Big East hoops schools recoup some cash with Fox TV deal
The breakaway basketball schools kept the Big East name and the conference tournament in Madison Square Garden. In return, they left behind tens of millions of dollars to the football members.
That was easy to do with a lucrative television contract awaiting.
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The new Big East launched as a 10-member league Wednesday with the additions of Butler, Creighton and Xavier and a 12-year deal with Fox. The agreement is worth about $500 million with the possibility of increasing to $600 million were the league to add more members, according to a person with knowledge of the details.
Providence, Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, Marquette, Seton Hall and DePaul broke away from the old conference in search of stability, which was badly lacking as the football members kept leaving for other leagues.
League acts again to protect defenders
NFL owners in Phoenix passed a player safety rule Wednesday barring ball carriers from using the crown of their helmets to make forcible contact with a defender in the open field.
Several coaches and team executives expressed concern about officiating the new rule, but Commissioner Roger Goodell championed it and it passed Wednesday as the owners meetings concluded. Its passage by a 31-1 vote — Cincinnati voted no — was the second significant step in protecting defensive players; on Tuesday, the league took the peel-back block out of the game.
■ The Pro Bowl will return to Honolulu next January and again will be played the week before the Super Bowl. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that the all-star game he once considered scrapping has been scheduled for Aloha Stadium on Jan. 26. He added that Hawaii will be included "on some sort of rotational basis" in any future Pro Bowl scheduling.
■ The NFL is looking to make the Rooney Rule more effective after eight available coaching jobs and seven for general managers did not go to a minority candidate. "We were disappointed in the results this year," Goodell said, adding the league will make some tweaks to the rule. "We think that some of the changes we are making (are) to make sure we get the right candidates better training and we really are doing a better job of getting them in front of the people who are making the decisions."
■ The Chicago Bears are parting ways with veteran linebacker Brian Urlacher after 13 years. The team couldn't agree on a contract with Urlacher, for years the heart of the franchise. He missed the last four games of last season with a hamstring injury. The eight-time Pro Bowler started 180 games from 2000 through 2012, recording a team-record 1,779 tackles.
■ Washington Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan says Robert Griffin III is "ahead of schedule" in his return from knee surgery. Once Griffin comes back, Shanahan said the quarterback needs to learn to slide and throw the ball away to avoid the big hits that lead to injury.
Tiger poised to return to No. 1
Bay Hill is not the first chance for Tiger Woods to return to No. 1 in the world. But it might be his best.
A win this week in the Arnold Palmer Invitational would allow Woods to go back to No. 1 for the first time since the end of October in 2010. Woods not only is the defending champion at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he is a seven-time winner at Bay Hill.
■ Tom Watson is giving back one of his captain's picks for the Ryder Cup. In his first big move since he was appointed U.S. captain last year, Watson said he would take the top nine players off the Ryder Cup standings and select three players as captain's picks. For the last three matches, only eight Americans qualified for the team and the U.S. captain had four picks.
"Giving our players one more opportunity to earn a spot on merit, I believe, is the right thing to do," Watson said.
■ Tiger Woods and Olympic ski champion Lindsey Vonn simultaneously posted messages on their Facebook pages this week to confirm they are dating. Woods included four photos of himself and Vonn. Woods is fiercely private when it comes to his personal life, even before his downfall in November 2009 over multiple extramarital affairs. So why now? "Well, it's very simple," Woods said Wednesday. "We're very happy where we're at, but also we wanted to limit the 'stalkarazzi' and all those sleazy websites that are out there following us. I've had situations where it's been very dangerous for my kids ... . We basically devalued the first photos."
Dodgers' shortstop Ramirez sidelined
Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez could be out for more than two months or maybe just two weeks because of an injured left thumb. "They've painted both pictures, and it's a pretty big window," Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said Wednesday.
Ramirez was hurt diving for a ball while playing third base Tuesday night in the championship game of the World Baseball Classic. He helped the Dominican Republic beat Puerto Rico 3-0.
■ The New York Yankees might be minus Derek Jeter on opening day. The 13-time All-Star shortstop missed his second straight exhibition game Wednesday because of inflammation in his surgically repaired left ankle. General Manager Brian Cashman said there was a chance Jeter could begin the season on the disabled list.
■ A two-run homer run by Collin Cowgill (Henry Clay, UK) off Houston starter Alex White started the Mets' comeback Wednesday and New York beat the Astros 7-5 in Kissimmee, Fla.
Ailing Alabama AD steps aside
Alabama Athletic Director Mal Moore is stepping down to become special assistant to the president because of health problems after a lengthy reign at his alma mater that ended with the Crimson Tide's football program back on top nationally.
The 73-year-old Moore, who played and coached for Paul "Bear" Bryant and then hired football coach Nick Saban, has been hospitalized since March 13 with pulmonary problems.
■ The Mountain West and ESPN have agreed on a seven-year deal that will give the network rights to televise some football and men's basketball games, plus all Boise State's home football games.
■ Iowa scored a run in both the first and second innings to grab the lead for good, defeating the No. 21 Kentucky softball team 3-1 in a midweek non-conference game at the UK Softball Complex.
True freshman Katie Henderson (2-1) suffered the loss for UK (20-8) after allowing three hits and two runs in two innings.
■ Three-time Grand Slam winner Lleyton Hewitt advanced to the second round of the Sony Open in Key Biscayne, Fla. Hewitt, 32, has been injured much of the past three years.
■ Claims that can be verified for investors defrauded by David Salinas, the Texas financial adviser who committed suicide while under investigation in 2011, have reached nearly $31 million, according to the latest filing in a lawsuit brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Investors included former UK coach Billy Gillispie
■ Organizers of Alaska's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race say changes are planned for the 1,000-mile trek after a dog withdrawn from the race was buried in snow by extreme winds and suffocated.
Changes included construction of dog shelters at two major checkpoints for dogs and more frequent checks on the animals.
The last word
Butler Coach Brad Stevens, whose Bulldogs will face Bucknell on Thursday in an NCAA Tournament game in Lexington, when asked Wednesday his reaction to joining the new Big East Conference:
"To think about some of the places we've been and some of the places we're going is kind of mind-boggling. Being in the middle of it, I just tried my best to focus on our team. I know that sounds boring, but if I didn't, man, I could be pretty distracted right now."