CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina carried a No. 1 ranking nearly all year along with the expectation of returning to the College World Series.
It turned out the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament would have to fight though all kinds of trouble — deficits, mistakes, bullpen-taxing games — to reach that goal.
Colin Moran hit an RBI triple in a three-run sixth inning and staff ace Kent Emanuel picked up his first career save by getting the final two outs to help UNC beat South Carolina 5-4 on Tuesday.
By winning the decisive third game of the weather-delayed super regional series, the Tar Heels (57-10) secured their sixth trip to Omaha in eight seasons.
It also capped a stressful two weekends of NCAA play, from a 13-inning comeback win against Florida Atlantic in the final game of the Chapel Hill Regional to the pair of one-run wins against the Gamecocks (43-20).
"It doesn't really matter how you get there," UNC coach Mike Fox said. "Baseball's a tough game, you never know how it's going to go. At the end of the day, we're going, so that's the most important thing."
Yet Fox has said all those moments have made a tough team even tougher — which explains how the Tar Heels managed to regroup after falling behind on a morale-killing two-run mistake in the fifth.
The Tar Heels went ahead for good in the sixth, then Emanuel — who had thrown 238 pitches in three NCAA tournament appearances — came on for a pair of one-pitch outs that sent the UNC players spilling out of the dugout and onto the field to celebrate.
"I think we just have a lot of confidence late in games," Moran said. "It kind of builds over time and it's hard not to be confident, no matter how much you're down after how much we've come back and how many times."
Reliever Trent Thornton (11-1) earned the win, allowing one earned run over 4 2-3 innings as the Tar Heels tied a program record with their 57th victory.
North Carolina will see a familiar opponent in Omaha — the Tar Heels will open CWS play Sunday against instate and Atlantic Coast Conference rival North Carolina State. The last time the teams met, UNC won an 18-inning marathon on the way to the ACC tournament title over Memorial Day weekend.
South Carolina had won the national championship in 2010 and 2011, then finished second last year. The Gamecocks were back within a win of Omaha under first-year coach Chad Holbrook, a former UNC player who had also worked as an assistant under Fox.
UNC won Saturday's series opener 6-5, then South Carolina won Sunday's elimination game 8-0. But on a mistake-filled Tuesday for both teams, the Gamecocks will be left to wonder what-if after the sixth inning.
After Moran's triple scored Landon Lassiter to cut the deficit to 4-3, the Gamecocks made a throwing error that brought home Moran to tie it. A few batters later, reliever Tyler Webb entered with the bases loaded and walked Skye Bolt to give UNC the 5-4 lead.
South Carolina got the tying runner on base in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings but couldn't score.
"There's not too much difference between the two teams," Holbrook said. "And ultimately we didn't do enough to win the two games that they won. It'll haunt me for a long time, but I'm also awfully proud of our players."
Brian Holberton's two-run homer in the second had given UNC a 2-1 lead and Thornton — who came on in the third for starter Benton Moss — had held down the Gamecocks into the fifth.
But with two outs, UNC center fielder Chaz Frank dropped a routine fly ball that allowed the Gamecocks to score a pair of unearned runs for a 3-2 lead.
South Carolina got Tanner English's RBI double to make it 4-2, but Moran's big hit re-energized a home crowd that had gone quiet after Frank's drop.
The teams combined for five errors. South Carolina finished with three in each of the super regional games.
"In postseason play, when you're playing a great team, every little mistake is magnified," Holbrook said. "We made our fair share this weekend and it's disappointing. We lost two games and both games were there for us to win."
Reliever Adam Westmoreland (7-4) took the loss, allowing two hits and three runs in 3 1-3 innings.
UNC's win closed a series delayed two days by weather. Friday's opener was postponed due to heavy rain from Tropical Storm Andrea, then Monday's third game was postponed due to rain and thunderstorms.
-- Aaron Beard
Catchers Gibson, Crain help Louisville reach CWS
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kyle Gibson and Shane Crain are fine with Louisville's pitchers getting the glory right now because they see it as a reflection of their grunt work behind the plate for the Cardinals.
Their contributions at the plate and on defense also has helped Louisville (51-12) earn its second College World Series berth. Both had pivotal hits during a weekend sweep of second-seeded Vanderbilt at the NCAA super regional in Nashville and kept the favored Commodores at bay on the base paths.
Their biggest satisfaction was keeping the Cardinals' hurlers focused enough to win two tight games. Gibson and Crain have already mastered the art of framing the target for hurlers with a staff earned-run average of 2.50. That staff's control has been crucial to Louisville's recent 21-2 run en route to Omaha, Neb.
"Gibson and I just pride ourselves on doing the job," said Crain, who has started 35 of 39 games and primarily catches Chad Green (10-3). "Our pitching staff is one of the best in the country, and we just try to do our job and make them look as good as possible."
Gibson catches Louisville staff ace Jeff Patterson (11-1, 2.00 ERA). They have been an effective battery all season but especially during Sunday's 2-1 clinching victory. The junior singled and scored the last Louisville run in the second inning, then helped Thompson and four relievers withstand Vanderbilt's comeback attempts by keeping them dialed in on the mound.
Thompson pitched seven innings for the decision that was saved by Cody Ege, who struck out Mike Yastrzemski with runners at first and third for the final out. That moment marked Gibson's only trouble spot, as he paused to comprehend the Cardinals' achievement before rushing the mound to pile on with ecstatic teammates in celebration.
"I was extremely anxious, and didn't really know what to do," said Gibson, hitting .301 in 35 games with 28 starts. "I just knew I had to get out there to Cody and hit the dog pile. There were a lot of tense moments in that game."
The urgency will increase Saturday night when Louisville opens against Indiana (48-14), making its first World Series appearance. Green and Crain will be the likely battery in that game.
Though Cardinals pitching coach Roger Williams determines what Louisville's hurlers will throw, Crain and Gibson have the leeway to change the pitch depending on the situation. That freedom sums up the coaches' trust in them, to say nothing of the pitchers' faith in their decision-making and poise.
"It's about them executing the plan," Williams said. "If they see something they need to go to, they have the freedom to go that plan. It's about trusting what you do and whether you can execute, and we've been really pleased with their execution all year."
No doubt, their success comes from having some years with Louisville.
Gibson, from Henderson, Ky., is in his third season with the Cardinals and lists the St. Louis Cardinals' outstanding catcher Yadier Molina as his main influence. Crain, born in Louisville and a product of Lexington Christian Academy, is in his second and considers Josh Hamilton and Nomar Garciaparra his heroes.
They've had enough time to bond with the staff and establish a consistent pattern of play that Williams said makes them interchangeable behind the plate. Opponents have stolen just 41 bases against Crain and Gibson.
What Thompson like best is how the 6-foot-2 Crain and the 5-9 Gibson have been calming presences.
"Those guys just really do their jobs very well and keep me relaxed, even when I get into a bad count like I was last week with a lot of 3-2 counts," the right-hander said. "The other game, Kyle says, 'calm down, just do your job and I'll do mine.'
"It just helps our pitching staff, knowing we got guys that we can bounce a ball on pretty much any count and they'll keep it in front and keep us on top of our game."
Their ability in turn has helped Louisville's overall play remain top flight over the final third of this season. The Cardinals closed the regular season on a 16-game winning streak and are 5-0 in the NCAA tournament after losing twice in the Big East Conference championship.
Now comes the opportunity to fulfill their dream of winning the national championship. Gibson and Crain care less about who plays than getting the best from Cardinals pitchers and themselves when it matters most.
"We're kind of the generals of the field and everybody's looking at us," Crain said, "but if we take care of business and do what we're supposed to do, we'll be fine."
-- Gary Graves
NCAA APR again hits schools with lesser resources
Eighteen Division I teams will miss the postseason, and another 18 in men's basketball and nine other college sports will trade practice time for remedial classroom sessions under NCAA academic progress reports released Tuesday.
Poor Academic Progress Rate scores mean postseason bans in the 2013-14 academic year for teams from 10 schools: Alabama State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Florida A&M, Florida International, Grambling State, Mississippi Valley State, New Orleans, Norfolk State, Savannah State and Southern. For Southern, its track team is ineligible for the postseason.
That compares to 15 teams ineligible for the 2012-13 postseason.
Five teams received Level 3 APR penalties, which can include financial aid reductions and multi-year postseason bans: the men's basketball teams at Grambling, Mississippi Valley, New Orleans and Louisiana-Monroe and Chicago State's women's volleyball team.
Most of the penalized schools have significantly more limited resources than top NCAA programs, including 11 historically black schools. Four of those banned are men's basketball squads from the 10-team Southwestern Athletic Conference.
The overall four-year APR score across Division I was 974, a one-point increase from last year. Scores are calculated by individual D-I teams based on eligibility and graduation and retention rates. A minimum four-year average score of 900, or 930 over the most recent two years, is required for postseason participation. The minimum required APR scores will increase to 930 over four years or 940 over two years, starting with the 2014-15 postseason. The cutoff is equivalent to a 50 percent graduation rate.
"If you can't graduate half your student-athletes, you shouldn't be worried about playing in championships or tournaments," said NCAA President Mark Emmert. "There's more important things for you to be focused on."
Under the APR standards, the NCAA defines "limited resource" schools as those ranking in the bottom 15 percent in athletics spending. Those schools only have to earn a four-year APR of 910 for the 2014-15 postseason.
The squads losing postseason eligibility consist of six men's basketball teams; three football teams; two squads each in baseball, women's volleyball and men's indoor and outdoor track; and the New Orleans women's basketball team. Data for eight of the sanctioned teams remains under review, meaning the penalties could be reversed or lessened.
The ineligible men's basketball teams include Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Mississippi Valley State for a second consecutive year. Grambling and Alabama State are the other SWAC men's basketball teams that must also sit out the next postseason.
Overall, limited-resource schools in general and historically black colleges and universities in particular are narrowing the APR gap with the other D-1 schools. The NCAA reported an 11-point gain among limited-resource schools and a 15-point gain among the HBCUs over the past two years.
A special NCAA fund provides supplemental financial assistance that allows low-performing schools to, among other options, hire more academic support workers or add space in computer labs. An NCAA pilot program provides six schools with an extra $300,000 annually over three years for such added efforts.
Critics call such programs a Band-Aid approach that does little to address the spending gaps among the rich and poor in college sports.
"If you go to a low-resource school, they're just trying to survive," said Richard Southall, an assistant professor of sport administration at North Carolina who directs its College Sports Research Institute. "If you have to do your taxes by yourself versus hiring two accountants and a tax lawyer, are you going to catch as many deductions?"
Emmert, who was joined on a conference call with reporters by NCAA committee chairman Walt Harrison, president of the University of Hartford, said the APR — now in its 10th year — has "changed the culture of intercollegiate athletics." The NCAA noted that more than 11,500 athletes whose eligibility expired later returned to campus to finish their degrees in the previous decade, a move that rewards schools with extra APR points.
Connecticut's men's basketball team, which was barred from the 2013 postseason because of past problems with its Academic Progress Rate — the first BCS school so sanctioned — has qualified academically for next year's NCAA tournament.
-- Alan Scher Zagier
UConn qualifies academically for postseason
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut's men's basketball team, which was barred from the 2013 postseason because of past problems with its Academic Progress Rate, has qualified academically for next year's NCAA tournament.
The Huskies APR for the 2011-12 school year is 947 out of 1000, giving it a two-year score of 962.5, which meets the NCAA's standard.
Under rules implemented in 2011, the NCAA requires a team to have a 900 average over four years or a 930 over two years to qualify for its postseason.
The team's four-year APR of 897 is still lower than the NCAA goal.
The team scored a 978 out of 1000 in 2010-11, the season it won its third NCAA Championship, after two years of scores in the low 800s.
Warde Manuel, the school's athletic director, said he is proud of team's academic effort, especially because they were penalized for problems that predated their enrollment at the university.
"These kids didn't get down on themselves," he said. "They didn't stop performing on the court and they didn't stop performing academically, and that is a credit to those kids."
UConn went 20-10 on the court during the 2012-13 basketball season and likely would have been an NCAA tournament team. But it was barred from both the Big East tournament and the NCAA tournament based on the APR scores from the 2007-08 through 2010-11 academic years.
The school's four-year score last year was 889 and its two-year average was just 902.
Over the past several years, the program put into places changes in an effort to boost the scores. Those include mandated sanctions for any player who misses three or more classes during the academic year and daily checks of course work for student-athletes who have a grade-point average of 2.3 or lower.
Players also are required to attend at least nine hours of summer school each year and adhere to a "graduation plan" created to ensure each player is on a path to graduate, even if they leave school early for the NBA or other opportunities.
"The players really took pride in saying, 'This is not us. We are student-athletes in the true sense of the word'," said Manuel. "They have showed that a one-year ban in the past is not a real indicator of how much they really focus on their academics as well as their athletics. That's the thing that made us, internally, happiest."
Manuel said coach Kevin Ollie has also made it clear to recruits that academics will be a priority, and the school has every reason to believe the APR scores will not be a problem in the future.
"All of the student athletes that are coming in, as well as the current student athletes understand the strong sense of focus we have on the academic side here," he said.
-- Pat Eaton-Robb
Tennessee football has SEC's worst academic rate
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee football ranks last in the Southeastern Conference in how the NCAA measures academic progress, and the Vols are at risk of being punished if they don't improve quickly.
The Vols have a ranking of 924 in academic progress measured over the past four years by the NCAA with the numbers released Tuesday. Currently, schools must be at least at 900 to avoid penalties. That figure jumps to 930 next year to measure eligibility, retaining students and graduation with penalties including a postseason ban for those programs that don't measure up.
Every other football program in the SEC had an Academic Progress Rate of at least 938 measured over the 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 academic years, led by Alabama with 978. New SEC member Missouri had a rate of 982 during the four years measured but belonged to the Big 12 then.
Tennessee officials said that they have done everything to address the issues with the football program.
"While our current football APR score is well below our expectations, we believe that the team's academic performance during the 2012-13 school year and the improvements made in our structure over the last year have us strongly positioned for the future," Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said in a statement.
Tennessee football players posted a 2.8 grade point average in the 2013 spring semester, its highest for a spring semester since the university started measuring GPAs on a sport-by-sport basis in 2003. Forty-six players posted GPAs of 3.0 or above. Football players had a GPA of 2.49 in the fall of 2012 and 2.08 in the fall of 2011 under previous coach Derek Dooley.
New coach Butch Jones, hired Dec. 7, 2012, said they are excited with the spring results in the classroom.
"We are moving forward with a great plan and structure that alleviates past academic concerns, and we are confident of avoiding any APR issues," Jones said. "Everything is in place to provide the best possible environment for achieving academic success for our student-athletes as we continue to move forward."
Chancellor Jimmy Cheek said he is proud of Tennessee athletes over the past two semesters.
"And I have great confidence that we have put past issues behind us and will only continue to improve," Cheek said.
Every other program at Tennessee had an APR of at least 936. Tennessee posted a 972 APR in men's basketball, above the national average of 952. Tennessee's 990 in women's basketball was above the national average of 972. The women's golf, rowing and women's tennis programs earned public recognition awards for posting APRs in the top 10 percent of their sports nationally.
Arkansas exceeds APR benchmark in all 19 sports
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas has exceeded the benchmark for the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate in each of its 19 sports, the first time the school has done so in all of its athletic programs.
The Razorbacks had topped the 930 benchmark for academic performance in 18 of 19 sports programs in each of the previous three years. The men's basketball program topped the mark for the first time in figures released by the NCAA, scoring a 951.
The APR measures the classroom performance of every Division I team. This year's data calculates rates from 2008-09 through 2011-12, which was Arkansas basketball coach Mike Anderson's first season with the Razorbacks.
Anderson helped guided Arkansas to a 977 APR mark for the 2011-12 school year, the basketball team's best performance in five years of measurement.
-- Kurt Voigt
Boise St. football rates high in classroom scores
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A new NCAA report ranks Boise State's football team as one of the best in the nation when it comes to how Bronco players perform in the classroom.
The NCAA on Tuesday released its annual Academic Progress Rate, a formula that measures eligibility, retention and graduation for all scholarship athletes. The recent scores reflect progress over a four year period that ended in the 2011-2012 school year.
The Broncos football team posted an APR score of 993, the second highest among Football Bowl Subdivision schools and team record. The Broncos trailed Northwestern, which posted a score of 996 during the period.
"Our commitment to excellence at Boise State extends beyond the competition," said Boise State Athletic Director Mark Coyle.
Idaho's football team scored at 919, while Idaho State came in with 914.Schools that fail to meet certain APR standards can face penalties.
At Idaho, the Vandals' women's golf team earned the top APR score with 991. At Idaho State, the women's golf team also posted the highest score with 992.
As a department, all Boise State teams combined for an overall score of 977 and four other teams joined the football squad with top honors in the Mountain West Conference, including men's cross country, men's indoor track and field, men's outdoor track and field and swimming and diving teams.
NCAA issues one-year postseason ban for UNO teams
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The NCAA has banned the University of New Orleans' men's and women's basketball teams from postseason play next season because unsatisfactory academic performance.
The sanctions, announced Tuesday, stem from the teams' four-year Academic Performance Rates for the academic years of 2008-09 to 2011-12 — a period of budgetary turmoil and uncertainty for the state university's athletic program.
UNO Athletic Director Derek Morel says attempts by previous administrators to reclassify sports programs first to Division III, then Division II "had an adverse effect" on athletes' classroom performance.
Morel says officials have since "recognized the absence of sufficient academic support resources ... and have taken decisive" measures to improve them.
UNO last year committed to remain in Division I and joined the Southland Conference, with teams starting league play this fall.
Saban guarding Alabama against complacency
ATHENS, Tenn. (AP) — Alabama football coach Nick Saban wants to make sure the defending national champions take nothing for granted.
Saban said Tuesday during an Athens (Tenn.) Area Chamber of Commerce benefit dinner at Tennessee Wesleyan College that he recently showed his team a tape of James "Buster" Douglas' stunning 1990 knockout of Mike Tyson as a warning to avoid complacency.
"You become the target," said Saban, whose team is seeking its third straight BCS title and fourth in the past five years. "Everybody's got our name circled. Everyone wants to beat us. You've got to get ready for that. When the game comes, everybody wants to win. Who prepared to win the game the right way?"
Saban's visit to a town less than 60 miles south of Tennessee's campus produced more than 100 complaints over the past several months, according to Athens Area Chamber of Commerce president Rob Preston. After all the tumult preceding his appearance, Saban received a hero's welcome in a setting that resembled a booster event.
The Alabama coach got a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 1,500 fans who paid $50 for tickets and lined up single-file amid sweltering conditions to see him. Saban stepped to the podium inside a giant tent after multiple playings of "Sweet Home Alabama" and the school's fight song.
"This is the kind of community that I grew up in when I was a kid, (with) a lot of great people, a lot of down-to-earth people who have great values and are hard-working," said Saban, a West Virginia native.
Alabama athletic department spokesman Jeff Purinton said Saban makes a handful of these types of appearances that aren't booster-related each year, including a recent corporate event in New York.
Saban's fee for Tuesday's appearance was donated to Nick's Kids Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting children, family, teacher and student causes that typically receives any money he receives for these types of events.
Saban didn't focus on specific aspects of Alabama's upcoming season Tuesday and instead discussed the ideals that help a team win.
He emphasized the necessity to set the right example and noted that all the players he's ever coached "don't give a hoot what you know until they know that you care about them."
He said each individual must realize that every choice has a positive or negative consequence. He preached the importance of character, self-discipline and work ethic.
"I know I'm old-fashioned and I know I'm crazy with this stuff, but I believe it," Saban said. "It works for us. That's why we have success. I also think you have to have a positive attitude about what you're trying to do. You've got to have a vision for what you're trying to do."
Saban spoke for 35 minutes and then took questions for 20 minutes. At one point, a questioner expressed concern about quarterback A.J. McCarron because his girlfriend "is such a beautiful woman and A.J. needs to concentrate on football."
"I'd like to put you in his situation and see what you'd do," Saban quipped before spending the next few minutes raving about McCarron's leadership.
Preston said about 90 percent of the people who bought tickets to Tuesday's event were from outside McMinn County, and that fans had bought tickets from as far away as Florida and North Carolina
The first person in line was Sara Chihasz of Loudon, Tenn., who said she arrived at 1:30 p.m., four hours before organizers began collecting tickets.
Nearly all of them were wearing Alabama gear.
"I knew it would be a sea of crimson, and I love it," Chihasz said.
Only a handful of fans were wearing Tennessee orange. Most of them expressed regret over the complaints that had surrounded Saban's appearance in the weeks leading up to it.
"You've got a very successful man in his profession," said Mike Bell, a Tennessee state senator who stood in line wearing a Tennessee shirt.
"I wish the people would accept him for that and not make such a big deal that he's the Alabama football coach, even though I'm a deep orange football fan. I hope we beat the tar out of Alabama next year, even though we've not done it for several years."
As soon as Bell got those words out of his mouth, an Alabama fan standing behind him interrupted.
"Dream on," said Floyd Shadrick of Chattanooga. "It's not going to happen in my lifetime."
-- Steve Megargee
Arizona State will host Notre Dame in 2014
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Notre Dame's game at Arizona State in 2014 will take place after all.
The schools announced on Tuesday that they had struck a deal to play the game on Nov. 8, two weeks later than scheduled, after the Fighting Irish's move to the Atlantic Coast Conference put it in jeopardy of being cancelled.
A game between the Sun Devils and Irish scheduled for 2017 in South Bend, Ind., has been cancelled. This season's game, Oct. 5 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, was struck under a separate deal.
"We're pleased that Notre Dame was able to resolve its scheduling issues in a way that allows it to play at Sun Devil Stadium in 2014," ASU Athletics Director Steve Patterson said in a statement.
"Our entire Sun Devil family— season ticket holders, fans, students, alumni — and our entire community here in the Valley have been looking forward to playing Notre Dame in Tempe since the original agreement was signed in 2008."
Notre Dame told Arizona State officials in April that it did not want to play the 2014 game because the Irish must start playing five ACC teams per season that year. Arizona State also learned later that the Irish did not want to play the 2017 game as well.
Arizona State officials fought to keep the game on the schedule because it didn't believe Notre Dame had the legal right to back out, but also because it was going to be the Sun Devils' biggest home game of the season, possibly in years.
With the help of the Pac-12, which allowed Arizona State to make the change in date, the two schools were able to work out a deal to keep the game on the schedule.
"These are exciting times for our football program and having a special opponent like Notre Dame travel to ASU will make for another memorable experience," Patterson said.
-- John Marshall
49ers name stadium after Panthers' Richardson
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Charlotte 49ers have announced their new 15,300-seat football facility will be named Jerry Richardson Stadium following a $10 million donation from the Carolina Panthers owner.
Construction on the stadium was completed last October.
Charlotte Chancellor Phillip Dubois said Tuesday in a release that Richardson "knows that football can bring the students and the city of Charlotte together and he wanted to be among the first to stand up and state, 'this program is important to me.'"
The playing surface was previously named McColl-Richardson Field after an earlier donation from Richardson and former Bank of America chairman Hugh McColl.
Richardson also announced an endowed football scholarship in honor of his son, Jon Richardson.
Charlotte begins play this fall as an FCS independent before joining Conference USA in 2015.
Arizona State football player accused of assault
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Authorities say an Arizona State University football player has been arrested in connection with a sexual assault.
Tempe police said Tuesday that Andres Rafael Garcia is being held on suspicion of two counts of sexual assault and one count of assault/domestic violence.
The 22-year-old defensive back was arrested late Sunday after police say he got involved in an argument with a 21-year-old woman he knew. It allegedly escalated into a physical assault. Garcia is accused of shoving the woman backward into a wall, knocking her unconscious. Authorities say he then sexually assaulted the woman.
ASU officials say Garcia has been dismissed from the football team. He joined the Sun Devils last season as a non-scholarship player.
Pittsburgh AD Pederson given five-year extension
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh athletic director Steve Pederson has signed a five-year contract extension that will keep him at the school through 2018.
Pittsburgh chancellor Mark Nordenberg called the deal a tribute to the hard work of Pederson, who spearheaded the school's move from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Pitt officially joins the ACC on July 1. Nordenberg called Pederson "the driving force" of the transition, adding the school has "never been better positioned for future success."
Pederson, who begins his 13th year at Pitt this summer, said he is "fortunate" to continue with the Panthers.
Montana football gets transfers from UW, Boise St.
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Montana football coach Mick Delaney has announced two former FBS players are transferring to play for the Grizzlies. Delaney says University of Washington wide receiver Jamaal Jones and Boise State fullback Jamal Wilson are transferring to Montana with three years of eligibility remaining.
Jones is from Spanaway, Wash., and saw action in three games at UW last fall. Wilson is from Fontana, Calif. He walked on at Boise State and saw action in three games last season. Delaney says Wilson is transferring because Boise State doesn't plan to use a fullback in its new offense. Delaney says he expects both players to make big contributions to the 2013 Grizzly football team.
Fine lawsuit against ESPN going to federal court
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine's defamation lawsuit against ESPN is being moved to federal court, according to court papers.
In a filing in state Supreme Court last week, Fine also dropped legal action against co-defendants named in the original summons filed in November, which included reporter Mark Schwarz, producer Arthur Berko, the Walt Disney Co. and the Hearst Corp. ESPN, Inc. will be the sole defendant.
Fine is suing for defamation stemming from broadcasts aired by ESPN that reported claims by two former ball boys that Fine had molested them more than two decades ago. Fine was fired in November 2011, days after the broadcasts aired.
The 67-year-old Fine was never charged and has maintained his innocence.
ESPN had no comment when contacted Tuesday night by The Associated Press.
After a probe spanning nearly a year, federal authorities in November dropped their investigation into one of the sexual abuse claims against Fine, saying there was not enough evidence to support a claim that Fine had molested a boy in a Pittsburgh hotel room in 2002.
The investigation began in the immediate aftermath of the Penn State University scandal. Two former Syracuse ball boys, Bobby Davis and stepbrother Michael Lang, came forward and accused Fine of fondling them when they were teens. Davis said the sexual contact continued for years.
But the claims by Davis and Lang had happened too long ago to be prosecuted. Ten days later, though, a third man, 23-year-old Zachary Tomaselli, of Lewiston, Maine, went public with an accusation that Fine had molested him in 2002 in a hotel room when the team played in Pittsburgh. The same day, ESPN aired an audiotape in which Fine's wife, Laurie Fine, apparently acknowledged to Davis she knew about the molestation he alleged.
Fine was fired Nov. 27, 2011, after Tomaselli came forward and the federal government began investigating Tomaselli's claim, the only one that fell within the statute of limitations.
Tomaselli was accused of sexually abusing a boy at a camp in 2010 and his father had said his son was lying about Fine. Tomaselli, who eventually was convicted of sexual abuse and sentenced to three years and three months in prison, insisted he was telling the truth.
Before he went to jail, Tomaselli took the media on a wild spin, repeatedly lying in a bid, he said, to keep his name in print.
Fine's wife, Laurie, also sued ESPN, alleging defamation and claiming the network knew that Davis was lying and ruined her life. Part of that suit has already been dismissed by a federal court judge.
-- John Kekis
New AAC puts first men's tournament in Memphis
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The new American Athletic Conference will hold its first men's basketball tournament at the FedExForum in Memphis next March.
The tournament will be held March 12-15 with all games televised by ESPN's networks and the championship on ESPN.
FedExForum, which seats 18,400, is off historic Beale Street and home to the Memphis Grizzlies and the University of Memphis men's basketball team. The arena will host the NCAA tournament's South Regional two weeks after the American Athletic Conference tournament.
The announcement was made by Commissioner Mike Aresco, who lauded the tournament as a "wonderful event that our teams, coaches, administrators and fans will embrace and enjoy."
Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen called it an exciting day after a collaboration involving the arena, the university and city of Memphis.
"This is monumental and dynamic for this new conference," Bowen said. "We believe it will be a great tournament for this city, our fans and for Tigers everywhere."
Memphis coach Josh Pastner said all of the league's basketball coaches agreed at the conference meetings recently that the best place to hold a tournament was Memphis. He said even Louisville coach Rick Pitino called into the league meeting to endorse Memphis for the tournament.
"For all of the other coaches to say the best place to be is right here, that's just a great credit to the fans," Pastner said in a statement.
LSU hires McCray as assistant
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU coach Johnny Jones says he has hired former UCLA assistant coach Korey McCray as an assistant with the Tigers.
McCray replaces assistant coach Robert Kirby who last month left to take a job on another staff. The 34-year-old McCray has spent the past two seasons on UCLA's staff and was with Mercer, his alma mater, during the 2007-08 season.
Jones, who is entering his second season as LSU's head coach, says he expects McCray to help significantly with recruiting and with player development.
McCray helped UCLA bring in a 2012 recruiting class that was rated by many analysts as one of the best in the nation. He also was part of a Bruins staff that won the Pac-12 conference and appeared in the NCAA tournament this past season.
Toledo gives basketball coach contract extension
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — The University of Toledo has signed coach Tod Kowalczyk to a two-year contract extension through the 2018-19 season.
Kowalczyk took over a troubled Rockets program in 2010-11 and went 4-28. In his second year, Toledo was 19-17. Last season's team was held out of postseason play due to Academic Progress Rate issues yet tied for first in the Mid-American Conference's West Division with a 10-6 mark. Toledo was 15-13 overall.
The Rockets are scheduled to return four starters in 2013-14, including first-team All-MAC selection Rian Pearson.
Kowalczyk was 136-112 record in eight years at Wisconsin-Green Bay's head coach before coming to Toledo.
Funeral set for Miami (Ohio) basketball coach
OXFORD, Ohio (AP) — Funeral services have been announced for former Miami (Ohio) basketball coach Charlie Coles, the school's all-time leader in victories who died at age 71.
Visitation will be 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Thursday at Millett Hall on the Miami campus in southwest Ohio. Funeral services will follow at Millett at 1 p.m.
A reception is planned afterward, to begin while his family is at a private graveside service. Coles is survived by his wife Delores, son Chris and daughter Mary Bennett, and four grandchildren. He died in Oxford last Friday.
The two-time Mid-American Conference coach of the year had 263 victories at Miami. He also was the Mid-American Conference's all-time leader in conference wins with 218. Coles had a career record of 355-308 over 22 seasons at Miami and Central Michigan.
UVA guard Jesperson transfers to Northern Iowa
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) — Former Virginia guard Paul Jesperson has transferred to Northern Iowa.
Coach Ben Jacobson announced Tuesday that Jesperson will join the Panthers. He'll sit out in 2013-14 and have two years of eligibility left.
Jesperson averaged 4.7 points for Virginia last season and shot 37 percent from 3-point range. He started 33 games in two seasons with the Cavaliers.
The 6-foot-6 Jesperson was The Associated Press player of the year as a senior at Merrill High in Wisconsin.
Iowa's Gage leaves for Oklahoma State
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa assistant women's basketball coach Shannon Gage is leaving to join the staff at Oklahoma State.
Hawkeyes coach Lisa Bluder announced Gage's departure after eight seasons on Tuesday.
Gage, who is from Tulsa, Okla., worked at Iowa from 2003-05 as the director of basketball operations and as an assistant from 2007 until last season.
The Hawkeyes made the NCAA tournament seven times with Gage on the staff.
Arkansas hires former Fla. coach for men's tennis
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas has hired former Florida coach Andy Jackson as the Razorbacks' new men's tennis coach.
Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long announced the hiring Tuesday. Jackson has 29 years of head coaching experience at Florida and Mississippi State, compiling a 496-234 record.
He's the only coach to win a Southeastern Conference tennis title at two different schools.
Jackson served as Florida's men's tennis coach from 2001 until his resignation in 2012. He was named the SEC Coach of the Year in 2002 and 2005 while leading the Gators.
Before that, he was at Mississippi State, coaching the men's team for 13 seasons and the women's team for five seasons. At Arkansas, Jackson replaces Robert Cox, who resigned last month to take an administrative job with the Razorbacks.