Roddick qualifies for ATP's year-end tournament
Andy Roddick, Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer claimed the last spots for the ATP World Tour Finals after Gael Monfils ended Fernando Verdasco's hopes at the Paris Masters on Thursday.
Roddick reached the quarterfinals by defeating Ernests Gulbis 6-3, 7-6 (8), putting Jurgen Melzer out of contention in the race for the year-end tournament in London this month. Melzer, who beat the seventh-seeded Ferrer 7-6 (6), 2-6, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals, needed to win in Paris and have Roddick lose in the third round.
Verdasco needed to reach the finals to have any hope of qualifying for the eight-man London tournament. But Monfils rallied from one set down and saved two match points in a 6-7 (4), 7-6 (2), 7-5 win over the Spaniard.
The eight players making the ATP Finals from Nov. 21-28 are top-ranked Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Robin Soderling, Berdych, Ferrer and Roddick.
All but Berdych have already played at the elite tournament.
"I think it's a goal at the beginning of every year," said Roddick, who qualified for the finals for an eighth consecutive year. "It's certainly an accomplishment every year. You can't just play well for one week. It's the culmination of doing it week after week on tour."
Woods four shots back in Australia
Tiger Woods shot a 2-under 69 Thursday in the opening round of the Australian Masters, leaving him four shots off the lead in the last tournament where he is the defending champion.
On the Victoria course that measures only 6,886 yards, Woods hit driver only on the par 5s. "Why can't we build golf courses like this in America?" Woods said as he walked to the seventh tee. "This is cool. This is so cool."
Adam Bland and Alistair Presnell, roommates while they traveled the Nationwide Tour in the United States this year, each had a 6-under 65, with Bland making birdie on his last four holes. They were joined atop the leader board by Daniel Gaunt, who was equally impressive under the warming of the afternoon sun in Melbourne.
A year ago, Woods opened with a 67 for a share of the lead and stayed there the rest of the week. His victory came just 12 days before his middle-of-the-night car accident that soon turned into a scandal over his extramarital affairs.
Fowler takes early PGA lead with 66
Rickie Fowler is making an early move toward his first PGA Tour victory. Fowler shot a 6-under 66 to take the early lead in the opening round of the Children's Miracle Network Classic on Thursday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. He has two second-places finishes this year along with a strong showing at the Ryder Cup — but hasn't won on Tour.
Fowler had eight birdies and showed no signs of jet lag after just returning from the HSBC Champions in Shanghai. About the only thing that slowed him down was an hour delay at the start because of thick fog blanketing the Disney World course.
Rory Sabbatini was one shot back and several others within range were still on the course.
College coaching hires are ahead of ADs
Last month's game between Virginia and Eastern Michigan marked a milestone for diversity at college football's highest level. It's believed to have been the first such matchup in which both coaches and athletic directors were African-Americans.
A study released Thursday found uneven progress toward more moments like it in the future. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida reported major gains in the number of minority head coaches at college football's highest level but less movement in other leadership positions.
The research examined data from the 120 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision. A record 15 coaches of color led FBS teams at the start of the 2010 season. But a lack of diversity remains in the sport's positions of power. The study found that all conference commissioners, 93 percent of school presidents and 88 percent of athletic directors at these colleges were white.
Six new African-American coaches were hired at FBS schools this past off-season, while Turner Gill moved up from Buffalo to BCS conference member Kansas. From 1979-2002, a total of 19 full-time African-American head coaches were hired. Ten have been hired in just the last two years.
"The biggest litmus test to this is where we end up a year from now," Black Coaches and Administrators executive director Floyd Keith said. "If the trend is continuing, then I think it's pointing to all the positives for all of us engaged in this struggle."
Player who wore pink cleats drops suit
Mendenhall (Miss.) High School football player Coy Sheppard will be back with his team Friday night after he and the local school board settled a dispute over his dismissal for wearing pink cleats to promote breast cancer awareness.
In return for getting back on the team, the 17-year-old senior agreed to drop his lawsuit against the school system. The two sides reached the agreement Thursday.
Sheppard wore his pink cleats in an Oct. 8 game. He kicked extra points and his team won.
School officials have said the problem wasn't the color of Sheppard's shoes. They said he was booted off the team for ignoring the orders of his coach and assistant coaches to take off the shoes.
In a joint statement released after a meeting Thursday, the two parties said there had been a misunderstanding over Sheppard's dismissal.
"The school district has taken steps to guarantee Coy that his school credit for playing is not at risk," the statement read.
Football players receive physical education credit for playing on the team, and those credits count toward graduation.
Sheppard's great-grandmother gave him the shoes and he wore them in recognition of October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, said Sheppard's attorney, Oliver Diaz Jr.
The last word
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith, when asked if the current 1-7 team is worse than the 2001 team that went 1-15:
"I plead the fifth."