NCAA set for voluntary athletic activity June 1

The NCAA is permitting athletes in all sports to participate in voluntary athletic activities on campus beginning June 1.

NCAA’s Division I Council announced Wednesday that it was lifting its moratorium on voluntary workouts in football and men’s and women’s basketball at the end of the month. The NCAA applied it to all sports Friday.

The current waiver allowing teams to require eight hours of virtual non-physical activities in all sports also has been extended.

Football Bowl Subdivision members of the Council also have decided FBS schools can’t host football camps and clinics this summer. FBS coaches, including graduate assistants, are prohibited from working at football camps and clinics being held at other four-year NCAA schools.

SEC to allow football workouts on campus beginning June 8

Southeastern Conference schools will be able to bring athletes in all sports back to campus for voluntary activities starting June 8 at the discretion of each university.

The SEC’s announcement Friday is the latest sign that a college football season will be launched in some form this fall. Other conferences are expected to follow suit, though decisions could be left to individual schools.

The move comes two days after the NCAA Division I Council voted to lift a moratorium on voluntary workouts on campus by football and basketball players, effective June 1. The NCAA updated that ruling Friday by saying voluntary activities would be allowed in all sports starting June 1.

“At this time, we are preparing to begin the fall sports season as currently scheduled, and this limited resumption of voluntary athletic activities on June 8 is an important initial step in that process,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said.

SEC officials noted any workouts would take place “under strict supervision of designated university personnel and safety guidelines developed by each institution.” They referred to June 8 as the start of “transition period that will allow student-athletes to gradually adapt to full training and sports activity after this recent period of inactivity.”

Permitted actions are limited by the NCAA to voluntary activities supervised by strength and conditioning personnel. Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said it was “only the first step with further details and plans coming over the next several days and weeks.”

Diamondbacks begin individual workouts

The Arizona Diamondbacks have started individual workouts as baseball begins a measured return to play from the coronavirus pandemic.

A small number of players worked out at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix and Salt River Fields, their spring training facility about 20 miles away in Scottsdale. The players were separated as much as possible to follow league-mandated guidelines, and the workouts were cleared by Major League Baseball.

The baseball season was put on hold in early March due to COVID-19, two weeks before Opening Day.

Texas governor thinks college football will return on schedule

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says he thinks college football will return on schedule with some level of fans in the stands.

Abbott has already issued new rules to allow youth sports leagues to resume in June and for some professional leagues to hold events without spectators. But the state rules have so far not touched college sports.

“Once we get to college football season, our goal right now is to have college football season start as planned, with fans in stands,” the Republican governor told Austin television station KXAN. “What we don’t know is what the capacity level would be.”

The University of Texas announced this week it would open campus to students for the regularly scheduled Aug. 26 start of the fall semester. But officials have not detailed social distancing plans or how the school will handle residence halls and athletics.

Mexico cancels incomplete soccer season over virus concerns

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s professional soccer league has decided to cancel the season without crowning a champion for the first time in its history due to the uncertainty generated by the pandemic.

Liga MX announced Friday that despite having played 10 of the season’s 17 dates, it would declare it over without a winner. The league suspended play March 15, more than two weeks after the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Mexico was announced.

The league said in the statement that the restrictions caused by the health emergency made it impossible to continue without putting people at risk.

Proposal to delay start of college baseball

A group of Power Five coaches led by Michigan’s Erik Bakich is proposing a later start to the 2022 college baseball season.

Under the proposal, there would be nine weeks of preseason practice instead of five, the regular season would run from the third week of March to the third week of June and the College World Series would wrap up the last week of July.

Currently, regular season begins the third week of February and the CWS ends the last week of June.

Past efforts to move back the season were rooted in cold-weather schools’ concerns about competitive equity because they had to travel to the South or West to play games the first month of the season.

The impetus this time is finances. In the last two weeks, Bowling Green and Furman have dropped baseball to trim costs. Moving the bulk of the season into warmer months would reduce travel costs for northern teams, help increase attendance and revenue from concessions and merchandise for most schools and allow players to miss less class time.

Jets, QB Joe Flacco agree to terms on 1-year deal

NEW YORK — The New York Jets and quarterback Joe Flacco have agreed to terms on a one-year deal, the 2013 Super Bowl MVP’s agency announced on Twitter.

The move to bring in Flacco gives third-year starter Sam Darnold a veteran backup, but one who is also coming off a herniated disk that cut short his only season in Denver and required surgery to repair.

JL Sports, headed by agent Joe Linta, announced the agreement Friday. Financial terms were not immediately disclosed, but ESPN reported the deal is worth $1.5 million and could reach $4.5 million with incentives.

The 35-year-old Flacco spent his first 11 NFL seasons in Baltimore, where current Jets general manager Joe Douglas was a scout in 2008 — when the Ravens drafted the quarterback 18th overall out of Delaware. Flacco helped lead Baltimore to a Super Bowl victory to cap the 2012 season, beating Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers 34-31.

Flacco was rewarded by the Ravens by becoming the highest-paid quarterback in NFL history at the time with a six-year contract worth $120.6 million.

2 more Watford players self-isolate after families infected

WATFORD, England — Two more Watford players are in self-isolation after family members tested positive for the coronavirus, manager Nigel Pearson said on Friday.

The unnamed pair join Watford defender Adrian Mariappa and two staff who went into isolation this week after they tested positive in the English Premier League’s first round of testing.

Pearson said the team’s two new cases came from people they had contact with testing positive for COVID-19, even though the players’ own tests were negative.

With no fans, Hertha beats Union 4-0 in subdued Berlin derby

BERLIN — Hertha Berlin defeated city rival Union Berlin 4-0 in a subdued derby amid the Bundesliga’s strict hygiene measures against the coronavirus on Friday.

No fans were allowed into the game, the first in the German league’s second round of games since it resumed last weekend after a two-month break.

There were no unruly individuals present to break a minute’s silence held before the game for victims of the coronavirus pandemic.

Quick-fire goals from Vedad Ibisevic and Dodi Lukebakio early in the second half, followed by more from Matheus Cunha and Dedryck Boyata gave Hertha its second win in two games under new coach Bruno Labbadia and helped ease the pain of losing the first Bundesliga derby between the sides 1-0 in Union’s stadium in November.

The contrast between the games could hardly have been greater. Union’s stadium was sold out. The teams were greeted by a giant choreography based on Greek mythology and the game was marred by pyrotechnics landing on the field and the threat of fan violence afterward.

USOPC eliminates 51 in response to COVID-related shortfall

DENVER — The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee is eliminating 51 positions and furloughing 33 more as part of a dramatic cut in staffing designed to trim up to 20% of its budget to respond to shortfalls caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of this change. It is significant,” CEO Sarah Hirshland wrote in a letter sent Thursday to Olympic stakeholders and obtained by The Associated Press.

The letter said 32 employees had been offered different roles in the organization, setting up the possibility that not all the eliminated or furloughed positions will result in a temporary or permanently lost jobs. Still, the moves, combined with more than 30 employees who previously took buyout offers, will result in a staff of about 500 being reduced by nearly one-fifth.

These are the most drastic cuts since 2009, when the federation laid off 54 employees to handle recession-related shortfalls.

Hirshland did not go for across-the-board cuts, instead choosing areas that were designed to have the least impact on athlete support. But every facet of the U.S. Olympic movement is bound to feel some pain as a result of the one-year postponement of the Tokyo Games combined with the shutdown of sports, which is devastating many of the individual sports organizations that make up the backbone of the Olympic team.

Osaka tops Serena on Forbes’ list of sports annual earnings

Naomi Osaka has been a Grand Slam champion and No. 1 in the WTA rankings -- and now she’s No. 1 on another list: top-earning female athlete.

According to a story posted on Forbes.com on Friday, the 22-year-old player earned $37.4 million over the past 12 months from endorsements and prize money, eclipsing Serena Williams in that span.

Forbes said Osaka’s total is a one-year record for a female athlete, topping the previous mark of 29.7 million set by Maria Sharapova in 2015.

Osaka is No. 29 overall, with Williams at No. 33, on Forbes’ annual list of the 100 top-earning athletes.

Arkansas State coach Anderson gets extension through 2023

JONESBORO, Ark. — Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson has received a restructured contract extension that runs through 2023.

The school made the announcement on Friday. Terms of the deal were not released.

Anderson took the job before the start of the 2014 season. He has led the Red Wolves to a pair of Sun Belt Conference titles and six consecutive bowl appearances. He is one of just two active Group of Five head coaches in the nation to lead their programs to at least two conference championships and six bowl games since 2014.

Change of plea hearing for suspect accused of game threat

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A man accused of threatening a shooting at Ohio State University and vowing to hurt players on the football team is now scheduled for a change of plea hearing, according to a Wednesday court filing.

Such changes of plea hearings are typically held when a defendant switches a plea from not guilty to guilty.

An indictment unsealed late last year in federal court in Columbus accuses Daniel Rippy of making the “electronic communication” threat from California during the game between Ohio State and the University of Michigan in 2018. The game was played in Columbus that year, and Ohio State won 62-39.

Packers’ Montravius Adams faces marijuana, driving charges

ELKO, Ga. — Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Montravius Adams was arrested in Georgia this week and charged with marijuana and driving offenses.

He was stopped Tuesday just after 6 p.m. on suspicion of driving with a suspended registration and no insurance, according to a Houston County Sheriff’s Office report. It was not immediately clear why police had such suspicions.

An officer detected a scent of marijuana, which was found in a search of the car, the report said.

3 Reds break ranks, terminate Rugby Australia contracts

BRISBANE, Australia — International lock Izack Rodda and two other Queensland Reds players who were stood down for refusing to take a pay cut during the coronavirus pandemic have terminated their contracts with Rugby Australia.

Anthony Picone, agent for all three, on Friday said the Reds had no legal grounds to stand the group down and confirmed the players were terminating their contracts.

Rodda, who has 25 test caps for Australia, had been contracted until 2023 and was a senior leader in the Reds franchise. Hockings, widely touted as a future Wallaby lock, is reportedly pursuing option overseas.

The trio were the only three Australian-based Super Rugby players to refuse pay cuts which average 60% and were negotiated by Rugby Australia and the players’ union. They were stood down Monday when the players returned to practice following a two-month interruption during the pandemic lockdown.

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