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Copyright 2017 The Buffalo News
All Rights Reserved

The Buffalo News (New York)

 

Remember when kids used to run to the park after school to play football?

Or when moms broke up neighborhood baseball games on account of darkness?

Or when kids from one block challenged kids from the next to a game of street hockey?

What happened?

Youth sports have fundamentally changed over the generations — from casual, unstructured play to more organized programs run by adults — and the end result has been noticeable: Fewer kids playing and staying active, and more kids overweight and obese.

But a new report — touted as the first of its kind nationally — outlines some of the specific problems and solutions for the Buffalo Niagara region, so it can get more kids off the couch.

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation and the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo teamed up Thursday to release "State of Play," a 44-page report that takes a detailed look at the access to, quality of and level of participation in youth sports in the eight counties of Western New York.

"So how do we get more kids off the couch without running them into the ground?" said Tom Farrey, executive director of the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program, which was contracted to do the study.

"It starts with a clear-eyed account of how well a community is currently serving kids through sports."

The report, released during a news conference at City Honors School, was based on interviews, roundtables, focus groups and surveys of more than 1,065 local adults and kids.

Some of the highlights:

· Just 16 percent of local youths under 18 are getting the recommended hour of daily physical activity. Roughly 7,500 fewer kids would be overweight or obese if the region could push that up to 25 percent, projections show.

· A higher percentage of black youths in the area get the recommended one hour of daily physical activity, compared with their white and Hispanic peers - 19 percent for blacks; 16 percent each for whites and Hispanics.

· Kids from the lowest-income households tend to get more physical activity than those from middle-income homes.

· While the region has made strides in providing opportunities for girls, it's still inconsistent when compared to those for boys. About 18 percent of boys get the recommended one hour of physical activity compared to 14 percent of girls.

· At least half of the region's 13- to 17-year-olds get physical education in school at least three days a week.

· Officials should consider selling the naming rights to parks - including the Olmsted Parks - to raise money for improving recreational facilities.

· Overall, the region got a C-plus for getting kids active in sports.

"For the first time ever, we have a clear picture of what the state of youth sports looks like in our region," said Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, president of the Community Foundation. " 'State of Play' is a playbook that will drive community conversation and action on how we can collectively address youth sports for years to come."

"Our vision is to have a Western New York community in which all children, regardless of ZIP code or ability, have the opportunity to be active through sports," said David O. Egner, president and CEO of the Wilson Foundation.

Beginning in the fall, the foundations will host a series of community roundtable discussions on youth sports.

Three public sessions are expected to take place, but dates and times have yet to be announced. The events will be "geographically convenient" for all eight counties so members of all communities — urban, suburban or rural — can join the discussion.

The report offers more than 40 findings and suggestions, including:

· More and better places to play — The region has a relative abundance of places to play, with some 853 community sports facilities hosting more than 31 sports, but those opportunities are fewer outside Erie and Niagara counties.

Many facilities also need upgrades, particularly in Buffalo.

The region, the report suggested, should invest more in parks. The $8 million budget for Buffalo parks, for example, isn't adequate for a city its size. Minneapolis, the report said, spends $4 per resident for every dollar spent in Buffalo.

· Think big — The region should consider a limited naming rights program for public parks - nothing garish - to create a funding stream for the parks. Buffalo, too, should take into account the winter months and consider an indoor sports complex. Public-private partnerships, the report said, are proving to be win-win scenarios both locally and elsewhere.

No cost estimates are pegged to any of the recommendations. Betsy Constantine, executive vice president of the Community Foundation, said the community roundtables will help set priorities and provide a basis for determining what resources are needed.

"The community will drive what happens," Constantine said.

The Buffalo Public Schools recently mentioned that they plan to seek funding from the Wilson Foundation to improve its athletic facilities.

· Think small — "In urban areas," the report said, "this may mean funding small spaces to develop quarter-sized courts for small play."

· Listen to the kids — Parents agree that kids have so many indoor activities at their disposal that outdoor activities are barely given a thought. When they try to get their kids and teenagers to spend time out of the house, most remain entertained in front of a screen.

"Kids are missing out. They're not really enjoying life around them," said Lynne Evans, a Buffalo mother. "They're not really getting it."

But while smartphones, video games and other technology often get blamed for sedentary habits, they provide what kids crave — action, competition without exclusion, a social connection with friends and no interference from parents, the report pointed out.

"Now," the report said, "imagine if youth sport providers worked half as hard to understand the needs of kids, especially those who are left out or who opt out of sports."

The takeaway? Youth sports is organized by adults, who often fail to capture the opinions of the kids.

· Reintroduce free play — Crime, traffic and fear of child abductions — which are rare — are all real or psychological barriers for parents who want to allow their children to take off across town and play with friends.

"It's too violent outside," Greg Elmore, an East Side parent, said, referring to the drug users and sellers he sees at some neighborhood parks during all hours of the day.

"You don't want your kids around all of that; you want them to be safe," Elmore said.

The report, however, cites loosely structured, school-based fitness programs that have been successful, along with statewide initiatives that have provided money to transport kids to state-owned parks.

Buffalo's new Community Schools concept, which opens schools to the public after hours, also shows promise.

· Encourage a variety of sports — Boys played an average of 2.3 sports at least 12 days in the last year, compared with 1.8 sports among girls, the report showed.

The message is often clear to kids who show promise in a sport that they must specialize in one to play at an elite level.

"It's a myth," the report said. "Grow the menu of sport options, create better connections to vulnerable populations and more athletes for life will emerge."

· Train the coaches - No matter how well-meaning, most parent-coaches aren't trained or prepared for working with youth.

One study found only 5 percent of kids who played for trained coaches quit the sport the next year.

"They can make an athlete for life," the report said of coaches, "or wreck enthusiasm for sport altogether."

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

After initially indicating he would pursue the Dunbar High School head football coach position, James Lacking has decided otherwise.

According to Dayton Public Schools board member Joe Lacey on Thursday, Lacking will submit his "non-acceptance" of the position to the board. Lacey also indicated Lacking believes former coach Darran Powell deserves the position and supports his appointment.

Lacking would neither confirm nor deny his intention when asked for comment Thursday.

That was the latest in a series of events that still left Dunbar without a head football coach four weeks from preseason practice.

Here's how events unfolded the past 10 days:

The school board voted not to renew Powell as Dunbar's football coach.

Because he was the No. 2 candidate, DPS Human Resources asked Lacking the next day if he were still interested in the job, and he said yes, according to Superintendent Rhonda Corr.

The board approved Lacking as coach during a retreat last Saturday.

During Tuesday's board meeting, Lacking said no one from the school district informed him he had been hired, more than 72 hours after the retreat.

Thursday, board member Lacey indicated Lacking will not accept the position, citing a message from the school district's attorney to all board members.

Tuesday was a bizarre school board night. Dozens of Dunbar and Powell supporters — parents, players and coaches (including Powell and Lacking) — crowded into a tiny sixth-floor conference room with the school board. Many were among the 1,500-plus who signed an online petition asking for the board to rehire Powell.

School board members thanked the group for their interest and encouraged them to get their issue added to the agenda for a July 11 school board meeting. But neither the board members nor Corr mentioned that they had already approved Lacking — a fact most in the room seemed unaware of.

The online school board agenda for last Saturday was an oddity, listing a "James Jacking" for consideration for the Dunbar post. Asked whether that name was misspelled, Lacey indicated that, yes, Lacking was the hire.

School board office manager Cherisse Kidd confirmed that all of Saturday's personnel items had been approved. Tuesday, Lacking said he had not received notification. By Thursday, Lacey said Lacking would no longer pursue the position.

Late Tuesday night, DPS announced there will be another school board meeting at 4:30 p.m. today. The notice said only that the board will "vote on recommendations from the superintendent and/or treasurer."

The only order of business for Tuesday night's meeting was a closed executive session to discuss the employment of unnamed school personnel. The school board did not vote on any hires.

"It's overwhelming," Powell said of Tuesday's turnout. "I definitely appreciate all the love and support that we've gotten over the past week. It just shows that we're truly family. Dunbar is deeper than just sports. They have my back and I love them for that."

Powell said Dunbar's coaches from last season still have been "conducting business day to day" with the team during summer activities. Many of those coaches were there Tuesday, including Lacking, who coached Dunbar's offensive and defensive lines since Powell has been the head coach the last four seasons.

"We're not going to leave the kids high and dry," Powell said. "We're still going to continue to do it unless they bring me back or bring somebody else in."

Dunbar forfeited the final two games last season for using an academically ineligible player. Investigations by both the school district and the Ohio High School Athletic Association revealed that coaches and athletic directors did not fully understand the eligibility system.

During the final game against Belmont, once the ineligibility issue was understood, Dunbar called time out, had an emotional sideline team discussion, then ran two questionable plays that the OHSAA charged were intent to lose the game.

Dunbar's coaches said that directive came from district-wide Athletic Director Mark Baker, who has denied it but has declined to speak to the media about that. The school board gave Baker a two-year contract extension this past spring before declining to retain Powell.

OHSAA officials placed all DPS high school athletic programs on three years of probation and fined DPS $10,000. It targeted Baker, saying the instruction to lose the game came from him.

Nicole Robinson, whose son plays for Dunbar, said parents attended Tuesday's meeting to support coaches and players, "to move forward in a positive manner for the upcoming football season," she said.

Joseph Scates, a Dunbar receiver who has drawn recruiting interest from some of the nation's top programs, said summer on-field work for Dunbar football "has been going great."

"The coaching staff and coaching jobs are still kinda complicated and that's why we're here (Tuesday) now to get things straightened out," Scates said. "Darran is more than just a coach to us. It's more to it than just football. He actually loves us and has been building us and wants us to grow up and be successful young men."

Contact these writers at: Jeremy.Kelley@coxinc.com and Marc.Pendleton@coxinc.com

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Copyright 2017 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

ORLANDO, Fla. - A diversity report shows the NBA "significantly ahead" again in professional sports in racial and gender hiring practices.

The league received an A for racial hiring and a B for gender hiring practices for the 2016-17 season. The NBA drew an overall grade of A-minus, continuing its run of A grades since the start of the 2000s.

The report card was released Thursday by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. The report was written by Richard Lapchick.

The NBA sets the pace, with people of color making up 30 percent of the head coaches and 45 percent of the assistants. The NBA is also the first major sports league to have three owners of color.

Report cards are also issued for the NFL, MLB, WNBA, MLS and college sports.

"They have been significantly ahead of the other leagues from the time we started it in the 1980s," said Lapchick, the chair of University of Central Florida's sports business management program. Lapchick added that other leagues have closed the gap "but the NBA has continued to improve as well to stay the industry leader."

The league, however, did receive an F for race representation this season at the levels of team president/CEO and general manager. There are just four people of color at the top tier of team management and three general managers of color.

The NBA also received a D for gender hiring for team vice presidents, with women making up 24 percent of the workforce in that area. Although women in team senior administrative positions jumped from 24 percent in 2015-16 to 29 percent this past season, the league earned a C-minus for gender hiring at the team level.

"There are obviously areas in there that need improvement," Lapchick said. "This is the second year in a row that we've talked to about the lack of women in senior leadership positions at the team level."

Still, the NBA receives overall high marks for hiring practices at the team and league offices. In the NBA league office, 35 percent of the professional staff positions were held by people of color at the beginning of this season, with women at nearly 39 percent.

Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum is the highest-ranking African-American of any of the professional American sports leagues.

Lapchick attributes the NBA's strong marks to its past two commissioners - David Stern and Adam Silver. Months after he became commissioner in 2014, Silver led the way in ousting Los Angeles Clippers Donald Sterling after it was discovered he made racist remarks.

"That kind of out-front posturing is important," Lapchick said. "It sends a signal to the teams and obviously to the league office that diversity and inclusiveness is very important. I think all commissioners feel that way but I think the NBA has made its stamp even more powerful."

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Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

The "campus carry" legislation is the most high-profile of a slew of laws that become effective July 1, including an expansion of Georgia's medical marijuana law and permission for the state to take over failing schools.

Campus administrators and law enforcement officials have spent weeks holding town hall-style meetings. Facts sheets have gone out to digital in-boxes. Officials with the University System of Georgia, which has 45,000 employees, have posted online information and guidance about the new law.

Yet a number of faculty and students say they are still confused about what to expect, in part because guns are allowed on some parts of the campuses and prohibited in other areas. Some worry their campus communities aren't prepared, an unease heightened by a schedule that brings an influx of hundreds of thousands of people mid-August when the fall semester begins.

"I think the university is being responsive but I just don't think there will be a clear answer for a while," said Victoria Smith-Butler, a communications professor at Albany State University and chairwoman of the University System's faculty advisory council.

Smith-Butler said she is trying to be realistic.

"I'm sure there have been students with guns in my classroom before without me knowing it," she said. But now that it will be legal, "we are not sure how to deal with it. We're breaking new ground."

According to system officials, the law leaves it up to the person carrying the gun to know what the rules are and to follow them. That includes whether they are entering a place on campus where guns are still banned or if they are taking a class with a high school student -- a situation that would also bar them from carrying their weapon.

From ABHow College Athletic Programs Are Preparing for Gun Legislation

Under the law, anyone with a concealed-weapon permit will be allowed to carry firearms on all public college and university campuses, with exceptions that include dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses, and buildings used for athletic events. On-campus child care centers are also excluded, as are areas on campus where high school students attend class.

No signs will be posted on campus identifying which areas are off-limits. Everyone has been told they are not allowed to ask whether someone is legally carrying a gun.

This was the fifth year in a row the Legislature had considered such a measure. Last year's legislation got as far as Gov. Nathan Deal's desk before he vetoed it, citing concerns that it was both too broad and that campuses have historically been gun-free to promote learning.

He signed House Bill 280 this year, however, after supporters agreed to other concessions that additionally excluded guns from places such as campus discipline hearings and administrative and faculty offices. With it, Georgia became one of at least 34 states to allow guns on public college campuses.

Supporters have said the law gives faculty and students a chance to protect themselves without interfering with their peers, since weapons must be concealed. It is an added measure, they say, to counter criminals who may also bring a gun onto campus.

Critics, however, fear allowing guns on campus creates an unsafe environment. They've cited national studies, including one released last fall by the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health that concluded the presence of guns would likely lead to more shootings, killings and suicides on campus, especially among students.

Georgia law requires anyone seeking a state permit to carry a concealed gun to be at least 21 years old. They must be fingerprinted and pass a background check.

Younger out-of-state students, however, could be allowed to carry their weapon here depending on "reciprocity" agreements that Georgia has with other states. In those agreements states recognize one another's gun laws, so students from places such as Missouri, where the minimum age for a concealed-carry permit is 19, could also legally carry on campus in Georgia.

Other potential issues include the conundrum of game day: People will be allowed to carry their weapons in tailgating areas where alcohol can be consumed, but not inside athletic facilities.

Then there is the question of what to do with their firearms when owners are not carrying them if, for example, they live on campus. No campus in Georgia will provide gun storage facilities. Existing state law allows weapons to be locked in cars if the permit holder comes onto campus.

Students who supported the legislation said they will ask the Legislature next year to add provisions that allow weapon holders to keep their firearms in their dorm rooms.

"It's a real pain for anyone I know who carries," said Ja'Quan Taylor, 21, a Georgia Tech senior who lives off-campus.

Guns are supposed to be concealed, carried in a fashion that does not attract attention.Campus police will be responsible for administering the law.

For students like Taylor, who said the law gives him and others an assurance of protecting themselves, Saturday will be a momentous occasion. Taylor has carried his primary weapon -- a .45 ACP handgun--near Georgia Tech but not on the campus. Now everything will change.

"It's definitely going to feel safer," he said.

Some faculty members, too, have praised the plan. When the faculty Senate at Darton State College -- which has since merged with Albany State -- voted on the issue before final passage, half thought it was a good idea.

Smith-Butler, who has a law degree from Emory University, said her biggest concern is what she considers inconsistencies in what the law addresses and ignores. Smith-Butler said while she personally opposes guns on campus, her peers "just want more direction and consistency."

It's too soon to know whether the law will have any effect on enrollment, despite threats by some parents to remove their children over the issue.Officials also have no way to say how many people will be carrying guns on campus.

Some are attempting last-ditch efforts to make the rules clearer. Georgia State assistant professor Julia Gaffield started an online petition Wednesday asking the state Board of Regents to require its campuses to post signs where guns aren't allowed.

In the meantime, some students are taking it on themselves to also spread the word. Tech's Taylor and others recently conducted an online session to talk about the law. They plan more.

Others are still trying wrap their minds around what to expect.

"It's still really muddy," said Audrey Smith, 21, a rising senior at the University of Georgia who said there are plans at that campus to conduct gun safety training this fall with campus police and student government leaders. "It still raises a lot of questions for me."

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Copyright 2017 Chattanooga Publishing Company
All Rights Reserved

Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

Chattanooga's PlayCore, the nation's largest maker of playground equipment, has acquired six companies since the start of 2017 under Roger Posacki, the company's new president and chief executive officer.

That came after the retirement of CEO Bob Farnsworth, who started with the privately held company 19 years ago when it only had seven employees in the corporate office — compared to 105 now — and two factories. Farnsworth helped build PlayCore into a behemoth with 26 brands of playground and aquatics equipment, site furnishings, indoor and outdoor fitness, and spectator seating.

On Thursday, PlayCore took on higher visibility in its hometown, as it moved its headquarters from sharing an office building at 401 Chestnut St. to leasing the entire two floors at 531 Broad St. in the former FSG Bank building.

The Broad Street office will serve as corporate headquarters for PlayCore, and home for the sales and marketing departments for several of the company's brands.

"We're pretty happy to be here," PlayCore spokeswoman Anne-Marie Spencer said Thursday evening at an open house at the company's new digs downtown.

Employees were spread out over several floors in the former office, she said, but PlayCore installed lots of windows in offices that line hallways at the new address and made other changes to create a feeling of openness.

"We have lots of neat, collaborative office spaces," Spencer said.

PlayCore signed a 10-year lease in the new space.

"This is home. This is where the company grew up," Posacki said. "We're going to continue to grow through both core growth and acquisitions."

PlayCore buys companies that compliment its existing products, he said.

For example, companies that make swimming pool rails and starting blocks would add to the company's line of aquatic equipment. The idea is to make PlayCore a one-stop shop for a municipality, school or other organization building or park.

In 2014, New York City-based Sentinel Capital Partners, a private equity firm focusing on middle market investments, bought PlayCore, which has more than $400 million in annual revenues.

Along with the headquarters in downtown, PlayCore employs about 350 Chattanooga-area people at a production plant in Fort Payne, Ala.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or on Twitter @meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.

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Copyright 2017 Dolan Media Newswires
All Rights Reserved


Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly

 

Plaintiffs living adjacent to the Brown University campus did not lack standing to challenge construction of an athletic facility on land owned by the school, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

The plaintiffs sought a declaration that Brown's construction of an artificial-turf field hockey field was an unlawful use under Providence's zoning ordinances.

"The plaintiffs assert that they have standing to bring suit because they have suffered particularized injury as a result of the field's construction and subsequent use - including physical damage to their home, a decrease in their home's value, and a diminished use and enjoyment of their property," Chief Justice Paul A. Suttell wrote for the unanimous court.

Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, the court concluded that their allegations regarding their home "provide measurable economic injuries that they have suffered as a result of Brown's project," Suttell added.

The 17-page decision is Key, et al. v. Brown University, et al., Lawyers Weekly No. 60-087-17. The full text of the ruling can be found here.

Justin T. Shay and Leah L. Miraldi, both of Providence, appeared for the plaintiffs. Defendants Brown University and the city of Providence were represented by Providence attorneys Andrew M. Teitz and Lisa Dinerman.

Athletic complex

The case arose from a project undertaking various renovations to Brown's athletic complex, located at the corner of Hope Street and Lloyd Avenue in Providence's East Side. The university purchased the complex in 1957 and used it for athletics ever since.

The plaintiffs, Stephen L. Key and Melanie D. Mitchell, reside in a 19th century Victorian house located in the Stimson Avenue Historic District abutting the athletic complex.

In 2010, Brown planned renovations to the complex, including the replacement of a practice soccer field with a new field hockey field.

In or about May 2011, the university submitted an amendment to its Institutional Master Plan, or IMP, to the Providence City Plan Commission, seeking approval for the various renovations to the complex.

According to the plaintiffs, the IMP included a sketch depicting the field hockey field in a different location from where it was subsequently constructed, and it failed to indicate that the field would include a grandstand, press box, electronic scoreboard and public-address system.

The IMP was approved by the City Plan Commission on July 22, 2011. There was a 20-day statutory period for an appeal to be filed to the board. The plaintiffs, however, did not appeal the decision.

Construction on the complex reportedly began in May 2012.

The plaintiffs eventually filed a verified complaint in Superior Court. Judge William E. Carnes Jr. awarded the university and the city of Providence summary judgment on count 1 of the plaintiffs' amended complaint.

Carnes found that the plaintiffs lacked standing to seek a declaratory judgment regarding Brown's alleged zoning violations and unlawful use of the field.

Injury in fact

"In the instant controversy, plaintiffs take issue with the hearing justice's ruling that they lacked standing to seek a declaration that Brown University's IMP was deficient under applicable laws and that the field's use is unlawful," Suttell noted.

The plaintiffs, in their amended complaint, asked the Superior Court to declare the IMP deficient under applicable law and the field's use unlawful under the Rhode Island Zoning Enabling Act.

The Supreme Court found that the plaintiffs had standing because they suffered an articulable injury in fact.

The court turned to the issue of whether the plaintiffs were the proper parties to request an adjudication of the particular issue.

"Here, plaintiffs properly asserted relief under the (Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act (UDJA)] because of the particular injury they suffered as abutters to Brown," Suttell stated.

"Indeed, plaintiffs' alleged economic damages stemming from Brown's construction are an injury in fact for standing purposes under the UDJA," he added.

The city and the university contended that only the city solicitor could initiate actions with respect to zoning violations. The plaintiffs emphasized, however, that they merely requested declaratory relief and were not seeking to compel the city to enforce the zoning ordinance under the UDJA.

"(E]ven though the declaratory-judgment power may not be utilized to compel the city to enforce the zoning regulations, '(t]he Superior Court has the power to construe a statute and to declare the rights and obligations of the parties,'" Suttell said.

The university and the city also argued that the plaintiffs lacked standing because they did not exhaust their administrative remedies. But the court found that the plaintiffs' failure to pursue whatever administrative remedies that may have been available to them did not preclude them from seeking declaratory relief under the UDJA.

"Rule 57 of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure provides, in pertinent part, '(t]he existence of another adequate remedy does not preclude a judgment for declaratory relief in cases where it is appropriate,'" Suttell wrote.

The court found that the plaintiffs' ability to challenge the decision of the zoning board had long since passed.

"In the case at bar, the plaintiffs allege that Brown omitted material elements of its construction project from its IMP, thereby depriving the (City Plan Commission] of an opportunity to review 'the true project,'" Suttell noted.

"As a consequence, the plaintiffs further contend, '(n]o public forums were held with respect to the (field] hockey field location, design and amenities prior to the submission or approval of the (IMP], as required,'" he added.

As abutting property owners, the plaintiffs clearly established an injury in fact, the court concluded.

CASE: Key, et al. v. Brown University, et al., Lawyers Weekly No. 60-087-17

COURT: Rhode Island Supreme Court

ISSUE: Did abutting residents have standing to challenge a university's renovation of an athletic field?

DECISION: Yes

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Copyright © 2017 BridgeTower Media. All Rights Reserved.

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Copyright 2017 The Salt Lake Tribune
All Rights Reserved

The Salt Lake Tribune

 

A batter calling his shot at the University of Utah's proposed baseball stadium will need to turn a few degrees to the west.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski informed the U. on Wednesday that after hearing concerns from community members, the city won't sell a portion of Sunnyside Park required to build the ballpark in the school's preferred orientation.

City spokesman Matthew Rojas said in a text message Wednesday that "while the city appreciates the importance of the U.'s athletic program, over the last few months we have heard from neighbors, the Yalecrest Community Council, and the Pingree School of Autism on their concerns about noise and traffic."

U. Athletic Director Chris Hill said Wednesday that with or without the 14,000-square-foot strip along the western boundary of the park, the U. plans to build a stadium at the corner of Guardsman Way (1580 East) and Sunnyside Avenue (800 South) -- where a smaller practice field is sandwiched between the city park and the street.

To build on a smaller footprint, the U. will have to orient its ballpark so that the right-field corner abuts Guardsman Way, putting foul balls in conflict with cars and pedestrians. The west-leaning orientation also limits west-side seating.

"We always want what the ideal is; everybody does," Hill said, "but if the ideal isn't what's appropriate for the city, then we'll make it a great ballpark in its different orientation."

Area residents at a U. forum and in community council meetings had worried that a new stadium would bring additional traffic, as well as noise and light pollution.

Some feared that the loudspeaker announcements would have an adverse effect on students at the Carmen B. Pingree Autism Center of Learning, located across the street on Guardsman Way.

Others, still smarting from the loss of 13 acres to Rowland Hall more than a decade ago, wrote Biskupski to say that the east bench has the least amount of open space of the city's seven council districts.

Councilman Charlie Luke, who represents District 6, had echoed that objection after meeting with Hill. Luke said in a text message Wednesday that the mayor made the right call not to sell away more open space in Sunnyside Park.

"Giving up any of the city's available acreage doesn't make sense," Luke said. "I want the University of Utah to be successful with their athletic programs, but success should never be at [the] expense of the neighboring communities."

The silver lining for the U.: It can now build without rezoning that land and enduring the associated public process.

The school -- which plays its home games more than 3 miles away at Smith's Ballpark -- is believed to have raised $7.5 million for the project.

The Swingin' Utes were unlikely Pac-12 champions in 2016 and earlier this year finished the season with an overall winning record for the first time since 2011.

mpiper@sltrib.com

Twitter: @matthew_piper

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Copyright 2017 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

At times, basketball fans have called them the "Three Stooges" or "Three Blind Mice" - those being near the top of a list of derogatory terms.

Whatever you call them, three-man basketball officiating crews are necessary in high school.

Idaho remains one of the few states across the nation to use just two referees.

Just how much longer that will happen depends on who you listen to and what you believe.

Inland Empire League coaches agreed to go to three-man crews in 2006 with the hope the experiment would be something the state high school association would deem necessary.

The IEL coaches told the District I Board of Control in May that it will cease using three-man crews in the 2017-18 season. They say that using three-man crews and then adjusting back to two for the postseason puts them at a disadvantage.

"I would prefer three-man, but when you go to state the game is called significantly different," Post Falls boys coach Mike McLean said. "It's a much more physical game. We're putting ourselves at a disadvantage if we play with three-man crews during the regular season."

What two-man crews miss the most is the off-the-ball activity. Let's dispose of a bad myth here. Having three sets of eyes on a game doesn't mean there will be more fouls called. What happens is there are fewer bad calls or missed calls.

There have been hints the past decade that the state association would mandate the use of three-man crews, but nothing has materialized.

"I don't think we're any closer now than we were back (in 2006)," Lake City boys coach and athletic director Jim Winger said.

"In fact, I think we're farther away. How much longer can we be the test dummy? I don't see it happening and all we're doing is a disservice to ourselves."

When District I basketball commissioner and assignor John Posnick learned of the coaches' decision, he polled his top 25 referees.

"Twenty-four of them said they won't do two-man for IEL games," said Posnick, noting he's among the top 25 who doesn't want to do two-man games.

Posnick, 62, has officiated for 32 years and been the commissioner since 2005. Three-man refereeing has extended his career because it takes less of a toll on his body.

He talked the IEL coaches into trying three-man based on the possibility the state would deem it necessary at some point.

Posnick hopes the coaches change their mind.

Idaho High School Activities Association executive director Ty Jones wants to see the state go to three-man crews. It was talked about at the June board meeting.

"I think it makes the game safer and it cleans things up," Jones said. "I think within two to three years it'll be a reality. It's time for it."

Jones is mindful that there's an additional cost by adding a third referee. For a school that has boys and girls teams with 10 home games for each, it would be close to another $1,200 a season.

District I officials have given IEL a discount. They charge for 21/2 officials. Varsity officials will make $61 per game next season. That works out to $152.50 for a game.

Cost has nothing to do with going back to two officials, Winger said.

"We've done more than our part to push this and try to get it done for the entire state," Winger said. "I'm real proud of our efforts and the time we spent on it."

Jones said he plans to send a survey to athletic directors, seeking their input on moving to three officials.

"The positives outweigh the negatives for three-man mechanics," Jones said. "We just have to figure out a way to get it implemented."

So a boycott of sorts is on the horizon for IEL games.

"None of us want a strike," Posnick said. "But right now most of my top guys don't plan on doing their games. They're independent contractors. They don't have to work any of their games.

"e just want to work with them (the coaches)."

Posnick said he's not sure he'd continue as commissioner if something couldn't be worked out.

"If it's a mess, I don't want to stick around," Posnick said.

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

The Horizon League Board of Directors on Wednesday voted unanimously to approve Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis as a league member.

IUPUI replaces Valparaiso, which left to join the Missouri Valley Conference last month. The Jaguars officially will join the Horizon League on Saturday and will begin competing in the 2017-18 academic year.

"We are excited to welcome IUPUI to the Horizon League family," Commissioner Jon LeCrone said in a statement. "The Jaguars bring us tremendous competitive potential, particularly in men's basketball, along with an engaged and energized city. Their addition solidifies our broad community partnerships in Indianapolis and is the right school at the right time."

IUPUI comes to the Horizon after spending 10 seasons in the Summit League, the conference Wright State basketball coach Scott Nagy coached in before taking over the Raiders in April 2016. The Jaguars haven't had a winning season since 2010-11, when they were 19-14, but the team has improved its win total in each of coach Jason Gardner's three seasons.

"I know our department and basketball program are excited to make the move to the Horizon League," Gardner said. "The Summit League has provided us fantastic competition since long before I was the head coach, but we're excited about what the future holds. I had the opportunity to coach in the Horizon League and understand just how strong the league is from top to bottom.

From ABMissouri Valley Conference Extends Invite to Valparaiso

"We're going to work hard to improve every single day to be competitive with our new league rivals."

In addition to men's basketball, IUPUI competes in 17 of the other 18 Horizon League sports, with baseball the lone exception.

"We are excited about engaging with the other Horizon League member institutions to enhance the overall competitiveness of the league," said IUPUI Athletic Director Roderick Perry, who worked at Wright State from 2001-07, rising from academic adviser to associate athletic director after earning his doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Dayton.

"As an institution and athletics department, our mission, vision, and core values align closely with the Horizon League," Perry said. "This is an important step forward in the life of our athletics department."

IUPUI boasts a handful of strong women's programs, with the basketball team finishing runner-up in last year's Summit League tournament, falling in overtime to top seed Western Illinois. The Jaguars have won at least 20 games in back-to-back seasons and four of the past five.

The softball team won its first regular-season title in 2017 but lost in the finals of the tournament to North Dakota State.

The swimming team also finished second at the league meet.

Also making IUPUI attractive to the Horizon's board of directors were the school's facilities, which include the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, the basketball venue that recently underwent $53 million in renovations, and the IU Natatorium, which played host to the 2017 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships and has been the site of the U.S. Olympic Trials and USA Swimming and Diving Championships.

"We are delighted with the addition of IUPUI to the family of Horizon League institutions," said George W. Hynd, president of Oakland University and chairman of the Horizon League board of directors.

"It is clear that the vision, values and mission of IUPUI are clearly aligned with those that we champion in the Horizon League."

Contact this reporter at

513-820-2193 or email Jay.Morrison@coxinc.com

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

LONDON - Prosecutors charged a former senior police commander with manslaughter on Wednesday in the 1989Hillsborough stadium disaster that left 96 people dead - long-awaited vindication for the families of the victims after authorities spent years blaming fans for the catastrophe.

The charges announced against former Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield and five others were met with applause from victims' relatives who had waged a decadeslong quest for justice for their loved ones after the deaths were ruled accidental - a decision that was overturned in 2012 after a wide-ranging inquiry found a cover-up by police.

From ABNew MLS Stadiums Embrace Safe-Standing Areas

The disaster - in which many victims were crushed against metal fences -prompted a sweeping modernization of stadiums across Britain, where standing-room-only sections like the one that contributed to the trampling of fans in the overcrowded stadium were commonplace. Top division stadiums were largely transformed into safer, all-seat venues, with fences around the playing surface torn down to avoid further tragedies.

Last year, a new inquest found that all 96 fans had been unlawfully killed and an independent police investigation asked prosecutors to consider criminal charges in the case. The Crown Prosecution Service in its highly anticipated decision on Wednesday filed charges against four police officers, a lawyer and an official of the team whose stadium was the venue for the April 15, 1989, match.

Barry Devonside, whose 18-year-old son, Christopher, was among those killed, pumped his fist after the indictments were made public.

"Everybody applauded when it was announced that the most senior police officer on that particular day will have charges presented to him," Devonside said.

Duckenfield, the police commander, faced the most serious charge - gross negligence manslaughter in the deaths of 95 men, women and children. Duckenfield's failures in discharging his "personal responsibility were extraordinarily bad and contributed substantially to the deaths," prosecutors said in a statement.

They declined to issue a manslaughter charge related to the 96th fatality because the young man died four years after the fateful match.

Others indicted in the case were the former chief of South Yorkshire Police, Norman Bettison, who was charged with misconduct in public office for allegedly lying about the disaster and its aftermath. Peter Metcalf, a police attorney, was charged with acting "with intent to pervert the course of public justice" for allegedly suggesting changes to officers' statements. Former Chief Superintendent Donald Denton was accused of overseeing the changes to the statements and former Detective Chief Inspector Alan Foster was accused of being central to the process.

Graham Henry Mackrell, the former secretary and safety officer for the Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, which operated Hillsborough Stadium, was charged with failing to carry out health and safety duties.

Speaking before the House of Commons, British Prime Minister Theresa May called Wednesday a "day of really mixed emotions" for the families of the fans who died, adding that justice was moving forward "after so many years of waiting."

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USA TODAY

 

Inside the shed by the practice field, where football coach Bill Clark made his players cry thankful tears in 2014 because he scrounged up enough money to turn it into a locker room so they wouldn't have to use the one in the basement of the basketball arena several hundred yards away, the lockers all have been ripped out.

It happened after the final game in 2014 when, coming off its best season in more than a decade, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) President Ray Watts entered the same building, stood in front of a team that had clawed its way to 6-6 and killed the program without a hint of sensitivity or inkling of the backlash to come.

"They always had their foot on our neck, so it wasn't a surprise," said Tevin Crews, a linebacker who became a key player for the 2014 team. "The surprising part was, hey, we finally broke through, and then they took the rug out from under us."

The shed was never much to look at -- for a Football Bowl Subdivision program, it was an outright embarrassment -- and is even more straggly these days, with old plastic chairs serving as makeshift locker stalls.

But nearly 1,000 days after Watts used a since-discredited report by a consulting firm to justify disbanding the program -- a decision, by the way, that many of the program's supporters think had been made months before the report even came out -- there's a different reason they're not sprucing up the shed.

In a few weeks, UAB football will move into a sparkling $22.5 million operations building attached to a 120-yard covered practice field, completing a huge step in its rebirth as a program before debuting Sept.2 against Alabama A&M. By next year, the shed will be knocked down, making way for a third field for the team to train on.

"Now we're here on the other end, and it's crazy," said Clark, who faced a coaching career in limbo between the Dec. 2, 2014, announcement that UAB was killing the program and the June 1, 2015, reversal after months of outcry and behind-the-scenes discussion among community leaders. "You come to work every day and you're full of hope."

'It took a visionary'

You could make a reasonable argument that no coach in the country -- not Urban Meyer, not Nick Saban, not even Dabo Swinney -- is as important to the program he leads at this particular moment than Clark is to UAB.

Without him, UAB football almost certainly would have died in 2014, never to be resurrected.

"It's my belief that it wouldn't have been," said Justin Craft, a former UAB football player and president of a prominent wealth management firm based in Birmingham. "When (former athletics director Gene) Bartow started the program (in 1991), he knew that creating big-time football at UAB was the pathway to more revenue, a better conference and more of a national brand and that it could be a winner because of the great high school talent around Birmingham. It took a visionary like Bill Clark coming in and reminding everybody what it was and that it can be done. Without him, I don't think we're sitting here today."

Which, in retrospect, was exactly the opposite of what UAB might have intended when Clark was hired in January 2014.

At that point, the Blazers had recorded one winning season in the previous 12 years, bottoming out at 2-10 in 2013. Adding insult to injury, coach Garrick McGee had resigned after two seasons to take the offensive coordinator's job at Louisville under Bobby Petrino. During a November game that season against Rice, UAB drew an announced crowd of 5,831 at 71,000-seat Legion Field, a relic of a stadium that long ago abandoned its historic charm and settled into decay.

UAB's on-campus facilities, from its locker room to meeting space to training center, were well-known throughout the industry as among the worst in the FBS. If even a hint of weather disrupted practice, the only place to go was a gymnasium where other sports and physical education classes had first dibs.

In its final home game that year, with rumors about the program's demise growing more prominent, UAB drew 28,355 to watch a 23-18 loss to then-undefeated Marshall. The next week, it became bowl eligible with a three-touchdown win at Southern Mississippi. With the players UAB had coming back, there was a strong argument that UAB was about to turn the corner.

None of it mattered.

On one hand, Watts' decision was rooted in realism: Football was an annual money loser for an athletics department that has traditionally been more basketball-centric, its fan base had always been relatively small and it was going to take tens of millions of dollars in facility upgrades -- money the school didn't have -- just to be competitive. That doesn't even account for the lack of a long-term solution to Legion Field and the widening resource gap between football schools inside and outside of the Power Five conferences.

From ABUAB Kills Football Program, Fallout Immediate

Growing backlash

But killing UAB football -- and particularly at the time Watts did it -- sparked something in the community. Several days of protests followed, and two-thirds of UAB's faculty members executed a no-confidence vote against Watts, who refused to resign. Also, over time, it became clear that CarrSports Consulting included faulty assumptions about the revenue picture for UAB athletics without football, failing, for instance, to build in correct assumptions about the impact of league affiliation. Without football, UAB would not be allowed to remain in Conference USA and would have had to join another league, almost certainly with lower revenue shares.

As UAB's players and coaches dispersed -- some to big-time programs -- the anger in the community remained.

Roughly a month after UAB's decision, while Clark was in Dallas at a coaching clinic, he got a request from then-C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky to drop by his office. As they talked about Clark's future, Banowsky casually mentioned it would be nice to have UAB football back in the league. Clark was dubious, but the conversation remained in the back of his mind.

"Every day, people here were fighting," Clark said. "It never stopped, but I'm thinking, 'OK, how long were people going to fight? How long were they going to work?' Then January, February, March, it's not going away. People are calling me, asking what should we do? I wanted to encourage them, but I didn't know what to tell them."

Clark, meanwhile, was getting interest from Power Five programs as a defensive coordinator, jobs that could pay him significantly more than he received as UAB's head coach. Complicating matters was that he had two years remaining on his contract and needed to work just one more in the state of Alabama educational system to be fully vested in its retirement benefits. Plus, there was a glimmer of hope that UAB football could come back.

And despite all the pain of 2014, he couldn't resist getting back on board when the opportunity became somewhat realistic.

"I'll be honest, there were days when I said, 'Why would I even consider doing that?'" Clark said. "I always say all of us coaches, 'There's something wrong with us.' But for me, my dad was a high school coach, and I've always loved it when you felt like you were making a difference for a place. 2014 did something to me. I can't even really express it, because I've been on better teams, better win-loss records. But those kids were so hungry for something positive. I remember walking out with some new uniforms, they're in tears. The former players come back for our flag football game, they're in tears thanking you. That kind of bled, for me, into the fans when they're fighting their butts off, like they need us. I know it sounds kind of corny, but that's kind of why you're supposed to do this."

Seeing an opportunity to help resurrect the program, Craft stood in front of six of the city's biggest business leaders at a key breakfast meeting in May 2015. Though they weren't UAB fans or boosters, Craft showed them that UAB's enrollment had ticked down since the announcement and sold them on what a revitalized football program could do for the school, thus having an economic impact on the city.

"It was a matter of showing people with the right investment, UAB is positioned to be a great midmajor program and can become a national program," Craft said. "That was what we sold, and when the money was put forward, it was really a convincing argument. Within a month, we'd raised several million dollars."

That amount grew to $21 million in 18 months, most of it in chunks of less than $1 million, validating Clark's decision to go back to UAB, but only "if we bring it back the right way."

Without Clark's involvement, though, that momentum might never have carried very far.

Getting back to work

Now, UAB has to do it all over again. This time, though, there's something more to sell.

Clark has carefully tried to balance his roster by bringing in junior college players for this season, but he acknowledges there are significant unknowns in how well it will compete right away. Ultimately, though, this is about the future, which now looks brighter than ever thanks to the building that is nearly finished that includes a modern locker room, hot and cold tubs with an underwater treadmill, lounge areas and a new weight room that looks out onto the covered pavilion. There also is momentum locally to build a 45,000-seat stadium in a trendy area of downtown, plans for which Clark thinks will be finalized in the near future.

"I bring recruits back here, and they come back in this office selling me," Clark said. "One of the hardest things in 2014 is we were getting a better response by bringing in a junior college guy who loved Birmingham, loved the school, but the local guys had such a bad connotation with UAB, and now that's changed."

In a few months, though, the passion so many people put in to bringing back UAB football will subside and the business of running a college program with many challenges and very little history of success will go on as usual.

The community was there for UAB football when it was needed most. Whether it stays that way, again, might be up to Clark.

"People talk about all the new, upcoming things, which is a big recruiting thing for us. A lot of guys like shiny things, and we appreciate the donations and stuff that helped make this possible," said linebacker Shaq Jones, one of the 13 holdovers from 2014. "But it all reverts back to Coach Clark. He's our No.1 recruiting tool, not the facility, not the return, not making history. He's the No.1 recruiting tool we have."

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USA TODAY

 

It's one of the paradoxes of college athletics: While coaches and administrators are essentially free to leave one school for another, athletes face various restrictions in doing the same thing. But the NCAA's transfer rules might soon tilt away from schools and toward college athletes -- at least a little.

The Division I Council Transfer Working Group is considering a change to the rule that allows schools to essentially control where athletes can transfer. The rule requires athletes to get permission from their current school before talking with other schools. Although the schools cannot bar their transfer, an athlete who didn't get a release to contact from his former school is barred from receiving an athletic scholarship from the destination school.

The most recent example was only a few weeks ago, when Kansas State football player Corey Sutton initially was denied permission to contact any of the 35 schools he said he had requested and called Wildcats coach Bill Snyder a "slave master" in a tweet. Snyder publicly defended his decision not to grant Sutton's request, but Kansas State relented, freeing Sutton to transfer to Appalachian State.

But creating heat for schools by going public has been the only real recourse for athletes such as Sutton.

The proposed change would allow athletes to receive scholarships after transferring regardless of whether they'd received permission to talk with other schools about transferring. Sutton, for example, would not have needed Snyder's permission to transfer to Appalachian State or anywhere else.

At this point, it's only an idea; the working group wants feedback from NCAA schools over the next few months.

The working group also would like to make sure conferences don't have policies that would be more restrictive than NCAA transfer rules. But it also considered whether transfer rules in every sport should be the same (currently, players in some sports must sit out a year, while players in other sports are immediately eligible).

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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

  

According to a National Federation of State High School Associations' sports participation survey, over 1 million (1,085,272) high school students, including 1,954 girls, played on their school's football team in the 2015-16 school year. That's a lot.

Other findings: 546,428 boys and 429,380 girls played basketball; 440,322 boys and 381,529 girls played soccer; over 1 million boys and girls participated in outdoor track and field; almost a million played baseball and softball; and over 800,000 played volleyball and tennis. Swimming, wrestling, golf and cross-country also had impressive numbers.

It's truly wonderful that so many young people are active and engaged in building healthier bodies, learning about teamwork and forging friendships that come with participating in high school sports. But (why is there always a but?) far too many of them, from the age of 7 on, are focusing on one and only one sport.

It seems many parents and coaches have the mistaken idea that one-sport specialization will make the child a superstar athlete when he or she gets older. According to a study in Strength & Conditioning Journal, that's not the case, and young athletes who specialize in one sport are risking repetitive-use injuries that could permanently sideline them.

Another study, in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, found that athletes who exceeded expert guidelines by competing in their sport more than eight months of the year and more hours per week than their age - a 16-year-old athlete participating for more than 16 hours per week - were more likely to report an injury of any type in the previous year. And serious overuse injuries were common among young athletes who played for excessive hours a week and had little free time to enjoy other physical activities.

A third study, in Physician & Sports Medicine, looked at how specialization was associated with injury patterns: The researchers found that children ages 7 to 18 who were specializing in individual sports started at a younger age (around 11) and put in more hours a week (almost 12) than kids who specialized in a team sport. More than 44 percent of the individual sportsters experienced overuse injuries, while 32 percent of the team players did. Respectively, 23 and almost 12 percent of those injuries were characterized as serious. Overall, says the study's lead researcher, "The results of this study provide further evidence of the relationship between early sport specialization, increased sport training volume and injuries."

The Risks of Repetitive-Use Injury

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, kids' tendons, ligaments and bones grow unevenly, making younger athletes more susceptible to muscle, tendon and growth plate injuries from repetitive stress. When growth plates - areas of developing cartilage where bone growth occurs - are injured, normal bone growth can be disrupted. While throwing injuries of the elbow and shoulder are prevalent in baseball players, overall the most common overuse injuries are to the knee and foot.

The National Strength and Conditioning Association adds: "Diversification in sports at an early age has the potential to provide stimuli so that a child's body can adapt and develop multiple motor skills that may cross over between sports. Only once the mental, physical and social aspects of a child are fully developed can specialization be considered."

Your Game Plan

Introduce your children to a wide variety of activities and sports. Teach exercises, such as skipping rope, that build footwork - a skill that can be used in many sports. Pay attention to what's fun and engaging for them at each stage and age. Keep pressure off as your child discovers what suits his/her interests and abilities. Your goal is a physically fit, mentally sharp, happy kid.

If coaches and travel teams pressure your child to commit to excessive time and practice, first talk to the coach and school about a healthier approach and then encourage your child to find alternative ways to enjoy that and other sports.

The You Docs' column runs in Wednesday's Extra.

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USA TODAY

 

On the heels of a federal judge issuing an injunction March 7, 2013, that barred New Jersey from allowing sports betting in the midst of a legal battle between the state and five sports organizations, the NCAA affirmed its stance that the spread of gambling is "a threat to the integrity of athletic competition and student-athlete well-being."

A lot has changed since then.

Las Vegas has become the de facto hub of college basketball in the week before the NCAA tournament, with four conference tournaments held there (plus another in Reno). The NHL has expanded there. The NFL is on the way.

And now, in perhaps the most interesting stress test for the NCAA's ban on holding events in states where sports betting is legal, the Supreme Court announced Tuesday that it would hear a case that could determine whether the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act is legal.

If New Jersey wins and the federal law is ruled unconstitutional, states could be able to determine for themselves whether to allow sports betting. That could put the NCAA in an interesting situation.

It's hard to say how many states would legalize sports betting immediately. If New Jersey and a handful of others opened betting parlors, the NCAA could go on about its business without much interruption -- as silly as that might be.

But over time, this is a losing issue for the NCAA, as the NHL and NFL have tacitly admitted by moving into Las Vegas after going out of their way for years to avoid it. The reality is a large percentage of people who watch sports like to wager on sports and will find ways to do so, whether in a casino, online or with a bookie.

New Jersey isn't much of a loss for the NCAA. It's a state with one Football Bowl Subdivision university (Rutgers) and one facility (Prudential Center in Newark) that is equipped to host an NCAA basketball tournament. Even at that, the NCAA would rather play in Brooklyn or Manhattan in New York anyway.

But if Florida or Texas or California legalized sports gambling, does it stand to reason the NCAA would pull its events and ignore those states?

Again, it's difficult to handicap how the Supreme Court is going to rule. Maybe status quo wins out, but on a common-sense level it's getting more difficult every year to justify the NCAA's stance on sports betting.

While protecting college athletes from seedier elements of sports gambling remains a crucial part of its mission -- the NCAA conducts a study on the topic every four years to guide its educational efforts -- much of the negative perception of Las Vegas is rooted in a different time and place. The famous photograph of UNLV players in a hot tub with Richard "The Fixer" Perry in the early 1990s still resonates.

Still, it's difficult to reconcile a hard-line stance against holding an NCAA tournament game at T-Mobile Arena on The Strip when the Pac-12 holds its tournament there without incident one week earlier. And it's hard to justify pulling a women's soccer tournament or an NCAA track and field event out of New Jersey because of some existential gambling threat.

Even NCAA President Mark Emmert hinted at a possible softening of the policy during his annual news conference at the Final Four in April when asked if Las Vegas would be considered for the next round of bidding for the basketball tournament.

"The board has been having active discussions about that issue," Emmert said. "They have not changed the policy yet. And they won't be able to do so for this round of bidding. And I've communicated this to some of the leadership in Las Vegas. They will not be eligible for this round. Whether or not the board changes its mind before the next round, I can't say. Obviously there's a lot of collegiate athletic events going on in Nevada, both regular-season and tournament events. And the board's acutely aware of that, and they'll be considering it."

The NCAA didn't immediately respond to a request for a comment Tuesday. Ultimately, the Supreme Court could be what ends up forcing its hand.

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USA TODAY

 

USA Gymnastics needs a "complete cultural change" after not doing enough to educate its staff, members and athletes about protecting children from sexual abuse and failing to ensure that safeguards were being followed, according to a critical review by a former federal prosecutor.

The safety and well-being of the governing body's athletes, not world and Olympic medals, must be the focus, Deborah Daniels said in her 100-page report, which was released to the public Tuesday. She also said membership in USA Gymnastics should be "revoked if policies are not followed."

The USA Gymnastics board was unanimous in accepting the 70 recommendations Daniels made, chairman Paul Parilla said Monday night.

"What we've recommended will take time and strategic planning and execution to implement," Daniels said on a call late Monday with USA TODAY Sports and selected other news outlets. "But if USA Gymnastics does as they have said they will today, adopt these recommendations and implement them effectively, it's poised, I would think, to be in the forefront of the U.S. Olympic movement in the protection of athletes from abuse."

USA Gymnastics hired the former federal prosecutor last fall to review its practices and policies after criticism of its handling of sex abuse complaints, including a case involving the longtime team physician that has resulted in federal charges.

The Indianapolis Star, which is part of the USA TODAY Network, has reported more than 360 cases in which gymnasts have accused coaches of sexual transgressions over 20 years. According to the Lansing State Journal, which is also part of the USA TODAY Network, at least 95 gymnasts have alleged sexual abuse by Larry Nassar, who was the national team physician from 1996 to 2015.

Nassar was ordered last week to stand trial in Ingham County (Mich.) on 12 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. He faces 13 other criminal charges in state and federal courts. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Daniels did not make judgments on how USA Gymnastics handled specific cases or who was responsible for the failings. In the Nassar case, USA Gymnastics waited five weeks after receiving a complaint before alerting the FBI in July 2015.

"I did not consider that part of my portfolio here," Daniels said of the Nassar case, though a reference to the case in the report's footnotes said five weeks was "not a permissible delay."

"My charge was to look at policies in place, the practices in place and identify ways in which they could be improved. I did not go into what any person may or may not have done in the past."

USA Gymnastics has been auditing its files in light of Daniels' report, and Parilla said the federation won't take retroactive action. The scandal has already led to the ouster of former president and CEO Steve Penny, who resigned in March after pressure by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Asked Tuesday, Parilla said he does not plan to step down.

"We are focusing solely on the future and how we can better protect athletes," Parilla said.

Protecting athletes second to winning

As part of her investigation, which went from November to May, Daniels interviewed more than 160 people, including USA Gymnastics leadership and staff, club owners, current and former athletes, national team coaches and law enforcement.

She visited 25 gyms, went to five meets and attended a training camp at Bela and Martha Karolyi's ranch, where the women's national team has had monthly training camps since 2000. Parilla declined to say how much the investigation cost.

The overriding theme was that, despite being an early leader in child protection, USA Gymnastics had failed to keep up with the current best practices. While it encouraged members and clubs to adopt policies that would help prevent abuse, including immediate reporting requirements, there was no obligation to do so -- and no penalties if they didn't.

"Most of the emphasis appears to be on educating the field and encouraging them to be vigilant while taking the position that USA Gymnastics has no authority to require clubs to take specific action -- including the reporting of suspected child abuse," Daniels wrote. "The overall impression received externally is that the athlete protection function is, at best, secondary to the primary focus: winning medals."

Even internally, the messages were mixed. The CEO was one of just two people authorized to receive reports of alleged abuse. The board spent very little time on safe sport issues and "does not act independently to hold management accountable for protecting children."

Also of concern was that, until 2013, a written complaint from the "aggrieved party" or parent was required to report abuse unless there was a criminal conviction. That belief persisted after the criteria was changed in 2013 and "was not actively discouraged by USA Gymnastics."

"This process alone, and the perception that a written, signed complaint from the victim is required, is sufficient to suppress many reports," Daniels wrote.

To address the shortcomings will require the entire organization, from the head of the board to the smallest club owner, to change its mind-set, Daniels said. Among her recommendations:

Require immediate reporting of suspected abuse.

Create a clear protocol for response to abuse complaints.

Permit third-party reporting.

Remove the president from a "controlling role" in handling complaints.

Strengthen the Safe Sport Policy and require it to be adopted in full by member clubs.

Develop a disciplinary process for clubs found to be in violation of the Safe Sport Policy.

Consider requiring certification for coaches before they're hired by member clubs.

Create and require annual training in abuse policies, procedures and reporting mechanisms.

Educate parents and athletes on abuse prevention on an annual basis.

Hire a Safe Sport director.

Many of the recommendations have already been addressed by the creation of the U.S. Center for Safe Sport, an independent agency created by the U.S. Olympic Committee to handle sexual misconduct cases in the Olympic movement.

Pending federal legislation, spurred in part by the abuse crisis at USA Gymnastics, would require anyone working under the jurisdiction of a national governing body to report suspected abuse or face a fine and possible imprisonment.

The House has already passed a version of the legislation. It is pending in the Senate.

Membership is a privilege

More tricky will be enforcing compliance among members and their clubs. USA Gymnastics has been reluctant to assume any kind of oversight over the independent businesses, but Daniels said that has to change to protect young athletes.

"When I first got involved in this, I could tell USA Gymnastics had never felt that it really had the ability to exert influence over the clubs," Daniels said. "I said I think you do because you can use membership to enforce the policies that you put in place. That is a privilege. And if it's treated as a privilege, it can be revoked if policies are not followed."

Having a Safe Sport director should help. USA Gymnastics posted the job in March, and chief operating officer Ron Galimore said the final two candidates were interviewed in person last week. He said he hopes to fill the position within 30 days.

"As soon as we have the director of Safe Sport, (the) first task is to present a strategic plan to accomplish all of the things that Deborah has recommended," Parilla said, "so that we can ensure that all the way down to the club level meaningful changes are being made at all levels to promote a safe environment for our athletes."

USA Gymnastics still faces multiple lawsuits; most stem from Nassar's alleged abuse. Daniels said she had no idea what impact her report would have on the legal proceedings, nor was that her concern.

"This was a forward-looking report and not a rearview report," Daniels said. "My intention, and I believe that of the board, is to prevent further abuse to the fullest extent possible."

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The Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)

 

Havon Finney, Jr., Titan Lacaden and Bunchie Young.

Are you familiar with those names? If not, buckle up.

Finney, Lacaden and Young are talented youth football players out west. How talented? These kids are dominant enough to attract the attention of college football coaches.

Some coaches, some trainers and some parents are saying these kids are "the best." You can look them up on YouTube and see for yourself. As for their competition, you'll have to be the judge of that.

Nonetheless, according to USA Today, Finney, 9, was recently offered a scholarship to play football at Nevada. You read the previous sentence correct. An elementary school student has received a Division I offer to play college football.

But wait, there's more. Young, Finney's 10-year-old teammate, has been offered by Illinois. Lacaden, an 11-year-old who lives in Hawaii, has been offered by the University of Hawaii.

Soon, college coaches are going to start offering scholarships to boys still in the womb.

In the 1990s, there was a woman (Susan Powter) who shot to fame with her weight-loss infomercials, yelling "Stop the insanity!" Where is this woman when we need her? College scholarships for prepubescent children? Stop the insanity!

I'm sure Finney, Lacaden and Young are wonderful kids. This column is not about them. Instead, this is about the shysters who keep hyping up children like they're circus acts. Come see the bearded 11-year-old running back who can run the 40 in less than five seconds! Come see the quarterback who can swallow a sword and throw a football 50 yards at the same time! Come watch the wide receiver who can bounce off a bed of nails and a catch a football in a lion's den! Come one, come all! See the best elementary school football players in the universe! (Just, whatever you do, don't look behind the curtain.)

If you're a faithful reader of this column, you know I have three 11-year-olds (two girls, one boy). These are bright, funny, athletic children. Not one of them has been offered a college scholarship - even though I have a daughter reading on a level so high I'm making her check out literary classics like Animal Farm and Old Man and the Sea to go along with all those Rick Riordan novels she breezes through. C'mon, Ivy League schools. What are you waiting for?

My other daughter has yet to receive a gymnastics scholarship, though she can do a pretty stellar one-handed cartwheel. And my son, a pretty good athlete, has to yet to receive any college interest, even though he plays baseball, basketball and soccer.

My children are just that - children. They are enjoying the summer, doing things kids do: swimming at their grandparents' house, eating watermelon and looking forward to celebrating Independence Day. Kids need a break from school, a break from sports.

I wonder about these kids getting scholarships so early in life. Are they enjoying their summers? Are they still allowed to be children? Or are they busy working out every day?

We, as a society, try to make children grow up way too fast. Let them be a kid. Let them enjoy things like animated movies, fidget spinners and stuffed animals.

I've always bristled when I've had my son with me and someone has asked, "Is that your little man?" Nope. He's my little boy. He'll have plenty of time to be a man. Stop calling boys your "little man." Let boys be boys.

By giving children scholarship offers, adults are chipping away at the innocence of childhood. Boys don't receive scholarships. Teenagers who are almost young men do.

I have so many many questions with this entire situation. What happens if these kids with scholarship offers stop growing? What if they get lazy? What if they eat too much cheese dip and get fat? What if they fail to make good grades?

How does this not give a kid a sense of entitlement? What if a high school coach asks a kid to run two laps around the field and the kid shrugs him off? He already has his scholarship. He doesn't need high school football.

That's another major problem festering under the surface. In recent years, there's been a devaluing of high school sports. Instead, children play travel this and travel that. They've got personal trainers and others guiding them. And yes, there are some great travel ball coaches and some great trainers out there. But here's an issue: A while back, a coach told me a softball player missed some high school practice time because she had travel ball practice. This player considered her high school team low priority. That's a problem - something the Georgia High School Association needs to look into sooner than later.

When football players received college offers in elementary school, that's a problem, too - something the NCAA needs to look into sooner than later.

Scholarships for kids? Maybe if it's Doogie Howser. Scholarships for football players who have never stepped foot inside a high school? Not so much.

It's time for all of us to be like Susan Powter. Stop the insanity!

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Henry Lucas is being held in the Miami County Jail on $400,000 bond.

A Troy man accused of raping a juvenile is no longer eligible to officiate after the Ohio High School Athletic Association suspended his license after his arrest earlier this month, an OHSAA spokesman said Tuesday.

Henry Lucas Jr., 52, was arrested June 5 after he turned himself in to Troy police, according to an affidavit filed in Miami County Municipal Court. Lucas is charged with a felony count of rape, and he made an initial appearance in court June 6, where his bond was set at $400,000, according to court records. The victim is known to Lucas.

A call to his lawyer seeking comments has not been returned.

Lucas' license was previously suspended in 2011 after he was convicted on a felony drug charge and sentenced to prison in September 2010, the OHSAA said.

The OHSAA initially approved Lucas' officiating license in 2001, and he was listed as having an active license until Aug. 1, 2011, when the athletic association first suspended it, said Ben Ferree, assistant director of officiating and sport management for OHSAA.

"We do not believe he was officiating after his September 2010 conviction," Ferree said.

On Sept. 2, 2010, Lucas was convicted for using deception to obtain an illegal drug and was sentenced to a year in the London Correctional Institution, according to court records.

Lucas was released from prison on Aug. 26, 2011, according to a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Ferree said Lucas, who officiated football and basketball, appealed the suspension of his license following his drug conviction.

According to the OHSAA handbook for officials, an officiating permit will not be issued or reinstated for anyone convicted in regard to any felony offense unless/ until such offense has been reversed by proper authority.

Ferree said, "People with convictions on their record that would be denied per the handbook can appeal to obtain a license."

Lucas' permit was reinstated in October 2012 based on an appeal to the OHSAA board of directors, Ferree said. "The board approved his appeal based on multiple letters of recommendation from school personnel and community members in the Dayton area."

This news organization inquired about the letters of recommendations OHSAA said they received, however, Ferree said, "I do not have copies in his file." OHSAA also said they don't share personnel files of officials.

"Additionally, everyone in the officiating department from that time has since retired. Since 2012 we have a new director of officiating, and all new support staff for that department. We do not know where the letters came from as we have never seen them personally," Ferree said in an email.

Lucas waived a preliminary hearing in his felony rape case on June 17, and his case is pending a decision from a Miami County Grand Jury, according to court records.

Contact this reporter at Drew.

Simon@coxinc.com

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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

They've worked on towers and sprawling facilities. They built the City Creek Mall.

But of all the projects that Okland Construction has done, project executive Jeremy Blanck compares the renovation of Vivint Smart Home Arena to something on a smaller scale.

"We did an episode of Extreme Home Makeover in 2005," he said. "It's a little bit like that, only way more of it. We're doing a whole arena, $75 million in construction, in only four or five months."

Don't underestimate the challenge of that undertaking. The renovations to the 26-year-old downtown home of the Utah Jazz, estimated at a $125 million total cost, have to be absolutely complete by Sept. 27, the date of a Tim McGraw and Faith Hill concert that will kick off the arena's schedule into a full sprint of events.

Blanck called it "the most difficult project we've ever done."

Given that the concourse, the entrance, the bowl and much of the interior walkways and stairways are being completely overhauled, it means 20-hour days (split into two shifts) for a construction crew of 400 workers.

Okland estimates at least 50 different subcontractors have been hired in order to split up a massive workload into manageable chunks and get everything done in time. At least three electrical contractors, for example, are doing work on three levels -- "splitting the difference," Okland officials said, and not overburdening any one group.

"We couldn't get there without the help we're getting from them," said Fred Strasser, the general superintendent of the project. "For a lot of these guys, there's not a lot of summer left."

Wading through the halls of Vivint now requires a hard hat, safety glasses and an orange vest. There's dust on the floor and wires hanging from the ceiling.

But most of the demolition work, Strasser said, is complete, meaning crews can focus on finishing the arena into a more open, social and fan-friendly venue.

The changes reflect a shift in thinking around arenas in the past three decades, from concrete monoliths to more open areas where fans can feel and see the atmosphere even when they are out of their seats. The renovations will try to achieve this with several changes: Walls have been cleared on the concourse and the upper levels into "social corners" where fans can view the game from outside the bowl, with more standing areas such as drinking rails to encourage sociability. There's also the finer details, such as the drywall that will cover much of the concrete finish of the arena to make the structure seem "less industrial."

The centerpiece is the 12,000-square-foot, glass-walled and canopy-covered atrium on the northeast corner of the arena, which will create a common area with the ticket office, fan store and other amenities opening up into a "porch" that will overlook the lower bowl. The plaza in front of the arena entrance will open up for potential outdoor events.

Suites are also being redone. The renovations will centralize bathrooms on the club level (previously, each suite had a personal restroom), and make a larger common space for each room. Club levels and Jazz 100 areas will be overhauled, and have unique designs.

The bowl itself will be outfitted with blue cushioned seats, which Strasser estimated will be installed 300 to 400 per day when construction reaches that point. While most of the renovations focus on fan experience, the players' locker rooms are being remodeled.

There are three months left to finish it all, and there are days when the deadline feels close, but the workload seems monumental. Blanck said the project has been delay-free so far, and that's the way they hope to keep it.

"I think the fans will love what's happening," Strasser said.

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon

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Copyright 2017 The Post and Courier
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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court ruled Monday that churches have the same right as other charitable groups to seek state money for new playground surfaces and other nonreligious needs.

But the justices stopped short of saying whether the ruling applies to school voucher programs that use public funds to pay for private, religious schooling.

By a 7-2 vote, the justices sided with Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Missouri, which had sought a state grant to put a soft surface on its preschool playground.

Chief Justice John Roberts said for the court that the state violated the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment by denying a public benefit to an otherwise eligible recipient solely on account of its religious status. He called it "odious to our Constitution" to exclude the church from the grant program, even though the consequences are only "a few extra scraped knees."

The case arose from an application the church submitted in 2012 to take part in Missouri's scrap-tire grant program, which reimburses the cost of installing a rubberized playground surface made from recycled tires. The money comes from a fee paid by anyone who buys a new tire. The church's application to resurface the playground for its preschool and daycare ranked fifth out of 44 applicants.

But the state's Department of Natural Resources rejected the application, pointing to the part of the state constitution that says "no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion."

A recycled scrap tire is not religious, the church said in its Supreme Court brief. "It is wholly secular," the church said.

Justice Sonya Sotomayor took the rare step of reading her dissent from the bench, saying the ruling weakens America's longstanding commitment to separation of church and state.

"This case is about nothing less than the relationship between religious institutions and the civil government - that is, between church and state," she wrote, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. "The Court today profoundly changes that relationship by holding, for the first time, that the Constitution requires the government to provide public funds directly to a church."

More than 30 other states have constitutional provisions similar to Missouri's, though some of those already permit churches to take part in grant programs for nonreligious purposes. In the days before the argument in April, Missouri's Republican Gov. Eric Greitens changed the state's policy and said churches would be allowed to apply for grants.

Some religious groups cheered the decision, which was closely watched for the effect it may have on school voucher programs. But in a carefully worded footnote, Roberts said the ruling was limited and did not address "religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination."

Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch wrote separately to say they would not have limited the ruling to playground resurfacing or related issues that involve children's safety or health.

"The general principles here do not permit discrimination against religious exercise - whether on the playground or anywhere else," Gorsuch said.

Proponents of school vouchers said they hope the ruling lays the groundwork for a future decision on whether states can let parents choose to send their children to religious schools through publicly funded programs.

Michael Bindas, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, said the principle of "religious neutrality" applies "whether the government is enabling schools to resurface their playgrounds or empowering parents to direct their children's education."

Civil liberties groups called the ruling a blow to the principle of church-state separation.

"This ruling threatens to open the door to more taxpayer support for religion, which is at odds with our history, traditions and common sense," said Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

Oregon football players used three helmets last season — green, black and white — that were mixed and matched with myriad uniform combinations.

The Ducks were pioneers in football fashion and other schools have followed, using helmets to make a statement. Now, the NCAA wants to determine whether style is coming at the expense of safety.

The governing body's football oversight committee will meet this week in Indianapolis and is to begin studying whether multiple helmets could lead to more concussions and serious head and neck injuries.

"The notion is that let's do as much research and data collection as we can to be able to start answering those questions as to whether one helmet or more helmets is the best way to go in terms of short and long-term safety," said Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson, who leads the NCAA football competition committee that reports to oversight. "We just want to know what is the best way to go about it?"

Anderson's school is among those that have embraced ever-changing uniform combinations. Sometimes the Sun Devils' head gear is black. Sometimes white. Sometimes gold. Sometimes maroon or gray.

Last year, Oklahoma State players were given five helmets. Virginia Tech players had four. Schools often unveil the week's uniform-helmet combo on social media a few days before a game as a way to generate interest in the program.

"Style and who looks cool and who's matching with all these different uniforms combinations each week on the helmets and the shoes, that is big-time concern when you talk about recruiting, marketing and buzz and aesthetics on game day and other times," Anderson said. "But at the end of the day, if we're not protecting these players at the highest degree then we're faltering."

Many schools that prefer to stick to a traditional look will occasionally dabble in an alternative helmet. Ohio State, for example, had players wear black helmets in two games last season.

Penn State, Alabama, Southern California and Michigan are among the schools that still have their players wear one helmet — as long as it remains functional.

In the NFL, this will be the fifth season in which players may only wear the one helmet. In 2013, the league's Head, Neck and Spine Committee and the Player Safety Advisory Panel recommended that players no longer be given new helmets to match alternative uniforms. Any aesthetic alterations of the helmet can only be made with decals.

The concerns about switching helmets mostly involve fit. Helmets come in different sizes and are adjusted by equipment staffers to specific players in a few ways, depending on the manufacturer and style. Most Riddell helmets, one of the two most popular brands along with Schutt, use an inflatable bladder system to get just the right fit for safety and comfort. Some helmets have removable padding and others use straps.

Schools might give players multiple helmets, but they are usually the same make and model in different colors.

Dr. Stefan Duma, a professor of engineering at Virginia Tech who has done extensive work on football helmet safety, does not see a safety hazard in multiple helmets.

"In the worst case, our research shows that fit is only a 5 percent issue. In lab testing with helmets way too tight and way too loose, you only change performance about 5 percent," Duma said in an email. "The schools that can afford to have so many helmets also have a great deal of staff to help with this. In the end, I do not see it as a concern."

Anderson said advances in helmet technology could support a one-helmet approach.

"There are in fact helmet manufacturers and folks trying to get to the point where they will literally do 3D model of your head, with all the angles and the bumps, the indents, whatever it is, that is customized, form-fitted to your head and your head only," he said. "They can do that, but I'm telling you the price right now would be prohibitive particularly if you were driven by having four or five helmets that match your outfit."

Anderson said the competition committee also plans to look at whether changing shoes during a season compromises performance and safety.

The NCAA settled a class-action concussion lawsuit last year, agreeing to spend $75 million on medical monitoring of college athletes and prevention research. Currently, the NCAA and the major football conferences are facing dozens of class-action suits from former players who contend they sustained concussions and did not receive proper treatment.

"There is no question that while the motive is the health and safety, also the motive is protecting yourself from folks down the line that say you didn't do enough when you could have," Anderson said.

From left are file photos showing Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph wearing different helmets during NCAA college football games. The NCAA football oversight committee will meet next week in Indianapolis and one of the agenda items is to begin studying whether players using multiple helmets could increase the potential for concussions and serious head and neck injuries.
AP File Photo

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Copyright 2017 Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Inc.
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Sunday Telegram (Massachusetts)

 

WORCESTER -—Last summer, Bette Carr started her daily walking program at Worcester State University's outdoor track.

"It's my new commitment," said Carr, a retired Worcester Public Schools principal and a resident of Paxton.

When winter came, Carr moved her workout inside to the elevated track above Worcester State's competition gymnasium, one of the features of the university's state-of-the-art Wellness Center that opened last August.

Worcester State's indoor and outdoor tracks are available free to the public, and for the first time this summer, Worcester State is offering community and alumni memberships to its fantastic, two-level, 9,000-square foot DeFeudis Fitness Center, which includes the latest in cardio and weight-lifting equipment.

"It's beautiful," Carr said. "It's just a wonderful resource."

Likewise, Quinsigamond Community College offers memberships to the public to its athletic center, which includes cardio and weight equipment as well as group exercise classes like yoga, indoor cycling, boot camp and full-body toning.

"Some people call it the best-kept secret," said Lisa Gurnick, QCC's director of athletics and fitness.

Recreation and fitness is vital on college campuses for athletes and non-athletes, and student access, of course, is the top priority of local college athletic and recreation facilities, as well as convenience for faculty and staff, but usage is available to other groups as well.

WPI, Assumption and Fitchburg State offer alumni memberships to their recreation centers.

Additionally, Assumption's department of recreation has been offering American Red Cross certified swimming lessons at the Plourde Center each fall and spring for more than 20 years. The Learn-to-Swim program is open to the public.

"You don't have to have a connection to Assumption," Assumption director of recreation Mike Rodier said. "If you have a son or daughter that wants to learn to swim, it's a great program."

Like at Worcester State, the track at Fitchburg State's Elliot Field Athletic Complex on Pearl Hill Road is available free to the public as long as there is no practice or competition going on.

The November Project, a free community fitness program, uses Holy Cross' Fitton Field on Wednesday mornings for its weekly workout.

When Carr started using the indoor track at Worcester State, she met up with old friend Connie Ouellette of Worcester. The enthusiastic pair gets together at Worcester State every morning at 6 a.m. The indoor track is open to the public from 6-10 a.m., Monday through Friday.

"We're usually there and waiting for the doors to open at 6," said Ouellette, a retired Worcester Public Schools teacher who is a literacy tutor at Burncoat Prep.

It's 11 laps for a mile, and Carr and Ouellette walk three miles a day.

"I think it's wonderful," said Ouellette, a Worcester resident. "I head over there before work, and it's how I start my day. I'm grateful it's open at that hour."

Ouellette and Carr started their walk outside on a recent Monday morning, but when the humidity got to be too much, they moved to the climate-controlled indoor track.

"It's good to hook up with somebody I knew," Carr said, "and it's an incentive to have a partner to walk with. The time goes by a lot faster."

Worcester State fitness center manager Dean Bowen said so far this summer about 20-35 people use the indoor track on a daily basis. And it's not just for walking.

"You can walk, run, skip, hop," Bowen said.

Carr has recently taken advantage of the new community and alumni memberships available to Worcester State's fitness center, where she uses weights, the rowing machine and treadmill.

Worcester State is offering summer memberships (June 1-Aug. 31) to its fitness center for just $25. The fitness center features cardio equipment, more than 12 tons of weights, functional trainers and a Keiser resistance circuit. That membership fee also includes a free fitness orientation on the equipment and use of Worcester State's multipurpose gym.

Bowen said the fitness center has added about 30 new members, a 50/50 split between members of the community and alums, since the new memberships became available this summer.

"Word is slowly getting out," he said. "We don't offer tanning, babysitting or a pool, but if you're looking to just come and move it's a great opportunity."

The membership fee will change at the start of the school year. Information on WSU's membership and hours can be found at www.worcester.edu/wellness-center.

The Richard M. Korzec Golf Simulator, located on the second level of Worcester State's Wellness Center, is available to the public for $9 an hour. Reservations are required.

The outdoor track at Worcester State is open from sunup until sundown, again, as long as there is no practice or competition occurring on or around Coughlin Field.

On a hot afternoon last week, there were a handful of students working out at Quinsigamond's fitness center, and about eight women taking part in a lunchtime full-body toning class in the downstairs group exercise studio.

Cardio machines, a punching bag, speed bag, mats and resistance bands are located on the upper level of QCC's fitness center. The school removed its pool about eight years ago, Gurnick said, and that area, located on a lower level, is where the free weights and weight machines are now.

"We try to keep up with the latest trends in working out," said Josh Cole, QCC's assistant manager of athletics and fitness.

QCC fitness center members can use the gym, locker rooms, showers and sauna. They also get free admission to QCC basketball games during the season, which, Gurnick said, is another nice way to bring the community together.

Information about QCC athletic center memberships, as well as hours, which vary in the summer, can be found at www.QCC.edu/athletics.

Gurnick said, including students, people of all ages use the QCC athletic center. "It's a good variety," Cole added.

Carr and Ouellette are both Worcester State alums, and Ouellette, who has walked on the track and on the perimeter of the campus for many years, watched with great interest as Worcester State's Wellness Center was being built.

As the building approaches its one-year anniversary opening date, she, like many others, has been thrilled with the finished product.

"I'm excited," Ouellette said. "As a community member, it's great using the indoor track, and I was hoping I could get a (fitness center) membership, which has come to fruition. It's a great facility; it's so nice and so new. We utilize it year round."

-Contact Jennifer Toland at jennifer.toland@telegram.com Follow her on Twitter @JenTandG.

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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

Members of a new University of Tennessee Board of Trustees committee are working to figure out what their role will be as they strive to provide oversight and accountability of the university's intercollegiate sports programs.

The new athletics committee, along with a university life committee, were created by the Tennessee legislature last year via changes to the law that outlines the structure of the board of trustees. The changes also created five new subcommittees.

"I think there were concerns that the board of trustees was not at all involved in athletics in any way and it was a way to have some accountability," said Charles Anderson, chair of the athletics committee, during a meeting of the new committee on Wednesday at the UT Institute of Agriculture.

And while direct responsibility for sports programs will remain with the chancellor of each UT campus, the committee will also provide administrative oversight and hold the chancellors accountable, according to a charter approved Wednesday.

It's been several years since the board had an athletics committee, though individual campuses in Chattanooga, Knoxville and Martin each have athletic advisory boards that report to their chancellors.

Trustees who previously helped make up the advisory boards will be removed from those boards going forward in order to avoid confusion of the roles that each will play. That change was approved by the committee Wednesday along with new bylaws for the boards.

Raja Jubran, vice chair of the board and a member of the athletics committee, said that lawmakers had "good intentions" in creating the additional committees and subcommittees, but at the same time it has created a lot of additional work for the board of trustees.

However, he said he feels it is good for the board to be able to provide oversight, particularly financial oversight, over athletics.

He also said it's important for the board to share their insight regarding some decisions made in athletics, citing the 2014 decision at UT Knoxville to remove the Lady Vols nickname.

"It's a decision that ultimately was up to the campus, but where it's something as big as that where our reputation is at risk, we'd like to have our voice heard," Jubran said.

At the same time, there are also things the committee will have to "stay away from" to respect NCAA and SEC rules and the goal is not to "interfere in the day to day" operations of athletics departments, he said.

In the past, meetings of the advisory board in Knoxville, the flagship campus, were open to the public until 2013, when officials began restricting access saying that because the advisory board is only making recommendations to the chancellor, at the time Jimmy Cheek, and not "making decisions," it is not subject to open records laws.

The new bylaws for the board do not say anything about whether their meetings are subject to open records laws.

Vice Chancellor for Communications Ryan Robinson said the decision is one that's left up to each campus and he did not know Wednesday afternoon if Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport, who took office in February, has made a decision yet on the issue.

The new athletics committee does not have the ability to call executive sessions, so the entirety of all of its meetings will be open to the public.

The committee will also have to decide what information they will review, which could include reports from the advisory boards, according to Matthew Scoggins, general counsel for the board.

Wednesday's meeting also followed the announcement Monday of a new system-wide athletics position that will be filled by former UT football coach Phillip Fulmer.

Anderson said there is a "great need" for the job and called Fulmer's appointment outstanding.

"He loves the state of Tennessee and he loves the university and I think he's going to be a wonderful ambassador for us," Anderson said.

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June 25, 2017
 
 
 

 

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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

The University of Tennessee has received a long-awaited critique of its sexual assault policies, and now it must figure out a way to fund the independent panel's recommendations.

The four outside experts, tasked to review Title IX compliance and sexual assault prevention and response across the UT system, made five major recommendations:

  • A statewide coordinator for policies related to TitleIX
  • Additional TitleIX staff and resources
  • Updated and modified policies and procedures
  • Enhanced support for students
  • Increased education, prevention and training

Each will require additional funding and not equivocation on where the resources will come from.

UT President Joe DiPietro said he hoped to fill by the end of the year the experts' recommendation to hire the statewide coordinator for Title IX, the federal law that guides campuses on sexual discrimination and violence responses.

In an interview with the USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee, he said that progress would be a "priority," but added that funding changes would be a challenge.

"Resources are always finite," DiPietro said. "We'll probably have to struggle with how do you find the resources to implement the programming at some of these places."

The process has been a challenge since the university was accused in a Title IX lawsuit of fostering a "hostile sexual environment" on the Knoxville campus and mishandling sexual assault cases, especially accusations against student-athletes. The lawsuit placed blame for a culture of sexual violence at the top of UT's administration, including DiPietro, then-Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, then-athletics director Dave Hart and football coach Butch Jones.

The university, while admitting no wrongdoing, found the resources to settle the lawsuit for $2.48 million by splitting the costs between the Knoxville campus and the athletics department and avoiding what if felt would be a cost of $5.5 million if the lawsuit went to trial.

When the settlement was announced, DiPietro said he was appointing the independent panel and, in fact, it had been in the works before the settlement. He found the resources to pay up to $250,000 for its work, including $45,000 plus expenses for each of the four members.

The panel, in a 28-page report, found training, prevention and awareness efforts had increased on nearly all UT campuses — more so on the Knoxville campus — but could be more consistent and comprehensive for students and employees.

Notable in the report were concerns from all campuses about what help is available late at night and on weekends when misconduct often occurs. Knoxville campus staff and students said they had difficulty reaching someone when calling the campus help line (974-HELP) during those times.

DiPietro and Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport said, in addressing the issues raised in the committee's findings, they wanted to establish UT as a national leader in those efforts. To do that, they must find the resources.

Since the lawsuit settlement nearly a year ago, significant salary increases and bonuses have been given to the university's top administrators and some assistants and new six-figure-salary positions — full and part time — have been created. The university expressed a need for the increases and positions and found a way to fund them.

DiPietro expressed a need last year to determine how well the university was responding to Title IX policies, the independent panel he hired delivered and now he must find a way to fund the recommendations — struggle or not.

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

COLUMBUS — Two pictures hang above Mark Pantoni's desk: The greatest recruiting photograph ever taken, and a shot of AT&T Stadium the night Ohio State won the 2014 national championship.

One photo turned into the other.

If there were a nameplate on Pantoni's desk, it would read "Ohio State Football General Manager." He's the general manager who made those two photos above his desk possible; the general manager who signed the best recruiting class in team history in 2017; and the general manager who is responsible for the 2018 recruiting class that currently ranks No. 1 in the country.

OSU coach Urban Meyer has said recruiting is the "lifeblood of this program" a million times. He'll say it again the next time there's a microphone in his face. But now Ohio State is putting money where Meyer's mouth is by investing what will be millions of dollars the next few years.

The recruiting photo above Pantoni's desk is of him standing with Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, Eli Apple and Darron Lee during a recruiting visit. They all went on to be first-round NFL draft picks after being integral parts of the title run, the other picture.

Pantoni sits under those two framed photos every day but rarely feels nostalgic. It's nice they're there — "testimony," he says — but he never forgets that those pictures need to be created again with new faces. This program needs to get to the point where those pictures become routine, not framed.

Otherwise, Pantoni is not doing his job.

"That's the standard now," he said. "Be the best. Nothing else."

Meyer has the reputation as one of most demanding coaches in college football, but even Meyer understands there are limits to what one person can do. So Ohio State invested in its recruiting department.

What was once a two-man recruiting staff of Pantoni and Greg Gillum in 2012 is now a 10-person staff. This has turned into an NFL-like operation.

Great recruiting leads to winning, and Pantoni is pulling the strings. This GM can't draft players or sign free agents, but Pantoni can recruit. Now he has help.

The most recent addition came last week when Andre Robinson was hired as an assistant director of new and creative media.

The nine others, including Pantoni, earn salaries that add up to a combined $617,213.98, according to state records.

That number doesn't include Robinson's salary because he was just hired, but Ohio State has made a tremendous investment in recruiting support staff. That number also doesn't include the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on recruiting travel, whether on coaches' trips or official visits made by prospects.

"We're having tremendous recruiting success," Meyer said, "but we aren't doing it without that staff."

Seven years ago when Jim Tressel was the coach and Meyer was at Florida, the recruiting coordinator position was just assigned to one of the nine assistants. For Tressel, it used to be tight ends coach John Peterson.

Now you have GM Pantoni — who has his fingers in everything from prospect communication to coaches' travel to visit itineraries to film breakdown — and an entire team dedicated to film breakdown, videos, graphics, marketing and social media.

Ohio State never had a meeting to discuss this expansion, but Meyer basically reassigned every available staff position he could to recruiting, and redefined staff roles. The recruiting department quadrupled in people and payouts.

Athletic Director Gene Smith didn't even hesitate to pay up.

"You can have the greatest head coach and the greatest coordinator, but you know the old saying: 'Great players make great coaches,'" Smith said.

"Understanding what was happening nationally, understanding just the way it's changing and the way young people pay attention, it was critical for us to have those people.... I think it's important for us to look at where we are, see the future and put in place the infrastructure to support it."

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Darran Powell sensed this would happen. Coaches are like that. They envision things before they happen. It's what they learn to do. And they're good at it.

It was March. Mark Baker, in his first school year as the Dayton Public Schools director of athletics, had been approved for a two-year contract extension by the DPS school board.

"When Mark got approved, I said it might mean trouble for me, because somebody has to take that fall and they want me to be that guy," Powell said.

That's essentially what happened to Powell, Dunbar's football coach the past four seasons, during last week's school board meeting. Longtime board member Joe Lacey requested a separate vote on Powell rather than lumping his renewal with 96 other DPS fall personnel items. A majority of four yes votes would be needed for Powell to retain his coaching position.

What followed was a head-scratching DPS board moment. The vote was 3-2 in favor of retaining Powell. Lacey and Sheila Taylor voted against. Ron Lee abstained. Former board president Adil Baguirov was absent. The circumstances meant Powell did not get the four votes he needed; he was out as coach.

Out of control

This was the latest in a continuing drama that reached a low point when the Ohio High School Athletic Association saddled the school district's athletic programs - boys and girls - with an unprecedented three-year probation and fined the district $10,000 in April.

The OHSAA didn't name anyone, yet cited DPS in violation of Bylaw 3: administrative and institutional control.

The root cause: two bizarre plays in a regular-season football finale Oct. 28 vs. Belmont. Dunbar appeared to be trying to lose. A video sequence of the plays became an internet sensation.

But Powell said he did not tell his team to lose.

"I never told my team to let Belmont win," Powell said. "I told my team, guys, we were told if we want to go to the playoffs Belmont has to win this game. I'm not going to tell you to lose the game. I don't know what to tell you. Just go out there."

Powell has insisted that Baker told Dunbar coaches to lose the game so both teams would qualify for the playoffs and an academically ineligible Dunbar player wouldn't have to be reported to the OHSAA. Instead, Dunbar forfeited Weeks 9-10 games and missed the playoffs.

Separate investigations by DPS and the OHSAA resulted in different findings. Superintendent Rhonda Corr focused on the ineligible player. Pete Pullen resigned as Dunbar's AD soon after. The OHSAA tackled the greater issue of a lack of institutional control and tied the punishment mainly to the allegation of throwing a game.

Powell says he was unfairly targeted. "I think that's an understatement," he said. "If (the OHSAA) said (Baker) was to blame, what's the issue with me?"

Collateral damage

And it's not over. Powell huddled with parents and players in Dunbar's cafeteria the day after being ousted. It was emotional.

A support group proposed an online petition to have the school board reconsider Powell as coach. In 24 hours more than 1,000 supporters had signed. Many added blistering opinions.

Former Dunbar head coach James Lacking has been given that role for now, but no new coach has been approved by the board.

This is essentially a final countdown for the preseason, which begins July 31. Any administration will tell you it's not the time to begin a search for a new coach. DPS said it would reconsider the No. 2 candidate – Lacking — or repost the position.

Darran Powell's father and uncle are twins Albert and Alfred Powell, both Roth graduates. The twins have been coaching Roth and Dunbar football, basketball and track the past 38 years as assistants. They have been assistants on Darran's staff. Darran bristles at the mention the Powells must go for the betterment of Dunbar.

"I don't understand," he said. "What is the issue of having positive influence?"

The events have taken a toll in other ways for the people involved. Pullen, 62, said he recently had his heart shocked back into proper rhythm, something he also had done in 2010. Albert Powell, Dar-ran's father, was hospitalized with a faulty heart.

"It's tough on me and it's tough on his dad," said Pullen, who has led Dunbar to four boys basketball state titles.

"His dad and me, we're at the end of our stage. We've got a great young man (Darran) who's coming back to support his school and do what he can who had that pedigree of Dunbar and knows to get the kids to do the right thing and get the right attitude. I feel bad for him. He's struggling right now."

Baker hasn't responded to repeated requests for comment since that October game. Powell is also a full-time paraprofessional at Dunbar. He hopes to retain that position.

As Darren Powell's backers feared, there have been other consequences.

"A lot of people are trying to get at our kids now and trying to tell them to transfer," Powell said. "They've all made the choice to stay and they're going to work this thing out. We took on the slogan it's 'Dunbar vs. everybody' last year, and it really turned out to be true."

That figures. Coaches sense things like that.

Contact this reporter at 937-225-2381 or email Marc.Pendleton@coxinc.com

Twitter: @MarcPendleton

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June 25, 2017
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2017 Richmond Newspapers, Inc.
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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

Sandra Tan doesn't like weight machines and barbells. But she has found a way to get stronger with the Volée Method.

"I didn't have any strength when I started," Tan said with a laugh, after a Volée class at Fighting Gravity Fitness in Richmond. At this point, she had been doing Volée for about five weeks. With some encouragement from instructor Heather Mazeika, Tan did every exercise in the class.

Volée is not a household term, yet. The creation of a couple of fitness professionals from Illinois, the method combines suspension (TRX-like straps), pilates, yoga and barre.

Mazeika started as a pilates instructor, then branched into TRX and barre.

"This puts it all together," said Mazeika, who traveled to Illinois to get certified last year and became the first person to start teaching these classes on the East Coast. Mazeika teaches Volée at Fighting Gravity near Virginia Commonwealth University and at Turn Cardio Jam Studio in Scott's Addition.

Audrey Bonafé, owner of Fighting Gravity Fitness, said she was excited to be the first in Virginia to offer Volée.

"People like it because it's challenging and it's great for toning," Bonafé said. "You get a good workout,... a whole-body workout."

The straps for Volée, she said, are similar to those of the TRX system, but the handles are slightly smaller "to fit better in women's hands."

It's often women who are attracted to a class like Volée, which combines ballet dance moves with strength exercises. Most participants do the class in bare feet. The class I visited was all women, many of whom shared Tan's aversion to more traditional strength-training tools.

Volée is the brainchild of Vicky Waterman, a former dancer with the Chicago Ballet, and Rachel Kowal, a certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist who taught TRX at Waterman's studio in Geneva, Ill. They developed the Volée method a few years ago, and since then have trademarked and copyrighted the program.

When Mazeika went to the Midwest for training in Volée, "I honestly didn't know about it," said Bonafé, of Fighting Gravity Fitness. She happily invested in the straps and put the new class on the schedule, though, because it seemed to fit the out-of-the-box offerings at Fighting Gravity, where silk hammocks and lyra (hanging hoops) are used for aerial classes.

Fighting Gravity plans to offer a Volée instructor training course in August, which may lead to additional classes in the Richmond area.

Alisa Wilma, director of Health and Safety for the Department of Defense at Fort Lee, said the strength exercises found in Volée help with her daily work.

"This is the kind of strength training that gets me ready for what military safety asks me to do," Wilma said. "There's lots of core, lots of stability."

Maria Howard is a group exercise instructor for the YMCA of Greater Richmond and the University of Richmond Weinstein Center. Her column runs every other week in Sunday Flair.

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June 21, 2017
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2017 The Buffalo News
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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

A field house for the University at Buffalo football program finally is about to become a reality.

UB has reached its fundraising goal to start work on the project and has received approval from the state Division of the Budget to begin construction on the $18 million project.

UB football coaches and athletic administrators have been longing for an indoor practice facility for the better part of two decades, since UB moved up to the highest level of Division I football in 1998.

The vast majority of the 128 schools that play in the Football Bowl Subdivision have indoor practice sites. UB and Ball State are the only two schools in the 12-team Mid-American Conference that do not have a field house for football.

It is expected that construction bids for the project will be issued by the end of June. The hope is they will be received by mid-to-late July and that the first shovel can hit the ground sometime in the fall, UB sources said.

"UB has received the green light from New York State to take the next step in a multi-step process leading to the construction of an athletics field house," a statement released by UB Friday afternoon stated.

"The New York State Division of the Budget recently signed off on the project. New York State Sen. Tim Kennedy was instrumental in helping to secure approval from the state, which was necessary before the project could move forward," said the statement, released by UB Associate Vice President for Media Relations John DellaContrada.

UB has been seeking to reach a goal of $6 million in hand to start construction. The UB Foundation board of directors approved a funding plan to finance about $10 million of the project through loans in November 2014.

UB's statement said the project will be funded through philanthropy and athletics revenues. No state funds are being used for the project.

"Providing student-athletes a state-of-the-art training facility that's accessible year-round will help strengthen UB's athletics programs, better position UB alongside it's MAC peers and will give the university a significant advantage in recruiting top coaches and student-athletes," UB said.

In August 2016, UB hired the architecture firm CHA Consulting Inc. to design the project. It will be a 90,000-square-foot facility. CHA, headquartered in Albany, has been hired to design numerous SUNY athletic projects.

The field house will be located on what currently is a parking lot just outside the scoreboard end of UB Stadium, behind Alumni Arena. The plan is for numerous UB sports teams also to utilize it, including men's and women's track and field, women's soccer and softball.

UB opted against holding a news conference to announce the latest development in the project, likely due to the fact emotions in the UB athletics community still are raw over the April decision to cut four sports teams.

UB's football coaches past and present have viewed it as critical to recruiting efforts as well as to improve year-round practice conditions. Among the MAC teams that have opened field houses in recent years are Ohio University in 2014 and Miami of Ohio in 2015.

Other football program facility upgrades have had to be put in place over the past 15 years while UB was trying to raise enough money to start the field house project.

UB built a football office complex, called the Murchie Family Football Center, at a cost of more than $3 million. Enhancements to that building, connected to UB Stadium, recently were completed.

The Smolinski Family Sports Medicine Center was added to the UB Stadium complex. In 2015, the school constructed a club seating section in UB Stadium at a cost of about $1 million. Revenue from the sale of those seats has been put toward UB's field house fundraising goal.

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Copyright 2017 SCRIPPS Howard Publications
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Corpus Christi Caller-Times

 

ALICE — Two Alice City Council members face a recall election following their support of plans to reopen a portion of the city's cash-strapped natatorium and water park.

In affidavits filed recently at City Hall, council members Elida Garza and Yolanda Moran are accused of acting with "incompetence, misconduct or malfeasance" when they voted May 25 to reopen the shuttered $22 million facility.

The issue for recall organizers Cindy Loera and Randal Dickens is Garza and Moran moved too hastily; it's alleged they favored opening the natatorium's doors without knowing key financial information, including the operating costs, where the funds would come from or changing the budget to cover the expenses.

Attempts to reach Garza and Moran were unsuccessful this week.

City Clerk Diana spent much of the week verifying 261 signatures that were submitted June 16 on a recall petition to Alice City Hall. A minimum of 113 signatures, representing 5 percent of the turnout from the previous election, need to be validated to force a recall referendum on each candidate.

City officials announced on Alice Parks and Recreation webpage the facility would be open Thursday through Sunday, noon to 8 p.m.

The facility and whether its doors are open have been sources of deep frustration in Alice since the first shovels of dirt were overturned for the project in 2012.

At that time, Halliburton, Baker Hughes, Weatherford International and scores of other energy companies dotted the city, fueled by seemingly endless prosperity from the Eagle Ford Shale energy play.

Then things changed. Dramatically.

Crude oil prices sputtered while the water park, near state Highway 44 and the U.S. 281 bypass, was under construction.

Energy companies began shedding jobs, or closing altogether.

What started as a $12 million project had swelled to $22 million by the time the facility opened June 2016.

The City Council voted unanimously on Dec. 14 to "suspend aquatic operations" at the $22 million water park, saying it had become too expensive to operate. An ad hoc committee disputes claims it was losing money, and argues it was closed before it had a chance to reach its potential.

Admission to the outdoor water park is $8, and $5 to get in for recreational swimming at the natatorium. The fees do not include tax.

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

CENTERVILLE — Centerville High School's football team is on the verge of purchasing new helmet technology that would make it easier to detect potential concussions earlier.

The helmets, produced by Rid-dell, are equipped with impact monitoring technology called Insite, designed to alert when significant single or multiple impacts are sustained during a game or practice, according to Riddell Product Manager Mike Richards.

"The idea is to take what they're already doing — coaches monitoring athletes, getting them ready for game — and putting a little more information behind their finger tips," Richards said.

Each helmet is equipped with five sensors that send an alert directly to the coaching staff or athletic trainer when a player's helmet comes into contact with something — whether it's another player or the ground — that exceeds a predetermined threshold.

The sensors record the force of the "atypical impact profiles" and sends the information to the coaching staff via a handheld LCD alert monitor.

By having this technology available, Centerville coaches will be able to tell whether a player has sustained a forceful impact to the head and place him in concussion protocol, if necessary.

"It's not a diagnostic tool, it doesn't tell you the player's injured," Richards said. "It's based on on-field data that we've collected over a decade."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, concussion symptoms from players often include headache, nausea, confusion and/or concentration or memory issues. Ohio High School Athletics Association requires players be removed from play if an athlete is suspected of having a concussion.

It's estimated that more than 140,000 high school athletes suffer from a concussion each year, according to data from NFHS Injury Surveillance System.

Lisa Elam, of Bill's Donuts in Centerville, said she and her brother/co-owner Jim Elam are committed to helping purchase the helmets for the school, but are looking for donors to help cover the approximate $12,000 cost.

Elam said if they don't receive the help they're looking for, they'll "foot the bill." They're just hopeful other donors will help raise at least half the cost.

"I was hoping to make it a community sponsored event instead of just the doughnut shop," she said.

Centerville will begin their summer training program in July, using the helmets then. Once the equipment is up and running, the Elks reportedly will be the first team in Ohio to have all varsity members using the tech in their helmets.

So far, it will just be varsity members with the technology, but Elam is hopeful once the school sees how the helmets work, they can start to look at options for the other levels.

Contact this reporter at tremayne.hogue@coxinc.com

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Copyright 2017 The Post and Courier
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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

ORLANDO, Fla. — On the 45th anniversary of Title IX, women and people of color remain on the outside when it comes to hiring head coaches in women's college sports, according to a report Friday by sports institutes.

The report found that the coaches hired were predominantly white and male in most of the eight conferences surveyed: the Power 5 conferences — Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Southeastern and Pac-12 — along with the American Athletic, Big East and Ivy League.

The study was done by the Institute for Diversity & Ethics in Sport in collaboration with the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport and LGBT SportSafe.

Title IX was signed into law June 23, 1972. It opened doors for girls and women by banning sex discrimination in all federally funded school programs, including sports.

Seven of the eight conferences polled received a C or D grade for having female head coaches of women's teams. The Big East, SEC and Big 12 fell below 40 percent. Only the Ivy League (55 percent) had more women than men as head coaches.

The grades were far worse regarding race. Half the conferences (Big East, SEC, Big Ten, Ivy League) received a grade of F. The AAC was the lone league to have an above average grade of B, with 18 percent of its women's coaches people of color.

"I've never given an F as an overall grade in 25 years and there are four Fs in this particular report for lack of people of color of in head coaching positions for the women's teams," said Richard Lapchick, whose Diversity & Ethics group also puts out report cards on racial practices of the NFL, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, college football and college basketball. "That's a damning statement that there could be four Fs in a single report like this."

According to the report, 27 of the 94 schools had no coaches of color leading their women's sports. The SEC led all the leagues studied, with seven of its schools having all white coaches leading women's teams.

"It says people haven't been paying attention," Lapchick said, referring to the conference commissioners and athletic directors at the schools.

When it came to gender, overall 57 percent of the coaches were male.

"Title IX has dramatically changed the landscape of sport participation for girls and women but it in fact it has had the opposite effect on women in positions of power in women's sport," said Nicole LaVoi, co-director of the Tucker Center. "Title IX doesn't really protect against that. There is nothing in the statute that says women have to coach women."

The Power 5 conferences were chosen because of their power and influence. The AAC is viewed by the authors as a league that could eventually join the power conferences. The Big East and Ivy League have female commissioners.

Laphick and LaVoi urged conferences and their schools to become more inclusive and diverse in their hiring. This was the first time LGBT inclusion was examined in this report. As a result, the conferences were not graded in that regard.

"All athletic directors need to undergo race and gender bias training because their beliefs and values influence their hiring practices," LaVoi said. "It may not be intentionally but we all are biased."

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Copyright 2017 Star Tribune
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

Imagine running into a Vikings lineman at the local coffee shop or living next door to a player. It could happen at Viking Lakes, the 200-acre development being created by the Vikings in Eagan.

The Vikings on Thursday officially announced their marketing launch for the development that they expect will evolve over the next 15 years into 3.25 million square feet of offices, retail, residential and hospitality complexes around the team's new headquarters and practice facility.

"Now is the perfect time to bring your team and build your dream," reads one of the marketing brochures.

Newmark Knight Frank, a commercial real estate adviser, was hired by MV Eagan Ventures, a real estate arm of Vikings owners Zygi, Mark and Leonard Wilf, to direct the marketing.

The Wilfs envision more

than 950 units of multifamily housing, 1 million square feet of upscale office and medical office space, a conference center and hotel with more than 500 rooms. There are also discussions to create an incubator for small businesses in science, technology and arts.

The development is on the site of the former Northwest Airlines headquarters near the intersection of Dodd Road and Interstate 494.

It will give visitors and tenants unique public access to the Vikings football team while at the same time providing amenities such as trails and wetland preserves at a convenient location between Minneapolis and St. Paul, said John McCarthy, lead for the Viking Lakes team at Newmark Knight Frank.

"They want to make this accessible to people who may not [be able to] go to a game on Sundays," McCarthy said.

Vikings players and staff could end up taking advantage of extended-stay hotel and housing options, said Vikings vice president Lester Bagley.

"This facility is going to be where our players basically study, practice and workout, where they eat, sleep and breathe football," Bagley said.

MV Eagan Ventures will build facilities for companies who would be able to lease the land or designated space in the buildings. As of now, there aren't any signed tenant agreements, though McCarthy said there has been interest.

The Vikings have started building their headquarters and facilities on 40 acres of the site and the team aims to move from its current home in Eden Prairie next spring.

The Vikings are building a 6,500-seat stadium, outdoor and indoor practice fields, and administrative offices. Twin Cities Orthopedics is currently constructing a medical office building next to a sports medicine center for athletic training and rehabilitation and Vikings museum and store. The fields will not only be used by the Vikings but will also host area high school football teams.

The Wilfs and Vikings do not have a specific schedule for building other portions of the property and are "letting the market time what needs to be built," McCarthy said.

"We believe it's going to be a tremendous development and a great addition to our fan base and our market," Bagley said.

The Vikings aren't the first team to combine its headquarters with a commercial development. The Dallas Cowboys opened the Star last year with an entertainment district, hotel and medical center next to its headquarters in suburban Frisco, Texas. The Cowboys site is only half the size of what the Vikings are building in Eagan. This spring, the Jacksonville Jaguars won permission to redevelop 70 acres near their stadium and complex.

Nicole Norfleet · 612-673-4495

Twitter: @nicolenorfleet

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Copyright 2017 Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)

 

CLINTON - Conditions at the baseball fields at Ash Street have the Clinton Little League concerned.

So president Matt Kobus, while promising volunteers to help out, asked selectmen for support from the town to clear overgrown areas by the Oxford Court area.

"Several uncapped, used syringes were found behind the snack shack," Kobus told selectmen Wednesday night. He said there is a lot of debris being dumped in the area behind Oxford Court and the post office plaza and around the fields.

"We want to clear cut and make it safe," Kobus said.

"It's very disturbing," Selectmen Chairman Dave Sargent said, noting he had heard from parents about syringes there.

In addition to possible help from town departments, selectmen signed off on encouraging better lighting.

Town Administrator Michael Ward said he could move on getting lighting from National Grid, relying on them for the best option, from streetlight to flood light.

The board voted to support "any way it can the endeavors to clean up the field," Selectman Bill Connolly Jr. said.

 

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Copyright 2017 News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)
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News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)

 

GREENSBORO - The big soccer tournament is scheduled to begin this afternoon with opening ceremonies and a parade of athletes at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Games begin today at the expanded BB&T Soccer Complex at Bryan Park and run through Thursday.

The return of the U.S. Youth Soccer Region III Championships is a big deal to the city.

The size, length and scope of the tournament make it worth an estimated $10.2 million to the local economy, according to the Greensboro Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"It's valuable," CVB President Henri Fourrier said. "With the players and coaches and families and all, we've got about 6,200 people in town. They're filling up pretty much the whole community."

That's a lot of hotel rooms and restaurant meals.

And it's all because of a couple of extra fields at the city's soccer showplace, Bryan Park.

"We were out of the mix for awhile because we didn't have enough soccer fields," Fourrier said. "We made a case to get Bryan Park expanded, and we got it brought up to 18 fields, which is (U.S. Youth Soccer's) minimum requirement. That enabled us to host this event."

Greensboro last hosted the Region III tournament in 2003. Since then, youth soccer has continued to grow in popularity and the numbers of teenagers playing the game has increased.

It outgrew Bryan Park.

U.S. Youth Soccer's estimates are more than 12,000 spectators, 3,600 players and 200 teams from its South region, which includes host North Carolina as well as Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

The players are boys and girls from age groups 13-and-under to 19/20-and-under.

Greensboro's successful bid to host the tournament was announced in August 2016, with the city chosen as the championships site for this year and for 2018.

"We knew the opportunity was there and pursued it," said Kim Strable, the president of the Greensboro Sports Commission.

"We thought, 'Well, shoot, let's go for two years in a row.' They were a little reluctant at first," Strable said, "but our reputation is having great support from volunteers and parents. They were worried about burning people out, because it's a pretty big commitment with the length of the tournament and covering so many fields."

The new fields made the difference in the bid. And they could make a difference over the next seven days if bad weather moves in. Some of the fields at Bryan Park have lights for night games, and some are artificial turf.

Bringing back the Region III tournament after 14 years could open the door to other events, too.

"Since we won this bid," Fourrier said, "we've had other groups come forward and say, 'If y'all could get 20 fields, we'll bring our events to town.' So we've got two more fields under construction right now."

All teams here this week are scheduled to compete in round-robin pool play today through Sunday, with winners advancing to single-elimination tournaments for quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.

Regional winners in each age group advance to the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships in Frisco, Texas, July 24 through 30.

"Getting this one validates the city's commitment through the years to build, sustain and maintain its facilities to a high grade," Strable said. "What Byran Park soccer means to this city is significant. The landscape for soccer has changed in the last 10 or 15 years where so many cities have built these mega sites with a lot of fields in one spot.... It creates a festive environment for tournaments. Us having Bryan Park with the recent expansion, well, that's significant."

Contact Jeff Mills at (336) 373-7024, and follow @JeffMillsNR on Twitter.

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Copyright 2017 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

NEW YORK - Stores like Saks and Urban Outfitters are looking to work out more than your wallet.

As retailers struggle to draw in shoppers who have migrated online, stores are seizing on one of the few bright spots in the industry - fitness and wellness - in hopes of engaging consumers. That means meditation lectures with Deepak Chopra at ABC Carpet & Home in New York, a yoga class at Bloomingdale's or a wellness getaway with Free People.

One recent Wednesday, a dozen women walked into Saks on Fifth Avenue, tucked their purses into lockers and got to work performing squat thrusts and jumping jack intervals during an hourlong boot camp. After class, they could browse through a rack of $85 Phat Buddha leggings and try Glow Recipe's $58 oil essence with cactus extract.

Mila Petrova, who wasn't part of the class that day but has attended other sessions at Saks, said it's the location more than the shopping that has drawn her in - it's closer to her office. "I probably would have gone (to the workout) wherever they put it," she said.

The 27-year-old browsed the store only on the first night and hasn't made any purchases - she's usually rushing to the class from work and anxious to get home afterward. Still, though she's not a big shopper in general, she can see herself buying holiday gifts at Saks' Wellery section because she's already in the store.

Several stores have opened stand-alone locations with vast areas carved out for exercise classes and seminars. Urban Outfitters' five-story Space Ninety 8 in Brooklyn scheduled a chakra meditation and sound bath this month.

None of the chains are talking about how much the wellness business has increased sales - or if it has. It may be soon to tell. But while clothing stores struggle, U.S. activewear sales have increased. In 2016, they rose 11 percent over the previous year to nearly $46 billion, according to The NPD Group, a consumer tracking service, and are up from $36.9 billion in 2014. So it's no surprise retailers want to offer those customers more and keep them in the stores longer.

Saks' New York flagship has devoted an entire floor to the 16,000-square-foot wellness sanctuary that opened in May and offers fitness classes, a salt chamber and meditation alongside other merchandise. Celebrity fitness guru Tracy Anderson was the marquee name on opening night. After a sweat session, fitness aficionados can test the latest home gym equipment like a Peloton bike, get custom-fitted for golf clubs or get their nails done - a day's worth of self-care in one spot.

"We need to be their sanctuary, whether they need retail therapy or want to feel good about themselves," Saks President Marc Metrick said. "After a good workout, it's a big rush, so it's great. We want people to feel good in our stores ? it doesn't always have to be because you bought a killer pair of shoes."

The Wellery is full circle for the upscale chain that constructed an indoor ski slope at its flagship store in 1935 and offered skiing lessons for a time as a novelty activity to bring customers in.

Before the wellness trend, department stores like Sears and J.C. Penney positioned themselves as destinations through photo studios and beauty salons. Penney has also had success with small Sephora locations inside stores.

The wellness trend taps into what analysts and retailers said is people's desire for experiences. Magdalena Kondej, head of apparel and footwear at Euromonitor, characterized it as "the prioritization of doing, seeing and feeling over having more stuff."

"No one comes to the store anymore to buy something. They can do that on the phone, in the cab, at home at night ? our stores have to become much more experiential," Metrick agreed.

Fitness retailers have also capitalized on this trend. Adidas opened its Runbase store in Berlin last year, which includes training facilities and a healthy restaurant. At Nike's SoHo store, consumers can test a pair of sneakers on the in-store basketball court, on a synthetic football field or on a treadmill that gives real-time feedback.

Stores are also focusing on selling nontoxic makeup, vitamins and powders for skin and hair. Free People, a bohemian apparel line popular among yogis, now sells wellness products. Some of the products and clothes are included in their retreats, like a five-night retreat at Glacier National Park that starts at $1,800.

Clean beauty queen and actress Gwyneth Paltrow had a partnership with Nordstrom this year for a series of pop-up shops. Paltrow's Goop brand curated the items, including non-toxic masks, spiralizers for zucchini noodles, meditation pillows and yoga gear.

Bloomingdale's is also seeking to attract yogi dollars. It worked with wellness website Grokker for an online challenge, in-store events like yoga classes and a free subscription to Grokker for the month of May.

retail

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Copyright 2017 Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
All Rights Reserved

Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

There's no firm timeline for when the University of Tennessee will have in place some of the recommendations of a new report critiquing its Title IX policies, President Joe DiPietro said Thursday. But he hopes to hire a systemwide coordinator by the end of the year.


"Some of them are easier and others are more long-term," DiPietro said following a UT board of trustees meeting in Knoxville five days after the report was released. "We've been training, but everybody needs to have training programs that are uniform and effective. That will take some time."

The 28-page report is the result of work done by a Title IX commission DiPietro hired last fall in the aftermath of a federal lawsuit accusing the university of fostering a "hostile environment" in response to complaints of sexual violence. UT settled the lawsuit for $2.48 million last July though the university admitted no fault.

Based on research, interviews and listening sessions with students, the report lists five major recommendations for the university. Among them are the hiring of a systemwide Title IX coordinator, which is something DiPietro said he hopes to have in place by the end of the year.

Disparities between campuses

The total cost of the commission and its report will end up being about $200,000, according to UT officials. That does not include the cost for hiring the systemwide Title IX coordinator or other changes that could come out of the report.

Among other things, the report highlights disparities between the Knoxville campus and other UT campuses when it comes to Title IX policies and says that progress on Title IX initiatives has not been consistent from campus to campus.

In part, that's because the flagship campus in Knoxville has access to more resources and they were very aggressive in responding to the "Dear Colleague letter" that the U.S. Office for Civil Rights issued to more than 7,000 colleges in 2011 urging them to revise their approaches to Title IX, DiPietro said.

The Title IX lawsuit settled last year also resulted in an annual investment of $700,000 and six new positions at the Knoxville campus.

Another Title IX investigator

Title IX is an area that universities need to continuously look at for ways to improve, said UT Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport following Thursday's board of trustees meeting.

She said that following the report she hopes to work on bringing clarity to policies and procedures as well as hire an additional Title IX investigator for the UT Knoxville campus.

There are currently three investigators at that campus, but Davenport said it is a "national norm" to have one investigator per every 8,000 students.

How much will it cost?

In discussion at the board of trustees meeting Thursday, trustee John Tickle said the outcome of the Title IX report was good but he questioned the long-term cost it will create.

"It seems like we always come up with a solution that involves adding people and staff and salaries," Tickle said. "It's interesting that a consultant couldn't come up with something that would reorganize in a different way that you don't have to add people. It's not just this, it's everything we come up with, so we're going to be really challenged to hold costs down because of the bureaucracy of the things we work with."

DiPietro, who has headed up efforts to make the university's funding model sustainable and also talked Thursday about the work of his Budget Advisory Group to reduce a projected $122 million funding shortfall in 2025, said that while cost considerations are always something the university looks at, they do not want to cut corners when it comes to initiatives such as the Title IX work.

"We have to figure out what will serve each campus or institute the best," he said. "We cannot afford to be anything but the best in class or a national model for how to have Title IX programming here."

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Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

As the federal probe into the unusual death of Kendrick Johnson progressed, it seemed investigators and the Valdosta teen's parents were on the same page.

Benjamin Crump, former co-counsel for Johnson's parents, confirmed as much in January 2015 when he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Michael Moore, the former U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia who opened the investigation, believed Kendrick was murdered. By then investigators had zeroed in on Brian and Branden Bell, sending them target letters indicating "substantial evidence" linking them to a crime.

Now, newly released evidence uncovered in a civil suit filed by the Bells reveal just how open the lines of communication were between federal investigators and the Johnson family.

They show a blogger -- identified as Ralph Moss, or Ralph James Moss -- with close ties to the Johnson family posting, in March 2015 and again three months later, about raids to be conducted by federal marshals at the Bells' homes in Valdosta and Jacksonville. Those military-style raids were carried out on July 21 of that year.

The federal investigation was closed last summer with the Justice Department concluding it found insufficient evidence that would "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."

Related: Gym Mat Death: FBI Video Inquiry Questioned

Johnson's body was discovered in a rolled-up gym mat in January 2013 in the old gymnasium at Lowndes High School. Local and state investigators ruled his death an accident, determining he had died of "positional asphyxia."

While Moss could have simply surmised that search warrants would be executed, the timing is suspicious.And Karen Bell, Brian and Branden's mother, said only the Johnsons' attorneys would have known they had moved to Jacksonville.

"No one would have ever said the U.S. marshals (were leading the raid) if they didn't absolutely know from the inside, because at that time everyone was talking about how the FBI was investigating," she said.

A former federal prosecutor told The AJC that repercussions from such a disclosure are significant.

"You've got someone from the inside who is compromising the integrity of the investigation at a minimum," said former Assistant U.S. Attorney Buddy Parker. "I can't say if it's criminal or not, but clearly it shouldn't be done."

The source of the leak is unclear, though the FBI can probably be ruled out since it had withdrawn from the investigation in September 2014 after it turned over a video analysis showing the Bell brothers were nowhere near the old gym. Prosecutors utilized a Washington, D.C., police officer, Nelson Rhone, in place of the FBI.

"This is unusual in the extreme," said Savannah defense attorney Tom Withers, a former federal prosecutor. "You don't want to lose that element of surprise or risk the officers' safety."

That wouldn't have been an issue in this case, since the Johnsons wouldn't want to do anything that would help the Bells. But it leads to questions about the influence the Johnsons and their supporters may have exerted on the investigation.

"I wouldn't be providing the substance of interviews. You run the risk of compromising the integrity of the investigation," Parker said. "You've got to be able to prove that the local investigators were wrong. You can't presume corruption. You can't assume collusion."

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Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

 

The Atlanta Hawks and partners are negotiating to take control of parcels near Philips Arena for a future mixed-use development that would echo what the Braves built at SunTrust Park, people familiar with the situation told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Word of the land negotiations, said to be advanced but not final, comes just days after the Atlanta City Council approved a deal for public financingtooverhaulPhilips Arena. On Monday, the council approved a new rental car tax agreement with the city of College Park with part of the proceeds going to a nearly $200 million renovation of the downtown arena.

In November, when Mayor Kasim Reed and the Hawks announced a renovation and lease extension deal that would keep the team downtown, Reed and Hawks lead owner Tony Ressler said the project could help fuel revitalization of the area near Philips known as the Gulch.

Afterthecouncil'sapproval, Reed said, "in the next 10 to 15 days we should be coming forward with a proposal for an additional billion dollars in investment as a result of the decision you all made today."

It's unclear if that was a direct reference to the Hawks, but people familiar with the matter said the Hawks have talked with property owners in the area, including the city and railroad giant Norfolk Southern.

Representatives for Reed and the Hawks declined to comment. A Norfolk Southern spokeswoman said she couldn't confirm or deny discussions about land transactions.

The $192.5 million Philips renovation will undo the bank of suites on one side, connect disjointed arena corridors and upgrade the fan experience.About $142.5 million would come from the city, including $110 million through an extended rental car tax, and the remainder from city land sales. The Hawks will put up $50 million upfront, and extend their lease through 2046.

The AJC first reported in March 2016 that Hawks ownership had also started discussions with the city about a downtown entertainment district.

At the time, the idea was for a complex similar to L.A. Live at Staples Center in Los Angeles that would include more retail and restaurants and perhaps offices and residences.

The Braves' Battery development, which includes bars, restaurants, a theater, apartments, offices and a luxury hotel, is also said to be a model.More pro sports teams want to diversify their revenue streams beyond television deals, ticket sales, concessions and merchandise.

It's not known how much land the Hawks and its development team are pursuing, and it's also unclear which sites the Hawks have in mind. The team and its partners are said to be interested in acquiring land or obtaining development rights to parcels within the Gulch, a weedy tangle of parking lots and rail lines partially covered by elevated roadways.

Redeveloping the Gulch has long been a dream of city officials and downtown boosters, with sweeping plans advanced -- including a grand transit terminal -- but little accomplished. The Philips renovation and the Hawks interest in adding development could bring a more limited but also more doable project.

Ressler is said to have tapped his brother, developer Richard Ressler, a principal at the high-profile Los Angeles development firm CIM Group, as a partner in the project.

Tony Ressler has not publicly outlined the team's development goals, but he has talked of the Hawks being a "catalyst" for downtown development.

"This is far too extraordinary a city to have a downtown that isn't much more vibrant," he told the AJC last year.

Ressler has said the Hawks want to work with other groups also interested in downtown revitalization.

CIM Group pushed for tax incentives from the state Legislature for Gulch redevelopment in 2016, but that bill failed to pass in the form the group sought.

A change in law this year, however, could enable tax incentives for Gulch redevelopment.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 342,which would allow sales and use taxes from retailers to be used to pay off bonds for infrastructure in certain areas defined as enterprise zones.

The bill attracted little notice during the session, but it could provide a substantial taxpayer-funded incentive to redevelop areas such as the Gulch.

HB 342 requires projects of a minimum of $400 million investment within a government-defined area certified as "chronically underdeveloped for a period of 20 years or more." The enterprise zone would be established for a period of 30 years. The incentive cannot apply to casinos.

The Braves' SunTrust development is in the vanguard of large mixed-use projects linked to sports venues. The team built a $550 million development surrounding the $672 million SunTrust Park.

Cobb County put up nearly $400 million as part of the deal, but tax incentives did not go directly into the mixed-use development.

Downtown advocate Kyle Kessler said he has heard buzz about big development and hopes it's not an entertainment complex. He hopes for a long-discussed multi-modal transportation terminal that would contribute to walkability and public transportation.

"If that were to happen my fears will be lessened," he said.

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Copyright 2017 News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)
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News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)

 

"It's a pretty aggressive schedule," the architect's project manager says, "but everything fits and as long as the contractor keeps to that schedule we should be fine."

GREENSBORO - Construction work on Smith High's athletics facilities is back on schedule, the architect's project manager says, and the Golden Eagles should be able to play their football opener at home this year.

"We just updated the schedule yesterday," Chad Volk of Raleigh-based Davis Kane Architects said Wednesday during the school's monthly Building Advisory Team meeting. "It's a pretty aggressive schedule, but everything fits and as long as the contractor keeps to that schedule we should be fine."

Greensboro-based H.M. Kern Corp., the project's general contractor, must complete the work by Aug. 16 to avoid a $3,000 per day penalty under the terms of its contract with Guilford County Schools. Smith is scheduled to open its football season at home Aug. 18 against Northwest Guilford after playing its entire schedule on the road in 2016 because of site preparation and demolition work at the stadium.

A field house is being built to house locker rooms, concessions, coaches' offices and a ticket window. The project also includes construction of a new press box atop the home grandstand, with a training room and offices being built under the grandstand. The old press box, which was on the hill behind the visitors bleachers, was demolished after the 2015 season.

The project's total budget is $7.7 million, of which $4.7 million is construction and renovation work by H.M. Kern.

Athletics boosters and other members of the Smith community had expressed concerns about the work at the school, which began with interior renovations that were either not completed on time or to their satisfaction.

Among the issues being addressed while students are not in school during the summer are mismatched tile in locker rooms, a leaking roof over the wrestling room and problems with the HVAC system in the weight room.

All of those projects are scheduled to be completed by Aug. 14.

The field at Claude Manzi Stadium has been resodded, but significant further work must be done on the field before Smith's teams can use it. The football practice field, which is surrounded by the track, has been reseeded but also will need work before the team can use it. Smith has been practicing on the outfield of its nearby softball field while the track is being resurfaced.

Bleachers on the visitors side will be used again in 2017 before being replaced as part of the project.

Contact Joe Sirera at 336-373-7034, and follow @JoeSireraNR on Twitter.

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Copyright 2017 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

Spokane Valley parks staff found the nest emptied once again: The two remaining large eggs have been stolen from the Discovery Playground near CenterPlace Regional Event Center.

It's not the first time the eggs have been stolen since the park opened in 2010.

A cream-colored fiberglass egg that was about 2 feet wide and 2 1/2 feet long was stolen in 2016, and never recovered.

This time the remaining two eggs that looked like they were left behind by a hatched bird were taken.

"We really need people's help," said Mike Stone, Spokane Valley Parks and Recreation Director. "We are fighting an uphill battle right now, and we are really trying to do something that's nice for the community."

A previous egg thief was busted because he posted "trophy" photos on Instagram, but Stone said he fears the eggs are gone for good.

"The whole egg combination was more than $8,000," Stone said. "We were working with a private donor and getting ready to replace the big egg, but we will not do that now."

The Discovery Playground is lit all night, Stone said, and there's a lot of traffic around it.

"It's hard to believe no one saw anything," Stone said.

Thieves would have to lift the eggs, which weigh several hundred pounds, over the chain link fence and haul them away on a truck.

Other playground equipment has been stolen over the years, including an inchworm that was big enough for children to ride on.

Stone said plant sculptures "were loved to death" and had to be removed.

A very large wooden Adirondack chair has been taken down, but will be replaced with a similar chair built out of composite material.

Stone said there are no plans to replace the eggs.

"We will be looking for something that will hold up better," Stone said.

At Browns Park, where sand volleyball courses were recently built, Stone said the parks department has hired private security to crack down on a group of "15 to 20 young people" who've been hanging out at the park every day, sometimes drinking and smoking.

Permanent bathrooms had to be locked because fixtures were destroyed, and there's been a lot of graffiti, including Sunday morning.

"The paint was still wet when it was discovered," Stone said.

Two flood lights have just been added to Browns Park and Stone has a budget request in for perimeter lights and a path for next year's budget.

"We want to turn Browns Park into something that's more family friendly," Stone said. "Large groups of people hanging out is a deterrent to some families."

Stone said he's certain vandalism isn't unique to Spokane Valley, and he encouraged people to call authorities if they see something wrong.

"Don't turn your back and ignore it," Stone said. "Call the police or call crime check. We really need your help."

Contact the writer:

(509) 459-5427

piah@spokesman.com

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Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

Hawks fans and others attending events at Philips Arena will pay an additional $3 per ticket as part of the deal to renovate the arena.

The facility admissions surcharge will go toward, among other things, the cost of traffic management around Philips.

According to the terms of the deal, it is the responsibility of the Hawks "to develop and deliver a new Traffic Management and Pedestrian Security Plan reasonably acceptable to the City and to provide for adequate security and traffic management for all events held at the Arena, subject to reimbursement of such cost from the Facility Admissions Charges." The Hawks will be reimbursed $360,000 per year from the surcharge for such costs.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) among the City of Atlanta, the Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority and the Hawks stipulates the fee will be implemented on all events at the arena and will be in effect through June 30,2046.

The Atlanta City Council, which voted to approve the renovation deal Monday, was told about 1.2 million tickets per year are sold for Philips Arena events. Based on that figure, the $3-per-ticket fee would bring in about $3.6 million annually. (For tickets included in suite and club-seat packages, the charge will be added to the price of such packages, according to the MOU.)

In addition to traffic management, the facility admissions charge will go toward: reimbursing Atlanta for advances made to College Park under the deal to use car-rental taxes collected at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for the renovations; building a reserve fund that could be used to pay College Park in the event of two consecutive years of shortfalls; funding capital repairs and replacements over the years, such as replacing scoreboards or air conditioning units; and, finally, other Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority purposes.

The $192.5 million renovation of the 18-year-old Philips Arena -- to be funded with $142.5 million in public dollars and $50 million from the Hawks -- began this week.

The arena will be closed for approximately the next four months, reopening for the start of the Hawks'home schedule. The renovation will be spread over two off-seasons and is scheduled to be completed by the start of the Hawks' 2018-19 season, ultimately resulting in new amenities, improved basketball sight-lines, connected concourses and, perhaps most notably, removal of the wall of suites on one side of the building.

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Rafael Candido was on a powerhouse team led by Matt Liddy and now is part of efforts to raise funds in hopes of saving the WSU program.

According to a former Wright State University swimmer who is now an international business director for a company that manufactures medical equipment, a "large donor" has emerged and could help raise the funds needed to save the targeted WSU swimming and diving program for the coming season.

"Our goal was to raise $85,000 by June 30 to keep the program running and yesterday we had approximately $45,000 of that when a large donor challenged other parents to raise $20,000 and then he would match it. And that would get us there," Rafael Candido, a WSU swimmer in the 1990s who now works for Capsa Healthcare, said by phone while on a business trip to London.

"In one day's time we've talked to several people and been able to raise $9,000 of that $20,000.

"That's why I believe the swimming and diving program is going to be saved."

A month ago Wright State announced it was eliminating its long-honored men's and women's teams as part of the $30.8 million in budget cuts ordered by the university's board of trustees.

Although the overall athletic budget is scheduled to be raised by $1.4 million for the coming school year - a move criticized by many within the university but said to represent more realistic annual expenditures rather than the low-ball figures included in past budgets - Wright State said cutting swimming and diving would save $500,000 a year in salaries, travel and operational expenses.

Athletic Director Bob Grant said scholarships for the 38 athletes and coaches' salaries would be honored.

Several swimming alumni and other backers of the program take issue with that $500,000 figure. Candido said when gross revenue from swimmers' tuition and room and board is factored in, the program actually produces just over $1 million annually.

Grant was out of town and could not be reached.

"If it plays out that there is no more swimming and diving, that's a tough pill to swallow," said WSU coach Kyle Oaks. "But right now I don't see anything good coming of sitting around and pointing fingers and playing the blame game. That doesn't solve anything. Our best option is to find a way to better deal with the hand we've been dealt."

Candido and other swimming alumni agreed and set out on a three-point plan soon after the cuts were announced.

"First we asked the board of directors for more time to come up with a solution," he said of their early June meeting. "We got an extension of about 20 days."

Oaks explained the $85,000 figure: "Certain costs the university is locked into regardless, but it's my understanding that the $85,000 is the cost they could have avoided if they cut the program. It would pay for a modified schedule that would include the conference championship, the midseason championship and a few meets, most of which would be at home.

"We have just seven meets total scheduled. Six is the minimum required to be able to compete at the conference meet. The one extra meet is in case weather cancels anything along the way."

The uncertainty surrounding the program already has taken a toll. Incoming recruits are opting for other schools, Oaks admitted. At this point he knew of just one or two of his returning swimmers who was transferring but figures some of the top athletes will get calls from other programs.

He said it's difficult for swimmers to find another school two months before programs gear up again for the coming season. Rosters are set. Scholarships are taken. And there is the question of whether all academic credits will transfer so an athlete can stay on course to graduate.

Those were the next two points in their three-point plan, said Candido, who lives in Columbus:

"We want to be able to save the team this season and give these kids time to transition if they need to or time to graduate. And we want them to have time to mentally prepare if they're not going to be able to swim again.

"And the third part of our plan is to create an endowment to make sure the program is sufficient for years to come."

To facilitate the effort, the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) offered the national framework to raise the $85,000, setting up a contribution fund at http://www.cscaa.org/ savewrightstate. So now, WSU swimmers who are used to their fate being decided by a stopwatch, find themselves anxiously watching the needle of the donation meter on the CSCAA webpage.

"My plan is to stay here and advocate for the kids as best I can," Oaks said. "I told our athletes, 'Every one of you has an individual set of circumstances. You're going to feel emotionally frustrated, but I'll help you. If you want to talk to other programs and coaches I'll be happy to give them a call and do what I can for you. If you want to stay at Wright State, I'll be happy to support you in that endeavor, too.'"

The CSCAA said if the $85,000 is not reached in time, all donations will be returned.

Oaks hopes it doesn't come to that: "If the program can be saved for a season it buys time to figure out a better solution."

One point brought up in discussions is the aging WSU natatorium, but that can be a distraction, the coach said.

"I'm not a technical overlord, but in my time there I've always thought the pool was well-maintained and we never experienced any major issues," Oaks said. "We never came in and found the pool needed to be drained or it was super hot or cold or the chemicals were out of whack. I don't think the pool is going to shut down or be in disrepair tomorrow."

Candido agreed: "Regardless of what happens, the pool is not going to close now. It has passed all certifications."

Another point Can-dido offered was the way WSU swimmers and divers "advance the student body."

He offered a set of statistics from public records. He said the average ACT score of a swimmer and diver is 25.6 compared with 21.5 for the average WSU student.

He said incoming athletes had an average high school grade-point average of 3.58 compared with 3.08 of the general school population. And he said the first-year retention rate for athletes in the program is 73.9 percent compared with 67 percent of other students.

Oaks, who was a swimmer at Wooster, as was his wife, said: "Swimming has had a lot of value in my life. It taught me about myself and gave me my work ethic. It gave me an opportunity to continue higher education. I appreciate swimming for the role it's had in my entire life...

"It's been nothing but good stuff."

Candido - who came to WSU from Recife, Brazil, and soon became part of the powerhouse Raiders teams of former coach Matt Liddy - feels the same: "Swimming here changed my life completely. I wouldn't be here in the United States working toward the American dream without Wright State swimming. I think of the friends I made in that swimming pool. I met my wife at Wright State. I just learned so many valuable lessons with swimming.

"It truly saved me and that's why I can't do anything less than fight to save the program now.

"I want other kids to get the same things I did at Wright State."

Contact this reporter at tarchdeacon@coxohio.com

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

TIPP CITY - A proposed ordinance would clear the way for a new larger scoreboard at the improved stadium being planned for City Park.

The Tipp City Planning Board voted June 13 to recommend City Council approve the ordinance that would add scoreboard sign regulations to city codes.

The ordinance deals specifically with the scoreboard proposed as part of the stadium project and fundraising efforts by the nonprofit Tipp Pride Association. The group is working to raise $5.6 million privately for a stadium through sale of naming rights, advertising and other efforts

The ordinance would allow a scoreboard with 35 feet maximum height and 625 square feet of space. The current scoreboard is 25 feet tall and 300 square feet.

"This is a big setback if we can't get this (scoreboard) approved," JD Foust, Tipp City schools' athletic director, told planning board members.

The ordinance was proposed after the city zoning appeals board in May voted to deny requests for variances in existing codes for scoreboard dimensions.

A new scoreboard is part of a proposed stadium improvements project that would include a new field along with new bleachers, press box, locker rooms, ticket booth, restrooms and concession stand.

Schools Superintendent Gretta Kumpf told the board the stadium committee looked at other facilities and scoreboards and believed the proposed size would be "a good enhancement."

City Manager Tim Eggleston said the ordinance was proposed after discussions with school officials on their options following the appeals board's decision. The schools could have appealed the vote to Miami County Common Pleas Court.

Because the existing sign ordinance does not specifically address scoreboards, Eggleston said the school officials were told they could ask to add language addressing scoreboards.

"The schools wanted the opportunity to do so, so I asked staff to propose language based upon the schools' proposal as a starting point for discussion with the planning board. The planning board can then look at the request and either approve the language, disapprove the language, or modify the language prior to forwarding their recommendation to the council," Eggleston said.

In comments to the board city resident Abby Bowling asked if the ordinance would set a precedent, and if standards would be changed for others.

Before the board vote, Chairman Stacy Wall said an improved stadium would result in increased facility use. "The code section that is proposed is written very specifically for this one sign, which is a good thing," she said.

Contact this contributing writer at nancykburr@aol.com

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USA TODAY

 

There is an NFL player strolling through the Anaheim Convention Center, but no one pays him much mind. Rodger Saffold of the Los Angeles Rams is a warm and friendly character, too, but he has walked into a place where the traditional definition of sports celebrity has performed an about turn.

On a sweltering recent Friday in Southern California, the performers being begged for autographs by teenagers are teenagers themselves while Saffold stands smiling, contentedly unbothered. The chants and cheers that will soon rise up are for teams the average sports fan has never heard of. And the action to be beamed across the Internet and airwaves to screens back home is taking place here, also on screens.

This is the CWL Anaheim Open, latest stop in Major League Gaming's Call of Duty World League tour. It is one of the premier events in eSports, and maybe a glimpse at part of the future of visual entertainment. It is a real-life offshoot of a massive social movement that takes place almost exclusively online, in the world of competitive video gaming.

Call of Duty, known in gaming parlance as a first-person shooter, is played by millions worldwide. In its competitive form, CoD teams try to take down the opposition over a series of battles.

From ABLeveraging the Esports Popularity Boom

"It is exploding right now," Saffold tells USA TODAY Sports, and supporters line up for signing sessions with elite players at their sponsorship booths before the action starts. "If you are going to call eSports sports, then these guys are athletes. I can't put it simpler than that. And the sky is the limit."

Saffold, entering his eighth NFL season, did not get lost on the way to Disneyland across the street. He's here because, having played video games for years, he became more deeply involved in 2014, buying his own professional team, Rise Nation.

He and business partner Kahreem Horsley are essentially the general managers for their franchise, which participates not only in Call of Duty events but also other games such as Outbreak and Street Fighter.

They are keeping the budget in check and trying to build a tightknit unit that will grow together, but many team salaries can climb into the hundreds of thousands of dollars as competition to land the best talent heats up.

In Anaheim, hundreds of amateur teams are preparing to square off for the right to compete against the pros, but apart from a few exceptions, most will stand no chance. The pros are the equivalent of an NBA team.

"I devote probably three-quarters of every day to it," Sam "Octane" Larew, a 19-year-old Virginian who might be at community college studying political science if a baseball injury hadn't caused him to ditch the diamond and spend more time on video games. "It is my job."

Larew took valuable lessons from his time playing baseball and basketball and incorporated them into his search for video game greatness. Similarly, Major League Gaming (MLG) borrows unabashedly from typical sports in its structure. The organization has a red and blue logo just like the NBA, with a console instead of a silhouetted Jerry West separating the colors.

Some pretty decent money is involved, too. The Anaheim Open offered $200,000 in prize funds. The Call of Duty World League championship in Orlando in August has $1.5million at stake.

So how do you become good enough to make that kind of money?

"A lot more of it is willpower than people think," Larew says. "Obviously, skill comes into the picture, but it is a lot more than your ability to play the game. (There are) similarities with sports -- the physical thing isn't there, but in terms of the team aspect, drive to improve, never being satisfied, that is all there."

As the seats in front of the main stage fill, more than 100 amateur teams take their places behind them and the noise grows. The audience is young, and most are clad in brightly colored team jerseys with their name and player handle on the back. They are almost exclusively male.

Victoria Gentry, 20, an insurance agent from Columbus, Ga., and Kristen Zinzi, 19, a student from New York, are two of the female contingent. "There aren't too many girls, that's for sure," says Zinzi, who's known online as "Vendetta."

In the moments before the event is streamed online, Chris Puckett is doing his thing, too, getting ready for his latest on-camera stint. Puckett is the on-air talent for MLG and has been with the company since soon after its inception in 2002, having long ago been persuaded by the ownership group to give up a marketing degree and bring his gaming expertise to the audience.

As the industry has evolved, so, too, has Puckett. Rather than focusing too intricately on the play-by-play and possibly alienating an uninitiated observer, he prefers to delve into the emotion of the games, the back stories of the players, much like in real sports. He watches college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit, UFC caller Joe Rogan and assorted hockey commentators in search of new ways to appeal.

"Now a lot more people are able to come in and attach themselves to a player, become a fan of a new team, even if they haven't seen that level before or tried to play with that weapon in the game," Puckett says.

Professional gaming appears to be enjoying wild growth. Other games such as Counter Strike have their own tournament circuits. The richest men in Russia and China own video game teams. So does the Boston Bruins' parent company, Delaware North, which dived into eSports with an investment in Splyce, an existing team with a strong fan base. Ex-NBA stars Rick Fox and Gilbert Arenas are team owners, and English Premier League soccer power Manchester City has made a significant investment.

For players, serious wealth building is possible.

"It is kind of crazy seeing these 21-year-olds walking around knowing they are making seven figures and all they are doing is playing video games and talking to people who are like-minded," Puckett says with a smile, pointing out that many players make money from prize money, live streaming their practice games and interacting with fans. "But they are the best at what they do. Whatever field that is in, whether it is a sport or not, that needs to be recognized."

The action heats up along with the temperatures over the weekend. Optic Gaming appears to be the most popular team, with lots of chants and celebrations for its victories.

In the end, though, the tournament concludes with an upset win for Luminosity, with Larew named MVP of the event.

Whether he sees himself as an athlete or not, he sounds like one.

"I really don't think I am ever going to reach my peak," Larew adds when asked about the theory that gamers lose their edge before their mid-20s, as reflexes dim. "I am really hard on myself. I am my own biggest critic. I don't think there is ever going to be a point where I don't think I can get better."

With his share of the $80,000 first prize claimed by Luminosity, Larew has won $58,375 from his last five tournaments.

More events are coming up, and within this widening world more money and notoriety await. Larew's flight home would get canceled and then delayed, and it will be back to the grind of practice next week.

It is not an easy road, but in all honesty it's probably more fun -- and certainly more lucrative -- than college.

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USA TODAY

 

On the 45th anniversary of Title IX, I want to take you to the 90th anniversary of Title IX.

It's 2062. Women have been president of the United States for so long that men are starting to wonder when they'll get the chance again. It has been 22 consecutive years, we think, although it's easy to lose count.

There are 60 women in the U.S. Senate and 250 in the House of Representatives. There are so many female doctors and lawyers in America that it is becoming rarer every day to hire a male lawyer or go to a male doctor. In fact, some make the point that they "go to a male doctor," a twist on the "woman doctor" adage from their grandparents' day.

Women have taken over quite a few board rooms. Hundreds are in charge of universities and major corporations. A record number own or run sports teams, in the pros and in college.

What does this have to do with the girl next door playing weekend soccer, or your daughter playing on her high school volleyball team, or your niece playing AAU basketball?

Everything.

"The benefits will be in what happens after the playing days are over, namely more women in leadership positions in our society," Big East commissioner and former WNBA president Val Ackerman wrote in an email. "Whether doctors, lawyers, engineers, CEOs, senators, university presidents, tech titans -- the pathways for women will keep easing because sports can pave the way."

For much of the 20th century, this nation made a huge mistake. It denied half of its population the opportunity to learn about teamwork, sportsmanship, physical fitness, confidence and winning and losing at a young age. Boys were allowed to play sports. Girls mostly were not. This happened for generations.

Then, on June 23, 1972 -- six days after the Watergate break-in, ironically enough -- President Richard Nixon signed Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibited high schools and colleges that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of gender in any program or activity, including sports.

It took a decade or two for Title IX to get going, but the floodgates were ready to open, and they did. What happened is what you see in your neighborhood, multiplied by thousands of neighborhoods: Millions of girls and women playing sports, filling the athletic fields you drive by every day, so omnipresent that they barely attract your attention anymore. Had you driven by those fields 45 years ago, the only girls you would have seen are those who had run over to tell their brothers it was time to come home for dinner.

To put it mildly, the law has become wildly successful. America has fallen in love with what it created. The 1999 Women's World Cup soccer tournament was one of our first big hints. (The only event ever to make the covers of Time, Newsweek, People and Sports Illustrated the same week.) The record success of U.S. women at the Olympic Games, leading the way in the medal count, is another. College scholarships? Are you kidding? Name a father (or a mother) who isn't as into their daughter's games as they are their son's.

And those remaining naysayers? The three men hiding under a desk somewhere in Montana who despise Title IX? Come out now, guys. It's over.

"The passage of Title IX 45years ago changed the trajectory of American women, thus transforming our culture," Donna de Varona, Olympic gold medalist and Title IX advocate, said in an email. "We found our way into space, onto the Supreme Court and into the high echelons of politics. In the sporting arena, we became visible affirmations of what is possible, offering up strong, confident role models for future generations."

Title IX is still relatively young, but its impact has been far more dramatic than most of us realize. An Ernst & Young and espnW survey found that among businesswomen now in the C-suite (CEOs, CFOs, etc.), a stunning 94% played sports, and 52% played college sports.

Every year, this nation pumps millions of young female athletes into our culture, into the workplace, into the world. They are now in their 20s, 30s and 40s. They're not going away, and they're not going to stop playing sports recreationally, which is why the U.S. Golf Association now features women and girls in practically every one of its TV commercials, while cities big and small are adding half-marathons and triathlons by the dozens every year.

If a sports governing body or a state or local organization is not racking its collective brain trying to figure out how to attract these women into their sport, it is missing a massive, long-term financial opportunity.

Perhaps most important, these young women are not going to forget what they learned through sports.

Tennis legend and women's sports icon Billie Jean King thinks they will have a profound effect on the future of this country. "The young women graduating college in the next few years may be the first generation of women to receive equal pay for equal work in their professional lifetime and Title IX is helping secure their future," she wrote in an email.

There still are concerns, certainly. While Title IX permeates every suburban girl's life, girls and young women in less-privileged areas of urban and rural America have been missed. Men, not women, still get hired for many of the plum women's college coaching jobs. And noted Title IX attorney and Olympic gold medalist Nancy Hogshead-Makar worries that, "without some heavy backpedaling soon, the Trump administration could cripple the Department of Education for generations to come."

But, all in all, this is a very happy anniversary for Title IX. To celebrate, why not go to a girls' or women's sporting event? That 10-year-old girl out there on the soccer field? You're going to vote for her someday.

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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

U.S. Bank Stadium's governing body will consider pay raises and new ethical standards for staff members Thursday as it begins to reshape oversight of the building.

Among the proposed changes to be considered Thursday by the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) are instituting a salary cap of $60,000 for the committee's chairperson and hiring a project manager to oversee capital improvements.

Interim Chairwoman Kathleen Blatz said of the changes, "We're coming out of the start-up phase and moving much more into stadium operations."

The stadium will have been open for one year on Aug. 3. In addition to hosting the 2016 Vikings season, concerts and the X Games next month, the $1.1 billion taxpayer-subsidized building's operations already have endured upheaval.

Former Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen and Executive Director Ted Mondale were ousted in February after revelations they used high-end luxury suites to entertain friends, family and political allies, spending $32,000 in public money on food in the first several months.

Blatz, a former state Supreme Court chief justice, has been volunteer chairwoman since the two high-profile departures.

A $60,000 cap for the chairwoman's position would be less than half of what Kelm-Helgen was paid at the end of her tenure. The proposal would make clear the position is part time. Blatz "has no intention" of taking the position herself, she said. While Kelm-Helgen exercised tight control over most stadium operations, Blatz has delegated many responsibilities to Rick Evans, the executive director the board hired this spring.

Under the new proposal, the chairperson would be responsible for relationships with government and convention agencies as well as ensuring adherence to state laws and overseeing the budget and contracts.

The MSFA also will be asked Thursday to require staff to adhere to state law that prohibits participation in political activities at work. The recommendation was part of legislation that didn't survive the recent session.

Blatz, however, said it made sense for the board to make that change on its own.

Also on the agenda Thursday are pay raises of 4.5 percent for four staff members: director of finance Mary Fox-Stroman, director of communications Jenn Hathaway, project coordinator Elizabeth Brady and a finance assistant. (Evans earns $165,333 and is not receiving a raise.)

Currently, Fox-Stroman earns $131,707, Hathaway earns $97,995, Brady earns $60,000 and the finance assistant earns $29.34 an hour. The staff last had a raise in January 2016.

The new position of project manager would focus on what sorts of capital projects need to be done, issuing requests for proposals, taking bids and overseeing the work. The position would pay $90,000 plus benefits.

"It's the MSFA's job to protect the public investment in the stadium, and we believe that having this expertise in-house helps us with that," Hathaway said in a statement.

Rochelle Olson · 612-673-1747

Twitter: @rochelleolson

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The Boston Herald

 

In an article on Outsports.com for SBNation, former Patriots offensive lineman Ryan O'Callaghan came out as a gay athlete who strongly considered suicide once he retired from the NFL.

O'Callaghan told Outsports, "If you're a gay kid and you hear someone you love say 'fag,' it makes you think that in their eyes, you're just a fag too. That got to me a lot."

Drafted by the Patriots in 2006 out of the University of California, O'Callaghan played two years at right tackle, appearing in 26 games and collecting seven starts along the way.

He ended his career after two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs.

The article details how he grew up in conservative Redding, Calif., and how football was a way of shielding his sexuality from others.

"In high school, football turned into a way to go to college," he explained. "In college, football was a great cover for being gay. And then I saw the NFL mainly as a way to keep hiding my sexuality and stay alive."

He described his experience in Foxboro as a positive one.

"All you are there to do is whatever it takes to win," O'Callaghan said. "Distractions were not allowed. Everyone on the team had a job, knew their job and really focused on doing that. As little comfort as it did bring, it did help."

Things took a turn for the worse, according to the article, once he began abusing pain-killers. O'Callaghan talked about killing himself.

"I was abusing pain-killers, no question," he said. "It helped with the pain of the injuries and with the pain of being gay. I just didn't worry about being gay when I took the Vicodin. I just didn't worry."

However, after coming out to Chiefs general manager and former Patriots personnel executive Scott Pioli, O'Callaghan became more at ease with his feelings about his sexual orientation.

"Being gay wasn't just a small detail in my life, it consumed it," he said. "It's all I would think about. But now that I have come out, it rarely crosses my mind. Yeah, I'd go about my daily life in football, but thinking about hiding it and hoping no one finds out and being ready for any situation was exhausting."

O'Callaghan feels sharing his story can help others from experiencing the depth of desperation he did.

"As long as there are people killing themselves because they are gay," he said, "there is a reason for people like me to share my story and try to help."

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Copyright 2017 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

 

Paul Krebs is technically still on the job for 10 more days, albeit while using vacation days. And interim athletic director Janice Ruggiero is holding down the University of New Mexico athletics department in the meantime.

The search for a permanent replacement for Krebs has not officially started, but will as early as the end of this week.

The Journal has learned UNM will retain Atlanta-based Parker Executive Search, which specializes in job searches for higher education and college athletics, to identify finalists for the vacant position. Earlier this month, Krebs formally informed UNM he'd be retiring June 30.

While there is not a contract in place, the agreement with the search firm is believed to be for about $50,000, not including some logistical expenses such as flights, lodging and expenses for any candidate interviews the firm might do itself.

UNM, meanwhile, is expected to finalize an internal search committee this week with five or six people from around campus - none from athletics - who will ultimately review the search firm's recommendation and decide on Krebs' replacement.

That committee is expected to include multiple regents, Interim President Chaouki Abdalla, Executive Vice President of Administration David Harris and others.

A timetable to fill the position has not been named.

The search will proceed while an ongoing investigation from the New Mexico Attorney General's Office and a special audit called for by the state auditor's office are conducted in the wake of revelations about spending on a June 2015 golf junket to Scotland that athletics used public money on, including for non-university employees.

Interim contract

UNM on Tuesday released to the Journal the terms of Ruggiero's new deal as interim athletic director and a copy of the offer letter Harris sent her June 5.

The Journal requested on June 5 a copy of Ruggiero's contract.

On Tuesday, the Journal received a copy of Ruggiero's new contract that states she will be paid an annual salary of $206,250 through Dec. 31, which is a 25 percent increase over her previous contract salary of $165,000. It retains all other benefits from her previous contract signed in March for her position as deputy AD, though that has still not been released to the Journal.

Krebs earned an annual base salary and compensation package of $419,000.

In Harris' memo offering Ruggiero the interim position, it states Ruggiero's "qualifications and experience will be of assistance to me and of great benefit to UNM in providing continued leadership as we search" to find a permanent AD.

He also set forth five specific goals to focus on:

Improving internal communications in athletics.

Work with UNM on the "search process to fill the vacancy of AD."

"Review and update" the athletics department business operation manual "as needed."

Work with the purchasing department to revise current procedures to ensure compliance with UNM policy.

Do whatever is needed to comply with the findings "of the audit currently underway regarding use of UNM funds."

Harris also encouraged Ruggiero to apply for the permanent job, but she has not said publicly if she plans to do so. Should she apply, she would no longer be required to help in the search for the new AD, the memo states.

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Copyright 2017 The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

The Packers-Bears rivalry goes back generations and is full of dust-ups both on and off the field, but they don't usually end up in federal court.

Not until the Bears kept a Packer gear-wearing Russell Beckman off their Soldier Field turf.

Beckman of Mount Pleasant has been a Packers fan for years and is a season ticket-holder at Lambeau Field.

He is such a fan, though, that he's also a Bears season ticket holder so that he can cheer on the Pack when they play south of the border. The other games down there? He either sells the tickets or gives them to friends.

Beckman said he attended Packers' games at Soldier Field in both 2014 and 2015 and was allowed access to the field during pregame warm-ups, which is a season ticket-holder perk. He's a Packers fan - and he dresses like one.

Then, before the 2016 game, the Bears sent out an email to season ticket holders who had signed up for the on-field experience and let them know that no opposing gear would be allowed.

Beckman, a high school social studies teacher, called and emailed the Bears ticket office and he was told the same thing. But he's a Packers fan, so he wore the green and gold anyway and was turned back at the turf.

Beckman said Soldier Field, as a publicly owned facility, "should respect our liberties" as fans.

"I love football and I'm a fan of the game," Beckman said. "I have tremendous respect for Bears fans. They're tenacious, have grit and are loyal. But I warned the Bears and the NFL that if action wasn't taken, I'd do this."

Beckman ended up filing the 10-page lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Chicago, accusing the Bears of denying him his free-speech rights by blocking his access to the Bears' home turf while wearing Packers gear.

In the suit, Beckman states the Bears "deprived me of my ability to fully enjoy this specific on-field experience and the general experience of the Bears-Packers game at Soldier Field." He's seeking that "the Bears and the NFL be ordered by the court to not enforce this rule for the 2017 season and beyond."

Beckman is representing himself and said he hopes it is resolved by Nov. 12 - when the Packers next meet the Bears at Soldier Field.

The Bears could not immediately be reached for comment.

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News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)

 

After the bipartisan-supported repeal of House Bill 2 on March 30 - with two controversial stipulations - in House Bill 142, the Atlantic Coast Conference agreed on March 31 to again consider North Carolina venues for future neutral-site championships.

On April 4, the NCAA said HB142 met minimal requirements for the venues to be considered for its 2018-22 hosting cycle.

On April 18, the NCAA awarded 26 neutral-site championships to North Carolina for its 2018-22 cycle.

On April 19, the ACC extended its contracts for eight neutral-site championship events in North Carolina by one year. That included women's basketball at Greensboro Coliseum through 2023, women's golf at Sedgefield Country Club (Ross course) through 2021, and swimming and diving at Greensboro Aquatics Center through 2023.

RALEIGH - A state House committee on Tuesday recommended a bill that would classify communications between UNC system schools and their athletic conferences as public record.

The Republican-sponsored Senate Bill 323 is a response to House Bill 2, the divisive transgender restroom bill that was repealed March 30. Some lawmakers had criticized the ACC and NCAA for moving championship events out of North Carolina after HB 2 became law in 2016.

The bill says athletic conference communications with UNC schools and documents related to membership would be public record. SB 323 specifically mentions the ACC and the NCAA, but it would apply to all UNC schools - including UNC-Greensboro and N.C. A&T - regardless of athletic conference affiliation.

The bill lists "documents, papers, letters, photographs, films, sound recordings, magnetic or other tapes, electronic data-processing records, artifacts and other documentary material, regardless of physical form or characteristics" as potentially subject to state open records laws.

The bill's primary sponsor, Sen. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) has said the bill is designed to eliminate any confusion that materials held by public universities about these affiliations are accessible.

The records issue surfaced when the ACC and NCAA pulled their 2016-17 championship games from North Carolina because of HB2.

On Tuesday, Lee was questioned about whether the law could give a competitive advantage to private colleges that wouldn't have to adhere to the expanded public records language.

Although Lee said that "certain carve-outs and proprietary protections remain in place," he later added that "taxpayers aren't paying for private universities."

Mitch Kokai, a policy analyst with the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, said that "during the debate about college sports organizations' reactions to HB 2, some lawmakers noted confusion about public record access to this information."

"It's my understanding that this bill is designed to end that confusion and clarify that these records are accessible."

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Copyright 2017 The E.W. Scripps Company
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Abilene Reporter-News (Texas)

 

Abilene Christian director of athletics Lee De León announced Tuesday the school has received two donations totaling almost $2 million toward its new on-campus football stadium, which opens in September.

Thanks to the two donations, De León said the school has raised more than $41 million for the $50 million project.

One of the gifts is anonymous, while the other is seven figures and will go toward the naming rights of the club level in the stadium's Chuck Sitton Tower.

The donor's name will be announced at a later date.

"I'm continually amazed by the generosity of the ACU faithful," De León said. "These two generous donations demonstrate how much Abilene Christian means to its alumni and friends and how much they believe in the future of the school and ACU athletics."

The 10,000-square-foot club level can host gatherings of up to 350 people and special events such as weddings, receptions, reunions, board meetings, banquets and other functions.

Those interested in hosting an event in the club level can contact Becky Brown in ACU Athletics at 325-674-2287 or becky.brown@acu.edu

Wildcat Stadium opens Sept. 16 when ACU plays Houston Baptist in the Wildcats' Southland Conference opener. It will be the first on-campus football game at ACU in 58 years.

Season tickets for the upcoming season go on sale Monday.

Anyone interested in additional naming rights donations to help fund this project and leave a mark on Wildcat Stadium should contact Dave Kinard, senior associate director of athletics, at 325-674-6483 or dave.kinard@acu.edu

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Copyright 2017 Wichita Falls Times Record News
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Times Record News (Wichita Falls, Texas)

 

Clearing Barwise Middle School's second-floor gym of weights lined along the walls has been weighing on the minds of parents.

"The current situation is dangerous for the students," said Andrea Russell, a Barwise Parent Teacher Organization representative who addressed the Wichita Falls ISD board of trustees Monday during its meeting at the Education Center. She spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, a few minutes before the trustees rejected all three $200,000-plus bids it had received to build the weight room.

The intention, said Superintendent Michael Kuhrt, is to bid the job out again in hopes of getting a few bids closer to the $130,000 estimate it was expecting — an estimate given to the district the last time it looked into the project three or four years ago.

It's at the second-floor gym, where students delve into basketball drills, volleyball drills and the like, that weight benches, weight racks and other equipment are kept.

With athletic activities going on in that second-floor gym, parents say splitting the space between the weights and other physical education activities isn't ideal, and they are hoping the district will fulfill its promise to build a new weight room.

The promise was made when Barwise merged with Zundelowitz Junior High School two years ago. Superintendent Michael Kuhrt confirmed that parents were promised a weight room when he spoke to trustees at a special session June 6.

Before its merger with Barwise, Zundy had its own weight room that touted new equipment.

"Thousands of dollars was raised by parents, boosters, students and others to purchase top-notch equipment for this weight room. When the schools merged, the administration was told a weight room would be built at Barwise to house this new equipment. However, since the merger, it has been sitting unused and in storage.

"It is my understanding that the Barwise coaches and administrators have been told the same thing for the last 3 1/2 to four years - that to maintain equality among the middle schools, a weight room would be built for Barwise, however, this has not happened."

Of the three middle schools, Barwise is the only one without a dedicated weight room. McNiel touts its own, while Kirby's weight room is in a portable building.

The trustees at Monday night's meeting rejected all three weight room bids, the lowest of which was almost $206,000 from Cunningham Clark Construction. The other two bids were for a little more than $208,500 from Wendeborn Construction and a little more than $217,000 from Santa Rosa Construction.

Trustee Elizabeth Yeager noted at an earlier special session of the board that the lowest bid was almost 60 percent more than the district's $130,000 estimate.

Board president Dale Harvey said, "I'm very disappointed we haven't seen this through in a more timely manner. I'm equally disappointed with the bids.... I'm shocked at these amounts."

Harvey added that one of the bidding companies even submitted its own name as a reference, "which is curious to me."

Trustee Bill Franklin said, "There has to be a weight room put at Barwie." But he added that accepting the $200,000-plus bids would not be a fiscally responsible move for him to make as a representative of the taxpayers.

Trustee Bob Payton said, "The public comments were spot-on. We've kicked this down the road for far too long," saying that a $200,000 weight room would be the "Taj Mahal of weight rooms."

He added, "I'm not kicking the administration at all.... There are other things we have been focused on.... You don't have to visit that gym more than once to realize we have an issue."

Although the board discussed perhaps converting a portable into a weight room, Kuhrt said now, "Our plan is to go and rebid this.... I had different local vendors approach us.... They said they didn't know why it was that high, either."

The vendors indicated they did not bid on the weight room work because they had conflicts at the time.

Kuhrt said if the district does not get a better bid, it will move on and find another option.

Also at the meeting, the school board approved accepting a three-year software license agreement for Skyward effective Sept. 1, 2017, through Aug. 31, 2020. Skyward is the district's school management software and student information system and is what parents use, for example, to view their children's grades.

The agreement between Skyward and the Texas Education Agency will end. The arrangement had provided the Wichita Falls ISD with an opportunity to select Skyward at a discounted rate. Now that the agreement is expiring, the district needs to complete a new software agreement.

In 2016-17, the cost to the district for Skyward was almost $150,000. With the new three-year agreement, the cost will be $93,000, which is a savings compared to a one-year agreement proposal for a little more than $107,000.

The district also is saving money by hosting its own servers.

Kuhrt added that switching management systems would be a major undertaking.

Trustee Adam Groves said he realizes it's a bear to change management systems and wondered what kind of feedback the district had received from teachers. He said, as a parent, he has seen cases of grades not being posted by teachers in a timely manner.

Kuhrt said the late posting of grades is a teacher-principal issue rather than a Skyward issue.

"We frown upon grades not being entered timely," he said.

Also at the meeting, the board approved the consent agenda, which included:

Awarding a bid for basic life and accidental death and dismemberment insurance to Lincoln National for .045 cents for basic life and .020 cents for AD&D per $1,000.

Reviewing the employee resignations/retirements, as well as accepting the minutes for the May 9 and May 15 meetings.

Accepting the year-to-date financial and investment reports as of April 30.

Follow Times Record News senior editor/reporter Lana Sweeten-Shults on Twitter @LanaSweetenShul.

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Copyright 2017 Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

A third suspect has been indicted in the fatal shooting of Zaevion Dobson, a Fulton High School football player whose death spurred national headlines.

A Knox County grand jury has returned an indictment against Kipling Colbert Jr., 22, in the December 2015 shooting death of Dobson, an innocent bystander shot in what authorities believe was a gang-related retaliation shooting in Lonsdale.

Colbert joins Christopher Drone Bassett and Richard Gregory Williams III, 22, on the list of suspects facing first-degree murder charges in Dobson's death.

Colbert has long been identified by the Knoxville Police Department as a "person of interest" in the case, and police say Bassett told KPD Investigator A.J. Loeffler that Colbert was with him, Williams and Brandon Perry when two car loads of suspected gang members opened fire on a crowd of young people as retaliation for a shooting hours earlier at Perry's mother's home.

Perry's mother was struck by the gunfire. Perry himself was slain in another retaliation shooting soon after Dobson was killed. His slaying remains unsolved.

Authorities believe Perry was angry over the shooting that wounded his mother and believed it was the work of rival gang members. He recruited Bassett, Colbert, Williams and others to carry out a retaliatory attack, authorities have said.

Dobson, a sophomore at Fulton and a promising football player for the Fulton team, was hanging out with friends in Lonsdale when gunfire erupted. He was not a target and had no gang affiliations, according to police.

His friends have said Dobson, 15, was slain while shielding two girls from the gunfire. His death came at a time when deadly interactions between black men and the police were garnering headlines and prompting protests across the country. He became a symbol in the Knoxville community and as far away as the White House of the need for a solution to gun violence, street gangs and bad policing. President Barack Obama invoked Dobson's death in an impassioned speech for stricter gun controls just a month after Dobson died.

Dozens of bullets from different guns were recovered from the scene, and Bassett has said there were others involved. He specifically identified Williams and Colbert. It is not clear, though, why authorities delayed in seeking charges against Colbert. Bassett's statement cannot be used against him.

An arraignment date was not immediately available Tuesday.

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

The replacement for Darran Powell as Dunbar football coach remained unclear after the vote Tuesday night. The school district may repost the job this week.

Darran Powell is out as the Dunbar High School football coach.

On Tuesday, the Dayton Public Schools board was to vote on 97 personnel items at once, but board member Joe Lacey asked that the vote on Powell be handled separately. The other 96 items were approved unanimously.

When the board voted on Powell's contract, the margin was 3-2 in favor of retaining Powell, but a majority four votes was needed.

Robert Walker, John McManus and Hazel Rountree voted yes, while Lacey and Sheila Taylor voted no. Ron Lee recused himself because he had been absent from too many meetings in which the issue was discussed. Board member Adil Baguirov was not present.

DPS Human Resources Director Judy Spurlock said the runner-up candidate would be considered or the position would be publicly reposted, possibly this week. The board will have to approve the hire.

Rountree called it a travesty.

"This situation was not handled properly," she said. "But the people responsible are not being held accountable. I'm not going to be complicit in punishing one person when lots of people should be punished. Many people were at fault."

Powell had been supervising offseason conditioning. He is a paraprofessional at the school. He did not respond to messages for comment.

All DPS boys and girls athletics programs were placed under a three-year athletics probation and the school district was fined $10,000 by the Ohio High School Athletic Association this past spring.

That followed separate investigations of accusations by Dunbar football coaches that district AD Mark Baker had instructed the Wolverines to lose a Week 10 football game to Belmont last season so both teams would qualify for the postseason.

Pete Pullen resigned as Dunbar's AD soon after the Wolverines forfeited Weeks 9-10 games for playing an academically ineligible player, missing the postseason.

Despite the mess, Dayton's school board gave Baker a two-year contract extension.

Rountree was absent from that meeting and Lacey was the only board member to vote against that extension, saying at the time, "The rallying around the people responsible for this really disgusts me."

Rountree took a similar tack Tuesday night.

"If they all got some punishment, that would have been fine," Rountree said. "But we can't just punish one and sweep this mess under the carpet. I'm not going to be a part of it. It infuriates me that one person is taking the hit for many adults who are responsible."

That extends a turbulent period of uncertainty for City League football coaches and ADs. New interview guidelines were set that prohibited coaches from also serving in a dual AD role.

Also, prospective coaches and ADs apparently would not be considered if they had been involved in any violation of OHSAA rules or OHSAA reprimand.

The retained football coaches are Earl White (Belmont), Jim Place (Ponitz) and Brian Carter (Thurgood Marshall). Len Hampton Jr. was approved to succeed John Wortham as Meadowdale's football coach. Stivers does not have football.

The returning ADs are White (Belmont), Quiona Boffman (Dunbar), Chad Miller (Meadowdale), Tony Curington (Ponitz), Randy Risner (Stivers) and Arimya Muhammed (Thurgood Marshall).

White was the only incumbent City League coach/AD.

"I'm happy to be given the opportunity to continue to service the students of Belmont High School," he said.

It was a surprise turnabout of DPS's revised hiring process. Powell initially had been told he had been rehired as football coach by Dunbar principal Crystal Phillips this spring. DPS responded by holding a second round of interviews for all fall coaches and ADs, most after the school year had ended.

Powell also has been a Dunbar assistant basketball and track coach.

Contact these writers at sports@coxohio.com

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Copyright 2017 Chattanooga Publishing Company
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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

In the wake of the 2015 Ooltewah High School rape, three former employees of the school claim they were mistreated and should receive millions of dollars in damages.

Former Ooltewah High School Principal Jim Jarvis, the school's former athletic director Allard "Jesse" Nayadley and former head basketball coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery filed a 33-page federal lawsuit Monday, claiming school, county and state officials violated their constitutional rights by "illegally disseminating false facts" and stripping the men of the "opportunity to defend their employment against the untrue and malicious allegations."

The men, along with their wives — Amelia Jarvis, Janet Nayadley and Bonita Montgomery — filed the suit against the Hamilton County Department of Education, Tennessee Department of Children's Services, Hamilton County, the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office, Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston and former Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith.

The lawsuit alleges negligence, age and race discrimination, wrongful termination, defamation, fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty in connection with the rape case.

The lawsuit claims the defendants negligently failed to investigate the case properly and "instead reacted in knee jerk fashion, and without detailed facts."

Each of the men ask for at least $25,000 for emotional harm, pain and suffering, $1,550,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages. The wives each ask for $100,000 in damages for loss of consortium.

In December 2015, an Ooltewah High School freshman was raped by his basketball teammates with a pool cue during a team trip to Gatlinburg, Tenn. The victim, 15 at the time of the attack, suffered injuries so severe he was rushed to a hospital for emergency surgery.

The victim filed a federal lawsuit against Jarvis, Nayadley and Montgomery, including the Hamilton County Board of Education, late last year in connection with the attack. Another victim also was sexually assaulted by his teammates with a pool cue during the trip and filed a federal lawsuit in the case.

Both lawsuits claim that Hamilton County Schools and the three men ignored signs of abuse and allowed a culture of bullying and sexual assault to fester at the school, leaving students unprotected.

The three former Ooltewah employees responded to both suits last year, claiming they should not be held liable for the assaults, placing the blame solely on the students who were convicted in connection with the attack.

The cases are moving toward trial next year, and the Hamilton County school board's insurance company has been footing the bill for Jarvis, Nayadley and Montgomery's representation in those cases. But it's unclear if that representation will continue now that local attorney Curtis Bowe has filed this lawsuit on behalf of the three men, because it names Hamilton County Schools as a defendant.

In this most recent lawsuit, Jarvis, Montgomery and Nayadley deny that a culture of abuse existed at the school prior to the rape, and claim they've suffered humiliation and damage because of the allegations. The lawsuit also repeatedly disputes the findings of an independent investigation that concluded that a culture of bullying and hazing existed at Ooltewah High School.

The lawsuit claims Hamilton County Schools discriminated against Jarvis because of his age and gender. It also claims the district discriminated against Montgomery, a black man, because of his race and gender, and discriminated against Montgomery, a white man, because of his race and gender.

Last year Jarvis was transferred to be an assistant principal at East Hamilton Middle/High, but never took the position. The lawsuit claims he shouldn't have been demoted.

All three men claim in the lawsuit that Hamilton County Schools acted on false facts and information when making adverse employment decisions about them, arguing that they are not accused of child abuse or failure to report it and followed the district's guidelines and state law when handling the situation.

Montgomery and Nayadley each were suspended and transferred, which was a de facto termination, the lawsuit claims.

But the district has allowed teachers and administrators who committed crimes against children to remain employed in the district, according to the lawsuit. It claims that a teacher at Central High School and East Ridge High School had sex with students and neither the teachers nor principals at those schools were removed from their roles or treated "as poorly" as Jarvis, Montgomery and Nayadley, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit specifically goes after Smith's involvement in the fallout of the rape, claiming that he held a series of news conferences at which he misrepresented information, policy, procedures, protocol, and fiduciary duties with regard to the three men.

"This caused a media frenzy and circus of misreported facts, irresponsible reporting, misrepresentations, speculation, conjecture, and media vilifications of Jarvis, Nayadley and Montgomery," the lawsuit claims.

During his testimony in a preliminary hearing in the case, the lawsuit claims Smith misrepresented the sequence of events and spread misinformation. The lawsuit alleges he did this to "detract from his poor management abilities, and his sense of control and failure to notify the school board members timely and appropriately thereby failing to provide instruction and reassurance."

Pinkston charged Montgomery and Nayadley with failure to report child sexual abuse last February.

Montgomery found the 15-year-old bleeding in a basement bedroom but did not alert authorities, according to court testimony. When he took the boy to a hospital, medical staff reported the assault, according to the Gatlinburg Police Department.

Nayadley, who was in Gatlinburg at the time of the attack, accepted pretrial diversion last May, meaning his case would not go to a grand jury and the charges would be erased after he completed 10 hours of community service and attended a course on reporting abuse. And in December Criminal Court Judge Don Poole dismissed the charges against Montgomery.

Poole said that despite a moral obligation to report abuse, his interpretation of the statute imposes a legal obligation to report child sexual abuse only for children aged 13 to 17 and when the crimes are committed by household members, which means Montgomery was not legally obligated to report the case.

The muddiness of the statute motivated local lawmakers to begin work to rewrite the statute, making it clear that all adults are required to report child abuse cases.

The lawsuit claims that Pinkston participated in selective prosecution and violated his duty "not to prosecute the innocent" when lodging charges against Montgomery and Nayadley. Pinkston convinced the court to interpret the statute on child abuse reporting differently from its clearly written mandate, the lawsuit claims, allowing him to prosecute both men to "satisfy public outcry."

Pinkston presented and published misleading facts to the public and media, and Hamilton County should have intervened to stop him, the lawsuit states.

The Tennessee Department of Children's Services also took inappropriate action when handling the case, according to the lawsuit.

"DCS failed to follow policy, procedure, or protocol, erroneously naming Montgomery and Nayadley as persons indicated for failing to report child abuse and/or lack of supervision, all without due process under the law," the lawsuit claims.

Children's Services also filed charges against Montgomery alleging a lack of supervision, according to the lawsuit, and the administrative charge is still pending, preventing him from working as a teacher, coach or within a school system.

The lawsuit claims "the actions of the Defendants were willful, wanton, and in gross and reckless disregard for Jarvis, Nayadley and Montgomery's rights and physical safety and constitute a breach of duty to Jarvis, Nayadley and Montgomery under the circumstances."

Defendants are prevented from talking about pending cases against them in federal court, and should be served the lawsuit in coming weeks. Defendants are then expected to file a response.

Contact staff writer Kendi A. Rainwater at krainwater@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @kendi_and.

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Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

The football team is coming off a nine-win season and a win over Georgia. The basketball team far exceeded expectations by reaching the NIT finals. Going into the 2017-18 academic year, another development at Georgia Tech is also bound to please Yellow Jackets fans.

When Tech's apparel contract with Russell Athletic expires in June 2018, the school will move on to a new apparel provider.

Athletic Director Todd Stansbury has been negotiating with Adidas, Nike and Under Armour.

"With the direction that Russell's kind of moving in corporate-wise, we're going to be making a transition," said Stansbury, who said he hopes to have a decision on the next apparel deal in the next few months.

Russell Athletic's presence in Division I college athletics has decreased in recent years. In 2016-17, Tech was reportedly one of just four FBS schools with a Russell contract.

Ohio University, whose Russell Athletic contract ended this past academic year, switched to Adidas. Western Kentucky and Russell Athletic, which are both locatedinBowlingGreen, Ky., will part ways at the end of June, one year into a five-year contract extension. The school will join the Nike empire.

The brand also ended its sponsorship of an Orlando, Fla., bowl game after last season. That leaves Tech and Southern Mississippi as the only FBS schools not outfitted by Adidas, Nike or Under Armour.

Tech athletes, fans and athletic department staff were largely unenthusiastic about Russell Athletic's offerings.

"I think everyone will be pumped," said former Tech football captain Roddy Jones, estimating his reaction of the fan base. "I haven't met a single person on the Russell for life train."

Tech fans have seen Russell Athletic as a hindrance in recruiting. The apparel provider lacks the appeal of Nike, Under Armour and Adidas.

Tech athletes haven't been overwhelmed by the gear, either. Freddie Burden, captain of the 2016 team, said it was a topic of conversation among teammates almost daily.

"Especially during the season, teams will tweet out, 'We're wearing these new jerseys this weekend,'" Burden said. "We're like, 'dang, look at this jersey this team has.' "

Russell Athletic has been a Tech partner since 1992. In 2007, the company and the athletic department, then under the direction of Dan Radakovich, entered into a 10-year deal that has averaged $840,000 in cash and $1.2 million in gear.

Since then contracts have shot upward.

It has occurred at the top — UCLA and Under Armour signed a 15-year deal worth a record-breaking $280 million in May 2016 — but also at the middle. When Cincinnati left Adidas for Under Armour in 2015, its apparel deal went from a reported $525,000 annually in cash to $1 million in the first year of the new deal.

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Copyright 2017 The Post and Courier
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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

 

College of Charleston baseball coach Matt Heath is under investigation by school officials after complaints from former players about alleged abusive behavior by the head coach over the past two seasons, a source close to the athletic department told The Post and Courier on Monday.

Heath, 38, has a 59-57-1 record since taking over the program from former head coach Monte Lee, who left the College of Charleston two years ago to become the head coach at Clemson. The Cougars were 28-31 last season, suffering through their first losing season since 2001.

College of Charleston athletic director Matt Roberts and Heath both declined to comment on Monday.

The Cougars experienced an unusually high rate of player turnover since Heath took over the program in June 2015. Over the past two seasons, Charleston has had 46 different players on its roster.

Heath brought in 24 new players for the 2017 season. In a down year in the Colonial Athletic Association, the Cougars managed just a 13-11 record in conference games.

Under Lee In 2014 and 2015, the Cougars were 88-34 with back-to-back NCAA regional appearances and a super regional berth.

Heath played a key role in Charleston's success in 2014 and 2015, serving as the Cougars' pitching coach.

This is the third time in the last three years that an athletic coach at College of Charleston has been accused of abusive behavior by players.

In 2014, former men's head basketball coach Doug Wojcik was fired after allegations of physical and verbal abuse.

A year ago, former C of C women's basketball player Zoe Wallis sued the school, including head coach Candice M. Jackson, alleging "gross negligence" during a conditioning run in August 2014.

Heath, Wojcik and Jackson were all hired by former College of Charleston athletic director Joe Hull.

Heath has three years left on a five-year contract. Heath's base salary was $154,875 this past season.

 

College of Charleston head baseball coach Matt Heath. (Moultrie News photo)

 

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Copyright 2017 The Columbus Dispatch
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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

 

The family of a Westerville woman who died after contracting a brain-eating amoeba filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court in Columbus against a North Carolina outdoor recreational park and the firm that designed and engineered it.

The lawsuit was filed one year to the day after Lauren Seitz, 18, died from meningoencephalitis, which is caused by the microscopic Naegleria fowleri amoeba. The suit seeks damages in excess of $1 million.

Seitz was whitewater rafting at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, along with about 40 other people from Church of the Messiah who stopped there June 8, 2016 during a Christian music mission tour. The park offers whitewater rafting, canoeing, kayaking and other activities.

While whitewater rafting, Seitz was thrown overboard and her head went completely underwater. According to the lawsuit, Seitz came into contact with the deadly amoeba that was "present throughout the entire whitewater feature" at the park.

Seitz and the church group returned to Westerville on June 11, 2016. Three days later, she began complaining of sinus congestion. By June 16, 2016, she was transported to a hospital, where two days later she was diagnosed with the amoeba. Seitz died the next day, June 19, 2016.

Naegleria folweri are amoeba about one-third the width of a human hair that flourish in freshwater with temperatures between 86 and 107 degrees Fahrenheit, the suit states. The amoeba travels up the nasal passage, across the cribriform plate of the skull and into the brain, consuming tissue and causing flu-like symptoms before eventually causing death in 98 percent of cases, the suit states.

The lawsuit alleges that the water park and Recreation Engineering and Planning of Boulder, Colorado, caused Seitz's death by, respectively, failing to properly chlorinate the water to kill the amoeba and by designing the park with shallow channels that allow water to warm to temperatures conducive to the amoeba's growth. Neither could be reached for comment Monday night.

jwilhelm@dispatch.com

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The New York Post

 

During a soccer game early last year, Tiffany Lin began experiencing a sharp pain in her right knee.

Then a freshman at Beacon School in Hell's Kitchen, Lin tried to play through the pain but sought out a doctor when it wouldn't subside.

The diagnosis? She had Osgood-Schlatter disease, which is the inflammation of the area just below the knee. It mostly occurs during growth spurts and is exacerbated by continuous pounding of the knees that happens during sports such as soccer and running.

It wasn't difficult to figure out the culprit.

Lin, a fullback, played on three soccer teams: her varsity high-school squad, club ball in lower Manhattan and a recreation team. At times, she was playing the sport seven days a week.

"My doctor said it wouldn't have happened if I wasn't overusing my body so much," says the 16-year-old, who was sidelined for a few weeks. "I'm getting better.

I'm learning how to ice, stretch and rest." But for every teen athlete who takes a break, there are hundreds who don't heed doctors' warnings and continue to overburden their growing bodies. Eventually, many will contribute to the epidemic of overuse injuries - which are on the rise according to several studies and orthopedic doctors - now sullying youth sports.

"I'm seeing these overuse injuries in younger and younger people," says Michael A. Kelly, MD, chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Hackensack University Medical Center.

Kelly specializes in knees, but shoulders and elbows are also problem areas.

According to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM), serious shoulder and elbow injuries among youth baseball and softball players have increased fivefold since 2000.

A 2015 study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that 60 percent of all Tommy John surgeries in the US are for patients ages 15 to 19 — startling considering that professional baseball player Tommy John himself was 31 when the surgical-graft procedure was invented to repair his damaged elbow ligament in 1974. In 2010, AOSSM launched the STOP (Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention) Sports Injuries campaign to combat the worrisome trend.

The injuries are a byproduct of many factors, including hypercompetitive athletes, a growing number of travel teams and tournaments, and overzealous parents pushing their children because they believe they have the next LeBron James on their hands.

"There is a huge amount of delusion I think," says Kelly of the latter.

But the largest cause in the rise of injuries is young athletes specializing in one sport at an early age. Instead of playing lacrosse, basketball and football, they are opting to stick with just one, and it's taking a toll on their bodies.

"I've certainly seen patients with overuse injuries at 13, 14, 15, who are playing year-round ball," says Brett G. Toresdahl, a primary care sports medicine physician at the Upper East Side's Hospital for Special Surgery, who treated Lin.

"It's young people with injuries that weren't common when there was a diversity of sports — three different sports and three different seasons. The variety of the stress on their body wasn't causing it to break down to the degree we are seeing now." In fact, a few parents tell The Post that some teams even asked them to sign contracts promising their children will not play any other sport. As they focus on one discipline, kids supplement their team activities with private lessons from trainers.

"There's all of this training and private lessons," Tom Blaney, a parent in Tinley Park, Ill., tells The Post. "There's the belief that you are never going to make the high-school or travel team unless you do the private stuff." The perils of overuse hit home for Blaney, who became a sports-dad celebrity of sorts when his son Matt, a high-school pitcher, had Tommy John surgery in May 2016 at the age of 17. After the cast was removed, the elder Blaney took a picture for Facebook. When he uploaded the gruesome snap, he punctuated it with a poignant message.

"So you think throwing 120 pitches in a game as a 12 year old is ok? Of course it doesn't hurt the kid that day. But it might when he's 17," he wrote. "After I stopped being Matts coach at age 14, I allowed coaches to over use him. I take the blame." The post instantly went viral, with thousands of parents and coaches writing to both the younger and elder Blaney.

Matt, however, faults his own competitive streak.

"I think it was important that my dad put it out there," says Matt, now 18, who has since recovered and will be pitching for the University of Texas at Dallas next year. "It was me asking to pitch more after I should have hit my limit. It was coaches giving in to what I was asking for." This past December, Illinois instituted a pitch-count limit of 105 per game for highschool baseball games. (New York's limit is 105 and New Jersey's is 110; Connecticut doesn't have a limit.) But surgery doesn't guarantee that athletes will remain in the clear. Dr. Kelly is seeing more return trips to the operating room, especially with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) repairs. "These are injuries that are not reversible," says Kelly. "By the time these kids get into the next generation, we're going to be seeing [joint] replacements at a younger and younger age." Lin is resting this summer and enrolling in New Jersey's Lawrenceville School as a junior in the fall, where students are required to play multiple sports.

"They hope that I have more variety instead of just focusing on soccer," she says.

Toresdahl says we've lost sight of the original reason we put our kids on the field.

"The purpose of youth sports is to keep kids healthy, out of trouble and foster a lifelong love of exercise and sports. But there's no longer any tapering," he says.

Tom Blaney echoes those sentiments.

"Some parents are choosing to lose focus and not remember that the best part about sports is watching them hit the ball off the tee when they are 8 and a home run at 18," he says. "Enjoy it as much as you can because only one in a million go pro."

How to prevent overuse injury

• "Play a variety of sports," says Shane Capone, a doctor of physical therapy with NJ's Atlantic Physical Therapy.

• Try compound movements that work more than one muscle group, and mix it up with yoga and dynamic stretching.

• "If something feels off, go see a doctor," says Capone.

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Copyright 2017 The Salt Lake Tribune
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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp is donating his brain for medical research.

Sapp announced on social media Tuesday that his brain will go to the Concussion Legacy Foundation after his death.

The 44-year-old said in a statement that he's started to feel the effects of the many hits he took during his 13-year NFL career. He said he's specifically become concerned about his memory. Sapp said he hopes his donation can help prevent concussions and permanent brain damage for future football players.

Sapp played defensive tackle from 1995-2003 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he earned seven trips to the Pro Bowl and a Super Bowl ring in 2002. He then played for the Oakland Raiders from 2004-2007.

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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

 


A day after the first drowning of the summer at Fort Dickerson Quarry, the city of Knoxville is taking measures to try to stop people from jumping off the cliffs.

The victim of a drowning Sunday evening was a 27-year-old man identified Monday as Dezayas Smith of Knoxville. After the drowning was reported at around 7:45 p.m., a rescue squad worked into the night before the body was recovered in 165 feet of water around 12:45 a.m. Monday. The quarry is more than 200-feet-deep in spots with almost no visibility.


Smith had apparently jumped off a cliff from a height of 50 to 65 feet and did not resurface, according to Knoxville Fire Department spokesman D.J. Corcoran. He said the fire department was originally called to the scene, but after two hours the search was handed over to the Knoxville Volunteer Emergency Rescue Squad.

A member of the dive team suffered a "dive-related emergency" and was taken to a hospital for treatment, according to a rescue squad dispatcher who said she could give neither the dive team member's name nor condition.

On Monday at the quarry near the spot where the victim had jump to his death, Knoxville Parks and Recreation Director Joe Walsh announced plans to help prevent it from happening again.

"We had a meeting with the mayor this morning," he said. "We are going to put up a barricade with signage to warn people not to jump from the cliff."

Walsh noted that signs had been put up at other taller cliffs at the other end of the quarry but none had been put up where the victim had jumped.

He said the quarry, a part of Fort Dickerson Park, has increased in popularity since the city recently added a road and a parking lot that allowed people a much shorter walk to the quarry. It's located off Chapman Highway in South Knoxville.

Walsh said the city does not keep count of how many visitors the quarry attracts, but he said he had been at the park the night before when a crowd he estimated at about 70 or 80 people was leaving.

No one drowned in the quarry last year as far as Walsh said he knew, but he added several drownings had occurred in 2015 and there have been others there in the past.

"There is no fool-proof way to keep people from doing what they shouldn't be doing," Walsh said. "We are trying to identify what the issues are then try to deal with them."

Walsh said the city will soon be embarking on a project to enhance the quarry area.

"We have a plan to build this into something a little nicer with a walkway, concession stand and permanent restrooms," he said.

The project, to be conducted in phases, is expected to be finished in the next three or four years.

"We are working with the Aslan Foundation on developing the detailed plans for Fort Dickerson Park Quarry," Walsh said. "We do have some funds available in our fiscal year 2017-18 budget to help make the plans that have been developed a reality."


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Copyright 2017 Newsday, Inc.

Newsday (New York)

 

A Queens man is accused of exposing himself at a Wantagh pool on Sunday afternoon, Nassau County police said.

Wilson Kenney, 33, of Springfield Gardens, was charged with public lewdness, police said in a news release.

Shortly before 5 p.m., Kenney allegedly exposed himself on a park bench at Forest City Park Pool in front of a 17-year-old lifeguard, police said.

Kenney is to be arraigned Monday at First District Court in Hempstead.

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Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

Nearly two years before the U.S. Department of Justice completed its probe into the bizarre death of Kendrick Johnson, an FBI video analysis concluded the main targets of its investigation were nowhere near the Lowndes High School gymnasium in Valdosta where the 17-year-old victim was discovered in a rolled-up gym mat, according to a newly released documents.

"(Kendrick Johnson) and both persons of interest were in different areas of the LHS campus during the time in question," the FBI report, dated Sept. 9, 2014, states.

Yet the investigation continued, costing Brian Bell — accused by Johnson's parents of murdering their son — a football scholarship to Florida State University. Bell, along with his brother, parents, girlfriend and her parents, were also subjected to military-style law enforcement raids that turned up no evidence linking them to any crimes.

The release of the FBI analysis coincides with a decision by a federal judge late last week to dismiss a civil lawsuit filed last year by the Johnsons alleging a massive conspiracy involving FBI agent Rick Bell, Brian's father, Lowndes County' sheriff and school superintendent to "illegally cover up" Kendrick's murder by the Bell brothers along with at least one other accomplice.

The Johnsons are already facing a court order to pay the attorneys' fees of parties named in a wrongful death lawsuit they withdrew earlier in 2016. A final decision on just how much they'll have to fork over is expected by next month.

Meanwhile, the Bells have counter-sued the Johnsons and filed a separate suit against Ebony magazine for a series of articles implicating Brian and older brother Branden in Kendrick's death. The FBI analysis would only seem to bolster their claims.

"This is an egregious miscarriage of justice," said Savannah criminal defense attorney Tom Withers, a former federal prosecutor not affiliated with the legal actions surrounding Johnson's death. "It's shocking that this case would go forward after the FBI concluded these kids were not involved. It's just unbelievable."

It begs a question that continues to go unanswered. Why did Michael Moore, the former U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, go forward with the case even when the evidence pointed to an accidental death, as state and local investigators originally concluded. Johnson died as the result of accidental "positional asphyxia," the state medical examiner's office had determined, suggesting the Lowndes sophomore had suffocated as a result of being trapped upside-down in the rolled-up mat. But Johnson's parents never believed the local authorities' explanation that the he got stuck in the mat after diving in to retrieve a shoe.

Moore has repeatedly declined comment except to say, in a 2016 interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, that his goal was "to seek the truth."

Lawyers for The AJC have filed a motion moved to unseal the case file, including the affidavits that secured the search warrants conducted in 2015 by federal marshals, attired in combat gear.

"The public needs to know what happened here," said Jason Ferguson, one of the lawyers for the Bells.

Ferguson said he was told by the FBI that they stopped participating in the probe once the video analysis was completed. The FBI has declined comment, but the applications for the affidavits were signed by a Washington, D.C. police officer on loan to the Department of Justice.

The analysis, culled from surveillance cameras on the Lowndes High campus, included time stamps that adjusted discrepancies between multiple video systems used by the school. According to the report, those discrepancies were caused by the systems not being synchronized.

Brian Bell, the analysis determined, was en route towards the "D Wing" for class when Johnson was last seen entering the school's old gymnasium.

At the same time a second "person of interest," not named in the FBI report but believed to be Ryan Hall, a friend of Brian Bell mentioned in the Johnsons civil lawsuit, was seen in the school's parking lot heading towards another wing of the sprawling campus, according to the analysis.

Branden Bell, Brian's older brother who also received a target letter from Moore — which, the U.S. Attorneys Manual states, indicates "substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime" — had already been cleared by the FBI. Multiple witnesses confirmed that he was traveling with the wrestling team to Macon for a tournament at the same time Johnson was seen entering the oldgym.

Withers said sanctions might be in line for Moore if in fact he continued the investigation without any probable cause.

Georgia Bar Rule 3:8 states that a prosecutor in a criminal case shall "refrain from prosecuting a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause."

"The hurdles are high" in proving that, Withers said, and the maximum punishment, according to the state bar handbook, is public reprimand.

 

TIMELINE IN KENDRICK JOHNSON CASE

Jan.11, 2013: The body of Kendrick Johnson, a 17-yearold Lowndes High sophomore, is found inside a rolled-upgym mat in the school's old gymnasium.

Oct. 21, 2013: Kendrick's parents, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, request a coroner's inquest they hope will force the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office to reopen the case.

Oct.31, 2013: Michael Moore, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, announces a formal review "of the facts and investigation surrounding the death of Kendrick Johnson."

Sept.9, 2014: FBI completes video analysis concluding "persons of interest" — including Brian Bell, targeted by prosecutors — were in "different areas"of the Lowndes High campus at the time Johnson was seen entering the school's old gym.

Jan. 12, 2015: Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson file a$100 million lawsuit alleging local and state law enforcement conspired with school officials to cover up the involvement of two classmates in their son's death.

March 6, 2015: The parents of the teenage brothers named in the Johnson's wrongful death lawsuit countersue, alleging libel and slander and seeking$1 million in damages.

July 21, 2015: Federal agents seize computers and cellphones belonging to the brothers and their parents.

Nov. 4, 2015: Judge denies Justice Department's request to delay evidence-gathering in the countersuit; U.S. attorney Moore announces his resignation.

June 20, 2016: Justice Department announces "there is 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."The decision came following more than 100 interviews the review of "tens of thousands"emails and text messages, along with surveillance videos from Lowndes High.

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Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

Seven months after Mayor Kasim Reed made renovation of Philips Arena part of the deal to keep the Atlanta Hawks downtown, the Atlanta City Council has signed off on a way to pay for the work.

The council on Monday approved a deal between the city and College Park to extend car rental tax collections beyond their 2038 sunset to raise at least $110 million to fund a $192.5 million update of Philips, the city's downtown Atlanta sports and entertainment complex.

Now the city and College Park will collect the tax through 2047. College Park was required to sign off on the deal because it is home to the car rental facilities at Harts-field-Jackson International Airport, the source of the revenue.

"I want to thank you for your support for this important motion," Reed told the council in a rare live appearance after the vote. "In the next 10 to 15 days, we should be coming forward with a proposal for an additional billion dollars in investment as a result of the decision you all made today."

The renovation of Philips is the latest overhaul of a metro Atlanta sports stadium to receive millions in taxpayer funding. The city of Atlanta is contributing $200 million in hotel/motel taxes for the construction of the $1.4 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the Atlanta Falcons. Cobb County borrowed $378 million for the construction of SunTrust Park, the Atlanta Braves' new $672 million ball park.

In addition to the car rental revenue, the city will kick in $32.5 million for the Philips renovation from other sources, including part of the funds received from the $30 million sale of Turner Field and from two bond issuances, the city said. The Hawks will invest $50 million in the project.

The deal to renovate Philips should not be confused with a separate agreement between College Park and the Hawks to build a $20 million to $40 million facility in that south metro city for a minor league basketball team affiliated with the franchise.

City Councilwoman Felicia Moore said she is supportive of sports teams and the tourism and tax dollars that they generate. But she said residents don't feel leaders are as invested in everyday ordinary citizens.

"What I've heard from people over and over again is, 'What about us?'" Moore said. "Priority matters. And people are not feeling that they are part of the priority."

Georgia State University student Tim Franzen said he didn't understand the city's love of stadiums.

"It's insane," he said. "We are not in a crisis of resources. We are in a crisis of moral authority."

An exasperated Reed pushed back, saying he was tired of the council and his administration being beat up for what he sees as a record of accomplishment, including cutting the unemployment rate in half and millions in investment in the city.

"You are not going to come in here and question our hearts," he said.

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Copyright 2017 Chattanooga Publishing Company
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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

AstroTurf Corp., the Dalton, Ga., maker of athletic playing surfaces, is merging all its manufacturing under one roof as it moves to meet rising demand for its products.

The company, bought last year by Germany-based SportGroup Holdings after AstroTurf LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, has seen sales jump by 40 percent so far in 2017 and it's undertaking a multimillion-dollar investment in equipment, officials said.

AstroTurf Chief Executive Heard Smith said all the operations to produce synthetic turf are shifting to one 400,000-square-foot building on Callahan Road in Dalton.

"We're going to significantly reduce transportation costs and waste while improving the quality and efficiency of our manufacturing processes," he said in a statement.

AstroTurf Marketing Director Sydney Stahlbaum said the company is shifting from three separate locations to the one building it's leasing to house manufacturing. The company's headquarters will remain on Abutment Road, but operations management, human resources, information technology and research and development will have offices in the new facility.

"With this type of investment, we have a long-term intention to be there," Stahlbaum said. "We have state-of-the-art equipment."

The new facility will enable the company to control every step of its production process and make turf quicker, she said.

By the beginning of July, the company will employ more than 400 people in the manufacturing, sales, and installation of North American sports fields, the marketing director said.

"Investing in the new manufacturing facilities was critical to keep up with the rapid growth of both AstroTurf for athletic fields and SYNLawn for landscape use," she said.

AstroTurf North American revenues are in excess of $300 million, Stahlbaum said. Sales are higher due to its relationship with SportGroup Holding and organic growth, she said.

Looking ahead, Stahlbaum said, the company is expecting rapid growth domestically and abroad, with plans to expand operations to Europe, India and Asia.

Stahlbaum said one of the facilities it's leaving has housed AstroTurf operations since 1968.

"There's a lot of history in that building," she said. "We're excited about the future and growth but sad to move out of that building."

AstroTurf LLC filed for bankruptcy reorganization last year after a court granted a $30 million judgment against the company stemming from a patent infringement lawsuit brought by rival FieldTurf USA.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

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Copyright 2017 Newsday, Inc.

Newsday (New York)

 

Huntington officials found a way for special-needs campers enrolled in the town's Camp Bright Star program to go swimming, addressing the concerns of parents who said their children were being discriminated against when they learned the activity wouldn't be available this summer.

"We have to make sure that all of our kids have the same opportunities," Councilwoman Tracey Edwards said. "Inclusion, and ensuring that all kids have the same opportunities, is extremely important to me. It was a nonstarter for us to not be able to accommodate all of our kids."

Camp Bright Star will allow special-needs children to use the pool at the Huntington YMCA twice a week, reversing a prior message from the town Parks Department, Edwards said Thursday.

"I'm happy that they are rectifying the problem," said Laura Pecorella, a Huntington parent of a special-needs child. "It is a win. It's a win for all the other families."

For years, Camp Bright Star has offered its campers swimming twice a week, but town officials learned on or around May 15 that the Half Hollow Hills Schools pool usually reserved for campers would be closed for summer maintenance, said A.J. Carter, a spokesman for Town Supervisor Frank Petrone.

Carter had previously said town officials had pursued all possible alternatives for the children, to no avail. He declined to provide further details.

Other parents, including Gloria Thurer, of Melville, said they felt angry the town waited until last week to notify them about the change, particularly since the town's Adventure Camp, which serves children without special needs and is the only other town-backed camp offering swimming, would continue to provide those children pool access in Dix Hills.

"I feel the typical child is going to get the advantage, is going to have more priority, more access to swimming as opposed to a child with special needs," Thurer said last week before Edwards negotiated a solution with the YMCA.

The letter to parents, postmarked to Thurer on June 8, said the town would provide a soccer program and other activities and trips instead of swimming. Dissatisfied parents were told they could get their money back, Carter said.

"Should the notice of the parents have come a little earlier? Probably," Carter said. "But the town was trying to pursue every alternative."

Thurer's daughter Alana, 19, has Down syndrome, and she had been dreading — and delaying — telling her that one of her favorite camp activities was unavailable this summer.

Edwards, a Democrat who is running for town supervisor, learned about the issue Tuesday through an inquiry by Newsday.

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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

NASHVILLE — Nearly a year after settling a $2.48million lawsuit that brought intense national scrutiny to sexual assaults at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, campus officials on Saturday released a long-promised special review of its sexual assault policies.

The 28-page report, written by a committee of four independent experts hired by UT President Joe DiPietro, outlines concerns and recommendations drawn from interviews with leaders and students across the college system.

DiPietro said he would move forward with the experts' recommendation to hire a statewide coordinator for policies related to Title IX, the federal law that guides campuses on sexual discrimination and violence responses. He said he hoped to have that position filled by the end of the year.

Among the independent commission's four other "major recommendations:"

  • Adding additional TitleIX staff and resources
  • Updates and modifications to policy and procedures
  • Enhancing supports for students
  • Additional education, prevention and training efforts

DiPietro said it was too early to say how the system would respond . He and his staff received the report Thursday and were continuing to review it.

Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport said the most pressing challenges facing UT are not just financial.

"One of the most challenging things is culture," Davenport said. "We can get our policies and practices in order... but changing the culture in which these kinds of practices happen - that's a cause for concern for all of us."

Athletics a central focus

The Knoxville athletics department was central to allegations in the Title IX federal lawsuit that spurred the report. The lawsuit claimed the department fostered a culture that enabled sexual assaults, and that the campus disciplinary process that favored accused athletes over alleged victims.

In its settlement, the university did not admit to any wrongdoing.

The experts' review noted that the athletics department staff had demonstrated a "heightened awareness" of the importance of following sexual assault reporting procedures. The report recommended that work remain ongoing, stating: "continued targeted focus in this area should continue."

System is 'difficult to navigate'

The four-member panel was given complete independence to do its work, DiPietro said. They conducted 65 interviews and follow-up conversations with 52 administrators and staff. They also conducted a series of focus groups at UT campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Martin.

Panel members did not review individual disciplinary cases or seek out interviews with students accused of misconduct or those who alleged they were victims of sexual assault.

They instead held "listening sessions" that were open to students and gave individuals, including victims, the opportunity to request private interviews, DiPietro said.

"Students, faculty, and staff reported that due to its length and what many described as a legalistic approach, they found the (Knoxville campus') Policy to be difficult to navigate," the report said.

The report also noted "frustration" with a campus disciplinary process conducted under Tennessee Uniform Administrative Procedures Act after sexual assaults have been reported.

The process is unique to Tennessee and allows accused students to appear before an administrative law judge. But the process can lead to long delays that exceed the 60-day time frame recommended by the federal government for wrapping up student misconduct cases.

The lawsuit singled out the process for causing unnecessary delays that left accusers waiting, sometimes for months, for resolution while accused students remained on campus and, in the case of athletes, on the field.

Panelists recommended that the university system create a consistent way to evaluate whether accused students can continue to be involved in extracurricular activities during the protracted process.

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Copyright 2017 The Buffalo News
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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

The 135-foot cellular tower originally planned for a Little League ballpark could now make its way into Stiglmeier Park. It may also take root by the library at Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve. A third alternative suggested by Cheektowaga officials would place the tower behind a hot dog stand on Transit Road.

Under the original plan, the tower would be built on North Seine Drive on a parcel of land owned by Southline Little League where several baseball diamonds are located. The project, proposed last October by Blue Wireless, would be built and maintained by Upstate Construction Services.

Recently, however, a public hearing planned by Cheektowaga lawmakers to discuss the project was canceled as town officials work with developers to determine an alternative site.

"We gave them suggested locations, but they need to build a tower in the area of town that needs coverage, their dead zone," said Town Attorney Kevin G. Schenk. "By law, we cannot stop (construction of cell towers)."

The deadline for determining a location has been extended to July 20.

The Matecki Facilities Building at Stiglmeier Park is located at 500 Lawson Road. Behind the building, on the periphery of the park, soars a 95-foot communication tower owned by the town for police and information networking.

In order to use parkland, the town must receive state approval. It's called "parkland alienation," or the taking of parkland for nonpark use. When parkland is taken in New York, it is generally replaced with recreational space, Parks & Trails New York said on its website, ny4p.org.

Such a measure - called the Home Rule Request for Parkland Alienation - was submitted in May to the Assembly by Assemblywoman Monica P. Wallace, D-Lancaster, and to the State Senate by Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy, D-Buffalo. Each bill was passed Thursday.

"The bill was basically procedural," Kennedy said. "The state generally approves home rule requests. It basically allows a town to do what it had requested. This will not determine where the tower will go, but it gives the town the option."

Attorney Matthew T. Kerwin, of Barclay Damon, who represents Upstate Tower Construction, forwarded a Buffalo News request for an interview. The company did not respond.

Preliminary discussion between the Town of Cheektowaga and tower developer Upstate calls for Upstate to install a new tower - some 40 feet taller than the existing one - at the Stiglmeier site. The town would be allowed to piggyback its service network on the tower, said Council Member James P. Rogowski.

"We don't want a cell tower put up on every corner," said Rogowski, a techology instructor at Lockport High School. "Technogical needs increase every day because the demand increases. We're in 5G network today. I bet in the next 10 years, we'll be in the 12G network."

Also under consideration as possible cell tower sites are:

· Town-owned land behind the Julia Boyer Reinstein Library at 1030 Losson Road.

· An empty 17-acre parcel of land behind Ted's Hot Dogs on Transit Road between Losson and French roads.

When plans for the cell tower at Southline Little League were aired in February at a Town Board meeting, they were met by a wall of opposition. More than 220 households are located within 500 feet of the property, according to a listing obtained from the town by residents.

"The town is trying their best to find an appropriate site that's not in the middle of a residential area to put this tower up," said resident Ralph A. Majchrowicz of Martinque Drive. "The FCC has given the wireless providers great leeway. It wants cellular towers up so everyone has internet access. It's a very frustrating thing. I wouldn't want to be a councilman right now."

Longtime Council Member Gerald P. Kaminski owns several parcels of land on Losson near the site originally proposed for the cell tower. Kaminski said that it is time to call for a moratorium to give lawmakers a chance to review the town code governing wireless telecommunications. Cheektowaga adopted the chapter on cellular regulation in September 2008.

Kaminski pointed to the cell tower moratorium that the Town of Tonawanda recently imposed. Amherst is considering one, too, he said.

"A moratorium needs to happen," Kaminski said. "You have to be a good citizen."

Meanwhile, Majchrowicz does not relish waking up next to a cell tower.

"I will open up my front door and be staring at a cell tower every day," Majchrowicz said. "It's going to be a very big monster."

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

COLUMBUS — Foreign athletes could be recruited to play high school sports for a handful of private boarding schools — and the Ohio High School Athletic Association would have no chance of stopping them.

Republicans in the Ohio Senate inserted a change in the state budget bill that would allow F-1 visa holders to compete in interscholastic sports and would bar any school district, league, conference or association from having rules to the contrary.

OHSAA Assistant Commissioner Roxanne Price said the change will open the door for recruiting athletes from other countries to gain a competitive edge and possible exploitation of students.

"Someone forwarded an article to the compliance team this school year about international students who arrived in the United States with the promise of fulfilling athletic dreams, but those dreams turned to nightmares," Price said.

Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said: "I don't share their concern that a significant number of schools around Ohio are going to recruit really good athletes from other countries to come here. No. I think that's overblown."

Obhof did not disclose which lawmaker added the change to the bill.

"The rationale is if people are attending school here they ought to be able to participate in sports here. The consensus among a great deal of our caucus is that we have too many hurdles in letting people participate in extra curricular activities," he said.

Foreign students study in and visit the U.S. primarily on two types of visas issued by the U.S. Department of State: J-1 and F-1. A J-1 visa is good for one year and cannot be renewed. An F-1 is valid for as long as it takes to finish a course of study.

CurrentOHSAArulesallow exchange students on J-1 visas to participate in high school athletics, as long as certain conditions are met. The amendment inserted in the budget bill specifies that it would only apply to F-1 visa holders who attend an Ohio school that "began operating a dormitory on the school's campus prior to 2014..."

There are eight boarding schools in Ohio, though it's not clear which ones have haddormssinceatleast2014.

In 2001, the Dayton Daily News published a seven-part series that exposed the practice of foreign athletes coming to the U.S. under the guise of educational and humanitarian exchange programs but the true goal was to play basketball and land a college scholarship or go pro.

Contact this reporter at 614-224-1624 or email Laura.

Bischoff@coxinc.com

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Copyright 2017 Virginian-Pilot Companies LLC
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The Virginian — Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

CHESAPEAKE — The company behind the Virginia Beach Field House wants to build something similar in Chesapeake, and the city is all ears.

Eastern Sports Management of Fredericksburg has pitched a 120,000-square-foot indoor recreation facility for a roughly 7-acre site in Western Branch. The company would design, develop and finance the project, which - according to the proposal - would eventually cost the city at least $11 million.

Discussions began a year ago, and advocates have said the project will spur economic development in the area.

"What you need in Western Branch is something that brings people to Western Branch," said Councilman Roland Davis, an early supporter. It starts by finding a project that will generate excitement, he added.

Eastern Sports' president, John Wack, was behind the $15.7 million project that led to the opening of the 175,000-square-foot Virginia Beach Field House in 2010. It has more than 80 full- and part-time employees, according to proposal documents, and besides sports has hosted a bridal expo, a table tennis tournament and political rallies.

Western Branch is far enough from the Beach facility to reduce overlap, the documents said. The project is being proposed for a site that Jolliff Landing developers offered to the city for free as part of a rezoning approval early this year.

Beach-based Kotarides Developers intends to build more than 300 single-family homes, office space, walking trails and multiuse paths on about 168 acres northwest of Jolliff Road and Portsmouth Boulevard, near the Suffolk border. The property for the sports complex would be given to the city before the development's first certificate of occupancy is issued.

Once complete, the city or Economic Development Authority would purchase the facility from the company for $11 million. A subsidiary, ESM Chesapeake LLC, would lease and operate the complex, paying rent to the city or authority, documents said.

The company estimates the complex will generate $500,000 in food and beverage tax revenue by its third year and host 35 to 45 events annually. It would have 12 full-time and 100 part-time employees, the proposal said, mostly Chesapeake hires. It projects 3,000 members will sign up to use the fitness area.

The complex would be a mix of hard courts and turf that can be used for adult and youth sports. It could accommodate basketball, volleyball, field hockey and soccer, among others.

The front would be devoted to fitness and training, with areas for cardio, weights and group exercise, as well as spinning rooms, lockers and showers. Public memberships would be available, the documents said.

The layout includes rooms for classes, parties, day care and day camp, as well as a kitchen and lounge.

It could be designed with emergency preparedness in mind, but upgrades for shelter needs would likely increase the cost by $500,000, the documents said. Beach officials authorized about $400,000 to make its field house a hurricane shelter, according to Pilot archives, making sure the building's glass and doors could withstand a Category 2 hurricane.

It would cost the city $10,000 a day if the company manages and maintains the facility during an emergency.

Eastern Sports Management submitted the proposal under a 2002 state law that allows private groups to make unsolicited bids to build public buildings.

In a recent interview, City Manager James Baker said a 90-day window has been opened to solicit alternative proposals. City staffers will evaluate any that come in and make their recommendations to the council, whose vote is required to move forward.

"This is precisely the kind of interest in sports activity in Western Branch that I have encouraged," Mayor Alan Krasnoff said Monday.

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Copyright 2017 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

Friday: "Money, it's a gas. Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash. New car, caviar, four-star daydream. Think I'll buy me a football team."

Pink Floyd had it right oh so many years ago, even if the band was singing about soccer, not the football we know.

College football, and all college sports, revolve around money. No program can be successful without it.

That point has been highlighted in the pages of The Spokesman-Review the past week.

Jim Allen wrote about Eastern Washington's need for more money for its athletic programs. Correspondent Peter Harriman had a story on Idaho partnering with the local timber industry on its proposed arena and there was another on an innovative idea to improve concession sales. On Friday, Jacob Thorpe wrote about Washington State athletic director Bill Moos' evolving philosophy concerning financial issues.

Every college program around here needs to "grab that cash with both hands."

Heck, even Gonzaga, with all its success on the basketball scene the past few years, needs funds. It's what allows the little school from Spokane to compete with the big boys with resources backed by multimillion dollar football programs.

You think those trips to Europe to find the next great post player are free? Nope, they cost. As does every aspect of every sports program.

So where does the money come from? There is not one source. Even Oregon, with the seemingly unlimited Nike-branded wallet, has to mine multiple resources.

When you are one of the a smaller schools in your conference, like WSU, or isolated on the Palouse, like Idaho, or still climbing the ladder of success, like EWU, it's harder.

But it has to be done, and done well. Thinking outside the storage bin is imperative. So is maximizing connections. Without money, there is no way to maximize your fans' and players' four-star daydreams.

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Copyright 2017 The Buffalo News
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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

The NCAA isn't really serious about enforcing its own rules. It can't be serious if it believes the sanctions it handed down Thursday to the Louisville men's basketball program were sufficient for the crime committed.

Louisville, which is appealing the ruling, is apparently even less serious about wanting to comply with the NCAA's rules. Rick Pitino called the penalties, which include a five-game ACC suspension for Pitino, four years of probation for the program, vacated wins, scholarship reductions and a $5,000 fine, "unjust" and "over-the-top severe" Thursday.

The NCAA sanctions came about as a result of the scandal that involved Pitino's former assistant Andre McGee allegedly hiring prostitutes and strippers to attend parties for prospective recruits on campus visits. I'm not sure if there's a more direct and blatant way to break the NCAA rules about extra benefits in recruiting.

Pitino doesn't believe he did anything wrong in this scandal. He has also become quite good at throwing McGee under the bus.

Don't worry, though. McGee, who was a low-level assistant, has a 10-year show-cause order.

Pitino was cited for "failure to monitor," which is maybe the understatement of the year. McGee, however, lost his career and is banned from coaching for 10 years. The NCAA once again let the big fish off the hook and hammered the little fish.

McGee allegedly paid the prostitutes and strippers and arranged the parties, and did so on multiple occasions between 2010 and 2014.

Pitino claims he had no idea this was going on. That may be true, but it is his program, and the buck stops with him.

He hired McGee, and it was his job to know what was going on. It was his job to make sure recruits weren't violating NCAA rules. It was his job to know what his assistants were up to.

The NCAA is a bully, though, and would rather make an example out of people or schools that are inconsequential.

Pitino is a Hall of Fame coach, and Louisville is one of the best programs in the country. It is one of the NCAA's crown jewels and drives the bus toward those billion-dollar TV deals for the NCAA Tournament.

That's why the NCAA's enforcement committee is a joke and always will be.

Pitino should be the one who has the 10-year show-cause order. McGee should never be allowed to coach again.

The NCAA also took away four scholarships over four years, four opportunities for athletes to earn a free education, and did so because the adults didn't act right.

That's nonsense, too. The NCAA shouldn't be in the business of taking away opportunities from students; it should be creating them. How about taking away the four scholarships from Pitino and giving them to another athletic program?

Louisville men's basketball should absolutely be on probation for four years, but that should include a four-year postseason ban.

Vacated wins and titles are silly. It is the dumbest "penalty" the NCAA can hand out. Those games were played, and we all saw them.

The NCAA, it seems, doesn't want to punish the right people. A school president, an athletic director and a coach were all charged with overseeing the program and had to sign off on hiring McGee. School presidents and athletic directors never seem to be disciplined in these types of cases. That is ridiculous, too. If school presidents and athletic directors faced sanctions and suspensions for these kinds of things under their watch, they would become far rarer.

Louisville got off extremely light. The scholarship reductions are immoral, but they are minimal. The five-game suspension of Pitino is laughable. The vacated wins, well, you know...

The only thing more depressing than the NCAA's unwillingness to properly punish a school that broke one of the most important sets of rules is the fact that the adults at Louisville are allowing Pitino to play the victim and truly believe they are being punished too severely.

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Copyright 2017 The Salt Lake Tribune
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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

St. Petersburg, Russia Football's rule-making panel wants debate on moving to 60-minute games and stopping the clock when the ball is not in play.

Playing two halves each of 30 minutes' actual playing time would be a "radical change" to the Laws of Football, the FIFA-supported International Football Association Board acknowledged.

It features in a five-year strategy document of talking points and proposals with three goals — to increase respect, playing time and attractiveness of the game.

"The aim of this document is to generate discussion and take a 'fresh' look at how the Laws could make the game better," IFAB said in the document called "Play Fair!"

Any changes would take years to enact after discussions and trials overseen by IFAB, which revises football's laws annually and comprises officials from FIFA and the four British football federations.

Fans have become frustrated that games of 90 regulation minutes plus time added for stoppages at referees' discretion typically produce "fewer than 60 minutes of effective (actual) playing time," IFAB said.

On Saturday, there were just 47 minutes of actual playing time in Russia's 2-0 win over New Zealand to open the Confederations Cup, according to FIFA.

The game in St. Petersburg took less than 1 hour, 50 minutes from first whistle to last, which suggests a 60-minute, stop-start clock would take more than two hours to complete as football adapted.

The 60-minute, stop-start game clock proposal would take away the incentive for timewasting by players, IFAB suggested. A stadium clock could show spectators and TV viewers when the referee accounted for play having stopped.

A second idea is for referees to stop their watch as play pauses when timewasting is most likely — the final five minutes of the first half and the last 10 minutes of the second half.

Other talking points in "Fair Play!" to make games faster and fairer include:

  • Letting players pass to themselves from a free kick or corner
  • Award penalty kicks for defenders using their hands or arms to stop a goal-bound ball
  • Abolish encroachment at penalty kicks by ordering play to stop after it is saved or rebounds from the post or bar
  • Pre-match handshakes in technical area for the two coaches and referee "as a sign of respect.

FIFA showed its determination to increasing playing time and fairness by reminding Confederations Cup referees to enforce existing rules on timewasting. Referees in Russia also must monitor stoppages — including goal celebrations — more strictly by adding more additional time.

Marco van Basten, the former Netherlands and AC Milan great now leading FIFA's technical department, said on Thursday that referees typically add only one minute to the first half and three minutes to the second half.

Still, those were exactly the amounts of stoppage time added to the Russia-New Zealand game by referee Wilmar Roldan of Colombia.

FIFA has already signaled openness to radical change by Van Basten's suggestion this year that the offside rule could be abolished.

That idea was mostly met with confusion and derision, and Van Basten declined to discuss it when asked at a briefing in St. Petersburg on the eve of the Confederations Cup.

"What is going to be in the future, that's not the point at the moment," he said.

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Copyright 2017 Richmond Newspapers, Inc.
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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

BLACKSBURG — A college athletics director has a long list of duties, but two almost always are at the top.

Raise money.

Hire the right coaches.

The former is unending.

The latter is a delicate, sometimes intricate exercise. It 's a fact-based process, but is heavy on intuition and experience. Oftentimes, it's more art than science. And almost always, it has to be done quickly, requiring both sides to determine in a short period whether the fit will work.

So far in his three-plus years at Virginia Tech, athletics director Whit Babcock has worked quickly, made excellent use of his experience and intuition and is raising the art of hiring successful coaches to a new level.

Babcock faced his greatest challenge in replacing Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech's legendary football coach. Beamer held his job with the Hokies for 29 years and took the team to 23 consecutive bowl games.

Replacing him would be no easy task.

But Beamer presented Babcock with a helpful parting gift. The coach announced during the 2015 season that it would be his last on the job. Babcock had time to plan.

And the plan came together. Babcock was out in front of the field in the pursuit of Justin Fuente, who had rebuilt Memphis into a consistently successful program.

The hiring was quick, the transition smooth and the results better than anyone expected. In his first year on the job, Fuente revitalized the Hokies' offense, defensive coordinator Bud Foster maintained a strong unit, and the Hokies won the Coastal Division of the ACC.

They suffered a narrow loss to Clemson, the eventual national champion, in the ACC title game. Then, Virginia Tech came back from a 24-point halftime deficit to defeat Arkansas 35-24 in the Belk Bowl.

All the while, Babcock and Fuente made sure to honor Beamer for all he'd done to establish the Virginia Tech program on the national stage.

How the Beamer retirement/replacement/transition was handled should be a chapter in a textbook for a sports management master's program.

Babcock also wanted upgrades in men's and women's basketball and baseball.

Buzz Williams left Marquette to take the men's basketball job. Williams was coming off a 17-15 season, but had five straight NCAA appearances in the seasons before 2013-14. In his third season in Blacksburg, Williams led the Hokies to an NCAA tournament berth for the first time since 2007.

Babcock lured Kenny Brooks from James Madison to take the women's job. Brooks was perhaps the best women's coach in the state.

Last year, in his first season at Tech, Brooks' team had a tremendous start, 16-1 and No. 15 in the national rankings, before the realities of rebuilding a program in the ACC hit. An 11-game losing streak ensued, and the Hokies finished 20-14.

Brooks' history indicates losing streaks are not an every-season thing.

Thursday, Babcock introduced his most recent hire, John Szefc, a proven winner in the Big Ten and ACC. Szefc left Maryland to take the Virginia Tech job, and everyone will be surprised if he doesn't raise the level of the Hokies' baseball program.

"In its simplest form, you're only as good as the coaches you hire," Babcock said Thursday after introducing Szefc.

Of course, finding the best people possible and figuring out if they will fit in the diminutive hamlet of Blacksburg always is a challenge. Doing it quickly, often with huge amounts of money at stake, adds to the intrigue.

"It is a very interesting profession, when you talk about giving people, in football and basketball at least, tens of millions of dollars in contracts, and you sit in front of them for one day," Babcock said.

"What other business would do that? You really have to do a lot of vetting and homework and, knock wood, we've been fortunate, and I feel like we've done a very good job of that."

Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands has given Babcock the latitude to conduct the coaching searches as he sees fit. And Babcock sees two-person committees as the best fit to quickly identify the candidates, discuss the pros and cons of each and then lock in a new coach.

Babcock doesn't waste time.

"You can certainly have a wish list for coaches, but you better darn sure get that list down pretty quickly to who are the best coaches who will say yes to your job," Babcock said. "So far, we've had very good success in the one we want most also wants to be with us."

It doesn't hurt that Virginia Tech is in the ACC, one of the Power Five conferences. Babcock does not have a license to print money, but ACC members rake in enough revenue to keep them ahead of most other schools in the country.

"Out of 15 schools in the ACC, our budget is eighth or ninth, and we certainly would like to increase that," Babcock said. "But when you're at that level, you better hire and retain quality talent.

"We need to out-people people because we can't outspend them all, nor can we buy our way out of poor decisions. But if money was the only factor, Texas and Ohio State would never lose in anything."

Szefc had 149,000 reasons to be interested in the Virginia Tech job. That's the difference in his base salary in Blacksburg ($400,000 in year one) and Maryland ($251,000).

College athletics are a business and money matters. But money alone wasn't going to get Szefc to leave Maryland. He wants to compete for a national championship, which requires top-quality players and facilities. And the $18 million renovation to English Field at Union Park will offer an attractive facility for recruits.

Szefc also did his research on Virginia Tech and Babcock.

"Clearly the guys he's hiring are having success," Szefc said. "He makes people feel comfortable. It's not a take-it-or-leave-it-type attitude. I have a wife and three kids, and when I evaluate a situation, it's not just for the baseball aspects. I'm saying, 'Can I bring Barb (Szefc's wife) and those three kids into this environment and work for this man?' After the conversations I had with him, it wasn't even close. It was a layup of a decision."

Babcock prefers head coaching experience when he looks at candidates because, in most cases, the ACC is not a league for beginners.

"And I like to hire coaches who have had to hustle and scrap and maybe haven't had all the resources and have done more with less," Babcock said. "I'm looking for character and competence and the right fit for Virginia Tech."

Babcock is on a roll.

"Time will tell," he said.

Time is telling pretty well so far.

(804) 649-6444@World_of_Woody

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Copyright 2017 News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)
All Rights Reserved

News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)

 

CHAPEL HILL — Louisville received the verdict on Thursday for an NCAA infractions case that involved strippers and sex acts, and it's not good: the university is likely to lose its 2013 national championship in men's basketball, and coach Rick Pitino has been suspended for five ACC games next season.

Those are the highlights of the sanctions Louisville is facing. The NCAA infractions committee also placed the university on probation for four years, and four years' worth of men's basketball victories, from December 2010 through the spring of 2014, are at risk of being vacated. Louisville will appeal the ruling, and Pitino told reporters on Thursday that the NCAA has it all wrong.

One of the immediate questions for now, though, is what all of this means for North Carolina, which is in the midst of its own NCAA investigation. UNC recently responded to a third notice of allegations in the NCAA's long-running investigation into how bogus African Studies classes benefited athletes over a range of years.

From UNC's perspective, is there anything to be gleaned from how the infractions committee treated Louisville? And if Louisville's 2013 national championship is at risk, what does that mean for UNC's men's basketball titles in 2005 and 2009, both of which fall in the nine-year window that has been the focal point of the NCAA's investigation?

Some questions and answers:

Q. Should UNC be more worried about returning a trophy after what happened to Louisville?

A. No more worried than it was before Thursday. While it's fair to wonder about the penalties that UNC will ultimately receive, it'd be a stretch to infer that UNC's national championships are more in danger now because Louisville's 2013 championship is likely to be vacated (the NCAA is leaving it up to Louisville to determine in what games ineligible players competed).

The NCAA cases at Louisville and UNC differ in a lot of ways and one of the most important differences is this: at Louisville, basketball players who received "impermissible inducements, offers and/or extra benefits" (that's the NCAA's jargon) have been ruled retroactively ineligible.

That means that, according to NCAA rules, the games that those athletes played should be vacated. That's why the 2013 national championship is in jeopardy. It will be vacated, presumably, because Louisville had ineligible players competing in it.

At UNC, meanwhile, the NCAA has never made the case, in any of its three notices, that UNC used ineligible athletes in competition in any sport, or that the participation in the classes in question would make an athlete ineligible.

Historically, that has been the standard for vacating records - the use of ineligible athletes in competition. The NCAA has never accused UNC of doing so, and proving that an athlete who took one of the bogus African studies should have been ineligible is likely an impossible task.

Q. So does that mean UNC doesn't have to worry about losing a national championship?

A: Not necessarily. If there's one thing UNC's NCAA case has proven it's this: The NCAA operates in its own world, and within its own rules, and that world and those rules can change, seemingly at a whim, to try to adapt to unique circumstances that might present themselves.

The UNC case is unlike any the NCAA has ever investigated. UNC's most fervent allies and supporters will argue that the case doesn't fit into the NCAA rule book, and therefore that the issues within aren't subject to NCAA jurisdiction. UNC's harshest critics will argue that what happened was an egregious form of academic malpractice used to keep academically at-risk athletes eligible, and that UNC must face punishment to persevere the supposed integrity of the college sports model.

Clearly, the NCAA has had a difficult time applying its rules to the case, given that we're now on a third NOA. It's just as clear, though, that the NCAA hasn't been dissuaded from pursuing the case, and that it has devoted years of resources to it.

What any of that means, though, for UNC's ultimate sanctions is unknown. Louisville attempted to mitigate its penalties by self-imposing a postseason ban and it sat out the ACC and NCAA tournaments in 2016, and after that now the university finds its 2013 national championship in peril. UNC hasn't self-imposed any penalties, and won't, and sport-by-sport sanctions at UNC remain impossible to project with any degree of confidence.

Q. Yeah, but isn't what happened at UNC "worse" than what happened at Louisville?

A. The cases, again, are completely, vastly different — so different that a comparison isn't even all that worthwhile of an exercise. But since we're here...

One involved long-running academic malfeasance, which the NCAA alleges helped academically at-risk athletes maintain their eligibility. One involved a director of basketball operations arranging, in the NCAA's words, "adult entertainment, sex acts and/or cash" for at least 17 men's basketball players and/or players who were being recruited, among others.

Which is "worse" is a matter of opinion, and perspective, but it's undeniable that the cases contrast in a number of important ways, the most important of which probably is this: the wrongdoing at Louisville was confined to the men's basketball program, while at UNC it funneled, in a kind of nebulous way that has made it difficult for the NCAA to prosecute, through a number of sports and departments.

In the Louisville case, the NCAA brought charges of misconduct against Andre McGee, a former program assistant and director of men's basketball operations; Brandon Williams, another former program assistant in men's basketball; and Pitino, the Hall of Fame head coach.

At UNC, meanwhile, no coach in any sport has faced an allegation of misconduct. The only person associated with a team who faces any charge in the UNC case is Jan Boxill, a former women's basketball academic counselor charged with providing extra benefits in the form of impermissible academic assistance and special arrangements.

And even then, the allegations surrounding Boxill aren't central to the larger investigation into how the African Studies courses in question benefited athletes over a range of years. The other two two individuals who face NCAA charges at UNC are Julius Nyang'oro, the former African Studies department chair, and his longtime former assistant, Debby Crowder.

And so what does this all mean? It means that there aren't many comparisons to be made between what happened at Louisville and what happened at UNC.

One case was limited to one sport, and one wasn't. In one case a head coach and two members of his staff were charged with committing violations, and in the other case no coach in any sport face charges. Indeed, UNC might well face severe punishment from the NCAA Committee on Infractions. If it does, though, it won't have anything to do with what happened to Louisville on Thursday.

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Corpus Christi Caller-Times

 

In the heat of the summer, there is no better way to cool off than to dive into a swimming pool.

Some have the luxury of having access to a private pool, either their own or a friend's. Or maybe a club pool or a pool at the Y.

But for thousands of families without such access, a city pool is the ticket. The sounds of summer in the city is a pool full of neighborhood kids splashing and taking a good, cooling dip.

How is it then that of the city's seven pools, four of them were out of commission halfway into June? At one point, five of them were out of commission.

Even as two of them, Collier and T.C. Ayers, reopen, that will leave three of the seven — West Guth, Oso Pool and the Natatorium — still closed.

It's not the way the city Parks and Recreation Department planned it.

Becky Perrin, assistant director, said the department had figured that only one pool, West Guth, which is undergoing a complete makeover, would be out of commission over the summer pool season.

But unexpected delays in other construction, breakdowns of equipment due to rain and maybe just bad karma sent the majority of the city's pools into the opening days of summer on the sidelines.

And then there's this: Like much else in the municipal facilities — think streets — age has simply overtaken the pool system.

"We are dealing with older facilities issues on a continuing basis," she said.

Take Oso Pool, at 1109 Bernice, in the Cullen area. One of the recent rainstorms damaged the pool's pumps. At a more modern pool, the pump might have survived, but the design of the 1950s era pool made it susceptible to flooding.

The Natatorium, the city's only indoor pool, at 3202 Cabaniss Parkway, along Saratoga Boulevard, also is , but that is the doing of the Corpus Christi Independent School District.

It is the school district, Perrin said, that schedules repairs with both city and district sharing the cost.

The good news is at Collier and West Guth pools. Collier, 3801 Harris, just off Weber and Gollihar roads, has been undergoing a complete makeover.

This will be a new facility when the work is done, possibly by the coming week. The old facility was demolished and in its place are new public restrooms with showers, a kiddy pool and a new l-shaped pool with six lap lanes.

Collier is a year-round heated pool with lap swimmers racking up the meters over the course of the calendar. Collier, like West Guth, are part of the 2008 bond projects.

West Guth, at 9705 Up River Road, will have a zero depth pool feature. "You will be able to walk into the pool rather than use a ladder," Perrin said. Another added feature is a rock-climbing wall.

Bad weather and construction delays have held up the opening of Collier. If not for that, the pool might have made the Memorial Day opening. Those problems, the unforeseen repairs at Oso and the surprise closing of the Natatorium knocked out the best plans for having at least six of the seven pool open this summer.

One of those open pools would have been T. C. Ayers at 926 Coke, just off Interstate 37 near downtown. It was reopened for Memorial Day after an extensive makeover, but then had to close shortly afterward.

There was a problem with paint, Perrin said, but the pool was expected to reopen this past week.

That has left two pools, Greenwood at 4305 Greenwood Drive and H.E.B. at 1520 Shely, to carry the load for most of June.

With heat indices climbing into the dangerous zones, the pools are needed to help Corpus Christi cool off. Even with Ayers and Collier coming on line, that still leaves three major pools closed.

Pool attendance has dropped, of course. There has been a revenue loss for the parks department, but that's not the important thing.

For kids, families and residents who look to the city pools for a respite from the heat, the loss of the pools is a drop in the quality of life.

Nobody intended for the pools to be closed, but that doesn't make the loss any easier to bear for all those who depend on them.

Nick Jimenez has worked as a reporter, city editor and editorial page editor for more than 40 years in Corpus Christi. He is currently the editorial page editor emeritus for the Caller-Times. His commentary column appears on Sundays.

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The New York Post

 

An assistant coach on the Bronx Science girls track team was forced to resign after students complained that he snapped poolside pictures of them during a training camp, The Post has learned.

Retired teacher Charles Goldberg, 70, also came under scrutiny by the special commissioner of investigation for giving unsolicited massages to team members.

During a training camp last year, Goldberg spotted some of the female athletes limbering up poolside, according to an SCI report.

"Goldberg approached the female students, who were performing stretching exercises in the swimming pool, and took photos using his cellphone," the report states.

He stepped down after the allegations came to light.

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

CLEVELAND — The preliminary cause of death for Kent State football player Tyler Heintz on Tuesday morning has been ruled hyperthermia, which is when the body fails to adequately cool itself down under hot and humid conditions and overheats.

Research has shown that hyperthermia deaths in football often occur early in conditioning drills, in the morning, with linemen being the most susceptible.

Heintz, a 6-4, 275-pound freshman from Kenton, Ohio, collapsed during a late-morning workout on the second day of conditioning drills at Kent State. Weather conditions were 81 degrees with 65 percent humidity at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Akron Fulton Airport, which is about 15 miles from KSU, according to NOAA.

Portage County Coroner Dean DePerro's office said Friday the preliminary cause of death was hyperthermia and was not cardiac related. Officials emphasized there likely will be a minimum of six weeks to two months before a final official cause of death is delivered.

No other KSU football players are known to have had any other heat-related issues from that workout. Per NCAA rules, position coaches are not permitted to participate in the workouts. However, trainers and strength and conditioning coaches are allowed. Kent State reported earlier this week Heintz's workout was supervised.

KSU spokesman Eric Mansfield said, "We have nothing new to share at this time. We remain focused on supporting Tyler's family, teammates and the entire Kent State community as they cope with this overwhelming loss."

According to an American Meteorological Society report in 2011, hyperthermia deaths among football players, particularly linemen, are not uncommon.

It read in part: "During the period 1980-2009, there were 58 documented cases of death due to hyperthermia in football players across the United States... Deaths were most common during the first half of August, when players are not acclimatized to working out in hot and humid conditions.

"Over half of the deaths occurred during morning practices, a time perceived as safe in an effort to avoid the higher temperatures of the afternoon," the report continued.

"The higher humidity present in the morning, however, can be just as detrimental. By position, linemen are disproportionately represented among the deaths, comprising 86% of cases in which position information is available."

Heintz, 19, had completed a series of 110-yard sprints at his high school on June 9 without any issues and recently had a physical, his high school coach, Brent Fackler, told the Ravenna Record-Courier

Funeral services for Heintz are 10:30 a.m. Monday at Walnut Hills Cemetery in Kenton, Ohio.

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Copyright 2017 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

LEHI — A 45-year educator, piggy-backing on the philosophy of a former U.S. Olympic judo team advisor, says there is a remedy for athletes and teams choking. He believes there's a way to avoid that paralysis in big moments that cheats players out of the lofty rewards they deserve from all that practice time and potential.

It's the concept of the Field of Dreams, the power of affirmation, visualizing success and training the mind to win before a tipoff, kickoff, first serve or before the starting gun fires.

Dennis Meyring, who spent decades as a swimming coach in Southern California and has helped Westlake High athletics, says it works. It's even worked with family members who've had troubled kids.

I once heard Hall of Fame golfer Johnny Miller tell a group at Thanksgiving Point Golf Course that the power of affirmation by parents with children is powerful.

"Earl Woods told Tiger all his life that he would become the greatest golfer who ever lived," Miller said. "He ingrained that belief into his son and it came true."

At least before Tiger's crash in 2009, it was true, and it began before Tiger turned professional, back when he won three U.S. Amateur titles in succession, a feat unequaled.

Meyring once talked to USC's swim coach about what he did to prepare his athletes for big meets. He said he went over visualization and goal setting, things most sports psychologists emphasize. He then told Meyring of a USC female swimmer whose personal best in the 200 backstroke was 1:53. Right before nationals, she was stressed, in tears, the weight of that moment was too great. She ended up with a time of 1:59. Her mind became an anchor.

Choked.

Athletes sometimes hit a wall at crucial moments. They may have trained for the moment, possess the skill set, but are unable to do their best at times it counts the most.

Performance under stress is an art form. The oriental culture loves to address this challenge.

Meyring, captain of BYU's swim team the first years the Richards Building pool opened, has used mental programming taught to him by George Hamm, who worked with the U.S. Judo team in 1984. That year the U.S. stunned the judo world when it won silver and bronze medals at a time Japan dominated the sport. Hamm, who died in 2004, was a former Marine who served in Korea and had eighth-degree black belt status in judo and jujitsu. At the time, this was a rare achievement by Westerners.

Hamm, an expert in hypnosis and "training the 90 percent of the brain," once took a U.S. Olympian judo athlete and, without him knowing it, brought a man right off the street with a few instructions on some moves, and the random guy beat the Olympian simply by taking advantage of the American's frozen state of mind, or fear. He choked.

Hamm lectured nationally on enhanced athletic performance techniques and was a certified hypnotist used by the U.S. Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs.

"It's about your belief system, getting into that 'zone' and programming the mind," said Meyring.

Meyring has seen this work in athletes like Jimmer Fredette, whose older brother took him in a darkened hallway to practice dribbling. Fredette now believes he can score against anybody. He's seen it in Steve Young, who became a Super Bowl MVP. It is preparing the mind as well as the body.

Meyring said a child's mind cannot separate the conscious from the subconscious until 10 or 11 years old. It is ripe for programming, and what programming it receives sets a stage for that person's outlook on life.

"If a child is constantly put down, criticized or told he can't do something, it is programmed into him or her. If they are praised, encouraged, affirmed, it becomes part of their personality," said Meyring.

What Meyring says Hamm taught is a method to help "take the brakes off the brain." It gives them another tool. It doesn't guarantee victory because sometimes the other guy is just better, he says. But the brain does have a brake and it needs to be released at times.

Hamm asked Meyring to continue in what he taught before he died. It involves a little hypnosis. It involves writing a script for a specific athlete for specific acts to be performed. He puts this script on a tape and the athlete listens to it repeatedly when resting, pondering or before sleep.

Now, who knows what works, what elevates performances?

I know personally that believing leads to doing. Constructing wins in the mind does lead to victories. I've seen and experienced it in things like putting on a golf course and making free throws. Kind of thinking it in the hole or basket. Believing.

In the Biblical realm, we have the verse in Mark 9:23, "... if thou canst believe, all things are possible to he that believeth."

Maybe Meyring and Hamm are onto something. These scripts may seem hokey to some, but if some thoughts are tattooed inside your subconscious, perhaps an enlightened "brake off brain" attitude starts it in the right direction and the body follows.

And at critical junctures, it could mean the difference between winning and choking.

email: dharmon@deseretnews.com

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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

Over the past year, there were moments when Brian Holman, Utah's club lacrosse coach, believed he was on the path to becoming a Division I coach again.

But he wouldn't let himself fully buy in until Thursday afternoon, when he learned the Utes were setting up a news conference for Friday morning.

"That's when I said, 'Thank God, we're good,' " Holman said. "I didn't think they were going to call it off."

It's a story that almost defies belief: In one year, a struggling club team with no discernible tradition has arisen to become the 19th varsity sport at the University of Utah. Men's lacrosse was officially added Friday morning, when six members of the university's board of trustees voted unanimously to bring it under the Utah athletics tent with little drama and a good bit of cheering on a conference call.

When it plays its first season in the spring of 2019, Utah will be the Westernmost Division I team in men's lacrosse — Denver and Air Force are the closest geographically — and the first Pac-12 school to add the sport.

In embracing lacrosse, Utah saw a chance to forge itself as a leader in the Pac-12, getting in early on a sport that is expanding. With major financial backing, a Division I-worthy staff already in place, and an easy translation to existing facilities, the Utes decided they couldn't pass up the chance.

"To be very honest, I was very skeptical that this could come the way it did — in this day and age, it's very tough," Utah athletic director Chris Hill said. "Some things came together."

The Utah High School Activities Association recently sanctioned the sport for high school, and Holman said many East Coast players are interested in leaving familiar surroundings and coming west: He has committed players from 16 states for next year's incoming class.

Hill said he thinks several Pac-12 programs may be "on the edge" of adding men's lacrosse (five Pac-12 schools have women's teams), but by being first to the table, the Utes could force their Western competitors to play catch-up.

"I thought this morning, 'How would [football coach Kyle Whittingham] feel if he had the entire Western part of the country to recruit, and nobody else could?' And I thought that'd be pretty cool," Hill said. "Everything we do, we want to make sure we're being an innovator in the Pac-12."

The biggest factor in lacrosse's corner is money: The Utes announced the sport has received a $15.6 million endowment that will fund 75 to 80 percent of the program's annual budget. While the gift was registered to an "anonymous" donor, airline executive David Neeleman (whose son plays on the team) has been one of the primary financial forces behind molding Utah club lacrosse recently. Utah lacrosse's "Founders Club" of over 100 members has been collecting donations for a potential endowment over the past year.

The Utes themselves will start out contributing $300,000 (with the amount increasing 4 percent every year after) for lacrosse's annual budget, and the rest of the budget will be covered by the endowment, which is probably a blueprint for any other sport wishing to join the athletic department.

In January, U. of U. president David Pershing established an eight-person committee to officially consider adding lacrosse as a new sport. Chairwoman Harriet Hoph said the committee was initially skeptical that it could work.

But the more conversations they had, the more the committee's concerns were assuaged. The endowment helped secure the fiscal sustainability of the program without hurting other sports. With a male-majority student body and women's sports outnumbering men's sports, adding lacrosse would be Title IX compliant. Lacrosse also has one of the highest academic ratings in the NCAA, and Utah saw an opportunity to raise its profile in the classroom.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott helped push for the addition of lacrosse, viewing it as a TV property for Pac-12 Networks and a fast-growing sport that he enjoys.

"He's a fan of lacrosse, so he was enthusiastic about it," Hoph said. "But he also pointed out there's certainly a lot of interest in lacrosse, and just because there's growth, he saw it as a win."

Holman will be retained as the Utes head coach, and he's expected to keep his staff — which includes three Major League Lacrosse players. Utah won't be able to sign recruits until the fall and won't be able to offer financial assistance until July 1, 2018, but the team is already recruiting and working with compliance; Holman said he had received 40 text messages from recruits on Friday morning before Utah's news conference.

The team will likely start with eight scholarships split among 40 players before building its way up to a full 12.6-scholarship allotment. They'll play games on the women's soccer field and practice on the artificial surface in the center of Utah's track. The Utes are in early talks with the ACC, Big Ten and Big East to join a conference.

Holman said he understands the jump Utah will need to make to compete at the D-I level, acknowledging it will take a few years to get the program where he wants it to be. And while it's been an unlikely journey to get Utah's lacrosse where it is today, the next leap will take a lot of blood, sweat and tears.

"Be prepared, I'm warning you guys coming back in the fall," Holman said, pointing at his players lining the room. "I like those smiles now, but you probably won't be smiling come Sept. 6."

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon

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Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

Installation is almost complete at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on the largest video board in U.S. sports, a 63,800-square-foot screen that figures to be a centerpiece of the Falcons' new home.

The halo-shaped screen, which measures 58 feet tall and 1,100 feet around, is being assembled in 600 pieces -- all but 44 of which had been installed as of Thursday afternoon, when the media got a tour of the stadium. A portion of the board was lit up with test patterns.

"If you unwound that (screen) and stood it up on end, it would be the tallest building in Atlanta," said Scott Jenkins, the stadium's general manager.

Drew Slaven, Mercedes-Benz USA's vice president of marketing, called the massive video board "one of the anchors that made this stadium what this stadium is."

"Until you stand here and see a human being dwarfed by it, I don't think you really get the magnitude," Slaven said.

Related: First-Ever Halo Display Engineered By Daktronics For Mercedes-Benz Stadium

He said the automaker is shooting some content for the board, which surrounds the opening of the retractable roof, with 360-degree cameras.

"When play stops and people look at the board and see some Mercedes-Benz, it's going to be as entertaining, we hope, as the game itself," Slaven said.

The $1.5 billion-plus stadium is scheduled to open with a Falcons-Arizona Cardinals exhibition game Aug. 26.

Also noticed during Thursday's tour:

|Workers are in the process of installing a translucent, plasticlike material called ETFE to the top of the eight steel petals that make up the retractable portion of the roof. The ETFE, which will allow some natural light into the building while keeping the elements out, is being installed with the roof in the closed position.

|Work continues on the club spaces attached to premium lower-level seats along the Falcons' sideline: the Mercedes-Benz Club, where a 9-foot-high by 16-foot-wide TV hangs, and the even more exclusive AMG Lounge, where windows provide a view of the tunnel through which Falcons players will enter and exit the field.(AMG is Mercedes' high-performance brand.)

|Football helmets from every Georgia high school team are hanging in a display on a lower-level concourse wall.

The media tour showed much remaining to be done before the stadium is ready for football and soccer games: finishing the roof, installing the artificial-turf field and a lot of things in between.

Jenkins said he "fully" expects the retractable roof to be operable when the stadium debuts, although it seems likely the roof will be closed for the Falcons' Aug. 26 exhibition.

"The reality is in August with 90-degree temperatures and high humidity, I don't think people are going to want to sit in here and sweat after experiencing the Georgia Dome," Jenkins said. But "if it's a beautiful night" for the Falcons' regular-season home opener Sept. 17, "we'd like to have the roof open," he said.

Jenkins, who has opened three stadiums in other cities, said Mercedes-Benz Stadium is "in better shape than is typical" 72 days before the first event. He noted many parts of the stadium, such as concession stands and suites, are largely finished.

"We are in a good place," he said. "But there's a lot to do yet, and we're running out of time, so you can tell the pace has quickened."

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

WASHINGTON — Republicans and Democrats took the field for their annual charity baseball game at Nationals Park Thursday, continuing a treasured tradition of setting aside political divisions for a few hours of spirited competition a day after a shooting rampage left a wounded colleague fighting for survival.

The Congressional Baseball Game for Charity took on a serious meaning this year as organizers and attendees said it was a chance to show the nation that more unites Americans of both parties than divides them and that the event could not be shut down by a gunman.

"I have some friends who are interns who were talking about going, and after the shooting, I mean, I have to go," said Emily Cleveland of Danville, Ill., as she entered the stadium. "I think it's a big statement that they're still having it. I think it's saying a lot because it's America's pastime. It's a really American thing to do, to just go ahead anyway."

A gunman fired on the Republican team's practice on a suburban Virginia field Wednesday, critically wounding Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise and injuring three other people as horrified legislators and staffers scrambled for cover amid a barrage of bullets. Scalise, the third most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives, was shot through the hip and listed in critical condition at Medstar Washington Hospital Center on Thursday after undergoing a third surgery.

"He's in some trouble," President Trump said during a jobs event at the White House. He called Scalise a "great fighter."

Lawmakers donned Louisiana State University ball caps in Scalise's honor.

The crowd applauded Capitol Police officer David Bailey — who was injured as he fired on the shooter — as he hobbled to the mound on crutches and tossed the ceremonial first pitch.

Trump delivered a videotaped statement, saying the game is evidence that "we will not be intimidated... the game will go on."

"Last year, we set records with $500,000 raised for charity and 10,000 fans, and already we're topped $1 million in donations and sold more than 20,000 tickets" before game time, said Sean Brown, a volunteer with the Congressional Sports Foundation, which organizes the event.

"Were in town because we're tourists, and I mean I heard about the shooting, and I was like, 'Wow, it would be cool to come today to show support for the congressmen,' " said Otis Amick of Phoenix. "I think a good turnout today would be a good statement against what happened yesterday."

Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond, the Democrats' star pitcher, said he and Scalise are close friends and work together on many issues, but there's an intense rivalry on the baseball field.

"We will miss Steve on the field," Richmond said.

Despite all the talk about bipartisanship in the wake of the shooting, Richmond said the game will be very partisan.

"We will go at it," he said. "I know Steve wouldn't have it no other way."

This year, the charities that will benefit include the Washington Literacy Center, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington and the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation.

Contributing: Emma Kinery, Katherine Fitzgerald and Deborah Barfield Berry

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

"Not only was this unjust and over the top in its severity, but I've lost a lot of faith in the NCAA," said Louisville coach Rick Pitino.

LOUISVILLE, KY. - The NCAA didn't feel Louisville went far enough with its self-imposed sanctions following a sex scandal investigation, so the governing body Thursday handed down a few more.

An outraged Rick Pitino feels the NCAA went too far.

After completing its investigation of Katina Powell's allegations that she and other escorts were hired to have sex parties and strip for Louisville recruits and players, antics the NCAA described as "repugnant," it benched the Cardinals men's basketball coach for five games and imposed several other penalties.

Pitino's suspension is less than Jim Boeheim and Larry Brown recently received for NCAA violations.

Still, Louisville said it is appealing the NCAA's decision, and even that wasn't enough for Pitino. He fired a few salvos at the NCAA after reviewing the report.

"Not only was this unjust and over the top in its severity," the coach said at a news conference, "but I've lost a lot of faith in the NCAA."

Pitino, who has repeatedly denied any knowledge of former assistant Andre McGee's interactions with Powell, wasn't done.

"We are devastated by the news, all of us are," the Hall of Fame coach added. "But moving forward we believe we will win the appeal because it's right and it's just, and what went on was unjust and inconceivable."

The NCAA suspended Pitino for five Atlantic Coast Conference games; Boeheim and Brown each served nine-game suspensions.

Louisville had self-imposed several sanctions, including a postseason ban in 2015-16.

From ABReport: Louisville to Receive Notice of Allegations

The NCAA accepted those, and tacked on more. The other penalties Louisville received include vacating wins in which ineligible players participated, placing the basketball program on four years' probation and issuing a 10-year show-cause order for McGee, Louisville's former basketball operations director.

The NCAA has not vacated the Cardinals' 2013 national championship - yet. And that might be one reason Pitino and Louisville officials are adamant about appealing the decision.

The NCAA said the school must determine which games ineligible players participated in, and that might include the Cardinals title game. Players deemed ineligible would be those involved in the sex parties, which are considered impermissible benefits.

Compliance consultant Chuck Smrt, hired by Louisville when the allegations surfaced, estimated that 108 regular-season games and approximately 15 NCAA wins could be impacted - including the Cardinals' third national championship.

Other penalties prescribed by the panel include men's basketball scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions; a fine of $5,000, plus the university must return money received through conference revenue sharing for its appearances in the 2012 to 2015 NCAA men's basketball championships.

"We intend to appeal all aspects of the penalties," Louisville interim President Greg Postel said.

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Copyright 2017 CMG Corporate Services, Inc. on behalf of itself and the Newspapers Jun 15, 2017

 

A lawsuit is delaying demolition and construction on the Palm Beach recreation center but it hasn't stopped work completely. And, it gives the town more time to cut construction costs.

Public Works Director Paul Brazil told the Town Council Wednesday that staff members are working on pre -construction tasks such as soil testing, utility mapping, foundation and drainage scoping and other engineering work.

That ongoing work is expected to reduce currently over-budget cost projections.

Recreation Director Beth Zickar handed council members more than 200 pages of material during the meeting Wednesday that provide an update on the project's design and budget. She said the reports weren't included in backup materials for the council meeting because the rec center's "guaranteed maximum price" proposal wasn't on the agenda. The council was scheduled to hear about a construction management agreement for the center but members decided to revisit that topic later, closer to final contract approval and the project start date.

"This is just additional information that we were providing them," she said of the budget update Wednesday after the meeting.

The latest report from town contractor Hedrick Brothers, released June 9, estimates construction costs over budget at $10.6 million. Zickar said the town had estimated $9.7 million for construction costs. Money for fitness equipment and furniture brings the total project budget to the much-publicized $11.1 million, Zickar said.

"These numbers are very preliminary and we are working very hard to bring those numbers in within budget," Zickar said by phone. "In no way do the numbers reflect what the final number will be."

The town had planned to begin demolition this summer. Three residents filed a lawsuit last month challenging the council's approval of several variances. The town has yet to submit a response, according to court records. Town Attorney John Randolph said Tuesday that the lawsuit "will not go away very soon."

Brazil said in his memo that construction likely won't begin until spring-summer 2018, depending on litigation.

Construction reports

The first of three reports from Hedrick Brothers, finished in early May, projected construction costs of $11.8 million. A second report, released in late May, projected a $12 million project.

The town found the first two budgets "unacceptable" and "aggressively pursued cost saves and alternatives," according to a memo from Brazil.

Brazil said the town could cut another $1 million from the budget depending on the type of material for the roof tile, ceilings, railings, lighting and hardscape options.

"The project team will use the additional time resulting from the delay to further refine the costs and provide feedback on cost/quality trade-offs as the plans/specifications are being completed," he wrote in the memo.

Brazil said it would be several months before staff returns to the council with a "guaranteed maximum price." Council members didn't comment on the budget Wednesday.

-- akopf@ pbdailynews.com Twitter: @aleesekopf

Ongoing work is expected to reduce currently over-budget cost projections.

 

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Copyright 2017 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

Pick a weekday morning and you'll find them at the HUB Sports Center playing up a storm.

The huge Spokane Valley sports facility is home to any number of activities, from top-level club volleyball and basketball tournaments to martial arts tournaments and Zumba.

But one sport has developed a big following, especially among, shall we say, more mature athletes: pickleball.

Pickleball is a racquet sport played with a solid paddle and a Wiffle Ball — it's sort of like tennis played at the speed of badminton.

It takes a pretty good whack to get the ball over the net with amount of pace, so players don't need to check their swing in order to keep the ball on the court.

And like a good tennis match, the point often comes down to bang-bang play at the net.

"We had a couple firemen playing each other in singles just this morning," Executive Director Phil Champlin said. "We even have a 96-year-old player who comes in twice a week.

"This game does a nice job of helping you maintain good balance without taking a pounding on your joints the way some sports can. There's no real pressure on any of your joints."

It shouldn't surprise anyone that the game has caught on. After all, it was invented on Bainbridge Island in 1965 for former Lt. Gov. Joel Pritchard.

The story goes that Pritchard came home from a golf game and found his friends and family bored one Saturday afternoon. His attempt to drum up a game of badminton was thwarted by the fact that, well, no one could remember where they left the shuttlecocks.

So they improvised. They lowered the badminton net, grabbed a wiffle ball and fashioned some paddles out of plywood.

And a sport was born.

That name? According to Joan Pritchard, Joel's wife, the name was inspired by the term "pickle boat," given to the last fishing boat to return to port with its catch. The legend the game was named after Pickles, the family dog, sounds good but overlooks a significant fact, she claims.

"Pickles wasn't on the scene for two more years," she's quoted as saying. "The dog was named for the game."

Played with much of the same rules as tennis, the game requires good hand-eye coordination but the kind of running needed to play tennis.

Over the years the actual ball grew a little more substantial to withstand the constant battering and the plywood paddles have gone significantly more hi-tech.

"These paddles are a composite material, and they're made by a local company, Selkirk," Champlin said. "They actually come in here and let people try out racquets to find one they like.

"It's really popular. There are a couple facilities in Post Falls and Coeur d'Alene that have put in outdoor courts and a good number of people come here to play in the morning and then head over there to play in the afternoon."

Champlin said the number of players at a given session goes up over the winter, when the number of alternative forms of exercise dwindle. But there remains a healthy number of players out anytime there's a session.

"The people who play pickleball are very welcoming of new players and encourage newcomers to try the game," he said. "We have a few players that we've designated as ambassadors who help monitor the courts and make sure everything runs smoothly."

The HUB hosts pickleball tournaments and puts on a clinic on the second Wednesday of every month for beginners. Players are encouraged to drop in and give the sport a try.

A complete list of pickleball sessions is available on the center's website: www.hubsportscenter.org.

Contact the writer: steve.christilaw@gmail.com

 

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Copyright 2017 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

In the unending desire of higher education institutions to differentiate themselves as unique, the University of Idaho is aligning itself with the state's widely recognized timber industry.

Idaho will build its new basketball arena with wood.

"It ties in with our land grant mission. It ties in with the timber industry. It ties in with our need for a facility. This is really resonating with people," UI Athletic Director Rob Spear said.

As the UI works through the transition that will see it return to the Big Sky Conference as a football-playing member in 2018 after two decades as an NCAA Football Bowl Series school, the new arena is a bold statement UI athletics are not simply retrenching.

Mass timber construction, while a well-established technology in Canada, is still new in the U.S. The university already built a plant nursery with wood.

"It won sustainability awards," Spear said.

This was the germ of the idea to use mass timber construction for a basketball arena. Opsis Architecture of Portland, which has done several projects at the UI - including the campus centerpiece Teaching and Learning Center - will design the building.

The computer screen on Spear's desk is filled with titles of facilities plans. Leaning against an office wall are a dozen or so large scale artists' renderings of potential arenas.

From a trove of documents, Spear produces bound feasibility studies from 1969 and 2007 for a basketball arena.

"It's really important to get a shovel in the ground to show we are serious after 50 years of talking about this," he said.

Fundraising for the $30 million facility, which will include a 4,500- to 4,700-seat performance court, a practice gym, coaches offices and space for conventions, is 67 percent complete. The building is set to open in 2020, late 2019 at the earliest.

Taking on such a capital project reflects UI's ability to operate in the higher echelon of athletic fundraising even if going forward it will do so as a Football Championship Series school.

If one of the fundamental aspects of paying for big-time college sports is the realization you are never "there," that the Power Five conferences keep raising the bar, there is enough of that in Idaho's DNA to keep the university looking forward and thinking big. After the arena is built, the athletic department will swing into raising money to improve soccer facilities and beyond that to possibly expanding the Kibbie Dome.

"You just can't stop," Spear said.

A lesson learned 35 years ago is in part responsible for this urgency. In 1982, Don Monson's Vandals men's basketball team was ranked among the top 10. It played in the NCAA regional tournament and it was the subject of a Sports Illustrated feature.

"In 1982, we were the Gonzaga of the west," Spear said. "We did not capitalize on that. Shame on us."

Now the prospect of unveiling an innovative and dramatic basketball venue is helping UI negotiate the financial landscape on its journey from FBS to FCS. The school hopes the buzz associated with building the arena carries over to fundraising for athletic department operating revenue, offsetting an expected loss of $1 million in conference revenue from football guarantees when Idaho exits the FBS Sun Belt Conference.

A USA Today study using revenue statistics from 2015 shows institutional support of $8.4 million and student fees of $2.1 million comprised 53.05 percent of Idaho's $19.7 million athletic budget. Contributed fees, $3.2 million, rights and licensing revenue, $2.5 million, ticket sales, $632,000 and other revenue made up the remaining $9.2 million.

Ideally, the ratio between institutional support and revenue raised by the athletic department would be 50-50, according to Spear.

But there is no one-size-fits-all blueprint. For example, Washington State University's $54 million athletic budget includes only 11.3 percent public money, according to USA Today, reflecting the Pac-12 Conference's immense television deal. Eastern Washington University's $13.4 million athletic budget, by contrast, included 69.4 percent public funds.

If Idaho is already in the ballpark of its desired split between institutional backing and athletic department revenue, the challenge is staying there. While the number of athletic department donors overall is up, Spear said, money raised has fallen about $200,000, because of four or five large donors' discontent with the move to FCS.

"It's up to us to get them back in the fold," Spear said.

Most annual contributors are motivated by a desire to support student-athletes. The question remains: Does it matter if those athletes are competing in the Sun Belt or the Big Sky?

Dee Blair graduated from Idaho in 1969 and returned to Moscow to live in 2006. An avid Vandals fan, she attends both men's and women's games, and has worked with the Latah County Boosters selling 50-50 raffle tickets. Certainly it's the shallow end of the donor pool. Still, do raffle ticket buyers care what conference Idaho competes in?

"I don't think so," Blair said. "Who knows anything about (Sun Belt school) Georgia State?

"Most people go to games to support the teams and their efforts.

"I know some of the donors would rather play Division I. But most of us diehard fans are glad to be in the Big Sky. We like to beat up on Montanans. Most of us like the band, we don't care what league we're in."

As an FBS school, Idaho supports 16 men's and women's sports, about 350 athletes. As an FCS school, it could drop to 14 sports as long as it maintains an appropriate Title IX ratio of opportunities for women's athletes. Over the next year school officials will decide how many sports to continue playing, and, equally important, what sports to offer.

"We need to sponsor the sports that are right for the institution," sports that are grounded in the athletic culture of the Northwest, Spear said.

"You can grow your way out of a problem or cut your way out," he said. "We would prefer to grow our way out," although he acknowledges the ultimate answer may include both.

Also, as an FBS school, Idaho is near the bottom of the division for what it pays football coaches. If it can maintain its current funding level, it will be near the top of FCS.

If the new mass timber construction basketball arena testifies to Idaho's ability to get the most out of its athletic dollars, there is some history for this.

Since it is leaving the FBS, the university can no longer compete for the Excellence in Management Cup presented by Texas A&M University.

"The purpose of the EM Cup," the university explains, "is to bring awareness to NCAA athletic departments that are maximizing fiscal resources through championship victories. In other words, the less money spent in relation to championships won, the more points are earned."

In 2014, Idaho won the cup.

 

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Copyright 2017 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

Oregon State pitcher Luke Heimlich, who as a teenager pleaded guilty to molesting a 6-year-old girl, was not taken in Major League Baseball's draft.

Heimlich was the top pitcher during the regular season for the No. 1-ranked Beavers, who have lost just four games and are headed to the College World Series starting this weekend in Omaha, Nebraska.

On Wednesday before practice, coach Pat Casey would not say whether Heimlich would pitch during the World Series.

"All I can say about Luke Heimlich is that I'm praying for him, his family, anybody that was involved in that matter, especially the little girl," he told reporters. "It's just sad that they're going through the suffering again as a family."

Heimlich has compiled an 11-1 record with a 0.76 ERA. The left-hander from Puyallup, Washington, had been projected to be an early-round pick in the draft, which ended Wednesday without him being selected.

Details about his criminal history were revealed last week in a story published by The Oregonian/OregonLive. In an editorial accompanying the article, the newspaper said it learned about Heimlich's 2012 conviction in Washington state after running a background check that it routinely does for in-depth profiles.

Prosecutors initially charged Heimlich with two counts of molestation for abuse that began when the girl was 4, The Oregonian said. He ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of molestation between February 2011 and December 2011, a period during which he was 15. Prosecutors dismissed the other charge as part of a plea bargain.

He entered a diversion program, received two years of probation and was ordered to attend sex offender treatment for two years, according to court records. He was sentenced to 40 weeks of detention at Washington's Juvenile Rehabilitation authority. But that sentence was suspended and he served no time, according to court records, because he successfully completed probation.

Heimlich was classified in Washington state as the lowest-level sex offender with little risk of repeating the behavior. He finished his probation and court-ordered classes in fall 2014, around the time he moved to Corvallis to attend Oregon State.

"As a 16-year-old I was placed on juvenile court probation and ordered to participate in an individual counseling program. I'm grateful for the counseling I received and since then I realized the only way forward was to work each day on becoming the best person, community member and student I can possibly be," Heimlich said in a statement released by his Corvallis attorney last week.

The Beavers are the top seed in the NCAA Tournament. Heimlich pitched in the opening round for the Beavers, before the story broke. He asked that he be removed from the rotation in the super regional round.

OSU has not commented on the matter, citing privacy rules.

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Copyright 2017 Newsday, Inc.

Newsday (New York)

 

Lawyers for five U.S. Merchant Marine Academy soccer players who are under federal investigation appeared in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, seeking to reverse the school's decision barring the students from graduating with their class on Saturday.

In a brief hearing before Judge Leonard Wexler in Central Islip, the attorney for four of the students argued the Kings Point academy is withholding their degrees without formal charges or due process spelled out in the school's regulations. Both sides are expected back in federal court at 3 p.m. Thursday.

The judge declined to hear the case of a fifth student who filed a separate suit, which was assigned to a different judge.

Wexler suggested that the academy allow the four students to graduate and receive their diplomas under a "conditional graduation."

"There's probably no law under what I've just done," he said. "But I think it's a practical approach."

The students are among a group of upperclassmen soccer players under investigation by the Office of Inspector General in the U.S. Department of Transportation, the federal agency that oversees the academy. The investigation centers on an alleged incident directed at a freshman player that occurred in September on a team bus, according to court documents.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Knapp, representing the federal service academy, said in court that the inspector general's investigation involves "alleged assault."

Because the probe is continuing, federal officials have not provided details on the incident or incidents. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), chairman of USMMA's Board of Visitors, told Newsday this week the investigation stemmed from an incident that was "something of a sexual nature."

Last week, Rear Adm. James A. Helis, the academy's superintendent, suspended the men's Division III soccer program pending the outcome of the investigation.

During Wednesday's hearing, Michael Cassell, the Jericho lawyer for the four plaintiffs, said the students should receive a "notice of charges" and an administrative hearing.

"They're just being placed in limbo," he said.

Wexler made the suggestion on "conditional graduation" and asked Cassell, in reference to the students, "How about if they're wrong?"

The judge said the approach should satisfy both sides. "He'll get his due process and you'll get your diploma back if you're right," Wexler said, referring first to the students' lawyer's stance and secondly to Knapp's position for the academy.

Knapp said he wanted time to review the plaintiffs' motion and expressed concern about Wexler's suggestion, saying after students graduate "they're no longer under the thumb of the academy."

A spokeswoman with the Maritime Administration, the Transportation Department agency that operates the academy, declined to comment Wednesday. The academy's commencement is being held Saturday morning on the Kings Point campus.

The 74-year-old service academy has been under scrutiny for its handling of allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault cases and for a campus culture in which retaliation and coercion have been documented problems.

The two lawsuits were filed this week. In both, the students say that Helis notified them on June 2 of the deferred graduation and that the academy denied their requests for reconsideration.

Helis, in a June 2 letter to one of the students that was included in court papers, wrote that the OIG "has informed me that you are the subject of an ongoing investigation into alleged assaults committed by Academy Midshipmen. As the outcome of this investigation may lead to criminal charges and/or administrative disciplinary charges against you, you are being placed on Deferred Graduate status, effective immediately."

Cassell, in a legal memo on behalf of his four clients, said: "Significantly, here, the Academy placed Plaintiffs on deferred graduate status — effectively suspending Plaintiffs from the Academy — without any due process or any hearing."

One of the lawsuits mentions an incident as occurring on a team bus returning from a match against the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. According to an NCAA schedule, the two teams played in New London, Connecticut, on Sept. 10.

The four seniors' complaint said the investigation was initiated by a freshman on the team. The team was traveling on a bus to a hotel, the complaint says, and "consistent with school tradition" the upperclassmen "teased" the freshman members of the team.

The freshman threw a banana at an upperclassman on the bus, the complaint says, and some upperclassmen "apparently" threw water on the freshman. It alleges that the freshman said "he was dosed with urine."

The four seniors say that none of them participated in conduct directed at the freshman or "any conduct that could be considered harassment." The fifth senior, the only plaintiff in the second lawsuit, says he was not on the trip.

The school also is on warning by its academic accreditor, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, for failing to comply with five of 14 quality standards. The Philadelphia-based commission is scheduled to meet June 22 and is expected to consider whether the academy will return to good standing. The school remains accredited while on warning.

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Copyright 2017 ProQuest Information and Learning
All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2017 Journal - Gazette Jun 14, 2017

Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

 

College basketball's one-and-done era may soon be, well, done.

Not a moment too soon, if you ask Indiana athletic director Fred Glass.

Two weeks ago, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced he's "rethinking" the NBA's age limit. Currently, the NBA draft is open to players only 19 or older, which has led some who would otherwise be drafted out of high school to spend a year in college.

In a radio appearance on "The Herd with Colin Cowherd," Silver indicated a desire for change and called for input from the college side.

"The so-called one-and-done players, I don't think it's fair to characterize them as going to one year of school," Silver said on Cowherd's show. "What's happening now, whenever they lose in or win the NCAA Tournament, that becomes their last day. In essence, it's a half-and-done. A half a school year, and then they go on."

Glass told The Journal Gazette on Tuesday that he opposes the current age limit and wants the NBA to lower it. Glass took over as the Hoosiers' AD three years after the league implemented its minimum age requirement starting with the 2006 draft.

"I'd like to see some model similar to baseball, if possible, where if you want to go straight into professional ranks, you can, and if you want to go to college you have some period during which you'd stay," Glass said. "In baseball, it's three years. I'd love it to be three years; maybe two years is the right number for basketball."

After the so-called one-and-done rule took effect, elite prospects such as Kevin Durant, Greg Oden, Derrick Rose and Anthony Davis were welcomed into the NCAA. Critics lamented the instability of the sport with high-end players staying only a season or two in college and claimed educators wasted their time on young men who would not graduate. Supporters believed better talent lifts the NCAA and that time in college helps prepare players for the next level on and off the court.

"I don't like the NBA requiring their kids to wait a year for a whole bunch of reasons," Glass said. "I think it would be a good thing for college basketball if the one-and-done rule went away."

As for the rule's impact on IU, Glass said he "doesn't deal a lot in hypotheticals." Without the current system, though, Davis likely would have skipped college. Instead, the lanky phenom helped Kentucky knock the fourth-seeded Hoosiers out of the 2012 NCAA tourney in the Sweet 16.

The Hoosiers themselves have had only two one-and-done guys: Eric Gordon and Noah Vonleh. The former left Bloomington after averaging 20.8 points in the 2008-09 season. Vonleh averaged 11.3 points and 9.1 rebounds in 2013-14. Both became lottery picks.

"(Former IU coach) Tom (Crean) didn't really build the program around one-and-dones," Glass said. "I wouldn't see (new coach) Archie (Miller) doing that, either. Certainly, programs against which we compete embraced it with both arms and maybe a leg, in some cases, but we weren't really big in the one-and-done market."

cgoff@jg.net

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Copyright 2017 Woodward Communications, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA)

 

MADISON, Wis. — Chiropractors could perform sports physicals under a Republican bill a legislative committee approved Tuesday despite Democrats' fears that chiropractors lack medical doctors' training and expertise.

The bill from Rep. Chuck Wichgers, of Muskego, would require schools, technical colleges and University of Wisconsin System two-year schools that require pre-participation physicals to accept exams performed by chiropractors. The chiropractors would have to obtain certificates from the state chiropractic examining board to perform such exams. The board would be required to set up certification standards.

The bill also would force the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, which governs high school sports in the state, to accept chiropractors' exams.

An array of groups has registered in opposition, including the WIAA, the Medical College of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Medical Society. The only group registered in support is the Wisconsin Chiropractic Association.

Wichgers told the Assembly Health Committee during a public hearing on the bill in April that a number of his family members have been or are chiropractors in the Milwaukee area and he wants to give chiropractors more tools.

Democrats on the committee warned during an executive session on the bill Tuesday that the proposal enlarges chiropractors' scope of care even though they lack the expertise to identify maladies that aren't related to muscles and bones.

"The list of people against this is two-and-a-half pages long," Rep. Debra Kolste, of Janesville, said. "I just have grave concerns that we're changing the scope of practice for one particular group."

Republican Rep. Dave Murphy of Greenville countered that the state suffers from a lack of doctors and the bill would give families more options to complete their children's physicals. Wichgers defended the chiropractic profession, saying it's a viable science.

In the end the committee voted 7-3 along party lines to approve the bill. The vote clears the way for the full Assembly to take up the bill.

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Copyright 2017 Star Tribune
All Rights Reserved

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is warning residents about young people soliciting money at convenience stores and gas stations, selling candy and claiming to be a part of Minneapolis parks sports teams.

Park Board spokeswoman Robin Smothers said the board's adult and youth sports teams don't raise money or solicit funds from the public. Any fundraising that takes place is done by People for Parks, a nonprofit organization, and the Minneapolis Parks Foundation. People interested in contributing to Minneapolis parks athletic teams should contact the Park Board's offices directly, she said.

"If they're approached by anyone, I don't care if it's youth or young adults, soliciting for donations to raise money for the Park Board, athletics or uniforms... it's most likely a scam," Smothers said.

Smothers said the scam is becoming more frequent — based on feedback received by the Park Board — and that the public should be vigilant. She said some reports involve teens seeking donations door-to-door.

The Park Board is asking anyone who may have been a victim of the recent scam to call the Park Police Department at 612-230-6550.

 

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Copyright 2017 The Arizona Daily Star. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

 

The trial of a former University of Arizona track coach accused of assaulting a student-athlete was delayed Tuesday.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Teresa Godoy vacated the trial of Craig Carter scheduled for Aug. 1 after defense lawyer Dan Cooper said he needed more time to prepare his case. No new date was set for the trial, but a status conference was scheduled for June 27.

Carter faces felony charges of aggravated assault, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, stalking with fear of death, and disrupting an educational institution. The charges stem from allegations he held a box cutter to former UA student-athlete Baillie Gibson's throat, tried to strangle her, threatened her, and tried to drag her out of a classroom in April 2015.

Godoy also ordered the disclosure of the transcripts of interviews ESPN reporters conducted with Gibson and Carter, who was her former track coach at the UA. Cooper cited "five inconsistencies" between what Gibson told ESPN reporters and what she told authorities.

Related: Ex-Arizona Athlete Fearful as Coach's Trial Approaches

He did not specify what those inconsistencies were.

Prosecutor Ellen Brown questioned whether any inconsistencies existed and argued the ESPN interviews dealt with the sexual relationship between Gibson and Carter, which was "irrelevant" to the criminal charges filed against Carter.

Gibson sued Carter and the UA in civil court, accusing the UA of failing to protect her from repeated sexual assaults by Carter. Cooper said he plans to ask the court to give him access to documents filed in that lawsuit.

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Copyright 2017 Sarasota Herald-Tribune Co.
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Sarasota Herald Tribune (Florida)

 

NORTH PORT - Local leaders this week scratched off two more items on their to-do list for an Atlanta Braves spring training complex in the West Villages development in North Port.

The first came with the West Villages' submission on Monday of the final grant application for $20 million in state stadium funding necessary to complete the $75 million to $80 million proposed public-private financing deal.

The second came Tuesday afternoon when North Port city leaders endorsed a licensing agreement with the team that allows for regular public use of the complex outside of baseball games, satisfying concerns commissioners have raised over the past few months.

The progress on both items is arguably the midway point in series of steps needed to finalize the planned stadium

complex that will include the roughly 8,000-seat stadium, team practice facilities and public multi-use fields near U.S. 41 and River Road in the massive West Villages commercial and residential district.

It sets the stage for the critical next few months to wrap up funding and technical design of the complex in time for an expected September groundbreaking and ambitious construction schedule to open for spring training in 2019.

"There are a lot of moving parts and pieces, but this certainly is a critical one," Sarasota County Economic Development Director Jeff Maultsby told North Port commissioners late Tuesday afternoon.

Maultsby has helped lead negotiations with the team over the past two years with Marty Black, who leads the West Villages Improvement District, a special tax authority established for the 11,000-acre area to oversee major infrastructure for the development.

The district is formally overseeing the construction of the baseball complex, which will revert to county ownership once complete, so it made the formal grant application to the Florida Sports Foundation and state for eligible spring training stadium incentives. Local officials have worked with the foundation on the plan since before it was even announced publicly early last year and expect that funding to be approved after the required state reviews.

The agreement approved by the city Tuesday follows in the footsteps of the facility operating agreement struck between the county and the Braves last month, which was a crucial piece of that state grant application.

The licensing agreement between the team and North Port spells out the city's permission to use the main stadium facility for three city-sponsored events each year, in the same manner the county is granted another seven such events.

Some North Port commissioners quizzed a team attorney about the legal language of the events clause, questioning if the two agreements together allow a minimum or maximum of three city events. The city's agreement notes a minimum of three and the county operating agreement specifically notes the city can request additional events.

With a few clerical changes, the City Commission voted 4-1 to approve the agreement.

Only Mayor Linda Yates dissented, arguing the city is not receiving enough benefits in exchange for its support of the project - including yet-to-be-determined city financing.

"At this point, for me, it's just been disappointing and it's primarily because of what's being asked and has yet to come," she said. "There's so much that hasn't been done yet and a lot of unknowns... I'm not comfortable with it at all."

Funding and specific costs are at the heart of the outstanding agreements still under negotiation.

North Port is set to consider during its budget process this summer a plan to contribute $300,000 per year for the next 30 years to the stadium financing, but it has yet to have a detailed discussion of how it would fund those payments.

The sum would join the expected $20 million grant, almost $22 million in funding from county tourist taxes and the remainder from annual and upfront contributions from the West Villages and team.

Also being negotiated is the formal development agreement for the construction of the project, including the eventual guaranteed maximum price. The West Villages has picked contractors Brasfield & Gorrie and Willis Smith Construction to lead the project, despite some questions about their selection, and will negotiate that development agreement with them this summer, Black has said.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

In a big bet on college sports, Comcast Corp. is selling its 300-employee Paciolan event-ticketing unit to Learfield, the college sports-media company controlled by Comcast-backed $4 billion investment firm Atairos.Paciolan, one of the nation s largest ticket sellers, had stronger growth prospects with Learfield, Comcast Spectacor said. Paciolan is headquartered in Irvine, Calif., and operated through South Philadelphia-based Comcast Spectacor, processing about 120 million tickets a year and earning a small fee on each ticket transaction.

Bringing Paciolan s business together with Learfield represents a positive realignment of assets within the greater portfolio, said Dave Scott, Comcast-Spectacor s chief executive officer in a note to employees on Monday.

Comcast Spectacor will now focus on stadium-management services, food concessions and hospitality, in addition to managing the corporate sponsorship of stadiums and arenas. Comcast Spectacor also owns the Flyers, of the National Hockey League, and the Wells Fargo Center.

Scott said in the letter that he expects the Learfield-Paciolan deal to close in about a month. When it does, Paciolan will be a Learfield subsidiary. In the Philadelphia area, Paciolan employs about 20 workers in Exton. Comcast Spectacor said Monday that there were no plans for employee cutbacks.

We couldn t be happier, Learfield CEO Greg Brown said in a statement.

Atairos, run by former Comcast vice chairman Michael Angelakis, acquired Plano, Texas-based Learfield in late 2016 for more than $1 billion, according to sources familiar with the deal.

Learfield is one of Atairos s biggest bets and it has connections to Angelakis.

Providence Equity Partners, a private equity firm, was one of the owners in Learfield and made $425 million, according to published reports. Angelakis was the managing director of Providence Equity, based in Rhode Island, before Comcast hired him as chief financial officer in 2007.

At Comcast, Angelakis negotiated Comcast s acquisition of NBCUniversal for about $30 billion in 2011 and became a confidant of Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. Seeking to return to deal-making, Comcast agreed to finance Atairos with $4 billion, with Angelakis heading it. The firm was launched in early 2016, with offices in Bryn Mawr and New York.

Other Atairos deals include a $250 million investment in the fallen-star online-deals site Groupon and a stake in the nation s largest operator of bowling centers, Bowlmor AMF.

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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

JOHNSON CITY — An audit report released Friday by East Tennessee State University outlines more than $106,000 of fraud and abuse allegations lodged at former tennis coach Yaser Zaatini, who resigned suddenly in March.

ETSU Board of Trustees Vice Chair David Golden, head of the body's Audit Committee, said the hall-of-famer coach was engaged in a "fairly sophisticated" scheme to forge student-athletes' signatures on meal expenditure forms and print phony receipts for restringing tennis racquets to be reimbursed for the costs.

Tracing suspect transactions as far back as 2010, the university's audit team estimated $85,674.61 in questionable expenses related to meals, racquet stringing, registration fees and other expenditures. Auditors also tallied $20,747.63 in unreported annual leave they called into question.

"It's an audit that tells a story very different than the story that many of us have come to know about coach Zaatini over the course of our experience with him... but what we saw today is that appearances were not what they indicated in terms of what was happening behind the scenes," university President Brian Noland said after the trustees meeting.

According to Athletic Director Richard Sander, discrepancies in the amounts Zaatini reported providing athletes for meal expenses were discovered after two students asked an NCAA compliance director about the cash they received for meals.

Providing athletes with money for meals is not against any rules or regulations, but staff realized the tennis coach was receiving petty cash from the university for one amount, giving students less and keeping the difference, Sander said.

As proof of the petty cash expenditures, auditors said Zaatini copied students' signatures from forms previously signed by the students or by copying them from a computer file. Investigators said most athletes said they never signed any documents when receiving meal money.

The audit report claims the coach over-collected $51,683 from the university for meal reimbursement.

Auditors claimed Zaatini over-collected $17,881 for fees related to restringing tennis racquets.

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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

CHATTANOOGA — There was a time for much of the 2016-17 school year that Chattanooga fans thought that they were going to have to replace David Blackburn.

They ultimately were right, although it wasn't under the circumstances they initially imagined.

Blackburn, who only a few months ago, at least from a public perspective, was a frontrunner for the AD opening at Tennessee, stepped down from his positions as the school's vice chancellor and director of athletics, after four years to "pursue other interests," according to a press release.

The Times Free Press reported Tuesday morning that Blackburn was expected to resign, according to multiple sources. Attempts to reach Blackburn for further comment were not successful.

"We appreciate the time and attention that David has provided our athletic programs," said UTC chancellor Dr. Steve Angle. "The Mocs have reached unprecedented heights over the last four years under David's leadership and we thank him for his efforts."

UTC will conduct a national search for his replacement, with senior associate athletics director for internal operations Scott Altizer taking over in the interim. Altizer has been with the school for three years and previously worked at UT.

During Blackburn's time, Mocs' programs won 13 regular-season Southern Conference championships and claimed 10 SoCon tournament titles. In the 2015-16 season, the Mocs captured the football, men's basketball and women's basketball championship, a first for the school in the same year.

He was hired after over 20 years involved in UT athletics on April 20, 2013 to replace Rick Hart, who left for a similar position at Southern Methodist University. At the time he was hired, the athletics program was without a basketball coach on either the men's or women's side. Blackburn quickly moved, hiring Will Wade to head the men's program and Jim Foster to coach the women.

Foster has led the women's program to 103 wins and four regular-season SoCon championships in his time. Wade laid the groundwork for the turnaround of the men's program, winning 40 games in two seasons before taking the head coaching job at Virginia Commonwealth. He has since been named the head coach at LSU.

Blackburn replaced Wade with Matt McCall, who guided the Mocs to a 29-win season in 2015-16 and the program's first NCAA tournament trip since 2009 in his first season. He added a 19-win campaign in his second season - one filled with internal turmoil - before taking a job at Massachusetts of the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Blackburn also hired John Carroll's Tom Arth, the 2016 NCAA Division III Coach of the Year, to replace Russ Huesman - who left for Richmond after eight seasons, 59 wins, three conference championships and three Football Championship Subdivision playoff appearances - and hired Lamont Paris to filled the slot vacated by McCall.

"The time has come for me to resign as vice chancellor and director of athletics," Blackburn said in the press release. "I love UTC and the city of Chattanooga. I'm grateful for the time allowed to serve this great school and city."

Blackburn also made successful coaching hires in soccer (Gavin McKinney), women's tennis (Chad Camper) and cross country/women's track and field (Andy Meyer). The new director will be riddled with finding a new leader for the men's tennis program, as longtime head coach Carlos Garcia resigned recently.

His ability to make hires, combined with his past connections to the school, made him an attractive candidate for the vacant Tennessee athletic director job in August of 2016 after Dave Hart announced his retirement. Blackburn's name gained a lot of traction from Tennessee fans wanting a "Tennessee guy" to take over, and the process affected Blackburn, who admitted in a May interview that he "didn't handle things well" throughout. He went on radio shows and politicked for the opening, which ultimately went to former Kansas State athletic director John Currie.

Student-athletes have posted a 3.0 or higher GPA for seven straight semesters. The Mocs have also been at or near the top of the league each year in attendance in the revenue sports.

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Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

The Cobb County Commission voted Tuesday to pay the Atlanta Braves $11.8 million for sewer, storm-water and transportation infrastructure in and around SunTrust Park.

The payment is intended to resolve a disagreement over whether the county has met its obligation to fund $14 million in transportation infrastructure.

The $14 million obligation became a source of tension last year when the team attempted to collect the money and Transportation Director Jim Wilgus pushed back, writing in a memo that Cobb had already spent $69.4 million on the stadium. Several months of negotiation followed.

Mounting public outrage over tax-dollar spending on the Braves helped elect Chairman Mike Boyce last year. On Tuesday, Boyce called the county's obligation to the Braves "a difficult issue to navigate."

"It is the people's money," Boyce said, promising ongoing monitoring of the county's spending on the Braves.

The motion passed 3-1 with Commissioner Lisa Cupid opposing because the bulk of the money — $11.3 million — had been earmarked for sewer and storm-water infrastructure. Commissioner Bob Ott was absent.

The Development Agreement signed by the county and the team on May 27, 2014, included a "transportation improvement contribution" defined as "certain transportation improvements made or to be made by the County costing a minimum aggregate amount of $14 million." The contribution is outlined in Article 7 as a "Transportation and Infrastructure Agreement" with a subsection dedicated to public infrastructure, including "storm water management, water, gas and elections lines and roads."

Previous iterations of a list of approved projects were limited to traffic and pedestrian infrastructure.

Cupid explained her objection, noting that the list of projects had been changed substantially.

"While our development agreement does provide breadth to include sewer, with respect to our transportation contribution, I think that this would really cause people to question how direct we are or question our thought in how we turned from transportation oriented projects to the bulk of these projects being for sewer," Cupid said. "It's very frustrating to see the amount of rapidity and creativity that's been used toward this project but not on other pressing matters that concern our public."

Boyce acknowledged Cupid's concerns as "valid," but said the money was "something that the county committed to."

The chairman reiterated his support for employee raises and more greenspace, both of which have faced funding challenges.

Speaking after the meeting, Boyce said County Attorney Deborah Dance and former County Manager David Hankerson had negotiated the amount to be paid to the Braves down to $11.8 from$14 million after the two parties agreed that the county had already spent $2.2 million on sidewalks, traffic signals, fences and paving.

The Braves will be paid $490,000 out of the county's General Fund, with the remaining $11.3 million comes from the Water Renewal and Extension Fund.

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USA TODAY

 

The federal government's $100million lawsuit against Lance Armstrong doesn't go to trial until November. But both sides are duking it out over who gets to testify about a crucial question in the case: How much was the U.S. Postal Service harmed as a result of Armstrong's doping on the USPS cycling team?

The sides hired experts to support their arguments. And now each side is asking a federal judge to forbid the other's experts from testifying at trial -- a decision that could dramatically impact how the jury sees the case.

"The government's strategy to use these so-called experts to establish damages is doomed to fail," Armstrong's attorneys said in new court filings.

The issue is critical. The government is suing Armstrong on behalf of the Postal Service, which paid $32.3 million to sponsor Armstrong's cycling team from 2000 to 2004.

It argues that Armstrong's cycling team violated its sponsorship contract by using performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions to cheat in races -- and then lied about it to continue receiving payment.

If the government can prove the sponsorship had no value because of the doping, the government could get triple its money back from Armstrong under the False Claims Act -- nearly $100million.

In Armstrong's defense, his attorneys say the Postal Service wasn't damaged and instead profited nicely from the sponsorship while Armstrong's team was wearing the Postal Service jersey at the height of his fame. They hired an expert to prove it: Douglas Kidder, who estimated the Postal Service obtained $257 million in earned media exposure as a result of the sponsorship.

The government wants him out.

"Mr. Kidder is not competent to testify about earned media in general, much less in the context of the facts of this case," said the request submitted by government attorneys, including Chad Readler, the acting assistant attorney general for the civil division of the Justice Department. "The Court should not permit this testimony to be presented to the jury."

Armstrong's attorneys previously tried to have the case thrown out in summary judgment and made the same argument about how the Postal Service suffered no damages. U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper denied that request in February and said the jury would weigh that evidence.

The government will be "entitled to present admissible evidence regarding the negative publicity the Postal Service received following the disclosure of Armstrong's PED use, just as Armstrong will be permitted to present admissible evidence of the sponsorship's positive benefits," Cooper wrote then. "Should the government prove liability, it will then be up to the jury to weigh the evidence on both sides of the scale and decide whether the government can prove it sustained actual damages and, if so, the corresponding amount."

The government hired an expert, Larry Gerbrandt, who conducted a report that said there were nearly 1.5 billion media impressions of Armstrong's doping and another 154 billion impressions from online media coverage.

He argued that this negative publicity reduced the value of the sponsorship.

Armstrong's attorneys say he's not qualified and want him out, along with two other expert government witnesses. Both sides recently filed the motions in limine, which are attempts to exclude the other's evidence from trial.

"The government would like to offer Mr. Gerbrandt's counting exercise and allow the jury to speculate that the USPS suffered harm as a result of the summary and that such harm exceeded the benefits the USPS enjoyed under the sponsorship," said the request submitted by the firm Keker Van Nest & Peters. "The jury cannot be allowed to speculate on this critical issue."

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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

A couple of bad things happened to the Nashville Predators on Sunday. First, they lost Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who claimed their second straight championship.

And, second, at least one of the Nashville fans made the franchise — maybe even the city — look kind of bad on TV. Or, rather, sound kind of bad on TV, tossing f-bombs at an NBC analyst while he was on the air.

It's not like f-bombs aren't a part of daily life. ABC let one on the air on Tuesday when the Golden State Warriors were celebrating their NBA title. After that, ABC leaned hard and long on the bleep button.

But there's a difference between celebrating and berating.

NBC analyst Mike Milbury has been extremely hard on Nashville's P.K. Subban throughout the playoffs. During the Predators' second-round series against St. Louis last month, he criticized the defenseman for dancing a bit during warmups, repeatedly calling him "a clown" and suggesting his coach should "maybe give him a rap on the head."

And in response to an incident during Game 5 of the Final when Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby repeatedly slammed Subban's head against the ice, Milbury said, "It was cagey, and Subban had it coming."

Milbury played in the NHL for a dozen years and coached both the Bruins and the Islanders. I don't claim any hockey expertise, but I can certainly understand why Nashville fans were unhappy.

Subban "had it coming"? That's an incredibly irresponsible statement.

Not surprisingly, a lot of Nashville fans were furious and called for Milbury's job.

NBC was clearly concerned about having one of its analysts be the focus of so much hatred. NBC Sports had people at the arena on Sunday — both outside during the pregame and inside during the game — trying to convince fans with anti-Milbury signs to trade them for free hats. Free NBC Sports hats, that is.

That could've been smart if the fans has been offered Predators hats. But this was a little sad and more than a little hilarious. Hmmm I can taunt NBC or get an NBC hat. Really?

Things went over the top during NBC's postgame when one Nashville fan became more than a bit unglued. The fan startled Milbury, bellowing that the NBC analyst is a "dumb piece of s---" and telling him to "get the f--- out of Nashville. F--- you!"

Understandable, but not exactly eloquent. And it didn't exactly reflect well on the Predators or Nashville.

I am by no means arguing that sportscasters are above criticism. Hey, I do it all the time. And I get criticized myself. It goes with the territory.

But shouting obscenities like that is bush league under any circumstances. And shouting them so they'll be heard on television is not exactly classy.

Be mad. Make signs. Don't take a dumb bribe of a free hat.

But don't toss f-bombs on live TV. It makes the story about you instead of about Milbury.

ROOT becomes AT&T Seven years ago, the cable outlet that is the home of the Utah Jazz went through a lot of time and a lot of money to rebrand itself as ROOT Sports.

Ho, hum. Other than the odd capitalization, it was no big deal.

Now, ROOT is about to become AT&T Sports Networks. Because it belongs to AT&T. Which makes sense.

And it is no big deal. Nothing will change but the name.

At least capitalizing AT&T makes sense.

Scott D. Pierce covers TV for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.

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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

San Diego Antonio Gates first arrived at Chargers Park in 2003, and Philip Rivers joined him one year later on the peaceful practice fields and low-slung buildings tucked below a golden hillside on Murphy Canyon Road.

The tight end and his quarterback have spent their entire NFL lives inhabiting this training complex in northern San Diego. They've honed their skills with uncountable thousands of throws and catches on these fields, and they've built warm friendships with hundreds of their fellow Chargers in its locker room.

But Chargers Park and San Diego are down to their final week as this team's home. After a three-day mandatory minicamp concludes Thursday, the players will disperse for summer vacation before the moving vans portentously parked outside the complex are filled for the 85-mile drive north to Costa Mesa, the Orange County city where the Los Angeles Chargers will hold training camp in July.

"It's a bittersweet moment, because obviously the memories are still here," Gates said Tuesday. "They will forever be here for myself, for the guys that have been around."

Chargers Park will be empty this summer for the first time in two decades, and San Diego will spend its autumn Sundays without the team that arrived from Los Angeles in 1961. The move has loomed for five months, but its imminent finality has some veterans feeling nostalgia during their last few workouts in San Diego's postcard-perfect sunny weather.

"There's a lot of time spent out there, a lot of balls thrown," Rivers said while standing in the cool shade just off the practice fields. "A lot of time spent in this locker room, weight room, meeting room. Qualcomm (Stadium) and the memories there from game days are public memories that a lot of people shared in. But shoot, I don't know how many days — probably almost close to 300-plus a year — we've been coming in here in some capacity."

While coach Anthony Lynn and many current Chargers haven't been around long enough to truly feel their fans' pain, the senior players and team employees are still processing the end of this era.

"You've got to look at it as a positive, as we're going somewhere to a new beginning," said pass rusher Melvin Ingram, who has spent his entire five-year career with the Chargers. "But you've also got to have a bitter feeling, (because) this is where it all started, and you're leaving the place where it all started."

While the Rams packed up swiftly in St. Louis after securing relocation last year, the Chargers elected to make a slower transition north, holding their offseason workouts and running out their lease at the training complex still owned and maintained by the city of San Diego.

Rivers was grateful for the gradual breakup, which allowed him extra time to decide whether to commute to LA or to move his wife and eight children out of their longtime family home.

Rivers still hasn't decided, by the way.

"I will figure it out at some point," he said with a laugh.

The Alabama native had never been west of the Mississippi River when the Chargers drafted him. While Rivers still treasures his Southern roots, Southern California has grown on the 35-year-old quarterback and his wife.

"With time, you feel part of the community," Rivers said. "All but one of my children have been born out here. You begin over time to call it home. I'm very thankful, and always will be."

Gates has long spent parts of his offseason in Los Angeles, so he has given his teammates plenty of tips on the sprawling metropolis. He also needs just one touchdown catch to become the NFL's career leader in TDs by a tight end, and Gates is at peace with the fact that he'll set the record and finish his career away from San Diego.

He still plans to visit several restaurants and other businesses around town to say a personal goodbye to the city that embraced him after he arrived as an undrafted college basketball player looking for a new life on the West Coast.

"It's just one of those things where we want to take time out to say thank you to San Diego and to the fans that have supported us," Gates said. "But at the same time, I'm excited to move to LA. I'm excited about the new change, and hopefully they'll welcome us with open arms, embrace us, and we can win some games and win a championship."

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Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA)

 

IOWA CITY — The nationally-recognized University of Iowa Tigerhawk logo, which has served as the national brand logo for Hawkeye athletics since 1979, will be featured at midfield in Kinnick Stadium when the Hawkeyes open the 2017 season on Sept. 2 against Wyoming.

The playing surface in Kinnick Stadium will feature an Iowa logo for the first time since the conclusion of the 1980 football season, as the Tigerhawk will be installed at midfield when the new FieldTurf is put in place in the coming weeks.

The Tigerhawk logo will be black with gold trim, and will face north to south between the 45-yard lines, so that television cameras will show the logo facing left to right. The Kinnick Stadium playing surface is being replaced this summer as part of the first phase of the Kinnick Edge project, which will see the entire north end zone stands replaced following the 2017 season.

"The passion for the Tigerhawk is amazing. Wherever you go in the state, across the country, or throughout the world, when you wear the logo on your shirt, a friendly 'GO HAWKS' shout is inevitable," said Gary Barta, U of I director of athletics. "The current Kinnick Stadium renovation provided an opportunity to add the Tigerhawk to the field. It will provide another great touch to an already iconic stadium."

The stadium playing surface has not had a University logo since a block "I" adorned the center of the field from 1972 through 1980. Artificial turf was first installed prior to the 1972 season and the block "I" appeared at midfield until a new surface was installed prior to the 1981 season, without a logo at midfield.

With the Tigerhawk at midfield, the north end zone will now feature the familiar IOWA, without the Tigerhawk. The south end zone will continue to display "Hawkeyes" and will not change. The end zone surface will remain black, with the lettering in each end zone in gold featuring the Hawkeye font of Iowa Athletics. Also in the Hawkeye font will be the yard line numbers on the east and west side of the field.

Iowa opens the 2017 season Sept. 2, hosting Wyoming. In addition to Illinois, the Hawkeyes host Big Ten opponents Penn State (Sept. 23), Minnesota (Oct. 28), Ohio State (Nov. 4), and Purdue (Nov. 18) as the home slate features five Big Ten opponents. Penn State won the Big Ten title a year ago, while Ohio State participated in the College Football Playoff. Both Wyoming and North Texas competed in bowl games to conclude their seasons.

The cost for single-game tickets is $45 for Wyoming and North Texas, and $60 for the Homecoming contest versus Illinois and the home finale versus Purdue. Youth tickets for high school age and younger are available for all four games for $25 each.

The opening game of the season will be part of FryFest Weekend and a Salute to Iowans, as the Hawkeyes will salute Iowans from around the state for their hard work, passion and commitment to the Midwest values of the Hawkeye state.

Iowa's home game versus North Texas is designated as the Gold Out for Cancer Research, as fans are encouraged to wear gold to support cancer research. It will also be Spirit Squad Day and Extra Yard for Teachers Day, as Iowa salutes teachers from around the state.

Iowa's Big Ten opener against Penn State will serve as the annual America Needs Farmers (ANF) game, presented by Iowa Farm Bureau, and the Black and Gold Spirit Game, with fans encouraged to wear either black or gold attire, depending on their seat location.

Iowa will host Military Appreciation Day sponsored by Wellmark, on Nov. 4 as the Hawkeyes meet Ohio State. The game versus Ohio State is also Blackout Saturday, with fans encouraged to wear black. The home finale against Purdue is Senior Day, presented by the University of Iowa Community Credit Union.

Start times for home games versus Wyoming (11 a.m., BTN), North Texas (2:30 p.m., ESPN2), and the Homecoming battle with Illinois (11 a.m., TBA) have been announced. The starting time for remaining home games will be announced no later than 12 days prior to the game date.

Any of the four remaining home games may be selected for prime time. Television networks in 2017 have the option to identify prime time games up to 12 days in advance of a particular contest.

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Naples Daily News (Florida)



"Let's go to Colombia," Winnie Purple told us.

So, to a thrumming Colombian beat, we punched and kneed the air, warming up our bodies at the start of a World Fusion Dance class surrounded by Shangri-La Spring's tropical paradise.

On that recent Thursday morning, I also went to Hawaii, Africa, Haiti and back again with Winnie Purple.

Once a week, Purple leads her "tribe" of women through dance movements from around the world. You'd think Purple had spent her entire life traveling from island to island, perfecting her hula hips on Oahu, then traveling to Thailand to master the slow and controlled motions of traditional Thai dance.

Turns out, she's simply a product of a world-renowned dance academy in her Mexican hometown of Guadalajara, Jalisco.

But in her class at Shangri-La, her authenticity still shines.

Purple grew up in a music-oriented family. She started taking dance classes when she was 4 years old at her aunt's studio, Danzas Polinesias de Guadalajara Academy. There, she learned the dances of the world, mastering Polynesian dance, which covers the islands of the central and southern Pacific Ocean - New Zealand, Hawaii and Rapa Nui.

She also became a musician — a Latin jazz singer and percussionist — and explored painting and photography at a young age.

She arrived in Southwest Florida in 2001. You'll find her regularly performing alongside guitarist Steve Uscher at the Ritz-Carlton, Naples Lobby Bar in North Naples on Mondays and Fridays and at Bahama Breeze in Fort Myers on Saturdays, and in the dining room at Shangri-La on the last Thursday of the month.

Since Shangri-La started offering wellness classes about 3 years ago, Purple said she's been teaching there in some capacity.

She decided to fuse all her ethnic dances into a one-hour class, and I was all about it.

After our Colombian warmup inside the octagon-shaped room with picture windows, we went to Argentina. Purple led at the front of the class, which had no mirrors, making it a little tricky to follow along. My three female classmates and I balanced on one leg, engaged our cores and tried our best seductive tango.

Not sure if it worked, but balance, Purple said, is key.

"To me that is very important," she said. "That's the goal — to integrate balance with the strength with breathing. All those are the foundations of dancing."

Some of my female classmates danced barefoot. I decided to the do the same. It felt more tribal.

We shimmied our hips to the funky beat of the "Hawaii Five-O" theme song. The enchanting luau hips are all in the knees, Purple told us; dancers keep them bent to appear as if floating. I only wish I could channel Purple's sway.

Later came the fun props.

We used yellow fans in the Thai number, moving slowly and controlled with emphasis on the hands and fingers. Even though this was our slowest dance, I worked up the most sweat here, holding a squat position and moving only inches with each breath.

Then we traveled back to Hawaii to play with pretty patterned shakers, moving our hips and our shakers side to side with the beat.

We kept the Hawaiian flavor going, this time with drumsticks. Traditionally they are made out of bamboo, which makes an "earthly sound" when they are struck together, Purple said. Ours were maple.

In Haiti and in Africa, we drummed our sticks over neon plastic bins, thrumming a hearty beat and letting out a little stress along the way. We were warrior princesses, and I couldn't help but smile.

After class, Purple hugged her students and wished to see them next week.

"It's like this tribal family," she said afterward. "I think to bring, for at least one hour in your life, a little bit of that flavor, of that feeling of being part of a whole, I think it's beautiful. And the girls can feel it. We support each other."

World Fusion Dance

Sweat scale: 2 out of 5 drops

What to bring: Water to drink

When: 9:30 a.m. each Thursday

Where: Shangri-La Springs, 27750 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs

Cost: $15 for drop-in, or $120 for 10 classes for up to one year after purchase (can be shared with family)

More information: shangrilasprings.com

See more photos from the World Fusion Dance class. naplesnews.com

Meet Me at the Gym is an occasional Tuesday column about Southwest Florida group exercise classes. Wellness reporter Shelby Reynolds finds the newest workout crazes, unique locations and the interesting people behind them, then gives it a try so you know what to expect. Have a suggestion? Email shelby.reynolds@naplesnews.com

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Photos by Nicole Raucheisen/Naples Daily News Instructor Winnie Purple leads her World Fusion Dance class on June 1. Linda Kurfist, background, shakes her hips while mirroring Purple during the World Fusion Dance class at Shangri-La Springs. Purple uses shakers during a Hawaiian-inspired dance at Shangri-La Springs in Bonita Springs.
 
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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

Prosecutors with the Knox County District Attorney General's office have dropped an aggravated assault charge against Catholic High School assistant basketball coach Lucas Branch.

Branch - a 24-year-old Catholic High graduate who played basketball for the Fighting Irish from 2007-11 - was arrested April 25 after he allegedly pulled a knife and headbutted a man during an argument over his girlfriend, records show.

Sean McDermott, a spokesman for the DA's office, said in an email that the office "received information that the victim was stalking (Branch's girlfriend) and lied to the ADA (assistant district attorney) about some issues.

"With the credibility of the victim at issue, we decided to nolle the case," McDermott concluded, using a term to say the office opted not to prosecute.

Catholic athletic director Jason Surlas told the USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee on Friday that no decision has been made on whether Branch will return as an assistant coach next season.

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Newsday (New York)

 

The men's soccer program at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point has been suspended until further notice, pending results of a federal investigation involving several team members, officials confirmed Monday.

The probe is being conducted by the Office of Inspector General in the U.S. Department of Transportation, the federal agency that oversees the academy.

Federal officials declined to provide information on the nature of the investigation or what prompted it — whether there was an incident or incidents, or a complaint. They also would not say how many members of the team allegedly were involved or identify anyone associated with the investigation.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said, "I was contacted about 10 days ago that there was an incident that occurred on a team bus and it was a serious incident. I was assured that it was going to be fully investigated, and because it is still in the investigating stage, I did not ask for more details. I was assured I would get them when it became more definite."

King is chairman of the academy's Board of Visitors, a congressional oversight panel.

Inspector General Calvin L. Scovel III said in a statement, "Because our investigation is ongoing, we are unable to provide any further details in accordance with the rules governing sensitive law enforcement information."

Rear Adm. James A. Helis, the academy's superintendent, informed students, faculty and staff of the probe in an email late Thursday afternoon.

"The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Transportation has informed me that upperclassmen on the Academy men's soccer team are under investigation," Helis wrote. "Accordingly, I am suspending the men's soccer program pending resolution of the matters under investigation."

Newsday obtained a copy of the email, confirming its contents with federal officials on Monday.

Kim A. Strong, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Maritime Administration, or MARAD, the Transportation Department agency that operates the academy, said the men's soccer program was suspended on Thursday. The school does not have a women's soccer program.

"The NCAA has been notified of the suspension. The USMMA has also reached out to incoming soccer recruits to notify them of the suspension of team activities and their options related to their enrollment," Strong said.

The investigation comes as the academy's academic programs and student culture continue to undergo scrutiny on several fronts, including by its accrediting agency, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

A year ago, the commission placed USMMA's academic accreditation on warning, a first for any federal service academy. Among its directives, the Middle States report called on the school to adequately address sexual assault and sexual harassment, governance and financial issues.

Later this month, the Philadelphia-based commission is slated to decide whether the academy has made the necessary reforms to regain good standing. It remains accredited while on warning.

The inspector general's office is responsible for conducting criminal and general investigations of the academy. "Our top investigative priorities involve review of allegations with a public safety impact, fraud schemes that significantly impact DOT funds, and integrity and personnel misconduct violations," Scovel's statement on Monday said.

The inspector general's office in May launched an audit to review the academy's program on preventing and responding to sexual harassment and assault. It must report to Congress by March 31.

USMMA's men's soccer is a Division III program in the Skyline conference of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The team's record last fall was 13-5-2, with competitors including Farmingdale State College, SUNY Maritime, SUNY Old Westbury, Stevens Institute of Technology and Sarah Lawrence College. Asked about the suspension, an NCAA spokeswoman referred inquiries to the academy.

Located on Long Island Sound, the 74-year-old federal service academy trains men and women for careers in the commercial shipping industry and to transport goods on U.S.-flagged ships during wartime. The 900-plus students who attend are called midshipmen.

The last year brought unprecedented challenges to the school, beginning with the first-ever shutdown in June 2016 of the Sea Year, an intensive program in which students are assigned to work on federal and/or commercial ships.

The move drew denunciations from some parents, students, leaders of the maritime industry, labor unions and the USMMA Alumni Association and Foundation, but the academy's leadership maintained it was necessary given a documented problem with reporting of sexual misconduct that was occurring on the ships.

One month later, the academy's leadership allowed students back on federal vessels but not commercial ships. In March, students were allowed back onto certified commercial ships.

USMMA is the only one of the five federal service academies operated by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The other four — the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut; the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado; and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland — all come under the Department of Defense.

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

FC Cincinnati unveiled stadium design plans, like this artist's concept, to season ticket holders in a private event in Cincinnati on Monday. A location for the stadium is still up in the air, however.

CINCINNATI — FC Cincinnati hopes to bring a stadium to town that is unlike any other in the region or even the United States.

The second-year United Soccer League club unveiled designs for its proposed new stadium Monday at a town hall meeting with season ticket holders at Woodward Theater in Over-the-Rhine.

FCC is hoping to earn one of the four remaining spots in Major League Soccer's expansion plans and is required to have a club-controlled, soccer-specific stadium to be seriously considered.

Architect Dan Meis, who designed the Bengals' Paul Brown Stadium, described the plans as "really dynamic," while engaging fans in the history of the game worldwide and activating the local neighborhood at the street level.

"We wanted to do something that's really dynamic," Meis said in an interview after the town hall meeting concluded. "There have been a lot of MLS stadiums over the years, a lot of new ones as the league grew, but we really wanted to bring an international flair to it, so drawing on some of the design ideas we've seen in some international buildings that really make the stadium stand out, no matter what the site is, it becomes a beacon and I think represents that wild fan base we have."

The idea is to build a 25,000-seat, $200 million soccer-specific stadium — with a grass pitch — on 8 to 10 acres in either the West End/ OTR area, Oakley or Newport, Ky. The facility would be a sort of horseshoe shape with a berm in the open end that could later be used to expand to 30,000 seats.

Meis, who also is working with AS Roma and Everton international clubs on facilities, said the stadium would highlight Cincinnati's innovation as a city through the use of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, which is a translucent material that through LED lighting can make the building glow and change colors. The idea stemmed from Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena.

FCC's stadium also would include a fan plaza and Brew House that would connect the community to the club even outside of games.

"These buildings are really event-driven and they come alive," Meis said, noting that no other stadium in the U.S., other than the Vikings' roof, uses ETFE material.

FC Cincinnati already had revealed three sites on which it could build the stadium, but president and general manager Jeff Berding said when the club submitted its MLS expansion application Jan. 31, along with 11 other cities or organizations, FCC used the Ovation mixed-use development site in Newport as its location because it was the only one it knew it could control at the time.

The club entered into a development understanding with Bill Butler and Corporex, which owns most of the Northern Kentucky riverfront, before submitting the bid. The other two neighborhoods would require agreements from multiple owners but still remain possibilities.

"Our whole focus has been to try to find a way to build the stadium in Cincinnati," Berding said. "However, the sites we are looking at are owned by multiple people and we may or may not be able to pull it off, so it is great to have the opportunity to develop the stadium in Newport."

Financing also remains a question. FCC has committed over half the stadium cost with $100 million pledged to the facility — on top of the MLS $150 million expansion fee the club will pay itself - but will need a public-private partnership to complete the project.

Berding suggested the use of tax increment financing and other economic incentives that are routinely used on development projects around the city, region and state, but said ultimately, it's up to the elected officials.

"At some point, elected officials are going to decide," Berding said. "The tools we are looking at are not the kind of tools that get voted on by an electorate because it's not a new tax."

Contact this contributing writer at 772-260-8826 or email laurelpfahler@gmail.com.

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

More than 10 percent of the world's population is obese, a marked rise over the last 30 years that is leading to widespread health problems and millions of premature deaths, according to a new study, the most comprehensive research done on the subject.

Published Monday in The New England Journal of Medicine, the study showed that the problem had swept the globe, including regions that have historically had food shortages, like Africa.

The study, compiled by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington and funded by the Gates Foundation, looked at 195 countries, essentially the world's population, finding that rates of obesity at least doubled in 73 countries — including Turkey, Venezuela and Bhutan — from 1980 to 2015, and "continuously increased in most other countries."

Analyzing some 1,800 data sets from around the world, researchers found that excess weight played a role in 4 million deaths in 2015, from heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and other factors. The per capita death rate was up 28 percent since 1990 and, notably, 40 percent of the deaths were among people who were overweight but not heavy enough to be classified as obese.

The study defined obese as a body mass index of 30 or higher and overweight as a BMI from 25 to 29.

By those measures, nearly 604 million adults and 108 million children worldwide are obese, the authors reported. Obesity rates among children are rising faster in many countries than among adults.

In the United States, 12.5 percent of children were obese, up from 5 percent in 1980. Combining children and adults, the United States had the dubious distinction of having the largest increase in percentile points of any country, a jump of 16 percentage points to 26.5 percent of the overall population.

The study authors said the growing accessibility of inexpensive, nutrient-poor packaged foods was probably a major factor and the general slowdown in physical activity was probably not.

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USA TODAY

 

The air is crisp and the scent of pine is unmistakable in this picturesque mountain resort town of 43,000, located about 120 miles from Seoul. Since the country's first ski resort opened here some 40 years ago, it has been the center of South Korea's small but growing winter sports culture.

Now this sleepy town is getting ready for a major turn in the spotlight, as Pyeongchang and the nearby city of Gangneung (population 230,000) prepare to welcome thousands of athletes, spectators and media for the Winter Olympics, which will be held Feb. 9-25, and the Paralympics, which begin 12 days later.

But there's a lack of local buzz about these Games, and concerns are mounting about sluggish ticket sales and relations with next-door neighbor North Korea.

In terms of preparations, no one can accuse the Pyeongchang Games of having the troubles of the last Olympic host. Rio de Janeiro rushed to finish venues, housing and infrastructure before hosting the 2016 Summer Games. Several of the venues were falling apart within months, and a federal prosecutor recently dismissed the Games as having "no planning."

Pyeongchang also offers a stark contrast to Sochi, the Russian host city that spent a staggering $51 billion on the 2014 Winter Games. The budget for Pyeongchang is coming in at roughly $12.6 billion, according to organizers. The operations budget has risen by about a half-billion dollars since initial estimates, but that is largely due to the increase in sporting events. The initial budget accounted for the 86 events that were contested at the 2010 Games. There will be 102 Olympic events next winter.

Construction of venues and infrastructure are progressing as planned. So organizers are doing a good job of building and planning for the Games, but will anyone care?

Until recently, the Games have been overshadowed by political scandals that rocked the country and led to the impeachment and arrest of President Park Geun-hye in March. Dozens of business leaders also have been swept up in a wide-ranging corruption and influence-peddling scheme.

The cloud hovered over Olympic preparations as well, with reports that organizers were pressured to award contracts to firms linked with an associate of President Park.

But Lee Hee-beom, head of the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee, said a thorough review of all contracts was conducted and everything has remained aboveboard.

"While Pyeongchang might have been a target of such corruption, I can tell you that no such attempts actually materialized," he told reporters in January.

A delegation from the International Olympic Committee was satisfied with the preparations when it visited in March, bringing IOC President Thomas Bach to declare, "I trust Korea, and I trust Koreans 100%."

All 12 competition venues have hosted test events. Construction is on track for athletes and media villages and major new infrastructure projects that will serve the two clusters where events will be held. A high-speed rail line, which will bring visitors from Seoul to Pyeongchang in just 69 minutes (half the current travel time), is slated to open before the end of the year.

And while Rio has been stuck with costly white elephants, Pyeongchang organizers have strong legacy plans. Currently 10 of the competition venues have owners in place after the Games, and many have been designed for year-round use.

Still, the impact of national scandals has left a mark, from a business standpoint and by how the Games have been perceived.

"I'd be lying if I said we haven't been affected at all," said Nancy Park, a spokeswoman for the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee. "That dark cloud... what it does affect is the excitement. It also affected our sponsorship sales -- sponsors were a little reluctant to do a lot of promotional activities because you don't want to be associated with it."

Organizers aimed for sponsorship targets of 940 billion Korean won ( $824 million, U.S. dollars) but came in below their target of 90% by the end of 2016. They say that figure has increased to about 94% after several sponsors have signed on.

Public enthusiasm for the Games, however, has remained muted. Organizers had anticipated selling up to 600,000 tickets in the first phase of sales, held on a lottery system, but received 384,000 applications. Until now, about 160,000 tickets have been allocated domestically. Overall, 1.18 million tickets will be made available.

A survey taken in April by the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism found that only 35.6% of Koreans were interested in the Olympics.

That mood was echoed by many on the street in Seoul, the capital city of 25 million people.

High school student Gong Sang-hyuk, 16, said the Olympics aren't a hot topic among his friends. "There's not much interest," he said through an interpreter. "It's a waste of money, a one-season thing. After winter, no one will ever go back (to Pyeongchang). The taxes that go to the Winter Olympics should be spent on something else, like health or welfare."

Sang Lee, a photographer based in Seoul, also said the country's focus is better spent on more pressing matters. "We have a lot of political and social issues to solve right now," he said. "The government doesn't have enough money, and we're struggling right now with a number of crises."

Politically, tensions with North Korea have escalated. North Korea has launched a number of missile tests since the beginning of the year, and the USA sent a pair of aircraft carrier groups into waters near the Korean Peninsula. The border with North Korea is 50 miles from the Olympic sites.

Jung Jae-min, marketing coordinator for the Korean Tourism Organization's Los Angeles office, said concerns about North Korea have been common among Americans interested in traveling to Pyeongchang for the Olympics. But he said interest is growing as the Games get closer.

Optimism also reigns among organizers that the corner has been turned on the political scandals at home, and many hope President Moon Jae-in will help thaw relations with North Korea.

Choi Moon-Soon, governor of Gangwon Province, where Pyeongchang is located, said the election of Moon will offer a fresh start for the Games.

"I would like to make it as a turning point from all of these issues overshadowing us," he said. "The new president is very enthusiastic about the Olympics. He would like to use the Olympics as diplomacy for political issues within Korea, China, Japan and the U.S. as well. We would like to make this a peaceful moment."

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Copyright 2017 Freedom Newspapers, Inc. Jun 12, 2017

The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colorado)

 

BOULDER — Three University of Colorado officials, including its chancellor and football coach, have been disciplined for their handling of domestic violence allegations against a former assistant football coach.

Chancellor Phil DiStefano will serve a 10-day suspension and athletic director Rich George and football coach Mike MacIntyre will each have to make $100,000 donations to domestic violence awareness. Also, they each will receive letters of reprimand.

A woman who has accused former assistant coach Joe Tumpkin of domestic violence contends the school knew of the abuse and took measures to cover it up.

An independent investigation determined the university made mistakes but that there was no intent to cover up or break the law.

The investigative report authored by former U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar noted a failure to report domestic violence allegations, a failure to report the information to law enforcement officials and a failure of supervision of Tumpkin.

"All of us involved have learned that we have additional reporting responsibilities, and we will follow those procedures in the future," MacIntyre said in a statement. "I had never been in a situation where one of my coaches was accused of abusing a spouse or partner."

But MacIntyre noted that the regents and University of Colorado President Bruce Benson recognized that he never acted in bad faith.

"We didn't handle this matter as well as we should have," Benson said. "CU does not and will not tolerate domestic violence or any sort of sexual misconduct."

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Anderson Independent-Mail (South Carolina)

 

The founder of a basketball academy said Thursday he may abandon plans to house high school players from across the U.S. and overseas at a residential property on Concord Road.

Mike Rawson, CEO of 22ft Academy, said he will probably look elsewhere for student living quarters because of fierce opposition from neighbors and the cost of needed renovations at the home and two other buildings that he bought last summer for $440,000.

"If we can't get this figured out, we won't stay," Rawson said.

Rawson spoke after the Anderson County Land Use and Zoning Board of Appeals tabled his request for a special exception to house at least 24 players on the property.

Hubert McClure, the board's chairman, said the panel's members needed more information before making a final decision on Rawson's request.

About 70 people, mostly irate residents from nearby upscale subdivisions, packed into the conference room at the Anderson County Courthouse Annex where the meeting was held.

The residents complained that their property values could fall if the county allows Rawson's for-profit academy to create what they said amounts to a dormitory. They also said that students who lived on the property during the past school year created a traffic hazard when they walked along Concord Road.

Resident Allison Teal said she was concerned that the academy's players could pose a threat to her 17-year-old daughter.

"What stops them from walking into my yard and keeps them away from my child?" she asked.

Many of the residents at Thursday's meeting also came to an advisory board meeting on Wednesday night where the academy's request for a special exception was discussed. Anderson County Councilman Tom Allen, who represents the district where the residents live, voiced his support for them at both meetings.

Rawson said his academy has helped 300 students obtain college scholarships in the past decade. The students who lived on his property last year attended Anderson Christian School and practiced basketball at gyms in Anderson and at Bob Jones University in Greenville.

He also said 22ft Academy spent $100,000 buying food at local grocery stores.

"We are a very big family," Rawson said during Thursday's meeting. "We want to live here and make it our home."

But by the time the meeting ended he appeared to have a change of heart.

Follow Kirk Brown on Twitter @KirkBrown_AIM

 

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USA TODAY

 

Now more than ever before, the NFL's public position on gambling has become quite an artful dance.

On one side of the ballroom, the league opposes sports gambling and is against promoting casinos. The NFL even continues to fight a lawsuit that seeks payback from the league after it banned Tony Romo and other players from an event at a Las Vegas casino property in 2015.

On the other side of the room, the league increasingly has flirted with the gambling industry in recent years, including allowing advertising from casinos. In Arizona, casino company Gila River Gaming Enterprises confirmed to USA TODAY Sports this month that it has been having discussions with the Arizona Cardinals about buying naming rights to their stadium.

"This pertains to the stadium naming rights," the casino company said before reaching a non-disclosure agreement about it with the team. "This is a result of continued communications with the Arizona Cardinals through our strong existing relationship."

The league's gambling policy prohibits the sale of "primary stadium or field naming rights" to gambling-related establishments. So why is this a possibility in Arizona? The bigger question many have asked recently is why the league maintains this conflicted policy, especially after approving the relocation of the Oakland Raiders to the gambling capital of Las Vegas.

The simple answer is power and money -- to control players and personnel for the sake of appearances while making exceptions for the sake of revenue. The policy is even at issue in federal court, where the NFL is fighting a charity organization that said the league forced it to move a youth bowling event with NFL players in 2015. The charity said the NFL made it relocate to a much smaller bowling alley in Las Vegas because the bigger bowling alley was part of a casino resort.

"There is no reason for the NFL to alter its gambling policy if the only adverse ramifications are accusations of hypocrisy and negative media stories," said Daniel Wallach, a gaming and sports law attorney in Florida.

The only reason for the league to overhaul it, he said, would be for compelling legal or business reasons, which some predict could come within the next five years.

In the meantime, the Arizona discussions appear to be one of the most expensive examples yet of a rising NFL conflict — a league policy rooted in old, negative perceptions against gambling vs. the demand for more lucrative ties between NFL teams and gambling businesses.

Threading the needle

Stadium naming rights are lucrative sources of revenue for NFL teams. The Cardinals' last stadium naming rights deal, with the University of Phoenix, paid the team an average of $7.7 million a year.

But there are restrictions. No NFL stadium is named after a casino company, though Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens is named after company that includes casinos in its portfolio.

Sale of naming rights for stadium lounges and other sections of the stadium is permitted by the NFL for certain casinos. For example, in 2015, the Detroit Lions unveiled the MGM Grand Detroit Tunnel Club lounge at Ford Field. But the policy specifically excludes gambling-related naming rights for the "field or primary building name," according to the league policy.

The NFL referred questions about the Cardinals' stadium naming rights to the club, which declined to comment.

It's possible the policy will change, like it did when the league allowed teams to accept limited casino advertising in 2012. It's also possible the team could try to thread the needle by selling naming rights to the casino company but not putting the casino company's brand in the stadium name.

Perhaps the stadium could be called "Gila River Stadium," just like the Gila River Arena next door, home of the Arizona Coyotes of the NHL, a league that has a more permissive stance about sponsorships with casino companies.

Gila River Gaming Enterprises is part of the Gila River Indian Community. The NFL's gambling policy says it's permissible to have "general advertising in the sovereign name of a Native American Nation, regardless of whether that Native American Nation operates or holds interests in a casino."

'Very negative terms'

The problem is perception. Such nuanced exceptions make the NFL's policy increasingly easy for critics to lampoon and raise questions about the point of such contortions as gambling becomes more publicly accepted.

In November 2012, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell testified in a legal proceeding that gambling was No.1 on his list of threats to the integrity of pro football. In March, he also said the league doesn't envision changing its policies just because the Raiders are moving to Las Vegas.

"Even social gambling among co-workers can lead to discord, violence and a loss of team cohesion," the NFL policy states.

The league's steadfast resistance to sports gambling stems from its fear that bettors might scandalize the NFL by bribing players or coaches to fix game scores to their benefit. Critics of this stance long have pointed out that legalized, regulated sports betting will reduce this risk, not add to it.

Yet the league's opposition to sports gambling still doesn't seem to explain the league's position on being against certain types of casino associations but not others. Or why the NFL is against a team owner even partly owning a casino but not against two casino executives serving on the governing board of the landlord that will own the Las Vegas stadium where the Raiders are scheduled to play in 2020.

Its ban on certain types of gambling relationships stems from old public perceptions that associated gambling with organized crime and viewed gambling in "very negative terms," according to a 1999 memo to NFL teams from then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

'Piece of the pie'

But as legalized gambling became more publicly accepted, parts of the league's policy evolved, too, in ways that make it seem inconsistent and conflicted.

On the one hand, team owners have been allowed to hold stakes in daily fantasy sports companies, which are illegal in some states and can't operate in Nevada without gambling licenses. On the other, the NFL confirmed last week that it was still reviewing whether to discipline players for appearing at an arm wrestling event at a Las Vegas casino in April.

The NFL's "opposition to gambling has always sort of been 'until they can make money on it,'" said John Holden, an attorney and visiting scholar at Florida State University who has studied sports league gambling policies. "It's not totally clear where the line is or even if the line is very firm."

Wallach notes the league is enormously successful and therefore not inclined to fix anything until it thinks it must.

"It could be a court decision" that causes the NFL to change, Wallach said. "It could be a further decline in television ratings or a diminution of (media) rights deals."

The U.S. Supreme Court soon is expected to decide whether to hear the state of New Jersey's challenge to the federal ban on state-sponsored sports gambling, which is largely illegal outside of Nevada. The NFL is opposing New Jersey's challenge, but if the law changed and more states wanted to legalize sports gambling, the league could change its tune for acceptable regulations and financial considerations.

Meanwhile, a company affiliated with former NFL quarterback Romo is still fighting the NFL in court over its gambling policy. The company sued the league in 2015, saying the league used its "disingenuous" policy to effectively shut down the company's fantasy football event in Las Vegas. The league prohibited players from appearing at the event because its policy forbids promotional appearances associated with casinos.

After a judge sided with the NFL last year and threw out the case, the company appealed, and the case is pending in Texas court.

"The reality is that when the NFL gets a piece of the pie, the NFL flagrantly and systematically violates its own supposed policy against casinos and gambling," the lawsuit states. "Countless examples show the NFL's true attitude toward betting."

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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

Going to the gym or to work out probably has never had so many possible meanings than it does these days.

The "gym" could be the cycling or barre or yoga or kickboxing studio, or the interval training popup.

Memberships in small, specialized boutique gyms and niche fitness studios grew 70 percent from 2012 to 2015, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. Compare that to the 5 percent membership growth in traditional gyms over that same period.

Related: Boutique Fitness Leads Industry in Participation Growth

Fitness instructor Heather Coe and her brother, Jude Coe, opened a boutique gym, a 9Round Fitness franchise, at 3442 Lauderdale Drive in western Henrico County in November.

The place doesn't have a lot of frills. The space is compact, and the focus is on a quick 30-minute workout that gets your heart pumping.

Customers go through a circuit of nine exercise stations, spending three minutes at each. There are no class times - just show up and get to work with instructors there to guide you.

"The model is based on fun, high-intensity interval training," Heather Coe said.

If you crave variety, there's a Corner Barre studio in the same strip shopping center. And not too far away, in Short Pump, there are other options, including an Orangetheory Fitness, a newly opened Cycle Bar GreenGate and a Flow Cycle Studio.

Coe, 24, has a phrase to describe the bounty of boutique and specialty fitness studios and regular gyms in the Richmond area. "I call it the gym belt. I think it's great. People have variety," Coe said.

Traditional gyms such as American Family Fitness and ACAC still have their fans, and some folks go to the niche places and still have a traditional gym membership.

"One of the biggest things I hear is that people already have two or three gym memberships," Coe said. "That's great. People are staying active."

The niche or boutique gym trend is being driven to a large degree by entrepreneurial millennials who are starting up boutique gyms and patronizing them.

"One of the things that we've learned about millennials is that they are incredibly community-focused," said Rachel Burgess of Richmond-based research firm SIR.

"This community idea, I think, makes boutique gyms so appealing. They do a really incredible job of building a supportive community around a shared activity," Burgess said.

Going to the gym "becomes more than just an activity. It becomes part of their life," where they hang out with friends or meet new friends, Burgess said.

A millennial herself, Burgess is one of those people who has been a member of multiple gyms at the same time.

"I do triathlons, so I need a pool. I belong to the (Jewish Community Center) so I can have pool access. Then I was at a CrossFit gym on top of it," she said.

Kia Potts, 33, has been a customer and a proprietor of specialized fitness classes. She took classes at a boutique gym called DNA Fitness and taught Zumba classes at a local wellness center.

"With the boutique gym, you don't get a generic class, and you don't get lost in a huge class," Potts said.

"It's more intimate, and you can get to know students better," she said.

That intimacy often comes at a premium. You might pay $40 to $100 or more a month for unlimited access to your local YMCA or big-box gym such as Gold's, or even less at a chain like Youfit Health Clubs and Crunch.

But boutique gyms often charge per class - sometimes $15 to $20 per class - but the price can come down with monthly package deals.

"Boutique fitness is built around walking and neighborhoods," said AnnMarie Grohs, who opened Boho Cycle Studio at 714 N. Sheppard St. in the Museum District in October 2013.

"Clients choose Boho because they want a personal connection to where they spend their time," Grohs said. "We think of Boho like that show 'Cheers,' where everybody knows your name."

Grohs plans to open a second location this summer at 2401 E. Marshall St. in the new Patrick Henry Square development in the trendy, walkable Church Hill neighborhood.

The gym business is profitable for her, she said.

"Very much so. I don't have the square footage that big clubs do. That makes overhead less when it comes down to rent," Grohs said.

"The basic explanation for the growth in studios is that they are able to open in a much smaller space and employ less staff than traditional multipurpose clubs and therefore operate with much lower overhead than a traditional gym," said Shannon Vogler, spokeswoman for the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.

Boutique fitness studios "cater to a very specific, specialized and passionate segment who are very willing to pay more for being part of a 'tribe,' " Vogler said.

"It's the sense of belonging where everyone is 'like them' versus a traditional club which caters to many different types of exercisers," she said.

The big-box gyms are more likely to offer child care and other amenities, something that small gyms do not always have the space to house or the staff to oversee.

The business models for boutique gyms can be franchise or independent operation.

9Round Fitness has more than 400 locations and has been operating since 2008, according to the company website. A 9Round Fitness location at 13965 Raised Antler Circle in Chesterfield County opened in 2013, and a location at 3330 S. Crater Road in Petersburg opened in April 2014.

Nikki Davis and Cary Hairfield debated whether to open a barre exercise studio on their own, but after doing research decided to open a franchise of San Francisco-based The Bar Method. They opened The Bar Method Richmond at 7007-1/2 Three Chopt Road in The Village shopping center on May 15.

The 4,000-square-foot space - formerly a beauty salon - has two workout studios, a locker room, a child care room and retail space. It is the 107th franchise location for the company, which was founded in 2000.

The studio's workouts focus on the use of wall-mounted ballet barre-based low-impact exercises to strengthen and tone muscles and to improve flexibility and posture.

"What it really boils down to is they have resources, doctors and physical therapists to help refine the exercises," Davis said.

Their story speaks to the community gathering aspect of boutique fitness.

They met in 2015 when Hairfield took a barre-based class taught by Davis at a local barre studio.

Locally founded Bikram Yoga Richmond has been successful as an independent - which new co-owner Rachel Mzhickteno says helps distinguish them.

"It's really cool to see our students sort of do our marketing for us because they really talk about how great they feel, and they encourage the new people," Mzhickteno said.

She, Stephanie Greis and Victor Perea earlier this month closed on the purchase of the Bikram Yoga Richmond business, which was founded in 2003. They have two locations: at 3024 Stony Point Road and at 3621 Cox Road.

Before buying the studio, Mzhickteno and Greis taught classes there, and Greis also managed one of the locations. Perea is a longtime client of the studios, which specialize in hot yoga, or yoga practiced in hot, humid rooms.

Their clients are not necessarily just millennials, and they even offer a class for children.

"We really have this wide array of people from all backgrounds," Mzhickteno said. "A lot of people come in because yoga helps them deal with chronic pain. Chronic pain and stress I would say are the biggest reason people come."

The new owners have changes in store, including upgrading the floors in the 3,000-square-foot studios to cork flooring. In addition, the studios will start offering a shorter class - 60-minute express classes instead of the traditional 90-minute classes.

"It's something people have been asking for for a while," Mzhickteno said.

Fitness instructor and entrepreneur Jason Benn thinks the boutique gym trend is here to stay for a while. He looks at the CrossFit phenomenon as an example.

"It was a trend in the beginning. It has been around 20 years," he said.

"There will be gyms that fall by the wayside. It just depends on staying innovative," he said.

Benn and his wife, Candace Benn, started a mobile fitness business, Fit By Benns, after completing the Sports Backers' Fitness Warriors training program this year. The six-month program trains people to become certified group exercise teachers with the idea that in return they will provide fitness classes in communities that are gym-needy.

"Working with Fitness Warriors, we also see the need to work on a sliding scale or for a service that is not so expensive," Candace Benn said.

"Hopefully when we open our boutique gym, we can have the ability to maybe have a grant-funded portion of it. We are looking at kids programs and working with underserved youth that don't have any activity in their community - have a service like a boutique gym but being able to tailor it to other people as well," she said.

TLSmith@timesdispatch.com(804) 649-6572

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Copyright 2017 Cheyenne Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne)

 

CHEYENNE — Eight months after it broke ground, a universally-accessible playground at Cheyenne's Cahill Park was officially opened to the public Saturday.

And within the first hour alone, the new playground was already well-used as dozens of children crawled, ran, swung and laughed their way up, down and around its many features.

The Cahill Park playground is the culmination of several years' worth of design, conceptual planning and grassroots fundraising, which brought in more than $1.3 million from grants, businesses, civic groups and individuals to see the playground become a reality. What makes it special is the variety of equipment and amenities that allows the playground to be used by anyone regardless of age or ability.

"Having an inclusive playground for people of all abilities and all generations to enjoy together has been a dream of many children, parents, grandparents, the city, the Mayor's Council for People with Disabilities, teachers, therapists, and on and on," said Teresa Moore, the city's director of Community Recreation and Events. "Playgrounds can be a frustrating and not-so-fun place for those with differing abilities. But when you build an inclusive-built environment such as this playground, it changes what socially is possible and begins to change how we define normal."

Mayor Marian Orr, who formally cut a ribbon on the playground just after 8:15 a.m., said she had been deliberately avoiding seeing the playground until it was entirely built. Having finally had the chance to see it, she said it was hard not to be emotional about what it means for the city and its children.

"I still get choked up thinking about not only what we now have in our community - a truly inclusiveplayground - but I think at least in the long time I've been in Cheyenne, for many of us in recent memory, there has not been such a project that has been so inclusive of the entire community," Orr said. "The donor sheet, it's huge. Every organization, every corner of our community has been a part of making today happen."

Monica Puente, whose Friendship Playground fundraising group helped raise a large portion of the playground's costs, said while many city projects rely on fundraising, it's rare to see a project where so much of the fundraising is from individual donors giving freely.

"If you could put in a small amount or you could put in a large amount, we wanted folks to know that they were paying and covering the cost for the entire facility, and I think that made a difference," Puente said. "Because people realized that they could make a contribution and be a part of something wonderful on any scale."

Describing the final product as "our dream and more," Puente said it's hard to describe how the finished playground - which also includes a walking path, informational kiosks, an outdoor classroom and adult fitness pods - not only met but exceeded what the city had planned for it.

"There aren't words to say what it actually turned out to be, but it will speak for itself in how wonderful it is and the wonderful things we're going to see happening here for friends, family, for every citizen," she said. "In my own heart, I have felt that this project has been blessed on a grander scale than I could probably express. But whenever I reflect on this facility, I'm going to feel honored to know we lent a helping hand."

The parents and children present Saturday were similarly impressed. Gregg Smith and his wife, Paula, looked on as their daughter, Kellie, an incoming fourth grader at Saddle Ridge Elementary School, took turns climbing up the playground's central tower to ride a big yellow slide.

"Her school raised a lot of money to build this park, and she was really excited to come see it and play on it," Gregg said. "I'm almost speechless. It's a lot more than I expected; I expected some toys here that would be accessible to all kids, but nothing like this."

Kellie said she and her fellow Saddle Ridge students had raised hundreds of dollars a day to help make the playground a reality, and while she was excited at the possibilities, she too felt the finished product had exceeded her expectations.

"I didn't expect it to be like this," she said. "It's going to be a great way for children to come and play every day, no matter what they are, what their disabilities are."

As for her favorite playground feature, both Kellie and her friend and fellow fourth-grader Madelyn Artery agreed it was the slide.

"It's the best," Madelyn added.

Seeing the playground firsthand was an emotional experience for Shellie Holzhausen, a Cheyenne resident who was the winner of the most recent Ms. Wheelchair Wyoming pageant, part of a nationwide pageant that seeks to highlight the

accomplishments of women with disabilities. Holzhausen said she's confined to a wheelchair due to multiple sclerosis as well as numerous back surgeries.

"I have lost the muscle tone in my legs and I can't build the strength in my legs anymore, so I don't have the use of them," Holzhausen said. "So I've been following thisplayground very closely; in fact it's one of my platform projects. I'm trying to get it to where every community in our state, and hopefully the world if I become Miss (Wheelchair) USA, has a wheelchair-accessible or all-inclusive park."

Having given it a test run earlier that morning, Holzhausen said she was able to navigate the playground's soft turf easily with her wheelchair, and could get to the top of the slide tower thanks to a ramped bridge. That meant a lot, she said, since she would be able to accompany her grandson all over the playground without anything impeding her.

"It's so important for kids who are disabled to be able to play with each other and not sit on the sidelines, and for parents to be able to play for their kids if they are in wheelchairs themselves," Holzhausen said. "Now they don't have to sit on the sidelines. I'm so excited that this is open; it shows how important it is to our community that we care about our people here, and hopefully other cities will follow our example and we'll be able to get more of these."

James Chilton is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle's local government reporter. He can be reached atjchilton@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3182.

Follow him on Twitter at @JournoJChilton.

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Copyright 2017 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

 

Short tempers made for a short evening at Friday night's Class 3A/4A All-Star Football Game at Nusenda Community Stadium.

Numerous on-field scuffles broke out between the North and South squads during the first half, prompting game officials to call the game just before halftime. The South held a 21-0 lead and was declared the winner when the contest was stopped.

Buster Mabrey, executive director of the New Mexico High School Coaches Association, which puts on the state's annual prep all-star series, said he supported the decision. No players were ejected, but there were numerous incidents, hits and shoving matches after the whistle and a slew of penalties, Mabrey said.

"Just a lot of unsportsmanlike behavior going on and no seemed to be able to get it under control," Mabrey said. "Both teams were equally involved and the coaches didn't get it stopped. The officials decided the game could not be completed in an appropriate manner and we supported their decision."

Shiprock's Eric Stovall and Jaime Ramirez of Portales were listed as respective North and South coaches on the NMHSCA website. Bernalillo and Moriarty are the only Albuquerque metro-area schools that compete in Class 3A or 4A football.

Mabrey said he had not seen the officials' postgame report as of Saturday afternoon, but video showed several altercations after plays had concluded. The last occurred with 6 seconds remaining in the first half, when the game was called.

"It's a black eye for everyone involved," Mabrey said. "We've had a lot of great all-star games this week with kids and fans having fun, and this incident doesn't take away from them. This is not our signature event, but it is a black eye and I feel like stopping the game was appropriate. We don't want anything like this to ever happen again."

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Copyright 2017 Charleston Newspapers

Charleston Gazette-Mail

 

Over the last year, expansion was voted down by Big 12.

Yet that doesn't mean there weren't changes. Just this past week, Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops set sail and Lincoln Riley was named his successor.

And, behind the scenes, another change was made.

On June 2, West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee was voted as the new chairman of the Big 12's Board of Directors for 2017-18, replacing OU's controversial David Boren.

Thats significant for WVU, a Big 12 geographic outlier. But it may be more significant for a league thats seeking a new look. The Big 12 has been torched by criticism over its expansion process, the Baylor scandal and performance from its football teams, primarily regarding the College Football Playoffs, the lack of NFL draft picks and less-than-stellar recruiting.

This week, though, I had a conversation with Gee about his plan of attack. Here are his responses.

On his No. 1 goal as the new chairman:

"The opportunities for the Big 12 are substantial," he said. "We went through the process last year of expansion and decided against it. We felt standing pat and really committing was in our best interest. We did commit to a football championship at AT&T Stadium [in Arlington, Texas], which will start this year. And well revisit things every few years. But our goal is to secure our place as one of the premier Power 5 conferences."

On his reported interest in new broadcasting platforms:

"One of the things I discovered going through the [expansion] process is the serious challenges of the traditional platforms: ESPN, Fox, etc.," he said. "Its readily apparent to me the world of broadcasting is moving much faster than any of us thought. Because were 10 teams, I think were better suited to position ourselves on the edge of technology for the next time period.

"Of course, we value our partnerships with ESPN and Fox, but I think they themselves will be looking at how to digitize and present different platforms. We also have to be realistic that Amazon and Google are taking significant new roles. I think the rules are going to change dramatically over the next five to eight years.

"Our television contract now runs until 2025, which is a significant period of time. But if you look at whats happened the last eight years and what could happen over the next eight years, Im just saying we need to have prescience. We can do some really interesting things."

As a proponent of expansion, on whether he might push to revisit the idea:

"No, we went through the process and made the decision," he said. "We had a significant number of conversations about it. We decided we have a strong conference and we need to strengthen ourselves. We just announced our revenue distribution [of $34.8 million] per school is the third-highest among the Power 5 conferences, just behind the SEC [$40.4 million] and Big Ten [$34.8 million] and substantially ahead of the Pac-12 [$24.7 million] and ACC [$23.8 million]. Were in a very good position."

On whether the Big 12 cut a deal with the networks to stay at 10 schools:

Well, the TV networks weren't happy about us [possibly] expanding because we had that clause that would have increased our revenues," he said. "But that wasnt the sole motivating factor. In the end we really made the determination that, given the landscape, given the options we had, given the things were looking at, the teams we had just blended well together.

"Also, Ill say this very honestly. I really feel very good about the chemistry of our presidents. We have new presidents, but the chemistry is very good and that makes a big difference as one who has been going through the conference wars for a long time."

On the criticism leveled at Big 12 football:

"You just have to win," he said. "By and large, our teams have been successful. We probably have as strong a football league as anyone. We didn't have a [CFP] team this past year, but we did the year before. We think we didn't the year before because of [the lack of a] conference championship. Once we have that, I think well be in a different stead.

"It waxes and wanes. I saw that in the Big Ten. I saw that in the SEC. Teams and conferences wax and wane."

On whether the league will urge schools to re-examine their football recruiting processes:

"I think the [Big 12] commissioner [Bob Bowlsby] is taking a careful look at it," he said. "You saw Bob Stoops resigned, but Oklahoma has a new coach thats 33 years old. We have excellent coaches. Tom Herman at Texas was with me at Ohio State. He was a great recruiter. We have a group in the conference that arent only excellent coaches, but recruiters. I know because Ive worked with some of them."

On whether he's spoken with Boren about 1) the chair position, and 2) OUs stance on the Big 12:

"Oh yeah," he said. "David and I are very good friends. Ive known him forever. I think he did an excellent job as Chair. He was in place during all the [expansion] conversation and had to walk a fine line. Ive talked to David, his athletic director [Joe Castiglione] and coaches. They believe we as a league are in a very strong position. Last week they gave a very strong commitment to the league.

"We all just need to get over the [negative] conversations. Its kind of like West Virginia University, Ive always felt. Im a president of an institution thats much better than people think it is. I think were in a league although its a Power 5 league thats much better than people think.

"We need to just say, Hey, look, this is who we are. This is what were doing. And, by the way, heres the data in terms of dollars and cents. Were outperforming the ACC and Pac-12 by a long distance and are right behind the Big Ten and SEC. That right there is a sign of good health."

On the Baylor situation:

"They have a new president [Linda Livingstone]," he said. "They have a new athletic director [Mack Rhoades]. They have new coaches [including head football coach Matt Rhule]. They have been through a process of reevaluating every aspect of their athletic program. We are very satisfied they are working diligently to do so. We had a long conversation about that in our last board meetings.

"We want to have a strong Baylor. Baylor is wonderful academic institution. It adds great value to the league both academically and athletically. Whats most important, though, is they are taking corrective actions. The league is monitoring that [via third-party attorney Janet Judge]. We as a league need to hold ourselves to high standards and we need to be helping each other make sure those standards are met."

And finally, on the loss of Stoops:

"Bob Stoops is from Youngstown, Ohio," he said. "He comes from a great football family. He was, obviously, under no pressure whatsoever. Hes 56 years of age. I think he decided to do what very few people have an opportunity to do which I need to learn to do, too. He decided to walk away from a great job in which he was widely appreciated with both his integrity and ability to do things with his family. I admire him to do it. I imagine how difficult it was for him, but I can certainly understand. There was no issue with his relationship with the University of Oklahoma. I expect they were as surprised as all of us in the Big 12. Im a great admirer of Coach Stoops. He went out on top.

"And, hey, you never know. He may get bored. Remember, I hired a football coach at Ohio State named Urban Meyer who once walked away from Florida."

Contact Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827 or mitchvingle@wvgazettemail.com Follow him on Twitter @MitchVingle.

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Copyright 2017 The Buffalo News
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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Darkness was falling on what had been a long and dreary day at the ballpark. Cloudy skies had given way to heavy rain, delaying one game and pushing back the start of another, conspiring to make a miserable day worse for the University at Buffalo baseball team.

With pitchers throwing 90 mph toward hitters who had trouble seeing the ball, with the field soaked and two exhausted teams struggling to stay focused, UB was striving to squeeze every last drop from its season- ending doubleheader at Western Michigan's Robert J. Bobb Stadium.

Coach Ron Torgalski had managed to stay upbeat and hopeful, characteristics that had defined his career, but no other Division I program in the nation had endured what UB did since the university announced April 3 it was dropping four sports, including the baseball team.

To the university, it was strictly about numbers - $2 million in savings, 120 athletes affected, leaving UB with 16 sports, the minimum required. Business can be cold and unsentimental that way. To others, however, it was about the people involved, the lives turned upside down within athletics and beyond.

Torgalski, who had worked under substandard conditions for 17 years while trying to maintain a respectable program, would be out of a job. Two assistant coaches, whose wives were pregnant, would join him. One was a former UB player who had closed on a house less than a year earlier after sleeping on an air mattress for seven months.

There was a junior transfer who left San Francisco to play for Buffalo, sat out this season under NCAA rules and essentially wasted a semester. There were recruits who committed to UB but would never step foot on the field. Others needed to determine whether baseball was more important than academics - if so, at what cost? - after UB severed the term "student-athlete."

"If you're the AD or the president of the university, it doesn't affect you whatsoever to end 120 kids' careers," junior relief pitcher Ben Vey said. "It just doesn't. You could say that you care or that you feel bad and all that stuff, but you don't. At the end of the day, you really don't. They didn't take into account how it would affect us."

While their resiliency was impressive, the Bulls stood no chance against their toughest opponent. Father Time is undefeated, as any athlete will attest. UB moped through April in a daze but the season didn't wait, dwindling to weeks, then days, then hours and finally minutes.

Reality and finality, hanging over the program like the dark clouds above, intersected with Western Michigan holding a 7-3 lead in the seventh inning of the nightcap. Western had been gracious hosts. For UB to overstay its welcome would have been wrong.

Just like that, with the sun setting on the same field where the first College World Series was played in 1947, around the corner from where Derek Jeter played high school ball, some 450 miles and seven hours from home, the darkest era of UB baseball came to an end.

For all the shots the Bulls absorbed, they had underestimated the power in the punch delivered at the end. As they shook hands with Western and turned back to one another, knowing there would be no next year, a collection of emotionally spent ballplayers broke down in tears that were a long time coming.

Suddenly, it was over.

"It's... it's tough," Torgalski said, his voice cracking with emotion and barely above a whisper, as he walked toward the center-field gate leading to the bus. "You know, they're good kids. They're good kids."

Feelings of betrayal

Looking back, the university's execution was harder to comprehend than its decision.

On Sunday, April 2, while riding the bus back from Kent State after kicking off Mid-American Conference play, Torgalski received a call from an assistant working the athletics office telling him that he needed to meet with Athletic Director Allen Greene at 7:45 the following morning.

They were almost halfway through the season. What was so important? Torgalski made a few calls to find out what was cooking but gained no insight. Later, about 9:30 p.m., his players received text messages summoning them to an 8 a.m. meeting Monday in the Center for the Arts.

Torgalski's meeting with Greene was short. "Less than five minutes," Torgalski said. His players were baffled as they assembled in the arts center before Torgalski had a chance to address them. Did UB secure funding for the new field house? Was a scandal unfolding within the athletics department?

It could have been anything.

Vey heard the news - UB was dropping men's soccer, men's swimming and diving, women's rowing and baseball - moments before the meeting with President Satish Tripathi and Greene and whispered as much to outfielder Kyle Norman.

Tripathi spoke first and delivered a muddled speech. "I don't think half the people understood his message," Torgalski said. "He didn't come right out and say, 'We're dropping your program.' It wasn't very clear." Tripathi left the rest to Greene, who spelled out the decision in simple terms.

UB was looking to shave $2 million from its athletics budget. Greene later emphasized that the money wouldn't be diverted to the struggling football program, a comment that hardly soothed anger and frustration among the athletes. The money wasn't going to football, as Greene said, but it also wasn't coming from football.

"At first, I was just shocked," junior outfielder Eddie Edwards III said. "I was confused. I felt betrayed, honestly. I think we all were when we were in that room at the same time."

Baseball's budget was about $600,000, including scholarship money, by far the smallest in the conference. Several sources said the financial net loss of UB's football program exceeded the budgets for each of the sports eliminated.

The 2016 football budget of $7.53 million accounted for about a quarter of the overall spending plan and is expected to climb. Even when all the donations and sponsorships were added up, UB football had been a financial loser since it moved to Division I.

Tripathi handed down orders to cut spending, leaving Greene the dirty work of deciding which sports would be dropped. In making the announcement, Tripathi's claim that the decision was made "only with extensive deliberation" rang hollow among the coaches and athletes in attendance.

"They were going to do this for a long time," said Vey, whose girlfriend was a senior member of the rowing team, which was also eliminated. "This isn't a decision you make overnight. This isn't a decision you make in a couple of weeks or even a couple of months. You've known for a long time. To not give anyone a heads up and not give people time to look for another school, I don't think that's right. They went about it all the wrong way."

Widespread effects

UB's baseball program wasn't built with top recruits. In many cases, it was the school of last resort for developing players who had D-I potential but were overlooked. Often, newcomers sat the bench early in their college careers with the idea they would earn a place in the regular lineup before they graduated.

Several players appreciated UB despite the frustration that came with the university's callous attitude toward baseball. They felt indebted to the school and proudly served as ambassadors. On April 3, they felt abandoned by the very university they were honored to represent.

Why couldn't they phase out the program over two years or more, giving players enough time to consider their options and make plans? UB baseball players and coaches asked that question numerous times without getting any real answers. Greene declined comment for this story. Tripathi did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

"There's never a good time to drop a program," Torgalski said.

Most schools complete the recruiting process and distribute scholarship money months before the start of their seasons. With UB's decision coming down in April, the timing couldn't have been much worse for baseball players who had eligibility remaining, were in the middle of the season and would need a school to play for if they wanted to continue their careers.

One of the great misperceptions about college athletics is the number of participants awarded scholarships. Many hear "scholarship" and assume all athletes receive a full ride: tuition, room and board, books. That's mostly true in football and basketball but rarely applies to those in other sports.

Division I football programs are allowed 85 full scholarships. The maximum number for baseball is only 11.7. Most teams divide them among 30 or so players on the roster. UB was the only school in the Mid-American Conference that didn't use the full scholarship allotment for baseball. It offered only 6.5.

Despite the disadvantage, Torgaski fielded competitive teams and was optimistic about his incoming recruiting class. After the announcement, he needed to inform recruits who had committed to UB. They, like many on the roster, would have to scramble for opportunities elsewhere.

"It doesn't just affect us," Edwards said. "It affected everyone around us. It affected kids that were supposed to come here. It affected alumni and everyone else. And it's not just our team. It was the three other teams as well. It really trickled down."

Immediately after hearing the news, Torgalski had the unenviable task of taping his team back together. He scheduled a meeting with his players for 2 p.m., giving his team six hours to absorb the announcement and him more time to formulate a plan on how to proceed.

"It was, 'OK, how do we approach this?'" Torgalski said. "I wanted my guys to digest everything and think about it before they made any rash decisions."

He already had broken the news to assistant coaches Adam Skonieczki and Steve Ziroli, sneaking in two quick phone calls in the 10 minutes between his meeting with Greene and Tripathi's announcement.

It wasn't easy. Torgalski knew their wives were pregnant.

What about the babies?

Skonieczki played for UB before graduating in 2010. He married his college sweetheart and became a father. He served as an assistant coach at Georgetown College in Kentucky, which reached the World Series of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics in 2014. He was building a career in coaching.

His wife, Shayna, liked her job, and they were perfectly happy living near Lexington when Torgalski called him in November 2015 and asked him to become an assistant. Skonieczki had good reasons to remain at Georgetown but, because he and his wife adored Buffalo and had a soft spot for their alma mater, they couldn't resist.

For seven months, with their belongings in storage while they looked for a home in the Buffalo area, they slept on an air mattress on the floor of a duplex owned by a friend. "No TV, no internet, nothing," Skonieczki said. Their only other furniture during that period was the baby's crib.

Still, he was willing to make the necessary sacrifices to coach at UB. Last summer, they bought a house in Amherst. They were building a family, settling down and embracing where life had led them. Shayna, a 2008 UB graduate, is expecting their second child on the Fourth of July.

"We made the move to be here for a while, for sure," he said. "We closed on our house in June. Everything was great. Everything was awesome."

Seventeen months after accepting the job, nine months after closing on their home in Amherst, three months before Shayna's due date, Skonieczki found out he is finished at UB when his contract expires in 2018. He has since made peace with the university's decision.

"Looking back, after the initial anger and disappointment, you have to understand that it's a business, too," he said. "It (stinks). I'm sure there were a lot of people along the way that didn't want to cut this program. That's what happens in business. Sometimes, you have to make tough decisions. Unfortunately, we were on the losing end. I'm not holding a grudge against anybody. I don't think you can. It's life."

Ziroli was UB's pitching coach for seven seasons. He was born and raised in Illinois, pitched at Marshall University, and bounced around as a player and instructor for a few years. He was hired at UB in 2011, met his wife, the former Michele Leoni of North Buffalo. They bought a house and were building a life.

"I was 100 percent content," Ziroli said. "We're not going to move. She's rooted here. I was extremely happy at UB. We were extremely happy in Buffalo."

Last season, UB's pitching staff broke a school record for fewest walks in a season since returning to Division I in 2000. A year earlier, Ziroli's pitchers set the mark for most strikeouts in a season. Junior relief pitcher Mike Kaelin was drafted by the Angels in the 15th round last June. Another reliever, Blair Lakso, signed with the Twins.

On April 26, not yet four weeks after learning he was losing his job, Ziroli became a first-time father. Michele, an elementary school teacher, delivered a 6-pound, 8-ounce girl, Eva, three weeks premature. Ziroli's future is uncertain.

"This is my livelihood," he said. "It's why I moved here. It's how I met my wife. I came here to take a job at UB coaching baseball, and it led me to everything else in my life. It's tough to have everything pulled away from you, but it is what it is. The first two weeks were shocking, but it's tougher on the players than it is for us."

Bulls ride Three Amigos

Third baseman Chris Kwitzer, shortstop Ben Haefner and second baseman Brian Dudek played with each other at every level except high school. Haefner attended Lancaster High while the other two were at St. Mary's of Lancaster.

All three played infield, threw right, batted left, knew each other's strengths and weaknesses and shared the same brain. They had been together in summer ball since they were 8-year-old peanuts running around Southline Little League in Cheektowaga. In later years, they played for the Academy Stars.

They developed into Division I players and were fortunate to land in the same program. Each selected UB in part because there was comfort knowing the other two would be in the same dugout; they became UB's Three Amigos.

"On the field, we're like brothers," Kwitzer said. "You look at our infield, and it was our Academy Stars lineup. Every time I see a ground ball hit to Dudek or Haef, I know they're going to make the play. And if they don't make the play, it's one miss out of a hundred. We all know each other's range. It's all about comfort."

They left their mark. Dudek hit a walk-off home run in extra innings of the final home game. Haefner hit the last homer for UB when he hammered a pitch over the wall in the finale at Western. Kwitzer led UB with a .348 batting average. Going around the horn, Haefner was second with a .326 average and Dudek was third at .324.

Kwitzer left an impression, literally, on the season. In batting practice, before the first game of the final series against Western, he crushed a ball that soared toward the top row of the adjacent football stadium, some 40 feet above the left-field wall. It punched a hole in the Broncos' banner hanging off a railing.

Estimated distance: 450 feet.

"It's sad," Dudek said. "I would do anything to play with these teammates another weekend, another game. I would do anything. You play this game for one reason, to have fun, since you were a little kid, and to see it all come to an end is disappointing."

Fretting about the future

Everybody involved with the program felt the initial jolt, and they handled the long goodbye to the program with emotions often associated with death: denial, isolation, depression, frustration and acceptance. "The first week, it was like a funeral around here," Ziroli said. They were trying to come together, knowing they had separate agendas, but were crumbling under uncertainty.

"As much as you want to be a part of the team, and obviously we are, you're trying to figure out things for yourself," sophomore first baseman Andrew Taft said. "You don't know where you're going. It's a scary feeling."

It was obvious during a three-game set at Toledo in mid-April. By then, they had processed the announcement and were trying to regain their focus. Some put the bad news behind them easier than others. Torgalski had his antenna up for players who might mentally disengage for the season.

If anything provided comfort, it was UB honoring existing scholarships and paying their coaches through the 2018 season. However, a large portion of scholarship money already had been exhausted on seven seniors. Underclassmen who had been expecting partial scholarships when the seniors left were out of luck.

"My initial reaction was, 'Thank God this didn't happen last year,' " said senior catcher Kyle Brennan, an exercise science major who is expected to be selected in the Major League Baseball Entry Draft. "With my major and where I was in my career, it would have been a train wreck. After that, I felt terrible for all my teammates that now have to move. For a day or so, there was a feeling of being unwanted."

Torgalski urged them to enjoy the game as much as they could, while they could. The Bulls took two of three games over Northern Illinois, but putting a happy face on a sad situation was easier said than done. Players fretted about their futures and put added pressure on themselves to perform.

In particular, Torgalski worried about Haefner. The redshirt junior was a classic UB recruit, a good high school player with untapped potential. He made a commitment, paid his dues, became a starting shortstop and emerged as a leader. Never overly vocal, he had become unusually quiet and walked around in a fog after April 3.

Position players had a considerably tougher time than pitchers finding schools because the country is loaded with guys who can play the field. Haefner was looking for a school that needed a shortstop, offered classes that would contribute to his career without baseball, at the right price. It was a tricky situation.

"I don't want to have any regrets, you know?" he said.

Haefner was a true student-athlete, one who excelled in the classroom as much as he did on the field. He was on schedule to graduate with a degree in exercise science and had been accepted into UB's School of Physical Therapy. Because he sat out his first season, he had one year of baseball eligibility remaining.

He could walk away from the game and concentrate on his studies, but he forever would wonder if he quit too soon. He developed into a darned good player with pop in his bat. He was on the radar of professional teams. If he continued his career, he might have a chance to play pro ball.

One problem: His acceptance into PT school is valid only for the coming year. If he continued playing ball, it could mean walking away from a great academic opportunity at UB. He would need to reapply to PT school with no guarantees. In order to play baseball elsewhere, he also would need to reach into his pocket.

It explained his 4-for-20 slump in the first six games after The Announcement.

"I had no idea what I was going to do," he said. "I was getting phone calls every day. I didn't know what to tell anybody because I didn't know what I wanted. I didn't know what was best for me. I couldn't focus when I was playing, and I was playing poorly.... I knew I would probably wind up regretting something. Regardless of the decision I made, I was trying to figure out which one I would regret less."

Haefner pulled himself together in Toledo while going 5 for 6 in a wild 21-20 loss and put together an eight-game hitting streak. He hit safely in 10 of 11 games and batted .500 during that stretch. In late April, with his bat ablaze and options sorted out, he signed a letter of intent to play for Sam Houston State in Texas.

"I'm going to a good program," Haefner said. "I could get some more draft looks down South. It gives me a year to figure out what I want to do academically. At first, it was a shock. Now, it's a blessing. But for some of these guys, they don't have anywhere to play or are thinking about not playing again. And that (stinks)."

Harasta among the fortunate

Junior relief pitcher Logan Harasta was among the fortunate few who had solid options. The 6-foot-7, 235-pound righty showed up with a fastball in the 87-88 mph range and grew into his body. Three years later, he had a 97 mph fastball with a complementary slider.

Harasta came to UB to get an education and play baseball, in that order, and is two semesters from earning his degree in exercise science. He comes from an academic family: His parents have master's degrees in chemical engineering, one brother is preparing for medical school while another was a graduate student at Albany.

Schools lined up for Harasta, the fifth-rated pro prospect in the MAC before the season, upon hearing he was available. He's almost certain to get drafted. If he isn't selected or isn't satisfied with his contract offer, he has a spot waiting for him at the University of Oklahoma and can re-enter the draft next June.

"I would like to graduate," Harasta said. "There's life after baseball, and you need to be prepared. Obviously, I'm thinking about the academics, but to be honest I'm looking a lot at athletics. This puts us in a position where we don't know what to do. We know we should do this, but we want the other thing, too. It doesn't always match up."

Student or athlete?

For the seniors wrapping up their college careers, the announcement was less disruptive. Freshmen and sophomores had time to restart their careers, but it meant repeating the recruiting process - only in reverse, with the player courting the school.

UB's juniors were in the toughest spot. They had invested three years toward their degrees and were left with two options, one coming at the expense of the other.

They could continue receiving any scholarship money and finish their education at UB, foregoing their final season. Or they could transfer to another baseball program and put graduation on hold. No school would allow three years' worth of credits from somewhere else to apply to its degree. UB wouldn't accept one year of credits from another school and allow a player to graduate on time.

"They're basically making some guys pick baseball or pick your degree," Haefner said. "They have forced us to make a decision."

Those on the cusp of pro ball were left to gamble on themselves. In some cases, it meant coming up with thousands of dollars to cover tuition and keep their dreams alive. The alternative was quitting baseball and spending the rest of their lives wondering, "What if?"

Student-athletes whose sports were cut while they had eligibility remaining were conflicted. It was one or the other, student or athlete.

"It's split down the middle," said Vey, a relief pitcher from Pittsburgh. "You basically have to choose one. I could go to a good school, too, but all credits aren't going to transfer. It's going to set you back a year, maybe two. You can't transfer credits back. You have to choose delaying your academics or you have to give up the game you gave so much to and loved your entire life."

Vey was a junior majoring in finance with a concentration in supply-chain management operations. He had a 3.5 grade-point average, second-highest on the team. He pitched well for UB, but he couldn't justify transferring to another school knowing he was a year from graduating and had little chance of playing pro ball.

Still, baseball didn't end on his own terms. Then again, it rarely does.

"I'm a business major," he said. "I get it. Sometimes things just don't add up, and you have to do that. But you also have to think about all the kids that affects. I get that you're playing around with the numbers if you're the president of the school. For them, it's a numbers game."

Raising the stakes

Charlie Sobieraski played football, basketball and baseball his senior year at Lockport High. In 2014, he was named The News' Three Sport Player of the Year. Sabres fans from an older generation remember his late grandfather, play-by-play man and community treasure Ted Darling.

In July 2013, Sobieraski grabbed the attention of big schools such as Pittsburgh and Boston College while playing for the Empire State Elite. The team, made up of 12 players from 10 high schools in Buffalo Niagara, finished fifth in the country in a prestigious Perfect Game wood-bat tournament in Atlanta.

Scouts salivated over his 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame, natural athleticism, his ability to throw 92-93 mph fastball, a sharp breaking ball, and very few innings on his arm. "The kid plays catch at 88 (mph)," former UB star and major league pitcher Joe Hesketh once said. "It's incredible."

Sobieraski stayed home in part because he wanted to be near his older sister, Lea, after she suffered a life-threatening illness. (She recovered and was a graduate student at Daemen College during 2016-17.) He considered leaving UB after batting cleanup as a freshman. He returned because he enjoyed his teammates, had an opportunity to develop as a pitcher and was getting a good education.

Overall, UB worked for him and his family.

"I couldn't ask for anything better or anything different," Sobieraski said. "It was exactly what I pictured. (The program) was doing everything it needed to do. I'm not the type of kid who always wants more. I'm just happy with the opportunity, not looking for things we don't have. The opportunity means the most."

Sobieraski also has a chance to be selected. If he's overlooked, he has received a half-scholarship offer from Pittsburgh to play in the elite Atlantic Coast Conference. It should raise his stock, but it means coming up with about $20,000 to play baseball, taking classes he might not need and delaying graduation.

While many would be thrilled to have his problems, the fact is he was in a better situation as the No. 1 starter at UB. He needs experience that comes from innings pitched. If he doesn't get drafted, he'll need to pay for that experience at Pitt with no guarantees he'll ever play professional ball.

"My dad (Mike) has been indecisive about whether he would retire," Sobieraski said. "He works his (butt) off. He's a principal, but he's also working in a pizza shop for extra money. He's been there for 20 years. He's 55 years old and working in a pizza shop when he should be allowed to kick back, relax and retire. Now, he can't do that."

It could have been worse for Sobieraski. He could have been Kyle Norman, the outfielder and friend Sobieraski persuaded to join him at UB.

A life tossed into trash can

Norman grew up in Maryland and attended the exclusive IMG Academy for baseball in Bradenton, Fla. He earned a partial scholarship to the University of San Francisco, where he played two seasons. He transferred to UB in January after playing on the same summer team with Sobieraski, Dudek and Harasta.

In accordance with NCAA transfer rules, he needed to sit out a full year before becoming eligible to play for Buffalo. The timing seemed perfect with senior Alex Thrower graduating and opening a spot in center field. Torgalski was excited about adding Norman to the roster in 2018.

Norman came all the way from San Francisco and spent a semester in Buffalo... and for what? He never played an inning. He was scouring the East in search of his third school in less than a year.

"Why am I here? Why am I here?" Norman said in early May during a break in batting practice at Sports Performance Park. "I'm here to watch a team play, pretty much. I got here, and everything checked out. I loved the team. I loved having a big school with a football team. And then it gets wiped away.

"Now I have to find another school that I may not even like. I have a place that I love now, and I'm only going to spend one semester here. My life was fine three or four weeks ago, and now it's in the trash can, to be honest."

Late in the season, Norman committed to Monmouth University in New Jersey.

Decisions between the lines

Brian Wasilewski had several opportunities to play D-I ball, but he chose UB for four simple reasons: Geology, geography, baseball - and hockey. An outfielder with power from West Seneca East who played with Sobieraski on the Elite team, he arrived at UB as a preferred walk-on.

He agreed to pay full tuition with the idea he would play his way into a partial scholarship as a junior or senior. UB helped the sophomore keep another dream alive. Wasilewski is a rising professional hockey official.

He has worked nine American Hockey League games, four as a UB freshman, five as a sophomore, along with dozens of games at various amateur levels. Playing baseball in Buffalo allowed him to continue his work and develop his skill with the hope he could someday land in the NHL.

"Everything was so right here that you never thought this was going to happen," Wasilewski said. "We joke how you don't get (much) money; it's Buffalo and it's crazy to play baseball here. But when it actually happened, it was like, 'Wow, it's done.' I came here because I wanted to come here."

Wasilewski plans to play for a team in Glen Falls in a collegiate summer league and find another program, preferably one that offers his major and is located in a region where amateur hockey is popular. If not, he'll likely end his baseball career, remain at UB and continue his officiating career.

"I could have gone to Canisius, Niagara, whatever," he said. "I wanted to come to UB. It was too good to be true."

The perfect storm

So how did we get here?

Danny White was hired as UB athletics director in 2012 largely because he was successful when it came to raising money at Ole Miss. UB was looking for someone who could generate outside sources of revenue. As the son of Duke Athletic Director Kevin White, he grew up in the business.

When he arrived, White was perplexed by UB's inability to sell college football in Buffalo. He also was determined to change a culture that, for better or worse, was infatuated with the Bills, Sabres and not much else. But Buffalo's sports climate had been the same for decades and, despite UB's efforts, wasn't about to change.

White was effective when it came to raising money, which contributed to the perfect storm that ultimately led to the demise of four sports. In essence, he made deals with donors that ensured football would remain on the same path in the MAC no matter how little interest it generated in the community.

The biggest infusion came from the Murchie family, which presented UB with a $3 million endowment for the football program. It included a state-of-the-art training facility named after the family, new offices for the coaching staff and other luxuries that eluded UB's other sports programs.

UB continued struggling on the field and at the gate. Administrators reasoned that fans would come around if they started winning. One might conclude it was mostly the rationale of outsiders who failed to understand Buffalo's culture. Regardless, administrators were told numerous times over the years that fans were entrenched in pro sports, but the message was largely ignored.

The university could have reduced spending by $2 million or more by playing in the Football Conference Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-AA. It had the option to cut spending for its current program, but that would have led to greater disadvantages when stacked against others schools in the conference. It could have shaved money from other sports, but each would have been compromised.

All along, football has been the elephant in the room. Many believed the costs of football would ultimately impact UB's non-revenue sports.

"You know your program was driven by football and basketball and, as a coach, I always got that," Torgalski said. "Knowing the athletic department as a whole and looking at the big picture, I always knew we weren't getting a stadium, we weren't getting fully funded, we weren't getting big salaries. We were getting what we got. If basketball and football were going, it was great. You were pulling for them because that's what made the department roll."

'They don't know Buffalo'

Former professional baseball scout Bob Miske stood behind the UB dugout before a game against Ohio and shook his head in disgust. A baseball and basketball lifer, Miske played both sports at Canisius in the 1950s before transferring and playing both sports at UB.

Miske, a member of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame who worked for the Yankees and several other teams in his 50-year career as a scout, said he sent an email to Tripathi expressing his disappointment in the decision to dump the four sports. He had not heard back.

"I was a little upset. It wasn't a little, actually, it was a lot," Miske said. "It just bothers me so much. I'm so upset about this. I drafted kids out of this school. He's going to have three or four drafted off this team. It's a start in life for these kids. These administrators, I don't think they know what's going on.

"I go to the football games. There may be 8,000 people, sometimes 10,000. Why in goodness nation do they have concerts for 20,000-25,000 people? You don't need that. We are not LSU, and we are not Ohio State. We are the University at Buffalo and playing in the MAC.

"This is my own opinion, but we should not be playing in the MAC. We should be playing against Stony Brook, Army, Holy Cross, Cornell, Colgate. This is nonsense. They don't belong in this league. You have to fight the Bills, the Sabres and the Bisons. You're losing. They don't know Buffalo - at all.

"Every day, I get up and say, 'What in God's name are they doing? There are 30,000 students here, and we can't afford to have a baseball team or a swimming team? How much does a pair of Speedos cost, about $40? Give me a break. And they throw it all into football. I'm not a fan. I'm sorry."

NYBI's trickle-down effect

Buffalo's attitude toward college football wasn't likely to change, but it didn't stop the university from spending money on a failed marketing campaign known as the New York Bulls Initiative. It was masterminded by White, with Greene on board, and disbanded after White departed for Central Florida.

UB ended up on the financial hook twice, first with its implementation and again with its deconstruction. Total costs were unknown, but nobody could deny the athletics department wasted money during the process. Less than a year after restoring "Buffalo" in the athletic department, UB dropped four sports to save $2 million.

Once university officials accepted big donations and made major changes, which included a luxury area for suite holders at UB Stadium, they would have had a difficult time explaining why they downgraded football to the level of other state institutions such as Stony Brook and Albany.

Baseball and other sports that failed to drive revenue were doomed. By all accounts, Greene was told to trim the budget and was distraught over what it would mean to drop four sports on his watch.

Greene ultimately determined which were eliminated. Dropping baseball was particularly troubling to Greene, who played college ball at Notre Dame, was drafted by the Yankees and had a brief career in the minors. Still, he failed to find a better solution once orders were handed down from Tripathi.

"We know it's higher up the ladder," Edwards said. "You can't really blame Allen Greene. I know he's the AD. I know he controls athletics. But you can't pin this on him. You have to pin it on the people higher up. They all knew this was happening at some point, and they let it go."

True to Buffalo roots

Torgalski was on the telephone nonstop, calling coaches for his players, fielding calls about his players, for weeks after the announcement. He worked late and slept little, especially the first two weeks.

Penn State signed one recruit, Toledo another. Rider called looking for infielders. Oklahoma was interested in Harasta and No. 2 starter Shawn Dubin. Maryland was among schools interested in pitcher Alex Touhy, who was out for the year with a broken foot. Most teams were looking for pitchers.

Sobieraski sent out emails outlining his big frame and velocity, which elicited a quick response from Purdue. Injured outfielder Sean Dunne, who transferred from junior college and suffered a season-ending hand injury two innings into the first game, gave his coach a list of six schools that had showed interest in him.

Torgalski was so busy helping his players that he had little time to consider his own future. He repeatedly said the same thing at various points in the season.

"I'm fine," he said. "It's not about me."

Torgalski was a terrific athlete himself, an All-Western New York basketball and baseball player in the mid-1980s. He was the driving force behind Nichols School winning a state basketball title in 1985, and was named most valuable player, when Christian Laettner was a freshman.

The second of four competitive sons of a longtime coach, Torgalski felt compelled to pass along what he learned from his father. Bob Torgalski had coached sports for 50 years, never losing his old-school approach whether he was coaching at St. Francis in the 1970s or the girls at Mount Mercy three decades later.

Ron played college hoops at Hamilton, but he never forgot where he came from. He initially was hired as an assistant basketball coach at UB under Tim Cohane before switching to baseball in 2000. He took over for Bill Breene in 2007 and maintained a competitive program.

UB won a school-record 33 games and finished 19-6 in the conference in 2013, earning Torgalski Coach of the Year honors. His career 220-358 record may have been more a reflection of the university's scant support than anything else. Sixteen players signed professional contracts under his direction with more expected this month.

"I wasn't one to go in and complain to the AD every year with 'I need this, and I need this,' " he said. "It was, 'Give me what you can, and we'll make the best of it.' We might come up short based on the lack of certain things, but we were always going to compete. That was the reputation we developed."

At age 51, after 23 years at the university, including 17 with the baseball program, he was out of a job. As a divorced father of two sons in their teens, he's not in a position to leave the region. He will be paid for the final year remaining on his contract. After a lifetime in sports, he wasn't sure about his future.

"Buffalo" wasn't just the name across his jersey. It's who he is.

"After having invested 17 years, it's hard to see it go," Torgalski said. "My kids grew up in UB baseball. It has been a part of our lives for a long, long time. It has been tough. It's hard when you feel like you're taking small steps every year to raise that talent level, but you never had that opportunity to compete at the highest level year in and year out because of the lack of commitment from the school."

Thankful to play baseball

The irony is that UB added baseball in 2000 because... it was intent on upgrading its football program. In order to join the Mid-American Conference in football, member schools were mandated to participate in certain sports. Baseball was one of them.

For years, Buffalo obliged at the bare minimum. Others schools in the conference offered the maximum number of scholarships while UB had five fewer. UB's field at Amherst Audubon Park, a dump when compared to facilities at other schools in the conference, contributed to the Bulls' recruiting disadvantage.

Several times during his tenure, White changed the subject when asked about building a baseball facility. Baseball was a necessary inconvenience and remained near the bottom of the athletic department's priority list.

The lack of scholarship money compared to other schools was a major problem. Five scholarships broken in half equates to six upgrades on the mound and four upgrades in the field. Torgalski spent little time recruiting top players because he had little chance of signing them.

Their shortcomings surfaced in one-run games. Torgaski was forced to leave starting pitchers in games longer than he wished because he lacked depth in the bullpen. He also had few solutions for light hitters often found at the end of his batting order. UB had inferior rosters virtually every season.

"It changes the way you coach," he said. "You can't do certain things that other guys can do in certain situations, especially coming out of the bullpen. Other guys can make changes and get a lefty-lefty or righty-righty. We can't do that because we either don't have enough guys or guys aren't ready yet. It changes everything."

And then there was the field. Audubon was hidden from the university's general student population behind the Northtown Center at Amherst. UB put little resources into its home ballpark.

On May 1, Torgalski canceled a non-conference game against Niagara that was re-scheduled for the following day because his infield wasn't covered during a rainstorm. The tarp was littered with so many holes that it wasn't worth the effort of spreading it across the field. The Bulls didn't even have an indoor batting cage.

While the women's basketball team's fund-raising efforts raised money for luxuries such as matching winter boots and a massage therapist even though UB already had one, money collected by the baseball team was earmarked for necessities such as jackets and a new L-screen for batting practice.

Miami of Ohio, meanwhile, boasted a $4 million facelift for what is now a gorgeous facility. Western Michigan plays in a nice ballpark adjacent to the football stadium. Toledo's field is a short drive from campus, but it had everything it needed. Every other MAC school had facilities worthy of Division I.

"It's a huge disappointment," Rockies catcher Tom Murphy, a third-round pick from UB in 2011, told SB Nation after his alma mater dropped his sport. "But we were always put on the backburner there as a program; we never had a field on campus or anything like that. It's a sport that's thought of as very secondary.

"We never complained about it or held a grudge against the university. We were just thankful to play baseball and played hard every day, regardless of what kind of stock the university put into us."

Shame on them

Former longtime Ohio coach Joe Carbone helped champion the mandate that required MAC schools to have baseball programs. It was instituted in the early 1970s, back when baseball was a given for Division I sports. He was among many who feared baseball would someday fall victim to football.

Carbone was a respected voice in the conference. He played a pivotal role in MAC schools upgrading their playing fields into small stadiums and pushed for the conference to offer the maximum number of scholarships allowed in D-I baseball.

He also helped UB get its program up and running. When the Bulls first joined the MAC in 2000, the administration didn't even know how many baseballs it needed for a full season. Carbone set up UB with an equipment company, helped arrange its schedule and explained other nuances of the conference.

In 2012, shortly after he retired, the conference decided baseball no longer was required in the MAC. In 2015, when Akron dropped baseball as part of an effort to save $40 million, he worried Buffalo and other schools such as Bowling Green and Northern Illinois wouldn't be far behind.

"And now Buffalo has dropped baseball," said Carbone, a scout for the Miami Marlins. "It makes me very, very sad. It makes me angry. I feel badly for Ronnie and all those kids. They just come in and announce it - so long, goodbye.

"Shame on them. Shame on the president of the University at Buffalo. Shame on the athletic director. You can't afford it? Then you have to cut the budgets of all the sports and kick in fund-raising to get this done, not just say, 'I quit.' For that AD and that president, it's a major loss. They're well below .500 in my book."

Alumni weekend

By mid-May, UB had lost five straight games, putting it in danger of missing the conference tournament. Torgalski invited alumni back for the final weekend at home, and several former players stopped at the ballpark to offer condolences, complain about the administration and tell tall tales about past seasons.

As was customary, top administrators kept their distance.

"I'm in the bullpen the other day, and Allen Greene shows up with his car with tinted windows and the windows up," Sobieraski said during the series. "He was here to watch but didn't want to be seen here. He didn't even get out of the car. He laid low, watched a few innings and left."

Ohio handed them two losses, including a 12-1 drubbing on May 13. Senior Day was set for the following afternoon, Mother's Day. Senior Day was a special occasion for everyone involved, particularly for Brian Dudek and his father.

Gene Dudek played at UB in the late '70s and early '80s, spent a few seasons in the Orioles' system and returned to Western New York. He became a single of father of two when his wife, Marcie, died in 2009 after a 12-year battle with breast cancer. Brian was 2 years old, three years younger than his sister, Kara, when their mother was diagnosed.

Marcie Dudek attended every one of Brian's youth games she could before she passed at age 47. Brian knew his mother wouldn't have missed Senior Day. She would be proud of Kara, too, who teaches autistic children and is getting married in August. Dudek's teammates sensed his mother's absence bothered him during Senior Day ceremonies.

"You could tell," Kwitzer said. "It was Senior Day and Mother's Day. I knew. A lot of guys knew. We tried not to bring it up."

UB played its final home game two days later against Niagara, and Dudek couldn't have written a better script. Buffalo tied the game in the ninth before he stepped to the plate in the 10th and hit a walk-off homer that, with a gust from above providing a little push, barely cleared the fence.

"I blacked out," Dudek said with a smile.

Imagine, a senior playing his last game 15 minutes from home, the son of a great player from another era of Buffalo baseball, coming through with a game-winning homer and enjoying the greatest individual highlight of his career.

"It was awesome," Kwitzer said. "The first thing I thought of was his mom. She was definitely looking over him. When he hit it, it was a special moment. There was no person better than him that could have hit that walk-off."

Baseball and fatherhood

At 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, senior Vinny Mallaro has a frame suited for batting cleanup. Through his first 31 games, he hit .325 with 31 RBIs and three home runs. He had a beer-league softball performance in the wild 21-20 loss to Toledo when he hit two three-run homers and had a school-record nine RBIs.

Mallaro wasn't just the DH. He was the team's only father. His girlfriend gave birth to their son shortly after his junior year. The arrival of his son forced Mallaro into the real world sooner than he expected. His teammates suggested it accelerated his maturity and gave him greater perspective.

"He doesn't care if I play bad and we lose," Mallaro said of his son, "and that makes my day."

Last year, after he batted .351, had 13 homers and 52 RBIs in 50 games, Mallaro was told by scouts he might be selected in the draft's first 15 rounds. He experienced pain in his shoulder during a pre-draft workout with the Reds, was overlooked in the draft and had Tommy John surgery the following month.

Sidelined for the summer and unable to participate in workouts until January, his production fell. On May 12, he and his girlfriend took their son to an immediate-care facility and stayed until 4 a.m. The baby had a virus and would be fine. Mallaro was hitless in eight at-bats over his next two games.

Fatherhood, injuries, uncertainty about his future and frustration accompanying a 3-for-24 slump had added up. He finished with a .285 average, eight homers and 51 RBIs in 51 games, earning him second-team all-MAC. He had a good season, but he was a fraction from a great one.

"It definitely can take a toll on you," Mallaro said. "My girlfriend has been completely supportive. When my son wakes up in the middle of the night, she'll say, 'You go back to bed. You have a game tomorrow. I'll take care of him.' But there have been times I'm working in two-three hours of sleep. It's a lot to take in."

Mallaro was three credits short of graduating with a degree in health and human services. He could be drafted or sign as a free agent. If either happens, he'll likely receive a small signing bonus and low starting salary with two other mouths to feed.

He learned construction as a kid growing up near Syracuse. He talked about becoming firefighter or a cop. If nothing else, he learned life can throw you a curve.

"You try to do the best you can in whatever situation you're in," Mallaro said. "A four-year degree is a lot better than $30,000 (signing bonus) and, with taxes, you're getting practically nothing. Being on a four-year scholarship, going back to school, getting that degree, look at me now: I need one summer class. I'm getting a really good degree from a really good university.

"I'm going to give (professional baseball) a shot, give it a couple of years and see what happens. If not, it's time to find a real job in the real world."

Focus returns to baseball

As the end of the regular season approached, players planned a silent protest that would take place during the conference tournament - when more people were paying attention. They wanted to draw attention to the program's elimination by wearing jerseys inside out and taping over the logo on their caps.

In order to make the statement, however, they needed to make the MAC Tournament. The Bulls figured they needed two wins over Western Michigan to reach the postseason. Finally, the focus was on baseball.

UB had chances to break open the first game but left the bases loaded three times and was tied, 4-4, through eight innings. Dudek doubled off the wall in the ninth and scored on Phil Tomasulo's sacrifice fly, to give the Bulls a 5-4 lead. Harasta and his 97 mph fastball came out of the bullpen.

He retired two of his first three batters. Nate Grys doubled to right-center to score a runner from first. One batter later, Jesse Forestell hit a hard grounder to Dudek's left. Dudek made a great play to knock it down but temporarily lost his footing. Grys scored the winning run from second.

Western scored five runs with two outs. UB left 16 runners on base.

Final score: Western Michigan 6, Buffalo 5.

Afterward, Torgalski reminded his players that they still had a chance to win two games. Listening to his players on the bus back to their hotel, he quietly worried that his team would remain on the canvas after the last haymaker.

"There wasn't a sound the whole way back," he said. "Not a peep. It was the quietest ride of the year - by far."

Time to go home

Rain on Friday forced a doubleheader Saturday. Taking two of three games on the road was difficult enough. Winning twice on the same day is a tall order for any team, especially this one. Everything that could go wrong had gone wrong when they blew the lead in the ninth inning Thursday. And yet there was hope.

UB had learned one win against Western combined with a Toledo loss would give Buffalo a berth in the conference tourney. The season was on life support, but the Bulls were alive for the 11 a.m. start of their first game. If they won, they would play the second game and keep an eye on Toledo-Eastern Michigan.

Buffalo dropped the first game, 7-2. Trailing, 2-0, the Bulls had bases loaded with nobody out and scored one run. They died from a thousand cuts: a bloop single followed by a high chopper to make it 4-1, an opposite-field grounder just inside third base to score two more; a bleeder to give Western a 7-1 lead in the sixth.

In a fitting final chapter, right when it appeared they experienced more adversity than any team should, steady rains over Lake Michigan swept 30 miles east through Kalamazoo. Mother Nature evidently cared less about the program than Father Time.

Western coach Billy Gernon could have called the game based on field conditions, and nobody would have thought less of him. Gernon wanted to give the Bulls a puncher's chance, so he made his own team sit through a three-hour delay before getting the field ready.

And with Western holding a six-run lead during the delay, UB had nearly three hours to digest a season filled with heartbreak. They kept fighting until the final out. Dudek stood over the railing in the dugout, staring at the dirt, pondering his future and coming to terms with the end of his career. In the parking lot, the team bus was running and waiting to take the Bulls back to Buffalo.

But wait. It wasn't over.

Haefner put his team-high 3.7 GPA to work, grabbing his cellphone and scanning the tiebreakers before realizing that, holy cow, UB had an infinitesimal chance to reach the postseason. They had to play one more game. And with that news, the Bulls had one final surge of energy and unity.

"I guess we were used to the holy cow stuff," Torgalski said. "It was a classic ending. We were out here for 12 hours, the rain, happy to be here, spending 12 hours with the guys that you've been with for years, keeping them together one last time."

The Bulls had a chance to rediscover the reasons they had poured so much time and energy into the game since they were kids. It was for the love of baseball. In a season filled with uncertainty and turmoil, a collection of resourceful players became kids once more.

Together, they played a baseball game.

Fittingly, senior Tyler Utz had the last official plate appearance of the game, the season, the era. He epitomized what college sports were about before losing their way, how purity disappeared over time and buckled to money, how it became the multibillion-dollar industry you see today.

Utz was a three-sport athlete at Williamsville South High who grew up minutes away from the Amherst campus. He came to UB for an education, spent his first year gaining his feet, showed up for tryouts as a sophomore, made the team as an extra body and proudly wore the uniform for three years as a bullpen catcher.

Torgalski viewed him as an All-American teammate. He showed up every day and prepared to play knowing he wouldn't. He sprinted from the dugout to the plate while warming up pitchers and never complained. He batted .200 with one extra base hit and one RBI in 17 career games over three seasons.

It was far more than he expected before he stepped to the plate with on and two out in the seventh against Western. With his parents in the crowd after making the drive from Buffalo to hustle him back to UB for graduation ceremonies the next morning, he didn't get cheated. He took three mighty swings, fanned on the third, turned to the guys cheering him from the dugout, and smiled.

Moments later, he gathered with his teammates, and together they sobbed. Some cried with one another, others for one another, others because they couldn't stop once the first one started. In the months that had passed, while coming to terms with the decision, virtually everyone landed on one word: sad.

For Utz, it was all that and more.

"I'm just so grateful," Utz said. "They gave me a chance to play college baseball. That was my dream. I actually got to play over the years. It's a dream come true. I got to make the best friends, meet amazing people - not just the baseball team but throughout athletics. It changed my life completely. It's a shame that it's over."

Together, with darkness falling, players and coaches collected their belongings from the dugout and headed for the bus, their message clear but unspoken.

It was time to go home.

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Copyright 2017 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

SALT LAKE CITY - It's unlikely a Utah high school coach who is a licensed school teacher can readily move to another assignment if a hearing process substantiates he or she had inappropriate contact with a student.

But what about coaches - paid and volunteer - who fall outside that system?

The State School Board is wrestling with that question as it considers a proposed administrative rule that would in some way track the employment of coaches and volunteers who work with students in interscholastic activities but are not licensed educators.

Some members of the Utah State Board of Education say the rule change would enhance student safety, but others argue a registry or database that would be made available to schools statewide could unfairly impugn coaches' reputations unless there is a hearing process for them to challenge allegations of wrongdoing.

After debating the rule in a recent meeting, the State School Board will likely take up the matter again when it meets on July 14.

Board member Spencer Stokes said an effective policy is needed to keep "the bad actors" from serving as coaches.

"This is where the predator problem occurs. It's not with our licensed educators because we have a system for them. It's all the other people who come and are involved. As the father of three daughters who participated in high school athletics, I've seen some of this," he said.

Board member Linda Hansen said one of her concerns is inappropriate conduct can go unchecked for a long time because "parents are afraid to report things because they're afraid their kids aren't going to get to play."

Although the Utah High School Activities Association's certification process requires coaches to undergo background checks and training, it has not tracked the employment of coaches.

Coaches who are not certified school teachers are at-will employees who can be dismissed from schools for any reason and without warning.

Rob Cuff, executive director of the UHSAA, said hiring and dismissals occur at the school level and often without the knowledge of the association.

Kristen Betts, president of the Nebo Board of Education and chairwoman of the activities association's board of trustees, said the school district's legal counsel advises board members not to disclose the reasons at-will employees are terminated, because of potential liability issues.

Board member Alisa Ellis said the challenge comes in finding a means to protect student-athletes and coming up with a system "that wasn't putting a scarlet 'A' on someone as they went back through the system."

Absent some form of due process, "that didn't seem like the American way either," Ellis said.

Board member Carol Lear, a former school law and legislation director for the Utah State Board of Education, said if a component of "bad-acting coaches" is added to a database accessible to local education agencies statewide, "they have to add a UPPAC-like system that gives coaches the opportunity to respond to those allegations."

Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission, or UPPAC, conducts administrative hearings and makes recommendations to the State School Board regarding educator licensure and educator misconduct. Possible outcomes can include dismissing an allegation the hearing process determines is not substantiated, revoking teacher licenses, suspending them, or issuing letters of reprimand, warning or admonishment.

Stokes said one option to protect students would be to require coaches to sign an agreement they will go through the UPPAC hearing process if someone levels an allegation against them.

Lear cautioned against adding nonlicensed employees and others to the commission's workload.

"It's not a simple process. I don't think it can bear the weight of another system," she said.

One option would be to make a request to the Utah Legislature to fund a hearing process that would be handled by the Utah High School Activities Association, Lear said.

Assistant Utah Attorney General David Thomas said he agrees there would need to be some type of hearing process, but since the activities association is a nonprofit organization, it does not require the same type of administrative hearing as a governmental entity.

"It does not have to be as deliberative as that," Thomas said, referring to the UPPAC process.

Lear disagrees.

"We are, by bootstrapping in the association, we are requiring a state level of certification by bootstrapping, not by fiat, not by making the association a public agency. But by bootstrapping, we're creating a thing that arguably (requires) some kind of due process beyond a good reason to color a person's reputation," she said.

To obtain certification from UHSAA, coaches must undergo background checks and complete training on CPR, first aid, concussion protocols and complete the National Federation of State High School Associations' Fundamentals of Coaching course.

Following the Utah Legislature's general session earlier this year, the State School Board passed an administrative rule that creates new certification requirements: child sexual abuse prevention training and bullying, cyberbullying, hazing, harassment and retaliation training.

Tracking employment of coaches and volunteers who are not certified teachers would be another component.

Although the activities association certifies coaches, it is the responsibility of school districts or charter schools to check potential hires against the certification registry.

Stokes said he would like the board to come up with a policy and process that balances the competing interests so parents "can know for a certainty when you're sending your child to participate in school athletics that there's not somebody who has been fired or quit from another district (and) is now doing something else because they were a great wrestling coach or great girls tennis coach (and) somebody finds out about it and wants to pick them up as a volunteer."

Email: marjorie@deseretnews.com

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Max Engelhart, a 6-foot-1, 270-pound offensive lineman at UD, went to a party and woke up the next day at a house on Chambers Street with what was diagnosed as a concussion.

Max Engelhart alleges he was forced to chug alcoholic drinks as part of an initiation to the University of Dayton football team. He says he woke up on Chambers Street. Defendants in his suit include two coaches and others.

University of Dayton Department of Public Safety incident logs for a December 2014 incident show "hazing" hand-written on the right side. Former UD football player Max Engelhart alleges that hazing led to his serious head injury. School lawyers argue the incident does not fit the legal definition of hazing.

State Sen. Cecil Thomas says, "I did not know that the hazing law ended at the point of that first entry into (a group)."

State Sen. Kevin Bacon says, "With respect to that part of the code, I think it very well may need to be broadened."

As University of Dayton attorneys try to get a hazing lawsuit thrown out because they say the alleged activity doesn't match the law, two legislators say Ohio's anti-hazing statute should be reviewed and updated.

UD lawyers want a judge to dismiss the lawsuit brought Max Engelhart, a freshman football player in 2014 who claims that hazing led to his traumatic brain injury.

In Montgomery County Common Pleas Court filings, UD's lawyers have said that even if true, Engelhart's allegations - being forced to drink to excess during a "Mad Dogs" party that football staffers knew about - were not illegal. UD argues Ohio's law only addresses activities that are related to an "initiation into" a group.

"What is described is not hazing as a matter of law, no matter how many times plaintiff uses the word," UD attorneys wrote, calling the December 2014 alleged party after Engelhart's freshman season a "social gathering" and denying his allegations.

Law 'does not go far enough'

Senate judiciary chairman Kevin Bacon, R-Minerva Park, andcommitteememberCecil Thomas, D-Cincinnati, both said they were surprised by the law's wording and suggested a review.

"I did not know that the hazing law ended at the point of that first entry into (a group)," Thomas said. "Obviously, the law does not go far enough."

The first paragraph of Ohio Revised Code 2903.31 - enacted March 3, 1983, and never amended - states: "As used in this section, 'hazing' means doing any act or coercing another, including the victim, to do any act of initiation into any student or other organization that causes or creates a substantial risk of causing mental or physical harm to any person."

The "initiation into" phrase is used by attorneys defending both the University of Dayton and the University of Toledo in a separate suits.

"That part seems to be too narrow if it could be interpreted that you're limiting it only to an active initiation," Bacon said. "With respect to that part of the code, I think it very well may need to be broadened."

Party a 'social gathering'

Engelhart claimed he was forced to chug high-alcohol drinks as part of a "Mad Dogs" or "Mad Caps" initiation to the UD football team. Defendants include UD football coach Rick Chamberlin, strength coach Jared Phillips and others.

Engelhart, then a 6-foot-1, 270-pound offensive lineman, woke up Dec. 8, 2014, covered in his own vomit, feces and urine and with a headache later diagnosed by UD's team physician as a concussion. Engelhart claims he had to quit football, leave the university and has been prescribed a medicine typically given to Alzheimer's and dementia patients.

"We are concerned with UD's position on hazing," said Scott Jones, one of Engel-hart's attorneys. "UD's own public safety records state that, at Mad Dogs 2014, upperclassmen football players forced freshmen players to drink large quantities of alcohol, shaved freshmen players' heads, and spray painted pictures of genitalia on the freshmen players.

"Some of the freshmen players who were forced to participate specifically described the activities as 'hazing' to UD Public Safety. Yet, in papers filed with the court, UD has chosen to describe the event as a 'social gathering.'

"More troubling, however, is UD's position that once a student athlete accepts an offer to be on a university team, Ohio's anti-hazing statute offers that student athlete no protection."

In his amended complaint, Engelhart claimed hazing, negligence, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy to cover up allegations of hazing.

UD tweaked policy in early 2014

Visiting Judge Peter Handwork, formerly of the Sixth District Court of Appeals, set a hearing on the defense's motion to dismiss for July

21. Handwork was assigned to the case after both Judge Dennis Langer and Judge Steven Dankof asked to be disqualified due to possible conflicts of interest.

UD officials said that the school's student development professionals adjusted the guidelines in early 2014 "so the policy is clear and unambiguous to our students; it also reflects sound higher education practices regarding hazing prevention, education and response."

UD's hazing policy addresses "any planned/ executed action or activity, by or against an active member, associate member, pledge or potential member or new member of an organization or group."

UD's policy says any activity that causes "physical or mental harm, distress, anxiety, or which may demean, degrade, embarrass or disgrace any person, regardless of location, consent or intention is prohibited."

The policy cites examples of hazing such as forced consumption of food, alcohol or drugs and other physical activity

"Students may not imply that a person would be shunned, removed, or not initiated for failing to participate in any form of hazing," the policy also states. "Any action or situation that intentionally or unintentionally endangers a student, who is attempting admission into or affiliating with any student organization, is prohibited."

UD policy about 'prevention'

When asked about the differences between Ohio's anti-hazing law - a fourth-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine - and UD's bylaws, university officials said best practices at higher education institutions often go beyond what the law requires.

"The University of Dayton's policies and student code of conduct are detailed and specific because our efforts are geared toward prevention," university officials said in a statement. "It's important to identify and quickly address behavior that might start small, but if unchecked could grow into something far more serious."

Bacon said it's important to have a strong anti-hazing law that protects more than just students entering an organization.

"I don't know that anyone ever intended to say we're only going to count this as initiation, but it's OK your second year in a fraternity and we haze you then, then we can't use the statute," Bacon said. "I certainly think it would stand to reason that you could use the hazing statute at any stage, regardless of how long they were in the fraternity or otherwise, the football team, whatever it may be."

Law may be 'behind the times'

Bacon said Ohio's penalty for hazing — a fourth-degree misdemeanor with maximums of 30 days in jail and a $250 fine - could be reviewed.

"It may be worth looking into having different tiers (of penalties)," he said.

Ohio law also has a hazing civil liability statute that, like the criminal law, says administrators who knew about or tolerated the hazing could be held accountable. But the civil liability law uses the definition of hazing from the criminal statute, limiting it to "initiation into" a group.

Many hazing policies in Ohio are much more expansive and specific than Ohio's law.

"If the colleges are already way ahead of the law itself, that basically says that the law is behind the times and maybe we need to update the law if it hasn't been updated since 1983," Thomas said.

UD officials emailed this news organization portions of hazing policies from Miami University, Ohio State University, Wright State University and Xavier University.

University hazing policy language

Miami University's policy prohibits coercing activity not just as an initiation into, but also "as a condition of participation in" an organization.

Ohio State's policy prohibits "doing, requiring or encouraging any act, whether or not the act is voluntarily agreed upon, in conjunction with initiation or continued membership or participation in any group, that causes or creates a substantial risk of causing mental or physical harm or humiliation."

Similarly, Xavier's policy prohibits intentional, reckless or coercive acts "for initiation into, admission to, affiliation with, or continued membership in any group or organization, and which causes or creates a substantial risk of causing mental or physical harm, harassment, discomfort, embarrassment, or ridicule to any person."

Wright State's policy states, "Group loyalty and unity is built on trust and mutual respect. Hazing is an abuse of power and relationships, and puts individuals at risk."

Death at Penn State

At Penn State University, 18 members of the now-disbanded Beta Theta Pi fraternity were charged last month with crimes up to involuntary manslaughter related to the death of 19-year-old Timothy Piazza.

Piazza was a sophomore who investigators said repeatedly fell down a flight of stairs Feb. 2 after pledges were made to run a gantlet of drinking stations guzzling vodka, beer and wine.

His blood-alcohol level was .40 - five times the legal limit. Piazza suffered a traumatic brain injury and died Feb. 4.

Security camera video was shown to grand jury members that allegedly showed one fraternity brother slam another into a wall when the first member suggested Piazza needed medical attention.

Investigators said fraternity members tried to cover up what happened and, only several hours later, that they tried to revive him for 40 minutes before calling 911.

Pennsylvania's anti-hazing law includes activity "for the purpose of initiation or admission into or affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership in any organization operating under the sanction of or recognized as an organization by an institution of higher education."

Like Thomas, Bacon said he hadn't studied the hazing statute before but that he plans to gather more information, consult colleagues and vet the subject: "I think that, with these two incidents hitting the newspaper and, candidly, (the Dayton Daily News) bringing this to my attention, I think this is something that we should look at."

Standard 'ridiculous'

UD attorneys cite a rejected Court of Claims case about which UD attorneys wrote that University of Toledo freshman football Kyle Cameron severely injured his head while trying to dunk a football over the goal post during the offensive line's "Freshman Olympics" during summer practices before the season.

UD lawyers wrote that the court rejected the Toledo player's hazing claim on grounds that the plaintiff "was already a member of the team."

Cameron's attorney, Guy Barone, told this news organization that the Court of Claims case was argued in front of the Tenth District Court of Appeals and a decision is possible in the next couple months.

Baron said attorneys from the office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine zeroed in on the fact Cameron had signed his letter of intent to play football at the school.

"If that was so, you could never have hazing in the military, you couldn't have it in any athletics programs and so forth," Barone said. "I think that's ridiculous. If it's not hazing, then it's my position is that it's negligence."

Contact this reporter at 937-225-6951 or email Mark.

Gokavi@coxinc.com

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All Rights Reserved

Anderson Independent-Mail (South Carolina)

 


The elephant in the room this time is an actual, or at least costumed, elephant. In the NCAA's upcoming analysis of college football staff sizes, Alabama's Crimson Tide will be at the center of the debate over how big is too big.

If you thought Big Al, Alabama's elephant mascot, was large, take a look at the Crimson Tide's sideline during a football game. The support staff could hardly be supported by an actual elephant.

"I see some sidelines where there's more defensive coordinators standing on the sideline than... are normal," said Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, searching for the right words.

Bielema didn't mention Alabama, of course. No one wants to point fingers or name names. Bob Bowlsby, the chairman of the NCAA Oversight Committee, didn't when he told CBSSports.com that one FBS team reportedly has 97 staff members who work directly for the football program, but anyone who is looking at excess in college football generally looks first toward Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

The NCAA is beginning to take an interest in the size and structure of staffs, and the NCAA Council recently commissioned a study that showed Notre Dame had the largest football staff in the country with 45 employees. CBSSports reported, however, that those numbers came from counting the names listed on team websites. Under that methodology, Texas (44), Georgia (42), Auburn (41) and Michigan (40) followed the Irish in the top five of staff size.

South Carolina's website lists 33 people on its football staff. That's everyone from coach Will Mushamp and his nine on-field assistants to analysts such as former defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson to Kim Fields, Muschamp's assistant and director of operations.

"I'm not for it growing any more," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. "That may just be because I don't know how to manage it more than I already do. I don't want any more people in our building really. We have enough people to do their jobs and do it effectively. I do wish we could come to some consensus that this is the number, this what you're allowed to have."

That appears unlikely to happen. For starters, Freeze is one of the few SEC coaches who publicly favors a cap.

"It's up to the university," Muschamp said. "Whatever that head coach and that athletic director and that president can pay and feel comfortable with, that's what they should have."

More importantly, decision-makers such as SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey don't favor a cap.

"I am not going to talk about size in this context, but I think discussing structure and roles is entirely appropriate - who is involved in coaching and who is not involved in coaching," said Sankey, adding that the NCAA Oversight Committee would be taking up that question soon and he would wait to see what plan emerged from those meetings.

Any cap on number of employees or the earnings of those employees could violate federal employment law, a fact the NCAA learned the hard way when it had to pay $54.5 million in 1999 to settle a class action lawsuit by assistant coaches who had their wages restricted by a vote of the NCAA membership.

"You can't limit the number of employees," Bielema said. "Now I think you can limit what they do on the field. There's obviously restrictions on that, how many guys can be in a press box, I think we can limit that; but if there's going to be 200 people in the program, I don't see how you can limit that."

The growing numbers of college football staffers do everything from assist in the recruiting office to scout future opponents to work in the weight room. The Gamecocks, for instance, have Johnson — who has been the defensive coordinator at four SEC schools — serving as an analyst. In that role, he is not allowed to assist in on-field coaching but can watch practice and film and pass along anything he gleans.

Although Muschamp doesn't want a cap on support staffs, he does believe that there is diminishing value in adding more bodies at some point.

"I don't like dead weight within the program, so you have to be smart keeping the guys around that are truly helping your program," he said.

One way the staffs have helped is by serving as a de facto minor league system for major programs. For instance, Saban probably wouldn't have been comfortable enough to fire former offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin one week before the national title game, which he did in January, if he hadn't had former Southern Cal coach and highly regarded offensive mind Steve Sarkisian waiting in the wings as an offensive analyst. Sarkisian was able to step right in with a complete understanding of all of the team's terminology, personnel and philosophy.

"One thing that really comes into play is when you're able to hire someone from within that's been in your program maybe two years on a side show, and then all of a sudden they're on the front stage," Bielema said. "To plug those guys in right away is a huge asset."

South Carolina outside linebackers coach Mike Peterson got his start as a strength and conditioning assistant under Muschamp at Florida and then got his first on-field job under Muschamp with the Gamecocks last season.

As for Saban, he doesn't see any reason why his team should be singled out.

"I don't think we came up with anything that caused any of the changes that we're doing right now," he said. "I think everybody is working hard to stay on the cutting edge, within the rules of course, to do the best things they can for their team, their organization so they have the best chance to be successful. I think that's what everybody is really trying to do. I don't know what we did to cause any of this."

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Chicago Daily Herald

 

Jump ropes, aerobic bands, stability balls and other equipment to get individual students moving might overtake team sports as the cornerstone of physical education classes in middle schools of the state's second-largest school district.

A new physical education curriculum for Elgin Area School District U-46's eight middle schools is under review. It would go beyond such sports as basketball and soccer and emphasize solo activities to engage students and, accordingly, improve student performance in the classroom.

"Physical education needs to look different because not everybody is physically engaged and active, and participating (in sports)... it's just not what they want to do or it's not what they are good at," said Tracey Jakaitis, U-46 student wellness coordinator.

"This curriculum very much is moving away from a team sport model focus, and it's bringing a lot more opportunities for fitness and individual student growth," she said. "We need our elementary and our middle school students to experience a variety of activities - not basketball, volleyball, badminton and soccer every year. You have to find something they like."

Officials propose using heart-rate monitors to track students' fitness levels, count steps and calories and to help them learn how physical activity affects their health.

"The districts around us are still very much doing a sports model," Jakaitis said. "Everybody is trying to incorporate the heart-rate technology... we are a little bit behind on that piece."

In 2015, U-46 implemented new physical education curriculum and resources in its 40 elementary schools. The proposed middle school curriculum and resources align with and extend the concepts and skills taught in elementary grades, as well as revised national and state standards.

Students would be exposed to fitness concepts, such as target heart rate, teamwork, biomechanical principals of movement, personal fitness analysis and goal setting, and assessments to help determine areas of strength and develop goals for improvement.

"We're going to actually get them moving... in a way that they have never seen before," said Mary Juvingo, physical education teacher at Kenyon Woods Middle School in South Elgin.

Illinois requires daily physical education for all students in kindergarten through 12th grades. And reporting fitness tests is required for students in third through 12th grades.

The state's Enhanced Physical Education Task Force Report says students who are more physically active perform better in the classroom and on standardized tests, and they also have improved behaviors and overall health.

"Higher physical activity and physical fitness levels are associated with improved cognitive performance, such as concentration and memory, among students," said Chad Dahlman, physical education teacher at Abbott Middle School in Elgin.

Yet national research shows students spend less time actually being physically active during traditional physical education classes, which doesn't meet the 60 minutes per day of exercise recommended by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines.

"Evidence just gets stronger and stronger that getting kids engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity in physical education class yields the biggest benefits," said Michael Isaacson, an assistant community health director for the Kane County Health Department who served on the state task force. "This is a positive trend that is occurring. The types of interventions that U-46 is talking about implementing is exactly in line with what we know works. As part of our Making Kane County Fit for Kids Campaign, this is also exactly in line with what we're advocating.

"We're starting to see more schools utilizing heart-rate monitors and more schools moving to this individual fitness rather than your traditional team sports. Many kids end up having poor experiences with that old model."

The cost for curriculum and resources is $307,602 - and roughly $285,000 of that is for heart-rate monitors, iPads and other technical equipment.

School board members welcomed the approach and were given heart-rate monitors to test for a couple of weeks.

"We just want everybody to see why it is so valuable," Jakaitis said. "This piece of technology is what we need to change physical education."

If the board adopts the curriculum, officials propose to roll it out in seventh grade this fall and expand to eighth grade next year.

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Patrick Kunzer/pkunzer@dailyherald.com, 2005 Individual activity with less emphasis on team sports is the focus of a proposed physical education curriculum for middle schools in Elgin Area School District U-46.
 
June 12, 2017
 
 
 
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The New York Post

 

Millennials aren't just taking over the world. They're taking over the Summer Olympics, too.

In an effort to gain more interest from young people and in urban areas, the International Olympics Committee on Friday announced it was adding 3-on-3 basketball to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

It's like NBA Street, the once-popular video game, in an Olympic setting. There will be eight teams in the men's and women's tournaments, totaling 64 athletes. They will play in a half-court format, which was introduced at the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore. IOC sports director Kit McConnell said an urban Tokyo venue could be announced when the organization's board meets again on July 9-10.

FIBA, the international basketball federation, has held World Championships, also called World Cups, in the event since 2012. It is played with just one hoop and two teams of four players, one substitute apiece. Game time is traditionally 10 minutes long or the first team to reach 21 points. There are no timeouts, no halftime break and a 12-second shot clock. FIBA will announce at a later date if there will be country quotas, and what the qualification procedures will be.

It is uncertain who will be eligible for the event, if it will include an age limit, be open to professional or college athletes. But if NBA players are allowed to compete, who wouldn't want to see LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul take on Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Stephen Curry? Or, perhaps, the new "Big 3" basketball league, which involves Ice Cube, Allen Iverson and Charles Oakley, will produce entrants.

"The dream of a path from the streets to the Olympic Games has become reality for all the basketball community," said Patrick Baumann, the secretary general of FIBA.

BMX Freestyle cycling also was added to the games, while traditional sports such as weight lifting, wrestling, sailing and shooting will lose a combined 172 places for competition.

Last August, climbing, skateboarding, surfing, baseball, softball, and karate were added. Also new will be track cycling's men's and women's madison races, which will be held in a velodrome 80 miles outside Tokyo. Swimming will add men's 800-meter freestyle and women's 1,500 freestyle and a 4x100-meter mixed medley relay that is part of push to increase the number of mixed gender events. - with AP

From ABClimbing Industry Reacts to Sport’s Olympic Arrival

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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

There was a buzz inside Rice-Eccles Stadium last fall. What else would you expect when Utah faces BYU? There were hundreds of rowdy students, cheers for the Utes, boos for the Cougars. And, when it was all over, they rushed the playing field-- a computer lab across the street from the watch party at the stadium.

"They wanted to take photos with us. People were saying they looked up to us," said senior Sean Cook, one of the best "League of Legends" players on the U.'s campus. "It was weird."

It was also, perhaps, a glimpse at the future of college sports.

This fall, the University of Utah is set to become the first school from a Power 5 conference to offer a varsity team in competitive esports, a growing industry that some believe has a bright future and a place among traditional college athletics.

"If we can get buy-in from Ute nation, and other schools can get buy-in from their fan bases, I think the ceiling for this is limitless," said AJ Dimick, director of the U.'s new esports program. "This could become a very mainstream collegiate experience."

Utah officials began looking at ways to transition their popular club team, Crimson Gaming, into a varsity program about a year ago, when Pac-12 leaders started to dip their toes into the world of competitive video gaming. The conference's efforts soon fizzled out, but Utah's esports enthusiasts pushed ahead.

Related: Utah Plans for Varsity eSports Team

"Some of them don't quite get it yet, which is OK," Robert Kessler, director of the U.'s Entertainment Arts and Engineering program, said. "Others don't want to dilute regular sports with esports. They don't see that these things are closely related."

So the gamin' Utes will hold tryouts in the fall. There will be no 40-yard dashes or bench presses. Instead, there will be minions to slay and gold to collect. Then there will be scholarships -- somewhere between $500 and $1,000 to start, with officials hoping future sponsorships will allow them to grow -- for 35 players, managers and coaches who excel in one or more of four popular games: "League of Legends", "Hearthstone", "Overwatch" and a yet-to-be-announced title.

The school is not the first to offer a varsity esports team, but it is the first in a major college athletic conference to do so. Officials hope they can provide a model for other schools to follow, while creating a product that might one day fall under the athletic department's umbrella.

The school's highly ranked Entertainment Arts and Engineering program, where students design and create their own video games, is a good incubator for such a new program. Eventually, however, officials see this as an athletics program. Otherwise, they will have to duplicate many of the mechanisms -- compliance, ticket sales, merchandising -- to address problems an athletics department already handles.

From ABLeveraging the Esports Popularity Boom

"We talk to them all the time," Dimick said. "I'm able to pick up the phone and ask them about sponsorships, or how we would put jerseys in the bookstore."

Kessler understands the mingling of video games and traditional college sports might be off putting for some.

"But if you think about traditional athletics and sports, it's the same damn thing," he said. "It's competition. It's training. There's intellectuals aspects. There's teamwork. It is a sport."

Dimick agrees. Esports provide spectacle and tribalism, he says, not unlike the traditional sports he loves. He played at Utah State briefly. He produces sports radio in town. On his office wall is a framed poster of the 1990-91 Runnin' Utes -- "my favorite team" -- and a newspaper sports cover of Utah's 1993 win over BYU, a turning point in the schools' football rivarly.

"Everything that informs you about mainstream sports should inform you about esports," he said. "It does belong in athletics. Straight up."

The world's top esports players and teams can make millions annually and develop rabid fan followings. Last year's League of Legends championships attracted more than 43 million unique viewers, topping out at 14.7 million concurrent viewers during its peak. This year's NBA finals, by comparison, are averaging 19.3 million total live viewers on ABC and streaming platforms combined.

And the big players in traditional sports are taking notice.

In 2018, 17 NBA franchises, including the Utah Jazz, will participate in an esports league centered on the NBA 2K gaming franchise.

ESPN, meanwhile, has been feeling out its place in the esports world for years.

"It's been clear to us that it's a growing category on the global scale and now, more recently, in the United States," said John Lasker, vice president of programming and acquisitions for the sports broadcast giant. "We see that there's a pretty good crossover in terms of audience comparisons and interest in terms of participating in video games and esports and what you would call traditional sports. We feel like it's a natural thing for ESPN."

There have been video game highlights on SportsCenter, a new vertical dedicated to coverage of events, and more than 300 hours of dedicated programming on Lasker's networks since 2014.

"We've learned a lot about the skill of the athletes, the intensity of the competitions, and the interest in it," he said.

So with just a few months before the start of his senior season, Cook, the 22-year-old League of Legends ace who goes by the gamertag "Toast," is gearing up for a big campaign. As a jock, a member of his high school football team in Kentucky, he used to keep his love for video games secret, figuring it would hurt his reputation.

"Nobody knew I played," he said.

Now, he is proud to have traded his shoulder pads for a mousepad -- and a chance to win a spot on the varsity squad.

afalk@sltrib.com

Twitter: @aaronfalk --

The Gamin' Utes

The University of Utah is set to become the first school in a Power 5 conference to offer varsity esports, awarding partial scholarships next fall to about 35 gamers, managers and coaches who excel in the computer games League of Legends, Hearthstone, Overwatch and a yet-to-be-announced title.

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The Daily News of Los Angeles

 

LOS ANGELES — The International Olympic Committee's executive board on Friday recommended that the IOC take the unprecedented step of awarding both the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games this year, all but guaranteeing that Los Angeles will host a third Olympic Games in the next decade.

The full IOC membership is expected to approve next month the executive committee's recommendation for a joint 2024/2028 decision, setting up negotiations between the IOC and Los Angeles and Paris officials that are expected to result in Los Angeles agreeing to host the 2028 Games.

In a special meeting July 11-12 in Lausanne, IOC members will discuss and likely vote on a 2024/2028 plan that has been pushed by IOC President Thomas Bach as a way out of a bid city crisis that threatens the future of the Olympic Movement.

Describing Los Angeles and Paris as "great" and "enthusiastic" bid cities, Bach said the 2024/2028 plan "represents a golden opportunity for the Olympic Games and for the IOC."

"We want really is a win, win, win situation," Bach said. "That means for the two cities and for the IOC."

While the 2024 host city is not scheduled to be selected by the IOC until Sept. 13 in Lima, Peru, IOC leadership favors a deal in which Paris would be awarded the 2024 Games, with the world returning to Southern California four years later for a third Olympics in Los Angeles, according to international sports officials and consultants who have worked with the IOC and are familiar with the IOC's inner workings.

"We welcome the IOC Executive Board's decision to recognize two excellent bids from two of the world's greatest cities," Los Angeles 2024 bid Chairman Casey Wasserman and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. "With no new permanent venues to build and unwavering public support, Los Angeles is an eternal Olympic city and ideal partner for the IOC.

"We look forward to sharing our unique story with the IOC membership in July and working together to offer the best path forward for our city and the Olympic Movement's future."

Bach said the IOC has "talked to the cities" about the 2024/2028 plan "but we did not negotiate." The special IOC meeting on the joint awarding proposal coincides with the IOC candidature city meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland. Both Los Angeles and Paris officials will make presentations to IOC members during the July meeting.

"If the IOC members are in agreement with the principle afterwards we shall speak and discuss and maybe negotiate with the candidate cities, and at the end of that procedure the IOC members will have an occasion to vote during the IOC session in Lima, Peru, in September," Bach said.

Paris officials have repeatedly dismissed the idea of hosting the 2028 Games, maintaining that the site for the Olympic Village will be available only in 2024.

"There is no doubt for the IOC that it makes sense to look at this situation and see if it's possible to have a double award," Paris bid co-chairman Tony Estanguet told reporters this week. "But at the same time we remain on the same line, saying our project has been built for 2024. We will not change this design because of whatever we read and we hear. We want the games for 2024. That's my mandate.

"We can't really consider 2028 at the moment."

Los Angeles officials, however, have been increasingly receptive in recent weeks to the possibility of waiting until 2028.

"To be blunt, LA 2024 has never been only about L.A. or 2024," Wasserman said. "Even when the issue of a dual award for the 2024 and 2028 games was initially raised, we didn't say it's 'L.A. first' or it's 'now or never' for L.A.; that sounds like an ultimatum. We could have used that strategy, but we didn't because we thought it was presumptuous to tell the IOC what to do and how to think. We're better partners than that. It has always been our contention that LA 2024 had to make as much sense for the Olympic Movement as it did for the people of L.A. And we've stuck to that premise."

Bach on Friday evaded a question that suggested the scenario of Paris in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028 is already a done deal.

"I think both cities are open to being approached by the IOC after such a vote to discuss how to achieve a win, win, win situation," Bach said. "This is what I'm gathering from our conversations with the candidate cities."

Whether Los Angeles hosts in 2024 or 2028, the joint awarding plan is seen internationally and locally as a winning deal. An agreement would allow Garcetti, believed to have political aspirations beyond City Hall, to add landing the Olympic Games to his resume, helping to distinguish him in a deep talent pool of potential Democratic candidates for statewide and federal offices.

It would also give Los Angeles an unprecedented bargaining position in negotiations with the IOC.

"When there's a crisis, there's actually more leverage over the IOC," said Jules Boykoff, author of "Power Games: A Political History of the Olympics."

Some international sports officials and economists project that the price for asking Los Angeles or Paris to wait until 2028 could reach $3 billion for the IOC. The IOC will contribute nearly $1.5 billion to the 2024 host city, including $855 million from television revenue and $453.5 million from its TOP Sponsors program and corporate partners such as Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Visa.

Garcetti suggested the IOC could start funding youth sports programs in Southern California or underwrite the costs of running the local organizing committee for an additional four years. Others, however, argue that Los Angeles officials need to think much bigger in negotiations with the IOC.

"That seems to me to be really unambitious compared to what they got in the 1984 Olympics, basically privatizing the affair," Boykoff said. "It's pretty unambitious what they're (reportedly) asking for. The moment is much bigger than perhaps people within the organization realize given the demands, the exigency, the thrill of actually landing the Olympics kind of blinding people to the real opportunity in front of them, which is historic."

Bach, however, insisted the IOC is not ready to make major financial concessions to the 2028 host city.

"Quite frankly, I don't think that you need to reward somebody if you give somebody a present," Bach said. "You know for the city it would also be a safe bet. Then the city would get the right to host the Olympic Games without the risk of defeat in the election procedure. So again this would be a win, win situation. It would be a win for the candidate city and it would be a win for the IOC and this would put this city on an equal basis as the '24 city.

"We may have to consider in this discussion how we may have to adapt one or the other clause in the host city contract toward this situation because... the city is funding itself for a long time. We are binding ourselves for a long time and this may have effect on some clauses of the host city contract and some conditions, but again it is not about saying 'here is amount for reward.' "

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

The top pitcher for No. 1 Oregon State, who as a 15-year-old pleaded guilty to molesting a 6-year-old female family member, released a statement Friday saying he has asked to be excused from playing in the NCAA super regionals.

Luke Heimlich said he didn't want to be a distraction to the team, which began a best-of-three series Friday night against Vanderbilt. Heimlich's attorney, Stephen Ensor, released the statement hours before the game.

"I'm so proud of our team's accomplishment and don't want to be a distraction; therefore I've respectfully requested to be excused from playing at this time," Heimlich said.

He also said, "I have taken responsibility for my conduct when I was a teenager."

From ABCollege Player's Teen Conviction Raises Concerns

Heimlich's criminal history was first reported by The Oregonian on Thursday. In an editorial accompanying the article, the newspaper said it learned about Heimlich's 2012 conviction while doing a routine background check before running a profile on him.

Heimlich, a junior left-hander from Puyallup, Wash., is 11-1 with an 0.76 ERA. He is projected to be an early round pick in next week's major league draft.

"I'm grateful for the counseling I received and since then I realized the only way forward was to work each day on becoming the best person, community member and student I can possibly be," Heimlich said in Friday's statement. "I understand many people now see me differently, but I hope I can eventually be judged by the person I am today."

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Major League Baseball is looking into a domestic violence accusation against Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell.

His wife, Melissa, posted a photo Wednesday on Instagram with a caption suggesting he was unfaithful to her. In another post, a user named "carlierreed" and described by Melissa as a close friend accused Russell of "mentally and physically abusing her." The posts have been deleted.

Russell issued a statement Thursday that said: "Any allegation I have abused my wife is false and hurtful. For the well-being of my family, I'll have no further comment."

Spokesman Patrick Courtney says MLB is looking into the situation. Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi says the department "does not have any current investigation" into Russell or allegations of domestic violence.

An All-Star last season, Russell is batting just .209 with three homers and 19 RBIs this year. He was not in Thursday's lineup for the opener of a four-game series against Colorado.

"Last night, we were made aware of a serious claim posted on social media about Addison Russell," the team said. "We reached out to Major League Baseball and, following the protocol established by MLB, will fully cooperate with the commissioner's office as it gathers pertinent facts."

Astros: Ace Dallas Keuchel is going back on the disabled list with neck discomfort and returned to Houston on Thursday to be examined. Keuchel, 9-0 with a 1.67 ERA in 11 starts, was on the DL from May 15-26 with a pinched nerve in his neck.

Yankees: All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman, out since May 12 with rotator cuff inflammation, is expected to throw a simulated game today or Saturday.

Tigers: Right-hander Justin Verlander threw Thursday and is expected to start Saturday in Boston. Verlander left his previous start Sunday with groin tightness, but an MRI came back clean.

Diamondbacks: Paul Goldschmidt has reached base safely in a career-high 35 straight home games, two games short of Stephen Drew's club record.... Ace Zack Greinke was placed on the paternity leave list to be with his wife, Emily, for the birth of their second child.

Twins: Shortstop Jorge Polanco was placed on the bereavement list following the death of his grandfather.

Rays: Second baseman Brad Miller went on the 10-day DL with a right groin strain.

Giants: Newly acquired reliever Sam Dyson will join the team this weekend, but manager Bruce Bochy isn't sure when he'll be activated.

Brewers: Right-hander Matt Garza went on the 10-day disabled list with of a bruised chest.

Dodgers: Third baseman Justin Turner (hamstring) went through a simulated game and is expected to be activated today.

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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

There never is a guarantee that a publicly funded stadium plan is going to work out well for taxpayers, but 10 years into the funding of Target Field, it's clear that the Twins and Hennepin County put together one of the better tax deals you can have for stadium financing.

The announcement in 2007 that Target Field would be jointly financed by the Twins and Hennepin County through a sales tax was met with a lot of skepticism from legislators and the public alike.

But last week Hennepin County released updated information on its stadium sales tax collection and how that has affected its bond payments for its debt obligation.

Hennepin County financed $350 million of the total cost of $555 million for Target Field and levied a 0.15 percent sales tax to collect that money to pay off 30-year bonds that were estimated to cost $675.6 million with interest.

So far the returns have been so robust that it looks as if the stadium could be paid off by Hennepin County around 10 years ahead of schedule in 2027.

Through May of this year, the county has collected $315,766,661 through the sales tax and has shown net collection growth in every year except for 2009, when its sales tax collection dropped from $28.5 million in 2008 to $26.9 million that year.

Hennepin County already has paid off one of its liens and refinanced another bond to create $64.3 million in savings.

In addition, because of that robust sales tax return, the county has been able to make a number of prepayments on its bonds, and now instead of costing that original $675.6 million in total, with interest, the number is now at $585.2 million, nearly $90 million in savings.

And things are looking better again in 2017, as the county reported that through May net receipts are up 2.1 percent on last year, when the county generated $35.9 million in tax collections, the highest mark in the history of the tax.

To consider that the county was able to make this deal while imposing a sales tax that worked out to 3 cents for every $20 spent in Hennepin County is a great success.

Park, libraries gain

But on top of paying off its debt, the county has put the stadium sales tax to use in other areas to benefit the county.

The team has given $2 million per year in capital facility grants, $250,000 per year in small equipment grants, $125,000 per year in playground grants, $30,000 per year in scholarship grants for swimming lessons, and allowed 15 local libraries to be open an additional day each week.

That has to give the county at least some leeway in saying that this sales tax has worked as well or better than county officials thought it would.

In total, since 2009, the county has given $19.6 million to youth sports, and has worked to build multipurpose athletic fields, soccer fields, baseball fields, playgrounds, tennis courts, hockey rinks and put in lights so those facilities can be used at night.

Whether it's fair to have taxpayers pay for a private team's stadium is its own debate, but this deal has worked out great for Hennepin County and has had relatively low impact on taxpayers.

What will be interesting to see is if Hennepin County works to find some way to re-purpose the tax when Target Field is paid off, again most likely by 2027, or if it lets the sales tax expire.

One would have to think that at 3 cents for every $20 spent, a tax that can generate this much revenue would be hard to let go, even after the Twins' ballpark is paid off and operating without taxpayers help.

Jets, Decker to part

The word out of New York is that the Jets are set to part ways with former Gophers wide receiver Eric Decker.

Decker had hip surgery in the offseason, after finishing with nine receptions for 194 yards and two scores in three games. Decker was due $7.25 million this season and $7.5 million in 2018 on his five-year, $36.3 million deal he signed in 2014. The Jets are looking to cut contracts in a rebuilding year, and are either going to trade Decker or release him.

And while his tenure in New York was short, there's no doubt that Decker filled his part of the bargain when he wasn't injured. In his first two seasons with the Jets, he was very good with 154 receptions for 1,989 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Decker sent out a Tweet on Wednesday that read, "Thank you @nyjets for the opportunity the last 3 years! I truly made some great memories and friendships that will last forever!"

Jottings:

· The Twins are getting another look at former third baseman Danny Valencia, who is in his first season with the Mariners. Heading into Wednesday's night game Valencia was hitting .283 with 29 RBI and 24 runs scored in 52 games. In Tuesday night's game, he went 1-for-3 with a three-run double and two runs scored. Valencia has driven in 12 runs during the Mariners' current six-game homestand, and he has 24 RBI at home this season. That is the fifth-highest mark in the American League.

· The Twins have to be thrilled having Robbie Grossman with the fourth-highest on-base percentage in the American League at .413 and Miguel Sano in fifth at .409, but it has to hurt to see former Twin center fielder Aaron Hicks sitting at second in the AL in on-base percentage, trailing only the injured Mike Trout, with a .439 OBP.

Hicks is hitting .329 (fifth in the league) with eight home runs, 31 RBI and 31 runs scored in 45 games. Heading into Wednesday night's game with the Red Sox, Hicks was on a nine-game hitting streak.

· Coon Rapids native Logan Shore, who was a second-round choice by the Oakland Athletics in the 2016 draft, is on the disabled list because of a lat strain. Shore, who is with the Athletics' Stockton farm team in the Class A California League, is 1-3 with a 3.12 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings.

· Former Hopkins High School standout Royce White completed his first season of pro basketball with the London (Ontario) Lightning of the National Basketball League of Canada. His team won its league title over the Halifax Hurricanes. White scored 34 points on 11-for-19 shooting to go along with 15 rebounds, nine assists, two blocks and one steal in the series clincher.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

OLYMPIA - CenturyLink, Inc. is willing to more than double its payments for the naming rights to the stadium where the Seattle Seahawks play and is offering to renegotiate a new contract two years before the current deal expires.

The national telecommunications giant is asking the state Public Stadium Authority to approve a 15-year, $162.7 million extension of the deal to keep its name on the stadium, a special legislative advisory committee was told Wednesday. The authority, which oversees the sports facility built with taxpayer money, is likely to agree.

Dan Barrett, a sports business consultant the authority hired to review the deal, estimated the new contract would rank fifth among the 24 NFL teams that sell the naming rights to their stadiums. The current contract ranks 17th.

Ranking so high under the new agreement would be unusual, considering Seattle is below average in terms of population, the number of "high-income" households, size of its economy and its TV/Radio Base, he said.

But the Seahawks' five consecutive playoff appearances make the naming rights more valuable. So does the stadium's other tenant, the Seattle Sounders, who won the MLS Cup in 2016 and regularly lead that league in attendance. The stadium also hosted other events over the last five years that averaged more than 500,000 in attendance each years.

"At this point in time, it seems like a very good deal," Barrett told the advisory committee.

The extension has already been approved by Football Northwest, LLC, which owns the Seahawks, and First & Goal Inc, which operates the stadium

The new deal keeps an important element of the current contract, which requires 42.5 percent of each year's payment by CenturyLink to be set aside for major maintenance and improvements on the stadium. That would total more than $69 million over the life of the contract.

Most NFL naming rights deals don't include such high amount for stadium maintenance. That provision is a reflection of the situation the state found itself in when it needed to replace the Kingdome, where maintenance had neglected to the point where the ceiling tiles were falling down. Legislation for the new stadium required a share of the naming rights go to maintenance, as well as money from the admissions tax as soon as bonds are paid off in 2021.

Under the new contract, CenturyLink would pay $9.25 million in 2020, and that annual payment would rise 2.8 percent a year through 2033, to reach about $13.5 million. Over the life of the contract, the average yearly payment is $11.1 million. That compares with the current contract that started at $4 million in 2004 and will hit $6.3 million next year.

CenturyLink will pay extra if the Seahawks host playoff or divisional championship games.

If CenturyLink should be bought out by another company - as it did to Qwest in 2011 - the new owner can change the name on the stadium once during the term of the contract but has to pay for the new signage. That can cost up to $1 million, Barrett said.

Changing signage is so expensive that the city of Seattle is leaving the name on KeyArena, even though KeyBank refused to renew its contract in 2011.

When Rep. Andrew Barkis, who sits on the committee, asked whether the authority was putting the naming rights out to bid, members of the authority said they decided to give CenturyLink the first shot at coming in with a fair market offer, and hired Barrett to examine it.

In general, the value of naming rights go down if they are changed because people refer to a stadium by its old name for a while, Barrett said.

The stadium authority is not considering other offers for the naming rights for the 69,000-seat stadium and the accompanying Event Center, Lorraine Hine, a member of the authority board, said. It's expected to vote on the new contract in the next two weeks.

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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

Only one season old, the TSSAA baseball pitch count rule will undergo revisions in 2018.

The TSSAA Board of Control voted on Wednesday to amend the rule, which went into effect during the 2017 season.

Beginning in 2018, the changes in the rule for varsity include:

The maximum number of pitches that can be thrown in a game is 120 regardless of the situation. Last season a pitcher could finish a batter after accumulating the maximum 120.

Pitchers cannot pitch more than two days in a row. They can, however, pitch in both games of a doubleheader, with the number of pitches in the second game being added to the first-game total to determine days rest/maximum pitch count.

The pitch count no longer will revert to the last batter faced in terms of determining days rest. The exact number of pitches thrown will be counted toward required days rest.

The chart on determining days rest has changed on the back end. If a pitcher throws 1-25 pitches, no rest days are required. From 26-55 one day rest, 56-75 two days, 76-105 three days and 106-120 four days.

"It was about safety of the players," said board member Pat Swallows, who is also executive director of the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association. The TBCA advocated for the change.

"Now there won't be any gray area or any controversy. If you're coaching in the bottom of the seventh and you have your stud out there with 115 pitches, you can only use him five more pitches."

The board tabled until the August meeting a discussion to better monitor pitch counts and for potential penalties involved with those who don't adhere to the rule.

Stewarts Creek's baseball team used numerous pitchers during its run to the Class AAA state championship game in May.

"Coaches will have to adjust like we did last year," Stewarts Creek coach Mike Bartlett said. "It will probably be easier to track (now)."

The board also voted to institute a mercy rule in girls and boys soccer. If a team takes a nine-goal lead by halftime or in the second half, the match will end.

Also, if a team goes up five goals on its opponent, a running clock will be instituted.

"It won't have a lot of impact," board member Mark Reeves said. "We don't anticipate a lot of that. A majority of coaches will start pulling their starters in situations like that, which would limit scoring before it even gets to 9-0. But if anyone sees purpose in beating someone 20-0, this is no longer possible."

The TSSAA state volleyball tournament, normally held on Wednesday through Friday, will be held on Tuesday through Thursday (Oct. 17-19) in 2017. The change was made because of a conflict at MTSU. The Blue Raiders football team will play at home against Marshall in an ESPN-televised game Friday, Oct. 20.

The girls state wrestling tournament will increase from 10 to 11 weight classes. The weight classes will be 103, 112, 119, 125, 132, 140, 150, 160, 170, 190 and 215 pounds.

Memphis area charter schools Bluff City High and Gateway University were granted TSSAA membership beginning in 2017-18. Both will participate in Division I.

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Palm Beach Post (Florida)

 

Cricket is no big deal in America. Here, though, is some news on the sport that makes a difference for everybody, even meat-and-potatoes NFL fans.

The Champions Trophy tournament, one of the elite events of the International Cricket Council, is going on as scheduled this week in England. The London Bridge terror attacks of Saturday night didn't stop the massing of fans for matches in that city and in others across the United Kingdom.

Matter of fact, there's a match today, India vs. Sri Lanka, at The Oval, a cricket ground located just 2 miles from the nightmarish scene at London Bridge, where eight people were killed and dozens injured by attackers using knives and a sidewalk-crashing van as weapons.

Increased security is being employed for the rest of the tournament, of course, with pat-down checks of ticket holders at the gates and vehicle inspections at the parking entrances all the way through the championship match on June 18 in London.

These methods would cause more than complaints at a U.S. sporting event. They would cause some fans simply to stay home, avoiding the hassle and avoiding the uncomfortable feeling of being at a place where they might be targeted just for showing up.

Now comes the question of whether the Miami Dolphins should just stay home, too.

The team is scheduled to play in London's Wembley Stadium on Oct. 1 against the Saints.

It's the Dolphins' third trip there in four years, and they're not alone as globetrotters.

Three more London regular-season games are on the 2017 NFL schedule, plus the Patriots and Raiders in Mexico City on Nov. 19.

Crowds will be enormous in every case and the NFL banner will fly high, but I'm guessing that fewer players will be excited about bringing their families along this time. They'll wonder if England's security is too porous in the wake of this attack, plus last month's suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

Can't blame anybody for being nervous.

There will continue, however, to be Premier League soccer games and major concerts and the traditional Wimbledon fortnight. Londoners won't hide, from the queen bee herself to the championship cricketers.

My initial reaction to all of this is to stand up and cheer their enduring confidence, so worthy of respect in an ally, and to trust that Scotland Yard and all the rest of Britain's law enforcement and terror alert forces will be as aggressive as our own in bringing order to chaos.

The Dolphins should do the same, understanding that Wembley Stadium on game day might just be the safest place on the continent based on all the bomb-sniffing dogs and specialized guards patrolling that turf.

Down the road? NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has even bigger plans for London, and fat contracts to make them real.

Tottenham Hotspur, a Premier League team, is getting a state-of-the-art stadium with a grass field that is designed to retract, revealing an NFL-ready artificial-turf field underneath. The league has pumped more than $12 million into the project and has a contract to play at least two NFL games there for a period of 10 years, beginning in 2018.

I've been predicting for years that the Super Bowl would end up in London sooner or later, the precursor of some distant announcement of an NFL franchise gaining permanent residence there. The rise of terror attacks throughout Europe in recent years might slow that ultimate momentum, if only because team owners want the surest possible bet on their investment.

Look how long it took them to decide that Los Angeles should have pro football again, or that Las Vegas was worth the gamble.

In all, greater precautions must be taken in trips to Europe these days, in any business, in any city. The world is changing in ways we don't like, and we must change, too.

Therefore, when the Dolphins arrive in London on Week 4, I resolve to fret more about Saints quarterback Drew Brees than any other threat.

Just as there is no thoroughly secure place in this world, there is no truly haunted major city, either.

If it were so, thousands of Brits and other international visitors would have stopped landing at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport following the mass shooting that occurred at a baggage claim area there in January.

They're still coming, though, just as two precious members of my own family arrived at the same airport on Wednesday morning. Pleased to say that my concern was with the lousy weather upon their arrival, nothing more.

dgeorge@pbpost.com Twitter: @Dave_GeorgePBP

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Newsday (New York)

 

A languishing ballfield in the heart of Islandia is getting an extensive makeover funded with donations, including more than $1 million from casino operator Delaware North.

Village Mayor Allan Dorman and several officials gathered yesterday at the ballfield on Old Nichols Road to break ground on the reborn 7-acre First Responders Memorial Recreation Field. The park is dedicated to the memory of five first responders who worked for local fire departments and died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The town transferred ownership of the ballfield, which was once an Islip town park, to Islandia in 2013 at no cost with help from state elected officials. Dorman had plans to renovate the fields with a $1.8 million proposal, but no progress was made until last year, when Delaware North agreed to donate $1.53 million to the project as a condition of opening the Jake's 58 casino in the former Islandia Marriott.

"As an amenity, they agreed to fund a very large portion of this," Dorman said, and added that Delaware North's community spirit is appreciated.

"We welcomed Delaware North and Jake's 58 to our community. We welcomed them with open arms," Dorman said.

At the groundbreaking, Brian Hansberry, president of Delaware North's gaming division, said the company was happy to be a part of the project.

Bolla Market gas stations donated $500,000 to build restrooms, a storage area and a concession stand, and Breslin Realty donated $100,000. The renovated park will also feature a playground, a separate fitness field with 10 exercise stations and walking trail, and dugouts for the baseball and softball teams.

Dorman expects the ballfield to be finished by October and league games to start next year. Ballgames are by permit, but the park will be open to the public.

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USA TODAY

 

Jose Garcia's whole life has played out in the borderlands, both sides of the divide between the USA and Mexico, a line on a map that carries so much political and emotional meaning.

It is a 21-year-old life dominated by baseball, and it reaches its most critical point next week. The Major League Baseball draft beckons, meaning Garcia faces a tortuous wait that will determine whether he pursues a professional career in Mexico, the land of his birth, or in the USA, where the potential for riches is exponentially greater.

Garcia does not allow his mind to delve too deeply into politics, but his journey has been intertwined with so many of the hot-button issues that dominated last year's election and continue to spark debate.

"There's always issues with the border, but I don't let that affect me," said Garcia, a powerfully built outfielder and part-time catcher who hopes to land in the middle to late rounds. "I always want success in life, so I don't let those things bother me.

"I am shooting, like every player, for the big leagues. Hopefully I get a chance. It's really important."

Garcia's formative years were spent in San Luis Rio Colorado, a city with a population of about 150,000 in Sonora, Mexico, jammed against one of the heavily fortified sections of the border. U.S. authorities are proud of the security in the area south of Yuma, Ariz. Once a heavily trafficked crossing, potential illegal immigrants barely try to enter the USA from there anymore, figuring the 150-mile journey to Tijuana (and then San Diego) is considerably easier than trying to traverse a three-layered fence that is floodlit.

"I lived two or three blocks from the (fence)," Garcia said. "I could see it every day pretty much."

After high school in San Diego, a move facilitated by a U.S.-based uncle becoming his legal guardian, Garcia got busy grinding away, improving his English and working on his hitting. After a junior college stint in Galveston, Texas, he has spent the last two seasons at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), near the bottom of the Lone Star State and close to the Mexican border city of Reynosa.

Keeping hope alive

As he pursues his major league dreams, he is grateful for UTRGV and the possibilities that the institution, combined with his own talent and toil, have afforded him.

"This place gave me a chance," he said. "It gives a lot of people a chance. In sports and in life."

Ninety percent of UTRGV's student body is Hispanic, with virtually all of those being Mexican Americans. There are 951 registered DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students who could face immediate deportation.

Some scholars line up at the border every day and take a half-hour bus ride to class. Life on the other side can be bleak. Reynosa hosted a bloody gun battle in April between Mexican marines and a drug gang whose infamous leader, Juan Manuel Loza — or "El Toro" — was killed in the shootout.

A short drive away, the UTRGV sports program provides opportunities and is a source of pride for the local community.

On a sweltering day in May, junior heptathlete Leslie Luna, exhausted from the efforts of her grueling event and the accompanying conditions in the Western Athletic Conference track and field championships, reflected on what athletics at UTRGV had done for her.

Growing up close to the Edinburg, Texas, campus, she used to work at a Dairy Queen before getting a track scholarship. Her biggest frustration and motivation, she said, is that more is not expected of the Mexican-American community close to the border.

She sees it in athletics and away from it.

"People from our conference come down and see us... and they don't expect much from us," Luna said. "Definitely we do have to work harder. They look down on us sometimes, as far as our culture, (that) we are not naturally talented like everybody else. So obviously we have to prove ourselves. It's not as easy."

Luna says she is on track to be the first member of her family to receive a college degree and hopes to inspire her younger relatives and girls in the community.

"A lot of us that are setting the standards probably motivate those that feel like they can't," she added. "I feel a lot of them do shy (away) from the opportunity, but hopefully those of us out here trying to make a difference will motivate them in some sort of way."

Mariana Alessandri, an author and assistant professor of philosophy at UTRGV, has a flier displayed on her office door, instructing students on what to do if contacted by an immigration agent. But she also counsels students on how to balance expectations.

"Students say, 'I came to college to better myself,' and I say, 'Better than who?'" Alessandri said. "I want them to see when (they) get out of college (they) may be formally educated and get a better, higher-paying job. But they're not going to be better (people) than their parents."

At the baseball field a short drive away, Garcia's teammate David Becerra, a freshman pitcher, spoke of how he endeavors to remain close to his upbringing. Originally from Mexico City, his family lives in Reynosa, while his existence amid the peaceful confines of campus is far different.

"It is hard in Mexico right now. Everywhere there are problems," Becerra said. "It is different. I like (it here), seeing Mexicans around me, trying to succeed."

Life at the border

The election and the ensuing months have given millions reason to think of the border, yet few have an idea what it looks like. Many forget that for hundreds of miles there is already a barrier. In Hidalgo, Texas, there is a stretch of rusting iron fencing 40 feet high, created by President Bush's Secure Fence Act of 2006.

It is imposing and stark. The fence is a few hundred feet inside U.S. territory -- the actual border is in the middle of the Rio Grande, and you can't build on the water plain. But at one point, in the shadow of the bridge, the fence just stops. There is a gap that is 20 feet wide. You can walk around it and stroll down, all the way to the water's edge, where border patrol agents sit in a vehicle but don't appear too interested in anyone wandering about. With an arm the likes of Becerra's or Garcia's, you could easily throw a stone across the water and into Mexico.

Many of the agents, Alessandri said, went to college at UTRGV before finding government employment.

Back on campus, a multicultural aura persists, especially on the athletic field. It is not just Mexicans or Mexican Americans who have found homes here.

At the track meet, Luna, who was raised locally, chatted with Dominique Ibarra, a Chilean tennis player who grew up in Spain. There are soccer players from Finland, a golfer from Germany, basketball players from Rwanda and Turkey, volleyball players from Brazil, Serbia, Senegal and more.

They come, Ibarra said, "for education and opportunity," just like all the local Mexican-American students with whom they share classrooms, dorms and the whole experience.

The answers for America's issues are not found here, and this is not an especially political place, just somewhere affected by politics.

It is merely one example of how the border and its dilemmas intertwine with life. Sports, like everything else, mixes in with it all somehow. People who attempt to cross borders, even if they are not doing so legally, are generally motivated by the same things athletes are -- the struggle for self-improvement and the search for success.

That is what is on the mind of Garcia as the MLB draft closes in and his future awaits.

"This is my (American) dream," Garcia said. "It is not easy with a different language and a different culture. But you try to make your life better, that's what we do."

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USA TODAY

 

Bob Stoops, who brought Oklahoma back from the depths of scandal and mismanagement, won a national title title in his second season and dominated the Big 12 for the majority of his 18 seasons, is walking away from coaching at 56.

To most people, it will come off as a bizarre decision — especially in June, less than two months from starting camp and with a team ranked in the preseason top 10.

Stoops said in his statement there was no imminent health crisis or looming scandal. Rather, he's turning over the program to offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley while it is still among the best in the country and walking away, ready to do something else with the rest of his life.

In other words, Stoops is taking the exit ramp while it's still his choice, while his legacy is still pristine and while he has many years to enjoy his family and the lifestyle he worked so hard to earn.

And if this were any profession but coaching, where the typical impulse is to hold on for as long as possible until they make you leave, we'd all toast that and wish we could do the same.

Indeed, Stoops is making a decision others — including his mentor and friend, Steve Spurrier — haven't been brave enough to face. Coaching is a brutal business, an endless cycle of nonsense that leads up to 12 Saturdays in the fall when they can put it all aside and just coach.

But even then, someone like Stoops isn't fully appreciated unless he wins all 12, and we've seen recently at Oklahoma how some fans have criticized him for the program slipping maybe half a level from where it was in the mid-2000s.

Maybe Stoops could have made another run or two at the national title. Or maybe getting worn down from all the stuff that goes into coaching would have allowed Tom Herman and Texas just enough room to pass him, leaving his record scarred and his relationship rocky with a school he's never wanted to leave despite numerous opportunities to do so in college and the NFL.

Instead, he will get a hero's exit in Norman and hand off the program to Riley, a 33-year old offensive wunderkind who was pursued for head coaching jobs last offseason and almost certainly would have landed a big-time gig next year.

If not for the natural cynicism built into our 24-hour-a-day news cycle, it makes perfect sense.

The moment Stoops' retirement leaked and it became clear there was no health reason forcing him out, many fans on social media immediately assumed there was some type of scandal looming.

That doesn't appear to be the case. Stoops has a family history of heart problems — his father died at 54 — but he presumably has a lot of life to live and wants to live it on his terms, not begging 17-year-olds to come to his campus or fighting with media members over how he lost a game.

And perhaps it will become a road map for the profession.

All of us — fans, media, alumni, everyone — take for granted how consuming these jobs are, how they grind on bodies and minds and families. Especially now, with all of the scrutiny and pressure at a place like Oklahoma.

The coaches, of course, are paid well enough to make it worthwhile. Stoops made $5.5million last season and has had a $2million-plus salary every year since 2000. Any coach these days that gets a five-year contract at a Power Five school should basically be financially secure for life.

That has fundamentally changed the profession and even affected how athletics directors view coaches. One of them, who had to make a high-profile football hire recently, told USA TODAY Sports he expressly wanted to hire a young coach because he thought anyone who had been a head coach for more than a decade most likely had his prime years in the rearview mirror.

Given all of the money involved and the amount of stress it took to get there, it would only be natural for an older coach to take their foot off the gas a little bit. As much as the college football industrial complex tends to deify coaches, they are human beings at the end of the day.

Since 1983, the year he graduated college, Stoops has known nothing but coaching football and did it as well or better than all but a few others in his generation. He accomplished everything he could as a coach. Now he has millions in the bank and a list of things he will have time to do as a civilian.

That doesn't make him a quitter. It makes him a person.

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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

 

If you're looking for bells and whistles in your indoor cycling class, you can find plenty of them at the recently opened CycleBar GreenGate in western Henrico County.

"It's a multisensory experience," said CycleBar instructor Danny Welsch after he finished leading a free promotional ride in mid-May.

First off, there are video screens, one on each side of the instructor and hung so that everyone in the 48-bike studio can see the music videos and rider statistics that flash up there. The bikes are lined up in rows on three raised tiers, so that the back-row riders can see the instructor as clearly as those in the front. This sets up what the franchise calls the "CycleTheatre."

Then, there are the lights, which change constantly in the darkened room. There might be a spotlight on the instructor in one song, then alternating, colored lights in the back of the room in the next.

Add in loud, pumping music and you've got a nightclub atmosphere with a sweat-fest vibe.

Instructors push riders to move, up and down, in and out of the seat, to engage different parts of the legs and core. Weighted bars, stored in tubes on the front side of the bikes, are used for upper-body exercises while the riders stay seated.

If you like a little competition, you'll be checking out the "CycleStats" that frequently rank riders on the screens. Your personal stats will be emailed to you after class, along with a link to the "CycleBeats" (songs) from your class.

There's no need to bring bike shoes. CycleBar provides clip-in biking shoes, as well as hand towels and water bottles.

The local CycleBar opened for regular business in late May. There are about 90 locations of the franchise across the country, with an additional 30-plus expected to open soon. The next closest CycleBar will be in Virginia Beach, and is expected to open in September.

Local owner Libbie Crane said she and partner Donna Suro are hoping to set up a reciprocal arrangement with the Virginia Beach location so that Richmonders who travel there regularly can use that facility, and vice versa.

Crane, who used to live in New York and took classes regularly at high-tech clubs there, said CycleBar is a combination of Flywheel and SoulCycle, both trendsetting indoor-cycling operations with roots in New York.

Many of the CycleBar elements - video screens, changing lights, free use of bike shoes, CycleStats and CycleBeats - are consistent throughout the franchise, Crane said.

"They all have slightly different layouts and their own pricing," she said.

The drop-in rate for one class at CycleBar Greengate is $22, but the per-class rate goes down with the purchase of multi-class packages.

The GreenGate development off Broad Street is about a half-mile west of Short Pump Town Center.

Maria Howard is a group exercise instructor for the YMCA of Greater Richmond and the University of Richmond Weinstein Center. Her column runs every other week in Sunday Flair.

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Sarasota Herald Tribune (Florida)

 

NORTH PORT — Overall, Sarasota County commissioners gave the city of North Port's proposed $12 million aquatic complex at Butler Park a thumbs-up for style and substance at Tuesday's joint meeting with the North Port City Commission.

But when the subject of joint funding arose — perhaps either through tourist development tax funds or any other pot of money - the response was still supportive but not encouraging.

"We just committed $20 million of tourist tax dollars within the city of North Port," County Commissioner Charles Hines said, referring to the construction of the Atlanta Braves' spring training complex in the West Villages Improvement District.

Hines — who also chairs the Tourist Development Council — noted that while tourist development tax money is allocated based on the potential value of a project and not geography, the county must be wary of an economic downturn that could impact the county's ability to fund that and other existing commitments.

County Commissioner Nancy Detert later added: "It's not just our economy, it's the European economy, it's the Canadian economy."

Detert likened the city's funding needs with the county's, when it comes to extending the Legacy Trail to Sarasota and building the North Port Connector trail.

"When you're talking about wants instead of needs, the best way to solve your problem... is to go to referendum," Detert said. "Other than some leprechaun, you're not going to find some pot of money that nobody

has found before — everybody is looking for it."

North Port actually has planned to build the aquatic complex using a one-cent sales tax but, Vice Mayor Vanessa Carusone noted, it was looking to diversify its options.

"We have money; we were just looking for a little help from our friends," Carusone said.

North Port wants to build a scaled-down version of the Rogers Aquatic Center — the "Wet Willy," a three-acre water park in Rogers, Arkansas — nestled next to the Morgan Family Community Center at Butler Park.

The operation would include both a 25-yard stretch competition swimming pool that would be suitable for most high school and college swim meets, a multi-generational, lazy river leisure pool, open and closed flume body slides and possibly a bowl slide with a plunge pool.

The city plans to pay for the bulk of the $12 million cost out of the one-cent sales tax, though some city park impact fees may be used as well.

The county commissioners didn't totally close the door on tourism funds being used on the project. Commissioner Alan Maio noted that should hotels open within the city in conjunction with the new stadium, that will increase the revenue stream for other projects.

"This will cause heads and beds, as we call it," Maio said. "And that's where this tax gets its lifeblood."

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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

Ten years after Utah's worst outbreak of the water-borne cryptosporidiosis bacteria, health officials are still not taking chances with residents' safety during the summer outdoor swim season.

With national averages of crypto outbreaks in pools and water playgrounds doubling in the last two years, Salt Lake County Health Department officials warned swimmers Wednesday to avoid drinking pool water to protect against contracting the illness.

"The public has been our first line of defense against crypto and other waterborne illnesses and we haven't had any kind of outbreak in many years because of it," said Rick Ledbetter, the department's water quality supervisor. "People are doing the basics to help everyone stay safe and this is another reminder of how to keep doing just that."

Cryptosporidium is a parasitic infection spread through ingesting trace amounts of infected poop. It is the most common diarrheal infection linked to swimming pools, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and can survive in chemically treated water for up to 10 days.

Related: Report: Crypto Cases Linked to Pools, Water Parks Surge

Utah Department of Health data indicates there were 181 cases of crypto statewide last year, with more than a third of those linked to recreational water exposure. In May, the CDC reported crypto outbreaks in pools and water playgrounds across the country increased from 16 in 2014 to 32 in 2016.

Meanwhile, a national survey conducted on behalf of the Water and Health Council suggests that one in four adults have gone swimming within an hour of having diarrhea and about three in five admitted to swallowing pool water while swimming.

"Your local public swimming pool is not your local toilet or bathtub," said Ledbetter. "You wouldn't want to drink the water from the toilet bowl or bathtub and take on those germs."

Although health officials test water samples from public pools each month they are open, Ledbetter said residents are still advised to take simple preventative measures to avoid the spread of illness.

According to the CDC, key safeguards include staying out of public pools for at least two weeks after having diarrhea; rinsing off before entering a pool or after going to the bathroom; and not swallowing pool water.

Parents should use waterproof diapers on swimming infants, while also making sure younger children take regular bathroom breaks at the pool and that they shower before that first plunge.

Taryn Wright, a mother of four from Kearns, said going over pool safety with her kids including "not going potty in the pool" is part of their regular summer routine.

"It's not really for them. It's actually for me and my sanity," Wright joked while sitting on steps in the shallow end of the Kearns Oquirrh Park Fitness Center. "We couldn't come to the pool because I would be a ball of stress. Having them know what we need to do before and after we get in the pool is important."

kgifford@sltrib.com Twitter: @kelgiffo

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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

NORFOLK

Old Dominion began advertising this week for a firm to "plan, design and administer the construction activities" for a renovated Foreman Field football stadium, and it's clear the university is looking for a company with plenty of experience.

According to a "request for proposal" - as solicitations for government contracts are called - ODU requires that applicants have helped design five or more Football Bowl Subdivision stadiums or stadium expansions in the last decade. That likely will limit the field to nationally prominent firms.

The RFP calls for the designer to submit proposals based on the year-old study done by Populous, a consultant ODU hired in 2015.

ODU officials had earlier determined that $55 million was the cap on what the school could afford in order to adhere to a promise not to raise student fees for the project. Populous recommended a modest makeover of the stadium last June, one that would increase seating from 20,118 to 22,130.

Subsequent phases of expansion, which would increase seating to 30,004 and add luxury suites, a large scoreboard, a new home locker room and a tall west side tower, would cost $99 million more. There is no funding identified for those phases.

The initial stadium expansion is targeted for completion in time for the 2019 home opener Aug. 31 against Norfolk State.

The RFP instructs potential bidders to hold overall costs to $55 million, $45 million of that set aside for construction. "Developing a comprehensive building program which meets the football needs of the University within the project's square footage and financial budget is perhaps the most important portion of the work," the RFP states.

The RFP does not specify that the designer adhere to every recommendation made by Populous, saying the design firm would work with a building design committee "to define the building program as it best captures the University's current athletic needs and vision for the future."

ODU plans to hire a design firm by Sept. 1, and finalized stadium plans are expected to be done by July 31, 2018. A construction firm would be hired in 2018, but the design company would remain on retainer to help ODU oversee construction.

Timetable is a challenge The construction schedule is ambitious. The east and west sides of the stadium would be torn down after the 2018 season and then reconstructed over eight months. The RFP notes that "design must take into account an extremely compressed construction schedule."

The 4,600 north end zone seats, where students and visiting-team fans sit, would remain as is, as would the south end zone complex of luxury suites and loge seats and the home locker room.

In its report to ODU a year ago, Populous noted that its research determined ticket demand for a new stadium would be 25,500 and that the business community would support 30 new suites (at $40,000 apiece) and 60 patio suites (at $10,000 apiece).

However, because of cost concerns, ODU plans to add 176 loge seats but no luxury suites. That will limit the potential new revenue the stadium could produce.

ODU's 27 luxury suites, priced between $30,000 and $35,000, have been sold out since the school began playing football in 2009, and there has been no turnover in suite owners. In fact, all the suite owners recently signed new, four-year contracts.

Long time in the making ODU has been contemplating renovating or replacing Foreman Field since 2012, when the school announced it would join Conference USA and move up to FBS.

The Board of Visitors approved a campus master plan in 2013 that concluded the now-81-year-old Foreman Field had deteriorated to the point where it could not be renovated. The board approved exploring the option of a new stadium on Powhatan Avenue near the Elizabeth River.

Populous confirmed the conclusion of previous consultants that Foreman Field can't be brought up to modern code and that the east and west sides should be demolished. However, Populous officials also quickly discovered that building on Powhatan Avenue would be more complicated and expensive than first thought.

That site drew the ire of neighbors in the nearby Larchmont neighborhood and had potential flood issues . When cost estimates ballooned to nearly $160 million, that plan was abandoned.

ODU then reconsidered the idea of renovating Foreman Field. Populous officials noted that the vast majority of the fans who responded to surveys preferred the current stadium site.

Populous recommended that the east and west sides offer 15,000 individual, chairback seats, a luxury offered at few FBS stadiums.

Officials said last June they expect to pay $10 million in cash and finance $45 million for the expansion. The annual debt payments of $3.24 million would be paid largely using existing student fees, officials have said.

ODU has not yet done any fundraising for the expansion and has yet to identify from where the $10 million in cash is coming.

Populous also recommended that the school consider building a 1,000-space parking deck. Although Populous officials said current parking is adequate, the demand will increase with the larger stadium and with proposed housing for 700 more students on Powhatan Avenue. Both the student housing and stadium would displace some existing parking as well.

It recommended building the parking deck on the east side of Hampton Boulevard between 39th and 41st streets, an area now used for tailgating during football games.

__

2017

Sept. 2, UAlbany

Sept. 9, at Massachusetts

Sept. 16, North Carolina

Sept. 23, at Virginia Tech

Sept. 30, bye

Oct. 7, Florida Atlantic

Oct. 14, at Marshall

Oct. 20, Western Kentucky (Friday night, CBS Sports Network).

Oct. 28, at North Texas

Nov. 4, Charlotte, 3:30 p.m. (homecoming)

Nov. 11, at Florida International

Nov. 18, Rice

Nov. 25, at Middle Tennessee State

_____

2018

Sept. 1, at Liberty

Sept. 22, Virginia Tech

Sept. 29, at East Carolina

Nov. 17, VMI

Conference USA games:

Home: Florida International, Middle Tennessee, Marshall, North Texas.

Away: Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, Western Kentucky, Rice.

_____

2019

Aug. 31, Norfolk State

Sept. 7, at Virginia Tech

Sept. 21, at Virginia

Sept. 28, East Carolina

Eight Conference USA games to be announced

_____

2020

Sept. 12, at Buffalo

Sept. 19, Wake Forest

Sept. 26, at North Carolina

Nov. 21, University of Virginia

Eight Conference USA games to be announced

_____

2021

Sept. 11, at Wake Forest

Eight Conference USA games and three non-conference games to be announced

_____

2022

Sept. 10, Virginia Tech

Sept. 17, at University of Virginia

Eight Conference USA games and two non-conference games to be announced

_____

2023

Sept. 2, at Virginia Tech

Sept. 23, Buffalo

Eight Conference USA games and three non-conference games to be announced

_____

2024

Aug. 31, Virginia Tech

Eight Conference USA games and three non-conference games to be announced

_____

2025

Aug. 30, at Virginia Tech.

Eight Conference USA games and three non-conference games to be announced

* Idaho is scheduled to play at ODU in 2021 or 2022. A date has not been finalized.

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News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)

 

CHAPEL HILL — Citing the hypocrisy of college sports, an NCAA bylaw and standards of decency, basketball player Cameron Johnson, a graduate transfer from the University of Pittsburgh, is making his case for the immediate eligibility that he seeks at North Carolina.

After announcing his intention to transfer to North Carolina, the former PItt player released a lengthy statement Tuesday in which he argues his case.

Johnson, who has two years of remaining eligibility after he graduated in three years from Pitt, wrote that UNC is "the one school that fits my academic and athletic interests the most."

Pitt, though, is restricting Johnson's transfer and attempting to force him to sit out next season at UNC.

Unlike undergraduate college athletes, who are forced to sit out for one season after they transfer, those who transfer after graduating are eligible to compete immediately under NCAA rules.

Different conferences and universities, though, have their own policies for graduate transfers.

Pitt's policy restricts graduate transfers from being immediately eligible at any other ACC school, or any other school on Pitt's schedule during the next year.

And so while Johnson could be immediately eligible at schools outside of the ACC, Pitt is attempting to force him to sit out next season at UNC.

In his statement, Johnson emphasized the hypocrisy of such a stance.

He wrote about how his first head coach at Pitt, Jamie Dixon, left the school and immediately began coaching at Texas Christian, and about how Kevin Stallings left Vanderbilt to become Dixon's immediate successor to lead Pitt.

During Johnson's three years at Pitt, the university also lost one athletics director and hired another.

Johnson also noted that the associate athletics director who heard his transfer appeal recently left for another job at another institution.

Of those who had come and gone, Johnson wrote, "all had the freedom to move as they pleased.

As a student-athlete, who is not a paid employee of the school, and a graduate, shouldn't I be granted the same freedom of movement?"

Johnson also cited an NCAA rule that stipulates graduate transfers be allowed to compete immediately at a given school or be denied the opportunity to transfer to that school.

Pitt is allowing Johnson to transfer to UNC and receive immediate athletic financial aid. And so, Johnson argued, given that he wasn't prohibited from transferring to UNC, he should be immediately eligible there.

During a recent interview, Johnson said he graduated from Pitt with a 3.9 GPA.

In his statement, he wrote that Pitt officials cited his strong academic record in their decision to allow him to transfer to an ACC school and receive immediate athletic financial aid.

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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)

 

Mark Craig had an idea. If Don Mattingly could spearhead the local RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program, why not try to do the same thing with fast-pitch softball?

"We approached the North youth baseball program and went to them and discussed starting a girls' fast-pitch (league)," Craig said. "There was a segment of the community that wasn't being served."

Registration will be held Friday at Garvin Park. The fee is $25, but "if you cannot afford it, we will find a way to subsidize that," Craig said.

Any girl regardless of skill level is encouraged to play. Craig is seeking dedicated coaches and team sponsors. The league will start on June 14 at Garvin Park and end before school starts.

Teams will play two games a week, at 5:30 and 7:15 p.m. The Garvin Park Girls' Fast-Pitch League will be comprised of two age groups: 8-11 and 12-14. For more information, call Craig at (812) 423-0513.

"This is a very instructional and fun league," Craig said. "There is zero tolerance for abuse toward players, coaches or umpires. We are taking a stand against umpire abuse."

As a high school baseball ump, he knows what he is talking about. He said no negativity will be allowed.

"The only way is to shut it down," Craig said. "We are not going to accept it at our ballpark. We want these girls to have fun and develop relationships. Some equipment will be provided. We'll come up with what we need to come up with. We will find a way and that means sharing gloves."

Craig said he has personally raised $1,200 to help get the league off the ground.

"We'll have fundraiser during the season," he said. "Every program has a fundraiser."

During his playing days, Craig was a member of Winchell's, which won five national slow-pitch titles.

"I managed the first sports park here in Evansville," he said. "My background is strong in softball and baseball. I've umpired college baseball and softball. I've run the gamut. I know the ins and outs of slow- and fast-pitch."

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USA TODAY

 

Looking to enhance the experience for young football players and ultimately help increase participation, USA Football is unveiling a pilot program Wednesday in 11 leagues across the country that features fewer players, smaller fields, no special teams and no three-point stances.

The Rookie Tackle program is intended to serve as a bridge between flag football and 11-man tackle football for kids to help them learn the game and develop their skills, according to USA Football chief executive officer Scott Hallenbeck.

"Rookie Tackle is not going to replace 11-man football," Hallenbeck told USA TODAY Sports. "That is not our position. This is additive and necessary for the ongoing advancement and growth of football."

The 11 leagues reflect a geographic diversity and scope and span, from the Tualatin Valley Youth Football League in Oregon City, Ore., to Georgia Girls Tackle Football in Smyrna, Ga., to the Suffolk County PAL Football League in Yaphank, N.Y. Ten of them are youth leagues and had a relationship with USA Football through the Heads Up Football program. The 11th is the Philadelphia school district and will offer Rookie Tackle for sixth- to eighth-graders to help offset a lack of resources with equipment and field space.

USA Football says the pilot program will involve leagues with a total of 24,000 players, including those who play flag, Rookie Tackle and 11-man tackle.

Among the highlights of Rookie Tackle:

Leagues can choose to play six, seven or eight players on the field per team. Overall roster size will be decreased to encourage greater time on the field for each player. The roster size allows for smaller coach-to-player ratios. "Every youngster should have the opportunity to play meaningful time," said Nick Inzerello, USA Football's senior director of partnerships and education. "That's why they sign up."

No position specialization; players will be able to experiment at different positions.

No special teams. "We want to eliminate them and quicken the pace to get more snaps on offense and defense," Inzerello said.

Two-point stances only except for the center. The center will still snap the ball, but he cannot be covered by a defensive player and cannot be hit.

Smaller fields at 40 yards by 35 yards, scaled by size and player level. "We think it will foster more physical activity," Inzerello said. For areas where field space is an issue, two games can go simultaneously.

The plan is part of the U.S. Olympic Committee's American Development Model, which encourages kids to learn a wider range of athletic skills.

Inzerello draws the comparison to baseball, where the game goes from T-ball to coaches pitching to players pitching. The idea is to create a development pathway with a focus on "right age, right stage" -- essentially the game should match the skills of those playing it.

"We wanted to create a game that kids enjoy and ultimately help improve their skill development without losing the integrity of football," Inzerello said. "It's all football, whether it's flag, Rookie Tackle or 11 player. Let's celebrate that kids are playing football."

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USA TODAY

 

The recruiting class that was supposed to take Michigan State's football program to the next level has instead driven it into the gutter.

Four of the 10 four-star players in Michigan State's acclaimed 2016 recruiting class are facing criminal sexual assault charges.

A judge Tuesday signed arrest warrants for defensive end Josh King, receiver Donnie Corley and safety Demetric Vance after a 41/2-month investigation. Defensive end Auston Robertson was arraigned April 25 in a separate incident.

King, Corley and Vance were swiftly dismissed from the football program Tuesday.

Don't for one second think Michigan State football is the most important part of this story. There are two young women who should probably be forefront in our minds, even if we don't know their names.

Michigan State's football program, though, is at the center of this. And that's a significant part of the story, too.

The timing is adding to the drama.

The Michigan State board of trustees was convened in April when the Robertson news dropped.

Monday, just before the charges against the other three players were authorized by the Ingham County prosecutor, the board brought in football coach Mark Dantonio and athletics director Mark Hollis to address the program's worrisome off-the-field issues.

It all looks really bad for Michigan State's football program.

What has to be determined, though, is whether the optics of this week and the past few months point to something true and damning about the state of the program and Dantonio's ability to lead it.

Or did these situations happen despite the culture inside the football building and not, in some way, because of it?

Dantonio and Hollis did their best to assure it's the latter during a candid, emotional and seemingly sincere news conference Tuesday.

We're about to learn a ton about Michigan State's leadership -- from President Lou Anna Simon all the way down to the 14 remaining players from the 2016 recruiting class. And, of course, about Dantonio and his staff.

Heads shouldn't roll for the sake of appearances. That's weak leadership.

Heads should roll if Michigan State's leaders have lost faith in Dantonio. I'm told the school isn't close to that point, that Dantonio has the collective support of the board, despite recent grumbling. Dantonio left Monday's board meeting with a vote of confidence, a perilous phrase in the world of college athletics. However, a legitimate one for now.

Monday's meeting was a chance for Dantonio to explain his program — the discipline structure, organization, etc. — to board members who are less familiar with the inner workings of a major-college football program.

Three of the eight board members are former Spartans football players. One of those, George Perles, is a former head coach and athletics director.

The administration and board members should ask themselves this: If Michigan State had gone 9-3 last season, instead of 3-9, and if Larry Nassar didn't exist, would they feel the same way about the overall condition of the football program?

Nassar is facing 28 criminal charges and seven lawsuits involving sexual assault claims from at least 95 women and girls. That situation heightens everything.

Dantonio and Co., against all odds, built Michigan State into a nationally relevant football program and did so relatively free of off-the-field turmoil. During the rise, the program's coaches became known for uncovering talent others had missed and developing unheralded prospects into elite college players.

Michigan State won big -- three Big Ten Conference titles, a Rose Bowl win and a College Football Playoff berth in 2015. New doors in recruiting opened. And Michigan State's coaches plowed through them. The 2016 class was their crowning achievement in the talent-acquisition game, a sign that perhaps the Spartans could sustain their new place among college football's upper crust.

We all know what followed. A stunning 2016 season made it clear the foundation wasn't as stable as it appeared.

Dantonio and his staff have the burden of proving they can reset the program. That begins with revisiting recruiting priorities. You can't win without your share of four-star recruits. You can't win with all choir boys. Check out some of the recruits during the Nick Saban era at Michigan State.

Michigan State football rose to Wisconsin's level and then tried to be Ohio State. It bit them.

"We were probably on the cusp of being exactly what you want from a major-college football program," Dantonio said Tuesday. "One year has changed some of that, a lot of that.... We have to change it back."

The question is whether there's any going back. And whether Dantonio, long term, is the guy to try to lead that effort. Football might not be what decides that. The program desperately needs a clean summer.

If Dantonio overcomes this, heals his program's reputation and gets it rolling again on the field, it will be a greater feat than the original rise.

It's probably a lot less likely.

Couch is a columnist for the Lansing State Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network.

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USA TODAY

 

It was about halfway through Mississippi's response to the accusations of persistent and significant cheating in its football program under Hugh Freeze — page 58, to be exact — when the stakes of its battle with the NCAA were laid bare.

In rebutting an allegation that a booster made illicit payments to Leo Lewis — a former Mississippi recruit who wound up signing with Mississippi State instead — the school all but accuses Lewis of lying to NCAA investigators, possibly motivated by his desire to hurt a rival while deflecting from other improprieties surrounding his recruitment at Mississippi State.

In terms of the sheer headline value, has anything ever been more SEC than that?

But when you consider the context of that attempt to create reasonable doubt within the entirety of the 125-page document Mississippi made public Tuesday, one question rises above all others: Why is Mississippi going to these incredible lengths to protect Freeze?

What the Rebels are bringing to the NCAA Committee on Infractions later this year is the kind of defense a school might mount for Nick Saban or Urban Meyer or John Calipari. It is a full-fledged document of support for Mississippi's football coach, unequivocal in its admission that major violations occurred but unwavering in its denial of Freeze's responsibility for any of them.

Mississippi's institutional decision to pursue this strategy is puzzling. While Freeze has had some shining moments in Oxford, he is 19-21 in the Southeastern Conference and is nobody's definition of irreplaceable. Yet the school is taking the path of most resistance in defending him and, by doing so, potentially risking the total destruction of its football program for the foreseeable future.

Indeed, while Mississippi's self-imposed bowl ban for 2017 and the typical potpourri of scholarship losses and recruiting restrictions are not insignificant, the NCAA has brought a comprehensive case that paints the picture of a serious, repeated and coordinated attempt to skirt rules. Even with the caveat that it's always hard to predict how any particular NCAA case will turn out, it's safe to say the pain Mississippi already has experienced will be child's play should the Committee on Infractions reject the school's defense.

Though the case is complicated and Mississippi has spared no expense to hire the most high-profile law firms that specialize in NCAA cases, it's important to remember that the Committee on Infractions isn't a court of law.

If the committee thinks Mississippi's football staff was systematically trying to gain advantage with recruits outside the rulebook and Freeze looked away while his assistants cheated, the judgment will be harsh and the fallout will be massive.

Based on Mississippi's response, the case will be fought on two planes. The first is typical in cases such as this: Assistants who are no longer with the program are painted as rogue agents who were responsible for all the wrongdoing and that the school had no way of knowing what they were up to.

Former assistant athletics director for high school and junior college relations Barney Farrar — a longtime friend of Freeze's who is highly connected in the state of Mississippi — was particularly thrown under the bus. In one especially remarkable, only-in-the-SEC passage, Mississippi asserts that "no monitoring system could have detected that Farrar was using an attorney-client relationship with his personal attorney (Booster 14) to encourage impermissible contact with (Student-Athlete 39). For good measure, the school outlines how Freeze once asked Farrar if he was using a second phone to illegally contact recruits, the implication being that he a) worked proactively to keep his assistants in line and b) had no way of knowing that Farrar was lying to his face.

The second level of defense is discrediting the testimony of former Mississippi recruits who say they were given illegal benefits while being given immunity by the NCAA enforcement staff. Lewis' allegations in particular, which include a $10,000 payment from a booster, are heavily scrutinized by Mississippi's attorneys for inconsistency, evidence and plausibility.

Of course, it would seem if the NCAA didn't have reason to believe those athletes — the entire picture of evidence and interview transcripts wasn't made public — the allegations wouldn't have been included in the case.

While Mississippi has every reason to challenge the lack of institutional control charge — from an institutional standpoint, that's the most serious one — the history of NCAA cases in this stratosphere suggests that the school would be dealt with far less harshly if it simply removed Freeze.

Instead, Mississippi is rallying around him, which would be baffling if not for two factors: His relationship with the school's biggest boosters is still rock solid, and the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation announced a record $45.6 million in donations last July, up from $26million three years earlier.

Apparently two wins against Alabama buys a football coach at a historically downtrodden program a whole bunch of goodwill.

But the underlying message of Mississippi's defense, in terms of the head coach responsibility charge against Freeze and the lack of institutional control charge, is that there were no red flags to suggest rules were being broken.

It is not an understatement to say every other coaching staff in the Southeast would laugh hysterically at that assertion. The red flag was right in front of everyone's face.

In February 2013, Mississippi signed three recruits — all from out of state — ranked No.1 in the country at their positions, including one from Chicago (Laquon Treadwell). There was absolutely nothing in the history of Ole Miss or Freeze, a second-year Division I head coach coming off a 7-6 season, to suggest that kind of recruiting prowess was possible.

And while the most serious violations Mississippi is being accused of weren't directly tied to the recruitment of those three players, that class brought scrutiny to Oxford, and deservedly so. But even the most generous view of the initial allegations as "mistakes" — that's the line Freeze and athletics director Ross Bjork were using a year ago to spin the media — raises the question of how a staff that knew it was so under the microscope could even come within the same ZIP code as a rules violation.

That still hasn't been answered in any satisfactory way.

These days, Mississippi isn't talking about mistakes; rather, it is admitting that a lot of bad stuff happened over the last few years. Now the spin is about making sure Freeze is protected, at seemingly any cost. But given what could happen if that argument doesn't fly with the Committee on Infractions, going to bat for Freeze to this degree is risky at best and disastrous at worst.

Maybe at Mississippi, a coach with a losing SEC record is just that valuable.

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The Salt Lake Tribune

 

The Ogden Raptors' scheduled "Hourglass Appreciation Night" promotion revolved around the historic notion of baseball's being played without a clock.

That's fairly clever. The problem is that the nature of the minor league franchise's scheme went too far back in time — almost to the era of the team's dinosaur mascot. This is 2017, and such a sexist promotion is incredibly misguided in Utah or anywhere else in this country.

The Raptors intended to bring 18 models (one for each half-inning) from a Sandy-based agency to Lindquist Field in Ogden and have each of the "gorgeous women" provide commentary during the broadcast of an August game vs. Billings with live-streaming video in the press box. The models also would pose for photos with fans, according to a news release with accompanying drawings of women in bikinis (one of the cartoon figures was a black woman, although nobody should be crediting the Raptors for diversity).

The item was pulled from the Raptors' website after the team absorbed widespread criticism, then the team issued a statement Tuesday saying the promotion was not approved by ownership or management. Assuming that's true, how did it even get that far into the process? Raptors president Dave Baggott must absorb blame for letting the idea come anywhere near completion.

The release cited the visiting Billings Mustangs in the context of "real thoroughbreds" who would appear at the ballpark. The Stars Talent Studio, which markets itself as "Utah's #1 Talent Agency for developing healthy role models in the media," also should take some hits for agreeing to this kind of event.

Consid