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Coach Prime delivers pizzazz to college football’s wasteland

Source image: https://apnews.com/article/mlb-college-football-sports-colorado-baseball-efb6b8860788d30f2617c48b48232ea7

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Part politician, part preacher and part pitchman, Deion Sanders fired up a crowd of alumni, boosters, former players and other VIPs celebrating his hire as Colorado’s coach on Sunday.

He spewed motivational sayings that he promised will soon adorn the walls inside the complex at Folsom Field and he vowed to lead the bedraggled Buffaloes back to prominence after going 27-5 in three seasons at Jackson State.

“I have the best coaching staff assembled, some of the best scouts, some of the best kids that we’re recruiting, some already coming on the way as I speak,” Sanders told the crowd of hundreds who whooped and hollered at his answers from among the dozens of reporters at his introductory news conference.

“And now that I’ve gotten here, I see it, and understand it, and I can grasp it and I can touch it, I can feel it, I can taste it,” Sanders added. “I truly understand what you want — all you want is the opportunity to win. To compete. To dominate. To be amongst the elite. To be amongst the best.

“And darn it, I’m gonna give you that.”

But first, he reminded everyone, “I have work to finish in Jackson, Mississippi.”

Sanders said he will coach the unbeaten Tigers in the Celebration Bowl, the championship for historically Black college football programs, on Dec. 17

Then he can turn his attention entirely to resuscitating the Buffaloes.

“Simultaneously, like I played baseball and football, I can multitask and I can focus,” assured Sanders, the former NFL and major league superstar and the only athlete ever to play in both the Super Bowl and the World Series.

“This is my job and my occupation and my business and my dream to bring you back to where you know you should belong,” Sanders said.

A person with knowledge of Sanders’ contract told The Associated Press that it’s worth $29.5 million plus incentives over five years beginning at $5.5 million in the first year. Yearly incentives include $150,000 for six wins and $100,000 for each win after six, $150,000 for a bowl berth and $200,000 for a New Year’s Six bowl invitation.

If he wins a national title like CU did under coach Bill McCartney following the 1990 season, Sanders would get an extra $750,000.

Sanders is already assembling his staff, scouting the transfer portal and reaching out to five-star high school recruits to help him fix a program that has just one winning full-length season since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.

At one point, Sanders asked his son, Shedeur Sanders, to stand up.

“This is your quarterback,” he told the audience, which replied with one of its biggest cheers.

A couple of recent developments will help Sanders lure the top-level athletes that are expected to cascade onto campus.

The school recently launched a collective for donations that will create a pool of money so that Colorado can compete with its conference rivals in name, image and likeness deals.

The university also relaxed its rules regarding transfer credits, a move that will allow Sanders to compete with established football powerhouses across the country.

“A game changer,” marveled former Buffaloes and NFL standout tight end Daniel Graham. “Now, we’re on an equal playing field with all the rest of the universities. So now we’ll be able to get some big-time transfers in here.”

Sanders met with his players after Jackson State defeated Southern 43-24 in the Southwest Athletic Conference championship Saturday night to tell them he was taking the Colorado job.

Then, he flew to Boulder and toured the football facilities and picturesque campus stadium. He walked onto the field despite a throbbing left foot; Sanders had two toes amputated last year due to blood clots.

“This is a wonderful situation. This city is un-darn-believable,” Sanders said.

CU fans are anticipating a quick turnaround under Sanders much like Southern California’s U-turn from 4-8 last year to 11-2 this season under first-year coach Lincoln Riley.

Sanders provided a promise but not a timeline.

“It may not happen as quick as you may desire it to, but it’s going to happen,” Sanders said. “We’re gonna win. It’s going to happen. I’m not going put a timetable on it, but it’s gonna happen.”

Sanders brings a mix of old-school discipline and newfangled edge as he’s transitioned from “Prime Time” as one of the best dual-sport professional athletes ever to “Coach Prime.”

“Sometimes I may look like an old fool but I’m just old school,” he said. “Guys, after we get finished with this work, I just want you to know we’re on the way. Not to compete, but to win. Not to show up, but to show out. Not to be among the rest but to be the absolute best. We’re coming into work. We’re not coming to play. We’re coming to kill, not to kick it.

“Baby, got to believe that we’re coming. You’ve got to feel that energy inside of you that we’re coming,” Sanders continued like a preacher at the pulpit. “When you get in that stadium, you got to get in early because by time of the kickoff, baby we’re coming. You understand it? Do you feel that? Do you understand the intensity, the excitement, the adrenaline, the rush that I got right now, that I can’t wait for this thing to kick off because we are coming.”

Sanders may be seen as the savior but he said it was he who was humbled.

“Boulder, Colorado, you have no idea what you blessed me with, the opportunity that you give me and I feel like I owe you,” he said. “So every day I’m going to work for you. I’m gonna strain for you. I’m gonna develop for you. I’m gonna commit for you. I’m gonna do the things that others wouldn’t do.

“Baby, we’re coming. So anybody asked you something about, ‘When is he coming back?’ You say, ‘I don’t know, but I know he’s coming.’”

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/ap_top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://tinyurl.com/mrxhe6f2

Source: https://apnews.com/article/mlb-college-football-sports-colorado-baseball-efb6b8860788d30f2617c48b48232ea7

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Report: NWSL to expand in Boston, Utah and California

The National Women’s Soccer League is close to expanding by three teams, which will be in Boston, Utah and the San Francisco area, according to a Friday report in the Wall Street Journal.

The women’s pro league previously indicated it would add at least two teams by 2024. The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that the franchises in northern California and Utah are set to start play next year, with Boston to join at a later date.

The NWSL did not confirm the report in a statement Saturday to The Associated Press, saying: “We remain engaged in our expansion process and are excited about our prospects. When we have news to share, we will do so.”

The NWSL has 12 teams, after Angel City in Los Angeles and the San Diego Wave joined the league last year.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the Boston and Bay Area groups will pay about $50 million in franchise fees. The Utah team will pay a reduced fee because of a previous agreement struck when the Utah Royals folded in the 2020 season.

Before the NWSL draft earlier this month, league commissioner Jessica Berman said it would be “somewhere between days and months, more like weeks, when we’ll be in a position to share information” about an expansion.

“What I can say is that I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities we have in front of us,” she added.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Former MVP Candace Parker to sign with champion Aces

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former two-time MVP Candace Parker announced on social media Saturday that she would sign with the defending champion Las Vegas Aces.

Parker spent the past two seasons playing for her hometown Sky, leading Chicago to the WNBA championship in 2021. She also won the 2016 title playing for the Los Angeles Sparks.

She posted on Instagram that Chicago would always be her home, but “my family’s home is on the west coast.

“To play for a championship close to home is the perfect situation for us. I’m looking forward to continuing the journey this summer in Las Vegas.”

The free-agent signing period begins Wednesday, and the Aces can’t comment until then.

Parker, a 6-foot-4 forward/center, adds to an already loaded lineup that includes reigning MVP A’ja Wilson, who also won the league’s top award in 2020. Wilson also was last season’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Chelsea Gray was MVP of the WNBA Finals and Kelsey Plum MVP of the All-Star Game. Wilson, Plum and Jackie Young were All-Star starters.

Parker and Gray were teammates on Los Angeles’ 2016 title team.

The Aces traded one of their key pieces, two-time Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby, to the Sparks on Jan. 21, creating speculation Las Vegas was creating salary cap room to sign a big-name player.

Parker, the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year and the 2016 Finals MVP, certainly fits that bill. Even at 36 last season, she averaged 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the Sky.

“Candace has done so much for our franchise in her time here,” Chicago coach and general manager James Wade said in a statement. “I understand her reasons for wanting to be closer with her immediate family. We wish her nothing but the best. She will always be a part of the Sky family. We will celebrate her time here as she deserves.”

Losing her is a big blow to the Sky, who made the semifinals in last season’s playoffs before losing in five games to the Connecticut Sun. Kahleah Copper is the only starter under contract for next season, so the Sky could head into a rebuild.

“I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to win a championship in my hometown and parade down the same streets I watched the Bulls parade down as a young girl first falling in love with the game of basketball,” Parker posted.

Parker joins the Aces at a time the Women’s National Basketball Players Association said it wanted that organization investigated regarding allegations that Hamby made after being traded. She posted on Instagram she was “lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against” because she is pregnant with her second child.

The Aces still have not commented on Hamby’s allegations.

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Estrada, Hofstra end No. 18 Charleston’s 20-game win streak

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — This season, Hofstra has been a one-man show. This time, Aaron Estrada had some help as the Pride ended the nation’s longest winning streak.

Estrada scored 25 points, but just two in the second half, while Darlinestone Dubar added 18 as Hofstra had four players in double figures to knock off No. 18 College of Charleston 85-81 on Saturday — ending the Cougars’ 20-game win streak.

“That’s a really big for our program,” Hofstra coach Speedy Claxton said. “To beat a nationally ranked team on their home court when they’ve got it rolling like they do speaks volumes about our kids.”

Claxton saw a team effort to take down the hottest team in the country.

“It wasn’t just Aaron,” Claxton said. “He had a great first half, but we had other guys step up and make baskets or get rebounds when we really needed them.”

The loss ended Charleston’s spotless run that began after losing to then-top-ranked North Carolina on Nov. 11.

Hofstra, the CAA’s leader in field-goal shooting, used that to move past Charleston in the second half as it made 18 of 32 attempts. The Pride led 76-69 with 6:10 to play before the Cougars cut it to two points on Ryan Larson’s foul shots with 2:02 to play.

But Charleston managed just two free throws after that and missed all four 3-pointers they tried.

This is the second straight season the Pride have beaten a Top 25 team. A year ago, Hofstra defeated then No. 24 Arkansas 89-81. The Pride’s only other victory against a Top 25 team came against Southern Illinois in 1976.

Hofstra (15-8, 8-2 Colonial Athletic Association) beat the Cougars (21-2, 9-1) at their own game — 3-point shooting. The Pride were 11 of 22 from 3-point range and overall shot 56 percent from the floor in the second half.

Estrada, who had 23 points in the opening half, shredded the Cougars defense at will. Estrada was 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

“Estrada is a great player, hit a bunch of tough shots, especially in the first half,” Charleston coach Pat Kelsey said. “Hofstra is a very, very talented team. It’s not just Estrada. They were better than us tonight.”

Then Estrada took over. The CAA’s leading scorer at 21.1 points a game scored 16 of the next 24 points for the Pride, including four 3-pointers.

Ante Brzovic’s dunk at the buzzer gave the Cougars a 46-44 advantage at halftime.

Tyler Thomas had 17 points and eight rebounds for Hofstra.

Brzovic finished with 18 points to lead the Cougars.

BIG PICTURE

Hofstra: The Pride are on a roll in 2023. winning seven of their past eight games, including three in a row.

College of Charleston: The Cougars chances of receiving an NCAA Tournament at-large bid took a major blow with the loss to the Pride. Despite having the nation’s longest win streak for three months, Charleston will most likely have to win the CAA Tournament in March to advance to the NCAAs.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

The Cougars’ 20-game win streak wasn’t the only streak to end on Saturday. College of Charleston played 14 of its first 23 games at TD Arena to start the season and were a perfect 13-0 at home before facing the Pride. Charleston’s 13-game home win streak included three wins in the Charleston Classic. The Cougars became the first mid-major program to win the ESPN event, beating Virginia Tech 77-75 in the championship game. Charleston will finish the season playing four of their final eight games on the road.

POLL POSITION

Charleston’s first loss in nearly three months might drop the Cougars from the national rankings. They have been part of the last four rankings, entering at No. 23 before reaching No. 18 this past week.

UP NEXT

Hofstra returns home to play Towson on Thursday night.

College of Charleston starts a two-game road trip at Drexel on Thursday night.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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