In Sports from United Pres Interbnational

Dec. 3, 2002 at 12:01 AM
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Slocum out as Texas A&M coach

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Texas A&M has fired R.C. Slocum, who at 123-47-4 in 14 years os the winningest football coach in the school's history.

With the Aggies having just completed a disappointing 6-6 season, the university on Monday dismissed Slocum, who posted a 123-47-2 mark in 14 years at the school and never had a losing record.

"It is with great sadness and disappointment that I learned today that I was being fired as the head football coach at Texas A&M," the 58-year-old Slocum said. "We had a season where we lost several close games that could have gone either way and no one was more disappointed than me with our record. However, we have some really outstanding young men and I felt our future was bright."

Texas A&M president Robert M Gates said he asked Slocum to step down and assume the role of special advisor to the president.

Slocum entered the 2002 season ranked sixth in winning percentage among active coaches, and the Aggies perennially boasted one of the top defenses in the country.

Among the names already being mentioned as a possible successor are Alabama coach Dennis Franchione, Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops and former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie, the architect of Texas A&M's "Wrecking Crew" defense.

Texas A&M entered this season with a 64-7-1 record at Kyle Field under Slocum but lost home games to Virginia Tech, Texas Tech, Nebraska and Missouri.

The Aggies upset then-No. 2 Oklahoma, 30-26, in College Station on Nov. 9, but it was not enough for Slocum to keep his job. The Aggies closed its season with a 50-20 blowout loss to Texas.

Warner to miss at least two games

ST. LOUIS, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Kurt Warner, who is 0-6 as the St. Louis Rams' starting quarterback this season, has a broken right hand and he will miss at least his club's next two games.

At coach Mike Martz's request, Warner had an X-ray on his hand performed Monday that showed a hairline fracture.

A two-time MVP, Warner appeared to have trouble gripping the ball in Sunday's 10-3 loss at Philadelphia. He threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in the defeat that all but ended any playoff aspirations the Rams had.

Sunday's game was Warner's second start since he returned from a broken pinky on his right hand that sidelined him for five games. The Rams (5-7) are not sure when the latest injury occured.

Warner, who won 35 of his first 43 career starts, has been abysmal in seven games this season, throwing three touchdown passes and 11 interceptions.

Dave McNally dies of cancer

BILLINGS, Mt., Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Former Baltimore Orioles pitching ace Dave McNally, a three-time All-Star who had a string of four straight 20-win seasons, died Sunday in his hometown of Billings, Mt. He was 60.

The Billings Gazette reported on its website that McNally had been battling cancer for years.

The soft-tossing lefthander played 14 seasons in the majors, all but one with the Orioles, in a career that began in 1962. He won 20 games each year from 1968-71.

In 1971, he was one of four 20-game winners on the Baltimore staff, joining Mike Cuellar, Jim Palmer, and Pat Dobson.

McNally posted a career of 184-119 and a 3.24 ERA while striking out 1,512 batters. He played in four World Series, and is the only pitcher to hit a grand slam in the Fall Classic, connecting in Game Three of the 1970 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.

McNally, along with fellow pitcher Andy Messersmith, also was part of a landmark legal case that challenged baseball's reserve clause. He filed a class-action lawsuit claiming that the Montreal Expos had reneged on a verbal agreement, and the case created free agency.

The resulting labor deal meant players could become free agents after they had played in the major leagues for six seasons. At the beginning of the 1976 campaign, average individual salaries rose to $2.38 million.

He finished his career with the Expos in 1975.

Eagles accept Houston Bowl invite

HOUSTON, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Southern Mississippi on Monday accepted an invitation to play in the Houston Bowl on Dec. 27.

The Golden Eagles, a member of Conference USA, are 7-5 and completed their regular season with a 24-7 win over East Carolina on Saturday. It will be the fifth bowl trip in six years for Southern Mississippi.

The game will take place at Reliant Stadium in Houston and begin at 1 p.m. EST. Possible opponents for the Golden Eagles include Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.

Southern Mississippi will have a winning season for the ninth straight year.

Also Monday, New Mexico, which beat Wyoming, 49-20, last week to finish the regular season 7-6, accepted an invitation to the Las Vegas Bowl on Christmas Day.

The Lobos, who won four of their last five games, will be making just their second bowl appearance since 1961. New Mexico's last bowl appearance came in the 1997 Bowl.

Tar Heels return to coaches' poll

ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 3 (UPI) -- The North Carolina Tar Heels, unranked at the start of the season and coming off the worst year in the illustrious history of their program, has wasted no time returning to the national rankings.

After winning the Preseason NIT, the Tar Heels (5-0) climbed all the way to 14th in the latest coaches' poll released Monday. One of North Carolina's wins in the tournament came over Kansas (2-2), which dropped from second to 13th after a pair of defeats in New York.

The Tar Heels need only three more wins to match last season's total of eight victories.

Arizona (2-0) was the unanimous No. 1 pick, receiving all 31 first-place votes and 775 points in a nationwide panel of coaches.

No. 2 Texas (4-0), No. 3 Duke (3-0), No. 4 Pittsburgh (3-0) and No. 5 Alabama (4-0) each moved up one spot. Oregon (3-0), Oklahoma (3-1), defending national champion Maryland (3-0), Florida (4-1) and Marquette (4-0) complete the top 10.

Florida slipped two spots after losing to Stanford in the semifinals of the Preseason NIT. The Gators bounced back to beat Kansas in the consolation game.

Indiana (4-0), which lost to Maryland in last season's national championship game, joined North Carolina as the teams to make the biggest gains of the week as the Hoosiers jumped nine slots to 11th after capturing the Maui Invitational.

Connecticut (3-0) remained 12th, while Kansas, North Carolina, Missouri (2-0), Xavier (2-1), Minnesota (2-0), Kentucky (2-1), Tulsa (3-0) and Illinois (3-0) complete the top 20.

Cubs sign Remlinger for three years

CHICAGO, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- The Chicago Cubs reportedly have signed All-Star lefthander Mike Remlinger to a three-year contract worth $10.5 million.

It would be the first major signing for new Cubs general manager Jim Hendry.

Remlinger excelled as a setup man for the Atlanta Braves last season, posting a 7-3 record and 1.99 ERA in 73 appearances. In 68 innings, he allowed only 48 hits with 28 walks and 69 strikeouts.

Remlinger could assume the Cubs' closer role as Antonio Alfonseca struggled in that capacity. Alfonseca blew nine saves, posting a 2-5 record with a 4.00 ERA.

Thome to sign with Phillies

PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Jim Thome reportedly has made up his mind to play first base for the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Monday that Thome, one of the prized free agents available this offseason, has decided to accept the Phils' six-year deal worth approximately $85 million.

The Inquirer said the announcement is not expected until Tuesday because Thome must first pass a physical.

Thome has been courted by both the Phillies and the his current team, the Cleveland Indians, for whom he has played his entire major league career.

Various reports indicated that Thome got the Indians to sweeten their five-year, $60 million deal by adding a sixth year with a vested option. Thome then pondered his decision over the long Thanksgiving weekend at his own in Aurora, Ohio.

Thome, 32, is a career .287 hitter with 334 home runs and 927 RBI. He made his major league debut with the Indians in 1991, and owns their single season and career home runs records.

Thome hit a career-high 49 homers and drove in 124 runs last season. His signing would be a bold step forward for the Phillies, who have expanded their payroll and will move into a new park in 2004.

Dixon on IL with sprained elbow

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Washington Wizards rookie guard Juan Dixon was placed on the injured list after spraining his left elbow during practice Monday morning.

Dixon, the Wizards' first-round pick in the June draft, is expected to be sidelined for three weeks. The former Maryland star is averaging 6.1 points in 14 games this season, scoring a career-high 18 against Philadelphia on Saturday.

To take Dixon's roster spot, the Wizards activated forward Brian Cardinal, who was acquired from the Detroit Pistons along with Jerry Stackhouse on Sept. 11.

Cardinal has yet to play in a game this season. He missed 60 games last season with bilateral patellar tendinitis and averaged only 2.1 points and 0.8 rebounds in eight contests for the Pistons.

Lewis announces three-fight plan

LONDON, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- WBC heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis has announced that he plans to fight three times in 2003. He says his schedule includes a rematch with former champion Mike Tyson.

In a prepared statement, Lewis announced the order of his planned bouts.

"I want my fans to know that I am intending to defend my WBC title against Vitali Klitschko on March 8, 2003," he said Sunday on the website of the British Broadcasting Company. "My negotiating team has a preliminary agreement in place for that fight, as well as fights against Mike Tyson and Wladimir Klitschko in the event that I decide to continue fighting after the Vitali Klitschko fight. I expect the contract for the Vitali Klitschko fight will be finalize in meetings that will be scheduled during the week of Dec. 9."

Lewis, 37, pounded Tyson in a much-anticipated bout in July. Afterwards, he hinted at retirement, and relinquished his IBF heavyweight belt in September.

Lewis (40-2-1, 31 KOs) chose to give up the IBF belt rather than take on mandatory challenger Chris Byrd in a bout that he felt would not generate a big enough payday.

Ball State football coach fired

MUNCIE, Ind., Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Bill Lynch, who has been the football coach at Ball State the past eight years, Monday was relieved of his duties.

Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham said an official announcement will be made Tuesday morning, and that Lynch, who has one year left on his contract, has been reassigned within the university.

The contract runs through Jan. 31, 2004.

Lynch compiled a 37-53 record at Ball State, including a 6-6 overall record and a 4-4 mark in the Mid-American Conference this season. He led the Cardinals to the 1996 MAC Championship and a berth in the Las Vegas Bowl, and also led last season's team to a 4-1 record in the MAC West Division and a tie for the division title.

Louisville, Marshall to go to GMAC Bowl

MOBILE, Ala., Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Louisville has accepted a bid to play Marshall in the GMAC Bowl at Mobile, Al., setting up a meeting of two of the nation's top quarterbacks in Dave Ragone and Byron Leftwich.

The Cardinals highlighted a 7-5 season with an overtime win upset of then fourth-ranked Florida State on Sept. 26. They went 5-3 in Conference USA, and will make a fifth straight postseason appearance.

"The GMAC Bowl is excited to have two Heisman Trophy candidates, and two high-powered offenses showcasing themselves in Mobile," said GMAC Bowl President Jerry Silverstein. "Leftwich and Ragone, two potential first-round NFL draft choices, will give the GMAC Bowl a national viewing audience, and should provide Mobile with another exciting game."

Ragone has thrown for 8,371 yards in his career, and is a two-time Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year.

Marshall is 9-2 heading into Saturday's Mid-American Conference championship game against Toledo. The Thundering Herd will make their sixth consecutive postseason appearance and second in as many years in the GMAC Bowl.

Leftwich is a semifinalist for the Unitas and Davey O'Brien Awards, and has thrown for 11,250 yards and 81 touchdowns in his career.

TCU, Colorado State set for Liberty Bowl

MEMPHIS, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Officials of the AXA Liberty Bowl have reached an agreement to matchup Colorado State and Texas Christian University.

The Rams, Mountain West Conference champions, were 10-3 overall, and were ranked in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll for much of the season.

They fell eight spots to No. 21 after Saturday's 36-33 upset loss to UNLV.

The Horned Frogs, currently unranked, won Conference USA with a 6-2 league record, and earned a share of the C-USA title with a 27-20 win over Memphis on Saturday. They can win the crown outright if Cincinnati loss to East Carolina on Friday.

The game will feature two of the country's top running backs, CSU's Cecil Sapp, known as "The Diesel," and TCU freshmen sensation Lonta Hobbs.

Sapp set the Rams single-season rushing record this season with 1,495 yards. He also was the MVP of the Liberty Bowl in 2000.

Hobbs ran for 287 yards and three touchdowns in the season finale to power the Horned Frogs to their first Conference USA Championship.

Lakers activate George

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- The Los Angeles Lakers have activated forward Devean George from the injured list.

George, re-signed to a four-year, $18.5 million contract during the offseason, was having the best campaign of his career before being placed on the injured list on Nov. 22 with posterior tibialis tendinitis in his right ankle. He was averaging 11.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest in seven games.

George was placed on the injured list to make room for Shaquille O'Neal. The three-time NBA Finals MVP had sat out the Lakers' first 12 games after offseason surgery on the arthritic big toe on his right foot.

Olowokandi to injured list

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- The Los Angeles Clippers will be without center Michael Olowokandi for at least the next five games because of a sore left knee.

Olowokandi missed all eight of the Clippers' preseason games with tendinitis in his left knee, but started all 17 regular season games, averaging 14.1 points and 9.3 rebounds per contest. The 7-footer from Nigeria experienced soreness in the knee during Friday's 107-94 loss at Sacramento, and did not play in the 92-87 loss to Indiana on Sunday.

The top overall pick in the 1998 draft enjoyed his best season in the 2001-02 campaign, averaging 11.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.8 blocked shots in 80 games. He is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

The Clippers activated forward Tremaine Fowlkes to replace Olowokandi on the roster. Fowlkes played in four games this season, averaging 1.5 points in 8.3 minutes off the bench, before going on the injured list Nov. 22 with a sprained right knee.

He has two points and two rebounds in the loss to the Pacers.

Gagne, Walker co-winners of O'Neill Award

TORONTO, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Eric Gagne, who emerged in 2002 with the greatest single season for a closer in the history of the Los Angeles Dodgers and had never been a closer, has been named co-winner of the Tip O'Neill Award as Canadian baseball players of the year.

Gagne shared the award, which was announced by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, with Colorado outfielder Larry Walker.

The Tip O'Neill Award is presented annually to Canada's best baseball player "judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution, while adhering to the highest ideals of the game of baseball."

Walker, who turned 36 on Sunday, has won or shared it nine times, and is the only repeat winner. This year, he hit .338, second in the National League, with 26 homers and 104 RBI, and won a seventh Gold Glove.

In his career, he has hit 236 home runs, won the NL MVP in 1997, and has won the Gold Glove five time with Colorado.

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