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  • LeBron falters in emotional return to Cleveland

    CLEVELAND (AP) Carried onto the floor by an emotional ovation building for years, LeBron James is back where he began.

    He's home.

    Introduced to a deafening roar from Cleveland fans, James was welcomed back Thursday night by a city desperate to end a championship drought that's about to turn 50 years old. James came back to try and end it, and his journey is underway.

    At 8:08 p.m. all was right in Cleveland again.

    That when James, the last starter announced, walked onto the floor in a Cavs uniform for a regular season game for the first time in four years.

    Nearly four months since proclaiming "I'm coming home" and shifting the NBA's balance of power, James is again playing in front of family, friends and the Cleveland fans who had their hearts broken when he left for Miami four years ago.

    This is a homecoming like no other.

    "None of us should take this moment for granted," a relaxed James said following Cleveland's morning shootaround at Quicken Loans Arena. "This is probably one of the biggest sporting events ever. I don't feel it, but I know it is."

    A crowd of 20,000-plus fans - with some paying as much as $5,000 for a ticket - packed the Q, which was updated during the offseason with a gigantic, fire-spewing scoreboard to welcome home James. The Akron native came back to his hoops roots hoping to deliver a title to Cleveland, a city that hasn't finished on top in pro sports since 1964.

    Unfortunately for Cleveland, the night's best moments came before the game, as James played poorly and the Cavs were beaten 95-90. James had eight turnovers, missed 10 shots and was not in sync with his new teammates.

    "I'm glad it's over," James said.

    Before taking the floor, James huddled his teammates in a hallway and told them that "tonight is special." He then gave a playful tap to owner Dan Gilbert's son, Nick, before walking onto the court that was his for seven seasons.

    The pregame festivities ended with James going to midcourt and performing his "chalk toss" pregame ritual with fans tossing paper confetti along with him.

    James, who has won NBA titles and Olympic gold medals, knew this season opener is a little more special.

    "I understand how much I mean to this team, to this franchise, to this city and to this state," he said. "It's a different feeling, but I'm still as calm and excited at the same time because it's the first game of the season."

    In the hours leading up to tip-off, thousands of fans gathered in the streets outside the arena. This was a party four years in the making.

    Across the street from the Q, a 10-story-tall banner of James was unveiled in the same spot where one hung during his first seven seasons with the Cavs. The spot became a symbol of civic pride until that night in July 2010 when James announced he was leaving for Miami. In the hours after his decision, some angry fans burned his jersey and others hurled rocks at a banner that would be removed a few days later.

    On Thursday, the new banner - showing James with his arms outstretched wearing a jersey with "Cleveland" where his name would normally be stitched - drew fans who posed for photos the same way they did when James was here last.

    Chrissy Pavlik of Wadsworth, Ohio, and her brother, Brad, were among the fans who didn't have a ticket for the game but wanted to be downtown to celebrate.

    "I grew up playing basketball and LeBron was always one of my role models, so when he left I was devastated, crying, throwing fits," she said. "To see the banner back, we drove into the city and I was like, `Check it out, dude.' It's so cool. We're very, very happy."

    Along East 4th Street, fans wearing James jerseys and broad smiles mixed with patrons lined up to get into overflowing restaurants and bars and a free concert featuring hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar and the rock band Imagine Dragons.

    As they filed past, Barry Harris, 55, of Cleveland, was filled with pride. A lifelong Clevelander, he had never seen his city acting quite like this.

    "It's amazing," Harris said as his twin brother, Larry, snapped pictures of ESPN's SportsCenter set. "I've been waiting 55 years for this. We got LeBron. We got Johnny (Manziel) Football. We got the Republican National convention coming in two years. We got casinos. It's huge. We deserve this."

    James' return has Cleveland fans believing their tortured run of sports misery, which includes a series of close calls with nicknames like The Drive, The Fumble and The Shot, could be over.

    James is the one to end the curse.

    "It's got to be him," Harris said. "It's got to be LeBron. It was his destiny to come back and finish his career off here. No place else."



  • Saints top Panthers 28-10 to take NFC South lead

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Drew Brees overcame a shaky start and threw for one touchdown and ran for another and the New Orleans Saints defeated the Carolina Panthers 28-10 Thursday night to take over first place in the NFC South.

    The Saints (4-4) piled up 375 yards to snap a seven-game losing streak on the road that dated back to last November.

    Brees finished 24 of 34 for 297 yards and Mark Ingram turned in another solid performance with 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

    Brees threw an interception and fumbled in the first quarter before settling down late in the second quarter and leading touchdown drives on four out of five possessions.

    The Saints' defense sacked Cam Newton four times and forced two turnovers.

    Newton, who spent much of the night under heavy duress playing behind an offensive line without three of its regular starters, was limited to 151 yards passing.

    ---

    AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL



  • Winston, Florida State rally to beat Louisville

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Jameis Winston threw three touchdowns to offset a three-interception start and Dalvin Cook had two long scoring runs to help second-ranked Florida State rally for a 42-31 victory over Louisville on Thursday night.

    Florida State overcame a 21-0 deficit for its 24th straight victory, with Cook giving the Seminoles the lead with a 38-yard run with 3:46 remaining.

    Out of sorts and on the verge of having its College Football Playoff prospects damaged, the Seminoles (8-0, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference, No. 2 CFP) recovered behind their Heisman Trophy quarterback and Cook, who had a 40-yard touchdown run in the third quarterback.

    All of Winston's TD passes were big. He hit Travis Rudolph for 68 yards, Ermon Lane for 47, and Freddie Stevenson for the 35-yard clincher with 26 seconds.

    Winston was 25 of 48 for 401 yards to beat Louisville (6-3, 4-3, No. 25 CFP).



  • NCAA denies Georgia's appeal of Gurley suspension

    ATLANTA (AP) The NCAA upheld its four-game suspension of Georgia tailback Todd Gurley on Thursday night, ending the school's final hope of having its biggest star in uniform for Saturday's game against Florida.

    In a statement released Thursday night, the NCAA's student-athlete reinstatement committee denied Georgia's appeal of Gurley's four-game suspension. The NCAA announced the suspension on Wednesday, when it said Gurley accepted more than $3,000 for autographed memorabilia and other items over a two-year period.

    Gurley, who already has been held out of two games, will be eligible to return on Nov. 15 against Auburn.

    Georgia said Thursday night it was "very disappointed" its appeal for Gurley's immediate reinstatement was denied.

    "We believe our case to the NCAA for Todd's immediate reinstatement was strong and compelling," Georgia said in a statement. "However, we now have exhausted all available options and look forward to Todd's return to competition on Nov. 15. The full attention of the Bulldog Nation now needs to be focused on our team and Saturday's important game against Florida."

    Gurley will also miss No. 9 Georgia's game at Kentucky on Nov. 8.

    When announcing the four-game suspension, the NCAA said it "strongly considered" a harsher punishment. Gurley, a junior, was found to have taken cash from multiple individuals, even though the NCAA said he received "extensive rules education about the prohibition of receiving payment for autographs."

    The NCAA said Wednesday Georgia's "due diligence in its investigation" and Gurley's "full disclosure of his involvement in the violations" were factors in not imposing a longer suspension.

    The NCAA said Wednesday Gurley must repay a portion of the money to a charity of his choice. He also must perform 40 hours of community service. The organization did not specify how much of the money he would have to repay or a deadline to comply with the rest of his sanctions.

    Gurley was considered a leading Heisman Trophy candidate before the suspension. He leads Georgia with 773 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. He has returned a kickoff for a 100-yard TD. He even threw a 50-yard pass - Georgia's longest of the season.

    In two games without Gurley, freshman Nick Chubb has 346 yards rushing and three touchdowns in road wins over Missouri and Arkansas.



  • New dynasty: Giants capture 3rd title in 5 years

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Bruce Bochy is crazy superstitious. It's a little-known fact about the unflappable San Francisco Giants manager.

    Mere mention of anything about a dynasty during the World Series made him uncomfortable. He felt equally uneasy when his name got linked to the best skippers of all-time - those Hall of Famers he well could join someday.

    Bochy doesn't have to worry about a jinx now. After winning its third championship in five seasons, the new label for his team looks as if it will stick.

    "Dynasty" blared the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday.

    The Giants closed it out with a 3-2 win in Game 7 at Kansas City on Wednesday night, sealed by Series MVP Madison Bumgarner's five shutout innings as a reliever this time.

    "A lot has to go right. First off, it starts with the talent," Bochy said. "I mean, you need that, which we have. Then you have to deal with a lot of things maybe during the season. Every manager says, `Hey, we're fine, we have a good chance to get there if we stay healthy.' But that doesn't always happen."

    In a remarkable every-other-year pattern, San Francisco somehow finds its best form in even years. With new faces and old ones, with castoffs and misfits and some key midseason acquisitions.

    Few clubs have captured three championships in a five-year span. The last National League team to do it was the St. Louis Cardinals with Stan Musial from 1942-46, so the Giants are the first of the free-agency era.

    The Oakland Athletics won three straight crowns in the early 1970s, and the New York Yankees captured four in five years from 1996-2000.

    Still, San Francisco was never considered a favorite or the best team in the regular season any of these times. Twice in this stretch, the Giants missed the playoffs altogether.

    After a runner-up finish in the NL West to the Dodgers at 88-74, they took the wild-card card route this time.

    On Wednesday night, Tim Hudson became a champion after a 16-year wait and Michael Morse got there following 10 major league seasons.

    "It's the greatest group of guys I ever played with," Morse said. "It's a group of guys who believe in each other and the outcome was a World Series victory."

    This city has had a football dynasty. So now the storied baseball franchise is doing its best to catch up with the NFL team in town. The Niners ruled in the late `80s and `90s, winning five Super Bowls.

    A unique element for Bochy's latest winning roster is the talented crop of homegrown players who made it happen.

    There are the big names - Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval. And the emerging ones - Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik.

    "You look at most of our team - like Joe, me, Buster, Pablo, Belt, Bum. It's loaded with a lot of good players and a lot of players who are pretty similar in kind of their approach to the game and they're pretty even-keel," said Crawford, the shortstop.

    "Pablo's a little bit different but me, Joe, Belt, Bum, Buster, we're all pretty levelheaded at any point in the game whatever part of the season it is, whether it's playoffs or midway through the regular season. We don't really change. That says a lot with how well we've done in the playoffs and the postseason in recent years," he said.

    "Nothing's really too big for us," he added.

    Eight players have been on all three winning World Series teams: Bumgarner, slugging third baseman Sandoval, Posey and relievers Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo and Tim Lincecum. Matt Cain, too, but he was hurt this year.

    General manager Brian Sabean, longest-tenured in baseball, can't put a finger on why the mix keeps working. He is proud of the core of players who were drafted and came through the system and played such a huge part this time.

    "It's a testament to player development and scouting. That's what we all hope for, that you can plug your holes from within and build your team from within," Sabean said. "That's a surefire way to kind of keep things moving forward. It prevents you from having to go into the market, whether it's free agency or more so the trade market."

    The Giants survived skids in June and September before winning the wild-card game at Pittsburgh. They then beat Washington in the Division Series and St. Louis in the NL Championship series.

    It has started with Bochy and his spot-on decision making, from resting the relievers regularly early in the season so he'd have every one of them for the October run, to going with Bumgarner at every chance.

    "But you have to play good baseball for six months, whatever, to get there," Bochy said. "Once you get there, you've heard guys say, `Well, it's a crap shoot,' but you have to play your best ball. You have to have the pitching. That's obvious. But you've got to execute."

    For the Giants, it's about every player doing his part and serving a role, because, as Sabean puts it, "We don't have a star system here."

    "It's everybody's got to pull on the same chain and everybody's got to be ready to play," he said. "They understand the culture."

    Dynasty or not, Affeldt has solved a potential problem at home.

    The lefty reliever and Game 7 winner has three young sons - and, now, three championships.

    "My three boys now all get to have rings on their finger," he said, "And I'm very happy about that."



  • Giants ace Bumgarner wins World Series MVP

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Madison Bumgarner was limbering up at Kauffman Stadium this week, getting loose with his San Francisco teammates near the dugout, when Tim Hudson and Michael Morse sneaked up from behind and ruffled the pitcher's long, scraggly locks.

    That was way too hairy for Bumgarner. He quickly spun and playfully sparred with the mischief makers.

    They were about the only ones who could touch Bumgarner in this World Series.

    "Yeah, it was hopeless," Kansas City manager Ned Yost acknowledged.

    The 25-year-old Bumgarner capped off a most splendid October and earned MVP honors Wednesday night, pitching five scoreless innings of relief in Game 7 as the Giants held off the Kansas City Royals 3-2.

    Moments after he retired Salvador Perez on a foul pop with a runner on third base for the final out, Bumgarner insisted he wasn't worn down. About a half-hour later, he felt a bit differently.

    "You know what? I can't lie to you anymore," he said. "I'm a little tired now."

    Bumgarner earned a sensational save to go along with two sparkling wins as a starter in the Series. That on top of being MVP of the NL Championship Series and pitching a record 52 2-3 innings in this postseason.

    Put it this way: Bumgarner threw two shutouts in October, starting with a win at Pittsburgh in the NL wild-card game. Washington's Jordan Zimmermann was the only other starter to reach the ninth inning this postseason, and he got pulled.

    All tremendous accomplishments, but hard to tell from observing or listening to the 6-foot-5 Bumgarner. He shows virtually no emotion on the mound, blowing his nose as if no one is watching, and seems to be the only person unimpressed by what he's done.

    Funny thing, the slow-moving lefty was carrying an energy bar with him when he kidded around with Hudson and Morse before Game 6.

    "He's such a humble guy, and we rode him pretty good," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

    "It's historic what this kid has done," he said. "Really, truly amazing."

    After winning the opener with seven impressive innings, Bumgarner threw a shutout in Game 5. And when the Royals forced a Game 7, there was little doubt that the guy called MadBum would be called on to pitch again on two days' rest.

    But five innings? Who would've believed that?

    "Innings, I wasn't thinking about innings or pitch count. I was just thinking about getting outs, getting outs until I couldn't get them anymore and we needed someone else," Bumgarner said. "Fortunately, was able to get some quick innings and I was able to stay in there."

    He gave up two hits, retired 14 in a row, and got 15 outs - that matched how many outs opposing starters Tim Hudson and Jeremy Guthrie combined to get.

    Bumgarner boosted his World Series stats to numbers never seen before: 4-0 with a save and an 0.25 ERA, along with three championship rings. In 36 innings, he's allowed just one run and 14 hits, striking out 31 and walking five.

    Bumgarner wound up slinging 68 pitches, and finished with 270 innings this season. He went 4-1 with a 1.03 ERA in the postseason - .

    Last weekend, former broadcaster and St. Louis Cardinals catcher Tim McCarver paid tribute to the Giants ace.

    "It's Gibson-esque, if you will. I know Bob could do that and I saw that from a 60-feet, 6-inch view of him every outing he threw in the World Series. I see the same thing in Bumgarner. I really admire that," McCarver said.

    Before Game 7, Jack Morris also praised Bumgarner. Morris knows well about Game 7 - always intense on the mound, he threw a 10-inning shutout in 1991 to lift Minnesota over Atlanta.

    "I want to hug him," Morris said near the backstop, a couple hours before game time. "He's my kind of guy."

    "He's got the same emotions, he just doesn't show them. He's got a big furnace burning right now," he said.

    A lot of stamina, too.

    But in this era when pitch counts are so precious, Bumgarner wasn't worried about his arm in Game 7. And if he was OK, so was Bochy.

    "In fact, I was staying away from him every inning," Bochy said, "because I was hoping he wouldn't go, `I'm starting to get a little tired,' because there's no way I would have taken him out unless he would have told me that."

    Giants catcher Buster Posey said there wasn't much conversation on the bench with Bochy, Bumgarner and pitching coach Dave Righetti, either.

    "Not much of anything. I think everybody could see how good he was," Posey said. "They weren't putting great swings on him."

    No, they weren't.

    "We probably would have won if they didn't have him," Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain said. "But they do have him."



  • Mississippi State, Florida State top first playoff list

    GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) The College Football Playoff selection committee has spoken - and it likes the SEC.

    At least for now.

    Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn and Mississippi are the top four teams in the first College Football Playoff rankings.

    The first of seven Top 25 rankings compiled by a 12-member selection committee was released Tuesday night. The selection committee will ultimately pick the four teams to play in the national semifinals and set the matchups for the other four big New Year's Day bowls that are part of the playoff rotation.

    "It was extremely difficult, more difficult than any of us had expected having gone through our mock selections before," Arkansas athletic director and committee chairman Jeff Long said. "There are 18 one-loss teams in FBS at this point in time, and the difference between many of them is very slim."

    Oregon was fifth and Alabama was sixth, giving the Southeastern Conference's West Division four of the top six teams. There are still four games remaining matching those SEC West rivals, starting with Saturday's matchup of Auburn and Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi.

    The final rankings will be released Dec. 7, the day after the most of the conference championships are decided.

    "Everyone on the selection committee recognized that our rankings will change over the next six weeks," Long said. "I think that's important for us to emphasize. We expect our rankings to change over the next six weeks. One week's rankings won't influence the next week's rankings."

    TCU was seventh, Michigan State was eighth, Kansas State ninth and Notre Dame was 10th.

    Mississippi State and defending national champion Florida State are the only undefeated teams left among the Big Five conferences.

    "It's cool," Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott said. "That's something you can never take away from the university or this program. First-ever ranking, first team to be No. 1, so that's pretty cool for the university."

    The Bulldogs and Seminoles also hold the first two spots in the AP Top 25. No. 3 was where the differences started between the playoff rankings and the media poll.

    The AP voters had Alabama at No. 3 and Auburn at No. 4. Oregon was fifth, Notre Dame was sixth and Ole Miss was seventh after losing for the first time this season at LSU on Saturday. Ole Miss beat Alabama at home earlier this month.

    This is the first year for the playoff format in college football, and the list is the first indication of how the committee is evaluating teams' playoff potential.

    While Ole Miss received a better ranking than Alabama, head-to-head victories weren't always the deciding factor for the committee.

    Arizona, which won at Oregon, is 12th. Baylor, which beat TCU, is 13th.

    Long said in both cases the head-to-head loser had the better overall resume. Long said Oregon's victories against Michigan State and UCLA stood out. And Baylor's lack of quality opposition so far held back the Bears.

    "They have not had a strong schedule outside of their win against TCU," Long said.

    The committee creates small groups of teams, debates their merits and ranks the teams using as many votes as needed to come up with a consensus. Members are given reams of data on each FBS team and each member is allowed to judge those numbers however they determine is best.

    The committee members gathered Monday at the Gaylord Texan Hotel in Grapevine, Texas, just outside of Dallas, and did most of their work on Day 1.

    Long said the committee worked for about 10 hours total on the rankings. By the time the rankings were released on ESPN at 7:30 EDT, most of the committee members were already on their way home.



  • Cardinals stunned by Taveras' death

    Mike Matheny needed some time to figure out what to say. Like the rest of the St. Louis Cardinals, the manager was leveled by the sudden death of Oscar Taveras.

    The Cardinals are grieving the loss of an active player for the third time in 12 years after the 22-year-old Taveras died Sunday in a car crash in the Dominican Republic. Matheny, general manager John Mozeliak and pitcher Carlos Martinez were part of a group from the organization with plans to attend a private burial service Tuesday in Taveras' country.

    "I was asked last night to give some words regarding the tragic death of Oscar Taveras, but I just simply couldn't," Matheny said Monday in a statement. "To say this is a horrible loss of a life ended too soon would be an understatement."

    Taveras was a teenager when he signed with St. Louis as an international free agent in 2008. He was regarded as one of baseball's top prospects and homered in his major league debut May 31. He also had a big solo drive in the seventh inning of Game 2 in the NL Championship Series against San Francisco.

    "He was someone that became an identity of our organization to some degree," Mozeliak said in a conference call with St. Louis media before a visitation Monday night. "When you think about how much has been written about him and how much has been talked about him, he never truly got a chance to show it at the major league level."

    Mozeliak said he took a connecting flight from Miami with Taveras' father.

    "Clearly, he was shaken by these events," the GM said.

    Taveras was driving a 2014 Chevrolet Camaro at the time of the accident on a highway between the beaches of Sosua and Cabarete in Puerto Plata, about 215 miles north of the capital of Santo Domingo. Edilia Arvelo, Taveras' 18-year-old girlfriend, also died in the crash.

    A funeral for Arvelo was held Monday in her hometown of Moca.

    Highway police spokesman Col. Diego Pesqueira said the road was wet from a recent rain but the cause of the crash is under investigation. An autopsy was done Monday but results weren't available.

    Moises Rodriguez, the international scouting director for the Cardinals, called Mozeliak with the news Sunday night.

    "My very first thought was `Is this true? Is this possible?"' Mozeliak said.

    The Cardinals had just finalized plans for Taveras to spend most of November at the team's spring training facility in Jupiter, Florida, and then head to the Dominican Winter League. Taveras lost the regular right fielder job to fellow rookie Randal Grichuk, but that did not diminish the organization's long-term view that Taveras could be a star.

    Taveras hit .239 with three homers and 22 RBIs in 80 games in his only season in the majors.

    "In my opinion, the word `love' is the most misused, and misunderstood word in the English language. It is not popular for men to use this word, and even less popular for athletes," Matheny said. "But, there is not a more accurate word for how a group of men share a deep and genuine concern for each other. We loved Oscar, and he loved us. That is what a team does, that is what a family does. You will be missed, Oscar."

    Matheny was a catcher for the Cardinals when pitcher Darryl Kile died of a heart problem in June 2002. St. Louis also lost Josh Hancock in a fatal car crash in April 2007.

    Each of those deaths occurred during the season, but the accident for Taveras happened with his teammates at home after losing to San Francisco in the NL Championship Series.

    Many of them took to Twitter to express their condolences.

    "Last 30 minutes I've been sick to my stomach. Keep thinking about Oscar's big smile in the dugout whenever we made a big play/got a big hit," All-Star reliever Pat Neshek posted Sunday night.

    ---

    Dionisio Soldevila contributed to this report from Santo Domingo, Domincan Republic.



  • NCAA's Emmert calls N. Carolina report troubling

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) NCAA President Mark Emmert said Monday that findings from a recent investigation into academic fraud at the University of North Carolina are troubling, disturbing and shocking.

    While Emmert said he would withhold final judgment until the NCAA completes its own investigation, the usually cautious former university president was downright blunt during a 20-minute interview with The Associated Press at its Indianapolis headquarters.

    "Just based on the (Kenneth) Wainstein report, this is a case that potentially strikes at the heart of what higher education is about," Emmert said Monday. "Universities are supposed to take absolutely most seriously the education of their students, right? I mean that's why they exist, that's their function in life. If the Wainstein report is accurate, then there was severe, severe compromising of all those issues, so it's deeply troubling. ... It's absolutely disturbing that we find ourselves here right now."

    North Carolina athletic department spokesman Steve Kirschner said the school would not comment on Emmert's remarks.

    The report, authored by a former Justice Department official who conducted an internal investigation into the NCAA's own enforcement department scandal in 2013, was released last week. It detailed how academic fraud in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department went on for nearly two decades. According to Wainstein, the "shadow curriculum" involved more than involved more than 3,100 students - about half of whom were athletes.

    The NCAA has been on the defensive as well.

    In August, former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon won a federal court case that could force schools to put as much as $5,000 per year into a trust fund that college athletes could collect after they leave school. NCAA attorneys are expected to appeal that decision in November. And recently, former Clemson football player Martin Jenkins went to court, seeking to eliminate the NCAA's ability to control scholarship cost controls.

    If O'Bannon prevails on appeal and Jenkins wins his case, Emmert said it would create an unprecedented college landscape.

    That may happen anyway.

    The NCAA's board of directors meets Thursday, less than four weeks after the five richest football conferences submitted requests seeking greater autonomy to expand scholarships to include the full cost-of-attendance, multi-year scholarships and lifetime scholarships that would allow players to return to school and finish their degrees. Emmert said he supported all three measures and a fourth, which would improve health insurance.

    If approved, the power-conference schools and everyone else could be competing on uneven playing fields.

    Then there's the divergent paths No. 9 Georgia and No. 2 Florida State have taken since their star football players were accused of receiving improper benefits from autograph sales.

    Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley has missed the last two games after the school suspended him indefinitely so it could investigate. The defending national champion Seminoles have allowed Winston, last year's Heisman Trophy winner, to continue playing - a distinction not lost on Emmert.

    While he declined to talk specifically about the Florida State case, he acknowledged other schools have been forced to vacate wins when they use ineligible players.

    "From the facts that we know today, publicly, Georgia's behavior has been commendable," he said. "They, apparently, saw something that concerned them, and they dealt with it directly and their athletic department seems to have handled that very, very appropriately based on what we know today.

    "When a school has information about inappropriate behavior that might render a student-athlete ineligible, then they're under an obligation to respond. If it turns out later that they did know and did have facts that demonstrated that someone was ineligible and they played them anyway, then sure those wins can be vacated and that's happened many times."

    But it was the details of the North Carolina case that drew Emmert's harshest comments.

    "When you look at what we all know today, the Wainstein report, and just based upon that," Emmert said, "you look at the, I look at these facts, like everyone, and I find them shocking."

    ---

    AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard contributed to this report.



  • 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."

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    AP Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg and AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner in New York contributed to this report.

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    Online:

    No More: http://nomore.org

    National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: www.ncadv.org

    A Call to Men: www.acalltomen.org

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    AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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    Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap



  • Attorney: NFL, Ravens not helping union Rice probe

    The attorney leading the NFL players' union investigation into the Ray Rice domestic violence case told The Associated Press the league and the Baltimore Ravens have not been cooperating.

    Richard Craig Smith told the AP on Friday night that the NFL has not provided documents and witnesses requested by the NFLPA's investigators, while the Ravens have refused any cooperation with similar requests.

    "I am interested in the facts, and if we get cooperation from all the parties that were involved, we will have an understanding of what happened," Smith said. "We cannot accept public statements that call for transparency, candor and openness and then not allow the investigators to do their jobs."

    The union's investigation, like a similar probe organized by the NFL, isn't a law enforcement inquiry and the parties involved aren't under any legal obligation to comply with requests. The league and the union, however, have each said separately that they wanted answers in the case.

    A spokesman for the NFL couldn't comment immediately when reached Friday night while a spokesman for the Ravens didn't immediately return a phone message.

    NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice indefinitely Sept. 8 for violating the league's personal conduct policy, once video of Rice hitting his then-fiancee was released publicly.

    The players' union hired Smith, a former federal prosecutor, one month ago to oversee its investigation into how the Ravens and the league handled themselves during the events that led to the suspension, as well as how the team handled issues like due process. Separately, the NFL hired former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III to conduct a probe into how the league handled evidence as it investigated the claims against Rice. NFL owners plan to make the findings of Mueller's report public.

    Smith said the union's investigation is important to ensuring the process was fair, and that requires transparency.

    "If the NFL is genuinely concerned about fixing the issues that led to an admitted mistake, then they should be honest and forthright about what they knew and when they knew it," Smith said. "We want both our team and Bob Mueller's team each to be able to conduct a thorough review of all the relevant facts."

    Smith, the head of regulatory and governmental investigation for the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, represented the union during the Saints bounty scandal that resulted in four players being reinstated from suspension through an appeal in 2012.

    Goodell originally suspended Rice for two games. Once the video became public, the Ravens cut Rice, 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 appealed Rice's suspension, saying he should not be punished twice. Former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones was selected by the commissioner and the players' union to hear the appeal. A person familiar with the case told the AP that Judge Jones told Goodell on Wednesday that he should testify at the hearing, which will be held Nov. 5-6.

    The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because details haven't been made public, said Adolpho Birch, the NFL's vice president for labor policy, league attorney Kevin Manara and security chief Jeffery Miller also are expected to testify along with Ravens President Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome. Rice plans to testify and his wife, Janay, might testify, the person said.

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    AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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    Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP-RobMaaddi



  • Union questions NFL's domestic violence plan

    NEW YORK (AP) The players' union has questioned why the NFL's domestic violence training and education program "treats all players as perpetrators."

    In a memo sent to NFL Players Association members on Thursday by Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and obtained Friday by The Associated Press, the union also said the plan "doesn't build a positive consensus to warning signs."

    Smith and union special counsel Teri Patterson described two meetings this month with the league in which an NFLPA commission was briefed on the league's approach to educating players, coaches, executives, owners and NFL personnel about domestic violence. He wrote that a "good overview of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse" was presented. But "it did not address larger issues of violence in and outside of the home."

    The NFL said of the "perpetrators" claim: "Nothing could be further from the truth. The presentation expressly recognizes that people in the NFL are often falsely portrayed and that the actions of a few damage the reputations of many."

    "What the program teaches is that everyone can and should be part of the solution," the league statement said.

    The union memo also said the "NFL's presentation doesn't focus on follow-ups and providing continuous resources at the clubs to address potentially violent situations as well as preventing them."

    The NFL's educational program was shown to the AP on Oct. 7, and it included information from a memo sent to the 32 clubs on Sept. 18 that pointed out local resources available to all team personnel and their families. That document indicated a plan was in place to provide those resources and follow-ups for those who need it.

    The union memo to the players also said the NFL presentation "doesn't include any psychological information about the type of behavior that could lead to acts of violence or warning signs of negative behavior, but instead seemed to focus almost entirely on what happens after a violent incident has been committed."

    The league's plan calls for experts who work in the psychological space to offer a research perspective of societal issues, recognizing that these are intimate crimes that impact people in many ways. The program calls for each club to have such experts available to the teams, or what the NFL calls "the entire club family."

    That can include a clinician, human resource workers, player engagement executives, security personnel and a mental health professional who works with the club.

    The union added that although the league indicated that the trainers for this educational program will be experts, the NFL did not list any specific names, titles or relevant backgrounds of the people they intend to utilize for the training.

    Previously, the NFL announced an advisory group that includes authorities in the domestic violence area such as Tony Porter, Beth E. Richie, Rita Smith, Jane Randel and Lisa Friel.

    Another NFLPA observation was: "Too much reliance was placed on using former players to participate in the training. While some former players possess the right qualifications and experience to train personnel on these issues, the league's inability to articulate who these players are raises concerns that call into question the effectiveness of the training."

    Many of the player ambassadors, as the NFL calls them, have personal testimonies around these issues and might be helpful, but they would not deliver the education program.

    The union added: "The league stated that at each presentation, they will distribute information on suggested local (team city/state specific) resources for domestic violence and sexual assault prevention specialists, licensed club mental health clinicians, club human resource directors and Directors of Player Engagement. The NFLPA commission members recommended that a broader net of resources be included, such as faith-based counselors and male-focused community organizations, etc. The NFL did not provide any explanation as to why one resource was chosen over another or how those resources would be specifically integrated into the workplace, if at all."

    In response to the union memo, the NFL said: "We were pleased to meet with the union and are working to incorporate their suggestions into the presentations to clubs. As we emphasized to the union, this first set of presentations is the start of a process of education that will continue in future years."

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    AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL



  • Ted Bishop out as PGA president

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. (AP) Ted Bishop was ousted Friday as president of the PGA of America over a sexist tweet and Facebook post directed at Ian Poulter.

    Bishop was irritated by remarks Poulter made in his book on the Ryder Cup captaincy of Nick Faldo in 2008 and Tom Watson this year. He referred to Poulter as "Lil Girl" on Twitter when stacking up Poulter's feats next to Faldo. In a Facebook post, he noted that Watson (with eight majors) and Faldo (with six majors and the Ryder Cup record for most points) were getting "bashed" by Poulter.

    "Really? Sounds like a little school girl squealing during recess. C'MON MAN!" he wrote.

    The PGA of America board voted Friday to remove him, meaning Bishop will not be invited to future PGA Championships and Ryder Cups, or any other courtesies extended to past presidents. He is the first PGA president to be ousted. Bishop had one month left on his two-year term.

    Bishop, who has two daughters, apologized to Poulter and "anyone else I might have offended" in a statement.

    But the head pro from Indiana went down swinging.

    Bishop said his fellow PGA officers asked him to resign Friday and he refused, wanting instead to apologize in person to the board and let the process run its course.

    "The board heard me out and then voted to impeach me," he said. "That is the due process and I respect that, as painful as it might be."

    In removing Bishop as president, the PGA of America board said the remarks were inconsistent with association's policies.

    "The PGA of America understands the enormous responsibility it has to lead this great game and to enrich lives in our society through golf," PGA chief executive Pete Bevacqua said in a statement. "We must demand of ourselves that we make golf both welcoming and inclusive to all who want to experience it, and everyone at the PGA of America must lead by example."

    The PGA of America has 27,000 members, about 1,100 of them women. Bevacqua said in a telephone interview that he received "a lot of negative feedback from all types of sources, internal and external." He declined to specify whether PGA female members were part of that.

    Bishop was irritated by comments Poulter made in his book released this week about the Ryder Cup captaincy of Faldo in 2008 and Watson this year at Gleneagles. Bishop was with Faldo at The Greenbrier on Thursday when he tweeted to Poulter, "Faldo's record stands by itself. Six majors and all-time RC points. Yours vs. His? Lil Girl."

    The Facebook post was even stronger. Bishop deleted both Thursday evening and said in an email to The Associated Press that "I could have selected some different way to express my thoughts on Poulter's remarks."

    Derek Sprague, expected to be voted in as the next president at the Nov. 22 annual meeting, was appointed the interim president. Paul Levy will handle the roles as vice president and secretary until the election.

    Bishop has been one of the most outspoken presidents of the PGA of America. But his social media rant got him into trouble.

    "This is a classic example of poor use of social media on my part and if I had the chance to hit the delete button on the things that I sent out yesterday, I would without hesitation," Bishop said. "The PGA of America asked me to avoid any interaction with the media in the past 24 hours and that is why I did not issue a formal and public apology, which I have wanted to do since early this morning."

    Bishop described the consequences as "drastic," but that he has to live with his mistake.

    "Today, all I have left is my PGA membership and that will always mean the world to me," Bishop said. He is president of Legends Golf Club in Franklin, Indiana.

    Suzy Whaley, a teaching pro from Connecticut who qualified to play a PGA Tour event in Hartford in 2003, is among three PGA members running for secretary at the Nov. 22 election. If she wins, Whaley would be in line to be PGA president in 2018.

    Whaley said she found Bishop's remarks to be "insulting."

    "I was extremely disappointed and they were definitely sexist," Whaley said in a telephone interview. "I'm of 100 percent belief that we need to empower young girls." Asked if she complained to the PGA officers, Whaley said, "I didn't have to do that."

    "The PGA of America took incredibly swift action and are taking this extremely seriously," Whaley said. "Obviously, it's critical that we are inclusive."

    Poulter was on a plane to China when Bishop posted his remarks and wasn't aware of them until he landed and found his phone filled with messages.

    "Is being called a `lil girl' meant to be derogatory or a put down?" Poulter said in a statement. "That's pretty shocking and disappointing, especially coming from the leader of the PGA of America."

    Bishop's boldest move as president was to pick Watson as the U.S. captain, saying he was tired of the Americans losing. But the move backfired when Watson's heavy-handed style didn't mesh with a younger generation. Watson, 65, was the oldest captain in Ryder Cup history.

    Poulter in his book said that Watson's decision-making "completely baffles me." He was referring to benching Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley for both sessions Saturday. He also was critical of Faldo for his commentary on Golf Channel during the Ryder Cup that Sergio Garcia was "useless" in 2008. Faldo was captain of the only European team to lose in the last 15 years, and Poulter wrote, "So who's useless? I think Faldo might need to have a little look in the mirror."

    Davis Love III described Bishop as a friend and a "great supporter of golf" and said he would not remember his presidency for this incident. Among other things, the PGA joined up with the LPGA Tour to help pay for its oldest major. The Women's PGA Championship will be sponsored by KPMG, which will use the week to host a major conference for women executives.

    "I have said things in my passion for the Ryder Cup that I wish came out differently," Love said. "We all make mistakes on social media."



  • Bruins lose Chara for 4-6 weeks with knee injury

    BOSTON (AP) The Boston Bruins will spend the next four to six weeks trying to fill the hole left by an injury to the tallest player in NHL history.

    Defenseman Zdeno Chara tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee but will not need surgery, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said. The team called up two minor-league defensemen on Friday to replace the 6-foot-9 Slovakian who was the 2009 Norris Trophy winner and plays more minutes than any other Bruins skater.

    "It's obviously a blow. He's one of the premier defensemen in the league," Chiarelli said. "But I'd rather have it four to six weeks than four to six months."

    Chara left Thursday night's game against the Islanders in the first period, one shift after a collision with New York forward John Tavares. He did not appear injured at the time, but his teammates knew it was serious when one of the toughest players on the team left the bench.

    "When he's out, he's out," goalie Tuukka Rask said after Friday's practice. "He's played through a lot of stuff."

    A third-round pick of the Islanders in 1996, Chara came to Boston as a free agent a decade later after establishing himself as one of the NHL's best players. As the Bruins' No. 1 defensemen, he uses his long reach to stop opposing attacks - usually matched up against the other team's top forward.

    Chara led the Bruins to the NHL title in 2011 - with Chara, as the team's captain, receiving the Stanley Cup - and back to the finals two years later. Last season, the team won the Presidents' Trophy for the most regular-season points before losing in the second round to the Montreal Canadiens.

    "He's just such a dominant player," fellow defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "He's a real treat to have on your team. You get spoiled on the ice, and you don't really appreciate it until he's gone."

    Already without defenseman Kevan Miller, the Bruins lost 3-2 on Thursday night to fall below .500 for the season and into a four-way tie for fifth place in the NHL's Eastern Conference. But coach Claude Julien pointed to the third period of the game, in which the Bruins dominated New York, as proof that the team can manage without Chara.

    "If we've become that bad of a team because of one player, we weren't that good of a team," he said Friday. "I'd like to think we're better than that."

    The team recalled defensemen Joe Morrow and Zach Trotman from Providence of the American Hockey League on Friday. Morrow has one goal and one assists in five AHL games this season. Trotman played two games in Boston last season and has one assist with Providence this year.

    "It will take everyone to fill that void," forward Chris Kelly said. "It's not just the defense that needs to defend. It's five men working together in all three zones."



  • AP source: Goodell told to testify in Rice appeal

    NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been told to testify in Ray Rice's appeal of his indefinite suspension, a person familiar with the case told The Associated Press on Wednesday night.

    Former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones, the neutral arbiter selected to hear the appeal, informed the parties of her decision Wednesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the appeal have not been made public.

    It was uncertain whether Goodell will actually testify. He said this month he would leave the decision to Judge Jones.

    "We will continue to respect Judge Jones' confidentiality order regarding this proceeding," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email.

    NFL lawyers have argued that Goodell shouldn't have to testify, and instead were offering testimony from Jeff Pash, the NFL's general counsel, and Adolpho Birch, the NFL's vice president for labor policy. Pash and Birch were with Goodell when he met with Rice's side in June to talk about what happened when the former Pro Bowl running back hit his then-fiancee in an elevator.

    Rice described details of the incident at that meeting. Goodell has called Rice's description "ambiguous" while Rice's side has maintained he gave exact details.

    The hearing will be held Nov. 5 and 6, two people familiar with the case told the AP on Tuesday.

    Rice was suspended indefinitely Sept. 8 for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy after a video of the former Pro Bowl running back hitting the woman was released publicly. Goodell originally had suspended the running back for two games.

    Once the video became public, the Baltimore Ravens cut Rice, 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 appealed Rice's suspension, saying he should not be punished twice.

    Jones was jointly picked by the commissioner and the players' union to hear the appeal. The union said at the time that Goodell's testimony as a witness would be crucial in the proceedings.

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    AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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    Rob Maaddi can be reached on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ap-robmaaddi




 
 
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