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Chicago Daily Herald

 

Loyola University Chicago's unexpected march to college basketball's Final Four will have financial reverberations well beyond its urban lakeside campus. Nine other schools stand to make money off its Cinderella run.

The Loyola Ramblers' March Madness success has earned $8.5 million for their 10-team Missouri Valley Conference, to be paid out by the NCAA over the next six years. That amounts to roughly $140,000 per school, per year - more than any of the universities make annually from the conference's media deal with ESPN.

The financial boost comes at a time when state budgets across the country are shrinking funding for many public schools, and athletic programs at private schools face stiff competition for dollars from academics. That makes tournament money critical in filling the gaps for these teams.

"It's transformational," said University of Evansville Athletic Director Mark Spencer, who oversees an $11 million sports budget for the Indiana school. "It's a revenue stream for us to build our entire budget on, and maybe even make some one-time capital improvements that wouldn't have been possible without it."

The 11-seed in the South Region, Loyola became a fan favorite thanks to its late-game heroics and super fan Sister Jean, a 98-year-old nun who's become a national sensation. The team won its first three tournament games by a combined four points and became the highest seed to reach the Final Four since No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth in 2011. Before the tournament started, the Ramblers had 250-1 odds to win the national title. They're now at 9-1.

The NCAA has a complex way of rewarding teams for their tournament success. In simple terms, for every tournament game a school plays, not including the championship, the NCAA rewards that team's conference with about $1.7 million, paid out over six years. Regardless of how well the Ramblers perform in the Final Four this weekend, they'll have clinched about $8.5 million for their conference. That's a drop in the bucket for bigger leagues like the Atlantic Coast Conference, which make $375 million in annual revenue fueled primarily by college football. But for the Missouri Valley, which doesn't offer top-tier football, it's a windfall. About 65 percent of the conference's revenue comes from successes in the NCAA tournament, so winning runs like Loyola's go a long way toward establishing a steady future for the whole league.

"It gives us confidence in planning long term," said Southern Illinois University Athletic Director Tommy Bell, whose Salukis lost twice to the Ramblers this year. "Knowing we don't have to go somewhere else to balance the budget, knowing we have this money coming in from Loyola, that gives us a lot more stability."

This is the Missouri Valley's first season without Wichita State University, the school that's been its primary moneymaker over the past decade. The Shockers joined the American Athletic Conference in July, a departure that left many in college basketball wondering whether the Missouri Valley's national success might fade. Wichita State and Creighton University, which left for the Big East Conference in 2013, accounted for 20 of the Missouri Valley's last 24 tournament games.

"This was a critical year, not only for how we're perceived from the outside looking in, but also how we perceive ourselves," Missouri Valley Conference Commissioner Doug Elgin said. "Loyola has earned $8.5 million for the conference, but the true value can't be put in dollars and cents. It's reputation, recognition and national perception."

The Missouri Valley pulls in about $11 million in annual revenue, comprised mainly of March Madness payouts, with other money coming from its conference tournaments, a television deal with ESPN and a multimedia rights deal with sports marketer Learfield. Thanks largely to Wichita State's past successes, the conference will distribute a record $6.4 million in NCAA tournament monies for 2018. Next year's total, the first to include Loyola-Chicago's winnings, will be even higher.

Conferences can choose how to divvy up the money they make from NCAA tournament success. The Missouri Valley chooses to reimburse its tournament representative's travel costs, then divide the money evenly, meaning Loyola will see roughly the same amount as Missouri State or Southern Illinois. For some in the conference, the annual distribution is equivalent to the revenue it gets from ticket sales, or licensing and sponsorships.

"The way the NCAA tournament pays out, you have to keep replacing your tournament wins," Evansville's Spencer said. "A down year creates big financial swings across the board. This will help boost us for a sustainable amount of time."

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The NCAA has a complex way of rewarding teams for their tournament success. In simple terms, for every tournament game a school plays, not including the championship, the NCAA rewards that team's conference with about $1.7 million, paid out over six years. Regardless of how well the Loyola Ramblers perform in the Final Four this weekend, they'll have clinched about $8.5 million for their conference. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
 
April 2, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2018 The Arizona Daily Star. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

It took almost three years to bring former UA track and field assistant coach Craig Carter to trial for choking a student-athlete while threatening her with a box cutter.

A Pima County jury took less than three hours to convict him.

Carter, 50, is facing between 15 to 23 years in prison after he was found guilty Friday of aggravated assault and aggravated assault with a dangerous instrument.

Carter was taken into custody shortly after 5 p.m. Friday. He'll be sentenced on May 14.

On April 20, 2015, Carter grabbed former UA thrower Baillie Gibson by the neck and threatened to cut her face with a box cutter he pulled out of his pocket. The two were involved in a sexual relationship at the time, which Gibson maintains was not consensual.

"This has been a long time coming," Billie Jo Gibson, Baillie's mother, told the Star on Friday night. "Justice is finally being served."

During the three-day trial, Carter's attorneys painted Gibson as a liar who was out for money. Carter kept his head bowed as the verdict was read, shaking his head, while Gibson broke out in a smile.

After being told that he would be taken into custody, Carter pointed to Gibson and muttered something under his breath. Gibson and her mother both began crying, and Carter was escorted out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

The guilty verdict came after a trial that included only witnesses for the prosecution. Carter's attorneys rested their case Thursday without putting Carter or anyone else on the stand in his defense.

Prosecutor Julie Sottosanti walked the jury through the events on the day in question during Friday's closing arguments, saying that Gibson wanted out of the relationship but "wasn't allowed to make those kinds of decisions for herself."

Sottosanti reminded the jury that in addition to the sexual relationship, there was still the coach-athlete relationship, where Carter wielded significant control over Gibson. Carter first began recruiting Gibson to join the Wildcats when she was a junior in high school, and worked with her daily during the season.

Defense attorneys for Carter brought up inconsistencies in Gibson's version of events and the nature of her relationship with Carter, but all of that was simply a distraction, Sottosanti said.

"All that matters is what happened in that office," she said. "This is not a he-said, she-said case. This is a they-said case. This is an everyone-said case."

Sottosanti again played the video of Carter's confession to UA police, then reviewed the statutory guidelines for aggravated assault.

Carter "held a box cutter to her face; he told her he was going to cut her up and he did it while he was pinning her down to a couch by her neck," Sottosanti said. "His version of events line up with hers and both those versions of events make him guilty of these crimes."

Carter's attorney, Dan Cooper, said that there was no question that his client did several things that he shouldn't have done -- but violating Arizona law was not one of them.

The statute for aggravated assault requires that Gibson be in "reasonable apprehension" of harm and that Carter acted with intent. Neither of those applied to that situation, Cooper said. Carter didn't have time to form intent before he grabbed her throat and pulled out the box cutter, the attorney said. And Gibson also didn't have reasonable apprehension when she went to his office alone that afternoon.

"There's no reason you have to accept that she had 1 ounce of fear when she went in there, because she didn't behave that way," Cooper said.

Cooper repeatedly accused Gibson and witness Julie Labonte of lying on the stand and making up events for a "money grab." Several months after reporting Carter to police, Gibson filed a civil lawsuit against Carter and the University of Arizona.

"Craig behaved horribly. Whatever price he pays for that, he'll deal with," Cooper said. "What he didn't do is what the state has accused him of doing."

Cooper then made a second request for a mistrial, which was denied.

The jury had the option of convicting Carter on lesser charges of assault and disorderly conduct were they not able to reach an agreement on the aggravated assault charges.

Carter is still facing another trial on charges of stalking and disruption of an educational institution, in connection with dozens of text messages and emails he sent Gibson after the incident in his office. He later attempted to drag Gibson out of a UA classroom.

In yet another case, Carter is also facing charges of violating a protective order after he allegedly tried to contact Labonte via Facebook and Skype.

It's unclear if the Pima County Attorney's Office intends to pursue those charges in light of Friday's guilty verdict.

Gibson's mother said she hopes Friday's verdict will help other victims.

"Don't keep this in," she said. "Find some way to stand up for yourself."

 
March 31, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Corpus Christi Caller-Times

 

With the city of Corpus Christi facing the largest budget shortfall since the financial crisis, many departments have been told to start running as a business rather than a public service.

One department working to bring in revenue is Parks and Recreation.

The City Council on Tuesday heard the first reading of the sale of three city parks (two in the Southside and one in Annaville) to private entities. The sales will be finalized after the second reading at an upcoming council meeting.

Congress Park, 4017 Capitol Drive, will be sold for $180,000, and Creekway Park, 7306 Prairie Drive, for $75,000. Both will be sold to Southern Builder Co., LLC.

Chris Montalvo, with Mirabal, Montalvo and Associates, and The Clower Company, are the listed brokers for both sales.

Violet Park, 4301 Violet Road in Annaville, will be sold for $115,000 to Isaac Camacho and Janet L. Camacho. Camacho is connected to Camacho Demolition and Environmental, which has locations on Agnes Street, in Sinton and in Beeville.

Multiple attempts to reach Montalvo and Camacho by phone were unsuccessful. All parks will be sold "as-is."

The money goes into the department's community enrichment fund, according to Jay Ellington, Parks and Recreation Department director.

"The money that comes from parks sales and development fees, all of those monies are plowed right into the park system generally doing basic improvements," Ellington said. "This could be for playground renovation, replacing shelter and putting trails in."

Corpus Christi voters approved the sale of 17 parks in 2014, and they went on the market in January 2016. Only three will remain on the roster after these three are sold.

In 2012, nearly 30 parks were identified in a Parks and Recreation master plan which classified them as "re-purposable."

This opened options for the city: "adoption, lease, transfer to another government entity, sale or allowing them to return to a natural state," according to an agenda memo.

Mt. Vernon Park, 5151 McArdle Road, fetched the highest sales price at $1,756,765. It was originally listed at $1,605,000.

Seven parks were adopted by community members or transferred to another city agency for maintenance.

One park that was saved in the 11th hour is another Southside space, Ridgewood Park nearly Holly Road.

The community started a petition and eventually convinced the city to let them officially adopt the park. The park is now maintained mostly by its nearby neighbors.

When parks are sold, home and property owners within 500 feet of the space are notified by mail of the sale consideration. Signs are also posted in the park that note the time and date of a City Council meeting to protest the sale.

Ellington said the sales are not contingent on the buyer's future plans for the space. All zoning changes are handled post-sale by the buyer, according to the agenda.

There are more than 150 parks in Corpus Christi, and 1,900 acres of park land, Ellington said.

As required by law, the department will start its next master plan process in the coming months. Ellington said it is likely more parks will be added to a sale list.

Twitter: @reporterjulie

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Corpus Christi Caller-Times

 

SAN ANTONIO — Fat, arrogant and idiotic is no way to go through life.

Unless you're the NCAA and its member universities and colleges.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said Thursday that he couldn't predict what collegiate athletics will look like in a year or two because the Commission on College Basketball has not yet finished its work. But he promised changes are coming, that the FBI investigation that revealed fraud at the highest levels of college basketball made everyone realize the NCAA cannot continue operating this way.

Well, congratulations. It's only about two decades too late.

Emmert said in his annual address at the Final Four that leaders in college athletics were "pretty dismayed by the nature of the facts that were laid out" by the FBI investigation.

"Everyone had heard rumors, of course, about that kind of behavior, and the business had swirled around everyone," Emmert said. "But nobody had seen it displayed as starkly as it was in the findings of that investigation."

Really? Scandals at Colorado, Southern California, SMU, Ohio State, Miami (Fla.), Michigan and Alabama weren't enough to clue the NCAA and its member institutions into the fact that there was shady business going on in the recruitment and retention of players? They might not have been able to see the cesspool, but they sure as hell could smell it.

But only when federal charges were on the table did the people responsible for doing right by thousands of "student-athletes" decide it was time to do something.

"One of the things that's different about this commission is that everybody I asked to serve on it... said, 'Yeah, I'd love to do it, but only if you guys are serious,'" Emmert said. "Just to be blunt about it, you don't waste Condoleezza Rice's time if you're not serious about it."

I have no doubt in the integrity or sincerity of Rice, who leads the commission investigating how college sports can — must — change. But with all due respect to Rice, her valuable time shouldn't be the motivating factor here. It's the kids who are generating the millions of dollars for their schools, conferences and the NCAA and getting only a scholarship in return.

Now, I'm not saying a college scholarship is worthless. Far from it. For some athletes, it is the only way they can afford to go to college.

But the quaint days of college athletics being an amateur activity are long gone, and the NCAA and its schools remain steadfast in their refusal to accept that.

"Universities and colleges have consistently said they don't want to have student-athletes become employees of a university," Emmert said.

That argument, though, is both hypocritical and offensive in light of how much money there is in college athletics. CBS will eventually pay almost $1 billion a year for broadcast rights to the men's basketball tournament. Coaches have already made at least $5 million in performance bonuses for their team's results in the tournament.

And last year, Alabama football coach Nick Saban made a little over $11 million.

"There is no interest in higher education turning college athletes into employees that are hired and fired by universities," Emmert said.

Few people are suggesting that. Most people are comfortable with there being some difference between professional and college athletes but also believe it's fair that the players get some compensation for the revenue they're generating.

Allowing college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness is one longstanding suggestion. Follow the Olympic model, where athletes are allowed to sign individual endorsement deals.

There are ways to make it happen, and the fact it hasn't is because the NCAA doesn't want to. It doesn't want to give up control; it doesn't want to give up what it sees as its moral high ground, and it doesn't want to give up any of its cold, hard cash.

But change is coming, and I don't just mean the report from Rice and her commission.

Athletes are getting more and more vocal about getting some kind of compensation, and that will only continue, whether in the form of lawsuits or unions.

The world of college athletes has changed. It's time — long past time — actually that the NCAA and its members recognize that.

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Copyright 2018 Newsday, Inc.

Newsday (New York)

 

The operator of NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum was awarded a $6 million state grant on Thursday to help fund an $8.5 million project to bring the arena into NHL compliance for future Islanders games.

The Islanders said they will provide the additional $2.5 million to upgrade their former home arena as they proceed toward the opening of their new arena at Belmont Park, which is expected to occur no earlier than 2021.

Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which operates the Coliseum and Brooklyn's Barclays Center, says the Coliseum work will be completed by October so the Islanders can split their schedule during the next three seasons between both arenas.

"By playing games at Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders will build momentum and excitement for the transformational redevelopment of Belmont Park," according to documents presented at a meeting of Empire State Development's board of directors Thursday.

ESD, the state's primary business development agency, approved the funding and also is helping the Islanders' Belmont project.

The development — a privately funded $1 billion sports and entertainment destination awarded to the Islanders' group of investors in December — is in the beginning stages of a 12-to-16-month environmental review process.

The agreement for the Islanders to split their games between Brooklyn and their former home in Uniondale was reached in negotiations in January about the process for the team to opt out of its 25-year deal at Barclays.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced two months ago that the state will contribute $6 million to the Coliseum through ESD.

"We are excited to support Governor Cuomo in bringing hockey back to Long Island," the team said in a statement.

According to documents presented to the ESD board Thursday, the Coliseum project includes $2.2 million for installation of video-cable infrastructure and related NHL equipment and $2 million to renovate the "existing team campus," including the Coliseum locker room.

The county-owned arena reopened a year ago following an 18-month, $165-million renovation by Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, during which the seating capacity for hockey games was reduced to 13,900 from more than 16,000.

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March 30, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Newsday (New York)

 

A Bayville developer who hopes to build a $120 million hockey arena in Medford pitched the plan Wednesday night as an economic boon for the community.

Bernard Shereck, speaking to the Medford Taxpayers and Civic Association in the hamlet's firehouse, said the project would create 2,000 construction jobs and 125 permanent jobs, increase property values and provide tax benefits to schools.

He said he hoped to buy a 32-acre parcel on South Service Road of the Long Island Expressway, about a mile east of Route 112. The land is owned by Suffolk County Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.

Shereck outlined plans to bring a minor league hockey team to the facility, as well as lacrosse games, concerts and shows.

"If the property were available to us, I feel it would be a real boon to the community," said Shereck, 81, chief executive of Arena Management of New York. "There's just so many possibilities, so many opportunities. All it really needs is a site."

Suffolk OTB plans to sell the property to Brooklyn-based Plaza Auto Mall, which would store up to 5,000 cars there.

Shereck asked Medford residents to lobby Brookhaven Town officials to reject a zoning change required for the auto business.

"It's really up to the community to tell the council what to do," he said.

Many Medford residents have expressed opposition to the auto mall, saying the community does not need another auto dealership.

Residents asked Shereck about issues such as sewers, parking and traffic. Some asked how he planned to finance the arena.

Shereck said potential investors "have come and gone," adding, "I really have to have land to do this."

He told the crowd he intends to reach out to corporations that have experience operating stadiums and arenas and ask them to invest in the project. He indicated that he does not currently have any major financial backers for the project.

Civic association president Brett Houdek said he supported the arena as "a better vision" for the property than the auto mall. "We don't want a junk car lot as the visible sign from the expressway," he said.

Some of the 65 people at the meeting expressed skepticism. Jack Roseberry, 55, of Medford, said Shereck faced an uphill battle.

"I understand what they're doing and they're going to have a long, hard road," said Roseberry, an architect. "I think he has a shot, but a lot of questions have to be answered."

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

 

CLINTON — After months of work on the budget, the Clinton School Committee Monday night asked Superintendent Steven Meyer to include a full-time athletic director in the upcoming budget proposal, while not affecting the budget.

School Committee member Ed Devault proposed adding the position, saying he felt it was a "priority enough that it should be in the first draft" discussed with the Finance Committee later in the week.

Devault said a full-time athletic director could hire and evaluate coaches, taking that responsibility away from building principals. In addition, the position would be able to take a district view, "working toward the varsity program."

"Marketing, fundraising and alumni coordination could be part of this position," Devault said, adding, "If done properly, it would almost pay for itself."

Devault said the position could create fundraising opportunities, like a Hall of Fame, and could do more student outreach and help anticipate emerging sports.

"It would be nice to be ahead of the game," he said.

Meyer said he thought community and alumni engagement would be a part of the job. The job description would have to be written.

School Committee member Brendan Bailey was the lone dissenter for the vote. He said he favored a prior suggestion, that the alternative high school program administrator also serve as athletic director.

The alternative high school, which would bring some students back to a pilot program at the administration building, being paid by the savings in out-of-district tuitions, was approved by the School Committee, but only for phase one, which would not include hiring an administrator, so the athletic director aspect was also on hold.

In addition to approving Meyer to go ahead with finding funding for an athletic director, as long as it did not increase the budget, the School Committee also approved the pilot plan for the alternative program, which would "service those students who are unable to succeed in a traditional high school setting," according to the proposal. The school would be housed in the Central Office Building and run Tuesday through Thursday, noon to 4 p.m. and include an online curriculum.

Meyer said he still holds his principal certificate, so he could oversee the program at least temporarily until the program can be proven. If it is successful, and there are more students than can be maintained by the staff proposed, the administrator would be hired and paid for through the additional savings of having more students not sent to out-of-district programs.

Honoring achievement

The School Committee honored its students of the month and staff member of the month during the meeting.

Clinton Elementay School Principal Robert Rouleau introduced second-graders Mariah Kerl and Bryce Neil who were honored for "improving their independent reading comprehension and fluency by one grade level in six months."

The students were assisted by homeroom teacher Mazie Falconer and reading specialist Joanne Brodmerkle.

"We expect them to continue with all their hard work and we want to thank their parents for all their support," Rouleau said.

Clinton Middle School Principal Annmarie Sargent presented seventh-grader Kimberly Joyce, who "has really risen to the occasion without anyone asking." Now, Sargent said, Kimberly has been noticed and they now ask her to help the other students.

"She is always someone who listens and takes advice," Sargent said.

Clinton High School student of the month was junior Charles McGinn.

"There isn't a show that goes on without Charles," Principal James Hastings said.

Class Adviser Ellen Welsh called Charles "a perpetually and extremely positive force. He is here, there and everywhere, asking the questions the advisers should have thought of, but didn't."

Clinton Middle School Vice Principal Robert Seed introduced the employee of the month, Jackie Tencati, "who does everything." Seed said Tencati works in the lunch room, with the afterschool program and as a "friend and volunteer who is 99.5 percent behind the school."

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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

ORLANDO — The newly adopted NFL rule that will penalize a player for lowering "his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent" is rooted in good intentions.

Officials, owners and coaches want to eliminate use of the helmet as a weapon, Commissioner Roger Goodell explained at his news conference Wednesday to conclude this week's league meeting. NFL research suggests the game is still plagued by far too many concussions, so this represents another attempt to bolster player safety and hopefully minimize head trauma.

Some of the rule's architects are trying to protect not only current NFL players but also their children participating at the youth, high school and college levels. They want to see the same practices applied there.

But here's the problem: Questions remain about the practicality of the new decree and whether it can be fairly and effectively enforced. Although it sounds good when Goodell says, "We think this is going to help us take the helmet out of the game and get it back to a protective device," such expectations seem unrealistic.

Football is a brutal game. The crackdown on helmet-to-helmet hits in recent years has helped make it safer. The new rule could result in a 15-yard penalty, ejection and/or fine. But despite the league's best intentions, its game will never be collision-free.

The latest attempt to minimize the danger nevertheless sparked concern among players, including members of the union's executive committee such as 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman and Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. Although most players understand the emphasis on preserving their health, many think it's unrealistic to expect they and their peers won't reflexively lower their heads while initiating contact as a blocker, runner or tackler. And they deem the punishment -- especially the potential ejection -- unfair for such a natural football act. (Goodell dismissed such concerns, saying players hadn't had time to fully learn and adapt to the rule.)

It's curious why the league would begin implementation without having finalizing all the parameters. Over the next 90 days, the competition committee will work to better determine how to differentiate the severity of hits and the consequential penalties. It will also send representatives to every team facility to educate players (with the aid of video), coaches and medical personnel on which hits should be avoided and alternative tackling techniques.

But players will also want to know how officials can make a snap decision and hand out a punishment (especially an ejection) that could alter the course of the game.

Alexander recalled a game when he asked an official about his decision not to throw a flag on another player who led with his helmet. The explanation: "I'm never going to make that call. I'm not going to throw a flag on a guy trying to protect himself."

So there's already conflict in the officiating ranks that will have to be ironed out. However, there's not necessarily an expectation that there's widespread need to apply the new measure. The committee found fewer than 10 instances of spearing last season that would have warranted a flag under the revised rule.

Goodell discussed letting game officials use replay to evaluate borderline examples. That should be a must if they want to get this right, and Goodell feels a temporary stoppage to enforce safety is worth it.

But what about the quarterback taking the snap and pushing forward on a sneak? Or a lineman firing out low on a run play? Or the defender diving to make a tackle at ground level? In just about every one of those instances, a head is lowered and often leads the way as a player initiates contact.

"You play with body lean," Alexander said. "It's going to be hard for officials to make."

Or as Washington corner Josh Norman put it: "Nobody is trying to do it maliciously. We're tackling how we were taught to tackle. That's all. That's what we have helmets for, and we'd be in soft shells if not."

League officials say that posture has to go.

In theory, it all sounds ideal. But even if coaches carve out practice time to focus on heads-up tackling techniques, veterans will frequently revert to hardwired instincts. NFL officials acknowledge this, but they believe they have to start somewhere.

Eliminating the head from football will require generational change and won't occur overnight. But players everywhere need this.

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photo Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP
 
March 29, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

CHARLOTTESVILLE — In the moments after Virginia's crushing first-round loss in the NCAA basketball tournament, sophomore guards Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome found each other on the court in Charlotte, N.C., and embraced.

"Me and Ty were bawling our eyes out," Guy said in the locker room afterward. "I hugged him and he said, 'We're going to get one before we're done.' Our intentions are to do that."

With three starters and the ACC's sixth man of the year returning, there will be, as there annually is, reason for optimism.

The Cavaliers have mastered losing with dignity and rededicating themselves each season with the same acumen they've mastered coach Tony Bennett's Pack-Line defense. And while the program and its fans wish they had less experience with disappointing March endings, Bennett's players are grateful for his grounded approach.

It didn't make becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed any easier, and didn't take the sting out of U.Va.'s 20-point loss to unheralded University of Maryland-Baltimore County. But, from their coach, they had a blueprint for handling the pain in a way that neither minimized it nor blew it out of proportion.

"It isn't the end of the world," senior forward Isaiah Wilkins said that Friday in Charlotte, all the while wearing the crestfallen face of a man whose world had just ended. "The sun's going to come up tomorrow, even though it doesn't feel like it."

Moving forward, moving on to the next challenge, is always Bennett's message — after wins or losses. And since he's so consistent with it, it makes it easy to believe when he delivers it to his players at their lowest points.

"There's not really a whole lot that can prepare you for this kind of feeling," Guy said in the immediate aftermath of the loss. "He has instilled a lot of humility and unity throughout our team. So it will be easy for us to bounce back, but there's not really any answer to make you feel better in this situation."

Bennett's players saw his almost aw-shucks smiles after the Elite Eight loss to Syracuse in 2016, when the Cavaliers' faltered in the final nine minutes, frittering away a chance to reach the Final Four. Outsiders could have mistaken Bennett's demeanor for being aloof or disengaged.

His players and staff saw it for what it is and for what he is. He's the rare big-time college coach who understands that, in athletic competition, the outcome can be as unpredictable as it is final, and yet, can live with it.

"If you play this game and you step into the arena, this stuff can happen," Bennett, whose father coached Wisconsin to a Final Four, said. "And those who haven't been in the arena or in the competition, maybe they don't understand that. There's chances for wonderful things to happen, but when you're in the arena, stuff like this can happen, and all those who compete take that on. And so we'll accept it."

Accept it and move forward. Virginia loses three seniors — Wilkins, Devon Hall and Nigel Johnson — from this year's 31-3 team, a squad that won both the ACC's regular-season and tournament championships. During his final weekly radio show of the season, Bennett said the team is open to adding a graduate transfer, especially if it can find a perimeter player.

He said he's spent the days since the tournament loss recruiting and looking for a replacement for longtime assistant Ron Sanchez, who left to take the head coaching job at Charlotte.

"There's not a lot of downtime," Bennett said to show host Dave Koehn. "Once the season ends, you take a couple days and then, bang, you're into, 'How can we add someone and improve?'"

For now, Bennett said director of basketball operations Orlando Vandross has been promoted to temporary assistant status, so that he can be on the road recruiting. Bennett said he'd received "300 texts and hundreds of emails and phone calls" from candidates eager to join his staff.

Sanchez isn't the only person Bennett has to worry about replacing.

U.Va. will need someone to take Wilkins' spot as the back-end defensive stopper, joining the line of players such as Akil Mitchell, Darion Atkins and Anthony Gill. Junior center Jack Salt or sophomore forward Mamadi Diakite could develop into that type of player.

The Cavaliers will have to find a guard to fill the versatile role Hall played — both as a rugged scorer and physical defender. Freshman Marco Anthony could have the size and skill to do that.

Redshirt freshman De'Andre Hunter, whose season-ending wrist injury in the ACC tournament may have been as responsible as anything for U.Va.'s stunning early NCAA exit, should be back healthy and take another stop in what may end up being an NBA-bound career.

Virginia also brings back Guy — named a third-team All-American on Tuesday — and Jerome, meaning the pieces are in place for Bennett's club to be very good again.

Bennett told the radio show audience that when he returned to his Charlotte hotel room after the late-night loss to UMBC, his father was waiting for him.

"He said, 'I just want to make sure you're OK,' " Bennett said.

And of course, Bennett was. He was ready to move on to next season.

mbarber@timesdispatch.com@RTD_MikeBarber

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Copyright 2018 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

A judge has dismissed an appeal from the parents of Kendrick Johnson, the Valdosta teen found dead in a rolled-up gym mat more than five years ago. The parents had appealed a ruling ordering them to pay nearly $300,000 in attorney fees to those they accused of killing their son and the parties they alleged covered it up.

Lowndes County Superior Court Senior Judge Richard Porter noted that, as of last Wednesday, "there has been no response by plaintiffs to the motion to dismiss and no transcript filed in any of these cases." Porter's ruling stems from a 2015 wrongful death lawsuit, withdrawn and refiled a year later, alleging brothers Brian and Branden Bell murdered 17-yearold Kendrick Johnson.

From ABHigh School Student Dies While Trapped in Wrestling Mat

The Lowndes High sophomore's body was discovered Jan. 11, 2013, in the school's old gymnasium. State and local investigators concluded he died from positional asphyxia after he got stuck inside the rolled-up mat, presumably reaching for a pair of sneakers.

Kendrick's parents, Kenneth and Jackie Johnson, have maintained their son's death was no accident. They say he was the victim of a vast conspiracy that included an FBI agent, a former sheriff and Lowndes County's school superintendent.

They alleged a similar cover-up in a federal lawsuit that was dismissed after their attorney failed to meet deadlines for court paperwork.

"I don't care where I go nor what I do I cannot stop thinking about my baby," Jackie Johnson posted Saturday on Facebook. "This is so messed up on so many levels the pain our family has to go through and none of the (sic)murders (sic) thuggs are locked up!"

The Johnsons filed a fourth lawsuit, this time in Bibb County, last July claiming photographs and "moving images" captured on school surveillance cameras were either doctored or withheld. That lawsuit was dismissed due to a failure to pay transfer costs.

A video analysis by the FBI concluded Brian Bell and alleged accomplice Ryan Hall "were in different areas of the LHS campus during the time in question." Branden Bell was participating in a wrestling tournament in Macon at the time of Johnson's death.

That analysis, collected from surveillance cameras on the Lowndes High School campus, included time stamps that adjusted discrepancies between multiple video systems. Those discrepancies were caused by the systems not being synchronized, the report said.

In his ruling ordering the payment of attorneys' fees, Porter accused the Johnsons and their attorney, Chevene King, of fabricating evidence to support their claims. "Their testimony shows they had no evidence," he wrote.

In 2016, the Justice Department concluded there was "insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone or some group of people willfully violated Kendrick Johnson's civil rights or committed any other prosecutable federal crime."

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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

TORONTO — The free agent market was a dud this winter, leaving Major League Baseball players and their agents seething.

Ultimately, baseball's average salary compared to 2017 amounted to a cost-of-living bump, as it rose 3% — and the ramifications from this depressed market might only be beginning.

In USA TODAY's annual study of opening-day payrolls, the average salary this season is $4.63 million compared with $4.47 million last year.

A record 130 players will earn at least $10 million, compared with 124 players a year ago and 107 players in 2016, led by Angels center fielder Mike Trout's $34.08 million salary.

Only three players received contracts in excess of $100 million this offseason, and just Eric Hosmer ($144 million) of the Padres and Yu Darvish ($126 million) of the Cubs received more than a five-year deal.

And the owners' unwillingness to spend this winter, for whatever reason, will have a greater impact in coming years.

Major League Baseball teams spent $1.98 billion on 65 multiyear contracts, compared with $2.98 billion on 57 deals a year ago and $2.06 billion on 30 multiyear contracts in 2016.

Just 10 teams managed to even spend the $50 million they received for their cut from the MLB Advanced Media sale to Disney, invoking anger from the union and threats of potential collusion grievances.

"I think we have to let this thing play out three to five years," said ESPN analyst Alex Rodriguez, whose $275 million contract finally is cleared off the Yankees' books, "to see where the chips lay. I just think teams are smarter and more disciplined with management and ownership."

Certainly, the marquee opening-day matchup of the Yankees vs. Jays — two giants of the sport, with overflowing revenue, deep pockets and a burning desire to win — symbolize the angst of the players union.

These franchises have six players who will earn $20 million or more this season and 13 players earning at least $10 million. Yet when it came to free agency this offseason, the Yankees spent only $14 million while the Blue Jays paid $17 million.

Sure, the Yankees took on a major commitment with their acquisition of slugger Giancarlo Stanton, Yet who would ever have imagined we'd see the day the Athletics ($18 million) would spend more than both franchises, dwarfing even the $4 million the powerful Dodgers spent?

"It's a weird time," Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy said. "I read a lot of articles about it, the collusion talk, the poor execution of the CBA, and all the things have been thrown out there. I don't have an answer. I'm not in position to accuse anybody of anything.

"There's obviously a reason why this year something dramatic happened in free agency that hadn't happened before. So I think that's our job as the players, as well as MLB, to figure out what's going on here how we can right that."

The Yankees and Dodgers, who had the two highest payrolls in baseball a year ago, have shed more than $100 million, with the Yankees now ranking just 10th in payroll ($160.7 million) and the Dodgers right behind at $156.8 million.

Both the payrolls of the Yankees ($165 million) and Dodgers ($184 million) are higher when factoring salaries paid for players no longer on their roster. Yet even when factoring benefits and salaries to players on the 40-man roster, both clubs remain below the $197 million luxury tax threshold, fulfilling key offseason goals.

This will be the lowest Yankees payroll in a quarter-century, and the first time they've ducked below the luxury tax since it was implemented in 2003. They've paid $341 million in penalties since, but should they remain below the threshold, the Yankees would pay a 20% penalty instead of a 50% penalty next year, when a prized free agent market headed by Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and possibly Clayton Kershaw comes online after the 2018 season.

The Dodgers spent a record $270 million in 2015 but have lopped nearly $100 million off their major league commitments. The downstream effect on free agents has been profound.

"When you have 30 teams thinking the same way and using the same metrics," Rodriguez says, "it creates an opportunity for someone to counter that."

Enter the Giants. San Francisco, for the first time since MLB began keeping official records, will have the sport's biggest payroll. Players on the Giants' opening-day roster will earn $220.3 million, $64 million more than the team ever spent at the start of a season, with 10 players earning at least $13.5 million.

The Giants' payroll, however includes infielder Pablo Sandoval's entire $19.6 million salary. The Red Sox, who released Sandoval last year, are paying all but $545,000 of his salary.

With Sandoval's salary dollars factored in, Boston has the highest payroll at $224.2 million.

The union's biggest concern, however, are the rebuilding teams that aren't aggressively trying to win. There's a growing sentiment among players and agents suggesting that a salary cap might be necessary in the future providing that there's a salary basement floor.

Ten teams are spending less than $100 million on their opening-day roster, with the Athletics ranking 30th in expenditures at $62.65 million.

"This winter was a little crazy, and we got a glimpse at what can possibly happen," says Machado, who is expected to be heavily pursued by the Yankees. "Hopefully we'll see a difference next year, for all of our sakes."

SOURCEUSATODAYSPORTS

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Copyright 2018 Boston Herald Inc.
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The Boston Herald

 

Nearly 100 students and parents met outside the Cathedral High School gymnasium yesterday to protest the firing of athletic director and boys basketball coach Larry Merritt.

Chanting "We Want Merritt," the students channeled their anger toward headmaster Oscar Santos, who fired Merritt after a complaint was lodged against him. The official reason was a violation of school policy, though Merritt said he has not been told what policy he violated.

Later yesterday afternoon, the school released a statement. While not going into specifics, the school said it was not just one isolated incident.

"The Cathedral High School Athletic Director was terminated on March 23 after a thorough investigation into multiple incidents violating the school's code of conduct," the statement said. "The behavior involved is unacceptable at Cathedral High School by any member of our community. A month-long investigation was conducted involving various students, faculty and parents; this is not the result of one complaint or any factors outside these code of conduct violations.

"As this is a personnel issue, additional details of the incidents cannot be released."

Merritt, a three-sport standout who graduated from Cathedral in 1991, is extremely popular with many of the students. Caley Moon, who played for Merritt this year, said the coach is much more than an X's and O's guy.

"He's been like a father figure and a big brother at the same time," Moon said. "He gives everyone tough love, but he's always been truthful. He just wants the best for every one of us."

Merritt's ouster was just one of the concerns raised by the students during the 30-minute protest. Several were angered by a lack of diversity in the faculty, while others questioned how the school's finances were being used.

But the basic message the students hoped to send to Santos was that they wanted Merritt back in the building immediately.

"There is a difference between that building and this building," said junior Amani Boston, motioning to the school on her left and the gym on her right. "The gym is an escape, a therapy of sorts for us. (Merritt) is always there for us and we just don't know why he isn't here anymore. They said he violated policy, but won't tell us what."

The students were briefly locked out of the school, before Santos came to the front door. He invited the students and parents in to discuss their complaints.

Santos refused to answer questions about Merritt, saying it was not the place to do that.

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SIGN OF SUPPORT: A Cathedral student displays a message backing recently fired athletic director Larry Merritt.
RALLY FOR LARRY: Cathedral students gather outside the school yesterday to protest the recent firing of athletic director and boys basketetball coach Larry Merritt.
staff photos by mark garfinkel
 
March 29, 2018
 
 
 

 

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

 

Appalachian State announced Wednesday that Athletics Director Doug Gillin signed a four-year contract extension to remain with the school through 2022.

Gillin, who has been athletics director since 2015, helped usher App State through its transition to the Sun Belt Conference; has led to the installation of upgraded video boards in both Kidd Brewer Stadium and the Holmes Convocation Center; pushed forward the design plans for the $38.2 million football end zone project and brokered many football-game agreements with Power Five programs.

"Doug Gillin's leadership of the athletics division has led to unprecedented success for our student-athletes in the classroom and in their sports," App State Chancellor Sheri Everts said in a school-issued statement. "I appreciated his emphasis on the academic success of our student-athletes, his inclusive vision and his thoughtful approach to growth for our athletics program."

During Gillin's three-year tenure, App State has won two Sun Belt Conference titles in football, as well as three straight bowl games - the Camellia Bowl in 2015 and 2016, and the Dollar General Bowl in 2017. Mountaineers wrestling claimed three-consecutive titles from 2016 to 2018. App State's indoor track and field team claimed the conference crown in 2016, along with a 2016 women's cross country title and a 2017 men's cross country title.

App State hosted a Power-Five football program for the first time in 2016 against Miami. App State hosted Wake Forest during the 2017 season, losing a 20-19 game on a blocked field goal. That game set App State's attendance record (35,126 people).

Gillin has also helped raise $30 million of a $60 million fundraising initiative called A Mountaineer Impact, which began in February of 2017.

In November, Appalachian athletics secured the largest donation in school history, a $10 million gift from alumnus Mark Ricks.

App State athletes have achieved a 3.0 grade-point average during the last 11 semesters.

"I would like to thank Chancellor Everts for giving me the opportunity to lead the athletics department at this great institution," Gillin said through the school release. "We have a wonderful team of administrators, coaches and support staff who consistently recruit and develop high-quality student-athletes.

"We've been able to enhance our program through articulating our vision for comprehensive excellence in all facets of our athletic department - academically, athletically, socially and through innovative resource acquisition. We will keep working hard toward our goal of being the best athletics department in the country and provide our student-athletes a world-class college experience," Gillin said through the school release. My family and I are excited about what the future holds at Appalachian."

 

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

 

USA Basketball and the NBA last week recommended a 24-second shot clock for boys and girls high school teams. While a shot clock is gaining steam among private schools in Virginia, it's not being considered for public schools.

Mike McCall, communications director for the Virginia High School League, said a shot clock is not on the table. It hasn't been proposed in the past, and McCall said there's no indication it will be proposed any time soon.

The VHSL is a member of the National Federation of State High School Associations, which, among other things, serves as the national authority on competition rules. The NFHS basketball rules committee has considered proposals for a shot clock several times but has voted against implementing it.

Eight states — Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, Washington, New York, California, North Dakota and South Dakota — are using a shot clock for boys or girls or both.

Some private schools that are part of the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association already use a shot clock, and the Prep League will begin using one in the 2019-20 season. The league includes Richmond-area schools Collegiate, St. Christopher's and Trinity Episcopal. The length of time for the shot clock hasn't been determined.

"Coaches have been advocating to have a shot clock for a number of years," Trinity Episcopal athletics director Becky Currier said. "It is also becoming more and more common for us to play a game that uses a shot clock. Any time we are traveling to Northern Virginia and we play a high-profile tournament up there... they're using it. We decided it's time to go ahead and make that change."

Opponents of using a shot clock in high school games cite the cost of the clocks and installation, paying someone to operate the clock or finding a volunteer, losing the strategic ability of teams to slow the game, and keeping an identity that is separate from pro and college games.

Wisconsin approved a shot clock for 2019-20 before rescinding it because of cost and implementation concerns. Officials estimated the cost would be between $2,000 and $2,400 for each school.

Proponents say a shot clock speeds up the game and includes more possessions, gives more decision-making experience to players and coaches, keeps less-talented teams from trying to play "stall ball," and makes it more uniform with the pro and college games.

USA Basketball and the NBA recommended the shot clock as part of several age-appropriate standards they say will enhance development. Those rules will be used by USA Basketball and the NBA "in all events and competitions they may host."

It also noted that "we understand that organizations and facilities may not always be able to accommodate all recommendations and that modifications will need to be made in certain instances due to practical limitations (e.g., inability to raise or lower the height of a basket, redraw court lines, or not having a shot clock)."

L.C. Bird High girls coach Chevette Waller prefers a shot clock but said it has not been a topic of discussion in meetings among the area's public school coaches. The Skyhawks like to press and play fast, and Waller says a clock prepares high-caliber players for the college level.

"Overall, I think it's a great idea," said Waller, whose team played a private school that used a shot clock a few years ago. "I think there might be some money issues involved. I think that's going to be huge. Some of the newer schools might have the finances to do it. But then you've got some of the other schools... who don't have the finances."

Henrico High boys coach Vance Harmon favors a shot clock for uniformity with the higher levels and believes "it's a matter of time before it happens" with the state's public schools.

Henrico installed a combination game clock/shot clock above its backboards about five years ago. The shot clock hasn't been used, although Harmon has toyed with the idea of using it during Henrico's holiday tournament.

"We paid for it out of our own basketball budget," Harmon said. "I wanted it simply because the colleges were using it and a lot of the higher-end high schools up in D.C. and other places have it. I always strive to make our facilities a small college-type setting."

Currier is in the process of pricing the equipment for Trinity. If it fits in the budget, the Titans may use a clock in selected home games next season.

"I'm sure we'll look at [if we can] bundle it with other things," she said, "because basketball is not the only sport gravitating toward a shot clock."

tpearrell@timesdispatch.com(804) 649-6965@timpearrelltd

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Coach Vance Harmon JOE MAHONEY/TIMES-DISPATCH Coach Vance Harmon JOE MAHONEY/TIMES-DISPATCH The NCAA instituted a 30-second shot clock for the 2015-16 season. The clocks' use is growing among state private schools, but public schools aren't considering them. 2015, JAMES H. WALLACE/TIMES-DISPATCH The NCAA instituted a 30-second shot clock for the 2015-16 season. The clocks' use is growing among state private schools, but public schools aren't considering them. 2015, JAMES H. WALLACE/TIMES-DISPATCH
 
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Copyright 2018 Newsday, Inc.

Newsday (New York)

 

Hofstra president Stuart Rabinowitz got directly to the point Wednesday when introducing longtime Oakdale resident Rick Cole Jr. as the university's new director of athletics.

"He is the one to take us to the next level,'' Rabinowitz said of Cole, who comes from a five-year tenure at Iona, where he built a winning program, especially in men's basketball. Fellow Long Islander and Gaels coach Tim Cluess has made seemingly annual visits to the NCAA Tournament.

Rabinowitz wants a return to March Madness in Hempstead. It hasn't happened since the 2000-01 season.

"We need to be into the NCAAs, men's and women's,'' Rabinowitz said. "It's been 17 years. When you see what a basketball area the New York metropolitan area is and the kind of excitement that it develops among alums, we've got to be back to that.''

Rabinowitz was asked if the Colonial Athletic Association, a largely one-bid southern-based conference, is still the best fit for Hofstra in the long term.

"We are open to all of these issues, that's another reason why I'm so excited about the new athletic director,'' Rabinowitz said "He knows the landscape, he knows the metro area. The CAA has some great schools in it academic and otherwise. It has some burdens to it. We need to first decide where we really would like to be and then we need to get invited there.''

Men's basketball coach Joe Mihalich said, "Every conference has its challenge, this conference does, too. It's a one-bid conference. We all wish it was more than a one-bid conference.''

Women's basketball coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey added, "All of us here want to keep moving forward. Hofstra's doing a good job of just not jumping ship quick.''

Cole, 47, will start May 21 and transition under Jeff Hathaway, who is leaving the AD job to pursue other opportunities. Cole also built the Division II program at Dowling, only to have it disappear when the financially-strapped institution closed in 2016. He also worked in athletic administration at St. John's and Stony Brook.

Hofstra is the job Cole always wanted. He will tackle the conference issue in due time. "We're a proud member of the CAA and when you're a member of an organization you work hard to better that organization,'' he said. "As we do our strategic plan with the institution, my guess is we're going to do what's best for Hofstra University, our athletic programs and our athletics. After that review happens, I think we'll know more of what that means, not just for a conference. There's a lot of good here, there's a lot of great here.''

"Having a plan to win is key,'' he said. "Everybody wants to win. In sports, there's a measure at the end of what we do. There's a winner and a loser. I think it's a great opportunity when a new athletic director comes in that we can take a hard look at our visions, our strategy and outline a road map.''

Cole will continue to live in Oakdale with his wife Brooke and three children. His younger daughter, Mackenzie, a high school All-American volleyball player at Connetquot, is headed to Duke next fall.

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Copyright 2018 Charleston Newspapers

Charleston Gazette-Mail

 

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Oakland Athletics have offered to take over paying $136 million in debt to take ownership of the Coliseum site, where they can build their long-needed, baseball-only stadium.

A's President Dave Kaval recently made the offer to officials of Oakland and Alameda County, who operate the Coliseum, as the team seeks a site for a new stadium in Oakland after being turned down for its first choice downtown in December.

Kaval said Tuesday he has gotten positive feedback already from Alameda County officials and plans to meet with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf on Wednesday to discuss the plan, which he says will save the city and county $20 million a year on debt service on the stadium and assure a professional team remains in the city after the Warriors and Raiders move in the next few years.

"The key thing is we really want to own our own home," Kaval said. "We've been here 50 years. The other teams are leaving. It's important for our long-term success in Oakland to have a place that is ours that we own and control. That is the impetus of making the offer, to assume the debt and to take that burden off the city and county."

After failed efforts to build stadiums in nearby Fremont and San Jose, the A's have been focused of late on staying in Oakland. They announced plans last year to build a stadium by Laney College in downtown Oakland but that fell through when the board of the Peralta Community College District said it had directed the chancellor to discontinue talks about a possible ballpark.

The A's still have interest in a waterfront park at Howard Terminal near Jack London Square but that site is not as accessible by public transportation and the team wants to keep as many options open as possible.

The Coliseum opened in 1966 and is run down and ill-suited as a baseball-only facility. It has had issues with flooding and lacks the money-making amenities in most modern stadiums.

The A's had the second-lowest paid attendance in baseball last season at 18,219 per game as fans have grown frustrated with the outdated stadium and a team that has traded away many of its best players to keep payroll down.

"It's not just the play on the field. It's being able to hold onto our players," Kaval said. "That's something we've had a challenge doing because we've been a low-revenue club. We haven't controlled our own venue, we weren't generating revenue like some of the other clubs. The key to the entire piece is getting the ballpark built here in Oakland and generating revenue commensurate with a large market team."

Kaval said if an economic plan is in place by the end of this year for a new stadium, it could open in 2023. The A's are building their team with young players who they will be able to keep in their control until then.

"I'm excited to work with the A's in their commitment to stay in Oakland and build a privately financed ballpark," Schaaf said. "We look forward to reviewing, analyzing, and considering the offer."

While work on getting a new stadium goes on, the A's added a new feature to the Coliseum this year in hopes of attracting more young fans. They have opened "The Treehouse" above the left-field bleachers. Fans can buy a monthly pass for $29.99 that gives them access to the bars, lounge seating and standing room areas.

"You see that as a trend, people moving away from a physical seat and focusing on these experience areas," Kaval said. "I think it's going to attract a lot of millennials. We need that. We need more fans, especially baseball in general needs younger fans. This is a way to do that."

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

 

High Point University students will give up some intramural sports fields. But the university will gain a basketball arena.

A little more than a year after formally laying out plans for a combined arena, convention center and hotel, university President Nido Qubein on Tuesday announced a location and timetable for the $130 million facility.

The venue will be built on the north end of campus, along East Lexington Avenue between North University Parkway and Panther Way. It will sit next to the stadium where the university's soccer, lacrosse and track and field teams compete.

Construction is scheduled to start this summer, Qubein said, and plans call for the building to be open in time for the 2020-21 basketball season.

"It will be elegant — I mean, elegant," Qubein told an audience inside the auditorium of the university's fine arts center Tuesday morning. "It will meet High Point University standards through and through."

The new arena will replace the Millis Center as the home of the men's and women's basketball teams. Millis holds just 1,750 fans and is the second-smallest arena in the Big South Conference. The new building will seat 4,500 for basketball — and several hundred more for lectures and other campus events.

The new area also will have two adjoining spaces — a convention center that can hold about 2,500 people and a small hotel with about 30 to 40 rooms.

"This is unique," Qubein said. "We don't know of another (university) that has a hotel and a conference center and a basketball arena all together in one building."

It's not the only basketball arena in the works in this area. Elon University expects to open its 5,100-seat arena and convocation center this summer.

Even before construction starts, the new HPU building — and the main basketball court — already have names.

HPU announced in January 2017 that the facility would be named for Nido and Mariana Qubein, the university's president since 2005 and his wife.

A month later, the university said it would name the basketball court for Tubby and Donna Smith, two HPU graduates. The Smiths gave $1 million to HPU for that naming honor. Tubby Smith was a basketball star at the old High Point College and has been a college head basketball coach for nearly 30 years. HPU on Tuesday hired Smith to coach its men's basketball team.

Qubein said the new facility will be the largest building on campus. The university will pay for it in cash, he added, and doesn't plan to borrow money to finance construction.

"Thank God for alumni who care about the institution" as well as parents of current students, friends of the university and community members, he added.

Qubein said HPU considered a couple of other sites for the new building.

One was Oak Hollow Mall, owned by HPU since 2011. The other was downtown High Point. But Qubein said downtown development hasn't progressed as quickly as he had hoped, and both sites are off campus. Ultimately, HPU opted to build the arena on campus to make it convenient for students.

But students who play intramural sports will lose their athletic fields to make way for the new building. Qubein said HPU plans to build new fields elsewhere on campus. Those fields will have artificial turf.

"You're going to like it even more," Qubein said. "No more dirt."

Contact John Newsom at (336) 373-7312 and follow @JohnNewsomNR on Twitter.

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Copyright 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

 

The University of New Mexico's messy athletics department financial situation could have major consequences for the entire institution, with the state's higher education chief warning that it could potentially endanger the flow of state funds into the university.

Higher Education Secretary Barbara Damron — who placed UNM under her department's "enhanced fiscal oversight program" last October — wrote to UNM President Garnett Stokes that the university must submit a plan for correcting the athletic department's deficit by May 1. Otherwise, she cautioned, the Higher Education Department could reject UNM's entire budget, delaying state funding approved by the Legislature.

Furthermore, Damron said her department could recommend withholding up to 10 percent of UNM's appropriation until the university has satisfied requirements imposed under the fiscal oversight program — requirements that go beyond just submitting a plan.

Damron said she does not want to have to take such action.

"I want them to be healthy and do well and succeed and I want to help them get to that point, but they have to address" the athletics issues, Damron told the Journal.

UNM as a whole is supposed to get about $300 million in general fund appropriations for fiscal year 2019.

In imposing oversight last October, Damron had directed the university to have an athletics deficit reduction payment plan and submit regular status updates to her office.

She told the Journal Tuesday that UNM representatives had informally communicated their intent to submit such documents on multiple dates. But those all passed without a formal submission to her office.

"Folks are frustrated with this can being kicked down the road," Damron said. "I sent that (enhanced fiscal oversight program) letter Oct. 3. It's been several months. I have to hold UNM accountable, and I will hold them accountable."

UNM's administration had written Damron last fall saying the university already had an athletics repayment plan in place. When the Journal sought that plan via a public records request, UNM acknowledged it had no plan in writing.

President Stokes told the Journal she received Damron's letter Tuesday and she understands the urgency. Stokes, who started as president on March 1, said that she recently convened a group of budget experts from across campus to work on athletics' finances.

"I want the best minds thinking through what our options will be," she said.

She said the goal was to have a presentation ready for the regents' Finance and Facilities Committee meeting on April 10.

"But understanding this problem has been years in the making, and there needs to be real thought in how we best do this going forward," she added.

UNM's athletics department has had chronic financial problems, having missed its budget eight of the past 10 years. This year could be worse than any of those, as new figures project a total fiscal year 2018 shortfall of $3.3 million. UNM's Board of Regents attempted to mitigate that by allocating the use of $1.3 million in reserves in November.

Not including that sum — which officials say athletics will not have to repay — athletics should have an accumulated deficit to the university of about $6.7 million by June 30.

In a proposal made public last week, athletic director Eddie Nuñez asked regents to cover $5.6 million of that amount with regents' funding. He indicated that the department would repay the remaining $1.1 million over 10 years.

But regents tabled that proposal during their budget summit last Thursday following a fiery one-hour discussion about athletics' continued problems balancing the budget.

Regents said they wanted to see a fiscally sound budget proposal for 2019 before they considered any forgiveness.

Among the most obvious concerns is ticket sales revenue projections. Athletics has consistently built budgets around ticket forecasts not supported by historic sales -- and then failed to meet the projections.

Damron said in her letter to Stokes that she was pleased UNM had begun budget conversations, but she remained concerned that UNM had not submitted to her office documents showing a "sustainable, long-term plan" to resolve the existing deficit and operate within budget moving forward.

Stokes said her newly assembled team is working on such a plan.

"I think the regents expect it, the public expects it, our faculty expect it and I expect it," she said.

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Copyright 2018 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

Schaumburg village and park district officials are still deciding how much of previously recommended upgrades to Schaumburg Boomers Stadium to prioritize for next offseason — and whether any might be dropped altogether. The Schaumburg Park District recently budgeted $300,000 for its half of any maintenance and life-safety projects during the 2018-19 fiscal year, which isn't extraordinarily more than a typical year of the past. But park district Executive Director Tony LaFrenere said that figure was meant more as a placeholder with the expectation of possible change as discussions continue with the village and their shared tenant, the Schaumburg Boomers baseball team.

"It's a work in progress, and we were cognizant that our budget is a little bit smaller than the village's," LaFrenere said Tuesday. "The variables in play aren't completely ironed out." In December, the two local governments that co-own the 19-year-old stadium had seemed to settle on a four-year, $10.5 million plan of upgrades. But a joint meeting of the elected boards last week cast some doubt on that plan, as new Boomers General Manager Michael Larson questioned some of the planned renovations recommended by a consultant firm last year.

Among Larson's suggestions were prioritizing an upgrade of the suites over the seats, letting the Boomers handle repurposing the underutilized press box, and keeping the current natural grass on the field instead of paying $1.7 million for artificial turf. Schaumburg Village Manager Brian Townsend said the plans for next offseason never included the more major of the consultant's recommended upgrades.

But with the village's new annual budget to be finalized in April, officials are eager to reach some basic consensus with the park district. LaFrenere said the stadium is inherently a difficult structure to make major improvements to as the optimum building months are occupied by the Boomers' season, which starts in mid-May and ends in mid-September if the team makes the playoffs. The Boomers have won three Frontier League championships in their first six seasons. In 2012, the team succeeded the now defunct Schaumburg Flyers as tenant of the stadium that opened in 1999.

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Pam Baert/pbaert@dailyherald.com Boomers Stadium is the home of the Schaumburg Boomers baseball team. The team won two league champions in 2013 and 2014. The stadium, originally home to the Flyers, holds 7,365 fans and is built to the same dimensions as Wrigley Field. Pam Baert/pbaert@dailyherald.com Boomers Stadium is the home of the Schaumburg Boomers baseball team. The team won two league champions in 2013 and 2014. The stadium, originally home to the Flyers, holds 7,365 fans and is built to the same dimensions as Wrigley Field. Pam Baert/pbaert@dailyherald.com, 2015 After five seasons of being known simply as Boomers Stadium, Schaumburg's minor league ballpark is still seeking a corporate sponsor to pay for naming rights for the facility. Pam Baert/pbaert@dailyherald.com, 2015 After five seasons of being known simply as Boomers Stadium, Schaumburg's minor league ballpark is still seeking a corporate sponsor to pay for naming rights for the facility. Pam Baert/pbaert@dailyherald.com, 2015 After five seasons of being known simply as Boomers Stadium, Schaumburg's minor league ballpark is still seeking a corporate sponsor to pay for naming rights for the facility. Pam Baert/pbaert@dailyherald.com, 2015 Schaumburg Boomers Stadium, which opened in 1999 as Alexian Field, is being considered for a multiyear upgrade to better compete with a new ballpark being built in Rosemont. A consultant has recommended $13 million in improvements. Pam Baert/pbaert@dailyherald.com, 2015 Schaumburg Boomers Stadium, which opened in 1999 as Alexian Field, is being considered for a multiyear upgrade to better compete with a new ballpark being built in Rosemont. A consultant has recommended $13 million in improvements. Pam Baert/pbaert@dailyherald.com, 2015 Village of Schaumburg and Schaumburg Park District officials are closing in on a $10.5 million, four-year plan of upgrades to the nearly 19-year-old Schaumburg Boomers Stadium at 1999 Springinsguth Road. Pam Baert/pbaert@dailyherald.com, 2015 New Schaumburg Boomers General Manager Michael Larson spoke to Schaumburg village trustees and Schaumburg Park District commissioners Monday about his thoughts on renovations to the 19-year-old stadium the two governments co-own. Pam Baert/pbaert@dailyherald.com, 2015 Schaumburg village and park district officials are still working out how much of recommended improvements to the Schaumburg Boomers Stadium they co-own should be prioritized for the next offseason. Pam Baert/pbaert@dailyherald.com, 2015 Schaumburg village and park district officials are still working out how much of recommended improvements to the Schaumburg Boomers Stadium they co-own should be prioritized for the next offseason.
 
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Copyright 2018 The Commercial Appeal, Inc.
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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

Less than two weeks after getting fired by Memphis, Tubby Smith landed a new job at his alma mater.

High Point University in North Carolina introduced Smith as its new men's basketball coach during a campus event on Tuesday. It is the seventh school in which Smith will have coached, and the fourth since 2013.

He came to Memphis in April 2016 after taking Texas Tech to the NCAA tournament and compiled a 40-26 record over two seasons with the Tigers.

Smith was fired on March 14 due mainly to financial concerns once attendance at Memphis basketball games dropped to a 48-year low this year and donations to the athletic department dropped.

"It's been tough, but there's always a silver lining in that," Smith said when asked about the circumstances that led him to return to High Point. "There were a lot of good opportunities. Certainly I'm motivated to come back here because this is family.

"It's going to energize and reinvigorate me. I've been in coaching 45 years, but I feel like I'm just getting started."

Smith, 66, played for High Point from 1969-73 and met his wife, Donna, there as well. The couple previously donated $1 million toward the university's planned on-campus arena, which is set to open in 2020 and will have a court named in honor of the Smith family.

Memphis still owes Smith nearly $10 million after firing him with three seasons left on his five-year contract. Though Memphis can pay that figure over six years, there is no offset clause in the contract if Smith were to get a new job.

Smith owns a 597-302 overall record and won a national championship with Kentucky in 1998.

High Point, which plays in the Big South Conference, has never made an appearance in the NCAA tournament. The school parted ways earlier this month with former coach Scott Cherry after nine seasons.

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

 

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Buffalo Bills are spending $18 million in private funds to improve club seats and ribbon-board digital signage at New Era Field.

Team owner Terry Pegula told The Buffalo News on Tuesday that the upgrades, most of which involve the stadium's three club areas, would be done in time for the 2018 season.

As part of the renovations, the Bills are expected to sell the naming rights to club areas that are named after Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, Bills broadcasting legend Van Miller and former Bills punter Paul Maguire.

It marks the first renovation of the club seats since they were installed in 1999. Those areas of the stadium were not included in the $130 million renovation as part of the 2013 stadium lease.

"We're trying to make our experience for our fans better," Pegula said while here for the NFL's annual meeting. "That's our thought process on any of these projects. It's all centered around keeping our fans happy and giving them the best experience they can get."

The Bills announced renovation plans in December, but had not revealed the cost. The Bills said the project includes new furnishings and upgrades to the concession stands. Bars at each end of the club areas will replace the center bar.

"This will be a complete makeover of our current club experience," Bills president Russ Brandon said. "Our goal is to drastically improve the fan activations within all of our club-seat programming areas."

The NFL has a policy that, if a stadium renovation project receives owner approval, the 34 percent portion of shared revenue directly generated from the project is waived to offset some of the private money spent on stadium renovations.

On Tuesday, owners voted, 32-0, to approve the Bills' $18 million project.

With the Bills able to opt out of their stadium lease with Erie County in less than two years, Pegula was asked if it was something he would consider doing because it would give the team more flexibility independent of any political entities.

"We talk about that heavily internally, but not publicly," the owner said. A team spokesman later clarified that Pegula's response was in general about long-term stadium planning and did not mean the Bills were opting out of the lease.

The Bills announced in early February that ticket prices would rise an average of 3 percent. The Bills kept costs flat in 2017 after three consecutive years of increases. The average price of $68.18 for a season ticket ranks in the bottom five of the NFL, according to a team spokesman.

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

 

VIRGINIA BEACH

Thousands of high school wrestlers descended on the Convention Center last weekend for a national championship and the chance to introduce themselves to college recruiters.

The parking lots were jam-packed. The first level of the long building was filled with wrestling mats. About 4,200 wrestlers, 1,200 high school coaches and 200 college coaches, as well as fans, families and friends, attended.

This is just one example, the city says, of why Virginia Beach needs a sports center at the Oceanfront. Events like championship wrestling could stretch further in a new sports facility.

At today's State of The City address, Mayor Will Sessoms is expected to talk about plans for a new indoor sports center that would feature a specialized track aimed at drawing a lucrative offseason event to Virginia Beach: the National Collegiate Athletic Association indoor track and field championships.

The mayor is also expected to announce where the venue will be located.

It was originally planned as a connection to the west end of the Convention Center, but the track add-on may prevent that, according to Deputy City Manager Ron Williams.

To attract the track and field market, the city's investment in the project would grow from $40 million to $55 million. The extra $15 million would be used to build an oval-shaped hydraulic track that could be raised or lowered for banked corners.

Last May, the City Council set aside the first $4 million of the $40 million estimated construction cost. Public facility revenue bonds will fund the project. Taxes on restaurant meals, hotel rooms and amusements would be used to pay off the debt.

There are only nine of these types of indoor tracks in the country, and most are on college campuses, including one at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Williams said.

Having one on neutral ground in Virginia Beach would lure college teams, Williams said.

"Indoor track is one of the fastest-growing sports in the indoor market," he said, adding that the payoff will be worth the extra cost up front.

"We fully believe that, essentially, this center makes us the amateur sports capital of the East Coast," Williams said. "We're being aspirational."

Parking options near the Convention Center are being considered in relation to possible future development projects, including a headquarters hotel, Williams said.

One source of parking could be a city-owned property on the south side of 19th Street, at the corner of Birdneck Road, that is currently wooded.

Site work is expected to begin this summer after the city finalizes the development agreement with general contractor MEB and two additional South Hampton Roads design companies, Clark Nexsen and Hanbury.

The city will have a hand in booking events at the center along with Eastern Sports Management, the company that will oversee operations and currently owns and runs the field house in Princess Anne. That facility is maxed out with local league play, Williams said.

The center would be versatile. The floor, in the middle of the track, could be configured for basketball, volleyball, wrestling or gymnastics.

The city currently hosts 17 events a year that could use the new facility. Those account for 68,000 hotel room nights a year, Williams said.

A hydraulic track could draw up to 19 new events and more than double the room nights, he said.

The sports center would need to be bigger - up to 250,000 square feet - than originally proposed, but that could also mean room for 10 additional basketball courts that could be laid on top of the track.

"The courts and the track are our recipe for success," Williams said.

He heard support for the plan earlier this month at a public briefing he gave to the City Council.

"I wish I had known more about this before we got into the arena," Sessoms said at the briefing on March 6. "This is really, really good."

Councilman Bobby Dyer liked it, too.

"We could really become a sports mecca on the East Coast," he said.

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Copyright 2018 SCRIPPS Howard Publications
All Rights Reserved

Corpus Christi Caller-Times

 

Windsor Park Elementary School parent Ondrea Tarske is looking for donors willing to pitch in for a $2.2 million gym for the new gifted and talented magnet school.

Tarske shared her plans with trustees during Monday's board meeting in an effort to get them to sanction the campaign. No vote was taken during the discussion item, but some trustees said they support the move because the district has no money to pay for a gym.

District 4 trustee and vice president Catherine Susser said the gym seems to be more of a "want" than a "need," and dwindling enrollment makes dipping into the district's about $75 million fund balance less of an option.

"I happen to view it as a want. It's really just a matter of perspective," Susser said.

"The only way to pay for a gym would be to take it out of an already low fund balance."

Susser instead suggested the board discuss a long-term facilities plan to determine if facility spending priorities would allow for gyms to be built for all new schools - not just a select few.

Why didn't Windsor Park get a gym?

Calk-Wilson and Los Encinos were reconstructed as part of a $100 million bond approved by voters in 2014. Windsor Park also is getting new digs because of the bond. The school is still in the works and is slated to reopen in fall 2019.

In 2016, trustees approved $1.7 million in bond funds be allotted to build gymnasiums at Calk-Wilson and Los Encinos. The gyms are designed for elementary-aged children.

Construction costs were under budget at the time, according to reports.

Los Encinos got a gym because the consensus was the children deserved a new place for indoor activities. The school was built in 1963 and was designed with classroom doors that open to an outdoor covered walkway, making weather an issue.

Calk-Wilson also got a gym because one had been donated to Wilson, making it the only elementary school back then with a gym.

No funding was allotted for a gym at Windsor Park then and there is no money for it now, officials have said.

Two main reasons were highlighted by Bell on Monday as to why the school didn't get a gym back then.

She said Windsor Park was a more expensive project for several reasons, including the board going against initial plans to rebuild it at a different site after pushback, and trustees approving the initial design prototype - chosen for all three elementary schools - be altered to build a two-story campus for Windsor Park students and staff.

Windsor Park site change

A heated debate arose in 2015 on where to rebuild the campus. Part of the debate was on which location would be most fair since the magnet school serves students from across Corpus Christi ISD, according to Caller-Times archives.

Because the school was ultimately kept at the current site, construction timelines were altered, Bell said. The timeline for Windsor Park was pushed back about two years to allow time for an empty building - the empty Calk building - to become available for students and staff to occupy while their school is demolished and rebuilt.

That same year, the board approved a two-story design for Windsor Park to allow for a larger bus loop on Sharon Drive.

The single-story design with one drop-off location could have caused traffic congestion on Sheridan Drive, possibly forcing students to walk through the busy parking lot to get to the playground, Principal Kimberly Bissell said in 2015.

"If we had gone with the original plan, to start building at the same time as other two, possibly could have realized savings for the gym," Bell said. "But because we had to wait for two years and also because we're stacking, we changed the prototype, it made it more expensive."

Bell also said construction costs for Windsor Park have already exceeded the initial price tag by about $2 million.

"Windsor Park is $2 million over budget right now," Bell said. "And you have another $2.2 (million) for a gym - the financial implication is there, which is why we are where we are."

Bell and District 2 trustee and board president Tony Elizondo echoed a similar sentiment as Susser on whether Windsor Park "needs" a gym.

Elizondo said during the discussion he helped Tarske craft a letter to be issued to donors to solicit funds to build the facility.

Tarske said the $2.2 million construction estimate was provided by Fulton Construction, the company overseeing the bond projects.

A letter to parents will go out Monday to provide an update on the effort, which has been in the works for several months.

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

 

St. Bonaventure basketball coach Mark Schmidt pulled his name from consideration for the same job at the University of Pittsburgh on Tuesday, hours before the Panthers hired Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel to take over a struggling program coming off a winless season in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Schmidt was among several candidates who interviewed for the Pitt job in the nearly three weeks since Kevin Stallings was fired. Schmidt guided the Bonnies to a 26-9 record that included 13 straight victories, a second-place finish in the Atlantic 10 Conference and its first NCAA Tournament victory since 1970.

"Your name is always going to come up in these things when you have a successful season, or successful seasons," Schmidt said Tuesday. "I was flattered that my name was mentioned and Pitt was interested. I'm happy where I'm at. Hopefully, we can continue to build on what we've done at Bonaventure."

Schmidt said he decided to pull his name from consideration in part because the hiring process took so long. While it appears he'll return to St. Bonaventure, there remains a chance another school could hire him. He's making about $900,000 per year, some of which is paid by donors. Schools from power conferences pay coaches twice as much or more.

Xavier coach Chris Mack has agreed to a seven-year deal with Louisville, per reports and a tweet from Mack. Schmidt was an assistant at Xavier under Skip Prosser before becoming a head coach. If Mack leaves, as expected, Schmidt could be in line to replace him. Schmidt is only 11 victories away from becoming the winningest coach in Bona history.

"You never know what's going to happen in the future," he said. "It's been going on for three or four years now, which is humbling. But at the same time I have a really good job at Bonaventure. My family is really happy there. The people have treated me really well. The support we get from the alumni is tremendous. I'm happy."

University at Buffalo coach Nate Oats also was considered for the Pitt job. It appears he's staying barring unforeseen circumstances. The Bulls reached the Big Dance for the third time in four years and are expected to be better next season. UB actually has a better team than Pitt, and Oats' stock could soar.

The Bonnies, under Schmidt, had their best season in nearly 50 years while posting records for victories in a season and consecutive victories over Atlantic 10 rivals after starting the season 2-4 in the conference. Bona beat Maryland before taking down Syracuse in the Carrier Dome for the first time in program history.

St. Bonaventure earned an at-large invitation to the Big Dance and beat UCLA in a First Four game in Dayton before losing to Florida in Dallas. Guard Jaylen Adams was named conference Player of the Year, an honor he shared with Davidson's Peyton Aldridge, and was named first-team all-conference along with backcourt mate Matt Mobley.

Schmidt is widely considered among the best coaches in the A-10, largely because he has effectively recruited players to one of the smaller Division I programs in the country and made it work. In recent years, he earned a reputation for squeezing more from his program than any coach in the conference.

Pitt, which finished 0-18 in the ACC, appeared to be looking for someone with a higher profile rather than the best coach, perhaps in response to public backlash after Schmidt became a candidate. Schmidt pulled Bona from the ruins when he arrived in 2007, restored credibility and this year won 20 or more games for a third straight season.

"There's no disappointment at all," Schmidt said. "I have a really good job. There's a lot of people in this country that would love to have the job that I have."

 

St. Bonaventure basketball coach Mark Schmidt pulled his name from consideration for the same job at the University of Pittsburgh on Tuesday, hours before the Panthers hired Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel to take over a struggling program coming off a winless season in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
 
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Copyright 2018 The Evansville Courier Co.
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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)

 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The University of Louisville and Chris Mack have agreed to terms on a seven-year deal to make Mack the school's new men's basketball coach, sources with direct knowledge of the deal told Courier Journal on Tuesday.

Mack, previously the head coach at Xavier, was long considered the favorite to land the job. He met with interim Louisville athletic director Vince Tyra on Saturday.

ESPN reported Mack's deal was worth "about $4 million" per year in salary. CBS Sports reported Mack is expected to bring Xavier assistant coaches Mike Pegues and Luke Murray, the son of actor Bill Murray, with him to Louisville.

Calling the past week "one of the toughest of my life," Mack tweeted a goodbye Tuesday afternoon to Xavier.

"No other opportunity has ever felt 'right' until now," Mack tweeted without naming Louisville. "Ultimately, I felt like this situation offered a new and unique challenge that I could not turn down."

Louisville is expected to introduce Mack at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon after the school's athletic association and trustees meet at the KFC Yum Center to approve the hire.

A Louisville spokesman said a contract had not been signed as of Tuesday afternoon.

"Reports that the University of Louisville has hired a men's basketball coach are premature," Louisville spokesman John Karman said in a statement. "There is no contract. The appropriate boards have not yet met to consider a contract. Nor are the board members aware of any terms in a potential contract."

A 48-year-old who grew up in the Cincinnati area, Mack takes over a program in need of a jolt after a chaotic few years.

Louisville suspended Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino just days before formal preseason practices started and later fired him, appointing former assistant coach and player David Padgett as the interim coach.

Padgett and Louisville parted ways after the season.

Louisville finished 22-14 and missed the NCAA Tournament, losing in the National Invitation Tournament quarterfinals.

Mack guided Xavier to the regular-season Big East title this season, winning 23 or more games for the seventh time in his nine seasons leading the Musketeers. Mack's teams have reached three NCAA Tournament Sweet 16s and one Elite Eight.

A former player at Evansville and later Xavier, Mack started his career as a high school girls basketball coach. He eventually joined Skip Prosser's staff at Xavier and followed him to Wake Forest before returning to work for Sean Miller at Xavier.

When Miller left for Arizona, Mack was promoted to head coach.

Xavier went 29-6 and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament this season, losing to Florida State in a second-round upset.

He takes over a Louisville team expecting to return several key players, including freshmen Darius Perry, Jordan Nwora, Lance Thomas and Malik Williams, along with sophomore wing V.J. King and redshirt sophomores Dwayne Sutton and Ryan McMahon. Former Connecticut big man Steven Enoch will be eligible to play next season after sitting out due to transfer rules.

Mack and his incoming staff will likely want to add at least three late signees to Louisville's roster. Juniors Deng Adel and Ray Spalding plan to work out for NBA teams over the next two months before deciding if they'll remain in the draft pool or return to school for their senior years.

Recruiting will be one of the first tasks on Mack's list, along with re-recruiting the current roster. Several of Louisville's current players and their parents said over the past week they were excited about the possibility of Mack coaching the team.

Two of Xavier's past four recruiting classes ranked in the top 15 nationally, including Rivals.com's No. 9 class in 2017.

Trinity High guard David Johnson, a Class of 2019 prospect, was being actively recruited by Louisville and Xavier before Mack's hiring. The 6-foot-5 Johnson figures to remain at the top of Louisville's list with the new coach in place.

Mack was the U.S. Basketball Writers Association National Coach of the Year in 2016 and was named the Atlantic 10 Conference Coach of the Year in 2011 and Big East Coach of the Year this season.

His Xavier teams had a 7-4 record against ACC opponents, and he has been known for his player-development prowess and offensive smarts. Mack's teams have ranked in the top 30 nationally in offensive efficiency over the past four seasons, according to Ken Pomeroy's college basketball analytics site.

Opposing coaches also praised Mack's Xavier teams for their physicality on both ends of the floor.

Three players who competed for Mack's teams have been selected in the NBA draft, including 2010 first-round pick Jordan Crawford, who transferred from Indiana and played his only season at Xavier with Mack at the helm.

Mack's move brings his wife, the former Christi Hester, who was a star athlete at Holy Cross High School, home to Louisville. The Macks still have family in the area.

The hiring also marks the start of a new chapter in Louisville basketball history. The university has only had five coaches since the 1944-45 season.

Mack takes the reins at a particularly critical time for the program, which is still healing after the NCAA's Committee on Infractions vacated the Cardinals' 2013 national championship and 2012 Final Four appearance.

Louisville is one of several big-name basketball programs operating under a cloud of uncertainty after the FBI's investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting ensnared the school. Pitino was fired in October after some of the findings in the FBI's inquiry were unsealed.

Mack will be tasked with not only leading the Cardinals back to the NCAA Tournament, but also with helping to repair Louisville's reputation in the basketball world and keeping a rabid fan base engaged.

Tyra, whose interim tag on Monday was removed from his title as athletic director, said last week he aimed to hire an "elite" coach for an "elite" program.

His change in title empowered him to enter the final stages of the coaching search and "close the deal," Tyra said Tuesday on the "Deener Show" on ESPN 680.

Any coaching hire will have to be approved by the University of Louisville Athletic Association, which is expected to support the hiring.

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Copyright 2018 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

ORLANDO - "Heads Up" is now the law of the land in the NFL.

Just like that, the league outlawed the dangerous technique of players lowering their heads, effectively using their helmets as weapons while tackling. With its quick, surprising passage Tuesday at the league's annual meeting, the measure is suddenly among the shortest entries in the NFL Rule Book. Officially, it's Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8.

Here it is, in its entirety: "It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent.

"Penalty: Loss of 15 yards. If the foul is by the defense, it is also an automatic first down. The player may be disqualified."

That's it. So it is decreed, in the name of safety. This isn't a new helmet-to-helmet rule. That already exists. It isn't a targeting rule. That's in the college game, and still not an NFL rule.

This replaces the rule that banned players from using the crown of helmet. Lowering the head, sadly, is what Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier did when he suffered his serious spinal injury in December.

"We're getting to a point where the technique is too dangerous," Rich Mc-Kay, the chairman of the league's competition committee, said during a hastily arranged news conference Tuesday afternoon.

This is seemingly well-intentioned. Last season, according to NFL injury data, 47% of concussions were caused by helmet-to-helmet hits, a sharp increase from the 33% mark from the 2015 campaign. Overall concussions were up last year, too.

Yet this measure came out of nowhere when compared to the typical chatter that surrounds significant rules changes in the NFL. Sure, there has been conversation for some time about instituting a targeting rule similar to the NCAA's. But this goes beyond that. As McKay explained it, they wanted to get away from "situational" protection when the real issue is how the helmet is routinely used in the manner it was not designed.

The manner in which Shazier was injured, which jeopardizes his career after it was originally feared that he might not walk again, tells you everything you need to know about the dangers of lowering the head on a tackle.

Let's hope this new rule reduces injuries and that it further changes the culture that has evolved with more awareness of head trauma. The NFL hopes it trickles down to youth football, where kids are taught to tackle with their heads up.

Still, as buzz circulated Tuesday that a new rule was being passed - it was never mentioned a day earlier when the competition committee outlined proposals such as the new catch rule - it felt like the league that came under so much fire and scrutiny about head injuries had to demonstrate another example of being proactive on the safety front.

McKay admitted there's still work to be done. The rule doesn't tell us what's a 15-yard penalty and what would lead to an ejection. And at least at this point, the rulings on the field can't be confirmed or overturned by instant replay. So there's some serious gray area in play. Even players, whom the league typically consults during meetings including the players union while in the process of considering rules changes, seem confused.

Richard Sherman, in a text to USA TODAY's Mike Jones, seemed like he was addressing a targeting rule when slamming the rule as "ridiculous."

"Like telling a driver if you touch the lane lines, you're getting a ticket," Sherman texted. "(It's) gonna lead to more lower extremity injuries."

Josh Norman, the Washington cornerback, maintained, "I don't know how you're going to play the game."

Yes, there's some work to be done. With the rule, the techniques and the communication.

But it's on the books now, a rule with a fast start.

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Copyright 2018 Union Leader Corp.
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The Union Leader (Manchester, NH)

 

In the years before he opened the world's tallest waterslide -- a 17-story record-setter that towered over a Kansas amusement park -- people in the industry called Jeff Henry a visionary.

Now, after a child was decapitated on Henry's Verrückt ride and investigators say they found signs of rushed construction and covered-up injuries, prosecutors are calling Henry something else:

Murderer.

Henry, who owned the Schlitterbahn water park and several others with his siblings, was arrested Monday in Texas' Cameron County on murder charges related to the death of Caleb Schwab on the Verrückt ride. Verrückt is the German word for "insane."

The Schlitterbahn company and Tyler Austin Miles, the former director of operations, have already been charged with involuntary manslaughter and several counts of aggravated battery, aggravated endangering a child and interference with law enforcement in the Verrückt investigation, according to an indictment in Wyandotte County, Kan., that was unsealed last week.

A hybrid roller-coaster and waterslide ride, Verrückt was Henry's brainchild. Investigators say he decided to build it in a "spur-of-the-moment bid to impress producers of Travel Channel's Xtreme Waterparks series."

He and a longtime friend and business partner, John Schooley, were the chief designers, the indictment says, even though neither had any credentials in mathematics, physics or engineering.

From ABCourt Rejects Water Park’s ‘High Thrill’ Ride Defense

On Verrückt, groups of riders first zoomed down a nearly vertical, 168-foot main descent. Then they ascended 50 feet above the ground, propelled by inertia and "a series of high-pressure water blasters," according to the indictment. But in some instances, instead of sliding straight down, the rafts went airborne -- a major design flaw that investigators say the company had known about, tried unsuccessfully to fix, and eventually ignored.

Most of the slide is covered with a net suspended by metal hoops, an industry-defying addition that investigators say hints at Verrückt's danger.

The indictment says that the ride creators' calculations were off and that they knew it. Some of the rafts would go airborne before the second drop, causing riders to strike the net or the suspended metal hoops that held it.

The injuries piled up.

In the two years that Verrückt was in operation, 13 people were injured, many after the rafts left the slide, according to court documents.

A month after the ride opened, a 14-year-old received a concussion, the court papers say. The next summer, another teen was concussed and a 20-year-old woman suffered a slipped spinal disk. The woman, Brittany Hawkins, was a lifeguard who knew the park's operator and told him she was injured after her raft went airborne.

The indictment accuses the operator, Miles, of intercepting incident reports from lifeguards and destroying witness statements -- then coaching the guards to write statements that omitted crucial damaging details about Verrückt.

Caleb climbed into the front seat of one of the ride's rafts on Aug. 7, 2016, which the park had dubbed Elected Official Day.

By the end of the minute-long ride, Caleb, the son of Kansas state Rep. Scott Schwab, was dead after being decapitated. Two women riding with him suffered cuts and fractures. Their raft had collided with a metal pole that held the net.

Investigators uncovered a string of negligence that they say led back to Henry.

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Copyright 2018 The Washington Times
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The Washington Times

 

Sadiq Khan made his intentions clear: He wants London to attract an NFL franchise and host a Super Bowl.

The mayor of London spoke about sports and the city in an interview with Talksport, a London-based sports radio station and website.

Khan said he was "ambitious" about attracting an NFL franchise to play its eight home games in the English capital.

"I've been saying since the first day I became mayor my ambition is to have more American football games in London and ultimately for there to be a franchise there and, dare I say it, even the Super Bowl," Khan said. "I met recently one of the owners of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Shahid Khan. I've met the NFL commissioner on a number of occasions, most recently at the game at Twickenham this year and my team is working very closely with the NFL."

The NFL will once again play three regular season games in London in 2018, one at Tottenham Hotspur's new stadium and two at Wembley Stadium. The idea of a Super Bowl in London, however, may receive some pushback in the U.S.

In 2017 an NFL spokesperson told the Daily Mail, "A Super Bowl in London would not be considered until such time that a UK franchise was in operation. But at that point, London would be free to participate in the Super Bowl bidding process along with other NFL cities."

Khan was also asked about Major League Baseball on the heels of last week's rumor that the league wants to bring a regular season series between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox to London in 2019.

Khan did not "confirm or deny" the rumor but said, "What I will tell you is that since the first week that I became mayor, my ambition has been to make sure everyone knows we are the sporting capital of the world."

A later part of Khan's answer is partly humorous for its English jargon referring to the American sport:

"Our ambition is to get a proper MLB game here. I had the privilege of meeting the MLB commissioner but also throwing the first pitch at a Mets game and I didn't let London down it went into the glove of the keeper!"

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Copyright 2018 Newsday, Inc.

Newsday (New York)

 

Trouble might have been brewing for the Yankees over facial images of their players — including Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton — imprinted in beer sold at the Stadium. The images were displayed at a media event on Monday at the ballpark.

Major League Baseball, which does not permit active players to be involved in the advertising or promotion of alcohol-related products, caught wind of the idea and quickly issued what amounted to a cease-and-desist order. "We were unaware,'' of the images, a spokesman for MLB said Tuesday. "We spoke to the club, the club wasn't aware, either. To the best of our knowledge, they have told them it's not authorized, to cease doing it.''

A spokesman for the Yankees said, "Our hospitality team took Monday's event as an opportunity to test the image machine with various Yankees-related logos and photos. However, the Yankees have no current plans of incorporating this decorative element on concessions items this season."

A device capable of imprinting such images is called Beer Ripples, but a spokesman denied the company was involved in this incident. "Ripples is the company behind Beer Ripples, the device that can print any image, picture or message onto beer,'' he said. "We are currently working with Legends, the company that runs the food and concessions stands at Yankee Stadium, who are in the process of testing a number of Beer Ripples machines. Ripples, however, was not involved with this particular activation.''

The company's first generation machine was used for images in coffee.

The likenesses of Judge, Stanton, Gary Sanchez and Aroldis Chapman were displayed in Blue Point Beer, which is headquartered in Patchogue and the brewery's Twitter feed has a photo of the Yankees logo on the top of a beer. But a spokesman for the firm that represents Blue Point said the images were not the beer company's idea.

"Blue Point doesn't actually do anything with that, we just brew the beer, we sell it at the Stadium,'' A spokesman for Praytell Agency in Brooklyn said, "At certain stations at Yankee Stadium they have a machine that will allow you to put the Yankees players' faces on the beer. If MLB and the Yankees have killed it, it's done.''

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

 

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's tennis program self-imposed a number of violations to the NCAA and has received two years of probation.

The allegations center around extra benefits received by UTC student-athletes from a booster, who provided reduced-cost rent and the use of automobiles to 12 former athletes, as well as treating athletes to meals on 11 occasions and once provided transportation to an amusement park.

The release said the circumstances surrounding those violations also supported a responsibility violation for former coach Carlos Garcia, as well at UTC's failure to monitor -- all Level II violations, which are considered a "significant breach of conduct."

UTC agreed that it failed to monitor the student-athletes' housing arrangements, which enabled the impermissible arrangements to continue over a four-year period.

Garcia resigned after the 2016-17 season (not related to the investigation) and was replaced by Chuck Merzbacher.

"The announcement from the NCAA regarding our men's tennis program is a situation that we have known about for some time," UTC vice chancellor and athletic director Mark Wharton said in a release. "The violations were discovered prior to my arrival at UTC, and as reported by the NCAA, were immediately and properly reported through our compliance office. UTC fully cooperated with the NCAA throughout the investigation.

"No current coaches or student-athletes were involved with this report, and corrective action has been taken to ensure better monitoring of off-campus housing arrangements for our student-athletes to help us continue our compliance with NCAA regulations.

"Everyone involved with UTC athletics is committed to maintaining an atmosphere of compliance with all NCAA rules and regulations. We are using this as a chance to learn and improve our compliance processes."

In addition to the two-year probationary period, UTC was assessed a $5,000 fine and a reduction of scholarships. The female booster who provided the extra benefits has to be disassociated with the program for a period of four years.

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Copyright 2018 LNP Media Group, Inc.
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LNP (Lancaster, PA)

 

High Construction has won a $21 million contract to build the Bowers Center for Sports, Fitness and Well-being at Elizabethtown College.

Spanning 81,900 square feet, the new center will have a field house with tennis courts; a basketball court; an indoor track; areas for yoga, weight training and group fitness; locker rooms; a cafe and lounge; and a demonstration kitchen, among other amenities.

The total project cost is $24.5 million.

As LNP reported last month, a ceremonial groundbreaking was held Feb. 2. Completion is scheduled for summer 2019.

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

 

Many parents are trying to live the dream through their sons and daughters — the dream of landing a college athletic scholarship by specializing in a sport year-round. Unfortunately, most of these dreams are never realized.

The odds of a sports scholarship paying for even a portion of a student's college education are miniscule.

The College Board, a not-for-profit organization comprised of 6,000 of the world's leading educational institutions, reports that a moderate cost for college students who attend a public university in their state of residence is $25,290 per year. The annual cost at a private college averages $50,900.

Meanwhile, the most recent data from the NCAA reveals that the average Division I athletic scholarship is worth only $10,400. More significantly, the same study shows that fewer than two percent of all high school athletes (1 in 54) ever wear the uniform of an NCAA Division I school.

Even if the dream is realized, parents likely will spend more money for club sports than they ever regain through college athletic scholarships. Thanks to the costs of club fees, equipment, summer camps, playing in out-of-state tournaments and private coaching, youth sports has become a $15 billion-per-year industry.

There is an option, and it's a financially viable one: Encourage your sons and daughters to play sports at their high school.

In education-based high school sports, student-athletes are taught, as the term implies, that grades come first. The real-life lessons that students experientially learn offer insights into leadership, overcoming adversity and mutual respect that cannot be learned anywhere else. Unlike club sports, coaches in an education-based school setting are held accountable by the guiding principles and goals of their school district. And the cost of participating in high school sports is minimal in most cases.

While there is a belief that the only way to get noticed by college coaches is to play on non-school travel teams year-round, many Division I football and basketball coaches recently have stated that they are committed to recruiting students who have played multiple sports within the high school setting.

In addition, by focusing on academics while playing sports within the school setting, students can earn scholarships for academics and other talents-skill sets oftentimes nurtured while participating in high school activities. These scholarships are more accessible and worth more money than athletic scholarships. While $3 billion per year is available for athletic scholarships, more than $11 billion is awarded for academic scholarships and other financial assistance.

Without a doubt, your sons and daughters will have more fun, make more friends and be better prepared for life beyond sport by participating in multiple sports and activities offered by the high school in your community.

 

Gardner is Executive Director of the National Federation of State High School Associations. Haun is Executive Director of the Virginia High School League.

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

 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The University of Louisville removed the interim tag from athletic director Vince Tyra's job title on Monday and made him the school's vice president of athletics after weeks of speculation that it would happen by month's end.

Tyra was appointed to the interim role in October after the school suspended and later fired Tom Jurich in the wake of the FBI unsealing its investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting. He has long been considered the favorite to retain the position.

Tyra will be given a five-year contract worth $850,000 per year in salary. He can also earn up to $150,000 in potential bonuses.

"Over the past six months, he has been in a job where he has had a chance to prove himself and his ability as an athletic director," interim Louisville president Greg Postel said. "He has dealt with challenging staffing issues. He has improved efficiency of the athletics department. And he has tackled the budget during a time of university-wide financial restraint.... Put simply, he has proven to be a perfect fit for U of L."

The school announced its decision after a series of meetings between the University of Louisville Athletic Association and the Board of Trustees.

The association voted to endorse Tyra after reviewing three candidates recommended by Korn Ferry, a search firm that originally identified 50 people for the job. The trustees unanimously supported the endorsement just after noon.

Tyra, a longtime businessman, was previously on the University of Louisville Foundation's board of directors, serving for eight months before the move to athletics.

The part-owner of Louisville City FC was asked to guide the university's $100-million-budget athletics program out of challenging times.

"I can't tell you how proud and excited I am to be named the director of athletics at the University of Louisville," said Tyra, the son of Louisville basketball great Charlie Tyra. "As I've said before, we were raised as Cardinals. We were U of L fans our whole childhood, my siblings and I. I couldn't be happier to try to lead this process for the university."

Tyra's appointment now empowers him to enter the final stages of the search for a men's basketball coach. Tyra and other school officials wanted to have an athletic director in place before offering a contract to any potential candidates.

No contract offer was made as of Monday afternoon.

Tyra said Monday he hoped to have a new coach hired before the men's Final Four this coming weekend in San Antonio, and that the search was "right on track."

Xavier coach Chris Mack is believed to be the frontrunner for the job.

"Staffing," Tyra said when asked what his first priority would be. "We've got a position you might have heard of, men's basketball coach, that needs to get filled."

Tyra also said he was confident he could negotiate a contract extension for women's basketball coach Jeff Walz after he recently expressed interest in redoing his deal. Walz's Cardinals clinched their third trip to the Final Four in nine years on Sunday.

Beyond those two tasks, the school is trying to right the financial ship after multiple crises over the past few years. The athletics department is working to repair its damaged reputation and recover some of its donation losses.

The FBI scandal came as the NCAA infractions process drew to a close in Louisville's escort case. The NCAA's Infractions Appeals Committee upheld the Committee on Infractions' ruling that Louisville must vacate 123 wins, including its 2012 Final Four appearance and 2013 national title, and repay shared NCAA Tournament revenue from 2012-15.

Now the school is waiting to hear more from the NCAA and the FBI. The FBI and U.S. Attorney's office have asked the NCAA's enforcement staff to refrain from conducting its own inquiry into the allegations of recruiting malfeasance until after the trials in the case are over. The last set of trials won't start until April 2019.

But Tyra wanted to focus what he views as positive momentum in the athletics department.

"We're going to continue with all the good we have," Tyra said. "I think we're working hard to remove the not-so-good, and I'm excited to take the lead on that and take us forward into the next step for this university, and move forward on other major decisions."

Tyra said he spent the past six months trying establish relationships with Louisville's athletics staffers and donors as well as coaches and student-athletes.

"We've made a number of improvements in the short term, and we've used the student athlete experience as our guiding principle," Tyra said. "That's shaped a lot of things."

Jeff Greer: 502-582-4044; jgreer@courierjournal.com; Twitter: @jeffgreer_cj.

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

The WCC has approved changes that will trim two games from the conference basketball schedule and provide more protection for higher seeds at the WCC tournaments.

The men's conference schedule will consist of 16 games (eight home, eight away) instead of the double round-robin of 18. The top two seeds in the men's and women's WCC tournaments will receive byes into the semifinal round. Under the previous format, the top two seeds entered in the quarterfinals.

Monday's announcement comes as Gonzaga is contemplating whether to join the Mountain West Conference or remain in the WCC.

The scheduling adjustments, along with the conference's acknowledgement of changes regarding distribution of NCAA Tournament revenue, strengthens the WCC's case to keep Gonzaga, but GU athletic director Mike Roth stressed that the school hasn't made a final decision regarding conference affiliation.

"These changes that were passed by the Presidents' Council are all positive things in Gonzaga's eyes," Roth said. "We appreciate the on-going support of our member peers to continue to advance things forward with the WCC."

The WCC released notes that changes to NCAA academic-based revenue distribution, men's basketball unit revenue distribution and an adjustment to the licensing of future conference broadcast rights were approved in the fall. Gonzaga's discussions with the Mountain West were first reported in February.

Gonzaga's RPI usually drops during WCC play when it faces opponents in the bottom half of the conference. The Zags have pushed for scheduling changes to lessen the RPI impact and open up additional nonconference opportunities that could enhance their at-large credentials and/or NCAA seeding.

The scheduling changes go into effect next season. They are part of the Men's Basketball Enhancement Plan, first discussed in June, 2017 with ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi and others, to work within the current RPI system and maximize opportunities to get the most NCAA Tournament teams with the best possible seeds.

Among other changes approved, WCC teams will be required by the 2019-20 season:

To play in a multiteam event every season.

To play more home games than away games.

To play no more than two non-Division I opponents.

To receive conference approval for "guarantee games" at an opponent's venue.

"Although it is unique for us to be playing fewer conference games while other conferences are adding games to their schedule, the disparity in RPI from the top of our league to the bottom is larger than any other conference," said BYU coach Dave Rose, chair of the WCC men's basketball head coaches group. "We believe this approach will allow all 10 of our teams to schedule based on the current state of their program, and all 10 of us can go win more games - which will help everyone."

WCC teams will face seven league opponents twice, an eighth at home and a ninth on the road.

The WCC Tournament format change eliminates the possibility of a top-two seed being upset by teams in the 7-10 range in the quarterfinal round, which could be devastating to a program's at-large candidacy.

The top two seeds in the WCC men's tournament enjoyed byes into the semifinals from 2003-13. The format was scrapped with the addition of Pacific in 2014.

"We are confident that these innovative adjustments will enhance access to the NCAA Tournament for the best programs of our marquee sport," said Rev. Paul Fitzgerald, S.J., University of San Francisco President and chair of the Presidents' Council.

Contact the writer:

(208) 659-3791

jimm@spokesman.com

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Copyright 2018 The Salt Lake Tribune
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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

The moment he always knew would one day come was suddenly here, and all it took was 15 seconds for it to dawn on him. His voice cracked. His eyes watered. He nervously scratched his arm. Chris Hill had a game plan Monday, and he had to execute it.

To summarize four decades in one place, to relive the ecstasy and the agony intertwined throughout 31 straight years in one job, was impossible. He even said it himself. He had to stay on track in his Monday morning news conference. Soon, in a couple of months' time, he was no longer going to be Chris Hill, athletic director at the University of Utah. If he wavered, if he chose to single out a highlight on a field or a court, the tears would soon return and might not relent.

So he glanced down at the binder he brought out with him from behind the crimson curtain inside the Huntsman Center and tried — tried — to stick to the script.

"I gave it my best shot every day, and I got paid twice a month," Hill said. "That's a square deal."

At the end of May, Hill will retire at age 68. The longest actively tenured Division I athletic director at the same school is changing direction after 31 years on the job and a historic résumé of achievements that helped launch the Utes into realms thought unattainable at one time.

Hill and his wife, Kathy, were in Paris as he helped navigate Utah's eventual inclusion in what would become the Pac-12 Conference in 2011. He took call after call. That was a vacation they'd never forget. As her husband bounced from interview to interview Monday morning, Kathy Hill stood inside the Huntsman Center room where he made it official and beamed.

"[Getting into] the Pac-12 was the most exciting time of our lives," she said. "He really did it single-handedly."

It was a blockbuster move that captivated not only a burgeoning fan base riding high after two undefeated BCS-bowl winning seasons in 2004 and again in 2008, but also served as a proclamation that Utah would become a mainstay in the national conversation. Hill's goals of revamping Utah's football program paid off in hires of Ron McBride, Urban Meyer and Kyle Whittingham.

Whittingham said the most appropriate way to gauge Hill's success, at least for football, is comparing the past to the present. "It's night and day," said Whittingham, who has been head coach since 2005.

On the basketball court, Hill hired the late Rick Majerus, who took the Runnin' Utes to the NCAA title game in 1998 and 12 total NCAA Tournament appearances. Current Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak has led the Utes to two NCAA tournaments. The team is currently in New York City to play in the NIT Final Four.

There were some encounters with choppy waters, as well.

Parents of former Utah swimmers voiced concerns and said the athletic department didn't properly investigate allegations of physical and psychological abuse by former coach Greg Winslow in 2013. Hill was chastised by U. administrators for that. His decisions to (temporarily) pull the plug on the BYU football rivalry, and later buy out a road basketball game at BYU, created a backlash and later spawned a legislative audit of the Utah athletic department.

But the results speak for themselves. During Hill's tenure as athletic director, Utah has won 10 NCAA championships in both gymnastics and skiing and combined to finish national runners-up 14 times. Since joining the Pac-12, Utah has won four conference titles in gymnastics and baseball. Utah football shared the south division championship in 2015.

"Those who haven't worked for Chris or with Chris may not fully appreciate the culture that he developed here," said former Utah gymnastics coach Greg Marsden.

Hill was asked what accomplishment he was most proud of during his 31 years at Utah, and that was his answer What Utah didn't have before and what it has now — which is why he felt now was as good a time as any to step away.

"We've got a culture," Hill said. "We're not afraid of lofty goals. We're not afraid."

Said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott "Chris Hill has been one of the most successful athletic directors in collegiate sports for over three decades, and all of us at the Pac-12 wish him the best in retirement. His passion and commitment to student-athletes, and his ability to develop and deliver a vision for a successful athletic program that supports both the university academic mission and the local community, will be at the heart of his legacy."

Hill has one more job to do. With about two months left before officially retiring, he said Monday he is determined to raise $20 million of the necessary $25 million for a long-developing plan to expand Rice-Eccles Stadium. It would be the final feather in a cap that's featured millions of dollars in upgrades to the school's student-athlete facilities.

Since entering the Pac-12 alone, Utah has built the Dumke Family Softball Stadium (2013), the Spence & Cleone Eccles Football Center (2013), the Jon M. and Karen Huntsman Basketball Center (2015) and the Spence Eccles Ski Building (2017).

"He's been grinding as of late just as much as Day 1 [on the job]," said Utah volleyball coach Beth Launiere.

Said Krystkowiak "Obviously, I wouldn't be where I am without him and his faith and belief in bringing me to Utah, so it's not an easy one for me sorting that one out. I look forward to sitting down with him when I get back and thanking him for the opportunity."

So, why now?

Hill asked himself that question before the reporters in the room could ask it themselves. The choice was made in January, he said, explaining that he went with his heart and it was the right move.

"Right now," Kathy Hill said, "I think he just wants to take a breath."

"He had an awesome run," son Christopher said.

Hill has already told U. President Ruth V. Watkins that he would be willing to help out here and there, would be open to lending some advice during the search for his replacement, but said he does not want to be on any sort of committee. He does not want to hover.

Instead, he's looking forward to the unexplored. Hill said he wants to write a book. He wants to leave a tied ballgame with three minutes left on the clock, just to see how it feels not to be obsessed with the outcome of a game. Kathy Hill joked that she's not ready for the next phase, because it's never really been part of the equation.

As Chris Hill kept on explaining his decision to retire, leaving the only real post he's ever known, Kathy told stories of just some of the schools that came calling. Oregon, Washington, Duke. They were so close to moving to Seattle and becoming Huskies at one point, she said, she had already picked out a purple scarf for herself and a purple tie for Chris for the news conference.

But on Monday, the reality was never more apparent. A few steps away, their grandchildren wore Utah moccasins and had red bows in their pigtails and sported red polo shirts. Like Chris Hill, they're Utes.

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Copyright 2018 The Salt Lake Tribune
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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

Lansing, Mich. — A Michigan State University official who oversaw Larry Nassar was arrested Monday amid an investigation into the handling of complaints against the former sport doctor, who is in prison for sexually assaulting patients under the guise of treatment.

William Strampel was in jail pending an arraignment Tuesday, Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth told The Associated Press. He declined to say what charges Strampel was facing because the probe is being led by the Michigan attorney general's office.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill Schuette declined to comment. A news conference was scheduled for Tuesday, two months after Schuette appointed a special assistant attorney general to investigate.

Strampel, 70, is the first person besides Nassar to be charged in connection with the worst sexual abuse case in sports history. Nassar pleaded guilty to molesting patients and possessing child pornography. Strampel's arrest was first reported by the Detroit Free Press, and WILX-TV earlier reported that state police were seen outside Strampel's Lansing-area home.

Strampel was the 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 told police last year that he never followed up after ordering Nassar in 2014 to have a third person present when providing treatment to "anything close to a sensitive area." He also said any skin-to-skin contact needed to be explained in detail.

Nassar was fired in 2016 for violating the rule. His dismissal came less than a month after former gymnast Rachael Denhollander filed a criminal complaint saying Nassar had sexually assaulted her with his hands while treating her for back pain years earlier.

Strampel told a campus detective and FBI agent in 2017 that he did not check to see if Nassar was following the order because Nassar had been "exonerated" in an investigation of a patient's complaint and the imposed guidelines were "health care 101." At least 12 reported assaults occurred after the probe ended, according to a university police report.

The school has come under scrutiny for not sharing the full conclusions of the Title IX investigation with Amanda Thomashow, the woman who complained.

In February, interim Michigan State President John Engler announced plans to fire Strampel, who still has tenure that protects his employment as a faculty member.

More than 250 girls and women have sued Michigan State, current and former university officials, USA Gymnastics - where Nassar also worked - and others. Roughly 200 gave statements in two courtrooms over 10 day of proceedings.

John Manly, a lawyer for many of the victims, said his clients were encouraged by Monday's development.

"It demonstrates that (Schuette) is serious about investigating the systemic misconduct at MSU that led to the largest child sex abuse scandal in history and holding the responsible parties accountable," he said.

A Michigan State spokeswoman said the university would continue cooperating with any investigations and pointed to Engler's past statements about Strampel.

"William Strampel did not act with the level of professionalism we expect from individuals who hold senior leadership positions, particularly in a position that involves student and patient safety," Engler said last month.

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

 

WORCESTER — Two sites have been identified in the Great Brook Valley area as possible locations for multipurpose, rectangular athletic fields.

The sites were identified in a comprehensive draft master plan done for the city on the Tacoma Street and Great Brook Valley playgrounds and are among improvements recommended for the two parks.

The study, done by Weston & Sampson, incorporates input that residents and organizations provided at public hearings on the master plan, and it also attempts to address citywide recreational needs.

It proposes construction of a 360-foot-by-240-foot synthetic turf field at the Tacoma Street Playground and a 260-foot-by-150-foot multipurpose field at the Great Brook Valley Playground.

The plan also calls for lighting at both fields.

While the fields would primarily be used for soccer, they could also be used for other sports such as lacrosse, rugby and field hockey.

When the city updated its open space and recreation plan in 2013, a frequent request from residents was more rectangular fields for growing local soccer and lacrosse programs. Since then, the city has worked to identify suitable locations.

The master plan for the Tacoma Street and Great Brook Valley playgrounds will formally go before the City Council Tuesday night. The council is expected to refer the study to its Youth, Parks and Recreation Committee for a public hearing.

The plan has already been approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission.

City officials emphasized the master plan is not cast in stone and is intended to serve as a community-endorsed guidebook to help phase in improvements as funding becomes available.

"This master plan will assist the city in defining the future of these facilities by developing them to their full potential," said City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr.

No money has been set aside in the city's capital budget for the proposed improvements at either playground. In the master plan, Weston & Sampson said it could take at least five to 10 years to implement the recommendations for the two parks.

The cost of the synthetic turf athletic field and other amenities proposed for the Tacoma Street Playground has been tentatively pegged at $2 million. That's part of $6.42 million worth of proposed improvements for the park that include creation of a 27,000-square-foot dog run area for large and small dogs; replacement of outdated playground equipment; creation of a 72-space parking lot; picnic area; and a new pathway system.

Meanwhile, the projected cost of the grass field proposed for the Great Brook Valley Playground has been estimated at $550,000. It is part of $6.35 million worth of improvements proposed for that park that include redesigning and relocating the softball field, constructing new basketball and handball courts and picnic areas and improving the parking lot.

The two playgrounds are near each other. The Tacoma Street Playground, which consists of 19.3 acres, is north of the Great Brook Valley housing complex and is bounded by Tacoma and Clark streets. The Great Brook Valley Playground, which consists of 9.5 acres, is east of the housing complex bounded by the Northeast Cutoff, Brookview Drive and Tacoma Street.

In the study, Weston & Sampson said both playgrounds are underutilized and under-serve the population in that part of the city.

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Copyright 2018 Newsday, Inc.

Newsday (New York)

 

Nassau County lawmakers on Monday unanimously passed a bill allowing nonprofit Little Leagues, senior athletic groups and other charitable organizations to continue using county ballfields without charge.

The bill, proposed by the Republican majority, attempts to block a recent change by the county parks department that took away waivers that these groups had enjoyed for decades.

"This is not a Democrat-versus-Republican issue. This is a right-versus-wrong issue," said Legis. Steven D. Rhoads (R-Bellmore), who introduced the legislation, which cleared a special meeting of the Rules Committee and was among the emergency calendar items voted on by the full legislature.

The cost to use the fields shocked coaches, players and parents with youth and senior groups who said they were notified about the fees - some in excess of $15,000 - just weeks before the prime outdoor playing season begins. Dozens of representatives from the groups spoke during the public comment portion, pleading with lawmakers to continue the fee waiver.

"While we understand the county's need to raise funds, we feel that these parks are already paid for with our taxes, which are among the highest in the nation," said Jim Coakley, 48, former president of the Seaford Little League, which was presented with a $16,000 bill on March 1.

County Executive Laura Curran said she stopped granting the fee waivers to use the ballfields because the county needed the revenue because of its fiscal crisis. She previously called the GOP bill "overly broad."

When asked Monday whether the county executive would veto the legislature's bill, Curran spokesman Michael Martino said: "The legislation needs to be fully reviewed before any decision can be made."

The independent Office of Legislative Budget Review estimates eliminating the waivers would bring in about $269,000 in annual revenue, Rhoads said. The county's budget is about $2.9 billion.

Martino, however, said the financial impact of the bill has yet to be determined.

The legislature on Monday also confirmed the county executive's appointment of Vera Fludd as Nassau County sheriff; David H. Rich as executive director of the county Traffic and Parking Violations Agency; Melissa Gallucci as commissioner of the Department of Shared Services; and Gregory A. May as commissioner of Consumer Affairs.

"I am grateful yet humbled by this historic moment," said Fludd, 56, of Freeport, who rose from the ranks since starting as a correction officer at the East Meadow jail about 30 years ago. "I look forward to having our department become one of the best law enforcement agencies."

Lawmakers also approved an amendment to the county's social host law to make adults responsible for minors' use of prescription drugs and opioids in addition to alcohol; and a property tax exemption to veterans of the Cold War and veterans with disabilities.

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

 

There haven't been any backstrokes or butterfly strokes at Williamsville South High School in several years.

Only 20 yards long with four lanes and a 1-meter diving board, the pool was not regulation size and the swim teams often used the pool at Transit Middle School instead.

"They couldn't even really practice effectively," said Superintendent Scott G. Martzloff.

Rather than continue to pay nearly $30,000 annually to maintain the pool, the district closed it in 2016. The newly repurposed space now houses an ADA-compliant fitness area used by all students, as well as occupational and physical therapy rooms. The move has been popular with students.

"We're getting kids who don't really play athletics here," said principal Keith Boardman. "But they know they can come here from 3 to 4:30 after school, go work out then go home and it's easy for them."

Pools are expensive for school districts to maintain, and Williamsville, the largest suburban school district in Erie County, is taking a fresh look at them.

The Williamsville district maintains pools at each of its four middle schools and two other high schools, but is looking into repurposing two middle school pools due to years of low usage and high maintenance costs. A decision on whether to close pools at Mill Middle and Heim Middle schools is not expected for at least a year, however.

"We need to determine what the best use of the space is," Martzloff said. "It costs about $30,000 a year to maintain, heat, chemicals and things of that nature."

Under consideration is how the aging pool space could be repurposed and reconfigured to accommodate instructional programming for students.

Other than physical education classes, "There's not a lot of other uses for them," said Martzloff. "They're too small for real competitions." One possibility is to expand music space in those middle schools, he said.

Each pool costs the district $28,417 in annual maintenance costs, not including normal repairs, cost of water to fill the pool if major maintenance is needed during the summer and purchase of new equipment such as pool cleaning devices, said Thomas Maturski, Williamsville's assistant superintendent for finance.

Another significant cost is the dehumidification system. The unit at South needed replacement prior to closing the pool, while Mill Middle and Heim Middle will require new units at a cost of $350,000 each in the next few years, Maturski said.

In addition, each year the district performs larger maintenance repairs on selected school pools, such as painting the ceiling of the Williamsville East High School pool this summer at an estimated cost of $26,900. This type of maintenance is normal due to the ongoing high humidity levels in pools, Maturski said.

Bruce Fraser, executive director of the Erie County Association of School Boards, said he was not aware of any other local school districts downsizing their pools, or making upgrades.

Major costs related to handicapped access may be discouraging school districts as they consider renovations, he said.

"The costs of lifts, or access ramps makes any renovation of the pool area much more expensive than in the past," Fraser said by email. "Also, the requirement that a lifeguard be present while instruction is taking place [that was enacted after a tragic drowning] is another cost that school districts are facing at budget times."

Most older school pools are just four lanes wide, while most others in high schools are six lanes. Larger pools built recently are eight lanes, such as at Maryvale High School. Clarence and Sweet Home high schools also have eight lanes, which are helpful for big meets, like sectionals.

Built in 1950, the Williamsville South pool had limited uses. It was used in only the fall and winter for practices by the boys and girls swim teams, and for 3½ weeks by freshmen in physical education classes.

In 2016, the district decided to close the pool, and it was filled in with a series of interlocking Styrofoam blocks. Now, the space is filled with adjustable weight systems, and cardio machines like bikes, treadmills and ellipticals.

In addition to the school's athletic teams, between 15 and 20 students typically use the new fitness area after school, Boardman said. Indoor physical education classes use Chromebooks to track their workouts. It's a much wiser use of the space, he said.

"The kids are in there learning how to log their information in and use that information to drive their workout," he said.

In the neighboring Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District, there are five pools, including at the Kenmore East and West high schools, Franklin and Hoover middle schools and the former Kenmore middle school.

Even though the Kenmore building on Delaware Road is not used as a middle school anymore, its pool is utilized quite a bit, including for athletic and community programming, said Ken-Ton spokesman Patrick Fanelli. No changes are planned.

"I'm not sure if there would be anything to be gained by closing down pools since they are all located inside school buildings that are all in operation, and it would have a significant impact on the teams and organizations that use the pools as well as community ed aquatic classes," he said.

Martzloff, the Williamsville superintendent, said he's seen a slight decrease in interest in competitive swimming. And students are less interested in swimming at the middle school stage when they might be more self-conscious, he said.

"Quite frankly, probably the best thing would be if we had pools at all of our elementary schools where every elementary student learned to swim by the time they left elementary school," he said. "Swimming is one of those life skills we want every student to have."

News Staff Reporters Nancy Fischer and Barbara O'Brien contributed to this report.

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Copyright 2018 Collier County Publishing Company
All Rights Reserved

Naples Daily News (Florida)

 

I once saw a Facebook post that said "Exercise is the most under prescribed antidepressant."

If you're not familiar with depression, it is a debilitating condition characterized by negative feelings of self-worth, guilt, sleep pattern changes, changes in appetite, energy and more. It affects approximately 16.2 million American adults and more than over 2.8 million teens each year, and women suffer almost twice the incidence of depression compared to men. However, due to lack of resources or social stigma, less than half of those diagnosed access treatment, making the role of exercise even more pivotal as an alternative therapy.

Clearly I am not a psychologist and do not make any claims therein, but the growing body of evidence supporting the benefits of exercise in reducing depressive symptoms cannot be denied. It is clear that exercise should be prescribed as a complimentary therapy alongside psychological and pharmacological treatments for mood disorders.

There are a number of mechanisms proposed to explain the anti-depressive effects of exercise. One group of research suggests that the body's physiological response to exercise is to secrete chemicals called endorphins which affects a person's mood and reduces the perception of pain in the brain.

Additional research shows that the benefit of exercise comes from the fact that it stimulates the growth of neurons in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the portion of the brain believed to be responsible for memory and emotion. Stimulating neuron growth can mean a greater capacity for both memory and emotion. Understanding the function of the hippocampus makes it easy to understand why increasing the prevalence of neurons will have a positive effect on mood. It also helps explain the continuing research correlating exercise and the prevention or delay of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's.

Exercise recommendations and program design are not markedly different for people with depression verse those of the general population. As a guide, programs should include moderate intensity aerobic exercise performed 5 times a week for 30 minutes per session. Individuals who adhere to these guidelines for a 10-week period are both more likely to be effective in treating symptoms of depression and prevent future depressive episodes.

The one area of discrepancy is with regard to strength training. While the evidence for aerobic exercise is quite clear and easily confirmed through the increased amounts of endorphins in the brain and the measured growth of neurons in the hippocampus, evidence for resistance training is less established. This in no way suggests that individuals should abandon their current resistance training programs or that they should not start an exercise program that includes resistance training. Rather, with regard to improvement and effective treatment of depressive symptoms, aerobic exercise has been measured to be most successful.

Finally, it is noteworthy to mention that individuals with higher levels of depression respond better to exercise than counterparts with lower levels, and the more exercise is performed, the better the outcomes. For individuals who are currently inactive, it doesn't take much of an increase in physical activity to achieve an improvement in mood.

Angie Ferguson is an exercise physiologist from Fort Myers. She is a USA Triathlon Advanced Level 2 coach, USA Cycling coach and has a Specialty in Sports Nutrition certification. For more training tips, read her blog at www.triathlontrainingisfun.com or contact her at www.gearedup.biz.


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Copyright 2018 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

SALT LAKE CITYThis is a call for no more madness in March.

The tournament is a beautiful thing, full of inspiring stories and heart-warming, thrill-ride moments. This March, the beautiful chaos of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament has been particularly captivating.

From the bracket-busting upsets to emergence of unlikely stars like Loyola-Chicago's 98-year-old chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, the tournament has even managed to eclipse any talk of the corruption investigations that threaten to penalize some of the most storied programs in the country.

Succeeding in the tournament, even just a little as the University of Maryland Baltimore City did in pulling off the first upset of a No. 1 seed by a 16 seed in men's tournament history, can mean millions of dollars to a school.

Experts estimate that schools receive millions of dollars in free advertising, resulting in higher application numbers and more high-profile athletic recruits.

ESPN's David Purdum estimated that 70 million NCAA Tournament brackets were filled out this year, wagering an average of $29 per bracket that would result in $10.4 billion won and lost on tournament games.

In March of 2017, a record $422 million was bet on basketball through Nevada sports books. That resulted, according to Perdum's report, in a $21.5 million windfall, making it the "second-most lucrative basketball month ever."

So while a lot of people are making a lot of money on the most popular college sports event, there is one group of people that makes absolutely nothing on the games — the student-athletes.

That should change.

It should change immediately, and the fact that it would be difficult should not deter NCAA officials from finding a way to compensate the players.

The argument against paying players has been twofold. First, paying players would taint our beloved amateur sports. Second, players are already being compensated with a free education.

The reality is that everyone except the players is getting extremely wealthy, when, in fact, without the players there is nothing to monetize.

While student-athletes are unable to accept a free meal from the parents of a teammate, every Power 5 conference commissioner's salary now exceeds $2 million. While conferences and NCAA officials make millions, while coaches salaries climb higher and higher, often in the millions for top schools, student-athletes cannot be compensated, even pennies on the dollar, for merchandise universities sell based on their hard work and sacrifice.

Amateurism in this context is dead.

Club and accelerated youth sports helped pound the final nail in the coffin. Recent investigations into club programs and NCAA teams show that there is massive, wide-spread rule-breaking going on, and there is no cohesive leadership about how to solve the problems or whether or not the NCAA can.

So mourn it if you want, but please realize that times have changed. Sports is a business and these young players are commodities. They are the engine in this money-making machine, and they should be compensated for their efforts.

A recent podcast (Code Switch) examines the tournament's financial success, and then looks at whether race plays a role in the public sentiment for or against paying athletes.

One number was particularly alarming.

While 56 percent of college basketball players are black and 55 percent of college football players are black, only 2.4 percent of students at these same schools are black men.

"So you have black men on these campuses who are basically invisible in the classrooms," said Code Switch's Gene Demby in an interview with NPR. "But at any given time and during any given academic year, the most high-profile undergraduate at one of these universities is likely to be a black basketball phenom or a black football star."

Demby points out that a diversity expert from USC looked at Power 5 schools and found that almost half of the black students in these two revenue-generating sports are not graduating from college.

The podcast talks with a number of people who come to a general conclusion that the time commitments required to succeed in these sports makes studying a secondary endeavor.

Frankly, they're more valuable to the school as quarterbacks and point guards than they are as teachers or engineers.

To further complicate the debate, these young men are often pushed into less-demanding classes and majors, making the degrees that are earned less valuable to them and their families because they may never work in those fields.

Much of this could be addressed by simply acknowledging some harsh realities.

First, times have changed, and college sports is about winning and making money. It can also be about helping young people find a better life, but that's not the purpose of most Power 5 programs — just take a look at what happens to coaches who can't win (after just a couple of seasons) and players who don't live up to expectations.

It's a business.

We have, through our support of the NCAA, allowed our college athletic programs to become farm programs for professional leagues. That's hurt individual student-athletes and entire programs, and it's hijacked what college sports once was.

There is, however, no going back.

College coaches need to push athletic directors to force the NCAA to do the right thing. Advertisers need to stop paying the NCAA to exploit these young players, many of whom come from poor, marginalized communities.

We need to do more to lift up the players and their families, and there is plenty of money to do this. The argument will be how much do you pay and which players get compensated. Again, do not sacrifice "doing the right thing" on the altar of "this will be hard."

Change is a must.

I am ashamed that year after year, we read stories on the windfall the NCAA and schools reap from this tournament, even as I talk to parents who have never seen their children play college sports in person because they can't afford to travel to the school they represent.

It's appallingly unfair. This needs to be the last March Madness that makes billions on the backs of young men who aren't allowed to even take the classes they want because the demands of performing are so intense.

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Copyright 2018 Newsday, Inc.

Newsday (New York)

 

By now, it is common knowledge what Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt gave up for Lent. She revealed it on Twitter and said it again on TV: "Losing."

The fact that so many people know who Sister Jean is, that a bobblehead of her likeness is a hot item, that Charles Barkley said he wants to meet her, all reflect the fundamental truth about this year's NCAA Tournament: The mid-majors are the major attractions.

Loyola-Chicago, the team for which the 98-year-old Sister Jean serves as chaplain, owned the second weekend, upsetting two more opponents and reaching the Final Four. That was after UMBC owned the first weekend by becoming the first No. 16 seed to beat a top seed when it routed overall No. 1 Virginia.

At the risk of being repetitive, the theme from this corner is the same now as it was two weeks ago, right after Selection Sunday: "Let's hear it for the little guy."

Unexpected winners and unheralded teams are what give The Big Dance its jump. They also are what adds spice to college basketball, a seasoning that no other sport has. No way could the University of Maryland, Baltimore County beat Alabama in a football game, nor would it ever have a chance to try. Little guys give March Madness its beauty and, well, its madness.

"Coach always says it: 'It doesn't matter the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog,' " Ben Richardson said after scoring 23 points to lead Loyola-Chicago over Kansas State on Saturday.

The Ramblers won by 16 after taking their previous three games by a total of four points. The whole country is talking about them, even if a youngster who wanted to get a photo of himself with the squad at the team hotel asked Clayton Custer to take the shot - not realizing Custer is a star guard.

"He was going to take it, too. He was polite. I was like, 'Oh, man,' " Richardson said.

Very smart experts spend the whole year dissecting and analyzing every statistic, every trend, every projection about college basketball, but you did not see them predicting UMBC's win or Loyola's run. (Not that I should talk - I was most hideously wrong of all, picking Virginia to win the whole thing, although I did mention Sister Jean in my preview column before she became a sensation.)

Just as there is much more to Sister Jean than her basketball fandom - such as seven decades of service to the poor and students - there is more to mid-majors than a few well-timed victories. There is a lot of good basketball played in those little conferences. Just about all of the coaches at major universities developed their skills down there. Here in the East Regional, Villanova's Jay Wright talked proudly about his days at Hof s tra and Texas Tech's Chris Beard waxed poetic about coaching Angelo State.

Selection committee members ought to give mid-majors much more love than they do. Why not give the CAA or the America East a second berth? All of college basketball ought to thank the little schools for taking the focus off violations and FBI investigations.

As Loyola coach Porter Moser said after the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament (also quoted here two weeks ago): "Especially in the world of what is going on in college basketball . . . these guys and this program can lift our heads high and say, 'We're doing it the right way.' "

There is a heck of a chance that one of the big powers will own next weekend in San Antonio. Next Monday, Villanova's chaplain and associate athletic director, Father Rob Hagan, is more likely to be wearing a piece of the net than Sister Jean is. Or maybe it will be Kansas or Michigan people who will be celebrating.

But the whole Dance would not have been nearly as much fun without the little guys. We all should keep celebrating them.

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Copyright 2018 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

The Omni hotel and Comcast office building are open, overlooking the outfield. A half-dozen more shops and restaurants have joined the lineup in The Battery Atlanta. And inside the stadium, six rows of seats in two prime lower-level sections have been replaced with four-person tables.

Those are among the noticeable changes since the end of last season in and around SunTrust Park, which will begin its second year of operation with Braves exhibition games today and Tuesday and the regular-season opener Thursday. Here's a rundown of what's new:

Inside the stadium

Sixteen semicircular tables, each with four swivel chairs, replaced the top six rows of seats in sections 122 and 130, which are along the first-base and third-base lines, respectively. The change was made because the 80 four-person tables in the stadium's original design, all on the terrace level, sold out quickly last year.

The Delta Sky360 Club — open to fans in the lower-level premium seats between the dugouts, including those at the new tables — was expanded by about 2,000 square feet. The additional dining and kitchen space was gained mostly by eliminating a media interview room. Some fans complained last season that the club, already the stadium's largest at 18,500 square feet, was too crowded.

Derek Schiller, who last week got a new title as Braves president and CEO, said a series of operational and logistical improvements have been made with the stadium's concession stands as a result of a "comprehensive review" by industrial engineering students at Georgia Tech. "The primary things that we are changing are going to be somewhat unrecognized by the general fan, but their experience is going to be more efficient and better," Schiller said. "Their speed of service is going to improve."

Other changes: The playing field was resodded, and the plants that struggled in the low-light "Monument Garden" area were replaced.

"In all, there were probably 50 different projects we have done in the offseason, some bigger like the Delta Club and some smaller like... adding a dressing room in the Clubhouse Store," said Mike Plant, whose new title is president and CEO of Braves Development Company, the team's real-estate and development arm.

Outside the stadium

The 264-room, 4-star Omni hotel and the Comcast office building, both of which overlook the stadium, opened during the Braves' offseason, adding energy and activity beyond the outfield.

"It will look more bustling," Schiller said. "I think it's going to add a whole new flavor to the whole thing."

Both buildings were under interior construction throughout last season.

Jeremy Strife, general manager of The Battery Atlanta, said Comcast has about 800 employees now working in the office building. He also noted, by the way, that the Omni's pool deck is 580 feet from home plate.

Two-dozen shops and restaurants now are open throughout The Battery, the mixed-use development adjacent to the ballpark. The

latest addition is "eat-ertainment" concept Punch Bowl Social, a two-story, 27,000-square-foot restaurant/bar with eight bowling lanes, two karaoke rooms, a giant wall-mounted Scrabble board and other games.

Among the other newcomers to The Battery since the end of last season: Tex-Mex restaurant El Felix, barber shop Van Michael Men and Goldberg's Bagel Company.

About 75 percent of the available retail and restaurant space in the mixed-use development will be occupied on the Braves' opening day, Plant said. Seven more establishments are scheduled to open early in the season, ranging from a sunglass store to a candy shop.

Parking and transportation

The Braves have made several changes to their parking and transportation plan for the ballpark's second season. Seven parking lots — the Red deck and the E29, E31, E35, E41, E42 and E43 lots — will begin to accept payment by credit card on-site. A second Uber pick-up/drop-off location will be at Heritage Court and Battery Avenue.

The Braves also said ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) parking will be consolidated in the Red deck and N29 lot. Shuttles will run from the N29 lot to just outside the third-base gate.

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Copyright 2018 The Post and Courier
All Rights Reserved

Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

Imagine a smart watch that surreptitiously scans your body for telltale signs of disease. Over time, it detects a quiver in your heartbeat - the tell-tale pattern of a common heart condition. An alert prompts you to seek out further testing for atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat which otherwise might have lurked silently until it caused a stroke.

That's the tantalizing intersection of wearable consumer technology and medicine that lies in the future. But according to a new study that married the cutting-edge of artificial intelligence with the Apple Watch's sensor data, we're not there yet.

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, set out to test the viability of using the Apple Watch to detect signs of atrial fibrillation, which is a major cause of stroke. In the scenario that was closest to a real-world use of the technology, people that tested positive for atrial fibrillation had only an 8 percent probability of actually carrying the diagnosis. The results were, according to an accompanying editorial in JAMA Cardiology, "humbling."

"It really just doesn't perform," said Eric Topol, a cardiologist at the Scripps Research Institute who was not involved in the study. "This doesn't pass muster for use in detection of atrial fibrillation."

That doesn't mean the idea isn't an exciting one, or that limitations of the study can't be overcome. The study was seen as a proof-of-concept that screening tools could be taken out of hospitals and deployed in people's everyday lives, not as a failure. Already, the UCSF researchers are working to address the limitations and continue the work.

And the space is growing. AliveCor, a health-tech company, has developed a mobile electrocardiogram and watch band for the Apple Watch that allow people to actively monitor their heart rates. Apple in the fall announced it was launching a 500,000-person clinical trial with Stanford University to test whether the Apple Watch could be a way to detect irregular heart rhythms and flag signs of atrial fibrillation.

"We have to be very careful about false positives and causing distress when it's really not needed or adding to health care costs, for example, because of unnecessary testing - which is why I do agree more refinement is needed," said Gregory Marcus, a cardiologist at UCSF who led the work. "But it'll be coming. It's going to get better, and it's going to be coming soon. This is the first heads-up: your smart watches have the capability of doing this, so it's coming and it's theoretically possible."

At a time when there is almost boundless excitement around the potential for consumer technologies to make medicine better, the study shows that entrepreneurs and doctors won't just be able to send sensor-laden devices out into the world to transform medicine. They will need to figure out the appropriate uses, improve and tune the technology so it won't give false reassurance or cause unnecessary alarm - and figure out how to connect data to useful interventions.

The researchers started with data harvested from the Apple Watch, from healthy people and those with atrial fibrillation. A neural network, essentially a computer system modeled on the human brain, was set loose on the data, to learn the difference between the two groups. That allowed the researchers to develop algorithms to predict who had atrial fibrillation and who did not based on the Apple Watch sensor data.

The good news: when they put Apple Watches on a very select population of 51 atrial fibrillation patients who weren't moving around and were about to undergo a procedure to shock their irregular heartbeats brought back into rhythm, the algorithm worked wonderfully well. The bad news: When researchers tried to test their algorithm on data from about 1600 people in less pristine conditions, as they wore Apple Watches in their daily lives, its ability to correctly predict atrial fibrillation plummeted.

"I think this is important, not just for the field, but to patients and consumers to understand that AI or wearables or sensors are a progressively incremental piece of the pie here," said Mintu Turakhia, executive director of the Stanford Center for Digital Health. "So the progress is going to be incremental, no differently than self driving cars."

Many cardiologists are excited by the idea of a technology that could passively monitor people. However, one technology executive argued there's more value in making electrocardiogram technology more mobile.

"If a fitness product could get an indication of atrial fibrillation, the first thing a doctor would call for is an EKG," said AliveCor chief executive Vic Gundotra.

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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)

 


Craig Carter will go to trial this week, nearly three years after the former UA assistant track coach was arrested on domestic violence charges involving a student-athlete.

Carter is accused of choking former UA thrower Baillie Gibson and threatening her with a box cutter. The two were involved in a yearslong sexual relationship; Carter says it was consensual, while Gibson maintains it was not.

The Star does not typically name victims of sexual assault or domestic violence, but Gibson gave permission to publish her name last year. She told the Star then that she was frustrated with the slow progression of the criminal case against Carter, who had recently been allowed to move within hours of her home in Wyoming.

Jury selection for Carter's trial on charges of aggravated assault and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon will begin Tuesday in Pima County Superior Court. The trial has been rescheduled three times; Carter also rejected a plea deal, and his attorneys successfully lobbied the judge to sever the assault and stalking charges.

The case against Carter

Gibson told police that Carter assaulted her in his office on April 27, 2015, then sent her dozens of text messages and emails over the next several days. Police recovered 57 messages, several of which were threatening in nature.

Gibson told police that Carter choked her with one hand while wielding a box cutter with the other. He told Gibson that he'd cut her "pretty face," she said.

A few days after the alleged assault, Carter tried to drag Gibson out of a UA classroom. She was able to flee from his grip, court records show. Gibson reported Carter to campus police.

After University of Arizona police officers read Carter his rights, he admitted to the assault, saying, "I think I said, 'I'll cut your face up so nobody will ever want you again, because I'm not going to have anything, and neither are you.'"

The UA initiated firing proceedings against Carter on the day he was arrested in May 2015. He resigned before the school had completed his termination.

Carter's legal battles aren't just isolated to the criminal court system. Gibson filed a civil suit against the UA and Carter in November 2016, saying that the school failed to protect her from repeated rapes. That lawsuit, which says the Gibson had "no ability" to consent to having sex with Carter, also named as defendants the Arizona Board of Regents, head UA track and field coach Fred Harvey, and former UA athletic director Greg Byrne. Harvey and Byrne have since been dismissed from the suit.

Carter responded by filing a counterclaim against Gibson, saying she caused him emotional distress.

Multiple delays

Carter's criminal trial was originally scheduled for June 2016, then it was pushed to December. The trial was ultimately rescheduled for August 2017.

But after ESPN's "Outside the Lines" aired a May 2017 episode focusing on Carter's alleged misdeeds, the coach's attorney asked that the trial be continued. Dan Cooper cited the "overwhelming negative publicity" from the show and said that he needed more time to prepare his case, as he said there were several inconsistencies between what Gibson told ESPN reporters and what she told police.

Prosecutor Ellen Brown argued that the ESPN interviews dealt with the sexual relationship between Gibson and Carter, which she said was "irrelevant" to the charges filed against the former assistant track coach.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Teresa Godoy vacated the trial date and authorized Cooper to issue a subpoena for the ESPN transcripts. Attorneys for ESPN spent the next several months fighting the release of their transcripts and unaired portions of the interviews, citing the organization's First Amendment privilege to protect their notes and transcripts.

In October, Carter turned down a plea deal that would have resulted in a sentence of one to four years in prison. At the time, Carter was facing up to 61 years in prison if convicted of all charges against him.

Last month, Godoy granted Carter's motion to sever the charges in the case. After the assault trial is completed, Carter will likely face a second trial on charges of stalking and disruption of an educational institution.

A costly defense

Carter could also face a jury trial in the still-active civil suit, which has already been fought at considerable expense to Arizona taxpayers.

Because Carter was employed by the UA during the alleged offenses, the state is required to pay for his defense in the civil suit.

As of Jan. 31, Carter's attorney in the civil case, John Munger, had billed nearly $850,000 in legal fees. The UA was represented for free by the Arizona Attorney General's Office until November, when it opted to hire private Tucson firm Rusing, Lopez and Lizardi. The private firm billed $105,000 in fees through Jan. 12.

The state can stop paying for Carter's civil defense if he is found guilty of criminal charges, and could also attempt to recover what taxpayers have already paid.

"It's very disappointing that the state is paying nearly $1 million to defend a coach that admitted to assaulting a former Wildcat," Gibson's attorney, Lynne Cadigan, told the Star.

Last month, Cadigan filed a motion to put the civil suit on hold, saving taxpayers money, until the resolution of the criminal trial. Judge Jeffrey Bergin denied Cadigan's request Wednesday.

Witness list

Witnesses in this week's assault trial will likely include Gibson, former roommate and UA teammate Julie Labonte and two detectives with the University of Arizona Police Department, according to the state's proposed witness list. The defense hasn't submitted a witness list, but it's possible that Carter will testify in his defense.

The prosecution is expected to argue that Carter held power over Gibson as her coach. Carter threatened her when she wouldn't comply with his demands and when he was confronted in the spring of 2015 with the "imminent loss of control" over Gibson, Carter "spun completely out of control," prosecutor Jonathan Mosher wrote in a January motion.

"There will be no doubt that (Carter) held the career of this young, female scholarship athlete in his hands," Mosher wrote.

If convicted on both aggravated assault charges, Carter is facing a prison sentence of nine to 23 years.

Online:

For the Star's past coverage on Craig Carter's legal battles, visit tucne.ws/utd

 

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Copyright 2018 The Commercial Appeal, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Sports radio personality Rachel Baribeau — feet constantly moving — jokes, cajoles, cries, laughs and rants in front of 100 football players at least twice her size.

Find your purpose! Fulfill it. Be the good guys you were made to be! Treat all women with respect and be the kings your queens need you to be.

Baribeau suddenly stops, pauses and locks eyes with some of the men who are riveted by the powerhouse in front of them.

"On a night, many moons ago," she said, voice softening, "I needed a king."

Baribeau tells the players she was in a house with six couples; things got ugly.

"I was dating somebody," Baribeau said, and he got angry.

"He dragged me from one end of the house to the other by my hair. I screamed bloody murder and no one came to help. Three men, and none of them were kings."

She pauses.

"If you were in the house that night, would you have helped me?"

Baribeau lets that sink in. After a few seconds, two guys in the front rows answer quietly: "I would've helped you."

"Thank you," she says, tears in her eyes.

'She wasn't shy at all'

Two years ago — sickened by story after story about college athletes and rape, cheating and doping — Baribeau came up with an audacious plan:

She would change the narrative about college sports.

A narrative that includes a 2016 lawsuit charging a UT basketball player and four UT football players with rape; a narrative that includes three former Vanderbilt football players being convicted in a 2013 gang rape of an unconscious female student on campus. (A fourth player is awaiting trial.)

Baribeau, 38, a Nashvillian for three years, wanted to take back the headlines and change America's perception of college football players. And she would do it by challenging those players, one campus at a time.

A host on Sirius XM's ESPNU radio channel, Baribeau has spoken to 23 college football teams. She has stayed in touch with hundreds of athletes and handed out thousands of "Change the Narrative" rubber wristbands.

In many cases, it's her story of being a victim (she calls herself a "victor") of domestic violence that really connects with players.

Frank talk

Darrell James, a senior wide receiver at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill., agreed.

"When she mentioned her life and domestic violence, I didn't expect it," James said. "For someone who's been through that in her life, she's strong."

Baribeau uses frank language to confront players and challenge them to be better men. No more "hit it and quit it," she tells the guys.

But treatment of women is just a part of her speech.

She starts out making fun of herself by showing a video of her working out with an arena football team. Turns out Baribeau isn't a very good wide receiver; she drops or misses about a dozen passes.

Turning serious, Baribeau also speaks of:

Finding true passion and purpose because football is only a platform;

Serving others, at any cost (Baribeau once climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa to help raise money for ALS research);

Confronting others, in appropriate ways, when bad behavior, degradation or bullying is happening;

Forgiving those — deadbeat dads, abusers and others — who have wronged them.

Rewarding — and draining

And at least a dozen or two spend several minutes each with Baribeau sharing stories of growing up with neglect, poverty or abuse.

Her presentation often turns into a three-hour visit, which Baribeau finds exhilarating — and emotionally draining. She often finds herself taking in their pain, unable to shake it for days.

"I sometimes sit in my rental car after with my head against the steering wheel," she said.

Baribeau charges a few thousand bucks for each presentation, in part to cover costs and in part to build a pot of money to help athletes start their own foundations.

Such is the case with Bradley Bozeman, 23, who just finished his college career as a center at Alabama.

Bozeman said he always wanted to do some motivational speaking. And he got inspired and focused after hearing Baribeau's talk.

"She helped open that up for me," he said. "She helped me start an anti-bullying campaign. It was really cool to me."

Baribeau said she loves when athletes share with her, months after meeting her, that they have changed their behavior. She is even happier when players like Bozeman want to pay it forward.

"I'm constantly amazed that God lets me do this work, that I got chosen to have this platform," she said. "It's life changing."

Reach Brad Schmitt at brad@tennessean.com or 615-613-4815 or on Twitter @bradschmitt.

 

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Copyright 2018 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

Philips Arena, in the spotlight last week as a site of March Madness, is down to its final month of operation in its current form.

On April 22  — exactly one month afterThursday'sNCAA South Region semifinals — the 19-year-old arena will close for about six months for the last and largest phase of ongoing renovations.When it reopens in the fall for the start of the Hawks' 2018-19 season, the arena will be dramatically transformed, if all goes according to plan.

"From roof line to baseline, every element will be different," said Steve Koonin, the Hawks' CEO.

"We will have close to 800 construction workers on a daily basis during the summer," said Brett Stefansson, general manager of the Hawks-operated arena.

The magnitude of the makeover is apparent in a visit to a new appointment-only preview center the Hawks recently opened at CNN Center — a dramatic, high-tech space designed to showcase (and sell) suites and other premium amenities not yet built.

The $192.5 million renovation began last summer with what the Hawks called Phase 1: the demolition of a six-level wall of suites on the west side of the arena and the addition of a court-side club behind one basket, as well as prep work for much construction to come. Phase 2 — "close to $30 million worth of work," according to Stefansson — has proceeded behind the scenes during this basketball season, with up to 150 construction workers on site daily.

Phase 3, the culmination of the project, is scheduled to begin 12 days after the Hawks' final game this season and one day after an April 21 Pink concert.

"We'll have six months to finish, but fortunately the infrastructure is already there," Koonin said. "They cut the beams, did the support work, all that stuff, last summer. Now it is really cosmetics."

While the first two phases have revealed little more than hints about the ultimate transformation, the next phase will lead to the finished product, which will feature a wide range of non-traditional premium seating areas (think couches and cabanas), a sharply reduced number of (reimagined) suites, several new clubs (one with a view of postgame news conferences), a new center-hung video board three times the size of the current board, 360-degree open concourses, even a barber shop and Topgolf simulators.

Public funds are paying for $142.5 million of the project's cost, mostly from Atlanta's rental-car tax, with the Hawks responsible for the other $50 million.

High-tech exhibits in the preview center show off the renovated arena's openness and amenities, which will range from Killer Mike's barbershop to Zac Brown's restaurant to premium space Atlanta Social.

The latter, which will reinvent the current 200 level on the arena's east side, will be outfitted with private cabanas, banquettes, overstuffed couches — all with prime views of the court and sold as season tickets. It's an elevation of the trend in sports venue design toward social gathering spaces where fans can interact outside traditional stadium seats.

When the makeover is completed, the arena's seating capacity will be about 17,500, according to Koonan. The Hawks list this season's capacity as 15,711, down from 18,047 before renovations began. Many of the lost seats will be regained when the former wall of suites is repurposed with two levels of suites ( "Veranda suites" on one row, "loft suites" on the other), Topgolf and new upper-deck seating.

Amongthechangescoming to the arena, Koonin pointed out at the preview center, is the Hawks' and visitors' benches will flip-flop locations next season, positioning the home team so that it passes within view of one of the new clubs, the "Players Club," en route to the court. From the same club, fans will be able to view and listen to postgame news conferences.

One piece of the redesigned Philips Arena remains up in the air: its future name.

The Hawks' 20-year naming-rights deal with technology company Philips expires after the 2018-19 season, and the Netherlands-based company doesn't plan to renew it. The Hawks are seeking a new naming-rights partner.

Koonin said there has been "a lot of interest" from potential partners, "but no deal is imminent."

He declined to discuss whether there's a possibility of ending the Philips deal one year early to align a new name with the completion of renovations this fall, seemingly a logical time for such a rebranding.

Philips largely exited the consumer electronics business in 2013 and has transitioned to a health technology and lighting company with less need for an expensive sports naming-rights deal.

"Philips has a contract in place with Philips Arena until 2019,"company spokeswoman Silvie Casanova said by email last month, "and the company does not speculate on future contracts."

Philips Arena's size — about 650,000 square feet — will remain the same after renovations are done, but about 100,000 square feet of space not previously accessible to the public will be transformed into "fan space," Stefansson said. For example, the space that previously housed the Hawks' basketball-operations offices will become a premium club. (The offices moved to the team's new training facility in Brookhaven).

The Hawks bucked a trend in Atlanta professional sports with their decision to renovate, rather than replace, the arena. The Falcons and Braves left a 25-year-old Georgia Dome and a 20-yearold Turner Field for Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Sun-Trust Park, respectively.

Koonin said it would have cost $550 million, plus the cost of land, for the Hawks to build a new arena from scratch.He figures more than $350 million will be saved by instead remaking the interior under the same roof and within the same exterior walls and largely keeping the existing electrical, plumbing and heating/air conditioning systems intact.

Next season's NBA schedule hasn't been announced, so the Hawks don't know when the renovated arena will debut. But the construction schedule calls for the work to be completed Oct. 15, Stefansson said.

To this point, the Hawks have taken a somewhat lower public profile with the project than the Falcons and Braves took in early marketing of their new stadiums. The Hawks are about to turn up the volume.

"We have been pretty quiet about it," Koonin said. "I think we were absolutely right in waiting. You had a lot of news in 2017 in the Atlanta market about stadium product. You have nothing new in 2018 but us."

So the Hawks' official website now refers unabashedly to the renovated Philips as "the best sports and live entertainment venue in Atlanta opening October 2018."

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Copyright 2018 Virginian-Pilot Companies LLC
All Rights Reserved

The Virginian — Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

THE NCAA recently reached a major milestone — surpassing $1 billion in revenue. Sadly, this profit was earned on the backs of hundreds of thousands of college football players across the country who are sacrificing their health so the NCAA can make big money.

Football was, and still is, a rough game. When my teammates and I played at the University of Richmond, we were encouraged to play as hard as we could and attack our opponents with the goal of incapacitating them.

We did not think, nor were we told, about any risks involved in the game. We just hit as hard as we could to ensure that we were standing and our opponents were on the ground. Hitting with our heads was supposedly the best way to accomplish that, and we were taught to look for the numbers on our opponents' uniforms and ram our helmets into their chests.

The treatment and education around concussive and sub-concussive hits at the University of Richmond was almost nonexistent, as it was at many other NCAA schools. When we sustained noticeably bad hits, we were told to just shake it off. We listened to our coaches. We did not know any better.

It was not just the coaches and team training staff who let us down, though. The NCAA, which was created to regulate college football and protect the players under its care, completely failed in its duties.

The NCAA has known about the health risks associated with football for decades, yet it turned a blind eye in order to make more money. It is crystal clear that the NCAA only cares about its bottom line — not the health and well-being of players like me. As a result of the NCAA's negligence and misguided priorities, my teammates and I suffered through many practices and games; now we suffer from devastating health problems.

Playing defensive tackle, I received countless blows to the head that were never properly addressed — and potentially hundreds of undiagnosed concussions. One particularly bad concussion knocked me out and had me seeing stars when I came to. For a month after that hit, my eyes juddered and I lost my equilibrium. To walk straight, I had to balance myself on objects nearby.

Today, I still have serious equilibrium problems. I also struggle to focus, have horrible short-term memory, and experience violent mood swings and episodes of rage. I used to be an easygoing person, but that has all changed. I am terrified of what the future might hold for me: Will I develop diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's? Many other former players are scared of the same thing.

Until recently, I did not understand that my health challenges today are directly related to the head trauma I sustained while playing college football. It was only when I heard about football players committing suicide and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) became a buzzword that I decided to see a doctor. After a brain scan, the doctor confirmed what I already suspected: My brain was severely damaged from football.

I have joined more than 100 former college football players in a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA. We hope this lawsuit will not only provide us with the resources we need to treat our health problems, but also to spur positive change in the game overall. Many former players still love the game and hope to see it thrive, but only with the proper protections, education and equipment to protect student-athletes.

I am sometimes asked if I would do it all over again, and that is a tough question to answer. The fact is, football is a part of who I am. I love the game and do not want to see it end. But if I could go back, I would want the adults responsible for the well-being of student-athletes to be much more mindful of our health and the impact football can have on players' futures. I would want student-athletes to know that a helmet is nothing more than a false sense of security; and I would want the rules of the game to protect athletes. We need to do more than just maximize revenue for the NCAA and schools.

The NCAA needs to step up and do more for those playing today, and make amends for its past. Former players cannot change the fact that we were not informed about the long-term consequences of playing football. But we can do our part to make sure current and future college football players get the education and protection they need — and deserve.

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Copyright 2018 Chattanooga Publishing Company
All Rights Reserved

Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga announced Saturday the progression of the new athletic facility, which after years of discussions has a plan in place to become a reality.

The facility will be named the Wolford Family Athletics Center, after UTC football All-American Bucky Wolford, who died on Sept. 1. Wolford is still tied for the school record in interceptions with 13.

"The generosity of the Wolford family and all of the donors who have helped make this possible is sincerely appreciated," UTC chancellor Dr. Steve Angle said in a news release. "We would not be here without the help and partnership of John 'Thunder' Thornton, who worked tirelessly to ensure we were successful. Maybe supporters were inspired by Bucky Wolford, who defines what it means to be a Moc.

"Bucky had a profound impact on UTC as a student, a UT Board of Trustee member, a UC Foundation Board member, an advisor to several chancellors, and a supporter of our athletic programs. Naming our new athletic facility in honor of the Wolford family will serve as an inspiration for both current and future Mocs."

The center will be a 35,000-square-foot addition to McKenzie Arena that will have a new sports medicine area and a state-of-the-art hydrotherapy section, along with team meeting and classroom space for use by all student-athletes at UTC. Football will be a big beneficiary, with a plan for a new locker room, coaches' offices and meeting rooms, to go with a university-wide multipurpose space.

The building will connect to McKenzie between Gate 1 and the main loading ramp off the corner of 5th and Mabel streets.

There will also be a major renovation inside McKenzie Arena, which will include new locker rooms for the men's and women's basketball teams as well as new working spaces for the athletics staff and coaches with offices in the arena.

According to the release, areas currently vacated by staff moving into the new building will be renovated, which will allow remaining coaches and staff to expand into virtually new offices and meeting spaces inside the existing structure of the arena.

"A facility of this stature will impact our entire athletics program," UTC vice chancellor and athletic director Mark Wharton said. "Not only does it give new areas for our football and athletic training programs, it frees up additional space we currently use every day in McKenzie Arena. It is exciting to know that the vision of this asset to our university is becoming a reality."

This would be considered the first major win for Wharton, who became the school's athletics leader in August.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

The shot clock is running on Gonzaga to make a decision on conference affiliation, but the Zags sound as if they're following one of John Wooden's tenets: "Be quick, but don't hurry."

The Mountain West Conference appears to have an open door to bringing in Gonzaga, potentially as early as next season, but school officials are still working through the decision-making process.

"We'd like to be done with all this in the next couple weeks, but there is no deadline," Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth said. "The time crunch is self-imposed. We're not getting any pressure. We're going to do what's right for Gonzaga."

Discussions have picked up between the Mountain West and Gonzaga, and there will be more time available after the Zags lost to Florida State on Thursday in the Sweet 16.

"We're exploring our options, but the Mountain West has made it clear we could be a really good option from their perspective," Roth said. "That being said, we're still not there with what is best. We're still trying to weigh it out and narrow down some of the factors. It's been hard, because we've been really busy (with the NCAA Tournament)."

Roth said media speculation regarding the Mountain West, which has 11 basketball members, expanding to 14 or 16 teams has never been brought up in his talks with commissioner Craig Thompson. Roth also said rumors of a Gonzaga-BYU package deal are inaccurate.

If Gonzaga joined the Mountain West Conference, CBSsports.com estimated it would result in about $375,000 annually from the conference's TV contract.

While discussions continue with the Mountain West, there has been movement in the West Coast Conference regarding changes with scheduling and revenue distribution to make it a more attractive option if Gonzaga decides to stay put.

Here are several other important considerations in Gonzaga's decision:

The Mountain West is considered stronger top to bottom than the WCC. The Mountain West is No. 9 in conference RPI, compared to the WCC's No. 13. The Mountain West would provide tougher competition for Gonzaga, which has dominated the WCC for two decades.

The Mountain West would be an upgrade, but is it significant enough to make a move?

Mountain West games are televised on ESPN networks and CBS networks, including some with late-night tip times. WCC games are on ESPN's family of networks. ESPN has played a key role in Gonzaga's rise to national prominence over the last two decades.

Basketball is the driving force in the WCC. The Mountain West is a football conference, and football is king in college athletics. Football decisions made at the conference level often have an impact on basketball. Where would Gonzaga stand in the conference's decision-making process?

The WCC is a collection of mostly smaller, faith-based institutions. The Mountain West is comprised primarily of larger state schools.

"Craig (Thompson) has done a lot of work recently trying to nail some things down. We've done a lot of due diligence, and we need to do more," Roth said. "One thing we've been focusing on is to make the right decision and not worry about the time frame."

Contact the writer: (208) 659-3791 jimm@spokesman.com

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

 

KNOXVILLE — John Currie drafted a letter that would announce Greg Schiano as Tennessee's football coach on Nov. 26.

Currie thought he'd found his man two weeks into his search to replace Butch Jones, whom he fired.

"I focused on finding a coach with proven experience identifying, recruiting, and developing toughness and accountability," Currie wrote in the letter, which was ready to be sent to fans on his mailing list. "We knew that in our next leader we needed head coaching experience, a national recruiter, and a program builder. We believe we have found that.

"I am excited to announce Greg Schiano as our head football coach."

Currie never sent the letter.

Tennessee's deal with Schiano unraveled after news of the impending hire was met by a wave of backlash. Some fans, donors and politicians denounced the hire on social media and flooded the inboxes of Currie and Chancellor Beverly Davenport.

The blowback stemmed, in part, from Schiano having worked at Penn State as an assistant coach in the 1990s while Jerry Sandusky was the Nittany Lions' defensive coordinator.

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

Schiano and Bradley denied having knowledge or witnessing any of Sandusky's abuse. McQueary's hearsay claim remains unsubstantiated.

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

UT reached a $2.5 million settlement with Currie on Thursday to end his employment. He had been on paid suspension since Dec. 1.

Also Thursday, the university released thousands of pages of documents pertaining to Tennessee's coaching search in response to an open records request USA TODAY NETWORK — Tennessee submitted in December.

How UT trustees responded to Schiano criticism

Raja Jubran, vice chairman of UT's Board of Trustees, emailed trustees on Nov. 26 saying that Tennessee vetted Schiano.

Jubran wrote that Tennessee officials talked with Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, "who only had glowing reports" about Schiano.

Jubran added that Currie "is doing a great job with all the vetting and due diligence."

Earlier, trustee George Cates emailed asking if Tennessee's deal with Schiano was complete.

"Bad odor," Cates wrote. "Have gotten outrage call from 'booster of over 25 years and top 900 donor' who says no more. What's the story here?"

Jubran wrote in response: "Regarding the bad odor, it is so disappointing that our fan base and our media are willing to condemn a man of being a criminal even though he might be totally innocent."

"I just hate that we are ruining (someone's) reputation unfairly," Jubran added. "We are supposed to be Christians who forgive and we live in a country that believes that people are innocent until proven guilty."

Others didn't share Jubran's view.

"Please take a hard look before making this hire," Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston, wrote in an email the next day to Davenport and Currie. "A public relations disaster has blown up and is not abated by AD (Currie's) statement earlier this afternoon. The program and reputation of the University will be damaged."

Currie said in a statement on Nov. 27 that Schiano received "the highest recommendations" during the vetting process and noted that he was not included in the 2012 report by Louis Freeh that investigated the Penn State scandal.

What promise Currie made

Days earlier, Currie texted Davenport with an update on the search.

"I know it's tough to be in this situation but I promise I will deliver," Currie wrote.

After Currie came up empty in his pursuit of Dan Mullen, who left Mississippi State for Florida rather than Tennessee, Currie quickly pivoted to Schiano. By the morning of Nov. 26 — the day after UT's season finale — the Vols were positioned to make a hire.

Currie wrote to Davenport just after midnight on Nov. 26 that he had "a tentative deal in place" and awaited word from Davenport or UT President Joe DiPietro. In the morning, Currie asked for an update.

"Joe has gone to Mass and will be back in an hour," Davenport wrote.

"Good. Schiano is a devout catholic," Currie responded.

"Good to know," Davenport replied.

Shortly after those texts, news leaked of UT's impending hire, and the blowback started to gain momentum.

"Social media is beyond brutal," Davenport texted to Currie that afternoon.

"Working on it," Currie responded.

Currie couldn't turn the tide of public opinion on Schiano. Currie and Schiano signed a memorandum of understanding, but Davenport and Chief Financial Officer David Miller never signed the agreement. The deal died.

Five days later, Currie was removed from his position, his promise to deliver a coach left unfulfilled.

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Copyright 2018 BridgeTower Media
All Rights Reserved

Idaho Business Review

 

The owners of the Boise Hawks baseball team would like to have a downtown Boise stadium ideal for soccer and baseball ready for the United Soccer League season starting in spring 2020.

The open questions: Where would a downtown stadium be built and when would construction start?

The only agreed-to date in play right now is October, at which time the sale is set to close on the 11-acre St. Luke Health System property at Americana Boulevard and Shoreline Drive to Greenstone Properties.

Greenstone managing director Chris Schoen has proposed for that site a 5,000-fixed-seat soccer/baseball stadium and accompanying commercial-retail-residential complex. Schoen remains confident a stadium will be complete in time for the 2020 soccer and baseball seasons.

But since November, at the encouragement of Boise Mayor David Bieter, Schoen has considered moving his project to the proposed College of Western Idaho Boise campus site at Main Street and Whitewater Park Boulevard. That's when someone suggested to Bieter that Schoen and CWI swap properties. The mayor presented the idea to Schoen and CWI President Bert Glandon.

Schoen warmed up to the idea of moving his $70 million stadium-residential-office-retail project to the CWI site, but in early March was still evaluating the CWI site.

For the CWI site to move forward requires the involvement of a major foundation, Schoen said in an email. The mayor is on board but waiting on the determination from the foundation. He didn't elaborate on what role a foundation would play at the CWI site.

Glandon also warmed up to the Idaho of possibly moving the CWI Boise campus to the former Kmart building that now houses the St. Luke's Business Center at Americana and Shoreline.

Glandon said with the 2016 failure of a bond election, he does not foresee construction starting on a Boise campus for five years. The St. Luke's property would give CWI an existing campus.

But Schoen has made no formal presentation to the CWI Board of Trustees, Glandon noted. CWI has not evaluated the St. Luke site for how it would work out as a community college campus.

Nothing is going to be quick, Glandon said. Is this going to be sustainable for us in the long term?...Until we have some detail, that's a lot of work to figure out what if. ' Until we have more substantive detail to decide (on the matter), we're neutral on everything.

Last fall, Schoen that indicated a $1 million-plus deposit to secure a USL team was expected in November, and when the CWI idea surfaced, Schoen indicated a property swap with CWI would need to be buttoned up in 30 days.

Schoen is in close touch with USL and he is co-owner of the Boise Hawks baseball team, which would also play at the downtown stadium.

USL wants a team in Boise. USL currently has 33 teams with six more announced and intentions for 2020 to be the last year for league expansion, though teams in Chicago and Oakland may come onboard after that. The league is one rung below Major League Soccer, the top U.S. professional soccer league.

Boise continues to be a market of great interest to the USL, checking off several boxes that we look for in an expansion city, USL officials said in a prepared statement. We are finalizing the deal with the ownership group, which includes details on a venue development.

Even though CWI has not been formally approached about a property swap, Schoen, who is under contract to buy the St. Luke's property, would like to close the St. Luke sale in October and simultaneously swap a portion of it in exchange for the entirety of the CWI site. He said the CWI site does not require rezoning and does not require the creation of a new urban renewal zone, so it would be possible to start construction in 2018.

Nampa-based CWI leases several locations in Boise. Talk of a property swap comes just as a couple lease extensions are pending with most the other Boise leases up in two or three years, Glandon said.

The board of trustees remains committed to finding the most efficient and sustainable Boise property we can, Glandon said. We welcome any interested property owner to make a presentation.

The St. Luke's property at Americana offers 138,573 square feet in four buildings. This includes the former 95,000-square-foot Kmart building that now houses the St. Luke's Business Center and includes all the land bounded by Americana, Shoreline, Spa Street and 14th Street along with the 31,373-square-foot Shoreline Center property across Shoreline Drive and the former Beehive Salon (1,200 square feet) and Total Woman Fitness (11,000 square feet).

Schoen initially proposed for the St. Luke's site a 5,000-fixed-seat stadium overlooked by a four-story, 60-unit apartment-and-retail structure and a 150,000-square-foot office building. Between Americana and the Boise River, he outlined 40,000 square feet of retail and 240 apartments.

It would be a similar program to the other site: office, retail, residential and other potential uses that would provide TIF revenue to pay back the city bonds, Schoen said. Same strategies, same basic components. That site has good advantages. (It has) better visibility from the major arteries into town and better access. Disadvantage is it is not as close to the center city and not as walkable.

Schoen seeks a $27 million bond from the Capital City Development Corp., the city's urban renewal agency, that would be funded with tax-increment financing paid back with increased property tax revenue from the project.

Boise State seeks a baseball stadium site on campus

Boise State University turned down a chance to field its new baseball team in 2020 in the downtown stadium in favor of building its own baseball stadium on campus.

The university is evaluating several on-campus locations to build a baseball stadium, but no timeline is in place to select a site or start construction, sports information director Joe Nickell said.

We would hope to have something in place for the first season in 2020, Nickell said. We're not going to rush into anything to make sure we have something by 2020.

If the Boise State baseball stadium is not ready for the 2020 season, the university will find an alternate baseball stadium on a temporary basis, he said.

A stadium size, design, cost and funding all depend on selecting a stadium site. Boise State hopes to establish a location and start construction as soon as possible, but Nickell stressed there is no defined timeline.

Boise State on Oct. 26 walked away from a proposed public-private soccer/baseball stadium at Shoreline Drive and Americana Boulevard with Boise State President Bob Kustra insisting the nascent baseball team should play on the university campus.

The university expects to have a timeline for site selection and building a stadium ready to present to the Idaho State Board of Education in June, Boise State spokesman Greg Hahn said.

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March 29, 2018

 

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Copyright 2018 The Salt Lake Tribune
All Rights Reserved

The Salt Lake Tribune

 

Pullman, Wash. • Kyle Sweet got out of the cold rain that greeted the first day of spring practice for Washington State and threw on a black baseball hat with a '3' affixed to the side.

On the day spring ball started for the Cougars, Sweet's hat represented the most outward, notable tribute to Tyler Hilinski.

"I think about Tyler every day as I'm sure all of us do. But right now we're trying to move forward. We'll never forget him but we don't want to just keep being stuck in one spot," Sweet said after the nearly three-hour practice. "We love Tyler and he was a great person but we're trying to move forward."

There will be benchmark events for the Washington State program following Hilinski's death in January. Thursday was one of them, the first full team practice since Hilinski took his life on Jan. 16.

"Our team has talked about it from beginning to end and none of that we're going to share with you guys," Washington State coach Mike Leach said.

The 21-year-old was expected to be Washington State's starting quarterback for the 2018 season, the next in a line of standout passers to play for the Cougars. His death rattled the Washington State campus and shocked college sports - a player who seemingly had everything going for him deciding to take his own life.

"We've all been together. We've talked about it. We've had people to talk to about it," safety Hunter Dale said. "He's always going to be in our minds. He's always going to be on the field with us."

Hilinski's death was a crisis situation for Washington State's athletic department. What's come out of it is a strengthened focus on mental health and perhaps more of a willingness campus wide to speak about personal issues.

Dr. Sunday Henry became the director of athletic medicine for Washington State last fall. It was Henry along with Jerry Pastore, a mental health counselor, and psychiatrist Dr. Kate Geiger - all employees inside the Cougars' athletic program - that were the spearheads of a plan to help Hilinski's teammates and the entire athletic department cope with the shocking death.

Henry and her team worked from the inside out, starting with the football program, then the rest of the athletic department, if nothing else than to be an ear to listen. It required collaboration and cooperation across the tight-knit campus, and borrowing counselors from other areas of the campus to be available for those who needed help in the immediate aftermath.

"We just didn't know what to expect. That's part of it. When you say there's no script, we didn't know what to expect," Henry said. "My approach was I didn't want to have some sort of scenario where you'd say, 'Can you wait?'... The entire campus felt this. They continue to feel this and we continue to feel this. We are still having people surface. There has been a lot of emotional and mental things going on since then. As an entire campus we're still feeling it."

Jordan Frost is the president of the Associated Students of Washington State and has heard the stories of how Hilinski's death has impacted the student population. Student government was already working on an endowment to fund peer-based sexual assault prevention education and mental health awareness prior to January. Since Hilinski's death, the efforts have ramped up and the endowment could be in place soon.

"I hate to say it, but because he was a notable popular person it's helped us get our message to more people," Frost said. "I don't think people don't care about the issues, but people get busy, your life is crazy, there's a lot going on. But this has really engaged everyone and they're staying engaged in the conversation rather than kind of leaving."

The evaluation of how the football program is handling Hilinski's death is an ongoing process. Henry and her staff had a mental health evaluation of the entire football team done within the first two weeks following Hilinski's death, a move Leach fully supported. The start of spring football is one of those important moments, Henry said. So will the start of fall camp in August and the Cougars first game on Sept. 1 at Wyoming and even more so a week later when the Cougars host San Jose State.

"I think then moving forward from now, when you talk about no blueprint, we've taken care of enough of that acuteness," Henry said. "Now we can see what can we do for the future both here at Washington State but also to push that culture change, how do we make a change nationally and help turn this really sad thing that happened into something positive."

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Copyright 2018 Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
All Rights Reserved

Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

Tennessee administrators lost contact with former athletic director John Currie for several hours on the day before he was ousted from his position, according to documents obtained Thursday by USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee.

Currie resurfaced later that day with an email to Chancellor Beverly Davenport, President Joe DiPietro and General Counsel Matthew Scoggins.

Currie wrote that he had flown from North Carolina, where he was in pursuit of North Carolina State coach Dave Doeren, to California to meet with Washington State coach Mike Leach.

"Although I have not offered the job or discussed terms with him, he told me he would take the job if offered," Currie wrote in his email.

Davenport responded that she wanted Currie to return to Knoxville and scheduled a meeting with him for the following morning.

"I trust you are on your way back to Knoxville as I requested in my text message this afternoon," Davenport wrote to Currie.

"This morning, we tried for six hours to contact you about the state of the search. After finally connecting, you informed me that you were in California heading into a meeting with Mike Leach. This was the first I had heard of this meeting. Because of the confusion from earlier in the day with the other candidate (Doeren), I asked you not to pursue any discussions about employment with any additional candidates."

Raja Jubran, vice chairman of UT's Board of Trustees, asked about Currie's status in a text message with administrators that afternoon.

"Have we confirmed that John is safe?" Jubran asked.

Also that day, Reid Sigmon, Currie's executive associate AD, inquired about Currie's status.

"Lots of people worried about your whereabouts," Sigmon texted.

Currie texted, "I'm fine," before adding, "I'm still alive."

The following morning, Davenport removed Currie from his post and replaced him with Phillip Fulmer. It ended Currie's role in a chaotic football coaching search. Currie was Tennessee's AD for eight months.

Currie and the university reached a settlement Thursday that awarded Currie $2.5 million - much less than the buyout he was owed. The settlement includes $2.22 million on top of the salary Currie received while on paid suspension since Dec. 1.

Tennessee nearly hired Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano on Nov. 26 to replace Butch Jones as coach. The deal unraveled after it was met by backlash from some fans, donors and politicians.

Currie pivoted to other candidates, including Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy, who received a raise and remained with the Cowboys.

After Tennessee didn't reach a deal with Gundy, Currie exchanged messages with Doeren's agent, Jordan Bazant.

"Let's get this done," Bazant wrote to Currie on Nov. 28.

Two days later, on the morning of Nov. 30, Bazant wrote: "He is fired up."

When Currie didn't respond, Bazant wrote: "Really need to hear from you."

Doeren received a new deal from N.C. State later that day.

Currie's next message was to Leach, whom he was prepared to meet in Los Angeles.

"I hope you come out of this OK and we can work together," Leach wrote to Currie after their meeting.

Currie lost his job. Leach remained at Washington State. Fulmer hired Jeremy Pruitt on Dec. 7, ending Tennessee's 26-day coaching search.

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Copyright 2018 Independent Publishing Company
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Anderson Independent-Mail (South Carolina)

 

Clemson is back in the black.

At least as far as the Atlantic Coast Conference coffers are concerned.

Basketball teams that play in the NCAA Tournament earn a single "unit", or "share," for each game they play, so the Tigers are emerging as a key financial contributor thanks to their performance through the first two rounds of the tournaments.

Each unit this year is worth $273,000, which means Clemson already has earned $546,000 based on its performance in this year's March Madness.

Once it plays Kansas Friday night in the Sweet 16, the Tigers will have earned $819,000 - well, sort of.

That money doesn't go directly to Clemson, but rather to the NCAA's Division I Basketball Performance Fund, where it is combined with units earned by all other ACC teams in the tournament. Then, in mid-April, that money is dispersed to the league, which in turn distributes an equal amount to each of the ACC's 15 basketball teams.

In other words, Pittsburgh, which went winless in the ACC, will receive just as much of a financial windfall from the Basketball Performance Fund as NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 teams Clemson, Duke, Florida State and Syracuse.

"As successful as the ACC has been, that revenue stream has always been strong for the league," said Graham Neff, Clemson's Deputy Director of Athletics.

After a six-year absence from the NCAA Tournament, coach Brad Brownell's team is back among the ACC's money earners.

"It's good for Clemson to be able to contribute to that," Neff said. "We want all the ACC teams to win, because the money does have a roundabout way of coming back to Clemson."

Stacey Osburn, director of public and media relations for the NCAA, said the distribution is based on conference and independent schools' performance in the tournament over a rolling, six-year period.

"In 2018, each basketball unit will be approximately $273,000 for a total distribution of $164.6 million and will be based on units earned from 2012 to 2017," Osburn said.

Unit values have continued to rise gradually each year under the current 14-year, $10.8 billion tournament contract with CBS and TBS.

"Future projected distributions will be $280,300 per unit in 2019 and $282,100 per unit in 2020," Osburn said.

The ACC's earned its most units in 2016, when seven league teams made the NCAA Tournament, six made the Sweet 16 and four advanced to the Elite Eight and two to the Final Four. The ACC's revenue that year was $20.6 million.

Despite not making the NCAA Tournament each of the previous six years, Clemson's NCAA Tournament share from the ACC has averaged $1.47 million over the last six years.

To help schools curb NCAA Tournament expenses, the NCAA pays for travel as well as providing a per diem, which is paid to the school, not to individuals.

Though Clemson has earned $273,000 for each game in this tournament, the school will eventually receive only $18,200 because it will be split 15 ways.

"It's approximately $30,000 for us to travel, so it's a net loss, but playing in the NCAATournament is something every school wants to do," Neff said. "And for the most part, we recoup most of our expenses from the ACC's distribution."

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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

USA TODAY

 

A look at bonuses coaches from public institutions whose teams are playing in Friday's NCAA Sweet 16 games could receive based on their contracts:

Clemson's Brad Brownell

Has...

$20,000: No. 4 seed in Atlantic Coast tournament

$20,000: NCAA tournament bid

$20,000: First-round win

$20,000: Second-round win

Can get...

$20,000: Sweet 16 win

$20,000: Elite Eight win, plus $100,000 for Final Four appearance

$20,000: National semifinal win

$20,000: Win NCAA title

Kansas' Bill Self

Has...

$50,000: Big 12 regular-season title

$25,000: Big 12 tournament title

Can get...

$150,000: Final Four appearance

$200,000: Win NCAA title

Purdue's Matt Painter

Has...

$75,917: Tied for 2nd in Big Ten regular season

$23,724: NCAA tournament bid

$23,724: Win first game of NCAA tournament

$23,724: Win second game of NCAA tournament

Can get...

$47,448: Sweet 16 win

TBD*: Elite Eight appearance

$47,448: Elite Eight win

$47,448: National semifinal win

$47,448: Win NCAA title

*For reaching the Elite Eight, Painter gets bonus in an amount to be determined by the university's president, in consultation with the athletics director, although this payment must be at least $94,896.

Note: Because Purdue finished tied for second in Big Ten regular-season play, got an NCAA tournament bid that placed it in the Round of 64 and has won two tournament games, Painter will get an additional bonus of $50,000 if the team's cumulative grade-point average for this academic year falls within an annually predetermined range. If Purdue wins in the Sweet 16 and the team's GPA exceeds the predetermined range, this bonus instead would be $75,000.

Texas Tech's Chris Beard

Has...

$100,000: Tied for 2nd in Big 12 regular season

$50,000: NCAA tournament bid

$10,000: No. 25 through No. 11 ranking in final Associated Press media poll (was No. 14)

$25,000: First-round win

$50,000: Second-round win

Can get...

$75,000: Sweet 16 win

$100,000: Elite Eight win

$200,000: Win NCAA title

$15,000: Top-10 ranking in final USA TODAY Coaches Poll

West Virginia's Bob Huggins

Has...

$30,000: Tied for 2nd in Big 12 regular season

$30,000: Big 12 tournament runner-up

$20,000: NCAA tournament bid

$30,000: First-round win

$40,000: Second-round win

Can get...

$40,000: Sweet 16 win

$100,000: Elite Eight win

$200,000: Win NCAA title

Does not take into account contingencies that could alter or prevent payment of bonuses, such as academic achievement by players, the coach's departure from the school, future investigations and/or sanctions related to rules violations. It also does not include bonuses for coaching honors, team academic performance, attendance, season ticket sales or the value of tickets or perks tied to tournament participation.

Amounts for Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, Gonzaga's Mark Few, Loyola-Chicago's Porter Moser, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and Villanova's Jay Wright are not available because their schools are private and not required to release their employment contracts.

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Copyright 2018 LNP Media Group, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

LNP (Lancaster, PA)

 

The weight of snow from this week's record-breaking snowstorm caused the roof of the Solanco High School wrestling team's practice facility to cave in.

Staff arrived on the high school's campus Thursday morning to discover the roof had collapsed overnight.

"We are very, very thankful that no one was inside the building," said district spokesman Keith Kaufman Thursday.

Kaufman said anywhere from 6 inches to a foot of snow fell on the campus during the storm that started Tuesday and ended late Wednesday. The campus is "infamous" for being windy, he said, so snow had piled in drifts around it.

District administrators plan to meet with the district's insurance company Friday to determine whether the building can be repaired or will need to be torn down.

Wrestling teams used the facility, which was also used for other events throughout the year, for practices. Matches are held in the high school gymnasium.

The facility, which sits behind the high school atop a hill, was built in 1992 with the help of funds from the community and wrestling team alumni. Inside there's a large room with wrestling mats and a locker room.

"It was on school property, but it was built with a lot of support from the community," Kaufman said. "Solanco has a long, proud history with its wrestling program."

Kaufman said the wrestling program will do what it can do find other locations for activities in the meantime.

"It's disappointing. Obviously, you don't like to see property damage in any form, but we are very thankful no one was inside," he said. "A training facility can be rebuilt, the main point is, we didn't have students inside. We are thankful for that."

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Copyright 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

 

So the University of New Mexico regents have a magic money tree — an emergency fund they can tap when they choose to.

It appears that's the fund the UNM Athletics Department is suggesting be tapped to forgive most of the multimillion-dollar debt it's racked up over the past 12 years. The proposal is slated to be presented during today's campuswide Budget Summit.

"With direction from the University administration, the proposal is to have the Board of Regents buy out a substantial portion of the Athletics Department deficit using specific funds available to them which to date have not been designated for other purposes," first-year Athletics Director Eddie Nuñez wrote in a memo to regents. The memo goes on to refer to the money that would be used for the bailout as "regent funding."

The regents do have a special fund set aside from land sales and investments.

But tapping any fund to reward irresponsible behavior just encourages more of the same.

This year alone, the Athletics Department is incurring an eye-popping $3.3 million deficit, with $1.3 million already transferred from the main campus to help cover that gap.

To be fair, Nuñez isn't asking the entire athletics debt be forgiven. Under his proposal, the department would repay a little more than $1.1 million over 10 years. The remaining $5.6 million would be forgiven.

Such a deal. Imagine running up a multimillion-dollar credit-card tab and then telling the company you'll pay back a sixth of what you owe.

But then, this situation is ridiculous on so many levels.

The fact Athletics continues to amass staggering deficits is outrageous. Put simply, the budgets the department puts forth every year have little basis in reality, routinely overestimating ticket sale revenues and underestimating expenditures. This year alone, Athletics overestimated ticket revenue for football and men's basketball by $950,000, came up $600,000 short on fundraising, overspent its "supplies" budget by $480,000 and overspent its scholarships and aid to student athletes budget by almost $800,000.

Here's a thought for getting athletics' finances back on track: Take a math class and use reality-based numbers for budgets. Then again, if there are no consequences for overspending by millions, why bother to rein in expenses?

Nuñez is new to UNM and didn't create the mess Lobo athletics now finds itself in. But it's up to him to roll up his sleeves and start cleaning up the mess instead of relying on other funds to cover his department's debt. That's what New Mexico State University's Athletics Department is doing. NMSU athletics amassed a debt exceeding $10 million and has whittled it down by more than half so far. (And lately, both its football and men's basketball team have fared better than UNM's.)

It's also worth noting the request for the bailout will be presented to regents at the same time a budget leadership team made up of representatives from the student body, faculty, staff and administration is recommending a 2.5 percent tuition increase, a $7 premium per credit hour for all upper-division and some graduate courses, and a 2.39 percent increase in student fees. Undergraduates would see total costs rise anywhere from $88 to $214 per semester, depending on courses taken. The extra funding would go to things like campus safety and graduate student positions.

On its own, the proposal for increases seems reasonable. But there's something wrong if a regents fund is tapped to clean up Athletics' finances but no money is available to prevent raising students' tuition and fees.

A big part of going to college is learning responsibility, and while academics is stepping up, the Athletics Department seems to have ditched those classes.

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Copyright 2018 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

SALT LAKE CITY -

After two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, it seems like a good time to ask a few questions:

Has college basketball's long regular season been rendered meaningless? Could the selection committee make the selection criteria more convoluted, inconsistent, incomprehensible and, ultimately, unsuccessful if it tried just a little harder? And were these really the best 68 teams?

Consider what has happened so far:

Among the 16 teams that advanced to this week's third round, the average regular-season finish in conference standings was fourth place (average conference record: 12-6).

Only four of the remaining 16 teams won regular-season conference championships - Kansas, Gonzaga, Nevada and Loyola-Chicago. Kansas is the one surviving regular-season champion from a major conference.

The regular season has become irrelevant. It's an exercise to sell TV ads and tickets and serve as a training camp for the tournament. You could argue that it establishes the seeding for the NCAA Tournament, but that role has been greatly diminished, as you'll see.

First, a little background about the new selection process, which has been made even more mysterious and complex by adding the so-called "quadrant system" to the mix of strength of schedule, record, RPI/KPI ratings, Sagarin rankings etc., etc., etc. The primary metric for evaluating a team's record is still the flawed, highly subjective RPI system, except now it breaks wins into "quadrants."

The RPI system has always valued strength of schedule, but now it places values on where the game was played - home, neutral, away. It devalues home wins and doesn't penalize road losses as much as it did previously.

It's an attempt to encourage teams to play strong opponents and road games. In simplest terms, in the minds of the selection committee members, if Team A wins on the road, that's great; if it loses on the road, they don't really care; and if you win at home, they care less than they used to.

Got that?

This crazy, stat-crunching formula might actually work, but we'll never really know because the selection committee is only half committed to it. After setting up this incredibly elaborate system, the committee ignores the whole thing and automatically awards NCAA berths to the 32 conference tournament winners, regardless of what they did in the regular season and regardless of how small their conference. Nearly half the field comes in through the back door.

The University of Maryland- Baltimore County finished second to Vermont in the American East Conference regular-season standings, but handed Vermont its first conference loss in the tournament final with a desperation 3-point shot at the buzzer to earn its pass to the NCAAs. Vermont was left out.

The quad system turned the selection process on its ear. Arizona State tied for eighth in the Pac-12 with an 8-10 record and lost in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament, yet still qualified for the NCAA Tournament (and lost its first game).

Syracuse, 11th in the ACC standings with an 8-10 record, lost in the second round of its conference tournament and, you guessed it, still made the NCAA Tournament, where the Orangemen got hot and advanced to the Sweet 16.

It's revealing to examine the fates of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, which tied for sixth out of 10 teams in the Big 12 standings with 8-10 records, but with very different rewards. Oklahoma, 18-14 overall, lost 12 of its last 16 games, including its first-round game in the conference tournament. The Sooners made the NCAA field (and lost in the first round). The reason: Their conference losses were to good teams on the road, and they beat some good teams on the road early in the season. And, no, the selection process doesn't factor in when wins and losses occur, so that late-season tailspin wasn't a factor.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma State, 21-14 overall, beat a long line of teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament, including Florida State, Texas, Oklahoma (twice), Texas Tech and Kansas, but didn't qualify for the NCAA Tournament. The reason: All of the above wins were at home and thus were devalued; not even road wins over Kansas and West Virginia could overcome that.

The end result of the selection process is a mediocre, diluted field - the result of loopholes that account for more than half the field. It lacks marquee matchups because of the flood of conference tournament winners that circumvent the system and claim an automatic berth.

No one is going to abandon the conference tournaments - they're too popular and profitable - but the selection committee should ignore the outcomes of those tournaments and apply their formulas across the board to the entire 68-team field. Any team can get hot at the right moment - to wit: UMBC, which upset Vermont in the conference tournament and No. 1 seed Virginia in the NCAA tourney. That will always be a fun part of the NCAA Tournament, but partially remove that component by eliminating automatic berths for conference tournament winners and instead reward sustained, season-long excellence.

The bottom line is that the selection process - decades in the making - still needs to be fixed.

Email: drob@deseretnews.com

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Copyright 2018 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

One of five former Wheaton College football players accused in a 2016 hazing scandal is expected to plead to charges this week. Prosecutors said Wednesday that Noah Spielman, the 21-year-old son of former Ohio State and All-Pro NFL linebacker Chris Spielman from Columbus, Ohio, will enter a plea this morning in DuPage County court.

Exactly which charges he will plead to remains unclear because prosecutors said they will not disclose details until Thursday morning. But in September, a grand jury approved a nine-count indictment against Spielman and four teammates for aggravated battery, mob action and unlawful restraint. Prosecutors say Spielman is the only of the five expected to plead out today.

Each of the men previously pleaded not guilty to all charges. Spielman's attorney, Mark Sutter, did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Spielman, Kyler Kregal from Grand Rapids, Michigan; Ben Pettway from Lookout Mountain, Georgia; Samuel TeBos from Allendale, Michigan; and James Cooksey of Jacksonville, Florida, are accused of abducting Charles Nagy, now 21, from his dorm on March 19, 2016, putting a pillowcase over his head, tying him with duct tape, repeatedly punching and kicking him, and then leaving him partially nude on a baseball field near Hawthorne Elementary School in Wheaton.

Nagy filed a lawsuit last week against Wheaton College and all of the players charged.

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

When fans arrive at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena to watch the women's NCAA Tournament games on Saturday, they'll see a glossy new court made specifically for the Spokane Regional.

Each year, all of the men's NCAA Tournament sites, the women's regional and Final Four sites feature portable hardwood courts manufactured by Connor Sports, based in Amasa, Michigan.

The Arena floor has a color scheme of purple coupled with blue on the court's edges.

It arrived Friday. Workers inspected the pallets of flooring Saturday and put the court together in a couple of hours on Monday.

After the regional concludes, a crew will take the court apart and ready it to be shipped back to Connor, which sells the courts or refurbishes them for the following year, said Andrew Campbell, Connor's director of partnerships and events.

Seven Arena employees and six to eight temporary hires assemble and take down the courts, said Spokane Arena general manager Matt Gibson. They've become adept at doing so, too, since this is the 11th NCAA event the Arena has featured dating back to the first in 2001.

The Arena has two of its own courts used for special events like the GSL spirit doubleheaders, the occasional Harlem Globetrotters visit, a frequent game featuring the Washington State University men's team and the State B high school tournaments in early March when two courts are used. This year, the Washington high school District 8 4A and 3A tournaments were played at the Arena.

The Arena has owned its courts since the doors opened in 1995.

The courts were overdue for a face-lift and were recently hauled to the manufacturer, Horner Flooring in Dollar Bay, Michigan.

"They're going to be rebuilt, sanded and refinished," Gibson said.

Gibson said a new court costs about $250,000. It will cost $90,000 each to refurbish the courts, he said.

"It was just time," Gibson said. "When you take the floors out multiple times like we do, it takes its toll. They get banged up and beat around, the wood shrinks and expands."

The courts had a green and purple color scheme.

"We're going to get a whole new design and color scheme with a different type of varnish," Gibson said. "It'll be a little more classic, more neutral."

Gibson said the Arena crew follows a precise pattern in setting up a court for an NCAA event. The court is centered between sections 104 and 116, he said. Once the center point is determined, it's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, he said.

"We figure out where the most center point is and everything radiates out from there," Gibson said. "Then we have a couple people running around making sure the measurements are correct."

Gibson said a representative from Connor Sports helps with the install.

"The NCAA leaves nothing to chance," Gibson said. "We feel a little better when there's some oversight."

Gibson said the Arena was ready to hold the games by Tuesday afternoon.

"It's sort of boring around here right now," he said.

This weekend marks the sixth NCAA women's regional.

"We know what we're doing," Gibson said. "There are a few things here and there the (NCAA) committee changes on you from year to year."

Gibson has worked at the Arena for each NCAA event.

The Arena will be the site for second- and third-round men's games in 2020.

Gibson plans to bid on future NCAA events.

"As long as I'm the general manager here, we'll always do our best to bid out the tournaments," Gibson said. "It's a chance for us to shine and show off Spokane. The publicity and the impact that comes back home is immeasurable. I'd love to get to a point where we're doing one every year, but of course there are lots of different markets that have realized how special this is."

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

NCAA Women's tournament

NEW YORK — Dawn Staley and her South Carolina Gamecocks did more than just prepare for their opening-round games in the women's NCAA Tournament. They did everything they could to make sure people attended.

The team spent an hour Thursday night calling season ticket holders who hadn't bought tickets yet for the first and second round in Columbia. The goal was for attendance to surpass 10,000.

The move paid off as the Gamecocks had 11,085 people attend their opening-round win over North Carolina A&T and 10,307 come to the second-round victory over Virginia. Those numbers helped bolster overall attendance at the first two rounds to its highest level in a decade, with an average of 5,067 fans taking in the first 48 games.

"The way the community responded to my challenge was quite incredible," Staley said. "I don't know if that many people would've come to the game just on us relying on the marketing department. They did a great job with us on executing the challenge. The ticket office and everybody just worked overtime to accommodate so many ticket-buying customers."

Staley also called on friends like Charlotte Hornets center Dwight Howard to donate tickets for local kids to use to attend the games.

"They come to a lot of our games, they support us, and I wanted to support them," Howard told The Associated Press while the Hornets were in New York to play the Knicks. "Hopefully, they can do a really good job this year in the tournament. They had a really close one the other night. I will be watching their games and hope they get some good wins."

Gamecocks star A'ja Wilson, who grew up in South Carolina, recalled how shocked fans were when she called them.

"Someone I called stopped me and said: 'Do you know who I'm on the phone with? It's A'ja,' and I'm like, 'Yeah.' Some people didn't believe it was me. So yeah, it was a lot of fun," she said.

The Gamecocks player calls accounted for more than 1,000 tickets sold.

Given the 9 p.m. tip on Sunday for the second round, Staley told fans to wear their best pajamas to the game . She even offered an excuse slip for those who came to the game and may have overslept for work or school the next day.

SEC rival Mississippi State was just behind the Gamecocks in attendance, with nearly 10,000 fans checking out the first two rounds.

"I think it's the new teams, Mississippi State and South Carolina drew really well," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "It's good to have more teams doing well."

NCAA basketball officials are hoping for more strong numbers at the regionals this weekend in Albany, New York; Kansas City, Missouri; Spokane; and Lexington, Kentucky. Albany already has sold nearly 7,600 tickets. It helps having UConn and South Carolina headed there. The surprise is 11th-seeded Buffalo, which reached its first Sweet 16; Bulls fans have only a 41/2-hour drive to Albany to see their team play.

"We are so excited to see so many fans come out and support the teams competing in the first and second rounds of the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship and are really seeing a positive impact of the top 16 seeds serving as hosts," said Rhonda Lundin Bennett, chair of the women's basketball committee. "We have had some memorable games between some outstanding teams so far, and we look forward to continued great attendance at our four regional sites and the Women's Final Four."

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Copyright 2018 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

NEW YORK — The NBA and USA Basketball are dipping their toe into youth sports, recommending guidelines they hope will help with development and enhanced experiences at a young age.

The recommendations include lowering the basket and prohibiting zone defense and 3-point shots at the youngest level of competition. They also call for the use of a 24-second shot clock at the high school level and a 30-second shot clock for ages 12-14 in their youth guidelines that were announced Tuesday.

"When these kids are getting into the sport at this young age, we want them to get in and have a good experience, have them succeed," USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley said, "and we think these rules and standards help them do that, help them develop as young people and overall improves the sport."

The guidelines were developed over a two-year period by a working group that included former players and coaches, and representatives from high school, the NCAA and AAU basketball. They were divided into four segments: ages 7-8, ages 9-11, ages 12-14 and grades 9-12.

Most of the standards can't be enforced, because the NBA and USA Basketball don't operate leagues or tournaments at the early ages. But the hope is recreation organizations will implement all or at least some of them, because the recommendations come from the highest level of the sport.

USA Basketball will use the rules in its youth tournaments, which currently start at age 12, and Tooley said the hope is AAU events also will implement them. But a large part of the focus is on younger players, not yet at competitive tournament age, who struggle on a regulation-size court and may be giving up on the game before having the chance to get good at it.

They recommend 8-foot baskets for ages 7-8 and 9-feet for ages 9-11, along with balls that are smaller in circumference so they can be more easily controlled by younger players. The standards also call for equal playing time throughout the game at the youngest age, and through the first three quarters for 9-11.

And they say that neither age should be playing zone defense, which limits movement both offensively and defensively, or hoisting long shots that kids can't reach in a natural shooting motion. If a gymnasium has a 3-point line, even a shot behind it is to be counted for 2 points.

Tooley knows some guidelines could be difficult — shot clocks or baskets that lower to different heights can be expensive — but hopes leagues and tournaments will use whichever they can. The NBA and USA Basketball adopted world governing body FIBA's rules for all high school-age recommendations.

"You can't weed people out by the time they're 8. They don't have the skills," Tooley said. "There's a lot of people undeveloped so we want it to be fun and offer a chance for everybody."

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Copyright 2018 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

The Lake Zurich planning and zoning commission voted late Wednesday to recommend the revised plan for a new Life Time Fitness center to the board of trustees, who will ultimately decide whether the long-discussed development will be built at the old Hackney's site. The 5-1 result in favor is the opposite of what happened when commissioners voted on an older version of the plan in January. The dramatic change reflects the significant revisions Life Time made to its plan.

"It's not like we're now changing our minds and changing everything we said and our quotes mean nothing," Commissioner Ildiko Schultz, who voted against the older plan in January, said to the capacity crowd before voting yes. "This is a very different proposal."

Perhaps the biggest difference between plans is in the size of the building. The original plan called for a three-story, 58-foot-tall luxury fitness center at 880 N. Old Rand Road. The revised plan calls for the building to be reduced to a two stories and 40 feet tall.

The building was also moved farther southwest on the lot, in response to concerns residents and the majority of commissioners raised that the property was too close to nearby homes and the entrances and exits from the parking lot would snarl nearby traffic. Commission Chairman Orlando Stratman said he's never had a petitioner come before the commission and offer as much compromise as Life Time has on this project.

"People watch what Lake Zurich does," said Stratman, who was the only commissioner to vote for the last plan in January. "If we have a candidate come in such as Life Time and if we can't work together as a community to make this happen, it doesn't bode well for someone else to want to come in because they look like they are facing an uphill challenge." Commissioner Mike Muir, who did not vote on the plan in January because he was an alternate, said he's heard Lake Zurich has a reputation among developers as a hard place to do business.

"I hope this will be the start of more development," Muir said before voting for the plan. The changes to the plan didn't go far enough for some neighboring residents, who were part of an hourslong public comment period before the plan commission's discussion and vote Wednesday. "This still does not address major concerns. My property value will decline as a result of this project," Linda Lyon said. "Please don't accommodate this commercial monstrosity."

More speakers were in favor of the plan than at the previous three planning and zoning meetings where they were in the extreme minority. Resident Mia Herschel said that while she was very concerned when she first heard where the proposed Life TimeFitness was to go, she believes her concerns and the concerns of her neighbors have been addressed by the revised plan.

"I don't think we are going to find a developer willing to please its neighbors as Life Time has," Herschel said. "I think they will play a vital role in revitalization of Lake Zurich's downtown." The only commissioner to vote against the plan was Vice Chairman Kurt Baumann. The revised proposal will now go before the village board.

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Rendering courtesy Life Time Fitness Life Time Fitness has revised its plan to build a luxury fitness center on the former Hackney's property at 880 N. Old Rand Road in Lake Zurich. Rendering courtesy Life Time Fitness Life Time Fitness has revised its plan to build a luxury fitness center on the former Hackney's property at 880 N. Old Rand Road in Lake Zurich.
 
March 22, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2018 The Commercial Appeal, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

A Jackson area travel ball coach was put in a chokehold and kicked while he was on the ground after a baseball game at the West Tennessee Healthcare Sportsplex on Sunday, witnesses say.

The game was forfeited after a rules violation. As the Jackson team was leaving the field, one of the parents from the other team, which is from Mississippi, waited and attacked him from behind.

"This whole team stayed put and they were yelling comments as the boys walked through and waited for the coach to come up last and jumped him," Dr. Jenna Britt, a witness, said. "One was apparently was the one who had him in a chokehold. That's the one that scared his wife so bad.... And the wife of one of them was kicking his face and head while he was in the chokehold."

Two assistant coaches from Jackson ran in and helped separate the fight. Witnesses said there was no security at the Sportsplex and they did not help break up the fight.

They did not identify who the coach from the Jackson team is. The team's Facebook page lists Brent Holt as the manager.

The Jackson Police Department responded to the call and the investigation is still ongoing.

Witnesses say they had to call police on their own and officials from the Sportsplex did not make a phone call.

Their statements contradict the statement released by Sportsplex Director of Operations Ricky Yates on Monday to The Jackson Sun.

In the statement, Yates said parents, coaches and Sportsplex personnel helped break up the fight. He added the police were called as a precautionary measure.

"I did not see any Jackson Sportsplex officials step in to break up the fight," said Amanda Wood, another witness. "And when parents tried to get someone to call the cops, they were told they would have to do it themselves."

Wood added that Ron Barry, who is listed as the director of baseball and marketing on the Sportsplex's website, wanted to keep the situation under wraps.

"I didn't think that was appropriate," Wood said.

Witnesses say the complex could have done more to help avoid the entire situation.

"I felt like the Sportsplex could have done something better," said Cindy Coffman, another witness. "When the game was protested, I felt like if they had sent an official up there with that team, none of this would have happened."

Barry said the Sportsplex will be making no more statements regarding the situation until the investigation is completed.

Had the two assistant coaches not jumped in and help pull off the attackers, the situation could have spun out of control.

"It could have been a total disaster," Britt said. "These were strong men and they didn't throw any punches. It could have turned into an entire brawl in the crowd, but they were worried about our coach and getting him out of there."

Reach Luis Torres at ltorres1@jacksonsun.com and 731-425-9638.

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Copyright 2018 Newsday, Inc.

Newsday (New York)

 

The gold standard for baseball seating used to be behind home plate, but things have gotten more complicated in modern stadiums, where unconventional locations that promote socializing — and taking social media images — have become increasingly valued.

The latest example will be unveiled to journalists on Thursday at Citi Field, where as part of a tour of what is new for 2018 officials will showcase the rebuilt Citi Pavilion, an area overlooking the bullpen in right-centerfield.

Designed for groups, the section includes 60 seats with an option for up to 32 standing room tickets, at prices from $120 to $200, depending on the matchup. The minimum purchase is 15 tickets.

The area comes with snack foods, non-alcoholic beverages and . . . beer? Unlimited beer?

"Unlimited beer until we hit the start of the seventh inning," said Brian Fling, the Mets' senior director of corporate partnerships. "We will have the typical alcohol compliance monitors that we have in the rest of the ballpark.

"We don't expect it to be a rough-and-rowdy space at all. If a fan has consumed as much as they need to that night, one of the compliance monitors will alert a member of our staff."

The area itself is not new, but its 2,160 square feet have been given a facelift.

"It's going to be a really enhanced fan experience for everybody who comes through that space this season," Fling said.

Stadiums increasingly are emphasizing areas that promote more than just sitting in place and watching a game.

"It's recognizing the value of social interaction," Fling said, "of people who are paying attention to the game and watching their favorite players — that is a big reason why they're there — but also the social element of a night out."

Last season, Yankee Stadium removed obstructed bleacher seats and replaced them with terraces on which people could congregate, eat and take pictures, another example of recent ballpark trends.

Citi Field, with its many nooks and crannies, has proven to be a valuable canvas for creative enhancements.

"It's a large footprint," Fling said. "There is a lot of public space out there. We're able to be as creative as possible, to throw ideas off the wall."

Fling called the updated area "an atmosphere within an atmosphere. You've got this Citi Field experience, and now the Pavilion and a variety of other places where you can carve out your own little niche."

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Copyright 2018 The Bismarck Tribune, a division of Lee Enterprises
All Rights Reserved

The Bismarck Tribune

 

Pro football — actual games — won't disappear from TV screens, mobile devices and the American consciousness once the Super Bowl ends next February.

The Alliance of American Football will kick off the following Sunday. On network television (CBS) as well as through a multitude of free digital platforms.

Yes, spring football. We know, from the USFL to the World League to the XFL, the idea has not worked. Here's why the Alliance has a strong chance of succeeding: the folks involved.

The Alliance is the creation of Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Polian, one of the most respected and accomplished executives in NFL history, and Charlie Ebersol, a longtime TV and film producer. Ebersol's father, Dick, defined NBC Sports' programming for more than two decades and created "Sunday Night Football." Dick Ebersol, who also pioneered NBC's Olympic broadcasts, will serve on the board of directors.

Former players such as Justin Tuck, Hines Ward and Jared Allen will have significant roles in a league the younger Ebersol calls a "true partnership."

"That's the best way a league can perform and will be ultimately the key to success, having an interwoven product," he says.

"Whenever you have an endeavor that involves the kind of teamwork football involves," Polian adds, "it implies a partnership, the need to get their buy-in and do things, particularly in a startup, that represent their best interest... to make sure players know we have their best interests at heart. That is the guiding philosophy."

Co-founder Polian, who built the Bills, Colts and Panthers into Super Bowl teams, will oversee the football side, helped by former player and front office executive J.K. McKay, who has been involved in other startups.

The league will have eight teams — cities and stadia to be announced, though look for complementary sites, not NFL venues, and warmer climates given the February-late April schedule. Rosters will be culled from NFL cuts to the 53-man maximum after preseason, which Polian calls "the core of our constituency"; collegians who have gone undrafted, including underclassmen who have lost any remaining eligibility; players looking to return to the sport; and free agents from the CFL or elsewhere.

As a single entity, the Alliance will own all contracts and players will be dispersed in a variety of manners. If someone played in the NFL or in college for a Florida team or school, he'd likely wind up on a Florida-based franchise, for example. There also will be a mechanism after those allocations for a team interested in a certain player to get his rights. And then coaches of specific teams will have access to a group of players outside the allocations.

A draft of players in late fall after the college season concludes — "Players who probably are coming off injury or some other situation where they want to perhaps play in our league in order to enhance their draft status," Polian explains — also is planned.

With an eye on player safety, the Alliance also will eliminate kickoffs. There is a unique plan for onside kicks, with the team wanting to try one instead taking possession at its 35 yard-line on a fourth-and-10 to try one play to keep the ball.

"This eliminates two plays that if you were reinventing the game are plays you would probably leave out," Polian says.

The three-point stance for linemen, judged by many a dangerous technique, also could be banned.

The preponderance of video reviews by officials won't be an issue in the Alliance, Polian says. Each coach will be allowed two challenges and that's it for replay.

And here's one everybody but a placekicker will love: all extra points are 2-point conversion plays from the 2-yard line.

Ebersol has spent three years putting together the Alliance. He and Polian, backed by the numbers showing America's passion for the sport, see a huge void the league can fill.

"Football is so dominant for six months of the year," Ebersol says. "It even hides a number we focused on: millions of fans who stop watching the top five sports in America when football is off the air. Millions of football fans who don't want to watch other sports.

"And there are 59 million who play fantasy sports, 29 million of them stopped when football ended.

"So what to do to really empower our fans? Fans are investors. They invest time and emotion and money... and what they get in return is the thrill of victory and agony of defeat. We wanted to empower the fans so they will be rewarded for being fans of their team, so fans have a real stake in the league."

How will they do so?

Ebersol mysteriously says to "stay tuned."

---

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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

Miami • When the NCAA basketball tournament games tipped off last Thursday, Rick Pitino was sitting in a lounge chair on the patio of his palatial, waterfront home on a tiny island dubbed the "billionaire bunker." He'd just finished a round of golf. His son, owner of a margarita salt company, watched the early games with him but left in the afternoon because his children were in the school play, "Mary Poppins." Pitino's wife went, too, leaving him alone at home, where he watched the late games in bed.

"I went to the rehearsal," Pitino said, in apparent effort to head off any criticism of absentee grandfathering. "It was grandparent's day."

Pitino's celebrated tenure at Louisville ended last September amid accusations, in court documents sworn to by an FBI agent and approved by federal prosecutors, that he had knowledge of a $100,000 payment from Adidas to the father of a recruit. Since then, the 65-year-old coaching legend has been leading a quiet, inconspicuous life.

He spends his days in the gym and on the golf course. He's been doing more reading; concerned friends have sent along self-help books. When he wants solitude, Pitino takes his boat, The Floating Cardinal - "I know, I'm going to change the name," he said ± on a short trek over to Shuckers, a dockside bar attached to the back of a Best Western where the locals tend to leave him be as he sits at the bar, orders a salad and watches a game.

It's a life of extreme comfort, Pitino acknowledges. He's miserable.

This is the first time he has been unemployed during the NCAA tournament since 2001 and the second time since he graduated from college in 1974. After initially claiming he was done with coaching last fall, Pitino wants back in.

"I miss it terribly," Pitino said. "I don't know how to explain it in words.... There's just this emptiness."

Last Friday, over a breakfast of oatmeal, blueberries and raisins at the Four Seasons here, Pitino discussed the FBI's investigation into college basketball for more than two hours, offering his most detailed explanation to date of the whirlwind recruitment of a player last summer that, on the heels of a prior scandal involving an assistant who hired strippers to entertain Louisville recruits, has threatened to end his career in disgrace.

Pitino allowed a reporter to review what he and his lawyers said are transcripts of hundreds of text messages he exchanged with every major figure in the alleged pay-for-play scheme, records he says he provided voluntarily to federal prosecutors in an effort to clear his name.

At turns defiant, combative and wounded, Pitino lashed out at federal prosecutors, whom he accused of including him in court documents for notoriety.

"I'm not on any wiretap. There's not a shred of evidence that I did anything wrong.... They basically blew up my life... for one reason publicity," Pitino said. "I have my faults, like we all do... but I've never cheated to get a player."

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York declined to comment, and a spokeswoman for the FBI in New York did not respond to a request to comment.

Whether Pitino can return to college coaching will hinge, in part, on whether he can convince someone that he's right and the FBI and federal prosecutors are wrong. Pitino says he knew nothing about payments from an Adidas executive to a recruit's father. An aspiring NBA agent was lying when he claimed during a sting operation that Pitino was instrumental in arranging the payment, Pitino said. And a Louisville assistant coach in the room during that same sting operation, according to the FBI, was there without Pitino's knowledge or approval, he said.

It's similar to the explanation Pitino has offered since 2015, when a local escort alleged a Louisville assistant had paid her for years to bring strippers to a campus dormitory to entertain recruits.

Pitino knows, to many, it strains credulity.

"I hired the wrong people," he said. "I understand the perception.... I have to take ownership, as the leader of the team.... There's two assistant coaches who didn't do the right thing... but they were taught to do the right thing. But people just don't want to believe that."

To Pitino's many disciples across the coaching community, pieces of the case against him don't add up. The aspiring NBA agent has credibility issues. He made similar claims on wiretapped phone calls, they note, about Miami coach Jim Larranaga, who also has not been charged with a crime and also has adamantly denied allegations.

And then there's the pride Pitino derives from his reputation as a coach who doesn't need to cheat, or chase one-and-done NBA lottery picks, because he can mold modestly talented teams in championship contenders.

"It would shock me.... I just couldn't fathom that he would arrange for someone to pay a player," said Ralph Willard, former head coach of Holy Cross who also served as an assistant to Pitino at Kentucky and Louisville. "It was always really important to him that nobody in his program broke the rules.... Now, every paper you look up, he's the biggest cheater in the world. It's unbelievable."

The recruitment that would become the centerpiece of a sprawling FBI investigation began with a text message Pitino received before 930 p.m. last May 23.

"Coach, this is Christian Dawkins. I dealt with you on Jaylen Johnson. Would you have an interest in Brian Bowen, or are you done recruiting?"

Dawkins, 24, is a Michigan native who had acquired a reputation as a bit of a hustler as he tried to break into the NBA agent industry by working as a runner. In 2016, Cleveland-based International Management Advisors sued NBA agent Andy Miller because, according to a complaint, Dawkins had been working as a runner for both at the same time, charging more than $60,000 in travel expenses to IMA while he actually steered clients to Miller. (The agencies settled the case.) Last May, Dawkins was fired by Miller for running up more than $40,000 in Uber charges on a client's credit card.

Pitino did not know about Dawkins' agent connections, he claims, which would have raised a red flag. To him, Dawkins was someone he knew for a vague role with a travel basketball team called Dorian's Pride that had produced several college players, including Johnson, who played at Louisville from 2014 to 2017.

"He called himself the general manager," Pitino said. "I barely knew the guy."

The text messages Pitino shared appear to support this claim. From 2013 through 2017, Dawkins texted Pitino periodically, often reintroducing himself for his association with Dorian's Pride, as he pushed players. Dawkins never mentioned an association with agents, nor money, Pitino's records show.

A minute after he received Dawkins' text, Pitino texted his assistant, David Padgett. "Who is Brian Bowen," he wrote.

Padgett replied, "Top ranked uncommitted player left in the 2017 class."

"We would love to have him," Pitino texted Dawkins, and then the two had a 13-minute phone call in which Pitino said they discussed Bowen's background, his parents and what they were looking for in a college. Dawkins was a family friend of Bowen, who had played on Dorian's Pride. Dawkins, through his attorney, did not dispute Pitino's recollection of their phone conversations nor his summary of text messages.

Dawkins scheduled a visit for the Bowen family to Louisville for the following week. The day before the visit, May 27, Pitino got a phone call from a contact at Adidas, who left a voicemail.

"Coach, Jim Gatto with Adidas, hope all is well. Sorry to bother you over the weekend, but I just got a call about a player I want to discuss with you," Gatto said, according to a transcript of the voicemail provided by Pitino's lawyers. Gatto, through his attorney, also did not dispute Pitino's recollection of phone conversations and summary of text messages.

Pitino called back, and the two spoke for two minutes, Pitino said. Gatto asked Pitino if he was interested in Bowen, Pitino recalled.

"I said, 'Yeah... why do you ask?' He said, 'Because I know some of the people in the family, and I could put in some good words for you.'... That was it," Pitino said.

The conversation struck Pitino as unusual for a few reasons. Bowen had played for Nike-sponsored youth teams, so Pitino felt it unlikely an Adidas executive would have much sway. And, despite their long-running financial relationship, Pitino claims he had actually long felt Adidas ignored him and Louisville and steered more top recruits in the company's grass-roots leagues toward UCLA and Kansas.

Regarding this instance with Bowen, Pitino felt Gatto was trying to take credit for a recruit Louisville was about to land on its own.

"I already knew we had the kid," Pitino said. "So, I just felt like he was trying to take a bow, so to speak."

The night of May 28, a Sunday, Pitino, the Bowen family and Dawkins had dinner at Griff's, a Southern comfort food restaurant in Louisville. Over chicken fingers and fries, Pitino said, he asked questions about something that bothered him Why was such a good player still uncommitted this late in the year?

Many schools had given all of their basketball scholarships for the following year, and Louisville had only one left. Louisville also had used up all of its official visits allotted by the NCAA, so the Bowens had to pay for their visit.

Bowen had considered Michigan State and Arizona, he and his parents explained, but both teams had players they had hoped would leave for the NBA who decided to remain in school, making it unlikely Bowen would start as a freshman.

"That made complete sense to me, so my antennas came back down," Pitino said. When the meal ended, Pitino said, he paid for his chicken fingers, Dawkins and the Bowens paid for theirs, and the coach headed home brimming with confidence that he'd landed perhaps the missing piece for his eighth Final Four team.

"I felt like he was running out of time, didn't have a scholarship, and I was the last guy on the block... this was the luckiest thing that had ever happened to me in recruiting," Pitino said.

On June 1, news that Bowen was committing to Louisville began to circulate. Gatto, the Adidas executive, left Pitino a voicemail.

"Heard the good news, um, it's going to be great, and I'm excited for you guys," Gatto said, according to Pitino's records. Pitino didn't call back, instead texting the next day, asking for a pair of Yeezys, Kanye West's shoe line with Adidas.

"For recruiting," Pitino explained. "My longest conversations with Gatto have been about the Yeezys, which he could never get for me."

In interviews and text messages after Bowen's announcement, Pitino repeatedly expressed amazement that he'd landed a five-star recruit who paid for his own visit.

"Never spent a penny," he texted Willard, his former assistant. "Most athletic talent I've had since 96 UK."

Unbeknown to him, Pitino claims, someone had agreed to spend some money to get Bowen to Louisville. According to the FBI, while he was helping the Bowen family navigate the college recruitment process, Dawkins also had been negotiating with Gatto, who agreed to pay $100,000, in four installments, to Bowen's father, to ensure his son attended one of Adidas' premier endorsed teams.

On July 13, Dawkins made a phone call to Bowen's father, Brian Sr., that was recorded via wiretap, according to the FBI. The two discussed an upcoming trip in which Bowen's father would drive to New Jersey, to pick up $19,500 in cash. Left unexplained is what happened with the remaining $5,500 in Adidas money that was supposed to go to Bowen's father.

On Sept. 13, according to a complaint, Gatto was recorded on a wiretapped call with another Adidas official discussing arrangements for the next $25,000 payment. The money never got to Bowen's father.

On Sept. 26, the FBI arrested Gatto, Dawkins, and eight others, including assistant coaches at four schools. While no coaches at Louisville or Miami were arrested, criminal complaints alleged coaches at both schools knew of Adidas agreeing to pay for recruits.

That morning, Pitino was sitting in his office on campus at Louisville with David Novak, the former chief executive of fast food conglomerate Yum! Brands, recording a podcast about motivation and leadership. Pitino was in an especially good mood, he recalled, and a conversation scheduled for 40 minutes had topped two hours when Pitino's executive assistant threw open the door.

"Coach, we got a problem," his assistant said. "The FBI just stopped (Louisville assistant) Jordan Fair at the airport."

"The FBI?" Pitino replied. "What are you talking about?"

Pitino was not recorded speaking to either Dawkins or Gatto when the FBI had their phones wiretapped, according to his attorney, Marc Mukasey.

"There's no case against him" said Mukasey. "He's got nothing to fear."

This is not necessarily exonerating information, however. It appears, in court records, that the FBI didn't begin recording Dawkins' phone until June 19, and Gatto's until Aug. 7 - both well after Bowen's recruitment.

"I wish I was on a wiretap, because that would declare my innocence, 100 percent," Pitino said.

Even if Pitino avoids charges, however, the most difficult evidence for him to explain to a prospective employer will be what took place in a Las Vegas hotel room last July 27, when Louisville assistant Fair was in town to scout the Adidas summer championships. According to the FBI, Fair attended a sting operation in which Dawkins and several other men, including an undercover FBI agent, discussing paying another recruit's family.

Fair, whom Louisville fired last fall, has not returned multiple phone calls, and neither has his attorney. According to Pitino, in two brief phone calls last September, Fair claimed he'd made an innocent mistake. He ran into an old friend - Brad Augustine, who managed an Orlando area travel team sponsored by Adidas - and decided to have a drink at a hotel. Augustine invited Fair to a meeting in a hotel room, and Fair pleaded ignorance to Pitino about the nature of the meeting.

"He said to me... I saw an envelope in the table, so I left the room right away. That's what he told me. And I screamed at him," Pitino said.

The FBI's description of that meeting in a criminal complaint suggests Fair was more involved. At one point, an FBI agent asserted, as Dawkins discussed paying the mother of high school player from Florida to ensure her son attended Louisville in 2019, Fair said, "We've got to be very low-key," because Louisville was on probation for the stripper party scandal.

Later in the meeting, an undercover FBI agent handed Augustine an envelope containing $12,700 cash that was meant for the mother of a recruit.

Fair had left the room, however, when Dawkins made a claim the FBI has repeated in court documents that a few months before, when Dawkins was running the recruiting process for Bowen, another shoe company had briefly outbid Adidas, and he urged Pitino to make a phone call to Gatto to get more money.

"The reason he did that was the assistant of mine would have gone berserk," Pitino said. "He waited for him to leave the room."

In the various factions that have formed around this case, there are several theories about what actually happened, based on the evidence made public so far.

Those skeptical of Pitino note that he could be lying and escaping criminal charges not because he wasn't involved in arranging the payments for Bowen's father but because the FBI didn't have wiretaps on Dawkins and Gatto during Bowen's recruitment.

Those supporting Pitino, meanwhile, offer a theory that could explain why, in addition to Louisville, no one at Miami has been arrested, even though the FBI has also asserted Miami coaches were involved in arranging an Adidas payment for a recruit, also based on statements made by Dawkins Maybe Dawkins was lying, boasting about Pitino and Larranaga to establish his bona fides as a legitimate dealmaker on the college sports black market.

As the FBI was listening to Dawkins' phone calls last summer, he was trying to start his own professional sports agency. During that meeting in Las Vegas, the undercover FBI agent was posing as a potential investor in Dawkins' new company.

In their meetings with prosecutors in New York, Marcos Jimenez - one of Pitino's lawyers, also a former federal prosecutor - said he floated this theory.

"I told them this case is just Dawkins shooting his mouth off," Jimenez said. "They [the prosecutors] reacted like I hit a nerve. Like they were concerned it might be true."

In the weeks after Louisville fired him last October, Pitino told family and friends he was done coaching. This sentiment did not last.

"When you're somebody who's been at the height of this game for so long, you certainly want to be able to go out on your terms," said Richard Pitino, Rick's son and head coach at Minnesota. "This would be the exact opposite of that."

His children want him to work in the NBA, while his wife would like him to return to the college ranks. He has hired an agent and had preliminary discussions with a few schools, Pitino said, declining to specify which ones. He acknowledged his next job offer may not come from a school at the level of Kentucky or Louisville, and said that doesn't bother him.

"It doesn't have to be for a lot of money, it doesn't have to be at a high level," he said. "But I want you to believe in me, and what I teach, how I mentor, how I motivate. If you believe in me, I'll consider it."

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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

Utah baseball coach Bill Kinneberg's return has been relatively seamless. He spent a recent practice session bouncing around the Utes' practice field on Guardsman Way overseeing drills in the outfield, watching his pitchers throw bullpen sessions, having conversation with players and staff.

Kinneberg wasn't interested in getting overly introspective about the time he spent away from the team during a university-imposed 14-game suspension, nor was he interested in making excuses for Utah's underwhelming start to the season (2-17 overall, 1-2 Pac-12). His primary interest is seeing his team make immediate strides.

"It's definitely nice to have coach K back," junior outfielder DaShawn Keirsey Jr. said. "He's a good locker room guy, a good team coach. I personally really enjoy having him on the field."

Kinneberg served a suspension for an NCAA rules violation involving a former staff member who engaged in impermissible practice and coaching activities. As the coach, Kinneberg was culpable and wasn't allowed to participate in practices and games once the suspension started.

"For me it was a tough month, but we're back and it's past us - at least that part of it is," Kinneberg said. "We'll move on from it. It's unfortunate that I was away and not with them. Whether that would've changed anything, who knows? I'm back, so that's what's important now."

Kinneberg said being away hasn't hindered him from having a feel for his team. He had fall ball and preseason to work with the players. As far as how tough it was personally for Kinneberg, now in his 15th season and having led the program from the bottom of the Pac-12 to a conference title two years ago, he wouldn't go down that path.

"We won't get into that," Kinneberg said after a slight chuckle and a pause.

The Utes have lost six one-run games so far this season, including Tuesday night's extra-inning rivalry game against BYU in Provo. The Utes have lost another five games by two runs.

Inexperience has been glaring for the Utes this season. They came into the season with 14 newcomers. Catcher Zack Moeller, the team's top returning home run hitter, had Tommy John surgery and will miss the season. The starting pitching rotation for this weekend features three pitchers - junior left-hander Joshua Tedeschi, senior right-hander Tanner Thomas and freshman right-hander Brett Brocoff - with just three career starts before this season.

Kinneberg, for the most part, has brushed aside talk of injuries and youth as simply the cards that have been dealt. He's more concerned about getting this group to come up with one more crucial hit or defensive play to make the difference in tight games. He expressed confidence the team will turn it around.

"As time goes on this year, I want to see that improvement and not wait until next year to see it," Kinneberg said. "And that team that won the [Pac-12] championship went through a lot of this same thing. They were all freshmen. They were all playing. We were getting our butts kicked, and it was hard and they learned.

"I'm just hoping that this group of young guys are learning throughout the process and understanding what it takes and how to go about things and how to deal with the difficulties and flush those things and get back to the next pitch or the next game. That's what that club learned. So we're going through a little bit of that, and we'll see how tough our club is."

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Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA)

 

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — A coach who ran a program for Iowa's top youth basketball players wants out of jail pending trial on charges that he secretly recorded some of them undressing.

An attorney for ex-Iowa Barnstormers director Greg Stephen argued in a filing Tuesday that he's not a danger to the community or a flight risk. Stephen has been in custody since he was arrested last week on a charge of knowingly transporting child pornography.

Court documents allege that Stephen has admitted to taking secret videos of three players disrobing in a hotel bathroom in Illinois in January.

He's expected to appear in court today for a hearing on the government's request that he be detained until trial, which hasn't been set. Co-defense attorney Mark Meyer said Stephen has no prior criminal record, strong community ties and scored low on risk assessments.

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Copyright 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

 

Despite the University of New Mexico's athletics budget spiraling toward a record shortfall, a proposal will be made Thursday to the Board of Regents to forgive in one fashion or another all but $1.1 million of the department's deficit.

That would be cut from what now appears to be a total accumulated deficit owed to main campus reserves of more than $7.5 million, a figure that ballooned by about $3 million this fiscal year.

The remaining deficit for Lobo athletics, according to a memo written Tuesday to the Regents by first-year athletics director Eddie Nuñez in advance of Thursday's campus-wide Budget Summit with the Regents, would be placed in a 10-year plan of $110,000 repayments for nine years and the remaining $140,824 paid in the final year.

"With direction from the University Administration," Nuñez wrote in the memo, "the proposal is to have the Board of Regents buy out a substantial portion of the athletics department deficit using specific funds available to them which to date have not been designated for other purposes."

Athletics has already received this year from main campus a $1.3 million transfer to help cover some of its shortfall this fiscal year, but is still projecting coming up an additional $2 million short.

Thursday, athletics is expected to propose "use of regent funding" of $5.6 million, according to the memo. Where exactly that "regent funding" is expected to come from, or who in the UNM administration exactly gave Nuñez the direction to even make such a unique proposal, is unclear for now.

Nuñez said Tuesday night he would wait until Thursday's presentation to comment. UNM Regent President Rob Doughty, who last month acknowledged he was exploring options to forgive what then was thought to be a $4.7 million accumulated deficit, told the Journal on Tuesday night he had just received the memo and would reserve comment until Thursday's presentation.

Thursday's Budget Summit is geared at the Regents being presented with and possibly approving major 2019 fiscal year budget proposals from departments all over campus. In athletics, however, where there hasn't been a balanced budget in eight of the previous 10 fiscal years and where the past 11 months have seen the retirement of former athletic director Paul Krebs after numerous questionable financial matters surfaced through intense media scrutiny and multiple state agency investigations into the department, there will be no new budget proposal.

Instead the entire portion of Thursday's meeting devoted to athletics will focus on what is now projected to be a $3.3 million deficit this fiscal year.

That would be more than double any deficit in the past decade (the previous high was a $1.54 million in 2016).

In a portion of Nuñez's memo with the heading of "Rationale for Reducing Cumulative Deficit," he states: "The deficit has been accumulating since 2006 with numerous factors contributing to it. This includes expenses outpacing revenues, expenses being understated, revenues being overstated, a lack of consistent fiscal oversight within the department and university, and a lower level of institutional support compared to our peer institutions."

The Journal has reported in each of the past several years that the athletics department made a habit of projecting ticket revenues for football, men's basketball and women's basketball that either had never been met before or only met in record-setting seasons. They were not based on historical data.

Last May athletics proposed football ticket revenue of $1.9 million (it missed this past fall by nearly $400,000), men's basketball ticket revenue of $4.2 million (it missed by nearly $550,000) and women's basketball ticket revenue of $330,000 (it cleared that by nearly $70,000).

The Journal asked athletics and the Regents then if that was appropriate to be projecting such optimistic numbers. Deputy Athletic Director Brad Hutchins said football was coming off another bowl game (in the 2016 season) and the hiring of new basketball coach Paul Weir were factored into their optimistic projections.

Doughty, who also questioned the ticket revenue projections at that May meeting, told the Journal afterward, "I'm very optimistic that athletics can hit the 2018 projection and have a balanced budget next year."

UNM football won three games this past season and had an average home attendance of 21,194. Men's basketball attendance was 10,833 per home, the lowest since the Pit opened.

In August 2016, when the Journal asked the regents the same question about building future budgets on optimistic projections shortly after what then was a $1.54 million deficit, Regent Maron Lee said "I'd say it's optimism with accountability. Obviously we have concerns. We have the fiduciary responsibility of the entire university."

Since Nuñez has been hired, he has maintained he has been continuing to evaluate all financial aspects of the embattled department and promises to be transparent moving forward with such things as realistic revenue projections.

In November, he told the Journal, "First of all, we're going to look a lot more into history - the historical data - and we're going to gauge fan interest and everything else when we make our projections."

It is anticipated that David Harris, UNM's Executive Vice President for Administration, CFO and COO, will be a part of Thursday's presentation.

Other than ticket shortfalls, other major misses by UNM athletics in the current fiscal year appear to be coming up $600,000 short on fundraising, overspending a line called "supplies" by $480,000 and overspending on grant-in-aid (including scholarships and aid to student athletes) by almost $800,000.

Nuñez wrote he hopes to have the athletics budget for the 2019 fiscal year completed by the regents' next Finance and Facilities committee meeting, which is scheduled for April 10.

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The Press Enterprise (Riverside, CA)

 

A woman suing Cerritos College's administration is accusing college leaders of negligence and other misdeeds by failing to warn her that a college football player - recently convicted of raping the plaintiff - had pleaded guilty to a prior rape before enrolling at the college.

A Los Angeles County jury convicted the football player, 22-year-old Kishawn Holmes of Hemet, of forcible rape on Thursday. Facts of the case provided by a Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office statement match events described in the complaint filed against Cerritos College leadership, and attorney Allegra Rineer said the criminal and civil cases involve the same victim, identified in the civil complaint only as Jane W.J. Doe.

The case names Holmes as well as the Cerritos Community College District and Cerritos College Dean of Student Services Elizabeth Miller as defendants.

"They brought a sexual predator on to campus, and he did exactly what sexual predators do," Rineer said.

Cerritos College spokeswoman Miya Walker said in an email Monday that the college has yet to be served with the lawsuit and could not comment on the specifics of the case.

"While the incident did not occur at the college, we take the well-being of our students very seriously and have policies and procedures on student conduct, and require sexual violence and harassment prevention trainings," Walker wrote.

Miller, who Rineer said was named as a defendant because of her duties to oversee admissions to Cerritos College, could not be reached for comment.

Holmes was in custody on Monday, according to online booking records.

The filing against the college alleges negligence, sexual discrimination or harassment in an educational institution and constructive fraud. Doe's complaint also extends the latter two allegations against Holmes, in addition to allegations of sexual assault and sexual battery.

Doe was a kinesiology student at Cerritos College and met Holmes in her role as a student athletic trainer, according to the complaint.

Doe helped Holmes with stretching, icing and other physical therapy-related tasks, but had no knowledge of his criminal history, according to the complaint. The filing goes on to report that Holmes raped Doe on Sept, 8, 2016, after she agreed to meet him at his apartment to give him a back massage to aid Holmes' recovery from an injury.

That's the same date given by the District Attorney's Office for the crime. Prosecutors reported that Holmes' victim was 19 at the time she was attacked.

The civil filing states that Holmes was accepted to Cerritos College and permitted to play running back for the football team's 2015 season even though he was on probation for an earlier crime.

Holmes, who was 17 at the time of the crime, agreed to a plea in 2014 following criminal charges involving a student at Vista Murrieta High School.

Riverside County district attorney's spokesman John Hall confirmed Monday that shortly after Holmes was charged with raping a Cerritos College student, Holmes had pleaded guilty to forcible rape in April 2014. Holmes and his family denied the charges.

Doe did not learn of the earlier case until after she was assaulted and a friend gave her a link to online news coverage of Holmes' past.

Doe told her parents about the attack in January 2017, and her parents in turn reported the case to the school's athletic trainer. Cerritos College's investigation began last February, and the complaint reports that Doe learned that college personnel had been aware of Holmes' criminal record after meeting with the college's investigator.

"She felt betrayed by the college, and she felt that the college should have, at minimum, warned her," Rineer said.

"She never would have agreed to have been alone with Mr. Holmes," Rineer added.

Cerritos College denied Doe's request for special arrangements that would have prevented her from being in contact with Holmes or having anything to do with him while fulfilling her activities in the athletic training program, according to the complaint. Doe responded by quitting her studies at Cerritos College, and Rineer said she has enrolled in classes at another school.

"Having to deal with sexual assault is devastating for any victim," Rineer said. "There's depression, anxiety, feelings of guilt and it derailed her educational goals."

Cerritos College's investigation concluded in November that Holmes "was responsible for 'sexual harassment, failure to obtain affirmative consent and sexual assault in violation of Title IX and campus policy,' " according to the complaint.

Following his conviction earlier this month, Holmes faces a maximum 18-year prison sentence and a lifetime requirement to register as a sex offender, according to prosecutors.

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

 

RALEIGH - In 2005, the NBA created a rule that prevented 18-year-old high school seniors from jumping directly to pro basketball. Intended to allow young athletes time to mature before entering the NBA, the rule brought about "one-and-done" college players and could be one of the root causes of a burgeoning college basketball scandal.

The rule, part of the NBA collective bargaining agreement, led directly to the influx of freshmen who play one year of college basketball before entering the NBA Draft. It also increased the temptation for some high school stars and their families - who fear they're missing out on millions of dollars - to accept money from agents or apparel companies.

In September, the FBI and other federal authorities announced a sweeping investigation into bribery and corruption in college basketball. According to the FBI indictments, families of college basketball recruits were paid $100,000 and more.

At the core of the FBI investigation was money from athletic apparel giant adidas allegedly being used to pay the families of basketball recruits in exchange for attending colleges with adidas deals, to pay college coaches to veer those players toward certain agents and financial advisers linked to the apparel company.

A spokesman for N.C. State, which has an apparel contract with adidas, said this month that the university had received a subpoena in January requesting documents related to the case. The News & Observer reported on Friday that the subpoena requested documents related to the recruitment of point guard Dennis Smith, who played for the Wolfpack as a freshman last year before being drafted by the NBA's Dallas Mavericks.

Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, who built his program around one-and-done players recently, has nonetheless said he'd be in favor of letting high school players jump straight to the pros.

The nation's best high school basketball players don't like the rule.

All of which begs the question: Why should someone have to be 19 years old or one year out of high school to be able to play in the NBA?

The NBA reconsiders

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said the rule isn't working, and there are reports that he may be ready to change it.

According to a report by Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, Silver is considering a change that would end the rule. The report said the NBA could give elite high school players alternate paths to the NBA, whether in select basketball academies or through its developmental G League.

No longer would colleges be used as a one-year "pit stop," as NCAA president Mark Emmert has referred to it.

Silver last fall met with NBAPA executive director Michele Roberts and the newly formed Commission on College Basketball to discuss several issues, including "one-and-done" problems.

The commission, which is chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, was created after the FBI announced its investigation in September.

In a press conference before the 2017 NBA Finals, Silver said the eligibility rule was "not working for anyone."

"We think we have a better draft when we've had an opportunity to see these young players play at an elite level before they come into the NBA," Silver said. "On the other hand, I think the question for the league is in terms of their ultimate success, are we better off intersecting with them a little bit younger?"

Ten of the first 11 picks in the 2017 NBA draft were college freshmen, including Smith, taken ninth by the Dallas Mavericks. In the past 10 drafts, 55 one-and-done players have been taken in the NBA Draft Lottery, which represents the top 14 picks.

"I think they should change the rule," N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts said recently. "If you're good enough to go play, nobody should tell you (you) shouldn't be able to."

Mixed results

A little history: The first high school player to enter pro basketball was center Moses Malone, who signed with the ABA in 1974 and went into the NBA when the leagues merged. Two other high schoolers followed, Darryl Dawkins and Bill Willoughby, both in 1975.

In 1995, the arrival and instant success of Kevin Garnett out of high school made immediate entry into the NBA more the norm. Kobe Bryant came, then Jermaine O'Neal, both first-round draft picks.

NBA scouts began to pack more high school gyms, and more first-round picks were used on high-schoolers. Some were great picks - LeBron James in 2003 an obvious example. Some were not - Kwame Brown, a 6-11 center who was the first overall pick in 2001 by the Washington Wizards.

Brown fizzled, as did other high school kids not yet mature enough or their games polished enough to play in the NBA. David Stern, then the NBA commissioner, proposed a minimum age of 20 for entry into the league, but the NBA and NBA Players Association settled on 19 as the minimum age and the "one year removed from high school" as the criteria.

The one-and-done era of college basketball also was about to begin. A total of 113 freshmen have been drafted since 2006, 21 from Kentucky and 10 from Duke - North Carolina and N.C. State each have had two.

"There's nothing perfect," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "The one-and-done has been helpful to the NBA because they haven't made as many mistakes."

FBI documents

Earlier this month, Yahoo Sports reported that N.C. State, Duke, Alabama, Kentucky, Michigan State, Southern Cal and other schools were named in documents as having players who are alleged to have received various amounts of impermissible benefits.

The first-year contract for NBA rookie Smith with the Dallas Mavericks pays the former N.C. State guard $2.6 million this season. Without the NBA rule, he could have bypassed college and made big bucks last season in the NBA.

Yahoo Sports reported that discovery documents in the federal investigation into college basketball showed Smith accepted money from former sports agent Andy Miller and his firm, ASM Sports.

Smith did not sign with ASM after his one year with the Wolfpack in 2016-17.

A balance sheet cited in the story, dated Dec. 31, 2015, notes that Smith had received a loan for $43,500. Other documents in the Yahoo report state that Smith owed $73,500 in loans he received from ASM.

"And this is just one agent," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "Do you not think these other agents aren't doing anything, not going after parents and talking to parents? Agents are going to do that."

"I don't mind guys coming for one year. We've had them. But if they really want to go, they should be able to go."

Spurring change

Krzyzewski, who won an NCAA championship in 2015 with one-and-done players, has nonetheless spoken out against the NBA rule. In a Fox Sports podcast in November, he said, "I would totally be for kids being able to go to the NBA - and have always been in favor of kids being able to go right to the pros and not putting any restrictions on them as to how long they have to stay"

The allegations stemming from the FBI investigation now could spur change. It's possible the league and NBAPA could agree to lower the age to 18.

A change in the rules would mean that players like Duke's Marvin Bagley or former Word of God and Kentucky star John Wall or N.C. State's Smith would never play a game of college basketball in future seasons.

"I do not think it would affect our game one bit if guys go straight to the NBA from high school," Keatts said.

Boeheim noted it might only affect six or eight players a year, saying, "That's not going to change anything. Not one thing. We can easily survive that."

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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

The next athletic director at the University at Buffalo will slide into the job during perhaps the greatest period of athletic accomplishment in the university's history. The school is ready to announce who that will be.

UB has called a news conference for 11 a.m. Wednesday morning to reveal the heir to Allen Greene, who was hired into the athletic director position at Auburn slightly more than two months ago.

Interest in UB athletics has reached unprecedented levels. The women's basketball team has advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 on the heels of the men's team's resounding first-round upset of Arizona.

What's more, in June UB received approval from the State Division of Budget to move forward with plans to construct an $18 million field house adjacent to Alumni Arena. The field house, tentatively scheduled for completion in the spring of 2019, is regarded as a vital component in football recruiting, among other things.

The football team is coming of a 6-6 season that made it bowl-eligible, although it was not selected to participate in a game. The two pillars of the Bulls' offense, quarterback Tyree Jackson and wideout Anthony Johnson, both return. Johnson, a senior, is considered a potential early-round NFL draft pick.

The announcement of the new athletic director will take place in The Buffalo Room on the ground floor of Capen Hall on UB's North Campus. Shortly thereafter the women's basketball team will depart for Albany to prepare for Saturday's Sweet 16 game against South Carolina.

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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

It was the third game during Eli Sharp's sophomore season at Central High when he finally had the chance to start as quarterback. Then, during the second half, he took a hit to his leg.

"I didn't know it had happened," said Eli Sharp. "It felt like a cramp and I kept playing through it, then it got to the point where I couldn't run on it." Mickey Brown, Central's certified athletic trainer, recommended getting an X-ray.

An X-ray at Knoxville Orthopaedic Clinic's (KOC) Saturday morning sports injury clinic revealed a fractured fibula. "I didn't know what to think," said Sharp. "I thought my team needs me and I can't be out there, and it was finally my time to play.

"I worked with Mickey once it started healing enough to where I could," said Sharp. The sophomore was cleared to play after missing six of the 10 regular season games.

Then, during a playoff game, Sharp was injured again. "I was running the ball and about to be tackled when my toe got caught in the turf, my foot got bent over." That meant six more weeks off, two of those spent in a cast.

The season may have been over, but thanks to Brown, Sharp was back working out with his teammates by mid-January and looking forward to two more years with the Bobcats.

"I think it taught me to work a little bit harder and to cherish the opportunity I have," said Sharp. And the advice he has for other high school athletes? "I would say take the exercises that your trainer gives you to do seriously and do them every day. Pay attention and see him before or after practice if you have any questions."

For more than a decade, KOC has invested in a sports medicine outreach program providing year-round certified athletic trainers at Knox County high schools and doctors on the sidelines at football games.

"I cover pretty much all sports," said Brown, who is employed by KOC. "I do prevention, recognition, evaluation and rehabilitation of athletic injuries - sprains, strains, bruises, broken bones, dislocated joints, concussions and a variety of cuts and scrapes.

"There's the difference between a freshman who has never lifted a weight and a senior who has lifted weights for several years and gone through puberty," said Brown. "That can be an unfair advantage."

The mental aspect is another important factor, according to Brown. "Hormones are raging and they are starting to bulk up and grow," he said. "Teens can be irrational and act without thinking.

"Every sport has become specialized, so everybody is training year-round," said Brown. "You can get some overuse and breakdown. If you change it up and do something different it will give certain body parts a break. Personally, I think it's better to give their bodies a break."

"Mickey is unbelievable at what he does," said Central football coach Bryson Rosser. "He's so patient with the kids. There's nothing he hasn't seen. He always has a plan of action and I never have to doubt what he's telling me."

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said betting should be legalized, and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has said it could enhance fan interest in the sport.

WASHINGTON - With the Supreme Court poised to rule on a case that could end the federal ban on sports gambling, more than a third of U.S. states are considering legislation to get in on the action, and professional leagues and casino interests are lobbying against each other for the biggest cut of the winnings. The push to legalize betting on sports has already led to fractures in an uneasy alliance that had developed between leagues and gambling legalization advocates before Supreme Court arguments last fall.

The NBA and Major League Baseball have been asking states to give them 1 percent of the total amount wagered on their games, calling it an "integrity fee" so they can protect their products and snuff out attempts at cheating and game-fixing.

"Now, let's be clear - that's just a euphemism for a cut of the action," Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill U.S., a sports book operator, told New York state lawmakers in January. "There will be plenty of financial benefits to the leagues."

Gambling proponents say kicking back that much to the leagues would make sports books unprofitable and prevent a legal, regulated betting market from developing. They're seeking an arrangement similar to what exists in Nevada, where the state takes 6.75 percent of winnings on top of a federal tax of 0.25 percent of the amount wagered.

Casinos have a built-in edge when it comes to battling in statehouses. Casinos are legal in 40 states; the commercial companies and American Indian tribes that run them are well-versed in dealing with regulators and state lawmakers. The NBA and MLB are new to lobbying states on gambling and have sometimes relied upon the bully pulpit of their commissioners to get their point across.

"The leagues feel like they're out of their element, and that's making them uncomfortable," said Kevin Braig, a Columbus, Ohio-based attorney, gambling industry analyst and handicapper. "The gaming industry lobbies all the states. I think it goes even beyond that: They're almost partners in what they're doing. They have a very close relationship because they have very closely overlapping interests."

Before the Supreme Court heard New Jersey's challenge to the 1992 federal law limiting sports betting to the four states that already had laws on the books, casino interests - and their influential trade group, the American Gaming Association - were encouraged by the professional leagues' changing attitudes about gambling, even as leagues argued before the justices the ban should remain. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said betting should be legalized, and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has said it could enhance fan interest in the sport. Although the NFL remains publicly opposed to gambling, Commissioner Roger Goodell has said his position has "evolved."

The NFL and the NCAA have sat out the debate entirely in states considering legislation. That's despite the fact 31 percent of sports gambling winnings in Nevada last year came from football bets, and more is wagered on college basketball's NCAA Tournament than on the Super Bowl.

The NBA and MLB argue their reputations are on the line because of the possibility of games being fixed. Sports fans are still familiar with the Black Sox scandal of 1919, Pete Rose's lifetime banishment from baseball for betting on games and a point-shaving scandal involving former NBA referee Tim Donaghy.

"The damage from even a hint of scandal will hurt the sports leagues far worse than anyone else," said Bryan Seeley, senior vice president and deputy general counsel at MLB.

State regulators monitor wagering 24/7 in Nevada, and the leagues pay contractors to monitor overseas bets.

Casinos argue sports books don't make much money and are really there to get gamblers in the door. Unlike blackjack or slots, where casinos have a house edge, sports books make money by encouraging individual gamblers to each side of a wager, and then charging a percentage for placing the bet. Casinos say leagues will benefit from enhanced fan interest and gambling-company sponsorships.

Bills to legalize sports betting have been introduced in 18 states. This month, West Virginia approved a bill that would legalize sports betting immediately if the Supreme Court allows it. A decision by the court is expected this spring.

Mississippi, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania have also already authorized sports gambling. New York is considering whether to expand a law already on the books to allow sports gambling at racetracks and betting parlors. In Iowa, a bill to authorize sports books has advanced out of committee.

The states that have only introduced bills or are not as far along in the process are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and South Carolina.

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

It's a good thing the NFL's competition committee - hunkered down in Palm Beach, Fla., before heading to next week's league meeting in Orlando - doesn't have to come up with an unofficial name for a catch rule that's again under review.

Call it the Dez Bryant Rule? The Jesse James Rule? The Megatron Factor? The Bert Emanuel Principle?

There has been so much confusion over the years for what constitutes a legitimate catch in the NFL that a cleaner, simpler rule could ignite its own debate amid the numerous controversies.

So how about just calling it the "Common Sense Rule."

"When all the stakeholders are saying the same thing - it's too confusing - we have to bring clarity and simplify," Troy Vincent, the league's executive vice president of football operations, told USA TODAY.

"Ultimately, what does the game want? Those magical moments and catches. They live with people forever."

The would-be catches live on, too - in infamy.

Ask a die-hard Cowboys fan if Bryant caught the ball as he lunged for the goal line at Lambeau Field in the divisional round of the playoffs three years ago, the game hanging in the balance. By NFL law, the play was ruled incomplete. It sure looked like a catch.

In Pittsburgh, they felt robbed when the namesake of the notorious outlaw had a go-ahead touchdown grab with 28 seconds left against the Patriots last December nullified because, well, James "did not survive the ground." Whatever. That, too, looked like a monster catch.

But don't blame the officials. In the aforementioned cases, as well as so many others, the rulings (supported by replay reviews) were correctly called on the field in accordance with what was written in the rule book at the time.

Yet the rule is too confusing and often too silly - and way too embarrassing for a league that is challenged to raise the bar (other issues included) on the credibility meter. That's why owners will vote on a revised catch rule designed to appease the stakeholders Vincent mentions - fans, players, coaches, officials, broadcasters, replay supervisors and your cousin Ida Lynn, too.

The competition committee, which previously met this year in New York and Indianapolis and is in the final stage of tightening up the language for the rule proposal, will undoubtedly push to eliminate the "survive the ground" standard. And here's a vote to allow some slack for slight movement of the ball.

During the scouting combine, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome (a longtime competition committee member, not to mention a Hall of Fame tight end) said the true measure of the updated language will hinge on whether it can consistently pass muster - like always, on the spot - with game officials, replay officials and fans.

"It's a lot tougher to do than it is to say," Newsome said of writing the rule.

Think of this as the guiding principle: You know a catch when you see it. Never mind that the ball rotated as the player twisted and fell to the ground. Forget that the receiver touched two feet in the end zone, then left the ball on the turf (hello, Calvin Johnson) as he began celebrating. With so many conditions attached to what constitutes a catch, common sense has been buried in the process, unable to survive the groundswell of some unnecessary input over the years.

Add high-definition TV to the mix, and we've discovered that even the most secured footballs have more movement than we ever imagined.

"Less is better," Vincent said, envisioning the new language. "And it's clear."

It was a little more than two years ago when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell assembled a blue-ribbon panel of experts - including current and former players, coaches and front office types. It was a noble effort to bring some clarity to the catch and maybe fuel a better rule. The so-called "catch committee" spent hours studying video and brainstorming. After several weeks, they concluded that nothing needed to be done.

Baloney.

That was not the answer the NFL needed - or wanted.

So this time around different voices were heard, including those of Giants star Odell Beckham Jr., Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow, 49ers legend Dwight Clark and former Giants wideout Amani Toomer.

"What changed? We asked a different question," Vincent said when comparing the "catch committee" to the new advisers.

"The question was: 'Do you want that to be a catch.' Before, it was: 'Based on the rule, is that officiated correctly?' "

A clarified version will require 24 affirmative votes from the owners. But like last year's philosophical shift to allow TD celebrations - they sparked creativity from players that we never knew existed - a revised catch rule looms to be a big winner.

As Vincent put it, "When you listen, you learn, and you adjust."

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Copyright 2018 BridgeTower Media
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Finance and Commerce

 

The Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis and other wildlife advocates are bringing some of the nation's top bird mortality experts to town as they renew their push to protect birds from fatal collisions with the glass walls of U.S. Bank Stadium.

One of the experts already has a remedy: window film.

Armed with information from the experts, the wildlife groups hope to issue a report by Jan. 1 and use it as a springboard for a bird-safety solution to be in place by spring 2020, said Jerry Bahls, president of the Audubon chapter.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority and the Vikings football team are paying for a separate study by university researchers due next year.

Bahls and others have said for years that U.S. Bank Stadium, which has 200,000 square feet of exterior glass in downtown Minneapolis, would be a death trap for birds. During the 2016 fall migration season, 60 birds died and 14 were injured after colliding with the stadium's glass windows, according to a February 2017 study conducted by the local Audubon chapter, the Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds, and the Friends of Roberts Bird Sanctuary.

Daniel Klem, professor of ornithology and conservation biology at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania, will kick off the series of bird safety talks on Wednesday with a presentation at the Springbrook Nature Center in Fridley.

For decades, a mountain of data has warned of the dangers of bird-glass collisions, said Klem, who has studied the issue since the 1970s. But in the end, the building's owner or operator needs to recognize that and buy into a solution, he said.

This is a worldwide issue. I just say, It's the glass, stupid,' said Klem in an interview. He plans to tour U.S. Bank Stadium before his presentation.

Asked about his recommendations for the stadium, Klem said he would offer what is available, which is window film. He said exterior window films have been effective at other locations, such as the Toronto Zoo, in protecting birds.

Protective window film can be applied on either the interior or exterior side of the glass, he said. The danger of collisions is much greater on the building's lower level, especially when there's vegetation around, he added.

Other speakers coming to town in future weeks include Christine Sheppard, the bird collisions campaign manager for the Virginia-based American Bird Conservancy, and Michael Mesure, the executive director and co-founder of the Toronto-based Fatal Light Awareness Program.

The Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds says on itswebsitethat birds are vulnerable to glass because they can't distinguish between an actual object and a reflection of the object.

The U.S. Bank Stadium is on the Mississippi flyway, and about 50 percent of North America's migratory birds pass over the flyway during spring and fall migration, according to the Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds.

Citing a study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Smithsonian Institution, the Minnesota Audubon Society says up to 988 million birds are killed each year by colliding with buildings in the nation.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources warned of bird-mortality concerns at the stadium as far back as 2012. The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority says it's looking into bird-safety issues with a four-year study that will conclude in 2019. Previously, the MSFA talked about partnering with Maplewood-based 3M Co. on a bird-safety solution. The MSFA on Monday declined to comment on the status of the 3M partnership.

Based on the fall 2016 migration period, about 360 birds would be killed over a three-year period or six migration periods at U.S. Bank Stadium, according to the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis study. By comparison, the highest mortality recorded for a single building in Minneapolis was 250 birds over three years.

Jenn Hathaway, communications director for the MSFA, said in an email that Audubon Minnesota, in collaboration with Oklahoma State University and the University of Minnesota, has started a scientific study of bird collisions at the stadium.

Results of the $300,000 study, funded by the MSFA and the Vikings, will be available in 2019, she said.

The findings will be subject to peer review prior to publication, a process that will ensure the highest possible transparency, validity, and credibility of the study, Hathaway said. The MSFA, the Minnesota Vikings and Audubon Minnesota will continue to work collaboratively to ensure that these protocols are implemented appropriately.

Bahls said his group didn't perform a bird mortality study in fall 2017 because OSUand its research partners were already doing the same thing as part of the study funded by the MSFA and the Vikings football team.

Bahls said he hopes to get more information about bird-window collisions and potential solutions for U.S. Bank Stadium from the national experts.

The main emphasis is about retrofitting the stadium. It's not going to be, Take out the glass,' or something ridiculous. We hope to have something they will have to seriously consider doing, Bahls said.

Klem's presentation on Wednesday begins at 6:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, with a suggested donation of $5.

Copyright © 2018 BridgeTower Media. All Rights Reserved.

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Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA)

 

Elite facilities on the University of Wisconsin campus will continue to be the postseason destination for high school teams in five sports.

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association and the University of Wisconsin athletic department last week announced a five-year extension that grants the WIAA access to campus facilities in boys basketball, football, golf, softball and wrestling. The agreement keeps those state championships at university facilities through the 2024-school year.

The WIAA will continue to hold state swimming and tennis at University of Wisconsin facilities. But the WIAA holds contracts with a different entity, UW Recreation Sports, for those venues.

"We're absolutely thrilled and have been very happy and pleased with our relationship with the WIAA," Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said in a statement. "I think it is important for the university, for our department and also for the city that we maintain this relationship and continue to have the state championships here on campus."

The WIAA has held the boys state basketball tournament and the boys state individual wrestling tournaments at the Kohl Center since it opened in 1998. The state team wrestling tournament has been contested at the UW Field House since 2005.

The state football finals have been played at Camp Randall Stadium since 1982, and boys and girls state golf has taken place at University Ridge every year since 1994, with the exception of the girls tournament in 2012 because of course renovations. State softball has been played at Goodman Diamond since 2002.

"We're grateful to Coach Alvarez and his whole team for helping to put this into place," WIAA executive director Dave Anderson said in a statement. "We need to acknowledge the efforts of Deb Archer and the Conventional and Visitors Bureau, and Mayor Soglin and the City of Madison to continue to make this community and campus a welcoming place for WIAA sports fans."

According to the WIAA, a paid attendance of 220,557 witnessed state tournaments in Madison. That figure does not include participants, coaches and school administrators.

The WIAA oversees athletic programs for 512 senior high schools and 43 junior high/middle level schools. It sponsors 27 championship tournament series.

Email More than the Score items tojim.leitner@thmedia.com

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The Bismarck Tribune

 

UMBC made more than history in the NCAA Tournament.

By becoming the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1, the Retrievers made about $1.7 million for the America East Conference. Loyola-Chicago's buzzer-beating run to the Sweet 16 will be worth double that to the Missouri Valley Conference. Nevada's consecutive comebacks were also worth about $3.4 million for the Mountain West. The MVC and Mountain West will pocket at least as much from NCAA Tournament units as the Pac-12, which had three teams in the field, all bounced after one game each.

Units are what the NCAA calls its revenue distributions from the basketball performance fund, which rewards teams for tournament performance. The NCAA Tournament generates more than $700 million in revenue for the association and its schools, the vast majority from its media rights deal with CBS and Turner.

Units for this year's tournament are worth approximately $273,000, according to the NCAA, but their value ends up being greater than that.

The units are paid out annually each of the next six years, increasing in value each year by about 2-3 percent. The payout system means that one upset by UMBC should be worth more than $1.7 million. Units are earned every game a team appears in, with the exception of the first game played by an automatic qualifier and the NCAA championship game.

The money goes to the conferences, unless the school is an independent in basketball. The NCAA encourages equal distribution by conferences among its members, but it is not required. Most do.

The Missouri Valley has in the past received multiple bids, but only champion Loyola-Chicago got in as an automatic qualifier this year. The MVC distributes the units revenue equally among 10 members - though the NCAA Tournament participants receive an additional half-share to cover travel expenses, MVC spokesman Ryan Davis said Sunday.

The Atlantic Coast Conference has been rolling in units in recent years, with a total of 64 from 2015-17, worth more than $100 million . This season, the ACC got nine teams into the field, more than any other conference, and placed four teams in Sweet 16. Two of them - Duke and Syracuse - play in the regional semifinals, limiting the conference's earning potential.

The Big 12 also placed four teams in the round of 16. The Southeastern Conference and Big Ten each have two.

For the ACC - and other Power Five conferences - NCAA units account for less than 10 percent of conference revenue. The ACC reported $373.4 million in revenue for fiscal year 2016 - most of which comes from a television rights deals with ESPN - and paid out about $25 million to each of its members.

For low-major Division I schools such as UMBC and the eight other members of the America East, those units are real money.

UMBC's athletic budget for 2017 was $9.3 million. NCAA records from 2010-15 show the America East earned a total of eight units and $2,086,514 in basketball revenue.

Over that same period of time, the Missouri Valley earned 21 units and $5,477,099. The Mountain West earned 33 and $8,606,870.

All that money helps explain why the American Athletic Conference lured tournament-regular Wichita State from the MVC last year, despite the Shockers not having a football team, and why the Mountain West is trying to strike a similar deal to pull Gonzaga out of the West Coast Conference.

The Shockers went out in the first round, upset by Marshall, Conference USA's only tournament team. But Gonzaga is back in the Sweet 16 after padding the WCC coffers with a Final Four appearance last year.

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Abilene Reporter-News (Texas)

 

If this doesn't encourage you to squeeze in a workout today, nothing will: a new study from Sweden shows that women who were highly fit in mid-life were nearly 90% less likely to get dementia decades later.

After initial exercise tests in middle age, researchers followed the women for 44 years. Both groups lived just as long, but those who could ride an exercise bike at a fast rate for 6 minutes in the initial test had a much lower risk of dementia later on than those who couldn't complete the workout.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal Neurology, couldn't prove that exercise prevented dementia, and the findings aren't a surprise - it's long been known there's a correlation between exercise and decreased dementia risk - but the results were particularly dramatic.

About 5% of the women with the highest peak workload - those who were able to bike the hardest over those 6 minutes - developed dementia, compared to 25% of those with medium fitness and 45% who weren't fit enough to finish the test, the study found. Overall, women who were highly fit compared to those who were moderately fit decreased their risk of dementia by 88%.

The few highly fit women who did develop dementia became symptomatic at age 90 on average, 11 years later than the moderately fit.

"I'm very surprised that the finding was so strong," said Ingmar Skoog, the paper's senior author and a psychiatry professor at The University of Gothenburg in Sweden. "It really shows the importance of exercise."

However, the study was fairly small - only 191 women took the initial fitness test, which means it's hard to maintain statistical significance while breaking the group down into sub-categories of more or less fit. And all women in the study were Swedish, which limits the ability to generalize its conclusions to a more diverse population.

Alzheimer's and other dementias are believed to begin 15-20 years before symptoms even appear, so it makes sense that exercising in mid-life would affect the risk, Skoog said. Exercise alone is not likely to prevent Alzheimer's, but the study shows people are not helpless in the face of one of the most feared, costliest and common diseases of old age, he added.

And the same activities that help prevent Alzheimer's - including avoiding smoking, getting adequate exercise and sleep and eating a healthy diet - also prevent cardiovascular disease, he said, making them even more worthwhile. "You can do something yourself to decrease your odds," Skoog said.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle in mid-life, decades before disease sets in, makes sense, said David Knopman, a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, who was not involved in the study.

"I suspect it's a dose," said Knopman, also associate director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "Starting in late life is better than not starting at all, but starting in mid-life seems to confer a larger benefit."

Although it is not entirely clear why exercise helps put off or prevent Alzheimer's, Knopman said it's likely that exercise maintains good blood flow to the brain. "(When) the brain is healthier from a vascular point of view, it can absorb more Alzheimer's pathology before people become symptomatic," he said.

The message isn't that everyone needs to run marathons in middle age, Knopman said, but a healthy lifestyle pays off.

This type of study can't say exactly what kind of exercise is best, or how much is needed - only a study that has a placebo group and tracks people going forward can do that, said Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach at the non-profit Alzheimer's Association.

"The literature has not yet settled on an amount or type of exercise that is going to be key, although the bulk of literature has suggested that aerobic exercise is what you need to be doing," he said. That doesn't mean you have to compete in triathlons but "more than a 10-min dog walk" would be a good idea, Fargo said.

Several lifestyle studies are getting underway soon, including one backed by the Alzheimer's Association called the US POINTER study, which will offer at-risk adults, ages 60-79, a series of lifestyle interventions to see if they impact Alzheimer's risk. That and other Alzheimer's-related studies are always looking for volunteers to participate, he said.

In the next three to five years, these studies should allow researchers to provide clearer recommendations for exercise and other lifestyle modifications that might reduce Alzheimer's risk, such as sleep, diet and social activities, Fargo said.

But it's already quite clear that exercising at any point in life is better for your brain than not exercising at all, Fargo said.

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Copyright 2018 The Commercial Appeal, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

The University of Memphis announced a news conference for Tuesday to introduce its new men's basketball coach, who is expected to be former Tigers star Penny Hardaway.

While the school news release did not mention Hardaway, an athletic department official confirmed earlier on Monday that the event is intended to announce Hardaway's hiring.

The news conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. in the Laurie-Walton Family Basketball Center on the university's Park Avenue campus. The public is invited to attend, although the school said seating will be limited.

Hardaway, 46, will replace former coach Tubby Smith, who was fired Wednesday after two seasons.

This will be Hardaway's first college coaching job. He would be the third Memphis alumnus to lead the men's basketball team, joining Wayne Yates (1974-79) and Larry Finch (1986-97).

USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee reported Hardaway's expected hiring Thursday. Over the weekend, he led East High School to its third straight TSSAA Class AAA state championship.

One person with direct knowledge of the situation said last week that Hardaway's representatives had been in negotiations with university officials about a contract since the Tigers' season ended in the American Athletic Conference tournament semifinals.

One source close to Hardaway said he is fielding phone calls and inquiries from potential assistant coaches and staff members, although he has yet to decide what his staff at Memphis will look like.

Hardaway's return to campus should provide an instant jolt in fan excitement and on the recruiting trail. Hardaway has ties to several top-100 2019 recruits because he also runs the high profile Memphis-based AAU program, Team Penny.

Memphis finished with a 21-13 record this season and missed the postseason for the fourth straight year. After both of Smith's 2018 recruits decommitted last week, Hardaway will have at least three scholarships available to use next year.

Attendance at Tigers' home games hit a 48-year-low this season, and the athletic department could miss out entirely on an $800,000 payment from the Memphis Grizzlies as part of the school's lease with FedExForum.

Donations to the athletic department also decreased by $1.1 million during the 2016-17 fiscal year largely because of a drop in men's basketball season-ticket sales.

In the school's statement announcing Smith's firing, it cited "the best financial interest of the University of Memphis."

The hope is Hardaway's status as a local legend will immediately reverse those trends.

Hardaway starred at Treadwell High and chose to stay home and play at Memphis despite suitors from around the country.

He went on to earn All-America honors two years in a row for the Tigers (1991-92 and 1992-93) before being selected with the No. 3 overall pick in the 1993 NBA draft. He was a four-time All-Star and played 15 seasons in the NBA.

Hardaway returned to Memphis after his retirement and got involved in the city both philanthropically and through the grassroots basketball scene. He earned a bachelor's degree in professional studies from the university in 2003.

On Tuesday, he will officially begin a new era at Memphis.

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

For many Americans, curling is a spectacle to be enjoyed every four years, while watching the Winter Olympics on television. And in the Inland Northwest, there aren't many places to try playing the sport.

On Sunday and Monday evening, however, some 200 people gathered at the Frontier Ice Arena in Coeur d'Alene for massive group curling lessons led by members of the Coeur d'Alene Curling Club. They were children, teens and adults - mostly beginners unacquainted with the rules of the game and the tricky kneeling-sliding motion involved.

Ryan Montang, an amateur curler who teaches social studies at University High School, spent two hours coaching about a dozen of those people as they took turns launching themselves from the starting block, known as a "hack," and sliding as far as they could with a polished granite stone.

The goal, Montang explained, is to release the stone before it crosses the "hog line," aiming for a target at the other end of the curling sheet. To succeed in a curling competition, he said, it's important to communicate with teammates as they sweep just ahead of the stone, smoothing the ice so that it glides more easily.

"You need to have good improv skills and make adjustments as the stone is moving down the ice," Montang said. If the teammates with the brooms pave a good path for the stone, he said, "it will go farther and it will stay straighter because it's not grabbing the ice."

Some of the people who showed up for Monday's Learn to Curl event were naturals. Others slipped and fell on their first few sliding attempts. Montang offered a friendly reminder: "If you're on ice, you're going to fall sometime."

Andrea Fulks, of Post Falls, said curling was the only Olympic sport she bothered to watch this year, and she was surprised to learn there's a curling league in her area. She doesn't plan on joining it, though.

"I'm just doing this to write it off my bucket list," Fulks said, smiling. "I just want to do it this one time, and then I'm done."

Jay Weintraub, of Coeur d'Alene, went to the Frontier Ice Arena a second time Monday after taking part in the Learn to Curl event the previous evening with his wife and stepdaughter. He said he had played hockey and enjoyed ice skating, but never before had an opportunity to try curling.

"I just thought, at my age, it's a sport I might actually be good at," Weintraub said, adding that he was considering joining the curling league. "It is a lot harder than it looks."

The league's spring season is scheduled to begin Thursday and end May 10. Meets will be held each Thursday at the Frontier Ice Arena. The cost to register a team is $500, and the league will accept the first 16 teams that pay up front.

A sixth annual curling tournament, known as a bonspiel, will be held April 20 and April 21. Participants will camp out in the parking lot of the ice rink, and organizers say the competition will include thousands of dollars in prizes.

Because of the great turnout at the Sunday and Monday curling lessons, organizers will host a third lesson March 25 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The price of admission is $10 per person. More information is available at cdacurling.com, and questions can be emailed to cdacurling@gmail.com

"If I had more stability I think I could get the hang of it," said Jeff Hutchinson, who attended Monday's lesson with a buddy from Coeur d'Alene. "I'm definitely coming back on Sunday."

Contact the writer:

(509) 459-5047

chadso@spokesman.com

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Copyright 2018 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Brooke Wyckoff laughs now, but when the 37-year-old Florida State women's basketball assistant found out she was pregnant, she remembers thinking, "How hard could this working mom thing be?"

A former standout forward for the Seminoles, Wyckoff had seen other female coaches balance basketball and family. The first two years of her career, Wyckoff considered herself a solid multitasker. Then she had a baby, and her respect for working mothers — especially coaches — increased exponentially.

"There's nothing like winning a big game on the road," Wyckoff says, "then asking the trainer for a bag of ice to keep your breast milk cold while you walk through airport security with a cooler."

The women's NCAA tournament is here, and Wyckoff and third-seeded Florida State seek the program's first trip to the Final Four. Avery, her 4-year-old daughter, will watch from the stands. Across the country, dozens of moms — and dads — in coaching will spend the next few weeks juggling scouting reports and nursery rhymes, balancing practice and play dates. These moms say they face unique challenges on the job.

Working moms are the norm, according to the Department of Labor: 70% of mothers with children under 18 work, more than 75% of whom are employed full-time. Moms who work as Division I basketball coaches know it's not just a full-time gig — it's an all-the-time gig. They spend about 100 nights a year on the road, schedule births around the recruiting calendar, plan parent-teacher conferences between big games.

"Being a mom in coaching is like being part of a special sorority," says Gonzaga coach Lisa Fortier, mother of three. "But sometimes people don't really get that working moms are ass-kickers. People need to watch out. Working moms can take over the world any minute now."

A trendsetter

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw has won a national championship, been to seven Final Fours and coached 19 All-Americans. She is no-nonsense to the core, demanding excellence from her players every day. When her only son, Murphy, 27, would come to practice as a child, players "felt like I completely changed," McGraw says. "It was like, 'Oooh, Murphy's here, now we can have fun today!' "

As a baby, Murphy visited practice with McGraw's husband, Matt. When Murphy started to crawl, McGraw would sit him on the baseline, then take her players to the other end of the floor. She measured drill time in Murphy's crawling speed. "We're gonna work on this play until he gets to half court!" she'd yell. As a toddler, he loved pre-practice stretching, because he thought all his "big sisters" circling up meant it was time for a round of Duck, Duck, Goose.

When it was McGraw's turn to be a mom in the stands instead of a coach on the sidelines, "a lightbulb went off."

"When he started to play sports himself, all of a sudden, I understood better that these people are giving their daughters to me," McGraw says. "I've got to make sure I'm building them up. I learned a lot about how to coach from watching his games."

"We need to hire more women coaches," she says. "We need other women to see that, yes, I can be successful as a head coach and successful as a mom."

That example helped one of McGraw's assistants, Niele Ivey. An All-American guard who led Notre Dame to the national title in 2001, Ivey was a mom to Jaden, 5, when McGraw offered her a job.

Jaden attended almost every road trip of Ivey's professional career in the WNBA, sitting with fans or staying with friends in the area. Before a game at Madison Square Garden, Ivey sat alone in a bathroom stall, breast pumping and thinking, "Man, NBA guys have it easy."

Ivey knew the Notre Dame job would require late nights and trips away from home. She had watched her mother, Theresa, work to send Ivey and her four siblings to Catholic school in St. Louis.

"For me, I never had reservations, because I saw my mom and Coach McGraw do both," Ivey says. "They are my role models. Some people hide their passion and turn down opportunities because they're scared you can't do both well. But coaching is my calling."

Stephanie Norman, Louisville associate head coach, was an assistant at Oregon State when her son Parker, now 16, was born. Daughter Cassidy came along three years later. Her first trip away from home came when Parker was 4 months old. The night before she flew out, Norman recalls, she lay on the floor of his nursery, "crying the entire night."

"As time goes on, you get a little more accustomed to it," she says. "But that first trip, man, it's hard."

Lindsay Gottlieb had been a mother for all of six days when her phone pinged with a message from a familiar foe: Charli Turner Thorne, head coach at Arizona State.

Less than a week earlier, Gottlieb had given birth to her first child, a boy named Jordan. She had been flooded with "Happy First Mother's Day!" messages, but Gottlieb says the most memorable came from Turner Thorne, who had started a text chain with all the Pac-12 moms.

Gottlieb always imagined she'd have a family. But it wasn't until she got her "dream job" in Berkeley seven years ago that she remembers feeling, "OK, I want the rest."

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Copyright 2018 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

MIAMISBURG — City officials say building a splash pad in a downtown Miamisburg park near the Great Miami River would expand entertainment options and help attract people to the city.

A proposal to add an interactive water feature to Riverfront Park would provide families with more choices when frequenting the downtown area, said Miamis-burg City Manager Keith Johnson.

"When you go down to the park now, for adults there's plenty of things to do," he said. "Either you're going down to listen to music or you're going down there with your pet, or you're going down to sit and have something eat down there. With kids, it's pretty limited."

The 10-acre park hosts more than 60 events a year. The focus of a $10 million master plan approved three years ago, it is a key element to downtown Miamisburg's redevelopment and a priority for the city's strategic plan. A splash pad would add another attraction, according to the city.

".... It just adds to the overall downtown experience. Kids have something to do," Johnson said. "It's certainly something in hot weather to go plan on. The elements we designed for the park kind of provided a cross-section of things for people of all age groups."

The Miamisburg City Council is scheduled to consider legislation on the issue tonight. If approved, which Johnson said is expected next month, the measure would allow the city to contract with a firm - Landscape Structures - to build the splash pad just inside the park's main entrance.

The Miamisburg Rotary Club has agreed to donate $50,000 for the project. The legislation would authorize Johnson to spend no more than $220,000 on the contract, city records show.

If approved, the goal is to have the splash pad completed by late May or early June, Johnson said. That is also the time frame officials hope to have a project estimated to cost $1.5 million to improve access to the park.

Miamisburg is spending city money to fund a two-lane road to replace North Miami Avenue and accompanying utility work.

The new road will span about 1,000 feet between Linden Avenue and Ferry Street, according to the city. It will include two 11-foot lanes, gutters and sidewalks, a new feature for that area, City Engineer Bob Stanley has said.

Completion of those projects by late spring would be in time for the city's week-long bicentennial celebration June 16-24, when Riverfront Park will be the focal point of daily entertainment.

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Copyright 2018 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Construction will begin this spring on the REACH Center, a multipurpose recreation and education destination that will be built in Xenia.

The center, to be constructed at South Progress Drive and Upper Bellbrook Road, is a collaborative project with Clark State Community College, the city of Xenia, Kettering Health Network, the YMCA of Greater Dayton, Xenia Adult Recreation and Services Center and Central State University.

The city of Xenia is contributing $1 million toward the effort.

Xenia spokesman Lee Warren said the REACH Center — Recreation, Education, Activity, Community and Health Center — is "a major game-changer for Xenia and the surrounding community."

"By offering health, education, physical fitness, and senior services under one roof, we will be able to better serve a large and growing population from a new centralized campus that will lend itself well to continued development in Xenia, while further showcasing that Xenia is a safe, attractive and affordable place to live, work and raise a family," Warren said. "The city is grateful to all the partners in the REACH project who not only had a vision for our community, but who worked tirelessly on making the center a reality."

The center is planned as a 75,200-square-foot facility that will serve as the new home for the YMCA in Xenia, featuring regulation-size and warm-water therapy pools, as well as providing expanded social services and activities for senior citizens.

The first phase of the project is to be open by early 2019 and is projected to cost $11.3 million, according to Dale Brunner, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Dayton.

The groundbreaking on this project is an "incredibly important day for Greene County," Brunner said. "The REACH Center will be a one-stop-shop for people to improve their health, train for jobs in the healthcare field and help a growing population of seniors live full and healthy lives," Brunner said.

Clark State will use 4,500 square feet in the new building for classrooms, laboratories and offices, giving students certificate and associate's degree programs.

Theresa Felder, vice president of student affairs and Greene Center operations for Clark State, said the goal is to "help develop the workforce in Greene County to help fill jobs in the county and surrounding areas."

"We would like to grow the campus to offer an increasing number of academic programs and services to continue to meet the needs of students," Felder said. "We will also continue to grow our transfer opportunities to area four-year institutions, like Central State, who will share the educational space with Clark State in the REACH Center."

Kettering Health Network, which owns the property, is expected to build a health care facility at the site.

Contact this reporter at 937-225-6985 or email Richard.Wilson@coxinc.com

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Copyright 2018 Richmond Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

It appears that Richmond's elected officials are tired of being taken by the fourth-richest team in the NFL.

Either that or they fear a taxpayer insurrection if the city does not get out from under the money-hemorrhaging Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center.

As the team prepares to enter its sixth summer in Richmond, the city's Economic Development Authority and the Redskins are facing a July 1 deadline to extend the training camp arrangement beyond the initial eight-year term.

Jim Nolan, press secretary for Mayor Levar Stoney, said the mayor does not favor an extension of the contract under its existing terms. "He believes that any future agreement with the team should not include a cash contribution from the city," Nolan said.

That makes sense. After all, Stoney's predecessor, Dwight C. Jones, owns the 2012 agreement between the city and the team.

Meanwhile, the City Council wants the team to pick up the $500,000 the EDA agreed to pay the team annually to cover the cost of training in Richmond.

Because the EDA could not repay the $10 million loan from the city to build the training camp facility, the council agreed in February to pay $750,000 a year for the next 15 years to avoid defaulting. The kicker: The council wants the football team to assume that annual payment.

Eight council members have signed on to a resolution not to renew the deal unless the team absorbs those costs.

It's likely the Redskins organization's response could be characterized by the text message abbreviation "ROTFL!" (Rolling on the floor laughing).

The team snookered Richmond in this deal pushed by Jones. No doubt, it would gladly leave Richmond rather than take on these additional costs.

If that's the case, the feeling appears to be mutual.

"At this point, I feel like we should just cut our losses," Council President Chris Hilbert said.

"I have to do what's in the best interest of the city of Richmond. This (deal) has proved less than adequate. If the Redskins don't want to be here or don't feel like that's the price they want to pay, that's their decision."

Councilwoman Kristen Larson also sounded like someone ready to run out the clock on this deal.

"What do we have to lose?" she asked. "We're already paying for the whole freaking thing."

"It's a beautiful facility. But when I'm out in the community and when I'm talking to folks — residents who live here and say what they love about Richmond and what they use in terms of resources in the city — this is not on the short list.... So I felt pretty confident my constituents would be OK with us walking away from the deal."

Call it a teachable moment. Richmond was a too-eager suitor living above its means — and doling out empty promises — to obtain an object of desire way out of its league.

Now that the city got played, what happens next?

Well, there are options, some more plausible than others.

"I think the EDA has the building. I think it's in good location.... I wouldn't say it's out of the realm to call that Scott's Addition. And I think there's plenty of uses for that building," Hilbert said of the training center facility, which includes an event space.

"It's well-located, it's well-constructed... you've got the Science Museum there. Everybody and their uncle wants to go in that area, so I don't see that being a problem leasing out that space."

He mused that the EDA could build another building on the property. "I don't know of any neighborhood that's more on fire, real estate-wise, than Scott's Addition."

Virginia Commonwealth University has been bandied about as an institution that might view the training camp property as a field of dreams. In many ways, it seems like a natural fit for the landlocked urban university.

"VCU athletics is an incredibly important part of our community, and they need more green fields to play on," said Jon Lugbill, executive director of Sports Backers. "And having them in close proximity to their campus is important."

"Our whole region benefits by having a high-quality, major Division I school here," he said.

But there's one obvious problem with this scenario: See the name of the training center. Bon Secours and VCU are health care competitors.

We all know Richmond Public Schools is facilities-challenged, from its classrooms to its locker rooms to its playing fields. The training camp, at its essence, is an area of athletic fields.

"Well, certainly, the athletic fields are important," Hilbert said. "The state champion in basketball (John Marshall High) can't play football at night. There are no lights over here either, but it's a nice facility."

Neither are there bleachers at a training camp built to the specifications of the Redskins.

"The challenge that I saw when I was on the School Board, in terms of the schools using the facility, which I'm completely open to, is that it is not really set up for those types of events," Larson said.

"I would be open to it, but would really like to see some revenue generated from somewhere to help pay off this note," Larson said.

Huguenot High School, which is in her South Side district, has a fine football facility befitting a new school. (The school's water-damaged gym floor is another matter.) "If we could have something like that on North Side, that would be awesome, too."

Hilbert said that from his perspective, school-based athletic fields are a preference.

But maybe we're thinking too small here.

Richmond needs upgraded school buildings even more than it needs athletic fields. Could the Bon Secours building at the training center be retrofitted into a K-8 school building, at less than it would cost to build a new school from scratch?

Nothing should be off the table as we attempt to salvage something positive from the bad call that brought this team to Richmond.

mwilliams@timesdispatch.com (804) 649-6815 Twitter: @RTDMPW

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Copyright 2018 News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)
All Rights Reserved

News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)

 

After indictments last fall in the FBI's investigation into issues in college basketball, The Oregonian/OregonLive began reviewing the influence of shoe companies, notably Portland-based Nike, in youth basketball.

"It's a bare-knuckled place where entrepreneur coaches, private skills tutors, freelance nutritionists, physiotherapists and expensive prep schools cater to players' dreams of Division I scholarships and NBA riches," The Oregonian/OregonLive reporters Jeff Manning and Brad Schmidt write.

Part of their reporting in the first of their series "The Swoosh Effect," published Saturday, examines Nike's relationship with the family of Duke freshman star Marvin Bagley. His father, Marvin Jr., and wife filed for bankruptcy in April 2008, Manning and Schmidt report. But after moving the family from Phoenix to suburban Los Angeles in 2015, after Bagley Jr.'s AAU team gained backing from Nike, the family lives in a subdivision in Northridge, Calif., where homes sell for upto $1.5 million and rents go from $2,500 to $7,500 a month, the reporters found.

The NCAA has apparently not looked into the Nike-Bagley relationship, but six experts on NCAA compliance told The Oregonian/OregonLive that the parent-coaches paid to run their kids' club teams could be a breach of amateurism rules.

Visit ACCXtra.com to find a link to the full story.

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Copyright 2018 Newsday, Inc.

Newsday (New York)

 

TAMPA, Fla. — Major League Baseball looks as if it will be taking its most intense rivalry across the Atlantic.

The Yankees and Red Sox are closing in on an agreement to play a two-game series sometime in June 2019 in London, a source confirmed Monday.

Bloomberg first reported the clubs were "nearing" an agreement.

The source stressed that details for the series, which according to The Associated Press would be played June 29-30 and likely would be Red Sox home games, still are being worked out. An official announcement might not come for one or two months.

"I've never been , so I think it would be fun," Greg Bird said. "I think the travel would be interesting how they set that up. I would assume we'd come back and play somewhere on the East Coast, but I've never been. I think it would be fun."

The respective travel schedules are among the details still being worked on, as well as those relating to presumably the teams' top priority: security.

The series probably would take place at London Stadium, which was built as the primary facility for the 2012 Summer Olympics and currently is the home of West Ham United in the Premier League. It has a capacity for soccer of about 60,000. Wembley Stadium was an early consideration, but London Stadium can more easily be set up for baseball.

It would be the first time MLB games have been played in Europe, considered an untapped but much desired market.

"Any time you can grow our game, I think that's a pretty cool thing," said manager Aaron Boone, who, like Bird, never has been to London. "It's a shorter trip than California, right?"

Pretty close. Flight time from New York to London typically is in the range of seven hours; from New York to Los Angeles is five to six hours.

Asked what he'd most like to see in London, Boone smiled. "Let's get the Royal Family out there," he said. "Maybe the Queen can make an appearance. That would be good."

Previous MLB games on international soil have taken place in Mexico, Australia and Japan, where the Yankees played their opening two games against the Rays in 2004. The Cubs and Mets started the 2000 regular season at the Tokyo Dome. This season, MLB is holding regular-season games in San Juan and Monterrey, Mexico.

The Yankees' most recent international trip came during spring training 2014. They played a two-game series against the Marlins in Panama City as a tribute to Mariano Rivera, a native of Panama.

The news was not a bombshell, as players and owners made a commitment to contest more games internationally in the collective-bargaining agreement signed in 2016.

According to The Associated Press, the CBA requires that each player receive $60,000 for participating in the games.

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Copyright 2018 The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
All Rights Reserved


The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

In the opening minute of a recent game, Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton snagged a rebound, drove the length of the floor, put a move on Houston Rockets superstar James Harden and served up a lob for teammate John Henson to slam down.

The sharp play got the BMO Harris Bradley Center crowd roaring and the Bucks' social media team swung into action.

"There's our first one!" exclaimed Matt Stanton, who anxiously waited for the highlight to pop into his software program. Once it appeared, he did some quick edits and shared it with the world.

The Middleton-to-Henson tweet carried the headline "J-Hook throws it DOWN!" Thousands of people watched the clip.

That tweet marked the start of another evening where the Bucks peppered Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and their home page with highlights while games are underway. It's a carefully-crafted strategy meant to engage Bucks fans locally and internationally without undermining the box office or broadcast audience.

Boosting the Bucks international audience makes sponsorships more valuable, said Matt Pazaras, senior vice president of business development and strategy.

For instance, the small Harley-Davidson patch on Bucks player uniforms gives the motorcycle maker exposure to the young, international fans that it wants as customers.

That large audience is even more crucial for the company that will buy the naming rights for the Bucks' new $524-million arena.

The clips extend far beyond the action on the court and the teams. The captions carry references to video games, music and the personalities of players and high-profile fans in the seats.

"The goal with the casual fan was to get them more interested," said Mike Grahl, the team's chief digital officer. "And then maybe we can get them to a game or to buy a cable package."

The NBA gave the Bucks permission to cut and post their own video clips in 2014, after the team signed Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Greek player known for spectacular plays. Until that point, the Bucks received whatever clips the NBA sent - and often they were highlights of the opposing team's heroics, said Nick Monroe, digital platforms manager.

The social media team uses special editing software that gets separate clips of plays moments after they take place. The TV broadcast and in-arena videos feed into the system.

In the first year under the Bucks control, visits to the team's home page went up 571%. The Bucks then started adding the real-time highlights - many featuring Antetokounmpo - to its social media accounts and the audience exploded.

In the past two seasons, social media engagements from game action highlights have increased 122%, Grahl said, adding that the highlights have delivered 482 million social media impressions over the past three seasons.

That puts the Bucks at the top of the NBA in terms of how long fans remain on the team site and other measures. The Bucks digital team has been named NBA Innovator of the Year for three years in a row.

It's not unusual to see more than a dozen in-game highlights posted, along with other in-game hijinks featuring Bango and fan contests.

The fans busting moves in the "Dance for your Dinner" contest offer rich fodder. "Usually when they're terrible, it's the best for us," Monroe joked.

On the morning after the Rockets game, the video highlights tallied 732,000 views. That, of course, doesn't include the number of times that fans shared the videos on their own accounts.

"It's all about engagement," Pazaras said. "We would rather have one engaged fan for every 10 passive fans."

The five-person social media team follows some general guidelines. They focus on the Bucks and have an upbeat commentary. No mocking the other team.

So as tempting as it was, a clip of Harden complaining to the referees was off-limits.

"You never want to make the tweet bigger than the team," Monroe said. "We want to inform our fans, entertain them and engage them."

Early on during the Rockets game, Monroe and his cohorts toyed with how they would celebrate a Bucks win over the NBA-best Rockets, who were riding a 16-game winning streak. "Victory Royale" seemed to be consensus favorite, an idea that would have resonated with NBA lovers and fans of the popular video game.

Despite obvious temptation, the team is careful to not focus exclusively on Antetokounmpo. Any player is fair game - even if they are not on the court.

"If you're on the bench and doing something cool, we're going to cut that clip and put it out," Stanton said, noting that veteran Jason Terry and rookie D.J. Wilson can be especially entertaining to watch.

The team also is on its toes for a buzzer-beating shot that gives the Bucks the win.

"Game-winners, big shots. Those are the kind of things that we live for," Stanton said.

Moments later, Antetokounmpo swatted away a shot by Harden.

"That was a great rejection," Monroe said as he tapped away on his keyboard. "That'll play well. Those superstar battles always play well."

Earlier in the season, Monroe captured the Antetokounmpo shot that beat Oklahoma City and then made an iPhone video of the star running into the locker room where he got a celebratory ice bath courtesy of his teammates.

The Antetokounmpo highlights receive special attention and are tweeted later in the evening when fans in Greece and China are starting their days.

"We call on companies internationally," Pazaras said. "When we say 'Bucks,' they say 'Giannis.'"

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Copyright 2018 ProQuest Information and Learning
All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2018 Freedom Newspapers, Inc. Mar 19, 2018

The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colorado)

 


Diane Shuck, former assistant principal and athletic director at Air Academy High School, is receiving $115,000 in a lawsuit settlement, say documents obtained through an Open Records Act request.

Of that, $22,000 will go to her attorney, Joel W. Cantrick.

The full settlement was paid by Academy School District 20's insurance company. The district's cost is its out-of-pocket deductible of $25,000, said D-20 spokeswoman Allison Cortez.

D-20 also is responsible for fees for mediation services provided Jan. 23.

More on the lawsuit involving Diane Shuck

The money represents damages for lost wages and emotional distress that Shuck suffered, the agreement says.

The three-year legal dispute, in which Shuck claimed wrongful removal and demotion, was settled Jan. 25 and dismissed March 8.

Among the provisions, Shuck agrees to never seek or accept direct or indirect employment or consulting or contracting work with D-20, and the district is never required to hire her.

She originally sought reinstatement in September 2015, in a civil lawsuit against Academy D-20's board members and three D-20 staff members that was filed in El Paso County District Court and moved to U.S. District Court.

The school district removed Shuck from her job in January 2015, claiming she had violated multiple policies and breached rules involving team money, background checks and other areas.

D-20 filed counter claims Feb. 5, 2016, asserting Shuck had committed civil theft, fraudulent misrepresentation and breach of fiduciary duty.

Some of the counter claims were dismissed Sept. 5, 2017.

Shuck now works as assistant principal and activities director at Douglas County High School in Castle Rock.

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Copyright 2018 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Five Rivers MetroParks would nearly double the size of Wesleyan MetroPark by acquiring nearby land from a local church as part of a project that could cost more than $300,000.

Wesleyan MetroPark, located east of North James H. McGee Boulevard and North Gettysburg Avenue, is about 59 acres but could grow to more than 107 acres if the deal goes through.

This project achieves one of MetroParks' goals to increase service in that northwestern part of Dayton, said Carrie Scarff, MetroParks' chief of planning and projects.

"It gives us the opportunity to expand Wesleyan MetroPark in a way that we think will be really valuable in terms of the experiences we will be able to offer to park users," she said.

Five Rivers MetroParks has entered into a purchase agreement with Calvary Mission Baptist Church for 45.8 acres of land northwest of North Gettysburg Avenue and Little Richmond Road.

MetroParks has received a Clean Ohio conservation fund grant worth $233,000 from the state of Ohio to assist with the purchase. The grant also will help pay to clean up the property and remove trash.

The Calvary Mission church is donating to the project, which is expected to cost more than $311,000. The land itself is valued at $215,000.

The expansion project meets some of the goals from MetroParks' comprehensive master plan by offering more substantial trails and new outdoor activities, said Scarff.

The Calvary Mission land contains ponds and the snaking Wolf Creek, which would offer new fishing and other recreational opportunities, she said.

The land acquisition also could help close a portion of the five-mile gap in the Wolf Creek bike trail, which extends from Trotwood to Little Richmond Road in Dayton.

MetroParks is working toward closing on the property this summer. The expansion area will need to have parking, a good access road, restrooms, places for people to sit and good trails that link back to the existing portion of Wesleyan, Scarff said.

MetroParks also would want to improve the ecosystems, including the prairie and the woods, she said.

MetroParks has 18 parks and the 2nd Street Market.

Contact this reporter at 937-225-0749 or email Cornelius.Frolik@coxinc.com

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

GOODING, Idaho — Maizy Wilcox is usually too focused on the game to acknowledge the scoreboard. So was the case on Dec. 11, when the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind girls basketball team played at Carey.

Wilcox, a freshman point guard, knew the game was close, but she didn't realize where her team stood until after the final buzzer. She looked at the scoreboard and saw a one-point win in favor of the Raptors.

She and her six teammates screamed in excitement, then ran over to give their 20-year-old head coach Lillian Gray a hug. The ISDB girls basketball program had earned its first victory in a decade.

Ten years ago, as ISDB felt the weight of the Great Recession, the success of the girls basketball team was low on the school's priorities.

Around that same time, ISDB was in jeopardy of closing, largely because of the state's six regional outreach programs — regional schools for the deaf and the blind that, in some cases, had more students than ISDB.

"(When) budgets cut, in every school, athletics is the first thing to go," said Brian Darcy, the ISDB administrator. "It was for us, too."

Through enthusiastic messaging and government backing, ISDB avoided closure.

It not only survived the recession, but its population grew. And after the recession, it not only survived, but its population increased.

ISDB's enrollment was 97 as of early February, and nearly half of the student body has rejected outreach programs to make the long journey to Gooding every week. When the girls basketball team celebrated its win in Carey on Dec. 11, it was a payoff for the role sports played in the school's resurgence.

"Sports is an actual draw to get kids to come here," said Darcy, who is sighted and hearing. "You see kids coming here because it's a way to socialize. It's a way to become part of a team and to be involved. We do get kids to come just to participate in sports."

Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind plays at the junior varsity level in four high school sports: volleyball, boys basketball, girls basketball and track. But as recently as the late 1990s, the Raptors played against stiffer competition.

Darcy said ISDB, established in 1910, was competitive at the varsity level dating back to the 1940s. In the 1980s, the boys basketball team reached the state tournament, with a key contribution from Ken Anderson, a 6-foot-9 post who later went to Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) to compete in basketball and high jump. Anderson, 53, now coaches track and boys basketball at ISDB.

The Raptors once had a wrestling team, and several athletes over the years, including Anderson, played for the football and soccer teams at Gooding High School. ISDB and Gooding formed a football cooperative in the 1990s, but it ended about a decade later because few ISDB students showed interest in the sport.

Darcy said it's been about three years since an ISDB student played football or soccer, though some students occasionally express interest in the sports. ISDB provides sign language interpreters for any student who ventures over to Gooding High.

The current state

When opposing teams travel to Gooding to take on ISDB, they prepare for an atmosphere unlike anything they're used to.

"Usually, a basketball game is super loud," said Joseph Swainston, the junior varsity boys basketball coach at Bliss. "This was super quiet."

ISDB has a gym of comparable size to most 1A Division II schools. Cheerleaders and a smattering of fans attend each volleyball and basketball game at ISDB, just like they do at other small schools. They cheer and argue like any other fans, but many of the spectators are visually impaired or hard of hearing. By nature of their impairments, they're quieter than other fans.

The action on the court is perhaps the most striking. Most ISDB players are deaf but not blind, so they often glance at their coaches to receive instructions in sign language. A coach like Anderson, who is deaf, wouldn't yell at his players or the referee even if he was steaming in anger.

Wins have been hard to come by for ISDB this century, given its small student body and inexperienced players. But the Raptors do enjoy some advantages unique to their home court.

Swainston and Connor Wade, the junior varsity boys basketball coach at Community School, noticed the relative silence affects their own players.

"My players stop talking," Wade said.

In addition to the mental edge, Wade said ISDB has more size than his team, in part because ISDB has players from all four high school grade levels. Other North Side Conference junior varsity teams are made up mostly of freshman and sophomores.

Some visually impaired ISDB students have played sports, but the vast majority are students who are deaf orhard of hearing. Several hard of hearing students, such as Maizy Wilcox, can have normal conversations with people who have unimpaired hearing. Sign language is more of an aid than a necessity.

Wilcox is an outlier when it comes to ISDB athletics. Growing up in Kamiah, she played sports all through her childhood. Many students, such as Tyler Harris, came to ISDB with little athletic experience.

Harris, a Caldwell native, has always possessed a natural basketball frame, and he now stands 6-foot-5. But his family barely cares about sports. Harris is also hard of hearing but attended public schools growing up, so he often felt excluded from activities such as athletics.

When Harris arrived to ISDB as a freshman, he was nearly dragged onto the basketball court by his peers.

"There was some hesitation, but I did still did it," he said. "It kinda made me think, 'Why didn't I do this earlier?' "

Harris, now a junior, was the only player on the 2017-18 boys basketball roster who had previous experience with the sport. That's been the norm for decades at ISDB. The inexperience, along with small rosters, contributed to its drop to the junior varsity level.

Those factors also make scheduling difficult. Some teams in ISDB's conference like to schedule tough opponents, Allison said, so ISDB's roster size and inexperience can make it difficult to find takers.

About half of ISDB's students live outside of the Magic Valley. Most out-of-region students live in cottages on campus from Monday until Thursday. All 11 of the Raptors' boys basketball games (10 for the girls) this season were played on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.

Wilcox's hometown of Kamiah is more than 300 miles away from Gooding, which makes for a long, exhausting schedule each week. She wakes up around 2:30 a.m. every Monday, takes an hour-plus car ride from Kamiah to Lewiston, takes a flight to Boise and a bus ride from the airport to ISDB that lasts about 90 minutes.

She makes the same trip back to Kamiah on Thursdays after school.

Wilcox tries to sleep on the plane and the road before she arrives at ISDB around 9 a.m., but it's not easy, especially on the plane. She usually takes naps after school is over, but when she's playing sports, she often has practice right after school on Mondays. By practice time, her energy is in short supply.

None of that has deterred Wilcox from playing sports. Though she misses her family during the week, the communal atmosphere at ISDB outweighs the nuisance of travel.

"You're around people like you," she said.

Darcy posed a question for people who wonder what it's like to be deaf.

"How badly do you miss flying?" he asked rhetorically.

He didn't mean flying in a plane, but literally flying, as if you're a bird. You don't miss flying, of course, because you've never experienced it. This, he said, is how deaf people think of hearing.

"They see themselves as deaf, and that's it. It's a culture. It's not a disability," Darcy said. "Deaf culture has its own jokes, and one of the running jokes is: Why do farts smell? So deaf people can enjoy them, too.

"We take advantage of our hearing, but to a deaf person, they've never been able to hear, and life is fine. They want to have more deaf people. When a baby is born deaf to a deaf parent, that's a celebration."

Feeling different, alone

ISDB students like Harris and Wilcox grew up around people who weren't like them. They were often the only children in their classes, schools and communities who were hard of hearing or visually impaired. They're not always treated poorly, but they simply can't communicate with people who have clear vision and the ability to hear.

"I felt different. I felt kinda alone," Wilcox said. "I just didn't understand what other people said sometimes, so I felt left out."

In many ways, ISDB has been a relief and a refuge for deaf and blind children. It has given them a chance to feel included.

Sports provide an extension of that community.

The school is so small, most of the students know one other through sheer probability. Athletics take that dynamic and shrink it, providing students with a small community within a small community. And sports mandate interaction between players.

"They helped me connect with people when I was at home," Wilcox said. "That's why I have friends, because of sports."

Gray, who just finished her first year as ISDB's head girls basketball coach, said she and her players formed a bond, in part because she's not much older than the players. It took her a little while to grasp sign language, but she embraced the challenge.

Gray had to grow accustomed to her players' hectic schedules and their Monday sluggishness (none of her players live in Gooding), and she had to adapt to their relative inexperience with the sport. She taught them the basics of basketball, such as ball handling, when practice began in November.

The inexperience also eased the pressure. The girls basketball team hadn't won a game in 10 years, and it was playing at the junior varsity level. Gray could focus more on education and fun than winning.

That beginner vibe made the Dec. 11 win (and their second win in January) that much sweeter.

"The girls kept looking at me for answers. I just kept telling them, 'It's up to you,' " Gray said. "You could see the wheels turning. 'I can do this.' "

Like other schools, ISDB gets competitive with its athletics, but the fervor is toned down. Few expect to play in college, and winning is more of a bonus than an expectation.

Harris is happy he picked up basketball at ISDB, but he's content to let it go when he graduates. He plans to go on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before becoming a landscaper or an electrician.

Sports are a small part of the school, which looked in danger of shutting down a decade ago. Deaf and blind children still would have gone to schools catered to them, and they wouldn't have been forced to wake up at 2:30 in the morning to attend them.

But Wilcox, Harris and many of their schoolmates are happy to get up early and travel long distances to attend ISDB. They've found a community of people who are like them.

They don't know how a regional outreach program would compare to ISDB. They can't imagine playing for a varsity basketball team full of players with perfect hearing.

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

 

University at Buffalo men's basketball coach Nate Oats boosted the stock of his program and his own name with a strong showing in the NCAA Tournament.

Success on the national stage can turn coaches such as Oats into hot candidates for lucrative job openings around college basketball in the coming weeks. So it would seem that UB did well to lock him up with a five-year extension earlier this month.

However, a Buffalo News analysis of Oats' new contract, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, reveals Oats has a significant but hardly insurmountable barrier to leaving for another job if he so chooses, even as soon as this offseason.

The extension, signed March 8 during the Mid-American Conference Tournament, increased Oats' annual base salary from $355,500 to $600,000, making him one of the higher-paid coaches in the league. Akron coach John Groce is the top-paid MAC coach. He is getting $800,000 next season from Illinois - which fired him last March - and $400,000 from Akron. After that, Akron pays him a $650,000 base.

The buyout figure, though, is the more significant number than salary.

All coaches have buyout details in their contracts, laying out what it will cost the coach to exit the contract early. The numbers are up for negotiation but are generally relative to the overall value of the deal.

If Oats were to leave for another job this offseason, his contract says he would owe UB $1 million. If he were to leave after next season, the figure shrinks to $500,000, and gets smaller in each following year:

· $400,000 if after the 2020 season;

· $350,000 if after the 2021 season;

· $300,000 if after the 2022 season.

While those are large amounts of money, that's hardly enough to discourage a Division I basketball coach from leaving for perhaps twice his base salary at a high-major program.

The new program and its boosters would very likely help cover the buyout. UB and Oats' new school also can work out agreements over the payment, which is common regardless of the amount. Among Power Five schools last year, Illinois paid $3 million to Oklahoma State to cover the buyout of Brad Underwood. Missouri paid $1.2 million to California for the buyout of Cuonzo Martin's contract.

Oats certainly made an impression after UB upset star-laden Arizona and challenged powerhouse Kentucky. He talked up UB in several national interviews between games, increasing his name recognition in the process.

"I don't like to say young coach, old coach - he's a very good coach," ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg said of Oats, 43, who has two NCAA appearances in his three years as a Division I head coach. "He connects with his players. They play for him. They reflect his intensity and stay in the moment. I think the way his team carried themselves was as positive a reflection on Nate as how his team played. And that's always important.

"The perception, if I'm an athletic director watching, would be, 'Here's a guy that has total control of his team, has a connection with his team, has recruited well to a MAC school... and has his teams on the same page,' " Greenberg added.

"To me, you've got to be connected with your team. If you're not connected to your team - the days of players playing for a guy because 'Coach' is in front of his name is long gone. Players have to trust their coach, they have to believe in their coach, be in it with their coach. You could see that the Buffalo players were in it with Nate and his staff."

Bulls better next season?

Would Oats really leave this offseason? That seems to be the - ahem - million-dollar question.

But UB fans know all too well that a coach can leave shortly after signing an extension: Bobby Hurley did just that three years ago, leaving for Arizona State in April 2015 after being extended that March.

Factors that could help keep him at UB begin with the expectation that the Bulls will be even better next year. Top three scorers CJ Massinburg, Nick Perkins and Jeremy Harris will be seniors next season and prized recruit Jeenathan Williams of Rochester will join the mix. Oats has only been the Bulls' head coach for three years and his résumé probably only will be strengthened by next season's results.

To leave now, the right offer would have to present itself, and that's far from a certainty. Greenberg said the job market has not taken shape yet, but the potential fallout from the FBI's investigation of several high-profile programs could create an interesting domino effect.

The situation could be complicated by UB not yet completing its national search to replace athletic director Allen Greene, who now runs Auburn's athletic department and could have an opening if the Tigers part ways with coach Bruce Pearl.

"We love it here," Oats said in January when asked about his contract status, before his extension was signed. "I loved working for Allen, but we've got a great administration that's still here. My family loves it here.

"We have really everybody but Wes (Clark, a senior) back next year. I want to be here next year," Oats continued. "I don't plan on going anywhere. It'd be great if they gave me a contract extension. We'd stay here in the area and build this thing up. We've got maybe the best recruiting class - I mean, it's hard to rank it... our recruiting class is really good. So I think we've got a chance to be better next year than we are this year. I mean, we should be. Wes is an unbelievable player but, I mean, we've got a couple point guards coming in, Davonta (Jordan) and Dontay (Caruthers) will be another year older. So I don't want to leave. We'll figure it out."

But that doesn't mean a big-name school won't come calling - if not this spring, then perhaps next year. And if it offers enough money, the buyout in Oats' contract isn't preventing him from going. You can call it a coach-friendly deal, but that's the nature of the business.

"Jobs, it's funny because it really is fit, it's relationships, it's region of the country; there's so many things that go into that," Greenberg said. "He surely didn't hurt himself. Obviously, he helped himself. He carried himself with a confidence and an intensity."

Bonus money

Oats can earn bonus money in six ways under his new deal, all of which are fairly standard.

· Oats and his assistants receive bonuses of 12th their base salary ($50,000 for Oats) for being the sole winner the conference's regular-season title;

· They can earn another 12th for winning the conference tournament;

· Oats earns a bonus and a pool to split among his assistants for each NCAA Tournament win. The bonuses are cumulative, meaning they add together with each win. Advancing to the Round of 32 earns Oats $10,000 and a $10,000 assistant pool; advancing to the Sweet 16 earns $15,000 and a $20,000 pool; an Elite 8 appearance is $20,000/$20,000; a Final Four appearance is $30,000/$20,000; a national championship appearance is $40,000/$30,000; and a national championship is $75,000/$50,000. There does not appear to be a bonus for receiving an at-large bid.

· Oats and his assistants earn bonuses in a similar structure for the National Invitation Tournament. They receive $5,000/$2,500 bonuses for appearing in each round, with an NIT title earning Oats $10,000.

· Oats earns $10,000 for being the MAC Coach of the Year, $10,000 for being the district or region Coach of the Year, and $25,000 for being the national coach of the year.

· Oats also earns a $2,500 bonus each semester his team grade-point average, including non-scholarship players, is above a 2.80.

The contract also has a provision stating that if New York's governor bans travel to a state through an executive order that prevents UB from participating in an event, the coaches will still get their bonus money earned for appearing in the event.

But Oats' contract, like all agreements with college coaches, works both ways. The school can fire him before the contract expires if it wants, but it owes him his base salaries over the term of the contract (though UB's expenditure can be offset by Oats' new salary if he takes another job in coaching in the D-I or pro ranks).

Adding it all together, Oats can earn a maximum of $340,000 in extra compensation if UB somehow wins the national title and he maxes out his bonuses.

Accounting for his base salary, benefits and opportunities for other income, that could Oats put in the range of $1 million a year, making him one of the highest-paid public employees in the entire state.

And yet, big-time college basketball programs would look at that number and shrug. If they want Oats badly enough, his new extension isn't stopping him from leaving.

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Copyright 2018 Orange County Register
All Rights Reserved

Orange County Register (California)

 

For Saddleback College head football coach Mark McElroy, plans to construct a new football stadium at the school's Mission Viejo campus were a long time coming.

"I played here as a student-athlete in 1979 when we were promised a new stadium," McElroy said.

Just shy of four decades later, that promise is being fulfilled, with a new $55 million facility expected to open in the spring of next year. The college broke ground on the project March 12.

Saddleback College officials are banking on the stadium benefiting south Orange County, one of the fastest-growing areas in the region.

The new facility, which will host football as well as track and soccer, could also serve as a home venue for local high schools.

College President Gregory Anderson also envisions the facility being used for concerts, high school graduations and ceremonies, and community events.

"We really foresee this as being the premier hub for entertainment and sports throughout south Orange County," he said. "Once you go south of UCI, you've got to go down all the way to San Diego before you find something of this caliber."

The original structure, built in 1976 and unable to keep up with modern-day demands, seats 3,800, with bathrooms and bleachers for visiting fans located outside the facility. Aging wooden steps lead to an outdated seating area and an announcer's booth.

The limited seating sometimes forced fans at high school football games to sit elsewhere to view the contest, said Dan Clauss, Saddleback's athletic director.

"We ended up having several of our spectators sitting up on a hill," he said.

The new stadium will come with a slew of amenities.

It will accommodate up to 8,000 spectators and feature a nine-lane running track; four artificial turf fields - two for football practices and one each for football games and soccer matches; a concession stand; storage units for football, soccer, and track and field equipment; a press box; team meeting rooms; a scoreboard; and a platform for views of all the fields.

Other bells and whistles include Wi-Fi access and a "throws" area for hammer, shot put and discus.

The closest venues of comparable seating capacity are at Orange Coast College, Cal State Fullerton and the Santa Ana Bowl, all at least 20 miles away.

The track will meet NCAA and USA track and field standards, with the hope that it will bring national and state track meets to the area, officials said.

"Our big goal is the 2028 Olympics," Clauss said. "We'd love to be a practice facility for track and field."

During the football postseason, the stadium could host CIF-Southern Section semifinal games, as the increase in seat capacity meets the governing body's seat requirements for those games. CIF soccer and lacrosse competitions could also materialize at the new facility, Clauss said.

Since the current facility's closure in January, the track team has been holding its practices at JSerra Catholic High School and will host track meets at other colleges.

Discussions with Mission Viejo High School are ongoing to host Saddleback football games in the interim.

The new stadium will serve as a recruitment tool, McElroy said, adding that in the past, some student-athletes have instead chosen to attend schools with superior athletic facilities, such as Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa.

"That's certainly been a point of contention for incoming recruits," he said. "It won't be anymore."

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Copyright 2018 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

Roaming around Stratford Square Mall in the early 2000s with his friends, Ryan LeBreux of Bloomingdale thought it would be cool to work there — to hit up the food court on his break or preside over the scene as a worker, not just a kid. Now he does. LeBreux is the founder and owner of L.I.F.T. Academy, a small-group fitness training center that moved last June from the other side of town to a spot inside the mall. His decision was based a tad on nostalgia, but experts say it's also part of a trend that's reshaping many suburban malls, as more fitness and self-care facilities set up shop in traditional retail settings to attract a different type of patron.

"To eventually become a tenant in the same mall that I spent so much time going to as a kid, that meant a lot to me," said LeBreux, 32. But, he said, he also thought "I would be able to reach even more people by having more of a presence in such a big center located in the heart of Bloomingdale." Experts say an increasing number of malls are adding boutique fitness centers and specialty salons as they strive to expand their reach with more experience-based businesses.

Experiences such as eyebrow shaping, waxing or workouts are "internet-resistant" things it's impractical or impossible to do online, said Joe Parrott, senior vice president of retail services at the real estate firm CBRE. Malls are adding them to their list of tenants to match "the way society shops." The move follows a long-established trend of adding entertainment options such as movie theaters and bowling alleys.

Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills, for example, features AMC Theaters and Dave & Buster's, a sports bar and gaming center; Fox Valley in Aurora has a new Round1 bowling and amusement center; Woodfield in Schaumburg has Level 257, a "PAC-MAN"-themed restaurant, bowling alley and game lounge; and Stratford Square has a Cinemark movie theater, a Round1 and ToPlayVR, a virtual reality gaming center. Parrott said the self-care push represents another way mall owners are trying to diversify and stay relevant.

Yorktown Center in Lombard began creating what it calls a "self-care precinct" last summer; Stratford Square, lists several businesses under a "Performance" category in its directory; and Hawthorn includes a Ballroom Dance Studio and two specialty massage businesses. There aren't any gyms or specialty fitness centers at Woodfield, spokeswoman Bonni Pear said, but the mega-center boasts a makeover studio, an eyebrow art salon, a relaxation center and The Art of Shaving, which offers barber services and aromatherapy for men.

Not surprisingly, industry experts say it is young adults driving the charge toward niche self-care businesses. Millennials "seeking experiences and self-fulfillment" are willing to spend on dining, entertainment and exercise trends, Yorktown General Manager Todd Hiepler said. Shoppers are looking for multipurpose destinations, he said, that can check off several items from a to-do list and make it fun to boot. That fits with Melissa Ohlson's women-focused fitness center, The Barre Code, which opened last June as the first of Yorktown's "self-care precinct" shops. Roughly 100 clients take classes in cardio, strength training and restoration each month, and they love the convenience of hitting other stores after a workout, Ohlson said.

"It's a quick and easy place where you can also run errands, grab coffee, do your own thing," she said. "It has more of a community feel." Community is exactly what mall managers are going for when they incorporate lifestyle and experiential businesses. Malls are planning more events to highlight the things people can do and new experiential businesses are finding synergy with shops selling related goods.

"It's been interesting to watch the dynamic as these owner-operators cross-promote with each other and with our retailers," Yorktown's Hiepler said. The mall's self-care precinct is "becoming a broader community that we never had before."

As frequent shoppers, moms also are finding a new niche. Both Yorktown and Stratford Square offer FIT4MOM classes, which use walkways and play areas as workout zones for mothers pushing strollers. FIT4MOM Lombard franchise owner Lesley Lehman moved to the mall in mid-2016 as the self-care trend began taking hold. She said classes with at least 10 moms begin at 9 a.m. — an hour before the mall opens — and feature power-walking for interval and circuit workouts.

Afterward, many moms take their kids to the mall's free play area or a bounce house business called Funflatables. "Moms stay and shop after," she said. "They say, 'I have a return,' or, 'I'm heading to H & M or Baby Gap,' or, 'There's coffee.'" As micro-gyms and new beauty options begin filling storefronts, shoppers are adjusting their expectations, said Stacy Kallas, Stratford Square marketing director.

The center now includes a "street soccer" play center, a dance studio, a skating center, a jiu jitsu studio, LeBreux's L.I.F.T. Academy, a FIT4MOM group meeting spot and even a Bloomingdale Park District satellite location where kids do martial arts and parents do yoga. "People are opening their minds to seeing more at shopping centers than just retail," Kallas said. "It's working for us."

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Copyright 2018 Las Vegas Sun
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Las Vegas Sun

 

Las Vegas-based restaurateur Elizabeth Blau has been mostly out of town for months now, launching a multitude of food and beverage outlets as part of the massive international entertainment destination Parq Vancouver, which houses a hotel and casino right next to BC Place Stadium in British Columbia, Canada.

Blau, her husband and business partner, Kim Canteenwalla, and their 13-year-old son Cole are a sports-loving family, so it's been difficult for Blau to miss out on the phenomenon of Las Vegas' first-year NHL team, the Golden Knights. She did catch a road game when the Knights played the Canucks in Vancouver.

"I can tell from my social media blowing up that they've taken over the city with their energy and spirit," she says. "I was home in Las Vegas on a recent Friday night and it was one of the quietest nights I can remember, because everyone was either at the hockey game or somewhere watching it."

Blau has a special proximity to the local sports boom. Her restaurant Andiron Steak & Sea is one of the most popular dining destinations at Downtown Summerlin, also the location of the Golden Knights' practice facility and headquarters, City National Arena. Her family lives in the area, too.

After the Feb. 23 groundbreaking for the 10,000-seat Las Vegas Ballpark hosted by the Howard Hughes Corp. and Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, downtown Summerlin is also about to be the home of the Las Vegas 51s, the city's Pacific Coast League professional baseball team and Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets.

"I think baseball is kind of the icing on the cake," says Blau, who also missed out on the groundbreaking while in Canada. "It's another demand-generator for people to come to Downtown Summerlin. We've been huge fans of what the Howard Hughes Corp. has done here and we know they've had this master plan from the beginning to create this sense of community. Coming from the East Coast, this is something I've really missed in Las Vegas, and it's really nice to have it."

Most locals probably hear the words "Downtown Summerlin" and think of the master-planned community's centrally located outdoor mall that fits between Red Rock Resort on West Charleston Boulevard and Sahara Avenue to the south. With its many stores and restaurants, movie theaters and family-friendly programming, the shopping center is thriving.

Las Vegas Ballpark Groundbreaking

But it's just a part of Downtown Summerlin, a nearly 400-acre plot that also stretches from the Beltway in the west to Town Center Drive in the east and opened in 2014. The urban-style development also includes Red Rock Resort, the Lifetime Fitness center and City National Bank building, the new Constellation luxury apartment building and another office building currently under construction. More than 4,000 attached residences -- apartments, condos, lofts and brownstones with no traditional suburban single-family homes -- are planned to complete the high-density community.

"I think it will be quite evident when those additional residential projects come around, especially one at the corner of Sahara and Pavilion Center Drive, that all of a sudden, with the ballpark and stadium for hockey and new office building, that this area is taking on a life of its own," says Kevin Orrock, president of Summerlin. "It's always been about creating that live-work-play environment. Our goal is to create a high-density, high-energy urban center, and we're well on our way to doing that."

When you think of a true downtown area, there are certain elements that come to mind. Sports is one of those elements. The appearance of hockey and baseball in Downtown Summerlin seems sudden even though it wasn't, not unlike Las Vegas' greater professional sports surge that includes the Golden Knights, the NFL's Raiders, the WNBA's Aces and the United Soccer League's Lights FC.

"If 20 years ago someone would have told me we'd have baseball in the middle of Summerlin, I would have thought, 'How's that going to happen?' " Orrock says. "But then all of a sudden the Howard Hughes Corp. owns the baseball team. There had been discussions for quite some time, it was just a matter of getting all the stars to align."

City National Arena has become another popular family destination at Downtown Summerlin -- like the Regal Luxury movie theaters or the Dave & Buster's arcade and restaurant -- with youth and adult hockey leagues and other skating activities. Las Vegas 51s games will be another affordable family activity just a few steps away.

"Hockey in Las Vegas has been special because the Vegas Golden Knights have done a spectacular job of ingratiating themselves into the fabric of the community," Orrock says. "I think we'll see the same thing with baseball and even the Raiders. Sports tend to drive further development, and the ballpark will accelerate that."

There was already an assortment of restaurants inside Red Rock Resort (and movie theaters, too) before that first retail-oriented phase of Downtown Summerlin opened. But business at the casino is better than ever as the resort and the mall create some synergy.

"We were already fans of residing in Summerlin since opening Red Rock Resort's doors in 2006, but it's just getting better every year," says Lori Nelson, vice president of corporate communications for Station Casinos. "While Red Rock Resort offers a full array of entertainment and dining offerings, we are equally thrilled to offer our hotel guests additional, not to mention walkable, amenities such as shopping at Downtown Summerlin, City National Arena and soon a world-class baseball stadium."

Nelson says the benefits of Downtown Summerlin's expansion extend beyond the hotel guest base. New venues are also enjoyed by team members from Red Rock Resort and Station Casinos' adjacent corporate office.

Initial developments at Downtown Summerlin have attracted locals from all over the Las Vegas Valley, not just neighbors, and the sports facilities mark the culmination of creating that kind of exciting destination. The future is focused more on providing services and a specific lifestyle for those who want to live at Downtown Summerlin or near the urban center.

"We are starting to draw other types of commercial operations," Orrock says. "We are under construction at Hualapai and Flamingo on a large build-to-suit complex for Aristocrat Technologies, and we're pleased to see them coming into Summerlin.

"In the next several years, we have a lot going on, more job-creating projects that will ultimately help create that environment so people can live close to where they work. That's everybody's goal at this point."

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Copyright 2018 Freedom Newspapers, Inc. Mar 18, 2018

The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colorado)

 

The Air Force Academy is seeking an outside review of its sports teams in the wake of hazing incidents that have rocked its swimming and lacrosse programs.

The move was confirmed by academy Athletic Director Jim Knowlton who said the incidents, which remain under investigation, have served as a wake-up call for the school.

"We are going to develop teams with dignity and respect," Knowlton said.

An Army veteran, West Point graduate and former athletic director at Air Force hockey rival Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Knowlton was hired three years ago this month to clean up academy athletic teams in the wake of a massive misconduct scandal.

Knowlton brought the academy a code of conduct for athletes and change in focus for recruiting that leans more heavily on character than athletic ability.

Apart from the recent problems, Knowlton has had relatively clean sailing.

"I couldn't be prouder of what the department accomplished in three years," he said.

But the recent suspensions of lacrosse players and swimmers indicate hazing remains a problem.

In October, the academy announced the suspension of more than a dozen lacrosse players and coaches amid an investigation into misconduct, which several sources have confirmed is tied, at least in part, to hazing.

Coach Eric Seremet was removed and Bill Wilson installed as interim head coach of the squad, which is struggling in 2018 with a 2-5 record after finishing the prior season 12-6 with an NCAA tournament berth.

The academy hasn't released details of its probe into the team and has not confirmed Seremet's firing, although he no longer is listed as coach on the team's website, which confirmed Wilson's new role.

In late February, the academy announced the suspension of 11 members of its men's swimming team. The suspensions came as the team traveled to Texas in search of its third consecutive Western Athletic Conference championship in swimming.

"The timing couldn't have been worse, but this is about the hard right and not the easy wrong," Knowlton said.

With many of its top competitors barred from the pool, Air Force slumped to a fourth-place finish.

The academy hasn't released details on the swimming case, but, again, sources say it's tied to hazing.

Knowlton said he's not worried about the slow start by lacrosse or the swim team's championship stumble.

"Here's the bottom line for me - I don't have to win games or matches or championships," Knowlton said. "I do have to be a key cog in creating leaders of character."

Knowlton's hiring in 2015 coincided with an academy push to eliminate what former superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson called toxic subcultures in sports programs.

He outlined steps he took to fix the program, including sexual assault prevention courses, enhanced training for coaches and a code of conduct that stresses to athletes that representing the academy on the field is a privilege.

"Athletes are the front porch for our academy," he said.

He also focused on how the academy recruits athletes, with a bigger focus on the school's military rigor rather than athletic glory.

"It does require a special kind of kid," Knowlton said. "We're looking for heart. We're looking for grit."

The emphasis on conduct, he said, played a role in cadets coming forward with complaints about the lacrosse and swimming teams.

"Cadets feel more comfortable talking when they see something that doesn't meet that culture of dignity and respect," he said.

And, pointing to the lacrosse and swimming cases, Knowlton feels comfortable bringing down the hammer when athletes step out of line.

"Was it tough? Yes," he said. "Was it the right thing to do? Absolutely."

While thinning rosters has cost the academy on the scoreboard, the crackdown on wrongdoing has other beneficial effects, he said.

"It gives other people the chance to step up and be key leaders," he said, "It's great to see."

In the weeks after the lacrosse incident, Knowlton met with every athletic team on the campus to reinforce the school's conduct requirements.

Teams are allowed to have tough training. Physical challenges are in, but hazing is out. Knowlton said he's told coaches and athletes that everything the teams do must be tied to a purpose that serves the academy mission.

"Are people still doing gassers? You bet," he said.

The academy has released no timeline on when it expects to complete investigations into the teams.

Knowlton's office is eager to start a probe of its own. The department wants to bring in an outside firm to examine its teams and practices to ensure leaders are stopping problems before they start.

"We're going to keep looking at ourselves," Knowlton said. "When you have a couple of these incidents, you say let's pause and take a look."

-

Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

Twitter: @xroederx

Credit: Tom Roeder

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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

SAN DIEGO — The NCAA admitted that the three-man officiating crew that called Friday's NCAA Tournament game between College of Charleston and Auburn made a mistake in the final seconds of the contest.

But the mistake didn't come on the play that has most of Cougar Nation — and social media — so upset.

The play that had most Cougar fans up in arms about what they perceived as one-sided officiating was the non-call on Grant Riller's 3-point attempt with seven seconds remaining with Charleston trailing 61-58. Replays showed that Auburn's Bryce Brown made contact with Riller's elbow as he was releasing the shot.

However, it's the play just after Riller's shot attempt where the officiating crew of Doug Shows, Dwayne Gladden and Kelly Self fouled up.

Auburn's Chuma Okeke came up with the rebound on Riller's missed attempt and was fouled by Cougars senior Cameron Johnson. Okeke passes the ball to Jared Harper immediately when the whistle is blown. When the official turns to make the call to the scorer's table, he looked back to see Harper holding the ball, and then put the Tigers' 5-10 point guard on the free throw line.

"The ref pointed at me and I went to the free throw line," Harper said Saturday. "I'm a great free throw shooter, but so is Chuma."

Harper is an 83 percent free throw shooter on the season, while Okeke shoots just 68 percent. The Tigers were in the double-bonus at that point in the game and Harper made one of two free throws.

"The official called the foul, briefly turned his head towards the scorer's table and then turned his head back towards the basket where the foul occurred," said NCAA director of officials J.D. Collins in a statement Saturday. "When he did so, Auburn's Jared Harper was holding the ball because Chuma passed it to him just as he grabbed the rebound. The official pointed to Harper, identifying him as the shooter. Had any of the officials been aware of this, or had anyone alerted the officiating crew to the fact that the wrong player was at the foul line, the officials would have been able to review the play and determine Chumu should have been the shooter."

Harper's free throw gave Auburn a 62-58 lead with three seconds to play.

The Tigers came into the game shooting better than 78 percent from the free throw line for the season as a team, but struggled against the Cougars making just 15 of 32 attempts. The Cougars had their own issues at the free throw line, making just three of seven attempts in the final two minutes of the game.

"It's a big time crew, these guys referee really high level games, so you can't go back and change it," said College of Charleston coach Earl Grant. "I don't think it would have changed anything or who won."

The non-call on Riller's missed 3-pointer was discussed at length after the game and on social media.

CBS Sports tweeted out a replay of Riller's shot and shows that Brown did make contact with Riller's elbow.

After the game, Riller said he was fouled on the play.

"I think there might have been a little love tap," Riller said. "That's not my call to make and I don't control that. They were physical with me all game, but that's not why we lost the game. We had our chances."

Auburn coach Bruce Pearl disagreed.

"Bryce challenged the shot," Pearl said. "I thought he was pretty vertical. College of Charleston likes to kick out their legs on threes. They draw fouls on three-point shooting and I thought our guys did a good job of staying away from that."

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas felt like Riller was fouled on the shot.

"Charleston's Grant Riller was fouled on that last 3pt attempt to tie. Unfortunate missed call. No question, clear from seeing it live, he was hit in the elbow," Bilas said in his tweet.

College of Charleston athletic director Matt Roberts feels that game officials should be held more accountable.

"It amazes me that the NCAA makes student-athletes meet with press to answer questions about a loss, including questionable officiating," Roberts said. "Yet the refs get to stroll out of the arena without one microphone in their face. Our guys took the high road. Proud of them."

Friday night's game against Auburn was the Cougars' first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1999.

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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

 

LYNCHBURG — Another major construction project is coming to Liberty University as the school continues to refine and expand its facilities.

At the quarterly Town and Gown meeting Wednesday between city and local college officials, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. announced plans to add a new arena to campus.

The 125,000-square-foot, 4,500-seat facility will be attached to the Vines Center and be used primarily for volleyball and basketball games.

Teams will use the locker rooms and practice facilities already in the Vines Center.

The university did not disclose an anticipated cost for the project, although LU said it plans to open the arena by 2020.

Falwell said the new arena will reduce the costs of staging LU's thrice-weekly convocation and other events.

"The primary need for this facility is to eliminate countless man hours and resources setting up and tearing down the stage and floor seating to accommodate both convocation and sports events. This arena will allow us to leave the convocation stage in place for much longer periods of time since sports events will not need the Vines Center except on special occasions," Trey Falwell, vice president of university operations, wrote via email.

He added that a smaller arena will accommodate events that draw 2,000 or 3,000 fans, compared to seeing an athletic contests or commencement in the larger, 9,500-seat Vines Center..

Jerry Falwell Jr. made a similar statement at Wednesday's Town and Gown meeting. "It's more exciting when you have a small arena packed out than a big arena half full," he said.

Men's basketball will continue to play in the Vines Center when attendance is expected to be above 4,000.

The arena will be built on a lot currently used for bus pickups. A new lot will shift from the current location adjacent to the Vines Center to another nearby site on University Boulevard.

"Parking for Vines will be in the existing parking garage and, as crowds grow and demand increases, a couple dorms on East Campus will be demolished to make way for a new parking garage at east end of the pedestrian tunnel under 29/460. A new highway ramp from the eastbound lane of the bypass will serve the parking deck," Jerry Falwell Jr. wrote via mail.

For Liberty University, the new arena represents a continuing buildup of its athletic facilities.

A new $29 million indoor football practice center and a $20 million natatorium opened in 2017.

Williams Stadium also is undergoing a $40 million-plus addition to bring it to 25,000 seats from 19,200 seats as Liberty prepares to join larger schools playing in the Football Bowl Subdivision later this year.

Since 2010, the university has spent nearly $1 billion on improving and building new campus facilities.

About $200 million of that has been directed toward athletics. In February, the school opened its 17-story Freedom Tower, which serves as the School of Divinity. Construction of a new School of Business is underway, with an anticipated opening this fall.

Work on the campus master plan also continues to evolve. Liberty University foresees a new student parking lot and activities space near on-campus housing and wants to extend Regents Parkway by 1,000 feet.

Those plans will go before the city of Lynchburg's Technical Review Committee for approval at its March 20 meeting in City Hall.

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Copyright 2018 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

A former Wheaton College football player who says he was injured in a hazing that rocked the campus last fall has filed a lawsuit against the school that also names head coach Mike Swider. Charles Nagy, now 21, alleges he was injured in a violent hazing on March 19, 2016, that forced him to undergo two shoulder surgeries and prematurely ended his football career. It also alleges that hazings were a common practice in the football program that coaches and other officials ignored – a claim school officials strongly deny.

Kyler Kregal from Grand Rapids, Michigan; Ben Pettway from Lookout Mountain, Georgia; Noah Spielman from Columbus, Ohio; Samuel TeBos from Allendale, Michigan; and James Cooksey of Jacksonville, Florida, are accused of abducting Nagy from his dorm, putting a pillowcase over his head, tying him with duct tape, repeatedly punching and kicking him, and then leaving him partially nude on a baseball field near Hawthorne Elementary School in Wheaton.

The civil suit alleges the five played Middle Eastern music, spoke with Middle Eastern accents and told Nagy he would be sexually violated. In September, a grand jury approved a nine-count indictment against the five players for aggravated battery, mob action and unlawful restraint. Each of the men has pleaded not guilty to all charges. "These young, stupid kids thought it was perfectly all right to go do that.

And that encouragement came right from the coaching staff," Nagy's attorney, Terry Ekl, said Friday. "We're going to put Wheaton College under a microscope and see that they've turned their back on many serious cases of hazing and hold them responsible to a large extent for what happened." The complaint alleges hazing was an open secret within the football program that was handed down from class to class while Swider and other coaches, trainers and officials looked the other way. In a written statement released Friday, college officials disputed that claim.

"We take the allegation that any member of our community has been mistreated in any way to be a matter of grave concern," officials said. "We strongly deny that the college has allowed a permissive environment of hazing or violence, and are confident that it will not be found to have legal responsibility. Wheaton College is committed to providing Christ-centered education in a positive environment for every student."

Nevertheless, the suit claims Swider met with the five football players the day after the hazing to concoct and coordinate a narrative to blame the victim, claiming Nagy was a voluntary participant and that no one intended to hurt him. It says they also "developed a common claim that (Nagy) was exaggerating what occurred..."

The suit lists several texts and phone calls from Swider and assistant coaches and teammates urging Nagy to return to campus "to resolve this" after Nagy withdrew from school. "We're focused on the coaching staff and the administration. They're complicit in what happened. It's like a Wheaton College version of the code of silence in the Chicago Police Department," Ekl said. "They know misconduct is going on. They don't do anything about it. They condone it."

Nagy is seeking damages in excess of $50,000 and the cost of his filing the lawsuit.

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The Press Enterprise (Riverside, CA)

 

When a state-of-the-art Strength & Conditioning Center opened at San Jacinto High School last spring, it was dedicated in honor of former longtime coach and Athletic Director Jeff Snyder. Since then, it has become a venue for athletes and physical education students to get a healthful workout thanks to the addition of full-time strength and conditioning teacher Jeremiah "Bud" Budnovich.

"My weight training classes are a mixture of athletes and regular students," said Budnovich, 38. "For athletes who may not otherwise have weight training for their particular sport, this class provides that opportunity. For regular students, this class is available their sophomore year to complete the physical education requirement."

Athletes from most of the sports on campus, but not all, take full advantage of the workout they can receive.

"I communicate with head coaches on any particular training wants and needs, in season and out of season training, and more," said Budnovich, who coaches football and track and field. Prior to coaching at San Jacinto High, he coached running backs and offensive line football players at Mt. San Jacinto College from 2010 to 2014, where he also helped run its strength and conditioning program.

Walter Guzman, girls varsity head coach, said as a team the girls had used the former weight room sparingly. With the new facility, there are 20 soccer team girls who use it during fourth-period Sports PE class, along with other athletes in that class.

"Coach Bud and I had a conversation as to what we were expecting for the soccer girls," Guzman said. "I wanted him to concentrate on soccer-specific exercises, such as strengthening drills for the legs and more specific for injury prevention of the knees along with some speed work and general fitness."

He said having a full-time teacher in the room has been a huge advantage to his soccer program because it allows him freedom to concentrate more on field work with the ball at the girls' feet and less on their fitness level.

"Coach Bud is an easygoing type of guy we as coaches feel comfortable talking to, and I know my girls feel the same way about him," Guzman said. "We're glad we have him, and I know it will pay off in the long run."

Budnovich charts and tracks everything done in the weight room. Students' maximums are recorded at the start of each six-week lifting cycle and retested at the end to assess gains.

"After the data is analyzed, I make adjustments to the lifting program to address any deficiencies in strength gain," he said.

Junior Payton McCartney is on the school's soccer and track teams.

"My speed has been the biggest improvement since I started using the center," said McCartney, 17.

Budnovich, who served as a Marine from 1998 to 2003, said his military experience helped him shape a different philosophy on physical training. He makes safety paramount in the weight room, putting students through an extensive training program covering safety rules and proper lifting techniques.

He said he loves the work, and the students are great.

"Student-athletes typically have a strong sense of intrinsic motivation," he said. "For others it is a matter of relating the importance of maintaining a strong mind and body to achieve homeostasis throughout one's life."

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Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)

 

FRANKLIN — The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association golf committee spent much of its meeting Thursday at the organization's headquarters trying to figure out a way to avoid a recurrence of last fall when Lunenburg junior Emily Nash carded the lowest score in the Central Mass. Division 3 boys' golf tournament, but wasn't awarded the medalist trophy or allowed to advance to the state tournament because she had been ruled ineligible.

The ruling was widely criticized across the nation by those who felt Nash had been discriminated against because she was a girl playing in a boys' tournament.

Among those up in arms was LPGA Tour golfer Brittany Altomare, who had been allowed to advance to the state tournament as a member of the Shrewsbury High boys' golf team a decade ago.

MIAA golf committee chairman David Keir, athletic director at Smith Academy in Hatfield, said he understood the reasons behind the uproar.

"At the time," he said, "we

followed the rules that were written in the format and the rules that were written in the handbook for the MIAA. Whether those rules were right or not, I don't know, but we followed them, and that didn't sit well with people."

The golf committee, composed of high school principals, vice principals and athletic directors from throughout the state, discussed ways to prevent the same situation from occurring again next fall, when Nash will be a senior.

Agawam High's Angela Garvin also will be a senior after she finished second in the Western Mass. Division 1 boys' tournament last fall, but wasn't allowed to advance to the state tournament as an individual.

An MIAA rule prohibits girls from competing as individuals in the fall in the boys' sectional and state golf tournaments, because they can compete in the girls' sectional and state golf tournaments in the spring. So Nash's performance counted only toward her team score in the Central Mass. Division 3 boys' tournament, and she didn't advance to the state tournament because her team didn't.

However, Nash was allowed to compete with the Lunenburg High boys' team in the CMass Division 3 boys' tournament, because Lunenburg doesn't field a girls' team in the spring.

Boys who fail to qualify as individuals for state golf tournaments can compete if their teams qualify, but their scores aren't considered toward individual honors.

The golf committee tabled a motion to create separate state golf tournaments for individuals and for teams each spring and fall. Only the medalists in each of the 14 sectional boys' tournaments would be eligible to compete in the individual state tournaments each fall. Under that format, Nash would have been declared the medalist and allowed to advance to the state tournament.

"I'm not so sure that there is a solution that is going to satisfy everyone," Keir said, "but we're going to try to find the best solution that we can find that will satisfy the most people. I hope we find one that will satisfy everybody."

A subcommittee was formed to explore the motion and report to the golf committee at its next scheduled meeting here at 10 a.m. on June 12.

Peter Jones, athletic director at Advanced Math And Science Academy Charter School in Marlboro, will be on the subcommittee.

"We need to put in work to make sure that things are equitable across the board," Jones said, "and that we're doing the right thing for all the student-athletes who participate in golf. I don't know if necessarily that we got anything wrong, but it certainly opened a lot of peoples' eyes as to how we were doing things, and we're going to take a look at it."

"The format," Keir said, "will be most likely changed to something that's more equitable than what it was this past fall."

In the meantime, the sectional and state girls' golf tournaments will not be changed this spring.

The committee also considered playing boys' and girls' golf in the same season, holding separate individual tournaments open to far more golfers, doing away with the individual aspect of the tournaments altogether, and keeping the current rules intact, but awarding separate prizes to the medalists if they weren't eligible for the individual awards.

Keir is also a member of a blue-ribbon task force that includes high school administrators and Western New England University law professor Erin Buzuvis, director of the school's Center for Gender & Sexuality Studies, and which met in December to explore gender equity issues for all MIAA sports. In a memo to the golf committee, Buzuvis wrote that allowing girls to compete in the sectional and state tournament in both the spring and fall was "defensible," but would diminish the importance of the girls' spring tournaments.

Keir said giving girls the choice of playing in either the girls' or boys' sectional golf tournaments was suggested in December.

"It doesn't solve the whole problem across the board," Keir said, "but it might move us in the right direction."

Playing from the same tees as the boys, Nash posted a 3-over-par 75 at Blissful Meadows Golf Course in Uxbridge last October to defeat runner-up Nico Ciolino of AMSA by four strokes. After Ciolino was declared the medalist, he offered to give Nash the first-place trophy, but she declined to accept it. The MIAA later presented Nash and Ciolino with sportsmanship awards.

The rule prohibiting girls was added after the 2015 and before the 2016 fall seasons, according to the MIAA Boys' Fall Golf Tournament information sheets. Nash said she competed as an individual in the Central Mass. tournament as an eighth-grader even though her team didn't qualify.

In 2008, Altomare tied for fourth place in the Central Mass. Division 1 boys' golf tournament and tied for 12th in the state tournament.

Some golf committee members said future controversy could be avoided by making it clear that individual and team competitions were separate contests held during the same tournaments at the sectionals and state levels, but Carolyn O'Donnell, MIAA officials' representative and a 10-year member of the golf committee, disagreed.

"The world is not going to understand that," O'Donnell told her fellow committee members, "and I don't want to be embarrassed again."

O'Donnell said she thought all competitors in each event should be eligible for medalist honors.

Separate individual and team golf tournaments at the sectional and state levels ceased many years ago because of the expense, lack of available courses and time spent away from school by the participating students, according to the committee.

The blue-ribbon task force will meet at MIAA headquarters on Friday and again in April and May before reporting its findings to the MIAA Board of Directors on May 23. Keir said the task force could make some recommendations to the golf committee.

Keir said the MIAA Board of Directors could change the handbook at any time.

Contact Bill Doyle at william.doyle@telegram.com Follow him on Twitter @BillDoyle15.

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

 

WORCESTER — A month after college leadership decided to keep the college's "Crusader" nickname, Holy Cross President Rev. Philip L. Boroughs announced in a message this week the school will drop its knight mascot.

In a letter to alumni, students, faculty and staff, the Rev. Boroughs said the Crusader knight, which adorns much of the college's paraphernalia, "inevitably ties us directly to the reality of the religious wars and the violence of the Crusades."

"This imagery stands in contrast to our stated values," he said. "Over the coming months, the college will gradually phase out the use of all knight-related imagery."

In its place, Holy Cross will adopt an interlocking HC on a purple shield as its primary logo. The

college will also retire its costumed knight mascot, according to the president.

"I understand these decisions will be a disappointment to some of you but I trust our community's support for Holy Cross and for our athletic teams will continue unwaveringly," Rev. Boroughs said.

The phase-out of the knight mascot is the latest chapter in the college's internal debate over its controversial nickname. Earlier this year, the student newspaper decided to change its name from the Crusader to the Spire; last fall, college leadership embarked on a campaign to reassess the Crusader name for the entire school as well.

In early February, however, Rev. Boroughs and the college's trustees announced they had decided to keep the name, pointing out the distinction that Holy Cross' identity as crusaders is different from the historical depiction of them as religious invaders.

In his latest message to the Holy Cross community, Rev. Boroughs said the college's current and former students have given a more positive meaning to the nickname.

"Our students spend their spring breaks working with the poor and marginalized in Haiti, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Appalachia and recent grads generously join the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, Teach for America and the Peace Corps," he said. "Our alumni become teachers, doctors, researchers, government officials, religious and priests, and advocates for the transformation of society through education, social service and business. These are just a few examples of what it means to be a Crusader today."

Some on campus, however, were not happy with the decision to keep the nickname, and worried that remaining Crusaders would make the college seem unwelcoming to non-Christians. Last month dozens of students and faculty members signed a letter to Rev. Boroughs criticizing the move and suggesting, among other steps, that Holy Cross drop the knight mascot.

"He is a symbol of religious intolerance directly tied to the violent medieval Crusades, not a person pursuing peace and justice," the letter said. "Far from distancing ourselves from our Catholic and Jesuit roots, changing the mascot would allow the community to more appropriately and accurately reflect the values, ideals and call of that faith tradition."

Through its public spokesman, the college on Thursday said it would not have any further comment about the decision to move on from the knight mascot.

Scott O'Connell can be reached at Scott.O'Connell@telegram.com . Follow him on Twitter @ScottOConnellTG

The Crusader mascot on the field in October during a Holy Cross football game against Colgate. [T&G File Photo]

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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

SAN DIEGO — Only nine of the 68 best college basketball teams in the nation are from west of the Kansas border this year, according to the NCAA Tournament men's selection committee.

The other 59 teams in the tournament — 87% — come from the Central and Eastern time zones, leaving a big void out West, where the basketball teams just aren't as bountiful or as good, depending on the viewpoint.

At least one strange side effect of this imbalance has developed this week as a result:

A bunch of Deep South and red-state teams have been forced to fly into Southern California to fill the bracket at Viejas Arena, a first-and second-round site that was determined years in advance. This happened despite committee guidelines instituted in 2002 to keep teams closer to home.

"If anybody's equipped to do it, we can do it," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said Thursday, putting a positive spin on his team's many long travels.

His team is seeded fifth in the East Region, of all places, and yet was required to come all the way out here to play Murray State of Kentucky on Friday in the first round.

Some might see this as fallout from an alleged East Coast bias, especially after the selection committee snubbed the Southern California Trojans and Saint Mary's College of California, both of which finished second in their leagues. After all, seven members of the 10-member committee are from the Central and Eastern time zones.

This year, the amount of teams from those time zones (59) is tied for the most ever from that part of the country, tied with last year, according to data from STATS. The only time there were fewer than nine teams from the Mountain, Pacific and Hawaii time zones was in 1986, when there were seven, according to STATS.

But the lopsided map also has an innocent explanation: Less than 20% of all Division I teams are from west of the Central time zone to begin with, and teams from that side of the country have never earned more than 15 NCAA Tournament berths in one year anyway, which happened in 2013.

The basketball teams out West this year also weren't as good, according to several metrics and the committee. Of the nine tournament teams from out West, the committee seeded only three higher than an 11-seed: Nevada, a 7 seed, and Arizona and Gonzaga, both 4 seeds.

"Teams will remain in or as close to their areas of natural interest as possible," according to NCAA tournament seeding guidelines that were designed to reduce team travel and increase local fan interest.

But if there aren't enough good teams from out West, this is what happens: The first-round games in San Diego are filled with teams from the East and Midwest Regions of the bracket: Clemson, Charleston, Auburn, West Virginia, Marshall of West Virginia, Murray State (Ky.) and Wichita State. New Mexico State is the lone team in San Diego from west of Kansas.

Tickets were still available Thursday at Viejas Arena, which seats about 11,000 for tournament games. It's not clear how many fans each school will bring even if the schools have sold all of their allotments.

Some still won't be fazed by the travel distance, especially the Buchanan family from Mississippi. Brothers Shunn and Leroy "Shaq" Buchanan play for New Mexico State and Murray State, respectively, in separate games in San Diego.

"I have a big group of family coming out," Shunn Buchanan told USA TODAY. "They're excited. I'm just happy for my mom."

The committee has tried to keep teams closer to home by matching certain "pods" of four-team mini-brackets with one of eight first- and second-round sites that were determined several years ago. The best teams in those pods are seeded 1, 2, 3 or 4 and receive geographic priority as much as possible.

"If you look at the overall seed list, of all the teams on the top 12 lines (the 1, 2 and 3 seeds), none are Mountain (time) or Western teams," NCAA media coordinator David Worlock said in an e-mail. "That means all of the sites were taken except for the two Western sites (Boise and San Diego)."

Arizona and Gonzaga went to Boise for first-round games, along with Kentucky, Buffalo, Ohio State and two teams from North Carolina.

Asked why Arizona, a four-seed in the South Region, was not sent to San Diego instead of Wichita State or Auburn, also both 4 seeds, Worlock said the committee looks at other factors besides geography.

"When there is minimal relative distance between sites, the committee may exercise discretion when assigning teams to a site," Worlock said. "The reasons could relate to ease and flexibility of travel options, competitive balance and natural geographic region."

Besides Arizona, UCLA and Arizona State were the only other tournament teams from the Pac-12, the best league in the West. Both were relegated to preliminary play-in games this week in Dayton, Ohio.

And then they both lost to teams from New York.

In San Diego, the two teams that advance from here to the Sweet 16 will proceed to either Omaha or Boston.

Their fans might want to pick up some fish tacos from the beach before they leave. It's cold out there, and it's a long trip.

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

 

Georgia hired Tom Crean as its new men's basketball coach Thursday night, giving him a six-year deal at $3.2 million annually.

Crean was just hours away from going a full year without coaching, as the 51-year-old was fired at Indiana a year ago today following nine seasons. He guided the Hoosiers to a 166-135 record that was highlighted by trips to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16 in 2012, 2013 and 2016.

Indiana defeated the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Kentucky in the 2016 tournament before losing to North Carolina.

Georgia president Jere Morehead and Bulldogs athletic director Greg McGarity flew to Sarasota, Fla., on Thursday to meet with Crean. The university's athletic board executive committee met via phone Thursday night to approve the hire, and Crean is scheduled to be introduced in Athens today.

"I am honored and humbled to join the University of Georgia family," Crean said Thursday night in a release. "I am sincerely grateful to President Morehead and Greg McGarity for an incredible opportunity. Make no mistake, this is a basketball program inside of a great university that can compete for championships doing it the right way.

"We will work diligently and with great energy to make everyone associated with the University of Georgia very proud of our efforts."

McGarity announced last Saturday the firing of Mark Fox after nine seasons.

Crean averaged 23 wins in his last six seasons with the Hoosiers, which followed a wretched 28-66 mark his first three seasons. He began his career at Indiana with the program on NCAA probation, which was a result of more than 100 impermissible phone calls made to recruits by predecessor Kelvin Sampson and his assistants.

Before his Indiana stint, Crean coached Marquette to a 190-96 record from 1999 to 2008. That nine-season run was highlighted by a trip to the Final Four in 2003, when junior guard Dwyane Wade led the Warriors and weeks later became an NBA top-five pick.

Crean has spent this season as an ESPN analyst.

"Tom Crean is one of the most successful coaches in college basketball over the past two decades," McGarity said. "His teams have consistently been participants in postseason play, and his players have been extremely successful in the classroom. He's going to be a great fit for the University of Georgia.

"I'm extremely excited to have him leading Georgia basketball into the future."

Georgia extended an offer to former Ohio State coach Thad Matta, but Matta announced Wednesday that he was turning down the job.

Crean's new salary would have ranked among the top 10 nationally this season. It is still a distant second among Southeastern Conference coaches to Kentucky's John Calipari, who is earning $7.45 million this year.

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

 

The Town of Newburgh in conjunction with the Newburgh Park Board held a public forum on March 1 to discuss the plans for Lou Dennis Community Park. The Town Council announced in January the decision to close the pool. Rising operational and repair costs combined with low attendance at the current facility prompted the closing and the decision to create a master plan for the future of the community park.

The meeting included the first look at a proposed sketch for the new layout of the park along with an open discussion session. The sketch includes a not only the pool which was indicated to be phase 1 of construction but also a splash pad, basketball courts, playground, open green space and picnic shelters.

The decision to close the pool has prompted great public interest with groups coming together to brainstorm and fundraise for the task ahead. Although the pool is the topic of current conversation, there is an immediate need at the Lou Dennis Community Park that the Newburgh Parks Board is focused on this spring.

The park is bordered by amazing ash trees that have provided shade and ambiance for the Fortress of Fun in the park for decades. The trees are endangered by the Emerald Ash Borer are due for treatment to prevent an infestation from hitting the park. The Emerald Ash Borers arrived in the US from Asia in 2002 and have been attacking and killing trees.

Park Pals is an extension of the Newburgh Parks Board which strives to preserve, protect and manage natural, historical, and recreational resources and facilities to offer leisure activities and programming for all citizens. Park Pals is a non-profit organization established to enhance the public's enjoyment of the Newburgh public parks along with preserving, protecting and growing the parks.

The Park Pals will be hosting "Ring in Spring" on March 17. This first-ever Parks Pals event will be a tea and style show with proceeds going to the treatment of the trees. "Ring in Spring", sponsored by ERA First Advantage Realty will be from 2-4 p.m. at Preservation Hall on March 17. Newburgh businesses and merchants have stepped up to sponsor, provide fashions and accessories for the show and door prizes along with food and beverages for all in attendance.

Tickets are $15 per person. Checks are payable to Park Pals of Newburgh. Reservations and payments should be sent to 119 W. Jennings St., Newburgh, IN 47630. Additional information on the event can be found on the Historic Newburgh, Inc. Facebook page or by calling 812-483-4440.

Helen Zimmerman is the Executive Director of Historic Newburgh, Inc.

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Copyright 2018 The Salt Lake Tribune
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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

Liz Knox didn't get a chance to rest.

A day after making 24 saves to backstop her team to a road win and then flying home from Boston, the goaltender for the Markham Thunder worked her day job as a carpenter from 6 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon, took a 10-minute nap, went for a 4-mile run and squeezed in a workout before dinner.

"If we were making a living wage, it's not a big deal because I can sleep in today and go to the gym when I'm ready and have the facilities there to train," Knox said. "If it's your full-time job, then that's your full-time job and you can pay for your rent and everything else on top of that."

For now, playing women's hockey professionally in North America isn't lucrative enough to be a full-time job, save for the U.S. and Canadian Olympians who earn money from their national federations. In the aftermath of the U.S. winning gold at the Winter Games, several players have used their platform on a whirlwind victory tour to make the case for one professional league where there are currently two competitors the Canadian Women's Hockey League and National Women's Hockey League.

"I don't play in the CWHL or the NWHL so I have no personal preference," U.S. shootout hero Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson said. "For women's hockey to continue its traction is to have one league, whether that's a merger or an entirely new league that supports both the U.S. and Canada in one league, I think is going to be really important in the next season to somehow make that happen."

Current and former players have taken to social media to promote the concept of (hash)OneLeague that could pay long-term dividends for the sport. It's a complicated issue muddled in the uncertainty between the CWHL, NHWL and NHL with, so far, no obvious path forward.

The compelling journey of the U.S. team from its fight for a better contract from USA Hockey to its thrilling victory against Canada at the Olympics brought positive attention to women's hockey that is now in danger of being cut short.

"After the Olympics, all the conversation was 'Why can't I watch this on a day-to-day basis? Why can't I watch this every weekend?' Well, you can't because the talent is split right now between two leagues," said Knox, one of the co-chairs of the CWHL Players Association. "Merging is probably never going to work. There's just too many differences between the two leagues and that's been evident from the very beginning."

The CWHL, now in its 11th season, has seven teams split between the U.S., Canada and China. The NWHL began in 2015 and has four U.S.-based teams.

What also divides the two are salary and bonus structures.

The NWHL has paid its players a salary from its inception Between $10,000 and $26,000 in its first season to between $5,000 and $7,000 now. The CWHL previously focused on paying staff and player travel costs before committing to paying players starting this past year — anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000, with a team salary cap of $100,000.

"Our framework has allowed for us to maintain sustainability and measured growth, and that trend will continue," said Brenda Andress, commissioner of the nonprofit CWHL, which has partnered with NHL teams in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary. Partnerships can include financial assistance, marketing and promotions, ice time and office space.

The NHWL is on better financial footing than it was last season, when the league was forced to cut player salaries in half to avoid the risk of folding. It now has an affiliation with the New Jersey Devils for financial and other support, and Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula purchased the Buffalo Beauts to make them the first team not owned and managed by the league.

"Team USA's thrilling victory over Canada for the gold medal captivated the nation and showed a glimpse of the potential for women's hockey in our country," a Pegula Sports & Entertainment spokesman said. "We believe that women's hockey has an extremely bright future and are heavily committed to doing our part to continue its advancement."

Neither league would address any notion of specific merger talks.

"One of the founding principles of the NWHL is to advance women's hockey," NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan said. "If anyone has a formal plan or ever wants to discuss how we can take the business of professional women's hockey to the next level, the NWHL will always engage with them and do what's best for the game, the players, our supporters and fans."

Knox and others would love for the NHL to step in and run a league like the NBA has with the WNBA.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's stance on women's pro hockey hasn't changed since the NWHL was established. It's a position he recently reiterated on Calgary's 960-Radio by saying the two leagues must first sort out their situations.

"Having two leagues makes it more difficult for us to get involved," Bettman said. "If there were no leagues, we'd probably start one under the NHL umbrella, and I've told both leagues that. But I have no interest in competing with the existing leagues. I think that would be counterproductive."

Andress said the CWHL has always believed in the need for one league called it "where the future of the women's professional game has always been heading."

No one's quite sure what that would look like.

"Your guess is as good as mine," said U.S. captain Meghan Duggan, who has played in the CWHL and NWHL. "It would be awesome if we could work together and if they could work together and figure out a way to get everyone playing under the same umbrella."

U.S. forward Hilary Knight, who is back in the CWHL playing for Les Canadiennes in Montreal after two seasons with the NWHL's Boston Pride, said whatever it looks like, it's vital for the growth of the game to have a single league that pays a living wage.

"If I have a child and I'm going to sign them up, if they were to take this seriously, what's the career path? If they fall in love with the game, what career path are they going to have?" said Knight, who signed with Montreal last week. "Is there going to be a place for them to play after college if they're not going to be in the national team program or whatnot?"

Right now, those are unanswered questions. Even though Knox is Canadian, she can't help but be happy that the Olympic championship won by the Americans has put the one-league conundrum in the spotlight.

"That's the biggest voice that we have right now in North America," Knox said. "The stuff that they're doing right now and helping to promote the idea that we could all play in one league is really, really important for the growth of women's hockey here in North America."

It's an effort borne out of frustration for players who want nothing more than to play with and against each other in the same league instead of being forced to choose. They know fans also have to split their attention, which isn't necessarily a sustainable way to build the popularity of women's hockey.

"A lot of people only discover women's hockey every four years at the Olympics," Knight said. "We're here every single year, every single day training and there's places that you can come see us, but we just don't have those marketing dollars, those resources behind us to really bridge the gap between a product and the consumer. Hopefully combining efforts would help take care of that and we can get some big names on board to help fix that problem."

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Copyright 2018 Star Tribune
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle said that he knows there are a lot of questions surrounding the contracts of some of his coaches, perhaps most notably men's hockey coach Don Lucia, but he said for the most part he likes what he has seen from them.

"We've got a great group of coaches across the board in all of our sports," Coyle said. "[Women's basketball] coach [Marlene] Stollings came back and had a great year this past year."

Stollings has a contract that runs through the 2020-21 season and the fact that the team has rallied to reach the NCAA tournament should end the discussion about her status.

"Excited for coach Stollings and our women's basketball team," Coyle said. "We're excited about their 22-win season."

Yes, Stollings and that Gophers squad will get a great test Friday when they face off with Wisconsin-Green Bay in Oregon in the first round.

Successful enough?

When it comes to Lucia, his contract is always a hot topic of debate because the Gophers haven't won a NCAA championship since they went back-to-back in 2002 and 2003, even though they have reached the tournament in five of the past six seasons and reached the Frozen Four in 2012 and 2014.

Lucia still has one more year on his contract, and it's hard to imagine Coyle would fire him if the team made the tournament Sunday.

Still, the Gophers failed to win the Big Ten for the first time since the conference was created in 2013, and Coyle wouldn't give a definitive answer on whether or not Lucia would be back.

"With men's hockey we haven't shied away from that. We have a hockey program that should be competing for championships each year," he said. "Obviously we're ranked 13th in the country [in the PairWise], and we'll find out March 18th where we'll play in the NCAA tournament. We'll continue to evaluate that program like we do all the programs.

"Coach Lucia is in his 19th year and I have a lot of respect for what he has done for our program and how he operates."

Hoops program hurt

When it comes to head coach Richard Pitino, there's almost no question he will be back next season after a ton of injuries hurt a team that started 13-3 but finished 2-14 down the stretch.

In Pitino's case, Coyle said that the Gophers recruiting class for next season, which ranks 36th in the country according to ESPN, along with the return of injured players, should make for a much better squad.

"I think we have a strong recruiting class coming in. It's hard. People forget we lost Eric Curry at the start of the season to a knee injury. And having Curry back and getting Amir Coffey back - he had successful surgery - so getting Amir back, and Dupree McBrayer, I'll tell you what he gutted it out all year, he had injuries all year and he competed and played hard," Coyle said. "If we can get those guys back healthy, get our freshman in here, I'm confident coach Pitino and that staff will be competing for Big Ten Championships like we want to do."

Fleck, year two

The biggest move of Coyle's tenure so far was the firing of football coach Tracy Claeys and the hiring of P.J. Fleck. Coyle said that ticket sales are going well for the 2018-2019 season.

"I think people are excited for Year 2 with coach Fleck. He went out and did a phenomenal job with his recruiting class, I believe our recruiting class is ranked first in the Big Ten West, in the Top 30-35 in the country, places we haven't been for a long time," Coyle said. "You have to get talented players and you have to coach them and we're very confident P.J. is doing those two things."

Coyle said he thinks the biggest thing for Fleck and the university is creating a stable coaching environment with the players, and so far he says that is happening.

"P.J., he came in here and we had had three head coaches in three years, and P.J. came in here, and I give a lot of credit to our football student-athletes, they responded to coach Fleck, they bought in," Coyle said. "We've had our highest academic semesters with coach Fleck here, and I know they're working awfully hard off the field and working hard on the field. We have no reason to believe we can't have great success if we continue to build this thing the right way."

Always fundraising

While it might seem that the Gophers' ability to build their Athletes Village was the culmination of their fundraising efforts, Coyle detailed how that process remains ongoing.

When Coyle was hired, the Gophers administration and boosters pointed out how great he has been at raising money for several schools during his career. That has continued at the U.

"Athletes Village is a big piece of the puzzle for our department," he said. "We need to look at our gymnastics programs, both [men's head coach] Mike Burns and [women's head coach] Jenny Hansen do a phenomenal job with our programs - in fact they both have two freshman on each of their teams that are just outstanding.

"We need to look at our gymnastics programs next, but the most important thing is we just need to continue to build and do things the right way. Our goal is to build a first-class experience for all of our coaches and student-athletes and we won't rest until we can do that for all 25 programs."

Towns on fire

The Timberwolves entered one of the toughest stretches of their season without All-Star Jimmy Butler, who still is rehabbing from meniscus surgery, but reports are that Butler is making great progress and will definitely be ready if the team makes the playoffs.

But in his absence a number of players have stepped up, most notably fellow All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns.

In the Wolves' 116-111 win on the road over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday, Towns finished with 37 points and 10 rebounds, it was his 30th career 30-point game and set a single season high for points.

After the Wolves win over the Warriors on Sunday, when Towns had 31 points and 16 rebounds, he talked about how the team is ready for this challenge.

"You don't ever want to have pressure turn to stress," Towns said. "We have to make sure that we keep our composure. With the situation we're in, it's a lot of pressure on us but we can't turn that to stress because that's when we start becoming undisciplined and start making errors that are just more mental."

With back-to-back wins over two playoff bound teams the Wolves are still in control of their playoff destiny.

 

Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. Monday and Friday, 2 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. · shartman@startribune.com

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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

A total public-private split was unanimously approved Thursday by the TSSAA's Legislative Council - 21 years after the Tennessee high school athletic association created a separate division for schools that offer need-based financial aid.

The proposal, which was submitted by Harding Academy, a Memphis-based private school that participates in Division II, goes into effect during the 2019-20 school year. That coincides with the midway mark of the current four-year classification plan and comes after the second year of two-year high school football game contracts.

"I think it levels the playing field," said Harding Academy athletic director Kevin Starks, who is a Legislative Council member. "I think the independent schools can do things that public schools can't do.

"I think with the exception of all (schools) being back together, which seems unlikely to happen again, I think it's right for independent schools to be together and public and charter schools to be together."

Both public and private schools are permitted to play each other in the regular season, but would be split in postseason play.

The rule essentially affects nine schools after three private schools - Columbia Academy, Grace Christian Academy in Franklin and Knoxville Catholic - ask and were approved to go to Division II starting with the 2019-20 school year.

The majority of private schools competing in Division I chose to go to DII beginning this school year when the TSSAA instituted a financial assistance program that coincided with a need-based financial aid policy. The financial assistance program will cease starting with the 2019-20 school year due to the approved split.

"It's been a work in progress for 20 years," TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said. "I think it is (easier to do it now).

Private schools affected by the decision include Berean Christian School in Knoxville, Christ Legacy Academy in Athens, Dayspring Academy in Greenbrier, Fairview Christian Academy in Athens, Natchez Trace Youth Academy in Waverly, and Trinity Christian Academy in Jackson.

Of those six, only Trinity Christian and Berean Christian have won a TSSAA state team championship.

"I think it's a good opportunity for the TSSAA to move forward and put this decades of questioning and perception of independent schools and the advantage they have to be put to rest and move forward," Trinity Christian athletic director Ken Northcut said.

Currently three public schools - Knowledge Academies in Nashville, Carroll Academy in Huntingdon and Memphis Rise Academy - compete in Division II.

Former Berean volleyball coach Cory Felts, who is now an assistant at Maryville College, said the Council's decision didn't surprise him.

"From a competitive standpoint, I'm not sure why there was such a fervor over private schools playing in the same division," Felts said. "For a school like Webb, that does offer scholarships, it makes sense to be in a different division.

"For the overall private schools, especially a small one like Berean I'm not sure how it's much different from open zone in some of these schools."

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

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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

Tubby Smith emerged from the elevator within the University of Memphis Administration Building at 11:32 a.m. on Wednesday and realized he was on the wrong floor.

Accompanied by his attorney, Smith found the nearest open door and asked for directions to the office of university president M. David Rudd. Then, he climbed the one flight of stairs left between him and his fate as the Memphis men's basketball coach.

About 20 minutes later, Smith walked back out of a meeting with Rudd and athletic director Tom Bowen and confirmed the news everyone had been expecting: He was no longer the head coach at Memphis.

Smith was fired Wednesday by Memphis after just two seasons leading the men's basketball program. The decision by the university ended more than a week of speculation about Smith's job security.

"I appreciate the opportunity to have led the University of Memphis basketball program the last two years," Smith said in a statement. "I'm proud of the work my staff and I have done to serve the players, the school and the community in leading us to a 21-13 season this year."

"After 39 years in college coaching, I know that change happens and I wish the University and the team the best as they pursue a different direction. As a lifelong competitor I believe the game never ends and I'll be exploring my next move on and off the court in the coming weeks."

Smith, 66, finished with a 40-26 overall record, but rumors swirled about his future following the team's regular-season finale on March 4. A report last week stated Memphis is considering former Tigers star Penny Hardaway as its next head coach.

Memphis will owe Smith nearly $10 million because he still had three years remaining on a five-year contract. According to Smith's contract, the university is allowed to pay that figure over six years.

"After considerable deliberations and in the best financial interest of the University of Memphis, an agreement of separation with Head Men's Basketball Coach Tubby Smith has been reached," the university's athletic department said in a statement. "Details are to be finalized, and no further comment will be offered."

The focus of the Tigers' coaching search will now turn to Hardaway, who is currently the head coach at East High School and founder of the Memphis-based AAU team, Team Penny.

Hardaway told reporters in Murfreesboro after coaching East in the TSSAA state quarterfinals that he could not comment about the Memphis situation. But he is considered the overwhelming favorite to get the job, in part because university administrators have considered replacing Smith for more than a month now.

Though speculation about Smith's future began to run rampant last week, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told The Commercial Appeal that Rudd began discussing the possibility of Smith's firing with the executive committee of the university's Board of Trustees once Memphis lost in overtime at ECU on Feb. 3.

The executive committee consists of executive vice president and chief financial officer of FedEx Alan B. Graf Jr., former interim university president and Chesapeake Energy chairman R. Brad Martin, and Cato Johnson, the chief of staff and senior vice president of public policy and regulatory affairs at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.

Smith's tenure at Memphis proved tumultuous. He was hired in April 2016 after making the NCAA tournament at Texas Tech in hopes he would reinvigorate the fan base. The Tigers' men's basketball program had been under scrutiny and the target of discontent during the end of Josh Pastner's seven-year run as head coach.

When he arrived at Memphis, Smith elected to move former assistant coach Keelon Lawson to the director of player personnel role and bring his assistant coaching staff from Texas Tech. This choice proved controversial by the end of Smith's first year on the job.

After some initial success, the Tigers closed the 2016-17 season with six losses in the final eight games. It included the program's worst loss in 70 years to end the regular season and a 30-point setback in the AAC tournament.

Six players sought a transfer in the weeks to come, including the team's top three scorers. Dedric and K.J. Lawson landed at Kansas while Keelon Lawson, their father, left the staff.

Smith replaced those departing players with a bevy of junior college transfers, and this year's roster featured eight new scholarship players overall. Nonetheless, the Tigers recorded their first 20-win season in four years at last week's AAC tournament and finished fifth in the conference standings after being picked ninth during the preseason.

But Smith's dismissal is more related to off-court factors than the on-court product.

Attendance at home games fell to a 48-year low this year. As a result, the athletic department could miss out on an $800,000 payment from the Memphis Grizzlies as part of the school's lease at FedExForum.

Donations to the athletic department also fell by $1.1 million during the 2016-17 fiscal year thanks in large part to a drop in men's basketball season ticket sales.

In addition, Smith struggled on the recruiting trail, especially locally. During his two years, he did not sign a Memphis-area player. His first two recruiting classes were ranked 98th and 50th in the country by 247 Sports.

The Tigers' 2018 recruiting class is ranked 60th nationally, according to 247 Sports, and features 7-foot-3 signee Connor Vanover and recent commitment Myreon Jones.

Bowen held a meeting with the Tigers' current players at the team's practice facility at 2:30 p.m. Junior Mike Parks Jr. said they were instructed not to speak with reporters.

But leading scorer Jeremiah Martin thanked Smith on his Twitter account and wrote, "I can definitely give you credit for how you developed me on and off the court."

Senior Alex Moffatt, meanwhile, wrote on social media, "sad to see a future Hall of Famer and a great staff run out of town because 'fans' would rather boycott their team they love so much instead of supporting them in a 'down year' (most wins since 2014). Wouldn't be financial struggles if 'fans' would be fans and show up."

"And don't get me wrong," Moffatt added, "I think Penny will do a great job getting Memphis back on the national scene, but I think how it was done was wrong."

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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

NORFOLK

Conference USA announced a media rights deal Wednesday that will put an additional $200,000 per year in member schools' coffers, according to sources familiar with the deal.

The agreement bets heavily on CBS Sports Network and Facebook as the league's primary means of exposure over the next five years.

Though the league did not announce how much it will receive in rights fees, league sources said it is an increase from $200,000 to $400,000 per school.

The current two-year deal, which expires June 30, was a steep decline from the $1.1 million schools had received.

Old Dominion athletic director Wood Selig said only that the increase is "significant."

"No doubt it's a step forward, and it's a step forward financially," he said.

The current deal was a patchwork of agreements with CBS Sports Network, ESPN, the American Sports Network and BeIn Sports. ASN morphed into Stadium, a multi-platform network that takes on a larger role in the agreement announced Wednesday.

Stadium will broadcast 15 football games and 21 men's basketball games, including the C-USA tournament quarterfinals. Seven of the football and 10 of the basketball games will be carried exclusively on Facebook. Stadium will continue to produce C-USA games for its website and app.

League spokesman Tim McNamara said the league is talking to ESPN about continuing its partnership. A deal with BeIn Sports runs another year.

ESPN carried a handful of football games and the league championship, but C-USA's primary exposure through the network has been via streaming on ESPN3.

Schools handle the production costs for those games and receive a small rights fee. Selig said schools are producing the games anyway, so the costs are already being incurred.

CBS Sports will be the league's primary rights-holder. It has a reach of 60 million homes, compared to 89 million for ESPN. In Hampton Roads, the network is available on Cox Cable, but only as part of an upgraded package.

"While exploring our options for future exposure, continuing our tremendous relationship with CBS Sports was a priority given our history," C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod said in a news release.

The network will broadcast nine football games per year plus the C-USA championship game as well as eight men's basketball games and the tournament semifinals and final, plus the women's championship.

An additional three football games and six basketball games per year will be carried on Facebook.

MacLeod said C-USA will "continue pioneering fresh and innovative ways to deliver our diverse audience a multitude of viewing options on emerging platforms."

Selig called Facebook "a huge potential audience." And he said that a potentially overlooked part of the deal is that CBS and Stadium will bear production costs.

"A league might say they have a $10 million deal with ESPN," he said. "What they don't tell you is $9 million is sent back to ESPN in production costs. So they actually have a $1 million deal with ESPN."

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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

To Aly Raisman, there is culpability in the crummy little details. The showers were moldy, she says, and the food was so repulsive that it seemed calculated to give them eating disorders. "It didn't sit well in your stomach, something wasn't right," she says. If U.S. Olympic authorities couldn't be bothered to care about the dirty showers and the lousy diet at the Karolyi Ranch, no wonder they didn't catch the sexual molester who preyed on her and her gold medal gymnastics teammates for years.

From 2001 to 2017 Bela and Marta Karolyi's Texas ranch was the designated National Team Training Center for gymnastics, an engine that generated gold medals and million-dollar salaries for officials like former USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny. But for the gymnasts it was a shabby, penny-pinching place, Raisman says, of dorm rooms jammed with old bunk beds covered with stained blankets, and sometimes, crawling with bugs. "Honestly, it was disgusting," she says.

U.S. Olympic Committee head Scott Blackmun called it "an excellent model for the Olympic movement."

Raisman, now 23, is suing the USOC and USA Gymnastics over that disconnect, alleging the organizations "willfully" refused to "implement appropriate safeguards" at the ranch and in other settings that left her and her teammates vulnerable to the sex crimes of USA Gymnastics' head trainer and medical director Larry Nassar.

The gymnasts were the very faces of the Summer Olympics, who brought home individual all-around gold medals in four straight Summer Games and team golds in 2012 and 2016. Yet at the monthly Karolyi camps, "The shower smelled like eggs, and we would bring sandals to wear because it was so disgusting," says Raisman. "After you showered you were like, I almost feel dirtier than before." Training camps are supposed to be spartan - even unpleasant - but Raisman said they weren't even provided with bottled water, and those bathrooms lacked soap. When they ran out, they were terrified to ask for more because U.S. coaches and officials made them believe the noncompliant or those who complained would be left off the team, Raisman says.

"Nobody wanted to be the one who was difficult," Raisman says. "Now that I'm away from the sport it makes me so angry that we were that afraid to ask for soap."

Asked about conditions at the ranch, a USA Gymnastics spokesperson said the organization could not respond "due to pending litigation." Attorneys for Penny and for the Karolyis, the Romanian-born gymnastics coaches who built the U.S. team into a world powerhouse, also did not respond to queries. USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky, asked why the ranch was considered "a model," said the Olympic commitee relied on USA Gymnastics to supervise conditions at the training center, though he added

"It is clear that in the future, more due diligence can be done to ensure that third-party facilities uphold their end of the agreement on how the facilities are run and maintained."

The USOC and USA Gymnastics severed ties with the Karolyi Ranch in January.

Raisman's account of the monthly camps is bolstered by that of a former athletic trainer, Melanie Seaman, who worked with the national team from 1993 to 2006, and is currently with the Tulsa Ballet. Seaman, who predated Raisman and who the gymnast says she does not know, contacted me after watching young women testify at Nassar's sentencing in February, when he received 40 to 125 years. "I've been quiet and haven't said a word all these years, but I thought, people need to hear it from more than just the kids," Seaman says.

Gymnasts trained for six or seven hours a day on "frozen carrots and peas," according to Seaman. There was no nutritionist, though eating disorders are a long-recognized scourge in the sport. "No one helped them," Seaman says.

Breakfast at the ranch cafeteria was powdered eggs, and a spray butter substitute, Raisman recalls. "Those things are so bad for you," she says. "Everything seemed the cheapest, not real food." Dinner was rice and mushy vegetables and a piece of frozen chicken of uncertain texture, "and everyone felt they were being fully watched" with every bite, Raisman says. If you performed poorly the reason was invariably that you had eaten too much.

"The food was awful, really, really awful," Seaman confirms. "Nasty. … They finally got a salad bar, but it was just sparse. Gross."

The gyms lacked even a rudimentary medical facility - even though gymnastics has a well-documented injury rate that is on par with hockey. "If I taped someone I did it on the bleachers," Seaman says. "If I needed to work on calves or stretch them, it was on the floor."

Nor were there even supplies. "There was no water, and you couldn't store anything," Seaman says. "You had to bring your own training bag."

The ranch did have a relationship with a hospital, and eventually some improvements were made. By 2014, a small training room with a cold tub had been added in a back hallway. But it had just "one or two tables for 30 or 40 girls," Raisman says, and became a place where Nassar could more easily work alone on gymnasts behind a closed door.

There were no cutting-edge therapies available, just Nassar's "treatments." When Raisman had an ankle injury, he told her he needed to access it through her pelvis.

At the end of the day the gymnasts went back to their rustic dorms, where they slept four or six to a room, while the coaches and staff disappeared en masse into town for dinner. "At night most of the coaches would just leave," Seaman says. If a gymnast was injured, Nassar or a trainer treated them in their rooms at night, Seaman confirms.

Raisman wants to know, what kind of decent medical director would find that set up appropriate? "The fact that Nassar was fine working on us on our beds without a table, that 100 percent should've been a red flag to USA Gymnastics," Raisman says.

Both Raisman and Seaman suspect Nassar was promoted by USA Gymnastics not because he was well qualified, but because he looked the other way when athletes were pushed through injuries that should have sidelined them. Seaman describes having to buck multiple USA coaches (none of them named Karolyi), who discouraged her from even giving them ice. "They were withholding treatment when they were hurt," Seaman alleges. "That happened more times than I want to admit." She saw athletes perform with fractures in their feet and tibias.

Later, when Raisman was an established gold medalist and old enough to question, she began to realize how out of bounds it all was, she says. She hired a private physical trainer, Boston-based Joe Van Allen, who refused to treat her in sensitive areas without a parent in the room, gave her a nutrition plan, and introduced her to up-to-date therapies like cold compression boots and laser therapies, none of which USA Gymnastics provided. "Imagine if we'd actually had a good doctor who was helping us, and not traumatizing us," she says.

Most galling to Raisman is that out front, officials acted as if the gymnasts were pampered. In 2011 when USA Gymnastics entered into a sponsorship with Hilton Hotels, they made Raisman appear at a news conference in a luxe Hilton-monogrammed robe, with her hair wrapped in towels. Penny had the brass to tell the media, "We have spa days, and they get manicures and their pedicures. … These are the types of comforts our friends from Hilton are going to help us provide for the ladies while they're here working their fannies off trying to be the best team in the world."

Raisman says, "We didn't get any of it."

Most people might have reasonably assumed then that American officials would keep a sharp eye on them, that they would make sure Huntsville, Texas, didn't turn into Romania, and would give gymnasts the support they needed to mitigate the essential unhealthfulness of the sport. That apparently was a bad assumption. "It goes way deeper than just Larry Nassar," Seaman says. "It allowed Larry to operate, but there was way more dysfunction than just Larry."

It also goes deeper than the Karolyis. Some Karolyi champions like Dominique Moceanu have said they were abusive; others like Mary Lou Retton have praised them. Raisman is in the middle; she found Marta too demanding at times but did not characterize her as harmful. "She was tough, as everyone would expect out of her," Raisman says.

Everyone knew what they were getting with the Karolyis uncompromising and even harsh methods by a couple who had worked in Eastern Europe without basic resources, and who got unparalleled results. But where were the people at the federation and the USOC who should have been a check to them? Where was the quality control to ensure decent medical and nutritional standards? Where were the basic protocols to keep young girls in a dormitory safe, and the basic education on recognizing classic signs of a predator?

After listening to Raisman and Seaman's account, one thing is clear Not a man or woman should be left standing at the upper reaches of USA Gymnastics or the USOC. This was a pervasive problem. Not a Nassar problem, or a Karolyi problem. It was an American problem.

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Corpus Christi Caller-Times

 

"I think the public has finally accepted it for what it is. The athletes have; everyone has except the people in Indianapolis (at NCAA headquarters). They're the only ones that have no idea. They have to protect their brand by being pure, and they're not, they haven't been and they never will be."

It will be a popular thing this week to say there's a cloud over the NCAA tournament.

The FBI investigation into college basketball's underworld continues, now more than five months old. Careers and reputations already have been ruined, with more damning information likely coming to light. College administrators and conference commissioners are wringing their hands, trying to figure out how to bring the sport out of scandal.

But for me, the FBI investigation doesn't cast a pall over this week. Instead, it's lifted one.

For the first time, this is an NCAA tournament with no use for sanctimony, no dividing programs and coaches into white hats and blacks hats, no more pretending that we know who "does it the right way."

That fairy tale is over.

And you know what? Instead of worrying about the façade being demolished, let the truth set you free.

"I think the public has finally accepted it for what it is," said Sonny Vaccaro, the former shoe company executive and now prominent NCAA critic. "The athletes have; everyone has except the people in Indianapolis (at NCAA headquarters). They're the only ones that have no idea. They have to protect their brand by being pure, and they're not, they haven't been and they never will be."

If you're one of those fans who used to kick and scream about how it was actually your coach's personality or the architecture on the campus quad that made the difference in landing those McDonald's All-Americans from eight states away, please stand down.

If you blindly had faith that the Dear Old Alma Mater's compliance department was on top of every phone call your coach made, every agent who hovered around your players, how every unofficial visit was paid for - while being convinced that your rival cheated its brains out - just stop now.

If you've been clutching your pearls about the moral outrage of one-and-dones, or believe there's more inherent purity in how Duke built its roster than Kentucky or think it's better to have a sport bathed in the virtue of amateurism while millionaire coaches navigate a black market economy to prop up their careers, let this NCAA tournament be the one that awakens you to the idea there are no good guys or bad guys in college basketball.

It's not just fair, but probably prudent to look at everyone the same way now. The only material difference is whose assistant coaches happened to get caught on an FBI wiretap.

But the real villain is amateurism, an idea that has been waved around by the NCAA as if it were some form of religion carved into stone tablets on Mount Sinai. Even the Pac 12, which released a set of recommended changes for college sports this week, wouldn't touch the A-word. The irony, of course, is the NCAA is the only organization that still espouses amateurism. It owns it lock, stock and barrel, which means they have the power to change it however they want and still call it the same thing.

"The NCAA has always put themselves above everybody else's thought process in trying to change you to their religion, and their religion is amateurism," Vaccaro said. "This is the boiling point, and it's the first time the public and the athletes have adjusted to the changing world. But they haven't. They're still under the same gospel. Their religion is amateurism, and it isn't accepted by anybody anymore."

It should be obvious by now that even if you don't accept that every coach or every program in this NCAA tournament has operated outside the rulebook or that every campus is teeming with agents offering benefits to players, what was revealed in the FBI indictments is only a slice of what's actually going on in the real world.

That information, and subsequent reporting from Yahoo! Sports revealing an expense report ledger from Christian Dawkins, who worked for basketball agent Andy Miller, shows us that a lot of the things people said for years about cheating in college basketball just weren't true. No, it's not just a handful of guys in college basketball only because the NBA forced them there who are worth six figures (Brian Bowen was nobody's idea of a one-and-done).

No, it's not just future first-round picks and their families who get targeted by agents and runners. No, it's not just college basketball's second-class citizens who have to work the gray area; it's the bluebloods, too.

And we know that just from one FBI sting over a period of a few months that ensnared one shoe company and one sports agency. Can you imagine what a wider scope would reveal?

But if you accept that as the context for the sport of college basketball is actually about, it makes everything else a whole lot easier to take.

The worst part of college basketball has never been the corruption, the buying of players, the middlemen brokering deals, the steering of recruits or the shady AAU wheeler dealers. Rather, it's been the fan bases, college administrators and even some coaches who pretend that they're above it all, that it doesn't exist at their school, that they alone epitomize the purity of the amateur model while everybody else is engaged in savagery because someone got paid.

"The barrier has always been two sides - the sanctimonious people and those defending the ones who were being crucified, and that would never go away," Vaccaro said. "But I think we're seeing a change."

Hopefully the change starts this NCAA tournament, where it's finally OK to sit back and enjoy the games for what they really are, not what some misguided college presidents and NCAA officials want them to be.

"I think the public has finally accepted it for what it is. The athletes have; everyone has except the people in Indianapolis (at NCAA headquarters). They're the only ones that have no idea. They have to protect their brand by being pure, and they're not, they haven't been and they never will be."

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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis will be named the next Ole Miss men's basketball coach, according to the Clarion Ledger.

The hire is expected to be announced later this week. FanRag Sports' Jon Rothstein was the first to report the news.

Davis, who led the Blue Raiders to a second straight Conference USA regular-season title this year, has a record of 332-187 since first arriving in Murfreesboro in 2002. He is the program's all-time winningest coach and led it to three NCAA tournament appearances (2013, 2016-17), more than any other coach in program history.

After MTSU's 91-64 rout of Vermont Tuesday night in the first round of the NIT, Davis was asked about reports that he is headed to Oxford.

"Everybody in this town knows how much I love Middle Tennessee," Davis said. "My full focus is Middle Tennessee basketball and how we can make a run and keep trying to keep these guys playing in the NIT tournament."

The reports have not been talked about in the MTSU locker room, senior Giddy Potts said Tuesday night.

"We don't talk about that in the locker room at all," he said. "We just come out here and play our game. If that's something that (Davis) wants to do, hey, better for him. But we're still going to play MT basketball here."

MTSU athletic director Chris Massaro on Wednesday declined to comment on the reports at this time.

MTSU will play at Louisville in the second round of the NIT sometime between Friday and Monday. The date has not been set.

Davis had agreed to a new contract with MTSU after the 2016-17 season. The deal ran through 2024 and put Davis at a $750,000 total salary ($575,000 base, $175,000 in TV and radio obligations). Per his contract, he will owe MTSU a $700,000 buyout for leaving before the end of the agreement.

Rumors concerning the 58-year-old Davis and Ole Miss began swirling when former Rebels coach Andy Kennedy announced on Feb. 12 he was stepping down. A Leakesville native and Mississippi State grad, Davis has natural ties to Mississippi, with much of his family - including his parents and siblings - still living in the state.

Throughout Tuesday's opening-round NIT game, fans expressed their feelings about the reports that Davis is leaving with chants of "We want Kermit!" and "We love Kermit!"

"It was (cool)," Davis said. " "It was probably about my year six or seven, there weren't any 'We want Kermits!' in the gym. So we all kind of go through some struggles at times, but it was great."

The Blue Raiders went 153-126 over Davis' first nine seasons. But in his last seven, including this season, they are 179-61, a winning percentage of nearly 75 percent.

Murfreesboro Daily News Journal

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Newsday (New York)

 

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran has begun charging thousands of dollars in fees to youth Little Leagues and other community sports organizations that traditionally play for free in county parks.

The plan to impose more than $1 million in previously waived fees on nonprofit groups such as the Boy Scouts, senior softball and charities comes because Nassau "is currently in a fiscal crisis," according to a memo from Deputy County Executive Helena Williams.

But charging the fees will make it more difficult for youths to play after-school sports because their parents will not be able to afford the increased costs, while making it more likely that young people will turn to drugs, county legislators warned.

"At a time we are talking about an opioid crisis across Long Island, the universal antidote is to provide extracurricular activities," said Legis. Steve Rhoads (R-Bellmore).

"Why would we make it more difficult to engage in those outlets is beyond comprehension," Rhoads said. "The notion that we are somehow going to balance our budget on the backs of children engaging in All-American activities like Little League Baseball is outrageous."

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said, "I know the county executive is trying to turn over every cushion" in an effort to balance the county budget.

"But this type of added expense to youth leagues are just going to be passed on to the parents," Abrahams said. "At the end of the day, a $125 league will turn into $250 and will end up phasing out a lot of kids that enjoy playing Little Leagues and sports. Ultimately, their families will not be able to afford it."

Curran said county taxpayers "can't afford to subsidize these park activities, even as popular as they all are. My budget uses park fees to restore the shortfall in funding for county expenses such as the fire service's vocational education and extensions board, and youth programs throughout our legislative districts."

Curran is expected to give the county's financial control board a revised $2.9 billion county budget Thursday. She was to brief Republican and Democratic legislators about her changes late Wednesday.

Under the fee ordinance approved by the county legislature, the parks commissioner has the discretion to waive fees and traditionally has not charged youth leagues and nonprofits.

But in a Feb. 27 memo, Williams directed Parks Commissioner Eileen Krieb, a Curran appointee, "to adhere to a strict non-fee waiving" policy. Krieb has indicated the county waived $596,799 in ballfield fees last year. A Curran spokesman said another $400,000 in waivers was granted for other park uses.

On March 1, the Seaford Little League received a $16,000 bill, due March 12, to play in Washington Park, said Rhoads. He and Legis. Rose Walker (R-Hicksville) have announced a 6 p.m. rally Thursday at Washington Park to protest the fees.

Mike Villeck, the league's vice president of softball, said league officials were "appalled" by the bill.

"The whole community is appalled by it," he said.

"If the county wants to charge us, we just can't play there," he said. "We don't have $16,000."

Abrahams predicted the county will not raise $1 million because the groups will look to use school districts, towns and village ballfields instead of county parks.

"We're still hoping the county executive will do the right thing," Rhoads said, He noted the legislature had given the parks commissioner the discretion to waive or impose fees. "The legislature may step in to take the discretion away."

Congressman Pete King (R-Seaford) issued a statement condemning the fees, saying: "At a time when the cost of travel teams is prohibitive for so many families and taxes are too high for everyone, it is unconscionable for the County to be imposing fees which will prevent so many young kids from having the opportunity to play our National Pastime."

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Copyright 2018 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

SALT LAKE CITY - While his two sons happily played on computer tablets inside the Vivint Smart Home Arena's newly unveiled "sensory room," Steve Pratt tried his best to describe what day-to-day life is like for a child with autism.

"It's like (they're at) a rock concert all the time," said Pratt, from Bluffdale.

"A lot of times they have hypersensitivity to loud sounds. Sometimes all they need is a five-minute break... to decompress a little bit."

Thanks to the new sensory room, Pratt's two sons and other children on the autism spectrum will have an opportunity to do just that when the sights and sounds inside the arena become too much, be it at a Utah Jazz game or other event.

The Pratts and other families with children on the autism spectrum were given a first look at the room during a private tour Wednesday, getting a chance to engage with several different displays designed to provide a release for any feeling of stimulus overload. They were also paid a visit from Utah Jazz star center Rudy Gobert, who gave out high fives and shot hoops with the kids.

"Each component in the room is meant to either stimulate or calm a specific sense," said Holly Mero-Bench, director of Vivint Gives Back, the philanthropic arm of the company.

Inside the room, children can play with weights, medicine balls or even a small trampoline. Computer tablets are available, as are enclosed cubicles where they can play with soft, rough or hard and smooth toys. Those items, as well as several additional displays throughout the room, are designed to engage children's tactile, auditory and visual senses, or interact with their perceptions of movement or balance.

"Everything has its purpose. It's not just a play room, it's really meant to be a therapy room," Mero-Bench said.

Combined, the various aspects of the room provide a critically important haven for parents who hope to best serve the needs of their children with autism while also feeling like they can take their families to loud or eventful public activities, she said.

"If everything overloads you... you may not even have an opportunity to go to a basketball game, because it is just too hard," Mero-Bench said, a predicament the sensory room is intended to help solve.

The room will be fully available to the public beginning March 30. It is only the third such room available in NBA arenas, Mero-Bench said, with the others located where the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics play.

Vivint Gives Back has already built 54 sensory rooms in schools and homes across the world, including several in Utah, but this is the first time the organization has built one in such a large venue, she said.

"What better place to make an impact for those kids than at our (arena)?" Mero-Bench said.

The room was designed with the input of the Heritage Peers Academy, a Provo special needs school specifically for young people on the autism spectrum that also functions as a residential treatment center.

"A hallmark of kids on the spectrum is they struggle with overstimulation," which can easily happen at something as intense as a basketball game, said George Ballew, clinical director of the academy. "(Most people's) tolerance is only so much (stimulation, but) their tolerance window is way smaller."

Ballew said overstimulation not only gets in the way of a child's learning, but also their enjoyment.

"If you're not calm and centered, nothing else matters," Ballew said.

Mero-Bench said she hopes families will know that "when you need a place to come in and relax, this is the place." TVs are also mounted on one of the walls so that parents don't have to miss any game action while accompanying their children on an excursion to the room, she said.

"We've really put a lot of research into how everything comes together," Mero- Bench said.

Ballew praised both Vivint and the Jazz for taking initiative on a sensory room, saying "I think it goes a long way in showing their dedication to families."

Pratt is a big believer in the virtues of sensory rooms, having had one installed recently by Vivint that includes monkey bars, a fire pole, a reading nook, a chalk wall and a climbing wall. He echoed Ballew, saying Vivint's work on behalf of children with autism amounts to more than lip service or a philanthropic afterthought.

"They have some passion for this," Pratt said.

Email: blockhart@deseretnews.com

Twitter: benlockhartnews

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Copyright 2018 The Arizona Daily Star. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

 


PHOENIX — There's nothing illegal about taxing car rentals to pay for sports stadiums and other projects, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

In a key victory for the state's two largest counties, the judges overruled a lower-court decision that said the Arizona Constitution requires levies connected with driving to be spent only on road and other transportation projects. Judge Diane Johnsen, writing for the court, said there's a key difference between the act of renting a car and actually operating it.

Johnsen acknowledged the tax may have been designed to place the largest burden on tourists. But she said it does not violate federal constitutional bars against states interfering with interstate commerce.

Tuesday's ruling may not be the last word. The car-rental company that first brought the challenge in 2010 has the option to seek review by the Arizona Supreme Court.

At issue is a law designed to help counties attract and retain sports teams and spring training by building facilities. The chosen method in Maricopa County was a 3.5 percent surcharge on car-rental contracts, paid by the car-rental companies; Pima County put in a flat $3.50 per-rental charge.

Shawn Aiken, representing Saban Rent-A-Car, challenged the levy as illegal.

In 2014, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Dean Fink ruled the Arizona Constitution limits any taxes levied on the use of vehicles on public streets to be used solely to fund road construction and maintenance and related purposes. Fink said the tax on car rentals clearly falls outside that purpose.

But Johnsen, acting on an appeal by the state Department of Revenue and the Sports and Tourism Authority, said Fink, in essence, did not understand the difference between the business of renting vehicles and the actual operation or use of vehicles on public roads.

"The surcharge is not imposed on the road user (the driver-customer), but instead is imposed on the car-rental business," she wrote.

"Second, the taxable event that triggers the surcharge is the rental of a vehicle, not its operation or use," Johnsen continued. "While most every car-rental transaction will result in the customer using the car on public highways or streets, the surcharge is imposed regardless of whether, how much or how often the customer drives the car."

Aiken separately argued the tax was sold to voters, who approved it, on the premise that the lion's share would be paid by tourists.

Johnsen acknowledged that the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate commerce among the states. It also stands for the principle that, in general, states cannot impose taxes designed to benefit in-state economic interests by burdening out-of-state competitors.

Tuesday's ruling, unless overturned, is a crucial victory for the Tourism and Sports Authority, as the car-rental tax generates more than $14 million of its nearly $55 million annual budget.

The largest share of that goes to paying off the debt on the construction of University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, home of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals.

In Pima County, the levy has paid for construction of the Kino Sports Complex. While that debt is being paid off, the sports district intends to keep the car-rental fee in place to pay to expand the complex to include 12 grass fields.

 

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LNP (Lancaster, PA)

 

The Lancaster Barnstormers have released Danry Vasquez following publication of a video of a 2016 incident.

"A recently released video out of Corpus Christi, Texas portrays a domestic violence episode involving Vasquez," a statement posted on the team's Facebook page early Wednesday said. "Upon being made aware of the nature of the incident, the Barnstormers made a prompt decision to cut ties with the 24-year old outfielder.

"There is no choice but to sever the relationship," the statement quoted manager Ross Peeples as saying. "Neither I, nor the Barnstormers' organization as a whole, can condone or associate with that behavior."

On Tuesday KRIS TV of Texas published surveillance video footage of the August 2016 incident obtained through an open records request. It shows a man identified as Vasquez hitting a woman in a stairwell at Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi.

The station said the case against Vasquez has been dismissed and he has complied with conditions set by his plea deal, according to Nueces County (Texas) District Attorney Mark Gonzalez.

The Caller-Times in Texas reported that Vasquez was playing for the Corpus Christi Hooks when he was arrested in August 2016 on a misdemeanor assault family violence charge. The minor league team is a Double-A affiliate of the Houston Astros. Major League Baseball suspended him indefinitely shortly afterward and he was subsequently released by the Astros.

Vasquez was among the first three players the Barnstormers signed for 2018, according to a previous announcement by the team, which said Peeples heard about him "from someone in winter ball."

That announcement mentioned his batting average of .315 "in a 40-game stint with the Lancaster Jet Hawks of the California League in 2015," and noted that Vasquez "has batted .250 with one home run for La Guaira in the Venezuelan League this winter."

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USA TODAY

 

SURPRISE, Ariz. - If you want to bring a copy of Hustler magazine to the Kansas City Royals clubhouse, Dayton Moore can't stop you.

If you casually drop F-bombs in your everyday conversation, keep on talking. If you hit the nightclubs until 2 every morning and are able to perform acts of baseball greatness, God bless you.

Moore, the Kansas City Royals 51-year-old general manager, won't judge his employees on their hobbies but will let his spirituality guide his everyday life, despite working in an industry notorious for bawdy and, by some standards, immoral behavior.

He's even willing to put himself at odds with those who believe a workplace should be free of moralizing.

Moore exposed the Royals organization to criticism last week when it became the first major professional sports franchise to conduct an anti-pornography seminar, led by the non-profit organization Fight the New Drug.

Moore mandated that Royals minor league players attend but could only suggest major league players take part.

He stressed to his players that he not only believes that pornography is the root of evil but that it can also become a detriment to a player's career and destroy his personal life.

"It's not something truthfully I've ever been comfortable discussing for a lot of reasons," Moore tells USA TODAY. "But when you sit down with young men and they open up and talk about their struggles, often times you can trace it back to pornography. It's been a major issue in their lives. They are being exposed to that at such a young age and become obsessed with that.

"(Fight The New Drug) has done thousands of hours of research, and there's scientific evidence what pornography does to the brain and rewiring the brain. It's no different than drugs or alcohol. You start drinking too early, or smoking marijuana, your brain starts craving it.

"So, to me, educating our players about the harmful effects of pornography is similar to the importance of honoring women, respecting women and looking at them as human beings and not sexual objects. Most of these young men are going to be husbands and fathers. It's our job to educate them."

Fight The New Drug's claims on its website include the notion that "repeated consumption of porn causes the brain to literally rewire itself" and "porn happens to be fantastic at forming new, long-lasting pathways in the brain." It cites myriad academic research into the subject while urging readers to "get the facts."

However, voluminous research counters the notion that pornography is somehow a public health, rather than a First Amendment issue. Notably and most recently, a group of eight neuroscientists debunked many of Fight the New Drug's claims in a 2016 Salt Lake Tribune editorial.

"Based on our expertise in neuroscience and clinical psychology," the group wrote, "we find that FTND is systematically misrepresenting science."

Moore's outreach to the group wasn't intended to be publicized, until Fight the New Drug posted photos of Royals players and the workshop on Instagram.

It was met with scorn, for reasons both scientific and societal. And it waded in dangerous waters about integrating church and state for a franchise that received $225 million in public funding for stadium renovations last decade.

Elle Stanger, an adult entertainer, lobbyist and sex writer, said messages such as the one pushed by Fight The New Drug improperly likens consensual adult sex work to violent sex trafficking.

"If the KC Royals want to teach their players anything about pornography," Stanger wrote in an e-mail to USA TODAY, "it should be that all people should engage in work under their own volition and after being fully informed of any potential work hazards or risks. I don't know of any sports team management that has lived experience or insight regarding pornography or sex education.

"I very much doubt that an anti-porn message will do anything except reiterate tired old stereotypes.... As someone with over a decade as a sex worker, the majority of anti-porn sentiment is based on sex-negative fear mongering.

"If the adult players are distracted by non-baseball materials, I would say that these pros need to focus a little more on their method of income, and leave porn, TV, texting or other methods of entertainment for off-work time."

Pornography -- in magazine or movie form -- was once as much a staple in baseball clubhouses as chewing tobacco. Visiting clubhouses were infamous for their stacks of lad mags, even showing movies on TV screens, with players sitting back and laughing.

It's now a different era, and for the Royals, a new culture that's not only being accepted but embraced.

"The porn thing is a big deal," says left fielder Alex Gordon, who has been with the organization since 2005, "and with the outlet to social media and everything, people don't realize how much it affects people. I think the best way to do it is talk about it, and get it out there. Dayton is our leader, and a lot of us in here feel the same way as he does, trying to do the right thing."

Says new Royals first baseman Lucas Duda: "Everybody has their different views, but I think if you respect that boundary, everything is fine. For me, pornography is the last thing I'm probably going to watch before I go play baseball. I've got enough stuff to handle. I think his message sets a good tone in here."

Among a half-dozen Royals surveyed, none expressed resentment to the anti-porn workshop nor the signs in their clubhouse informing players they will have a private viewing of Paul, Apostle of Christ at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

"We didn't have guys protesting or walking out or anything like that," Moore said. "We're not pushing them one way or the other. We're just presenting them information. Ultimately, players have to make their own choices.

"I'm not into politics. I'm not into what positions people hold."

And if they refuse to listen, Moore insists, no harm, no foul.

"I'm not judging anyone," he said. "I don't hang out until 2 in the morning in the hotel and say, 'Oh, where is he coming from? What's going on here?' Shame on me if I look at one of our players or one of our staff members in a judgmental way. This is not what it's all about."

Moore, who was raised in the Methodist Church but now practices a non-denominational Christian faith, doesn't care about the criticism. He'll never apologize for his strong religious beliefs. His faith, he says, provides him the foundation to persevere. And he pledges to impact the Royals clubhouse.

"When you're committed and relentless about trying to lead and do the right thing," Moore says, "and you're presented with information that you think is important for your players to know and you don't do it, it'll haunt you. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't share this."

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Copyright 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

 

As University of New Mexico head football coach Bob Davie nears the end of his 30-day suspension, a newly released letter provides some additional insight into the basis for his punishment.

UNM's then-President Chaouki Abdallah issued the suspension last month following three separate investigations involving Davie and his program. In detailing the decision in a Feb. 6 letter to the coach, Abdallah cited a series of university policy and employment contract violations. He also wrote that Davie's "actions have failed to set a positive example," noting NCAA principles addressing cultural diversity and student-athlete health and safety. He closed by warning Davie against retaliatory behavior.

Davie's attorney appealed Abdallah's decision to the UNM Board of Regents on Feb. 8 and in three supplemental versions - the latest coming March 6. He has disputed Abdallah's assessment of policy and contract violations; argued the punishment was "grossly excessive" and deprived the coach "of a significant property interest" and accused UNM of forging conclusions not supported by the investigations.

But the regents on Monday formally voted to deny his request for appeal. Davie's suspension continues through Sunday and will cost him an estimated $35,000.

His attorney did not return a request for comment Tuesday.

UNM last August contracted a retired federal judge to investigate concerns involving the football program. The judge's findings prompted UNM to hire a Chicago law firm, Hogan Marren Babbo & Rose, to investigate whether coaches interfered with investigations involving football players, including sexual misconduct cases. In its report, the firm said it "cannot conclude" that football staff obstructed or interfered with investigations based on its evaluation of three cases and interviews with willing parties.

Around the same time, the university's Office of Equal Opportunity investigated possible racial discrimination by Davie, but ultimately determined his race-related comments did not rise to the level of a policy violation. It did, however, note "environment concerns and failure to follow civil rights reporting protocol and policy."

The law firm and OEO reports - publicly released when Abdallah announced the suspension - left many questioning the exact grounds for Davie's punishment. But Abdallah's letter, obtained by the Journal in a public records request, said the law firm's report demonstrated that Davie knew about a sexual assault allegation but didn't alert the OEO, violating three UNM policies regarding reporting. (Davie's attorney, Michael Kennedy, has countered that other authorities - including the UNM Police - knew of the alleged incident before he did.)

Abdallah also determined that Davie violated another university policy related to cooperation with investigations, plus the "unethical conduct" and compliance portions of his employment contract.

In his letter, the then-president also admonished Davie for holding a meeting with five of his black assistant coaches amid the OEO investigation, asking if they'd ever heard him use certain racially charged terms. Abdallah said that questioning "is unacceptable and is intimidating and interferes with a university investigation," saying OEO's director had specifically told him not to discuss the investigation with anyone.

In his first appeal, Kennedy argued "there is no evidence whatsoever that any of the five coaches felt in any way intimidated," and that the OEO never told Davie the meeting had violated policy.

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Copyright 2018 The Washington Times
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The Washington Times

 

As we well know, the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is often called "March Madness."

That name may never ring more true than 2018.

This may be known as the last tournament of innocence well, at least the pretend innocence college sports supporters cling to. It may be awfully hard to watch the games with blinders on if events unfold as expected.

First, this could be the last NCAA Tournament without fans filling up sports books across the country placing legal bets on these young men and women.

It could also be when the other shoes drop in the federal investigation into corruption in college basketball possibly leading to criminal charges and arrests of some coaches and administrators in the tournament.

Oh, March could be mad, all right.

The American Gaming Association has put out its annual press release calling attention to the amount of illegal gambling that takes place around the NCAA Tournament. The association claims $10 billion will be bet which is likely a number more or less pulled out of the sky. Nobody really knows how much will be wagered illegally, on various levels, on the tournament.

Of that amount, they say about three percent $300 million of that money will be bet legally.

That could change dramatically the next time America reaches for its wallet come tournament time.

In December, the Supreme Court heard arguments on New Jersey's efforts to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA, a 1992 law that said any state that did not legalize sports betting by 1993 was prohibited from doing it. After several failures to pass sports betting laws, state legislators passed a law in 2014 that, while not legalizing sports betting directly, removed the prohibition against it at casinos and race tracks in the state.

The law, as every other effort to allow states to legalize sports betting, has been opposed by all the major sports leagues and the NCAA. But it looks like the odds may be in favor of knocking down this ridiculous federal ban. It appeared that the justices may rule in favor of New Jersey, which would open the door for at least 32 states waiting at the starting line to create some level of legalized sports betting.

Neighboring West Virginia has already passed the sports lottery wagering act in anticipation of the Supreme Court's ruling. "Nothing can happen until the Supreme Court issues their decision, but we want to be ready when they do." Governor Jim Justice said in a press release.

That decision could come April 2 the day of the national championship game.

NCAA president Mark Emmert said in December if the Supreme Court rules in favor of legalized sports betting, the association will lobby states to exclude college sports from such wagering. Given the pathetic lack of power the NCAA has, I doubt they will scare any lawmakers into giving special protections for college sports.

Besides, I think the powers that run college sports may have more than enough on their plate to worry about how sports betting will corrupt the games - given the possibility that during the tournament, indictments could be handed down and arrests made in the FBI's ongoing probe into fraud and corruption.

In September, four assistant college basketball coaches were indicted on fraud charges in an ongoing investigation into college basketball and illegal payoffs. That is likely just the beginning of what has been reported to be a criminal probe that goes deep into some blue blood college programs.

"This goes a lot deeper in college basketball than four corrupt assistant coaches," one source told Yahoo Sports of the documents, which reportedly contain thousands of wiretaps and bank records from 330 days of investigating. "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."

When the indictments were announced in September, federal prosecutor Joon Kim warned that more charges were likely to come. "We have your playbook," Kim said, referring to programs under probe. "The investigation is ongoing."

This is a high profile case with front page headlines. What better time for a federal prosecutor to grab the most headlines with more arrests in an investigation into college basketball corruption than in the middle of the sport's signature event - March Madness?

I'd bet on it.

• Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast "Cigars & Curveballs" Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network

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Anderson Independent-Mail (South Carolina)

 

Greenville is now home to two soccer franchises.



Local entrepreneur Joe Erwin, of Erwin-Penland, along with the Erwin Creates ownership group, has announced the creation of a team to compete in the United Soccer League's new Division III League, starting in March 2019.

Erwin said the decision to jump in with the USL came down to a few key things.

"This region is more than ready to support professional soccer at this level. We also know it will enhance the quality of life, create jobs and build a platform for entertainment and enhance recreational and educational experiences," he said.

"We know sports have a way of bringing us together... and this sport uniquely embraces boys and girls, people of all cultures, of all ages. This is the ultimate diverse-rich world game, and the world game belongs in a world-class community."

Two other clubs, South Georgia Tormenta FC and FC Tucson, have also been announced. USL is sanctioned as a Division II professional league by U.S. Soccer, while Major League Soccer is considered Division I.

These two divisions and the USL Division III are the only professional teams recognized by U.S. Soccer and FIFA in the country.

Erwin is listed as the chairman of Greenville Pro Soccer, while his son Doug is vice chairman and chief brand officer. Chris Lewis was announced as president of Greenville Pro Soccer.

"It is not just a game, it kb];wis an important contributor to the growth and quality of life (in Greenville)," Erwin said.

Tuesday's news caps a nearly yearlong negotiation, dating back to April 2017, between Greenville and USL officials.

"Today we have truly come full circle," Greenville Chamber president and CEO Carlos Phillips said. "This initiative that will add yet another log onto Greenville's, and the Upstate's fiery economy."

The Greenville team's name, colors and logo will be announced later this year, along with a permanent home field.

Steven Short, vice president of USL Division III, said Greenville was the measuring stick used when the USL interviewed other prospective cities.

"Every city we visited we said they were close to Greenville. We used Greenville as a bar," he said. "It was not just the scenery, the Southern hospitality or the diverse selection of entertainment.

"There is a fanatic sports culture you can see with the collegiate and pro sports athletics. There is also a strong youth soccer team, along with 11 collegiate programs in the vicinity."

Tuesday's announcement marks the second men's soccer team to call Greenville home.

In November 2017, a group led by former Furman University player Marco Carrizales announced it had formed Greenville FC, an expansion team for the National Premier Soccer League. Greenville FC begins its inaugural season May 4 and will play home games at Furman's Stone Soccer Stadium.

Mike Stewart and Ryan Nowland, self-described soccer superfans, said Tuesday's announcement was exciting.

"A bunch of us started a petition which would hopefully lead to this day," Stewart said. "We know the benefits they spoke of today are fact, and Greenville will get to experience that."

Both are members of the American Outlaws Greenville chapter, a group that regularly gets together to watch soccer. It is the 93rd chapter in the nation and third in the state.

"We are a U.S. Soccer supporters group. We are all fans of different teams. We just support soccer in general," Nowland said.

Short said the fervent local support of soccer from AO Greenville helped.

"We spent time at Gringos, and I saw the petition with over 900 signatures on it," he said. "We expect them to be there when the season starts next March."

As far as having two teams now, Stewart said he believes the Upstate community can support both.

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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)

 

Moments after winning what proved to be the last of Mark Fox's 296 games as Georgia's coach, Kentucky's John Calipari lobbied unsuccessfully for Fox to keep his job.

"There's a lot of stuff going on out there, stuff that's not going on at Georgia," Calipari said. "... That has to mean something."

To catch Calipari's drift, one only needs a cursory glance at college basketball's current peril and FBI investigation. Or as Christopher Smith of Cox Media Group tweeted: "Mark Fox is like a power hitter during the steroids era that didn't juice."

When it comes to Fox, this has been expressed many times, usually off the record, sometimes on it. Even UGA athletic director Greg McGarity sounded almost apologetic in announcing Fox's dismissal: "Days like today are very difficult, especially when you are talking about someone like Mark Fox."

If they're all to be believed, Georgia fired a clean coach during perhaps the worst scandal the sport has experienced since the point-shaving of the 1950s.

Lest anyone miss the forest for the trees, such a development wasn't about Fox as much as it is about the increasingly troubling perception of his sport.

Is it even possible to win in college basketball right now at the highest levels without cheating to do it?

Has the NCAA let one of its most high-profile sports reach a point of lawlessness where in order to keep up - and keep your job - you have no choice but to break the rules?

Fox's firing wasn't all that surprising, mind you. He won some at Georgia, but he simply didn't win enough. He never won an NCAA Tournament game in nine seasons, reaching the field only twice. He basically enjoyed modest success during an extended down period in the SEC, but when the league improved in 2017-18, the Bulldogs did not. They finished 12th of 14 teams despite having the conference's player of the year in Yante Maten.

Yes, Fox did recruit some good players to Georgia. Maten was one of them. NBA lottery pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - SEC player of the year in 2013 - spent two seasons with Fox at UGA. But there just weren't enough difference-makers to ever get the program over the hump. Recruiting became a popular criticism. Time and again, Georgia would pursue some of the nation's best talents in nearby Atlanta, come close and then miss out, often to programs nowhere near the state.

So there Fox was on selection Sunday, discussing his firing at a glum press gathering with reporters in Athens, one of whom asked, "How difficult is it to win doing it the right way?"

Fox chose his words carefully, taking about 15 seconds to respond.

"You can win doing it the right way," Fox said. "You have to have everything aligned to do that. You really do. But it can still be done. But it's impossible unless everything else is lined up for you."

Everything else, as Fox went on to explain, includes "some tradition on your side" (which he didn't have at Georgia) and "an understanding within your team and your immediate family about exactly how hard you're going to have to work to do it the right way."

"I'm not saying that my tenure ended here at Georgia because everybody else was cheating," Fox told reporters. "I'm going to worry about what we did. I'll let you guys worry about everybody else, but it's a challenging time certainly in college basketball right now, and the frustrating thing a little bit has been that only a tiny bit of what occurs has been exposed. That's the disheartening thing for the game of basketball."

Fox's departing comments at Georgia hold importance because they are rare, but it's not like he's about to offer names and details.

With misdeeds so often obscured, no one outside of the sport can be certain who is cheating in basketball and who is not. We can suspect. But we don't really know.

This has created a code inside the sport. College basketball's coaches, to a man, will universally adhere to it in public forums or risk being ostracized in their profession. Plus, no clean coach would ever want to use that as an excuse while coaching his team, thus indirectly criticizing the worth of players who did choose to play for him?

It took a federal investigation with wiretaps and undercover agents to get us to this point with college basketball's secrets, and honestly, it's not that far. We still don't know enough specifics - and probably won't - about how bad cheating has gotten.

But this much is clear: College basketball is broken.

 
Georgia's Mark Fox has been rumored to be on the hot seat as far as his job security. Matt Stone, Courier Journal
 
March 14, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

SALT LAKE CITY -

Even all these years later, John Walsh remains a cautionary tale. He was a prolific quarterback at BYU in 1993 and 1994. After NFL draft "guru" Mel Kiper predicted Walsh would be a first-round draft pick, Walsh declared himself eligible for the 1995 draft following his junior year.

Most fans know what happened next. He tumbled all the way to the seventh (last) round, 213th overall, the last quarterback taken. He was quickly cut by the Cincinnati Bengals.

In a fair world, Walsh would simply have returned to BYU for his senior year, but there is nothing fair or sensible where the NCAA rules. Once a college football or basketball player makes a final decision to declare for the professional draft, his college career is finished. There is no going back.

Instead of leading the BYU football team his senior year and rebuilding his draft stock - or simply enjoying the college game in and of itself - Walsh sold tools out of a truck in California.

"It still hurts," Walsh told The Salt Lake Tribune in 2005. "I think about it still and I'm still trying to get over it."

The same NCAA draft rules are still enforced nearly three decades after that famous draft gaffe, and more and more players are making the same mistake that Walsh made.

A record 123 college football underclassmen have declared themselves eligible for next month's NFL draft. A record 137 college basketball underclassmen declared for the 2017 NBA draft, despite the fact that it consists of only two rounds and 60 total picks (math apparently still being a weakness in college curriculums). One of them was Eric Mika, who left BYU two years early to declare for the draft and now plays in Italy.

The number of players leaving school early for the draft has increased dramatically in recent years, and yet for many it's a risky, all-or-nothing proposition: Get drafted or go home.

Per CBS Sports, since 2014, nearly one-third (31.6 percent) of those declaring for the NFL draft have gone undrafted. That means, about 39 underclassmen won't be selected in April. They probably followed the bad advice of hangers-on, agents, family and maybe Mr. Kiper, none of whom have as much to lose.

"If a guy didn't get drafted in the first or second round, he should have kept his butt in school," Alabama coach Nick Saban once said.

Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors, addressed this issue recently from the NBA perspective while noting that a player who signs with an agent and/or declares for the draft cannot return even if he is undrafted.

"Let's do what's best for the kid and give them some options, and work together between the NBA and NCAA to find the right system," said Kerr. "I think it's entirely doable if you people just open their eyes... if a kid signs with an agent and he doesn't get drafted, welcome him back. Why not? What's the harm?

"We talk about amateurism and all this stuff, but if you're truly trying to do what's right for the kid, and the kid declares for the draft and doesn't get drafted... welcome him back. Do something good for the kids."

Kerr actually doesn't go far enough. Why not allow a player to return who is drafted but is unhappy with where and by whom he was drafted? Yes, this would leave a few pro teams empty-handed, but the onus is on those teams to do their homework on the player. Consider it the price of using the college game as a free farm system.

Besides hurting the players, the NCAA's current rules hurt its own game. The quality of college basketball has suffered immensely from the loss of so many players declaring early for the NBA draft (the quality of the NBA game has suffered, too).

No matter how you cut it, the NCAA's draft rules are unfair and nonsensical. They do more to serve the needs of NBA and NFL teams than college athletes.

Email: drob@deseretnews.com

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Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

SALT LAKE CITY - The Pac-12 has released the recommendations of a task force it created to propose reforms to college basketball. The group favors the elimination of the "one and done" rule, "tougher enforcement independent from the NCAA," and "sweeping changes" to recruiting rules.

The task force, which includes Utah athletics director Chris Hill, was created after last fall's federal indictments in college basketball. The group produced a 50-page report that was unanimously approved by the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors.

It's now available to the public online at Pac-12.com/taskforce. The proposals have also been forwarded to the NCAA commission chaired by Condoleezza Rice, which is also studying possible reforms.

"I think what we wanted to accomplish is to get some more thinking into the national committee, tell them what we thought from our special committee and add it to at least things they would consider," Hill said. "And I think that's where we are. I think we accomplished that in regards to getting them some of our guidance."

Hill added that he has spoken with members of the national committee and they didn't volunteer to do so without making sure they made some substantive changes.

In releasing its report, the Pac-12 announced that the "proposed reforms, intended to improve compliance and reduce abuses associated with the influence of commercial third parties" break into four areas - NCAA eligibility, NCAA enforcement practices, recruitment practices and compliance education for prospective student-athletes and their families.

"The reforms proposed by our Pac-12 task force will help preserve the integrity of collegiate basketball and provide the choice, education and protection that our student-athletes deserve," said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. "We look forward to working with the NCAA commission, our fellow conferences, the NBA and its players association, and other key stakeholders to bring about this much-needed change."

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero also had a statement in the announcement.

"Now is the time to step up and make changes to both restore trust in our game and protect the best interest of our student-athletes," he said. "We need to reform our rules, strengthen their enforcement and rebuild confidence, both in the integrity of our sport and of the educational mission of our universities."

The task force recommendations include:

* End "one and done" and preserve eligibility for athletes who are drafted but don't sign. The Pac-12 is asking the NBA to drop its ban on drafting players coming straight from high school. It also includes a request for the NBA not to draft players who choose college until three years after their high school graduation. The rules would be similar to baseball.

* Create a new enforcement unit independent of the NCAA. The Pac-12 group recommends the creation of a unit "to conduct investigations and pursue major violations." That includes the separation of enforcement roles - investigative, adjudicative and punitive - as well as an investment in resources.

* Take control of and regulate the recruitment process. A recommendation to shift "the recruiting process away from independent tournaments run by shoe/apparel companies and other promoters." In their place, the NCAA and other organizations would sponsor "regional combine events." Proposed reforms also include more transparency when it comes to campus visits and who is funding them.

* Fully disclose shoe/apparel deals. This includes disclosure of "the terms of shoe and apparel contracts with coaches and universities."

* Provide access to professional agents and strengthen education. The creation of "educational programs aimed at ensuring youngsters and their families don't - either through inadvertence or poor advice - squander their chances for a potentially life-changing scholarship." The recommendation would allow access to professional guidance from agents and a mentorship program for elite high school players.

The Pac-12's task force also noted that university compliance programs could be strengthened and assist student-athletes from running "afoul of the rules." This would include guidance in terms of engagement with agents and the decision to pursue a professional career.

"The task force can be very proud of this accomplishment. They have produced bold, specific and actionable recommendations in a very short time," Scott added in the announcement. "I am confident that these recommendations will receive wide support, and we look forward to working with the NCAA and our colleagues across all sports to make these ideas a reality and restore public confidence in the great game of college basketball."

Hill noted that there has to be sweeping reforms in college basketball.

"I think there has to be," he said. "I don't think there's really an option."

Email: dirk@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DirkFacer

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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

 

Members of the Moneta branch of the Bedford Area Family YMCA recently were informed that the facility will close April 30. Letters were mailed to members and a notice was posted on the facility's door about the closure.

Member Harry Schweizer and his wife, Quita, have been members for several years. They received a letter March 5.

"It came as a big surprise," Schweizer said.

The letter stated that Bedford Area Family YMCA Board of Directors determined it was no longer feasible to continue operating the Moneta branch on a cost-effective basis. The branch currently has 118 memberships consisting of 230 members. A membership level of 250 with approximately 500 members is required to properly maintain and support the branch, the letter said.

"The Bedford Y main branch has been subsidizing operations of the Moneta branch since 2008 and is currently doing so at a level exceeding $50,000 a year," the letter said. "When the losses steadily increased to the current level several years ago, the staff and board pursued every avenue available to remedy the problem. However, all of our efforts were not successful. It is the board of directors' position that the Y cannot continue to sustain these losses without jeopardizing its well-being and viability, it simply is not cost effective."

Schweizer said he and other members are considering what to do as the closing date approaches. Members don't want to travel to the Bedford YMCA or the Franklin County Family YMCA at Smith Mountain Lake, he said. They also don't want to leave other members and instructors they have grown to love.

"It's sort of like one big family," Schweizer said.

Terri Shea, a member at the Moneta branch for eight years, said the facility has always been friendly. Shea visited other fitness centers in the area and said none of them have the same "family feel" as the Moneta branch.

Shea said she is optimistic that the close-knit family will be able to continue after April 30. Members have held meetings to discuss keeping the facility open.

George Aznavorian, co-owner of the building that houses the YMCA's Moneta branch, said he has met with members multiple times since the closing was announced and said the facility is likely to continue after April 30.

Several members have created a board to oversee the creation of a new facility, Aznavorian said. The board has spoken with current members to see who would like to stay on. "My hats are off to those members," he said.

Based on the information gathered, Aznavorian said they have the support of enough members for the new facility to be economically viable. The board would collect membership fees that would go toward paying rent, continuing programs and other costs. "They reacted very quickly," he said.

As for the exercise equipment currently at the Moneta YMCA, Aznavorian said it was purchased through a local fundraiser. Because it was funded by the community, Aznavorian said he is optimistic that it will be able to remain at the location.

Meetings with members are expected to continue, Aznavorian said. More news on the new facility could be expected in the coming weeks.

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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

Hamilton County Schools administrators talked for the first time about helping the victims of the 2015 Ooltewah High School rape incident nearly four months after it happened, according to a batch of recently released emails.

By May 2, 2016, an investigator had interviewed several people to understand why some Ooltewah upperclassmen sexually assaulted four freshman basketball players with a pool cue in Gatlinburg, Tenn., in December 2015, with one student requiring emergency surgery after the pool cue perforated his colon. The investigator was weeks away from concluding that Ooltewah and school district hazing policies were "deficient."

But Jim Jarvis, Ooltewah's principal at the time, said he didn't realize there was more than one victim. And the Hamilton County Schools attorney, Scott Bennett, was so frustrated with the lack of outreach to the victims he told the investigator he was "about ready to shoot Jarvis in the head," according to the emails.

Bennett apologized Tuesday for that comment, saying he lost his patience dealing with "perhaps the worst crisis in recent history."

"Even so, I should not have expressed my exasperation the way that I did, even privately to another lawyer," Bennett said. "When I ran across this email months ago, I conveyed my apologies to Mr. Jarvis through his attorney."

Jarvis' attorney, Curtis Bowe, did not respond to multiple requests for comment Tuesday.

The emails, filed Monday in Chattanooga's U.S. District Court, are now at the center of a civil case that two Ooltewah victims have brought against the Hamilton County Board of Education since 2016. The victims, identified as John Doe and Richard Roe, say the district showed "deliberate indifference" toward bullying before and after the 2015 incident. They want U.S. District Judge Harry "Sandy" Mattice to rule in their favor before trial in September, according to a motion filed Monday.

Board attorneys made a similar request to Mattice shortly after U.S. Judge Travis McDonough recused himself from the case nearly two years into proceedings. They say coaches and administrators reacted appropriately and didn't know about bullying because students didn't tell them. Board attorneys haven't filed a response to Monday's emails yet.

According to the emails, investigator Courtney Bullard had been hearing a common complaint from many parents of the Gatlinburg, Tenn., victims in 2016: No school officials had called them to tell them anything. Bennett tried to address the issue April 29, 2016, in an email.

"The victims' parents complain that no one from HCDE has called to ask how the boys are doing," Bennett wrote. "No one has offered counseling or any other support. They have said that they feel forgotten in the mess over the central office.... I think HCDE did offer counseling to the known victim. And I also think that counseling was offered to everyone at the school? Am I wrong?

"Regardless, please, someone, reach out to each one of the victims, ask how they are doing, and offer to pay counseling."

Jarvis replied Ooltewah had reached out to John Doe, the student who was raped and needed emergency surgery. But according to the emails, one thing didn't make sense.

"In your email you used the term 'victims,'" Jarvis wrote on May 2, 2016. "I have knowledge of only one victim."

Bennett replied one student suffered an aggravated rape and that "several freshman are said to have been hazed... with a pool cue."

"Therein is my question -- setting aside the rape victim, what have we done to reach out to the other students/victims?" Bennett asked that same day. "To my knowledge, none of them have retained attorneys, so school officials are free to be as compassionate toward them as they ought to be."

Bennett added Ooltewah officials did not need to know the future of the basketball program to contact the victims.

Board attorneys could not comment Tuesday on what Hamilton County did to help the students. But according to the emails, Bennett copied members of the district's central office, including Assistant Superintendent Lee McDade, meaning somebody could have coordinated a response.

In the meantime, Jarvis said the incident wasn't on students' minds when they returned to school in 2016.

"The question, in my opinion, from the students that will be returning is when we do we get back to being student athletes?" Jarvis asked in an email. "The students have been ready to move on for some time. I am more than willing to reach out to our athletes, but I do not have the answers to the questions I predict they are going to ask."

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfree press.com or <a href="tel:423-757-6347">423-757-6347</a>. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.

 
March 14, 2018
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2018 Journal — Gazette Mar 13, 2018

Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

 

Larry Nassar became a household name because he sexually abused nearly 200 women and girls — all under the guise of caring for their sports medicine needs.

When Nassar, USA Gymnastics national team doctor and an osteopathic physician at Michigan State University, heard his sentence of 175 years in prison, there were cheers in the courtroom.

What we need now are cheerleaders for mandating mental health services for all sports teams on every college campus in America.

What Nassar perpetrated was evil, and he's not the only kind of risk student-athletes face on American campuses, including every one of Indiana's more than 60 college and university campuses.

All college athletes have heard it: "Must be nice, living the good life."

What people don't see is the daily schedule: 5 a.m. wake-up (that's if you don't plan on making a "real" breakfast); 6 a.m. weightlifting (grueling conditioning sessions); shower at 8:30 a.m. and rush to class while scarfing down a banana because you have to be sitting in class by 9 a.m. before coaches walk by to make sure you are present.

After hours of sitting in class, there's practice: a 21/2 hour session of running, jumping and getting yelled at that leaves you with an empty tank — mentally and physically.

Now, to rush home and get dinner ready. By the time dinner is over and the kitchen's clean, and attempts are made to organize other aspects of life, it's almost 9 p.m.

Then comes the all too familiar "I haven't even studied yet." A short time later, it's dangerously too soon to wake up and do it all over again. I lived that life at IPFW.

These scenarios make student-athletes vulnerable to abuse.

The Journal of Sports Health reported that, from 2003-12, there were 35 suicides from a review of 477 NCAA athlete deaths. Suicides represented 7.3 percent of all causes of death among NCAA athletes.

There are 347 Division I schools in the country. In 2014, ESPN noted that fewer than 25 Division I athletic departments have a full-time licensed mental health professional on staff.

Research has proven that access to a mental health professional can reduce rates of suicide, depression and other adverse coping strategies, as well as significantly increase the likelihood that sexual abuse victims will reveal what they have endured. Mental health practices have also been linked to improved athletic and academic performance.

How do we stop the abuse? The goal is to raise awareness; a goal that has already been taken on by organizations such as the Alliance of Social Workers in Sports. The alliance is geared toward integrating social work practice into all aspects of sports and recreation for the betterment of communities and individuals.

Social workers are among the largest group of professional mental health service providers in the country, and they could greatly benefit the athletic community.

Furthermore, since the NCAA reports more than $1 billion in revenue in 2017, reaping the benefits of the abilities of its student-athletes, it could invest in those same unpaid and strenuously worked young adults. Athletes are in need of the advocacy that social workers and mental health professionals provide.

I think it would be an understatement to say that all athletes deserve to have a designated licensed mental health professional available to them while participating in any athletic league, at any level.

All college athletic programs should be required to have at least one licensed mental health professional who is part of the staff, who performs routine mental health assessments on every athlete, and who is accessible by athletes who want to seek additional assistance. We need a brave legislator to author a bill that addresses this proposal in order to ensure a safe student body and campus for all.

We have acted in the moment by putting Nassar behind bars so he can't hurt anyone anymore. But we can also be proactive by establishing great policy that protects our college athletes, including all of those in Indiana.

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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

When Utah State athletics director John Hartwell met Sunday with Tim Duryea, the Aggies basketball coach asked if another win or two in the conference tournament might have been enough to save his job.

The answer? No. The decision to fire him after three seasons as the coach in Logan was about much more than that.

"It was not over one game," Hartwell said.

Utah State prides itself on its tradition of basketball success. As Hartwell assessed his men's basketball program, however, he no longer saw the enthusiasm that once filled the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, and he no longer envisioned a path back there with Duryea at the helm.

In an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune this week, Hartwell said wins and losses were a factor in the decision to fire Duryea, but there also were concerns about the future of the basketball program, an alarming drop in season ticket holders over the past four years and what Hartwell called "fan apathy" in Logan.

"At the end of the day, when we got to discuss this decision we asked, What is the trajectory of our program? Are we on an upward trend? Are we trending in mediocrity?" Hartwell said. "And at the end of the day, we kept coming back to the fact that there's a tradition and rich history of success with basketball at Utah State, and we don't feel like we're there right now and we weren't certain that we were on that trajectory to get there."

Hartwell praised Duryea's character during his tenure as USU's coach. The Aggies went 47-49 in his three seasons as their bench boss. And their run to the Mountain West semifinal game this month was actually their best finish since joining the conference five years ago.

But attendance in Logan plummeted during Duryea's time as coach. The Aggies averaged 9,829 fans per home game in 2014 and just 6,872 per game in 2017, according to the NCAA. Hartwell said season ticket sales declined by 35 percent in that same time.

That was enough for Hartwell to part ways with Duryea, despite the coach having another year (about $379,000 in salary the university will have to pay out) left on his contract - not an insignificant chunk of USU's roughly $35 million athletics budget.

"We've looked at our revenue streams and looked at some opportunities to be able to fund that, and we feel comfortable with being able to fund that," Hartwell said.

USU's most successful times came under longtime coach Stew Morrill, for whom Duryea worked for 14 years. That success, however, also came while playing in weaker conferences. Hartwell nevertheless said he expects the Aggies to be among the "upper echelon" of teams in the Mountain West, regularly finishing in the top third of the 11-team league.

"I believe from a facilities standpoint, from our practice facility and the Spectrum, and looking at the tradition of our program, it's a realistic expectation," Hartwell said.

Duryea's firing comes about a month before the April signing day for basketball recruits. To help with the transition, the Aggies have placed assistant coach Spencer Nelson, himself a former standout at the university, at the head of the basketball program for now.

"He has a long history with the Aggies," Hartwell said. "We have designated him as our bridge person through this process."

Nelson and the rest of the Aggies assistants will remain on staff at least until a new hire is made. Hartwell said he hopes to have a new coach in place about the time the Final Four of the NCAA tournament begins.

"It's early in the process, but we do have some prospective candidates," Hartwell said. "Since [the announcement of Duryea's firing] my phone has been blowing up."

Hartwell said has been contacted by "current Division I coaches, guys that have collegiate experience and are in the NBA now and collegiate assistant coaches" regarding the job. Hartwell said he did not believe previous collegiate head coaching experience necessarily would be a requirement for the job. The AD also said he is not necessarily looking only for a coach from Utah or someone with Utah ties, though an understanding of "the blueprint for success" in the state would be essential.

"We want to make sure we get the right person leading this program going forward," Hartwell said. "… When I think about who would be the perfect candidate, it's somebody with passion and fire and proven recruiting prowess."

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New York Observer

 

ESPN, once a major money maker, has lost a staggering 13 million subscribers over the last six years. As television audiences continue to flock towards more cost-effective streaming options, the Worldwide Leader in Sports has continued to lose money. As such, parent company Disney has been forced to resort to major layoffs and staff reductions over the last 18 months. The network has even partnered with Snapchat to try and combat the declining ratings.

But last year, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that the company will be launching its own standalone streaming service in an effort to appeal to younger audiences and cord cutters who are turned off by dreaded cable subscriptions.

As part of that effort, Varietyis reporting that the streaming service, which has been dubbed ESPN Plus, has ordered its first original offering in an untitled documentary series that will revolve around certain players from the NBA's 2017-18 rookie class.

The documentary series will span eight episodes and follow a handful of prospects from their pre-draft preparation through the big night and right up into the regular season.

"It will be really compelling, access-based programming, bringing fans closer to their favorite athletes, telling the story of the journey of adjusting to life in the NBA on the court and off the court," Connor Schell, executive vice president of content for ESPN, said. "I love being able to do storytelling like that and have it be at people's fingertips."

Last week on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Kobe Bryant revealed that he will also have a series, Detail, exclusive to ESPN Plus. Bryant is coming off an Academy Award win for Best Animated Short Film with his Dear Basketball.

Late last year, it was reported that ESPN was losing roughly 7,000 subscribers per day.

In 2011, the network boasted 100.13 million subscribers, but Nielsen estimated that that number fell to 87.22 million by August 2017. For perspective, Netflix is a market leader in streaming with nearly 118 million subscribers worldwide. HBO is the prestige premium cable network with 130 million worldwide subscribers.

Per The Washington Post, ESPN receives more than $9 per month from each cable subscriber who has ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and the SEC lineups. Couple those customer losses with the mammoth $3.3 billion the network is paying for NFL and NBA TV rights and you can see how much is riding on this streaming service. The hope is that ESPN Plus will recoup some of the subscribers who jumped ship.

"It's going to give fans a deeper experience," Schell said of Plus. "It gives us an opportunity to do some different original programming."

In addition to original content, ESPN Plus will also house the network's complete 30 for 30lineup and a wide array of college sports.

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Copyright 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

 

The University of New Mexico football team is expected to get its $676,500 locker room upgrade after all.

Though the project failed to earn approval from the UNM Regents' Finance & Facilities committee last week, it managed to clear the full Board of Regents on Monday - even getting a "yes" vote from the regent who criticized it in committee over concerns the money could be better spent on the athletics operating deficit.

Regent Tom Clifford said he changed his mind after getting more clarity on the funding model, which relies heavily - but not entirely - on donations.

Athletic department leaders have bemoaned the current lockers as dilapidated, too-small and a recruiting hindrance. Garrett Adcock, the student regent and a former UNM football player, also spoke to the issues during Monday's meeting.

"I've seen the lockers collapse on people; I've seen other lockers with the sides totally ripped off (and) you can't repair it," he said. "There have been rats in the lockers."

But the proposal drew criticism from a couple of faculty members, who cited other areas of need around campus and mentioned athletics' larger financial challenges. That includes the department's $4.7 million deficit to the university.

"How could one in good, responsible conscience seek funds for an entirely new project in an area that is in serious debt with no demonstrated plan to pay it down?" Faculty Senate President Pamela Pyle asked.

Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez advocated for the remodel, saying the locker room is a "critical" space for student-athletes. He also outlined funding centered on donations, including $200,000 from the $10 million gift Larry Chavez of Dreamstyle Remodeling pledged last year.

"You're saying the entire pot for this renovation has been donor-directed, so it's covered by Mr. Chavez?" Regent Suzanne Quillen asked.

"Mr. Chavez or other donors, yes," Nuñez said.

But Nuñez clarified in an interview afterward that the project will use more than donations, including $120,000 in bond money dedicated for capital projects and $100,000 in game guarantee funds UNM football gets for playing Texas A&M and Louisiana State University in future years.

He said his comments to the regents were meant to address specific concerns Clifford raised last week about how the locker room money could - and should - be spent instead on the athletics operating deficit. He wanted to explain that many donors gave specifically for this purpose.

Nuñez says donors will ultimately cover $456,500 for the project. But $200,000 of that has not come in yet, and Nuñez said the university is providing the amount through what he called "a loan" to get started. Asked about athletics' spotty track record for repaying the university, he said "the good part is we have donors who are already pledging money" for the project. The project needs final approval from the New Mexico Higher Education Department.

Also: The Board of Regents officially voted to deny head football coach Bob Davie's appeal of the 30-day suspension former president Chaouki Abdallah levied last month following a series of investigations into the coach and the football program. The regents made the same decision last month, but their original vote was null because it occurred in closed session.Davie Letter

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Copyright 2018 Virginian-Pilot Companies LLC
All Rights Reserved

The Virginian — Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

Officials from the MEAC and Hampton University hammered out a compromise agreement during last week's basketball tournament at Scope that allows the Pirates to exit to the Big South Conference next season.

The league and university announced the agreement Monday morning.

Terms weren't announced, but Hampton agreed to pay "an undisclosed fine for failing to meet the MEAC's July 1, 2017 deadline for withdrawal from the Conference," according to a statement released jointly by the MEAC and Hampton.

Hampton announced in November, four months after the MEAC deadline, that it was leaving for the Big South in July.

MEAC officials imposed a $250,000 fine and, oddly, told the Pirates they would be required to play full league football schedules through the 2021 season, Hampton officials said.

That was despite MEAC football refusing to play the Pirates in 2018.

Hampton officials called the fine unfair and accused the MEAC of telling league schools not to play the Pirates in nonconference games in any sport in 2018.

Hampton officials said every MEAC school they contacted declined to schedule football games with them in 2018.

That includes Norfolk State, which declined a football date with Hampton and will instead travel to South Carolina State. That means, unless there is an unforeseen change, the Battle of the Bay between Norfolk State and Hampton won't be played for the first time since 1962.

Matt Michalec, an assistant athletic director at NSU, said the game definitely won't be played in 2018.

"We have a signed agreement to play SCSU," he said via text message.

Hampton officials said they will play an independent schedule in 2018, but it isn't clear whether they will find enough opponents to be eligible for the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

So far, Hampton is scheduled to play just four FCS opponents — Monmouth, Tennessee State, Charleston Southern, Presbyterian College — as well as Division II schools Virginia Union and Shaw and Virginia University of Lynchburg, which doesn't play in the NCAA.

The release states that the agreement "allows for Hampton University and the MEAC member institutions to play as non-conference opponents in the future and preserves the traditional rivalries held dear by stakeholders of both Hampton University and the MEAC."

The impasse broke down into a war of news releases in the past month, including a blistering, four-page release from Hampton two weeks ago that harshly criticized the conference.

But things apparently calmed down in the last week.

"Hampton University values our relationship with the MEAC, and I believe this agreement is best for all parties going forward," said Hampton President William R. Harvey in a statement.

MEAC commissioner Dennis Thomas added that "we are very pleased with the agreement reached between the MEAC and Hampton. We wish Hampton University student athletes, coaches and staff continued success in their future endeavors."

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Copyright 2018 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

The coaches, players and TV announcers waited breathlessly for the reveal, then broke down the snubs, seedings and matchups with the same glee as kids unwrapping gifts under the Christmas tree. In all, the unveiling of the NCAA Tournament bracket felt pretty much like business as usual.

That's really not the case this season.

March Madness will provide a three-week break from the troubling headlines that have consumed college basketball. All four of the tournament's No. 1 seeds — Virginia, Villanova, Kansas, Xavier — have been caught up in allegations of rule-breaking that have come up through an FBI investigation and resulting news coverage detailing potential NCAA violations.

They aren't alone.

No fewer than a dozen of the 68 programs who kick off the tournament this week have had their names mentioned in these reports. There's an undeniable chance the team cutting down the nets in San Antonio on April 2 could be forced to forfeit its title a few years down the road, after the NCAA sorts through the damage.

But in considering who was in and out, the selection committee only looked at who was eligible, not who was being investigated. It made for a bracket that looks fairly typical — defending champion North Carolina and runner-up Gonzaga are in, and a few blast-from-the-past underdogs such as Davidson and Butler are playing that role again this year — even if the underpinnings of college basketball may be out of whack.

"March Madness and the Final Four, it's supposed to be one of the best times to be a sports fan," Michael L. Buckner, a Florida-based attorney who has worked on infractions cases, said last week. "Now it's going to have this cloud hanging over it, so that's why I say it's a little surreal."

For now, though, the games go on.

Those filling out brackets in office pools that will amass more than $10 billion in action, most of the $10 and $20 entry-fee variety, were handed their palette Sunday during a bracket-unveiling show on TBS.

Some highlights:

* The Midwest Region stands out as the toughest, headlined by Kansas, Duke and Michigan State, all of which ranked in the top 4 in the AP preseason poll. Michigan State will go into Friday's game against Bucknell not having played a game in two weeks because of the Big Ten's early conference tournament. "It's a concern. But with what this team has gone through this year, who cares?" coach Tom Izzo said. It was a nod to the sex-abuse scandal that has rocked Michigan State's athletic program, along with an NCAA eligibility issue involving Miles Bridges.

* Teams that didn't make it included St. Mary's (weak schedule), Notre Dame (not enough quality wins), Oklahoma State (Dick Vitale went on a rant ) and Louisville (its 39 rating in the RPI is the best to miss the tournament). It was yet another blow to a Cardinals program that has lost its coach (Rick Pitino), athletic director (Tom Jurich) and even its latest national title (2013) due to a string of scandals that have played out over the past several years.

* Teams that squeaked in included Oklahoma, which means the nation's most electric player, Trae Young, will be on the court for at least one game, on Thursday against Rhode Island. The Sooners (18-13) went 2-8 down the stretch, but NCAA selection chair Bruce Rasmussen said games in November and December weighed just as heavily as those in February and March. Arizona State also made it off the bubble. And Syracuse, snubbed last year, was the last team in, Rasmussen said.

* Some of the first week's best action could be in Boise, Idaho, which features a possible second-round South matchup between No. 5 Kentucky and No. 4 Arizona, each of which won their conference tournaments. "I had to ask my guys, 'How many of you know what state Boise is in?' " coach John Calipari said, as part of an entertaining riff during an ESPN interview about the long trip his team faces.

It's that sort of back and forth about brackets, match-ups and slights — both real and perceived — that have turned March Madness into the party it has become over the last few decades.

In a way, nothing changed Sunday. Only this time, when the party ends, it will do so with a thud.

An NCAA commission led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to deliver recommendations shortly after the Final Four about what reforms are needed to save college basketball. At stake: A three-week extravaganza worth nearly $20 billion in TV money alone. In other words, the lifeblood of the NCAA.

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Copyright 2018 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

USA TODAY

 

The phone rang. It was Dr. Larry Nassar. "Hey, man, what's going on?" Dr. Steven Karageanes recalls saying. Nassar got straight to the point: "I just wanted to call and let you know that I've been accused of sexual assault." It was Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016, just four days before allegations against Nassar would be made public. Karageanes, a former president of the American Osteopathic Academy of Sports Medicine, said he took his phone into another room, away from his family. For the next 21 minutes, he listened as a fellow osteopath he had known for 25 years strongly denied the allegations of two former patients.

About this report

This article is based on 1,583 pages of victim impact statements presented in Ingham County Circuit Court in Michigan in January. More than 150 women said Larry Nassar abused them over three decades, many when they were children. USA TODAY NETWORK reporters at The Indianapolis Star, the Lansing State Journal and the Detroit Free Press conducted interviews with victims, doctors and coaches in multiple states.

Nassar asked whether Karageanes would speak to Michigan State University Police and explain pelvic medical procedures, Nassar's chosen specialty. Nassar also asked his friend to write a letter of support and help gather other doctors, trainers and therapists to fend off the women, who said he molested them during treatments when they were teenagers.

Karageanes said he would help. And it was only after additional evidence piled up that he and others realized how fully Nassar had used them.

"He groomed me for 28 years to help him commit sexual assault," Karageanes said in a statement read by a prosecutor at Nassar's sentencing in January on seven counts of criminal sexual conduct. Karageanes said he was Nassar's pawn. A means to an end. A victim of Nassar's "devious, underhanded and sickening... machinations."

What comes through loudly in his and more than 150 other court statements -- and in interviews by USA TODAY NETWORK reporters in Michigan and Indiana -- is that the hundreds of girls Nassar molested over three decades were not the only people groomed to perpetuate his abuse. When the truth came out, parents, coaches, trainers and medical professionals felt they had been duped for years into believing in a man who had carefully cultivated a wholesome, helpful image and attained near celebrity status as the foremost medical expert in a niche sport.

People at every level failed to protect Nassar's victims.

At least 29 of the 156 survivors who gave impact statements said they told someone -- a boyfriend, fellow gymnast, parent, coach or official -- about the abuse. Yet on and on it went.

Survivors said the high-pressure culture of USA Gymnastics, the sport's national governing body, aided Nassar as he preyed on children. Other physicians were called on to defend him. The connections Nassar nurtured in sports, medicine and academia helped mask his abuses. And the institutions that gave rise to his fame failed to put sufficient checks in place to protect the children in their care.

USA Gymnastics and MSU declined to comment for this story, citing pending litigation.

When Nassar agreed last year to skip a trial and plead guilty to sexually abusing girls, any lingering doubt about him was removed.

"That's when it just like punched me in the head, you know," Karageanes said. "It means everything the last few months, oh my God, the last few years, oh my God, all these years -- I mean, it's all suspect. Everything."

'One lonely tear'

A woman identified only as Victim 125 confronted Nassar with a question that had haunted her for years.

"Who was that first girl?" she asked Nassar in Ingham County Circuit Court. "Am I her? Do you even remember? Do you even remember what we will never forget? Can you even remember, Larry, when it all began?"

She was 8 years old in 1988 when Nassar arrived at the Great Lakes Gymnastics Club in Lansing. It was there that Nassar, then in his mid-20s, teamed up with two young upstart coaches who would rise in the sport together: John Geddert, who would go on to coach an Olympic champion, and Kathie Klages, who eventually would become MSU's gymnastics coach.

In a court statement directed at Nassar, Victim 125 recalled the young medical student being at the Great Lakes gym "almost every single day for hours with your big black medical bag full of supplies over your shoulder."

Victim 125 said she was 12 when Nassar invited her to help with a flexibility study he said he was conducting on behalf of the MSU medical school. The USA TODAY NETWORK typically doesn't identify victims of sexual abuse without their consent.

"My mother was out of town but granted permission for me to go to your house, because not only did she love and trust you but because I was supposed to be one of several subjects participating in your Michigan State study," Victim 125 recalled in court.

A neighbor drove her to Nassar's apartment. When she got there, it was just her and Nassar. There were no other subjects for his supposed study. Trusting Nassar, the preteen girl followed his direction.

He told her to take a bath in his tub, which would help relax her muscles, she said in court. Then he lay her, naked, on a treatment table in his living room.

She reminded Nassar in court: "You massaged the entirety of my 12-year-old body, suggesting that I relax as you slipped your adult fingers in and out and in and out of my body. That was one of the many, many times that your hands were in me, on me, over the next many years."

Victim 125 said in an interview last month that Nassar's "study" left her confused.

"I knew when I left there that something had happened," Victim 125 said. "I didn't know I was sexually abused. I just knew that I felt really uncomfortable and that something had gone on, but I didn't know what."

A self-made specialist

Nassar received his medical degree in 1993 and later positioned himself as an expert on pelvic floor treatments.

He became adept at relieving pain caused by the rigors of gymnastics, but he also took liberties with girls that went far beyond their medical needs, according to statements from numerous survivors. He sometimes groped their breasts. And, no matter what their ailment, whether a sore neck or ankle, some said, Nassar's treatment often involved penetration of their vaginas.

To disguise what he was doing, Nassar would describe his treatment in different ways to different people, presenting it as non-invasive to the medical world while penetrating the vaginas and rectums of gymnasts under the guise of healing them. Many of his victims were so young, naïve and trusting that they didn't realize they were being abused.

For decades, the difference between what Nassar said and did -- and the deference of patients, parents and other doctors -- would create confusion that allowed him to continue molesting girls.

USA Gymnastics was so confident in its doctor back in 2000 that it sent out the following message to gymnasts attending its National Talent Opportunity Program Training Camp: "If you or anyone in your room has a problem at night (or any time), please call Dr. Larry Nassar, Debbie Van Horn or a USA Gymnastics staff person. Please do not call your personal coach."

The Olympic organization failed to prevent Nassar from treating girls alone in hotel rooms and in dorm rooms at its national training center in Texas, known as the Karolyi Ranch. Many of the women who spoke in court at Nassar's sentencing described the center as an environment ripe for abuse.

The girls in Nassar's orbit were taught from a young age what it takes to be an elite gymnast: discipline, obedience and a high tolerance for pain. Withstanding the pain meant keeping quiet, which cultivated a mind-set among the young athletes that their voices didn't matter.

"From the beginning, we are taught to soldier on through intense training sessions, through the emotional roller coaster of competition, through injury and fatigue, through pain," former gymnast Chelsea Williams said.

When gymnasts were injured, they were sometimes required to see Nassar.

The number of victims rose.

In 2013, USA Gymnastics made Nassar a "core member" of a medical task force established to review the organization's "practices, procedures and protocols regarding athlete care." Among its responsibilities: develop best practices for medical team members, including "ethical obligations for addressing or reporting significant issues."

A year later, former USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny praised Nassar as "instrumental to the success of USA Gymnastics at many levels, both on and off the field of play."

In the process, many gymnasts were led to believe that Nassar using his fingers to penetrate their vaginas and rectums was a necessary, and routine, part of their osteopathic care.

"Who was I to question his treatments or, even more, risk my chance at making the Olympic team or being chosen to compete nationally? And, after all, he was recommended by the national team staff and he treated us monthly at all of our national team camps," 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber said at a court hearing.

'All the girls loved Larry'

Like many sexual predators, Nassar positioned himself as a helpful "nice guy."

"Every Monday he would come to the gym and everyone was always so happy to see him," Brooke Hylek said in a statement at Nassar's sentencing. "All the girls loved Larry and trusted him."

Nassar sought deeper connections, too, as the girls' close friend and confidant. He texted them, sent them messages on Facebook, gave them nicknames and shared adult details about himself, such as his preferred beer.

He played on their desire for Olympic greatness, hanging pictures of top athletes in his office. Some women remembered looking up at the images as he assaulted them.

Gift-giving is considered a possible warning sign of pedophilia, especially when only certain children receive them, and is banned from some gyms, but no one appears to have stopped Nassar.

He gifted Kassie Powell, a track athlete, an Olympic sweatshirt she wore around the house for weeks. Emily Morales, a gymnast, got an autographed towel from the London Olympics. Alexis Alvarado was given autographed photos of famous gymnasts. Others received Olympic pins and one girl was given a practice leotard.

For Isabell Hutchins, the gifts were even more personal -- 1996 Olympics swag featuring the event's mascot, Izzy.

Isabell was gifted figurines and playing cards.

"And there were Izzy Band-Aids for Izzy boo-boos because of all the injuries I had had," Hutchins said at Nassar's sentencing. "He even wrote me a letter and he said: 'Dear Izzy, I am so proud of you having such an awesome season this year. Did you know that the 1996 Olympic mascot was Izzy? Well, enjoy. And, of course, I have a pair of Izzy socks from the 2000 Aussie Olympics.

"Love you, girl. Larry.'"

But the trust Hutchins, Hylek, Powell, Morales, Alvarado and hundreds of other girls put in Nassar was betrayed. They were all assaulted.

Hutchins brought the Izzy figurines into the courtroom during Nassar's sentencing. After her statement, she dropped them in the trash.

'I was humiliated'

Some girls did complain. Former gymnast Larissa Boyce told the court she raised concerns to MSU coach Kathie Klages about Nassar's treatments as early as 1997. According to a lawsuit, Klages asked other gymnasts in the Spartan Youth program whether Nassar had done anything to them.

A second gymnast spoke up.

But rather than calling police or MSU officials, Boyce said Klages went to Nassar. "Instead of being protected," Boyce said in court, "I was humiliated. I was in trouble, and brainwashed into believing that I was the problem. This MSU employee then fed me back to you, the wolf, to continue to be devoured."

Klages' attorney declined to comment, citing a pending lawsuit. In 2017, Klages told police she did not remember Boyce coming to her.

One of the women who met Nassar at Great Lakes in the 1980s said a very close friend came to her in 1997. "I think Larry did something bad to me," the friend told Gonczar.

"I asked her what he had done," Gonczar said in court. "She explained he vaginally manipulated her. I calmed her down and explained to her what happened to her was completely OK as it happened to me all the time."

That conversation upset Gonczar when she eventually realized the treatment she and her friend had received was actually sexual abuse. Gonczar said she has sought counseling.

Michigan police departments twice investigated Nassar before his arrest in 2016, once in 2004 and again in 2014. The first investigation was never sent to prosecutors. The second one was, but no charges were filed.

In early 2014, MSU graduate Amanda Thomashow reported that Nassar massaged her breast and vagina after sending out the only other person present during an exam at MSU. She told him to stop, but he did not until she physically removed his hand from her. The university started a Title IX investigation, and its police department started a separate criminal investigation.

The investigation relied on the medical opinions of four MSU employees who had close ties to Nassar. They determined that Thomashow received an appropriate medical procedure and probably misinterpreted it as sexual assault because she wasn't familiar with osteopathic medicine and wouldn't know the "nuanced difference."

"As I see it, Amanda was abused twice," Suzanne Thomashow said of the Title IX process, specifically pointing to the "nuanced difference" line that said her daughter didn't understand what happened.

Suzanne Thomashow, a doctor, said she was furious when Amanda told her what Nassar did. Suzanne Thomashow knew it was a sexual assault, but she thought it was an isolated incident. She stopped referring patients to Nassar after that and didn't send any of her daughters back to see him.

Suzanne Thomashow would later learn that one of her other daughters, Jessica, had been sexually assaulted by Nassar years before.

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Copyright 2018 Chattanooga Publishing Company
All Rights Reserved

Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

Upon closer inspection, there's only one way for this 2018 NCAA men's basketball tournament to end — only one conclusion that's guaranteed to turn the off-court stench of the regular season into one slimy moment come April 2 in San Antonio.

That fitting finish is this: NCAA president Mark Emmert gritting his teeth as he hands the national championship trophy to Arizona coach Sean Miller and the most outstanding player award to Wildcats center Deandre Ayton.

After all, what could better sum up the monstrous mess that all of college hoops finds itself in today than Emperor Emmert being forced to give his organization's most prized trophy to the coach who's been accused of striking a $100,000 deal with an agent to procure the services of Ayton, who's all but certain to be the next one-and-done mercenary to become an overall No. 1 pick in June's NBA draft?

That Miller is still coaching and Ayton is still playing is a shock to some, though perhaps only a slightly bigger shock than the ridiculously talented Cactus Cats receiving a paltry No. 4 seed in the South Regional after winning both the Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles.

Perhaps that No. 4 seed was some kind of unofficial punishment for the yet unproven FBI charges aimed at Miller and Ayton, who both continue to vehemently deny the accusations.

Or perhaps it was another perceived shot at Kentucky coach John Calipari, who routinely decries his team's tourney draw but may be onto something here given that the Wildcats are the fifth seed in the South and would face 'Zona in the round of 32 if UK survives dangerous Davidson and Arizona befuddles Buffalo.

For starters, UK has a better Rating Percentage Index (10) than any of the No. 4 seeds: Arizona (13), Auburn (15), Gonzaga (21) and Wichita State (16). Second, it has a far superior strength of schedule, what with Arizona coming in at No. 68, Auburn No. 55, Gonzaga No. 151 and Wichita No. 33 to UK's No. 6.

Beyond that, Kentucky is hot, having won seven of its last eight games, including five against the NCAA field, though not quite as hot as Gonzaga, which has won 14 straight.

As for Arizona, the Cactus Cats have won eight of their last nine, own 14 wins over the top 100 (UK has 16) and won their three Pac-12 tourney games by an average of 14 points.

So maybe Kentucky-Arizona regarding the seed line — 4 or 5 — is a push. But this isn't: use of the S-curve, which is a system that is supposed to place the best No. 1 (in this case, South top seed Virginia) against the worst No. 2, the best No. 3, the worst No. 4 and the best No. 5, etc.

By that standard, given the above data, there was no way that Arizona was the worst No. 4 to UK's top No. 5. By that standard, 'Zona should have been the top No. 4 and Auburn, by virtue of its 4-5 record down the stretch, should have been the weakest No. 4.

Here's where it gets a bit questionable, however. According to the NCAA's David Worlock: "The committee used the S-curve on the first two lines after having repeated trouble with competitive balance on the top four lines. (The committee) returned to using geography and conference affiliation for lines three and four."

And herein lies the problem. There's no consistency. No transparency. No uniformity.

You just can't use the S-curve for some slots and not for others. Beyond that, consider that the latest NCAA RPI rankings have the four No. 1 seeds (Virginia, Villanova, Xavier and Kansas) in the top four RPI slots. They have three of the No. 2 seeds (North Carolina, Cincinnati and Duke) in the next four sports, Tennessee standing eighth.

Given that Purdue (9) winds up on the No. 2 line and Tennessee is the top No. 3, everything is pretty much status quo at that point.

But UK is a No. 10, which should have possibly placed it on the No. 3 line and certainly no lower than the No. 4 line, given how closely the committee seemed to follow the RPI for spots one through nine. And Arizona, with an RPI of 13, certainly deserved to be slotted as the top No. 4.

Calipari's rants about being placed in the "play-in game" or being sent to "Anchorage" probably don't help UK's cause much.

Beyond that, Arizona's Miller certainly was smart to take the high road Monday when he said of his Cactus Cats' seed: "I think for us you can't make too much of the seed or the place you're going. You have to play well. It can be the perfect set-up, but if you don't play really well there's so much parity in the tournament that you'll end up losing."

Kentucky easily could lose to hot-shooting Davidson, which averaged 10 made 3-pointers a game. Arizona might fall to Buffalo.

And what happened in the South Region seeding wasn't half as bad as placing Kansas, Duke and Michigan State in the same Midwest Region. Or handing a spot to reeling Oklahoma over solid St. Mary's or Oklahoma State, which beat OU twice, Kansas twice and West Virginia once.

Nor is any of this half as serious as the black cloud hanging over the entire sport due to the FBI probe into schools and agents buying players. The bungled brackets are a paper cut. The pay-for-play scandal threatens to behead the entire sport.

But applying the S-curve and RPI in some cases but not in others is also why a lot of folks view the selection committee as representing a couple of different words that start with S: snakes and snake oil salesmen.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com

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Copyright 2018 Charleston Newspapers

Charleston Gazette-Mail

 

Active Southern West Virginia, which partners with the New River Gorge National River to provide enhanced outdoor exercise opportunities in the region it serves, is expanding into the state parks system to host monthly guided hikes.

The four-year-old nonprofit dedicated to improving regional public health offers a variety of group activities in the New River Gorge, ranging from tai chi and yoga to the basics of rock climbing and stand-up paddleboarding. The activities are led by trained "community captains and are offered free to the public.

Starting in April, Active Southern West Virginia will begin offering First Sunday hikes in four New River Gorge area state parks — Bluestone, Pipestem, Babcock and Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park. The hikes, free and open to people of all ages and abilities, will take place on the first Sunday of each month, starting on April 1 at Pipestem.

"The ability to take the success we've seen with our partnership with the National Park Service and expand that into our state parks is extremely exciting, said Levi Moore, one of two community captains who will be leading the First Sunday Hikes. West Virginia State Parks, he said "offer even more opportunities for local community members to get outside and explore West Virginia.

The hikes are being offered on Sundays in order to offer an outdoor activity to "people who are looking for something to do on Sunday afternoons between church services or after family lunches, or even because that's the only day they have to get outside, Moore said.

"I'd love to see us doing multiple events in the state parks in the New River Gorge region in addition to the First Sunday hikes, he added. "My hope is that this initiative is just the beginning of an outstanding long-term partnership.

Free Active Southern West Virginia t-shirts, social media recognition, and an invitation to the Active Southern West Virginia Appreciation Awards Dinner in December can be earned by taking part in at least one First Sunday hike in each of the four participating state parks.

For more information about First Sunday hikes and other Active Southern West Virginia activities, call 304-254-8488 or visit www.activeswv.org/events.

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Copyright 2018 Richmond Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

On Selection Sunday, we weep for those left behind.

We gnash our teeth and pull our hair over the injustice done to Notre Dame, Louisville, Southern California and Baylor.

But who will weep for Vermont, other than the Catamount fans? Who will be upset that when Middle Tennessee was upset in the Conference USA tournament, it fell by the NCAA tournament wayside?

Someone should be. Gee whiz, neither Vermont nor MTSU was even among the last four out.

Davidson's victory in the Atlantic 10 championship game, said NCAA selection committee chairman Bruce Rasmussen, knocked Notre Dame out of the tournament field.

Syracuse in the ACC, Alabama in the SEC, Texas and Oklahoma in the Big 12 and Arizona State in the Pac-12, all were 8-10 in conference play and all stayed in the tournament field.

Middle Tennessee was 16-2 in C-USA, a highly competitive and off-the-radar league (Old Dominion was second at 15-3). Vermont was 15-1 in the America East but lost the wrong game at the wrong time, to No. 2 seed (12-4) University of Maryland Baltimore County in the conference championship game.

Goodbye NCAA field. Hello NIT.

If you are the coach at Vermont or Middle Tennessee, perhaps you start to wonder at the point of it all. Why work to become a dominant team at your level? Why, if you're MTSU, beat Vanderbilt and Mississippi from the SEC and why schedule, and lose close games to Auburn, Southern Cal and Miami? Why not put all the focus on building momentum going into the conference tournament if the selection committee essentially is saying you play in a one-bid league.

Rasmussen said MTSU is a great team and played some good nonconference games, but didn't win any of the games. It's not MTSU's fault Vanderbilt and Mississippi were at the bottom of the SEC. And the loss to Miami? Did anyone on the selection committee mention that Virginia Tech, a No. 8 seed, lost twice to Miami?

Send Miami to MTSU for a game and then tell us MTSU isn't good enough for the NCAA field.

And before we forget, St. Bonaventure in a play-in game? The Bonnies were 14-4 in the A-10, 25-7 overall. Yes, they lost to Davidson in the semifinals of the A-10 tournament, but they also beat Syracuse during the regular season. Why isn't Syracuse headed to Dayton for a play-in game instead of St. Bonaventure? Seems only fair.

If the committee was paying as close attention as it should have been, its members would have realized Davidson was the best team in the conference down the stretch. The Wildcats' victory in the A-10 championship game shouldn't have been necessary to get them in the NCAA field.

Davidson should have been in the field simply by reaching the A-10 championship game.

Davidson passed the eyeball test. The Wildcats looked like an NCAA team, but Rasmussen said they would not be in the field without the A-10's automatic bid.

The same is true of Vermont. Anyone who saw the Catamounts win at Richmond in late November realized that.

The eyeball test isn't part of the criteria for the NCAA field. At least, it should be something strongly considered.

The selection committee has a difficult job. Good teams always will be left out.

The NCAA always is trying to find quantifiable criteria to determine who has earned an at-large bid, thus the inclusion of "quadrants" this year. Victories against teams in Quadrant 1 and 2, the top 100 teams in the RPI, were very beneficial.

Teams in the Power Five conferences, Big East and American Athletic conferences get numerous opportunities to rack up Quadrant 1 and 2 victories by virtue of being in conferences with a number of Quadrant 1 and 2 teams.

Oklahoma was not just 8-10 in the Big 12, it was 3-9 in its final 12 conference games, including a first-round loss in the conference tournament to Oklahoma State, also 8-10 in the conference in the regular season and not deemed worthy of an at-large berth.

That's just embarrassing for Oklahoma and the selection committee.

The tournament would be far more interesting with Vermont and MTSU than with Oklahoma, Syracuse (losses to Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, ACC bottom feeders this year), and others.

If a team has the advantage of playing in a major basketball conference, it should be required to finish with no worse than a .500 record in its league. That's not too much to ask. It easily could be a quantifiable point for the teams and committee.

"It's been discussed but as conferences have gotten larger and there has been more uneven scheduling, it has not generated enough interest to be a policy at this point," Rasmussen said in a conference call Sunday night.

If you're playing with the big guys and enjoying all the advantage of being in a conference with the big guys, you should be able to beat the big guys at least half the time.

To whom much is given, much is expected.

Year after year, much is given to teams from major conferences, even when those teams don't meet expectations.

(804) 649-6444

@World_of_Woody

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

Being a sports fan means making some concessions, compartmentalizing some jadedness and accepting a certain level of commercialism and inconvenience as the fair trade for, well, sports.

But come on.

We can deal with flopping, with tanking, with too many mound visits, with Jeff Triplette, with arguments about mock drafts and someone else's fantasy team and, heck, we can even deal with Roger Goodell.

We really don't ask for a lot in return. On the whole, it can feel like sports fans are taken for granted and squeezed more than any consumer base other than drug addicts.

But screwing with the NCAA Tournament selection show should be a bridge too far.

Bless TBS' heart, as Rusty Kuntz might say. They show a lot of "Seinfeld" reruns.

The network took the selection show for the first time on Sunday, and they basically handled it the way you'd expect an over-caffeinated 16-year-old to handle a sports car.

They crashed into the railings from the very beginning, with audio that didn't match video, and that may have been the highlight of the show. Lights went out, mascots were misidentified, old logos used and a format that should've been rejected in the planning room was butchered.

They wanted to reveal the field alphabetically, which would've been dumb enough, but in an act of unintentional poetic incompetence, TBS messed up the alphabetical order at least twice - N.C. State and Nevada, and TCU and Tennessee.

Also, for some nonsensical reason, TBS decided to lead what could be its most-watched live studio show of the year with what in some cases was old news - the automatic qualifiers.

They revealed the field first, bracket second, which may have sounded good to some network executive who pretends to care about college basketball for a few weeks every year, but in reality was sort of like watching someone pour a glass of milk on a plate of perfect nachos and expecting you to be hungry anyway.

Presumably, the folks who seem to have built their prime-time schedule around reruns of "The Big Bang Theory" figured they could get two reveals into one show - first the field, then the bracket.

But this could have only sounded good to someone who doesn't follow college basketball, whose only experience with a bracket reveal was hearing the bosses bought it and wanted something different this year.

College basketball fans want the bracket. The field is in the bracket. Give us the dang bracket!

Look, again, this isn't coming from a place of naiveté. Sports fans know the deal. You're going to build the drama. You've got ads to sell. Fine. Just build it in a way that makes sense.

Loving college basketball requires all sorts of moral ambiguities. Top coaches are paid on par with NBA coaches, players are told to be happy with round-the-clock snacks and a stipend, and when it turns out players are getting a slice of their true value on the black market, the NCAA wants to clutch its pearls and scream, "Well, I NEVER!"

But the NCAA Tournament is a place we've all sort of agreed is a No Cynicism Zone, all fun, with crazy upsets and game-winners and the greatest event in major American sports.

We are falling over ourselves to love the thing, is the point, and it takes a special level of failure to get in the way of that.

You either have to try to screw it up or have very little idea what you're doing, which brings up another point that's been obvious for a few years now - if you've been totally absent from the sport all year, maybe don't take over in the most important part of the season.

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Copyright 2018 The Buffalo News
All Rights Reserved

The Buffalo News (New York)

 

The Town of Tonawanda could take the first step toward replacing the Brighton Arena hockey rink with a new facility when the Town Board votes tonight on a $400,000 proposal to hire an architectural firm to design the project.

Councilman Daniel J. Crangle said the town's two rinks - Brighton and Lincoln arenas - are each about 60 years old.

He said the Department of Youth, Parks and Recreation would like to demolish Brighton Pool and the wading pool and build a regulation ice rink with concessions, locker rooms, showers and seating areas next to Brighton Arena. Demolition of the existing arena is currently not part of the plan, according to Crangle, who said the town is still studying how to use both if a new rink is built.

Crangle said that the cost of a new arena would be borne by taxpayers and that the town would need to bond $8 million for the project. "There's no state funding, but we will be seeking funding from state leaders to offset the cost," he said.

One reason that Brighton was chosen for the new rink over Lincoln Arena is its proximity to Interstate 290, which would allow the town to sell the naming rights. Offers for naming rights already have been received, he said.

During its meeting at 7 o'clock tonight, the board will consider the $400,000 planning bond to hire Carmina Woods Morris as a consultant to do design and engineering work, as well as an engineering plan for demolition and construction.

Nine months ago, hundreds of hockey players, coaches and families made their plea to the board to update town hockey facilities. They told the board that they were taking their children to newer facilities, such as the Northtown Center at Amherst. Organizations are paying thousands of dollars to rent ice time in other municipalities rather than playing in an outdated arena in their own backyard, Crangle said.

Brighton Arena is smaller than a regulation-size rink, and space is limited. There are no lockers, just hooks to hang clothes. There are no showers, and when girls play on mixed teams, they have to change in a small storage office, Crangle said. Referees change in a narrow storage room.

There are 1,114 registered hockey players in the town, Crangle said, but more than half - 668 - play outside the town. He said Brighton is open only five months a year, but a new arena could extend that to 10 months a year and rent out the ice to local organizations. In the two months of downtime - June and July - the arena could be used for roller skating, in-line hockey, volleyball and other sports, as well as for camps, clinics and birthday parties.

"It could attract a lot more organizations," Crangle said.

"Also, (an arena at one location) would be better for the taxpayer. It would save us on personnel and equipment, and everything would be centrally located."

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Copyright 2018 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

What interesting timing. Thursday was International Women's Day, a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. Also Thursday, the Colorado State athletic department officials announced they want to interview Becky Hammon for their men's basketball head-coaching job. The 40-year-old Hammon, a former WNBA star, played college basketball at Colorado State.

She's currently an assistant coach for the NBA's San Antonio Spurs. She became the first full-time female assistant coach in the NBA in 2014. Some NBA observers believe San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich is grooming her to be his replacement when he retires. Colorado State officials worry that even though Hammon is an alum, luring her away from the NBA will be a challenge.

Of course, fans might be worried that a female head coach could bring challenges of a different kind, like recruiting challenges or internal challenges with personnel of the opposite sex. Then again, how does Geno Auriemma at Connecticut get the best high school girls players to come to his campus in droves every year? There are men coaching all over women's college basketball. But a woman coaching college men is uncharted territory, so there will be skeptics.

In terms of the recruiting, I'd be interested to see how Hammon would be viewed and received by high school boys and their parents. I believe a lot of moms would love to have a mother-figure looking after their boys. I also think the boys might appreciate that. So many teenage boys still are heavily reliant on their mothers, even as high school seniors. Perhaps a different style and a female presence will be welcomed by some young men.

In terms of Hammon's ability to control boys and young men once they get on campus and develop them into a successful unit, Hammon already has proved herself in that area. She has been put on the hot seat with the Spurs and has been asked to be the head coach for some summer-league games in past seasons. Apparently she has received positive reviews from Spurs players for her coaching techniques and leadership.

A lot of people once encouraged the late Pat Summitt, longtime women's coach at Tennessee, to try coaching a men's college team. She never seemed to take the idea all that seriously. Her heart was with coaching women's basketball. She wanted to stay on the path she was always forging. The same might be true of Hammon. She might want to stay right where she's at and see where the NBA takes her. Either way, Hammon will be breaking barriers and making history, which is exactly what should be happening for women in sports on International Women's Day … and every day of the year.

DePaul ball: Looks like DePaul will be the only women's team from Illinois to make the NCAA Tournament this year. That, unfortunately, is not a new thing. The Blue Demons are on a roll and just won the Big East tournament, routing rival Marquette in the championship game.

The women's NCAA Tournament field will be announced Monday night on ESPN. Recently, there have been a few times when the DePaul women were the only team - men or women - representing Illinois in the NCAA Tournament. But this year the Loyola Ramblers men's team will be in the Big Dance after winning the Missouri Valley Conference championship and tournament. It's the first NCAA Tournament berth for the Ramblers in 33 years. The entire men's bracket will be announced today on TBS. pbabcock@dailyherald.com * Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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Copyright 2018 The Arizona Daily Star. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

 

The University of Arizona is making changes in the wake of a firestorm of court filings involving sexual harassment and domestic violence issues in the athletic department.

Starting this week, an attorney who specializes in gender discrimination law will lead a comprehensive review of the university's processes and policies and also examine how the UA coordinates with supporting agencies such as law enforcement and health care.

"There is no place for sexual misconduct and discrimination at the University of Arizona and we're working to ensure that a positive and supportive culture reaches across the entire university," UA president Robert C. Robbins wrote Friday in an email to the Star. "I'm committed to investing in the people and resources needed to place our prevention, support and response measures among the very best in the country. Our students, employees and the university community deserve no less."

The UA has hired Title IX attorney Natasha Baker to guide a review of its processes and policies. Baker, who starts this week, works at the San Francisco law firm Hirschfeld Kraemer and trains campus administrators about Title IX compliance and campus investigations.

Baker was hired in early February. Days later, Robbins sent an email to faculty, students and staff that said sexual misconduct and discrimination "will not be tolerated."

"While we cannot guarantee that the incidents will not happen here, it is a top priority for us to do all we can within our roles as educators and employers to prevent them," he wrote.

Robbins' February email emphasized that the university is no different from colleges and universities across the country that are also "wrestling with reports of sexual assault, relationship violence, sexual harassment and discrimination."

The UA has more than a dozen offices that provide education, counseling, health care, investigative and other support services related to Title IX, a federal law that protects students from gender discrimination. While the quantity of those services demonstrates the school's commitment to students, they will be better served by "gathering our existing resources in a more coordinated and enhanced fashion," Robbins wrote.

Details of Baker's contract with the school weren't immediately available and UA spokesman Chris Sigurdson said he didn't know how long her review would take. Baker did not respond to the Star's request for comment.

The UA is defending itself in two federal lawsuits and one local civil lawsuit, all of which claim the school failed to protect students from dangerous men on campus.

In 2015, assistant track coach Craig Carter was arrested after reportedly threatening an athlete with a box cutter while his other hand was wrapped around her throat. After the incident, Carter sent dozens of text messages and emails to the woman, threatening her and her family members, Pima County Superior Court documents say. The woman is suing the UA in Pima County Superior Court for not protecting her. Carter and the student-athlete were engaged in a sexual relationship that the coach says was consensual.

In 2016, running back Orlando Bradford was arrested and charged in connection with choking two ex-girlfriends. A third woman told campus police that Bradford had choked her, but hasn't filed a claim or sued. Bradford is serving five years in prison.

The two victims have sued the UA in federal court and one of the suits has since been amended to include allegations of gang rapes by football players. No details were provided in the claim, and it's unclear if anyone has been charged.

Legal troubles involving coaches and athletes extend beyond the suits against the university.

Football coach Rich Rodriguez was fired Jan. 2, the same day a sexual harassment and hostile workplace claim against him became public. The notice of claim, filed by Rodriguez's former assistant, says the coach fostered an environment where Title IX "did not exist."

In 2016, the university issued UA basketball player Elliott Pitts a one-year suspension for sexual misconduct related to the alleged sexual assault of a fellow student.

Addressing toxic masculinity

Sexual violence perpetrated by athletes is sadly common on college campuses, one expert said.

"The problems of sexual assault, sexual violence and sexual abuse are so ubiquitous," said Mitch Abrams, a psychologist who specializes in anger management and violence in sports. "It's happening everywhere."

Training is part of the problem, Abrams said — many schools are using outdated or ineffective models to teach violence-prevention to athletes.

"People want to pretend that they're doing something about it. What's been done, in my opinion, is the equivalence of putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound," Abrams said.

He says bystander intervention training, such as Arizona's Step UP! program, is ineffective and difficult to implement. Step UP! teaches students how to be proactive in helping others in situations involving alcohol, dating violence, gambling, hazing and depression.

"If these programs work, then why isn't the problem ameliorating?" Abrams said. "Bystander intervention as a primary approach is deliberate indifference."

Arizona officials learned that first-hand in the Bradford case. Tucson police reports show that four of his roommates — all UA football players — routinely witnessed him abuse women, but failed to intervene on all but one occasion. All four teammates, and Bradford, had been trained in the Step UP! program.

Rather than teach bystander intervention, Abrams said, schools must address what he calls "toxic masculinity" and increase accountability among their athletes.

Some athletes and coaches "believe they have different types of rules," Abrams said. "When we hold coaches and athletes up like that, we can't be surprised when they take liberties."

Toxic masculinity plays a key role in violence against women, in that low self-esteem in men causes them to use physical power to regain control, Abrams said.

"These people can change, but they need treatment," Abrams said, adding that schools often expel players when they recognize a problem, rather than offering help. "If we don't treat people, we aren't reducing the number of victims."

He said that when schools learn athletes or coaches are violent toward women, many cover it up or kick them out — often depending on how valuable the player or coach is to their program.

When UA officials learned of the situation involving Carter, they quickly took action and fired him, even banning him from campus. Carter coached a sport that receives little national attention and doesn't generate revenue.

Bradford, a potential starter for one of the UA's two showcase programs, seemingly received more slack. Police reports show school officials were made aware of his violent tendencies nearly a year before his dismissal.

Abrams said sweeping changes are necessary to fix the problem. Without trying to understand how perpetrators think, it's impossible to reduce the