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AF2 kicks-off season

The arenaleague2 opened its inaugural season the week of April 8th.

The league, which was introduced to bring Arena Football to small to mid-sized communities, features teams in cities such as Augusta, Ga; Birmingham, Ala.; Charleston, S.C.; Greensboro, N.C.; Greenville, S.C. and Huntsville, AL. Nine other cites make up the league with the addition of three new teams planned for the 2001 season.

After opening the season with league highs in total attendance (61,957), the number of fans per game climbed from 8,851 to 9,280. But since that tally in week three of the season, af2 has experienced a steady decline in total fans and fans per game. But interest in the league remains strong in some cities as teams from Quad City, Iowa; Norfolk, Va.; Augusta, Ga.; Jacksonville, Fla. and Tulsa, Okla. have experienced sellouts this season.

NFL playoffs may jump to 14 seeded teams

If all goes according to plans discussed at league meetings in May, the NFL playoffs may soon be two teams bigger and more balanced.

The league announced it was considering expanding the playoff field to 14 clubs and seeding the teams according to won-lost record starting in 2002, the year Houston becomes the 32nd NFL member.

Under the current format, 6 teams from each conference make the playoffs. Wildcard entrants, regardless of their record, do not receive a bye.

"There's a pretty good consensus behind the idea of adding two teams to the playoffs," NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said. "We would add two games the first week. Linked to that is seeding. There's a lot of interest in that."

Currently, eight teams play in the opening week of the playoffs. Owners are considering giving the team with the best record in each conference a first-round bye in 2002, while the team with the second-best record plays the seventh-best team, the third-best versus the sixth-best, and so on.

"That seeding in turn would have an impact on home-field advantage," Tagliabue said. "If a team can lose the home-field advantage even though they were a division winner under the seeding formula, then the last game becomes critical."

A final vote will probably be taken in October.

"We didn't get a consensus, but the fact that we were discussing seeding was an important development," Tagliabue said.

Dallas and Detroit, which made the 1999 playoffs with 8-8 records, have some owners worried that losing teams can qualify for a 14-team postseason.

Florida International to join Florida football fray

Following the path of south Florida neighbor Florida Atlantic University, Florida International received approval from the Florida Board of Regents in May to field a football team in 2002 if it can raise enough money and meet gender equity rules.

The new Division I-AA program would be the seventh university football team in Florida and the third team approved in the last five years. A new team at FAU will begin play in 2001.

Former Miami Dolphins quarterback Don Strock was hired last fall to run football operations for FIU's Golden Panthers.

The university must raise $2 million by November 2002 for construction of an 18,000-square foot field house and alumni center; $1 million for stadium expansion; and $800,000 for upgrading current athletic facilities. By November 2001, the university must raise $1 million for the football operating budget.

Alabama State to join D-I; Hornets hope to be blacks' "Notre Dame"

After five losing seasons and three coaching changes in the past four years, the administration at Division I-AA Alabama State made a change. But instead of switching coaches, ASU's administration is trying to help the struggling school jump to Division I-A.

The university's board of trustees approved a proposal to pursue a move to Division I-A by raising more than $90 million in corporate financing for a new stadium and a Black Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

"We would be to black folks what Notre Dame is to Catholics,'' said Donald Watkins, who chairs the Hornets board of trustees' athletics committee. "That's how we would be recognized around the nation. We will be breaking a color barrier.''

Alabama State's trustees approved a plan to sell naming rights for everything from a new, 40,000-seat stadium to its various seating sections. The university then filed a declaration of intent with the NCAA to go to I-A.

Watkins, who spearheaded the project, said the investors would be asked to provide the funding, with no debt incurred by the 5,500-student school. The hall and museum would be the first devoted exclusively to black college sports figures.

Watkins' plan is to borrow from the playbook of a growing number of pro and college teams that have used corporate sponsorship to finance stadiums. The plan was modeled after Louisville's 42,000-seat Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. The stadium was built in 1998 with $15 million in fan donations while the athletic department chipped in with an $18 million bond issue. After that money was raised, corporate sponsors such as Papa John's Pizza took care of the rest.

Alvarez's new deal gives him big money in Big Ten

Wisconsin's highly successful and popular head coach Barry Alvarez has agreed in principle to a contract that will increase his total compensation package to almost $1 million per year.

"It's pretty simple - we have one of the finest football coaches, and to keep good coaches you have to pay them what they are worth," said UW Athletic Board member and Chairman of the Finance Committee James Johannes. "Look at the record pre- and post-Alvarez, we have three Rose Bowl championships and filled stadiums for games."

Last season, Alvarez's total compensation was worth $800,000, which came mostly from television and radio work, apparel companies and other incentives. His base salary was $201,870.

The growth in his base salary will equal approximately $200,000 and will put Alvarez's pay package near the top of Big Ten coaches. The new deal will give Alvarez approximately $400,000 in base salary and about $600,000 from outside sources.

"It's clear he has turned football around for Madison," Johannes said. "His salary was falling behind other coaches and not just in the Big Ten."

Ohio State coach John Cooper signed a seven-year, $1.1 million deal, which excludes incentives that could allow him to make thousands more each year. Penn State's Joe Paterno recently signed a five-year contract extension that will raise his annual package to more than $1 million. Michigan coach Lloyd Carr signed a seven-year deal in 1998 reportedly worth $745,000 a year.

Alvarez will also receive an annuity package set up by Madison business leaders and the Mendota Gridiron Club, which will be valued at $2 million and reportedly will be paid out in 2008.

Alvarez became the most successful coach in Wisconsin history after his 10th season in 1999 with a record of 70-44-4.

"We're paying him what we need to because we don't want to lose him," Johannes said. "This is an example of the market at work." DiNardo, Vanderbilt settle resignation lawsuit

Former Vanderbilt coach Gerry DiNardo has agreed to pay the school an undisclosed sum to settle a lawsuit over his 1994 resignation. The settlement finally ends a five-year legal dispute between DiNardo and Vanderbilt.

DiNardo coached the Commodores from Dec., 1990 - Dec., 1994, a year before his original contract expired. School officials said DiNardo signed a two-year extension in 1994. DiNardo said the extension was invalid because his attorney never approved it.

In late 1994 - four months after he signed the extension - DiNardo resigned from Vanderbilt to become head coach at Louisiana State University. He was fired last fall after LSU went 3-8.

The basis of the dispute was the number of years DiNardo was obligated to pay the school for after his leaving. Once DiNardo left for LSU, Vanderbilt demanded three years' base pay in compensation, or some $280,000 after taxes. Last year, a federal appeals court awarded one year's pay to Vanderbilt but said the dispute over the remaining two years should go to trial.

Arenafooball2 championship to be televised on TNN

The inaugural ArenaCup, the championship game for the upstart arenafootball2 league, will receive a prime-time slot, league officials announced. The game, scheduled for an 8:30 p.m. kickoff time on August 10, will be broadcast on The Nashville Network.

"To have our championship game televised nationally on TNN is truly historic for a start-up league," said Mary Ellen Garling, executive director of the league. "It creates an even greater excitement level among the players, coaches, staffs, and fans."

The top four teams in the league will advance to the playoffs based on the best win-loss percentage, regardless of division. The top two seeds will host a semifinal game, and the winners of the two playoff games will advance to the ArenaCup. The team with the best win-loss percentage will host the championship game.

New Mexico, Texas Tech to play in Hispanic College Fund Classic

Texas Tech and New Mexico have finalized an agreement to play in the inaugural Hispanic College Fund Classic to open the 2000 football season. The game, set for Aug. 26 at Texas Tech's Jones Stadium, will kick off the career of first-year Tech coach Mike Leach.

The meeting will be the 37th all-time between Texas Tech and New Mexico, with the Red Raiders lead the series 29-5-2, including a 34-7 win at New Mexico in the team's last meeting in 1995.

XFL's to open first season on heels of Super Bowl

The XFL, a new football league founded by World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc. Chairman Vince McMahon, will begin play one week after Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa Bay, Fla.

McMahon, who is building a league founded on "old-time, smash-mouth football," says the XFL will feature unprecedented media access by placing cameras and microphones locker rooms, huddles and on selected players. To date, the XFL will include teams from Miami, New York, Orlando, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Already the league has reached a deal with NBC Sports in which the XFL and NBC will split ownership of the league and its teams. In addition, NBC will broadcast regional and national XFL games during the February - April regular season. As part of the agreement, NBC will also televise the inaugural XFL Championship game on April 21, 2001.

"The absolute key to the success of this league lies in the incredible success Vince McMahon has had throughout his career in reaching the most elusive audience in television ... young males," said Dick Ebersol, Chairman of NBC Sports.

McMahon said the agreement with NBC is a step in the right direction for the XFL.

"Saturday nights have always been special here on NBC and we're proud that XFL football has found a home here," said McMahon, whose league will feature innovative rules such as the elimination of fair-catch rules, a one-foot inbounds requirement for receptions and a 35-second play clock.

"In addition to having a long history of working strongly together in the past, I believe that the combination of these two organizations will make XFL football one of the best built brands in all of sports."

United Paramount Network has also joined in the TV fray with NBC, as UPN officials agreed to televise 10 regular season Sunday night games and one playoff game.

"We've had an excellent relationship with UPN and together we have built the largest male audience on network television in just eight months," McMahon said. "I believe the combination of WWF SmackDown! and XFL football on UPN will greatly enhance our ability to ... reach this audience..."

Cyclones tab Brickey as ISU's QB coach

University of North Texas quarterback coach and offensive coordinator Steve Brickey was hired by head coach Dan McCarney to become quarterback coach at Iowa State.

Brickey had been the North Texas offensive coordinator for two seasons.

"Obviously this is a great opportunity for Steve and his family," UNT coach Darrell Dickey said. "It's a positive reflection on our program that people are interested in hiring our coaches."

A 23-year coaching veteran, Brickey previously served as an assistant at Texas Christian University, the University of Texas, Texas Tech and Indiana State University. He is a 1976 graduate of the University of Missouri.

Gallup out, Brown in at Northeastern

Don Brown, the defensive coordinator at the University of Massachusetts the past two seasons was named football coach at Northeastern University. Brown, 44, takes over for Barry Gallup, who left to become director of football operations at Boston College.

"Don has been highly successful at every stop during his coaching career," Northeastern athletic director Ian McDaw said.

He takes over a program that went 2-9 in 1999 and compiled a 38-60-1 record in nine seasons under Gallup.

At UMass, Brown was the right-hand man to coach Mark Whipple, who orchestrated one of the most remarkable turnarounds in Division I-AA history by taking a team that went 2-9 in 1997 and guiding it to a 12-3 mark and the 1998 I-AA National Championship.

Before going to Massachusetts in 1998, Brown spent two years as defensive coordinator at Brown University. The Bears were 7-3 in his second year with the team, matching their best record in 20 years.

Brown was head coach at Plymouth State College from 1993-95, posting a 25-6 record while being named Freedom Football Conference Coach of the Year each season at PSU.


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