BRISTOL, Conn., March 20 (UPI) -- As advertised, much of the first-round action in the NCAA basketball tournament was telecast by ESPN because of continuing coverage of the war in Iraq by CBS.
President Bush made a brief speech Wednesday night, a little more than two hours after his deadline for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to vacate his country.
NBA and NHL games in progress came to an abrupt halt as the speech was shown on arena scoreboards, and most cable and television networks carried the speech.
"It's tough getting called off the court and not knowing what to expect or how long it's going to last," said New Orleans forward Jamal Mashburn. "You don't know when you're going back on the court. When we came back out, we were a little bit out of sync, but this is the real world. This is about war, and everything else is pretty much secondary."
Both the NCAA and CBS, its major broadcast partner, appear intent on making sure the NCAA Tournament goes on without interruption, a sentiment seconded by former Duke All-American Shane Battier of Memphis.
"I saw something on SportsCenter that was pretty moving for me," Battier said. "They were talking to a young man in Kuwait and he was saying how important sports were to our guys and girls over in the Middle East. I know a lot of them follow us and want us to keep on keeping on. I'm going to do my job to the best of my ability and bring a piece of America to the Middle East and try to raise the morale of our guys over there."
According to a network spokesman, ESPN and ESPN2 will be able to accommodate games Thursday and Friday.
Three sentenced in Breeders scam
NEW YORK, March 20 (UPI) -- Three men were men were sentenced to jail Thursday by a federal judge after a betting scam in connection with the Breeders Cup.
The three were former fraternity brothers who had entered guilty pleas. The scam rocked the thoroughbred racing industry.
Glen DaSilva of New York, who pled guilty to conspiracies to commit fraud and money laundering, was sentenced to two years in prison by District Judge Charles L. Brieant.
Derrick Davis of Baltimore, who admitted to conspiracy to commit fraud, was sentenced to 37 months. The lightest sentence went to computer expert Chris Harn of Newark, Del., who was given a prison term of one year and one day.
Harn pled guilty to conspiracies to commit fraud and money laundering, received the lesser penalty because of his cooperation with government authorities.
The three men, all 29, have been out on bail and were ordered to surrender to authorities on May 1. The three were members of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
The trio admitted to manipulating a computer system to ensure winning Pick Six tickets in the Breeders' Cup on Oct. 26 at Arlington Park in Illinois.
Davis and DaSilva had phone accounts at a Catskill OTB in upstate New York, and placed bets on races at Balmoral in Illinois on Oct. 3 and Belmont Park in New York on Oct. 5.
Harn was a senior programmer for Autotote, a Delaware company that handles bets at tracks and off-track betting parlors, and admitted to hacking into the computer systems to change DaSilva's bets, netting him more than $100,000.
The three men then moved on to the prestigious Breeders' Cup, where Davis, a computer services manager, had the only Ultra Pick Six ticket for the Breeders' Cup. The $12 ticket was the equivalent of six $2 tickets, each worth $428,392, and also produced 108 consolation tickets worth $4,606.20 for five of six winners.
The Breeders' Cup payoff was held up when the probe began, and now will be returned to racing authorities. Those holding consolation tickets also will receive their winnings.
Pick Six winners must pick select the first-place finishers of six consecutive races, among the most difficult of all bets.
Questions were raised because of the unusual wager in which Davis picked a single horse in each of the first four races, and "wheeled" the last two races, picking all of the horses, so he could not lose.
The huge payout resulted when Volponi, a 43-1 long shot, won the last race of the day, the Breeders' Cup Classic, making Davis the only Pick Six winner.
The bets at Belmont and Balmoral were configured in similar fashion.
Authorities found that Harn rigged the system after the first four races to manipulate Davis' ticket. Harn has been fired from his job at Autotote.
Tomjanovich to miss Rockets' road trip
HOUSTON, March 20 (UPI) -- Veteran Houston Rockets Coach Rudy Tomjanovich will not rejoin the team on its West Coast road trip as originally planned.
He is recovering from a bladder biopsy.
The team announced Thursday that, on the advice of team physician Dr. James Muntz, Tomjanovich will remain at his home in Houston. Another evaluation will be conducted after the Rockets return from a five-game road trip after a contest against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday.
"It typically takes a few days to recover completely from the effects of the test procedure Rudy underwent on Monday," said Muntz. "We felt it would be in Rudy's best interest to remain in Houston and allow him to slowly return to his typical work load."
Tomjanovich underwent a cystoscopic evaluation and biopsy on Monday in an attempt to determine if the abnormality found on his bladder last week is cancerous. The 30-minute procedure revealed a superficial bladder tumor that will not require surgery.
Tomjanovich, who is in his 12th season as Rockets coach, and had never has missed a regular-season game in that capacity before this week, told his players the news after Sunday's 85-75 victory over Phoenix. Assistant Larry Smith coached the team in his absence on Tuesday against Seattle and Wednesday against Portland.
The Rockets (35-32) visit Golden State on Friday.
Jets ink Curtis Conway
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y., March 20 (UPI) -- The New York Jets acted quickly to address the need for a wide receiver Thursday, signing veteran free agent Curtis Conway.
Contract terms were not disclosed. The New York Daily News reported Thursday that Conway agreed to a three-year, $6.6 million deal that includes a $1.2 million signing bonus.
The San Diego Chargers waived Conway last month for salary cap purposes.
"We feel Curtis Conway will complement our current group of receivers," said General Manager Terry Bradway. "His size, strength, and explosiveness make him a good fit for our offensive system."
Receivers Frank Sanders, Antonio Freeman, and Kevin Dyson, who signed with the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday, also were considered as possibilities, but Bradway made Conway his primary target after losing Laveranues Coles to Washington.
The Jets failed to match the Redskins' seven-year, $35 million offer sheet to Coles, who emerged as the favorite target for quarterback Chad Pennington.
By failing to match the offer after making a qualifying offer of $1.318 million last month, the Jets will receive the Redskins' first-round pick, 13th overall, in next month's draft. New York already has the 22nd pick.
Conway, 32, will be expected to replace Coles, who had a breakout season in 2002 with 89 catches for 1,264 yards and five touchdowns.
Conway's best season came in 2001, when he had 71 receptions for 1,125 yards and six touchdowns for San Diego. Last season, he had 57 catches for 852 yards and five touchdowns, but missed two games and parts of four others with a shoulder injury.
The 10-year veteran spent his first seven seasons with the Chicago Bears before signing as a free agent with the Chargers in 2000. He had a career-high 81 catches for 1,049 yards in 1996 for the Bears.
Arizona re-signs two
TEMPE, Ariz., March 20 (UPI) -- The Arizona Cardinals have retained a pair of free agents, signing center Jason Starkey and defensive back Coby Rhinehart.
Starkey signed a one-year contract, and Rhinehart got a two-year deal.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Starkey, a starter at Marshall, where he snapped for current New York Jets quarterback Chad Pennington, has played in 30 games for the Cardinals and started nine, including the final eight games last year in place of the injured Mike Gruttadauria.
Rhinehart played in 16 games last season, and led the Cardinals with 18 special-teams tackles.