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    By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, December 14, 2012

    For almost nine months, former Rays minor-league pitcher Matt Bush has been in a Charlotte County jail, awaiting resolution of the DUI hit-and-run arrest that derailed his big-league dreams.

    That closure finally comes next week, when Bush, 26, will agree to a plea deal that will involve a prison sentence of at least three more years, his father, Daniel, told the Tampa Bay Times on Friday.

    Bush's attorney, Russell Kirshy, declined to offer specifics on the agreement, at least until Tuesday's scheduled court hearing in Punta Gorda. But Daniel Bush said that even with time served and good behavior, his son will spend close to the rest of his 20s in prison.

    "He's taking it pretty good," Daniel said. "He's not crying or sulking. He's preparing for it. Everybody in our family is backing him up."

    Bush, the No. 1 overall draft pick as a shortstop by the Padres in 2004, was arrested March 22 in North Port, about 10 miles northwest of Port Charlotte, the spring training home of the Rays. Police said Bush had hit the motorcycle of 72-year-old Tony Tufano and fled the scene. When a search that included deputies and a helicopter found Bush, he told police he didn't remember seeing or hitting a motorcycle.

    Police said Bush had a blood-alcohol percentage of 0.18, more than double the level at which Florida considers a driver impaired. Two days later, Bush pleaded not guilty to the seven charges, including DUI with serious injury, but was held on $440,000 bond.

    Tufano was in intensive care at a Fort Myers hospital for a few weeks with broken bones in his back, broken ribs, a collapsed lung and brain hemorrhaging. He is home now, though daughter-in-law Shannon Moore has said he's not the same, still dealing with physical issues. The Tufano family has filed a $5 million civil lawsuit against Bush and Rays minor-league outfielder Brandon Guyer, who owned the Dodge Durango that Bush was driving.

    Bush, who signed a minor-league deal with the Rays in 2010, was put on the restricted list after his arrest and released from the team in October. The State Attorney's Office offered the undisclosed plea deal a couple of months ago, with the defense waiting to receive all the evidence before deciding.

    "It's a bad situation," Daniel Bush said. "But you've got to make the best of it. Life goes on."

    RAYS TRADE: The Rays added to their position-player depth in the minors by acquiring Triple-A infielder Vince Belnome from the Padres for Double-A left-handed pitcher Chris Rearick. Belnome, 24, a left-handed hitter who has played first, second and third, is a career .300 hitter over four minor-league seasons, including .275 with five homers and 33 RBIs in 80 games for Triple-A Tucson last season. Rearick, 25, has been named the best relief pitcher in the Rays' minor-league system each of the past two seasons. He went 4-4 with 22 saves and a 2.70 ERA in 50 appearances between Class A Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery last season.


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    Times wires
    Friday, December 14, 2012

    TALLAHASSEE — FSU's board of trustees approved a measure to create, for seven months, the Florida State University Athletics Association, the Orlando Sentinel reported Friday.

    The school leaders said they created what is known as a direct-support organization to work around a new state law that limits severance pay to state employees.

    FSU did not previously operate an athletics association, which will serve as a separate financial extension. FSU's athletics association will only handle the administration of salaries and benefits for its coaches, and will likely be dissolved by July 1.

    As school officials were about to review employee contracts, they discovered that a state law designed to limit severance pay for presidents could also affect coaches. The law states employees cannot receive more than 20 weeks of severance. College coaches and many high-level assistants often have buyouts that would far exceed the state's severance pay limit, and FSU wanted to remain competitive in paying for quality coaches.

    Miami 77, Charlotte 46: The host Hurricanes (6-1) shook off nearly two weeks of game inactivity with their most lopsided win of the season and handed the 49ers (9-1) their first loss.

    Eckerd 67, Valdosta St. 62, 2 OT: The visiting Tritons (4-3) failed to hold a five-point lead in the first overtime. Eckerd freshman Annie Armstrong's two free throws with 4.7 seconds left in regulation forced the first overtime.


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  • 12/14/12--19:48: Sports in brief
  • Times wires
    Friday, December 14, 2012

    NHL

    League takes labor fight to federal court

    Anticipating a possible antitrust lawsuit, the NHL took its labor fight against its players to federal court Friday, filing a class action lawsuit seeking to establish that its lockout of the players is legal. The NHL named 36 players as defendants, including the Lightning's B.J. Crombeen, a member of the union negotiating committee.

    In a separate move, the league filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming the union has bargained in bad faith. The union's executive board is seeking authorization to give up its collective bargaining rights, a step needed before filing an antitrust suit.

    Deputy commissioner Bill Daly declined to comment on the league's actions, made after the sides held a bargaining teleconference.

    Union lawyer Steve Fehr said in a statement, "The NHL appears to be arguing that players should be stopped from even considering their right to decide whether or not to be represented by a union."

    He declined to comment on whether the union plans to pursue a disclaimer of interest, which is similar to decertification, a tactic the NFL and NBA unions used in their lockouts last year. Disclaiming interest instantly disbands a union and does not involve the Labor Relations Board.

    Baseball

    Yankees' luxury tax bill: $18.9 million

    The Yankees were hit with an $18.9 million luxury tax by Major League Baseball, the 10th straight year they will pay a penalty for their spending. They finished with a $222.5 million payroll for purposes of the tax, according to figures sent to teams Thursday and obtained by the Associated Press.

    Philadelphia's payroll was second at $169.7 million, under the $178 million tax threshold, followed by Boston ($168.6M), the Angels ($160.1M), American League champion Detroit ($140.7M) and World Series champion San Francisco ($138.1M).

    Around the league: Right-hander Anibal Sanchez agreed to an $80 million, five-year contract with the Tigers, reports said. … The Mets were close to completing a trade of National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, with the Blue Jays being the front-runner, reports said.

    Et cetera

    Swimming: Ryan Lochte broke his world record in the 200-meter individual medley at the short-course world championships in Istanbul, Turkey, wining his fourth gold of the event. The former Gator won in 1 minute, 49.63 seconds, bettering his mark of 1:50.08 set in 2010. St. Petersburg's Megan Romano was second in the 100 freestyle and was part of the bronze-winning U.S. 400 medley relay.

    tennis: The U.S. Open is moving the women's final to Sunday and men's to Monday next year, adding a day of rest ahead of each title match for the first time. A decision about 2014 and beyond probably will come after the 2013 tournament, USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said.

    Alpine skiing: Switzerland's Lara Gut won her first World Cup downhill, and four-time overall Cup champ Lindsey Vonn's bid for a fifth straight victory in speed events ended with a crash in Val d'Isere, France.

    Times wires


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  • 12/14/12--13:55: Bucs offense on record pace
  • By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, December 14, 2012

    Even if they fall short of earning a spot in the postseason, this could become a record-breaking season on offense for the Bucs.

    Doug Martin already has broken the franchise rookie rushing record with 1,234 yards, surpassing the 1,178 of Cadillac Williams in 2005.

    If Martin averages 103.7 yards over the final three games, he will run down the overall franchise record of 1,544 yards set by James Wilder in 1984.

    Vincent Jackson leads the team with 56 catches for 1,145 yards and is taking aim at the franchise yards record held by Mark Carrier, who had 1,422 in 1989. Jackson must average 92.7 yards to break it.

    Finally, the Bucs have never had a 4,000-yard passer. Josh Freeman, currently at 3,192, can do so by averaging 269.3 yards against the Saints, Rams and Falcons. He must average 206.7 to surpass Brad Johnson's franchise record of 3,811 set in 2003.

    THIRD AND MISSING: Watching the Bucs struggle during the first half against the Eagles last week, including going 1-for-8 on third down, you had to wonder if Freeman could use a more physical slot receiver than Tiquan Underwood.

    Freeman missed some receivers, and he must improve on short and intermediate throws.

    But coach Greg Schiano said the offense presents other inside options for Freeman in those situations, including Jackson and Mike Williams.

    "Tiquan lines up in there, but Vince lines up in there. Mike lines up in there and (TE Dallas Clark)," Schiano said. "So we can format it any way we want. And the things we ask Ti to do in there lend towards his skill set.

    "I don't think we're asking him to do any of the things that a traditional slot might do — muscling guys — because that isn't his game. But he is fast, and he's elusive. So we try to utilize his skills when he is in there and also when he is outside."

    RED BARRON: The team remains happy with the play of rookie S Mark Barron, the seventh overall pick in April. He has been a big reason why the defense is first in the NFL against the run.

    However, Barron has struggled, at times, in coverage. He blew an assignment against the Eagles and failed to make plays on the ball during critical situations.

    But Schiano preaches patience.

    "He's also making some plays that not many rookies make," Schiano said. "You're going to make some mistakes. There are some veteran guys that will make mistakes.

    "He's learning that this is different and the skill people you have to cover at this level, they're the elite people in the world at what they do. But overall, I think he's good. He's a level-as-you-go guy, and he'll keep getting better."

    HAWAIIAN PUNCH: DE Michael Bennett isn't bashful about letting everyone know he would like to earn a spot on the NFC Pro Bowl team. After recording his ninth sack of the season against the Eagles, Bennett did a hula dance. The Pro Bowl is played in Honolulu.

    "He's just letting everybody know what his goal is," DT Gerald McCoy said. "I think he's just having fun. He put in a lot of hard work.

    "It's not easy to get to a quarterback in this league. So when you do and you've had the success he's had this year, just have fun with it. I think it's cool."

    Rick Stroud can be reached at stroud@tampabay.com and heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-AM 620.


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    By Mike Gore, Times Correspondent
    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    What's hot: At this time of year, people have tailing redfish and big speckled trout on their minds. The shallow and negative tides do not allow for every angler to target the fish in skinny water unless you like to wade for fish. Wade fishing is not for everyone, but you're in luck. Tampa Bay and its surrounding waters are full of cold-water species such as speckled trout, silver trout and sheepshead. All of those can be targeted in deeper water. There have been good numbers of big sheepshead caught on the rock piles and artificial reefs inside Tampa Bay.

    Tactics: Live shrimp on a small hook has worked well. Just make sure to keep a tight line so you can feel the bump. Your first reaction is to yank. I suggest waiting until you see your line move off before you set the hook. Of course, bridges, docks and oyster bars are favorite hideouts as well.

    Tips: Big schools of silver trout have been in the Gandy channel and most artificial reefs in the bay. They almost look like big pods of bait on your bottom machine. A live shrimp and artificial shrimp have worked well on a jig head of one-eighth ounce.

    Mike Gore charters out of Tampa Bay. Call him at (813) 390-6600 or visit tampacharters.com.


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    By Tom Jones, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    To replace Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky turned to Bobby Petrino (left). Isn't this the guy who quit on the Atlanta Falcons? Isn't this the guy who had an affair with a former volleyball player, whom he put on the university payroll at Arkansas and then lied about all of it? I realize Western Kentucky wants to continue the momentum started by Taggart, but isn't there a bright young coach out there who deserves a shot instead of giving it to someone who has a major problem with loyalty and morality?



    tom jones' two cents

    Well, in this case, it's commissioner — singular — who is back in the headlines. Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue (above) had to step in to sort out Roger Goodell's Saints bounty mess. Somehow, Tagliabue managed to punish and exonerate the Saints at the same time, while finding the rulings made by Goodell to be both right and wrong. Brilliant.

    NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (above) was slapped down a tad by Paul Tagliabue in the former commissioner's findings on the bounty scandal. Meantime, what's left to say about NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who could find a way to goof up a bowl of cereal. During his bumbling reign, the league has already lost a full season and a half-season before. Now he's working on another. Not brilliant.

    I have no idea if Willie Taggart (left) is the right choice to replace the fired Skip Holtz as football coach. After all, he was only 16-20 at Western Kentucky. But he's a local product with lots of enthusiasm and an inside track on the local recruiting trail. I'd rather see the job go to a young candidate like this than some has-been who is just trying to hang on.

    Unless this great start is fool's gold, we might be looking at the Knicks' best team since the Patrick Ewing days of the 1990s and, maybe even an NBA championship contender.



    They already fired one coach, and I bet they're thinking about firing another. Everyone keeps talking about how much talent this team has with Kobe Bryant (left), Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and so forth, so how do you explain how bad and disinterested this team is? Maybe they aren't good. Maybe Howard is a team-killer. And, oh, doesn't it seem like Steve Nash has missed about a month longer than we expected him to?



    I love the idea that basketball schools such as Georgetown, Villanova, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's, Marquette and DePaul are jumping ship to start their own conference, maybe adding schools such as Butler, Xavier and Creighton. To me, there has been nothing more disappointing in all this conference realignment than seeing the destruction of Big East basketball.

    Not all that long ago, this was a formidable conference that had Pitt, Syracuse, Louisville and West Virginia. These days, it's neither "big" nor "east" nor "formidable."



    How cool is the Redskins rookie quarterback? I thought his leg was going to fly off his body when he was hit last week and you have to love his quote about it: "I screamed … like a man."

    I'm sick of hearing Brees (left) bellyache about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Look, Drew, your team had a bounty system. Even coaches on that Saints staff admitted that. So stop acting like you're the victim here. It's like when the Patriots whine after Spygate or listening to Steelers linebacker James Harrison boo-hoo every time he gets fined for a bad hit. You are not the victims. It's your fault you're in the mess you're in.

    It has been quite the offseason for this little team that could. They added a fine shortstop (Yunel Escobar), a future slugging star (Wil Myers, left), a first baseman (James Loney) and a couple of other pieces.

    Okay, let's make this one a thumbs "sideways." They still need to add a catcher, another outfielder, bullpen help and a DH. At least.



    How cool to see the old gang — Brooks, Lynch, Alstott, Keyshawn, Simeon, Chucky and an especially excited Sapp — at Raymond James Stadium last weekend. Quite remarkable that so many from that Super Bowl team were available to come back and did.

    A three-game skid has turned a 6-4 headed-to-the-playoffs team into a 6-7 on-the-verge-of-being-eliminated team. Starting today in New Orleans, corner Danny Gorrer and the Bucs have three games to finish on a feel-good note.

    South Carolina against Michigan. The Head Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier, against Big Blue. Outstanding.

    FSU against Northern Illinois. Northern Illinois? Really?

    Despite Saturday's upset loss to Butler, the highly ranked Hoosiers have a shot to win the Big Ten for the first time since 2002.

    The freshmen-heavy Wildcats fell out of the Top 25 after starting the season at No. 3. It ended a streak of 61 straight poll appearances.

    To think how far this man has come in 10 years. He's lucky to be alive after all of his drug issues and then, just last week, he signed a five-year, $125 million deal with the Angels.

    Josh Hamilton's former team is whining that it didn't get a chance to speak with the slugging outfielder before he signed with the Angels. You had the last year to talk contract with him. Besides, didn't Rangers president Nolan Ryan criticize Hamilton's decision to stop dipping snuff at the end of last season and wonder if the Rangers late-season collapse was due, in part, to that? Hamilton didn't owe the Rangers anything.

    To think how far this man has come in 10 years. He's lucky to be alive after all of his drug issues and then, just last week, he signed a well-earned five-year, $125-million deal with the Angles.

    It was a busy week in sports. We had more NFL bounty fallout news, the further implosion of the Big East, and the hiring of a new football coach at USF. Here's a look back at the past seven days and, with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, how it went for all of the sports newsmakers.

    Thumbs up: Former commissioners

    Well, in this case, it's commissioner (singular) who is back in the headlines. Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue had to step in to sort out his Saints bounty-gate mess. Somehow, he managed to punish and exonerate the Saints at the time, while finding the rulings made by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to be both right and wrong. Brilliant.

    Thumbs down: Current commissioners

    NFL commish Roger Goodell was slapped down a tad by Tagliabue in the former commissioner's findings on the bounty-gate scandal. Meantime, what's left to say about NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who could find a way to goof up a bowl of cereal. During his bumbling reign, the league already lost a full season and a half-season before. Now he's working on another. Not brilliant.

    Thumbs up: USF

    Thumbs down: Western Kentucky

    Thumbs down: Drew Brees

    Thumbs up: Tampa Bay Rays

    Thumbs down: Tampa Bay Rays

    Thumbs up: 2002 Bucs

    Thumbs down: 2012 Bucs

    Thumbs up: The Outback Bowl

    Thumbs down: The Orange Bowl

    Thumbs up: Indiana basketball

    Thumbs down: Kentucky basketball

    Thumbs up: Josh Hamilton

    Thumbs down: Texas Rangers

    .


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  • 12/15/12--16:50: NFL Week 15
  • By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    Lions (4-9) at Cardinals (4-9)

    4 p.m.

    Lions by 6½, 43½

    Not sure who plays quarterback for Arizona because … well … who cares? The Cardinals are what they are. The Lions are tougher to crack. Despite Matt Stafford throwing for 4,006 yards, even with a league-leading receiver in Calvin Johnson, above, and though their defense is capable, they have sputtered. Conventional wisdom says coach Jim Schwartz is safe, but falling to Arizona, a 58-0 loser last week, might change things.

    Lions 27, Cardinals 17

    Seahawks (8-5) vs. Bills (5-8)

    4 p.m., Toronto

    Seahawks by 5, 43

    Too bad the Seahawks can't roll over a few of those 58 points they scored last week, sort of like how the Bucs roll over unspent salary cap space. Alas, they might not need them. If Seattle unleashes Marshawn Lynch, above, he could have a big day against the NFL's 28th-ranked rushing defense. Keep an eye on Seattle. With the 49ers at the Patriots today and at the Seahawks next week, the outcome in the NFC West is not nearly a done deal.

    S'hawks 21, Bills 17

    Panthers (4-9) at Chargers (5-8)

    4 p.m.

    Chargers by 3, 45

    That was vintage Cam Newton in last week's upset of the Falcons. Newton became the first player to throw for 250 yards and a touchdown and run for 100 yards and a touchdown. Newton has been better of late, throwing seven touchdowns with no interceptions over his past three games. But the Chargers showed pride last week, going on the road and beating the Steelers in spite of their apparently lame duck coach and lost season.

    Chargers 26, Panthers 24

    Steelers (7-6) at Cowboys (7-6)

    4:25 p.m., Ch. 10

    Steelers by 1½, 44½

    A key will be the Steelers' ability to get after Cowboys QB Tony Romo, above, and his sometimes unreliable line. Dallas has allowed 31 sacks, but the Steelers have recorded surprisingly few with 26 — just two more than the Bucs. Still, they have the league's top defense, and their ability to disrupt the passing game will, at a minimum, make it tough on hot Cowboys WR Dez Bryant. That's if his broken finger doesn't do it first.

    Steelers 24, Cowboys 22

    Chiefs (2-11) at Raiders (3-10)

    4:25 p.m.

    Raiders by 3, 43½

    Someone out there actually wants to know more about this game (we think), so here it goes. Carson Palmer, obviously, isn't the long-term answer for the Raiders. But the quarterback is on the verge of reaching 4,000 yards for the third time in his career. And that's nothing to sneeze at. He faces an underrated defense today as well as this bit of history: The Chiefs are 8-1 over their past nine games at Oakland. For whatever that's worth.

    Raiders 29, Chiefs 21

    Jets (6-7) at Titans (4-9)

    8:30 Monday, ESPN

    Titans by 1½, 41½

    What a disappointing season for the Titans. QB Jake Locker, above, has dealt with a shoulder injury in his first full season as a starter. And there has been little progress overall for the Titans. But they can win this one. Locker is strong at home — averaging 305.5 passing yards this season — and he has playmakers, such as RB Chris Johnson and WR Kenny Britt, the Jets would love. The big question is if the Jets will be motivated to finish the season strong.

    Titans 23, Jets 21

    49ers (9-3-1) at Patriots (10-3)

    8:20 p.m., Ch. 8

    Patriots by 6½, 46½

    Not to give CB Aqib Talib, above, too much credit. But since the ex-Buc joined the Patriots, they're undefeated and playing exceptional defense. There's a relationship, to be sure. New England QB Tom Brady will have his hands full with a good defense, too, ranked No. 2 in the NFL and probably the most physical. DE Aldon Smith (191/2 sacks) will have a face-to-face with Brady at some point, but the three-time champ will outlast the Niners.

    Patriots 26, 49ers 23

    Packers (9-4) at Bears (8-5)

    1 p.m.

    Packers by 2½, 43

    As much as the Packers have experienced a few hiccups this season, they've won a staggering 11 straight NFC North games. If that doesn't clarify who top dog of the division is, nothing does. You have to appreciate the job Aaron Rodgers, above, has done so far, throwing 29 touchdowns despite a revolving door of receivers — none near 1,000 yards. And now that veteran Greg Jennings is back, Rodgers can only be better.

    Packers 24, Bears 20

    Redskins (7-6) at Browns (5-8)

    1 p.m.

    Redskins by 1, 45

    QB Robert Griffin III, above, will not start, the Redskins announced late Saturday. Fellow rookie Kirk Cousins, who led last week's comeback win, replaces him. Even if Griffin plays, he won't be his usual self due to his sprained right knee. The Browns have more going on than most realize, having won three straight. They have allowed 12.7 points per game in doing so in no small part because of linebacker and Seminole High grad D'Qwell Jackson.

    Browns 17, Redskins 14

    Vikings (7-6) at Rams (6-6-1)

    1 p.m.

    Rams by 2½, 38½

    Adrian Peterson is not only leaving the NFL in a state of amazement, he's single-handedly keeping the Vikings' faint playoff hopes alive. He has ripped off seven consecutive 100-yard rushing games. Only four others have more than five 100-yard games this season. But none are coming off surgery for a torn left ACL and MCL, and none have done it in consecutive weeks. In those seven games, Peterson has 1,101 yards (157.3 per game).

    Vikings 23, Rams 20

    Broncos (10-3) at Ravens (9-4)

    1 p.m., Ch. 10

    Broncos by 3, 48

    What a reversal of fortunes for these clubs. The Ravens started 5-1 but have sputtered to a 4-3 mark since. The Broncos opened 2-3 but have reeled off eight straight victories. There's something to be said for momentum. And in this game, it's, inarguably, on the Broncos' side. If this becomes a battle of Peyton Manning, above, against Joe Flacco, Manning wins in a landslide. He also has the superior defense, led by 16-sack LB Von Miller.

    Broncos 30, Ravens 23

    Colts (9-4) at Texans (11-2)

    1 p.m.

    Texans by 9½, 47½

    Well, that 42-14 beat-down couldn't have been good for the Texans' confidence. Houston laid an egg at New England on Monday, and it better bounce back against the surging Colts. The difference could be turnovers. The Texans (plus-14 margin) thrive on them and don't commit many. For the Colts (minus-16), it's the opposite. Andrew Luck, above, has thrown nine interceptions over his past four games. DE J.J. Watt could force a few more.

    Texans 31, Colts 24

    Jaguars (2-11) at Dolphins (5-8)

    1 p.m.

    Dolphins by 7½, 37½

    For what it's worth, QB Chad Henne returns to Miami, where he had an undistinguished run as the starter. But he can't play defense. And that's where the Jags — whose 394.5 yards per game allowed are fewer than only the Bucs — need help most. Miami's Ryan Tannehill, above, has been less consistent than the other rookie quarterbacks. But he has more talent at his disposal. WR Brian Hartline, is 75 shy of his first 1,000-yard season.

    Dolphins 23, Jaguars 21

    Giants (8-5) at Falcons (11-2)

    1 p.m.

    Falcons by 1½, 50½

    That loss last week at Carolina did little to abate the argument that the Falcons will be imminently beatable in January. As for the rest of December, Atlanta better finish strong if it intends to earn the NFC's top playoff seed. But if history repeats itself, the Giants' will to win at this time of year will be stronger. That's a bold prediction given the 32-4 home record of Atlanta QB Matt Ryan, but the Giants are in dogfight in the NFC East.

    Giants 27, Falcons 24


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  • 12/15/12--17:19: Around the NFL
  • By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    Fab five

    1. Broncos2. Patriots

    3. Texans4. Falcons



    5. 49ers



    Best bet

    Broncos (10-3) over Ravens (9-4)

    The Ravens are tough at home, but Peyton Manning hasn't lost since baseball season was still going.

    What they're saying

    "He is the best safety in the league and has been really for this past decade."

    Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning on Ravens safety Ed Reed, above

    Feeling Lucky?

    As special — and stunning — as this season has been for the Colts, they have a special opportunity in front of them. In facing the first-place Texans today, the first of two matchups between the AFC South rivals in three weeks, quarterback Andrew Luck & Co. can clinch a playoff spot with a victory. And considering how bad Houston looked in Monday's loss to New England, don't be surprised if Luck — the No. 1 overall pick in April — pulls out his seventh game-winning drive of the season. "The thing about this guy, it reminds me a lot of (Steelers quarterback) Ben Roethlisberger," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "From a standpoint of even when you get there, he's hard to tackle." Said Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips: "I can't say enough how good a quarterback he is and how good a future he has."

    Information from Times wires, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the NFL was used in this report.

    Dez's decision

    Receiver Dez Bryant has been a lightning rod in Dallas during his first three seasons with his maturity (among other things) called into question. But you have to give Bryant credit for his toughness. He's risking long-term injury in trying to play with a fractured left index finger. Though Bryant is officially listed as questionable, he plans to start even though he knows he'll have limited flexibility and have to fight through excruciating pain for the rest of the season. Why is Bryant doing it? Because the Cowboys need a win over the Steelers to help their playoff hopes. "The position that we are in, that makes me want to be out there," said Bryant, who leads the team with 1,028 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. "If there was anything less than what we have a chance of, I would have went ahead and gotten surgery."

    Perspective, please

    The NFL is coming off tragic off-field incidents over the past two weekends. There was Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, who fatally shot his girlfriend before committing suicide. Seven days later, Cowboys practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown was killed in what police say was an alcohol-related car wreck involving teammate and driver Josh Brent. In the aftermath, foxsports.com's Alex Marvez tackled the question of if the NFL is doing enough to prevent such events from occurring. He reached out to an interesting source: Bengals cornerback Adam Jones, who has gotten into his share of trouble for incidents involving alcohol and guns. "I think the league does a great job offering resources. We just don't use them," Jones said, citing rides that can be provided to those who have had too much to drink. "I know I didn't use mine when I was younger. This happens to a lot of young guys who come into the league. The first four years happen so fast, you never really get to catch up and realize the resources you have."

    Charging up

    Just when the Chargers were written off and reports surfaced that coach Norv Turner, left, and GM A.J. Smith would be fired after another disappointing season, they delivered a stunning win over the Steelers last week. San Diego is still likely to miss the playoffs, but the culprit of its roller-coaster season might not be Turner or Smith. In the Chargers' five wins, quarterback Philip Rivers has a combined three turnovers. In their eight losses, Rivers has 17. As Rivers goes, so go the Chargers. "What he brings to the table, he's kind of like the jumper cable," Chargers linebacker Takeo Spikes said. "Everybody else is just waiting, hanging on, waiting for him to flip the switch open."

    Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder believes teammate and running back Adrian Peterson is a "freak of nature."

    You have to believe him.

    How else do you explain that less than a year after tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee, Peterson is having the best season of his six-year career? He leads the league in rushing at 1,600 yards and has a legitimate shot at the NFL single-season record?

    Peterson is carrying the Vikings into a big matchup with the Rams, stealing the show in a league dominated by quarterbacks.

    "He's just gotten better and better, and I don't think there's anybody who thought going into the season that we'd be talking about Adrian with 1,600 yards, leading the league in rushing, MVP candidate, comeback player of the year candidate," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "It's just mind-boggling in a lot of ways."

    Eric Dickerson set the record of 2,105 yards 28 years ago with the then-Los Angeles Rams. Peterson, 27, needs 506 to pass him.

    "I don't want him to break it," Dickerson, 52, told cbssports.com. "If anyone ever broke it and if my son played football, I'd want my son to break it. But that's it. No one else. If a player was to break it, I'd probably want it to be Adrian, but I like having the record. I don't think it's going to be broken."

    But Peterson has taught us something this season: Don't count him out.

    A 'FREAK OF NATURE'


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  • 12/15/12--17:41: Griffin will not start
  • Times wires
    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    WASHINGTON — Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III will not start today against the Browns, the team said Saturday. Fellow rookie Kirk Cou­sins, who has appeared in two previous games, gets the call.

    Griffin, who sprained his right knee last week against Baltimore, tweeted: "The decision was not my own. But I will be there for my team!!! In every way I possibly can."

    The Redskins did not say if he or Rex Grossman, inactive all season, will be the No. 2.

    School shooting: The Giants and Jets will honor those killed in Friday's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. (about 60 miles from New York) by wearing a decal with the initials of the school. The Patriots will have a black ribbon on their helmets and light 26 white flares before their night game.

    Browns: Running back Trent Richardson was added to the injury report but is probable with an undisclosed illness.

    Jets: Coach Rex Ryan said receiver Braylon Edwards, limited at practice all last week by a sore hamstring, will play Monday.

    Ravens: Ray Lewis won't play despite being eligible to come off injured reserve. The linebacker, out since Oct. 14 with a torn right triceps, has practiced the past two weeks.

    Injuries: Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins (hamstring) and Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe (ribs) went on season-ending injured reserve.


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    By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    As excited as the Rays are by their return in the big trade with Kansas City, they do have to deal with the void left by James Shields' departure.

    Of the many ways the pitcher will be missed, manager Joe Maddon most specifically is concerned about the 30 to 40 innings he pitched more than the other starters, averaging 220 over the past six seasons, and that the bullpen doesn't have to absorb the additional work.

    That means after LHP David Price, the Rays need more from Jeremy Hellickson, who has worked 189 and 177 innings in his two full seasons; Matt Moore, who had 177 as a rookie this year; Jeff Niemann, who has yet to top 180 in four seasons; and, if he wins the No. 5 job, Alex Cobb, who has 177 between Triple-A Durham and the majors.

    "If we can get that from the group that's there, then we'll be fine," Maddon said.

    He doesn't want the pitchers to believe they need to do anything differently, just that they should.

    "I don't like to use the term 'step up.' I don't want them to 'step up.' I want them to continue to make progress, to continue to work the process," Maddon said. "They have another year of experience. Even though they have great work ethic, I would anticipate it's going to be better. Even though their preparation has been good, I want it to get better. Find those innings through method, as opposed to just saying, 'I've got to step up.' So the methodology has got to continue to get better that permits them to become 200-plus-inning pitchers."

    FARM REPORT: In trading Shields and RHP Wade Davis last week, executive VP Andrew Friedman said one goal was to "replenish" their system with players capable of continuing the Rays' success.

    Mission accomplished, says Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis: "Adding Wil Myers, who's one of the top three positions prospects in baseball, along with a solid midrotation type in (RHP) Jake Odorizzi and also (LHP) Mike Montgomery and (INF) Patrick Leonard boosts what was a middle-of-the-pack farm system to one I anticipate we'll put in the six to 10 range when we do our next rankings. That may seem odd that a single trade can do that, but Wil Myers is that good."

    Baseball America's revised Rays prospect rankings has Myers No. 1, followed by RHP Chris Archer, RHP Taylor Guerrieri, SS Hak-Ju Lee and Odorizzi.

    CHARITY CASE: Running his Thanksmas meal program in Tampa Bay and Hazleton Integration Project in Pennsylvania back to back last week was a bit mentally draining but also rewarding for Maddon. "I've been more concerned with the mechanics of things, just making sure it's all working and it's all happening," he said. "You see the results and meet the people. I know they're pleased, so I can see that we're making a difference. And that's good."

    RAYS RUMBLINGS: One way to eliminate the financial reasons to have Myers open in the minors next year would be to sign him to an (initial) Evan Longoria/Moore-like long-term deal. … Payroll commitments (including arbitration estimates) are around $49.5 million for 21 players; team president Matt Silverman noted they made the playoffs twice when in the $40s and have missed when higher. … Uniform numbers for the new players are being worked out, but don't expect to see Shields' 33 or B.J. Upton's 2 used for at least a year. … Price said he'll have his AL Cy Young Award plaque in the clubhouse for the others to see before giving it to his parents. … Two odd trade tidbits: Montgomery and Shields graduated from Hart High in Newhall, Calif.; Myers and '12 first-round draft pick Richie Shaffer were the Nos. 1-3 North Carolina prep position prospects in the '09 draft. … The Roberto Hernandez who was with the Rays from 1998-2000 and is now retired played in Cleveland in 2007 with the Roberto Hernandez (the former Fausto Carmona) the Rays are working to sign. … MLB Fan Cave applications are being taken at mlbfancave.com.

    Dream outfield

    With Carl Crawford, Josh Hamilton and B.J. Upton (after Rocco Baldelli), the Rays had the makings of quite a talented outfield trio — and, as each player has reached free agency, an expensive one. Their free agent deals total nearly $350 million.

    Player Carl Crawford B.J. Upton Josh Hamilton

    FA deal$142M, 7 yrs $75M, 5 yrs $125M, 5 yrs

    From Red Sox, From Braves From Angels traded to Dodgers

    2013 salary$20M $12.45M $15M

    Rays deal$31.5M *$20.6M *$3.96M signing bonus

    Drafted2nd round, '99 1st round, '02 1st round, '99

    * approximately, includes signing bonus


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    Times staff
    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    . TODAY

    USF women vs. Nebraska

    When/where: 2 p.m.; Sun Dome, Tampa

    Radio: 1010-AM

    Records: USF 8-0, Nebraska 9-3

    Notable: The Bulls have matched their best start from 1976-77. Nebraska beat Florida State 78-77 Dec. 8.

    Times staff


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    By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    MURFREESBORO, Tenn.

    The house on Mayfair Avenue doesn't look like much these days: small, nondescript, in need of some work. But the historic value could someday make it a landmark, the kind of place worthy of notation on a map, a sign, maybe even a stop on a tour.

    Because it was there that little David Price showed the signs that he might be a little different — and a lot special.

    "He'd get out there with this little plastic ball and bat, and smack it over the house, then he'd run through the gate, go get the ball and hit it back over," his mother, Debbie Price, recalled.

    "He was doing that at the age of 3. I'd never seen a child with such good eye-hand coordination — just to be able to toss it to himself and hit it. I remember (oldest son) Jackie, for instance, tossing him a ball at age 6 or 7, and he couldn't even catch it. Here David was at just 3 years old. It was amazing to me, and I thought, 'Wow, there's such a difference.' "

    • • •

    There are other guideposts around this burgeoning city of 110,000 in the geographic center of Tennessee — right down the middle of the plate, you could say — that shaped the path that led David first up Interstate 24 to Vanderbilt and eventually to Tampa Bay and the fame and fortune he has achieved with the Rays, including winning this year's American League Cy Young Award.

    "It's where I grew up," David, 27, said. "It's all I ever really knew until I went to college."

    There's the back yard of the Prices' next house, on Elizabeth Drive, where father Bonnie's attempts to switch the youngest son of their three sons from left-handed to right-handed, like the rest of the family, was — thankfully, they joke now — an abject failure.

    There's the McKnight Park complex where youth league coaches complained David was too young at 8 to play until they saw what he could do on the field. ("It was obvious," Debbie said.) The Blackman High field where scouts initially came to look at others but invariably ended up watching the lanky lefty popping catchers' gloves who quickly became the main attraction.

    Also, there's the Hardee's where he would go for his (still) favorite breakfast biscuit (well done, or it will go back like dozens of others have); the Stones River Mall, where he developed his insatiable tastes for fine shoes and Dippin' Dots; and the Skate Center, the movie theater, the McDonald's where he planned to go work when he threatened to quit baseball and leave Vanderbilt as a freshman.

    And there's certainly Toot's, the restaurant-sports bar on Northwest Broad Street — the first full-service eatery in Rutherford County when it opened in 1985, the year David was born — that may best illustrate how far he has come. And yet how little has changed.

    When David was growing up, he would go to Toot's to eat (he loves the wings) and just hang out, maybe catch on TV the Braves and his favorite player, David Justice.

    Now Toot's has David's photos on the walls, touts on its marquee when he's pitching so people can go there to watch, and celebrates his successes.

    And when David is back in town to visit, he'll still go in to eat and hang out. No special table, special treatment, special orders. (Though he does occasionally plea on Twitter for Toot's to send him its hot sauce.)

    "He's pretty much a local hero here," said Jessie Scruggs, a Toot's manager. "There's Colton Dixon, who was on American Idol. But as far as Murfreesboro, David is it. But he's just normal. It's never a bother. Everything he has, he deserves, because he's such a modest person."

    Basically, it's like that wherever David goes around town. He'll get asked for autographs and stopped for photos sometimes, but he tries to live in as much of a time warp as possible — staying at his parents' new house, driving himself, heading over to play video games with his school buddies.

    "To go into Toot's like that and eat, he loves that," said agent Bo McKinnis, who lives in nearby Nashville and visits Murfreesboro frequently. "The people there don't treat David any differently for what he's accomplished, and David doesn't act any differently. It's very, very neat."

    • • •

    Debbie and Bonnie, who met in Murfreesboro as Middle Tennessee State students and married in 1971, wouldn't stand for it if he handled things differently. But then again, he wasn't much trouble growing up.

    "If he got in any, I didn't know about it," Debbie said.

    He seemed to have a good sense of right and wrong, spending most of his time playing baseball and basketball (he was all-state in both), and getting good-enough grades.

    "That's the way I grew up seeing things, just normal," David said. "My parents never treated me any different. The older I got and the more acknowledgment I got for my athletic ability, they always treated me the same. I was always just David to them, and that's the part I love the most."

    Not that they aren't plenty proud of the son Debbie called "our little surprise"; David is 11 years younger than their second son, Damon, and 18 younger than Jackie.

    ("Thank the Lord for that one," McKinnis cracked.)

    The middle-class Prices' current house has a prominent display area, with floor-to-ceiling shelves for David's biggest trophies and soon-to-be-cleared space for the Cy Young plaque he'll get in January. Scattered around are jerseys, photos and other memorabilia related to his Project One Four foundation, which his parents administer and helps youths and school programs around Murfreesboro.

    David makes it back several times during the offseason, and though he spends more of his time in Tampa now, he said he always will be a proud son of Murfreesboro.

    "It's just a good place to grow up. I really loved my time there."


    Courtesy of Price familyCourtesy of Price family

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    By Gary Shelton, Times Sports Columnist
    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    At the time, the Rays were in need of a little leadership.

    If you remember, they were new to this thing called success. They were on the road. They were behind in the game.

    And so they looked to James Shields.

    Who promptly threw a baseball right into the leg of a Boston outfielder named Coco Crisp.

    For all the games he won, for all the moments he had, this was one of those when Shields became a man of respect in the Rays clubhouse. His teammates needed protecting, and in the time-honored tradition of the game, he did it.

    It didn't matter that Crisp charged the mound. And it didn't matter that Shields tried to plunk Crisp with his right fist as well. And it didn't matter that both players were ejected from a game the Rays eventually lost. The ensuing debate over whether Shields should have waited for another time, or whether a pitcher should throw at a hitter at all, didn't matter, either.

    What mattered was the Rays needed a sheriff and Shields was willing to stand up.

    Above all, this is what the Rays will miss about Shields, who was traded this past week to the Kansas City Royals. He never backed away from leadership. He was the guy who was there at the crack of dawn on the first day of spring training. He was the guy who was in the corner being accountable after good games and bad. As fellow pitcher J.P. Howell once said, the Rays clubhouse belonged to Shields. Everyone else was just visiting.

    As Shields leaves, and as the Rays attempt to fill his void, it invites discussion about leadership. What is it? Why is it so important? And has any area had as many leaders as Tampa Bay over the past decade?

    There has never been a great team that didn't have great leadership in some form. It can be loud, it can be quiet, and it can be profane. It can come by example and by instruction and sometimes by confrontation.

    It can be Dave Andreychuk or Derrick Brooks or Troy Percival. It can be Marty St. Louis or Hardy Nickerson or Cliff Floyd. It can be Tim Taylor or John Lynch or Eric Hinske. All of them helped change a culture. All of them helped a team win a championship.

    "I don't think leadership is about one guy,'' Andreychuk said. "It's leading by committee. In our case, it's about someone who is willing to listen to each guy. You have to listen to your teammate and still be able to put pressure on them to perform. With some guys, maybe that's done by yelling and screaming. But I think leaders have to instill the internal pressure to succeed.''

    Few have done it as well as Andreychuk, the captain of the Lightning's 2004 Stanley Cup-winning team.

    It was Andreychuk, remember, who was the go-between in the early days of the John Tortorella-Vinny Lecavalier feud. To Tortorella he tried to explain what drove Lecavalier. To Lecavalier he tried to explain what Tortorella was looking for from him.

    Then came the Pittsburgh game in November 2003 when Lecavalier scored a hat trick. Symbolically, Andreychuk took the helmet from his head and dropped it on the ice in salute. "We're with you,'' Andreychuk was saying. "That's what we want.''

    Another story: After a 6-2 loss to the Islanders in 2003, reporters were stunned to walk into the Lightning locker room and find every player sitting in front of his locker, ready to answer questions. Andreychuk had told them to be there to be accountable for the way they had played.

    Brooks always showed up. There was a reason his Bucs teammates called him the "Godfather." There have been louder players, and more showy players, but you didn't have to be around football much to know how important leadership was to Brooks.

    Take the December 2002 game against the Falcons. Quarterback Michael Vick had spent two months looking unstoppable.

    "He's been hot for eight weeks,'' Brooks said to teammate Warren Sapp that week. "We've been hot for eight years.''

    Then came Sunday and Brooks was on Vick like body sweat. He had 10 tackles by halftime.

    He also led the team in quiet. Even after that game, he didn't have a lot to say. But he did give people a glimpse into his role on those Bucs teams:

    "When we get together,'' he said then, "the other players know who the leader is. They know where to come to get their fire.''

    When Joe Maddon joined the Rays in 2006, one of the first things he saw was a lack of leadership. That changed when the team signed Floyd, Hinske and Percival before the 2008 season.

    Every morning Percival would canvas the room, coffee in hand, and talk to every pitcher on the staff. He once sat down with pitching coach Jim Hickey and diagrammed how the Rays — who had never won more than 70 games in a season — could win 90. Sure enough, they won 97.

    There have been others. There was the Rays' Evan Longoria, the day he fussed at B.J. Upton in the dugout. There was the Bucs' Nickerson, the day he threatened to fight fellow linebacker Keith McCants in the weight room.

    There was the Rays' Carlos Peña, gathering the players before Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, telling them not to let the moment awe them. There was St. Louis the day he stood in front of the Lightning's locker room before a playoff game against the Islanders.

    "Some people are born leaders,'' St. Louis said. "Some people grow into it. When you're a younger player, the only way to lead is by the way you play.''

    The Bucs still have Ronde Barber, and Gerald McCoy has leadership qualities. The Lightning, assuming it plays again, has St. Louis, and Steven Stamkos has the sound of a leader. The Rays have Longoria and David Price.

    If you are a young athlete in Tampa Bay, these are the athletes to emulate.

    Follow them, and they will lead you places.

    Listen to Gary Shelton weekdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on 98.7-FM the Fan.


    Associated Press (2008)Associated Press (2008)

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    Times wires
    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    ANAHEIM, Calif. — "A little upset" because the Ran­gers didn't move quick enough to re-sign him, Josh Hamilton donned an Angels jersey after finalizing a $125 million, five-year deal he called a new chapter in his life on Saturday.

    "I started off with the Devil Rays, and now I'm an Angel," said Hamilton, whom the Rays took No. 1 overall in 1999

    The outfielder, 31, the 2010 AL MVP, joins a lineup with Albert Pujols and rookie of the year Mike Trout. In 2012, he had a career-high 43 homers and hit .285 with 128 RBIs.

    "To get a guy like Josh and combine him with Albert is going to give us building blocks for what we hope is years to come," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We can't wait."

    Neither could the dozens of Angels fans who lined up outside the restaurant where Hamilton was introduced. The team set up a table for ticket sales, and he signed autographs.

    Hamilton agreed to the deal Wednesday. Rangers GM Jon Daniels said then that he hoped to re-sign Hamilton and was disappointed that he didn't get a chance to match the offer.

    "I gave them everything I had for five years," Hamilton said. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little upset they didn't put the press on."

    Hamilton's wife, Katie, compared the situation to dating.

    "If you're going to date someone, you make it known and official pretty quick," she said. "They let us date other teams. Josh had said he would give them first chance, and they didn't (make a move)."

    Hamilton interjected, saying, "She said, 'You should have put a ring on it.' "

    MLB.com reported the contract is backloaded. Hamilton will make $15 million in 2013 and 2014, $23 million in 2015 and $30 million in 2016 and 2017. It also includes a $10 million signing bonus, a $2 million donation to charity and a full no-trade cause.

    Hamilton was considered a risk by some teams because of his history of alcohol and substance abuse that led to him never playing in the majors for the Rays. He had relapses with alcohol in January and 2009.

    "They're going to help me with my support system to put things in place that I had with the Rangers," Hamilton said; "nothing that is straining the organization or the clubhouse."

    Angels owner Arte Moreno said there's no special protection in the contract if he relapses. Shayne Kelley, who worked in a support role for Hamilton in Texas, will be a daily presence with the team, according to GM Jerry Dipoto.

    Said Dipoto: "We've done our fair share of due diligence."

    Dickey trade: The Mets are close to a seven-player deal that would send NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays, the New York Post reported. Among the four going to New York would be touted minor-league catcher Travis d'Arnaud. Dickey, 38, has not discussed an extension with Toronto, espn.com reported. He is set to make $5 million in 2013, the final year of his deal, and reportedly sought a two-year extension worth $26 million. The Mets reportedly offered $20 million.

    Phillies: Pitchers Mike Adams and John Lannan agreed to deals. Adams, 34, a right-hander expected to be a setup man, agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal. He went 5-3 with a 3.27 ERA last season for the Rangers. Lannan, 28, a left-hander, agreed to a one-year, $2.5 million deal. He went 4-1 with a 4.13 ERA in six starts last season for the Nationals.


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  • 12/15/12--19:14: Sports in brief
  • Times wires
    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    NHL

    Union begins step toward dissolution

    TORONTO — Players begin voting today on whether they will grant the players association's executive board the authority to dissolve the union because of the inability to reach a collective bargaining agreement with the league.

    Two-thirds of the membership must vote in favor of allowing the board to file a disclaimer of interest, which is similar to decertification, a tactic the NFL and NBA unions used in their lockouts last year. Disclaiming interest instantly disbands a union and does not involve the National Labor Relations Board.

    Votes will be cast electronically through Thursday. The league's lockout of the players is in its 92nd day today.

    Soccer

    Man U wins to maintain lead

    Manchester United maintained a six-point lead over Manchester City in the English Premier League by beating Sunderland 3-1. City beat Newcastle 3-1. In other league games, Queens Park Rangers, Fulham, Aston Villa and Liverpool wore black armbands to recognize the victims of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting.

    U.S. women: Former Gator Abby Wambach scored twice as the United States closed its season with a 4-1 exhibition win over China in Boca Raton. The United States ran its unbeaten streak to 23.

    Match fixing: The sport's governing body found "compelling evidence" at least one exhibition game involving host South Africa was fixed before the 2010 World Cup. The South African Football Association said it was "infiltrated" two years ago by now-convicted match-fixer Wilson Perumal and his company Football4U, which was a front for Asian betting syndicates. Referees appointed by Football4U were thought to be responsible.

    Et cetera

    Swimming: Former Gator Ryan Lochte set his second world record in as many days, in the semis of the 100-meter individual medley, at the short-course world meet in Istanbul, Turkey. St. Petersburg's Megan Romano won her second gold, with the U.S. 400 freestyle relay team. Clearwater's Melanie Margalis was sixth in the 200 IM final.

    Winter sports: American gold-medal speed skater Shani Davis won his first 1,000-meter World Cup race of the season at Harbin, China. … American Alpine skier Steven Nyman won the downhill at Val Gardena, Italy, his first World Cup win in five years. … U.S. world champion Katie Uhlaender won her second skeleton World Cup race of the season, in LaPlagne, France.

    Boxing: Leo Santa Cruz defended his IBF bantamweight title with a unanimous decision over Alberto Guevara in Los Angeles in the first live boxing match on CBS in 15 years.

    Colleges: Texas swept Oregon for its first NCAA women's volleyball title since 1988, 25-11, 26-24, 25-19 at Louisville, Ky.

    Greyhounds: Tmc's Roxslide of Pauline O'Donnell kennel won the $75,000 Holiday Distance Challenge at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg. Trained by John Graham for owner Eddie McDonald, Tmc's Roxslide paid $6.60 and clocked 660 yards in 37.36 seconds. Jack's Cruze and Art Almost were next.

    Don Jensen, Times correspondent; Times wires


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    Times wires
    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    TALLAHASSEE — Senior guard Alexa Deluzio had 23 points in 28 minutes Saturday night to lead five Seminoles in double figures as Florida State rebounded from its first loss to rout Grambling State 96-60.

    FSU (8-1), which lost Dec. 8 at Nebraska, pulled away after leading 49-37 at halftime.

    Joanna Miller led Grambling State (1-7) with 14 points.

    Top 25: Buckeyes upset

    PULLMAN, Wash. — Lia Galdeira had 13 of her 15 points in the second half to help Washington State upset No. 20 Ohio State 62-55. Taylor Edmondson's 3-pointer put the Cougars (3-5) ahead to stay at 40-37. Ohio State (6-3) had a good look at a potential tying 3 with 33 seconds left but missed on two chances, and Galdeira hit four straight free throws to clinch it.

    NO. 1 STANFORD 78, PACIFIC 43: Chiney Ogwumike scored a career-high 31 and had 13 rebounds as the Cardinal (9-0) won its 82nd consecutive home game, the longest active streak in the nation.

    NO. 14 UCLA 76, St. MARY'S (Calif.) 62: Fifth-year senior Jasmine Dixon had five of her 13 points during a decisive 12-0 run in the second half for the Bruins (6-1) at the St. John's Holiday Classic in New York.

    NO. 23 TEXAS A&M 79, USC 61: Kristi Bellock had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Kelsey Bone scored 15 and had nine rebounds as the Aggies (6-3) kicked off a four-game road swing.

    SUMMITT HONOR: Pat Summitt was honored during a "We Back Pat" ceremony at halftime of the Toledo-Marquette game in Milwaukee. The ex-Tennessee coach and her son, Tyler, a Marquette assistant, spoke briefly.


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    Times staff, wires
    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    The seven Big East schools that don't play major college football are separating from the conference many of them founded so they can build a league focused on basketball.

    Those schools' presidents made the announcement Saturday, two days after their intentions were first reported.

    The seven schools are Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, DePaul, Marquette, Seton Hall and Providence. All are Catholic schools; only Georgetown and Villanova have football programs, both in Division I-AA.

    "The planned withdrawal of the seven Catholic institutions from the Big East Conference was certainly not unexpected, and we wish them the best moving forward," USF athletic director Doug Woolard said in a statement. "The Big East has 13 strong members moving forward together. We will have an excellent league in football, basketball and all other sports, and our programs will compete at the very highest level of intercollegiate athletics."

    USF has been in the same conference as DePaul and Marquette for all sports but football since 1995-96, when the Bulls joined Conference USA. All three joined the Big East for the 2005-06 school year along with football-playing schools Louisville (which will join the ACC in fall 2014) and Cincinnati.

    Georgetown, St. John's, Seton Hall and Providence helped form the Big East, which started playing basketball in 1979. Villanova joined in 1980. The Big East began playing football in 1991.

    The basketball schools gave no details about their plans, such as when they want to depart and whether they will try to keep the name Big East.

    "St. John's would love to keep the Big East name," said the Rev. Donald J. Harrington, the president of St. John's, who emphasized he was speaking only for his school. "I would like to hear what the football schools think and then try to make a compromise."

    Cincinnati basketball coach Mick Cronin said he didn't blame the basketball-centric schools for their decision.

    "It's a shame that football, one sport, has dictated all this," Cronin said Saturday. "The money that one sport is swinging around is swaying universities to make decisions. Don't tell me that people care about student-athletes. It's all ridiculous. … If it's all about money and money grabbing, the players need to get paid."

    Big East bylaws require 27 months notice from departing members, but the league negotiated early departures with Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia over the past year. Those schools paid exit fees. League rules let schools leave as a group without exit fees.

    "Within the structure of the Big East Conference we have the opportunity as a group to exercise a right to, in an orderly fashion, separate from the conference," Georgetown athletic director Lee Reed said.

    Connecticut, a founding member, USF, Cincinnati and Temple as the only current Big East schools scheduled to be there beyond the 2013-14 school year.

    "The membership recognizes their contributions over the long distinguished history of the Big East," Commissioner Mike Aresco said of the departing schools in a statement.

    "This is a group of like-minded schools with excellent academics, great athletic histories and traditions, national caliber basketball programs, and passionate fan bases in major media markets," Villanova president Rev. Peter M. Donohue said in a statement. "This decision is about controlling our future."

    There has been speculation that the "Catholic Seven" will try to align with other Catholic schools with strong basketball programs, such as Xavier, Dayton, Creighton or Gonzaga.

    In and out … and in and out … and …

    The Big East's current lineup, approximate school exit dates and projected lineups with seven basketball-centric Catholic schools leaving:

    2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16
    USF USF USF USF
    Cincinnati Boise State ** Boise State ** Boise State **
    Connecticut Cincinnati Cincinnati Cincinnati
    DePaul * Connecticut Connecticut Connecticut
    Georgetown * Houston East Carolina ** East Carolina **
    Louisville Louisville Houston Houston
    Marquette * Memphis Memphis Memphis
    Notre Dame * Notre Dame * Notre Dame * Navy **
    Pittsburgh Rutgers San Diego State ** San Diego State **
    Providence * San Diego St. ** SMU SMU
    Rutgers SMU Temple Temple
    Seton Hall * Temple Tulane Tulane
    St. John's * UCF UCF UCF
    Syracuse
    Temple **
    Villanova *

    * All but football ** Football only Bold: Addition to the league Italics: Projected final season in the league


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    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    ORLANDO — Apopka's Rakeem Smith intercepted a pass with 26 seconds left to preserve a 53-50 victory over Weston Cypress Bay in the Class 8A football title game Saturday night.

    After Chandler Cox's third touchdown run put Apopka (13-2) back in front, Cypress Bay (12-3) drove inside the Apopka 30, but Smith picked off Jaranta Lewis (12-for-19 for 244 yards, three TDs) and Apopka ran out the clock.

    Apopka was led by Zack Darlington's 254 yards passing (two TDs) and 125 yards rushing (one TD). Kevin Smith caught five passes for 108 yards.

    Cypress Bay got 170 yards and four touchdowns from running back Matt Dayes.

    6A: Miami Central coasts past Gainesville

    ORLANDO — Joseph Yearby and Dalvin Cook rushed for two touchdowns each as Miami Central defeated Gainesville 37-14.

    Miami Central (12-2) won its second state championship in the last three seasons behind Yearby, who rushed for 125 yards, and Cook, who added 79 yards and 47 yards receiving. Emilio Nadelman added three field goals.

    Yearby's first touchdown came on Central's second possession in the first quarter, a 35-yard run on the first play of the drive to give Central a 10-0 lead.

    Cook found the end zone for the first time early in the second quarter and Yearby closed out the first half with a 19-yard touchdown to give Central a commanding 27-7 lead.

    Gainesville (14-1) entered the game hoping to match Central's rushing attack but outside of an 80-yard touchdown run by Ralpheal Webb in the first quarter there wasn't much room on the ground for the Hurricanes.

    Webb finished with 146 yards on 16 carries but Gainesville quarterback Marquis Cato struggled, going 3-of-17 for 70 yards and an interception.


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    Orlando Sentinel
    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    Asiantii Woulard, a touted quarterback from Winter Park High who recently pulled back his oral commitment to USF, said the Bulls remain among his top choices.

    New USF coach Willie Taggart visited him Dec. 8.

    "He's a really cool guy," Woulard, who decommitted a few hours after USF fired coach Skip Holtz on Dec. 2, said this past week. "We talked a little bit about me going to USF. But after that, we just … hung out. I actually liked him a lot.

    "Coach Taggart feels he has an offense he feels will fit me perfectly, and I feel it will fit me perfectly. So they're definitely still of interest."

    Taggart already has an oral commitment from Michael White, a quarterback at Fort Lauderdale University High. But Woulard said Taggart plans to sign two quarterbacks. And Woulard said White's commitment won't affect his decision.

    "I'll come to compete either way," he said.

    Woulard previously made an official visit to N.C. State and said he intends to visit a few more schools soon but did not want to say which ones until he solidified plans. He added he might make an announcement at the Jan. 5 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which he will attend but not play in because of a broken fibula sustained during his final game.

    Arizona rallies to win New Mexico Bowl

    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Matt Scott threw two touchdown passes over the final 46 seconds to lift Arizona past Nevada 49-48 in the New Mexico Bowl.

    "I still can't believe it," he said.

    The Wildcats (8-5) trailed 21-0 in the first quarter and 48-35 with 1:48 left after a Wolf Pack field goal. Scott led a 75-yard drive capped by Austin Hill's 2-yard catch. The ensuing onside kick hit safety Duke Williams, who earlier had an interception for Nevada (7-6), and was recovered by Arizona linebacker Marquis Flowers.

    Three plays later, Scott hit Tyler Slavin for a 2-yard score with 19 seconds left. Then John Bonano's extra point won it.

    "I'm just sick for those seniors," Nevada coach Chris Ault said. "I'm sick for this whole football team."

    Potato Bowl: Kerwynn Williams ran for 235 yards and three scores as No. 18 Utah State beat Toledo 41-15 in Boise, Idaho, for its best season ever at 11-2. All three of Williams' scores came after his fourth-quarter fumble helped the Rockets (9-4) cut it to 13-9. "You have to have a short memory," he said. Toledo lost linebacker Dan Molls, the leading tackler in I-A, to a concussion and David Fluellen, the eighth-leading rusher, to an ankle injury in the first quarter. Its only touchdown came on an 87-yard kickoff return by Bernard Reedy, a graduate of St. Petersburg's Lakewood High, with 3:29 left. "Injuries happen," coach Matt Campbell said. "We were still in the game in the fourth quarter."

    Other games: Brian Bell ran for two touchdowns and passed for one to lead visiting Sam Houston State past Eastern Washington 45-42 in a I-AA semifinal. It faces North Dakota State on Jan. 5. … Cedric O'Neal ran for 140 yards and a score as Valdosta State beat Winston-Salem State 35-7 in the Division II final in Florence, Ala. It's the Blazers' 10th title.

    N.C. State: Matt Canada was named offensive coordinator and Dave Huxtable defensive coordinator. Canada held the same position at Wisconsin in 2012 and at Northern Illinois in 2011 under new N.C. State coach Dave Doeren. Huxtable spent 2012 as Pitt's defensive coordinator.

    Information from Times wires was used in this report.


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    Times wires
    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    INDIANAPOLIS — All Butler guard Alex Barlow saw Saturday was space and an opportunity to make a play.

    So the unlikeliest player on the floor took a chance and made the biggest shot of the game.

    When Indiana's defenders failed to converge on the 5-foot-11 walk-on, Barlow drove to the basket and hit a spinning 6-foot jumper with 2.4 seconds left in overtime Saturday to give the Bulldogs another stunning upset — 88-86 over No. 1 Indiana in the Crossroads Classic.

    "The floater is a shot I work on a lot, and I happened to get a lucky bounce," Barlow said. "It was a good feeling."

    Luckily for the Bulldogs (8-2), Barlow was on the floor.

    The kid who spurned scholarship offers to play his best sport, baseball, and opted to come to Butler for only one reason — to learn how to coach basketball from Brad Stevens — showed everyone he can hoop it up, too.

    The sophomore who had 12 points in nine games this season — 18 in his college career — finished with a career-high six points. He also came up with a big steal that led to a go-ahead 3-pointer late in overtime and won it with a shot that bounced off the back of the rim, straight into the air and through the net.

    Indiana (9-1) called timeout but could only muster Jordan Hulls' missed halfcourt heave as Butler had its first win in five tries over a No. 1 ranked team.

    "I thought he just rose up over Hulls and it looked good," Stevens said. "Don't use this as an excuse to get down on Indiana. I still think they're the team to beat in April."

    Butler (8-2) has wins over Marquette of the Big East, North Carolina of the ACC and back-to-back victories over Northwestern and Indiana of the Big Ten.

    "We cost ourselves at the end of the game defensively," IU coach Tom Crean said. "They made the plays, there's no question about that. But we made the mistakes on how we guarded them."

    Cody Zeller led Indiana with 18 points, including a layup to tie the score at 86 with 19.3 seconds left in overtime.

    NOD TO HISTORY: Keith Appling matched a career high with 25 points to lead No. 19 Michigan State past Tuskegee 92-56 at Jenison Field House, where the "Game of Change" was held during the 1963 NCAA Tournament. Mississippi State, whose team had only white players in 1963, defied a state prohibition against playing integrated teams to face Loyola of Chicago, which had four black starters, in East Lansing. Loyola won en route to its lone NCAA title. The Spartans celebrated by inviting Tuskegee, a historically black Division II school, and giving Tuskegee Airmen and their families courtside seats for the first game in MSU's former hoops home since 1989.

    NO. 3 MICH. 81, W. VIRGINIA 66: Tim Burke had a season-best 27 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. matched his season high with 25 for Michigan at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Wolverines (11-0) last started this well in 1988-89, their lone national championship season.

    NO. 4 SYRACUSE 85, CANISIUS 61: Jim Boeheim moved within one victory of 900 as the Orange (9-0) extended its home winning streak to 29, the longest in the nation. James Southerland had 21 points for the Orange. Only Mike Krzyzewski (936) and Bob Knight (902) have more Division I men's victories.

    NO. 6 L'VILLE 87, MEMPHIS 78: Chane Behanan scored 22 for the visiting Cardinals (9-1), who rallied after trailing 25-9 in the first half. Five Tigers fouled out, helping Louisville to a huge edge at the free-throw line. The Cardinals were 38-of-46; the Tigers 14-of-20.

    NO. 7 OHIO ST. 90, NC-ASHEVILLE 72: Sam Thompson scored a career-high 18 and former Brandon High standout Evan Ravenel tied a career best with 12 points in the first half for the host Buckeyes (8-1). UNC Asheville guard Keith Hornsby, the son of singer and pianist Bruce Horns­by, scored a game-high 26.

    NO. 9 KANSAS 89, BELMONT 60: Freshman forward Andrew White came off the bench to score 15 and Ben McLemore and Travis Releford had 17 points each as the Jayhawks (8-1) rolled to their 27th straight home win.

    NO. 11 CINCY 72, MARSHALL 56: Cashmere Wright had 14 points, including three 3-pointers during a key second-half run, for the Bearcats (10-0) in Charleston, W.Va. Cincinnati's top scorer Sean Kilpatrick tied a season low with 13 points, seven below his average, and shot 1-for-7 in the first half. "Ugliest first half of my life," Kilpatrick said.

    NO. 14 GONZAGA 68, KANSAS ST. 52: Kelly Olynyk dominated inside with 20 points as the Bulldogs (10-1) rebounded from their first loss in their annual trip to Seattle. Olynyk's highlight was a rattling, one-handed slam with about nine minutes left that drew a technical for screaming.

    NO. 15 G'TOWN 81, W. CAROLINA 68: Greg Whittington (25 points) and Jabril Trawick (14) scored career highs for the host Hoyas (9-1) in a game overshadowed by the news that Georgetown and six other basketball-centric Big East schools were breaking away from the league's I-A football schools. Western Carolina fell to 0-38 against ranked teams.

    NO. 17 NEW MEXICO 73, N.M. ST. 58: Alex Kirk scored seven of his 15 in an early run for the host Lobos (11-0) against their state rival. Kendall Williams added 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for New Mexico.

    NO. 18 SAN DIEGO ST. 72, S.D. 56: Chase Tapley scored 15, including consecutive 3-pointers in a decisive 12-0 run, and Jamaal Franklin had 14 for the host Aztecs (8-1) against their crosstown rival.

    NO. 21 UNC 93, E. CAROLINA 87: James Michael McAdoo scored 19 and P.J. Hairston added 18 for the host Tar Heels (8-2). North Carolina held on after the Pirates, coached by former UNC guard Jeff Lebo, scored 61 second-half points and twice got within four in the final 30 seconds. "Right now, there's not anything ol' Roy's ecstatic about, let's put it that way," UNC coach Roy Williams said.

    NO. 22 NOTRE DAME 81, PURDUE 68: Jack Cooley had 18 points and nine rebounds in Indianapolis to lead the Fighting Irish (9-1) to their seventh straight victory. Former Purdue player Scott Martin chipped in with five points for Notre Dame on 2-for-8 shooting.

    NO. 25 N.C. STATE 84, NORFOLK ST. 62: Freshman T.J. Warren had 21 points, Lorenzo Brown scored 16 on 7-of-8 shooting and Richard Howell added a career-high 19 rebounds for the host Wolfpack (7-2).

    PITT 89, BETHUNE-COOKMAN 40: Freshman Steven Adams had 16 points and 10 rebounds as the host Panthers rolled to the largest win in Peterson Events Center history. Bethune-Cookman (4-8) was outrebounded 40-11 and had 16 second-half points.

    CLEMSON 80, FAMU 57: Freshman Jordan Roper scored 13 of his 16 in the second half, hitting 4-of-5 from 3-point range, for the host Tigers (6-3). Junior guard Reggie Lewis had 26 points, including 6-of-8 on 3-pointers, for the Rattlers (4-7).

    ECKERD 73, SHAW 71: Junior guard Josh Snodgrass sank a floater with 4.8 seconds left to lift the host Tritons (3-1). Jerrick Stevenson, Woody Taylor and Darrien Mack led Eckerd with 15 points each.


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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