In Sports from United Press International

April 22, 2003 at 11:47 PM
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Georgia athletes charged with possession

ATHENS, Ga., April 23 (UPI) -- Six University of Georgia athletes were charged Tuesday with a misdemeanor violation of the Georgia Controlled Substance Act.

The group included five freshman fotball players and one freshman basketball player.

The charges - releated to an unidentified substance - resulted from a response by UGA campus police to McWhorter Hall on Thursday night. Each student-athlete reported to the Clarke County jail Tuesday afternoon and was released on bail.

The football players were defensive backs Tim Jennings and DeMario Minter, wide receivers Bryan McClendon and Mario Raley and offensive lineman Randall Swoopes. The basketball player was guard Wayne Arnold.

Georgia football Coach Mark Richt took immediate action, suspending each of the five a minimum of two games. They also must undertake a minimum of 30 hours community service, internal discipline consisting of additional physical activity and required counseling.

"They will pay a severe price, and hopefully they will learn a very valuable lesson early that will make them better over the long haul," Richt said.

New basketball Coach Dennis Felton, who last week replaced the embattled Jim Harrick, was out of state on a recruiting trip but understood the serious nature of the charges.

"Unfortunately, I have been unable to communicate with Wayne, but will do so when I return and determine the appropriate action to take," Felton said. "I would say that any behavior associated with substance abuse will not be tolerated in our program."

In a statement, the school pointed out that it was "the first major college in the country to develop and implement a comprehensive substance abuse education, awareness and discipline program, beginning in 1982."

Felton took over a program ravaged by controversy. Harrick resigned last month in the wake of allegations made by former Bulldogs guard Tony Cole that the coach and his son provided him financial and academic benefits.

The claims led to the firing of assistant coach Jim Harrick Jr., the self-imposed withdrawal of the team from the NCAA Tournament and the suspension of the elder Harrick, who later resigned. He has refuted the charges.

Agassi tops Krajan in U.S. Clay Court Championships

HOUSTON, Texas, April 23 (UPI) -- Top seed Andre Agassi improved his 2003 record to an ATP-best 19-1 for the season with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Zeljko Krajan Tuesday.

Playing in the first round of the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships, Agassi controlled the match from the start, getting the early break in the first game of the match. He only lost eight points on his serve the entire match, cruising to victory in 47 minutes.

"Great first match for me today," Agassi said. "I felt relatively comfortable in all aspects of my game. I got the lead pretty early and stepped up on my shots and felt really good."

Agassi, who last won the tournament in 1988 when it was played in Charleston, S.C., had never played against Krajan.

Wednesday, Agassi will play Russian Iraki Labadze, who defeated Brian Vahaly in his first round match.

McDyess undergoes more knee surgery

NEW YORK, April 23 (UPI) -- After missing the 2002-03 season with a fractured left kneecap, New York Knicks forward Antonio McDyess underwent additional bone graft surgery Tuesday.

According to Knicks team physician Dr. Norman Scott, the procedure "will further stimulate blood flow, and move the healing process along at a faster rate."

The two-hour surgery was performed by Drs. Michael Stuart and Robert Trousdale at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., with Scott assisting.

"There were no surprises during the surgery, and we are very optimistic that Antonio will have a full recovery and be able to play again next season," Scott said. "He will be able to walk on crutches and put weight on the knee later this week."

McDyess will be able to begin rehabilitation in about two weeks, but the Knicks refused to give a timetable on his return.

This is the third operation in 19 months for McDyess, who had surgery last October that entailed having screws placed in his kneecap to stabilize the bone.

At the time, the Knicks said the injury was unrelated to his previous surgery, when he ruptured his patella tendon in October 2001 while playing for the Denver Nuggets.

McDyess had been in rehab for months, and it wasn't until last week that a CAT scan revealed the knee was not healing as quickly as the Knicks had hoped.

When the Knicks acquired McDyess from the Nuggets last June, they put him through an extensive physical exam. Four months after the trade, McDyess fractured his kneecap again during the Knicks' third exhibition game, and underwent surgery Oct. 16.

McDyess, who played for the gold medal-winning 2000 Olympic team, has career averages of 17.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game over seven seasons with Denver and the Phoenix Suns.

Senator proposes penalties for incidents

CHICAGO, April 23 (UPI) -- Two ugly incidents of spectator violence at the home of the Chicago White Sox have spurred action.

In an effort to toughen penalties, Illinois State Senator Mattie Hunter has announced her intention to introduce a bill to the state legislature mandating jail time, and minimum fines for anyone who trespasses onto the field, court, or rink of a professional sports arena.

The legislation calls for a mandatory 30-day jail sentence, a minimum $1,000 fine, and possible alcohol and drug evaluation for anyone who trespasses onto the field of a sports venue.

"As an elected official it is my job to protect the safety of the citizens, and that includes umpires, coaches, and players doing their jobs on the field of play," Hunter said.

Last Tuesday, a fan ran onto the field and attacked first base umpire Laz Diaz after the eighth inning of a game between the White Sox and Kansas City Royals at Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field.

Royals rightfielder Brandon Berger, who recorded the final out of the inning with a catch in foul territory, immediately ran to the aid of Diaz. By the time Berger arrived, Diaz had the assailant subdued.

Teammates and Diaz's fellow umpires quickly arrived, and held the fan until security arrived.

The incident was eerily similar to the one on Sept. 19, 2002, when a father and son attacked Tom Gamboa, then the Royals' first base coach, at U.S. Cellular Field.

Last Tuesday's game between the teams featured three other instances of fans running on the field.

"The recent incidents are alarming," Hunter said. "It is my desire to ensure that professional sporting events offer a safe environment and tougher punishments for unruly, disruptive fans who make a spectacle of themselves or commit violence by entering the field of play is a powerful first step."

"I am thrilled that Senator Hunter has chosen to support tougher penalties for anyone who trespasses on the field of play," said White Sox Board Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. "The White Sox will do everything we can to see that the legislation is put into law."

U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush also offered his support of Hunter's efforts.

"All across the country, there have been examples of abusive and unlawful behavior against athletes, both amateur and professional, players and referees," Rush said.

Outfielder Carl Everett of the Texas Rangers recently was the target of Oakland fans, who pelted him with a cellphone and beer bottles during a game last Saturday. He plans to press charges.

Pirates place Fogg on DL

PITTSBURGH, April 23 (UPI) -- Pittsburgh Pirates righthander Josh Fogg was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a strained left oblique muscle.

Fogg lasted only one inning in Sunday's 8-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs, allowing a two-run homer to Sammy Sosa before being sidelined with the injury. He originally strained it in his previous start.

In four starts this season, Fogg is 1-2 with a 4.35 ERA, allowing a team-high five home runs in 20 2/3 innings. He also has walked only five batters while giving up 19 hits and striking out 11.

Taking Fogg's roster spot is veteran righthander Brian Meadows, who was recalled from Triple-A Nashville of the Pacific Coast League. He has won all three of his starts for the Sounds while posting a 1.00 ERA.

A.J. Smith named GM of Chargers

SAN DIEGO, April 23 (UPI) -- The San Diego Chargers Tuesday promoted A.J. Smith to Executive Vice President and General Manager.

Smith, 54, replaces close friend John Butler, who died of cancer on April 11.

San Diego President Dean Spanos said Smith, who worked under Butler for 14 years with the Buffalo Bills before following him to San Diego in January 2001, was the only person considered to continue the rebuilding job in San Diego.

"John and I talked shortly after he was diagnosed, and we agreed that if John couldn't be here, his successor was already in place," Spanos said.

"No one could ever completely fill John's shoes, but I'm going to do everything in my power to help this team return to the playoffs and the Super Bowl," Smith said.

Butler, known for helping to build the Bills' four Super Bowl teams in the 1990s as a personnel director, was promoted to general manager in 1993.

Smith replaced Butler that year, and the two drafted players such as perennial Pro Bowl guard Ruben Brown, Pro Bowl receiver Eric Moulds, running back Antowain Smith, defensive end Marcellus Wiley, and linebacker Sam Cowart, despite not having high picks.

When Butler became the Chargers' GM in January 2001, Smith was the first person he brought with him.

"As someone who worked side by side with John for so long, we know the procedures that have been successful over the past two drafts will continue with A.J. making the final decisions," Spanos said.

Taking over in San Diego after the Chargers finished 1-15 in 2000, Butler dramatically upgraded the team, drafting Pro Bowl running back LaDainian Tomlinson and quarterback Drew Brees in 2001, along with cornerback Quentin Jammer, linebacker Ben Leber, guard Toniu Fonoti, and receiver Reche Caldwell last April.

Those selections, along with Butler's free agent signings of Wiley and cornerback Ryan McNeil in 2001, and linebacker Donnie Edwards in 2002, helped the Chargers improve to 8-8 last season.

"John created a terrific infrastructure, and A.J. was the first and most important person John hired," Spanos said. "This makes for a logical and seamless transition."

This is Smith's second stint with the Chargers.

He served as Personnel Director from 1985-86 before joining the Bills as a scout in 1987.

Three PGA vets get U.S. open exemptions

FAR HILLS, N.J., April 23 (UPI) -- Former champions Tom Watson, Hale Irwin, and Tom Kite have accepted special exemptions to compete in the U.S. Open at Olympia Fields in suburban Chicago.

Watson returns to the site of his first professional tournament, having made the cut as an amateur at the Western Open. He played his first and last U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 1972 and 2000, winning at the same course in 1982.

The Hall of Famer appeared in 29 consecutive Opens between 1972-2000, accepting special exemptions three times. He won eight major titles and 39 tournaments on the PGA Tour from 1974-98, and is a standout on the Champions Tour.

Irwin is the winningest golfer in Champions Tour history, and one of the most successful ever at the U.S. Open, winning it in 1974, '79, and 1990. He has the longest active streak for Opens played, a run that began in 1971.

In 1990, at the age of 45, Irwin became the oldest Open champion, and the only player to win on a special exemption. The record 36-time winner on the Champions Tour also claimed the U.S. Senior Open in 1998 and 2000.

Kite has won six times since debuting on the elder circuit in 2000, and has played in three U.S. Opens in that span, extending his string to 29 consecutive years, second only to Irwin. He was fully exempt through 2002 as a result of his 1992 victory.

Just two years ago at Southern Hills in Oklahoma, Kite tied for fifth. His only Open triumph came at Pebble Beach, where a dramatic chip-in at the par-3 seventh hole propelled him to a two-stroke victory over Jeff Sluman.

The 2003 U.S. Open is scheduled for June 12-15.

Sparks leaving Western Kentucky

BOWLING GREEN, Ky., April 23 (UPI) -- Star guard Patrick Sparks of Western Kentucky has been granted a release from his scholarship from the school.

Sparks led the Hilltoppers last season in scoring, assists, and steals while setting a team record in three-pointers. His release is a major blow to the WKU program, which also lost Coach Dennis Felton, who recently was named to fill the vacancy at Georgia. Felton had led the Hilltoppers to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

Sparks began considering leaving the team before the 2002-03 season, but stuck it out, and was Western Kentucky's best player, averaging 13.3 points and 5.9 assists while totaling 73 steals and 84 three-pointers.

"Patrick Sparks contributed to the success of Western Kentucky basketball the last two years," said Darrin Horn, who was named Felton's successor on April 15. "He has informed me that he wants to explore other options."

The 6-1, 170-pound Sparks, a native of Central City, Ky., ranked in the top five in the Sun Belt Conference in assists, assist-to-turnover ratio, steals, and three-pointers per game.

Sparks also was named the Most Outstanding Player of the conference tournament, which the Hilltoppers won for the third straight season.

Sparks ends his WKU career second in school history with 155 three-pointers, third with a 39.3 percentage from three-point range, and 10th with 19 steals.

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