ATLANTA (AP) — The mayor has already heard from plenty of potential buyers for the Atlanta Hawks. And the city is ready to kick in a hefty sum to make the deal happen. Flanked by Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins and other city leaders, Mayor Kasim Reed said Tuesday he expects the sale of the team to move briskly after racially charged comments by owner Bruce Levenson and general manager Danny Ferry. "I have had conversations with no less than six prospective buyers," Reed said during a City Hall news conference. "All six of those prospective buyers will have to go through a process to be vetted by the NBA. That process is going to occur very quickly." The Hawks have been under fire since it was revealed Levenson sent an email two years ago theorizing that many suburban whites would not attend NBA games because of the team's African-American fans. He agreed to sell his share of the team, but it also emerged that Ferry had disparaged then-free agent Luol Deng on a conference call with team owners this past summer, saying he "has a little African in him." Ferry has taken an indefinite leave of absence. The NBA, meanwhile, is left to deal with another embarrassing case after stripping the Los Angeles Clippers from longtime owner Donald Sterling. He was forced out for telling his girlfriend on a secretly recorded audio not to bring black fans to his games. Reed said he plans to meet with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Sept. 26 in New York to discuss the sale of the Hawks. According to the mayor, the league is already lining up an investment bank to look into the finances of any potential buyer. "I think we're going to end up in a superior position, based on everything we know today, than we were before," Reed said. He didn't identify the prospective buyers, but whoever steps in would apparently have majority ownership. Levenson owns 24 percent of the team, and his Washington partner, Ed Peskowitz, has also agreed to sell his share, meaning that 50.1 percent of the team is now available, Reed said. In addition, Reed said the city will likely be willing to offer concessions to any new owner to ensure the Hawks commit to remaining in Atlanta for another 30 years. He said there could be as much as $150 million available after the city sells Turner Field, the current home of the Braves, though the mayor said that process has been held up by the baseball team's refusal to negotiate terms for its departure. The Braves are planning to move to a new stadium in suburban Cobb County in 2017. Team spokeswoman Beth Marshall said the Braves aren't required to notify the stadium authority of its plans until Dec. 31, 2015, but added, "It is our hope to be able to work with them, the city of Atlanta and Fulton County, on negotiating an exit so they can best prepare for the future of the Turner Field site." In the meantime, Reed said the city would be heavily involved in efforts to find new ownership for the Hawks, since it is responsible for the debt on 15-year-old Philips Arena. Wilkins, a former Hawks star who now serves as a team vice president and television commentator, said he would "absolutely" be interested in taking on a greater role with the franchise. The city already plans to honor him with a statue outside Philips Arena before a March 6 game against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Reed said city leaders would look favorably on Wilkins' involvement with any new ownership group, especially if it gives the team more diversity in the front office. Hawks CEO Steve Koonin has refused calls to fire Ferry, saying he believes the general manager can learn from the experience. Ferry met privately Monday with civil rights leaders, hoping to mend fences within the city, and has said he will undergo sensitivity training during his leave. But Ferry's future is still very much in doubt, with the start of training camp only two weeks away. Wilkins would neither endorse Ferry nor call for him to be ousted, knowing that any decision about the general manager will likely rest with the new owner. "That's not a choice I can make," Wilkins said. "The only thing I can say is whatever pieces are put in place are going to be the right pieces to help our franchise heal from what we've been through." ___ Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
The Rockmart Recreation Department will be starting up their fall soccer play on Saturday with a parade downtown and games throughout the morning, according to recreation director Jeff Hulsey.
Polk County's football teams are hitting the road tonight for their second week of games as one team heads to Whitfield County and the other to Gordon County.
On Saturday, October 25, Zombies return to downtown Rome for Harbin Clinic’s Zombie-thon 5K & Apocalyptic Block Party where runners and walkers brave the wave of the Zombie Apocalypse and try to survive!
The start of the youth football season for junior pee wee, pee wee and mites football is set for this coming Saturday with a jamboree in Rome.
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Defenses in the Atlantic Coast Conference aren't waiting for passing situations to bring on another defensive back.
Instead, they're starting with the nickel package.
It's an effort to cover more ground and avoid mismatches against offenses that keep flooding the field with receivers and attacking from sideline to sideline without substituting.
Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest are using a 4-2-5 — four linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs — as their base scheme and the starting point for what they do every week.
Other teams are using the nickel heavily, including reigning national champion Florida State.
Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Ted Roof says the game has evolved, and now defenses are trying to match up and disguise coverages with the nickel.
The Cedartown Bulldogs and Rockmart Yellow Jackets are both hosting for this first night of high school football in Polk County.
The Cedartown Parks and Recreation Department has extended the deadline for signups in youth flag football and cheerleading to September 8.
Growing up in West Virginia, Nick Saban would peek through the rails at the old WVU Fieldhouse as Jerry West played basketball far below.
Watching West Virginia play football, meanwhile, "was like the highlight of my year," Saban said.
When Saban leads No. 2 Alabama against the Mountaineers in Atlanta's Georgia Dome, his priority as always on fall Saturdays will be to win a football game — even against his home state program.
He seemed to enjoy waxing nostalgic this week about his favorite boyhood team in memories that include the heartache of listening to his transistor radio when West and the Mountaineers fell 71-70 — yes, Saban remembers the score — to California in the 1959 national championship game.
"You don't forget stuff like that," Saban said, "but now I'm Alabama's coach. I'm an Alabama fan. We don't really have to be concerned about any of that. We want to do what's best for our team and the relationships that we have here.
"But we also respect their traditions and the relationships that we've developed through the years in West Virginia."
Those ties will be evidenced by friends and family traveling to Atlanta for the game, people who say they saw Saban's potential way back when.
That group includes U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a former West Virginia governor, who grew up less than 10 miles away from the Sabans and still calls him "one of my best friends in the whole world."
Manchin played on youth sports teams coached by Saban's father, Nick Sr., who also operated a service station while running an ice cream shop/restaurant with his wife in front of their modest home just outside Monongah. Nick Sr., Manchin said, "was a builder of men" and his son was always there soaking it in when he wasn't helping out by washing cars or pumping gas.
"He had all the genes for it and he had the tutelage of his father, who was very rigid and stoic about how he did things," Manchin recalled. "You just saw the success come. He saw it by hard work, sacrificing, planning. He knew what it took to succeed, and Nick took it to the next level.
"I always thought he would be the greatest football coach, I believe, in the country today and will go down in history as one of the greatest. And it's all because of that coal-mining town."
Nick Sr. died of a heart attack in 1973 when the undersized Saban, spurned by the Mountaineers, was playing baseball and football at Kent State.
Both Manchin and Saban played quarterback in high school. Manchin graduated from Farmington High in 1965, Saban from Monongah High in 1969.
"The biggest mistake WVU ever made was not offering young Nick Saban a scholarship," said Manchin, whose West Virginia career was ended early by a knee injury. "He was one of the best athletes to ever come out of the area. His size gave them pause to ever offer him a scholarship."
Sharing childhood memories weren't the only time Saban showed a lighter side leading up to this game. He also challenged Manchin and others, including Florida coach Will Muschamp, to participate in the ice bucket challenge that's gone viral in efforts to raise funds to fight Lou Gehrig's disease.
Manchin's wife, Gayle, dumped the senator with ice water.
Manchin said this game is one instance where he'll be rooting against Saban.
Not so for Saban's sister, Dianna Thompson, who lives in the Marion County community of Worthington and has had three kids graduate from West Virginia.
"That's a no brainer: Roll Tide," Thompson said. She has to pull for the man she's always called "Brother."
"When West Virginia's playing anybody else, we cheer for West Virginia," she said. "But we can't cheer against Brother."
If Saban had his way as a teenager, Saturday's game wouldn't just be against his old favorite team. He'd be facing his alma mater.
"He really wanted to go to WVU but they wouldn't give him a scholarship," Thompson said. "They told him he could walk on but he got a scholarship to Kent State, so he went to Kent State. He would have gone to WVU if he had been offered a scholarship there."
A look at things to watch in the Southeastern Conference during Week 1 of the season:
GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 16 Clemson at No. 12 Georgia. One year ago, these two teams provided one of the best opening-weekend matchups in a game Clemson won 38-35. Georgia has the home-field advantage in Saturday's rematch, which again has as much intrigue as just about any first-week game across the nation. This game could come down to whether Clemson's defense can slow down Georgia running back Todd Gurley and whether Georgia's offensive line can keep Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley away from Bulldogs quarterback Hunter Mason. Georgia is 36-1 in home nonconference games since 2001.
BEST MATCHUP: Arkansas at No. 6 Auburn. The Razorbacks travel to face the Tigers in a game most notable for the chilly relationship between coaches Bret Bielema and Gus Malzahn. Bielema is an unapologetic basher of the hurry-up offense, claiming it leads to more injuries — while few push the offensive pace like Malzahn. The Razorbacks are clearly longshots in this matchup, coming off a 0-8 record in the SEC last season, but they would love nothing more than to spoil Auburn's opener after the Tigers played for a national title last season.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Only five of the SEC's 14 members have quarterbacks who started the majority of games for their respective teams last season. Those five teams are Arkansas (Brandon Allen), Auburn (Nick Marshall), Mississippi (Bo Wallace), Mississippi State (Dak Prescott) and Tennessee (Justin Worley). Wallace's 6,340 career passing yards lead active league QBs by a wide margin.
LONG SHOT: Tennessee has more overall talent than six-point underdog Utah State, but the Aggies enter Sunday's season opener with more experience and the better quarterback in Chuckie Keeton, who is making his first appearance since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament midway through last season. "All you have to do is put their film on," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "If you know anything about football, then you say this is a really, really good football team." The youth of Tennessee's roster makes this game hard to predict. If Utah State grabs an early lead, how will all the newcomers on Tennessee's roster respond?
IMPACT PLAYER: LSU running back Leonard Fournette is only a freshman, but expectations for the highly-regarded recruit are through the roof. The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder from New Orleans is already generating Heisman Trophy talk down in Louisiana. While that may be premature, he has a chance to make a big impression when the No. 13 Tigers host No. 14 Wisconsin on Saturday. Said Miles: "He's going to want the opportunity to do everything that he can do. And certainly he'll play a role in this game."
AP Sports Writers Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, and David Brandt in Oxford, Mississippi, contributed to this story.
There's plenty of buzz around the Atlantic Coast Conference with the addition of a new team, the latest Heisman Trophy winner and the reigning national champion.
Top-ranked Florida State's run to the national title and the arrival of fast-rising Louisville have raised the ACC's national profile.
But the strength of the league as a whole this season could depend on the arms of numerous unproven commodities at quarterback — besides Jameis Winston, the Seminoles' Heisman winner, of course.
At least 10 schools will debut new starting QBs this week, including three transfers and a pair of true freshmen.
Those concerns might be unfounded, new Clemson starter Cole Stoudt said.
"According to some of the guys, we're not going to get a first down," said Stoudt, who is replacing three-year starter Tajh Boyd.
"I think people are going to be shocked by what we're going to do," he added. "People are underestimating what we have, looking at all the negatives instead of the positives we have."
The numbers perhaps tell a different story: According to STATS, only nine current ACC quarterbacks have made at least one career start — and three of them made those starts at other schools.
Only one ACC QB — Duke's Anthony Boone — ever started a game for his current school before last season.
And no one in the league has made more career starts than Winston — all 14 of his came during his big redshirt freshman season in 2013.
A major subplot this season will be whether the ACC can produce a serious challenger for the Seminoles — and along with that, whether there's another elite quarterback in the league who can make his team a legitimate threat to Florida State.
Boone says the league "absolutely" needs another quarterback to step up and challenge Winston — and naturally, he hopes he'll be the one to do it.
The Duke quarterback said he hung around with Winston over the summer at the Manning Passing Academy and the Heisman winner told him "I'll see you in Charlotte" for a rematch in the ACC championship game.
"As a competitor, you want to be the best on your team, you want to be the best in your league," Boone said. "If somebody told me that I can challenge (Winston), that's fine with me."
The league's only other returning full-time starter is Terrel Hunt of Syracuse. North Carolina is still deciding between Marquise Williams — who started six games last season due to injuries to regular starter Bryn Renner — and redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky.
David Watford started all 12 games of Virginia's 2-10 finish last year. But backup Greyson Lambert, a redshirt sophomore, beat Watford for the starting job with all of 75 college passes on his resume.
"His pass attempts have been more than nine of the likely starters to be named starters" in the ACC, coach Mike London said. "There is an experience that this year, this team, that the quarterbacks do have."
Plenty of other first-time starters also will get their chance this weekend.
Two transfers from Florida — Jacoby Brissett at North Carolina State and Tyler Murphy at Boston College — are pegged to start their new teams' openers along with ex-Texas Tech backup Michael Brewer, who's now at Virginia Tech.
Brissett, who made four total starts for the Gators in 2011 and '12, promised to "just make sure I don't mess up the first snap."
At Miami, true freshman Brad Kaaya beat out another transfer — Jake Heaps, formerly of BYU and Kansas. And John Wolford will become the first true freshman QB since 1974 to start a Wake Forest opener.
"He is our best quarterback, so I can't worry about whether he's a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior," new Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. "In a perfect world, you'd always love to have the guy be in the system for one or two years before he plays. But we're going to put the guys out there that give us the best chance to win. And he clearly won the job."
Now, it's time for all those new quarterbacks to show they can win games.
AP Sports Writers Pete Iacobelli in Clemson, South Carolina; Aaron Beard in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Will Graves in Pittsburgh; and Hank Kurz Jr. in Charlottesville, Virginia, contributed to this report.Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney says the three players suspended for the 16th-ranked Tigers' opener at No. 12 Georgia, including returning starters defensive end Corey Crawford and offensive lineman David Beasley, won't get a reprieve from their one-game punishments.
Swinney suspended Crawford, Beasley, backup cornerback Garry Peters and reserve offensive lineman Shaq Anthony in March for undisclosed violation of team rules. Last week, Anthony announced his intentions to transfer.
Swinney says all had worked hard and shown good character since March. But the coach says there are consequences for their actions.
Crawford, a senior, would've started opposite All-American end Vic Beasley. David Beasley started seven games along the offensive line.
Swinney says the three will be allowed to travel with the team to Georgia if they want.
Our ritual of having a beer a couple of times a week became a challenge because of travel. Sometimes, I just couldn’t keep from being out of town on Monday, the day Dan Magill preferred to enjoy a late afternoon libation at our favorite watering hole in Five Points.
Cedartown and Pepperell alumni football players will be squaring off for a matchup at Cedartown High School this evening.
ATLANTA (AP) — From his vantage point in Chicago, Devin Hester saw the Atlanta Falcons as a consistent playoff contender.
As a free agent, Hester, 31, was looking for a new home that could give him a good chance to get back to the postseason. He said that was a big reason he signed with Atlanta — despite the Falcons' 4-12 finish last season.
Now Hester is anxious for the Falcons to play like a winner when Atlanta starters get an extended look in their third preseason game against Tennessee on Saturday night. The Falcons struggled in last week's ugly 32-7 preseason loss at the Texans.
"It's going to be very important," Hester said. "Coming off the game we played last week, we left a lot of plays out there. We know the fourth preseason game is pretty much for the rookies and the younger guys, so we know this is our last opportunity to really showcase what we're capable of."
Hester provided one of Atlanta's few highlights last week with his 12-yard touchdown catch.
Hester is best known as one of the top return specialists in NFL history. The opportunity to contribute on offense was another reason he signed a three-year, $9 million deal with Atlanta in March.
He didn't have a catch last year with the Bears for the first time since his rookie season. He has a chance to be a part of three- and four-receiver formations in Atlanta with Julio Jones, Roddy White and Harry Douglas.
"We were all on the same page with the situation on offense," Hester said of his talks with the Falcons. "Looking at it, we kind of discussed what my role would be on the offensive side of the ball, and we saw eye to eye on that. That was one of the main reasons why I chose Atlanta."
The timing could be perfect for Hester. There will be additional opportunities for receivers to help fill the void left by the retirement of tight end Tony Gonzalez.
"I think those are going to be more distributed to the third and fourth receiver now," Hester said. "They pretty much treated Tony like a No. 1or No. 2 receiver the last couple of years. With Tony gone, it's going to open up more options, I would say, for me and Harry in the slot position when we go three-wide."
Hester set career highs with 56 catches for 757 yards in 2009 with the Bears. Since then, his role on offense declined.
Tennessee's Nate Washington said Titans receiver Marc Mariani is another example of a player who has difficulty shedding the tag of a return specialist.
"It can be difficult because a lot of times you can just get labeled as a return man," Washington said. "A lot of guys like Marc want to be respected as a receiver also. He has the talent so I'm sure Devin is feeling a little bit similar. Going out there making plays on special teams is one thing, but you always want to be a part of that offense and make sure that team knows and the rest of your community and your fans know you're a vital part of that offense."
Hester's credentials as a return man are unquestioned. He shares the NFL record with Falcons Hall of Famer Deion Sanders with 19 return touchdowns, including a record 13 on punt returns.
He made first-team AP All-Pro honors as a return specialist in 2006, 2007 and 2010.
Hester had an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown last season. As a free agent, his three finalists were Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Arizona.
Hester said the Falcons are "a team that I knew had a good success in winning games and was always competing in the playoffs."
"The older you get the more you start looking for the team that's got a chance for the playoffs and for winning the Super Bowl," he said.
Cedartown High School football alumni are taking the field this Saturday evening against their counterparts at Pepperell High School for the first game between the two alumni programs to raise money for the Bulldogs and Dragons football programs.
BALTIMORE (AP) — Major League Baseball Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred and Boston Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner were left as the remaining candidates to succeed Bud Selig as commissioner after MLB Executive Vice President Tim Brosnan withdrew before the start of voting Thursday.
Brosnan's withdrawal was disclosed to The Associated Press by a team official who spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made.
Owners estimated Manfred had the support of 20-21 teams headed into the meetings this week, Werner of about six and Brosnan one: the Cincinnati Reds.
A three-quarters majority, 23 of the 30 teams, is required to elect a commissioner. Selig, who has run baseball since September 1992, plans to retire in January.
Teams vote by secret written ballot in MLB's first contested election for a new commissioner in 46 years.
Each candidate spoke to all owners for about an hour Wednesday and met in sessions Thursday morning with groups of 10 teams.
"I wouldn't even guess," Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno said Wednesday when asked whether the election would produce a commissioner.
Werner is supported by Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and Moreno. Other teams have said Reinsdorf wants a commissioner who will take a harsher stance in labor negotiations for the deal to replace the collective bargaining agreement that expires after the 2016 season.
"I haven't been counting votes," Reinsdorf said. "I don't know where anybody stands."
Selig, 80, has ruled baseball since September 1992, first as chairman of baseball's executive council and since July 1998 as commissioner. The second-longest-serving head of baseball behind Kenesaw Mountain Landis (1920-44), Selig announced last fall that he plans to retire in January 2015. The trio of candidates was picked by a seven-man succession committee chaired by St. Louis Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr.
Manfred, 55, has been involved in baseball since 1987, starting as a lawyer with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius who assisted in collective bargaining. He became MLB's executive vice president for labor relations and human resources in 1998, received an expanded role of executive vice president of economics and league affairs in 2012 and last September was promoted to chief operating officer. He helped lead negotiations for baseball's last three labor contracts with players and the joint drug agreement that was instituted in 2002 and has been repeatedly strengthened.
Werner, 64, was the controlling owner of the San Diego Padres from 1990-94, triggering fan criticism for the payroll-paring departures of Fred McGriff, Gary Sheffield, Tony Fernandez, Randy Myers and Benito Santiago. He has been part of the Red Sox ownership group since 2002, a period that included three World Series titles. While working at ABC, he helped develop Robin Williams' "Mork & Mindy" and later was executive producer of "The Cosby Show" and "Roseanne" at The Carsey-Werner Co.
MLB's last contested election for commissioner was after Spike Eckert was fired in December 1968. With the requirement then a three-quarters majority in both the American and National leagues, teams split between San Francisco Giants vice president Chub Feeney and Yankees president Michael Burke and failed to elect anyone during 19 ballots.
Bowie Kuhn, counsel to baseball's Player Relations Committee, was elected commissioner pro-tem on Feb. 4, 1969, with a one-year term. He was voted a seven-year term that August and remained in office until October 1984, when he was replaced by Los Angeles Olympics head Peter Ueberroth.
Former Yale President A. Bartlett Giamatti took over from Ueberroth in April 1989, died later that September and was replaced by his deputy commissioner, Fay Vincent. Selig, then the Milwaukee Brewers owner, teamed with Reinsdorf to head the group that pressured for Vincent's forced resignation in September 1992.
Selig led baseball as head of the executive council for nearly six years, including the 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that canceled the World Series. He repeatedly said he wouldn't take the job fulltime before he formally was voted commissioner in July 1998.
Ueberroth, Giamatti, Vincent and Selig were elected unanimously.
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Georgia starting fullback Merritt Hall has been forced to give up football due to recurring concussions.
Georgia announced Thursday Hall, a junior, has been medically disqualified by the school's sports medicine staff.
Hall sustained a concussion last week during practice. According to Georgia, Hall had "multiple concussions" in high school and at Georgia before his latest injury.
Hall played in 25 games, including seven starts, in his first two seasons. Primarily a blocker, he had only three carries for nine yards in the two seasons.
ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves have recalled left-hander Luis Avilan from Triple-A Gwinnett.
Avilan, who began the season as one of Atlanta's top setup relievers, is with the team for Thursday's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Avilan was 3-1 with a 4.85 ERA in 47 games when he was optioned to Gwinnett on July 19. He says he focused on his curveball and change-up at Gwinnett.
Avilan joins James Russell as left-handers in the Braves' bullpen.
The Braves relied on Avilan in 2013, when he was 5-0 with a strong 1.52 ERA in 75 games.
The Braves optioned right-hander Juan Jaime to Gwinnett following Wednesday night's win over the Dodgers.
HOUSTON (AP) — For Brian Cushing, there's no substitute to being on the field.
The Houston Texans linebacker returned to practice on Wednesday, "a very small step" as he comes back from offseason surgery on his left knee and leg.
Cushing wasn't the only Texans' star back in pads as the team went through a joint practice with the Atlanta Falcons. Andre Johnson and Arian Foster were also back after being held out for most of training camp with hamstring injuries.
Cushing had been on the physically unable to perform list since the start of training camp. He didn't participate in contact drills. Cushing says he needs more live repetitions to learn the new defense under coordinator Romeo Crennel.
Texans coach Bill O'Brien says he hasn't ruled out any of the three players for Saturday's game.
Rome, Ga. — Coach Scott Byrd, Shorter University’s director of track and field, has been named to the NCAA Division II Track & Field Executive Committee as a representative for the Peach Belt, according to Sylvia Kamp, U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association administrative and legislative services manager.