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World Series: How the Giants and Royals match up

A position-by-position look at the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals going into the World Series, starting Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium: --- First Base: Giants: Brandon Belt. After missing 96 games this year because of a broken thumb and concussion, Belt had the big hit that decided the longest postseason game in major league history. His 18th-inning homer sent San Francisco to a Game 2 win at Washington in the NL Division Series. He gives a good at-bat and provides some pop from the left side of the plate. Steady defense, too. Royals: Eric Hosmer. Drafted third overall in 2008, Hosmer is talented but inconsistent so far. The 24-year-old cleanup hitter certainly has taken to October baseball, batting .448 in the playoffs with a crucial triple, eight RBIs and two homers, including an extra-inning shot against the Angels. A key piece of Kansas City's rebuilding project, Hosmer has developed into a vocal cheerleader. The life of the party - with a Gold Glove on his mantel. Edge: Royals. --- Second Base: Giants: Joe Panik. The 23-year-old rookie rescued San Francisco at second base this season in the absence of injured Marco Scutaro, a 2012 postseason star. Panik's strength is a short, compact swing that produces consistently solid contact. The line-drive hitter batted .305 with one home run this year, then went deep in the NLCS against St. Louis. When he's under pressure, it seems Panik never does. Royals: Omar Infante. Signed to a $30.25 million, four-year contract before the season, Infante was brought in to be a veteran solution at a trouble spot for Kansas City. The 2010 All-Star can handle the bat, and his playoff experience is a plus. Infante went 5 for 15 (.333) in the World Series for the Tigers two years ago, when they were swept by San Francisco. Edge: Even. --- Shortstop: Giants: Brandon Crawford. A player on the rise, Crawford is blossoming into more than just a slick fielder. He had 10 triples this season and became the first shortstop in history to hit a postseason grand slam when he connected in the NL wild-card game at Pittsburgh. Royals: Alcides Escobar. Acquired when the Royals traded ace Zack Greinke to Milwaukee in a fruitful deal, Escobar is wiry and athletic with excellent range at shortstop. His bat is coming around, too, enough to land him in the leadoff spot for a Royals team that loves to run. He was 31 for 37 on stolen bases. Edge: Royals. --- Third Base: Giants: Pablo Sandoval. The popular Kung Fu Panda, a switch-hitting cleanup man, is more dangerous from the left side of the plate. He's been at his best in October, reaching base safely in a team-record 23 straight postseason games while batting .375 with six homers and 14 RBIs during that span. He hit three homers in the 2012 World Series opener on the way to MVP honors. Another clutch performance could help him cash in as a free agent this fall. Royals: Mike Moustakas. Drafted second overall in 2007, "Moose" has yet to live up to lofty expectations. But he and Hosmer form the Kansas City cornerstones at the corners of the diamond, and both have delivered in their first trip to the postseason. After a brief demotion to the minors this year, Moustakas rediscovered his power stroke with four playoff homers - two in extra innings. He also made two spectacular defensive plays in one ALCS game against Baltimore. Edge: Giants. --- Catcher: Giants: Buster Posey. Perhaps the closest thing to Derek Jeter the West Coast has to offer, Posey is chasing his third championship in five full seasons. Just about everything he does on the field comes right out of a textbook, and he's already won awards for NL Rookie of the Year (2010) and NL MVP (2012). The Royals' running game presents a challenge, though. Royals: Salvador Perez. A two-time All-Star with a Gold Glove by age 24, Perez is already a respected backstop who adds thump to the lineup and keeps the clubhouse loose. He batted only .118 during the playoffs without an extra-base hit, but his 12th-inning single won an AL wild-card thriller against Oakland. One thing to watch: Perez is big for a catcher, and he keeps getting dinged in the head with backswings. Edge: Giants. --- Left Field: Giants: Travis Ishikawa. The most unlikely star of this postseason, Ishikawa sent the Giants to the World Series with the first home run to end an NLCS in Game 5 against St. Louis. He batted .385 with seven RBIs in the series after beginning the season as Pittsburgh's opening-day first baseman. A true journeyman, Ishikawa was a part-time role player on San Francisco's title team in 2010. Now he's back, carving out a spot in left field while Michael Morse was injured. Royals: Alex Gordon. Drafted second overall in 2005 out of Nebraska, Gordon is probably the nearest Kansas City gets to having an MVP contender. The converted third baseman has three Gold Gloves, and his brilliant defense was on full display in the ALCS. A two-time All-Star, Gordon had a team-high nine RBIs in eight playoff games. Edge: Royals. --- Center Field: Giants: Gregor Blanco. Filling in for injured Angel Pagan, Blanco is a fine defender who has struggled offensively in the leadoff spot. Following a pretty solid season, he went 7 for 44 (.159) in the playoffs with one extra-base hit. He does have a sharp eye, though. Royals: Lorenzo Cain. A smooth glider in the outfield, Cain batted .301 with 28 steals this season and is just beginning to tap into his prodigious talent. He made a string of sensational playoff catches and hit .533 with five runs during the ALCS to earn MVP honors. Not bad for a guy who didn't even know the rules or how to hold a bat when he first turned out for organized baseball as a sophomore in high school. Kansas City obtained him in the same trade that brought Escobar. Edge: Royals. --- Right Field: Giants: Hunter Pence. The durable Pence gets plenty of attention for his odd style and quirky ways, but don't forget how good a player he is. Pence signed a $90 million, five-year contract last offseason to stay with San Francisco and made his third All-Star team. A health nut and vocal leader for the tried-and-tested Giants, he has played in 383 consecutive games. Royals: Nori Aoki. A pesky contact hitter, Aoki has a .353 on-base percentage in three major league seasons since arriving from Japan. He was acquired last December in a trade with Milwaukee and can become a free agent after the World Series. Not much power this season, but he can still run and play defense. Edge: Giants. --- Designated Hitter: Giants: Michael Morse. In his first season with San Francisco, Morse got off to a strong start before fading and finished with 16 homers and 61 RBIs. He has only six at-bats since Aug. 31 because of a strained oblique, but he tied the NLCS clincher with a pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning. He offers legitimate right-handed power and seems a good fit for DH in Kansas City. Royals: Billy Butler. Another first-round draft pick (2004) and homegrown fan favorite, Butler is a right-handed bopper in the middle of the lineup who knows how to knock in runs. His power and slugging numbers were down this season, but the 2012 All-Star remains dangerous. Butler probably will be relegated to the bench under National League rules in San Francisco. Edge: Royals. --- Starting Pitchers: Giants: After riding their splendid rotation to championships in 2010 and 2012, the Giants return this time with a much different group. Madison Bumgarner is now the workhorse ace, supplanting injured Matt Cain and inconsistent Tim Lincecum. Bumgarner, an 18-game winner and the NLCS MVP, gets the ball on regular rest in Game 1 after going 2-1 with a 1.42 ERA in four playoff starts. He'll try to extend his postseason streak of 26 2-3 scoreless innings on the road, a major league record. The big left-hander has thrown 15 shutout innings in World Series play, winning both his starts while allowing a total of five hits. Hard to believe he's only 25. The other aging starters may not be asked to go as deep. Fired-up Jake Peavy, acquired in a late July trade, is back in the World Series after making it with Boston last year. Veteran newcomer Tim Hudson is set to pitch in his first Series at 39. Ryan Vogelsong is 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA in six postseason outings, including a scoreless Series win in 2012. His only October blip came in the NLCS this year against St. Louis. The starters had a 2.40 ERA in 10 playoff games. Royals: James Shields gave the staff an experienced No. 1 starter when he was obtained from Tampa Bay for several top prospects before the 2013 season. "Big Game James" will pitch the Series opener on 10 days' rest, hoping to improve his postseason numbers. The right-hander, who can become a free agent this fall, went 1-0 with a 5.63 ERA in three playoff starts and is 3-4 with a 5.19 mark in nine career postseason games. He's also the rare Royals player with World Series experience. Shields pitched 5 2-3 scoreless innings for the Rays in a 2008 win over Philadelphia. Hard-throwing rookie Yordano Ventura was 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA this season. He had a 4.85 ERA in three playoff outings, though one of them came in an unfamiliar relief role. Ventura left his ALCS start with shoulder tightness, but he's had plenty of time to rest. As expected, left-hander Jason Vargas was a steady presence after the Royals signed the free agent to a $32 million, four-year contract last offseason. Veteran right-hander Jeremy Guthrie has pitched only once all month, but he threw five effective innings in the ALCS. Edge: Giants, barely, thanks to Bumgarner. --- Bullpen: Giants: Many faces are the same from San Francisco's two title runs this decade, but a couple of key roles have changed. Santiago Casilla was promoted from setup man to closer during the season when Sergio Romo struggled. Romo is now setting up Casilla, on a dominant roll dating to September. Casilla has four postseason saves and hasn't permitted a run in 6 2-3 innings. Romo is 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA in seven games. Experienced southpaws Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez are very tough on lefties. Affeldt has made 18 consecutive scoreless appearances in the postseason, Casilla 17 and Lopez 15. Fireballing rookie Hunter Strickland has been prone to the home run ball. Lincecum, an October relief weapon two years ago, was bumped to the bullpen again this year but has not pitched in the postseason. Yusmeiro Petit provided a huge boost in long relief during the playoffs, going 2-0 with 11 strikeouts in nine shutout innings of two-hit ball. Royals: The nasty 1-2-3 punch of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and All-Star closer Greg Holland (46/48 saves) in the final three innings gave Kansas City a winning formula all season. The playoffs were no different. Holland has six saves and a 1.13 ERA in eight postseason games. Davis is 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA, and Herrera has a 1.08 mark in seven appearances. All three have struck out 10. Jason Frasor also is effective and 21-year-old lefty Brandon Finnegan, who pitched for TCU in the College World Series in June, has showed poise out of the `pen. Danny Duffy, normally a starter, is ready in long relief if needed. Edge: Royals, barely. --- Bench: Giants: A relatively inexperienced group that includes Juan Perez, Matt Duffy and catcher Andrew Susac. Veteran infielder Joaquin Arias is still around, and Morse or Ishikawa would provide a power threat back home in San Francisco. There's some speed here, but it would still be a stretch to call this unit a strength. Royals: Speedy reserve Jarrod Dyson stole 36 bases this season and often subs in center field, shifting Cain to right. Dyson made a big throw in the AL Division Series against the Angels and had a huge steal in the wild-card game against Oakland. Watch out for him swiping third when he gets the chance. Lightning-fast track star Terrance Gore comes on as a pinch runner when the Royals play for one. Josh Willingham and Butler (in San Francisco) can supply right-handed power to counter those lefties in the Giants' bullpen. Edge: Royals. --- Manager: Giants: Bruce Bochy. Seeking his third World Series ring in five years, the unassuming Bochy is building a Hall of Fame resume. His masterful use of the bullpen has been a consistent theme throughout San Francisco's run of 15 wins in its last 17 postseason games. Nobody has a better feel for his team. Royals: Ned Yost. Once fired by Milwaukee in the middle of a September playoff race, Yost guided Kansas City to its first postseason berth in 29 years and the franchise's third pennant overall. Must be pretty satisfying. Some of his puzzling moves have left Royals fans up in arms, but Yost pushed the right buttons against Baltimore in the ALCS and now he's the toast of the town. We'll see if it stays that way. Edge: Giants. --- Pick: Giants in 6.

Tue, 21 Oct 2014 02:08:00 +0000
AP sources: Rice's appeal hearing set for Nov. 5-6

A hearing on Ray Rice's appeal of his indefinite suspension will be held Nov. 5 and 6, two people familiar with the situation said Tuesday. The people spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because details of the hearing have not been made public. Rice was suspended indefinitely Sept. 8 for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy after a video of Rice hitting his then-fiancee in an elevator was released publicly. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell originally had suspended Rice for two games. Once the video became public, the Baltimore Ravens cut the star running back, and the league banned him indefinitely. The league considered the video to be new evidence, giving Goodell the authority to further suspend Rice. The players' union is appealing Rice's suspension, saying Rice should not be punished twice. A neutral arbiter is expected to decide whether Goodell should testify. The arbiter had not yet made that decision as of Tuesday afternoon, the sources who informed the AP of the hearing said. The arbiter, former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones, was jointly picked by the commissioner and the players' union. Union officials said when the appeal was announced that Goodell and his staff's testimony are key to the appeal and a central reason to have an outside arbiter. --- AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL --- Rob Maaddi can be reached on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ap-robmaaddi

Tue, 21 Oct 2014 20:30:00 +0000
Thunder star Durant won't rush return from injury

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Thunder forward Kevin Durant is having a tough time getting used to the fact that he will miss the early part of the season with a bone fracture in his right foot. "I've been antsy since I got out of surgery," he said Tuesday. "Seen that Chicago-Cleveland game last night, and I wanted to get out there and play. As a competitor, I love to play basketball - that's all I've been doing. Injuries have never had me out this long, but it's part of the game." The reigning MVP spoke to the media Tuesday morning for the first time since the injury. He had surgery on Oct. 16 and will be re-evaluated in about five weeks, or late November. He rolled into the media session on a scooter with the lower half of his right leg in a cast. Durant said he's never had surgery, so he doesn't know how he will respond to it. He says he won't rush his return. "Blessed that it happened early in the season so I can get past it, and hopefully, by December, I'll be ready to play," he said. Durant, who has played more minutes than anyone since entering the league in 2007, is finding other ways to contribute to the team. "Just help out as much as possible, lead from where I am, which is the sideline," he said. "I feel like a coach, feel like (Alabama football coach) Nick Saban, rolling around on my scooter from court to court giving advice and trying to help out as much as I can. It's a different position for me, but I'm looking forward to growing mentally watching the game and learning from my teammates, trying to help them as much as I can." He said the situation presents an opportunity for his teammates to grow, and he feels that the team will be better off in the long run as a result. "It's going to give guys opportunities to play, build confidence, build their chemistry as a team," he said. "So I'm looking at the positive side of it. It's a win-win, basically, because I'm learning a lot while I'm out about the game, and my teammates are getting a lot of opportunities because it's a lot of minutes out there to play and help contribute to the team." --- Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

Tue, 21 Oct 2014 20:13:00 +0000
Broncos are still No. 1 in AP Pro32 rankings

NEW YORK (AP) It's almost unanimous: The Denver Broncos are still the top team in the NFL. Denver received 11 first-place votes Tuesday for the AP Pro32 power rankings, which are decided by a 12-member media panel that regularly covers the league. The Broncos (5-1) are coming off a 42-17 rout of the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night. Peyton Manning had 318 yards passing and four touchdowns, breaking Brett Favre's record for career TD passes. "Would anyone be shocked if Peyton Manning threw 600 TD passes before he's finished?" asked Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune. Manning and the Broncos host the AFC West rival San Diego Chargers on Thursday night. Dallas (6-1) got the other first-place vote. The Cowboys topped the New York Giants 31-21 for their sixth consecutive victory. They are off to their best start since winning six of the first seven in 2007, when they went 13-3 and were the top seed in the NFC. "Starting to look like the `93 Cowboys," NBC Sports' Tony Dungy said. ESPN's Herm Edwards agreed. "Another impressive win for the Cowboys," he said. "They keep rolling." The Philadelphia Eagles moved up a spot to No. 3, followed by the Indianapolis Colts and the Arizona Cardinals. "Another reminder that the Colts are not just as good as Andrew Luck," The Monday Morning Quarterback's Jenny Vrentas said of the Colts' 27-0 shutout of the skidding Cincinnati Bengals. "Their defense is playing very well." The Eagles will travel to Glendale, Arizona, to face the Cardinals on Sunday. The Cardinals are 5-1 for the first time in 38 years and are alone atop the NFC West, with a two-game cushion in the loss column over San Francisco and Seattle. "Is anyone doing a better job coaching a football team than Bruce Arians?" asked Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News. "His Cardinals are the surprising leader of the NFC West." After playing the Eagles, the Cardinals face the Cowboys on the road. "Back-to-back games against Philadelphia and Dallas will prove whether the Cardinals are for real," Foxsports.com's Alex Marvez said. The Green Bay Packers moved up from No. 9 to 6 after routing the Carolina Panthers 38-17. "(Aaron) Rodgers bidding for MVP award," Fox Sports' John Czarnecki said. The Chargers, who fell from No. 2 after a 23-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the New England Patriots, the Baltimore Ravens and the Detroit Lions round out the top 10. "Fourth-quarter heroics from Matthew Stafford lead Detroit to a comeback win over the Saints and a share of first place in the NFC North," Newsday's Bob Glauber said. The Ravens have won five of six and lead the AFC North. "The Ravens are suddenly atop the AFC North," Vrentas said. "The next two weeks (at Bengals, at Steelers) hold a lot of weight for this division race." The 49ers dropped from No. 6 to 11 after the rout in Denver, and the Seahawks went from No. 5 to 12 after their surprising loss to the St. Louis Rams. "This doesn't look much like the team that won 16 times a year ago on the way to its first Lombardi Trophy," Gosselin said. --- AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Tue, 21 Oct 2014 23:09:00 +0000
Kings GM: NHL should educate after Voynov's arrest

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi firmly supports the NHL's indefinite suspension of Slava Voynov, the quiet Russian defenseman arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. Lombardi also believes the NHL must supplement its swift discipline with an improved plan to provide hockey players with better preparation for many aspects of life outside the rink. "We need to do a better job," Lombardi said. "That's just the truth. I don't care if it's indicting ourselves or not." The defending Stanley Cup champions uniformly backed the NHL's suspension of Voynov when they returned to practice at their training complex Tuesday. Voynov hasn't been charged with a crime since his arrest early Monday morning, but Kings coach Darryl Sutter said the suspension was "very appropriate." "We're pretty close as a team," Sutter added. "It's not just (a) team. It's more of a family thing. We deal with distractions all the time. We've been able to handle a lot of adversity and pressure for three years now." Voynov's teammates spoke carefully about his absence, uniformly expressing surprise at the circumstances. The Kings still don't know the details of what happened between Voynov and the woman who was treated for injuries in the Torrance hospital where he was arrested. Sutter went to Voynov's house in Redondo Beach after his arrest, but the Kings' contact with Voynov has been limited because he turned off his phone. "Some of us have reached out to him, but we just hope everything is going to work out for the both of them," center Jarret Stoll said. "We're still a strong group. We're still a hockey team. We're still going to win games. Our goal has never changed. Our attitude in this room has never changed. It's adversity for us, but we're going to come through it." The events are a shock for the Kings, who have won two of the last three Stanley Cup titles with an extraordinarily close-knit roster. Nearly every player lives a few miles apart in the South Bay beach cities, and Lombardi has kept the Kings' core largely intact for several years. Lombardi assembled his roster with particular attention to team chemistry, but he believes Voynov's arrest should be a call for more player education on domestic violence and other off-ice concerns. Before Voynov's arrest, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman expressed confidence in the league's education and counseling services already in place. Lombardi said he first thought about doing more for the Kings last year, and he kicks himself for ignoring his instinct. "We have a bigger responsibility now," Lombardi said. "Just like we expect them to train, and we provide access to training physically, we provide meals so they eat properly, well, you know what? We've got a responsibility here now to train them in other areas, and I don't just mean having a guy come in and give a speech once a year. This is as much our organization's responsibility as anything. We have an obligation here, too. We have to do a better job in some of these areas." Lombardi supports the NHL's decision to act aggressively before any charges, acknowledging the effect of the NFL's disastrous handling of the Ray Rice case and others. "Now you have public awareness that would have never been there," Lombardi said. "I come from a lower, blue-collar neighborhood, a factory town, and we've seen this crap, and it's bad, and it happens a lot more often than we want to (acknowledge). But it's never going to come to the fore when a rat hits his wife. ... It can become a good thing overall, that now there's awareness. We've had issues in the past where sports teams swept it under the rug." Lombardi and the Kings say they never had reason to suspect bad behavior from Voynov, a second-round draft pick in 2008 from Chelyabinsk, a large city in Siberia. Lombardi felt Voynov repeatedly demonstrated strong character and commitment to the club, starting from his U.S. arrival as a teenager. Despite speaking little English, Voynov agreed to play for the Kings' AHL affiliate instead of staying in Russia's top league, where he would have made more money. He also stuck with the Kings when his father became ill back home, ignoring Russian teams' offers to take care of his family if he returned. After cracking the Kings' lineup in 2011, Voynov established himself as a top-level defenseman, earning a $25 million contract extension and playing in the Sochi Olympics. Voynov isn't likely to be charged for at least several days, and the Kings have no idea whether he will be suspended for weeks or months. The league's collective bargaining agreement doesn't spell out specific suspensions for specific charges, Lombardi said. The Kings (4-1-1) have won four straight games heading into their visit from Buffalo on Thursday. Voynov's absence leaves them with just five healthy defensemen, but Jake Muzzin intends to return from injury. "We have a group that has been through a lot," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "Maybe not like this, but we need to lean on past experiences and trust each other that we can refocus."

Tue, 21 Oct 2014 23:37:00 +0000
Cowboys release Michael Sam from practice squad

IRVING, Texas (AP) Michael Sam will have to wait for a third team to give the NFL's first openly gay player a chance to appear in a regular-season game. The Dallas Cowboys released Sam from the practice squad Tuesday, dropping the rush end as they prepare for several potential reinforcements to return to the defensive line. Sam spent seven weeks with the Cowboys after joining their practice squad Sept. 3, four days after he was among the final cuts by the St. Louis Rams at the end of the preseason. He was never placed on the 53-man active roster. The Rams drafted the former SEC defensive player of the year from Missouri late in the seventh round in May. He was pick No. 249 out of 256. Sam had three sacks in the preseason with St. Louis playing mostly against second- and third-stringers. Sam thanked the family of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Twitter, along with "friends, family, teammates, and fans for their support." "While this is disappointing, I will take the lessons I learned here in Dallas and continue to fight for an opportunity to prove that I can play every Sunday," Sam wrote. The signing of Sam by the Cowboys brought an overflow crowd to coach Jason Garrett's daily news conference, and he was surrounded by about two dozen reporters in the only interview he conducted on the same day. But he mostly blended in after that, making occasional appearances in the locker room when it was open to the media and earning praise from Garrett and defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli the few times they were asked about him. "Comes to work every day and practices hard," Garrett said last week. "One of 10 practice roster guys that we have, so he's working on his skills, trying to develop, but also doing a lot of other things. Playing offense, defense, playing the kicking game. That's what a lot of those guys do." Sam came out to his Missouri teammates before his senior season, when he had 11 1/2 sacks. He told the rest of the world three months before the May draft. After Sunday's 31-21 win over the New York Giants, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told USA Today that Sam's sexuality was "a dead issue." The Cowboys (6-1), off to their best start since they were 12-1 in 2007, are playing their second straight NFC East opponent at home, with Washington (2-5) visiting Monday night. The Rams didn't keep Sam because they had depth on the defensive front. The same situation is developing for the Cowboys, who are among the league's worst in sacks but have been getting solid production with a rotation in the front four of a defense exceeding expectations. Dallas has rookie second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence close to coming back after breaking his right foot in training camp. He was placed on short-term injured reserve and will be eligible to play next week against Arizona. Veteran defensive end Anthony Spencer gets stronger each week in his return from microfracture knee surgery that sidelined him all but one game last season. Defensive tackle Josh Brent, who is serving a 10-game suspension for his intoxication manslaughter conviction in the 2012 death of teammate Jerry Brown, returns to practice next week. He will be eligible to play Nov. 23 at the Giants. While releasing Sam, the Cowboys added linebacker Troy Davis of Central Florida and defensive tackle Ken Bishop of Northern Illinois to their practice squad. --- Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Tue, 21 Oct 2014 22:15:00 +0000
NCAA: SI allegations vs Oklahoma St 'unfounded'

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) The Oklahoma State football program escaped its "day of reckoning" nearly unscathed. The NCAA and the school announced Tuesday that allegations of widespread misconduct outlined in a Sports Illustrated expose last year were "fundamentally unfounded." A joint inquiry by the NCAA and an independent investigator retained by the school, former NCAA enforcement official Chuck Smrt, reviewed approximately 50,000 emails and documents, and included nearly 100 interviews of current and former administrators, coaches, staff, athletes, students and prospects as well as alumni and donors. Smrt said the number of emails and documents reviewed was unusually high for such a case, and the result of the search terms and large number of people involved. "If we had done something wrong or were doing something wrong, we wanted to know," Oklahoma State President V. Burns Hargis said. "Based on that review, we learned that the Sports Illustrated claims of monetary payments for athletic achievements, improper academic assistance provided by our academic services staff, rampant drug use and inappropriate interaction with football players during recruiting trips were fundamentally unfounded." Athletic director Mike Holder told The Associated Press last month that he wasn't sure what the investigation would find, but the "day of reckoning" was coming, and he had hoped the school would come out of it looking "like true Cowboys." Hargis said three potential infractions were discovered and reported to the NCAA. He said "it appears we may have misapplied our drug testing policy and on-campus recruiting practices" and the policies have been modified. Now that the investigation has concluded with mostly good results for the school, the stigma no longer hangs over football coach Mike Gundy's program. "It's a big relief," Hargis said. "I'm gratified and I'm relieved, but I must say I'm not terribly surprised. It didn't come as a shock to me what happened. Even going back to when I first read the articles, what they were claiming was so opposite to my experience with this program and with coach Holder and coach Gundy, and it made no sense to me." SI said it interviewed more than 60 former players and found evidence of potential NCAA violations under coaches Les Miles and current coach Gundy dating back to 2001. The series of stories included numerous former Oklahoma State players making allegations of cash payments to players, academic misconduct, inconsistent enforcement of drug policies and some of the school's recruiting hostesses having sex with prospects from 2001-10. Miles is now the coach at LSU. The magazine issued a statement Tuesday defending its reporting. "Sports Illustrated firmly stands behind its comprehensive series on the Oklahoma State program. The investigation by the NCAA and an outside consultant hired by Oklahoma State was limited in scope but nonetheless revealed multiple NCAA violations including a `failure to monitor,"' the magazine said. "Nowhere does the report say our work is fundamentally unfounded and in fact it points to its own limitations in its ability to corroborate SI's findings." After the allegations, Hargis endorsed both Gundy, who has been leading the program since 2005, and Holder, who also took over his current role in 2005. None of the accusations directly implicated Gundy of inappropriate conduct. According to the series, three former players told SI that they dealt marijuana while members of the 2001, `04 and `06 teams. Defensive end William Bell told SI he made between $300 and $400 each week selling marijuana. Thomas Wright said there was cocaine use at times. The magazine named 13 former players who said they had work done for them or received other improper academic assistance. One of them, former receiver Artrell Woods, said he didn't write "a single paper" during his three years at Oklahoma State and simply typed what tutors dictated to him. Some players described a weekly counseling session during the 2003 season for those who had tested positive for marijuana. SI reported that the sessions were allegedly reserved for top players who could attend and still continue to use marijuana without penalty. Illinois head coach Tim Beckman, the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State in 2007 and 2008, and North Carolina coach Larry Fedora, the Cowboys' offensive coordinator from 2005-07, were among several people with previous affiliations with the program who disputed the allegations. T. Boone Pickens, who has given more than $500 million to Oklahoma State for athletics and academics, said when the report was initially released that he was disappointed in Sports Illustrated, and the articles don't indicate what the program has become. "You'd think people were running wild here, just breaking the rules," Hargis said. "It was so extreme, I think most people kind of read it and said this doesn't make sense." --- Online: Oklahoma St investigation site: http://response.okstate.edu --- Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

Tue, 21 Oct 2014 20:30:00 +0000
Korean 'superfan' of Royals headed back to KC

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) The die-hard, long-time Kansas City Royals fan from Seoul who became an international celebrity after he was superstitiously credited with sparking the team's playoff run created quite a scene at Kauffman Stadium Tuesday night before the World Series opener. Fans clogged stadium concourses, snapping hundreds of photographs of Sung Woo Lee as he made his way to his seat before the first pitch. Lee posed for photos and waved to the adoring blue-clad Royals faithful. Despite living more than 6,500 miles from Kansas City, Lee sure looked like a familiar face at the Royals' ballpark - and to some, he was. After learning of his passion for their team, a group of American fans helped Lee arrange a visit to Kansas City in August so he could watch a Royals game in person for the first time. By the time Lee returned to Seoul, the Royals, perennial also-rans, had won nine out of 10 games and were in first place in their division, and Lee had gained widespread fame among sports fans in the United States and in South Korea. The 38-year-old duty free shop employee is reluctant to make World Series predictions because of worries about jinxing the team. But he also said he can't help imagining a celebration with Royals' players in a champagne-soaked locker room. Despite being considered a good luck charm by the club and its fan base, Lee said in a telephone interview Monday night that he doesn't feel any pressure. "I just want to root for the team with fellow Royals fans as hard as I can," he said. "I will try to enjoy every moment." Lee belongs to a generation of South Korean sports fans in their 30s and 40s who developed an attachment to American professional sports by watching a local TV network for U.S. servicemen stationed in South Korea to guard the heavily-armed border with North Korea. Free from the obligations of supporting the "local" team, South Korean fans often developed interests in major league teams for quirky reasons. Some of them, for instance, began cheering for the New York Yankees because they thought the team had the best uniforms. Others supported the Atlanta Braves because of Fred McGriff's exaggerated swing motion. Lee, who has more than 21,800 followers on Twitter, said he began supporting the Royals because he fell in love with Kauffman Stadium when he saw it in the early 90s in a short highlight package shown on what was then known as the American Forces Korea Network. "The Royals won, and they did the fireworks show afterward with the fountain and the crown logo on the stadium in the background," Lee said. "It was amazing and beautiful." An official from Lee's employer, Shinsegae Duty Free, thought that Lee's international celebrity was both surprising and amusing. As soon as the Royals reached the World Series, the company found itself receiving huge attention about whether it would allow Lee to attend. Lee joined Shinsegae just a month ago in a busy time when the company is preparing a bid for a new shop at the Incheon International Airport. "We have arranged his vacation days so that he could stay in the U.S. throughout the run of the World Series," company official Lee Jeong-wook said. He added, with a laugh: "If the Royals win in four, his vacation will be cut short." --- Baseball Writer Ben Walker contributed to this report from Kansas City, Mo.

Wed, 22 Oct 2014 01:13:00 +0000
Florida AD: Muschamp safe until season's end

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida coach Will Muschamp is getting at least another game to turn things around. Athletic director Jeremy Foley said Monday that he will continue to evaluate the season - and likely Muschamp's future - "as it plays out." That means Muschamp will be on the sideline when the Gators (3-3, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) play ninth-ranked Georgia in Jacksonville on Nov. 1. Foley released a 40-word statement that did little to sway belief that Muschamp's job is in serious jeopardy following consecutive home losses to teams that previously struggled in SEC play. "At the beginning of the season we said we would evaluate the season as it plays out," Foley said. "We will continue to do so. Our sole focus right now is supporting our coaching staff and players as they prepare for Georgia." The Gators are coming off back-to-back losses to LSU and Missouri. The latest one, a 42-13 debacle to Mizzou on Saturday night, was one of the most embarrassing losses in Muschamp's three-plus years in Gainesville. Florida committed six turnovers, including two that were returned for touchdowns, and allowed two special teams scores. Chants of "Fire Muschamp" started in the third quarter and could be heard throughout an emptying Florida Field the rest of the night. The defeat was Florida's second straight on homecoming, the first time that's happened in Gainesville since 1947. It dropped Muschamp's record to 25-19, including 15-14 in conference play. And it could be worse. The Gators could be 0-5 in league play considering they eked out a win against Kentucky in triple overtime and edged Tennessee 10-9 two weeks ago. Missouri's victory was never in doubt. The Tigers returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown and cruised from there. They also returned a punt for a touchdown, returned a fumble for a score and returned an interception for a touchdown and a 42-0 lead. Florida allowed just seven first downs and 119 total yards, but lost for the second time in Muschamp's tenure when giving up less than 120 yards. No other Football Bowl Subdivision team has done that even once in the last decade. Foley voiced strong support for Muschamp late last year, backing him during the team's seven-game losing streak that led to the program's first losing record since 1979. Muschamp responded by firing two offensive coaches, a move that got him another year to change the team's direction. Muschamp opened this season by telling anyone and everyone that this was the most talented offensive team he's had in four years. He changed his tune somewhat Saturday, saying the offensive line isn't good enough to protect for quarterback Jeff Driskel. "We've got to identify some things that we can be consistent with offensively," Muschamp said on his weekly television show Sunday. "In our first six games, we have not done anything offensively. We did against Kentucky a little bit, got some ball movement. We did against LSU at times. But against Tennessee, against Alabama and (Saturday), we couldn't get anything going." Driskel has 12 turnovers in his last four games and has clearly lost confidence. The Gators used a two-quarterback system with Driskel and freshman Treon Harris, who fumbled and threw an interception. The Gators have a bye this week, and it's unclear what they will do before facing Georgia. The Bulldogs have won three in a row in the series.

Mon, 20 Oct 2014 20:53:00 +0000
New advisers say NFL is serious about reform

CHICAGO (AP) Beth E. Richie is a professor and a college administrator. She has written articles and books about feminism, battered women and the prison system, and provided training for police, judges and other groups. So when the NFL called to ask for help with its domestic conduct policy, Richie wanted to make sure it was more serious than window dressing. "The players and the teams are one thing that almost could be easily managed," said Richie, the director of the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy at Illinois-Chicago. "I wanted to know are they interested in the fan base, the sponsoring organizations, the other corporate interests? "We almost haven't had a moment like this in the work to end violence when such power, such attention, such resources could go to prevention, changing culture, bystander education, those kinds of things." Intrigued by the possibilities, Richie joined a high-profile effort that is hoping to have an impact on domestic violence beyond the sports world. Richie is one of five senior advisers recently hired by the NFL to help shape the league's policy on abuse. Any action by the league after the Ray Rice scandal will be closely watched by the other sports. But the NFL's new group of advisers believes the process also could have a more far-reaching impact. "I think that they have the opportunity to model some cutting-edge policies and protocols or guidelines, and I'm excited at the opportunity for that reach to go beyond just the NFL, but into all of corporate America," said Jane Randel, a co-founder of No More, a campaign against domestic violence and sexual assault. Randel and the other advisers had a hand in a 40-minute educational presentation at last week's NFL meetings in New York. The presentation focused on the dangers of spousal abuse, child abuse, sexual assault and other domestic violence topics. Richie praised the NFL owners for their attentiveness, and Randel said it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Richie and Randel said the owners seemed serious. "You can see what people in the room are doing, and they were watching and engaged and taking notes and doing all the things that you would want them to do," she said, "because these things really only work if they start from the top." Randel's background is in cause marketing and corporate communications. She helped start No More in 2009 in an effort to raise awareness and money for organizations working to end domestic violence and sexual assault. Lisa Friel, another senior adviser, was the head of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit in the New York County District Attorney's Office for more than a decade, and Rita Smith is the former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Tony Porter is a co-founder of A Call to Men, an organization dedicated to ending violence against women. "The first thing that we're going to look at is the league's personal conduct policy and how we can educate people about that," Friel said at the owners' meetings. "In a perfect world, the hope is you never have to use the disciplinary end of that policy, right? That you have your standards of behavior, you educate people about them and they don't violate your policy. That's what we're hoping to do." Sports have been a part of Richie's family life for a long time. She learned more about the business and organizational side of sports when her sister Laurel became president of the WNBA in 2011. Laurel Richie said in an email to The Associated Press that the NFL made a smart choice in asking Beth for help. "As a researcher, service provider, and advocate, my sister is one of the nation's leading experts on domestic violence and sexual assault in the African-American community," she wrote. Beth E. Richie was the last addition to the NFL panel, and her appointment was announced after the Rev. Jesse Jackson and a leading black women's group criticized the league for not including any African-American women in the group of consultants. It was clear the NFL was "looking for someone to fill that particular niche of race and community accountability," Richie said. The league is mulling over when to act in cases of domestic violence and sexual assault, particularly when criminal cases drag on. "I emphasize really, when possible, alternatives to only relying on the criminal legal system because in black communities that's been such a difficult tension," Richie said. "My instinct has always been to try to find ways that communities can hold people accountable, and only rely on the criminal justice system when communities can't hold people accountable." --- AP Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg and AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner in New York contributed to this report. --- Online: No More: http://nomore.org National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: www.ncadv.org A Call to Men: www.acalltomen.org --- AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL --- Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

Fri, 17 Oct 2014 17:05:00 +0000