SBJ/January 14 - 20, 2002/Coast To Coast

Coast to Coast

BUFFALO

 Sabres station adds NHL, Olympics

WNSA 107.7 Radio, the flagship station for the Buffalo Sabres, has added a package of NHL and Olympic broadcasts. The NHL schedule includes the Feb. 2 All-Star Game, six regular-season games, Stanley Cup playoffs and coverage of the U.S. men's Olympic team in Salt Lake City. The station has begun airing an eight-game package of games involving the Buffalo Bandits of the National Lacrosse League.

CHARLOTTE

 Store, ice cream brand back bobbleheads

Signature Sports Group has launched a promotion with Food Lion and Healthy Choice ice cream to provide 3,000 bobblehead dolls of University of North Carolina at Charlotte basketball coach Bobby Lutz and former 49ers and NBA star Cedric "Cornbread" Maxwell. Food Lion and Healthy Choice are both 49ers sponsors. Maxwell's doll will be given to 3,000 fans at the Tuesday game against St. Louis, and Lutz's doll will be distributed on Jan. 26 at the East Carolina game. Fans have to show their Food Lion MVP in-store discount card to receive a bobblehead at the games. The promotion includes in-store advertising at Food Lion throughout the month as well as tie-in promotions with Healthy Choice.

 Documentary on black jockeys wins award

WBTV reporter Steve Crump has made his own run for the roses with a documentary on African-American jockeys in horse racing. "Forgotten at the Finish Line," which aired last February on WTVI and last May in Louisville, Ky., this month won the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's Eclipse Award for best local TV documentary. Crump produced and hosted the hour-long program.

CINCINNATI

 Team, county, stadium to discuss turf

The Bengals, Hamilton County and Paul Brown Stadium Ltd. will meet to discuss the condition of the Paul Brown Stadium playing field. The team has acknowledged that the Kentucky bluegrass field — which has been used for just one season — has not performed well. Some players, coaches and team officials were unhappy with the way the field deteriorated into a sandy-dirt mixture during the Dec. 30 Bengals victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The grass was installed in the spring, replacing the temporary Bermuda grass field that fell apart at the end of last season.

DETROIT

 Lions end run at Silverdome

The Detroit Lions ended 27 years in suburban Pontiac with a 15-10 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Jan. 6. The team will move into the new Ford Field, adjacent to the Tigers’ Comerica Park in downtown Detroit, next season. The first game will be a preseason contest the weekend of Aug. 22 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Team offices will be relocated to the new practice facility in suburban Allen Park in April.

 Michigan State bowl ratings high

The Silicon Valley Football Classic between Michigan State and Fresno State had a 9.4 rating on Fox Sports Net in the Detroit metro area, making it the third-highest-rated program in the cable network’s history and the highest-rated non-pro event. The all-time high is a 9.7 rating for a Red Wings-New York Islanders game on Nov. 2.

 Former Tigers players get new duties

The Detroit Tigers announced that former Tiger greats Al Kaline and Willie Horton will serve as special assistants to President Dave Dombrowski. The recent hiring of Dombrowski meant the end of the management committee created last year by owner Mike Ilitch, and thus the new titles for Kaline and Horton. Both will assist in a “myriad of baseball projects,” according to the Tigers.

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.

 Evert to tout Sea & Ski

Faulding Consumer in Fort Lauderdale said former tennis champ Chris Evert will serve as the Sea & Ski brand's spokeswoman in 2002. Evert will communicate the importance of sun protection in the process of reintroducing the Sea & Ski sun-care products brand to consumers. Evert will make media appearances on behalf of the brand throughout 2002 and will tape video footage, giving tennis lessons at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton, Fla. No financial terms were announced.

HOUSTON

 Texans sign first 10 players

The Houston Texans took a momentous step toward building an NFL team Dec. 29 when executives announced the first 10 players to be placed under contract in the franchise's history. The general public wouldn't recognize the names of the 10, but team officials say that won't be the case as the Texans get closer to their inaugural season in 2002. "We do plan to have them visible in the community," said Tony Wyllie, a Texans spokesman. "This is a historic day in our franchise. These guys, from now on, will be the answer to some trivia questions."

INDIANAPOLIS

 Arbitrator upholds firing of sportswriter

 The firing of longtime Indianapolis Star sportswriter Robin Miller was justified due to gross misconduct on the job, an outside arbitrator ruled. Chicago mediator James R. Cox cited Miller's inappropriate e-mails and lack of ethics as just cause for his dismissal in January 2001 and said Miller was not entitled to severance pay. Star officials said Miller was fired for violating the company's e-mail policies with abusive messages to readers and defamatory e-mails about newsmakers and Star staff members. Cox also cited Miller accepting money for free-lance work he did for a race car driver whom he covered for the Star as well as work he did for CART. Cox said those arrangements violated the Star's ethics policy. Miller, who worked for the Star for 33 years, declined to comment about the ruling. "As the arbitrator said very clearly in his ruling, the conflicts of interest, the lack of ethics, the lack of civility were clear violations of Star policies," said Star President and Publisher Barbara A. Henry. Marc Allen, the Star's TV critic and president of The Newspaper Guild, called the ruling "a mistake."

 IU coach: Knight tried to undermine program

Indiana University basketball coach Mike Davis said in a deposition that he believes former coach Bob Knight has taken steps to undermine the IU basketball program. The deposition was taken as part of testimony in a lawsuit filed by former IU assistant coach Ron Felling against Knight. Felling claims Knight wrongfully fired him. Davis testified that Knight, now the head coach at Texas Tech University, tried to persuade IU recruits not to come to Indiana and advised former player Tom Geyer and others to quit the team. Geyer, now a law student at Texas Tech and a TV commentator for the basketball team there, said Davis' accusations are not true. Davis made similar accusations against Pat Knight, a former IU assistant basketball coach and Bob Knight's son. Among other things, Davis said Pat Knight threw several tantrums after games, and after a loss to Indiana State in 1999 challenged several IU players to a fight in the locker room.

 Legends fire GM, coach quits

The Indiana Legends fired Matt Ingram on Jan. 3 as general manager of the team, which began its second season 0-2 in the fledgling American Basketball Association. Upon hearing of Ingram's termination, second-year coach Billy Keller resigned. In tendering his resignation, Keller, a former standout player for Purdue University and the Indiana Pacers, cited his allegiance to Ingram as well as the Legends' continued financial woes. "I just felt that I had done everything I could do, basketball-wise," said Keller, who said paychecks were not delivered Jan. 2 as promised. Ingram, who said he has not been paid in nearly nine months, was terminated after a brief meeting with Joe Newman, the Legends' owner and league CEO. Newman did not return calls seeking comment.

KANSAS CITY

 Hockey leagues look to city

American Hockey League CEO David Andrews said he wants to bring a team to Kansas City, which is without a professional hockey team for the first time since 1989 after the International Hockey League Blades folded. Also interested are the Central Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League and United Hockey League. The new team's probable operator is Don Kincaid, whose Kansas City Sports Enterprises owns the Major Indoor Soccer League Kansas City Comets. For the team to start play this fall, a decision would probably be needed by April 1.

MIAMI

 Marlins won’t release announcer

The Florida Marlins will not let television announcer Dave O’Brien get out of his contract and join ESPN full time. ESPN has offered O’Brien a multiyear contract to call Major League Baseball, college football and college basketball games, according to The Miami Herald.

 Heat on 2nd giveaway of 5

The Miami Heat planned to give away 5,000 limited-edition Brian Grant bobblehead dolls Jan. 6. It was the second installment of the Heat’s five bobblehead giveaways throughout the season, sponsored by Nike Town. Hoping to add to the excitement of the giveaway and provide all fans in attendance with a chance to win a bobblehead doll, the Heat added a unique twist. Throughout the first half of the game, fans were to play a game fashioned after bingo to determine the 5,000 winners.

MILWAUKEE

 Lambeau private boxes to be replaced

As soon as the Green Bay Packers finish their last home playoff game this season, crews will begin demolishing 198 private boxes in a round-the-clock operation. The demolition is on a fast track so new boxes can be constructed in time for the 2002 season, said Stu Zadra of project manager the Hammes Co. of Brookfield, Wis., in suburban Milwaukee. The new private boxes, which are already sold out, are part of a $295 million renovation and expansion of Lambeau Field that will add about 10,000 seats to the stadium and increase the capacity to about 71,000.

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL

 Twins hire field boss for 2002

If the Minnesota Twins play a 2002 season, Ron Gardenhire will manage the team. Twins general manager Terry Ryan announced that Gardenhire has been named the Twins’ field boss. Gardenhire has been on the team’s coaching staff for 10 years and will be the franchise’s 12th manager — if the team still exists next season.

NEW YORK

 3,000 runners get Lebow bobblehead

The New York Road Runners gave to the first 3,000 runners at the Fred Lebow Classic 5-Mile race in Central Park on Jan. 6 a Fred Lebow bobblehead doll. Lebow, 62, died after a four-year battle with brain cancer on Oct. 9, 1994. He is the founder of the New York City marathon, which is owned and staged by the NYRR.

OAKLAND

 Ticket prices on the rise for team

Single-game and season-ticket prices for Oakland A’s home games will rise in 2002. The cost increases for season tickets, however, can be deceiving. There are as many as seven more games in some packages, and fans who paid in full by Jan. 7 were to receive a free Southwest Airlines ticket to spring training and a free luxury suite for one regular-season game for every $1,800 spent. Single-game tickets are 6 percent to 16 percent higher than during the 2001 season, with field-level seats climbing from $19 to $22. Only the plaza level and upper reserved ticket prices ($8 to $16) remain unchanged.

 A’s take a swing at Spanish TV broadcasts

The Oakland A’s hope to add a Spanish option through TV flagship KICU-TV (Channel 36) in San Jose. KICU would offer viewers the option of switching their television sets to the SAP channel — or secondary audio program — which would carry the games in Spanish while the regular audio channel carried the English version.

ORLANDO

 Bowls mixed for Florida Citrus Sports

With two bowl games to wrap up the 2001 college football season, Florida Citrus Sports officials are reporting cautious success. While FCS had only three months to prepare for the Visit Florida Tangerine Bowl, ticket sales totaled more than 31,000, and 28,562 fans flocked to the stadium on Dec. 20. The game brought more fans of the North Carolina State Wolfpack and Pittsburgh Panthers to central Florida than went to both teams’ bowl appearances in 2000, and it funneled an estimated $12 million to $15 million into the central Florida economy. On the surface, the Capital One Florida Citrus Bowl didn’t appear to rate among football fans or viewers. While the game rated second in its time slot on Jan. 1, its ratings were actually off by 24 percent. Moreover, the game recorded the lowest attendance of any Citrus Bowl since 1990, with 59,693 fans in the stands.

PHILADELPHIA

 Closed captioning starts up

Comcast SportsNet, Philadelphia’s 24-hour regional sports cable television network, has begun providing closed captioning for several of its programs. Starting the first day of the new year, closed captioning has been available for Philadelphia 76ers and Flyers telecasts and postgame shows, “SportsNite” newscasts at 6:30 and 10 p.m. and for select Fox-fed programming and select paid advertising. Comcast SportsNet reaches nearly 3 million basic cable subscribers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

 Eagles defense: ‘Blitz Incorporated’

Members of the Philadelphia Eagles defense selected “Blitz Incorporated” as the winner in the team’s “Give the Eagles Defense a Nickname” contest. The team received nearly 8,000 entries for the contest. Blitz Incorporated beat out two other finalists: “Blitzkrieg” and “Blitz Brigade.” The contest winner, Warren Williams of Albuquerque, N.M., will receive an authentic Eagles helmet autographed by every member of the Eagles defense.

SACRAMENTO

 Cal State Sacramento’s AD resigns

Debby Colberg is resigning as athletic director at California State University Sacramento. Colberg will continue as the university’s volleyball coach. She took the administrative job in February 1999 only with much cajoling. Her passion is volleyball, and Colberg felt she could no longer hold down both jobs. She’ll continue to serve as AD until a replacement comes on board, perhaps by summer.

SAN DIEGO

 Course lengthened, renovated

PGA Tour members will be playing a renovated and lengthened South Course at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla when they tee it up at the Buick Invitational Feb. 7-10. Bigger bunkers surrounding new greens, several of which have been placed closer to the bluffs and ravines of the seaside course, will test the players, who alternate between the North and South courses in their first two rounds. The South, which played 7,055 yards last year but now measures 7,227 yards from the usual tournament tees, is used for both weekend rounds.

SARASOTA, Fla.

 Team may move to Fort Myers

Sarasota could be without a minor league baseball team after the coming season. The Sarasota Red Sox, a Class A Florida State League team, may move to Fort Myers under a deal being worked out between the Boston Red Sox and another Class A team, the Fort Myers Miracle. The Red Sox hold spring training each year in Fort Myers, while Sarasota hosts the Cincinnati Reds, which has no FSL team.

WASHINGTON

 Lawmakers stress venue security

After a closed briefing with representatives from the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NCAA and the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee concerning the security readiness at sports venues, House Energy and Commerce Committee members sent a letter to Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta urging him to reinforce restrictions on flights over stadiums and arenas. The letter was dated Dec. 20. “The sports representatives offered a number of recommendations, including a unanimous recommendation that the current restrictions on stadium and arena overflights remain in force indefinitely,” the letter stated.

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