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TCU’s loss gets Tide one last look, but Frogs should be in

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Alabama is going to get one last look from the College Football Playoff selection committee.

Whether the Crimson Tide deserves it is debatable, at best, but after both TCU (12-1) and Southern California (11-2) lost the committee has to at least talk about making Alabama (10-2) the first team with two losses to make the playoff.

Tide coach Nick Saban, without a game to play, spent his Saturday making a media tour and lobbying for his team.

“If we played any of those teams that are on the edge of getting in, would we be the underdogs or the favorite?” Saban said on Fox at halftime of the Big Ten championship.

The field of four will be announced Sunday.

Defending champion Georgia (13-0) will be No. 1 after the Bulldogs won the Southeastern Conference — emphatically. No debate about that.

TCU coach Sonny Dykes said he was concerned about the Frogs’ playoff status, but that he had faith in the committee.

“I think we’re certainly deserving,” Dykes said.

He is right, but the top four didn’t fall gently into place on championship weekend.

No. 4 USC’s loss to Friday to No. 12 Utah in the Pac-12 championship pretty much ended the Trojans’ playoff hopes.

That was huge news for No. 5 Ohio State and coach Ryan Day.

“You’re welcome, Coach Day,” Utah’s Kyle Whittingham said.

A week after the Buckeyes (11-1) were thumped at home by No. 2 Michigan, fans in Columbus were glued to the events in Las Vegas and got the result they needed — and maybe a rematch with the Wolverines in their future.

Michigan (13-0) stomped Purdue Saturday night on the way to a second consecutive Big Ten championship.

Championship Saturday started with the third-ranked Horned Frogs falling to No. 13 Kansas State in the Big 12 title game. As has been the case all year, it was a wild ride for the Hypnotoads. They erased an 11-point deficit in the fourth-quarter behind a heroic effort by Max Duggan before losing in overtime.

The Frogs headed to the clubhouse having beaten every team they have played, with plenty of close calls and comebacks, but no conference championship.

There is precedent for unbeaten teams losing their conference title games and remaining in the top four. Georgia was No. 1 when it happened last year against Alabama and fell to No. 3.

In 2020, Notre Dame lost a rematch with Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game and went from No. 2 to No. 4.

There is no previous case to support Alabama making the playoff under these circumstances, but this system has only been around for nine years. Don’t get too hung up on previous results predicting future performance by the committee.

The Tide has its supporters.

“I am no expert but no one can convince me that @AlabamaFTBL isn’t better than these teams I have been watching despite 2 heartbreaking L’s. if rule is BEST 4 for playoffs BAMA should be in,” ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale tweeted.

So ’Bama has that going for it.

The 13-person selection committee already made one questionable call that went Alabama’s way when it ranked the Tide sixth last week and Tennessee, which beat Alabama in October, seventh.

The committee chairman cited Alabama’s close losses compared to the Volunteers (10-2) being beaten soundly in the two games they have dropped.

Alabama twice lost on the last play of the game, by three at Tennessee and by one at No. 11 LSU (9-4). The LSU result doesn’t look quite so impressive after Georgia hung a 50-30 loss on the Tigers, just because it could.

Also of note: Tennessee beat LSU 40-13.

Alabama has its share of great escapes, too. Games against Texas and Texas A&M came down to the last play. Alabama’s best victories? Probably against Mississippi State, Mississippi and Texas, all 8-4.

TCU’s resume is built mostly on the foundation of the Big 12 being a conference with no easy outs. Oddly, the Frogs’ best victory got better Saturday when they lost a rematch to Kansas State, which was already in the committee’s top 10.

The best argument for Alabama is made by advanced metrics. Coming into this weekend, ESPN’s SP+ had the Tide fourth and its FPI had Alabama second. FEI, used by Football Outsiders, had Alabama fifth.

A composite of popular computer formula rankings had Alabama third and TCU eighth. Those are the type of forward-looking metrics used by oddsmakers.

Saban is right. Put the Tide and Frogs on a neutral field and, yes, Alabama is favored by at least a touchdown.

But Alabama was favored against both Tennessee (7 1/2 points, according to FanDuel Sportsbook ) and LSU (12 1/2)

The recruiting rankings also give Alabama an edge The Tide has the second-most talented roster in college football behind Georgia if you count up the stars. TCU’s is 32nd.

But results of games have to matter or why even make Alabama play?

“How are they playing at present?” Saban to ESPN, citing the Tide’s 3-0 finish to the season with a healthy quarterback Bryce Young.

As it is the Tide, and Ohio State for that matter, essentially benefitted from failing to win their divisions and not playing at present while USC and TCU had to prove themselves one more time.

“I don’t think we should be punished for coming to the Big 12 championship game,” Dykes said.

A playoff bid should be a reward for the season. What has Alabama done on the field to earn it?

WHAT ABOUT THE HEISMAN?

The Heisman Trophy appeared to be USC quarterback Caleb Williams’ to lose heading into the weekend.

The Trojans lost, but Williams was as impressive as ever, hobbling through most of the Pac-12 championship game after straining his hamstring. He passed for 363 yards, facing heavy pressure and without his usual mobility.

Still, the door was open at least a crack for Duggan, and, boy, did he bust through.

Battered and bruised, Duggan had 251 yards passing and 110 rushing. For some reason on two tries at the end zone from the 1 in OT, Dykes didn’t call Duggan’s number either time.

Williams finished the regular season with 37 touchdown passes, four interceptions, 9.1 yards per pass and another 10 rushing touchdowns.

Duggan heads into the postseason with 30 touchdown passes, four picks, 9.0 yards per pass and six rushing touchdowns.

Heisman finalists will be announced Monday, but both Williams and Duggan should be booking trips for New York City for the handout next Saturday.

Right after some time in the cold tub.

SELECTION SUNDAY

Here’s how the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six bowl selections will shake out.

Peach Bowl – No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Ohio State

Fiesta Bowl – No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 TCU

Rose Bowl – Utah vs. Penn State

Sugar Bowl – Kansas State vs. Alabama

Orange Bowl – Clemson vs. Tennessee

Cotton Bowl – USC vs. Tulane.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com

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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/college-football-sports-ohio-alabama-b51d02b1699783a71b14d932df705a40

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Tokyo Olympic official, 3 others held in bid-rigging probe

TOKYO (AP) — A senior official with the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee and three company executives were arrested Wednesday in an ongoing bid-rigging scandal related to the Games.

Yasuo Mori, the Olympic official, was arrested along with Koji Henmi, who headed the sports division at Japanese advertising giant Dentsu. Two other business executives were also arrested on charges of violating anti-monopoly laws, the Tokyo District Prosecutors said in a statement.

Prosecutors have also been investigating a separate bribery scandal centered around former Dentsu executive Haruyuki Takahashi, who was a member of the organizing committee.

The bid-rigging probe in general involves the choice of venues for Olympic test events as well as for the actual Games. It is a joint operation of the Japan Fair Trade Commission, which looks at violations of anti-monopoly laws.

Prosecutors said the officials secretly agreed on the bids in 2018.

Some of the contracts had only one bidder, according to Japanese media reports. Prosecutors say the bid-rigging scandal arrests have just begun and could embroil more companies.

Upon conviction of violation of anti-monopoly laws, individuals can be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

The sprawling corruption allegations surrounding Tokyo have caused the bid by the northern Japanese city of Sapporo for the 2030 Winter Games to be placed “on hold.” Sapporo was considered the favorite before the scandal.

Salt Lake City is the only other known bidder that might consider taking 2030. Salt Lake officials have said they favor a bid for 2034.

The Tokyo Games were postponed for a year and held in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The official price tag is $13 billion, though a government audit suggests it might be twice that much.

Takahashi and officials at several other companies were earlier arrested in the bribery scandal. Plans for those trials are beginning. Takahashi was released on bail after being held for several months.

Among the companies embroiled in the scandal involving Takahashi are Aoki Holdings, a clothing company that dressed Japan’s Olympic team; Sun Arrow, which produced the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic mascots named Miraitowa and Someity; and Kadokawa Group, the publisher of the Games program and guidebooks.

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Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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Jessica Pegula reveals her mother Kim Pegula’s health crisis

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Pro tennis player Jessica Pegula has revealed that her mother, Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres co-owner and president Kim Pegula, went into cardiac arrest in June and is still recovering while dealing with significant language and memory issues.

In an essay that The Players’ Tribune published Tuesday, Jessica Pegula detailed for the first time the medical crisis that abruptly removed her mother from the public eye and suggested that her mother may not resume the same level of involvement in the family’s sports franchises.

Kim Pegula, she wrote, went into cardiac arrest while sleeping and received lifesaving CPR from another daughter until paramedics arrived and restored her heartbeat. The family previously said only that Kim Pegula was receiving medical care for “some unexpected health issues” that arose shortly after she celebrated her 53rd birthday.

“My mom is working hard in her recovery, she is improving, but where she ends up is still unknown,” Jessica Pegula, 28, wrote.

She said she decided to write about her mother’s ordeal after Bills player Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on the field during a Jan. 2 game in Cincinnati in what Pegula described as “some bizarre, messed-up, full circle moment.”

“My stomach sunk because it felt like the exact same thing all over again. I was sitting on the bench for a tennis event in Sydney, Australia. I wanted to throw up,” wrote Jessica Pegula, who is No. 4 in the WTA’s singles rankings. “I was supposed to go on for mixed doubles in 15 minutes and I remember telling one of my teammates, `I am a little freaked out right now, this is too close to home, and I feel like I am going to have a panic attack.’”

As Hamlin began his recovery, Jessica Pegula joined in an outpouring of support from fans and the NFL and wore a white screen-printed patch with Hamlin’s uniform number while playing at the Australian Open. “It didn’t feel like it was just for him, it felt like it was for my mom as well,” she said.

Jessica Pegula had been home in Florida months earlier when she got a call from her sister, Kelly, around midnight on their mother’s birthday and learned that their mother was being rushed to the hospital.

“My mom was asleep when my dad woke up to her going into cardiac arrest and she was unresponsive for quite a while,” she wrote. Kelly Pegula, who was staying with their parents, performed CPR — just three months after telling her family that she planned to become certified in the procedure for a job.

“I remember her telling us what she was doing in our family group chat,” Jessica Pegula wrote, “and my mom even responded, `Nice Kells! Now if we have a heart attack you can revive us.’”

Today, Kim Pegula “can read, write, and understand pretty well, but she has trouble finding the words to respond,” Jessica Pegula wrote. “It is hard to deal with and it takes a lot of patience to communicate with her, but I thank God every day that we can still communicate with her at all. The doctors continue to be blown away by her recovery, considering where she started, and her determination is the driving force of that.”

As the first woman to serve as president of an NHL and NFL team at the same time, Kim Pegula “lived it and loved it, and it was felt by everyone she met,” Jessica Pegula wrote. “Now we come to the realization that all of that is most likely gone. That she won’t be able to be that person anymore.”

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Mat Ishbia to AP: Suns ‘will be one of best places to work’

Mat Ishbia said his first major project as owner of the Phoenix Suns will be to listen to employees and figure out what problems they’ve faced.

After that, he’ll start fixing.

The tenure of embattled Robert Sarver as owner of the NBA’s Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury officially ended Tuesday, when Ishbia — the chairman, president and chief executive of United Wholesale Mortgage, plus a member of Michigan State’s NCAA championship team in 2000 — took over. He will be governor, while his brother, Justin Ishbia, will be alternate governor.

Justin Ishbia will be the team’s second-largest shareholder, behind his brother. They acquired more than 50% of the franchise, which includes all of what was Sarver’s stake as well as some holdings of minority partners, and the sale valued the Suns and Mercury at $4 billion.

“I’m going to spend a lot of time listening and learning, then make the adjustments to make this not only one of the best organizations in the NBA but also one of the best places to work,” Mat Ishbia told The Associated Press. “That’s a huge part of my success here in Michigan and it will be a big part of our success now in Phoenix. I don’t have enough information to know what exactly it’s been like, but I will dig in and roll up my sleeves and figure it out over the next three, four, five months-plus.”

The 43-year-old Ishbia was announced as the owner-in-waiting of the Suns on Dec. 20, and the last hurdle before the purchase became official was cleared Monday night when it was revealed that the NBA’s board of governors approved him as the next owner.

The transaction was completed Tuesday. Ishbia will hold a news conference in Phoenix on Wednesday.

Sarver was suspended for one year by the NBA in mid-September after an investigation found he engaged in workplace misconduct that included racist speech and hostile behavior toward employees. About a week after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced the suspension and $10 million fine — the most allowed by league rule – Sarver said he would start the process of finding a buyer.

Ishbia’s name had been linked to other potential sales of pro sports teams in the past, including the NFL’s Washington Commanders. And the self-described basketball nut jumped quickly to acquire the Suns and Mercury.

“This is what I wanted the whole time,” Ishbia said. “My name got linked to a lot of things. That doesn’t mean it was actually necessarily right. The Phoenix Suns, in my opinion, is one of the elite franchises in one of the elite cities in America. To have a chance to be one of the owners of the Suns and Phoenix Mercury is a dream come true.”

Ishbia’s company, UWM, employs about 7,000 people. It had over $226.5 billion in mortgage originations in 2021, which the company says is a record for wholesale volume.

“We’re all about culture,” Ishbia said. “We’re all about people. We’re all about the word ‘team.’ It’s almost like a match made in heaven — the city, the location, the NBA, my love of basketball. And I can come in, take some of the really good things they’re doing but maybe make some changes from a culture perspective.”

There is one immediate order of business: The NBA trade deadline is Thursday.

The Suns — who went to the NBA Finals in 2021, losing a 2-0 lead and falling to Milwaukee in six games, had the best regular-season record in the league last season — are in a muddled Western Conference playoff race this season.

Ishbia said he and team president of basketball operations James Jones, who is also the general manager, have talked and will keep talking while Jones gauges the market to see what moves, if any, are right for the Suns.

“We’ve got to make sure we put ourselves in a great position,” Ishbia said. “I think we have an amazing team and I think we’re in a great position right now. Will I be involved? Yes. Are we highly active? Yes. But at the same time, I think we have a championship-contending team without doing anything over the next two days.”

Ishbia played for Tom Izzo at Michigan State, and he got into the 2000 title game against Florida at the end. He knew he was out of bounds when he picked up a loose ball in the final moments, but no referee blew the whistle. Sensing opportunity, Ishbia tried a reverse layup at the buzzer; it missed, but he celebrated anyway.

He senses another opportunity now.

“For me, this is a lifelong dream,” he said.

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