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Football Feast Heavy on Playoff Implications

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Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott looks for an open receiver in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Vanderbilt on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, in Starkville, Miss. No. 4 Mississippi State won 51-0. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott looks for an open receiver in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Vanderbilt on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, in Starkville, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Football Writer

Rivalries are like a big Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings — oh so appetizing but with the potential to leave you feeling sick and sleepy.

Throw a heaping helping of playoff implications on top of those rivalries, and it’s like smothering the whole thing in gravy.

Welcome to rivalry week in the College Football Playoff era, a three-day football feast.

Selection committee chairman Jeff Long stresses that the 12-member panel begins the task of ranking teams each week with a clean slate, so conceivably there could be some drastic changes at the top of the top 25 even if the favorites win out this weekend.

The reality is Alabama, Oregon and Florida State look locked into the top three as long as they don’t lose again. All three face archrivals on Saturday, with conference championship games looming.

Mississippi State, TCU, Baylor and Ohio State are jockeying for that fourth spot, now held by the Bulldogs — but for how long?

No. 4 Mississippi State faces the toughest test of all the contenders, playing at No. 18 Mississippi. The Egg Bowl has rarely been a bigger deal.

“This game is special. It’s like no other,” Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott said. “You circle this game on the calendar each and every year. You really don’t have to hype it up or do anything special. I think we’re ready for them.”

The Bulldogs and Rebels have played 111 times, 87 with the Golden Egg Trophy on the line. This is the fifth time they have met as ranked teams.

Yum!

The picks:

TEXAS TURKEY BOWL

UPSET SPECIAL

No. 6 TCU (minus 6 1/2) at Texas

Improving Longhorns try to get coach Charlie Strong his first statement victory … TEXAS 28-24.

LSU (minus 3) at Texas A&M

Good defense/bad offense (Tigers) vs. good offense/bad defense (Aggies) … TEXAS A&M 27-21

FRIDAY FEAST

Stanford (plus 5) at No. 9 UCLA

Bruins, making late playoff push, can clinch Pac-12 South and rematch with Oregon … UCLA 27-17.

No. 13 Arizona State (off) at No. 12 Arizona

Winner takes the Pac-12 South if UCLA loses; Status of Wildcats QB Anu Solomon (ankle) is uncertain … ARIZONA STATE 35-28.

Arkansas (off) at No. 17 Missouri

Tigers need a win to lock up second straight trip to SEC title game; QB Brandon Allen (right hip) is questionable … MISSOURI 20-17.

Western Kentucky (plus 21) at No. 19 Marshall

Top two offenses in Conference USA … MARSHALL 58-42

No. 21 Colorado State (minus 7) at Air Force

Rams QB Garrett Grayson is second-rated passer in country (176.3) behind Marcus Mariota … COLORADO STATE 35-31.

Nebraska (plus 1) at Iowa

Another Huskers season ending with question marks about coach Bo Pelini’s future … NEBRASKA 24-17.

PLAYOFF IMPLICATIONS

Florida (plus 7 1/2) at No. 1 Florida State

Gators want to send Will Muschamp out a winner; Seminoles have eyes on playoff position … FLORIDA STATE 27-21.

No. 15 Auburn (plus 9 1/2) at No. 2 Alabama

Crimson Tide clinch SEC West with victory … ALABAMA 38-20.

No. 3 Oregon (minus 20) at Oregon State

Mariota is first player in FBS history with 30-plus TD passes as a freshman, sophomore and junior … OREGON 45-21

No. 4 Mississippi State (minus 2) at No. 18 Mississippi

Bulldogs can clinch SEC West with win and Alabama loss; need a win to stay in thick of playoff race … OLE MISS 28-24.

No. 5 Baylor (minus 24) vs. Texas Tech at Arlington, Texas

Bears have won three straight against Red Raiders, averaging 60 points … BAYLOR 60-28.

Michigan (plus 20) at No. 7 Ohio State

Buckeyes have won nine of 10 against that team up north … OHIO STATE 38-13.

DIVISION RACES

No. 22 Minnesota (plus 14) at No. 14 Wisconsin

Paul Bunyan’s Axe and Big Ten West go to winner … WISCONSIN 35-14.

Utah State (plus 9) at No. 25 Boise State

Broncos clinch Mountain West’s Mountain Division with victory; Aggies need Colorado State loss and a win to go to conference title game … BOISE STATE 28-20.

Hawaii (plus 11) at Fresno State

Up-and-down year for Bulldogs could still lead to third straight Mountain West title; Fresno clinches spot in title game with victory … FRESNO STATE 38-24.

Rice (plus 6 ½) at Louisiana Tech

Winner goes to Conference USA title games as West champ to face Marshall … LA TECH 31-23.

Northern Illinois (plus 8) at Western Michigan

Huskies win MAC West with a victory; Broncos need victory and Toledo loss to last-place Eastern Michigan (good luck) to earn spot in conference title game against Bowling Green … WESTERN MICHIGAN 28-24.

BRAGGING RIGHTS

No. 16 Georgia Tech (plus 13) at No. 8 Georgia

Bulldogs have won five straight and 12 of 13 meetings with Yellow Jackets … GEORGIA 38-28.

Kansas (plus 28) at No. 11 Kansas State

Wildcats have won five straight against Jayhawks, average scores 44-13 … KANSAS STATE 44-13.

Notre Dame (plus 7) at Southern California

Bejeweled Shillelagh goes to winning team; ear plugs and bottle of Pepto-Bismol to losing coach who falls to 7-5 … USC 35-31.

Kentucky (plus 13 1/2) at No. 24 Louisville

Cardinals have won three straight against Wildcats … LOUISVILLE 35-24.

BEST BET

South Carolina (plus 4) at No. 23 Clemson

Gamecocks have won five straight in Palmetto state rivalry, their longest streak in series … CLEMSON 35-24

WEIRD TROPHY

No. 10 Michigan State (minus 13 1/2) at Penn State

Land Grant on the line and Spartans hoping 10-2 finish is good enough to land New Year’s Bowl invitation … MICHIGAN STATE 21-14.

___

Last week: Record straight: 15-5; vs. points 8-9.

Season: Record straight: 177-56; vs. points 105-122-2.

Best bet: 5-8.

Upset special: 5-9.

___

Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Grizzlies make Niele Ivey NBA’s 9th female assistant coach

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — The Memphis Grizzlies have hired former Notre Dame women’s associate head coach Niele (knee-L) Ivey among the new assistants on Taylor Jenkins’ staff. There are now nine women coaches in the NBA.

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Niele Ivey is now an assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies. Photo: Notre Dame Athletics)

By Los Angeles Sentinel

The Memphis Grizzlies have hired former Notre Dame women’s associate head coach Niele (knee-L) Ivey among the new assistants on Taylor Jenkins’ staff.

There are now nine women coaches in the NBA.

The Grizzlies also announced Monday the hiring of Brad Jones, David McClure, James “Scoonie” Penn, Vitaly Potapenko and Neven Spahija.

Jenkins says he’s thrilled to work with an experienced group of coaches with success at all levels as both players and coaches.

Ivey spent the past 12 seasons at her alma mater with the last four as Notre Dame’s associate head coach and recruiting coordinator. She helped the Fighting Irish go 385-55 with seven Final Four berths, six appearances in the NCAA title game and the 2018 national championship.

Notre Dame congratulated Ivey on Twitter, saying the Grizzlies hired a good one.

Ivey played in two Final Fours with Notre Dame, including winning the 2001 national championship. She played five seasons in the WNBA before starting her coaching career as an administrative assistant at Xavier in 2005.

Jenkins kept Potapenko (po-TAH-pen-ko) who was an assistant with the Grizzlies last season. He also has worked for Cleveland and Indiana in the NBA and in the G League. Jones was head coach of Memphis’ G League team last season and also spent four seasons as an assistant coach with the Utah Jazz.

McClure, who played at Duke, spent the past three seasons as assistant coach with the Indiana Pacers and started his coaching career in 2014 as a player development quality assurance assistant for the Spurs. Penn spent the past two seasons as director of player development at Ohio State. Spahija was an assistant with Jenkins in Atlanta between 2014 and 2017.

The Grizzlies also named Jason March head coach of their G League team.

This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.

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Clippers Owner Celebrates Future While Forum Owner Cries “Foul!”

BLACK VOICE NEWS — The Clippers recently unveiled additional details and renderings of its privately financed sports and entertainment center anchored by the team’s new basketball arena in the City of Inglewood.

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Cross section of model for proposed new Clippers arena (Photo by: blackvoicenews.com)
Cross section of model for proposed new Clippers arena (Photo by: blackvoicenews.com)

S.E. Williams | Contributors

The Clippers recently unveiled additional details and renderings of its privately financed sports and entertainment center anchored by the team’s new basketball arena in the City of Inglewood.

“My goal is simple,” explained Clippers Chairman Steve Ballmer. “I want the Clippers to have the best home in all of sports. “What that means to me is an unparalleled environment for players, for fans, for sponsors and for the community of Inglewood”

He expounded, “Our goal is to build a facility that re-sets fans’ expectations while having a transformative impact on the city we will call home.”

The Inglewood Basketball and Entertainment Center is expected to revitalize mostly vacant land under the flight path of the Los Angeles International Airport and transform it into what will hopefully be a vibrant campus. In addition to the arena, the campus will include team’s business offices, basketball offices and training facility, as well as both community and retail spaces.

The arena as proposed will have a three-dimensional oval design with a unique exterior of diamond-shaped metal panels inspired by the concept of a basketball swishing through a net. In addition to the aesthetics, the panels are designed to provide solar benefit for maximum energy efficiency as part of the facility’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Desire (LEED) design. LEED is an internationally recognized third party building certification system focused on improving the environment through sustainability.

The Clippers campus is designed to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions through a combination of carbon offset credits and sustainable design features.

 Clippers Chairman Steve Ballmer.

Clippers Chairman Steve Ballmer (Photo by blackvoicenews.com.)

When Clippers’ officials unveiled the renderings and other details of the project, they highlighted what was identified as the facility’s “most striking” feature intended to highlight the temperate climate of Southern California—the integration of indoor/outdoor sky gardens for food and beverages. The sky gardens will be accessible from every concourse level.

The Clippers’ Complex also envisions a multi-purpose plaza that will include a concert stage, community basketball courts and space for the community to gather and watch everything from Clippers Playoff Games and movie premiers on a supersized LED screen.

The same day the Clipper organization unveiled renderings and plans for the arena and its new campus it also welcomed new highly acclaimed players Paul George and Kawhi Leonard to the team. And in that regard, no one during their introduction appeared more genuinely excited than Ballmer. “I’m just delighted and so proud right now…,” he exclaimed. I’m pumped to say hello as Clippers to Paul and Kawhi.”

While Ballmer, the Clippers organization, their fans and the City of Inglewood celebrate what looks to be a very bright and mutually-beneficial future, New York billionaire and Jim Dolan CEO of the Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) , who own’s the NBA Knicks, the Forum in Inglewood and several other high profile holdings, is continuing to be pilloried in the media for his ongoing attempts to block the development of the new Clippers’ arena in Inglewood and in the process stymie the economic potential of the city itself because he fears the competition it presents to his multi-million dollar investment in the Forum.

Reports and court documents have detailed the obstruction efforts of Dolan and his partner(s) at MSG. The allegations range from funding an opposition candidate against Inglewood’s longtime mayor, James T. Butts Jr.; funding community groups to oppose the project; seeking to attract the Lakers back to the Forum as their home court and the list goes on.

One of what is purportedly one of his most spurious and outrageous accusations is his claim that—as alleged in Vanity Fair—’Ballmer and Butts double-crossed him after MSG spent a lot of money in Inglewood when few others were willing to do so.’

Although Dolan has continued to claim the contract with the city of Inglewood was exclusive and prevented similar venues from being established in the city it appears there was nothing in the MSG contract with the city that spoke to an exclusive arrangement.

Dolan continues to claim he was tricked, bamboozled and taken advantage of regarding the Forum contract even though evidence clearly states otherwise. “My position is that we invested $140 million and were the first ones to do so in Inglewood and that we had an agreement with the city, both in paper and in spirit, that the city would help us with that investment to make it successful,”

It appears rather than taking ownership for his failure and the failure of MSG to exercise judicious business acumen when negotiating the Forum contract with the City of Inglewood, Dolan has resorted to bullying tactics. In addition to some of his efforts detailed above he has sued not only the city of Inglewood but also Mayor Butts, personally—a personal suit prevents the city from paying for Butts’ defense.

While Dolan continues to fight against the mayor, Ballmer, the development of the Clippers arena, and by proxy—the city of Inglewood itself—plans for the new arena and its campus continue.

“Inglewood is a diverse, dynamic community blessed with a skilled workforce, emerging infrastructure and a bold economic blueprint for the future,” said Gillian Zucker, President of Business Operations for the Clippers organization.

Speaking directly to the Clippers proposed arena he continued. “In addition to the thousands of jobs this facility will create for the local community, we are equally committed to working with our new neighbors in the continuing renaissance developing in the City of Inglewood.”

The proposed Clippers arena complex will be located on West Century Boulevard between South Prairie and South Yukon Avenues.

This article originally appeared in Black Voice News

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Celebrities Play Kickball Game For Mental Health Awareness

THE AFRO — Leigh Bodden promised the Black team would win, but Santana Moss wasn’t having any of it. Moss delivered a three-run kickball home run in the bottom of the first inning, which proved to be the difference in the game as the white team won the inaugural Barry’s Game at Bowie Baysox Stadium.

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Leigh Bodden’s LBFoundation.org and Lauryn’s Law teamed up at the Bowie Baysox Stadium for baseball and celebrity kickball games in honor of mental health and suicide awareness. (Courtesy Photo)
Leigh Bodden’s LBFoundation.org and Lauryn’s Law teamed up at the Bowie Baysox Stadium for baseball and celebrity kickball games in honor of mental health and suicide awareness. (Courtesy Photo)
By Mark F. Gray

Leigh Bodden promised the Black team would win, but Santana Moss wasn’t having any of it. Moss delivered a three-run kickball home run in the bottom of the first inning, which proved to be the difference in the game as the white team won the inaugural Barry’s Game at Bowie Baysox Stadium.

“We’re keeping our mouth shut and will let our play do the talking,” Moss said. “We’ll see what happens at the end of the game.”

On a day where there were no losers, Bodden’s LBFoundation.org brought together local celebrities and former pro athletes by galvanizing the community to begin learning more about a silent killer amongst minorities.  However, thanks to Moss’s heroics the white team withstood a late inning comeback attempt to hold on for a 5-3 victory.

Despite the game, mental health awareness and suicide prevention were the focus of the Baltimore Orioles class AA affiliate Bowie Baysox in conjunction with Bodden’s Foundation and Lauryn’s Law. The charity organizations collaborated to play the game in honor of two people who tragically lost their lives due to their undiagnosed mental health issues.

Linda Diaz and Bodden carry the pain of their respective losses daily, as both carry memories of loved ones who took their lives.  Diaz, who shared the day with her granddaughter, started the push for Lauryn’s Law after her daughter took her life after battling the effects of bullying that led to undiagnosed depression.  Her efforts led to a state law requiring in school counseling and intervention for students who are displaying those symptoms.

Bodden’s friend Barry, who also took his life, is to whom the game was dedicated.  Before the first “pitch” it was clear this was more than a celebrity good time. In addition to the passion for the competition there was a palpable sense of commitment to the cause that was conveyed by Bodden himself, as he addressed the fans who stayed and watched with an emotional appreciation to those in attendance.

“There is not a day that doesn’t go by where I don’t think about him,” Bodden said with his voice cracking as he tried to hold back tears. “Hopefully, you’ve been able to speak with the representatives of the organizations that can help you be there for someone who may not realize the help they need and you can be there to support them.”

The crowd who attended the baseball game was able to attend the kickball game afterward for the price of the game ticket.  During the game itself, various mental health organizations were stationed throughout the concourse distributing information and sharing basic knowledge about the warning signs of what could lead to suicidal behavior.

“It’s so important to have an opportunity to share this kind of information with the public,” Diaz said.  “When someone like Leigh adds his name too and genuinely cares because he knows the pain that friends and families go through, it only helps create greater awareness in the community.”

Approximately 1,000 fans stayed after the Baysox Eastern League 10-4 victory over the Portland Sea Dogs for the kickball game. During the long afternoon, they also had an opportunity to receive information from a series of mental health organizations who lined the concourse with a message of intervention and therapy. The celebrities who attended also recognize the role they play in pushing the message.

“It’s something that we can now have open conversations when we’re on the air,” said Sunni [in the City] from WPGC-FM. “Artists like Wale use their twitter accounts to talk about his therapist all the time. It’s a disease that’s out of the closet right now and people are beginning to realize they don’t have to feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about mental health issues anymore.”

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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TSDRadio: New Grizz assistant Niele Ivey: “I’m always up for a challenge”

NEW TRI STATE DEFENDER — Niele Ivey knew that becoming the first woman coach in Memphis Grizzlies history was a big deal. Still, she underestimated it a bit.

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Niele Ivey is now an assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies. Photo: Notre Dame Athletics)
Niele Ivey is now an assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies. Photo: Notre Dame Athletics)

By Lee Eric Smith

Niele Ivey knew that becoming the first woman coach in Memphis Grizzlies history was a big deal. Still, she underestimated it a bit.

“I know now,” she told me during a recent exclusive interview. “It’s a lot bigger than I even expected.”

Check out this clip of my conversation with Ivey, in which she talks about being an inspiration to other women, and what she expects from her first time coaching men (Hint: “Basketball is basketball,” she says) and what she hopes to bring to Memphis. Enjoy!

This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender

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Palm Coast church to host Football Sunday

DAYTONA TIMES — Palm Coast United Methodist Church will hold its eighth annual Football Sunday services on Aug. 18 at 5200 Belle Terre Parkway, Palm Coast,   Members of the Flagler Palm Coast and Matanzas High School football teams, coaches, cheerleaders, and band members will attend the contemporary worship service at 9:30 a.m.  

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Photo by: Jean-Daniel Francoeur | pexels.com
Photo by: Jean-Daniel Francoeur | pexels.com

By The Daytona Times

Palm Coast United Methodist Church will hold its eighth annual Football Sunday services on Aug. 18 at 5200 Belle Terre Parkway, Palm Coast,

Members of the Flagler Palm Coast and Matanzas High School football teams, coaches, cheerleaders, and band members will attend the contemporary worship service at 9:30 a.m.

Members of the Bethune-Cookman University football team and coaches will attend the traditional worship service 11 a.m.

Parishioners and guests are encouraged to wear a football jersey representing their favorite high school, college or professional teams. The public is invited to attend.

For more information, call 386-4451600.

This article originally appeared in the Daytona Times.

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Sparks Defeat Mercury on Pat Summitt Night

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — The Los Angeles Sparks stretch their winning streak to four after routing a shorthanded Phoenix Mercury. Five Phoenix players were sidelined by injury. The Sparks franchise honored the late iconic Tennessee Lady Vols basketball head coach Pat Summitt, who won 1,098 wins during her tenure.

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Sparks forward Chiney Ogwumike returned to the hardwood against the Phoenix Mercury (Photo by: Emarie Marie | T.G.Sportstv1)

By Amanda Scurlock

The Los Angeles Sparks stretch their winning streak to four after routing a shorthanded Phoenix Mercury. Five Phoenix players were sidelined by injury.

The Sparks franchise honored the late iconic Tennessee Lady Vols basketball head coach Pat Summitt, who won 1,098 wins during her tenure.

“When I played at Stanford, we’d play Tennessee every year,” Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike said. “She would encourage me even when we were playing against them. I found that very odd because I was playing against such a force of nature in a coach and a team.”

Sparks forward  Candace Parker lauded her former coach as the hardest worker she ever met in her life. She wanted Sparks fans to understand who Summitt was.

“I remember she was on me for not working hard and so I was like ‘I’m gonna beat her to the gym.’ … Practice was at six and I got there at four-thirty and she was in her office,” Parker said about Summitt. “That’s what I want people to know and remember and understand that she was able to inspire people even though she’s gone.”

Ogwumike scored 24 points and Parker secured a double-double with 11 rebounds and 12 points. Mercury center Brittney Griner scored 27 points and forward Brianna Turner grabbed 14 rebounds.

The Sparks started the game with a 9-2 run. After five regulated minutes, Nneka scored 10 points. Phoenix shoot well at the free throw line, landing all eight charity shots they were given.

The Sparks initiated aggression to a team known for their physicality, frustrating the team so much so that Mercury icon Diana Taurasi and head coach Sandy Brondello earned a technical foul each. Sparks head coach Derek Fisher mentioned how guard Tierra Ruffin-Pratt defending Mercury guard Leilani Mitchell disrupted their offense.

“I just was working on my full-court defense tonight,” Ruffin-Pratt said. “Alana (Beard) told me that was the next step in being great on defense.”

Fisher matched up guard Chelsea Gray with Phoenix forward DeWanna Bonner, who was ultimately held to four points.

“Bonner’s like a guard with forward height and we felt like having a guard on her would also allow us to be really active,” Fisher said. “[Gray] fought her hard and kept her from getting into position.”

The Mercury struggled with scoring after the half, they would not score until four minutes into the third quarter. Sparks guard Sydney Wiese knocked down two three-point shots in that time. Phoenix continued to rely on free-throws, going eight-of-nine in the third.

Turnovers also plagued the Mercury, who gave away 20 points from 13 turnovers after three quarters. The Sparks only gave up eight points from 12 turnovers in that time.

Griner and Mitchell was the core of the Mercury’s offensive surge during the final minutes of the game. They reduced a 19-point deficit to eight points. Parker and Gray would not allow Phoenix a lead as the clock ran down.

“[the Sparks are] a great defensive team, just trying to battle it out,” Bonner said. “We’ve got to go home and learn from it. It was physical, and we’ve got to find a way to beat that.”

This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.

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