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    By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
    Tuesday, November 27, 2012

    ST. PETERSBURG — Evan Longoria had a number of reasons for agreeing to the six-year contract extension that could keep him with the Rays through 2023.

    And more than just the 100 million dollars he'll make.

    Grady Sizemore, Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez were a few.

    All are players who looked at points in their careers to be on the same path to super-stardom as Longoria is now. All who, through injury or inconsistent performance, didn't quite get there, never cashed in with massive contracts and are now trying to extend their careers with year-to-year deals essentially as veteran journeymen.

    And all who were examples agent Paul Cohen discussed with Longoria, 27, in deciding whether to take the Rays' deal at the potential loss of earning millions more by waiting for free agency, and the accompanying criticism.

    "You just don't know what's going to happen," Cohen said. "Grady Sizemore, for a while, looked like the best player in the game. I have great admiration for Grady Sizemore. But now he's 30 and he's looking to make $1 million."

    Troy Tulowitzki is another.

    The Rockies shortstop, a close friend who was Longoria's roommate and teammate at Long Beach State, and also a Cohen client, was at a similar stage of his career when he agreed in November 2010 to a big-bucks long-term extension, getting $157 million over 10 years. (Tulowitzki, for what it's worth, missed most of this season with injury.)

    "They talked," Cohen said. "I don't know if it was one percent, 10, 20, but it did have an impact."

    So, too, it seemed, was Carl Crawford.

    Though Longoria didn't mention his former teammate by name, he made several references to the cautionary tale of players leaving the Rays in search of better elsewhere and ending up unhappy.

    "I've seen a lot of guys come in and out of here, and a lot of guys are disappointed when they leave and a lot of guys that have been here a long time express their interest in staying here and not wanting to be anywhere else," Longoria said.

    And even Derek Jeter.

    In stating his desire to stay with the Rays his entire career and become a "benchmark" player and a face of the franchise, Longoria was clearly referencing the Yankees captain.

    "Guys now are few and far between playing their whole careers in places," Longoria said. "It has been important to me to kind of put roots down in one place and be in one place for a long time."

    Cohen and Longoria discussed numerous scenarios from when the Rays first expressed their interest in an extension in February until it was consummated and announced Monday. The fact that Longoria was injured and sidelined for more than three of those months factored into his thinking as well.

    Cohen said one of the concepts is based on how much of potential lifetime profit/earnings can be captured quickly. And this deal allowed Longoria, in addition to the $11 million he has already received and another $36.6 million already committed, to reap a large share.

    "You've just turned 27 and you have a deal on the table that guarantees your earnings at that point to basically $150 million," Cohen said. "How many players get to that point?"

    Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com.


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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Tuesday, November 27, 2012

    TAMPA — Many factors have contributed to the continuing downward spiral of USF football. Friday's loss at Cincinnati showed how much the Bulls are missing the offensive playmakers lost to injuries in the past two months.

    Two games into this season, USF had two wins, along with six touchdowns of 35 yards or longer. Since then, the Bulls have gone 1-8, with one touchdown of 35 yards or longer.

    "The thing that's coming to light is we're not explosive right now," offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said after Friday's 27-10 loss, in which USF's longest offensive play was just 21 yards. "The ability to make a chunk of yards … is what I think was lacking. We've got to get a little more playmaking ability, a little more explosiveness out of our skill guys."

    USF's longest offensive play in November? That was a 32-yard catch by 266-pound FB/TE Jeff Hawkins. In losing QB B.J. Daniels, RB Lindsey Lamar and WRs Sterling Griffin and Derrick Hopkins, the Bulls have also lost sight of the end zone.

    The Bulls have gone from scoring mostly in sevens to settling for field goals. In the first seven games, USF's offense had 23 touchdowns and six field goals; in the past four, the Bulls have five touchdowns and 11 field goals.

    "That's what it comes down to, the kind of season we've had," said senior RB Demetris Murray, the team's leading rusher on Friday and for the season. "When our number is called, we haven't been able to make plays when we had to."

    LOCAL SUPPORT: The city of Temple Terrace on Tuesday honored Skip Holtz, with Mayor Frank Chillura proclaiming the day as "Louis 'Skip' Holtz Day'' in thanks for the Bulls coach having his weekly radio show at the Beef 'O' Brady's in Temple Terrace.

    MOVING ON: The fundraising efforts of USF's athletic department will have a new leader in January, as Vicki Mitchell, the Bulls' associate athletic director for development, is leaving for a job with the USF Foundation, which coordinates philanthropy for the university. Mitchell has worked in USF's athletic department since 2002.

    THIS AND THAT: USF football ranks third in the Big East in announced attendance entering Saturday's final home game, behind Rutgers and Louisville. There has been a large disparity between the announced and actual attendance because of FSU fans who bought season tickets as their only option to get seats for the Sept. 29 game in Tampa. … ESPN.com rated Stan Heath's six-player basketball recruiting class as the fifth-best in the Big East for 2013 and 26th nationally. … FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, soon to be the head coach at Kentucky, got his coaching start as defensive backs coach on Jim Leavitt's original USF staff in 1996, leaving before the Bulls' first game in 1997.

    Greg Auman can be reached at auman@tampabay.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.


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    Times staff
    Tuesday, November 27, 2012

    Grand Prix three-day ticket packages go on sale

    Three-day ticket packages for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg went on sale to the public on Tuesday. Prices range from $30 general admission for 12 and under to $125 for adult packages in upper rows. Those buying three-day reserved packages before Dec. 31 will also get a free weekend paddock pass. Next year's race weekend is March 22-24. See gpstpete.com or call 1-877-283-5385 for details.


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    By Doug Hemmer, Times Correspondent
    Tuesday, November 27, 2012

    What's hot: Stone crab season is open and gulf shorelines are full of stone crab traps. The floats at the end of the traps are great for tripletail to hang on. They look like a large leaf or clump of sea grass next to the float. Tripletails are hard fighters and great to eat. Run on a plane about 30 feet off the floats and locate a dark patch floating next to a float. Slow the boat and circle around with the wind at your back. Move in slowly and look to see if it's a fish or grass. If it's a fish, cast a free-lined tail-hooked shrimp over the float and reel it back until the shrimp is next to the tripletail. When the fish moves toward the shrimp, open the bail and let the shrimp swim naturally. When the fish moves back to the float, close the bail and set the hook.

    Tackle: A 7-foot rod with 10- to 20-pound test and a 1/0 hook will land most of the fish. Hook the shrimp through the bottom of the tail and bring it out the top. This aids casting accuracy.

    Pro tip: When the water cools, large numbers of flounder move to the artificial reefs. Target reefs in the 30-foot zone. White bait on a jig head has been the most productive.

    Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 347-1389.


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    By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
    Tuesday, November 27, 2012

    Offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood has spent each of his seven pro seasons with the Bucs, but he probably has played his last game for Tampa Bay.

    Trueblood, 29, was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, two days after he suffered a shoulder injury against the Falcons. So ends a forgettable season in which Trueblood was benched for the first time.

    It also likely marked the end of his run with the Bucs.

    Trueblood is in the final year of a two-year, $10 million contract and will be an unrestricted free agent in the spring. Given his benching and $1 million salary reduction before the season, he is unlikely to return.

    Trueblood started 84 of his 101 games and had missed four games in his career entering this season. Trueblood once started 68 straight games at right tackle.

    That roster move was one of several on Tuesday. Safety Cody Grimm (hamstring) also went on injured reserve after missing Sunday's game. The 2010 seventh-round pick was relegated mostly to special teams this season after making 12 starts in 2010-11.

    The Bucs claimed receiver/returner David Gilreath off waivers from the Steelers. Undrafted out of Wisconsin in 2011, Gilreath played three games for the Steelers this season.

    Finally, guard Chris Scott was released from the practice squad, opening a spot for preseason standout Sean Baker, a safety from Ball State.

    Coupled with the injury news, the move of cornerback Eric Wright to the suspended list means the Bucs have two open roster spots.

    The team is not exploring adding defensive end Jason Babin, who was waived by the Eagles on Tuesday.


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Tuesday, November 27, 2012

    . TONIGHT

    USF women at UNC-Asheville

    When/where: 7; Kimmel Arena, Asheville, N.C.

    Radio: 1010-AM

    Records: USF 4-0, UNC-Asheville 1-4

    Notable: USF, seeking its first 5-0 start in four years, goes to Asheville without two key players in G Kaneisha Saunders (ankle) and F Tahira Johnson (knee). … USF's top scorers are senior twin Gs Andrea and Andrell Smith, averaging 19 and 14.5 points, respectively. … Asheville first-year coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick spent five years as a Gators assistant under Amanda Butler.

    Greg Auman, Times staff writer


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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Tuesday, November 27, 2012

    TAMPA — With each new subtraction and addition in the Big East's ongoing makeover, USF's future looks a little more like its past.

    With Rutgers announcing last week it's leaving for the Big Ten and the ACC expected to raid another school shortly, the Big East did its own survival-mode expanding Monday, announcing that Tulane will join the league as an all-sports member in 2014, with East Carolina joining for football only the same year.

    It's a move that insulates the league against the next round of realignment, but it gives the new Big East a deja vu feel for USF, as one of seven members from the 11-team 2004 Conference USA lineup that will be part of the Big East a decade later.

    "I'm sure they are doing what they feel they need to do to create the strongest Big East conference they can build," said Bulls coach Skip Holtz, who coached in C-USA for five seasons at ECU before coming to USF in 2010.

    Tulane brings the nation's No. 53 TV market, New Orleans — three spots lower than Louisville — but very little in recent football success. The Green Wave went 2-11 this year, 2-10 last year, and to find their last winning season, you have to go back to 2002, when they went 8-5. The school plays its home games in the Superdome but should have a 30,000-seat stadium completed in time for its Big East arrival.

    "The Big East is a distinguished collection of institutions that will be a wonderful home for Tulane," school president Scott Cowen said Tuesday in a statement. "We look forward to our mutual association and we are delighted to welcome the Big East to the Big Easy!"

    East Carolina has had much more success, winning C-USA titles under Holtz in 2008 and 2009; this year's team went 8-4 and 7-1, just missing the league's championship game on a tiebreaker. ECU has unabashedly lobbied to join the league, especially during last year's expansion, and Holtz said he's happy to see the Pirates join the conference.

    "I'm excited for them," he said. "It's a good program. They have a great fan base, a great following. There's a lot of good people there. (Athletic director) Terry Holland, I think, is a great leader, like a father figure to me. For the people I know at East Carolina for that program, I'm happy for them. That's been a goal of theirs, something they've worked at extremely hard."

    Rutgers is likely to negotiate an exit to join the ACC in 2014, when the latest replacements arrive; the ACC is expected to take another Big East team, most likely Louisville or Connecticut, to replace Maryland, which is leaving for the Big Ten.

    To recap your future Big East lineup: USF, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville and Temple are (for now) remaining in the league, with UCF, Houston, SMU and Memphis joining from C-USA next season, as well as Boise State and San Diego State as football-only additions. Navy is on board to join for football in 2015, and the league is expected to add what would likely be a 14th team to come in with Navy.

    New commissioner Mike Aresco has moved quickly to keep the Big East with a full lineup of future programming as he works to negotiate a TV deal, one that could provide the financial security and long-term stability it has lacked in recent years. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are off to the ACC after this school year, and West Virginia and TCU joined the Big 12 this past summer.


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    Times wires
    Tuesday, November 27, 2012

    NEW YORK — Of all the kind words expressed Tuesday on Marvin Miller's death at the age of 95, two stood out.

    Thank you.

    The debt of gratitude owed to Mr. Miller, whose game-changing tenure as executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association forever altered the business of professional sports, is impossible to calculate.

    But in fighting — and winning — the battle for free agency in baseball, Mr. Miller helped grant players the right to eventually choose their workplace and earn as much as a competitive market would bear. That, in turn, transformed athletes into multimillionaires, a process Mr. Miller began when he helped to form the players union in 1966.

    Mr. Miller died of liver cancer early Tuesday morning in his Manhattan home.

    "I think he's the most important baseball figure of the last 50 years," former commissioner Fay Vincent said. "He changed not just the sport but the business of the sport permanently, and he truly emancipated the baseball player — and in the process all professional athletes. Prior to his time, they had few rights. At the moment, they control the games."

    "Sad to hear about the passing of Mr. Miller," Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey said Tuesday on his Twitter account. "He will be missed. A true pioneer. Thank you, Marvin."

    Players attending the union's annual executive board meeting in New York said their professional lives are Mr. Miller's legacy.

    "Anyone who's ever played modern professional sports owes a debt of gratitude to Mr. Miller," Dodgers pitcher Chris Capuano said. "He empowered us as players. He gave us ownership of the game we play. Anyone who steps on a field in any sport, they have a voice because of him."

    If not for Mr. Miller's revolutionary efforts, players such as Dickey would be in much different situations, not to mention radically different tax brackets. When Mr. Miller was hired, and MLB teams still employed the reserve clause to control their players, the minimum salary was $6,000, with an average of $19,000.

    "Nobody realized how gargantuan the task was," Mr. Miller said years later. "Major-league players were, at the time, truly brainwashed."

    When Mr. Miller left in 1982, the average salary was $241,000, and it has skyrocketed since, with a present-day average of more than $3 million and $480,000 minimum.

    It didn't come without a price.

    Mr. Miller's hard-nosed tactics resulted in three work stoppages for baseball, including the first strike in professional sports history in 1972. The endgame, of course, was an unqualified victory that the players enjoy now more than ever.

    "His influence transcends baseball," current MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner said. "Marvin, without question, is largely responsible for ushering in the modern era of sports, which has resulted in tremendous benefits to players, owners and fans of all sports.

    "It was an honor and a privilege to have known Marvin. The industry has never witnessed a more honorable man, and his passion for helping others and his principled resolve serve as the foundation for the MLBPA to this day. Marvin was a champion among champions, and his legacy will live on forever."

    That legacy had relatively humble beginnings. Initially, there was opposition to Mr. Miller — a labor economist for the United Steelworkers of America — as players and owners shared concern about bringing in someone with a strong union background. Mostly, it came from the owners, who had obvious reasons to fear Mr. Miller. He seemed to revel in the confrontation between the two sides, just as his successors in that role have done.

    "Marvin possessed a combination of integrity, intelligence, eloquence, courage and grace that is simply unmatched in my experience," said former MLBPA executive director Don Fehr, who worked under Mr. Miller as general counsel from 1977-82.

    "Without question, Marvin had more positive influence on Major League Baseball than any other person in the last half of the 20th century. It was a rare privilege for me to be able to work for him and with him. All of us who knew him will miss him enormously."

    Mr. Miller's part in two landmark cases against MLB ultimately paved the way for free agency. First was Cardinals outfielder Curt Flood, who refused to report after he was traded to the Phillies in 1969. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the reserve clause in that case, but the foundation had been shaken, and Mr. Miller's later backing of two pitchers who didn't sign their contract renewals — Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally — finally broke it in 1975.

    The sporting world has never been the same.

    "Mr. Miller forged wings for modern-day baseball, the 'Wright' of baseball's soaring flight," agent Scott Boras said on Twitter. "Thank you."

    Despite his tremendous influence on the game, Mr. Miller has been kept out of Cooperstown (he received 43 percent of the required 75 percent of votes in 2003, and 63 percent in 2007), showing that his reign generated plenty of animosity among baseball's power brokers, many of whom were angered by his goals and the methods he used to get there.

    With baseball's extended period of labor peace, maybe time will heal those wounds and the Hall of Fame will open its doors to Mr. Miller.

    "Mr. Miller was a highly accomplished executive and a very influential figure in baseball history," commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "He made a distinct impact on this sport, which is reflected in the state of the game today, and surely the major-league players of the last half-century have greatly benefited from his contributions."


    Associated Press (1972)Associated Press (1972)

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    Times wires
    Tuesday, November 27, 2012

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops is leaving to become the head coach at Kentucky.

    FSU and Kentucky officials confirmed the news Tuesday afternoon.

    "I'm very proud of him and very happy for him," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "He got an opportunity to go on and further his career, and it's something he wants to do. I'm elated for him."

    Fisher said Stoops will stay through the ACC Championship Game, but he was unsure about his status for a potential Orange Bowl appearance a month later.

    "I am thrilled to be named the head football coach at the University of Kentucky," Stoops, 45, said in a Kentucky news release. "I am grateful for the support of all Seminole fans as we focus on the ACC championship."

    Kentucky scheduled a news conference for Sunday.

    Stoops is the third brother in his family to lead a program. Bob Stoops is head coach at Oklahoma, and Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops was coach at Arizona.

    "Everybody's happy for him," FSU defensive end Bjoern Werner said.

    USF: Playing spoilers

    TAMPA — After losing their shot at the postseason in a rout at Miami, the Bulls are hoping to finish a disappointing year by doing the same to Pittsburgh.

    "We talk about, 'If we can't go to a bowl, they can't go' — that's our mind-set right now," defensive tackle Cory Grissom said. "It's the last one. … I'm just going to give it my all. They handled us (last year), so it's our job to repay them the favor."

    Last season's 44-17 loss at Pittsburgh might be motivating the players, but coach Skip Holtz said this isn't a "revenge game."

    "I think more than anything else it's an opportunity to redeem ourselves, more than it is revenge … to prove what type of football team we really have here," he said.

    more usf: Speedy receiver Derrick Hopkins returned to practice recovering from a knee injury sustained against Syracuse on Oct. 27. Holtz said Hopkins is questionable. … Grissom, who has started every game this season, accepted an invitation to play in the 2013 Senior Bowl. "When I first found out, I didn't know whether to jump up and down, just laugh out loud or cry; I did all three, actually," he said.

    UF: Coach extended

    GAINESVILLE — Florida gave coach Will Muschamp a contract extension before the season.

    School president Bernie Machen and athletic director Jeremy Foley met in August and agreed to extend Muschamp's contract for a year, through 2017. Financial terms remain the same, giving Muschamp another year at $2.7 million annually.

    Around the nation

    ONE AND DONE: Southern Mississippi fired coach Ellis Johnson after an 0-12 season. Johnson, 60, is due a $2.1 million buyout over the next three seasons.

    ACC SUES TERPS: The Atlantic Coast Conference filed a lawsuit against Maryland seeking full payment of the approximately $53 million exit fee for the school's move to the Big Ten.

    ACC AWARDS: Miami running back Duke Johnson was named conference rookie of the year and top offensive rookie in a vote of 46 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association. FSU cornerback Ronald Darby won defensive rookie of the year.

    OLE MISS: The SEC fined the school $5,000 after fans rushed the field following Saturday's 41-24 win over Mississippi State.

    Times correspondent Joe Polito contributed to this report, which used information from the Associated Press.


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    Times wires
    Tuesday, November 27, 2012

    BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Cody Zeller showed everyone Tuesday night why he's the best big man in America.

    The 7-foot sophomore had 20 points and eight rebounds, was 8-of-13 from the field and dominated the middle, leading No. 1 Indiana to its most impressive victory this season, a stunning 83-59 rout of No. 14 North Carolina in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

    In a game that pitted two of the nation's most storied college programs — they have combined for 10 national titles and 3,767 all-time wins — Zeller made sure it was no contest.

    When he wasn't taking advantage of opportunities in the middle, he played the decoy for teammates who were cutting and slashing to the basket.

    The combination was just too much for North Carolina (5-2), playing for the first time since returning from Hawaii last week.

    Zeller just missed getting his second double double of the season and might have done it, had he not come out of the game early. He had plenty of help, too. Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey added 19 points each and Jordan Hulls had 13.

    Indiana (7-0) has won 34 consecutive home games in November, dating to a 2005 loss to Duke in the same event.

    The Tar Heels have lost twice in week to teams from the Hoosier State, last Tuesday to two-time national runnerup Butler and now to Indiana in much the same manner. They trailed by 29 points in the second half of both games and by more than 30 in Bloomington.

    North Carolina certainly missed sophomore guard P.J. Hairston, who stayed in Chapel Hill, N.C., this week because of a sprained left knee. Without him, Dexter Strickland had 14 points, Marcus Paige 11 and James Michael McAdoo 10.

    NO. 3 MICHIGAN 79, NO. 18 N.C. STATE 72: Trey Burke finished with 18 points, all in the second half, and a career-high 11 assists without a turnover, and the host Wolverines (6-0) held off a late rally by the Wolfpack (4-2) in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

    NO. 19 COLORADO 85, TEXAS SO. 80, 2OT: Spencer Dinwiddie had 23 points and Josh Scott 19 points and 12 rebounds for the host Buffaloes (6-0), who rallied after trailing by as many as 14 points in the first half.

    N. FLORIDA 71, B-CU 65: Parker Smith tied his season high with 22 points as the Ospreys held off Bethune-Cookman (2-5) to snap a four-game losing streak.

    Women

    NO. 3 BAYLOR 89, RICE 49: Brittney Griner scored a season-high 35 while playing in her hometown of Houston for the first time, and the Bears (6-1) took a 46-17 halftime lead and won easily.

    NO. 24 IOWA ST. 87, DRAKE 45: Hallie Christofferson had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Nicole Blaskowsky and Anna Prins added 17 points each for the host Cyclones (5-0).

    NCAA HIRING: Val Ackerman was hired as a consultant and adviser for the NCAA. Ackerman served as president of the WNBA for eight years after helping get the league started. She also was the first female president of USA Basketball.


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

    GAINESVILLE — Through the first five games this season, the Florida Gators have faced opponents that have offered varying styles and challenges and have had the added burden of dealing with injuries and suspensions.

    So far, they've come out unscathed with a 5-0 record and a No. 7 ranking in both national polls.

    But when the Gators host Marquette at 9 tonight in a nationally televised game as part of the SEC-Big East Challenge, it will be the start of a three-game stretch that includes games at Florida State (Dec. 5) and at No. 9 Arizona (Dec. 15), which the Gators expect will reveal a lot about just how good they are right now.

    "It's time for us to find out what we're really made out of going against some really talented teams, tough competition," junior center Patric Young said. "It gives us an opportunity to see how we're really doing this season."

    The game is a rematch of last season's NCAA West Region semifinal, which Florida won 68-58. But there will be significant changes from that game because both are without key players from last season, and both are tinkering with lineups to find what works best.

    "Two totally different teams," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "I think their team right now, losing (Jae) Crowder and (Darius) Odom, those guys were really good players, but I actually think they have the ability to be better than they were a year ago, and obviously they had an outstanding year and they had a great year in the Big East. But I think when you look at their team, they are incredibly balanced right now."

    Marquette coach Buzz Williams has a similar feeling about the Gators.

    "Erving Walker was a talented player, but I think they are a better team with (Scottie) Wilbekin," Williams said. "Kenny Boynton is extremely talented, (Erik) Murphy's back, Young is back. They are really, really good. Really good. … I just think their personnel is outstanding."

    During Wilbekin's three-game suspension at the start of the season, Donovan was forced to go big, moving 6-foot-7 Will Yeguete to the starting lineup at small forward, where he has excelled.

    Williams said from what he has seen on film of the Gators, "Yeguete, this year, has changed the complexion of their team."

    Which is why, for now, Donovan isn't planning any wholesale changes. Yeguete, he said, will continue starting, out of loyalty for his unselfishness and because it has worked out so well.

    "He had to learn an entirely different position, and he goes out there and having to play two different positions, and he's worked hard," Donovan said. "… Will's performed and played well."

    Regardless of who starts, the Gators expect a highly competitive game.

    "We played them in the NCAA Tournament last year, so it's like we're playing an NCAA Tournament team," Boynton said. "Both of us have got new faces on our team. They lost two primary scorers and now they are more of a balanced team. We lost Brad (Beal) and Erv.

    "It's two different teams, but it should be a good game."

    Antonya English can be reached at english@tampabay.com.


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    By Robbyn Mitchell, Times Staff Writer
    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

    TAMPA — Former Bucs tight end Jerramy Stevens landed in Hillsborough County Jail on Wednesday morning in connection with a domestic incident with his new wife, U.S. national soccer team goalie Hope Solo.

    The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said Stevens' Nov. 12 arrest in Kirkland, Wash., violated his probation for possession of marijuana charges in Tampa. Solo and Stevens were married Nov. 12, the same night Kirkland police responded to an early morning disturbance at a home in the Seattle suburb, according to the Associated Press. Police arrested Stevens, but the charges were dropped due to a lack of evidence.

    Stevens played for the Bucs from 2007 to 2010. He was released by the team in October 2010 after a traffic stop resulted in charges of felony possession of cannabis with intent to sell, felony possession of cannabis and a misdemeanor of possession of drug paraphernalia.

    The 33-year-old Boise, Idaho, native played for the Seahawks from 2002 to 2006. He played college football at the University of Washington.


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    By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

    The tears in B.J. Upton's eyes during his last game with the Rays showed how tough it was on him to leave the only team he had known. But the Atlanta Braves gave Upton plenty of reason to smile again as the sides agreed to a five-year, $75.25 million contract.

    Official announcement and statements will come this afternoon once Upton passes a physical, but it was clear Wednesday night to people who spoke with him how pleased he was with the deal — relieved, excited, even "ecstatic."

    Within minutes of the deal getting out, Upton changed the avatar on his @BJUPTON2 Twitter account to the Braves logo.

    Upton, 28, possesses a rare combination of power and speed and solid centerfield defense, and the Braves made it obvious how badly they wanted him.

    They brought Upton up for a Nov. 15 visit, pitched not only by general manager Frank Wren, manager Fredi Gonzalez and hitting coach Greg Walker but also by legendary former manager Bobby Cox. They also had Hall of Famer Hank Aaron call Upton, though they didn't hook up. Then they showed they meant it with the offer, the largest free-agent contract in their history, to outbid the Phillies.

    Upton takes the place of Michael Bourn, also a free agent, adding right-handed power to a lineup losing Chipper Jones to retirement. The Braves, who lost the NL wild-card game, are still looking for another outfielder, which could make for an interesting scene today as Upton's brother, Justin, the said-to-be available Arizona outfielder, will attend the 2 p.m. news conference.

    As with Carl Crawford two years earlier, the Rays were resigned to Upton leaving as a free agent. They made him a one-year $13.3 million qualifying offer because, under a change in MLB rules, they had to in order to get draft pick compensation, but they had no further talks.

    The Rays will get a pick added at the end of the first round, likely the second of the compensation picks behind the Cardinals, assuming Kyle Lohse signs elsewhere. The Braves' pick is eliminated, so the Rays technically move up a slot.

    Several Rays took to Twitter to congratulate Upton:

    David Price: "Atlanta you will enjoy watching this guy!! Very happy for you"

    Sean Rodriguez: "The braves r lucky to have him. Gonna miss u bro."

    As did one of the Braves current stars, Jason Heyward: "Looks like the profile pic says it all… Welcome to Atlanta!"

    Upton had been a Ray his entire baseball life, drafted second overall in 2002, promoted to the majors in 2004 before he was ready at 19, bounced around before getting back to the big leagues for good in 2006 and settling into centerfield midway through the 2007 season, then playing a starring role in the 2008 run to the World Series.

    The 966 games he played for the Rays are second in franchise history (behind Crawford's 1,235), and he is also second in hits (910), runs (539), doubles (202) and steals (232). He is the franchise leader in strikeouts with 1,020.

    Today, for the first time, he will be something else.

    Longo deal's deferrals

    Evan Longoria agreed to defer $11 million of salary without interest as part of the six-year, $100 million extension he signed. With the existing four years on his deal guaranteed, Longoria is due $136.6 million, though because of the deferrals the players union gives the contract a present-day value of $131 million.

    Also, Longoria's 2013 salary was technically decreased from $6 million to $2 million, with the $4 million added to the $1 million signing bonus he got. The change had benefit for the Rays under MLB accounting rules and some tax relief for Longoria.

    Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com


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    By Dave Zalewski, Times Correspondent
    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

    What's hot: Strong winds and high seas have kept us in port. Even though surface water temperatures have dropped enough to put away the Spanish mackerel, kingfish and barracuda tackle, we will troll in hopes they have not dropped through the entire water column to drive them south. Pelagic fish concentrate around artificial reefs, wrecks, channel markers and mitigation piles on the pipeline after a storm. While most baitfish have left for warmer climates, those that remain also seek those structures.

    Tackle: Trolling spoons and plugs behind No. 2 and No. 3 planers lets us cover more area and target the comfort depths fish now seek. Live baits such as blue runners, Spanish sardines and hardtails can be slow-trolled deep with a downrigger or leads of 4-6 ounces. Bottom fishing for white grunts, red and gag grouper and mangrove snapper will provide action in 40-60 feet when the water clears. Gag grouper season is closed, so it's catch, photo and release.

    Tip: Cold water slows the metabolism of fish, so they are not eager to chase baits. Start each stop with cut frozen sardines and squid until the feeding frenzy begins before switching to live bait.

    Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.


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    By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

    TAMPA — The Broncos offense, led by QB Peyton Manning, is getting attention from the Bucs this week, deservedly so.

    But the Bucs aren't forgetting about Denver's defense, which ranks in the top 10 in most categories.

    "They're an excellent, excellent defensive football team; that's not an exaggeration," Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. "It's the best defense we've played all year."

    A big reason why is the Broncos' man in the middle, LB Von Miller, who is tied for the league lead in tackles for loss (24) and third in sacks (14). Combined with elite pass rushing DE Elvis Dumervil (six forced fumbles), Miller wreaks havoc.

    "He can do everything," Bucs T Donald Penn said. "He can play linebacker, play (defensive) end, he could probably play safety. He could probably score a touchdown at running back if he wanted to. He's a specimen out there."

    Miller, a 6-foot-3, 237-pound second-year pro, is versatile with his pass-rushing moves and, like Dumervil, is adept at forcing fumbles, Bucs coach Greg Schiano said.

    "Got to see him the first time this summer studying, I'm like, 'Oh, that guy is good,' " Schiano said. "When I watch him game after game in preparation for this thing, change that, 'This guy is great.' He's an elite player in this league for sure."

    STAYING PUT: With CB Eric Wright's four-game suspension for using Adderall further depleting a struggling young secondary, Schiano was asked Wednesday if he'd consider using S Ronde Barber as a slot corner in nickel situations.

    But Schiano seems more inclined to keep Barber in his spot at free safety, where he leads the NFC in Pro Bowl voting in his first year at the position. Barber, a mainstay at corner for 15 seasons, plays in the slot in some dime packages. But Schiano said that's more of a hybrid position and he likes the veteran's "command" at safety and how he works with rookie S Mark Barron.

    "There's no doubt he can go out and play right corner or left corner, I don't think that's an issue," Schiano said of Barber. "We're stretched a little back there, we're young back there, but they're working their tails off."

    PAYING UP: Though C Ted Larsen received an automatic $7,875 fine from the league for a personal foul penalty against the Panthers, he may not have to pay it all himself.

    "(QB Josh Freeman) said he'd help out with that," Larsen said, smiling. "Got to thank him for that."

    As Panthers DT Dwan Edwards was lying on top of Freeman after an interception, Larsen rushed over and delivered a bulldozerlike hit that knocked Edwards over, drawing the penalty. Larsen said he'd do it again.

    "You don't know if (Freeman) is hurt or going to get hurt," Larsen said. "That's more of a safety thing."

    BACKING UP: The Bucs re-signed G/T Derek Hardman, adding depth to compensate for the loss of another offensive lineman.

    Backup T Jeremy Trueblood (shoulder) was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. Hardman is more or less a guard but said he has practiced at tackle in the past and played the position in college.

    Since moving Jamon Meredith to right guard, the Bucs' only true backup tackle was Trueblood.

    MISCELLANY: DT Roy Miller missed practice due to illness, Schiano said. Larsen was also limited due to illness.

    Times staff writer Stephen Holder contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com.


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    By Tom Jones, Times Staff Writer
    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

    Let's go back to last Sunday.

    The Bucs went into their game having won four in a row, their longest win streak in four years.

    They were 6-4, good enough to be in the postseason discussion and good enough that Sports Illustrated's power rankings had them at No. 10.

    They were playing an attractive opponent, the 9-1 Falcons, who happen to be one of the Bucs' biggest rivals. The weather was perfect: sunny and a comfortable 70 degrees with zero chance of rain.

    And the Bucs still didn't come close to selling out Raymond James Stadium.

    The game was blacked out locally, meaning 85 percent of the nonpremium seats (or about 44,000 of those tickets) were not sold 72 hours before the game. It was the 19th blackout in the past 22 home games.

    Considering the win streak, the opponent and the weather, you can't help but wonder: If fans in Tampa Bay aren't going to go to that game, which games will they go to?

    As I noticed all the empty seats at Raymond James Stadium last Sunday, here are three thoughts that popped into my head.

    1. This problem might not have a solution.

    In six home games, the Bucs are averaging 54,057 fans, the fewest in the NFL. They are playing to 82.3 percent capacity, second worst in the league, ahead of only Miami.

    The Bucs, before the season, reduced prices on 80 percent of their general admission tickets. They introduced 12-month payment plans and half-season passes. They offered fan-friendly wrinkles such as free Wi-Fi and enhanced instant replays.

    They are winning games. They have affordable (by NFL standards) ticket prices, and they play an exciting brand of football.

    So what gives?

    The excuses are plenty. The economy is bad. No one is from here. It's better to stay home and watch the games on big-screen HD televisions.

    Well, the economy hit Detroit hard, too, and the Lions are playing to 99 capacity. Arizona is a transient place, too, and the Cardinals are playing to 96 percent capacity. Most people have nice TVs, but 27 of the NFL's 32 teams are playing to more than 90 percent capacity.

    Even in a bad economy, this area should be big enough that 60,000 people go to games. Seems to me that short of giving tickets away, there's nothing else the Bucs can do to bring in more fans.

    2. The blackouts are deserved.

    I don't want to hear that the Glazers should bail out the area by buying up tickets to avoid the blackouts. It's their job to sell tickets, not buy them. The Glazers are just like any other business owner. They have the right to sell their product for a profit.

    Honestly, think about what you're asking. You want the Glazers to buy up tickets so that a bunch of other people can watch the game for free. In fact, when you think about it, fans are fortunate that sold out games are televised for free. You don't see the latest James Bond movie on your television for nothing if the movie theater is sold out.

    Besides, the Glazers have stepped up in the past, eating tickets to avoid blackouts.

    And let's not forget that the Bucs were the first team to accept the NFL's offer of eliminating blackouts if only 85 instead of 100 percent of the tickets were sold 72 hours prior to kickoff even though that switch costs the Glazers money.

    None of this has worked. The team still can't avoid blackouts. Do you expect the Glazers to keep swallowing tickets and making concessions, especially when it has no effect on tickets sales?

    3. The Rays are watching.

    If I'm Rays owner Stuart Sternberg, I'm looking at Sunday's Bucs game and here's what I'm thinking:

    The Bucs poured gobs of money into free agency, spending more than $140 million in the offseason to bring in Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and Eric Wright. They have a new coach, a new attitude and have put together a winning product. Their tickets prices remain among the most affordable in the NFL. They play in a stadium that is centrally located in the area and is considered among the best in the NFL.

    And they still can't draw fans.

    If I'm Sternberg, I'm wondering if this area can support my team no matter how good it is and where the stadium is located.

    Oh, I did have one more thought.

    Some people can't afford to go to games. I understand that. Some choose not to go. That's their right. I would never tell someone how to spend their money. And I'm not suggesting that fans don't care.

    But this is not a good sports market. Not at the moment, anyway.

    Television ratings are nice. So is buying jerseys and hats. But ultimately, a market is judged by how it supports its teams in person. Right now, the Bucs do not have Tampa Bay's support.

    You can try to argue that point, but the empty seats at Raymond James Stadium say otherwise.


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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

    . TONIGHT

    No. 7 Florida vs. Marquette

    When/where: 9; O'Connell Center, Gainesville

    TV/radio: ESPN2; 620-AM

    Records: Marquette 5-1, Florida 5-0

    Notable: Although coach Billy Donovan believes the Gators can play better defense, particularly in defending the 3-pointer, Florida is allowing 48.4 points per game, second in the nation and one of five teams allowing fewer than 50. … Marquette is led by juniors Devante Gardner (14 ppg), Vander Blue (11.4) and Jamil Wilson (11). … Florida senior G Kenny Boynton is eight points shy of tying Stacey Poole at No. 5 on UF's all-time scoring list at 1,678.

    Antonya English, Times staff writer


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  • 11/28/12--16:02: Times wires

  • Wednesday, November 28, 2012

    THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Golf's governing bodies, worried that players will turn to long putters as an advantage instead of a last resort, proposed a new rule Wednesday that would ban the putting stroke used by three of the last five major champions.

    The Royal & Ancient Golf Club and the U.S. Golf Association said the rule would not outlaw belly or broom-handle putters, only the way they are currently used. The proposed rule would make it illegal for golfers to anchor the club while making a stroke. It would not take effect until 2016.

    "More players are using it, and instructors are saying this is a more efficient way to putt because you don't have to control the whole stroke," USGA executive director Mike Davis said. "The game has been around for 600 years. Fundamentally, we don't think this is the right way to go."

    Long putters began getting serious attention last year when Keegan Bradley became the first player to win a major with a belly putter at the PGA Championship. This year, Webb Simpson won the U.S. Open and Ernie Els won the British using belly putters. Carl Pettersson (No. 21) and Bradley (No. 27) were the only players among the top 30 in putting this year on the PGA Tour who used long putters.

    Long putters are not being banned. The rule relates to the stroke, not the equipment. Players can use a long putter as long as it is not anchored to the chest.

    The R&A and USGA will take comments for three months on the proposed rule before it is approved. The PGA Tour, European Tour and LPGA Tour said it would evaluate the proposed rule with its players. The PGA of America, meanwhile, said it was concerned that such a ban would drive people from the game.

    Tim Clark of South Africa and Pettersson have used broom putters their entire careers, and they have suggested a new rule would affect their livelihoods. Els once mocked Vijay Singh for using a long putter, but then Els switched to a belly putter last year when his putting suffered. "As long as it's legal, I'll cheat like the rest of them," he said.

    Tiger Woods is among those who have been outspoken about anchored putters, saying it takes away from the nerves in the hands in trying to make putts.

    "I just believe that the art of putting is swinging the club and controlling nerves," Woods said Tuesday. "And having it as a fixed point … is something that's not in the traditions of the game. We swing all other 13 clubs. I think the putter should be the same.

    "They'll all learn to adjust," Jack Nicklaus told the Golf Channel. "Like anything else, they'll get used to it and get over it."


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    Times wires
    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

    TALLAHASSEE — One day after Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops was hired as Kentucky coach, a media report said FSU coach Jimbo Fisher is a candidate for the vacancy at Auburn.

    AL.com, the website for Alabama's three major newspapers, reported Wednesday that Fisher, former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, Louisville coach Charlie Strong and Arkansas State coach (and former Auburn offensive coordinator) Gus Malzahn are being considered to replace the fired Gene Chizik.

    AL.com also reported Fisher "would listen" if Auburn aggressively approached him. Fisher was on Terry Bowden's staff at Auburn from 1993-98. As he has since the rumors began circulating a few weeks ago, Fisher said he is comfortable at FSU and isn't shopping for a new job.

    ACC's best: Florida State DE Bjoern Werner was named the ACC defensive player of the year. The 6-foot-4, 255-pound junior, whose 13 sacks lead the league, earned 27 of 46 votes. Seminoles DE Cornellius Carradine finished second with nine. Clemson QB Tajh Boyd was named the offensive and overall player of the year. The junior, who won both awards by one vote over North Carolina RB Gio Bernard, averaged 337 total yards and threw a school-record 34 touchdowns.

    USF: Attitude pleases Holtz

    TAMPA — USF's seniors have their final practice today. Despite the frustration of eight losses over the past nine games, coach Skip Holtz said he has been impressed by their attitudes.

    "It's been neat to watch and transpire from a togetherness standpoint," he said. "There's just a lot of hope on that football team."

    Holtz said his seniors have kept the team together and positive. His only other experience with sustained adversity was going 0-11 on his father, Lou's, staff at South Carolina in 1999. The next season, the Gamecocks won eight games.

    "You never know how a team's going to react," Skip Holtz said. "Their attitude going through these hard times is what is building the future. I kind of see that type of similarity (to the '99 team) with the youth on this football team and some of the things we're growing. I'm really impressed with the way this team has handled the adversity that's been on them."

    CHANGE ALL AROUND: USF athletic director Doug Woolard has said he won't address Holtz's status until after the season. Asked about the slew of coaching firings, including some coming off winning seasons, Holtz said every situation is unique.

    "I don't know the health of the program," he said. "It's not always in wins and losses that you can see success or failure or whether the growth is positive or whether it's negative."

    OPENERS: USF reached deals to host I-AA Western Carolina for the 2014 opener and I-AA Towson for the 2016 opener.

    Greg Auman, Times staff writer


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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Wednesday, November 28, 2012


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