Plans are set for huge college league

Members of Conference USA and current and future members of the Mountain West are taking a bigger-is-better approach to college sports leagues.

The 16 schools announced plans Monday to form a new league that will begin in 2013 and have as many as 24 teams in five time zones.

The new conference probably will have 18 to 24 schools, split into divisions, and not only have a football championship game but also semifinals. It also will hold a conference basketball tournament, the statement said.

School leaders said they plan to complete work on the new league in six months.


No decision made on Ward, Steelers say

The Pittsburgh Steelers aren't ready to part ways with Hines Ward just yet.

General Manager Kevin Colbert said the team has had "internal discussions" on what to do with the franchise's all-time leading receiver, but no decision has been made. reported last week the Steelers were planning to release the 35-year-old Ward, who took on a diminished role last season behind Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.


Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes and the Oakland Athletics agreed to a $36-million, four-year contract.

Agent Adam Katz confirmed the outfielder had reached agreement on a deal, with details still to be finalized. Cespedes will earn $6.5 million this year, $8.5 million in 2013 and $10.5 million in each of the final two seasons.


David Ortiz and the Boston Red Sox avoided salary arbitration by agreeing to a one-year contract worth $14.58 million.

The deal for the slugging designated hitter was midway between the $16.5 million he asked for last month and the $12.65 million submitted by the Red Sox, which matched his 2011 earnings.

Ortiz became a free agent after the season, then passed up a chance to go elsewhere when he accepted Boston's arbitration offer Dec. 7.


The New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates have made progress toward a trade that would send much-maligned pitcher A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh would pay at least $10 million of the $33 million Burnett is owed in the final two seasons of his $82.5-million, five-year contract, a person familiar with the discussions said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because talks are continuing.

The exact amount of money involved in the trade depends on the quality of the prospects the Yankees would receive, the person said.


Right-hander Casey Janssen and the Toronto Blue Jays avoided salary arbitration, agreeing on a $5.9-million, two-year contract.


Freddie Solomon, the former Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers wide receiver who became known as "Fabulous Freddie" and committed himself to community service, has died. He was 59.

The 49ers announced the death of Solomon, who lived in Florida and had battled cancer over the last year. He played on the first of the franchise's four Super Bowl championship teams in the 1980s during an 11-year NFL career.

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