Ohio State players who face suspensions pledge to return to team next season

Ohio State players facing five-game suspensions next season would not have traveled with the team to the Sugar Bowl if they had not pledged to return in 2011, Coach Jim Tressel said Thursday.

The five players, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, have been punished by the NCAA for selling championship rings and memorabilia and taking discounts from a tattoo parlor.

Tressel said he wanted to make sure that the players wouldn’t “skirt the consequences” by playing in the Sugar Bowl, then declaring for the NFL draft and avoiding any punishment.

“We told them they would have to make the decision on the NFL prior to leaving for the bowl game,” Tressel said at his first Sugar Bowl news conference in New Orleans. “It wouldn’t be fair to not face the consequences down the road.”


Tressel says their playing time against the Razorbacks will hinge only on how they practice and fit into the game plan.

The other players are tailback Dan Herron, offensive tackle Mike Adams, receiver DeVier Posey and defensive end Solomon Thomas.

Tressel said he had instructed the players not to speak about the NCAA “issue” during Sugar Bowl week because of their pending appeal of the sanctions.

The players all sold items to or traded autographs for tattoos with the owner of a Columbus tattoo parlor. The NCAA does not permit players to use their status as college athletes to get deals or freebies.

Four sold their 2008 Big Ten championship rings for $1,000 to $1,200 apiece, Herron sold his football jersey, pants and shoes for $1,000, Solomon and Pryor each sold their “gold pants” trinket — given to Buckeyes players if they beat Michigan — for several hundred dollars. Pryor also sold a 2009 Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award.

Tressel said he was disappointed not only because his players broke the rules, but also because they sold what he thought of as important keepsakes from their football careers.

Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James is coming back to Oregon next season.

James, a sophomore running back and the nation’s leading rusher this season, had repeatedly suggested he would forgo an early entry to the NFL draft. Thursday’s announcement made it official.


James has thrived in Oregon’s speedy spread-option offense. He has run for 1,682 yards this season, averaging 153 a game. He’s also averaging a national-best 12 points a game. His 22 touchdowns (21 on the ground plus one touchdown reception) are a school record.

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen has agreed to a $10.6-million contract that will pay him an average of $2.65 million over the next four years.

Mullen has a 13-11 record in two seasons at Mississippi State, but the program showed substantial improvement this fall, finishing the regular season with an 8-4 record. The 21st-ranked Bulldogs face Michigan in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1.

Harmon Killebrew diagnosed with cancer


Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

Killebrew, 74, released a statement through the Minnesota Twins, saying he expects to make a full recovery from the “very serious” condition.

Killebrew hit 573 home runs and made 11 All-Star appearances during his 22-year career spent mostly with the Washington Senators and Twins. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984 and was fifth on the career home run list when he retired in 1975 after one season with the Kansas City Royals.

Killebrew currently ranks 11th on the all-time homer list, and his eight seasons with 40 or more homers still is tied for second in league history to Babe Ruth.


Former manager Steve Boros dead at 74

Former big league manager and infielder Steve Boros, who later played a key behind-the-scenes role in one of baseball’s most thrilling World Series moments, has died. He was 74.

Boros died Wednesday night in Deland, Fla., where he had spent his recent years, the Detroit Tigers said. The team said it didn’t have any other details on his death.

Boros hit .245 with 26 home runs and 149 RBIs in parts of seven seasons with Detroit, the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati. He managed the Oakland Athletics in 1983 and part of 1984, and guided the San Diego Padres in 1986.


But it was his work as an advance scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988 that really showed off his baseball smarts.

Boros was part of a scout team that filled out reports that fall on the Athletics, the Dodgers’ opponent in the World Series. Among the traits that Boros and his co-workers noticed: Oakland relief ace Dennis Eckersley tended to throw a backdoor slider on 3-2 counts to left-handed hitters.

That was exactly the pitch that pinch-hitter Kirk Gibson launched off Eckersley for a two-out, bottom-of-the-ninth homer to win Game 1. The Dodgers went on to upset the A’s in five games.

Boros worked for more than four decades in baseball, and coached for Kansas City, Montreal, the Dodgers and Baltimore. He spent the last nine years of his career in the Tigers’ organization as their minor league field coordinator (1996-2002), director of player development (2003) and special assistant to the general manager (2004).


Tom Vandergriff dies; lured baseball Rangers to Texas

Tom Vandergriff, the former mayor of Arlington, Texas, who lured the Texas Rangers out of Washington nearly 40 years ago, died Thursday. He was 84.

His son, Victor Vandergriff, said his father died of natural causes at a Fort Worth hospital. Tom Vandergriff had Alzheimer’s disease in recent years.

Vandergriff brought the Rangers to the city halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth in 1972. It took the Rangers almost 25 years to reach the playoffs, and another 14 to win a postseason series.


The younger Vandergriff said his father was in attendance when the Rangers beat the New York Yankees in October to win the AL pennant and advance to their first World Series.

Rain could put damper on Winter Classic

Pittsburgh is warming up to the Winter Classic, and that could be a problem for the NHL. Forecasters are predicting moderate temperatures and rain showers for the Capitals-Penguins outdoor game Saturday, conditions that could result in a delay.

The game is scheduled for 1 p.m. EST, and the NHL is prepared to push back the game as late as 8 p.m. The NHL also could postpone the game to Sunday — forecasts call for cloudy skies with a hint of sunshine and a high of 38 — but prefers not to because NBC’s telecast would oppose NFL games on CBS and Fox.


Jack Campbell made 14 saves and Andy Iles didn’t face a shot in nine minutes as the two U.S. goalies combined to shut out Germany, 4-0, on in preliminary round play in the World Junior Hockey Championships at Buffalo, N.Y.

The U.S. (3-0) remained undefeated with one game remaining in the preliminary round. The Americans will face Switzerland (2-1) on Friday night in a game that could decide the winner of Group A and an automatic bid in the semifinals.

Speedskaters Shani Davis and Jilleanne Rookard dominated the first day of all-round competition Thursday at the U.S. national championships at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, Utah.

Davis won the 500 meters in 35.30 seconds and the 5,000 meters in 6 minutes, 25.03 seconds. Rookard won the 500 in a personal-record 39.60 and the 3,000 in 4:16.86.


Tomas Berdych defeated Marcos Baghdatis, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, to set up a semifinal with top-ranked Rafael Nadal at the World Tennis Championships at Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Robin Soderling stopped Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1, and will face No. 2 Roger Federer.