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National

  • Fans brave weather to make playoffs

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — The bowl trip is a holiday tradition for many college football fans. Take some time off around Christmas and New Year’s Day and go watch your favorite team play a big game. Maybe even the biggest game.
    This season the supporters of the four teams playing in the first College Football Playoff are facing a choice about which trip to take: Semifinal or championship game?
    Today, Oregon plays Florida State at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, and Alabama meets Ohio State at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. The winners will play Jan. 12 in Arlington, Texas, at the home of the Dallas Cowboys.
    Fans of the Crimson Tide and Ducks get the benefit of games close to home. Neither Alabama nor Oregon will suffer from a lack of support in the semifinals. It’s a trickier call for Ohio State fans, who must make a cross-country trip. Seminoles supporters just traveled to see their team win a national title in Southern California last year, and many are hoping they made the right choice by skipping the semifinal trip.
    “It was going to cost me as much as $1,000 to go with nobody I knew,” said Maxx Smith, a 21-year-old senior at Florida State. “There was no motivation to go.”

  • Bumgarner is AP Athlete of 2014

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Madison Bumgarner sat in the outfield alongside Jake Peavy before Game 7 of the World Series and told his teammate exactly what needed to happen: Tim Hudson would work a few innings and get the ball to Bumgarner, who would hand it off to the bullpen to finish the championship.
    Peavy quickly offered his own prediction that Bumgarner would end it himself.
    That’s exactly what MadBum did, following up a pair of World Series wins with a save at Kansas City to close out San Francisco’s third title in five years and cap a brilliant postseason that made him a household name — or, at the very least, a household nickname. He is the 2014 Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year.
    “I was sitting in the outfield with Madison and he was asking me how I thought this game was going to play out,” Peavy recalled this month. “I said to him: ‘Madison, when you get the ball, you’re not coming out of the game. You’re the best guy we’ve got.’ ... He said, ‘Man, that’s exactly what I hoped you would say’ and exactly what he wanted. He just needed some confirmation, somebody to believe in him as well. I said, ‘Fight for that ball, man,’ and what he did will go down in the ages as the best ever.”

  • Harbaugh agrees to terms with Wolverines

    Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer in the Big Ten? It has a certain ring to it, like the glory days when Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes battled for control of the league.
    That day is coming.
    The 51-year-old Harbaugh, a star quarterback for the Wolverines in the mid-1980s, has signed a deal to become the new coach at Michigan, a person with knowledge of the discussions told The Associated Press late Monday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because there was no announcement from the school or Harbaugh. He arrived at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Monday night in plenty of time to make a Tuesday midday news conference for a “major” football announcement.
    Harbaugh coached the 49ers to three straight NFC championship games. San Francisco lost the 2013 Super Bowl to a Baltimore Ravens team coached by his brother, John. After the 49ers slipped to 8-8 this season and missed the playoffs, he parted ways with the team Sunday in what both sides called a mutual decision.
    A day later, his name was the buzz of the Big Ten.

  • High-scoring games lead to long days

    Bear Bryant said offense sells tickets, and he was right. College football is enjoying immense popularity in an era of record scoring.
    But is there too much of a good thing?
    All that scoring caused this season’s average length of game to hit 3 hours, 23 minutes in late November, according to the NCAA. That was up from 3:17 last season. Games are, on average, 14 minutes longer than in 2008. By comparison, this season’s NFL average is 3:07.
    “I think it’s trending in the wrong direction, and it is a concern,” American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco said.
    Administrators are wary of turning off fans, especially young ones who crave faster action and represent future ticket buyers. They also are mindful of the risk of injury to fatigued players who are on the field longer and for more plays.
    The NCAA Football Rules Committee expects to discuss the issue when it meets in February, secretary-rules editor Rogers Redding said.
    “The 14-minute increase has been gradual” since 2008, he wrote in an email to The Associated Press, “but the cumulative effect has generated some concern among some stakeholders so that it is probably something that the committee will want to take a look at.”

  • LeBron returns to South Beach

    MIAMI (AP) — LeBron James doesn’t have any apprehension for this homecoming.
    There’s nothing to fear, no real worries about his safety, unlike what awaited him the last time he had one of these return games. Then again, this might not even classify as a homecoming — because, it turns out, Miami was never truly his home, just a place he called home for four years while playing with the Heat.
    He came. He won. He left.
    On Thursday, James returns to face the Heat, the team that turned him from a superstar to a two-time NBA champion superstar. And as he and the Cleveland Cavaliers prepare for what will certainly be an emotional Christmas visit, James said he’s expecting to be flooded with positive vibes.
    “To say I haven’t thought about going back, I would be lying,” James said in Cleveland on Tuesday night after he and the Cavaliers beat Minnesota.
    “It’s going to be great to be back in that building around those unbelievable fans and the memories will definitely come back, being a part of the organization for four years,” he said.
    For their part, the Heat insist that they’re looking forward to the reunion.

  • FIFA will stick with Cup bids

    MARRAKECH, Morocco (AP) — Defiantly declaring that FIFA is no longer in crisis, Sepp Blatter said Friday the decision to hold the next two World Cups in Russia and Qatar won’t be revoked and the governing body will publish a confidential probe into the process that picked those countries as hosts.
    The decision by the FIFA executive committee to publish ethics investigator Michael Garcia’s report, with witnesses’ names taken out, is aimed at lifting the cloud of suspicion that has dogged the 2018 and 2022 tournaments in Russia and Qatar and the December 2010 vote that sent the World Cup to those countries for the first time.
    Blatter said only if major new evidence of bidding irregularity comes to light could those votes be reconsidered.
    “There is no reason to say that our decisions were wrong. So we will go on sticking to our decisions,” Blatter said, speaking through a translator. “There must be huge upheaval, new elements must come to the fore, in order to change this.”
    The 78-year-old Blatter, who is seeking a fifth term as president, said the decisions by FIFA’s executive committee will allow the governing body to move on from the controversy.

  • U.S. to bid on 2024 Olympics

    The U.S. Olympic Committee will try to land the 2024 Olympics and end a 28-year drought without the Summer Games.
    Which city will it pick? Stay tuned.
    After hearing presentations from the four candidates Tuesday — Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington — USOC board members voted to join the race, but not until they have a chance to mull over the candidates during the holidays.
    “It’s a four-way tie,” CEO Scott Blackmun said, not diverging from the federation’s closed-lip policy on this yearlong selection process. “We had great presentations, now we have an opportunity to explore how everyone felt about the presentations. We’ll reflect, come back after the holidays and see what’s in the best interest for the United States.”
    This was the expected move from a federation that lost badly the last two times it bid for the Games — New York for 2012 and Chicago for 2016 — and hasn’t played host to the Summer Olympics since the Atlanta Games in 1996.
    The 2016 Olympics are set for Rio de Janeiro. The 2020 Games, which the United States did not bid for, will be in Tokyo.

  • Blake Griffin charged after scuffle in Vegas

    LAS VEGAS (AP) — Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin is facing a misdemeanor battery charge stemming from a scuffle with a man at a Las Vegas Strip nightclub, according to court records obtained Wednesday.
    The 25-year-old Griffin is due for arraignment Dec. 8 before a Las Vegas justice of the peace on a charge that could get him up to six months in jail if he is convicted. The criminal complaint was filed Friday, and a summons was issued for his appearance in court.
    The Clippers were aware of the complaint, team spokesman Seth Burton said, but had no immediate comment. It wasn’t immediately clear if Griffin had a Las Vegas lawyer handling the case.
    Las Vegas police said last month that they were investigating a man’s claim that Griffin attacked him early Oct. 19.
    The complaint lists the victim as Daniel Schuman. An attempt to reach Schuman by telephone wasn’t immediately successful.
    The celebrity news website TMZ quoted Schuman saying that Griffin grabbed his neck, took his cellphone and slapped him after he took a photo at Tao nightclub at the Venetian resort.
    Griffin and other Clippers players were at the club after playing an exhibition game in Las Vegas against the Denver Nuggets.

  • Kirk gets into his first game Tuesday

    Former Los Alamos basketball player Alex Kirk made his first appearance in a NBA regular season game Tuesday night and scored the first points of his career.
    Kirk, a 2010 graduate of Los Alamos, played in the final 3:06 of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ game at Portland.
    The game didn’t go the Cavaliers’ way — they were blown out by the Trail Blazers 101-82. That loss dropped the Cavaliers to 1-2 on the year.
    Cleveland, which was flat in a season-opening loss to New York last week, managed just 13 points in the fourth quarter.
    Cleveland’s superstar, LeBron James, had another pedestrian outing, finishing with just 11 points on 4 of 12 shooting from the field.
    Kirk sat out all of the season opener against the Knicks and last Friday’s game against Chicago, which was the Cavs’ first win of the 2014-15 season.
    Tuesday, Kirk hit a pair of free throws with under a minute remaining. He finished with two points, his first points at the NBA level.
    Along with his points, Kirk also was credited with his first career assist. He did not get a rebound during his time on the floor, nor did he attempt a shot from the field.

  • Luck, Colts toast Giants' defense

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The mantra throughout the NFL each week is to look ahead. Considering how ugly the previous week was for Indianapolis, the Colts needed tunnel vision toward Monday night.
    Following an awful performance in a loss to Pittsburgh, the Colts beat the New York Giants 40-24 behind Andrew Luck’s four touchdown passes and an improved performance by a defense that kept Eli Manning off balance.
    With his franchise-record seventh consecutive 300-yard game, Luck led the Colts (6-3) to a lopsided win one week after a 51-34 loss to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers.
    Unlike the way Roethlisberger toyed with their defense in that game, the Colts didn’t let Manning get going in handing New York (3-5) its third straight defeat.
    “It was great to get back in the win column after a tough one last week,” Luck said.
    Luck hit Coby Fleener for a 32-yard TD in the first half. He had scoring throws of 31 yards to T.Y. Hilton, 40 yards to Reggie Wayne and 2 yards to Dwayne Allen in the third period.
    Adam Vinatieri added four field goals and is perfect on 20 tries this year.