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In Sports from United Press International

Dec. 7, 2002 at 1:14 AM   |   Comments

Franchione hired by Aggies, angers Alabama

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Dennis Franchione became head football coach at Texas A&M Friday, leaving behind an angry group of officials and alumni at the University of Alabama.

Having turned around the tradition-rich Alabama program in a two-year stay, Franchione replaced R.C. Slocum at Texas A&M and said he did so, in part, because the Aggies have, "a foundation in place."

"I'm coming here for a lot of reasons," said Franchione, who will coach at his fifth Division I-A school. "Tradition and history are certainly a part of it."

He left a school that is on NCAA probation and one that was counting on Franchione to carry it back to the top of the college football world. The Crimson Tide made a start in that direction this year with a 10-3 record.

"My reaction would not be appropriate for a publication read by women and children," Alabama board of trustee member John McMahon of Birmingham told the Birmingham News.

"When we met with Franchione (on Wednesday), he was not a very candid person. He said unequivocally that he had not made up his mind and did not have a deal with them.

"People like loyalty. You expect someone who purports to those high principles to come close to living up to them himself. There is a feeling that what he asked the players and fans to do is not what he was willing to do."

There had been speculation for weeks in Texas that Franchione would return to the state after coaching at Texas Christian for three years prior to his taking the Alabama job.

While Alabama has won 12 national championships, 21 Southeastern Conference titles and made 51 bowl appearances, Texas A&M has a substantial football history of its own. The Aggies have not had a losing season since 1983 and has claimed seven conference titles since 1985.

This will be the first time Franchione has taken over a program that did not have a losing record the year before he arrived.


Lakers comeback shocks Mavericks

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Kobe Bryant finished off an amazing comeback by scoring with three seconds remaining Friday night to give the Los Angeles Lakers their 24th straight home win over the Dallas Mavericks, 105-103.

Los Angeles trailed by 27 points heading into the final quarter, but outscored the Mavericks in the period, 44-15.

It was only the second loss of the season for Dallas, which appeared to have finally broken its long jinx in Los Angeles.

A three-point attempt by Dallas' Michael Finley failed at the buzzer. Bryant paced the Lakers with 27 points.

Los Angeles left the court after one half hearing the boos of the home crowd as Dallas built a 28-point advantage through two quarters.

Other NBA results: Orlando 88, Washington 78; Boston 91, New York 80; Toronto 103, Chicago 89; New Orleans 98, Houston 96 in overtime; San Antonio 98, Philadelphia 93; Phoenix 102, Indiana 96; Utah 104, Memphis 71; Portland 88, Miami 69; Sacramento 98, Denver 77.


Rangers sign Diaz, Pudge likely out

ARLINGTON, Texas, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Texas acquired catcher Einar Diaz in a four-player deal with the Cleveland Indians Friday, a trade that likely means Ivan Rodriguez has played his last game with the Rangers.

Rangers General Manager John Hart, who helped build the Indians' dynasty during the 1990s, also acquired righthander Ryan Drese for a pair of 25-year-olds -- righthander Aaron Myette and first base prospect Travis Hafner.

One of the best catchers in history, Rodriguez will become a free agent Saturday at midnight if the Rangers do not offer him salary arbitration.

While it was believed they would cut payroll by not re-signing Rodriguez, a 10-time All-Star and former MVP who collected $9.6 million last season, that now appears to be a certainty.

Diaz was Cleveland's No. 1 catcher most of the last four seasons, playing a career-high 134 games in 2001.

The 29-year-old Diaz is a lifetime .259 hitter with 15 home runs and 139 RBI in 456 games, all with the Indians, and has thrown out 32.8 percent of potential base stealers. He is signed through 2004 with a club option for 2005.

Rodriguez is one of only two catchers in history to win 10 consecutive Gold Gloves, doing so from 1992-2001, his first 10 full seasons in the major leagues. Anaheim's Bengie Molina snapped his string this year.


Hurricanes seek spot in title game

MIAMI, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- The top-ranked Miami Hurricanes will try to wrap up a spot in the national championship game Saturday when they host No. 14 Virginia Tech.

A victory for Miami would send the Hurricanes to the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3 to take on Ohio State in a matchup of the only two unbeaten teams in Division I-A.

And if UCLA can beat Washington State later Saturday, the matchups of the other three BCS bowls -- Rose, Orange and Sugar -- could fall into place with far fewer complaints than in past seasons.

Miami (11-0) will take a 34-game winning streak into its game against Virginia Tech (9-3) on the final weekend of the regular college football season.

The Hurricanes advanced to the Rose Bowl last season with a 26-24 win at Virginia Tech in early December. The Hokies' Ernest Wilford dropped a two-point conversion pass with 6:03 left and Miami intercepted four passes.

Miami left nothing to chance in a 49-7 win over Syracuse last week and would love nothing better than to do the same thing against the Hokies, who snapped a three-game losing streak with a 21-9 win over Virginia last Saturday.

The Hurricanes can clinch their eighth Big East Conference title with a win and will put a number of streaks on the line. Miami has won 23 straight Big East games since a loss to Virginia Tech in 1999 and has won its last 21 home games.

Miami has won all 23 games under second-year coach Larry Coker.


Offensive explosion in NHL

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Michael Nylander scored 2:24 into overtime Friday night as the Washington Capitals rallied from a two-goal deficit with just over two minutes remaining in regulation to pull out a wild 7-6 triumph over the Atlanta Thrashers.

Nylander fired home a slap shot from the point as the Capitals remained unbeaten in nine all-time meetings with the Thrashers at MCI Center (8


1).

The Thashers wasted a brilliant performance by Ilya Kovalchuk, who recorded his first career hat trick and added an assist as Atlanta built a 6-4 lead with 2:07 left in regulation.

But Steve Konowalchuk assisted on defenseman Calle Johansson's effort and then netted the tying goal with 28 seconds to go in the third to force overtime.

Peter Bondra had two goals and an assist and Robert Lang collected a goal and three assists for the Capitals, who competed without No. 1 goaltender Olaf Kolzig.

Kolzig suffered a groin injury during the pregame skate.

Washington's win came in one of two NHL games Friday night that involved 13 goals. Radim Vrbata set up the tying goal for Colorado with 76 seconds left in regulation and scored the game-winner just under two minutes into overtime to give Colorado a 7-6 triumph over the Montreal Canadiens.

Other NHL results: Florida 2, Carolina 0; New York Islanders 4, Toronto 2; Buffalo 4, New York Rangers 1; New Jersey 3, Pittsburgh 1; Anaheim 4, Chicago 3; Dallas 3, Detroit 3.


Florida edges Florida State

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Tim Pickett missed a long three-pointer with two seconds left Friday night and No. 9 Florida held on for its fifth straight victory over the Florida State Seminoles, 58-57.

Florida guard Justin Hamilton missed a one-and-one opportunity with 10 seconds left and the rebound eventually came to Pickett. The 6-4 guard waited a couple of seconds before racing upcourt, where he pulled up and launched a shot from 22 feet away with three seconds to go, rather than driving to the basket.

Pickett's shot bounced off the back rim high into the air as the final two seconds expired.

Florida, which improved to 5-2, was the only top 10 team in action Friday night.


Woods takes the lead

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Defending champion Tiger Woods carded a 7-under-par 65 Friday to open a one-stroke lead over Ireland's Padraig Harrington and Davis Love III midway through the tournament he hosts -- the Target World Challenge.

Woods, who won five PGA tournaments and claimed his fourth straight money title this year, completed 36 holes at 11-under 133. He began the day tied for eighth in the limited field of 16, four shots behind leader Jim Furyk.

After tying the tournament record with an 8-under 64 on Thursday, Furyk struggled to a 2-over 74 and dropped to a tie for eighth, five strokes behind Woods.

Furyk tied Phil Mickelson for the day's second-worst score, ahead of only PGA Championship winner Rich Beem, who posted a 5-over 77 and was last at 7-over 151. The other 13 players broke par at the Sherwood Country Club.

South African Nick Price fired a 2-under 70 and was alone in fourth at 135.

Germany's Bernhard Langer, recently inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, matched Woods for the low score of the day and shared fifth with South Africa's Retief Goosen and David Toms at 137.


Players agree to baseball in San Juan

NEW YORK, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- The Major League Players Association announced Friday it has reached an agreement with Major League Baseball that will allow the Montreal Expos to play 22 games this season in Puerto Rico.

MLB had previously said the Expos would conduct three home stands in San Juan, but the move had to be approved by the players union.

The only thing now standing in the way of games in Puerto Rico is a thorough review of Hiram Bithorn Stadium, which seats less than 20,000 fans. It must be deemed suitable for major league games.

If it is, the Expos will host seven teams in homestands of 10, six and six games between April 11 and Sept. 11.

Montreal's first homestand in San Juan will be from April 11-20 and include four games against the New York Mets and three each against Atlanta and Cincinnati.

The Expos will play six interleague games against Anaheim and Texas in June and six more against the Florida Marlins and Chicago Cubs in September.


Cougars hire former player

HOUSTON, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Art Briles, a standout wide receiver for the Houston Cougars in the 1970s, was named Friday as the school's 10th football coach.

Briles replaced Dana Dimel, who was dimissed after posting a three-year record of 8-26.

The school did not release terms of the contract, but the Houston Chronicle reported Friday that athletic director Dave Maggard was working on a five-year deal.

The 47-year-old Texas native is the first former Houston player to lead the program. He spent the past three years as a running backs coach at Texas Tech.

Briles played for former Houston Coach Bill Yeoman and was a member of the 1976 team that captured the Southwest Conference in the school's first year in the league. He also played in the 1977 Cotton Bowl against Maryland, a contest won by the Cougars, 30-21.


Report: Olerud signs with Marienrs

SEATTLE, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- First baseman John Olerud reportedly has agreed to a two-year contract worth between $15 million and $16 million to remain with the Seattle Mariners.

While he is eligible for an arbitration offer before Saturday's midnight EST deadline, the Seattle Times reported that Olerud, a 34-year-old Seattle native, negotiated his deal while vacationing in Hawaii with his family.

The report stated that the Mariners are expected to make the announcement Saturday.


Thomas stays with White Sox

CHICAGO, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- After testing the free agent waters and finding little interest, two-time former Most Valuable Player Frank Thomas agreed to a one-year contract Friday with three mutual options.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

The oft-disgruntled first baseman spent his first 13 seasons with the White Sox, but on Oct. 28 opted to exercise his right to become a free agent. Thomas' decision came after Chicago invoked a diminishing skills clause in his contract that enabled them to defer nearly all of the $40 million remaining over the last four years of his contract.

Thomas earned $9.9 million in 2002, his third disappointing campaign in his last four, but in a very dormant offseason for free agents, he had few options.


Portland, Santa Clara reach soccer final

AUSTIN, Texas, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Veronica Zepeda scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal in the 64th minute Friday night, giving defending champion Santa Clara a 2-1 victory over North Carolina in the semifinals of the NCAA women's soccer tournament.

Santa Clara will go after its second straight title Sunday when it takes on Portland, a 2-0 winner earlier Friday over Penn State.

North Carolina has won 16 national championships and has appeared in the tournament's Final Four every year since 1982, but Santa Clara halted that domination last year by downing the Tar Heels in the championship game.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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