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  • 01/31/13--19:45: Sports in Brief
  • Times wires
    Thursday, January 31, 2013


    Healthy Isner to play for u.s. in Davis cup

    JACKSONVILLE — John Isner will return from injury to play for the United States in this weekend's first-round Davis Cup match against Brazil, captain Jim Courier said Thursday.

    Isner, a Tampa resident, sustained a bone bruise in his right knee last month and skipped the Australian Open. "I had a very encouraging week of practice," he said. "I feel like I'm ready to go."

    Isner, ranked 13th in the world, faces No. 145 Thiago Alves today, and No. 22 Sam Querrey faces No. 33 Thomaz Bellucci in the best-of-five. Doubles is Saturday with world No. 1 Bob and Mike Bryan taking on Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares. Reverse singles in Sunday.

    College baseball

    'Noles pitcher to miss all of '13

    Florida State RHP Mike Compton, whose 12 wins in 2012 were the most among freshmen in Division I, will miss 2013 with an right elbow injury that requires ligament replacement (Tommy John) surgery. The starter went 12-2 with a 2.87 ERA, and his wins included one in NCAA region play and one in the World Series.


    Beckham to play in France for free

    David Beckham signed a five-month deal with France's Paris-Saint Germain and will donate his entire salary to a children's charity. Financial details and which charity will get the money were not disclosed. The English midfielder, 37, most recently finished a six-year stint with Los Angeles of MLS.

    England: The governing body didn't add to the ban Chelsea's Eden Hazard received for kicking a ball boy last week. He will serve only the automatic three games for a red card.

    Et cetera

    MLB: Arizona and 3B Martin Prado agreed to a four-year $40 million deal. Prado, part of last week's deal that sent RF Justin Upton to Atlanta, could have become a free agent after this year. … Former Cubs and Diamondbacks star Mark Grace was sentenced to four months in jail under a work-release program for driving under the influence. Grace, 48, was fired as Arizona's TV analyst after his arrest in August, his second in 15 months.

    College football: Kansas State coach Bill Snyder signed a five-year extension. He will make $2.75 million in 2013 with annual increases of $100,000 through 2017. The 73-year-old led the Wildcats to an 11-2 mark and a Big 12 title last season. He's 34-17 in four seasons of his second stint at KSU (170-85-1 in 21 seasons at KSU overall).

    NASCAR: Former NFL linebacker Bill Romanow­ski became a minority owner of Swan Racing, which has David Stremme in the No. 30 Toyota. Romanowski's health supplement company will be the primary sponsor for 10 races this year and be an associate sponsor for the other 26.

    Arena Football: The Storm signed OL Alfred McCullough. The 6-2, 330-pounder was part of Alabama's national title team in 2009 and 2011.

    Times wires

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  • 01/31/13--19:46: Preview: Lightning vs. Jets
  • By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Thursday, January 31, 2013

    . Tonight

    Lightning vs. Jets

    When/where: 7:30; Tampa Bay Times Forum

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

    Key stats: The Lightning has not had a regulation loss at home to the Jets/Thrashers franchise since Feb. 10, 2009 (8-0-2). … Tampa Bay has killed 13 straight penalties. … C Steven Stamkos' six-game point streak (four goals, seven assists) entered Thursday tied for the league best. … The Jets had been outscored 12-5 in the third period, 5-2 Thursday night against the Panthers.

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  • 01/31/13--19:52: Lightning tests get tougher
  • By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Thursday, January 31, 2013

    TAMPA — Right wing Marty St. Louis really likes the way the Lightning has played during its 5-1-0 start.

    But he's not fooling himself, either, about the competition the team has faced.

    "Listen, we're aware we played Philly with their backup goalie and them coming off a back-to-back (set of games)," St. Louis said. "We played Ottawa with them coming off a back-to-back and facing a backup goalie. But those are breaks you get in a schedule, and we have to take advantage, and we have."

    There is something to be said for beating teams you should beat and abusing backup goalies. But it may not be a true indicator of how good a team is or can be.

    For the Lightning, that opportunity starts tonight against the Jets at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the first game in a stretch of six in which Tampa Bay will be tested by tough opponents, good goaltenders and, at times, hostile crowds.

    "A great measuring stick, or however you want to call it," center Nate Thompson said.

    On Saturday, the Rangers are in town with last season's Vezina Trophy winner, Henrik Lundqvist, likely in net.

    Tampa Bay then plays on the road against the Flyers, Devils, Bruins and Rangers.

    In each game, the opponent does not play the day before. That means all will be well-rested and their top goalies available: the Flyers' Ilya Bryzgalov, the Devils' Marty Brodeur, the Bruins' Tuukka Rask and Lundqvist again.

    That's quite a difference from Ottawa's Ben Bishop, Philadelphia's Michael Leighton and Florida's Jose Theodore, Tampa Bay's past three victims, who entered Thursday with a combined — and poor — .882 save percentage.

    The Lightning also plays back-to-back in Boston and New York.

    With all that on the horizon, tonight against Southeast Division rival Winnipeg, playing the second of back-to-back games, is almost a must two points.

    "We just have to focus on one game at a time," center Vinny Lecavalier said. "We can't start thinking about Lundqvist and the Rangers. Focus on the Jets and hopefully we play the same way we have the last six games."

    The Lightning, winner of four straight, has been splendid in many ways. It entered Thursday with a league-best 29 goals. Its power play was fourth in the league at 30 percent, and the penalty kill was seventh at 86.7 percent and has succeeded in 13 straight man-down situations.

    The goaltending is better, and the defense, faster and more experienced, sparks the offense.

    "We're not spending 30 seconds in our end, a minute, chasing and getting tired," Lecavalier said. "We're getting it out of our zone as quick as we can."

    And coach Guy Boucher pointed out his team did all that Jan. 22 in a 5-1 win at Carolina in the second game of a home-road back-to-back and against Cam Ward, the Hurricanes' top goalie.

    Still, evaluations are tough when other goalies the team has faced looked like Swiss cheese.

    "You're right, it will get tougher," Boucher said. "We'll get quality opponents and get them on the road.

    "We don't care who we're playing. It's about us. That's our approach."

    And, so far, their success.

    SCARY MOMENT: Defenseman Brendan Mikkelson was taken to Tampa General Hospital on Thursday for tests after crashing into the end boards during a practice drill.

    Mikkelson appeared to hit the back of his head and stayed down for several minutes while being helped by head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan and assistant trainer Mike Poirier.

    Mikkelson, 25, scratched in five of six games, skated slowly off the ice under his own power. He is day-to-day with an unspecified upper-body injury.

    "He was lucid. He was talking," Boucher said. "There was no hit or anything. Maybe he hit a crack in the ice. He went plunging. Not a good sight."

    Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com. His blog is at lightning.tampabay.com.

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    Times wires
    Thursday, January 31, 2013

    Ronaiah Tuiasosopo fell in love with Manti Te'o and said all his energy went into pretending to be the woman the Notre Dame linebacker came to know as Lennay Kekua.

    Tuiasosopo, 22, the admitted mastermind of the elaborate hoax that embarrassed Te'o and left him looking gullible, spoke publicly for the first time in an interview with Dr. Phil McGraw for the Dr. Phil Show, the first part of which aired Thursday.

    Tuiasosopo said Te'o knew nothing of the scam, and he doesn't believe Te'o ever suspected Kekua was fake.

    "He had no involvement," Tuiasosopo said. "He did not know anything."

    Tuiasosopo said he built the online persona of Kekua, a nonexistent woman who Te'o said he fell in love with despite never meeting in person. Tuiasosopo said he killed off the character in September.

    "I pretty much had this escape of Lennay and this was where my heart had pretty much invested, not just time, but all of my energy went into this," Tuiasosopo said.

    He said he felt Kekua was a part of him and grew feelings and emotions for Te'o that he could not control. He acknowledged that the hoax was cruel, but he said it was never intended as a joke and that he got no financial gain.

    "As twisted and confusing as it may be, yeah, I cared for this person," he said, referring to Te'o. "I did all that I could to help this person become a better person, even though I wasn't getting nothing out of it."

    When the ruse was reported by the website Deadspin on Jan. 16, the report raised the questions about whether Te'o was in on it. Te'o has denied any involvement from the beginning.

    Tuiasosopo said Te'o became a better person as a result of the relationship.

    "If you really look at all his interviews, he felt that," he said. "When he was under the understanding that he lost her, he realized all the good that Lennay had done for him."

    The Te'o family declined comment.

    Tuiasosopo said he decided to confess to Te'o last month as the hoax was unraveling because he felt he could not go any further with his own life until the truth was out.

    "You've heard of recovering drug addicts? It takes a lot of courage to stand and say that," he said "To recover from homosexuality and this type of thing. Not only that, coming back to your real life, as hard as a task as that is, I'm going to do all that I can to live right."

    McGraw said that statement bothered him.

    "I hope it's a pressure you don't put on yourself," he said.

    Tuiasosopo said he killed the Kekua character on the day Te'o learned his grandmother died, following an argument with the football star.

    Te'o had told Kekua he didn't need her, Tuiasosopo said.

    "It hurt me," he said. "It hit me like a brick wall. I was like, 'Whoa, I've given so much into this.' And I realized right then in that moment, that I poured so much into Lennay, that I myself was getting nothing, and look what I was left with."

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    Times wires
    Thursday, January 31, 2013

    ST. LOUIS — Jordair Jett matched his career best with 19 points and St. Louis pressured No. 9 Butler into a season-worst 23 turnovers, recording the program's biggest upset in nine years with a 75-58 victory Thursday night that had fans storming the court to celebrate.

    Dwayne Evans added 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting for the Billikens (15-5, 4-2 Atlantic 10), who fed off just the fourth sellout (10,612) at 5-year-old Chaifetz Arena and led by double digits most of the game.

    Rotnei Clarke had 17 points for Butler (17-4, 4-2) but also had five turnovers. The Bulldogs have lost four games, three by 15 or more.

    Butler is the highest-ranked opponent to play at St. Louis, led by interim coach Jim Crews with a roster assembled by the late Rick Majerus, since No. 2 North Carolina in 2006-07. The Bulldogs are St. Louis' biggest victim since a one-point upset over No. 2 Louisville on Feb. 12, 2003 at the Scottrade Center.

    Butler committed 16 turnovers in the first half, two shy of its season high, and fell behind 34-23.

    On its first 29 possessions, Butler had six baskets and 16 turnovers. Down 17 late in the half, the Bulldogs woke up with nine points in a stretch of 1:07.

    No. 8 Arizona 57, Wash. 53: Nick Johnson scored five of his 15 points in the final two minutes, and the visiting Wildcats (18-2, 6-2 Pac-12) remained one game behind Oregon at the top of the league standings. Arizona trailed 48-46 with 4:34 left after C.J. Wilcox hit Washington's first 3-pointer of the game. The Wildcats then closed on an 11-5 run.

    NO. 13 mich. st 80, illinois 75: Keith Appling led a pivotal run early in the second half and finished with 24 points and seven assists for the Spartans (18-4, 7-2 Big Ten). MSU scored the first 14 of the second half to take its first lead. The Fighting Illini (15-7, 2-6) lost for the fifth time in six games. The Spartans started the game without senior center Derrick Nix, finished it without sophomore guard Travis Trice and played much of the second half without freshman guard Gary Harris. Nix didn't start because coach Tom Izzo said the captain missed one class and one meeting with a tutor. He entered midway through the first half. Trice, a key guard off the bench, was limited to 11 minutes in the first half because of a blow to the head. Harris, a starter, went to the locker room midway through the second half with back spasms and returned to the bench but not the game. Harris said he was all right.

    UConn 82, providence 79, ot: Ryan Boatright scored 19 and Shabazz Napier had 18, including eight in overtime, to lead the visiting Huskies (14-5, 4-3 Big East). The Friars shot 33.8 percent (22-of-65).

    JIMMY v record: ESPN said the sixth annual Jimmy V Week for Cancer Research set a fundraising record by generating nearly $1.6 million, surpassing 2011's $1.3 million. In six years, Jimmy V Week has generated $6.8 million for the V Foundation for Cancer Research, founded in 1993 by ESPN and Jim Valvano, the NCAA-winning coach who died of cancer in April 1993.


    NO. 11 unc 72, no. 20 fsu 62: The host Tar Heels (20-2, 8-1 ACC) lost a 19-point first-half lead, then pulled away late in the game to topple the Seminoles (17-4, 7-3) and give coach Sylvia Hatchell her 899th win. "They did what they do in the first half, and we did what we do in the second half," FSU coach Sue Semrau said. "Credit North Carolina for their toughness." FSU shot 33 percent in the first half and committed 14 turnovers. In the second half FSU shot 42 percent and committed four turnovers.

    No. 5 Duke 82, Miami 43: Tricia Liston scored 17 and the host Blue Devils (19-1, 9-0 ACC) went on a 20-0 run early in the second half. Krystal Saunders scored 15 for the Hurricanes (14-7, 5-5).

    Wis. 63, No. 7 Penn State 61: Morgan Paige scored a career-high 33 and the host Badgers (10-11, 2-6 Big Ten) upset the Nittany Lions (17-3, 7-1) on Tiera Stephens' putback with five seconds left. Two weeks ago Penn State beat Wisconsin 84-40.

    No. 9 Tenn. 88, Miss. State 45: Kamiko Williams had 10 points and a career-high 13 rebounds in her first start of the season for the host Vols (17-4, 8-0 SEC), who are 34-0 all time against the Bulldogs. Williams started at guard in place of center Isabelle Harrison, who has left knee surgery scheduled today.

    No. 13 Georgia 65, 'bama 59: The host Bulldogs (18-3, 6-2 SEC) won for the 850th time in program history, the 10th Division I school to reach the mark.

    No. 14 Purdue 59, Indiana 42: Sam Ostarello had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the host Boilermakers (18-3, 7-1 Big Ten).

    No. 16 Texas A&M 60, VandY 52: Courtney Walker scored 20 as the host Aggies (17-5, 7-1) tied Kentucky for second in the SEC.

    Illinois 74, No. 24 Iowa 62: Karisma Penn scored 18 and the Illini (12-8, 5-3 Big Ten) closed with a 14-2 run over the final 5:11. Illinois' last victory over the Hawkeyes (16-6, 5-3) in Champaign was Feb. 9, 2003.

    No. 25 Del. 70, Georgia St. 38: Elena Delle Donne scored 25 and the visiting Blue Hens (17-3, 8-0 Colonial Athletic Association) won their 27th straight regular-season conference game.

    Missouri 69, uf 64: For the most part, the visiting Gators (13-9, 2-6 SEC) contained a potent 3-point attack, allowing seven 3s. But the Tigers (14-8, 3-5) outscored Florida 30-22 in the paint and handed the Gators their fifth consecutive loss. UF's Jennifer George scored 11 of her team-high 13 in the second half.

    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    Times wires
    Thursday, January 31, 2013

    OKLAHOMA CITY — Running away with a win against a Memphis team in disarray after trading away top scorer Rudy Gay, the Thunder found a way to come unhinged, too.

    An outburst aimed at his own team earned All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook a third-quarter benching and gave the Grizzlies a glimmer of hope before Oklahoma City closed out a 106-89 victory Thursday night.

    Just when the Thunder seemed to be firmly in control, Westbrook started sniping with his teammates after a possession when he posted up along the left side of the lane and eventually got called for a turnover when Jerryd Bayless stuck with him on defense for five seconds.

    Westbrook then spiked the ball twice, gesturing toward Thabo Sefolosha and Kevin Durant that they needed to get open. He then hollered to coach Scott Brooks on the bench.

    Memphis followed his outburst with 10 straight points to make it a game again, with Westbrook getting an early hook during the stretch and heading toward the locker room.

    He sat out about eight minutes before Brooks put him back in to start the fourth quarter.

    Westbrook, who finished with 21 points, described it as "just a little miscommunication." Brooks said it was an offensive play that went awry. Sefolosha acted as though nothing happened.

    The result was a mini-implosion right in the public eye.

    "It was a disagreement," said Durant, who scored 27. "This is the game of basketball. You have so many different emotions on one team. You're going to have disagreements. It wasn't the first. It's not going to be the last."

    "I decided to take Russell out because we needed to calm down," Brooks said. "Russell went in the back. It was nothing. He just had to regroup. … It was nothing that has not happened before — not just with him, with all of our guys."

    Brooks finally put him back in the game to start the fourth.

    Reeling Magic: Forward Glen Davis is scheduled for surgery today to repair a broken bone in his left foot, and Magic officials said he likely will be out 8-12 weeks, essentially ending his season as Orlando is unlikely to reach the postseason.

    Howard ailing: Lakers center Dwight Howard, who aggravated torn cartilage in his right shoulder in a loss Wednesday at Phoenix, was diagnosed with a sore shoulder and is day to day, ESPN reported. The team is expected to update his status tonight. Also, Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio is standing up for fellow Spaniard Pau Gasol, saying it's unfair the way Gasol is having to come off the Lakers' bench this season. "He proved to the league he is one of the best," Rubio said. "I think if you use him in the right way, he is a top player in this league. If they don't want him, we are more than welcome to get him."

    Around the league: Raptors coach Dwane Casey was fined $25,000 by the league for criticizing officials after Wednesday's loss at Atlanta.

    Thunder 106, Grizzlies 89

    MEMPHIS (89): Allen 3-12 2-2 8, Randolph 4-17 1-2 9, Gasol 6-15 4-5 16, Conley 7-19 0-0 17, Bayless 9-17 3-4 23, Wroten 1-2 4-4 6, Arthur 4-10 0-0 9, Johnson 0-6 1-2 1, Leuer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 34-98 15-19 89.

    OKLAHOMA CITY (106): Durant 10-16 7-9 27, Ibaka 2-3 0-0 4, Perkins 2-3 3-4 7, Westbrook 9-17 2-2 21, Sefolosha 3-5 0-0 7, Collison 4-5 4-4 12, Martin 5-13 3-4 16, Thabeet 2-2 0-0 4, Jackson 1-4 2-2 4, Jones 1-2 0-0 2, Maynor 0-0 0-0 0, Liggins 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 40-72 21-25 106.

    Memphis 22 12 33 22— 89

    Oklahoma City 32 26 21 27— 106

    3-Point GoalsMemphis 6-25 (Conley 3-9, Bayless 2-5, Arthur 1-3, Wroten 0-1, Allen 0-1, Gasol 0-1, Johnson 0-5), Oklahoma City 5-14 (Martin 3-4, Sefolosha 1-2, Westbrook 1-4, Liggins 0-1, Ibaka 0-1, Durant 0-2). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsMemphis 52 (Randolph 19), Oklahoma City 52 (Westbrook 9). AssistsMemphis 19 (Bayless 6), Oklahoma City 25 (Durant, Westbrook 6). Total FoulsMemphis 23, Oklahoma City 18. TechnicalsDurant, Liggins, Oklahoma City defensive three second. A18,203.

    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    By Gary Shelton, Times Sports Columnist
    Friday, February 1, 2013


    Here in the middle of the Ray Lewis Show, the lather continues. Later, there will be froth.

    He owns the TV cameras, which stack in front of him as if waiting for him to break into one of those pregame dances. He owns the headlines, too, whether they are about his "last ride" (a phrase he uses about every 30 seconds) or the accusations that his comeback was fueled by deer-antler spray (a banned substance the NFL will get around to checking out a few weeks after Lewis retires).

    Let's face it: Lewis owns the NFL, right up to being lampooned by Saturday Night Live.

    Lewis is the biggest figure in this Super Bowl, and he is growing. There has never been an athlete quite so willing to talk about the glory of being him. The rest of the Ravens might as well be backup dancers on Lewis' farewell tour.

    Yet there is this: Once you get beyond the image, Lewis isn't even the best inside linebacker in Sunday's game.

    And hello there, Patrick Willis.

    It seems kind of rude to bring it up in the middle of the party and all, but yeah, on the list of impact linebackers, the 49ers' Willis clearly has passed Lewis. At 28, this is his time. All the face paint in the world doesn't change that.

    "Nobody in the NFL plays their position better than Willis," Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. told ESPN last year. "He is as good a linebacker as Peyton Manning is a quarterback, as Andre Johnson is a receiver, as Adrian Peterson is a running back. He has no weaknesses."

    None of this is an affront at the legacy of Lewis. Over his career, he has been an excellent inside linebacker, one of the finest the game has seen. He will move quickly, and deservedly, into the Hall of Fame, and no one should whisper that he doesn't belong. Once, he was amazing.

    But if you judge it in the present tense, talent vs. talent, linebacker vs. linebacker, Willis is, by far, the better linebacker in everything but volume and reputation.

    He is a quieter man, Willis, and he doesn't talk as fast or beat his chest as loudly. He isn't as quick to define his legacy as Lewis. But like the Lewis of five seasons ago, running anywhere near Willis is a jog through a bad neighborhood.

    Better than Lewis? These days, Willis is better than anyone.

    "I never have been a person to talk about myself," Willis said. "My job is to go out and compete all the time at a high level. People always make comparisons of me to other people. I have the tattoos I have for a reason. On the inside when I flex, it says, 'I'm me.' "

    Prod him, however, and the 2007 first-round pick out of Mississippi will admit that he wants to be in the Hall of Fame one day. He wants to be the best.

    So far, so good. In six seasons, Willis has reached the Pro Bowl six times. He has been a first-team All-Pro five times, second-team once. He seems poised to become the inside linebacker of his generation.

    Why isn't he more recognized? That often comes with playing in the Super Bowl. Also, the 49ers also have NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith (who both made the Pro Bowl this season).

    Also, he doesn't dance nearly as well as Lewis.

    They are similar, you know. Willis even picked his jersey number, 52, because of Lewis. Well, sort of. When he signed, the 49ers had four numbers available: 51, 52, 57 and 59. Willis thought of himself as an even-numbered guy. Oh, yeah, and Lewis wore No. 52.

    Funny thing. For all of the headlines dedicated to Lewis this week, there haven't been many to actually ask how good he still is at the age of 37.

    The brutal answer is this: not nearly as good as he used to be.

    However, Lewis is still in charge of the Ravens defense, of making the calls, or making sure others are in the right position. Don't underestimate that. He still guards his territory fiercely.

    But he no longer runs the way he used to run, and he is no longer as explosive from the hips as he used to be. He is not a liability, but he is no longer the linebacker he used to be.

    Sunday, we will watch Lewis one last time.

    Who knows? Maybe he'll make Willis proud.

    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, February 1, 2013

    GAINESVILLE — As his teammates began to notice the improved level of play in Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin's defense last season, they took the liberty of borrowing the nickname of another stellar defensive player.

    "We called him the 'Honey Badger' last year," senior forward Erik Murphy said. "Obviously he's probably our best on-ball guy. The guy's relentless."

    That relentless style (with a nickname borrowed from former LSU football standout Tyrann Mathieu) is evident even more this season and is a direct reflection of the way the Gators play, particularly of late. UF has held three opponents this season to 40 points or fewer, 11 under 50 and 15 under 60. The Gators rank second in the nation in scoring defense, allowing an average 50.4 points per game.

    Wilbekin is helping lead the way with no qualms.

    "Just growing up playing for my dad (Svend Wilbekin at the Rock School in Gainesville), we always did defensive drills," the junior said. "I was always a defensive-minded player. I guess it was just ingrained in me from a young age. And when I came in (as a 17-year-old freshman), I saw that's where I would be needed most and I could get my playing time."

    Three years into his tenure, he is the starting point guard and has held his own while taking on some of the league's best guards. In Florida's win over Texas A&M, he was critical in limiting Elston Turner to four points and 1 of 10 shooting; in his previous game, against Kentucky, Turner had scored 40. Against No. 17 Missouri, Wilbekin held star guard Phil Pressey to two points and 1 of 7 shooting from the field. Pressey also was forced into 10 turnovers.

    "I want to shut everybody down that I'm playing," Wilbekin said.

    No. 4 Florida needs that mentality again tonight against No. 16 Mississippi in a sold-out game at the O'Connell Center between the SEC's top teams. The game features one of the league's newest players, junior guard Marshall Henderson, who leads the SEC in scoring (19.3 points per game) and ranks third in the nation averaging 3.8 3-pointers per game.

    Wilbekin has provided the Gators not only with a serious stopper, he has given them stability at point guard, something they lacked during his three-game suspension to begin the season.

    "He's been doing a great job facilitating the offense, not taking bad shots," junior center Patric Young said. "He's been starting to become a double-double machine with points and assists. It's just been really good seeing someone like him finally getting recognized for how good he is."

    He has also improved on offense, averaging 9.1 points. He had his first career double double against Missouri.

    "I think he's been playing the same way, but he's shut down bigger guys this year," senior guard Kenny Boynton said. "I think last year he had the same defensive mind-set, but I think his offensive game has evolved this year."

    The matchup between Wilbekin and Henderson has been highly anticipated, but Wilbekin downplayed it this week, saying his role doesn't change regardless of the opponent. That's a sign of maturity coach Billy Donovan approves of.

    "I think he's gotten better," Donovan said. "Scottie's done a really, really good job of finding people when they're open. He's made really good decisions, and I think he's made it even easier for other people around him. And then on the other side, we've also got some really, really good defensive performances out of him against some really talented, good players inside this league."

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    By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, February 1, 2013

    NEW ORLEANS — Eighteen seasons have passed without the 49ers, a fixture of Super Bowls in the 1980s and '90s, winning the NFC Championship Game. But as the final seconds melted from the clock in San Francisco's 28-24 win over the Falcons two weeks ago in the conference title game, former owner Eddie DeBartolo stood in the middle of the winning locker room and was overcome by a rush of emotion.

    A few minutes later, serving as an honorary team captain, DeBartolo presented the George Halas Trophy to his sister, Denise, and his nephew, 49ers CEO Jed York.

    It was a reminder that a legacy of winning finally had been passed as well.

    "It was just totally emotional," said DeBartolo, who for the second straight year is among the 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "I told people it was a totally exhausting, emotional day, and it seemed that 18 years went by like 18 minutes.

    "You say to yourself, 'Where in the heck did those years go?' It was very emotional. I was very happy for them, and I was proud to be able to do it."

    DeBartolo, 66, was a transcendent owner who won five Super Bowls with the 49ers, including four in nine years. The last Lombardi Trophy hoisted by the 49ers came in January 1995.

    In 2000, after his one-year suspension from the NFL for involvement in attempting to acquire a riverboat casino license in Louisiana, DeBartolo decided to turn over operation of the team to Denise as a way to settle his father's estate.

    But this week, with DeBartolo's former team playing the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII, images of the 49ers' glory days have been seen everywhere in New Orleans along with former players such as Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Steve Young.

    As for his Hall of Fame nomination, "I'm beyond honored," DeBartolo said. "I had never thought during my tenure of ownership, even with the success we had with the Super Bowls, that I would even be considered. I'm totally dumbfounded. I'm just flabbergasted. It's just a great honor, just being mentioned with these people."

    DeBartolo still enjoys Montana — not the quarterback, but the state where he owns a vacation home on a sprawling ranch. These days, he lives in Tampa and operates a holdings company and real estate division.

    Even with the 49ers' recent success, it's hard to imagine they could ever duplicate the run of 16 consecutive seasons of 10 wins or more from 1981 to 1999 that they achieved under DeBartolo.

    The Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee has been slow to embrace contributors. First-time eligible players such as Warren Sapp, Larry Allen, Jonathan Ogden and Michael Strahan are strong candidates in today's voting.

    That might leave only one spot to split among other players, owners such as DeBartolo and the late Art Modell (Ravens), as well as coach Bill Parcells.

    The 46-member selection committee has shown a tendency to reward players first. But if DeBartolo gains entrance into the Hall of Fame, he will have trouble containing his emotions again.

    Times files (1985)Times files (1985)

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    By Brandon Wright, Times Correspondent
    Friday, February 1, 2013

    It's been a wild stretch the last three weeks for area fans, with boys and girls soccer playoffs under way followed by girls basketball this past week. Monday, it's time for boys hoops to kick off. Tampa Prep, which won state last year, is looking to become the first county team to go back to back but a few other local teams should be in the mix on the road to Lakeland.

    8A-7 at Bloomingdale

    Tuesday: No. 3 Plant vs. No. 6 Durant, 6:30 p.m.; No. 4 Newsome vs. No. 6 Bloomingdale, 8 p.m.

    Wednesday: No. 2 Alonso vs. Plant-Durant winner, 6:30 p.m.; No. 1 Wharton vs. Newsome-Bloomingdale, 8 p.m.

    Friday: Final, 7 p.m.

    The Skinny: Wharton ran through this district, going a perfect 10-0. Plant and Alonso split during the regular season, with both games decided by six points or less.

    Player To Watch: Plant 6-foot-5 swingman Andrew Sanders is averaging a double-double at 16.6 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game.

    7A-8 at Plant City

    Tuesday: No. 3 Hillsborough vs. No. 6 Riverview, 5 p.m.; No. 4 Tampa Bay Tech vs. No. 5 Plant City, 7 p.m.

    Wednesday: No. 2 East Bay vs. Hillsborough-Riverview winner, 5 p.m.; No. 1 Brandon vs. TBT-Plant City winner, 7 p.m.

    Friday: Final, 7 p.m.

    The Skinny: Hillsborough was just 8-16 during the regular season but was the only district team to beat Brandon this year and the Eagles only won by 5 in the rematch. The expected East Bay-Hillsborough semifinal matchup should be a doozy.

    Player To Watch: East Bay junior Anton Crutcher leads the team in scoring (14.4 points per game) and rebounds (9.7 per game).

    7A-9 at Steinbrenner

    Tuesday: No. 4 Steinbrenner vs. No. 5 Gaither, 7 p.m.

    Wednesday: No. 2 Freedom vs. No. 3 Wiregrass Ranch, 6 p.m.; No. 1 Chamberlain vs. Steinbrenner-Gaither winner, 7:30 p.m.

    Friday: Final, 7 p.m.

    The Skinny: Chamberlain, Freedom and Wiregrass Ranch are all neck and neck in this district. The Chiefs' lone district loss was to the Patriots, and both of their games were decided by just 1 point.

    Player To Watch: Wiregrass Ranch's Rico Kerney is deadly from behind the arc, averaging 22.6 points per game.

    6A-11 at Leto

    Monday: No. 4 Jefferson vs. No. 5 King, 6 p.m.; No. 3 Sickles vs. No. 6 Leto, 7:30 p.m.

    Tuesday: No. 2 Strawberry Crest vs. Sickles-Leto winner, 6 p.m.; No. 1 Armwood vs. Jefferson-King winner, 7:30 p.m.

    Friday: Final, 7 p.m.

    The Skinny: Sickles, Armwood and Strawberry Crest all finished 8-2 in the district but the Hawks took the No. 1 seed by virtue of the tiebreaker. That is crucial because Armwood avoids playing either of the other two until the final if it plays out as expected.

    Player To Watch: Vontrey Hill is a complete player and ranks second on the team in scoring (16.5 points per game) and rebounding (9.4 per game) and first on the Hawks with 59 steals.

    5A-11 at Middleton

    Tuesday: No. 3 Robinson vs. No. 6 Blake, 6:30 p.m.; No. 4 Spoto vs. No. 5 Middleton, 8 p.m.

    Wednesday: No. 1 Jesuit vs. Spoto-Middleton winner, 6:30 p.m.; No. 2 Lennard vs. Robinson-Blake, 8 p.m.

    Friday: Final, 7 p.m.

    The Skinny: The Tigers' lone loss this season came to a California team in a tournament and Jesuit should have a deep playoff run ahead of them.

    Player To Watch: Jesuit's Travis Johnson is averaging 15.5 points per game for a team hitting at just under 70 points per game.

    4A-9 at Booker

    Wednesday: No. 2 Berkeley Prep vs. No. 3 Booker, 7 p.m.

    Friday: No. 1 Tampa Catholic vs. Berkeley Prep-Booker winner, 7 p.m. (final)

    The Skinny: This is the district to be in. Tampa Catholic is already guaranteed a spot in the postseason and the Buccaneers-Tornadoes winner also follows suit.

    Player To Watch: Chivarsky Corbett is one of the most dangerous scorers in the county, pouring in 22.7 points per game.

    3A-8 at Seffner Christian

    Tuesday: No. 4 Carrollwood Day School vs. No. 6 Bishop McLaughlin, 6 p.m.

    Friday: No. 1 Tampa Prep vs. CDS-Bishop McLaughlin winner, 6 p.m.; No. 2 Seffner Christian vs. No. 3 Brooks DeBartolo, 7:30 p.m.

    Saturday: Final, 7 p.m.

    The Skinny: Tampa Prep has been as dominant as any county team this season. Brooks-DeBartolo and Seffner Christian should slug it out for the second postseason slot.

    Player To Watch: Seffner Christian's Barrett Swartz will be key if the Crusaders are to advance out of the district. Swartz is averaging 21.7 points per game and is hitting at 44 percent from 3-point land.

    2A-8 at Citrus Park Christian

    Monday: No. 4 Citrus Park Christian vs. No. 5 Bayshore Christian, 6 p.m.

    Tuesday: No. 2 Cambridge Christian vs. No. 3 Academy at the Lakes, 6 p.m.; No. 1 Tampa Bay Christian vs. CPC-Bayshore Christian winner, 8 p.m.

    Friday: Final, 7 p.m.

    The Skinny: Tampa Bay Christian's lone loss of the season was a 1-point defeat to Cambridge Christian, but the Rams rebounded with a 21-point win in the rematch.

    Player To Watch: Tampa Bay Christian's Dan Manzi is outstanding in the low post, averaging 22.9 points per game.

    Brandon Wright can be reached at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

    Times (2012)Times (2012)

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    By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, February 1, 2013


    Warren Sapp forged his reputation by being disruptive to opposing quarterbacks. He also likely will create some havoc among the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee when it meets today to pick the Class of 2013. • Sapp is a Hall of Fame player, most voters agree. The only debate, it seems, is whether the Bucs great is worthy of becoming a first-ballot Hall of Famer. • "I will be very surprised if Sapp doesn't get in right away," said USA Today reporter Jarrett Bell, a member of the committee. • There are more than enough reasons why, when this year's class is announced around 5:30 p.m. at the Morial Convention Center, Sapp should be on Cloud 99.

    His career rivals or exceeds that of any defensive tackle already enshrined at the museum in Canton, Ohio.

    Consider what the converted high school tight end at Apopka who went on to star at the University of Miami accomplished in 13 NFL seasons: a member of the league's All-Decade teams for the 1990s and 2000s; defensive player of the year in 1999; Super Bowl XXXVII champion; seven-time Pro Bowl selection; 96½ sacks (his 77 for the Bucs only 11/2 fewer than the franchise record of Lee Roy Selmon).

    Only defensive players such as Reggie White, Lawrence Taylor and Bruce Smith — all first-ballot Hall of Fame players — can match Sapp's accomplishments: player of the year, more than 95 sacks, at least seven Pro Bowls.

    "(Sapp) did it for a long period of time, he won the awards," Bell said. "He won a Super Bowl. And he was the key component to a dominant defense. If they don't have Warren Sapp, how good is that Bucs defense? It's good, but you can't do it without Warren Sapp."

    Houston Chronicle reporter John McClain, a member of the selection committee, said he will vote for Sapp among his top five.

    "He dominated his position for almost a decade when he was in his prime," McClain said. "He was defensive player of the year. He won a Super Bowl. Most important, he was a member of two All-Decade teams."

    Joe Reedy, a reporter with the Cincinnati Enquirer who is also a voter, said Sapp's ability to not only play the run but rush the passer was rare among defensive tackles.

    "Sapp showed you can be a force in the middle as a run stopper but could also be a successful pass rusher," he said. "I also think when you look at the Bucs in the late '90s and during his career there, he brought the attitude and swagger that transformed the franchise. When I think of the face of the Bucs in the '90s, it's Sapp and Tony Dungy. The Super Bowl year, it is Sapp and Jon Gruden. Coaches changed, but he was the constant."

    So what are the reasons Sapp, who was born in Orlando and raised in nearby Plymouth, might be denied election to the Hall in his first year of eligibility? Well, the issues are as complicated as the process itself.

    No more than five modern-day and two senior candidates can be elected in a year, with a minimum 80 percent of the final vote required. With 46 voters — one from each NFL city, two from New York, the president of the Pro Football Writers Association and 13 at-large delegates — reaching a consensus is difficult.

    To some voters, there appears a perception that Sapp, 40, was more interested in pursuing 100 career sacks than playing his run responsibilities once he signed with the Raiders in 2004. And some might hold his sometimes "boorish behavior" during his career against him.

    A more likely reason is Sapp is part of an unusually strong class of first-time eligible players, a list that includes Cowboys guard Larry Allen, Ravens tackle Jonathan Ogden and Giants defensive end Michael Strahan.

    "The only reason I can see him not making it has nothing to do with him being worthy but that there are so many worthy candidates," McClain said. "Some of the greatest ever haven't made it on the first ballot."

    That list includes Selmon, the Bucs' only Hall of Fame player who was elected in his sixth year of eligibility.

    "A first-ballot guy is a guy when you get into the room, and a presenter like Ira Miller said of Joe Montana, 'Ladies and gentlemen, I present Joe Montana. Questions?' " Reedy said. "And the room was silent and he said, 'Thank you very much.' And we went onto the next candidate. The same thing happened with Bruce Smith and maybe Reggie White.

    "Sapp may not be Joe Montana and Bruce Smith in terms of us not having a discussion, but it's not going to be a discussion where there are cons contrasting the pros. He's in a very strong class, but he's one of them."

    Times (2000)Times (2000)

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    Times staff
    Friday, February 1, 2013

    Modern-era nominees

    Larry Allen, G/T

    Years/Teams: 1994-2005 Dallas Cowboys, 2006-07 San Francisco 49ers

    College: Sonoma State, Butte Junior College (Calif.)

    Seasons: 14; Games: 203

    All-Pro: 7; Pro Bowls: 11

    Notable: Allen is a member of the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1990s and 2000s.

    Jerome Bettis, RB

    Years/Teams: 1993-95 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams; 1996-2005 Pittsburgh Steelers

    College: Notre Dame

    Seasons: 13; Games: 192

    All-Pro: 2; Pro Bowls: 6

    Career Stats: 3,479 carries for 13,662 yards, 91 touchdowns; 200 receptions for 1,449 yards, 3 touchdowns.

    Notable: At the time of his retirement Bettis ranked 5th in rushing yards.

    Tim Brown, WR/KR

    Years/Teams: 1988-2003 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders, 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    College: Notre Dame

    Seasons: 17; Games: 255

    All-Pro: 2; Pro Bowls: 9

    Career Stats: 1,094 receptions for 14,934 yards and 100 touchdowns.

    Notable: Brown had 80 or more receptions in nine seasons over a 10-year span. He also was a lethal return man, his 19,682 all-purpose yards still ranks fifth all-time.

    Cris Carter, WR

    Years/Teams: 1987-89 Philadelphia Eagles; 1990-2001 Minnesota Vikings; 2002 Miami Dolphins

    College: Ohio State

    Seasons: 16; Games: 234

    All-Pro: 2; Pro Bowls: 8

    Career Stats: 1,101 receptions for 13,899 yards and 130 TDs

    Notable: Retired as the NFL's second all-time leading receiver. Three times Carter led the NFL in touchdown catches.

    Edward DeBartolo Jr., Owner

    Years/Teams: 1977-2000 San Francisco 49ers

    College: Notre Dame

    Seasons: 23; Division titles: 13

    Conference Titles: 5; Super Bowl Titles: 5

    Notable: DeBartolo transformed the 49ers into one of the most dominant dynasties in NFL history.

    Kevin Greene, LB/DE

    Years/Teams: 1985-1992 Los Angeles Rams, 1993-95 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1996, 1998-99 Carolina Panthers, 1997 San Francisco 49ers

    College: Auburn

    Seasons: 15; Games: 228

    All-Pro: 2; Pro Bowls: 5

    Career Stats: Amassed 160 sacks. Also had 5 interceptions for 53 yards, 1 TD; 3 safeties, and 2 fumble recoveries for touchdowns.

    Notable: Greene twice led the NFL in sacks, the first time in 1994 with the Steelers and again two years later in Carolina. He had 10 or more sacks in a season 10 times during his career.

    Charles Haley, DE/LB

    Years/Teams: 1986-1991, 1999 San Francisco 49ers, 1992-96 Dallas Cowboys

    College: James Madison

    Seasons: 12; Games: 169

    All-Pro: 2; Pro Bowls: 5

    Career Stats: Recorded 100.5 sacks. Had one safety and one fumble recovery for a touchdown.

    Notable: Haley holds the NFL record for most Super Bowl victories by a player. He won three with the Cowboys (XXVII, XVIII, XXX) and two with 49ers (XXIII, XXIV).

    Modern-era nominees

    Art Modell, Owner

    Years/Teams: 1961-1995 Cleveland Browns, 1996-2003 Baltimore Ravens

    Seasons: 44; Division titles: 12

    NFL Championship titles: 1; Super Bowl titles: 1

    Notable: Modell's Browns won the NFL Championship in 1964 and his Ravens the Super Bowl in 2001 at Raymond James Stadium. He died in September.

    Jonathan Ogden, T

    Years/Teams: 1996-2007 Baltimore Ravens

    College: UCLA

    Seasons: 12; Games: 177

    All-Pro: 6; Pro Bowls: 11

    Career Stats: 2 receptions, 2 touchdowns

    Notable: Ogden was the first player ever drafted by the Baltimore Ravens franchise.

    Bill Parcells, Head Coach

    Years/Teams: 1983-1990 New York Giants, 1993-96 New England Patriots, 1997-99 New York Jets, 2003-06 Dallas Cowboys

    College: Colgate, Wichita State

    Seasons: 20; Division titles: 5

    Conference titles: 3; Super Bowl titles: 2

    Notable: Parcells is a two-time NFL Coach of the Year recipient (1986, 1994)

    Andre Reed, WR

    Years/Teams: 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000 Washington Redskins

    College: Kutztown

    Seasons: 16; Games: 234

    All-Pro: 3; Pro Bowls: 7

    Career Stats: 951 receptions for 13,198 yards and 87 touchdowns.

    Notable: Reed had 50 or more receptions in 13 seasons, which rank him third all-time. At the time of his retirement his 951 career receptions ranked third all-time.

    Warren Sapp, DT

    Years/Teams: 1995-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2004-07 Oakland Raiders

    College: Miami

    Seasons: 13; Games: 198

    All-Pro: 4; Pro Bowls: 7

    Career Stats: 96.5 sacks, 4 interceptions for 8 yards and 1 TD, and 4 receptions for 39 yards and 2 touchdowns

    Notable: Sapp was voted to both the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1990s and 2000s.

    Will Shields, G

    Years/Teams: 1993-2006 Kansas City Chiefs

    College: Nebraska

    Seasons: 14; Games: 224

    All-Pro: 3; Pro Bowls: 12

    Notable: Shields was selected for the NFL's All-Decade Team in the 2000s.

    Michael Strahan, DE

    Years/Teams: 1993-2007 New York Giants

    College: Texas Southern

    Seasons: 15; Games: 216

    All-Pro: 5; Pro Bowls: 7

    Career Stats: 141.5 sacks and 1 safety, 4 interceptions for 124 yards and 2 TD

    Notable: Strahan holds the NFL record for most sacks in a single season when he recorded 22.5 during the 2001 season.

    Aeneas Williams, CB/S

    Years/Teams: 1991-2000 Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals, 2001-04 St. Louis Rams

    College: Southern University

    Seasons: 14; Games: 211

    All-Pro: 4; Pro Bowls: 8

    Career Stats: 55 interceptions for 807 yards and 9 touchdowns.

    Notable: At the time of his retirement, Williams ranked tied with Hall of Famer Ken Houston for second on the NFL's all-time list of interception returns for touchdowns with nine.

    Senior committee nominees

    Curly Culp, DT

    Years/Teams: 1968-1974 Kansas City Chiefs, 1974-1980 Houston Oilers, 1980-1981 Detroit Lions

    College: Arizona State

    Notable: NFL's Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-Pro, 1975; First- or second-team All-AFC five times; six Pro Bowls.

    Dave Robinson, LB

    Years/teams: 1963-1972 Green Bay Packers, 1973-74 Washington Redskins

    College: Penn State

    Notable: Starting OLB in three straight NFL championship wins, 1965-67 and Super Bowl I and II victories … Intercepted 27 passes for 449 yards, 1 TD … All-Pro second-team in 1968-69 … First-team All-NFL, 1967-69 … Three Pro Bowls … Named to NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1960s.

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    By Rob Gorta, Times Correspondent
    Friday, February 1, 2013

    What's hot: Trout and redfish continue to provide a lot of light-tackle action inshore. Trout have been caught with artificial lures. Large schools of redfish are working their way back onto the flats. I finally came across them last week. This marks the start of the redfish season. Higher tides in the afternoon make it easier to get close to them.

    Tactics: I start in the morning on the low tide working the edges of sandbars around Pinellas Point. Casting quarter-ounce jigs rigged with soft plastic tails has produced trout, bluefish, ladyfish, pompano and jacks. Work as much water as possible. Once the tide gets high enough, I work my way onto the flats looking for redfish. Clear water and lower tides can spook reds. I work slowly and wait for them to come to me as the tide rises. If fish run into bait on their own, they usually eat what you offer. Once the tide is almost at its peak, I target where I have caught them previously.

    Bait: Redfish will eat just about anything when baits are presented right. If the tide is low, I like to use shrimp. They are easy to cast and land softly, the key to not spooking the fish. If the tide is high, I prefer pinfish, greenbacks and whitebaits.

    Rob Gorta charters out of St. Petersburg. Call him at (727) 647-7606 or visit captainrobgorta.com.

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    By Don Jensen, Times Correspondent
    Friday, February 1, 2013

    OLDSMAR — Over the past decade, Oldsmar has become Louisville South.

    It is a major Kentucky Derby player, often sending 3-year-olds from Tampa Bay Downs to the Run for the Roses. Two area graduates have won the Derby; two others were Derby-placed.

    The Triple Crown trail goes through Oldsmar again this year, beginning this afternoon with a historic Festival Preview Day. For the first time in 87 years, the Downs has three graded stakes races on one card. And the featured race, the $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes, will be the first Oldsmar event to award points in the new Road to the Kentucky Derby series. The Mark Casse-trained entries of Dynamic Sky and Northern Lion are 9-5 morning-line favorites.

    Joining the Sam F. Davis (Race 11, 5:23 p.m.) are the Endeavour (Race 9, 4:23) and the Florida Oaks (Race 7, 3:23), both with $150,000 purses for females on turf. All three 1 1/16th-mile events are Grade IIIs.

    The Sam F. Davis and the Tampa Bay Derby on March 9 passed the litmus test when Churchill Downs officials announced in June it would switch to a points-based system to determine the Kentucky Derby starting field, replacing the graded earnings criteria used from 1984-2012.

    The Sam F. Davis is one of 19 races worth 17 points (first four finishers earn points on a scale of 10-4-2-1), and the Tampa Bay Derby is one of eight with 85 (50-20-10-5). Overall, 36 races have points, seven with 170 (100-40-20-10).

    "Some tough decisions had to be made," Churchill Downs spokesman Darren Rogers said. "But as we turned to the races at Tampa Bay, their two races were viewed favorably.

    "The Sam F. Davis, in the last 10 years, has produced 14 starters in the Kentucky Derby. The races that are in advance of what we call the 10-week Kentucky Derby Championship Season, from late September to late February, are viewed as foundation-building races that are helping horses develop for the looming Triple Crown push."

    Rogers said 40 points should put a horse in the Kentucky Derby on May 4, making the Tampa Bay Derby winner an automatic qualifier. Fifteen Kentucky Derby starters have advanced from the Tampa Bay Derby in the past 10 years. Street Sense (2007) and Super Saver ('10) won the Kentucky Derby. Bluegrass Cat ('06) finished second, and Musket Man ('09) was third.

    "The merits of the graded stakes system became annually debated within the industry for the past decade," Rogers said. "And while it worked reasonably well, it became less effective and dependable in recent years because of the flow of large amounts of casino and slot-machine revenues in the stakes purses at some tracks.

    "Our primary driving motive is to create new fans, maximize the quality of the Derby field and to protect the integrity of the race. This is not about rewriting history. It's about looking to the future."

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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, February 1, 2013

    TAMPA — Brendan Mikkelson said he "dodged a bullet" when he crashed head- and shoulder-first into the end boards during Thursday's practice.

    The Lightning defenseman said Friday that he was unconscious "for a few seconds" and woke "gasping for breath" with the wind knocked out of him. Even so, Mikkelson said, X-rays and a CT scan at Tampa General Hospital were negative and he had no headaches.

    He is day-to-day with an unspecified injury. Mikkelson indicated he has right-shoulder and neck stiffness.

    "The guys told me it was pretty solid," Mikkelson, 25, said of his slide into the boards.

    It happened after a Marty St. Louis dump-in of the puck.

    "I knew it was (Steven Stamkos) beside me, so I knew I would have to get on my horse if I was going to beat him to the puck," Mikkelson said. "I just skated as hard as I could. I don't know if our feet got tangled or I just straight out blew a tire."

    Whatever happened, Mikkelson, scratched in six of seven games, said he had never hit the boards that hard.

    "It wasn't looking good," coach Guy Boucher said. "We crossed our fingers and got lucky."

    BAD HIT: D Sami Salo missed the final 7:49 of the first period of the 8-3 win against the Jets after he was checked from behind face-first into the side glass by Winnipeg's Chris Thorburn. The right wing received a five-minute major for hitting from behind, during which Tampa Bay scored twice, and a game misconduct.

    Salo returned for the second period and played 17:56 in the game, 3:18 less than his average.

    "Just a little bang-up," said Salo, who apparently sustained only a minor lip cut. "You know, in the heat of the moment you can't always put the breaks on. A little unfortunate but not a big deal."

    Asked if he had a problem with the hit, Boucher said he did not see it. "A five-minute power play, there's no problem for me there," he said. "He came back to play. If he didn't come back to play, I would have had a problem without seeing it."

    LEADERS: Stamkos has five goals, nine assists in a seven-game points streak tied for the league lead. His assists in seven straight games also are tied for the lead. … RW Cory Conacher leads all rookies with 12 points, seven assists and at plus-8. He is tied for the lead with five goals and leads with a 41.7 shooting percentage (five goals on 12 shots). … Salo leads the league at plus-11. D Victor Hedman is second at plus-10, and Conacher is fourth at plus-8.

    GIVING IT AWAY: For as much offense as St. Louis has produced, the right wing leads the league with 12 giveaways. The team entered Friday tied for 14th with 51. "As the season goes on, these guys will manage (the puck) better," Boucher said. "I'm not worried."

    HELPING: Bucs WR Vincent Jackson, through his Jackson in Action 83 Foundation, provided about 2,000 tickets to the game to various Tampa Bay military groups.

    ODDS AND ENDS: The Rocket Richard Trophy — given to the league's top goal scorer, Stamkos last season — was on display. … Julianna Zobrist, wife of the Rays' Ben Zobrist, will sing the national anthem before tonight's game against the Rangers. … D Marc-Andre Bergeron and RW Pierre-Cedric Labrie also were scratched.

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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, February 1, 2013

    . Tonight

    Lightning vs. Rangers

    When/where: 7; Tampa Bay Times Forum

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

    Key stats: The Lightning is 6-1-1 against the Rangers the past two seasons with only a 24-21 goals advantage. … New York is 0-4-0 this season when outshot. … The Lightning is 1-0-0 in the second of back-to-back games. … Rangers and former Lightning C Brad Richards has three goals, 10 points in seven games with New York and the Stars against his former team.

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    By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, February 1, 2013

    How the selection process works

    The 46-member selection committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame consists of one media representative from each NFL city, with two from New York, the Pro Football Writers of America president and 13 at-large delegates.

    There is a seniors committee that consists of five voters. They identify players who have exhausted their 15-year period of eligibility and were not elected but might still be considered worthy of induction.

    The list of about 125 nominees — players and coaches must be out of football for five years to be eligible — is released in September, then cut to 25 semifinalists in November. Today's 15 finalists were revealed in January.

    On the Saturday before the Super Bowl, the 46 selectors meet and the NFL city representative serves as the presenter for that team's nominated person. Tampa Bay's Warren Sapp will be presented by Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune.

    After a group discussion, there is a vote, with the top 10 moving to the second round. Then there is a second vote on just that list, with the top five moving on to final consideration.

    Then there is a third vote, but this time just yes or no on whether the finalist deserves to be inducted. A finalist must receive 80 percent (37 yes votes) approval for entry.

    The accounting firm Deloitte & Touche tabulates the votes and presents a sealed envelope with the names of the enshrinees to the Hall of Fame president at a news conference immediately after the selection meeting.

    Rick Stroud, Times staff writer

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  • 02/01/13--18:20: Super Bowl news and notes
  • Times wires
    Friday, February 1, 2013

    Quote of the day

    "I don't think these Ravens guys know what they're in for."

    — Bucs practice squad DE Ernest Owusu, on 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick, who passed for 181 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 148 yards and three touchdowns for Nevada against Owusu's Cal team in 2010

    By the numbers

    $2,650 Nightly rate for a hotel room at The Bluegreen Club La Pension, located in the Warehouse-Arts District of downtown New Orleans.

    $510 Nightly rate for a room at the Holiday Inn Express Harvey-Marrero, about 10 miles from the Superdome; rooms are available the following weekend for $145 per night.

    $3.8M Price of a 30-second commercial during the CBS broadcast, up from $3.3 million last year.

    111.3M Viewers for last year's Super Bowl, the most watched U.S. telecast ever.

    $2,795.08 Average price for the more than 2,000 tickets available online as of Friday afternoon.

    Coming soon: Santa Clara 49ers

    The 49ers' San Francisco-dwelling fans soon will be losers, no matter the outcome Sunday. That's because the franchise is leaving the city it has called home since 1946. The team's first kickoff in a stadium 40 miles away in Santa Clara, wedged between San Jose and Sunnyvale, is expected in 2014. The 49ers are leaving because the city of San Francisco didn't offer a sweetheart land deal or financial lure enticing enough to hold on to its team (the new stadium for Major League Baseball's Giants was almost all privately financed) and Candlestick Park is one of the NFL's most outdated stadiums.

    Prop bet of the day

    What color will the Gatorade (or liquid) be dumped on the coach of the winning team?

    Clear/water: 19-10

    Orange: 3-1Yellow: 5-2

    Green: 7-1Red: 13-2Blue: 7-1

    List of the day

    The best Super Bowl beer commercials, according to thedailymeal.com:

    3 "Here, Weego" (2012): Let's be real. This ad has everything we want from a commercial: an adorable, perky-eared pet that willingly fetches us beer wherever we go. … Did you see the dog? Rolling on a keg? Here we go, Weego.

    2 Will Ferrell's Old Milld Milwaukee (2012): When you put Ferrell in a beer commercial, you get a hilariously weird cameo, confusion and, well, Old Milwaukee. We still find his slow-mo walk quite hilarious.

    1 Budweiser Frogs: The Budweiser frogs debuted at Super Bowl XXIX in 1995 and instantly became a hit. If you can ever get the "Bud … Weis … Er" unstuck in your head, you might recall the spinoff version of the frogs, the chameleons Frankie, Louie and the ferret who want in on the Bud action. But nothing will ever top those wisecracking, Budweiser-loving frogs.

    Times wires

    Brotherly love

    Working separately, John and Jim Harbaugh have guided the Ravens and 49ers, respectively, to the Super Bowl. But imagine how effective they could be if they worked together. During their joint news conference Friday — a first for opposing coaches in the Super Bowl — someone asked the brothers if they would consider teaming up if either should be forced out of his current post. "No question about it," John said. "We've had that conversation in the past. It just never really worked out timing-wise. I'd love to work for Jim. It would be the greatest thing in the world." Said Jim: "Definitely, I would work for him."

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  • 02/01/13--18:31: Three Super Bowl thoughts
  • By Tom Jones, Times Sports Columnist
    Friday, February 1, 2013

    1. All week, the Super Bowl talk has surrounded quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick, running backs Ray Rice and Frank Gore, receivers Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree and, of course, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis (left, bottom). But often, the Super Bowl's star isn't really a star at all. Remember when Bucs safety Dexter Jackson won MVP honors? Or Dallas' Larry Brown and Chuck Howley? Or Miami's Jake Scott? Even recognizable names such as Desmond Howard, Deion Branch and Richard Dent were not among the favorites to win MVP awards. So who might be this year's dark horse MVP candidates? For the Ravens, there's tight end Dennis Pitta (top), who caught five passes for 55 yards and a touchdown against the Pats in the AFC title game. He would be the first tight end to win. Meantime, what would happen if Kaepernick gets knocked out of the game? Backup Alex Smith could come off the bench, reclaim his job and lead the 49ers to victory. Man, wouldn't that be something?

    2. Know which fans cannot figure out which team to root for? Steelers fans. See, there's no team on earth Steelers fans hate more than the Ravens, their AFC North rival. Then again, if the 49ers win, they tie the Steelers for most Super Bowl victories with six. Pittsburghers, who live in the past as well as anyone, might be best served putting on their two-sizes-too-small, moth-eaten, numbers-peeling Jack Lambert jersey and cueing up their antique VCR to watch a highlight tape from one of the Steelers-Cowboys Super Bowls — one the Steelers won, of course.

    3. The projected high temperature in the New York area today is 32 degrees. The Super Bowl will played there exactly one year from today.

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  • 02/01/13--18:53: Preview: FSU vs. Duke
  • Times staff
    Friday, February 1, 2013

    . TODAY

    Florida State vs. No. 5 Duke

    When/where: 2, Tucker Center, Tallahassee

    TV/radio: ESPN; 620-AM, 1040-AM

    Records: FSU 12-8, 4-3 ACC; Duke 18-2, 5-2

    Notable: The Seminoles have won three of the past four meetings. … Duke forward Mason Plumlee leads the ACC in rebounding (11.1 a game) and is second in scoring (18.1). The Blue Devils lead the league in 3-point shooting at 40.1 percent (150-of-374) and have five players averaging in double figures.

    Times staff

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