May 14, 2020 11:06 AM

Thursday Sports Headlines

Posted May 14, 2020 11:06 AM

Here is the latest Mid-America sports news from The Associated Press

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The Big Ten Conference has approved hardship waiver petitions for Iowa basketball players Jordan Bohannon and Jack Nunge to give each an extra year of eligibility. Bohannon averaged 8.8 points and 3.3 assists in 10 games before undergoing season-ending surgery on his left hip in December. He had the same procedure on his right hip last May. The Marion, Iowa, native holds the Iowa record with 284 career 3-pointers made. Nunge started five games last season before tearing the ACL in his right knee. Freshman forward Patrick McCaffery's hardship waiver is still under review.

UNDATED (AP) — The NFL has updated its Organized Team Activities schedule as the league hopes to begin the upcoming season on time.

A person familiar with the decision tells The Associated Press that the NFL has extended its virtual offseason workouts through the end of May.

NFL teams normally would be holding OTAs during May, followed by June minicamps. Those activities are being done remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic. Coaching and training staffs have worked with the players by conducting classroom instruction and on-field activities through digital applications.

All 32 teams must submit plans for reopening their facilities to the league by Friday, though no dates for such re-openings are set. Offseason workouts must end by June 26, a week or so later than usual.

In other news related to the coronavirus pandemic:

— Florida is willing to be a restart site for professional sports leagues when play resumes following shutdowns caused by the new coronavirus. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says he is welcoming all pro sports for practicing and playing, although he couldn’t guarantee that fans would be permitted. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced this week that his state is open to games without spectators for all the major sports starting Saturday.

— Major League Soccer is looking at the possibility of resuming the season this summer with all teams playing in Orlando, Florida. A person with knowledge of the plan says the league's 26 teams and limited staff would likely be sheltered in a resort with games played without fans at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World. Details of the plan are still under consideration. Teams could head to Florida as early as June 1 for training camps.

— A person familiar with the decision says the Miami Marlins will temporarily furlough 90 to 100 baseball operations employees beginning June 1 because of the pandemic. The person told The Associated Press that about 40 percent of the baseball operations staff will be affected, with the status of those furloughed to be evaluated monthly. Their health benefits will continue through the end of October.

— The Italian soccer league is hoping to resume competition on June 13. The date was agreed to during a video conference with all 20 Serie A clubs. It is subject to approval by the Italian government. Full team training will restart on May 18 after a revised medical protocol was approved. The clubs have already resumed training on an individual basis.

— The Portuguese soccer league says it will delay its restart until June 4. The league was expected to resume at the end of May but will wait another week so there is time to “rigorously inspect stadiums and conduct medical tests on all professionals involved” in the matches.

— Players from the Spanish soccer club Elche did not return to practice on Wednesday as a protest against reduced salaries. The players for the second-division club were supposed to practice at the team’s stadium. Instead, they decided to keep training at home to show their discontentment with the team’s decision not to lift the furloughs that had been put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. Players had their salaries reduced by 70%.

— The PGA Tour has outlined a health plan for its return that includes testing players for the new coronavirus both at home and when they arrive at tournaments. The tour's chief of operations says they won't play if it's not safe for everyone involved, and if testing takes away from resources in the host city. The return to golf will not include spectators or pro-ams. Key personnel will have to answer health questionnaires and have their temperatures taken every day. The tour says if a player tests positive, he will have to withdraw.

— Santa Anita has received approval from Los Angeles County health officials to resume live racing Friday. The track stopped live racing on March 27 by order of the county health department because of concern over the spread of the coronavirus. The track raced without spectators for two weeks before it was shut down.

— The South Korean women’s golf tour is starting up again. The KLPGA Championship opens today, without fans on the course. Organizers say social distancing will be practiced by players and tournament officials. Women’s golf joins South Korea’s professional baseball and soccer leagues, which have already restarted in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

— Golf courses in England are reopening as part of some modest socially distanced easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions. People in England can exercise more than once a day and with one person from outside their household, provided the rule to remain more than six feet apart is adhered to. In addition, outdoor tennis and basketball courts can be used, and people will also be able to swim in lakes and the sea.

— Ferrari says it has developed a ventilator for hospitals dealing with the pandemic. The Formula One team says it created a device that is easy to use and assemble in conjunction with the Italian Institute of Technology. Ferrari says it was designed in only five weeks and can be produced using easily available materials at a lower cost than normal ventilators.

— The Japan Sumo Association says a 28-year-old wrestler has died from the coronavirus. The association identified the wrestler as Shoubushi and said he died of multiple-organ failure. He is reported to have been the first sumo wrestler to die from the virus, and among the youngest to die in Japan.

— Beach volleyball teams will have an extra year to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. The system will otherwise remain the same. Most teams qualify by earning points on the international tour. The deadline for Tokyo had been this June but now it will be June 13, 2021. Additional spots in the Olympic tournament will be decided at continental tournaments that will be held until June 27 of next year.

— Oaklawn plans to reopen its casino next to the racetrack in Hot Springs, Arkansas, on Monday. General manager Wayne Smith says state and health officials have given the go-ahead to do so with new health and hygiene protocols in place. The casino will operate at 33% capacity, staff and visitors will have their temperatures checked upon entry and must wear masks, and guests must show ID in case contact tracing is needed.

— Rutgers is doing away with paper tickets to sports events in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The State University of New Jersey announced Wednesday that mobile-only ticketing to sports events will start this fall with the football season.

— IndyCar plans to crown its champion on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. The original opener is being rescheduled for Oct. 25 as the finale. IndyCar was supposed to start its season March 15 on the temporary street course. Teams were already in place to compete before sports shut down 48 hours before the race because of the coronavirus pandemic.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL-NBA DRAFT DEADLINE

Draft deadline pushed back

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA is pushing back its deadline for early entrants to the NBA draft to withdraw and return to school.

The deadline had been June 3, 10 days after the completion of the NBA scouting combine. But the combine was postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said in a statement that college sports’ governing body won’t set a new deadline until the NBA has determined its revised timeline for the predraft process.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL-GEORGETOWN-McCLUNG

Hoyas star guard transferring

WASHINGTON (AP) — Georgetown guard Mac McClung plans to enter the NCAA transfer portal after taking his name out of consideration for the NBA draft.

McClung averaged 15.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 21 games as a sophomore this past season, missing time with a right foot injury.

His departure follows the transfers of four other Georgetown men’s basketball players during last season.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL-ALABAMA ST-MO WILLIAMS

Williams takes over Alabama State program

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Former NBA point guard Mo Williams is Alabama State's new head coach.

Williams played 14 seasons in the NBA, winning a championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016. He spent the past two seasons as an assistant for California State University at Northridge, under coach Mark Gottfried.

NBA-OBIT-JOHN MCCARTHY

Former Celtics, Canisius guard Johnny McCarthy dies

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Former NBA guard John McCarthy has died at 86.

McCarthy was the first player in NBA history to record a triple-double in his first career playoff game, a feat that has been matched just three other times. He played six seasons in the league and closed his career by helping the Boston Celtics win the 1964 championship.

McCarthy also helped Canisius earn a pair of NCAA appearances in 1955 and ’56.

Canisius announced that McCarthy died Saturday of natural causes in the Buffalo suburbs, where he grew up and lived most of his life.

DOCTOR-SEXUAL ASSAULT-MICHIGAN STATE

Nassar-related case dismissed against ex-university chief

DETROIT (AP) — A judge has dismissed criminal charges against former Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon.

She was accused of lying to investigators in 2018 as they tried to learn what she knew years earlier about sexual assault complaints involving campus doctor Larry Nassar. Simon last year was ordered to trial in Eaton County, near Lansing. But Circuit Judge John Maurer tossed the case, saying a lower court judge had abused her discretion in finding enough evidence to keep the case going.

Nassar is serving decades in prison after hundreds of women and girls came forward to say he molested them during visits for hip, back and leg injuries. Authorities alleged that Simon knew in 2014 that Nassar had been accused of molesting a patient at a campus clinic, and that she knew of the nature of the complaint.

UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN-DOCTOR

U. of Michigan seeks to remove law firm in sex abuse suits

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — The University of Michigan has announced that it is seeking to remove a law firm it hired to handle lawsuits following hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse by Dr. Robert Anderson, a sports doctor who worked at the school for decades.

It's the second time the university has sought to remove a firm helping handle the allegations, and just two months after the firm was hired.

The school said in April that it hoped to settle the lawsuits.

WOMEN’S HOCKEY-FUTURE

Pro women's hockey association unveils 5-city regional plan

UNDATED (AP) — The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association enters its second season with plans to regionalize its structure by basing players in five hub cities.

Groups of 25 players will practice in rinks in New Hampshire, Minnesota, Toronto, Montreal and Calgary. The league says players will have access to dedicated dressing rooms, strength and conditioning facilities as well as support staff and coaches.

The PWHPA was established a year ago following the collapse of the six-team Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

The league says it will continue its Dream Gap Tour series of barnstorming stops across North America.

XFL-LUCK LAWSUIT

McMahon fights back in battle with Luck

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) — Lawyers for XFL owner Vince McMahon have argued in court filings that he was justified in firing league CEO Oliver Luck last month just before the football operation shut down.

Luck filed a federal lawsuit last month over his April 9 termination, alleging the wrestling magnate breached their contract. The father of former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and a long-time football executive is seeking monetary damages.

Attorneys for McMahon argued Wednesday that Luck was fired for cause, in part because he failed to devote his business time to his XFL duties. They claimed Luck abandoned his responsibilities after the schedule was halted by the coronavirus.

The league suspended operations and laid off all its employees on April 10, three days before filing for bankruptcy protection.

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May 14, 2020 11:06 AM
Safety protocols include Fox calling NASCAR race from studio

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Jeff Gordon thought his wife, a former model, was kidding when she asked the NASCAR Hall of Famer to color her graying roots. He realized she was serious after the third request, FaceTimed her regular stylist and took a crash course in mixing color.

“Those are the types of things we do when we are in quarantine,” Gordon said Wednesday. “There are things that you do to keep the glue together, to keep everybody healthy and sane. So if having gray hair stresses her out, then I am happy to contribute.”

The adjustments will continue Sunday when NASCAR resumes its schedule at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina. Gordon, now in his fifth season as part of Fox Sports’ broadcast team, will not be at the track. He and Mike Joy will call the race from a studio in Charlotte and Regan Smith will be the only at-track reporter for the broadcast team, working the pits. Larry McReynolds, an analyst, will also work from the Charlotte studio.

NASCAR is l imiting the number of people at the track to only those essential to compete and broadcast the race, so Fox will have a dramatically reduced roster and use a high-speed custom-built drone that can offer more perspectives than usual since fans won’t be in the stands. The Fox team is still finalizing its approach, but expects to use instant messaging with crews to glean the critical information Gordon and Joy need to properly call a race.

Gordon and Joy spent the last two months calling iRacing events from a studio, so they have some experience with broadcasting remotely. Still, they will be winging some things as they adapt to watching the race on monitors instead of describing what’s unfolding right in front of them at the track.

“I’m just excited that the opportunity is there for NASCAR and motorsports,” Gordon told The Associated Press. “We are always comparing our sport to others but now we really get to really talk about the uniqueness of our sport and showcase that, because that is what is giving us this opportunity when other sports are going to be more delayed.

“Motorsports is fortunate to have this opportunity. I am more excited to see that in action, but I think everybody is nervous. Normally in a broadcast we have practice, we have qualifying, we get to work some things. This is going to be ‘Boom,’ just like the drivers and the teams. They are going to get in the car and drop the green flag and it is on, and for us it is going to be the same thing.”

NASCAR’s return will be conducted in just one day, with qualifying and practices canceled for a consolidated schedule. A random draw will be used to help set the field at Darlington — positions 1-12 will be set by a random draw from teams in those positions in owner points, followed by a draw for teams in positions 13 through 24, and finally another draw for teams ranked between 25th and 36th. The final four slots will go to non-chartered teams based on order of owner points.

The field will be frozen for a competition caution on Lap 30 and only the top 20 cars will be allowed to pit on that lap. The other 20 cars will pit on the next lap.

Gordon, a four-time NASCAR champion ranked third in all-time victories, applauded the new approaches the sanctioning body is taking as it attempts to restart the season. There are at least two Wednesday night races coming up, with the field May 20 at Darlington set by the finishing order of Sunday’s race — with a twist: The top 20 finishers Sunday will be inverted for Wednesday’s starting lineup.

With so much happening and NASCAR being the first major sports league with a nationally televised event, Gordon recognizes the responsibility he and Joy have to set the right tone. Gordon was a driver in NASCAR’s first race back after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. won in Dover, Delaware, and set an iconic image for the nation by waving the American flag out his window during his celebration.

“These are unique and challenging times and I hope that people that tune in are tuning in because they recognize the importance that sports play in our every day life,” Gordon said. “I think it can show hope. I think there’s going to be a lot of eyeballs on this event to see how it’s going to play out and how it’s going to be able to continue after this, and what that means for our country as people are trying to figure out how they are going to get back to work or normalcy or school and what life is going to look like over the next year. If a sporting event like this can happen, then, what’s the next step?”