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Titans owner fires GM Jon Robinson in his 7th season

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk has very high standards for her Titans.

Combined with the millions she’s investing, she also isn’t afraid of making big moves chasing the Lombardi Trophy that eluded her late father.

Strunk fired general manager Jon Robinson on Tuesday in the midst of his seventh season with the Titans off to a 7-5 start and Tennessee second only to the Kansas City Chiefs for the NFL’s longest active streak of consecutive winning seasons in his tenure.

The Titans announced Strunk’s decision in a statement. Ryan Cowden, the vice president of player personnel, will handle player personnel for the rest of this season. The Titans plan to start searching for a new general manager soon with a full search at the end of the season.

Strunk said her goal since replacing her brother-in-law as controlling owner in March 2015 has been to raise the standard for every part of the NFL franchise founded by her late father, Bud.

Strunk said she believes the Titans have made “significant progress” on and off the field.

“This progress includes the core of our business, the football team itself, which is regularly evaluated both by results (wins and losses) and team construction/roster building,” Strunk said. “I am proud of what we have accomplished in my eight seasons of ownership, but I believe there is more to be done and higher aspirations to be met.”

Strunk paid to renovate the Titans’ headquarters, essentially doubling the size of the facility to both update the building and hold all the new employees hired.

The Titans also are finalizing the last piece of financing for a new enclosed stadium they want to open for the 2026 season. Strunk and the rest of ownership, with some help from the NFL and the sale of personal seat licenses, are expected to contribute $840 million toward the stadium estimated to cost $2.1 billion.

Strunk fired coach Ken Whisenhunt after a 1-6 start to his second season in November 2015 and a 3-20 record overall. She fired general manager Ruston Webster at the end of that season.

She hired Robinson, a native of Union City in West Tennessee who grew up cheering for the Titans, in January 2016 after the franchise went a combined 5-27 in 2014 and 2015.

When coach Mike Mularkey balked at making changes, Strunk fired him in January 2018 after a loss in the divisional round of the playoffs and quickly hired Mike Vrabel as his replacement.

The Titans never went worse than 9-7 in Robinson’s tenure. That includes earning the AFC’s No. 1 seed in 2021 with a 12-5 record despite setting an NFL record by using 91 players in a non-strike season. That earned coach Vrabel, whom Robinson helped hire in January 2018, the AP NFL Coach of the Year award.

Both Robinson and Vrabel had their contracts extended in February.

The Titans currently sit atop the AFC South with a chance to win the division for a third straight year, something that this franchise hasn’t done since its beginning in the original AFL.

Of their final five games, only one is against a team with a winning record. The Titans host the Jaguars (4-8) on Sunday.

But they just were routed 35-10 in Philadelphia, a loss that featured a big performance by the wide receiver Robinson traded to the Eagles during the first round of the NFL draft. A.J. Brown wanted a new contract and got it from Philadelphia in the deal Tennessee used to draft rookie Treylon Burks at No. 18.

Vrabel said on a national show before the draft that Brown wouldn’t be traded as long as he was the head coach.

Brown had eight catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns against the Titans. He has 61 catches and ranks seventh in the NFL with 950 yards along with nine touchdowns for the season. Burks leads the Titans with 369 yards receiving despite spending four games on injured reserve, while veteran Robert Woods has a team-high 33 catches.

Running back Dontrell Hilliard leads Tennessee with four TD receptions on an offense tied for 29th in total yards, 30th in averaging 171.4 yards passing per game and 26th with 18.3 points scored per game.

The Titans allowed a season-high six sacks in that loss behind an offensive line that featured three new starters due to a combination of salary cap moves during the offseason and a season-ending injury to left tackle Taylor Lewan.

In his first draft, Robinson selected two-time NFL rushing champ Derrick Henry, the eighth man in league history to run for at least 2,000 yards in a season in 2020, and a two-time All-Pro in safety Kevin Byard. His gamble taking defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons in the first round of the 2019 draft paid off with the lineman becoming a starter as a rookie.

Robinson also had several draft and other trade mistakes costing the Titans now.

He drafted offensive lineman Isaiah Wilson out of Georgia in 2020 at No. 29 overall, a player who only took four snaps in garbage time before the Titans suspended the rookie in December of that season. The Titans traded Wilson away after the season ended.

Robinson also selected cornerback Caleb Farley at No. 22 in 2021 despite questions over a second back surgery the month before the draft. Farley, who opted out of the 2020 college football season, has started two of 12 games played with both of his first two seasons ending with him on injured reserve.

Another draft pick that has turned out to be more of a bust is offensive lineman Dillon Radunz, the 53rd pick overall in 2021. Radunz came out of North Dakota State, a Football Championship Subdivision power, but he played only one game in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Radunz lost the right tackle job to rookie Nicholas Petit-Frere this season. His five career starts all have come because of injuries.

Robinson traded for seven-time Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones in June 2021, reworking quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s contract to create cap space. The Titans cut Jones in March, and Robinson traded for Woods as a replacement with the veteran coming off a torn ACL in his left knee last November.

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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Source: https://apnews.com/article/philadelphia-eagles-tennessee-titans-nfl-sports-football-112e1528db7cbbbd47db536c73f51b4e

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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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