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WAMC Sports News: Arena Football Back In Albany

Football is coming back to Albany. Albany County Executive Dan McCoy called it “the worst kept secret” during a news conference Thursday morning at the Times Union Center.

Albany’s team will be one of three expansion teams joining the National Arena League. They’re expected to start in the 2021 season, which will begin in April and run through the playoffs in August.

Albany has a long history with arena football. The Firebirds played there for 10 years and the Empire most recently played for two seasons. Both teams won an Arena Bowl championship.

The NAL currently has 10 teams with the possibility of more.

Orlando Predators owner Ron Tridico is the owner of Albany’s new team, which doesn’t have a name yet. However, they do have the rights to the Firebirds name, and they’re working to acquire the Empire name as well.

The new team has signed a three-year agreement to play at the Times Union Center.


UNDATED (AP) — Major college football will be the only championship decided by the NCAA, and the prospect of holding that still hangs in the balance.

The NCAA has called off all fall championship events except for major college football because of the limited number of schools competing in sports such as men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball during the first semester.

NCAA President Mark Emmert made the announcement in a video posted on Twitter, although it has been clear this was coming as conferences canceled fall sports seasons because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Emmert said the NCAA would prioritize staging championships in winter and spring sports because those — including the NCAA basketball tournaments— were canceled when COVID-19 first spiked across the United States in March.

The decision comes after The Big Sky, West Coast and Southern conferences announced Thursday that they are the latest Division I leagues to postpone its fall sports schedule.

New Mexico State has postponed its football season because of COVID-19 concerns and state restrictions. The Aggies are the third independent FBS program to decide not to play in the fall, joining Connecticut and Massachusetts.

New Mexico State says it will explore playing football in the spring.

Moving fall sports to the spring still must go through the Division I Council, which is comprised of representatives of all 32 conferences. It also would need approval by the DI Board of Directors.


Kopisalo, Jackets tie series

UNDATED (AP) — It took the Columbus Jackets a while to get going following their five-overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Fortunately for the Jackets, netminder Joonas Korpisalo (YOH’-nuhs kohr-pih-SAH’-loh) was just as sharp as he performed while making a playoff-record 85 saves two days earlier.

The Stanley Cup first-round series is tied at a game apiece after Korpisalo stopped 36 shots to lead Columbus to a 3-1 win over the Lightning. He blanked the Bolts after Nikita Kucherov (KOO’-cheh-rahf) scored 5:26 after the opening faceoff to give Tampa Bay a brief lead.

Ryan Murray and Oliver Bjorkstrand provided first-period goals to put the Blue Jackets ahead to stay. Bjorkstrand’s goal came on a power play with 1:25 left in the period.

In other Stanley Cup first-round action:

— Dougie Hamilton broke a 2-2 stalemate midway through the third period to give the Hurricanes a 3-2 win over the Bruins, evening the series at a game apiece. Carolina trailed, 1-0 until Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov scored 1:28 late in the second, but Boston tied it on Brad Marchand's goal with five seconds left in the period. James Reimer stopped 33 shots for the Canes.

— The Golden Knights squandered leads of 2-0 and 3-2 before Reilly Smith scored 7:13 into overtime to give them a 4-3 win over the Blackhawks. The Knights wasted leads of 2-0 and 3-2 in the second period before taking a 2-0 lead in the series. Paul Stastny (STAS’-nee), Tomas Nosek (tah-MAHS’ NOH’-shehk) and Mark Stone also tallied for Vegas.


Canadiens coach hospitalized with chest pains

TORONTO (AP) — Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin (BERZH’-eh-vin) says coach Claude Julien was taken by ambulance to a Toronto hospital after experiencing chest pains Wednesday night. The 60-year-old Julien remained in the hospital Thursday afternoon while more tests were being conducted to determine the cause of his condition.

Bergevin said the situation is not COVID-19 related.

The 60-year-old coach is not expected to be back behind the bench for the rest of the team’s first-round series against Philadelphia. Associate coach Kirk Muller will take over Julien’s role in an interim basis.


Grizzlies, Blazers get play-in spots

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — It will be the Portland Trail Blazers against the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA's Western Conference play-in series. The Trail Blazers advanced with a win over the Nets after the Grizzlies secured a spot by downing the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks.

Damian Lillard dropped in 42 more points and had a crucial steal as the Blazers earned a do-or-die victory, 134-133 over the Nets. CJ McCollum had 25 points for Portland, which erased a 10-point, third-quarter deficit and pulled out a win when Caris LeVert missed a jumper just before the final buzzer.

LeVert had 37 points for Brooklyn, which already had secured the seventh seed in the East.

Memphis kept its season alive with a 119-106 victory over the Bucks. Jonas Valanciunas (YOH’-nuhs val-ehn-CHOO’-nuhs) and Ja (jah) Morant each had triple-doubles, while Dillon Brooks added 31 points in the Grizzlies’ second wire-to-wire win of the season.

Valanciunas had 26 points, 19 rebounds and 12 assists for his first triple-double in 559 NBA games. Morant had 12 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.

The Blazers can advance to the first round against the Lakers by beating the Grizzlies on Saturday. If Memphis prevails, there will be a winner-take-all game on Sunday.

In other NBA action:

— Devin Booker scored 23 of his 27 points while the Suns dominated the first half of a 128-102 trouncing of the Mavericks. Dario Saric scored 16 points for Phoenix, which finished just short of a berth in the play-in series despite going 7-0 in the restart.

— Rayjon Tucker scored 18 points as the Jazz beat the Spurs 118-112, ending San Antonio string of playoff appearances at 22. Keldon Johnson scored 24 points to lead seven Spurs in double figures.

— Buddy Hield (heeld) nailed a 3-pointer that capped Sacramento’s streak of 11 consecutive baskets made in the third period of a 136-122 win over the Lakers. Hield finished with 28 points and Bogdan Bogdanovic (BOY’-ahn bahg-DAH’-noh-vich) had 27 for the Kings, who made 21 3-pointers. Most Lakers starters were held out, but LeBron James played the first half and had 17 points in 15 minutes.

— The Wizards picked up their lone win in the restart as Thomas Bryant had 26 points and nine rebounds lead a 96-90 decision over the Celtics. Troy Brown Jr. added 17 points and eight rebounds against Boston, which rested its starters after clinching the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.


Betts blasts Dodgers to rout of Padres

UNDATED (AP) — Mookie Betts and the Dodgers certainly know how to exact a bit of revenge.

Betts was 4-for-4 with three home runs and four RBIs as the Dodgers blasted the Padres, 11-2. Betts' assault began after he was hit by a pitch leading off the bottom of the first. Corey Seager homered just three pitches later before AJ Pollock went deep.

Betts joins Johnny Mize and Sammy Sosa as the only players in major league history to homer three times in six different games.

Austin Barnes also homered and Julio Urias (yoo-REE'-uhs) pitched into the seventh, allowing two runs and five hits. Urias settled down after Tommy Pham and Eric Hosmer hit back-to-back homers off him with two out in the first.

Elsewhere on the major league schedule:

— Yu Darvish carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning and Kyle Schwarber belted a solo homer as the Cubs downed the Brewers, 4-2. Darvish struck out 11 over seven innings and didn’t allow a hit until Justin Smoak led off the seventh with a homer. The Cubs are 13-3 for the first time since 1907.

— The Rays have a six-game winning streak after Mike Zunino belted a three-run homer and collected four RBIs in a 17-8 dismantling of the Red Sox. Hunter Renfroe homered twice and drove in three, while Brandon Lowe had three ribbies.

— The Orioles completed a three-game sweep as Pedro Severino and Rio Ruiz homered in an 11-4 blasting of the Phillies. Thomas Eshelman allowed two runs and four hits in five innings to earn his second career win.

— Tomas Nido (TOH’-mahs NEE’-doh) broke out in the Mets’ 8-2 romp over the Nats, hitting a two-run homer in the fourth inning and a grand slam in the fifth. He is just the fifth catcher in Mets history to hit at least two homers and collect at least six RBIs in a game.

— Solo homers by Adam Frazier, Colin Moran and Gregory Polanco helped the Pirates beat the Reds, 9-5 and end a three-game skid. Polanco homered and walked with the bases loaded while Pittsburgh erupted for seven runs in the second inning to take a 9-0 lead.

— The Cardinals’ series opener against the White Sox has been postponed to Saturday, giving the Redbirds an extra day to recover from a coronavirus outbreak. The Cards, who haven’t played since July 29 and were set to resume their season Friday night in Chicago.


Rangers lose Volquez

UNDATED (AP) — Rangers veteran right-hander Edinson Volquez has been put on the 45-day injured list with a right oblique strain, effectively ending his season.

Volquez sustained the injury when working the fifth inning Tuesday against Seattle.

In other major league news:

— Mets left fielder Jeff McNeil was carted off with a left knee injury after crashing into the wall to rob Asdrubal (as-DROO’-bul) Cabrera of a two-run extra-base hit on Thursday. Manager Luis Rojas says McNeile is day to day after X-rays and an MRI were negative.

— Nationals star Stephen Strasburg earned one of baseball’s most unique ejections in the third inning of Thursday’s loss to the Mets. Strasburg was sitting in Section 121 at Citi Field in this socially distant season when he began to complain loudly about a ball-and-strike call. Last year’s World Series MVP was tossed moments later, although it took a few seconds to realize who had been tossed.


AP source: Kittle agrees to 5-year extension with 49ers

UNDATED (AP) — All-Pro George Kittle has agreed to a five-year, $75 million extension with the San Francisco 49ers, a record for tight ends.

According to overthecap.com, the previous high for annual value on a multiyear contract for a tight end was the four-year, $42 million deal Austin Hooper signed this offseason in Cleveland.

Kittle had been one of the NFL’s biggest bargains after being drafted in the fifth round in 2017.

In other NFL news:

— The Chiefs and star tight end Travis Kelce (KEHL’-see) have agreed to a four-year, $57.25 million contract extension that will keep him with the Super Bowl champions through 2025. That’s according to a person familiar with the contract. The move to secure the two-time All-Pro tight end is the latest in a string of big-money deals negotiated by general manager Brett Veach to keep the core of the Chiefs intact this offseason.

— The Bills are protecting quarterback Josh Allen’s blindside for the long term after signing left tackle Dion Dawkins to a four-year, $60 million contract extension. The team announced the signing, while a person with direct knowledge of the contract provided the value of the deal to The Associated Press. Dawkins has been a starter in Buffalo since being selected in the second round of the 2017 draft out of Temple.


Serena beats Venus to take 31st meeting

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Serena Williams came back and won the last four games to beat her older sister, Venus, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a hard-hitting, back-and-forth, second-round matchup at the Top Seed Open on Thursday. It was the 31st meeting of their careers and it came 22½ years after the first.

Venus is 40, and Serena turns 39 next month, making their combined age the highest in a WTA match since 2004, when Martina Navratilova, 47, played Amy Frazier, 31.


No. 1 Novak Djokovic says he’ll play at US Open, after all

UNDATED (AP) — Novak Djokovic (NOH’-vak JOH’-kuh-vich) says he will enter the U.S. Open and the hard-court tuneup tournament preceding it in New York this month.

Reigning U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu (an-dree-EHS’-koo) has pulled out of the Grand Slam tournament. She says the coronavirus pandemic prevented her from properly preparing for competition.


Senators lay out plan for college athletes bill of rights

WASHINGTON (AP) — A group of senators led by Cory Booker of New Jersey and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut has released a plan for reforming college sports with an athletes bill of rights. It calls for college athletes to have the ability to earn money for their names, images and likenesses with “minimal restrictions.”

The senators also want to ensure for the athletes long-term medical coverage and treatment, enforceable medical standards, academic freedom and revenue sharing agreements.

The NCAA is in the process of changing its rules to permit athletes to earn money off their names, images and likenesses for things like endorsements and appearances. The association has asked for help from Congress to relieve pressure from state lawmakers.


3-way tie for clubhouse lead

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Harold Varner III, Tom Hoge and Roger Sloan share the clubhouse lead after shooting 8-under 62 in the first round of the PGA’s Wyndham Championship in North Carolina.

Hoge looked like he might have a shot at 59 after he went eagle-birdie on the 15th and 16th holes to reach 9 under.

There were 33 players on the course when the round was suspended due to bad weather.

David Guistina is the host of Morning Edition on WAMC.
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