Kickoffs moved up to 35-yard line for safety reasons
Kickoffs in major college football will move from the 30 to the 35-yard line next season, a change intended to keep players safer. The change was approved this week by the NCAA playing rules oversight panel, which also said the running start by players on the kicking team will be limited to 5 yards.
The NFL moved up kickoffs 5 yards this past season and touchbacks increased dramatically. Another new NCAA rule involving free kicks will move touchbacks from the 20 to the 25-yard line, a move intended to encourage more touchbacks.
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The panel also approved a rule that will require a player who loses his helmet during a play to leave the game for one play, and there are also new guidelines regarding blocking below the waist and blocking on punt returns. Players will also be prohibited from leaping over blockers when trying to block punts.
Florida extends Muschamp's contract
Florida has extended Coach Will Muschamp's contract through 2016. Athletic Director Jeremy Foley picked up the one-year option in Muschamp's contract in January even though the Gators finished 7-6 in his first season. The Sporting News first reported Muschamp's extension Friday. Muschamp originally signed a five-year deal worth $13.75 million. The one-year extension doesn't include a salary increase.
■ Alcorn State Coach Melvin Spears has been fired after just one season on the job. Spears led the Braves to a 2-8 record last fall, including an embarrassing 51-7 loss to rival Jackson State in the season finale. Defensive line coach Todd McDaniel will serve as the interim coach.
U.S. schedule exhibition with Spain
The U.S. men's basketball team will prepare for the Olympics with a gold-medal rematch. The Americans will play an exhibition game against Spain on July 24 in Barcelona, their federations announced Friday. The trip to Barcelona comes 20 years after the Dream Team, considered the best basketball ever, dominated Olympic play en route to a gold medal in the first games featuring NBA players. The Americans are the reigning Olympic champions, beating Spain 118-107 four years ago in Beijing.
New Nike shoe causes frenzy
Sneaker fanatics who lined up outside stores overnight for a first crack at a new outer space-themed Nike basketball shoe have become so unruly in some cities that police have been called to restore order. More than 100 deputies in riot gear quelled a crowd in Orlando, Fla., where the Friday release of the $220 Foamposite Galaxy coincides with this weekend's NBA All-Star Game. In a mall in Hyattsville, Md., one person was arrested for disorderly conduct. Malls in Florida, New York and Maryland reported bringing in police to manage fans clamoring for the purple and blue shoes, which have star-like flecks of white. Some shoppers lucky enough to get their hands on a pair immediately posted them for sale on eBay at skyrocketing prices: $1,000 and up.
Bills 'still talking' with ex-Cat Johnson
Buffalo Bills General Manager Buddy Nix told a Toronto radio station that talks will continue in the team's bid to re-sign Stevie Johnson before the receiver is eligible to become a free agent next month. In confirming he met with Johnson's representatives at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, Nix told TSN-Radio Friday that the two sides are "still talking." He then added that as long as there continues to be communication, there's always a chance of a deal being reached. Earlier in the day, Nix said he hadn't ruled out retaining Johnson's rights by using the team's franchise player designation before the March 5 deadline.
Elway hopes Tebow is long-term QB
Denver Broncos vice president John Elway said he hopes Tim Tebow is the team's long-term solution at quarterback. It was a step beyond Elway's statement at season's end that Tebow would be the starter going into training camp. Tebow completed less than half his passes last season but posted a series of dramatic comebacks in leading the Broncos to the playoffs, where he threw an 80-yard TD pass to beat Pittsburgh in the first round. He went 8-5 as the starter, but lost four of his last five games. "He added a great spark for us," Elway said Friday at the NFL scouting combine. "I was really happy with his progress. I know Tim's going to work hard this off-season. We're hoping that he's going to be the guy for a long, long time." Elway said he likes Tebow's physical tools, but he needs to work on his throwing fundamentals.
■ Authorities say former NFL defensive back Glenn Sharpe has been charged with murder in the fatal shooting of a man in the Atlanta suburbs. DeKalb County Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Adrion Bell says the 27-year-old was charged Thursday in the Feb. 2 death of Christopher Galloway in Stone Mountain, Ga. Sharpe began his career with the Atlanta Falcons in 2008 as an undrafted free agent out of Miami. In the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, he received a late penalty in overtime, giving Ohio State a second chance to upset the Hurricanes' bid for back-to-back national championships. He won a Super Bowl ring in 2010 with the New Orleans Saints' practice squad and briefly played for the Indianapolis Colts.
Wozniacki falls in Dubai semifinals
Defending champion Caroline Wozniacki lost in the semifinals of the Dubai Tennis Championships on Friday, her game undone by mistakes in a 7-6 (3), 7-5 defeat to Julia Goerges. Goerges will play for the title Saturday against Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat Serbia's Jelena Jankovic 6-2, 2-6, 6-0 in the first semifinal.
■ Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Juan Martin del Potro each won for the 200th time in his career Friday, setting up a semifinal between the two at the Open 13 in France. The top-seeded Tsonga beat Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-4, 7-5 in an all-French quarterfinal, and Del Potro edged Richard Gasquet 7-5, 7-6 (5). The other semifinal pits Janko Tipsarevic against Michael Llodra, the 2010 champion.
The last word
New York Yankees reliever David Robertson, to MLB.com, on speculation this could be Mariano Rivera's last season:
"He may have hinted, but you never know. He could Brett Favre us."