Thursday's Sports in Brief

Thursday's Sports in Brief
December 7, 2012, 6:59 am
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NEW YORK (AP) Instead of closing in on a deal, the NHL and the players' association are further apart than ever before.

Union executive director Donald Fehr began the first of his two news conferences Thursday night by proclaiming he believed the sides had agreements on such issues as actual dollars, and then returned moments later to reveal the NHL rejected everything his side offered.

Hot-button topics such as the ``make-whole'' provision on existing contracts not only weren't settled, but are no longer being offered by the league. Forget that owners were willing to pay up to $300 million to cover the costs, now Commissioner Gary Bettman is saying the entire concept is off the table - along with everything else the league proposed during the previous two days of talks.

``They knew there was a major gulf between us and yet they came down here and told you we were close,'' deputy commissioner Bill Daly said.

Fehr vehemently disputed that assessment and stuck to his opinion that the sides really aren't far apart.

When the NHL agreed to increase its offer of payments from $211 million, it was part of a proposal that required the union to agree to three nonnegotiable points. The players' association accepted the raise, but then made counterproposals on the issues the league stated had no wiggle room.

The NHL wants to limit personal player contracts to five years, seven for a club's own player. The union countered with an offer of an eight-year maximum length with the variable in salary being no greater than a 25 percent difference between the highest-paid year of the deal and the lowest.

The other sticking points the NHL demanded of the players are a 10-year term on the new agreement, with a mutual opt-out option after eight years, and no compliance buy-outs or caps on escrow in the transition phase to the new structure. The union presented an offer of an eight-year deal with a reopener after six.

The sides won't meet again before Saturday at the earliest.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) - Manti Te'o was ``at a loss for words'' after capturing the Maxwell Award as the nation's most outstanding player, one of three honors Notre Dame's senior linebacker received at the 22nd Home Depot College Football Awards show at Disney World.

``The last time I ever dreamt of winning that award was on a video game,'' he said. ``So to win it is a mind-blowing experience.''

Te'o now has won six major awards since the end of the regular season, also taking home the Bednarik Award for top defensive player and Walter Camp Foundation player of the year award on Thursday. He became the first defensive player to win the Maxwell Award since 1980, ending a string of nine straight quarterbacks.

Next up is the Heisman Trophy ceremony on Saturday night, with Te'o and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel considered the favorites.

Manziel won the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award and the Aggies' junior offensive lineman Luke Joeckel took home the Outland Trophy for the nation's best interior lineman.

Other players honored Thursday were Southern California's Marqise Lee (Biletnikoff Award for top receiver), Tulane's Cairo Santos (Lou Groza Award for top kicker), Louisiana Tech's Ryan Allen (Ray Guy Award for top punter), Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks (Jim Thorpe Award for top defensive back), and Wisconsin's Montee Ball (Doak Walker Award for top running back).

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Current athletic director and former coach Barry Alvarez will return to the sidelines to coach Wisconsin when it faces No. 8 Stanford on New Year's Day. The announcement came two days after Bret Bielema stepped down to take over at Arkansas.

DENVER (AP) - A person familiar with the decision tells The Associated Press that Butch Jones has rejected an offer to become the football coach at the University of Colorado.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Charlie Strong is staying at Louisville, saying he turned down an offer from Tennessee to stay with the Cardinals.

BASEBALL

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A quiet winter meetings figures to lead to a busy rest of December, given how few moves actually got finished at sprawling Opryland hotel.

As teams headed home Thursday, the biggest free agents were still on the market. The availability of slugger Josh Hamilton and pitcher Zack Greinke held up decisions on other signings and possible trades involving Rangers infielder Michael Young and Mets Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey.

The Yankees, quiet thus far, were pursuing former Boston star Kevin Youkilis and also met with the agent for Mark Reynolds.

With most clubs already packed up, Philadelphia acquired outfielder Ben Revere from Minnesota for right-handers Vance Worley and Trevor May.

Hamilton could remain with Texas, and Seattle seemed to be interested. Greinke's options include staying with the Los Angeles Angels, moving up the coast to the Dodgers or signing with the Rangers.

PRO FOOTBALL

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Pittsburgh Steelers confirmed that Ben Roethlisberger will return to the starting lineup Sunday against San Diego after missing three weeks due to injuries to his right throwing shoulder and ribs.

Roethlisberger will play with a custom-fit rib/chest compression shirt and a layer of Kevlar-lined composite in his shoulder pads to help absorb hits to his clavicle and shoulder joint regions.

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday the league is willing to contribute funding to help build a stadium in Oakland to keep the Raiders in town.

Goodell said it is crucial that the Raiders improve their stadium situation. They currently play in the outdated Oakland Coliseum and have said they would like a more modern facility at the same location. There have been talks between the team and city officials but nothing concrete has happened as of yet.

Goodell also said the league's competition committee would consider in the offseason replacing the kickoff. The league previously had moved the kickoff from the 30 to 35-yard line to cut down on violent collisions.

BLUE RIDGE, Texas (AP) - A relative of the slain girlfriend of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher said she was a loyal friend who brought joy to others with her smiles and laughter.

Kasandra Perkins' great-uncle also told mourners at a service that Perkins loved her family and considered her 3-month-old daughter, Zoey, to be the love of her life.

Family and friends gathered at a rural North Texas church to remember the 22-year-old Perkins, five days after Belcher killed her then shot himself in the head.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Peyton Hillis lashed back at former teammate Joe Thomas, comparing the Browns' offensive tackle to a ``crazy ex-girlfriend'' after he made disparaging comments about the Kansas City Chiefs running back.

Thomas told reporters in Cleveland on Wednesday that Hillis didn't always play hard during his time with the Browns. He also accused Hillis of creating a ``toxic'' environment in the locker room by putting his contract situation ahead of the team.

PRO BASKETBALL

ORANGE, Calif. (AP) - Former NBA star Dennis Rodman has been found in contempt of court and ordered to pay $500,000 in back child support to his ex-wife, her attorney said Thursday.

The flamboyant basketball player known for his off-court antics was sentenced to informal probation, his ex-wife's attorney, Mary Ann Noiroux, told City News Service. Orange County Superior Court Commissioner Barry Michaelson warned Rodman could face jail time if he doesn't pay the child support, she said.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Creighton guard Josh Jones was being held overnight and was to undergo further testing Friday at a Lincoln hospital after passing out before the Bluejays' game against Nebraska.

Coach Greg McDermott wrote in a text message to The Associated Press on Thursday night that Jones ``is tired but doing well.''

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A Utah State basketball player who collapsed at practice was moved out of the intensive care unit and upgraded to fair condition.

Intermountain Medical Center spokesman Jason Carlton said Danny Berger remains at the Salt Lake City-area hospital.

The 22-year-old Berger collapsed on the court during a practice Tuesday in Logan.

GOLF

SYDNEY (AP) - Australia's John Senden shot a 6-under 66 on Thursday in calm morning conditions at The Lakes to take a two-stroke lead in the Australian Open.

Englishman Justin Rose was second along with Australians Kim Felton, Brendan Jones and Richard Green and New Zealand's Gareth Paddison.

CHON BURI, Thailand (AP) - South Africa's Charl Schwartzel shot a 7-under 65 to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Thailand Golf Championship.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - China's Shanshan Feng opened a four-stroke lead in the Dubai Ladies Masters, shooting a 7-under 65 in the second round.

DURBAN, South Africa (AP) - Rain washed out play in the inaugural Nelson Mandela Championship. The opening event of the 2013 European Tour season also is sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour.

MIXED MARTIAL ARTS

SEATTLE (AP) - Former Olympic judo bronze medalist and rising mixed-martial arts star Ronda Rousey will fight in the main event at UFC 157 on Feb. 23 in Anaheim, Calif., where she will face Liz Carmouche in the first women's fight in UFC history.

SOCCER

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - Lionel Messi says that his injured knee feels much better despite fearing the worst when he collided with the goalkeeper during a Champions League match against Benfica.

The Barcelona forward says he may miss Sunday's league match at Real Betis, but had originally thought his career might be in jeopardy.

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Clint Dempsey put Tottenham ahead in the 76th minute on a header that was later ruled an own goal and Spurs reached the knockout stage of the Europa League with a 3-1 win over Panathinaikos.