Justice Department questions NCAA about lack of playoffs
The Justice Department wants to know why the NCAA doesn't have a college football playoff system and says there are "serious questions" about whether the current format to determine a national champion complies with antitrust laws. Critics who have urged the department to investigate the Bowl Championship Series contend it unfairly gives some schools preferential access to the title championship game and top-tier end-of-the-season bowls.
In a letter this week, the department's antitrust chief, Christine Varney, asked NCAA President Mark Emmert why a playoff system isn't used in football, unlike in other sports; what steps the NCAA has taken to create one; and whether Emmert thinks there are aspects of the BCS system that don't serve the interest of fans, schools and players.
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"Your views would be relevant in helping us to determine the best course of action with regard to the BCS," she wrote.
Varney noted that the attorney general of Utah, Mark Shurtleff, has said he plans an antitrust lawsuit against the BCS, and that 21 professors recently wrote the department requesting an investigation.
The NCAA said Wednesday it would respond to the government's questions when it receives Varney's letter. Spokesman Bob Williams said Emmert consistently has said the NCAA is willing to move to a playoff format if schools with the nation's major football programs want to go that route.
Boise State imposes scholarship losses
Boise State Coach Chris Petersen, in the wake of a series of NCAA violations, will have fewer scholarships to hand out in the next two years and less time on the practice field to prepare for tough season openers against Georgia this fall and Michigan State in 2012. The sanctions already imposed on the Broncos are part of a broader penalty package put in place by university officials this week for men's and women's tennis and track and field after an NCAA inquiry identified nearly two dozen violations by coaches in those sports. The NCAA said its inquiry, along with an internal investigation by Boise State, identified 22 infractions and an absence of institutional controls necessary to fully comply with rules governing collegiate athletics programs. The NCAA can impose even tougher sanctions against the university after its Committee on Infractions meets next month to review the case.
■ Miami defensive tackle Jeffrey Brown is facing a charge of sexual battery and has been suspended indefinitely from the football team. Police in Coral Gables, Fla., said Brown was charged Wednesday afternoon. The alleged incident occurred April 30. Brown is a redshirt freshman from Evanston, Ill.
Mendenhall clarifies bin Laden tweets
Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall wrote a "clarification" of his comments made Monday on Twitter regarding the death of Osama bin Laden. In a tweet posted around 1 p.m. on Wednesday, he linked to an in-depth blog post. In that entry, he wrote that he does not support bin Laden, and that he aimed to clear things up, for not only himself, but also the Steelers. On Monday, Pittsburgh's leading rusher caused enough of a stir with his tweets, that the Steelers felt compelled to release a statement. Among Mendenhall's posts, the day after the bin Laden news broke, was: "What kind of person celebrates death? ... We've only heard one side..."
Wednesday's offering, though, was a different story.
"First, I want people to understand that I am not in support of Bin Laden, or against the USA. I understand how devastating 9/11 was to this country and to the people whose families were affected. Not just in the U.S., but families all over the world who had relatives in the World Trade Centers." Mendenhall also specifically pointed out the "celebrates death" tweet. "This controversial statement was something I said in response to the amount of joy I saw in the event of a murder. I don't believe that this is an issue of politics or American pride; but one of religion, morality, and human ethics."
■ Titans backup quarterback Chris Simms was acquitted Wednesday of driving while high on marijuana, winning a case he said stemmed from a police officer's mistake. Simms, the 30-year-old son of former Giants quarterback Phil Simms, was arrested around 1 a.m. July 1 at a police sobriety checkpoint in downtown Manhattan.
Lightning sweep top-seeded Capitals
Sean Bergenheim scored two goals, and Dwayne Roloson stopped 33 shots as the surging Lightning completed a series sweep of the top-seeded Washington Capitals with a 5-3 victory in Game 4 at Tampa Bay Wednesday night. Playing on consecutive nights for the first time this post-season, the Lightning extended their winning streak to seven games and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since their 2004 Stanley Cup championship season.
A dump-Trump movement at Indy 500
Indy 500 organizers selected real estate mogul Donald Trump as this year's celebrity pace car driver a month ago. Since then, the potential Republican presidential candidate has created a stir by questioning whether President Barack Obama was born outside the United States and whether he was qualified to attend the Ivy League schools he did. Some race fans and local citizens and an Indiana state lawmaker want to force Trump out of his next celebrity apprenticeship: driving the pace car May 29 just before the centennial celebration of the race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"To me, when they first named Donald Trump, it just felt wrong," said Michael Wallack, who started a Facebook page in hopes of firing Trump. "He has no relationship to the track, to the race, to racing, to Indianapolis, and I think I would have been bothered anytime with something like that. But to do that on the 100th anniversary, it made no sense."
"The folks I have talked to indirectly have shared concern with the situation," said state Rep. Jeb Bardon, a Democrat who represents the area surrounding the racetrack.
Federer squeezes by in Madrid
Roger Federer came close to another upset before finally beating Feliciano Lopez in three gripping sets at the Madrid Open, and rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic continued their winning streaks with ease. Federer, beaten by Jurgen Melzer in Monte Carlo last month, saved a match point in a marathon 7-6 (13), 6-7 (1), 7-6 (7) win after three hours. Djokovic ran his winning streak to 30 by beating Kevin Anderson of South Africa 6-3, 6-4. Nadal is unbeaten in 35 matches on clay after his 6-1, 6-3 rout of Marcos Baghdatis.
3 Cats make men's NCAA tennis tourney
Kentucky men's tennis senior Brad Cox and juniors Alex Musialek and Eric Quigley have qualified to compete in the NCAA singles and doubles championships from May 25-30 at Stanford, it was announced Wednesday. Quigley and Musialek earned two of 48 at-large bids to participate in the singles tournament that will begin after the team finals conclude on May 24. Quigley and Cox will be doubles partners after earning one of 19 at-large bids.
■ Senior outfielder Meagan Aull has been named to the Southeastern Conference Community Service team, the league announced Wednesday. Aull, an Owensboro native, has started in all 216 games of her career in center field. The SEC sponsors a Community Service Team for all 20 league-sponsored sports. It looks to highlight one athlete from each school for his or her social service.
The last word
Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy on trying to solve his team's errant playoff shooting:
"Maybe when I draw the diagram of the play I'll draw the arrows showing the ball going in."