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Cardinals name woman to training camp coach position
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals have hired Jen Welter to coach inside linebackers through their upcoming training camp and preseason. The Cardinals say Welter is believed to be the first woman to hold a coaching position of any kind in the NFL. Welter played running back and special teams in 2014 for the Texas Revolution of the Indoor Football League, becoming the first woman to hold a non-kicking position for a men's professional sports league. "I am honored to be a part of this amazing team," Welter said on Twitter on Monday night. Welter coached linebackers and special teams for the Revolution last season, becoming the first woman to coach in a men's pro football league. Her general manager with the Revolution was 2015 NFL Hall of Fame inductee Tim Brown. Welter played linebacker for more than 14 seasons in the Women's Football Alliance, mostly with the Dallas Diamonds, where she helped the team win four championships. Welter holds a master's degree in sports psychology. A rugby player at Boston College, she also earned two gold medals on Team USA at the International Federation of Football Women's World Championships in 2009 and 2013. A news conference was scheduled for Tuesday to introduce Welter and Levon Kirkland, a former Pro Bowl linebacker who is the inaugural participant in the Bill Bidwill Coaching Fellowship established to give recently retired NFL players a chance to coach in the league. He will work with outside linebackers for the next two seasons. Four months ago at the NFL meetings, Arizona coach Bruce Arians was asked about the possibility of a woman coaching in the NFL. "The minute they can prove they can make a player better, they'll be hired," Arians said. Speaking to azcardinals.com on Monday, Arians said: "Coaching is nothing more than teaching. One thing I have learned from players is `How are you going to make me better? If you can make me better, I don't care if you're the Green Hornet, I'll listen."' "I really believe she'll have a great opportunity with this internship through training camp to open some doors for her," Arians said. It's the second such barrier to be broken in the NFL this year. The league announced in April that Sarah Thomas would be the first woman to be a full-time NFL official. In the NBA, Becky Hammon is an assistant coach with San Antonio and served as the head coach for the Spurs' team that won the Las Vegas Summer League championship. Tue, 28 Jul 2015 02:45:00 +0000
IOC urges US to come up with another bid city for 2024 Games
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) With Boston no longer in contention, IOC President Thomas Bach urged U.S. Olympic leaders on Tuesday to pick "the most appropriate city" as a substitute candidate for the 2024 Games. Two-time Olympic host Los Angeles could fit the bill perfectly, according to several IOC board members. The U.S. Olympic Committee severed ties with Boston on Monday, finally pulling the plug on a bid that had been hampered by dismal poll ratings, strong local opposition and months of political wrangling. The USOC now has until Sept. 15 to submit a candidate to the International Olympic Committee and formally enter a race that already includes Paris; Rome; Hamburg, Germany; and Budapest, Hungary. Toronto and Baku, Azerbaijan, are also likely contenders. The IOC has been consulting with potential bids, including Boston, as part of a new "invitation phase"' for interested cities. The IOC is eager to have a strong candidate from the U.S., which hasn't hosted a Summer Games since Atlanta in 1996. "For the IOC this was always about an American bid put forward by the United States Olympic Committee,"' Bach said in a statement. "This invitation phase is also an opportunity to determine which city will eventually be chosen by an NOC. We are confident that USOC will choose the most appropriate city for a strong U.S. bid." IOC officials had just learned of Boston's withdrawal as they gathered for an executive board meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The rest of the IOC membership will be arriving later for a general assembly highlighted by Friday's vote to determine the host city for the 2022 Winter Olympics, with Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, as the two candidates. "It's always a shame when a national Olympic committee selects a city and then is incapable or unable to bring it to the next stage of the contest," IOC vice president Craig Reedie told The Associated Press. "But I suppose after mature reflection and looking at what's happened, it might be a wise decision." "Personally, I hope the United States do find another candidate and produce another applicant city for 2024," Reedie said. Boston had been chosen by the USOC as its bid entry ahead of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington. But the USOC was left with little choice but to drop Boston after Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker declined to commit to the bid. "It's not (only) bad for the U.S., but it's bad for everybody," IOC board member Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr. told the AP. "Boston was an extraordinary city, very attractive for the Olympic games, a very sporty town. I am very said to hear this." But he said there was enough time for the USOC to change course. "I don't think they need to save face," Samaranch said. "They presented what they thought was a great candidate. It's preseason. They have all the right to change the team and make their final adjustments." After New York failed in a bid for the 2012 Olympics and Chicago lost in the first round of the vote for the 2016 Games, the USOC took steps to try to improve relations with the IOC. Two years ago, the two sides signed a new revenue-sharing agreement, ending a long-running dispute that had helped undermine previous U.S. bids. The U.S. chances for 2024 had seemed strong, but the Boston debacle caught many by surprise. "We were all excited when they (Boston) were announced, but it seems to have stumbled since," IOC vice president John Coates said. "But it's better to face up to these things early if you don't have full public support." Los Angeles hosted the 1932 and 1984 Olympics and now seems poised to enter the 2024 contest. Los Angeles was the only city to bid for the 1984 Games at a time when the Olympics were torn by boycotts and financial problems. The success of those games helped revive the Olympic movement. "They won't have to build temporary stadiums, which is expensive," Reedie said. "It could be the third-time lucky for LA; it was third-time lucky for London." London is the only city which has hosted the OIympics three times. Paris, which staged the games in 1900 and 1924, is also aiming for a third Olympics. Sergei Bubka, the Ukrainian pole vault great who sits on the IOC executive board, said it's important for a U.S. city to be in the running. "Los Angeles has great history, lots of experience," he said. "Why not?" Tue, 28 Jul 2015 06:03:00 +0000
Texans' Clowney won't be ready for start of training camp
HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Texans have placed outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney on the physically unable to perform list. The move means the No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft will not be ready for the start of training camp this weekend. But Clowney will be able to return to practice whenever he is ready. Clowney played just four games as a rookie last season before having season-ending microfracture surgery in December. Monday's move isn't a surprise. The Texans have said they weren't sure if he would be ready for the start of training camp, but they still hope that he will be healthy in time for the season opener. Tue, 28 Jul 2015 03:26:00 +0000
Memphis' Austin Nichols transfers to Virginia
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Memphis leading scorer Austin Nichols has transferred to Virginia. Virginia coach Tony Bennett announced Nichols' transfer Monday. Bennett says Nichols is a "great fit for our program and system." Nichols averaged 13.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.4 blocked shots per game as a sophomore with the Tigers. The 6-foot-9 Nichols will have two years of eligibility remaining and must sit out the 2015-16 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen granted Nichols a conditional release earlier this month. Nichols becomes the third Memphis player to transfer since the end of the season. Tue, 28 Jul 2015 04:25:00 +0000
Olympic champion Shawn Johnson gets engaged at Wrigley Field
CHICAGO (AP) Olympic champion gymnast Shawn Johnson threw out a ceremonial first ball at Wrigley Field - and wound up with quite a catch. Johnson was walking off the field Friday before the Chicago Cubs hosted Philadelphia when she was surprised by longtime boyfriend Andrew East, a rookie long snapper for the Kansas City Chiefs. East dropped to one knee near home plate and presented the 2008 gold medalist with a diamond engagement ring. A stunned Johnson put her hands over her mouth, bobbed her head up and down, then jumped into his arms. Later, she put her feelings onto her Twitter feed. "Today the love of my life asked me to be his forever.AND I SAID YES!" she posted. The 23-year-old Johnson won the balance beam title at the Beijing Olympics. The next year, she won the title on ABC-TV's "Dancing with the Stars." Sat, 25 Jul 2015 01:04:00 +0000
Mets acquire Uribe, Johnson from Braves
NEW YORK (AP) The New York Mets acquired infielder Juan Uribe, infielder-outfielder Kelly Johnson and cash considerations from the Atlanta Braves on Friday night for minor league pitchers John Gant and Rob Whalen. The Mets announced the trade after their 7-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta's 4-2 loss at St. Louis. In corresponding roster moves, the Mets designated outfielder John Mayberry Jr. for assignment and optioned infielder Danny Muno to Triple-A Las Vegas. Third baseman David Wright, sidelined with a spinal condition, was also transferred to the 60-day disabled list. Before the game, the Mets promoted top prospect, outfielder Michael Conforto, from Double-A Binghamton, hoping to give their light-hitting lineup a boost. The Mets are last in the majors in batting average and second-to-last in runs scored. The struggles reached their lowest point on June 9, when the team was no-hit by San Francisco Giants rookie Chris Heston. Los Angeles' Clayton Kershaw nearly matched the feat in the series opener, throwing six perfect innings, shutting the Mets out for the 11th time this season. The pair is also expected to provide defensive flexibility for manager Terry Collins. Uribe, acquired by the Braves on May 27 as part of a five-player deal with the Dodgers, is batting .272 with eight home runs and 23 RBIs while primarily playing third base. "I feel very good because I got traded to another team that is a contender," Uribe said through an interpreter. "I would have felt bad if I got released or sent home, so I know that I'm going to go to a good team and have the chance to be in the playoffs." He was a key contributor to a pair of World Series-winning teams, helping the Chicago White Sox in 2005 and San Francisco in 2010. The Mets have struggled to replace Wright's production in their lineup, receiving only three home runs from the third base position since Wright went down in April. "Juan was really good for us," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He's a guy that played a great third base." In St. Louis, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he knew the trade was coming but didn't get confirmation until about 70 minutes before the first pitch. That forced him to quickly scratch Uribe from the lineup and move Chris Johnson from first to third with Joey Terdoslavich filling in at first base. "You're getting ready to lose two guys that are really pretty good guys on our club," Gonzalez said. "Uribe's only been here about two months, but he fit in right away with these guys and you're going to miss that and Kelly's professionalism." Added Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner: "One of the best teammates I've ever had and a good baseball player. I already told a couple of guys, `You're going to love (him),' and he's going to be great for the clubhouse over there." Johnson is batting .275 with nine home runs and 34 RBIs while playing all over the diamond, logging innings at five different positions. The versatile Johnson will be returning to the New York area spending part of last season with the Yankees. Johnson will become the 126th player to play for both New York teams. He has been surging in July with a .311 average, three home runs, and team-high 12 RBIs. "You find a good routine and when it's working it's hard to think about getting out of that," said Johnson, who was surprised to be traded to a division rival. "Now the toughest thing will be finding that routine there." Mayberry, signed in the offseason, mostly struggled as a right-handed bat off the bench. The 31-year-old Mayberry is hitting .164 with three homers and nine RBIs in 59 games this season. Muno has hit .148, going 4 for 27 in limited appearances with the Mets this year. Gant, 22, pitched for the Mets at Class A and Double-A, while Whalen, 21, made 14 starts for Class A St. Lucie. --- AP freelance writers Steve Overbey and Luke Thompson in St. Louis contributed to this report. Sat, 25 Jul 2015 04:50:00 +0000
Agent: Saints inform 2014 sack leader Galette of his release
NEW ORLEANS (AP) The New Orleans Saints have cut Junior Galette, who has been among their most productive pass rushers the past two seasons, but also has dealt with off-the field trouble. Galette's agent, Alvin Keels Jr., said Friday that his client has been informed he'll be released after he undergoes a physical. Galette, who signed a four-year, $41.5 million extension just last year, led the Saints with 10 sacks last season. His 12 sacks ranked second on the club in 2013. The Saints did not return multiple messages seeking comment on the move, but the timing indicates that coach Sean Payton was concerned about whether the NFL's ongoing review of Galette's conduct outside of football could become disruptive for the club. Galette was arrested in January after an alleged domestic dispute. Charges were dropped, but the incident remains under review by the NFL. The league also is reviewing a video which shows a man resembling Galette in an altercation on a beach. Keels said Galette is expected to undergo a physical on Saturday, and, if he passes, should be released by Monday. "He appreciates the organization and the fans, coaches and teammates for the opportunity," Keels said. "Things obviously didn't work out and he's looking forward to the next chapter in his playing career. "He's motivated to get back on the field and I think he'll use this as a building block," Keels added. "He'll bounce back." Galette was elevated to a starting role in 2013 in part because of injuries to former Saints outside linebackers Will Smith and Victor Butler. Galette finished that season within one sack of defensive end Cameron Jordan's team-leading 12 1/2 sacks. "The Saints made a big mistake to kick me when I'm down," Galette told WWL-TV in New Orleans on Friday. "I'm not mad. It'll be the worst call they ever made. I will be the best player in the league next year." In 2014, Galette was named a defensive captain and received a new contract, seemingly consummating an inspirational rise from a challenging childhood and a significant setback in college. Galette, who describes an early childhood spent in poverty in Haiti, moved to New York later in his youth. He initially attended college at Temple, but was kicked out when a relative staying with him was caught with a stolen laptop. He then transferred to Division II Stillman. In 2010, he signed with the Saints as an undrafted free agent and made the squad as a long-shot, playing in four games as a rookie. He served primarily as a reserve defensive end in the 2011 and 2012 seasons, compiling 9 1/2 sacks combined during those two campaigns before his breakout season in 2013. Galette's release will cost him nearly $24 million in base salary from 2016 through 2019, but he has already been paid close to $17 million. "I'm set for life. My mom's set for life. My son's set for life," Galette told NOLA.com. "This is not adversity. Adversity is getting kicked out of Temple with no money in your pocket." The guaranteed portions of Galette's contract will also count against the Saints' salary cap the next two seasons, likely in excess of $10 million in 2016, depending on whether he signs with another club. Meanwhile, New Orleans' decision to release Galette raises prospects for playing time for eight-year veteran Anthony Spencer and rookie second-round draft choice Hau'oli Kikaha. Spencer, who played under Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan when he held the same job in Dallas, joined the Saints this offseason as a free agent. He took a number of first-team snaps during voluntary practices and mandatory minicamp this summer. Kikaha registered 19 sacks for Washington last season, the most by any player in the NCAA's Division I Football Bowl Subdivision. --- AP NFL websites: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL Sat, 25 Jul 2015 00:55:00 +0000
Capitals' Braden Holtby signs $30.5 million, 5-year deal
ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) Braden Holtby signed a $30.5-million, five-year contract with the Washington Capitals on Friday, a day before an arbitrator was expected to rule on an amount for a one-year deal for the goaltender. The 25-year-old Holtby, who was a restricted free agent, had a career season with 41 victories, a 2.22 goals-against average, .923 save percentage and nine shutouts in 73 games. He is the third goaltender to reach 100 wins with the Capitals, joining Olie Kolzig and Don Beaupre. The deal came a day after an arbitration hearing in Toronto. "It was hard for both sides to put apples-to-apples comparisons on the comparable goaltenders," general manager Brian MacLellan said. "In the arbitration process, both sides present their stories. You get a better sense of where each side is at and where you can compromise. And that's what happened." Holtby's contract will count $6.1 million against the salary cap over the next five seasons. He's coming off a strong playoff performance - a 1.71 goals-against average and .944 save percentage to help the Capitals reach the second round before losing a seven-game series to the New York Rangers. "With last year it was trying to prove yourself for a contract," said Holtby, a fourth-round pick by the Capitals in 2008. "This year, you're trying to prove the contract you got. Obviously, it's going to be a new set of challenges. The low points of seasons are going to be a little harder to get through because of the added pressure." Holtby has gradually turned into Washington's top goaltender over the past three seasons, getting more appearances and starts in each one. Now that question is settled, possibly for years to come. His career record is 101-51 with a 2.44 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage. "He's a perfect fit for what we think we have," MacLellan said. "He fits well with his teammates, fits well with the defensemen. The coaches like him. I don't know what the ceiling is on him, but you know he has the right attitude and the right work ethic. Obviously we think we have a chance to win a championship with him." The Capitals also added a defenseman Friday, signing Ryan Stanton to a one-year, two-way contract. He scored 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 54 games with Vancouver last season. The 26-year-old has 119 career NHL games with the Canucks and Chicago. Fri, 24 Jul 2015 23:47:00 +0000
Coyotes to stay for at least 2 more years under new deal
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Glendale City Council voted unanimously in favor of a restructured arena lease agreement with the Arizona Coyotes on Friday, keeping the team in the desert for at least two more years. The deal approved by the seven-member council replaces a 15-year, $225 million arena management agreement signed in 2013. The new deal cuts Glendale's annual arena management fee to the Coyotes from $15 million to $6.5 million, turns all hockey-related profits over to the Coyotes and rescinds a five-year out clause the team had in the original agreement. "This is fair arrangement for the city, a fair arrangement for the taxpayers and a fair arrangement for the Coyotes and our fans and our sponsors," Coyotes co-owner, president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said. The new deal comes after the City Council voted June 10 to terminate the original arena lease agreement, citing a conflict-of-interest law. The Coyotes obtained a temporary restraining order two days later and the two sides were likely facing a long court battle with the team threatening to sue the city. The new deal allows Glendale to cut costs and gives the Coyotes a chance to work out a new long-term deal or explore other options like a new arena in downtown Phoenix. "It truly was a truly unpleasant process, but I think it was something that was necessary," Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers said. "This is a decision that benefits the entire city, the Coyotes, the Coyotes fans, which have proven they are very vocal. At the same time, we represent our citizens and we have to uphold that. I think this accomplishes all of that." The council voted to void the original arena lease agreement, citing an Arizona statute that allows a government entity to end an agreement if a person who worked on the deal later represents the other party. Former city attorney Craig Tindall was the Coyotes general counsel before being terminated under the new deal with the city and former Glendale communications director Julie Frisoni did consulting work for the team after leaving her job. The Coyotes responded swiftly to the decision, threatening a multimillion-dollar lawsuit while vowing to stick to the original agreement signed by IceArizona shortly after it bought the team from the NHL two years ago. The team's stance changed with the start of the NHL's free agency period. While talking to agents, the Coyotes learned several players would not even consider playing in Arizona because of the team's uncertain future. The Coyotes were still able to land a decent free-agency haul, bringing back former players Antoine Vermette, Boyd Gordon and Zbynek Michalek, but could only get Mikkel Boedker - one of the team's best young players - to sign a one-year deal. "It's one thing if we lose a suite or a sponsor, which are very important to us, but if our GM Don Maloney is handcuffed in putting together a roster, we have no choice but to fix it," LeBlanc said. "This isn't about saving face from either my perspective or the Coyotes perspective. This is about saving our franchise." But with the deal will certainly come more speculation about the team's future. The Coyotes have faced relocation speculation since former owner Jerry Moyes took the team into bankruptcy in 2009 and it continued even after IceArizona bought the team. Conjecture that the team was moving surfaced again last year when Philadelphia hedge fund manager Andrew Barroway bought a 51 percent stake in the team and ramped up again last month with the council's decision to end the lease agreement. LeBlanc has said all along that the Coyotes are committed to remaining in the desert despite low attendance and struggles on the ice the past couple of seasons. He reiterated that stance after the new deal was ratified, saying the team is hoping to work out a long-term deal with Glendale. "I have a message to those who are speculating on our plans: We did not agree to a two-year agreement so we could relocate in the future," LeBlanc said. "The simple truth is, if we wanted to leave we had the out to do so this summer. We didn't take it. We fought as hard as we needed to because we believe in this market. We have never changed our opinion on that simple fact. Anyone who says otherwise has no idea what he or she is talking about." Fri, 24 Jul 2015 20:14:00 +0000
AP Source: Panama, Costa Rica request CONCACAF ref reviews
Panama and Costa Rica have formally asked for reviews of CONCACAF'S referee procedures after both countries had questionable calls go against them late in Gold Cup knockout round games against regional power Mexico, according to a person in CONCACAF with knowledge of the requests. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Friday because he was not authorized to discuss the matter. CONCACAF had announced that the issue had been added for discussion to the agenda of Saturday's executive committee meeting but did not detail the requests. In the final minute of extra time in Sunday's quarterfinal, Mexico was awarded a penalty kick with the game tied 0-0 and converted to beat Costa Rica. Then in Wednesday's semifinals, Panama led 1-0 when it was called for a hand ball in the box. Mexico again converted in stoppage time, then went on to win in extra time. The person said Panama requested investigations into the referee committee and its procedures, the people who assign referees to games, all unspecified "suspicious matches," and referee Mark Geiger. In a separate letter, Costa Rica made similar requests. It also requested that certain referees not be assigned to its matches in the future. CONCACAF said in a statement: "The confederation takes these claims extremely seriously and will look into them immediately." Earlier Friday, the president of the Panamanian federation, Pedro Chaluja, told reporters that "we feel that that game was fixed." "There are third parties with interests, and we know that it can't be possible that the best-ranked referee in CONCACAF has such a poor and suspicious performance in a game," he said. He also noted that "we know that there have been suspicious and strange things going on in several matches in this Cup." On Thursday, the federation demanded the removal of CONCACAF's referee selection panel after describing the officiating in the loss as "insulting and embarrassing." The statement also accused the match officials of favoring Mexico "in a vulgar and shameless way." Two Panama players - forward Luis Tejada and goalkeeper Jaime Penedo - were each suspended two games by CONCACAF on Friday. Penedo was disciplined for pushing the assistant referee after Wednesday's match. Tejada received a red card, then was punished additionally for not leaving the field "in a timely manner." The federation was also fined an undisclosed amount "for team misconduct both on and off the field." Fri, 24 Jul 2015 22:39:00 +0000
Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz and Biggio ready to enter Hall
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) Three dominated on the mound, the other excelled at three positions up the middle. Together, pitchers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and multi-talented Craig Biggio left a remarkable imprint on baseball. Playing through an era tainted by steroids and dominated by offense - compliments of bulked-up sluggers, a smaller strike zone and smaller ballparks - the trio of pitchers combined for 735 wins, 11,113 strikeouts and nine Cy Young Awards. And the indefatigable Biggio became the only player in major league history with at least 3,000 hits, 600 doubles, 400 stolen bases and 250 home runs while being asked to play four positions in his 20-year career. All four, elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in January, will be inducted Sunday in Cooperstown. "I don't condone anybody doing anything bad as far as cheating the game," said Martinez, who joins former Giants right-hander Juan Marichal (1983) as the only natives of the Dominican Republic elected to the hall. "How did I feel pitching in the juice era? I wouldn't want it any other way. For me, there's no crying. I mean, as far as the way I did compete, I know I did it right. I did it the right way." Johnson, Martinez and Smoltz were elected by big margins their first time on the ballot and represent the first trio of pitchers voted in together. Biggio made it on his third try. --- The 6-foot-10 Johnson was an intimidating figure standing atop a pitching mound. During a 22-year career, spent mostly with the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks, the dominant left-hander with the imposing fastball won 303 games and five Cy Young Awards, including four in a row from 1999 to 2002 with the Diamondbacks. A 10-time All-Star, the native of Walnut Creek, California led his league in strikeouts nine times and had a career total of 4,875, second all-time only to Nolan Ryan. In 2001, Johnson was 3-0 in the World Series to help Arizona, in only its fourth year of existence, to the title. Small wonder he received 97.3 percent of the BBWAA vote, eighth-best all-time. Still, it took time before everything clicked for the man known as the Big Unit. "The 10 years that I spent in Seattle was really like my apprenticeship, if you will, on understanding how to pitch and then somewhat evolving into the pitcher that I was going to become," said Johnson. "I was really coming into my own as a successful pitcher and being able to harness my fastball, and understanding what it took to pitch at this level. "I didn't know I was going to be half as good as I turned out to be," added Johnson, who had three back surgeries, four knee surgeries and pitched his final season in 2009 with a torn rotator cuff. --- Born on the outskirts of Santo Domingo, Martinez grew up with five brothers and sisters in a one-room home. Baseball became his escape. He signed with the Dodgers in 1988 and made his major league debut in September 1992 at age 20. The next season he was a regular in the bullpen, posting a 10-5 record in 65 games while striking out 119 in 107 innings, then was traded to Montreal after the season. After a four-year stint with the Expos that culminated with his first Cy Young Award - he was 17-8 with a 1.90 ERA in 1997 - and with free agency looming, Montreal traded its ace to Boston and he wasn't exactly happy. "I wanted a team that would give me an opportunity to win, and Boston wasn't a team that looked anywhere near that they were going to win it, so I didn't think I was going to sign," Martinez said. Boston general manager Dan Duquette had other ideas. He had acquired Martinez from the Dodgers while serving in the same capacity with the Expos and convinced the rising Dominican star to sign with the Red Sox. The first Red Sox pitcher to be enshrined, Martinez signed for seven seasons that would endear him forever to the Boston faithful. He won 117 games and two Cy Youngs in hitter-friendly Fenway Park and, most importantly, helped Boston snap an 86-year jinx in his final year with the team. His seven shutout innings in Game 3 of the 2004 World Series on the road in St. Louis staked the Sox to a commanding 3-0 series lead en route to a sweep and the team's first title since 1918. Martinez finished his 18-year career with a 219-100 record and 3,154 strikeouts. --- Smoltz is the first player elected to the Hall of Fame with Tommy John arm surgery on his resume. He won 213 games and saved 154, the only pitcher with 200 wins and 150 saves and the last of only 16 to reach 3,000 strikeouts, registering 3,084. He also was 15-4 in the postseason during a 21-year career spent almost entirely with the Atlanta Braves after being drafted and then traded by his hometown Detroit Tigers. Through five surgeries, the hard-throwing right-hander persevered - from starter to reliever to starter again - as the Braves and their amazing pitching staff, which also included Hall of Famers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, won an unprecedented 14 straight division titles. "I had to just really reinvent myself many, many times, and find ways to overcome," said Smoltz, who did not play in 2000 after undergoing ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction on his right arm. --- A native of Kings Park on New York's Long Island, Biggio was a football star in high school poised to make his mark as a running back in college when he decided to accept a partial baseball scholarship at Seton Hall. In three collegiate seasons, he batted .342, hit 27 homers, drove in 148 runs, stole 90 bases and led the Pirates to their first Big East title. A first-round pick by the Astros in 1987, Biggio played just 141 minor league games over parts of two seasons before getting called up. He took over as Houston's regular catcher in 1989. Two years later, he made his first All-Star team, then was asked to make the improbable transition to play second base in 1992 in an effort to lengthen his career. He appeared in all 162 games and made his second All-Star team. Biggio, the first Astro elected to the Hall of Fame, said making the switch was by far the hardest thing he ever had to do in his career. "We zipped up the catcher's gear and didn't look back," Biggio said. "I believed in myself and we made it work. I mean, it was never ever done in the history of the game, and that was kind of fun to kind of prove them (the critics) wrong a little bit." Sat, 25 Jul 2015 03:23:00 +0000
Green Bay Packers post another year of record revenue
MILWAUKEE (AP) The Green Bay Packers reported another year of record revenue Monday, with the NFL's only publicly-owned team bolstered in part by the windfall from the league's massive broadcasting deals. The Packers said revenue from the 2015 fiscal year topped $375 million, up 16 percent from the previous year. Revenue from national sources increased by 21 percent to $226 million. A perennial playoff contender, Green Bay remains a marquee franchise with a national fan base in the most popular professional sports league in the country. "From a high level, kind of an overall simple message - the Packers had another very strong year financially," team President Mark Murphy said. The Packers must release financial data each year since they are publicly owned. Murphy said most of the increase in national revenue came from the Packers' share of profits from broadcasting contracts that kicked in this year. The Packers did not disclose the exact amount from television money. Local revenue for the Packers increased 9 percent to $149 million, with more than half of the amount attributed to sales from the Packers' expanded retail store at Lambeau Field that opened last summer. They were ninth in the 32-team league in revenue for the second straight year. "National revenue is the same for every team, so we're ninth in terms of local revenue then," Murphy said. Playoff home games also help the bottom line since they aren't guaranteed each season. But the Packers have had a playoff home game each of the last four seasons, and Murphy said that each game can have an economic impact of $14 million on the Green Bay community. Team expenses grew by nearly 13 percent to $336 million. The Packers listed a net income for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2015 of $29 million after accounting for loan interest payments and a redevelopment project. Player costs declined by $12 million to $159 million, which Murphy attributed to the cyclical nature of player contracts. Last year, the Packers had a spike in player contracts to account for recent extensions for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews. Green Bay tries to keep its ticket prices just below the league average. This season, the average ticket at 81,000-seat Lambeau Field will cost about $92. The Packers cited recent investments at the stadium including a new sound system and video boards, along with three new gates. Upcoming projects include improved wireless internet connectivity and a $55 million project for upgrades to suites. But Murphy said the Packers continue to look at other ways to grow revenue because "we don't want to do it all on the backs of season-ticket holders." Those projects include the addition and recent renovations to the Lambeau Field atrium, which includes the pro shop. A plaza outside the atrium gate was also recently renovated, and a new restaurant is opening this summer. The Packers have spent about $312 million over the last five years on atrium-related renovations. The team will also soon announce plans for its Titletown redevelopment project. The club has purchased 65 acres of land around the stadium in recent years, and Murphy said most of that property will be used for the project. Titletown was "another way to give back to the community in terms of creating jobs and bringing more visitors into the area," Murphy said. The Packers also cited $7 million in charitable contributions last year; and a $9 million payment to league as part of an NFL-wide assessment for debt refinancing. --- AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL Mon, 20 Jul 2015 20:14:00 +0000
Canadian media company wants NHL expansion into Quebec City
QUEBEC CITY (AP) The media company Quebecor Inc. has officially entered the running for an NHL expansion team. The company said Monday on its Twitter account that it has submitted its "candidacy for the NHL expansion process in order to bring the Nordiques back to Quebec City." The NHL announced last month that it was opening the formal expansion process. Quebec City has not had an NHL team since the Nordiques left for Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche in 1995. Quebecor owns the new 18,259-capacity Videotron Arena in Quebec City. It's among several groups that have expressed interest in an expansion franchise, along with Las Vegas, Seattle and others. The NHL has said the earliest any expansion would happen is the 2017-18 season. The league set July 20 as the deadline for potential expansion team owners to submit their bids for teams bids that include a $10 million down-payment, with $2 million nonrefundable. There are 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 in the West, which would seem to make Las Vegas and potentially Seattle or Portland, Oregon, favorites for expansion. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has said geography is an issue, but not the determining factor. The NHL has a relationship with Quebecor through its French-language television-rights deal with the TVA television network. Mon, 20 Jul 2015 19:54:00 +0000
FIFA vote to be held Feb 26; Blatter defies calls to go now
ZURICH (AP) Sepp Blatter will stay in control of world soccer for seven more months after resisting calls to step down immediately ahead of a presidential election, which FIFA decided Monday will be on Feb. 26. A defiant first public appearance by Blatter since his resignation statement last month began in pandemonium as he was showered in fake money by a comedian who gatecrashed the media conference at FIFA's headquarters. "Where is my security?" Blatter shouted. The interruption provided an awkward reminder of a far more serious incident for FIFA in May, when the arrest of soccer and sports marketing officials plunged the game's ruling body into its deepest crisis. Jolted by dual American and Swiss criminal investigations into soccer corruption, Blatter suddenly announced four days after being elected for a fifth term that he would leave FIFA. "It was not only the pressure of any authorities ... it was also the pressure of political interference and also the pressure of you, media," said Blatter, who is a target of the U.S. investigation. "I had to do something very special and I did it. In footballing terms, I kicked the ball out of the field to stop something." FIFA's executive committee decided at a meeting Monday on the February election date and Blatter ended weeks of uncertainty by insisting he would not perform one of his renowned about-turns by in fact being a candidate. "On the 26th of February FIFA will have a new president," Blatter said. "I cannot be the new president because I am the old president." The 79-year-old Blatter, who first joined FIFA 40 years ago, has held onto the most powerful job in world soccer since 1998. Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, who lost to Blatter in May, had told The Associated Press earlier Monday: "President Blatter's resignation cannot be dragged out any longer. He must leave now." But while Blatter said he felt "regret" about the crises, he insisted he would not be "abandoning" the presidency until a successor is elected by the 209 members. "I am still the elected president by 133 national associations and I will use my mandate as president ... to make sure that when at the end of February I come at the end of my career I can say the FIFA we have started again - with the reforms," Blatter said, highlighting the need to "rebuild the reputation of FIFA." The Feb. 26 date was seen as a political victory for Blatter over UEFA and other confederations, who thought they had agreement on Sunday for Jan. 15. Instead, Blatter and senior vice president Issa Hayatou cited the importance of the second-tier African Nations Championship - a tournament for little-known home-based players - hosted in Rwanda from Jan. 16-Feb. 7. Presidential candidates must gain five nominations from FIFA's 209 member associations by an Oct. 26 deadline. Only former Brazil great Zico and Liberia football federation president Musa Bility have so far expressed their intention to stand. Other potential candidates are Prince Ali and UEFA President Michel Platini, who is still mulling over his decision. "He loves the fact that UEFA is associated with football on a daily basis and the thousands of matches we organize," Platini's spokesman, Pedro Pinto, said outside FIFA headquarters. "FIFA is a more political organization and he is a man of football. He's not a man of politics." In a statement Platini limited himself to saying: "Now we have a concrete date, which means we can look forward to new leadership which will surely bring with it new ideas and new solutions." Platini welcomed the creation of a reforms task force, which will consider introducing term limits, integrity checks for executive committee members and pay details. Blatter declined repeatedly on Monday to reveal his salary. But Blatter did respond to calls from World Cup sponsor Coca-Cola and former FIFA advisers Transparency International to appoint an independent person to oversee the reforms required to shape the organization's future. The reforms panel will feature two representatives from the Asian, African, European, and North and Central American confederations, and one each from South America and Oceania. "We must now make sure that the reforms outlined today will be undertaken in a swift and effective manner," Platini said. "This is an exciting time for FIFA because we can work together to improve it and restructure it for the good of the game." Reformers want FIFA to appoint a respected figure from outside the sport to oversee the next election and reforms of FIFA. Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general from Ghana, has been mentioned for the role. "The rumors linking Mr. Annan to the FIFA job are just that: rumors," Annan's office told the AP, stressing that he is currently "fully committed" to other roles. Bility, the Liberian federation head, said he was "very disappointed" with the Feb. 26 election date. "It does not reflect the urgency of the situation," he told the AP by telephone. "The anxiety, the wait cannot help knowing that we expect to have a new leadership." Bility said he is sure he will secure the nominations required to make the ballot. "I am very encouraged," he said. "You know, I am keen viewing those rumors of those who are running. I don't see any new faces. They are all names who have been around for all these years." Mon, 20 Jul 2015 15:59:00 +0000
NCAA tweaks March Madness seeding rules for more flexibility
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The committee that puts together the field of 68 for the NCAA men's basketball tournament will have more flexibility to set the First Four and give No. 2 seeds more favorable matchups. The NCAA announced Monday that the Division I selection committee will now be allowed to slide every team up or down the seed list, including the last four at-large teams selected. Until now, the last four teams voted into the tournament field were locked into the First Four, the eight-team playoff that serves as the tournament's first round. Going forward, the last four at-large teams on the overall seed list - after the seeds have been tweaked by a process known as scrubbing - will play in the First Four. "It's a small, yet significant, alteration to the language outlining our seeding process," said Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione, the chairman of the Division I men's basketball committee. "Making this change gives the committee the opportunity to properly seed every team, whereas previous procedures did not permit appropriate scrubbing of the last four at-large teams." Selecting teams usually involves looking at teams in groups of eight, Castiglione said. Scrubbing is comparing two teams against one another, from their records against each other and common opponents to their wins against tournament teams. "This tweak provides us with the opportunity to scrub teams even more thoroughly," he said. Last season, the seeding process placed Dayton into the First Four, playing at home. UCLA, another team that was among the last to get into the field, was placed in the main bracket. The old procedures did not allow the committee to switch Dayton and UCLA. The First Four started in 2011 when the field expanded to 68 teams. The last four at-large teams selected to the field are paired off in two games and the last four teams on the overall seed list are matched in two other games played on Tuesday and Wednesday at Dayton's home arena. A First Four participant has reached the round of 32 each season since, including Dayton last season. The other change allows the committee to move the team seeded fifth overall out of its natural geographic area to avoid the best No. 2 seed being placed in the same region as the top overall team. The committee nearly was faced with the prospect of having Wisconsin as the No. 2 seed in Kentucky's bracket last season because of rules regarding geographical advantage. The Badgers ended up as a No. 1 seed and played - and beat - Kentucky in the Final Four before losing to Duke in the championship game. But if Wisconsin had ended up as a 2 seed, and clearly the best team on that line, the rules would have locked the Badgers into the Midwest Region with No. 1 overall seed Kentucky. "This change doesn't mean we are going to a true S-curve but if we can achieve it, or come closer to having more competitive balance on the top two lines without compromising our existing principles and without putting a team at a great disadvantage, we will consider it," Castiglione said. The committee also adjusted procedures to prevent a committee member from being present during discussion or participating in a vote involving a team in which an immediate family member is employed by the school's athletic department, or is an athlete on the basketball team. Mon, 20 Jul 2015 22:10:00 +0000