Slocum out as Texas A&M coach
COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Dec. 2 (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.
"Coach Slocum is one of the most respected and admired members of the Aggie family, and he has much still to offer the university," Gates said. "I look forward to continuing to work with him to promote the interests of the university he loves so much."
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. 2 (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.
Martz said Monday that third-stringer Jamie Martin will start this week's game at Kansas City, with Marc Bulger, who is 5-0 as a starter this season , being the backup. Bulger has been hampered by a sprained index finger on his right hand.
The Rams also will be without their best offensive lineman as perennial Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Pace could miss up to three weeks with a torn hamstring. He was injured in the first quarter on Sunday.
Dave McNally dies of cancer
BILLINGS, Mt., Dec. 2 (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.
After he retired, he became a businessman in Billings, running an auto dealership with his brother, Jim. He was named Montana's Athlete of the Century in 2000, and also is a member of the Orioles' Hall of Fame and All-Century team.
Tar Heels return to coaches' poll
ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Thye 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.
Michigan State (2-2), which lost to Villanova and Oklahoma State in the Great Alaska Shootout, plummeted 11 notches to 21st. Completing the poll are Stanford (4-1), Virginia (3-1), Mississippi State (2-1) and Gonzaga (2-2).
Stanford and Virginia were not ranked last week, while Gonzaga fell four notches after falling to Indiana and Kentucky in Maui.
Cubs sign Remlinger for three years
CHICAGO, Dec. 2 (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. 2 (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.
After thinking it over, Thome apparently could not give up the chance to become the highest-paid player in Phillies history. He would become the most prolific free agent to land in Philadelphia since Pete Rose left Cincinnati after the 1978 season.
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.
Thome would become the latest veteran to leave the rebuilding Indians. Pitchers Bartolo Colon, and Chuck Finley were traded last season, joining a list of departees over the last few years that included Manny Ramirez, Juan Gonzalez, Roberto Alomar, and Kenny Lofton.
Dixon on IL with sprained elbow
WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 (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.
"We're confident this will be a minor setback for Juan," Wizards General Manager Wes Unseld said. "He's started showing what he can do in this league, and we expect him to come back and pick right up where he left off."
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.
Monday night matchup for Raiders, Jets
OAKLAND, Calif., Dec. 2 (UPI) -- The Oakland Raiders meet the New York Jets Monday night at Oakland's Network Associates Coliseum in a battle that has playoff implications for both teams.
Both are among the hottest in the AFC.
New York has won four straight games while Oakland has won three in a row.
The Jets can move into a three-way tie for first place in the East with Miami (7-5) and New England (7-5) with a win.
The Raiders can also tie for first place in the West with a victory. They are a half game behind San Diego (8-4) and a half game ahead of Denver (7-5). The Raiders play at San Diego next Sunday.
Last season, the Jets and Raiders were involved in two critical games in a span of six days. They met in the final week of the regular season before playing again in the wild-card round.
John Hall ensured the teams would meet in the playoffs, kicking a 53-yard field goal with 59 seconds remaining, lifting the Jets to a dramatic 24-22 victory. That defeat cost the Raiders a first-round bye.
In the playoff game, the Raiders got their revenge as Jerry Rice had nine catches for 183 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-24 victory. Rich Gannon passed for 294 yards and two scores.
The Jets are back in the playoff race after starting 2-5.
Their quarterback, Chad Pennington, leads the AFC with a 99.8 quarterback rating, just ahead of Gannon (99.1). Pennington is 5-2 since replacing Vinny Testaverde as the starter, completing 70.2 percent (172-of-245) of his passes, 11 touchdowns, and five interceptions.
Also last Sunday, Pennington had some help from his running game as Curtis Martin rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown in a 31-13 victory over Buffalo.
Gannon continued to run the NFL's top-rated offense with precision, throwing for 340 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-20 rout of Arizona. Oakland amassed 520 total yards.
Lewis announces three-fight plan
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 to a bloody pulp 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.
His losses have come against Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman, but he avenged both of them, including a dominant fourth-round knockout of Rahman in November 2001.
Lewis had a draw and a won a decision in a pair of 1999 meetings with Holyfield.
Ball State football coach fired
MUNCIE, Ind., Dec. 2 (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.
"Bill Lynch has been informed that he will not be retained as the football coach at Ball State University," said Cunningham. "Bill has brought in good students and good people to Ball State. He has taken an active role in their development as student-athletes, and has supported their academic interests while encouraging good citizenship. These are expectations we have for all of our coaches in all of our sports. However, we also expect to excel on the field. In football, we have not achieved the success we had hoped we would. This is an extremely difficult decision because of Bill's personal integrity and commitment to Ball State University. In addition to the work with his student-athletes, Bill has demonstrated outstanding leadership to his assistant coaches and other coaches within the department. There is not a more dedicated, hard working group of people in this business than Bill Lynch and his staff."
Lynch also has been an assistant at the school, and was head coach at Butler from 1985-89 and Northern Illinois, and with the Orlando Renegades of the United States Football League in winter of 1984.
Eagles accept Houston Bowl invite
HOUSTON, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Southern Mississippi Monday accepted an invitation to play in the first Houston Bowl on Dec. 27.
The Golden Eagles, a member of Conference USA, are 7-5, and completed their regular season Saturday with a 24-7 win over East Carolina. It will be the fifth bowl trip for Southern Mississippi in six years.
"This football team is most deserving of a bowl bid and we're extremely excited about the invitation," said Coach Jeff Bower.
"We told them last night we would gladly come to Houston," Athletic Director Richard Giannini told the Hattiesburg American.
The game will take place at Reliant Stadium in Houston, and begin at 1 p.m. Eastern time. Possible opponents for the Golden Eagles include Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.
"I just think it's the ideal situation for us," Giannini said. "If we don't win the conference and go to the Liberty Bowl, I think the next best thing is going to a major city with a new NFL stadium (possibly) against a Big 12 opponent."
Southern Mississippi will have a winning season in 2002 for the ninth straight year.
Louisville, Marshall to go to GMAC Bowl
MOBILE, Al., Dec. 2 (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.
The two schools faced each other in the 1998 Motor City Bowl, and Marshall posted a 48-29 victory.
TCU, Colorado State set for Liberty Bowl
MEMPHIS, Dec. 2 (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.
The game's halftime highlight features the world's largest American Flag, and its annual patriotic theme will be the Pledge of Allegiance.
Clemson defensive back arrested
ORANGEBURG, S.C., Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Ryan Hemby, 20, a reserve cornerback at Clemson, was arrested recently and charged with disorderly conduct.
The arrested was first reported by the Orangeburg Times and Democrat. The paper cited a police report which said Hemby, who is from Orangeburg, was taken into custody and charged after an officer witnessed him "relieving himself" on a sidewalk.
The paper reported that, when questioned about his actions, he said, "he had to go bad and could not hold it," according to the report.
Clemson Sports Information Director Tim Bourret said Hemby was not drunk or involved in an altercation.
He faces a court date on Jan. 28, and the paper said Coach Tommy Bowden indicated that Hemby's status for the Tigers' Dec. 23 date in the Tangerine Bowl will be decided after he talks to the player.
The 5-10, 175-pounder has played in five games this season and has three tackles.
Lakers activate George
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 2 (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.
In his absence, Los Angeles stumbled out to a 3-9 start, and has gone 3-3 since.
George had eight points and four rebounds Sunday night in a 110-107 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
To make room for George, the Lakers placed rookie guard Jannero Pargo on the injured list with tendinitis in his right knee.
Olowokandi to injured list
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 2 (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.
Murray, Sandberg lead Hall candidates
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y., Dec. 2 (UPI) -- First baseman Eddie Murray and second baseman Ryne Sandberg are among the 33 candidates listed on the 2002 ballot for Major League Baseball.
Both men will be eligible for the first time next year, as will 15 others, including pitchers Fernando Valenzuela and Lee Smith, catcher Tony Pena, the current manager of the Kansas City Royals, outfielder Brett Butler, and Darryl Kile, a 20-game winner in 2000, who died in his Chicago hotel room on June 22, 2002.
Kile, who had a heart condition that was not discovered until the autopsy of his death, pitched 12 seasons. He pitched a 7-1 no-hitter against the New York Mets on Sept. 8, 1993, while with the Houston Astros.
For his career, he was 133-119 with a 4.12 ERA. He had 28 shutouts, 1,668 strikeouts, and finished fifth in the balloting for the NL Cy Young in 1995 and 2000.
Murray won a World Series in 1983 with the Baltimore Orioles. In his 21-year career, he batted .284, and whacked 504 home runs. He is the only switch-hitter with at least 500 homers and 3,000 hits, and finished in the top ten in voting for the AL MVP seven times.
Sandberg, who spent his entire 16-year career with the Chicago Cubs, made the NL All-Star team 10 times. He was Sporting News Player of the Year in 1984.
For his career, he batted .285 with 282 home runs and 1,061 RBI.
The list was compiled by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The five-year rule was waived in the case of Kile.
Voting ends on Dec. 31, and the results will be announced on the Hall of Fame's Website at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2003.
Gagne, Walker co-winners of O'Neill Award
TORONTO, Dec. 2 (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.
Gagne, a native of Montreal, said he was honored to have his name associated with Walker, who he struck out on April 6 in Dodger Stadium in their only confrontation in 2002.
"I got him on a fastball up and in," Gagne recalled from his home in Montreal. "Larry is so big and strong, and he is a threat every time he comes to the plate. The guy can rake. I just try to help my team win ball games and I love to have fun. As a Canadian, this is very dear to me. I don't play for the individual awards, but it is very special when ones like this come my way. I hope I can get this same phone call for many years to come."
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 the 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.
"The best thing to come out of this would be if Eric and I can inspire more youngsters in Canada, from coast to coast, to sign up and play baseball next summer," Walker said.
Gagne, who grew up near Olympic Stadium in Montreal, and studied the successes of former major leagues John Wetteland, earned his share of the award with a remarkable breakthrough season.
He came to spring training just hoping to make the Major League team, mainly because, as a starter, he was so inconsistent in 2001 and had been demoted to the minors twice. He was not even included in the handful of names Manager Jim Tracy listed as candidates for his bullpen-by-committee.
Gagne had closed for the Canadian National Team prior to signing with the Dodgers as an undrafted free agent in 1995 out of Polyvalente Edovard Montpetit High School in Montreal.
He spent spring training pitching his way into contention for the closer job. His combination of pinpoint control and nasty stuff quickly convinced management he could at least replace Matt Herges as a setup man, leading to Herges' trade to Montreal.
In his first outing as a closer, on April 7, he escaped a one-out, two-on jam in San Francisco by retiring Jeff Kent and Reggie Sanders. The rest is history.
By the end of the year, Gagne had shattered Todd Worrell's franchise save record of 44 with 52, which was second in baseball behind John Smoltz of Atlanta, and fifth all-time. That blew away John Hiller's 29-year-old Canadian save record of 38, set with the 1973 Detroit Tigers, as well as Claude Raymond's French-Canadian record of 23, set with the 1970 Expos.
Gagne was 4-1 with a 1.97 ERA, striking out 114 in 82 innings. He finished fourth in Cy Young voting, and second in the Rolaids Relief Man competition. He pitched in the All-Star Game and saved three games in the recently-completed Major League All-Star exhibition tour of Japan.
The award is named after James Edward (Tip) O'Neill, a native of Woodstock, who played in the majors from 1883-92 for New York, St. Louis, Chicago and Cincinnati.