League, players' union agreeto mediation by federal agency
Two weeks before a potential lockout, the NFL and its players' union are asking for help in their negotiations. Both sides agreed Thursday to mediation as they discuss a new collective-bargaining agreement. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, an independent U.S. government agency, will oversee talks in Washington beginning Friday. After holding separate discussions with representatives from the league and the union, FMCS Director George H. Cohen said both sides agreed to have the agency mediate. Mediation is not binding.
Negotiations broke down last week, leading to the cancellation of one planned session. The players are expecting the owners to lock them out if the CBA expires on March 3 without a new agreement.
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Cohen said in a statement that he would release no details on the negotiations, which will be conducted "under my auspices." He is no stranger to sports mediation. He was involved in Major League Soccer talks with its players' union and a work stoppage was avoided last year. Cohen also has worked with the players' associations for Major League Baseball, helping end the 1994-95 strike as a consulting attorney, and the NBA, and he was an adviser to the NHL players' union before joining the FMCS.
■ Richard Seymour became the most prominent potential free agent to sign a contract before a possible lockout next month when he finalized a $30 million, two-year deal with the Raiders Thursday.
Holmes one of nine on top at Riviera
Ten years after Robert Allenby won a six-man playoff at Riviera, he was part of a nine-way tie for the lead that included Campbellsville native J.B. Holmes Thursday in the Northern Trust Open. Allenby kept it simple on a gorgeous day in Los Angeles with a 4-under 67 that turned out to be enough for a share of the lead. It was the highest score to lead after one round at Riviera in 15 years. Also atop the leader board when play was suspended by darkness were John Senden, Martin Laird, Spencer Levin, Aaron Baddeley, Ben Martin, Bill Haas and Carl Pettersson. Peter Tomasulo could join them if he makes a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole when he resumes his round Friday morning. As it is, the PGA Tour said nine players tied for the lead were the most after any round since it began keeping records in 1970.
Dustin Johnson was penalized when his caddie thought his tee time was 40 minutes later than it was and he had to race up the hill at Riviera just to avoid being disqualified. A PGA official ran to the range to tell him he was supposed to be on the No. 1 tee, located up a 100-foot slope. He was given a two-shot penalty for not being on the tee box at 7:32 a.m. Players then have five minutes to get to the tee before they are disqualified, and Johnson made it with six seconds to spare.
■ South Korea's In-Kyung Kim tied a course record with a 9-under 63 to take the lead after the first round of the season-opening LPGA Thailand on Thursday. Kim, ranked No. 7, started with a birdie and went on to pick up nine more. She matched the course record set by 2007 winner Suzann Pettersen of Norway, Stacy Prammanasudh in 2008 and defending champion Ai Miyazato of Japan in 2010.
NCAA reverses ban on UNC fullback
The NCAA has reversed its ruling that North Carolina's Devon Ramsay is permanently ineligible and has cleared the fullback to return next season. In a release Thursday night, the school said the NCAA determined that Ramsay committed no violation of NCAA rules. Former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Robert Orr had been advising the Ramsay family and says the focus of the case was revisions made by a tutor to a short paper Ramsay had written more than two years ago. Ramsay played the first four games before he was held out by the school while the NCAA looked into agent-related benefits and possible academic misconduct in the football program.
■ A former Tulsa football player who was recognized for the courage and optimism he showed while battling cancer has died. Tulsa spokesman Don Tomkalski said 22-year-old offensive tackle Wilson Holloway died Wednesday in Oklahoma City. Holloway was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in March 2008. Holloway redshirted in 2007 and played in six games in 2008 after undergoing cancer treatments. The cancer reappeared in September 2008, and he underwent a second round of chemotherapy treatments.
Electrocution confirmed at British track
British horse racing's governing body confirmed Thursday that the two horses that died at Newbury last weekend were killed by heart attacks as a result of accidental electrocution. An investigation by the British Horseracing Authority found that Fenix Two and Marching Song collapsed in the paddock before Saturday's first race as a result of "leakage of electricity from a cable." A post-mortem examination said no suspicious circumstances have been detected. The course has been cleared for races again after the electricity cable beneath the paddock was disconnected and removed Sunday.
■ The California Horse Racing Board voted Thursday to transfer the fall racing dates back to Santa Anita instead of returning to Hollywood Park. The board voted 6-0 to give the Sept. 28-Nov. 6 dates to Santa Anita. The dates had been run under the operation of the Oak Tree Racing Association since 1969 until last fall. Oak Tree had worked out a one-year lease agreement for the 2010 meet at Santa Anita but was forced to move to Hollywood Park when horsemen objected to the condition of Santa Anita's synthetic track, since replaced by dirt.
■ Kentucky Derby hopeful The Factor is getting a new rider for Sunday's San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita. Trainer Bob Baffert said Thursday he had chosen Martin Garcia to replace Rafael Bejarano, who was aboard when the 3-year-old colt set a track record for 6 furlongs in winning at Santa Anita on Dec. 26.
■ Betting in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager begins at noon Friday and ends at 6 p.m. Sunday. Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Uncle Mo was installed as the 9-2 favorite among 23 horses Wednesday. The field, or all others, was the overall favorite at 5-2. Churchill Downs accepts win or exacta bets for the Future Wager. There will be two more pools before the May 7 race. Pool 2 is scheduled for March 11-13, and Pool 3 will run from April 1-2.
Roddick, Nadal will play in Davis Cup
Andy Roddick will be part of the U.S. Davis Cup team for the first time in two years when it plays at Chile next month. The eighth-ranked Roddick heads new U.S. captain Jim Courier's first roster, which also includes No. 18 Sam Querrey, No. 24 John Isner and the top-ranked doubles pair of twins Bob and Mike Bryan. The best-of-five series will be played outdoors on clay at Santiago, Chile, from March 4-6. Spain captain Alberto Costa said Thursday top-ranked Rafael Nadal will play for the four-time Davis Cup champions in their first-round series against Belgium. It will be Nadal's first return to the court since tearing a leg muscle at the Australian Open.
■ Caroline Wozniacki moved within one victory of regaining the No. 1 ranking after beating Japan's Ayumi Morita 6-1, 6-0 Thursday to reach the quarterfinals of the Dubai Championships. The 20-year-old Dane, who lost the top spot to Kim Clijsters on Monday, must beat Shahar Peer of Israel.
■ Sacramento Kings guard Tyreke Evans will miss the Rookie Challenge at All-Star weekend with an injured left foot, the team announced Thursday. He will be replaced by Oklahoma City's James Harden on the sophomore team.
■ Former Kentucky star John Wall of Washington, Stephen Curry of Golden State, Derrick Rose of Chicago, and Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City were selected in fan voting to compete against New Orleans guard Chris Paul in the NBA Skills Challenge on Saturday. Fans had four weeks to vote online.
The last word
The normally ebullient Rob Ryan gave brief, bland answers to the first couple of questions he was asked at his initial gathering with reporters since becoming Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator. But three minutes in, Ryan used an expletive to emphasize just how great of a job he plans to do. He then smiled and said:
"Sorry. Only one so far. I was guarded early, but, hell, that's on me."