Connect with us

Sports

USC’s Williams wins Heisman after leading Trojan turnaround

Source image: https://apnews.com/article/college-football-sports-southern-california-trojans-caleb-williams-f527ed19f1268e745deb41ba7cdbf31b

NEW YORK (AP) — Caleb Williams brought sizzle, excitement and star power back to Southern California football.

And now the Heisman Trophy, too.

Williams, the dynamic quarterback who was the catalyst for the Trojans’ turnaround season, won the Heisman on Saturday night to make USC the first school to take home college football’s most prestigious player of the year award eight times.

Williams received 544 first-place votes and 2,031 points to easily outpoint TCU quarterback Max Duggan (1,420).

Williams, who played last season at Oklahoma, is the fourth transfer to win the Heisman in the last six years, joining Baker Mayfield (2017) and Kyler Murray (2018) of Oklahoma and Joe Burrow (2019) of LSU.

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud was third in the voting after coming in fourth last season. Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, the first Bulldogs’ player to attend the award’s presentations in 30 years, finished fourth. The top-ranked Bulldogs will face Stroud and the fourth-ranked Buckeyes in the College Football Playoff on Dec. 31.

Duggan and the third-ranked Horned Frogs will play No. 2 Michigan in the other CFP semifinal on New Year’s Eve.

“I may be standing up here today, but y’all get to the College Football Playoffs. Guess you can’t win ’em all,” Williams said as he started his acceptance speech by thanking the other finalists.

Before taking hold of his big bronze trophy, Williams hugged Mike Garrett, USC’s first Heisman winner in 1965, Garrett was one of 23 previous winners — and three former Trojans along with Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer — to attend the ceremony near Lincoln Center.

Williams was as meticulous and thorough with his 10-minute speech as he is preparing for a game. And almost as poised as when he plays.

Williams got a little choked up talking about coach Lincoln Riley, who he followed from Norman to Los Angeles, and really had to hold it together when thanking his parents.

He called his mother, Dayna, who paints his nails with a motivational message before each game, the most important woman in his life.

He thanked his father, Carl, for instilling a relentless worth ethic.

“You’re always there for me making sacrifices in your life so I can achieve my dreams, which eventually became our dreams,” Caleb Williams said.

He finished with USC’s battle cry: “Dreams really do come true. Thank you, and fight on.”

Williams and No. 8 USC fell short of the Pac-12 championship and a spot in the playoff, but it was still a rebirth for a college football blue blood that has had only short spurts of success over the last decade.

The last time USC had a Heisman winner was 2005, when running back Reggie Bush was the second of consecutive Trojans players to win the award. Leinart won the Heisman in 2004 on the way to a national championship.

Bush’s Heisman win, the Trojans’ seventh, was later vacated for NCAA violations that began the descent of USC.

Notre Dame, Ohio State and Oklahoma each have seven Heisman victories.

The Trojans hope a revival is underway, led by Riley and Williams. With the two of them orchestrating one of the nation’s most prolific offenses, USC went from 4-8 last season to 11-2 and a Cotton Bowl bid this year.

“These individual awards aren’t why we do it, they are not why Caleb does it, but they’re evidence that there’s a lot of great things going on,” Riley said. “Because, let’s be honest, Heisman winners don’t show up on average teams.”

Williams is the epitome of the modern college football star. As a five-star recruit from Washington, he has been a celebrity since high school.

At the age of 10, Williams and his father began plotting a path to greatness. The to-do list included winning a Heisman.

As a freshman at Oklahoma last year, Williams came off the bench to rally the Sooners past rival Texas and immediately became one of the college football’s most exciting players.

Williams jumped into the transfer portal in the offseason and where he would play next became one of the biggest stories in sports. He amassed an extensive and lucrative endorsement portfolio before ever playing a game for the Trojans.

Thanks to one of his NIL deals, Williams was able to bring eight of USC offensive lineman with him to the Heisman ceremony in New York.

When the games did start, Williams delivered on the promise and potential.

He passed for 4.075 yards, 37 touchdowns and just four interceptions, setting a USC record for total offense with 4.447 yards. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound sophomore also ran for 10 touchdowns, drawing comparisons to Chiefs’ star Patrick Mahomes for his ability to improvise and deliver perfect passes from a variety of arm angles.

Williams finished with a kick, accounting for seven touchdowns in Top-25 victories against UCLA and Notre Dame that put USC in playoff position.

The Trojans could not close the deal, losing the Pac-12 title game to Utah with Williams hobbling through much of the game with a strained hamstring. Still, he threw for 363 yards and three touchdowns to give USC a chance, and solidified his status as Heisman frontrunner.

Williams is the 19th quarterback to win the Heisman since 2000, the third from USC and the third to do it after transferring to play for Riley. Mayfield and Murray took similar paths.

Riley said Williams’ combination of elite physical tools and confidence beyond his years separates him from even the other great players he has coached.

“He’s so hungry to get better. But he’s also so fearless in the moment.” Riley said.

Williams is the sixth sophomore, and second straight, to win the Heisman. Alabama’s Bryce Young won the Heisman in his second season last year, and finished sixth in the voting this year, behind Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker.

Williams will become the latest player with a chance to join Ohio State’s Archie Griffin (1974-75) as a two-time Heisman winner.

But first, it’s time to find some space for another trophy at USC’s Heritage Hall. Williams has made Southern California Heisman U. again.

___

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

___

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-southern-california-trojans-caleb-williams-f527ed19f1268e745deb41ba7cdbf31b

Continue Reading

Sports

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.

___

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

—-

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

Continue Reading

Sports

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.”

Continue Reading

Sports

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.

___

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

Continue Reading

Trending