sarah Wanek and Journee Trotter place Polar A360 fitness trackers around their wrists before exercising in Kevin Burcham's class last month at Hidden Valley High School. ERICA YOON | The Roanoke Times Sarah Wanek and Journee Trotter place Polar A360 fitness trackers around their wrists before exercising in Kevin Burcham's class last month at Hidden Valley High School. ERICA YOON | The Roanoke Times Physical education and health teacher Kevin Burcham measures Ben Page's height in his class at Hidden Valley High School last month. Students entered their weight and height into the trackers to tailor their fitness routines according to their personal fitness levels. ERICA YOON | The Roanoke Times Physical education and health teacher Kevin Burcham measures Ben Page's height in his class at Hidden Valley High School last month. Students entered their weight and height into the trackers to tailor their fitness routines according to their personal fitness levels. ERICA YOON | The Roanoke Times A student taps on a Polar A360 fitness tracker to toggle through different measurements in Kevin Burcham's class at Hidden Valley High School. ERICA YOON | The Roanoke Times A student taps on a Polar A360 fitness tracker to toggle through different measurements in Kevin Burcham's class at Hidden Va
 
February 22, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

OLYMPIA — State universities would have to be more transparent about how much they spend on athletics under a bill heard by a House committee Wednesday.

The Board of Trustees or Regents would have to approve the annual budget for athletics in a public meeting at the beginning of the fiscal year. Athletic departments that spend more than that budget would be required to create a plan to reduce spending, post a plan on their website and get advanced approval for most expenditures of $250,000 or more that were not part of the annual budget.

Both the University of Washington and Washington State University athletic programs have run multimillion-dollar deficits in recent years, with WSU experiencing a shortfall several years in a row.

Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, the bill's sponsor, said it would help public universities address their deficits by increasing accountability.

"I think we all want to make sure that the investments are responsible," he said. "You may agree on some of the decisions that are made on athletic spending or not, but it's hard to disagree that those decisions should be made out in the open."

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February 22, 2018
 
 
 

 

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USA TODAY

 

Aaron Barzilai has always self-identified as a numbers nerd. A former captain of the MIT basketball team, Barzilai likes to say his game was "Steve Kerr without the shot."

That meant Barzilai, 45, didn't have any sort future in the NBA — at least not on the floor. But as a Ph.D. student at Stanford from 1993-2000, he started to tinker with statistics, years before analytics became part of the general sports lexicon.

"Like most grad school students, I was very good at coming up with projects to work on that were not my thesis," Barzilai told USA TODAY with a laugh. "I would think about stuff like, 'Hmm, maybe I could invent a better BCS formula.'"

Then he read a story in Sports Illustrated's 2005 NBA preview issue detailing how "the Moneyball math of baseball has come to the NBA," and referenced Dean Oliver's book Basketball on Paper. Barzilai thought he might have stumbled onto his own niche.

Thirteen years later, Barzilai has done exactly that, though it's come in an unlikely arena. Barzilai is the owner and operator of HerHoopStats.com, an advanced analytics site that tracks data like points per possession and offensive rebounding rate. It's been billed as the women's equivalent to KenPom.com, the men's college basketball analytics site frequently referenced by coaches, schools, analysts and even the NCAA tournament selection committee.

Analytics have exploded in popularity over the past decade, with data-driven decisions becoming the norm for coaches and front offices. Fans are numbers junkies, too. Friday and Saturday, Boston will host the 12th Annual Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, an event that's grown from 100 initial attendees to more than 4,000 in 2016.

But there's been a noticeable void in the women's game.

In a March 2016 Players Tribune article, WNBA All-Star Sue Bird — widely considered the best point guard in the women's game — made a case for advanced analytics in the WNBA.

"The disparity between NBA data — even data across all male sports — and WNBA data is glaring," Bird wrote. "Data for the WNBA is relegated to basic information: points, rebounds, steals, assists, turnovers, blocks. While worthy of being noted, those are the most rudimentary numbers in our game. Data helps drive conversations, strategy, decision making.... Data helps tell the story of a player, a team, an entire career."

Stats help hammer home the points coaches want to make to their teams, Barzilai said. But first, they've gotta be able to get their hands on the numbers.

Barzilai spent 2008-2015 working in the NBA, first with the Memphis Grizzlies as an analytics consultant — reporting directly to general manager Chris Wallace — and then as the director of analytics for the 76ers until 2015, when new management took over.

In July, he got a call from Alex Varlan, a former co-worker in Philadelphia who had just taken the video coordinator position with the Tennessee women's basketball program. Varlan asked if Barzilai knew of any good options for women's analytics sites. When Barzilai couldn't find any, Varlan and he concluded that Barzilai could and should build his own.

"My theory is that what we've done is something between a business and a public service," Barzilai explained. "You can find stuff pretty easily on (all-time NCAA leading scorer) Kelsey Plum or (South Carolina All-American) A'ja Wilson... but maybe your niece is the top 10% in the country in assist rate, and she plays for a mid-major school, so you don't know that. We're trying to unlock that information."

By the end of August, after a month of background research, Barzilai had brought on two programmers and started building the site. He's had experience in this type of entrepreneurial space before: Barzilai said he was the first person to regularly publish NBA plus/minus data — now a stat found in every NBA box score — on his website BasketballValue.com in 2007.

In the first week of December 2017, HerHoopStats.com went live. By the new year, it was being referenced on ESPN broadcasts.

Longtime analyst Debbie Antonelli is a fan.

Before each game Antonelli works, Barzilai emails her five interesting stats on the teams she'll see in person. Then Antonelli uses those numbers in the broadcast, giving HerHoopStats.com a shout out. In last Sunday's North Carolina State-Wake Forest game, for example, she pointed out that the Wolfpack are No. 1 in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage, then explained why — because they do a great job of going under screens, keeping teams in front, and making opponents score over the top, all of which puts North Carolina State in an ideal rebounding position.

"You can't give a number like that in basketball, men or women, unless you explain what it means — I have to give you the 'why,'" Antonelli told USA TODAY. "These stats, it helps grow our game — it makes N.C. State look good, it makes (coach) Wes Moore looks good.... We didn't have this in the women's game, and we needed it."

Barzilai stresses that the site people see now is "definitely version 1.0, if not 0.1," and has plans to grow and add more data, even before the Final Four next month. HerHoopStats.com already shows national rankings and percentiles, so the next logical step is conference rankings and percentiles. Win probability is also on the to-do list, as is growing readership. Grace Dickman, a senior guard at Division III Macalaster College, helps run social media, where Barzilai hopes HerHoopStats.com can get better at "visualization of the data."

Feedback from coaches, fans, pundits and sports information directors helps him understand what needs to come next.

"Analytics are not anything that would take away from my own two eyes scouting a team and watching team dynamics, but these (numbers) tell me a true percentage of what's going on," Louisville associate head coach Stephanie Norman told USA TODAY, adding that she appreciates that "you don't need a PhD to understand Aaron's site."

"This is a business (on the women's side) that's been untapped," Norman said. "I find it intriguing.... It can be really useful for players to analyze themselves."

Watching his website, still in its infancy, get recognized on ESPN was "the kind of moment that helps energize and inspire us to work on it even more," Barzilai said. "It makes me feel good that we're making a contribution in a space that's been underserved."

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February 22, 2018
 
 
 

 

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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

 

Former Louisville coach Rick Pitino believes the school should consider taking legal action against the NCAA after the governing body ordered the vacation of the Cardinals' 2013 men's basketball champion as part of sanctions for a sex scandal.

Louisville announced on Tuesday that the NCAA had denied its appeal of sanctions that included vacating 123 victories and the return of about $600,000 in conference revenue from the 2012-15 NCAA Tournaments. The school later removed banners of the 2013 championship and 2012 Final Four appearance.

Pitino said Wednesday from his attorney's offices in New York that the NCAA's decision was unfair. The former coach did take responsibility for assistant coaching hires such as Andre McGee, who an escort said hired her and other dancers for sex parties on campus with players and recruits and leading to the NCAA investigation.

But Pitino said once again that he did not know anything about the sex shows that took place in the dorms.

Asked about legal action, Pitino said he was defenseless in this instance but that Louisville's Board of Trustees should consider legal action.

"I don't know if this Board of Trustees will do that," he said, "but they should because the players deserve it."

The sex scandal was not the reason Louisville fired Pitino, who has sued the university over his dismissal.

The school fired the Hall of Famer in October after acknowledging that the university was being investigated for allegations that the family of former recruit Brian Bowen was bribed in an effort to get him to Louisville. Bowen has since transferred to South Carolina.

Pitino also issued a statement saying that he was cooperating with federal authorities in its investigation of corruption in college basketball.

Pitino is not named in the court complaint but said in the statement he received a grand jury subpoena last September and that his attorneys have met with U.S. attorneys in the case.

"I knew nothing about any agreement to make improper payments," the statement said, "and had no reason to suspect any illegality in the recruitment of any athlete in my programs."

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February 22, 2018
 
 
 

 

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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

OXFORD — Florida's Dan Mullen and Scott Stricklin, both formerly of Mississippi State, NCAA investigator Mike Sheridan and the NCAA itself have been throw into the Rebel Rags legal saga.

Rebel Rags, the Oxford-based outlet store, filed a lawsuit against Mullen, Stricklin, Sheridan, the NCAA, Mississippi State's Leo Lewis and Kobe Jones, and Lindsey Miller, Laremy Tunsil's estranged stepfather, in Lafayette County Circuit Court on Tuesday.

Sports Illustrated first reported the news.

The complaint is centered on defamation, civil conspiracy and commercial disparagement. Those are the same allegations the original case, which was filed last June against Lewis, Jones and Miller, are based on. That stems from statements those three provided to the NCAA during its investigation into Ole Miss' football program.

Rebel Rags alleges that Mullen, Stricklin, Sheridan and the NCAA were a part of an overarching conspiracy, which impacted the outlet store when it was named in the Notice of Allegations.

"Simply put, the claims against Mr. Stricklin are wholly devoid of merit," Stricklin's Starkville-based attorney, Charles Winfield, wrote in a statement, "and there is simply no good faith basis in either law or fact for Mr. Stricklin to have been made a party to such a case."

Charles Merkel, an Oxford-based attorney who represents Rebel Rags, said this case was essentially filed as a precaution against a potential argument that the statute of limitations will run out.

Rebel Rags was named in Ole Miss' most-recent Notice of Allegations, which was delivered to the school on Feb. 22, 2017.

The original case, which features several unnamed John Doe defendants, is awaiting a ruling on a petition from the Mississippi Supreme Court. Rebel Rags filed a motion to lift the stay on the case, which would have allowed it to amend the complaint and add those John Doe defendants.

Merkel said judge John Kelly Luther told him the easiest thing to do, since there's a delay in the proceedings, was to file another lawsuit with the unnamed John Doe defendants. Merkel said the two cases will be consolidated.

Lewis, Jones and Miller each told the NCAA that they received free merchandise from Rebel Rags, which led to a Level I violation against Ole Miss. In the original complaint, Rebel Rags alleged that Lewis, Jones and Miller knowingly provided false information to the NCAA in their testimonies.

The Committee on Infractions found those three credible in its ruling and ordered the university to disassociate Rebel Rags owner Terry Warren. That disassociation is pending an appeal.

Ole Miss argued, in its response to the Notice of Allegations and in its appeal, that the testimonies of the three aren't credible.

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February 22, 2018
 
 
 

 

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South Bend Tribune (Indiana)

 

SOUTH BEND — Athletic Director Seabe Gavin Jr. is proposing professional development for South Bend Community School Corp. coaches and improved strength and conditioning training for student athletes.

He made the proposals Tuesday during an informational presentation to the South Bend school board about athletics and academics.

"Athletics are truly co-curricular and teach life lessons," Gavin said.

Gavin presented a packet of information to board members about the Missouri Institute for Positive Coaching, which is affiliated with the University of Missouri's College of Education. He asked that the board consider professional development training for the school system's coaches at all grade levels.

No cost estimates for the proposed services were discussed with the board. The printed packet states a "Power of Positive Coaching" digital workshop, including 13 lessons of video instruction, costs $1,500 per school, with a $500 annual renewal fee.

Amber Selking, a local resident who is a performance consultant for the coaching institute, provided the board some information about its services.

The institute helps teach students confidence through sports by providing the means for coaches to learn and apply "positive coaching," she said. "At the end of the day, coaching makes or breaks the experience for our kids," she said.

Kyle Schutts, a sports performance coordinator for Beacon Health System, also spoke during the presentation. Beacon already provides some services within South Bend schools athletic programs.

Beacon could expand its services by providing a professional quality strength and conditioning program for athletes in each of the high schools, he said.

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February 23, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2018 The Arizona Daily Star. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

 

The criminal case against a former University of Arizona assistant track and field coach accused of assaulting and stalking one of his athletes became more complicated Tuesday, when a Pima County judge granted a motion to sever the charges against him.

This means that prosecutors cannot introduce evidence of Craig Carter's alleged assault against thrower Baillie Gibson during Carter's March trial on charges of felony stalking and interference with or disruption of an educational institution.

Gibson told police that in April 2015, Carter held a box cutter to her throat while choking her with his other hand. Over the next week, Carter stalked and threatened Gibson and ultimately tried to drag her out of a UA classroom in front of witnesses. Phone records show that between April 26 and May 1, Carter sent Gibson 57 text messages and emails, several of which contained threats, according to court documents.

While Carter is alleging that the two were involved in a years-long sexual relationship, Gibson says he took compromising photos of her in 2012 and forced her into a sexual relationship by threatening to expose the photos.

During an interview with UA police, Carter waived his Miranda rights and admitted to assaulting Gibson, as well as sending her threatening text messages and emails, according to the investigative report.

In May 2015, Carter was charged with aggravated assault, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, domestic-violence-related stalking and disruption of an educational institution — all felonies. Seven months later, Carter was indicted on related charges of violating a restraining order against one of Gibson's teammates. No trial date has been set in that case, but in October, Carter turned down a plea deal that would've covered both cases against him. The agreement offered him a sentence of one to 3.75 years in prison. At the time he rejected the deal, Carter was facing up to 60 years in prison if convicted on all charges in both cases.

In January, Carter's attorney, Dan Cooper, filed a motion to sever the assault and stalking charges, saying that none of the evidence of stalking — including text messages, emails, videos or incidents at Gibson's home — is relevant to the assault counts and not admissible in the case.

"What took place after the assaults are wholly distinct and separate events," the motion says. "The offenses are not alike nor of similar character."

On Tuesday, Pima County Superior Court Judge Teresa Godoy sided with Carter and granted the motion, according to a court spokeswoman.

The stalking and disruption of an educational institution charges will be addressed during Carter's March 27 trial, which is scheduled to last 10 days. A trial date has not yet been set for the two aggravated assault charges.

"The victim is shocked and disappointed," said Gibson's attorney, Lynne Cadigan. "Why would any victim come forward if they're subjected to this indignity?"

Gibson will now have to testify in two trials for incidents that happened over a 10-day span, Cadigan said, adding that Godoy's decision shows disrespect for the victim.

Gibson filed a lawsuit in late 2015 against Carter and the UA, saying that the school failed to protect her from repeated rapes by Carter. Carter responded to the suit by filing a defamation suit against Gibson and Cadigan.

Because Carter was employed by the UA at the time of the alleged events, the state is required to pay for his defense in the civil suit. As of Dec. 31, Carter's attorney, John Munger, had billed $750,453 to taxpayers. In November, the UA opted out of its representation by the Arizona Attorney General's Office and hired private Tucson firm Rusing, Lopez & Lizardi to represent the university. Between Nov. 9 and Dec. 20, that firm had billed $68,978 in legal fees for their work, according to the Arizona Department of Administration.

However, the state's risk management division is paying for Carter's defense under a reservation of rights, meaning that if he's convicted on criminal charges, the state can withdraw his defense, said Megan Rose, an ADOA spokeswoman.

Carter's cases in Pima County Superior Court are only a portion of the UA athletic department's legal woes, as the school is currently facing two federal lawsuits involving a former running back Orlando Bradford's admitted abuse of women and a multimillion-dollar sexual harassment and hostile work environment claim filed by ex-football coach Rich Rodriguez's former assistant.

 

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February 21, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2018 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

Part of a long-shuttered Dominick's Finer Foods will be filled by a health club on Palatine's southwest side. Village council members Tuesday night granted formal approval for a special-use permit to Crunch Fitness allowing a health club in the Dominick's at the northeast corner of Euclid Avenue and Quentin Road. The Dominick's closed as part of an overall chain shutdown in December 2013. Crunch Fitness will redevelop about 21,000 square feet of the 56,000-square-foot Dominick's in Regency Plaza.

Owner and franchisee John Roberts said he plans to open in June. Roberts said the Dominick's availability and a lack of health club competition in the vicinity led him to southwest Palatine. "I'm from the area, live in Arlington Heights, grew up in Wheeling, so we were looking in this area," Roberts said outside the village council meeting chambers. "Some of it just comes down to availability. When you're looking for (21,000) square feet, you have a limited number of spots."

In Crunch Fitness materials submitted to Palatine, it is described as the country's top health club in the "high value/low price segment." Crunch Fitness has locations in 23 states and Puerto Rico. Roberts said Regency Plaza's owners already have completed interior demolition of the Dominick's, removing refrigerators and other supermarket equipment as part of the process. He said extensive work will be needed to convert the space into a health club that'll include locker areas, a multipurpose room, personal training bar and retail section.

Crunch Fitness should have at least 5,000 members within about six months and have roughly $2 million in annual revenue, Robert said. The business is expected to have four full-time employees and at least 20 part-time workers with duties such as handling the front desk, personal training, accounting and back office. Councilman Tim Millar said he hopes Crunch Fitness will have a positive economic runoff effect in Regency Plaza, which has several vacancies.

Crunch Fitness will join True Value Hardware, Hair Cuttery and Salon Elite and Spa at the mall. "It's great seeing something go in there," Millar said. "I think it will bring a lot of other business, hopefully, at the shopping center." Hobby Lobby moved from Northwest Highway into a chunk of the Dominick's at Deer Grove Crossing Shopping Center on Dundee Road in Palatine in 2016. However, Schaumburg, Lake in the Hills, Buffalo Grove and Carpentersville are among suburbs that still have empty Dominick's.

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Bob Susnjara/bsusnjara@dailyherald.com Palatine village council members Tuesday night approved Crunch Fitness opening in part of a former Dominick's Finer Foods at the northeast corner of Euclid Avenue and Quentin Road. This is a rendering of the exterior. Crunch Fitness owner and franchisee John Roberts says he hopes to open in June. Bob Susnjara/bsusnjara@dailyherald.com Palatine village council members Tuesday night approved Crunch Fitness opening in part of a former Dominick's Finer Foods at the northeast corner of Euclid Avenue and Quentin Road. This is a rendering of the exterior. Crunch Fitness owner and franchisee John Roberts says he hopes to open in June.Bob Susnjara/bsusnjara@dailyherald.com Crunch Fitness is proposing to redevelop half this long-vacant Dominick's Finer Foods at Regency Plaza at Euclid Avenue and Quentin Road in Palatine. Crunch Fitness is to appear before the advisory Palatine zoning board of appeals Feb. 13. Bob Susnjara/bsusnjara@dailyherald.com Crunch Fitness wants to open a health club in part of this long-vacant Dominick's Finer Foods at the northeast corner of Euclid Avenue and Quentin Road in Palatine. Bob Susnjara/bsusnjara@dailyherald.com Crunch Fitness wants to open a health club in part of this long-vacant Dominick's Finer Foods at the northeast corner of Euclid Avenue and Quentin Road in Palatine. Courtesy of Palatine Crunch Fitness Crunch Fitness will redevelop part of this long-vacant Dominick's Finer Foods at Regency Plaza at Euclid Avenue and Quentin Road in Palatine. The Palatine village council Tuesday night approved a special-use permit allowing a health club in the space.Courtesy of Palatine Crunch Fitness Palatine village council members Tuesday night approved Crunch Fitness opening in part of a former Dominick's Finer Foods at the northeast corner of Euclid Avenue and Quentin Road. This is a rendering of the interior. Crunch Fitness owner and franchisee John Roberts says he hopes to open in June. Courtesy of Palatine Crunch Fitness Palatine village council members Tuesday night approved Crunch Fitness opening in part of a former Dominick's Finer Foods at the northeast corner of Euclid Avenue and Quentin Road. This is a rendering of the interior. Crunch Fitness owner and franchisee John Roberts says he hopes to open in June.Bob Susnjara/bsusnjara@dailyherald.com John Roberts, right, is franchisee and owner of Crunch Fitness that'll open in part of a former Dominick's Finer Foods at Euclid Avenue and Quentin Road in Palatine. Here, he speaks to the Palatine village council Tuesday night joined by general manager Garrett DeGrazia. Bob Susnjara/bsusnjara@dailyherald.com John Roberts, right, is franchisee and owner of Crunch Fitness that'll open in part of a former Dominick's Finer Foods at Euclid Avenue and Quentin Road in Palatine. Here, he speaks to the Palatine village council Tuesday night joined by general manager Garrett DeGrazia.
 
February 21, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2018 The State Journal- Register
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The State Journal- Register (Springfield, IL)

 

Officials from the YMCA of Springfield hope to decide sometime this year where to build a new downtown branch, and one location being considered is along Carpenter Street, a few blocks east of Memorial Medical Center, the YMCA's leader said Tuesday.

"It has been discussed as a possibility," YMCA chief executive officer Angie Sowle said of a vacant lot owned by Memorial at the northwest corner of Fourth and Carpenter streets.

But a location for a new downtown location to replace the existing 56-year-old YMCA building at Fourth and Cook streets, about a mile south of the Memorial lot, hasn't been made, Sowle said.

She wouldn't say how much a new downtown branch might cost and said YMCA officials have had some discussions with other organizations, in addition to Memorial. She didn't name those organizations.

Memorial paid $8 million toward the total cost of the Y's $18 million Kerasotes branch, which opened in 2011 on the city's west side at 4550 Iles Ave.

The health system operates a 10,000-square-foot branch of its SportsCare program in a section of the YMCA Kerasotes branch.

"Memorial is our existing partner in our existing Kerasotes facility, so it makes sense that that's where we would start in looking for a potential partner for a new location, and we are in discussions with them," Sowle said.

"It's so preliminary," she said. "We really are trying to identify sources of funding that may be available to us - potential partnerships - because clearly, it's going to take a significant capital campaign. We're going to need a lot of charitable donations to help us do that, so we're really just exploring all of those possibilities right now."

Edgar Curtis, president and chief executive officer of Memorial Health System - the parent organization of Memorial Medical Center - declined comment through a spokesman. The YMCA's board of trustees and board of directors are committed to maintaining a presence in the downtown area in addition to the west side location, Sowle said.

The State Journal-Register reported a year ago that the not-for-profit YMCA contracted with Springfield-based FWAI Architects Inc. to study the structural health of the two-story, 88,000-square-foot YMCA building at 701 S. Fourth St.

FWAI produced a report that led YMCA officials to conclude a few months ago that a major renovation of the existing downtown structure wouldn't be worth the expense, Sowle said. She declined to release the report.

"The board of trustees and the board of directors decided that the most prudent use of our resources for continuing service to the downtown area is to look to build a new building versus continuing to care and patch and nurse this older building along," Sowle said.

The Springfield YMCA operates with an annual budget of about $5.7 million, serving 17,000 members who can use either branch. About 11,000 members are based at the Kerasotes facility, with the remainder based at the downtown location, Sowle said.

The Fourth and Carpenter location is in Ward 5, and the ward's alderman, Andrew Proctor, said he learned about the possibility of the YMCA building a new downtown branch there from Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder during a recent meeting. Landfelder couldn't be reached for comment.

Proctor said a new downtown Y branch in the Enos Park neighborhood would be a "game-changer" and could convince more families and businesses to move to the neighborhood and invest in it.

"Enos Park is at a tipping point," Proctor said. "I'm kind of excited about the news."

Proctor said Langfelder didn't mention how the project might be financed. Proctor said the land is within the city's Enos Park tax-increment financing district, and he would be in favor of using TIF funds to help make the project a reality.

YMCA officials haven't decided whether they would raze their current downtown location and build at the same site or build on another site, Sowle said, but any new downtown location would offer services comparable with what is offered now.

"We're a little landlocked here," she said of the current downtown site. "It would be lovely to go someplace with more space, more parking, maybe a little green space, but there's no piece of property that's been identified."

The Illinois Times newspaper, which first reported the YMCA's consideration of the Memorial-owned property this week, cited anonymous sources saying the current YMCA building might be deeded to the not-for-profit foundation associated with the historic Dana-Thomas House immediately north of the Y building.

Sowle said YMCA officials haven't had discussions with the Dana-Thomas House Foundation, though she said Y officials have discussed the possibility of donating the current Y building to Springfield city government.

Officials from the foundation couldn't be reached.

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

 

CHARLOTTESVILLE - Virginia's new athletic director surveyed the Cavaliers' renovated baseball stadium and liked what she saw.

"(Former A.D.) Craig Littlepage and his team had this vision, along with (baseball coach Brian) O'Connor," Carla Williams said. "As it turns out today, looking at it and being here on opening day, it's pretty remarkable. I've walked throughout the facility. It's got to be the best in the country."

The No. 15 Cavaliers' home opener against VMI drew a crowd of 3,709 at the now-5,500 seat stadium, a Virginia record for a home opener, eclipsing the 3,105 it drew, also against the Keydets, two years ago. Tuesday, that crowd saw VMI kill some of the excitement, striking for six runs in the first inning on its way to a 9-4 win.

Juniors Matt Pita and Justin Huggins, both former Cosby standouts, combined to go 5 for 10 with three runs and two RBIs for the Keydets (2-2).

Senior Matt Dunlevy (St. Christopher's) went 1 for 2 with a run and two RBIs.

U.Va. (2-2) pushed the start time for Tuesday's game back two hours to 5 p.m., hoping to draw a larger crowd thanks to the unusually warm weather, associate athletic director for facilities Jason Bauman said.

As of Tuesday morning, dozens of workers were still buzzing around Davenport, putting the finishing touches on the renovations on the $18.76 million project.

Bauman said O'Connor helped guide the designs for the new-look venue.

"He was our leader in creating the vision for what we wanted," Bauman said. "We followed that vision and have been able to implement those things within our stadium."

The stadium will be renamed Davenport Field at Disharoon Park, a change that will become official March 2, when it's approved by the university's board of visitors.

The park is being named for Leslie Disharoon and his late wife, Ann, longtime supporters of the U.Va. baseball program following an anonymous donation to the project.

As of late January, Virginia had accumulated $16.3 million from ticket sales, suite revenue and private contributions from donors.

"None of this happens without them," Bauman said.

While many of the upgrades are designed to enhance the fan experience - including the new club area along the right-field line, the enhanced plaza at the entrance on the right-field side and improvements to concession stands, restrooms and parking lots - there have also been significant facility changes for the athletes.

A spacious new bullpen for the home team sits behind the fence in right field. There's also a new indoor hitting facility in right field, and the team's old batting cage area has been converted into a pitchers' work space.

The home locker room moved from the third-base side to the first-base side.

"In today's world of college athletics, you've got to continually look for ways to improve, ways to attract better recruits and better ways to train your current student athletes," Williams said. "That's what I think we've done with this facility."

The coaches' offices and some landscaping are the only unfinished tasks that will be completed during the season, Bauman said.

mbarber@timesdispatch.com@RTD_MikeBarber

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Copyright 2018 ProQuest Information and Learning
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Copyright 2018 Freedom Newspapers, Inc. Feb 21, 2018

The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colorado)

 

Local advocates have been pushing for the sanctioning of boys' volleyball in Colorado for more than 20 years.

And Wednesday, the club sport took one step closer to becoming an official Colorado High School Activities Association sanctioned sport.

Along with girls' wrestling and unified bowling, boys' volleyball was approved as a pilot program by CHSAA board of directors Wednesday, according to a release on CHSAAnow.com.

A new bylaw, which was passed in January by the board of directors, outlined the steps required for a new sport or activity to become a sanctioned sport.

The pilot program was designed after last year's surprising Legislative Council vote that shot down the sanctioning of boys' volleyball for the third time. Mike Prusinowski, president of the Colorado Boys High School Volleyball Association, told The Gazette in January that he hoped the pilot program will help drive boys' volleyball in the right direction - and so far, so good.

Colorado boys' volleyball teams stand strong despite lack of CHSAA accreditation

The 2018 spring season, which officially kicks off on the first day of practice Feb. 26, will be boys' volleyball's first pilot season. Girls' wrestling will begin as a pilot next winter. According to the CHSAA release, unified bowling will present its timeline for its pilot season in April.

Boys' volleyball and girls' wrestling are required to have two pilot seasons each. According to the release, if the sports are approved by the legislative council after the 2019 seasons, boys' volleyball will begin its first season as a CHSAA sanctioned sport in spring 2020 and girls' wrestling would begin in winter 2020-21.

The Pikes Peak region has deep ties to all three sports searching for sanctioning. According to Prusinowski, 13 area schools have confirmed that they will have a boys' volleyball team this year, and more could be on the way. Doherty High School has one of the area's longest-running programs, which has been playing since 1996.

Vista Ridge sophomore Bella Mitchell recently placed second at the 2018 girls' state wrestling tournament at 161 pounds, while four other female wrestlers in the region placed in the top three. Falcon's Shenin Steele placed third in the 100-pound weight class; Doherty's Aminah Hunter placed third at 127; Fountain-Fort Carson's Joslyn Anderson finished third at 136 and Palmer's Kalila Mostert took bronze at 215.

At least eight Colorado Springs area high schools compete as members of the Colorado High School Bowling Foundation, including Doherty, which won the 2017-2018 team title two weeks ago. The Falcon High School team placed second, followed by the team from Mitchell. According to the CHSBF website, about 300 high school bowlers compete in the league across the state.

 

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February 22, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

Maybe you've heard, there is an epidemic in college basketball and it's not the flu. Players are transferring here and there, up and down, in and out.

Two full pages of the Street & Smith preseason magazine I bought in October are dedicated to recording who has transferred where. And that's with small type.

NCAA rules dictate a player must sit out a year at the new school to establish residency (but primarily to make them think twice before transferring in the first place). One example: Shembari Phillips, who left Tennessee for Georgia Tech.

But there is an exception - the grad transfers. Players who finish their degree at Northeastern State can transfer to Southwestern Tech and play immediately while pursuing graduate studies if they have eligibility left.

Some see it as a dangerous loophole, others as a justifiable reward for academic persistence. I'm squarely in the reward camp. I'll even carry the flag. Attaining a degree is the main idea of college, right?

While transfers are prolific, only 1.9 percent of active players this season are grad transfers, according to NCAA stats in a USA Today article. Some epidemic.

The rule has impacted the SEC this season. Pay attention when Florida comes to Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday night.

There are multiple reasons Tennessee is significantly improved from last season. One is James Daniel III, the most productive grad transfer in UT basketball history.

Well, it's not much of a history. The Vols had dipped into the grad transfer pool only twice. John Fields came over from UNC-Wilmington in Bruce Pearl's ill-fated last-season, 2010-11. Fields started 18 games, blocked some shots but averaged only 2.6 points.

You might have forgotten Ian Chiles. Chiles, a guard from IUPUI, signed on with Donnie Tyndall in 2014-15. He played 14 November minutes, made one basket and got hurt. End of story.

Daniel, a three-year starter and prolific scorer at Howard University, has been a steadying presence in a young Tennessee backcourt. He has re-invented himself as a complementary player, averaging 6.6 points off the bench. He is the first Vol since 1994 to have multiple 10-assist games in a season.

Florida found a gem in Egor Koulechov, a Russian forward by way of Rice University. Koulechov is the Gators' leading rebounder and No. 2 scorer at 14 points a game. (Last season, Florida grad transfer Canyon Barry was the SEC's Sixth Man of the Year.)

If the SEC named a Grad Transfer of the Year, it would be Kassius Robertson of Missouri. A 1,000-point scorer at Canisius, Robertson is driving Cuonzo Martin's resurgent Tigers. He was recently SEC player of the week consecutive weeks.

Elsewhere, Markel Crawford (ex-Memphis) has helped Ole Miss. Frank Booker (ex-Florida Atlantic) nearly led South Carolina to an upset of UT last week. Duane Wilson was a big contributor at Texas A&M until suffering a knee injury.

The Vols have encountered grad transfers outside the SEC, too. Iowa State had three, N.C. State a pair and Cameron Johnson is giving North Carolina a shot in the arm.

The lion's share of grad transfers had success at the mid-major level and wanted to try the big leagues. Alas, there is also the perspective of the jilted.

Kevin Nickelberry, Daniel's coach at Howard, told USA Today he doesn't blame the kids for moving up but said, "the rule is not really designed for mid-major head coaches and job security."

Howard, at this writing, was 8-19, Rice 5-20.

UT's Daniel and Florida's Koulechov, meanwhile, will play their final college games in the NCAA tournament.

Mike Strange

Shopper Columnist

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February 21, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

STARKVILLE — It was just a couple of months ago when I asked the then-burgeoning and bubbly 39-year-old rising coaching star what he wanted to be doing years from now, and he replied, "I think I'm doing it."

Mississippi State head baseball coach was a dream job for Andy Cannizaro.

Cannizaro was thought to be the perfect fit for Mississippi State, too.

In fact, that's how athletic director John Cohen introduced Cannizaro on Nov. 5, 2016, when Cannizaro, the former LSU assistant, pro scout and MLB journeyman, was named Cohen's successor. Quickly, Cannizaro's magnetic personality became a hit here. Barrel-chested. Outgoing. Fan-friendly. Media-friendly. Cannizaro was all of that - and he was adored for it.

He proved he could coach, too. Cannizaro led the Bulldogs to an unlikely super regional appearance last season despite deploying a pitching staff ravaged with injuries. Cohen affectionately called Cannizaro, a former big-leaguer, "the upgrade."

MSU heavily marketed Cannizaro as the face of the program. It invested in his vision of delivering the school its first national title one day soon. There's a new Dudy Noble Field set to open on March 6. MSU's recruiting classes are all highly ranked. There was no reason to mock Cannizaro when he often tweeted: "Is this heaven?"

Things are suddenly so different - and no one is answering why with specifics.

In a concerning statement issued by MSU on Tuesday morning, Cannizaro announced he resigned because he made "poor decisions" and asked for forgiveness. It's unclear exactly the extent of the wrongdoings or why a decision was made one weekend into the season, but sources indicated that rumors of an infidelity were investigated. Cannizaro has two young children and his wife is pregnant.

Cohen and Cannizaro have not responded to requests for comment.

Some inside and around the department said they were blindsided when news broke late Monday night. It was just days ago when school officials were endorsing him on Twitter for his appearances in light-hearted videos involving staffers and MSU's other teams.

Now, instead of being the guy who endeared himself to many and led Mississippi State to Omaha, Cannizaro has put the Bulldogs in a bind.

The Bulldogs were just swept by Southern Miss. They are 0-3. They are on the road for the rest of the month because of construction on the new stadium here. Now, their coach is gone.

Pitching coach Gary Henderson is now the interim head coach. Henderson is certainly capable - he was Kentucky's head coach for eight seasons and replaced Cohen there - but these are dreadful circumstances.

Awful. Disappointing. Mind-blowing. Those are some of the other adjectives some people affiliated with and around MSU used to describe the situation.

"As a parent, we're all concerned," Jennifer Horton, mother of MSU outfielder Elijah MacNamee, said. "We're sad for the boys. They've worked their whole life to be in this position and have big dreams. This is an important season for a lot of our guys, and it is tough being on the road already.

"I would love our fans to just be supportive from here on out - for the boys and the coaches here. It's a big shock and they have to process it and still go out and play."

This is a test for MSU's on-field leaders like Jake Mangum and Konnor Pilkington that they didn't deserve. But a few parents all said the same thing: The players are rallying around each other to get win No. 1. The first time MSU will take the field again is 6 p.m. Wednesday at Jackson State.

The Bulldogs will be playing under their third different head coach in 18 months. Henderson is in only his second season here, but he was the SEC Coach of the Year in 2012. Maybe he'll stick as the guy. Maybe he won't. Either way, Cohen has quickly established a track record that suggests he will have a plan.

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San Angelo Standard-Times (Texas)

 

San Angelo Central High School's formal appeal of its new district was denied Tuesday by the University Interscholastic League.

San Angelo Independent School District issued the following statement in regards to the UIL's decision:

"We are certainly disappointed by this outcome. Our expectation was that the UIL would take the long distances traveled by our students in all sports, plus the amount of classroom time they would miss due to that travel under more serious consideration when rendering their final decision. We will remain steadfast in supporting our students, staff and parents as SAISD overcomes this setback. The tradition of academic and athletic excellence at Central High School will continue."

SAISD Executive Director of Athletics Brent McCallie added, "That disappointment is for our kids and community and our fans and our parents."

McCallie said the focus of the appeal was on travel and loss of school time.

"We think that's what it's all about," he said. "(SAISD Superintendent) Dr. (Carl) Detlof, he elaborated on that quite well and did a good job with all that. But there was a lot of discussion among the committee. I do believe the people on that committee understand the hardship that we have."

Central's new district consists of mostly Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area schools — Euless Trinity, Haltom City, Hurst L.D. Bell, North Richland Hills and Weatherford.

Abilene High, which is about 90 miles away, is the only school in Central's district within 200 miles of San Angelo.

Central also appealed its previous biennial realignment in 2016 — which placed all sports except football with schools in Waco, Killeen and Copperas Cove — pointing to similar concerns about "safety, road conditions, and a loss of instructional time," Dethloff said at the time.

That appeal was also denied.

McCallie said one or two appeals were overturned by the UIL two years ago, but none of the first seven were overturned on Wednesday before the SAISD representatives headed back to San Angelo.

And now things are set in stone for the Bobcats in the next two years.

"We will meet with the 3-6A folks and we'll start to get that district all organized and get ready for the fall season in '18," McCallie said.

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USA TODAY

 

Kevin Ware summed it up perfectly.

"Still got this fat a** ring which means my guys definitely won a chip, if I'm not mistaken of course," Ware tweeted early Tuesday afternoon.

The guard on the 2012-13 Louisville men's basketball team — the one best remembered for breaking his leg in horrific fashion during the 2013 Midwest Regional final — was talking about the 2013 NCAA title game, of course.

On Tuesday, the NCAA finally wrapped up the Louisville basketball sex scandal, announcing that the Cardinals' 2013 title — an 82-76 win over Michigan — would be vacated. All in all, Louisville must vacate 123 wins from the 2011-12 to 2014-15 seasons, including the 2013 championship and a trip to the 2012 Final Four. The university will also have to pay back a few million dollars of shared NCAA tournament conference revenue. This marks the first time in modern history a basketball title has been vacated.

Some of you are probably thinking, "The NCAA finally got it right, and brought down the hammer!" Me, I'm shrugging.

Yes, vacating wins and removing a banner — though evidently not asking for championship rings back — is a big deal. There's no denying that. But I doubt it'll force other programs across the country to change, too.

As we all know, there's a seedy underbelly in college athletics — it, of course, extends to football, too, but seems to be more predominant and well known in hoops. As basketball analyst Seth Davis tweeted, "We now have our first vacated NCAA title. If you think about it, it's amazing it took this long."

No kidding. What'll be more amazing: If it starts happening with regular frequency.

The NCAA has long been considered a toothless authority. It has a tendency to overstep its bounds (such as in the Penn State case) and bungle investigations that should be a slam-dunk for major violations (such as the North Carolina case). This is a case it got right, despite the objections from Louisville's administration. But I'm not convinced it'll result in a widespread changing of practices at programs that are also skirting the rules.

The bottom line is coaches and programs will keep cheating and blurring the lines — though hopefully future cheating and violations aren't so egregious as to involve escorts — because it's rare that they get caught. The NCAA doesn't have wiretapping or subpoena power, so no one truly fears them.

Rick Pitino's legend is fully tarnished with this ruling, but to those paying attention, it already was; the ship on Pitino being some upstanding character full of moral virtue sailed a long time ago.

The real question is, what's next? The looming FBI investigation seems far from over, and Louisville is tangled up in that, too. Brian Bowen never played a game for Louisville, but his recruitment could lead to even more sanctions for the Cardinals, if the NCAA can ever get its arms around that case. (The NCAA has not responded to multiple USA TODAY requests for comment about when, exactly, it'll be starting its own investigation of the FBI's findings.)

It's been reported that the bribery scandal uncovered by the FBI can and will dramatically alter the landscape of college hoops when all the dust settles. I'll believe it when it happens.

Just like I'll believe teams will stop cheating when more titles are vacated.

And considering how long it took for the first one, I anticipate it'll be business as usual for a long time in college basketball.

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USA TODAY

 

The University of Louisville has lost its 2013 national championship banner.

The NCAA's Infractions Appeals Committee announced Tuesday that it upheld the NCAA Committee on Infractions' ruling that the Louisville men's basketball program must vacate 123 wins, including the 2013 title and 2012 Final Four appearance, as punishment in the school's escort case.

It is the first time in modern Division I men's basketball history that a championship was vacated.

"I cannot say this strongly enough: We believe the NCAA is simply wrong to have made this decision," interim university president Greg Postel said.

The appeals panel also upheld a financial penalty that requires Louisville to repay shared revenue from the Cardinals' 2012-15 NCAA tournament appearances, including future revenue shared from those seasons.

Postel estimated the "bulk" of that punishment to be worth about $600,000, much lower than some previous estimates.

The decision, released via the NCAA's website, was the final step in an infractions process that lasted more than two years after Katina Powell's book, Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen, prompted an NCAA investigation in October 2015.

The NCAA's enforcement staff found that former Louisville director of basketball operations Andre McGee paid Powell and other women thousands of dollars and gave them game tickets in exchange for stripteases and sex acts for players and recruits.

The 40 alleged acts added up to a Level I violation of NCAA rules, the gravest offense in the NCAA's penalty structure.

Louisville self-imposed a postseason ban for the 2016 Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA tournaments and later added self-imposed recruiting sanctions after confirming the allegations.

"The university, under prior leadership, never made excuses for what took place," Postel said. "There was immediate recognition of the facts, the issuance of an apology, serious self-imposed penalties, extraordinary cooperation with the investigation that followed and the strengthening of and creation of policies and procedures to make sure that this never happened again. Under the NCAA's own rules, such cooperation should have been a factor in determining the severity of the punishment. Instead, it was ignored."

Interim Louisville athletics director Vince Tyra said he was unlikely to support the school challenging the NCAA's ruling through the legal system because it wouldn't be "worth dipping into the piggy bank."

The school could "theoretically" sue the NCAA, Postel said, but the subject hasn't been broached by university officials.

Legal experts who have studied Louisville's case said it would be difficult for the school to win a lawsuit against the NCAA because it never contested the organization's investigative or deliberative actions or tactics.

Instead, Louisville focused its arguments on specifics within the case without disputing that violations occurred. The appeals committee noted in its ruling that Louisville agreed the violations "were reprehensible and inexcusable," quoting the school from the oral argument transcript from the Dec. 13 appeal hearing.

The panel also included the vacation of records.

"The COI has not previously dealt with a case like this," the committee on infractions said in the original ruling. "The violations were serious, intentional, numerous and occurred over multiple years."

Tyra said the school has not yet determined where it will store the removed banners, which had already been removed from the KFC Yum Center rafters as of Tuesday afternoon.

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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

For all the recent growth of Chattanooga's downtown, the South Broad Street area has captured a mere 1 percent of the more than $1 billion of new investment in the central city over the past three years, according to a new study of the area.

But a new plan suggests the 400 acres south of Interstate 24 along and around Broad Street could join in Chattanooga's central city renaissance with the addition of new sports facilities, parks and zoning rules to allow new types of urban housing and retail development.

The Chattanooga Design Studio, using the ideas voiced by 250 people who attended a series of public meetings last fall, suggests building a new baseball stadium for the Chattanooga Lookouts, a new track and sports facility at Howard High School and new types of housing and parks will bring more residents, businesses and visitors south of the freeway.

The 128-page report said the Southside should capitalize on plans for a new Interstate 24 exit, the extended Tennessee Riverwalk and the availability of 140 acres on the former site of the Wheland and U.S. Pipe foundries for new retail, housing and stadium development.

The study suggests relocating the Chattanooga Lookouts AA minor league baseball stadium into the area "can serve as a catalyst" and "serve as anchor to new investment." Similar stadium projects in six other comparable cities studied show an average of 1.1 million square feet of new development was attracted within a quarter mile of the new stadiums.

At the same time, the study said demolishing the current Lookouts stadium atop Hawk Hill downtown along Highway 27 in downtown Chattanooga would open up more riverfront land and development to generate more tax revenue for the city.

The stadium could be key to reviving the former Wheland Foundry and U.S. Pipe & Foundry site, which has been idle for more than a decade since the foundries shut down.

"We heard over and over again that many in the community wanted the foundry site to be a vibrant gateway," Eric Myers, the head of the Chattanooga Urban Design Studio, said in a presentation Tuesday to the Chattanooga City Council.

In the report, Myers said a new stadium "becomes a destination for many different types of events," which will encourage retail, entertainment and other development within a quarter mile of the stadium.

"An entertainment and sports venue was clearly identified as part of the vision for this area," the report said.

The study also suggests that Hamilton County schools consider bringing back a middle school on the campus of Howard High School and recommends a new sports facility be built at Howard, including a new stadium and track.

Hamilton County has already announced selection of Barge Design Solutions to lead the design of a new stadium and track for Howard High School. Russell Morehead, Barge's vice president and client services leader, said his company is eager to move forward "to support the continued growth and success of the Howard and Southside communities."

But critics have questioned the promised payoff from new stadiums and whether the city and county should try to finance a new stadium for the privately owned Chattanooga Lookouts. The Beacon Center of Tennessee, a free-market conservative think tank in Nashville, continues to push for a public referendum on any tax assistance for a new Lookouts stadium.

"Despite the overly optimistic predictions that never seem to live up to reality, we believe it is not the proper role of government to take taxpayer money and hand it over to wealthy sports team owners," Justin Owen, president of the Beacon center, said in a statement Tuesday. "But if local elected officials believe that spending public resources on sports stadiums is what taxpayers want, they should have no problem putting those decisions on the ballot."

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger have yet to propose a way to fund a new Lookouts stadium or other development in the area. But in an introduction to the South Broad Street plan, Berke said "it is vital for Chattanooga to have a South Broad District which is parallel to the downtown's continued economic growth, productivity and progress." Coppinger said he "fully supports this report" and hopes it "will help guide elected leaders" in making plans for the Southside.

The study said the city could establish a tax increment financing (TIF) district to use additional taxes spurred by development in the area to pay for the public improvements in the district, including the sports facilities, parks, streets and walkways. In such an area, the city uses increases in property taxes generated by new development to repay investments made in streets, parks and other public improvements.

A citizens group that has criticized other tax increment financing districts in Lookout Valley and downtown expressed more general support for the idea of such a tax-funding system for the Southside.

"This will be a classic TIF district in that it affects a blighted area and there is potential for significant job growth and gains to the city's tax base and this is an area that may need some public funds as a catalyst to realize its potential for redevelopment," said Helen Burns Sharp, founder of Accountability for Taxpayers Money (ATM).

But Sharp said she worries that with 30 percent of the property in Chattanooga already tax-exempt or under some tax-favored status, taking more property off the tax rolls for general government funding could cause financial problems if not done appropriately.

The development plan also calls for redeveloping the Chattanooga Gardens neighborhood around Howard school with a mix of housing for diversity and a range of incomes.

To encourage more housing and retail in the area, the study suggests the development of urban buildings with shallow or no-front setbacks from the street and allowing buildings in the area to be up to five stories in height. To ensure a variety of housing options, the study suggests that form-based zoning be implemented in the area to favor small flats, town houses and similar building types and allow residential homes to be up to three stories in height.

Following the demolition of public housing and the Great Recession, the area has lost significant population base, according to the study. The 400-acre Southside area in 2015 had only 1,158 residents, the lowest population density anywhere in or around the downtown area. Most of those living in the area tend to be lower income and older, according to the study, and only 10 percent of those in the area own their own home, compared with a citywide average of 53.4 percent.

Kim White, president of the River City Co., said the Foundry site and other areas in the Southside "is an incredibly important connector to downtown and is primed for large scale redevelopment that can really add to the fabric of our urban area."

Myers said he also wants to seize control of the area around the future I-24 interchange to keep it away from big-box retailers and preserve it for smaller, neighborhood commerce and mixed uses. He presented street-level drawings to the City Council showing a vision of mixed-use neighborhoods and commercial areas, along with aerial views locating a new Lookouts ballpark and other infrastructure.

Ezra Harris Park, which is almost unknown, needs to be refreshed with new amenities such as tennis courts and connected better to the Howard School across a tree-lined boulevard rather than a four-lane highway.

Councilman Darrin Ledford called the slides of residential squares and tree-shaded parks set off from commercial areas "very visually stimulating."

"I think you've found a good fan base here. This is phenomenal work," he said.

Councilman Russell Gilbert called it a "beautiful vision" and asked about getting that same level of detail in other areas besides the urban core.

"I've been here eight years and I've heard urban, urban, urban, all this side of the ridge." People on the other side of Missionary Ridge are due for some visioning and resources too, he said.

Councilman Erskine Oglesby Jr. said he's been working with Myers and Charita Allen, deputy administrator for economic and community development in the mayor's office. He congratulated them for a good job of getting a massive amount of public input.

"I'm excited it started in District 7," he said.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or Judy Walton at jwalton@timesfreepress.com

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Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA)

 

MESA, Ariz. - Wrigley Field will still feel plenty familiar to Chicago Cubs fans this season even as the 104-year-old ballpark undergoes more major renovations.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, optimistic about chasing the team's second World Series title in three seasons, visited his team's spring training home Monday for the first full-squad workout by the 2016 World Series champions on a cool day in the desert.

"From the renovations standpoint, for the most part it will look a lot like what you're used to," he said. "We've spent a lot of offseason digging holes underneath the rest of the grandstand to support some more fan amenities."

Ricketts said features that have been added at Wrigley for this season include a club behind home plate, additional concession stands and more bathrooms. The fifth offseason of a renovation plan that started after the 2014 season will take place next winter, when the visiting clubhouse will receive upgrades.

"The renovations of the field keep grinding forward," Ricketts said. "What's become a very expensive project to restore and improve Wrigley Field is almost over, so we're excited about that.... I think 2018 is going to be an incredible year for the organization."

On the field, Ricketts has his usual high aspirations.

"Everyone knows that this is a team that has the capability to win the World Series and everyone will be disappointed if we don't live up to that capability," Ricketts said.

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South Bend Tribune (Indiana)

 

The NCAA got it wrong when it rejected Notre Dame's appeal of a 2016 ruling regarding an academic fraud case.

The initial ruling came out of incident that occurred several years ago when a former ND student athletic trainer violated NCAA ethical conduct rules by committing academic misconduct for two football players and providing six other football players with impermissible academic extra benefits. One more Irish football player committed academic misconduct on his own.

Notre Dame self-reported the incident to the NCAA when it was discovered, and administrators also took other steps to address the issue, including forming a task force to look at why the misconduct happened in the first place and ways to prevent such cheating from recurring.

Head coach Brian Kelly said the university added support staff and other resources to make sure players do the work they need to do academically.

The University Honor Committee completed a four-month investigation to determine what exactly occurred and how it might have impacted grades, class credits and GPAs.

The original penalty, handed down in November 2016, included vacating 21 wins from the 2012 and 2013 seasons, one-year of probation (which was served during the appeal), a $5,000 fine and the severing of ties with the former student assistant trainer at the center of the case.

But what really is perplexing is the NCAA's decision to define a former student assistant trainer as an "institutional representative" of the university.

Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins took specific exception to that part of the ruling in a letter to the NCAA, arguing that in virtually every other case, an institutional representative of the university is defined as an administrator, coach or a person who served in an academic role.

A student assistant trainer doesn't fit those any of those categories. In fact, Jenkins went on in his letter to say that member institutions of the NCAA amended the academic misconduct rules to make clear that students who serve in roles identical to the student in this Notre Dame case shouldn't be considered institutional representatives.

The NCAA contradicted its own rules in this case.

Academic cheating is a serious matter that should be addressed swiftly and appropriately, but by the university, not by an organization that regulates college athletics. A student writing a paper for another student shouldn't come under the jurisdiction of the NCAA. Let the colleges and universities handle such matters individually according to their own academic standards, especially when such matters don't involve someone clearly identified as overseeing student athletes.

Notre Dame identified the problem, took appropriate steps to address it and did so by adhering to its own academic code of honor.

In this case, the punishment did not fit the crime and, by taking away 21 football victories and altering the record books of college football, the NCAA went beyond its bounds in its decision.

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The New York Post

 

Exercise may be even more important than the numbers on the scale for obese people looking to be healthier, a new study out of York University in Toronto has found.

The researchers gathered data from 853 patients with various levels of obesity, from mild to severe.

Even the most obese patients who exercised had lower blood pressure, glucose levels and triglyceride levels compared to those who didn't exercise much.

In the study published in the journal Obesity, 41 percent of the patients who were mildly obese were considered fit via a treadmill test. A quarter of the moderately obese patients were fit, and just 11 percent of the severely obese patients were fit. Researchers found that it didn't matter how obese they were when they looked at the patients' metabolic variables.

It's the first study to show that no matter how obese a person is, physical fitness can have positive effects on cardiovascular health, regardless of the size of a person's waistline, according to the authors.

"You can get fit without losing weight, and have health benefits," the study's lead researcher, professor Jennifer Kuk, says in a statement.

She adds that exercising 150 minutes a week may only lead to a pound and a half of weight loss, but it can mean the difference between someone being heart-healthy or not.

"People don't need to lose weight to be healthy," says her collaborator, Dr. Sean Wharton.

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Naples Daily News (Florida)

 

Last year the Estero High School girls lacrosse team had to play half its season without one of its senior captains who suffered a concussion after being inadvertently struck in the forehead with a stick.

If a Wildcats player takes such a blow to the head this season, she might not have to miss any playing time. That's the hope of the Florida High School Athletic Association, which this season became the first state association to require girls lacrosse players to wear helmets.

The past three seasons the FHSAA has required girls lacrosse players to wear headgear that wraps around the side of the head and covers the eyes. The new helmets encompass the entire head with hard plastic.

"(Players) are getting bigger, faster and stronger," Estero coach John Hulbert said. "There are rules to protect them, but you still have an inadvertent still come up and whack girls in the head. The helmets protect them against those."

There are two schools of thought on the helmets, which must comply with ASTM International (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials) standard F3137 used by US Lacrosse. While some coaches think they prevent injuries, others think the helmets could cause more by enticing players to be more aggressive.

"I'm afraid they'll give a false sense of safety," said Frank Adiutori, entering his 10th season as head coach at Naples High School. "When there's a groundball, players might run recklessly from opposite directions and crash heads."

Adiutori doesn't see the helmets preventing concussions, which happen when the brain is shaken inside the skull. The Golden Eagles coach said hard contact to the head, either from a stick or ball or falling to the ground still will lead to a concussion. NFL players, for example, get concussions despite the thickest helmets in any sport.

However, Adiutori is willing to give the new equipment a chance.

"I'm sure they'll keep stats, and if we see less concussions then I'm wrong and it's the right thing," Adiutori said. "If I'm right and there are more concussions, then maybe they'll decide to get rid of the helmets and go back to playing with (headgear)."

Lacrosse players around the state have spent the first few weeks of practice getting used to the helmets. But first, athletic departments had to find the resources to purchase them.

The Cascade LX helmet many teams, including Estero and Naples, are using cost $150 each. That's before painting or decals. Players at all levels — varsity, junior varsity and freshman — must wear the helmets, meaning some schools could have to purchase 50 or more.

The helmets are one-size-fits-all and fit snugly on some players. Adiutori and Hulbert said their players complained of headaches after the first week wearing them.

"You have to get in and stretch (the inside of the helmet) by hand," Hulbert said. "I've played hockey all my life, so wearing a helmet doesn't bother me. But for a first-time helmet wearer, it's an adjustment."

Though the helmets are new, girls lacrosse still has rules to make it different from the boys' game. Boys lacrosse has more contact, and players wear shoulder pads in addition to sturdier helmets.

Girls players are not allowed to stand in front of a shot to block it, and there is a dangerous propel rule to prevent offensive players from taking shots that could hit an opponent. Players also cannot swing their sticks near anyone's head.

Whether or not the new helmets cut down on injuries, coaches will have to wait until the end of the year to see.

"It's still too early to be able to tell," Hulbert said.

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Newsday (New York)

 

Enhanced security, new science labs and an artificial turf athletic field are among $45 million in facility upgrades for the Syosset school district after voters approved the spending last week.

The Feb. 13 proposition, which passed 821-292, includes $34.3 million from a 15-year-bond issue and $11.46 million from a capital reserve account.

The money will go toward remodeling science and research labs at Syosset High School. Also planned for the high school are outdoor bathrooms, two new tennis courts and an artifical turf field that will replace a natural grass field.

The money will pay for enclosed walkways at Syosset High School and at South Grove Annex to improve security. New air conditioning units, locker rooms and bathrooms are to be added to various buildings.

Construction could begin as early as July 2019. School officials said that the average homeowner's taxes would increase by $20.65 each year for every $10,000 in school taxes paid.

A second proposition that passed 909-204 approved energy saving and solar initiatives and will replace antiquated heating systems. That proposition, known as the Enhanced Safety and Energy Efficiency Plan, has zero effect on the tax levy, officials said, and will generate $2.2 milion in state aid reimbursement.

The district, factoring in installation costs and state aid, is expected to save $7.7 million over an 18-year period through that proposition, officials said.

District officials have said the proposals address needed improvements outlined in their Five-Year Buildings Condition Survey that reviewed academics, athletics, air quality, safety, and energy efficiency.

Superintendent Thomas Rogers said in a statement that "the work included in both propositions will not only preserve the community's investment in our schools, but will also address the items identified in our Five-Year Buildings Condition Survey, renovate our facilities and improve the quality of education for our students into the future."

Officials wrote on the school's website that district schools were built in the late 1950s and early 1960s and that "while repairs are done regularly, many of the major systems are approaching 70 years of age." The propositions "are designed to work together to maximize efficiency and minimize the time needed to complete the work.

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Copyright 2018 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

ESPN's Mark Schlabach reports that the FBI's investigation of college basketball recruiting "could result in potential NCAA violations for as many as three dozen Division I programs." A source tells Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports: "Hall of Fame coaches should be scared, lottery picks won't be eligible to play and almost half of the 16 teams the NCAA showed on its initial NCAA tournament show should worry about their appearance being vacated."

Goodness knows — though, to borrow from Mae West, goodness has nothing to do with it — that we've seen hoops scandals before: Boston College and point-shaving; Kentucky and its Emery envelope (and, before that, point-shaving); UNLV and Richie the Fixer's hot tub; Louisville and strippers; Baylor and murder. What makes this different is its sweep — assistant coaches from four Power Five schools in three different leagues have been indicted — and the entity doing the sweeping.

The FBI can go, and clearly has gone, where the toothless/feckless NCAA never could. The Feds have brought to light the subterranean money trail: Shoe companies sponsor AAU teams and steer players, sometimes via cash payments, to like-branded college programs; the cash buys not just a player's college commitment but binds him to becoming a (insert name of shoe company here) client once he turns pro, which with most top recruits means after one season.

The NCAA has no jurisdiction over the AAU. The NCAA wasn't responsible for the one-and-done rule; that was the NBA's doing. Still, it's the NCAA and its member institutions that are feeling the big heat. Once the Feds get done, college basketball as we know it could be gone with the wind. It needs to be.

The status quo satisfies no one. The NBA has conceded that one-and-done was an overreaction against paying teenagers millions. (To wit: Kwame Brown of Brunswick's Glynn Academy, No. 1 pick in the 2001 draft.) Any college coach who signs a one-and-done knows he'll have to do the same again next year, and the next. Even fans of those few Power Five schools where basketball trumps football have wearied of being able to cheer a player only for 4½ months.

On a national level, the game has receded to niche status — there are too many TV games with too few players you've heard of — until March arrives. Then it's a big deal again. Then April arrives, and many of the players we've just watched show up next in the NBA draft.

College basketball has become a sport propped up by a bracket. It used to be more than that. It can be again. Here's how:

| One-and-done must cease and desist. This will require the NBA's cooperation, but a college hoops crisis should put pressure on the pros. A return to none-and-done would mean that those who enroll in college are there because they want to be, not because of some silly requirement. If a player's good enough and needs the money, he can bank the NBA's. (Some have advocated that basketball adopt the baseball approach: You can sign with a pro team out of high school, but if you go to college you must stay three years. To me, that seems just another silly requirement.)

| Congress must take a hard look at AAU basketball. The AAU encompasses 38 sports, but it's infamous for only one. (Schlabach reports that the FBI alleged that a Florida AAU coach had his case dropped because, rather than pass shoe-company money to a designated recruit, he kept it for himself.)

Given that it's a national body, the federal government would seem the appropriate monitor. If the FBI's findings are as bad as expected, Congress could consider revoking the AAU's tax-exempt status if it doesn't monitor itself better. That would scare any organization.

That doesn't mean everything would be clean. For now, we'll settle for cleaner.

| The NCAA must shred its rulebook and make the next edition tougher. Bruce Pearl was fired by Tennessee for lying to NCAA investigators. He was given a three-year show-cause penalty. He was hired by a school in Tennessee's conference before those three years had lapsed. Auburn assistant Chuck Person was indicted by the Feds and is facing trial; he has been fired by the school. The two recruits to whom Person is alleged to have funneled money remain ineligible. Yet Pearl coaches on, his Tigers sitting atop the SEC.

This happens all the time. Louisville's Rick Pitino was due to serve a five-game suspension this season for strippers-in-the-dorm; he was fired, finally, in September after the FBI alleged he'd approved a $100,000 payment from Adidas to a recruit's family. (Being Rick Pitino, he's suing the school for wrongful dismissal.) Jim Boeheim was suspended for nine games in the 2015-16 season; he coached Syracuse in the 2016 Final Four. John Calipari presided over Final Four appearances with UMass and Memphis, both vacated; today he coaches Kentucky and, like Pitino and Boeheim, is in the Naismith Hall of Fame.

Put simply, the big guys tend to get away with it. (When the infamous Emery envelope — containing $1,000 in cash, addressed to a recruit's father — popped open, Jerry Tarkanian said: "The NCAA is so mad at Kentucky it will slap two more years' probation on Cleveland State.") North Carolina men's basketball skated on allegations of academic fraud, this despite the case essentially being made for the NCAA by the Raleigh News & Observer. The same NCAA just stripped Notre Dame of 21 football victories for violations so similar that school president Fr. John Jenkins claimed the governing body had "perverted" the concept of "academic autonomy."

Assuming the FBI allows the NCAA access to the evidence it has collected, the NCAA cannot pull another Miami and bungle an ironclad case. If it means hiring a better enforcement staff, do it. If it means dumping Mark Emmert, the ham-handed and tin-eared president, do that, too. If it means, "One strike and you're banned five years" for coaches directly involved in wrongdoing, let it happen.

| Oh, and this, too: Players must be paid.

Yes, it's a slippery slope. Do you only pay basketball players? What of football? What of gymnasts and golfers? But the NCAA awarded its tournament rights to CBS Sports and Turner in 2011 for 14 years at $11 billion; in 2016, it extended those rights through 2032 for $8.2 billion. There has always been a moral disconnect between billions for broadcast rights and multimillions for coaches to nothing beyond a scholarship that might span two semesters for those playing the games.

Maybe if a proper stipend — above the current cost-of-attendance allowance, which is south of $6,000 for one year — was offered, fewer players would have their hands out. Yes, that's a major "maybe," but it does seem fair. For the rickety entity that is college basketball, striving for fairness is the place to start.

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USA TODAY

 

MESA, Ariz. — The sight of Gary Sanchez repeatedly calling time to go confer with his pitcher will become, well, at least a bit less frequent.

The New York Yankees catcher has been among the most egregious offenders when it comes to slowing games down to a crawl with frequent mound visits, a practice that grew especially aggravating during the 2017 postseason.

Major League Baseball is taking action against the inaction, announcing Monday a series of steps to speed up games that last season set a record with an average length of 3:05.

Pitch clocks won't be installed, as had been expected, but MLB and the players association agreed to limit the number of mound visits to six a game, excluding the instances when a pitcher is removed. The new allowed total, which grows by one for every extra inning, includes visits by managers, coaches and teammates, even if they don't occur right on the mound.

In addition, the break between innings will be tightened by 20 seconds, with the countdown clock getting set at 2:05 for locally televised games and at 2:25 for national telecasts. It remains at 2:55 for postseason games. There's also a new measure in place to make pitching changes a bit quicker.

The modifications don't go nearly as far as Commissioner Rob Manfred seemed determined to take them in his efforts to accelerate the increasingly glacial pace of games, which grew by nearly 41/2 minutes in length last season.

The collective bargaining agreement that came into effect in December 2016 gave Manfred the power to unilaterally impose new measures such as a 20-second pitch clock and a timer between batters.

But at a time of increased acrimony between MLB and the union because of the dramatic slowdown in offseason signings, Manfred decided to exercise patience rather than further alienate the players, many of whom are still sitting on the sidelines waiting to sign new contracts.

Still, the news release announcing the new rules points out the timer options are on the table.

"I am pleased that we were able to reach an understanding with the Players Association to take concrete steps to address pace of play with the cooperation of the players," Manfred said in a statement. "My strong preference is to continue to have ongoing dialogue with players on this topic to find mutually acceptable solutions."

In other words, this is not nearly enough. At the owners meetings less than three weeks ago, Manfred offered to hold off on a pitch clock for the coming season and 2019 if game times went down by at least 10 minutes to 2:55, but the players balked at that proposal.

And union head Tony Clark made it clear he would continue to fight tooth and nail against anything that might infringe on work conditions.

"Players were involved in the pace-of-game discussion from day one and are committed to playing a crisp and exciting brand of baseball for the fans," Clark said in a statement, "but they remain concerned about rule changes that could alter the outcome of games and the fabric of the game itself -- now or in the future."

There doesn't appear to be any clear winners or losers in this latest round between the parties, who have been at odds for a couple of years over how to speed up the game and whether there is actually a need for it.

The reduced commercial breaks do offer a tangible gain of about six minutes a game, and it's hard to see how it would be all that difficult for players and the coaching staff to avoid visiting the mound more than six times. At this point there are not even penalties for breaking such a rule, only an encouragement to follow it.

Manfred would like to see more urgency from the players, whose habits of dawdling on the mound (hello, Pedro Baez) or constantly stepping out of the box to adjust their equipment add to the game's perception as languid. That makes it a hard sell among young audiences used to instant gratification.

As to how the changes will impact the way the game is played, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon said the effect would be negligible, and everybody would get used to the new rules after some initial consternation.

"We'll have to just figure out a more non-verbal method of communication. We're not going to be texting," Maddon said, drawing chuckles. "It's going to be a new normal. You learn how to do it and you do it. That's all."

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Copyright 2018 Union Leader Corp.
All Rights Reserved

The Union Leader (Manchester, NH)

 

BEDFORD — A local baseball field has been closed because of safety concerns and will likely not reopen until next year.

Riley Field, which is used by the school district and the town, needs nearly $150,000 in work, according to officials. "It is tricky because there are limited resources. There is a huge amount of demand for all fields," Superintendent Chip McGee told the school board this week.

Town Manager Rick Sawyer said there have been complaints and concerns with the condition of Riley Field, located next to Bedford High School and Lurgio Middle School. Sawyer said he has prohibited sporting activities at the field until repairs can be made to the playing surface and the facility's fencing.

Town officials have agreed to spend $95,000 in capital improvement reserves to pay for a portion of the repairs, however they are asking the school district to contribute the remaining $50,000.

"It is our hope to complete this work as soon as possible once we have your commitment, but it will likely mean not having any activities on the field until the spring of 2019," Sawyer said in a memo to the superintendent.

The field is primarily used in the spring by the middle school freshmen and junior varsity baseball teams. In the summer it is where the high school marching band practices and in the fall it is used for middle school field hockey, middle and high school gym classes, eighth-grade Derby Day and other activities.

"Riley Field is a community asset," said Sawyer, often used in the evening by town groups and recreational teams.

The field has been a concern for at least eight years, according to school officials. "This is just an unfortunate safety concern that has come up," said McGee. Included in the $150,000 repair estimate are new sod for the infield, loam, backstop, sand fill, grading, outfield fence, professional mound clay, warning track mix material and a stormwater pollution prevention plan to ensure the problem does not return.

"There will be no baseball for the middle-schoolers on that field for junior-varsity, so we have to double-up other fields," said McGee, adding that will be necessary throughout the summer and fall as well.McGee is hopeful that the field will reopen in the spring of 2019. As the field repairs are an important project, he said he's recommending the school district pay for a portion of the work.

School officials will look for items in the 2019 budget that can be eliminated or reduced to come up with the $50,000 needed, McGee said. The school board is expected to vote on the matter at its next meeting.

khoughton@newstote.com

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Copyright 2018 Bangor Daily News

Bangor Daily News (Maine)

 

Karlton Creech, who signed a four-year contract extension to remain at the University of Maine as its director of athletics 13 months ago, has decided to head west.

Creech will become the University of Denver's vice chancellor for athletics, recreation and Ritchie Center operations beginning on May 1, according to a University of Denver news release.

He will replace Peg Bradley-Doppes, who is retiring after 13 years.

Creech and UMaine president Susan J. Hunter will meet on Wednesday to discuss details regarding his contract and his time line at UMaine and the appointment of an interim AD, according to Margaret Nagle, UMaine's senior director of public relations and operations in the division of marketing and communications.

Creech said "I am eager to continue the tradition of athletic and academic excellence at the University of Denver," at a Monday morning news conference in Denver.

"Athletics is personal. My wife, Staci, went to school on an athletic scholarship so I know the importance of our student-athletes excelling in the classroom and the community," he added.

Denver Chancellor Rebecca Chopp said in a news release that Creech is a "perfect fit for our diverse, ambitious and innovative community with his focus on students and celebrating achievement.

"Known as a bridge builder on and off campus, Karlton will help us all achieve our dreams and aspirations," she added.

Creech will oversee 17 Division I teams at Denver as well as the recreation program which encompasses intramural sports, club sports and the Coors Fitness Center.

The University of Denver already has an athletic director in Ron Grahame, who had been a long-time administrator at the school before being named the AD last summer.

Former University of Maine All-American and Hobey Baker Award finalist Jim Montgomery is the hockey coach at Denver and led the Pioneers to the NCAA Division I title last season.

Montgomery said he was impressed with Creech when he met him in September at the UMaine Sports Hall of Fame induction. The 1992-93 UMaine national championship hockey team captained by Montgomery was among the inductees. Montgomery, the school's all-time leading scorer, had been previously inducted individually.

He also chatted with him before Monday's news conference.

"He seems like a no-ego kind of guy. He told me he didn't want to lead the parade, he just wanted to make sure it was happening," said Montgomery. "He will be perfect for our culture here. I'm looking forward to working with him."

Montgomery also indicated that Creech said he wanted to "listen and get to know us" and that he was quick to praise Bradley-Doppes and Grahame.

"And those two have done a fantastic job, that's why our athletic program has done so well the past 10 to 15 years."

Creech replaced Steve Abbott as the AD at the University of Maine in February, 2014.

During his time at UMaine, Creech helped secure a $1.5 million, three-year award from the Harold Alfond Foundation which established the Alfond Fund in the UMaine Foundation that centralized a fundraising structure for UMaine athletics. It also continued support for the football program.

There was also a 20 percent increase in annual giving to athletics including more than $1.5 million for an endowed fund to support the men's hockey program. And the number of student-athletes being recognized for academic achievement (grade-point average of 3.0 or higher) increased every year.

Creech came from the University of North Carolina, where he was the school's senior associate director of athletics. He served as the chief of staff and oversaw the department's capital projects, human resources and facilities.

The Chapel Hill, North Carolina, native and North Carolina State University graduate, was the associate executive director for UNC's Educational Foundation Inc. from 2004-2012.

In that capacity, he managed capital projects, the Annual Fund, marketing, fundraising and ticket sales programs as well as donor stewardship and development.

"He will be missed," said UMaine fifth-year men's hockey coach Red Gendron. "I am grateful for all he did to help us. I'm delighted he has this new opportunity."

Joe Harasymiak, who just concluded his second season as the head football coach at UMaine after spending five years as an assistant at UMaine, said he "couldn't have asked for a better athletic director to work for in my first time as a head coach.

"We have a great relationship and I hope to continue to stay in contact with him. He left us in a good position moving forward," added Harasymiak. "A lot of our success is because of him. He has been extremely supportive of all the coaches. He was always there for me to bounce ideas off. He had confidence in me and gave me confidence."

Scott Atherley, who has been the women's soccer coach for 19 years after serving as the men's soccer coach for seven years, said Creech has had a "very positive and favorable impact on our department.

"Certainly, his leadership style was well-suited for the time and place he was at in his journey at UMaine," said Atherley. "He took his time to implement changes. He got a feel for the climate first.

"The thing I really appreciate about him is he has a really positive disposition and outlook and that will carry over to his next job at Denver. He will make a favorable impact on them in many of the same ways he impacted out successes at UMaine," Atherley said.

Denver is a private institution while UMaine is a state school.

Creech elevated Lynn Coutts from head softball coach to a senior associate director of athletics in 2015 and Coutts said Creech was a "great leader and mentor for me.

"I appreciate all he has done for me and for the department and I wish him well at Denver," said Coutts. "I'm very happy for him and for where we are now and how he left our department. We've had a lot of success and we will continue to do the same."

She has interest in the position.

"I'll do what needs to be done here. I love this place," said Coutts.

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Copyright 2018 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

Devante Smith-Pelly had heard the "basketball" taunt before and did nothing about it. Saturday night at the United Center, however, the Washington Capitals forward felt he had to say something when four fans chanted that word three times while Smith-Pelly — who is black — sat in the penalty box during the third period. "We're at a time now where we can't brush it under the rug," Smith-Pelly told reporters after the Capitals practiced Sunday. "You've got to start calling people out and making sure other people see other people's true colors."

Four fans were immediately ejected, and the Chicago Blackhawks quickly released a statement condemning the actions. On Sunday, the team "respectfully declined" interview requests with president and CEO John McDonough and owner Rocky Wirtz. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the Capitals released statements Sunday, with Bettman making the league's position clear: "Last night in Chicago, individuals directed racial taunts and abuse at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly.

The National Hockey League condemns this unacceptable and reprehensible behavior. "The League fully supports the actions taken by the United Center and the Blackhawks to eject the offenders and would expect the same response to any similarly unacceptable behavior at any of our arenas. "While this incident was isolated in nature, no player, coach, official or fan should ever have to endure such abuse at one of our games."

The Capitals' statement was similar, saying the team was "extremely disappointed by the intolerant behavior" and has "zero tolerance concerning any form of racism." It also praised Blackhawks officials for how they handled the situation. Smith-Pelly was in the box serving a five-minute penalty for fighting Connor Murphy. After hearing the comments, Smith-Pelly stood to confront the fans, at least two who were seated in the front row.

"It's pretty obvious what that means. It's not really a secret," Smith-Pelly told reporters after Washington practiced Sunday. "It's disgusting. "It's sad that in 2018 we're still talking about the same thing over and over. It's just sad that athletes like myself 30, 40 years ago were standing in the same spot saying the same thing. You'd think there'd be some sort of change or progression. We're going to keep working toward it."

The Hawks were off Sunday and will host Los Angeles on Monday. Former Hawks forward Jeremy Roenick had this to say on Twitter: "Fans yelling racial comments to Smith-Pelly of the @Capitals. Absolutely no place for that in any sport, or in our Country … it's just wrong! Shame on those people." The race is on: With the Blackhawks basically out of the playoff picture, it's time to focus on who will lead the team in goals this season: Patrick Kane or Alex DeBrincat.

"We were joking around a little bit about it," Kane said after the Hawks' 7-1 victory over Washington on Saturday. "He's been hot as of late." He sure has. DeBrincat has 8 goals in the last 11 games and finds himself tied with Kane with 22 goals. Kane has led the Hawks the last two seasons and four times in his career. It is possible Kane or DeBrincat could be caught if they are injured or Nick Schmaltz (16), Jonathan Toews (16), Brandon Saad (15) or Artem Anisimov (15) get hot down the stretch. Blowouts galore: The Hawks (25-26-8) have won seven games by 4 or more goals this season, beating Pittsburgh 10-1, Ottawa 8-2, Washington 7-1, Anaheim 7-3, Columbus 5-1, Winnipeg 5-1 and Detroit 5-1.

They've outscored opponents 47-10 in those victories. In the other 52 games, the Hawks have been outscored 160-122. He said it: "It's always nice to get a goal like that with a second left or whatever it was. Kind of kicks teams when they're down." — Jonathan Toews on Nick Schmaltz's first-period goal with 0.8 seconds left Saturday to give the Hawks a 3-1 lead over Washington

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Associated Press Washington Capitals right wing Devante Smith-Pelly argues with Hawks fans from the penalty box Saturday night during the third period at the United Center. Four fans were ejected. Associated Press Washington Capitals right wing Devante Smith-Pelly argues with Hawks fans from the penalty box Saturday night during the third period at the United Center. Four fans were ejected. Washington Capitals right wing Devante Smith-Pelly argues with Chicago Blackhawks fans from the penalty box Saturday during the third period in Chicago. The Blackhawks won 7-1.
 
February 19, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2018 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

Coach James Barnabee bounced around on a recent afternoon at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, checking on his players as they practiced, reviewed video of recent games and discussed strategy. But none of his players had to run stairs, lift weights, shoot baskets or perform any other physical activity expected during a typical sports practice. That's because Barnabee is head coach and sponsor of Stevenson's first esports club for competitive video game players. At least 60 students participate in the club, a number limited more by school resources than interested teenagers, he said.

"I need more computers," said Barnabee, an English teacher and a gamer himself. "And that's a struggle. I think I can have over 100 kids if I had enough space." Though fairly new, esports at the high school level is growing fast. It's made it on to the Illinois High School Association's list of emerging sports or activities, joining boys rugby, marching band and girls field hockey as competitions that could join football, basketball and soccer as sanctioned events.

At the start of the school year, IHSA officials listed seven esports clubs or programs at high schools in Illinois. Today they know of 19 schools with competitive or casual esports teams. IHSA spokesman Matt Troha said board members plan to review the esports numbers in the spring or summer and decide how they'll proceed with sanctioning and running tournaments. For the best players, esports can be about more than fun and games.

Like their schools' top athletes, they can earn college scholarships or even a shot at playing professionally. Pro events are broadcast on ESPN and TBS, and top players can earn well above $1 million in prize money. Playing in high school creates more visibility for teens who excel at team video games, said Kurt Melcher, who in 2014 established the first varsity collegiate esports program in the country at Robert Morris University in Chicago.

"It just creates a natural path for recruiting, which exists in traditional sports, but for collegiate esports... recruiting in some instances has been difficult," Melcher said. Barnabee, who acknowledges teens should play video games in moderation, said two colleges contacted him in January about Stevenson esports players. In the case of Robert Morris, the school will provide 78 percent of a typical annual tuition of $27,000 for a varsity esports scholarship and 35 percent for varsity reserve, Melcher said.

Roughly 475 colleges and universities support esports at a club level, with about 50 schools offering scholarships, according to the NCAA. The NCAA hired Chicago-based marketing and consulting firm Intersport to provide a report in the spring for the organization's exploration of the collegiate esports landscape. Stevenson is a member of the competitive, nationwide High School Esports League, playing the games "League of Legends," "Hearthstone," "Rocket League," "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive" and "Overwatch."

Those games require several players with different skills who generally compete from their homes. Jerry Zhou, a senior who founded Stevenson's esports club, said an average of 60 players attend weekly practice and strategy sessions and play the team games from home. Stevenson has varsity and junior varsity squads that compete in different games and even specialize in play on mobile devices, laptops and desktop computers.

"Before, maybe all these kids would play on their own time and maybe parents are upset at them for playing because they don't get anything out of it, but now we're giving them a reason to do what they love to do, which is to play games," Zhou said. "And now they can get all these scholarships, all these opportunities that opened, just because they're competing for the school instead of in their own homes."

At Wheaton North High School, it's more about fun in the Smash Club that typically attracts 60 or so students for play on Thursday afternoons. While Wheaton North's popular, four-year-old club differs from Stevenson by playing noncompetitively, students at both schools say they enjoy the welcoming atmosphere of esports. "I think the people behind (Smash Club) were very accepting people," Wheaton North senior David Schanz said. "All they wanted to do was to create an environment where people from different origins and, perhaps, outcast by the more popular kids could find a safe haven and bond over something they love — a video game. I think that's awesome."

Wheaton North Smash Club sponsor Ellen Murphy said the students can have a better connection with their school through video game play. The High School Esports League says schools that sanction such clubs reach students typically uninterested in traditional extracurricular activities. Stevenson esports club member Neal Patel, who also is a fencer, said he hopes those unfamiliar with team video games go beyond the stereotype of players who are "acne-ridden and physically unfit" and come to know the hand-eye coordination, sharp thinking and other skills needed to succeed. "We're not only playing for scholarships, but we're building esports resumes," Patel said.

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Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.com Stevenson High School senior Daniel Kushnitski plays a computer game as the school's esports team goes through a recent practice. Gamers like Daniel could earn college scholarships through esports. Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.com Stevenson High School senior Daniel Kushnitski plays a computer game as the school's esports team goes through a recent practice. Gamers like Daniel could earn college scholarships through esports.Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.com Sophomores, from left, Sohan Sarabu, George Cai and Weiran Zhao strategize as the Stevenson High School esports team practices at the Lincolnshire school. Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.com Sophomores, from left, Sohan Sarabu, George Cai and Weiran Zhao strategize as the Stevenson High School esports team practices at the Lincolnshire school.Avery Papievis plays video games after school as part of Wheaton North High School's noncompetitive Smash Club. Daniel White/ dwhite@dailyherald.com Avery Papievis plays video games after school as part of Wheaton North High School's noncompetitive Smash Club. Daniel White/ dwhite@dailyherald.com Avery Papievis plays video games after school as part of Wheaton North High School's noncompetitive Smash Club. Daniel White/dwhite@dailyherald.com
 
February 19, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2018 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

SALT LAKE CITY — This year, athletes at the Winter Olympic Games will be given 110,000 condoms. That's 37 per person, more condoms than have been distributed at any previous Winter Games.

"Everyone sleeps around in the Olympic village," said Kate Hansen, a 25-year-old retired luger who competed at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

According to Hansen, a Mormon who graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in public relations last year, once athletes are done competing, the partying starts.

"Every hour of your life was planned up until that moment. After you compete, you're off the hook," said Hansen. "If someone is sexually active, which I am not, you're definitely scoping people out."

At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Tinder use skyrocketed, and matches in the Olympic village increased by 129 percent after the first weekend of competition, according to news reports. ESPN has reported crazy parties, bonfires made from village furniture and lots of alcohol at previous Olympics.

Just like film and music festivals, sporting events involving large crowds and alcohol often create situations where sexual assault is likely to occur, according to experts like Laura Palumbo from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Add to this the notoriously rowdy party culture of celebratory athletes in the Olympic village, as well as the power differentials between coaches, athletes and fans, and it's a recipe for danger, she said.

This year, event organizers have taken extra measures to make sure the Olympic Games are safe for everyone, including attendees, athletes and staff. For the first time in Olympic history, four sexual violence counseling centers have been set up outside major sporting facilities and the International Olympic Committee has released a new online toolkit to help national groups educate and protect athletes. The U.S. Olympic Committee has also revamped its Safe Sport program with the creation of the U.S. Center for Safe Sport, which now has independent authority to investigate allegations of misconduct involving U.S. Olympic teams and a new code of conduct that will hold American coaches and staff to a higher standard. Less than a year after the center was created in March 2017, they've taken on 409 cases of misconduct across 35 sports.

Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a civil rights lawyer and founder of Champion Women, an advocacy group for female athletes, was 22 years old when she went to the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, where she won three gold medals and a silver for swimming.

She said she was so happy with her wins and so busy celebrating afterwards that she didn't sleep for three days. Hogshead-Makar recalls a police escort taking her to Disneyland, where she was allowed to ride roller coasters as many times as she wanted and sneaking drunk people past the coaches back into the village.

Athletes in that environment feel they are invincible, according to Hogshead-Makar, and with alcohol in the mix, people can easily get hurt.

"There's risks on both sides of drinking so much," she said. "Athletes don't know how much they can drink and don't have very much body fat. Men may also not know that they get aggressive when they drink too much and don't understand the signals women are sending."

At the Olympics, athletes as young as 15 are treated the same as adult athletes, and there are no special accommodations for minors in the Olympic village, according to former athletes. Young teenagers stay with their coaches and teammates, just like everyone else.

"You can't have this isolated group of young, powerful athletes in one place who are partying and everything else, and not have [rape] happen," said Katherine Redmond, founder of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes. "The problem is there are so many pressures athletes face that would deter them from reporting."

Despite the likelihood that rape has occurred, according to Redmond, there haven't been any public reports of athletes being sexually assaulted in the Olympic village. And traditionally, sexual assault is not something that has been addressed at the Olympics.

"It's not like I went to the Olympics thinking I was nervous (or) something was going to happen," said Kate Hansen. "At that level, you're all so focused about what you're supposed to do."

"The last thing on my mind was I need to protect myself sexually," she said.

Sports culture

When successful athletes or coaches are the perpetrators of sexual violence, it can be difficult to hold them accountable. Two-time gold medal-winning Taekwondo athlete Steven Lopez and his brother Jean Lopez, who coaches the sport, were allowed to participate in last summer's Rio Games even though they were both being investigated by USA Taekwondo for allegedly sexually assaulting multiple women, including teammates.

"The societal idolatry we give to high-level athletes and performers can be dangerous. We want to believe these people are fantastic and have pure motives, but that's not always the case," said Laura Finley, an associate professor who focuses on gender violence at Barry University in Miami. She said that athletes in certain sports, such as football, are overrepresented as domestic abusers.

"Certain athletes bond over misogynistic, hyper masculine norms," said Finley. "We encourage them to be hyper aggressive in their sport, and it's sometimes challenging for people to turn that off."

Because of the work that Hogshead-Makar does, she is more concerned about young athletes who can easily be taken advantage of by adults with whom they work. The conviction of Larry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor who sexually assaulted more than 150 girls, has brought national attention to the issue.

"It's a culture of obedience," said Hogshead-Makar. In her experience, families idolize successful coaches and athletic trainers, which makes them less cautious than other parents might be in similar situations.

Zach Lund, a former Olympic skeleton racer from Salt Lake City who is now a coach for the U.S. National Team, saw his coach, Tim Nardiello, suspended over sexual harassment charges in 2006. "As a dad of three daughters, it's a big issue to me," said Lund. In his opinion, the most important thing parents can do is talk to their children and set clear guidelines about what is acceptable.

"I can see how those situations would transpire," said Hansen. "I spent more time with my coaches one-on-one than I spent with my dad. In a situation where that is your normal and you want to go to the Olympics so bad, you'll do whatever it takes."

Hansen is quick to note that the Olympics are just two weeks out of an athlete's entire career. She left home at the age of 15 and was living in Europe on and off with coaches and teammates from that time until age 21. Although she didn't think about it at the time, she realizes now that she was put in some vulnerable situations.

"I am lucky that my coaches were good guys," she said.

Still, she thinks it's important to keep in mind that for the majority of people in sports, sexual assault is a non-issue.

"The Larry Nassar case was a perfect storm," she said. "You can't assume across the board that it is happening elsewhere as well."

What is being done

The four first-time sexual violence counseling centers, sponsored by the local Korean government, are staffed by Korean and English speakers and also provide over-the-phone translation in 13 languages. A report hotline is available 24-7 to cover the hours when the centers are closed.

According to Palumbo from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, any large public event can become a magnet for sexual predators. The crowds create anonymity and the prevalence of alcohol makes it easier to take advantage of people.

"Someone who is harassing, or abusing another person is using the fact that they are in this crowded setting where they might not be easily recognized as an opportunity to cause harm," said Palumbo.

An international event like the Olympics adds another potentially dangerous factor, according to Palumbo. Language barriers and cultural differences may affect someone's ability to interpret the actions of another, she said.

In addition to the conviction of Nassar, media reports have followed an investigation into sexual assault allegations against Israel's Alex Gilady, vice chair of the Tokyo 2020 Coordination Commission. An independent probe found that more than 100 Canadian Olympic Committee employees had either experienced or witnessed harassment in 2016, after allegations of sexual harassment against former president Marcel Aubut came to light. And South Koreans are facing the phenomenon of sexual violence in athletics as well. The Center for Human Rights in Sports, a part of the Korea Sport and Olympic Committee, received more than 170 reports between 2012 and 2017, according to Korea Joongang Daily.

"It's starting to get the attention it deserves," said Lund. "Now that people's careers and livelihoods are being affected by it, hopefully it will start changing."

At this year's Winter Olympics, the International Olympic Committee has implemented a new plan to help athletes and other participants stay safe. It includes having what they call a "safeguarding officer" on site to help manage cases of harassment and abuse, distribute educational materials to athletes in the Olympic village, and set up a hotline whereby athletes can report any incidents, the committee explained to the Deseret News in an email.

"When someone experiences harassment or assault, they are often so overwhelmed by their experience, it can be difficult to process the next steps and figure out where to go for help," said Palumbo. "Taking the step to give people multiple opportunities to report is a powerful deterrent."

EMAIL: eevans@deseretnews.com

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Copyright 2018 The Commercial Appeal, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

OXFORD — Saturday night figured to be just Andy Kennedy's final game against Mississippi State.

It turns out it was Kennedy's final game at Ole Miss period. Kennedy announced he would step down at the end of the season on Monday. A day after the Rebels lost 79-62 to in-state rival Mississippi State, Kennedy decided to step down immediately.

"It has become readily apparent to me that my continued presence as the head coach is proving detrimental to these players finishing this season in a fashion that is representative of the standard for this program that has been clearly established and maintained for over a decade," Kennedy wrote in a statement. "Therefore, I believe that it is in everyone's best interest that I exit in my role as head coach effective immediately. We all know that 'clean breaks' are always best, and I should have realized this last Monday. My apologies."

The Rebels (11-16, 4-10 SEC) has lost seven consecutive games and nine of their past 10. The defeats have become worse with each passing game, as the team gets further and further away from competitiveness with no signs of improving.

It will be Kennedy's first losing campaign in his 12-season tenure at Ole Miss. He finishes his career with 245 victories, the most in program history, 156 losses, a 2013 SEC Tournament title, 11 postseason wins and two NCAA Tournament appearances.

"Andy and I spoke this morning, and I fully support his decision to step away today. While we had hoped to relieve some pressure with last week's announcement, it simply did not work out that way," Ross Bjork said in a statement. "Our student-athletes are the most important aspect of our athletics program, and we must always put them in the best position for success, no matter what. Coach Kennedy will always be remembered as an Ole Miss Rebel, and we wish him the best."

Assistant Tony Madlock will serve as the acting head coach for the remainder of the 2017-18 season. Madlock, a Memphis native, has been Kennedy's assistant the past four seasons. He's also coached at Auburn, UTEP and Arkansas State.

Kennedy thought by announcing his decision to step down, it would liberate his team. Instead, there was a lack of energy in Tuesday night's home loss to Arkansas, which Kennedy said was the most disappointed he's been in his professional career.

He even hinted at this scenario.

"I told Ross if we felt like the product that is Ole Miss would get better, I would walk away right now and never to be heard from again on this campus," Kennedy said. "If that's what this team needs and maybe that's what it needs."

Then Ole Miss didn't put up much of a fight and fell behind by 21 points in the first half against Mississippi State Saturday night.

Afterward, Kennedy was asked how he's trying to stay sane while the frustration mounts.

"Who's saying I am sane? It's difficult to watch, man," Kennedy said, "when you know how hard it's been to build it."

So now an era, which spanned 12 seasons and 401 games, has officially come to an end.

"As I've stated before, I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to serve as the head coach for men's basketball at the University of Mississippi for 12 years! This community, this university, the SEC, have all overwhelmed me and my family with incredible grace and support," Kennedy wrote in his statement. "We will forever be woven into the fabric of this very special place — 'Hell Yeah, Damn Right!!'"

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

BUFFALO, N.Y. — This wasn't the first time Devante Smith-Pelly has had racial taunts directed at him during a hockey game.

And the Washington Capitals forward knew immediately what the intent of the message was when a few fans began chanting "basketball, basketball, basketball," while Smith-Pelly sat in the penalty box during a 7-1 loss at Chicago on Saturday night. Smith-Pelly, a black player in a sport dominated by white athletes, heard a similar taunt years before while playing in a tournament in British Columbia.

"It's pretty obvious what that means. It's not really a secret," Smith-Pelly said after the Capitals practiced in Buffalo on Sunday. "Whether it's that word or any other word, I got the idea. And I'm sure they got the idea, too. Just one word, and that's really all it takes."

What stunned the 25-year-old is how incidents such as these keep happening.

"It's disgusting," Smith-Pelly said. "You'd think there would be some sort of change or progression, but we're still working toward it, I guess, and we're going to keep working toward it."

The Blackhawks and United Center officials reacted swiftly by ejecting four fans shortly after an off-ice official sitting next to Smith-Pelly — serving a fighting major for a scrap with Chicago's Connor Murphy — notified building security.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement Sunday, saying the league condemns the fans' behavior as being "unacceptable and reprehensible."

"While this was isolated in nature, no player, coach, official or fan should ever have to endure such abuse at one of our games," Bettman said.

The Capitals released a statement saying they are "extremely disappointed by the intolerant behavior" by a select group of fans in Chicago.

In thanking the Blackhawks and arena security, the Capitals said: "It is crucial to confront such appalling conduct."

The Blackhawks issued a statement apologizing to Smith-Pelly and the Capitals following the game, and said they "are committed to providing an inclusive environment."

Video shows Smith-Pelly seated in the penalty box while looking and pointing to his left. He then gets up with his stick and gets into a verbal exchange with a male fan on other side of the glass.

Smith-Pelly said he stepped forward publicly to call out the fans for what they said because he didn't want to "brush it under the rug."

"I guess I'm trying to get the conversation started and show whoever these people were their true colors," he said.

Joining the Capitals on their road trip, which concludes at Buffalo on Monday, are players' fathers, allowing Smith-Pelly an opportunity to discuss what happened with his dad.

"We've had this conversation before," said Smith-Pelly, who is from Toronto. "So he said, 'It's just a few idiots being ignorant.'"

Smith-Pelly has seven goals and nine assists in 54 games is in his first season with the Capitals. He has 40 goals and 53 assists in 320 regular-season games with in seven seasons with Anaheim, Montreal, New Jersey and the Capitals.

Capitals rookie defenseman Madison Bowey said what happened in Chicago made him "sick to my stomach."

Assistant captain Brooks Orpik said: "I wish I could say it's surprising but it's probably not all that surprising."

"I think no matter what you do, you're going to find pockets of ignorance anywhere you go," Orpik said. "Devo is as well liked as anyone in this room. I think it's important for him to know that, and to know that everyone respects him a ton in this room."

Capitals coach Barry Trotz reiterated his postgame comments by saying there's no place for racism in hockey or the country.

"For the 22,000 people in Chicago at the game last night, there were a lot, a lot, a lot of good people," Trotz said. "And a few individuals keep bringing the ugly part of society out, and that was unfortunate."

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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

Workplace wellness programs have two main goals: improve employees' health and lower their employers' health care costs. They're not very good at either, new research finds.

For the study, 3,300 employees of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign were given a year of access to iThrive, a workplace wellness program similar to what many companies offer workers. A control group of 1,534 didn't get access to it at all.

Those offered the program were randomly split into six groups. All were offered a biometric screening, a health assessment and various services and classes, such as chronic disease management, tai chi and a fitness challenge. But the six groups were paid different incentives for completing each step of the program-anywhere from $50 to $350.

The researchers wanted to answer three questions:

Do wellness programs have any effects on health outcomes, medical spending and other measures including productivity? (The jury has been out on that.)Can money spur more people to participate? (Many programs have trouble with enrollment.)And finally, who's most likely to participate? (If only healthy people do, the programs won't achieve much.)

Their study found that wellness programs-even those with incentives-don't change employees' behavior much. The findings were published as a working paper at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Over the years, hundreds of studies have examined the efficacy of wellness programs with mixed results; a study from the RAND Corp. found most programs don't reduce companies' health costs, while a 2010 review found they do.

Much of that research has calculated savings by looking at the difference in health-care spending between employees who opt in to such programs and those who don't. But the new study, as a randomized control trial, measured differences by randomly creating a control group with no access to the wellness program at all. With that method, the researchers found that medical spending disparities pre-existed the wellness program.

"Our results are significantly different," said Damon Jones, an associate professor at the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy who conducted the study along with two UIUC researchers. "They rule out the kind of effects you find in nearly 80 percent of those prior studies."

"We don't see anything trending toward savings."

First, money isn't much of an incentive. Without any cash offered, a little under half of employees completed the assessment and screening. A $100 reward for completing the screening only boosted that rate to 59 percent. Doubling that reward didn't make much difference, raising the share of employees finishing the screening merely to 63 percent.

Not that it may have mattered much to their employer. Looking at health insurance claims throughout the year, the researchers found participation in the wellness program didn't result in better health outcomes or lower health-care costs. The medical spending habits of the employees who didn't have access to the program were "almost identical" to those of the workers who did, said Jones.

It turns out that those most likely to take advantage of their employer's wellness offerings are healthy people who don't spend a lot on health care, and employees with the highest health-care costs are the least likely to participate. Surveys the researchers offered enrollees also found that wellness had no impact on job satisfaction or productivity.

Despite questions as to whether wellness programs actually work, companies are still pouring money into them. The industry ballooned from a $1 billion one in 2011 to $6.8 billion five years later, according to an IBIS World analysis, and last year, almost a quarter of employers boosted their wellness offerings, the Society of Human Resource Management found in its yearly benefits survey.

Some studies have found that wellness programs can take around three years to yield any benefits; the researchers in the University of Illinois analysis tracked savings for only a year, though they plan to keep tracking for four. "It is possible that effects will emerge in the long run," said David Molitor, another researcher on the study.

But the first year of results, he said, doesn't suggest future savings. In fact, the control group had slightly lower health insurance claims than those with access to the program.

Molitor's team also tracked how often employees using the wellness program went to the gym and whether they participated in a local run, to see if the program inspired healthier behaviors. They didn't do either more often than the control group. "We don't see anything trending toward savings," he said.

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Charleston Gazette-Mail

 

Vintage might be in, but not when it comes to stadium equipment.

News on Thursday that the Kanawha County Board of Education would replace the scoreboard — three decades old and in dire need of junking — at University of Charleston Stadium was more than welcome. That scoreboard is old, broken down and obsolete. In its place will be a new Daktronics scoreboard with high-definition video capabilities and the ability to post times for individual lanes on the track that wraps around the football field.

It's something sorely needed and much more befitting a venue that, even though it no longer hosts the state football championships, is the home to so many important events in the Kanawha Valley and West Virginia as a whole.

UC plays its home football games there. So does Capital High. The North-South All-Star football game is played there each summer. The stadium is home to the Gazette-Mail Relays, the state track and field championships and hosts the finish line to the Charleston Distance Run.

So how does it look when the public address announcer at a Class AAA state semifinal football game must broadcast the score of the game everyone in the stadium is watching over the loudspeakers, because too many bulbs are burned out on the scoreboard to properly post it?

Think about it: The last game before the Super Six in the state's largest classification, and the stadium in West Virginia's capital city has to tell fans the score because they can't read it. That's pretty embarrassing. So bravo to Kanawha County Schools for fixing the problem, hopefully before May's state track and field championships.

But the good news shouldn't stop there.

The scoreboard isn't the only thing that needs fixed. The stadium's track, long in need of repair, should be replaced. The football field's turf has overstayed its use. New turf needs to be installed, for the safety of UC football players, local prep football players and any other football team that uses it.

That's the responsibility of both the University of Charleston and Kanawha County Schools, which entered a 50-year naming-rights agreement in 2005. The turf is UC's problem to fix. The scoreboard and track are the school board's problems to fix. And since these two entities are joined at the hip in that stadium until 2054, heads need to get together to keep the repairs rolling.

That's not saying that those conversations haven't begun. They just haven't been publicly announced. And if those talks have started, the two parties would be smart to make them public as soon as possible, to quiet any concerns that the cans keep getting kicked down the road.

A revitalized UC Stadium would be a wonderful thing for the city of Charleston. It would cement the building's status as home to so many big events in West Virginia — and just might be what the capital city needs to woo the state football championships back south in the future.

But talk of the future is meaningless unless the problems at the stadium keep getting fixed in the present.

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Orange County Register (California)

 

Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series on the culture of abuse at USA Swimming.

For decades the sexual abuse of young athletes by their coaches lingered just beneath the surface in American swimming's otherwise enriching waters.

In 2005, USA Swimming president Ron Van Pool decided it was time to bring the issue to the surface.

Giving his annual State of Swimming address, Van Pool pushed for a more aggressive approach within the sport to taking on sexual abuse.

"USA Swimming is frightfully behind the curve in this process, and there are those who would have us continue to lag," Van Pool said.

The speech, however, didn't make much of an impression with Chuck Wielgus, then in his eighth year as USA Swimming's executive director.

From ABHow to Stop Sexual Abuse in Sports

"There was nothing that struck me," Wielgus said later in a deposition.

Van Pool's warning certainly failed to spark a sense of urgency with Wielgus, the man in

charge of the day-to-day operations of swimming's national governing body at its Colorado Springs headquarters, or those around him at USA Swimming.

Five years later, Wielgus was asked in a deposition whether, in the wake of Van Pool's speech, USA Swimming had taken any steps to bring the organization up to speed on the sexual abuse issue.

"No," said Wielgus, who died last April after a lengthy battle with colon cancer.

The moment and its sense of complacency are indicative of the failure of USA Swimming to effectively address sexual abuse revealed in thousands of pages of documents obtained by the Southern California News Group.

The two decades after Wielgus was hired at USA Swimming have countered record-shattering Olympic success against the organization's inability to check a culture of sexual abuse, a failure that has victimized hundreds of young athletes, SCNG has found.

USA Swimming repeatedly missed opportunities to overhaul that culture, where the sexual abuse of underage swimmers by their coaches and others in positions of power within the sport was commonplace and even accepted by top officials and coaches, according to the documents and interviews with sexual abuse survivors, former Olympians, USA Swimming officials, safe-sport advocates and some of USA Swimming's leading financial benefactors.

The Southern California News Group investigation found:

• Top USA Swimming executives, board members, top officials and coaches acknowledge in the documents that they were aware of sexually predatory coaches for years, in some cases even decades, but did not act against them. In at least 11 cases, either Wielgus or other top USA Swimming officials declined to pursue sexual abuse cases against high-profile coaches even when presented with direct complaints, documents show. With some of the complaints, the decision not to pursue a case was made by Susan Woessner, USA Swimming's current director of Safe Sport.

For example, three U.S. Olympic team head coaches and a USA Swimming vice president were told in the 1980s that a world renowned coach has sexually abused a female swimmer since she was 12. Wielgus was informed of allegations against the coach at least three times in recent years. But not only did USA Swimming not pursue a case against the coach, it allowed him to continue to have access to USA Swimming facilities, U.S. Olympic and national team events, and the Olympic Training Center. USA Swimming even awarded more than $40,000 in grants to the club he owned and operated. The coach was only banned after pleading guilty to sexual assault more than a quarter-century after the abuse was first brought to the attention of the Olympic coaches.

• In the more than 20 years since Wielgus took charge of USA Swimming in July 1997, at least 252 swim coaches and officials have been arrested, charged by prosecutors, or disciplined by USAS for sexual abuse or misconduct against individuals under 18. Those coaches and officials have at least 590 alleged victims, some of them abused while attending preschool swim classes.

USA Swimming board members and coaches acknowledged they were aware of statutory rape cases that occurred during U.S. national team trips to major international competitions.

USA Swimming since at least 2010 has kept a list of more than 30 coaches and officials "flagged" by the organization after being arrested or accused by law enforcement of sex crimes including rape and child pornography, but the organization did not discipline them. Some coaches and officials on the "flagged" list have not been banned even after they have been convicted of felonies. Of the 32 people on the "flagged" list in 2010, only six have been subsequently banned by USA Swimming. The "flagged" list is not available to the public. Even when USA Swimming has banned coaches and officials for life for sexual misconduct, it can be years before their names are listed on the permanently banned list on USA Swimming's website.

• Local swim clubs that are members of USA Swimming are insured by U.S. Sports Insurance Company Inc., a company with $31.3 million in assets originally based in Barbados created and solely owned by USA Swimming and governed by former and current USA Swimming officials. While USSIC provides USA Swimming $2 million worth of liability insurance for sexual abuse civil cases, until recently the company provided local clubs only $100,000 worth of coverage for similar cases. This policy of reducing the financial exposure of USSIC at the local level was a factor in generating millions of dollars in "safety rebates" from USSIC back to USA Swimming. In some years the governing body has received back as much as $750,000 in "safety rebates."

USA Swimming has also paid $77,627 to lobbying firms to lobby against legislation in California that would have made it easier for sexual abuse victims to sue their abusers and the organizations they worked for or represented in civil cases.

The documents tell a strikingly similar story to that of USA Gymnastics where a culture of abuse enabled U.S. Olympic and U.S. women's national team doctor Larry Nassar's sexual assault of more than 150 young athletes. In a seven-day sentencing hearing in Ingham County, Michigan, Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years for sexual assault, and many among the 156 women who testified detailed how USA Gymnastics and Michigan State officials missed clear warning signs and ignored direct complaints about Nassar's abuse.

"At this time I am convinced that the only way to effectively eradicate childhood sexual abuse in swimming is to, as we are seeing now with USA Gymnastics, completely 'clean house,' " said B. Robert Allard, a Bay Area attorney who has represented several former swimmers who were sexually abused by their coaches and other officials. "If this type of remedial action is justified in USA Gymnastics due to the abuse committed by one pedophile (Nassar), certainly it would be appropriate for USA Swimming where we have well over 100. We are hereby demanding the immediate removal of USA Swimming's entire Executive Leadership Team, starting with Chief Operating Officer Mike Unger, Managing Director Pat Hogan, Executive Director Debbie Hesse, Managing Director Lindsay Mintenko and especially Woessner, the Safe Sport director, as well as its board of directors.

"Only then we can ensure that USA Swimming will have leaders in place who take child protection seriously and won't turn a blind eye to childhood sexual abuse because of a desire to preserve image and reputation and consequently monetary interests."

Like the Nassar scandal, USA Swimming's handling of sexual abuse cases has caught the attention of Congress. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce informed USA Swimming on Jan. 26 that it is "investigating matters related to sexual abuse within organized sports, including USA Swimming."

"The country attended a seven-day master class on the damage inflicted by sexual abuse. Most people will hear just five to 10 stories like this in their lifetime," said Nancy Hogshead-Makar, an Olympic swimming champion and founder of Champion Women, an advocacy group for girls and women in sports. "We just heard 160 survivors address their abuser, Team USA's doctor in gymnastics.

"Knowing the true cost, it is gratifying that Congress is looking within the Olympic sports movement and see another sport with over 100 Larry Nassar-types in a single sport: USA Swimming. That's a much bigger scale of abuse, one worthy of inquiry.

USA Swimming emails, memos, letters, reports and notes; congressional reports, correspondence and files; and court records as well as deposition and law enforcement interview transcripts detail a series of missed opportunities by an organization unwilling to take on its coach-centric power base and obsessed with protecting its image and brand.

The 'gatekeeper'

Wielgus was the "gatekeeper" and "had absolute control of the issue of coach-swimmer sexual abuse," said Katherine Starr, a former Olympian and founder of Safe4Athletes, a nonprofit foundation that advocates for athletes and helps sports organizations adopt policies and programs to prevent misconduct toward athletes. "As a result, Chuck could have been a hero and been instrumental to change the dynamic that has haunted so many. But instead he (was) a coward and single-handedly allowed sexually abusive coaching to thrive for decades in the sport, leaving a wreckage of pain that has caused great harm to many swimmers that has lasted a lifetime."

There has been widespread sexual abuse in American swimming for decades. Wielgus inherited a sport where high-profile coaches having sex with teenage swimmers was common knowledge, even accepted by some.

But like Wielgus, many of those still at USA Swimming and other positions of power within the sport have not been aggressive in - and perhaps were even resistant to - attacking the issue. Tim Hinchey, who comes from outside the world of swimming, is Wielgus' successor and faces the challenge of answering to ongoing investigations and making reforms.

USA Swimming did not respond to requests for comment. Wielgus did not respond to numerous interview requests prior to his death.

A 2014 investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce found that "detailed actionable information" about sexually abusive coaches "has been well known to USA Swimming leadership, yet because of inaction, these predators were allowed to prey with impunity."

"As a result of my staff's investigation, it has become clear that child sexual abuse and sexual misconduct have plagued USA Swimming since its inception in 1980," George Miller, D-East Bay, then the senior Democratic member of the committee, wrote in a July 9, 2014, letter to then FBI director James Comey.

Miller was so concerned about USA Swimming's history of inaction that his letter asked the FBI to "fully investigate USA Swimming's handling of both past and present cases of child sexual abuse."

Although USA Swimming officials in the past have denied that the organization has been the subject of federal investigations, FBI and other federal investigators have conducted interviews in at least three cases, according to people familiar with those cases.

Still, top USA Swimming officials haven't appeared to share Miller's sense of urgency or concerns, documents and interviews show.

Hogshead-Makar in recent years asked Woessner why USA Swimming wasn't investigating published sexual misconduct allegations against a former U.S. Olympic team coach who was also a longtime USA Swimming board member and a one-time member of a sexual abuse task force set up by the organization. Safe Sport was created to investigate sexual and physical abuse cases within the sport as well as create education programs and raise awareness to the issue.

"Susan Woessner said, 'Nancy, what does it matter? He's no longer coaching young swimmers anymore,' " Hogshead-Makar recalled.

"This Safe Sport thing is a complete farce," said Dia Rianda, a Monterey-area swim coach and administrator and for several years one of the USA Swimming Foundation's leading financial contributors. "USA Swimming is all about protecting their brand in any way they possibly can."

That brand generated $39.62 million in revenue in 2016, according to Internal Revenue Service records and USA Swimming documents. USA Swimming paid corporate officers, trustees and key employees $3.75 million in 2016 and spent another $4.99 million in employee compensation and benefits, according to financial records. Wielgus was paid $966,047 in 2016 plus another $72,931 from the USA Swimming Foundation.

USA Swimming's priorities are clear in the documents.

Wielgus was asked in a June 2010 deposition if he would confirm that protecting the safety of young swimmers, especially against sexual abuse, was USA Swimming's top goal.

"No, I would not," Wielgus said. "... I would say that has never been our number one goal."

Instead USA Swimming officials have been driven by Olympic success and attracting corporate sponsors, an obsession, critics charge, that has come at the expense of young swimmers.

While U.S. swimmers have dominated Olympic swimming since the inaugural Modern Games in 1896, the transcendent star power of Michael Phelps and the world record performances by American athletes at recent Olympic Games have elevated swimming to equal billing with track and field and women's gymnastics as the Games' marquee sports. At each of the last four Summer Olympics, at least a third of all U.S. gold medals have been won in the pool. Team USA's 16 swimming gold medals at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro were as many as the next 10 countries combined in the pool and more than all but five countries won in all sports.

That success has attracted a new generation of would-be Olympians in record numbers and corporate partners like NBC Universal, BMW, Marriott and Omega. USA Swimming has more than 400,000 members, with over 54,000 athletes joining the organization between 2010 and 2013. USA Swimming reported $7.27 million in annual sponsorship revenue in 2016, up from $2.5 million in 2006.

Protecting the brand

Protecting that brand hasn't come cheap.

USA Swimming spent $7.45 million on legal fees between 2006 and 2016, according to the organization's financial records, nearly 10 times the amount USA Track & Field paid in legal fees during that same period.

In the last three years, USA Swimming officials, under pressure from their secondary insurance carrier and wanting to avoid the negative publicity a lawsuit would generate, have arranged settlement agreements in at least three states with victims of alleged sexual abuse by swim coaches before the cases were even filed with a court.

The USA Swimming Foundation has paid at least $132,926 to Ground Floor Media, a Denver-based public relations firm. The firm specializes in "crisis communication and reputation management," according to its website. Ground Floor Media was to provide local swim clubs dealing with sexual abuse scandals "direct public relations and crisis communications resources," according to a USA Swimming memo.

"Our strategy moving forward will have the ultimate goal of improving the overall local swim clubs dealing with sexual abuse scandals perceptions of USA Swimming's Safe Sport Program efforts," said a memo co-authored by Wielgus and then USA Swimming president Bruce Stratton.

Also, the foundation has paid $212,068 to B&D Consulting, a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm. B&D specializes in helping companies and organizations in "advancing their objectives within increasingly complex policy environments."

USA Swimming paid Nielsen Merksamer Parrinello Gross & Leoni LLP, a Sacramento lobbying firm, $77,627 in 2013 to lobby against legislation that would have given childhood sexual abuse victims more time to file civil suits against organizations that employed sexual predators.

"I think they were well aware that there were a number of swimmers standing in line if (the legislation) went through," said Mike Saltzstein, a former longtime member of USA Swimming's board of directors. "It was no small list of people. It would have been financially devastating."

The nightmare

Bay Area swimmer Jancy Thompson was one of those kids who chased the Olympic dream, only to find a nightmare waiting at the end of the pool lane.

"When you're growing up as a swimmer and a child, you're asked to give up a lot of things," she said. "You give up your entire afternoons for training, running, weight training. You're giving up big chunks of time all the time. You give up the normal life of a kid."

Thompson didn't mind the sacrifice. She had talent, a tireless work ethic and complete faith in her coach, Norm Havercroft, and his promise to lead her to Olympic glory.

"Norm was always telling my Mom and I, 'I will give you the recipe to make it to the Olympics,' " Thompson recalled. " 'All you have to do is follow it.'"

Thompson never imagined Havercroft's plan would include him sexually abusing her.

By December 1997, months of being sexually abused by Havercroft were taking a toll on her, Thompson said. She had a nightmare that Havercroft placed a dog collar around her neck and pulled her down the pool in an effort to make her swim faster. After Havercroft found out about the dream, he bought a dog collar and leash for Christmas, Thompson said. One day at practice he pressured Thompson into wearing the dog collar and then had her swim while Havercroft, holding the attached leash, walked down the pool deck beside her, laughing. Thompson said she was humiliated.

She was 15.

Earlier that year Havercroft began sending pornography to Thompson, including photos and videos of himself nude or masturbating, and making sexually explicit phone calls to her,according to court documents and an interview with Thompson. That spring Havercroft started molesting her and making her perform sex acts at swim meets, according to court documents and Thompson. Havercroft purchased a web cam in 1998 so he could have "cybersex" with Thompson, court documents said. Three or four times, Havercroft made Thompson have "cybersex" sessions with him, according to court documents.

Havercroft's alleged abuse of Thompson lasted for five years while he coached her at two Bay Area swim clubs. In 1996, a year before the abuse of Thompson began, a San Jose police sergeant notified USA Swimming of allegations that Havercroft had sexually molested another underage female swimmer he was coaching at the West Valley Swim Club between 1994 and 1996, according to a sworn deposition obtained by the Register.

Confidential USA Swimming documents show that Wielgus and other top officials were aware of allegations of Havercroft's abuse of Thompson since at least 2010.

Yet, not only has Havercroft not been placed on USA Swimming's list of individuals banned from the sport for life, the organization never even "brought a case" against him, Woessner, the director of USA Swimming's Safe Sport has stated in a number of other emails and documents.

Havercroft reached an out of court settlement with Thompson. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Tuesday in Part II of the series: USA Swimming kept a private list of coaches convicted or arrested for misconduct, ran an ineffective Safe Sport program, and even after convictions, USA swimming has been painfully slow to ban sexual abusers.

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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

The mood inside Yankee Stadium shifted dramatically during a game last September when a foul ball, clocked at 105 mph, shot off the bat of Todd Frazier and struck a two-year-old girl in the face.

She was sitting with her father on the third base side of the stadium, where there was no protective netting. The girl survived but suffered a broken nose and several other facial fractures.

The incident brought Frazier and several other players to tears. It also sparked recent conversations and modifications to South Carolina's college and minor league baseball stadiums.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Ron Manfred said after the incident at Yankee Stadium that the league would look into netting options. On Feb. 1, he announced that all stadiums must extend their netting at least to the far ends of both dugouts.

According to ESPN, 10 MLB teams extended their netting by the end of the 2017 season, and another 12 will do the same by the end of this season.

A 2014 study by Bloomberg shows that about 1,750 spectators are hurt each year by batted baseballs. Most are minor and require no serious attention.

But changes are on the way.

'Protect our fans'

Less than a year into the job as athletic director for the College of Charleston, Matt Roberts was ready to address the baseball netting at the school's stadium in Mount Pleasant.

The netting stopped at the front of the dugouts when Roberts took the job in October 2016. When the Cougars took the field Friday for their first game of the season, the team had a new netting system that extended to the end of the dugouts.

The netting and the new padding on the outfield walls cost just under $100,000. The upgrades protect fans who are seated behind first and third base, Roberts said.

"We were going to do this anyway, but the things you see with children getting hit by foul balls further validates that decision," he said.

Other Palmetto State schools, such as the University of South Carolina and Coastal Carolina University, also have protective netting that extend to the end of the dugouts.

With Coastal, the Conway school spent $10.2 million — including more than $150,000 for netting — on its new stadium that opened for play in 2015.

"It was part of the plan when we built the new stadium," said Mike Cawood, a spokesperson for Coastal Carolina. "We wanted the fans to be as close to the action as possible, but also make sure they're protected."

South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Mark Kingston agreed. The netting at Founders Park protects those behind the two dugouts — something Kingston believes is for the best.

"Obviously, I would support anything that helps protect our fans," he said.

'Small price to pay'

Before Major League Baseball made the announcement earlier this month, the organization sent recommendations to its 30 teams in December 2015, suggesting that they also extend their netting past the dugouts.

The letter also suggests that they educate fans on staying alert, and provide information to ticket buyers on which seats are protected by netting.

MLB recommended the same for its minor league clubs.

"Many of our ballparks already exceeded the recommended levels of protection for seating areas and many of those that weren't at the time the recommendations were made have added netting," Jeff Lantz, Minor League Baseball's senior director of communications, told The Post and Courier.

Riley Park, home of the Charleston RiverDogs, is one of those ball clubs with netting that extends to the ends of the dugouts. The same goes for the Greenville Drive, while the Columbia Fireflies' netting extends all the way to the end of the outfield.

The Myrtle Beach Pelicans' netting extends to the home plate side of the dugout.

RiverDogs president Echols recognizes that some fans are turned off by the extended netting and would prefer an easier opportunity to catch a foul ball.

In those cases there's plenty of other seating where the netting isn't in the way. But for those closer to the action, it's a small price to pay, Echols said.

"We attract all types of fans, from those who want to be as close to the action to those who want to take safety precautions," he said. "But overall, the safety of our fans is a major part of the operational and entertainment culture we provide."

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Naples Daily News (Florida)

 

Most of the made-for-TV seniors signed with heavyweight colleges two months ago. Some in the next tier of high school talent found sizable homes earlier this month.

For all the rest — and the tiny colleges most football fans have never heard of — there's recruiting fairs such as Friday's at Cape Coral High School.

Organized by long-time Lee County coach John Schwochow as part of an annual swing of the swap-meet type fairs in Florida each February, the Southwest Florida fair drew more than 250 seniors from about 45 high schools from Sarasota and Arcadia south to Marco Island and east to Clewiston and Moore Haven.

Awaiting them in Cape's gym were coaches — and even some admissions officers, in case there's an immediate love connection — from more than 50 Division 2, Division 3 and NAIA schools (no junior colleges or prep schools attended this year).

Speed dating

"This is speed dating right here," said South Fort Myers High assistant coach Matt Holderfeld.

"It's like organized chaos," said Schwochow, a former Fort Myers High assistant coach and the Island Coast head coach the last three years. "By the time I'm done, it's a good thing we only do one a year."

As with any meat market, there's a lot of variables in play. Height, weight, speed and strength run closely alongside grade point average, test score and character on the players' side.

Location, coaching staff, on-field success and scholarship money help define the programs on the other sides of the folding tables, some shrewdly adorned with golf ball-sized championship rings.

"This is a great event," said Scott Brumett, defensive line coach at Maryville College, a D-3 school outside Knoxville, Tennessee, in the market, like all schools really, "for academic kids that can play.

"You're trying to sell yourself to them and trying to get to know them in a short time."

On Thursday, college and high school coaches met alone to talk wants, needs and the dating pool. Some were following up on contacts they'd made previously. Others followed with phone calls in the evening to players and families.

On Friday, the latter group arrived, often with their own lists of potential matches, to talk in person.

As with any process of natural selection, some on both sides of the table are just more attractive than others. Or they're attractive for different reasons, anyway.

Trent Rogers, a 6-foot, 202-pound South Fort Myers linebacker who turned heads in the Lee County Rotary South All-Star Classic, had plenty of suitors. Some even convinced him of their affections.

"I believed them," Rogers said. "I want to go visit them and see."

Cape Coral High running back Rickey T. Anderson, younger brother of former Seahawks and The Citadel running back Rickey Anderson Jr., doesn't have Rogers' size or other on-field "measureables."

But he does have a 4.27 weighted GPA and good enough test scores to be plenty attractive to D-3 schools, which aren't allowed to provide athletic money and tend to favor stronger academic profiles.

"Some of the schools seem very interested in me," said Anderson, who was just returning from a visit to Ohio's Wittenberg University, a member of the D-3 world that is much more prevalent in the North and doesn't include any Florida schools.

"I'm trying to set up a couple more."

Belles of the ball

Looking lovely itself with a display of its former players to reach the NFL and four of its shimmering national title rings from the 13 it's won since 1993 was Mount Union, certified royalty in the D-3 world from Alliance, Ohio, about an hour south of Cleveland.

Also boasting a coaching staff comprised solely of Mount Union alumni, the Raiders know they can be a bit more choosey with whom they exchange phone numbers.

"The first thing we're trying to do is find good-character guys," said Mount Union tight ends coach Shawn Collins, who completed four years as a Raiders defensive back only a few seasons ago.

"The work you have to put in with our team, and the reputation that our alumni have, if you're not a good-character guy, you're not going to fit in our team, it doesn't matter how talented you are."

Even with its standards, schools such as Mount Union said there's still plenty of great recruits to be found in recruiting fairs such as those in Florida — sometimes especially Florida.

"Since we started recruiting Florida, we've gone 7-3 the last two years," said Kyle Rooker, offensive coordinator at Carthage College, also a D-3 school in Kenosha, Wisconsin, that has improved its record in each of five seasons under the current coaching staff (1-9, 3-7, 5-5, 7-3, 7-3).

Carthage signed five players from its first visit to Southwest Florida two years ago: Dunbar's Malik Thigpen, Southwest Florida Christian's Garrett Pynckel, Barron Collier's Jamel Davis and Kameron Stubblefield and Gulf Coast's Galvin Hoopes.

Three started or played key roles as freshman, Rooker said. The other two did the same by last year.

"We're definitely finding some impact guys. That's why we come down here," said Rooker, hoping his program will be able to attend more of the eight recruiting fairs held in the state each February.

"We try to focus on a couple and try to do as good a job as we can with those couple. A lot of schools do that (attend them all). I'd love to do more of it frankly because it's been productive for us."

Even with endless online recruiting services and larger recruiting budgets even at small schools, plenty of good players still aren't spotted until such fairs.

"Guys will slip through," said Mount Union's Collins. "There's people we've recruited and you wouldn't think they would have ever been anything in high school. They were late bloomers or they just needed something different. There's a lot of good talent down here that's getting overlooked."

Love connection

By bringing so many schools and athletes together at once, the recruiting process can be streamlined for both parties, indeed just as in actual speed dating. The process serves schools as well as athletes.

"It gives (players) more choices. It gives them a sense of reality, too," said Fort Myers High coach Sam Sirianni Jr., noting the clearer picture athletes get of what's available from different types of schools, types of aide and so on.

"A lot of (schools) will talk dollars and cents with them."

Usually with mutual interest the next step is arranging on-campus visits — sometimes partly to see if Florida kids can tolerate Northern winters.

"The snow is definitely a hard sell," Rooker said with a laugh. "We try to get kids on campus as early as we can after the fair, when the snow is on the ground and it's cold to make sure they can handle it."

Even before a visit, though, sometimes players and programs think they just know, you know.

A growing number of schools have started bringing admissions office staff to the fairs.

Hiram College, a D-3 program 30 minutes south of Cleveland, had two tables set up Friday — one for the coaching staff and one for an admissions officer armed with an "express application" that could be given verbal approval on the spot "when they have those credentials."

"I'm the first recommendation. I've seen enough to know what is admissible and what is iffy," said Hiram admissions counselor Marcus Bailey. "They love it. You should see their reactions the minute they get that handshake and you say, 'Welcome to the family.'"

Alas, not all attendees find matches, or even much interest.

But with small schools sometimes using up to 200 players to fill varsity and jayvee or freshman squads, striking out at the fair doesn't have to mean the end of a teenager's football love affair.

"I think there's probably a fit for everybody," said Cypress Lake coach Richie Rode, acknowledging some athletes may have to pay their own way to college. "If you really want to play that badly, I think there's a fit for everybody."

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February 18, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2018 SCRIPPS Howard Publications
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Corpus Christi Caller-Times

 

With the opening of two new Planet Fitness locations, Annaville and Portland have officially entered the "Judgement Free Zone."

And that zone is open 24 hours a day.

"We are excited to be a part of this community and continue to help people meet their goals every day," said Robin Santiago, Annaville club manager. "With our 'judgement free zone,' we want everyone to feel comfortable, but we have been adding a lot to the clubs."

A part of Planet Fitness' appeal is the number of cardiovascular machines (35 treadmills, 28 elliptical machines, plus stair-climbers and stationary bicycles), and the amenities that go along with the membership packages.

The Annaville facility, 11330 Leopard Street, is 18,671-square-feet with 22 flat-screen TVs, two massage chairs, three hydro-beds, two tanning beds, a tanning booth and a Total Body Enhancement booth, according to a news release.

Total Body Enhancement booths helps rejuvenate skin texture and tone, Santiago said.

The Annaville, Portland and Sunrise Mall locations are sister clubs, so members can go to any of them and receive the same quality workout and amenities, she said.

Small group fitness classes by a certified trainer are available with a membership. Different areas of the gym are devoted to a 30-minute strength and cardio circuit and an adult jungle-gym for cross-training style workouts.

The chain is known for its anyone-can-do-this atmosphere.

Bodybuilders and powerlifters are welcome at every location, but the gym prohibits grunting and dropping weights.

"We call that 'lunk' behavior," Santiago said, pointing to the gym's "Lunk Alarm," a siren on the wall that is used as a courtesy reminder. "That type of behavior for first-time members could be intimidating. We're not known for that here."

At the time of the Annaville location's opening last week, there were already nearly 2,500 members signed up through a pre-sale event. The Portland location opened in December.

Annaville will host a grand opening celebration from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21. Danni Allen, season 14 winner of NBC's The Greatest Loser, will be a host.

Portland's grand opening will be 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 22. at 1550 Wildcat Drive.

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February 18, 2018
 
 
 

 

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

 

Former Louisville coach Rick Pitino might not be the only big name relegated to the proverbial sideline as the FBI continues its investigation into college basketball recruiting. Multiple reports this week indicated that the scandal could yet mushroom, implicating more of the sport's most prominent coaches.

Up to three dozen Division I programs could face NCAA violations as a result of the probe, including some perennial March Madness stalwarts, according to a report from ESPN's Mark Schlabach.

A second report went even further: "The breadth of potential NCAA rules violations uncovered is wide enough to fundamentally and indelibly alter the sport of college basketball," wrote Yahoo's Pete Thamel.

"This goes a lot deeper in college basketball than four corrupt assistant coaches," one of Thamel's sources said. "When this all comes out, Hall of Fame coaches should be scared, lottery picks won't be eligible to play and almost half of the 16 teams the NCAA showed on its initial NCAA tournament show this weekend should worry about their appearance being vacated."

Those 16 teams, in case you were wondering: 1. Virginia; 2. Villanova; 3. Xavier; 4. Purdue; 5. Auburn; 6. Kansas; 7. Duke; 8. Cincinnati; 9. Clemson; 10. Texas Tech; 11. Michigan State; 12. North Carolina; 13. Tennessee; 14. Ohio State; 15. Arizona; 16. Oklahoma

The possible violations would be revealed via "information included in wiretap conversations from the defendants and financial records, emails and cellphone records seized from NBA agent Andy Miller," Schlabach reported, and would "involve illegal cash payments to prospects and their families as well as players and their families receiving tens of thousands of dollars from agents while they were still playing in college."

Thamel reported the FBI has recordings of 4,000 telephone conversations related to its investigation.

The programs trying to "buy players," according to one of Schlabach's sources, were not mid-major programs trying to get to the top, but "teams that are already there."

Louisville fired Pitino, a Hall of Famer who has won two NCAA titles, in September over his alleged knowledge of a scheme with an Adidas executive to steer top recruits to Louisville via six-figure payments to their families. Attorneys for the executive, Jim Gatto, were unsuccessful in their attempt to have a federal wire-fraud charge against him thrown out Thursday, Schlabach reported.

Another former Adidas executive, Merl Code, and former sports agent Christian Dawkins also face single counts of wire fraud. They, too, were unsuccessful in their attempt to have the charges thrown out Thursday. Charges filed against Jonathan Brad Augustine, a former AAU director in Orlando, were thrown out earlier this week. He had been accused of conspiring with the others to steer recruits to Louisville and Miami.

Former assistant coaches from Southern Cal, Oklahoma State, Auburn and Arizona face separate charges over their alleged involvement in schemes uncovered by the FBI.

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February 17, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2018 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc.
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The New York Post

 

A Michigan State basketball player is facing an accusation of sexual assault — a new complaint on top of all the recently reported past incidents that rocked the school's athletic department.

Freshman walk-on Brock Washington is being investigated for criminal sexual conduct, ESPN reported, and prosecutors are in the process of weighing whether to file charges.

A female student told campus police in August she was groped by Washington. Following an investigation, it was classified as fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. If charges are brought, Washington could see up to two years in prison. He has suited up for every game this season for No. 2-ranked Michigan State, but hasn't played.

Michigan State has been facing intense scrutiny since an ESPN report revealed a "pattern of widespread denial, inaction and information suppression" at the East Lansing, Mich., school. The portion of the report related to the men's basketball program included an uncharged rape accusation against two former Michigan State basketball players and a pair of charges related to violence against women by Travis Walton, a former undergraduate assistant coach. Coach Tom Izzo hasn't offered many details about the accusations, only saying he wants to be part of the healing process at the school.

Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis resigned a few hours before the report was released. Hollis recently sent a letter to the school's athletic department, writing "there were inaccurate, incomplete and misleading statements made and then reported by ESPN."

Interim president John Engler seemed to echo Hollis, saying it was "a sensationalized package of reporting" and that Izzo and football coach Mark Dantonio had been asked not to comment as the report is being reviewed.

Engler said: "I hope that MSU can soon respond in full and affirm the integrity and probity that has been the hallmark of these two respected coaches."

ESPN responded with a statement: "We stand by our reporting."

Michigan State's board of trustees approved a one-year extension to Dantonio's contract through 2023 on Friday. He has a rolling six-year contract with an annual one-year extension.

zbraziller@nypost.com

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February 19, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2018 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

The mandatory sit-out period for high school student transfers will change if an amendment to the Ohio High School Athletic Association transfer bylaw is approved by association members in a vote this spring.

If approved, transfers would sit out the second half of the regular season and the postseason. However, a transfer would be eligible in the preseason and the first half of the regular season.

OHSAA transfer rules apply only to sports a transfer participated in at another school the previous 12 months. Sit-out rules do not apply to transfers who participate in another sport.

Currently, transfers who don't meet any of the exceptions to the OHSAA transfer bylaw are required to sit out all the preseason and the first half of the regular season, then become eligible for the second half of the regular season and the postseason.

"Much of the feedback we have received from the membership indicates that the current consequence - sitting out the first half of the regular season - is not a significant deterrent," OHSAA commissioner Dr. Dan Ross said in a statement.

"If a student knows that the end of the regular season and the tournament will still be available, they are more likely to transfer. We don't believe that a high number of transfers is good for education-based athletics."

Transferring for athletic reasons among boys and girls has become a hot-button national issue and has dramatically increased among high school students in the last decade, although no combined statistics are available. This coincides with a transfer spike in collegiate football and basketball players during the same period.

The online site verbalcommits.com tracked 882 men's basketball players who transferred to new college programs this season.

The National Federation of State High School Associations governs all 50 state organizations such as the OHSAA. According to the NFHS, most states have amended their transfer bylaws in the last decade and most of those changes have lessened a transfer's sit-out period before becoming eligible to participate in sports.

There are 11 exceptions to the OHSAA's transfer bylaw. Themostcommonisachange of residency. If that happens, a transfer is immediately eligible in all sports.

Another exception to the current transfer bylaw is if a student transfers to a school 50 or more miles away, yet maintains the same residence. There also is no sit-out period in that case and the transfer is immediately eligible to participate in all sports.

The new transfer proposal was one of seven items the OHSAA Board of Directors approved during their monthly meeting on Thursday at Columbus. Member schools will vote on those items from May 1-15. A majority vote among the 819 OHSAA members is needed for each proposal to pass.

If approved, the new transfer bylaw would be immediately effective and apply to students who transfer after May 16.

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

Pendleton@coxinc.com

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February 17, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2018 South Bend Tribune Corporation
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South Bend Tribune (Indiana)

 

MISHAWAKA — Penn High School Kingsmen athletes will benefit from a $3.6 million project at the football stadium that calls for a 13,200-square-foot locker room building.

The facility, to be built on the south side of the TCU Freed Field, will feature three locker rooms that will be used for football games and track meets, along with training rooms, offices for coaches, public restrooms and a concessions area.

The Penn-Harris-Madison School Corp. board of trustees unanimously decided Monday to award a $3.6 million contract for the project to Ziolkowski Construction of South Bend, which submitted the lowest of six bids received from contractors.

Workers are set to break ground on the project this spring and finish it by the end of August.

Denise Seger, the corporation's associate superintendent, said locker rooms inside the high school don't have enough room for athletic teams. Sometimes, for example, the football season has overlapped with the start of the basketball season, compelling teams to share locker room space.

The new facility will address that problem, Seger said, by providing teams with "more locker room capacity when we have multiple events going on."

One locker room will be for visiting teams and the other two will be for home teams — one for the varsity level and the other for junior varsity and freshmen.

The facility will also increase safety for athletes, Seger said. When football games are held, teams will no longer need to cross a parking lot multiple times to get from the stadium to locker rooms inside the school.

"That was the key piece — the safety of players and coaches," Seger said.

Safety improvements will also be made to certain areas of the stadium, including the installation of lighting and fencing.

This spring, the school board plans to sell $7.6 million in low-interest bonds to pay for the corporation's summer projects, including the project at the stadium. The bonds, which would be paid back by the end of 2022, would also cover the cost of maintenance work at several school buildings.

Plans for the locker room facility come after the football stadium received a $1.1 million upgrade last year that included a new entrance with ticket center, a windscreen spanning the back of bleachers, new stairs, lighting upgrades and a fence surrounding nearly half of the site.

The locker room facility was designed for the corporation by Fanning Howey of Indianapolis, which was paid $292,500.

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February 20, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2018 Orange County Register
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Orange County Register (California)

 

Two California legislators say they will propose legislation that would establish a minimum age for kids to play contact football.

State Assemblyman Kevin McCarthy, who with another Democrat assembly member, Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, announced they would pursue creating the bill, said, "Football in general has its risks and it's especially dangerous to younger kids."

People got fired up by this talk of having a law forbidding tackle football until high school. A SaveCaliforniaFootball account now is on Twitter, and #SaveCaliforniaFootball is active on social media. Charges of "nanny state" and "this is un-American" ensued.

Frank Mazzotta, La Habra High's football coach since 1998 with seven CIF Southern Section championships during his tenure, said youth football is not dangerous.

"At that young age, kids don't generate enough power to get concussions," said Mazzotta, who played high school and college football. His father Frank has been Cerritos College's football coach for more than 40 years.

But, while he is certain youth tackle football is not a menace, Mazzotta said parents are wrong to think that playing tackle football before getting to high school is necessary for high school football success.

"We've had so many kids who didn't play tackle until they got here who turned out to be great players," Mazzotta said. "Guys like Greg Gaines."

Gaines was a first-team All-Orange County defensive lineman at La Habra in 2013. He just finished his junior season at Washington and was named All-Pac 12 second team.

Youth football has size restrictions and Gaines was too big to fall within those restrictions, but the point here is that parents are wrong if they think their sons need to play youth tackle football to ensure success in high school football.

First-hand experience here: My son, despite the urgings from other dads coaching youth tackle football, played flag football until he went to high school. He had a great high school football experience and played Division III college football, including starting some games as a freshman. Staying away from tackle football until high school worked fine.

Maybe legislation is not needed to dissuade kids and their parents from avoiding tackle football. CIF State surveys show that participation in high school football is decreasing. Parents and kids are hearing and reading about the sometimes tragic toll that football has on its players, old and not-so-old alike.

In 2015, 100,205 California high school kids played football. That was a reduction of 3,500 from the year before. In 2016, the most recent year numbers are available, the number of participants dropped to 97,079.

Meanwhile, an all-time high of 785,357 high school kids participated in CIF high school athletics in California. Kids are playing sports more than ever. Football, though, is not growing in kind.

The statistics show what decisions parents and kids are making about playing tackle football. And it is to those parents and kids that those decisions belong.

Taking a look around Orange County high school sports:

•Former St. Margaret's football head coach Stephen Barbee was named head coach at Long Beach Poly on Thursday. Barbee stopped coaching St. Margaret's in August to deal with a medical issue. Rob Healy took over as interim coach for the 2017 season, but Healy said he will not be the head coach next season.

St. Margaret's is expected to name a head coach soon.

•The huge majority of Saddleback Valley Christian boys basketball players did everything right so that their team could win a league championship and qualify for the CIF-Southern Section playoffs. One player, though, was found to have been ineligible after he already had played in every Saddleback Valley Christian game so the team had to forfeit its wins, thus removing SVC from the playoffs in which they had been seeded third in Division 3AA. Depending upon whom you ask, a mistake was made by either recently-fired coach Tom Lewis or by school principal and athletic director Rod Markum - whoever it was, good kids took the brunt of an adult error.

•Of this winter's six Sunset/Trinity Baseball Challenge games, in which a Sunset League team played a Trinity League team, Trinity teams won three games, Sunset teams won one game and there were two ties. These were sort of like spring training exhibition games for the teams. The baseball season officially begins Feb. 24.

•Also starting their seasons Feb. 24 are teams in the spring sports of boys golf, boys and girls lacrosse, softball, boys and girls swimming, boys volleyball and boys and girls track and field. The boys tennis season begins Monday.

•Watching Villa Park senior basketball player Matt Lanzone play, the thought here is "why am I not hearing that Lanzone is getting recruited?" Well, he has turned down offers from Sacramento State and Humboldt State. He comes from a family in which just about everyone went to Ohio State and became lawyers and Lanzone wants to follow that path.

@SteveFryer on Twitter

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February 16, 2018
 
 
 

 

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

 

OXFORD — Ole Miss submitted its written appeal to the NCAA last Monday. The university published the document on Wednesday, and in doing so kept up with its recent aggressive tone toward the Committee on Infractions and its ruling.

"This Committee should vacate and reverse the penalties and factual findings," the appeal stated, "because the COI abused its discretion, departed from precedent, committed procedural errors, and reached factual conclusions inconsistent with the evidence."

Ole Miss is appealing its 2018 postseason ban, which was added to a self-imposed '17 postseason ban, limitations on unofficial visits, and the committee's findings regarding a Lack of Institutional Control charge and the allegation that Rebel Rags, an Oxford-based retail store, provided free merchandise to recruits and family members.

The written appeal was submitted on Feb. 5. The Committee on Infractions has 30 days from that point to file its response, then the university has 14 days to submit a rebuttal.

The Committee on Infractions handed down its ruling to Ole Miss on Dec. 1. In its ruling, the committee essentially determined Ole Miss had an out-of-control booster culture, which spanned decades and cited cases from 1986 and 1994.

The use of cases which were more than two decades old as an aggravating factor bothered Jeff Vitter, Ole Miss' chancellor, and Ross Bjork, the Rebels' athletic director, when they addressed the media that day. The written appeal hit on that point again.

"At what point does an institution get a clean slate in the infractions process? For this COI panel," the appeal stated, "the answer appears to be 'never.'"

Ole Miss argued that the addition of the '18 postseason ban was inconsistent and excessive in terms of the committee's precedent. The appeal then points to the NCAA's repeat-violator legislation, which is only applicable within a five-year period.

"This clear error of judgment renders the imposition of a second postseason ban arbitrary, capricious, or irrational," the university argued.

As a result of the postseason ban, Ole Miss had to forfeit nearly $8 million this academic year and will have to do so again next year if the ruling is upheld. That total is essentially cut in half if after five years the university is not involved in another significant infractions case.

As far as the LOIC charge, the university argued: "The COI appears to have based its LOIC finding on two impermissible factors: first, the number of violations; and, second, their unfounded belief that a particular culture of noncompliance "existed for decades" at the University."

The committee also limited recruits to one unofficial campus visit per year until Nov. 30, 2020. It's an unprecedented penalty, and the university contested that the COI did not adhere to its current penalty structure. The penalty is "six times longer than the most severe recruiting restriction prescribed by the NCAA Bylaws," the appeal states.

Then there are the Rebel Rags findings. Ole Miss has contested those from the start and has attempted to poke holes in the testimonies from Mississippi State's Leo Lewis and Kobe Jones, and Lindsey Miller, Laremy Tunsil's estranged stepfather.

The committee ordered Ole Miss to disassociate Rebel Rags owner Terry Warren. That's pending this appeal. The university expressed its issues with those findings as well.

"First, the COI's decision to credit the biased, inconsistency-riddled accounts was erroneous," the appeal stated. "The COI credited these uncorroborated stories because they were 'similar' and '[n]one of the three individuals knew each other at the times they gave their accounts.' But that was not true. Two of the individuals were, in fact, teammates (or future teammates who had already struck up a relationship) at the time of their interviews."

Ole Miss has requested an in-person appeal with the Infractions Appeals Committee over these matters.

The Infractions Appeals Committee consists of five members. Three are known: Ellen M. Ferris, who is the associate commissioner and senior woman administrator for the AAC; Patti Ohlendorf, vice president of legal affairs at Texas, and W. Anthony Jenkins, who is the chief diversity officer at Dickinson Wright PLLC.

Two more members were to be added by the end of January.

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Copyright 2018 Star Tribune
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

A hall of fame high school coach said he has been fired for "emotional mistreatment of athletes" and for failing to treat "all students with dignity and respect."

Franz Boelter won seven state titles in 26 years as Faribault Bethlehem Academy's volleyball coach and is the ninth-winningest boys' basketball coach in state history. He retired as Faribault BA's basketball coach in 2014, and the school fired him as volleyball coach Friday.

"I can't get into it, but I felt in my mind, and the minds of those on our executive board, it was the right thing to do," BA president Chuck Briscoe told the Star Tribune on Wednesday. "We have to do what's right for kids in 2018."

Boelter countered: "That's what I've tried to do my whole career, do what's right for kids. That's what people did for me, and I'm trying to do the same thing back."

Boelter, 66, requested an open hearing before the school's board of directors, scheduled for Wednesday. He said last Friday was the first time in his tenure anyone at BA had mentioned the issues cited for removing him as volleyball coach.

Besides "emotional mistreatment" of players, Boelter said the reasons cited were a "lack of concern for all of the players that are part of the program" and "failure as a coach to live up to the mission of the school in treating all students with dignity and respect."

Students at Faribault BA held up signs outside of the school earlier this week protesting Boelter's firing.

"There has been an outpouring on both sides," Briscoe said. "I've heard from people on both sides of the equation."

Despite being dismissed as volleyball coach, Boelter still serves as the private school's director of advancement, working with donors, but plans to retire from that position in June.

It would take a vote from BA's full 15-member board of directors to overturn Briscoe's decision and retain Bolter as volleyball coach.

"Certainly, anything is possible," Briscoe said. "I can't predict the future. If the board decided to make that decision, that's their prerogative. I work for them."

Board chair Jim Beckmann did not respond to a Star Tribune interview request but told KDHLradio.com, "We have complete trust and confidence in Dr. Briscoe to make the appropriate employment decisions for Bethlehem Academy."

Payton Nutter is a freshman at Concordia (St. Paul) who played six seasons for Boelter ending in 2016, and she said she "never witnessed one issue of abuse - not even close."

"He always held us accountable and pushed us, but that's very different from abuse," said Nutter, a Ms. Volleyball finalist in 2016.

Jessie Mathews played five seasons for Boelter, ending in 2012, and won three state championships. She also said she never saw him being abusive.

"Franz is a very demanding coach," she said. "He expects you to work hard. Those are the things that make you stronger."

Boelter went 603-165 as BA's volleyball coach, leading the Cardinals to 12 first- or second-place finishes at the Class 1A state tournament since 2002. He was elected to the Minnesota High School Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2008 and the state's Boys' Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2012.

Fellow hall of famer Walt Weaver, who coached Apple Valley volleyball for over 30 years, said he expects the Wednesday meeting to draw an outpouring of public support.

"Without question, he is a major icon in Minnesota high school sports," Weaver said. "I run a national coaches clinic in Apple Valley every spring, and I've had Franz speak at it 10-12 times. His is always one of the most attended sessions because people trust the way he handles his players."

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Copyright 2018 Boston Herald Inc.
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The Boston Herald

 

Eight boys as young as 6, including two Marblehead brothers, have stepped forward in the past week to accuse their private hockey coach of molesting them - and prosecutors say they don't know where the fount of disturbing claims will end.

"I've frankly never seen anything like it, and I'm not sure where we're headed," assistant Essex District Attorney Kate MacDougall told Judge James L. LaMothe Jr. during a dangerousness hearing yesterday in Lynn District Court.

Lamothe ordered Christopher Prew, 31, held without bail on the first case to be brought forward, charging him with raping the 9-year-old son of a widow Prew romanced.

"He basically started by offering to teach the child how to skate, brought him to buy the equipment to skate, brought him to the rinks to teach him to skate.... He had a lot of one-on-one time with the child," Marblehead police officer Theresa Gay testified yesterday.

"I recognized him to be very bright and very willing to speak to me," Gay said in praise of the third-grader. "He was excited to tell me about hockey... but when he started speaking about Chris Prew he kind of kept to himself. He had his head down a couple times and he got red in the face."

Prew is scheduled to return to court Feb. 21 for a second dangerousness hearing in connection with three new counts of indecent assault and battery on a child involving two more Marblehead boys. Prew pleaded not guilty yesterday.

Five additional player-students of Prew accused him of indecent assault and battery in a span of just 24 hours this week, including the siblings. Formal charges are pending on police interviews with the five children.

MacDougall said all the accusers are ages 6 to 11. Six are from Marblehead, a seventh was an exchange hockey player from Canada and the eighth lives outside of Essex County. MacDougall said the 6-year-old was allegedly assaulted in a hotel while traveling with Prew to a hockey tournament.

The boys' families "are struggling with the reality" that they left their kids in the care of a man they trusted, she told the court. And while Prew's attorney Sean Donahue was able to amass more than two dozen letters of glowing support for Prew, MacDougall said, "The commonwealth has unfortunately collected eight victims."

State corporation records show Prew was president of Hot Shot Academy, a business providing athletic and educational services. Donahue said the 2004 Winthrop High graduate has also worked as a house painter, landscaper and personal trainer.

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Copyright 2018 The Columbus Dispatch
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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

 

It is a prosperous time to be an Ohio State assistant football coach, especially for those who have been courted by the NFL.

After rejecting reported overtures from pro teams recently, defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and offensive coordinator Ryan Day will become the first Buckeyes assistant coaches to break the $1 million salary threshold.

Schiano, who was rumored to be a candidate to join the New England Patriots, will earn $1.5 million in base salary in 2018, Ohio State announced on Wednesday. Schiano made $700,000 last year.

Day, whose name surfaced in connection with the Tennessee Titans, will make $1 million.

Day made $400,000 in 2017 in the first of a two-year contract that called for him to make $800,000 in 2018.

Schiano and Day aren't the only assistants getting significant raises. All of the returning coaches except linebackers coach Bill Davis will get a bump in pay.

Ohio State's other offensive coordinator, Kevin Wilson, will make $800,000 in 2018, a raise of $150,000. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson ($575,225 to $750,000), running backs coach Tony Alford ($450,000 to $525,000), offensive line coach Greg Studrawa ($410,000 to $500,000) and receivers coach Zach Smith ($300,000 to $340,000) also received raises.

Davis, whose unit struggled at times, will make $500,000, the same as in 2017.

New defensive coach Alex Grinch will make $800,000, as previously reported, and just-hired cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson will start with a salary of $345,000.

Ohio State's assistants will make an average of $706,000, an increase of more than $200,000 from last year. The bumps come at a time when assistant coaches' salaries have skyrocketed nationally. Fifteen made at least $1 million last year, including Don Brown, Pep Hamilton and Tim Drevno at Michigan.

According to OSU, its assistant coaches' salaries ranked 13th in the country last year.

"The reality is we have to compensate people consistent with the expectations and their performance," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said in a release. "I am incredibly pleased with the performance of these coaches, year after year, and I'm certain Buckeye Nation is as well."

Ohio State assistant coaches' salaries have risen significantly since Urban Meyer was hired as coach. Assistants made a combined $2.26 million under Luke Fickell in 2011. Meyer requested a bump in pay for his first staff, which made a total of $3.22 million in 2012, an average of just under $358,000. His 2018 staff will make almost double that.

Day signed a three-year contract. Grinch, Alford, Larry Johnson and Taver Johnson have two-year deals. Terms for the additional years in those contracts have not been released. Schiano, Wilson, Davis, Studrawa and Smith have one-year deals.

Meyer is in the process of getting a two-year contract extension that will run through 2022. The university's board of trustees is expected to vote on the extension in April.

Meyer made $6.43 million in base salary last year. Gene Smith said last week that Meyer's extension would not put him in range of Alabama's Nick Saban, who made $11.1 million last year, or Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher. Fisher left Florida State to sign a 10-year contract worth a reported $75 million.

brabinowitz@ dispatch.com; @brdispatch

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

 

CHARLOTTE - The U.S. National Whitewater Center is denying allegations that it is responsible for the death of a teenager who contracted a brain-eating amoeba after rafting at the park.

According to federal court documents filed last week, the Whitewater Center rejected claims from a lawsuit accusing the park of "conscious disregard for the safety of visitors."

Lauren Seitz, 18, died of a rare brain infection caused by a single-celled animal, the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, days after visiting the center on June 8, 2016, with a church group. She was in a raft that overturned. The amoeba can infect a person when water goes up the nose. Infections are rare, but they are almost always fatal.

Seitz's father, James Seitz of Ohio, filed the lawsuit last year. He alleges that filthy waters in the park's popular rafting channels posed a danger and increased the likely that amoeba could strike visitors.

When Lauren Seitz's death occurred, the center was one of only three similar facilities in the U.S. that wasn't regulated to protect the public from waterborne diseases.

A park employee later wrote to a county commissioner to complain that the water quality had grown so poor that raft guides routinely suffered from staph infections, ringworm and other skin illnesses. Dead animals and trash were commonly found floating on the water's surface, the employee said.

In its filing, the Whitewater Center denied the most serious allegations in the Seitz lawsuit.

Park officials previously have defended themselves by saying that the amoeba is common in warm freshwater lakes and other bodies of water during the summer, particularly in the southern U.S.

The Whitewater Center draws more than 800,000 visits a year and has total revenue exceeding $18 million annually. The 1,100-acre nonprofit facility in northwest Mecklenburg operates on county property that it rents for $1 a year.

Under scrutiny after Seitz's death, the park closed the water feature for nearly two months and a federal epidemiologist found that filtration and disinfection systems were inadequate to properly clean the facility's turbid waters.

Water samples from the park detected the presence of an amoeba at levels the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had not previously seen.

In response, the park changed its filtration and disinfection system.

Mecklenburg County commissioners also began requiring an annual operating permit from the county health department that can be suspended if the center doesn't meet water-quality or safety standards.

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Copyright 2018 Southeastern Newspapers Corporation
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The Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)

 

A city recreation center manager took his concerns to the Augusta Commission after he says a punch list of needed repairs was ignored for years.

"I understand the chain of command and I did that," said Stan Brown, who runs Bernie Ward Community Center at Fleming Park, by Butler High School. "Four or five years and back."

Brown told commissioners Tuesday that the center's last safety audit, performed by city staff several years ago, revealed broken tile, a leaking drain pipe, moisture problems, inoperable lights, broken fire extinguisher cabinets and a leaking toilet. He also mentioned a newly installed floor that was too slippery and a more recent problem with rodents.

A copy of the audit, dated Nov. 19, 2014, listed all those items and more. It is unclear whether any have been addressed.

On Wednesday, the center hosted a Valentine's Day gathering of Serenity Behavioral Health developmentally disabled people, while Brown awaited an inspection promised by City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson the day before.

Serenity program manager Valerie Ross said the organization is grateful for use of Augusta's centers, which it routinely books for events, and city workers who volunteer with the organization.

She hadn't observed any safety hazards Wednesday but agreed the center needs to be in safe condition.

Still, Brown and center staff awaited the arrival of the inspector. Commissioner Dennis Williams, who represents the area, said the inspector arrived around 1:30 p.m.

"They had to fit it into their schedule," Williams said. "It was a decision that was made yesterday."

Williams said the inspection revealed a handful of needed repairs but "nothing so unsafe to close the building."

Jackson and Parks and Recreation Director Glenn Parker on Wednesday denied through a spokesman having knowledge of the list of repairs.

"We understood that, as of close of business Tuesday, there was only one work order that had not been completed at the center," they said through a spokesman. "Some of the things mentioned during Tuesday's meeting had not been reported into our system."

Commissioners expressed surprise that the city's recreation director would claim no knowledge of the needed repairs.

"Glenn Parker had to know about this stuff. If he didn't know, why didn't he come forward Tuesday?" Commissioner Marion Williams said.

When Brown made the presentation Tuesday, Parker did not address the item.

In a Feb. 6 email from Brown to Parker and Jackson, obtained by The Chronicle, Brown questioned why some centers - such as Blythe and McBean - have dedicated maintenance workers, while others, located in black neighborhoods, must share one.

"The workload there is about a fifth of what a community center with a gym has to do," Brown said.

Commissioner Ben Hasan said an upcoming $1 million sales tax project at Fleming Park, including ballfield repairs, needed to wait until the center itself is addressed.

"I can't see us doing enhancements on that field without considering improvements that need to be done to the facility first," Hasan said.

Asked about the list Tuesday, Jackson said when it was compiled, "unfortunately at that time there were no funds set aside for improvements to do that," but that since then the commission included $1 million in sales taxes for capital improvements at the park.

Williams asked why other centers were in better shape if no funds had been available.

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

CHICAGO — The first blood test to help doctors diagnose traumatic brain injuries has won U.S. government approval.

The move means Banyan Biomarkers can commercialize its test, giving the company an early lead in the biotech industry's race to find a way to diagnose concussions.

The test doesn't detect concussions and the approval won't immediately change how patients with suspected concussions or other brain trauma are treated. But Wednesday's green light by the Food and Drug Administration "is a big deal because then it opens the door and accelerates technology," said Michael McCrea, a brain injury expert at Medical College of Wisconsin.

The test detects two proteins present in brain cells that can leak into the bloodstream following a blow to the head. Banyan's research shows the test can detect them within 12 hours of injury. It's designed to help doctors quickly determine which patients with suspected concussions may have brain bleeding or other brain injury.

Patients with a positive test would need a CT scan to confirm the results and determine if surgery or other treatment is needed. The test will first be used in emergency rooms, possibly as soon as later this year, but Banyan's hope is that it will eventually be used on battlefields and football fields.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said the test fits with the agency's goals for delivering new technologies to patients and reducing unnecessary radiation exposure.

The test "sets the stage for a more modernized standard of care for testing of suspected cases," Gottlieb said in a statement.

Traumatic brain injuries affect an estimated 10 million people globally each year; at least 2 million of them are treated in U.S. emergency rooms. They often get CT scans to detect bleeding or other abnormalities. The scans expose patients to radiation, but in many patients with mild brain injuries including concussions, abnormalities don't show up on these imaging tests.

With Department of Defense funding, Banyan's research shows its Brain Trauma Indicator can accurately pick up brain trauma later found on CT scans. It also shows that absence of the two proteins in the test is a good indication that CT scans will be normal. That means patients with negative blood tests can avoid CT scans and unnecessary radiation exposure, said Dr. Jeffrey Bazarian, a University of Rochester emergency medicine professor involved in Banyan's research.

Bazarian called the test "a huge step" toward devising a blood test that can detect brain injuries including concussions.

Dr. Walter Koroshetz, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and other brain injury experts say the test isn't sensitive enough to rule out concussions.

"This may be a beginning. It's not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow," Koroshetz said.

That prize would be a test that could detect and guide treatment for concussions and traumatic brain injuries, similar to a blood test that hospitals commonly use to evaluate suspected heart attacks, Koroshetz said.

"That's what we'd like to have for the brain," he said.

San Diego-based Banyan has partnered with French firm bioMerieux SA to market the test to hospitals using bioMerieux's blood analyzing machines.

Other companies are developing similar blood tests to detect brain injuries. Abbott has licensed both protein biomarkers from Banyan and is developing its own blood tests. BioDirection is developing a test involving one of the proteins in Banyan's test plus another one and using a portable device that can yield results from a single drop of blood in less than two minutes.

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Copyright 2018 The Salt Lake Tribune
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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

Utah has suspended baseball coach Bill Kinneberg for the first 14 games of the upcoming season for an NCAA rules violation involving a former staff member who engaged in impermissible practice and coaching activities.

The university's athletic department confirmed Wednesday morning the suspension, which represents 25 percent of the season.

Kinneberg cannot participate in team functions, including practices and games, during the suspension. He may return to the bench March 12 against UNLV. Associate head coach Mike Crawford will assume coaching responsibilities in Kinneberg's absence. The Utes open the season Friday in Oklahoma.

"As the head coach, it is my responsibility to make sure we are in compliance with all NCAA rules," Kinneberg said in a statement from the university. "My oversight was lacking in the area of a non-coaching staff member participating in coaching activities. I accept responsibility and have realigned our staff personnel to ensure it will not happen in the future."

The university announced in October that Kinneberg likely would be suspended due to a self-reported NCAA violation that came to the department's attention after receiving a letter from the parent of a former baseball player.

The NCAA still has not ruled on the matter, but the self-imposed suspension is the university's effort to address the infraction proactively and avoid further sanctions.

In October, Utah director of athletics Chris Hill said the university recommended the suspension to the NCAA, but he would not reveal the length of games the university recommended because the NCAA has not ruled on the matter. Hill did not specify the nature of the violation at the time. He instead said only that the violation was an "isolated incident" that did not relate to academics, funding or recruiting.

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

 

STURBRIDGE — Tantasqua High School students are using its gym and locker room area for the first time since heating system pipes and the sprinkler system froze and burst during the winter break. On Tuesday, the Sturbridge Fire Department gave Tantasqua permission to use the gym and locker rooms again because the sprinkler system in those areas have been reactivated, Principal Michael Lucas said. However, the pool, weight rooms, main offices and guidance offices remain closed. These areas will not be open until work is completed and passes a final inspection by the Fire and Building Departments, Fire Lt John C. Marinelli said. Fire suppression/sprinkler systems must be brought into compliance

 

STURBRIDGE — Tantasqua High School students are using the school's gym and locker room area for the first time since heating system pipes and the sprinkler system froze and burst during the winter break in December.

"We have our gym back. We have our locker room back," said. "It's all system go for both PE classes and our athletic programs, so we're very excited."

On Tuesday, the Sturbridge Fire Department gave Tantasqua permission to use the gym and locker rooms again because the sprinkler system in those areas has been reactivated, Mr. Lucas said.

"We started having phys ed classes in there Tuesday morning and assigning kids lockers and getting everybody moved back to that part of the building," he said. "We are getting our PE teachers back in their offices and our athletic director. That will be finalized today (Wednesday)."

Athletic teams will also be able to practice and play games in the gym, Mr. Lucas said. The boys junior varsity and varsity basketball teams were slated to host Uxbridge in the gym Wednesday.

"We had our teams practice in there Tuesday afternoon for the first time," Mr. Lucas said. "The kids were very excited to be back in their home gym. It was awesome to see that. And we really feel good for our seniors that they get to play another game on their home court."

A day or so after Christmas, while students were on vacation, the main and backup circulator pumps for the school's heating system failed, causing the pipes to freeze around the heating coil.

While the gym and the locker rooms are open, the pool, weight rooms, main offices and guidance offices remain closed. Those areas will not be open until work is completed and passes a final inspection by the Fire and Building departments, Fire Lt. John C. Marinelli said.

Fire suppression/sprinkler systems must be brought into compliance with building and fire codes before areas can be occupied, Mr. Marinelli said.

"As with all of this construction project, it's ever evolving," Mr. Lucas said. "We don't have a definite timeline which can be frustrating. But we do have crews working every day on the heating system, the coils, maintenance and cleaning … It's a day-by-day process."

Since the disruption, the swim team has been holding its practices and meets at Monson High School and also using the Southbridge YMCA for practices. The cheerleading squad has also been practicing at the Southbridge Y, and Northbridge High School has hosted Tantasqua's away track meets, Mr. Lucas said.

Last week, the main office and guidance staff moved into trailers that are stationed behind the main foyer.

"The students deserve a lot of credit for handling this with class and character," Mr. Lucas said. "I cannot say enough about our student body. They are just awesome. They just roll with it and continue to be positive and so does our staff."

All students and visitors should still enter the building through the main foyer, as the exterior pool entrance doors will remain closed. People can only enter the gym through the main foyer, Mr. Lucas said.

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Copyright 2018 SCRIPPS Howard Publications
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Corpus Christi Caller-Times

 

The Hooks announced Tuesday they plan to distribute $113,000 to Little League and youth baseball programs in Rockport, Port Aransas, Refugio, Ingleside and Aransas Pass.

The money was raised through the club's #CoastalBendStrong campaign and with Minor League Baseball. The money will help to fund scholarships for entry fees and uniform expenses for the youth programs. The team also announced that money was raised for new scoreboards and a spring break camp that will be hosted by the Port Aransas Parks and Recreation Department.

The Hooks designated a portion of the proceeds from their final homestand of 2017 for Hurricane Harvey relief. During the Labor Day weekend series, fans were offered free parking and "Pay What You Can" seating. Hooks players dedicated their season-long home run dollar earnings to the recovery effort. An autographed Corpus Christi game-worn jersey auction, and the sale of Coastal Bend Strong T-shirts contributed to the initiative.

Teams across Minor League Baseball rallied to raise more than $300,000 after Harvey and Hurricane Irma. Funds went to the Coastal Bend Disaster Recovery Group and other relief organizations, including the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and United Way Worldwide.

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

 

Architects have been chosen to build and update seven public schools in Hamilton County, including Harrison Elementary, East Hamilton Middle, Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts, Howard High, Snow Hill Elementary and Tyner Middle and High schools.

Hamilton County commissioners will vote next week whether to approve the architects, as well as to approve around $200,000 million in bonds to pay for those projects, a jail expansion and more.

County Mayor Jim Coppinger said Franklin Architects has been chosen to build a new Harrison Elementary and TWH Architects will construct the new East Hamilton Middle.

Derthick, Henley and Wilkerson will build the new CSLA and an addition at Tyner Middle and High schools, and Neuhoff Taylor Architects will build the Snow Hill addition. Barge Design Solutions will construct a new stadium and track for Howard High School.

"We're obviously excited about getting these projects started," Coppinger told commissioners at their Wednesday agenda session.

Tim Hensley, spokesman for Hamilton County Schools, said it's too early to get an idea of how the new school projects might look.

"There are no drawings or plans or budgets yet for the projects," Hensley said. "The board made their recommendations based on what the firms have done in the past, but official plans have not been made yet."

Commissioners will vote next week on two bond issues. A $195 million bond will supply $110 million for the school projects and $20 million for an expansion at the Silverdale correctional facility. The bond issue does not include any funds for a planned new wastewater treatment plant in the north end of the county, but it will use $55 million to repay and close down the county's line of credit.

County Finance Administrator Al Kiser said variable interest rates on the line of credit "are going against us" just now. He said the county can set up another line of credit in the future if needed.

A smaller bond of around $4.4 million will go to refund some Recovery Zone bonds dating from the Great Recession.

Last year, commissioners approved a property tax hike to meet $225 million in capital education, economic development and jail needs while granting tax relief to qualifying elderly and disabled citizens.

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at jwalton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416.

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Copyright 2018 South Bend Tribune Corporation
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South Bend Tribune (Indiana)

 

SOUTH BEND — In the land of asterisks and hypotheticals, the Notre Dame football program still has a chance on Sept. 1 to rearrange history. Sort of.

Thanks to the NCAA, in ND's new reality the 2018 season-opening game with Michigan at Notre Dame Stadium is the beginning of an era of Irish football becoming a perpetual math problem.

At least its moral compass didn't come off anywhere near as disjointed Tuesday.

In fact, it could be argued that Notre Dame and its football program are better off than they were 42 months ago, when the first details of allegations of academic fraud were self-reported to the NCAA and the rest of a gawking college football world.

Better off in that Notre Dame did the opposite of sitting on its hands waiting for a favorable outcome from the NCAA. Instead athletic director Jack Swarbrick spearheaded a task force years ago, designed to take a hard look at why the academic misconduct happened in the first place and to reduce the likelihood that it could reprise itself in the future.

"Our interaction with our players relative to academic specialists, we've addressed," Irish head coach Brian Kelly said 15 months ago, when the appeal was first filed. "We've added support staff. We've added the necessary resources for our players to be represented as it relates to the work that they have to do academically."

Better off in that Notre Dame stayed true to who it was throughout a process that was as protracted as it was perplexing. And sadly the NCAA stayed true too — as an organization that has become so consistently inconsistent that some kind of reform/uprising/secession seems more imminent by the day.

Perhaps Associated Press national college sports columnist Ralph Russo put it best in a tweet on Twitter Tuesday evening: "The NCAA has made Notre Dame sympathetic. ? That's something."

Better off ? all except in the victory column, with the NCAA on Tuesday announcing it was denying an appeal for the Irish to hold onto 21 victories recorded during its 2012 run to the BCS National Championship Game and the eight it recorded in the season that followed.

Had the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee reversed the original ruling, the Notre Dame-Michigan game on Sept. 1 would have been a chance for the Irish to retake the FBS' all-time lead in winning percentage from the Wolverines, .728987 to .728582.

Instead, moving forward, there will be official milestones and virtual ones.

And make no mistake, while vacated victories may be a shoulder shrug at some schools, historical context is woven into the very fabric of Irish fandom. And attacking history is hitting below the waistline.

The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions panel originally handed down the win-erasing punishment on Nov. 22, 2016 — along with one year of probation, a $5,000 fine and a two-year show-cause order and disassociation for the former student assistant trainer who was a central figure in both the original ruling and the thwarted appeal.

The other central figures are former Irish players DaVaris Daniels, Ishaq Williams, Eilar Hardy, Kendall Moore and KeiVarae Russell as well as four unnamed former players who had moved on from the school before those five were sequestered away from the team in August of 2014 until the conclusion of ND's internal probe roughly two months later.

Per the NCAA's Tuesday response, the part-time assistant athletic trainer violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when she committed academic misconduct for two football players and provided six other football players with impermissible academic extra benefits. One Irish football player was deemed to have committed academic misconduct on his own.

"Student-to-student cheating is not normally within the NCAA's jurisdiction," Notre Dame president Rev. I. Jenkins wrote in a detailed and eloquent response to Tuesday's ruling. "But the NCAA concluded that the student's role as a part-time assistant trainer made her a 'representative of the institution' and justified a vacation of team records penalty in this case.

"There is no precedent in previous NCAA cases for the decision to add a discretionary penalty of vacation of team records in a case of student-to-student cheating involving a part-time student worker who had no role in academic advising.

"In every other case in the record — meticulously detailed in the University's arguments — the institutional representative of the university was employed as an administrator, coach, or person who served in an academic role.

"The Committee simply failed to provide any rationale why it viewed the student-worker as an institutional representative in our case. This is more disturbing given that, in 2016, the member institutions of the NCAA amended the academic misconduct rules to make clear that students who serve in roles identical to that of the student in our case would not be considered institutional representatives.

"If the Committee members chose to depart both from precedent and the position adopted by the NCAA membership, it was incumbent on them to offer an explanation. They did not."

The coincidental juxtaposition of Notre Dame playing North Carolina in men's basketball the night before the ruling became public puts the NCAA in even less flattering light. In an October 2016 ruling, the NCAA acknowledged UNC created fake classes that helped many scholarship athletes remain academically eligible and even graduate.

Yet the NCAA ruled that "while student-athletes likely benefited from the courses, so did the general student body. Additionally, the record did not establish that the university created and offered the courses as part of a systemic effort to benefit only student-athletes."

Ohhhh-kay.

The most twisted piece of irony in all of this — and Jenkins acknowledges as much in his letter — is that had Notre Dame abandoned its honor code and simply expelled the five students when it learned of the allegations, GPAs would never had been recalculated and the 21 victories would never have come into question.

Why then did Notre Dame take the road that it did?

A university source told the Tribune in November of 2016 that the university chose the investigative option because:

* It wanted to give the student-athletes an opportunity to exonerate themselves. And you could infer by Hardy's reinstatement late in the 2014 season that he, at least, was successful in doing so.

* That it wanted to find out just exactly what occurred. And by finding out, grades and GPAs had to be lowered and class credits removed, thus resulting in ineligible players.

* It wanted to make sure that there was no North Carolina parallel, that the cheating was not systemic but rather independent and isolated.

Unlike the 2016 ruling, when Kelly was coaching a 4-7 football team and five days away from loss No. 8, the ninth-year Irish coach comes off this time as someone unlikely to coax a change in loyalties.

If you were compiling a litany of reasons while the Kelly Era should be truncated sooner than later, Tuesday's ruling provided you another item for your collection.

And if you were looking at last year's 10-3 run as the possible onset of a Notre Dame football renaissance, than you've likely moved on to the Brandon Wimbush/Ian Book dynamic in spring practice.

Those who expect Notre Dame to be perfect, to operate in a "Leave It to Beaver" World, miss the redemptive part of the school's mission, where second chances — and the mistakes that come with them — are part of the real world.

In this instance, the process and not the outcome is what matters most. Not the new migraine-inducing math. Not the asterisks. And certainly not an NCAA that is more out of touch than ever.

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Copyright 2018 The Durham Herald Co.
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The Herald-Sun (Durham, N.C.)

 

You want to believe the story you've been told your whole life.

That's why Rebecca Carpenter, daughter of late NFL player and coach Lew Carpenter, said she resisted accepting that football caused her dad's brain damage. She didn't want to believe it.

"If you think about everything as a data point, I have a thousand data points that football is fantastic. Then I get one data point — you might want to look at this," Carpenter said.

When he died, her father had CTE — chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease found in athletes who had repeated brain trauma. Common symptoms include memory loss, aggression and depression. The latest research at Boston University's CTE Center shows that head impact, not concussions, causes CTE.

Lew Carpenter played for the Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns from 1953 to 1963.

Carpenter said once she acknowledged it was true, she felt betrayed.

"First, I was mad: 'Why are you trying to ruin football?'"

Then she was mad that her dad is dead.

Carpenter is the filmmaker of "Requiem for a Running Back," a documentary that will screen Friday night, Feb. 16, at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

On Saturday, Duke Law School will host "Head Trauma In Football," an afternoon of discussions about football culture, the science of head trauma, medical, law and policy issues around it, and sports policymaking. Panelists include former NFL player Harry Carson along with Duke faculty and staff.

Both events are part of a free weekend conference.

Duke economics professor Lori Leachman is also the daughter of a late NFL coach, Lamar Leachman, who was diagnosed with CTE after he died. He was a coach for the Lions and the New York Giants.

Lori Leachman wrote about her Southern football family childhood in a new memoir, "The King of Halloween and Miss Firecracker Queen." The forward was written by Carson, a Pro Football Hall of Fame member and former Giants player who is part of a discussion on "Football Rules and Sports Policymaking" at the Duke event on Saturday.

Leachman met Carpenter in the closed group, Women of the NFL. Carpenter has since left the group.

Leachman said the NFL is going to have to give more attention to CTE and football because of the decline in youths playing the sport.

"That's their pipeline. If a kid doesn't pick up football by the high school level, there's no playing in college," she said. "If they want to have a pipeline, they're going to have to get behind reform."

High school football participation is down. Youth league coaches and officials told The Chicago Tribune last year that growing concern about head injuries was a big reason for the decline. In 2017, after struggling to field a team due to a lack of interest and growing health and safety concerns, East Chapel Hill High School decided not to play a varsity football schedule.

'I'm not trying to kill football'

For Leachman, it comes down to parents deciding if their kids will play football. She thinks the NFL should be buying football equipment for every high schoolbecause it's their pipeline, and a business expense tax deduction.

"I'm not a real fan of legislating out the wazoo. I'm an economist," she said. "If we put the information out there, people need to make their own choice. For my dad, playing football was all upside.... It gave him a big life."

She loves football.

"I'm not trying to kill the sport, I'm trying to reinvigorate it with a future," Leachman said. "It's one of the few sports that you can be most excellent [at] but your excellence cannot win it. That's really a beautiful thing, that it requires this sense of teamwork."

In Carpenter's film, "Requiem for a Running Back," she interviews southern California youth football coach Keith Johnson.

"It's not the big hit," he said he learned. "It's all the small hits."

LewCarpenterLionsLew Carpenter when he played for the Lions.

The film also shows an HBO interview with former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka, who said if he had an 8-year-old son today, he would not let him play football.

"And my whole life was football," Ditka said. "I think the risk is worse, worse than the reward. I really do."

Carpenter said every screening of "Requiem for a Running Back" has included a discussion, usually with a neurologist and a former NFL player, because people always have questions. They're also very emotional, she said.

She spent two years filming because she really wanted to understand what was going on with CTE; her dad's diagnosis rocked her world and her identity.

"I'm really a football brat through and through," Carpenter said.

Lew Carpenter played for Vince Lombardi and spent much of his coaching career with the Packers. He coached in the NFL from 1971 to 1994.

"I've had so much of my life defined by football. Even with all I know, there are parts of me resistant to [believing CTE caused by football] is true, but it is true," she said. Carpenter said she understands people struggling with accepting the truth, because she was one of them.

"What's being reported is just the tip of the iceberg," Carpenter said. She thinks there is no safer way to play football right now, that changing the rules will only reduce the hits, not stop them.

"I hate this nanny state, that irritates the crap out of me. But I don't think kids should be playing tackle football," she said. "I'm a flag [football only] under 14, period."

Carpenter has a ninth-grade daughter who plays basketball and got a concussion. She said even she had a moment of asking if it was really a concussion and if it was serious.

"I get it. That's all I can say," she said. Her daughter made the playoffs. After the film screening, Carpenter will fly back home to California to catch her daughter's game.

Local high school team being studied

Jason Luck is a research scientist in Duke's biomedical engineering department. He also played football in high school and spent 12 years as a high school football coach. He and biomedical engineering professor Dale Bass are leading a concussion-related study looking at understanding areas of head impact exposure. They're using an ear-sensor device players wear to provide information about how their head moves in practices and games.

This fall will start the fourth year of the study. Luck declined to name the school because the study is ongoing.

They're studying players before, during and after football season and don't know when they'll publish findings yet. Luck said they haven't approached Duke's football team because their study is focused on younger players.

Luck played high school football in the mid-1990s in northern Virginia and Virginia Beach. He keeps his senior year football helmet on a shelf in his office. Luck coached high school football for a year in northern Virginia, then was assistant football coach at Jordan High School in Durham from 1999 to 2009. He said that in the '90s as a player and coach, there was a lot more contact in football practices.

Luck said awareness around CTE and concussions has grown since his playing and early coaching years.

"It's much more clear to everyone of being able to see that 'OK, it looks like something may have happened here, let's pull them out of the game,'" he said.

Luck has daughters who aren't interested in football, but he would let his kids play the sport.

"At least this is me as a parent doing as much as possible to educate myself," he said.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563, @dawnbvaughan

 
February 14, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2018 Boston Herald Inc.
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The Boston Herald

 

Silicon Valley fitness tracking company Fitbit Inc. will acquire a Cambridge-based health coaching software company as it looks to build out a new service for employers and insurers, the two companies announced yesterday.

"When combined with our decade-plus of experience empowering millions of consumers to take control of their health and wellness, we believe we can help build stronger connections between people and their care teams by removing some of the most difficult barriers to behavior change," Fitbit CEO and co-founder James Park said.

"Together, we can help health care providers better support patients beyond the walls of the clinical environment, which can lead to better health outcomes and ultimately, lower medical costs."

Fitbit said it has reached an agreement with Twine Health, a company that sells HIPPA-compliant health care coaching software that helps patients quit smoking, lose weight and better manage conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The software relies on users tracking a range of health information, including weight, blood pressure, eating habits and physical 
activity.

"We built Twine Health with the goal of putting people back at the center of their care, helping them take ownership of their health actions and outcomes with the continuous support of both clinicians and loved ones," said John Moore, chief executive of Twine Health. "That potential becomes even more compelling when combined with Fitbit, whose brand and ability 
to engage and motivate a 
diverse range of con-
sumers is incredibly powerful."

Fitbit will use the acquisition to launch a new product for employers and insurers who want to offer health coaching to their ­users.

Moore will become Fitbit's medical director, and most Twine Health 
employees will become part of the company's health 
solutions division. The terms of the deal, which is expected to close in the first quarter of this year, were not 
disclosed. Twine Health has raised just over 
$8 million in venture funding.

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Copyright 2018 Madison Newspapers, Inc.
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The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin)

 

Last Thursday, Walmart turned down Michael Johnson's self-described "long shot" idea to donate the recently closed Sam's Club on Madison's west side so it could become a regional sports complex.

He's disappointed, but Johnson hasn't given up on the project yet.

Johnson, president and CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, received a letter from Walmart's executive vice president of real estate that said Walmart did not plan to donate the building, but would consider an offer from the Boys and Girls Club.

"The immediate goal for this location is to secure a market transaction which fits with the intended future use of this building," the letter said. "We have determined that your current proposal is inconsistent with the defined parameters for the sale of this property."

Johnson lobbied hard for the idea after it was announced that the Sam's Club at 7050 Watts Road was one of its 63 stores that would be closing nationwide. Sam's Club is a division of Walmart Stores.

In January, Johnson sent a letter to Walmart headquarters asking the company to donate the building to the Boys and Girls Club instead, with the goal of turning it into a sports and job training complex. He also asked the company to provide a lead investment and a Walmart space planner to help redesign the site.

The plan had gained support from several local leaders. In January, Dane County Supervisor Carousel Bayrd, District 8, and Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, said they backed the plan. Last week, staff from Gov. Scott Walker's office contacted Walmart to discuss the idea.

Johnson said he is disappointed that Walmart won't donate the property, but he's not abandoning the idea. By saying they would accept an offer, they left "wiggle room" to negotiate on a price for the site, he said, which would hopefully mean a lower price for the cause. In 2017, the property was assessed at $6.7 million.

"They could have just said, ?Thanks, but no thanks,'" he said. "I wouldn't say it was a done deal yet."

Johnson responded to the letter by asking for a face-to-face meeting with Walmart's CEO or vice president of real estate.

"I'm disappointed, I'm going to digest it over the next day or so," he said. "I would just say we'll see where it goes."

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Copyright 2018 Star Tribune
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

Minnesota United fans will cheer and boo the black and blue as loudly as they want when their team's new stadium opens in St. Paul next year.

The St. Paul City Council is expected to vote Wednesday to exempt games and other events at Allianz Field from noise limitations. If the ordinance passes, the soccer team will be able to play past 10 p.m. in the event of overtime or rain delays, and most stadium events will not require a sound level variance from the city.

Nearby residents say this will destroy their summertime weekend nights, and complain that Minnesota United is already getting too many concessions, including a tax break from the state.

"I don't see any kind of benefit from this stadium to me personally," said Benita Warns, a longtime resident whose home is less than a mile from the stadium site. "I only see that my quality of life is being degraded because of it."

Before the skeleton of the 19,400-seat stadium at Interstate 94 and Snelling Avenue began to rise, people who live nearby were worried about increased noise, said Julie Reiter, executive director of the Union Park District Council.

Located at one of the city's busiest intersections, the stadium site is already loud. Measurements taken at the site in April 2016 showed daytime traffic noise ranged from 63 decibels to 70.5 decibels. That's higher than what the city noise ordinance currently allows.

The district council is recommending a 65-decibel limit — about as loud as a normal conversation — for stadium noise and also set a trial period for the first five home games of the 2019 season to make sure the limit works.

Reiter outlined the district council's recommendation in a Jan. 31 letter to Council Member Dai Thao, whose ward includes the stadium, and Council Member Russ Stark, whose ward is adjacent.

The council held a public hearing on the ordinance Jan. 17. A vote would typically be held the following week, but the council has put off its decision as more people have come forward in opposition.

Minnesota United did not get a noise waiver from the city of Blaine, its former home, according to public services manager Bob Therres. But that stadium, the National Sports Center, does get occasional exemptions for events, he said.

In Minneapolis, the city code includes noise limitation exemptions for "official athletic activities at outdoor stadiums owned or operated by the University of Minnesota or the Minnesota Ballpark Authority."

St. Paul's proposed ordinance does not provide a blanket exemption for all stadium events. Musical performances and fireworks displays, as well as any events that are not city-sponsored or are not related to home games or league events, will have to stay within noise limits or apply for a variance.

If the council approves the ordinance Wednesday, Reiter said, neighbors will "take a wait-and-see approach."

"I know that residents will be listening as the season starts and the games are played," she said.

Emma Nelson · 612-673-4509

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Copyright 2018 Boston Herald Inc.
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The Boston Herald

 

An independent investigation into allegations that Andover High School hockey coaches withheld food and water from players as punishment for losing a game determined the accusations were "not sustained," the school's principal said yesterday in a letter to community members.

But the shocking allegations, which led to varsity head coach Chris Kuchar and two other staffers being placed on leave last month, are still being investigated by the state's Department of Children and Families, Andover High School Principal Philip Conrad said.

"Andover Public Schools has concluded its independent investigation of the allegations filed with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families against our ice hockey coaching staff. Our investigation found that the allegations were 'Not Sustained,' " Conrad wrote in a statement.

And though Conrad said he hopes to "reinstate the ice hockey coaches as soon as we can," he said school officials first have to confirm that DCF has reached the same conclusion.

"However, at this point we have not received any communication of determination from the agency. As soon as we do I will be able to make a determination about returning the coaches to their full coaching duties," Conrad wrote. "Unfortunately it does not appear that DCF is going to complete their investigation in accordance with the timeline originally provided​ to any of us by the agency."

Conrad added, "This continues to be a difficult time for all of us and I am sure that it has been difficult for you and your family. I hope this can be resolved quickly."

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Copyright 2018 Southeastern Newspapers Corporation
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The Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)

 

ATHENS, Ga. - The University of Georgia's indoor athletic facility will be named in honor of former football player Billy Payne and his father, the late Porter Payne.

The official name of the facility will be the William Porter Payne and Porter Otis Payne Indoor Athletic Facility. The naming opportunity is the result of gifts totaling $10 million secured from friends of Billy and Porter Payne. The University System Board of Regents approved the naming of the facility Tuesday.

"Billy Payne and his late father Porter hold a very special place in the storied history and tradition of the University of Georgia," university President Jere W. Morehead said. "It is a great honor to have their names forever tied to one of the most prominent athletic programs in the country."

Former CEO of the Atlanta Olympic Games and chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, Payne graduated from Georgia in 1969 with a degree in political science, and he earned his law degree from Georgia Law in 1973. Both he and his father lettered in football at the school, Billy from 1966-68 and Porter from 1946-49.

"It is a great day for the University of Georgia to honor Billy Payne and his father, Porter," said UGA J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Greg McGarity. "We are exceptionally proud to have the Payne family name honored by placement on one of our most significant athletic facilities."

Payne, who earned All-SEC honors in 1968 after switching to defensive end, launched a successful bid to bring the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games to Atlanta and was named president and CEO of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games in 1991. He continued in his leadership role, and became the first person in modern history to land an Olympic bid and then to remain president and CEO during the games.

A founding member and chairman of Centennial Holding Company, a privately held real estate investment company in Atlanta, Payne became chairman of Augusta National and the Masters in 2006. He retired from that position last year after overseeing numerous changes, including the addition of female members and efforts to grow the game through the creation of new amateur tournaments and junior golf initiatives.

Porter Payne was an All-SEC offensive lineman in the late 1940s and was elected as the team captain of the 1949 team. While at Georgia, the Bulldogs won two SEC championships (1946 and '48) and played in three bowl games - 1947 Sugar Bowl, 1948 Gator Bowl, and 1949 Orange Bowl. Payne was also an All-City, All-State, and team captain as a fullback at Boys High in Atlanta.

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

 

Yes, a ton of Old Dominion fans were hacked off when the Monarchs' recent home basketball game with Middle Tennessee State wasn't broadcast on traditional TV. And I still believe, as I wrote a day later, that Conference USA officials made a mistake in not featuring one of the best games of the season on cable or over-the-air television.

But I was surprised to learn that the game was watched by more than 395,000 viewers while being streamed on Facebook Live by the Stadium TV network. Nearly 25,000 more have watched the replay.

ODU athletic director Wood Selig noted that the game drew more viewers than watched the C-USA football championship game between Florida Atlantic and North Texas. Granted, that game, played at noon on a Saturday during Christmas shopping season, had a particularly low rating, at just 255,000 households on ESPN2. It was ninth among the championship games televised that day.

The American Athletic Conference (3.4 million on ABC) and Mid-American Conference (652,000 on ESPN) drew far larger numbers for their championship games.

So 395,000 is a pretty good number for a Thursday night basketball game. That's about a third of what a typical ACC game will draw on ESPN or broadcast networks. And it appears that it's not unusually high for Facebook broadcasts, either. Richmond's home game with VCU last month drew 577,000 Facebook viewers.

I watched a replay of the Facebook broadcast and was impressed not only with the technical quality and the work of the crew calling the game, but also that it was interactive.

Comments from people watching were continuously streamed, and there were no advertisements, thus providing plenty of air time to fill during timeouts. There were also Instagram posts from fans and interviews with ODU officials.

In the long run, says Selig, "I think Facebook will deliver considerably more viewers for our programming than over the air can and will. It will be a different fan, more casual and social. I think it's a good move for our league to be with Facebook now and into the future."

I agree. For a league with limited TV options, this is a creative way to carve out a niche audience. But C-USA should also televise the league's best games on cable or over the air for traditional fans. It's smart to reach out to a new audience, but not at the expense of the old.

VCU's NCAA streak in danger

VCU has gone to the NCAA tournament seven straight seasons - tied with North Carolina and Cincinnati with the nation's seventh longest such streak. But the run is in considerable peril. VCU is 15-10 and has stumbled twice against Atlantic 10 and city rival Richmond.

Although the Rams have played a difficult nonconference schedule, with losses to Virginia, Marquette and Seton Hall, they're not getting much love in the NCAA RPI. VCU is No. 119 and will have to win the A-10 championship to go to the NCAA tournament again.

A down year is understandable for a team that lost eight players from last season.

"We got a lot of new faces. We've got a lot of new, young guys," Mike Rhoades, who is VCU's third coach in the last four seasons, recently told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "It's a long season. You have some tough moments."

The A-10 also could have a bleak NCAA tournament hopes. After sending at least three teams each of the last 10 seasons, the league might have just one bid this season. Rhode Island (No. 5 in the RPI) will make it, and if URI wins the A-10 tournament, only No. 44 St. Bonaventure appears to have even a shot at an at-large bid.

Tony Bennett deserves a raise

I generally don't advocate for coaches already making millions of dollars to make even more. There's already too much money in college sports.

Louisville's Rick Pitino made $7.76 million last season, an absolutely crazy salary for a guy under whose watch the Cards got embroiled in so many scandals that he was fired.

But clearly, U.Va.'s Tony Bennett is underpaid compared to his peers. Bennett will make $2.43 million this season (not including bonuses), less than many other ACC coaches, including Virginia Tech's Buzz Williams, who makes $2.6 million.

I'm not picking on Buzz. He's done phenomenally well rebuilding the Hokies, and Tech did much to enhance its NCAA tournament resume by upsetting U.Va. 61-60 in OT on Saturday. But what Bennett has done at U.Va. is remarkable. As Williams said Saturday night, Bennett will be in the Basketball Hall of Fame before his coaching career is over.

He's taken the Cavs to the NCAA tournament five of the last six years, including the Elite Eight in 2016 and Sweet Sixteen in 2014. The Cavs are 23-2, ranked No. 1 nationally and have all but sewn up the ACC regular-season title.

And he's done it without a hint of scandal by recruiting blue-collar players who come to U.Va. having already accepted Bennett's five pillars: humility, passion, unity, servanthood and thankfulness. The biblically-based pillars, which he adopted from his dad, who coached him at Wisconsin-Green Bay, are on the wall of U.Va.'s locker room.

Bennett's contract has already been renegotiated twice, most recently May 2015, according to the Roanoke Times. If I were U.Va. athletic director Carla Williams, I'd be thinking about renegotiating again.

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

 

Notre Dame's president ripped the NCAA's decision to deny the school's appeal to restore 21 vacated football victories from an academic misconduct violation, saying the association "perverted" the notion that universities determine how they police academics.

The NCAA denied Notre Dame's appeal Tuesday, wiping off the books all 12 wins from the Fighting Irish's 2012 national championship game run under coach Brian Kelly.

In a letter to Notre Dame alumni , University President Fr. John Jenkins says the penalty was unprecedented considering who was involved in the misconduct, and the school was being punished for rigorously enforcing its honor code. He called the ruling unfair, referencing the recent North Carolina case in which the NCAA did not punish the school after an investigation of athletes taking irregular courses.

The appeals committee was not swayed and upheld the penalty passed down in November 2016 by the committee on infractions.

Notre Dame agreed to accept certain NCAA findings and acknowledged cheating involving several football players and a student athletic trainer, but appealed only the penalty that vacated victories.

The NCAA also fined the school $5,000 and placed it on one years' probation after finding academic misconduct orchestrated by the trainer.

The NCAA said the trainer was employed by the athletic department from the fall of 2009 through the spring of 2013 and "partially or wholly completed numerous academic assignments for football student-athletes in numerous courses" from 2011 into 2013.

It said she did substantial coursework for two players and gave impermissible help to six others in 18 courses over two academic years.

In all, the NCAA said, three athletes ended up playing while ineligible, one during the 2012 season, which ended with a lopsided loss to Alabama in the BCS championship game, and the other two the following season, when the Irish went 9-4.

In his letter, Jenkins said the players were retroactively declared ineligible after Notre Dame investigated the misconduct in 2014 and recalculated the students' grades.

Jenkins said had Notre Dame merely expelled the students instead of recalculating grades, had a statute of limitations for past offenses or chose not to punish the students, an NCAA penalty would not have been imposed.

"The NCAA has not chosen to ignore academic autonomy; it has instead perverted it by divorcing it from its logical and necessary connection to the underlying educational purpose," Jenkins wrote.

The vacation of victories was a discretionary penalty. Notre Dame objected to the penalty, noting all previous NCAA academic misconduct cases that resulted in victories being vacated involved an administrator, coach, or person who served in an academic role.

"This is more disturbing given that, in 2016, the member institutions of the NCAA amended the academic misconduct rules to make clear that students who serve in roles identical to the student in our case would not be considered institutional representatives," Jenkins wrote.

The appeals committee said in its report that the committee on infractions did not abuse its discretion when it determined the student trainer was an institutional employee.

"When reviewing infractions cases, the Committee on Infractions uses the bylaws and interpretations contemporaneous to the conduct being reviewed," the appeals committee wrote. "Therefore, under the bylaws in place at the time of the violations, a student trainer would be considered an institutional employee."

In its report, The appeals committee confirmed that at the time of the violations, the athletic training student was considered a university employee under NCAA rules.

Jenkins didn't name the North Carolina case but referred to a "recent high profile academic misconduct case in which the NCAA Committee on Infractions chair explained that even though certain classes 'more likely than not' were used to keep athletes eligible with fraudulent credits, the legitimacy of those classes was beyond the jurisdiction of the NCAA's enforcement process precisely because that question must be left to the determination of the university in the exercise of its academic autonomy.

"The notion that a university's exercise of academic autonomy can under NCAA rules lead to exoneration - or to a severe penalty - without regard to the way it which it is used defies logic and any notion of fundamental fairness," Jenkins said.

For more AP college football coverage: http://collegefootball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

SEATTLE - The group looking to bring professional hockey to Seattle has taken the next step in the pursuit of an NHL franchise.

The Oak View Group and its prospective NHL ownership group, led by billionaire David Bonderman and filmmaker Jerry Bruckheimer, submitted its expansion application with the National Hockey League on Tuesday.

"We are excited for the next steps in the process and our continued partnership with the City of Seattle," Oak View CEO Tim Leiweke said in a statement.

The expansion application has been expected for weeks and is the next step in Seattle's ongoing hope of bringing an NHL franchise to the largest market in the United States without a professional winter sports franchise. The filing also included a $10 million deposit. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan also tweeted her excitement about Oak View's filing with the NHL.

If Seattle is successful in its expansion bid, the new franchise would bring the league to an even 32 teams with 16 in each conference. A new team would also yield a hefty expansion fee - in the neighborhood of $650 million.

The expansion application is a procedural step that was necessary to validate Oak View's intent on making Seattle the next NHL market. Seattle's application will be reviewed and ultimately the league's executive committee will make a recommendation to the full NHL Board of Governors, though the timeline for that is unknown.

The expansion franchise process is running concurrent with a $660 million remodel of KeyArena being privately financed by OVG. The group has an aggressive timeline for construction that could have the renovated building open in time for the 2020-21 NHL season.

The first test in how willing Seattle is to embrace the NHL will arrive in the coming weeks and months when the prospective ownership group begins a season-ticket drive, the same way the league tested Las Vegas. Any NHL team in Seattle would find a completely different landscape than a decade ago when the Sonics and NBA moved to Oklahoma City and the city lost its winter sports outlet.

Seattle's skyline is filled with as many construction cranes as snowcapped peaks in the surrounding mountains. Amazon has taken over an entire section of the city, joined nearby by satellite offices of Google and Facebook. The amount of wealth now in the Seattle market is part of the reason Oak View CEO Tim Leiweke has regularly called Seattle "a brilliant marketplace" and one of the most enticing expansion opportunities in pro sports history.

While the ownership group for the potential NHL franchise appears set, there remains some concern about having the new arena ready by the 2020 season. OVG and the city reached agreement on a memorandum of understanding for the arena in December. Councilmembers praised the agreement for including benefits for the city, including $40 million to help improve transportation in the area around Seattle Center.

Under the MOU, Oak View Group would be responsible for regular facility upgrades for the life of the 39-year lease agreement. Should those upgrade requirements be met, there are two eight-year lease extensions that will be activated, and carry the entire life of the lease agreement to 55 years.

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

Voters sided with school officials trying to keep up with growth in North Spokane and gave the Mead School District another $114 million for a new middle school, elementary school and football stadium.

About 67 percent of Mead voters supported the bond which needed more than 60 percent of voters' approval to pass.

By building a new stadium, Mead and Mt. Spokane high schools will no longer have to rely on scheduling games at the aging Joe Albi Stadium.

"That was the really important one there with the growth we are having," Superintendent Tom Rockefeller said of the bond. "We are getting to be that size of a community that we need to invest in ourselves so we are not reliant on other places."

The bond will pay for a new middle school on Five Mile Prairie and an elementary school at a site still under negotiation. Rockefeller previously said that new school will be built somewhere along the U.S. Highway 395 corridor.

"I heard that from the community quite a bit that we needed space for our kids," he said. "I think that's a heckuva step forward."

It's only the second bond that voters approved for the Mead School District since 1998. The bond will add about 65 classrooms, which should be enough to house about 1,300 students, Rockefeller said.

Rockefeller said school officials pursued the bond after the district added 458 students this year and projected another 400 next year.

"By 2025, we are supposed to grow by about 3,000 more kids" to add to the 10,500 students already in the district, he said in an earlier interview.

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Copyright 2018 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA — The glittering new venues not far from the South Korean coast were clearly the place to be on Monday.

Thousands of bundled-up people scurried through the Olympic Park despite frigid temperatures, heading off in various directions to cheer on figure skaters, curlers and speedskaters. On their way to the events, they could grab a burger at a McDonald's designed like a geodesic dome, or pop into an exhibit on Tokyo's preparations for the 2020 Summer Games, or spend thousands of won at a superstore.

In the heat of the moment, it all seems to make sense, this enormous cornucopia of sports.

"The venues are really stunning," said Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee. "This can really be the place where you will feel the heartbeat of the Olympic Games."

Then, in a couple of weeks, the heartbeat will stop. The bill will come due. And yet another city and country will be left to deal with the financial carnage that is pretty much guaranteed when you agree to take on the Olympics.

So much for all those lofty promises from the IOC to make their every-other-year party a bit lighter on the wallet. They keep adding events — mixed team curling, anyone? — while not doing much of anything to rein in the enormous costs.

In Pyeongchang, organizers spent more than $100 million for a temporary, 35,000-seat stadium that will be used a grand total of four times — for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Winter Games and the Winter Paralympics. That's it.

Never mind the nearby ski jumping stadium, which would've worked just fine for the ceremonies. Or that right down the road in Gangneung, where ice events are being held, there's a 22,000-seat soccer stadium in the midst of the Olympic Park. For some reason, it's not even being used during these games. But the host country did construct four — four! — indoor arenas in Gangneung, a city of just over 200,000 in one of the nation's poorest regions.

At least the 10,000-seat hockey arena will be dismantled and moved to another city after the games. But this beachside community will still be saddled with the 12,000-seat venue that's being used for figure skating and short track. Not to mention a speedskating oval, which figures to be a drain on the region in its post-Olympic era. And don't forget a smaller arena for women's hockey, which will he handed over to a local university.

As with Sochi four years ago, this is really nothing more than an economic development project masquerading as a sporting event, a far-fetched attempt to transform a backwater into a snow-and-ice paradise. As usual with this sort of thing — this will sound familiar to those in stadium-crazed America — Pyeongchang has been promoted with all sorts of ludicrous promises, from an influx of tourists to a bunch of new investment to a boost in international stature.

We saw how it worked out in Sochi for the Russians, where the $51 billion price tag hardly resulted in a Switzerland on the Black Sea. A Kontinental Hockey League team claimed one of the new arenas but averaged less than 6,000 fans per game last season. The stadium used for the opening and closing ceremonies will host six games in this summer's World Cup, but only after expensive renovations that included removing the roof.

Rio de Janeiro was another financial calamity. The host of the 2016 Summer Games threw up a bunch of unnecessary venues, from a sparkling new velodrome — which replaced a cycling facility constructed only nine years earlier for the Pan American Games — to a golf course in a country where virtually no one hits the links.

To the surprise of no one, those venues fell into disuse and disrepair almost as soon as the flame was extinguished.

None of this seems the least bit in line with Agenda 2020, the much-heralded push by Bach to make the games more affordable and attract a larger pool of potential host cities.

Tokyo, which will hold the first games that fall under this new initiative, has agreed to cost-cutting measures that largely involve moving some events to existing facilities outside the city. But the IOC also cleared the addition of six new sports (baseball, softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing), which is totally at odds with the concept of a more affordable games.

When only two cities put in a bid for 2024, the IOC went ahead and awarded them both a Summer Games — Paris in '24, Los Angeles in '28. When a bunch of European cities dropped out of the running for the 2022 Winter Games, Beijing wound up as the choice essentially by default, which means it will host the Summer and Winter Games just 14 years apart. No one is showing much interest in the 2026 Winter Games, which are supposed to be awarded next year.

If this keeps up, the IOC could very well find itself with an Olympics that no one wants.

At this rate, that's just what it deserves.

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Copyright 2018 Chattanooga Publishing Company
All Rights Reserved

Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

The NCAA's Division I Transfer Working Group met this week in Indianapolis and will spend the next few months seeking feedback on specific exceptions to the rule requiring all student-athletes to sit out a year after transferring.

According to the NCAA website, the exceptions under consideration include allowing student-athletes who meet specific, high-achieving academic benchmarks to play immediately after the first time they transfer during their college experience.

Also under consideration is allowing a prospective student-athlete who has signed a national letter of intent to transfer and play immediately if the head coach leaves the school of the student's choice.

The NCAA working group, according to its website, is "not considering -- and never entertained -- a model that would allow all student-athletes to transfer and compete immediately." Member schools noted that such a change would not lead to more athletes achieving academic success and graduating.

Additionally, the working group is not considering preserving the existing rule of requiring all athletes to sit out a year without exception.

"Membership input is vital in this process as we try to develop the best recommendation possible," working group chair Justin Sell, the South Dakota State athletic director, said on the NCAA website. "We will refine the concepts based on the feedback we receive, and we will ultimately make our decisions based on our values and goals as an organization and the guideposts set for us last year by the Division I Board of Directors."

The NCAA working group is aiming for a Division I Council vote on its final proposal in June, so it could be considered as a package with the notification-of-transfer legislation already in the Division I legislative cycle.

Georgia facility named

Georgia's indoor football facility is being named in honor of former Bulldogs player Billy Payne and his father, the late Porter Payne.

The official name will be the William Porter Payne and Porter Otis Payne Indoor Athletic Facility. The naming opportunity is the result of gifts totaling $10 million secured from friends of Billy and Porter Payne.

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

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Copyright 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

 

They're thankful every day, they say, for the athletic and academic opportunities their Phoenix-area community colleges presented them.

Now, as University of New Mexico football players, Aaron Blackwell and Evah Tohi want other young student-athletes to have those same opportunities.

Suddenly, that's a problem. Maricopa County's four community-college football programs — Mesa, Glendale, Scottsdale and Phoenix — are scheduled to be shut down after the 2018 season. "It's awful," said Blackwell, a junior defensive lineman who came to UNM after a year at Mesa CC. "... There's so many guys who didn't have (other) opportunities.

"Guys from broken homes, from the projects who would never have a chance at college are losing it now, and it's heartbreaking." The Maricopa County Community College District made the announcement on Feb. 5, citing financial constraints. Football, it was said, comprises 20 percent of the district's athletic budget and 50 percent of its insurance costs for athletics. There would be additional costs in facilities upkeep, etc.

Another factor: In 2008, the state of Arizona eliminated funding to the state's community colleges.

The decision, if not reversed, would leave just three Arizona community colleges — Arizona Western in Yuma, Eastern Arizona in Thatcher, Pima in Tucson — playing football. The Western States Football League, which also includes Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, would be decimated.

A movement is afoot to keep the programs alive with private funding, and multiple petitions are being circulated.

If Tohi can help somehow, he said, he certainly will.

"That juco life impacted my life in many ways," said Tohi, an senior inside linebacker who came to UNM after two years at Glendale CC. "It was an avenue for me to get where I'm at right now.

"Now that they're taking it away... they're taking away opportunities."

The two Lobos' stories are different, but both say they wouldn't be at UNM now if it weren't for their junior-college experiences.

Tohi weighed just 215 pounds as a senior at North Canyon High School in Phoenix. At Glendale, he excelled on the field and put on 20 pounds of muscle.

"To be honest, I don't know where I'd be (without Glendale)," he said. "The whole Glendale staff, the whole athletic department, they helped build me up to become the player I am today."

Blackwell signed with Weber State in Ogden, Utah, after his career at Liberty High School in Peoria, Ariz. But things didn't work out there, and he played the 2016 season at Mesa CC before coming to UNM.

"Without Mesa, that's a good question (where he'd be). I couldn't tell you," he said.

"My D-line coach at Mesa (Ben McIvor), who reached out to me, who passed away this summer, was a great man, and without him I would not be here."

Tohi and Blackwell aren't the only Phoenix-area juco products who have come to UNM. Former Lobos quarterback Austin Apodaca and current wide receiver Aaron Molina played at Mesa.

Molina had signed witb UNM out of Valley High School in 2014 but did not qualify academically. Mesa proved to be the bridge he crossed to get home.

Lobos coach Bob Davie lived in Scottsdale for a decade before coming to UNM in 2012. Like Blackwell and Tohi, he hopes the Maricopa County programs can be saved.

"College programs across the country and how it affects them is not as big an issue, obviously, as how it affects all those kids in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Chandler," he said. "That area has become such a rich football place.

"There's a lot of opportunities right there for players that will be all of a sudden be off the table."

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Copyright 2018 Boston Herald Inc.
All Rights Reserved

The Boston Herald

 

A Marblehead youth hockey coach is due in Lynn District Court tomorrow for a dangerousness hearing after he was charged with raping a 9-year-old boy, prosecutors said.

Christopher M. Prew, 31, was indicted yesterday by a grand jury on charges of aggravated rape of a child and four counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14, according to the Essex County District Attorney's Office.

The indictments allege Prew indecently assaulted and raped the boy on various dates between Sept. 1 and Jan. 31, prosecutors said.

Marblehead police began an investigation after the boy's mother notified police of her son's disclosure. Police arrested Prew on Thursday, and he was arraigned the next day in Lynn District Court, where Judge Randy Chapman ordered him held without bail pending tomorrow's dangerousness hearing.

Prew, owner of Hot Shot Academy in Winthrop, provides private and group hockey coaching sessions in the area, but is not affiliated with the Marblehead Youth Hockey Association, prosecutors said.

His attorney, Sean Donahue, noted his client pleaded not guilty in district court, and said in a statement: "My client, Christopher Prew, is accused of very serious crimes. Understandably, he and his family are devastated by these alarming accusations.... We expect that Mr. Prew will eventually be vindicated!"

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Copyright 2018 The Commercial Appeal, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

OXFORD — Less than a week ago, after his team just suffered a loss to Missouri, its sixth in a span of seven games and fourth straight, Andy Kennedy sat in the media room at The Pavilion and singled out Ole Miss' team awareness as a reason why.

"Unaware people are unsuccessful people," Kennedy said. "Whether it be basketball or what have you."

Kennedy has no doubt had a successful tenure at Ole Miss. He's the all-time winningest coach in program history. He ranks 18th in SEC history with 245 wins. The Rebels won the 2013 SEC Tournament under Kennedy and appeared in two NCAA Tournaments during his watch (2013 and '15).

But Kennedy was well aware of what the situation was at Ole Miss. After he and the university failed to come to an agreement on a contract extension last spring, it increased the pressure for Kennedy and the Rebels to perform.

So the day after Ole Miss dropped its fifth consecutive game, to LSU on Saturday, its seventh loss in the past eight, and fell three games below .500, Kennedy woke up with a conviction.

"There needed to be some clarity as to the future of Ole Miss basketball," Kennedy said Monday, as he announced he was stepping down as the Rebels' coach at the end of the season. "I also know that it's time for a new voice and a new vision for this program moving forward." Kennedy called Ross Bjork on Sunday and told the Rebels' athletic director he was ready to step down. The school will honor the remainder of Kennedy's contract, Bjork said, which has two years remaining at a little more than $2 million each season.

"I'm at complete peace with this decision," Kennedy said. "I truly am."

And with that comes some finality to Kennedy's 12-season tenure at Ole Miss. Kennedy held himself accountable for a season that's gone in the wrong direction. There was excitement before the season about a solid group of guards and depth the team lacked last season.

Instead, the team has been plagued by inconsistency and sits just one game ahead of last-place Vanderbilt in the SEC. "I didn't foresee some of the things that have transpired," Kennedy said. "Again, I'm accountable for that. It's my responsibility. I haven't been able to reach this team like I would have hoped. I try not to be frustrated... but we're constantly trying to figure out how can we get this group to play."

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Copyright 2018 Newsday, Inc.

Newsday (New York)

 

The New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association approved a 10-run mercy rule for baseball that will start this spring. Suffolk County will adopt the new rule while Nassau County has yet to make a decision.

"A game will end with a run differential of 10 or more after five innings of play unless the home team is ahead by that differential after four and a half innings," said Tom Combs, the executive director of Section XI, which governs Suffolk County athletics. "It's a two-year pilot program and coordinators were asked to gather data as to how many games were shortened and by how many innings due to the rule."

State high school games are normally seven innings long. The mercy rule was approved by the state federation for regional and state competition for this year.

"It was up to the individual sections in the state to go with this rule or not," said Sayville athletic director Dennis Maloney, the assistant chairman for Suffolk baseball. "And our committee voted that it was in the best interests of Suffolk baseball to approve the rule for the next two years and see how it affects our games."

According to Patrick Pizzarelli, the executive director for Section VIII, the governing body of Nassau athletics, the rule has not yet been decided upon.

"Our committee is scheduled to meet soon to make a decision," Pizzarelli said. "There are feelings on both sides of the coin, so I don't know which way it will go."

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Copyright 2018 Press Enterprise, Inc.
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The Press Enterprise (Riverside, CA)

 

Pony United Youth Baseball League's players hadn't even started their season when they suffered a terrible loss: Someone broke into their storage bin at John F. Kennedy Park in Pomona and stole five bags of catcher's equipment, gloves, bats and helmets.

The players, ages 4-13, who recently had been fitted for their jerseys and had wrapped up their skills clinics, now will have to practice without the gear. Leaf blowers and tools used to maintain the fields also were taken.

League president Carlos Goytia pegged the value of the loss at $3,000.

"This is truly devastating! Who does this?" Goytia wrote in a Facebook post. "The only victims here (are) the children who are looking forward to playing ball this season! We are determined to do whatever is needed in turning this travesty into a triumph for our youth here at Pony United!"

The burglary was reported Saturday afternoon and is believed to have occurred between Thursday and Saturday, Pomona police said in a news release. Detectives are trying to identify those responsible.

The league has created a GoFundMe page under the title Pony United Youth Baseball League to raise money to replace the stolen equipment.

"It is with a humble heart that we ask you for your help and support in our efforts to build on a program that is very much needed in this area of Pomona," Goytia said.

This was going to be a special season in which some games would be played on fields where lights had been installed a month ago.

Police ask anyone who might help identify the thieves or locate the stolen property to call 909-620-2085 or leave tips anonymously at 800-222-8477.

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

The new arena in College Park, which will host the Atlanta Hawks development team, will bring a "whole new tone" to metro Atlanta cities south of I-20, Mayor Jack Longino said at a Monday groundbreaking.

The facility will be known as the Gateway Center at College Park, and is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019. The 5,000-seat arena will cost $42 million. For Hawks development team games, it will seat 3,500 people.

Longino said that the 100,000-square-foot sports arena is the first of its kind south of I-20 in terms of access and capacity. It will host graduations, concerts, high school and college tournaments and other events, in addition to the Hawks' team, which has been described as an anchor tenant.

The Hawks will use the facility for about 10 percent of the year, Longino said. Additionally, it will help draw more business to the Georgia International Convention Center, which it will be adjacent to.

"I think it's going to be huge," Longino said. "It's a whole different type of space for rental."

Some residents opposed the project, citing its price tag and the fact that the city's convention center costs more than it takes in.

They objected to the project, delaying its start by about two weeks.

Longino said the Gateway Center will be paid for largely with rental car taxes and other money from tourists, in addition to $9 million from the general fund. He said most facilities like this don't make money, but serve to bring a certain prestige to an area. The Gateway Arena, he said, isn't an economic development engine, but will bring to the south side of Fulton County entertainment options that are already in Atlanta and north Fulton.

Longino said the city knows what it's getting into with the project.

"It isn't a Cobb County thing where now we're going to be raising taxes," he said.

Some residents said they are excited about the impact the project will have on the area. Perry Ford Jr., who lives in College Park, said he expects the project to bring more jobs to the city. The project will bring an estimated 600 jobs to College Park.

Kashena Adams, who also lives in College Park, is a community liaison for an alternative high school, and said she's excited for those teens to see the development team close to home.

"I can't wait to come to the games," she said. "It's like we're bringing Atlanta to our kids."

In addition to the arena project, the city is planning a broad development renaissance. Artie Jones III, executive director of Clearly College Park, the city's development authority, said the arena will rise within walking distance of what the city hopes will eventually become a $1 billion, 300-plus-acre mixed use development along Camp Creek Parkway and Herschel Road. The land includes the College Park Golf Course

The land once was owned by the city of Atlanta, but College Park acquired it over the past couple of decades.

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Copyright 2018 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

HOUSTON - The final Summer Creek High School bell chimed, sending more than 2,000 chatty, energetic students into the parking lot and headed for home. But before Principal Brent McDonald could make his way outside to direct traffic, a murmur of voices began to swell inside the school. Even though the main hallway was now empty, the noise grew louder.

It was coming from behind a gate separating the hallway and the athletic wing, where a new group of teenagers had formed. Students from Kingwood High School, backpacks in tow, were there waiting for the physical barrier to lift and their school day to begin.

In a matter of minutes, Summer Creek's 489,677-square foot campus would turn into Kingwood High School. It was the regular routine for this group of almost 5,000 high schoolers and 500 staffers. Every day between 11:25 a.m. and 11:40 a.m., the switch would be made, a stream of students headed out as a couple thousand others came in - one school turning into a welcomed shelter for the other.

"We are the house, and we are housing a school that needs us," McDonald said.

Following Hurricane Harvey's destructive path through Houston in late August, Kingwood, which took on more than six feet of water due to flooding, has been forced to share a building with Summer Creek since the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. Summer Creek students attend classes at their school from 7 a.m. to 11:25 a.m., while Kingwood kids travel 13 miles down West Lake Houston Parkway to take over the campus from 12:11 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Kingwood, which planned to move back into its building March 19, is the last major high school of its size in Harris County and the greater Houston area to remain closed due to damage from Harvey.

On this Friday in early January, the neighborhood rivals turned co-occupants would be competitors once more, as the two schools' basketball teams would face off that evening. Kingwood would play as the "home" team and Summer Creek the away team on their own home floor. Since the start of the school year, Kingwood and Summer Creek had shared gyms, locker room, offices and practice times across 22 teams in all. After Harvey hit, most of Kingwood's athletic equipment was lost. The football field was completely engulfed by the flood, and the gym floor was left floating on top of the water.

For Abbie Brabham, a senior on Kingwood's varsity girls basketball team, sports were a welcome distraction from Harvey's fallout - destroyed homes, friends' families starting over from scratch - and an opportunity to spend more time with her teammates, whom she considers her sisters.

"Sports, it gave kids the sense of purpose," said Trey Kraemer, assistant superintendent of high schools for Humble ISD, the school district in which Kingwood and Summer Creek reside. "Kids were thinking, 'We may not have our field or gym, but we have each other and can compete.'"

Four months earlier, the murky, sewage-filled water crept through the walls of the Brabham family's two-story Kingwood home. It climbed up over the two steps leading to her family's front door, up toward the towering pile of items on top of their ping-pong table, and soon four and a half feet off the ground as Hurricane Harvey ravaged through Houston.

Kayaks, boats, inflatable rafts, canoes and helicopters came through the neighborhood, as rescuers - some professional, some amateur - responded to neighbors who physically waved white flags. Brabham and her family were evacuated by one of her classmates, who drove his 4x4 truck up to the house the first night of the flooding.

Inside Brabham's home, any items that weren't on higher ground were left drifting atop the water. The backyard looked like an extension of the San Jacinto River, with the sliver of a black fence poking above the still-moving water. A white inflatable toy swan floated in the corner of the family's living room, blown up by Brabham the night of the floods in case she needed it to evacuate.

"I was like, 'If I am forced to float out of here, I'll float out in style,'" said Brabham, one of 262 Kingwood students who were unable to live in their homes following the hurricane. "But after the storm, the swan was a sign of hope that we had our stuff and we could eventually get back."

Displaced, Brabham and her family stayed with friends and relatives until they could move back into the upper floor of their home in November. Their home's rebuilt ground floor was ready in late December.

Brabham's family was relatively fortunate. As of the second week in January, 257 Kingwood students were still displaced from their homes. Of the 40 Summer Creek students who were unable to live in their homes due to Hurricane Harvey, 26 were still not moved back in. Families are currently living with other relatives and friends, or, if approved, are using FEMA's transitional sheltering assistance program or TSA, which allows those who are eligible to stay in a hotel or motel for a certain period with FEMA covering the cost.

Within Harris County, which includes the city of Houston and where an average of 40 inches of rain fell from Hurricane Harvey, more than 23,000 survivor families have utilized TSA, and as of Jan. 11, over 5,000 families remain in TSA housing, according to FEMA. According to the Greater Houston Partnership, initial estimates in October suggested Hurricane Harvey damaged or destroyed more than 97,212 single-family homes in the metropolitan Houston area.

At the time of the hurricane, Brabham's vision of walking through the doors for her senior year at Kingwood was only days away. That day still hasn't come.

"It was very emotional at first," said Brabham, 18. "I had grown up in Kingwood and my sister had went to Kingwood, so honestly, it was pretty bad at the beginning. It is my senior year and my house flooded and it is kind of difficult to move schools."

On Sept. 2, eight days after Hurricane Harvey began battering Houston, Kraemer, the assistant superintendent, gathered with McDonald and Kingwood Principal Ted Landry to break the news: Kingwood and Summer Creek would be sharing a school building.

McDonald, who is in his first year as Summer Creek's principal, knew he didn't really have a choice. His school was the only feasible option to fit that many students, and he would have to make it work.

"I would think if we were flooded, Kingwood would be down here helping us," McDonald said. "Now certainly there is a bridge between the two schools."

Kingwood and Summer Creek are different demographically. Brabham represents the majority of Kingwood, which is almost 74 percent white, with 5.5 percent of its students economically disadvantaged, according to the Texas Education Agency. Summer Creek opened in 2009, is 43.5 percent economically disadvantaged and more than 80 percent of the student population is African-American or Hispanic.

To have two schools share a building is an intricate operation, one that wasn't perfected for weeks after the merger. Summer Creek and Kingwood students rarely interact, with their school days so separated. The crowded parking lot during the student-body switch, or during games, are the only times the students have a chance to cross paths. That has made traffic a bit of a problem, according to several students, but McDonald insists that discipline and academic issues haven't increased during the arrangement. Many Summer Creek students expressed an appreciation for their new schedule, citing the earlier dismissal time.

Quontell Shephard, a senior on the Summer Creek boys basketball team, said he likes how his school was chosen as the "perfect" option to help another out.

"Honestly I hoped it would bring us together," Shephard said. "I liked that we were rivals and from the same district, but I was hoping at the same time it would be a good thing for us, and it turned out to be a good thing."

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Copyright 2018 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. — Carrying their bats and gloves, they leave the weight room and walk the palm tree-lined path past the baseball diamonds to the track.

Weight sleds and tires await the boys of summer for the kind of workouts typically reserved for men who make their living on the gridiron in the fall. At the Coach Tom Shaw Performance camp at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, it's common to see free agent Carlos Gonzalez, the Miami Marlins' Martin Prado, the Atlanta Braves' Ender Inciarte and several other major leaguers working out alongside football players preparing for the NFL combine and doing the same kind of drills.

Players believe these nontraditional winter workouts, a mix of strength- and endurance-training, football cutting drills and some more common baseball moves, make them quicker, more prepared for spring training and better equipped to stay healthy for the 162-game season.

"Quickness, footwork, all the stuff you use in baseball he perfectly adapted to our workouts," said Prado, an infielder who has been working out with Shaw since October as part of his ninth year in the program. "He tried over the years to combine football workouts with less intensity for baseball players.... He mixes it up in a way that you actually feel comfortable working out with football kind of workouts but converting to baseball."

Shaw won three Super Bowls as speed and conditioning coach of the New England Patriots, and his facility is known as a place where Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, potential draftees and other football players come for intense workouts. He had no baseball background prior to nine years ago when Prado and Jordan Schafer were among the first players from that sport to seek out a different kind of offseason training regimen.

Over the better part of the past decade, more players have joined, including Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, Seattle Mariners infielder Dee Gordon and Milwaukee Brewers utility player Hernan Perez. Gonzalez tried the program after injuries limited him to 70 games in 2014, and he has since rounded back into All-Star form with 79 home runs and 254 RBIs.

"What we all do here, we feel ready," Gonzalez said. "We feel ready from the get-go, from the first day of spring training. Obviously your body's going to feel stronger and you're mentally prepared, too.... It's a great way to keep us in great shape during the offseason."

There are 31 players of various levels all the way down to high school taking part in Shaw's baseball program, which prioritizes explosive speed that players can use in the field and running bases.

"Speed changes the game, so all the drills that we do here, they correspond to every sport," said trainer Kelsey Martinez, who runs Shaw's baseball program. "Whether we're doing straight-ahead speed work or side-to-side movements — anything like that — we're trying to gain speed and gain ground in those drills."

One day, that means loading sand bags into tires and first walking and then sprinting down the track. Another day, it's cutting like wide receivers or using the sand pit to provide some extra movement resistance. There's work in batting cages and on the field, but it's not your typical winter wind-up.

"It's all about building athleticism," said Schafer, a natural outfielder who's also now pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals. "If you can build athleticism, usually you can make adjustments quicker. The more athletic you are, the more core stability you have, the more explosiveness. It's not baseball-specific, per se, but all that athleticism translates whether I'm in the outfield and I have to turn to go get a ball or stealing a base."

Baseball players aren't as big or strong as their football counterparts, so the workouts aren't exactly the same. Shaw is careful not to change players' running forms, so sleds and weights are reduced from typical pre-combine drills with the long haul of the season in mind.

"We want to make sure we're working on things they're going to actually do on the field," Shaw said. "A baseball player is going to do things to get stronger and more explosive and they (have) got to last a long time.... We've got to make sure they're ready for that."

Inciarte feels ready. Coming off an All-Star season with the Braves, the 23-year-old thinks previous training techniques contributed to injuries, and he sees the "complete work" done by incorporating football methods as a way to help with injury prevention: "Once you've been doing it on a consistently daily basis, you're going to be ready for anything that happens on the baseball field."

There's an added benefit of having baseball players working alongside football players, and not just the occasional playing around, like when Detroit Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis joined them for fielding drills. Put highly competitive professional athletes together in one complex, and they're bound to try to outdo each other.

"Baseball is always trying to compete with football," Martinez said. "They always want to be better, and they look at the football players as like these extreme athletes. But really the baseball (players) are all-around great athletes, and to see them work together and compete together is really, really cool."

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Copyright 2018 The State Journal- Register
All Rights Reserved

The State Journal- Register (Springfield, IL)

 

JACKSONVILLEFive young men rapid-fire communicated during an intense intercollegiate match recently at Illinois College.

"Careful! Coming to you! Alright Zach, you good?"

"They're getting up for a drive right now!"

"Keep the pressure up top. Come help me up top!"

"They're coming, man! Throw everything at them!"

"Careful, careful, careful!"

"I see it, I see it!"

"Let's go, let's go, let's go! We need to go now!"

And just as quickly as the game had progressed, it was over — the word "DEFEAT" flashed across the screen.

Welcome to Illinois College's first season of esports, the world of competitive gaming where both teams play at home but only one can win. The Jacksonville college is one of more than 50 colleges or universities with varsity esports programs, according to the National Association of Collegiate eSports.

And if you feel the online contests at these schools aren't as hard-fought as traditional sports, think again.

"They both have competitive atmospheres and one may be physical, but you are just as upset if you lose here as you are on the field," said Zach Heren, 19, of Auburn, a sophomore sports management major who also plays on the Illinois College football team. "I get the same amount of thrill that I get from winning in esports as I do on the field."

"We don't do hand gestures or high-fives. We just scream like 'yeah, good job man!' or 'way to go, that was dope!' We just hype each other vocally," said Heren, whose parents support his competitive gaming.

"My parents think me doing something else during the off-football season, keeping myself proactive, is a good way for me to stay active and keep my grades up," Heren said. "Because you have to get good grades in order to play."

'Like chess the entire time'

Black and white high-back gaming chairs line a long white table inside the Meraki Gaming Center in Illinois College's Caine Student Center. The five players sit side by side, each with a screen, keyboard, mouse and headset with microphone. Posters depicting League of Legends, the game the team plays, adorn the black walls. Most of the players wear blue Illinois College shirts while competing, even though their opponents do not see them.

After what seems like a leisurely pregame period of selecting and outfitting on-screen players, the action suddenly begins. Staccato bursts of mouse and keyboard clicks, wildly changing screen images, and one- and two-word strategy communications fill the room. Several players' nervous feet tap so forcefully that their chairs shake.

"When you're in the game it's non-stop thinking. It's like chess the entire time," said 20-year-old James Xu of Los Angeles, a sophomore psychology major. "So you have to constantly be thinking about yourself, what your teammates are doing, what your opponents are going to do, it's a really fast-paced game."

Xu said the League of Legends game that most collegiate teams play is perfect for the competition.

"Your team of five's goal is to destroy the enemy's base, so you have to gather across a really large map and you constantly have to make moves," Xu said. "It's a non-stop process for between 20 and 60 minutes."

"Esports competition has taught me how to be mentally strong because it's just non-stop thinking, and it has taught me how to think on my feet," Xu said.

Keep calm and win

Illinois College lost the three-game match on Feb. 3 to the University of Missouri, a much larger school that they wouldn't get to play in traditional sports.

"It is nice being able to play a Division I school, and in something other than football," said Illinois College football and esports team member Lerendy Warren of Bethalto, a 21-year-old senior. And if you think it's not a real sport, learn how to play the game and then you'll see how stressful it can be."

"Like in football, in esports we watch film, and we look at our opponents' stats and how they like to play," Warren said. "We go in with a game plan, we don't go in blind."

Besides a team strategy, each individual player has a mouse-driven mantra.

"Keeping calm, keeping your head level, not getting aggravated over anything that happens while you're playing or anything your teammates are doing," said Dylan Cawthon of Bluffs, a 25-year-old freshman who wants to go into the gaming business. "We use voice communication software while we are playing, and we talk to each other, let each other know what the players we are playing against are doing, where they're at, things that we think we can do."

Jakob Kording, 19, a sophomore mathematics and economics major from Jacksonville, had not thought about competing in esports until the previous coach talked to him about it at the end of the spring 2017 semester.

"I'm a math major. I do a lot of problem solving, and in the game there are a lot of problems," Kording said. "You always try to think ahead. You always try to figure out if you're in a problem. How do you get out of that? How do you capitalize on mistakes?"

"Winning feels good, kind of the same way you feel when you get a good grade on a test," Kording said. "It's like, I prepared for this, and it went the way I expected. It is just a satisfying feeling."

Illinois College Esports Head Coach Justin Bragg, a former semi-professional and nationally ranked gamer, also likes to win, something that eluded the Illinois College team against Missouri.

"The biggest problem is you waited too long," Bragg said to the team following the game. "We really need to force something, pull the trigger faster."

"There's always more work to be done, more improvement that they can do, but as far as coming together for the first time this year I think they are doing a really good job," Bragg said of his team. "We practice by playing solo two-games, five-on-five scrimmage matches with other schools, and we have game reviews to see what decisions we made that were correct and which ones we can improve on."

"Esports puts us out there as having something different, something that people will want to come to the college to do," Bragg said. "There aren't many esports programs where they are giving out scholarships for students to come play. You might have only 45 to 50 schools that do that right now."

Recruiting tool

Adam Lee, 17, from Hudsonville, Michigan, is being recruited to play on Illinois College's esports team and has been offered a scholarship to do so. He came to campus on Feb. 3 to watch the match in person.

"I originally just started looking around for small liberal arts colleges, and I noticed that they had an esports team," Lee said. "I started looking more into the school itself and found out I liked it, so now I'm here. As of now, I most likely will go to Illinois College."

"I think from a lot of people it is kind of getting the respect it deserves. In the pro scene you might get 50 million people watching the world championship," Lee said. "I think now that it's starting to come down to people are realizing that this is a big thing. It's not just a fad that comes and goes."

Illinois College announced the formation of their esports team one year ago and hired Christian Matlock as coach. Matlock left to move closer to his family and Bragg was then hired in October 2017, according to Stephanie Chipman, the vice president of enrollment management and college marketing. She said the college also is standing behind the new program with significant privately funded esports scholarships ranging from $15,000 to $20,000 per year for all four years.

"Esports teach skills that align with Illinois College's promise that all students graduate ready for personal and professional success," Chipman said. "Our esports student-athletes learn skills like critical thinking, time management, working in diverse teams and resource efficiency, all of which align with IC's mission and the learning outcomes our students can expect."

"Esports is a rapidly growing sport and I expect IC's team to grow as well," Chipman said. "I look forward to seeing new titles added to the IC esports program in the near future."

Competitive gaming is becoming one of the world's fastest-growing recreations, with esports having gone from a fan base of 89 million in 2014 to more than 150 million in 2017 and projected to exceed $1 billion in revenue by 2019, according to Illinois College.

Contact David Blanchette through the metro desk, 788-1401.

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Copyright 2018 Las Vegas Sun
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Las Vegas Sun

 

Six years ago, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman walked me onto the balcony adjacent to her seventh-floor office at City Hall and began describing how a major league sports night would look in downtown.

Her office overlooks Symphony Park, which at the time was pegged by city leaders for the home of a National Basketball Association franchise. Goodman's vision of hordes of passionate fans, crowded eateries before and after the game, and the team helping develop tremendous pride with residents was spot-on.

Well, of course, except for the location.

"It just went that way," she said two weeks ago, pointing south from her office toward the Las Vegas Strip.

That way is T-Mobile Arena in Clark County's jurisdiction, where the Vegas Golden Knights in their maiden season have become Las Vegas' darlings. Our desert city loves its new hockey team, and their unexpected winning ways have made affordable tickets impossible to come by.

When Southern Nevada leaders started flirting with major league sports, a process that began in the late-1990s by Oscar Goodman, Carolyn's husband who spent 12 years in office before she was elected in 2011, I wasn't certain it would work.

My fear was game night would mirror when the Edmonton Oilers came to town last month and T-Mobile had a distinct Canadian feel. I argued we'd be the road team every night. But that hasn't happened.

Hockey is working and our residents are overboard in their support. Some are even ditching previous allegiances to support the Golden Knights.

"Vegas loves winners," Carolyn Goodman says. "That's what we are about."

But could it have worked in downtown?

Knowing that Las Vegans, in fact, can support major league sports, would Goodman have gone about her pursuit of a franchise differently? The city spent millions in an agreement with Cordish Cos. of Baltimore to design the arena and attract a team, but it was a failed relationship.

"There was nothing wrong (with the city's approach), but two things that perhaps we could have done better," Goodman said. "Cordish was not the right corporation to work with. They did nothing to help. They did nothing to market. Knowing how well it was orchestrated by (Golden Knights owner) Billy Foley and his team, that is the way it should have been done."

Goodman also said she wasn't a fan of putting the arena, or a stadium for soccer, at Symphony Park. Rather, the land where Cashman Field is located was better suited because there was more space to build, she said.

But she isn't dwelling on the past. She's thrilled about the Golden Knights and NFL's Raiders signing on to call the area home, even if they are located within county lines. It's still Las Vegas' team. The players have "Vegas" on their uniforms when they take the ice.

Las Vegas becoming a landing spot for professional sports is one of her crowning achievements. If it weren't for Carolyn and Oscar's persistent pursuit of the NBA, there wouldn't be two of the four major sports here. The Goodmans got the ball rolling.

"To have any team in Southern Nevada is an exciting time in an exciting place," she said. "We are all one here."

Related content Mayor: Minor league ballpark could hinder Vegas getting MLB team The Sun's Vegas Golden Knights coverage

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Copyright 2018 The Washington Times
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The Washington Times

 

Maryland is one of four states considering legislation that would ban tackle football in public schools and parks for children and restrict contact in other sports for young athletes.

A bill filed last week in the Maryland General Assembly would eliminate for children younger than 14 tackling in football, body-checking in lacrosse and hockey and "headers" in soccer the technique in which players use their heads to pass or shoot.

Critics say the legislation amounts to "nanny state" overreach, while proponents contend that the government needs to step in to protect children.

The bill, introduced by Delegate Terri L. Hill, a Democrat from the Baltimore suburb of Columbia, would require the rule changes for all youth soccer, lacrosse, hockey and football played on public land or in organizations that use public funds.

"The question becomes: Do you really want us to err on the side of caution, or on the side of favoring a tradition?" Mrs. Hill told The Washington Times, adding that players in bygone eras played with leather helmets or with no headgear at all.

Legislatures in New York, Illinois and California all Democrat-controlled are looking at similar bills this year.

Mrs. Hill argued that youth football organizations are more likely than high schools to rely on volunteers and "well-intentioned people who just don't have the background to always know the best way to train," and that helmets do not protect children from all types of head injuries.

"In some cases, the neck muscles aren't developed well enough in young children that they're almost like bobblehead dolls [within their helmets]," said Mrs. Hill, who was a plastic surgeon before running for office. "So the helmet may protect them from a fracture, but it doesn't protect them from the brain flopping back and forth inside the skull."

The legislation was written in part by former University of Maryland and NFL player Madieu Williams, who finished his nine-year NFL career with a season on the Washington Redskins roster.

Before the legislative session began, Mrs. Hill wanted to write a football safety bill and sought input from Mr. Williams, who is working as an intern in her office.

Mr. Williams did not play tackle football until high school and said he and his wife plan to keep their 4-year-old son from tackling until high school as well.

"One of the first things I always communicate to our constituents is to let them know: This bill is not to tell you not to play football," Mr. Williams said. "What this bill is saying is to delay tackling in football."

The legislation, HB 1210, was introduced to the House Ways and Means Committee for first reading Thursday. If it becomes law, it will take effect June 1, before the next football season.

Some parents, coaches and youth sports officials disagree with Mrs. Hill. More than 3,500 people have signed a Change.org petition to block the legislation.

Mrs. Hill and Mr. Williams emphasize that the proposal is not an "anti-football" bill and children can still learn the game at a young age through flag football, seven-on-seven or two-hand touch.

"I encourage [people] to talk to college recruiters and high school recruiters and talk about how the skills of tackling can be taught at a later age, at a teenage age, and be taught well enough for people to still have an opportunity to get scholarships to play in college and even go on to the pros," Mrs. Hill said.

HB 1210 was the second of two bills Mrs. Hill filed concerning safety in youth sports. The first would require a health care provider or other individual who has completed "concussion risk and management training" to be on the sidelines of every youth practice and game.

Sen. William C. Smith Jr., Montgomery County Democrat, filed a companion bill to Mrs. Hill's concussion care bill in the Maryland Senate, but he told The Washington Times he does not support the tackle ban bill in its current form.

Language in HB 1210 defines a "physical sport" as tackle football, soccer that includes heading, hockey and lacrosse that include checking and "any other sport in which physical activity results in a high risk of head injury." That can be interpreted to mean every sport that kids play, Mr. Smith said.

Mrs. Hill is considering focusing that passage further. She said the bill has a long way to go through the process to garner more support.

"As I hear from people that maybe we've missed something or we don't understand something about a certain sport or I've got something wrong, then I'm definitely open to amending the bill to try to get it right," she said. "There's no point in having bad legislation."

Even good legislation could be unpopular.

Dion Golatt, a Prince George's County resident, served as a youth football coach for 17 years and a commissioner of the Metropolitan Washington American Youth Football League for 10 before recently stepping down. He said the idea is government overreach.

"I think going straight to banning something without having any conversations with the leagues that are in the state, the leaders of those leagues... I haven't seen where that's been done," Mr. Golatt said. "I was commissioner of the league for the last 10 years. I never was contacted by any congressman, state senator or anything to talk about the issues or concerns. To go from zero to 100 so fast definitely doesn't seem like the right way to go about it."

Mr. Golatt, whose son plays quarterback at Morgan State in Baltimore, said his league instituted USA Football's "Heads Up Football" training program that teaches children proper tackling, and their players experienced "very minimal head injuries" after that.

Still, Mr. Golatt noticed a decline in participation in the Metro AYF league while he was its commissioner, with the game's safety a concern to some parents. Similarly, participation in youth football in Anne Arundel County decreased by about 33 percent from 2011 to 2016.

The Metro AYF league, though mostly comprising Maryland clubs, includes a few teams based in Washington that would not be subject to Maryland's law. Mr. Golatt pointed out that those teams would be limited in whom they could play against as a result.

That may become an unintended consequence, but the bill's crafters want to put children's well-being above all.

"There's a lot of science that is coming out, a lot of studies, and I think for the most part regarding traumatic brain injuries, we need to not ignore what those scientists are telling us and take some proactive steps to protect our young children," he said.

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Copyright 2018 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley called February signing day "anticlimactic."

The first year with an early signing period transformed the recruiting landscape and diminished the importance of the first Wednesday of February, a day that had become a virtual holiday in some college football hotbeds.

ESPN recruiting director Tom Luginbill said over 2,000 players already had signed letters of intent by December, a figure that makes up over 70 percent of the 2,700-2,800 prospects who annually sign with a Football Bowl Subdivision program.

Were this year's seniors simply intrigued by the novelty of an early signing period, or was this a sign of things to come? That's the question coaches are asking as they adjust their recruiting approaches to the new calendar.

"I really believe that eventually this thing is going to move to where you won't have the second signing day," Syracuse coach Dino Babers said. "It'll just be one signing day in December, and then it'll be like an open market on the back end. We'll see. The NCAA and all those presidents will vote on how we're going to do it, but I think it's going to end up going that way."

In the first year with an early signing period, about three-quarters of the nation's top 250 prospects in the 247Sports Composite opted to finalize their college decisions in December. Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley acknowledged this made the traditional February signing day "anticlimactic," but it also enabled him to spend January focusing on the future rather than worrying about whether all the Sooners' senior prospects would stay true to their commitments.

"It was a chance to go see these 2019, 2020 and even 2021 recruits," Riley said. "It's a chance to evaluate more guys. You feel like you are using your time in a much more efficient way."

LSU coach Ed Orgeron says he already has considered ways to adjust his recruiting approach based on the new calendar. He wants to make sure he still has enough scholarships available for the prospects who are waiting until February.

"We will be more selective in the beginning of the recruiting period next year," Orgeron said. "We will be more selective with our scholarships at that time. We will fill specific needs then."

Signing early does come with some risks.

As soon as the December signing period ended, dozens upon dozens of assistant coaches switched schools. Prospects who had developed a kinship with a particular assistant discovered soon they wouldn't be able to play for that particular coach.

Perhaps that could persuade future prospects to avoid signing in December. Then again, maybe it won't.

Indianapolis Warren Central wide receiver David Bell, rated as the nation's No. 71 junior prospect by the 247Sports Composite, said he probably will wait until next February to sign because he wanted to wait as long as possible "to see if the school's the right fit for me." But he said he didn't really take note of all the assistant coaches who departed shortly after the most recent early signing period. "I'm not going to a school for the coaches," Bell said. "I'm going to a school that fits me, helps me get an education and prepares me for the NFL."

One other factor could encourage more prospects to sign later. Some recruits who waited this time around saw their stock rise after December through supply and demand as schools scrambled to complete their classes with fewer players available.

For instance, tight end Matt Alaimo backed out of his commitment to Pittsburgh on the eve of the December signing period and ended up getting late offers from Auburn and Texas A&M before eventually choosing UCLA.

Running back C'Bo Flemister switched his commitment from Georgia Southern to Georgia Tech in December but didn't sign with either school. He instead signed Wednesday with Notre Dame, which suddenly needed to boost its running back depth after Josh Adams entered the draft and Deon McIntosh and C.J. Holmes were dismissed from the team.

"If guys are smart and they're looking at some of the mid-level kids who are becoming extreme priorities late in the process, I could see a scenario where kids sort of realize the leverage that they've got and decide to take their time and hold off," said Barton Simmons, director of scouting for 247Sports. "But I think the likely scenario is this (having most prospects sign early) will probably be very similar moving forward to sort of the new norm."

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Copyright 2018 Woodward Communications, Inc.
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Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA)

 

NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa — Parents and staff of an elementary school in eastern Iowa have raised nearly $60,000 in the past three years to build a playground accessible to kids with physical disabilities.

Students with disabilities have few play options available at North Bend Elementary in North Liberty, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported.

"From a teacher standpoint, it's sad to see, because we are doing everything we can in the classroom to make sure kids feel involved and included," said Erin Sheets, a preschool teacher at the elementary school. "Then, when we are outside for recess, the physical structure limits that."

So parents and staff raised thousands of dollars through grant writing, restaurant profit shares, coin drives and parent-teacher group fundraisers for an "inclusive" playground, according to Christine Mundt, a parent.

The playground would have more accessibility beyond what's required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. It would include ramps and a seesaw that are wheelchair-accessible. A "cozy dome" would serve as a plastic igloo that could be useful for kids who can become overwhelmed.

Mundt said the project would benefit all students, including her daughter, who doesn't have a disability.

"We need to teach inclusiveness to all children," she said. "It does not matter what the children's abilities are. They are all equal and need to have the same opportunities. To see the children playing side by side will definitely benefit my daughter in the long run."

Jennifer Bartlett's son, Nathan, is a 6-year-old kindergartner with cerebral palsy. Bartlett said Nathan moves around in a wheelchair or a gait trainer, which is a type of walker. She said the school already does a great job of working with Nathan at recess.

"We can tell he loves school, and we think a lot of it is just being around the other kids," said Bartlett. "It's just going to be really nice if he can play with the other kids."

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Copyright 2018 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

An appellate court in Chicago says the governing body of Illinois high school sports didn't violate anti-discrimination laws by refusing to establish a division for disabled runners. The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin reported the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued its ruling siding against an Evanston High School senior with cerebral palsy and backing the Illinois High School Association. The majority on the three-judge panel, William Bauer and Michael Kanne, concluded that establishing the division wouldn't have been a reasonable remedy even assuming discrimination was involved. They said it would undermine the nature of racing. Judge Ilana Rovner dissented, noting that wheelchair races aren't thought to undermine foot races.

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Copyright 2018 The Salt Lake Tribune
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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

Keep your head.

Summit Academy boys' basketball coach Evric Gray writes that phrase on the whiteboard before almost every game. The slogan sounds like some classic mantra about playing levelheaded, but it's also shorthand for, "When they yell the N-word at you, stay focused."

It's the phrase that Bears point guard Isaiah Green fell back on when he heard "Look at all those N------ out there playing" shouted from the student section behind him at an away game last month. He fought the urge to turn around.

"We get used to it," he said. "… We don't want to cause more trouble than what's already happening by them calling us names and things like that."

Similar instances of racism in high school sports have occurred throughout Utah for years. This season, in addition to several Morgan High School students yelling obscenities, including the N-word, from the stands when Summit Academy came to town, Mountain Crest students held up a Confederate flag during a game against Ridgeline. Those are just the two events this season that garnered widespread attention.

Green and teammate Jay Gilson, who both are black, can recall exact quotes from the first times they heard fans yell or slur or had those comments relayed to them. For Green, it was at a basketball game last season after he was elbowed and started bleeding on the court. Someone said, "Let that N----- do it himself, let him clean up his own blood." In Gilson's case, a person yelled "look at that N-----" as he walked off the football field at halftime this season.

There are two schools in Summit Academy's region this year where they anticipate hearing racist comments from the stands, according to Green and Gilson. It was the same last season before realignment. Gray also estimated that they hear racist comments during games a couple of times each year.

So before heading to away games in small towns where the vast majority of the population is white, Summit Academy puts extra emphasis on its "Keep your head" motto.

"We have to," Gilson said. "Because if we don't, then we know … it would throw us off individually and as a team."

Four coaches, including Gray, met with the Utah High School Activities Association about a related issue two years ago the racial bias they perceived in refereeing. The coaches — Gray of Summit Academy, Bobby Porter of Layton Christian, Dan Cosby of Kearns and Jason Workman of Murray — represented Classes 4A and 2A at the time, when 5A was the largest classification.

"I know [racism] is out there," Cosby said. "But … I think they did a good job by listening to the complaint and then addressing the issue, and that's all we can ask. … It's made a difference."

Porter also applauded the UHSAA for the way it handled the meeting and urged Utahns to focus on the majority of fans who conduct themselves respectfully rather than the minority who are racially insensitive.

"The biggest thing is the progress we've made in this state," said Porter, who has coached at Layton Christian for 17 years and reported he has not heard racial taunts in at least the last three years. "... Change is a process."

UHSAA Executive Director Rob Cuff told The Salt Lake Tribune that in response to the coaches' concerns, the association has addressed racial discrimination in its region meetings under the umbrella of sportsmanship, which is on the agenda for every meeting. Sportsmanship also is a regular agenda item in executive committee meetings.

In addition, schools can "rest" an official, or request that an official no longer officiates their games. Officials likewise can "rest" schools.

"If there's an official that has … ongoing or recurring issues, then certainly we'd address those," Cuff said. "And we haven't had that situation, as far as I know."

But those efforts don't stomp out the racist slurs hurled from the stands — cases in which, Cuff said, the UHSAA has to "rely very heavily" on school administrators. The National Federation of State High School Associations rule book deems spectator behavior the responsibility of the "home management" (often an administrator), but referees can issue fouls for supporter interaction that interferes "with the proper conduct of the games." They also can stop the game if spectators become "unruly" until the home management can regain control.

Cosby and Workman, who now coach in Classes 6A and 5A, respectively, agree that with their travel more concentrated in the Salt Lake Valley, they hear fewer blatantly racist comments than diverse teams like Summit Academy in smaller classifications. Cosby said he hasn't heard any racial taunts at games since the 2016 meeting with the UHSAA. But that doesn't mean racial discrimination is confined to small classifications.

"The administrators need to be really on top of it," Workman said, "because it can happen anywhere."

While coaches and players interviewed for this story identified small rural towns as the game sites where slurs most often are used, schools accused of racism have taken issue with the generalization.

In 2016, Summit Academy players and coaches said racial slurs were yelled from the crowd during their Class 2A state tournament semifinal game against Emery High School at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield. The abuse continued into the final, they said. After the Bears took the state title, three Summit Academy seniors reported an encounter at a nearby corner store where, they said, fans in Emery colors again confronted them using profanity and racial slurs.

Emery launched an internal investigation, which rejected Summit Academy's assertions but acknowledged the possibility of isolated incidents.

Emery Principal Larry Davis released a statement at the time that included the following "Any school administrator will tell you that there are those few within each student body who maintain less than the highest standards of ethical behavior. To condemn an entire school, school district or rural region because of that is unjustified. Where we have erred, we apologize. Where we have been erred against, that is a matter of personal conscience beyond our control."

Gray sounds deflated when he talks about recent racism endured by his players after years of this kind of back-and-forth.

When asked what could be done to solve the issue or at least improve the treatment, he said, "It's always going to be here, you know that. … But my thing is, the referees here, they should do something. Administration, if you hear it, don't try to cover it up. Do something."

That was a week after at least one Morgan High School student referred to Gray's players by a racial slur.

"It was in the heat of the game, toward the end of the game — crunch time — and I heard that comment," Gilson said about the "Look at all those N------ out there playing" remark. "And me being my race, my blood started to boil."

Morgan High School acted quickly. The administration put out a statement the next day, Jan. 11, apologizing for the actions of "a few Morgan High School students."

@sahsbears pic.twitter.com/wtF4KjKCae- Morgan Trojans (@morgantrojans) January 11, 2018

Morgan athletic director Tyrel Mikesell told to The Tribune that three or four students were involved, and that the N-word, the term "white power" and other vulgar language were used. The administration became aware of the incident when members of the Morgan High community reported it to Mikesell, he said.

"It started a dialogue with parents saying, 'We need to sit down with our kids and talk to them about these things,'" Mikesell said.

The school administration said in the statement that it had "applied the consequences we feel are necessary to deter this type of behavior." Citing privacy issues, Mikesell declined to specify the consequences.

The week after the Summit Academy-Morgan game, Mikesell told The Tribune school administrators had begun working with counselors to organize an assembly with leaders from marginalized groups. They also were planning to provide opportunities for students to learn more about tolerance through their adviser program and opportunities for parents to learn how to talk to their children about tolerance.

Mountain Crest students displayed a Confederate flag at a home basketball game against rival Ridgeline on Jan. 19. School administrators confiscated the flag, Cache County District School District Deputy Superintendent Mike Liechty told The Tribune, per UHSAA regulations, which restrict the use of flags and banners by the student section.

He said one to three students were involved, and he estimated the flag was visible for less than two minutes. The students who displayed the flag were given an in-school suspension for part of a school day.

Liechty said a parent of one of the students involved told him it had been meant as a prank.

There are plenty of other more subtle acts of discrimination directed at racial minority players, some intentional and some not.

"The other one that drives me nuts is the 'USA' chant," Gray said, "when all of our kids are from [the United States]. And we all know what that means. It's just they don't look like them."

Green and Gilson said they heard the chant at the state basketball tournament last year, but Emery students most notably used it at the 2016 state tournament. That's when Emery's internal investigation confirmed the use of the chant, which Davis then characterized as "inappropriate" but not "racial in nature."

With incidents like that occurring around the state and country, Gray feels a responsibility to prepare his players to face it. His players have taken mental note of where it happens most often.

"When Isaiah and I walk into a gym in a small town, we feel the tension," Gilson said.

"When it's close, that's what I would say," Green said. "Things start to get heated, parents start to get mad."

And that's when the players try to remember Keep your head.

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Copyright 2018 ProQuest Information and Learning
All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2018 The Arizona Daily Star. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

 

University of Arizona officials were made aware of former running back Orlando Bradford's abuse of women nearly a year before he was arrested, but did little to stop him, a recently filed federal lawsuit says.

The school didn't even begin to investigate until November, two years after a Wildcats softball player told her coach that Bradford was beating her and around the same time he was sentenced to five years in prison for choking two other students, according to the lawsuit.

One grassroots organization says schools need to move faster to protect their students from abuse. The American Association of University Women says universities have a duty to investigate as soon as students report abuses to certain employees, and can begin investigations based on both witness reports and second-hand information.

"Schools are on the hook. They have to make sure that sexual violence is ended, prevented, and they need to remedy situations when they occur," said Anne Hedgepeth, the organization's interim vice president of public policy and government relations. "Part of that equation is that schools need to take action when they know or should have known about sex discrimination that's occurring."

The UA's investigation into Bradford seemingly began too late — and then seemed to move slowly, if at all.

One of Bradford's three victims told her coach and athletic department employees that she was being choked and beaten, according to a campus police report. According to UA policy, everyone she told had an obligation to report the abuse to the dean of students or the Title IX office. Title IX laws prohibit sexual discrimination in educational settings, including sexual violence and harassment.

Another Bradford girlfriend routinely reported to her job in McKale Center with black eyes and bruises, according to the federal suit. Still, none of the athletic department photographer's bosses or co-workers came forward to school officials. Several months before Bradford's September 2016 arrest, the woman's mother called the Dean of Students office to say that Bradford was abusing her daughter.

The Star contacted Greg Byrne, who led the UA's athletic department during that time, for an interview. Byrne, now the athletic director at Alabama, declined the Star's request because of ongoing litigation in the federal suit.

However, Byrne spoke to a Ch. 4 reporter about the issue in December.

"When you have 500 student-athletes, you have 20-plus programs, 350 employees, you're going to have issues," he told the TV station. "It's gonna happen and what the important thing is that you make the best decision you can with the information that you have when those things come along."

'Responsible employees' have obligation to victims

Schools can investigate potential Title IX violations regardless of if the complaint comes directly from a victim or through second-hand knowledge, Hedgepeth said.

While Hedgepeth could not comment directly on the Bradford case because of pending litigation, she said schools often don't take students' reports seriously. Accusers are more likely to leave the school — and a bad situation — when they're not being helped, she said.

"We know that we need to make sure that schools understand that they have to move forward and make sure that students can stay in school," she said.

The UA, like all universities, has designated "responsible employees" who are required to take reports of abuse to the school's Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinators, campus police or staff in the office of institutional equity or dean of students.

The UA's website says that "most employees" have a duty to report, including those in supervisory roles, like coaches and athletic department administrators.

That may not be enough, Hedgepeth said. She hopes schools are also educating their students about bystander obligations to ensure that students and employees are speaking up if they suspect abuse. The UA runs a "step-up" program designed to teach athletes about the importance of bystander intervention, but officials told the Star in December that it doesn't necessarily mean breaking up domestic violence situations. At least four of Bradford's Wildcats teammates watched as he abused multiple girlfriends; none reported the crimes to police, their coaches or anyone in McKale.

While the school's opening of a sex discrimination investigation depends on the specifics of the situation, there are "absolutely" some actions schools can take when they receive second-hand information, Hedgepeth said.

"When schools have a real concern about repeat offenders or generally the hostile climate that could be present at a school, they should move forward and investigate a bit more about what's happened and figure out if there's an action that's appropriate for them to take," Hedgepeth said. "There are absolutely ways in which schools must weigh whether or not — even with a third-party report — there is a path forward and they should have a process in place to do that."

Believing witnesses in a 'student-centered' process

The UA's willingness to open an official investigation based on a witness or second-hand information depends on the "totality of circumstances presented in a given situation," Mary Beth Tucker, the UA's Title IX coordinator, wrote in an email to the Star.

"Sometimes someone may come forward and share a concern about someone else and may or may not have full or accurate information," she said. "In those cases, we will review and assess the information and may reach out to the individual(s) to make an inquiry or share information and resources."

The school's inquiry could lead to a student code of conduct investigation, Tucker said. The UA's process is "student-centered," meaning the victim decides how far they want to pursue the case. Two years ago, Wildcats basketball player Elliott Pitts was found to have violated several code of conduct policies, including sexual misconduct, after a fellow student said he sexually assaulted her. Pitts was never charged with a crime, but eventually received a one-year suspension from the UA. He left the university — and the team — on his own.

"A student may request confidentiality with regards to an investigation against another student," Tucker said. "This is a complex process and every case is different, but we make every effort to consider the student's wishes in light of the information we have available to us at the time."

The UA also has immediate measures available that can be put into place without an official investigation or determination of guilt, according to the UA's Title IX website.

While school officials took some of those interim steps, issuing a no-contact order and moving Bradford off campus after the softball player reported the abuse to campus police, it's unclear if the UA opened an investigation into Bradford's behavior prior to last fall. UA officials say they can't comment due to the pending lawsuits.

Regardless, the Arizona Board of Regents is pushing for more accountability when it comes to reporting abuse.

The regents proposed a policy revision to coaches' contracts last week that requires athletic directors and head coaches to comply with all ABOR policies, including Title IX and other laws related to sexual violence, sexual assault and all related conduct. Put simply, coaches can now be more easily disciplined — or even fired — for failing to report those types of situations.

"It's smart for schools to be very clear about who has that obligation, and be very public about it," Hedgepeth said. "So they should be letting faculty and staff know if they're responsible employees and they should absolutely be letting students know who are responsible employees."

About Title IX

Title IX is a federal law that protects students from sexual discrimination in universities and colleges. Domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and sexual harassment are all considered forms of sex discrimination.

Under Title IX laws, schools are required to investigate allegations of sexual discrimination, and a select group of employees at each school are required to report to school officials any student who reports an act of sexual discrimination.

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Copyright 2018 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

Before the Super Bowl is played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium early next year, stadium officials aim to have the retractable roof in operating order, the sound system functioning better and a new green space open on the former Georgia Dome site.

There's a lot of work to be done in the meantime.

The $1.5 billion-plus stadium opened almost six months ago after more than three years of construction, but parts of the project remain works in progress, most noticeably the automation of the roof and the transformation of the Dome site to a grass tailgating and gathering space.

"We're also meeting every week on all kinds of little things we're still finishing in the building," Scott Jenkins, the stadium's general manager, said last week. "It takes two years (after opening), in my experience, to finish a building and get it running the way you want."

This time of year is the relative lull on the multipurpose stadium's schedule, with only two major events — the Monster Jam trucks tour Feb. 24-25 and Supercross motorcycle racing March 3 — before the first home match of Atlanta United's second season March 11. So it's a convenient time to focus on the needs of the venue, away from the demands of football season.

Within the next couple of weeks, before Monster Jam, three additional sets of double doors and one overhead rolling door will be installed on the east end of the stadium as part of efforts to address the considerable congestion as fans exit the building after events.

At the top of the stadium, work has reintensified on the problematic retractable roof, which has been open for only two events. Jenkins and Falcons owner Arthur Blank said recently that they expect the roof to be fully operational by summer, although past roof timetables have proved overly optimistic.

Next door to the stadium, about 131,000 tons of concrete from the imploded Georgia Dome have been crushed, leaving another 39,000 tons to be dealt with. The crushed concrete will be spread across the site, raising the ground to form the base for the "Home Depot Backyard," a 13-acre green space that will be used for parking, tailgating and pregame activities at stadium events and as a community park at other times.

The Falcons said work is on track for the "Backyard" to be substantially complete by September for the start of the team's second season in the stadium. Longer-term plans also call for a 1,010-room high-rise hotel on about one acre of the Dome site, but construction on that isn't expected to begin until after the Super Bowl.

Reviews have been mixed of late on how the stadium performed in its inaugural season.

The Falcons announced the results of an NFL-con-ducted fan survey in which the stadium scored impressively, ranking No. 3 in the league for overall game-day satisfaction and No. 1 for food and beverage. But Georgia World Congress Center Authority board members raised stern concerns about several aspects of the stadium's operation in a recent meeting.

The GWCCA board, which has an oversight role over the state-owned, Falcons-operated stadium, questioned the long delays to enter the stadium for college football's national championship game Jan. 8, as well as ongoing problems with exiting the stadium and with the sound system.

Stadium and College Football Playoffofficials attributed the entrance problems at the national title game to security decisions, including a lengthy gate closing, made by the U.S. Secret Service because of President Donald Trump's attendance. But stadium officials acknowledged the need for improvements in other areas, including egress and the sound system.

TheFalconshaveproposed $3.4 million in capital expenditures at the stadium this year. The expenditures, subject to GWCCA review, will be paid from Atlanta hotel-mo-tel tax revenue under terms of the stadium deal.

The additional doors, costing $185,000, are the first item on a lengthy list. (Other items range from adding a roof structure above a trash compactor to adding a guard shack at the loading dock to "bird-control management.") The new doors will lead to the stadium's "front porch," an outdoor fan plaza.

"Our toughest issue is exit, when everybody leaves at the same time," Steve Cannon, CEO of Falcons and Atlanta United parent company AMB Group, said recently. In addition to the new doors, Cannon said, "there will be some other tweaks" to improve exit flow.

The stadium has four main gates, with three of them located in roughly the northwest, northeast and southeast corners and the other on the east end. Stadium officials hope the opening of Home Depot Backyard and a new parking deck in that area will cause more fans to use the northwest gate, called Gate 1, and a north suite/club entry to spread out the flow within the building.

But some GWCCA board members expressed concern about whether the proposed capital expenditures adequately address the issues with egress and the stadium audio, which has been garbled in some locations.

"That sound system needs to be fixed—and fixed soon," board member Phil Gingrey said.

Stadium officials said a number of steps have been taken, including adjusting speaker angles, controlling volume by zones, reviewing the stadium setup for concerts and testing other possible changes.

"It's a complicated issue," Jenkins said. "We're going to continue working on it."

The stadium's next big audio test will be a Kenny Chesney concert May 26.

Meanwhile, there apparently has been some progress with the much-discussed retractable roof, which largely has remained closed and has occasionally leaked. The roof's automation wasn't completed before the stadium opened, and officials said there wasn't sufficient time to work on it between events during football season.But the roof was opened with the push of a button for the first time in mid-January, according to Jenkins.

"We just did our first operational move, open and close... automated," he said recently. "It's still slow because we're still in the training-wheel phase, but that's progress because before that it was all manual construction moves.

"They're still working on it every day, every night. It's encouraging."

It's probably unlikely that the Super Bowl would be played with the roof open in any case, given typical Atlanta weather for early February nights. But the Falcons want the NFL to have that option Feb. 3, 2019.

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Copyright 2018 The Evansville Courier Co.
All Rights Reserved

Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)

 


HENDERSON — Kaytlan Kemp and Savannah Lacer are two of the top players for the girls basketball team at Henderson County High School, a school they do not attend.

That's not all that uncommon in Kentucky high school athletics, which allows middle school students to play at the high school level.

Kemp and Lacer are students at South Middle School, one of two middle schools in the Henderson County system. Kemp, an eighth-grader, has started every game this season for the high school team, which is among the top programs in the state with 14 regional championships and four state Final Four appearances. Lacer, a seventh-grader, has made a handful of starts but is usually one of the first players off the bench for the Lady Colonels.

The Kentucky High School Athletic Association allows seventh- and eighth-grade students who attend a feeder school under the same local Board of Education as the KHSAA member school play on the high school team at any level. There are exceptions. The KHSAA does not allow middle school students to play varsity football and soccer, which are considered contact sports.

Kentucky's system is rare. Most states do not allow middle schoolers to compete at all at the high school level. Neighboring states Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and West Virginia fall into that category. Some states, such as Ohio, allow eighth-graders to play high school sports only if the student is too old to play at the middle school level. In that case, the student will still have only four years of eligibility.

States such as Louisiana, Minnesota and Nebraska allow seventh- and eighth-graders to play high school sports if the middle school and the high school are under the supervision of the same administrator, which would be more common with smaller schools.

The only states that, like Kentucky, allow seventh- and eighth-grade students to play high school sports without restrictions are Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Mississippi and North Dakota. A handful of other states allow eighth-graders to compete under certain conditions.

"We are one of the few (states) that has no criteria on the size of the school," KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett said. "Most other states are just 9 through 12 but in a lot of those states they have had long-time existing middle school competition where we didn't."

While the KHSAA allows middle schoolers to play up, it's local school boards that have the final say in Kentucky.

"The school boards now have the authority to say that you can't. If it gets to be a big problem locally, they can cut it off," Tackett said, noting that larger school districts with multiple high schools are less likely to allow middle schoolers to participate. "In bigger districts that have more than one school, it can cause a problem. They are more likely to restrict it."

Social concerns

This isn't Kemp's first year of high school varsity sports. Playing on the freshman softball team at HCHS last spring as a seventh-grader, Kemp was brought up to the varsity team in midseason.

"We had no plans for her to play varsity softball as a seventh grader. She was just on the freshman team with her normal group that she's always played with," her father, Kris Kemp, said. The freshman team is primarily middle school players anyway. "She played well enough and they felt like they needed some help in her skill set so they moved her up (to the varsity)."

With only one senior and a pair of juniors on this year's varsity basketball team, Kemp and Lacer were asked to move up to the high school team. Because the high school team was so young, it made it easier for both to adjust.

The Kemps had considered allowing Kaytlan play junior varsity and freshman basketball last year as a seventh-grader. "They talked about bringing her up to play JV and freshman basketball last year as a seventh grader. She would have been one of the really younger kids on the team last year. That did give us some reservations just from the social aspect. In softball it didn't bother us because initially she was just with the freshman team which was mostly middle schoolers. There was just one freshman. The freshmen and the varsity didn't travel together. In basketball, the JV and the varsity travel together so you get the overnights and the bus rides and the social aspect."

It's the social part, rather than the skill level, that causes some opposition to allowing middle school students to participate in high school.

"Some of the problems come from the younger kids being around the older ones," KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett said.

That was initially a concern for both the Kemps and the Lacers. "As a mother, I was worried about her being with older girls," Stacie Lacer, Savannah's mother, said. "They've all been really supportive. They understand that (Savannah and Kaytlan) are younger, and they have taken them under their wings."

Not long ago, students younger than Lacer were allowed to participate in varsity sports. Until the 2014-15 school year, elementary school students were allowed to play varsity sports in Kentucky. Now students below the seventh-grade are not permitted to participate on any level of high school athletics.

"When we first started girls basketball, a lot of schools didn't have enough to play. When education reform came along in the early 90s, there was a big push to tamp down interscholastic athletics at the middle school level. That combination meant if you thought you had any talent or ability, you needed to play up," Tackett said. "Now it's just kind of accepted that we are 7 through 12."

History of success

Kentucky has a long list of athletes who have played and succeeded in high school sports while in middle school.

Former NBA player O.J. Mayo was a first-team all-state selection as an eighth-grader when he led Rose Hill Christian Academy to the 2003 state tournament. Mayo transferred to Ohio to start his freshman season and then later moved back to his native West Virginia to finish his high school career.

Whitney Creech of Jenkins, who is the state's all-time leading scorer with 5,527 points, played eight seasons on her high school team beginning as a fifth-grader. Creech is now a sophomore on the women's team at Western Kentucky University.

Ty Rogers, who hit "the shot" in Western Kentucky's win over Drake in the 2008 NCAA Tournament, started a few games as a seventh-grader and was an all-district player as an eighth-grader on his way to scoring 3,300 points in his career at Lyon County High School.

Closer to home, middle schoolers have regularly made an impact on the local scene. Jaci Bickett, currently a senior at Henderson County High School, won the first of her three state pole vault championships as an eighth-grader. Kale Gaither, who is the leading scorer on Henderson County's boys basketball team this season as a freshman, started for Union County as an eighth-grader.

Henderson County's girls basketball program has had a long history of utilizing middle school players during Jeff Haile's 32 seasons as head coach. Among the more significant contributors for the Lady Colonels were Nicole Hay, who played in 25 games as an eighth-grader in 1989-90; Whitney Waddell, who started 11 games for the 2000-01 Final Four team as an eighth-grader; Ellie Fruit, who played in 19 games as an eighth-grader for the 2008-09 Final Four team. More recently, Kacie Wallace, MiKayla Gilbert, Samantha Carter, Alisha Owens and Breanna Chester all made significant contributions as eighth graders for the Lady Colonels.

A rare opportunity

Familiarity with Haile made the decision easier for the Kemps to allow their daughter to play up this year. Kaytlan's mother Sara played for Haile from 1992 through 1996 and was a member of the 1994 Final Four team.

"We knew what she was going to be learning and getting out of it at the next level. I knew he would push her to be better. I trust what he's going to do with her," Sara Kemp said.

Kemp and Lacer had already been above their age level in middle school. Kemp played on the seventh- and eighth-grade teams at South Middle as a sixth-grader and seventh-grader. As a sixth-grader, Lacer started on the seventh-grade team and was a reserve for the eighth-grade team last year.

The parents wondered if the girls would be sacrificing playing time by moving up early to the high school level.

Chad Lacer, Savannah's father, thought it would be worth the risk. "Me as a dad, I said, 'Go for it, even if you didn't get to play much. Just in practice, going against the older girls, would be a plus.' We also wondered if it might bring her back because she wouldn't get to play as much as if she had stayed at South starting on the seventh and eighth-grade team playing 50 or 60 games. We never dreamed she'd get this much playing time before the season started."

Despite his fatherly advance, the Lacers allowed their daughter to make the decision on whether to play with the high school team or spend another season with the middle school group.

"We left it up to her. We said, 'We don't care. It's up to you. It's your decision,'" Chad said.

Both families believe the move will ultimately benefit their daughters' playing careers. "It's an opportunity that not everybody is given. (Kaytlan) just happened to fall into the right place at the right time," Kris Kemp said.


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Copyright 2018 Charleston Newspapers

Charleston Gazette-Mail

 

The House Education Committee advanced Friday legislation that would require public two-year and four-year colleges to allow people to carry concealed guns on their campuses, including in their buildings and at sporting events, if those individuals have permits.

The bill passed on a voice vote with multiple "no's heard, and it's now heading to the House Judiciary Committee.

Matt Turner, executive vice chancellor of administration for the state agencies overseeing public colleges, wrote in an email that college boards of governors "have the local authority, as property owners, to determine whether they wish to permit deadly weapons, concealed or otherwise, on their campuses.

He referred to part of existing state law that says, generally, that an entity or individual "may prohibit the carrying openly or concealing of any firearm or deadly weapon on property under his or her domain.

Turner said that, as far as he knows, all the state's public colleges, two-year and four-year, disallow deadly weapons on campus.

West Virginia State University President Anthony Jenkins said all the public Mountain State four-year colleges are opposed to the bill (House Bill 4298). He said many campuses have summer camps with children, and he brought up possibly dangerous situations, like packed rivalry sports games for which people have been "pre-gaming, or fraternity events with excessive drinking, or a student conduct matter where a student is about to face discipline.

He said colleges should be "grounds where we use our emotional intelligence and our intellectual capacity to agree to disagree, and to interject weapons changes the very foundation of what higher education is supposed to be about. He said colleges shouldn't become the "O.K. Corral.

"Let me speak for West Virginia State University, because I'm the president, Jenkins said. "I don't want gun-toting students on campus, and I don't want gun-toting faculty and staff and administrators on campus.

Under current law, the severity of punishments for carrying weapons onto campuses currently varies greatly between those visiting colleges and those working for or attending them, according to university officials and Art Thomm, a representative of the National Rifle Association. Delegate Jim Butler, R-Mason and lead sponsor of the bill, said the legislation is mostly based on model legislation the NRA provided after he reached out to that organization.

Students and college employees can face penalties as severe as expulsion and termination if they violate a college's own established ban on guns. But if a visitor brings a gun onto campus and gets caught with it, Thomm and Rob Alsop, West Virginia University's vice president for strategic initiatives, said the college can ask the person to leave, and if they agree, that's all the punishment they face.

Butler said the purpose of the law is to equalize the situation.

"The faculty can't and the student can't [carry], they risk being fired or being expelled, he said. "So, this law if it passes would give the students and the faculty really the same selfdefense right that everybody else has. Really the whole thrust of this is to give everybody the equal opportunity to protect themselves.

The bill states a few areas where a college would still be able to "regulate possession of firearms. Those are "a stadium or arena with a capacity of more than 5,000 spectators; "a daycare facility on the college property, and "in the secure area of any building used by a law-enforcement agency on the college property.

Alsop said WVU only has two venues that big: Milan Puskar Stadium and the WVU Coliseum. Jenkins said WVSU has one arena that large. Bluefield State President Marsha Krotseng told the House Education Committee Friday that her college has no venues that large, and noted her entire enrollment is less than 5,000.

Butler said he doesn't support the exceptions, but said the NRA said these were colleges' biggest objections in other states, so he included them "as sort of a concession or a compromise.

Delegate Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, opposed the bill overall Friday and said he wanted to make several amendments to it, like allowing students to refuse being assigned to a dorm room with someone with a gun, but he knew they wouldn't pass in House Education.

"I think it creates so many problems and doesn't solve any, Rowe said. "Why aren't we allowing those institutions to make by rule where it's appropriate and inappropriate?

Delegate Ed Evans, D-McDowell, who opposed the bill, raised concerns about tailgating sports fans in parking lots and said he has a son in the 11th grade.

"I need to know when I send my son [to college] he's going to be safe, Evans said.

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

 

The Big Baller Brand wants to expand, and a representative from the athletic apparel company was in Wilson this week trying to convince Coby White, a UNC signee and the top high school player in the state, to forgo college and join a basketball league the company is creating.

Alan Foster, a business partner at the company created by LaVar Ball, on Thursday visited White at Greenfield School in Wilson, White's mother Bonita said.

"They were recruiting Coby not to go overseas," Bonita White said. "They are recruiting 80 players for this particular show. The hook that they are using is you have to wait a year before you go pro, so why go to school and you have the limitations set by the NCAA?"

In December 2017, LaVar announced he was starting the Junior Basketball Association, a men's professional league that was designed to be an alternative to the NCAA and college basketball. It would allow the top high school prospects to play professionally right out of high school. The league, which has not been finalized, plans to have eight teams in four U.S. cities. Players who participate in the league would no longer be eligible to play college basketball, based on NCAA rules. Facebook will sponsor the league and the JBA will be one of Big Baller Brand's upcoming reality shows. That's what led them to Coby White.

Bonita White said the company told her Coby White could play one year in the JBA and then go pro.

"I told them, and Coby told them, that we're not interested," Bonita said. "In June, Coby will be at Carolina."

Players who participate in the JBA will receive pay, but Bonita wouldn't even let the conversation get to that point.

"I never let him get that far," Bonita said. "When he said the months were from June to October, we let him know that we were not interested."

When Ball announced the league, he said players' salaries would range from $3,000 to $10,000 per month for the season, and that the league would be fully funded by Big Baller Brand.

Coby White signed with UNC in November. He is No. 2 player in the state and the third best shooting guard in the nation, according to 247Sports. In December, he broke the record for most points scored in three games (119) at the John Wall Holiday Invitational. Last month, he made the East Team roster of the 2018 McDonald's All-American Game being played in Atlanta on March. 28. On Jan. 27, he passed JamesOn Curry for the most points scored in North Carolina prep history (3,307).

Big Baller Brand was founded in 2016 by Ball. The brand started by selling sportswear marketed by LaVar's sons: Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo. Lonzo played one season at UCLA before he was the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NBA draft, selected by the Los Angeles Lakers.

The family made headlines last fall when LaVar pulled his sons LaMelo, 16, out of high school, and LiAngelo, 19, out of UCLA to play professional basketball overseas in the Lithuanian Basketball League.

LiAngelo was arrested for shoplifting in China in November and suspended indefinitely from the Bruins once he returned to the United States. The family also has a reality show on Facebook.

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University said Friday it plans to fire a high-ranking administrator who told police he never followed up after ordering sports doctor Larry Nassar to have a third person present during certain treatments.

Dr. William Strampel was dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, which includes the sports medicine clinic, until he announced a leave of absence for medical reasons in December. He still has tenure, however, which protects his employment as a faculty member.

Interim President John Engler said he will ask a faculty committee to revoke Strampel's status.

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Copyright 2018 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

Georgia Tech opened an investigation Friday into allegations its men's basketball coach sexually assaulted an Arizona woman.

The school said it would hire an "outside, independent" investigator to look into charges against second-year coach Josh Pastner. He was accused in a lawsuit filed Thursday of assaulting or harassing the woman more than a dozen times in 2016.

"We expect every member of our community to practice the highest ethical principles and standards of conduct," Tech said in a statement announcing the investigation.

The announcement ended the virtual silence with which Tech initially greeted the sexual-mis-conduct accusations.

Earlier, Tech spokesmen described the allegations as a "personal matter" and would not say whether the school's president, G.P. "Bud" Peterson, was engaged in assessing Pastner's status at Tech.

Tech's investigation began about 24 hours after Jennifer Pendley, 45, of Tucson, the girlfriend of a now-estranged friend of Pastner's, sued Pastner, saying he masturbated in front of her and tried to force her to perform oral sex in a Houston hotel room in 2016. He was the head coach at Memphis at the time.

Pendley also said Pastner repeatedly groped and harassed her after he moved to Tech. Several of the episodes allegedly occurred on Tech property or at school-sanctioned events.

Pastner has strongly denied the allegations. Last month, he sued Pendley and her boyfriend, Ron Bell, 51, accusing them of defamation, extortion and blackmail. The couple spent several weeks with Pastner's team in 2016, first in Memphis and then in Atlanta. Bell has said he provided impermissible benefits to two Tech athletes on Pastner's behalf, violatingNCAA rules.

Tech did not identify the investigator who will look into Pendley's allegations. In the statement, the school said it had received no "direct complaints" and noted that no police report had been filed.

"However, the institute takes all allegations of sexual misconduct seriously, taking appropriate action when made aware of claims," the statement said.

Tech finds itself dealing with sexual-misconduct allegations at a fraught moment. An onslaught of allegations against powerful men in entertainment, the media and politics has left many institutions feeling pressure to respond quickly and decisively.

The University of New Mexico on Thursday suspended its football coach, Bob Davie, for 30 days without pay while it investigates reports he told his team to "get some dirt" on a student who accused a player of rape.

At Michigan State University, Athletics Director Mark Hollis resigned recently over the school's handling of sexual-assault cases involving athletes. The school also had come under fire for protecting Larry Nassar, the U.S. Gymnastics team doctor who molested hundreds of young athletes.

Tech's history of aggressively punishing students accused of sexual misconduct complicates how it deals with Pastner's case. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis published in 2016 found Tech expelled or suspended nearly every student accused of sexual misconduct in the previous five years.

Tech was so strict state legislators introduced bills calling for due process, and the state Board of Regents adopted more lenient rules for all Georgia universities.

In its policies, Tech says sexual misconduct by employees "represents a failure in professional and ethical behavior that will not be condoned." Violators may face "permanent exclusion" from the school.

Tech is not a party to Pendley's lawsuit.

Pendley broke into tears Thursday as she spoke outside the courthouse in Tucson, where her lawsuit was filed. "It's very hard," she said on Tucson television station KOLD, "when something like this happens to you and you think you're the only person this has been happening to."

"I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get justice for this," she added.

In court filings, Pastner contends Pendley and Bell concocted the sexual assault claims as part of an extortion scheme.

Pastner declined to discuss the case Friday during a news conference to talk about Sunday's game against No. 9 Duke. But he could not avoid the subject Thursday, when Tech lost 77-54 at Louisville. Spectators in the student section heckled Pastner, according to Twitter posts by a Louisville sportscaster, and the coach's postgame news conference quickly turned to the accusations he faces.

Pastner denied the allegations in no uncertain terms.

"Unequivocally, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero truth to any of those disgusting, bogus allegations," he said. "It's disgusting. And there's zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero truth to that."

"I absolutely got victimized," Pastner added. "I'm an absolute victim in this whole deal."

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

 

COLUMBIA — "MizzouGate" hasn't nearly died down, although it's been quiet since the last sparring session.

South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner confirmed he has spoken with Missouri AD Jim Sterk about Sterk's pointed comments toward women's basketball coach Dawn Staley, but that the conversation remains private. Tanner was asked at a Board of Trustees meeting Friday if Sterk had apologized for claiming that Staley promotes a hostile basketball atmosphere at Colonial Life Arena.

"I will not disclose any contents of the conversation," Tanner said. "I'll just say that our commissioner is very concerned about what transpired and he called us together to have a meeting, we discussed it at length. I'm hoping in the near future there will be some sort of resolution."

Staley confirmed Friday that she has not received an apology from Sterk. Asked if she was considering legal action, Staley said, "that's to be announced at a later date."

Tanner did say he thought a public apology was necessary.

"Let me make one thing perfectly clear — Jim Sterk and I are not at odds. We're colleagues in this league, we work well together," he said. "But I was clear that my opinion is a public apology would be appropriate. I don't think he's offended by my statement."

BOT member Chuck Allen had his own opinion of Sterk's comments.

"That's nothing but sour-grapes loser talk," Allen said.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey declined to comment to The Post and Courier last week after releasing a statement earlier in the day. Part of that statement said, "Competition among SEC teams is highly intense but can never compromise the expectation of respect between our institutions."

The situation began Jan. 28, when USC beat Missouri in the second game of the regular-season series. A charged Colonial Life Arena crowd was ready for the Tigers, who beat the Gamecocks on Jan. 7 in a game that had Staley complaining about officiating and later saying that some of Missouri's fouls were "not basketball plays."

In the second game, Missouri star Sophie Cunningham was booed every time she touched the ball and a fracas erupted near the end of the second quarter. Cunningham, USC guard Doniyah Cliney, USC forward Alexis Jennings and others were involved, with Cunningham and Cliney receiving flagrant fouls and two Missouri players ejected for leaving the bench.

The game finished without incident, but former Missouri player Sierra Michaelis, who attended the game, claimed she saw USC fans spitting on the Tigers as they left the playing floor. Coach Robin Pingeton never confirmed or denied the alleged spitting but said she was disappointed in some fans' actions and it needed to be cleaned up.

Sterk took it way further than that, and way further than simply backing up his coach.

Sterk claimed that USC fans also used racial slurs toward the Missouri players and that Staley promoted that kind of atmosphere. "It's unfortunate that she felt she had to do that," he said.

That brought a response from Tanner, who said he investigated the allegations of spitting (no evidence was found) and that it was "confusing" for Sterk to be challenging Staley, one of the most decorated figures in the sport.

Staley said then that the allegations were serious, false and would be handled, but not in the manner they were dealt. All Sterk has said since is when he quoted Forrest Gump by saying that's all he had to say about it.

Tanner expressed his wish for a quick resolution. The two teams could meet again in the postseason.

"Things happen," Tanner said. "It's not the worst thing that happens in sports, but things do happen, and I would like to see it come to a conclusion, and let's play basketball down the stretch."

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Copyright 2018 The Florida Times-Union

Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville)

 

GAINESVILLE — Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin has a long-term plan to give The Swamp a much-needed face-lift.

Stricklin wants to "find ways to upgrade the overall quality" of the fan experience inside the outdated football stadium.

He said there is some "low-hanging fruit" that could include improved wireless, an enhanced sound system and upgraded visual boards. He also said restrooms and concession stands would be remodeled throughout the facility.

But the biggest and most expensive part of the makeover would include revamped seating.

"There was a time when, probably when the north end zone [section] was done in the early `90s, when seat count is all anyone cared about," Stricklin said last week. "Just cram as many people as possible in there. Obviously, that is not [the case] when you talk to people who do facilities and stadiums these days. That's not as important as quality and making sure you're creating an environment that people want to come and participate in. The days of fans being OK sitting three hours on a piece of aluminum, I think, are gone. So we've got to find ways to upgrade the overall quality."

Florida's last major renovation to The Swamp was completed in 2003. The $50 million expansion included the addition of 2,900 club seats and luxury suites. Little has been done inside Florida Field since.

Stricklin said part of the plan would be to aesthetically overhaul the 90,000-seat stadium, which could reduce capacity and create premium seating closer to the field.

"Right now, depending on what side of the stadium you look at, it kind of looks like a different facility, so to create some consistency there," he said. "They sound easy, but there are some challenges to each and every one of those."

Stricklin offered no timetable for the massive project, but said it would be the University Athletic Association's top priority once it completes a $100 million endeavor that includes a stand-alone football facility, a new baseball stadium and renovations to the softball stadium.

Florida has yet to break ground or even finalize designs for the three-pronged plan, but Stricklin said more information will be released this spring.

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Copyright 2018 The Durham Herald Co.
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The Herald-Sun (Durham, N.C.)

 

On a cold, rainy weekday evening, four teenagers came to hoop.

The weather meant Amaree Corbitt and Michael Hope, both 17, couldn't work their part-time job washing cars. So the Hillside New Tech High School students drove over to the I.R. Holmes Sr. Recreation Center on South Alston Avenue after school.

Corbitt said he'd played basketball in the gym before, when he played rec league ball.

Hope knows some of the people who work there. "I come just to hang out with my boys," he said.

The open gym time for teenagers is part of a new drop-in program started this past fall at four Durham Parks and Recreation centers. When the current city budget rolled out last summer, youth programs were touted as a priority. The total cost of drop-in, after-school and free pool and recreation center admissions for teens is less than $200,000 of the $429.4 million budget. The drop-in programs are called My Durham.

A 'safe space to talk'

Nathan Batchler said 45 to 50 teenagers a week have started coming to the I.R. Holmes Sr. Recreation Center, which also has a pool. The center is at Campus Hills Park, about a mile from N.C. Central University. Batchler, the supervisor, has worked there for three years. He said the increase was a surprise, and thinks it is outstanding. He credits the variety of things to do.

"Most kids who come here are from Hillside [High School] and Shepard [Middle School]. A lot of teens don't drive," said Ellis Monroe, a master program specialist for the city who runs the drop-in program at Holmes.

Monroe, 26, is from northern Durham. He said the program gives young people tools he didn't have when he was their age.

"I encourage them to be friends, say 'hi' when they see each other at school. I think with the programs at different sites, we tap into different issues," Monroe said. Teens will talk about things they may not at home or school, like losing a friend to jail or violence, he said.

"When they come here, it's a safe space to talk, and I can try to help them out, give them guidance," he said. Monroe said guys who come to play basketball know that it's safe to approach a pick-up game, that the other guys will be cool.

He has also talked to teens about budgeting, and they've made healthy smoothies and even slime.

Making Slime at IR Holmes Sr Rec CenterMaking slime is one of the activities that teens have done during the MyDurham drop-in after school initative at I.R. Holmes Sr. Recreation Center.

"That's really been clutch for me, to build relationships," Monroe said. The basketball draws them in, but there's more.

"It works like a culture for the kids: 'I can go up to the rec center,'" he said.

Shannon Teamer, teen coordinator for Durham Parks and Recreation, said they're breaking the stigma of teens only coming to rec centers to play basketball.

"It's more than just a gym now," Teamer said.

Malik Carrington, 17, said he came to the rec center to get out of the house.

"I come every day, just to play basketball, and [because of] the people here," said Tajiri Minor, 14.

"It's just something to do," he said.

My Durham programming changes month to month, depending on what the youth want. Teamer said each site gets about 40 to 50 youth coming each week, but it fluctuates. Parks and Recreation used teen focus groups for programs and even marketing. Teens told them program names are too long, hence My Durham.

The program at each changes to get the most teen involvement. Aside from Holmes center, other My Durham locations are W.D. Hill Recreation Center and Walltown Park Recreation Center. A fourth location just started at Weaver Street, moving from Edison Johnson to get more youth to come.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563, @dawnbvaughan

 

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Copyright 2018 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Tyson Campbell of American Heritage High School puts on a Georgia hat after announcing his signing with the Bulldogs.

National signing day lost a little bit of the glitz, glamour and drama this year after the first-ever early signing period in college football in December. But now that the 2018 recruiting period is really over, let's catch up on what happened this cycle, and which teams had good - and bad - days. (Note: Rankings and numbers are as of 6 p.m. ET Wednesday when this story was published.)

Georgia: The sting of losing a national championship should be lessened just a bit after Wednesday, when the Bulldogs flipped yet another four-star originally committed to Alabama. This is becoming a trend for UGA. Quay Walker is a 6-3, 218-pound linebacker who endeared himself to Georgia fans not just by picking the Bulldogs but also by picking up a Tennessee hat - was he about to head to Knoxville?!-then flinging it to the side.

Overall it was a tremendous day for the Bulldogs. They finished with the top-ranked class in the country and signed a staggering seven five-star prospects, including No. 2 cornerback Tyson Campbell. Though head coach Kirby Smart said the ranking itself, "really does not float my boat, or this staff's boat," there is no doubt Georgia's dominance on the recruiting trail will be a topic for months.

Alabama: The Tide finished out of the top five in class composite rankings, which is unusual, and lost a couple of big-time prospects, from Walker to four-star receiver Justyn Ross (he picked Clemson). The Tide were ranked No. 7 in 247sports.com's composite class rankings; the last seven seasons, they've finished with the No. 1 class.

But Alabama still managed to lock up one of the top players in the 2018 class: 6-2, 198-pound Patrick Surtain, Jr. of Plantation, Fla., is the highest-rated cornerback prospect in the modern recruiting era, and he's headed to Tuscaloosa. Yes, his dad is the former NFL cornerback of the same name.

Florida State: What a way to close. The Seminoles, under new coach Willie Taggart, were ranked near No. 70 in the class composite rankings after the early signing period but a strong last few weeks - including commits from four-stars receiver Warren Thompson, defensive end Malcolm Lamar and defensive tackle Dennis Briggs - vaulted FSU all the way to No. 11.

Southern California: As always, it's tough to lure kids away from the sunshine of Southern California. The Trojans signed five of the top six players from the state of California and on Wednesday received commitments from five-star cornerback Olaijah Griffin, four-star cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart, four-star receiver Devon Williams (who many believed was headed to Oregon) and four-star linebacker Solomon Tuliaupupu. The flurry of late commits brought the Trojans up to No. 4 in 247sports.com composite class rankings.

Arizona State: It seems that new coach Herm Edwards, an unconventional hire by the Sun Devils, has been mostly bewildered by recruiting and all the hoopla that comes with it. As such, ASU's 2018 class was near the middle of the pack, helped by a nice finish. So far the Edwards Experiment is not going well in Tempe.

Among other top schools, Ohio State (No. 2), Texas (No. 3) and Penn State (No. 5) all had big days. Clemson also was solidly in the top 10 despite a small, yet talented, class.

It went the opposite way for Michigan. The Wolverines finished with the fifth- and eighth-ranked classes in 2017 and 2016, respectively, but dropped all the way to No. 21 this year. They were hurt by the last-minute defection of top linebacker Otis Reese to Georgia and missing out on offensive lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere to Ohio State.

The low ranking also was partially due to signing fewer players. The Wolverines signed only 19 this year, compared with 30 and 28 the previous two years.

Like most signing days, there was no shortage of drama. The memorable moment of the day came during the commitment ceremony of Jacob Copeland, one of the best receivers in the 2018 class. On live television, Copeland picked Florida over Alabama and Tennessee. His mom, who was wearing an Alabama sweater and Tennessee, got up from the table and walked away as soon as he put a Gators cap on his head. The story did have a happy ending as they hugged shortly afterward.

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Copyright 2018 Star Tribune
All Rights Reserved

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

A Philadelphia Eagles fan scored an ill-gotten souvenir Sunday when he ripped off a purple plastic seat from U.S. Bank Stadium following Super Bowl LII. His act soon went viral.

He slipped it out of the stadium, sneaked it past security on the busiest day ever at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Monday and on to an American Airlines flight. While he got away, cameras caught him in the act and shared the evidence online.

The man had his new souvenir strapped to his carry-on suitcase when he pulled up a seat next to Marcus Certa in the gate area, and boldly let everybody within earshot know who the new world champions were.

"I kept waiting for somebody to say that he was too intoxicated to get on the plane or that he had a stolen item," said Certa, who was returning to Vermont after attending Sunday's game. "The TSA and the feds are more concerned how much pot you have, not that you have a seat stolen from a stadium."

Certa said he tried not to make eye contact with the man, who can be seen in a video posted by the satirical sports and men's lifestyle blog Barstool Sports. The video shows him walking out of a tent with the seat partly concealed by a coat. The man, wearing clothing with an Eagles logo and what looks like game credentials, is shown shaking the hand of a worker in the coat check area before walking out. Certa said the seat still had the coat check ticket on it when the man got on a plane heading to Charlotte, N.C.

On Instagram, Certa posted a message to U.S. Bank Stadium, saying, "You appear to be missing a seat. The drunk guy next to me has it."

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), which operates the two-year-old stadium, said it was aware of the video and that the authority's security team was investigating the incident.

The MSFA has not filed any damage or theft reports with Minneapolis police, and has not asked police to investigate any such cases, said police spokeswoman Darcy Horn.

The seat heist was not the only mischief exhibited by Philly fans. Zak Fick had his camera rolling to capture Eagles fans' joy in section 307 when their team won their first Super Bowl title.

And then he caught something else: fans busting up purple plastic seats in a section of U.S. Bank Stadium where tickets went for more than $1,200.

"I heard a few cracks and turned around to see Eagles fans with beer in their bellies and smiles on their faces snapping off a seat back," said Fick, a die-hard Vikings fan from South Dakota who got tickets to the game from family members. "They kicked a hole in a seat and busted the whole thing off. Three seats right there in 307."

Indignant, Fick took the destruction personally, and tried to chase down the culprits to stop them.

"It's like welcoming them into our home and then before going home the child has to break the china," he said.

Fick said he was sort of rooting for the Eagles, his second-favorite team. He is a big fan of North Dakota State University football and Carson Wentz, the Eagles quarterback sidelined by injury. But he really was just hoping for a "great game."

Fick was disturbed enough to post his photos online and preach a little.

"To Philadelphia fans, you are more than welcome to come to our stadium. We love opening our homes and cities and expect respect in return," he said. "Everybody is happy for you guys. You can be happy without the blot on the celebration."

The damaged seats will be "repaired or replaced immediately," the MSFA statement said. "On a broader note, U.S. Bank Stadium was once again spectacular, this time on an international stage in front of more than 100 million people."

Calls and e-mails to the MSFA seeking answers to further questions were not returned Tuesday.

Tim Harlow · 612-673-7768

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Copyright 2018 The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

Life Time Fitness plans to open a new fitness center in Brookfield after earlier dropping plans for the project.

Life Time plans to open the 125,000-square-foot facility by mid-2019 at The Corridor. Irgens Development Partners is building that multi-use project between I-94 and W. Blue Mound Road, west of Calhoun Road.

The fitness center will include tennis courts; large group-training sessions; cycle, yoga and pilates studios; and cardio and strength-based equipment spaces for individual, personal and small group coaching.

There will also be dance, art, music and tumbling studios available for children; basketball courts; indoor and outdoor cafes; and a full-service salon and spa, Life Time and Irgens announced Tuesday.

Minneapolis-based Life Time initially announced plans to open a facility at The Corridor in 2016.

Later that year, an Irgens executive told Plan Commission members that Life Time had decided to drop those plans.

There was no immediate explanation as to what led Life Time to bring the project back to The Corridor.

 
February 7, 2018
 
 
 

 

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

Palm Beach Post (Florida)

 

A fitness center's plan for a larger sign was shot down by Royal Palm Beach's Village Council on Thursday after village staff said it could set a bad precedent for future requests.

The Planet Fitness on the northwest corner of State Road 7 and Southern Boulevard wanted to add its signature thumbs-up logo to its south-facing sign, where the gym's name already is emblazoned on the building.

But Royal Palm Beach Planning and Zoning director Bradford O'Brien said the 26-foot cabinet sign would exceed the size allowed under the village's rules.

"The applicants contend that this sign is not a cabinet sign... and that other businesses have larger cabinet signs," he said.

As he presented the request to the council, O'Brien paused at a rendering of the proposed thumbs-up sign. "This thumbs up is not a recommendation," he said, smiling as the council members laughed. "We are recommending denial. I should rotate that 180 degrees."

The council agreed with O'Brien and his staff, voting unanimously to deny Planet Fitness' request. The village's Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed the proposal late last month and recommended denial on a 4-1 vote.

Mayor Fred Pinto pointed to recent "very vigorous" changes made to the village's sign rules. "We wanted to reduce the number of variances coming forward," he said.

At the time the council reviewed those rules, increasing the minimum allowed cabinet sign size from 10 square feet was not considered. That was based on the recommendation of consultant Donaldson Hearing of Cotleur & Hearing, who found that the sign size was comparable with other municipalities.

kwebb@pbpost.com

 
February 7, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2018 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

SALT LAKE CITY -

It was one thing when busybody lawmakers removed seesaws from the school playground and told mothers what they could pack in their kids' school lunch. And we might let it slide that in some parts of the country legislators passed a state law that children must brush their teeth at school.

But now they've gone too far: They're attempting to ban kids from playing football.

It's too dangerous - like seesaws and peanut butter sandwiches.

Banning football? Didn't they try that about a hundred years ago under Roosevelt - the first Roosevelt? Like thin ties and cuffed pants, everything comes back in style - even legislation.

In Illinois, Democratic representative Carol Sente recently proposed a law that would prevent kids under the age of 12 from playing football. It's called the Duerson Act, named after the former Chicago Bears star Dave Duerson, who suffered from brain trauma and committed suicide at the age of 50.

The justification of the Duerson Act, of course, is that it will prevent possible brain damage from the repeated blows of football.

There is certainly cause for concern about the risks of football, but do we really need lawmakers to act like our mothers or overgrown hall monitors? People can make their own decisions, particularly when it comes to the well-being of their children, and, in fact, they already are. Participation in football is falling drastically.

According to a report by the National Federation of High School Associations, participation in high school football dropped by nearly 26,000 participants during the 2016-17 school year, despite the addition of 61 new schools to the sport. Per the NFHS, participation in football has declined 3.5 percent for five years. Little league football has reported a similar decline.

Almost all observers believe it is a direct result of the considerable publicity surrounding brain damage and football - the studies, the anecdotal evidence, books and articles, the early retirement of a number of professional players, the "Concussion" movie, lawsuits, congressional hearings, the changing rules of the game to promote safety, the health struggles of former players, the suicides, the warnings from former players.

Brett Favre, Troy Aikman, Bart Scott, Terry Bradshaw, Adrian Peterson, Kurt Warner, Mike Ditka and Drew Brees, among others, have said they don't want their children or grandchildren to play the game.

Dr. Bennet Omalu, whose discovery of brain damage in football players was told in the movie "Concussion," once said that it was child abuse to let kids under the age of 18 play the game.

So, Americans have been warned. They have been thoroughly educated about the risks of football; now let them make their own decisions about the game. Many have already chosen to put their kids in other sports, and somehow they managed to do this without a mandate from government nannies.

If lawmakers intervene and actually make a law banning youth football, where will they draw the line? Should soccer headers be illegal (U.S. Soccer is already banning or limiting this for youth)? What about body checks in hockey? Will they make intentional fouls on the basketball court and beaning on the baseball diamond criminal offenses?

How about banning cycling? According to the Association of Neurological Surgeons, that sport has almost twice as many brain injuries as football, with 85,389 emergency room visits for cycling compared to 46,948 for football in 2009. Then there's baseball and softball, which are a close third in brain injuries behind cycling and football. Basketball is fourth. Then water sports, recreation vehicles, soccer, skateboarding.

Should there be laws banning those sports, too?

And don't even get started about ultimate fighting and boxing? How have those sports survived in the current American Nanny State? Their sole objective is to punch an opponent in the head. If someone is going to regulate football, what about the fighting sports?

There are some people who think that high chairs should be banned (too dangerous, you know). How long will it be before legislators pass a law that requires anyone on a bike to wear a helmet?

Once legislators go down this road, there's no end in sight.

Email: drob@deseretnews.com

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Copyright 2018 The Salt Lake Tribune
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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

Lansing, Mich. — Former U.S. Olympic women's gymnastics team coach John Geddert is facing a criminal investigation following the final sentencing of disgraced ex-sports doctor Larry Nassar, who molested girls at Geddert's elite gymnastics club in Michigan.

The Eaton County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday that people recently came forward with complaints against Geddert, 60. The office declined to elaborate on the number of complaints, when exactly they were filed or their nature, citing the ongoing investigation.

Geddert until recently owned and operated Twistars, a gym in Dimondale near Lansing where Nassar offered treatments on Monday nights. During Nassar's two recent sentencing hearings, some victims complained that Geddert was physically abusive, was indifferent to injuries and forced them to see Nassar.

One also alleged that Geddert was aware in the late 1990s that Nassar had performed an "inappropriate procedure" on her when she was 16, and her mother and Geddert agreed that Nassar would not treat her in private appointments again. That accuser's anonymous statement was read in court by a prosecutor.

The Associated Press left a message seeking comment with Geddert's lawyer Tuesday.

Geddert has insisted he had "zero knowledge" of Nassar's crimes. In response to lawsuits, his attorney filed court papers saying Geddert was "just one person in an extremely long line of people who were fooled by Nassar."

Geddert previously was accused of physically assaulting a Twistars employee in 2011. He also was accused of assaulting a gymnast in 2013. He did not face charges in either case.

On Monday, the worst sex-abuse case in sports history ended with a third long prison sentence for Nassar - this time 40 to 125 years for molesting young gymnasts at Twistars. The focus will shift to civil lawsuits and multiple probes of Nassar's actions and those of people around him when he worked for Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, the sport's governing body.

Geddert, whose national profile rose while training Lansing-area standout Jordyn Wieber, was suspended last month by USA Gymnastics until it completes its own investigation. Geddert coached the "Fierce Five" that won a team gold in 2012 in London. He recently announced his retirement and transferred ownership of the club to his wife, Kathryn.

A spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, whose office prosecuted Nassar, has declined to say if Geddert or Twistars is under investigation

An astonishing 250-plus women and girls gave statements in two Michigan courtrooms over 10 days of proceedings.

Makayla Thrush, who trained at Geddert's club from ages 7 to 17, said she developed an eating disorder because of Geddert and accused him of becoming so angry that he threw her on top of a low bar, ruptured the lymph nodes in her neck, gave her a black eye and tore the muscles in her stomach, ending her career.

"I have been dealing with many mixed emotions the past few weeks, some of it having to deal with the enablers of the abusers trying to get out of their screw-up," she said in court last month. "There isn't one bone in my body that doesn't hate John Geddert for everything he has done to me in my career."

Separately Tuesday, Michigan State released a letter that interim president John Engler sent Monday to an independent special prosecutor appointed by state Attorney General Bill Schuette to investigate allegations that the school ignored and mishandled old complaints against Nassar.

Engler pledged "full cooperation" but also criticized William Forsyth for sending authorities without warning to execute search warrants at the university Friday, as news cameras filmed. Engler noted that Schuette had said the probe would not be "political."

The presence of camera crews was hopefully "not part of an investigation 'media strategy' but rather inadvertent and the result of indiscrete behavior that can be stopped," Engler wrote. Leaks must be prevented, he said.

"Your credibility depends on that, as does the MSU community's need for a report that is viewed as objective and complete. We owe this to the survivors," he wrote.

A spokeswoman for Schuette, who is running for governor and whose campaign has been endorsed by Engler - himself a former Republican governor - said the letter was being reviewed.

Also Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Rick Snyder said Michigan State Board of Trustees Chairman Brian Breslin, who is also Snyder's appointments manager, began an unpaid leave of absence for between 30 and 90 days from that job to focus on his post with the trustees.

"While the two roles never overlapped, my first priority is to fulfill my statewide elected responsibilities as a MSU Trustee," Breslin said in a statement.

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

 

Signal Mountain planners are exploring a grant opportunity that could help restore the town's baseball and softball fields to their former glory.

The grant, offered through the state's Local Parks and Recreation Fund, would go toward renovations at Driver Field and Marion Field, both of which sit behind Signal Mountain Golf & Country Club.

The fields have not seen any significant improvements since they were built in the 1950s, planners explained, and residents who support the grant say the touch-up is long overdue.

"I played softball out there in 1968, '69 and '70, and it ain't changed since then," said town resident Randy Rigsby.

As of now, specific improvements are not set in stone, said Jennifer Williams, regional planner for the Southeast Tennessee Development District.

City officials plan to walk the fields with an engineer to see what work could be done on them and to determine how much each improvement would cost.

If awarded, the grant would provide funds for half of the work, contributing up to $500,000, and the town would be required to pay for the rest.

For now, planners say they hope to be able to address the fields' drainage issues; replace the light poles and fencing; redo the restroom facilities, concession stand and storage building surrounding the fields; and make updates to ensure the fields comply to standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"There were little things we could have done, but they would have been band-aids," said Sam Guin, special projects and compliance manager for the town of Signal Mountain. "Being able to do a really extensive project like this would be a long-term fix."

Pat Cross said improvements on the field would be a big win for the men who play in Signal Mountain's church softball league, which consists of about 100 players age 40 and older from six different churches.

"Getting hurt is not really an option," said Cross, who has been playing in the league for four years. "We're all working guys; it's not like in high school or college where you can just take a couple months off if you have a broken ankle, so safety is paramount."

Cross said the league players' two major concerns are the infield, which is without proper drainage, and the outfield, which he said is filled with holes because the ground is uneven.

"It's not level at all," he said, adding with a laugh, "You might as well be playing out back in a sandbox."

Right now, about 450 kids also use the fields for baseball, said town Recreation Director Jarred Thompson, and many more occasionally use the grounds to practice lacrosse, football and soccer. But the fields are mainly used by the church league and the Signal Mountain Girls Softball League, which has 150 players, he added.

If the fields saw some of those much-needed renovations, however, Cross said he believes their usage would likely increase, as the number of teams in leagues would begin to grow again and teams could even be recruited from Chattanooga.

The church league has already donated about $3,000 to the town to make that vision a reality, Thompson said.

"So we're definitely open to doing whatever we need to do on our end to make it happen," Cross said. "It means a lot to the town, and it means a lot to the guys playing."

The deadline for the town to submit the grant application is April. Planners will know whether Signal Mountain was awarded the grant or not in August or September, when TDEC announces the grant recipients.

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

The help-wanted ad went up last week on the Eastern Washington University web site.

Two-thirds of the way down the list - just below ads for a custodian and food service manager - is the intriguing title of "Director of Intercollegiate Athletics."

The first requirements are a valid driver's license and a bachelor's degree, but it ramps up quickly from there.

Among other things, candidates must have "progressive leadership responsibility in intercollegiate athletics, long-term strategic planning, proven fiscal and personnel management skills, and illustrated success in athletic fundraising."

That will certainly narrow the application list, but the school nevertheless expects a "tremendous number of highly qualified candidates," Provost Scott Gordon predicted.

"What Eastern has to offer is just amazing," said Gordon, who is co-chairing the search committee with Board of Trustee member and retired judge James Murphy.

"It's going to be an exciting search," Gordon said.

The work has already begun. During a meeting with athletic department staffers, Murphy heard recommendations to hire a candidate "who communicates well and is open to communication from coaches and staffers."

"They also want to see some sort of entrepreneurial experience," Murphy said.

Indeed, among the duties are to "provide visionary leadership, strategic planning, policy development and budget management."

The public also will have a chance to weigh in. Several forums are scheduled for later this month, including one after the men's basketball game against Montana on Feb. 15.

The 15-member search committee will begin holding meetings the following week; applications will be accepted through April 2.

By April 9, Gordon and Murphy hope to narrow the field to three or four finalists, whose campus visits will also include public forums.

"Those are pretty solid dates," Murphy said. "After that it gets fuzzier."

University president Mary Cullinan could name a successor to Bill Chaves as early as late April.

Chaves, who led Eastern athletics for 10 ½ years, resigned last month to take a similar job at the University of North Dakota.

Lynn Hickey, the athletic director at the University of Texas-San Antonio for 18 years until stepping down last fall, recently was appointed by Cullinan as interim AD.

Hickey, who will arrive in Cheney on Feb. 12, has not ruled out interest in the permanent position.

Speaking of fans, Murphy said "I think they want someone who offers the prospect of excellence. The fact that we had a national championship in 2010 lingers in people's minds."

"We want to get an AD who fosters that kind of goal," Murphy said.

Gordon and Murphy expect the candidates' pool to run the gamut, including athletic directors at smaller schools and other FCS institutions, as well as associate ADs from FBS programs.

In comparing candidates, Murphy said that "in looking at associate ADs from larger schools, you just need to look at the depth of what they've done."

Contact the writer:

(509)459-5437

jima@spokesman.com

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February 6, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2018 South Bend Tribune Corporation
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South Bend Tribune (Indiana)

 

A pair of former USA Gymnastics presidents have said University of Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick played a key role in advising USA Gymnastics on policies related to sexual abuse.

In the report published Monday by the Indianapolis Star, Mike Jacki, who served as president from 1983 to 1994, said Swarbrick discouraged the organization from providing a booklet on child abuse to its members. Swarbrick denied the charge.

Another former president, Steve Penny, who served from 2005 to 2017, cited Swarbrick as the organization's legal counsel in a 2015 deposition and said sexual abuse issues were "managed by our attorney." Even if they relied on advice of legal counsel, the USA Gymnastics board was ultimately responsible for setting policy.

A Notre Dame official said Swarbrick was unavailable Monday morning to respond to inquiries about the report.

John Heisler, senior associate athletic director at Notre Dame, said Swarbrick would not answer any additional questions. The Swarbrick quotes in the Star's report are accurate, Heisler said.

"We have nothing to add beyond Mr. Swarbrick's comments to the Indianapolis Star, which are accurate as reported," said Dennis Brown, spokesman for Notre Dame.

According to The Star, Swarbrick declined an interview but did respond to written questions from the newspaper. Prior to becoming athletic director at Notre Dame in 2008, Swarbrick was chairman of the Indiana Sports Corp. from 1992 to 2001.

Swarbrick told The Star it was his former firm, then called Baker & Daniels, that was the entity representing USA Gymnastics and giving advice. Swarbrick said he moved in and out of working with the organization from 1984 to 2008. The firm is now known as Faegre Baker Daniels.

"Your investigation to date offers evidence USA Gymnastics may have been able to do a better job of implementing the system it created, and I am hopeful that the new leadership of USA Gymnastics will use the information you and others have provided to improve the system," Swarbrick said to The Star.

A deposition Swarbrick gave in 2012 as part of a lawsuit by former swimmer Jancy Thompson against USA Swimming for allegedly failing to protect her from a sexually abusive coach includes multiple instances of Swarbrick refusing to answer questions because he had acted as the attorney for USA Swimming. He also reported having done legal work for USA Gymnastics, as well as the governing bodies for synchronized swimming, rowing, diving and skiing.

The Star report also revealed that Swarbrick was copied on several letters included in files USA Gymnastics kept on 54 coaches accused of sexual abuse. Many of those files were kept in a drawer and not reported to law enforcement, The Star reported. Swarbrick denied any knowledge of the 54 cases, saying most cases he was aware of involved coaches who had already been reported to law enforcement.

A series of stories that date to 2016 have raised questions about how USA Gymnastics handled sex abuse allegations and why the organization did not report them to authorities. In the wake of the controversy, a former Olympic gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar, has been convicted of abusing hundreds of girls over several years.

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Copyright 2018 The New York Observer, L.P.
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New York Observer

 

In the wake of the Strava heat map fiasco, many fitness tracking app providers are likely now reviewing their own user privacy-setting protocols. If they are smart, they are also reviewing their data security systems, designed to protect their users' personal data and information.

The Strava case, which resulted in the exposing of U.S. military base locations around the world, showed that many sides might be to blame for releasing too much information on the app. But the Strava story also brings up some tough questions about how much information users really should be revealing, and also how safe these companies are keeping that information.

One fitness app Runkeeper, that, like Strava, allows users to track their runs via GPS and measure their progress over time, already has certain precautions in place to protect their users sensitive location information from unwanted view. "When you create an account with Runkeeper, the location information defaults to 'in-app friends' only," said Erica Bellinger, consumer P.R. and digital specialist at Runkeeper. "The user can then choose to keep it that way, or make it public (i.e. viewable to everyone) or keep it completely private in the activity settings tab of the app," she said. "We treat location data as private unless the user has specifically selected the public setting."

The problem, however, is that these days, no shared information is ever completely private. "The biggest risk these types of companies face is around their data getting lost, or someone breaking into their system and stealing the data in an unauthorized manner," said Ken Talanian, director of software research at Evercore ISI and specialist in cybersecurity. Most companies do put best practices security systems in place to protect their users information, but they are no match for high-level hackers that are determined to break through. "The biggest issue is that by using these apps you are creating data that could be used against you, or in the Strava case, against the U.S. military," Talanian said.

While most hackers probably don't care that you just beat your best 5K run time this morning, it's the other information these apps may hold, such as your location each morning, your health records or your banking information that could create problems, if it were to get in the wrong hands. "It's forcing people to think about the ramifications of sharing all this information," said Talanian.

The recent hack into credit reporting company Equifax's system-due to its failure to patch a software vulnerability-is another case in point. The hack lead to the personal, identifiable information of more than 145 million consumers being compromised, including Social Security numbers, birth dates and driver's license numbers. "It may take a sophisticated adversary to get into a system that is even moderately protected, but when it comes to hackers in China, Russia, North Korea and Iran, they all have the capability to get into these systems," Talanian said.

In Europe, some steps are already to being taken to push companies to beef up the security of their data. In May, the General Data Protection Regulation (G.D.P.R.) will go into effect. Put forth by the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission, the regulation requires businesses to protect the personal data and privacy of E.U. citizens for transactions that occur within E.U. member states. Companies will need the same level of protection for things like an individual's IP address or cookie data as they do for a person's name, address and Social Security number.

"In many ways, it puts the onus on the companies rather than the users to make sure the data is secure and safe," said Talanian. U.S. companies operating in Europe will also have to comply with these regulations, and the price for not doing so is steep. The G.D.P.R. allows for penalties of up to (EURO)20 million or 4 percent of global annual turnover, whichever is higher, for non-compliance.

"Even though it's an E.U. regulation, the target may be larger consumer facings companies when it's finally implemented," said Talanian. "It's early on, so we don't know how it will manifest, but my guess is that you will see some multinational companies operating in Europe being fined for a data breach.

From a security perspective, that's a good thing. "It's a wake up call for folks to get a little more control over their environments, if they have not been proactive about it," Talanian said. These days, not only do the gatherers of date need to be on high alert, but sharers need to take more control, too, looking into what type of information is being stored by apps, understanding if that data is public and adjusting privacy settings accordingly.

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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

USA TODAY

 

Elana Meyers Taylor will be helping American bobsledders, and athletes in many other sports, long after her days as a driver are over.

The pilot of USA-1 has pledged her brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation for research on concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. She's had four concussions that she knows of, including one that almost ended her career, and is all too aware that research on repetitive head trauma in female athletes is lacking.

"Women are largely unrepresented in brain donations. And concussions affect women more than men, so they need to get research out," Meyers Taylor told USA TODAY.

Meyers Taylor told USA TODAY about her plans in November, but her pledge isn't being announced by the Concussion Legacy Foundation until Tuesday. She started wearing the group's logo on her helmet during the World Cup season.

Also on Tuesday, hockey gold medalists Angela Ruggeiro and Hayley Wickenheiser of Canada will announce they are pledging their brains.

"Head trauma is not part of the discussion in Olympic sports yet. It's barely part of the global discussion," said Chris Nowinski, co-founder and executive director of the Concussion Legacy Foundation. "So this is a great way to start the conversation in countries where it has yet to begin."

Much of the focus on the effects of repetitive head trauma in athletes has been on football players, and understandably so. The damage is brutally evident in former players, whose autopsied brains have shown signs of CTE and whose loved ones tell of memory loss, changes in personality and depression before their deaths.

But football is hardly the only sport in which athletes take repeated blows to the head. Boxing, hockey, soccer. And, yes, bobsledding.

Watch a bobsled race, and you can see the sled bumping and shaking as it speeds along the icy track. The sled can reach speeds of up to 90 mph, and top-level tracks have more than a dozen turns.

"Anytime you hit a curve or you hit on the side of the wall, you hit against the side of the sled," said Meyers Taylor, who won a silver as a driver in the Sochi Games and a bronze in Vancouver as a brakeman.

"We're taking four to five, sometimes six or seven Gs on our body every time we go down the track," Meyers Taylor said. "And then the crashing. We use motorcycle helmets. Motorcycle helmets are meant for one crash.... They're made to prevent bad things from happening, and they do. But at the end of the day, who knows how much they can undergo in a bobsled?

"Bobsled is just a violent sport."

Meyers Taylor experienced the worst of it in 2015, when a January crash left her disoriented. She felt better pretty quickly and passed an IMPACT concussion test "with flying colors."

By the end of the season, however, her symptoms had returned. Light sensitivity. Headaches.

And, most profound, a change in her personality.

"A really big symptom of mine, that we didn't realize (was a symptom), was emotional," Meyers Taylor said. "I was not myself at all. I was acting out. And my husband was the one to really notice it because I'd take it out on him. If my emotions were out of control, he was the one who would see it."

She was treated at Cerebrum Health Centers in Atlanta and thought she was OK. But when she began training that fall, her symptoms returned.

After the second World Cup race, her coaches told her they were sending her home.

"I just sat there crying to them and I was like, 'I don't know if I'll be back,'" Meyers Taylor said. "I think that was the hardest thing for them, to see me in that moment because I didn't know. I didn't know what would happen, and it was just so hard to go through."

She and her husband, fellow bobsledder Nic Taylor, returned to Atlanta, where she worked with a new team of doctors at Cerebrum. After three months, she was cleared. She's been symptom-free since then.

But Meyers Taylor knows her experience is far from unique. Just last fall, in fact, fellow American Lolo Jones suffered a concussion that caused lingering symptoms.

So Meyers Taylor reached out to Nowinski's group, wanting to do whatever she could to help.

It was a surprise -- and welcome -- email. Getting female athletes or their families to pledge their brains remains a challenge, Nowinski said.

Of the 2,800 brains that have been pledged, 549 are from female athletes.

"Females have been neglected in traumatic brain injury research. They're almost non-existent in CTE research, and that's something that needs to change," Nowinski said. "We do know there are differences between a male brain and a female brain, so we'd expect there to be differences in how they respond to brain injuries."

Meyers Taylor is quite possibly the biggest cheerleader the U.S. Olympic team has. (Seriously. Check out her Twitter feed.) But her support and care for her fellow Olympians extends far beyond the Pyeongchang Games.

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February 6, 2018
 
 
 

 

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

 

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - After years of planning and many millions in spending, there was one thing organizers of Super Bowl 52 couldn't control - a Minnesota winter.

The Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots played inside. But as fans were heading to U.S. Bank Stadium at noon Sunday, the temperature in Minneapolis was minus-2 degrees, with a wind chill of negative 23 - by far the coldest Super Bowl on record - raising questions about whether the NFL's marquee event would ever return to Minnesota.

While warmer climates tend to be more popular host cities, a flashy new stadium and amenities often play a bigger role than the weather in determining who will host the big game.

"The owners will do as they like. So that's one of those decisions that's just not up to the fan base," said Mark Cobb, who has been to several Super Bowls in his work for the NFL Players Association. "Wherever has the newest, prettiest stadium, that's who gets the game."

Cobb, of Washington, said everyone in Minnesota was nice, and he'd return to Minneapolis for a Super Bowl. But he said the weather felt "like I was being punished. Minnesota is where they send you when you're bad. But if you embrace it like the people who live here, instead of fighting it, it's not so bad."

The NFL has used the Super Bowl as a reward for municipalities that pump public money into new venues. Minnesota was awarded the game in 2014, two years after state lawmakers approved a financing package that had taxpayers paying nearly half the cost of the $1.1 billion stadium.

Other northern cities have reaped similar benefits. New Jersey's MetLife Stadium got a Super Bowl in its fourth season, the only outdoor Super Bowl at a northern site to date (2014). Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis hosted in 2012 and Ford Field in Detroit hosted in 2006, both at the end of their fourth seasons. The only other Super Bowls held in the north were in suburban Detroit at the Pontiac Silverdome in 1982 and in Minneapolis at the Metrodome in 1992.

While warmer climates have held more Super Bowls, there is no rotation of pre-selected cities that get picked, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. He said it's up to club owners to take the initial step of expressing an interest in hosting. The sites of the next four Super Bowls are already chosen: Atlanta in 2019, followed by South Florida, Tampa Bay and Los Angeles.

Atlanta has a stadium that opened in 2017. Hard Rock Stadium in South Florida and Raymond James Stadium in Tampa have been renovated in the past three years, and Los Angeles will have a new stadium by the time it hosts the game.

McCarthy said the weather in Minneapolis wasn't a negative. Instead, he said it provided new experiences for fans, some of whom took advantage of the Minneapolis skyway system, a collection of enclosed - and heated - pedestrian bridges.

"We knew weather was going to be a factor and we embraced it," he said.

Andrea Mokros, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, said the event was a "huge success." Visitor numbers were still being calculated, but Mokros said outdoor concerts and other events were well attended, even on the coldest nights during 10 days of festivities.

"The cold didn't slow anyone down and in fact made it a more memorable experience," she said. Mokros said the winter climate allowed the host committee to offer a different sort of fun for guests, such as snowmobiling or skijoring (cross-country skiing while being pulled by a dog). And she said she felt some pride when she saw celebrities donning winter hats and embracing the cold weather.

Paul Vaaler, a professor of management and law at the University of Minnesota law school and the Carlson School of Management, said while warmer tourist destinations are more likely to get Super Bowls, there is some strategy to spreading the game to different franchises: The promise of a Super Bowl can lead cities to build new stadiums and keep teams from leaving certain markets.

Because of that, he said, other northern cities are likely to host the Super Bowl before Minnesota gets another chance.

"That incentive to build a stadium and attract the Super Bowl is gone (for Minnesota), but it's not gone in a place like Cincinnati, or a place like Denver" or other northern NFL cities that have stadiums that are more than 20 years old. "For other northern climates, there will be pressure."

Some fans said the weather was tolerable and there were plenty of experiences in Minneapolis to keep them entertained. Others said that even though Minnesotans were hospitable, they'd prefer a warmer location.

"The cold was just brutal," said Philadelphia Eagles fan Terry Laufer of Carrollton, Virginia. His wife, Rhonda, said: "I would never be able to bring children here. It would be too risky." The pair said they'd return with their grandkids in September, when it's warmer.

"You could have had the Arctic Circle and it would have been a great experience," said Jody Haggerty of Milford, Pennsylvania. "Minneapolis made it work.... It's not about the location. It's about the experience, the atmosphere and the game."

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February 6, 2018
 
 
 

 

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