Forty-Niners name Dennis Erickson coach
SANTA CLARA, Calif., Feb. 12 (UPI) -- The San Francisco 49ers have handed their reins to Dennis Erickson, a successful college coach who has failed to match that success in the NFL.
The 49ers on Tuesday named Erickson as their coach and will introduce him at a news conference on Wednesday. Erickson has tendered his resignation at Oregon State.
Defensive coordinators Ted Cottrell of the New York Jets, Greg Blache of the Chicago Bears and Jim Mora Jr. of the Niners conducted second interviews last week with Niners General Manager Terry Donahue and were believed to be the finalists for the job. But Donahue reached out to potential college candidates over the past few days and surprised many with the selection of Erickson.
Bob Stoops of Oklahoma, Rick Neuheisel of Washington and Kirk Ferentz of Iowa rebuffed inquiries, but Erickson wanted to return to the NFL after turning Oregon State into a winning program with a 31-17 record and three bowl appearances.
The 55-year-old Erickson coached the Seattle Seahawks from 1995-98, compiling a 31-33 record and never leading them into the playoffs. They finished 8-8 three times and 7-9 in 1996.
Mike Holmgren left the Green Bay Packers to replace Erickson and has also struggled in Seattle with an identical 31-33 record.
Before joining Seattle, Erickson won two national championships at the University of Miami in 1989 and 1991, going 63-9 in six seasons.
Erickson followed Jimmy Johnson at Miami and will succeed Steve Mariucci in San Francisco. Mariucci went 60-43 in six years with the Niners and led them to four playoff appearances, but never to the Super Bowl, and was fired on Jan. 15.
Mariucci was recently named coach of the Detroit Lions and is seeking to hire Mora as his defensive coordinator. Mora will likely accept the offer after not being selected as Niners coach.
Erickson was named college coach of the year in three different conferences - Big Sky with Idaho, Pac-10 with Washington State and Oregon State and Big East with Miami.
After being fired by the Seahawks, Erickson brought instant success to Oregon State, which had its last winning season in 1970. The Beavers were 7-4 in Erickson's first season and 11-1 with a share of the Pac 10 title and a No. 4 ranking in 2000.
Mets sign veteran IF Jay Bell
NEW YORK, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- The New York Mets are going to give Jay Bell a shot at their third base job after signing the veteran infielder to a minor league contract Tuesday.
Bell also was invited to spring training, which opens for position players next week in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
The Mets had not added anyone to play third base since Edgardo Alfonzo signed as a free agent in December with the San Francisco Giants. Until Bell's signing, the job was Ty Wigginton's to lose.
Bell, 37, is coming off a miserable season with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Bothered by a right calf injury, he did not play until July 20 and hit just .163 with two home runs and 11 RBI in 32 games.
A 15-year veteran, Bell has a .267 career average with 195 home runs and 857 RBI in 1,991 games with Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Arizona. His best season was 1999, when he batted .289 with 38 homers and 112 RBI for the Diamondbacks.
Two years later, the two-time All-Star scored the winning run in Game Seven of the World Series.
NASCAR teams prepping for Daytona 500
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Several Winston Cup teams had to scramble Tuesday to prepare backup cars for Thursday's Gatorade Twin 125s - qualifying races for the Daytona 500.
A five-car crash during the afternoon practice session left the primary cars battered. Jeff Burton, Elliott Sadler and Mike Skinner will switch to backup cars. Others involved in the crash were rookie Jack Sprague and Steve Park.
There were just four minutes left in the one-hour practice session when the crash occurred on the frontstretch entering the first turn. Sprague was in the middle with Park on the high side and Skinner on the low side. Sprague made contact with Park, then slid into Skinner.
"I was up by the wall and couldn't go any higher, except for the grandstands," Park said. "We all know how to race here and we all know you don't even want to consider causing a crash during practice. You have to look at having the experience to run here and not put yourself or your car in jeopardy."
Steelers expected to release Stewart
PITTSBURGH, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- It looks like the days of Kordell Stewart as quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers are over.
The Steelers reportedly will release Stewart by the end of the month in a salary cap move.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Tuesday that the Steelers will release Stewart by Feb. 28 in order to be under the new salary cap of $75 million. The cap goes into effect that day.
The Steelers are $1.8 million over the cap and that figure will rise to more than $4 million after various incentive clauses are calculated.
The newspaper reported that there has been little trade talk involving Stewart, who likely will start the 2003 season as a backup to Tommy Maddox. Stewart and his agent, Leigh Steinberg, are opposed to a trade.
Stewart was scheduled to make $6.3 million in salary next season, which would count $1.62 million against the cap because of a prorated salary bonus he received in 1999. As a vested veteran, Stewart would not go through waivers and would become an unrestricted free agent when released.
Possible suitors could include Baltimore, Chicago, Arizona, and Carolina, all of whom need quarterbacks. Stewart has said he would not go to a team that did not give him a chance to start.
Stewart has been the Steelers' starter since 1997 before losing his job to Maddox last season. He was voted to the Pro Bowl after the 2001 season, and was voted the team's Most Valuable Player.
NBA suspends Kemp for drug violation
ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Orlando Magic forward Shawn Kemp was suspended without pay Tuesday for a second violation of the league's drug program.
Kemp's suspension begins with Tuesday's contest against the New Jersey Nets and will continue until he has resumed full compliance with his treatment program, the NBA announced.
The Magic signed the six-time All-Star on Sept. 5. Kemp forfeited $25 million of a $46.5 million contract in a buyout agreement with the Portland Trail Blazers earlier in the summmer.
The 33-year-old Kemp's career took a downward spiral starting in August 2000 when the Blazers acquired him from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a three-team trade.
He entered a substance abuse program near the end of his first season in Portland, then received a five-game suspension from the NBA last February for violating terms of his aftercare program.
With his weight ballooning to as much as 280 pounds, the 6-10 Kemp averaged just 6.1 points and 3.8 rebounds in 75 games for the Blazers last season.
Selected by the Seattle SuperSonics with the 17th overall pick in the 1989 draft, Kemp was 19 when he made his NBA debut. After scoring 6.5 points a game as a rookie, he averaged at least 15 points per contest and made six consecutive All-Star appearances.
In 1997, Kemp signed a seven-year, $107 million contract. But the Sonics dealt him to Cleveland, which traded him before the 2000-01 season to Portland, where he averaged just 6.5 points in 68 games.
Kemp was hoping to revive his career this season, but is averaging just 7.9 points nd 6.4 rebounds per game.
Ohio State center to miss rest of season
COLUMBUS, Ohio, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Ohio State center Terence Dials, who has been limited to six games due to a back injury, will miss the remainder of the season.
Dials played started four of the Buckeyes' first six games before he missed a game with Seton Hall due to back pain. Tests later revealed a stress fracture of the lumbar spine. The discomfort prohibits him practicing or working out with the team.
The sophomore averaged 7.0 points and 5.8 rebounds this season after averaging 6.7 points and 4.2 rebounds as a freshman.
Ohio State announced it will petition the Big Ten Conference for a medical hardship after the season. If granted, Dials would retain three years of eligibility beginning in 2003-04.
Defending champion Enqvist ousted
MARSEILLE, France, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Thomas Enqvist's defense of his Marseille Open title ended Tuesday with a 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-6) first-round loss to Raemon Sluiter of the Netherlands.
Enqvist, a Swede, captured this tournament last year but failed to finish in the top 30 for the first time since 1994.
Sluiter went into Tuesday's encounter with four losses in five matches this season. He lost both singles matches in last weekend's Davis Cup first round as the Netherlands was beaten by Switzerland.
Last year, the 24-year-old Dutchman claimed four Challenger events and won a career-high 12 ATP-level matches, including a semifinal effort at Queen's and a quarterfinal showing in Stockholm.
Three singles matches were on Tuesday's schedule - none involving seeded players. French qualifier Rodolphe Cadart defeated Georgian Irakli Labadze, 6-4, 6-3, and Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia recorded his first victory in three career meetings with Moroccan qualifier Hicham Arazi, 6-1, 6-3.
NBA fines Riley $20,000 for remarks
NEW YORK, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Pat Riley's latest criticism of NBA officiating will cost him $20,000.
The NBA on Tuesday fined the coach of the Heat for publicly criticizing game officials following a 101-87 home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday.
Miami attempted only seven free throws in the game, prompting another postgame tirade by Riley.
"It was an absolute officiating tragedy," Riley said. "I thought I was at the comedy store watching some kind of comedian out there laughing with the Blazers, and talking to them, and smiling with them. It was so unprofessional."
Riley was fined $50,000 in December for criticizing officials, claiming certain referees hold a bias against him and the Heat.
After reaching the playoffs in his first 19 years as a coach, Riley and the Heat have fallen on hard times. They missed the playoffs last season and are just 17-32 this season.
Kim Clijsters reaches quarterfinals
ANTWERP, Belgium, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Second seed Kim Clijsters of Belgium cruised into the quarterfinals at the Proximus Diamond Games Tuesday.
But her younger sister Elke was eliminated in the first round of the indoor tennis event.
After receiving a first-round bye, Kim Clijsters posted a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Myriam Casanova of Switzerland. The world No. 3, who lost to Venus Williams in the semifinals here last year, is playing her first event since reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open.
Clijsters, 19, started her season by winning at Sydney, her fourth title in five tournaments dating to 2002. She advanced to the semifinals at the Australian Open but squandered two match points and a 5-2 lead in the third set against Serena Williams.
Elke Clijsters, 18, remained winless on the WTA Tour following a 6-2, 6-3 defeat to seventh seed Patty Schnyder of Switzerland. She has not won in four matches on the top circuit of women's tennis.
Japan's Ai Sugiyama scored the event's first upset with a 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 triumph over sixth seed Jelena Dokic of Yugoslavia. Sugiyama has not advanced past the second round in five events this season.
Also, eighth seed Nathalie Dechy of France defeated lucky loser Claudine Schaul of Luxembourg, 6-4, 6-3; Belgian Els Callens thrashed Madagascan qualifier Dally Randriantefy, 6-1, 6-2; Janette Husarova of Slovakia routed German qualifier Vanessa Henke, 6-1, 6-1; and Czech qualifier Zuzana Ondraskova got past France's Emilie Loit, 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3.