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Tragedy strikes Florida as freshman FB, Autin dies
Every coach and parent's nightmare happened in Gainesville, when incoming Florida freshman Eraste Autin died of complications related to heat stroke, six days after collapsing and falling into a coma following a workout with teammates.
Autin fell unconscious just outside Florida Field in late July while jogging back to the locker room after one of the football team's voluntary summer conditioning sessions.
Although no autopsy was performed at the family's request, reports seem to indicate he had a major heart attack, that his fever rose to 108 degrees, and that he slipped into a coma soon after he was taken to Shands Hospital.
"This is, by far, the saddest day ever for me as a coach and for our Gator teams as we have lost a wonderful, outstanding young man," Florida head coach Steve Spurrier said.
Autin is the 18th high school or college football player since 1995 to die from heat stroke, Dr. Fred Mueller of the University of North Carolina's sports medicine department said.
Based upon the statements of other players, Autin didn't complain of any pain and showed "no signs of visible distress," according to Florida officials, who talked to players and staff present at the workouts.
"It was a hot day, and he's the hardest worker out of all of us," roommate and fellow freshman football player Lance Butler said this week.
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said Autin passed a physical that all incoming freshman that enrolled in summer classes had to take July 2.
He collapsed after his 10th workout of the summer, all of which are overseen by athletic trainers and strength coaches, as is allowed by NCAA rules.
It was 88 degrees with 72 percent humidity - normal summertime weather for Florida - the afternoon Autin collapsed. Water was readily available at several workout stations, and players were constantly reminded to replenish fluids.
A 6-foot-2, 250-pound fullback, Autin was widely considered one of the country's top high school players at his position last season. He was expected to challenge for a starting spot for the Gators this year. Autin rushed for 700 yards and scored 12 touchdowns last season at St. Thomas More High School in Lafayette.
Spurrier quoted Autin's freshman teammate Todd McCullough as saying Autin "was the most well-rounded 18-year-old he'd ever known."
Vikes Stringer succumbs to heat and dies
Minnesota Pro Bowl tackle Korey Stringer died August 1st of heat stroke, a day after collapsing at the Minnesota Vikings' training camp on the hottest day of the year. Stringer, 27, vomited at least three times during Tuesday July 31 morning's practice but didn't summon a trainer until the session had ended.
The 335-pound lineman developed symptoms of heat stroke, including weakness and rapid breathing, following the practice session.
Stringer was unconscious when he arrived at Immanuel St. Joseph's-Mayo Health System in Mankato, and had a temperature of over 108 degrees; doctors said his organs failed throughout the day, requiring attention of multiple specialists and staff.
Stringer never regained consciousness and his heart failed at 1:50 a.m. CDT.
The only other NFL training camp fatality is believed to be J.V. Cain, a tight end for the St. Louis Cardinals, who died of a heart attack on July 22, 1979, his 28th birthday.
The Vikings worked out in full pads Tuesday, the second day of training camp, despite temperatures in the low 90s and stifling humidity that pushed the heat index as high as 110 degrees.
Stringer had problems with his weight early in his career before slimming down and having a banner Pro Bowl season in 2000. He reported to camp at 335 pounds and indicated he was in the best shape of his career, but also was in difficulty on Monday, the first day of camp, when he was taken off the practice field on a cart.
Northwestern player dies after conditioning workout
Rashidi Wheeler, a starting safety on the Northwestern Wildcat team collapsed August 3rd during preseason conditioning drills and died shortly thereafter.
The cause of death was bronchial asthma according to the Cook County coroners office in an opinion proffered one day after Wallace's death.
School officials said the 22-year-old senior had a history of asthma and had used his inhaler during practice.
"Rashidi actually had his inhaler in his hands," trainer Tory Aggeler said. "That's something important - that they have access to an inhaler in that situation."
Wheeler's mother, Linda Will, said she had talked to him Thursday night and he told her he was feeling well.
"He was having his physical agility test today. He felt he was in tip-top shape," she said by telephone from her home in Ontario, Calif., as she broke down in tears. "This is difficult for me."
Wheeler had been struggling to catch his breath after leaving the field following the drills, said Alan Berkowsky, spokesman for the Evanston Fire Department, which sent paramedics to the scene.
"It got harder and harder for him to catch his breath and he collapsed," Berkowsky said. "When the trainer got up to him, he was still trying to catch his breath. He stopped breathing and his pulse also stopped."
He did not respond to CPR from the coaching staff or paramedics, and died about an hour later at Evanston Hospital.
Northwestern said initial medical reports indicated heat did not contribute to Wheeler's death. The temperature was about 82 in the Evanston area with a heat index of 87 about the time paramedics were called to the scene.
An autopsy was scheduled and will determine if Wheeler's medical history or heat played any role in his death.
A senior with a communications major, Wheeler started all 12 games last season at strong safety. He finished with 88 tackles, a fumble recovery and three pass breakups. He played in eight games as a sophomore and five games as a freshman.
Vaas-led Thunder claim NFL Europe Championship
Quarterback Jonathan Quinn threw three touchdown passes to lead the Berlin Thunder to a 24-17 upset of the Barcelona Dragons in NFL Europe's World Bowl.
Quinn, who was allocated by the Jacksonville Jaguars, passed for 308 yards, including a game clinching 53-yarder to Dwaune Jones in the fourth quarter.
Head coach Peter Vaas, in only his second year at the helm, took the developmental league's youngest franchise to its first World Bowl title in just its third year and avenged two regular-season defeats by the Dragons.
"Our guys never gave up," said Vaas. "One time we threw an interception and one time we dropped the ball, but we put those negative things behind us and we won."
Berlin held a 10-9 halftime lead after Quinn connected with Jones for a 46-yard score.
Former Notre Dame and current Bronco backup, Jarious Jackson put the Dragons back in front with a 58-yard TD pass to Tony Simmons, then hit Trevor Insely for a two-point conversion and a 17-10 lead.
But Quinn found Amhad Meritt for a 19-yard TD to tie the game, then won it by linking up with Jones with 4:08 remaining.
"The Quarterback was supposed to run, the receiver was supposed to come back but instead went deep and we threw the winning touchdown over somebody's head," Vaas said. "Great plan!"
Dragons coach Jack Bicknell was gracious in defeat. "This was a terrific football game and a credit to both teams," he said. The ninth World Bowl drew 32,166.
Cal Stadium to get earthquake protection
The University of California's Memorial Stadium, which sits atop a major fault line, is getting a $100 million remodeling to make it earthquake safe.
The 75,000-seat stadium located in Berkeley is built on the active Hayward Fault, which is about 70 miles long and runs through major East Bay cities. Many experts say it is the one most likely to produce the next devastating U.S. quake.
The $100 million is 100 times greater than the cost of building the stadium in 1923. Much of the money will also pay for non-earthquake related upgrades.
The university plans to raise the required money through donations to the athletic program. The project will be completed in phases over seven years, without interrupting the football schedule, according to Cal officials.
Northern Illinois assistant fired after run-in with drum corps and charged by authorities
Northern Illinois assistant football coach, John Binkowski, who ordered members of the team to run through a drum corps that was practicing at Huskie Stadium, was dismissed by the school. Binkowski, the strength and conditioning coach, who came to Northern Illinois from UNLV in 1999, was allegedly disturbed over a stadium scheduling conflict with the practicing Capitol Regiment drum corps. The drum corps, from Columbus, Ohio, was practicing for a competition called Drum Corps Midwest.
According to the school, Binkowski ordered about 20 players to run directly through the band, injuring two.
Binkowski, was charged with reckless conduct in addition to the original charges of battery, which were filed after the July 12 confrontation.
The university described Binkowski's conduct as hostile and unprofessional. The victims identified two players, who caused injuries to corps members.
One student-athlete, 20-year-old Brian Peterson, has been charged with two counts of aggravated battery.
All team members involved have received sanctions ranging from suspension to probation as a result of the NIU student judicial process, university officials said.
WWF reports show the extent of XFL Losses
Despite what many thought was a decent idea, the meddlesome handling of the league by WWF officials resulted in a lack of credibility with journalists and ultimately the fans. Therefore, the XFL was shut down after one season. World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc. reported that the disastrous XFL venture forced a fourth-quarter loss of $20.4 million and cut full-year profits in 2001 to about a third of the previous year's earnings.
WWF, which took an after-tax charge of $36.2 million on the football league's failure, reported a loss of $20.4 million, or 28 cents per share, for the quarter that ended April 30.
"We rolled the dice on XFL and it didn't work out quite as we expected it would," said Judd Everhart, a WWF spokesman.
NCAA probe of Tennessee is over
The NCAA will no longer continue its investigation into allegations of academic fraud involving the athletic program at the University of Tennessee. According to university officials, the school was informed, by the NCAA in June, that the probe had ended.
"We haven't found any evidence of the specifics of these allegations," said Anne Mayhew, Tennessee's NCAA faculty representative.
The investigation, which began shortly after ESPN.com in September 1999 reported an alleged pattern of academic wrongdoing at the school that kept athletes eligible, came up empty. However, the school did reorganize its student-support services programs. Additionally, persons who claim they were falsely accused and defamed in the series of reports concerning the Vols academic programs have sued ESPN and ESPN.com.
Gamecocks report violations to the NCAA
The University of South Carolina reported six secondary violations, four of which pertain to the football program, to the NCAA.
The NCAA and the Southeastern Conference agreed that the violations were secondary and did not impose further penalties, according to the school.
Three of the four football violations were related to recruiting. The violations included one prospect, while on an official visit, saw a video with his high-school highlights spliced into South Carolina highlights; some prospects were given rides to South Carolina games with school boosters; one high-school player was found to have twice used a South Carolina booster's car; and an academic adviser dropped a class for a student that took the athlete to less than full-time status of 12 hours for the semester.
Steelers commit to Cowher
Bill Cowher, his future as the Pittsburgh Steelers' coach seemingly on the line a mere year ago, was given a three-year contract extension by the club.
The Steelers committed to Cowher and his vision for the team as it gave him the extension through the 2005 season despite the Steelers missing the playoffs the last three seasons. The team went 22-26 over that span.
Cowher had asked for the extension after coaching the Steelers to a 9-7 record last season, and the new contract was worked out following several months of talks between Cowher's agent, and Steelers.
The extension is worth about $7 million and raises Cowher's average salary to about $3 million, the current going rate for NFL coaches. He will make $4.8 million over the next two seasons on a deal he signed in 1998.
"This is an exciting time for our organization, having Bill's contract extended and with the opening next month of our new stadium," Steelers president Dan Rooney said. "He is a terrific person in addition to being an excellent football coach."
Cowher, who is 91-64 in nine seasons, was selected as the NFL coach of the year after coaching the Steelers to a turnaround 11-5 record and the top seed in the AFC playoffs at age 35 in 1992. Cowher and four-time Super Bowl champion Chuck Noll are the only Steelers head coaches since 1969.
The Steelers went on to make the playoffs each of Cowher's first six seasons as a head coach, reaching the Super Bowl in January 1996 before losing to the Dallas Cowboys 27-17.
The Steelers have not made the playoffs since losing the AFC title game at home to Denver in the 1997 season.
BCS revises its selection process
The Bowl Championship Series has modified its formula for selecting teams to play in its designated title game. Had these changes been in affect last season, Miami, not Florida State, would have played Oklahoma for the title.
The modifications include a new quality-win component designed to award bonus points in the BCS' mathematical formula for beating a team rated in the top 15 in the standings.
Additionally, there will be less importance given to margin of victory, which has been a sore point for coaches in the first three years of the BCS standings.
The BCS standings use The Associated Press media poll and the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll, eight computer ratings, strength-of-schedule and win-loss records in determining its overall standings.
Other changes announced include, the BCS replacing two of the eight computer services next season, including the Dunkel Index, which depended heavily on margin of victory. Also out of the mix is the New York Times' computer rating.
"After a great deal of thoughtful discussion and research, we believe these revisions will enhance the BCS standings," said BCS coordinator John Swofford of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"The changes address last year's concern about excessive margin of victory adversely influencing the computer rankings and the quality-win component encourages teams to play a stronger schedule and gives a significant reward for wins over highly ranked opponents."
The bonus points for quality wins will range from a high of 1.5 points for a win over the top-ranked team to a low of 0.1 for a victory over the 15th-ranked BCS team. Should one team defeat a top 15 BCS team more than once during the regular season, quality points will be awarded just once.
Tigers and Hokies schedule future games
LSU and Virginia Tech have agreed to play in the 2002 and 2004 football seasons. The Tigers and the Hokies will play each other for the first time on Aug. 31, 2002, in Blacksburg, Va. Virginia Tech will return the game on Sept. 4, 2004, in Tiger Stadium.
Both games will be shown on either ESPN or ESPN2, according to Dan Radakovich, LSU's senior associate athletic director. ESPN helped broker the deal.
The Virginia Tech series replaces a pair of games the Tigers were to play against Brigham Young. BYU asked out of the contract because first-year coach Gary Crowton was seeking to lower the degree of difficulty on the Cougars' non-conference schedule.
Virginia Tech needed games because the Big East Conference has voted Temple out of the league at the end of the 2001 football season.
The 2002 season will be the first year in which teams are allowed to schedule 12 games.
Knight Commission offers suggestions
The sometimes controversial Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics issued a policy statement offering numerous suggestions for the future of college football. Among the recommendations was the proposal that colleges with low athlete graduation rates should be banned from postseason play. The report further reprimanded the current caretakers of the game for what the study says is an "emphasis on winning."
The report further stated that player uniforms should be stripped of corporate logos and a new coalition created to promote tougher academic standards.
"We're not in the entertainment business, nor are we a minor league for professional sports," said the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, president emeritus of Notre Dame and commission co-chairman.
"Your school is not worthy to be the champion of the country if you're not educating your kids," Hesburgh said. Additionally, he stated, "34 percent of basketball players at the largest colleges finish school and the graduation rate is 48 percent for football players."
The commission wants colleges to graduate at least half the students who play in each sport. Teams with rates lower than that would be barred from conference championships and other postseason games.
In response to the report, NCAA President Cedric Dempsey said he had reservations about the threshold and that, instead, athletes should be required to maintain rates similar to those of other college students.
In 1996, the NCAA adopted some commission-proposed reforms. President of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a journalism consortium that sponsors the commission, President Hodding Carter III, said despite those, "you have big money washing out good sense."
The commission proposed the establishment of a group to be called the Coalition of Presidents, which would work with the NCAA board of directors.
Bears to leave Platteville for new summer home
The Chicago Bears have chosen Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais as the new home for their training camp. The Bears will begin training at the university in the summer of 2002.
The Bears, who have trained for almost two decades at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, had considered 12 colleges and universities in Illinois before narrowing the list in May to Olivet, Millikin University in Decatur, Northern Illinois University in DeKalb and Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
Rip Scherer joins staff at KU
After being dismissed at the University of Memphis as head coach, despite what most thought was a great job of making the Tigers more than competitive, Rip Scherer has decided to join the retooled staff of Terry Allen at Kansas. Allen, who has come under mounting pressure after four losing years at Kansas, has completely overhauled his staff with eight new coaches.
The Jayhawks announced that Scherer would be co-offensive coordinator with Allen.
"I know the situation," Scherer said. "But I'm excited about this opportunity and very appreciative of it."
Scherer's Memphis team closed last season with five straight losses and finished 4-7, giving him a 22-44 record in six seasons.
Scherer was not cleared to take another job until reaching agreement with Memphis on his contract. It had three years to run at the time of his firing.
"I didn't have to take this job. I actually lost money because we wanted to get a settlement," Scherer said. "But I thought it was a good opportunity. I think coach Allen has done a great job of building a foundation."
"I see this as an opportunity working for a heck of a guy. He's a quality coach and a quality person. We're different in a lot of ways but we're very similar in our philosophy as to what college football is all about."
"When you get fired, sitting waiting for the phone to ring and it doesn't ring as much as you'd like it to, it's kind of a lonely feeling," he said.
"For Terry to have confidence in me and give me this opportunity means a lot."
Beamer's son now a Volunteer
Shane Beamer, the son of Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, is now a graduate assistant at Tennessee.
Beamer, 24, just completed one season at Georgia Tech working with the offense. He will focus on defense for the Volunteers, coach Phillip Fulmer announced.
Beamer, who graduated from Virginia Tech in 1999, was the Hokies' starting long snapper for three seasons. He also played other special teams and was used as a wide receiver.
Beamer replaces Joe Paul Purvis, who recently accepted the defensive coordinator position at Peru State (Neb.) College where former UT graduate assistant Ryan Held is the new head coach.
VMI to stay... at least for this year
Virginia Military Institute will remain in the Southern Conference through the fall while school officials consider a move to the Big South Conference.
VMI, one of the smallest schools in Division I-AA with 1,250 students, has belonged to the Southern since 1925. Four conference members - including I-AA football powers Georgia Southern and Appalachian State - have more than 8,000 students.
Franchione cleared of racial allegations
Alabama football coach Dennis Franchione was cleared, by federal investigators in a racial discrimination case brought by two former TCU players, of any misconduct. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, the investigation showed that brothers Adrian and Allen Lewis "were not treated differently on the basis of their race."
"The OCR has informed me that the case is now closed," Franchione said.
The Lewises had contended they were subjected to "racial slurs and stereotypical comments" by Franchione and then-linebackers coach Mark Parks.
They said Franchione's suspension of Adrian Lewis for one practice was racially motivated and led to reduced playing time. Lewis, who is of mixed race, gave a white woman a high-five as he walked off the field at halftime.
The OCR determined the players and coaches knew they weren't supposed "to interact with fans during football games" and the punishment was similar to what other players had received for breaking the rule.
The OCR did find "evidence to support the allegation" that Parks made racist remarks to the Lewises. The report said the remarks were isolated and did not "establish a hostile environment."
Parks was briefly part of Franchione's staff at Alabama. He resigned in February to pursue work in the Fort Worth area.
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