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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

 

A Roanoke woman pleaded guilty Wednesday to producing and distributing child pornography.

Shannon Marie Bobrosky turned the camera of her cellphone on herself and a child to create images that she then shared with others electronically, according to a summary of the prosecutor 's evidence. She pleaded guilty in Roanoke federal court to four counts of a grand jury indictment stemming from her February arrest.

The minimum prison term for producing child porn is 15 years.

When arrested, she worked for the YMCA of the Roanoke Valley in a part-time child care position providing after-school supervision at Virginia Heights Elementary School in Roanoke, according to the YMCA. After her arrest, the Y fired Bobrosky.

The investigation found no evidence that any child other than the one connected to these charges was victimized, said Jerre Harvard, a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security. Bobrosky, 23, said the images were made in her home.

Before her admissions, U.S. District Court Judge Glen Conrad told Bobrosky the consequences of pleading guilty: "There's going to be a hefty chunk of incarceration for you to serve."

Bobrosky will owe restitution to the child of at least 50 percent of her prison income, said Laura Rottenborn, an assistant U.S. attorney. Bobrosky, who has been held since her arrest, shuffled out of court in ankle cuffs and an orange jail outfit to await sentencing behind bars. That hearing was scheduled for Nov. 27.

Homeland security agents in Newark, New Jersey, broke the case while probing a 2015 Craigslist ad seeking people with deviant sexual tastes, according to an affidavit for a search warrant filed in the Southern District of New York federal court.

Electronic messages sent to the point of contact for the ad led to the arrest of a New York man who went by the name "Will." His phone contained child porn images sent by a "Virginia woman" who was questioned by investigators in Roanoke in February, the affidavit said.

Investigators acting on a tip from colleagues in Newark interviewed Bobrosky in Roanoke in February, leading to her arrest.

Cody William Leo Mann of New York has pleaded not guilty to the receipt and distribution of child pornography and possession of child pornography, New York court records show.

An account derived from documents in the Roanoke court and disclosures by the U.S. attorney's office in Roanoke suggests Bobrosky had an online relationship with a man she met through Craigslist and provided him with images of actual or simulated child molestation.

Rottenborn referred to that man in court Wednesday as "Will," but also told Conrad that Bobrosky distributed pornographic images to multiple people.

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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

The Town of Tonawanda Parks and Recreation Department closed its outdoor pools this past week, but the indoor Aquatics and Fitness Center reopened Monday after a two-week shutdown for repairs and renovations.

Enhancements include newly rubberized flooring throughout the fitness room and in the main hallways, as well as repairs to the main pool floor and re-tiling the kiddie pool. LED lighting was installed in the pool area, sauna benches were torn out and rebuilt and the hot water tanks and piping were replaced.

In addition, new Airdyne bikes were installed in the fitness room, and the aerobics room was repainted and had new fans and a pull-up bar installed.

The facility is open to residents and non-residents at different payment rates.

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Copyright 2017 Wichita Falls Times Record News
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Times Record News (Wichita Falls, Texas)

 

The Lone Star Conference, once the premier Division II conference for both Texas and Oklahoma, has announced it will grow again.

The LSC will expand to 19 member institutions as league officials announced Tuesday that eight schools have accepted invitations to join the LSC in the fall of 2019.

"We look forward to collaborating on and off the athletic field knowing that our student athletes will benefit from this expansion," said Texas Woman's Chancellor Carine M. Feyten, chair of the LSC President's Council.

With 19 members, the LSC will become the biggest conference in NCAA Division II. The LSC, founded on April 25, 1931, started as a five-member conference of Texas-based schools and with the latest expansion will become a 19-member league with 13 members in Texas, three in Oklahoma, two in New Mexico, and one in Arkansas.

The Heartland Conference is where the members are coming from. Midwestern State currently competes in that league in men's soccer and will continue to do so this season and in 2018.

"This is an exciting time for the Lone Star Conference. The addition of these eight schools makes the LSC the largest and most dynamic conference in NCAA Division II. These nineteen institutions will represent the very best in Division II through a shared commitment to excellence in academics, athletics and student-athlete development," said LSC Commissioner Jay Poerner. "I am thankful to the leadership of the LSC Council of Presidents for its guidance in leading this expansion effort."

MSU has competed with several of the new schools in basketball, including Lubbock Christian's upset win here back in 2016 as the No. 8 seed in the regional tournament. The Mustangs knocked out Fort Smith in 2014.

The new teams do not play compete in D-2 football.

Adding the eight institutions marks the LSC's first expansion since UT Permian Basin and Western New Mexico joined the conference in 2016. The league has had 38 institutions compete as members over its 86-year history.

See more info at lonestarconference.org.

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Copyright 2017 The Evansville Courier Co.
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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)

 

EVANSVILLE - Why did the NCAA Division I Horizon League file a lawsuit in Vanderburgh County?

That is what the defendants, Valparaiso University and Missouri Valley Conference, look to dismiss and transfer for improper venue, according to a memorandum filed on Friday. On June 27, the Horizon League issued a subpoena to Valpo for a breach in contract in failing to provide one-year written notice of its intent to leave for the MVC, which must defend it did not interfere in Valpo's decision on May 25 to switch conferences.

Attorneys for Valpo and the MVC claim Vanderburgh County is not a preferred venue and was filed in bad faith and without cause.

The defendants' attorneys ask the court to dismiss the complaint and transfer the case to Porter County, Indiana, wherein Valpo's principal office resides. The Horizon League filed the case in Vanderburgh because the University of Evansville is a "member and agent" of the MVC.

"Simply having a member institution in Vanderburgh County does not transform the University of Evansville into an arm of the Missouri Valley Conference sufficient to confer preferred venue," read the memorandum submitted by Husch Blackwell LLP attorneys John W. Borkowski and Mitchell A. Margo.

Indiana Trial Rule 75(A) governs venue requirements in Indiana.

The defendants point to T.R. 75(A)(4), which states the preferred venue lies in "the county where either the principal office of a defendant organization is located or the office or agency of a defendant organization or individual to which the claim relates or out of which the claim arose is located, if one or more such organizations are included as defendants in the complaint."

The MVC has its principal office in St. Louis, Missouri, and does not have a branch office where it conducts regular business in Vanderburgh. The Horizon League is relying on the second clause of T.R. 75(A)(4) and the defendants allege no facts assert any type of agency relationship exists or that UE takes any direction whatsoever from the MVC.

"Simply put, Plaintiff is wrong on the law," read the memorandum. "The University of Evansville does not provide Plaintiff with preferred venue because (i) it is not an "agency of defendant" as that term has been interpreted by the Indiana appellate courts; (ii) the claim does not relate to or arise out of the University of Evansville; and (iii) perhaps most importantly, the University of Evansville is not "included as defendant in the complaint."

While the preferred venue may seem trivial, it figures to be an uphill battle for Valpo - a member of the Horizon since 2006.

According to the lawsuit, Valpo proposed and voted in favor of raising their previous conference's exit fee from $50,000 to $500,000 following Butler's decision to join the Atlantic 10 and Loyola Chicago the MVC in 2012. Valpo claims it is not obligated to pay the fee because it was not in the original contract.

A precedent has already been set, though. Also in 2012, Maryland settled with the Atlantic Coast Conference for $31.3 million in exit fees to leave for the Big Ten Conference. Similarly, Rutgers was forced to pay the American Athletic Conference a sum of $11.5 million to leave for the Big Ten.

The suit alleges the MVC, in need of a new member following Wichita State's departure to the AAC, coerced Valpo into joining. However, tampering is difficult to prove and monetary damages are unlikely to be enforced.

There is no exit fee in the MVC. However, Wichita State is expected to give up future MVC distributions for its NCAA men's basketball tournament game victories. The Shockers won five games in the tournament the past two seasons. At roughly $1.6 million per win, that translates to a payout of $800,000 per member over seven years.

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Copyright 2017 Newsday, Inc.


Newsday (New York)

 

A longtime college football analyst is not returning to the broadcast booth this fall due to his growing discomfort with the dangerous nature of the sport.

Ed Cunningham has left his position with ESPN and ABC after nearly 20 years, citing the large amount of damage inflicted on players as his primary reason.

"I take full ownership of my alignment with the sport," Cunningham told The New York Times. "I can just no longer be in that cheerleader's spot."

Cunningham told the Times he had grown weary of being a close witness to constant carnage and making his living on a sport he knows is taking the lives of some players.

"In its current state, there are some real dangers: broken limbs, wear and tear," Cunningham said. "But the real crux of this is that I just don't think the game is safe for the brain. To me, it's unacceptable."

A captain on the 1991 Washington team that won the national championship, Cunningham played center for the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks over five seasons, working as an analyst and color commentator since. He told the Times that brain health is "as personal as it gets" for him, citing the suicide of former teammate Dave Duerson, who was posthumously found to have CTE, the debilitating brain disease found in many former players.

Cunningham hopes by speaking out the conversation on football safety would be furthered without undermining the game.

"I think people are starting to think, 'What should we do here?' " Cunningham said. "You can't throw out everything. You can't say it's all broken. You have to change the paradigm. How should it be different 20 years from now? It'll be different, and I think quite a bit different. And that's OK."

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Charlie and Grace Almoney of Oakwood have started a new charity, Pass it Back Soccer.

Great soccer requires good passing skills and lightning-quick decisions. During possession, is it best to maneuver through a couple of aggressive opponents or pass it back to a teammate with a better chance of moving the ball closer to the goal? Choices like these are second nature for Charlie and Grace Almoney of Oakwood. The soccer-playing siblings set a new goal for themselves this year when they started a new charity, Pass it Back Soccer.

"I play club soccer for Ohio Galaxies, and there are some players who can't afford the equipment they need to play," said Charlie, an Oakwood junior who also plays defense for OHS. "That made me curious. Was this just a problem with my team or the whole Dayton area?"

The pair decided to do in-depth research in March, and sent out surveys to hundreds of club directors, athletic directors, and soccer coaches at regional high schools.

"We just asked them if they saw a need for soccer equipment, and the results were incredible," Charlie said. "There is a great need and a great number of youth who couldn't afford the equipment."

That's when they decided to hit the ground running. Grace set up a website, www.passitbacksoccer.org, and it went live this past June. They also have a Facebook page. Their motto is "Pass it Back Soccer: Giving is our Goal." Their navy blue and green logo resembles part of a soccer ball; the circular form appears to be people with outstretched arms.

"It's surprised me a lot how many kids don't have the right equipment, or sizes of cleats, or high quality equipment. So many of them love the game but can't play because they don't have the needed equipment," said Grace, an Oakwood sophomore who plays midfield for the school and Ohio Galaxies club soccer.

The charity partners with Soccer Plus, on Kingsridge Drive near the Dayton Mall. They have many soccer buddies and friends who help out: picking up new/gently used soccer equipment, cleaning and disinfecting cleats/shin guards, and getting the word out. Some have helped to place donation bins in new locations, like St. Christopher Catholic School in Vandalia.

"The bulk of our donations have come from Soccer Plus. They've been a huge help to us," Charlie said.

They've received about 80 pairs of cleats, 30 pairs of shin guards and about 30 soccer balls. They also have soccer socks and warmup gear. On Aug. 12, they went to Action Sports Center where some Dayton Area Soccer Association players practice, and set up a table with donations. They ended up giving out 15 pairs of cleats, eight sets of shin guards, five size 3 balls and even some practice cones for a coach.

"Some of the kids didn't have shin guards or soccer socks, and some of them were in tennis shoes," said Grace. "The parents would bring their kids over so we could fit them for cleats. They were all so thankful; a little girl came up and hugged me after she tried on cleats."

Throughout this journey, they've had the support of their parents, Bill and Jennifer Almoney. They are encouraging anyone who needs equipment to fill out the request form on their website.

Potential donors can email Grace and Charlie at passitbacksoccer@gmail.com You can also visit their Facebook page.

"We have really enjoyed playing the game of soccer and meeting new friends," Charlie said. "It's given us enjoyable memories and great experiences, and we'd like to give other kids the same opportunity."

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Copyright 2017 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

Royce White

Royce White left the NBA three years ago amid demands for a better mental health initiative from the league. Today, playing basketball in Canada, he speaks bluntly about mental illness and salts his conversation with colorful metaphors and off-color language.

"It's not about the NBA," he says. "If (expletive) Walmart didn't have a (reasonable mental health) policy, I would have done the same thing there, too."

He grew up in Minneapolis, largely raised by a single mother and grandmother. Speaking his mind always came naturally.

"I didn't have men around me growing up who saw having anxiety as weak or not tough enough," White says. "I grew up with a lot of diversity. Instead of having that traditional one-male role model, I was allowed to have many. And maybe it's just where I'm from, but that whole masculinity (stereotype) -- men can't show weakness (crap) -- wasn't around."

One of White's male role models was his fiery high school coach, Dave Thorson, now an assistant coach at Drake, who led White to therapy. An in-school family practitioner ultimately diagnosed him with generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. Since, he has embraced his illnesses rather than hide them in silence.

"The million-dollar question is, 'Does what you go through make you better or worse?'" White says. "I actually look at my anxiety as a blessing."

White, the Houston Rockets' first-round draft choice (16th pick overall) in 2012, made headlines when he asked for accommodations to address panic attacks when he flew on planes. He had made 20 plane trips in a season while at Iowa State; playing in the NBA was going to require something closer to 100 flights. And the drugs he took to calm his fears affected his energy in games and practices.

"It's been painted as me wanting special treatment because of anxiety," White says. "No, I'm saying I need the same type of support as anyone who is struggling. Call it whatever the hell you want to call it. There are specific injury doctors for players" with bum knees and sprained ankles.

White says when he requested an individual doctor, NBA officials told him if they made an accommodation for him, they'd have to do it for 450 players. He played in three NBA games -- zero points for the Sacramento Kings -- as he bounced around the NBA and its developmental league for several seasons.

Kathy Behrens, NBA president of social responsibility and player programs, offers no comment on White's case specifically, other than to say the league has "great respect for Royce speaking about his struggles." She says the NBA is not new to the issue but has "a growing understanding of the importance of the subject." She says players currently have access to mental health professionals through the player assistance program.

Last season White played for the London (Ontario) Lightning of the National Basketball League of Canada, where he is the reigning league MVP and the Lightning are the reigning champion. His last affiliation with the NBA was the Los Angeles Clippers' Summer League team in 2015.

"This isn't just about me in the NBA," White says. "You hear all the time about mental health stigma and people being ashamed. Well, there are people across the country who need help, say they need help and aren't getting it. We should be talking about them, too."

Michael Phelps

For most of his solid-gold life, Michael Phelps saw himself in much the same way as the outside world did.

"I saw myself as a swimmer and nothing else," he says. "I didn't know who I really was. And neither did anybody else. At the age of 30, I found myself. And I decided I wanted to show the world not Michael Phelps the swimmer, but who I really was."

Phelps is 32, and he wants the world to see him as husband, father and, yes, history's most decorated Olympian -- but also as a depression sufferer.

"It's good for athletes to be open about who they are and for people to see we're far from perfect," Phelps says. "We're not gods. I'm human like everybody else."

After opening up about his issues, he found he could help others while helping himself. "Once I started talking about my struggles outside the pool, the healthier I felt," he says. "Now I have kids and adults come up to me and say they were able to open up because I was open about my life."

Phelps retired after the 2012 Summer Games in London -- or so he said -- but ended up coming back for a last hurrah in Rio in 2016, this time with his infant son, Boomer, and his newlywed wife, Nicole, to cheer him on. Now he swears he's really retired. And he doesn't have to worry about what's next; his calling as an advocate for mental health found him.

"My talent was in the swimming pool, but it's led me to something else in life," Phelps says. "It's a duty. It's an honor to talk about mental health. But I'm really just being my authentic self, sharing my story."

Jerry West

West is Mr.Clutch. He's The Logo. A master architect, building teams behind the scenes.

He's also, at 79, a life-long sufferer of depression. Or, as he calls it, the dark place.

"This is something that doesn't go away, this depression," West says. "When I go through it, it's almost always based on my (low) self-worth and self-esteem."

West sees his suffering less as an illness and more as a product of a tormented childhood of abuse at the hands of his father. That's part of why West turned to basketball as a kid -- a "misfit with no confidence," in his words -- in West Virginia. It was a safe haven where he could build confidence.

"Everyone is driven by different things in life," West says. "To some degree, based on some of the things I saw growing up, I was looking for an escape. I was just looking for something that I'd be appreciated for."

Sometimes he played all by himself in a fantasy world in which he always splashed a game-winning buzzer-beater. "For anyone who saw me," he says, "they probably said, 'My God, this kid is crazy.'"

He emerged from childhood sanctuary to be one of the greatest players in history. The darkness never left him, though. "I feel that same sadness at times now," he says.

He took his West Virginia Mountaineers to the championship game of the NCAA tournament, where they lost. His Los Angeles Lakers made the NBA Finals nine times -- and lost eight.

"I've learned way more in my life through failure than I ever did from success," he says. He didn't feel the elation he thought he would when the Lakers won the NBA title at last in 1972. "All I could do right then," he says, "was go back to the other losses."

Team camaraderie buoyed him during his playing days. As a team executive -- with the Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors and, newly, the Los Angeles Clippers -- he often is alone in his day-to-day operations. "You're the judge, jury and executioner," he says.

The kid who wanted to be a hero, sinking all those game-winners in imaginary games, says he never wanted credit for his successes as an executive.

"You'll never see me on a (championship) podium or in a picture," West notes. "It was never about me. Yet, on the other hand, there are times when I'd be down and out, and you feel like you'd want someone to come up and say, 'Hey, you're pretty good at what you're doing.' That's when the (depression) kicks in."

West says he thinks he's able to see talent and character through a different lens than other executives.

"Some of these kids, these players, they're survivors," he says. "In many cases I thought I was a survivor. That's who I'm attracted to. Someone who's been through something."

Allison Schmitt

Schmitt executed a flip turn, as the swimmer had done thousands of times before, as she competed in an event in Austin in 2015. And then, out of nowhere, midway through the 400-meter freestyle, she quit.

"That last 200 meters I was like, (expletive) this," she says. "I knew I gave up, but I didn't know why."

The answer, as it turned out, was what she calls "the invisible illness" -- depression.

Michael Phelps, her friend and frequent training partner -- was at the meet. Months earlier, Phelps and Schmitt sat in a burrito restaurant and discussed the suicide that week of actor Robin Williams. Schmitt had said she could understand why he did it. At that point, Schmitt says, "Michael knew something was up."

She had contemplated suicide. She had considered driving off the road on a snowy night to make it appear as an accident.

Phelps approached her on the pool deck after she quit on that 400 free. Bob Bowman, who coached them both, also arrived. And Schmitt's pain soon came pouring out -- the tears, the sadness, the emptiness. Schmitt says she began seeing a psychologist soon after. Therapy, she says, "makes training for the Olympics seem easy."

She found it difficult to be vulnerable. She had been taught to rush through, persevere and come out stronger. She felt embarrassed and ashamed.

"But now, therapy is the best tool I've encountered in this life," Schmitt says. "It gives you a safe place where you won't feel judged and can be your true self."

Not long after her tearful epiphany, Schmitt found out her 17-year-old cousin in Pennsylvania had committed suicide. Schmitt says this promising basketball player "was the life of the party, always making people laugh." Schmitt pauses. "But no one knew how dark of a place she was in."

This galvanized Schmitt. "In sports, you get second chances," she says. "In life, you don't always get a second chance."

This, Schmitt says, is why she is pursuing a master's degree to become a licensed clinical social worker and counselor.

"Depression is something that's in you," she says. "It's not wanting to get out of bed, continuously feeling sad and down on yourself. It's not wanting to exist, sometimes. There's no on-and-off light switch. When I hear coaches, athletes telling people to 'snap out of it,' it makes me mad. Because you could be pushing them down that dark hole further."

Imani Boyette

The first time Boyette tried to kill herself she was 10.

"The worst pain in the world is waking up and knowing you can't even kill yourself, that it's not in your control," she says. "What people don't realize about suicide is that it's like you're brainwashed. None of my attempts made sense, but it feels like the perfect answer to make the pain stop in the moment. You think it will all be better if you can just disappear."

Boyette, 22, is a center for the WNBA's Atlanta Dream. She suffers from clinically diagnosed severe depression that she attributes to a combination of circumstance (she was raped as a child by a family member) and happenstance (her biological makeup).

"You feel like because you're not happy -- when you should be happy -- that you're hurting people around you and a burden," she says. "At a certain point, it just gets easier to shut up because people get sick of hearing you're not OK when you're not sick on the outside."

Boyette says she tried to kill herself three times. "I wasn't looking for help," she says. "I wasn't looking for resources.... I didn't have anybody I could talk to, I could touch, who understands this hell I'm in."

That's why Boyette is telling her story. She wants to be the role model she wishes she'd had in her darkest hours, not that it's easy to do.

"Sometimes, I walk in a room and regret being so naked and vulnerable, but this is bigger than me," she says. "I believe my purpose is to talk about the things that people are uncomfortable or afraid to talk about.... I need to talk about sexual abuse, because we don't talk about it enough... The thing about childhood sexual abuse is people look at you like you're this delicate piece of china. Or, they look at you disgusted, but don't want to be disgusted."

Her brother, JaVale McGee, plays for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors and her husband, Paul Boyette Jr., is a defensive tackle for the Oakland Raiders. They met when both were athletes at the University of Texas. She told him then about her childhood abuse, by way of explanation of her night terrors.

"After I got married, I went into a deep depression, which makes no sense whatsoever," she says. "It's, like, the happiest time in your life. And it's hard to convince your husband this is not because I don't love you. I just can't love you out of this depression, out of this fog."

She describes the days when she can't even get out of bed or brush her teeth. It's as if she were in a straightjacket, she says, screaming in a soundproof room where no one can hear her, even her husband. Soon the screams are more like echoes and she envisions a glass wall where she presses her hand against his.

"I tell him just being there is enough," she says, eyes moist. "You don't have to understand or see my pain, but just acknowledge it. And be there."

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Copyright 2017 Charleston Newspapers

Charleston Gazette-Mail

 

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - The University of Illinois chancellor says dropping the school's "war chant" at sporting events was ultimately his call and that there aren't plans to eliminate the Fighting Illini nickname or a popular band medley referring to Native Americans.

Chancellor Robert Jones told The News-Gazette the chant no longer motivated football fans as historically intended. He also said it was used less than in previous years and that some people found it offensive.

The decision to stop using the chant's music was made at the end of last football season, said Kent Brown, a spokesman for the athletic department. It wasn't publicized until last week when athletic department representatives asked members of the student group Illini Pride to stop playing the song on a drum at a soccer game. The school's band, the Marching Illini, had played the cadence at football games.

University of Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman wrote an open letter Monday defending the university's decision, saying the move "serves as a significant step toward a more unified University of Illinois."

"I know that we are much bigger than a drumbeat," Whitman wrote.

Jones said the school hasn't had "systematic discussions" about the band medley composed of "Pride of the Illini," ''March of the Illini" and "Hail to the Orange."

"I can assure you I never had those discussions. It's not part of what I'm thinking about, and I just want to be very clear about that," Jones said. "That's a tradition that's critically important and predates a lot of the issues that people are concerned about."

___

Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com

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Copyright 2017 The Bismarck Tribune, a division of Lee Enterprises
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The Bismarck Tribune

 

NEW YORK - A year after the NFL pledged $100 million in support of independent medical research and engineering advancements, a huge chunk of that soon will be awarded to such research, primarily dedicated to neuroscience.

A Scientific Advisory Board assembled by the NFL is set to launch its program to solicit and evaluate research proposals for funding. The board, comprised of independent experts, doctors, scientists and clinicians, and chaired by retired U.S. Army General Peter Chiarelli, will provide direction for the $40 million allocated under the league's initiative.

"Prevention should always be a focus," Chiarelli says. "Nevertheless, the development of biologically based diagnostics is critical for return-to-play decisions for the NFL, and return to combat/training for the armed forces. Imagine if you had a handheld analyzer that with a single drop could determine whether a player or a soldier had a concussion - and determine the severity of that injury."

The NFL has an ongoing affiliation with the armed forces, and in April partnered with the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command on a three-year venture to collaborate on head health research and development.

As always in this era of CTE concerns, any sports-oriented medical studies must be all-encompassing. Developing improved tools for research and design is front and center, as the league's scientific advisory board is seeking to be, with significant financial outlay.

CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) can cause memory loss, depression, violent mood swings and other cognitive and behavioral issues in those exposed to repetitive head trauma.

"There have been significant learnings in recent years that have changed the way we look at traumatic brain injury, notably CTE," says Dr. Allen Sills, who came aboard this year as the league's chief medical officer. "I agree with many medical experts that there are still a lot of unanswered questions relating to the cause, incidence and prevalence of CTE. But what is clear is that there's a problem that impacts some athletes in sports like ours, others possibly, too, and we are eager to see CTE research move forward and begin to assemble more pieces of the puzzle.

"The NFL has a responsibility to do everything it can to make the game safer and drive research that advances treatment and prevention and, as we make advances, share them with the broader sports world. Most of the issues we face in the NFL are sport issues, and beyond that they are society issues."

A year out from Commissioner Roger Goodell's pledge to "look at anything and everything to protect our players and make the game safer," one of the areas receiving concentrated attention by the league is developing equipment that provides even more specific and enhanced feedback on improving safety in football. Helmets, shoulder pads and other pads, and footwear all have seen improvements, but there's much more to be done.

The league has embarked on what it calls "The Engineering Roadmap," a $60 million program designed to improve head protection equipment.

"This is a comprehensive and dedicated plan intended to spur innovation and significantly improve head protection for NFL players in three to five years," explains Dr. Jeffrey Crandall, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Applied Biomechanics and chair of the NFL's head, neck and spine engineering subcommittee.

The program is managed in collaboration with NFL Players Association's engineering consultants, Dr. Kristy Arbogast, co-scientific director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and Dr. Barry Myers, director of innovation at Duke University's Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

"A key component of the engineering roadmap is to accurately measure the motion and acceleration the head experiences during play in the NFL by player position, to give design direction for protective equipment," Arbogast says. "To date, we have been doing that via video reconstructions and injury event recreations using crash test dummies. These approaches are incredibly time intensive and, by design, focus on 'events' that must be subjectively selected from game film or injury reports."

But "the engineering roadmap leverages the modeling approach used in other fields to apply computational models to helmet design and evaluation," Crandall adds.

"Many fields have transitioned from primarily an experimental evaluation and design of products to a largely computational development program. Computational models that simulate various designs and use conditions can greatly enhance the thoroughness and efficacy of the design process while simultaneously reducing the time of product development."

Of note is a focus on sensors that can determine all sorts of data to help enhance safety. The league and the players' union are working to develop novel sensor technology capable of accurately recording the motion of the head during impact in varying game conditions and positions. The plan is for the NFL, when the technology is ready, to offer mouth guards instrumented with such sensors to players to measure their impact response.

"This athlete exposure data will inform the testing of protective equipment so that future helmet test methodologies and design evolution are relevant to what is actually experienced on the field," Arbogast says.

With a recent study into brain trauma revealing significant numbers of former NFL players among those examined suffering from CTE, the emphasis on injury prevention of all kinds must be paramount.

That means pushing hard on all fronts, particularly equipment innovation and testing.

Crandall sees the engineering roadmap as the correct, well, road to take.

"Beyond the particular outcome of the roadmap," he says, "we will develop an improved understanding of the types and severity of impacts players experience on-field through video analysis and sensors that will be available to examine a broader array of medical and engineering questions."

With, hopefully, benefits for every level of football - and for other sports.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

Take a stroll through the Williams Stadium concourse. Step down to the field level and look up to the scoreboard behind the east stands. It's hard to miss a unifying theme at Liberty's football stadium.

Blue and white logos branded with "FBS Bound" dominate. They're all around the sprawling campus on Lynchburg's south side. Everywhere you look, there's a reminder that the Flames will be playing with the big boys of college football in 2018.

What about this season?

The Flames are in their final season as a member of the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-AA, in what is the first of a two-year transition process to become a full-fledged member of the Football Bowl Subdivision and join schools such as Virginia Tech, Virginia and Old Dominion, to play against college football's premier teams.

In 2018, the Flames will play an FBS schedule, but won't be bowl-eligible until 2019.

"We want to hit the ground running this season, that way we have a full head of steam going into that FBS year," said sophomore offensive lineman Ethan Crawford of the Flames. "It's a thing where all of us as individuals, we're coming together and we know this isn't going to be the type of year where we might not get rings or anything like that, even if we win the Big South."

Liberty will play this season as a member of the Big South Conference, the Flames' home in the FCS since 2002, but won't be eligible for the conference title or the FCS playoffs.

That means this season essentially becomes a foundation for the transition to the FBS.

For starters, Flames coach Turner Gill has to begin balancing scholarships. FCS teams can carry a maximum of 63 scholarship players through a season, while that number jumps to 85 at the FBS level.

During the two-year transition period before LU becomes bowl eligible in 2019, the Flames must average 76.5 scholarships, which is 90 percent of the maximum 85 that are offered at the FBS level.

"I think the most important plan that Liberty will need to have is how they transition from 63 scholarships to 85 scholarships and remain competitive and win while you're doing it," said Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder.

Wilder led the Monarchs through the same transition in 2013 and '14 as ODU moved from the Colonial Athletic Association to Conference USA. In the first transitional season ODU went 8-4, and then the Monarchs went 6-6 in the second year playing an eight-game conference schedule.

"We managed to stay successful as we were going from 63 to 85 scholarships," Wilder said, "and that's really the most important thing is how you manage going from 63 to 85 and you help yourself with who you can recruit by continuing to win football games."

Gill faces the same predicament. He has sought advice from Wilder, UConn coach Randy Edsall and others.

Gill plans on having 74 or 75 scholarship players for this season and then add up to four scholarships through mid-year enrollees. He said that will count toward the scholarship total for the 2017-18 season.

Gill's goal is to be at 85 scholarships for the 2018 season.

The Flames will play only one FBS team this season, at Baylor, and then play FCS opponents in the final 10 games. That includes the full Big South docket with a road game against Charleston Southern, LU's finale in the conference and the subdivision.

"We've got to look at all these games that we're playing, that these are quality opponents that we're playing. This is our last year playing these Big South opponents and we want to beat them all," Crawford said.

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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

Art Briles cared.

During a 10-minute phone call, the then-Baylor head football coach raved about the inner strength and courage shown by two of his former college players turned NFL pros. They were young men who, like him, had faced devastating heartache far too early in life — the loss of a parent.

"It's an inner pain that never leaves," Briles had told me, expressing compassion for offensive lineman Robert T. Griffin (not to be confused with their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback), who played in Baylor's 2011 Alamo Bowl victory over Washington just days after his mother passed away from cancer.

Briles - who was the same age as Griffin when his parents and aunt died in a car crash on their way to see him play at the University of Houston in 1976 - had allowed the player to stay with family for a few days in Euless, Texas, instead of traveling with the team to San Antonio.

In that moment, Briles told me, "you don't even think about football."

That conversation was five years ago. Long before Baylor's systemic cover-up of rampant sexual abuse on campus was exposed and long before the football program and university were rocked by scandal that led to Briles' termination in May 2016.

But his past transgressions — whether you categorize them as willful ignorance or negligence — weren't enough of a warning for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League, who announced early Monday that Briles would be their new assistant head coach for the offense. The backlash was swift and furious and by day's end, the CFL stepped in.

"We came to this decision this evening following a lengthy discussion between the league and the Hamilton organization," the CFL and Tiger-Cats said in a joint statement, announcing their mutual decision not to allow Briles to join the staff. "We wish Mr. Briles all the best in his future endeavours[sic]."

In a Tuesday interview on Toronto radio, Tiger-Cats CEO Scott Mitchell said the team "underestimated the tsunami of negativity that was going to happen, and we made a mistake in trying to contemplate a second chance versus the impact of what had happened at Baylor."

But here's my question: How did Briles even get in the door?

And where was the compassion for the victims, those young women of the Baylor campus who were the same age as Griffin?

Sure, the 61-year-old is a good football coach, having posted a 65-37 record in eight seasons and winning back-to-back Big 12 championship titles in 2013 and 2014. But did the Baylor scandal — and Briles' involvement in it - not give the Tiger-Cats any pause at all?

In May 2016, Baylor suspended Briles, with the intent to terminate him, and also removed school president Ken Starr and placed athletic director Ian McCaw on probation.

Briles has been out of work since then, and had it not been for the CFL intervening, he'd again be on a football sideline.

Briles was right five years ago when we spoke briefly: Some things are bigger than football. But unfortunately for women on Baylor's campus, Briles put football above all else.

An outside law firm hired by the university released a report showing that the school "failed to take appropriate action to respond to reports of sexual assault and dating violence reportedly committed by football players. The choices made by football staff and athletics leadership, in some instances, posed a risk to campus safety and the integrity of the University."

The report also found that Baylor administrators "directly discouraged complainants from reporting or participating in student conduct processes, or that contributed to or accommodated a hostile environment. In one instance, those actions constituted retaliation against a complainant for reporting sexual assault."

The law firm also faulted the football program for not properly vetting transfer students, including defensive ends Sam Ukwuachu and Shawn Oakman, who were both accused of sexual assault while at Baylor.

How could he back in football just one year later?

Mitchell defended the decision to hire Briles, telling the Hamilton Spectator: "We just thought it was a very serious situation, but we also felt that after talking to dozens of people, people we trust, people we admire, that Art Briles is a good man that was caught in a very bad situation.... Clearly, some serious mistakes were made along the way but we feel strongly that people deserve second chances and that's what we've decided to do with Art Briles."

Mitchell also said the league knew of their decision before it was announced. "I spoke to the league about it as a potential concept and had a good discussion about it, a good deliberation about it. At the end of the day, it comes down to whether a person deserves a second chance."

The blowback, however, was enough to convince the CFL and the Tiger-Cats to rescind their offer for Briles' fresh start.

Their tone-deafness itself was deafening, their lack of empathy for women and sexual assault victims is egregious and downright painful.

Briles helped to cultivate a culture where women were viewed as easy targets and their voices were silenced.

How could the Tiger-Cats and CFL not understand — or worse, be shocked by — the magnitude of the response to Briles' hiring? How could Mitchell equate an environment that turned a blind eye to sexual assault and dating violence with some "mistakes" made along the way?

The answer may lie in the culture of the Tiger-Cats. In March 2016, the team promoted Eric Tillman to general manager - six years after he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a teenage babysitter, according to ESPN, which cited a CBC News report and information obtained from a Saskatchewan court.

Tillman, who at the time of the August 2008 incident was the GM of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, reportedly approached the babysitter as she was bent over and "put his hands on her hips with his fingers in her belt loops and pulled her toward him." According to the CBC report, Tillman was under the influence of a "double dose of sleeping pills and muscle relaxants." He resigned from the Roughriders shortly after entering his plea despite the babysitter and her family reportedly expressing their wishes for him to keep his job. Tillman received an absolute discharge.

Yes, people make mistakes. But what Briles and Baylor administrators did was not simply just a mistake. Consider the victims. Consider how their lives were forever changed. Now ask yourself: Do you believe Briles deserves a second chance to coach football?

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Anderson Independent-Mail (South Carolina)

 

Thousands of Clemson students and alumni are again taking to the internet to try to create change in the student football ticket system at the university.

A new change.org petition, written as an open letter to The Tiger from a student, is making its way through campus groups.

The petition was written by Alyx Farkas, a second-year student at Clemson. Farkas speaks about her lifelong love of Clemson and her desire to be able to enjoy football games for free alongside her friends.

The petition follows a similar change.org petition written in spring 2016 after the school's Board of Trustees made changes to the student ticketing process.

In the petition, Farkas expresses concerns over the cost of tickets, which she says "can be as expensive as the cost of books for the semester or maybe even a meal plan or housing or tuition."

In 2017, Clemson students are the only students in Division 1 athletics to have access to completely free tickets to football games, according to Joe Galbraith, associate athletic director for Clemson University. Galbraith said 10,500 student tickets are made available in lower deck seats, on the hill and in top deck seats. That's about 13 percent of the 80,000 seat stadium. Those tickets are available based on class status. Seniors take precedence over underclassmen. IPTAY Collegiate Club members also have a better shot at tickets since they have access to an earlier online ticket window ahead of each game.

There are more than 23,000 students enrolled at Clemson University, so 10,500 student tickets means more than 12,000 students will not have free tickets to any given game.

Farkas's petition also addressed the removal of block seating for students, and a ticket system she believes "has become a lottery of whether you belong to IPTAY or not."

When it comes to the removal of block seating, Galbraith said, "The athletic department, ticket office and ITPAY staff does not set the rules for student ticketing. We are the provider and facilitator of the ticket distribution, but those policies are set by the Student Government to maximize the student ticket allotment. Student Government informed the athletic department and ticket office they wanted to do away with block seating this year, and we are fulfilling the request of the students."

As for whether the ticket process has become a lottery, Galbraith said that 3,500 of the 10,500 student tickets are reserved for IPTAY members. IPTAY members who do not receive a ticket through the collegiate club are still eligible to receive tickets during their regular class ticket window as well.

The petition had more than 2,700 on Tuesday morning.

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USA TODAY

 

The early college football schedule is almost exclusively comprised of non-conference games.

The games are being governed by individually negotiated contracts.

Here are some of the more notable provisions from contracts for this weekend's games.

Florida A&M at Arkansas, War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Arkansas agreed to pay Florida A&M $750,000 if its band -- the famed "Marching 100" -- attended the game or $700,000 if the band did not attend. The band will not be on hand for the game, director Shelby Chipman said Monday. Meanwhile, Florida A&M is saving money on transportation by having its traveling party go to the game by bus, about a 10-hour trip from Tallahassee.

Nevada at Northwestern, Ryan Field. The contract says Nevada will be given 75 free game programs to be delivered to its dressing room at least one hour before the game. Under the deal's original terms, set in January 2016, the game was to be played Sept. 16 and Nevada was to be paid $1.2 million. But when the date was changed four months later, the payment was increased to $1.3 million.

Tulsa at Oklahoma State, Boone Pickens Stadium. This was 11 years -- and three date changes -- in the making. It was set up under a three-game contract made in May 2006 that included the terms of a four-game men's basketball series. Initially set to have been played in 2012, it was moved to 2016, then to this year. Finally, in May, it was moved from Sept. 2 to Aug. 31 for TV.

West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech, FedExField. Under their contract with the Washington Redskins' stadium management company, Virginia Tech and West Virginia had to use "reasonable efforts" not to play each other in a bowl game after the 2016 season.

Howard at UNLV, Sam Boyd Stadium. Howard is scheduled to receive $600,000, but university officials had to agree to a specific series of activities in cooperation with UNLV and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to promote the game and encourage fans to travel to Las Vegas. In addition, at its own expense, Howard had to arrange for its band and cheerleaders to arrive in Las Vegas by noon the day before the game to participate in various events. Failure to fulfill any of the obligations would allow UNLV to reduce the guarantee by up to $300,000. This is part of a three-year arrangement between UNLV and the convention and visitors bureau to bring a historically black college or university team to Las Vegas, authority spokesman Jeremy Handel said.

Alabama vs. Florida State, Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech. Both at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The contract for each of the four teams participating in a Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta -- Alabama, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Tennessee -- said that in the weeks leading up the game the organizers could stage a "Spirit Day" at a Chick-fil-A restaurant in the school's city. If one was held, the school had to provide cheerleaders and mascots to appear.

Louisville at Purdue, Lucas Oil Stadium. The 20-page lease agreement that Purdue and Louisville signed for the use of the Indianapolis Colts home field said the schools could get a title sponsor for the game, but it was subject to the stadium management's approval and could not promote any product or service that competes with Lucas Oil products. In addition, the Colts -- the stadium's primary tenant -- had to give permission for any agreement that might conflict with a deal they have with anyone on a three-page, single-spaced list of sponsors. However, Learfield -- the schools' marketing firm -- did find a sponsor, Ally Financial, and so the game officially is the Ally Classic.

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USA TODAY

 

It's a stroke of good luck for the college athletics industrial complex that there's no need to worry about a national anthem controversy blossoming out of its showcase college football weekend beginning Thursday.

Even as the NFL sees more and more players following the lead of Colin Kaepernick to protest racial inequality and police violence, even as NBA stars become bolder and louder advocates for social justice, there's no point in asking what would happen if players from Alabama and Florida State wanted to kneel during The Star-Spangled Banner on Saturday at a stadium erected a couple miles from where Martin Luther King Jr. was born.

Unlike the NFL, college football teams stay in their locker rooms during the anthem, saving the likes of Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney from a backlash in deep red states where college football means the most and any form of player protest likely won't be well received.

But in the last year since Kaepernick's protest was first noticed, momentum for high-profile black athletes to become activists has grown. And it's just a matter of time before it filters down to college sports, potentially bringing light to issues from racial inequality to campus policing to college athlete compensation.

"As soon as Kaepernick did what he did, I could see that was the beginning of something and guys were going to join him," said Bill Curry, the former Alabama coach who was president of the NFL Players Association during the 1974 strike and helped lay the groundwork for players to ultimately achieve free agency. "The protest thing in the NFL is only going to grow, and the college guys, they're figuring it out and they'll start saying, 'This isn't right, this isn't the American way,' so I think they'll follow along and there will be more and more organization."

Make no mistake, the recent events in Charlottesville, Va., the current climate of political polarization and the current imperative for college athletes to "stay woke" have spurred discussions inside college athletics departments across the country about how to deal with potential protests. The climate has changed fairly significantly since even a few years ago when the Missouri football team boycotted in conjunction with a Black Lives Matter protest or when some Northwestern players attempted to unionize.

"I was born in 1970, but it seems to feel a lot like the '60s," said Virginia Tech athletics director Whit Babcock, who acknowledged ongoing discussions within his department and the administration about how to approach possible athlete protests. "Even though it is vastly different, the Northwestern (situation) gave a lot of us some time to talk about how we would handle such things. It is a new frontier."

Several other athletics directors contacted by USA TODAY Sports acknowledged raising the issue with their football teams. While the industry consensus is few would actively try to stop a protest, much of the conversation has been steered toward collaboration with coaches, administrators and teammates to bring issues to light and helping them understand the potential for backlash rather than individuals striking out on their own.

"More in terms of opening the door for them to have dialogue with coaches and administrators about concerns they have," Tulane athletics director Troy Dannen said. "But I think we will see more and more ahead."

That kind of language, though, strikes former college and pro football player Wade Davis as an implicit deterrent for bold action. Now a public speaker and advocate focusing on racial, gender and LGBT issues, Davis pointed toward the culture of a college football team where the coach has the biggest hammer and athletes often don't want to do anything that would jeopardize their scholarship and chance to make the NFL.

"It speaks to the desire to control what the protest looks like and what the outcome is," Davis said. "They don't want to lose money. They don't want fans not going to games. I think it's even more complicated in college than it is in the pro game because these kids have less power and it's just a different dynamic in the NFL. These guys aren't even paid, per se, in the same way pro athletes are, so there's a different level of ownership the college level feels over their athletes. Imagine kids who play for Alabama kneeling. I mean, there would be a riot."

Dave Zirin, who has authored several books on how protests, social changes and sports have intersected at key moments in history, noted that college athletes have been engaged in important movements recently, including former Wisconsin basketball star Bronson Koenig going to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline and Georgetown rowers covering up Nike swooshes to protest sweatshop labor practices.

But nothing would have the impact of star players on a major-college football team bringing light to an issue during a prime-time game. Which is why it ultimately will make its way to "the big kahuna," as Zirin called it, even if the barriers are higher than in some other sports.

"The ferment is there," Zirin said. "But I think when NCAA football players protest about racism, which is really what we're talking about, the stakes are so much higher for everybody involved than in the NFL, which means it encompasses a lot more risk and it also means that platform is going to be policed so much harder because these guys don't have a union that can support them.

"You look at the NFL, and yeah, you've got some fans who are like, 'I'm never going to come to a game again,' but it's like, 'Gimme a break, nobody believes you.' The NFL is locked into TV money for years to the tune of billions of dollars. They'll be fine for a little bit of bad publicity. But at the NCAA level, look what happened at Missouri. That hangs over this whole thing."

Indeed, the potential power of a college football team getting behind a cause was revealed in November 2015 when it threatened to boycott a game against BYU. Fewer than 48 hours later, the president of the University of Missouri system resigned and the shock waves are still being felt as the school's subsequent drop in enrollment has been directly tied to that week's events.

"In this day and age, the university system is at the heart of the economic, political and psychological life of an entire city, especially in these small cities in the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12," Zirin said. "The success of the football team is make or break for the economy, so if a bunch of 18- and 19-year-olds mess with that, the ripple effect is crazy."

Though it might still be polarizing, it's no longer surprising to see Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James fire off a Twitter missive at President Trump for his response to Charlottesville or for Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett to pick up where Kaepernick left off.

But what would happen if a star college football player, particularly at a high-profile school in the Deep South, wore a Black Lives Matter shirt during warm-ups or used a postgame media session to talk about police brutality and racial profiling rather than the game?

What would the consequences be for the school? What kind of pressure would conservative white fans put on the coach to denounce it publicly? And what would the recruiting consequences be for the coach if he tried to stifle a player bringing light to an issue?

"It's an entirely different dynamic because the coach in college holds absolute sway," Curry said. "I would pray that nobody would say, 'I'm taking your scholarship away,' and I don't think I know anybody that would do a thing like that, but that's what is possible at the college level."

Given the current climate, it's a matter of time before someone tests that theory. And given how scared athletics departments are about this very scenario, even without an anthem to kneel for, college football players might find out they have more power and a louder voice than they knew.

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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

The Green Wave Football team will be short-handed for its next game.

Due to activity that happened during Summerville's Week 0 contest with Spartanburg, eight Summerville players and eight Spartanburg players have been suspended for a game by the South Carolina High School League. The Spartanburg players served their suspensions during the Vikings' game against T.L. Hanna Aug. 25, but Summerville has a bye week so the Green Wave players will sit out when Summerville returns to action Sept. 1 at Berkeley.

After Spartanburg rushed for the final score of the first half Aug. 18, there was a short brawl in the end zone that led to some player ejections. At least one other player was ejected for an incident that happened later in the game.

Whenever something unusual, such as an ejection or a fight, happens in a game, the schools involved send their video to the high school league so the governing body can review footage of the activity to determine who was involved and if any further disciplinary action is needed.

Seven of the Summerville athletes who have to sit out a game are defensive players and one is an offensive player. SHS Athletic Director Brion Rutherford said SHS plans to appeal three of the suspensions.

The Wave defense has already lost some key players to injuries this season so defenders with varsity experience are a bit of a hot commodity for the Wave. Fortunately for Summerville fans, the suspensions are only for one game and will be served during a non-region contest.

"We are disappointed with what a couple of our players did, but at the same time we had some guys step in to help break things up," Rutherford said. "Spartanburg also had some players do their part to help make sure things didn't get worse."

Tensions between the two teams during a 7 on 7 camp in Charlotte this summer may have carried into last week's game.

"I don't ever like a sportsmanship issue to come up," Summerville coach Joe Call said after the game. "At the 7 on 7 there was some pushing and shoving so we knew it could be intense tonight."

Berkeley won its region last season and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Summerville didn't grab a region crown in 2016, but did also advance to the second round of the playoffs.

This season, the Wave won its hard-fought season opener 41-40 while Berkeley lost its opener to Daniel 17-10. The Stags bounced back last Friday with a 48-19 win over Stratford.

Call is expecting to get Berkeley's best effort Friday.

"They are extremely big up front," Call said. "They have a couple of skill guys who can really go. They have the type of coaching staff that will buckle down and practice those kids hard so I know they are going to be ready."

Kamren McCray (6-5, 310) is one of the leaders up front for the Stags. The offensive lineman is a junior who has already received an offer from the University of South Carolina. Rahn Moore is also a returner on the offensive line.

Berkeley also has an experienced running back, plus a seasoned receiver on the offensive side of the ball.

The Stags' defensive line is anchored by two returning starters and is expected to be stronger than it was last season. Berkeley also has some experience in the back of its defense.

"They are very athletic on defense and one of our former coaches now coaches their secondary so we know they are coached well and will be in position to make plays," Call said. "We are going to have to have two good weeks of practice to get ready for them."

Fred Edwards coached multiple positions as part of John McKissick's staff at Summerville High School before taking a job at Berkeley. The Stags made him their defensive backs coach, a position he held with the Green Wave for several seasons.

Following the coin flip for Summerville's season opener, an official explains the Green Wave's options to captains Deonte Geddis, Darryl Hancock, Jackson Hutto and Olin McCurry.
Roger Lee/Journal Scene

 

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USA TODAY

 

Kevin Durant, named most valuable player in the NBA Finals for his clutch shooting, is making what he hopes will be a well-aimed shot — at cloud computing.

The Golden State Warriors star invested an undisclosed amount in start-up Rubrik and was named a board adviser for advice on strategic marketing initiatives.

"It's a perfect opportunity" in the business-to-business market that is a "major play for us," Durant told USA TODAY exclusively Monday, a day before he was to represent the cloud-data management start-up at the VMworld tech conference in Las Vegas.

It used to be that professional athletes tried to capitalize — and extend — their millions in contract payouts and endorsement deals by buying restaurants or starting music labels. These days, if the player hails from the NBA, they're more likely to want to score returns in tech.

"Being in Silicon Valley, I play in front of (tech executives) and run into them at restaurants," Durant says in explaining his growing list of tech investments.

Durant is one of several NBA superstars making a fast break for tech investments, partnerships and start-up equity. Coached by well-connected venture capitalists such as Ben Horowitz and an NBA off-court education program, they are taking stakes in start-ups and partnering with major brands.

Golden State Warriors teammates Stephen Curry (co-founder of social media start-up Slyce) and Andre Iguodala (investor in Apple, Twitter, Facebook and Tesla) have also made the rounds. Twice, the online secondhand clothing marketplace for which Iguodala was men's style director, was sold to eBay for an undisclosed sum in 2015.

It doesn't end in the San Francisco Bay Area. Last year, league legend Kobe Bryant launched a $100 million venture fund focused on tech, data and media companies.

Since he signed with the NBA champion Warriors in July 2016, Durant has left his heart in Silicon Valley.

His umbrella corporation, Durant Company, has plowed money into Postmates, an on-demand delivery service, and investment app Acorns. It has invested in film and television development, hotels and restaurants. And it's huddling with uber-angel investor Ronald Conway "to bounce around ideas and understand the business," Durant says.

According to a New York Times profile of Durant, he celebrated his birthday at the home of Horowitz and watched election results at the home of Apple exec Eddy Cue along with Apple CEO Tim Cook and musician Pharrell Williams. The tech vibe is in evidence at Warriors home games at Oracle Arena. Among the regulars courtside are Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Cue and Zach Nelson, Netsuite's CEO who sold his company to Oracle for $9.3 billion last year.

NBA's tech-savvy players

Career development programs are a staple of the league's efforts to educate players on money management, diversity, media training, nutrition, social media and handling stress. The league's Job Shadow Program gives players the opportunity to learn more from the offices of Google, EA Sports, American Express, Esquire and Turner/TNT.

"Players train together and, increasingly, invest together," says Darren Heitner, a sports attorney in Fort Lauderdale who represents NBA players such as Draymond Green and Iman Shumpert. He credits Chris Bosh, who studied engineering at Georgia Tech; Carmelo Anthony, whose Melo7 Tech Partners has stakes in 28 companies; and Iguodala as those at the forefront of tech investing in the tightly-knit NBA community.

"By and large, players in the NBA are able to vastly improve financial situations with guaranteed, multimillion-dollar contracts" courtesy of a record $2.6 billion TV deal, Heitner says. "Rather than get paid in one-off endorsement deals, they're leveraging investment opportunities for longer-term security."

In the tightly-knit NBA community, with fewer players than in the NFL and Major League Baseball, athletes tend to train together and share advice, according to Heitner.

Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic invested in and advises mental-fitness app maker Lucid Performance because of his work with Graham Betchart, Lucid's director of mental training. As president of player acquisitions, Gordon, born and raised in nearby San Jose, recruits other athletes to promote the brand. "This gives me a great, great look into entrepreneurship," Gordon says. "It would be nice to move" into tech, post-NBA career.

The marketing team at Rubrik connected with Durant via NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, an early investor in Rubrik, says Bipul Sinha, CEO of the 500-person company valued at $1.3 billion.

"We were blown away by KD's know-how in tech and his team's thought process on Silicon Valley," Sinha says.

No slam dunk

Of course, not every investment by a pro athlete or celebrity is a slam dunk or grand slam.

Sports agents and athletes point to the cautionary tales, such as those of Gilbert Arenas and Antoine Walker, both of whom squandered fortunes despite each earning more than $100 million during their careers.

"From a tech investor perspective, I would point out that celebrities have generally been exploited by those raising money," venture-capital legend Roger McNamee says.

But those are risks Durant and his peers are willing to take.

"I bounce ideas off (Conway and Horowitz)," he says. "Those are good mentors to give us knowledge."

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Copyright 2017 Charleston Newspapers

Charleston Gazette-Mail

 

A West Virginia gun rights organization wants a circuit judge to rule on exactly how guns can be safely stored in municipal recreation facilities in Charleston city limits.

Attorneys with the West Virginia Civil Defense League also asked Kanawha County Circuit Judge James Stucky to rule on whether a recreation facility within city limits becomes a school facility if the recreation space regularly is used by K-12 students and the people who care for and educate them.

Stucky heard arguments from Shawn Romano, on behalf of the league, and Sean McGinley, on behalf of the City of Charleston for a little more than an hour Monday morning.

Romano said it's unclear whether the city's enforcement of gun laws, as it pertains to facilities within city limits, is consistent with state law.

At issue were guns taken into recreation facilities within city limits by people with firearm permits and their storage therein.

Only people with firearm permits can bring guns into municipal recreation facilities, as long as they are safely secured and stored out of view and access to others, per state law.

What the motion from the league seeks to answer is what constitutes secure storage that is out of the view and access of others, and whether a municipal recreation facility becomes a school facility if students are present.

A person who brings a firearm onto school property can be charged with a felony, per state law, so Romano said the league wanted to clarify if a person who attends a school-sanctioned athletic practice or other event off of school property is violating that law.

McGinley gave an example of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center along Donnally Street. The center is owned by the city, but it is leased to Kanawha County Schools to allow students participating in school-sanctioned athletic teams to practice.

McGinley said municipal centers that regularly are used for school and education affiliated functions should qualify as school facilities, and no one should be permitted to carry a gun on those premises.

McGinley also argued guns are not permitted on any school grounds, even when non-education functions happen there, and the affected municipal recreation centers should be treated the same.

Romano said the league agreed, to a certain extent, that municipal facilities with leases with the school district qualify, as school facilities.

Romano argued that if students take a field trip to a private business, that business does not become a school facility, although learning happens and students are present. He said a municipal recreation facilities without agreements with school districts should be treated the same.

On the issue of secure storage, Romano said a secure space can be on the gun owner's person or in a glove compartment while he or she is at a municipal recreation facility.

McGinley said federal law said secure storage could only be a gun safe, general safe or lock box designed only to be unlocked by means of a key or combination. He took issue with a purse or a gun holster being a secure means of storage.

Stucky said he would rule on the case "in the near future.

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Copyright 2017 The Arizona Daily Star. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

 


Since Rich Rodriguez was hired as Arizona's coach in 2012, he's consistently expressed the importance of adding an indoor practice facility for the football program.

Arizona State has one, Arizona does not.

That might be changing.

Rodriguez said at his weekly press conference on Monday that "there might be news forthcoming" and that "there's been some momentum building" toward plans coming to fruition for an indoor facility.

There actually are plans already, too -- the Star confirmed with Arizona's athletic department that the university is in the process of securing approval for an indoor facility, as well as other projects.

"We are in the first step of securing approval for a number of facility projects, including an indoor multipurpose sports center," Arizona's athletic department said in a statement provided to the Star. "Details are still being finalized and more information will become available as we move through the approval process."

The University's Planning, Design and Construction upcoming project list online also includes plans for what's currently titled the "ICA Indoor Sports Center."

The project's listing calls the indoor facility "a new building to provide safe all-weather practice for football and other sports. The multi-use facility is envisioned to benefit multiple sports which will also serve as a game-day venue."

The listing says the facility has a "current budget" of $20,000, though the projected budget is at $15 million. Other details, such as when (and where) the facility would be built are unclear. The Wildcats currently practice at Kindall/Sancet Field, where Arizona baseball used to play its games before moving to Hi Corbett Field in 2012.

Earlier this month, Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke wrote in his weekly newsletter distributed to UA fans that "we are going to be aggressive in addressing our facility needs," and he appears to be holding true to that promise.

The project website also lists plans for improvements to Hillenbrand Aquatic Center, which houses Arizona's swimming and diving program, as well as softball's Hillenbrand Stadium, baseball's Hi Corbett Field, a parking garage on the south side of the football stadium and one remodeled locker room at McKale Center.

The projects are a part of the Arizona's "Capital Improvement Plan" that will be submitted to the Arizona Board of Regents for consideration in September.

Hillenbrand Aquatic's plans call for $15 million in renovations, too, that would include life cycle replacements for the swimming pool, pump room and chemical room, with the old dive pool being demolished to create space for a pool extension.

A new scoreboard will also be installed. These plans still need approval from the Arizona Board of Regents.

At Hillenbrand Stadium, renovations would include sun shading, new fan amenities in seating areas, press box renovations, dugout upgrades and a replacement backstop netting system. The design process will begin soon.

Hi Corbett will be getting upgrades, including a new backstop netting system with interior renovations to the team clubhouse and locker room.

The netting is already installed, while the clubhouse is currently under construction.

There will also be a $22 million, five-level parking structure on the south side of Arizona Stadium that is expected to be finished in time for the season, which begins on Saturday.

Credit: Zack Rosenblatt Arizona Daily Star

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Copyright 2017 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

Fitbit desperately needs a hit. The company unveiled its first smartwatch Monday, hoping that the health-focused features of the device will reverse the hardware maker's declining influence in the wearables market.

The smartwatch, called the Fitbit Ionic, costs $299.95. It has a square touch screen similar to the one on the Apple Watch. It includes a heart-rate monitor, GPS tracking and four-day battery life. The watch, which is water-resistant up to 50 meters, can make wireless payments and store music offline from Pandora Media.

Fitbit recently lost its position as the top seller of wearable devices, falling behind Apple and China's Xiaomi.

Since going public two years ago to much fanfare, the novelty of its wrist-worn devices has waned with investors. Shares plunged to $5.73 at the close Friday, about a quarter of the $20 IPO price, as consumer tastes have evolved to favor products with more functions and third-party apps.

"Demonstration of consumer acceptance of the product is going to be very important for the stock: investors are very focused on their ability to stabilize," said Jim Duffy, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co.

The smartwatch is the company's first device to include a sensor that can estimate blood oxygen levels, called a relative SpO2 sensor. The Ionic will be preloaded with the apps for weather, payments, fitness, Starbucks Corp. and Pandora.

"Smartwatches are a platform for us to deliver the most powerful health tools the market has seen," CEO James Parks said. "The larger form factor lets us integrate many more advanced sensors, provide richer display and user interfaces for people."

Park is betting that its fitness-focused device will reinvigorate demand and differentiate the product from competitors in the smartwatch market, which is expected to reach almost $18 billion in 2020, according to data from IDC.

Fitbit is encouraging developers to make apps that focus on health and fitness. The company also is rolling out audio coaching sessions and virtual trainers on the smartwatch that take users through personalized workout sessions. It's also introducing guided health programs that give step-by-step advice to consumers on how to eat healthier, sleep better and exercise more.

In addition to the watch, Fitbit is rolling out an upgraded smart scale, the Aria 2, and $129.95 Bluetooth headphones that pair with the smartwatch.

The watch will compete with dozens of cheaper Android products and Apple Watch, which already has an established app store, tight integration with the iPhone and built-in music and payments services, not to mention hundreds of accessories.

For years, Park has been saying that he wants to transform Fitbit into a digital-health company. With the smartwatch rollout, the company has given hints as to what that plan will look like.

Fitbit is exploring how they can aid consumers with heart health, chronic diseases, stress and sleep apnea, according to Shelten Yuen, vice president of research. The company has started using the Fitbit Ionic to work with clinical researchers to measure sleep apnea. In the next several years, Fitbit aims to eventually deliver consumer subscriptions that predict health outcomes to move beyond hardware and into a recurring revenue stream, according to Joe Wittine, an analyst at Longbow research.

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Chicago Daily Herald

 

While significant upgrades to the 18-year-old Schaumburg Boomers Stadium are planned, the work won't be crammed into one or even a few offseasons, officials said.

A consultant this month recommended nearly $13 million in improvements to the stadium to keep it competitive with the new Rosemont ballpark being built for the 2018 debut of the Chicago Dogs baseball team. But officials from the village of Schaumburg and Schaumburg Park District, which co-own thestadium, said the implementation of upgrades will be phased over several years.

"We're definitely looking at 5 to 7 years, if not more," Schaumburg Village Manager Brian Townsend said. Though the stadium is nearing the end of its second decade, its initial $17 million investment made it one of the handsomest facilities in independent league baseball, according to many inside and outside observers. That's why a total gutting of the existing facility is far from what consultants are recommending, Townsend said.

Tony LaFrenere, executive director of the Schaumburg Park District, said his agency regards the project the same way it would any district facility that could use some improvements after nearly 20 years. The recent consultant report from Indiana-based Jones Petrie Rafinski merely provided a third-party perspective on improvements the park district would have expected to be needed at this time, LaFrenere added.

While increased competition from Rosemont is acknowledged, the focus at Boomers Stadium will continue to be annual improvements to the fan experience, of which the facility is but one aspect, Townsend said. LaFrenere said village and park district leaders have always been largely on the same page when it comes to prioritizing work at the stadium.

One way the two local governments differ, however, is in the source of their funds. The village's funding for the stadium capital improvements come from more diverse tax sources, but the property tax won't be in the mix, Townsend said. The park district's funds come almost equally from property taxes and program user fees, LaFrenere said. Both support the capital improvement fund, from which upgrades to its half-ownership of the stadium will be paid.

Theballpark's tenant is the Schaumburg Boomers baseball team, whose rent payments are a source of revenue for the village and park district. Townsend and LaFrenere said an implementation plan for upgrades to thestadium is expected to be presented to the village and park district boards in November.

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Copyright 2017 The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
All Rights Reserved

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

Credit Terry Wick for persistence.

For 15 years the psychology and history teacher at Hartford pushed for the school to add a boys volleyball team. Finally last spring, with a little help from the WIAA, the school decided to add the sport.

"We went from a conference that didn't have boys volleyball to a conference that does have boys volleyball," Wick said.

Conference realignment created the opportunity for one of the area's newest programs to get started. The Orioles, one of a growing number of area teams that have added the sport, will join Homestead, Nicolet, Whitefish Bay and Cedarburg in the North Shore Conference,

While there hasn't been a dramatic change in the participation numbers for the sport statewide, there has been an increase in teams.

Hartford started its varsity program. Dominican, a second-year team, will make its WIAA tournament debut this year. Heritage Christian and Sussex Hamilton, two more schools that didn't offer the sport last year, are on track to field varsity teams in 2018 and '19, respectively.

When you factor in schools like St. Anthony and Oak Creek, which added teams the past few seasons, plus the schools rumored to be considering adding the sport next year, growth for boys volleyball in the area has been robust.

"We're excited to get started, but we're also excited to see that there are some other schools getting their programs going....," Wick said. "It's a great sport. It's about time it started gaining some momentum."

The latest group of newbies cropped up for a variety of reasons. Hartford had the help of realignment. In Sussex there has been a growing interest in the sport thanks, in part, to a junior program started a few years ago. Dominican was forced to fend for itself after its co-op with Whitefish Bay ended.

The split turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Knights.

"We know that the North Shore is a hotbed for boys volleyball throughout the years with Nicolet, Whitefish Bay being really competitive," Dominican coach Adrian Lynch said. "There has been a lot of hype around the sports with boys."

What Lynch found at Dominican is a lot of interest. Three of the middle schools that feed into the high school offer boys volleyball. The plan last season was to have only a varsity team, but after 25 players came out for the team the school added a junior varsity squad. This year the program's 16 players are split equally between the two teams.

The ability of a program to sustain its participation numbers can be a challenge. Heritage Christian had a program for much of the previous decade. For seven years, however, the program had been dormant due to lack of interest.

Then this spring the situation changed.

The school surveyed its students and found enough interest to restart the program. Coach Al Clementi has 10 players and hopes to add a couple more when school begins.

"Some of the more rewarding things and some of the things I emphasize is that they're going to come together as a team and encourage one another," Clementi said. "They're having fun, which I think is really important. Otherwise why bother?"

Playing an abbreviated schedule as an independent, Dominican went 7-4 last year and surprised some teams with its level of play. Many of those players had years of experience playing with Whitefish Bay.

Hartford, in comparison, is starting closer to scratch. Wick's early practices have focused on teaching the players the basics and getting them to understand the game's concepts.

There are four players on varsity with club experience, part of a group that will make history when it takes the floor Wednesday at home against Sussex Hamilton for the school's first game.

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Copyright 2017 Times-World, LLC
All Rights Reserved

The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

 

DANVILLE - Members of the Minister's Alliance of Danville and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference want to change the name of the city's Stonewall Recreation Center .

"We feel with the recent loss of life in Virginia for freedom that Stonewall Center should be changed to a name that has made the city of Danville a better, loving community for all citizens," the Rev. Avon Keen said in a news conference Monday .

They would like to name the center after the Rev. Judy Fallen, who worked with youth in the Camp Grove area of Danville, off North Main Street, for years.

"We hope the city will do the right thing, as it has in the past," Keen said. "What we see across the nation at this time that most communities are removing all relics of the Civil War that are symbols of hate. We are trying to do the same in our community."

The Stonewall Recreational Center used to be part of a school that opened in 1915 and closed in 1978, Program Director Charlene Presley said.

Parks and Recreation Director Bill Sgrinia said that the facility is heavily used daily by children and by adults with impairments.

To change the center's name, a petition must first be filed with the city. None had been filed as of Monday , said Danville City Manager Ken Larking.

Fallen could not be reached for comment.

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Copyright 2017 The Evansville Courier Co.
All Rights Reserved

Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)

 

Elementary schools in Carmel are rethinking students' limited play time during the school day after mounting research suggests it helps learning.

The academically high-performing district has the shortest recess of the four largest districts in Hamilton County - setting aside only 15 minutes a day.

By comparison, students at Hamilton Southeastern and Noblesville Schools are getting as much as twice the amount of recess time. Both districts report 20 to 30 minutes each day. Westfield Washington's recess is 20 to 25 minutes.

Research suggests recess not only benefits children physically but helps them focus during class and improve grades and test scores. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention review of 50 studies found that recess, movement during lessons and extracurricular activities have a positive association with academics.

In 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a study in support of recess, calling it a "necessary break" from academic rigor. The study found the freedom to explore and socialize helps children be more attentive and productive in the classroom.

"The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child's development," the study said. "And, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons."

Carmel Clay Schools also has the shortest elementary school day, by five to 10 minutes. Superintendent Nicholas Wahl said the district is not considering lengthening the school day, which is six hours and 25 minutes, to extend recess.

Instead, he said teachers will include more unstructured play time as they see fit within the day. State law requires five hours of instruction per day for first to sixth grades.

"We've given teachers - which we should have given them all along - the power to make decisions in real time about what the kids need," Wahl said during the June 26 board meeting.

Wahl said in a later interview that he brought forward the idea of a more holistic approach to teaching children, including an emphasis on social and emotional learning, four years ago. Last year was the first time teachers could decide if students needed a mental break, and so far Wahl said there's only been a positive impact on instruction.

A break could be letting off steam in the gym or heading over to the classroom's "maker's space," where students can participate in a self-lead, hands-on activity. It could also be a quick "brain break," just a couple of minutes of stretching or wiggling in between lessons.

But Wahl said this shouldn't take away from Carmel Clay's well-known emphasis on academics.

"What it does, it allows students to engage in healthy wellness activities, which has a direct correlation with academic success," he said."

When Katie Downing Crain asks her second-grade son what he did that day at Carmel Elementary School, she said she usually hears about lunch and brain breaks.

"I think it's a really great idea. The kids enjoy it," she said. "His teacher has told me it helps him refocus."

She isn't worried about the breaks cutting into his learning time. In fact, Downing Crain thinks it would be ideal for elementary kids to have two short recesses during the day. The physical activity can help keep kids healthy, she said.

Noblesville, Westfield and Hamilton Southeastern said their students also get short brain breaks and add include movement in lessons. None of these districts report any upcoming changes to recess or play time during the school day.

This year a committee of Carmel parents, staff and administrators will evaluate unstructured play while reviewing the district's elementary programming. They'll also consider the ideal school day length.

Wahl thinks the district should continue to expand its unstructured breaks for students but said he'll rely on the committee's recommendations at the end of the year.

Call IndyStar reporter Emma Kate Fittes at (317) 513-7854. Follow her on Twitter: @IndyEmmaKate.

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Copyright 2017 Newsday, Inc.


Newsday (New York)

 

A phalanx of concrete barriers and new undercarriage bomb detection scanners have been added to the security measures at this year's U.S. Open in Queens, in addition to the hundreds of NYPD officers securing the annual event that officially began Monday, authorities said.

The department's Aviation Unit flew overhead and did a radiation scan of the entire footprint of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center grounds, and assets from the FBI and FDNY hazmat units are also on the ground, said Lt. Tarik Sheppard, an NYPD spokesman.

"We really look at this as the number one target in the United States," Sheppard said. "From what I understand, there's no specific threat, but just the knowledge of this type of event, the amount of people, you have to consider it a target, no matter what."

That means, "hardening the target," Sheppard said, which includes increasing the number of concrete barriers to deter any would-be criminals.

The trend of vehicles used as weapons - recent terrorist attacks in Barcelona, France, and London have all used trucks to ram into crowds - has police reinforcing and expanding security perimeters at the Open, where keeping the hundreds of thousands of spectators safe is already a massive undertaking, authorities said.

The department's Counter Terrorism Division oversees security for the Open, with assistance from the Critical Response Command, which was formed after terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015, and other commands, such as the Emergency Services Unit.

Last year, the Open clocked 688,542 attendees over the two-and-a-half-week tournament, and more than 700,000 fans are expected to flood the event in 2018, when construction on the new Louis Armstrong Stadium is completed, said Chris Widmaier, a spokesman for the United States Tennis Association.

"We have one of the most sophisticated security operations in the world," Widmaier said. "This is a very secure location."

The USTA employs some 300 private security guards for the event, and its director of security, Mike Rodriguez, has extensive counterterrorism experience, Widmaier said.

But the event relies heavily on the expertise of the NYPD for security, which includes vehicle inspections and the scanning of all tickets, credentials and parking passes, he said.

Uniformed NYPD officers - some toting heavy weapons - join a security apparatus of more than 100 police surveillance cameras, license plate readers, radiation detectors, magnetometers and bomb-sniffing K-9s, Sheppard said.

"We test the dogs constantly," he said. "They've been hitting on every one - 100 percent, no failures."

Mitchell Rubiano, 23, of Glen Rock, New Jersey, said he was attending something like his eighth Open as he stood in a massive line to enter the grounds Monday morning.

"I feel safer with the guns and whatnot," he said.

Others bemoaned the long lines to gain entrance on opening day.

Kevin Herman, a radiologist from Teaneck, New Jersey, said he waited in line for 58 minutes with his three children. He said security seemed adequate, but there was a general sense of disorder, with staffers not telling people where to go.

"You hear the crowd noise and you want to be there and you can't," said Herman.

Widmaier said opening day can often be chaotic as fans discover or relearn the rules.

"Will people sometimes complain if they feel inconvenienced on the way in? Sure, what we want to do is come up with the most efficient model with the least inconvenience," he said. "That said, once they're on the grounds, they're very happy we have as robust a security plan as we have."

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

 

HOUSTON - Hurricane Harvey has forced both the Houston Astros and Houston Texans to play home games miles away from the flood-stricken city with players wondering when they will be able to come back.

The Astros will play a three-game series against the Texas Rangers at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, this week, starting today, and the Texans will wrap up their preseason schedule against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington instead of NRG Stadium.

"You have to go about your business and handle it," Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph said Monday as the schedule for the week became clear and the misery of Harvey continued unabated.

"But it's kind of hard at the same time to kind of sit there and play football and then think about your family that's back home when there's constantly updates going on around the clock about things that are going on back in your hometown."

Both the Astros and Rangers flew to Dallas after games in California on Sunday to await news of where the series would be held.

After a day off Monday, they will now head to St. Petersburg, where the Astros will have "home" games far away from home, just as they did in the wake of Hurricane Ike in 2008 when they played two scheduled home games in Milwaukee.

The team also said a three-game series against the New York Mets that begins on Friday may also be played at Tropicana Field, the home of the Tampa Bay Rays. A person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press that the decision has already been made and shared with the players, though there was no word from the team or Major League Baseball. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the move was not disclosed.

The Texans have been in the Dallas area since leaving New Orleans after playing the Saints there on Saturday night. As the flooding dominated the news, athletes with ties to Houston kept nervous watch.

Consumed by feelings of helplessness and frustration, LSU starting right tackle Toby Weathersby said he filled his truck with gas with the intent of venturing into Houston to try to evacuate his grandparents. He held off - but it was hard.

"I was going to be stupid, but I had to come to the realization that I've got to leave it up to the professionals," Weathersby said.

Weathersby and his LSU teammates were supposed to play BYU on Saturday at the home of the Texans. That game has been moved to the Superdome in New Orleans.

The Rice football team was settling in Monday on TCU's campus in Fort Worth. The Owls opened the season over the weekend in Australia, where they lost to Stanford. They arrived in Los Angeles on Monday morning before another flight to Dallas, and were expected to share the campus with the Horned Frogs until things improve in Houston. The Owls have a week off before traveling to play UTEP on Sept. 9.

"While we would love to be coming home today, our first responsibility is the safety of these players," coach David Bailiff said. "We learned some lessons in 2008 (during Hurricane Ike) about coming home too soon."

The University of Houston football team, meanwhile, is in Austin, Texas, where former coach Tom Herman is preparing for his first season in charge of the Longhorns after two seasons at Houston. Herman said the Cougars canceled their scheduled practice Sunday when the flooding was getting worse back in Houston, and "guys being worried and not really being focused on football, nor should they have been."

New Houston coach Major Applewhite said he wasn't sure how long the team would remain in Austin, but that they'd been able to determine that the families of all players and staff back home in Houston were safe.

"On this trip, our job is (to) be No. 1, parents, and No. 2, to be coaches," he said. "We have to understand the human element in this."

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USA TODAY

 

Second chances are not given, they have to be earned.

Art Briles found that out the hard way Monday night, when the Canadian Football League fired him a mere 12 hours after the Hamilton Tiger-Cats announced he had been hired. It seems callous indifference to sexual assault tends to turn off the people with the purse strings.

"Art Briles will no longer be joining the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as a coach," the CFL said in a statement. "We came to this decision this evening following a lengthy discussion between the league and the Hamilton organization. We wish Mr. Briles all the best in his future endeavors."

Left unsaid is what should not need to be said: Until Briles demonstrates that he has learned from his failings at Baylor, he is not deserving of another job, let alone a chance at redemption. It doesn't matter that he has a 99-65 lifetime record and won back-to-back Big 12 titles.

It doesn't even matter that he tutored Robert Griffin III, who, according to ESPN, the Tiger-Cats just happen to get first crack at if the former Heisman Trophy winner decides to go the CFL route now that his NFL career has gone belly up.

Schools don't get rid of coaches that turn their programs from backwater doormats into national powerhouses without good reason. And Baylor had good reason, a damning report finding that his staff had ignored or actively discouraged sexual assault complaints involving football players, including four alleged gang rapes.

According to a Title IX lawsuit filed against Baylor in May -- the seventh, for those keeping track -- Briles' response when told about one of the gang-rape complaints was to say, "Those are some bad dudes.... Why was she around those guys?"

Which leads us to the question the Tiger-Cats should have asked themselves: Why would they want to be around a bad dude such as Briles?

"We have stronger expectations for sports teams and their administrations," Lenore Lukasik-Foss, director of the Sexual Assault Centre Hamilton and Area, told USA TODAY Sports. "We expect more in our community."

Fortunately the community expects more of itself, too.

From ABReport: Baylor, Briles Reach Contract Settlement

In the hours after Briles' hiring was announced, fans and advocacy groups were quick to register their disapproval. But the strongest rebuke, and one that likely made the most impact, came from Barry's, a jeweler that is a sponsor of the Tiger-Cats.

"It is with profound disappointment that we heard the news of the hiring of Art Briles," Barry's said in a statement posted on its website and social media platforms. "We strongly condemn and urge the team's management and ownership to immediately sever any ties they may have. Mr. Briles may or may not have a valid coaching track record, but to choose the chance of winning football over the importance of values goes beyond our core values and is absolutely not acceptable."

Barry's also said it would contribute a portion of its sales the next two months to SACHA, Lukasik-Foss' group, and provided a link so others can donate, too.

The CFL was noticeably silent for much of the day, not announcing until later in the afternoon that it was in "discussions" with the Tiger-Cats. But anyone reading between the lines knew that Briles' fate was sealed.

Baylor's problems went well beyond the football program. The Pepper Hamilton investigation found widespread denial about sexual violence, along with a tendency to blame the women who made complaints.

But some of the harshest condemnation was reserved for the athletics department and Briles' football program, where investigators found "a cultural perception that football was above the rules." Baylor regents said last fall that 19 players were accused of sexual assault by 17 women between 2011 and 2014, including two players who were brought to Baylor by Briles despite being dismissed from previous schools for off-the-field incidents.

Now, it's possible Briles has learned from his failings at Baylor. But his apologies so far have been tone deaf -- he suggested in one that all could be forgiven with "a good cry session, a good talk session and then, hopefully, a hug session" -- with no recognition of the responsibility he bears for fostering a culture of violence.

Granted, being an assistant coach for a professional team is better than Briles having 100 or so teenagers and 20-somethings under his care. But not by much.

Sexual violence is a societal problem for which there can be no tolerance, excuses or ignorance. Someone who has not demonstrated a clear understanding of this -- quite the opposite, in fact -- has no business being in any position of authority.

Briles' might deserve a second chance someday. But that day is not now.

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USA TODAY

 

The college football season gets underway in earnest Thursday, and by the end of the weekend more than $70 million will be headed toward schools' pockets regardless of how many tickets are sold, how many hot dogs are consumed or who wins the game.

Nearly all the games are occurring between teams from different conferences. That means they are not being governed by conference scheduling but rather by individually negotiated contracts. Usually made years in advance, these deals almost always include an appearance payment to the visiting team, or, in the case of increasingly numerous games, a multimillion-dollar payment to each team.

By the time the regular season is over, more than $150 million in these so-called "guarantees" will have moved through the college sports financial system, based on an analysis by USA TODAY Sports of more than 200 contracts for games this season involving teams in the NCAA's top-level Football Bowl Subdivision.

In arrangements mirrored in other college sports, especially men's basketball, many football guarantee games enable one of the wealthiest athletics programs to play at home against a handpicked, less well-heeled opponent that it ostensibly beats. The crowd generates enough ticket and ancillary revenue to not only help fill its coffers but also give the visitors more money than they would get from a home game.

These types of games have been going on for decades. The difference these days, as with most things in college sports, is the amount of money involved. Former college athletics administrator Scott Farmer said that when he was working at Troy, the school received $350,000 for playing Nebraska in 2001, "and people just about fell out.... Now you have games going for as much as $1.5 (million) to $2 (million)."

Neutral-site games can pay even more. But the basic transactions are like the ones Farmer negotiated while serving as Louisiana-Lafayette's athletics director from 2011 through 2016. In 2016, he scheduled a game at Mississippi for November that will give Louisiana-Lafayette $1.525 million. Two years earlier, he had arranged for the Ragin Cajuns to play at Texas A&M in mid-September for $1.25 million. Those two games will account for 11% of Louisiana-Lafayette's operating revenue in 2017-18, athletics department spokesman Matt Sullivan said.

This is the model under which seven schools affiliated with the Big Ten, Southeastern or Pac-12 conferences are paying at least $1 million to a season-opening opponent from one of the FBS conferences outside the Power Five. Altogether, there are at least 25 games this season in which a Power Five school is set to pay $1 million or more to an opponent.

These types of games can benefit underdog schools' coaches, as well. Wyoming's Craig Bohl gets a $100,000 bonus for each regular-season win the Cowboys record against a Power Five team. Saturday, with star quarterback Josh Allen -- a junior who is widely seen as the potential No. 1 pick in next year's NFL draft -- they have their chance at Iowa. Iowa is paying Wyoming $1 million for the game, which was set up by the schools in 2013.

Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield gets a $10,000 bonus if his squad plays a Power Five team at that team's stadium, which the Mountaineers will do Saturday at Georgia in exchange for $1.25 million.

At the much higher end of the scale, Michigan and Florida are each scheduled to get $6 million for participating in Saturday's Advocare Classic at the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium. Alabama and Florida State are each scheduled to get $5 million for playing Saturday night in the first college football game at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the second of two opening-weekend games being staged there by organizers of the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl.

The contract for the games in Atlanta requires each school to each buy, then sell, 30,000 tickets across a variety of prices -- $50 for students and $125 to $250 for others. The agreement for the game in Texas gave each school at least 25,000 tickets to sell but did not require them to pay for unsold tickets as long as they returned them well in advance.

Those deals come with an array of other requirements and perks, and they cover details such as the conference affiliations of the officiating and video replay crews, the types of stenciling that will appear in the end zones and the rules governing the sale of alcoholic beverages during the game.

Gary Stokan, the president and CEO of Peach Bowl Inc., said there will be a proliferation of such agreements in the future between high-profile teams. Citing his organization's games for the next three years, as well as a recently announced deal between Wisconsin and Notre Dame for games in 2020 at Green Bay's Lambeau Field and 2021 at Chicago's Soldier Field, Stokan said athletics directors like the financial deals, coaches like boosting their schedule strength for the College Football Playoff selection committee, fans like games unlikely to be blowouts, players like the elite competition and TV executives like the prospect of high ratings.

"There's not a downside," he said. "Everyone wins in this type of format."

Contributing: John Schwartz

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Copyright 2017 The Arizona Daily Star. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

 



The realization that many teens don't get enough exercise gave Daisha Enos an idea.

The 38-year-old mother would use her experience as an athletic trainer and Turbo Kick instructor to create a space just for teenagers to participate in group fitness classes to show them they can exercise and have fun at the same time.

"I saw teenagers didn't have a lot of exercise options. They were either athletes or they were not," Enos said. "The athletes got plenty of exercise during season but the other kids didn't have an outlet. And I thought what if they had their own facility because that's the thing with teenagers. They like to do things with their friends and stuff."

So, with the help of her husband, Aron, she opened TeenFit Studio earlier this month with a lineup of nine classes, which include Pound Fitness, Strong by Zumba and Insanity Live, specifically for high school students.

On the first visit, parents have to come in with their child to sign a waiver, unless the child is 18 years old. After that, teens are free to show up on their own.

There are no pricey memberships or obligations required to attend. Instead, teens can either drop in for $10 a class or save a little and buy a Class Pass.

The more classes purchased, the less expensive it will be. For example, a pass for 10 classes costs $80, which is a savings of 20 percent from the drop-in rate. The only caveat is you have to use them within a certain time frame.

While people tend to think of group exercise classes as a girl thing, Enos is trying to make it clear that, no, it isn't just for girls.

"It's for everybody. As long as you're a high school teenager, we've got routines for you," Enos said. "Yes, your boys might want to come to P90x or Insanity (both are offered there) because it's hard-core and lifting weights, but boys can also benefit from Pilates and yoga type classes where we can increase flexibility, which decreases their chance of injury."

THE TOTAL PACKAGE

In addition to improving their physical health, gym-goers will have a chance to better the community through the studio's TeenFit Club.

"We'll get together several times a year and see what we can do to help out in Tucson, not only to get word out about the studio, but also to give back to the community," Enos said. "I'm a big proponent of that. I've always done volunteer work in my personal time, so I wanted that to be a mainstay here. But, I don't want it to just be Daisha's thing. I want the teenagers to help, so they'll help decide what charities and organizations we help out."

All in all, Enos hopes to build a community and give teenagers the foundation for a healthy lifestyle at her bright east-side studio.

"If they come here and it helps them physically and mentally, all the other things fall into place," Enos said.

"I think that's what's important about maintaining a healthy lifestyle. You find something you love and you keep doing it... It's not gonna be something you dread or something you have to do. It's something you believe from within is good for you and that's why you'll maintain it.... So, I'm trying to hit all the aspects of a teenager and not just say, 'Hey come exercise for an hour and then leave.' I want them to understand why they're doing it."

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Chicago Daily Herald

 

As another school year gets under way, kids' sports teams are also kicking back into full gear.

When activities and school work start competing for your child's attention and time, it can be overwhelming to balance it all.

While the benefits of playing sports far outweigh the negative aspects, according to Dr. Rebecca Carl, an attending physician in the Institute for Sports Medicine, there are certain precautions that all parents should take into account as they sign their kids up for another year of practices and games.

Keep the main purpose of sports in mind Organized sports are meant to be a way for kids to stay fit and socialize with their peers. For the most part, they're not meant to be training for careers in professional sports. Some teams focus on building skills, not necessarily winning games or going to tournaments, which often can become the main objectives for many travel teams.

Consider what type of team is best for you

Getting involved in more than one sport is good. Keeping a check on the competitiveness of your child's sport can make it easier to help them split their time between a few different activities. "Sports specialization," which occurs when kids play just one sport year-round, can lead to injuries for young athletes. When a child specializes in one particular sport early on, they use the same muscles and joints repeatedly. Kids are at risk for certain types of overuse injuries because their developing skeletons are vulnerable to growth plate injuries.

As the demands on kids to play one specific sport more frequently increase, so does the rate of injury. To head off overuse injuries, Dr. Carl recommends that kids participate on no more than one team each season, though it's OK if seasons overlap a little. They should also have one to two days a week to rest without any practices or games. "Children who are involved in competitive sports every day of the week aren't just at risk for overuse injuries. They're also at of risk burning out," says Dr. Carl.

Be on the lookout for signs of fatigue

Playing a sport day in and day out for years can begin to wear on some children, to the point where they're not playing the sport because they're enjoying it, but because they feel like they must. Signs of a child getting weary of playing a sport include:

*Lack of excitement about playing the sport

*Fatigue before or after practices

*Lots of aches and pains that seem minor but get in the way of the child's performance

*Becoming less engaged with a sport as they age

Parents should be watching for these changes in their child. It's important that parents listen to their children and take their feelings and concerns seriously when they feel worn-out. Remember who's in charge. "As the parent, it's up to you to set your family's priorities and to make sure your children's enthusiasm for a sport isn't clouding your judgment about what's best for everyone," reminds Dr. Carl. If a travel sports team schedule dictates the family schedule, it may be time to reconsider your child's participation.

Nowadays, there are so many different activities and ways for kids to join organized sports, it's much easier to find an activity that fits in with your family life.

* Children's Health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. For more information, visit luriechildrens.org.

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Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

PROVO — Amid the devastation delivered by Hurricane Harvey that has flooded the city of Houston and killed at least five people, BYU's upcoming game against No. 13 Louisiana State, scheduled for Saturday at Houston's NRG Stadium, is expected to be moved to a different location.

Houston, the nation's fourth-largest city, is coping with torrential rain and unprecedented flooding from Harvey, which has been downgraded to a tropical storm. But the National Weather Service is forecasting up to 50 inches of rain in the region.

The streets around NRG Stadium are flooded and NRG Park is set to be an emergency operations center. Meanwhile, Houston's two airports are closed to due the catastrophic conditions. President Donald Trump is scheduled to travel to Houston this week.

LSU athletic director Joe Alleva told The Advocate Sunday that the game "almost certainly" won't be played in Houston. A decision, and an announcement, about the status of the game could come as early as Monday.

As first reported by SB Nation, officials from BYU, LSU and ESPN discussed Sunday the possibility of changing the location of the game from NRG Stadium in Houston to a site like New Orleans' Mercedes-Benz Superdome, LSU's Tiger Stadium, AT&T Stadium in Dallas or, much less likely, LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo.

Sunday night, BYU's athletic department administration released the following statement: "Most importantly, our thoughts and concerns are with the people in South Texas who are facing the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. We pray for their safety and well-being at this difficult time.

"Many have inquired regarding the status of the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff between BYU and LSU, scheduled to be played this Saturday, Sept. 2, at NRG Stadium in Houston. We are in discussions with all parties involved and continue to monitor the situation. We will provide additional information as it becomes available. In the meantime, please join us in praying for the people in South Texas who need our love and support."

Athletic director Tom Holmoe tweeted Sunday: "Cougar Nation, All parties involved are working on a solution to our scheduled game with LSU this weekend. We will announce plans when final... Cougs, Pray for the people of Houston who are suffering and scared. I trust you know we'll study all the best options to work out the game."

This is the third time in three years that LSU has dealt with weather issues impacting its games. It's the seventh time in 13 seasons a hurricane has disrupted the Tigers' football schedule.

BYU wide receiver Talon Shumway served in the Texas McAllen Mission. Several cities in that mission, like Corpus Christi and Rockport, located south of Houston, were hit hard by Hurricane Harvey.

"I've seen people from my mission posting things about what's going on," Shumway said Saturday after the Portland State game. The Cougars defeated the Vikings, 20-6.

Saturday's scheduled game between BYU and LSU game would mark the first meeting between the two programs. For the Tigers, it's their season-opener. According to The Times Picayune, LSU will receive $4 million from ESPN to play BYU.

The Advocate reported the the New Orleans Superdome notified NRG Stadium officials that the Superdome is available next Saturday. The NFL's New Orleans Saints are scheduled to play a preseason game there Thursday but Superdome officials said the venue could be ready to host the BYU-LSU game.

BYU played at the Superdome in 2009, when the Cougars throttled Tulane, 54-3. The Superdome is located 80 miles from LSU's campus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

As for the game against LSU, BYU coach Kalani Sitake is looking to help his team improve after a sluggish performance against Portland State.

"We'll enjoy the win, fix the mistakes and try to do better next week," Sitake said. "It's been said that a lot of improvement happens between Week One and Week Two and I look forward to that being true."

"It's good for us to play and see what we can work on. We can use it to our advantage to be able clean things up and be even better this next week," said quarterback Tanner Mangum. "We're obviously very excited for the challenge to play LSU next week. We're excited for the opportunity. We're looking forward to learning from this game and move on to next Saturday."

 

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Corpus Christi Caller-Times

 

Rockport-Fulton and Aransas Pass high schools were scheduled to open the 2017 football season against each other Friday night.

Hurricane Harvey, though, has put football in the backseat as both communities were devastated by the category 4 hurricane that hit Friday night. But Pirates coach Jay Seibert and Panthers coach Ryan Knostman are determined to get their teams back on the field as soon as possible to help give their players, each school's students and the community a sense of normalcy.

Seibert and Knostman said the goal is to play their first games Sept. 15, which also is likely the first week the two schools will be back in session. Both teams have suspended their seasons indefinitely to assess the damage. Also suspending its season was Ingleside, which also was hard-hit by the storm.

"People say athletics is not important and right now it's not in the big picture but it's very important for our kids to get back to normalcy, to what's normal to them," Seibert said from his cell phone on Sunday. "I went up the football field and there were a couple of players looking around. We plan on the next two weeks to do everything we can to get the team together before that two weeks is over."

Seibert said he rode out the storm in Portland but said Rockport-Fulton's football stadium held up well as the storm's eyewall barreled into the community. He said there was damage to the bleachers, and the locker room facilities were good. But he said the school's gym is destroyed as is the school's girls locker room facilities.

The Aransas County ISD superintendent said the goal is to start school on Sept. 11 and Seibert said he wants to try to begin working with his team before that so they can play on Sept. 15. The Pirates are scheduled to play Leander Glenn in Seguin.

Knostman said the Aransas Pass' football field - Bo Bonorden Memorial Stadium - suffered heavy damage as both press boxes were destroyed, and he said there was significant damage to the baseball and softball fields.

He said all extracurricular activities at the school have been suspended, but like Seibert, he wants to be able to play on Sept. 15. According to a message on the Aransas Pass Independent School District's Facebook page, school is canceled until further notice.

"I'm going to try my hardest that once school reopens that we get rolling again," Knostman said. "I want to do everything in my power to have the shortest amount of delay possible that once we open school we will be resuming extracurricular activities."

Ingleside football coach Hunter Hamrick, who was in Waco, said their season has also been suspended and said the school lost light poles and both goal posts at their football stadium.

He added the school's new indoor athletic facility looks to be fine. A Facebook message from the district said classes are canceled until further notice.

Here's an update on other area schools

REFUGIO

Refugio head coach Jason Herring said he has not really thought about football after the devastation the storm has caused in the town.

Herring said the district's new high school has severe damage on the roof along with more damaged homes and businesses throughout the community. He said they will know more in the next few days onces they can assess the damage.

"We haven't really thought about school or Friday's game," Herring said. "They whole city is out power, sewer for at least 10 days. We don't know how bad it is. We have tried to reach out from a team standpoint to a bunch of our kids ot make sure they are OK or need anything. We have no cell service and all the means that we usually have and we just take for granted are gone."

CCISD

Corpus Christi ISD Athletic Director Brenda Marshall said she went to the Cabaniss Athletic Complex and Buc Stadium over the last two days and said both football stadiums did not sustain major damage. She said the fields look good and light poles are still up.

Both stadiums do have bent goal posts, and Marshall said there is some water damage at Buc Stadium in one of the press boxes. Marshall said what happens this week in terms of sports will be determined by power to the schools. Marshall added they could play games Saturday if needed this week.

King and Ray were scheduled to play each other on Thursday, and also Carroll and Miller were set to start their seasons on Friday. Moody is scheduled to play West Oso and Veterans Memorial is playing Laredo Martin.

CALALLEN

Calallen football coach and athletic director Phil Danaher said he was having a voluntary practice on Monday as they begin preparations to open the season on Friday at home against Mercedes.

The Wildcats do not have school on Monday and lost their final scrimmage against Ray because of the approach of Hurricane Harvey.

"Those who are in town and make it we will have a work out and I told my coaches if you cannot make it don't worry about it," Danaher said. "You don't want to try to take any risks to get back into town if it's flooded."

The Calallen football team is also teaming up with neighbor school Tuloso-Midway for a fundraiser from 9 a.m.-12:45 p.m. for the affected communities from Hurricane Harvey. The fundraiser will take place on the home side of Calallen's football stadium.

GREGORY-PORTLAND

Head football coach and AD Rick Rhoades said Sunday he has not had any conversations with the administration about when school will resume and if they will open the season against El Campo on Friday.

He said he has been in contact with several of the players and said players went as far as away as Alabama. G-P will not be in school on Monday.

"I think most of them evacuated and that's going to be the biggest chore is when we get back is trying to get everybody rounded up," Rhoades said.

TULOSO-MIDWAY

Warriors head coach Wade Miller spent much of Sunday in Woodsboro helping residents clean up after the town was devastated by Hurricane Harvey.

"The damage there is unbelievable," Miller said. "I don't think there is a house in that town that does not have any damage. I've never seen anything like it."

Miller said Tuloso-Midway is out of school on Monday and was not sure about Tuesday. He said if can get back on the field Wednesday and Thursday they can still play Laredo Nixon on Friday. The Warriors will play in Laredo.

"We are going to try to play Friday night if there is any way possible," Miller said. "I'm not opposed to playing Saturday but we haven't talked about that yet."

BEEVILLE

Coach Jerry Bomar said if they are able to return to school on Tuesday they should be able to open the season on Friday against Kingsville.

"We definitely want to play and we are planning on playing some way," Bomar said.

He said he was waiting to make final plans with Kingsville.

SINTON

Pirates coach and athletic director Tom Allen said the school has power and water and the goal is start school on Wednesday. He said if they start then it is not likely they will be able to open the season on Friday against Rio Hondo.

"It's more of a safety deal more than anything," Allen said. "Whenever kids come back we certainly don't want to rush them."

ROBSTOWN

The Cotton Pickers were scheduled to open the season against Ingleside on Friday and coach Richard Kattner said he is working to try to find another game if he can.

He said that school is canceled for Monday but said the school has minimal damage and he said the town did not receive many of the damaging effects of the storm.

FLOUR BLUFF

Hornets AD and football coach Steinbruck evacuated and headed back to town Sunday afternoon. The school canceled Monday and Tuesday so far. The district sent out a news release Sunday announcing the cancellation of the Flour Bluff season opener against Cedar Park Vista Ridge and that all athletic events were postponed until further notice.

LONDON

London ISD is on intercession and was not scheduled to have classes this week. Athletic Director Robbie Moreno said the London at Bishop volleyball match scheduled for Tuesday has been rescheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The Pirates, which were scheduled to open their season Thursday against Bishop, are looking at playing Saturday or canceling the game pending the ability of students in both communities to return after fleeing Harvey.

WOODSBORO

Woodsboro, which bore the brunt of the storm's effects, will remain closed this week, but AD Xavier Rangel said he has heard a timeline of anywhere between two and four weeks before the school will have electricity restored.

"The main thing right now is to start cleaning up the community," Rangel said. "Hopefully it will stop raining for a little while. As far as athletics, our main concern is trying to make sure that everyone is safe. We'll see what we get when we get back to school and go from there."

The first-year Eagles coach said the play clocks and scoreboards did not withstand the wind and that both sets of field goal posts were bent. The Dome, basketball and weight facility were in good shape Rangel was told.

Although games will not be played soon, Rangel said he wants to resume athletics as soon as the school can reopen and facilities are safe to use.

"It is one of those deals where if we can help the community get their mind off things for a few hours on a Friday night, hopefully we can do that," Rangel said.

Woodsboro is in a five-team District 16-2A Division II and is not scheduled to play its first district game until Oct. 13.

BANQUETE

Banquete's season opener against Santa Gertrudis Academy, originally scheduled for Bulldog Stadium, has been tentatively moved to Javelina Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

Banquete athletic director Kevin Hermes said Bulldog Stadium lost one of its light poles due to high winds and was unsure of a timeline of when it might be replaced.

The Week 1 schedule change is the only one that has been made at Banquete so far.

SGA athletic director Bradly Chavez said the expectation is that the school will reopen on Tuesday as scheduled.

ODEM

Odem athletic director Armando Huerta said the school's baseball field sustained severe damage as the home bleachers were flipped by the heavy winds and tore down the fencing on the first base side of the field.

The Owls were scheduled to play Taft in Week 1 and Huerta said the teams agreed to meet Friday, Oct. 6, when both schools had an open date.

Lack of water and electricity is keeping both campuses closed as of Sunday.

SKIDMORE-TYNAN

Skidmore-Tynan athletic director John Livas said school is canceled on Monday and the district is taking a wait-and-see approach for Tuesday as students and teachers return to the area after evacuating. He said the school's scoreboards on several fields had been damaged, but was unaware of any further damage.

Unsure of when S-T will return to the classroom, Livas confirmed Sunday that the Bobcats' season opener against Freer has been canceled.

GEORGE WEST

George West athletic director Brett Kornegay said he did not foresee any reason why the Longhorns' scheduled season opener against San Diego would not be played as of Sunday.

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Tribune-Review (Greensburg, PA)

 

The head of North Huntingdon's parks department offered a solution last week to the township's problem of not having enough athletic fields when all of the community's sports teams want to use them "" install lights to allow for night games rather than build more ballfields.

"I believe the better answer is lights and then you increase usage," Dan Miller, the township's director of parks and recreation, said during a meeting where officials sought input for a study that Environmental Planning & Design of Pittsburgh is conducting for the township.

The firm has studied the township's 11 parks for about six months and is expected to issue recommendations in October.

Results of a survey on recreational needs indicated that residents want more ballfields and paved trails for hiking and biking, said Jayson Livingston, a senior associate at Environmental Planning.

North Huntingdon needs more fields that are community-based and accessible rather than in neighborhood parks, said Amy Johnson, president of the Norwin Lacrosse League. Those parks have limited parking and facilities.

The lack of playing fields and wet spring weather forced the Norwin Community Athletic Association to shorten its spring season, said Andy DeFazio, community liaison manager for the association, which offers baseball, flag football and other athletic programs to about 600 youngsters.

But new fields could take up to three years to build, Livingston said.

While Oak Hollow Park has athletic fields and is spread across about 27 acres. Commissioner Mike Faccenda Jr. said the park's hilly terrain is not suited to building more recreational facilities because that would require moving a lot of soil, which is costly.

If the township were to build more athletic fields, it should be done in the cleared green space rather than cutting down more wooded areas, said Shannon Reiter, president of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, a Westmoreland County-based environmental organization.

"I would hate to see the township cut down trees to build another field. There is a shortage of fields, but there also is a shortage of green space" with all of the development occurring, Reiter said.

Bob Arth, who has complained about the township dumping roadway refuse over a hillside at Hilltop Park, said the township should use its public lands more efficiently. Hilltop Park could be a site for hiking trails, Arth said.

Miller said he would present his recommendations to Mike Turley, assistant township manager, for review. Any proposal would be presented to the township commissioners by Nov. 1 for their deliberations on the 2018 budget.

Environmental Planning's study will review possible funding sources for the parks and recreation department.

"They want realistic projects that can be funded," Livingston said.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com

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Tribune-Review (Greensburg, PA)

 

While the big kids donned pads and helmets at practice, the younger set wore T-shirts and belts with dangling ribbons.

For them, flag football is just a game, but Westmoreland County recreation officials see it as a way to reverse dwindling enrollment.

The seven teams in the WPAC-6 youth football league "" Greensburg, South Greensburg, Hempfield, Latrobe, Pitcairn, Unity Township and the newly formed Twin City Vikings, composed of players from Arnold and New Kensington "" introduced flag football for the first time this year.

Greensburg had 34 children in its youth football program last year and had to shut down its varsity team for older children because of a lack of interest. This year, it has 61 participants, across all ages, and other teams in the league have seen similar growth, said Frank Lehman, league president and director of Greensburg recreation.

He attributes the growth to the new flag program and a change in the way the teams are structured.

"The numbers are dwindling in tackle football, and we needed a way to get kids interested and get kids involved, and see if they like the sport," said Ron Holtzer Jr., a parent, coach and safety coordinator with Greensburg's youth football program.

It was Holtzer's idea to create a flag football program for the youngest kids.

Some officials were skeptical at first, but their doubts disappeared once sign-ups started, said Beth Bluey, vice president of the Unity Township Youth Football and Cheerleading Association.

"I think parents have a lot more interest in it now that it's not contact," Bluey said.

Unity has 17 children participating in its flag football program. So does Greensburg.

Concerns about concussions and other injuries are often cited as one reason youth football participation is dropping nationwide.

According to data from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, nationwide tackle football participation for kids age 6-12 dropped about 8.3 percent from 2009 to 2015.

Under the previous system, children ages 6-8 would play in the developmental league, those 9-10 would play junior varsity, and 11- and 12-year-olds would play varsity.

"Trying to visualize in the eyes of parents of that age group, we thought as a league it might be better to convert that (youngest) age group to flag, get them more oriented into football concepts and drills before putting them into a contact situation," Lehman said.

Now, 5- to 7-year-olds play flag, 7- to 9-year-olds play junior varsity and 10- to 12-year-olds play varsity. Parents and coaches can decide which team to enroll a 7-year-old in, Lehman said.

Sheila Thompson knew her grandson Cameron Rice wanted to play football, but she wanted him to learn the game in a safe environment.

"There's safety; that's why we didn't put him in contact right away," she said.

Rice plays for the Greensburg flag team. His grandfather Brian Thompson said that's a good way for him to learn the basics.

"You're building a solid base for the kids," he said. "Then when he goes to the next level, he knows what he's doing."

Greensburg parent and coach Matt Hageder agreed flag football is a good way for kids to learn the fundamentals.

"I think it's a positive change. Less contact leaves more room for learning the basic skills," he said.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646, jtierney@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Soolseem.

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Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

Some college football coaches of a certain age have dipped a toe into the turbulent waters of social media and found them generally useful. These kids today may be on to something.

While running his program at Miami, Mark Richt also manages his own Twitter account, which enjoys more than 325,000 followers. Swears he controls the content himself. "I know a lot of (followers) are left over from Georgia (where he used to coach, as you may know). I understand that," he said. "But it keeps growing over time. It's a way to get your message out.

"I could get out any message I want about our program, clarifying something that was confusing -- whatever I want to do, I can do that.

"I can re-tweet something that a recruit sent out that will make him feel good about recruiting. I can say things after a guy has committed, and people will probably figure out that I'm excited about him making a decision to come to the U. I think it's invaluable."

When the NCAA loosened rules last year, allowing coaches to re-tweet or like or otherwise endorse a recruit's post -- a "click, not comment" code that still did not permit coaches to tweet directly at recruits -- Richt began to do so instantly.

Others steadfastly resist the lure of building the direct digital bridge between their craniums and the world at large. They would rather don robes and preach nonviolence than engage in 140-character banter with you.

From ABSocial Media as a Window to the Character of a Recruit

Maybe they don't display exactly the personal contempt that Patriots coach Bill Belichick has shown Face-book, Instagram, Snapchat and your other assorted major social-media sites. He loves to derisively jumble them up, referring to sites of his own imaginings like MyFace, YourFace, Snap-Face and InstantFace.

Oh, and get off my lawn, too.

They display more the kind of general disinterest shown by Clemson's Dabo Swinney. "I've never participated in (social media) personally. I don't want any part of that stuff," he said. "I got all I can handle.

"I can text. I don't have to tweet at them. If they want to talk to me, they can call me back or text me back. I don't have to worry about the whole world watching."

But all have been forced to recognize that social media has become among the more important recruiting tools available to them. To stubbornly do otherwise would risk being left behind with the leather helmets and the Lindsey Nelson touchdown calls.

We refer you here to an anecdote from an early 2016 ESPN story in which new Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell included in his first staff meeting a discussion on hashtags and emojis. Somewhere, Bear Bryant grumbled.

For all its coach's personal old-school views, national champion Clemson, for instance, has become one of the cutting-edge programs in the field of bending social media to the goal of attracting teenagers of beyond-average strength and speed to its little corner of South Carolina.The Tigers department dedicated to keeping its various social-media platforms stocked with updates and snapshots and quick-hit videos -- most programs of any size now have similar specialists -- has grown these last couple of years into a particularly useful arm of the recruiting department.

This is where we are today: Sure, the weight room is important in enticing recruits. So, too, is the tech person who may only bench press a laptop but is adept at producing an eye-pleasing post.

Mind you, Clemson's director of new and creative media, 31-year-old Jonathan Gantt, is not saying that when five-star linebacker recruit Shaq Smith (now a redshirt freshman) called to compliment him on the quality of the Tigers' social media, it wasn't the main reason he committed in 2016.

But it couldn't have hurt.

"I just started laughing," Gantt recalled, "first of all because he's a 17-year-old kid who's nice enough to make a call like that. But then to think how much it impacted his recruiting process. It's hard to describe how much, but it impacted in some way. He was paying attention to it, and he wants to be in those videos. That helped him feel closer to Clemson."

The average fan may find the content informative and entertaining. But make no mistake. Every post, every quick-hit video, every upbeat update is geared toward appealing to some kid out there who's trying to decide upon the coolest place to go play.

Be it the Instagram photo of Clemson players who shaved their heads for pediatric cancer patients.

Or the behind-the-scenes look at Georgia players reporting to preseason camp.

Or the social media shout-out to Georgia Tech A-back Clinton Lynch for finishing up a successful internship at a tech company that "helps brands, businesses, entrepreneurs and startups with website design and mobile app development."

All carry with them the subliminal message: See how great it is here; picture yourself in this perfect scene; this could be you one day.

"Whatever the channel is, we're trying to answer the question: What's it like to be a Clemson Tiger?" Gantt said.

"Every post should help answer that question. Yes, you can do that with the written word, and we do. But also, it's easier to do that with photos, graphics, videos. That mix is all meant to show mainly recruits what it's like to be a part of our program. That indirectly hits fans as well," Gantt said.

In the ever-changing recruiting battlefield, now it is the kid from the computer club, the one for whom the football team once had no use, who may hold a key to winning.

Even if they can't run the skinny post, they sure can put out a very useful web post.

And the big guys are taking notice. Of all the boasts a Clemson player may come up with these days, one of the unlikeliest of these may be this from guard Tyrone Crowder: "We're on the top of our game with social media."

Behind the digital curtain is another highly competitive playing field. Programs keep close watch on what the competition is putting out there.

Beyond other college football sites, Gantt says he may look to those belonging to some of the most popular cultural brands like Nike and Coke and how they are branding themselves for the younger consumer. Never know, could be something the corporate giant employs that can translate to the selling of a football program.

"In order for us to be different and have a competitive edge, we can't be like everybody else.We want to be different from what everyone else is doing," Gantt said.

These aren't sweeping, Cecil B. DeMille epics being produced, mind you. Who has time for that when you're young and popular and always on the lookout for the next shiny object? You get much more mileage from, say, the 10-second video loop of Swinney doing a victory dance in the locker room than you would from a 90-minute documentary on the coach, Gantt says. "You've got to get people's attention really quickly and make your point and get out before they get bored," he said.

Besides lowering the collective attention span of our nation's youth, social media as it's applied to college football comes with other unpleasant side effects.

The platforms can get crowded, and any crowd is bound to contain a few jerks. For recruits and players, social media brings them into contact with all kinds.

Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson of Louisville told the story recently of having to change his phone number after his old one was spilled on social media.

Yet, still, he said, "A lot of people look at social media as really marketing yourself, posting pictures, getting involved in your fans' lives, responding to them. It's cool."

Recruits are subject to the ire and entreaties of fans as they weigh their options and waver in their commitments to one school or another. And they are not completely bulletproof to the sniping out there on social media. In an ESPN poll of 80 of the nation's top high school football players at the 2016 Under Armour All-America Game, nearly a quarter of the incoming college freshmen said fans on social media influenced their recruiting process.

That same poll asked the recruits to name the most obnoxious fan base when it came to social-media interaction. Tennessee led the list, followed closely by Texas. As to which group of fans handled the situation best, Georgia received the most thumbs-up.

And take care, too, what you post, young recruit. Colleges are always watching, and schools have dropped interest in prospects whose social media behavior has betrayed character issues.

Like so much else in college football, you have to balance the debits with the credits of the social media explosion.

"It's the way the world does things," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "I think there's a lot of good to it.And there's also some that's detrimental, especially when you're talking about recruiting and kids who are 15 to 18 years old and the things that can go on in and around it.

"It's not going anywhere, and you have to come to grips with it," Fisher said. "We came to grips with it very quickly."

When Richt first began beating the bushes for recruits, he remembers the pay phone as being the indispensable tool. Then the cellphone came along in its various shapes and sizes to make his job easier. GPS guided him to the front door of the mamas and daddies he went to woo.

This is just another big step in the parade of progress. "Social media has changed our life in recruiting," he said. "Even changed how we speak to our own children."

Just know that it is a one-way conversation. Richt will dance only so far on the cutting edge of this social media thing. That could be the secret to a healthy relationship with Twitter and all the rest.

"I'll say what I want to say, and I keep coaching," he said.

"If people are hitting me up and expecting me to respond, I have no idea what you're saying to me. If it's good, that's awesome. If it's bad, I'm sorry."

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Copyright 2017 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc.
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The New York Post

 

Here, there, everywhere.

Last week, with the Little League World Series underway, we heard from Bill Henel, a 20-year Brick, N.J., LL umpire - eventually its chief umpire - who'd had enough. The kids exhibited less and less sportsmanship, while increasingly mimicking the all-about-me behavior borrowed from TV's aggrandizement of the excessively immodest.

And now we have learned that the bucolic seaside and forested inlands of Maine also suffer from borderline sports psychosis.

In the midst of ESPN's pressure - producing coverage of 12- and 13-year-old Little Leaguers having their pitch selections, pitch speeds and swing planes analyzed, and their stats compared to MLB's leaders - Paul O. Dillon of Corinth, Maine, sent along a piece from the Bangor Daily News that seems important to share.

It's about youth sports in Maine, specifically a shortage of umpires, referees and other game officials driven out because they no longer can suffer the abuse from coaches and parents. Here, there, everywhere, and now, in Maine, here we are.

"We've had officials who have done one season then they're out because of the way the crowd or the coach has handled them," said Barbara Snapp, 28 years a girls' lacrosse and soccer official.

Doug Ferguson, a Bangor-region sports official who teaches a course on game officiating, said: "We've had a tough time retaining officials, and the feedback I've gotten is that they all work youth games early and some have had some pretty poor experiences with parents and, unfortunately, some of the youth coaches haven't been very civil."

"It takes dozens of games for officials to become proficient; hundreds to become expert," said Wayne Sanford, who assigns Maine's high school lacrosse officials. "New officials learn to officiate on lower-level games, where players and coaches are also unskilled.

"Unfortunately, parents and coaches expect flawless officiating and too frequently become verbally abusive. This is a huge problem with respect to retention."

Is it mere coincidence that most of these coaches and parents likely are in their late-30s to mid-40s, and thus grew up in the 1990s as TV already was in a sustained attack on sports, selling trash-talkers, mean-mugging camera stare-downs, images of rank immodesty and teams' most conspicuous me-firsters as the preferred sights, sounds and stars of our games?

Another problem the Bangor Daily News cited with high school sports is the dubious win-at-all-costs "recruitment" of superior athletes to schools they otherwise wouldn't attend. Yep, Maine, too.

But the most dubious recruiter in the state is the University of Maine, a taxes-funded college that recently had to cut $26 million in overhead by reducing faculty in both pay and population.

Ah, but even in Maine, there's always a bundle to spend on sports.

Maine's women's basketball program annually looks like a foreign exchange school taught in a gym. Its full-scholarship roster since just last season has included players recruited from Italy, Croatia, Israel, Sweden, Germany, Spain and Austria. They must have been drawn by that winter climate in Central Maine.

At the same time, the men's basketball roster has included full scholarship recruits from England, Serbia, Turkey, Latvia and Brazil.

Clearly, then, there's a critical shortage of kids in Maine who played high school basketball and sure could use a scholarship to earn a college degree.

The psychosis that has left our sports gasping for clean, fresh air seems hopeless, untreatable unless we can transport people back to a place they never have been. And the sickness now starts with tee-ball, Pee Wee football, sixth-grade basketball and, last but foremost, turning on a TV.

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

 

GREENSBORO - Greensboro is playing catch-up with other North Carolina communities by only recently opening its first public parks for skateboarders and aficionados of similar "extreme sports."

New skate structures at Latham Park and Glenwood Recreation Center cater to a popular sports subculture that cities from Asheboro to Mount Airy, Raleigh to Charlotte have long served with specialty parks.

Skateboarders say they love the sport because of the dexterity and physical conditioning, the individuality and the tenacity that are required.

But they also are attracted by the element of risk that many defy by shunning the protective gear that the law requires at public parks, especially helmets, as they hurtle into a "vert" or pull off some other hair-raising stunt.

Many teens and young adults using the city's new skate parks simply disregard requirements that they don helmets and pads, partly in response to peer pressure.

"It's kind of seen as an un-cool thing to do," Greensboro skateboarder Nate Church said recently after skating helmetless at Latham Skate Park, which opened on Hill Street about three months ago. "To wear a helmet would be the proper thing to do, so it's not counterculture."

Tragedy ahead?

Church hastened to add that he and others take care to avoid injuries by not attempting challenging maneuvers that are beyond their level of skill.

"I never think about having a helmet on, it's so foreign to skateboarding," said Church, 24, who began skating in his teens at a privately owned and now-defunct indoor park in southwest Greensboro. "When you land, it just feels good."

But the potential for injury is real. Risks range from mid-air falls to collisions with other park users and being hit by someone else's errant, airborne board.

Helmets in particular are essential to minimizing the carnage that can occur in a recreational activity that combines steep obstacles with bodies speeding over hard and unforgiving surfaces, said Dr. James Wyatt, director of Cone Health's trauma services department.

"Have we seen a surge in injuries (since the parks opened)? No, we haven't," Wyatt said. "But over time, will we get some additional injuries, some tragic ones? I bet we will."

"Unless there is some enforcement of it," Wyatt said, referring to helmet use, "it's unfortunate that we just have to see these things happen."

Wyatt said that in years past he has seen skateboarders in the Greensboro area who suffered injuries that left them "hospitalized for up to three months."

"We've also seen people who became brain dead from it, skateboarding without a helmet and suffering injuries that have left them brain dead," he said. "I feel very passionate about this."

'You're going to die'

Not all skateboarders go without protective gear at the new parks. They just find themselves in the minority at times, as did helmet-clad Elliott Rodgers of Chapel Hill one recent afternoon at Latham.

"Really, people think it's lame to wear a helmet. And in some areas, it is lame," said Rodgers, 24. "But I'd rather not get a concussion."

To emphasize the helmet's value, he nodded toward the "bowl," the sloped, swimming pool-sized depression with an 8-foot drop to a concrete bottom that is one of Latham Skate Park's more distinctive features.

"If you fall off there and hit your head on the bottom, you're going to die," Rodgers said.

Local skateboarders waited a decade for the public skate parks after Greensboro voters approved a 2006 bond referendum that included money for such facilities.

The two sites, smaller Glenwood Skate Spot and the more elaborate Latham, were designed and built by top-notch skateboard contractors after a cooperative planning effort that included an advisory panel made up of skateboard and other extreme-sport enthusiasts.

But it remains an open question whether Greensboro and other cities have developed a workable strategy to adequately protect skateboarders from injury while at the same time assuring heavy usage of these facilities that are not inexpensive to build.

Greensboro spent about $575,000 on its two new facilities that are largely unsupervised, meaning that no city Parks and Recreation Department staff is continuously on hand during hours of operation to make sure that skateboarders, freestyle bikers and inline skaters are wearing helmets and other protective gear mandated by city ordinance.

No enforcement power

In addition to helmets, the ordinance requires users to wear elbow and knee pads. But with nobody to enforce those rules, many ignore them, and the Latham Skate Park in particular attracts a steady stream of visitors with its laissez-faire environment.

City park officials check periodically on the two skate parks, although they lack authority to enforce the ordinance requiring protective gear that carries a $25 fine per violation, said Madeleine Carey, a Parks and Recreation Department planner.

City police have that power, she said.

But Greensboro officers have more pressing duties, said Greensboro police spokeswoman Susan Danielsen.

"We include these areas in our routine patrol, but do not actively enforce the ordinance," Danielsen said of the two skate parks. "Much like the noise ordinance, if there is no complainant, there is little benefit to citing someone for violating the provisions of the order."

Danielsen said police leaders believe that "our enforcement efforts can have a much bigger impact by addressing violent and property crimes."

On the other hand, running skate parks under close supervision also can have negative consequences, such as the declining usage that has occurred at the Asheboro Skate Park.

Nice park, no skaters

The park on South Church Street sat bereft of skateboarders recently on a gorgeous, Friday afternoon in mid-August. But someone was on hand to charge a $2 entry fee, make certain all skaters wear helmets and pads, and rent protective gear to those who didn't have it.

Was the empty skating surface an aberration at the well-equipped facility that opened in November 2006 at a cost of about $200,000? Isn't the park still popular?

"Honestly, not much anymore," said Matthew Dalton, program coordinator for Asheboro's department of cultural and recreational services. "We started charging (entry fees). And they have to wear pads and helmets, and the kids just don't like that."

A big fight?

Another open question is the extent to which Greensboro and other cities hosting skate parks could be hit with big damage awards for injuries suffered because of a local government's alleged negligence or its failure to properly warn users of potential dangers.

The state law passed in 2003 to protect county and city governments from such lawsuits is ambiguous and contains loopholes that might allow an injured skateboarder to prevail in court, said private attorney Seth Cohen of Greensboro.

Such a case would be difficult for an injured skateboarder to win, but there is sufficient lack of clarity in North Carolina's skate park law that a successful lawsuit remains within the realm of possibility, Cohen said.

"The bottom line is that if and when there is a serious injury somewhere, there is going to be a big fight," he said of the court battle likely to ensue.

Interim Parks and Recreation director Phil Fleischmann said he did not know whether Greensboro carries any insurance that would cover it against skate-park damages under such circumstances.

He referred a reporter to City Attorney Tom Carruthers for the answer.

Carruthers did not respond to an Aug. 8 email from the News & Record asking about the city's potential legal liability stemming from serious injury suffered at its skate parks. He also did not respond to phone calls Thursday and Friday seeking comment.

Hazardous recreation

North Carolina legislators passed the 2003 Hazardous Recreation Parks law with the aim of spurring city or county officials across the state "to make land available... for skateboarding, inline skating or freestyle bicycling."

"It is recognized that governmental owners or lessees of property have failed to make property available for such activities" because of potential lawsuits and the high cost of liability insurance, legislators said in the law's preamble.

So the statute shields local governments from lawsuits if they do two things:

Adopt "an ordinance requiring any person riding a skateboard at the facility to wear a helmet, elbow pads and kneepads."Post signs at the skate park "affording reasonable notice that any person riding a skateboard at the facility must wear a helmet, elbow pads and kneepads, and that any person failing to do so will be subject to a citation under the ordinance."

Greensboro adopted the required ordinance and posted the signs before either skate park opened. So the City Council did take some action to insulate taxpayers from damages.

But unlike some North Carolina communities, Greensboro does not require all skate park users to sign a waiver and a formal promise not to sue if they are injured there.

Raleigh, Mecklenburg County and Asheboro are among those that do.

"Individuals using this skate park are hereby expressly warned that use of this facility may result in death, paralysis, brain damage, concussion, broken bones or other serious injury," reads the Asheboro Skate Park Liability Waiver that must be signed by a parent or legal guardian for those under 18.

Failure to warn

But the state law enacted 14 years ago still leaves an opening for injured skateboarders to press their case, if their wounds stem from "gross negligence" by the government or from "failure of the governmental entity or public employee to guard against or warn of a dangerous condition."

That suggests the path to a lawsuit could be so simple as a paver that has settled into the ground at the bottom of one of Latham Skate Park's ramps, creating a gap that might cause someone to fall.

Several skateboarders mentioned the problem to a reporter in recent interviews.

"It's right where the landing is on the down ramp," Winston-Salem skateboarder Justin Harris, 20, said of the flaw at the Latham facility in a recent interview. "Other than that, I really liked it."

In another type of miscue, park officials earlier this month were not monitoring Latham Skate Park closely enough to notice that both warning signs required by state law had been stolen.

The signs alerted skateboarders to the likelihood that they would fall at some point during their visit and to the ordinance requiring helmets and pads.

City officials knew that one of the signs had been pilfered, but were not aware the second also was gone until a reporter asked about it, Carey said.

"We have some older signs that we are installing until we can get new ones made and installed with more vandal-proof hardware," Carey said.

Safer than the streets

Meanwhile, statistics suggest that skateboarding results in no more injuries than other sports that carry some risk of contact or collision; studies by the Consumer Products Safety Council place it well behind football, basketball and baseball in terms of injuries suffered by participants.

Another group, the National Safety Council, found that in 2015, more than 125,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms after being injured skateboarding. More than half of them were ages 14 to 24, and about one-third were between the ages of 5 and 14, the group's research showed.

The group noted that the number of injuries caused by skateboarding is "somewhat high." Basketball, bicycling and football rank in the top three, while skateboarding comes in eighth.

Interim Greensboro parks director Fleischmann said last week that he was not aware of anybody who suffered a significant injury at either of the city's skate parks. Glenwood Skate Spot opened in January, Latham in May.

Greensboro built its skate parks to make sure that skateboarders had a place to ply their skills other than the streets, where severe injuries are more likely to occur, said Carey of the city Parks and Recreation Department.

"Skate parks are much safer than having skate boarders skate out in public," she said.

In fact, there were two skateboarding deaths in North Carolina during 2015 - the latest year for which state-by-state data is available. Both fatalities happened on public streets:

A 15-year-old resident of Mount Airy lost control that spring and went skateboarding through a stop light into an intersection, where he was hit by a pickup.A 23-year-old man died several months later in Durham after he similarly rode into the path of a pickup at a downtown intersection.

Carey pointed out that Greensboro's hands-off approach to daily skate park operation is hardly unique. Communities from Winston-Salem and Kernersville to Raleigh and Mount Airy follow similar patterns, she noted.

Winston-Salem opened its unsupervised skate park near that community's fairgrounds three years ago, with more than 15,000 square feet of ramps, quarter pipes, grinding rails and an elongated "pump track" that helps users learn how to maintain balance. That's about a third larger than Latham and three times Glenwood's size.

Old Man Jam

One recent weekday afternoon, Forsyth Tech student Harris and six other skateboarders negotiated the various obstacles at the Fairground Skate Park without helmets or pads, despite the same requirements for protective gear being in place there as at Greensboro's skate parks.

Older skateboarders are much more likely to wear the required protective gear, said Greensboro resident Fabio Camara, a veteran skateboarder who served on the panel that advised city officials on building the two skate parks.

He began skateboarding as a teenager in Brazil and said recently that the challenging sport gave him a sense of identity.

"It became a real confidence booster for me. It really gave me a sense of personal ownership."

Now, at 45, he belongs to the "Old Man Jam" group that gathers regularly to skateboard together.

"We have guys in their fifties and a lot of guys in their forties," he said. "If you come to Old Man Jam, you're going to see helmets and pads. We're very helmeted."

Definitely a good idea where skateboards are involved, said Wyatt of Cone Health.

"They are at increased risk for head injuries when they don't wear a helmet," he said of skateboarders. "Helmets do protect you."

Contact Taft Wireback at 336-373-7100 and follow @TaftWirebackNR on Twitter.

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The Daily News of Los Angeles

 

On Saturday, residents of Woodland Hills and surrounding neighborhoods stepped into the revamped Woodland Hills Recreation Center, with its air-conditioned gym and stage, sparkling new pool, three playgrounds, picnic areas and modern multipurpose rooms. After 21/2 years of construction, they were clearly pleased to be able to return to the popular facility.

Tamara Martinof Canoga Park said she'd never been to the Woodland Hills Rec Center, but she'd seen the place under construction and came to check out the grand reopening and ribbon-cutting Saturday.

"I'm very impressed," Martin said. "I know for sure that we'll be back.... We're interested in swimming."

"Cooking!" Martin's daughter, Ashlynn,piped in.

"And cooking, of course. We're also in a Girl Scout troop, so we're considering to seeif they have meeting rooms to have our meetings here," Tamara Martin added.

The $13.6 million project modernized and quintupled the footprint of the recreation center, from 2,400 square feet of indoor space to 12,300 square feet. The facility also is more energy-efficient, with 3,000 square feet of solar panels that will generate about a third of the center's energy

needs and solar "tubes" to bring natural light into the gym. The project was financed through $10.9 million in Quimby funds paid by developers and $3 million from a Proposition K park bond.

The rec center was built before big population gains in the San Fernando Valley, said Dennis Zine,the former Los Angeles City Councilman and Woodland Hills representative who oversaw the start of the project. "What we wanted to do was have a state-of-the-art facility with all the amenities," to serve that larger population, he said. "We're very pleased to see this come to fruition."

"It is going to be one of the best parks in the city," said Los Angeles Councilman Bob Blumenfield,who represents Woodland Hills. "This is a very well-used facility. People from all over the Valley use this facility."

The remodeled center at 5858 Shoup Ave.was supposed to open last year. But the project experienced several setbacks, such as the need to remove asbestos, broken gas pipesand construction delays, Blumenfield said. The landscaping is still unfinished, and the city will hold off on laying sod until the weather cools. But the pool opened in July, and pool season will extend until at least Oct. 1 so residents don't miss out on pool days this year, Blumenfield said.

"There was a series of unfortunate events," he said. "So it has been a push to get it to move forward. As you can see, it's something that's worth waiting for."

Zine, former Los Angeles Clippers basketball player Lamond Murrayand former Los Angeles Lakers player Derek Fisher,along with city staff, helped Blumenfield cut the ribbon that symbolically reopened the facility.

"As a young person, (it's important) to have somewhere to go that is safe," Fisher told the crowd just before the ribbon-cutting. "As parents, to know that there's going to be staff and adults in a place where their children can go and play and have fun and be kids.... You have to have that to have a successful community."

Ray Taheriof Winnetka teaches karate for the city's Recreation and Parks Department, including at the Woodland Hills center. He said the new rec center is a big improvement.

"Wonderful, amazing. It's a dream," he said of the new facility. "Sometimes it was (so) hot inside, we'd go outside... we'd teach outside."

Rhoda Cadizof Woodland Hills said she and her family had been waiting for the new facility to reopen. "We've been going to different schools, (but) other schools don't have air conditioning," she said as her three sons played basketball with dozens of other kids in the new gym. "It's closer to our house, and all the other parks are farther, so this is our home park."

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Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

 

Tucson went 15 years without a college football bowl game and is working on eight years without spring training baseball.

The Milwaukee Brewers are looking for someone to pay them zillions for a spring training home, and Pima County has made preliminary contact, offering the dated Kino Sports Complex, but I'll be batting cleanup for the Yankees before that ever happens.

There will be no spring training baseball in Tucson unless a new facility is built to please at least two teams, and that would cost in excess of $100 million.

Beyond that, it might be more difficult to find two teams willing to move to Tucson than to come up with the money and facilities.

In contrast, the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl recently moved into a new headquarters downtown, and last week donated $200,000 to local charities. It has joined forces with CBS Sports Network for a Dec. 29 afternoon game. Talk about trending up.

The key to these sports enterprises is the force of personality and drive to get it done. That's how Roy Drachman and Burt Kinerk and Greg Foster and the Tucson Conquistadores, among others, made it possible for spring training, the PGA Tour, FC Tucson and the Copper Bowl to make Tucson home.

The Arizona Bowl works because Tucson attorney Ali Farhang and mortgage kingpin Jon Volpe have put the time, money and vision required to get it done.

Anything short of that will keep spring training out of Tucson for decades.

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Coach Jeff Reilly addresses his High School North team. Citing a lack of players, the New Jersey school will only field a junior varsity squad.

The nationwide forces that are beginning to uproot football have converged at a place called High School North.

Demographic shifts, concussions, single-sport specialization and cost - among the same issues that have caused youth football numbers to plummet around the country in recent years - have led West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North to drop varsity football this season. The Knights, with a roster of 37 players, will play a junior varsity schedule.

High School South, the other secondary school in the district, might have to do the same next year, along with high schools from four other neighboring jurisdictions, West Windsor-Plainsboro Schools Superintendent David Aderhold said.

The moves reflect a crisis for football all over the country, but one that has accelerated in this New York City bedroom community.

"We're the leading edge of a much larger iceberg when it comes to what's coming in youth athletics," Aderhold said.

Football participation has dropped precipitously for some time. High school football enrollment is down 4.5 percent over the past decade, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

More schools are fielding football teams nationwide, albeit with fewer players, led by surges in such states as Oklahoma, Florida and Arkansas, which together have added 150 teams in the past five years. But other regions - namely the Midwest and Northeast - are shedding high school football programs at a significant rate. Michigan has seen a net loss of 57 teams in the past five years. Missouri has lost 24. Pennsylvania has lost 12.

Even Southern California powerhouse Long Beach Poly, which has sent dozens of players to the NFL, gave up its junior varsity squad amid low turnout this summer. Centennial High in Ellicott City, Md., from a region that's a traditional football stronghold, announced this month that it would fold its varsity football team, citing a "lack of sufficient players and concern for student safety."

Youth levels of football, leagues high schools lean on as feeder systems, saw a nearly 30 percent drop in participation between 2008 and 2013, according to data collected by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

It has sent school officials nationwide clamoring to stabilize their varsity programs and reevaluate the game that has claimed high school Friday nights for generations.

Unique issues in the state

The forces fueling those declines have come to the fore, sometimes in extremes, in West Windsor. Demographic changes have drawn families here who are less familiar with American football. Sixty-one percent of High School North's 1,500-some students are Indian American and Asian American. Some of those families have clashed previously with other families, many of them white, over the role of extracurricular activities in the school district.

"We didn't grow up with football being part of the culture," High School North booster club president Sandy Johnson said. Johnson is Chinese American and married to Olin Johnson, who is white and coaches one of West Windsor's youth football teams. "It's a struggle when parents don't know the sport."

Concerns over football-related head injuries have driven some parents to lead their children away from the sport. The state's budget cuts meant New Jersey eliminated a slew of middle school and sub-varsity sports.

It has all led to North fielding a team with only five upperclassmen this fall, senior quarterback Brian Murphy said.

Football coaches and boosters at every level of play in West Windsor have scrambled to recruit parents to sign their children up for football or give their teens permission to try the sport in high school. In so doing, they have found that the face of the town has changed. It used to be a haven for second-generation immigrants, said Steve Rome, a 1987 High School South graduate. His mother was born in Morocco, then immigrated to Israel, then the United States. His neighbors were Indian American and Asian American.

But the technology boom and high-skill jobs in biotechnology, medicine, finance and academia have attracted a new class of migrants to these suburbs, where the median annual household income is $161,750. Those parents are not signing their kids up for football at the same rate as the rest of the nation.

'There's a ripple effect'

Murphy threw for 24 touchdowns and more than 2,200 yards his junior season. Coaches from Yale, Villanova, Georgetown and others have asked about his college plans. Murphy has told them he will play North's junior varsity schedule so he won't have to transfer his senior year of high school. A Georgetown coach, his parents said, told him not to bother sending in more game tape. Coaches wouldn't look at JV film.

This is what's at stake should High School North lose its football team, boosters say. It would affect the recruiting and college options; the Friday night atmosphere; and the main stage for cheerleaders and North's marching band.

Football coaches and school administrators are taking that same message to parents and toeing a thin line between encouraging them to enroll their children in football without telling them how to parent.

But the whole saga has left families wondering what West Windsor will look like without football, and what it means that their elite school district might drop a sport long viewed as central to the high school experience.

The Washiongton Post

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Palm Beach Post (Florida)

 

Building a non conference schedule is typically an unsatisfying exercise for any collegiate athletics director. Such is the case for Miami AD Blake James.

Not every opponent can be high-profile, not every game contract a financial windfall. All teams have their share of unappealing games on the slate. Some pay to knock around visiting lightweights. Others trade home games with mid-majors, which Miami has done a few times.

Though James discussed details of several future games, Miami is a private school and is not required to disclose its financial dealings. It does play several public schools, so The Post requested copies of every available non conference game contract. Several were promptly returned. Others were denied.

For review: There are three different ways to do a non-league game.

1. Teams can play at neutral sites, often with great fanfare and big TV promotion.

2. There are home-and-home deals, usually involving little more than expenses for the visiting team.

3. A "guarantee game" in which a team pays another team to visit. Most "Power Five" teams do this, typically with FCS opponents.

Here's a look at the 2018 non conference schedule:

LSU: Sept. 1 at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas.

Scheduling is an imperfect activity. When signing contracts for future games, it's impossible to know how strong an opponent will be.

Next year's season-opener isn't far away, and UM believes it will be one of high interest.

Much more than Toledo, for sure.

Miami went 9-4 last year, and is widely projected to win the ACC Coastal in 2017, and barring an unexpected collapse, will sign a highly regarded recruiting class in 2018. LSU, which went 8-4 last year, is thought of as an SEC heavyweight and always recruits well. The game at Jerry's World, brokered by ESPN and the Dallas Cowboys' stadium and events committees, should be must-watch stuff.

It's a rematch of the 2005 Peach Bowl -- a 40-3 shellacking that stands as one of UM's worst setbacks ever, capped by a tunnel brawl between the teams -- but the focus of the 2018 game could be on teams looking to make early playoff statements.

"I think it lines up well for us as a program," James said. "We're thrilled to be in Dallas, at a world-class facility. I'd say probably next to Hard Rock Stadium, it's the next-best stadium out there. It's a great program to be playing. LSU has done a lot of great things. I'm sure they'll be there with a pretty good team next year."

The contract does not pay both sides equally. LSU will earn $4.75 million, per its contract, which does not include such details on Miami. James wouldn't disclose the exact number, but said Miami will earn more than half that (which would be more than $2.375 million).

The reason, in general terms: It probably won't be an equal crowd. LSU is within driving distance (444 miles) to Jerry's World and has been given more tickets to sell (25,000). Miami earns less, but is required to sell fewer tickets (between 5-10,000, James estimated).

"We're significantly lower in terms of what we're required to meet financially on the ticket side," James said. "While we have a very good payday, it's not at that level.... It's a great opportunity for us financially, and for our program."

An interesting clause in LSU's contract — believed to also be in UM's — states that ESPN can back out of the game if LSU is found to be guilty of serious NCAA violations (such as a postseason ban of two years or more). James said UM would have no problem accepting such a stipulation. This is believed to be in other ESPN contracts.

James said LSU's "extras" — 250 complimentary tickets, two 20-person suites, a field-level suite, seating for the band and cheerleaders, and parking passes — are "in line" with what Miami gets.

SAVANNAH STATE: Sept. 8 at Hard Rock Stadium.

Miami will play the FCS team, James told The Post. He did not disclose details of the contract .

Savannah State is best known for its losing role in the most lopsided win in Hurricanes history, in 2013: a 77-7 drubbing in which UM set a school record for points. UM quarterback Stephen Morris, however, was injured in the game .

TOLEDO: Sept. 15 at the Glass Bowl, Toledo, Ohio.

Miami visits the 26,248-seat stadium after twice pushing back the mid-major trip.

There is a chance, James said, that this game could be moved again. (Scheduling is a fluid exercise, as noted before.)

The record for a game at the Glass Bowl is 36,852, set in 2001 during a game against Navy. Toledo has hosted Power Five teams before — most recently Iowa State in 2015 — but the Hurricanes could challenge the record.

It could also be a homecoming for Miami defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski, who was a first-team All-MAC offensive lineman at Toledo in 1989-90, as a junior and senior. Kuligowski was on the Rockets' staff from 1992-2000, before earning a reputation as an NFL talent-producer at Missouri (2001-15).

FIU: Sept. 22 at Hard Rock Stadium.

This is Miami's first time playing the Panthers since 2006.

"We want the crosstown rivalry," then-UM President Donna Shalala said in 2014 when the series was finalized between the schools whose campuses are just 9 miles apart.

In a home-and-home set, the visiting school will get $500,000 from the home school. As FIU AD Pete Garcia noted at the time, the main benefit will be the "hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings" on travel.

And plenty of intrigue, especially if coach Butch Davis builds the Panthers into a feisty mid-major. Davis, who was UM's head coach from 1995-2000 and is credited with bringing the program back to national prominence, badly wanted the Canes' head coaching job again in 2015 but was passed over for Richt.

Not Rutgers: In January, Rutgers canceled the home-and-home series it signed in 2009 in favor of a more manageable matchup with Boston College. Its fee for doing that: $100,000, per NJ.com. Miami would have visited Rutgers in 2018 and hosted in 2019.

Noteworthy: Miami visits Boston College in ACC crossover play. It last played in Chestnut Hill, Mass., to open the 2012 season.

The Hurricanes host Duke, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and crossover rival FSU. They'll visit Georgia Tech, Virginia and Virginia Tech.

mporter@pbpost.com Twitter: @mattyports

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

A Clark County man and former pee wee football coach who pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography was sentenced this week to 10 years in federal prison.

Timothy K. Wright, 46, of New Carlisle was sentenced Wednesday in Dayton's U.S. District Court, according to the office of Judge Walter Rice.

Wright's July 25 sentencing hearing was cut short when a judge told a psychologist he was not prepared to testify.

A clinical psychologist had testified via phone that Wright had anti-social personality traits before Rice cut the doctor off for "lack of professionalism."

Dr. Anthony Byrd testified in persononMonday ahead of Wednesday's sentencing.

Wright faced a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of 20 years, according to court documents. In April, Wright pleaded guilty to two child pornography counts and was ordered to undergo a mental evaluation.

Byrd, who has worked at the Dayton VA for 26 years, said during his initial testimony that testing showed that Wright tried to suppress negative aspects of his personality.

Between June 30, 2013 and July 24, 2015, Wright had more than 700 images on his cell phone or computer that "contained visual depictions of prepubescent minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct," according to the case's statement of facts.

Wright had at least 23 images of child pornography in his Twitter account, and had traded at least six photos with other users, according to court records. In July 2015, federal agents seized his electronics.

Wright, who served prison time in the 1990s for a case in Greene County, was a volunteer football coach for the Park Layne Wee Arrows youth football organization.

As a non-profit, the group was not required to do background checks on coaches but has started to do them after this incident.

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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

SAN FRANCISCO - A Christian football coach suspended for kneeling and praying on the 50-yard line after high school games lost a bid Wednesday to be reinstated and allowed to worship in front of students.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that Bremerton, Wash., High School football coach Joseph A. Kennedy was serving as a public employee when he prayed in front of students and parents immediately after games, and the school had the right to discipline him.

The Bremerton School District, located in Kitsap County across Puget Sound from Seattle, serves about 5,057 religiously diverse students, the court said.

Kennedy, an assistant football coach there from 2008 to 2015, led students and coaching staff in locker-room prayers before and after most games and also prayed on the 50-yard line after games.

Students eventually joined him in the prayers on the field, and he gave motivational speeches with religious content, the court said.

The school district objected, saying its employees could not publicly endorse a religion, and Kennedy asked for a religious exemption under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The school said he could pray on the 50-yard line after students and parents had left. Kennedy did this for a while, but eventually renewed his postgame practice of praying before people left.

Kennedy's religious activities gained media attention, and a Satanist group said it too wanted to pray on the football field.

From ABPregame Prayers Under Attack at High Schools, Colleges

The district eventually suspended Kennedy with pay and did not rehire him when his contract expired.

Kennedy charged in his lawsuit that the school violated his First Amendment rights.

Disagreeing, the 9th Circuit panel said the fact that Kennedy insisted on praying in front of students and parents showed his speech was directed at least in part to others, not solely to God.

"When Kennedy kneeled and prayed on the 50-yard line immediately after games while in view of students and parents, he spoke as a public employee, not as a private citizen, and his speech therefore was constitutionally unprotected," wrote the 9th Circuit, upholding a decision by a district court judge.

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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

The football stadium Wando High School calls home isn't within walking distance of campus. Its utter lack of 20th century perks this deep into the 21st starts with rear ends: the Roman Colosseum, built in the first century AD, has more comfortable seating than the oversized rows of crudely designed cement layers on Mathis Ferry Road.

Bad bleachers would be a huge upgrade.

And that's the relatively affluent Mount Pleasant edge of Charleston County, where subdivision developments, restaurants and shopping are trendier than anywhere else in the state. What does that say about the football facilities elsewhere in the Charleston County School District?

Or the voters within?

The Burke Bulldogs have been nomadic since 2015 when heavy rains rendered the playing surface unplayable at 62-year-old Stoney Field.

Meanwhile, the Columbia area is awash in new high school football facilities with more on the way. Spiffy synthetic turf fields limit Midlands weather problems at River Bluff (complete with indoor hospitality boxes), Irmo, Brookland-Cayce, Lower Richland and Chapin.

Next year Keenan, Memorial and Bolden stadiums will add fake grass. Lexington's fancy facility opened in 2015.

The last new football stadium to open in Charleston County was at West Ashley High School. In 2000.

Apparently, synthetic turf won't grow in the Lowcountry.

This neglect goes well beyond football. It should be embarrassing to all of us that Charleston County is so far behind in such a critical aspect of education, community and culture. But it's not just unimaginative school board members and short-sighted superintendents at fault here. It's up to all of us - those with working phones, those who vote - to take up for kids and parts of town that would surely benefit from nicer places to play, hang out, socialize and come together.

One high school football season is the wink of a cheerleader's eye, but the bonding experience of a single Friday night transcends blocking and tackling. It's more fun when we're not in a crummy, crumbly place - a place to call our own - wouldn't you agree?

Crowded North Charleston

Texas has state-of-the-art high school football fields that cost $62 million, seat 12,000 people and have scoreboards the size of Vermont.

We have eyesores out-of-step with most of the rest of our state.

Somewhere in between is Fort Dorchester High School's Bagwell Stadium in Dorchester County District 2, a 7,000-seat facility that opened in 1997. It has 700 theater-style seats, plus tweaks that include press boxes on both sides of the field. A $311,717 scoreboard that offers one of the largest video screens (25 feet by 14 feet) at any high school in the state eventually will be mostly paid for by Fort Dorchester boosters.

High school facility funding here and elsewhere is a complex process involving various revenue streams, capital projects, tax hikes, ruling bodies and bonds.

That doesn't mean Charleston can't do at least as well as other counties.

County voters approved plans for a new $14.2 million, 6,000-seat North Charleston football stadium in 2014. Unfortunately, the facility is to be shared by North Charleston and Stall high schools (which currently have their own stadiums) plus Military Magnet and Academic Magnet. With football, soccer and booming interest in lacrosse, that's too much pressure on one facility.

Messy Mount Pleasant

It's as messy in Mount Pleasant.

Wando High School will get a new stadium promised in the 2014 referendum. But a school that we never should have let grow to over 4,000 students - largest enrollment in the state - must share the new place with Lucy Beckham High School, scheduled to open in 2020. By which time Mount Pleasant will need at least three high schools.

Multi-schools.

Multi-sports.

No foresight.

If this gets ridiculous enough, East Cooper residents might re-start 1990s talk of seceding from the Charleston County School District. Try funding future CCSD facilities without Mount Pleasant money.

Of course, there is a flip side to all this: We are different here in the Lowcountry. And we have mere football and its supposed impact on communities in perspective within an education model the rest of the state envies.

But as the late Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes once said, "Football is not overemphasized, everything else is just underemphasized."

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff

Wando High School fans cheer during a 2016 game at the current football stadium, which is slated for demolition.
 

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Abilene Reporter-News (Texas)

 

"Work ethic" is a popular term used by football coaches to describe how eager a player is to endure the preparation for an upcoming game or season.

There are plenty of incentives to inspire it, from winning games, to earning a starting spot to earning a possible college scholarship. And generations of football players have been willing to sweat their free time away (to varying degrees) in order to achieve all three.

Can adding a bit of convenience or fun to the mix hurt?

Modern weight rooms, indoor practice facilities, field turf and high-tech scouting apps are now dotting the Texas high school football landscape.

Practicing in inclement weather can now be avoided indoors at some locales. Film study can now be done at home instead of a projection room. And, depending on the school, weight training no longer means dirt, rust and no air conditioning.

In short, having a good work ethic is becoming easier every year.

"Even adults, when they walk into our indoor (facility) it brings out the little kid in them," said Snyder coach Cory Mandrell, whose program possesses both an indoor practice field and one of the top weight rooms in the Big Country. "There's just something about an indoor football field that is exciting.

"And our weight room definitely doesn't hurt our numbers. It gets the kids excited to be in there. We've gotten a lot stronger and I think a lot of it has to do with the kids liking to be in there."

While football players have been lifting weights on their own for decades, it often occurred in dingy environs with little innate appeal.

Such facilities still exist all over the Big Country, but they're quickly disappearing. Colorado City has a new weight room with roughly $70,000 worth of equipment; Brownwood recently has added power racks to its facility, and Early wants an upgrade of its own.

"They did a great job with the cosmetics of it and it really makes our weight room pop," Brownwood coach Kyle Maxfield said. "When you get new stuff it amps your attitude up, but it improved the functionality of it too.

"We're able to do more exercise in a shorter amount of time so it had two purposes."

Football isn't the only beneficiary.

In Colorado City, where many of the female athletes didn't use the old weight room, they are now regulars to C-City's modernized facility, which is not only stocked with new equipment but is easily accessible.

"Our (former weight room) was kind of old and dirty and not connected to the gym," Colorado City coach Dan Gainey said. "The guys have enjoyed the new weight room. But having it connected to the gym has really increased the girls programs utilizing it, which is something we wanted to happen.

"So overall, it's helped out tremendously."

Convenience has also changed the way film study is conducted, making it far easier and more effective than it was as recently as 15 years ago.

Scouting software, which allows for coaches to quickly exchange game tapes over the internet instead of driving hundreds of miles to an "exchange point" has changed the entire equation.

Film study was once a tedious task that required players to be at the fieldhouse. It can now be done multiple times a week on a player's phone or laptop.

"There are a lot of things that have been revolutionized over the years - better equipment, better helmets," Maxfield said. "But the ability for kids to watch (game tapes) instantly on their phone has revolutionized the game more than anything else.

"The game is played at a higher standard because of the evaluating that you can do - not just the coaches, but the players themselves. Most Saturday mornings we all watch film as a group - coaches and kids. Nowadays, 95 percent of the kids have already watched the game at least once before we meet at 8 o'clock in the morning the next day."

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Abilene Reporter-News (Texas)

 

 


For about a decade, the word has been looming over the football world like a vulture waiting for roadkill to expire.

National sports talk show hosts have debated whether concussions will kill the sport, parents have debated enrolling their children in youth football activities and medical professionals have taken a close look at the link between football plays - both the explosive kind and the mundane - and long-term brain damage.

It's only natural the sport, and its regulatory bodies that govern its rules, have evolved to limit potential problems for current athletes, whether it be implementing better Return-To-Play standards, providing better tackling instruction and offering better technology in equipment.

Football's Big C can't be eliminated from causing harm, but the efforts taken to mitigate the long-term effects are leaps and bounds better than what was done even at the turn of the decade.

Albany coach Denney Faith knows all too well the results of the increased attention to diagnosing and treating concussions.

"I know that our kids are well taken care of for sure now," Faith said. "With all of the concussion protocols the players go through, if one is diagnosed or if we even think one could be diagnosed, we take them out immediately and they can't play again until they're cleared.

"Before, we didn't have to get the doctor involved as much. I've always been very careful with my kids, but with the new protocols, it's a lot more strict, which is good."

A reaction to a problem

These changes, from limiting a player's ability to return to the field if a concussion is suspected to requiring baseline tests to determine a base cognitive ability a player must match in order to be cleared for contact, have been implemented throughout football squads as a means of combating the conversation about concussions and the debilitating effects they can have on individuals who suffer too many.

The degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, referred to simply as CTE, has received national and international attention following high-profile deaths of athletes such as former NFL linebacker Junior Seau and movies such as "Concussion," starring Will Smith.

A study published in July in The Journal of the American Medical Association, the largest of its kind to date, showed 110 of 111 studied brains of former NFL players were afflicted by CTE. Looking beyond just professional players, 87 percent of 202 brains from football players across all levels of the game, including high school players, also showed the disease.

Those high school cases were determined to be mild, the study found, while more severe cases of CTE were found in college and professional players. But one of the authors of the study, Boston University neuropathologist Ann McKee, told the New York Times the debate about whether concussions and CTE are a problem for football is over.

"It is no longer debatable whether or not there is a problem in football - there is a problem," McKee told the Times.

Bill Abbe, co-athletic trainer for Abilene High School, hears words like this and has two thoughts. One is that the attention concussions are getting is important, as football's collisions can be hard to ignore. But as an athletic trainer for more than just football, he's also well aware of the dangers present in other sports.

Like soccer, he said. Or baseball and softball. He doesn't feel it's right to target football exclusively because concussions are prevalent throughout sports.

"I want them to test all athletes to see where (CTE) is," Abbe said. "I think it's been misdiagnosed in all sports. But the concussion rules we follow now (in football) are awesome. I'm glad we have a set protocol."

Mandated by the University Interscholastic League, the Return-To-Play protocol outlined by the state makes it almost impossible for a player to return to the field immediately after being checked out for a head injury, Abbe said.

Athletes now must pass several kinds of tests before being cleared to return to the playing field, starting with simply being symptom free for 24 hours. From there, players are allowed to begin light exercise, for 10 minutes, with the hope of remaining symptom free. Day-to-day, the amount of work they can do increases, with players allowed to return to the field for non-contact drills on the third day.

On the fifth day, they're cleared for full participation, as long as they've remained symptom-free throughout the process. If at any point they experience symptoms, the process begins anew.

This is just the bare minimum, though. Abilene High, as well as many larger schools and Cooper, have gone above and beyond with the help of team doctors. The Abilene Independent School District adapted its own concussion test, by ImPACT Applications Inc., a computerized evaluation that measures a player's cognitive functions such as memory, reaction time and sensitivity, Abbe said.

Athletes must pass 30 different aspects before being able to return to the field after a concussion.

When they're on the field, it can be difficult to diagnose a concussion. So Chelsea Martinez, who is new to the athletic trainer position at Abilene High and will serve as co-athletic trainer with Abbe this season, relies instead on technology.

It turns out there's an app for that. And it's also made by ImPACT.

Around the area

Large schools, generally 4A through 6A, staff team doctors (Abilene ISD and Wylie ISD have multiple, for instance) in addition to one or more trainers who roam the sideline in case of injury, concussion or otherwise.

But most schools, particularly the smallest of the small, only have the ability to staff a trainer, specifically to take some of the pressure off the head coaches.

Brent West, head coach at Cisco, said he's particularly happy to have someone else make the tough injury decisions for him.

"I've been real lucky on this," West said. "Ever since I started as a head coach, I've had a trainer who took care of all of that for me. In this day, we need (someone) who's a trained professional to tell the coach, 'This kid probably has a concussion.' I think that's vital for any program because I'm under other pressures, like trying to win the game.

"It's real tempting sometimes to put the player back in, so it's nice to have that professional next to you to make that call."

Like Faith in Albany, West, too, has a bit of a historical view on how the sport has changed under the concussion blanket. His father, Grady West, coached the De Leon squad as far back as the 1970s.

But the younger West said his father had a different approach to football at that time, which may have saved his athletes from hundreds of unwanted concussive and non-concussive blows.

"My dad did a pretty good job, looking back," West said. "There was very little contact in practice, which I feel helps a ton. I know everyone else at that time was out there butting heads five days a week."

Cisco's bitter rival, Eastland, coached by James Morton, also relies on a trainer to help make decisions.

Morton, who used to coach large school Midland Lee before taking the job at Eastland, said the UIL's decision to take a lot of the guesswork out of the coach's hands has helped protect the athletes.

"It's a clear-cut thing now," Morton said. "It's not up to the coaches.

"The safety of the players is our No. 1 concern as the coach. It's definitely important. Concussions have changed the game for us as coaches. There's more awareness."

Wouldn't change it

With more awareness, there's also the attention the problem is getting on the national and international level. Because it's making billions as a sport, there are a lot of eyes looking at the game, Cisco's West said.

But the truth, he said, is that concussions are a part of everything people do. Risks are taken.

Faith, in Albany, said he's seen the impact football has on students. He said the game isn't going anywhere as long as it gives players something to hang on to.

"I think the game does so much for young men," Faith said. "My hope is that we keep working on trying to be safe and doing things that can make our game safer, but I hope (football's) not downgraded so much that it takes the benefits a young man can learn because I think so many things the game teaches, like teamwork, dedication, desire and work ethic, are important. All those things are beneficial and can be taught through the game of football.

"I can see the other affects that it has on kids, too. Like having their self-esteem raised through success on the football field. I've seen cases where a kid wouldn't have gone to school or stayed in school without football to fall back on. We see those things all of the time, which to me personally outweigh the chance of debilitating injury."

"I've always been very careful with my kids, but with the new protocols, it's a lot more strict, which is good."


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Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

The most-talked-about and most-written-about technology in Mercedes-Benz Stadium is overhead -- in the halo video board and the retractable roof.

But technology will drive many other aspects of the fan experience at the new home of the Falcons, Atlanta United and other events.

"Everything we're doing from a tech perspective is with an eye toward enhancing the 360-degree experience for our fans on game days," said Jared Miller, the stadium's chief digital officer.

The $1.5 billion, 2 million-square-foot stadium opens Saturday night with a Falcons-Arizona Cardinals exhibition game. Here's a primer on the technology you'll find in the new place, aside from what's up top:

¦Wi-Fi connectivity: "In terms of technology, (the first question) people ask is, 'Am I going to be able to get Wi-Fi signal in here?'" said Mike Gomes, senior vice president of fan experience for AMB Sports & Entertainment, the umbrella company for Arthur M. Blank's sports properties.

The answer, Gomes said, is yes.

The stadium has 1,800 wireless access points and 80 gigabits per second of internet bandwidth capacity. That's 50 percent more access points and double the capacity of the San Francisco 49ers'Levi's Stadium, considered the NFL's most technologically advanced stadium since its opening in 2014.

Whatthosetechienumbers mean, according to Miller, AMBSE's senior vice president of analytics and technology, is that 70,000-plus fans will be able to "simultaneously stream video, send messages and post on Instagram or any other social-media platform."

The stadium's Wi-Fi will be "blazing fast," he said.

You can test that Saturday night.

|Paperless ticketing: No paper tickets and no print-at-home PDFs will be available for admission to Falcons or Atlanta United games, as the teams adopted 100 percent digital ticketing.

Fans will enter the stadium by tapping season-tick-et-holder RFID cards that can be worn on lanyards or by scanning ticket bar codes fromtheirsmartphones.They also cantransferorresell their electronic tickets to others.

Gomes said research showed mobile tickets as fans' preferred option, but he acknowledged "a little bit" of resistance from some longtime Falcons season-ticket and suite holders to the paperless mandate.He said going paperless will cut down on fraudulent tickets.

|Smartphone apps: In partnership with IBM, new mobile apps were developed for the Falcons, Atlanta United and the stadium.

Althoughstadium-centered information will be accessible through both teams' apps, a separate Mercedes-Benz Stadium app(coming soon)was needed for guests at other events, such as concerts and college football games.

A wide range of content about the teams and stadium will be available through the apps, which also feature tools to facilitate advance purchase of mobile parking passes or to receive point-to-point navigation to parking lots or decks through an integration with Waze.

And then there's "Ask Arthur."

That's the name of the apps' artificial intelligence feature designed to respond to fans' questions about the game-day experience or logistics. "'Arthur' will be your concierge," Gomessaid. "Youcan ask him questions about the stadium. We trialed this last year to see what are the most popular types of questions fans typically ask on game day. Those are loaded into the system, so (it) recognizes the keywords and searches for an answer with a link so you can go find more detailed information."

The text recognition tool won't correctly respond to every question, Gomes acknowledged.Butheexpects "Arthur" to have a good record.

|Flat-screen TVs: TV screens are ubiquitous throughout the stadium -- some 2,000 of them in all -- to keep the game in view when fans leave their seats.

|Cellular service: "There's a lot of steel and concrete, and in a building like this, you have to have a cellular distribution system built into the stadium," Miller said. "We've done that and enabled it to work with all the major cellular carriers to ensure that their subscribers, our fans, are constantly connected to make calls."

|Digital signage: You'll notice a striking difference between this stadium and most other sports venues: no fixed advertising signage visible from the seating bowl except for naming-rights partner Mercedes-Benz.

There will be a lot of sponsor advertising displayed during events, but it'll appear on the LED ribbon boards, halo video board or 101-foot-tall LED "mega-column" rather than on permanent signs.

This was done in part to allow the building to easily transform for different events, such as the annual SEC Championship football game.

"When the SEC said they had issues with signage at the Georgia Dome -- what to cover, what to remove -- we told them, 'OK, we've cured that; we'll go 100 percent digital; there will be no signs in the building,'" Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay said.

"All-digital allows us to not only turn the stadium on a dime but to 'paint' the building, make it come alive, for each different event," Miller said.

|Future proofing: AMBSE officials said some 4,000 miles of fiber cable in the stadium help ensure it will be adaptable to wherever technology takes the sports experience in the years ahead.

"I don't know what technology is going to be out there in five years," Miller said, "but what we have built is an infrastructure to support whatever that latest and greatest gadget or piece of technology is."

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Copyright 2017 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

USA TODAY

 

Unintentionally, perhaps, one of the most revealing moments about the power of college football's four-team playoff system occurred Jan. 6, 2015, six days before Ohio State would go on to defeat Oregon for the first title of the Playoff era.

Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer had complained publicly about the financial strain on players' families having to travel to New Orleans for the semifinals, then turn around and go to Dallas roughly two weeks later to watch them play. The $800 stipend Ohio State was offering from the NCAA-approved student assistance fund was nice, Meyer said, but not enough -- especially in a world in which the Playoff had been created largely because ESPN was paying $7.3 billion over 12 years for broadcast rights.

"Are we going to get their families to Dallas? We should," Meyer said immediately after Ohio State beat Alabama in the semifinals. "There should be an immediate committee meeting somewhere. And I hope you all write that. That's more important than anything else being said today."

In a matter of days after Meyer had turned it into a public issue, the wheels were in motion for the NCAA to approve a $3,000 reimbursement from the CFP for each family of a competing player. On top of that, the NCAA announced its own reimbursement program for the families of men's and women's basketball Final Four participants.

Though it might seem like a no-brainer today, along with full cost-of-attendance scholarships, unlimited meals and various other benefits college athletes have gained recently, paying travel expenses for championship game participants' families was very much viewed as a revolutionary change three short years ago.

"You had a lot of bristling about those kinds of things in college athletics," said former Missouri athletics director Mike Alden, who left the business in 2015 to become a professor at the university. "I was one of them. We're all saying, 'Hey, wait a minute, what are we trying to do?' But when you step away from that, you think, 'That's a really good thing.' If we can help families be able to travel to these types of events they couldn't normally afford, why wouldn't we do that?"

Hindsight brings clarity

For the longest time, that question -- "Why wouldn't we do that?" -- could have been applied to just about everything in college football. The Bowl Championship Series had served its purpose, moving the sport out of its adherence to polls, traditional bowl games and mythical national titles and more toward a system where a true champion could be identified.

But it wasn't enough.

Though there was no logical reason to resist a lucrative playoff as much as the power structure of college athletics resisted, it took until the end of the 2011 season -- when the Southeastern Conference placed two teams in a BCS title game that performed poorly in the TV ratings -- for the key stakeholders to agree that it was time to make the obvious move to a four-team tournament.

Now the College Football Playoff is three years old. Although the sport is fundamentally the same, the number of changes it has driven are almost mind-boggling.

"It has historically taken a long time to turn the battleship of college football, and I don't know that there have been any bigger changes in the game than the addition of a playoff," CFP executive director Bill Hancock said. "When you're in the middle of it, you have to sit back and wait and see what else will happen. That's why we were so deliberate when the commissioners put it together. We knew we only had one chance to get it right."

Although the system still might have detractors, including those who would prefer to see it expanded to eight teams, there's no doubt it has changed the language and mind-set of college sports.

Now we talk about committees more than polls. Games aren't just games, they're "data points." While the regular season has strengthened, rank-and-file bowl games have been weakened. Strength of schedule is a fact of life. The separation between Power Five and everyone else has become codified in revenue and in the NCAA's "autonomy" rules, largely based on the CFP's existence. And conferences have gone through existential crises born out of its failure to make the Playoff -- in two out of three years in the Big 12's case.

"I don't think I've ever seen a time when there's been more changes going on at once," said Jim Livengood, a former athletics director at Washington State, Arizona and UNLV. "Five, 10, 15 years ago, some of these things would be such drastic changes, but because these things have happened incrementally, now we've just kind of become numb to it."

U-turn in approach

Few have experienced the upside of the new era more than Gary Stokan, president and CEO of the Peach Bowl. His game, and his city in Atlanta, are big winners in the new system, becoming part of the New Year's Six rotation and hosting a semifinal last season between Alabama and Washington. Additionally, Atlanta will host this season's national championship game in the sparkling new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

On Sept. 2, Stokan's organization also hosts the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, which will feature No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 3 Florida State, arguably the best season-opening weekend matchup in the sport's history. Though Stokan always has attracted solid teams because of the big payout and visibility in a recruiting hotbed such as Atlanta, getting a blockbuster game the likes of Alabama-Florida State has become easier since the Playoff.

Much to the detriment of the sport and its fans, the entire mentality of college football used to be built around going undefeated, meaning mega non-conference matchups were rare. Now it's all about impressing the committee, which has rewarded teams that play challenging schedules and shunned teams such as Baylor in 2014, after the Bears played three poor non-conference opponents.

"Whoever loses our game, it's a quality loss at the end that is going to help you in the eyes of the committee," Stokan said. "Talking about a good loss is a huge change in college football. Back in 2008, 2009, 2010, it was a lot tougher to schedule an opening-weekend game, because if people lost, they knew it was tough to make it back. Now I've got ADs and coaches calling me, wanting to get in these games."

If there's a downside, it's the perception that all the focus in college football is on the Playoff. It has added pressure to coaches and athletics directors, and it has diminished games such as the Rose Bowl when it's not hosting the semifinals, not to mention the dozens of minor bowls that don't involve Playoff teams.

"That's tough for a lot of people, and the pressure aspect isn't going to slow down," Livengood said. "It's trite to say this, but if you're not one of the four, that doesn't mean you didn't have a good year. But a lot of things now seem to be measured on, 'Are you one of the four in the Playoff?' And that's kind of sad, but, from a media standpoint, you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube. That's done."

Not exactly as envisioned

If there was one big fear when the system was conceived, it was rooted in SEC paranoia. Former commissioner Mike Slive, in fact, had pushed for a playoff years earlier but was opposed -- ironically, in retrospect -- by former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese (whose conference was a casualty of the power consolidation) and the Big Ten's Jim Delany (whose league won the first CFP title).

Even in 2012, as the details of the College Football Playoff were being hammered out, the commissioners went went head-to-head over whether it should be the four "best" teams, which Slive favored, or Delany's preferred system of inviting conference champions only.

At the time, the philosophical battle lines made sense. The SEC was at the height of its dominance, on a run of BCS championships that would reach seven in a row with Alabama's 2012 title.

Surely a system of the four best teams would include two, perhaps even three, SEC teams in a given year. The Big Ten, which had won just two titles since 1970 and none since 2002, naturally wanted to guarantee a spot in the four-team field.

Though Slive won the argument, the Playoff might have had an unintended consequence for the SEC.

As things stand three years in, the playing field seems more level than it has been in a decade. The Atlantic Coast Conference and Big Ten have caught up significantly, and the format has exposed the vast difference between winning two games over elite competition as opposed to one.

"We'd just joined the SEC, so I was probably one of those people that thought, 'Shoot, you'll have a couple of SEC teams in there every year,'" Alden said. "But the way it's played out, I think that's going to be really tough."

That's a credit to the committee and the CFP, which has stuck to its guns on strength of schedule and the value of conference championships, which has been far less controversial than people had imagined. Though there was initial backlash in Year 1 to taking Ohio State over TCU and Baylor, that went away when Meyer's team upset Alabama in the semifinals. Since then, the selections have been fairly straightforward, and no conference has really come all that close to getting two teams in the field.

"One thing I've been very pleased with has been the public's acceptance of the committee," Hancock said. "We joked at the beginning about needing the witness protection program, but none of that has happened, and I think it's because people have so much respect for the integrity of individuals."

It's also because a four-team playoff has been a lot simpler to put together and understand than BCS partisans could have ever admitted before 2014.

Though it might not be a perfect system and there might be unintended consequences, college football fans now speak the language of the Playoff. For better or worse, it has undeniably driven big, long-lasting changes in college sports in three short years. Based on the money it makes and its reach to all areas of the country, it's probably not going to change anytime soon.

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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

Old Dominion plans to raise $40 million for its athletic program over the next four years, including $20 million for the renovation of Foreman Field, and will begin playing women's volleyball in 2020, President John Broderick announced Wednesday morning.

Broderick told about 1,500 people gathered at the annual state of the university presentation at the Constant Center that the university plans to raise more than $200 million, including $160 million for academics.

The other $40 million would be raised by the Old Dominion Athletic Foundation, the university's private athletic fundraising organization.

An expanded Foreman Field is scheduled to open in 2019. ODU has pledged to pay for the $55 million refurbishment without raising student fees.

The renovation includes demolishing and replacing the east and west- side stands. Seating would increase modestly from 20,118 to 22,100, but fan amenities, including about 16,000 chairback seats and new restrooms and concessions facilities, would be major upgrades.

The other $20 million would go toward athletic scholarships, with most of it set aside to increase the school's athletic endowment. ODU has about $29 million in its endowment, second only to Rice in Conference USA, athletic director Wood Selig said.

ODU uses earnings from its endowment to help pay for scholarships. Selig has a long-term goal of increasing it to $200 million, which would allow the school to fund all scholarships with interest income.

Adding a volleyball team in part fulfills a promise made by ODU officials a decade ago when they announced they would restart football after a nearly seven-decade absence. At the time, officials pledged that rowing, women's volleyball and softball would eventually be added to increase opportunities for women.

The school added rowing in 2008 and built a $2.3 million rowing center at Norfolk's Lakewood Park two years later. The rowing team had 20 scholarship athletes and 52 walk-on s last season.

But the university has lacked the facilities and funding to add volleyball and softball, officials said.

Although a location for a softball field was identified in the campus master plan adopted in 2014, officials since determined that the school has neither the several acres of land nor millions of dollars it would take to build a Division I stadium.

ODU has also faced increasing financial challenges in balancing its athletic budget. There was a $900,000 decline in Conference USA football TV revenue last year. And a relatively new state law limits how much student fee money can be spent on athletics.

"We must continue to shift support in intercollegiate athletics from fees to fundraising and corporate sponsors," Broderick said. "The good news here is $25 million has been raised in the last three years to do just that."

ODU will spend about $1.2 million per year on volleyball. Broderick said nearly half will be paid for by private donations. ODU's athletic budget last year was about $43 million.

The school will hire a volleyball coach in 2018, begin offering scholarships in the fall of 2019 and play its first season in C-USA in 2020, Broderick said. ODU is the only school in the conference without women's volleyball.

The addition of volleyball moves ODU closer to compliance with Title IX, the federal law that requires equity for male and female athletes. Title IX encourages schools to meet a "proportionality" measurement, in which participation by gender in sports is supposed to mirror enrollment.

ODU was in compliance before adding football and fell even further out of compliance when it moved up to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2013. The move increased football scholarships from 63 to 85.

Volleyball will add 12 scholarship players and perhaps another 15 participants. And while it will help ODU's numbers, it still won't get the Monarchs to full proportionality.

In 2015-2016, about 43 percent of ODU's athletes (215) were female, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Of ODU's 289 male athletes, 116 were football players.

About 53 percent of its 24,600 students are female.

"We're not where we need to be, but we're making progress," Selig said. "The best way for us to add more women's sports in the future is to raise more money for scholarships."

In practice, few schools meet the proportionality test, especially among mid-major leagues such as C-USA, which produce far less revenue than Power 5 leagues.

Norfolk State's enrollment is about 60 percent female, yet according to federal figures, has twice as many male athletes as female. William & Mary's enrollment is about 56 percent female, but 48 percent of its athletes are female.

Volleyball made sense as the next sport to add, Broderick said, because ODU has a ready-made facility in the Jim Jarrett administration building.

ODU's men's and women's basketball teams vacated the building recently and moved into the $8.4 million Mitchum Basketball Performance Center. The Jarrett building has a practice court, offices and training facilities that can be used for volleyball.

Bleachers may be added to the practice court to hold games there, or matches could be held at the Constant Center.

"We haven't worked out all the details yet," Selig said. "We would be struggling to do all this for softball. Volleyball, on the other hand, is as much ready-made as any women's program we could offer."

Selig said he has asked C-USA to add ODU to its 2020 schedule. Western Kentucky has won the past three league titles.

Girls volleyball is a popular sport locally, with most area high schools fielding teams. ODU also won't have to travel far to find non-conference opponents. Norfolk State, Hampton, William & Mary, Richmond, VCU, Virginia, James Madison and Virginia Tech all have volleyball teams, and most have at least one player from Hampton Roads.

Selig said ODU will also consider adding women's beach volleyball, which is played in the spring, after the volleyball program gets established.

{/span}{span class="print_trim"}It is a growing sport played at more than 60 Division I schools and held its first NCAA championship in 2016. UNC Wilmington and Coastal Carolina are the closest Division I competitors to ODU.

"I think it would be very attractive in this region," Selig said. "We'll see in a few years whether we want to go in that direction."

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Copyright 2017 The Washington Times
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The Washington Times

 

San Francisco 49ers assistant coach Katie Sowers, the second woman in the NFL to become a full-time assistant, told Outsports Wednesday that she is a lesbian, giving the NFL its first openly LBGT coach.

Sowers, who said she has been openly gay since college, said it's important to be true to who you are.

"There are so many people who identify as LGBT in the NFL, as in any business, that do not feel comfortable being public about their sexual orientation," Sowers said. "The more we can create an environment that welcomes all types of people, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, the more we can help ease the pain and burden that many carry every day."

Sowers, 31, is an offensive coach with the 49ers. She joined Kathryn Smith, who coaches with the Buffalo Bills, as the NFL's only full-time female assistant coaches.

Before being hired by 49ers, Sowers played pro football in the Women's Football Alliance.

In San Francisco, Sowers works with the wide receivers and helps breaks down film. She said her goal is to become a head coach one day.

"The most fulfilling aspect is having the ability to impact the lives of these young men chasing their dream of playing in the NFL, as well as serve as a role model for young girls who might happen to see me following my passion," she said. "I am a strong believer that the more we can expose children to a variety of different opportunities in life, the better chance they have of finding their true calling."

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Athletes in sports across Dayton Public Schools will have a new eligibility requirement to compete. The school board added mandatory tutoring for those with lower GPAs.

Supporters say a new Dayton Public Schools policy that lowers the grade-point average needed for students to take part in sports but adds academic intervention will keep more children enrolled and motivated.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association requires students to pass at least five one-credit courses or the equivalent during the most recent quarter. But OHSAA allows schools to set higher standards, which Dayton has had in place in recent years.

Dayton Public Schools' policy has required students to earn at least a 2.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale in order to play. The new policy approved Tuesday will allow students with a GPA between 1.0 and 1.99 to participate — if they enroll in their school's Athletic Academic Intervention Program.

Board member Sheila Taylor said the changes could help increase enrollment and keep kids in sports programs, where she said they are more likely to be around fellow students with shared goals.

"We're still within the standards of OHSAA," Taylor said. "Our students were expected to have a higher grade-point average than other schools, so that sets us up to lose students."

Other school districts have a variety of policies on the issue. Fairmont and Center-ville high schools require academic intervention for student-athletes with GPAs between 1.5 and 1.99, with those at 1.49 and below ineligible. Fairborn High School requires a flat 2.0 minimum GPA to be eligible. Troy and Stebbins require only the OHSAA minimum of passing five one-credit courses, with no GPA floor.

Joe Lacey was the only school board member to vote against the change, saying it doesn't take too much effort to get a "C" average, and the district should incentivize students to do so. He added that Dayton Public Schools has won numerous state championships with the existing 2.0 policy, and that the change would look bad after last year's very public eligibility problems on the Dunbar football team.

"We just had a very big problem with academic eligibility and this, it looks like, is our response... that we're going to lower the bar, and I think that sends the wrong message to our students," Lacey said.

Superintendent Rhonda Corr said students in the intervention program could "get that relationship with a coach or teacher or someone who's important to them, and have the study table policy... I think it might take a child who was ready to (drop out), and this could be the catalyst that keeps them there."

Taylor agreed, saying, "There's proof that students who participate in extracurricular activities within the schools perform better... Then, the people they are hanging out with are their teammates as opposed to maybe someone out on the streets who doesn't have the same goals."

To remain eligible, those student-athletes whose GPA is between 1.0 and 1.99 must be taking at least five one-credit classes, and must remain enrolled in the academic intervention "for at least one calendar year, must attend all study tables, and must make satisfactory progress toward the established goal of a 2.0 GPA each academic quarter."

There was initial confusion on the definition of progress toward a 2.0 GPA. DPS Athletic Director Mark Baker clarified Wednesday that the starting point would be the student-athlete's GPA for the most recent academic quarter. In order to stay eligible, the student's GPA would have to be higher in the next quarter.

For example, a student with a 1.42 GPA in last spring's fourth quarter can play football starting now if he is active in the intervention program, but if his first-quarter GPA in October is 1.42 or lower, he would lose eligibility at the start of the second quarter.

Baker said DPS is still in the process of figuring out how many students will be affected by the new policy, but said, "We believe it's going to be a small percentage." He said "an overwhelming number" of teachers have expressed interest in helping students in the intervention program. The mandatory study tables are one hour Monday through Thursday.

"We're going to look at a number of different ways to assist them — certainly with our teachers but also with some peer tutoring," Baker said. "The coaches have an expectation to be at the study tables to assist them as well."

The fall sports tryout window has passed, but Baker said if newly eligible students ask to play a fall sport — football, volleyball, soccer, cross country, golf or girls tennis - coaches will allow them to do so if they meet the intervention requirements. The policy applies to students in grades 7-12 for all extracurricular activities.

"We're not just saying that it's OK for a student-athlete to make the grade," school board President Robert Walker said. "We want the district to be more proactive, where if there's an athlete who isn't able to make the grade, there will be those supports surrounding him or her and challenge them to be the best that they can be."

Adil Baguirov abstained from the vote after first trying to find a middle ground. Ron Lee was absent. Taylor, Walker, Hazel Rountree and John McManus voted yes.

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Copyright 2017 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

Even in a world in which we've grown accustomed to odd sponsorships and clunky naming conventions, the news last week raised eyebrows. The bowl game in St. Petersburg, Fla., will be known, at least for a while, as the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. Chew on that for a moment. And then realize the game is played indoors. On artificial turf.

The jokes write themselves.

Even within the bowl industry, they'll chuckle, at least a little. But if you want to make bowl executives bristle, mention instead the fallout from December when star running backs Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey declined to play in the Citrus Bowl and the Sun Bowl, respectively, in order to prepare for the NFL draft. Some applauded the moves, saying they were simply skipping meaningless bowls.

"For those two teams (Eastern Michigan and Old Dominion) that went to the Bahamas (Bowl) last year, that was hardly a meaningless game," says Wright Waters, the former commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference who is now the executive director of the Football Bowl Association. "It may be the only time some of those players go out of the country in their lives, much less spend four days at Atlantis. As long as our games are unique experiences, they're not meaningless. They're very meaningful."

That Waters feels the need to make that defense, though, is a reflection of the reality that college football's traditional postseason events are navigating uncertain times. And the College Football Playoff -- the new postseason tradition -- has much to do with it.

The Playoff was set up to mesh with the bowls, sustaining the sport's existing postseason relationships. Its semifinals rotate among six bowls (known as the New Year's Six: the Cotton, Fiesta, Orange, Peach, Rose and Sugar bowls). There's an argument those bowls have been enhanced, even in years they're not involved in the Playoff, because the selection committee chooses some of the matchups by seed.

But the rest of the bowls?

"They've made it where if you're not in that New Year's Six, it's almost made the other ones insignificant," North Carolina coach Larry Fedora says.

Some of it was the inevitable result of the increased focus, all season, on the Playoff. Even though only four teams make the bracket, college football is viewed by many through that prism.

Meanwhile, bowl attendance and TV ratings were down slightly last year. Attendance has increased 4.5% from 2015. For bowls other than the New Year's Six, TV ratings decreased by 22%. Bowl executives say sponsorships have become more difficult to secure. The Poinsettia Bowl shut down after last season. The Miami Beach Bowl has been moved to Frisco, Texas.

"We're still trying to figure out the new world and the impact of the College Football Playoff," Waters told USA TODAY last spring. "But the strength of the bowls has been their ability to adjust. I'm confident they'll adjust to this environment, too."

It's more than the Playoff, of course. In the last 20 years, the number of bowls has doubled, from 20 in 1997 to 40 in 2016 (and 39 this season).

When college football moved to a 12-game regular season, the standard for playing in the postseason became a 6-6 record; more bowls were created in large part so no team with a .500 record or better would sit home for the holidays. And then in each of the last two years, when there weren't enough qualified teams to fill the bowls, 5-7 teams got the call.

"I think we'd be better off with 25 bowls, or 30 bowls," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany says. "It's not supposed to be an all-comers tournament. It's supposed to be a reward for a successful year."

But it's unlikely the number of bowls will decrease; although the Poinsettia Bowl is gone, there are other cities interested in starting bowls when an NCAA moratorium on new bowls ends after the 2019 season. It's also unlikely the number of wins necessary to play in them will increase.

"I think that train has left the station," says Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who also is chairman of the NCAA's Football Oversight Committee. "I think 6-6 is gonna remain the rule."

And then last year, Fournette, McCaffrey and Baylor running back Shock Linwood decided not to play. It's likely other players will make similar choices this year and beyond.

"Is it going to become exceedingly widespread? I don't think so, but it's hard to read the trend right now," Bowlsby says.

Perhaps worse, at least in the minds of proponents of bowls, is that phrase: meaningless bowls.

"That term ticks me off," says Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, "because those bowls are not meaningless for those players."

Regardless of the bowls' importance in the larger picture, Hancock probably is largely correct.

An in-house survey commissioned by the Football Bowl Association showed 84% of players in the last three years reported a positive experience. Waters says it shows that bowls remain, to a large degree, what they've always been -- postseason rewards -- and that if they're less important than they once were, they're not meaningless.

"I've never been more confident that the bowl games are going to be fine, because the bowls are always going to appeal to people that want the postseason experience," Waters says. "Every game is not for the national championship. Some games are just to have fun and compete."

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Copyright 2017 Star Tribune
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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

Tim McGraw, the super buff country music star, is joining forces with Chanhassen-based Snap Fitness to open a line of fitness centers that reflect his music and workouts.

The gyms will be called Tru Mav Signature Clubs, a play on "true maverick," and will be co-branded with Snap Fitness.

The first are expected to open later this year or early next, Snap Fitness founder and chief executive Peter Taunton said. Exact locations haven't been selected, but the first few stores will be corporate-owned, with McGraw and Snap Fitness as 50-50 equity partners.

Future stores will be available for franchising, and McGraw will collect the fees. Taunton wouldn't say how many Tru Mav clubs might be expected to open in the U.S., but he said they likely would be in traditional markets where Snap Fitness operates.

"Tim lives a healthy lifestyle," Taunton said. "He approached us and said, I want to give back and one of the ways I want to do that is to promote the things I've done to live a healthy lifestyle."

The gyms will incorporate all the vital elements of McGraw's workout routines, including special cardio or strength-building equipment that he will help pick out. McGraw also will be involved in the look of the space and, as McGraw said in an e-mail, "Of course, I will be part of choosing the music!"

Members also will be outfitted with wearable technology and have access to fitness and nutrition coaches who can design custom workouts.

"We want to make sure these clubs have a touch and flair that is meaningful to Tim," Taunton said, "but at end of day will still deliver results."

McGraw, 49, maintains a rigorous fitness routine when on the road. Promotional photos show him doing handstands to work on strength and balance, and hoisting metal kettlebells to maintain those washboard abs.

"Nearly a decade ago, I changed the way I ate, and dedicated myself to live healthier," he said in response to e-mail questions. "That hard work has helped give me the energy to put on the best shows I can while on tour."

McGraw said this was his first business partnership in a fitness-related industry.

McGraw will perform a private charity concert for about 400 people at Taunton's Minnetonka home on Sunday. Taunton expects the event will raise about $400,000 for the Folds of Honor Foundation, which provides education scholarships to children and spouses of killed or wounded soldiers.

Likewise, Snap Fitness will contribute profits from the Tru Mav partnership to the foundation, Taunton said.

Snap Fitness has nearly 2,000 gyms open or in development in 19 countries. Taunton launched the company in 2003.

 

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Copyright 2017 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

Des Plaines Park District has hired firms to design and oversee construction of a $9 million indoor swimming pool, while plans are underway to close an aging outdoor pool on the city's south side.

Park district commissioners last week approved a contract with architecture firm Cordogan, Clark & Associates to design the facility to be added onto the Prairie Lakes Community Center. Downers Grove-based Corporate Construction Services will be the construction manager.

Proposed designs for the facility include an eight-lane, 25-meter pool, therapy pool, splash pad, multipurpose room for community events and locker rooms. The amenities will not be finalized until designs are approved, community input is being gathered and construction bids are approved, officials said.

"We intend to provide all of the aquatic programs and activities you would expect to be available in a pool of this size," Des Plaines Park District Executive Director Don Miletic said in a news release Tuesday. "All of us at the park district are excited to be bringing a year-round indoor pool to the community."

The project will be paid for with $4 million in reserve funds and $5 million in bonds. No new taxes will be levied to pay for the bonds, which will be paid by 2025. If the bonds were not issued, property taxes would not drop because the park district would continue borrowing money within its current debt structure to pay for construction and renovation at facilities, officials said.

The park district plans to start construction in fall 2018 and complete the facility by fall 2019. Meanwhile, the park district plans to close Iroquois Pool, 2324 Maple St., after the 2019 summer season. The pool is 50 years old and past the normal life span of an outdoor pool built in that era, park district spokesman Gene Haring said.

City code requirements restrict reconstruction of a pool at the site, Haring said. There isn't enough land to accommodate requirements for stormwater detention, mechanical, safety, disability access and locker room standards, he said.

"At some point in 2018, we expect to begin gathering community input for some type of water activity area on the south side of Des Plaines," Haring said in an email.

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Copyright 2017 Charleston Newspapers

Charleston Gazette-Mail

 

MORGANTOWN — As WVU coach Dana Holgorsen spoke, the clock ticked toward the Mountaineers' opener against Virginia Tech.

It just seemed to him to be doing so slowly.

"I really wish this were game week, Holgorsen said. "It seems like we've been practicing for a month — and we almost have been.

Indeed, WVU still had 12 days before its Top 25 showdown as of Tuesday. It's an issue Holgorsen wants the NCAA to examine in the offseason.

"By the time we play the first game, all the NFL preseason games will be over," he said. "They practice for about 10 days and then have preseason games. & There are a whole lot of FCS games this weekend. Heck, there are three or four FBS games.

Five games involving FCS teams will be played this Saturday or Sunday. The FBS season begins on Saturday with a handful of matchups like Stanford and Rice in Australia. The following Thursday, teams like Ohio State and Oklahoma State will be in action. On Friday, Sept. 1, Washington is at Rutgers, among other games.

Finally, the blockbuster Florida State-Alabama game highlights the grand Saturday opener on Sept. 2. WVU and Virginia Tech play the night after in Landover, Maryland.

"There's only so much you can do practicing against each other, Holgorsen said. "It seems to me five whole weeks before the first game is insane.

"We will have been in school two-and-a-half weeks prior to the first game. That doesn't make much sense. I just don't understand what's so special about that one [opening] weekend. I think you need three-and-a-half to four weeks before the first game.

The Mountaineer coach suggested he's passed along his criticism to the NCAA.

"I've expressed some concerns on this prior to the season and, yeah, it's kind of dragging a little bit, Holgorsen said. "For three weeks I was happy with our work. We gave the players more off time than ever and I think it was beneficial to our student-athletes. I just think we can get it all done in two weeks, have a game week and go play ball.

In sum?

"Incredibly sick of practicing against each other, Holgorsen said.

With departures (see Jovon Durante of late) have been scholarship openings. On Tuesday, Holgorsen said a couple of those have been filled."We put Shane Commodore on the other day, said the coach. "He's a fifth-year senior that obviously has played some, but his GPA is really good as well. Alex Marenco as well. He's a junior college guy that hasn't really played a lot, but his GPA is out of sight. His work ethic is out of sight.

Commodore, a 6-foot redshirt senior from Morgantown High, played in 13 games last season as a safety, recording nine tackles. Marenco, a redshirt senior wideout, didn't see action last season.

Holgorsen gave an injury report Tuesday, speaking first of Syracuse transfer Corey Winfield, a cornerback expected to possibly start. He recently had finger surgery."I don't think he's practicing [Tuesday], but he's fine, said the coach. "He's going to be fine. I'm expecting to get him back in a couple of days. The two long-term guys are still the two long-term guys. Marvin [Gross, who had a knee injury] is progressing nicely. He should be fine. Corey is progressing nicely. He should be fine.

"[Linebacker] David Long and [center Jacob] Buccigrossi are the long-term guys that right now are out.

Long has a meniscus injury, while Buccigrossi is recovering from an ACL injury.

CAMP NOTES:

Holgorsen was asked about the possibility of preseason scrimmages against other teams.

"Yeah, that would be cool, but it's never going to happen, he replied.

The coach said, "It's unbelievable how much work you could get done. He pointed out his punt team and punt return teams can't go against each other because of crossover.

Running back Kennedy McKoy was nominated as one of WVU's best threats for the Virginia Tech game.

"I feel he's been our best H[-back] since last spring, Holgorsen said. "He's shown versatility to do things in the backfield much like Wendell [Smallwood] a couple years ago before he was the main guy at running back.

With Marcus Simms suspended for the Tech game, West Virginia has moved David Sills outside at receiver. Gary Jennings will see time there as well.

"David started against Arizona State at outside receiver, Holgorsen said. "Gary played outside receiver all last year. We didn't move him inside until spring, I guess. Those guys are tough, smart and competitive. It means a lot to them. They practice hard; they play hard.

Former WVU coach Don Nehlen made an appearance at Tuesday's press conference. It was announced he and former Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer will serve as honorary captains when the teams renew their rivalry for the Black Diamond Trophy.Holgorsen said a depth chart will be released next week.And finally&

Holgorsen was asked about linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton — and gave a fun response.

"He comes in and runs our staff meetings once in a while, said the coach with a smile. "He's been around here for quite a while and is a really smart kid.

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

 

RALEIGH - Two N.C. State freshman football players have been dismissed from the team and three other players have been suspended as part of an investigation into reports of sexual assaults at a party last month.

No charges have been filed in the case that stems from three reports of sexual assaults at Wolf Village on July 21. The five football players could face charges related to underage drinking and drugs, but Chief Jack Moorman of the N.C. State University Police Department did not say they are targets of the sexual-assault investigation.

Antoine Thompson and Kevince Brown have been dismissed from the team, while Isaiah Moore, Erin Collins and Xavier Lyas have been suspended for violations of the Student Athlete Code of Conduct, head football coach Dave Doeren said.

University police are working with the Wake County district attorney's office, which will decide whether the men will face any criminal charges, Moorman said.

"The criminal investigation is something we're not prepared to talk about at this time," he said.

Moorman said fewer than a dozen people attended a private party in one of the football players' rooms at Wolf Village. The five players were there, along with the three woman who filed reports of sexual assault.

While police are leading a criminal investigation, the university is conducting a Title IX investigation. Violations of the Student Code of Conduct could lead to more disciplinary actions by the university, including expulsion, according to N.C. State officials.

Title IX refers to the federal law that prohibits discrimination at educational institutions based on sex, religion or race.

On Tuesday, N.C. State's athletics department released the names of the five football players.

"We have a locker room full of young men," Doeren said in a written statement, "committed to representing our University with integrity and respect, and have created a strong culture for NC State Football through our leadership program.

"We had five freshmen, two of whom have been dismissed, who made poor decisions that don't align with the values of our program and each has been handled accordingly," Doeren said. "Although I've disciplined these players for violations of the Student Athlete Code of Conduct, I want to make it clear that I respect due process in the University and legal proceedings. Our players understand that I'm going be firm, but fair when it comes to discipline."

Police have spent about 800 hours investigating the claims, including through interviews, search warrants to seize potential evidence from cellphones, the residence where the alleged assaults took place and video from campus security cameras.

Moorman assigned a team of four detectives to the case. They are working with a special victims unit from the district attorney's office.

According to authorities, the assaults are alleged to have happened between 9:30 and 11 p.m. July 21 at Timber Hall, a student apartment building at Wolf Village.

Moorman has said there were three separate sexual assaults reported, and the alleged victims knew the men who they said assaulted them.

"It was not a stranger assault," Moorman said.

Earlier this month, police made public incident reports that indicated two of the students told police they had been raped; the third student told police she was the victim of sexual battery.

One of the cases is being investigated as second-degree forcible rape after the alleged victim told police a suspect had sexual intercourse with her after she was given alcoholic beverages and an unnamed drug, according to one incident report.

A second case is being investigated as second-degree rape. Alcohol was determined to not be a factor in that case nor in the sexual battery case, according to the incident reports.

A person convicted of second-degree forcible rape can spend between four and 14 years in prison, according to North Carolina's general statutes. Someone found guilty of sexual battery can spend up to 150 days in jail, according to the general statutes.

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Copyright 2017 Southeastern Newspapers Corporation
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The Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)

 

The Peach Belt Conference is going a different direction for its latest expansion.

The newest sports offering by the Columbia County-based NCAA Division II conference is one you won't find in a basketball arena or a soccer field. Instead, it's a game that's played on the computer.

The Peach Belt has added Esports to its lineup of athletic offerings. The 12 conference schools, including Augusta University and USC Aiken, will feature five-player teams (one alternate) that will face off in League of Legends, a popular online game. The schools will play an 11-game schedule in the fall and spring semesters.

At the end of the regular season, the top eight teams will advance to the Peach Belt Esports Championship. The Peach Belt is the first conference in the NCAA or NAIA to sponsor an Esports championship.

"We've got a great opportunity to showcase the Peach Belt," conference commissioner Dave Brunk said, "and really get a totally different subset of a campus community involved with the Peach Belt on its campus."

Brunk said he always challenges his staff to think outside the box. He wanted to know what the Peach Belt could offer that would be new and innovative, something that would make other conferences, institutions and businesses call wanting to know more. After a brainstorming session, the staff came up with Esports.

"I really hadn't heard much about Esports," Brunk said.

From AB: Leveraging the Esports Popularity Boom

After doing some research, he learned how big Esports is in the world. For the 2016 League of Legends World Championship semifinals, Madison Square Garden featured sold-out crowds for two consecutive nights (18,000 fans per night).

Earlier this year, he brought up the Esports idea with the vice chancellors/vice presidents of student affairs around the Peach Belt. The response? Everyone loved it. Later, Brunk presented the Esports proposal to the presidents of all the Peach Belt schools. Again, he received a positive response.

Now, the Peach Belt will start its Esports venture in October. So when Augusta and USC Aiken face each other, they will likely do so on a Friday night in a computer lab. The schools will log in and play each other online.

Brunk said two of the benefits of Esports are no travel and no lost class time.

"It's really a happening," he said. "We've got to walk before we run. We need to make sure everything goes as smooth as possible in Year One. Maybe the second year, we can expand it more."

The Esports teams will be run through each school's student affairs departments and overseen by the Peach Belt. Players have to meet eligibility requirements, like being a full-time student in good academic standing.

Brunk said this now gives an offering for students who pay athletic fees and never go to an athletic event.

"We're excited about it," Brunk said. "The Esports phenomena is going to keep growing and growing. For us to be on the cutting edge is huge."

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Copyright 2017 San Angelo Standard-Times
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San Angelo Standard-Times (Texas)

 

Not a week goes by without someone telling me to stick to sports. But sports don't exist in a bubble. Recent events remind us of that.

We've seen a white nationalist group appropriate - and reconfigure - the Red Wings' winged wheel; at least one other protester do the same with the Lions' logo; and Michigan's football coach, Jim Harbaugh, tweet his disavowal of the deadly marches in Charlottesville, Va.

Harbaugh is not new to the intersection of sports, politics, and race. Last fall, several of his players knelt during the national anthem at Michigan Stadium. His response was to support them.

He also, quite presciently, told us the sentiment that drove the on-field protests weren't going away.

"They are going to keep happening," he said.

Well, here we are, almost a year later, navigating what feels like a cauldron, which, as a white man, is an awfully privileged thing to write. Because, if we're being honest, for millions of Americans, it's felt like a cauldron a lot longer.

That's the message coming from so many corners of the sports world these days. The violence and marching in Virginia only intensified it.

It shouldn't be surprising that athletes are tired of staying silent. They are reacting to what they see. And what they see is unsettling.

This past week NBA megastars LeBron James and Kevin Durant decried the marches in Virginia, as did the NFL's Michael Bennett, who recently argued that the kneeled protests during the national anthem won't resonate until white NFL players join him.

Chris Long, a defensive end with Philadelphia who is from Charlottesville, became the first white player to jump in when he put his arm around teammate, Malcolm Jenkins, who stood with his fist raised during the anthem of a preseason game Thursday night.

Long said he wasn't comfortable kneeling before the flag. Still, by standing with Jenkins he showed solidarity, a gutsy move considering the backlash quarterback Colin Kaepernick and others received after similar protests a year ago.

Related: Other NFL Players Fill Kaepernick's Protest Void

Then, before a preseason game Monday, Cleveland Browns tight end Seth DeValve became the first white NFL player to kneel with black teammates, praying together while the national anthem played.

"We wanted to draw attention to the fact that there's things in this country that still need to change," said DeValve, whose wife is black.

Whatever blowback Long and DeValve get will pale to what his black teammates have already endured in trying to raise consciousness - Kaepernick, as of this writing, still doesn't have a job.

The backlash toward Kaepernick and the hundreds of other athletes who've spoken out in recent times comes from a specific place, of course, and from a (mostly white) fan base. From folks who are unable - or unwilling - to see the American flag as anything other than a narrow symbol of war and patriotism.

No one group in this country gets to own the flag. This was the message the Red Wings organization sent last week when it threatened legal action against those who fashioned the winged wheel into a kind of swastika, then imprinted the bastardized symbol on flags for the white nationalists to march with in Virginia.

Sports, like any public sphere, is a reflection of our political and moral culture. So that when a group of hateful souls take to the night with torches, the ripples of such a gathering will be felt among our athletes, and they're expressing what that feels like.

We've got a sports world that's never been more intertwined with politics, culture and justice. Asking athletes to stick to sports, then, is asking them to deny their humanity.

Yes, they may get paid to play a game. But they don't get paid to assuage white guilt. Or to provide a safe space free of the suffering of this world. Sports are no different than any other human endeavor in that way.

For the Wings, seeing the emblem was a jolt, and a reminder of how much hate remains. A reminder that Kaepernick and Bennett and many of Harbaugh's players don't need.

That uneasy and sickening sense a lot of white America's been grappling with the last week is nothing new for minority communities. It's simply life. Which is the message these athletes are trying to send.

It would be helpful if we listened. No matter how uncomfortable it might be.

Because, as Harbaugh noted, the message is not going away.

Nor should it.

Shawn Windsor is a sports feature writer at Detroit Free Press. Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.


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Copyright 2017 Collier County Publishing Company
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Naples Daily News (Florida)

 

Florida Gulf Coast University students Matthew Landers and Max Costanzo think they can do what some FGCU leaders are unwilling to try - bring football to the school.

Landers and Costanzo are on a mission to start a student-run club football team. Their hope is the team will be the seed that leads to FGCU one day starting a NCAA team.

"To be completely honest, sometimes at FGCU I feel we don't get that real college experience, like Florida State and all the bigger schools who have the football teams," Costanzo said. "It's not bad. I love being at FGCU, and I love how it's more tight-knit compared to those bigger schools, which is what I love."

"I just wish we had some of the bigger aspects, like the football team and all that."

The students' goal is to field a team by the fall of 2018, but there are many obstacles they will have to overcome. The issues range from finding a field to play home games to figuring out how the team will get to away games.

Their goal is to raise $20,000. The money will go toward buying helmets, pads, jerseys and equipment. The students have raised about $200, Landers said.

"It does get overwhelming at times," said Landers, who came up with the idea to try and start a team. "Most of the time I don't mind it just because I love this sport, and I love this school. I want to see everything grow, and I want to see this happen."

In 2011, FGCU decided it was not ready to start an NCAA football program. The school commissioned a study that found it would need to spend $90 million on a 15,000-seat stadium and $5.9 million annually on scholarships for players and the additional women's sports the school would have to create to maintain gender-equity.

"I never want to discourage any student or organization from doing something that they have a goal in life to do, but it will be a hurdle for them, I would think, in trying to do," said Robbie Roepstorff, a member of the FGCU Board of Trustees. "But who knows?"

FGCU alumni Harry Casimir likes the prospect of students possibly starting a team.

"I love sports no matter what kind, and I know many of my friends, we have to drive hours just to watch a college football," said Kasmir, a 2005 graduate.

"I would love to see that, and I would absolutely support them in any capacity that I can."

Some schools don't want club football teams

Universities nationwide, including FGCU, offer club sports. The student-run teams are not regulated by the NCAA or NAIA. FGCU has 24 club teams, including hockey, lacrosse, baseball and a cheer team.

Landers and Costanzo have spent the past several months trying to raise funds, getting the word out about the team and doing research. They have attended freshmen orientation sessions and created a GoFundMe page.

If the team becomes a reality, it plans to join the National Club Football Association. The association is a 26-member league that includes a team from the University of Florida.

Teams pay a $1,300-a-year fee that includes liability insurance coverage, said Sandy Sanderson, the CEO and president of the National Federation of Collegiate Club Sports.

Sanderson said a football team in the league needs a minimum of 22 players and can get by on a shoestring budget of about $15,000.

Sanderson said many students never get the chance to see if they can be successful.

"Three out of every four teams that try to get started, the school shuts it down before it starts because they are afraid of the liability..., which is a shame," he said.

Sanderson said in the past students have wanted to start club football teams with the grandiose idea that it would become a university's varsity team.

"I don't see the two of those being correlated at all," he said. "There is such a difference between a club football team and a varsity football team because you are talking about building stadiums, multimillion dollar coaching staffs, recruiting, scholarships."

Will students attend club football games?

At FGCU, a student-ledSport Clubs Council oversees club sports.

Getting the council's approval to be a part of FGCU's Sport Clubs Program may not be easy for Landers and Costanzo.

The council has turned down applications in the past but has given the groups second chances to prove they are ready to be a program member, said Amy Swingle, director of Campus Recreation.

Clubs that get the FGCU Sport Clubs Council's approval are eligible for funding. The money comes from student fees.

The sport club teams must make budget requests each year, but there is no guarantee they will get any money. The Sport Clubs Council's budget for the 2017 school year is $271,500.

The club hockey team gets the most funding - roughly $84,000. Student government agreed years ago to pay for FGCU students to attend the team's off-campus games and for the rental of the facility where the team plays and practices, Swingle said.

The quidditch team gets the least amount of funding - about $2,500.

Swingle said some club teams, including lacrosse, rugby, and hockey, have big followings. She said if the football team becomes a reality, it will be interesting to see if it has similar fan interest.

"You know students want to see good competition, and the other thing they want to see is their friends play," she said. "Depending on that dynamic, if they hit that right mix, the students will come out."

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Newsday (New York)

 

A 14-year-old boy died after collapsing during football practice at Mount Saint Michael Academy in the Bronx on Tuesday morning, police said.

Dominick Bess was an honors student who aspired for "the American dream," according to his uncle Bertram Meade, 56.

"Dominick was a very ambitious, well behaved, well-rounded young man. Very outgoing, very smart," Meade said. Bess received an award for best student at his middle school graduation in June, he said. "He loved sports, he loved basketball. He wanted to aspire to a football scholarship."

Bess was reported unresponsive on the field of the school, located at 4300 Murdock Ave. in Wakefield, around 9:30 a.m., according to police. The teen was rushed to Montefiore Medical Center North Division where he was pronounced dead, an NYPD spokeswoman said.

Bess, an incoming freshman, collapsed during "noncontact" practice, according to a school spokeswoman.

"Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends, as well as coaches, the team and our student athletes," spokeswoman Lisa Bennett said in a letter posted to Facebook and Twitter.

Standing outside of the teen's home Tuesday afternoon, Meade said Bess' mother was not doing well. "Words evade me," his uncle said. My nephew "just wanted to make a difference, wanted to make his family proud, his mother proud."

Bess and the other students were outside exercising in shorts and T-shirts, and were not wearing pads at the time, a source told News 12 the Bronx. School staff tried to resuscitate Bess using a defibrillator before emergency medical specialists arrived, News 12 reported.

The school will provide grief counselors for students, Bennett said.

Erica Farrell, the teen's godmother, described Bess as "the perfect kid," who was very close with his 17-year-old brother, D'andre Meade. This was the first summer the brothers had spent apart, with D'andre visiting his father in Boston, Meade said. He's now on his way home to be with the family.

"I'm at a loss - as a family, we are going to have to pull together and try," he said, adding that Bess' biological father lives in Brooklyn.

Neighbor Raymond Noel, 56, said Bess played basketball at a court across the street from his three-story brick home with his 12-year-old son. He said Bess was a respectful, "great kid," who "never got into trouble."

Family friend Mervin Harrigan, 48, said Bess' family is from the Caribbean island of Montserrat. He said the teen was supposed to make the whole island proud. "That's the plans we had for this kid."

The city medical examiner's office will determine his cause of death.

Earlier this month, a junior football player died during a summer camp practice at Sachem High School East on Long Island. Joshua Mileto, 16, died after a log that he and four other players were carrying over their heads fell and struck him.

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USA TODAY

 

The Potomac Nationals, a minor league baseball club in suburban Washington, are a prime example of a question facing at least 160 baseball communities across the country: Should local taxpayers pay the multimillion-dollar price tags for modern stadiums that would lure or keep minor league teams in their towns?

Many economists argue that the amount of money spent on building ballparks does not return to the community. Team owners like to say that a new stadium creates jobs building and operating the facility, but most of those positions are seasonal. Sports also can bring excitement to a community, but only a sliver of residents might really care. Economists argue that the interests of a few impact everyone financially.

"A major league stadium generates roughly the same number of year-round, full-time jobs as a large Macy's department store," says Victor Matheson, economist and professor at College of the Holy Cross. "Minor league is going to generate maybe a tenth of that number. Most jobs being generated at the minor league level are very low-level, part-time, minimum-wage jobs."

Matheson argues that a new stadium often creates a "honeymoon effect," where increases in attendance rise for about the first 10 years. After that, he says, it typically levels out. Matheson does not believe this short period of higher ticket sales justifies the amount of money spent on a ballpark.

The Potomac team, known at the P-Nats, the advanced Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, play in Pfitzner Stadium, a 6,000-seat park built in 1984.

The Pfitz, as fans call it, is outdated, with metal bleachers lining most of the stands and dugouts that are smaller than those in average high schools. A growing trend across ballparks is open concourses, where concessions are located behind the first-level seating. The Pfitz's food stands are located by the front gate and behind the bleachers.

According to team owner Art Silber, Minor League Baseball told him the organization must have a new stadium by 2019 because of the deteriorating state of Pfitzner, which is on county land at the PWC Stadium Complex, surrounded by baseball diamonds for youth and adult leagues.

Silber, former president and CEO of Sterling Bank in Baltimore, introduced draft plans for a 6,000-seat ballpark to fans in 2012 and said the team would pay for the new ballpark by selling naming rights for $25 million.

However, as the years passed, Silber began to ask the county for funds, according to Prince William County Supervisor Pete Candland.

The proposed new location for the P-Nats is 6 miles away, near Interstate 95. Prince William County would issue bonds to build the stadium and a parking garage nearby for commuters to use when there are no games. The team would pay $2.7 million annual mortgage payments over 30 years and $450,000 a year to rent the land.

But after delays in getting county approval, Silber withdrew his plan for the new stadium on July 13, just five days before the Prince William County Board of Supervisors was to vote on holding a public referendum for taxpayers to decide on funding the $35 million stadium.

"The Nationals and JBG (the team's development group) would be the ones to benefit from this deal while the taxpayers assume the risk with it," Candland said.

Silber pulled out after the board appeared deadlocked on whether to approve the referendum, and, according to WTOP.com, he is looking for another city to be the team's home.

The P-Nats aren't the only minor league team wanting public funds to build a modern stadium.

The Pawtucket (R.I.) Red Sox shocked fans when they asked for public funds to build an $83 million stadium. The Class AAA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox divided the cost of the project by asking the city of Pawtucket to pay $15 million and the state of Rhode Island to cough up $23million. The team would be responsible for $45 million.

The Rhode Island Senate Finance Committee plans to vote on the funding in the fall.

In addition to local officials' emphasis on the economic benefits of a new stadium, they also cite modern stadiums as amenities to attract new residents, according to economist and UNC-Charlotte Professor Craig Depken.

"Minor league teams are looking at themselves as big-league teams with amenities like Wi-Fi or craft beer services, maybe a few restaurants or sky boxes," Depken said. "Minor league baseball tends to be very localized. The amenity factor is important. That's a quality of life issue. Because it does exist, it's something for us to do."

That's exactly how Norfolk, Va., looks at Harbor Park, home of the Norfolk Tides.

The stadium for the Class AAA affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles was built in 1993 and holds 12,000 fans. It has two levels of seating, an indoor restaurant and 24 indoor suites.

Harbor Park is owned by the city, which signed a 15-year lease extension in 2013.

In the offseason, Norfolk will invest $2.5 million in renovating the left-field picnic pavilion, installing new LED stadium lights and expanding the box office.

"They're a part of the community just the way a major league club would be in a larger city," said John Rhamstine, cultural, arts and entertainment director for Norfolk. "They bring people to downtown to eat and park and spend nights in our hotel rooms. So it's an economic driver as well as being part of the fabric."

The city has yet to look at construction bids for the project to determine the number of construction jobs created by the renovations, according to Rhamstine's office.

Matheson says stadiums can enhance the economy in their neighborhood but hurt other areas of the city.

"It's not like baseball stadiums create more people needing to eat," Matheson said. "It just rearranges where people are eating in that city.... That one sports bar dinner outside the stadium is one Italian dinner that's not being made across town at that restaurant."

Depken predicted that sports fans would begin to see how much stadiums cost in taxes and support these big-budget deals less often. He cited the NFL's Oakland Raiders' move to Las Vegas as a recent example.

When Las Vegas residents were polled in July 2016 on the city using about $500 million to build the Raiders a stadium, 55% opposed it. Only 35% were in favor, while 10% were undecided.

In March, NFL team owners voted to move the Raiders to Las Vegas, a deal that puts taxpayers on the hook for $750 million of the cost of a $1.7 billion stadium.

This is the reason economists like Matheson have an issue with the high amount of public funds used for stadiums. Everyone's money is being used on something not everyone wants or needs.

"We do know that sports make people happy," Matheson said. "So as long as you're justifying a stadium saying this is an amenity for our town rather than an economic generator, most economists wouldn't take issue with that.

"But when you say spending $30, $40, $50 million on a baseball stadium is good for the economy, we don't have a lot of evidence that that's true."

West writes for Medill News Service.

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USA TODAY

 

With the football season nearing, The Indianapolis Star sat with NCAA President Mark Emmert to discuss various issues surrounding college sports.

Q: The NCAA recently instituted a new sexual violence policy, which was followed by eight U.S. senators writing a letter to the NCAA asking what it will take to develop a uniform policy dealing with recruits and transfers who have a history of sexual assault. What do you think?

A: I think they're asking a lot of good and important questions, particularly questions that have to be answered in conjunction with the rest of higher education. This isn't an athletic issue, it's a higher ed issue. It's not even a higher ed issue, it's a societal issue, but we want to and what the committee (commissioned to combat campus sexual violence) is going to do, is work with higher education leaders so that athletics can be a leader in trying to drive some change around those kinds of questions.

The issues of admission and eligibility and who should be on campuses is obviously an enormously complex one, but it's one we need to get our arms around.

Q: Is that something the membership ought to be discussing collectively or left up to each school?

A: I think it depends. There are parts that need to be discussed on a national level and not just in sport, but across all of higher education. We want campuses to be safe, period, not just because there's concerns about athletes but because there's concerns about all students. So some of those things can be addressed nationally, some can be addressed even at a conference level and some at a campus level. The trick is finding the right role for everybody and then holding everybody accountable.

Q: Why do enforcement cases take so long to adjudicate?

A: In part because the system allows schools 60 days to respond to any allegation or any new information and then our staff has to respond to the responses of the university or the individual. In most cases, they get very drawn out because of the constant exchange between the school and my staff and then the engagement now of legal counsel in all these matters.

We continue to look to see if we can tighten up the exchange. You want to make sure students or anybody involved has time to gather information and respond to an allegation or an issue that's out there.

The most important thing for us is to make sure the process has integrity, moves along at a rate that preferably deals with issues while all actors are still involved -- sometimes by the time you get around to dealing with it the people involved in the original action are gone so we want to try to accelerate it for those purposes.

The tradeoff is making sure everyone has sufficient time to respond and present their information and evidence in a case. We've lowered the time of cases over the past few years quite a lot. Big high-profile cases that are being handled now in some cases look like they've been taking a long time, and indeed they have. If you look at North Carolina, that's been a long process clearly. But that's one where there was a lot of exchange between us and the university and everybody had 60-day response periods, and by the time you play that out, it's a long haul.

Q: The College Football Playoff is 3 years old now. Has it made college athletics more stable because of what it's done for conferences or less stable because of how much money is generated, which creates pressures on schools?

A: First of all, I think the football playoff has been terrific for football. I think the championship has become an extraordinary event. I think it's been a really positive thing for football. It's generated a lot of revenue for those 10 conferences and especially the (Power Five) conferences. And for the most part that's a good thing in that it provides more support for students because that's where most of the money goes.

But it has of course accelerated the financial differences between the Power Five -- we call them the Autonomous Five -- and everybody else. And that creates some tension for sure. But I would certainly rate the football playoff as a very positive thing.

Q: What's the extent to which the NCAA is addressing eSports?

A: Only in an exploratory fashion. This is an activity that's growing extremely rapidly in society, but on campuses as well. We don't know -- we being the (board of governors) and I -- and anyone else don't really know if it makes sense for the NCAA to have a role in eSports. But it's appropriate that we explore it and try to understand it.

A number of our conferences are hosting tournaments now, and some of them are starting to broadcast events on their streaming outlets and their TV networks. Lots and lots of colleges are having teams now, and so we're just trying to see what the landscape looks like and we'll talk about it again at our October meeting.

Litman writes for The Indianapolis Star, part of the USA TODAY Network.

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Suspended forward Sam Miller lost his UD scholarship after his July 30 arrest in Beavercreek.

Suspended University of Dayton basketball player Sam Miller pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct Tuesday afternoon after an incident in the Greene County Jail that originally landed him with an assault charge.

Miller, 20, will not serve additional jail time and will pay a $250 fine, according to court records.

Miller was accused of assaulting a fellow inmate on Sunday, July 30, in the Greene County Jail after an initial arrest for disorderly conduct by intoxication and underage consumption at Caddy's Taphouse in Beavercreek.

"The university has suspended me for one semester, a decision I have accepted without appeal. In addition, my scholarship has been revoked by the athletic department and, therefore, I will not be a part of the men's basketball program at the University of Dayton this fall," Miller said earlier this month in a statement to the Dayton Daily News. The scholarship was revoked for one year.

Miller's attorney, Dennis Lieberman, did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment.

On Monday, Dayton coach Anthony Grant told the Daily News' Tom Archdeacon that Miller "is a good kid who made a very, very bad decision."

"I think he has some personal issues that need attention and hopefully this incident will make him more aware of the things previous coaches and other people have seen," Grant told Archdeacon.

"We have to do what's best for UD basketball and we want our guys to know that while you do have freedom of choice, you don't have freedom of consequences.... But I also want to do what's going to be best for Sam down the way. I didn't want to try to make an example out of him," Grant said.

Miller appeared in 53 of 65 games the past two seasons, averaging 3.9 points and 1.8 rebounds. Miller averaged 3.2 points and 1.4 rebounds as a freshman.

Last season, he averaged 4.5 points and 2.3 rebounds as a sophomore. Miller was one of five returning players who averaged double-figure minutes. A sixth, junior forward Ryan Mikesell, will miss the season after undergoing two hip surgeries.

With Miller and Mikesell out for the season, Dayton will have 11 scholarship players available when the season begins.

Six of those, including five true freshmen, have never played for Dayton. The other newcomer is redshirt freshman Kostas Antetokounmpo, who sat out last season as a NCAA partial qualifier but did practice with the team starting in January.

Contact this reporter at 937-259-2086 or email Will.Garbe@coxinc.com.

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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

Going into last weekend, it was evident to many around the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus that Mark Wharton was the right choice to become the school's new vice chancellor and athletic director.

Wharton, already named as one of the four finalists, was the second candidate last week to get his chance to tour the school and meet the staff. Georgia's Jim Booz was first, coming on Aug. 14; Wharton a day later, followed by Duke's Gerald Harrison the next day and Marshall's Jeff O'Malley on Friday.

Yet some people's minds were made up Wednesday, once they had met with Wharton.

"He had a presence," one UTC official said.

"I thought he was the most polished, by far," said another.

Ultimately, the university agreed, naming the Penn State associate athletic director for development UTC's new athletic director Tuesday. He succeeds David Blackburn, who resigned in June after four successful years with the school.

Wharton will be introduced today at 2 p.m. at the Chattanooga Room in the University Center, with community members, fans and supporters invited to attend.

"I am extremely excited that Mark and his family are joining the Chattanooga community," UTC chancellor Dr. Steve Angle said in a school release. "He brings a wealth of knowledge and experiences in collegiate athletics administration to our university, and his expertise in fundraising fits perfectly with the needs of our athletics program."

During his four years at Penn State, Wharton was a member of the executive committee for the departmental strategic plan, the facilities master plan committee and the communications committee and developed revenue generations plans for the athletic department leadership team. According to UTC's release, he oversaw a staff of 23 who catered to the 23,000-member Nittany Lion Club. He helped bring in $38 million in total cash and support at Penn State, including $17.35 million in annual fund donations.

He also had specific sports responsibilties for wrestling and men's basketball. The wrestling program won three NCAA championships during his tenure, while the men's basketball team has had two top-30 recruiting classes in the last three seasons.

Wharton thanked Dr. Angle and Dr. Debbie Ingram, the search committee chair, while stating he was "humbled" by his new position.

"UTC has a strong history of athletic success and high academic achievement in the classroom," Wharton said in the announcement release. "I am excited to work with an outstanding group of coaches and administrators to ensure sustained excellence for all our student-athletes in the classroom, on their respective fields of play and in the community. My family and I cannot wait to call Chattanooga home."

Penn State student-athletes posted a 3.11 aggregate grade point average during his time there, with an 89 percent graduation success rate. All athletic programs at Penn State exceed the NCAA Academic Progress Rate standards.

From 2006 to 2013, Wharton was the assistant athletic director/executive director of the East Carolina University Educational Foundation (Pirate Club). He helped grow the club into one of the strongest mid-major booster groups in the country, now totaling more than 17,000 members.

From 2004 to 2006, Wharton was the associate athletic director for development at UNLV. His implementation of a new annual giving campaign in 2004, entitled the "The Representative Program," increased annual giving nearly 22 percent and resulted in a 15 percent climb in Rebel Athletic Fund donors.

Prior to his stint at UNLV, Wharton spent 13 years in full-time development, ticketing or marketing roles in upper administration positions at UNC-Asheville (2003-04), James Madison (2000-03) and East Carolina (1996-2000). He was a front-office member of the Kinston Indians baseball club from 1991 to 1994.

Wharton earned his bachelor's degree in leisure studies from East Carolina in 1993 and a master's degree in human ecology with an emphasis in sport management from Tennessee in 1995. He is a member of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and the National Association of Athletic Development Directors.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.

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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

 

Citadel football fans at the Bulldogs' home opener against Newberry on Sept. 2 will find something new at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

A beer garden.

The military school will sell beer during football games for the first time this season. Beer sales will be limited to a 500-person "beer garden" tent inside Johnson Hagood Stadium.

The tent will be located in the southeast corner of the stadium, where aging stands were demolished this summer. There will be a three-beer limit per patron, and Citadel cadets of legal age (21) will not be able to buy beer in the tent.

Beer drinking will be limited to the beer garden and will not be allowed in the stands, according to the plan presented by athletic director Jim Senter to a Board of Visitors committee on Tuesday. The BOV approved beer sales earlier this summer.

Senter said the decision to sell beer at football games is less about revenue and more about the fan experience.

Related: College Athletics Departments Tap into Beer for Revenue

"Everybody thinks that we want to do this because of revenue," Senter said. "But the truth is we want to provide the same kind of amenities that fans expect now at sporting events, like at the RiverDogs or Stingrays or Battery games.

"It's becoming more prevalent in college venues, and it's not so much about the money as it is about the fan experience."

The Citadel, College of Charleston and Coastal Carolina sold beer at baseball games last season, but it appears The Citadel is the first Division I school in the state to sell beer at football games.

Senter said The Citadel will partner with Southern Eagle Distributing and Top Shelf Catering to provide beverages and food in the beer garden. The Citadel will split net profits "50-50" with its partners, Senter said.

The beer garden will feature two TVs for fans to watch games, and bartenders to serve beer. Patrons will be limited to three 12-ounce beers using a wristband system.

Though Citadel cadets of legal drinking age were allowed to buy beer during baseball games at Riley Park, they will not be able to purchase beer at football games.

"The biggest challenge for us is that we have 2,300 cadets who are required to go to the football games," Senter said. "A baseball game is much less attended and we don't make them go to baseball games. Our thought was, we'll be conservative and offer this to our fans to start with, and see how things go from there."

Purdue, Boston College and Ohio University are among schools that decided this summer to sell beer at football games this season. As of last season, there were about 40 Division I schools selling beer at football games. Clemson and South Carolina do not sell beer at football games.

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Copyright 2017 Journal - Gazette Aug 22, 2017

Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

 

There are three ways in which Fred Glass and the Indiana athletic department believe they should be developing their student-athletes - academically, athletically and personally.

But until the April 28 groundbreaking of the Memorial Stadium South End Zone Excellence Academy, only facilities catering to academic and athletic developments had been checked off the list.

"This, the Excellence Academy, is dedicated to personal development of our student-athletes, that which they will really take with them when they leave us," Glass said.

Glass took media members on a tour of the Excellence Academy construction site Monday afternoon before a news conference in the Henke Hall of Champions.

"All the space is dedicated to the development of our student-athletes," Glass said. "There's not administrator offices, or coaches offices, or anything like that. Every piece of it is dedicated to serving our student-athletes."

The Excellence Center is a $53 million project to be completed by the summer of 2018 that will create a new "front door" for Memorial Stadium in what will be named Miller Plaza and complete the "Circle of Excellence" on the athletics campus.

The Circle of Excellence, which includes the D. Ames Shuel Academic Center and the Jay and Nancy Wilkinson Performance Center, represents the academic, athletic and personal developments Glass referred to in his talk before the tour.

"The new Excellence Academy building enables us to put that program literally and figuratively in concrete," Glass said.

The three major facets of the Excellence Academy will be the Hancock Hiltunen Caito Center for Leadership and Life Skills, The Dr. Lawrence Rink Center for Sports Medicine and Technology and the Tobias Nutrition Center.

Of the three, the Rink Center will be the most technologically advanced. This portion will be made up of the Center for Elite Athlete Development, the Rehabilitation and Treatment Center, and the Irsay Family Wellness Clinic.

"This is going to be like crazy, Star Wars, super-?advanced technology," Glass said.

These pieces will house tools such as 3-D imagery and visual acuity D2 boards among other diagnostic and biometric technology that will provide research to help athletes not just in the future but in the present.

"The thing I like most about it is it's not really research stuff to make better athletes in 10 or 20 years," Glass said. "It's applying science right now to improve our kids' performance ability while they're here at Indiana."

The Hancock Hiltunen Caito Center for Leadership and Life Skills most notably will include the Career Counseling Center, one dedicated entirely to the advising of student-athletes.

"I think it'll be a great amenity to have help our kids transition from student-athletes to being employed in the workforce."

Finally, the Tobias Nutrition Center will operate like a suite that can be used for major events and include floor-to-ceiling windows.

The final project will also include a rooftop terrace, new video boards in both the south and north end zones, a ribbon board in the south end zone and upgrades to the home football locker rooms and player lounge.

The home locker room and player lounge will be the final chips to fall, as they won't break ground until the summer of 2018 and will be completed in the summer of 2019.

Glass did specify that the visiting locker room is not in the plans for renovation at this time.

"We won't be painting it pink," Glass joked in reference to Big Ten foe Iowa's visiting locker room that is painted entirely pink. "But we won't be fixing it up either."

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August 24, 2017
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2017 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

Two former coaches are suing Spring Hill Gymnastics in Elgin, which closed abruptly last week. Ryan Gilblair and Ashley Hitchcock filed the federal lawsuit in March claiming that owner Mary Joe Roehrig failed to pay them minimum wages and overtime, took unauthorized deductions from their paychecks, and terminated them when they complained. Co-owner Dale Roehrig said he and his wife are not concerned about the lawsuit and that it is being handled by their insurance company.

The couple closed the gym because of illness and financial concerns, and the federal lawsuit wasn't part of the decision, he said. Antoinette Choate, a lawyer representing Gilblair and Hitchcock, couldn't be reached for comment.

According to the lawsuit, Gilblair was hired in May 2016 as a coach for the "ninja program" and Hitchcock was hired in June 2016 as part of team management. Gilblair was told he'd earn a salary of $35,000 per year but was paid that only when he worked more than 40 hours, the lawsuit states. Otherwise, he was paid hourly, and he worked between nine and 61.5 hours per week, the lawsuit states.

Hitchcock was told she'd earn $36,000 yearly and she, too, was paid that only when she worked more than 40 hours per week, the lawsuit states. Otherwise, she was paid hourly, and she worked between five and 42 hours per week, according to the suit.

Both employees were never paid overtime, were paid nothing during certain weeks, and were fired in September after they complained, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit is next due in court Sept. 19. Kane County court records show Dale Roehrig and Spring Hill Gymnastics filed a lawsuit in August 2016 against real estate holding company 1660 Daniels Road LLC. The lawsuit seeks $54,821.54, plus interest, for labor, materials and work to build out the interior of 999 W. Main St., West Dundee, which houses LifeZone 360 Sports Complex.

The lawsuit says owners had an "oral contract" with the company and are owed for work from July 2015 to January 2016.

Roehrig said he and his wife wanted to have a recreational gym for younger kids in West Dundee. They pulled out of the deal, he said, when they realized plans to serve alcohol would allow people to drink while watching gymnasts practice. "That contributed to our financial issues," he said. Jeff Dunham, a partner for LifeZone, couldn't be reached for comment. The lawsuit is next due in court Oct. 19.

* Daily Herald staff writer Harry Hitzeman contributed to this report.

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August 23, 2017
 
 
 

 

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Chicago Daily Herald

 

St. Charles school officials spent most of the summer working on a facelift for the Norris Recreation Center. An unplanned event Monday will mean there's a lot more work to do.

A fire shortly after 8 a.m. in a men's locker room caused $250,000 worth of damage.

Eight fire departments responded to the alarm, which was automatically triggered by the existing fire safety system. The fire took 30 minutes to get under control.

A firefighter was taken to Delnor Hospital in Geneva. He was treated and released for what fire officials described as a minor injury. The occupants of the building at the time of the fire evacuated without injury.

The $250,000 estimated loss is the result of extensive smoke penetration through the building.

The Norris Center, which is operated in a partnership agreement between the school and park districts, was nearing the end stages of $2.3 million worth of construction work. School board members are set to get an update on that work Thursday night.

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August 23, 2017
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2017 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

I was once invited to take a tour deep into the inner sanctums of the Pentagon by a family member who worked there. I had to provide credentials and was thoroughly vetted months in advance. I had to pass through layer upon layer of security as I moved deeper into the building. I was escorted everywhere I went. It was serious business.

In other words, it was a lot like covering college football these days, except it was easier.

With increasing frequency, football coaches are dictating much of the way journalists do their jobs. During fall camp, reporters, escorted and monitored by school officials as they venture into the football facilities, are on a short leash. They are told where they can go, whom they can talk to, how long they can talk to them, and what they are allowed to write, tell or show. They would write our stories for us, if we let them (mine is up for grabs to the highest bidder).

Paranoia is running wild in college football; they're circling the wagons.

And yet, to be fair, some of it is actually understandable.

Notre Dame presented the following restrictions on reporters this year: They cannot tweet or use any social media until practice is finished and/or the coach has met with media; they cannot release more than three minutes of video per day and only "tight" shots are allowed (they cannot show multiple players, formations or specific plays); they cannot report injuries until the school has released the information; they cannot quote or paraphrase comments made by coaches during practice; they must stand at attention and ask for permission to use the bathroom.

I might have made up the last one.

Many other schools have adopted variations on the theme. LSU announced this year that preseason football camp would be closed to the media and public. (To which, I say, THANK YOU. It has become a pointless exercise anyway, given the restrictions.)

Utah bans live reports "of any type" from practice. The Utes grant 10 minutes to interview players after practice, "starting when they come off the field," which means reporters must perform interviews as fast as an auctioneer. Reporters can observe only the final 20 minutes of select practices - wind sprints, it often turns out. The Utes are among those teams that won't let some players talk to the media, usually because they've been in trouble.

BYU banned reporters from all but the final 30 minutes of practice during fall camp and years ago adopted many of the prohibitions above. Under Bronco Mendenhall, who sucked the fun out of everything, BYU was ahead of its time in terms of circling the wagons.

Bobby Bowden believed it was good for players to deal with the media - to express themselves and speak publicly - but a new generation of coaches believes otherwise.

On the other hand, it's easy to criticize the coaches and their schools for overreaching - and some of them are - but it's not quite that simple.

"I don't think most coaches would have envisioned implementing these kinds of media restrictions in the past," says Liz Abel, Utah's longtime sports information director. "The advent of social media and multiple websites and blogs covering college athletics has totally changed the landscape."

This has brought a herd of untrained journalists to the sideline. Anyone with a blog or Twitter account can request credentials and act like a reporter. Journalism is not rocket science, but there are a number of inviolable do's and don'ts these newcomers don't always understand. Their primary interest is speed. They see something at practice and they instantly tweet it without checking the facts (things not always being as they appear). And then the mainstream media feels a need to keep up with this nonsense and the tweeting grows from there.

Then there's this: Some of them have tweeted and photographed specific plays - including trick plays - and other teams' tactical secrets. You don't need a journalism degree to know that violates the trust of the coaches, but common sense helps.

"There are new people every day, so there isn't the relationship between reporters and coaches anymore," says one observer.

Why not deny credentials to this group? Abel explains: "We have no way to establish who is a 'trained' journalist, and a past court ruling on the topic doesn't allow us to tell someone they aren't a 'real' media outlet."

So there it is: Coaches, who already have paranoid tendencies, have clamped down on the media (the electronic age probably provided a convenient excuse for some coaches who wanted to control the media a long time ago). Some of the schools have their own PR department hammering out stories and putting their spin on things, which means someday they might simply spoon feed the media and deny access entirely, thus doing away with honest, objective reporting.

It's a dramatic and relatively sudden change in the game's relationship to the media. Reporters used to ride around the practice field with LaVell Edwards in his golf cart to pick his brain about the team. It was casual, laid-back and open. Reporters could get to know the players and coaches and tell stories in a way that Twitter can't match.

Those days are gone.

Email: drob@deseretnews.com

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August 22, 2017
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2017 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
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Palm Beach Post (Florida)

 

A West Palm Beach teen was arrested Friday night after she reportedly fired a stun gun while at the Park Vista High School football game, school police records show.

A teacher told a school officer during the preseason game against Pahokee High School that he'd seen a girl with bright pink hair set off a stun gun.

The teacher pointed to 18-year-old Christine Bernard, identifying her as the one who'd fired that gun.

When authorities approached Bernard in the stands at the suburban Boynton Beach school, she handed over the stun gun. But when an officer asked for her name, she lied.

She did so, she said, because she was afraid of getting into trouble.

Bernard faces weapon offense and fraud charges. She was booked early Saturday into the Palm Beach County Jail and released later that day on a $3,000 surety bond.

It is unclear where Bernard reportedly fired the gun or whether anyone was struck.

Bernard does not appear to have an adult criminal record in Palm Beach County.

ohitchcock@pbpost.com Twitter: @ohitchcock

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August 22, 2017
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

The deal keeps Roger Goodell through 2024.

Commissioner Roger Goodell is on track to maintain his prominent place at the table for the next round of collective bargaining between NFL owners and players, a process that's sure to be contentious.

The league is working on a five-year contract extension for Goodell, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Monday because the deal is not complete. Sports Business Journal first reported the negotiations.

Goodell's contract is up after the 2019 season. The new deal would go through 2024. The collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2020 season.

Goodell replaced Paul Tagliabue as commissioner in 2006. He earned just over $31 million for the 2015 season, down from about $34 million in 2014. Because the league office is no longer classified as a tax-exempt organization, the commissioner's salary is no longer required to be made public through tax filings. In 2013, he made $35 million. In 2012, he collected $44.2 million.

Though TV ratings were down 8 percent last year and concerns about concussions have not subsided, NFL revenues have been steadily on the rise during Goodell's tenure, $13 billion at last report. New stadiums, with significant public contributions, have continued to open across the league.

Though conflict has surfaced at times with individual owners, notably New England's Bob Kraft in response to discipline for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for the deflated footballs scandal, Goodell has clearly overseen enough success to gain the trust of the clubs. The move toward this extension signaled as much. There's another labor feud looming, with the potential for a lockout or a strike in 2021, so the owners will need faith in their leadership.

While Goodell's job comes with a natural dose of divisiveness, he has become the face of player discontent with the league's discipline system. Goodell's recent decision to suspend Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games in a case of alleged domestic violence has sparked anew the sniping between the league office and the NFL Players Association.

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August 22, 2017
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

STEUBENVILLE - The man who shot a judge outside a county courthouse before being gunned down by a probation officer was the father of a Steubenville High School football player who was convicted of rape in 2013, authorities said Monday.

Jefferson County Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. was shot at around 8 a.m. near the courthouse in Steubenville.

Authorities identified the gunman as Nathaniel "Nate" Richmond, the father of Ma'Lik Richmond. Ma'Lik served about 10 months in a juvenile lockup after being convicted with another Steubenville High School football player of raping a 16-year-old girl during an alcohol-fueled party in 2012.

The case brought international attention to the eastern Ohio city of 18,000 and led to allegations of a cover-up to protect the football team.

Investigators are still looking for a motive and haven't found a connection to the rape case, said Jefferson County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin.

A visiting judge from Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is located, handled the vast majority of the rape case.

Courthouse video shows both the judge and Nate Richmond firing about five times each, said Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla.

"Whoever thought this could happen here?" Abdalla said.

Steubenville City Manager James Mavromatis tells WTOV-TV that Bruzzese was talking after being wounded. He was flown to a Pittsburgh-area hospital. Republican Gov. John Kasich said he was told the judge would survive.

The attack had to be intentional because people know about the reserved spots where judges park, said one of Bruzzese's judicial colleagues.

Judge Joseph Corabi said he and the county's two other judges park in reserved spots next to the courthouse in eastern Ohio. Judges then walk a few feet down what's known as "Courthouse Alley" to a side entrance to the building, said Corabi, the Jefferson County juvenile and probate court judge.

"Everybody knows who parks there. That's why it's not an accident what happened. He was clearly an intended target," Corabi said.

Ma'Lik Richmond is currently on the Youngstown State football team but isn't allowed to play in any games, the school said earlier this month in responding to criticism surrounding his participation.

Corabi said Bruzzese is known as an avid hunter. He called him fair, hard-working, well-liked and "a tough son of a gun."

"He is very intelligent and he can cut to the chase," Corabi said. "He spots issues and he resolves the issues."

Bruzzese, 65, hears general and domestic relations cases as one of two judges serving in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court.

Bruzzese has served on that court since 1997, according to Ohio Supreme Court records. He was most recently re-elected in 2014 for another six-year term.

Bruzzese had likely arrived early to review his usual Monday morning batch of legal motions, Corabi said.

Local media reported that the suspect's body could be seen lying next to a car at the drive-thru of a neighboring bank. Police said a man who was in the car with him was taken into custody.

The courthouse was closed for the day as local and state authorities helped secure the scene. Jefferson County Commissioner Thomas Graham told WTOV that some courthouse workers witnessed the "tragic situation" and that people would need time to process what had happened.

 
August 22, 2017
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2017 South Bend Tribune Corporation
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South Bend Tribune (Indiana)

 

SOUTH BEND -- He worked in and around Notre Dame Stadium for more than 50 years, but Spencer Grady almost didn't know where he was during public tours of the expanded facility on Sunday.

"I could get lost here now," joked Grady.

Grady, 84, and his wife, Lillie, of South Bend, walked through part of one of the new buildings with friends, drawn to the event out of curiosity to see what three years of construction at the stadium had yielded.

They looked around with a degree of awe.

What was most impressive?

"Everything," Lillie Grady said.

"I can't believe it," said Spencer Grady, who retired years ago as assistant stadium director.

University officials offered the public on Sunday the chance to tour portions of the new buildings that now hug the stadium on three sides. The public also was invited to watch a scrimmage in the stadium, which features some new amenities, including a huge video board on the south end, attached to the new O'Neill Hall.

South Club, a private club/lounge, was open to tour in O'Neill. Floors showcasing premium seating areas were open for visitors to see in the new Duncan Student Center on the west side of the stadium and in the new Corbett Family Hall on the east side.

Long lines of people wrapped around the outside of the buildings and began streaming inside at 2 p.m., aided by a host of staff. At Duncan, crowds quickly filled the premium seating areas on the seventh and eighth floors.

Everything seemed to amaze, from the panoramic views of the football field and campus, to the private terraces, to the cushioned seats and well-appointed surroundings with fine wood and marble.

"Spectacular!" said Paul Zovinski, using the word a lot of people were using.

Zovinski, 68, who lives in Tampa, Fla., but grew up in South Bend and is a die-hard Notre Dame fan, was eager to see the new stadium. He and family members visited Duncan Student Center.

"It's great to see the tradition keep growing and growing. The magic continues," he said.

Gazing out at the wide, full view of the football field with the buildings and video board surrounding it, Zovinski grew a little nostalgic.

He remembered selling hotdogs as a youth outside the stadium in the 1960s when all that surrounded the bowl was "dirt," he said.

"I love it," said Zovinski of the new stadium, "but I'm thinking of the old days. This is professional ? It's lost its high school football charm."

His cousin, John Zovinski of Mishawaka, said he attends about one Notre Dame football game each year and was eager to see how the stadium has changed.

"I like the idea of the jumbo-tron very much. I'm OK with change," he said. Andrew Petrisin graduated from Notre Dame just last year and so was going to school while the stadium construction project was ongoing.

"It's nice that it's finally done," he said, touring the Duncan building with family. "I hope the building can be used for a lot of different purposes."

Petrisin pointed to a detail that caught his eye: names of the dorms on campus, ringing a balcony in gold letters.

"I think that's neat," he said. "People will look for their dorm. I did."

Notre Dame's $400 million Campus Crossroads project, which got underway in 2014, added three buildings to the exterior of the 87-year-old football stadium, as well as premium fan seating atop those buildings. The university plans to host other events, such as concerts and professional sports teams, in the stadium, and will make the hospitality spaces available for lease for large functions.

Construction work continues on the three Campus Crossroads buildings, but the football stadium will be ready when fans arrive for the first home game Sept. 2.

Duncan Student Center is a nine-story study, fitness, career counseling and student activities building. Corbett Family Hall, also nine stories, is an anthropology, psychology and digital media building. O'Neill Hall is a six-story music building to which the video board overlooking the stadium is attached. The board measures 54.1 feet high and 95.5 feet wide.

The stadium itself looks much the same, with the addition of the towering video board and ribbon video boards. The traditional redwood benches have been replaced by steel benches covered in blue vinyl. Bench seating in the lower bowl has been renumbered, adding an average width of 2 inches of space for each fan. About 3,000 premium seats have been added, but with other seating adjustments, overall seating capacity will decrease from 80,795 to between 78,000 and 79,000.

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August 25, 2017
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2017 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

USA TODAY

 

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman criticized USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee for their response to the sport's sexual abuse crisis, saying she thinks they're more concerned about sweeping it under the rug or protecting themselves legally than making sure it never happens again.

In a joint interview with USA TODAY Sports and the Associated Press on Saturday, Raisman said revelations of widespread abuse by longtime team physician Larry Nassar and the reaction by the governing bodies have colored the way she views her sport.

"The people at the very top, that work at the office every single day at USA Gymnastics, they need to do better," Raisman said.

"It's making me sad. I'm here to support my teammates, because we got inducted to the Hall of Fame, and I'm here to support the girls who are competing. I love the Olympics. I love gymnastics. I love the sport.

"But I don't support how USA Gymnastics is handling everything right now."

Nassar pleaded guilty last month to federal child pornography charges and faces 22 to 27 years in prison when he's sentenced Nov. 27. He also faces 33 charges of criminal sexual conduct in Michigan and has been sued by more than 125 women and girls who said Nassar sexually abused them during medical appointments.

USA Gymnastics has been named in some lawsuits, and the USOC is a party in at least one, accused of not doing enough to protect gymnasts from the abuse. After a far-reaching review of the federation's practices, former federal prosecutor Deborah Daniels said USA Gymnastics needed a "complete cultural change," putting the priority on the safety and well-being of athletes rather than world and Olympic medals.

Nassar and USA Gymnastics first came under public scrutiny after an investigation by The Indianapolis Star a year ago.

"It doesn't matter if you're the Olympic champion or you're an 8-year-old that goes to gymnastics in Ohio or wherever you are in the United States," Raisman said. "Every single kid is important, and I want USA Gymnastics to do a better job with that."

Raisman declined to detail her interactions with Nassar and she said she waited until now to speak out in part because she'd been hoping to see substantive efforts to change by USA Gymnastics or the USOC.

So far, she has been disappointed.

"I just would like a little more accountability from USA Gymnastics and the USOC," she said. "I feel like there's a lot of articles about it, but nobody has said, 'This is horrible. This is what we're doing to change.'"

USA Gymnastics adopted all 70 recommendations made by Daniels and is working to implement them. It also hired a director of SafeSport who will coordinate education efforts for the federation.

"We welcome (Raisman's) passion on this critical issue," USA Gymnastics said in a statement. "As we have said, we are appalled by the conduct of which Larry Nassar is accused. And, we are sorry that any athlete has been harmed during her or his gymnastics career.

"We are taking this issue head-on, and we want to work with Aly and all interested athletes to keep athletes safe."

The U.S. Center for SafeSport, which the USOC created to investigate all sexual abuse complaints in the Olympic movement, opened in March.

But Raisman said she has not been contacted by Daniels or heard from anyone at SafeSport. Daniels said after her report was released that she did not review cases to see where USA Gymnastics failed.

"It can't just be about we're making sure the athletes feel safe now," Raisman said. "It has to be going back and apologizing and going to these families and going to all these gymnasts and saying, 'What made you feel unsafe? What can we do for the next generation?'

"They need to be calling up all of these people that have come forward and say, 'Can you please help us and tell us what part of it was wrong? What part made you feel unsafe? What could we do differently?'

"You can't really create change unless you ask the other gymnasts that have come before, what can they do to help?"

While Jamie Dantzscher, a bronze medalist in the Sydney Olympics who has said she was abused by Nassar, has spoken out publicly, Raisman is the highest-profile athlete to level criticism. She won three medals each in the London and Rio Games and appeared on Dancing with the Stars.

She has been outspoken on social media in recent months about body positivity and cyberbullying and said she feels a responsibility to lend her voice in hopes of supporting victims and preventing future ones.

"It's important to speak up for something, and it's right," she said. "More people need to talk about it, and I just feel that it's not getting enough attention in the sport. That's what bothers me. I want these young girls to know.

"It should have never, ever happened, and I think that needs to be discussed more."

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August 21, 2017
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2017 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc.
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The New York Post

 

August Madness.

It may as well have appeared in the classified section under Situations Wanted: "Itinerant high school basketball superstar seeks college scholarship for one season, no more than two."

Time will tell if the TV-delivered and sustained myth that Duke basketball is a high-integrity, uncompromising program that produces championships and legitimate student-athletes will persist this season.

In the flooded cesspool that drives college basketball and NCAA TV contracts, Duke, we've so often been told, succeeds where Don Quixote and Pollyanna failed.

Duke, last week, landed the nation's top recruit, 6-foot-11 Marvin Bagley III, the kind of does-it-all player for whom coaches and colleges sell their souls to even briefly call theirs.

Bagley is already regarded as a Top 3 NBA draft pick - next year! Technically a high school senior, he's hoping the NCAA will grant him "reclassification" status so he can play this season at Duke then enter the draft.

And he'll arrive at Duke having played for three high schools in two states, Arizona and California.

While such a transient high-school career may strike the normal instincts as abnormal, it's the new normal for many promising basketball children. Dubious "academies" and "prep schools" now exist in large part to serve as work-on-their-games, fill-out-their-frames warehouses inventoried by big-time college coaches.

Bagley and his loved ones must forgive my cynicism, but I wasn't born cynical; big-time college sports are simply not be trusted.

Still, given that it's Duke, we're supposed to regard Bagley as a legitimate, Duke-qualified full-scholarship student-athlete who meets with coach Mike Krzyzewski's heralded high standards - at least as heard on TV, especially CBS and ESPN.

Imagine what those desensitized, TV-celebrated "Cameron Crazies" would do to Bagley if he played at Duke for UNC, North Carolina St. or Kentucky. They'd mob-trash him as a one-and-done rent-a-star.

Then there's the decades-long rationalization that "If we didn't recruit him someone else would." Southern Cal finished a deeply disappointed - as in crushed - second to Duke for Bagley.

And by now you know the other rationalization: It's a business.

It's a business that escapes examination and courtroom adjudication. If an ostensibly clean business serves as a false front for a criminal enterprise, it's called racketeering; accused offenders can be imprisoned for long stretches if convicted.

That our colleges - many of them taxpayer-funded and growing prohibitively expensive - serve as fronts for expensive basketball and football teams that only provide full-scholarship recruits with legitimate college educations by accident, also fits that - my - definition of racketeering.

And with college coaches by far the highest-salaried employees of colleges and state governments, those most richly rewarded serve nothing more or better than further serving the schools as fronts.

What a racket.

phil.mushnick@nypost.com

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August 21, 2017
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

Mercedes-Benz Stadium is likely to add momentum to an already improving downtown, but how much push it will provide is a matter of debate among Atlanta's business and political leaders.

As flashy, costly and imposing as it is, the stadium replaces another facility -- the Georgia Dome -- so by itself it probably won't reshape downtown, experts say. But the $1.5 billion home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United is expected to draw millions of visitors, who will continue to bring economic energy to the rapidly changing core of the city.

Downtown is booming unlike any time since the 1996 Summer Olympic Games -- with billions in new development underway or on the drawing board. New apartments are going up near Centennial Olympic Park. After the Georgia Dome is razed, the Georgia World Congress Center plans a luxury hotel and a new park space. The Hawks and partners could build a new mixed-use project near Philips Arena.

"We feel as if everything is coming together," said Wilma Sothern, vice president of downtown business group Central Atlanta Progress. "This is a great new asset for our community and our city."

The Atlanta Braves and Falcons each built new facilities with the public picking up much of the tabs, while the city is also ponying up big money for the refresh of Philips Arena.

Public financing of stadiums has come under fire for years as being a drain on public coffers and not fulfilling promises for jobs and economic revitalization.

"It's hard to make a case for there being any economic benefit for replacing an old stadium with a new stadium," said J.C. Bradbury, a Kennesaw State University economist who studies sports venues.

The stadium will be home to Atlanta United, the city's new Major League Soccer franchise, which will add 17 home matches in the new building each season. The stadium hopes to draw international soccer exhibitions, the World Cup and concerts.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium also will play host to the Super Bowl in 2019, the upcoming college football national championship game and the NCAA Men's Final Four in 2020.

But large events such as a Super Bowl aren't the economic drivers boosters claim they are, Bradbury said, and often displace business such as conventions that would have already used the hotel rooms and filled restaurants in any normal week.

However, some area business leaders say they can already see a positive impact from the stadium and expect to see more.

'No minuses'

Less than a mile from the facility, Bruce Teilhaber, owner of Friedman's Shoes on Mitchell Street, said the stadium is bringing more people to the area, many of them likely to park from some distance or come by MARTA.

Anything that adds to foot traffic is good for businesses, he said.

Also, a new development group has taken over Underground Atlanta with plans for apartments and retail shops. A German group, Newport US, has acquired dozens of downtown buildings with plans to rehab them, turning the aging structures into refreshed retail, office space and residences.

"There are no minuses," said Teilhaber. "I just don't see any."

His son, Brett Teilhaber, echoed the hope that the stadium is part of a long-coming change to downtown Atlanta.

"We have all the hotels we need in downtown, but there's not that big city vibe -- like in Nashville. If the city does it right, if Newport does what it says it is going to do, we can have that here. We can have that lit-up feel."

One person watching and investing in downtown is developer Joel Roth.

He purchased Fulton Supply Company on Nelson Street in 1987 and he also owns some parking lots near the new stadium.

"Back in the '80s the area was dead," he said. "If you walked out after five at night or the weekends it was dead. Plus there was a lot of petty crime."

After the Olympics, things started to change. Castleberry Hill, a neighborhood near the stadium, emerged as a hub for the arts, with new galleries, restaurants and condos.

The movie industry found Castleberry Hill, too, and over the years about a dozen other film and television projects filmed at Fulton Supply.

Sensing a wave of new residents downtown, Roth moved the supply business to Stone Mountain and decided to redevelop the building into apartments.

The new Falcons stadium, he said, was a big part of that decision.

"I always felt that part of downtown was a sleeper that was going to come alive," Roth said.

He'sreadytodoubledown, with plans for a six-story building with offices and residences that he hopes will have a ground-breaking in 12 to 24 months.

Lift to neighborhoods

On a recent Saturday, Steve Saenz led a few dozen people who trekked through downtown to see the stadium, a broad swath of south downtown and Underground Atlanta. Saenz started a group called Urban Explorers Atlanta, a social club that tours the city on foot and bike.

"The trend of what is happening with the growth of this city is what makes the development of downtown different this time," Saenz said. "Downtown (growth) isn't Beltline-driven, but frankly I don't think it is stadium-driven. I think this redevelopment would be happening on its own."

Estimates predict some 2.5 million people are expected to move into the metro Atlanta area by 2040. They'll have to live somewhere, and many will choose to live in the city, he said.

Perhaps the biggest lift the Falcons stadium will provide, he said, is the momentum to revitalize west side neighborhoods and build Rodney Cook Sr. Park, a new park similar to the Historic Fourth Ward Park along the Eastside Beltline Trail. That park helped solve some of the flooding problems there, much as its twin will on the west side.

"I think that will lift those neighborhoods," he said.

Kyle Kessler, an architect who lives downtown, said he hopes the optimism is justified.

"It is surely not for everyone -- many people do want to drive up, attend an event, then drive away -- but there seems to be a growing desire for an 'urban' experience," Kessler said. "A lot of people want to hang out with friends, get something to eat, to drink, find other activities."

Still, he is a little skeptical about how much the new stadium has actually changed the equation.

"Unfortunately, there is nothing immediately adjacent to the new Mercedes-Falcons Stadium and the question is, will we fill it in?" he said. "I do think we are going to see some different effects than with the Dome, but it's unclear how different it will be."

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Copyright 2017 Gannett Company, Inc.
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USA TODAY

 

Now that the lawsuits are starting to get settled, Art Briles is making noise about coaching again. His attorney, Mark Lanier, told the Waco Tribune-Herald last week that schools had reached out to the former Baylor coach and practically predicted he'd be back on the sideline in 2018.

So it's a good time for another reminder of why that shouldn't happen -- not now, not ever.

As it happens, that reminder arrives Tuesday in the form of Violated, a new book co-authored by ESPN reporters Paula Lavigne and Mark Schlabach that offers the most comprehensive account to date of the Baylor sexual assault scandal that brought down Briles, school president and chancellor Ken Starr and athletics director Ian McCaw among others.

Briles, in many ways, isn't even the book's main character. As Lavigne's and Schlabach's reporting makes clear, the problems at Baylor were too big and complex to be pinned on one villain, one football team or even one department.

But the role Briles played in aiding and abetting the rotten culture at Baylor -- and his lack of answers for how to fix it -- should be disqualifying for him to ever work in college athletics again. Although he did not agree to be interviewed for the book, there are more than a dozen pages worth of specific, damning details about how Briles took on players with sketchy histories, actively intervened on their behalf at times to keep them out of trouble and insulated himself at other times from knowledge that might have led Baylor on a different disciplinary course.

Although the book does not provide a smoking gun on Briles' culpability in covering up sexual assaults, it cites numerous text and email exchanges in which he clearly attempts to keep potential disciplinary problems in-house before they became public.

From AB: Baylor Fires Football Coach Art Briles

"I really think it was a window into how he was operating the program and how he was trying to skirt players getting into the drug program and the administration finding out about incidents and even trying to keep things away from the police," Schlabach told USA TODAY Sports. "It was really eye-opening into how internal his discipline really was."

As Lavigne and Schlabach make clear, Briles is by no means the only guilty party in what happened at Baylor. The book spends less time talking about the pitfalls of a suddenly ascendant football program under Briles than failures of police both on and off campus, the overall culture of the deeply religious Baptist school and the collective naiveté of its leaders with regard to sex and alcohol among college students, which allowed dysfunction and incompetence to metastasize.

"I think there are a lot of people who were ignorant, who didn't want to know, and for the longest time there wasn't anyone truly tasked with being responsible," Lavigne said in a phone interview. "I can't say it was passing the buck, because that would imply the buck started or stopped somewhere. Things were pretty disorganized until a few years ago."

While the book details the stories of several victims, beginning with a gut-wrenching account of Jasmin Hernandez's rape in 2012 at the hands of former Baylor football player Tevin Elliott, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence, those who have followed the Baylor situation closely since 2015 will find the final third of the book perhaps the most compelling.

In it, Lavigne and Schlabach put together the most complete account yet of Baylor's commissioning of the Pepper Hamilton law firm's investigation, how its report was compiled and the process that led to the board of regents' decision to fire Briles on May26, 2016, along with a vague release of the investigation's findings.

Even today, there's widespread dissatisfaction with the process. Some parties within the Baylor community are convinced Briles was made into a scapegoat and want to know specifically why he was fired. Others, including the Big12 and government agencies in Texas, have pushed for more transparency about what was discovered and how bad it was. And, perhaps most of all, there are victims still looking for justice.

But there's no doubt the book gives voice to all those elements and explains, through regents who spoke both on and off the record, why Baylor did what it did. Though elements of the story are changing to this day, this is a definitive, comprehensive narrative of the scandal as it stands and into the future as the school implements sweeping changes in hopes of correcting mistakes.

"They have put in place the infrastructure to do that. They have added more counselors, more training, they've replaced personnel," said Lavigne, who pointed out they were not granted an interview with new President Linda Livingstone but were encouraged by the investment of new athletics director Mack Rhoades and football coach Matt Rhule.

"I think time will tell whether or not the cultural change that they have promised to strive for will actually happen."

As for Briles, though, it's hard to see a path for his redemption in this. While his public apologies are noted and surely heartfelt, any potential employer who reads Violated will come away with the impression of a coach whose program invited dangerous characters onto campus with little or no vetting, didn't have a drug testing program and allowed a culture of invincibility to grow with regard to conduct.

Just as troubling is that when it came time for the board of regents to meet with Briles before deciding his fate, Lavigne and Schlabach describe a scene in which he apologized for the problems but left the impression he had no plan for how to fix them. Why would it be any different now?

If there's anything coaches should take from the Baylor scandal, it's that the days of handling discipline the way Briles did -- sweeping it under the rug, keeping things internal and not having a system of reporting to superiors -- need to be over.

"It was definitely eye-opening, because I think there were people in the room that didn't want to fire Art Briles, but they also felt like they had to have somebody in charge who could fix the problems, and it was pretty clear the guy was nothing but a football coach," Schlabach said. "It just felt like it was the end of the game, where he made a bad play call and said, 'It won't happen again.' I don't think he really understood the gravity of the problems and really just wouldn't admit to what had happened under his watch."

Violated is a heavy read, but it's important work by Lavigne and Schlabach, who were at the forefront of reporting the story as it unfolded in real time. Though in many ways it feels from the outside as if Baylor is on a better trajectory and much of the world has moved on from the scandal, the book reminds us why it can't be forgotten. And why Briles shouldn't be on a sideline anytime soon.

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Copyright 2017 Chattanooga Publishing Company
All Rights Reserved

Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

A Chattanooga Lookouts owner says a new minor league ballpark on an old South Broad Street foundry site, coupled with other investments, could be "a game-changer" for that part of the city.

But Lookouts operating partner Jason Freier said the ownership group is waiting for the outcome of a visioning effort for the 141-acre former Wheland/U.S. Pipe foundry property and an adjacent 10-square-block area.

"We'll stand by and respect their process," he said about the planning initiative for the South Broad district, which is bounded by the foundry site, Interstate 24, The Howard School and Chattanooga Creek.

Two meetings held last week drew a large number of people with ideas for the district, and planners are to report back Sept. 11 with a framework to guide the area's future.

Freier, a Lookouts managing partner along with John Woods for the past three years, said they've already shown the foundry landowners two examples of how new minor league ballparks have served as catalysts for redevelopment in Fort Wayne, Ind., and Columbia, S.C.

In each instance, he said, "large, complicated public-private partnerships" were used to develop the projects.

"Everybody at the table had meaningful skin in the game," said Freier, who is managing owner of the teams in the two other cities. "That's the way we've done things."

In Chattanooga, he said, his group, public officials and the foundry landowners, Perimeter Properties, aren't at the point yet to know what the partnership would look like.

However, the Beacon Center, a Nashville-based free-market think tank, already has gone on record warning against tax dollars going to a private sports team such as the Lookouts.

"Using taxpayer money to fund a privately owned sports team is both morally wrong and a poor investment for taxpayers," spokesman Mark Cunningham said in a statement. "When millionaire franchise owners and developers seize tax dollars to fund their private businesses, taxpayers are the real losers."

Freier said the Lookouts' home at AT&T Field, now in its 18th year, wasn't designed or built to the standards of today's stadiums. AT&T Field, costing about $9 million, was built by former Lookouts owner Frank Burke.

"Because of the way it was designed, and the money that was put in there, it has become a dated ballpark earlier than many others built at the same time," Freier said.

New development

However, what has driven the stadiums in Fort Wayne and Columbia were opportunities to capitalize on meaningful development opportunities, he said.

In Fort Wayne, the new stadium was put in an area where the city was trying to spur growth. It's a new facility for more than just baseball and is used as a year-round venue, the Lookouts official said.

The Fort Wayne site is 9 years old and has helped generate more than $300 million in development downtown since it opened, Freier said.

In Columbia, where the stadium opened about 15 months ago on a 180-acre site, there have been four new or renovation projects and three others are active, he said. Five or six more are in the pipeline, Freier said.

"Both of those were catalysts for significant additional development," he said. "They created a sense of place that people could build around. It's helping catalyze associated development such as residential, restaurants, retail, office and hotel."

The Fort Wayne stadium has about 7,200 fixed seats, but it was built with the flexibility to handle 9,300 seats, Freier said. It cost $31.6 million, though the owners have put in $4.5 million more since the opening, he said. The Columbia facility cost $37 million, he said.

More than stadiums

Also, Freier said, both stadiums are full-fledged entertainment venues.

"When we do these things, we look at building not baseball stadiums but a 365-days-a-year outdoor venue," he said. Outdoor concerts, high school football and soccer and other events are programmed, Freier said.

In Fort Wayne, for example, its philharmonic orchestra plays a free concert that draws between 7,000 and 8,000 people, he said.

"People are doing 600 events a year," Freier said about the Fort Wayne site.

Columbia's ballpark is holding "a few hundred events a year" and that number will build over time, he said.

Freier said he expects the Lookouts to draw between 230,000 and 240,000 people this year.

By comparison, the old Fort Wayne stadium drew 250,000 in its last year while the new facility attracted 379,000 people just for baseball in its first year, he said.

This past year, that stadium drew 413,000 for baseball and 568,000 for all events, he said.

While not all the nonbaseball events were for pay, Fort Wayne as a market is two-thirds the size of the Chattanooga area, Freier said.

Woods said Chattanooga "deserves to have one of the nicest minor league stadiums in baseball."

"For Chattanooga to continue to compete and be the city it has become, it would be great for the city to have a new stadium," he said.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

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Copyright 2017 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

 

To better understand the dilemma high school athletes must confront regarding concussions, consider Sandia Matadors running back D.J. Hayden's response to a question recently put to him.

What would he do, he was asked hypothetically, if the Matadors were in a crucial game late in the season and one of his football teammates - one of his friends - was exhibiting signs of a concussion following a collision, and only he seemed to notice a problem?

The protocol says Hayden should go straight to his head coach, Kevin Barker, or to a Sandia trainer and report it in the best interest of his getting the teammate off the field and examined.

The reality for student-athletes like Hayden, however, is far more complex.

"It's kind of tough," Hayden admitted. "I want my teammate to be OK. But if he wants to play, I don't want to get in the way of that."

And right there, you have just one example of the quandary athletes have in policing themselves and their teammates.

This scenario is part of an online course starting this school year that all New Mexico high school athletes must take in order to be eligible.

"I think anything to keep kids safe, whether it's concussions, whether it's CPR, whether it's first aid... anything to keep kids safe for their future is needed and valuable," said New Mexico Activities Association executive director Sally Marquez.

As of July 1 of this year, coaches are no longer the only people at a high school required to have educational background on concussions. New Mexico Senate Bill 38 forces prep athletes in every sport to complete an online course. If they don't, they can't play.

"It puts into reality the risks you take every time you play this sport," said Volcano Vista senior linebacker Joren Dickey.

It's the law

The passage of Senate Bill 38 during this year's Legislative session makes it mandatory for any athlete in grades 6-12 to complete this course - which is delivered through the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) - before they are permitted to compete in an official practice or game.

Football players were required to complete the course before July 31. For the athletes in volleyball, soccer and cross country, it was Aug. 7.

The free course, which takes about 30-40 minutes to complete, goes into great detail about the short- and long-term implications of a brain injury, and also how to help student-athletes recognize the signs and symptoms of a concussion, either in themselves or in teammates.

There are a handful of short video presentations by medical personnel during the course, some mock Twitter exchanges among students as they discuss just what a concussion is and how to recognize the symptoms, and also what steps to take to report one.

Near the end of the video, there is a 10-question test.

"There is definitely information in there that you need to know as an athlete," said Albuquerque Academy goalkeeper Lucas Schlenzig, who missed some time last season with the Chargers after suffering a concussion when he was kicked in the face.

"A lot of people think once the concussion happens you feel dizzy, you throw up, you have all these symptoms and then you're good after three days," Schlenzig said. "My recovery was three weeks long."

In his case, there was a two-week period, he said, when he wasn't allowed to go outside, watch television or even use his cell phone. The online course also mentions that the Internet, reading and video games should also be prohibited during the concussion protocol rehab process.

"That stimulates the brain too much," Schlenzig said.

One of the recurring themes in the online course, which a Journal reporter took, is a strong encouragement to report to a coach, trainer or parent if they think either they - or more importantly a teammate - might have suffered a concussion. This is largely because many athletes are either unaware they might have one, or they might not want to report on themselves at the risk of missing critical game time.

"We need to make sure the student athletes know that you're protecting your friend," said the NMAA's Marquez.

Hayden said for a veteran football player, even one like himself who has never had a concussion, the course didn't teach him anything that he didn't already know.

"I've been in this sport all my life," he said. "It was nothing new."

But that was not the universal response.

"I didn't really learn anything from (the course), but a lot of my teammates and I have been talking about the course, and a lot of them did not know the signs and symptoms," said Cleveland High School girls soccer goalkeeper Gabby Garcia, who has suffered a pair of concussions in her prep career - one in rubgy, the other in soccer.

Educational enhancement

The course makes very clear that suffering a second brain injury right on top of an unreported first concussion could prove extremely detrimental to the athlete's health.

"In the heat of the moment, you have to police yourself," said the Hawks' Dickey, who hopes to play football in college and said he wouldn't object if a teammate intervened to get him off the field if necessary. "Personally, I have a lot more riding on it than high school (ball). You'd rather lose a guy for a couple of weeks than lose his entire career over it."

Athletic directors at all NMAA member schools will have to ensure that both coaches and athletes have a course completion certificate on file. When the course is completed, the athlete can print out a certificate to verify their participation.

This is the latest Legislative measure regarding concussions in New Mexico.

Last year, the state extended the concussion protocol absence for athletes from a minimum of seven days to a minimum of 240 hours (or 10 days). All school districts are required to develop head injury protocols, and those districts are further mandated to inform both athletes and their parents of the potential risks of head injuries in sports.

For the past few years, parents or guardians of athletes have had to sign a fact sheet on concussions, delivered to their coach or athletic director, as part of their physical.

"I think we learned what to look for," said Tom Barton, a Volcano Vista football parent who has seen both his sons battle concussions. He thought the efforts of the state to help parents become more educated on the issue of concussions is much needed. "Especially in a contact sport," he said.

Albuquerque Public Schools AD Ken Barreras said APS parents have had to sign concussion fact sheets since 2010. Those sheets lay out the signs and symptoms of a concussion, observed both from the athlete's point of view and the parent/guardian, plus how to proceed if a parent believes his/her child, or any child, has suffered a concussion in competition.

"Anytime it's your own child and have first-hand experience, you realize you're a little bit more focused," said Melinda Garcia, the mother of Cleveland's Gabby. "And you're looking for those indicators yourself."

Although New Mexico does not require it, Marquez said most state associations require CPR training for both coaches and students, and said that she thought New Mexico, which at present only asks coaches to know to administer first aid, will join that list soon.

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Copyright 2017 The State Journal- Register
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The State Journal- Register (Springfield, IL)

 

MOUNT OLIVE — On a pleasantly mild mid-August Saturday morning, about 40 high school football players worked out on a practice field. It was adjacent to the main field, where the scoreboard still proclaimed in gold and faded purple, "Home of the Wildcats."

They've played football at Mount Olive since at least 1926, according to Illinois High School Association records. There were five unbeaten teams from the late 1920s to the late 40s. Decades later, 13 teams made the playoffs.

And they're still playing football there, although the team has a new identity. In a sign of the times, falling school enrollments and a dwindling number of football players have forced two southern Macoupin County schools - roughly 15 miles apart - to join forces to become the South Mac Chargers.

Unlike North Mac, the school consolidation between Girard and Virden, Bunker Hill and Mount Olive remain separate school districts. They'll still field their own teams in certain sports.

But they're entered a two-year co-op agreement that's trying to split things down the middle as much as possible. There's a new nickname and colors (gold and charcoal gray), with home games and practices split between the two schools.

"It's been pretty positive," said first-year head coach Brian Borkowski, a Bunker Hill teacher who formerly coached at nearby Piasa Southwestern.

"Mount Olive has a long tradition, and for some people that's hard to give up. But what sold this is the the fact it's not entirely Bunker Hill. It's a joint venture between the two. With the numbers down at each school, it was either co-op or consolidate."

While some from older generations grudgingly bid farewell to the old high school team, nickname and colors, current players have embraced the new arrangement.

"Without Mount Olive, I don't know if we'd have a program," said Damin Jones, a senior running back from Bunker Hill. "I was somewhat excited when I first heard about it.

"The people I'm playing with now, they're good people. I don't think people understand what we have coming this year. Everybody has talent. I'm a running back; if I get hurt, we'll have four other running backs ready to go."

Mount Olive senior Johnny Darrah, also a running back, said it's not as if players from the two schools - Borkowski said it's roughly a 50-50 roster split - were total strangers. Some of them played together on the Jaguars JFL team during their junior high days.

"I've heard the talk about some people not liking it," Darrah said of the co-op. "But I like winning, and combining with Bunker Hill should mean more wins for us. Now we'll have plenty of backups and a full scout team to practice against."

Mount Olive graduates Chuck Cox and Matt DeVries acknowledge that their alma mater has had a football program far longer than Bunker Hill (the Minutemen first kicked off in 1999). But their hearts gave way to their heads in going with the co-op.

"It's about building a program," DeVries said. "Is Bunker Hill a little farther away? Yes. But who else do we have close enough to do this with?"

Mount Olive and Bunker Hill, both members of the Prairie State Conference, finished last season with approximately 15 to 20 players apiece. They both finished 3-6 at the varsity level, and DeVries said the lack of players ruled out a junior varsity team for either school.

With about 40 players in the co-op program this year, a junior varsity schedule will be played and young players will have a chance for playing time and development.

"It was simple," said DeVries, who along with Cox and Bunker Hill's Mike Reinhardt are assistant coaches for the Chargers.

"Looking out last year and seeing 19 kids and seeing some of the same (junior varsity-level) kids not getting to play a down, just sitting on the sideline, was hard. We had to do something."

Cox said he and DeVries heard from a number of Mount Olive graduates who were against the co-op or at least the neutral team name.

"It was very hard for us to do this," Cox said. "We had a meeting about it, and I broke down in tears. This is home, but (the co-op) is what's best for our kids. They still have football.

"It was about putting your personal feelings aside. When you start putting freshmen and sophomores out there against seniors, it's not safe."

Bunker Hill lineman Clayton David is another senior who doesn't mind closing his career under a new team banner.

"It used to be, I was on the field no matter what," David said. "Offense, defense, special teams, everything. I never got a break.

"I was surprised about this at first because Mount Olive's been our rival for a long time. But it's good we have a lot more kids playing."

Contact Dave Kane: 788-1544, dave.kane@sj-r.com, twitter.com/davekaneSJR

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Copyright 2017 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

The hard-hat tour lasts 45 minutes, not because Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth is long-winded but because it takes time to describe what goes where inside the Volkar Center for Athletic Achievement.

It takes even longer to detail how much the three-story structure means to Gonzaga's 16 sports programs.

The 51,000-square foot building is on course for completion in November. Giant fans whirr on the second floor where strings of new offices are taking shape. Elsewhere, ladders and hydraulic lifts compete for floor space with saws and power cords as the $24 million project reaches the home stretch.

"Sometimes when people look at the size of this," Roth said, "they marvel that it all fit on that piece of grass (in front of the Martin Centre)."

The arms race in athletic departments shows no signs of slowing down. Notre Dame is renovating its practice facility to include two full-size courts, among other amenities. Memphis is putting the finishing touches on a $21 million state-of-the-art facility. UConn's new facility debuted in 2015 and BYU's opened last February.

Gonzaga's newest additions - Volkar Center, videoboard upgrades at several venues and men's basketball locker room remodel - enhance the Zags' ability to compete for top recruits.

"It's crazy important," Roth said. "We've been able to show pictures and put hard hats on recruits and take them on tours. It's not a concept when they see concrete has been poured."

"It's a beautiful building and it gives (recruits) a firmer belief this is going to be a better place for them," GU volleyball coach Diane Nelson said. "They will feel as though they're coming into a place that's comparable to some of the bigger programs we recruit against. It will help big time."

Volkar Center

FIRST FLOOR: The centerpiece of the ground floor will be the basketball practice facility, unless it's the basketball-only weight room or the Hall of Fame, which will actually be more of a historical tour of Gonzaga University.

The basketball court will be a replica of the McCarthey Athletic Center, right down to the lighting, logos and east-west layout. There's a platform above the court to video practice. Coaches will have the option of covering large windows surrounding the court with the push of a button.

The weight room occupies most of the front section with a video room situated in the east corner. The existing weight room gained a little more square footage during construction and will have fewer occupants with basketball moving into its new workout space.

GU officials jotted down notes and took pictures the last few years on basketball road trips and showed what they liked to Garco Construction, general contractor for the McCarthey Athletic Center, Patterson Baseball Complex and Volkar Center.

"We were figuring out what was going to work for us and what wasn't," said Roth, motioning toward the practice court and weight room. "The (Chicago) Bulls' layout was similar to this."

The main entrance to the Volkar Center, named after boosters and Coeur d'Alene residents Pat and Sandy Volkar, sits on the eastern edge and leads into the Hall of Fame, which should see more inductees in the near future.

"Since we haven't inducted anyone since 1995?" Roth laughed. "I think we may have a few to do. That's part of our plan."

The glass atrium ceiling installed in 1986 will be extended to cover part of the Volkar Center and connect it to the Martin Centre, meshing the new and old.

SECOND FLOOR: On game nights, boosters at a certain donation level will walk across a skybridge that connects the McCarthey Athletic Center concourse to the Volkar Center. They'll soon enter a large hospitality/social room with glass windows featuring views of downtown Spokane and the first-floor practice court.

The space, which will likely create a branding opportunity because of its prime location, joins the Herak Club and 63 Court in Martin Centre as game-night social options.

When not in use on game nights, the room doubles as a supplemental nutrition area for student-athletes.

There's a short staircase up - required to match the new structure with the MAC concourse and the third floor of the Martin Centre - to the row of offices on each side of a long hallway for coaches and administrative staff.

Several new offices fill a void above the current weight room that wasn't being utilized. Men's and women's basketball coaches will stay in their offices at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

Roth and numerous staffers have been in temporary offices in the MAC's rowing room since May. Cellphone reception is spotty and Roth's office door is roughly 20 feet from a bench-press station. He hopes to move into his new digs in September.

In his old office, Roth had no idea about the weather outside other than when it was hailing because he could hear it on the vent above his desk. His new office will have an east-facing window and he'll be able to see the sky through the atrium.

"I'll actually have a window for the first time in 30 years," Roth said. "I can look out and see if the sun is shining or not."

THIRD FLOOR: Roth stops in his tracks in the middle of the expansive area dedicated to academic support services.

"It's not just the pinnacle of the building being on top," Roth said. "It's the main focal point of the whole building."

The area is perhaps 60 yards long by 25 yards wide. GU's 325 student-athletes currently squeeze into a room - labeled "the dungeon" by one coach - that's a fraction of the size of their future home. It will be mostly open space, but the back portion is dedicated to offices and sectioned rooms for study groups. There's a small outdoor, covered balcony. Glass windows provide panoramic views.

"If you talk to my group and what draws them to Gonzaga, obviously beyond the volleyball is how strong the academics are," Nelson said. "They spend a lot of their down time between practices in our stinky locker room doing homework because it's cramped in the (academic support room). They'll have a better space."

The top floor also has ample storage room.

Videoboard projects

One of several new or refurbished videoboards got a workout last week in its debut. The new videoboard at Luger Field was operational for the women's soccer team's exhibition match against Mount Royal. GU coasted 9-0.

Work is underway on videoboards inside the Martin Centre, volleyball's home. Plans call for new scoreboards on both endwalls and a 12-foot by 9-foot videoboard on the east wall. They should be ready for the home opener versus Arizona State on Sept. 1.

"It's another piece," Nelson said. "I could have a flip scoreboard and I wouldn't care, but our gym is already pretty special compared to some schools in our conference. This just says, 'We know where you're headed and we are going to help you get there.' "

Improvements at the McCarthey Athletic Center include a new four-sided, center-hung videoboard with 21-foot by 13-foot rectangular screens facing the sidelines and 12.5 by 12.5 square screens facing the baselines. There will also be a circular ring at the bottom with a circumference of 64 feet.

A pair of 36 by 12 endwall boards will replace the current screens/stat panels.

The time frame for installation, particularly of the center-hung videoboard, presents a minor challenge with practice approaching for men's and women's basketball and construction beginning in early September.

"We've worked hard with Daktronics on the right size," Roth said. "It's going to be big, but not too big. Now you're taking a great venue and making it better."

The last phase will replace the scoreboard at Patterson Baseball Complex. The new videoboard will be 36 by 12.

Men's basketball locker room

The men's basketball locker room is being remodeled. An adjoining room that was previously used for storage will allow for a modest expansion.

There will be new lockers, showers and entrances into the locker room and the players' lounge.

The remodel and videoboard projects are being funded by booster donations.

"We're stoked to have a new locker room," freshman wing Corey Kispert said, "and the new practice facility is going to be awesome."

 

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Copyright 2017 Newsday, Inc.


Newsday (New York)

 

The Sachem East High School football coach who was reassigned Friday pending an investigation into the death of one of his players said Saturday that he is "heartbroken by the loss of a fine young man" and accepts the district's decision to remove him as coach.

Mark Wojciechowski, in his first comments since the death of junior Joshua Mileto on Aug. 10, told Newsday in a statement that he supports the school district's decision to appoint an interim coach while it investigates the circumstances surrounding Mileto's death during a log-carrying training exercise.

"I fully understand and accept the district's need to conduct a full and fair investigation," Wojciechowski said. "I support it, and at this time, it makes sense for me to step aside and accept the reassignment to give the school district full latitude to do its work."

Mileto, 16, died after a log that he and four other players were carrying over their heads during an exercise fell and struck his head.

Related: Teen Football Player Killed During Conditioning Drill

Mileto and dozens of other players were taking part in a summer football camp on school grounds that was run by the Sachem East coaches but funded by the Sachem East Touchdown Club. Representatives of the football team's booster club have not returned messages seeking comment.

"Since the tragic accident that claimed the life of Josh Mileto, I have been grieving along with everyone else in our terrific community," Wojciechowski said.

Sachem Superintendent Kenneth Graham announced on Friday night that Wojciechowski and an unnamed assistant coach were removed from the team while the district continues to "gather the facts surrounding this devastating event."

Anthony Gambino, who was previously the team's defensive coordinator under Wojciechowski, is taking over as interim head coach. He did not return a message seeking comment.

A Suffolk police investigation into Mileto's death also remains active, and Graham has said that the findings of either investigation - by Suffolk police or the school district - could "at any given point" impact the football team's status.

The football team began practice on Saturday, four days after the funeral service for their teammate drew hundreds of people, including many in football jerseys. But it was conducted without their longtime coach.

Wojciechowski grew up in the Sachem area, played high school football at Sachem before the district split into two high schools, won Newsday's Hansen Award in 1985 as Suffolk's best player and has been a football coach in the district for about two decades. He has been the head football coach at Sachem East since 2011.

"I wish my student-athletes and the entire Sachem football program the best in the months ahead," Wojciechowski added Saturday.

Sachem East's first game of this season is scheduled for Sept. 9 at home against Lindenhurst. It was pushed back from Sept. 1 so that the team has enough time to get the state-mandated 15 practices completed before its first scheduled game.

Tom Combs, executive director of Section XI, which governs Suffolk County high school sports, said the other football coaches in Sachem East's division had no problem manipulating the already set schedule "as a way to help out." High schools throughout New York State officially began practice last Monday.

Sachem East's first practice Saturday was closed to the media.

Graham, the district superintendent, added in his statement on Friday night that "the administration and athletic director will closely monitor the practices and the district will continue to offer support services to the family, team and entire student body."

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Copyright 2017 Tribune Review Publishing Company
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Tribune-Review (Greensburg, PA)

 

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke's office in Petersen Events Center is modestly appointed, with a small desk, some comfortable furniture and — the big item — lots of windows.

Makes sense when you consider what she sees for the future of Pitt's upper campus, where 16 of her 19 teams and 84 percent of her student-athletes train.

She sees a 3,000-seat arena for wrestling, gymnastics and women's volleyball teams. She sees medical facilities, a strength and conditioning facility, a desperately needed indoor track and a recreation center intended for everyone, including non-athletes.

She also sees the need to get everyone involved, especially Pitt's most generous donors.

"We are going to create a really clear vision for how we can transform that hill," she said.

Her plans are ambitious, but she said they were met by an "incredibly positive" reaction from chancellor Patrick Gallagher.

She said Petersen Sports Complex is "fantastic" and has one of the best views anywhere of the city. But she is discouraged it does not house offices for the baseball, softball and soccer coaches whose teams inhabit it. She also notes the 66-year-old Fitzgerald Field House is not air-conditioned.

"I don't want to make it sound miserable because we're competing every day," she said. "But we are certainly going to plan to have better facilities.

"When you're talking about comprehensive excellence, you can't have the experience of a swimmer be so dramatically different from a basketball or football player."

Lyke has worked in college athletics since 1995 in areas of compliance, operations, administration and enforcement. She even was a softball color analyst for Big Ten Network.

She hasn't visited every ACC campus to compare their facilities to Pitt's, but she admits, "My sense in knowing college athletics, they're not where we could be."

"There is a tremendous opportunity to really take a sincere look at how do you become a change agent, how do you make a difference in the lives of those student-athletes."

That's the future — sooner rather than later, if she has her way.

Lyke ultimately will be judged on how the big two sports — football and men's basketball — perform.

The football season starts in two weeks and a repeat of the past two 8-5 seasons might not be enough for some fans. The rebuild of once-proud men's basketball won't be easy. And, oh, those empty seats at Heinz Field.

Lyke said she meets regularly with football coach Pat Narduzzi, who isn't afraid to ask for help. Narduzzi decided his players would be better served during training camp by staying at SpringHill Suites, a short stroll from the South Side practice facility, rather than being bused back and forth from the Oakland campus.

Lyke listened, launched a financial feasibility study and discovered the added cost was not significant.

The team moves out Saturday, but the three weeks in the hotel were received enthusiastically by players who didn't have to nap on the weight room floor any longer.

She said Narduzzi has — and she expects — will ask for other amenities. Actually, if he doesn't, she'll wonder why.

Lyke wasn't around last year when Pitt defeated eventual Big Ten champion Penn State and ACC and national champion Clemson. But knowing those games actually happened, she sees no reason why Narduzzi's team can't take the next step.

"You're talking top-10, top-five teams in the country that we beat," she said. "You can't honestly think we're that far off."

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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Copyright 2017 Star-News, Inc.
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Star-News (Wilmington, NC)

 

PENDER COUNTY More than 15 years after the idea was first raised, Topsail Beach has completed work on its Topsail Beach Town Center park.

Located on nearly an acre of land at South Anderson Boulevard and Davis Avenue, the park contains a picnic area, a half basketball court, a playground, two pickleball courts and public restrooms.

Town Manager Mike Rose said the project was officially closed out a few months ago when state officials came to inspect the site.

Topsail Beach received a $439,910 grant from the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund to help with the purchase of the land and the completion of the project.

Rose said the park cost around $880,000, so the grant helped fund nearly 50 percent of the project s price tag.

Original designs for the project included a volleyball court and an area for lawn games, but Rose said input from community members resulted in the addition of a pickleball court rather than a volleyball court.

Somewhere around fall 2015, the parks and recreation chairman had reached out to his committee saying he had received a lot of requests for a pickleball court, Rose said. It was fitting and more appropriate for the desires of the town s citizens. The town board reviewed and agreed, and they amended the plan.

After the first court was put in, Rose said it quickly became very popular. He said there was a regular group of people that played, and folks who rented out homes were even being asked whether there was a place for pickleball in the community.

From ABPickleball Finds a Home on New, Existing Outdoor Courts 

In November 2016, he said the parks and recreation committee again approached the town board about adding a second pickleball court.

The town board approved the addition, and a second court was added in beside the original court, which Rose said took up about four to six of the park s planned nearly three-dozen parking spots.

He said both courts are used frequently by residents and visitors.

I drove by yesterday and even in this humidity both courts were being used, Rose said.

In addition to the recreational elements, there are two separate picnic tables available for rent for private parties $50 for three hours per shelter.

Rose said the town also hopes to hold larger events in the park in the future.

A permit application to use the park for larger events can be found on the town s website under Parks & Recreation.

Rose, who was hired nearly two years ago, said even coming in during the middle of the project he has been able to see the benefits of the park to the community.

The town is very proud to have it, Rose said. And hopefully more and more people will use and enjoy it.

Reporter Hannah DelaCourt can be reached at 910-343-2075 or Hannah.DelaCourt@StarNewsOnline.com

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Hugh Freeze resigned as Mississippi's coach July 20 amid controversy and an NCAA probe.

Former University of Mississippi football coach Hugh Freeze and disassociated booster Lee Harris, who allegedly gave a recruit cash and free food at his Oxford, Miss., restaurant, called each other at least 200 times between January 2015 and the end of Freeze's tenure last month, according to records reviewed by USA TODAY Sports.

The phone calls included the period in which Harris became a part of the NCAA's investigation into Mississippi and continued before and after his interview with the NCAA on Nov. 16, 2016, in which he provided information that was determined to be false.

Freeze was not named or deemed culpable in the specific NCAA allegation related to Harris, and it is not publicly known what the two men discussed in the calls. According to Freeze's attorney, W.G. Watkins, Freeze and Harris met by "happenstance" sitting next to each other at church at some point after Harris' alleged violations occurred, formed a relationship and played golf together. Watkins said Freeze never discussed the NCAA case with Harris, which would potentially be a violation of bylaw 10.1 relating to unethical conduct.

"I believe that unequivocally," Watkins said. "One thing Hugh Freeze has done throughout this is not discuss the case with anyone. Part of the problem with NCAA rules is the school can't talk about the case with Hugh Freeze and he can't talk about the case with his coaches or players. He's isolated in all this."

Harris didn't respond to multiple messages left by USA TODAY Sports.

In response to a request for comments about the frequency of the communication, Mississippi athletics director Ross Bjork told USA TODAY Sports: "Our position on the matter and our actions with regards to Lee Harris are clear in our official response."

Frequent communication between the coach and a booster who allegedly violated NCAA rules, however, raises additional questions about whether Mississippi administrators sufficiently monitored Freeze's phone calls.

Freeze resigned July 20 after the school found a pattern of improper phone calls, an investigation prompted by questions about a one-minute phone call to an escort service that was uncovered during an unrelated lawsuit.

The school subsequently released records from Freeze's university-issued phone, in a heavily redacted format after granting Freeze the option to remove personal calls.

The documented calls between Freeze and Harris are noteworthy because of the booster's role in Mississippi's NCAA case.

The NCAA alleges that Harris, who owns Funkys Pizza and Daiquiri Bar in Oxford and was a season ticketholder for Mississippi football and basketball, provided recruiting inducements to linebacker Leo Lewis, who wound up signing with Mississippi State. The allegation was deemed a Level 1 violation, the most severe.

Claims made by Lewis, who was granted limited immunity by the NCAA in exchange for his cooperation in the investigation, form the basis for some of the most serious allegations against Mississippi. The university has contested Lewis' accounts, calling them inconsistent.

Lewis is expected to be present for Mississippi's Committee on Infractions hearing Sept. 11 outside of Cincinnati.

NCAA investigators, however, say that Lewis is a credible witness, citing, among other things, his ability to physically describe Harris. Lewis, who said he met Harris at the Mississippi football complex, told NCAA investigators that Harris gave him "two or three cash payments of between $100 and $200 during visits to Funkys" in addition to free food and drinks for him and his family.

Phone records Harris turned over to Mississippi revealed that he had texted Lewis shortly before national signing day in 2015 and had made phone calls to him. Mississippi also acknowledged the records showed communication with members of the coaching staff around the same time.

Though Mississippi disputes the claim that a cash exchange took place, the inconsistency of Harris' account led the school to disassociate him from the program during the period of its NCAA probation.

Mississippi self-imposed a bowl ban Feb. 23, shortly after receiving a Notice of Allegations that included a charge of lack of institutional control.

Harris' cellphone number first shows up in Freeze's phone records in January 2015, but the logs show no more calls between them until July and only sporadic communication through the rest of 2015.

In 2016, however, they called each other 158 times, including stretches from March through July in which they communicated almost every day and often several times per day.

The frequency of the calls, however, slowed precipitously late last year when the NCAA began to zero in on Harris.

The call logs show a three-minute conversation the night of Nov. 8, roughly eight days before Harris' NCAA interview, and not again until Dec. 7 when he called Freeze at 12:53 p.m. and they spoke for three minutes. They spoke again two days later for five minutes.

On Dec. 28 - one week after Mississippi officials met with the NCAA in Indianapolis for a conference before receiving the Notice of Allegations - Freeze and Harris spoke for eight minutes. The next afternoon, they spoke for 11 minutes in a Freeze-initiated call.

Harris placed four calls to Freeze last Feb. 18, four days before Mississippi received the Notice of Allegations, and then again for six minutes Feb. 27. There were only 15 communications between them in the log for 2017.

Given the stakes of the NCAA investigation, their close personal relationship and frequent communication could have raised a red flag with Mississippi and the NCAA.

According to NCAA bylaws, "knowingly furnishing or knowingly influencing others to furnish the NCAA or the individual's institution false or misleading information concerning an individual's involvement in or knowledge of matters relevant to a possible violation of an NCAA regulation" constitutes unethical conduct.

Freeze has been charged with failure to monitor, an alleged violation he and the school are contesting.

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Copyright 2017 Bangor Daily News

Bangor Daily News (Maine)

 

Preseason practices for a new high school school sports year began Monday with great anticipation in the air.

Players are anxious to play more important roles on their teams, while coaches begin to assemble the jigsaw puzzles of individual talent into units they hope will make their communities proud by the end of the season.

As for the third element of any contest, the game officials, their priority is maintaining numbers. They hope to have enough referees, judges and umpires to oversee the thousands of youth league, middle school and high school contests scheduled between late August and mid-June.

It's not a given. Officials organizations for nearly every interscholastic sport in Maine have dealt with a shortage of members in recent years, leaving some sub-varsity contests understaffed. That might entail one official instead of two working a game, or having to reschedule games to dates when there are enough officials to provide full coverage.

The numbers game

Take Maine's signature sport, high school basketball.

There were 566 members of the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials active statewide during the 2007-2008 season. Last winter, 496 officials -- 451 men and 45 women -- were active IAABO officials in Maine, according to Peter Webb, the state's longtime basketball commissioner.

That's a drop of nearly 13 percent in active membership during the last decade.

"It's happening in all sports and it's not just a Maine problem," said Webb, who recently retired from a 17-year tenure as coordinator of rules interpreters for IAABO, the world's largest basketball officials organization. "I do know that leaders in the sports have always made efforts to recruit, and it's been turned up a notch or two recently."

Chris Parker of Bangor, a longtime baseball and football official and since 2005 assigner for the Eastern Maine Association of Baseball Umpires, said there has been an even more drastic drop in the number of officials within those ranks.

The EMABU had 55 active umpires in 2016 but fielded only 45 last spring to serve 26 high school varsity programs and approximately 30 sub-varsity teams.

Related: Officials Shortage a Growing Problem for Prep Football

"From that you might have 29 to 32 umpires available on a given day for an average of 18 games," Parker said. "That's why you see a lot of middle-school games with just one person."

That 19 percent, one-year drop nearly proved devastating when frequent rain wreaked havoc on the area's baseball schedule last spring.

"There were 227 countable varsity games on the schedule and, by the Friday before Memorial Day, 32 percent of them had to be made up," Parker said. "Overall this year between JV, middle school and varsity I had a makeup rate of 44 percent, and toward the end of the season if it was a middle-school game or even a junior varsity game that was postponed due to end-of-the-school-year activity, a lot of those games didn't get played."

Earlier this year, the National Federation of State High School Associations launched an initiative to attract more officials to high school sports after earlier acknowledging that the shortage of active officials has reached a crisis stage.

"The numbers are down," Webb said. "There's no question about it, and it's a problem around the country."

From ABNo Referees, No Games

Attracting new officials has been a tough sell. One of the most significant obstacles is the verbal abuse officials experience during games or criticism posted publicly on social media forums.

"It's daunting enough to become an official in this day and age when the crowd seems to think their opinions matter," said Barbara Snapp, who recently retired as a soccer official after 28 years but remains a girls lacrosse official and treasurer of the Maine Women's Lacrosse Officials Association.

"We've had officials who have done one season, and then they're out because of the way the crowd or a coach has handled them."

That verbal abuse can be a particular deterrent to newer officials who are still developing their skills and confidence in such a public vocation. Only two of every 10 officials return for their third season, according to an NFHS study.

That's an 80 percent attrition rate during the first two years.

"It takes dozens of games for officials to become proficient; hundreds to become expert," said Wayne Sanford, high school assigner for the Maine Lacrosse Officials Association, which covers boys lacrosse in the state. "New officials learn how to officiate on lower-level games where players and coaches are also unskilled. Unfortunately, parents and coaches seem to expect flawless officiating and, too frequently, become verbally abusive. This is a huge problem with respect to retention."

In many cases, younger officials are paired with veterans in an effort to ease that pressure. The EMABU, for instance, has established a mentorship program organized by veteran umpire Troy Lare that provides newer members feedback and support from more experienced arbiters.

"Because we don't have the numbers where we can afford to lose a young guy who really wants to be an umpire, you try to protect them a little when you can," Parker said.

The Eastern Maine chapter of the Maine Association of Football Officials has taken a similar approach toward providing support for novice officials.

"We've had a tough time retaining officials, and the feedback I've gotten is that they all work youth games early on and some have had pretty poor experiences with parents and, unfortunately, some of the youth coaches who haven't been very civil," said Doug Ferguson, a veteran Bangor-area official who teaches a class for prospective officials.

"That's why we work real hard with trying to get veterans to work with the younger officials."

Some newer officials don't stay for the long term because of dissatisfaction with their pace of advancement to the varsity level.

"The newer official tends to not be patient in his or her progress," Webb said. "They're more apt to expect a varsity schedule very, very soon into their career. There's nothing holding anyone back, but it's a rare person who can be ready to officiate at the varsity level until their fourth or fifth year simply because of what's involved in it and the difficulty of officiating."

Aging arbiters

Compounding the low retention rates of newer officials in Maine is that like the state's population, the officiating pool in many sports is aging.

The Maine Association of Football Officials numbers approximately 250 board-certified members (226 active), according to Allan Snell, MAFO secretary-treasurer and officials liaison to the Maine Principals' Association football committee.

And while there's not an extreme shortage of officials to work the state's middle-school and high school games, stress is building.

MAFO's Eastern Maine chapter has 64 members available to cover 19 area schools, though typically not all are available on a given Friday night, when most varsity games are played. Only Dexter, Mount View of Thorndike and Nokomis of Newport among the chapter's coverage schools don't have lighted fields, meaning their home games typically are played on Saturdays, when there aren't nearly as many other contests.

"Because of that distribution we can basically cover 10 games on a Friday night, which would mean 50 officials, and much beyond that would be difficult," Snell said.

Snell said while the annual football officiating class has proven popular at times -- some 20 people took the course three years ago -- it has produced only a modest number of new members in recent years.

Ferguson said nine hopefuls turned out Tuesday evening for the first night of the current 10-week course for prospective new Eastern Maine chapter officials.

"We could always use more," said Snell, who estimates that 200 officials will be available to work the 39 high school varsity games that will be played statewide each weekend this fall.

"We're going to reach the point, and I think this is true across the state, where the heavy end of the population is on the older side. We have a lot of guys in their 60s or approaching 60 years old, and several who are even older than that."

Searching for solutions

Sports officials organizations around the country have been trying to address their ever-shrinking talent pools for years.

Minnesota, for instance, has discounted registration fees for new officials as well as those in in their second or third years, while Zanesville (Ohio) High School offers an officiating class as an elective course, according to the Zanesville Times Recorder.

Snell recalls nearly a decade ago when Maine football officials set up an information table at the state championship games in Portland in an effort to attract people who might be interested in joining their ranks.

Last winter, a similar effort was made by IAABO officials at high school basketball tournament sites in Bangor, Augusta and Portland.

Each produced minimal results.

While some sports rely on adults to handle officiating duties at virtually all age levels, other sports may benefit from already existing or homemade feeder systems.

Parker has sought to draw teenagers who umpire Little League baseball games toward the EMABU in an effort to increase active membership to the 55 to 60 umpires he believes would provide an adequate safety net for his region.

"We've got some young blood coming up," he said. "We just need to be able to keep them around."

The lacrosse ranks are growing steadily both numerically and geographically. Bangor High School is set to field boys and girls varsity teams next spring and Brewer will add a boys club team in 2018.

The group has implemented its own junior officials training program and more than 100 high school student-athletes already have taken either the girls or boys lacrosse course.

"Our best source for new officials, but it's a long-term pipeline, are the girls who are playing now," Snapp said. "We've trained 66 teenagers to work girls lacrosse and they do games for third- and fourth-graders and fifth- and sixth-graders in some towns that have youth lacrosse programs."

Seeking to tap into high school- and college-age student-athletes to develop the next crop of officials does have risk.

"If they're younger we don't always keep them because their jobs may be volatile," Snapp said. "They may be moving out of state and taking their officiating knowledge with them."

That's why Snapp sees another answer that might provide better long-term results.

"One thing for lacrosse -- and I believe it would work with any sport -- would be to encourage parents to get involved when their kids are young and the games are usually simpler and shorter," she said. "They often can officiate their own child's games, and it's a nice way to do something with their kids other than then schlep them around and stand on the sidelines.

"It's a great way to learn the sport and there will be a percentage of those folks who will find they really love officiating and will continue on. That's how I got into soccer officiating, and I really think it's an untapped resource. Any place where parents are asked to volunteer for a team, if they could volunteer to become an official, that would be huge."

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Copyright 2017 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Palm Beach Post (Florida)

 

A tornado that struck Palm Beach Gardens in the early morning hours of Jan. 23 devastated parts of the Benjamin School campus.

Nearly seven months later, the school continues to repair the damage.

At the football stadium, where winds of up to 90 mph ripped up bleachers, toppled a light pole, crumpled the press box and tore chunks out of the track, work is underway to put the structure back together.

Construction crews are replacing the light pole, turf, bleachers, press box, scoreboard and most of the fencing, Athletic Director Ryan Smith said.

The school's tennis facility, which also was damaged in the storm, already has been repaired.

Work at the stadium began earlier this summer, and school officials had hoped to have it completed in time for today's home Kickoff Classic preseason game against Jensen Beach.

But the stadium won't be ready until at least Sept. 1, barring any significant weather issues. The Bucs have a road game on that date, but host Miami-Immaculata-LaSalle the following week.

Benjamin will play its Kickoff Classic game at the school's lower/middle school campus in North Palm Beach. Kickoff is at 5 p.m.

Once repairs to the stadium are complete, the Bucs will be able to hold their first practice there since the 2016 season concluded.

Benjamin finished 7-3 last year in Southeastern Football Conference play and advanced to the semifinals of the league's postseason tournament.

This season the Bucs will participate in Florida High School Athletic Association state series competition, and have been grouped in Class 3A.

"Everyone has been cooperative in restoring the facilities," Benjamin coach Ron Ream said.

"Ryan Smith... has been on top of things since day one. He has really been the one instrumental in keeping things moving in the right direction."

January's tornado, which also damaged parts of Dwyer High School's campus, affected much of Benjamin's spring sports schedule.

The Bucs' boys and girls lacrosse teams had to play their home games off-campus, as did the school's tennis teams. Benjamin's track teams also were affected, while the football team held its spring — and fall — practice sessions on nearby grass fields.

"The damages to our football field have definitely made an impact on our team," senior lineman Martin Weisz said. "That is the field on which we usually do all of our drills and all of our outdoor workouts, but now we must resort to the other fields surrounding it.

"We are very fortunate that our school is fixing this situation, and that we will have our field ready by our first game."

The cost to repair the stadium is expected to exceed $1 million, Smith said. The school is working with its insurance company to determine what will be covered under its policy.

In the meantime, any additional construction projects will continue.

"It's been a long process with us losing the entire spring sports season on the field and the entire summer," Smith said. "We are very much looking forward to getting back on our field, and things getting back to normal."

jwagner@pbpost.com Twitter: @JRWagner5

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

John Henry wants all to feel welcome at Fenway Park.

Boston Red Sox owner John Henry said he is ready to rename Yawkey Way, the street alongside Fenway Park that he called a haunting reminder of the baseball team's history of racial intolerance.

Henry told the Boston Herald he welcomes renaming the street named for his predecessor, Tom Yawkey, that is the mailing address for the ballpark and team offices. Red Sox president Sam Kennedy told The Associated Press it was part of the team's effort to make everyone feel welcome at the Fenway Park. Henry did not return a message from the AP seeking comment.

Under Yawkey, the Red Sox were the last franchise in the major leagues to field a black player. That was in 1959, more than a decade after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Dodgers.

But even this season, the team has struggled to make the ballpark feel welcoming to minorities. In May, Kennedy apologized to Orioles outfielder Adam Jones after he said a fan called him a racist slur. The Red Sox also distanced themselves from their flagship radio broadcaster, where hosts doubted Jones' version of the events.

The team must petition the city of Boston to change the name.

Owners meetings: Major League Baseball is having conversations with the players' association over possible rule changes designed to speed the pace of play, and Commissioner Rob Manfred said he hopes to reach an agreement instead of implementing any measures unilaterally.

Manfred also said the Bruce Sherman-led ownership group trying to purchase the Miami Marlins has presented the league with a financial structure that would work for finalizing the deal, and he expressed confidence that a major league franchise can be successful in the market. Speaking at the conclusion of the owners meetings in Chicago, he also expressed surprise with veteran umpire Joe West's reaction to his suspension for his comments about Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre.

Rockies: Colorado was served a potentially serious blow in the seventh inning of the loss to Atlanta when All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado left the game with an apparent injury to his left hand.

Arenado struggled to field a sharp grounder from Lane Adams and left the game in pain. The ball appeared to hit the same spot where he was plunked by Miami pitcher Vance Worley on Sunday.

Cardinals: Trevor Rosenthal was placed on the 10-day disabled list with right elbow irritation. The reliever was taken out of Wednesday's loss to the Red Sox after giving up a walk and home run.

Twins: Reliever Glen Perkins allowed two runs in one-third of an inning in the loss to the Indians after being reinstated from the DL. He missed more than 16 months with shoulder trouble.

Perkins last pitched for Minnesota on April 10, 2016, eventually having surgery to repair a torn labrum on June 23, 2016. The former closer and three-time All-Star has spent his entire career with the Twins since being drafted in the first round in 2004.

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The Bismarck Tribune

 

The $12.5 million athletic complex located next to Legacy High School has a new name: the Sanford Sports Complex.

The new name for the facility, which has turf and grass football fields, a soccer field, baseball diamonds and a track, reflects a public-private partnership between the school district and Sanford Health, which has facilities and clinics in eight states. The district spent about $10 million on the project, and collected the rest of the money through donations.

"We are pleased to continue that partnership with Sanford Health, and we are honored for their donation," said Bismarck School Board President Karl Lembke, who revealed the new name on Wednesday.

Construction on the sports complex began in 2015, with phases one and two completed by the opening of the new high school. A third phase beginning this fall will include new baseball and softball fields, tennis courts, a second entrance to the facility and a concession stand.

Dakota Community Bank & Trust also donated to the sports complex, and received name recognition on the score board.

(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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

 

ATLANTA - The goal posts are up. The end zones are painted. The concession stands are ready to dish out all sorts of food and drink.

With less than two weeks to go before Atlanta's $1.5 billion stadium hosts its first game, there's only one major issue to address.

That pesky retractable roof.

While vowing that Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be open to the elements at some point this fall, officials still can't put a timetable on when the elaborate roof - which resembles the cover of a camera lens - will be fully operational.

"We knew it would be complex," said Rich McKay, president and CEO of the Atlanta Falcons. "It's probably been as complex or more than we thought. It's one of a kind. It's going to take some more work."

The roof was closed for a media tour on Tuesday, and that's the way it will be when the stadium opens Aug. 26 with a Falcons' exhibition game against the Arizona Cardinals.

In fact, with a flurry of events kicking off the new 71,000-seat stadium, it could be weeks - perhaps even months - before the roof is fully operational.

The Falcons host another preseason game on Aug. 31, followed by two college football games over the Labor Day holiday: Alabama vs. Florida State on Sept. 2 and Georgia Tech vs. Tennessee on Sept. 4.

Atlanta United, the MLS expansion team that has drawn huge crowds in its temporary home at Georgia Tech , debuts at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sept. 10. A week later, the Falcons host their first home regular-season game against the Green Packers in a prime-time rematch of last season's NFC championship game.

Mike Egan, a senior vice president for Falcons and United owner Arthur Blank, said engineers are still working out some bugs to ensure the roof can be opened or closed in 11 minutes.

"It's opened and closed a number of times already. We will be opening and closing it again next week," Egan said. "It will absolutely be open for Falcons and Atlanta United games this fall.

"What we're fine-tuning is the mechanization process, and that's just the speed at which the roof opens and closes. It's really just getting the balance of the roof right, as far as these are big petals and just moving them takes a lot of energy, and getting the calibration just right to reduce the energy load on this system. But it's basically fully operable now."

Everywhere else, the stadium looks ready for business after being delayed three times because of the ongoing roof issues.

The artificial turf field has been installed, complete with the Falcons' logos. The mammoth video board that rings the top of the stadium - 58 feet tall and 1,100 feet around - showed a loop of highlights from the victory that sent Atlanta to the Super Bowl for only the second time in franchise history . About the only thing left to do in the locker room is put up the players' names above each space.

Several concessions stadiums doled out food during the media tour, including a chicken sandwich developed by renowned Atlanta chef Kevin Gillespie. Officials touted the vast array of beverage choices, including 1,264 taps to help serve at least 40 different brands of beer. At the Georgia Dome, the Falcons' former home which is scheduled for demolition in November, there were only 30 beer taps in the entire facility.

The new stadium, which was built right next door to the Georgia Dome, is already set to host three major events. The championship game of the College Football Playoff will be held next January, followed by the Super Bowl in 2019 and the NCAA men's Final Four in 2020.

Also, the committee that hopes to bring the 2026 World Cup to the United States, Mexico and Canada has included Mercedes-Benz Stadium on the list of facilities that could possibly host games.

"It does feel like we've run a long, long marathon. We can almost see the finish line," McKay said. But, he quickly added, "We've got 500,000 people that are going to enter this building in the first 10 days. That marathon may be ending, but just beginning."

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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

It's football season. What's more American than watching a favorite high school team rule the gridiron on a crisp, fall evening or spending Sundays cheering on NFL teams?

Football is America's No. 1 high school sport. More than a million boys play the game. With about 600,000 participants, the next most popular sport, track and field, isn't even close. But that may be changing.

Participation in the traditional game of football is dropping. A recently released survey from the National Federation of High School Sports shows the number of participants dropped by 25,503 between the 2015-2016 and the 2016-2017 seasons. Youth football clubs around the country have seen even more significant drops.

It's been a tough summer for professional football, too. A study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association last month suggests that Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated hits to the head, is far more prevalent than previously thought. CTE was found in 110 of the 111 brains donated to research by deceased NFL football players.

NFL players are noticing. Last month, Baltimore Ravens' lineman John Urschel announced he is leaving football to become a doctoral candidate at MIT. Other current and former players, including Ben Roethlisberger, Terrell Davis, and Boomer Esiason have expressed concerns about what may be happening to their brains. Former player and coach Mike Ditka has publicly said he would not let a child of his participate in the sport.

He's not alone. A 2016 University of Massachusetts Lowell survey of 1,000 adults shows that 94 percent of parents oppose tackle football for children before the age of 10 and 84 percent oppose it before age 14.

In fairness, youth football clubs like Pop Warner have done much to address the concerns, such as eliminating kick-offs and purchasing state-of-the-art helmets. But is it enough? Many parents are beginning to ask themselves that question and deciding that no, it isn't. But if youth football goes away, does that mean high school football will cease? And would that mean, in turn, the end of college and NFL games?

Is this the beginning of the end of the American tradition of Friday night lights? Unless someway can be figured out to prevent concussions, football could become a thing of the past. We would miss the game. With our apologies to "Gone With the Wind," we offer this salute to a great sport:

There was a land of gridirons and bleachers called football. Here in this exciting world, tackling took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of quarterbacks and cheerleaders fair, of coaches and fans. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered. It's an American sport gone with the wind.

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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

Coca-Cola Field will again be turned into a golf course, of sorts, with the return of the "The Links at Coca-Cola Field," from Sept. 15 through Sept. 17.

The nine-hole, par-27 course is a unique experience where golfers will take swings from eight tee boxes located around the ballpark, including home plate and the right-field party deck. This year's updated course includes three club-level shots as well as different pin placements. The course includes a one-hole putting challenge in the Bisons indoor batting cages.

Each hole will feature a theme, including "extras" such as crowd noise or unfavorable weather conditions. A new theme, the "double down" hole, will dare golfers to bet on themselves, allowing good shots to be scored better (pars as birdies and birdies as aces) but bad shots will be turned worse (bogeys become double bogeys and doubles become triples).

Putting Hole No. 8 will be the "Disco Ball" hole where golfers will hit neon balls through a green illuminated only by disco lights.

Mulligans can be purchased before the round, allowing a second chance at any hole, with the exception of the "Double Down" hole. Each mulligan costs $5, with a maximum of two per golfer, with proceeds going to the Buffalo Bisons Charitable Foundation.

A round of golf at The Links at Coca-Cola Field will cost $55 per golfer and include a special Links at Coca-Cola Field golf towel and cap, a logo OnCore golf ball, a post-round beverage, parking and two Bisons 2018 Opening Day tickets. A premium package, which will also include a limited edition Links at Coca-Cola Field shoe bag, is $85 per golfer.

Tee times are available online at LinksAtCocaColaField.com and at Bisons.com. Times available are from 6-10 p.m. Sept. 15; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and 3-7 p.m. on Sept. 16; and 8 a.m. to noon on Sept. 17.

The course:

No. 1: Stepping to the Tee (Par 3, 80 yards): Golfers' names and hometowns will be announced to the gallery.

No. 2: BuffaLove (Par 3, 65 yards): Take your swing wearing either a football, hockey or baseball helmet.

No. 3: Caddyshack (Par 3, 135 yards): Enjoy a craft beer sample from Resurgence Brewing.

No. 4: NOONAN!!! (Par 3, 100 yards): Test your concentration with a little extra crowd noise.

No. 5: A Toast to the King (Par 3, 72 yards): Mix your own "Arnold Palmer" in honor of one of the greatest golfers that ever lived.

No. 6: The "Double Down" (Par 3, 124 yards): Option to bet on yourself. Hole will be scored Birdie 1, Par 2, Bogey 5, Double Bogey 6.

No. 7: Not Coming Down for Quite Some Time (Par 3, 103 yards): A little extra 'weather' added for this tee shot.

No. 8: A Disco Ball (Par 3, 19 feet): Using a Happy Gilmore-esque hockey stick putter, put a neon golf ball in a hole lit only by disco lights.

No. 9: The Cinderella Boy (Par 3, 81 yards): Line up this last shot and knock it in. Hole-in-one wins a $250 Bisons gift card.

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Copyright 2017 Newsday, Inc.


Newsday (New York)

 

The Sachem school district "will assess the status of the team's activities" in the aftermath of Joshua Mileto's death during a team training drill last week, Superintendent Kenneth Graham said Wednesday.

When and if the football team will play this season is complicated by what Graham referred to as "an active police investigation" and "an internal district investigation related to the facts surrounding this tragic incident."

Graham said that Sachem East football players, coaches and parents met with school administrators Wednesday morning, a day after the funeral for their teammate. No decision about the future of the team was made.

"At any given point, any findings could potentially affect the team," he said in the statement.

Suffolk police said Wednesday the investigation was ongoing.

Graham called the meeting "an integral part of the healing process for everyone involved."

High school football teams across New York State officially began practicing on Monday. Both Sachem East and Sachem North canceled practice on Monday and Tuesday. Sachem North had its first practice Wednesday.

Mileto died on Thursday morning after a log he and four other players were carrying struck him on the head. The players were participating in a six-week summer camp that took place on school grounds and was run by Sachem East coaches and sponsored by the Sachem East Touchdown Club.

Sachem East head coach Mark Wojciechowski has not spoken publicly since Mileto's death.

Graham added that the team will reconvene Thursday and "the district will assess the status of the team's activities over the course of the next several days." He did not indicate whether the team will take part in any football activities when they meet again.

"Our thoughts and condolences continue to be with Josh's family and friends during this terribly difficult time," Graham said.

New York State Public High School Athletic Association rules mandate that football teams take part in 15 days of practices before their first game. Sachem East's first scheduled game is Sept. 1 at Longwood.

Tom Combs, the executive director of Section XI, the governing body of Suffolk County athletics, said that rule cannot be waived because it's safety related.

"We've been working with Sachem, talking with them the last couple of days, and they're still not sure what's going to happen," Combs said.

With Michael O'Keeffe

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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

 

ROCKY MOUNT - One week after being jailed on sexual assault charges, a longtime Franklin County teacher has been granted bond.

Clyde Timothy Smith was indicted by a grand jury last week on three counts of aggravated sexual battery of someone under the age of 13. The offenses are alleged to have ranged from early January 2015 until May, according to the indictments.

Smith, 59, of Rocky Mount, has worked within the Franklin County 's public school system for years. Most recently he taught physical education at Sontag Elementary School and worked as an athletic equipment manager with the high school.

He turned himself in to authorities on Aug. 9 after learning of the charges, defense attorney Will Davis said.

School superintendent Mark Church announced last week that Smith is on administrative leave until the matter is resolved.

At a bond hearing Wednesday in circuit court, Judge Stacey Moreau heard testimony and arguments for more than half an hour before granting Smith a $30,000 secured bond. She cited Smith's lifelong residency in the county and his lack of a prior criminal history.

As a condition of his release, Smith agreed not to leave the state, not to possess any firearms and to have no contact with any minors or with the complainant or the complainant's family.

Franklin County Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Dwight Rudd sketched the charges against Smith in general terms, saying the alleged offenses occurred at Sontag and involved the fondling of genitals by hand through clothing.

"No one knew except the child, until he felt comfortable bringing those allegations forward to his family," Rudd said, adding that the matter is complicated by the fact that the family knows Smith.

"They were conflicted about it when it came to their attention," Rudd said. "That concern they have is ongoing."

Davis acknowledged he is also well acquainted with Smith, and said in court Wednesday that Smith coached him while he was in school.

On the pending charges, Davis offered, "It's my belief these allegations supposedly happened in gym class... and when other students were present."

He said the investigation against Smith began in May, a distance in time he believed indicated the commonwealth had not considered Smith a serious threat.

"They chose to wait... June and July and the first part of August before he was indicted," Davis argued.

More than a dozen friends and relatives showed up to support Smith at Wednesday's hearing, and four character witnesses testified on his behalf, including Franklin County High School football coach J.R. Edwards.

Joe Meador, Smith's Sunday school classmate at Franklin Heights Baptist Church, described Smith as someone who frequently helps others in the congregation with yard work, giving rides to older friends and running errands.

"He's always helping someone," Meador said. "He never misses a Sunday and he's always there."

Smith's charges are now set to go to a bench trial on Dec. 7.

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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

 

MINNEAPOLIS - The University of Minnesota followed law and policy properly when it suspended 10 football players last fall following an accusation of sexual assault, an outside review found.

The review released Wednesday blamed "weak leadership" by the coaching staff for a threat by remaining players to boycott the Holiday Bowl. The Dorsey and Whitney law firm's review also said administrators and regents could have done a better job managing the threatened boycott.

A student accused several players of sexually assaulting her at a party last September. Prosecutors declined to file criminal charges, citing insufficient evidence. But the university suspended the players following an internal investigation.

Influence by unnamed outsiders on both the football team and coaching staff also "helped foster a hostile atmosphere where meaningful dialogue was difficult," the report concluded.

Then-head coach Tracy Claeys backed the boycott, but players ultimately decided to play and beat Washington State 17-12. Claeys was fired a week later.

The university contends it acted properly under federal Title IX guidelines, which require campuses to investigate reports of sexual misconduct.

"We are pleased with the conclusion that the University's actions were consistent with University policies and federal law," the university said in a statement Wednesday.

Minneapolis attorney John Marti, who conducted the review along with attorney Jillian Kornblatt, told the oversight committee that critics of the player suspensions failed to understand that the university is obligated to investigate sexual assault complaints, even when prosecutors decline to file charges.

The report found that the threatened boycott resulted from "weak leadership by the football coaching staff" and "impaired communications and a breakdown in trust" between university leadership and the football team.

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Copyright 2017 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

The Legislature may try to impose some state control on the organization that oversees high school sports in Washington after a series of angry Bellevue residents accused it of racism, intimidation and harassment in a recent investigation.

"There has to be some government oversight," Shelly Carlson, a Bellevue High School parent, who accused the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association of "using a hammer to squash a fly" in its investigation of rule violations at the school.

An investigation released last year by the WIAA and the Bellevue School District concluded that a few players were encouraged and given tuition assistance to attend an alternative school that made them eligible for sports at Bellevue High. Some also were given false addresses to make them eligible to play for Bellevue, and coaches were involved in improper recruiting.

For a series of violations listed in the report, the KingCo Conference banned the Bellevue football team from postseason play for four years, and imposed restrictions on donations of money and equipment from outside sources. Some coaches lost their jobs.

The postseason ban later was reduced to two years by the SeaKing District and approved by WIAA.

The investigators looked into 35 students, and all were African Americans, parents told the Senate Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee at a special meeting in Bellevue. Some were asked how they could afford the cars they were driving or how their parents could afford to live in Bellevue.

"Let's be honest, this is a racism issue," said James Hasty, a parent, high school football coach and former Washington State University and NFL player.

But officials from the WIAA later disputed that figure. John Miller, the organization's assistant executive director, said the school couldn't supply a list of transfer students because of privacy concerns so investigators made a list of athletes who were added to different sports one year when they hadn't played previously. That list included both white and minority students, and they tried to talk to all students but some parents wouldn't give their permission.

WIAA Executive Director Mike Colbrese said the association took seriously the allegations of racism, which first surfaced during the investigation. It made sure investigators were aware of the allegations and "watched it carefully."

When families later asked the school district to investigate allegations of racism, the district found nothing, Colbrese said. A complaint was filed with the Office of Civil Rights; the WIAA responded in May but hasn't heard anything since.

A group of parents also sued the WIAA on behalf of some students. That case was thrown out because a King County judge ruled it was a nonprofit organization, not a state agency, and the students didn't have standing to sue because they were not part of the organization, attorney Marianne Jones said.

When they revised the claim to sue the investigators, another judge ruled WIAA was a branch of state government and threw out that case, she said. The Legislature should at least clear that up, she said.

The coaches who broke the rules are gone, but parents contended the students who didn't break the rules, and new ones who weren't even at the school when the violations occurred, are being punished unfairly by a shortened season and being barred from playoffs.

"Who's being punished if we keep kids out of the playoffs who were not involved in the issue?" committee Chairman Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, asked.

It's a dilemma, Colbrese agreed, but added: "How do you take care of (the violations and the people who created them) when they're gone? And what about all the kids in all those other schools?"

A bill that passed the committee earlier this year, but never came to a vote in the full Senate, would require any change to WIAA rules, policies or amendments to be made available to the Legislature for public review on Jan. 1 of the year it would happen, and not take effect until the session is over.

That might not work, one parent said, because the school year is halfway over when the Legislature starts. Others suggested the WIAA get oversight from the state Board of Education or the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction so that people who disagree with the organization's decisions could at least have their appeal heard by an outside source.

"There needs to be some type of governing body they answer to," said Carlson, the mother of an athlete.

Baumgartner introduced the bill to allow legislative review of rule changes, and said others could be proposed next year. But there are limits to what lawmakers can, or should, do.

"The Legislature is not going to spend time running sports. It could make sure there's an appeal process," he said.

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USA TODAY

 

One flip symbolizes how the USA Gymnastics women's program has changed in the last year.

Ashton Locklear performed the trick when she threw out the first pitch before the Cubs and White Sox met in Chicago's Crosstown Series last month, two days before the U.S. Classic. That's right. Instead of being on lockdown so close to competition, as she would have been in years past, Locklear was out having fun and enjoying the perks of all those hours she has spent in the gym.

"Absolutely it is more open," said Rhonda Faehn, the women's program director. "Yes, there's always going to be a fine line between keeping that focus and that discipline, but at the same time still allowing for the little things. Those little things were always done maybe in the past but not as open.

"When you're smiling down here on the competition floor, it doesn't mean you're not focused," Faehn said. "It means you're enjoying the process and the journey."

The P&G Championships begin Thursday after what has been a year of triumph and tumult for USA Gymnastics.

After the U.S. women won a record nine medals, four of them gold, in the Rio Olympics, the federation was rocked by a sexual abuse scandal centered around longtime team doctor Larry Nassar.

Nassar pleaded guilty last month to federal child pornography charges and faces 22 to 27 years in prison when he's sentenced Nov. 27. He still faces 33 charges of criminal sexual conduct in Michigan and has been sued by more than 115 women and girls who said Nassar sexually abused them during medical appointments.

USA Gymnastics has been named in some of the lawsuits, accused of not doing enough to protect young gymnasts from abuse.

The scandal cost former president and CEO Steve Penny his job and prompted a far-reaching review of the federation's practices by former federal prosecutor Deborah Daniels. In her report, released June 27, Daniels said USA Gymnastics needed a "complete cultural change," putting the priority on the safety and well-being of athletes rather than world and Olympic medals.

Amidst all this, Martha Karolyi, the architect of the U.S. women's success over the last 15 years, made good on her promise to retire after Rio and was replaced by Valeri Liukin.

"Of course it adds stress on all of us," Liukin said of taking over during the upheaval. "We talk a lot about this; we make sure we're doing the right thing. I know all eyes are on us right now. This is our goal.

"It should be our goal all the time, not just because something happened."

While there is no denying Karolyi's success or the system that was the foundation for it, she also was known as an exacting taskmaster.

Coaches and athletes on the national team would joke about "Martha time," knowing that if you weren't at least five minutes early you were considered late. There might have been a selection committee for world and Olympic teams, but Karolyi had the only say that mattered.

Training camps before big meets were long and demanding — the U.S. women were at her ranch outside of Houston for almost three weeks before Rio — and fun was something to be had when competition was over.

Liukin won't criticize Karolyi — "Obviously Martha is a genius when you're talking gymnastics preparation for the competition, and she proved it with the results," he said — but there is definitely a different, less rigid tone to the program.

There was Locklear's promotional appearance before the Classic. Results at the training camps, which used to be top secret unless an athlete or coach spilled, are announced by USA Gymnastics. Even podium training before the U.S. Classic lacked its usual tension.

Liukin knows the semi-centralized system as well as anyone and has, perhaps, the most unique perspective of it. He competed under a similar national team structure with the Soviet Union, winning two gold medals in the Seoul Olympics. He trained daughter Nastia, the all-around champion in the Beijing Olympics, under the American version.

And for the four years before he replaced Karolyi, he ran the developmental program, training the young athletes and coaches who will be factors for Tokyo in 2020.

"This is not a one-man job, and it's never been," Liukin said last month. "Definitely we can give directions and put them together as a team, but it's the coaches who do their job. We have some really good, young coaches, (and for) that I'm very, very happy.

"If you look at the podium, you actually see only a few old names. There are a lot of new faces, and that was my biggest goal when I got the job on the junior side, to develop new coaches."

The year after the Olympics is always one of transition, and this one is no different. None of the Final Five is competing this week, and it's too soon to know if any will return to make a run at Tokyo. Meanwhile, there's no established heir apparent to four-time national champion Simone Biles, with the most likely candidates still in the junior ranks.

"The year after the Olympics is a tough one, and it's always been this way. Just hoping it's not only for us," Liukin said, laughing.

But no matter if it's a time of transition or a time of turmoil, the program moves on.

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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)

 

A prosecutor declined to pursue charges against the head of a local youth sports league, but the league's players have not returned to Catoosa County basketball gyms.

During a commission meeting Tuesday night, Ringgold Youth Sports Association Director Earl Epps confronted elected officials, asking why a ban on use of county facilities remains in place. So did some parents and coaches. So did some children.

"Prior commissioners chose to build these facilities to support the youth organizations of Catoosa County," Epps said. "Why do you now turn your backs on that vision?"

In April, after hearing complaints from a couple of parents of former players, Catoosa County Manager Jim Walker and Parks and Recreation Director Travis Barbee began looking into RYSA. They said they were not sure if all children in the league were getting equal practice time. Also, they believed Epps was running tournaments at county gyms without alerting the local government's administrators.

County Attorney Chad Young said he was worried that Epps was turning a profit at those tournaments, making money on the local government's property without any sort of contract. The concerns went so far that a prosecutor asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation looked into the case.

During an interview with a GBI agent, Epps said he does organize tournaments and the cash received is "personal money," He said he uses those funds to pay for team expenses and travel. On June 23, Assistant District Attorney Alan Norton wrote a letter to the GBI, informing them he would not pursue any criminal charges against Epps. On Wednesday, Epps declined to comment.

As the investigation began, the county commission banned RYSA players and coaches from using the gym. They are still not allowed back in. On Tuesday, for about 50 minutes, people associated with RYSA criticized the commission.

"You hear emotion in my voice because of the witch-hunt that I felt took place based around the rec association, toward [Epps] and toward the organization," said Dewayne Gass, a coach in the league.

On Wednesday, Commission Chairman Steve Henry said elected officials will vote on a new policy during the Sept. 5 meeting to make clearer rules about use of the county gym. He said Barbee should meet with the heads of every youth sports association and create times when each of them can use the gyms, so nobody can complain that use of the building is unfair. In addition to RYSA, Henry said three other organizations use the gym.

Henry said the commission also will create a fee schedule, charging a set amount for different events at the gyms. Practices, for example, will probably cost the amount of money it takes to keep the lights on. Hosting a tournament there may be more expensive.

Walker expects RYSA teams will be able to return to the gym after that.

"The county bears some responsibility in not fixing this a long time ago," he said. "This has been a problem that has festered, and we now have to address it. It's ugly but necessary. Throughout the process, the county will remain transparent."

Said Epps: "You took almost five months away from them. And for what? You just damaged them. You damaged our kids."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.

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Copyright 2017 Charleston Newspapers

Charleston Gazette-Mail

 

By Jim Vertuno The Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas The first woman to sue Baylor University over allegations the nations largest Baptist school ignored or mishandled rape allegations has settled her case, her attorney said Tuesday.

Jasmin Hernandez sued Baylor in early 2016, two months before the school released the results of an internal investigation that found Baylor had mishandled rape or assault cases for years and the football program acted as if it was above the rules.

Baylor fired football coach Art Briles, demoted university President Ken Starr and reprimanded athletic director Ian McCaw in May 2016. Starr and McCaw later left the school.

Briles and McCaw were also named as defendants in the Hernandez lawsuit, but federal court records online show she asked a judge to release them from the case.

Hernandezs lawyer, Alexander Zalkin, told The Associated Press that Hernandez settled the case with all parties over the weekend, but declined to release details of any financial agreement. There was no settlement announcement in the online court records Tuesday night.

Briles attorney, Mark Lanier, said the former coach wouldnt pay a dime. They just let us out of the case. We feel bad for what happened to Jasmin Hernandez, but Art Briles didnt do anything wrong.

McCaw, now the athletic director at Liberty University in Virginia, was also dismissed from the case, said his attorney Tom Brandt. A Baylor spokeswoman declined comment.

Baylor had previously tried to settle with Hernandez, who was raped by former football player Tevin Elliott in 2012. He was later sentenced to 20 years in prison. Hernandezs lawsuit claimed Baylor knew Elliott had a history of assaults, failed to protect her and others who were attacked, and ignored her pleas when she sought help.

The Associated Press generally doesnt identify sexual assault victims, but Hernandez has spoken publicly to draw attention to the case.

We are very proud of Jasmin for her courageous efforts to draw attention to the issue of campus sexual violence, and are honored to have been a part of this journey with her, Zalkin said.

Baylor was already under intense scrutiny when Hernandez sued amid a wave of media reports on allegations of sexual and physical assault surrounding the football program. The school had hired the Pepper Hamilton law firm to investigate after former football player Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of sexual assaulting a student. His conviction was later overturned and he is awaiting a retrial.

The school was hit with a cascade of federal lawsuits after Baylor released its findings from the Pepper Hamilton report in May 2016. The school has settled with several women but still faces multiple lawsuits that have alleged gang rapes by football players and claims the school used its strict honor code against premarital sex and alcohol use to silence victims and witnesses.

Hernandez would be the second woman who sued Baylor to settle. Baylor settled for an undisclosed amount in July with a woman who claimed the school fostered a hunting ground for sexual predators. Baylor also has settled with at least three women who didnt file lawsuits.

The scandal has led to Baylor facing federal civil rights and state criminal investigations, as well as an NCAA investigation.

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Copyright 2017 The Arizona Daily Star. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

 



Pima County wants back in the business of baseball, and -- in a twist -- appears ready to pounce in the wake of another city's struggles.

County officials sent a 17-page package to the Milwaukee Brewers last week, touting Kino Sports Complex and Kino Stadium. The letter concluded with an invitation for Brewers executive vice president Bob Quinn to visit for a tour. Kino served as the Chicago White Sox's spring home from 1998-2008, and hosted the Arizona Diamondbacks from 1998-2009.

"I would be most interested in showing you the Kino Sports Complex when you are available, as well as introduce you to our county officials and tourism staff," wrote Reenie Ochoa, Pima County Stadium District director.

The Brewers train at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix, but the team's contract is year-to-year. The team has recently pushed for a move to Gilbert, focusing on a site at Loop 202 at Lindsay and Germann roads.

The Brewers proposed paying $20 million of the $160 million estimated cost to build the stadium and an adjoining mixed-use "retail village," according to reports. Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels balked at the idea of spending taxpayer money on the facility, saying the city could never recoup its investment.

"The math doesn't work for #GilbertAZ," she tweeted last week.

The Brewers say they've discussed a new, long-term lease in Maryvale, but the math may not work for them, either. Their current stadium seats just 7,000 fans, lowest in the Cactus League. Arizona spring training teams drew a record 1,941,347 fans this year, but the Brewers were near the bottom in average attendance.

The 162-acre Kino Sports Complex lacks the new-complex smell and retail village but is ready-made for spring training.

Pima County's letter touts Kino Stadium's "four clubhouses, full service concessions operations, press box, eight private upper level (suites) and 3,000+ parking spaces" at the 11,000-seat park. Kino has hosted a handful of Cactus League games over the last seven years, and the Pecos League's Tucson Saguaros have played there over the last two summers. The annual Vamos a Tucson Mexican Baseball Fiesta is played there every October.

Tucson has been without a spring training team since 2010, when the Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies bolted the city-and-county-run stadiums for new facilities in the Phoenix area. The D-backs and White Sox shared Kino Stadium for years.

The Triple-A Tucson Sidewinders also played at Kino, then called Tucson Electric Park, from 1998-2008 before moving to Reno.

The Tucson Padres played three seasons (2011-13) at the south-side complex before they were purchased and relocated to El Paso.

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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

VIRGINIA BEACH

City Manager Dave Hansen on Tuesday gave the developer of a proposed arena more time to close on a loan after it asked for an extension.

The new date to secure financing would be Nov. 6.

The developer's request comes before its September deadline, when the City Council asked for the funding to be finalized.

The current agreement says the developer is allowed to take two 30-day extensions.

In a letter, United States Management - which is now operating as Mid-Atlantic Arena, LLC - requested the full 60 days. The company changed its name at the lender's request, said Joel Rubin, a spokesman for the developer.

The city has seen "real progress toward the closing of the loan," City Attorney Mark Stiles said in a statement.

"The need for additional time was contemplated at the time the Development Agreement was executed," he wrote, "and this request is not surprising given the size and complexity of this transaction."

Hansen granted the developer's request after council members met in closed session to discuss it.

The project has faced many obstacles since the council approved the deal in December 2015.

The developer originally wanted to be open by this fall. That goal was pushed to October 2019.

The arena would be privately owned and operated, but the city has a major stake in it, too. It would give the developer 1 percentage point of the hotel tax, real estate and personal property taxes and taxes generated at the arena. The developer could get up to $476 million over more than 30 years.

In March, JPMorgan Chase said it was willing to finance a $150 million loan for the 18,000-seat sports and entertainment arena. Additionally, the developer said it had $70 million in private investment.

"I remain optimistic that the developer will be able to finalize the necessary financing," Hansen said in a statement.

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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

'We just wanted to help the city heal'

A basketball league pitting teams from rival public housing communities against one another on the court rather than in the streets seems to have reduced crime in the those neighborhoods, according to organizers and Richmond's police chief.

On July 11, the RVA League for Safer Streets tipped off at the Hotchkiss Field Community Center in North Richmond. Mosby, Whitcomb, Creighton and Fairfield courts all fielded teams - Mosby and Whitcomb had so many interested players that they broke into two teams each.

"We got neighborhoods that usually feud with one another that are out here on this hardwood every Tuesday religiously playing ball," said Paul Taylor, one of the league's organizers. "Basketball is really just the bait. It's in these workshops right here."

Before games, there are hourlong workshops with topics including job skills, substance abuse, anger management and post-traumatic stress disorder. The championship game was Tuesday.

Taylor, formerly of Newport News, and Jawad Abdu, of Richmond, met in the Nottoway Correctional Center, where they were both serving time for murder. In 2007, they started brainstorming ideas that would make a positive impact when they were released.

"We just wanted to help the city heal," Abdu said. "Through the violence and all the misunderstanding that was going on in the communities."

Just a month in, it's already having an impact, he said.

"When they're on these courts, you've got neighborhoods like Creighton and Mosby, sworn enemies not just today but from years past," Taylor said. "But today, they are playing ball together with no conflict. So when they see each other on the streets, there's no mean mugging or acting crazy."

Respect has begun to form where once there was only animosity, the organizers said.

"The issues that these guys had on the street are the issues that you're seeing on the news," Abdu said. "But ever since this league started, July 11, there hasn't been - with these specific guys - there haven't been gunshots in these communities where we have teams."

Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham agrees there has been a reduction in crime, though he didn't cite specific numbers. He said he hopes to look at the statistics when the league wraps up this week to see its impact and present it to the City Council.

"We just haven't been seeing the same violence we did in the beginning of the year," Durham said.

Violent crime rose 3 percent across the city during the first half of 2017, but Durham said it centered largely around Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority properties, including Mosby, Gilpin and Whitcomb courts, along with some concentrated areas of poverty in South Richmond.

Many of the shootings and homicides earlier this year were retaliatory crimes back-and-forth between these long-feuding neighborhoods, Durham said.

"I think this is a start," Durham said. "This is something that could work - keeping our people occupied. This is not just about basketball."

Durham, who has worked in law enforcement for 30 years, said this is the first time he's been approached by someone returning from prison looking to help the police clean up the streets.

"I have never seen it," he said.

Abdu and Taylor bring more credibility than Durham, or anyone with a badge, among the players, many of whom have served time as well.

"We owe," Taylor said. "For a lot of these kids, we were the men that they were following. So to see our transformation, seeing that you can still be the person you are, you can still be a cool guy. Being on the side of right ain't so bad after all. It's just minus the jail, it's minus the prison, it's minus the back of a police car. Just showing it's a different way. We're still who we are, we're just on the side of right."

The league serves ages 17 to 24, but it's become a family affair. The players bring their significant others and children, who cheer from the stands or play on the court outside the gym.

Demond Hicks, known as "Little Mosby," brought his son to the game Thursday. Hicks, who coaches a Mosby Court team, is well-known in the neighborhood.

"I thought it was a good idea," he said, "to bring people from different neighborhoods who used to feud. You've got people talking to each other that never talked before, but they beefed."

Hicks said these communities need more programs, especially for children.

"If they're around violence all day, that's all they know," Hicks said. "I came a long way. I used to be the one running things."

Abdu and Taylor hope to expand the league to South Richmond for the winter season, starting in September, but need support first. They're also planning several other programs aimed at young women.

"Richmond is the brain of the central nervous system of this commonwealth. It has to start here," Taylor said. He came to Richmond after his release because of the strong support system here. "My neighborhood is also suffering. I need this to work in Richmond. So I can also take it back home and make a difference in my own community."

arockett@timesdispatch.com(804) 649-6527Twitter: @AliRockettRTD

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News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)

 

CHAPEL HILL — After three years of an NCAA investigation and three notices of allegations, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will appear today before the NCAA Committee on Infractions in Nashville, Tenn. The hearing is expected to last until Thursday.

This is not an end point as much as it is a new beginning. In NCAA investigations involving serious allegations, as is the case at UNC, the appearance before the infractions committee is essentially an institution's trial date — its chance to go before the NCAA's judge and jury.

What happens during an infractions committee hearing?

There are, essentially, prosecutors (the NCAA Enforcement Staff), defendants (the charged institution, and any of its associates — current or former coaches or employees, etc.) and a judge and jury (the infractions committee).

During the hearing the enforcement staff and the institution — as well as any individuals who face allegations of wrongdoing — will have an opportunity to argue their positions relative to each of the allegations in the case. Members of the infractions committee will listen to both sides, and will have an opportunity to pose questions of their own.

How is an infractions committee hearing organized?

Gene Marsh and Tom Yeager, two former infractions committee chairmen, recently described the set-up like this: imagine a large conference room with three long, rectangular tables set up to form an open square. The members of the infractions committee will sit behind the table in the middle, leaving two tables running down opposite sides of the room.

NCAA officials, including those from the enforcement staff, will sit at one of those tables. The other will be occupied by the university and its team. In UNC's case, that will include chancellor Carol Folt, athletics director Bubba Cunningham and coaches Larry Fedora, Sylvia Hatchell and Roy Williams.

At the start of the hearing, there will be an introduction of all of the parties in the room. The university will give an opening statement. The enforcement staff will do the same. The enforcement staff will then introduce discussion of the first allegation, and the university will have a chance to respond.

Members of the infractions committee will have the chance to ask questions. Both the institution and the enforcement staff can make their case. Eventually, the proceedings will move on to the second allegation and the third. UNC is facing five allegations.

Who is on the infractions committee?

Seven NCAA Committee on Infractions members will hear UNC's case. Those seven members, and their affiliations:

  • Greg Sankey (committee chairman), Commissioner of the Southeastern Conference
  • Carol Cartwright, president emerita of Kent State and Bowling Green State universities
  • Alberto Gonzalez, dean and professor of law at Belmont University College of Law
  • Eleanor Myers, law professor emerita and interim associate dean for students at Temple University
  • Joseph Novak, retired college football coach, Northern Illinois University
  • Larry Parkinson, director of Office of Enforcement for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
  • Jill Pilgrim, attorney and co-founder of Precise Advisory Group in New York, N.Y.

What is the difference between the infractions committee and the enforcement staff?

They are separate organizations in the NCAA infractions process. Members of the enforcement staff are NCAA employees who are responsible for carrying out NCAA investigations and building cases. The enforcement staff, and its investigators, built the case against UNC.

Major NCAA infractions cases are then brought to the committee on infractions, which the NCAA describes as an "independent administrative body" charged with deciding these cases. The infractions committee is comprised, as the NCAA puts it, "of individuals serving as volunteers from NCAA member institutions and conferences and individuals from the general public who have legal training."

Is the hearing open to the public?

The hearing is not open to the public, which is standard NCAA protocol. Infractions committee hearings are held behind closed doors, usually in large meeting rooms connected to hotels. Hearings are often held in Indianapolis, where the NCAA has its headquarters. It is not uncommon, though, for a hearing to be held outside of Indianapolis.

Aside from listening and asking questions, what is the committee's role during the hearing?

In addition to listening to the representatives on both sides of the case, and asking questions, the infractions committee also has the authority to adjust the charges that an institution faces. If the committee, for instance, believes that the enforcement staff hasn't appropriately applied an NCAA bylaw to an allegation, then the committee can alter the charge.

In UNC's case, this is noteworthy because the institution does not face any allegations of academic fraud, or academic misconduct, related to a case that, at its core, is about how years of bogus African Studies courses helped maintain athletic eligibility. The enforcement staff has instead framed this as an impermissible benefits case. The committee on infractions could potentially change that.

How likely is that, and what would happen if the committee does add additional charges?

It's probably unlikely. After years of delays, Greg Sankey, the chairman of the committee, has expressed a desire for this case to reach a timely conclusion. The university would welcome the end of this saga, as well.

If the committee does add new allegations, though, it would only extend a case that has now dragged on into its fourth year. A new charge, or new charges, also could potentially reset the case timeline, and add several months, at least, to the back end of the case.

Why are Larry Fedora, Sylvia Hatchell and Roy Williams appearing before the committee?

The short answer: Their appearance was requested. Why the committee requested their appearance, though, isn't exactly clear. No UNC coach has been charged with wrongdoing. Fedora, the football coach, began working at UNC in 2012, after the conclusion of the classes at the heart of the investigation.

To varying degrees, football, men's basketball and women's basketball have appeared at the greatest risk throughout the investigation. Though no sport has been charged with wrongdoing, the NCAA alleged that UNC used the bogus African Studies courses to maintain the eligibility of academically at-risk athletes, "particularly in the sports of football and men's basketball."

Fedora and Williams will be on hand, presumably, to address questions relating to their teams' use of the courses in question. Hatchell, the women's basketball coach, might also be asked about her team's relationship with Jan Boxill, a former women's basketball academic counselor who is charged with providing impermissible academic assistance to players.

Though football and basketball players accounted for the majority of enrollments in the bogus classes, athletes from several other sports, including baseball and women's soccer, also took them. The committee only requested the presence of those three UNC coaches.

To what extent, if any, will possible penalties be discussed?

Penalties will be discussed. By the time the hearing ends on Thursday, UNC officials might have a good idea of what potential sanctions they face. The university will not know for sure - and it won't know until the committee issues its final ruling - but the committee does have the latitude to discuss potential sanctions, and potential mitigating factors, during the hearing.

What happens next?

More waiting. Nothing has moved quickly in the case and don't expect that to change, even approaching the end. If the committee adds or adjusts charges, that would create another procedural delay in a case that has already had several of them.

And even if the committee accepts the enforcement staff's case — which is the far more likely outcome of the hearing — several months could pass before it issues a final ruling, which would include penalties and sanctions.

There is a built-in NCAA appeals process.

If UNC disagrees with the outcome of the case — if it finds its penalties to be too harsh, for instance — it could, and likely would, appeal the committee's ruling.

If UNC takes additional measures, like pursuing a legal case, it's likely to do so only after exhausting the normal NCAA investigative process.

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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

When second-year Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall drove into work Saturday morning, he noticed an abundance of police cars parked at John Paul Jones Arena, where the Cavaliers play basketball.

The sheer numbers got his attention. By the afternoon, Charlottesville would have the unwelcome attention of the nation.

Mendenhall said he urged his players to avoid knee-jerk reactions to the racially motivated violence that left three dead and put the small college town atop every national newscast for days.

He also pointed out the juxtaposition of having those events occur in a city such as Charlottesville.

"I think it's an amazing, quiet, quaint place to live that embraces, man, all types of people," Mendenhall told reporters Tuesday. "And so it's ironic that something like this happened here. And possibly, it's more newsworthy because something like that happened here."

Speaking after practice in a media session U.Va. called specifically to address the violence, Mendenhall said the range of his players' responses mirrored that of any household.

Senior receiver Doni Dowling said the location of the incident meant nothing.

"Where it's at don't matter... (even) if it was on the other side of the globe," said Dowling, a Richmond native. "The fact that we still have these issues, that's the disappointing thing."

Senior defensive end Andrew Brown of Chesapeake said he's avoiding giving it too much thought.

"It has nothing to do with us," said Brown, who starred at Oscar Smith High. "We're pushing toward something greater than this. We're bigger than that. If we were to sit back and worry about it, then we'd be stooping down to their level, which we're not going to do."

The Cavaliers were about 10 minutes from finishing a scrimmage Saturday at Scott Stadium when athletic director Craig Littlepage informed them that a state of emergency had been declared in the area. The team was ordered to board buses and return to the locker room before heading to the Cavalier Hotel, the staging site for fall camp.

Some of the protesters were staying at the same hotel. The U.Va. players were on the third, fourth and fifth floors; the protesters were on the second.

With a team outing at Mendenhall's house canceled by inclement weather, the players and coaches stayed at the on-campus hotel through Saturday night as the violence died down. Some players reported seeing a protest pass by the hotel Friday night.

Senior tailback Daniel Hamm, a native of Wytheville, said he was surprised to see the unrest in his adopted hometown.

"I didn't grow up here, but I've been here for four years, going on five," Hamm said. "I've come to call this place home. And to have it happen in your city like this, it's shocking and it's eye-opening. You just kind of look at the situation. You've got to sit back, take a deep breath and be like, 'Wow. What's going on right now?' "

The police cars Mendenhall saw Saturday morning were there because JPJ served as a staging area for law enforcement. The arena sits across the street from the building that houses the football offices, so the events hit close to home .

Mendenhall said he hopes to see the community rally around his team, which is looking to improve upon last season's 2-10 record.

"I would like to help our team inspire and teach and perform in a way that would bring people together," Mendenhall said. "And we have our work cut out. There's plenty of work to do in our program, but there is an opportunity. I acknowledge it, our team acknowledges it and we're going to try our best to do just that."

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Naples Daily News (Florida)

 

Deputies on Monday arrested a Naples High School teacher, who is also an assistant varsity football coach, on suspicion of engaging in sexual relations with a minor and soliciting sex from another juvenile.

Brock Smith, 30, faces two felony charges of sexual assault of a victim 16 or 17 years old in one case. In another case, he faces felony charges of soliciting sexual activity with a minor and transmission of harmful material to a minor, according to a Collier County Sheriff's Office arrest report.

Deputies and a Florida Department of Children & Families supervisor made contact with Smith at the school at 1:58 p.m. Monday as they "were investigating an unrelated case at the time," according to the report. No information about how the investigation started was available Tuesday afternoon.

Smith provided "a non-custodial taped sworn statement" related to the incident authorities were investigating, the report stated. During the interview, Smith told investigators that he sent the girl "nude images of himself" in November, according to the report. She was 17 years old at the time, the report states.

Smith also told investigators that he had sexual intercourse with the 17-year-old in a bathroom, according to the report. When investigators finished their interview, Smith left in his vehicle.

A week earlier, on Aug. 8, the DCF supervisor and deputies had obtained a taped sworn statement from the girl.

During that interview she told investigators that Smith had sent her a message on Snapchat, a social media app, in the first half of November 2016, telling her he was going to visit her at her workplace, according to the report.

Smith arrived at her workplace and suggested they go into a restroom, where they then had sexual intercourse in a bathroom stall, the report states. The girl told investigators they had sexual intercourse one additional time in November 2016 in the same restroom, according to the report.

The girl and Smith "ceased communication after the second incident," the report states.

In June, Smith sent another girl a message requesting to follow her through Instagram, a photo social media app, according to a second arrest report. When the 16-year-old accepted his request after a few days, Smith replied, "About friginn time," the report states.

Smith contacted the girl on or about July 16 through Instagram. After a brief conversation, Smith said: "You should delete this message thread... and use Snapchat to talk to me," the report states.

The girl then added Smith to her Snapchat account, and Smith sent her lewd messages, the report states. Smith sent the girl a photo, via Snapchat, of himself nude, standing in front of a bathroom mirror, brushing his teeth, according to the report.

Smith then requested that the girl send him a photo, the report states. He continued to message the girl through Snapchat for about a week and told her "that he was free in the mornings to meet for sex," according to the report.

Smith told the girl that his wife would be out of town Sept. 22 and that the girl could come to his house to have sex, the report states. The girl told investigators she started to feel uncomfortable and told Smith to stop contacting her.

Deputies arrested Smith at his East Naples home Monday afternoon. He was booked at the Naples Jail Center, with bail set at $400,000.

Collier school district spokesman Greg Turchetta in an emailed statement Tuesday said the district has "been made aware of the arrest of a district high school teacher."

"We are cooperating with the Collier County Sheriff's Office on this matter," Turchetta said in the email.

Smith was hired in 2011 and has worked at the school for six years, Turchetta said. After his release by the Sheriff's Office, Smith will be reassigned to the MLK Jr. Administrative Center, he said.

Students in Collier start school Wednesday.

Smith is the Naples High School varsity coach for wide receivers.

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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)

 

If you build it, they will come. Or, in this instance, stay.

Evansville Christian School's new high school off Epworth Road in Newburgh welcomed its first students last week. Its inaugural class actually started last year and will graduate in 2020, but school officials are optimistic this is only the start.

There are currently about 30 students between the freshman and sophomore class despite having 800 others in grades K-8. ECS knows it needs athletics in order to grow.

"The thing is, obviously, if you have a high school without extracurricular activities, the kids and athletes who play basketball and soccer or whatever go on to other high schools," athletic director Paul Dunham said.

ECS isn't fielding any teams this school year but is allowing individual boys and girls to compete in cross country, swimming and track and field. It's the first step toward becoming an official IHSAA school to compete in Class A like Evansville Day School does.

It can't apply for accreditation until the freshmen and sophomore classes have completed this school year. Then, if approved, there will be another four-year wait before teams can compete in state tournaments.

Much of the ground work must be done at the elementary level. There were 13 basketball teams grades third through eight last year and Brandon Carr, a former player at the University of Southern Indiana, was hired over the summer with the intention of him eventually coaching high schoolers.

He will coach the eighth-grade boys during the school year before leading seventh graders in the spring and summer at tournaments. The goal is to have a freshman team in 2018-19 in the school's new gym.

"Hopefully he'll build relationships because that's what we have to do," Dunham said. "We have to find guys who will love the kids and they'll love him back to continue that relationship onto high school."

ECS anticipates having a freshman baseball team next year, too. Joe Paulin, a former Reitz assistant, has 20 players in a feeder program that will start play this fall.

Two years from now, Dunham is optimistic there also will be freshman soccer teams.

"We're trying to build it up," he said. "It's a daunting challenge to start but it's also exciting."

Dunham's oldest sons have been standouts at Reitz in multiple sports despite attending ECS when they were younger. Elijah, the oldest, is currently a freshman playing baseball at Indiana, while Isaiah will play football at Yale next year.

They didn't have the opportunity to play at ECS - a school where they could have expressed their faith. Dunham wants to give others alternatives.

"We're trying to provide an option for someone who would prefer to send their kids to a smaller school with smaller class size and be able to have a sports experience," Dunham said. "It's going to be easier to make the future basketball team at ECS than a top-level school like Bosse, Harrison or Castle."

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

Mercedes-Benz Stadium was constructed with at least three advantages for possibly hosting a World Cup.

Coincidentally during a tour of the $1.5 billion stadium Tuesday, the Joint Bid Committee, representing the U.S., Mexico and Canada in its effort to land the 2026 World Cup, released the list of cities that could be host sites. Atlanta, with Mercedes-Benz Stadium, was included.

In addition to the retractable roof, the halo board and the 4,000 miles of optical fiber that will enhance the experience for the fans, two soccer-specific design features were included.

The stadium includes seats in the corners for football that can be rolled back for soccer. That will allow the field to surpass the minimum width of 70 yards required by FIFA. The field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be 75 yards wide and 110 yards long.

"It's something that costs money, but the right thing for us to do for the ability to host soccer games," Atlanta United President Darren Eales said Tuesday.

Second, Eales said FIFA requires World Cup stadiums have a "kick room," an area within the stadium in which players can get loose before taking the field. Mercedes-Benz has one of those rooms, complete with artificial turf, adjacent to Atlanta United's locker room. There is also space for a kick room near the visiting locker room.

"We have a jump-start on a lot of stadiums that don't have those things built in," Eales said.

Last, FIFA prefers World Cup stadiums seat at least 60,000 for a Cup final. Mercedes-Benz Stadium can reach 71,000.

Seeking attendance record: Atlanta United will aim for the MLS single-game attendance record when it hosts Orlando City on Sept. 16 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The league record of 69,255 was established April 13, 1996,when the Los Angeles Galaxy and the New York/ New Jersey MetroStarsplayed at the Rose Bowl.

"Would love to be able to set that record," Eales said.

In its first season in MLS and playing exclusively at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta United leads MLS in average attendance (46,318). Its total attendance of 416,864 in nine games ranks second behind Seattle's 470,793, set in 11 games.

The new stadium will typically be configured to host 42,000, but it will expand the seating to 70,000 for at least two games. The other will be the regular-season finale against Toronto on Oct. 22.

First look: Atlanta United will practice for the first time in its new home Saturday.

The team's first game in the $1.5 billion stadium is Sept. 10 against Dallas.

To try to make the transition from its home of Bobby Dodd Stadium, which features a grass field, to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which features artificial turf, manager Gerardo Martino said Atlanta United will train at least once a week on the turf fields at its training complex in Marietta.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium will feature FieldTurf Revolution 360. It is the same type of synthetic surface used at Providence Park in Portland and CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

A Lanier High School teacher has resigned after Gwinnett County Public Schools began investigating allegations that he had an "inappropriate relationship" with a student.

Oji Perkins, a varsity girls' basketball coach who also taught special education and math, resigned citing "personal reasons" on Friday, only four days after the new school year started, school officials said.

Gwinnett County School Police are conducting a criminal investigation, said Bernard Watson, a district spokesman.

Gwinnett County Public Schools will make a report to the Professional Standards Commission, which certifies teachers in Georgia, about the investigation, Watson said.

The county school district provided no details about the alleged relationship.

Perkins has been a certified teacher in Georgia since 2007 according to information from the PSC. His teaching certification was renewed in July.

Earlier this year, four other teachers at Gwinnett County schools were accused of sexually assaulting students.

The cases against those instructors -- three public school teachers and one private school teacher--include allegations of molestation, groping, rape and a two-and-a-half year sexual relationship, all involving students.

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USA TODAY

 

The beer cans feature the Green Wave of Tulane University, scowling and brandishing a megaphone.

That's new Green Wave Beer, named after Tulane's athletic teams -- the result of a partnership between Tulane and a local brewing company the school announced last month.

Beer and college football long have been linked, but deals such as Tulane's are on the rise as campuses cozy up to brewers. Universities, seeing the potential for profit, are starting to agree to beer sponsorships and relax their stringent alcohol policies in many stadiums.

"There is movement all over the country for universities to start selling alcohol and accepting alcohol companies' sponsorships," said David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Johns Hopkins University.

As nationwide sales have stagnated, brewers are targeting college sports fans, evoking school spirit in ad campaigns with mascots and a university's colors -- even in the brands of beer they offer. But the campaign comes as some researchers warn exposure to beer ads risks undercutting efforts to discourage binge drinking and underage alcohol consumption.

"Studies have consistently found that the more exposure students have to alcohol marketing, the more likely they are to start drinking," Jernigan said. "This is further embedding and normalizing alcohol use on college campuses."

Still, more campuses are stepping up:

University of Houston. Last month, the school named Bud Light its official beer, making it available for sale during athletic events. The beer's parent company, Anheuser-Busch, has the rights to use elements of the university's brand in its marketing.

University of Texas. The Austin campus announced a partnership with Corona in July, the first for that beer company with a university. The campaign -- "Horns up, Limes In!" -- will include a special "Corona Beach House" tailgate area located near the university's football stadium where fans can take photos with Corona's Adirondack chair.

From ABUniversity of Texas Announces Partnership with Corona

Louisiana State University. Tin Roof Brewing in Baton Rouge makes LSU's beer, Bayou Bengal Lager. "It's done great" since being introduced last year, says William McGehee, co-founder of the brewery. "LSU fans are very passionate. It's a beer they can celebrate their school with."

From ABLSU Looks to Open Beer Garden at Tiger Stadium

But not without controversy. A state legislator introduced a bill, later withdrawn, to stop such deals last April. Rep. Cedric Glover wrote in a letter obtained by The Advocate of Baton Rouge that he believes the arrangements foster alcohol abuse even though LSU's president says they rake in 15% from sale of licensed beer.

Brewers are making inroads inside the stadiums, too. The number of universities allowing alcohol at sporting events has grown. Recently, Purdue University, Marshall University and California State University-Fresno have introduced or expanded sales in their sports arenas.

The growth in alcoholic beverage-university partnerships reflects brewers' desire for expansion at a time when beer sales growth isn't keeping up with spirits and wine, particularly among Millennials.

According to the Beverage Information Group, beer sales by volume at U.S. bars and restaurants declined 3% from 2014 to 2015. U.S. beer volume sales declined 1.2% through the first 50 days of 2017, according to market research firm IRI Worldwide.

Millennials of legal age account for 35% of U.S. beer consumption and 32% of spirits consumption, according to Nielson.

"If (companies) can get to you in college and build a relationship, that relationship will typically last a long time," says Gary Wilcox, a professor who researches alcohol advertising at Texas.

But universities' growing affinity for beer brands -- whether in stadium sales, exclusive brews or branding rights -- has raised concerns among health experts who study how college students drink.

The 2015 Monitoring the Future study, which tracked the drug habits of children and young adults, found 63.2% of college students had reported drinking alcoholic beverages in the prior month.

A separate report found 1.2 million students drink on an average day.

Universities insist the focus is on fans -- including alumni -- not students, and on responsible consumption.

At Tulane, Nathan Hubbell, general manager of sports marketing, says the booze is marketed towards older-season ticket holders and donors, as well as fans of coaches' radio shows, who tend to be 21 or older.

"This isn't something we're advertising to students," Hubbell said. "It's not like we're going to stick (beer) behind the student section at the stadium."

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USA TODAY

 

High school football coaches who worry that their sport will one day mirror high school basketball with a high number of transfers are a little late. At the top level, it's already there.

Eighteen of the top 50 players in the 247Sports.com rankings for the class of 2018 are on their second school -- or, in some cases, their third.

While coaches in Texas and elsewhere are concerned IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) is scooping up all the top talent, only four of those top 18 players transferred to IMG. The rest often went from one good high school football team to another.

Parents across the country are demanding greater school choice, and increasingly open enrollment laws -- particularly in football hotbeds Southern California and Florida -- have allowed athletes to look for the best situations. States trying to make transfers more difficult often have a hard time passing more stringent rules.

Last winter, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association mandated a 30-day no-competition rule for transferring athletes, even for bona fide moves. Kimberly Harrington, New Jersey's acting commissioner of education, voided the rule in April.

That means four recent high-profile athletes who transferred to Paramus Catholic (Paramus, N.J.) will be able to play right away this fall: defensive end Dorian Hardy from state champion St. Joseph Regional (Montvale), along with Pope John XIII (Sparta) quarterback Trey Dawson, Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) defensive back Jarrett Paul and DePaul Catholic (Wayne) quarterback-receiver Shelton Applewhite.

Grayson (Loganville, Ga.) won its state AAAAAAA football title last season, but the Rams garnered notoriety because they landed five of the state's top 100 players via transfer, just for their senior seasons, including running back Kurt Taylor. He transferred back to Newton High for his final semester after helping Grayson win the title.

A Georgia High School Association committee floated a rule this spring that would have required students to sit out half the season if their transfer was deemed to be for athletic reasons. The GHSA's executive committee defeated the proposal by a 62-2 vote.

IMG's football program was built on high-level transfers. The Ascenders, who will be playing their fifth season this fall, have graduated only one four-year player, Christian Pluchino.

Texas coach Tom Hermann, speaking at a Texas High School Coaches Association Convention, said he would discourage recruits from transferring to IMG.

IMG coach Kevin Wright points out the rise of football transfers is a national trend that began before IMG was playing varsity football.

"We live in a world of instant gratification," Wright said. "People want to play, and they want to play now. Even before this, when I was at Carmel in Indianapolis, parents would come to us with their kids in middle school and wanted an answer on where their kid would fit in at Carmel football. It's part of the sports culture, and football is no different."

Some top players are so well-traveled, their Hudl highlight accounts are full of video from former schools. American Family Insurance preseason All-USA defensive back Brendan "Bookie" Radley-Hiles grew up in Inglewood, Calif., but played his freshman year at Calabasas, Calif., his sophomore year at Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), was back at Calabasas for his junior year and will be a senior at IMG this season.

Akeem Dent, one of the top cornerback-wide receivers in the 2019 class, is on his third school. He played at Royal Palm Beach (Fla.) as a freshman, helped lead Pahokee to a 1A Florida title it was ultimately stripped of for ineligible players last season and is at Palm Beach Central (Wellington, Fla.) this season.

Not surprisingly, the top teams in Texas -- like the top teams in other states -- often end up with the most talented transfers. Allen is the largest school in the state, and the Eagles, while compiling a 57-game winning streak that ended last season, relied on three quarterbacks who began their high school careers elsewhere: Kyler Murray, Seth Green and Mitchell Jonke.

Texas' 2017 6A-II champion, DeSoto, won its first title with quarterback Shawn Robinson, who was on his third school (he played at Chisholm Trail in Fort Worth as a freshman and Guyer in Denton as a sophomore and junior). He beat out quarterback Jaylin Nelson, who had transferred to DeSoto from First Baptist in Dallas. When Nelson lost the starting job to Robinson before the 2015 season, he transferred to Duncanville.

Andy Stefanelli is the new head coach at powerhouse Good Counsel (Olney, Md.), which plays in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference that includes traditional powers DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) and St. John's and Gonzaga (both in Washington). Before becoming the Falcons head coach, he was an assistant for 10 years at Good Counsel to longtime coach Bob Milloy. He said position shopping by parents and poaching by high schools are factors in the rise of transfers.

"I was the recruiting coordinator here for eight of those 10 years, and I've been the guy helping Coach Milloy to talk some of our parents off the fence (from transferring)," Stefanelli said. "What's changed it is these institutions that have gotten super aggressive that have deep, deep pockets.

"The reason players are leaving is these kids are offered full scholarships to transfer to their schools. They are poaching kids out of good situations. IMG was one of the first ones to start it, and St. Frances (Baltimore) and St.John's are in that realm. The parents of kids are so caught up in getting them a Division I scholarship that they're willing to do just about anything to put their kid in a situation that will enhance their chance of getting a scholarship. I think that's the driver."

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USA TODAY

 

Colin Kaepernick still hasn't landed another job, but his spirit undeniably lives on in the NFL.

The protests of Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett (undoubtedly) and Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch (conceivably) — neither stood for the national anthem before preseason games last weekend — served notice that the league can hardly distance itself from the nation's social turmoil by merely refusing to give Kaepernick an opportunity.

No, it's not that simple, Roger Goodell.

Kaepernick might have been the one who raised the level of consciousness — with the NFL as the backdrop — about issues of inequality, racism, social justice and police brutality last year. But clearly he isn't the only player with whom such issues hit home.

Bennett, who sat with a towel over his head during The Star-Spangled Banner before a Sunday exhibition game in Los Angeles, declared that he was moved by hate-mongering events that occurred in Charlottesville, Va., a day earlier and will sit out the anthem for the entire season.

"I just want to see people have the equality that they deserve," Bennett said Sunday. "And I want to be able to use this platform to continuously push the message of that."

More power to him.

If it's appropriate (and it is) to have a moment of silence before sporting events because of some tragedy that commands our collective sympathy, then players such as Bennett, Lynch or Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Malcolm Jenkins, who raised a fist in the spirit of John Carlos and Tommie Smith, have every right to protest as a means of acknowledging serious social issues that touch their nerves as American citizens.

The instant I heard that Bennett protested during the anthem, I was reminded of a conversation with him this month. The topic was legacy and purpose.

"I think a lot of times people get purpose and their job mixed up," Bennett told USA TODAY Sports. "But your purpose lasts a lifetime."

It's hardly a surprise that Bennett — an established ninth-year veteran who has long been outspoken on matters of race and social issues — would pick up the virtual baton left by Kaepernick.

Just before training camp, for instance, Bennett — active for years with various social causes — hosted a fundraising event to support the four children of Charleena Lyles, who was shot and killed by two Seattle police officers during an incident in her apartment in late June. He thinks his purpose leads him to give back, create bridges for opportunity and provide a voice for those who don't have the platform he enjoys — and is compelled to use.

"We're constantly reminded that black children don't matter, black women don't matter and especially black men," Bennett said this month.

He added that he sees it as his responsibility "to keep pushing the agenda forward and keep supporting people of color when they go through issues."

Over the weekend, Bennett and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long, who is white, issued rebukes of the alt-right factions responsible for the deadly rally in Virginia that you would have hoped would immediately come from President Trump, who has received various levels of support from several NFL owners.

In an NFL context, though, the events of the weekend added relevance as to why Kaepernick mounted protests last year.

Long, who grew up in Charlottesville and attended the University of Virginia, didn't demonstrate with an anthem protest but provided a thoughtful opinion on the matter. The gist: It's a matter of right or wrong.

Lynch didn't explain his actions, but Raiders coach Jack Del Rio relayed that "Beast Mode" told him that he's been sitting out the anthem throughout his career. Apparently, that went unnoticed. (Lynch was retired last season, when it surely would have been a hot topic.) Del Rio told Lynch that he didn't agree with his position on the anthem but respected him as a man.

Now if only Kaepernick had enjoyed similar regard to allow him to compete for a job in a league where so many less-talented quarterbacks — without Super Bowl appearances on their résumés — are given opportunities.

After all, in this time and place, keeping Kaepernick out of the NFL won't end the protests.

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The Boston Herald

 

Pyeongchang lies in mountainous terrain at the uppermost eastern corner of South Korea, about an hour from the border with North Korea. Normally, its proximity to the demilitarized zone, and the North beyond, would not be an issue.

But six months from now, thousands of athletes from around the world are set to gather at that remote location for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Given the escalated tensions in the region — with North Korea testing ballistic missiles and threatening attacks on the U.S. and President Trump threatening "fire and fury" — Pyeongchang's location has become a global concern.

Though the International Olympic Committee hasn't reacted to the battle of words between Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un, it clearly is listening.

"We are monitoring the situation on the Korean peninsula very closely," an IOC spokeswoman said.

Much can change, either good or bad, as the clock ticks down to the opening ceremony Feb. 9. This isn't the first time the Olympic movement has butted up against politics or possible violence. No matter how often IOC leaders talk about "the autonomy of sport," the real world keeps intruding.

"The Games have always been politicized," said Michael Heine, director of the International Center for Olympic Studies in Canada. "From Mexico City to Beijing to Berlin, there are plenty of examples."

The 1916 Summer Olympics — scheduled for Berlin — were scratched due to World War I. World War II forced the cancellation of the games in 1940 and 1944.

Palestinian terrorists raided the athletes' village during the 1972 Munich Olympics, a siege that led to the deaths of 11 Israeli team members. At the 1996 Atlanta Games, a bomb exploded in a downtown park, killing two. Before the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, the Zika virus outbreak was declared a global health emergency. In those cases, the Games went on. But experts wonder if the Korean crisis might be different. Heine asked: "Will there be a tipping point? Could the Games be moved or postponed at this late date?"

North Korea has demonstrated expertise in cyberattacks that might allow it to cause havoc during the 17-day games.

"They might have the capability to turn the lights out for an hour. Not to hurt anybody but to show they can keep this thing from coming off smoothly," University of California professor Steven Weber said.

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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

 

One of Stark County's most respected swimming coaches never will coach again.

Sam Seiple, longtime McKinley High School swimming and diving coach who also has coached many of the area's elite swimmers, pleaded guilty Monday to unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, a misdemeanor charge.

As part of a plea agreement with county prosecutors, Seiple admitted to engaging in sexual acts multiple times between May 2014 and November 2015 with a then-16-year-old girl whom he coached. While age 16 is the legal age of sexual consent in Ohio, it is a crime due to Seiple's position as a coach.

Seiple, who has been McKinley's swim coach and the aquatics director of the C.T. Branin Natatorium since 1994, also agreed to permanently surrender his coaching credentials and must register as a sex offender for the next 15 years. He did not speak in court, except to answer the questions presented to him from Stark County Common Pleas Judge Chryssa Hartnett. His attorney, Eugene O'Byrne, did not return calls seeking comment.

Hartnett sentenced Seiple, 57, to 180 days in jail but suspended all but two days. She hoped the two days in jail would help Seiple understand "what it's like to be a criminal, because that's what you have become."

"There's no amount of jail time that could equate to all that you will lose or have lost as a result of this," said Hartnett, listing his relationships, his job, his license and accreditation and his reputation as casualties.

What's worse, the judge said, is that Seiple's actions might affect other coaches and volunteers who work with young people every day.

"You wiped away so much good that you have done by this and, unfortunately, your conduct may have a chilling effect on others, and that is a shame for all of us," she said.

Before sentencing, the victim, now a college student, read a statement that detailed how Seiple has scarred her life. The Canton Repository typically does not name victims of sexual abuse.

"Every single day I wish this didn't happen to me," she said in court. "I wish I could shower and scrub my skin so hard that it disintegrates because I don't want to live in this body anymore. I feel so foul and vile. I feel so ugly and disgusting because no matter how many times I shower, my skin was still touched by him. I don't wish this pain to be inflicted on any other girl, but God I wish it wasn't on me."

After the hearing, the woman said she agreed with the terms of the plea agreement.

"I have closure now," she said.

Assistant Prosecutor Fred Scott said the woman came forward a year ago while undergoing counseling.

"This was a step in her recovery," he said.

Scott said if the plea agreement hadn't been reached, the office was prepared to file a felony charge of sexual battery against Seiple. He said prosecutors agreed to the lesser criminal charge knowing that it could result in little to no jail time for Seiple because the agreement ends his coaching career.

"His life, or how he has identified himself, is over," he said.

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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

MURFREESBORO — The TSSAA Board of Control on Monday approved the addition of Unified Track and Field events, marking the beginning of a partnership between the high school athletic association and Special Olympics Tennessee.

The competition will begin during Spring Fling this school year. It will be considered an invitational championship. If successful, it would become a sanctioned sport.

Unified Sports joins students with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team.

"When you look at those kids competing — I've done it for many years in education — those are the kids that have no complaints," TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said. "It's not about winning and losing with them. It's about them being able to compete, have fun and have a sense of accomplishment.

"It gives me chills. I just have a special place in my heart for those kids."

TSSAA member schools with existing Unified track and field programs will have until Oct. 1 to notify Special Olympics Tennessee of their desire to participate.

For the inaugural year, eight teams will be invited by Special Olympics Tennessee to take part in the event. If the TSSAA continues to hold the event, more schools could be included. More sports also could be added.

"Right now we know of states that have basketball," Childress said. "Any individual sport you could probably add."

Events included in the inaugural TSSAA Unified track and field invitational will be the 100-meter dash, 400, 4x100-meter relay, shot put and long jump.

The Unified track and field events will be incorporated into the existing Spring Fling track schedule, with individual medals awarded and a Unified Track & Field champion and runner-up team decided. The Unified competition will have no bearing on the traditional Spring Fling track and field results.

"This is a win, win," TSSAA assistant director Richard McWhirter said. "We don't get many of those in our office."

Reach Tom Kreager at tkreager@tennessean.com or 615-259-8089 and on Twitter @Kreager.

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The Buffalo News (New York)

 

Memories run strong at Depew's Dawson Field, where dreams came true with the crack of a bat.

But now this gritty athletic field, where thousands of children and adults have competed in sporting events since 1926, may be forced to close.

Dawson Field was put on the market in May, when voters in the Depew Union Free School District overwhelmingly approved a proposal to sell the 5.4-acre field at Columbia Avenue and Lincoln Street.

The proposal was attached to a $6.3 million capital project to construct a new sports complex at the district's high school, said Superintendent Jeffrey R. Rabey. Construction of the new sports complex is expected to be complete in the fall of 2018. The new complex will host baseball, softball, lacrosse and soccer.

"With a new field on our main campus, the Board of Education has determined that Dawson Field is no longer needed," Rabey said.

Dawson Field, located in the heart of a residential neighborhood, already has survived a roller-coaster history of prosperity and neglect. It's the former home of Depew High School's football team and remains home for the high school's baseball teams, as well as for American Legion Post 1528's baseball team.

Today the athletic field is freshly mowed but empty.

"Depew schools declared it surplus, and there is concern that the land would be developed as residential homes," said Depew Mayor Jesse C. Nikonowicz. "My residents don't want a residential development. From a fiscal standpoint, it would be good to collect taxes on the property, but the kids need a place to play."

Appraisal undisclosed

Topping the list of potential buyers for Dawson Field is Lancaster, a town that is experiencing explosive growth and is shopping for an athletic field.

"I have every indication that the Town of Lancaster would be a great transfer, but it's still in the discussion phase," Rabey said. "Our School Board has expressed a desire to maintain (Dawson Field) as a recreational space. Since the new sports complex would not be complete until fall 2018, we would contract with the new owner (of Dawson Field) for a schedule of game dates to accommodate our baseball team during the coming school year."

Lancaster Supervisor Johanna M. Coleman called the potential purchase of Dawson Field "worthy of further review."

In July, the Lancaster Town Board approved hiring an appraiser for $1,400 to examine Dawson Field. But when asked what the appraised value was, Coleman and other board members declined to disclose the figure because it "could impact future contract negotiations."

Two Lancaster councilmen registered mixed reactions: Matthew J. Walter endorsed the purchase, but Ronald Ruffino is opposed.

"We're in the process of purchasing a much larger piece of land - a 42-acre parcel - to create a soccer-lacrosse field and a walking trail in south Lancaster," Ruffino said. "By chasing Dawson Field, it impedes the progress of what we are pursuing in the south."

The town applied for a grant to help it purchase the larger parcel, Ruffino added. He also emphasized the need for public green space in the town's south end, the lack of parking at Dawson Field and the field's $20,000 annual maintenance cost.

Dawson Field is named after J. Emmett Dawson, who worked in the Depew school district for 42 years as a coach, athletic director and teacher. Its rededication in 1996, spearheaded by former village Recreation Director Jerry Maciejewski, culminated a grass-roots effort to rebuild it. At the time, the field was plagued by drainage problems, tall grass, weeds and potholes.

"We brought in major-league dirt, 175 tons of Georgia clay to line the base paths," Maciejewski said. "The kids loved playing on it. It was like playing on a professional field."

Neighbors who live on Olmstead Avenue love to watch the kids play on the field.

Arlene and Nicholas Huson had ringside seats for the baseball games. Their yard abuts the field, and they often sat in lawn chairs under a sprawling tree to catch some of the action.

"We used to get a dozen or two baseballs in our yard - broken windows, too," Nicholas Huson said. "I didn't mind. It was part of the game."

91 years of memories

Walter Domagala, and Olmstead resident and former Little League coach, watched young baseball players hit baseballs out of the park and into his yard. Domagala would fetch the ball, identify who hit it and inscribe the name and date onto the ball, which he would later present to the player.

Dawson Field was known as a top venue, one that Buffalo school teams would give up home field advantage to play on, said Michael Kotz, Depew High School health teacher and varsity baseball coach from 1974 to 2003.

"City teams would come to Dawson to play," Kotz said. "For them, it was paradise. For 91 years, Dawson Field served the area. If you put a building there, you'll lose the green space forever."

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Copyright 2017 Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
All Rights Reserved

Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

MURFREESBORO - No TSSAA-member school will be permitted to play Knoxville Christian in any sport beginning this school year.

The TSSAA's Board of Control passed the measure unanimously after TSSAA staff told the board that the school admitted to recruiting athletes.

Knoxville Christian is a non-TSSAA school and does not have to adhere to the high school association's rules.

"One of our staff members had been working with them for the last couple of years," TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said. "We identified student-athletes that some of our member schools had said that they were recruited to the school.

"In calling the school, there was no denial that those kids were recruited from member schools. For two years we've asked them to work with us. We hadn't gotten any cooperation. We felt no other option but to do what we did."

The athletic school year began Monday. Childress said member schools will get a letter from the TSSAA regarding the rule passed.

In a letter to the TSSAA, Knoxville Christian Principal Jarra Snyder said "any mistakes made by our coaches were a result of youth (either age or understanding) rather than an intent to do wrong."

Snyder wrote the school was creating a manual for sports that involves "proper procedures for running a program and not just coaching a team."

Reach Tom Kreager at tkreager@tennessean.com or 615-259-8089 and on Twitter @Kreager.

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Copyright 2017 Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
All Rights Reserved

Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)

 

A new rule, adopted by the NCAA Board of Governors last week, requires campus leaders to report annually that their coaches, athletes and athletics administrators were educated in sexual violence prevention.

It also mandates campus officials declare that athletics departments are knowledgeable and compliant with institutional policies and processes regarding sexual violence prevention and that school policies are readily available in the athletics department and are distributed to student athletes.

The requirements, announced by the NCAA in a news release last week, reinforce the work some Tennessee colleges and universities already have in place, though one Division III school said this week it's still awaiting more information to see if it might need to make changes.

UT, Vanderbilt expect few changes

At the University of Tennessee, Title IX Coordinator Ashley Blamey said the new rule will not mean a lot of change as the university already has sexual violence prevention plans in place that include participation by the athletics department.

"Prevention efforts are laid out annually," Blamey said, although she added that prevention efforts are something the university is always reviewing and if "additional opportunities to improve" arise, the university would look at making changes.

Both student athletes and the general student population currently participate in prevention programming and trainings are also held in the athletics department, Blamey said.

Related: NCAA Policy Calls for Sexual Violence Prevention, Education

Similarly, officials at Vanderbilt University, which is also Division I, said they support the new NCAA policy but did not mention any changes that will immediately arise.

Student athletes at Vanderbilt receive training related to sexual violence prevention in addition to an online course that all incoming students must complete and orientation activities for first-year students that address the topic, the university said in an emailed statement.

In addition, the athletics department receives training from the Title IX coordinator and the University Compliance Office. The Title IX Office conducts in-person training for all first-year students focused on the university's Sexual Misconduct and Intimate Partner Violence Policy and student athletes also attend a summer orientation that includes the same training, the statement said.

Smaller schools may see more effect

Kandis Schram, athletics director and head volleyball coach at Maryville College, said the athletics department at the Division III college is still waiting to find out more about what the requirements will be under the new rule.

Most student athletes completed educational programming related to sexual violence prevention last year and staff within the department also are educated on Title IX compliance and related policies that Maryville College has in place. However, there is nothing mandating sexual violence prevention training for all students and staff.

Schram said Monday that she had not heard yet from the NCAA with specifics as to how the new rule will play out at Division III colleges and universities.

"I don't think the actual programming will be more work," she said. "We're all committed to that. I think the reporting aspect and who gets it, that could be a little more difficult."

Latest step to stop sexual violence

Adopted last Tuesday, the new rule was recommended by the Commission to Combat Campus Sexual Violence, which was created one year ago to examine issues of sexual violence and propose solutions for what athletic departments, conferences and the NCAA can do.

According to the release, it is the latest step the association has taken in addressing sexual violence prevention since 2010.

In 2014, the board, then known as the NCAA Executive Committee, passed a resolution laying out expectations for how athletics departments should properly respond to sexual violence accusations involving student athletes.

Weeks after the resolution passed, the NCAA released the handbook, "Addressing Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence: Athletics' Role in Support of Healthy and Safe Campuses," and followed it with the creation of a sexual violence prevention tool kit.

USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee staff writer Adam Tamburin contributed to this report.

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

Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)
 

SOUTHBRIDGE — William and Nancy Ortiz of Leicester are about a week from finishing a new handball court at Edgar McCann Fields on Henry Street.

Mr. and Mrs. Ortiz are members of the New England Handballers Association and donated 50-plus hours of their labor toward the court, which was repurposed from an aging half-court basketball layout.

"All of the New England cities and towns and beyond need affordable and self-run recreational activities," said Mrs. Ortiz, a Worcester social studies teacher. "Handball being our passion and specialty provides us an opportunity to give back to any community, promote our sport, and make it popular and accessible for young and old."

The couple began working on the project about a month ago, "in bits and pieces," as they also assumed projects in Holyoke and Lawrence and held clinics in various cities. They are also working on a handball court in Leicester.

On Friday in Southbridge, the couple worked on leveling uneven portions of the pavement as they talked about their work.

They said they need to apply another coat of paint to the 12-foot wall.

Southbridge Town Manager Ronald S. San Angelo said the handball court is part of the town's continued effort to improve its parks and give citizens new recreation opportunities. The handball wall was a combined effort by the association and the Southbridge Recreation Department led by Steven Roenfeldt, who said the materials were $1,500, while the association donated all of the labor hours.

"Great recreation opportunities happen when community organizations collaborate with the town," Mr. Roenfedlt said. "We are so pleased to be able to provide another recreational opportunity for Southbridge and the surrounding communities."

In American handball, players use their hands to hit a small rubber ball against the wall such that their opponent cannot do the same without it touching the ground twice. Games are one on one or doubles.

Southbridge is of interest to the couple because Mrs. Ortiz grew up here, and the couple said they are now playing indoor handball at the Tri-Community YMCA of Southbridge because the YMCA of Central Massachusetts, where they were longtime members, removed its indoor racquetball courts.

The wall they built at the Southbridge park is temporary in that it is made of wood and supported by four tall fence posts. Mr. Ortiz said they built it to introduce the town to the sport.Permanent one-wall handball courts are 16 feet high and the pavement is tan or light gray so that the ball is more visible to players, Mr. Ortiz said.

The handball court at Crompton Park in Worcester is the model court in the area, the couple said. The Ortizes say they have helped with the upkeep of that court and others in the area.Mr. Ortiz said handball is a good offering for communities because sports such as baseball are more expensive. The ball for handball costs $1.

Also, they said, handball is an equalizer, in that a player's size isn't much of a factor. Young, old, poor and affluent compete against one another in New York City, where there are more than 2,000 outdoor handball courts, Mr. Ortiz said. "You're always supposed to have someone waiting for the next game," he said. "It's an inclusive sport, unless they're playing league games."

Mr. Ortiz said he hopes handball will catch on among youth in the low-income Southbridge neighborhood. He said the Southbridge Cops N Kids program and YMCA offer great programs, but it is evident young people need more things to do in town.

The couple said they noticed dozens of kids frequenting the park, sometimes standing around.

In Southbridge, the New England Handballers Association plans a free doubles handball tournament at the court Sept. 9. Registration is at 10 a.m. and the matches begin at 11. Trophies will be awarded. Novice tournaments will be implemented for youth and adults. To join, contact Mr. Ortiz at (508) 736-8114 or Mrs. Ortiz at (508) 574-1536.

The Ortizes say they encourage handball players in other cities and towns to take care of the courts, organize tournaments and teach youth. They are also in touch with racquetball players because they use the same courts. If the two sports don't stick together, courts will be few and far between, Mr. Ortiz said.

"They must have knocked down 30 handball courts in New England in the last 25 years," he said.

 

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Copyright 2017 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

SALT LAKE CITY — Is college football the celebration of the best in amateur athletics? Or is it big business?

Do college football players see the game as a way to earn a degree, an education, and a future for themselves? Or do they see college football as a path to a career in professional sports?

Are college coaches trying to develop quality young men or win championships? And, if you believe it's possible to do both, what happens when there is a conflict between the two purposes?

The identity of college football was at the heart of two different debates last week — one came after some frank comments from a UCLA quarterback, while the other discussion followed the official addition of a troubled wide receiver to the University of Utah's roster.

First, let's talk about Darren Carrington.

Utah has endured criticism nationally and locally for giving the talented wide receiver a spot in the Utes' program after Oregon's new coach Willie Taggart dismissed him from the Ducks following an arrest for driving under the influence of intoxicants on July 1. Critics leveled a number of complaints at Utah and Whittingham, beginning with the fact that this was not Carrington's first legal issue.

In fact, he had a number of both legal and team disciplinary issues throughout his time at Oregon.

Some saw it as hypocrisy that Whittingham could profess to build his program on discipline, but then accept a player with a list of disciplinary problems. Those critics rightly pointed out that were it not for Carrington's NFL-caliber talent, the college football door would have been slammed in his face.

Whittingham's response to a barrage of questions on why he'd take such a seemingly troubled player into his program at Pac-12 media days was that he'd extensively discussed Carrington's problems and the pros and cons of extending an opportunity to him with a number of people and found him "worthy of a second chance. He has the right attitude and right mentality for that."

The second issue arose when UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen said, "Look, football and school don't go together. They just don't. Trying to do both is like trying to do two full-time jobs."

That angered people who feel some high-level collegiate athletes don't appreciate the immense value of a college education.

The reality is that college football is complicated, even duplicitous. It has evolved in the last 20 years, and it is not one singular experience. In fact, maybe it never was.

College football is not just about amateurism, school spirit and higher education opportunities. College football programs, especially in the Power Five conferences, are multimillion-dollar businesses that are built on sentiment and the talent of young, often very economically disadvantaged teens.

The CEOs of those businesses are college coaches, who have to build programs that accommodate both aspiring professional athletes and students who are talented athletes.

It's easy to criticize Whittingham and Rosen, but, in their separate ways, they're offering us a chance to acknowledge the changing realities of college football.

The reality is the only legitimate path to the NFL is through college football. University football programs have essentially become farm programs for the NFL.

NFL rules won't allow an athlete to declare for the draft until he's been out of high school for three years. Their only option for development and to stay on the radar of pro scouts is college football.

That makes college coaches essentially minor league managers.

But, at the same time, only a small percentage of college football players will even earn a shot to play professionally, so guys like Whittingham also have to be mentors to players who are primarily students seeking a college education but also have athletic abilities.

College sports are both a business and a representation of a community. Players are both people and commodities. Coaches are both teachers and CEOs.

And, in fairness, let's wipe the sentimentality from our eyes completely when judging their actions. A coach's job depends on winning football games while increasing graduation rates.

It's simplistic and naïve to say that Whittingham shouldn't extend a "second chance" to Carrington because the receiver is only trying to raise his draft stock. This is a mutually beneficial situation. It can be both a business deal and an effort to help a struggling young man.

Utah happens to need, pretty significantly, wide receivers. Carrington needs, quite desperately, a chance to redeem himself - on and off the football field. And, if you look at it from a business perspective, what kind of CEO would Whittingham be if he passed on Carrington, as the receiver would likely go to another Pac-12 school.

And, whether you're inclined to see the business argument or view Carrington's opportunity as a "second chance" situation, how many chances are too many? What kind of mistakes are worth forgiving? What kind of person deserves another chance?

Does redemption have an expiration date?

Whittingham's philosophy is to decide on a case-by-case basis. He said the person's attitude drives it, and I believe him. I also believe that talent and what the team needs are factors in his decision.

When I was a kid, my dad owned a construction company. He often hired convicted felons searching for a second chance. In fact, he said, some of them were the best employees he had because they were so grateful for another shot.

What becomes of society if we don't find a place for people who've made multiple, sometimes massive mistakes?

I've needed forgiveness, and I've extended second chances to others. Sometimes it worked out to be a blessing for both of us, while other times it ended in heartbreak.

The one thing I've never regretted is my decision to trust someone — even when I've been burned. I felt good about why I've thrown lifelines, and I understand it's not my decision to grab hold or waste it.

I don't know if Carrington's worthy of another chance, but I know that no one has more to lose in extending him an opportunity than Whittingham.

And Rosen isn't ungrateful for an opportunity to earn a college education by pointing out that the demands on the field make classroom commitments almost impossible to honor. He's speaking about his own experience. He's attempting to raise an increasingly important issue.

Football used to be a fall sport. Today, it's a year-round commitment that leaves players little in the way of personal time. Many players have dealt with the increased demands of football success by opting for easier classes or degrees, just so they can succeed in both arenas.

The reality is that college football is many experiences. Maybe it always has been.

It's impossible to simply tell a guy like Rosen, "Shut up, go back to class and be grateful we don't send you a tuition bill." Just like it's unrealistic to think no person who's had a legal or moral issue will be allowed to grace a college roster.

Whether the fact that college football has evolved so significantly during the last two decades is good for the sport, for the athlete or for universities is a complicated, nuanced issue. In fact, I assert that there isn't just one answer.

Judging these situations may be easy. But solving the problems they illustrate is much more difficult.

 

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Copyright 2017 The Evansville Courier Co.
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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)

 

The names of NFL players tormented by the degenerative brain disease CTE are well-known: Dave Duerson, Mike Webster, Junior Seau, to name a few. Parents would be smart to familiarize themselves with another name linked with chronic traumatic encephalopathy: Zac Easter.

Zac began playing organized football when he was 8 and didn't stop until his senior year of high school in Indianola, Iowa. Concussions marred his days as a linebacker. After he stopped playing, Zac coped with depression, headaches and slurred speech. At 24, he took a shotgun from his father's truck, drove to a state park, and blasted a hole into his chest. A postmortem examination of Zac's brain confirmed what the young man had long suspected: He suffered from CTE.

CTE is back in the news, thanks to a study led by Ann McKee, director of Boston University's CTE Center. McKee and her team examined the brains of 111 deceased NFL players and found that all but one had CTE, a degenerative disease associated with head trauma and linked to symptoms that include depression, dementia and memory loss. McKee also found CTE in three of 14 deceased former high school football players, and 48 of 53 deceased former players at the college level.

Last year, 3 million kids ages 6 to 18 played organized football in the U.S. McKee's findings should give parents of youths playing football a reason to stop and think: Given what we know now about CTE, does tackle football still make sense for their kids?

Organizers of youth football leagues, as well as administrators of schools with football programs, should ask the same question. Growing concerns about liability should be part of that calculation. America's largest youth football league, Pop Warner, settled a $5 million lawsuit in 2016 with the family of a former player from Wisconsin who joined the league at 11 and played for four years. He committed suicide at 25, and an examination of his brain revealed CTE.

But it's not primarily a money issue. Consider the science behind CTE. Repeated blows to the head cause the buildup of an abnormal protein that degenerates brain tissue. Areas of the brain vulnerable to CTE include those that govern cognition, working memory, abstract reasoning, planning, emotional control and aggression. CTE has also been linked to the onset of ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, later in life.

Football won't disappear from our TV screens and 80,000-seat stadiums anytime soon. Nevertheless, the NFL, albeit belatedly, is taking the matter of concussions, head trauma and CTE seriously. It has publicly acknowledged the link between CTE and football, and vowed to set aside millions of dollars to bankroll independent medical research into the disorder. Players are also taking notice. Some have hung up their cleats rather than risk long-term damage. On July 27, Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel retired at 26, after just three seasons. Team sources told The Baltimore Sun his decision was linked to McKee's findings.

Youth leagues and high schools have reacted with a bevy of safety measures, from scaling back the amount of contact in practices to teaching safe tackling and blocking techniques. Whether those measures will be enough remains to be seen.

McKee, who has studied the link between football and CTE for years, says she is particularly troubled by the number of former college players with the disease. Of the college players that had CTE, a majority of them exhibited a level of the disease that was severe rather than mild. "To me, it's very concerning that we have college-level players who have severe CTE who did not go on to play professionally," McKee told The Washington Post. "That means they mostly likely retired before the age of 25, and we still are seeing in some of those individuals very severe repercussions."

CTE researchers have amassed a formidable body of knowledge about the disease and its link to football, but there's more exploration to do. For example, since CTE can only be diagnosed posthumously, researchers can study only brains donated by the families of players who have died. Those families have cooperated because the players had symptoms of CTE. That means researchers still don't know just how prevalent the disease is.

The Des Moines Register reported that Zac Easter kept a journal he called "Concussions: My Silent Struggle." The paper said he shot himself in the chest rather than the head because he wanted his brain examined for evidence of CTE.

Parents, as you mull the pros and cons of allowing your children to play tackle football, keep Zac and his mother in mind.

This editorial first appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

The Florida Gators suspended receiver Antonio Callaway and six others for the season opener against Michigan. A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press the players were suspended for misusing school-issued funds. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Sunday because Florida did not release details of the suspensions.

Callaway, defensive end Keivonnis Davis, defensive lineman Richerd Desir-Jones, linebacker James Houston, linebacker Ventrell Miller, defensive lineman Jordan Smith and offensive tackle Kadeem Telfort won't be allowed to play Sept. 2 against the Wolverines in Arlington, Texas.

Callaway is the team's top offensive playmaker. In two seasons, the junior has 89 catches for 1,399 yards and 11 touchdowns. Davis was expected to be a key contributor in Florida's defensive line rotation. He had 27 tackles, 1? sacks and a forced fumble in 2016.

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Copyright 2017 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

 

The University of New Mexico football program paid an extra $30,699 for the additional week of preseason practice allowed this year by the NCAA, UNM's assistant athletic director for football operations said - not $100,000, as stated on Tuesday at a Board of Regents Finance and Facilities Committee meeting.

"I don't know where the $100,000 came from that was reported," Brian DeSpain told the Journal. "I went back and looked at everything I had submitted to (UNM administration), from projections to historical calculations to whatever, and I couldn't come up with anything that would have been $100,000."

Two days after the Board of Regents meeting, through UNM's sports information department, UNM associate vice president Chris Vallejos said he had been in error when he told the Regents that the extra week would cost $100,000. He attributed the error to a misunderstanding.

DeSpain said Vallejos had acknowledged the mistake in a conversation between the two men.

In April, the NCAA passed legislation banning two-a-day practices. In exchange, schools were allowed to start preseason practice a week earlier than in the past.

The Lobos' first practice was on Thursday, July 27, though the team was assembled and served a meal the previous day.

DeSpain said the program's expenses for the extra week actually totaled $44,499. But he said the program saved $4,800 in summer training table meals because summer school was in session for six days of preseason practice.

Also, DeSpain said, the team will be off for six days throughout the course of preseason camp, resulting in savings of about $9,000.

Vallejos' reference to the $100,000 came during a discussion of the difficulty of budgeting in light of recent changes in NCAA rules.

"Here's a perfect example that sort of blind-sided athletics this year," he said at the Board of Regents meeting. "They did away, they outlawed two-a-days. So we're able to bring in our football team five days (earlier) to compensate for those two-a-days we were doing, but that's costing us $100,000 because our food service and residence halls aren't ready for their acceptance, so we have to house and feed these student-athletes, and that's sort of a compliance issue. Those are some of the things going on."

DeSpain said the football program had to pay for housing only twice, on July 31 and Aug. 1, during the extra week.

"The (summer school) term officially ended on Monday the 31st," he said, "so that was the first day we were allowed to give them a housing stipend. Summer scholarship checks covered the nights before that."

Players receive a housing stipend for any night they're required to be at the athletic complex when school is not in session, DeSpain said.

Under coach Bob Davie, the Lobos have rarely practiced twice in one day as teams traditionally did in the past.

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Copyright 2017 Charleston Newspapers

Charleston Gazette-Mail

 

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen had too much of the initial spotlight focused on one statement he made to Bleacher Reports Matt Hayes. In the days after, that spotlight bled over to more of what he said, and that has led to an important conversation about college athletics, the demands made on the student-athlete and time management.

The big, bold, click-bait headline when the story first was published was Rosens line, "OK, raise the SAT requirement at Alabama and see what kind of team they have." That left tongues wagging because the California quarterback dared to poke the giant, crimson-clad elephant in Tuscaloosa. So Alabama coach Nick Saban had to waste his time defending his university's academic standards, which he shouldn't have had to do. Different schools have different standards, public schools have different criteria than private schools and a football coach shouldn't have to worry about discussing them.

It was pretty much everything else Rosen said about the subject that was more important.

The quarterback and economics major talked about the difficulties that come with balancing his sport and his schooling. For instance, there was a class he needed for his major only offered in the spring. But it conflicted with spring football, so the gridiron took precedence. Those instances arent just sequestered to football. Ive heard stories of basketball teams where chunks of the roster must either come to practice late or leave early because necessary classes are only offered during those practice hours.

Since Rosens comments went public, plenty of talking heads some of them former athletes have sat behind microphones and said they went through the same issues and had no problem striking the right balance. And, sure, they had no problem. That doesnt allow them to make a blanket statement about every student-athlete. For plenty of them, it is difficult. Their schedules might be tougher to navigate based on their majors. School just might be tougher for them overall.

And in the case of college football, any player dreaming of an NFL career must take the collegiate path. There is no minor league system like baseball. College football is the minor league system, so there is no other option.

Rosens opinions have led some to chastise him as spoiled, and reheat the familiar refrain that college student-athletes should feel lucky that theyre playing a sport to get through college, that regular students often work jobs to pay their way through.

Except that many NCAA sports are equivalency sports, meaning scholarships can be divided into partial awards, and those student-athletes on partial scholarship are still looking for ways to make up the difference. And the time that other students spend working those jobs, student-athletes spend practicing, watching film or in weight training. That's their job.

And its quite lucrative to their schools. The Big 12 announced in June that its 10 teams would split $348 million in revenues for the 2016-17 academic year. That number should only rise with the return of the Big 12 football championship game, expected to generate as much as $30 million.

I can't think of a single thing I did in four years as a college student that was worth in the same cosmos as eight figures in revenue. If student-athletes earn that type of money for their respective universities, they've also earned a voice and an opinion.

For their part, universities have moved toward lessening the time demands for student-athletes. Power 5 schools now have rules in place that mandate a day off a week from team activities during the season, two days off during the offseason and 14 days off at the conclusion of the season. Those schools should continue to help those student-athletes most of them, as the NCAA loved saying in their commercials, going pro in something other than sports to maximize their college experiences.

Rosen mentioned that, too, and those words should gain the most attention.

"When I'm finished with football, I want a seamless transition to life and work and what I've dreamed about doing all my life," he told Hayes. "I want to own the world." Every young person should be able to have that dream and the ability to access it. I don't think that's too much to ask.

Contact Derek Redd at 304-348-1712 or derek.redd@wvgazettemail.com Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

In a perfect-ish world, the super-expensive retractable roof on the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta would, you know, retract.

That it doesn't yet, at least not automatically, might cause a twinge of embarrassment and some extra costs for the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United.

Rise up? How about "Open up!"

But the roof and its challenges are reminders that the $1.5 billion stadium is really a private business palace, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars in public money involved.

There were easier, less costly ways to outfit the stadium with a sunroof.

Falcons and United owner Arthur Blank just opted for a riskier path that offers more glory.

His efforts to make a big architectural and engineering statement adds more cool to Atlanta without the public having to shoulder any more of the bill than if he had settled for plain vanilla. (Of course, Falcons ticket buyers surely will end up picking up much of the extra weight.)

The government's contribution to the construction tab is capped at $200 million in hotel/motel taxes, but then it will shovel in hundreds of millions of dollars more for financing, operations and maintenance over the next 30 years. Does Atlanta have such an abundance of public dollars and such a dearth of community needs that local government — backed by the state legislature — should be subsidizing one for-profit business over others? Don't get me started.

Back to the roof. Blank's desire to do something grand downtown probably will be rewarded. The cooler the stadium, the greater the draw for fans, the more they may be willing to pay for the experience.

As the hard-hat crews at the stadium edge closer to finishing their work, curious fans and visitors often gather outside the gate to gawk and take photos. Security guards get peppered with questions about the roof — "Is it working yet?" — and about a giant bird sculpture near the building. A company executive told me it is believed to be the biggest falcon sculpture in the world. Someone keeps a log of such things?

"It's beautiful," a local teenager said when I asked about the stadium's design.

I like the outside of the building, too. But there's something about the expansive views inside big sports stadiums that are extra fascinating. The Mercedes-Benz Stadium offers that, plus a giant window looking out toward the city.

The stadium's biggest other distinctions (aside from$2 hot dogs) are up above, rather than down on the field: a giant 360-degree oval video screen and that retractable roof, which when closed acts like a sort of skylight. Trying to get the engineering and steel right for both helped delay the stadium's opening by months and racked up extra costs.

The retractable roof is supposed to open in an ever-widening oval like a camera aperture, (though I've seen some less pleasant descriptions online). It's made up of eight petals, each essentially shaped like a pizza slice and weighing 500 tons.

I clambered up to the roof with Steve Cannon, CEO of Falcons' parent AMB Group, and stood beside one petal. It was like I was standing next to an entire building, one that sits on rails and slides across the stationary part of the roof roughly 300 feet over fans heads.

'Rest assured' "Great design is not easy," Cannon told me. At which point he brought up the challenges builders surely had in erecting the Eiffel Tower and the Sydney Opera House.

Right now, the stadium has "a fully operational roof but it is not automated yet." Huh?

They have a couple of more tests involving maddeningly slow, petal-by-petal openings of the roof before they try to have them all simultaneously open.

Eventually, when everything is working right, the process is supposed to take about 11 minutes, with the panels creating the optical illusion of looking like they are revolving a bit. Or so I'm told.

"It will open this season, rest assured," Cannon said during our rooftop chat.

A delay of a matter of months in a building that will last decades (he claims) is no biggie.

The retractable roof sounds like fun to watch.

Too bad most Falcons fans at the games won't get to witness it in person, even after any construction bugs are worked out.

Blimp shot

Blank boasted that the Mercedes-Benz Stadium has "the most complicated roof design in the history of the world."

But because of NFL rules, the team will have to decide at least 90 minutes before kickoffwhether to leave the roof open or closed.

Cannon told me Atlanta United fans will sometimes see the roof move to address weather changes during games. But Scott Jenkins, the stadium's general manager, said he isn't sure yet if Major League Soccer will set limits like those in the NFL.

So what might be one of the most "wow" parts of the stadium — the actual opening and closing motion of the roof — is most likely to occur when most fans aren't there. People strolling Atlanta's streets won't have a clear view of the action either.

How will we see it?

"The blimp shot," Cannon told me. "They are going to watch that."

A camera crew on the blimp won't hover over other stadiums to see retractable roofs in action, but they will over Atlanta, he assured me.

Which should be good for another business reason. Mercedes-Benz has plastered the stadium's two-and-a-half acres of retractable roof with the automaker's three-pointed star emblem.

Visible from space?

"It's the largest corporate logoon Earth," Cannon said. "And I'm pretty sure you can see it from the International Space Station."

Everyone's got different ideas about how to spend their money. And when it's their money, that's OK.

Maybe another wealthy person would have chosen to incorporate some feature that would be a little more visible to those of us more down to earth. You know, like outfitting the exterior of the stadium with a gargantuan glowing peanut that is automatically de-shelled at 9 each night.

Personally, I'm drawn to cheaper options. I hope they eventually offer roof-top tours to the public. (It doesn't sound like they will. Cannon said no one had ever asked before I did.) Or how about an option to spend a few minutes harnessed and hanging horizontal over the lip of the open roof, watching the game below?

Just a thought.

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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

 

Louisville said the NCAA "abused" its authority when it disciplined the school for a sex scandal that could result in the loss of its 2013 national basketball championship.

The school also said in a 68-page appeal released Friday that the governing body imposed "draconian" penalties and ignored the school's self-imposed discipline. Louisville banned itself from the 2016 postseason after its investigation uncovered violations.

This is the latest step in a case that began nearly two years ago. Escort Katina Powell alleged in a book that former Cardinals staffer Andre McGee hired her and other dancers for sex parties with recruits and players from 2010 to 2014.

The NCAA said Louisville must vacate up to 123 victories in which ineligible players received improper benefits. It also suspended Louisville coach Rick Pitino five games for failing to monitor McGee.

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Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)

 

If someone just invented football, would we sanction the game?

That's an interesting question, considering states have, over the last 20 years or so, sanctioned ultimate fighting and legalized marijuana. We seem to have a certain tolerance for risky behavior. But then neither of those things is as tightly associated with culture and school spirit (at least not openly) as is football.

It's a question worth considering as training camps get underway from coast to coast, not just for professional players but for all levels, including youths.

With Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger recently wondering aloud whether to retire in the wake of a recent study linking the game to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a large portion of the nation may be heading for an existential crisis.

Could there be life without football?

Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "As much as I want my kids to remember what I did and watch me play the game, I also want to remember them when I'm 70 years old."

Which - this may shock some fans - is worth more to him than the millions he might yet earn.

It probably won't shock mothers, many of whom may be wondering whether to let junior strap on the pads this year.

I've written a few times about my inglorious high school career. Despite going 1-9 my senior year, I learned a lot about teamwork and discipline, not to mention being gracious in victory (once). I also learned about the violent nature of the game and the injuries it can cause.

I saw teammates carried off with serious knee injuries and broken bones. I don't remember much talk of head injuries, and although readers of this column may doubt it at times, I never suffered a concussion.

However, it turns out I didn't know the dangers. In 1976, my senior season, 22 players in middle or high schools were killed nationwide, either directly or indirectly, as a result of the game. That was down significantly from 1968, when 34 kids died, according to figures compiled by the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research.

Last year, only seven players in that age group died.

When I played, we were told to stay away from water because being thirsty would make us tougher. If we acted loopy after a hard hit, we might sit out a couple of plays until we could remember the snap count again.

Any death is unacceptable, but the game has gotten safer. Coaches are better educated and more aware of dangers. Many high school teams have full-time athletic trainers. Recent studies have found few links between high school football and future cognitive problems.

Still, a mother has to consider whether a path that begins with high school football could lead to football at higher levels, where the links are unmistakable. If Roethlisberger is thinking about long-term health at age 35, why not think about it at 16?

News about football's existential crisis abounds. The number of high school students playing the game was down 25,901 last season over the season before, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. That was the sixth decline in seven years. The Sporting News reports television ad sales for the upcoming NFL season are the worst in a decade, following a season of disappointing ratings.

Of course, the two are not related, and the decline in participation might be considered statistically negligible considering 1,086,748 high school kids played the game last year.

But there is no question Americans are more aware of the costs of the game than ever before, and that may include a century ago when Theodore Roosevelt threatened to shut the game down.

It truly was a new sport back then. Now it is engrained in the nation's cultural fabric.

I have a hard time thinking Americans ever will divorce themselves from the game. I also have a hard time believing it ever can be made completely safe.

On the high school level, at least, it is safer than before, and that is encouraging. But the game itself likely always will force us to compare short-term glory to long-term consequences.

Jay Evensen is the senior editorial columnist for the Deseret News.

Email: even@deseretnews.com

Website: www.jayevensen.com

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South Bend Tribune (Indiana)

 

From inside it looks utterly familiar, but also strangely dreamlike.

Three tall buildings loom beyond the walls of Notre Dame Stadium. The classic bowl itself looks much as it has in recent years, minus the traditional redwood benches.

Those wooden benches have all been replaced with steel benches covered in blue vinyl.

There's premium seating, a 96-by-54 foot video screen on the south wall, ribbon video boards, enhanced Wi-Fi service, a new narrow tunnel for the visiting team and living "green" roofs.

This is not your grandfather's Notre Dame Stadium.

That much was evident Friday during a tour for news media of the $400 million Campus Crossroads project that added three buildings to the exterior of the 87-year-old football stadium, as well as premium fan seating atop those buildings.

And the university plans to host other events -- such as concerts and professional sports teams -- in the stadium, and will make the hospitality spaces available for lease for large functions. Notre Dame Stadium and its adjacent buildings won't be a community focus just six or seven weekends a year.

Fan experience

Beside the switch to steel benches, the chair-back gold seats near the field have been replaced with new navy blue ones. The flagpole, long at the northeast corner of the field, now stands at the southeast corner. A small tunnel for the visiting team to enter and exit the field is in that northeast corner, with the large north tunnel now reserved only for use by the Fighting Irish.

The Notre Dame Marching Band will no longer be seated in the northeast corner. The 400 band members will sit in the stands in the north end zone, next to the regular student section.

The wood from the old benches has been reclaimed for decorative uses in the concourses and in the three new buildings.

Although not evident to the naked eye, the cramped bench seating in the lower bowl has been renumbered, adding an average width of two inches of space for each fan, according to university officials. Fans will have to judge that new spaciousness for themselves when the 2017 season opens on Sept. 2.

Prior to this project, Notre Dame Stadium's official capacity was 80,795.

About 3,000 premium seats have been added. But with all field seats removed and lower bowl seats widened, the overall seating capacity will decrease to between 78,000 and 79,000 seats. The university hasn't yet announced the new official seating capacity.

The old scoreboard on the north end of the stadium has been removed to provide a better view of the "Touchdown Jesus" mural on the front of Hesburgh Library. Ribbon video boards have been installed along the east and west sides inside the stadium.

In the north tunnel, new banners have been hung representing each of Notre Dame's 11 national championship football titles. And words from a famous pep speech by legendary Irish coach Knute Rockne are now on display in that tunnel. (It's the speech that includes the lines: "We're gonna get 'em on the run. We're going to go! Go! Go!")

There's a "Play Like a Champion Today" sign for students to slap as they enter the student section, a reproduction of the famous sign in the Fighting Irish locker room.

New stadium lights and a new press box (on the east side of the stadium) were in use for the 2016 season.

For fan safety, hand railings have been added in the aisles in the lower bowl. And some of those railings include decorative panels that conceal wifi antennas. Wifi service is now available throughout the stadium and a new dedicated cellular network will provide significantly improved cell service in the facility, university officials said.

The concourses include new art deco-style light figures, brick-faced columns and 150 large-screen TVs. Images of classic Notre Dame football game program covers mark each seating section and reproductions of vintage game tickets add more artistic flair.

Premium seats

There are two levels of premium seating.

The loge level has semi-private seating areas with rolling back chairs, tables and personal tablets for every two seats. That outdoor seating include access to an indoor club space, food and beverages, in-seat wait service, reserved parking and other amenities. All loge seats are now sold out, according to Notre Dame.

Club level seats offer outdoor seating with a heated overhang, cushioned seats, access to an indoor club space, and food and beverages. More than 98 percent of club seating is now sold, with just a few dozen seats remaining, said John Heisler, a senior associate athletics director. (For more information about premium seating, call 574-631-3500.)

Some of the premium seats have access to adjacent terraces with additional seating and panoramic views of the football field and the campus. The club seating on the west side of the stadium allows patrons access to a 500-seat ballroom inside the new student center. Except for football games, the ballroom will be used mainly for student dances and other activities, and will be available for lease for private events.

There are four corporate box suites on the stadium's west side that are leased out for individual games.

Three new buildings

The Campus Crossroads project includes three new buildings: nine-story Duncan Student Center, a study, fitness, career counseling and student activities building on the west side of the stadium; nine-story Corbett Family Hall, an anthropology, psychology and digital media building on the east side; and O'Neill Hall, a six-story music building on the south side.

The top three floors of Duncan Student Center will open in September, with the lower floors (featuring the student center, fitness facility, career counseling and three restaurants) slated to open in January 2018.

The new two-story student/employee fitness center in Duncan will triple the space currently available in Rolfs Sports Recreation Center. Rolfs will be converted to a practice facility for the Notre Dame men's and women's basketball teams, and wooden basketball floors will be added in the north dome of the Joyce Center to provide additional space for basketball practice.

The media center and anthropology department will move into Corbett by January, with the psychology department scheduled to move in next summer. The music building is scheduled to be fully occupied by January.

O'Neill Hall, the south building, will house a private club/lounge on its fourth floor. It's called the South Club, and it will include Harper's Bar (named after Jesse Harper, Notre Dame football coach from 1913 to 1917). The club will be available for lease for private events at other times.

The three buildings have "green" roofs: 43,000 square feet of roof space covered with living plants as a commitment to sustainability. LEED Silver certification will be sought for all three buildings.

Duncan and Corbett, at 137 feet in height, now hold the distinction of a tie for fourth tallest structures on campus. (Tallest is the spire of Sacred Heart Basilica, at 230 feet, followed by Hesburgh Library, 210 feet, then the top of the Golden Dome on the Main Building, 187 feet.)

A driving ramp leading underground has been built southwest of the stadium complex. That drive leads to underground loading docks and a commercial kitchen/catering service for the three buildings and the stadium.

To run the new buildings on football weekends and through the year, Notre Dame is adding more than 60 full-time positions and about 765 part-time or on-call seasonal jobs.

Construction work continues in the three Campus Crossroads buildings. University officials say the football stadium itself will be ready when fans arrive for the Sept. 2 first home game, which features the Fighting Irish vs. the Temple Owls.

mfosmoe@sbtinfo.com

574-235-639

@mfosmoe

Stadium project open to the public for events Aug. 20 and 25

Notre Dame Stadium and three new adjacent buildings will be open to the public Aug. 20 as part of the university's Kicks & Flicks Week.

There will be a free "New & Gold Game" scrimmage starting at 3:30 p.m. Aug 20. And at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 25, the stadium will be open for a free public screening of the film "Rudy" on the new video board on the stadium's south end.

Tours of the new Duncan Student Center, Corbett Family Hall and O'Neill Hall will be available from 2 to 6 p.m. Aug. 20. In addition to the new buildings and video board, visitors will get a chance to see upgraded seating in the stadium, improved restrooms and the addition of close to 150 TVs along the stadium's concourses.

The first Fighting Irish home football game is scheduled for Sept. 2 against Temple.

Then to now

Key moments in the history of Notre Dame Stadium:

* 1930 -- Notre Dame Stadium opens, with seating for about 55,000 people and modeled, on a smaller scale, after the University of Michigan Stadium. The first game, on Oct. 4, is a 20-14 Irish win over Southern Methodist. Home games were previously at Cartier Field, with seating for 30,000.

* Nov. 8, 1952 -- First televised game in the stadium. Irish beat Oklahoma, 27-21.

* Oct. 27, 1956 -- A record 60,128 spectators squeezed in to watch the ND vs. Oklahoma game. Oklahoma won, 40-0.

* Oct 6, 1962 -- Largest crowd prior to stadium expansion, with a total of 61,296 people watching the 24-6 loss to Purdue.

* Nov. 22, 1973 -- Played on Thanksgiving day, this was the last home game that was not sold out, according to the university. Irish beat Air Force, 48-15.

* Sept. 18, 1982 -- First night game played in the stadium, under portable lights. Irish beat Michigan, 23-17.

* May 1994 -- University officials announce Notre Dame Stadium will be renovated and expanded beyond its existing 59,075 seats, with the added seats in a new upper bowl.

* November 1994 through summer 1997 -- $53 million expansion project proceeds, with home games still played in the stadium.

* Sept. 6, 1997 -- Dedication game for expanded Notre Dame Stadium, now with permanent lighting. New seating capacity is 80,795. Irish defeat Georgia Tech, 17-13.

* January 2014 -- University announces $400 million Campus Crossroad project, which will add three academic buildings onto the stadium, a large video screen and premium seating.

* 2014 -- FieldTurf replaces the stadium's natural grass.

* October 2014 to August 2017 -- Campus Crossroad construction proceeds at Notre Dame Stadium.

* August 2017 -- Campus Crossroads is largely completed. With each bench seat expanded in the lower bowl by about 2 inches per person, the stadium's total capacity will decrease from 80,795 to about 78,000, including the new premium seats.

* Sept. 2, 2017 -- Scheduled first game in newly renovated Notre Dame Stadium. Fighting Irish will face the Temple Owls at 3:30 p.m.

Sources: University of Notre Dame, South Bend Tribune archives

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Newsday (New York)

 

The death of a 16-year-old Sachem High School East football player during a training drill Thursday has state and local athletic officials considering a review of football safety guidelines.

"Any time there's a tragedy, we always have a discussion," Pat Pizzarelli, the executive director of Section VIII of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, the governing body of Nassau County athletics, said Friday. "We don't want anything to ever happen to our student athletes. Of course they'll be more discussion. There has to be."

The fatal injury occurred when a log fell on Joshua Mileto's head during workouts on school grounds in Farmingville, police said. Mileto was taking part in a military-style log-carrying drill - a demanding exercise that athletic training experts said they would not recommend for high school athletes.

"It's Navy SEALs-type training stuff," said Russ Taveras, who is the director of training at Infiniti Sports Performance in Bellport. "If somebody loses their balance or grip, there's an obvious concern of dangers, especially if it's a very heavy log."

Tavares, who has a doctorate in physical therapy from Stony Brook, has trained the Lindenhurst High School football team for a decade.

"It's something we haven't done in 10 years with Lindenhurst," Tavares said. "Not once."

Stony Brook University head football coach Chuck Priore said his team does not do the log-carrying drill, but several of his players said they had heard of it. Priore added that he was not aware of all the details involving what happened to Mileto.

"Knowing the coach there and knowing Long Island football, I'm sure it was organized and I'm sure it was structured," Priore said. "And unfortunately, a freak accident cost us a life, a young life we're not going to get back. . . . I think it's most important for all of us to understand and learn something from it, but not critique it."

Sachem East head coach Mark Wojciewchowski has not commented publicly since Mileto's death.

Newsday spoke with 15 high school football coaches from across Long Island, none of whom said they have used the log-carry drill in football workouts. Creative workouts they use, coaches say, involve tossing medicine balls, flipping large rubber tires or hitting tires with a sledgehammer.

"Sure, we've used a sledgehammer on a tire in small groups at times," said Newfield coach Joe Piccininni. "But what we concentrate on is functional shifting and balance in our core exercises."

Size, strength and speed are an integral of football, and most coaches believe year-round workouts are necessary for players to succeed, even at the high school level.

"Coaches are always looking for a strength advantage," said East Islip coach Sal J. Ciampi. "We're lucky because we have an outstanding weight room, and we bond through time spent in that weight room in the offseason. . . . I'm not against those workouts, but I know that I'm in the weight room every day and that's where I build our relationships and camaraderie."

Tom Combs, the executive director of Section XI, the governing body of Suffolk County athletics, said the only rule regarding offseason workouts is that they not be mandatory. Strength and conditioning workouts are open to the interpretation of the individuals schools, Combs said.

"We would definitely review anything that we are doing, and, after examining all the facts, we would make some form of a decision based on the safety for our student athletes," Combs said.

Robert Zayas, the executive director of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, said that while improved safety will be discussed, it can be difficult to set guidelines for conditioning workouts.

"When you talk about creating rules and regulations for conditioning, it's a much more difficult task than it sounds," Zayas said. "Do you limit the amount of pushups and situps? . . . The variables are very extensive when it comes to the types of drills and conditioning workouts that are available to coaches."

Zayas added: "The incident occurred just a little more than 24 hours ago. I think we have to offer our support and assistance at this point in time and determine next steps once we have an opportunity to work with the school, the section, our safety committee, and our football committee to determine if there needs to be anything that needs to be done."

None of the three school officials interviewed knew much about the log-carrying drill or how many schools might be doing it.

Athletic training experts said the drill requires a high level of strength and conditioning.

"You have to hoist that thing over your head," Tavares said, "so you have the upper body involved. Then the core and the legs are moving, so you need stability to hold that thing over your head. It create stability through a team effort, which is very dynamic and not easy to control. When you have legs moving through uneven ground, that makes it a little extreme at times."

Mike Mejia, a certified strength and conditioning specialist who owns B.A.S.E Sports Conditioning in Syosset, agreed.

"If you're going to do something like that, you're going to do it with older, higher level or even professional athletes," Mejia said. "It's certainly not something, despite the team-building and camaraderie aspect, that I would implement with high school athletes.

"There's just way too much that could go wrong. From a risk-reward standpoint, it just doesn't make sense."

Bob O'Malley, president of the New York State Athletic Trainers Association, said he had never seen the drill used "in an athletic setting."

"If you think about the genesis of that drill, it's designed to build teamwork among potential Navy SEALs," he said. "In that sense it doesn't seem appropriate for a high school football players to be practicing that."

With Gregg Sarra, Jim Baumbach and Nick Klopsis

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News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)

 

NCAA member schools will be required to provide sexual violence education for all college athletes, coaches and athletics administrators under a police announced Thursday by the organization's board of governors.

Campus leaders such as athletic directors and school presidents will be required to attest that athletes, coaches and administrators have been educated on sexual violence each year. The move follows a number of high-profile assault cases, including Baylor.

The policy also requires campus leaders to declare that athletic departments are knowledgeable and compliant with school policies on sexual violence prevention, adjudication and resolution. School policies on sexual violence and the name and contact information of the Title IX coordinator must be distributed throughout the athletic department and to all athletes.

The policy was adopted from a recommendation made by the Commission to Combat Campus Sexual Violence, which was created by the board last year.

The announcement from the NCAA came just one day after Youngstown State decided that a football player who served jail time for a rape committed while he was in high school will not be allowed to play in games this season. Ma'Lik Richmond , who served about 10 months in a juvenile lockup after being convicted with another Steubenville High School football player of raping a 16-year-old girl in 2012, walked on at Youngstown State earlier this year. He will be allowed to practice and participate in other team activities.

A move toward NCAA policy on sexual violence was given momentum by numerous high-profile cases involving athletes and athletic departments in recent years, most notably the scandal at Baylor that led to the ouster of head coach Art Briles and the departure of the university's athletic director and president. An investigation by a law firm hired by Baylor found that allegations of sexual assault, some against football players, were mishandled by the school.

Two years ago, the Southeastern Conference barred schools from accepting transfers who had been dismissed from other schools for serious misconduct, defined as sexual assault, domestic violence or other forms of sexual violence.

Indiana announced in April that it would no longer accept any prospective student-athlete who has been convicted of or pleaded guilty or no contest to a felony involving sexual violence. In July, the athletic director at the University of Illinois said the school was working on a similar policy.

The NCAA policy does not delve into bans, restrictions or punishments for athletes who commit sexual violence, deferring to schools to set and follow their own policies.

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The Washington Times

 

An Atlanta gym is affirming its appreciation for law enforcement and the military after people started mistaking it for a nearby gym that bans police and service members.

Jim Chambers, owner of EAV Barbell Club in the city's East Atlanta Village neighborhood, caused a social-media frenzy this week after declaring a ban on police and military members, calling his gym a safe space from "aggressive, hetero-jocks."

Since then, Village Fitness, located about two blocks from EAV Barbell Club, has been getting flooded with angry calls by people mistaking it for Mr. Chambers' gym.

"I'm like, wait a second, that's definitely not us," Tara Perry of Village Fitness told local NBC affiliate WXIA. "We do not feel that way."

In fact, Village Fitness offers discounts for local police and military members. On Wednesday, they posted a sign in front that clearly states, "We welcome and support our police and military."

"When you think of an EV gym, people think of us - Village Fitness," Ms. Perry said. "We've been here so long, we're established with the community."

Meanwhile, Mr. Chambers showed no signs of backing down from his no cops, no soldiers policy, though he did regret using profanity in a sign he posted in front of his gym that formerly read, "No f-g cops."

"We wanted one space that was just a little different. It's not an aggressive, hetero-jock space that's dominated by cops and soldiers," Mr. Chambers told WXIA in an earlier interview, adding that he views men in uniform as "an occupying enemy army."

At least two police officers have reportedly challenged Mr. Chambers to a fight since his comments went viral.

Atlanta Police Officer Vincent Champion told WXIA that he'd like to set up a charity boxing match against Mr. Chambers in hopes of opening up a dialogue.

"Without talking to the man, this appears to be hate for law enforcement and for what reason? Are you doing something illegal?" Mr. Champion asked. "We will do our job. We've taken that job to serve and protect and we will do that no matter what you think of us."

Officer Tommy Lefever said a boxing match could help bridge the gap between their conflicting viewpoints.

"I found, you sweat, you bleed with somebody, you exchange punches with somebody in a sport like boxing, it's hard not to respect the guy for getting in there with you afterwards," the Fayetteville, Georgia, resident told WXIA. "Gaining mutual respect for one another in the boxing ring might be the start of something that can help overcome differences in world view, ideology, what have you."

Mr. Chambers reportedly laughed when WXIA told him about the officers' challenges. He said he wanted to know if it would be a fair fight before he accepted.

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Newsday (New York)

 

An 11th-grade student at Sachem High School East died Thursday morning after a log fell on his head during a training drill at an offseason football camp on school grounds in Farmingville, officials said.

Joshua Mileto, 16, of Farmingville, was participating in a strength and conditioning camp at the school at 177 Granny Rd., police said. Five athletes were performing a drill carrying a log overhead - with Mileto somewhere in the middle - when "the log fell and struck" him, police said.

Mileto's injury was reported at 8:40 a.m. and he was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Suffolk County Police Assistant Commissioner Justin Meyers said.

Meyers also confirmed that another player from the same team was injured Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. and was taken to Stony Brook with injuries that were not life-threatening. Police did not release that player's name.

A woman who identified herself as Mileto's mother in a Facebook post thanked family, friends and members of the Sachem community for an "outpouring of love and support."

"We are absolutely beyond devastated," she wrote, asking for privacy.

Sachem Central School District Superintendent Kenneth Graham, in a written statement Thursday afternoon, didn't name Mileto but said "the student passed away from injuries suffered during an offseason football workout early this morning."

"The district is devastated by this horrific accident and words cannot express the grief we feel as a school community," Graham said. "We extend our deepest condolences to the student's family and friends during this terribly difficult time."

"We have enacted our Crisis Intervention Team and support services will be made available to students and staff for as long as needed as we mourn and try to cope with this loss," Graham said. A Sachem school district representative said counseling will be available at both district high schools Friday and all activities were canceled Thursday and during the weekend. The football program will start Monday, the representative said.

Suffolk Homicide Squad detectives are investigating Mileto's death and ask anyone with information to contact the Homicide Squad at 631-852-6392. Homicide detectives investigate all nonnatural deaths.

Detectives have already interviewed the coaches, police said. Six to seven adults, including coaches and trainers, were at the training session, which included varsity and junior varsity players, police said.

Police said it's not known at this point why the log was dropped and whether wet grass or the weight of the log - which police couldn't immediately provide - were factors.

The log-carrying drill was designed to build teamwork in Navy SEALs training, said Bob O'Malley, president of the New York State Athletic Trainers Association. "I've never seen that drill in an athletic setting," O'Malley said.

Photographs taken in the aftermath of the incident showed two solid-wood logs resembling telephone poles lying on the field, each about 10 feet long.

Mileto was participating in the six-week Sachem East Summer Football camp, which ran from July 5 to Aug. 11, and cost $325.

The camp, according to its website, focused on improving speed, agility and conditioning skills.

State athletic officials said conditioning workouts are common at this time of year.

"It's a real tragic situation as a young individual has lost his life," said Tom Combs, the executive director of Section XI, which is the governing body of Suffolk County high school athletics. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and the Sachem district."

High school football teams in New York can begin official practice on Monday. The only rule for offseason practice is that it cannot be mandatory, according to New York State Public High School Athletic Association executive director Robert Zayas.

"Schools across the state right now during the summer, especially this time of year, are doing conditioning, they're doing weight lifting, they're doing an awful lot of nonmandatory workouts in preparation for the season starting on Monday," Zayas said.

Zayas said there are no state-mandated restrictions on the type of football drills that take place during the offseason practice.

Combs said the offseason workouts are open to interpretation by individual schools.

"Sometimes coaches are in attendance and sometimes trainers are there, but it can't be mandatory," Combs said. "It's up to the individual schools on how they handle offseason workouts."

This story was reported by Jim Baumbach, Laura Blasey, Nicole Fuller, Chau Lam, William Murphy, Gregg Sarra, Joie Tyrrell and Rachel Uda. It was written by Fuller.
 
August 11, 2017
 
 
 

 

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

 

Five children were seen fleeing the scene of a playground fire at Woodville Elementary School in Richmond's East End on Wednesday afternoon.

The fire, fueled by a rubber safety mat that surrounded the play area, broke out about 3 p.m. but was quickly extinguished by the Richmond Fire Department, which happened to have a truck in the area.

"I saw some kids under the slide, I turned back, and the kids were running and the slide was burning," said Sandra Johnson, who lives nearby and lamented that her granddaughter loved playing there. "They couldn't have been older than 11."

It's the second time in five years that the Woodville playground has been set on fire, and Richmond Public Schools officials said it was the 20th time that school playground equipment had been set ablaze in the past six years.

Interim Superintendent Tommy Kranz confirmed that children were suspected as perpetrators. He said the fire caused at least $75,000 in damage and that there was no way the playground could be repaired and reopened before school starts next month.

The fire was brief, but witnesses described huge flames and billowing smoke.

The last time a playground was set afire in the city was in April at Redd Elementary School. A juvenile was charged shortly afterward.

Kranz said he had no idea why children keep setting the school district's playgrounds on fire.

"I wish I knew," he said.

Johnson, however, has a theory.

"They don't have no love at home, so they come out here and damage stuff," she said. "You show kids some love, give them things to do, they don't do stuff like this."

noliver@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6178Twitter: @nedoliver

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Copyright 2017 The Washington Times
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The Washington Times

 

New signs, shorter lines and a better overall experience - that's what the name change at the Verizon Center turned Capital One Arena will mean for fans, Ted Leonsis promised Wednesday.

For the businessman who owns the building and most of the teams that play in it, the deal represents the possibility of a healthier bottom line.

The downtown home of Mr. Leonsis' professional franchises - the Capitals, Wizards, Mystics and Valor - as well as the Georgetown Hoyas, has been renamed Capital One Arena, starting immediately. As part of the naming rights deal, the arena, previously the Verizon Center, will undergo $40 million in upgrades.

Further details of the agreement were not disclosed, but Bloomberg reported the deal to be worth $100 million over 10 years. If accurate, that would amount to a significant turnabout for Mr. Leonsis, who has bemoaned the naming rights deal he inherited when he purchased the facility as one of the worst in all of sports.

At $10 million annually, the deal would put the Wizards' facility among the upper echelon of NBA buildings for naming rights - on par, for example, with the Brooklyn Nets, who receive a reported $10 million a year for the Barclays Center, according to Forbes. Redskins owner Dan Snyder gets $7.6 million annually for FedEx Field.

The Capital One Arena logo was unveiled Wednesday, but new signs and a marketing campaign will come this fall.

"Capital One shares our deep commitment to both economic and philanthropic investment in the larger Washington, D.C., community, and we look forward to working closely with them," Mr. Leonsis said in a statement.

The change comes on the heels of the arena's 20th anniversary.

Former Wizards owner Abe Pollin opened the arena in 1997. It was first known as the MCI Center. The building, which has also long served as one of the city's premier concert sites, seats 20,500 and is located in Chinatown. The facility hosts more than 220 events annually and is credited with sparking a revitalization of the surrounding area with restaurants and new businesses.

Verizon was selected as the previous naming rights partner in 2006.

Richard Fairbank, Capital One's founder, chairman and CEO, is a minority partner in Mr. Leonsis' Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the building and the sports franchises. A Monumental official said Mr. Fairbank recused himself from the negotiations.

As part of the deal, Monumental will invest $40 million in upgrading the Monumental 360 program, designed to analyze fan preferences, collect data and install a point-of-sale system. Capital One cardholders will get discounts on food, merchandise and beverages once the point-of-sale system is installed.

According to the press release, reducing lines at the door is one of the goals of the point-of-sale system. Fans often complained on social media about lines jutting out toward F Street when games had already begun. The issues were prevalent during 7 p.m. tipoffs for the Wizards.

On his blog, Mr. Leonsis said the new system "is designed to create a swifter, smoother experience in the arena."

The Washington Times' Thom Loverro previously reported that Mr. Leonsis was targeting a large international company to take over the naming right deal. Instead, Mr. Leonsis reached a deal with McLean-based Capital One, which was already a corporate sponsor of the arena.

The naming rights deal with Capital One comes before the Wizards' first season paying the NBA's luxury tax bill. The Wizards have three homegrown players - John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter - signed to maximum contracts. Wall and Porter signed their contracts this summer. Beal signed last year. Mr. Leonsis previously complained about the cost of operating the building and the limited revenue from the past naming rights deal.

The deal with Capital One was first reported last week. That caused fans to speculate about "Cap Centre," as the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland, was known from 1973 to 1999 before being demolished in 2002, as a nickname for the arena that housed the Wizards and Capitals. However, Capital One Arena does not deliver that opportunity. The Verizon Center was referred to as the "Phone Booth" on occasion.

Mr. Leonsis is projected to pay off the arena's mortgage in six years. He has hinted at trying to find another arena when that happens.

• Matthew Paras contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

The move to SunTrust Park is paying off for the Braves, according to financial results disclosed Wednesday.

The Braves brought in revenue of $176 million in the April-through-June quarter, a 34 percent increase from$131 million in the same period last year, team owner Liberty Media said in its quarterly financial report.

Expenses also were up sharply, but the Braves' operating profit before depreciation and amortization -- a key measure of a pro sports franchise's economic performance -- rose to $27 million for the quarter, compared with $12 million in the same period last year.

"The increase in Braves revenue in the quarter was primarily attributable to... the Braves'move to their new ballpark, SunTrust Park, and improved on-field performance," Liberty Media said. "Ticket sales, concessions, corporate sales, suites and premium seat fees all increased during the second quarter."

Liberty said the revenue boost was "partially offset by increased costs associated with baseball and ballpark operations."

The revenue increase would have been larger if not for a scheduling disparity. The Braves had 40 home games in the April-through-June period this season, vs. 44 in the same period last year at Turner Field, Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said during a conference call Wednesday with Wall Street analysts.

He said the team's average home attendance had increased 36 percent through Monday, compared with the same point last season.

After depreciation and amortization, the Braves showed a loss of $3 million for the second quarter. Liberty cited "increased depreciation and amortization expense due to an increase in property and equipment to support the development of the Braves mixed-use facility that surrounds SunTrust Park."

The mixed-use development, The Battery Atlanta, "is seeing strong demand," Maffei said.

"On the retail side, 70 percent of it is leased, with 30 percent of the outlets open," he said. "On the residential units, we have 80 percent of them leased, with 60 percent already occupied. The remainder of the development is on time and on budget."

Despite the sharp increase in revenue, the Braves recently trimmed payroll with trades of two veterans, starting pitcher Jaime Garcia and utility player Sean Rodriguez, for low-level prospects. The deals will save the Braves a total of about $12 million this year and next.

It remains to be seen how, when or whether the Braves will reinvest that money into the on-field product.

While the stadium and adjacent development are driving revenue higher, the organization has taken on considerable debt for construction.

Liberty Media Chief Financial Officer Mark Carleton said Wednesday that the Braves carried debt of $511 million as of June 30.

The team's debt increased by $91 million in the second quarter "primarily as a result of additional borrowings for funding the ballpark and mixed-use development," Liberty said.

As of June 30, approximately $692 million had been spent on the stadium, "of which approximately $390 million was provided by Cobb County and related entities and $302 million provided by the Braves," Liberty said. In addition, approximately $374 million had been spent on the mixed-use development, with the Braves responsible for $338 million and joint-venture partners responsible for the rest.

Liberty, a Colorado-based conglomerate controlled by billionaire chairman John Malone, did not address the Braves'future spending plans Wednesday.

But in an investor conference at SunTrust Park last month, Maffei said: "We expect the Braves to continue to operate with the same financial discipline and prudence that they have historically, despite the upgraded new facilities.

"As we get more cash flows from The Battery and the new ballpark, we expect to deploy cash for normal business operations, potentially including paying down debt and investing in the team to enhance baseball operations."

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Copyright 2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

A judge has ordered the parents of a Valdosta teen found dead in a rolled-up gym mat to pay nearly $300,000 in attorney fees to those they accused of killing their son and the parties they alleged conspired to cover it up.

The long-anticipated ruling by Lowndes County Superior Court Judge Richard Porter stems from a 2015 wrongful death lawsuit alleging brothers Brian and Branden Bell murdered 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson. The Lowndes High sophomore's body was discovered on Jan. 11, 2013, in the school's old gymnasium. State and local investigators concluded he died from positional asphyxia after he got stuck in the mat, presumably reaching for a pair of sneakers.

But Kendrick's parents, Kenneth and Jackie Johnson, never accepted the official finding.Their attorney, Chevene King, was also ordered to reimburse the nearly two dozen defendants named in the initial lawsuit.

According to that suit, FBI agent Rick Bell, father of Brian and Branden, along with Lowndes County's school superintendent and a former sheriff, rolled Kendrick's body in the gym mat and devised a plan to make his death look like an accident.

The vast conspiracy even included the superintendent's daughters, enlisted by their father to "discover" Johnson's body, according to the suit.

"Judge Porter has now put those false accusations to rest and determined that the Johnsons' and their lawyer's accusations were substantially frivolous, groundless and vexatious," said attorney Jim Elliott, who represents former Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine. "All of those who have been falsely accused have been vindicated. Truth prevails. Justice has been done."

Porter had harsh words for the Johnsons and King in his order, accusing them of fabricating evidence to support their claims.

"Their testimony shows they had no evidence to support their claims that the Bells killed Johnson or that any of the other defendants engaged in a conspiracy to conceal the cause of manner of Johnson's death," Porter wrote.

The Johnsons' initial wrongful death suit was eventually withdrawn but just last month they filed another suit that contains similar accusations about a murder and cover-up.

Referring to the second such suit, filed in 2016, Porter said the Johnsons and King merely reiterated claims "without any evidence or factual basis."

He also accused King of purposely delaying a ruling on attorney fees.

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

That investigation wrapped up nearly two years after an FBI video analysis concluded the Bell brothers were nowhere near the old gymnasium when Johnson was last seen entering the facility where the 17-year-old victim was discovered in a rolled-up gym mat, according to a newly released documents.

Despite that seemingly incontrovertible evidence, the federal investigation continued, costing Brian Bell 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. Meanwhile, the Johnsons remain undeterred, vowing to continue fighting to prove their son's death was not an accident.

"This is bs and they know it but there message they're sending is an epic fail we will fight on for Kendrick Kj Johnson it isn't over!" Jackie Johnson wrote on Facebook following Porter's ruling.

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

The NFL announced Wednesday it will begin hiring between 21 and 24 full-time game officials from among the current roster of 124 officials for this season.

"We believe this is a great development for NFL officiating overall and ultimately the quality of our game," said NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent. "We share a common goal, which is to make our game as great as it can possibly be, and look forward to working together on this new effort."

Full-time officials will be hired at each of the seven officiating positions and may serve on each of the 17 officiating crews. They will work collaboratively with their assigned crews, the league officiating staff and the NFL's football-related committees during the offseason.

"NFL officials are always looking to improve, and we believe that additional time, particularly in the offseason, will be positive," said NFL Referees Association executive director Scott Green.

Unlike in most other pro sports, NFL officials have other jobs.

Falcons: Running back Devonta Freeman, who was set to make $1.838 million on the last year of his rookie contract he signed as a fourth-round draft pick out of Florida State, agreed to a five-year, $41.25 million contract extension. The deal, which averages $8.25 million, makes Freeman the highest paid running back in the NFL.

Cowboys: Punter Chris Jones signed a four-year contractextensionthrough2021. Jones, who had one year remaining on his deal, had a career-best average of 45.9 yards last season.

Colts: Defensive tackle Kendall Langford was released after he failed a physical. Langford went on the physically unable to perform list as training camp openedwithaninjuredknee.

Steelers: The NFL cleared Martavis Bryant to join his teammates in preseason practice and games, 16 months after he was suspended for one year. The league, however, stopped short of fully reinstating the wide receiver.

* Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and widereceiverAntonioBrown will not play in Friday's preseason opener against the Giants. Rookie Josh Dobbs is expected to start at quarterback.

49ers: Rookie linebacker Donavin Newsom was released from the hospital Wednesday, a day after sustaining a concussion in practice.

* Coach Kyle Shanahan said 2015 first-round guard Joshua Garnett will have a procedure today to clean out his injured knee and his status for the season opener Sept. 10 against Carolina is in doubt.

* Prosecutors dropped domestic violence charges against former 49ers cornerback Tramaine Brock because of insufficient evidence.

Bengals: Coach Marvin Lewis, 58, was back with the team after missing Tuesday's practice to have a knee problem checked.

Seahawks: Offensive lineman Germain Ifedi returned to full participation in practice for the first time since being punched in the face by teammate Frank Clark during a skirmish last week. Clark also practiced but on a limited basis as he deals with a sore knee.

Jets: Quarterback Christian Hackenberg opened team drills with the first-team offense for the first time since camp started after Josh McCown had done so in the first nine practices. Hackenberg finished with the most snaps overall and threw two TD passes but also was intercepted twice.

Patriots: Five-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time Super Bowl champion Vince Wilfork signed a one-day contract at Gillette Stadium and retired as a Patriot.

Cardinals: Coach Bruce Arians said quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich will call the plays in Saturday's preseason game against Oakland.

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Copyright 2017 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Earl White says Belmont assistants would take over if he sits out in a strike.

Belmont High School head football coach Earl White and his counterpart at Meadowdale, Len Hampton Jr., are expected to honor a strike and cease coaching if Dayton Public Schools and its teachers union can't agree on a new contract.

They are the only two of five Dayton City League head football coaches who are represented by the union. The sixth DPS high school — Stivers — does not have a football program.

The two sides are in ongoing negotiations that likely will extend into tonight. The union represents all full-time DPS teachers and employees, but not administration. It has set a 12:01 a.m. Friday strike date if a new contract has not been approved.

"I wouldn't be able to coach during a strike," White said Wednesday. "I have assistant coaches who would take over for me. I'm sure they'd do a fine job."

White said if the union does strike, he would immediately cease coaching. He has multiple positions at Belmont: athletic director, physical education teacher and football coach.

Like all football programs throughout the state, Belmont is in preseason practice. Belmont's season opener is Thursday, Aug. 24 against City League rival Dunbar at Welcome Stadium.

Hampton, a full-time teacher at Meadowdale, is in his first season as the Lions' head coach. He succeeds John Wortham, who was not retained.

Dunbar coach Darran Powell is a paraprofessional at the school. Neither Ponitz coach Jim Place nor Thurgood Marshall coach Brian Carter are employed by DPS other than as coaches.

Other fall City League coaches who are teachers also would be expected to honor a strike. In addition to football, fall sports include boys and girls golf, soccer and cross country; girls volleyball; and girls tennis.

City League assistant coaches who are full-time DPS employees also are expected to honor a strike. White said that would include two other Belmont football coaches. Also on the Bison coaching staff is longtime area coach Rick Robertson. He previously was the head coach at Springfield North, Springfield, Fairmont and Oakwood and is a retired teacher.

White didn't view his possible exit from the staff as a distraction to the team.

"Absolutely not," he said. "We haven't addressed it yet. We'll bring it up if it comes up."

Negotiations between the two sides have been ongoing since last January. A three-year contract traditionally is agreed upon, although that has been affected by when a new contract is signed. The most recent contract ended June 30.

The possibility of a strike that would affect City League coaches is the latest in a series of unprecedented events that have hit DPS athletic programs since last football season.

Currently, all DPS sports teams - girls and boys, high school and middle school - are on a three-year probation by the Ohio High School Athletic Association. That was the result of a "serious lack of administrative responsibility and institutional control," the OHSAA said following a lengthy investigation into accusations that Dunbar was encouraged to "throw" a Week 10 football game to Belmont last season.

DPS also was fined $10,000. One year of the probation will be dropped and $2,500 refunded if no similar incidents occur.

Contact this reporter at 937-225-2381.

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Copyright 2017 Star Tribune
All Rights Reserved

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

After 31 years with the Minnesota State High School League, nearly all of them as the league's executive director, Dave Stead announced Tuesday that he plans to step down from the position Feb. 1.

Stead made the announcement before a league board of directors meeting at Ruttger's Bay Lake Lodge in Deerwood.

Stead, 74, began his career with the league in 1986 and was officially named executive director in March 1988. He is the longest-serving executive director in league history and the nation's second-longest tenured leader of a state high school athletic association.

"Jack Roberts in Michigan has me by a year," Stead said with a laugh.

In his tenure, Stead has overseen many high-profile changes in policy and procedure, including expanding the number of classes in sports, strengthening eligibility requirements for student-athletes who change schools and implementing an adapted athletics program that has become a model for other states. In 2014 he led the organization through a controversial decision regarding transgender athletes and access to locker rooms.

"I wouldn't trade the last 31 years for anything," Stead said. "We've had some ups and downs and a lot of successes. The best part has been doing those things to benefit the schools and the kids."

Stead will remain with the league in a more limited capacity as a senior staff member, helping out where his experience and expertise would be beneficial. "It's an opportunity to look at other things but still stay connected," he said.

The league's board establishing a timeline for selecting his replacement.

Also at the meeting, the league moved a step closer to approving the use of replay in the football state semifinals and Prep Bowl. Guidelines were established to review turnovers and scoring plays. Other reviewable instances include plays in the last two minutes of the first half that impact the clock, and other plays in the last two minutes of a game, including whether a player was in-bounds and if a pass was caught or intercepted.

"It would be of limited usage," Stead said. "We'd do it only if we have a controversial play that we can review and get right before the next play. We're not going to delay the game."

The board stopped short of giving the measure full approval to explore how adding replay would mesh with the National Federation of High Schools football rules. Stead said a final decision would be made at the league's October board meeting.

The board also approved $597,769 to reimburse schools to defray costs associated with participating in state tournaments. That is an 8.7 percent increase over 2016, when the league reimbursed schools about $550,000.

After 31 years with the Minnesota State High School League, nearly all of them as the league's executive director, Dave Stead announced Tuesday that he plans to step down from the position Feb. 1.
 
August 9, 2017
 
 
 

 

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Copyright 2017 The Post Register
All Rights Reserved

Idaho Falls Post Register

 

The Idaho State University booster club has seen enough.

In an op-ed published in the Idaho State Journal on Sunday, the Idaho State Football Alumni Team threatened to withhold nearly $80,000 in donations if Idaho State doesn't fire the school's president and athletic director.

"Eight years is enough," the op-ed stated. "ISU athletics will continue to fail in comparison to Big Sky peers until the tenure of (President Arthur) Vailas and (Athletic Director) Jeff Tingey is up. It can't come soon enough."

Jason Whitmer, a board member of the booster club known as FAT, told the Journal on Monday the 14-member board of the booster club voted unanimously to withhold funds from Idaho State until it removed Vailas and Tingey.

"We are in an eight-year downhill skid," Whitmer, a member of Idaho State's hall of fame, told the Journal. "Sometimes, it has to get worse before it gets better. Our mission is 100 percent for the kids, but we can't continue on down this path for another minute."

The Idaho State football team has struggled during Tingey's eight-year tenure as athletic director, compiling a 20-70 (.222) overall record and an 11-53 (.172) record in the Big Sky. The Bengals posted one winning season in 2014, and the program parted ways with former football coach Mike Kramer this past spring after six years.

Idaho State will continue to pay the one year remaining on Kramer's contract for $164,000.

The Bengals men's basketball team also has struggled under Tingey, posting just one winning season and going 70-169 (.293) overall and 46-96 (.324) in the Big Sky.

Tingey received a two-year contract extension and an annual base salary raise to $150,467 in June. Tingey is the son of Kent Tingey, Idaho State's vice president for university advancement. Vailas also received a contract extension in June from the State Board of Education.

Tingey refuted many of the op-ed column's claims - that Idaho State has the lowest athletic budget in the Big Sky, that the program hasn't made any renovations to Holt Arena and that a lack of fundraising will cost the school the right to host the 2019 Big Sky track championship.

"That op-ed piece (Sunday) was very misleading," Tingey told the Journal on Monday. "It skipped over the truth in a lot of places and cited sources that I really question because they were blatantly false."

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Copyright 2017 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)

 

The embattled University of New Mexico athletics department isn't in clean-up mode yet.

Before it can start stabilizing the department's finances, it must first try to avoid "sinking" under the weight of two state investigations and a mountain of public records requests scrutinizing the financial management of public money, Associate Vice President Chris Vallejos said at a Board of Regents Finance and Facilities Committee meeting Tuesday.

Now, amid the ongoing turmoil, the department's Director of Business Operations, Yvonne Otts, has submitted her resignation. Otts, athletics' top financial administrator, did not respond to Journal inquiries Tuesday seeking comment. Interim Athletic Director Janice Ruggiero said she couldn't comment as it was a personnel matter.

Otts' last day is Thursday. Her position and that of a chief financial officer will now be open, though the CFO spot has been vacant for 14 months.

The 2017 Fiscal Year budget shows a $208,264 deficit — the department's eighth in the past 10 years, bringing the total debt owed to main campus for covering those losses to $4.6 million.

But the resignation and the budget were mere afterthoughts at Tuesday's meeting.

Instead, Vallejos and Ruggiero tried to lay out groundwork of their plan to stabilize the department that has seemed to have one financial crisis after another revealed since May.

"You're new to this," regent Alex Romero, a longtime banker and the former CEO of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, told Ruggiero. "But I come from the world of no surprises. So I think that part of the challenge is to ensure there's nothing around the corner that's going to be the next surprise — that's really kind of a big deal."

Ruggiero agreed avoiding the unknown is vital.

"With Chris' help and a lot of others," Ruggiero said, "we're trying to minimize that (so) we don't go around the corner and get struck by lightning or a car."

Among recent surprises was the May revelation former athletic director Paul Krebs, who retired in June, spent public money on boosters for a 2015 golf junket to Scotland; a discovery athletics hadn't paid the UNM hospital for athlete care in 2016; and finding out that more than $430,000 had gone uncollected for use of luxury suites in the Pit since 2010.

Part of the problem is a general vagueness about the relationship between athletics; the UNM Foundation, the university's fundraising arm; and the Lobo Club. The foundation claims it is independent from the university and not subject to state open record laws. The Lobo Club, the athletic department's fundraising arm, has its own non-profit status while operating out of the department but under the administrative umbrella of the Foundation.

"To say that this is a confusing relationship is an understatement," Regent President Rob Doughty said, adding it's long overdue for clarity on finding out "who answers to whom."

Vallejos and Ruggiero said they plan to do a sport-by-sport cost analysis to determine exactly how much each sport costs to operate, something that has been done in the past, but apparently not very precisely.

Neither Vallejos, Ruggiero in person on Tuesday, nor Deputy Athletic Director Brad Hutchins, through two emails this week, have explained why the deficit more than doubled since May when Hutchins told Regents it was projected to be $97,000.

A large part of last year's deficit, as has been the practice for several years, derived from overestimating ticket revenue for football and men's basketball. Last year, UNM budgeted $2 million in football ticket revenue, but collected just $1.2 million. For men's basketball, it budgeted $4.8 million and collected $3.9 million.

"The university must balance its budget. While we have internal transfers and subsidies, we expect all units to live within their budgets," UNM Interim President Chaouki Abdallah said.

"Having said that, a unit may sometime miss its budgeting targets. We are in the midst of evaluating the athletics budget. A part of the internal review will include determining reasons why the department has fallen short on budgetary goals. Potential contributing factors may include optimistic estimates of attendance and revenues."

Vallejos acknowledged college athletics has many variables that make budgeting an inexact science, but also noted UNM can do better.

"Our budget methodology has to change," he said.More of the same

The UNM athletic department's final 2016-17 fiscal year budget settled in with a $208,264 deficit. That is the eighth deficit for the department in the past 11 years.

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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

At the end of her junior season, former lacrosse player Lisa Smith was given her senior night a year early. She had suffered four concussions playing the game - two as a sophomore and two as a junior - and the team thought she wouldn't be able to return for her senior season.

"All the doctors were really adamant about me quitting at that point," said Smith, who graduated from Mills Godwin in 2015. "Just because it was too dangerous. And you kind of have to look at the long road here. As much as I want to play and that was my favorite thing, they all said that it's just not worth it at this point."

Smith played midfield, and she said all of her concussions were the result of getting hit in the head by lacrosse sticks on the draw, when players vie for the ball. But she returned for her senior season after all, this time with a helmet. She played with one similar to those used in rugby, after wearing a protective band that covered the sides of her head at the end of her junior year.

"My mom and dad wouldn't let me play lacrosse without the helmet," Smith said.

For the first time, there's a performance standard in place specifically for women's lacrosse headgear. Whereas players such as Smith could previously wear various types of soft head protection, players who want to wear headgear now have to choose one of two helmet models. But there are varying opinions in lacrosse about what effects the use of headgear could have, and the use of headgear is still optional for players.

The performance standard was approved in May 2015 - American Society for Testing and Materials standard F3137. U.S. Lacrosse, which sets the rules for high school girls, ruled that any headgear worn on the field after Jan. 1 of this year had to meet the new standard. The two helmet models that meet the standard, and that are approved by U.S. Lacrosse, hit the market during the latter part of 2016.

So last spring marked the first season that players locally and elsewhere could wear the new helmets in scholastic competition.

A major part of the new helmets' design is a flexible shell to try to assure that those not wearing the helmets wouldn't be injured by those who are, in case of a collision. Both of the new models - one is made by the manufacturer Cascade, and the other by Hummingbird - resemble bicycle helmets, except the Cascade model includes built-in eye protection.

Caitlin Kelley, the senior manager of the women's game at U.S. Lacrosse, said she thinks soft headgear similar to the type Smith wore, had been allowed in the sport for close to 20 years, before the new standard was put in place.

"We felt that it was such an important safety concern and issue, that the equipment that was on the field should actually be tested and certified and sport specific," said Kelley.

Although helmets are an option, field players are only required to wear protective eyewear - goggles that provide a cage around their eyes - and a mouthpiece. The eyewear has been mandatory since 2004. Goalies can wear pads and full helmets with face masks, such as those used in the boys game, in which there's more contact.

Body contact isn't intended to be a significant aspect of girls lacrosse, but concussions are still a risk because of incidental stick-to-head or ball-to-head contact.

One study, released in 2015 and based on data from high school and college athletes collected between 1999 and 2001, found that women's lacrosse had the second-highest incidence of concussions, behind football. The primary cause was found to be contact with an object, such as a stick or a ball.

Another study, published this year and based on data from high school athletes collected from the 2011-12 school year through the 2013-14 school year, found that girls lacrosse had the fifth-highest concussion rate. It trailed football, boys lacrosse, girls soccer and boys wrestling.

But while some in the sport support the use of helmets, others worry that the equipment could change the way girls lacrosse is played, perhaps opening the door for more aggressiveness.

"We've gotten sort of definitely extreme responses," said Kelley. "People that think it will really ruin the women's game and impact it and make it more dangerous and more physical. There are definitely people that believe that. And then there are people that absolutely believe stick-and- ball contact is a reality and that this offers some protection."

Last spring, Mills Godwin attacker Libbie Smith, Lisa's younger sister, was one of the local players who wore one of the new helmets. She chose the Cascade model.

"My parents have just been driving it in us that it needs to be there in the sport," she said.

Like her sister, Libbie wore a rugby-style helmet the previous two seasons. Libbie, a rising senior who said she hasn't suffered a concussion playing lacrosse, thought it was great that a formal headgear standard was in place.

"Because it just shows that people want to be protected, too," she said.

Mills Godwin coach Kate Desai said that while Libbie was the only varsity player who wore a helmet, multiple players on the school's junior varsity team wore them. Desai, who said she played lacrosse from age 11 to 19, supports the use of helmets.

Desai said she doesn't think the helmets would cause players to be more aggressive around each other's heads. She said she believes the game is already aggressive and that it's about controlled aggression. She believes the helmets add an extra layer of protection, but don't encourage aggression.

"I don't think it's like, 'Oh, she's got a helmet, I can just check her in the head and she'll be fine,' " said Desai. "I don't think kids have that mentality, I just don't think that's inherently in them."

Atlee defender Ellie Woodward, a rising junior, was another local player who wore a helmet last season. She also went with the Cascade. Her mother, Cheryl Woodward, said the decision was made for her to wear a helmet after she suffered a second concussion back in January.

That one came in a snowboarding accident, and she was wearing a helmet at the time. Ellie's first concussion was suffered during lacrosse practice in 2016, when she was defending a teammate who was shooting and was hit in the head by the stick on the follow-through.

"It was no second-guessing it," said Cheryl. "It was like, 'If you want to continue to play, you're going to have to wear a helmet.' "

Ellie had a positive experience wearing a helmet for the first time. The helmet even became part of a new team activity.

"People would sign my helmet if they got the most ground balls in the game or they played really well - my coach would let people sign it," said Ellie. "And it became a big thing, and it's fun; I like it."

But Brooke Ireland, a consultant with the local Strikers lacrosse program, said she thinks helmets could change the way girls lacrosse is played - the finesse of the game. Ireland has also served as the head lacrosse coach at Virginia Tech and William & Mary, and was an assistant coach at Collegiate.

"I feel like it's going to be more aggressive," said Ireland, who played at Tech from 1994 to 1996. "I feel that the game has become more and more aggressive over the years, which I actually personally have liked. But aggressive the right way and the safe way.

"And I feel like if our officials are doing what they should be doing, or they're officiating correctly, then we shouldn't have to worry about head injuries."

Collegiate coach Annie Richards is also wary of the use of the helmets in the sport. Helmets don't completely eliminate the risk of concussions, and Richards said that when she sees research that says the equipment is the best way to go about things, then she'll be excited about it.

"I will not be encouraging helmets for any of my girl players unless there's some research that comes out that says this is a really, really good thing to do," said Richards.

While U.S. Lacrosse has ruled headgear optional, the Florida High School Athletic Association took it a step further. It voted in 2014 to make headgear mandatory. Next year, all players will be required to wear helmets that meet the ASTM standard. Florida is the only state to mandate headgear.

Kelley said that, while she doesn't have comprehensive data, the data she does have show that use of the helmets hasn't been great as it pertains to the number of players wearing them. Desai estimated that she saw no more than 10 varsity players wearing helmets in Conference 11 play last season. Richards said she saw perhaps two or three players on other teams wearing them.

Kelley said that if someone were to call her looking to mandate headgear for their school or league, she would say they can, but would also encourage them to support officials education and coaching education.

"Because if the game is played safely, and within the rules, then the injury risk to the head is very minimal," she said.

wepps@timesdispatch.com(804) 649-6823@wayneeppsjr

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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)

 

East Memphis commuters may be treated to some eye candy - up to 10 climbers at a time scaling a 40-foot-tall, outdoor climbing wall - if plans for a large climbing gym are approved.

Chattanooga-based High Point Climbing proposes to build a $9 million, 32,000-square-foot climbing and fitness facility at a high-profile intersection just west of Shelby Farms Park.

It's the second substantial rock-climbing project in the works in Memphis. Movie director and philanthropist Tom Shadyac is converting a long-vacant building at 879 E. McLemore in Soulsville into Memphis Rox, a 28,000-square-foot climbing gym and community center.

"The Memphis project will be cool," said High Point Climbing principal Johnny O'Brien of Chattanooga, where passersby often stop and watch climbers at two High Point facilities. High Point's third climbing gym opened early this year in Birmingham.

High Point plans a two-story gym on 2.7 acres at the northwest corner of Walnut Grove and Humphreys Boulevard. The site is now a parking lot immediately east of the Christian Brothers High School baseball field.

"We're an indoor rock climbing gym with an outdoor component," O'Brien said. "We wanted to be close to Shelby Farms" with its biking and running trails, kayaking and other activities. "We think it's a real complement."

High Point Memphis LLC filed an application with the Land Use Control Board to amend the Humphreys Center Planned Development to allow a sports facility there.

The board is to consider the request at its meeting on Sept. 14 at 10 a.m. in City Hall.

High Point Climbing is coming to Memphis for two main reasons: O'Brien's son-in-law and business partner, John Wiygul, grew up in Memphis and Germantown; and the Memphis market is ripe for a climbing gym.

"Memphis has been in the sights of many (climbing) gym developers as a key city to be able to develop a new gym," O'Brien said Tuesday. "Probably one of the top 10 cities in the U.S. That's a result of the overall demographics and the fact there were no climbing gyms in the city....

"With us being located within the state we decided we'd better go ahead and take advantage before any other out-of-state developers," he said.

One might not assume there's an abundance of climbers in Memphis, surrounded for many miles by flat delta land or only gentle hills. But the topography will be an advantage for High Point Climbing, O'Brien said.

On a nice weekend in Chattanooga, climbers can travel to natural rock formations in 20 or so minutes as an alternative to the gym, O'Brien said. Not so in Memphis.

"What happens in a city like Memphis, your membership base is more solid and people become more of a community in the gym," O'Brien said. "And they will take a trip on a weekend to an outdoor climbing crag."

High Point's website, highpointclimbing.com, quotes an April 2015 edition of Climbing Magazine as stating High Point is "the country's coolest gym."

In Chattanooga, the outdoor climbing walls feature climbing on transparent climbing material "that is like nothing else," the company's website states.

The Memphis wall will be composed of a different material - molded Fiberglas - that is better for climbing, O'Brien said. The wall will be made in Bulgaria.

Inside the gym, climbing areas are available for all ages and abilities. The space includes a "kid zone."

The gym also provides cross-training, as well as aerobic, weight and yoga facilities with 13 yoga and two spin classes weekly in Chattanooga.

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Copyright 2017 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

Rod Sandberg is wary of making comparisons, so the Whitworth head football coach adheres to a don't-worry-about-them strategy.

But Sandberg, who hold a 23-8 record since taking the reins for the Pirates in 2014, was quick to make this distinction: Of the eight Northwest Conference football members last fall, Whitworth was the only team without artificial turf.

Playing games at the well-manicured Pine Bowl was well and good, but even tiny Washington high schools were going the synthetic route.

"Royal (City), a little farm town with a great football program. It had field lights and turf. It was beautiful," Sandberg said while recalling a recruiting trip. "And we were the only team in our conference without turf."

Those days are over.

This month Whitworth unveils its FieldTurf Revolution 360 surface, a $1 million dollar project and the first of three donor-funded pursuits for the school's athletic department.

A new amenity-filled Pine Bowl press box and a centralized athletics building - an estimated $13 million between the two projects - are still in the planning and funding stages.

The new turf, which features Whitworth's flag logo at midfield and reads "Pirates" in both black and crimson end zones, is near completion. It's slated for use before the football team's Aug. 26 scrimmage.

The push for a turf field was spawned last fall and the wheels were swiftly put in motion, Whitworth campus construction project manager Fred Johnston said.

"We were very hungry to get this going and worked hard to make it happen," Johnston said. "In a lot of cases, it takes around two years to do this. We had a lot of support."

Last November, Whitworth trustee Walter Oliver and his wife, Kay, donated $3.1 million to the athletic department to help fund the proposed plans. The turf field will also service the track and lacrosse programs.

"The trend is schools going to turf fields," Johnston said. "This keeps us competitive in recruiting, it leads to less injuries and there's less maintenance."

A study from Dr. Michael C. Meyers of the Department of Health and Human Development at Montana State University confirmed that FieldTurf is safer than natural grass sports surfaces, citing 20 percent fewer severe injuries and 11 percent fewer concussions.

FieldTurf's robust national clientele includes the Seattle Seahawks, the University of Washington and Washington State University.

"The No. 1 reason I wanted this was for recruiting," Sandberg said. "Eastern (Washington) has the red (turf), Boise (State) has the blue. Our grass field was still good, but it's not about what you or I think. It's about what an 18-year-old thinks and it can affect their decision."

Cade Foisset, a Whitworth junior middle linebacker, noted that the majority of his teammates' high school fields were turf.

"The turf helps us because we're a fast team," said Foisset, a Bend, Oregon, product. "It's exciting. It also gives you more options. Grass is great, but during winter conditioning, it's easier to get the snow off of turf."

Puget Sound, which has a turf practice facility, will be the only NWC member playing its home games on grass this season.

Projects in the works

Whitworth athletic director Tim Demant's office is a five-minute walk from some of his coaches.

Sandberg has to walk across the parking lot to get to a copy machine.

Baseball coach Dan Ramsay essentially works out of a closet.

"There's a lot of sharing," said Noelle Bouillard, Whitworth's women's lacrosse coach.

Coaches and administration at Whitworth are spread throughout the campus, some in outdated digs. The building project is geared to house all the coaches together in a new, centralized location for athletic leadership.

According to the proposal, the second floor will be for locker rooms, offices and meeting spaces. Currently, 120 football players share 60 lockers.

The planned 10,000 square-foot press box is also geared to boost the school's recruiting and boost fan experience. It is slated to be two stories and include luxury suits, merchandising, concessions, lounges and media rooms.

Construction will begin when fundraising is complete, but the school's hope is to break ground next spring.

"Updating the Pine Bowl and constructing an athletics-administration building will not only provide our football players and fans with a state-of-the-art facility equal to the excellence our team strives for each and every day," Demant said in a press release. "but will also create a place where our coaches and staff can work more collaboratively to foster the amazing culture and camaraderie that exist between coaches, staff and student-athletes.

Of Whitworth's 2,700 students, nearly 25 percent are involved in athletics.

"With that many student-athletes, a central athletics building will be a great thing," Johnston said.

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Times Record News (Wichita Falls, Texas)

 

While six-man football programs around the state began two-a-day practices on Monday, the Harrold Hornets weren't one of them.

Fresh off national exposure from an ESPN documentary and accompanying longform story, the Hornets aren't likely to field a football team for the 2017 season.

Harrold coach Craig Templeton said Tuesday there's only three varsity boys plus senior volleyball player Olivia Perez, who suited up last season so that the Hornets could compete.

Barring two unexpected football-playing transfers once school starts, the Hornets won't be fielding a team this year for the first time since 1938.

"Right now, we're focusing on cross-country and getting ready for basketball," Templeton said. "I've messaged all of the coaches to tell them to find another game if they can get one.

"If something happens and we get some transfers, we'll try to play some games if they're still open."

The absence is expected to be for only one season because Harrold will be fielding a junior high team with 10-11 boys. Templeton said he'd be able to spend more time coaching them up this fall.

From AB: HS Sports Participation Reaches All-Time High Despite Declines in Football

Harrold made headlines last season when Perez joined the team, allowing her friend Brady Blakley to play his senior year in honor of his father, who'd passed away due to cancer.

That's why ESPN spent a week last season in Harrold conducting interviews, filming practices and Harrold's 59-0 loss against Moran. Templeton said he was looking forward to the documentary, which first aired Sunday afternoon, but was still a little hesitant.

"You never know, we were mic'd up for about a week. You have no idea how much stupid stuff you said," Templeton said. "I thought it depicted all of the situations well. You were able to understand about each little community.

"We've gotten lots of positive feedback from it. I knew it was coming out, set it on my DVR and went to church. My phone was blowing up in my pocket. I finally opened it and people had sent all these pictures and videos."

A couple days before the documentary debuted, ESPN published Elizabeth Merrill's more than 4,000-word longform story that took an in-depth look at Perez, Blakley, the events surrounding last season and what has happened in their lives since.

In fact, for a few hours Sunday, Merrill's story was the featured item on ESPN's homepage, a location usually meant for the latest NFL, MLB or other professional/college sports news of the day.

Templeton said he liked the documentary better but knows both projects took lots of man-hours to complete.

"(Merrill) came down on graduation day and multiple times during the summer," Templeton said. "She called a few times, even when I was on vacation. Then I started getting emails from someone else fact-checking."

Scott Harves produced the hour-long "6-Man" piece that included other Class A Division II football teams like Richland Springs, Balmorhea and Calvert. Templeton said Harves told him before the documentary aired that he hoped he didn't make Harrold look bad since most of the other schools previewed were state title contenders.

"The truth is last year was hard. We did struggle," Templeton said. "But I told him that two seasons prior, we made the playoffs and only had six kids then."

Templeton's Hornets will have dreams of getting back to the playoffs soon.

It just won't be this year.

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Copyright 2017 Paddock Publications, Inc.

Chicago Daily Herald

 

Usually, the first official day of football practice is all about looking forward. But at Lake Zurich, the past will likely be on the radar for awhile, if not all season.

The current Bears are trying their best to move forward from the bullying, hazing and sexual abuse scandal that rocked the program and the community last school year. Players hazing players on school grounds eventually led to the departure of athletic director Rolly Vazquez and former head football coach David Proffitt, among others.

New head coach Luke Mertens, formerly the head coach of a successful program at Lakes High School that he guided for 13 seasons from the first day the school opened in 2004, won't allow his players to hide from the past, even as they were busily preparing for a new season during Monday's first official day of football practice in the state of Illinois.

"I've been honest with the kids and I've told them that you are living in a dream world if you think that this is not going to constantly be thrown at you," Mertens said. "And I told them, 'You all deserve it.' The first thing is just accept that, no matter if you were a participant or not. We've got to own that. That's step one. And when you own things, people tend to be a little more understanding. But if you get defensive with these things, it's only going to get worse.

"So I told them, let's control what we can control. Let's walk into Game One, let's play a hard-fought game, let's make sure we shake hands win or lose, let's leave the locker room cleaner than it's ever been. Let's conduct ourselves with class. That's all we can do at this point."

Mertens already sees positive signs with his players. He's been impressed with the way they are conducting themselves both on and off the field. "I knew this before I even took the job: These kids we have are great kids," Mertens said.

"Something horrible happened, we're not denying that. But we have great kids with great parents and that was part of the intrigue for me (in taking the job). I knew there were a lot of great people here and since I've been here, that has only been re-affirmed. It's just that now, we just need to make better decisions. I thought that was a good lesson I could teach the kids here at Lake Zurich."

Mertens is leaning heavily on senior linebacker Jack Sanborn, a three-year varsity starter, for his leadership and positive influence. Sanborn, who committed in March to play football at Wisconsin next year, says the team is ready for a fresh start.

"We're just such a tight group that we sort of rallied around each other," Sanborn said of last year's hazing saga. "And now, going into the season, we're focused on one thing (winning). We understand that things might come up, that people might say stuff. But for us, it's just keeping a level head and focusing about what we have to do on the field.

"I don't worry about this (being a distraction), and I don't think anyone else on the team does either. We are focused on one thing and we're going to go out there and do our best at it." The Bears will be doing that with essentially a brand-new coaching staff.

Sanborn says he and his teammates have enjoyed getting to know Mertens and his style. "All the players, we all trust the new coaches," Sanborn said. "We didn't know a lot about Coach Mertens at first, but once we heard he got the job, we went to our phones and we were looking up his program (at Lakes) and doing our homework.

"Honestly, what he's done for us and our program so far has been about so much more than football. It's about respect. That's one of the big things he's harped on. Not just respecting our opponenets, but at school, he wants us to be the most respectful kids in the classroom. He tells us that football can teach us life lessons you can't get any other way, things that you can take into the real world.

It's more that just football with him." But the football has been fun, too, with lively drills, contests and theme days that keep practices fresh and light. Sanborn says he and his teammates are upbeat and optimitic about the future, intent on improving on last year's 7-4 record and second-round playoff exit. "I think we're athletic and we have experience where experience is needed in important positions," Sanborn said.

"We have leaders who understand how to play in big moments and big games and how to keep that level head. "I'm excited. If we stay focused and keep a level head, we have the opportunity to become a very good team. The goal is to go as far as we can, and that is up to us. We control our own destiny."

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